In the past month, we've lived through an earthquake, a tornado/microburst, and a wide-spread power outage here in the D.C. area. This winter we had epic snow storms and a couple of years ago, ice storms and hurricanes put the power out for several days each. All I need now is a volcano to suddenly spring up on the D.C. mall and I'll have managed the hat trick of meteorological events.

Despite spending quite a bit of time in California and living near the San Andreas fault at one time or another, I'd never experienced an earthquake before last month. Every time there was a new earthquake in California, people in my home town called the media outlets in droves to report that they "felt it too" or "saw water sloshing around in the pool..." Four. Hundred. Miles. Away. And we would always roll our eyes at the TV because... COME ON you earthquake wannabes! I never felt a thing and I'm pretty sure that at 4:00 am when it happened, of the two of us, I was way more likely to be up and out of bed.

After our infamous 3.8, 3.7, 3.6 earthquake event, I went on the
USGS website to see how widespread the reporting was and someone in Georgia reporting feeling the effects of this one. Dude. Just because you remember having felt something around that time, doesn't mean that it was an eight-hundred-mile-away earthquake. It was probably just your cat jumping off the bed.

The thing that struck me about the earthquake last month was how loud it was. I never really expected to actually hear an earthquake... I just figured I'd hear the building crumbling down around my ears as a result. It was about 5:00 am and I was awake but dozing in bed when I heard what I thought was an explosion in the distance. A gas main? Maybe a train accident on the tracks near our house? The meth lab in the basement of the house across the street finally succumbing? These would be the most likely things. Then a second later, I felt some shaking and the water in our water bed sloshed around a bit. I didn't think the world was ending. I didn't think much of it at all. The KingofHearts got up to look out the window and see what was up, didn't see anything, and came back to bed. After a few minutes, I was curious enough to consult my old standby, the T.V. and turned it on to find out what had happened. It never occurred to me it might have been an earthquake. But then again, why would it? D.C. DOESN'T HAVE EARTHQUAKES!

Picture of earthquake devastation in northern Mid-Atlantic area.

But the truth is, there are lots of earthquakes every day all over the world, and it's not that much more common now than at any other time in the previous century. The media freaking out about earthquakes, however, is. Newscasters all over the airwaves were foaming at the mouth with the news and Richter scale estimates and man-on-the-street-reactions and SOME WOMAN'S PLATE BROKE IN GAITHERSBURG!! Oh, the humanity! Then there were the inevitable reminders from talking heads that this kind of thing never happened when we were kids and it must be global warming or God's wrath or at least a boobquake.

Of course, D.C. doesn't have tornadoes either, but a little twenty minute microburst the Sunday before last touched down in a few places in our neighborhood, took part of the roof off a church and killed a woman a couple of miles away. My road is still impassable in one direction due to a downed tree that hasn't been cleared yet (although in this instance, I'm putting my check mark under "lazy" rather than in the "tornado devastation" category). All in all, we were out of power for less than two days and I managed to occupy myself and my kids without the modern conveniences of television and wifi. Some folks had it way worse off than me so I'm counting us as lucky.

I like to think of myself as prepared for the worst and able to roll with whatever punches nature hands me. We have emergency kits ready to go and can always put our hands on candles when we need them. We have a small stash of food to get us by should we not be able to get to a store for awhile. I talk a big game about how much I love T.V. but when it's gone, I can find other things to do and it's just as well. And humidity/dry heat debate aside, I grew up in the desert in a house where the air conditioning was only turned on at the latest possible moment and thought we were tougher than everyone else as a result; a habit I've never quite broken. When I think about it, electricity is a luxury that I believe I can go a couple of days without. Longer than that, we'll, I'd probably have to make some changes in my lifestyle. That being said, there is something totally depressing about being without power when you're used to having it. The neighborhood is dark and quiet (at least until everyone pulls out their generators and start the dull roar that's almost worse than the quiet), you habitually turn on lights and appliances when you enter a room even though you know full well they're not going to function, and it's amazing how many things you can think of to do in the dark before you realize there's electricity connected to it in some way, even if it's not obvious. ("Hey, I can read a book! Oh wait, it's 11:00 pm and I'd need lights for that." ::sigh::)

I think this may go back to a few years back when we lost power for a week due to the combination of Hurricane Isabel and the chronic not-trimming of D.C. area trees growing alongside above ground power lines. I was pregnant with The Dormouse and we'd just gotten some bad news about her sonogram. It turned out later to be a false alarm but I was already, shall we say, little bit jumpy because I'd lost a child and was now intimately aware of all the things that can go wrong in a pregnancy. The power went out, wasn't restored for a week, and I had to reschedule all the follow-up doctor appointments that would eventually clear my mind. Then I sat around by myself in the house because my work was closed, but my husband's wasn't, and there was nothing to distract me from all my perseverating thoughts for the next week.

This time, I was in a much better place and was able to take it all in stride with only minimal griping about how hot it was that first night. I also learned a few things about surviving a power outage with kids in the house:
  1. When your husband decides to go food shopping to "restock the fridge" at 11:30 pm the night before a storm is expected, consider this a bad omen.
  2. Sitting on the couch with a magazine in your lap and announcing, "I'm working on my analog laptop" isn't really fooling anyone.
  3. It's surprisingly difficult to explain to a two year old why just buying a new TV & new lights isn't going to rectify your current situation.
  4. You can use a power outage to justify eating all the cookies in the house -- before the milk goes bad.
  5. If you are a seventeen year old boy and you ask your parents for a flashlight so you can go downstairs and read because it's "really dark down there," you might want to check first and make sure a) it's not 4:00 in the afternoon and b) you cannot, oh say... OPEN THE DRAPES... because this will open you to much ribbing from said parents.
  6. The amount of vitriolic feeling for Pepco is quite astounding. Of course this is the company that let their automatic reconnection estimate tell people when they called that they could expect their power to come back "some time September," so I guess it was probably well-deserved.
  7. Your mobile phone can come in handy to ensure that your email server at work is still functioning. Peace of mind is an amazing thing.
  8. Playing board games by candlelight is made a little bit less enjoyable each time you drip hot candle wax on yourself.
  9. One seventeen year old is worth two grown men trying to start a generator across the street when that one seventeen year old is your stepson and has the ability to look at the generator and say, "Hey, what if you turned the O.N.O.F.F. switch to the O.N. position?"
  10. Having done this puzzle and countless others like it as a kid really prepares you for trying to fit two freezers worth of food into one, stacked as tightly as possible with a layer of ice over the top. It will also save you quite a bit of money in the end, so thanks, third grade ELP teacher!
  11. The cook top of my gas stove can be lit by hand in the event of a power outage, but the oven cannot. This seems incredibly ridiculous to me.
  12. Your colleagues at work like to pretend that they are die hards who go into work despite the devastation in their neighborhoods... but in reality they are just usurping the working air conditioning.
  13. When all else fails, you can call out from work and go break into a friend's house when she's not home. Then invite yourself to that friend's friend's pool for the day. Just don't try to use her fancy schmancy oven to cook some of your spoiling food because you are an idiot and can't turn it on without burning yourself.