Well, what a difference a week can make. Actually, I’m not even sure what day that 16º temp is from. It was actually much colder than that, which should not be happening here.
Last week, snowstorms blanketed a pretty large part of the US, and as you can see, Texas didn’t escape it. Now, I lived for
40 many years in northern Illinois and Chicago. In theory, I’m used to1 the cold and the snow.
Unfortunately, Texas is built for Midwest winters. Our houses are designed for cooling in hot weather, not for this malarkey, and they are not well insulated. I mean, in all the years I lived in Illinois, I never did anything to outside water tap other than unhooking the hose. Perhaps I halfheartedly tied a kitchen dishcloth around it. Here in Texas, the tap by our pool has frozen every damn year. We’ve had it repaired twice, so far. Last year required removing bricks in order to fix it. There’s nothing in plumbing repairs to make your gut clench like to seeing someone knock bricks out of your outside wall to get to a pipe.
That was fun.
So rolling blackouts? I wasn’t prepared for the electricity to play a tennis game of one hour on, one hour off. Or 30 minutes on, and 40 minutes off. Or 42 minutes on, 2 hours off. Like biting into a box of chocolates, you really didn’t know what you were going to get.
Except this one box is a crappy one filled with nothing but stale nougats and the kind of chocolate covered toffee that is hard enough to crack a crown.
In addition to making it difficult to keep the house heated, it was fun to prepare meals, that’s for sure.
That said, I’ve done a pretty bang up job at clearing the pantry. I did a better job than at the start of the pandemic. I was lucky enough to have a gas cooktop, so we ate a lot of soup. When everyone was tired of soup, I broke out a few recipes I’d been wanting to try (but wasn’t sure how they’d go over). Desperation and boredom make for willing subjects.
This is a pumpkin sweet potato black bean chili. It used up one giant sweet potato I had left in the back of the potato bag, along with a can of black beans, pumpkin, diced tomatoes, and some diced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (because that’s what momma had).
And yes, the pandemic prepared me for self-sufficiency, teaching me to bake my own bread (RIP Ramona). However, it’s pretty damn hard to get dough to raise when the temp in the house is only 52º.
My teens ended up missing an entire week of school due to the rolling blackouts. This week the district is asynchronous because some schools were without power and damage needs to be repaired.
This pretty much means that I will do battle to wake them up at a decent time after fighting with them to go to bed at a decent time, only to find out they really didn’t have much homework to do to begin with. Which is good, because wifi is still spotty.
Cue the complaining…
Despite the freezing temps, getting exercise turned out to be easier than anticipated. In an effort to keep the pool from freezing over completely, we went out once an hour with a sharp little shovel. Thus armed, we played the adult version of Don’t Break the Ice, where instead, while breaking the ice, you try not to throw out your back.
(Does anyone know how many calories you burn swinging a shovel, and how I can apply that to my Apple watch to close my rings?)
As frustrating as it was, when I did finally get onto Facebook, we quickly learned what a blessing our short rolling blackouts was. Having the power out for 60 or 90 minutes wouldn’t spoil the food in the fridge. It made it less likely (but not impossible, some learned) to burst a pipe. When it’s out for 4 hours, or 12 hours, or 2 days, there’s a lot more damage to the house.
Friends shared photos of burst pipes, water flooding in from above – and guess what? When there’s no electricity, you can’t run a shop vac to clean up the water.
So this week, I have been counting my blessings and am thankful.
Again, here we were lucky and didn’t lose water, although I did put off doing laundry when it came back as so many places didn’t have any and supplies were low.
However, today I finally took on the laundry. That’s all I did, actually – wash, dry, fold, repeat. And despite the fact that one of my teens might have worn the same pajama pants for 6 days straight, only to switch out to a pair of sweats and the same sweatshirt during the day, AND although I rotated from pajamas to sweats to the same OTHER sweats to break pool ice, I still had approximately 22 loads of laundry to do.
(How many calories does folding clothes burn? I’m struggling to get these Apple watch activity rings closed, although the standing ring shouldn’t be an issue.)
I have threatened bodily harm to anyone who brings more dirty clothes to the laundry room. Your towels are dirty, you say? Stand them up in the corner of your bathroom until I make space in the laundry room, for the love of all that’s good and holy.
We might have ended up in Texas by necessity and not choice, and I might have seen a lot this past year that has not enamored me with the state. However, this past week, what I did see in people was heartwarming.
In the face of adversity, Texans come together to support each other. Offers of food, blankets, water. Offers of a spare room in houses that weren’t hit by blackouts, Covid be damned. I saw kindnesses extended, information shared.
It was a lovely thing.
And considering all the dead landscaping we will need to replace, the inevitable pool repairs that will have to happen (the pump was sounding pretty grind-y by Wednesday), the lost week(s) of school for the teens (there’s not much real work going on this week, to be honest) – I’ll take it all, gratefully, because we came out ok on the other end.
Aside from the few pounds gained because of a steady consumption of comfort carbs.
I can live with that.
1When I say I’m used to it, its more experiential. I have zero tolerance for it, which was how I was lured away from Chicago and deep dish pizza and Greektown and theater and everything wonderful about it. However, I don’t like it, which is why I’m in Texas, and SOMEONE clearly broke a promise that I’d never have to deal with that crap again.