Teachable Moments

Hurricane Michael wasn’t my first experience with a major storm. In the autumn of 2004, four hurricanes, beginning with Charley, and followed by Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne, impacted one part of Florida or another. I was teaching 5th graders at Croton Elementary in Melbourne that year, and it seemed that through much of August and September my students and I were either prepping for a storm or cleaning up after one.

Prepping at school meant wrapping all of our electronics, computers, monitors, and books in heavy duty garbage bags, securing the openings with duct tape, and placing them as high as possible in the classroom. Then after the storms passed we had to take everything down, remove the tape, and put things back where they belonged. Networked computers had to be put back on line, and books matched with students.

The school was fortunate, and we never had any significant damage, but every time a storm’s predicted path indicated Melbourne might be hit, the drill to prepare was carried out to a “t.”

Since some of this prep and de-prep had to take place during the school day, we made learning games out of the process. I taught math and science, so my students measured the equipment to be stored during the storm and estimated the minimum amount of bags and tape we’d need to do the job. They measured shelves and cabinets to see where the equipment could be stored best. They learned to code tags for computer equipment in order to get everything running smoothly again as quickly as possible. We did job efficiency studies afterwards to see where we expended unnecessary energy and what we should do differently if there was a next time.

We didn’t realize when we prepped for Charley that we’d be doing it again for three more storms, but the students made charts and checklists just in case, so we’d be ready to go into action if another storm hit. By Hurricane Jeanne, we were operating like a well-oiled, if slightly weary, machine.

The team prep work seemed to take some of the anxiety out of waiting for storms to hit, and the games helped minimize the learning time lost to the storms. And when we came back together after the various storms had passed, students were engaged in problem solving and trouble shooting, instead of worrying about the lack of electricity at home, at least for a portion of the day.

That was a tough year for all of us, but I have only good memories of working with that group of children. Studly and I moved to Illinois at the end of the school year, and I’ve lost touch with those students, but I hope the ones who stayed in hurricane country remember those days of prepping for the storms as good ones.

Peace, people!

Good Morning from Houston

It’s Saturday morning, and a fine one as far as I can tell. My daughter and I arrived at my brother’s home in Houston within minutes of each other around five on Friday. She flew in from Des Moines, Iowa, while I drove from Florida and, voila! Here we are.

For a good twenty minutes yesterday I wasn’t sure I was going to get here at all. My gps took me on some rabbit chasing adventure just outside of Beaumont, Texas, and soon I was bouncing along on backroads, some covered in gravel, some partially barricaded, and one completely blocked to traffic. It was obvious that the gps had lost its freaking mind and that I would most likely die alone at the end of this middle of nowhere dirt lane.

I sat and thought for a few minutes then realized I needed to backtrack and just find the damned interstate again. No need to get all melodramatic; although, part of me wondered what future archaeologists might conclude when they found my skeleton sitting upright in my Mazda hundreds or even thousands of years from now.

“Probably senile. Right age. Car had evidence consisting of junk food wrappers and plastic cups that once most likely contained diet Coke. I guess she didn’t remember her Mazda had a reverse gear. Poor girl.”

As I backtracked I realized that the gps had most likely tried to help me avoid some traffic issue on the interstate and didn’t factor in that roads around Beaumont, like the one it directed me to, had been seriously impacted by the flooding that accompanied last year’s hurricanes. Guardrails were warped and in some places lay mangled on both sides of the road, and there were places so degraded that I couldn’t drive on the correct side of the road without endangering my safety. Intense!

When I finally made it back to an entrance ramp for I-10 West, I breathed a sigh of relief and completed the rest of my journey without incident. I hugged my daughter and my brother and my sister-in-law, then we went out for drinks and dinner and more drinks and had just a wonderful evening dining alfresco in one of the best cities in the world.

I slept like a drunken sailor and am now up and ready to continue my journey, as my daughter, Ashley and I drive to San Antonio for the NCAA men’s Final Four basketball tournament starting tonight! Just to be safe, I’m putting Ashley in charge of navigation.

Peace, people!

Minimalist Challenge, Puttin’ on the Ritz Day 26

Last night Studly Doright and I were watching the University of Kansas basketball team play Texas Tech for the Big 12 championship on television. It was a great, too-close-for-comfort game, and Studly worked up a powerful hunger while cheering for the Jayhawks.

Late in the second half he asked, “Do we have any snacks? I feel like I need to eat something if we’re going to win this game.”

Rather than throwing something at him or telling him to get his own damned snack I hoisted myself out of my chair and went in search of some munchies. The first likely snacks I came upon were several boxes of Ritz cheese crackers and a few more of the peanut butter version.

We don’t normally keep these on hand, but I recalled buying them in preparation for hurricane survival last summer. There’s nothing like a Ritz cracker to see you through the dark times, am I right?

Before asking Studly if the crackers would fill the bill for his snack I thought to check the expiration dates. November 17, 2017, was stamped on each box. So while they didn’t get to fulfill their destiny as snacks, the crackers were pressed into service for today’s minimalist challenge.

Twenty-three packages of Ritz crackers plus three of the boxes in which they were stored makes a total of 26 items for February 26.

I found Studly another snack, and the resulting energy revived him enough to power the Jayhawks through to a two-point victory over the Red Raiders and KU’s 14th straight conference championship. I doubt they’ll publicly thank us, though.

Tropical Depression 9

We’ve got trouble coming.


According to tracking predictions on my Storm app, Tropical Depression Nine is going to make a pass very near Doright Manor in Florida this week. The disturbance is heading into the Gulf of Mexico now where it’s picking up steam and could potentially be upgraded to a hurricane. 

Studly Doright and I experienced a couple of hurricanes when we lived in Melbourne, Florida, in ’03 and ’04. I’m not in the mood to repeat those experiences. Sitting in a boarded up home  (aka “hunkering down”) for 24 hours straight while ferocious winds blew unidentifiable objects into our home was not optimal for my sanity. This blog should be proof of that. And we did it twice.

Had I never had to hunker down to survive two hurricanes I’d probably be writing a how-to blog for docile homemakers or an advice column for lovesick teenagers.

I asked Studly if the cats and I could evacuate to a safer place this time. He just pulled his hat down on his head and croaked, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” 

Maybe those days of hunkering down took a toll on him, too.

Oh, and because the storm is currently called “Tropical Depression Nine,” I thought this video featuring The Searchers was a fitting cap to the post. Enjoy!

http://youtu.be/7rXhXLsNJL8


Peace, people.

%d bloggers like this: