Blackout of 2003: If the World Is Coming to An End, Stock Up on Beer and Batteries

I was just on Facebook and reminded that today was exactly 10 years from the Blackout of 2003 when the northeastern seaboard was dark for approximately 48 hours.

At the time, although, not a professional writer just yet, I still had a penchant for keeping track of historical events. Since I had directly experienced something so significant, a few days after the event, I sent this email to my friends and family out of state so they could hear firsthand my experience.

I enjoyed myself immensely, spending time with my neighbors that I wouldn’t normally have.

My memories of how it felt to be surrounded in a city, but without electricity or potable water are vivid and powerful. It felt so relaxing. I could literally feel the tension draining from my body with the removal of the electric lines buzzing nearby. And I loved the stillness of having the lights all completely off at night.

Hope you enjoy this history lesson. The moral of the story is:

If the World Is Coming to An End, Stock Up on Beer and Batteries

Hey Everybody! Thought you guys might be interested to hear about the GREAT BLACKOUT OF 2003! 🙂 I was off work on Thursday when it happened, getting ready to go to the grocery store.  Of course, I thought it was just a normal, minor power outage, and I went outside to see if anybody else on my block was affected.

At first nobody was around so I just hung around, looking for my flashlights and trying to call the electric company and kept getting a busy signal. Finally, some
neighbors were outside so I went out to chat with them and that was when I found out how widespread it was.

Yikes!  So, naturally, I got worried, I didn’t have much food in the house, and very little that I could eat without cooking it– I have an electric stove. 🙁

So I decided to go see if the grocery stores were open, they weren’t, but a local pharmacy was. So I stopped and got water and batteries, and BEER, all the
necessities! 🙂

I spent the evening with my neighbors, sitting outside and looking at the stars and marveling at how dark it was. Normally, we can barely even see the stars.

The next morning I woke up at six without my alarm clock, it was very bizarre. I sat outside on my deck eating half-melted ice cream bars for breakfast and hoping that the power would stay off for long enough that I wouldn’t have to go to work.

Well, I had to go in to work until they decided that we weren’t getting power that day, and around eleven thirty they sent us home.

People everywhere were lined up at grocery stores and drug stores that were letting people in one or two at a time or some of them were just coming to the door and taking orders, and everyone had to pay with cash.

People were also going crazy looking for gas. They kept announcing on the radio where the open gas stations were. Some people were even waiting at gas stations that weren’t open!

Home Depot was rushed on by people wanting to buy generators, crazy! There was some looting, but only in the worst areas of Detroit. I didn’t see any but I heard reports of it on the news.

I went with my neighbor to a party store (that’s what we call convenience/liquor stores here) to get more beer. We had to wait in line outside the store and each party would be let in and walked through the store with flashlights and we had to pay with even change. I didn’t have any problem at all with price gouging anywhere I went.

Since I didn’t have any food, my neighbors invited me to eat with them. We sat
outside all afternoon barbecuing and drinking beer. I had a blast!
The power came on about five p.m. in my neighborhood on Friday, but many places were without power until Saturday or Sunday. We were and still are being told to boil our water because they are still waiting for the results of the contamination tests.

But everything is pretty much back to normal. I hope everyone is doing well. Love, Martha

Civil Rights Fraud

It's always sunny in Austin, Tx.

Yesterday, being Martin Luther King Jr’s day and all, I felt like I should post something. Being the mama of a child who is essentially “African American” I think that it’s expected or something. It’s kind of silly, these expectations I put on myself, because in all reality, I don’t think anyone is really looking around wondering what I have to say about MLK that any other white American woman might say.

Yada, yada, yada, MLK was awesome. He wanted peace. He would be proud of us today for electing a black man as president.

Sometimes I feel like I’m hiding behind this mask that I’m somehow more enlightened or open-minded or something or other because I have family who doesn’t have the same skin color as my own. People give me acknowledged smiles or say vague things about race that I’m not always sure I understand. The longer Annika has been alive, the less I think about the differences about our skin color. And when it happens, I’m jolted back into the reality about how others view us, especially me, from both sides of the racial divide.

I often feel like a fraud when it comes to issues surrounding race. Just because my daughter is black, doesn’t make me an expert. Nor do I feel any closer to the black community because of her race.

Honestly, I felt closer to the issues surrounding racial tension when I lived in Detroit and worked as a reporter (even though I didn’t cover racial topics, necessarily.)

As a mom to a child of color, living in largely white Austin, Texas, I don’t feel as connected to the black community in the way I did when I lived next door to, worked with and befriended a wide swath a people with skin tones darker than my own.

It wasn’t just that I was near them, but I heard them. I heard their complaints. I saw the injustices piled upon a city left ravaged from historic racism and white flight. Detroit is still fighting for its life. And the city is losing.

But here in Austin, I don’t really have many black friends. And the friends I do know, I rarely see. And black folks are seemingly different here, than in Detroit, anyway.

The racial divide is unspoken in Austin, where I’m surrounded by white liberals who talk the talk. We are open-minded and we love Obama. We actively seek out diversity in our schools. We welcome people of color into our inner circles. And amongst my white liberal friends, you will never, ever hear something about a black person that you wouldn’t hear if one was nearby.

After living in Detroit and hearing racial epithets tossed about casually when white was the only skin color around, it’s refreshing.

We white liberals use lots of subtext when we talk about race. We don’t say “those people.” We talk about being proud to live in this day and age. We make casual references glossing over racial discussions. The vague, but strictly pointed subtext lies below. We are open-minded. We are not racists.

But I’m a civil rights fraud. I don’t actively work toward a better future for the racial divide. Other than being open-minded enough to screw outside my race, I haven’t really ever stepped outside my comfort zone to work toward equality.

I know there is still work to be done. Perhaps I could write my senators about laws that need to be passed. The DREAM Act, would be one such law I could support. I could join in the voices complaining about how black men are disproportionately jailed vs white men in the United States.

I could find some displaced youths to attend to. I could join local groups and write letters. I could actively work toward inclusion in our schools and community groups. I could be a mentor. I could point out that white Americans have it better because of history and that the same hard work doesn’t always spell out the same success. It also depends on where you started. White Americans have had a leg up for years. We don’t understand because we didn’t start in the same place.

I could spend more time writing rants about the ridiculous stereotypes I’ve encountered. I’ve only learned about some since Annika was born. One such is the notion that black women are less attractive than other races. This one pains me because Annika is already questioning her looks because of her skin color.

But I don’t. I don’t do these things because, well, because we live in a really nice world. I don’t see the injustices day-to-day. I do think that our country is moving forward. But I think we still have a lot of work to do.

But it’s really hard to do it when I’m surrounded by summer sun, nine months out of the year, public pools, margaritas and breakfast tacos.

We live a good life here in Austin, Texas. While the city is still divided along many racial lines, the intentions are good. It’s hard to remember that in other parts of the world, it’s not so great. I live in my bubble.

So I’m a civil rights fraud, with my biracial baby living in my mostly white world.

Meditation is good for mama brain

I’ve started meditating again. Finally, after six years of hemming and hawing, I’m just doing it.

A couple of weeks ago I started going to a Buddhist program that has child care, so Annika gets to play on the playground and do toddler yoga while I meditate and get my spiritual cup filled. This is something I was desperately needing even before Annika was born. And now? Well, I don’t need to explain it to the moms. And I don’t think I could explain it to the non-moms, but here’s a go at it. Imagine that your boss lives with you and you had to wipe his ass every time he pottied, and then after he’d been almost potty-trained, he all of a sudden he wanted to wear diapers again.

When you live with a toddler, you never get to turn off. Even when she’s not here, or sleeping, I have a hard time doing it.

So it’s just nice to have some time to sit in the stillness and make an attempt to quiet down my mind that races constantly. It’s hard to calm down the constant tugging of the brain.

Today I meditated at home for 10 minutes. As I sat there in the stillness of my home, calming my brain and turning thoughts away as they popped into my head, I came to a realization. Our brains need to be exercised just like any other muscle. The only thing is, with mind exercise, it’s the opposite of exercising your body.

Mind exercise requires that you be still and train your thoughts to land and then float away, so your brain can have time to repair.

I’m feeling super hippy-ish right now, all zen and shit, so bear with me. I’m still the obnoxious ass that you all know and like at least a little bit.

But seriously, meditation does wonders for me. It helps me be patient. It helps me remember that it is possible to get everything done and that Annika’s sole purpose in life is not to make me go completely insane, after I spent three hours trying to convince her to go to the park, then when I decided to make dinner she decided she was ready to go outside.

That’s all I’m saying. Meditation. Good. Peace. Stillness.

For the Austinites interested, I’m going here.

A quick lesson in meditation:

Find a comfortable spot, you can sit in any position. You can even lie down, just make sure your body is opened up, not in a curled position.

If you are sitting on the floor, you can cross your legs or if you have knee problems, get a pillow and straddle it so that your body is comfortable and your knees are not stressed.

Place your hands on your knees or fold them in your lap, whatever is comfortable for you.

The whole point of meditation is to be comfortable so that your mind can relax without thinking of any physical stress.

Close your eyes. You can set a timer before you start so that you aren’t distracted by wondering how long you’ve been sitting. I’d recommend using something that has a soft tone. It doesn’t matter how long you meditate. You can try five or ten minutes the first few times and work your way up.

There are a number of ways to relax your mind, but the way I was taught was to count. Count to ten. On each count, breathe in and out. Then count to the next number, then breathe, in and out. Example: one (breathe in and out), two (breathe in and out) and so forth.

When you get to ten, count backwards down to one. Then start over again.

Focus on your breath and the counting.

As thoughts come into your head, don’t try to shut them down. Allow the thought to enter, observe it, then watch it float away. I like to imagine that I am softly flicking it away. I watch it float away, like a feather floating in the wind.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it.

As you are meditating, don’t try to force anything. And if you find yourself becoming uncomfortable, allow yourself to stretch and move as needed. But come back to the center when you are comfortable again.

I learned to meditate at a Buddhist temple in Detroit. I took a class, so I had the opportunity to ask lots of questions and get feedback.

Meditation has been found to improve all sorts of mental and physical conditions. It improves mood, elevates happiness, decreases depression. It reduces blood pressure and anxiety. Claims have been made that it helps with things like heart problems, PMS, diabetes, and a number of other health problems.

I don’t know about all that, but I sure do like it.