Powerlessness & Gratitude: Message from Post-Sandy NJ

We are in northern, New Jersey. We were hit pretty hard by Sandy, but from what I can tell, we got off easy compared to lower Manhattan, Queens and the Jersey shore. We experienced 5 days of powerlessness. By day 3 I stopped flicking light switches, and quickly adjusted to candlelit dinners and huddling around the fireplaces for warmth, light and quietude. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to reflect on priorities. It’s amazing how quickly the ‘things’ that we cling to fade as we focus on survival, those we love and our communities. I was grateful that I hit gratitude relatively quickly in this mess – almost immediately after seeing a rather large tree across the top of my car! Feeling pretty grateful for a lot of things – natural gas service, gas fireplaces, gas hot water heater, city water (gravity fed), good food, awesome family, great friends and a very thoughtful community.

When we moved into this house over the summer, we were crabby that the two huge old fireplaces in the dining room and living room had been converted to gas – we love our wood-burning fun. Prepping wood and fireplace is like a ritual to us. Have to say that this week as the temperatures drop, we are incredibly happy to lean into those big ole fireplaces and turn a nob and have instant warm flames. I’m surprised how much heat is thrown off those gas-fueled flames! Surprised and super grateful. We have set up camp on our couch in front of the living room fireplace and it is pretty darn cozy.

The Green Diva kitchen is remarkably functional and I’m glad I filtered and saved a lot of water, even though we do have water from the tap. We’ve got a lot of yummy food and we’re cookin with gas as they say!

This episode has underscored the value of simplifying for me. Keeping it simple and as self-sufficient as possible seems like a good trajectory moving forward. And I don’t mean self-sufficient in an isolationist way. I am convinced that we have to start having serious conversations in our communities about these kinds of events and how we can be better prepared and avoid certain negative circumstances all together. Talk about creating more localized (at least regional) basic services – energy, clean/safe water, food, etc. If we have to rely on water, fuel and food to get delivered from other areas of the country in an emergency, is that really sustainable? Ok, I’m leaving the trail on a sidewinder . . . sorry.

I’m incredibly grateful for all those in our GD and online communities that have reached out and offered encouraging words and actual support. Our Important Media blog community stepped up, and our fearless leader Scott Cooney kept my blog from getting too stale by posting an excellent article about distributed power and energy storage: lessons learned by Sandy, which I highly recommend!

We were like digital explorers and on day 4 after no Internet access and very little news, we discovered shangri-la in a Starbucks with power – not only did we find one, but we got a table and two plugs for charging. Seriously? The floors are littered with people on their laptops gratefully accessing wifi and a plugs when available. Folks are calmly sharing and like strangers stranded on Starbucks island, we are swapping stories and sharing critical information like where you can get gas or when power might be coming on, or where you can get ice for your warming refrigerator.

My heart has been warmed by my personal experiences in our own community of people extending themselves readily and heartily to help neighbors, but I’ve also loved the many stories (and new ones every day) from all over this devastated area. Crack all the jokes you want about Joisy folks, but in a true pinch, they are – WE are – as kind and courteous as they come. The most inspirational theme is that the folks who have been hit hard, seem still willing to share what little they have left. And when someone’s electricity (and consequently heat) comes back, they put the word out to those that are still cold and in the dark.

We now count ourselves among those back to full power and have been graced with a few visitors who have shared a meal and warmed up. All are welcome.

Our only serious casualties are my and my daughter’s cars that are pinned down under a rather large tree and will remain so for a while. Have a couple of different insurance companies to deal with and the adjusters probably have cars on a low-priority (rightfully so in many cases). So when my husband gets on my slightly frayed nerves, I’ve tried to remember that he filled his hybrid with gas Monday morning, and while we all tried to get him to move it away from that big tree, and tuck it down by the garage where ours were nestled safely next to the house and away from the large looming trees on the street, his car was miraculously untouched. Oh the irony. So grateful I can walk easily into my wonderful town. We’ve been taking daily walks and I seriously adore my town and the people in it. I’m one lucky green diva.

So what are the climate change haters saying these days?

Dunno, but I have more respect for our governor Christie. He could have used the opportunity to politicize things and he has done the opposite. While I’ve enjoyed the break from the political insanity, you can bet I’m voting Tuesday, come hell or high water (or hurricanes apparently).

Obviously, we did not have a Green Divas Radio Show this past week featuring Mariel Hemingway. We hope to be fully operational this week. Please stay tuned for details and hopefully join us this Thursday, 4 – 5pm ET on HomeGrownRadioNJ.org! The Green Divas Radio Show Facebook page is probably the best place for the latest news on whether we have a show this week or not!

Hope you are faring well wherever you are. Hope to be back on track next week! Meanwhile . . . stay warm, safe & peaced out.


Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

Oh, and my friend in Sussex? Her pump also died by the 3rd day, so her basement is a complete loss and still, as I understand it, under water.

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

Well, there are the good stories and the bad, I guess.
I've been communicating with a good friend of mine in Sussex Co. There, her county has the rich side and the poorer side.
The richer side of the county got their electric back in 2 days. Their roads were cleared and their water Okay'ed.
My friend only got her electric back by the 8th. She couldn't get to work for 4 days because the roads weren't cleared of trees or downed telephone poles. Her old generator went out on the 2nd day and she thanks God she owned a wood burning stove for warmth. Once she was able to get to work, she's swamped all day but was able to get me out a couple e-mails about her situation and forwarded me mail she has sent to Lauternburg and Chris Christie.
My brother is in Bergen Co., a fairly well-to-do county, depending on the town. Rich towns, like his, got their electric back in less than 48 hours; he was able to drive into Manhattan to 30 Rock to use his phone the very next day after the storm. His family suffered not at all. Kid's school was up and running in 3 days.
I don't hear the same from my friends in poorer towns. They have had to wait up to 9 and 10 days after the storm for ANY help.

Just goes to show ya - - -

Dina B.
Dina B5 years ago

I understand what you've been through in a way. I am in central Jersey and experienced almost 2 days without electricity. I can relate to the candlelit dinners, the natural reaction to flip a switch as soon as you enter a room, and the fight for warmth. What I cannot relate to is your amazing gratitude- stunning! In such a stressful situation like Superstorm Sandy, you found what little good left in the situation and turned it into a mountain of good. I, on the other hand, could not stop complaining for the relatively short time we lost power. Thank you for being a role model for all of those affected by Sandy, by showing everyone that looking at the bright side makes for a long, happy, beautiful life. Thanks for sharing your stunning viewpoint on life.

Bonnie M.
Bonnie M5 years ago

What a heartwarming story. Thank you for sharing.

Sheleen Addison
Sheleen Addison5 years ago

Attitude and reactions makes so much difference in the long run

Jennifer C.
Past Member 5 years ago


holly masih
.5 years ago

People who are thankful to God for what is good in their life,instead of having an attitude about what isn't right in their life,are much happier people.Good and bad comes to everyone.A happy person is not one who is free from problems,but one who is focusing on what is good.

Karen M.
Karen M5 years ago

Thank you for sharing your story; thank you for the reminder to find gratitude in all things and situations. You have lifted my heart and soul with your story, and i hope for a quick recovery for you, your loved ones and your community. Sending lots of love to you all :)

Marian A.
Marian A5 years ago

Attitude is everything .... so glad you are finding the blessings in your personal situation.

Marie W.
Marie W5 years ago

Mother Nature is everywhere.