As you can see, one of our Bradford pear trees was struck by lightning a few weeks ago. And last nigt the wind howled and the rains came down as Ernesto passed through. (No damage.) And it's supposed to rain all weekend here.
Naturally this all makes me think of Katrina. Like our President, I was unaware of how bad things were in Louisiana and Mississippi until several days after the storm went through. My excuse is that I had a 7-week-old baby and a 3-year-old and was spending all my time feeding the baby or watching Grease or Noggin with the 3-year-old. Once I realized what was going on, I was, like everyone else, shocked and saddened and absolutely horrified that such suffering was happening in this country, just a few states away from me.
And because I did have a new baby, I was especially affected by the images of the children stuck at the Convention Center and the Superdome -- those poor hot, sweaty, listless babies. I couldn't stop thinking about what I would do if I was in such a situation with my kids. Phoebe would be okay as long as I was okay, because she was breastfeeding, but what about Mallory? How could I explain to her that I had no food or water to give her even though she was so terribly hungry and thirsty? What could I do to make her feel better? What would it be like to be in a position where you could do nothing to help your child -- when you honestly didn't know if you could keep your child alive? Argh, I'm getting teary just thinking about it, and in a way I feel that I have no business even speculating about it because no matter how bad I imagine it must have been, I'm sure the actual experience was a million times worse.
Anyway, it was certainly depressing, and it was in fact the beginning of a depressing time in our household. My maternity leave was ending, and I was so sad about having to leave my girls behind again. I was worried because Phoebe wouldn't take a bottle and wouldn't sleep anywhere but on my lap. I was afraid my inlaws wouldn't enjoy taking care of both girls at once. I was going to miss our long lazy days together. Then, the day before I went back to work, one of our dogs died. He was the second-favorite dog in the house (out of two) but it was still a shock and still hard to deal with. And the very day I went back, Chris found out that he was in danger of losing his job, and four very tense and miserable weeks later, he was in fact let go.
So it was not all fun and games in our household for several months. But we made it through and now Chris is working again and the girls are growing and thriving and it's much easier only having one dog and life goes on. And as a matter of fact I was able to remain pretty upbeat in spite of everything. A few months ago I read an article that explains why. Apparently everyone has an inborn "set point" of happiness, and life circumstances can't do much to push you away from that point. So if you're a generally happy person -- say, a 7 out of 10 -- and you're in a car crash and become a paraplegic, you may have a few bad months but eventually you'll get back to being a 7 most days. And if you're a generally unhappy person -- say a 3 -- and win a gajillion bucks in the Powerball, you may have a few good months but eventually you'll be miserable again. I guess this may be bad news for the constitutionally unhappy people but it's good news for me -- I think I'm probably a 6. Not that I don't have my bad days, and there have been times when I've had my bad weeks or months -- but I'm generally just pretty satisfied.
Of course I also have moments of "10-ness" which I think probably contribute to being able to stay at a 6. Recent ones...being on vacation with my family in Virginia, and looking around and realizing that almost all the people I love best in the world were right there in the room with me (except my brother and his son, who were missed). And a few weeks ago, on a Saturday afternoon in our living room, I was picking up all the scattered toys, Mallory and Phoebe were scattering more toys, Chris was eating Frosted Flakes and watching Vh1, and "Come on Eileen" came on and all four of us stopped what we were doing and started dancing around the living room together. Three-and-a-half minutes of pure joy. Minutes like those make life just perfect, no matter what storms may come.