Surviving Our Texas Snowpocalypse

Where have I been for the last week? Surviving our Texas snowpocalypse, that’s what! It was a crazy week but we survived.

Surviving our Texas snowpocalypse

Last week has been one for the books. You may wonder where I have been this past week. Well, I’ve been buried under snow and ice. Well, not literally, but for all intents and purposes it is true. Now this will sound so silly to people who live in Northern areas. Texas is such a warm state. Even our December days are often around 70 degrees. We have days that hit freezing, but we rarely get the precipitation that produces snow and even when we get some flakes it doesn’t always accumulate.

This Monday we had a severe winter storm blow through South Texas. Texas sees it’s share of severe weather but for us it is often hurricanes towards the end of summer and early Fall or it is in tornados around March and April. We are not prepared for Winter storms. 

When the storm came in on Sunday night many of us were so excited. We almost never see snow here and when we do it is normally just a dusting that is gone by midday. This was quite different. We had icy precipitation first then 4-6” of snow depending on where you live. 

Snow Day

The kids woke up to something they have never really seen here. White rooftops. Snowy trees, the street, and yard covered in a glistening white blanket of snow. It was gorgeous. Snow is always gorgeous before we drive through it and muddy it up, before it turns into a grey slushy. 

We bundled the kids up like Ralphie out of Christmas story and let them have fun playing in the snow. My two year old was quite hesitant at first, but he had an absolute fit when we told them it was time to come inside. They had a blast throwing snowballs and throwing the snow up in the air. It was great. We made sure they got into a hot bath immediately.

surviving our Texas snowpocalypse
surviving our Texas snowpocalypse

Boom Goes the Power

Not long after our eventful play in the snow did we lose power. It is shocking how quickly a warm house cools. We have a gas range, so we were at least able to cook. But we weren’t able to get groceries before the storm as stores were over run. That night, temperatures dipped down to about 9º. We slept the kids with us in the room and we made sure we pulled out their 30º sleeping bags but it was frigid.

We were stuck with whatever charge we had on our phones and devices. Thank goodness I have a ton of candles and we had plenty of batteries for flashlights. We finished out Monday night by the fireplace.

Me

Tuesday

Tuesday morning we ran out of wood for the fireplace. The cold was biting. Not all of our taps were working despite leaving them all dripping. We pulled out our water bob and filled it up, If you don’t have one of these, you should get one, They only cost around $30. It is a bladder that you put in your bath tub and fill it up for potable water in case you lose it. It holds about 100 gallons. Boy am I glad we did that! By the end of the day, we had lost all water. 

That evening we couldn’t take the cold anymore. By 3 o’clock on Tuesday we had been without power for 24 hours and temperatures never rose above freezing. My hands were numb as I tried to fix lunch for us. We decided to venture out and see if we could get any supplies. Lots of roads and stretches of the highway were still closed. We found had to drive out of town to find a store with power. They were cleaned out of most essentials and had no firewood or anything like it. My brother gave us a few pieces that we had and we stopped to check in on my elderly parents who had also been trapped without electricity. In fact, all my family members had been without electricity. 

There were rolling outages, but it was very odd. Some people never lost power. Some people appear to have regular power with small breaks, while other people like us, had no power at all for days at a time. It was very upsetting to see tons of businesses lit up with no one in them while homes were without power. USAA one of our largest businesses with a huge campus was fully energized with even their multistory parking lot blazing with lights while are house was 40º inside. Empty car dealerships all over the city were blaring with high-powered halogen lights over their parking lots when my elderly parents had no way to cook, no water, and had no heat source. We were told, our utilities were picking and choosing areas and places to energize.

surviving the Texas snowpocalypse

Wednesday

I am so grateful we had things like powdered milk and dry eggs to cook. I’m grateful we have a gas range. I’ll tell you that we will be investing in a propane heater after this! A generator also sounds amazing. We got some power overnight and it was wonderful but it was gone before we woke up and by noon it was painfully frigid again. Once the house gets that cold, it just takes a long time to get it back up to temperature.

My 91 year old grandfather and mentally challenged uncle were without heat all week as well. It is sad to see this kind of thing happen unnecessarily. Our losses were fairly small. It was bitterly cold in our house, but we all survived. We lost everything in our fridge including medications. We managed to keep the freezer fairly cold by packing ziplock bags of snow inside it to keep things frozen, but our fridge just didn’t stay cold enough.

Thursday

Last night temperatures dropped again. We had another bout of freezing rain and sleet, icing over everything that had started to defrost. Temperatures won’t get above freezing today. I wonder how long it will take for us to get power and water again. How much longer for us to get food and groceries again, I don’t know. I imagine it will be a madhouse and then of course, COVID hasn’t stopped. 

It’s been hard to be cut off from the world. We have only been turning on our devices here and there to touch base with family. Then we turn them off again. Roads are too icy to try and venture out. Even our steep driveway is covered with ice. This has been really hard for the kids. The numbing cold, the lack of light, no food or electronics. My youngest is too little to understand what has happened. But I am still incredibly proud of how well they have tried to adapt.

front porch

Friday

Power has been restored. Water is slowly coming through the taps but we are under a boil water notice for the next few days it seems. I’m just grateful to have heat again. It is slowly warming in the house.

It has been an interesting experience to say the least. It has certainly caused me to be grateful for things that I take for granted. Light, water, heat. Perhaps these things are necessary so we can appreciate the things we overlook everyday. I am especially grateful for people who reached out to me. People who offered their supplies, even their home to us if conditions worsened. Thank you so much! The most marvelous thing was that people I know who had the least were the ones who offered us the most.

Lots of restaurants and grocery stores appear to have lost food and so it will be a couple of weeks until things return to normal. Can I say that in 2021? Is there such a thing as normal anymore? If you were affected by the winter storm, I’d love to know how you are doing. This is one of my few posts that will read like a diary, I promise!

The Letter Revival Project

I’m writing letters to friends and family and it has had an amazing effect. Learn more all about the letter revival project.

the letter revival project
This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one of the links I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you.

It all started with seeing the Social Dilemma. If you haven’t seen that, I highly recommend watching it. The interview-style documentary, details how BIG TECH (Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, What’s App, and Twitter), are all data mining us, literally tracking our every move and every personal detail of our life. To make matters worse, their surveillance suppresses any opposing views, manipulates what you see in your feeds and is actually designed to create divisiveness. Why? So you can stay on their platforms longer, arguing with friends and family, and so they can present more ads to you and then sell your data to other companies.

Not long after watching The Social Dilemma, I actually watched numerous hours of the hearings on Capitol hill. It is really shocking to hear social media employees testify about the weaponizing of social media. It doesn’t matter if you are on the right or the left, one fact remains: social media giants are invading our privacy and pitting us against each other so they can sell our data and sell ads.

Because of that, I took an extended break from social media. Even though I had to use social media to promote this blog, I automated a lot of things so that I wouldn’t have to actually be on it. Then in November, I decided to pick up a pen and write some letters. What happened was something really wonderful. And now, I want to share it with you. Join me in The Letter Revival Project.

The Lost Art of Writing

Getting Reacquainted With the Art of Writing

While on my break from social media, I thumbed through some old books in my personal library. I have a book on the Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln. Aside from some of his speeches, the book contains much of his personal correspondence which I found to be very intriguing. Then I read the entirety of the book Our Sacred Honor. This is an amazing book of correspondence from the founding fathers of America.

One of the most fascinating things in this book is their language. Their prose is so polished even for formally uneducated men like Washington. Their vocabulary and articulation are not only beautiful, but expressive, poignant, and dignified. Honestly, it was this book that really encouraged me to pick up a pen and revolutionize how I communicate with friends. I also read through my book on Jane Austen’s letters.

Jane, was so ahead of her time and her letters to friends and family are absolutely divine. Her language is as beautiful as her writing in her books. How awesome would it have been to have these amazing people as pen pals?

letter writing books

Starting to Write

I opened up my dusty address book and decided to pick a handful of people at random. People I had not talked to in some time. I took some time to share the most recent happenings with our family and expressed interest in the things going on in their life. First, I noticed that I had been out of practice with writing for a long period of time. I found that writing actually forced me to rebuild dexterity and strength in my hands. It is amazing that you use different muscle groups to type or text. I also found that my handwriting had become sloppy and careless, something that writing letters has improved in just a few short months.

Secondly, I found it incredibly relaxing. I put on some non-distracting music, like classical music. Lit some warm candles and sat by our roaring fireplace and began to pen letters. Just yesterday, I sat beside the window while it was raining and wrote by candlelight. It was so wonderful and soothing. It was actually a stress reliever and I found that I am far more intimate in a letter than I am in a text message. I found my “voice” is more eloquent and my vocabulary seems to broaden when I write.

The Supplies

Something that can not be overstated is that a personal letter these days is so rare that it is a gift in and of itself. Sure, I could have opted for the loose-leaf paper that I have stacked in our schoolroom. However, I decided that I would make correspondence exceedingly special with some vintage stationery. It is interesting to note that letter writing sets are becoming harder to find. Still, I bought a few and I dusted my box of sealing wax that has gone mostly unused these past few years.

I lovingly wrote out five letters on beautiful paper and for some, I sealed the letters with sealing wax. You should note that sealing wax requires extra postage because it cannot go through the machines and needs to be hand canceled. The U.S. post office sells stamps for non-machinable envelopes. Do not let the need for stamps discourage you from mailing letters. You don’t even need to go to the post office. The U.S. post office offers stamps for online ordering. You can have them shipped directly to your house.

sealing wax

The Letter Revival Project

I was very surprised to hear the reactions of the recipients. For starters, each one of them was deeply touched. In a day and age, where people can’t even bother to call (don’t we all just text now?) There is something fabulously special about the idea of someone taking the time to buy stamps, sit down, painstakingly write a letter, and mail it. Each person mentioned how thoughtful it was but perhaps more to the point, refreshing.

It was exciting to receive something in the mail that wasn’t a bill. It was personal, thoughtful, and intimate – something we are grossly lacking in today’s society. Many asked if we could continue writing letters. Still, others heard that I was writing and sheepishly asked if I wouldn’t mind writing them as well. It has become contagious and sadly, I don’t think we realize how much we need this. That’s why I’m starting the letter revival project. I want to inspire others to step away from social media and write to each other the way we used to.

the letter revival project
I found this beautiful stationery set at Victoria Trading Company

As it turns out, it has been incredibly fulfilling and stress relieving for me while at the same time, a blessing to those who have received it. That got me thinking. Why aren’t more of us doing this? Social media has done the exact opposite of its original intention. It has divided us, made us into voyeurs instead of participants. I dare say it has even incited feelings of inadequacy when we see only the highlights of someone’s life. Because of it, we have grown unintentionally lazy in all our relationships and we’ve surrounded ourselves with hundreds of acquaintances instead of building and investing in life-long friendships. Friend, reconsider your relationship with social media.

Join Me In Writing

Friend, I hope you consider, taking some time away from social media. Take some time for yourself to recalibrate and unwind. Why not start with just a thirty-day break. If you want some help, take a look at my post, 30- Day Social Media Detox. In that post, I give you some ideas that you can do when you aren’t on social media. Or perhaps, you limit social media, while taking time to reconnect with friends via letter. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised how many people enjoy your letter. They will never say that about a like or comment you give them on social media. Please join me for the letter revival project. Let’s revive writing letters! Comment below and tell me if you are joining me. Commit to writing to five unsuspecting friends or family members this month.

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My 2020 Book List

Although I didn’t read nearly as much as I have in the past, these are the books I read in 2020. Here is my 2020 book list.

My 2020 book list
This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one of the links I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you.

I do love reading. When quarantine started in March I honestly thought that I would have a ton of time to devote towards reading. Unfortunately, that is not how this all turned out. I spent a great deal of time engaging with my children and bonding as a family. Of course, I absolutely don’t regret that at all!

This year was also spent homeschooling. This was the first year where I taught both boys. My youngest is in kindergarten and I also taught my two-year-old in tot school which is actually just purposeful playing but it requires me to be present because I teach as we play. ( You can see my Kindergarten reading list here.) After a few bumpy months, we found our groove. We’ve gone a little slower than anticipated, but that’s okay. In my spare time, I spent lots of time working on my Etsy shop which had great success this holiday season. With all that happened, I admit, my reading fell by the wayside once November came. I still have some unfinished books as well as books I meant to read this year.

In this list, I am only going to mention the books I actually read. There are several books I started and did not complete. I will include those in a separate post for the books I intend to read for 2021. Let’s get started. Here is my 2020 book list.

Washington’s Spies: America’s First Spy Ring

Washington’s Spies was by far, my favorite book I read this year. Alexander Rose, is a masterful storyteller and he begins his book with an introduction to Nathan Hale and his friendship with Benjamin Tallmadge. Tallmadge, who while serving in the Continental Army, would go on to lead America’s first spy ring for General George Washington, the Culper Spy Ring.

In the book, we learn of the heroic contributions of those who would become our first spymasters within the ring. The ring itself was a hodgepodge of talent and disciplines – Benjamin Tallmadge, a cavalry soldier, Abraham Woodhull a cabbage farmer, Anna Strong (America’s first female spy), Robert Townsend a Quaker torn between politics and family, Caleb Brewster a blacksmith, and Austin Roe, a tavern owner among others. Their shadowy missions, which primarily take place throughout Setauket, Long Island, and other parts of New York, combine the use of double agents, double-crossing, dead drops, disappearing ink, codes, and ciphers, and signals on laundry lines. The book painstakingly recreates the precarious missions of the ring which ultimately, also smokes out the infamous turncoat Benedict Arnold.

The Annotated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers

After reading Washington’s Spies, I was eager to read more on some of its major players, one of which is Robert Rogers. Rogers was a frontiersman who served in both the French and Indian War as well as the American Revolution with the Queen’s Rangers on behalf of the British. This particular book written by Timothy Todish is actually partially autobiographical. A large portion of this book, The Annotated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers, is written from the narrative of Roger’s own journals. Missing historical gaps and additional context are supplemented by Todish which makes for a thorough retelling of Roger’s life and military career.

Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge

Again, after reading Washington’s Spies, I wanted to read further about Benjamin Tallmadge. I absolutely fell in love with this heroic man who contributed so much to the revolutionary war. I found the Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, written by Tallmadge himself. This autobiography covers Tallmadge’s friendship with Nathan Hale along with his emotions over his execution. Tallmadge records his experiences as a cavalryman in the Continental Army as well as his relationship with Washington.

One thing that is lacking in this book is a telling of Tallamadge’s movements as spymaster of the Culper spy ring. This memoir, originally written for his children, is surprisingly tight-lipped about his spy days. This is a little disappointing because most readers gravitate towards this memoir to learn exactly that. He does write about it some, but don’t expect sensational details about his spy tactics. Still, this book is a gem for those of us who love American Revolution history.

You’ll Get Through This

I typically enjoy Max Lucado’s books. After receiving some disturbing news this year, I decided that I wanted a book to aid me through my emotional response. You’ll Get Through This frankly did not give me the substance or comfort I have found in other Lucado books. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book, but I felt more connected and comforted by other Lucado books. I think it is a worthwhile book that you will enjoy if you need hope in your current situation.

This book uses the story of Joseph and his betrayal of his brothers and his being sold into slavery. The book continues to teach through Joseph’s struggles, which God uses for His glory and for the good of Joseph. If I am being honest, this book, seemed to regurgitate much of Lucado’s prior works. If you are looking for other good Lucado books, I highly recommend He Chose the Nails, It’s Not About Me, and For the Tough Times. The general message in this book is something that really needs to be impressed upon the modern-day Christian. God may not remove the circumstances but we can be assured that he will use it for our inevitable good.

The Original Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln: As Reflected in His Letters and Speeches

This book, The Original Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, is a compilation of various speeches and personal correspondence. The most apparent quality of Lincoln’s writing is that he was a masterful composer of sympathy and compassion. Some of his most provocative compositions are letters of condolences to grieving families. Here we get a more intimate look at the man who ended slavery as he writes to military subordinates as commander in chief during the Civil War. We also get to discover the more private Lincoln from his correspondence with friends and family.

The Haunting of Hill House

After watching the original Netflix series, Haunting of Hill House I was eager to read the original source material knowing full well the Netflix series varies greatly from Jackson’s artful story. Still, I had started reading this book years ago but never finished. I never went back to it, so naturally, I decided to remedy that. Shirley Jackson crafts a classic haunted house story.The gothic horror story centers around Eleanor, a fragile, lonely recluse who after caring for her ailing mother agrees to be a part of a psychological study conducted in a stately home. Theodora, a Bohemian artist and the heir to the home Luke Sanderson also join her for the study conducted by Dr. Montague. Once there, supernatural happenings and poltergeist activity begin to sinisterly torment the inhabitants and their psyche.

Happiness is a Serious Problem

Dennis Prager, know as a conservative talk show host discusses happiness at its core. Although religious himself (he is an Orthodox Jew), Prager explores happiness as a human condition, but not necessarily from a religious viewpoint. How we respond to circumstances in our life, our attitude, and everyday choices are components of a pragmatic approach to happiness. Prager manages to break down these components into chewable portions that one can apply to his or her life.

This was an interesting book but one that should be read slowly and with sips. Like philosophy, I found that there is lots of food for thought nestled in the pages. Also as a side note, I purchased this book as an audiobook. The audiobook is not narrated by Prager who has a very distinctive voice. Instead, a drab narrator has been supplanted for Prager. Stick to the printed version if you can.

12 Rules for Life

12 Rules for Life, written by world-renowned Psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, is not an easy read. In fact, this actually took as much concentration from me as other complex writings like Freud, Dostoyevsky, and Chaucer because there is so much to consider in a single sentence. Love him or hate him, Peterson himself has become a controversial figure for his outspoken political statements. He strikes me as a classic liberal but in recent years has become outspoken about certain progressive political policies.

As the title suggests, Peterson cites twelve profound rules for life that are built upon a number of influences such as mythology, biblical archetypes, historical context, and social constructs among other things. One should note, Peterson does not consider the bible to be divinely-inspired rather a tool of moral relativism. Like Peterson himself, many of his conclusions may be controversial and in today’s political climate, often waffles from left to right at times. I enjoyed reading his book even though I do not agree with all of his conclusions and I certainly have respect for him as one of the finest minds alive.

What Are You Reading?

The volume of my reading this past year was a little pathetic by past standards. I’m hoping I can do a lot more reading this year. In the comments below, I’d love to hear about the books you read this past year.