A few days before hurricane Matthew was supposed to come hurtling towards us, I started to panic a bit.
A few years earlier, Hurricane Irene had brought 10 feet of water into our New York home. I had thankfully left the night of the storm but my next door neighbors were rescued by boat. There was so much water damage, we had to move out for 3 months and rebuild our first floor.
Hence, the Matthew panic. Since my husband Rick would be working constantly at CBS covering the storm, I thought it would be best to get my family the heck out of Fort Lauderdale and get over to the west coast of Florida. I got one of the last hotel rooms in Sarasota.
I had been to Sarasota before. More than a decade earlier, I was a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding – 2 1/2 weeks after giving birth via c-section to my daughter Dylan. Somehow, being a bridesmaid and a new mother (as I tried to recover from surgery) didn’t give me a lot of time to explore the place.
When you get one of the last hotel rooms in a city, it will not be the nicest one. It was a “suite” but I had to jam a can opener into the top of one of the windows to actually lock it. The microwave didn’t have a handle which surprisingly it does really need. And there was so much mold in the tub, I wouldn’t allow my kids to take a bath.
But I did not care about this crappy hotel room. I was just so grateful to know that I didn’t have to worry about flood waters descending on us or a palm tree ending up in my living room.
My kids were pretty great. And I remembered how much I loved to discover a new city. I recently read an article about the need for surprises in life. Good surprises.
There can be a lot of monotony in everyday living as we end up on autopilot – doing laundry, making lunches, picking Little Bites’ brownie crumbs off the floor, driving kids to activities, picking them up and on and on.
Joy in life can come with the unknown.
And suddenly, we had a couple days to explore this unknown place. And by explore I mean, let me quickly try to find an affordable, yummy restaurant that can immediately seat me and my five children while they plead, “Oh my gosh, We are so hungry. We have never been so hungry. We really need food. When are we getting food? Can we just go to McDonald’s. We love McDonald’s. Are we there yet? Where are we going after we eat? Why are you rubbing your temples Mom?!”
The first morning, we went to an adorable breakfast spot called The Sarasota Breakfast House.
And a couple at the table next to ours recommended a few kid friendly spots. So we hit the Marine Laboratory and Aquarium which was hands on and awesome.
We also visited a great playground at the Ringling Museum and ran around on a very windy beach.
And I seriously had the most amazing honey lavender latte (who knew such a thing existed) at the Green Zebra cafe.
And yes, there were a few unfortunate moments like when 3 1/2 year old Cash ate a whole bunch of breakfast potatoes very quickly at the Blue Dolphin Cafe, started jumping up and down like a maniac and then threw up.
I quietly and intensely said to the waitress, “I need a bag, a bunch of paper towels and a wet cloth as soon as possible” and I cleaned that situation up before anyone lingering over their morning waffles was any wiser. I also left a 27% tip.
Hurricane Matthew ended up shifting just slightly – sparing South Florida from its destructive wrath. And I wasn’t complaining to anyone. I know better than to ever grumble about a lack of a hurricane.
Plus, I had forgotten how much I love to explore a new place… and find the perfect honey lavender latte or a creative cool playground that costs exactly nothing.
And even with one kid complaining that so and so got 3.1 seconds more screen time than they did, it was pretty great. A silver lining in a terrible storm. A reminder that we all need to explore and experience new things in our lives. As often as possible. Moments of discovery amongst the chocolate brownie crumbs on the floor.
(That’s an edible flower. And no, it does not taste good.)
If you are looking for ways to help the victims of Hurricane Matthew, click here.