December 7, 2006

Always Be Prepared

Well I was a girl scout once upon a time, you would think I would know better. You would think I would follow their motto. But life catches you off guard every once in awhile. Take last night.

A typical Minnesota night. It was actually 4 degrees -14 with the wind chill. Not exactly the night you want to be outside in the cold with nothing more than jeans, a t-shirt and some socks. No, I did not have mittens and a scarf on, instead I did not have a coat or even shoes on. Are you wondering why and how I could do this to myself? Well so am I. Here is the story.

I was cleaning my entry way late last night and went to put a box of summer shoes into my garage. Since I was just walking right into my closed garage I did not bother to put on a coat or even shoes - after all it was going to be just a few seconds. Sure I knew it would be cold but for a short time, something I do often - braving the cold in bare feet to throw out the trash or get something from the car or get the mail. Well I was wrong.

On this particular evening my garage door shut behind me and was to my shock locked! Now I don't know about all of you "prepared" people but I do not carry my keys and cell phone around the house with me while I am cleaning at 11:30pm. I am not expecting the unexpected - perhaps I should have. My dogs apparently had not thought ahead either because they found themselves right there with me.

After trying the door several times in disbelief I told myself surely something else was open. I proceeded to the other doors and of course they were all locked. My house was apparently prepared for the evening even if I was not. Serona not being home I found myself and my dogs locked out of our house and our three children sleeping soundly inside.

So I did what any sane person in my situation would do - I began pounding on the doors and windows. I rang the bell for 5 minutes straight. Nothing, no movement, no lights, no sign of anyone waking. I am now COLD! I search through the garage and find Serona's work boots and pull them onto my feet, while too big at least they are taking the chill out of my feet which are thankful to be off the cold concrete. I tried the doors several more times and realize I am simply going to have to go to a neighbor for help. As I look around I realize all my neighbors are now in bed, no lights to be seen anywhere. I went across to a friends house, very thankful at this moment that we have taken time to know our neighbors and so thankful that we are blessed with good neighbors.

As I pressed the bell closer to midnight than I would have preferred I took comfort in knowing they would open their doors to me just as I would to them. Their dog barked, my neighbor answered the door in his robe and I woke their little girl - but they were so kind and helpful. I explained the situation and asked to use their phone to call the police so they can help me break into my own home. They suggested I go back and give it another try to wake the kids up before we call the police. So I went back across the street ringing, banging and now throwing rocks gently at my children's window. Praying I am not going to frighten them but that I can wake them.

My neighbor came over carrying a coat for me. Remember I have now been outside in the severe cold weather in jeans and a t-shirt for about 15 minutes now. He tried to fiddle with my door and realized it was not going to work. He rang the bell and I banged on our doors more. No luck. I went back to pitching rocks at the window while he rang the bell. I am in shock at this point that no one is stirring in the house. We suddenly hear my youngest crying and I run around to a window hoping she will wander my way. Instead we hear silence and I know she has climbed into bed with one of her siblings for comfort. We resume noisemaking - I am getting dismayed now and sure we will be heading over to call the police soon.

My neighbor comes up with an idea - he carries a ladder and a screwdriver out to the window I am pitching rocks out and props the ladder against the side of my house and encourages me to climb up it. Now you know I love my children and that I am quite cold because little in this world could make me climb a ladder that is propped against a house. I was scared to do it, I was alright at first but when I had to get up on that last step I did not want to do it. My neighbor was right it had to be me peering in my kids window, if it was him all it would do is terrify them. So I climbed and he assured me he would not let me fall and he is someone I trust and besides I clearly had limited choices now so up the ladder I went.

Banging on their window and calling them, now I can see two of them sleeping and still not stirring! I am beginning to lose hope not to mention I feel like my fingers are going to freeze off soon. Neighbor hands me a screwdriver and tells me to bang with that since it will be a sharper sound. I do and suddenly they begin stirring. Ciaran wakes up frightened by the noise. I yell through the window to him that it is okay and that he needs to wake up and help me. He is quite groggy and unsure of where I am. I tell him to look out the window and I see this big grin - he was confused but I think thankful to see me and wondering how I am where I am all at once the moment he is awoken by a loud noise banging on his window. I tell him to open the front door and thankfully he listens.

Before my foot reaches the bottom of the ladder I hear the hysteria at my front door as they open it. Sirah is awake now and both of them are crying and nearly hysterical. My neighbor thankfully puts away the ladder, I thank him and I close the garage and head inside to my blessed warm house to resettle my now scared kids. I just hold them close and thank Ciaran. I tell him how brave he was and what a big helper he was to me. I snuggle in their room until they are asleep so thankful for my home on this cold night. Thankful for fantastic neighbors. Thankful for obedient children and amazed that Rhiannon managed to sleep through the entire thing!

I know you are supposed to try to be prepared most of the time, but really how can you ALWAYS be prepared? How can you know prepare for a step into the garage to turn into 45 minutes in severe cold weather? How can you prepare yourself and your family for a four day business trip that turns into more than a month straight on the road? Sometimes we get curve balls and we just need to deal with them the best we can. I suppose I should not have stepped outside without shoes and a coat on even for a moment - but really who knew?

It really brought home how cold it gets here and how it can be dangerous. We do keep blankets in our car, I do require them all to have their winter coats, socks and shoes with them in the car even if they don't want them or may not use them. We put our snow scraper in the car in late September and keep it there until the end of April. So I guess in overall theory I agree with the Girls Scouts that you should strive to "Always Be Prepared". But I am also convinced you just can't always be prepared. Prepare as much as you can but then be ready to adapt to life's little surprises. Cultivate those relationships for you never know when you are going to depend on them or when they will depend on you. Thanks to my neighbors and to my son!



  1. What a nightmare! Glad you stayed calm and used what was available. Kudos to Ciaran for his great help. You are right in saying that we can prepare, but in the end the unexpected does happen and we have to go through it.
    Keep warm today!

  2. Wow! I have been locked out before, but never in those circumstances. ;) Aren't good neighbors awesome!? A gift from God, definately!