Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Life Goes On

As I write this, Hurricane Charley is now almost two weeks off into history, and life goes on in Celebration along with the rest of Florida. Granted, for us it is much easier than the harder-hit areas just a few miles away. The minor roof damage in Celebration is barely noticable compared to the houses covered in tarps because their roofs are all but missing in Kissimmee, Poinciana, and many of the surrounding areas. Power restoration was never an issue for our town, since we never even had a blip in electricity. Meanwhile, our neighboring communities waited through long, sweaty days with no refrigerators, let alone air conditioning; many of them couldn't even find relief in a cool shower because their water was off, too.

No doubt about it: Charley carved a swath of tragedy and destruction, destroying people's lives. But even in the wake of disaster, the mundane problems in life continue, too. In Celebration, people park illegally by the school. They speed and run the stop signs, causing heating discussions on the Front Porch intranet. Online, people also stress about the condominiums that are slated to be built in the parking lots downtown and the upcoming elections.

All of those issues seemed to be critically important before Charley struck. Then, suddenly, they paled in comparison to the destroyed homes and loss of life. Things cooled down for a while, and people concentrated on organizing relief efforts and ways to help in the surrounding communities.

Still, even in the aftermath, the small problems continue. They just get put into a new perspective. But that doesn't make them any less annoying, especially as time goes on and the disaster fades into the past. The only thing is, you have to be careful A.C. (After Charley), because some people think that it's politically incorrect to mention any problem smaller than death, or at least dismemberment.

Case in point: Months and months before Charley struck (actually, ever since we moved to our triplex), the lawn care has been spotty at best. It's included in our monthly maintenance fees, and we don't have any say in the selection of the landscaping company. Since we've moved in, it has always been Davey, the company that handles landscaping for the parks and public areas of the town, too.

Typically, our grass grows into a lush, green jungle that takes over the flower beds and attempts to choke out the bushes before someone finally shows up to beat it back with a weed whacker (yes, they cut our lawn with a weed whacker!). In the process, our bushes and flowers often suffer fatal blows along with grass, and the mulch flies around like brown confetti, while the weeds remain virtually untouched.

Prior to Charley, the grass was already getting long. Then, in the immediate aftermath, Davey was understandably preoccupied with trying to clear trees from the roads and to prop up the ones that might be salvagable (ironically, many that were propped up toppled right back over a week later when another storm came through).

As the days wore on and the thicket grew more lush, my neighbors and I began to wonder if we'd ever see Davey again. Normally when it gets too bad, I get on the phone to Town Hall. But even though it had been many days since Charley, I didn't want to seem insensitive.

Then I saw a post from another duplex/triplex owner on the forums at, so I had to toss in my two cents. The retribution was swift! I was quickly labeled (quote) a spoiled, self-centered, pompous whiner (end quote), because I would (quote) complain about such unimportant issues in the face of genuine suffering by others (end quote). Of course, this was posted by an anonymous person, as such judgemental missives normally are.

Shame on me! People are homeless, people are dead, and all that I can think about is my yard! A proper approach would apparently be to wait until the grass reaches my roof. Since I knew that yard care was supposed to be included when I bought the house, I don't own a lawn mower to cut the grass myself. Interestingly enough, I don't think many of my neighbors own one either...even though who live in houses. In Celebration, doing your own yard work is as rare as finding something for free at Disney World.

Being a cognitive psychologist (see my website at ), I don't let other people's name calling bother me. The lynchpin of cognitive therapy is that you can't control externals, including other people, but you can control your own reaction to external factors. Why bother to get distressed over someone else's opinion? I'm more likely to wonder what life experiences made them so judgemental; perhaps it's their own way of dealing with tragedy. But I do find it fascinating that the duplex/triplex owners are expected to continue to pay for services that they never receive, with no refund.

If that makes me a whiner, so be it. I was already called a "Rich Celebration bitch" in the famous drive-by heckling chronicled in a previous blog entry (click here to read it). This was mild by comparison.

All kidding aside, I know just how lucky I am that one of the worst problems in my life is the condition of my lawn. I know firsthand what it's like to lose your home to a disaster, as my husband and I experienced that several years ago. We lost items that can never be replaced and were displaced for almost three months. It's a horrible thing, but life doesn't stop around you when disaster strikes.

I have tried to do what I can to help my neighbors, and in the meantime, I thank God that my own life and the lives of my neighbors are pretty much back to normal. Part of that normalcy is complaining about the mundane, everyday things. The threads on the Front Porch have shifted from relief efforts back to downtown parking and pre-election snipes. My biggest worry isn't whether my home might be blown down while I'm stuck 1500 miles away; now, my biggest fear is that I won't be able to find it because it will be surrounded by an impenetrable forest of green. Life may throw some curves balls, but eventually life goes on.

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