The Silver Lining in Hurricane Harvey | One Mom's Perspective from the Ground

By Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD
Owner, Milk & Honey Nutrition, LLC

Let me start by saying, if your name is Harvey, or you have a kid named Harvey, I’m sure you and/or they are a lovely person. But, that name has a whole new meaning for each and every one of us from the Houston-area and all of southeast Texas.

You see, I’m not the same person I was on August 25, 2017. That’s the day it all changed.
I’ve wanted to write my story since the entire ordeal was over, but that’s just it… it’s still not over. The emotional impacts will live on for each and every one of us for the rest of our lives. Even for those of us who didn’t have our homes flooded… we were traumatized, on edge. It was a massive 5-day anxiety attack.

BUT we are moving on, and we are healing!

If you were following me on Instagram through the whole ordeal, you know some of the details already, AND you know I kind of fell off the grid (with regards to social media) for a few of these days. Quite honestly, it was all just too much. Just making sure we were safe, and our kids didn’t sense our fear was more than we could handle.

BUT through it all, I learned more about myself, my family, my friends, and my community than I ever knew before. Some light-hearted and funny, some deep and meaningful. Some about food, and some about life. So here they are…

7 Life-changing things I learned living through a treacherous hurricane

1. The name Harvey will always make my heart race
I think this one is the most obvious. And I think everyone in southeast Texas can agree; they will never name a future child Harvey.

2. Every time it rains, I will feel a small lump in the back of my throat
Even as I’m writing this, it’s raining outside… and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t already gone to our front door five different times to double check the water isn’t starting to rise. Water gives us life and quenches one of our most basic human needs… yet, it has the power to take away everything you hold dear in a matter of seconds. Every person in southeast Texas is now acutely aware of this fact if they weren’t already.

3. “Hurricane Party” takes on a whole new meaning when small children are involved
I remember in college and my early twenties when a hurricane or tropical storm would blow through; we’d all kind of look forward to the party that someone was bound to host. Everyone all cooped up inside, having one (or two) too many glasses of wine, and killing time by playing games and laughing about how great it was to miss work or school.

Ummmm, ya. Not the same when you have kids. There’s the palpable sense of fear and overall mama-bear-ness (it’s a word, I promise) that wants to tell this hurricane to go you-know-what and stay the heck away from my babies. But then there’s also the fact that we were holed up inside for FIVE DAYS. Y’all. FIVE DAYS. With two children 3 and under. Add on top of that the fear and anxiety that Harvey brought with it, and well, you get the idea.

4. Tornado warnings are every mother’s worst nightmare
In case you’re unfamiliar with tornado warnings, they don’t necessarily mean that a tornado is on the ground, but just that the National Weather Service has noticed rotation on the radar. Thus, you get a lot more warnings than you do actual tornadoes. And that’s the worst part about tornado warnings. The anticipation. The decisions. Do I wake the kids up and risk them not going back to sleep?  Well, the answer is yes, of course. But imagine your phone going offer every 15 minutes for 8 hours straight (repeated 3 nights in a row) with tornado warnings. That’s what we went through. And for whatever reason, the bands that went over our part of the city were always the worst at night. So basically, we had a giant slumber party in our room for 3 nights straight. We slept great.


5. I never want to leave this city
By Tuesday afternoon (keep in mind, the storm started the Friday before), we were able to return to our house. Wednesday morning we were able to see the real beauty of our city that we’d been seeing on the news since Friday evening. The people. Not the roads, buildings, and structures… all now underwater mind you. But the people. Neighbors loving neighbors.

Strangers loving strangers.

The week before Harvey hit us, the news was filled with images and stories of people killing and hating each other just because of the differences in their skin color. But, then came Harvey. And you know what started to fill the news? A whole lot of GOOD… and a million tangible examples of what “love your neighbor” really means. I’m proud of my city and my community. We showed the world, at a time when we needed it most, that all that really matters is our humanity. The rest is details.

6. Modern day medicine is a gift
I’m a type 1 diabetic. Diagnosed at 5, and now 31, it’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Putting it bluntly, if I had been born 100 years ago, I probably wouldn’t be alive 26 years after my diagnosis. I wouldn’t have two beautiful, healthy children.

In the middle of Harvey, when we started to worry about whether or not our house was going to flood, whether or not we’d need to evacuate, whether or not we’d have access to power, this truth was on the forefront of my mind. What would happen if I didn’t have access to my insulin? I’m more thankful than anyone will ever know that I live in a time and place that allows me to have access to insulin.

7. Fresh food is a luxury; quality, shelf stable food is a GOOD thing
On the Wednesday evening, after Harvey hit, it had officially been six days since I’d been grocery shopping (which is way longer than I usually go without fresh groceries)… we had some shelf stable food left, but no eggs or meat, just a small amount of milk, and an apple. No vegetables. Two grocery stores near us were open, or so I’d heard. Gas was rumored to be scarce, so I knew I needed to stay close to home. (And for those wondering, my husband is in the cleaning/janitorial services industry, so he had to go back to work ASAP that morning.) We went to Costco, but they had just closed because they ran out of food. Next was Whole Foods. They were open, and we were able to get inside. But imagine grocery shopping on a holiday weekend… and multiply that by 100. There were people EVERYWHERE, grabbing whatever they could. We managed to get some potatoes and a spaghetti squash. They were out of almost all meat, eggs, and milk.

When we got home, I realized just how thankful I was for shelf stable food. And not only any shelf stable food. GOOD food that was good for us. We were still without our usual fresh food staples, but we still had plenty of healthy options. Again, 100 years ago that would not have been possible. Heck, 20 years ago, we would have still been faced with eating spam and ramen for 10 days. Instead, we were able to enjoy things like FEMA approved organic milkshakes with 1/2 serving of vegetables, all natural peanut butter, quality granola made with real food ingredients, and no added sugar protein bars.

As much as we knock those grocery store aisles, and tell people to “shop the perimeter” for fresh food, I’m incredibly grateful that a number of healthy options within those aisles has grown and continues to do so. I’m thankful for all the new, small food companies working hard to make a difference in their community and our food supply.

I’m thankful for the lessons Harvey taught. I’m thankful for safety. I’m thankful to live in 2017, in Houston, TX. I’m thankful.

Discloser: This post was sponsored by Sneakz Organic. All thoughts and ideas are my own.