Three weeks after the storm: A day in the life of Jane Deppertby Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
Jane Deppert's life was upended when a tornado shredded her Hugo home last month. Now that the debris has been cleared, Deppert and her two boys are trying to get back to normal. But not having a place to call home has left the single mom feeling unsettled. Here's a look at one day in her hectic life.
Hugo, Minn. — Jane Deppert's day begins with order.
In a step aerobics class, where she is the instructor, this part of her life seems to follow her every command.
But outside of the studio, a lot of things remain out of her control.
She needs to pick up her teenage son from hockey camp in Blaine, then take her two sons on a charity shopping spree for tornado victims, show them a rental house she might lease, and cheer on her younger son at his baseball game.
Spunky and upbeat as she drives through the pouring rain to her first stop, Deppert appears well-equipped to handle disaster. But she's also a planner who thrives on organization. She describes herself as the type of person who "can't turn off the light at night without the dishes being clean."
And so, for the first two weeks following the tornado, her ever-growing list of things to do caused her to lose sleep.
For starters, Deppert's insurance company asked her to take stock of everything she lost in the storm. She tried to recall what was in every room -- and what was in every dresser drawer of every room. All told, she listed about 400 items on an Excel spreadsheet.
Meanwhile, she wanted to make the transition as easy as possible for her two sons.
"Just trying to get the kids back to a normal rhythm, where they knew, 'OK, this is the box where my pants are in. This is the box where my shorts are.'"
In her own words, Deppert said she's "completely discombobulated" without her own home.
She and the boys have been staying at her boyfriend's place in Bayport. It's a two-bedroom townhouse, which makes everyday living a tight squeeze.
Deppert, who is divorced, has been dating her boyfriend for about two years. But she feels uneasy about taking over his house.
"I feel like I'm totally invading his space," she said. "He's been gracious, but I feel like it's an invasion. It would be for me."
But it was the constant shuttling between towns that finally convinced Deppert that she needed to find a new place. The boys go to school and play sports in White Bear Lake.
"It's so much driving," Deppert said. "If gas were $2 a gallon, it would be different. But it's 20 miles each way. So if I'm doing that twice a day, it's a lot of time."
Deppert still hasn't decided if she'll rebuild in the same neighborhood. Peter is 13, and will have to start thinking about where he wants to go to high school. If he ends up going to Hill-Murray in Maplewood, Hugo might be too far away.
Peter said he misses his mom's Special K bars; all of their kitchen supplies are still in boxes. Matthew, who's 11, misses the family's big-screen TV. They often grab fast food.
Still, Deppert knows -- and often tells her boys -- that they have it better than a lot of other families.
Later in the day, they arrive at a Target store, where dozens of neighbors who lost their homes to the twister have gathered. The Lions Clubs of Hugo and Lino Lakes are giving each child $200 worth in gift cards to spend on toys and games.
Peter dives into the aisles, stocking up on fishing poles and and video games. But Matthew looks burdened with indecision. He asks his mom what he's supposed to buy.
Jane Deppert tells him, "Just toys, or whatever you want."
Matthew already has learned the meaning of insurance, and how it will replace things like furniture and clothing -- items lost in the tornado. But these gift cards are for things entirely new.
While every day has been unpredictable, Jane Deppert said the generosity of others has been the biggest surprise of all.
"I think people want to help, and they don't know what to do," she said. "I'm shocked by how many people, especially at the club, have been giving me money. And I'm like, 'I don't even know you.'"
By late afternoon, she brings the kids to a rental house in White Bear Lake.
It's brand new, with four bedrooms. The boys are spinning through the house, exploring a vast basement and trying out the bathtub for size. It's the biggest home they'll have ever lived in, and the rent will be covered by Deppert's insurance.
With her boys' approval, Deppert can get used to the idea of calling this home, for now.
- All Things Considered, 06/13/2008, 5:19 p.m.