Genesis, part 2: Clean-up in Aisle 5 Sunday, Feb 28 2010 

The other defining moment was a year or two after the night when everyone went motionless in the dark.

The news for the past month had been non-stop images of Katrina’s aftermath. Now Hurricane Rita was bearing down on our area. Although I had food and water stored, we were expecting friends who were evacuating from the coast so I decided to make one last run to the store for some odds and ends. I headed down the main street in our little town along which all the stores are located.

I was immediately struck by all the huge “NO WATER” signs in front of every grocery-type stores, from tiny dollar establishments to big box stores. Only one small store had a sign that they’d just received a single shipment of bottled water; I stopped in, out of curiosity.

The typically near-vacant parking lot was crowded, the store was charging twice the usual price and people were jostling and anxious as they edged into line. A police officer walked out with several flats of bottled water and put them in the back of his cruiser.

Things began to feel a bit surreal. I turned and left, distracted by what I’d seen, and continued on down the street.

I ended up in the biggest grocery store in town and was shocked at the scene. It made the day before Thanksgiving look like a ghost town by comparison. People were wild-eyed, dashing around with their carts, barely suppressing their panic. The canned food aisle was stripped bare, with ~ I am not kidding ~ only store-brand jalapeno-flavored Spam left. No tuna, no soup, no beef stew, nothing.

Ditto for the bread, granola bars, crackers and snacks. All bottled water of any type was gone. (And just a few days before, as Rita’s path became more defined, I’d been teased by strangers for being a chicken when they saw me picking up extra gallons of water.)

There were only a couple of bottles of sports drink left and two women were loudly, angrily arguing about who got there first and should get the bottles. I truly thought they were going to come to blows. (A friend later told me that she HAD seen two women get into an actual fist fight over the last flat of water.)

Since I was well-stocked on the essentials I left what few items remained for those who were in full panic mode and went back home. I was stunned by how post-apocalyptic it had all looked, how angry and afraid everyone had been, how willing to take down anyone in their way.

That combination ~ so many people being unprepared in the face of potential impending disaster and their sheer animal panic ~ really threw me, coming as it did on a still-sunny morning in a quiet little town.

It made me realize how fragile the basis of our system is, both in terms of supply and emotions. I’d known it in theory, but to see it played out right in front of me was something completely different.

The still-vivid image of that morning is the other main seed that eventually grew into this blog:  I want so much for people to get out of that loop of need and fear, both for their own sakes and to save what resources remain in those situations for those who didn’t prepare, practically and emotionally.

“It was very bad” Saturday, Feb 27 2010 

“It was very bad, people were screaming, some people were running, others appeared paralyzed. I was one of them…”  Julio Alvarez (http://tinyurl.com/yc9l2ma

It’s one thing to prepare for power outages, shortages at the store, and broken water pipes, to stock batteries and first aid kits. But the images of the last month’s earthquake in Haiti and today’s near-record quake in Chile show entire blocks, cities, regions devastated. How could one possibly prepare for that?

In a very real way, it’s impossible. Sudden terror often leaves little time to react before its reality is inescapable. And disasters that leave destruction as far as the eye can see mean that all resources are also devastated, both personal and governmental. People are left to help themselves.

Stories emerged from Haiti of looting, either from desperation or impunity, but also of neighborhoods that banded together, formed their own mini-government, arranged and directed aid as best they could. What is the difference? What makes one person freeze and another step into the gap? I’ve thought a lot about this over the years and still don’t have a good answer….

I’ve faced things in my life that others find unthinkable, tell me they don’t know how I’ve survived. And yet they pale in comparison to the human tragedies unfolding on such a massive scale. I can’t honestly even imagine myself in those situations. But I’m determined to keep going, not one paralyzed by the unthinkable.

And I am hopeful that by living my life with a preparedness mindset, by raising my children to believe that there’s always hope, to never give up even in the face of seemingly impossible odds, that they also will be the ones that persevere if, heaven forbid, they are ever in a situation like that. And I hope that for anyone who stumbles across these words, as well.

My thoughts and prayers are with all those who face such seemingly insurmountable challenges. May they persevere.

For the Children’s Sake ~ Part II Wednesday, Jan 6 2010 

“I must say the biggest lesson you can learn in life, or teach your children, is that life is not castles in the skies, happily ever after. The biggest lesson we have to give our children is truth.”  Goldie Hawn

I’ve had people ask me if my prepping is teaching my children to be afraid. In my experience it’s doing the exact opposite.

I know my children will face difficult times in their lives. I owe it to them to provide them with the tools to face those moments and persevere.

Part of that is being prepared on a material level for whatever comes our way, as in my previous post. Children learn best by example and mine are growing up with the opportunity to see how preparing ahead of time helps make things simpler and less fearful on a practical level.

But even beyond having their physical needs met, my children gain distinct emotional and mental benefits from my committment to this.

To the degree that I am prepared in my own life (not just pantry- or supply-wise, but in my own mind and spirit), the kids have a mother who, in hard times, is not thrown off-balance or unnerved and can remain calm (ok, well, let’s be honest…mostly calm, depending on the crisis).

That lets me turn my full attention to helping them get through instead of being anxious and distracted with what to do next. And since they take cues from me on how to respond to situations, my own personal preparedness (on all levels) has a trickle-down calming effect on them, decreasing the anxiety and chaos in the situation.

And when I have considered and prepared for difficult possibilities instead of playing ostrich, my children also benefit in another way. It sets a tone in our home where the hard things in life are not hidden, not denied. Instead, they’re acknowledged and a strategy for dealing with them implemented. By facing them head-on, armed with truth and determination, much of their power and fear are taken away. 

In the long run, that may be one of the most important prep lessons of all for my children.

For the Children’s Sake ~ Part I Wednesday, Jan 6 2010 

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.”   Winston Churchill

We’ve had many times that our prepping lifestyle has helped our children deal with situations, sudden and ongoing, large and small. Even at their young ages they see the value in being prepared. 

We live in an area where tornadoes are common. The storms can be scary for children but are not quite as bad because I have helped them prepare ahead of time: they know the tornado drill routine and have emergency backpacks filled with supplies. The “unknown” factor is greatly diminished, making it less fearful for them. 

One night a few years ago there were six of us (plus pets in carriers) in a small, dark bathroom. The electricity was out, both tv stations and several radio stations had been knocked off the air, tornado sirens were blaring and our only contact with the outside world was the computer voice on the emergency radio. 

It was dramatic, but still only a few steps beyond our usual tornado drill. The routine leading up to that point helped smooth the way through the more intense parts. (And the next morning when the power was out and the grocery stores were flooded with people looking for batteries, water and supplies we were well ahead of the game, too.) 

The area in which we live is also prone to water outages. The kids know from personal experience the value of keeping water on hand. They’ve also learned to recognize the signs of impending water loss and know to fill extra containers of water, run water in the tub for flushing, etc. They don’t think twice about how to react quickly to the situation, when even other adults don’t know exactly what to do.

Other situations are smaller but equally intense, like one of the children waking up sick in the night. How reassuring to go to the cabinet and have all I need. The little one doesn’t have to wait for relief. I don’t have the stress of trying to “make do” until the morning or going to the store in the middle of the night, hoping to find what I need. 

Prepping helps with more than just sudden crisis situations, too. It has made a difference in times of ongoing need. We’ve had health and economic issues periodically that made it difficult to get to the grocery store. But the kids knew we had food in the cabinet. It might not be the most exciting, but I’m pretty handy at jazzing it up and it keeps them full.

It does this mother’s heart good to know my preps make my children’s lives easier during difficult times. But so very rewarding, too, is their knowing grin when we face yet another situation, prepped and ready to go, “I’m so glad we do all that emergency stuff, Mom.” 🙂

Top Ten Reasons I Prep Saturday, Jan 2 2010 

“They who are well prepared have half-won the battle.”  Proverb

As much as I dislike the word “proactive” and think it’s horribly overused, all of my reasons for embracing emergency preparation are just that, proactive, not reactive or based in fear. So why do I do it?

*I do it because it makes good financial sense to stock up ahead of time when items are on sale instead of paying full price later (or more, when regular prices increase).

*I do it because it lets me have a larger variety of items on hand. I have more OTC meds to cover different home-care illnesses and injuries. I have more types of food from which to choose in the pantry. The kids love going to our ‘store.’

*I do it because I really hate going to the store for odds and ends; I like the simplicity of having things on hand. It helps with gas mileage, too, to not make multiple trips back and forth for just a few items.

*I do it because with “just in time shipping,” most stores’ inventory is only what is on their shelves. They don’t always have what I want when I want it. It just makes sense to buy extra while they have it in stock.

*I do it because of the larger ramifications of JIT inventories. Supply lines can be disrupted, for common reasons like weather or trucking issues but also less commonly from larger disasters. With no back stock, the stores’ already limited inventory is immediately depleted with no means of quickly replenishing.

*I do it because I’ve seen people panic in the stores and fight for precious resources like bottled water. (Yes, literally fight for bottled water, like they did before Hurricane Rita blew in on the heels of Katrina.) I don’t want to be caught in that mess, do you?!

*I do it because if I have water (or tuna or TP or batteries) already in my home, I can leave the few remaining on the shelves in those crisis situations for those who need them. It’s also one less cart in the aisles, one less car in the parking lot, one less person in the checkout line. All that is possible because I bought those items when they weren’t in high demand.

*I do it because I know that emergency responses are limited, stretched thin by budget cuts and natural constraints. When I prepare, those scarce resources can go to others who need it and the emergency responders and aid groups can focus their efforts more precisely.

*I do it because I have lived through emergencies, both short-term and long-term, where the steps I took in good times made the bad times more bearable.

*I do it for my children’s sake…but that would be an entry on its own (and probably will be).

I’m sure I could come up with a dozen more but would love to hear why YOU prep. 🙂

An Author, a Blog and a Reason for Writing Saturday, Jan 2 2010 

“If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”   Thomas Edison

Who am I? Nobody you’d recognize. You could walk right by me in the grocery store and not notice. I live in a tiny suburban house on a very tight budget. I don’t have acres of land, an underground shelter or a basement pantry (or even a basement, for that matter).

But I have a core role in my family. I am morally, legally, ethically, emotionally and spiritually obligated to take care of them to the best of my ability. I welcome that, embrace it. My family is a blessing to me and I want things to be good for them as much as possible.

For me that includes “prepping:”  stocking up on food, water, medicines, seeds and other necessities. It also means learning skills to become increasingly self-reliant and preparing myself and my family to deal with emergency situations.

Do I do this out of fear? No. A resounding “NO,” in fact.  And it’s not just for my own family: the more we are prepared within our household, the more that ripples out into our larger community, too.

I’ve run into many people who equate preparedness with fear. They focus on that fear, using it as either a reason to prep or a reason to avoid it. But it shouldn’t be that way. Doesn’t have to be that way. And that’s why I began this blog. I want to encourage people to step out, prepare wisely and be of good cheer going into the future.

I have to admit, I am a little nervous beginning this blog; this is totally new and different for me. But I also feel strongly that this needs to be said, that fear is not allowed to reign. So I am going to lead where I’m trying to encourage others to follow and step out on a new path. A life and a blog in progress. I hope you’ll come along.