I watched Nat Geo’s American Blackout last night. Yes, I know I’m a bit behind the times as American Blackout premiered last year. Hey, I don’t watch a lot of TV. This was on my “to watch” list, and I finally got around to it last night. BOY! This is NOT the show to see if you do not want to be completely freaked out! I found myself wondering what I would do. I have some supplies on hand as part of my earthquake prep, I live in California after all, but I am no where near as “prepared” as the prepper featured in the show. He had over 2 years worth of food, months of water and fuel, and he still had problems. Preppers prepare for unlikely situations, but one thing many forget is that preppers are also prepared for less extreme situations.
Some of you may be thinking that you won’t live through a crazy, apocalyptic, world-wide disaster situation, so you don’t need to prepare for one. If we experience a disaster of that magnitude, many people will die. Maybe even most people. But the truth is, most of us are unlikely to face a “zombie apocalypse” or other extreme “end of the world as we know it” scenario.
Not a zombie apocalypse, but a disaster we’re more likely to face. An earthquake. Photo courtesy of lds.org.
You will likely face at least ONE of these scenarios in your lifetime: unemployment, power outage, water shortage (due to contamination or other cause), flooding, large snowstorm making travel difficult, violent thunderstorm, tornado, earthquake, or a hurricane. My parents had a power outage for several days in the Washington DC area due to storms bringing down trees which in turn brought down power lines. Can you live without power for 3 days? How about a week? Back to the show, as I evaluated my own preparedness level, I recognized certain struggles people had.
Here are a few particularly problematic ones.
– No extra water – People didn’t have water to drink, let alone water to bathe, clean dishes, their clothes, etc. When they first lost power, they didn’t think to fill extra containers with water. Some of the water people managed to get was not clean, and they didn’t have any way to disinfect the water.
– Little or no shelf stable food – Most people didn’t have much to eat in their homes, and most of what they had was stored in the refrigerator and freezer. Once the power was gone, they had to eat their food or lose it. After their cold food was gone, they didn’t have much else.
Lovely Strawberry and Vanilla Strawberry Preserves
– No easy way to prepare food – Many people didn’t have a way to prepare food without a working stove, oven or microwave. Some people didn’t have a non-electric can opener.
– People expected the government and aid organizations to provide immediate relief and rescue – There were some college kids stuck in an elevator, and they waited for days to escape, because they thought someone would rescue them. One of the yuppy characters lamented that no one was coming to help her. When a large scale disaster hits, it takes time for governments and organizations to respond. It took a week or longer for water and food to be distributed on a broad scale in this fictional account, but it is considered a pretty accurate depiction by experts.
Even though governments and non-profits do their best, relief efforts take time. Photo courtesy of lds.org.
– When people are hungry or thirsty, some become violent – Some individuals hurt and killed others for food and water.
– Hostility toward and lack of compassion for others – As survival mode kicked in, most people’s views contracted. They thought only of themselves and their families. This is natural to want to provide for those closest to you, but many went beyond that myopic view and became hostile toward others. Those with supplies didn’t want to help others, and they were unkind and didn’t try to build relationships that would have been helpful in the long term.
So… Yeah… A lot to think about. While I don’t know exactly what I will do if faced with a disaster of that magnitude, I can’t help but wonder what I can do to better prepare. My thoughts strayed from the traditional mentality to consideringways to make life BETTER DURING the emergency. Thrive, not just to survive it. I came up with four suggestions. (If you want to read some more “traditional” ways, check out my posts on earthquake preparedness here and here.)
My boys! One big motivating factor in keeping life livable especially during hard times.
– Build a support system NOW with family, neighbors, and friends– Don’t wait for a disaster to strike to start building relationships. A strong support system is key to survival when emergencies hit. I am not best friends with every single one of my neighbors, but I know most of my close neighbors (I live in a pretty large neighborhood). I’ve even talked with a couple of them about what we would do if an earthquake (or other big emergency) hit. I plan to join together with those neighbors and others who are willing to pool resources and work and weather the storm together. If it’s an earthquake, I’ll look out for them, and I know those neighbors will look out for me and my family.
– Learn skills that will improve your quality of life during an emergency – Do you know how to prepare simple, delicious meals using basic ingredients? Do you know how to sterilize water with bleach or iodine? Do you know how to cook with non-traditional cooking sources such as your camp stove or baking peach cobbler in a dutch oven? I know it’s not going to be all fun and games is there’s a major disaster, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could eat a hot meal with a freshly baked roll or to have dessert? That may be a frivolous thought to some, but life is meant to be enjoyed, not just lived.
If you don’t know how to do that now, you won’t be able to do it when quick meals, bread, and desserts are no longer available at your store. Think about one food you would really miss in an emergency and learn the skills necessary to prepare it on your own. Practice making it until you’ve mastered it. Make sure you have a printed copy of your recipe. You don’t have to cook it every day or at all once you’ve mastered the skill. BUT having the skills will give you the peace of mind that you know how to care for yourself (and your family) until help arrives.
Freshly Baked Bread sure would make a disaster better! Learn how to make this no knead bread here.
– Have non-electric entertainment on hand – If there’s an emergency there will be work to be done (cooking, cleaning, etc.), but it is very important for our mental health to have a release and some down time. Games can foster good relationships and help bring some normalcy back in crazy situations. Look at your stash of games (if you have one). Does it need updating? Do you have at least one or two games you could play over and over and over again? Start with a deck of cards. If you want more, consider a group game. One of our favorite games is “The Game Of Things.” It’s different every time you play, and we love it!
One of our favorite family/group games. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.
– Have a communication/meet-up plan – How are you and your family going to get in touch with each other if there’s no electricity, no phone service, no Internet? If you’re not together 24/7, come up with a plan. Have a primary and secondary place to meet in the event of an emergency. Have a contact person out of your area who is willing to serve as a point person. You may not be able to communicate directly with your family members, but, barring a nationwide emergency, you will probably be able to reach your out of town contact who can relay information to others.
This is just a short list, but it’s a good start. Do you have any ideas to add?
What do you think will make life more enjoyable during an emergency (other than the traditional food, water, heating, cooling, etc.)?
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It’s time for another guest blog post! My dear friend, Brooke, is one of the funniest gals I know. Everyone loves being around her, because she remembers things like your birthday (and shows up with her all-time favorite treats as a gift), and she recognizes when you’re having a bad day and reaches out. I just LOVE her! I cannot say enough good things about her.
Well, a year and a half ago, her husband was laid off from his job. It was a scary time for Brooke and her family. Of course she handled this experience with grace and laughter, but it was still a challenge with her hubby being out of work for 9 months!
A few months after he found a new job, she wrote a blog post titled “Unemployment tips” which I will never forget. She has graciously agreed to let me share it here. I’m sharing it, because food storage and preparedness is about more than disaster scenarios, stockpiles of food, and a hidden bunker.
It’s about living real life everyday. Being able to find joy in life even while life is crazy hard. Being able to endure difficult times with a smile on your face. Brooke epitomizes smiling through life’s trials. I hope you enjoy her blog post as much as I did. I’ve edited it slightly, so if you want to read the original, click here.
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I’m sure you are all sick of hearing about when Jason had no job. I just need to get this one last thing written down cause it has been nagging at me. The four months temp contract got renewed through June. Hooray Hooray. We hope it will lead to full time with benefits at some point but are very grateful and feel lucky. My guess is that the temp one will be renewed one more time again, but I’d love to be surprised. Darby has yet to stop praying for it to become permanent, breakfast, lunch, and dinner prayers. That girl has mega faith.
I am been thinking about this post for a while, and it intimidated me. So much. To write down all my tips of ‘how we made it’ through 9 months of unemployment. Because really it’s like babies, unemployment is all I want to talk about right now. How can you successfully describe the most influential time of your life in the last decade? And I want to help you. I want to give you a hug and a pep talk and tell you what will help. I’ve been so worried about what and how to write it that my memory is slipping, so here is what it is before I forget. Might not be perfect, but what happened was real, and it changed us, and I hope this helps anyone who Googles tips for unemployment (albeit this is the Mormon version), because we would not have survived with out the many, many hands who were holding us up.
Here is my best try.
Jason’s job loss came at a total surprise. He had just gotten a raise a few months earlier and was making more money than he ever had. While not a flattering image, the thought of being caught with our pants down came into my mind a few times even though I thought we lived a frugal lifestyle. I was wrong. There was much room for improvement.
I am a stay at home mom and that was not going to change. If I had a career I could have picked up easily that might have been different. I do have a degree, but it has become a bit dusty. Thankfully, I had started a small business that summer selling Paparazzi and ended up being timed great and helped me feel like I was contributing to our situation. Plus, it let me wear really cute new stuff when all our finances were frozen.
Backing up there. What did we do first? First, we tried not to freak out. We told our family and children. We went to the temple. Jason was great about this. I think he went the next day. We prayed and fasted (this was throughout the entire process). We went on a date without children, so that we could look at our finances (we had help from free babysitters, Thank you!). We also made a wide list of all options and contacts and possible leads. Jason contacted all work contacts and friends. We met with our bishop to get council and tell him about our situation.
Here are my tips:
1. Tell people. I contacted immediately a few friends I know who also survived unemployment. This was probably the best for me. Specially Lisa T, Sarah, and Sara G were lifesavers with their tips and advice and friendship. Others who were going through similar [experiences] at the same time really helped me, but I won’t name them. That would be my first piece of advice. I put it on my blog, so Lisa contacted me first through email, and her words helped me. Like I bawled reading them. She said it would be hard, and they barely survived, but they learned so much and became closer to the Savior. Okay, I can do hard. These ladies gave me details that I needed to hear to get a realistic perspective. Most of my advice is from what they gave to me. Anytime I talked to someone who had ‘been through it’ or had a freelance type work schedule, I paid attention to what they said. Really helps hearing other people have done it, even if they all said it sucks.
2. Use all your resources. A tip we received was to use all your options. We got the three kids on free lunches at school (saved us a ton on preparing meals). We signed up for unemployment (which paid about the same as what our health insurance cost through Cobra). We canceled any extras we could (which ended up us keeping our cable, because they reduced it for us so that it was practically free bundled with our internet).
3. This talk by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf should be listened to again and again. It is called the Good and Grateful Receiver. I had lots of room for improvement, and I did. I remember in the beginning thinking, I will just pay it forward. But the depth of how much we were helped became so great in nine months [that] I could never pay it forward and that was [a] point to me. Just like we can never do enough to earn our own Salvation, it is a Gift from our Savior. And also noticed people like to help those that usually giving.
4. Even though this is number 4, this really is the most important. Faith, the Savior, and the Church. Our testimonies became cement. Now that I am out of it, and hearing others perceptions of us, I know that at times it seemed a dark cloud was heavy over us. But there were so many miracles that I have no doubt God was aware of us, even if I couldn’t feel or get reassurance sometimes that it would end. Faith is true power. To face the unknown with Faith is a choice, and we clung to it.
Faith in Jesus Christ
5. Other things we did was tried to keep a schedule of Jason ‘working’ on finding a job. I tried to keep the kids out of the house for half the day, so he could concentrate and work. It was a challenge having two hens in the henhouse for what ended up being an entire school year, but we could feel that this was a unique time and to take advantage of it and let stuff roll off (sometimes we stunk at this).
6. Home projects. Part of this was out of necessity cause things were breaking that we couldn’t afford to replace but part [of] is this for [Jason]. Seriously I think everything broke. You-tube was his best friend. He traded services like fixing sprinklers for a month of piano lessons or fixing a garage door for car service. A couple of Jason’s siblings gave us Home Depot cards and Lowe’s, and I know that was great for him.
7. Write your miracles down. We kept a miracle list, and it is seriously amazing. So many amazing miracles and acts of service towards our family. Reminding me that we were loved and cared for. You are probably on my list, even you anonymous ones. I plan on showing it to my children when they are older or when they are struggling in their own lives. The Lord provides. And it is usually through another person that He meets our needs.
Write your miracles down!
8. Time. It will take longer than you think. Double the amount. Triple it. There is rarely a quick fix and don’t worry, because if it taking longer than that means there is something special you will be learning and worth the work. I learned things in the 8 months that I didn’t in the 6th. Time is sometimes our best teacher.
9. Quotes, inspiration, and fun. I found that I needed a daily dose of ‘good things’ to balance the weight I [was] sometimes feeling. I would listen to at least one conference talk a day, read my scriptures and watch church videos on the lds.org website. The missionaries came over alot and felt like they were the light coming in our house. We went to the temple every week or every other week, trading off between us and then together sometimes too. The temple helps. Soak up as much good stuff as you can get. Emily Watson talks about two sides to everything like coin. We can see the good side or the bad side. Tried really hard to see the good side. Like the fact that Jason actually knew what was happening in our house or kids homework.
10. Also I tried not to let the perception of how would that look to other people. If we went somewhere fun I often times felt I had to tell people who saw it, ‘we had a gift card for this’ or tell the practical reason we able to do things. Try not to do that. Someone gave me that tip from experience. Also makes me slower to judge others.
11. Food. Now is the time to eat your humble pie, and it tastes delicious. Don’t eat out unless it is free. Buy what is in season. Shop the cheapest places. Costco, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc. [are] probably not the answer unless it is basic items, or you run in for one or two things. I went to Middle Eastern and Hispanic markets, Food 4 Less. I went to cooking everyday and not buying any prepared or package meals…every once in a while I would spring for chicken nuggets. This also meant we couldn’t eat as healthy as I wanted to, but in reality taking out chips and ice cream and other extras was healthy afterall. I remember one time when my mom came to visit the kids remarked ‘oh strawberries, its been so long since we have had strawberries.’ Also, we ate up most of our food storage, and I realized how much our food storage was lacking (cough cough, oops).
I also used dry milk for all milk besides cereal and drinking. Started making dry beans in my Crock-pot (like homemade refried beans) and brushed up on my from scratch skills.
12. Service. Do as much service as you can. Really helps to focus on other people and not yourself. Jason and I said yes to everything we could. There is a reason the Lord wants us to serve our brothers and sisters on the earth, and it [is] for them and also for us.
13. Family and Friends. Be open. We felt a closeness with our family. We could feel there prayers for us to sustain us. Jason’s parents, although in Argentina on their mission, sent such sweet messages of times when they had gone through it too, and I sure do love my mother-in-law and father-in-law for sharing those with us. Out of bad things forced upon us, we are forced to change. We know they fasted with us, and we fasted much. We traded emails and texts, and they shared their experiences and support, and it helped. The longer it went on and more interviews that had disappointing ends, I knew they were rooting for us. Both sides of our family, cause we have awesome families. Friends were dear to us too, and I got choked up when I would hear they were fasting for us too. Especially when they had trials in their own life. I used to think people were dumb when they said they were grateful for the bad things in their life. But now I understand more. Because the most tender things can happen in those dark times, and I never want to forget.
14. Our kids. Okay, so these are not ranked in order of importance. But kids love ya no matter what. Their smile can brighten a frown and really you have to keep it as normal as possible and that’s good for everyone. We did have to say no to things they were used to doing, like going to the movies, but, if anything, it made them appreciate more too. It was neat to see us all praying about the same things and rallying around. We still had lots of fun. Just had free fun 🙂 Library, parks, movie nites. For birthdays, instead of presents and parties, they got to make a list of special privileges or requests. The only rule is it had to be free. Like staying up late watching a movie or their favorite dinner or doing something every day that they love the week of their birthday. This was a hit and a tradition we will keep.
The last day of school, Jason was told he got the job. My parents were in town, and we saw the new Superman movie, and it seemed like our own happy ending. When I first heard that his job was contract work (ie: temp) I was discouraged. I just wanted it finished and clean in a neat and tidy bow. But life is not neat and tidy. And the Lord’s plan is greater than our plan, and we just hold on, and trust in Him.
Jason is totally different person. It was definitely harder on him than it was on me. (Can you read the understatement between the lines?) He said he had reached the end of his rope a few months before. He is so happy now and things we would have complained about (like him being gone so much), we now are grateful for. Apparently I had lots to learn. So be nice to your husband. Try and limit contention. Forgive yourself if you aren’t perfect, and be a team.
In the first month or two, I cried all the time. Then I cried for all the goodness that came. Then I stopped crying and got used to our new transition and just kinda swam in it. It actually was an adjustment for me when Jason was working again, I loved the extra help around the house!
The last part I will add, but know it is very special to me. Is that when talking to my friend, Alisa, whose husband ended up getting Jason hired on at the temp position (and it literally took him taking him under his wing to do it). She told me that when she thought about Jason and was talking about it with her husband that she had an impression that it was the prayers of our family and friends who had brought this about, that those prayers had brought his name to their thoughts about who needed it. We still will always [be grateful] for them for their perception and kindness, we needed it, and God knew that He could use them for His work in helping our family of seven.
Is it over?
We are still on cobra insurance. It is expensive but just glad we have money to pay it. Although I want Jason to always work and have seen the benefits and his happiness of having a job now, I hope we never forget what we learned this year or how hard it was and that we made it. And there is always a chance this could happen again and next time we will be ready.
I will add to this if I can remember any more. 🙂 Good luck. You can do it too!