Friday, July 30, 2010

Prepared in Any Weather

This month is supposed to be when my area gets a ton of rain. And by a ton of rain, I mean most of the measly amount we get each year.  Funny thing is that we haven't been getting much of anything.  While we have seen reports from around the country about torrential downpours, closed airports and flooding, we have been pretty dry.

This last week has been different.  We have had clouds threatening every day. Off in the distance we have even seen what looks like rain, but no luck.

I have to say that after a while you get a little complacent.  It is hard to stay on heightened alert for something that never happens.  Maybe I just have a short attention span, but when dark and brooding clouds sit over my house and don't do anything for over a week, well, I just don't believe them anymore.

Imagine my surprise yesterday when it started to rain.  And I mean really rain.  This was a bona fide gully washer and frog strangler. This was the kind of rain the windshield wipers can't keep up with.  There were white cap waves on the freeway and my son commented that it looked like snow coming from behind the tires of other cars as they sped past.

Should I have been surprised? No, this is what was supposed to be happening all along. But did I find myself prepared? Not really. About the time I turned on my windshield wipers I heard this horrible squeak.  Yep, I forgot my wipers are a few years old and a little brittle.  Brittle wipers don't do a very good job. Bummer.

I thought about the irony of all of this.  The sky had given me almost two weeks of warning that we were going to have a huge storm.  I had even wanted a huge storm. But did I prepare for it? Nope. I did not.

How often do we face the same situation?  We know a family member is getting old, but we don't determine final wishes or medical care.  We have kids, but don't plan for their support if we are gone.  We know we live in a fire prone area, but don't set up an evacuation plan.  We have been through a trucking strike before, but don't keep essential food and supplies on hand.

Hmmm.  You would think we were all nuts.  Maybe we are.

I think it is human nature to put off until tomorrow what could best be done today.  We all hope it won't be needed.  For some reason inaction is so much more comfortable than action. Unfortunately, that won't help much when the storm comes.  Even if I had purchased new wipers beforehand, it was far too wet to install them in the storm.  A little prep work would have gone a long way.

So take some time and think about it.  I know you don't likely have a crystal ball, but take the time to think about upcoming situations in your life.  Maybe you have storms coming up like we do.  Maybe you haven't yet planned for ill health or death.  Whatever it is, take the time to do the small things to keep yourself prepared.

Just because the clouds have not yet dumped the rain, doesn't mean they won't.  Do not become complacent. Act now. Being prepared in any weather allows you to enjoy the rain, while not fearing the storm.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grandpa Tom - A Family Legacy

As you saw in my post from last week, I have been doing a lot of genealogy for the last few years.  Not only do I collect names and dates, I collect stories.  To me, the stories are the best part.

Grandpa Tom
My Great Grandpa Tom was the seventh of thirteen children.  He married when he was 29 and took on a wife who had two children from a previous marriage.  A few years later he moved his family to a different state and started up a large farm with crops and livestock.  He and his wife had 5 more children, 3 of which died in a 5 year time period.

Tom was an amazing man.  He was innovative and confident.  He bettered his family and he blessed the lives of his neighbors with his generosity.  He was well regarded in his rural Texas county, but he was also just a man. He experienced doubt, shame, regret, sorrow and misery.

While I have distilled his life into two paragraphs, I could write volumes about this man who was born into a harsh environment and struggled his entire life to care for his parents and then family.  I could tell you how the dust bowl stole his farm, his family and eventually his life.  I could even pontificate on the chain of events that brought him from greatness to sadness.

When I started researching this great man I didn't know what I would find.  As I learned more about his life and his challenges I realized there wasn't much of a difference between who Tom was then and who I am now.

Many of the traits about myself I cherish came from this man.  I look at the incredible engineering projects he completed and know I got my technical mind from him.  I learned about his farming innovations and realized he was a person willing to take risks.  I think of the risks I have taken in my life, and once again I see the similarities. I see the responsibility he took for his mistakes, and the guilt he carried.  I reflect on my life and see a similar pattern. 

Tom was unable to leave his family much in the way of material support.  The farm was auctioned, the livestock were sold and the family home has long since fallen to the ground.  What Tom did leave his family was an important lesson.

Born a man with immense potential, Tom was given situations which required life altering decisions.  Many of those decisions brought joy and happiness, however some did not.  His children grew up, moved away and had families of their own, but the repercussions of past choices went with them.

In my life I see choices placed before me every day.  Most of them don't amount to much, but some do.  I realize the choices I make have more than a limited effect.  They can change my life and that of the future.

Tom has left me a gift.  He lived a hard life, but he did the best he could.  He cared for his family with all the emotion of his soul. He kept at it until he had done all he could.  He messed some things up, but the love he felt for his family was always there.  He was a great man, with his faults making him all the more impressive.

I hope to never experience the adversity put before Tom.  I don't know if I could do as well as he did.  I have compassion for his mistakes and better understand the phrase, "Don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes." Tom walked many dusty miles in his 75 years. He laughed, he loved and he lost.

Above all, what he left me was a legacy of hard work, a tradition of risk taking, and the need to become more than what I am now.  That is an amazing legacy to have.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Motivational Monday #12 - Waiting for the Storm

Have you ever seen the clouds roll in, the wind start to pick up and the animals scurry?  When I do, I know a storm is coming.  I check to make sure the windows are closed, the toys are off the porch and the house is secure.  Then I wait.

I love a good storm.  I love it when the wind howls and the heavens dump.  It is cleansing and refreshing.

What I hate is to be teased.  I hate it when I see the sky darken, the wind pick up and the animals scurry...and then nothing happens.  Part of me feels robbed.

Not only have I wasted energy preparing, I miss out on the great show of force by Mother Nature. It just doesn't seem right or fair.

The question is: Do I prepare every time I think a storm is coming?  The answer of course is yes.  I always check the house, I always check the porch and I always close the windows.  There is no excuse for being caught unprepared.

So why is it when we see the signs of economic downturn, of agricultural disruption and even labor unrest, we do nothing?  Why are we casually watching at our open window while the clouds gather all around?

Preparation is not always needed.  The storm sometimes passes.  However sometimes it doesn't.

Being ready for changes, storms and emergencies is not difficult, just time consuming.  I know it can be tempting to pass on it "just this once."  After the storm hits hard and fast will you feel the same?

I doubt get prepared, every time you see something brewing on the horizon.  Protect your home, protect your family and protect your hard work. You will be glad you did.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pictures From the Past - Reflections of History

I have been on a quest for the last 5 years to collect pictures and stories of my ancestors.  What started out as a small project to document my grandfather's youth turned into a huge journey into the past.  I have found relatives I never knew existed and seen pictures of family dead long before my birth.

My Grandfather and His Sister
During this journey I discovered a very important thing.  I am the sum of their lives.  I have traits, both good and bad, from many of them.  I have talents and flaws that mirror theirs.  Most importantly, I enjoy the consequences of their actions.  I live where I do, I have the career I do, and I have the children I do, all because their choices put me and my family in a certain place at a certain time.

While I realize they were not thinking of me as they plowed the fields or harvested the crops, the choices they made changed the course of my history.  I doubt they will ever be mentioned in a history book, but my family's "Grapes of Wrath" story changed farmers into city folk and thus me into an engineer.

I have much to thank these ancestors for.  They provided the foundation for great progress and prosperity.  The lessons they learned have been passed down and incorporated into our lives. The sacrifices they made gave their children and grandchildren the chance to be more than the generation before.

Now I wonder what I am leaving for my family.  What choices have I made, what opportunities have I created?  Will the generations to come look at my picture and see a woman who changed their lives?

I hope so.  I hope my contribution to the family legacy is as meaningful as those who have gone before.  The tradition of family and values I have been given is something of worth and I hope it continues for generations to come.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

All Good Things Come to Those Who Prepare

Last night I took a deep breath, rolled up my sleeves and sliced a metric ton of strawberries.  Summer strawberries are the best, but I have noticed a strange phenomena, namely if the strawberries are whole, no one will eat them.  If I slice them, they are eaten rapidly.  Same strawberries, so why the difference?  In a word, preparation.

I think many of us are lazy at heart.  We see something good, but if it isn't ready for us we just walk away.  The extra work of getting it ready somehow out weighs the benefits of the reward.

I think this concept is relevant in other areas of our lives too. If the laundry is sorted we can start a load, but if it needs to be sorted we can let it sit.  If the trash has been collected we can take it outside, but if we have to go get it we would rather leave it be.

Taking the time for an extra step sometimes is more than we are willing to do.  The sad part is that this "other step" may be the difference between us enjoying a reward and missing out completely.  How unfortunate.

I think emergency preparation is very much the same.  We know about it, we value it, and we want to take advantage of it, but there are too many steps involved before we are rewarded. We would rather let the strawberries rot than slice them because it is just one more thing.  When it comes down to it, I like strawberries enough to put in the work.

I am guessing you want to be prepared enough to put in the time.  In fact you probably have done many things in your life to move you towards emergency preparation. You may have learned survival skills.  You may have taken training for first aid.  You might even have become a first responder in case of emergency.

Chances are you are still missing something. Maybe you don't have all the equipment you want to own.  Maybe you haven't learned a skill you need, or maybe you haven't prepared your paperwork.

Anyway you slice it, you are denying yourself the strawberries just so you don't have to prep them.  How very human of you.

So here is your challenge, figure out what your excuse it and get over it.  Continue on your path to emergency preparation and accomplish something.  The reward will outweigh the prep...I promise.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Motivational Monday #11 - Create

Sometimes the craziness of our lives puts us into a predicable rut.  We have the same routine day in and day out.  We follow the same paths and finish the same tasks.

It doesn't take long before we are bored and frustrated.

Today I challenge you to create! It does not matter if the creation is food, art, or just a new routine.  Using your creative muscle will change the way you view things and help you out of the rut you are in.

Over the weekend I designed and sewed a tote bag for carrying the odds and ends I need on a daily basis.  The process of creating the design stretched my imagination.  The finished project brought me joy, and better yet, is functional.

So flex your creativity and do something out of the norm today.  Tell me what you did, I can't wait to celebrate with you!

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Watch - A Device To Measure Guilt

I have a watch.  Most people do.  Sometimes it is on your arm, sometimes it is the screen of your cell phone.  Either way, most people know what time it is.

Why is it that people all over the world care what time it is?  Isn't time, or at least our measurement of it, nothing more than a little motor moving steadily in one direction?  Why do we care?

I would suggest that people want to know what time it is because time is how we measure almost everything.  We measure age, we measure accomplishment, we measure worthiness for things like meal time and sleep, we assign priority to events based on the time (I can do that later...) and we determine our progress...all relative to time.

That is a lot of pressure for a four letter word if you ask me.

Time also instigates guilt.  Thoughts such as "I wish I had done that sooner" and, "Why didn't I do that when there was time?" are both expressions of time related guilt and frustration.

Once again, time is such a powerful thing.  And like all powerful things, it can be used for good or evil. (muuhaahaa)

In a world where time goes forward and no one really knows what will happen next, there really are constants we can bank on.  One of those absolutes is change.  Things will be different in the future than they are now.  It is about 99.9% guaranteed.  Paint will peel, windows will crack, buildings will crumble. Relationships will change, people will be born, and people will die.  Jobs will be attained, jobs will be lost, and educations will be updated.

While walking around upset about this will do you no good, I do suggest some proactive steps to smooth the transition from the known of today into the unknown of tomorrow.

Step 1 - Identify what you need.  Notice I said "need" and not what you "really would like to imagine having."  Look at needs.  Things like food, shelter, clothing, medications, and emergency fund are at the top of my list.  Each of these things can be planned for ahead of time in small increments.

Step 2 - Identify the things that bring you comfort.  These are the items you consider comfort food for your soul.  This list will change more than the first, but can also be planned for ahead of time.  For me, books hit the list, as well as clean clothes and fluffy pillows.

Step 3 - Identify those things that are out of your control. This can be scary.  No one likes to be out of control when it comes to the big things.  While I may not care where I eat lunch, I do care where I live if forced to evacuate my home.  List things like natural disasters, death, and medical emergency.

Compare your first and second lists to the last list and see what steps you need to take to ensure you will have everything you need and most of what you want.

Here is where time comes in.  All of this must be done before you need it.  The is why the word prepare starts with "pre" and not "post."  Take a look, figure out what you need and prepare for it.

Our society is very caught up on time.  We schedule to it, we plan for it and we buy expensive watches to keep track of it.  The irony of it all is this: until we DO something with it, all of our efforts are wasted.  Using time to our advantage is a skill not all have developed.  Believing that time will change nothing and that all will be the same forever is an illness our society suffers from.  If we have learned nothing else in this economic downturn, I would hope we have learned that things change.

Don't let your watch measure your guilt.  When things do change, you will be left either wondering what happened or glad you thought ahead.  Don't let time pass with inaction on your part. Prepare now.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I like excuses.  They are a catch all for why I can't, don't want to, or flat out won't do something.  The truth can be ugly.  Excuses are so much more creative. (Anyone try the "My dog ate my homework" ploy?)

Things like, "I can't, I'm way too busy," really translate into "This is not a priority, so I won't." Ouch! That could hurt, better to go with the excuse.

Have you noticed we use excuses when we don't want to hurt other people's feelings?  Somehow lying is better than honesty...sad but true.

Have you ever tried to be honest with someone and it backfired?  I'm sure that was the moment you learned "tact," a polite way of telling people what they don't want to hear.

Society frowns on being tactless, yet we are supposed to speak our minds.  hmmm, that can be hard.

Here is the real triumph, when we make excuses to ourselves.  Does that actually work?  Well it must, because I have given myself such fabulous excuses that I have talked myself out of exercising, dieting, taking classes, finishing projects and a myriad of other noble pursuits.  Apparently I am so good at excuses I can even fool myself.

So what excuses do you have for being unprepared for emergencies?  I am curious.  I know what mine are, but I wonder what other people tell themselves.

The hardest part about giving yourself excuses is that you know the real reason, you just ignore it. Drat! I hate it when I lie to think I would treat myself better.  Oh, well, I must be tired, or stressed, or distracted, or...what was my excuse again?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Motivational Monday #10 - Change is Good, Just Ask Mother Earth

Have you ever noticed how exciting summer can be?  The first few days of sun and freedom are nothing short of intoxicating. Visions of beach, sun, wind, and relaxation are balm to the tired and overworked soul.

Then reality hits.  Even if days at the beach are in your future it won't take you long to remember every beach comes with sand...and sand gets everywhere!

By mid July I have already hit a wall.  I am ready for the heat to be gone. (It has been hovering around a lovely 115 for weeks now.) I want cool breezes, crisp mornings and hot chocolate.

Did I hear a gasp??? I know most of the country had a cold winter and is excited for the change of season, and there my friends is it, we don't really care about summer, we just want change.

So what change do you need right now?  As this is a Motivational Monday blog I wanted to motivate you to find something in your life that needs change.  I can't control the weather, but I can take control of what I do with my life.

Sit down and think about the things you are tired of.  Maybe laundry is on your list, or maybe toilets.  While you can't make those things go away, you can change how you tackle them.  Is blaring music the answer?  Maybe a new routine or a friend on the phone while you make it happen.  Find a solution and make it work.

Someday you will get bored with this new solution and you can change it all again.  Hey, why else would the seasons change?  Mother Earth gets bored too.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Recharging - Good For Batteries - Good For People

Last night I fell asleep early, I mean really early, and I slept for 10 hours. If you just heard choirs of angels singing it is because I needed the sleep. My entire body had hit a wall and I was running on fumes.

I am sure I am not the only person to see this phenomenon in their lives. I am still not sure how I survived college, because I know for a fact I studied until 2-3 am on many occasions. I remember being tired, but able to make it through.  I may just have to admit I am a wee bit older now and my body needs more time to recharge.

Recharging is a vital step in our life process.  The only way to avoid it is to never overextend yourself, and what fun would that be???

Not only do we need to recharge our physical bodies, we need to recharge our mental status as well.  The stress of modern life can be draining.  "Simple" things like taking care of a family, heading to work, and dealing with the people around us can leave us feeling tired, sad, depressed and plain old drained.

Taking the time to fill ourselves back up is a necessity, not a luxury.  I may need to say that again for a few of you out there who push yourself to the breaking point every day...It is a necessity, not a luxury.

Being recharged allows you to do more, feel more and be more.  Walking around in a fog doesn't serve you or those around you.  So look at your life.  What can you do to recharge?  Get enough sleep, eat a little better, and find something to heal your soul on a regular basis.  The difference will be intense.  No one wants to run on a low battery so charge yours up!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer Preparations - Survival of the Most Prepared

I am about to do something shocking...I am going to blog on topic.  Don't get too excited, I doubt it will happen very often.

In order to survive, people need a few basics; food, water and shelter.  In order to thrive we need a few other things, toilet paper, pillows and clean clothes. Although I doubt the last few items make the list of necessities, I know I appreciate them.

During the summer we take time from the regular craziness of our lives and participate in sports, spend time outdoors, and cook on the grill.  Amazingly enough these activities are a great way to prepare for emergencies down the road.

Emergency shelter can take many forms, but some of the most basic methods are things you learn while camping.  You can have a fancy tent for twelve, a two man pup tent, or a plastic sheet and rope, any way you slice it, you need a way to protect yourself from the elements and conserve body heat.  The trick is to know how to put up a tent, how to secure it, and how to maintain it.  None of these skills are easy to figure out in a crises.  I would much rather spend my summers in a nice campground with real bathrooms learning these skills, than in a downpour in the desert after I have evacuated my home.

Cooking on the bar-b-que is another fantastic way to work on emergency preparation cleverly disguised as an American pastime.  Grilling is an easy way to cook without the convenience of your electric or gas range, which may be out of commission in an emergency.  Knowing how to cook meat, how to prepare meals, and how to conserve fuel is an important part of the process.  Trust me when I tell you I have made many mistakes along the way.  Don't wait until you are desperate to learn this skill.

Athletics are also an important part of emergency preparation.  When playing sports you learn about hydration, emergency medical aid, and stamina.  You also learn about your physical limits.  Being aware of how your body moves, how it handles adrenaline, and how much water you need to consume, will help you prepare for unexpected events.  While most emergencies will not require you to run a marathon, you are likely to have an adrenaline response, which will trigger similar responses within your body.  Being familiar with your body's needs will help you plan accordingly for water and energy intake.  Anyone who has played a soccer game or slid into home base can tell you they need more water and more fuel to keep up their strength.

Athletes also tend to know about quickly wrapping ankles and wrists.  They know about swelling and concussions, and they know when to seek medical attention.  I know most of us will never be pro athletes, but having a working knowledge, not just a text book knowledge, of these skills can be vital in an emergency.

So go out and enjoy your summer.  Camp, grill and play sports, knowing you are building up your family's skill sets.  You are expanding their survival skills, increasing their ability to stay safe and preparing them for unusual circumstances. 

I bet summer never sounded so productive!