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When I was around 9 years old I was your average bookworm with an unaverage amount of pride about it. I knew I could read well and liked to show off and receive admiration for my talents (I’m not actually sure I ever outgrew that; but anyways). I have a very vivid memory of my Aunt and Uncle visiting our family and giving me a book – one of Janette Oke’s, but I can’t remember if it was Roses for Mama or Bride for Donnigan (both are still much-loved favorites). I was bragging about how fast I’d be able to finish it, and how quickly I could read, when my Uncle Scott challenged me. He opened the book to a random chapter and asked me to read the entire first page while he timed me. I remember reading over those words as fast as my little eye would go, to finish just a few seconds later. He then took the book from me and proceeded to question me about very simple things concerning the words I had read. What is the characters name? Is the person in this scene talking to a male or a female? What room are they in?

I couldn’t answer any of the questions. Sure, I had read the page, but I hadn’t comprehended any of it. My ego bruised, I slumped away.

I’d love to tell you that I learned my lesson and slowed down to absorb more, but I never really have. When I read books that I consider “easy reading” – books by people like Janette Oke, Neta Jackson or even Dean Koontz, I scan read. I get the entire story, don’t get me wrong, but my mind scans the page and absorbs the story, but not the particular words. This would be in comparison to books like Tom Clancy’s books or anything by J.R.R. Tolkien, where I really have to focus to comprehend. In both cases though I usually walk away from a book having thoroughly enjoyed the story but not being able to remember particular character names or locations. I know the story – but if I was to retell it I would say something like, “There’s this guy named Odd and he sees dead people and he runs around having all these adventures, and I remember at some point he walked around this abandoned hotel, or casino I think? And there was a mystery revolving around his girlfriend, and it had a happy ending.” See? That’s utter rubbish. Or, Tom Clancy’s novels, so much happens that I can’t really give you much other than an overview of the basic plot – “There’s Russians, they’re bad, and the main character has a thing against them and he goes undercover and rescues some good guys.”

So, how does this tie into my Sony E-Reader?

I read, for the first time ever, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. And I read every. single. word. I have tried to read that book several times, but I kept scanning over boring parts to the point that I would get lost and then frustrated and then throw the book away in disgust.

But with my Sony E-Reader, I didn’t scan read. I could have, of course. But it’s not as easy to skip ahead 20 pages just for the fun of it. You’d actually have to key in a page number, or scroll forward 20 times, and who wants to bother with that when I can just pay attention to the story? I completely credit my E-Reader with having forced me to read through that book – which was an alright read, all things considered.

I have the newest Sony E-Reader, the Sony Touch edition, which is their mid-sized reader. I got it for Christmas and I have since read 4 books. That’s pretty awesome, considering I hadn’t managed to pick up a book since Benjamin was born and finish it. Four books! Including The Name of the Wind, Pride and Prejudice, a kid’s book (for Benjamin) and a Harry Potter book.

The Sony Touch is sleek and beautiful (I got the red one) easy to hold and one of my favorite things to do now is curl up in bed with it. I used to not be able to lay down and read because of my love for huge, 500+ page novels, but with this reader it doesn’t matter how big the novel is, I am good to go. I plan on re-reading the LOTR series next. Imagine! That many pages, that little weight. I had looked into all the readers, but Sony’s product is by far (in my opinion) the superior reader. I’m not tied down to their store, either. Sony accepts .epub format, so even if I buy a book from google or directly from a publisher, I can read it on my Sony. Unlike some of the other readers *coughKINDLEcough*. But what really sets my Sony apart from other readers is that it is beautiful to look at. And I know that might not matter to some people, but if I’m going to be staring at something for several hours a week I’d like to be able to appreciate the aesthetic appeal if at all possible. Sony delivers that beautifully. And I read and read and read and I went down to a single bar out of 3 power bars, but in the amount of time it took me to re hook in to my computer to upload a few more books (about 15 minutes, total) it had recharged itself.

The only drawback to the Sony is the somewhat antiquated software on the computer interface, but I’ve seen enough complaints about it that I’m hoping for Sony to pay some attention to that sometime soon. In the meantime it works, it’s just a bit cumbersome. And who wants cumbersome software with such a beautiful piece of technology?

In conclusion, I’m reading more and comprehending more (I can actually give you a pretty good overview of what occurs in P&P) and enjoying the process of reading again. I specifically didn’t buy one with internet so I wouldn’t have that temptation and I’m quite glad I did.. it’s just this simple, compact, amazing library that weighs less than a pound. I can carry 10,000 books with me.

I love living in the future. It’s not a flying car, but for now, it will do.

Justin and I are getting ready to hit the money-saving train hard.  We will still be putting money towards the restoration of the 1965 Mustang but pretty much every extra penny will be going towards savings.  Our goal is 5k in a year, but that MIGHT be a bit much.  We will see.  That basically breaks down to 200 dollars per pay period.  Eeek!  That’s a lot of mexican food, pizza and delicious bacon. It’s also a lot of gas money down to Houston and vacations.  But we have been thinking a lot about purchasing a home in the next few years and if we do we want to have a good down payment.  So, save we must.  I don’t think either one of us is sold on the idea of owning – we both like the convenience of calling the rental company when our property has a problem – but I also don’t want to be paying rent when I retire.  And people keep telling us it’s better to own – although, like I said, I’m still not convinced.  So, we’ll spend another year here and think things through. 

Anyways.  In the meantime I’m going to be saving my pennies for the things I want.  I figured I’d make a list so I could refer back to it when I want to spend the extra 2 dollars I have on something else.  Maybe I’ll sell a few things on Craigslist to get this stuff.  Who knows.

1.) The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss
His book The Name of the Wind was recommended by Greg Dean (author of the often-hilarious Real Life Comics) and I finally got tired of him talking about how amazing it was so I finally bought it.  And it was that amazing.  It was one of the best fantasy books I have ever read, and for someone who reads a lot that’s really saying something.  I’ve been looking forward to this book since I got done reading the first one and am SO excited about its release.  That being said, if I can manage to I’m going to wait for paperback.  But I don’t know if I’ll be able to. I’m pretty excited.

2.) Diablo III – Blizzard!
Some of you geeks are familiar with the Diablo games. Amazing fun. I adored Diablo II and have many happy memories playing that game (moooo!) My Uncle Rick and I enjoy discussing Diablo tactics and who doesn’t love a good time throwing fireballs at people? Exactly. We bought an actual computer specifically so we’d have something to play Diablo III on. It just needs to come out before our box is completely outdated!

3.) Genesis: A Commentary - Bruce Waltke
I got recommended this by someone on the Internet Monk site and ever since then it is my go-to-drool-over theological book. Genesis has always been one of my favorite books of the bible and I’d like to dive in a little deeper to what someone else sees in its beautiful writing.

4.) The Flavor Bible – Karen Page, Andrew Dorenburg
It’s funny, if I had to pick one thing on this list… well, Wise Man’s Fear would win hands down. But if I had to pick a second thing, this book would be it. I’ve been droooooling over this book for ages. I love to bake (and am pretty darn good at it sometimes) but I’m not the greatest cook.  Just ask my husband.  I do OK but I’d really like to know WHY it is that I really like adding celery powder to things, or why a hint of vanilla in the strangest of dishes makes the back of my tongue happy in ways that I didn’t expect.  And this book does things like this (pulled from the book, totally not trying to steal, just using it as an example, please don’t sue!):
Celery
Season: year-round
Taste: astringent
Botanical relatives: carrots
Function: cooling
Weight: light
Volume: moderate-loud
Technique: boil, braise, cream, raw, saute, steam, stir-fry

And then gives a huge list of things that it goes well with.  Like humus and fish and blue cheese.

I like that it would teach me why I use the flavors I use and how to combine them better.  I’ve been wanting to create a new kind of banana bread for my roommate Jim that doesn’t taste like traditional banana bread, but I want to know what flavors go well with banana that are not exactly traditional.  And trying to google for that is useless.  Go ahead, google “savory banana bread” and see? You get nowhere. 

So, anyways, eventually I will get that book.  It’s available wirelessly which leads me to…

5.) Sony Reader
Maybe. Most likely. It seems like the best of the readers out there right now and I like that I can store the entire library on it at once.  I’ve been debating digital books for a while internally and I’ve come to the conclusion that I just need to get over my hesitation because it’s the way of the future and coming this way no matter what.

Not that I’m going to get rid of my library.  I was about to say that most the books I have are out of print anyways, but upon checking I was amazed to find a lot of my rare books are still in print (or being reprinted as classics).  Jack Chalker’s Well World series is still in print, although my 1980’s copies are better looking.  The Three Christs of Ypsilanti is being reprinted as a classic, but since I have one of the first few editions I’m pretty sure mine (hardcover with the dust jacket!) is worth a bit more.  I have the paperback box set of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from 1970 that is retro and beautiful and in great condition. 

Anyways.  There is no way I would willingly part with most of my books.  They are a comfort food to me, ya know? I like to devour them on rainy days and cold days and sunny days.  But new books? I have no problem buying those digitally.  I would love to carry around a dozen books to read based on my mood at that particular moment. No need to bookmark or dog-ear? Sold! Searchable? Even better!  And if I decide I really want some paper to hold (or take to the beach to get sand-encrusted) I have a ton of books at home to choose from that I’ve decided to keep on hand.

Although it would be nice to get rid of my Tom Clancy books. They take up an entire shelf all on their own!

6.) LOTR trilogy: extended editions on blu-ray
I join the protestors on Amazon.com by being irritated at New Line for releasing the theatrical versions a full 2 years before they’re planning on releasing the extended editions.  We all know exactly why they’re doing this, to sell the theatrical versions to the people who are impatient and the extended editions to them again in a few years.  That doesn’t make it right but hey, it’s a capitalistic society (for now) and I can’t blame them for what they’re doing. I can be irritated and refuse to buy the theatrical version though, and that’s what I’m doing.  Estimated release for the extended edition is 2011-2012. 

7.) Running gear
I’ve been utilizing the treadmill at work but I’m hoping this winter to upgrade to outdoor workouts. I won’t have the drive/gumption to do that unless I have some way of tracking my progress.  I’m thinking that I need some sort of pedometer or heart rate monitor or distance tracker or something.  There’s some pretty awesome gear out there – Nike has Nike+, Addidas has miCoach, so something along those lines that will track where and what I’m doing when I go out and “hit the streets.”  I don’t really know what I want yet – I’m still new to the running thing – but it’s on my list assuming I don’t throw my running shoes away in defeat ;)

Edited to add:
8.) Sew Everything Workshop: The complete beginner’s guide
I really really want to learn how to sew.  I want to learn for lots of different reasons.  One, with me losing weight, I’ll need to be able to modify my clothes to fit me.  Take them in and what not.  Also, I’ve always wanted to be able to make my own clothing.  It would be a helpful skill if I ever decide to decorate my house. I would be able to make my own pillows and whatnot.

But I am notorious for picking up “hobbies” that then sit there by the wayside for ages without so much as a glance in their general direction.  I did very much enjoy cross stitching when I did it, so I think I’d like sewing.  This book is across the board the #1 recommended book for beginners, and it looks like most of the stuff in there I can sew by hand.  I would, of course, have to sew by hand initially so that I could develop the skill.  If one day down the line I were to obtain a sewing machine that would be groovy, but I obviously can’t justify that much money right now.  I think I’ll sell my beading stuff and buy the basics for sewing with it.  I’m not really sure where I will find the time, but I’m pretty sure I could do some basic learning stuff while I have down time at work.  Especially if all I needed was a small piece of fabric and some thread. 

So, there you have it.  My wish list.

Things I’m thinking about right now:

-Baby poop.

-Whether or not Justin finished the border in the nursery or not .

-I have to give birth. Soon. Without drugs. (edited to add: I know I don’t have to give birth drug free, but that’s the birth I want. If the birth I WANT and the birth I NEED are different, then I am *OK* with that, but the goal is drug free!) It’s going to be scary! I keep trying to remind myself: I can do this. I am capable of doing this. It is best for me and my baby to do this. But I’m still absolutely terrified if I *actually* stop and think about it.

-Breastfeeding. All the books talk about getting my nipple aimed/lined up with the babies mouth, but I don’t have depth perception. And I’m really bad at depth awareness for things very close to me – say within 12 inches or so. I’m kind of scared I’m gonna try to poke the kid in the eye with a nipple before I get it figured out right. I’m joking, except for the part where I’m not. I’m glad I’ll have my husband and midwifes there to help me line everything up until me and Benjamin get the hang of it.

-Back to the birth thing – can I pick when I go into labor? And can I go into labor once, with none of this false labor crap? Because I’d like to be able to go into labor at about 2am, so I can call into work if I’m scheduled to work the next day and not have to worry about going back to work after that. I’d like to be able to focus on labor. That would be great!

-I’m really, really, really missing my mom these days. I ran across a picture of her holding one of my infant nephews the other day and I absolutely lost it. It’s so hard when people ask me if my mom lives close enough to come help me out with the baby. I know I shouldn’t be parentless and the loss is felt very keenly – by both my husband and me these days. Yes, this is a time of joy… but also of a quiet and perhaps deeper mourning than I have experienced in some time.

-Finances. My brother-in-law is out of work and he pays ¼ of our bills. We can cover him if we need to, but if we have to continue this into June and July then Justin won’t be able to take time off work like he needs to. How do you politely beg someone to find work for the good of your family unit?

-Birthday Bash at the Bahn! Our Schlitterbahn tradition of a few days at the water park COULD be interrupted by me having a 2 month old, but the more I think about it the better of an idea I think it is. I’ll have enough family around so that I can take a break to go sit in the sun, swim in a pool or ride a few slides, and Benjamin will be old enough to survive a hotel stay with minimal emotional scarring (I hope). It will be expensive, but we’re going to start setting aside money for it as soon as we can. Assuming the aforementioned bullet point eventually takes care of itself.

-Pictures! I have to take pregnancy pictures even though I feel like a fat cow. Because this might be the only baby I ever have, and I need to document it. But I feel huge and ugly and unattractive and I’m not sure how excited I am about the experience. Luckily I have a good photographer. But still.

-Work. We lost a dispatcher to the Police Academy last week. I’m absolutely thrilled for him, but will miss him terribly. Then I just found out this week that we’re losing another dispatcher. This means that my wonderful plans of a modified schedule when I come back from maternity leave are out the window until we’re fully staffed. I’m sad, and hopeful that we get new dispatchers that are as awesome as the ones we’re losing.

I think that’s pretty much it. Thanks for letting me core dump.

I really wanted to write a big long blog post waxing prolifically about how amazing God is. But honestly, flowery words fail to sufficiently address my feelings. Our bills are paid. We can afford groceries this week. There’s gas in our car. I am going to go get an oil change on Monday and talk to Joe about fixing up my Dad’s mustang (finally). I can tithe. I don’t stress about buying diapers (ok, I do kind of dread it, but I don’t stress about it). My midwife is paid for. People have overwhelmed me with generous donations for my child, saving me hundreds of dollars in furniture and clothes and toys and supplies. See? Words are inadequate.

In the end I can just be grateful that God has blessed me. Today, I am overwhelmed and grateful for his goodness.

While this has been one of the worst years of my life, it has also had a few good things going on dispersed amongst the tragedy. I’m generally a positive person so any chance I have to embrace the positive is good in my book. So, on to the good news: we have been making pretty good progress with our debt this year! Yay! Let there be much rejoicing in the streets! It’s not as much progress as I would have liked, and more than I honestly expected… and in a year like this I can’t do much other than be thankful I’m able to make any progress at all.

I’m still quite terrible at budgeting. I can never figure our expenses. I’m not sure why, I use mint.com for my money-tracking and it’s pretty cut and dried… but nevertheless I always undershoot or overshoot how much I’m going to spend at any particular time. I’m getting a bit better at it – and with Mint I have several months to analyze. So maybe one day I’ll get it figured out. Until then I’ll keep doing what I’m doing because it seems to work. And without further ado, a very impersonal list of my debt. Because we all know that the more personal information you have to share, the more honest you are. Right? Sort of.

May:
My BofA Card
Payment: $40.00
Applied to principal: $300.00
Remaining balance: $1,000.00

Justin’s BofA Card
Payment: $79.00
Applied to principal: $40.00
Remaining balance: $1438.66

Prosper Loan
Payment: $242.00
Applied to principal: $197.56
Remaining balance: $2,395.29

Netbank Card
Payment: $94.00
Applied to principal: $28.17
Remaining balance: $2,551.36

Total debt in January: $10,856.65

Total debt in May: $7,385.31

A difference of: $3,471.34

And there was much rejoicing. Yaaay.

Over the last week or two Quiznos has been advertising the million sub giveaway where they were going to give away 1 million subs. To qualify you had to fill out a short survey then they’d email you a coupon. Justin and I both did the surveys because I love Quiznos and their subs are generally too expensive to justify unless we have a little extra cash. I printed the coupons out, we had to use them by March 4th.

I always love a good deal, especially delicious free food. So imagine my surprise when I showed up at Quiznos last night, excited about my free delicious sandwich and see this sign:

“Due to Guest abuse through the system we are no longer accepting Million Sub Giveaway Certificates”
(link)

My shoulders sink. My taste buds scream at me. Nooo, just go ahead and get it, they cry. But I can’t, we don’t have room for it in the budget, not this week, and Justin and I slump out of the restaurant in defeat.

“Why, Justin?” I ask my husband, as we get back onto the road. “Why do people have to be like that? Why can’t they just be happy with their free sandwich and accept it? Why do they have to ruin it for everyone?”

“Because people saw an opportunity to get more of something and they took advantage of it. Because people are greedy and it’s just part of the human condition.”

I was pretty upset about it. Not just because I missed out on a yummy sandwich, but because it was a perfect example of people selfishly putting their wants and desires far above any thought of their fellow citizens.

Maybe they thought that they had the right to con Quiznos. Maybe they felt like the government had ripped them off in one way or another and they were going to get back at everyone by stealing from this company. I don’t know.

The thing is, part of the reason this county is in the state it’s in is because of greed. People can never get enough, never have enough, and they constantly strive for more and more and more without regard to the consequences to those around them. This makes people compromise their values, look the other way, and disregard the well-being of others.

I guess you could say I’m blowing this way out of proportion, but I’m tired of people being so selfish and greedy.

The greedy CEO’s and executives giving themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars…
the lobbyists working to make sure no real change happens in politics…
the senators and congressmen who continually vote themselves a raise…

They don’t affect me personally very much.

But punks who steal from Quiznos DO affect me.

So please, endeavor to consider the effects your greed can have on others. And more than that, consider the effect your kindness can have on those worn down by the savages of greed. I grow weary from all the darkness and hatred and greed in the world sometimes.  But every time I see kindness in the world I’m reminded that people, generally, aren’t really that horrible.

Charles Kuralt once said, “The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.”

Let’s work to make that true.

Thus far, 2009 is shaping up to be the longest year ever.  We were struck with major car repairs in lieu of a road trip, and right after we got back from our mini-vacation (of sitting on our butts being broke) my husband and I both came down with the sickness that wouldn’t end.  He ended up in urgent care with breathing problems and pneumonia and I ended up with the worst cold I’ve ever had in my life.  We were bedridden for about a week and seriously, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone ever.  The fatigue hit and I couldn’t walk to the bedroom from the living room.  I slept a week of my life away.

However, the sun came back out and the world shined once more.  I recovered.  I’m still a bit weak, I’ve still got the sniffles, but I can work and move around again.  It’s been great.

I had planned on doing this with a little more discussion, however I think this will have to do.  In lieu of the economic troubles and cultural acceptance of debt, we’ve decided to get OUT of debt.  One of the things I’m going to do to encourage myself is post a brief synopsis of my debt each month – for two reasons. One is so I can have a record of it, but also to keep myself accountable. Right now Justin (my husband) and I are not putting anything on credit – we have moved to cash only.  Thanks to Uncle Sam we have a little bit of money in our “emergency fund” and while it’s not as big as Dave Ramsey would like, we’ll work at improving it while paying down the debt. 

We got into debt ourselves and with God’s help we’ll get out.  We are participating in a church-wide effort to get out of debt, and every $250.00 we pay off we get to declare it to the church by moving one marble from the “debt” container to the “debt-paid” container (our Pastor calls it Moving Marbles).  I decided only to count the amount we applied to the principle.  So you’ll see both.  You can take the journey with us and watch our debt shrink.  I’ll try to post periodically about things we are doing to pay our debt off and put them under my “finance” category.  And hopefully our journey will inspire others to get out from under the cloak of debt.

January:
My BofA Card
Payment: $135.50
Applied to principal: $100.00
Remaining balance: $2,400.00

Justin’s BofA Card
Payment: $79.00
Applied to principal: 50.00
Remaining balance: $1598.66

Prosper Loan
Payment: $242.00
Applied to principal: $197.56
Remaining balance: $3,241.54

Netbank Card
Payment: $94.00
Applied to principal: $28.17
Remaining balance: $3,616.45

Total payments made: $550.50
Applied to principal: 375.73

Total debt remaining: $10,856.65

I am a huge fan of the Clark Howard Show on our local radio station 590 KLBJ. I love listening to scams, helpful tips on saving money, and overall he’s probably the nicest person I hear on the radio station. But there is one thing I highly disagree with him on, and that is his insistence that you do not need a landline telephone.

Most people would agree that landlines have pretty much become obsolete. With the technology of cell phones, who needs a landline?

Here’s the thing. Let’s say you’re getting up in age – I’m talking 70’s, 80’s. Your family just talked you into getting one of the latest cell phones, they showed you all the cool stuff and you’re really excited about getting pictures of little Suzy and Joey on your phone. You’ve cut your landline off to save you money each month. One day you are in your kitchen making some sandwiches and your chest starts to feel a little funny. You notice your left arm going numb. You freak out. You’re having a heart attack – you’ve read the articles, seen the signs, and you know what’s happening. Luckily your cell phone was on the counter, so you reach over and dial 911. You start to feel faint. “911 what’s the address of the emergency?” you hear. You say “I’m having a heart attack…” because that’s the most important thing, you think. You’re getting dizzier than you’ve ever felt in your life and you’re getting weak. “Ok what’s the address?” “It’s…”

This is the crucial moment.

This is the moment for which you have a landline telephone. It may never happen. I pray it doesn’t.

All hope is not lost if you don’t have a landline. If you’re calling on a cell phone and you tell the dispatcher you’re having a heart attack, or you need help, and the line goes dead or the battery dies, you might still be able to get the help. There are two ways we can find you.

The first way is through the GPS chip in your phone. All new phones have what is called Wireless Phase II, which lets us pinpoint your location based on a triangulation of 3 cell phone towers. It’s accurate within a few hundred yards and with it I can usually tell what house is calling – or at least narrow it down to 4 or 5 houses on a particular street or cul de sac. GPS is really freaking cool even though it’s not exact – and sometimes it can take 10-15 seconds to register and show up on my end of the technology.

The other way is by getting your subscriber information. To get your address that way we have to call your cell phone company and talk to them. I won’t go into details because I’m not sure I should, but trust me – it’s a bit of a pain. Not to mention it only works if you’re actually at home when you call.

There are plenty of people who that scenario doesn’t apply to. So pick a different scenario from the following:

  • Someone breaks into your house; you hear it while you’re in your bedroom so you run into the closet with a cell phone. The only problem is your cell phone is loud, and you can’t talk loud enough for them to hear you without the home-invader hearing also.
  • Your kids are home alone. The 12 year old is babysitting the 5 year old. The 12 year old falls, gets knocked out. The 5 year old knows to use the emergency cell phone in the corner, but he has no idea what his address is. This scenario can go several different ways – if he knows his address, but can’t articulate what’s going on, the dispatcher might just think he’s playing on the phone and send a police officer out to investigate. That is that much longer the 12 year old isn’t getting the right kind of help.
  • The neighbor is feeding your fish while you’re on vacation. She hurts herself, doesn’t have her cell phone on her, and can’t crawl far enough to get outside… she can’t do anything but lay there and call for help hoping her husband next door hears her. He doesn’t come check on her for an hour.

I don’t want to traumatize my readers, but I do want to convey my strong feelings about this. I strongly dislike AT&T most of the time, but their basic phone service is about 10-15 bucks a month. I don’t even turn the ringer on, I never answer it, and people that need to get ahold of me know to call my cell phone. But if I’m choking on something in my kitchen and need to get help, I can call 911 on my landline. At the very least they’ll know where to send someone.

Just as a side note – in case anyone is wondering – digital phone services started off with a pretty bad rep for good reasons as far as 911 was concerned, but they’ve improved a lot. If you choose to use digital phone just ensure that your company is sending 911 calls directly to your local PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) – and then when you get it hooked up, call your local non-emergency police number and ask them if you can do a test-911 call to make sure it’s correctly routed to them. Know that if you take your phone somewhere else (which some digital phones can do) it’s still going to display your home address. And if you move, keeping the same telephone number, give it a few days and then follow the same steps to do another test 911 call. If the information is not correct they can do a 911 trouble ticket correction form and get the information updated.

I’m sure that working for 911 and caring so much about human life is part of why this is so important to me. But it’s mainly important to me because it is true, and it is something that most people don’t consider. But please do. Please take the time to talk it over with your spouse or your kids or even just do some thinking to yourself. I know we’re all cutting back on our budgets, but seriously consider if this is something worth keeping around – just in case.

Today I’d like to talk about emergency preparedness. It’s always been a subject near and dear to my heart, and I thought it something worth sharing. Emergency preparedness is something that all of us can look a little more closely at. With the tumulus economic times and the uncertainty I thought this would be a pretty appropriate topic.

First of all, what exactly do I mean when I say “emergency preparedness.” You’re all smart people (after all, you’re reading my blog…kidding!) so I’m not going to go into detail – but I am going to say that being prepared for an emergency doesn’t just mean being prepared for a natural disaster or terrorist attack. Let me give you an example.

Growing up we lived in a small town in California, and one of the things in our town (amongst the canning factories, the ammo plant, and the multiple farms) was a railroad station. You name it; we hauled it through our city. If there was a spill, leak, or accident, we had to evacuate – quickly. Dad developed some emergency packs for us to take if we had to evacuate.

Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking “Oh, that’s a neat idea for people who live near that type of hazard…”

Let’s stop that type of thinking. Almost everyone in the United States are near potential hazards, hazmat incidents and various other types of spills/contaminations. If you don’t think you’re in a potentially dangerous spot, consider the 18-wheelers that drive past you on a daily basis. You know those ones with the diamond placards on them to let you know what they’re carrying? Look it up sometime. Some of the craziest, deadliest chemicals could be cutting you off on the freeway on a daily basis. A quick search of “HAZMAT” on Google news search shows chemical and hazmat concerns in Sioux Falls (SD), Northwestern Ohio, and Great Barrington (Mass).

So by now I hopefully have got you thinking. Hey, maybe there is a risk to me and my family. Hey, maybe I should do a little bit of preparation. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea. But what should I do? How should I do it?

I’m going to give you another illustration, one that I don’t mind sharing publicly now that the “threat” is over. Do you guys remember Y2K? My Dad bought into the whole thing. And when I mean he bought into it, I mean he REALLY bought into it. We had enough dried food and emergency supplies at the house to last us a year on our own. A year! We had gas stored and hidden. We had water bottles after water bottles hidden away.  Dad went a little overboard. I was in college at the time and I remember doing a presentation in speech class about Y2K, the threat it posed, and what ordinary citizens could do to help (told you I was a bit of a prep-fanatic). It was my persuasive speech, and I remember afterwards the teacher going “Huh. Maybe I should buy a few extra bottles of water… you know, just in case.” It was a big moment for me.

I’m digressing. My argument is not that we should follow in my Dad’s footsteps and have tons of dried chocolate pudding and dried potatoes on hand. But some middle ground between preparing for the immediate-evacuation and preparing for a long-term situation is probably a good idea for individuals – and absolutely essential for families.

So where do you start? That’s really for your family to decide, but I’ll share with you the backpack my Dad made 14 years ago. Some of the ideas he had were great, and some didn’t end up lasting very well. I recently went in and inventoried mine, so I’ll share the updates I made.

Food:

  • 4 32-ounce water bottles
  • 4 MREs (different flavors if he could manage)
  • 8 Power Bars

Supplies:

  • 1 plate
  • 1 cup
  • 1 set of plastic silverware (good stuff, not disposable, but plastic nonetheless)
  • 1 flashlight6 AA batteries (2 for the flashlight, and 4 extra)
  • 1 heat-conserving aluminum blanket
  • 1 poncho
  • 4 travel packages of travel Kleenex (handy toilet paper in a pinch)
  • 10 strike-anywhere matches in a waterproof container
  • 1 mini-first aid kit with bare essentials in it
  • Swiss Army Knife

Extras:

  • New Testament

Ok, now, here were the problems I found.

  • The extra batteries were rotted away completely unusable. He didn’t put them in any sort of air-tight container, so I think that was why. The main batteries were still in the package with the flashlight, and they were fine.
  • The power bars were disgustingly out of date – I don’t even know if they sell those anymore, but I remember them being gross back in the 90’s!
  • The water, even though it stated “expiration 5-1-99” still tasted great. Yes, I drank an entire bottle and it was still delicious. The strike-anywhere matches didn’t strike-anywhere. Actually, they didn’t strike at all. The magnesium appeared to have gone bad.

So to fix this kit, I replaced the water bottle I drank with a larger Ozarka bottle – it’s a little bulkier than the 32-ounce bottle my Dad initially got, but the backpack has become my emergency kit for the back of my car, and you never know when the car will need water too. The Power Bars will be replaced with modern day energy bars (not sure which kind I’ll be getting, though Millennium bars look good, despite their silly name). I haven’t gotten to get any yet, but with several MRE’s in the kit already I’m not in too much of a hurry. And the matches? Well, I was going to go to the store and buy more strike-anywhere matches, but my husband had the brilliant idea of sticking a BIC lighter in the backpack. They last forever and take forever to run out of fuel. Amazing how sometimes we can overlook the most obvious things!!  Ideally, I’d also like to add some sanitizing gel, pencils, paper and some light sticks.

A kit like this or something similar for each person of the family is a GREAT idea. You can customize it to your families needs. If you have toddlers, you can certainly pack their food along with yours. If you have babies, maybe your kit will include powdered milk instead of just water. You can get a disposable camera for the photographer that might need to document something. Maybe you can’t bear to live without something to read – so throw a cheap paperback in there. Put some spare glasses in there. It’s YOUR bag – make it something that will be helpful to you.

But do have an emergency plan in case you have to leave your home suddenly, with absolutely no money and no way to buy food for yourself.

There are some amazing resources out there, and I’d like to write again on this topic if this was helpful. Let me know by leaving a comment, and feel free to ask any questions or tell me about a particular aspect of emergency management and preparedness that you’d like covered.

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