What motivates me NOT to eat that...

I hate counting calories.  I know what I should and shouldn't eat.  I understand the benefits of complex carbohydrates and the pitfalls of saturated fat.  I can estimate the number of calories in a serving of most anything you put in front of me.  If you catch me eating that muffin, soda, pretzel, cheeseburger or chocolate, it's certainly not because I don't know any better.  I'm eating it because it tastes good! And if one serving is good, then a second serving will be great, right? And tasting delicious food feels good (at least for a little while.)

I have discovered the one thing that will keep me on the straight and narrow path to nutritious and healthy eating. 

Pets in Disasters

This summer's news is full of disasters. Most recently tornadoes, wildfires, flooding, and hurricanes are on our minds.  Since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, pets in disasters has been a hot topic in emergency management circles. And we've heard a lot about pet rescued from disasters already this year.  Emergency responders cannot ignore the importance of the human/animal bond.  We love our pets like a member of our family, and many evacuees have refused to leave if Fluffy and Fido can't go as well. In 2006, President Bush signed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Act that requires state and federal emergency plans to accommodate household pets and service animals. State and federal government (as well as many local police departments, fire districts, and city administrations) are now working and preparing to keep our pets safe in emergencies, too.

A Day in the Park

I caught photo today of this tiny little worker as my kids and I were enjoying a local county park. I wondered if this little lady was enjoying the park's amenities as much as we were. Nature areas like this have an abundance of flowers, including clover, and water is plentiful from fountains and water features. What sort of park might a bee design?

Bees are suffering worldwide from Colony Collapse Disorder, killing massive numbers of hives each year. We need bees; they are critical to our well-being. The luscious honey they may provide is merely the icing on the cake. Worldwide bees pollinate most of the food we eat, allowing trees and plants to produce the bounty we enjoy each season. (The UN reports that bees pollinate 70% of the 100 crops that feed 90% of the world.  That's a complex  statistic, but it means bees do a lot of critical work to feed us.) Where would we be without the bee?

Here are a few things we can do to help:
  • Reduce your use of pesticides and herbicides in your home and lawn. - Bees are particularly sensitive to many of these products.
  • Plant nectar rich flowers. - Urban bees enjoy a wide-variety of bee-friendly flowers in a small convenient space. Try the University of Illinois or UC Berkley for flower suggestions.   
  • Buy pesticide free or organic produce, giving growers additional revenue to expand their bee-friendly farming.
  • Encourage local bee-keeping by purchasing local honey.  Find honey this summer at a farmers' market (or just google "honey" and your city name right now) and continue to purchase from them year round.
  • Ask your local market to carry local honey products.  Even our big box grocery stores carry some local products.
  • Try keeping bees yourself.  If you're within city limits, check local animal code first.  Although you'll have some start up costs and a learning curve, the rewards are certainly sweeter than most.

Related Posts
"Exotic" Preparedness Ideas
10 Things You Can Do to Save the Earth
What disaster should I plan for?
What's the buzz?

An Extra Set of Keys... Convenience or Lifesaver?

You're late leaving for work, you have a meeting at 9:00, and you can't find your keys. Suddenly, you remember that your daughter took the car last night, and she's at school now...
The neighbor's house is burning. As you stand across the street watching, a fireman asks you to move your husband's truck to allow emergency vehicles more access. You husband went out of town on a business trip and probably took his keys...
Want to avoid scenarios like these? Grab your keys right now and head to the hardware store. Your preparedness plan needs an extra set of keys in the house just in case.
  • Copy every key that you ever need and use. Remember to include all house doors, every car, closets and cabinets, chests, garage doors, lawn mowers, recreational vehicles, and grandma's house and car. Test and label them right away.
  • Now pick an obvious keyring. (Remember those giant, gaudy key rings from gas stations and hall passes?) When you're finished with this project you'll want this key ring to impede casual use.
  • Designate where these keys will live. Remember that this plan is only beneficial if the key ring stays where it belongs. Whether it hangs by the door or is packed in an emergency kit, this ring may provide personal or property safety in an emergency. Don't let it get overused or misplaced. Like a flashlight and batteries, you need it to be there when the unexpected need arises.
  • You may also consider having another set of keys made to store out of the house... maybe with a neighbor, a friend, or relative. You may keep them next door, across town, or out of town.
  • Business owners might consider this same strategy for the office, warehouses, and company vehicles.
  • Much planning and preparation can be done in half an hour and with $20 or less. Completing a single task each week will built a fortress of preparedness. Pre-planned actions like these are often invaluable and irreplaceable in the midst of an emergency of any size and significance. Take the time today to prepare for the best.

Getting ready...

What a busy summer we've begun, and it promises to get even crazier.  Last week, I attended a class in Jefferson City, Missouri, to learn to better run an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) during a local disaster.  This week, I'm building a radio campaign to help promote and educate about basic emergency preparedness.  (You'll hear more about that later.)  I love talking to people about readiness because it's important and it's easy to do.

What is your readiness level?  How many of these boxes can you check?
  • Family emergency plan is written and practiced for a variety of hazards.
  • Family communications plan is written and understood.
  • Out-of-State emergency contact is known (memorized) by all.
  • Fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and CO detectors are installed.  Fire plan and meeting place are practiced.
  • Evacuation (go-bags) are packed and easily accessible.
  • Home emergency kit contains 72 hours of food, flashlights and batteries, and other supplies.
  • Shelter in place kit contains plastic sheeting, duct tape, and a bucket.
  • Critical documents (legal documents, banking, insurance, and medical) have to-go copies assembled.
  • Other emergency kits are in place: car, commuter, work, school, etc.
  • A NOAA radio in your home, workplace, etc. is always on - someone is listening for alerts.
  • Likely evacuation routes and destinations (hotel, friends, family, etc.) identified.
  • Small business owners have a business disaster plan and expectations developed.
  • Key employees (management, medical, government, etc.) have a plan for your family in a disaster.
  • Alternative "utilities" identified for your home. (Heat, lights/power, cooking, etc.)
  • Necessary medical needs have back-up and stock-up for a week or more during an emergency. (Power, medication, supplies, treatments, etc.)
  • Safe room and wind mitigation prepared for high winds (straight line winds, tornado, hurricane, etc.).
  • Earthquake mitigation begun (attach shelves, support water heater, reduce overhead storage, etc.)
  • Get a little training, certification, and practice in your area of interest.  (First aid, search and rescue, Ham radio, alternative power, volunteer assistance, first response, home safety, public education, etc.)

Catching the Brass Ring

Any of you ridden a carousel that allowed you to grab at a brass ring?  If you catch it, you get a prize.  I'll admit that I've never had the opportunity to experience this myself, but the metaphor of the brass ring has graced our culture since it's advent in the 1800s.  We all have brass rings hanging out there on this carousel of life.  In my own life, I consider brass rings as those take-it-or-leave-it moments and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. 

And there lies the struggle I've experienced lately.  I cannot enjoy the ride for what it is and grab for the brass ring.  That wooden horse leaping up and dipping down, the joyous organ music, the breeze on my face, the twinkling lights, and the colorful pageantry all beg me to live in the moment and let my thoughts go.  But that ring entices me to reach out and grab for it, sacrificing the ride, hoping for something bigger and better.  Which is better the ride or the prize?  What if I miss the ride and the prize? 

I love metaphors. (It's a place where my geeky and artsy qualities collide.) But this one is both perfect and twisted.  I don't have answers, sorry, and by now you may be asking what this has to do with Everyday Providence. Well... to me it's about balance.  Preparing for the best mustn't get in the way of living today - enjoying what's here right now.  Many people get lost in worrying about the what ifs of life and miss today.  The people, the places, and the opportunities right here, right now, right in front of you may well be that "best" you are preparing for. 

This summer, take advantage of the moments you are given to enjoy, but don't forget to put a little aside for tomorrow, as well.

Building a Framework to Hold You Up

When we were young, my husband and I 'winged' our way through life. We had the time, money, and energy to climb through some awkward and difficult situations. But then a new reality set in... 4 kids, a mortgage, and more than one round with unemployment.  Our life started to change and we changed with it. And I believe we learned a few valuable (preparedness) lessons along the way.

Schedule - I appreciate the spontaneity and freedom of living life without restrictive plans and commitments. But I've learned that too much freedom and too many choices often end in indecisive frustration. Consider; 'What do you want for dinner?' or 'What do you want to do this week-end?' Although I may occasionally have an answer, more often than not, I have no idea. To combat this (amid the chaos of a six person household) I have added certain flexible guidelines to provide a framework for our lives. We don't schedule routine commitments on Friday nights - no lessons or sports. This gives us a night to spend as a family or to visit with friends. I also composed a dinner schedule to diversify our diet and aid in deciding 'what's for dinner.' Monday - chicken, Tuesday - pasta, Wednesday - pork, Thursday - beans, Friday - fish, Saturday - beef, Sunday - pizza. I often rearrange the days to accommodate our activities or preferences.

Structure - A place for everything and everything in its place. When I need something, I like to go to the place it belongs and find it there in working order.  This depends on every item having a proper place that everyone knows.  It also means that maintenance and repairs need to be completed promptly.

Stocking Up - Having an ample stock of food and household supplies has really helped save time, money, and frustration.  We're never completely out of toilet paper.  I always have fish, chicken, or sausages and veggies in the freezer to cook up a quick dinner.  We keep "emergency" paper plates and plastic cups in our stash.  (Occasionally I deem a particularly hectic evening "an emergency" and breathe easier.)  Keeping extra over the counter and prescription medications around helps ensure fewer midnight runs to the pharmacy when unexpected illness or symptoms pop up.  Extra batteries, coffee, or school supplies can save the day over and again.

Saving - I can't tell you how many times our savings has, well, saved us.  Even a small amount when times were lean can allow you to buy a washing machine when the old one calls it quits.  That, in turn, saves me time (I can multi-task housework at home instead of waiting at the laundromat.), money (At $1.75 to wash and $1.00 to dry each load you'll pay for a new washer in no time, except you never get to bring the washer home.), and hassle (I do not enjoy lugging dirty clothes around... ever.)  This economy has played out in our household many times, luckily not always over a washing machine.