Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Revisiting Fire Hazards


( Photo:  www.pumpsta.com )

       Today,   I went to the Advance Auto Store and then to the Wal-Mart, both of which are quite a distance from our rural home.  I intended to pick up air filter, oil, oil filter, spark plugs, and spark plug wires for our "new to us" Craigslist find.   My elder son made quick work of locating these items, which left me wandering the half aisle of ammunition they had, which was incidentally, quite masterfully restocked.   While I was there I began a conversation with a man who was purchasing the maximum amount Wal-Mart policy would permit. When my mother was alive, she used to complain that I was just like my father, in that I "made a lifelong friend everywhere I would go".   This isn't really true, but I do meet people sometimes, and I do learn something from everyone I meet, and I usually do remember those people when I see them again.  The man was restocking his own supply of ammunition because his home recently burned to the ground.  In the past twelve months three friends of ours have lost everything when their homes burned down.  One friend had her home burn when a mouse chewed through the wiring in an older freezer she had. This sparked the blaze that not only destroyed her rural home, but killed her household pets as well.  Since her home was paid off and she is widowed and having a difficult time financially, she let her homeowner's insurance lapse.  As homeowner's insurance throughout the country has risen in the past year or two, many people, particularly the elderly have had to let their homeowner's insurance lapse.  Mine is up by 40% this year, and it may not always be easy to get another company to insure your home.  A second friend who has a rural home in the West, lost everything on her ranch to a fast moving wildfire. She and her family are not sure that they are willing to rebuild. They also lost all of the animals who were on the ranch, and it's very fortunate that they were not there, when this particular wildfire occurred.  A third friend of ours was local, and although the fire department got to the blaze fairly quickly, it had engulfed the entire house and there was not much that could be done.  I was driving nearby when his car exploded in response to being close to the conflagration while it was parked in his driveway.

            Since house fire is a very common hazard anywhere in the world, it's probably something we should talk a bit about.  First, make sure that each level of your home has a smoke detector and that you change its battery each time you set the clocks ahead or back, if you are in a nation which practices daylight savings time.  If you can, have a smoke detector which is wired into your houses electrical system in one area, and one which is battery operated in another. This way you are covered for all contingencies.  Some places require that each bedroom also has a smoke detector.  Codes vary city to city, state to state and nation to nation, however, each family should assess what is needed in their own home, and in their own region and then make sure you have this.  Having the correct fire extinguisher in your kitchen can be a lifesaver.  I don't have one of these there, but I have one in the barn.  Make sure that clutter is managed in your home and your garage, especially if it is attached to your house.   Clutter, if it catches fire, can cause fire to spread much more readily.  If you must use an extension cord, then make sure it's properly rated for the job you are doing.  I don't use candles, but I have them for emergencies.  Be careful that if you have a gas stove that potholders and food packaging isn't too close to the flames of the stove.  If you are building a home, consider a detached garage, since most of us store some flammable things in a garage, and it would be better to lose a garage, than an entire home, especially an occupied one.

             Wildfires are not something we can always anticipate or control.   The best we can do is have an evacuation plan for ourselves and our animals.  Then, we can trim shrubs and trees back from our home (to the amount recommended by where we live.  It varies depending upon state and location.)   If you are building a home or replacing a roof, consider a burn resistant roof, particularly if you reside in a windy or wildfire prone region.  Be very careful that temporarily used space heaters are several feet from sources of ignition like curtains.  Be alert to the smell of smoke and notify the fire department early.  Don't assume that "by now someone else has called."      Own multiple hoses and have them in accessible places.  Sometimes the families whose homes have survived some wildfires are the families who were able to hose their yards near the house, and their houses down with water before leaving.    If you have a well, consider having it serviced about every five years.  (It works most efficiently with some parts replaced periodically)  If you notice a drop in water pressure during the year, it's time to call your well pump contractor.  Don't wait until you need water pressure sufficient to run two hoses on two sides of your house by different family members in a distant but viewable wildfire situation, and find that your well pump can only pressurize sufficient for one hose !

           This weekend, take a walk around your home looking for fire hazards.    The man I spoke to, did not have his ammunition stored in a safe. It was in a large metal box. When the fire got got hot enough, the ammunition was assumed to be the big loud explosive bang everyone heard.  His family members were not hurt, but again, a family pet died in this mishap.     I asked a lot of questions about the fire in order to understand and to make whatever adjustments I need to, here.    His insurance company has been helpful, and he expects to rebuild what he had.    Correct anything you think could be a fire problem at your place.   Stay safe, and have a 

 Happy New Year !

Friday, December 27, 2013

Subtle Changes in the American Economy: Buying Cars

This C230 2002 Mercedes Benz Kompressor went up this morning on Craigslist for just under five thousand dollars. It's immaculate and in excellent shape.

    As the jobs have left the United States, for countries where labor may, for now, be cheaper, a lot of changes have come to the American middle class.  In the 1960s, a large number of people in the US middle class bought a new car every few years.  Although this may have been a delusion of sorts, many families believed that after several years, the most economically expedient thing to do was to trade in ones three or four year old car, and buy new.  This was reputed to save the purchaser any major repair bills.  In essence, you and your family would always have a fairly new vehicle.  I remember this thinking well because my family didn't believe in this. My father believed that you drove what could get you there safely, and that having new didn't make you wise, just careless with your money.  I also remember that everyone from my father's boss to some of our friends asking why we didn't do this.

This one is immaculate, but there are other types of cars for two and three thousand dollars which are just as clean.

             Of course, a lot has changed since the 1960s.  A flood of foreign cars, some superior to some of the American, and many not, have flooded into the world market, and the US one as well.  Cars don't cost four thousand dollars new anymore.  Some of them cost forty and fifty thousand dollars, and some of the luxury vehicles I see sometimes, cost over one hundred thousand.  Cars also have the potential to last longer than they once did.  In the late seventies, when I started driving, a car with 80,000 miles was on its last legs.  Now, I have many friends with lovely cars with 250,000 miles on them, who do the maintenance so that vehicle will continue to deliver reliable service for even longer.  American cars from my youth were gas guzzlers.  My first vehicle was a used gas sipping Peugeot which was an extremely economical car from a fuel standpoint.  I remember $3.85 a week fueled it for all the errands and college trips I needed.  Getting parts for it was difficult, but still worth it because it had uncommonly good gas mileage.

            Like my father, I have not had an abundance of new cars.  In the 1980s, the director of nurses at the major hospital center I worked in, didn't like my older car.  "It looks as if I am not paying you enough".  "You're not", I said.  "I can have a nice house, or a nice car" I asserted. " have two small children (at that time) and I can't afford both."   I was due a raise anyway.   She told me that if I went to a local dealer and selected a NEW car (not good used, it had to be new) and applied for a car loan at our hospital's credit union,  then she would provide a monthly raise equal to the payment of the car.  I selected the car, and she provided the raise as promised.  It was, the first and only new car I have ever owned.  It served me well, and even in its advanced age served us here on the farm running hay and supplies back and forth.  It only left the farm this year.  It will be returned to scrap, sent to Japan and recycled, probably as a car.

             Since then, I have bought used cars, only occasionally from a dealer, and most often from friends.
My current vehicle is a diesel volkswagen which is fairly new. It was purchased for its exceptional range per full tank and for its 57 mpg capability.  The downside was the initial cost, and the fact that to own this car, you need to be on good terms with a diesel mechanic, or BE a diesel mechanic.  My lawyer has retired and become a mechanic, and my son can pretty much do anything on it, and has.

              However, what I want to mention today is that many people no longer buy new cars from dealers at all.  In fact, they aren't buying used cars from them either.   Many people who were formerly middle class and now consider themselves part of the working poor, buy cars either from friends, publications like the Mid-Virginia Trading Post, the Pennysaver, E-bay, or Craigslist.   There is no shortage of some really fantastic cars and some good buys in many locations in the US and Canada in these sources.   (Craigslist has listings worldwide)  When looking at a car you heard about on one of these sources, take a friend who is a mechanic, or a smart person who might as well be one.  First, you are safer to do so, from a personal safety standpoint.   Secondly, a mechanic will notice many of the flaws which will necessitate your either thanking the person for their time and walking away, or suggesting they discount their asking price so that you can fix the items which are clearly not working.

            This week, I have been looking for a back up vehicle so that I still have something to drive when my diesel is receiving its routine maintenance.  I also could use something which has the capability of toting a few more supplies than my diesel vehicle. It also could be used by my sons when their cars are receiving maintenance or when a back up vehicle is needed for some other reason.    I am looking now because when Spring comes, good deals go almost instantly.  At this time of year, almost no one is looking for a used car, unless they must.  I looked at one yesterday and my son and I are traveling quite a distance to take a look at one today.

This is a Mazda truck.  It's immaculate, has low mileage,  and has new tires, and is only $1650. Craigslist has everything in between the Mercedes and the Mazda.

          I will admit that I wonder if more and more people sell used cars to one another, then there are fewer people buying new cars.  Fewer people buying new will eventually result in fewer used cars being available, and the prices of these rising, due to simple supply and demand.  Still, looking at good used cars intelligently from individuals rather than dealers who must meet overhead, can be a good way to get what you need at a price you not only can afford but for which you could possibly pay cash.  I'll let you know how it goes.


UPDATE:   Although I had some difficulty locating the address where the car was located, we did eventually find it.  (It has been entered incorrectly in the Garmin database.)   My son took a long look over and underneath the car and checked out the engine, and we test drove it.   We bought it and spent the rest of the day locating a DMV in the town in which the car was located, and getting the car plates, a title and registration.   We will pick it up another day. Geico was almost giddy at the prospect of our insuring yet another car, but then that is another post !

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

An Exercise in Gratefulness

I have very fond memories of being in Russia at this time of year.    In fact, when I was there, the weather in both Vladivostok, and in Moscow, was worse !      Please watch this video, and be grateful that wherever you are, the weather is likely not quite this bad.          Best wishes and Merry Christmas !

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dementia and Preparedness

Remember that not everyone with dementia is disheveled or unkempt.  Some of them are well groomed, and this can make recognizing that they have dementia, more challenging than it might normally be.


  This week, I was finishing up some Christmas shopping all the way in Richmond, and I bought some additional colonial style kitchen chairs.  Now, family and their girlfriends and boyfriend could all sit around the kitchen table as well as the dining room one.   They were a terrific buy, but my diesel car couldn't bring a single one of them home.  I paid, and then on Saturday, my husband and I went to pick them up.  After we loaded them into his truck, we were both hungry and decided to stop at the closest fast food restaurant before heading for the long trip home via the highway.
                   I selected a salad with grilled chicken, and my husband got the largest burger with fries.  I crunched the salad while my husband, who can eat absolutely anything and remain slim, finished most of  his food in record time.  He returned to the line to get a sundae while I sat munching the salad and extracting the cherry tomatoes which should have been used the day before.
                   All at once, a woman in her sixties sat down in the booth across from me, where my husband had been, right in front of his drink and remaining food.   "Excuse me", I said, swallowing poorly chewed lettuce,  "My husband was sitting there, and he'll be right back".    "Oh", she said, looking embarrassed and anxious, and she quickly moved to the next booth, trying to avoid my gaze. I tried to be calm and polite because I thought she might have a dementia issue.    About two minutes later, her husband, who looked to be in his eighties joined her with the food.  He couldn't eat there for some reason, but she could, and so he watched as she hungrily ate the burger, french fries and a drink.  I concluded from the conversation between them that her husband, the older of the two, was quite clear and was the driving force in their relationship, but that the woman, who was sweet and very pleasant, was somewhere in the continuum of one of the dementias.   How sad.  She sat with me because I looked fairly friendly, but she did not know that she didn't know me, or that it was inappropriate to do so.  However, when I mentioned that my husband was coming back momentarily, she knew enough to be embarrassed and anxious at her faux pas.  They left before we did, or I would have said Merry Christmas as she departed.
                 When I was young, I don't think I ever saw people with dementia in any setting other than the hospital.  However, in the last few years as people live much longer than they used to, I encounter them fairly often.  I have called police when I noticed an elderly gentleman wandering aimlessly on the interstate in recent subzero temperatures.  I saw a woman with dementia having difficulty banking recently.  A close friend brought her father-in-law with dementia to live with them, until his passing.
                There are many different types of dementia which afflict human beings.  It is not just a specific illness, but there are multiple potential causes of adult onset dementia in someone who was perfectly sane and thinking clearly prior to onset.   Let's start by mentioning some of the causes of correctable dementia.  Not all cases of dementia result in a downhill slide to insanity with drooling !   Some of these causes are reversible.   Depending upon its location, a space occupying lesion can cause dementia.  This can be a benign growth in the brain, or a cancerous one.  I have a friend who is a writer who had an encapsulated tumor removed from her brain, and she is just about at 100% of full mental and physical function now.  
             Something called normal pressure hydrocephalus can occur in adults, and look an awful lot like Alzheimer's Disease, but be completely treatable when a shunt is added.   If the procedure is performed early enough, then dementia disappears. It is estimated that many cases of NPH are simply undiagnosed and that the patient may be treated for Alzheimer's, when a correctable condition actually exists.    TIAs (transient ischemic attacks) or mini-strokes can also cause memory deficits and peculiar behavior.   These can be treated medically or surgically depending upon cause.  Severe hypothyroidism can also cause something called myxedema madness, which certainly looks like dementia to me !   Not everyone with hypothyroidism is obese, because some patients naturally adjust their appetite downward in a hypothyroid state, and a few actually lose weight in response to diminished peristalsis with poor appetite.  This is also somewhat reversible with proper and gradual replacement of thyroid hormone.
              Less reversible causes of dementia include vascular dementia. This type of dementia is a result of diminished oxygen making it to the brain as a result of vascular insufficiency.  There are treatments for this, but this is less reversible than the aforementioned varieties. Sometimes a carotid endarterectomy (the cleaning out of arterial clogging of the arteries in the patient's neck.) can be beneficial to some patients.
             There are also elderly people who may have been functioning well with treatment for a mental illness.  Some people with bipolar disorder may do well with treatment and then experience a cognitive decline in old age. These patients need to be followed by both a psychiatrist and a neurologist, and the two need to speak with one another periodically.
            Lastly, the cause of dementia most of us consider is Alzheimer's Disease.  In Alzheimer's Disease, the connections between the brain cells deteriorate, and then brain cells themselves degenerate and die.  We do not yet have a cure for this, but early cases, once detected, can sometimes be slowed and cognition kept stable for longer and longer periods.   Drugs like Aricept are helpful to some, and drugs like Gefibrozil which are anticholesterol drugs can be helpful also.  In these patients, if you can diminish the fine netting of cholesterol plaques from forming in the brain, then the amyloid plaques characteristic of Alzheimer's cannot deposit there as readily.     Alzheimer's Disease can be very strange indeed because certain complex intellectual functions may remain intact, yet very simple functions might be gone.  There may also be aggression or anger issues.
            As we move through life, we all forget things. Most of us simply have a fair amount going on.  The early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's are different though.  They may not simply be a missed appointment.  A friend once said, "Alzheimer's is not when you momentarily forget your grandchildren's names, or scramble them. It's when you momentarily forget you have grandchildren !"    I think this is a good example.

           People with Alzheimer's Disease might do the following.

   1. Forget a specific conversation, and not recall it later when prompted about the details of the conversation.
  2.  Difficulty in finding the right word from our own lexicon, or using the absolute wrong word for something.   (Be careful here, a lot of disorders including stress, make it hard to pull words.)
 3.  Mispronunciation of simple words, or a gradual decline in reading or writing skills often in a person who
    had excellent skills in this regard prior.
4. Forgetting the order of tasks which were once routine for them.   Forgetting how we pump gas, or the order in which we head into the shower, etc.   Forgetting the way home from a grocery store a mile away, etc.
5. Reasoning skills will deteriorate.  Managing a checkbook or money might become difficult for them.
  One friend of my parents lost a significant sum of money as a first sign of his Alzheimer's.
6. Becoming stressed out my normal problems that they used to handle effectively, like what to do with burning potatoes on the stove.
7. Emotional lability.....   Being more upset or more angry than is appropriate given the situation.  Remember that these patients may well realize that something is wrong, and many of them become depressed as a result.
There may also be wandering, difficulty sleeping at night, and delusions, often about missing items. Sometimes there is paranoia.

              It is therefore extremely important to get a proper diagnosis as early as possible in dementias.   Some of them are reversible and some of them are not, and the strategy then becomes the best care possible aimed at slowing deterioration as much as possible.  Some patients deteriorate quickly and others continue at a slightly diminished rate for an extended period, something passing eventually from something else entirely.   There is no test for Alzheimer's Disease specifically, and so a neurologist is probably one of the best places to go.    Sometimes other neurological disorders might impede memory and behavior.  Sometimes multiple sclerosis, or even Parkinson's Disease will manifest with subtle neurological changes.

             As America ages, the simple number of people experiencing life on some part of the dementia continuum will increase.  This is in part, why I am seeing more patients with dementia out and about as much as I am.    Please take your loved ones for proper diagnosis as soon as you can.  Treatments to slow all of these disorders do exist, and there are also some pioneering studies in Virginia.  In addition, be as kind as possible to these people, if you can.   It must be frightening to be losing part of your cognition, and have other parts of it intact. 

              Of course, we are a preparedness based forum, and having a family member with dementia is a challenge all its own, even in good times.  In an emergency or during an evacuation situation, your family member will likely deteriorate, at least during the event.  It is important that your formulate a plan for emergencies for your relative with dementia, aimed at trying to keep as much routine intact for them as possible..   For some of you, your relative with dementia may already be living with you, and you may be managing health care, and their finances.   For others, they may be slipping gradually while living independently, and might need to be picked up and aided by you in an emergency. (Picking them up in an emergency could be a challenge, because they might not wish to come with you.)   For others, you may have enough on your plate and may need to consider a memory care facility.   A family friend of ours spent her last several years in one of these, here in Virginia, and it was truly a lovely place.  I visited often, and so you should not be afraid of using such a place if and when, a need to do so arises.  In a place with a regular routine, some patients actually improve, as our friend did.       It is essential however to be considering the impact the dementia of a relative might have on your preparedness and emergency plans.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Please See: Goodbye Townhome......A Christmas Story


 Sometimes something we thought we saw as an annoyance or a poor choice turns out to be the right thing when looking back.   Sometimes in this life, we come by the right choices accidentally or by happenstance.

       This is the story in my post on one of my other blogs  here:



Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Bad Winter is Coming

Photo: blog.syracuse.com     My photo of the same did not turn out quite as well. 

     My husband laughs and says that I say this every year.   I don't recollect saying that we are having a bad Winter annually, because most of the time in Virginia, the Winters in the last twenty years have been fairly mild in comparison to a large chunk of the nation and certainly mild compared to the weather when we lived in the Northeast.   I remember that in 1989 here, that it was so warm a Winter that I did not wear a coat the entire Winter, and that I didn't stop wearing Summer clothing, that year except perhaps for shorts.

         This year, the natural phenomena seem a little confused.   We had a very wet year, and blackberries and acorns did not grow ,  leaving a terrible deficit in the food supply for black bears and for squirrels.  This has translated into black bears wandering around closer to us than normal, and looking a shade forlorn.  We must resist the temptation to leave food for them because once human beings become associated with food for bears, the bears begin to become dangerously close, and this generally gets the bears killed by either terrified humans, Game and Inland Fisheries staff, or Wildlife Police. The squirrels are another story.  Not to feed them means that they are constantly in our bird feeders, and our birds need the suet and seed blends we place outside for them. This also may increase the chance of squirrels getting into our barns or outbuilding, or worse, chewing through a vent to enter and decimate an attic.  So this year, one of my son's built a tall salt treated lumber stand, with a green metal roof which houses dried corn for the squirrels.  It looks quite good.  I wonder if we could market these ?

        It's also been the coldest December on record in a long time here. Although we have a new house, our HVAC system was structured to bring inexpensive abundant air conditioning to a large home in a very hot place. Its heatpump system was not really designed to keep the house inexpensively warm.  The vented gas logs in the fireplace have been doing double duty, and I have a couple of DeLonghi oil heaters in bedrooms, which I normally use in the center of the kennel, away from dogs.  Usually, January and February are the worst Winter months here, but we went right from Autumn to very real Winter at the end of November.

         January and February have yet to happen and bring their snow and the dreaded freezing rain.
If you haven't already, this may be the year to plan and be ready for a bad Winter.  Have extra animal feed so you don't wind up heading out for some in a brewing storm.  Try to stay ahead on any OTC or prescription meds you or loved ones are using. Double bag and throw two loaves of bread in the freezer. They make excellent grilled cheese sandwiches when defrosted, to be served with tomato soup, which is a great meal after shoveling snow.  Would a DeLonghi style heater benefit you ?   Lowes and Home Depot have them, and they are safer than many of the other types of space heaters.   If you need a dehumidifier, then get one at a store where you can pick it up.  I bought one on Ebay, and although it is exactly the same unit as is sold in hardware stores, mine arrived with the casing damaged.  I didn't wish to return it unless it didn't work.  It worked for a week before failing.   Lowes, Home Depot and Wal-Mart all sell a pet safe salt product for steps and walkways.

We keep one of these in the tack room on a low on demand setting to keep medications there from freezing in Winter. We also have one for the center of the kennel in the coldest of nights. They are between about fifty and sixty dollars and although I like the name brand product, there are generics available also.

           Make sure your vehicles are ready for ice and low temperatures and that you have TWO not just one scraper in each vehicle.  (Each year I wonder if mine have been stolen, but I am obviously just misplacing them !)  How old is your battery ?    If your vehicle is a diesel, how old are your glow plugs ?

           Winter comes every year, and yet I am never as prepared for it as I wish to be.   I think so much energy is spent planning for hurricanes, tornadoes, longer term power outages, etc. that I am simply out of energy when it comes to Winter.   I hope it is a pleasant and safe season for all of you.

Look Around You

This is not the actual restaurant, but it captures the layout.

   As regular readers know, we have been nursing our elderly Siberian Husky Jared, back to health for a couple of weeks, and that we will go to fairly extreme means to coax him into eating.   Yesterday, despite the snow and intermittent sleet, I needed to get diesel for one of my vehicles and a couple of other incidentals.  I decided to stop by a fast food joint and get a few of the dollar menu items without pickles to keep Jared eating.  The vet had said that so long as we are feeding him something.....anything, and that his meds are continuing, that she is alright with the practice of feeding him and keeping his appetite alive with fast food.  It was lunchtime and I luckily found a parking place.   I bought five pickle-less dollar rib sandwiches which Jared likes so well, and are especially useful as his lactobacillus acidophilus and other meds can be fit between the meat and the bread and he eats as if he hasn't noticed.   I decided to get myself a salad with chicken.  They filled my order and I sat eating the salad with Jared's bag sitting on the table next to me, since the long drive home would make them quite cold anyway.

               It was crowded at lunchtime.  Lots of people were in and out, most of them buying the larger menu items which are now between five and seven dollars per meal.  As I ate my salad, I noticed a man in a wheelchair and his wife navigating the restaurant after their meal.  The man had a stump dressed in the manner in which a new amputee does. He had a fairly recent below the knee amputation.  His wife pushed him out to the car.  Being a registered nurse, I could not help but notice his transfer from the chair to the front seat of the car.  With time, locking the wheelchair, balancing on one foot and using the man's own upper body strength to get into the car will be possible, and probably ultimately easy for him.  His wife would then fold and out away the wheelchair in their car.  However, this wasn't the case this time. Down the man went in the chasm between the wheelchair and the front passenger seat of their car. His wife struggled to get him up, and as the snow fell as he sat on the cold blacktop and she couldn't.  No one in the crowded restaurant or going in and out stopped to help as they walked by.  I left my food, stuffing my wallet in my coat.   "Sir,  Ma'am,   I'm a nurse, can I help ?"  "Yes, please", they nodded.   His wife and I gently hoisted him to the car seat. I made sure that he had not been injured in the gentle descent to the parking lot.  I explained that in time, and with practice, his upper body strength would permit him to make a wheelchair to car transfer, but that this was early in the recovery process to be doing that.  I showed them how his wife could position the chair so that he could pivot with her lifting assistance, until he recovered and developed more upper body strength.  They stated that this was the first time they had been out in the two weeks since his amputation surgery.  With that, they thanked me, and were on their way.  I hoped they could pivot safely at home when they got there or perhaps get the help of one additional person.

            I went back in, washed my hands, and finished my salad.   To the throngs of people in the restaurant and the parking lot, the man, his wife, and myself had been invisible.  It wasn't racism that prevented people from helping them.  They were African American, but so were half the people in the restaurant.   Perhaps the simple suggestion that a lifetime of eating there would lead to Type II diabetes, and potentially an amputation was too much for them to consider.  Anyone could have helped him back into his car, or assessed that he was injured, if he had been, and then called an ambulance.  People looked away. 

          I went home pondering a couple of things.  Why would people ignore the acute need of an aging couple in a fairly new car,  just a couple of feet from a fast food restaurant ?   What kind of a culture are we when a brief hand to an older man is too much trouble ?  What kind of a hospital discharges a patient with very little to no instruction on his transfer from bed to wheelchair, wheelchair to car, and precautions to be taken in snow and ice in order to prevent additional injuries during his recovery ?

         I know I can't enable everyone by doing everything from buying their meds to doing their laundry.  However, we need to be able to do simple things for one another, especially if these are of low risk to us.  If we lose our humanity then what right have we got to be celebrating Christmas later this month ?

Friday, December 13, 2013

While Poverty Grows

(Image: www.consciouslifenews.com  )

    Europe padded what it could provide to its citizens, possibly in part to help to compensate for opportunities which have not been available to young people there, for a long time.  Of course, socialism never works and eventually we run out of other people's money to spend.    The United States was also a victim of the idea that to keep a government healthy, we must grow it and expand it, when in fact, the reverse is true.  Only a lean government machine is healthy while a bloated obese one heads for the ultimate coronary, as ours is.  As much as I disagree with almost everything Barack Obama holds dear, he and his regime is not to blame for everything the US is experiencing.   The Federal Reserve has not helped us with quantitative easing or printing all the money you want, as a strategy.  Mr. Bush did not help us by failing to take more decisive action against jobs moving out of the country and illegals sucking our social services and medically indigent services dry as fast as they could.  The Democrats continued to push one crazy agenda after another, with no visible means of payment for it.  The Republicans, for the most part, sat there like an enabling spouse to the deluded Democrats, but never really stood up to pronounce Obamacare as a pipedream and a completely non-sustainable path to destruction for America's families, its health care system,  and for the United States as we knew it.

              There are no "shovel ready" jobs unless you count the job Barack Obama did of shoveling excrement to uninformed voters who missed the chance to read his books before electing him not only once as president, but twice.  There are many layoffs coming in the financial industry.  Health care workers can't find jobs as hospital systems train the marginally capable to do what was once the purview of the licensed. Many physicians peruse real estate magazines on Costa Rica and Ecuador, as they realize they won't be able to practice as physicians safely in the train wreck which is coming.  Food banks grow in number, but the food they stock dwindles.  More and more formerly middle class US families depend on them to help to get through their month at the end of the money. People are giving away  registered horses, chickens, purebred dogs as they can no longer afford to feed them, let alone provide veterinary care for them. I listen to them tell me this sadly as I realize that my animals, which used to be a relatively inexpensive extravagance for me, are now a growing expense.  I cannot take on any more animal rescues, and this also saddens me. The waiting lists to trades schools may be as long as 3-5 years in some cases, and even then, there is no guarantee that there will be a job waiting.  My own kids have college debt, and only one of them found a really good job after college, even though they graduated from highly rated state universities with honors.

               This is not a time to be taking on new expenses or new challenges.  A number of respected financial gurus believe that 2014 may well bring a financial collapse for the United States and a global currency reset of fiat currency values. Translated, that means that there will be beaucoup in the job loss department, few opportunties to recoup such jobs, and real economic pain for many of the world's families. Falling from the middle class is not just something a few people are doing. It's a widespread phenomenon that had begun before Obamacare, and will be worsened by it. Many experts believe that interest rates will rise, and that there could be a broad devaluation of assets before food and essential services/items begin to rise.
             In any event, it makes sense to invest in practical learning and self sufficiency as much as you can.  Provide whatever portion of your own food is possible even if all you are doing is growing sprouts in a jar on your kitchen window..  Pay down whatever debts you are able. Convert any debts you cannot pay off to fixed rates rather than ones that could rise sharply.  Learn to maintain and repair your primary transportation.  Look at security and self defense not only in your home but as it impacts you in your daily life. Maintain your emergency medical kits, your emergency food supplies, and don't mention it to anyone other than trusted family. Think about how you might obtain clean fresh water or filter groundwater in the event that a grid down situation impeded your water supply for a period of time.

            I really do believe that we are headed for a collapse, and I don't really know how bad this could be, or what it might look like.  I don't think the people leading us understand enough to prevent it, and I think that the American debt has grown so quickly that a collapse could be inevitable anyway.

           Some of my friends are talking about putting off retirement........retirement ?   I have spent so long explaining sheltering-in-place and family evacuation,   I think that rather than retiring, I will simply eventually just drop-dead- in- place !

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Innovative and Practical Gift Ideas this Season

This is the Annandale Fireflies Firefly necklace, which actually glows. Photo: http://www.etsy.com/listing/86748439/the-firefly-necklace-bolo-braid

    For Christmas, I embrace practical gifts.  I also believe that most gifts can be really lovely and still be inexpensive.  For those of you, like my dear husband, who are grasping at straws this holiday season, I have a few suggestions.

                For those of you who have given practical gifts to the point of annoying your wives, you could order by mail, one of these.   These are quite charming and relatively inexpensive.  This company was one of my first sponsors on the original Rational Preparedness Radio Program

  This is where you can order a nice gift for around thirty dollars.


Other information:


This one is only nineteen dollars plus postage:


Yes, they glow that brightly.


                   Now, back to my forte, which is the truly practical gift.   Books never cease to be a wonderful gift. I don't care how much you love your kindle, genuine books are still treasures.   The links to my books are at the top of the page, with how to order them, but I am assuming you already have those.   A trip to Barnes and Noble or whatever your favorite independent book store is, is a great trip before Christmas, not only for you, but for the lucky person you are shopping for.    A gift certificate there is always a safe bet.  I always like to look at the aisle that shows the sale books.  For children and teens, I love the books which come with something extra, like the book of learning to play the guitar yourself along with the CDs, or the calligraphy book with an Asian calligraphy set, or the book with watercolors etc.  I like to give books which encourage both self discovery and education, and get young people away from the computer for a few hours or more !

                 Men, most women really do like chocolate, and even those of us who are weight conscious like to receive a lovely or romantic gift of chocolate.  Most malls or towns have a chocolatier or fine chocolate shop.   A lovely box of hazelnut truffles is a great gift for most women.   One year my husband went to a Richmond chocolate shop and bought a bag of my favorite British childhood chocolates.   Maltesers, Cadbury's chocolate buttons, Flakes, and Crunchie are some of my own favorites, but there are many others that might be favorites of your wife, that you might recognize if you were in a fine chocolate store.

                 When our daughter bought her own home, our house warming gift to her was a series of #10 (large) containers of Augason Farms freeze dried food for emergencies.  They have a thirty year shelf life.  Be sure to check out their specials. This is also the place to go for food gifts for those who need gluten free foods.  A gift card from Augasons is even a way that your relative or friend can pick their own food.


You might also get someone who was lukewarm regarding preparedness, to be a little more concerned and positive about it.

            If you need a gift for a man, tools are often a good choice.    This is a link on Amazon to American made tools.


or simply log in to amazon and search American-made tools.

Also on Amazon, is Vacmaster,  an excellent wet dry vac for eighty dollars



             There are some practical and relatively inexpensive gifts out there this year.   

Sunday, December 8, 2013

An Update on a Beloved Sick Dog

A Siberian Husky guarding the warm dryer in the Mud Room ?  I don't think so.

                For those of you who follow the happenings with our large number of dogs who were the devotion of our youngest son, before his sudden passing five years ago, this is an update on the situation with Jared, our beloved Siberian Husky.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

An Impending Ice Storm

( photo: negative99.com )

  As a serious storm bears down on the Midwest, then the South, and then the Northeastern United States, we get an early Winter season preview of how dangerous freezing rain and ice can really be

         This is a reminder that my book,

Rational Preparedness: A Primer to Preparedness

is still very much available, and is available least expensively on Amazon.

Copies of this book also make excellent gifts for those who are new to preparation, or for those with solid established preparations who might wish to learn a few more things or consider certain issues in a new light.  A softcover is presently on sale for just over fourteen US dollars.

My other book,  What I Learned from Daniel  is similarly discounted this holiday season.

Both books are available from this site for use on Kindle, as well as softcover or hardcover editions.

        Should you already have the books, there is a link I would like to post which provides good information.  I  joined the Disaster Resistant Communities Group via connections made on Linkedin.


       This link provides videos on preparedness for specific emergencies, including active shooter, winter driving, and a number of specialized timely topics.    Please take a look at the Winter and storm emergencies videos BEFORE the power is interrupted.  The best ways to prevent and to deal with unexpectedly frozen pipes is best learned in advance of actually having such a problem.  Prevention is always best.

       Stay warm, stay safe, and if you can, stay in !

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Moving Toward More Self Sufficiency


Modern cars often have plastic bumpers which not only damage easily, but take some skill to repair. (Image: http://www.123rf.com/photo_19237889_red-crossover-car-with-blank-number-plate.html )

  As we head toward the Holiday Season, Christmas and then New Year's Day, there is a lot of uncertainty in our country and in the world.  The way in which the United States is spending and borrowing money is not sustainable, and sooner or later, our nation will reach a point where it can no longer pay its bills or service its debts.  A collapse is coming and possibly soon.  Many expert economists believe that a collapse is coming, but they don't agree on what a financial collapse might look like in the United States. Many talk about an inflationary spiral where people may spent a hundred dollars for a loaf of bread, a la the Weimar Republic, but others who are equally as gifted and as credible foresee a time where houses that were worth $600,000 US dollars, are now worth $30,000.  Some economists feel that if no one has any money, and food must sell rather than spoil, then prices must also collapse to keep commerce going. (As it did in much of Russia in the early 1990s following the Soviet collapse. )    I have no idea what the future holds economically.  I know only that too much debt and too much spending plays out as negatively with governments as it does for a family.  Eventually there is a rock bottom moment and this can be devastating.
    My one objective now, in terms of family preparation is to become more generally self sufficient in the new year.  We have gathered parts for oil changes, timing belts, air filters, oil, and items which are replaced as normal maintenance for our vehicles. A couple of our family members gathered skills in car repair and maintenance, particularly for diesel cars and trucks, for our "own fleet".  We set up one garage bay as a place to repair our cars and had it properly electrified this year for the equipment that would most often be used there.  We have planted more fruit and food this year, despite the fact that it was too wet a season to be terribly successful.  We donated and cleaned out a percentage of our storage to make room for items which have a longer shelf life and better long term storage potential.   I gathered a second set of emergency medical supplies should we need to leave one kit one place and have another elsewhere.  Of course, there is still much to do.  Preparedness is a very active sport. Unfortunately, you can't gather and forget.   We need to gather, and then check through, stay familiar and then use from the kit and replace stock regularly.
   Some time ago, my eldest son, before the lightning strike injury which has limited him, and caused him to lose about fifty pounds,  made a video at the request of a friend whose bumper he repaired.  Again, my son is a degreed professional sculptor and not a car body man or a mechanic.  Still, my son has repaired a number of  car bumpers using this technique and so it may help to move some of the families here, toward more automotive self sufficiency.   In rural America, you not only need to avoid running into deer, but you need to avoid their running directly into your car and doing great damage.  Minor damage and some, not so minor damage has been repaired using this method saving families a lot of money at the body shop.

Veraseri Designs                                                     Welding Plastic on Your Car Bumper