Category Archives: American Character

A story worth sharing

I came across this video and want to share it:

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Filed under American Character, General Interest

Tipping points can happen suddenly

In my blog post yesterday I pondered how long Democrats and the leftist elites will stick to their accelerated green- energy transformation plan (the “Great Reset”.) While there’s likely no easy turning back course of action after a certain point in their transformation efforts, the thing is once there’s a massive public opinion shift, often major political shifts follow more rapidly than may have seemed possible even months before. I used the examples of growing public backlash against COVID mitigation efforts and the public backlash against the escalation in crime following Dems embracing the BLM “defund the police” policies.

There has been a growing right-wing populist movement in some countries in Europe and the US too, which bodes poorly for America’s future as a pluralistic society.

And yes, America has always been composed of people of diverse ethnic, racial and religious groups, but we’ve always managed to pull our country together by embracing some common values. Presently, it seems the more extreme views on both sides of our political spectrum scream the loudest and dominate the public spaces, where cultural and political battles keep erupting daily. Moderate voices don’t stand a chance in a spin war. Outrage theater dominates public “discourse.”

I also expect public backlash to accelerate against the transgender movement, against the media-run spin information war, and against social media word police antics that promote the leftist political agenda.

In democratic countries, where people are accustomed to and expect to be able to speak and interact freely, it seems highly unlikely that the left’s embrace of using media as a tool to herd people toward leftist ideological beliefs and coral them from other views will succeed for the long term. People accustomed to speaking freely aren’t likely to passively accept being prodded into submission by massive public-shaming/virtue-signaling political messaging efforts for long. Having social media honchos become de facto Democrat/liberal word police is already facing growing backlash, which will likely escalate.

The economic turmoil and green-energy transformation policies already in motion can’t be easily fixed, but a major derailment of this green dream plan seems very likely to me.

Tipping points often seem to happen much more rapidly than people think possible or expect. In the beginning of this year, I suspect, most Democrats believed they could still continue with their COVID hysteria and push more COVID mitigation policies (power grabs.) They were unprepared for the swift and dramatic shift (the tipping point) in public opinion on COVID policy, to the point that you aren’t hearing Dem political candidates running on COVID policy.

79% of people in an October 2022 Pew Research report said the economy is the top issue. I think most of the culture war that generates so much left vs. right drama in America are really boutique political issues, that while they generate a lot of buzz and fad followers, when push comes to shove and economic hard times hit, no one can afford to buy into these issues. Keeping food on the kitchen table, bills paid and gas in the car become the priority. As the economic situation worsens, fewer and fewer people will want to be lectured about transgender issues or hear about green-energy/climate change. That’s why I believe a tipping point is likely long before this green-energy transformation gets very far. It’s being run on hot air, without even having the necessary infrastructure in existence.

Things may get very messy. Famine, wars, some countries collapsing, civil unrest/civil wars and other awful events are possible around the world or even here, but I remain a believer that principled leadership can make the difference between getting people in a crisis to work together and total mayhem breaking loose. There are still people in America, who will put the political/cultural war drama aside and work together in a crisis.

Unfortunately, those kind of people are extremely rare in either political party these days, where spin kings and queens, people like AOC and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who can lob social media attacks and create non-stop political outrage theater drama daily are the type of people who seem to be getting the most media attention. They’re also attracting large followings, who cheer them on. On the left, if you don’t march in lock-step to the latest culture war cause, you’re toast and on the right, if you don’t foam and froth at the Left, you’re labeled a “RINO” and put out to pasture. That’s why I’m so ambivalent about this upcoming election. I don’t believe politics is going to “save our country” or even get us on a better path.

Interestingly, this same phenomenon happens on social media, where the most sensational headlines and flame-throwing personalities generate massive followings.

However, in a crisis, all these flame-throwers and “spin warriors” are completely useless, because a crisis requires real leadership, not just angry words and catchy sound bites. I’ve met loads of outstanding leaders around the military and even in everyday life. So, I don’t despair. History has shown that sometimes when we least expect it, the most unlikely people step up to the plate and lead.

This is especially true in America. There are all sorts of civic-minded people, who see a problem in America and start a fund-raiser or form a group to work on that problem or just set out and work to fix it themselves. America was built on a spirit of volunteerism.

With that I’m going to end with encouraging you to consider donating time, money or food this holiday season, to help feed people in need.

Feeding America is always looking for help to feed Americans in need. If you don’t want to donate to large organizations, just look around your own community and you can surely find churches, civic organizations, schools, local officials, who can point you toward ways to volunteer to help others.

If you’re worried about the state of America, just try to spread a little hope and encouragement or lend a helping hand to someone else.

Even the smallest flicker of light can defeat the darkness.

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Filed under American Character, Culture Wars, General Interest

“Something that I can do”

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

-2 Timothy 1:7

This is going to be a follow-up of sorts to my last post, but it’s not going to be about politics. I’ve written a lot about politics and foreign affairs stuff, but here’s the truth about “understanding the political/economic/world events” going on right now – it might prod you to invest more time, effort, resources into being more prepared, but it also likely will lead to more worrying about all those big things that we can’t do a thing to change. That’s energy wasted.

There are probably as many people in America who believe that voting Republican is the only hope for our country as there are Democrats who believe voting Democrat is the only hope. Politics isn’t going to save us.

Some of us place our faith in God, but that still requires us to get off our butts and work to save ourselves, each and every day. We can’t sit around waiting for a miracle. Even if you’re not religious, well, you’re still going to have to get off your butt and work to save yourself too. Getting worked up about all the bad news (and there are mountains of it these days) doesn’t change a single thing, except make you feel fear, anxiety or overwhelmed and it actually impedes staying focused on the things that will really make a difference in your own life.

None of us can solve the very complex and massive problems we’re bombarded with the minute we read or watch the news, but we can still take very real steps toward working on the problems and challenges in our own lives. Unfortunately, most of the people with the power to really impact or make those types of big decisions in our country seem to be less qualified than my late husband’s, almost 15 year-old rescue dog, Marius, who now gets confused a lot.

Despite whatever dire economic or other events happen, we will still have to keep plugging away, still make daily choices and still work as hard as we can to keep ourselves, our families and our communities functioning, as best we can. That’s what faith and hope are all about – we continue onward – no matter what.

In a previous post on preparedness I mentioned that each of us really needs to take a bit of time and figure out where we are, before we can plan for where we want to go. I wasn’t referring to physical location, but about where you are spiritually, emotionally, financially and if you’re married and have a family, you’ll need to figure out where they’re at too. Then try to work toward finding some common goals and assess the practical needs aspects of becoming better prepared.

Getting your head on straight, before you start rushing around in a hundred different directions to prepare, can save you a lot of wasted time and money, but also a lot of needless anxiety and worry. In our interconnected world, there’s so much information everywhere, which creates lots of distractions and noise, that can send you racing down rabbit holes, rushing to buy things that you quickly realize were a waste of money, but most of all it can derail you from staying focused on the things that really matter.

Simplifying your life requires streamlining and setting up some attainable goals, then working on those first. Many of the attainable goals don’t require spending a lot of money. They do require changing your work habits and changing your attitude.

In my early teens, I began collecting quotes, poems, verses, and mottoes that I came across and liked. Here’s one that’s always stuck with me:

I am only one  
But still I am one  
I cannot do everything  
But still I can do something.  
And because I cannot do everything  
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.  
Edward Everett Hale  

I was kind of weird, in that I always wanted to know more details, like when something was written, more about the writer, other things that writer wrote or did.

Edward Everett Hale was a Unitarian minister in the 1800s. He wrote a patriotic short story, A Man Without a Country, which became very popular during the US Civil War and was required reading in many American schools for almost a century. Hale fought for not only emancipation of slaves, but also for education for freed slaves. His most lasting achievement was he published another short story, Ten Times One Is Ten, that included the motto:

Look up and not down 
Look forward and not back 
Look out and not in 
Lend a Hand 

Here’s a short explanation of the story from the Lend a Hand Society:

“The Lend A Hand Society grew out of the response to a short story called “Ten Times One is Ten”, written in 1870 by Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909). The story tells of ten people who meet at the funeral of a mutual friend Harry Wadsworth and discover that he had financially helped each of them. They each resolve to follow the example of Wadsworth and to help their friends, neighbors and others in the community. They calculate that if each person they help would in turn lend someone else a hand (10 x 1 = 10, 10 x 10 = 100, etc.), the powerful spirit of charity and giving would spread and grow.”

After the story’s publication, groups sprang up spontaneously using his motto as inspiration and a Lend A Hand Society in Boston was formed, which still provides emergency financial assistance to low income people, senior citizens and disabled people. That sort of America “lending a hand” spirit still exists today and you can see it with how many Americans will quickly offer assistance and to help people in need.

Edward Everett Hale also did some Civil War public service work under Abraham Lincoln and actually worked with Clara Barton, the famous Civil War nurse and founder of the American Red Cross.

If all you have time and energy for is to start working on your own family’s needs and bolstering their preparedness, that matters too. One thing I’ve found with trying to learn more about various aspects of emergency preparedness and developing skills is it’s just like with hobbies and other endeavors for me. I can quickly find myself moving in a hundred different directions, wanting to start too many things at one time. And that’s where I’ve had to struggle to work on more self-restraint and prioritizing, because it’s very easy for me to go way over budget and find myself having too much stuff and too many projects going at the same time.

Some people are natural-born teachers and mentors, I believe and in the internet age, many of them are online sharing skills and know-how on just about any topic imaginable. For all the bad stuff online, there’s also a wealth of good too. I’m working harder to seek out good and quit focusing on the bad stuff online, which takes work on my part, because I am a contrarian and can be too judgmental (yes, I am aware of that character flaw of mine – my family points it out regularly).

We can all work on the “something that I can do,” rather than trying to focus on the everything we can’t do.

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The loss of a great American historian


Yesterday, American historian, David McCullough, passed away. Above is an inspirational video of McCullough talking about George Washington. Please take a few minutes and watch this video. It offers some perspective we can all use.

I’ve read several of McCullough’s books and pulled a few of my favorites from my bookshelves to snap a few photos for this blog post. He had a rare gift to take dry historical facts and turn them into a moving, very human story. Here’s 1776, which was about America’s founding:

Rather than waste a lot of time following the latest partisan political drama today, I looked at the news online a bit this morning, then went outside to work in my little container garden. I’ve been cleaning up and started planting some things for a Fall garden. I’m working on decluttering inside my home too.

Cleaning out the partisan politics clutter from taking up too much of my time is part of my decluttering efforts too.

I also collected more cosmos seeds this morning. I’ve seen several YouTube homesteaders talking about learning to save seeds and although seeds aren’t usually very expensive, with sky-high inflation, it sure doesn’t hurt to cut costs wherever you can. I heard mention of potential seed shortages too. I have been buying more seeds and intend to order more online very soon.

There are loads of videos and sites online that can walk you through the seed saving process for various types of plants. I recently bought two books on saving seeds. Books are really important in my life and it’s encouraging to see so many preppers and homesteaders online mention reading books as an important part of their efforts at becoming more self-reliant. Being open to learning new things and exploring new ideas can keep you moving forward in life. Here’s a link to a free 1887 book, The White House Cookbook, which has recipes and all sorts of interesting history of White House meals.

I have a fascinating book on America’s founding fathers’ gardening and yes, procuring seeds played a pivotal role in America’s early history:

The small decluttering efforts around my home take way more time than they should, due to my penchant to attach sentimental value to possessions and my hard-to-break belief in my hoarding grandmother’s view on stuff – “I paid good money for this and might need it later.” My mother ruthlessly decluttered our home on a regular basis. I’m working on letting go of more stuff that I don’t use and have not used in years. Yesterday, I filled up a box with some hardcover books, which are more difficult for me to part with than paperbacks. It felt good to fill up that box that’s going to my local Goodwill store.

McCullough’s books are keepers and I would not even think of getting rid of them. A few years ago, I read his, Brave Companions, which is a series of stories about fascinating people in history, most of whom I knew nothing about. This, so far, is my favorite David McCullough book.

That said about my favorite McCullough book, I started his, The Pioneers, and it’s excellent too. I need to finish reading this book soon.

Being a lifelong news junkie, it’s hard to turn off the blaring “breaking news” political soap opera, but I’m still working to kick the habit and spend more time doing things that will improve and enrich my life. Social media politics definitely doesn’t do that. Reading more about America’s early history helps me clear away so much of the clutter and noise in our media and politics today and I’m hoping it will keep me focused on a better path than racing down rabid, partisan political rabbit holes or getting distracted by constant online noise.

America lost a truly gifted historian and storyteller yesterday.

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Filed under American Character, American History, General Interest

Sowing seeds of liberty

Tomorrow is the 4th of July in America.

When I was a a kid, in school I was fascinated by history, geography and stories. Something that was missing in how I learned history, I think, is a common gap in how many kids learn history. History was taught by focusing on big personalities and big events in history and often within the framework of the big events, there’d be some sort of sequential timeline for those big events, but then we’d move on to some other big personality and some other big event.

I was missing a big picture timeline in how I was learning history in school. Many parents purchased a set of encyclopedias when I was a kid. My parents bought the 1972 set of World Book Encyclopedia, which I now have. Having this set allowed me to look up all sorts of things and to begin piecing together larger spans of history and try to figure out how previous events led to the current big event I was learning about. It’s important to understand the background of how we got to events rather than just jumping from loud sound bite to loud sound bite.

In 1976 Americans celebrated America’s bicentennial and our country was awash in information and popular entertainment centered on America’s founding. I began reading more to try to understand a longer timeline of American history However, it wasn’t until many years later when I read through the first volume of John Marshall’s five volume set of The Life of George Washington, that I really felt like I had a better understanding of the timeline of how America’s Independence Day came about. John Marshall was the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Here’s a paragraph from the preface at the free guterberg.org site that explains:

“Many events too are unnoticed, which in such a composition would be worthy of being introduced, and much useful information has not been sought for, which a professed history of America ought to comprise. Yet the history of general Washington, during his military command and civil administration, is so much that of his country, that the work appeared to the author to be most sensibly incomplete and unsatisfactory, while unaccompanied by such a narrative of the principal events preceding our revolutionary war, as would make the reader acquainted with the genius, character, and resources of the people about to engage in that memorable contest. This appeared the more necessary as that period of our history is but little known to ourselves. Several writers have detailed very minutely the affairs of a particular colony, but the desideratum is a composition which shall present in one connected view, the transactions of all those colonies which now form the United States.”

Once I read through Marshall’s volume 1, all sorts of things I’d learned in school and read about early American history made more sense and more pieces of history fell into place for me. Rather than a big event here or a big event there, the American story became a much larger story with lots of chapters.

The bigger takeaway is the American colonies were filled with people who adapted not only their daily lives to survive in a harsh and unforgiving new land, but they were people who experimented with differing types of social organization and governance.

This 4th of July, our country is going through a period of growing divisions and global economic storms beginning to hit land here too. Many Americans are understandably concerned about the near future, like how expensive will gas be in a few weeks, let alone a few months or how bad will food shortages get this fall, or how on earth to afford heating oil this winter.

I’m still optimistic for America’s future, because everywhere I’ve ever gone in America, I’ve met innovative and creative people. I’ve lived around the Army community since 1979, even now I live in a town by a large US Army post and most of my neighbors are retired military or active duty military, from all over the country. Even though some may vote D and some may vote R, at their core, I know they put being American first. This same American spirit still thrives in rural America, in small towns, and although I try to avoid large cities as much as possible, I suspect there must be some glimmers of that American spirit there too.

The American experience didn’t start in 1776, it started in the late 1400s. Shortly, after Columbus’s voyage to the New World, in 1497, John Cabot, sailed out of Bristol, England and headed to North America too.

We live in a world where information travels around the globe in the blink of an eye and it’s easy to feel unsettled with so many dire events hitting us faster than raindrops in a strong storm, but if we slow down, take a deep breath, and just ponder how many lifetimes were spent since 1776 building our great country, defending our great country, and persevering against what has to seem insurmountable odds, I still believe there are enough Americans, who will pull together when the going gets very tough.

Many children, especially little girls, have loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie children’s book series, based on her childhood in the late 1800s, as her family moved to the Midwest amid the great American expansion westward and struggled to homestead in a harsh and unfamiliar land.

Wilder wrote those books during the Great Depression and facing serious family financial hardships, Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who had left home in her late teens and had worked tirelessly to become one of the highest paid female journalists of her era, encouraged her mother to write these stories and then she worked to get her mother’s stories published. There’s some dispute about how much editing and rewriting Lane did, but the stories themselves are definitely based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood.

Wilder had struggled throughout her adult life dealing with failed farming efforts, moving, and her husband being disabled from side effects from diphtheria. When they settled on their farm in MO in 1894, it took 20 years for them to turn that farm into a profitable dairy and fruit farm. Along with the farm to work, Wilder spent decades writing a column for a farm journal.

There were no overnight success stories involved with anything Laura Ingalls Wilder did – she worked tirelessly for years, as did her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Even the Little House series started with Lane trying to get her mother’s stories published as adult novels, but after numerous rejections and advice to rewrite the stories as children’s stories, the first Little House book was published in 1932. This book series reversed the financial fortunes of both Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane, who had both been wiped out financially in the 1929 stock market crash. After the Little House success Lane wrote some very successful novels themed on homesteading in the Midwest during the late 1800s too.

Lane later went on to write books on politics and became a thought leader within the libertarian movement. Her work Discovery of Freedom is brimming with optimism for American liberty. Along with her journalism and writing career, Rose Wilder Lane was an expert needlewoman. In 1963, Woman’s Day published the Woman’s Day Book of American Needlework, with the narrative written by Rose Wilder Lane. It’s not just a how-to guide of various needlework techniques with some dry historical tidbits, but a unique soaring narrative about the American spirit and American liberty.

Writing about patchwork quilting Lane wrote:

“Poverty came across the ocean with the immigrants. Here on the farthest rim of the known world, it became direst need. The smallest scrap of cloth was precious to a woman who could have no more cloth until the trees were cut and burned, the land spaded and sown to flax or to grass for sheep, then next year the wool sheared, washed, combed, carded and spun into flax pulled and carefully rippled, retted, dried, beetled, scutched, heckled, spun, and at last the loom made, the warp threaded, the shuttles wound and the cloth woven.” (p. 14)

“In the wilderness thousands of miles from home, depending only upon themselves for their very lives, these poor immigrants learned the inescapable fact that a person is the only source of the only energy that preserves human life on this planet. With their minds and hands they made houses, they produced food, they wove cloth and built towns, and each ceased to think of himself as a bit of a class in a nation. They knew that each one was creating a neighborhood, the town, the colony.” (p.14)

“To women who knew this, every precious scrap of cloth had a new meaning; they thought of what the small pieces, together, could make. And they began to make a pattern of them.” (p.14)

American patchwork quilting broke the rules of English quilting, with new patterns, like the Log Cabin, Bear’s Paw, Tomahawk, etc.

That brings us to something to think about this 4th of July. Lane commented that for more than a century students of folk art admired the Old World’s peasant crafts and she wrote, “Only recently have curators of American museums seen American needlework. Yet in 1776 its spirit of freedom was nearly two centuries old.” (p.14)

With our current economic situation many Americans are learning about how people survived the Great Depression and WWII ration meals, but the American timeline of struggling is much longer and filled with mostly forgotten stories of the daily toils and struggles of brave and stalwart people who dared to set forth in wild unknown lands to be free. That is our America heritage, that we should occasionally think about a bit. Those seeds of liberty came to America with the first settlers and we owe it to our children and grandchildren to continue to sow them and tend to them all across this great land.

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We can all offer helping hands across America

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The whole point with my 2015 blog post and this blog post is that there are a lot of alarmingly bad things happening now, even more than in 2015. I expect it to get much worse, as rabid partisans move into high-gear to create more havoc, coupled with the worldwide economic and food shortage crises roiling along. We can add in the self-inflicted disasters due to the fossil fuel situation that President Biden has decided the pain inflicted on Americans to push the green dreams is more important than millions of American jobs and the American economy taking a faceplant.

I remember how disturbed I was in 2020 with the civil unrest and how shamelessly political power grabs and efforts to infringe upon Americans’ individual liberties swept through, by conning us during the pandemic, with slogans – it’s only X-amount of days… just until this, that or the other happens with the “spread.” For the first couple weeks, I was Miss Compliant Citizen, because I wanted everyone safe and feared millions of people dying, but quickly I began watching which groups of people’s movements were targeted and which politicians rushed in with power grabs and pushing mindless rules and restrictions, all in the name of “public health.” Everything was political and my little issues with face masks the other day, with having to go to the doctor and get my medicine, frankly, piss me off a whole lot. I am reliant on the medical system, so I am forced to obey mindless rules and that makes me a little angry at myself every time I go along to get along with something I think is pointless and more about politics than science.

With the economic crises headed our way, a serious global food crisis projected, and promised political theater mayhem, with radical Dem activists promising a Summer of Rage, it’s going to be easy to get sidetracked or let fear and panic take hold. For years, I’ve thought if only there were more people on the right, who would not take the bait and react in fear and hysteria, but instead took the reins of all the things they can control in their own lives and working with others. I’ve hoped they would learn to basically give a middle finger to the political spin information war blazing across American media, that’s used to whip up fear, panic, rage on both sides of the political aisle, all to control us. What if there were millions of Americans who decided to work together with their friends, families, other like-minded people across America and said, “We aren’t going to let you destroy our great country and we are going to work together to keep ourselves, our families and communities safe and fed, and we’re going to work together peacefully – no matter what the partisan lunatics (and crooks) on either side do.”

Too many people believe that some man on a white horse is going to “save America” and that’s never been true. Trump isn’t going to save America anymore than some Democrat is going to save America. There isn’t some federal government master plan that’s going to save America, although, yes, some federal policies could mitigate some of the impact of these crises headed our way. Only we, the American people, can save our country and that means getting as many Americans as we can putting in their oars and rowing to help ourselves, our families and each other. It sounds daunting and impossible, but I believe all things are possible with faith, a whole lot of elbow grease, and teamwork.

Wearing a red hat or wrapping yourself in rainbow banners won’t help feed a single hungry child or help an elderly person in need. Stupid political slogans, getting angry, marches, protests and rallies won’t save America. Working together and doing things that really matter will. Yesterday on Twitter a Dem strategist tweeted that Dems need to keep repeating “they’re trying to destroy our democracy,” no matter what Republicans and conservatives say – this is the level of mindlessness to the spin information war. And if you think it’s only on the left, Trump mastered this same spin game with his stupid spin too, running his rally sideshow, where he went through his schtick repeating lame slogans that incite people.

Years ago when I worked at Walmart, I was the department manager of Fabrics and Crafts and loved that, but management asked me to move to the OTC Pharmacy, where they needed a department manager, then after that they asked me to move to lawn and garden and run lawn and garden. Lawn and garden was much larger and that was my first experience supervising men, because it was only women in fabrics and crafts and the OTC pharmacy. There were some personality clashes between associates in that department and also it was more associates than I had supervised before.

My husband was very good at leading soldiers in the Army. He had strong leadership skills and he knew how to get things done. I asked him what to do, because I felt like things weren’t getting done in lawn and garden and I was struggling to get associates to complete tasks and to work together. I asked him for advice. He told me to get to know my people – their strengths and weaknesses, but also to know about their lives. You have to care about the people you’re entrusted to lead. He also told me to work on being fair and consistent. And he told me the only way to fix some of the problems I told him about was demanding accountability from everyone on the team and that includes yourself. If you’re a principled leader, you have to hold yourself accountable every single day. He told me I needed to decide if I was going to lead or not.

There are plenty of good and decent people in America who still have principles, who still believe in working hard, who still believe in trying to be self-reliant and most of all who still believe in America. We can work together as One American Team, if we make up our minds and just start doing it. Start with your own family and friends, then draw your circle a little bigger and before you know it we can be reaching helping hands across America and networking.

Each person trying hard to prepare, help others, and sharing useful preparedness information can be a leader too. We all can step forward and try to help and guide those who have no idea how to go about working on emergency preparedness.

It doesn’t require some massive written plan or infrastructure or formal organizational structure – it can be just people talking, sharing ideas, information, inspiration and a little bit of help here and a helping hand there. We can all offer a helping hand to someone, whether it’s in our own family, in our group of friends, at our church, in our community, helping an elderly neighbor or a young mother struggling, and the list goes on.

Seeds of hope are like dandelions. All it takes is a small gust of wind and they can spread far and wide.

We don’t need to wait on Washington or any politician to save us. We have the power to work on saving ourselves.


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Survival: The Mind-set

Here’s my 2012 follow-up to my friend’s post:

Reading Gladius Maximus’ excellent essay, “Gimme A Knife”, brought to the fore some thoughts on this subject of survival.  Since getting hooked on my Kindle a few years back, I frequently download obscure free books on a range of topics(mostly history, but some literature and the occasional odd title that catches my fancy), in addition to the many I buy.    To save you the inconvenience, I’ll add this off-topic comment: don’t download free public domain books from Barnes and Noble.  The formatting is awful and each one starts with a message from Google, stating each book has been carefully scanned to preserve it.  How each page ends up with many words containing symbols in lieu of letters, I know not, but save yourself the aggravation of reading this mess.  Amazon’s public domain books far surpass Barnes and Noble’s.

Now, back to the topic, a few months ago,  I read my  amazon.com freebie,  Willa Cather’s, My Antonia  (available free here or here).  This novel exemplifies the “put one’s hand to the plough” mentality that separates those who persevere and thrive and those who prefer to wallow in misery.  The young male main character, Jim Burden, narrates the story of moving to early 20th century Nebraska to live with his grandparents, who were early homesteaders.  Jim becomes fascinated with neighboring homesteaders, the Shimerdas,  a family of Bohemian immigrants.  Throughout the story, Jack’s grandmother exemplifies the indomitable American spirit and she’s a testament to planning not just to survive, but to live as comfortably as possible in an unforgiving environment.  The Shimerdas, city-dwellers in their home country, fail to take responsibility for their own survival, necessitating good neighbors to prevent their demise.  In one scene the grandmother packs a hamper to take to the Shimerdas, she offers this line:

‘Now, Jake,’ grandmother was saying, ‘if you can find that old rooster that got his comb froze, just give his neck a twist, and we’ll take him along. There’s no good reason why Mrs. Shimerda couldn’t have got hens from her neighbours last fall and had a hen-house going by now. I reckon she was confused and didn’t know where to begin. I’ve come strange to a new country myself, but I never forgot hens are a good thing to have, no matter what you don’t have.”

Despite the Shimerdas family’s hardships and suffering caused by their parents lack of survival skills, Antonia Shimerda and her siblings (thanks to neighbors and others in their rural Nebraska community), get on the path toward successfully homesteading and thriving in America.

I’ve noticed this dichotomy in how various regions of the country respond to natural disasters too.  In the heartland, entire towns were swept away by flooding, yet you saw neighbors helping neighbors and I recall one reporter interviewing a young man, who was  helping build a sandbag barricade.  This young man, nonchalantly told the reporter that his family’s home had already been washed away one town upriver, so there was nothing they could do about that.   He told the reporter they decided to come and try and help their neighbors save their homes.  Yet, when natural disasters strike urban areas, the scene quickly turns into political posturing about the federal response, looting concerns, and a general spectacle of people who don’t seem well equipped to survive.  To be clear this isn’t a racist comment, I’ve observed this in Long Island, New Orleans, LA, and other urban areas and I think the difference is in the sense of community that still flickers in rural America,  that no longer burns in urban areas.

During Hurricane Katrina, GEN Russell Honore became one of the most prominent faces of Katrina.  After Hurricane Katrina he wrote a book, aptly titled, “Survival: How A Culture Of  Preparedness Can Save You And Your Family From Disasters” (here).  I bought the book, thinking my husband might want to read it, because he worked for GEN Honore, earlier in their careers and my husband came home almost daily with stories (many very amusing).

When I read the first few pages, I decided to read the whole book.  His book offers up many excellent remedies for improving our state and federal response to disasters, but the main take away he pushes to the forefront is that you are the main  driver of you and your own family’s survival.  He describes his rural upbringing working on his father’s farm and later working for pay for a  neighboring dairy farmer , Grover Chustz.   He describes Chustz as lacking formal education, but being highly creative, innovative and most of all striving to make sure everything on his farm was done well.  Honore describes how Chustz  taught him a fundamental lesson that carried him through a highly successful military career.  Chustz pulled out a single wooden match and had Honore break it.  Next,  he pulled out two matches,  put them together and had him break them, which proved harder to do.  Then he pulled out four matches and Honore couldn’t break them.  He explained  to Honore that’s the power of a team.   I believe that’s the challenge we face in America –  rebuilding the power of the team.  With the rise of the Tea party movement, the phrase, “Take Back America” took flight, but perhaps we ought to readjust that to rebuilding the American team.

Reality TV garbage, like Doomsday Preppers and the fixation on extreme survival skills, like Bear Grylls, marginalize  the seriousness of learning practical steps to take to be prepared.  In fact, stockpiling and building a fortress probably won’t increase your odds of survival anyway. The surest way to survive lies in building that team, where individual strengths and skills can lead to  innovation, creative-brainstorming and more ideas on how to tackle our problems, even in the most dire situation.  If you are stranded by rising water, calling Washington won’t help you, but calling your neighbors, who can pool resources sure might.

In a previous post, I mentioned federalism as the key to revitalizing America, in hopes of pulling back on some of the federal encroachment on states’ rights.  And the vital building blocks to stronger states lies in rebuilding our sense of community.  This isn’t about celebrity-driven national movements or the Glenn Beck type extravaganzas.  It’s about concerned citizens within communities sharing concerns,  ideas, pooling resources and taking charge of their own survival.  Considering the fractured nature of not only American communities, but more importantly American families, this team-building effort can’t be done overnight.  In fact, it could take years, but without it, we will keep making those  3 am calls to Washington and realize, no one is at home.

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Gimme A Knife (Written by Gladius Maximus)

Here is my friend’s 2012 post:

Last Sunday the Pastor posed the question of what we would consider to be necessities in today’s life. He gave some statistics from an earlier, time, maybe 50 or so years ago, wherein there were only about 19 things listed whereas in the current time were listed about 98 items. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but those are close. Wow, 98 items considered necessities for an American.

Well, me being me, when he said “necessities” I immediately began thinking of survival, as opposed to microwave ovens and hand-held devices. The first item on my list was a good knife as I figured with a good knife I could either build or kill my way into most everything else. With some effort, after reaching only about five essential items on my list, I quit the inventory and got back to the sermon. Since then, though, I’ve had a chance to reflect on that question and the meaning of it to our society.

It came to me that our inability as Americans to survive in meager circumstances, or put another way, our dependence on technology, gadgets and the government, is evidence of the decay of character in our society. By that, I mean, our inability to be independent, innovative and willing to put up with hardship reflects how truly weak we have become. Our lack of perseverance in the face of adversity is evidence of our impotence. Unless we are surrounded by what many in the world would consider sumptuousness, we don’t believe we can make it.

If we don’t get our water out of a tap from a government approved water system, where will we get it? If we don’t get our protein from the local mega-store, sliced, diced, shrink-wrapped and priced, how do we get it and process it? If the burners on the range don’t work, or if we at least can’t get charcoal for the grill, how do we cook it? Need vegetables? How do they grow? Where do we get seed? When our shoes wear out, what do we do? When it’s cold outside, how do we stay warm?

I understand that folks growing up in the cities don’t have some of the outdoor opportunities that some of us have, but I am convinced that there are opportunities to develop individuality, independence, self-confidence and other survival skills without having to spend a year in the Rockies on some kind of sabbatical. Survival is more a mind-set than a setting. Attitude is everything.

Being innovative and imaginative is essential whether you’re in downtown Houston or central Nebraska. Skills of observation and patience are not natural talents, but acquired skills; both are essential and both can be acquired through discipline. The ability to reason and employ a rational, decision making process is needed in order to survive and thrive. Again, that is an acquired skill. Determination, grit if you will, is a trait to be cherished, not erased.

Why do I address this idea of necessities and survival in this column? What, you may ask, does that have to do with Taking Back America?

Our nation was founded by independent free-thinkers who were able to craft in their collective imaginations the essence of liberty. That imagination did not come from a dependence on the Crown of England to provide for their every need, but a willingness to be innovative; a willingness to persevere in the face of scarcity; a willingness to survive. The lack of that spirit is at the heart of the troubles we now face in America.

Health care issues; let the government fix them. Poor education in our schools, the government will fix it. Lack of discipline in the schools, we will regulate that by the government, too. Economy is weak; the government will provide for us. Coffee too hot at McDonald’s, let’s file a lawsuit. Offended by someone’s callous comments, get legislation to make that a hate crime. Don’t want to pray in public, make sure nobody else can either through lawsuits and legislation. Too lazy to work, go on welfare. Too lazy to get job training, get welfare. Want to make the stupid decision to quit school; that’s ok, there’s welfare for that, too. Have babies out of wedlock because of dumb decisions; that’s ok, we will give you money, medical care, food stamps and tell you it is a personal decision (even though tax money from productive citizens supports your dumb choices).

Whatever the problems we may face, the government will take care of us; cradle to grave. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem.

We have lost our independent spirit. We have lost the ability to innovate. We have lost the desire to stand on our own. We no longer want to be self-sufficient. We no longer teach our children what discipline is and why it is important. In short, we have become a nation of parasites.

Fortunately, not all of us are parasites as there are still enough productive tax payers out there to support the rest who are, but the numbers are dwindling. The decisions being made in congress will continue the crippling of our society until finally, the parasites will be the majority. And, when the parasites are the majority, we will be finished.

As for me, though, I’ll take a good knife.

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What are you willing to walk six miles for?

This morning I thought might be a good time to step away from the politics and what’s going on in the news to chat about something else. Recently I wrote about deciding to attempt raised bed gardening and that’s still in the works, but I’ve been pricing materials and downsized my plans (big dreams) quite a bit.

I’ve got an indoor space set-up, with grow lights and heat mats for indoor seed-starting. I did some plastic containers trying the “winter sowing” method, although that seems like a technique that is pointless where I live, since seed stratification, where certain seeds need a period of cold temperatures, isn’t a process that’s going to occur here. I could be wrong. However, I’ve got 5 containers sitting outside with seeds (winter sowing) already sprouted and growing.

Long ago, when I was new to living in the Deep South, I was determined to have tulips in my flower bed in the spring. I tried for years and gave up. I tried storing my bulbs in a paper bag in the fridge in the winter, before planting the bulbs, which was a technique I read about in more than one southern gardening book. That still didn’t lead to tulip success. A few years critters dug up my bulbs and ate them.

Stores do sell blooming tulips here in the springtime, so if I feel some desperate longing for tulips in the spring at some point, I will buy one pot and put it on my kitchen table to enjoy. I realized that continually spending money on tulip bulbs, that are not well-suited to my climate, is a waste, when I could spend that money on many other vegetables or flowers that thrive here.

Being flexible and willing to adjust, as things aren’t going as I hoped or dreamed, has taken me years to develop. At the same time, just quitting and giving up is not the same as learning to adjust and adapt my plans and expectations, especially when facing failure. The hardest thing for me to learn though was that even though my original dreams and big ideas may never materialize, I often realize as I fail over and over, get frustrated, buckle down and try other options, that I gain more from the failures and getting back up to try again, than if I had achieved my dreams easily.

It’s the journey and the lessons learned along the way that matter most.

I still intend to eventually build several raised beds beyond these two, but also I’ve already filled two large, deep rectangular planters with potting soil and planted kale, spinach, radishes and carrots and all but the carrots have sprouted and are growing. I also filled a large round planter that I had in the shed and planted mixed lettuce for salad greens and that’s already sprouted too. I have these on my patio, but might move the lettuce into the sunroom to prevent rabbits from mowing it down.

The high price of materials has made me rethink and readjust my gardening plans already. I bought the materials for two raised beds, but I’m also going to try some economical container gardening options this spring rather than the many raised beds I initially dreamed of.

I like options and although I wish I was as self-reliant as my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, I am definitely not. They often didn’t have options and had to make do, under very adverse circumstances, with very little means and what they had.

Along with loving to read history and studying genealogy, I’ve always been fascinated with how ordinary people lived their everyday lives in different times. I wonder about their homes, how they cooked food, how they stayed warm, what kind of clothes they wore, etc. Before the internet, I often read books I found at the library devoted to these topics. I even found a book one time about water in everyday life throughout history, that explored all the fetching and carrying water for everyday life before modern plumbing.

The Pilgrims homes were around 800 square feet and one room. In the 1800s, the typical log cabin was between 12 to 16 feet square, one room and no windows.

Schoolchildren are often taught that President Abraham Lincoln was born in a backwoods cabin. He grew up living in poverty, but he never let that stand in his way to learning things he felt were important. Lincoln is remembered as one of our most eloquent presidents and he wrote his own most famous speeches, including The Gettysburg Address, which set forth an aspirational message of unity for an America torn apart by civil war.

Here’s a memorable quote from The Gettysburg Address:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

My favorite President Lincoln story I found in a book, The Eloquent President, by Ronald C. White, Jr. White wrote about how Lincoln as a young man diligently worked to improve his mastery of the English language:

“When Lincoln moved to New Salem he made the decision to master the English language by an intense study of grammar.  While living in New Salem, Lincoln heard that a farmer, John Vance, owned a copy of Samuel Kirkham’s English Grammar.  Lincoln walked six miles to get it.  He was twenty-three years old.” (pages 102-103)

What are you willing to walk six miles for?

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An old country music kind of day

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