In a few recent posts I took a dim view of this pretty prevalent mind-set in the online prepper community about weeding out the “undesirables” among friends, family, acquaintances and figuring out who are the people you are going to help and trust in a crisis or SHTF emergency. I like Sensible Prepper’s channel and even he had some suggestions about putting together a group of like-minded people – like interview carefully if you’re putting together a group that’s going to form up when SHTF. This weeding out undesirables and finding “like-minded” people was like a warning light going off in my head.
This very same idea has been circulating among the right-wing echo-chamber for years and it’s one of the worst ideas for Americans to embrace. I remembered writing about an effort that some grifter was selling on Glenn Beck’s show back in 2013. That man was selling his oasis of liberty as some community they were setting up in Idaho that was ostensibly based on finding people united by their belief in patriotism, liberty, pride in American exceptionalism and preparedness. Beck gave this con man a platform on his show, despite knowing this man had a criminal record for extortion and this oasis in Idaho existed only on a website – the planners didn’t even have property in Idaho. They were carefully selecting residents for their new community, The Citadel, on Skype interviews and then collecting an application fee, plus $50 a month to raise money to buy property. The most perfect con was this guy was playing conservatives dangling that this new vetted community was going to set up a firearms factory as a means for the community to generate jobs and income.
George Washington is my favorite founding father. Beck, like most of these right-wing media talking heads, has gotten rich playing to our conservative values, patriotism, and even more to right-wing Americans’ fears of the left’s culture war for decades and yes, I have been alarmed about the left’s culture war my entire adult life too. After that show I stopped subscribing to Beck’s online show and I began to be much more questioning about what exactly these big right-wing personalities are selling, but since I hate to part with books, I still have my copy of Beck’s “Being George Washington.”
I had been listening to Rush Limbaugh from the early 90s. I had agreed with many of the ideas the Tea Party was promoting and as right-wing media started elevating a growing crowd of “celebrities” I listened to them and too uncritically bought into a lot of the ideas they were selling, because we’ve been trained to buy into the red vs. blue politics in America and if you’re conservative, so much of the liberal agenda is an affront to all the values you hold dear. Here’s the hard truth – much of the right-wing media echo-chamber is just a huge grift – selling merchandise, books, the big shows, like O’Reilly and Beck used to do and now Trump has turned his “rallies” into his trademark. For the record, I voted for Trump in 2020, out of complete dread of Democrats controlling Congress and the White House, even though I believe he’s a total con man and was just running the largest reality TV show from the White House, at least his administration was pushing many policies I agreed with… and even more that, at least he wasn’t Joe Biden.
It was easy for me to see the left-wing media culture war craziness. I mean being told I must now accept that men dressing like women are really women or being told we’re supposed to refer to pregnant women as “birthing persons,” had me telling my family that I don’t want to hear anything about this insane alphabet gender politics on the left and um, sorry, I can tell you where to shove your “pronouns.” And of course, watching new radical racial politics where white people, even little kids, are commanded to denounce their “white privilege,” left me wondering if America was now embracing Maoist struggle sessions, which were a form of public-shaming and torture that Mao used to enforce conformity. It took a lot longer for me to recognize the right-wing culture war craziness.
In another blog post I’ll try to step away from the partisan politics and talk about this idea of picking the people who you will help in an emergency and why I don’t believe finding “like-minded” people who are prepping like you are and to the level you think makes them worthy and weeding out the undesirable non-prepping people would really work well in an actual real world crisis. It might lead to you excluding people at a time when pulling as many people together as possible really will help your chances of survival. I believe in working to include as many people as possible, even ones who don’t meet my preparedness standards – especially in a crisis.
This blog post is going to be about prepping, in a roundabout way. Years ago I took an interest in kumihimo when I worked at Walmart as the department manager of the fabrics and crafts department. Around stores you often see merchandise, mostly impulse purchase items, hanging from plastic strips, which we called clip strips. We had a clip strip of small, round foam kumihimo looms, that cost a few dollars. I kept looking at these looms, because I knew nothing about kumihimo. So of course I bought one, because who can pass up learning another craft or needlework technique, right?
There are crafters who make beautiful beaded kumihimo jewelry, but with my ever-growing list of crafts and needlework hobbies, I just learned how to do a few different braids, using various types of embroidery floss and yarn. I haven’t really gotten into kumihimo, but I’m glad I learned a few simple braids. Please excuse my terrible photography, but here’s the foam kumihimo loom with a few of the braids I made.
In my last blog post Sensible Prepper mentioned how it’s good to have how-to books, in case of, for instance, the power goes out or the internet’s down. He also mentioned how it’s good to have cordage, like paracord.
Cordage has been something that’s interested me for years. When I make small counted cross stitch projects, often I need to make a hanger out of embroidery floss to hang the finished piece and the most common finishing instruction is to use a technique of twisting 6-strand embroidery floss, which I’ve done for over 40 years, but then I saw a needleworker online recommend a cordmaker, that looks similar to a fishing reel. You can make yards of twisted cord in only a few minutes. I bought a cord maker, but haven’t used it yet. I will use it eventually, because I have several cross-stitched Christmas ornaments done and need to finish them into ornaments and they’ll need hangers.
Both the cheap foam kumihimo loom and this cord maker could be useful at making rope and cordage for more utilitarian purposes, I think, if you couldn’t buy any at the store. Even if you don’t have a ton of craft and needlework supplies like me, it’s simple to take apart a piece of old clothes, like a sweater and reuse that yarn or to even cut thin strips out of all sorts of materials – like an old bed sheet or t-shirt or even try cutting strips from black trash bags and making cordage in a pinch.
If you are a prepper and you don’t watch Townsends, I highly recommend their YouTube channel. They do a lot of 18th century cooking there, but so much more than that, as they explore early American life. They built a cabin, they have someone who does blacksmith work like they would have in 18th century America – to include making their own nails. A few years ago they had a guest, Dan from Coalcracker Bushcraft, which is located in the Appalachian Mountains of PA and part of the Appalachian Trail runs through the Pocono Mountains, not far from my childhood home. Dan showed how to make cordage from tree bark using a simple twisting technique:
One of my favorite YouTube homesteaders is Patara at Appalachia’s Homestead. She’s feisty and opinionated like me, so even when I disagree with her about something, I know her heart’s in the right place from watching a lot of her other videos. She did a video a few days ago with her husband, James, who is very quiet, but in this video he talked more. They both came up with their own general category type lists of prepper supplies to think about having and I found it interesting how different their lists were. James thinks outside the box. He’s like me, with his “well, I could take this and repurpose it to do X, Y, Z type thinking.” At minute 16:52, James lists twine and string and I was sitting here, going, “YES!” Patara’s facial expression cracked me up, but hey, I’m on Team James with the twine and string, but I’d add ropes, fishing line, various strength threads and needles, like having curved needles to repair heavier materials and leather needles. A pack of homecraft or home repair needles is a good thing to have or several, because often when working using heavier materials, I’ve had to use pliers to pull the needle through and I’ve had needles break.
A lot of preppers have mentioned acquiring reference and how-to books. I’ve got a whole bunch, even an old Yankee Magazine book on olden days stuff, that explains everything from how to make your own paint from scratch to how to manage a small woodlot. With cordage in mind, years ago I picked up this book on knots and ropework, thinking it would be good to learn some of these knots sometime.
Learning as many skills as you can really matters as much as stockpiling supplies, I think. A few years ago I came across this interesting effort by some crafty people to cut plastic shopping bags in strips and turn them into “plarn,” a plastic yarn of sorts, which they make into mats to donate to homeless people.
Back in the 1970s, my great-grandmother saw some crochet project in her Workbasket magazine, using plastic bread wrappers to crochet rugs, so this “plarn” sleeping mat idea isn’t new. I remember those bread wrapper rugs, because everyone in the family was saving bread wrappers for her to crochet those rugs and also, because I found the rugs fascinating and my mother was not impressed with them, lol.
Before I end this long string (or yarn)… there’s a bad pun there, about cordage, I’m going to add this link to a YouTube channel devoted to rag rugs. Erin Halvorsen is absolutely the queen of rag rugs and has loads of information and tutorials on her channel of how to create your strips for various rag rugs to step-by-step instructions on how to make the rugs. Erin has loads of videos preserving many unusual and old-fashioned techniques. In this video she makes a unique twine rag rug, where she shows you how to make the twine, using a similar twisting technique as the cordage from bark that Coalcracker Bushcraft used in the Townsends video, then she crochets the rug together:
I hope I’ve “tied” together all of these interesting ways with creating and using cordage and I hope that more people start learning to “shop” their home first before rushing out to buy more prepper supplies.
I’m just going to start sharing videos and links that I think offer useful prepping information without writing a whole lot. Learning to be prepared is way more important right now, I believe, than at any time in my life. There are so many major serious events going on in America and the world – from extreme partisan divides here to global crises that could impact us. There are people in the prepper community with way more knowledge than me and many of them offer calm, practical information. In this video, Sensible Prepper and his guest offer a ton of basic prepping advice:
This is too hilarious to pass up sharing. A few weeks ago I was mentioning to my son, that back in the 1970s there was a massive gypsy moth infestation in the forests in NE PA, where I grew up. We were talking about the zebras that escaped from an animal refuge in Maryland and the efforts to try to capture them and that led to talking about invasive species that end up here. My son jokingly told me that we probably can’t call them gypsy moths anymore, knowing how much I detest these looney-tunes woke word games. And just now I saw this Megyn Kelly report:
So what is catastrophizing, well here’s a definition from Psychology Today: “Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion that prompts people to jump to the worst possible conclusion, usually with very limited information or objective reason to despair. When a situation is upsetting, but not necessarily catastrophic, they still feel like they are in the midst of a crisis.”
I know that with my worrying nature I can easily catastrophize and that’s why I had to catch myself with the pandemic crisis and now with the economic crisis, to pull myself back from listening to too much “doomsday” reactionary stuff. I think the worst spreaders of fear during the pandemic were (and still are) many of our own government health officials and many Dem politicians. As this economic crisis grows, so far, I think the biggest doomsday reactionaries are within the Prepper community and among some of the right-wing politicos. And yes, in both crises there legitimately are things to be concerned about, things to do to prepare and things to do to react in order to stay safe and “survive,” because in both of these crises, as in emergency situations generally, there are risks to our personal well-being. Everyone assesses risk differently and everyone has to find their own comfort level with how they react and respond, but catastrophizing isn’t a good coping strategy, especially in emergencies, because it leads to seriously impaired risk assessment and it can be paralyzing. For instance, becoming so fearful of COVID that you fear being around other people and wear a face mask inside your own car alone or at home or putting all your time, effort and money into turning your home into a bunker in preparation for some doomsday or SHTF event.
I’m going to share this video that explains catastrophizing and then I’m going to share a true story of my most ridiculous episode of catastrophizing that actually went on for years, until my husband refused to let me keep talking myself into disaster (it took almost 3 long years). Here’s the video by a licensed therapist, Emma McAdam:
When I was 15 years old I was in the car with my 16 year-old sister, who had her driver’s license and we were on a back country road, when she told me she would teach me how to drive. Despite my hesitation, she insisted, told me there was no traffic on that road and pulled over. She told me how easy it was. So, I pulled out and started slowly moving forward, but naturally a car came headed towards us and my sister yelled at me to pull over and stop. In my panic, I hit the gas instead of the brakes and we ended up in the field. The incident probably took a few seconds, no one was hurt, there was no damage to the car, but in my mind this incident created years of anxiety and a complete refusal to learn to drive. I was terrified of driving, believed I was too stupid to learn to drive and in my mind I was sure that if I was behind the wheel someone was going to get seriously hurt. My parents didn’t pressure me to drive and I had two older sisters who drove, plus my parents, so it didn’t matter if I drove or not.
My husband and I moved to Fort Bragg, NC in 1981 and being in the 82nd Airborne, he was away from home a lot, off on training exercises. Our oldest daughter was a baby and my husband told me I needed to learn to drive so that I could go to the store, doctor and do things when he was gone. He told me how much freedom it would give me to not have to rely on other people for transportation. He was absolutely right. I told him I can’t drive and that I tried once and it was a disaster.
He refused to accept that, so he convinced me to get a learner’s permit and he told me he would teach me how to drive. I didn’t believe I could learn to drive and I was convinced it would be a disaster. We put our daughter in her car seat in the backseat and she loved car rides, so on weekends we headed to the backroads of Fort Bragg for my driving lessons.
I panicked every time a car headed towards me and stopped dead in the road. This went on for months, but my husband refused to give up. He calmly told me I was doing better, with each little improvement and eventually he got me to the point where I would slow down to a snail’s crawl when a car headed towards me, but I didn’t stop and then we worked on maintaining my speed with oncoming traffic.
One time we were on those Fort Bragg backroads for my driving lesson and we encountered a scene from hell – we entered a darned war zone – Marines were visiting and engaged in a field training exercise. A Black Hawk helicopter descended from the sky and landed on the road up ahead of me. I was feeling a lot of panic and I asked my husband the dumbest question ever uttered. I asked him who had the right of way. He gave me this look of complete confoundment and said, “Who do you think?” I got what he meant – our Subaru vs. a Black Hawk helicopter. I tried to explain that I hadn’t read what to do if a helicopter lands on the road in the driver’s manual, but that just made my husband laugh hysterically. I never lived down that moment, because every so often over the years my husband would out of the blue smile at me and say, “Who has the right of way?”
My learner’s permit was good for 18 months, I think, but when it was close to expiring, I insisted I wasn’t ready to take the driver’s test, so I got a second learner’s permit. On and on I insisted I wasn’t ready for the driver’s test. I was driving everywhere with having a friend or my husband in the car, but I was convinced I’d be a disaster with the driving test.
One day my husband unexpectedly came home from work in the morning and told me to get our daughter’s clothes changed and we were going somewhere. He wouldn’t tell me where and said it was a surprise. When he pulled up in front of the driver’s testing place, I started telling my husband that I wasn’t ready and that I hadn’t looked at the driver’s manual in a long time. Finally he looked at me and calmly said, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” I started to feel really ridiculous, because the worst thing was that I would fail my driver’s test. He told me that if that happened we would go practice some more and try again. I told him I was sure I would fail, but I went in and took the test – and I passed it. He told me afterwards that I couldn’t get a third learner’s permit without taking a driver’s test first and that’s why he pressured me like that to take the driver’s test.
After that experience, I started being aware of my own tendency to worry too much and borrow way too much trouble, with pondering all the “what ifs.” Spending decades around the Army and being around my husband’s can-do attitude helped me learn to become better at “sucking it up and driving on,” as soldiers say.
There are legitimately disturbing things going on in the world right now. The pandemic impacted almost everyone in the world, as will the economic crisis that we’re being warned is fast approaching. Prepping some basic food, water and supplies and planning for common weather emergencies that impact your area is sensible, as is preparing for power outages. Learning more about emergency preparedness for other emergencies makes sense too. Few of us ever thought about preparing for a pandemic, so that was a curveball for most of us. The Provident Prepper, a prepper channel I really like on YouTube, did a pandemic prep video in 2019, but they present information in a calm, reasonable, and approachable way – no hysteria. Now we’re being told we’re headed towards a serious economic crisis. Running around trying to buy everything imaginable to prepare for America collapsing or doomsday won’t help you effectively prepare or cope with a serious economic crisis (or doomsday). It’s just going to turn you into a basket case and lead you to spend money that you probably can’t afford. It can lead to piles of excess “stuff” that you haven’t even figured out how to organize and store (or use). Most of all it’s likely going to lead to more panic buying and more catastrophizing.
Even the best preppers in the world or the best strategic planners don’t have a crystal ball, so when an emergency hits they have to deal with what they have and try to do the best with what they’ve got.
No one can be prepared for every possible emergency. I think it makes more sense to slow down, take a deep breath and make a list rather than rushing out to buy food and supplies reacting to social media rumors, hysteria or empty store shelf photos and videos. I still have pandemic supplies I’ll likely never use, so I’m now thinking about basic food and supplies – stuff I know I’ll use. Most of us have to prioritize when it comes to prepping, because only the super-rich can afford their own island oasis or isolated retreat to jet off to in a serious crisis. We can all learn to find more ways to use what we have, waste less, and reuse and repurpose things. It is perfectly sensible to have extra food, water and basic emergency supplies on hand, but running from store to store worrying about America collapsing or doomsday won’t help you make wise spending decisions. We’re still going to have to pay our bills next month and need money set aside for emergencies next month and the month after that too.
I’m going to start off this blog post with a Dave Ramsey video clip from October 13, 2021 and then I’m going give my assessment of the non-stop social media craziness and finally talk about my personal experiences and a few tips that I think might help you be better prepared to deal with whatever crisis is up ahead. Not a single one of them involves stockpiling supplies, turning your home into an armed fortress, looking at fellow Americans with opposing political views as your enemy, or giving up on the United States of America. Here’s the Dave Ramsey video:
A few weeks ago, I decided to read the George Orwell dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which created a fictional totalitarian superstate, Oceania, that encompasses what was previously western civilization. The rest of the world in this novel is composed of two other totalitarian superstates, Eastasia and Eurasia, which might or might not actually even exist, because all the people of Oceania know is what information the Party provides to them. In this story, Oceania came about after nuclear war, an anti-Capitalist revolution, and mass starvation, but who actually makes up the Party or how the Party actually operates is never explained. People live in constant fear and anxiety worrying about social conformity, because there is no rule of law, only people disappearing after being apprehended by authorities. Oceania operates as a massive surveillance state.
I hated this novel when I read it when I was young and I hated it after reading it a few weeks ago, but it is brilliant at portraying the evils of totalitarian states, complete loss of individual rights, and how horrible living life in constant fear of the government would be. Yes, there are lots of comparisons I could easily make to the information control in Oceania and our American spin information war, but Orwell comparisons aren’t really going to help us figure out a way forward for America. In Oceania – there is no hope left for individual liberty. In America, I believe there’s still much to be hopeful about and to be thankful for, even now.
There’s been a lot of things that have developed in America’s culture war, politics and our American politcal/media spin information war that have worried me since this form of “spin war” began in the 1990s. All of the dishonest liberal media word games didn’t just start since Trump. They’ve been going on since the 1990s and for years I’ve felt like a lone voice on the internet writing about how this corrupt Dem spin information war works, but since Trump, the spin war went so off the rails, that plenty of right-wing pundits and politicians now catch the dishonest spin word games quickly, but the liberal media, liberal activists and Dem politicians never admit they’re dishonestly portraying events, so we ended up with liberal news media’s surreal reporting last year on rioters burning down a police station in Minneapolis as “mostly peaceful protesters.”
Trump posed the first real threat to the Dem’s spin information war, by engaging in the same corrupt spin info war as the Dems. Unfortunately, Trump and a lot of right-wing pundits & right-wing media now spin as dishonestly as the left’s spin war garbage. And then there’s the internet where on social media anyone, from politicians, news reporters, hostile foreign operatives, American activists and ordinary Americans can post videos and photos on social media that can go viral in minutes and drive millions of people into mass panic and anxiety.
Granted, there’s a lot to be concerned about with the COVID craziness and now more economic craziness beginning to impact, but here’s the thing I learned decades ago is that analyzing photos and video is challenging and often hard to verify, as I read a lot about intelligence analysis. With modern technology, there have been advances with deep fake technology and even some amateurs can do some pretty amazing photoshop work. I have no training in intelligence analysis whatsoever, just an interest in it, so this information on the difficulties analyzing photos and videos stuck with me as the online “viral” video phenomenon grew.
With the BLM activism, finding videos (often selectively edited) that can be sensationalized to generate massive anger at the police has become a common feature, but BLM isn’t the only group to try to generate media firestorms and there are groups and activists on the right doing this too. Often videos that create national firestorms or “national conversations” that the media talking heads blather on about are posted online by ordinary people. Here’s the thing – we rarely are given much information about who took the photo or video, when and where it was taken, whether it was edited and if how the narrative attached to the video is accurate. I’ve been telling my kids for years – don’t react to photos or videos that have gone viral – just wait until more information comes out. And this advice now extends to all news reporting – right or left.
Lately, I’ve seen empty store shelf videos being hyped constantly and while I don’t doubt lots of stores in America are having shortage problems, but some of these videos being spun up are from last year during the COVID lockdown and I saw one a few days ago on Twitter that was someone hysterical about the shortages in America, but the photo was from Great Britain looking at the shelf labels. The news media, politicians, activists and even many online “influencers” make money creating and selling agitation propaganda or clickbait. Getting people riled is the content that garners clicks and viewers. There’s no reason you have to react to agitation propaganda or clickbait- it’s a choice.
I mostly use a nearby little Walmart Neighborhood Market store and since the COVID craziness last year, there have been some skimpy shelves, occasional things they are out of, including a particular soup, which I have to buy at my local Walmart Supercenter, but after the initial toilet paper shortage, it’s been pretty well stocked. I haven’t had to in any appreciable way change the meals I prepare, the snacks I buy or gone without anything. Of course, the supply situation might get way worse and large scale panic buying assuredly will exacerbate the problem.
Yes, I expect there will be more shortages, and heating costs and gas prices are projected to rise dramatically too, but I am hopeful that with some American can-do gumption, some of the most dire outcomes can be avoided. I saw Governor Ron DeSantis suggesting rerouting some of the backed up ships to FL ports to alleviate some of the backlog. These kinds of ideas are what I expect from American leaders – we aren’t Venezuela and if we all pull together, I am sure we can get through this economic crisis without our country falling apart. It will take Republicans, Democrats and ordinary Americans to stay calm and work together though.
All I’m saying is stop getting worked up by all of this constant social media and news media incitement and a very alarming, unchecked online rumor mill, that is fueled in large part by dedicated partisan spin information warriors and people with an agenda every single day. The Twitter politics rumor mill seems to be fueled mostly by actual news journalists, politicians and cadre of partisan political operatives, who hang out on Twitter and rush to retweet “news” and spin it up without verifying it. These are the folks driving the American news media…
Last year when the BLM protest/rioting craziness occurred, the level of dishonest lying by Dems and the liberal media jarred me. The insanity of talking about “defund the police,” as if it was a rational policy debate, left me deeply disturbed. It was plain nuts!
This year, though, on the right, there are pundits floating the idea of a National Divorce, balkanizing America, which would leave us totally unable to defend our country and create total chaos and pandemonium. These people, I think despise the far-left, don’t have any solutions to fix what’s broken in America, so they are selling National Divorce as a means for like-minded Americans to “save themselves.” National Divorce is a misguided suicide pact – people who gave up on defending and protecting the Constitution and the United States of America.
Rich Lowry, at National Review, responded to the National Divorce idea this way:
“There is no doubt the country is deeply riven along political, cultural, and religious lines. Yet a national divorce has nothing to recommend it.’
“The practical obstacles are insuperable, and the likely effects would be very unwelcome to its proponents. If an insufficient patriotism is one of the ills of contemporary America, then a national divorce would prescribe arsenic as a cure. It would burn down America to save America, or at least those parts of it considered salvageable.”
The crazy people on the left who want “Unvaccinated” Americans to be banished from polite society are the same as the crazy people on the right who are running around trying to figure out how to hide all their food in their homes and debating which “undesirable people” they aren’t going to allow to be part of their “tribe” when SHTF, because they didn’t prep or they don’t hold the same political views. The only way we can all get through a major crisis is by pulling together as family, friends and communities.
If you get a bunker attitude, then you might survive, but you’ve surrendered to mass panic and fear and in the process thrown away all of the things that really matter. Kindness, compassion, generosity and being a good neighbor matter – in good times and especially in bad.
When my husband deployed to Desert Storm, we were living in Germany. Three of our kids were in elementary school and the youngest was still at home. The U.S. military and German authorities ramped up security massively, due to increased concerns about terrorism. The increased security measures in and of themselves created some increased anxiety among some young Army wives and that was added to all the fear and anxiety of our husbands being deployed to war.
The elementary school my kids attended was in a US housing area, but it wasn’t the one where we lived, so my kids rode a bus to school. There were two bomb threats at their elementary school and pandemonium broke loose. Mothers in that housing area rushed to grab their kids and teachers had a hard time keeping track of their students. My kids came home on the school bus that day and told me all about the hysterical moms grabbing their kids. By the time Desert Storm happened, my husband was a first sergeant of an infantry company and he had deployed to Grenada in 1983, when I was pregnant with our second child. We had moved several times to different Army posts and over the years, both of us had gotten used to a lot of packing up and setting down roots in new places.
Some wives were so scared they didn’t want to let their kids return to school. Another time there was a bomb threat at a Post Exchange store (PX) at a another US military installation, or at least I think there was a bomb threat. I remember some wives calling me and telling me that a bomb exploded at that PX. I called a friend, another Army wife, who worked in that area, and she told me everything was fine. That’s an example of how rumors can incite a whole lot of unnecessary panic and fear. Thankfully this was before the internet and cell phones.
Nowadays we’ve got this dynamic playing out constantly on social media with people sharing and retweeting loads of hysterical warnings and “news.” Stay calm, wait for some verification, and most of all, unless authorities in your area have put out official warnings or directions, just sign off online and go about your daily life.
One of the things we always did when we moved was unpack our household goods quickly and get our house set up and running in our normal routine. I cooked dinner almost every night, I taught my kids to set the table and we all sat at the table and ate together. We continued other family activities as normally as possible throughout military moves and even during Desert Storm. Lots of Army families do the same exact thing, heck I learned a lot about how to function better around the Army from other soldiers and Army wives. My husband was very calm in emergencies and his calm helped me stay calm, because I am a worrier. Try to keep daily life as normal as possible. Some wives didn’t do that even during field training exercises, let alone their husband going to war. They invariably had lots of problems. They did not have the experience and/or skills to function living in new Army locations and far away from home and most of all they were the ones who got worked up about every rumor that circulated. Everywhere I lived around the Army, I always met many nice people and had other Army wives offer help and advice. I tried to help other Army wives too.
Keeping your daily life as normal as possible, especially in crazy times, will allow you to function better, stay calmer and keep everyone around you more confident. If you’re running around in panic putting more effort into preparing for every possible SHTF event imaginable or falling apart over store shortages now, you aren’t going to fare well in a SHTF event. Yes, it’s perfectly fine to be a prepper, but it’s not good for your mental health to live in a constant state of, “Omg, the sky is falling!”
Take time to laugh each day, take time to keep to as normal a daily life as possible. If you have kids, your kids are looking to you as an example of how to react to any crisis and while it’s important to be honest with kids, it’s also important to not let your fears and anxiety brush off onto your kids. Don’t create unnecessary fear or anxiety in your home. There’s no reason to do crazy crap inside your home – whether it was the COVID fear-based craziness of people going to extremes wearing masks inside their own homes/extreme disinfecting everything to now preppers talking about hiding food in their homes and running around turning their homes into bunkers. Yes, home security and personal defense matter every day, but keeping your home functioning as normally as possible will help you and your family function better through any crisis. During the Great Depression my grandmother set the table every day for meals, she cooked whatever she had to keep her family going. My mother picked potatoes and vegetables for a larger farm as a young child and handed the money to her parents, as did her sister and brothers, because everyone in their family worked together to survive.
Soldiers are great at turning anywhere they’re at into ‘home” and most have little things they do or snacks and personal items they take with them for training and to war. Most also develop a very keen appreciation for dark humor, because they often face some awful situations and being able to laugh is a huge stress-reliever.
Learning to adjust and adapt without getting all worked up constantly will help you feel more positive and also more hopeful. That doesn’t mean you need to pretend things aren’t bad or pretend there aren’t very troubling things happening, it just means you focus on the things you can control in your life. For the life of me I can’t understand why so many right-wing preppers are so invested in this prepping idea of turning their homes into a bunker and figuring out who in their family, circle of friends, and community they’re going to help and who they’re going to cut off, when right-wing folks were mocking left-wing folks who were acting like this about Trump-supporters and then the dreaded “Unvaccinated.” There’s no reason to add to the crazy.
Calm down, smile more, find some simple joys in life.
First up here’s Dawn, at Centsible Living with Money Mom. Heck, I’m right there with Dawn on having made plenty of bad money decisions in my 61 years and all I could do is try not to repeat them and learn from them. I also worry a lot by nature, so listening to a lot of “the sky is falling” warnings doesn’t help me make good decisions.
Next is Emmy, another nice lady whose YouTube channel, Frugal Money Saver, focuses on frugal living and finding joy in simple things in life. Emmy is always positive and upbeat, plus she offers a whole lot of common sense advice:
Here’s Granny, at Mornings with Granny, with an important message on being thankful. Granny is right, even with all of our problems, I’d rather be living here in America than anywhere else:
JK sent me this Attkisson report about how the Amish in Lancaster, PA dealt with COVID last year. It raises some interesting questions about the extreme social mitigation efforts pushed by our federal health officials and government vs. the Amish sticking to their deeply held religious beliefs on the importance of work, family, and community.
After facing having my husband bed bound on home hospice care through last year, I can understand the Amish determination to avoid hospitals and risk not being able to have friends and family visit. I felt that way too and am glad I kept my husband at home. The Amish leader Attkisson interviewed explained how giving up everything they believe would have been worse than death and I can respect that viewpoint completely. When you click on the story, the video is a bit over 5 minutes long:
In my last post, I’m hoping it didn’t come across as trivializing emergency preparedness, because that wasn’t my intention at all. What I was expressing was my evolving attitude about my own emergency preparedness, especially stocking up on food, as news reports keep predicting increasing shortages and supply problems across America. I have continued to stock up my pantry more than I did pre-pandemic, although I always had a good bit of extra food on hand. Last year during the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020, I decided to work toward organizing and expanding my food pantry effort. Having at least a 3-6 month supply of food on hand was my goal. I’m not sure if I’m precisely there, but I’m sure I could last a long while on what I’ve stored, as long as we weren’t without a water supply for months and we had electricity to keep my fridge and freezers running, because I don’t have a generator or 6 months of water stored. Those are two big “ifs.”
I enjoy watching YouTube channels, but these online communities are composed of ordinary people setting up channels, to become “influencers.” Most have monetized their channel and all across YouTube loads of channels use clickbait titles. Sifting through all of this information has been an ongoing challenge to me, because I like to verify information, especially information that purports to be news. My last post was an update as to where I’m at with my own prepping and my personal opinions.
My largest mental hurdles remain doing due diligence to not being wasteful, while prepping on an ongoing basis, and staying committed to organizing and rotating food on a regular basis. Keeping my pantry organized doesn’t come naturally to me, so I’ve got to make a real effort to work on that consistently.
My family has affectionately called me a hoarder, my entire life. My mother used to tell me I am just like her mother, who raised her family during the Great Depression and was dirt poor. I have always taken it as a compliment to be told I was just like my grandmother, who was a survivor. Despite living in poverty, she emphasized, not only stocking up, but she loved fine china and set her table properly for meals always. During the Great Depression my grandmother collected a complete set of Spode’s blue willow china, piece by piece, that was part of some detergent promotion. She was also big on reusing and repurposing items. And of course she never passed up “great deals” at the five and dime store. She cooked wonderful meals on a wood cook stove her entire life. My grandmother also liked to look nice and particularly loved wearing stylish hats. I’ll plead guilty to “hoarding” craft and needlework supplies, because I know I’ve got enough to last me 5 lifetimes, even if I diligently sewed and crafted 8 hours a day, every day, for the rest of my life and I’ve got a really hard time parting with books.
In many YouTube communities “haul videos” are popular and the prepper community is no different in that respect. Watching what other preppers are stocking up on or saying are must-haves can “influence” your shopping habits was my point. I know it influenced mine when I first started prepping in a more committed way, especially when it was YouTube channels with a large number of subscribers.
Americans love to buy, buy, buy – it’s in our DNA, I think. A lot of pricey items being promoted in online prepper communities can become “must haves” quickly, in your mind. For instance buying expensive freeze-dried emergency foods or buying an expensive freeze-dryer have been common items I’ve noticed in many prepper videos in the past year. There’s nothing wrong with either, but if you’re on a tight budget, it’s probably wiser to spend your prepping dollars on less expensive basic pantry items that you use regularly. Whatever you do, don’t go into debt with your prepping, because having some money tucked aside for emergencies is really important and just common sense.
The real problem in any emergency situation, but especially a protracted emergency situation, won’t be preppers, even the most extreme preppers. It will be the millions of people who have no money saved and made no effort to have some extra necessities on hand:
“More than half, 51%, of Americans have less than three months’ worth of emergency savings, according to a recent survey from personal finance website Bankrate. The survey includes over 1,000 responses from telephone interviews conducted by SSRS Omnibus between June 22-27, 2021.”
“For 2021, 25% of survey respondents indicate having no emergency savings at all, up from 21% who said they didn’t have any in 2020. Another 26% say they have some emergency savings, but not enough to cover expenses for three months.”
Decades ago I read an article in a magazine about the importance of emergency savings and I tried to teach my kids this too. Back then the article advised having at least $500 put aside for everyday “emergencies” and that would turn those “emergencies” into just minor inconveniences. Few people are born thrifty, resourceful and good at managing money. Most people, myself included, have made loads of really stupid mistakes with money, but we can all learn and try to do better. Nowadays $500 isn’t really enough for lots of those everyday emergencies, but the principle is the same – having some emergency savings can bring a lot of peace of mind to your daily life.
Many years ago I bought a book, Financial Peace, at a yard sale that changed how I viewed personal finances. Dave Ramsey was the author of that book and while he’s become a lightening rod, his approach of “putting common sense into your dollars and cents” works. It can transform living in panic about how to pay all of your bills to truly living a life where you learn some self-discipline with handling your personal finances. Emergency preparedness starts with learning to be more prepared and putting common sense into your daily preparedness – that’s what I worry about with so much of the SHTF “emergency preparedness” advice.
Ramsey developed a system of baby steps to get control of your personal finances that leads to building personal wealth and being financially prepared for emergencies and retirement. I believe personal emergency preparedness makes more sense following baby steps too – like don’t spend a fortune on preparing for doomsday events with lots of pricey gear unless you have your personal finances in order, have emergency savings and you’ve got basic food and everyday supplies in order.
I know people who think “prepping” is ridiculous (some in my own family) and almost invariably these same people have no money saved, no extra food or necessities on hand and worst of all it seems these are the same people who lack even the most basic skill sets to manage in everyday life, let alone an emergency.
Since I started this blog in 2012, I’ve been writing about my belief in learning to be more self-reliant.
When I was a young Army wife (early 1980s), far from home, my husband was away a lot – on field training exercises. I found myself living in communities where I didn’t know hardly anyone when we first arrived at a new Army post and I was taking care of babies, then small children by myself. I didn’t like asking anyone for help, especially neighbors I barely knew, so I started “prepping” from the beginning of our marriage and I took a lot of interest in reading my cookbooks (pre-internet era) and learning what common items could be substitutions for other items in recipes, to avoid a lot of extra trips to the grocery store. We were on a much tighter budget back then. Small bits of knowledge and even acquiring a few basic skill sets can turn fear and anxiety into some self-confidence and more importantly teach you to be a bit more self-reliant. The same goes with managing in emergencies.
Here’s the tricky part for many people – it’s the other huge survival mechanism – strong communities, where neighbors pull together in hard times. Over the years of my husband’s military career, I became a believer in trying to be part of the Army family and getting involved in volunteer activities and helping Army families. Most people these days, myself included, don’t even know most of their neighbors or they have little in common with them. That’s why so many people have turned to online communities to find that kind of community feeling with like-minded people.
I do worry a lot about the state of our country, all the partisan rancor and the new level of craziness since the pandemic started, so I’ve tried to slow down and think more about my ongoing prepping efforts. That was my point – think for yourself and don’t let fears or online hyped hot issues in these crazy times guide your spending or your heart.
I’ve seen discussions in the YouTube prepper community discussing how to deal with folks who didn’t prepare in an emergency asking for food and help or how to hide your food preps inside your home. I’m not turning my home into an armed fortress, but home security at any time is a legitimate concern, as is self-defense. All I’m saying is focus more on building up your everyday food pantry and practical food storage first. My religious and moral beliefs demand that I try to help my neighbors, whether they prepared or not, whether they were 99.9% responsible for their predicament, and regardless of their politics. That issue didn’t even require any discussion for me.
My priorities have always been take care of my own family first, but don’t turn away neighbors or friends in need. I am saying this, because so much of American political chatter these days is about Red vs. Blue/Republicans vs. Democrats and for me there is only One America. I’ll write about the “national divorce” idea, that’s started circulating among some of the Trump right, in the near future. I swore an oath to defend The Constitution when I joined the Army in 1979 and I don’t want to hear any bullshit about a “national divorce” or giving up on the United States of America – EVER!
Whenever you try to think life will return to the normal of pre-Covid times, there seems to be more bad news just around the corner. In recent weeks the news keeps blaring warnings about impending inflation and shortages due to major shipping issues, especially bottlenecks at U.S. ports. Predictions of shortages of everything from food, to paper goods abound and even the White House acknowledged the shipping issues and warned that Americans might not be able to get the items they want for Christmas.
Along with the ongoing shipping issues, this past weekend I saw several prepper channels on YouTube blaring warnings about food shortages and hyping a letter, supposedly from Auguson Farms, a producer of freeze-dried foods designed for long-term food storage, which many preppers and outdoorsmen purchase. The letter stated Auguson Farms was temporarily shutting down due to food shortages in their supply chain. I googled a bit, but didn’t find an official statement from Auguson Farms. However, the online prepper community panic-inducing chain reaction was pretty typical from what I’ve seen in YouTube’s prepper community, where the doom and gloom prognostications flourish and feed an online prepper rumor mill.
Just because so and so at one YouTube channel “reports” something, doesn’t mean it’s verified information or accurate, so I googled and didn’t come up with anything to verify the information. I did notice Auguson Farms has temporarily shut off taking orders on their website, citing a high-volume of orders. The letter some YouTube prepper channels were citing might be an actual letter from Auguson Farms, but I’m not sure who received these letters. And that’s the thing with so much of social media “news,” it lacks verification and huge gaps in details and often the source of the information is vague. Unfortunately, this lack of verification now applies to many actual news organizations news too , not just random social media influencers. It’s getting very hard to verify information.
I also saw a comment on social media where someone was wishing there was some list of items that are expected to become in short supply, so she could figure out what items to hoard. That got me thinking about my own prepping experiences again. My prepping mind-set keeps evolving. I admit to falling prey to a lot of fear when the pandemic, great toilet paper shortage of 2020, then the BLM pandemonium hit.
The 2020 shortages were due, not only to shipping/supply issues, but also to massive panic-buying. The 2020 shortages prodded me to become a pretty dedicated prepper in regards to stocking up on food and household items. I always had a lot of food stored, because that’s just how I am, but I had no focused prepping effort or organization.
Everyone’s home is different, from budget to diet to the household items they use, but how most people, myself included, react to any news about shortages seems pretty predictable – a whole lot of panic-buying and that goes for a lot of online preppers too. Many of the popular preppers on YouTube claim their being prepared allows them to avoid panic-buying, but most of them overreact to any rumor of a shortage, by rushing out to stock up more (i.e. panic-buying). Along with a lot of useful and practical information, the online prepper community spreads a lot of fear about impending doom and gloom scenarios, many spread a lot of rumors and many are hardcore panic-buyers, because no level of food and emergency supplies ever seems to be enough for them and they fixate on every morsel of bad news, from someone posting about some random shortage in their local grocery store to overexaggerated fears about the system falling apart and SHTF events
I’m a lifelong conservative, but here’s a home truth about the political right in America – many of them fall for a lot of demagogues selling doomsday claptrap (see the most popular right-wing pundits) and fear of the Left, 2nd Amendment hysteria, and since Trump came along, too many on the right overreact as much as the looney fringe on the Left. The right-wing politics does intrude into the online prepper community too. Many in the YouTube prepper community are part of the Trump-right politically, where a whole lot of doomsday/anti-government conspiracy theories flourish. I’m not trying to pick on Trump supporters, but it seems a lot of that right-wing partisan politics plays into much of the trendy online prepper topics. I skip prepper channels where the people go on and on about SHTF, civil war/guns & ammo stockpiling, and doomsday scenario stuff, because I don’t believe in living my life fixated on doomsday events and find it more constructive to try to live life with a hopeful heart.
I’m a worrying kind of person, so thinking about the “what ifs” comes naturally to me too, but after going through this pandemic and all the craziness everywhere, from politics to civil unrest, new reports of this current news warning of impending shortages didn’t get me worked up or worrying. I can’t change the international shipping problems, but I can continue to try to plan ahead a bit more for my own basic needs.
Preparedness is individual and some people can manage very well on very little, while other people can be surrounded with all sorts of stuff and be completely helpless. I’ve known people who can’t even open a can of soup and heat it, so truly in a real emergency or SHTF scenario, having acquired skill sets probably matters more than acquiring a massive stockpile of supplies. Along with all the focus on buying things to be prepared, saving up some money to have an emergency fund should be a higher priority than stockpiling piles of SHTF supplies. There’s got to be a balance between buying stuff with your prepping efforts and common sense putting money aside for emergencies, which in everyday life usually range from expensive car repairs to something in your home breaks and needs to be replaced rather than a doomsday event or major weather emergency.
Finding your own comfort level matters. I can guarantee you that some hardcore preppers will never have enough food or supplies stored up that would allow them to relax. Planning for SHTF events is their life. It’s almost a perpetual state of paranoia and it’s contagious if you start believing all of the dire stuff. Knowing how easily I worry made me stop and reassess a lot as I’ve worked out a preparedness level that fits my budget and my lifestyle. Here’s the other big thing – a lot of food and supplies stockpiled can lead to a whole lot of waste. Wasting less matters to me and is as much of a priority as stocking up.
One thing I would not do again is rely on emergency preparedness food lists other people create, where they tell you how much of the various food items you should stockpile, other than glancing over it and seeing if there are items on it that I do use and haven’t stocked up on yet. With master lists that are supposed to be a one-size fits all food storage plan, it sets a lot of unrealistic expectations, plus can lead to wasting a lot of money on food items you’re not likely to use in your everyday meal preparations. Here’s how I look at it, if you don’t have a supply of everyday foods to last you for several months, it makes no sense to spend a lot of money or worry about building an extended food storage pantry (stuff that lasts 20-30 years).
What’s working for me is I’ve turned “prepping” into a more relaxed “shopping ahead” attitude rather than based on reacting to alarming news stories or the alarmist prepper social media rumor mill. I feel more in control of my preparedness now, by calmly looking through my pantry and around my house, gauging how long my current supplies will last and building my shopping list from that, rather than reacting to more doom and gloom news or social media hysteria.
I’m done with fear-induced buying.
With the current bad news, I’ve already got most of the basic food items for holiday meals this year, because I’ve been “shopping ahead” the past year and will continue to stock up, but I’m not going to run from store to store in a panic. I have built up my food storage to a level I’m comfortable with and I will continue to shop ahead. Changing my mind-set from preparing for a SHTF/emergecny event to a more sustainable “shopping ahead” mind-set has allowed me to relax more, think more carefully about what items I am buying and most of all to think more in terms of buying with the meals I regularly cook or items for new recipes in mind rather than worrying about some “expert’s” prepper list. I have learned a lot from the online prepper community and enjoy many of the YouTube prepper channels, but I’ve become a bit more confident in thinking through my own preparedness planning and purchases, by gearing it towards my own life rather than based on what’s the latest hot topic in the online prepper community.
Impending shortages are very real news right now, but slowing down, catching your breath, organizing and inventorying your own pantry and household, then calmly making a shopping list based off of your own meal preferences and routine will allow you to maintain a more normal lifestyle than running around buying stuff based on fear constantly. And before you even start that shopping list, with inflation hitting seriously assessing your budget and finances should be step one.