Preparedness isn’t just a stockpile. It isn’t just “beans, bullets, and band-aids.” Preparedness is a lifestyle. Sometimes we live it better than others. But if we are always learning and applying, preparedness becomes part of the air that we breathe. So let me tell you a little about my family and I and our journey toward a lifestyle of preparedness.
Growing Our Stockpile
We accidentally started our journey toward self-sufficiency about twelve years ago. I got into couponing. There was a fairly new website out there called, Money Saving Mom, and I started reading it. I saw that people were buying canned vegetables for twenty cents a can and getting shampoo or razors for only change. This really intrigued me! So I started slow and started to grow a stockpile. At the time, I didn’t equate couponing with preparedness, but in reality, that’s where our journey started.
I got six month’s worth of toilet paper for $5. I purchased 20 boxes of cereal and paid $2 total. There were even a handful of times when I would get home with my purchases and my husband would look at me and laughingly ask how much I paid, and I responded with, “They paid me.” Now, in reality, they hadn’t paid me, but I earned more coupons at that specific store than I spent.
So what does all this have to do with preparedness? Uhuh, I’m getting there. I bet you can imagine with getting all those amazing deals that I started to garner quite a stash of shelf stable items, personal care items, paper products, and toiletries. And yep! You’d be right. Our stash grew so large (and we had no basement), so we even consolidated children so we could use a bedroom to house our ‘pantry.’ We didn’t even know that we were working toward preparedness at that point.
Growing from a Stockpile to Preparedness Mindset
Not long after we started couponing and amassing our stockpile, we started wondering what we would do if something happened. Yes, we could eat from our reserves IF we could cook them, but how were we going to cook our reserves and what about water? What about when our stockpile ran out? What if something happened to my husband’s job and we didn’t have a way to pay the bills. These questions started weighing on my heart and mind.
So we did what all good beginning preppers do. We purchased a Berkey Water System and a pressure canner and hid them away in a closet and never used them. (Until the last three years) Yep. We were brilliant in that way! Now, we aren’t Mormon, but we learned about LDS (Latter Day Saints) canneries. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that paying $12 (at that time) for a twenty-five-pound bag of wheat was an amazing deal, so we would place an order through our local cannery once or twice a year. Now as brilliant as we had been about the Berkey and pressure canner, we did learn how to repackage the food that we purchased into five-gallon buckets and Mylar bags. We even learned how to get buckets for FREE! Yea, score for me!
The Ferguson Tornado
We’d been couponing, starting to build our long-term food storage, and learning more of a preparedness mindset for six or so years when our house was struck by a tornado. I would recount it in all of its grizzly details, but it’s going to be posted as an article on another website in the next few weeks.
Since I don’t want to give too much away before the article is posted there, let me say this. A couple of things that I learned from the situation were:
1.) Having a stockpile of food and a way to cook it if you are ever displaced from your house is a MUST.
2.) Always have an emergency kit in your car that contains at least one change of undergarments per person in your family and the necessary toiletries for an overnight.
3.) Do not own only ‘virtual’ copies of movies. If the internet is out, you won’t be able to play any movies. Instead, make sure you have a way to way to play DVD’s if you are not at your house or if the internet is out. A laptop computer with an internal DVD player or a USB DVD player or a portable battery powered DVD player along with an adequate DVD collection of your family’s favorite movies is a must.
4.) A robust collection of games that your WHOLE family likes to play together should be a staple for every family. I would even suggest keeping one or two card games or easily transported games in your car for emergencies.
Ferguson. . . .there’s that name again. Are you noticing a pattern? While I enjoyed the majority of our thirteen years in Ferguson, we had our share of troubles there too. There will be a different article on our experience during the Ferguson Riots on the same website here shortly, so I don’t want to give too much away here…
That being said, I want to share a little bit about the whole situation with you. No matter where people live, no matter how people live, no matter what situation people live in, most people believe that life will continue on normally. There’s actually a word for that – can you believe it? It’s called “Normalcy Bias.”
According to Wikipedia (which I’ve been told never to quote), normalcy bias is: “A belief people hold when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the likelihood of a disaster and its possible effects because people believe that things will always function the way things normally have functioned.”
Ya know what, you most likely have that, even if you’re a prepper! By the time the Ferguson Riots hit, I was a prepper – maybe not a very good one – but a prepper nonetheless. Yea, I was prepping for some unnamed event out in the future that MIGHT happen to me, but when it did happen to me in many ways, it still doesn’t seem real.
Don’t be that person. Don’t be the person who lives in denial of a terrible event that they are going through. It can happen to you and it might happen to you. If you face it, it makes the living through it easier.
Ferguson made us a little more streetwise. Ferguson taught me a lot more about situational awareness…
But apparently not enough. We lived in central for about ten months. My children are very physically capable and love to be outside, but they have chosen chess as their sport of choice. Another family in our church had told us about a chess club that they attended. That seemed right up my our alley. So we attended our first day and donated the requested $5 for coach’s Christmas. The kids loved it. Our second day, we had our lesson, the kids were paired off, and play had begun. Just after that, a young man of about nineteen years old in appearance, ran into our room screaming and brandishing two knives. He was literally about three feet away from my thirteen-year-old boy and my nine-year-old boy!
And get this, my first thought was, “okay, this silly kid is playing a trick on us to scare us.”
Remember that ‘normalcy bias’ that I talked about with the riots? Yea….by this time I would have classified myself as a serious prepper. I really thought he was a kid playing a prank…..um, no. It later came out in the course of events that his intention was to kill everyone in the entire room!
Fortunately for us, our chess coach, retired veteran James Vernon, stepped between us and the young man. Once the young man’s attention was engaged by the coach, he motioned behind his back to get out. I had FIVE – can I say that again, I had FIVE children ages 3-13 in that room! Two of them were within three feet of this troubled teenager. We got out of the room quickly and the coach sustained an injury defending himself against the young man.
I was a PREPPER!! I had a phone and a pocket knife in my purse! What did I do before the coach motioned us out? NOTHING! Really, I did NOTHING. I was paralyzed. Normalcy bias played a HUGE part in this! I didn’t even think to slip my pocket knife into the coach’s hand before I left the room.
Once I was out of the room, my brain kicked into gear. With my five children around me and out of harm’s way, I hurried to the library’s service desk and told them to call 911. We ended up leaving quickly after that. This time it wasn’t just my children that were traumatized. The whole ordeal caught me so off-guard. My sense of security was again shattered like it had been during the Ferguson riots.
Are you tempted to say that you live in a safe community so you don’t have to worry about it? Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but before this according to Wikipedia (yea, I know I’m not supposed to cite it) in 2013 Morton was recognized by Family Circle magazine as one of America’s 10 best towns in America for families to live. Exactly the type of town that would cause someone to say, “Ya know, I really don’t feel safe here. Maybe I should carry pepper spray.” Really? I think not. So don’t count on living in a perceived “safe community” to keep you safe.
Afterwards, as I tried to mentally process the situation, I asked myself what could I have done differently? Well, I couldn’t have carried a gun to chess club. The club was located in a public library and having a gun in there would land ME in jail even if I was trying to protect children. Having a knife in there didn’t do any good for me or for the coach. I decided on pepper spray. In the state of Illinois, it is legal to carry and use pepper spray in defensive situations. The whole situation could have been legally and safely diffused using pepper spray.
Living through this situation taught me about the importance of being mentally prepared. Walk yourself through difficult situations mentally. There’s even a game called Worst Case Scenario. Now some of the scenarios in the game are rather unlikely, so is being caught in civil unrest (at least it’s not that likely at this moment) or being confronted by a knife-wielding teenager. It is a wonderful way to work through mental preparedness as a family.
Unlike with the riots, my youngest son was oblivious to what was going on around him, but my other four children really felt what happened. I have a daughter who feels the need to control everything around her, her circumstances, her siblings, and from time to time her parents (not that she does by any stretch)- I think it’s because subconsciously she doesn’t ever want to be put in a situation like this again that she can’t control. The kids don’t talk about it much anymore, but if someone brings it up, they will jump in with their rendition of what happened.
So what’s going on with us now? Well, we are in the process of buying a new house. We looked at acreage outside the city but decided against it. We’re putting down roots in a small suburb. The house has a basement for food storage and preparedness items. It has a Vermont Bun Baker and a second fireplace. There is adequate ground space to grow at least some of our own food. It already has some fencing that we can grow berry bushes up against. There’s room for a couple of nut and fruit trees.
A main part of preparedness is financial preparedness. We’ve decided to go with a more affordable house with the goal of paying it off in five years. Once we’ve done that, we’ll look to purchase a small parcel of land 1-2 acres where we can expand our garden and trees. But one of the lessons I’ve learned over the years is that if I bit off more than I can chew everyone suffers – especially me. Taking my prepping to the next level is a step by step process. This is the step that we are on now.
The best lesson I’ve learned is that knowledge isn’t just knowing something, it’s living it! I strive to live it out and practice it in one facet or another every day.
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