To Flare or not to Flare

In a crisis situation, flares are great items to have if you need to get some attention.  Yes, we've talked about needing a whistle to get attention, but I believe that a flare can be a great thing to have with you as well. 

That being said, there are some problems with the flares that shoot into the air:

  • They are a one use item
  • They can burn you.
  • They can be expensive. 
  • Most flares, unless they use a parachute, will be visible for less than thirty seconds…and can be mistaken for other things, like a firecracker. 

What are some alternatives to using a flare? 

  • Fire
  • Whistle or loud horn
  • Light stick
  • Powerful flashlight
  • Light wand

I personally like the light wand option because it is a low cost, simple option that can be seen from great distances and from many directions at once.  This wand can easily be made from a few items you already have that are just lying around the house.  This definitely beats the expense of flares! Also, it can stay on for hours at a time.

How to make the Light Wand:Light Wand Supplies

Materials needed:  A flashlight (a push button on the base works the best), clear tape, 4 Styrofoam cups (white is brightest), ballpoint pen or sharpie, and a knife.


  1. In the bottom of one of the cups, cut a hole the same circumference as the flashlight.Light Wand -- Cutting the hole
  2. Insert the flashlight so that the handle of the flashlight comes out the bottom of the cup, and the light is inside the cup.Light Wand -- flashlight in the cup
  3. Cut the bottom off of two of the cups making sure that they are as level as possible.Light Wand -- cut the bottom off of 2 cups
  4. Match up the bases of the two cups from step #3 ,and tape them together.Light Wand -- cups together
  5. Now tape the mouth of the unmodified cup to the mouth of either one of the cups in step #4.Light Wand -- Attach whole cup
  6. Take the cup that has the flashlight in it and tape it to the mouth of the other cup.Light Wand -- assembled

Your wand is completed!  All you have to do now is wait until dark to test it out.  Light Wand in the darkThe beauty of this wand is that it's easy, inexpensive, you can see it from a great distance at night, and it looks different than most lights at night.  An adaption of this is that you can tape this light to a broom handle so that you can wave the light in a large arc so that you are more likely to gain someone’s attention.  Another adaptation is that you could use semitransparent red tape so that you would have a red and white light which would really make your wand stand out even more.  If you would like to store one already put together, I would do all of the cutting ahead of time and just store the parts together.  If you put one together and take it apart repeatedly, it is likely to damage the cups, and the tape will no longer stick to the cups.

This is one of many solutions.  I would love to hear how some of you have prepared for drawing the attention of others so that they can come help you in your time of need.  Please share in the comments!


Posted in 72 Hour Kits, Crisis Preparedness, Frugal, Life, Regardless, Storage | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Headache or Headlamp?

Why we should have bought a good quality headlamp that uses common batteries:

A few months ago, my family and I did an off-grid, nine week, crisis response training replicating living in a disaster zone while ministering to others.  While doing this training, we realized the importance of good lighting — especially when the light switches do not work.  We had to do homework…after dark.  Who wants to read with a flashlight in their hands or with indirect light from a lamp night after night?  It's a pain and really puts a strain on your eyes.

That being said what did we use?  What do we use now?

For the training, to start with, we used a Harbor Freight headlamp that was only $3 … plus the necessary batteries and batteries and more batteries.  After about halfway through, Carrie and I agreed that we should upgrade our headlamps.  The cheap headlamps would go through a couple of AA batteries with every four hours of use.  The headlamps did have a couple of positives, though – it was easy to change the batteries and each came with an extra bulb.

While we were at the training, we started comparing equipment with the other people there.  After talking to most everyone, we determined that the ideal headlamp would have the following features: 

  • The light (lumens) would be able to be adjusted in intensity.
  • It would use common batteries.
  • It would run for at least ten hours on one set of batteries.
  • It would use multiple bulbs so if one burned out it would still provide some light.
  • It would be lightweight.
  • It would not cost an arm and a leg.

We ended up settling on a Coleman headlamp.  How does it measure up to our criteria?

  • It has three light intensities for the white light, as well as a blue light and a red light.  (It puts out more than three times the lumens of the Harbor Freight model.)
  • It runs on three AAA batteries.   
  • On the lowest setting, it has a run time of thirty hours and six hours on high. 
  • It weighs in at just under four onces. 
  • At our Wal-Mart it goes for the nice round number of twenty-four dollars and eighty-eight cents. 

Yes, I did find headlamps that were "better" but they also knew it (i.e. way more $$$).  Being a family of five, they were not really an option for our budget, so we went with this Wal-mart special.  With our limited use, it has worked great so far! 

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A Night of Blow-outs Where There Were No Tires

I am so very thankful for my health, and the health of my family.  When we hit a brief patch of illness, I am ever more thankful.  We hit one of those yesterday and last night.  Ugh.

Little Bit, at just under a year, had a day of the runs…if you can call them "the runs" when she's not running anywhere…but I can see how you could take that another way.  Sorry about that visual image.  Yikes.

Anyway, she and her daddy were having issues with that yesterday and into last night.  Thankfully, that's all she had to deal with.  Mr. Big added another level of complexity to the mix from about 10:00-2:00. 

I thought we were finished with dealing with those issues.

I thought I could finally go to bed.

Obviously, I thought wrong…

because at 2:00 on the dot, I heard the cry from the other room. 

I knew exactly what that cry meant, and because Mr. Big was incapacitated, thanks to this lovely stomach bug, I knew that I was going to have to deal with it all by myself.  Not a pleasant thought in the least. 

*Side note here — my heart & respect goes out to single parents!  I would be a crazy mess if I had to do it all by myself all the time.  God bless y'all!*

For two solid hours, Little Miss had "blow outs."  That's what she calls them, at least.  Vomiting would be the phrase the rest of us would understand.  Truthfully, though, her phrase makes a lot of sense.  She's like that, just calls it like it is.

Anyway, to deal with the "blow outs" and "the runs," I have had my girls on Pedialyte to keep them hydrated and keep their electrolytes balanced.  Now, don't get me wrong — I do not normally buy that stuff, but we were going to be traveling, and I had a coupon…so there…Not that I have to justify myself to anyone, but it's a bit late for that realization, isn't it?  wink

When Little Mr. was born, we had a no-nonsense pediatrician that laughed at the idea of buying Pedialyte, and gave us a recipe for some to make at home.  Yes!  It's only cents to make, and my kids prefer the homemade.  I thought I would share that with you today.  It could not be easier!


2 cups water

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp powdered Jello (any flavor)

Stir it all together, and drink it down.

If you prefer not to use Jello, there are recipes out there with fruit juice in them.  Here's one:

2 cups clear fruit juice

2 cups water

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

Sugar as needed, to taste (I probably won't use any sugar with this.  100% fruit juice is sweet enough on its own.)

These recipes come in handy.  Here's an article that I found at My Empty Nest that has the World Health Organization's suggested "oral rehydration solution" recipe.  It really goes into the ins and outs of this whole subject and is an informative read. 

Do you have a recipe you use?  Please share it below!  smiley



Posted in Crisis Preparedness, Frugal, Health, Health, Life, Regardless, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Death Sucks

How does the saying go?  Ah, yes, two things you can always be certain of — death and taxes.

We, in the United States, all face the latter on a daily basis.  We, in our household, faced the former last week.  My Mima went "home."  It wasn't a long, drawn out process…in fact, from the time she went into the hospital til the day she died was only one weeks.  One week.  Up until this point, each of my close family loved ones that have died have gone quickly…unexpectedly.  I've never before been in the position of sitting in a room with someone just waiting for them to die...until now that is.

Unfortunately, in our society, we do not deal well with death.  There is no real grieving tradition.  Once you have buried your loved one, you're expected to get on with life as usual.  Huh.  In addition to getting on with life as usual, you must accomplish a mountain of paperwork…sharing with the world again and again that your loved one has died.

Death sucks.

Don't get me wrong.  My Mother, Grandma, Mima…they all had a relationship with Jesus, so I do not mourn "as those who have no hope."  I will see them again, but being left behind is really a hard thing. 

It's awkward and uncomfortable, and no one knows what to say.  And really, they shouldn't say anything because there's a good chance that it will be the wrong thing.  If you do want to do something…

Give me a hug. 

Tell me you're so sorry for my loss. 

If you really are going to do it, tell me that you're praying for me and my family. 

Bring paper goods with the food you bring and have the food in dishes that I don't have to return.

Death is pretty inevitable, that is no lie.  And for those that know Jesus, once they die, their circumstances get a whole heck of a lot better.  But being the one who's left behind…ugh.

Death is horrible for those without Jesus and rough on those who are left behind. 

There's no doubt about it — death sucks.  

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Can you shut it off?

The great advantages  of a modern home (water, electricity, & natural gas) can become great disadvantages if they're not properly managed after a disastrous event occurs. 

The word of the day is prevention, prevention, prevention!

If you suspect damage after an event, and you don't disconnect from the grid while utilities are down, you could set yourself up for an electrical fire, flood, or gas leak once utilities resume.  You need to disconnect yourself from the grid, so that you can make sure that your home is in good working order.  Once utilites are returned and your home has been determined to be in good working order, you can safely reconnect.

Several things that need to be shut off at the main source are the water, the electricity, and the gas. 

If you don't know how to shut off these utilities, you need to find that out now, not be scrambling after there's been an event.  Usually, the gas and the water shut-off valves are located just outside of the house or at the edge of the property.  (I know, that doesn't sound incredibly helpful, but it's a place to start.  You should be able to contact the gas and water companies for the exact location if you can't find it yourself.)  The electricity shut-off, for most homes, is on an exterior wall with a main switch. 

Once you have located each of these switches, you will also need to make sure that you have the correct tools to turn them off.  All the places I have lived, except for one, I have needed only a pair of long handle channel lock pliers.  (The one place that this was not true was in an apartment complex where the water and electricity shut-off switches were kept in a locked room that only the management and fire department had access to.  My understanding is that, now, they have to at least make the electric accessible to everyone so that it can be shut off in case of a fire.)

Do make sure that it is legal for you to turn off these utilities where you live.  It's crazy that there are places that it is illegal to turn off your own utilities, but it is the case — unfortunately, friends in Canada have to deal with this.  That being said, for me, if I lived in an area where it was illegal to do, and I was faced with a $500 fine if I turned them off,  I would still do it.  I could choose to lose the $500 to a fine or lose my house or some of the items in it as well as lose my $500 deductible to the insurance company. You decide this one for yourselves, but please make it an informed decision. 

After you learn how to shut off your utilities at the main, please tell and show any other adults and teens (that are old enough to be trusted) living in the house where the shut-offs are, how to do it, and where the tools are to accomplish this.  Please, also, check on your neighbors and ask if they need any help shutting of their utilities.  This kind act can open doors for you to reach out and help them in other ways, even when there is not a crisis going on. 


Posted in Crisis Preparedness, Home safety, Life, Regardless, Ministry | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who’s Home? Scrapbooking for Safety

What happens when you come home from work in the evening, go in the door, and things just don't look right?  Worse, what if you come home, and your front door is standing wide open, but you know for certain sure you closed it when you left?

How do you discreetly know if a family member is home or if there has been (or is!) an intruder?

A friend of mine tells of the time that he came home and things didn't look right.  So, he did what a responsible adult does, he pulled out his firearm and very quietly did a sweep check of the house.  All was well until he threw open a bathroom door to discover his adult daughter taking care of business — good thing she was on the toilet because it scared the crap out of her…and mortified him!  (She had walked to her parents' house after her car broke down.)

After this incident, my friend determined that they needed some type of sign-in sheet…that wasn't obvious as a sign-in sheet.  His wife and daughter were avid scrapbookers, so they developed a solution.  To the casual observer, it just looked like a family board, but in reality, it was the means by which family members could tell, at a glance, who was home.  What his wife did was put together a pushpin scrapbook board that had all the family members represented.  When someone came home, they were to move their pushpin to their picture, and then move it to another location when they left.  This way, when a member of the family came home, they would know (without having to announce themselves) who was home and who was not.

In order to "encourage" participation, you could have a drawing jar with house or yard chores in it — if someone gets caught NOT moving their pushpin, they have to draw from the jar and complete the task.  I know that I would be sure to move my pin if it kept me from having to do the dishes alone for five days!

So, Guys, go ahead and encourage your ladies to scrapbook — it can be helpful!

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Life without a Whistle?

A whistle is not such an important item in everyday life, or is it?

Today, I was thinking about a story I heard years ago about a lady in the Tampa, Florida area who was sideswiped and drove her car off a bridge.  She was stuck in her car for almost a week.  After she was rescued, she said that she had heard numerous people walking by her car, but she could not get anyone's attention due to the road noise.  If she had only had a whistle she would have been able to draw their attention and get the help that was desperately needed.  I have heard many stories over the years where people have been rescued because they had a way to draw attention of other individuals.

Whistles are commonly used by hikers for search parties to locate them.   The code that they use is:

  • ONE whistle blast = STOP!  Wherever you are and wait.
  • TWO whistle blasts = STOP!  And move towards whoever blew the whistle.
  • THREE whistle blasts = STOP!  And move QUICKLY towards whoever blew the whistle they may be injured.

May you never need to use this knowledge, but I pray that it will come to you quickly and that you will have a whistle handy should you ever need it.

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Planting Potatoes for the FIRST Time, Oh My…

What better time to plant potatoes than St. Patrick's Day? 

I know, I know…potatoes originated somewhere else, but they certainly have a heydey in Ireland!

So…this year, we planted potatoes…for the first time. 

I was a little timid…

so I procrastinated getting the garden spot ready…

and procrastinated finding out exactly what we needed to do…

until it was almost too late.  Ugh.

It was supposed to rain yesterday…and today…and tomorrow…and the next day…and the next day…. 

In our part of the country, St. Paddy's Day is considered the "perfect" time to plant potatoes.  Since I really wasn't interested in planting them in the rain, I knew we had to get things going on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

I'm so very green.  Really.

It was more than just tilling up a little plot of land. 

Silly me.  It always is, isn't it?  blush

Here are the steps that it took to be able to finally plant the potatoes today.  Yep, you heard right.  Today.  So much for Tuesday or Wednesday…or even Thursday, for that matter! 

  • Till around the garden.
  • Cover tilled area around the designated potato area with 4-8 sheets of open newsprint.
  • Cover said newsprint with old leaves that have been piled in the middle of the garden space since this winter getting myself c.o.v.e.r.e.d in leaf mulch.  Good times.
  • Move the rest of the leaves out of the designated 10'X20' potato area to the rest of the garden space.  Too bad I couldn't find the shovel, so a pitchfork had to do.
  • Till the designated area without jacking up the newspaper boarder too much.  Hubby did a great job at that!
  • Cover with year old manure.
  • Till designated area and jack up newspaper boarder a bit more.
  • Take seed potatoes that were cut and dipped in wood ash Tuesday (because I naively thought that I would be planting potatoes on Tuesday, and I read that if you were planting the same day you were cutting that they needed to be dipped in wood ash or lye to prevent rotting.  Again, HA!) and lay out the seed potatoes one foot apart in rows that are two feet apart.
  • Cover the whole area with 10-12 inches of straw.
  • Soak it all down.
  • Wipe my brow, because we're done for the day…except for the lettuce and spinach that would be planted a few minutes later.  smiley

This would have been a great post to have step-by-step pictures.  How I wish I had a photographer to follow me around sometimes!  It's hard to do it and take pics at the same time.  I'm seriously going to have to do better.  At least I have a picture of the almost-finished-product!  wink

In a few days we'll add a few more inches of straw and soak it down again.  It's a good thing we love potatoes, because we could easily end up with well over 100 pounds of potatoes. 

Now to figure out where to store them….

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You Can Make a Difference — Get Trained!

Each of us has been affected by trauma in some way, shape, or form.  Perhaps you've

  • lost a loved one
  • been in an accident
  • lived through a hurricane or tornado
  • experienced combat
  • been the victim of some act of violence. 

Disaster has many faces.  Having someone to help us walk through the emotions and the experience makes a difference.  Having someone listen to our story, really listen, and care makes a difference.

There's an opportunity for lay people — you and me — to be trained to help do just that.  Thankfully, I don't have to be a "shrink" to help people walk through and process the emotions associated with what happened to them!  Being trained keeps me from saying stupid things…all well meant, but stupid things can make a lifetime of difference.  After my mom died, so many people didn't know what to say…and ended up saying stupid things that just pissed me off as opposed to helping me out.  Ugh. 

Just last week, my dad and I attended a CISM+ training done by Melissa Slagle of Living Solutions in Oklahoma.  CISM+ stands for "Critical Incident Stress Management."  That's a mouthful, to be sure, but basically it trains people to help others manage the stress associated with a major (usually negative) event in their lives, and gives you good, helpful things to say as opposed to well meant, but not so helpful stuff aka stupid.  The plus indicates that there are some other approaches presented as well.  The beautiful thing about getting this training with Melissa is that she presents it from a Christian perspective! 

CISM is nationally recognized.  It was developed after the Oklahoma City bombing because it was found that the responders were having some serious issues that led to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)…some issues which are on-going even today for some of those people.  CISM was used with responders and survivors after the 9/11 attacks.  It was used with victims of Katrina.  If you deploy to a crisis (with an organization!  Don't ever self-deploy!  Trust me on this.) and you are CISM trained, you will be used.  Having a CISM trained individual debrief responders and victims alike cuts down tremendously on the incidents of PTSD.

Realize, though, that this is not just something that can be used with a deployment to help after a disaster.  You can use this in your own community.  Get trained, then let your fire chief and your police chief know that you've been trained and you're willing to help debrief responders and victims after difficult calls.  Having your CISM certification will be a big help to getting you on the other side of that yellow tape when something happens, be it a fire, a shooting, or whatever.  Perhaps a team in your church could get trained so that if there is a disaster in your area, you're ready to help with those who have been affected. 

We prepare now so that we are able to step up and help when something happens. 

We prepare now so that we are able to be in the position to share the love of Jesus with those who are hurting and in need.

We prepare now so that we are ready when we're called on for action.

Are you ready to get ready?

Below is a schedule of Melissa's trainings as well as her contact information.  She is a dear, educated, connected lady who deployed to

  • Oklahoma City after the bombing
  • New York City after the 9/11 attacks
  • New Orleans after Katrina
  • countless other places.

She has the experience to back up what she teaches, and has a heart to get others prepared to respond as she has been able to do. 

Step up. 

Take a look.  

Take the time.

  • June 15-24, 2012 — Austin, TX; ADRN Annual Disaster Response Conference
  • June 26-30, 2012 — Kansas City, MO; Heartland YWAM, Chaplain Academy 1-2-3
  • July 11-14, 2012 — Tulsa, OK; Newspring Church, Chaplain Academy 1-2
  • July 16-22, 2012 — Lancaster, PA; CISM+ & Chaplain Academy

Melissa Slagle,, 918.494.0550



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Firearms — to Touch or not to Touch?

For those of you that do not know anything beyond what the movies have taught you about firearms I implore you to learn more.

Whether or not you agree with owning or even using a firearm, everyone needs to know how safely handle one.  I say this because, regardless of your own thoughts on firearms, Americans are in love with them, and they possess them.  A quick Google search showed me that, statistically, one in every four homes in America has a firearm.  On a street with ten houses, on average two or three of these homes will possess at least one firearm.  It is speculated that the average firearm owner owns at least four guns. 

For this reason, even if you do not have one in your house, you should learn how to handle and disarm one safely.

Let's say a tornado hits your neighborhood, and another home's contents are strewn on your lawn.  Included in that mess are several firearms — both handguns and rifles.  You know that your neighbor is out of town and the authorities are busy helping people on the other side of town.  Do you know how to safely collect these firearms so that they will not be accidentally discharged? 

You could say, "Well, I’ll just wait for someone else to come and pick them up." 

Then the questions you need to ask yourself are, "Do you know that this person will know how to safely handle the firearms?  Are they helping your neighbor or stealing from him?" 

These may seem to be extreme examples, but one that is more likely is that a child could “play” with one and hurt him or herself or someone else. 

I encourage and implore everyone to know how to safely handle firearms so that you are better equipped to keep you and your family safe. 

The question becomes, though, "How can you learn how to do this safely?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Contact a local gun store.  Many of them know of or have someone that will teach you the basics of firearms safety. 
  • Ask a friend or coworker that you know is knowledgeable about firearms and that you trust to show you. 
  • The last, and in my opinion, the best way for a person without any knowledge to gain this skill is to take a NRA Basic Pistol Shooting Course.  This course gives you the basics that can be transferred to almost all types of firearms, and it is conducted in a very safe environment.  You can locate a class in your area by looking on the NRA website in the course search section.

Please pray about this and see if you are supposed to gain this knowledge.

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