Not Your Grandma’s Time

            Survival Sally popped in again.  “Forgive me for interrupting, Sam Dear, but I just remembered something.  Thanksgiving is coming soon.  Can we invite Duane and Diane and the kids over?”


            “Sure, I don’t see why not,” Sam said.


            “Boy, thanksgiving Day brings back a lot of memories,” I said.  “Both my aunt and my grandma used to put on the most fabulous spreads.  We’d visit one house on Thanksgiving day itself and the other house on the Sunday before or after thanksgiving.  My aunt fixed oyster dressing along with regular dressing to go with the turkey.  My cousin usually shot a duck or two.  I remember biting into a shot pellet a time or two.  I guess you could say we had our choice of birds for meat—leaded and unleaded.””


            Sam chuckled.  “You know, Thanksgiving made our forefathers thankful for an abundant harvest.  We don’t think much about our food supply these days.  We just take it for granted our food will always be there when we go to the grocery store or restaurant.”


            “Yeah,” I said, “but that may not always be the case, right?  That’s why we should be prepared.”


            “That’s right.  You never know when we could have an unexpected shortage.  As a matter of fact, I’ll give you a couple current examples from the news recently.  Food pantries are having a tough time keeping up with the demand this year.  Shelves are pretty bare in some places.  That may not affect everybody, but it’s worth noting.  Then, I guess you could say this is on the lighter side, but the price of beer may be going up because there’s a shortage of hops.  It seems a lot of farmers are planting corn for ethanol production instead.  The barley crop in Europe has apparently failed this year, too.


            Sally walked by the doorway at that moment carrying food outdoors to the patio and paused.  “Did you say the price of beer is going up?”


            “Yes, I did.”


            “My stars, don’t tell Diane’s brother Bill.  He’ll have a panic attack for sure.  He practically drinks enough of the stuff to float a battleship.”


            Sam and I laughed softly as Sally went on her way.


            “Silly or serious,” Sam said, “the fact is, shortages happen.  You can encourage your blog readers to be prepared for survival should there be unexpected shortages of the things we take for granted.  I’m talking about the essentials of everyday life.”


            “Of course,” I said.


            Sam went on.  “As if the prospect of some sort of calamity isn’t enough, we live in a society that has lost its sense of community and cohesiveness.  We don’t have the character and moral fiber to make it successfully through another Great Depression.  Here’s a challenge for you.  Will your neighbors be there to help you out in times of trouble?  Are you there for them?  Count yourself blessed if the answer is yes.  However, the one thing the old timers had that we don’t is the sense of self interest.  They looked out for themselves and weren’t merely conformists.  Why did they help their neighbors put up barns, bring in the hay, etc.?  Because they knew there were mutual benefits, so it made sense to work together when necessary.  Those who have gone through shared adversity, such as what the early sodbusters faced, knew quite well how difficult their neighbors had things as well.”


            I paused before popping another malted milk ball in my mouth.  “Things are sure a lot different these days, aren’t they?”


            “To put it in material terms, most people don’t have a root cellar with stores set by, as Grandma or Great Grandma had.  Most of us are lost if our next meal doesn’t come from the microwave or some grab-and-go fast food place.  We no longer control our food supply.  If there were food shortages for some reason, do you think we would be told the truth?”


            “I honestly don’t know.”


            “I’m reminded of the movie ‘Deadly Harvest’ from the 1970’s.  It presumes crops fail due to cold weather.  Back then there were some who thought we’d go through an ice age, not global warming.  In one of the opening scenes, government officials are in a meeting debating whether to tell the people how bad things really were.  They decided by a vote amongst themselves that they would hold back the truth and put out phony numbers while cutting food rations further.  I doubt if that would be any different if such a thing happened today.”


            “Sounds bleak.”


            “Being prepared like the old timers were is simply common sense.  You might ask your readers some questions like, Would you have a supply of dehydrated food or MRE’s to get by a while?  Have you thought of growing your own food, or at least a little of it?  What will you do about having drinkable water?  These are just to get people thinking.”


            “All of this sure has me thinking, too.”



Gloom and Doom?

Survival Sam came into the room with a 2 liter bottle of ginger ale to refill our glasses. Survival Sally followed him in with two smaller bottles in her hands, looking radiant as ever. That turquoise blouse made her look good, as if she needed any help with that.

“Is Sam giving you a hard time, John? You look a little pale around the gills,” Sally cooed.

Man, I wish she wouldn’t talk to me in that voice. It makes it hard to concentrate.

“Oh, Sam’s just laying some heavy stuff on me about the shape the world is in,” I said.

“Oh, he’s good at that,” she said. “Which kind of salad dressing do you want on your salad?” She held up the bottles. “Thousand Island or honey mustard? Sam likes the honey mustard.”

“I’ll have honey mustard, too, thanks.”

“All right, then. You guys get back to it.” She waltzed out humming again.

“Something smells really great in there, dear,” Sam called after her.

“I hope you like it,” she called back. “I’m not making it for the cat.” She went back to her happy humming.

Sam turned to me. “You know, you’re going to have all kinds of people reading your blog. They’ll have different points of view. You just have to put yours out there for consumption and hope and pray for the best. That’s what it’s all about.”

“I’m afraid some people are going to look at this thing and have a lot of questions. You know, like, isn’t all this just “gloom and doom,” paranoya, and even religious fanaticism?”

I took a sip of ginger ale before going on.”

“A friend was chiding me just the other day about all this. What about all those disasters that haven’t happened. For example, he said Hale-Bopp was just another comet, in spite of all the hype it got years ago. Y2K was a bust. An asteroid isn’t predicted to cross Earth’s path for at least 20 years.”

“Sounds like you need new friends. Aside from that, here’s the crux of the matter,” Sam jostled the ice in his glass.

“Survival means having a prepared mindset, attitude, or philosophy of life. What you believe and how you act accordingly is as important, if not more so, than whether you have the right flashlight when the electricity goes off. Of course, you’re going to direct your readers where to buy the right flashlight and a whole lot more. They’ll do just that—buy things they nneed–if they’re in the preparedness and survival frame of mind.”

“I hope you’re right,” I said.

“Here’s another thought for you about the right frame of mind. Years ago I read Robert Ringer’s book, How You Can find Happiness During the Collapse of Western Civilization. Sounds like a funny title, maybe, but he said something profound about success. He said that to be successful, one must do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. I would apply the same principle to survival. Conformists need not apply.”

“I like that,” I said. I took a sip of ginger ale.

“Perhaps one more word to the wise from the Bible is appropriate to share with your readers.”

Sam picked up the Bible from the coffee table and started leafing through it. It wasn’t there just for decoration in Survival Sam’s house.

“‘A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.’ That’s from Proverbs 22:3.”

“Good verse. I’m writing it down.”

A Bigger Picture

“A 70% chance of rain!” exclaimed Survival Sally. “We won’t be able to eat outside on the patio, will we?”

“I think we can still do it,” Survival Sam said. “It’s mild for this time of year, and who knows whether we’ll have another opportunity like this. We’ll help you carry everything in if it starts to rain, but my guess is that it will hold off for a few more hours.”

“OK, if you say so,” Sally said. “I’ll carry on as planned. You guys keep brainstorming.” She headed back to the kitchen, and I heard her humming amidst the clatter of utensils.

“All of this brings up another little illustration,” Sam said. “Life can throw all kinds of uncertainties at us, but we keep going anyway. Meanwhile, we’re mindful of possible perils.”

“That’s the philosophy I hope to convey to my blog readers, Sam,” I said. “What are some other perils we might face besides natural disasters?”

“The news these days make some of them pretty obvious. The dollar is fluctuating in value around the world, and the price of oil and petroleum products is on a roller coaster. It will likely cost more to drive our cars and heat our homes this winter. The squeeze is put on everybody. One simple example is the average cost increase of this year’s Thanksgiving meal. It’s up again this year. It hasn’t taken that big of a jump in many years, and it’s largely due to higher transportation and energy costs.”

“Kind of hits home, doesn’t it?” I said. “What else do we all need to give some thought to?”

“There are so many, it’s hard to know where to start. I certainly can’t do justice to them. Speaking of Thanksgiving meals, do we know how safe our food is? Much more of it is imported these days. Remember hearing sometime ago that some Chinese seafood was not allowed in? At least somebody was paying attention to quality control at this end of things. But much of what we eat contains genetically modified elements, and that’s not listed on the label. We can’t be sure what we’re exposed to. If it’s safe, why not label food products fully, and let the consumer decide.”

“Yeah, I’d like to know what I’m buying.”

“There are other health issues, too, such as problems with vaccines. There’s quite an ongoing controversy as to whether vaccines containing mercury are a cause of autism. If a family is faced with autism or some other illness in their children, they’ve got a long battle ahead of them these days. In general, more people are seeking out alternative medicine, but there’s quite a bit of polarization among people regarding alternative vs. conventional medicine. Families are faced with tough choices these days when dealing with everything from a child’s illness to a case of cancer.”

“That’s true.”

“Then, these days there are perils in the everyday work world. A guy might lose his job to someone in China or India, if he hasn’t already. If you read Thomas Friedman’s book, The World is Flat, you’ll see there are plenty of people in high places who are hoping that’s exactly what happens. Friedman and his ilk think we’re making progress by outsourcing so much abroad. If it’s good for the global economy, it must be good for you and me, right? So what if a guy loses his job or even his house? All he has to do is just make a few lifestyle and attitude changes and get another one. Easy as falling off a soapy log wearing banana peel shoes, right? Truth is, the elite in power aren’t looking out for you and me, and they’re not making it easy for us to take care of ourselves.”

“Good point,” I say as I’m jotting this down. “I know we have a problem of illegal immigrants, too. We had a president who said they’ll do the jobs Americans won’t do. I’ll bet there are plenty of Americans who would disagree as to which jobs they’d do or don’t do.”

“That’s right,” ‘said Sam. “It’s not just about lost jobs though. To further aggravate things, with the rising tide of illegal immigrants comes a multitude of problems which are rapidly turning America into a Third World country. Crime is on the rise, and the police and justice system look the other way. Many illegals are even getting Social Security. They’re overwhelming other social services. There are far more of them coming in than the government reports, and it’s a real challenge to many urban areas throughout the country.”

“I know this is a hot issue these days,” I said. “People know about it, and everybody’s got an opinion.”

“It doesn’t end with the immigration issue either. There’s a much underreported situation we’re also facing. One of these days we could be merged with Mexico and Canada in a North American Union. That package includes a development most people would find surprising and disconcerting, to say the least. As unthinkable as it may sound right now, the dollar may likely be replaced with another currency altogether. Can you imagine how that will shake things up?”

“Wow! That will turn some heads for sure.”

“Furthermore,” Sam continued, “we’re bombarded with the notion that we’re living in a post-9-11 world and that we’re faced with grave threats from terrorists who want to kill us all. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times. People say it’s better that our boys fight them over there than fight them here in our streets…And on and on it goes. Do you really believe all that? Do you have any idea how deep and far reaching the corruption is? What if I told you that 9-11 was an inside job and that power hungry criminals run the country?”

I swirled the ice in my ginger ale and thought for a moment. “Won’t I scare off people if I put such talk in my blog? I mean, the whole 9-11 thing reminds me of the JFK assassination and the controversy that still goes on about it today. Will we ever know the truth?”

“You’ve made a good comparison. Let me say this,” Sam went on. His expression hardened. “I won’t charge you for this one. It’s a freebie. From what you’ve told me about your blog, the focus isn’t on 9-11. Nonetheless, 9-11 and its aftermath account for a significant part of the mess we’re in these days. If I were doing your blog, I’d tell anybody who read it who gets upset by challenges to the official story about 9-11 or why we’re at war in the Middle East and Afghanistan, that they just might be more comfortable reading a blog profiling the latest colors of nail polish for 13-year-old girls. But this is yur blog, not mine.”

“Those are strong words.”

“The simplest, most basic way I can summarize it all is to put it this way:. Things are not what they seem. This is not the America we were told it was when we were growing up. Furthermore, what if it never was?”

“Man, you’re just a bundle of laughs this evening, aren’t you, Sam?”

“Here’s the bottom line for me. I’m operating under the presupposition that we live in a world that is not only unfriendly, but has forces that are actually arrayed against us. The Apostle Paul put it this way: ‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ That’s in Ephesians 6:12 in the King James Bible. How well are you prepared to face such a world? Can you help your readers to face such a world?”

“I don’t know, Sam. That’s a tall order.”

He reached over and slapped me on the knee. “Put your mind at ease for a minute and have a few more malted milk balls. I’ll see how Sally’s doing with our steaks.”

Watch the Weather

            Survival Sally poked her head into the room, her blonde curls bouncing off her shoulder.


            “Sam, it looks like it’s clouding up awfully fast in the West. Are they calling for any storms tonight?”


            “Not that I know of.”


            “Well, it looks pretty dark all of a sudden.”  She pulled back, then popped back in.  “Oh, don’t forget to offer John those malted milk balls on the counter over there.  I know how much he likes them.”


            “Sure thing, Honey Love.” Sam replied as Sally disappeared to tend to the steaks on the grill.  “She’s a real peach.”


            I didn’t say anything, but while Sam brought over the malted milk balls, I was thinking how he really lucked out when he latched on to Sally.  She’s definitely a blonde bombshell, but she’s brainy.  No dumb blonde here.  She reminds me a little of—


            “you know,” Sam said, handing me the malt balls.  “Sally brings up something that’s relevant for your blog.”


            “Oh, what’s that.”  Do you know how hard it is to talk and pop a malt ball at the same time?


            “The weather.  Natural disasters and such.  People need to be prepared.  You’ve heard all the talk about global warming.”


            “Yeah, but that’s just a lot of hot air, isn’t it? Pun intended.”  I said with my tongue glorying in malted chocolate.


            “Climate change is real, regardless of the cause or what the raging debaters say about it, and those changes have definite consequences.  I’ll give you some examples,” Sam said as he reached for a malted milk ball for himself.


            He continued after a couple seconds.  “A tornado could wipe a neighborhood or town off the map, just like what happened to Greensburg, Kansas, this past spring.  Or an ice or snow storm could immobilize a large area, like those that struck large parts of the country just this past winter.  Or drought could be sapping everything it encompasses, as in the West and Southeast in recent years.  They’re living with drought right now, every day.  Ask Californians about the devastation brought on by wildfires.  Ask residents of New Orleans and vicinity about what it meant to live through Hurricane Katrina and what they might do differently if it should happen again.”


            “That’s a lot to think about,” I said.


            “But there’s more.  It seems we’re often hearing about cyclones and massive flooding in Bangladesh.  Remember the earthquake and tsunami that inundated parts of Southeast Asia a couple years back?  Could something of similar magnitude happen here?  Who knows when California might experience “The Big One,” or when the New Madrid fault might break loose in the middle of the country.”  He stopped to sip his glass of ginger ale.


            “All these things you’re talking about have been in the news,” I said.  “They’ve all been big stories.”


            “That’s right.  It’s certainly not as if people don’t know that these things can happen.  But let’s go a step further.  What do you know about HAARP, chemtrails, or deliberate weather modification?”


            I stopped with a malted milk ball halfway to my mouth.  “I sure haven’t heard anything about those things in the news.”.


            “Do you wonder why that is?  Who’s holding back and why?”


            “You mean there are things going on to affect the weather that we don’t know about?  Can thos things you mentioned really be happening?”


            “You bet they can, and they are,” Sam said.  “Look it up on sometime as a start.  You might want to mention his site on your blog.”  He took another sip of ginger ale.  “As a practical matter, you should direct your blog readers to places where they can buy survival gear and survival supplies so they can buy what they need to prepare.”


            “Well, where should somebody start?  How do they know what to do or buy?” I asked.


            “I hear Quake Kare, Inc. has several checklists to help people start planning.  Other survival gear and survival supplies companies no doubt have them, too.  I’d say it’s a good idea to have a NOAA weather radio on hand.  It can sound alarms when there’s dangerous weather in the offing.”  He got up and walked across the room.  “In fact, I’m going to turn on our weather radio for a few minutes and see if there are any storms in tonight’s forecast so we can let Sally know.”


That Nasty Term

            While Survival Sam was out in the kitchen a couple minutes helping Survival Sally with some little chore she’d asked him to do, I munched more peanuts, sipped ginger ale, and thought.


            “Sam, I’m stumped,” I said when he strolled back into the living room, wiping his hands on his pants.


            “Stumped about what?”


            “That nasty term,” I said.


            “The only nasty term I know of is the semester I took trigonometry years ago in school.”


            I laughed.  “No, I mean the word ‘survivalist’ or anything that has to do with survival.  I’m afraid when people read my blog, they’ll mentally see images of a bearded, wild-eyed hermit living in Montana, with gold stashed in jars in his yard.”


            “Let’s think about that for a minute.  Ask yourself where such an image came from.  What was the purpose of whoever or whatever planted such an image in our minds?  Might it have been to vilify any sort of nonconformity?  After all, isn’t it much better to stick close to what is presumably normal? 


            “Good question.  But what is normal anyway these days?”  I asked.


            “I’m reminded of a laxative ad on TV years ago that said, ‘Normal is what’s normal for you.’”


            “Oh, good grief, Sam!”


            “Let me come at this another way.  What if I said my Aunt Barbara is a cancer survivor?  That puts a new spin on surviving and survival, doesn’t it?  We look at someone like Aunt Barbara as someone special.  She and others like her have endured a great deal.  They’ve no doubt learned many of the hard lessons  of life.  Even better, to say they’ve survived cancer means there’s hope—the hope they’ll continue living.”


            “Yeah, you’re right.”


            “To some extent we think the same of someone who wears a T-shirt emblazoned with words like, ‘I survived the blizzard of ’07.’” 


            “I think there should be an award for surviving family reunions,” I sneered. 


             “I know what you mean,” he chuckled, “but you get the point.  We think favorably of someone who has somehow survived some real or perceived difficulty.”


            “That’s true.”


            “Now, survival doesn’t sound so bad at all, does it?”


            “Not when you put it that way,” I said.


            “Don’t let anyone buffalo you with propagandistic language and images.  Survival is all about living through something, or outliving the situation that threatens you.  All you have to do is just think about things a little differently.  That’s what you want your blog readers to do, isn’t it?”


            “Exactly,” I replied.


            “Don’t be spooked by the term ‘survivalist’ or the concept of survival.  Every one of your readers is either going through difficulties now, or they one day will, and you’re there to help them think things through and prepare to face whatever life dishes out.”


            “Life can dish out some pretty tough stuff,” I said.  “What if some cynic comes along and says none of us gets out of this world alive?”


            “I doubt if many people like that will be reading your blog anyway.  You have a better audience.”

What’s In A Name?

            We were sitting in Survival Sam’s living room munching on peanuts, while his lovely wife, Survival Sally, was grilling steaks for supper.  We were brainstorming about how I should start a blog about survival.


            “How do I get past the notion that survival makes people think of images of a wild-eyed hermit living in a cabin in the hills with gold buried in a nearby cave?” I asked.


            Then Sam did a strange thing.  He got up and went to his bookshelves and pulled down a children’s dictionary.


            “What’s that for?” I asked, cracking another peanut shell.


            “Well,” he said, flipping through the pages, “how about defining words related to what you’re doing, and we’ll keep things real simple this way.”


            “Here we go…Destiny is a fate that has been decided or determined ahead of time.”  He looked up from reading.  “You know, I believe in what the Puritans called Providence.  Nothing happens merely by coincidence.  It’s the destiny of you and your readers to meet on”


            “Now, as for the survival part…” he said as he flipped more pages, “survival means to live through, to remain alive, to outlive.”  He put the dictionary on the coffee table.  “Live through what?  All kinds of adversities.  Outlive whom?  Those who aren’t as well prepared as your blog readers will be one day.  You know this already, but in a nutshell we live in a very unfriendly world, and you and I need to be prepared.”


            “Sounds great, Sam.  I wish I could think of stuff like that.  May I use it?”