Monthly Archives: August 2011

Hurricane Preparedness Tips You’ll Never Hear on TV

You can learn a lot about how to prepare yourself and your family for a natural disaster by watching The Weather Channel or your local news.  They will tell you what to expect in terms of winds or flooding, where the nearest evacuation centers are, and when schools and businesses reopen after the event.  Unfortunately, these highly trained experts miss a lot of the really important stuff.

  1. Shave your legs early and often.  Personal hygiene is important, and if your water treatment facility or pumping station loses power, you’ll need a waterless alternative to your daily ritual.  Think about how long you could stand to go without a shower, shampoo, or shave.  I know.  It’s not very long, is it?  You can buy moist towelettes to wash your face and body without water.  (Stay away from baby wipes.  Do you really want to smell baby fresh?  Target has some store brand cucumber and white tea or citrus ones.)  I see lots of new dry shampoos on the store shelves, too.  Never tried them, but I would be more than willing if the alternative was dirty hair for several days.  Unless you have a battery-powered razor, though, you would be smart to shave your legs right before the storm hits and as it’s passing through, if possible.  Dry shaving is just painful.
  2. Go to the library.  Or the craft store.  What are you planning to do with all of that time?  You can only watch the wind blow for so long before you get stir-crazy.  A big stack of books to read is my idea of hurricane preparedness.  If you are not a big reader, get a craft project ready.  Maybe you could spend those hours knitting or making jewelry.  Write letters to your Grandma.  Think about it.  This is the perfect time to do some of the stuff you say you never have time for.
  3. Charge you iPod.  Trust me.  You will want to drown out the noise.  Yes, the wind will sound scary, but what I’m talking about is the whining.  Kids who are cooped up inside without electricity can make an awful racket.  And you may want to think beyond ear buds.  Noise cancelling headphones, baby.
  4. Bake something ahead of the storm.  Face it.  The prospect of eating tuna or a granola bar for breakfast is depressing, and you don’t need any more of that in the wake of a natural disaster.  Banana bread, coffee cake, cinnamon rolls.  That’s the sort of pick-me-up that will put a smile on your face when you can’t make coffee and you have sweated through another air conditioning-less night.  Butter cake, chocolate chip cookies, or brownies work just as well.  Make oatmeal cookies, and you can tell yourself that they’re nutritious.
  5. Invest in a rain suit.  I’m talking about a heavy-duty raincoat with a hood, rain pants, boots, the whole thing.  You know how normally your dog will just go right out to the backyard to do his business?  Not gonna happen in a hurricane.  You will be forced to brave 50+ mph winds and sideways rain so that your dog can pee on your neighbor’s mailbox instead of in your house.  You have some choices here.  You can choose something brightly colored so that you look good out there and your neighbors will be able to spot you when a tree limb slams into you and knocks you unconscious in the street.  Or you can go with a neutral color or camouflage pattern so that no one will recognize you as that fool walking their dog in a Category 2 hurricane.

So there you have it.  Five tips from a pro.  File them away for the next big disaster.  It may be this summer’s next hurricane or the winter’s first blizzard.  Really.  You’ll thank me.

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There’s Prepared, and Then There’s PREPARED

Unless you live in the Caribbean, it’s easy to forget about hurricane season.  Yes, the local paper will throw in an insert about tracking and preparing for hurricanes.  And maybe the weather guy will take a quick look at the tropics just to remind us that it’s that time of year.  Mostly, though, few of us give even a passing thought to the potential for hurricanes when there are vacations to pack for, back-to-school shopping to complete, or grass to cut–AGAIN.  But just like that, a storm takes shape and begins to churn toward North America.

NOAA/NCEP

Let the panic ensue!  Actually, the Uncommonhousewife is something of a pro when it comes to hurricane preparedness.  As any Navy wife will tell you, you’re on your own when it comes to surviving a hurricane because your spouse has more important things to do: namely, get his ship to safety.  I had been married just over a year when I met this reality for the first time.  I made some mistakes.  For instance, I learned that you should never bring your gas grill into the house, even if it’s your only means of preparing food after the storm leaves you without electricity.  Also, taping windows may keep them from shattering into a million pieces, but it’s really hard to remove after the storm has moved on.  And a word about non-perishable food.  If you wouldn’t eat it on any given day, you probably won’t want it in a hurricane either.  Vienna sausages, deviled ham, spam all fall into this category.

So after 19 years of facing natural disasters on my own, I’ve gone way past rookie status.  Along comes Hurricane Irene, and I’m ready.  Bottled water.  Check.  Flashlights. Check.  Batteries. Yep.  Food. Ready.  This storm, though, looked so menacing that Darling Husband decides a portable generator is a must-have.  In the past, you understand, if a storm causing a multi-day power outage was on the way, I would have left town.  And I did evacuate a few times.  But this time Darling Husband isn’t assigned to a ship, and we live far enough inland not to worry about storm surge and flooding.  Wind damage and living without electricity are what we fear most.

Enter this bad boy.  The Generac GP5000.  Saw it at the Navy Exchange and grabbed it.  It will run for 8 hours on 6 gallons of gas.  We got another gas can, too.  Two days before the storm, we had generator and 15 gallons of gas ready to go.

And wouldn’t you know, our power never went out.  It flashed on and off several times so that I had to keep resetting the microwave clock.  Don’t get me wrong.  I was thrilled to have air conditioning and free access to the refrigerator.  TV and internet as the storm raged outside–priceless.  But now what do we do with the generator?  Keep it for the next one, just in case?  Or return it and get our $600 back?  Is there such a thing as being too prepared?  If we lived on the Gulf coast of Florida or on the Outer Banks of North Carolina this wouldn’t be an issue.  We would have bought a generator and held on to it long ago.  But do we really need one in case another once-in-a-lifetime hurricane comes our way?

What else does one use a generator for, anyway?  Maybe camping.  Or RV-ing.  Of course, we don’t do either of those things.  So for now, I have a 200-lb. dilemma sitting in my garage.  When you think about it, that’s quite a blessing.  It’s certainly better that having a foot of water on the ground floor or a tree in the living room.  Yes, God is good.

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Anatomy of a Mid-Life Crisis

Sound the trumpets!  Cue the ticker-tape parade!  It’s the 100th post here at the Uncommonhousewife Blog!  It took a little over a year to get here, which I’m feeling pretty good about.  Readership, on the other hand, could use some work.  I’m thinking I should have a celebratory giveaway or something to boost my numbers.  Hmmm.  I wonder if I have any crap valuable trinket to offer.  Guess not.

Instead, those diehard readers still with me get to follow along as I muse about who, where, or what I want to be when I grow up.  Just recently, I passed into what must now be called my early 40s.  I’m not traumatized by it.  I am, however, prompted to evaluate what I’ve spent all those years doing.  As a full-time mother, I know I have done highly valuable work without earning a dime for it.  As a military spouse, I know I have provided the supporting pillar that has allowed our family to remain stable and happy as we were tossed around during deployments, moves, and other high-stress events that come with the military lifestyle.  Now, I’m seeing the not-so-distant end of each of those roles and wondering what’s next.

  • Going “back to work” isn’t very easy when you haven’t worked for pay in 17 years.  I’ve been following various bloggers who specialize in re-entry into the workforce for moms.  The problem is, most assume that the mom has a career path waiting for her to return to.  My story reads a bit differently.  I graduated college in the middle of a recession.  I took the best job offer I got, which was not in a career field I particularly liked.  A year later I got married and proceeded to hopscotch around the country every 6 months to 2 years for the next 19.  At first, I worked where I could.  Back in those days, employers were not so friendly to military wives, who were sure to leave right after they got perfectly trained at the job.  So it was temp work for me.  Then came children.
  • Is going back to school worth it?  I always said I would go back and get a master’s degree.  I was never too clear on which field I would pursue the degree, but I was definitely gonna get one.  After all, I was good at school.  My professors all made sure to tell me what a waste it was that I had no immediate plans to go to graduate school.  But 20 years later, I’m thinking that going back to school only makes sense if I have a specific goal in mind which requires that advanced degree.  Otherwise, it costs too darned much.
  • Where do I find roots and contacts when I’ve come and gone so many times?  This is the part where I wish I had diligently kept in touch with everyone I’ve ever known from college, wives’ organizations, school groups, churches, neighbors…Yeah, right.  I guess this is exactly what Facebook is for.  Now I can nudge those people who gave up trying to keep our address current on their Christmas card list.
  • Is all of this premature?  After all, I still have 2 kids to get into college and on their way.  And being their guidance counselor is basically a full-time job.  Darling husband could end up staying in the Navy for a few more years if the economy continues to self-destruct.  Or he could retire and bounce from one job to the next and one state to the next for a few years.  That would leave me pretty much where I am now: tumbleweeding around hoping to land on the right opportunity.

I know there have to be other women in similar situations out there.  So come on and chime in with suggestions.  Life coach?  Community college?  LinkedIn?  Politics?

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Let’s Talk Traffic

Inspiration for blog posts comes in strange places.  Like my local newspaper, for instance.  I recently cut my subscription back to just half a week delivery, yet I still get the paper every day.  No wonder newspapers are going belly up.  The other day, the unauthorized paper was lying in my driveway, and I wanted something to read while I had my lunch.  Hey, you get desperate when you haven’t written a blog post in well over a week!

The article that caught my attention was actually a special insert celebrating the grand opening of LIGHT RAIL in my community.  Cue the parade and the herald trumpets.  All 7 miles of light rail will be open for business beginning tomorrow.  You read that right: 7 whole miles.  And the project came in only $100 million over budget and about a year behind schedule.  Now, having moved back to this area only a year ago, I caught up on the debate about light rail pretty late in the game.  I’m sure there were pages and pages of editorials and letters to the editor written about the project.  Even a newcomer, though, can see that the way this endeavor turned out is just a whole lot of silliness.

What good is mass transit that doesn’t go anywhere?  The best I can say about this particular light rail system is that it can take you to the minor league baseball stadium.  But baseball’s only a seasonal thing.  Otherwise, you can only ride from one place in the downtown to another downtown location.  The real problem, getting into downtown from the suburbs, is not addressed at all.  I guess if you are an urbanite, you won’t have to worry about driving the 2 miles from your townhouse or apartment to your favorite restaurant and finding a place to park.  The rest of us will still have to motor down the interstate and circle the city blocks to park our gas-guzzler somewhere that the meter-Nazis will never think to look.  As far as commuting to work goes, metropolitan employees will still have to drive within about 4 miles of downtown before they get to a park-and-ride and board a train.  You can’t depend on light rail to get you to the airport, either.  Doesn’t go anywhere near it.  The same goes for the biggest local university.

Our light rail also has nothing to do with the biggest area traffic choke points: the tunnels.  I would estimate that about 80% of the traffic jams in my area occur at the 3 tunnels you can’t avoid if you want to go anywhere important.  It would be easy to write an entire separate blog post about why people have so much trouble driving through these tunnels.  The question remains:  Why didn’t anyone think that designing the light rail system as an alternative to driving the tunnels might be a good idea?  For sure, it would have been expensive, but you were already $100 million over budget!  That couldn’t have paid for a light rail bridge?  Somehow, the planners decided instead that it was more important to connect city blocks that are basically walkable.  And now our local elected officials still have to deal with finding more money to alleviate traffic congestion so that business will want to open here and people will want to move here.

It’s likely no one will ride it.  Sadly, I live in an area in which people don’t “get” mass transit.  Most people will tell you that they “need” to have access to their car all day.  These people are idiots.  I’ve lived in the Washington DC area, and I’ve experienced first-hand how mass transit simplifies your life.  No need to fill up the gas tank twice a week or more.  No worries about the parking lot that is I-66 or the Beltway every day twice a day.  And no wondering where you’re supposed to park.  Just get on that bus or train and sail into town while listening to some tunes, reading the news, or even sleeping.  Then stretch your legs in the few blocks you have to walk from the station to work.  People in and around DC get their kids to and from daycare, pick up dry cleaning, grab coffee on their way in the morning and rotisserie chicken on the way home at night.  It all works around the bus or the Metro.  Here, folks have just gotten lazy.   They imagine the end of the world as we know it if they can’t hop in the car at any given moment.

No one asked me, but…You can’t expect people to abandon their cars and hop on a train to nowhere just because it’s shiny and new.  Since planners and legislators have chosen to ignore the elephant in the room that is the tunnel nightmare, how about focusing on being able to get to the places we want to go?  An exit out of the HOV lane to the airport would be nice.  Maybe a friend would be happy to drop you off at the airport on his way to work if he could cruise the commuter lane.  What about express buses that travel in the HOV lane from various park-and-ride lots to the big naval station?  This may not be practical for the active-duty folks whose hours can be irregular, but what about the thousands of civilian employees who work 9-5 jobs?  And if you made most of the parking at the naval station active-duty only, this would “encourage” DoD civilians to take advantage of bus transport.  Oh! And what if you took away high school parking spaces for students and made kids either ride the bus or walk to school?  Build more sidewalks and make more kids walk, I say.  These are win-win solutions: fewer cars on the road and better for kids’ health.  And what about expanding the bus routes already in place in the community?  Express to the colleges, hospitals, and major employers, please.

Now, I may be wrong, but I doubt the federal government would kick in 75% of the cost of my ideas like they did for light rail.  Plus, you can’t have a fancy ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of a lazy kid moaning about having to walk to school.  And there’s no place in the HOV lane to feature kids’ artwork in murals like you can at a light rail station.  Nope.  Shiny, slow trains that go back and forth over 7 miles make much more sense.

 

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Pictionary, Anyone??

Way back in March, after the horrible Japanese earthquake and tsunami, I posted about feeling so exhausted and helpless in the face of the calamity that there was nothing left to do but play Pictionary to restore some sanity.  I guess it must be time to break out the game again.  This actually was supposed to be yesterday’s post.  It was the Monday after a family vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  A wonderful time was had by all, but I was looking the daily grind square in the face again.  The end-of-vacation blues are bad enough.  But wait…there’s more!!

Last Friday all the way through to yesterday, nothing but bad news blared from the TV and radio.  My dad likes to have the TV on in the background all day.  Usually, it’s tuned to EWTN, but the vacation home didn’t get that station.  Fox News was the substitute.  So I got plenty of coverage of the financial Armageddon the country is plunging into.  It’s not a good thing to wake up each morning on your vacation wondering how bad it’s going to be today.  Luckily, wiping out on a boogie board has a way of clearing the mind for a little while.

There was also real tragedy to ponder.  In the time it took for a helicopter to fall from the sky, 30 American heroes lost their lives in Afghanistan.  I live in an area filled with military members.  News like that really hurts here, especially because some of the fallen called this community home.  Reading about these men is both inspiring and heartbreaking.  They were all passionate about what they were doing.  Hear that, America?  They were passionate about hunting down the terrorists that you had forgotten were plotting to destroy us.

I tried to distract myself yesterday by editing some vacation photos with Photoshop Elements.  This is supposed to be the friendlier, accessible-to-amateurs software??  Does anyone think it’s easy to trace around people in photos without cutting off ears or elbows?  Lasso is the perfect name for the tool because that’s exactly what it feels like: imagine trying to use a lasso to extract a splinter from your finger.  A diversion from tragedy and economic apocalypse, yes.  A pleasant diversion, no.

All of that was yesterday.  Like a whole lot of other people. I’m sure, I opened my eyes this morning thinking, “Now what?”  I guess the answer for me is to let go of the big picture for a while.  After all, thinking about the future of our country, whether my children will have a lower standard of living when they reach adulthood, the number of widows and grieving parents the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will ultimately create, etc. is too much for someone in a post-vacation funk.  Otherwise, I might get so worked up that I’ll begin calling congressmen or organize a “Stop the Spending NOW” rally or some such thing.  Hmmm.

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