My Way of Getting Ready for a Hurricane

The emergency services and government agencies all have their lists of what we ought to have on hand if we are staying at home during a hurricane. If you live in an area where that info is needed, I’m sure you’ve seen it. First aid supplies, canned food, batteries, water, etc. I live far enough inland that I don’t have to worry about high water and I will not leave on account of wind, so I will stay. (Evacuated once and even though we had a great hostess and great place to stay, I found out I didn’t like not being able to come back home when I wanted to as law enforcement was turning people away, so I’ll not leave again.)

I have my way of dealing with those lists, like making sure I have enough toilet paper (sounds funny, but that’s not something you want to run out of if the stores are closed!) to last for three weeks. I start stocking up on canned and dried food, toiletries and cat food in spring and early summer. I check the expiration dates on over the counter medicines and replenish those supplies as well. By the time a storm is in the Gulf I usually don’t need to go to the store except to get things like bread, fresh fruit and veggies.

Before I got a smaller refrigerator we would eat out of the freezer during the summer and fill the extra space with bottles of water. I save plastic milk bottles throughout the year for this so we can freeze some early and fill the rest with water. That way I don’t have to go buy a ton of water at the store at the last minute, and if we need it because the water from the tap is foul, we’ve got it.  The ice you have frozen in your freezer can be used to keep food cold, and may keep you from having to wait through lines for ice in bags after the storm.

I have a notebook called a Control Journal. If you are familiar with FlyLady, you know what that is. If not, you can check it out here. In my Emergency Numbers section, I have info on how to shelter in place for a chemical emergency (lots of trains carrying all sorts of stuff here and refineries, too). I also have a page I created that I call “Before a Hurricane.” It’s a countdown for the five days before the storm. I had this when Ike came along and it helped me stay on track with what I needed to do. Here is my countdown:

5 Days Before

  • check for gaps in storm stock-food, toiletries, etc.  Aim for a 3 week supply of everything-remember pets
  • pay bills as far ahead as possible
  • clean house
  • start filling space in freezer with water in bottles and in Ziploc bags

4 Days Before

  • continue filling space in freezer
  • clean house

3 Days Before

  • get all available cash out of credit union
  • go to stores-grocery & hardware-for any needed items
  • clean house

2 Days Before

  • make sure saw batteries are charged
  • check on family, friends, neighbors
  • help folks get storm-ready if needed
  • clean house
  • clean out the refrigerator
  • gas up the vehicle (even if you stay in town you may not be able to buy gas due to no electricity)

1 Day Before

  • have cat carrier handy, just in case I need to put the cat in it for any reason
  • put storm stock in place if it’s not all in the kitchen
  • put paper plates, cups and plastic utensils in cabinets and drawers (I’d rather be reaching into the usual places for things I need.)
  • pick up yard-potted plants, decorations, etc. and put everything in shed
  • take down TV antennae
  • put wood over windows and put the ax in a handy spot (During a hurricane I think the worst thing that could happen is the house catches on fire, as they sometimes do. If it does and the fire extinguisher can’t handle it, I want out. The windows will be boarded up and doors may not be accessible, so I want the ax close by.)
  • wash clothes
  • fill empty milk jugs with water
  • get tents out of the attic
  • put refrigerator thermostat on the lowest setting
  • get ice chests ready

I’m sure you noticed there’s a lot of housecleaning there. Besides it being good cheap therapy, if I am without air conditioning for several days, I just would rather sweat in a really clean house. Plus, after a storm everything outside is a MESS. It is really nice to have a neat clean house to retreat to after working outside to clean up.  A lot of things are saved for the day before because by then where the storm is going is more certain. Of course, we have put boards over windows and had the storm turn, but we’re less likely to go to all that trouble for nothing if we wait till the day before.

Use good judgment on whether to stay or leave. Water comes in before wind. Keep that in mind, so you aren’t trapped. If you are new to this experience, I hope this list is helpful for you.

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Bela Fleck

Until recently, the only banjo players I could have named were Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and my Dad. Shows what I knew. Now I know about Bela Fleck and his documentary, “Throw Down Your Heart.”

Bela Fleck is a Grammy Award winning banjo player and has been nominated for Grammy Awards in more categories than any other musician ever. And he made this great documentary because a lot of folks think of the Southern United States and white guys when they think of banjos. The banjo is derived from an African instrument that was brought over here by slaves. Bela Fleck wanted people like me who didn’t know any of this to learn about it, so he went to Africa with his banjo, a fellow who is great at recording live music, and a few camera operators, in search of people to play music with him. They went to Uganda, Tanzania, Gambia and Senegal.

And boy, did they find musicians who were eager to play! It was very interesting to see how the banjo could be played along with things like the finger piano (I didn’t know what that was before seeing this film) and other instruments. There were times I heard some jazz and some blues.

Bela Fleck has even been touring this year with some of the people he met in Africa. I learned that on his website.

Besides enjoying learning about and listening to the music in the documentary, I also learned a bit of African history and tidbits about the culture of some of his hosts. I love seeing how people live in other countries-what they wear, what they eat and how it’s prepared, burial customs-all of it. If you like music, history or anthropology, I think you would probably like “Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart.”

I Finally Watched Birdman of Alcatraz

I’m 53 years old and last night I finally watched Birdman of Alcatraz. The movie was released in 1962. That’s the year I turned six. It must have made quite an impression on folks because people were still talking about it when I was in Jr. High.

In case you aren’t familiar with this older movie, it’s about a man, Robert Stroud, who killed someone and because of that went to federal prison. (It happened in Alaska before it was a state, so there was no state system to deal with such things.) At the beginning of the movie he seems to have no sense of the reality of other people. They are only objects, not beings with thoughts and feelings. In his mind, he’s the only ‘real’ person who exists.

One day he finds a baby bird and begins to care for it in his cell. Eventually, he has lots of birds, other prisoners have birds in their cells, too, and a bunch of these birds get sick. They have a disease that there is no cure for, so Stroud begins to do a lot of reading and experimenting. He finds the cure. Actually, he became a pretty famous ornithologist and even published a couple of books.

What I found so interesting about this movie was that as he cared for the birds, he softened up. Near the end he talks to a young man about hope and life. Wow. What a radical difference from his earlier behavior! And all from tending to little birds? And from reading and learning, too. Education, you know. Hm.

I wondered what the truth was so I looked him up. According to what I read, when the book and movie were made some of the facts were changed, most likely to make the story flow more easily. That’s to be expected.

Some other things were changed, too, though. I noticed that in 1943, after he had his experience tending birds and becoming a self-taught ornithologist, he was evaluated by a psychiatrist who came to the conclusion that he was a psychopath. Now, that sounds like the man at the beginning of the movie. Rather than what he was really like, (there is more about that on the link above) we are given a character that we are supposed to feel sympathy for who never really existed. He never gets parole and, well, gee, he became such a nice guy. Did the author of the book, Thomas E. Gaddis, ever visit Robert Stroud when he was writing the story? I can’t find anything to indicate that he did. If he never spent time talking with him he would have had access to facts about his case, but not to his personality. I wondered how he came to such conclusions about him being a changed man who we are supposed to pity because he’s so misunderstood and mistreated by the system?

Then it dawned on me that this was written back when the popular theory was that criminals were produced as a result of a bad environment and a lack of education. This was the old nature vs. nurture deal with a bit of ‘blank slate’ tossed in. Nurture was winning. It was thought that if the environment was changed and a criminal was educated it would change their whole psyche. Good loving environment + education = good person. I guess Gaddis assumed the theory was correct and came to his own conclusions about a man going from killer to compassionate caring person because of his experiences with the birds and because of the education he gained. What Robert Stroud really was, was a psychopath who was violent his entire life and who also happened to be very intelligent. His IQ was 134. This info didn’t fit the popular theory of the causes and cure for criminal behavior.

You know what? I think this theory is based on a material view of man. I think it’s so weird that at a time when we were in the thick of the Cold War, and we wanted to distinguish ourselves from the atheistic Soviets so we put the words “under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance, our prison system was being operated on the premise that man is what he is because of his environment. This view of man denies the spiritual condition of man’s nature and also the remedy that God has provided. How strange.