24 Hours In The Stone Age

What Would Fred & Wilma Do?

By Jerry Lambert

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  This week I want to go a little off topic.  I want to talk a little about Emergency Preparedness.  I know, it sounds like an exciting subject.  However, recently my wife and I found out just how exciting it can be!

Mid adult woman wearing yellow jacket and ski goggles in snowLast Wednesday, the Detroit Area was hit with of one of the worst windstorms on record.  Wind gusts reached close to 70 mph!  For us Great Lakes dwellers, that is the equivalent of a Hurricane!

That evening, my wife and I sat down to watch some TV before dinner.  A short time later, the TV blinked on and off a couple of times, then eventually went out for good.  Along with power to the rest of the house.  This was a unique situation for us, losing power in the Late Winter / Early Spring.

As it turned out, DTE Energy (the main power provider in the Detroit Area) had over 860,000 people without power.  That is over one third of their customers!  It was the largest power outage in their history, and that includes the Midwest / East Coast power outage of 2003!

Since we had no power, we knew none of this.  My first thought was, “Ruh, Roh, Raggy!”  Part of the reason the winds were so high was because of clashing warm and cold fronts that were moving through the area.  The temperature at the time of the outage was 50 degrees and would eventually drop down to 34 degrees by morning.  Not life-threatening, but by no means a picnic.  Even for us born and bred Michiganders!

Woman outside tent with Northern lights, Myvatn, IcelandThe temperature in our house eventually got down to 59 degrees, which is excellent football weather at The Big House in Ann Arbor, but not so great in our living room.  My four guppies were huddled together in their tank for warmth and our dog was looking at us as if we had lost our minds.  We were walking around the house with thick sweatshirts and gloves on.

Thankfully, our period of living in Winterfell lasted only 24 hours.  On Thursday afternoon, we went to go see “Logan”, the latest Wolverine movie.  The power was back on when we got home.  The first words out of my mouth were, “Thank You, God!”

As we found out later, this weather event was a “Perfect Storm” of sorts.  Our much warmer than usual February resulted in the ground not being frozen as hard as it normally would be at this time of year.  Add heavy rain and wind to the mix and you have trees falling over like bowling pins!

Woman in cap, scarf and glovesOur whole weather misadventure got me thinking about what we could have done differently to prepare for this disaster.  I mean instead of just going to the movie theater to get warm!

While researching what to do to prepare for next time, I found an article on the AccuWeather website that covers losing power in the winter.  Since this was a wind-related event, luckily we didn’t have a mountain of snow to deal with.

Thankfully, we did have some firewood in the backyard.  However, since we don’t have a blower insert in our fireplace, it only resulted in the temperature increasing by a whopping 3 degrees!

The following suggestions are from the article on AccuWeather, and common sense, which we were lacking before the outage.

  1. Check your fuses or circuit breakers. This is an obvious thing to check.  However, we were able to determine pretty quickly that our whole neighborhood had lost power.  Still, it’s a good place to start if you’re not sure about the extent of the outage.
  2. Staying warm. The next step is to figure out how you’re going to stay warm.  Load up the beds with extra blankets and break out some additional blankets for your living areas as well.  Grab sweatshirts, fleece jackets, hats, and gloves.  This might seem like overkill, but trust me, you’ll be glad you have them handy if your power outage is longer than a couple of hours!  The article also mentioned blocking any drafts by putting towels at the bottom of exterior doors, closing the fireplace flue, and hanging black blankets on the windows to absorb the heat or put them in the sun on the floor to do the same thing.  That last one seems kind of goofy to me, but whatever.
  3. Stay inside. This seems obvious, unless you are relocating to a residence with power for the duration of the outage.  Otherwise, stay at home if the weather is snowy, icy, or a mix of the two.  Also, don’t use your gas stove as a form of heat.  That can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.  However, this article from eHow shows you how to light your gas stove without power.  That would give you the option of making hot meals in a cold house!  Needless to say, be VERY CAREFUL if you attempt to do this!
  4. CO Poisoning. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning is a real danger during these times.  If you are lucky enough to have a generator, please make sure it is kept away from doors, windows, and outside vents!
  5. Food. Make sure you have plenty of non-perishable foods on hand like soups, cereals, nuts, peanut butter, crackers, water, etc.  It is also recommended to have a three day supply of emergency food available, since in most cases, power will be restored within three days.  My Patriot Supply has a three-day emergency food kit available for $25.  You can’t put a price on a hot meal in a cold house!  Flashlights, candles, batteries, and an emergency crank radio are good items to have on hand as well.
  6. Staying in touch. Keep your communications with friends and family to a minimum.  Use a portable battery pack (or packs) to keep your phones charged up.  Don’t forget that many cars can charge your devices and battery packs without running the car.  That way you won’t waste gas or asphyxiate your family!
  7. Kids and pets. Obviously, the best solution is to take them to Grandma’s House, if she still has power.  However, if that isn’t an option, consider a few warm days in a hotel.  Pets can be problematic, since a hotel (or Grandma) may not be willing to let Rover trash the place!  A family member may have to stay in Frigid Acres until the power comes back on.  Or, until you can get someone with power to babysit your dog, cat, or fish.

I want to re-state the hotel option, since this often gets overlooked until it’s too late.  You need to decide quickly if it is worth it to spend a night (or nights), in a hotel room, or tough it out at home.  With a large power outage local hotel rooms fill up quickly.  You’ll need to move fast if you are going to get one!

What it all comes down to for most people is how much cold is too much?  For me, once the house gets below the mid-60s it’s time to go!  But hey, that’s just me.

I hope these suggestions will help you in the event of an outage.  Obviously, some of these tips apply in summer as well.  Thankfully, there’s not much chance of freezing to death in the summer!

Please do your homework and determine what level of preparedness you are comfortable with and plan accordingly.  After all, Fred and Wilma knew how to survive when it all hit the fan, will you?

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

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Being George Bailey

Remembering What’s Important At This Time Of Year

By Jerry Lambert

(This is an article I wrote last year on another blog.  I thought it was appropriate to repost it.  I hope you enjoy it!)

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While walking my crazy dog Skittles this morning, I was struck by the character of George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  As I’m sure you know, the character of George Bailey was played by the master of understatement, Jimmy Stewart.  What I thought about this morning was that George Bailey was a man who always did the selfless, generous thing, and he resented it.

George throws a couple of “Fits” during the movie.  The first one is when he confronts his bride-to-be, Mary.  He loves her, but realizes that life with her will be the end of many of his goals and dreams.  This conflict within him results in a rather rough treatment of Mary before he finally breaks down and confesses his love for her.

George’s initial bad attitude that evening stems from the fact that his brother Harry, who George was counting on to take over the Bailey Brothers Building & Loan, has come home from college with a wife, and a job.  That, in addition to an embarrassing conversation with Violet Bick, has gotten him into a foul mood before he stops by to see Mary.

George gives up his dreams for others’ benefit.  While this results in George wedding Mary and living an exemplary life, it also increases George’s frustration that he was meant for “Bigger Things”.  Mr. Potter catches George in a weak moment and offers him a job as his “Right Hand Man”.  George considers the idea for a minute, thinking about the money, travel, and fantastic lifestyle that he and Mary would have if he was working for Potter.  Then reality hits him and he realizes that “his ship would come in” but everyone else in Bedford Falls, who depend on him, would be destroyed by Potter.  This results in George calling Potter a “Scurvy Spider” as he storms out of his office.

As the years go by, George becomes resigned to the fact that he will never see his big dreams come true.  He is happy that God has blessed him with a beautiful wife, and 4 beautiful children.  He isn’t happy with his job at the Building & Loan, but he realizes how important it is to the citizens of Bedford Falls.

Everything comes to a head when Uncle Billy accidentally gives Potter $8,000 that was meant for a bank deposit.  Uncle Billy and George retrace his steps, but to no avail.  Even though Uncle Billy was the one who lost the money, George is facing prison, because he is the Executive Secretary of the Building & Loan.  He could have tried to throw Uncle Billy under the bus, but he wouldn’t do it.  Instead, after hearing Potter say, “You’re worth more dead than alive!”  George loses it when he gets home from work.  He yells at Mary and the kids and storms out of the house.  Then, George is standing on the bridge contemplating suicide.  Why was this happening to him?  Hasn’t he been selfless and generous his whole life?  This is his reward?  Realizing the economic and social catastrophe he was about to inflict on his family, George utters the immortal words, “I wish I’d never been born!”

It is only after this statement, that George sees the positive impact that he has made on the lives of his family and friends.  This realization hits home as the whole town shows up to rescue him and Uncle Billy from financial ruin and jail.  Up until the moment when George has this epiphany, he still has a massive chip on his shoulder.  “Why me, God?  I’ve lived a good life, put others needs before my own, why am I being tortured like this?”  What George had never realized was that God had a different plan for his life.  If he embraced that plan, instead of fighting it his whole life, he would have been a whole lot happier.

I guess for me, what it all comes down to is that George was doing the right thing by living a generous, selfless life, but he was resentful of the life that he could have had.  Living your life by putting others needs before your own isn’t just a noble pursuit, it is the key to happiness in your own life.  This article is entitled, “Being George Bailey”.  Not the George Bailey who feels cheated by life, but the George Bailey who realizes that by putting others needs first, he truly has had “A Wonderful Life”.

This Christmas Season, I resolve to be more like George Bailey.  How about you?  I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

[I am taking off a couple of weeks for the Holidays.  My next post will be Monday, January 9.]

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Giving Tuesday

Don’t Forget To Give!

By Jerry Lambert

Welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club and to the Holiday Season!  By this time, you should be preparing for Christmas and had all the turkey you can handle (no, I’m not talking about Cousin Eddie) .

Black boy putting money into donations jarThis year, I learned about a new charity event.  Have you ever heard of Giving Tuesday (#givingtuesday)?  I put the title all as one word, with the hashtag for a reason.  This is a campaign that was started by the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at the 92nd Street Y(MCA) in New York.  They use Social Media Influencers to spread the word and encourage giving at this time of year.

Giving Tuesday is the day after Cyber Monday each year.  I would have scheduled it the day before Thanksgiving and called it Giving Wednesday.  After blowing your bankroll on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I wouldn’t think there would be a whole lot left over for Giving Tuesday.

However, it is a reminder to take care of your charitable giving early.  Before the “Christmas Steamroller” plows through December and you wind up in January with a mountain of bills, wondering what just happened!

Since Giving Tuesday is a Social Media-based event, it gives me hope for the younger generation of this country.  The Selfie-Generation seems so self-obsessed, it is encouraging that a campaign like Giving Tuesday has caught fire.  It is promising that this age group can count their blessings and consider giving to others, who are genuinely in need of their help!

BLM028702During this extremely busy time of year, it is difficult to sit down and figure out which charity deserves your donation.  The hassle of trying to figure out who should receive your hard-earned money can become more of a chore than a blessing.  Also, how do you know which charity you can trust?  How do you make sure the money you donate is finding its way to the people or animals who really need it?

Unfortunately, there are many charities who make a living off the generous nature of its donors.  Check out this article that details The 20 Best Charities in America: 2010.  You may not be familiar with many of these charities, but they have the lowest overhead of any charities reviewed in 2010.  That means that virtually every dollar donated goes directly to the people or animals that need it the most.

Here is another chart that details some of the best vs the worst charities.  There are a lot of terrific military charities listed.  So if you want to give to our Heroes, here is a great way!

As far as animal charities go, I have always found it is best to stay local.  I avoid the national money-grubbing charities that tug at our heartstrings, with commercials of neglected and abused animals.  Petfinder has a great way to find a local shelter in your area that can use your donation of money (and time).

Portrait of a pit bull mixI know what you’re thinking.  “I would love to give to charity, but I don’t have two pennies to rub together.  I am barely making ends meet as it is.”  I know it’s a lot to ask.  However, since I have started donating 10% of my income to a different charity each week, I have found a string of blessings have been coming my way.  I can only account for these blessings by my charitable giving.  It’s like “Indiana Jones and the Leap of Faith” I mentioned in my last article about Goals.  Sometimes, you just have to take that first step and see what happens!

I hope you decide to donate to a charity of your choice this Christmas Season.  Just remember, no matter how bad things are for you right now, there is always someone else who is worse off.

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

SparkPeople

How To Keep On Top Of Your Health And Fitness Goals!

By Jerry Lambert

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  This week I am going to talk about something that I came across while I was unemployed.  I am referring to the amazing Health and Fitness website: SparkPeople.

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Get Healthy And Fit With SparkPeople!

After I had been laid off for about 8 months, I was feeling pretty low.  Despite some initial positive interest, my small business startup was floundering.  I needed to do something I could control when so much of my life was out of control.  I decided to take action on losing weight.

After losing the weight, I felt great, but I was stumped on how to keep track of my weight, food intake, water, exercise, etc.  It was crucial to stay on top of my weight after I lost it.  This is where SparkPeople comes in.  I initially discovered the app trying to find a way to keep track of all of the areas I just mentioned.  SP is a Godsend!

The app and website help you to keep track of your weight, food intake, water intake, exercise, and much more.  My only complaint about the website is that it is geared mostly toward women.  However, that doesn’t mean that men won’t benefit from the website.  Far from it!

In addition to keeping track of all of your health and fitness stats, SP has a huge library of articles and videos on just about every health and fitness subject you can imagine.  You can also use SP to track your exercise goals and it can sync with many fitness trackers like Fitbit.

On the front page of the website, you will log all of your daily food and exercise information, plus keep track of your goals.  You can also create groups to make it easier to track your food and exercise.  Below that is the Challenges area.  There are a number of personal challenges that you can sign up for, from Taming Your Sweet Tooth to the New Member Challenge.  Most of the challenges run between 21 and 30 days and are a great way to keep yourself motivated and accountable during your journey.

In addition to the Trackers and Challenges, the front page also has a Community section.  In this area, you can post your fitness journey and get support and feedback from people who are all on the same fitness road as you!

Close up of bucket of fruit
Don’t Forget The Fruits And Veggies!

The best thing about SP is that most of the content on this website is FREE!  You do have to sign up and get a login and password, but there is no fee and they don’t need your credit card on file!  There is a paid option that is very affordable.  It will allow you to use the website without ads, which is a major consideration since the website is very ad-heavy.

But wait, there’s more!  In addition to all that SP already does, there are healthy recipes as well!  There are also more apps!  One is for recipes (SparkRecipes) and the other breaks down the nutritional values of all the fruits and vegetables that you’ll be eating (Perfect Produce).  All of the apps are available on Google Play.  Just type in SparkPeople in the search box.

I only wish that I had discovered SP BEFORE losing my weight.  It would have made the whole process so much easier.  I am probably going to ride out the holidays at my current weight, but after New Years’, I plan on putting together a Challenge that gets me down to around 220.  I should be able to use SP to help me get there and stabilize my weight in the 215-225 range.

In the jumbled chaos that makes up the Internet, once and a while, you find a diamond in the rough.  That diamond is SparkPeople.  I have already shared the site with all of my Friends on Facebook.  This article will hopefully let more people know about the website, apps, and how great they are at helping you live a healthier lifestyle!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!