Teaching Opportunities, by J.L. in Pennsylvania

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My story begins as another closet prepper.  As many of you, I did not have the support of my spouse for my new found drive to prepare for the unknown. Often I would attempt to sneak items that I planned to lay up long-term into the grocery bill without her noticing. I would even have online purchases delivered to a neighbor claiming to him that it was for her birthday or our anniversary. Needless to say, I usually (always) got caught, which would lead to long discussions about me “wasting money.”  As fate and the good lord would have it, I finally got my window of opportunity to prove what I was doing had merit. 

As I recall, it was late February. Pennsylvania had another one of its wonderful snow storms topped with ice. We awoke without power to a somewhat chilly house and a few feet of snow.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  The morning, afternoon, and early evening went as they usually would without power.  However we were starting to become concerned because power is usually restored in no more than 16 hours. My son was only about a year old at this time so his needs were a little more than our own. The house was becoming colder and as a new mother, my wife was starting to become unglued.  Although I upgraded our home with multiple heating sources (not without protest and a little help from the bank), all of them required electricity to operate the circulating pumps. A major new prepper mistake. Our refrigerator was slowly starting to warm, making us concerned about his supply of milk. Lucky for me, I made one of my “secret” purchases a few weeks back.  I had attended an estate auction in town and purchased a small gasoline operated generator.  At the time, I had no idea if it was large enough to run anything other than the drill I used to test its function ability.  I was also afraid of somehow burning my house down with a electrical fire.  It was around hour 36 of the outage when her meltdown occurred and she looked to me to fix the situation as she always has.  In her eyes I am the man of the house, the provider.  It is my job to fix and solve the things that end up over her head.  I bundled up and headed out the back door to the shed, hoping my plan would work.  Lucky for me it did.  About 45 minutes later I had the coal stoker and the refrigerator up and running.  We had heat.  As I returned to the house, I could easily read the look in my wife’s eyes.  It was her classic “I don’t know how you did it, but you did and I love you for it” look.  I was their hero. I saved the day. That is when the dimly lit light bulb went off in my head.  After a long discussion and a few confessions on where the generator came from, I had her convinced.  Without my purchase, we would have had no choice but to brave the roads to a unknown family members house, with our son in the car, in the middle of another wave of storms.  This is when she saw the light and realized that not all of the “wasted money” was really wasted.  I drove this entire concept home throughout the entire 4 days without power.  Without my inexpensive siphon, I wouldn’t have been able to use some of the gas from the vehicles to keep the generator running.  Without the powdered milk, what would the little man have had?  Without the bottled water?  Without the small propane burner?  The list kept going.  Needless to say, I was in a bit of trouble with all of these “secret” items I had hid from her view, but I was forgiven quickly.  After all those months of trying to get her on the bus, it only took 36 hours without electricity.

Now that I had her partially on board, I was looking for opportunities to teach her skills that would benefit us in the future. The following summer provided several occasions for just that. My wonderful wife was raised by her grandparents who grew up in the classic “oldest of 12 kids during the depression” scenario. (In my humble opinion, this generation is one of the best untapped resources for learning new and useful skills and knowledge for a post-TEOTWAWKI situation.) Needless to say, they waste nothing and are avid gardeners. During one of our normal visits, her grandfather had mentioned to me that canning season was upon us and the next few weekends would be consumed by the task.  I volunteered us to give them a few extra sets of hands.  My wife was more than happy to give something back by helping out, and she had no idea she was learning a valuable skill.  After 3 consecutive Saturdays, she was canning like she had been doing it for years. During our weekly work parties, I got a chance to get some serious feedback from her Grandmother on the importance  of stocking up for the uncertain.  The advice from someone who has been there multiple times, some times worse than others, was truly priceless.  Coming from her grandparents, my wife took every word to heart.  She is now an avid canner, storing every small bit from our tiny undersized garden, and “clearance” farmers market deals.  Once she seen the savings of doing our own canning, this lead to more.  She now typically buys items in bulk from the warehouse stores.  Once you break the price of the item down per ounce and compare, the savings are obvious.  We now go looking for sales on food goods instead of the new Abercrombie store at the local shopping mall.  I can’t complain a bit. We now have enough food in our pantry to sustain us for about three months.  All the savings have also started her into extreme couponing. She has created a sizable larder of things like tooth brushes, tooth pastes, soap, shampoo, deodorant, and razors.  She has even mentioned these would be great for charity or even barter for other comfort items. (I was so proud.) 

During a trip to an local amusement park, I inadvertently discovered my wife was incapable of reading a simple map accurately.  Before our trek into the park, I picked up two maps to help us get around.  I marked three separate and simple rally points (RPs) on the map. When something as simple a pre-determined RP has saved you in the past, it kind of sticks with you.  I often worry about an active shooter scenario when in a large group of people. My wife volunteered to go to the vehicle to retrieve some items for our son.  As the two of us continued around the park, my wife called me to find us.  After a quick scan of my surroundings, I noticed we were practically on top of rally point three.  After a few gripes, we hung up the phone and with the aid of her map, she headed off to rally point three.  Fifteen minutes later my phone rang again.  With her nowhere in sight, claiming to be at the RP, I asked her to describe her surroundings.  I was easily able to determine her location and meet her. She quickly became aggravated and defensive when I accused her of being lost. That is when I realized our bug out plan had a fatal flaw.  After a quick landmark recognition land navigation class, she led us around the rest of the day.  She still needed a little more advanced help.  Motivating her to learn something she has no interest in is extremely tough.  Lucky for me, I found Geocaching.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, Geocaching is where someone hides a cache (Usually an ammo can) with clues and coordinates on where to find it posted online. Inside the can you typically find a visitors log, and items to trade. A lot of newer GPS units have a feature built in for this from the factory. Some caches are entry level easy, increasing in difficulty to the multi-caches where only one point is published and once you find it, it gives a second location to find another.  During a family camping outing, I introduced it to her. After her first find, she was hooked.  Armed with my GPS, she was off to the next cache and I was playing catch up.  Once she had that mastered, I threw her a curve ball.  After obtaining a topographic map from the park office and making sure my compass was in my pack, her GPS batteries mysteriously went dead.  She had to find the last of her two day trek multi-cache.  After teaching her to plot to paper and correct for magnetic north, she found it easily.  (She actually did much better than most of the guys with whom I went to the Platoon Leader’s Development Course (PLDC.) She also learned how difficult it was with a pack on your back and a baby strapped to your front.

Now that she is on the same page, knitting needles as mother’s day gifts excite her.  She has started knitting and sewing some items for our boy.  Her ability to re-purpose items amazes me.  She even suggests going to the rifle range for our monthly date instead of dinner and a movie. She is even becoming a little obsessive about accuracy, taking over my reloading press for hours at a time.  Even showing her uncle how to “properly” shoot with a sling.  She is now constantly coming up with new ideas on how to store more stuff and other items we may need in our bug out bags. Her job as a bank teller even has her starting to stack pre-1965 silver.  Face value is the best way to buy! I highly recommend if you have a stubborn wife like I do, take any opportunity that arises to be used as a teaching opportunity. Be creative, and be persistent. Identify areas where they may not have the appropriate skills to carry out your plan, and find a way to get them involved.  I know this sounds cheesy, but you must be able to seize the opportunity.  If you can make it fun, they will learn without them even knowing it.  Some of these would also work great for kids.  With your spouse on board, two minds are better than one.  Wait for your opportunity to show them how awful it could be without prepping and the real reason behind it.  Be ready.  Molon Labe.

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