Tuesday, August 30, 2016


September 2016 Corridor Article
“Be Prepared” – Boy Scout motto
Are you prepared?  Prepared for job loss, car breakdowns, or power outages?  Since this is Oklahoma we also need to be prepared for tornadoes, ice storms, earthquakes, wildfires, and floods (often in the same week).  “Am I prepared” is a question that, for a long time, I was scared to even ask myself!  For many, “preppers” brings about the thought of people living in bunkers preparing for the end of the world.  After some reading, a lot of research, visiting with others, and having discussions with my husband, we realized that, like many things, “prepping” was a wise thing to do. . .just maybe not to the extent some Reality TeeVee preppers go.  We simply wanted to give us the best reasonable chance to take care of ourselves in as many unpleasant situations as possible.
The first consideration is water.  Our well messed up some time back and we were without water for several hours.  We could not do anything; bathroom breaks were not recommended, a cool drink of well water was out of the question, forget about doing laundry.  Thankfully I did have a case of water for drinking but the other things were not doable, which got me to thinking.  What would we do in a real crisis if we were without water for several days or months?  First, I decided to buy a case of bottled water at least every other time I go grocery shopping.  Bottled water is inexpensive.  I usually pay around $3 for a case of 24, and it lasts a really long time. Since I drink quite a bit of bottled water it is easy to rotate it, which is important for food and water preps.  We have also started storing a few barrels of rain water for non-potable water for things like flushing toilets or, in a pinch, washing laundry. 
If you find yourself in a situation where the only water available is dirty it is recommended that you bring the water to a rolling boil and hold that boil for one minute to purify it and kill as much gross stuff as possible.  Another inexpensive and space saving solution for water is a water filter.  You can buy small filters for around twenty dollars and they will purify thousands of gallons of water.  Obviously the more you spend the better quality and more gallons per filter you can get, but something is better than nothing.
Second, you need to eat.  Currently an average American consumes close to two thousand pounds of food per year!  That’s crazy to think about, but you can survive on about half that amount of food.  Rice and beans may not be the tastiest, but during a crisis we will be thankful for any morsel of food we can get!  If you do the work yourself, you can store one thousand pounds of food for less than $400.  That food won’t, however, be cookies and potato chips!  You can get a 25 or 50 pound bags of rice, beans, flour, and sugar at most grocery stores.  Many people use Mylar bags and O2 absorbers bought online and seal the full bags using a clothes iron.  Roughly 5 pounds of food (depending on the food) will fit in each bag with a couple O2 absorbers.  It takes a week or so for the O2 absorbers to do their job but once they do the bags are sucked down like a vacuum seal.  Any critters that did manage to make it into the bags before sealing will expire from lack of oxygen rather than ruin the entire bag!  Beware using O2 absorbers in the sugar or salt because it will turn them into bricks!  We save 2-liter bottles and small water bottles for the sugar and use small zip top bags for the salt.   We use 5 gallon buckets to store our food in and on the outside we list the contents of the.  I try to change things up for a little variety.  An example of what might have in a bucket is: 5 pounds each of all-purpose flour, white rice, and brown beans, a 2-liter bottle of sugar, 1 pound of salt in a zip top bag, a couple bottles of cheap seasonings, like chili powder, paprika, pepper, and a box of matches.  If there is room I will throw various other things inside such as baking soda, a small box of .22 ammo, cheap well vacuum sealed coffee, drink mixes, vanilla, popcorn, or oats.   You want to use things that have a very very long shelf life and are in good packaging.  There are tons of web sites dedicated just to food storage, it is fun to do research and see what the shelf life really is for food products.  I believe white rice has a 30 year shelf life!  There are also a lot of products on the market now that provide a week or month worth of food for one person in a freeze dried set up in a 5 gallon bucket.  That’s all well and good but they are expensive and I’m cheap so it’s easier for me to do the work myself and save a few bucks!  The first step in getting “prepared” is the hardest but start small.  Next time you go grocery shopping throw a 1 pound bag of beans and rice in your basket, it’ll only set you back a few bucks but it will get you on the right path of taking care of yourself and your family in the unfortunate event of a crisis.
Medical supplies and a way to protect yourself and your family are other things you need to think about and prepare for but for some can be a bit on the harder side.  First of all, if you are only preparing for a small crisis, like a job loss or an ice storm, these will not be as big of an issue.  It is always a good idea to keep at least a 30-day supply of any prescription medicines on hand.  If you tell your doctor what you are doing, they will likely write you a prescription so that you can do this.  Do not let your prescriptions go empty.  Refill them as often as possible.  If you are preparing for the “grid down” crisis, these are defiantly some things you need to think about.  Will there be medical help available?  If we are in a “grid down” crisis it is very possible you will be totally on your own.  It is a good idea to do some research, and know some rudimentary first aid.  Also, during your research stage, figure out what you’ll need for medical supplies and get them!  The same goes for protection of yourself and your family: decide what kind of crisis you want to prepare for and research and start your purchases. 
The last thing I want to mention, especially in light of the resent disaster in Louisiana that has stranded several motorists on the highways with nowhere to go, is a “Get Home Bag”.    A get home bag can be as simple or as elaborate as you want to make it.  Who should have a “get home bag”?  Everyone!  I have a friend who is sending a son off to college and she was very concerned about getting him a bag for his vehicle so that he had the best ability available to make it home in case of a disaster.  Also, plan bags based on who is normally in your vehicle, so if your kids are with you make sure to keep them in mind when packing a bag.  You can buy a special back pack for a long walk or use an old pack from your kids closet.  The main thing is what you put in it.  When I packed my “get home bag” for my car I figured the furthest away from home I would ever be, unless it was a planned trip, is about 60 miles.  If I have to walk home I could do it in 3 or 4 days.  So, my bag holds enough water and food to get me 3 days.   A few examples of the food I have are pouch tuna, raisins, and granola bars, and I try to rotate those things out to keep them fresh.  MREs are great but on the expensive side for me.  Yes, I’ll be hungry when I get home but at least I’ll have a little nutrition, and I can always hope for a generous neighbor or unexpected forage along the way.  On the comfort/clothing side my bag holds a change of clothes, a pair of walking shoes, extra socks, a pair of heavy duty work gloves, and rain gear.  The socks and walking shoes are probably the most important, because at any given time I could be wearing dress shoes or flip flops, and if I had to walk any distance I would be in pain!  I also have fire starting equipment, a recycled bottle with some cotton balls, matches, and lighter.  There are many other things in my bag but you will have to evaluate your needs based on your own situation.  I try to go through my bag a couple times a year and reevaluate what I have inside and take out or add things I’ve thought of.

There are many books and online resources to use these days on the subject of prepping, but my advice is take the first step: just do it.  Start small and build from there.  You can make it a fun family activity.  Talk to your spouse and kids about what you’re doing and why, and make sure you can take care of your own in a crisis, no matter the size.
The following is not in my article for The Corridor but an added bonus ;-)  And if the article goes over good I may try to do a bit more writing on the subject here on my blog.  I had to keep the article short and generic but could have filled the whole magazine with ideas and suggestions and thoughts..... Please feel free to share, comment good or bad or with suggestions.  I am still learning about the whole "prepping" scene but it is something I'm enjoying.  I just wish I had a whole bunch more money to spend getting prepared.  My thought on the whole thing is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. 
*** a few fiction books I've read that might give you some good ideas, make you think, and get you on the ball to "prepping" and also a couple forums that have some good stuff on them.....

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Technology Centers and Why I Love Them

*Oklahoma's network of 29 technology centers on 59 campuses serves high school and adult learners with specialized career training in more than 90 instructional areas. High school students living in a technology center district attend tuition free, while adults are charged nominal tuition. Technology center students also are able to earn highly affordable and transferable college credit from area colleges in many career majors.
With the impact today's technology has upon the professional world, many students find themselves better prepared for college and careers after completing CareerTech instruction.

I did not like school.  I did not excel at school.  I did not feel challenged.  I simply did not care, which, upon reflection, could have been why I didn’t feel challenged or excel.  That all changed when I had the opportunity my junior and senior year to attend vo-tech, now referred to as “Career Tech”.  Vo-Tech was a godsend for me.  I got to spend half of my day actually learning something that would benefit me later on in life and it made it a little easier to get up in the morning and go to “school”.   I was an average student in high school but was near the top of the class at vo-tech, which didn’t make sense to some, but was perfectly logical to me.  I was learning a skill that would carry me over into adulthood, and (though I didn’t realize at the time) would have a big impact on my career.  I knew I would not go to college.  I know that my parents would have loved if I would have, but were very supportive in my desire to attend tech instead. 
            Paden High School, where I attended 13 years of school, was in the Gordon Cooper Technology Center district in Shawnee, so that was where I attended 2 years of tech training.  I really wanted to take a business course, with accounting being my top choice.  Unfortunately it was a pretty popular course and I got put into the marketing and management course instead, which turned out to be just where I needed to be for future endeavors.  The first year was focused on marketing.  We learned how to market a product, a business, and ourselves.  We did hands on projects.  One such group project was marketing a loaf of bread.  We toured everything from the farm where wheat was grown, to the mill where flour was made and sold, to the kitchen where the bread was made.  Things that were interesting, held my attention, and made sense where they fell in line with things in the real world.  Unlike algebra, these classes were filled with things that I could easily see helping me to make a living after high school.
My second year focused on management, from time to employees to a whole business.  We covered it all.  The project I remember from my senior year, maybe because I was class president and got to do more than most students, was a bowl-a-thon benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  First off, that was dear to my heart because the year before my grandma had passed away from MD so I knew how it could affect a family.  Second, as I said, Madam President got to do a whole lot more work.  I remember making phone calls to solicit sponsors for the event, scheduling the bowling alley, presenting the event to each of the other classes at tech, scheduling the participants times and lanes to bowl in, and managing the funds raised.  How much more hands on can a class get?  It was great experience for the future and it wasn’t boring history class that would not help me gain much of anything in my future.  Sorry history teachers, no offense to you.  I do actually wish now that I would have paid a little more attention in history class just for the sake of it being fun but I did not see the use when I was younger.
            Fast forward to a month or two after high school graduation when I started working in a bank as a teller, interacting with customers, managing my cash drawer, and as a teller, being a face for the bank.  My vo-tech training set me up to succeed with all those tasks.  Sometime later I went to work in my family’s business, Davenport’s Archery.  I started out only doing book keeping and soon I was doing (almost) everything!  Bookkeeping, sales, marketing, managing schedules, the works.  Again, my vo-tech training helped with those tasks.  Then, a few years ago now, I started my own business.  Like the family business, I handled everything including hiring employees and making time schedules.  Yup, you guessed it. . .my vo-tech training helped with those tasks.  As any business owner can tell you, you never really get a handle on all those tasks, but at least with the vo-tech training I knew which questions to ask rather than flying blind! 
            While nearly half of Oklahoma high school students are enrolled in a local technology center like I was, they are not just for high school students.  I remember one student in my class who was well over 50 and wanting to learn a new skill so she could do something besides work in the fast food industry.  Since 93 percent of full time tech students have positive placement, either employed, college, or military, she was *really* improving her chances to succeed.  Had she wanted to go on to college, some of the courses will transfer to college credit. 
            While full time courses at tech schools get the spotlight, there are also personal interest courses and continuing education or certification courses.  The personal interest courses are normally taught by folks in the community who are not professional teacher but love what they do.  Several years ago I started taking some cooking classes, from cake decorating to Mexican food.  I used the techniques and recipes when running my cafĂ©.  I now am teaching several of those cooking classes at Meridian Tech in Stillwater.   I started a couple years ago with 3 or 4 classes a semester and now I am up to 15 or so classes a semester. 
Food is something I am passionate about and I love teaching others what I know.  I have absolutely no professional training but I think I am able to relate and be down to earth with my students.  One of my favorite classes teaches people to make pies from scratch.  Each student makes 3 pie crusts from scratch.  One crust is filled with a cream filling and the other two are used for a fruit pie.  The students take both of their pies home with them. . .at least the part of their pies they don’t eat on the way home!  I fully expected this class to be full of younger ladies who wanted to learn to make pie.  I was wrong!  I have had everything from 18 year old girls to 70+ year old grandpas. 
Another popular class is Sushi for Beginners.  I do not profess to be a sushi master, but I can teach you the technique so that you can go home and play with your food.  I had one class where there was a group of friends in their early 20s.  At the end of each class there is a survey to fill out, one question being “How will this training will help you?”  One of the young men responded to that question with this answer: “Maybe find me a girlfriend.”  I loved it!  These young men were taking cooking classes so they can impress the girls.  I guess they were trying to learn how to cook up some bait!
The personal interest classes are great for an evening out with friends.  Most are in the $25 to $30 dollar price range and last for 3 hours.  There aren’t many things you can go and have a good time and learn a new skill for that price!  I scanned a few of the area tech centers brochures and they all offer all types of classes.  Photography, computer skills, wood working, cooking. . .you name it and a tech in your area probably can teach you how to do it!  Some classes are even targeted for families.  You get a great opportunity to spend a few hours with your kids and they learn a skill and have fun while doing it.  
            So, whether you are a high school student that isn’t sure you want to go to college but want to learn a skill that can place you into a job as soon as you graduate, or you are interested in learning or improving a new skill, look at your local tech center!  College isn’t for everyone and tech can put you, or your high school graduate, into a job that can make as much or more money than a 4 year college degree. . .and it’s free for high school students!  

We’ve got three great campuses along The Corridor to choose from, so check them out.  Central Tech in Drumright (www.centraltech.edu), Meridian Tech in Stillwater (www.meridiantech.edu), and Gordon Cooper Tech in Shawnee (www.gctech.edu).