Surviving A Week Without Water

My front yard is being re-landscaped so I can have running water!

My front yard is being re-landscaped so I can have running water!

After more than a week without running water, I appreciate even more the privilege of living in a first world country.  I never expected to be without running water for such a long period, but the unusually low temps in our area have prevented outside repairs.  We’re lucky though, even though our water main is broken, it has just enough pressure to allow us to turn it on for a few minutes each day to “restock” our water supply.

All this time without working faucets has got me to thinking about disasters in much greater detail.  I also have a much better understanding of how much water you HAVE to have each day to get by.

It turns out that the recommended 1 gal per person per day is actually a bare minimum.  We have found that, even if you aren’t taking showers or flushing toilets, you will need closer to 2-3 gallons per person per day.  Add toilets and basic personal hygiene (but still no showers) into the equation and you need more like 5-10 gallons per person.

Wow, what an eye opener.  Think about it, do you even have enough room or containers in your house to store 10 gallons of water per person for one day, let alone a week?  Puts things into perspective doesn’t it?

Of course, not all water is created equal.  The quality of the water coming through our broken pipe in not drinkable, so we’ve had to use a purification system to make sure we don’t create a “secondary emergency” by getting sick.  We’re fortunate to already own a system that will make our water potable, but it certainly isn’t something I would have thought about having in place for this type of situation.

My Red Cross disaster training has been really helpful in coping with this situation; it gave me some basic guidelines to follow and some ideas of how to be creative with our resources.  But nothing short of going through a situation can really make you challenge your underlying assumptions—many you may not even realize you have.

I had never considered how much water it takes to brush my teeth or how to wash my hands one at a time with one hand pouring from the pitcher and the other trying to wash itself. These are only two small things, but there are dozens of small challenges to be overcome without running water, everything from laundry to cooking.  I have always thought I would do OK during a zombie apocalypse, but I have definitely reconsidered some of my bravado after this past week.

While we’ve done great, we’ve also not been 100% without access to water or other resources.  At any time we can get in our car (which has plenty of gas) and drive to the store or go to a friend’s house for water.  We have more than enough food and haven’t lost power or heat, all things that can become scarce or nonexistent for weeks on end during disasters (think Hurricanes Sandy or Katrina).

So my message to all of you who are enjoying a cozy snow day, is to take a few minutes today to consider what you might do if you lost even one of these precious utilities that we take for granted.

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How to Use an Online Review

With online searching becoming so much of a standard in looking for everything from a new doctor to a plumber or a great restaurant or book, it is important to know how to decipher reviews to ensure you are able to make the very best choices for you and your family.  So whether you check out Google, Amazon or Yelp reviews, ask yourself these questions before making a decision.

  1. Is it relevant?Gold star

Make sure that the review speaks to the issue or needs that you have.  It’s nice to know that a repairman has a great smile, but that doesn’t tell you anything about his repair skills.

  1. Is it specific?

Another issue I’ve encountered is people telling you someone is “really good” but not telling you WHY they think so.  I want to know exactly what service the company performed for you and what the positive (or negative) outcomes were.

  1. Is it dated?

I always read the most recent reviews first.  I’ve found that organizations can change (just like people, imagine that!) so I tend to give more weight to the most recent reviews and will generally not look at anything much over a year old.

  1. Does it include credentials?

I’m looking for information on years in business, training, certifications or excellent end results so that when I pick a company I am confident that they have the resources to do a good job for me.

  1. Is it rational?

Unfortunately, for some reason there are some individuals that will decide to “flame” a company.  I have learned to filter out multiple negative rants that appear to come from the same person or group of people.  If the reviews seem a little too over the top, then I generally try to do some additional research.  A good clue is name calling or profanity.

  1. Is it too good to be true?

Occasionally I will come across a set of reviews that swing wildly from bad to good and back again. That is my clue that the company is having someone write good reviews (usually a family member or employee) to try to cover up the bad ones and push them further down the list.  I consider this  an act of bad faith.  I don’t mind having companies answer the accusations in a bad review and I usually even give them extra credit if their answer is polite and even-handed, but I will completely eliminate reviews that try to bolster a company’s rankings.

Reading reviews is a great way to find your next fabulous pet sitter or lawn care company, just be sure to apply your critical thinking skills to the process so you can have an awesome outcome!

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December 13, 2013 · 2:35 pm

Ripen Your Referrals Before Serving Them Up

The other day I bought an avocado at the store.  I carefully selected one that looked fairly ripe as I was planning to eat it soon.  A few days later I cut that avocado open for dinner confident that it would be perfect with our Mexican dinner.

Alas, it was still hard inside, even though from the outside it looked fully ripe.  I went ahead and served half of it with our meal, but it was very unsatisfying and didn’t have the creamy taste or texture that we love.

Even if they look ripe on the outside, sometimes they aren't.

Even if they look ripe on the outside, sometimes they aren’t.

As I thought about it, I realized it was a lot like making a good referral.  We oh so carefully select the exact right person to refer.  Then, when the time is ripe, we pass along the name, the phone number and some info about the situation to our referral partner.   Because we have taken a little extra time and attention, we assume that the referral is perfect.

But sometimes, like my avocado, looks are deceiving and more time is required to fully ripen the referral. What can we do to help serve up ripe referrals every time?

  1. Make sure you understand the specific needs of the referee. Use basic interview skills to solicit their exact needs.  What? Where? and Why? questions are your best friends.
  2. Know the scope of your referral partner’s services or products.  One-to-ones and GAINS profiles can make all the difference here.
  3. Perform the referral introduction in person if at all possible.  Not only does that allow you to add credibility to your referral, it also gives you a chance to start the new referral relationship off on the right foot.  If you can’t do it in person, then perform introductions over the phone then send an email to both parties with contact info included.
  4. Lastly, follow-up with both parties within a week of giving the referral. This is your chance to ensure that your referral is ripe and tasty for everyone involved.

Follow these four simple tips for the ripest referrals possible and start serving up results!

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A Family Affair–Tips for for Dealing with Hospitalization

Long-time blogger and friend, Duane Hallock, recently wrote a post with ideas for blog topics to help get folks jump-started.  I accepted his challenge and paired it with some Facebook posts that a friend is sharing about her father’s illness plus a healthy dash of “I’ve been there myself” to create this list of tips for coping with a family member’s hospitalization.

In the past 5 years I have had close family members undergo no less than a dozen surgeries, one DSCN1441coma and countless doctor visits, chemo and radiation appointments.  The remarkable thing is that for the most part, before 2008 I would have told you that we were a fairly healthy bunch, rarely even sick.  It made me realize for the first time that you can’t necessarily depend on having endless health, what a wake-up call!

Here are a few things I’ve learned about having a family member hospitalized:

  • Information Management:  Pick one person to manage the information about their care.  This includes keeping track of reports and tests and notifying their doctors of any updates in their care. Put all that info in a notebook that you take with you.
  • Advocate! Someone needs to be the patient’s advocate, this needs to be a person who can be polite but firm.  You want the very best for your loved one and charming the medical staff with kindness will go further than throwing a temper tantrum.
  • ASK QUESTIONS!  Don’t accept whatever anyone says at face value.  Make it a point to really understand what medical professionals are saying about your family member’s condition.
  • Know your Players: Although doctors are an important part of your loved one’s recovery, daily caregivers–nurses, case assistants, therapists–are the ones who will be implementing the care, so make sure that you have good rapport with them and do what you can to assist and thank them.
  • Research!  The internet can really be your friend for finding out about your loved one’s condition.  I recommend sticking to reputable sources like webmd and Mayo Clinic to make sure you are getting accurate info.
  • Accept Support: You aren’t the first family to go through this and since so many folks have been in your shoes, they frequently are willing to help out with everything from running errands to sitting with your loved one so you can get a break.  Say Yes!  You are giving them a huge blessing by allowing them to give of themselves.
  • Spread out the Assistance: If you are part of a large group of siblings or extended family, consider tag-teaming your visits/assistance so that everyone is not at the hospital at the same time.  This is a marathon, not a sprint and help may be needed for months to come.  I have seen this implemented beautifully by both sides of my family–with each sibling or cousin taking a week or more to stay with the loved one while they are healing, then handing the reins off to the next person (this is where the medical notebook becomes invaluable).
  • Share: An important part of your loved one’s recovery is the love and support from others.  But you have to let folks know that there is a need.  Share with family and friends, via email or social media updates on the patient’s recovery.  Be sure your patient feels comfortable with the level of information you are sharing before sending anything out.  Print out anything you send and put it in the back of the medical notebook so that you can share it with your family member after they recover.  Frequently they don’t remember much afterwards and this gives them some insight into what was happening.

If you have parents or other older relatives who depend on you, consider getting some of this completed before they are hospitalized.

  • Get a complete list of their doctors and their medications, it will put you ahead of the game.
  • With current HIPPA regulations, you will need to be added to your family member’s medical consent forms with each doctor in order to be able to contact them.
  • Go with them to each of their doctors at least once.  It helps to meet these professionals when you are not under extreme stress.
  • If you live far away from your family members, ask for the name, number and email address of a couple of their close friends who you can call on if needed.

As I mentioned, I have several friends and family who have been through these situations as well.  I would love any ideas or comments that you have to share!

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Why I was Happy to have Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease and How the Red Cross is to Blame

Two weeks ago I was at my family’s annual five-day love fest hanging out with family and friends-who-have-become-family.  It was a gorgeous day and the weather was perfect.  I had just finished having lunch with some just-passing-thru family and was in the kitchen doing a little dinner prep and chatting with an Aunt.

One of the younger cousins came to get my Aunt, but at the time I didn’t think anything of it.  A few minutes later that changed dramatically.

My Aunt came running into the main room of the lodge holding a toddler and yelling, “He’s not breathing and I can’t get his mouth open.”  I dropped what I was doing and rushed over to help.

Even as I was moving toward her I could feel my Red Cross training kick into gear.  I noted that she was struggling to hold the child and that she was trying to get his mouth open, I evaluated his age to be between one and two years old and I remembered that the most common issue at that age is choking on something they’ve put in their mouth.

I took him from my aunt, carefully positioned him over my arm as trained to do and performed the infant Heimlich maneuver on him one time. I could feel his chest shudder as he finally took a breath and then he began moaning. I laid him tummy side down on a high table so I could check his mouth for an object and that’s when I found his teeth clenched shut–he was having a seizure.

I rubbed his back, checking for breathing (as long as he was moaning he was breathing) and watched him until the seizure had subsided and that point handed him back to his mother.  While I was doing this, another family member was already on the phone to 911.

He was transported with his mother to the hospital where they did a battery of tests and couldn’t find an exact cause for the high fever.  They released him and, with both his mother and father, he returned to the lodge and spent the night.  On the doctor’s orders he was given some over-the-counter medications to keep his fever in check and he ran around and played all evening like nothing had happened. It was truly a joy to see how much fun he was having!

It wasn’t until several days later, after we had all dispersed, that we discovered what had caused his high temperature–Hand, Foot and Mouth disease–a disease that typically affects children under five year of age with awful blistering around the, you guessed it, hands, feet and mouth (sometimes in the mouth).  Every single family member was exposed.

But we are a hardy bunch, and there had been only one other child under five at the reunion.  That blissful ignorance lasted until the next day when a nine-year-old (who I had spent the entire previous day with) came down with a high fever.  But Sunday evening I, too, was well on my way to 101 degrees.

As miserable as I felt for a few days, I don’t begrudge one minute of it.  I would gladly trade a little illness for a healthy, happy toddler running around and having fun. And so I blame the Red Cross, only in jest, because who can say what the outcome would have been without that training?

Reunion Emergency Tips

Because we average one person per year going to the emergency room during our reunion (we aren’t dangerous I promise, there are just a lot of people having fun), I thought I would share a couple of tips that our family has picked up over the last few years:

  • Have one person (preferably an adult with good hearing) call 911. Have them stay on the phone as long as possible so you can report any changes in the patient’s status.
  • If you are camping or are in a vacation area that doesn’t have a regular address, send someone up to the main entrance to meet the ambulance, it can really save time.
  • Frequently when you are vacation, playthings and toys are scattered along the pathway, make sure it is clear. Open up the doors and make sure the rescue workers can easily access the patient.
  • Have one person get the purse/wallet of both the patient and their caregiver and prepare to follow the ambulance to the hospital to provide support. Make sure that they have an extra charger or cell phone. This is the person who will be called for updates and will relay any additional needs.
  • We’ve learned through experience not to overwhelm the hospital waiting area.  If appropriate we may send another person or two in shifts, but we do not help by showing up en mass.
  • Last, but surely the most important, make sure you have at least three people trained in CPR and First Aid at your next family reunion.  If that seems excessive, consider this,  emergencies can happen anywhere, out on the water, down the hiking trail or in the lodge. The more trained people you have, the better the chance that someone will be in the right place at the right time.  With the Red Cross online courses, it doesn’t even take much time to become trained.  Check it out here:
    Red Cross CPR

May your reunion end happily!Another Happy Reunion!

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Accidental Exercise

Some of my most popular postings have been my “Life Hacks”, the systems or shortcuts I use to make my life more manageable, easier and overall better.  If I look at my Facebook feed, I appear to be the only one of my friends who isn’t entered in a 5K, practicing for a triathlon or climbing a mountain this summer.  To be honest, I really don’t like to exercise at all. I was a runner all through high school and I have worked out in the gym with the best of them, but…I still don’t like it.

A number of years ago I joined Weight Watchers just to support a family member (because, they were overweight, not me, yeah right!) and suddenly realized that I needed to somehow burn more calories in order to indulge in ice cream and cookie dough, I decided I’d better get back on the exercise treadmill (pun intended).  But I still didn’t like it and it felt like a waste of time.  No matter what I said or did, it was plain unfun.

ICK!

ICK!

Then I discovered that Weight Watchers let you count everyday household chores for activity points–OK then, game on!  We suddenly had the cleanest carpets and the most dusted furniture in town.  And I realized that if I could exercise in the course of my regular week AND get things done that need doing, I felt a lot more fulfilled. Plus it didn’t take away from my reading time because I was doing things that I needed to do anyway.

So I created a list of ways that I could add accidental exercise to my day without adding a lot of extra time.  Here are a few:

  • Park your car at the furthest spot from the door when you go to the store. Bonus: you’ll save time not driving up and down parking aisles and your car is less likely to get dings or even hit.  I find that my stress level is better too, because I didn’t have to wait for people to get out of my way or try to park in a tight spot.
  • Keep your ice cream in the basement freezer. This assumes you have a basement or a freezer there, but I’ve found I have to consciously think about how much I want ice cream (or any other fabulous snack) if I keep it in the basement and then have to return the carton or box to the basement immediately after dishing up a serving.  If I want a second serving, back to the basement I go burning calories on the way!
  • Take your spouse and your dog for a walk.  This is the very best time to catch up on what’s been going on at work, brainstorm new ideas and talk about serious stuff like  the budget.  The dog needs walking, so make a point of doing it together and gain extra time to work on your relationship.  Bonus: It is easier to talk about difficult subjects because you are both facing forward, the walk relieves stress and you are in public, so generally no yelling or crying. Extra Bonus: If you don’t have a spouse, a kid or a friend is an excellent substitute.
  • Fidget.  While you are watching TV or sitting at your computer desk at work, bouncing your leg, tapping your foot or any other fidgeting behavior will help you use up calories and keep your metabolism moving.  Word of Caution: Try not to do this around other people, it is annoying and disruptive.
  • March. I hate waiting for even five minutes for things to cook but if I walk into another room I am sure to burn the food because I will forget about it.  So to combat food waste (and that awful burnt smell) I often march in place while waiting for the pot to boil or the meat to brown. Bonus: Use this technique while brushing you teeth for 3 minutes. You will fit in some extra exercise and your teeth will be super sparkly.

These are just a few of the ways that I cram exercise into my everyday life.  While I am not winning any marathons (because I haven’t signed up for them), I do maintain my healthy weight and am still able to enjoy the foods I love.  Next time I’ll share accidental exercise ideas for when you travel.

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Growing Your Own Economy

WARNING: As with the previous post “Don’t like this Economy? Create Your Own“, I continue to veer off my “normal” business-related path.  Do not be alarmed, I shall return to it shortly.

In the previous post I went over a couple of ways that we create our own personal economy so we aren’t tossed around in the seas of economic unrest.  I promised you a few more ideas, so here they are.

Veggy Gardening: Full disclosure, we also garden Hostas and flowers, but while they are pretty to look at, they put nothing on the table.

Fresh greens from the garden topped with pickled beets from last year's garden.  Can you say, "MMMMMmmmmm!"

Fresh greens from the garden topped with pickled beets from last year’s garden. Can you say, “MMMMMmmmmm!”

Vegetables on the other hand…they provide fresh organic produce for us June-November and then transition into winter via canning and freezing.  We have our own home-grown food year around.  Not only does this mean fewer trips to the grocery store in the summer, but it also means we control the pesticides and other chemicals that we consume.

I’m not gonna lie, gardening can be hot, buggy and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be.  When we lived in a townhouse with a six-foot square patio, we still gardened successfully, we just did it in containers and rarely had enough left over to can or freeze.  Regardless, we still made an impact on our summer food bill and I discovered that pulling weeds, pruning plants and other garden chores were the perfect antidote to my stressful job.

Trade with Friends: Not at all like “Words with Friends”, this can apply to all sorts of things–children’s clothing, furniture or even services.  While I am lucky to be fairly competent in basic home repairs and my husband is even more so, not everyone has those skills.  So instead of hiring someone to do something like replace a door, consider asking around and seeing if you have a friend you could trade services with.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  I have a friend who is an amazing cook.  I happen to know that my husband would jump through hoops to get her pan-seared scallops, so having him make a minor repair around her house is a win-win for both of them (and me, I like to provide supervision and moral support).  This can also extend to computer repairs and other items.  My husband spent an hour fixing a friend’s computer, but two weeks earlier that friend had stopped by and mowed our front yard while our mower was on the fritz.

Recycle:  I’m not just talking about hauling a bin out to the curb every week, although we found when we started seeing how much packaging we

I painted my patio chairs this fabulous retro color and it's like having a whole new set of furniture for the cost of four cans of spray paint (about $12)!

I painted my patio chairs this fabulous retro color and it’s like having a whole new set of furniture for the cost of four cans of spray paint (about $12)!

threw away each week, we became more careful about what we buy.  What I am actually talking about is thinking about how you can reuse items you already have instead of going out and buying new ones.  If you have patio furniture that you like, but hate the color, paint it!

If you want new pillows on your couch, can you swap out others from a different room or make new pillow covers from some leftover fabric?  I even swap out indoor and outdoor items, bringing inside plants stands (with a little new paint) and taking out wrought iron candle holders.  I like changing things up and it makes me feel good without spending a lot of money (although I do use a lot of paint!).

Obviously, not all of these ideas are a good fit for everyone, but if you even apply one, you are taking control of your own economy!

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