About Me

Pearl City, HI, United States

Friday, April 26, 2019

Are You Ready?

Copyright © 2019
by Ralph F. Couey

Spring and summer are often times when strong, even violent storms occur.  Such events are not unique to tornado alley or hurricane-prone areas, and it is prudent to make some preparations in advance.  Earthquakes, of course, don't require any season.  They just happen.

Basically, there are two scenarios.  One, if situations force people to flee their homes, such as floods or approaching hurricanes.  The other is if situations develop where people are going to be trapped or otherwise isolated for long periods of time due to disruptions of civil services.  Again, the aftermath of hurricanes and tornadoes, earthquakes, or if flooding isolates an area, effectively cutting people off from the outside world.  Regardless of where one lives, either scenario could occur.

Here in Hawai'i, the concerns center on hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.  And the odd nuclear missile threat.  People are continuously advised to prepare, but because people are people, almost nobody heeds those advisories.  After perusing some of the excellent publications available through Civil Defense and Emergency Management, I thought a discussion on how to prepare might be appropriate.

Let's first think about a situation where you might have to flee your home on short notice, for a number of very excellent reasons.  There won't be enough time to put your "Go Bag" together, and you could find yourself leaving behind items vital to survival.  While the term Go Bag might connotate a backpack, you might also think about a medium-sized wheeled suitcase.  As to what goes inside, here is a list courtesy of any number of government agencies.

-- Identification (ID card or driver's license.)
-- Credit cards, and a separate document listing the account numbers and security codes.
Bank account information.  Don't rely on your cell phone alone.  During an emergency, those towers could go dark.
-- Medical insurance cards
-- Advanced healthcare directives
-- Certified copies of property deeds, titles, and copies of the relevant insurance documents.
-- A two week supply of any prescription medications, and copies of the prescriptions themselves.
-- If you wear glasses, a copy of your lens prescription
-- A change of clothes (for rough wear) and sturdy shoes or boots.  If you have to walk through debris, tennis shoes will not last long.
-- Poncho or some other kind of rain gear
-- Portable battery or crank-powered radio, and extra batteries
-- Flashlight and extra batteries
-- Non-perishable food, such as energy bars, beef jerky, nuts, etc.
-- Water.  Under normal circumstances, a half-gallon per person per day for drinking.  In hot and/or humid regions, a gallon per person per day.  This, by far will be the bulkiest and heaviest item.  A gallon of water weighs nearly 8.5 pounds.  It is also the most vital item.  Experts say that a person can live for up to three weeks without food.  Without water, three to four days at most, less than that in hot and/or humid conditions.  Packing five gallons of water can keep you alive, but means you'll be hauling over 40 pounds everywhere you go.  If you can devise a way to put those containers on wheels, it will ease your burden.
-- Hygiene supplies.  Keeping yourself as clean as possible under the circumstances will stave off disease and prevent contaminating your supplies.  Also, toilet paper and wipes, some cleaning supplies, and extra diapers for the babies.
-- Comfort items.  Not sure what this entails, but off the top of my head, perhaps a treasured toy for a child.  What brings comfort to an adult is a personal decision.
-- Whistle.  At any outdoors store, you can purchase a hiker's whistle for less than $10.  These are designed to generate an ear-piercing sound detectable at as much as a mile, depending on terrain and conditions.  This is valuable if you find yourself trapped in debris, or someplace where searchers may not readily see you.  Also, it can be useful for family communication buy designating a code (like two long and one short blasts) so those who are separated can locate each other.  Again, don't plan on any cell phone service for several days or weeks.
-- Sleeping bag
--Tools.  Not an entire box, but a few useful items like pliers, knives, hammer, a manual can opener, one of each type of screw driver, and an adjustable wrench.  If there's room, perhaps a small pry bar as well.
-- A small comprehensive first aid kit, consisting of bandages, wraps, gauze, antiseptic, alcohol, and medical tape.  Even a small cut left untreated in a disaster situation could result in a major medical problem.

There are other items peculiar to your situation that you might include, but remember that whatever you put in there, you'll have to carry.  People who hike the back country can certainly provide some guidance here.

This collection should be gathered, packed and available for you to grab and go if an evacuation order is issued.  Some experts advise working people to have one at their place of employment as well.  Once you have your stuff, leave quickly.  Like Lot's wife, looking back can be fatal.

The other situation involves being trapped or isolated in your home.  You will have shelter from the elements, which is a real good thing, but to survive, you'll need more.

You should plan on providing for yourself and family for at least two weeks.  There are a wide range of situations that could put you in this situation, but there are a few certainties you can count on.  First of all, there will be no power, so anything powered by electricity will be useless to you until power is restored.  It sounds silly, but there are those who have a lot of canned food in their pantries, but only have electric can openers in their homes.  Second, while commercial radio stations will likely be operating, cell towers might take longer to restore.  We love our smart phones, but everyone should have either a battery-powered or crank operated portable radio, preferable one that can receive National Weather Service broadcasts.  Spare batteries are a must.  If your area has been isolated by flood waters, debris, or damaged roadways, it might be days before rescuers reach you.  During that time, your only source of information will be through that radio.

Food.  You should plan to consume about 2,000 calories per day, per person, and your menu choices should be from non-perishable sources.  Canned food, as long as the cans are not rusty, is usually the best choice.  Focus on protein sources, and vital carbs from vegetables and fruits.  We've already covered water, so don't skimp when laying in that particular item.  If you plan to cook, make sure you do that outside of the house.  Don't risk burning your only shelter to the ground.

Medications, again at least a two-week supply.  Coolers and a way to keep them cool will be necessary if your meds require cool storage.  Lay in a supply of basic vitamins as well.  

This is far from a comprehensive list, and there are likely some items I've missed.  Visit Ready.gov for a more comprehensive list.  But disasters are by definition impossible to predict, and the aftermath will be too late to prepare.  Now this not the stuff of the tin-foil-hat crowd, but a prudent and responsible way to make sure you and your loved ones can survive if the worst happens.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

My Lap Band Life: Postop #3

Three Weeks and looking good.

Copyright ©2019
by Ralph F. Couey

That photo represents a kind of triumph.  I am wearing pants with a size 38 waist, something I haven't worn since I was 25.  Suffice to say, I am happy with my new profile, even happier that since the swelling hasn't gone down completely, I'll get even smaller.  So, adding it all together, since I started this journey in 2011, I've lost 214 pounds.

Every day I've seen marked improvement in the pain levels.  But as the numbing agents which were injected during surgery begin to finally wear off, I'm feeling some discomfort that is just enough to impair my concentration.  I have pain meds for that, but I'm only taking them when I absolutely need to.  I was a counter-drug analyst for seven years, so I am well-versed in the trap of addiction that opiates represent.  My activity levels have increased accordingly.  I'm now walking two miles per day, and will up that a bit in the coming week.  My new job involves a lot of sitting, and that makes the ab muscles stiffen up.  So, when I stand up, there is a moment of two of pain while things stabilize.  The more I move, the looser those muscles become, and hence the lower the pain levels.  

I had my third postop visit with the plastic surgeon and was told that everything is healing as it should.  The belly drain stayed in for an interminable 16 days, but was finally removed so I've been freed from the necessity of carrying the darn thing around my neck.

Sleep is still difficult, but not necessarily from the surgery.  I'm having to get up every hour or hour and a half to visit the restroom, which is odd because during the day I can go four to six hours between visits.  I have a call into my urologist to solve this particular mystery.

One of the interesting things is how low my appetite has been.  I eat very little, and that has helped my continued weight loss, which is now down to 204.  I am still drinking protein drinks to ensure I get my fill of that vital nutrient.  

Friday night, I went to one of our Irish Music Sessions, and two my surprise, I lasted the entire two hours, tapping away at my bodhran (Irish frame drum).  It was a gas being with them again, although I kinda had to relearn the best way to hold it, since there's way less of me in those areas.  My stamina, which has had some bad days of late, continues to improve, probably helped by my walking.  I look forward to slowly returning to my normal levels as things improve.

I have to admit having to remind myself that I did this voluntarily from time to time as I've struggled with the pain and discomfort.  But I have absolutely no regrets that I had this done.  It was necessary to stave off skin infections, as well as the fact that no amount of diet and exercise was going to take away what was left.  I'm told that it will take at least another month or so for all the swelling to go down and the discomfort to go away.  I have to be patient, knowing that time will pass at it's own pace.  But I know that I've turned a big corner here with my health and appearance, as well as my confidence in myself going forward.  Despite the cost involved in acquiring a whole new wardrobe, I am delighted as to how far I've come, and how far I've yet to go.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Earning Wisdom

"If I had my life to live over again,
I would ask that not a thing be changed,
but that my eyes be opened wider."
--Jules Renard

Copyright © 2019
by Ralph F. Couey

I would wager that there's not a single one of us who hasn't indulged in asking the question, "What if could start life over again; what would I change?"

It's a self-directed inquiry rooted in that somewhat rueful life review where we remember the mistakes we made, the errors in judgement, and other slip ups that decorate our past.  We think that if we could go back in time and correct those missteps, then everything would be different, and better.  While there's some truth to that, we overlook the real value of those experiences.

There are two invaluable things we gain through life, education and experience.  Education is levied through formal education, but also through the far less formal classroom colloquially referred to as "The Street."  While it is important that we reach a certain point knowing how to do most math, identify proper sentence structure, and an appreciation for human history, it is where that structured information mixes with sometimes harsh reality where true understanding is reached.  

The context of human experience is vital in the appreciation of what we know.  One can read and study about poverty, but until you plant your footsteps in the soil of Africa, you will never appreciate what true poverty really is.  One can also read about hate, but until you are face-to-face with someone who is consumed to the point of violence by that hate, you will never understand the power of that emotion.  It is, as they say, the difference between knowledge and street smarts.

The thing is, when we think about all the bad things that have happened to us (and we do that way too much), we forget that those events, and the associated powerful emotions have shaped the person we are today.  Likewise, all the good things that have happened have also helped to form us.  To deny that, even to wish it away is to invalidate a part of who and what we are.

Mistakes are a part of the human experience.  We all make them, from the minor slips to the major catastrophe.  But it is what we learn from those moments, and the experience we apply to the future that makes them valuable.  I've certainly committed some major errors in my life, things that I have regretted ever since. But it is that regret that has kept me from repeating those acts and saying those words.  While my actions have cost me relationships in the past, what I learned has certainly saved friendships in the time since.

My life now is a fairly satisfying one.  My wife and I are in a very loving and supportive relationship.  I have children (now adults) and grandchildren all of whom I love  with all my heart.  But I know that if I had made major changes to my life, I would not now be in this happy place.  For example, I know that if I had spent much more time and effort on my education, I would have emerged from high school and college in a much better position to succeed.  But had I done that, I wouldn't have been in that Kansas City bowling alley that Saturday when I looked across about 16 bowling lanes and fastened my eyes on the girl I would marry.  That one moment, the glimpse of her long black hair shimmering in the light, changed me forever.  I would have been someplace else doing something else.  Even the timing of when we had our kids would have changed who and what they would become.  

True, my early academic efforts were fraught with failure, but had I not been forced by economic circumstances into the Navy, I would have missed out on the life-changing experiences that flowed to me during those 10 years.  It really didn't become apparent until I went back to college in 1990.  I had seen the world, planting my feet in the soil of some 37 countries, from the poverty and despair of Africa to the cosmopolitan lights and excitement of places like Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore.  I had seen the human experience.  Now, I sat in class with young students for whom this trip to the University was their first venture outside their home counties.  The difference in perspective was immediately obvious.  In relating those experiences, I would be challenged by those who simply could not believe facts, an argument that I stopped with the words, "I was there.  I saw it."  I would not have traded that perspective for anything.

Those moments when I was convinced that a door had slammed in my face, I now realize opened other opportunistic doors of which I had never been aware.  It is a well-worn, even trite phrase, but it is nonetheless true.  Suffice to say, however, that in the throes of those bad moments, it is nearly impossible for us to see beyond the immediate disaster.  It is always the long view that gives us the proper perspective.  That perspective is the only thing I would change about my past, the ability to see beyond the present to the possibility of what lies beyond; to find hope in the midst of despair.

My sorrow, my angst, my regrets, they're all a part of me.  I could no more separate myself from them than I could cut off my own arm.  For better or worse, they make up the person I am today, one who has hopefully learned from the past.

There is a word for that; the combination of experience, learning, and pain.  It is something that is all-too present in old age while completely unavailable in youth.  It is the lessons we can pass along to anyone willing to sit down and listen.