Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Twenty-One Days Until TEOTWAWKI - Day Zero

The sky was clear blue, a sharp contrast to the gray sea.

He stood, jeans rolled up to his calves, on the rocky shore as shallow waves lapped against his bare feet.  Our eight year old daughter, dressed just like her dad, in jeans and a fleece, embroidered with our "school logo", gingerly tread through the water next to him.

Her delicate hand held back her long hair, so that she could peer into the waves, looking for treasures each undulation brought up to the beach.  Shells, rocks, sea glass.  It was all collected and brought home to be stored in vases, jars, and cracked drinking glasses - a history of our years of beach combing along the Atlantic coast of Southern Maine.

That's the picture that is preserved, quite literally, thanks to Kodak (or whatever the manufacturer of the digital camera with which I took that picture), of a day many years ago when Deus Ex Machina decompressed from his work stress and spent a few hours at the beach with us.

Days like those, when Deus Ex Machina has unexpected time off and could join us on our adventure, are rare.  I treasure them, because that's what they are - treasures: a rare, valuable thing.

On a Thursday in June at 9:00 AM, I was just starting my day.

My days start really slow.  I get up, usually a little before Deus Ex Machina has to leave for work.  I don't have an alarm.  My time is, mostly, my own.

I grab a cup of coffee, and usually we chat about just random stuff until he has to leave.  Then, I stand by the door, looking out the window and wave as he backs out of the driveway, and run to the window to wave and blow kisses as he drives down the street and out in to the world.

Usually, I'm the only one awake for a while.  I hop on my computer and download my email.  Sometimes I'll start a blog post.  Sometimes I'll open up one of the dozens of stories I'm always working on and never finishing.  Sometimes I'll look for writing gigs.

Or I'll head outside and put some laundry on the line or work in the garden or check on the animals - making sure everyone has food and water.

This day, we were preparing to go on a field trip with our homeschool co-op.  It was mandatory, for me, because I was also going to be attending a Board meeting.   I'm the teen advisor for our homeschool co-op.  We were all awake.

I was freshly showered and looking at email when I heard Deus Ex Machina's truck coming back down the road.  The dogs sounded a cacophony of barking to let me know that "Daddy is home!"

He walked in the door.

"I was laid off."

I hugged him.

"It's about time," I whispered against his neck.

We had known for months that a lay-off was inevitable.  Deus Ex Machina had predicted, based on the kinds of things that he saw happening back in April, that a mass lay-off would happen in June.  It did.  He didn't expect to be part of the pink-slip crew, but as Yentl says, "Nothing's impossible!"

That he was handed his pink slip was a surprise, although not a shock.  We figured it could  happen. The pleasant surprise was the generous severance package they gave him, which gave us time.  

"They did you a favor," I assured him.

And added, "We'll be fine. We've been preparing for this for ten years."

It's true ... ish.

In September 2008, I accepted the challenge to imagine that I knew I had three weeks (or 21 days) to prepare for some catastrophic event.  The challenge was to imagine what I would do given that knowledge.  I wrote a book about it - highlighting things we could be doing over a twenty-one day period to prepare ourselves in the event of a collapse.

But it's not just a world-wide TEOTWAWKI that we could be or should be preparing to survive. Sometimes it's a much smaller catastrophic event - a natural disaster that ONLY affects Long Island or New Orleans - or our own, personal, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it event, like a job loss.

Unfortunately, when the disaster is on such a small scale, most of us will fail to see that our personal TEOTWAWKI has happened, because it doesn't look like the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it.

In our fantasy TEOTWAWKI worlds, the end comes like dunking a lobster head first into a pot of boiling water - fast and furious.  It's over quick, and all that's left is to deal with the carcasses.  In real life, TEOTWAWKI is more like boiling a frog - slowly turning up the heat until the frog is too cooked to hop out.

For most of us TEOTWAWKI is like the frog's end.  It happens so slowly that we fail to notice.  We keep doing the same things we always did, while we slowly sink into debt and despair, because by the time we realize that the sh*t has hit the fan, it's too late.

I always wish for the fast TEOTWAWKI.  It would be easier to deal with the whole world coming apart at the seams because of some world-wide catastrophe than to suffer through our very private and very personal life-changing event, while everyone else just goes on with their lives like nothing is happening.

This job loss wasn't a surprise, but we are still more like the frog than the lobster.

For instance, we didn't lock down our expenses immediately and start hoarding every penny.

Deus Ex Machina, being an optimist, was certain that he would start his new job before the severance pay period ended.

I, being a total pessimist, thought we should be planning for when the severance ran out.  What would do we then?

Right around September 1 is when the paychecks stop rolling in, and we will have $0 income, except unemployment, which might cover the mortgage, but not much else.   I wanted to start planning, right away, what we were going to do in September.

That's me.  I'm a plan ahead kind of gal.  I like to know my entire route before I even start driving. I'm not a fan of Siri directions, which are turn-by-turn.  It makes me feel anxious.  So, not making a plan wasn't really going to work for me.

We sat down with the past months' bank statements and a calculator.

Before we could make a plan, we needed to know where we were, and while there were no surprises (we really do know where our finances stand, although too much of the time we allow ourselves to be a little more indulgent than, we - especially as Preppers - should be), we were a little disappointed by a few of our actual numbers.  Again, the frog.  It can be too easy to ignore the heat.

In 2008, I was challenged to imagine what we would do if we knew, in three weeks, that life-as-we-know-it would be forever changed.

This summer, we had the chance to re-imagine that twenty-one day scenario.  While the emergency is mostly over, in that Deus Ex Machina has a job offer on the table, we still don't have an income, yet. September is fast approaching.  In fact, it's just a little over twenty-one days from now.

Over the next three weeks, my goal is to post each day about something we've done or are doing to survive our personal TEOTWAWKI - and to share what might have been better for us, had we been planning better all along.


  1. My husband was laid off 3 weeks ago, so I hear you. I don't blog about that for now. It's actually been nice having him home doing yard work, etc. He processed and froze 10 gallons of peaches off our tree today. We crunched #'s too are are ok til Oct. He has 2 good potential offers this week, so time will tell.

  2. I still want to buy that book! It sounds as though you truly are prepared for this end and new beginning. I too am not a siri person; I google directions, write them down and commit them to memory! A map,please. I wager you are plenty prepared for this!

  3. Putting a link back on my blog, good reading the series!