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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Preparing for the Family

Posts have been sort of scant and far between lately, and for that, I apologize.  A beloved family member  is in failing health, nearing the end of her journey, and needless to say, I've been distracted.

But as I've said before, anything can be a learning experience; an opportunity to gain wisdom, to unite and love each other the way our Creator intended.  The dying experience is no different.  It's a chance to reflect, reevaluate your situation and your intent, to see where you can make changes, improvements, new goals.

Here's what I've learned.

What has become blatantly obvious to me in the past weeks is how unprepared I am to deal with crowds, especially of the related variety.  I remember once in AP Senior English class, my teacher wrote an evaluation of me that stated:

"Nice girl.  Kind to her mother.  Comes unglued in crowds."

I thought he was joking, but nearly 20 years later, I can see the truth in his words.  I do come unglued in crowds.  I'd like to think that I'm calmer, more secure and more adaptable than the 17 year old girl he wrote that about, but I can't honestly say that's true.  Crowds still unhinge me.  Even if I know them.  Even if I love them. 

Recently, while preparing meals for my father-in-law in a less-than-full, only slighted-crowded house, I could feel my stress levels rising.  In addition to the normal busy-ness of preparing a filling meal, there were people looking over my shoulder, asking what I was doing and what I was making.  In a desire to help, they were behind me, in front of me, next to me, between me and the sink, me and the fridge, me and the prep area.  Bumping into me.  Trying to help with dirty dishes.  As much as I appreciated their offers to help,  it drove me insane.  I was stressed mentally from the onset, and the physical closeness and constant activity around me only added to that stress. 

Mr. "A" was right. 

I am a nice girl, kind to my mother, but I come unglued in crowds. 

As Americans, we like our space.  We need our space.  We feel entitled to our space.  And just the thought of a bunch of people crowded into my house in a post-SHTF situation causes me to break out in hives.  I'm completely unprepared emotionally/mentally to handle a bunch of people invading my space.  That is obviously something I need to work on as the likelihood of the family piling into one home for an extended period of time is great.

I've also come to realize how unprepared I am to handle family and crowds in terms of real estate.  I have a nice home; a modest 1970's ranch with a partial basement that's partially finished.  It's not fancy, but it's comfortable with good bones and updated utilities...and believe it or not, it's worth what we paid for it.  (There's one for the record book!)  I have food socked away, along with water and backup sources of light and heat.  We have enough room to be comfortable yet cozy.  I'm prepared to take care of my husband and children.

But when an out-of-town family member needed a place to stay during a weekend visit, I was sent scrambling to make provisions for him.  I had no extra bedrooms.  No extra beds.  No air-mattresses.  A couple extra blankets, but not much in the way of pillows.  I didn't have a plan for combining rooms.  The prospect of one extra person in our home sent me reeling.  Had this been a true, excrement-hit-the-ventilation situation, in which my brother and his young family or my husband's aging parents needed a safe place to stay, I can't honestly say I would have been prepared to take them in.  In a short-term emergency, a pallet on the living room floor would work.  But in a long-term situation, that would get tiresome and stressfull very quickly.

I know that I'm thinking about these situations, perhaps, in incorrect terms.  I'm thinking about them in comfortable, safe, entitled American terms.  In post-apocalyptic, 'survival-by-any-means' terms, a pallet on the floor and bumping into a cousin while cooking would be nothing.  It would be a very pleasant inconvenience when faced with the alternatives.  But here and now, while times are reasonably good and fairly stable, this is the time to prepare for family members and worst case scenarios.  A little forethought now may save a lot of time, grief and stress later on.

In order to be better prepared for an emergency, I'm giving thought to dealing with crowds of family.  I'm talking to my kids about sharing rooms.  (I know.  Gasp.  Spoiled American kids sharing a room.  Oh the hardship.)  I've discussed with my husband the logistics of bunking our family into one bedroom, both for space and for security.  We've added a queen-size air bed to our preps, which in a pinch could easily sleep 2 adults and a kid or two.  We've talked about alternative sleeping arrangements, such as using the window seat for a child's bed.   The possibility of sleeping and eating in shifts came up.  And I'm also tossing around the addition of a sofa-bed to the basement family room, for both sleeping and waking comfort.  All these plans could help take care of the 'real estate' aspect of family preparedness.

But how does one prep mentally for a family invasion?  What can you do to prepare yourself for the 'new normal' that would involve combining households and giving up your precious elbow room?  Believe it or not, I found only one article on the entire world-wide-web that in some means deals with close-quarter living.  One. Article.

So I ask the pros:  How have you prepared, both mentally and spatially, to deal with crowds, extended family and close living quarters? 

In His Service,



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Gen-IL Homesteader said...

Andrea, what a great post! I just LOVE that your teacher wrote that on your paper!! He was your student as well as you being his! Well, to a certain degree I know what you're talking about. I don't think I come unhinged in crowds, but when there are other people, other opinions, other people's expectations in my home it is quite rattling! I know for a fact that I would have a hard time if other folks had to live with us. Even if they were actually trying to be nice and helpful I would probably see it as an annoyance! Wow, guess I've got things to think about! Thanks!

Ed the Pilgrim said...

I`ve already been in that position with both sides of the family more than once, and have never had a good outcome. Hopefully your family is more cooperative and appreciative, because this type of living arangement takes a LOT of patience.

Just a bit of advice, make sure to discuss this with any potential "boarders" you might aquire beforehand, and make sure that they know that it`s still your home and that your still in charge. And don`t be afraid to step on a few toes while doing this, better to be upfront than to have a big confrontation when it`s too late...

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