You may have heard the acronym “TEOTWAWKI” before. It stands for The End Of The World As We Know It. Most people think of it in terms of a zombie apocalypse or nuclear war. But really anything that profoundly alters your way of life is a TEOTWAWKI scenario for you and your family. It can be the loss of a job, your home could burn down, or a family member could have a serious illness. That’s what happened to me (Emma) and her husband, John last fall.

Beginning in about March of 2014, John began having pain in his neck which shot up to his left ear. At first the pain was fleeting and not all that bad. But as time when on it got worse and more frequent. It lasted longer than a moment or two. Finally he went to the doctor who suspected some kind of infection. He was faithful about taking the antibiotics and we expected the pain would end quickly. It didn’t.

Returning to the doctor, he was again given antibiotics. Both visits showed no ear infection, no infection in the throat, nor anything else that was obviously the source of the problem. Still, the doctor thought it had to be something minor. It was not. In September, after months and months of worsening pain, he was sent for a biopsy of his esophagus. John has a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus which is a pre-cancerous condition. That biopsy was clear. No sign of cancer there. But in November, with the pain still increasing, he was sent to a head/neck specialist who scoped the back of his tongue and throat. There was a lesion on the extreme back of his tongue. It was impossible to see by looking in his mouth. Another biopsy was ordered and before he was even taken to the surgical suite we were told it was “probably” cancerous and that chemo and radiation would likely be next.

On the day before Thanksgiving we got the results. The doctor called to tell us John had cancer. It was, for us, TEOTWAWKI.

Exactly a week before Christmas Eve John started chemotherapy. That was Wednesday. By Friday he was in the hospital with kidney failure. He started radiation therapy that Sunday. They’d wheel his bed over to the cancer center in the hospital for radiation. He had radiation five days a week for months. He had chemotherapy three times. He was very sick, weak as a kitten, and required round-the-clock care and I was the only one who could do it.

It was then that I realized how fortunate we were to have prepared for emergencies. This winter was particularly cold. I am disabled and the cold is extremely hard on me. By having enough food in the house to feed myself (John was on a feeding tube all winter) I could get by with our son going to the grocery store for me every couple of weeks just for odds and ends. I actually could have done it all on our stored foods.

And it wasn’t just food that came in handy. I had a stockpile of paper towels and John used a roll every couple of days. I had buckets for when he was too sick to get to the bathroom. We had, in short, everything we needed except the new prescriptions John required.

That’s not to say this wasn’t a learning experience. As I mentioned, this winter was extremely cold here and during the worst of it, when the temperatures were -15 below 0 without the wind chill, our furnace went out. I had no way to keep John, myself, and the dogs warm. Thanks to our youngest son and two great friends we had 4 heaters within an hour but it woke me up to the fact that it’s not always going to be possible to depend on the fireplace. It would have been very difficult on him to move John’s hospital bed to the family room where the fireplace is located. It would have meant opening that room to the outside elements every time I had to let the dogs out. Now we’re making adjustments to our heating plan knowing that we can’t always, even with the generator, count on the furnace.

And I learned that, in spite of trying to think of every contingency, life will throw things at us that we didn’t anticipate. I learned that it really does take a group to get through things. I’m building my community so that, if the zombie apocalypse does come, we have enough people with crucial skills that we can not just survive, but thrive.

John is cancer-free now and we’re rebuilding our stocks. I’m investing in items I never realized I’d need and we’re refining our plans.

When you’re planning for your TEOTWAWKI scenarios don’t forget that the end of the world may come as something you didn’t consider. Try to think of every possible situation and plan, as well as you can, for those situations. Fire, flood, famine, illness, and zombies are just a few of the possible situations you might face. Consider, plan, study, and prepare.

To Barter or Not To Barter? That is the question.

Emma’s Take:

Bartering is a wonderful concept. People who have goods or services they are willing to trade for the goods or services they need. No money changes hands but, done correctly, everyone ends up with what they need at a fair “price.” Brilliant! it used to be how a lot, if not most, or commerce took place. And some communities (I’m thinking folks like the Amish) still do a lot of it.

I’m a strong proponent of bartering. We’d all be a lot better off if we were willing to trade instead of buy. We’d be able to build strong communities and we’d also be able to save a lot of money to purchase the things we cannot obtain through bartering. I tutor your high school student and your student babysits. I take care of your dogs while you vacation and you fix my broken screens. You save money on boarding your dogs and I only have to buy materials and get new screens. The possibilities are nearly endless.

It’s fairly easy to start bartering. I’m really good at baking so I trade things I bake for things I’m not good at doing. Sewing springs to mind. I can’t sew to save my life. It makes sense for me to have someone who excels at it do it for me. And bartering isn’t just for products. As I mentioned, intellectual abilities can be bartered. Offering to teach someone who wants to learn what you know can be traded for them teaching you what you need to learn.

Three way bartering is also a good way to barter. I can teach you to bake bread, you mow my neighbor’s lawn, and he gives me fruit from his apple trees. Everyone ends up with something and everyone gets something. You just have to find people who have goods, services or skills that benefit someone else in the barter. My only warning is not to try to expand this too far. One breakdown in the chain and no one will be happy.

This works quite well in our normal lives. But what if there’s a disaster? What if the SHTF? In those scenarios I have a different opinion. In certain disasters I feel that it’s important to help others if you are able. If there’s a tornado in my area I’m willing to help those affected by volunteering with disaster relief groups or even providing food and water on my own. In a true SHTF situation, I am not going to barter.

In situations where people will very likely become desperate bartering is potentially quite dangerous. Once desperate people discover you have things they need they are likely to do desperate things. They’ll risk their lives and possibly take mine and my family’s to obtain those things. Even people who would never act violently in normal circumstances may become quite violent in severe emergencies.

You may feel you can trust someone and barter with him. And you may be right to a point. But what happens when that person runs out of whatever he has and he knows you have more? Or what is he willing to do or to enlist if his wife or child is sick? While not every person will become violent in these situations you cannot be sure that person hasn’t enlisted the aid of someone who has no problem doing whatever it takes to take whatever you have.

In my opinion, the best way to protect your family is to ensure that your preparations are kept as a family secret. If you find yourself in need of something you do not have you can try bartering but extreme caution must be taken at those times. Be sure not to take too much to barter. Be sure you are not followed when you leave. And know the barter value of the things you are willing to trade.


Kate’s Side:

To barter or not to barter in the NOW….I say right now, bartering, when you can, can be a good thing. If you feel as if you’re getting a better deal than to  spend the cash. If you’re not so good at talking with someone to come to an agreement on terms of the barter then forego it because there’s no point in getting ripped off.  If it goes well, then you get the items you need and feel like you got a deal. The best barter is when both people walk away feeling like they did well.

To barter or not to barter after SHTF….It can be a double edged sword.  You give up information about what you have when bartering. So you’d have to be prepared to protect yourself in the event that things go horribly wrong. Again, if you’re not good at bartering, then you may end up giving away more than you had planned to get items you need.  On the upside, if things go right, you get the item you need and feel good in the end about the deal you’ve struck. You may have to give away more than you’re comfortable with if you’re not prepared to walk away from a bad deal especially if you’re desperate for a necessary item.

I’m not sure that I’m definitely for or definitely against bartering in a SHTF scenario.  It would depend on the situation I suppose. I would rather be prepared to barter but not need to do so to survive. If we prepare properly we will only have to barter by choice not by necessity.