It is very difficult to see the pictures from the tragedy in Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami and not wonder, as a structural engineer, what there is to learn from it so that it doesn’t happen again.  From all accounts, it sounds like it wasn’t the massive 9.0 earthquake that did the most damage; it was the 10-meter (33-foot) high tsunami wave that really created the devastation that we see in the news.  The nuclear reactors aren’t having meltdown because of the shaking of the quake, it’s because the back-up diesel generators weren’t located on high enough ground to survive the tsunami wave and the battery back-up to those couldn’t last more than 4-8 hours.

I’m not even going to try to wrap my head around the reports that 9,500 people from just one town were all swept up in the tsunami in addition to all the other losses, but I will take comfort in not hearing much in the way of damage in Tokyo.  That means that all the seismic designs that we implement should work when our country gets hit with another massive earthquake.  That is something that I can comprehend and move forward in my life with.  I’m not even remotely saying that it means your private residence is safe from even partial collapse in an earthquake, but it does mean that the modern structures that are designed to current codes and seismic loads should behave the way we want them to.  That’s what lets the structural engineer sleep at night.

So why did I title this blog post “Another Wake-up Call”?  Because I had just posted on February 22nd about Earthquake Preparedness following the New Zealand earthquake and it is now even more obvious how timely this information is.  The “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean has just unleashed 7.0 and 7.1 earthquakes in Chile and Argentina on January 1st and 2nd of this year, New Zealand has had up to 7.0 earthquakes in the area since September of last year, and Japan’s 7.2 quake two days before the 9.0 was enough to get us talking about the fact that the Pacific Plate is on the move.  The only quadrant that hasn’t had a major subduction earthquake in the last 400 years is the Northwest coast of the U.S. where the Juan de Fuca plate is located.  Those great earthquakes arrive about every 400 years, which is not a good statistic for those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest.

What does it really mean?  That anyone on the western coast of the U.S. has had ample warning to be prepared in the event of an earthquake.  Even though the subduction zone quake will only happen between about Crescent City in California and up through Oregon and Washington into British Columbia, California still needs to be equally prepared.  The more they study the history of the earthquakes, the more they find to support the theory that the great subduction earthquakes actually trigger San Andreas Fault quakes.  Fun right?

So what is the progress of my emergency shed?  I got some new Rubbermaid Roughneck storage boxes that fit the dimensions of the shed a little better and have transferred the supplies that I had compiled before into these more durable containers.  I made a list from all the sites that I had mentioned in my previous post and have been making sure to get the last of the items into the shed – we didn’t have our set of adult clothes and shoes in there, I hadn’t put any towels in before, our water storage had diminished over time and moving to new houses, and we even are adding more in the way of entertainment – a deck of cards, some dice games, coloring books with colored pencils.  I’m going to revamp the food storage at some point too, and am excited about some of the new backpacking recipe books that I have that would work for the food supply portion as well.

My only request at this point is for the earthquake to not happen when I’m not with my family.  Wishful thinking, I know.  What do you have in your emergency survival box?
I really try to not give too much additional press to some of the more sensational stories that come out of the 24/7 news feeds (*coughCharlieSheencough*), but there was one last week that I can’t let by without giving some of the other side of the story and rambling/ranting a bit.  What am I talking about?  The author of a new book who discusses how she was a better mother when she left her 20-year marriage and two young boys behind.  Um, excuse me?

I realize that people can be misrepresented in the quest to get better book sales or hits on their website (Yes, Tiger Mom, I’m talking about you), but seriously? There’s no way that someone should be making the abandonment of your family into a book.  A blog maybe, but not a book to take on the Today Show circuit. All parents know there are ups and downs to the “job” – no one signs up for the tantrums of 2- or 13-year-olds, but we press on because like it or not, that’s part of being a parent.  I used to say that I never really knew what the term “forever” meant until I gave birth to my twins.  I was FOREVER in charge of the well-being of these tiny little humans and for the rest of my life I was a mom! Holy moly! And there have been many days between then and now where I wanted a weekend off or even just one night, sometimes life just doesn’t work that way. It’s called something that I’m working on with my own kids: responsibility.  I completely understand that women (or men) shouldn’t have to give up their life for 18 years so their kids can grow up in a loving home, but my goodness – how selfish can you get?

I want to read her husband’s side of this story because I’ve seen first-hand how the children fare when Mommy decides she doesn’t want that responsibility anymore and it’s not an improvement for anyone left behind.  My 13-year-old step-daughter was “abandoned” by her birth mom when she was barely two years old. Her birth mom decided she wasn’t really ready to be a mom and left. My daughter grieved and does have some continuing things that she’s working through, but she’s been able to have a fairly stable life provided by her dad and has done okay for herself. There has been more than one occasion over the years where she has questioned if she did something to force her birth mom out or if her birth mom loves/remembers her. No kid should have to go through that. Luckily my husband was able to get help from his family and make sure that his (now our) daughter was cared for and loved. He could handle whatever came his way, but when it came to it, he couldn’t protect his daughter from that pain and that was the hardest part for him.

I realize that parents leave all the time due to all sorts of reasons, but at least when the reason is that the parents aren’t compatible, the kids can (someday) rationalize that it wasn’t their fault. How does the kid that was abandoned because their mom or dad didn’t want to be a parent anymore work through that? And yes, it is abandonment. A child who has had two parents in their life and suddenly doesn’t have one anymore due to a parent’s free-will decision (and not a tragedy) has been abandoned. That is not something that we need to be writing books about – I think every parent would know that not having kids anymore would be a freeing exercise; we don’t have to pay you money to read about it. And if you feel the need to justify your decisions by writing a book, keep it in your journal. Parenthood isn’t for everyone, but please make sure you figure that out BEFORE you become a parent. Maybe that’s her intent? To be a form of birth control by saying that parenthood isn’t for everyone? I think maybe there’s a better way to market yourself without seeming like a selfish b*tch if that’s the case.
I thought I'd post a separate musing on where we're starting from in regards to our move toward a less-meat household.  (I like using "less-meat" rather than "meat-less" for now since we're still omnivores at this stage of the game).  I actually pulled out the last of a Costco bag of chicken breasts from the freezer this weekend as well as a couple pounds of ground turkey and made a couple freezer meals that we'll use up in the next month or so as needed.  I grabbed a frozen turkey breast to thaw in the fridge for a couple days (that per DH is cooking in the oven today) and noted that we had 2 more pounds of ground turkey and a pot roast in the freezer.  We also have a couple of pounds of halibut steaks that we're just not getting through, so I may bring those to the office to share with some co-workers to get it out, but not wasted.  We're still consciously not buying any new meat for our household, but I have a feeling that we might get some more turkey lunch meat for the twins since it's a lean source of protein that they are willing to eat.  We also have a bag of Trader Joe's orange chicken in the freezer and a pack of hot dogs that we keep on hand for the girls that will get used up fairly soon.  They love the TJ's meatless corn dogs, so we might be good to go in that regard.

As part of the less-meat change, I also have a personal goal to consume less refined sugars.  I did great in January and lost 7 pounds, but allowed myself a bit more in February and leveled out.  Today being March 1st gives me a good spot to go for less sugar again.  If I drink anything besides water, it's fat-free milk or plain green tea, so I'm good to go in that regard since I'm not really drinking that many calories/sugar each day. (Yes, I know milk has calories AND sugar, but I really don't end up having more than 1 to 1-1/2 cups per day, if that).  My biggest obstacles are the goodies at work, the goodies that DH likes to bake at home, and the business trips that I go on which inevitably mean eating out more and consuming more than I do at home.

I don't have another business trip (that I know of) for three weeks, so I've got time to get going on less-meat meals before heading back to BBQ City.
My oldest has recently stated that she would like to be a vegetarian and I had to laugh - she really is reaching her adolescent milestones earlier than I did; I didn't actively go veggie until high school and here she is at middle school making that decision. I think that is largely due to peer experiences, since today's general population is jumping on the green bandwagon which would trickle down to younger kids more than it did even 10 to 15 years ago.  I stopped being a true vegetarian when I married my husband and got pregnant with twins, because it’s certainly possible to get enough protein in your diet to grow two babies, but it’s MUCH easier to have animal proteins in the mix.  Now that the twins are out and getting a little older, I’ve been bugging my husband about having fewer weekly meals with meat in them to save money.  When I was hanging by a thread at my last job it made sense, but now that I’m working more hours, it’s hard to argue with the guy getting dinner on the table every night. Since I’m full of random thoughts and musings, I thought this would be a good blog topic to cover off and on over the next few months – of not necessarily going back to being a strict vegetarian, but being more conscious and limiting what meats we are willing to eat and with what frequency.

I’m not sure what it is about the teenage years that spawn a need to be a vegetarian in an otherwise omnivorous household, but that seems to be an American rite-of-passage.  I’d be curious to know if this is common in other cultures – it’s probably similar in other countries that have a base diet similar to American’s, but I haven’t done much research on the topic yet.  Is it just an American, middle-class, white girl thing?  Regardless the reason, having gone through those internal arguments myself, I couldn’t really see any reasons for saying that my daughter couldn’t, other than telling her that if we were providing a meat-based entrée that she chose not to eat, she’s in charge of finding/making herself another protein source.  Basically, with twin 4-1/2-year-olds, I didn’t want to turn into a full time restaurant with different food for each individual at the table.  If the twins are willing to eat something, then that’s good enough for me and the 13-year-old can manage in the kitchen just fine if she’s motivated to do so.

Other than the environmental impact of consuming less animal proteins, as an engineer I’m ever the practical one and if a meal works without meat, then it’s cheaper and it works for me!  The only issue at the moment is that when I do our grocery shopping and plan out our meals for the week, I typically ended up coming home at least once or twice to ground turkey having been added because that’s the way the cook (dear hubby) likes it. But Honey, we don’t have to have meat in every meal! *sigh*

I thought this battle would continue even after my oldest’s recent veggie decree until my husband read an article regarding the training methods of some MMA fighters.  They have found they recover from their workouts faster if they don’t eat meat, so he’s finally willing to have that conversation even though he’s not a pro MMA fighter.  He also brought up a point that I agree with completely – we don’t want to impose upon anyone else that feeds us.  So when the Thanksgiving turkey is getting cut, we’re not going to staunchly state that we are vegetarians and won’t eat it (“we” meaning my hubby and I, who knows what my oldest will do).  We’ll eat it just fine, it will just be something that we won’t actively seek out for our own home anymore.  We’re going to use up what’s left of the meat in our freezer (mostly boneless, skinless chicken breasts and ground turkey) and then go veggie from there.  I’m sure I’ll have lots to share about all of this as we go, including adding new recipes to my index that suit our new preferences.  We’ll see how far we take this and I’ll be researching and documenting more about where we’re starting from and how far we make it in having our household go veggie.

Any helpful tips or recipes to start our adventure with?  Most notably ones that a 13-year-old would be willing to prepare?