Karen Anderson
Author, "Dear Karen: Advice for Women on Y2K" Newsletter


"Lessons Learned"
January 11, 2000
From Issue #78 of Karen Anderson's
"Dear Karen: Advice for Women on Y2K
By Karen Anderson


Dear Friends,

I can't begin to thank you enough for your outpouring of love and support this past week. Your letters have been so encouraging and I appreciate your taking time to write to me so much! I still get my feelings hurt at the nasty emails but I am learning to keep my eyes focused on what is really important. I heard from so many of you who expressed thanks and I was touched beyond measure.

In thinking about the Y2K computer problem, I came across this comment from Mike Adams of y2knewswire.com and I think it says it well:

"...even the positive Y2K outcome leaves us with one long-term concern: it rewarded complacency. The fact that no major infrastructure failures occurred taught people that they were right to do nothing. In this instance, they were fortunate, but this is a dangerous precedent to be setting on a global scale. A population that believes it is invulnerable to calamities is no wiser than a street-racing teenager who thinks he's immortal. He may beat the odds this time, but not every time.

"That's why we hope Y2K can serve as an important reminder to prepare. Had Americans already been practicing general emergency preparedness, there would have been no reason to urge new preparedness for Y2K....Make preparedness part of your life, not as a reaction to a particular event. Once you do that, the outcome of any single event makes very little difference. You're prepared for either outcome."

As I said, I was very grateful that there weren't any major problems with the rollover. But I have to admit that I realized there was a little part of me that was looking forward to being forced into a simpler lifestyle. The only way I can describe the feeling is the way I have felt in the past when an unexpected snowstorm would hit.

When my girls were little, occasionally we would get a winter snowstorm that would dump a couple of feet of snow and totally immobilize the area. I'd wake up early and the world would be beautifully covered in a blanket of white snow. Schools and work would be closed and everybody would be forced to stay home. There was this wonderful, peaceful quiet when you went outside. If the power was still on, we'd get up and have a leisurely breakfast and then people would begin to emerge from the homes. Neighbors, who ordinarily never saw each other, would begin to shovel snow and kids would be out in the streets playing. People would catch up with each other and old friendships would be renewed. It was a wonderful time and our whole family was together without anybody rushing off to this or that activity. I guess I was hoping that nothing bad would happen with Y2K but still that things would be a little like that anyway.

As I've thought about how wonderful it would be to have that kind of situation happen in my everyday life, I realized that living life more simply is possible - it just requires me to take control of how it works, not the weather, Y2K or anything else. And from what many of you have told me, you'd like to learn more about how to do this as well (trust me, I don't have this one down!).

This past week we took our older daughter back to Texas and got her settled back in school. Since it is about a 12 hour drive each way, I had a fair amount of time to think! Y2K Women originally was designed to help prepare for possible Y2K problems but quickly seemed to take on a life of its own. As a wife and mother, I realized that I wasn't prepared for any emergency and for me Y2K was a great wake-up call. But like many of you, I realize that it is about something much bigger - it is about living a lifestyle that is a little less crazy and a little more balanced. It is about being more proactive and not always reactive to situations that may unexpectedly occur. And it is about keeping priorities straight; God first, family second and the rest of the demands of life in proper perspective - not an easy task in a crazy, fast paced world!

So here's what I'd like to do. If you'll indulge me, over the next few weeks I'll work on revamping the web site (I'll try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and leave the useful information there!). Sissi and I are going to a five-day Internet seminar next week in California and hope to learn a lot about how we can improve the site! And until we come up with something better, my ezine newsletter, "Dear Karen...", will remain the same: I'll try to respond to your letters and get you information that will be useful for you and your family.

In the meantime, be encouraged. You are the ones who are the unsung Y2K heroes - you have worked to make your homes and communities better, safer and more secure. For that, there cannot be enough praise. Know that I love you and appreciate you all. Karen

Here are just a few of the letters I received about some of the things you have learned. I am still reading them (right now, I have about 2200 emails in my "in" box so it is taking me awhile!). I had to do some editing to cut them down to a reasonable size.


Dear Karen: I am so glad I was prepared the first week of January with extra food in the house. My daughter was just home from the hospital following surgery, and I had committed to fixing food for her and her entire family (all seven of them). Well, I came down with that horrible flu on Sunday the 2nd!

I was so thankful that I could direct my husband exactly what to do to keep everyone's bellies full! I had canned stew meat - and vegetables to go with it during the summer months. He opened three jars (one of meat, two of vegetables), added a can of tomatoes - and had enough stew to feed everyone for two days!

Then, he opened a can of white meat chicken, a couple cans of chicken broth, and some noodles. In a few minutes, he was feeding me chicken noodle soup! Boy, did that taste good!! Kathie


Dear Karen: You wanted us to write and tell you something good that came out of our Y2K preparations. Well, last summer I tripled the size of my vegetable garden, so that I could can a lot of vegetables for Y2K. Well, Y2K up to this point hasn't been a big deal, but right before Christmas, we found out that my husband had diabetes. So as a result, he needs to cut back on carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, pasta), but what he needs to eat more of is - - - VEGETABLES!!!! I would not have all these wonderful, homegrown vegetables on hand if not for my Y2K preparations! I am thankful for all those who gave us a "heads up" on Y2K. God bless.


Dear Karen: My lesson has come in MY INDEPENDENCE.

I am stronger; my husband depends on it.
My step is sure; my children need it.
I have direction; my family deserved it.
I have purpose; myself appreciates it.
I have a future; my God decides it.

None of these things came from the U.S. Government. I can do it. I planned, canned, saved, stashed, reduced, recycled, read and then read some more, prayed and prayed some more. I've relocated, allocated, toiled, tilled, hayed, hauled, fenced, fed, composted, schooled, car-pooled, and walked. I've stopped, stared, gazed at stars and prayed. Now, I smile deep in my heart... I did it!! Jane


Dear Karen: While I, like everyone else is very happy nothing *big* happened I have to say I am slightly disappointed. I know that sounds strange. No, I didn't want anything horrible to happen and for there to be starving people everywhere but I was looking forward to being forced into a simpler way of life. A time of life where families sat around the wood stove to stay warm and because of the close proximity became closer as a family. I was looking forward to hanging out, playing board games, reading aloud, listening to my husband play his guitar (however untalented he may be!), homeschooling my kids and more.

I was also looking forward to a lot of *nots*... not running to the store every single day, not going to the mall, not driving my kids here, there and everywhere and many more nots also. So what I have learned is that I, like many other people, desire a simpler life. I am still not sure what exactly a simpler life means for me and my family. I will have to think it through and then make some changes in our lifestyle. Thanks for a great site and a great newsletter. Happy New Year and Millennium and May God Bless You and Your Family in the coming year! Kim


Dear Karen: I too had a hard New Year's Day as people mocked my preparations and took a moment to say, "I told ya so". It felt like a big football game and my team had somehow "lost".... though, like you said, it was nothing like that in our hearts at all. If our "team" had "won," I know we wouldn't have stood there jeering... we'd be too busy helping those who mocked us by sharing all that we had. I'm VERY thankful we have power and water, but my initial morning's reactions were SO weird... my husband thought I was actually sad that more hadn't happened... of course I wasn't, but I couldn't find the words to explain what was going on in my mind until nearly a day had passed.

I went through a period of shock at first and then a period of feeling very deceived, depressed and angry. But then as I sought counsel from others in a y2k chat room that night, they helped me to see that what I did was not wrong and that I had simply been doing what God had told me in my heart to do and that can't be wrong. I think the shock and almost numb feeling was a very normal thing as I physically let my mind change gears, so to speak, from constantly evaluating our way of life and trying to think of everything that might change from possible outages.

I tell ya, my generation (I'm 29 and have 3 young children by the way) has never had to do much more than dream about Little House on the Prairie days, so it was a complete overhaul of my current way of doing things. That alone could take one a long time to prepare for.... unfortunately, we all had this date looming overhead that we might get to visit Little House days "cold turkey". Everywhere I turned most of my thoughts for an entire year were somehow examined under my handy y2k eyepiece that I carried on me at all times. So the emotional stages I went through just took over on their own... sometimes through tears of confusion and sometime in tears of sheer relief that I can stop feeling like I hadn't done enough or that time was running out... that had been so stressful and now I feel that the rush is over... PRAISE GOD. Now I can reflect on the good that came from all this. <smile>

I had stocked up for a few months and now have a full pantry... guess I won't be running to the grocery store for a can of something that I forgot... cause I have it ALL already. LOL... Now that's a first for me. I even have eggs preserved!! I told my Mom that I hadn't inherited the ability to keep my cabinets full of stuff like she always had, but now I think I've finally got more than she does <grin>. It's a good feeling I must say! I had always been one who had a very empty kitchen... only about one week's worth of food at a time... even in canned goods! Now that's slim pickins... LOL SO, it was a good discipline for me I guess... took the fear of y2k to get me in the habit, but hopefully it will stick with me from now on.

I am also in the position now to share on the spot with a neighbor who needs a meal or to entertain without running to the store to get something. We will save so much money from having something in the pantry for those "I'm starving. We don't have anything to eat home so let's go out for lunch" after church scenarios. :) I am truly thankful for every luxury in my home such as running hot water (I took a nice long hot bubble bath to help with the "transition" on New Year's night <grin> and thanked God for something that I didn't think I'd be able to do for a long time!). I'd recommend that all your readers indulge in THAT celebration sometime soon! <giggle> Thank you, Karen, for being there before and after the clock rolled around. God bless you, Christine


Dear Karen: I feel that I have gained far more from y2k than money could have bought me. I think back to my college days - how I went to school and got a degree in Elementary Education. I ended up deciding not to teach, and had people hint that my education was a "waste". Well, perhaps at first glance, but I do not think any education is a waste. This is the same way I feel about y2k. Did I spend a lot of money? Well, yes. But as my husband says, what if we hadn't? We would have been total basket cases as we saw the y2k date approaching. As it was, we were able to prepare reasonably and relax, knowing that we'd been responsible in taking care of our family. There was nothing we could do to fix the problem, so we did what many companies did - made contingency plans. They made me feel better if nothing else.

The other part of it is that we now have many things that we really should have had long ago - extra food, (I plan to keep a rotating pantry of stored food), a huge garden so we can feed our little ones and ourselves the way we should have been all along, extra water (a day and night without power this past summer convinced me to keep extra water on hand since we are on well water), etc. We also now have first aid kits in each car as well as emergency space blankets and some extra food. We have a woodstove that we are enjoying every minute of (how did we live without its warm, friendly heat on these cold, damp nights?) and enough food to bring us through the next millennium!! So our food bill will be small for a while, who cares?

As for me personally, I have learned to appreciate each and every day, each and every minute. I am so much more thankful for everything than I ever was before. I have been reminded that with all our important science and technological advances, there is nobody who knows what the future holds - the two words I heard over and over again about y2k from the mainstream media, to individuals I spoke to was "nobody knows." Most importantly, I have learned to trust my future and my family to God because our lives really are not our own. Y2k drove that point home to me in a big way.

I'm not sorry I prepared. I might have made the wrong choice about Y2K, but not the wrong choice in preparing for Y2K or any emergency. We had the best summer of our lives taking care of our big garden. I grew up with a big garden all my life and I am so happy to again be digging in the dirt and I look forward to spring this year in a way I never have before. I should have done this years ago! I canned 22 jars of apple butter from my brother's farm down the road and another 15 jars of black raspberry jam from the wild berry bushes that border our property. I plan to undertake pressure canning this summer to preserve from our garden, which will be expanded, plant some fruit trees and look into converting one of our storage sheds into a chicken coop. Only this time it will be "for fun."

I hope Karen keeps up her website and discussion boards. I think we live in very uncertain times and I have come to believe that it is our duty, as our own grandmothers and great-grandmothers knew, to be resourceful and ready to handle what life throws us, whether unemployment, natural disaster, terrorism, war, supply chain problems, whatever. We have been the first generation to go "soft" because we have not had hardships like our ancestors did. Maybe it's time that we remember to preserve the mindset they had of storing up "for the winter" or whatever hardship, and basic American skills that helped our forefathers (and mothers) survive.


Dear Karen: Over the past year, my husband and I have made some extensive plans in anticipation for possible Y2K problems. We have built up a good pantry that we can live off of for some time. I now bake my own bread, as well as biscuits from scratch, and have learned many of the basics to keep our family going in the event of disruptions in the services we rely upon. We even have chickens! In addition, we have had ventless gas logs installed, and a gas stove also. My regrets... none. We often have electrical outages here in the winter, and now we are prepared.

I feel that the entire Y2K threat was an eye opener. It showed us just how unprepared we would be in the event of long-term disruptions in services. What would happen if there were some type of catastrophe, natural or otherwise? I think that too many did not prepare, and if there had been power outages for a couple of months, that there could have been significant loss of life.

We live in a time when people take too much for granted. It seems that people want to rely upon others, like the government, to solve their problems and take care of them. We live in an ever-changing world. There is always the potential for crisis on the horizon. America is no longer the super power it once was. And in light of what the Bible says, and from the Christian perspective, the situation will continue to worsen before Christ's return.

There is a positive side to having made the Y2K preparations. I found that once we established a good supply of the basics, we were able to add to the pantry goods at significant savings, buying only the items on sale... such as canned vegetables (15 ounce cans at four for one dollar), and popular cereals we have purchased (when they were four boxes for five dollars) and supermarket brand soups (four for a dollar). We are eating boxed spaghetti and rice I purchased last January, and it has not gotten any bugs yet. We rotate our food, and I plan to continue to keep up our food pantry. I have successfully canned meats and butter (which has to be clarified first) under pressure and could live comfortably without our refrigerator and freezer.

Since we have limited resources, we had to prepare carefully. We were not able to purchase the survival food, and probably wouldn't have eaten it anyway. I purchased foods my family eats regularly. We live in South Carolina, so dried beans, rice, and cornbread are popular foods here, and are nutritious. I have found that large warehouse stores like Sam's carry products like rice... fifty pounds for eleven dollars and pinto beans ten pounds for three dollars and twenty five cents. I like to can fruits and will grow some vegetables this spring and will can them too. I have a good supply of canned fruits and vegetables we bought on sale in the supermarkets, and we eat them regularly... some are from last January also, and although they may have gone down in nutritional value, they taste good and my family is healthy. As I purchased vegetables, I bought a variety, such as spinach, green beans, corn, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, and mixed vegetables, dried potatoes, etc, so that we would have a variety.

I now have a well stocked medicine cabinet, (thanks to our local dollar store and Wal-Mart) and first aid supplies, which I never have kept on hand, even though I am a registered nurse. We did this slowly, and did not feel a financial crunch. This is important, because I am a stay at home Mom and homeschool my five year old twin sons. We do not have a lot of money, but do live comfortably, thanks be to God. Thanks for all of the time you put in. Gail


Dear Karen: In the last weeks before the New Year I really started feeling that it was going to be a non-event, at least at the outset. Still that did not stop me and my husband from making sure that we had plenty to get us and our two young boys through any possible crisis. We completely rely on the mail for our bread and butter being that we run our own business. If the mail doesn't come in we don't get paid about 2/3 of our income. If the companies that pay us for our service are experiencing difficulties even of minuscule proportion we could have a serious cash flow problem.

1999 has been a year that taught us self-reliance - how to secure tomorrow so that we can enjoy today. We realized this year that it is truly our desire to help others to the best of our ability. We came to know that we really need to love our neighbors (even if we don't like them or think they are quirky). Everyone in a neighborhood is an important part of a whole body. There is so much more we have learned, but I won't go on.

The simplest lessons are often the most profound... All in all, 1999 was a year of getting back to the basics. As we blast off into the 21st century and all the necessary and useful technology it will surely have to offer us I'll be keeping my feet on the ground. Yours, Susan


Dear Karen: I prepared for Y2K in an extraordinary way because I have four young children and a neighborhood full of little ones. I learned that I don't have to be "prepared" for everything. Even though I had worked vigilantly, (I truly did), there were still areas in which I felt unprepared. Fear reared its ugly head. I talked to God in a more intimate manner.

Ultimately, I learned that God is in control. Perhaps those who I invited to come and live with us should disaster occur, learned that I loved them. I still don't know what I will do with all of my supplies, but it doesn't matter. There is a reason that I have them, and God will direct their use. My grocery bill will be smaller, that's for sure!

Thank you for your suggestions and advice. God uses everything. Remember the disciples were told to collect the leftover fish and bread? We aren't told what they were used for, but they had a purpose. It was important enough to place in the Word of God. Love and God Bless, Ellen


Dear Karen: I'm probably one of those few who went all the way. My husband and I went as far as leaving the city, buying land in the country and moving not only our home but also our business, (software company) to the woods. And yes, we built a cellar and filled it with stuff. Even though it seems exaggerated, we have no regrets. The worst thing is a lot of expired cans that will never be consumed. A very small price to pay for the tremendous return. We love it here. Two years ago I would have never imagined we could accomplish so much in such a sort period of time. We built a house and equipped it with all the self-reliant amenities we read about. I learned to do many things from scratch, like bread, noodles etc. I learned to plant, harvest, cook and preserve our own food be means of drying and canning. I can now make beef jerky, raise chickens and milk a goat. I learned to use herbs and many home remedies. I can use just about any power tool and I can design and build interiors and exteriors. The list is endless and so is the satisfaction.

Because of Y2K I'm a 1000% better person now than I was 2 years ago. Best of all, is being closer to God. I never read the Bible or studied the word before this. You cannot put a price on that.

So for those who have a few expired cans to complain about, I say, stand back and look at the big picture. If what you learned has less value than these items, well maybe you cannot be helped anyway. For those like Karen and many others who gave their time and shared their concerns to help others in what could have been a disaster, you should be proud and those of us who learned a lot, thank you. God bless... Candy


Dear Karen, I have learned that it is easier to go along with the majority than to trust your own decisions when they differ, that it is easier to make preparations for your loved one's sake than for your own, that it is easier to be passive and let things happen to you than to be active in taking control of your life, that it is easier to expect others to take care of you than to take responsibility for your own well-being.

I have learned that it felt very reassuring going into New Year's Eve relatively prepared, that I can stand up to ridicule if I believe in something enough, that I can affect change by expressing my concerns, and that life is uncertain no matter how well we are prepared. I have enjoyed your Y2K Women immensely and it has given me great information that may come in handy when I least expect to need it. Hopefully, this year I will practice being less of a consumer and will use what I have in creative ways. Keep the letters coming! We aren't out of the woods yet. Carol


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