The Holidays: A Time To Remember What Really Counts

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I hope that this holiday brought special blessings to you and your loved ones. This year, I hosted Christmas, and in between the presents and visiting that filled the cabin with laughter and noise and chaos, we spent some time around the fire pit that takes up a portion of my gravel driveway. It’s the only safe spot away from the trees that would otherwise become roman candles during this unseasonably warm north Idaho winter. There were plenty of charcoal marshmallows that fell victim to the fire, but several made it between graham crackers and squares of chocolate for the kids in the group.

Which, of course, made them hyper and brought us indoors for board games. Hyper children dancing around a roaring fire is a recipe for disaster! Scrabble and Yahtzee pretty much filled the hours, and made me wonder. . . What would life be like without phones, texts, the Internet, and the distraction of T.V. and radio?

My consensus? It might not be all that bad. People will be forced to reconnect with one another, whether they want to or not. It’s for sure that texts have increasingly replaced the sound of someone’s voice; the humor and sarcasm and warmth and love. I don’t know about you, but I’m not convinced texts are a good thing.

Here’s a point in case that happened when a friend’s eighteen year old daughter come to Idaho for a visit a little more than a year ago. From the time that I picked her up at the airport, she had her face glued to the screen of her smart phone. The drive that brought us back to the cabin was scenic, chosen specifically for her benefit. It was lost on her. As I wound around the hairpin turns, on the alert for white tail deer, I glanced every once in a while to watch her furious thumbs hammer the keyboard of her phone.

Dinners were quick, least she miss any texts. Conversation was cut into small, obligatory bites. Actually, every moment of the day, including the night she made dinner, was devoted to the void of “cyberhell”. The night she surfaced just long enough to cook did not mean she had set her phone aside. She was constantly checking and replying to texts that came in as fast as a Gatling gun runs through bullets. Every once in a while, my young guest would chop the next ingredient before she returned to her beloved screen. I was left wondering if I shouldn’t offer to help, so that dinner might be served sometime before midnight. But I kept my thoughts to myself, which is why I generally get along with most people.

During the entire week she visited, this young woman never placed or received a phone call. Not one! But the exchange on her keyboard was never ending.

I was at a loss. Supposedly, she had come to experience North Idaho. So far, she had scanned the inside of the cabin, which she said was surprisingly nice, and threw her suitcase on the bed in the guestroom. From there, she returned to her phone and texts.

The day that my son came for a visit brought hope. We’d planned on a nature drive to mountains not viewed from my living room windows, and my young guest expressed real interest! But it wasn’t to be. The entire two hour drive was spent with her phone and two impressively limber thumbs as they flew through the alphabet. My son and I were at a loss. Should we dare to interrupt the secluded banter and attempt a conversation? Or should we remain quiet, so as to not interrupt the furious pace? Eventually, I’d had enough.  Forget minding my own business! I pulled over to the side of the road, held out my hand and politely requested her phone.

“You’ll get it back once we return home. It’ll give you the chance to take in the scenery.  And when you return home to Arizona, and your mom or your friends ask what you thought about Idaho, you’ll be able to tell them about the turquoise lake we’re skirting, and how many trees and deer you saw.”

Since that time, now more than a year ago, I have contemplated how difficult it will be for anyone fully engaged in technology to function in a world devoid of keyboards and texts, all guilty, it seems, to tear us away from family and friends.

We’ll see. I believe the time is coming when we will be sitting around a board game every once in a while, or reading an actual paperback book–Kindles will be dead in a world that’s been unplugged from the grid.

This brings us full circle to the need for entertainment, and it should be added to your list of prep goods. A good selection of books for all members of the family will provide entertainment, and they can be picked up cheap at moving sales and thrift stores. Board games and cards will keep things manageable, filling in those rare moments when the chores are done.

For parents and grandparents, a couple of boxes of printing paper, crayons, colored pencils, pens, pencils and a few gallons of tempura paint will keep you sane. If you think I’m exaggerating the sanity part, I double-dare you to spend just one weekend with children who’ve been unplugged from TV or the Internet or a smart phone!

And when printing paper looses its luster, try making the following recipe for play dough that uses ingredients that preppers should already have on hand–just remember to store food coloring.

Play Dough Recipe

1 cup white flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water
food coloring

Mix first 4 ingredients in a pan. Add water and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes.  Remove from stove and knead for 5 minutes–add food coloring during kneading process. T keep Play dough from drying out, store it in a zip-lock bag with the air expressed from the bag before sealing.

As mentioned several times by readers, a home school program is important for children of all ages. Successful Homeschooling has a ton of free downloads you can put aside for the time when it’s needed.

And don’t forget sports. Physical activity will help to contain all that pent-up energy! Here’s what I’ve set aside here at the cabin:








Actually, I had contemplated putting in a tetherball until a family outing led to one eight year old smacking their cousin square in the nose with an impressive volley. After the blood and the crying dried up, I decided that some contact sports were better left for a time when doctor visits can be taken for granted.

Have you put aside board games, cards, paperbacks, and children’s crafts yet? How well do you think society will do without TV, the Internet and smart phones? Please sound off with your comments below!

God Bless and stay safe,

David Morris and Survival Diva


  1. Patti Drier says:

    I do not have any children of my own, so it’s not right to criticize my sister’s kid. BUT………..I really do think my nephew might have a complete mental breakdown if the grid goes down for any length of time. He is a young adult and into the video games, all of his free time is spent on “gaming”. Actually, it’s worse because he is not even communicating with a real person. It could be an addiction? Sad.

  2. I tell my young friends (I’m 76) that there is life to be lived, the outdoors to enjoy, dancing to be done. When I get old and my legs don’t work so good anymore (P.S. I train my body 5 days a week) then I can set and watch TV or play on the computer. I despise texting I want to talk to a live person! Also, I believe that Facebook is NOT for sending family messages about important events to other family members!

    • Survival Diva says:

      Amazing to be 76, yet train 5 days a week! I so agree with you about facebook. It appears to me that it’s one HUGE gossip mill, which is why I deleted my account soon after I started it : )

  3. Several have commented about music and I just wanted to add that there are sites on the web that have the lyrics to popular songs. A nice little project is to copy off the lyrics to your favorite songs and put them in a binder. Then all you have to do to enjoy the music is to read through the lyrics and let your memory/imagination play the music in your head.

  4. sidewalk chalk, games like “barrel of Monkeys”, balls for 4 squares, wiffel balls and bats so no one gets hurt, frizzbee, lawn bowling, bean bag toss tic-tac-toe. All of these things can be purchaced very inexpensively at thrift stores and garage sales. Sling shots, pellet guns fun and practical for hunting small game.

    Those of us in our early 50’s or older can remember what we did as children. Nothing that we had plugged in. We went out side and used something that kids today don’t have. Our IMAGINATIONS !! We had small plastic army men or cowboys and Indians . We made up our own adventures with plastic figures and match box cars. We built forts out of cast off materials, we played hide and seek and we climbed trees. Imagination is something that we need to instill in this younger generation.

    • Survival Diva says:


      You’re SO right about encouraging imagination in children! Loved your recommendations, and the forethought to avoid injuries. Kids seem to abandon self-preservation for thrills and spills : )

  5. Diva,
    Puzzles are fun for every age. Set up a card table out of the way of traffic for slow times. Quilting, knitting, reloading ammunition, musical instruments. All great pastimes. Be sure you have instruction manuals and plenty of supplies. Another great item or items are exercise equipment, such as, treadmill, stationary bicycle, rowing machine, etc. You will need to stay in shape for your health! . When you are off-grid, and not prepared, down times will be sparse. You will be chopping wood and preparing meals and washing dishes. I lived off-grid for four years and loved it. Now, years later, we will be moving onto our property more prepared. Since I’ve “been there – done that”, I know, pretty much, what we need. Entertainment is important to stave off “cabin fever”. I have several bins full of magazines and books. Just be sure you have several types of lighting. We use car batteries and 12 volt lightbulbs, along with kerosene lamps and battery flashlights. We disconnected our cable almost three years ago and, at first, had a hard time with withdrawals of “Fox & Friends”. But have survived and now enjoy the BLAZE TV. We have movies on DVD, but when we camp in our “treehouse” cabin, I prefer listening to the river.

    • Survival Diva says:

      I specifically like the idea of knitting, quilting and reloading, as they could serve dual purposes: a hobby and bartering potential.

  6. thanks for the very good article . something to really think about.

  7. Joseph-Lee Morehouse says:

    Thank you for your article , let me mention the Victrola’s ,have 2 that they have been tinkered with and you wind them up , they work great. Have a extensive album collection . Victrola’s are hard to find but they are out there to be bought.
    Have a extensive library , library for children,have music books, sheet music for piano , working on art supplies , have blue prints for simple musical instruments. Looking for scripted plays too have people act out parts or read them out loud to keep minds busy .
    Have a redundancy of DVDs and VHS tapes and players that are modified to run on battery’s or generator . Working on stock piling extra players for parts and replacements.
    Having trouble with finding blue prints of old VHS players have a electronic nerd in our group who said he can trouble shoot anything with the right blue prints.
    For the young people there world will crash if there electronics stop working ,it will be hard on them but they will learn to tough it out. I my self don’t own a cell phone and don’t want one. I find most persons that are trying to reach me either want money or want me to solve a problem that they already have the answer too . They want to talk to me they can call me on the land line or come and visit me.
    Lastly if the SHTF happens most people won’t have time too play anymore , not for a long time.
    Hope you have a Happy New Year.

    • Survival Diva says:

      Happy new year to you : )

      I like your ideas: a victrola, an album collection, (vinyl is making a comeback), children’s books, piano sheet music are all good to have for grid-down. I hope that you’re right about tech-obsessed youth being able to tough it out. What concerns me is that most I’ve met who spend the majority of their time in front of a computer or texting are seriously out of shape and they don’t seem to possess handy-man skills. Critical out-of-the-box thinking will be necessary to do repairs with whatever materials are laying around or can be bartered for. I hope I’m wrong. . . My son went on a weekend camp trip with his school in North Idaho and was surprised that no one knew how to set up a tent or start a fire. He went from campsite to campsite and helped each group. Here in Idaho, where hunting and fishing is the norm, it was a shock to find out that none of these high school seniors possessed these basic skills.

      • Diva;

        Forty-five years ago, my wife was pregnant with our first child. We decided to take a canoe trip from Canada to the US in the Ely, MN, area. The first night, I told her that I just broke my leg and that she had to make the fire. Rain was falling lightly and all the tinder was wet. After realizing that I did not have a broken leg and realizing that I wanted her to know how to make a fire in the most adverse circumstances, she spent about 30 minutes trying unsuccessfully until she broke down in tears (I was setting up the tent and making camp). I then showed her what to do (it took perhaps 3 to 5 minutes to get a roaring blaze going). After that, every evening for the rest of the week in the wilderness, she made the fire while I set up camp. After only a few nights, she became an EXPERT at building a fire under horrible circumstances. Not only did it give her the confidence she needed to do this, it gave her the knowledge that, if necessary, she could survive in the wilderness (with a little help). I suggest the “Total Immersion” technique for those kids who have no idea how to do the essentials.

      • Joseph-Lee Morehouse says:

        I have family that have never spent a day camping and I share your concern how times have change I loved camping , fishing, done some hunting. I fear that this new generation is becoming too dependent on technologies I have hope that as Americans they could rise to any challenge.

        • Survival Diva says:


          We Americans are known to be resourceful. Maybe when it counts the most, they’ll get busy with survival.

  8. Crankyyankee says:

    I haven’t had TV service for the last 4 years and don’t miss it. I do spend time on the computer–my newspaper subscription is digital and I get most of my news online. I’ve also collected a library of DVDs and my Kindle is loaded. But I also have more books than I could read in a year or more, plenty of flashlights and batteries, propane for cooking and various other essentials. I lived without all this before (born in 1948) and I can do it again.

    • Survival Diva says:

      Sounds like you’re set up. One thing. . . if you don’t have an large propane tank on your property, think about a back-up plan to cook over a firepit or a wood-burning device (provided you have trees around you). I’ve got an antique wood cook stove that’s installed at the cabin, and my property is treed, but I purchased a Vera Zoom wood burning rocket stove for back-up. I have a strong suspicion that when SHTF, it won’t be a short term problem.

  9. BALANCE! there is a good and bad side to everything. many good uses for tech, but to get too dependent on them….bad side! I’d rather have nice ,warm indoor plumbing as opposed to an out house, BUT I know how to build and use one if neccesary. Everyone should know how to get along without new stuff just in case.
    if there is one good thing the govt would do, its to have an unscheduled power outtage like which occurred a few years back with grid failure lasting a week. Chaos didnt happen then…nieghbors started talking to one another, kids played basketball in the street NICELY, no gang wars! OMG you had to remember how to add/subtract on paper if you bought something, and clerks had to figure out how to manually make change!
    But what I really want to know is, what do these folks talk/text about all day? Is it important? Seems we talk more but truly say less…..

    • Survival Diva says:

      Funny story about an outhouse. . . my brother, the hunter and outdoorsman, actually tried to talk me and my sister-in-law into letting him just dig a hole and stringing a tarp across a potty area here at the cabin for a simple “outhouse”. I honestly don’t believe it was laziness that brought on his suggestion (although, he was the builder), but it was more that complete privacy and 4 walls just wasn’t a necessity to his way of thinking. The looks he received from us had him throwing his hands up in the air and stating, “Fine, I’ll build an outhouse!” It’s now a discrete ways away from the cabin and I’ve actually had to use it on many occasions. The power often goes out in the area for hours or days at a time.

      From what I could tell from the 18 year old girl who was visiting, texts are used for gossip : )

  10. I currently don’t have access to TV and therefore truly NEVER watch it. I don’t miss it at all – in fact I hate the stupid blaring things. I need peace and quiet around me and don’t even play a radio or anything else. I use a computer (obviously) but it’s only to work on. I would never have a Kindle over a book – you can’t curl up in bed with a good laptop to read. I’m old fashioned (and old, period, being 63 years young) and knit, crochet, sew, etc. I never seem to run out of things to keep me occupied, so I wouldn’t be stressed too much if the grid went down. I’m thinking of buying a Scrabble game – just need a wordsmith partner to play it with me. The young folks are in for a rude awakening here soon.

    • Survival Diva says:

      My daughters hinted at a Kindle this Christmas, which I declined for the same reason you pointed out. Not comfortable curling up with. Wished I hated TV as well, but I am sometimes guilty of letting it play in the background for company when family isn’t around. But you’re right, those who have interests other than devotion to texting and technology will get by with more productive skills : )

      • As we live in the country, we depend on a satellite provider for our TV. We also usually have Fox News on in the background, mainly to keep up with what is happening in the country and the world. This allows us to better fine-tune our preps for the next disaster that may be coming down the line. Unfortunately, DishTV got into a dispute with Fox News and we have been without our source of news for a week. Although we obviously have survived (with the help of a houseful of family for Christmas), we miss knowing what is going on, and feel that we are being left behind in keeping up to date. However, in a grid down situation, all of us will be in the same boat of little or no information.

        Our preps are limited to non-electrical things. For example, my dear wife (at my request) got me another Lodge cast iron Dutch oven (10″), a Lodge 60″ tripod, and an under-the-counter compost bucket. How’s that for a nice set of Christmas presents!!!! I was thrilled and can cross a few more items off my “to get” list.

        • Survival Diva says:

          Bob R,
          You are indeed blessed that your wife bought you that Dutch oven (they’re wonderful!) and the tripod and compost bucket! I have Dish TV here at the cabin and do not get Fox as well. Hopefully whatever caused it will be rectified in the near future.

        • Bob R, we have the same problem with dish here in n. Idaho.

        • If you google WATCH FOX NEWS FREE LIVE STREAMING and choose the link with Baqiworld in the title, you can see Fox. Of course, the ads and popups are there but better than no Fox.

      • Hey Bob,
        Although Fox News used to be conservative they are becoming more and more liberal in their content. Don’t get me wrong–it is better than CNN and MSNBC but we must be careful now.
        With Dish TV—have you considered The Blaze TV? “Where Truth Begins…” Good content…

    • Hi Barbara,

      Since you use a computer, you can buy a Scrabble disc for about $10 and play with the “computer person” on different levels. It is neat because there is an available dictionary and helpful hints. Honestly speaking, I am hooked and play almost every day. I tell everyone that it is helping to keep my mind sharp, and I am sure it helps, but I just enjoy “beating the computer”, rare that it may be!

  11. House rule: no earphones, no texting, and phone calls go to message during meals.

    • Survival Diva says:

      Love your rules!

    • Have the same rules at my house,but the teens ignore it and do what they
      please. Shows lack of disipline by their parents,.can’t smack them on the
      butt anymore,so they win at whatever rule they want to break’ No respect
      for people ,their homes or things’ I raised 4 teens all at once and they would
      never have acted like that,don’t care to have the little suckers around me

  12. Raised by Wolves says:

    Agree with Tex on the music. We are not musically inclined. But I still have several music hymnals and modern praise music books that I picked up over the years from rummage sales and Christian book stores. Depending on circumstances, the parents are also the “priests” or “pastors” of the family. You should be practicing doing devotions with your children even now. I recall “Family Life Today” doing interviews of authors on the subject about how to do it and not drive the kids crazy. You should also have books on how to defend the Christian faith or apologetics.
    I have been promoting calling the new generation the “Virtuals”. Last I checked, no official name has been designated yet. I think they would come after the millennials. Technically, she is a millenial. But most of the millennials are the same way. They spend their entire life in a virtual world. Very sad. You did not say how the 18 y.o. reacted to losing her lifeline and what she did the rest of the visit. ! 02 OMG ACORN AB 182 fq 4col look trees AFGO CWOT 10Q

    • Survival Diva says:

      Raised by Wolves,

      The Virtual generation is a perfect descriptor! As for her reaction, it was mixed. Deep down it seemed as if she WANTED someone to remind her of her humanity, but as with any addiction, she had a very difficult time being torn away from her smart phone. She was jumpy and at loose ends.

      Hymnals and praise books will be wonderful to have on hand to help get past an ensuing societal breakdown and the sadness it will bring.

  13. Air gun plinking. Old TV series on DVD if like me you have solar power and battery bank.

  14. We have some board games and card games set aside and variety of musical instruments (Guitars, mandolins, rhythm instruments) so that we can all sing and play (our family are all musicians and singers). In addition we are set up for archery, hunting, fishing, camping and hiking here in Texas. We are all on the computers and Ipads, etc. but we have limited usage where we are so we haven’t become dependent on them. We live in rural Texas so there are periods of time when we don’t have access to electricity and the generators are used for important stuff like keeping food from thawing!

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