All In the Family – The Wards

This is a 15.5 minute video Shelly’s dad, Carl Ward, created about their family with a lot of archival photos. I found this today as I’ve been doing some updates to this website (our family learning blog) and found a “draft post” from 2019 which I’d never completed, “Saving Family Audio from 2010 on iPadio.” At some point I archived a variety of different family media files to Amazon S3, and found this video in a folder named “other” in our “archive bucket.”

This is priceless. All these recordings and media files are!

I’ve added this video to our “Fryer Family Media Timeline” as well as the VIDEOS page of our (new) Family History website.

Grandfather Mountain Backpacking Adventure (June 2022)

In early June 2022, I had the privilege to journey with our daughters to the Grandfather Mountain State Park for the first time. We embarked on a three-day, two-night backpacking adventure and relished a wonderful experience. Although we ended up hiking more on the second day than planned, leading to some exhaustion, the overall trip was superb. In this post, I aim to reflect on our journey, the trails we trekked, and my overall impressions of both the Grandfather Mountain Biosphere Reserve and the Grandfather Mountain State Park.

Grandfather Mountain Backpacking (June 2023)” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

Overview of Our Trip

We have been residing in North Carolina for a year, and I have previously enjoyed backpacking and camping. I aimed to provide our daughters, aged 19 and 22, with a memorable backpacking experience, while also allowing them to appreciate the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachians of North Carolina. I had heard from friends that Grandfather Mountain was an outstanding place to hike and explore, and they were absolutely correct.

I recorded quite a few video clips during our trip, and I edited these together along with a few still images in a 12.5 minute video using iMovie for iOS.

Back in March, during Easter Weekend, my wife and I stayed at a vacation rental in Deep Gap, near Boone, and spent some time driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was then we discovered the Boone Fork Parking Area, which served as our launch point for this adventure. Our planned route to the Storytellers’ Rock campsite was a modest one-and-a-half-mile journey, ideally completed in about an hour. I made reservations online a couple of months in advance and planned to arrive on Sunday afternoon, which gave us plenty of time to hike into camp and set up.

Grandfather Mountain Backpacking (June 2023)” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

Impressions of Storyteller’s Rock and the Nuwati Trail

The Nuwati Trail, leading to Storyteller’s Rock, isn’t particularly challenging, but it is rocky with many roots. It’s now essential to make camping reservations online and fill out a written camping form upon arrival, noting your plans and emergency contact information.

I chose Storyteller’s Rock due to its impressive views and reported native history, as well as its proximity to several streams and water sources. Purifying water is crucial in the backcountry, and I recorded a short video demonstrating three different methods of water purification.

The campsite was ideal; we particularly loved the wooden platform provided for tents and the excellent fire ring.

Grandfather Mountain Backpacking (June 2023)” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

We didn’t encounter any bears, but they are present in the area, so it’s important to take bear precautions seriously.

View from Storyteller’s Rock” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

Daniel Boone Trail to Grandfather Mountain

On the second day, we returned to the Nuwati Trail and connected with the Daniel Boone Trail, which follows the entire ridgeline up to the top of Grandfather Mountain. This challenging and rigorous hike offered spectacular views. If you plan to tackle the entire trail, ensure you are in excellent physical condition and prepared for a significant challenge.

Grandfather Mountain Backpacking (June 2023)” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

Overall Impressions of Grandfather Mountain Biosphere Reserve and State Park

Grandfather Mountain Nature Preserve and State Park are breathtaking areas of North Carolina. As new Charlotte residents, it’s fantastic to be just a couple of hours from the mountains. The communities of Blowing Rock, Boone, Banner Elk, and Linville are conveniently close.

We plan to return later this summer, having chosen to join the Grandfather Mountain non-profit and truly take advantage of the summit’s hiking trails. The area reminds me of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, which you can drive to the top of, but Grandfather Mountain offers a greater range of trail options. This spectacular area offered us a chance to introduce our girls to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

If you’re planning a trip, I recommend the mobile app ‘AllTrails,’ which proved invaluable on our journey, tracking our mileage and elevation changes, and allowing us to see precisely where we were on each trail.

Grandfather Mountain Backpacking (June 2023)” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer


To conclude, I’ll share a short video of a black bear we encountered at the Grandfather Mountain Preserve, which was one of the most incredible experiences we’ve ever had with a bear, either in a zoo or in nature. 

Grandfather Mountain is indeed magical, and I am eagerly looking forward to our return. If you’re considering a trip to North Carolina, I highly recommend making Grandfather Mountain State Park a priority – it’s an adventure you won’t forget.

Grandfather Mountain Backpacking (June 2023)” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

AI Attribution: I used the Open AI iOS applications Whisperboard and ChatGPT to create and edit the text in this blog post.

Home Electric Generator Test

Yesterday I tested my home backup electric generator for the first time and created a 16.5 minute video about the experience. In this article, I’ll share some of the highlights and key points from the video, which focuses on what it means to be a “Communitarian Prepper,” why it’s important to prepare and TEST your home setup for emergency power generation, and some of the next steps I plan to take for our family.

Emergency Backup Generator Test: Furman WHO3243 (3 June 2023 by Wes Fryer)

1: Understanding Communitarian Prepping

Being a communitarian prepper means taking proactive measures to prepare for emergencies while considering the well-being of your community. It goes beyond individual survivalism and embraces the idea of supporting and assisting our neighbors during challenging times. As I’ve watched numerous YouTube videos in the past few years relating to prepping as well as firearms / guns, it seems like a large number of people are imagining some kind of hypothetical “zombie apocalypse” scenario where they will have to become “lone wolf survivalists.” That is NOT my perspective on emergency preparedness, so that is why I’m defining myself as a “communitarian prepper.” There is NO WAY any of us can survive or thrive in a significant emergency situation without the help of others in our community. While none of us has or can have unlimited resources to help a huge number of people in an emergency, all of us have some resources which ideally can help some of our neighbors and community members, as well as those in our immediate family. That’s the kind of prepper and “good human” I aspire to be and continue becoming.

2: Introducing the Furman HU-3242 Dual Fuel Generator

I recently acquired a Firman WHO3242 Dual Fuel Generator, which I purchased on sale at Costco. This generator caught my attention due to its impressive features and capabilities. It offers backup power for essential appliances during emergencies and serves as a reliable energy source for camping trips. While it features both standard 20 A 110 outlets (2) and a larger RV outlet (TT-30R 120V 30A RV,) it does NOT output 220 volt power. This means it’s more capable than smaller units, but may not be suitable as a “whole house” power replacement generator.

Firman WHO3242 Electric Generator” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

3: Past Power Generation Experience

Throughout the years, I’ve had several experiences with generators, from using them during camping trips to enduring power outages caused by severe ice storms. These encounters have motivated me to invest in a reliable power backup solution for my home and outdoor activities. Since I’ve used a CPAP machine for several years now, I’ve needed “off grid” capabilities to use mine when we’ve been family camping. As with many aspects of being a “communitarian prepper,” I think having (and practicing the use of) a backup electrical generator can have multiple benefits for our family in addition to emergency preparedness. Being better prepared and equipped for family camping is one of those benefits!

Colorado Camping July 2019” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

4: The Benefits of Dual Fuel Capability

One of the primary reasons I opted for the Furman HU-3242 Dual Fuel Generator is its dual fuel capability. It can run on either gasoline or propane, providing flexibility and addressing the challenges associated with the shelf life of gasoline. As I discussed in this video, however, the SPECIFICS of how long your generator can operate is dependent not only on fuel type and capacity, but also the LOAD you are putting on the generator. the load is based on the number of household appliances / devices you are powering. One of my “next steps” is to obtain a home electricity usage monitor to determine exactly how much “load” our refrigerator and deep freeze require, to calculate how long I’ll be able to run my generator and power our essential home appliances in the case of a prolonged power outage / power grid failure. I also want to calculate the excess electrical capacity I’ll have, since we may need to power a portable heater, fan or air conditioner (depending on the season) as well as chargers for our various electronic devices. We’ll also want to power our home Internet router and WiFi network, to continue accessing the web (as well as powering our smart home devices) if Internet access remains available during the emergency.

5: Selecting the Right Location for the Generator

Determining the optimal location for the generator requires careful consideration. I prioritize protecting it from the elements while ensuring that the extension cords reach the appliances I intend to power. Safety and security are paramount in deciding where to position the generator. You never want to operate an electrical generator indoors (like in a garage) and you also want to be careful to direct exhaust fumes away from windows and household air inlets.

6: Starting Up and Testing the Generator

With the generator properly fueled and oiled, I demonstrated the startup process in my video. It’s crucial to allow the generator to run for a brief period before plugging in electrical devices. This ensures a smooth and stable power supply, and also avoids damage to the generator or the devices you are plugging in. This particular generator features an “electrical start” option, which is super handy and easier than using the “lawnmower-style” pull rope starter. However, you need to charge the internal electrical battery in advance, and be sure it’s kept charged as part of your regular generator maintenance plan.

7: Assessing Power Output and Load Capacity

During the test, I connected my refrigerator and deep freeze to the generator using extension cords. By monitoring the generator’s readout, I hoped to determine its load capacity and assess whether I can power additional appliances simultaneously. This information (eventually) will help me plan for various emergency scenarios effectively. I need to read more of my generator’s operating manual to learn exactly what the different readout options mean. I hope to record and share another video soon where I share more about this, also using data from the home electricity usage monitor I’m going to order soon.

Generator Panel Readout” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

8: Overcoming Challenges and Considering Future Needs

In my video I acknowledged some of the challenges associated with emergency preparedness and generator usage. Additional supplies such as stabilizer for gasoline, extension cords, grounded power strips, and a thorough understanding of electrical load calculations are essential components of effective preparedness too. Yesterday’s tests highlighted several additional items I need to purchase and create (like a sized foam insert to put in my sliding sunroom door) as well as a custom sized dowel to lock / secure the partially opened door.

9: Expanding Emergency Preparedness Efforts

Beyond powering crucial appliances, I recognize the need to consider other electrical needs during emergencies. Charging devices, maintaining internet connectivity, and preparing for various contingencies are all part of a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan. I plan to continue to adapt and enhance my preparedness efforts as time goes on, I’m able to allocate more family resources to these needs, and technologies continue to improve.

One of my long term goals (which I did not mention in this video) is obtaining a large home battery for electricity backup purchases, like a Tesla PowerWall. I’m interested in tracking the development of new “solid state battery options” which promise to be easier and safer than other backup battery options now available on the market. Eventually, I want to have home-mounted solar panels, as well as portable / mobile solar panels (which we can use camping or I can use to setup a mobile HAM radio operating station) that can charge our solid-state batteries used to power appliances and charge our devices.

10: Embracing a Faith-Based Approach

In conclusion, I want to emphasize that while emergency preparedness is crucial, it should never be accompanied by fear and anxiety. I firmly believe in the power of faith and the assurance that proper preparation, combined with trust in a higher power, can alleviate unnecessary worry during challenging times. This is a topic I address in more detail on my Christian blog, “PocketShare Jesus,” and in social media posts (including Instagram, Mastodon, and Twitter) using the hashtag #dw4jc, which stands for “digital witness for Jesus Christ.” (I’ve almost finished a book with this title.)

In my original video, I shared my experiences and challenges, encouraging others to embark on their own preparedness journeys. By documenting and sharing my progress, I hope to inspire individuals to explore their own emergency preparedness endeavors.

Emergency preparedness is an ongoing journey that requires continuous learning and adaptation. I encourage you to share your own tips, suggestions, and experiences in the comments section below. Together, we can build a strong and supportive community focused on preparedness and resilience.

Remember, the key to effective emergency preparedness lies not only in tangible resources but also in the faith we have in God and His provision. By combining practical preparations with a steadfast belief, we can face uncertainties with confidence and peace of mind.

Thank you for joining me on this communitarian prepper journey with a dual fuel generator. Stay safe, be prepared, and let’s face the future with optimism, resilience and faith. 🙂

Home Electric Generator Test” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

AI Disclosure: I accessed the auto-generated YouTube transcript of my video using I then used ChatGPT 4.0 (ChatGPT+) to create this multi-section article version of my video transcript, which I then manually edited and refined. Lastly, I used ChatGPT to create a short video summary (included as the video description on YouTube) as well as the hashtags to use sharing this video on social media.

Racial Justice and Healing: Resources from Front Royal, Virginia

Today Rachel, Shelly and I attended worship at Cavalry Episcopal Church in Front Royal, Virginia. Today is Pentecost, and after the wonderful service the congregation hosted a celebratory coffee and snack time featuring (predominantly) red cakes, pies, and other goodies! Cavalry Episcopal has been Rachel’s church home the past year as she’s been studying on a Falcon Scholarship at Randolph Macon Academy, just up the street from the church. In a month Rachel is headed to the US Air Force Academy for Basic Cadet Training, as a member of the USAFA Class of 2027. In this post, I’d like to share some of the fantastic resources we learned about in our conversations with Reverend Valerie Hayes, who is the rector at Cavalry Episcopal. These resources relate broadly to the themes of seeking empathy and understanding in our politically polarized times, finding ways to discuss and explore our shared history which was (and still is) strongly influenced by racism and discrimination, and seeking to both love and share the love of Jesus Christ in our communities often fixated on “culture war” issues based more in fear and judgement rather than the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit. I’m sharing these resources because I want to remember and revisit them myself, and I am also positive there are others in our church family back in Charlotte (as well as elsewhere) who are interested in these topics as we each venture forward on our own journeys of faith seeking to follow Jesus.

Visit to Calvary Episcopal in Front Royal. VA” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

Reverend Hayes mentioned several books in her courageous and challenging homily in today’s worship service, particularly as she shared about the “Triangle of Hope Youth Pilgrimage.”

The Triangle of Hope is an Anglican-led effort to form covenantal community between the dioceses of Liverpool (England), Kumasi (Ghana), and Virginia dedicated to transforming the long history, ongoing effects and continuing presence of slavery in our world through repentance, reconciliation and mission.Each one of our Dioceses was directly involved in the dreadful Slave Triangle. We remember and acknowledge with sorrow that human beings were captured and enslaved for financial gain with no regard for their dignity and humanity. We view this history with great pain and in penitence before God, the God who wills in Christ to bring freedom and justice for all.

This is a courageous and absolutely WONDERFUL initiative I want to learn more about. In exploring the project website, don’t miss the videos on the “Tsedaqah” page, including the video, “Explore the Way of Love: Go.” I agree with the thesis of this video: Jesus calls us today to move outside our comfort zones in love and humility, as we seek to live like Jesus and share the transformative message of his Gospel which is filled with love, grace, empathy, understanding, listening, and faith.

This mandate to GO includes finding ways to discuss and explore culturally sensitive issues, like the history of the transatlantic slave trade and the ongoing, multi-generational impact of this sinful economic system.

The first of the books shared today by Rev Hayes was “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi. According to the current English WikiPedia entry for the book:

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America is a non-fiction book about race in the United States by the American historian Ibram X. Kendi, published April 12, 2016 by Bold Type Books, an imprint of PublicAffairs. The book won the National Book Award for Nonfiction.[1][2][3]

The book also has two “remixes” for children, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You and Stamped (For Teens ): Racism, Antiracism, and You. A graphic novel version, adapted and illustrated by Joel Christian Gill, is expected to be published in June 2023.

“Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi.

The teen version is used as a study text by the Triangle of Hope Youth Pilgrimage teams.

A second book she mentioned and recommended in her homily was “Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race” by Luke A. Powery. The Amazon website description of the book is:

Discussions of racial difference always embody a story. The dominant story told in our society about race has many components, but two stand out: (1) racial difference is an essential characteristic, fully determining individual and group identity; and (2) racial difference means that some bodies are less human than others.

The church knows another story, says Luke Powery, if it would remember it. That story says that the diversity of human bodies is one of the gifts of the Spirit. That story’s decisive chapter comes at Pentecost, when the Spirt embraces all bodies, all flesh, all tongues. In that story, different kinds of materiality and embodiment are strengths to be celebrated rather than inconvenient facts to be ignored or feared. In this book, Powery urges the church to live up to the inclusive story of Pentecost in its life of worship and ministry. He reviews ways that a theology and practice of preaching can more fully exemplify the diversity of gifts God gives to the church. He concludes by entering into a conversation with the work of Howard Thurman on doing ministry to and with humanity in the light of the work of the Spirit.

“Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race” by Luke A. Powery

In this book description, you can see the connection which Rev Hayes made to Pentecost in her homily. I TOTALLY resonate with this idea, that we need to both “lean into” and embrace the beauty, power, and goodness of diversity which we see reflected in our shared humanity across our globe, as well as in our natural world. I talked about this last week in episode 15 of the weekly podcast Shelly and I are now recording, which we shared from the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro.

These ideas and this approach to our society today is a very “counter-cultural message”, amidst so much focus on “culture war” issues and political candidates. Yet I think this is one of many things we need to be doing as followers of Jesus Christ, regardless of our current denominational affiliation, background or context.

After church when we had an opportunity to visit at length with Rev Hayes, she shared a wealth of other resources related to the themes of her homily and the overall goals of racial justice and healing, which are major goals in their Episcopal Diocese here in Virginia. These included “Sacred Ground: A Film-Based Dialogue Series on Race & Faith” by the Episcopal Church. According to the website:

Sacred Ground is a film- and readings-based dialogue series on race, grounded in faith. Small groups are invited to walk through chapters of America’s history of race and racism, while weaving in threads of family story, economic class, and political and regional identity.

The 11-part series is built around a powerful online curriculum of documentary films and readings that focus on Indigenous, Black, Latino, and Asian/Pacific American histories as they intersect with European American histories.
Sacred Ground is part of Becoming Beloved Community, The Episcopal Church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation, and justice in our personal lives, our ministries, and our society. This series is open to all, and especially designed to help white people talk with other white people. Participants are invited to peel away the layers that have contributed to the challenges and divides of the present day – all while grounded in our call to faith, hope and love.

This is a 4.5 minute video from Episcopal Christians in Cody, Wyoming (where coincidentally my 95 year old aunt, Marge Wilder, and family live!) sharing some background about the “Sacred Ground” film and dialog series. I would love to participate in this study back in North Carolina!

Another related book Rev Hayes recommended today is “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II” by Douglas A. Blackmon. The Amazon description is:

This groundbreaking historical expose unearths the lost stories of enslaved persons and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation and then back into the shadow of involuntary servitude shortly thereafter in “The Age of Neoslavery.”

By turns moving, sobering, and shocking, this unprecedented Pulitzer Prize-winning account reveals the stories of those who fought unsuccessfully against the re-emergence of human labor trafficking, the companies that profited most from neoslavery, and the insidious legacy of racism that reverberates today.

Following the Emancipation Proclamation, convicts—mostly black men—were “leased” through forced labor camps operated by state and federal governments. Using a vast record of original documents and personal narratives, Douglas A. Blackmon brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history.

“Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II” by Douglas A. Blackmon.

This book, and others like it which highlight our shared history of racism and racial discrimination, represent perspectives from and about history which many adults living today did not study or encounter during their years of formal schooling. It is important work for us, together, to seek to better understand our own history, especially as we seek to understand the experiences and perspectives of our brothers and sisters of color who have faced (and continue to face) so many hardships and persecutions. It is lamentable that some prominent politicians today (Ron DeSantis comes to mind, but there are others) are pushing an agenda which seeks to silence, marginalize, and/or deny the validity of perspectives on history of many folks, including African-Americans. As I’ve learned vividly through my ongoing work in the “Conspiracies and Culture Wars” media literacy project, just talking about these issues with others (either in-person or online) can be perilous and challenging. However, specifically as Christians and followers of Jesus Christ, “we are called to do hard things.” At a very basic level, this includes seeking opportunities to engage in mutual DIALOG about these issues touching on race, racism, and social justice.

Steven Charleston is the author of “The Four Vision Quests of Jesus,” which I learned about and read last year thanks to the recommendation of Curt Gruel, my spiritual director. In our discussions with Rev Hayes today, we talked a little about the Native American Ministry of The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, Our primary Episcopal Church home in Oklahoma City, St Augustine’s of Canterbury, sent a youth mission team to a Navajo reservation in Arizona during Spring Break 2022. I mentioned Charleston’s “Vision Quests of Jesus” book today to Rev Hayes, and she let me know he now has a newer (2021 imprint) book, “Ladder to the Light: An Indigenous Elder’s Meditations on Hope and Courage.” I’ve added this book to my Amazon reading wish list.

Ladder to the Light: An Indigenous Elder’s Meditations on Hope and Courage by Steven Charleston

In discussing Native American connections to Christianity, faith and spirituality, Rev Hayes also recommended the book “The First Signs: Unlocking the Mysteries of the World’s Oldest Symbols” by Genevieve von Petzinger. As a student of history as well as teacher about media literacy and visual communication, this sounds like an excellent read. This reminds me of the Utah petroglyph “Newspaper Rock,” which I integrated into the website header image for “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?” I’ve also added this to my future reading list!

“The First Signs: Unlocking the Mysteries of the World’s Oldest Symbols” by Genevieve von Petzinger

Unfortunately, gun related violence is closely tied to conversations today about political polarization and our ongoing culture war. Later in June, different church and other groups in Fort Royal are planning a shared event to promote gun safety awareness and (I expect) new gun regulation to try and reduce levels of firearm violence in our nation. Rev Hayes mentioned this in her closing announcements during today’s worship service. On this topic, we also shared a couple resources today.

I mentioned the outstanding TEDx talk by former firearms executive, Ryan Busse, “It’s Time For Responsible Gun Owners to Save our Democracy.” This is the best video I have seen to date on the issues of gun related violence, and the unfortunate ways millions of people in the United States have tied their IDENTITIES to tactical firearms like the AR-15. I share this as a gun owner, hunter and sportsman myself, as well as military veteran. I am personally NOT anti-gun, but agree with Ryan Busse that none of us should define our identities by our love and passion for tactical firearms. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I know that my identity should be rooted in HIM, not in things or possessions. This is a great TEDx talk, and if you haven’t watched it, I encourage you to take time to now or later. (Add it to your YouTube “watch later” playlist!)

Rev Hayes shared a documentary about gun culture and Christian faith in the United States I haven’t seen and hadn’t heard about previously, “The Armor of Light” documentary from 2015. More information and links about it are available on the film’s official website as well as from PBS. According to the PBS website:

The Armor of Light follows the journey of Evangelical minister Rob Schenck, who is trying to find the courage to preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America, and Lucy McBath, the mother of an unarmed teenager who was murdered in Florida and whose story cast a spotlight on the state’s “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Reverend Schenck, a well-known anti-abortion activist and long-time fixture on the political far right, breaks with orthodoxy by questioning whether being pro-gun is consistent with being pro-life. In a series of uneasy conversations, Rev. Schenck is perplexed by the reactions of his friends and colleagues, most of whom are gun owners and adamant defenders of the 2nd Amendment, and who warn him away from this complex, politically explosive issue. Along the way, he meets Lucy McBath, also an Evangelical Christian, who decides to work with him. Lucy is on a difficult journey of her own, trying to make sense of the devastating loss of her murdered son, while using her grief to effect some kind of viable and effective political action where so many before her have failed.

The Armor of Light follows these allies through their trials of conscience, heartbreak, and rejection, as they bravely attempt to make others consider America’s gun culture through a moral lens. The film is also a glimpse at America’s fractured political culture while demonstrating that it is, indeed, possible for people to come together across deep party lines to find common ground.

I have not yet watched this documentary but, as with the books referenced in this post, am adding it to my “watch list” / “read list” for the future.

The book “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together” by Heather McGhee was also recommended today by Rev Hayes. According to Amazon:

Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy—and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis of 2008 to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a root problem: racism in our politics and policymaking. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?

McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm—the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others. Along the way, she meets white people who confide in her about losing their homes, their dreams, and their shot at better jobs to the toxic mix of American racism and greed. This is the story of how public goods in this country—from parks and pools to functioning schools—have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, and inequality increased; and of how this country, unique among the world’s advanced economies, has thwarted universal healthcare.

But in unlikely places of worship and work, McGhee finds proof of what she calls the Solidarity Dividend: the benefits we gain when people come together across race to accomplish what we simply can’t do on our own. The Sum of Us is not only a brilliant analysis of how we arrived here but also a heartfelt message, delivered with startling empathy, from a black woman to a multiracial America. It leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than a zero-sum game.

“The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together” by Heather McGhee

This sounds like it should go on the “required reading list” for anyone today interested in better understanding where we’ve come from and how we can move forward together on the primary topics of this blog post: Racial Justice and Healing.

Today Rev Hayes also recommended the book, “The Hidden Wound” by Wendell Berry. According to Amazon:

An impassioned, thoughtful, and fearless essay on the effects of racism on the American identity by one of our country’s most humane literary voices.

Acclaimed as “one of the most humane, honest, liberating works of our time” (The Village Voice), The Hidden Wound is a book-length essay about racism and the damage it has done to the identity of our country. Through Berry’s personal experience, he explains how remaining passive in the face of the struggle of racism further corrodes America’s great potential. In a quiet and observant manner, Berry opens up about how his attempt to discuss racism is rooted in the hope that someday the historical wound will begin to heal. Pulitzer prize-winning author Larry McMurtry calls this “a profound, passionate, crucial piece of writing . . . Few readers, and I think, no writers will be able to read it without a small pulse of triumph at the temples: the strange, almost communal sense of triumph one feels when someone has written truly well . . . The statement it makes is intricate and beautiful, sad but strong.”

“The Hidden Wound” by Wendell Berry

Rev Hayes shared a little with us today about the courageous and inspirational project, “Coming to the Table.” According to the organization’s About page, their mission and vision is:

Vision: The Coming to the Table vision for the United States is of a just and truthful society that acknowledges and seeks to heal from the racial wounds of the past—from slavery and the many forms of racism it spawned.

Mission: Coming to the Table provides leadership, resources, and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery.

The 3 minute video from 2020, “Healing Wounds,” which was shared on the “Coming to the Table” YouTube channel, provides a succinct overview of some of the work of this organization. I resonate deeply with this, and want to continue developing and sharing resources through the “Storychasers” passion project to empower others to find racial healing through the power of digital storytelling.

One possible source for digital stories as well as personal, family geneological research mentioned by Rev Hayes today are the slave census documents available from the 1840s and 1850s. Some of these documents reveal the historic connections which families have to slavery. The 2008 PBS “Traces of the Trade” documentary is an example of a film / digital story created by someone making these kinds of personal, historic connections to the slave trade of the past. Commercially licensed streaming versions of the film are available on Vimeo.

The book, “The Little Book of Racial Healing: Coming to the Table for Truth-Telling, Liberation, and Transformation (Justice and Peacebuilding)” by Thomas Norman DeWolf is a related book which shares the format and strategy of “Coming to the Table.” I’m thinking about this as the basis for future Storychaser workshops, offered both in-person and online. According to Amazon:

This book introduces Coming to the Table’s approach to a continuously evolving set of purposeful theories, ideas, experiments, guidelines, and intentions, all dedicated to facilitating racial healing and transformation.

People of color, relative to white people, fall on the negative side of virtually all measurable social indicators. The “living wound” is seen in the significant disparities in average household wealth, unemployment and poverty rates, infant mortality rates, access to healthcare and life expectancy, education, housing, and treatment within, and by, the criminal justice system.

Coming to the Table (CTTT) was born in 2006 when two dozen descendants from both sides of the system of enslavement gathered together at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), in collaboration with the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding (CJP). Stories were shared and friendships began. The participants began to envision a more connected and truthful world that would address the unresolved and persistent effects of the historic institution of slavery. This Little Book shares Coming to the Table’s vision for the United States—a vision of a just and truthful society that acknowledges and seeks to heal from the racial wounds of the past. Readers will learn practical skills for better listening; discover tips for building authentic, accountable relationships; and will find specific and varied ideas for taking action. 

“The Little Book of Racial Healing: Coming to the Table for Truth-Telling, Liberation, and Transformation (Justice and Peacebuilding)” by Thomas Norman DeWolf

Betty Kilby Baldwin’s book, “Cousins: Connected through slavery, a Black woman and a White woman discover their past—and each other” is another example of a racial healing project like this, which connects people to their historic family ties to slavery. (Rev Hayes also shared this today.)

“Cousins: Connected through slavery, a Black woman and a White woman discover their past—and each other” by Betty Kilby Baldwin

A final book related to these themes shared by Rev Hayes today was “The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism” by Jimar Tisby. According to Amazon:

An acclaimed, timely narrative of how people of faith have historically–up to the present day–worked against racial justice. And a call for urgent action by all Christians today in response.

The Color of Compromise is both enlightening and compelling, telling a history we either ignore or just don’t know. Equal parts painful and inspirational, it details how the American church has helped create and maintain racist ideas and practices. You will be guided in thinking through concrete solutions for improved race relations and a racially inclusive church.

The Color of Compromise:

  • Takes you on a historical, sociological, and religious journey: from America’s early colonial days through slavery and the Civil War
  • Covers the tragedy of Jim Crow laws, the victories of the Civil Rights era, and the strides of today’s Black Lives Matter movement
  • Reveals the cultural and institutional tables we have to flip in order to bring about meaningful integration
  • Charts a path forward to replace established patterns and systems of complicity with bold, courageous, immediate action
  • Is a perfect book for pastors and other faith leaders, students, non-students, book clubs, small group studies, history lovers, and all lifelong learners

The Color of Compromise is not a call to shame or a platform to blame white evangelical Christians. It is a call from a place of love and desire to fight for a more racially unified church that no longer compromises what the Bible teaches about human dignity and equality. A call that challenges black and white Christians alike to standup now and begin implementing the concrete ways Tisby outlines, all for a more equitable and inclusive environment among God’s people. Starting today.

“The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism” by Jimar Tisby.

All forms of media and expressions of “the arts” have potential to play constructive roles in our individual and collective journeys of healing, when it comes to social justice and racism. The Selah Theatre Project of Winchester, Virginia, was a final organization shared by Rev Hayes today as playing a positive, constructive role in encouraging community dialog around the different issues related to racial healing. According to the about page of the Selah Theatre Project :

Our vision is to enlighten, empower, and unite people through the arts to build a stronger, kinder, and more creative community.


We believe that theatre is an impactful artistic medium that encourages reflection and conversation. Our mission is to bring diversified community voices to the stage, encouraging audiences to “pause and think”.

So many wonderful books, projects, films and organizations here! We are deeply indebted to Reverend Valerie Hayes and the congregation of Cavalry Episcopal Church in Front Royal, Virginia, for the love and care they have shared this past year with our daughter, Rachel. My wife and I are also deeply appreciative to Rev Hayes for taking the time to visit with us today after church, and share such a wonderful wealth of resources, stories, and ideas relating to social justice and racial reconciliation!

It is inspiring and wonderful to learn about so many other people working with parallel purpose to promote racial healing and social justice in our nation and world. By sharing this blog post, I’m hoping the “long tail” of the Internet will meet more manifestations of “The Fruits of God’s Holy Spirit” in our individual lives and communities.

(I also cross-posted this to Medium.)

Residential Water Interruption: Are You Ready?

It’s January 2, 2023, and large numbers of residents of Asheville, North Carolina have been without water at their homes since Christmas Eve, a little over a week ago. As a Communitarian Prepper, this unfortunate current event can provide a case study for all of us concerning the ways we need to prepare for temporary (or even long term) interruptions in municipal water service, as well as other life sustaining services and utilities. Whether or not you have a well on your property, have a nearby neighbor with a well, or start making plans to put in a well, making SOME plans and preparations for how your family can weather and sustain a temporary cutoff in access to purified drinking water through your household taps is important. That’s the focus of this post.

Water Purification System at Sawmill” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

How likely are you to lose water at your house? Hopefully not very likely, but if we consider our experiences living in Oklahoma City for 16 years, it’s a definite possibility. We lost water access a couple of times because of some slab leaks we had in our house, which required us to cut off our city water feed at the street. This was a big inconvenience, but thankfully just lasted a few days. I am in the habit of keeping about six, five gallon plastic water containers full in the garage, so at those times we had stored water to use in our toilets as well as for drinking and cooking needs. See the article, “Best emergency water storage containers for your home” from for more suggestions on water containers.

In the case of the current municipal water outage in Asheville, severely cold weather caused breaks in over 1700 miles of water lines, leaving over 38,000 people without residential water service. There are several threat vectors to consider when it comes to an interruption in water service at your house:

Regardless of the cause, when water stops flowing from the tap at your house, you need to figure out:

  1. How can I obtain and store water in containers that I can use at home?
  2. How can I purify water that I either obtain from a neighbor’s well or my own, or another source, that could include your own tap before municipal water purification systems are back online.

This latter situation is now affecting many residents of Asheville, North Carolina. Today, “Buncombe County schools” have switched to “remote learning” for several days because many families are either without water or without purified water, and “boil advisories” continue to be in effect. This means even though water is flowing out of taps at home, the water isn’t purified and can’t be consumed / used for drinking until is been treated with a filter and/or chemicals.

I’m a camper, backpacker, as well as a former Philmont Ranger (summers of 1991 and 1992) and USAF cadet survival instructor (summer of 1990), so I have some experiences with backcountry water purification. My experiences as an Eagle Scout on high adventure treks to Philmont as well as the Minnesota / Canadian boundary waters area on a summer canoe trek also inform my experiences and skills in this area. My former Scoutmaster, Ray Hightower (Troop 74, Manhattan, Kansas) was a fan of “Polar Pure” water purification, which uses super-saturated iodine water to purify (usually) quart sized water bottles. That is still my preferred method, and I keep a bottle of Polar Pure in our garage-stored camping gear. If you’re needing to purify larger amounts of water than quart water bottles, however, a different solution is needed.

In the past, I have kept a large bottle of bleach in our home emergency supply cache, since bleach can be used to purify water effectively. It’s recommended that you wait at least 60 minutes before drinking water purified with bleach. If you boil water to purify it, you also have to wait until it cools off.

One of the important things I learned in Scouting and various survival training lessons was that to be purified, water does NOT need to be kept at a “rolling boil” for 5 or 10 minutes. Once water has gotten to the boiling point, all the “bad stuff” which needs to be killed through the purification process (like the Giardia parasite, which we all DEFINITELY want to avoid, since it STAYS in your gut indefinitely after you’ve ingested it) will be killed.

The other water purification method which is on my “Communitarian Prepper Wish List” is a water filter. These can be drinking straws or larger capacity filters. It’s also possible to get a residential well installed, which has built-in water treatment, purification and treatment included. This latter solution is my “prepper dream,” but it’s not something we’re going to obtain in the near term.

As with all types of emergency preparedness, it’s vital to think about these issues and TAKE ACTION TO PREPARE for these possibilities well BEFORE a crisis starts. What would you do if your residential water supply was cut off today? What would you do if it remained cut off for three days? For a week? For a month?

Any preparation you can do now can pay dividends in case of an emergency. Remember, communitarian preppers are not just interested in taking care of themselves and their immediate family members, they are also interested in providing for neighbors and others in the community who many not be as well prepared for a crisis or disaster, or may not physically be able to provide for themselves and need assistance.

There are important lessons to learn from the recent and ongoing water crisis in Asheville, North Carolina. The question is: What are YOU going to do now to better prepare yourself and your family for an interruption in municipal water service?

Residential Water Interruption: Are You” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

MHK Dusk Takeoff to DFW Sunset Landing

A 2X video of my flight this evening from Manhattan, Kansas to Dallas – Fort Worth, featuring the MHK takeoff sequence and the  DFW landing sequence just after sunset. This was American Airlines flight 3434 on December 26, 2022.

MHK Dusk Takeoff to DFW Sunset Landing (26 Dec 2022)

Created with iMovie for iOS.

The following music was used for this media project:

  1. Music: Raving Energy by Kevin MacLeod
  2. Free download:
  3. License (CC BY 4.0):

Links to follow and learn with me / Wesley Fryer are available on Resources to support the creation of media projects like this are available on:

MHK Dusk Takeoff to DFW Sunset Landing” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

Boots and Catalysts

I’m wearing the warmest boots I currently own, a pair of Thinsulate hunting boots I bought a few years ago at Academy Sports in Edmond, Oklahoma, in advance of a winter “Venture Scouts” camping trip I took with our oldest daughter. In this post I want to reflect a little on the severe blast of cold weather that is hitting the United States this week, and how this relates to the idea of being a “Communitarian Prepper.” For some reason, I also just want to reflect a little on these boots. So here we go…

Thinsulate hunting boots” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

I’m enroute to visit my parents in Manhattan, Kansas, today, for a short visit. My dad told that later this week the wind chill is going to get down to something crazy like minus 30 or minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That is insane. I really don’t remember many times growing up in northeast Kansas, in the 1980s, when we had weather that cold. Checking out the forecast in the iOS Carrot weather app (my new fav, since “Dark Sky” is going offline in 2023) it looks like Thursday at 3 am the local temperature in Manhattan is supposed to be minus 13 degrees F. That’s WITHOUT wind chill, of course. During the day Thursday, it will warm up all the way to positive 4 degrees F. Yikes.

MHK Forecast” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

I love the fact that we live in Charlotte, North Carolina, now, where the weather is generally milder than what I’ve experienced most of my life in the midwest. Charlotte rarely receives snow, although they did last winter. Apparently it was the first time in 4 years they had snow. In Oklahoma, we experienced some pretty brutal ice storms over the years, living there 16 years, from 2006 to 2022.

OKC Ice Storm Oct 2020” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

The worst was in January 2007, when I flew to MacWorld with my cousin, Devin Henley. It was amazing, but Oklahoma City received over a foot of ice and the OKC airport shut down for several days. Devin and I got stuck flying back in Denver, but made the best of it by staying with a family friend, purchasing some ski gear at REI, and taking the “ski train” to spend a day skiing at Winter Park! Stuck at home without power and three young children, Shelly was not super-happy with me.

Just the beginning!” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

When severe weather strikes, wherever you happen to be, you need to be PREPARED NOW. In the craziness of moving from Oklahoma to North Carolina last summer, we left a LOT of stuff behind. Apparently, those abandoned items included my winter ski gloves, because they are not in the large trunk of “stuff” we have in our new garage, where I did pull these winter hunting boots out last night.

Thinsulate hunting boots” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

Incidentally, these boots are NOT the ideal footwear for passing through airport security checkpoints. At some point I’d like to pay and enroll in TSA Precheck, but at this point, I don’t have any special privileges when it comes to airport security.

I’m hoping to buy some new winter gloves at the Manhattan WalMart early in this visit. Literally the only gloves or mittens I have to use at this point are a pair of wool hiking socks, which I had to use for this purpose over Thanksgiving break when our Charlotte temperatures fell below freezing.

My level of winter preparedness, living now as a new resident of Charlotte, North Carolina, may be at an all-time lifetime low. I did find my thermal underwear to bring, and a fleece hat, but to not have any winter gloves to use? This is a sad level of preparedness indeed.

Mittens” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

So this brings me back to thinking about emergency preparedness, and living into this idea of being a “communitarian prepper.” We all need CATALYSTS which encourage (or in some cases, FORCE) us to change our thinking and behavior. Most people will not simply wake up one day, sans-catalyst, and decide to change their own mindset and ways.

Sometimes our CATALYST which pushes us to change our ways is traumatic. In the past six months, I’ve had opportunities to interact with different adults taking some self-defense / self-protection classes, and the stories some of them have told about “Why I’m here” have been heart wrenching. It’s always better to “find your why” to “change your ways” in a non-traumatic, more intellectual activity (like reading a blog post, for instance) rather than a life-threatening, “fight or flight” moment of true struggle and survival.

A Challenging Professional Mantra” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

I’m not sure what the word for this is, but maybe I can suggest a few creative possibilities and others will chime in with other suggestions. Sometimes we change our ways because of:

  1. Externally imposed, traumatic life events (the death of a relative or a friend, becoming permanently disabled in an accident)
  2. An authority figure in our lives who demand changes (could be a parent or a spouse)
  3. New circumstances which require us to live differently (moving to the northern tier, for instance, which has harsher and more brutal winter weather requiring a different wardrobe and different routines through the winter months)

Maybe we can call those, “externally imposed life change catalysts.” These kinds of changes are unavoidable, given the facts of a new context. To survive, to live, or even to THRIVE (and isn’t that a lovely goal) we have to make important changes.

The other kind of thinking and behavior change catalysts are CHOICE CATALYSTS. These are events, ideas, conversations, or observations we experience which we CHOOSE to MAKE into catalysts. Examples could include:

  1. We don’t have to go on a diet and lose weight, but we notice undesirable changes in our weight, so we decide to make some dietary, lifestyle, exercise and/or routine changes.
  2. We recognize how our thinking and our interactions with others are affected by our use of mobile technologies, so we decide to make some screentime changes to address those unwanted dynamics.
  3. We have to get out all our cold winter clothing for an upcoming trip to the midwest, and realize we are not only poorly prepared for cold-weather activities, we’re also still pretty poorly prepared for a variety of potential emergencies or crises.

This, then, can be a defining characteristic of a “communitarian prepper,” as well as just an individual who wants to be better prepared for the potental (and often unforeseen) challenges of life: Seeking CHOICE CATALYSTS in life and then making an individual ACTION PLAN so those catalytic events / ideas / experiences propel us forward into our better prepared, aspirational future.

Today, I choose to make the four days this week when I’ll be wearing my Thinsulate hunting boots into a CHOICE CATALYSTS event as a “communitarian prepper,” I’ve got some brainstorming to do!

To be continued…

Thinsulate hunting boots” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

“The day after” (Thanksgiving)

“The day after.” (Thanksgiving)

Rain in our forecast all day long. It is lovely as it falls on the roof, especially on our back sunporch. The leaves we blew into tall piles on Wednesday have already started to “settle.” I am amazed how little wind there is here in North Carolina. In Oklahoma, all these leaves would’ve probably already blown away. Here, they patiently wait for us to bag them up and send them to the dump.

Our dogs love to look out the front storm door, and into the backyard through the sunporch glass. The continual activity of our neighborhood squirrels make the world outside our house seem like an amazing zoo of interesting activity.

We continue to recover from the trauma of our cross-country move last summer. I am thankful to be still, to not have anywhere to go today.(Except the gym with our USAFA-application motivated daughter!)

I am thankful to have a warm cup of coffee in my hand, a sleeping bag for my blanket, and my amazing life partner at my side. And two loving golden retrievers who lie, occasionally, at my feet.

Thanksgiving 2022 in North Carolina.

I’m a Communitarian Prepper

I’ve decided I’m a “Communitarian Prepper,” and I’ve started a new website to share related resources. This aspirational journey started this past summer, but connects with different skills and dispositions I learned about in Boy Scouting as well as my brief years at the US Air Force Academy and in the USAF, and through my lifelong journey of faith following Jesus Christ. My introductory ideas about this, which I’ve added at the top of the website, are:

I have a “slow hunch” we are living in a season of life and history in which we are called to become “Communitarian Preppers.” While some preppers may “incline toward individualism and competition,” I believe we are called (for both practical and faith-based reasons) to prepare for emergencies and even catastrophes so that we can not only take care of our own families, but also help take care of our neighbors. For me, this is the essence of being a “communitarian prepper:” Building strong relationships among our neighbors and in our own community, and developing both our resource base and skill sets, so that we can better weather and survive the storms of life together through all the forms they might take.

We need to prepare to take care of ourselves, take care of our families, and take care of each other.

From on 13 Nov 2022.

The backyard video on “Prepping and Preparation” (38 minutes) I recorded in Oklahoma City this past Fourth of July addressed many of these topics, themes, and underlying motivation. In our society and culture today in the United States, I believe we need to do a much better job “taking care of each other.” We need to prepare for emergencies of all types not only to care for ourselves and our families, but also to better position ourselves to care for others. This is the “slow hunch” which now has a clearer title which hopefully communicates the ethic of neighborly care I believe is simultaneously a self-interested requirement in a catastrophic emergence “at scale,” is a secular responsibly for our fellow human beings, and is also a theological mandate.

Back in 2016 I listened to Ted Koppel’s eye opening book, “Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath”on Audible. The Amazon description explains:

Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before. 

It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.” 

After that, I read “One Second After” by William R. Forstchen. The Amazon description is:

New York Times best selling author William R. Forstchen now brings us a story which can be all too terrifyingly real…a story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war, in one second, a war that will send America back to the Dark Ages…A war based upon a weapon, an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP). A weapon that may already be in the hands of our enemies.

Both of these books, paired with my experiences serving as the Director of Technology for a midwestern private school for 4 years, greatly increased my own awareness of the growing hostility of our cyber environment and the dangers those aggressions can pose in our kinetic, face-to-face world. The COVID-19 global pandemic revealed many things as well, including our universal vulnerability to supply-chain disruptions. The ongoing war in Ukraine with Russia seems like a surreal event at times, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s just a matter of time before that conflict is “brought home” to us in North America in very tangible, painful ways.

We live in extremely perilous times, and we take so much for granted. In addition to reliable electricity, cell phone tower connectivity, and clean flowing water, we assume our space-based GPS system and representative democracy are constants which will remain our “status quo” forever. We also may naively assume “that one password we’ve always used for everything online is secure. Alas, that may not be so.

“Technology Fear Therapy” by Wes Fryer at TEDxUCO (March 2022)

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed today by current events, political polarization, and just the deluge of information which washes over us in our polluted and fractured media environment. There are a great number of things I do not know, but here is something I’m confident about: I want to live in community with others who have both the motivation / desire to care for each other as neighbors, and (hopefully) are well-prepared to care for each other in the event we experience a catastrophe, either a natural disaster or a human-initiated debilitating event.

Those are some of the reasons I’ve decided I’m a “Communitarian Prepper.” I invite you to join me. Hopefully my website can provide you with some helpful resources and suggestions on your own journey of preparation and community care.

Remember the BEST TIME to prepare for an emergency is BEFORE anything bad happens!

Sign up for my free periodic newsletter, “Media Literacy with Wes,” to stay in touch and up to date on ideas about being a “Communitarian Prepper” and other related (mostly technology) topics.

Paprika App for Recipes

I love using the Paprika App ( for saving and using recipes! It’s available for iOS, MacOS, Android and Windows. For years my mom used the MacOS recipe program MasterCook, which became MacGourmet, but she’s had problems lately with it syncing to her phone and updating. Today I helped her export her 1200 recipes to Paprika, so everything is synced with her iMac, iPad and iPhone on Paprika on each device. The export/import process was simple, fast and slick!

Paprika lets you create ‘static HMTL’ versions of your recipes, so I uploaded and linked mom’s recipes to the “Paprika Recipes’ page of our family recipe website. This means anyone in our family (or you) can access and use those recipes if desired. Now that we have college grads in our immediate family and are contemplating the imminent reality “an empty nest” in about a year and a half, providing access to these recipes is a great thing!

I’m sure my mom spent HUNDREDS of hours getting all her recipes digitized over the years. I’ve had access to a small fraction of them via the recipe book she gave me after I graduated from college and started living on my own… and a few others in the intervening years. It’s a little overwhelming now to have access to ALL of her 1000+ library of recipes!

Mom (who is a huge foodie and a MUCH better cook / chef than I’ll ever be) also enjoys using the website Yummly. (These are her Yummly finds and collections.) One of the best things about Paprika is you can VERY easily copy the link to a food recipe online, and then import it into your own collection. I like how the exported versions include those original links for attribution.

Check out the Paprika App, unless you have another recipe app already that you uses and love. In that case, please let me know (via Twitter or my contact form) what you use instead!

Also remember to check out and subscribe to my cooking videos on YouTube!

Vision Questing for the Ultimate Backyard Steak

I love to cook and eat steak!

My favorite steak is ribeye, Shelly’s favorite is filet mignon, thanks to some good friends who introduced her to that delicacy shortly after we moved up to Oklahoma City from Lubbock, Texas. From time to time I’ll cook different cuts of steak, but normally that’s pretty standard fare like sirloins. Twice, now, however… we’ve had Brazilian style picanha on skewers, and Shelly thinks it may be her “new favorite” way to enjoy steak. The kids have really enjoyed skewer grilled picanha with chimichurri sauce too! I made a cooking tutorial video for cooking picanha back in January, and it’s my favorite cooking video (of 23 so far!) I’ve made and shared over the years. I also included the recipe I’ve used on our (relatively new) “Fryer and Ward Family Recipes” website.

I’ve been on a bit of a proverbial VISION QUEST to find and buy a new backyard smoker and grill, and in that process I’ve watched LOTS of YouTube videos about cooking generally and meat smoking and grilling specifically. (I have a public YouTube playlist of some of my favorites, if you’re interested.) I’ve been cooking steaks over charcoal on our Weber Kettle grill for almost 25 years now, both direct “hot and fast” cooking as well as indirect charcoal cooking. My main grill speciality has been “grilled chicken thighs,” which is also included on our family recipe website. I could eat those once a week (along with tacos) and be totally happy. I suppose this reveals the general LACK of sophistication of my culinary preferences, but I’m working on this… 🙂

There is a LOT more you can do on a Weber Kettle charcoal grill besides hot and fast and indirect cooking! In the last few months, I have tried techniques like “low and slow smoking” on the Kettle with the “charcoal snake method.” My first attempt at doing this with beef short ribs was NOT a resounding success, but I did learn a lot, and the results were still edible. I made a 9 minute video of those lessons learned, too.

Normally I have purchased our steaks from our local WalMart Neighborhood Market, which I’m sure will shock and disappoint some readers. We have, however, sometimes splurged and purchased grass fed steaks from B.F. Farms. They are based in Enid, Oklahoma, but have a retail outlet in north Edmond about a 30 minute drive from our house. Their beef is AMAZING, but it’s also expensive. I’ve also purchased picha steaks from “The Meat House” in Edmond and from Firebirds Meat Market in NW Oklahoma City. Firebirds is my new favorite butcher shop, but some of their cuts are $$$.

In addition to those meat sources, we’ve been happy “every other month” customers and subscribers to ButcherBox for two years now. Butcherbox sends you a box of high quality meats on the schedule you choose, and it’s EXCELLENT quality. Check them out and if you use this affiliate link, we’ll both get a $30 account credit.

Since becoming a huge fan of COSTCO about a year and a half ago, I’ve really enjoyed cooking and eating their different cuts of meat. Not only beef, but also pork, lamb, and salmon. Our New Year’s Prime Rib this year came from COSTCO. This year’s Prime Rib oven roasting recipe is on our family recipe website, previous years (and there have been several, it’s a HUGE favorite for obvious reasons) are archived here on our family learning blog. My first year to try was 2011, so I’ve been questing for the perfect Prime Rib for a decade now!

On my most recent visit to COSTCO last week, I picked up the thickest ribeyes I’ve ever purchased. They are “prime” and $16 per pound.

These are not inexpensive, but relative to what these steaks would cost commercially prepared at a local restaurant, I’m sure $45 is a bargain price.

With four of us at the dinner table, I figured we’d just need two of these THICK ribeyes to have a very satisfying entree for dinner. I’m trying several new techniques with these beauties, thanks to the “SnS Grills” video, “How to Perfectly Cook Steak. Reverse Seared Ribeye using Cold Grate Technique,” and those changes are what I’d like to document now.

For the first time, I’ve salted these ribeye steaks in advance the night before I plan to cook them. The video (above) explains that by adding ONLY salt, and doing it the night before, the salt is able to permeate into the meat and will actually help the interior stay more moist during the cooking process. Per the video’s recommendatiions, I’m leaving them UNCOVERED in our fridge overnight on a wire rack. I’m going to dry them off / use paper towels to absorb any moisture from the top before grilling them, and also let them warm to room temperature (about 30 minutes) before grilling them tomorrow night.

When cooking steaks in the past, I’d either season them with “McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning” about 30 minutes before putting them on the grill, or (in the case of sirloins) marinate them with Mccormick Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon Marinade. Results have been tasty, so I’m eager to see if this “salt with kosher salt the night before” step makes a noticeable difference.

Also following the advice of the video, I trimmed some of the excess fat from the edges of the ribeyes tonight. I have NEVER done this to a steak before, but it makes sense that the outer fat (as opposed to the inner, ‘marbled fat’) doesn’t render fully into the meat during cooking or add to the flavor. In fact, as I’ve learned watching videos about and smoking my own briskets and short ribs, exterior fat can prevent any applied rub or seasoning from penetrating the meat and therefore adding to the flavor of the final, cooked masterpiece. So, these are my first “trimmed ribeyes,” albeit very lightly trimmed.

Eventually I’d love to order a $100 “Slow ‘N Sear Deluxe” to cook on my Weber Kettle, but it’s not required to cook with two cooking zones. I’m going to try and follow the instructions of the SnS video as precisely as I can tomorrow, and expect to cook indirect for about 50 minutes and then sear at the end about 4 minutes.

With a side of cast iron skillet brussel sprouts and loaded baked potatoes, it just might turn out to be a meal to remember! We’ll see and I’ll add some details about the results here afterward!

What are your favorite backyard steak grilling tricks and tips I should try?

Oklahoma City Backyard BBQ Finds (March 2021)

It’s our Spring Break, and today I explored a couple local backyard barbecue stores in Oklahoma City and Moore. Here’s a summary of what I found for locally sourced brisket injection, BBQ sauces, rubs and seasonings. Many of these are also available for online purchase, and in those cases I’ve included links. For more of my food and cooking related recommendations and recipes, check out this playlist of my YouTube cooking videos, and our “Fryer and Ward Family Recipes” website on There are 11 older posts here about cooking, and I’ve also created a “cooking category” for even older posts (mostly) I shared on my primary professional blog (“Moving at The Speed of Creativity”) before I setup this family learning blog. Cooking is something I’m enjoying more after 5 decades of life on our planet, and I continue to enjoy documenting and sharing about my own journey as an aspiring home cook too. (Frequently now on Instagram too!)

One of the great things about living in Oklahoma and the midwest in the United States is we have a lot of great barbecue choices for both backyard enthusiasts and hungry eaters. Kosmo’s Q BBQ & Grilling Supply is located just north of I-40 west of downtown Oklahoma City a few miles, and has a variety of backyard smokers and grills in stock (including Kamado Joe, Traeger, and Masterbuilt models) as well as their own line of rubs, injection blends and seasonings.

I usually use a simple injection recipe for my Texas-style backyard smoked brisket, which includes about 40% apple juice or apple cider, 40% beef broth, and 10% Worcestershire sauce. I haven’t ever tried a different injection, so I picked up a 1 pound bag of Kosmos “Smoke House Reserve Blend” brisket injection today. To mix it, you combine 1/3 cup with 2 cups of liquid (beef broth, distilled water, or another liquid) and inject it into the meat before putting it on the smoker. The Kosmos employee who recommended it said all their brisket injections include “phosphates” which help keep the meat moist, and this particular injection will add a lot of additional smoke flavor to briskets cooked on a pellet smoker. I’m going to give this a try!

My second find and purchase from Kosmos today was their “Garlic Parm Wing Seasoning,” which is one choice in their “Wing Dust” lineup. I love eating and enjoying chicken wings, but I’m NOT a huge fan of spice heat. Wingstop has become my favorite fast food chicken wing place in the past few years, and I do enjoy garlic parmesan wings, so we’ll see how this “Wing Dust” compares next time I grill up or smoke some wings.

Our second stop on today’s OKC-area backyard barbecue store exploration outing was J. R.’s BBQ Supply Company in Moore. They are easy to get to just east of I-40, in Moore and will be relocating soon just down the road. They have a BIG selection of locally sourced, Oklahoma barbecue rubs and seasonings. They feature a large collection of “Butcher BBQ Stand” creations from Wellston, Oklahoma. I picked up their “Grilling Addiction Dry Rub Seasoning,” which I may try on some steaks or brisket. It does list ‘sugar’ as one of the ingredients, and I’ve heard it’s important to be very careful with rubs including sugar when you’re smoking low and slow. So I may try this on grilled steaks first, in lieu of “my usual” Mccormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning.

The last two items I picked up today at J.R.’s are sauces. Sweet Spirit Foods is a unique fundraising and outreach ministry of Christian Life Missionary Baptist Church on 23rd Street in downtown Oklahoma City. The byline on the label of their “Mild BBQ Sauce” is:

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good…”

Psalm 34:8a NKJV

I know that Scripture is true, we’ll see how applicable it is to this specific barbecue sauce soon at our house! 🙂

The last barbecue find and purchase today was “Payne County Hog’s Bane BBQ Sauce.” It’s a product of Big Rock Foods in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and sold online by Barn Door Gourmet. It’s described on the website as:

a sweet, smoky, Kansas-City-style sauce. It’s the perfect dipping sauce for bbq ribs or for smothering your favorite pulled-pork or brisket sandwich. Brush it on your shrimp, wings, grilled chicken or pork chops for a sticky charred crust, or finish your competition-style ribs in the smoker. Any way you use it, you’ll notice its unique background spices with every bite. Hog’s Bane BBQ Sauce has been praised by BBQ chains, butchers, packers and retailers across the country. 


We’ll be trying this with the next pork shoulder I smoke.

Incidentally, has a variety of other Oklahoma and midwest region food items, including BBQ but also other things. As an example, they offer, “Okie Fish and Chips,” which look like seasoned oyster crackers, by a company called “Over the Fence Farms” based south of Enid in Waukomis, Oklahoma, on Highway 81. These are the kind of locally sourced products I really enjoy finding at local farmers markets. I think this kind of local entrepreneurism and small business food product production is great, and I love learning about (as well as trying) things like this.

Spring is coming and that means “Farmers Market Time” will be here again. I can’t wait!

Learning Signs Podcasts Migrated and Backed Up to Podiant

Over the past 10+ years our family members have recorded a lot of podcast episodes in different places using different apps and websites. My all-time favorite remains AudioBoom (previously AudioBoo) where we still have 227 episodes available online. Some of my favorites there include:

  1. “USS Arizona Impressions” (very touching spiritual insights from a 6 year old)
  2. “Flamingos at the zoo” (hilarious example of why we need to ask others to check their perceptions of reality, and why when audio recording with kids “the good stuff usually comes at the end”)
  3. “Why I am Mulan for Halloween” (just plain cute)
  4. “Hallelujah – I’m Ready! by The Soggy Bottom Boys of Edmond” (one of the best days of our Friday morning men’s group EVER!)

We also recorded a few podcasts over the years using the iPhone app Opinion, which (like AudioBoom) provided free podcast audio file hosting. As of November 1, 2017, however, Opinion is discontinuing its hosting. For that reason, I migrated our family podcasts on Opinion over to Podiant, so they are now accessible on This was a wonderfully easy (and FREE) process, since we could directly import all the audio files and meta info from the RSS feed. (Episode titles, episode art, podcast show art, etc.)

Just in case AudioBoom goes offline at some point, and to have a backup, I also imported all our AudioBoom podcasts over to Podiant, so those are now available on I am OVER THE MOON with how easy this import and migration process was and is with Podiant! A thousand thank you’s to Joe Dale (@joedale) who alerted me to Podiant, and to Mark Steadman (@iamsteadman), the creator and developer of Podiant.

Another alternative platform with podcast import functionality (but not free) is Fireside. I’ve added both of these to the “Radio Shows” page of

Tonight I’ve also migrated some other podcasts hosted by Opinion to Podiant, including:

  1. My wife’s (@sfryer) classroom podcast, “Casady News 12” (formerly the “Room 108 Podcast from Oklahoma City”
  2. The “Casady Voices” podcast channel I started last year, also linked from our “Casady Learning Showcase” website

Long live podcasting and Podiant!

* Cross-posted to “Learning Signs” (our family learning blog) as “Learning Signs Podcasts Migrated and Backed Up to Podiant.”
* Cross-posted to “Moving at the Speed of Creativity” as “Podiant: A Great Platform for Podcasting and Migrated Podcasts”

Waiting at the VA Clinic

Old men using love pheromones perfume.
Waiting for the doctor.
Telling stories.
Remembering Iraq.
Comparing experiences.
Comparing diagnoses.
Swapping acronyms.

High tech checkin.
Scan your ID card.
Verify your birthday.
All medical files have been digitized.
Waiting for benefits.
Smiling at the receptionist.
Appreciating kindness.
Thinking about military service.

Feeling less out of place today.
When you’re 23 at the VA and you’re surrounded by WWII and Vietnam veterans, you kind of stick out.
I’m older now.
I’m not skinny any more.
I need to reduce my cholesterol.
My vision isn’t what it used to be.

Listening to the stories.
The stories in the waiting room.
The tales of the dead.
Bodies in Iraq.
Severed limbs
Burned in a pile
Chemical defoliants
Dropped by aircraft flying high above
Designed to peel back the jungle canopy
Peeling back years of vitality and health now
The unintended consequences
The science of warfare
Manifested now in the clinic

Waiting at the VA clinic.

This just came to me while waiting for my son to be called up to see the doctor, next time I´ll go to this pediatric dentist that’s great with kids and it´ll be much faster. Check out this CNA practice test, which allows those studying to become a CNA the chance to ace the real CNA test come exam time. When I was in medical training in the 1980s, physicians were taught that opiates were useful but dangerous drugs that should be used only for severe injuries, after surgery or in terminally ill patients. Since the 1990s, however, pharmaceutical companies have systematically distorted perceptions about opioids, through paid speakers, sponsored “education” and bought-off organizations. Opioid manufacturers are directly responsible for the current opioid addiction epidemic and continue spreading misinformation that will feed rather than stem this epidemic.

Best Christmas Dinner Ever: Prime Rib

If I’m counting correctly, Christmas 2016 marks the sixth time in my life I’ve been able to cook prime rib for our family for Christmas dinner. I love a good holiday turkey as much as anyone, but NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, can beat a perfectly cooked prime rib supper. I am extremely thankful our family is able to enjoy food like this together. This year perhaps more than ever before, I am extremely cognizant and appreciative of so many blessings in our lives. We are not millionaires, but sharing a prime rib dinner like this together makes us feel like we are. If you have a chance to eat a meal like this, and to share it with others, count your blessings. In this post I’ll share the few modifications I made to the preparation and cooking steps documented in my 2015 post. I’m sharing this both for my own future reference and to help out others. If this post inspires or helps you in your own prime rib cooking vision quests, please let me know via a comment or Twitter reply to @wfryer.

1- Prime Rib on Sale at Whole Foods

We’re not only fortunate to now live in a city with a Whole Foods grocery store, but also to have them significantly discount the per pound price of prime rib steak on Christmas Eve. We shop at Whole Foods only about four times all year, and always for special occasions and for limited items. (WalMart Neighborhood Market is my normal grocery store.) Whole Foods had prime rib discounted this year on Christmas Eve from about $17 per pound to $12 per pound. For 3 ribs, about 7.8 pounds, we paid $94. This is a $40 savings off the “normal” price. This is a huge amount of money to pay for a piece of meat, but this was for a very special occasion, and the taste in the end was worth every penny. I’m thankful for the sale price. Eating a great prime rib at home starts with buying top quality meat.

2- Digital Probe Thermometer

As I noted in my 2015 post about cooking prime rib, a digital probe thermometer is absolutely essential. This is the number one thing I’ve learned to use in the past three years which has helped me cook great tasting prime rib that is perfectly cooked, and not too rare. The $20 “Oneida Digital Probe Cooking Thermometer with Timer” from Bed, Bath and Beyond is my tool of choice in this category. I was lucky to have an extra AAA battery in my work backpack, since last year’s battery had gone dead. Like last year, my cooking procedure was:

  1. Cook uncovered 15 minutes at 450 degrees
  2. Turn down the oven to 325 degrees and keep cooking
  3. Remove prime rib when the interior temperature reaches 130 degrees (This year it took 1 hour and 40 minutes, about 15 minutes less than in 2015. I think that is because I got the prime rib out of the fridge about 4 hours before I cooked it, which let it more fully get to room temperature before starting cooking… which is also an essential.)
  4. Completely cover the prime rib with foil and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. This year we let ours rest about 30 minutes, until (as we did last year) the interior temperature reached 143 degrees.

We like our prime rib medium and medium rare, but not rare – and these cooking temperatures were absolutely PERFECT for those requirements.

3- Seasoning Salt Rub

2 years ago I used “Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt” as a prime rib rub from our Oklahoma City “Savory Spice” store. This year I used three tablespoons of “Mt. Evans Butcher’s Rub” from Savory Spice and three tablespoons of kosher salt as my rub. As recommended by my guiding Prime Steak House recipe, I made several cuts (about 1/4 of an inch deep) around the roast before applying the rub. I also rubbed about a 1/4 stick of soft butter on both ends. I did NOT open the oven to brush the drippings back onto the roast during cooking, as some recommend. It turned out great (again) not doing this. My custom spice rub worked well and tasted great this year, but I’ll probably go back to the “Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt” next time I cook a prime rib.

4- Carving Smaller Pieces

This year I served the plates in the kitchen and then brought them to the dining room, and carved smaller pieces for everyone than I have in the past. This worked well, and several folks opted for seconds. In the past it’s been a bit overwhelming to have such a huge piece of prime rib on the plates… and I definitely liked serving smaller pieces this year.

5- Creamy Horseradish

The creamy horseradish sauce this year also turned out really good. I mixed half sour cream and half “Bubbies Prepared Horseradish,” which we also bought at Whole Foods. It tasted amazing and I’d definitely get this brand again and make it the same way.

Bon Appétit!

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