"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship."

— Louisa May Alcott

By Geanie M. Roake

For the Deseret News

My children are entirely too dependent on their cell phones. The other day my 17-year-old daughter wandered into the kitchen with a glum look on her face.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Chris is going to be mad at me."

Now Chris — her boyfriend — is of an unusually cheery disposition, and I wondered what might bring about this transformation.

"I'm supposed to call and tell him when to pick me up, but my cell phone is broken." Glancing at the phone that hung on a nearby wall. I suggested she use that.

"I don't know his number," she said. "I've got it in my cell phone and I just hit speed dial whenever I want to call him."

Three other teens in the room commiserated with this apparently commonplace predicament. My suspicions were confirmed. These kids had way too much faith in technology. I enjoyed a moment of superiority as I rattled off the phone numbers of several acquaintances, (I didn't mention that the reason these were stored in my head was because I had no idea how to store them in my phone) but at least I, for one, was not at the mercy of an electronic device. Then my eyes came to rest on the computer.

If, horror of horrors, my computer crashed, what exactly would I lose? Could I pay my bills, or contact associates whom I know only by e-mail address? My budget plan is stored in the computer, as well as my calendar, and what about the albums full of family photos that I keep meaning to have printed?

Thinking of all the things that are stashed on my hard drive makes me wonder if the computer hasn't become a sort of substitute brain. I'm just as bad as the kids and their phones, worse actually, because I've committed A LOT of important information to a piece of machinery that may simply decide to stop working one day.

Come to think of it, the computer isn't the only unreliable entity that I depend on.

What happens if my car breaks down? Can I still get to work?

What if there's an ice storm and the store shelves are empty? Do I have food stored in my home?

What if there's a chemical spill or a hurricane and I have to evacuate? Do I have an emergency kit that will tide me over until help comes?

If the power goes out, will I freeze to death in February? Or roast in July? My kids aren't the only ones depending on forces that are way beyond their control.

For the most part, we sail through our days, trying not to think about the what-ifs, but if a little preparation now could make a big difference later, why not?

Now, while my computer is still working, is a good time to back up important papers. While an electronic backup is good, I may need hard copies of the papers that prove I own my home, stocks and checking account.

Now is a good time to check out the mass transit schedule and learn how to wend my way to work without a car. I could also get to know my co-workers and find out who lives nearby so we could share a ride in a pinch, or maybe form a permanent carpool.

We've been warned that in case of emergency, we should not expect outside help for at least 72 hours. I've known for years that having a 12-month supply of food stored in my home is a good idea, but what about having an emergency kit — a backpack filled with bottled water, minimal food and first aid supplies for each family member? Then even if we had to evacuate, we could still be somewhat self-sufficient.

And that's what it all boils down to — self-sufficiency. No one wants to rely on others to get them through tough times, and while it's easy to become fearful at the thought of life's unexpected surprises, we can make better use of our time by learning how to deal with them. In a crisis, we want to be the ones helping, not the ones waiting to be helped.

When I asked my daughter the next day what happened with Chris, she smiled and patted the phone book. Aah, I thought, "let your fingers do the walking." Great backup plan. I tactfully suggested she go one better and write the number down.

As for me, I think I'll make a copy — actual paper, mind you — of this essay and file it away for safekeeping.

Geanie M. Roake lives in South Jordan.