If you had to evacuate right now, what would you take?

The recent severe weather here in Texas, Oklahoma and the rest of the midwest has resulted in so many people taking trips to emergency evacuation shelters, interior, windowless rooms of their homes or, in truly tragic cases, a ride down the rapids of a rain swollen river.  I was blessed to only have to spend one night hunkered down in the pantry while the tornado sirens went off and a tornado touched down about 15 miles away. There are so many others who have not been so lucky. Having grown up a military brat and a Girl Scout raised by an Eagle Scout father and a mother who grew up in Oklahoma’s tornado alley, the idea of being prepared for an emergency is just ingrained in me. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know where the flashlights, candles and matches and all the other necessary emergency gear was located, what to do and where to go. Our multiple moves have meant I have lived in areas prone to, and I have experienced, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, blizzards, nor’easters, droughts and more. Pick a type of extreme weather, I’ve probably been through it.

Recent conversations with friends, family and online acquaintances made me realize how few people really know what to do in an emergency and how many more are not prepared if they had to immediately evacuate. There are lots of great resources of what to do in an emergency – Please go read them!

For now, let’s just talk about what you need to know if you have to immediately evacuate your home, work or wherever you might be at that moment.  Disclaimer – I am not an expert on this subject.  Just someone who has lived through a lot of these types of things, with a few suggestions.  This is also not an all inclusive list.  Please check with your local government and/or disaster relief agency to find out what other resources are available. This is also really important to think about if you travel a lot. You never know when you are going to be stuck somewhere besides home or work and severe weather strikes.

Do you know how to receive local severe weather emergency and/or evacuation notices?

Every municipality is different. Don’t assume because something was available or normal where you lived before (even if it was as little as a few miles away!) that it is the same where you live or are traveling now.  Some areas have sirens, some don’t. Many rely on Emergency Broadcast System notices on radio or TV – but seriously how many of us actually watch local network TV or listen to the radio any more? My recommendation if you have a smartphone is to download a weather emergency alert app. It will scare the beejeezus out of you every time it goes off but at least you will be aware of what is going on and whether you need to take precautions.

Do you know where to evacuate to or where the best place to take shelter is?

Find out! Again, every area is different and it varies depending on the type of weather. Your state or local governments will this information available or they can point you to the correct government agency that can give you the information. You can also check with the Red Cross or FEMA.

Do your kids know what to do in an emergency?

If your kids are old enough to be away from you – at grandma’s or a friend’s or school or on a playdate – they are old enough to be taught basic emergency preparedness. Make sure they know what to do, where to go and how to contact you. Do not assume that the adult they are with will know what to do. Make sure they know what to do.  Don’t count on cell phones working or that you will have power to keep them charged. How many of you or your children have phone numbers or addresses memorized? I know I don’t, but I need to. Or I at least need to have them written down and with me. Do your kids even know your first and last name or are you just Mom and Dad? If they don’t know your name and address, it will take much longer for them to be reunited with you if you get separated. Have an emergency plan in place that your kids can implement anywhere, make sure your kids know the information they need and have an agreed upon meeting place, even if it is for after the emergency has passed.

You have 2 minutes or less to leave – what do you take with you?

While it is nice to think that we would all instinctively grab the really important stuff and the really sentimental stuff, have you thought about what that stuff is and where it is? Our lives are so cluttered, do we really know what we need and where it is. Could you, in less than 2 minutes, put your hands on and pack (not in order of importance)

  • Important paperwork – birth certificates, passports, drivers’ licenses, marriage license, your health, car and homeowners insurance information, a list of important numbers and contact information, account numbers for all of your various accounts – banks, utilities, anything you need an account number for and a list of all your login information and passwords for online accounts
  • Currency – cash, credit cards, debit cards, bank account numbers
  • Devices and chargers – laptops, ipads, phones and chargers (for everyone in your family)
  • Pets – leashes, medical and shot records and small supply of food and crates too, if you can carry them
  • Medications / medical devices / medical instructions – for everyone in your family, including your pets, as well as, spare prescriptions
  • Vision or hearing aids – glasses, contacts and solution, hearing aids, etc…
  • A change of clothes – for everyone in your family
  • Things little kids may need to be comforted – a blanket, stuffed animal, etc…
  • Baby items – diapers, wipes, blankets, bottles, etc…
  • Keys – house, cars, storage units, parents house, etc…

If you are not at home when the evacuation order is issued, does someone else in your family know how and where to collect and pack these things?  Everyone who lives in your house should know what to pack and where these things are.

Test yourself.

Time yourself collecting all of these things and getting out the door.  Can you do it? Can you do it if you have to carry it and can not take your car – think boat or air rescue from a flood for example?  If not, you need to put a system in place and start storing things where you could.

I posed the question to my Twitter and Facebook networks about what they would grab if they had to evacuate in an emergency.  All of the answers included one or more of the things on this list, as well as some fun sentimental items.

So what would be on your list?


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Books Can Change Your Life

I  am a voracious reader. Yes, I said voracious.  I have an unquenchable appetite for the written word and am usually reading 3 – 5 books at a time.  Some of them are business related, some insightful, some great literature and some of them are just good thought-wandering pulp fiction.  I wish I could describe how I choose a book – what it is about the title, the cover, the story – that draws me to them, but it is just a feeling, just an unspoken pull that says “you need to open these pages and see what they have to share with you…”

Books have always been a constant friend and the ultimate escape.  The ones that took me from boardroom lessons to foreign shores and everywhere in between.  Books are a part of what made me who I am. Lessons learned and stories absorbed from their pages helped mold not only my personality but my curiosity about the world.   Then there are the books that change your life…

There have been a lot of books that had a profound effect on me, many of them, but there have been three, and one very new addition, that struck such a cord in me that they changed the course of my life.

IMG_2072The Bible — I don’t care what religion you are, or are not, everyone should read the Bible cover to cover at least once.   Not only is the basis of one of the largest religions in the world, but it is full of lilting prose, majestic stories, unforgettable characters and ethical lessons of how to treat your fellow man that should be learned by everyone.  Whether you choose to accept it as the Word of God or not, you will not have a true understanding of the world without reading it at least once.  I would say this also goes for the rest of holy books of the world’s major religions.  I have the Torah and the Koran and the words of Buddha scheduled as part of my “required” reading for this year.

Radical Careering by Sally Hogshead  – A very dear friend gave me this book 9 years ago and it literally changed the course of my life.  The words in this book sung to the entrepreneurial spirit in me and prompted me to take the leap from 25+ year, very stable, very successful career to radicalcareeringworking for myself. The simple to follow insights led me to questions about what I really wanted from the activities that were going to fund my life.  It was the both the scariest and best move I ever made.  It would not have happened had I not read this book.

 

 

amazing thingsAmazing Things Will Happen by C.C. Chapman –  We all have moments when we are unsure, when we are scared, when we are convinced that nothing is going to work out.  I was at that point when C.C. published this book.  I will be honest and admit that I originally ordered the book and planned to read it because I respect and admire C.C. and consider him a friend.  Then I opened the book and began to read… All of a sudden all of the uncertainty that had been swirling in my  head and heart began to settle.  C.C.’s words reminded me that what I was feeling was natural and that if I just took the time to look at them and then work through it, that amazing things would happen.  Not only was it an inspirational book, it was actionable.  It gave me step by step what I need to figure out how to keep amazing things happening my life and to quiet the voices that tell me that they can’t happen.

All three of these books are well-worn. I am on my 5th new Bible.  I have actually gone through 2 copies of Amazing Things Will Happen and am on my 6th copy of Radical Careering.  I wore out the previous copies.  I have given these books as gifts more times then I can count.

A new book has recently been added to this list – Seth Godin’s  What To Do When Its Your Turn. godinbook
The visual style of the book is stunning and the words profound.  Reading it I realized how often I still “wait” to take my turn.  How often I still wait for permission.  No more!  Another twist in the path of life, but one that heads to a better destination.

 

 

This is by far, not an exhaustive list of the books that have had an impact on me.  It is a list of the ones that have had a more then profound impact on the direction of my life.

So what are YOUR life changing books?

Celebrating Mother’s Day

This is not your typical hearts and flowers and sappy poetry Mother’s Day post.  This is MY celebration of being a Mother.  It is a message to my sons.

 

 

Thank you for being my greatest gifts and the greatest gifts I have given to the world.

Thank you for always being yourselves.  Whether it was while you were always moving, always talking toddlers or the kind, compassionate, inquisitive young men you have become, I am constantly amazed by you and could not be prouder to be your mother.  I consider it an honor and a privilege to be your Mom.

I am celebrating this Mother’s Day by sharing some words of advice as you continue to grow into amazing men.  You have heard most of these, in one way or another, most of your lives, but on this Mother’s Day, my gift to you is to share them again.

  • Don’t wait for someone/something to make you happy.  Happiness can be found in every moment – good or bad – it is all in your desire to see it.
  • Always look for the silver lining – be realistic, but be open to the good and joy found everywhere.
  • Do your best.  Sometimes it will be perfect, sometimes just good enough, sometimes not.  The only thing that matters is that it is your best.
  • Know your limits, then ignore them.
  • Listen to what others have to say, consider it, but only keep the things that ring truest to you.
  • Behave in ways that allow you to sleep at night and look yourself in the mirror.  Sometimes this will mean making hard choices.
  • Seize every moment.  Especially those moments that allow you to be kind, helpful, thoughtful, compassionate and tolerant.  Tomorrow is not promised, so seize today.
  • Count your blessings – Every Day.  It is easy to get lost in the struggles. Make sure you take time to remember and relish the good things too.
  • Life is not fair.  Do not expect it to be. Be prepared to roll with whatever life brings your way.
  • Be cautious, not anxious.  Be adventurous, not reckless. Be brave. Always be brave.
  • Feel fear, but do it anyway.
  • A well-lived life will be full of ups, downs, twists and turns.  Throw your hands in the air, laugh, scream and enjoy the ride.
  • There is a time and place in life for every emotion.  Feel them fully. Express them.  Laugh, smile, cry, be angry and feel sadness.
  • Live a full life.  Experience as much as possible.  Find a way to learn and grow every day.
  • Forgive, always and quickly. Especially yourself.
  • Listen to your head, but follow your heart.

And the best advice I can give you –

Love – deeply, truly, often and always. 

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Photo by Alexander

 

And one last thing to remember.  You do not have to be a parent to love, guide and care for a child.  There will be children who come through your life, some for moments, some for a lifetime, remember always that the example you give, the caring you show, the wisdom you share will mean more then you may ever know.   Parents are not just those who biologically give life to a child.  Parents are the caring, loving people who choose to be a positive force in a child’s life.  I will always be eternally grateful for the multitudes of “parents” who helped raise you and guide you into the wonderful adults you have become.   Don’t forget to also acknowledge and say Thank You to them this Mother’s Day.   I love you!

Mom

What’s in a dream?

I have always been fascinated by dream interpretation.  Off and on through the years, I have kept dream diaries, but it has been a long time since I have had a dream so vivid and so impactful that I was able to remember almost every aspect of it.  I had one of those last night.  Even several hours later,  I can still picture parts of this dream in my mind.   I have looked up several of the most vivid images and they all seem very contradictory.  Maybe the contradiction is the overall message of my dream. It is always hard to know.  So what would you make of this one?

I am in a house that feels like it is mine, but it does not look anything like any house I have lived in.  It is empty of furniture.  Sometimes I am in a downstairs basement with a sliding door, but the kitchen is there too.  It is full of people.  It feels like I know some of the people but I do not know others and I do not recognize any of them.  Indications are that my ex-husband (my sons’ father), sons and current boyfriend are there, but I do not ever actually see them.There are loudspeaker announcements in the background of an evacuation.  It is the military and they alternately say anyone not voluntarily evacuating will be either arrested and put in a military jail or taken to the hospital.I am desperately trying to get the people in my house to evacuate.  Sometimes yelling at them that they will go to jail if they do not leave and that it is military jail, not regular jail & it will be worse.While trying to get everyone to leave, I find a tiny puppy – gray and white, maybe a beagle or a basset hound.  Very cute & sweet.  My boyfriend (or at least it feels like it is my boyfriend, I never really see him) and I decide that the puppy has to come with us.

I finally get everyone to leave.  I am alone in the house and ready to leave, but I decide I have to get some food for the puppy before I leave.
I pull out a bag of dog food and pour it into a bowl and it is full of little black bugs.  I dump the bowl into the trash and shove the bag into the trash.  Just as I am doing this, sirens start blaring.

I know I need to run, but I see jackets that belong to my loved ones on the back of a dining room chair.  I grab those and am getting ready to walk up stairs to leave when I feel an explosion and see a mushroom cloud billowing up.  (the front walls are gone so I can see this, then the walls come back) I am trying to think of a place to run to and hide.

I go towards the basement door (even though it feels like I am already downstairs in a basement/family room area), but there is a fire moving through the house.  I run for the stairs to go up, but the fire is there also.  I know I can not go outside, even though the sliding doors are right there.   I sit down on the floor with my knees pulled up to me next the sliding doors as the fire is advancing towards me with a firm knowledge that I am going to burn to death.

Then I wake up.

Have we forgotten 9/11?

I think we have.  In my opinion, the number of people complaining about the TSA, full body scans and pat downs apparently have.

Yes, the scans are uncomfortably revealing.  It is inconvenient to have to take off our shoes, take out our electronics, empty our pockets and reduce our liquids to small amounts.  No, it is not fun and feels a bit invasive to be patted down.

That is the point!  How else do you expect them to be able to identify potentially harmful substances or objects and keep them from getting on the plane. You will be a whole hell of lot more uncomfortable, inconvenienced or feel violated when someone blows up the plane or takes it hostage and crashes it into a building.

It sucks but it is the reality of our world today.  It also infuriates me that the people complaining today are likely to be among the first one starting an uproar that not enough was done to protect us when something bad happens.  Grow up and realize that sometimes we have to make sacrifices for safety.

Being a “not like all the others” parent…

This post was inspired by a woman I am privileged to call a dear friend, Cecily Kellogg.

She wrote a post today that touched me so deeply.  I started commenting on her blog and two paragraphs in realized that my comments could end up being as long as her blog post.  So time to move my thoughts on to my own blog.

In her post (which you absolutely MUST read!), Cecily talks about “Sometimes I feel like I’m just cut from different cloth than most of the other moms I know.” and “…I still feel sometimes like I just don’t get it.”   That feeling that we, as mothers (or fathers for that matter) are just not the same as the other parents out there, so we question whether we are the ones doing something wrong.

Every mother feels this way and the ones who say they don’t are Stepford Wife robots. Or have the money to pay someone else to parent their kid.   I know I feel that way every single day.

I have made choices as a mother that have been laughed at, frowned upon, questioned and a whole lot worse.  I have been told that I am not really a mother because I made the decision that my sons were better off living with their father.  I have been accused of abandoning my sons.  Want to find a way to make a mother feel like she just doesn’t get it?  Tell her that her sons will never grow up right because  she is not a daily part of their lives.  – Just stab me in the heart why don’t you?

I have been far from a perfect parent but I treasure every moment of uniqueness, honesty, openness and sometimes just plain weirdness with my kids.  Best of all, I know they do too.

It took until they were older for my sons to express that they were mad at me for choices I had made.  For some of those choices their anger and disappointment was justifiable.   But throughout the sorrow (and guilt – massive amounts of guilt!) that their words spurred in me,  I knew in my heart that it was my uniqueness, my honesty, my openness throughout their lives that gave them the ability and freedom to express those emotions and work with me to move past the feelings.

My sons and I have very unique relationships.  Relationships that seem odd to most people.  We don’t necessarily talk every day.  I often find out things in their lives at the last minute.  I am not there for every scraped knee, trip to the ER or to calm nerves before a date.  Yet, I am always there.  I am there in the way they walk, talk and sing at the top of their lungs in the car (like I do). I am there in the voracious way they absorb information, in their love of music, theatre, movies, books, photography, writing, gardening and all of the other things I have a passion for that they have learned to love.  I am there in their patriotism.  I am there in their compassion and caring for others.  I am always there.  While I may not have been there every moment, I tried my hardest to make every moment that I was there count.   To try my hardest to make sure that they always knew they were loved and that they knew right from wrong.

I may not have been the perfect “Donna Reed” mother.  I may not have been the one making their lunches every day, driving car pool or tucking them in every single night.  What I have been is a woman who was not afraid to show her children that she was not perfect.  More importantly, I showed them that they did not need permission to not be perfect.   The one lesson that I hope my children have learned is that it is not only ok to be unique, to follow your heart, to pursue your passions, but that as long as you are kind, compassionate, thoughtful and never intentionally hurt anyone, it is absolutely preferable.

Why I am thinking about leaving Philly

There are so many things I love about this city.  The history, the culture, the food, the fun and most of all the people.  I have made some wonderful life long friends, fallen in and out of love, smiled, cheered, laughed and cried with some of the most fantastic people I have ever met.  I love the busy streets of downtown, the quiet countryside of the suburbs and that within a short time I can be listening to the waves of the ocean.

So, why am I considering leaving?   Because as much as I love this city, as much as I want to do for the community here, I am starting to feel that I can no longer make a difference.

Most of you know that  I am actively involved in the tech/creative/social media/entrepreneurial communities here in Philly.   I give of my heart, soul, energy and a tremendous part of my time to building and promoting the community.  I support multiple organizations in this community.  I freely and willingly give this time and effort.  I do it because I believe in this city and the community we are building here.  I believe in some simple ideals –

  • That we can and must build a unified tech/creative/social media/entrepreneurial community
  • That the community working together is infinitely stronger than the divided silos that we are currently allowing to emerge
  • That the community is capable of doing great things and making great strides in all sectors of the city, including the government.
  • That if you are going to proclaim to lead under a banner of building community, that you must work all inclusively  to build that community for the benefit of all of its members

To others, these may seem to be optimistic and possibly naive ideals, but I firmly believe in them. I believe in the power that actions taken to further these ideals have to truly make a difference for this community and the city as a whole.  Which brings us to one of the reasons why I am thinking about leaving Philly …

There are others in this community who believe in the same ideals.  Who truly believe that being a leader in this community must be a selfless endeavor.  While we all have motivations that involve building our businesses and our personal and professional reputations, the overriding motivation as a leader must be the growth and progression of the community and its members.  It can not be about only promoting and working for a clique.   Unfortunately, in my opinion, there are too many leaders in this community who have not embraced these ideals.  Too many individuals who are vocal about promoting these ideals, but whose overall actions are contradictory to their alleged aims. Those who are looked up to as leaders when they fail to lead by walking their talk.  It saddens me deeply that the obstacles of ego, infighting, immaturity, and elitist behavior are standing in the way of the miraculous things we, as a unified community, can do in this city and this region.   It also bothers me that the efforts of many good people, who put tremendous effort into trying to make good things happen in this city are overshadowed by the loud voices of a few who have repeatedly demonstrated that they are more likely to talk than to truly act.   When the acknowledged (and vocal) leaders of the community work more to promote division than coordination and cooperation, we can not achieve the things we are possible of achieving.  Because I am seeing an acceleration in these types of instances and a growth in the “us versus them” mentality, I am losing faith that any of my efforts are capable of making the differences that I and others are committed to.  When the visible leaders of the community are not the ones working the hardest to improve the quality of the entire community and seem to be actively working on dividing the community for their own aims, the hardest efforts of those behind the scenes become more difficult.

Which then leads me to another of the reasons, I am considering leaving Philly…

I entered this community and started my business here based on one primary ideal

That you must always do the right things for the right reasons

So that is what I have done.   I have worked hard to build my business, but in hindsight, nowhere near as hard as I have, and continue to, work for the good of this community.  I have given a significantly disproportionate amount of time, energy and money into work, events and support of this community and its organizations when compared with the time I have spent on business development.  I will be the first to admit that my motives while primarily altruistic were not 100% so.  A lot of the things I have done have given me access and exposure to the people who were my target market and who could help me grow my business.  But I always came back to the same over-riding principle – do the right things for the right reasons – and for me that meant using the time and resources at my disposal to do the best and most I could for the community.   I would love to be saying that karma has paid me back and things are booming in my business, but that is not the reality.  I am paying for having spent more time on the community than I have on building my business.   The saddest part of all of this is that the very community that I have worked so hard to help is the community that is my target market.  They are the ones who could have most benefited from my services.  Instead, I chose to give away much of my time and energy.   I made my choices based on a love for and a deep belief in this community.  I will live with the fact they were not wise choices.  Will live with the knowledge that had I been more selfish and worked a bit harder on directly building my business rather than putting so much time and energy into supporting and building the community, my business would be in a much different position than it is currently.  I comfort myself knowing in my heart and soul I was living by my creedo – do the right things for the right reasons.  I will never regret any of the actions I took and given the choice, would probably take them again because they were the right things to do. For now, I must live with knowing that making those choices have put me into a financially precarious position and that I may not be able to continue the efforts that mean so much to me. That is heartbreaking. Maybe it is the military upbringing, but for me having to chose between doing what is right for myself over what is right for the many (the community), I will always choose what is right for the many.  So unless someone steps up and is willing to start subsidizing all of my community building efforts, I may have no choice but to step away.  Unfortunately stepping away means giving up my business, leaving this city and community that I love so much.

Add both of the things I have talked about and some pretty tumultuous personal events and I am left with a very heavy heart.  Left wondering if my time in Philly is due to come to an end.  Wondering if it is time to say enough – that I have put myself in a position where I can no longer financially, physically and emotionally afford  to make the difference I truly want to make.   Wondering if the obstacles standing in the way of the progress of this community can be worn down sufficiently to allow this city to become the world class tech/creative/entrepreneurial hub that it should be.   And wondering have I been wrong all along?

I am not a quitter.  I believe in this community.  I love this city.   In my heart of hearts I do not want to leave.  But all of these things certainly make me wonder if it is time.  So, my dear readers, I ask you.  Has it all been worth it?  Is it achievable?  Have my and others personal sacrifices been worth it?  How can I continue to do what I know in my heart is right? More importantly, should I?