The Utter Aloneness of Infertility – By Christine Motta Faria

It’s been so long now, I can’t remember most of the drugs, the procedures, and even why I wanted to have a baby so badly.

It took awhile, but I don’t cringe anymore when every conversation with a new acquaintance starts off with, “you got kids?” I don’t feel like a freak talking about my dogs Lucy and Ethel instead.

We started off like a “normal couple”: we played house for about six years water-skiing, traveling, dancing at night clubs, go-karting. Because of some imaginary clock, because we were so happy with our life and wanted to share it, because it just seemed like the right time, one night, we were having sex and we didn’t use protection.

I remember, I truly remember, that first night, lying there in our full bed, too short for Jim’s long legs, thinking, this is it. This is when we have made something bigger than both of us. I saw a baby that looked like Jim.  We joked that by us both being half Portuguese we’d have a full Portuguese baby.

Pregnancy always fascinated me, and I was more enthralled with the miracle of carrying a baby, than anything else.

We took the “if it happens, it happens” approach – not really paying close attention to time of the month, the best positions or vaginal temperature; I mean, people get pregnant without trying all the time, right?

Two years later we weren’t pregnant.

After I had gone in for my “annual woman’s” appointment, I finally confessed my frustration to Doctor “Z” and he said, “Well, let’s give you a little help.”

“Okay,” I said. And without really grasping it, wanting to have a baby turned into this machine of clomid, injections in the ass (and not too expertly given by my husband), numerous sonograms and blood tests. Doctor “Z” would remind me that he was coding  the office visits so that insurance would pay for them – shhh.  One Christmas we were up visiting my mom in Nevada, and I thought my right ovary was going to explode.

Somehow we entered into this great race that I never remembered signing up for. There was no counseling, no discussions besides those when my feet were in stirrups, none with my husband included.

Sounds ridiculous now … and so uninformed; maybe it was the particular doctor, I never thought of myself as an idiot, but I felt that way (especially in retrospect). I didn’t have any friends who had gone through this. It all seemed very routine. I didn’t even know how to “Google” back then.

Still, I didn’t get that there might be a problem until his medical assistant checking me in one visit said, “Oh, you’re one of Dr. Z’s infertility patients.”

When did I become one of those?

Each month, like checking the hen-coop, we’d review the amount of eggs I was packing and measure their size. “You did good, Chris!” I was told. “Look at those beautiful eggs.” I felt like I was having puppies. I didn’t correlate eggs to babies to lots of eggs to lots of potential babies until later.

I was losing my mind. But I didn’t realize it.

Jim had always called me “low maintenance”– even-tempered, positive attitude, never any PMS. I prefered hanging out with the guys, avoided shopping malls and I didn’t have patience for drama.

The person I became cried when I saw pregnant women. I despised them. Why did they deserve to be pregnant? I couldn’t handle watching tv shows about pregnant characters. I wouldn’t pick up a magazine that showed a glowing, pregnant movie star.

My ex-Catholic, non-practicing soul knew that I was being punished. Was it because, there were times, before I met Jim, that I prayed I wasn’t pregnant from unsafe sex with boyfriends? God, please help me.

Surely, this was happening to me because I was a bad person.

I seriously thought of punching people who told me that:

  1. I needed to relax, to take a vacation.
  2. If it was God’s will, it would happen.
  3. I had too much body fat or not enough.
  4. We were not “doing it” in the right position.
  5. It was because of my ankylosing spondilitus (arthritis).
  6. It wasn’t because of my ankylosing spondilitus (arthritis).
  7. I needed to take herbs; to go to an accupuncturist; to not eat certain things; to never drink alcohol; to have a glass of wine each night.

During this time, my best friend sent me fertility charm that she picked up in New Orleans. I opened it up, read her thoughtful letter and hated her fucking guts. This was my best friend since we were 16. And I didn’t tell her until years later how that charm made me feel that everything that I was going through, my sorrow, my fear that I’d never meet this baby that I had held in my heart, was not about luck or about superstition. No matter her intention.

Sex became a chore. Sex became sad. It would take YEARS for sex to become spontaneous, without purpose.

But most of all, I felt like I wasn’t a whole woman. Why would Jim want to be married to someone who couldn’t bear children? “Jim, you should divorce me so you can remarry and have a child of your own.”

As a woman, you never grow up thinking you can’t have kids (unless of course you have a known medical condition). It never, EVER, occurs to you. Having children, follows going to school, making a career, getting married … it is the order of life.

Now, about four years into the race, we ended up at a “real” infertility clinic, with the sit-down meeting and the list of options. And the price tag.

Being insane by this point, I couldn’t tell anyone, how awful and horrible it felt to put a price tag on the rest of your life. To put a price tag on that little boy in Spiderman pajamas that you’ve always imagined.

I’d have a reoccurring dream that I’d finally give birth and look down into my little bundle and it would always be a cat.

Being insane at this point, it was hard to know if I had ever wanted kids so badly in the first place, or if I was so caught up in having the choice taken away from me.

One Thanksgiving, we had a house full of in-laws staying for four days. (Tough, even when your hormones are normal, right?) I had just went down to the bookstore and purchased a book on infertility (there was no Amazon.com back then). Buying the book was a huge step in accepting that I was one of those people, that this “race” might not end well.

So that Friday of Thanksgiving, with a full house, I lied and said I had to go into work. A skeleton crew was getting the paper together, so I closed my office door and read that book cover to cover and sobbed for hours. That type of crying that when you are done, your gut hurts.

All those crazy thoughts I had been having, those doubts about myself, the fear of what was down the road, were finally acknowledged. I wasn’t alone anymore with my hate, my resentment, my utter loneliness, my God that rejected me. I wasn’t a freak for thinking all these things. It was one of the most painful, honest days of my life to see in print, that what I was going through was real and there might not be a happy ending.

After the second or maybe it was the third “turkey baster” procedure and a miscarriage, I started feeling sick and anxious about the next time. About my potential for a litter of puppies (or cats). Did I want a life with three kids, let alone six kids? That wasn’t what my fantasy family looked liked. Shit, we could hardly afford the bills we were racking up at the infertility clinic. Could I eliminate any of these fertilized eggs? What are fertilized eggs? Aren’t they a baby? Weren’t they a miracle?

The answer was for me was “no.” I didn’t want to have to have a stroller that wouldn’t fit through the door.

I didn’t want to eliminate anything.

I was done.

I was tired of living month to month, cycle to cycle, of being poked by needles, of hospital procedures. Of not planning vacation in advance, because I might be pregnant. I was tired of my heart breaking every month when that blood appeared.

(At this point in the story, I have to tell you that Jim is caught up in this rabbit hole as well, but he’s not crazy like I am. I think he’s so messed up because he doesn’t understand why I’m a nut job and cry myself to sleep every night, telling him he should find someone new. At this point, and in my memory, I really don’t know what HE wants, besides his wife back).

I remember another friend, when I told him “we were done” him saying, “I didn’t think of you as a quitter.” “FUCK YOU,” I never said. FUCK YOU for not understanding how our life has changed forever with this decision. How I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like a full woman again. FUCK YOU for your wife being able to pop out kids. FUCK YOU for never having to worry about money.

I’ve met a lot of parent’s that look at us the same way, like, how could you give up? They’d say, “I can’t imagine life without my kids.”

At some point, both Jim and I grieved for that little person that looked like us that we’d known for years, but would never meet. For all those baseball games, dances on daddy’s feet, that would never happen.

You probably wonder why I write about this now, as it has been over 13 years since the pursuit of children ended. Well, even though there is Google, and you can get support online and through groups, I know it is still the loneliest journey out there a woman can take. And even if it weren’t for the hormones, it is something so terrible to deal with, no one escapes without scars, without hating themselves, or others.

Reading that book, that Friday after Thanksgiving, saved me. And maybe there is someone out there that needs to know that their thoughts about being punished, about not being worthy, about not being a whole woman, well, it’s okay to feel that way, but it’s not true.

It took awhile to accept being a childless couple (oh how “trendy” it sounds now), to reimagine our future in a different way, to feel okay that all those photo albums and old family pictures will not be handed down or cared for by anyone.

There is a second and third part to this story, about how we pursued that little boy in Spiderman pajamas, (which I’ll write about eventually). And I do believe, as trite as it sounds, our unique journeys, well, they happen for a reason.

But for now, I’ll leave you with the part about how Jim and I have been together for 25 years come this December and how we truly have a blessed life, a rich, playful life without kids. We laugh a lot and look at things, I dunno’, differently. As we don’t know any different, right? And everything that we’ve gone through, has made us stronger and appreciate each other. And yeah, wouldn’t it be nice if you could just avoid those painful things that make you stronger?

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The Best Sex at Almost 50 by Christine Motta Faria

Okay, my husband is turning 50 next year. I say to him, “I have never been with someone as old as you are.” He rolls his eyes. I still have YEARS before I’m at 50.

But you know the stinky part? He is hotter at “almost 50” than he was at “almost 30.”  His goatee is just about white, but for some reason, he’s been dying it the last year. I’m really not sure why … he isn’t a vain guy. Maybe his girlfriend likes it. Seriously, the man works so physically hard in construction, if he had the energy or time to please a girlfriend, I’d be impressed.  

Laugh lines are so charming on men. Makes them look kind. Generous. Someone you want to have a beer with. They look like plain old wrinkles on women. Too much sun-in and baby oil.

So, Sean Connery. Think of Sean Connery at almost 50. Pre-prime. He’s probably still learning the moves that make women go nuts and probably didn’t perfect until he was 68, right? I’d do Sean Connery at 82 (yeah, he’s 82). EIGHTY-TWO. That’s making me sad right now. And that’s kinda warped that I’d say I’d do an 82-year old. I might have to reconsider that.

Can you imagine sex with an 82-year old woman, let alone a  68-year old woman, let alone a 50-year old woman? Hanging ta-tas an va-ji-ji?

It’s so unfair.

So, I think about sex more pre-50 than I have ever thought about it. I dream about it a lot. But I’m lucky that way. When I close my eyes at night, I know I’m in for some adventure. I have had a dream life that has allowed me promiscuity. I know it is a dream, so, why not? WOO HOO!

My mom used to say that when she’d close her eyes, she would only have nightmares. She was a nurse for four decades, and would dream of patients. Hospitals. Illness. Sickness. This always made me sad.

Poor Jim, he tells me he is guilty when he is dreaming of sex with another women and stops before the GOOD PART. I think there is something wrong with him.  I’m afraid it’s because I’m a dominant, control freak, Martha Stewart -buffet – organizing woman. Am I that bad? No, must be his mother’s fault. It’s always the mother’s fault.

So, where were we? Sex at almost 50. Pretty grand being with a hot guy, with a nearly white goatee, that I’ve had a slumber party with for almost 25 years.

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Shut up and race Danica or stop with the pity party – by Christine Faria

Shut up and race Danica … or stop with the pity party 

I felt sorry for myself this morning. But I only allowed myself a short pity party.

The thought of the folks injured at the Boston Marathon has really bothered me. I think about what so many of their journeys will be, being amputees. Being a mother, a wife;  now not being “whole” in their minds.

I think about how far prosthetic advances have come, but only if you have the time and the energy, the assertiveness to battle with insurance companies to get the treatment you need. The money to travel to the best hospitals, while not being able to work. That lots of people don’t have the advocates that some people do – I mean how can you deal with all this crap when you are in pain, on meds and in shock? No matter how advanced medicine has come, it is going to be a long and really, really shitty, emotional and psychological road for these folks.

And no matter what Obama says, he’s not going to pick up the phone and get lost in the insurance companies’ automated system to make sure those claims are handled promptly; he’s not going to be writing a check  to pay for people’s mortgages when they can’t work.  He’s not even going to have his assistant do that.

I think of all the veterans that return home each year that don’t get the public’s attention or support for their similar losses. They won’t get a settlement that will ease some of the strain.

Almost three weeks ago, I thought I tore something in my leg – it hurt like a mother. So much so I went to urgent care. The x-ray didn’t show a break, uh, that lump, I think it is fatty tissue on your thigh, the sonogram showed no clots, here’s some Percocet, go to your doctor during the week.

The worst thing? My husband had to help me hoist my butt into our truck; he was worried – it scared me. It reminded me of when my ankylosing spondilitis was so bad I couldn’t walk or sit, I wasn’t “whole” in my mind.  Who wanted to have a wife that couldn’t ski, walk in Home Depot or have sex without hurting?

This morning is my first day back to the dojo. I have this weird thought that I’m going to kick too hard and that my leg might dislocate and hang loose and never be reattached again. So I take it easy and keep my kicks to a lazy girls height which makes me nuts as I like to kick high and kick hard at my imaginary attacker. Okay since I’m being honest, I am one of the oldest gals in class and hate when people use age as an excuse for not being able to do things.

One of the gals in class, when she asked me what happened and I said, “I really dunno” she said, “Sometimes it is just our age.” FRICK. 

Stop whining and get on with it. Shut up and race Danica.

I think my good friend Arsinoe would say that if I want to feel sorry for myself, if I want to acknowledge my fear, if I want to say, “This sucks,” then that’s okay, it is my reality. I don’t always have to discount how I’m feeling as it isn’t as bad as what someone else is going through. She’s a lot kinder than I am to myself . 

But who am I to feel scared, to feel sorry for myself, when I CAN do jumping jacks and jabs and hooks? I’ll just be kicking my attackers balls and not at his face for a while.

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Blue Collar Workers – Forgotten Until We Need You by Christine Motta Faria

Blue Collar Workers – Forgotten Until We Need You by Christine Motta Faria

Originally published 11-2012 by Raving Consulting Company

Have you ever been at the grocery store and the guy in line next to you reeks … of fresh asphalt, and it is almost too much to bear? 

You know him. The construction worker with the deeply lined face, whose hands are as big as baseball mitts, scarred and calloused. The mechanic with the grease following the lines in his palms. The man covered with concrete slurry in the bright orange T-shirt with steel toe boots picking up a 12-pack at the end of a long week. The Mexican laborer you see loading up before the sun rises each morning, driving a dilapidated mini truck.

Yeah, the men and women who might be a little too redneck, a bit too dirty, sometimes not well-spoken, who pull at their collars when they have to wear a dress shirt for a wedding. You can pick them out at your property’s better steakhouse; it is a special occasion to dine with you at your restaurant.

You know, the neighbor who’s nice to have around since they can fix anything as they are a plumber, an electrician, a sheet metal guy. But you wonder why their trucks have been in their driveways for weeks at a time — are they trying hard enough to find work? After all, the economy is coming back, right?

It struck me last night, as images of the devastation from Super Storm Sandy filled my TV screen, of contaminated water, downed trees, obliterated beaches, rescue workers walking through calf-high, filthy water, that these are the men (and women) who will guarantee that the subways will be functioning faster than thought possible, that the streets will be passable and that the several tons of debris would be taken away. That homes and cars will be fixed and that power will be turned on.

One reporter was showing the subway — the blackish water was as deep as two flights of stairs, and he said that there were workers there that night, trying to pump out the water in the darkened tunnels. Yeah, these are the folks who will be laboring for unbelievably long shifts. A desk jockey like me would certainly physically fail and think it was sheer hell, but they will be happy for the work.

And I betcha, these are the same people, like here in Nevada, who have been just scraping by because there is still not enough work to go around for people who rely on their bodies to support their families. These are the same folks who are driving around a piece of crap, old car that a tree just fell on and insurance won’t pay them enough to get a decent replacement because the car isn’t worth anything.

These are the folks who will be relied on to clean up the devastation; these are the folks we have always relied on to get the lights and the heater back on.

I can tell you this. I can’t imagine a better, a stronger, a more patriotic workforce that will be out there trying to get people back to work, back to school, back to their homes.

From all of us here in our corner of the world in Reno, our thoughts go out to everyone, our clients and friends who have suffered greatly from Sandy. And thank you to all of those folks who work so hard to make sure we can do our jobs and support our families, not just in times of crisis, but every day.

Chrishalloween2012

PS — You know that guy with dirt caked on his jeans who just got done with a 20-hour shift and doesn’t smell so good? That’s my husband and his co-workers, and they’d always be my first draft pick, no matter what the situation.

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How technology can make or break a relationship by Christine Motta Faria

How technology can make or break a relationship or … as Steven Stills said, “Love the one you’re with.”  

Okay, I admit it, I resisted the iPhone for as long as I could, until I dropped my flip phone in the Truckee River by my house one too many times.

You might ask, why would anyone oppose a veritable mini-computer that is small enough to fit in a jean pocket?

Let me be clear — it’s not the tool itself that I didn’t like the idea of, it is how I have observed users to be much more engaged with their “flat machines” than with each other. It scared me, I didn’t want to become “one of those people.” You know you’ve seen it … people at restaurants, sitting next to each other, deeply engrossed in their phones instead of their companions.

See, I’ve got a HUGE issue with crappy listeners to begin with. I can count easily how many people make me feel like there is no other place in the world they would rather be at that moment than chatting with me. And that’s a powerful tool or “charm,” whatever you want to call it . You know, the people who look you in the eye, repeat what you are saying, to make sure they understand. They are the people who are not forming a response in their head before I’m done speaking.

Remember the saying, “Can we all get along?” from Rodney King in 1992? I’m afraid the fallout from smartphones will be, “Can we all just talk to each other?”

It’s not just smartphones. So much of technology takes us degrees away from eye contact, from hearing concern in someone’s voice, from confrontation.

This has been on my mind a lot lately, not only with discovering my new phone, but here at Raving Consulting where I work; casinos hire us to translate all that data that all their  systems pull, into something actionable, something manageable. We write about it all the time in our marketing and newsletters. (As a matter of fact, our Direct Mail partner Michael Hemphill is explaining Near Field Communication [NFC] and Augmented Reality in our most recent Flash! Report).

But have you ever considered that technology can hinder or even break a relationship?
Stepping outside the casino biz for a second, I swore that I would never, ever buy a Dell computer again because of how painful it was to get through to a “real” person via phone for a problem I had, and when I finally got through, the agent couldn’t talk to me without a script. That experience BROKE my relationship with them. On the other hand, depending on my mood or the time at hand, I will pick up the phone to call Southwest Airlines, instead of using their website … their “real” people are just as efficient as their website. It isn’t an either/or.

Now, let’s talk about how this applies to your casino right now (this applies for anyone in the guest service industry) . Let me ask you three questions:
1.    Do you believe that a casino/hotel guest will have a better experience interacting with a machine rather than your staff because you can’t guarantee your staff will respond quickly or consistently enough?
2.    Are you investing more into technology and less into training?
3.    Would you say that you and your staff personally interact with your guests less or more than five years ago? (Or did TITO and other technology mean that you eliminated staff instead of reassigning them to other and new high-touch positions to save money?).

Need some examples? Okay, here goes, and these are all real, recent experiences at casinos:

•    You have got a pretty user-friendly website. Folks can log on to their personal accounts, but how hard is it to find your phone number to talk to a REAL person? Does the CONTACT link only give an email address or form? And does your 800 number work for out of U.S. guests? Do you bury your phone number to push folks into email communication or to “text live with an agent”?

•    Okay, so finally someone can locate a phone number and you’ve set up an automated answering system to get your customer to the right person, the right department quicker, so they don’t have to explain their situation numerous times. How many buttons do folks have to push before they can get to a real person? How many buttons do they have to push to realize that a real person is not available because they are calling during non-business hours? Can they just punch “0” at any time because they are frustrated or confused? When’s the last time you called your general number?

•    You have added even more self-service kiosks to your floor so folks can redeem their offers and coupons directly, instead of going to the players club or the cage. What personal interactions are your guests missing by not having to talk to a real representative of your casino? Why wouldn’t they want to go to your players club? Is there always a line? Do you not have your best people at your players club?

•    Speaking of your players club, you’ve invested in all this groovy technology, flat screens, your hosts are using iPads, but new guests STILL can’t find your players club booth! Do you need better electronic signage, or do you just need a human greeter?

•    When new guests go to join your players club it takes awhile, as you ask for a lot of information, preferences, etc. So, why did you just waste paper on a fancy invitation to White Snake when that customer told you what the music they enjoy is? Why’d you ask in the first place? Boy, you sure care about them, don’t you?

•    When new guests go to join your players club, you make it really quick by only asking for a driver’s license number and an email address. Terrific. But you never send (or not promptly, anyway) the new player anything to thank them for their visit. But they did get an impersonal newsletter a month later. Is that a way to begin a relationship? With spam?

•    As a casino executive, are you spending more and more time developing “systems,” justifying the cost of new technology in meetings, rather than spending quality time out on the floor with customers and being a role model for your staff?

Systems and that data they gather are only powerful tools if they’re used to PERSONALLY INTERACT with your customers. It’s all about relevancy. Not about the frequency of communication.

You can fight me on this, but the best use of technology is NOT KNOWING with the touch of a key how many people are on your floor at that very moment and what their average ADT is; it IS KNOWING who is on your floor, cheating if you have to by looking at their information, and then going over to them and engaging them. Putting a hand on their shoulder. Asking them about their day. Surprising them with twenty bucks or a comp meal because they just lost $1,000.

And if you are like me and don’t have a casino full of guests … let’s talk about that phone of yours. Do you put it on vibrate and ignore it when you are talking to your very best customer, your very best employee, your very best friend, your WIFE?

I bet you would turn off that phone if you were falling in love with someone, remember those first dates? (And if you say “no,” you are a creep and deserve to be single).

Yeah, so love the one you’re with. At least respect the one you’re with. Love your customers, respect your customers, and look at your technology from their point of view.
I challenge each and every one of you for the next week to ENGAGE the old-fashioned way. Pick up the phone instead of texting or emailing. Turn that phone off. Answer the phone in your office and really surprise someone. Really — I bet that your week will be richer.

Chris

Originally published by Raving Consulting Company

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Winter storm or terrorist attack? Minimum preparedness for somewhat responsible adults by Christine Motta Faria

Winter storm or terrorist attack? Minimum preparedness for somewhat responsible adults

I was starving when I remembered the earthquake stash in my car …
The granola bars were bricks, the peanuts rancid and four years expired.

Okay, I wasn’t exactly starving, but I had forgotten my lunch and didn’t feel like taking the time to go out and get a bite to eat. I was shocked that almost five years had passed since I had created an emergency pack for each of our cars. Reno had gone through this freaky earthquake swarm back in 2008 — we were showering with our bathing suits on, pictures didn’t go back up for months, cars were not parked in the garage.

Disappointed and still hungry, I took out the old food and tossed the emergency bag  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAunderneath my desk for another day. About a month later, we were hit by a huge wind storm accompanied by freezing temperatures. The power went out at about 2 AM early Friday morning, and the power company could not guarantee service returning by night — all of their crew were deployed and none to our area.

I found flashlights and a couple lanterns, all with dead batteries. I wondered how many times I would turn on the non-working light switches, looking for things.
Off to Wal-Mart for block ice for the freezers, batteries and extra lanterns. My cabinets were pretty much bare except for oatmeal, a few cans of garbanzo beans, and a big jug of Frank’s Hot Sauce. Ah, there was always the Mexican restaurant down the street, right? Surely they would have power …?

Out of ten houses in our cul-de-sac, three of us had generators; the one on my husband Jim’s work truck was large enough to power up ours and our neighbor’s home heaters. We didn’t have lights, but we were warm for a while.

This was the beginning of probably the longest amount of days below freezing we’ve experienced in Reno over the last thirteen years (see the icy river near my house). During this time, Jim also finished a book called One Second After, by William Forstchen, about EMP (electromagnetic pulse — it basically takes out anything electronic, meaning you can’t start your car, let alone your cell phone). Doomsday? Yes. Thought-provoking? For sure.
Between the two of us idiots, we realized that we weren’t really prepared for an attack of the zombies, or even an extended winter storm. Shoot, most of the time I have to blow my nose on a store receipt as I don’t have Kleenex in my car.

This prompted me to get on the web and research emergency preparedness, which ultimately led me to a number of survivalist websites, which left me even more confused about:
1. What exactly am I preparing for? A bad storm where power is out for an extended period of time; being stuck in my car during inclement weather; a terrorist attack that takes out all public services?
2. Do I really need a year’s worth of supplies?
3. How do I store all of this food and what will last the longest?
4. Do I really need a compass, military can opener, freeze-dried food, a survival seed vault, and to know how to splint a broken bone and make a fire without matches?
5. Am I overreacting or am I being a responsible adult?

In somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction, I went back up to Wal-Mart and bought twenty pounds each of white rice, dried beans, and canned goods. (All the while thinking of my gal pal Jenna, who had just gone through Superstorm Sandy — gas shortages, no power for days, downed trees, damaged houses, and she even had to go to the next town over to charge her cell phone. It was hard to believe that this had happened in her small town in New Jersey).

After I had organized my pantry with my new purchases, I realized that:
1. It didn’t look like all that much food.
2. I didn’t have a strategy for water, home defense, or medical emergencies.
3. I still didn’t know exactly what I was preparing for.

It was time to stop reacting, so I got on Amazon, bought the highest rated book I could find, and waited a week for it to show up on my doorstep so that I could continue my project. The Handbook to Practical Disaster Preparedness for the Family by Arthur T. Bradley, Ph.D., showed up just as I was finishing Raising Chickens for Dummies and had exhausted my seed catalog reading (yes, I DO have a lot of time to plan and think during the winter months in northern Nevada).

Before I continue, I realize that many of our friends reading this live in hurricane or tornado-prone areas, and emergency preparedness is just part of your lives. You’ve experienced the worst of the worst, and your eyes are rolling back in your heads at what a dummy I am.

In my defense, I know I’m not the ONLY ill-prepared person out there. Specifically, my neighbor friend and mutual dummy Jodi asked me to summarize what she needed to do since I was doing all of this research, so she wouldn’t have to spend the time researching it.
When the weather is sunny and beautiful, and life is just so good and undramatic … reminders about emergency kits and updating them, well, for me, they go in one ear and out the other.

My summary below is just a start, to help any of you out there be a little bit safer if some bad shit does happen. Whether you take it to the next level is up to you. Before you get lost in Google madness, if you want more detailed lists, I’d recommend going to the website of the book I purchased, or to your local government website. They’ve done most of the work for you.

In honor of my late mother Maggie, who created an earthquake emergency kit when we lived in the very temperate San Francisco Bay Area consisting of water and a dozen Butterfinger candy bars (they were on sale that week, and lasted about two days after my brother and I found them), I call this:

Chris’ Disaster Preparedness Starter List for Folks Who Sometimes Forget to Pay Bills, Misplace their ATM Cards, and Would Rather Sit Out In the Sun than Do Chores

1. Plan for something that could likely happen to you.
Start off with disaster preparedness. You are not training to be a survivalist (although wouldn’t it be badass to be a MacGyver instead of a MacGruber?). When you start getting overwhelmed with the scope, always go back to this point. And frankly, to keep this project in perspective, who can afford to build and stock a bunker, and maintain a healthy lifestyle?
a. What weather events are likely in your area?
— If a major winter storm hit and you had no power for a week, local businesses were closed, there was a gas shortage, how would you and your family survive?
b. How would you prepare if your home burned down?
c. If your car broke down in the heat of summer or in extreme winter weather, what would you need to stay safe until help arrived?

2. Store the right type of food for a reasonable time period.
a. Target a 30-day non-refrigerated or freezer dependent supply for your entire family: that means breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Beware of the following links – you can get addicted and freaked out and forget #1. This article has good information on 3-day and one-month supply suggestions and this one shows normal shelf life).
b. Store what you use, use what you store. Rotate your canned goods — oldest out first.
c. Choose food that you normally eat. The goal is not to stock up on high-priced food that will last ten years, but to keep a rotating stock of canned goods and dry goods. Stocking up on jerky and freeze-dried food you don’t normally eat, will mean that in six months to one year, you will be throwing this away. Plus, eating disgusting food is not going to be good for     morale when you are trying to get through a tough time.
d. Don’t forget your pets — keep an extra bag of food for them on hand.
e. Don’t rely heavily on your freezer for backup food. In a power outage, a full freezer, even if it has frozen water bottles, will stay cool longer than an empty freezer.
f. If your 30-day supply does not fit in your pantry or cupboards, utilize food-safe containers* and store them underneath your stairway, in your basement, or in yoIMG_0585ur closet. Keep in mind that this food needs to be rotated as well (out of sight, out of mind).
g. *One of the most helpful tips that I got from one of the survivalist websites is to visit your local bakery before purchasing, say 5-gallon buckets with lids for food storage. They will recycle the containers that they buy frosting and other goods in. Typically, food-safe containers are white and they will say “food safe,” as opposed to the orange 5-gallon IMG_0586buckets that you will find at a big-box store. Home Depot and Lowe’s in my area had the food-safe buckets in white, as well as orange, which is good for other safety supplies.

3. How will you prepare for injury or sickness?
a. Keep more than a 30-day supply of your prescriptions on hand; most insurance companies allow mail-order prescriptions for 90 days.
b. Create a complete first aid kid, but before you buy the fanciest and most expensive one, you may already have aspirin, topical treatments, and bandages. Just make sure they are all in one place and check expiration dates.
c.  We can’t all be doctors — the first call should always be to 911. Keeping aspirin, antihistamine, and other basics on hand is crucial if help is delayed, and you should know when to use them.
d. What if help is delayed? Take it to the next level: CPR/First Aid Class

4. How do you prepare your automobile?
a. Your car might be the only way to evacuate — keeping your car well-maintained and reliable is crucial. Sounds basic, but have you checked your spare tire lately?
b. Keep your car gassed up — don’t wait until you are on empty. Make it a habit to fill up when you are on half a tank. If you need to get the hell out of Dodge, or you are stuck in the heat or snow, you don’t want to run out of gas.
c. Create an emergency pack (how about that backpack from the last conference you went to?). Water and food to last you a day is the most realistic. Start off with work gloves, basic tools, flashlight, first aid kit, battery-powered radio, toilet paper and Ziploc bag (if you have to go to the bathroom). You can see I finally got off my butt and put Kleenex in my car.
d. Keep your cell phone charged at all times.
e. Any time you travel in severe weather, make sure you take proper garments with you. Sounds simple, but how many of us have jumped into our warm garage, into our warm car, into a snowstorm without bringing gloves and a jacket with us?

5. How do you communicate with your family and the outside world?IMG_0590
a. Make a “family plan” for each scenario, as it is likely that you won’t all be at home when the emergency happens. This would include anything that you would need to “grab and go,” a meeting place, etc.
b. If the power goes out, a handy-dandy smartphone isn’t going to do you much good. Consider a “jump battery” (shown on the right). You can buy an adaptor for your phone. This is something we use all the time, besides just jumping batteries (e.g. you can run your DVD player from it).
c. Consider a battery-powered weather radio. We carry this on our boat every time we go out.

6. How much water do you need?
a. In a storm, most of the time, you will still have water to your home. What you might not know is if your water source is contaminated. Boiling is always the best bet, and it is IMG_0589recommended that you also have a purifier on your tap.
b. If no water is available — keeping at least fourteen gallons of water per person is recommended. At home, we use these 7-gallon containers for camping — and they should be refreshed every six to twelve months. We also have bottled water and a portable water filter (say, for our nearby river).

7. Security around and about your casita
a. For insurance purposes, take a video of your entire home. If you had to make a claim, virtually seeing every room and its items will be a lifesaver.
b. All those important papers — pink slips, social security cards, marriage & birth certificates, life insurance … I have all of mine in a metal box. I just read about scanning these important documents and putting them on a secured, military grade flash drive. They are more expensive than the normal ones, but heck, this makes a lot of sense! You can store a copy someplace other than your home.
c. Know where all shut-off valves are (natural gas, water).
d. Do you have enough light? Not only will light enable you to move around in the dark, but it will also help with morale and safety. Battery-powered lanterns, candles, and personal flashlights — be cautious with any lanterns that use fuel.
e. Have working fire extinguishers in your garage and in your kitchen at a minimum.
f. Depending on your most likely weather disaster — know where your safe place is to go (earthquake, tornado, flood).
g. So, looters and bad guys. Always being aware of your surroundings, securing your home, not leaving your spare key in an obvious place, not announcing to the world on Facebook when you are on vacation, knowing when to run like hell or go for the groin with all your might … the next level would be taking a self-defense class. I won’t touch the gun issue.

8. How do you heat and cook when the power is out?
a. If you have an outdoor grill, keep an additional bottle of propane or charcoals.
b. If you have a gas stove or oven, you can light with a match or lighter, if you have an electronic ignition.
c. If you have a camp stove, it is recommended that you cook outside. Keep a supply of your camp stove fuel.
d. Pellet and wood-burning stoves are the ultimate back-up for cooking and heating.

9. What resources are out there in your neighborhood in case a disaster strikes?
a. We live in a pretty tight cul-de-sac, and look out for each other and have everyone’s cell phone numbers. We’ve had busted plumbing and other issues, and together we have access to a lot of emergency equipment and gear. How well do you know your neighbors, and are any of them handicapped or elderly?
b. What is your city’s emergency plan? I had no clue, so went to the city site, which took me to the county site ( http://www.washoecounty.us/em), and they had some good checklists. I also checked the American Red Cross’ website.

10. Always wear clean underwear (aka listen to Mom).
Okay, it isn’t really about the underwear, is it? It is about not being a lazy-ass or so disorganized that:
a. You can’t find your keys when you need to rush out the door.
b. You’re always waiting until the last-minute to go to the store, go to the gas station, refill prescriptions, get dog food (bread and hot dogs, not a good meal for Fido).
c. Your cell phone, your flashlights, your smoke detectors are never charged or have batteries (okay, that’s me! I’m working on it).
d. You have camping equipment and emergency supplies, but they are scattered all over the place. Make use of those trade-show bags!
e. The more prepared and organized you are, the better and calmer neighbor you can be if others are in need.

So, yes, I have had a lot of time on my hands during this freezing winter to think about worst-case scenarios (and, of course, it all started because I was hungry). And yes, I probably spent way too many hours on the Internet getting freaked out about unrealistic situations. So, I hope my time will help you get started with your own preparedness plan, be a little bit safer, and have some peace of mind. I’m still working on it!

PS — Don’t go shopping until you have a list in hand. Take it from the owner of five tubes of Neosporin, more sugar, rice and beans than we’ll eat in a year, that you will get distracted by convincing marketing, and may end up spending more money on items that do not fit with your goal (see number 1).

Originally published by Raving Consulting Company

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Won’t you please take me home tonight … by Christine Motta Faria

Won’t you please take me home tonight…

Her face rapturous. Her smile looks satisfied; her eyes close while her shoulders sway. I know all she wants is for him to look at her. To connect. To feel her passion. For him to know how much his music has moved her.  

He sings:

Maybe someday
Saved by zero
I’ll be more together
Stretched by fewer  thoughts that leave me chasing after
My dreams disown me Loaded with danger
So maybe I’ll win
Saved by zero
Maybe I’ll win
Saved by zero

I sing along, although I don’t know what I’m singing. What the words mean.  I don’t know what I have been singing since high school and when I danced outside, at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley in the early 80s’ – the Fixx were on the same ticket as Berlin and Flock of Seagulls. I still remember what I wore – a green wool skirt, a man’s short sleeve dress shirt and a leather belt, all purchased from the Thrift Store on East 14th Street.

Saved by Zero. What the hell does that mean, anyway?

Monica’s favorite pumps are ruined that night long ago. I was afraid of falling, so scraped them back and forth against the back of the concrete steps, assuring myself that I wasn’t close to the edge. My hair is shaved on the sides, spiked on top. It isn’t a mullet. No way. Think of Belinda Carlisle of the Go Go’s.

Looking at the rapturous woman, I absolutely know what she is thinking, looking at the singer Cy, who reminds me of a younger Billy Mac from the movie “Love Actually.” I’m distracted by the guitar player who is wearing really weird pants that look like they were purchased at a British teen clothing store, his hair like Herman’s Hermits.

She is at the first table closest to the stage, we are almost as close, but the only thing I feel is her desperation.

He sings a newer song “Beautiful Friction.” Now I have no idea what he is singing about, but she does.

She’s trying to telepathically connect.  “Just look at me. If I use all the power of my mind, you must feel me. You must feel how turned on I am. Why don’t you look at me?  I know the power of the mind. Why isn’t this working? I’m a true fan, I believe in you. Your voice, your lyrics, your talent … no one knows just how talented you are, but I do. Why don’t you look at me? Won’t you please take me home tonight?”
 
I know how she feels, I don’t know how many musicians I have tried to do a mind meld with and, sadly, it has never worked. I’ve never been grabbed after the concert to come and meet the performer.

Tonight, however, I’m not obsessed, which is somewhat of a relief, I realize. I’m not willing him to look at me. I think it is because I don’t know enough of the Fixx’ songs. Cy, the lead singer has presence, the band is tight, I can’t believe how old they are. I am not old of course.

It’s somewhat of a relief. Not to be that bothered. I have accepted the fact the people with talent turn me on. Musicians turn me on. Maybe because I am not talented, these people seem blessed to me.

I feel her need more than I feel the connection with any of the band members. Interesting.

For the first time I’m not thinking “take me home tonight”; instead I’m rooting for her.  I know her.

 

 

 

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