Win Free Coaching: Summer Quiz Pt 2

I’m noticing a few friends and colleagues are unplugging from social media for the summer, which is so inspiring that I thought I would try it for August. So, no Facebook for me this month. (I even had to disable it to make this happen.) So far, I’m doing pretty well, but I have jumped on to wish people happy birthday and I confess that I got on by accident once (don’t ask), so I guess I’m 90% there. You’ll be happy to know that this is an international trend; a colleague in Scotland and one in Australia are unplugging.  I’m about to go camping with my daughter this weekend, as part of our annual Mom’s Weekend that is part of her sleep-away camp experience. (My husband will be camping with our son at the boys’ camp as well.) These camps are over 100 years old and have never had electricity in the cabins, so it’s a great chance to truly be in nature– that is when I’m not getting lost in the woods without my flashlight!

Here is the good news about many people unplugging.  This gives you a better chance to win a free 50 minute coaching session this month. Beginning last week, I started a challenge to readers who are not current clients. All you have to do is be one of the first 3 people to respond to 5 quick questions, either last week, this week or next.  Post your answers in the comments section and then I will contact you to arrange a free session. (To see last week’s challenge, just scroll to the previous blog post.)

Here is this week’s summer quiz:

  1. What is the most summery thing you did this week?
  2. What is your go-to summer outfit to wear when you’re not working?
  3. Where have you traveled so far this summer?
  4. What is your favorite ice cream you had this summer and where was it?
  5. What is your big goal to get done by Sept 1?

That’s it. Just post quick responses in the comments section and I will contact you. Feel free to pass onto friends and family. And try to experiment with unplugging some for August.  You’ll find that you have a lot more time to enjoy the sunshine 🙂

Here is my favorite recent picture from camp with my daughter.

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Win Free Coaching: Summer Quiz Pt 1

I want to do something fun and different the next four Fridays to shake things up. Let’s face it, in August none of us wants to do much work, including reading blog posts. So, for the next four weeks, I’m going to ask readers to post answers to 5 new questions each week in the comments section. (It will only take a few minutes.) The first 3 readers who respond in any of the four weeks will get a free 50 minute coaching session. 

Here it goes:

  1. What is your favorite thing about summer?
  2. Are you a lake person, an ocean person, or both, and why?
  3. If you had to choose: do you like pie, ice cream or cake, and which kind?
  4. What is your big goal for summer?
  5. What is something you’ve done this summer that you enjoyed?

I’ll give you my answers and then I want to hear yours:

  1. I like the slower pace and the sunshine!
  2. I like both but I’m more of a lake girl.
  3. I would say for summertime that I’m a pie person: rhubarb or peach crumb pie
  4. My big goal for summer is to clean out our closets and get 10K steps in every day.
  5. I most enjoyed our family trip to Portugal and Spain in July.  It wasn’t always easy and there were bumps along the way, like our car breaking down on the freeway, but we bonded as a family and our kids and we got to see more of the world.

Now it’s your turn.  Take 3 min to post your answers in the comment sections.  The first 3 people (who are not current clients) who post get a free 50 min coaching session! (Check out my website at http://www.worldstagecoaching.com for more information.)

These are pictures of Sintra, Portugal below.  This was my favorite part of Portugal!

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Just Show Up

As Woody Allen once said, “80% of success is just showing up.” I love that quote because it’s so basic. We forget that before we can become successful, we just have to show up. I know we’re all busy and have a lot of things going on, but the reality is that we do the things that we absolutely have to do, like going to work each day, because we don’t want to lose our jobs. We know that we have to show up at our siblings’ and best friends’ weddings, so that’s easy. But how many of us don’t show up again and again in ways that matter? Last fall, I took an online course through Live Your Legend called “Connect With Anyone.” It’s a 12 week course that involves weekly online coursework, online check-ins, and mastermind groups. I was really looking forward to being part of a big community of entrepreneurs, and even though I learned a lot, I was surprised by how few people actually showed up week after week to comment on what we were learning and be there for others. I noticed the people who wrote about themselves but never commented on others’ comments. I noticed the people who dropped out, but I also noticed the people who stood out because they consistently showed up. They have since become friends and mastermind partners with me and I continue to be grateful for their generosity.

The fact is that it’s hard to commit to show up consistently in so many ways. What about playing with your kids? Or staying in touch with your friends? I can’t tell you the number of people who have said to me over the years, “I’m not good at keeping in touch with friends.” The reality is that some people simply don’t make it a priority, so those who do, like my husband’s close friends from high school, really stand out. How many of us show up at our kids’ events but text all the way through? I certainly have my flaws, but texting through performances is not one of them. I know how quickly our kids are growing up, and how important it is to really be present for every second of a cello recital or a first musical, or a house design project. Showing up means unplugging and being present, but in our sped-up world, it’s increasingly uncommon.

I know that showing up is hard to do when you’re tired and have a lot going on, and sometimes the best choice really is to stay home. It’s true that sometimes when you do show up for something that’s not essential, it turns out that it really wasn’t important to come. Sometimes the party isn’t fun or the new yoga class is a bust. But how do you know unless you try? A few nights ago, I went to a cabaret open mic night at a local church. It was scary to do. I hadn’t sung professionally in over 10 years, even though I had written a lot of music and recorded and released two albums since then. Still, I had chosen to put performing on hold for a long time because with two young children and a husband traveling internationally a lot and many evening commitments, there were too many things (and people) pulling at me that mattered. So anyway, this week, since my two kids are both away at sleep-away camp, I decided that now was the time and I was going to show up at this open mic, no matter what the outcome. I quickly rehearsed my two songs, one an original song and one a jazz tune, and drove to the church. I forced myself to meet 30 people who had been coming regularly and to sit through 3 1/2 hours of a big range of performance abilities. I was delighted to hear some strong singers and was also impressed that people who really couldn’t sing well at all still had the courage to show up and get out there.

The best part of showing up when you’re scared and you don’t want to, is that sometimes amazing things happen. In my case, I got great applause and wonderful feedback, I connected with some musicians I really liked, and I even got a future gig out of it, so I’m now officially back in the saddle performing-wise. The last time I had a gig, I was paid really well and reviewed by the Boston Globe. This time, however, I’ll be part of a group of 5 performers, each of us singing only a 20 min set, and I will not only do it for free, I will have to pay $70 toward the pianist and the space since the evening is a fundraiser. Yes, I’m taking a few steps back to get started again, but I’m proud that I took time off for my family, even while keeping other facets of my music front and center all along.  The fact is that when you put something front and center, other things naturally have to fall behind. But the answer to changing that is still to show up, no matter the outcome.

To find your world stage, think about the things and the people that matter to you and make sure you are showing up for them, unplugged and present, because you never know what will happen. You might just discover how much you’ve missed performing.

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Slow Down

For those of us who tend to be Type A more than we care to admit, summer is the necessary pause that allows us to slow down. What I love most about this time of year is that the light shifts to a much more brilliant hue, the weather is lovely and warm, and the pace changes to something much slower. All of us with kids breathe a collective sigh of relief when school is over and camp is on. No homework, no playdate organization, no racing around, no activities. We can finally sit on the front stoop and watch the sky.  Summer is also the time my family and I travel; we just returned from a few weeks exploring Portugal and Spain. Travel is a great teacher, because you are forced to slow down, to be inconvenienced, and to not understand over and over.  It’s very easy when you are in another country to just want everything done the way it is done back home, but that’s not how it works. In Lisbon, we stayed in a tiny apartment in an old Moorish slum that involved over 60 steps (with crumbling cobblestones) to access. None of this would have been to code in the States. The “do gooder” in me wanted to paint over the endless graffiti on every building, and I wondered why everyone moved so slowly and no one seemed to be working much. In Santiago do Cacem, we stayed in the countryside where there was literally nothing to do except relax, or go to the local beach. We had a private house with a little balcony with views of the ocean. As long as I didn’t fret that the pool was too dirty to swim in and the kids were covered with mosquito bites from having no screens on the windows, I was fine. Watching the sunset over the valley and enjoying the pace of doing nothing was the reset that we needed. Then in Faro, we spent the day at the beach with a picnic of fresh tomatoes and cheese and bread, cherries warm from the sun and chocolate, and spent evenings laughing as a family while playing cards. I responded to as few emails as possible. Even though I wanted to clean our apartment’s dirty tile floor and was frustrated by the uneven WiFi, it was a great reminder that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be happy. I could just let go.

In Seville, the weather was 107 degrees every day and the streets in the old city so narrow that the sidewalks disappeared in the middle of a block, leaving cars to travel within inches of each passerby. I missed the safety and ease of American streets and sidewalks, but I was mesmerized by the beauty of this old city, with the Moorish influences mixed with beautiful Spanish architecture. I remembered that when it’s really hot, you have to go slowly. And you need to rest in the afternoon, which is why siestas are so popular in hot southern countries. On the way back to Lisbon, we stopped in Evora and the temperature was boiling and the Roman ruins not as impressive as advertised, but we had a lovely picnic as a family and bought some souvenirs. Back in Lisbon, we had to practice our breathing after our first housing plan fell through (long story) and we had to drag our suitcases up and down the cobblestone hills of Lisbon to get to our new place. But you can’t walk fast when dragging suitcases, and in the middle of this, we passed through a large African wedding celebration, with all the people dressed up in colorful garb, the women and children dressed particularly elaborately.

We’ve been fortunate to travel internationally quite a bit.  I’ve now traveled to 25 countries, and my husband to 35. My kids, at ages 14 and 12, have been to 10 countries.  And yet, we are hardly perfect as travelers. Our trip began with a missed flight due to a scheduling change I hadn’t made note of, forcing us to return home for 36 hours and catch a much-less convenient flight two days later. On our way out of Lisbon with our brand new rental car, we realized we had received a lemon car, with a broken clutch that wouldn’t change gears, and after discovering smoke coming out of the hood of our car, we pulled over to the side of the freeway and spent hours in a public housing slum, waiting to be rescued. We were delayed by hours getting to our next place, and the owner of the hotel almost didn’t let us in since we arrived so late. It was only after I threatened that we would have to sleep in the car with our two children that the gates were opened and we were let in.  I realized in these tough situations, that I had to slow down so that I could respond to each issue calmly and effectively.

To find your world stage, remember that travel is essential to understanding the greater world, as well as yourself. It will never be perfect and it will never be easy, but it will challenge you and delight you in unforgettable ways. And, just as summer naturally does, it will force you to slow down, which is something that we all need in this crazy, chaotic world.

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My family in Seville, Spain

Beware of Bad Guys

When I was in 4th grade, I watched Batman on tv with my best friend, also named Melinda, and loved that we could cheer on the good guys and boo the bad guys, and that it was always clear which was which. Unfortunately, in real life, that is not the case. People aren’t always as they seem, and sometimes the person who appears rough around the edges, like my daughter’s music teacher, has a heart of gold, and yet some of the mom volunteers at my kids’ former school, who were pretty and stylish, were not as nice as they seemed, forming invisible cliques that made middle school look like a walk in the park. (Thankfully, I stopped volunteering with the PTO a few years ago.)

I’ve tried to teach my kids the importance of trusting their instincts, something which is so crucial but is not easily taught or even mentioned in school. We are told to be polite and trust others, which is why it is so essential to learn to have a healthy skepticism, whether toward an internet or mail “offer” or a stranger at our door. I just recently received a bill that looked very authentic for a trademark I had registered a few years ago. The bill was for around $900 and I can see how a lot of busy people with inexact records might pay it. The only problem is that it’s a total fake. I already paid for a 10 year license, so I ripped up the bill. My parents and other retired people are often targets for IRS scams, with phone calls threatening them if they don’t pay up. Thankfully, my parents understand that this is a scam, but many people don’t.

When it comes to strangers at our door, most are innocent, whether they are asking for charity money or trying to proselytize, but some are not. I’ll never forget when my husband and I were newly married and living in an apartment on the first floor. One day someone tried to buzz into our apartment even though I wasn’t expecting anyone. A lot of our neighbors would just buzz in the person without checking, since there was no way to verify who it was without going to the door. I felt that this was unsafe, however, so since I was on the first floor, I just went to the door. There behind the glass was a good-looking guy in a flannel shirt. He looked like a graduate student, someone who I should have easily buzzed in. And yet I knew deep down something was wrong. I asked through the glass, “What do you need?” and the man responded, “I’m here to fix your building’s heating problems since you don’t have any heat.” He even had a badge to validate his story. Now in most buildings, that would have been true. But in our building, we had the opposite problem: the heat was always running. I knew in that moment that this guy was a fake and that he was there to do harm. I told him that he was a fraud and I was calling the police and he threatened to break down the door. The only reason he left thankfully is that he heard other neighbors on the first floor, even though I was all alone in the lobby. This was before cell phones, so I didn’t have a way to call 911 from where I was. As soon as he fled, I went to the police and gave the perfect description for the guy they had been looking for: a good-looking graduate student-type who was breaking into buildings and threatening people. I never forgot how important it is to trust my instincts.

More recently, a few years ago after we had just moved in to our new house, a woman showed up at our door acting very strangely, saying that she had lived in the house when it was rented the previous summer– and yes the prior owner did have summer renters. She said she needed to come in to check out if her jewels were still in the house. At first, I didn’t listen to my instincts– I figured she was just sad and spacy and honestly wanted to get her jewelry back. I told her that nothing was there– the house was empty when we moved in. But she kept still trying to peer around our door, and given that my husband was not home, I was starting to feel very creepy about her. I suggested that she talk with the seller’s realtor in case the seller had seen anything, and then when I had time to think, I realized how strange her story was. I said she had to leave, and thankfully she did. I reported her to the police and they said that this is a common trick that bad guys do; they find a recently sold house that had been rented out and try to clean the new owners out. They also choose a “front man” who appears innocent, and the guys in charge often hide in the bushes for back up. The problem is that this woman seemed like she was either high or crazy or both. Thankfully, I was smart enough not to let her in, and I was just about to call out for my pretend cop husband if necessary to scare her off.

To find your world stage, watch out for bad guys. Things are not always as they appear. Sometimes a graduate student-type might be trying to harm you, and a nice woman who lost her jewelry might be trying to steal from you. It’s up to you to listen to your instincts to protect yourself, whether it is someone in person, over the phone or by computer or mail. Most people really are good, but just remember that life is not always as simple as Batman. It’s up to you to recognize who the bad guys are.

 

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Health Is a Right

It used to be that when you took a flight, you were treated like royalty. I remember the first time that I flew to Europe when I was 12, my parents insisted that my sister and I look nice for the flight, because that is what you did then. They were right. Everyone on the flight dressed up. Flights used to be expensive and fewer people were able to fly, so you were treated in coach class then more like first class today. That was before flights got cheaper, people started wearing sweat pants to travel, and flying began to feel more like traveling by bus. Then to add insult to injury, airlines began cutting back on services to save money. You used to get a free movie and a hot meal; now you’re lucky if you get a bag of pretzels. It’s gotten to the point in which customers are starting to wonder when airlines will start charging money for oxygen.

The idea that oxygen could become a new travel expense may seem far-fetched, but in the United States, a debate is raging right now about who gets to have health care. Republicans believe that health care is a privilege, like cable tv or cell phones or owning a car. Democrats believe that health care is a right, more like oxygen on a plane that no one should ever be denied, regardless of what class they are in. What is scary to me is that neither side can see the merits of the other side, so our country is becoming more and more polarized. Democrats refuse to see the fact that there are people in our society who try to game the system, like educated graduate students applying for Food Stamps, or healthy people pretending to be sick to get Disability. And there are citizens who have four children with four different fathers as teenagers and have no way to support them, expecting everyone else to pay. But Republicans refuse to see that we are not all born with equal opportunity. A child born to a teenage addict is going to have a harder time than a child born to two educated parents who want and love him. And society needs to help those who are born less fortunate.

As I always tell my kids, “There but for the grace of God go I.” I am lucky to have the life I have, and I also know that to those who are given much, much is expected. Every religions talks about the importance of helping those who are struggling. As a society, and as a world, helping to bring others up elevates us all. And yet we have a mean-spiritedness in our discourse, an every man out for himself concept that is uniquely American, something that the rest of the world just shakes its head over. If a child is born with a disability or an older person doesn’t have the money to care for herself, do we just throw them out on the street? A compassionate society understands that if you are more successful, you need to give more to help those who can’t contribute as much. It’s only right.

As you seek your world stage, don’t ever forget that you were once a little baby, relying on the goodness of others to take care of you. Don’t forget all the people who have loved and helped and encouraged you along the way to help you get to where you are. You are not successful because you are more special.  You are where you are partly due to hard work and sacrifice, but also because of luck and timing and lots of help and well-wishers along the way. The best way to celebrate your good fortune is to think of others. Nobody chooses to be poor or to have a sick child and our country is stronger when our people are healthy. Health care should be a right that every one has access to, just like K-12 education and fire and police services. And if airlines ever try to start charging for oxygen, let’s hope that there’s a big fight, because we all have the right to breathe, just as we all have the right to health.

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These are selfies passengers took from a recent flight that required oxygen mid-flight.

You’re Gonna Miss This

Last summer, my husband and his three siblings gathered for 48 hours to be with his parents, given that their dad had experienced some health scares. It was a special gathering for everyone, particularly since in this case, it was just the original siblings—no spouses or children. They realized that they hadn’t all been together in their original family form for almost 30 years, since the older siblings started getting married and having babies. It made me realize how special our time is with our kids while we have them, because once they go off to college and then marry and have their own families, it’s never quite the same. I remember when my kids were babies, and I was endlessly nursing the little one and reading to both of them, balancing them on my rocker as their little bodies squiggled to see the pages. An older friend of mine who had teens at the time, said, “I would give anything to have those days again.” Even though I was exhausted from the constant diapers and tantrums, I got what she meant. This was a sweet time in our lives, when our little ones were so happy to snuggle up on our laps and devour the next picture book. I remember when my son Will would flap his arms in excitement as a baby every time I read Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? He loved that book so much, just as my daughter loved Mo Mo Goes to the City so much that she literally tried to eat it, by pulling off the tabs that moved the images and putting them in her mouth. I remember taking my kids on “nature walks” through our neighborhood with special buckets to pick up treasures. What I loved was how unhurried those days were. We lay on our backs to watch the clouds moving and would hug trees since “trees need love too.”

As my kids got older, my son wore capes for years to keep away bad guys and my daughter dressed up as princesses. (Just for the record, I would have been fine with the roles reversed.) We had a lot of tea parties and the kids dressed up all the time in different costumes. And then it was play dates and special snacks, and performances in the basement and clubs formed, like the Clementine Club, in which anyone could join if they were in 1st grade and loved clementines. There was learning to read, and discovering best friends. Then sleep-overs and soccer games and school plays. And now that my kids are 14 and 12, I love having their friends over, hearing about their lives, and enjoying the sound of loud laughter emerging from the basement, while the kids play Wii or shoot nerf guns. My job is to provide endless food and catch a glimpse into their lives. Getting to know my kids’ friends, who are smart and interesting people, makes me feel hopeful about the world.

The reality is that ever since my kids were babies, their lives has been expanding every year to include more of the world that doesn’t include me or my husband. We don’t really know what goes on at school, beyond what our kids and their teachers tell us. It’s their world, not ours. Camp is their own world, just as their activities are, as it should be. And increasingly the best way to find out about their lives is to take long car rides without electronics. Even on short rides, they start talking about their lives, even if I do have to listen to awful R&B-infused pop in the background as they are talking.

There’s a good country song called “You’re Gonna Miss This” which takes a teenage girl who can’t wait to grow up, through learning to drive, then her first apartment, then babies, and always wishing for the next stage. The chorus of the song is: “You’re gonna miss this/ You’re gonna want this back/You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast/These are some good times/So take a good look around/You may not know it now/
But you’re gonna miss this.” I love this sentiment because it echoes what I’ve tried to remind myself throughout my life. I’m going to miss this so I better pay attention.

As my husband and I get ready to take our kids to Portugal and Spain, we are grateful for the opportunity to hang out with our kids without distractions or friends or interlopers. It will just be us, a rental car, a few hotels, a map, food and alternating time on the beach with time seeing ruins and castles. This is why my husband and I feel so strongly about international travel, using our miles to take our kids to different countries. When we’re in a strange land, we have to rely on each other and we connect in a way that is harder to do back home with so many distractions.

To find your world stage, remember to savor what season of life you are in, whether it’s college, or your first job, or the early married years or being home with babies, or living with teens, because whatever stage it is, it will go by too fast, and someday you’re gonna miss this.

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Life Is Good

It’s easy to focus on the bad things happening in the world. This week, Otto Warmbier died, having been in a coma for over a year at the hands of North Korean prison guards.  I can’t imagine the pain his parents went through, knowing that their college-aged son was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for supposedly taking down a propaganda poster. In addition, yesterday the group of 13 all-male US Senators finished the draft on health care, which will make care too expensive for millions of Americans, and make being a woman and having children a liability.  I do wonder if these men remember that all people come from women’s bodies, and that they would not be alive if it weren’t for their mothers. To penalize women for needing maternal health care if unconscionable.  Then there’s the Philandro Castile trial, in which a cop was acquitted of shooting a black man simply because his car’s tail light was out. If this had been a white man shot, the trial would have ended differently. And then there’s hate crimes and global warming that our administration doesn’t recognize. It’s enough to make one think that life is pretty bad. But it isn’t.

There have always been bad things going on throughout history: wars, famine, fires, drought, plagues, and cycles of evil despots. Children used to regularly die of small pox. Women used to often die in childbirth. Education used to just consist of a one room school house for everyone except the very wealthy.  Slavery used to be legal. But with all of our advances, we still see every day how much violence and despair there is in the world, and it’s hard to feel hopeful.

And yet, a few days ago, I was walking around a lake near our home on a gorgeous afternoon with azure blue skies and perfectly formed clouds, and a group of geese gathered to navigate launching themselves into the water. Watching them made me smile. They took turns and didn’t push, and one by one, they managed to all slide into the water and then swam together in formation. This week, my 14 year-old daughter returned home from a school trip to France. As my husband and I waited for her outside the big immigration doors, we felt so grateful to have the ability to travel almost anywhere in the world and be welcome with our passports. This was the first time I had been to the international section of the airport this year, since Trump’s attempts at the travel bans. It was so heartwarming to see every possible race, religion, and country streaming through the doors. We saw women in head scarves with young children, a few older Indian women in full saris, hip Europeans in tight jeans and cool t-shirts, and an old Korean couple meeting up with their grandson, among others. We also got a text from our daughter before she emerged through the doors, letting us know that her group was delayed because one of her classmates, who is Chinese, forgot his visa, and was being questioned by immigration officials. He ultimately got through with no problem, but we were reminded of what so many people go through when traveling, and how lucky we are.

When you feel the world’s despair, remember to focus on what you are grateful for. I often have my clients list all the little things that they love, since it’s particularly helpful for those who feel stuck or lost. Once they remember what they love– whether tulips or swimming in a lake or snuggling with their children– then they can get clarity for the rest. To find your world stage, remember that the world has always been broken. As Leonard Cohen once wrote: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Don’t let the cracks get in the way of your daily joy. Today, go find a sunny spot and enjoy watching the geese play.

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Ignore Instructions

Throughout our lives, we are taught that we need to listen to authority, follow instructions, and go with the crowd. That certainly makes for more orderly schools and work places, but it doesn’t work in emergencies. Even if we are alone, the voice of propriety may drown out our protective instincts if we’re not careful. The fact is that when your life is on the line, you need to listen to your instincts and notice your surroundings so you can make the right decision. When I was backpacking in my twenties throughout Europe, I found myself being followed one night by someone on a deserted road in Saltzberg. The good girl in me wanted to ignore that I was being followed, in case I was mistaken. After all, I didn’t want to make a scene. But my intuition knew that I would be in trouble if I didn’t do something drastic. As the footsteps got closer to me, I looked around and found the only people in sight, which was a couple sitting in a parked car, and I jumped in their car and asked them to please take me to my hotel. They were surprisingly gracious, and the stalker moved on. If I hadn’t listened to my instincts, the ending might very well have been different.

Take the incident this week in London, with the huge high rise, Grenfell Tower, bursting into flames and tenants being told to stay in place so that they could be safely rescued. Many of those people did not made it out, because they couldn’t be reached by firefighters in time before they succumbed to smoke inhalation. Those people supposedly did the right thing, listening to authority and obediently waiting for help. But as a result, they didn’t survive. According to the New York Times, “The fire action protocol said that residents who were safely inside their apartments when there was a fire elsewhere should stay put, keeping doors and windows closed… But David King, a building engineer, said that in his three-decade career, he had never heard of residents in high-rise buildings being told to stay put.”  The BBC stated: “One resident of Grenfell Tower, Michael Paramasivan, said that he had been told in the case of fire he must stay in his flat – advice he ignored. ‘If we had stayed in that flat, we would have perished,’ he said. This is not the first time the advice to stay put has been called into question.”

During 9/11, after the North Tower was hit, many workers in the South Tower were told to return to their desks since the danger was confined to the other tower. Following these instructions ended up needlessly killing many people. According to The Guardian, “The evidence that people were instructed by employers and security guards to remain in the South Tower, and thus were condemned to death, is spreading this weekend. Ernie Falk… said that he was walking into the bank’s reception area when he heard a ‘horrendous boom’ of the first plane’s impact, and made a successful run for it… ‘I heard people being told, ‘The building is secure. The safest place is inside; stay calm and do not leave.’ That’s what they were saying. They were telling people to go back up to their offices and their desks, like the building was not in danger.’ People who worked in offices above the ninety-third story would have been able to reach their workplaces only for the second plane to plow into the tower beneath them – leaving them with little or no chance of survival.”

One of the biggest lessons of these tragedies is that people did listen to authority and perished as a result. So often we want to please others and do the right thing and to fit in with the culture. When I was a new college graduate, I worked in a high rise just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. Our offices were on the 50-60th Floors. My first day of work, I asked where all the exits were. I was told that the elevator was all that I needed. They figured that there wasn’t going to be a fire, and if there was, it would be taken care. In almost two years of working there, we never had a fire safety drill, so I always kept in mind where those exists were. At home, we have a ladder in my office to extend from our second floor window in case of fire. I taught my kids how to check for two exits on every flight and how to count the seat backs in case of smoke. I also taught them the universal sign for choking in case they are ever choking, so that they can be helped. I’ve taken self-defense and I’ve taught some moves to my daughter, reminding her that she’s a sitting duck if she just wanders down the street looking at her phone, as so many people do. It’s important to stay alert and notice surroundings, so you can see the van hurdling toward a pedestrian pathway, which is sadly more common these days.

To find your world stage, keep yourself safe in your daily life by noticing your surrounding and not listening to instructions asking you to stay put in an emergency.  The authorities may want to maintain order, but in the end, you want to maintain your life, which is far more important than pleasing others.  You may want to not embarrass yourself by jumping in a strangers car for safety, but in the end, keeping safe is more important than looking cool.  The world needs what you have to offer. It’s your job to stay safe.

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Grenfell Towers in flames

Hurt Feelings

When I was little, I learned the old adage, “Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you.” But that was before the internet and social media. Before, we had societal shame and advice columns like Emily Post to chastise people into better behavior and keep civility in check. Now it seems that anything goes. Not only do we have a president who lies regularly and tweets hateful messages, but we have social media filled with trolls, who attack and threaten others for kicks.  Manners and a sense of propriety have been replaced by anonymous haters who go to great lengths to topple authority, threaten women and minorities, and instill fear in everyone else. In addition, we have a situation in which normally nice people who behave well in real life, become thoughtless online, posting pictures from parties that many weren’t invited to. They brag incessantly about their kids’ accomplishments or how “blessed” they are by all the abundance in their lives, hiding all that isn’t working, and leaving us to feel that we truly can’t keep up with the Joneses.

Last fall, Time Magazine wrote an article called “Why We’re Losing the Internet to the Culture of Hate,” stating, “Now if you need help improving your upload speeds, the web is eager to help with technical details, but if you tell it you’re struggling with depression it will goad you into killing yourself.” There are in fact too many cases of sad, lonely teens searching for answers on social media, who find bullies who remind them that they are better off dead. Countless teens have taken their own lives after anonymous trollers on Ask.fm advise them to cut themselves, hang themselves, or “drink bleach and die.” Most parents have no idea this is going on.  Even beyond teens, the internet can be a toxic place for adults.  Anita Sarkeesian, who spoke out against misogyny in video games, received rape threats online and bomb threats at speaking engagements, and Jonathan Weisman, from the New York Times, received so much anti-Semitic hate mail, that he quit Twitter, in spite of 35,000 followers.

Beyond trolls and cyber-bullying, there is a mean-spiritedness that infects social media.  Many people have lost a sense of what is right and good in how we treat others online, even our so called “friends” on Facebook. Last weekend, I found out that I hadn’t been invited to a family friend’s daughters wedding, even though I have known the family for over 15 years, we are regularly in touch, and I was asked last fall for ideas for reception venues. There is nothing like seeing pictures of a wedding you should have been invited to.  It’s like a punch to the gut. But people do this all the time.  A few years ago, a woman I used to know well got married with weddings on both coasts and posted ongoing pictures of the wedding not for a few days or a few weeks but in fact a few months. Three years later, she is still posting wedding pictures. I don’t think anyone would tolerate this offline, but online, it’s a brave new world.

I recently read about a bride who actually emailed all of the people whom she didn’t invite to her wedding before the wedding, explaining in detail why they weren’t invited.  Do we really need to spell out that you’re not as close to your pals from Zumba class? Apparently, “you’re not invited” notifications are becoming increasingly common. I personally blame reality tv shows like Real Housewives and Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  Put a bunch of unintelligent, heavily made up, angry and bored people together and you get season after season of drama and cat fights.  People seem to love these shows the way people love rubber necking.  It’s watching someone else’s misery and feeling better about your own life, but still wishing for their wardrobe. I do wonder what my grandmother “Ganny” would say about all this if she were still alive.  She believed in always being a lady, which meant using good manners at all times, and making one’s guests feel welcome.  Once at a dinner party, a guest spilled red wine on the white table linens and was mortified. So Ganny spilled wine too to make the guest feel better and smooth the situation.  She would be horrified by how people talk and dress and act today, with way too much skin showing, glued to their phones, and bragging and diminishing others at every turn. The fact is that civility is what makes life pleasant. All the characters in Jane Austen novels knew that, but we have somehow forgotten.

To claim your world stage, remember to use the same manners online that you use offline.  People’s feelings matter, and in spite of the adage about sticks and stones, words can hurt. Remember the Golden Rule of treating others the way you want to be treated.  Don’t post pictures of your wedding online and please stop the endless bragging about your kids. You kids don’t like it and neither does anyone else.  And if you encounter a troll, remember that in the end, they will come back in their next life as a cockroach.  Because civility is in short supply, the more classy and gracious you are, the more you will stand out.

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