Monday, December 8, 2008

The Lessons of Katrina - November 2005

The Lessons of Katrina
There have been many lessons and growth opportunities for me and mine in the wake of Katrina. Some logistical, some emotional, some spiritual. I am going to share a few with you here that have been powerful for sure.
Don't Rely on Cell Phones:
I remember when I was younger, before we all had cell phones, if I was going on a trip I would let my mother know the name and phone number of my destination. Today, we depend so heavily on our cell phones that no one really knows were we are going most of the time. When Katrina hit, not only did it take out the cell towers so that the people who were still in the hurricane zone could not use their phones, but it also took out the area codes 228, 504, and 985 Bell South Switches making it impossible to call even outside of the area. You see if a 228 cell phone is in Birmingham and is trying to call a number in Los Angeles, the call is routed through the 228 switch. So if the 228 switch is down, the call cannot be placed. Let your close family and closest friends know where you are going, so they can call you directly in case of an emergency.

Know Your Values and What is Most Important to You.
I am not talking about the values that other people say you should have, I am talking about what it is that you truly value. The things in your life that you know are in line with who you are and what is important to you. Here are my top 5 values. Family, Fun, Authenticity, Prosperity, and Community. What are your top 5 values? If you have any trouble answering this question e-mail me for a work sheet called True Values that will help you identify them. Knowing your values allows you to confidently make decisions that are in line with the path that God has laid out for you. Your values are the deepest part of you which is your connection to God.
Allow Gods Blessings
The one of the most difficult aspects of our Katrina Adventure has been allowing so many people to give us so many things including their time, money, love, support and things. You see, when you tend to be the one giving, receiving is not as simple as it sounds. When my Katrina Angel Kristy approached me at the shelter and asked me if she could help us re-build our lives here in Birmingham, at first, I turned her down flat. I said, "We are so grateful for the offer, but we are very resourceful and we will be able to figure it all out just fine. Maybe you should help someone who really needs it." Kristy, thank God, does not rattle easily as she is a seasoned attorney and currently a stay at home mom, two very important jobs requiring advanced questioning and negotiation skills, asked me the following list of questions
Was your home destroyed? "Yes" I replied
Do you have family here to help you? "No" I replied
Do you have any place to stay? "Yes", I proudly replied, "we rented an apartment."
Do you have any furnishings at all? "Well, no"
Do you know anyone here in Birmingham? That's when I broke. It suddenly became clear to me that I did need help and that God had sent Kristy to me with her persistent self to be the catalyst of his work. Many tears were shed and Kristy got very busy on our behalf. Truck load after Truck load she and her husband Danny pulled up to our little apartment with clothes, shoes, food, furniture, kitchenware etc... Always delivered with a friendly smile and a ton of empathy without one single ounce of pity.
This has by far been the biggest lesson for me and my husband. In order to receive God's blessings, we have to be able to allow God's blessings. Being strong, independent and resilient are certainly wonderful character traits, but when it comes to the abundance of gifts and happiness that God has for us, humility, humbleness and acceptance are the orders of the day.
When You Have an Idea, Act on It
I am haunted by my plans. You know the plans I had that I was going to do as soon as I had time. Like take the kids Floundering (fishing for flounder using a spear and a lantern under a full moon) like my Uncle used to take me. I had plans to purchase my son a Sunfish sailboat so he could said next summer. I had plans to visit my neighbor, 92 year old Mrs. Necaise, who knew me before I was born, to bring her some lemon squares that she likes so much. I had plans to ride my Bike with Megan from Cedar Point all the way to Clermont Harbor and take the whole day, stopping to eat at a beach front restaurant called the Dock of the Bay. I had plans to bring a Thank You Card to the three sweet women who work at the Dollar Store for allowing Jolie and I to have a bake sale to raise money for Jolie's Competition Dance Team to go to their National Competition in San Antonio.
I had plans, a lot of plans.
Well, we never did take this kids Floundering, my son will not have a Sunfish to sail on in the Bay again this coming summer. My 92 year old neighbor had water up to her neck during the storm and has left town to stay with her sister in Colorado. I am sure I will never see her again. Cedar Point, Clermont Harbor and The Dock of the Bay are all gone having been wiped off the face of the earth by a 35 foot tidal surge. My Daughters Dance Team is not competing this year and will never be a team again since most of the 45 girls on the team are scattered across the country re-building their lives. And as for the clerks at the dollar store, they are all three victims of Katrina in the ultimate sense of the word.
Stop planning and get out there. Stop thinking about picking up the phone and do it. Because, as I am living proof, tomorrow you might not have the opportunity.
Create a Vision for Your Life That Does Not Center Around Places, People or Things.
Think bigger than that. What will the places, people and things that you attract into your life really bring you? Focus on that. Focus on the happiness of being in a place that you love, even if you are not their yet. Focus on the joy it is to be with the people you love and who love you, even when you are not with them. Focus on the wonderful feeling of peace you get being surrounded by your dream home and all of the wonderful things inside it. Its the happiness, joy and peace that are the real goals. Look past your goals and focus on what achieving them will really bring you.
Ask your self these questions:
Do I have an emergency plan in the case that my cell phone does not work?
Do I know what my and my families’ values really are and exactly what is most important to me?
Am I able to receive the blessings that God wants to give me?
What have I been wanting to do in my area and in my life that I have not done? What neighbor or friend have I been wanting to visit with that I have not gotten around to?
What vision do I have for my life, even if my life was turned upside down in a matter of hours?
I know this is some heavy stuff and some hard work, but trust me when I tell you that as stable as your life is right now, tomorrow could bring something entirely different. Don't live in fear, but be prepared.

Thank you so much for your support and your love and especially your prayers. I hope there was something valuable for you here.
With LoveJille
Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.- Sigmund Freud
The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.- Dolly Parton
Some people think it's holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it's letting go.- Sylvia Robinson
I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.- Maya Angelou

My Personal Katrina Story - Written October 2005

I sent this out to all of my e-mail lists.

Hurricane Katrina Update:
A lot has happened in my life due to the destructive force of nature that touched all of our lives, Hurricane Katrina. I am going to share my story and the life lessons that I have been blessed with so far. Even though e-mail is very personally focused, I promise to offer you value, motivation and support, in spite of its intensity. I am choosing to share this with you because the scope and depth of the event touched so many people and I have received literally thousands of e-mails asking about my well being. I don’t consider myself a victim, but rather on a different path then I expected a few months ago. My new life is filled with possibility and opportunity so please know that I really am fine! There have been many tears, and many more to come, but I am prepared to keep putting one foot in front of the other on the road to full recovery.

My Personal Katrina Story
I was born and raised in New Orleans and my parents are from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I had survived Betsy and Camille and learned by experience to get out of the way of a Category 5 Hurricane. So, on Saturday, August 27th, 2005, my husband Rudy and I packed up our two children, Ethan who is 13 and Jolie who is 8, our cat named Mrs. Sippy and started our evacuation adventure.
We knew the drill as we had evacuated from our Coastal Mississippi town of Bay St. Louis twice before. We took a small suite case each, our lap tops and client files and packed my Jeep Cherokee as if we were going on a weekend trip. In my husbands Passat, we loaded the more important stuff; the binder that we keep all of the papers like immunization records, social security cards and school records in, the plastic bin full of pictures and all of my photo albums. I remember wishing that my husband liked big trucks instead of small cars so that we could have taken more with us. Each of the children was allowed one small box to take their very special treasures with us. Jolie took a dance trophy, her build a bear, her CD's and her rosaries. Ethan took his Karate Medals, his CD's, his rosaries and his ample collection of Pokemon cards. We all had a good laugh at how similar their boxes were. We also allowed them to pack up all of their Dance gear and Karate gear. Needless to say, Rudy's car was packed.
We didn't really do much to the house to prepare it for the storm. The house is over 100 years old, on the highest point on the Gulf of Mexico, at least 5 long blocks from the beach front cliff and had never been flooded in its history. Most importantly, it survived the infamous Hurricane Camille in 1969 without a scratch.
As our small caravan drove away from our home of the past five years, a house that had been in my family for 70 years; the place where I spent summers and holidays with my loving family throughout my childhood, I was overcome with sadness. Somehow, I just knew things would never be the same.
We dropped Rudy's car at my friend and client Nancy Johnson's house in Hattiesburg, Mississippi thinking that an hour and a half north of the coast was a safe distance for our precious cargo. We continued on to Gatlinburg, TN. You see, evacuations are like mini-vacations and my kids had never been to the Great Smoky Mountains before. We had a great time hiking in the mountains and being together as a family away from home.
On Monday, when Katrina's eye passed directly over Bay Saint Louis, I knew we would not be able to return home, at least not for a while. As we watched the horror of the storm from our motel room, the pictures of the chaos in New Orleans started to dominate the TV, we felt an intense desire to be in touch with family and friends. We started trying to call our best friends, Megan, Owen and their 3 boys Bo, Hunter and Myles, who we knew were safe and had gone to Florida for their evacuation adventure. We tried my mother who refused to evacuate. We tried my Dad who called me early Sunday morning and left a message that he and his wife were trying to get out but that the traffic was terrible and he wasn't sure how far they would get. We tried my sister-in-law who had her three kids on I-10 in her Suburban stuck in traffic the last time we spoke to her late Sunday night. She could not reach my brother who is a Ship's Captain and was in route to Africa in the middle of the Atlantic. We desperately tried every number in both our cell phones. We tried, and tried and tried. We could not reach anyone and they could not reach us. We were isolated from the important people in our lives when we needed each other the most.
As the death and destruction unfolded on National TV, we honestly didn't know if many of our loved ones made it. The fear, the enormity of the situation and the isolation consumed us. While our kids were swimming in the motel pool, Rudy and I sat down together and made a list of our values and what was really important to us. We decided that we would filter every decision we made from that moment on through our values list so as to not get confused about what to do.
On Wednesday, we went to a coffee shop to check e-mail. We found an e-mail from my Mom, who was in a motel in Greenville, AL with her best friend Deb and Deb's mother Miss Evelyn who is 84. We drove the 9 hours to meet them that day. What a relief it was to know that my Mother was alive, but to actually put my arms around her was a moment of joy that I will never forget. The joy soon turned to worry as my 67 year old mother began frantically making preparations for us all to return to the coast almost immediately upon our arrival in Greenville. When I explained to her that we were not going for the sake of the children she was very upset with me. She also didn't understand why Rudy, who is the man of the family, was not going with her. One of the things that Rudy and I decided very early on was to Stay Together No Matter What. I don't think she really understood, but Rudy and I learned a long time ago that if we stay together, everything works out for the best. This was on the top of our values list.
As my mom, Deb and Miss Evelyn drove away with bleach bottles and kitty litter bottles full of gasoline in their trunk, we prayed that they would make it home safely (without exploding) and that when they got there, they would find what they were looking for, their homes. Rudy and I had everything we needed with us. Everything else seemed so unimportant. It was 6 days before I spoke with my mother again and found out that her house was still standing but was completely underwater. Her house is three stories tall, Miss Evelyn's house had 8 feet of water in it and that my house was still standing but had taken on waste deep salt water and mud.
In the meantime, Rudy and I had work to do. Since we could not contact anyone we knew and cared about, we were on our own. We decided to give Birmingham a try. We made some phone calls, drove to a town we had never been before, secured an apartment and moved in the on Sunday, which was 8 days after we left home. While on a visit to the Red Cross Shelter in Birmingham, we were approached by a wonderful woman, who has since become my friend, named Kristy. Kristy, her husband, two children and their entire network of friends, family and co-workers initially supplied us with blow up mattresses and a TV. Within weeks they had practically furnished our apartment except for a very few item. Kristy is my Katrina angel and I am so appreciative.
On Monday, September 5th, I led 3 teleclasses for Coach University and on Tuesday, I conducted client coaching calls. I know I could have canceled everything and taken the month off, but having a purpose bigger than survival proved to be an important part of our being able to get settled and back in the flow of life so quickly. Very high on our list of values is to do work that we love! The students that I had on my Teleclasses in September and October and my clients who all went through this with me were incredible. They will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life. I am filled with gratitude for them.
We did return to Hattiesburg to retrieve Rudy's car to find Nancy and her family in the dark, without a phone and having experienced the wrath of a Category 3 hurricane. Nancy got a feeling to move Rudy's car in the middle of the storm. Under much protest from her husband and daughter, and not knowing how to drive a stick, Nancy went out in the middle of the storm, moved Rudy's car and within an hour a huge tree fell right were it had been parked. You should have seen Rudy hug Nancy! It was a hug for the record books for sure.
Since the storm, there have been so many blessings, moments of synchronicity, and an outpouring of generosity from many people including total strangers, that my story could go on for ever. I am especially grateful to the coaching community for their outpouring of support in the form of cash, clothing, books, supplies, time and energy.

Since my entire family was affected, I really need the help. Every moment of every day has been a blessing. I am so blessed to have a business that is totally portable and that I work with people all over the country and even internationally. So many people I know lost everything including their jobs and businesses.
We have returned to our beloved Coast three times since the storm with another trip scheduled on November 4th. The conditions there are improving very slowly. My house has become headquarters for my entire family. There are no floors in some of the rooms, no sewer, water or air conditioning/heating and yet my Mother, is "living" there. She has lived in the region most of her life and cannot Imagine living out her years anywhere else.
My Mother and her 5 siblings are all without a home. My brother lost his home. My step-sister lost her home. My best friend lost her home. Two of my clients lost their homes. But worst of all, my Uncle's wife lost her mother who drowned in her home 5 miles from any body of water.

Currently, my children are in a small Catholic school here in Hoover, AL called the Prince of Peace. Jolie is dancing with the Birmingham Dance Theatre 4 days a week, since she missed the try outs for the competition team she is hoping to make the team next year. Ethan has found a Karate instructor that he really likes and is working towards his 2nd degree black belt. He is also part of the middle school band playing trumpet. Rudy is working at the Olive Garden as a waiter, doing what he has to do to help support us. He is working on re-establishing his Web Development and Hosting Business here since he lost all of his clients on the coast. Rudy and Ethan are Rock Climbing which is something they love to do and have not been able to in our Beach community. The kids are doing quite well considering all that they have lost. Since we don’t really know anyone but Kristy here in Birmingham, they are actively working on making new friends at school and in their activities. They cry sometimes, but that is to be expected. Mostly, like Rudy and I, they miss their friends, family and the water.
I am leading classes, coaching my clients and getting to know our new area. I am planning to get back to the gym next week; however, without my workout buddy and best friend Megan, it is really a challenge where it used to be one of the highlights of my day. Megan and her family are in Destin, FL staying at a friends condo. They are fine and we have vowed to visit each other at least once a month. 5 hours to drive to get a hug from her is a small price to pay. We also know that we will be together again in the future. However, we cannot predict where or when.
Please pray for our continued strength as we are being tested daily.
Katrina has provided us with quite and adventure.
Here are some links to pictures of my area both before and after the devastation.
Click on images on the top for some great photos of the area
I must warn you that while there is no human death depicted in these photos, they are very disturbing.