For Survivors & Those Who Want to Help

As the rain pounds down in Southeast Texas and South Louisiana, the entire country has been glued to the news. Watching, worried about friends and family and in awe at the devastation Hurricane Harvey has wreaked on these areas.

I have to make a conscious effort to do other things because I keep having flashbacks of our time after the tornado hit. The initial feelings of helplessness. Of wishing I didn’t have to be an adult and make decisions. Of exhaustion. Of shame. (yes I know this one sounds weird but when you are a normally self-sufficient girl that has to accept donated feminine products & underwear you tend to feel a bit ashamed regardless of the circumstances.)

So while our experiences are different, I have an understanding of what the people in these areas are going through. You’ve woken up this morning (if you slept at all) in a shelter or at a relative or friend’s house and it takes just a minute to figure out where you are. You almost wish it was longer than a minute, because as soon as you realize where you are those feelings rush back in. Of helplessness. Of wishing you didn’t have to be an adult and make decisions. Of exhaustion. Of shame.

I am not a professional counselor or psychologist, but I am someone who has been there and can relate. I’ve been thinking over the past few days about what was helpful during those first weeks after the tornado and wanted to get some thoughts out there for those of you who are in the thick of it, as well as for those of you desperate to help.

For the survivors:  First off Breathe. Take a few minutes to yourself. Hand the kids off to someone you trust, find a solitary spot (the pantry, a closet, a bathroom stall, or just around the corner of the building away from other people). It’s ok. You need some alone time. Take it. Don’t feel guilty about it (easier to say that do, I know). We underestimate the need for some breathing room until we are surrounded by well-meaning people and feel choked.

For the helpers:  Give the survivor some space to breathe. Bundle the kids off to another room and keep them occupied for a while. Give the survivor grace to just sit and stare out the window without having to answer “Are you ok?” Because, they will say yes, but the answer is really no. So don’t make them do that. That makes them feel more guilty and ashamed. 

For the survivors:  Let people help! After a tragedy happens, your friends and family and community and even strangers will offer help. They are watching from the sidelines as you go through this and they ache for you. They often don’t know what to do for you. It’s ok to tell them what you need, or what you don’t need. And if you aren’t sure what you need, tell them that too! People want to help you – let them bring a meal by so you don’t have to cook, or have them help haul debris away, or accept the bag of clothing they put together for your kids. This was incredibly hard for me – and has probably changed me the most in this process.

For the helpers:  The survivors are overwhelmed and often can’t articulate what they need because they just don’t know at this point. If the survivor is staying with friends or family, there is a now a strain on that person as host – if you are close and can drop-off items, things like snacks, drinks, toilet paper, paper plates/cups, can make a big difference when a household size doubles or triples for a while unexpectedly. If you aren’t nearby, contact the person hosting the survivor to determine needs – even something like picking up all the dirty clothes for the household, taking it to your place and bringing it back clean/folded is a huge help.

For the survivors: Grab a pen and paper. You’ll be making lots of lists over the next few days, weeks, and months of recovery. The first list to make is a list of phone calls to make. Home/Renters Insurance Company to make a claim, Car Insurance Company to make a claim. Think about your normal monthly bills and make a list of utility companies (electric, water, gas, phone, cable, internet, security company, etc.). Make sure you make note of the dates you lost services and date you call. We had companies continue to charge for services even though our home wasn’t there and had to get them to credit accounts. Ask if they can waive late fees and push due dates of current payments (many will do this if you ask). Call the mortgage company – they’ll need to know you filed a claim and will typically setup your account with a specialist who can work with your insurance company regarding claim payments. Note: regardless of whether your house is inhabitable or not, you have to keep making mortgage payments. Late payments or no payments might result in the mortgage company withholding payments to contractors so keep this in mind. Even banks, credit card companies, etc., will help you postpone payments for a month or two, do this if you can because worrying about what bills are due is not something you need right now.

For the helpers:  Take that pen and paper list and type it up. Look up phone numbers. Make the phone calls for the survivor in the cases where you can. These calls are often very very hard. The survivor has to explain the situation over and over again on each call which is often agonizing. I remember making phone calls in my sister’s laundry room (so I had privacy) and feeling emotionally and physically drained afterwards.

For the survivors:  Everyone wants to help. Everyone is asking. Answering everyone is overwhelming. Enlist a trusted friend to be your helper. Give them access to your personal email and/or social media accounts so they can answer emails for you, weed through to get to the important things and print electronic giftcards that people send. My friend Jen did this, organizing the emails and sending thank you responses. It was amazing how much weight this lifted off my shoulders.

For the helpers:  If you are helping from afar, wait several weeks before you help. I know that sounds weird and you want to help right now, but hear me out. Whether the survivor is in a shelter or staying with friends/family, they are in a transitional place. They don’t have room to store anything so can’t accept donations, and typically aren’t making purchases other than essentials. Once they either get back into their home or move to a temp residence, then they will be needing a lot. For us, giftcards we could use online were a life saver. Amazon specifically because they have almost everything you would need and you don’t have to go to a store. When you have little to no clothes and no makeup and are emotionally drained, the last thing you want to do is go to a store. Gift cards for home stores were awesome as well – Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc. Also, if the survivors have children, iTunes cards or credit at online app stores is helpful. The parents can download apps and movies for the kids to keep them occupied.

And finally, for the survivors:  Give yourself LOTS of grace. I’m still working on this one. I beat myself up a lot when I would get emotional about our situation. When I just couldn’t make another decision and shut down. When I didn’t want to drag myself out of bed because I was just drained. When I remembered yet another item that we lost and I had to open that darn insurance spreadsheet again. When I yelled at the kids even though I knew they were only acting up because their world was topsy turvy too. I felt like I should be stronger. Yet I look back and think about how I got though. If not by strength, then what? Whether you get through this crying or screaming or just in a haze, what matters is you are getting through. At the end of the day, you made it. One more day through this mess. Give yourself credit.

You Got This!

You’ve got it when you think it can’t be done.
You’ve got it when it feels like it’s just too hard.
You’ve got it when unexpected shit happens and you’re not sure what to do next.

And just a reminder…

You’ve got me and so many others there to help in any way we can.

We Got This!

 

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A Time to Renew

When we were displaced after the tornado, we moved into a sort of urban-ish apartment complex adjacent to a local outdoor mall. Our thought was that if we had to move into an apartment, we might as choose one that gives us easy walkable access to restaurants and distractions.

There was a small yoga studio in the mall that held classes in Restorative Yoga, which was described to me as ‘the art of rest’ – or learning to settle the mind and body to allow healing and awareness. I can’t begin to explain how beneficial it was to me during that time in my life when everything was so chaotic.

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It was really the first time I had ever explored yoga or  meditation and while I wouldn’t call myself a skeptic, I would say I was a bit jaded about these things that seemed like fads. But as I realized the benefits of that class and began to learn more I’ve come to realize that, for me, it represented a chance to begin to renew myself.

You see, I had fallen down into a bit of a funk ( <– understatement  )  after the tornado and losing my mom in such quick succession. But because of a convergence of multiple things, including learning the restorative yoga practice, meditating when I needed to and through the constant support of friends and Ohana, I was able to slowly begin to dust off and make like new again.

So here we are over a year and half later. I’ve been lucky enough to be honored as a Salesforce MVP twice now and am currently up for renewal. As I was providing feedback on all the MVPs up for renewal, including myself, I really began to think about that term:

renew

 

And as I looked at the definition and began to think about where and how it applies I realized that every single thing in my life is in (or in need of) a constant cycle of renewal.

My health. My relationships. My goals. My work. And more…

Without a conscious effort to renew, things will begin to stagnate, to fall behind, to fail. And without a plan it’s too easy to get into a cycle where the squeaky wheel gets the attention and you don’t have the time or energy to put into the things that aren’t (yet).

I am guilty of it. But knowing the problem at hand is half the battle, right?

I’m challenging myself to setup a monthly Personal Renewal Check-In. A time I’ve blocked on my calendar and set aside time to step away from the right now, look at the facets of my life and see what needs a spit-shine.

Because everything could use a little freshening up on a regular basis. And I always stand a little more tall when I feel like my house is in order!

Do you have areas where you need to renew? What are your tips/tricks for keeping your life fresh?

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Shared Passion Ignites

I haven’t always had the same views politically as I do now. I grew up in a small town (under 10K people) in Texas and can confirm that locale matters when it comes to public opinion and forming of political views.

However I had a set of parents that were outspoken and encouraged me to be the same. They had been places outside of that small town and experienced different things and knew there was so much more to our society and world as a whole. And they talked about what they saw on the news with my sister and I frequently. And their views evolved over time as well.

As I’ve gotten older, moved to a more metropolitan area, changed jobs and friends and economic status, my views have morphed and grown with me.

And as a proud member of the Salesforce Ohana, I have learned to embrace diversity, equality, and tolerance. I’ve learned that through the example that Salesforce as a company sets but more importantly through my social interactions with the broader Ohana community.

We come from all over the world. We come from different backgrounds. We are different in every way possible, but we are the same in that we realize it is those differences and our ability to communicate and interact despite those differences which makes us all better.

We listen to one another, debate issues, learn from one another, help one another and laugh together.

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It doesn’t matter if we are black, brown, white, male, female, trans, gay, speak English, Japanese, Indian, are a developer or an admin, are a college graduate or a HS dropout, are a parent, or single, live in a mansion or share a flat. None of those things matter. Our SHARED PASSION for the jobs that we do and the tools that we use to do those jobs is more than the sum of all of those differences I mentioned above.

That makes for an awesome community.

But not everyone has experienced a community, an Ohana, like this one. This is painfully obvious to me these days as I watch what is happening politically in my country. I worry about the huge divide I see on a daily basis. The inability for So. Many. People. to look past themselves and realize it is that same type of shared passion that will make our country great.

That it isn’t about my agenda, or your agenda. That it isn’t about what I’m comfortable with or what you are comfortable with. And it is most certainly not about a political party.

It is about working together because of our shared passion for this country. About listening to one another, debating issues, learning from one another, helping one another and laughing together.

This is what I believe our government was meant to be.

A great community (or Ohana if you will) of people with a shared passion for our country and the people in it.

ALL of the people in it. It doesn’t matter if we are black, brown, white, male, female, trans, gay, speak English, Japanese, Indian, are a developer or an admin, are a college graduate or a HS dropout, are a parent, or single, live in a mansion or share a flat. None of those things matter.

We are Ohana.

Share your passion.

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An open letter to Marc Benioff and Parker Harris.

Thank you.

Such a simple phrase. These two little words are completely inadequate to convey the emotions they are bursting with when uttered by a member of the Salesforce Ohana.

In 1999 you set out to build a company. A company to offer software as a service.

Now here we are in 2017 and your company is changing lives and the shaping the world around us.

My story is much like the ones we’ve heard before. Accidental Admin with no degree or tech training, but with a drive to learn. When I started a decade ago, the Community was still using training wheels but gaining ground. As a new Salesforce Administrator I wanted (needed) to learn all I could so I scoured the internet for help. Some of the standouts to me from the early days were names everyone knows like SteveMo, Cheryl Feldman and Brian “The Wizard” Kwong. They didn’t live anywhere near me but were always answering questions and helping others in the community by sharing knowledge.

At the time I never would have dreamed the impact this Ohana would have on the lives of me and my family.

I’ll fast-forward through a few years and pick it up in 2012. My first Dreamforce. The A-Ha moment for me where I was inspired to do and be more. I got to meet my Ohana idols mentioned above along with others and walked away from that event with a passion and a drive to give back like they had done for me.

I threw myself into both the Success Community and the community on Twitter and surrounded myself (virtually) with Ohana around the globe where we forged bonds like no other. Started a blog, co-hosted a Salesforce-themed podcast, spoke at Dreamforce, sang in a Salesforce Community band and was invited to join the ranks of the illustrious Salesforce MVPs.

Those things in themselves were life-changing.

But they don’t hold a candle to what happened next.

On December 26th, 2015 around dinnertime the tornado sirens blew in my little suburb of Dallas. As my family took shelter I posted a pic on twitter (because that’s what we do). Minutes later our house was struck by an F4 tornado.

In a flash, our lives changed. You hear about it happening but never really expect it to happen to you.

When you think about moments of tragedy, there are people you know will be there for you. You’ll have family, friends, co-workers and neighbors come together to help.

What I didn’t expect, but was blown away by, was the power and strength of this Ohana that you built.

Within a few hours of the destruction of our home, a community came together. A community that spans oceans and borders. People I’d never met in real life. People who speak different languages. While we were still standing in front of our ruined home in the rain trying to figure out what to do next, the Ohana were putting out a call to action to help us.

It is this Ohana that kept me from falling. Who lifted me (and my family) up through their prayers, calls, cards, donations and by just being there. Checking in on me. Being there for me.

You set out to build a company to deliver software as a service. Which you have done. And done well.

Ohana

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But the best thing you built, the thing that moves mountains, is the Salesforce Ohana.

This Ohana that you built is not just a group of software administrators or developers. It is a culture of people who hold out their arms to lift up others. You’ve embedded this culture into the very foundation of your company along with everything and everyone connected to it. You’ve lined that foundation with gems by  hiring like-minded people who embody and exude the culture, people like Erica Kuhl, Chris Duarte, Holly Firestone, Adam Seligman, Charlie Isaacs, and too many others to list here.

I will never be able to adequately say thank you for what you’ve built.

I know I am just one of many stories. Stories that describe lives changed because of your vision and guidance.

And on behalf of myself and all of those yet untold stories, Thank you.

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Valentine’s Day

When I was about 2 months old, my parents opened up their own Flower Shop. They had purchased a plot of land with two houses on it, converted one to the flower shop and we lived in the other.

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All of my memories growing up revolve around the shop – from just hanging out there, to using the work tables to make school projects, to helping out on holidays and weekends and more.

For our family, Valentine’s Day was a huge undertaking. Definitely not a holiday for us, but instead, several weeks of planning and prepping and hard work.

I remember lots of late nights prepping buckets for flower deliveries, unpacking/displaying stuffed animals, wiring roses, writing cards, making bows – oh the endless bow-making!

Dad would create some nifty holders for the car – for bud vases and arrangements to ride safely during deliveries. We had city maps on the wall and at the ready and would carefully plot each delivery run to ensure everything got where it needed to be.

Family members and friends and boyfriends and eventually husbands would be drafted to help out – answering the never-ending phone calls, taking orders, driving the delivery truck, and running the deliveries to the door.

And at the end of the day we would all collapse, exhausted. With torn-up hands from the water and rose thorns. With the endless sound of phantom phones ringing in our ears. With just enough energy to order a pizza for dinner.

It was always a day where we got to be a part of spreading joy.

I’ll forever be grateful for growing up as part of a family and business that was there for our community. For their beginnings, for their endings, for their joys and for their sorrows.

I will always miss the frantic pace, smell of floral foam, roses and carnations, the cramped hands and tired feet at the end of a productive holiday. But especially the smile when someone would open the door and realize that delivery is for them.

Priceless!

<Support your local family-owned businesses>

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