Reflection

2020 has been a crazy year. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down much, either.

The pandemic has given me time to reflect about what’s important, and what I believe.

This morning, I was thinking about how I was raised with certain core values. Others I have come to over time, but here’s a list of what’s important to me.

  • When someone is working on something, offer to help.
  • Do the best that you can- don’t take short cuts.
  • That said, don’t make the job any harder for yourself or others than it has to be.
  • There is honor in hard work. People who labor and sweat for a living deserve our respect, and their hard physical labor makes much of our life possible.
  • Do your part. Contribute. Make a difference.
  • Do work you believe in.
  • Personal integrity is important. Don’t forget that. Remember to draw the line when people are asking you to do something that puts this at risk.
  • Be kind and generous with others. Trust people to keep their word.
  • This may mean you are taken advantage of by others from time to time. Regardless, you will always know you were doing the right thing, even if they weren’t, and you’ll be able to sleep better as a result.
  • Forgiveness is important. Try not to hold a grudge.
  • Most people are doing their best every day. Sometimes their best isn’t good enough. That disappoints everyone, but mostly those who are trying but face uphill battles that we may not appreciate.
  • We all need to experiment and try new things. Not everything will be successful. But over time, if you’re observant, you get much better at designing new things and have many more successes than failures by not repeating the same mistakes over and over. Learn and Iterate.
  • When someone is nasty, they are often acting out of pain or fear. It may be a reflection of what is going on with them, not you. Try to be kind to them, even when it’s hard.
  • Turning the other cheek doesn’t require you to stay there and take it repeatedly. Get out of the way. You learned the lesson- don’t be a masochist.
  • Stand up for yourself. You teach people how to treat you by what you put up with. Draw lines when needed.
  • Remember that the words you say can leave a mark, so be careful with them, especially when dishing out frustration and anger with your kids.
  • Remember to say you are sorry. Not “sorry, but..” with a rationalization, but a heartfelt sorry and apologize when you are in the wrong or have hurt someone.
  • Tell people what you need, and even what your failings or shortcomings are. We aren’t perfect, but if you tell people where your challenges are, they are almost always understanding and can work with you and help you where you struggle. Covering up or hiding the bad stuff doesn’t make it go away. It just makes it a nasty surprise later on, when everyone figures it out, anyway.
  • Know when to talk, and when to be silent. This isn’t easy, especially when you like to think aloud.
  • Sometimes you can’t tell people everything you want to. You have to learn how to keep a confidence without keeping secrets.
  • Find people you can trust. Keep the ones you can trust completely close and cherish them. That said, don’t give people the keys to the kingdom on first meeting- trust is something you earn over time. Dole it out in doses.
  • Love people in your life unconditionally. Be there when they need you,
  • It’s ok to help even when someone doesn’t know (yet) they need it. Sometimes they don’t want to ask, because they are worried they will look weak or will feel like a burden. Spend time with them and the simple things often help the most.
  • Trust your gut- and remember, when people show you who they are, believe it the first time. But don’t let the bad apples change you completely, even if their actions leave a mark. They made those choices, not you.
  • We get to choose how to respond to events in our lives. Make good choices as often as possible.
  • Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Try not to wallow. You may never forget the pain, but let it be instructive rather than destructive.
  • Look for the unexpected gifts life brings you. Even in the pandemic, I’ve learned to appreciate my kids for the adults they are becoming, and cherish the time together, even if it wasn’t what any of us chose or how we thought we would be spending this time in our lives. There is a gift even in this time of confusion and sorrow.
  • Most of all, do what you believe in. Put your money where your mouth is. Volunteer. Get involved. Work hard.
  • Show people you are determined and aren’t going to wait around and hope someone else solves the problem. If not you, who? As my friend Jennifer Iannolo says- No one is coming. You have to rely on yourself- but don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance when you need it.

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Notes from the Trenches

I was talking to a health care worker the other day, and they mentioned that they have several types of machines to do COVID tests in the hospital. The one machine they started with has been running pretty much 24 x 7 since March. It recently broke, and the hospital won’t get a replacement until September- maybe longer. The replacement machine they were supposed to get this month, to replace the broken one, is instead being deployed elsewhere where the need is more acute.

One thing we haven’t discussed enough is how long things like testing machines run before they break down? How long can the people in charge of testing go, before they need a break or need to be replaced?

The failure of putting the defense production act into effect early means there will still be supply chain problems of testing supplies, especially as other hot spots pop up. And thinking ahead, if the Fall brings another surge, will the testing equipment and supplies be in place at that time to meet the surge, or will it come down to choosing what location has the most acute need?

In the case of rationing, we know that will likely mean people will be undiagnosed, cases untraced, and more people will be infected. We’re starting to see PPE for medical professionals run low again-because when everyone gets sick at once, they can’t maintain supplies of both human and PPE capital required.

There are also worries about what will happen with the Fall flu season. In some ways, I am hoping that if we keep up good masking and social distancing habits, the flu season should be milder than ever before- people will be keeping their low-level infections to themselves, keep up better sanitation and hand-washing practices, and all of this can help prevent the flu as well as COVID 19.

But as we see cases spoking in communities like The Villages in Florida, it’s clear that our government’s failure of planning and ability to manage the worst will leave us in a precarious position- along with the rest of the world, might I add- for the forseeable future.

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Joy and Loss

There’s a lot going on for everyone right now. We’re all struggling with new rules and parameters on things we can or should do, and things we can’t. Some people seem to look for endless loopholes to justify their personal decisions, and others just shrug and understand that a little sacrifice now helps everyone in the long term.

When Corona and a pending shut down became evident, I started sewing face masks. I wasn’t sure if my husband and his colleagues would need them, or just our friends and neighbors, but I got to work.

I had been a quilter for a while when the kids were small, and have quite a decent sewing machine. I also have a stash of fabrics I bought with dreams of various quilts to be made- some with fabrics where I just loved the colors, and others with themes from the beach or outer space- many of these did not come to be, but the wonderful and gorgeous fabrics stayed safely tucked away in my basement.

When I went down looking for fabrics to use for face masks, I discovered all these old gems- and how much I still loved them all. There’s fabric leftover from the Harry Potter quilt I did make James, and dolphins with sunglasses I got with my niece and nephew in mind. There’s Liberty of London William Morris prints, nautical prints, and lovely blues and greens that make me happy when I see them. Even after all this time, I still love all of these fabrics, but it’s now time to put them into production- not for an art project, or a quilt to keep a baby or family member warm- but to potentially save a lot of people in my community from getting sick with what could be a deadly illness.

So far, I’ve made and donated over 200 masks, and I’m still dewing. 100 went to a local retirement community, 50 to another one, a dozen to the local hospice. Some have gone to friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and others to people in the community who need them most.

My husband recognized early on that this gave me something constructive to do, and a way to try to protect everyone I know and love. I know these masks aren’t really magic, but hopefully the people they get them and wear them will know they were made with love.

Part of me is sad to give up all this beautiful fabric, collected so long ago, but the other part of me is so happy that its magic will be spread out and help even more people than I ever could have imagined buying a fat quarter here and there or a yard or half yard of this or that.

My younger self has provided for my current self in ways I could not have imagined at the time- and what may have looked like a little light hoarding now is more useful that I ever could have imagined. I’ve even donated a couple of bags of fabric and extra elastic I ordered early on to other sewers, so we can multiply the ability to produce masks for everyone who needs one.

So I spend part of my day, usually early in the morning, a bit at lunch and then after work cutting and sewing these memories to be distributed around to help as many people as possible. My son has started to help string the elastic and iron the fabric to help things go faster, so we’re getting to do this together, which is incredible. When people offer to pay, I could not even think of what to charge, so I ask them to pay it forward- help the local food bank or help someone else in turn.

After all, my younger self gave me this gift, and now it’s time to pay it forward.

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Moving Business Online Checklist

This morning I got up and decided to do a little self- care and order some scones and a latte from a local shop that is doing curbside pickup during coronavirus. Their website was down, so I called the shop and let them know and made my order over the phone. They also had to call back to verify my credit card number- making the whole transaction very time consuming.

As someone who helps businesses with the their online presence and marketing, it occurred to me that many places- especially restaurants- have websites that basically functioned as billboards and places where you could see the menu online. But now, if you don’t have a reliable website shopping cart infrastructure, you could be losing business you may not be able to afford to lose. Those online shopping carts can be pricey on a monthly basis- so there’s tradeoffs, but so is tying up your one landline with orders as well.

I thought I’d put together a quick list of things to help small businesses navigate the move to being an online business, whether they wanted to be one or not.

  1. Check your website every morning. For most businesses, they rarely go to their own website- it’s kind of like a set it and forget it kind of thing. But these days, if your website isn’t working, you are out of business. You can’t just depend on foot traffic, so make sure your website is up, your hosting is paid, and everything is working.
  2. Make sure you website is mobile responsive/mobile friendly. This is age old advice, but there are still some people who don’t have a website that works well on a mobile phone or tablet. You need people to be able to order from wherever they are, especially in the days of curbside pickup. If your website isn’t super functional on your phone, get this fixed.
  3. Decide if you need online ordering, and if so, make sure you have the processes in place to deliver on this service. For example, a local pizza place may depend on people calling in orders, but if people start putting orders in n the website, is the kitchen prepared to take two streams of incoming orders? What gets prioritized? Work this out in advance of turning on online ordering.
  4. Collect Emails! And Data! A friend always says “You live and die by your database.” This has never more true than now. You need to be able to communicate with people about changes in hours, menus, whatever. Then send out email updates when it’s necessary- not every day- and if possible, segment your list based on interest. If you can send out special emails to the Pizza lovers on your list or the Scone aficionados highlighting what they love, they will feel more engaged and more likely to make a purchase.
  5. The Database you build today will pay off tomorrow. For people that already have collected emails from customers, now’s a great time to think of creative ways to keep your community engaged. On the scone run this morning, I ran into someone who owns a local beer garden. I know they have a great database of emails, so I plan on giving them some ideas on how they can keep their audience engaged even while they are on a corona hiatus. Even just having a space on your current website that says “Subscribe to our newsletter for updates” will let you get in contact with people as things (hopefully) return to normal.
  6. Clean up your database. In this time of quiet, this is a great time to look over your current data- think about getting rid of people who never open up emails, or, conversely, send out something to those folks with a compelling subject line to see if they still want to hear from you. If yes, it’s a win! If no, you can get rid of them from your list and likely save yourself some money at the same time with your email system of choice.

These are my quick thoughts this am- please share any you might have to add in the comments. Good luck out there and stay healthy!

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Declaring an emergency

What’s it like being someone in charge- at any level- having to make decisions about the health and welfare of our entire community?

This week I found out.

Last week, I started talking with a client of mine about the steps we needed to take to make sure all the residents at a local senior community were safe. They asked for my help for talking through what we needed to do about upcoming primary elections, where these communities serve as a polling place for residents and people in the surrounding area.

I made calls to our County Commissioners to bring the issue up and our concerns. We set up a meeting with voter services. And we brain-stormed decisions that would allow the greatest access to everyone but also keep non-residents off of the campus, to keep everyone there well.

A day later, we were talking about steps for social distancing in the Township office, procedures for our emergency responders, and how to communicate this all out to everyone in the community. Cancelling all meetings and non-essential services on Wednesday seemed like it might be over-reacting, but when they closed Broadway and Disney on Thursday, I knew we had made the right decision and did it in a timely fashion.

We shared what we were doing with neighboring municipalities, and have offered to help them if we can. Small things matter now, like helping to get the word out when things change, or new restrictions are in place.

Our County commissioners declared a disaster yesterday, Friday the 13th, as the Governor closed schools, and we followed suit, declaring a state of emergency in the Township. This basically paves the way for inter-governmental cooperation and doing what we need to do to make sure everyone is cared for appropriately. We’re not entirely sure what that’s going to mean. I think we all know we’re in uncharted territory here.

Without a clear plan and rules coming down from higher up in the Federal Government, we’re taking actions on the local and County level to make the best decisions possible to keep the most number of people healthy as we start to see community spread of the virus. Things will continue to change and we’re doing our best to keep everyone updated as we learn more.

Preparedness

Preparedness means being ready for whatever comes. You can do this with advanced planning, because even if you have to riff in unexpected circumstances, at least you have a baseline plan as a point of reference. We have that, and that’s good news.

How is it- emotionally?

We had a crisis that started almost a year ago, when we found one of the township employees was stealing money. That led to many changes in our township that actually have us in much better shape to withstand a storm- including very strong leadership. I feel like we’re in great shape with all the hard decisions we’ve made in the past 10 months, and that has me feeling very relieved.

I’m glad I’m here to really help my community when it needs it most. We need to all work together. Knowing that when I call the county commissioners- and tell them what we’re worried about or what we need- and they called me right back and listened. We talked through the issue and they are working on solutions. As long as we all stay in sync, things will go well.

But I want to DO Something….

The most frustrating thing sometimes in a case like this, there’s not much you can do- it’s not like a snow storm where you can help shovel people out, or I can make sure the road crew is fed when they’re working overtime to keep roads clear and safe. In fact, what we’re all supposed to do is basically hunker down like there is a snow storm, stay put, and avoid each other like the plague. (A turn of phrase with new meaning now, of course.) At least in a snowstorm, I could make cookies and hot chocolate for the neighbor kids sledding in our backyard. Now it’s making hand sanitizer and staying put.

Please do your part during this unprecedented situation. Stay at home as much as possible. Keep your kids at home. Do what you can to help others- if you have to drop something off, drop it on the porch.

There will be plenty of people who think this is silly and overblown. But we all need to pull together to make this work. If we don’t want a mandated shut down that will last longer, we need to do what we can now- and that means listening to guidelines and following them. It also means being kind and helpful to our neighbors, and we’ll get through this.

I’ll keep you all informed on social media of the latest news and updates as we get them. And most of all- stay safe and healthy.

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