Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tick, Tock...

When there’s a hurricane coming to town, there is generally a fair amount of warning.

You always see that drenched and disheveled guy on CNN who has inexplicably agreed to stand in khaki pants and a North Face jacket, reporting from the Florida coast while the trees blow completely sideways and local cats fly by in the background.

As the hurricane draws nearer to the doomed seaside town and all the reasonable folk have evacuated as instructed, it’s time for the next step in media coverage. This is when they talk to the guy who refuses to leave his Star Wars action figure collection behind, and has instead chosen to ride out the storm with three bags of Doritos, some frozen waffles and Guitar Hero III.

The inevitable third step in media coverage is to cut back to this same guy three days later. He is now on the roof wearing only pants. He has spelled out “Helf” in toilet paper and is waving frantically to the FEMA helicopter to please slow down and throw him a rope.

I, like many of you, think this guy is a fool. He has been warned that a hurricane is coming, but he did not respond the way a reasonable person would.

Yet when it comes to earthquakes, I have chosen the same path as the shirtless action figure collector. I have been told a hundred times that the big one is coming, yet I have ignored the warnings and failed to make a plan. At least until today.

Today Los Angeles experienced a magnitude 5.4 earthquake. I was on the 11th floor of an office building that is built on rollers, so it was a long and scary, but safe ride. When it was over, I tried to call the Esposo to make sure he and Peapod were ok, but the circuits were 100% jammed. It took half an hour and several dozen attempts just to get through. Today’s quake turned out to be uneventful, but for me it was a huge wakeup call: the big one is coming and I have left my Esposo and 22-month-old daughter unprepared.

We have minimal supplies. We have no stored water. We have no agreed upon place to meet. Imagine trying to find each other if all the phones were out, Internet was out, roads were blocked and chaos reigned. What would we do?

About three months ago I received a packet of information from California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver, asking me to spread the word to other Moms about emergency preparedness. I’m finally getting off my duff and doing so tonight.

So please, set aside some time this week to go to this website and make a plan:

www.californiavolunteers.com

Click on the link that says “Get Ready! Create your family disaster plan today.” It should take you about 30 minutes and is actually a very well made tool. Once you enter all the information into the online form, it automatically generates the following:

o A Printout of your family’s customized disaster plan
o Multiple wallet-sized emergency cards for every member of your family
o An auto-generated letter to your children’s caregiver
o An auto-generated letter to your emergency contacts
o A personalized children’s book for kids that teaches emergency preparedness in a non-threatening way

You and I know there’s nothing as important as keeping your family in one piece, and this becomes paramount during a disaster. What you might not know is that since 1950, 255 states of emergency have been proclaimed in California. And since 1989, there have been 27 declared major disasters.

Twenty-seven.

This tool really makes it simple to get your family organized. And it affords you no excuse for leaving your children stranded on the roof, trying to spell out messages in toilet paper.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Big 4-0

When I was a sophomore in college, my roommate and I stole a 4-foot-tall cardboard standee in the shape of an animated dust ball. It was an ad in the student union bookstore for some brand of vacuum cleaner, but we thought it would look much better in our dorm room, and it did.

I remember the night we stole that thing like it was last night. After my roommate and I worked the standee into our elegant dorm d├ęcor, I slipped out to catch up on a little assigned reading. There was a window seat opposite the dorm library where I liked to camp out, and as I got settled in, I had one of those reflective moments. You know, the ones where you freeze-frame your life for a second and make a concerted effort to take in everything and store it in your memory because some wise part of you knew that you’d want that little piece of your life to look back on someday. As I breathed it in -- the heavy, varnished mahogany walls, the whispers and muffled laughter from the library, the mixed scent of leftover pizza and old library books, -- I felt a little pang of fear go through me; fear that my life was zooming by and I had no control over how fast it was going. Fear that I was already a sophomore in college – college! – and that soon I would graduate and leave the football games, the 400 seat lecture halls, the line at the bookstore, my roommate, and our 4-foot-animated dust ball behind forever. I was afraid of getting old. Which I defined by being 22.

On July 7th, 2008, I turned 40.

I never thought it would happen. Not like I thought I’d die before I got here, but I just never considered that I’d actually be 40. Years. Old.

The Esposo threw me the most lavish, fabulous, thoughtful, generous and totally fun 5-day, multi-event birthday weekend anyone this side of Paris Hilton could ever hope for. So the transition was actually a blast. But it was sad too. After the festivities died down and my visiting friends and family flew back home, I was left to drive to work and contemplate just how far away I have traveled from that evening in the dorm.

But as I glanced in the rear view mirror to change lanes, I caught a glimpse of Peapod’s car seat, which was littered with cracker crumbs and a deflated yellow balloon. And I felt much, much better.