Category Archives: LIFESTYLE

HR, LIFESTYLE

NYC 15 Years Later: The Memorial and Never Forgetting

memorial


“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” –John Steinbeck

15 Years Later, New York City: the Memorial and Never Ever Forgetting                

How do you start a story about something that you don’t really want to talk about but have to? How Do you tell a story about the lives of people that you were just getting to know who were taken from you through an act of senseless terror, only days after your birthday on a warm summer morning? I don’t know, I know. Maybe this is not a story that will be written well, a page turner if you will, but, it’s not a story; It’s real. Many of us in the little aquarium we call life find ourselves smacking our heads against the glass, wondering why we are trapped and how we can get out. Thanks, Pink Floyd. So, if you want to go on this emotional roller-coaster with me, then here is your ticket, if not, frankly I do not blame you. Honestly, I hate that I pulled that number myself, but at times life is, as I often say, a dark ride. I did not choose it, but you did, so, come on in, it’s a long read, but I hope it’s worth it, and you will understand why I wrote it.

So the Ride Begins: The Preface

My first trip to NYC was when I was ten years old and there were three things I wanted to see: the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the Trade Center Towers. When you are ten years old, it’s the big things, not the little things that matter to you and this was how old I was when I got to see, firsthand, those sites. To me, the Twin Towers were the greatest thing I had ever seen. I had gone there many times after that first trip. Over the years, I always marveled at the height of the towers and how the steel and glass glistened in the daylight. At night, it would glow like two behemoth beacons beckoning for you to come inside and see the city from its perspective. There was an observation deck on the top floor of one of the towers – I forget which one now, but due to its height and wind shear, you were not allowed to be outside like you could at the Empire State Building. Good for me I suppose, as heights are my Achilles heel. I get vertigo being above ten floors is often, if not always, overwhelming – especially if I am outdoors. I suppose this is what ended my mountain climbing career.

Then it happened, the attacks on the Towers, the Pentagon, and the brave souls in Pennsylvania. When I do speak of that day, and I rarely do, I always cry because, not only the tragic loss of life, but also, the loss of the world’s, and my, innocence. On that fateful day, seven of my friend’s lives were snatched from them in Tower One as it collapsed in on itself – much to the horror of those who watched, powerless and stunned, as it fell. I sat helplessly in Phoenix, thousands of miles away, as I observed the South Tower fall on the television screen. There was nothing I could have done and the hopelessness which gripped me has never been stronger than that day.

The Return – Part One

memorial

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” –Vicki Harrison

Roughly a year later, I was offered a trip to NYC to see the Arizona Diamondbacks play against the New York Yankees in a baseball rematch of the 2011 World Series. I am a diehard baseball fan and jumped at the chance for a free trip and a four-game series inside one the oldest and most historic parks in the US. We planned our entire trip to the big city from what Broadway show to see, museums to wander, and of course, what diners we would be eating delectables in the city. None of us spoke about the towers, not once. The group I was going with knew about my loss, and I suppose did not want to upset me by bringing up what happened that day. I was the only one in my group who had lost someone, let alone seven people – so how to be empathetic was lost on them? They are not bad people, mind you, they just had no idea how to broach the subject and I know I would have been the same way, it’s not something anyone thinks about, until you do.

We were going to spend six days in the city and had everything planned out, except the last day, the last day was a free day for everyone to do what they wanted, on their own time – at their pace. There was the talk of a trip to MOMA or Coney Island. There is much to do in the city that never sleeps. The trip was a great one, and I was pleased that everything went off without any issues and was looking forward to our bonus day, although I had no idea what I wanted to do, well, there was something.

King KongThe whole time we were in the city, I longed to go to Ground Zero, the place that even the great King Kong of the 1976 movie fame could not topple – the massive towers and, yet, they were gone.

Morning arrived on my last full day in NYC and as I rose to wash my face, still having no idea what I was going do with the day. I got dressed and while putting on my shoes, there was a knock at the door. I assumed it was just the house cleaning crew as I may have forgotten to put the do not disturb sign on the handle the night before. I was thoroughly taken aback when I opened the door, and my friends, all of them, were standing there. Bob, the elder of the group and the unofficial leader, said, “After you had left last night we all took a vote, it was unanimous, we are taking you to Ground Zero.” I felt my heart swell with pride and love that I had for a group of people who were willing to give up their free day for me to go and pay my respects at the site without having to be alone. Bob was a native New Yorker but had not been living there for over 30 years. He knew the city was hurting, I was hurting, and he recognized this was the right thing to do, or so we all thought.

When we got downtown, my anxiousness and fears set in as there were no behemoth towers, as we drove up, where they were supposed to be. There is an old joke; you know that light at the end of the tunnel? That is the train coming. Here I was stuffed into a cab on a hot summer day with the smells of the city and Aqua Velva emanating from the driver, as the reality of what had happened in NYC on September 11, 2001 hit me with full force.

This actually happened. I am going to have to own this pain now as this is not a dream, they were gone, and nothing would change that, nothing.

NYCWe arrived a few blocks from the site, and I scooped up my disposable camera I had bought to take pictures to hang in my office and, with a deep breath, began to walk toward the debris that even after a year was still was being cleared away. In the distance, I could see the makeshift memorial, the pictures, the flowers, the hope that, for some unexplainable reason, a loved one or friend would rise from the ashes and hug them again. I was only one block away but… I never made it.

kiss a strangerInstead, I dropped to my knees, unable to support the weight of the pain of my loss. There were now, not just seven people in my mind, but thousands and the burden of seeing those fliers on buildings, fences, and trees were too much, I was having a panic attack and didn’t know it. Bob was the first one to reach me, as he was literally by my side, but he was unable to lift a guy my size. The others quickly came to me and helped me up and asked the standard question, are you ok? I was not, even my dry wit had abandoned me, and I quietly murmured, I want to go back to the hotel.

So, we did. I made my way to the hotel bar and asked for a drink, a stiff drink. I know if there had been a pool of whiskey or vodka somewhere, I would have been swimming in it and drinking my way to the bottom. It was depression to the highest order, this was anger, and it was unresolved sorrow. I drank until I passed out and not one of my friends left my side. They put me to bed, helped with the hangover the next day, and never said a word.

The Return – Part Two

memorial“While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till it is digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it.” –Samuel Johnson

I am writing this the day after my trip to NYC (New York City) to speak about a point in my life that I had been putting off for over 14 years. I had been to the city a few times after 9/11, but I could never bring myself to go to where the towers once stood proudly in the financial district of the city, near the banks of the Hudson River. After 13 years from that first trip back, I had yet to return to that part of New York again. I had been up once or twice, but I never went downtown to the district. It was where “it” had happened, where the towers were taken down, and the fact that I am, in fact, utterly human and completely fallible. The debris was gone, a new single enormous tower was constructed next to the site of the original Twins, and the city had moved on. I received a message from my friend Rayanne Thorn that she was coming to NYC to meet with friends and do some business and was hoping that I could come up for a family style dinner on a Thursday evening. I had finished a project and was waiting to start a new full-time role a few weeks away, and I thought why not, so I said yes knowing full well that although I did want to see her and others, I had an alternative motive this time to return.

I called my good friend Steve Levy and asked if he was around to pal around with me on Thursday before the dinner and I had a favor to ask of him. I wanted to go and see the tower and the memorial for 9/11. Steve had lost a friend, no, a brother who was one of the firefighters that died risking his life to save others. He carries his picture in his wallet with him, as I was later to find out. Me, I only had names and memories. He, of course, said, “Absolutely man, absolutely.”

I arrived on Wednesday had dinner with a friend, Mike Astringer, a fellow recruiter. A drink later with Levy and then it was Thursday morning. I awoke with palpitations and angst, the same I had felt those many years ago. We had breakfast and took the subway to downtown to see the memorial, the tower, and my past. I don’t know if he did it on purpose, not knowing my previous encounter with this site, or he did it for effect, but we got off a few blocks away from the Tower and began to walk.

We joked like we always did when we were together and the jocularity kept things light as the magnificence of the Freedom Tower loomed closer and larger, as did the angst rising within me. When we got to the tower, the landscape was entirely different, I recognized nothing, it was all different, but in the right way. The sun was shining and although it was cool outside the mood, was nothing like that. There was hope in the air. There was no more crying, no more leaflets or trash, and there was actually laughter in the air. Children were staring in awe at the foot of the Freedom Tower, not knowing the history, just taking in the magnificence.

We made our way to the Memorial and walked up to where the South Tower once stood and those feelings came back to me: pain, fear, despair, and loss. I was older now, and there was a distance created by time, yet it felt like 2002 all over again, and there was a tightness in my chest. We pressed on and arrived at the Freedom Tower. I was amazed; here I stood at the tallest building in the northern hemisphere, and I looked at it as if I were meeting one of my favorite authors, star struck. I am telling you; this was a bucket list moment.

The Memorial, the Hug, and Releasing Everything

memorialWhere I live, if someone gives you a hug it’s from the heart. – Steve Irwin

It was time to go to the Memorial and say goodbye the proper way, while paying my respects to not only the seven but to all who lost their lives that senselessly day. When I arrived at where the South Tower once stood, I was silent. I wanted to look for the names of my friends, I wanted to scream, I wanted answers, I just wanted something, what I wanted was peace, I wanted them back. I was holding it all back just breathing heavy and staring at the names and the splendor of the water flowing down the falls, the endless repetition of the water, there was so much beauty in front of me yet I only felt heartbreak. Steve and I made our way to the North Tower, the last tower to fall, and the one that, when it did, took his friend. He told me the stories of being lifeguards together when they were together and showed me the picture he still carries in his wallet of his friend. Soon we separated, to reflect alone, and that, my friends, is where it all sort of fell apart. I was just standing, staring at people, thinking, remembering that night we all met, what a night it was. We were all recruiters sharing stories about life, about ourselves, safe, now gone.

,A couple around my age were taking pictures and trying, as our generation does, to take a selfie of themselves in front of the inverted fountain before us. I stared at them wondering why this was some Kodak moment for them, but trying to feel no emotion and not completely break down, I went to move on only to have the wife jump in front of me and ask if I would take a picture of them. I replied, if you agree not to smile, this is, in a way, a graveyard and should always be respected. I have never seen eyes like hers stare at me and say, “You are of course right, we just want to document that we were here, our first time in NYC and all.” I realized my arrogance and said, just kidding in a genuine way to make them feel better as I was wrestling with my demons of 15 years and trying to stay calm. I took a few shots of them and, oddly, they did not smile, they knew, maybe, that this was not a celebratory place, but a memorial.

Once picture time was over, I smiled and was ready to slide back into keeping inside, pushing down my feelings and fighting back the tears trying come out. The woman said, “Thank you so much, are you from here?” No, I said, I lost seven friends here 15 years ago and at that moment the world stopped turning, there was no sound at all, just quiet within my mind. Pompeii then rose, and there was no holding anything back. I began to shake then cry, and the tears flowed. With no lack of hesitation, the woman standing by my side, the woman whose name I did not know, took me in her arms like a mother comforting a wounded child. She whispered, “It’s going to be all right,” her husband put his hand on my shoulder and said a short prayer then waited until I could finally, let go. It was nothing less than cathartic and cleansing; the demons were found and  released, and I could breathe again. I nodded my head and wandered till I found Steve, it was time to go somewhere, anywhere else other than here.

The Dinner and New Beginnings

Steve and I wandered the city after that, continuing our inner reflective journey. He often spoke of his world before and after, I was, oddly quiet as I am usually more verbose. Later, we had a drink with a mutual friend then off to a dinner planned by the irrepressible Rayanne Thorn. I don’t care much for large gatherings and usually shy from them but on the same note, it’s often hard for us to all meet up somewhere without the pressure of talking at a conference. Other than Steve and Rayanne, I knew no one at the event planned yet, from the moment I walked in I felt as if I was in a room of siblings and family I never knew existed.

7 new friendsWe laughed, smiled, and told our stories of how we all knew and met Rayanne; oddly it was mostly in a bar…another story I suppose. 😉 All the while, the day that was now behind me still lingered in mind, one last little demon still tapping on my brain. I was present but felt that to sum up the last 15 years needed to be brought out, I am a storyteller, you know. So, I told them at the dinner table after our meal the story you read here and the love that I felt, hugs that I received, and the stories that we shared made it one of the maven nights in this guy’s life. I must say that I thank all of you who were at that table for taking a moment to pay tribute to those who died that infamous day. Although I will never forget the seven people that I lost, I am grateful for the seven new friends I made that night, honored, humbled, and appreciative.

#truestory and, well #life

 

 

LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH

Roy Craft: An integrated life, embracing change, and train for spontaneity

Joined on the show by Roy Craft, President of GroupSpace LLC.

Roy has had a long and varied career from technical and retail fields to international corporate business to non-profit and higher education. He has simultaneously had strong avocational interests in positive peace, sustainability, education and making.

Four key takaways from our conversation with Roy Craft:

1. The importance of developing an integrated life as opposed to a balanced life, and how the Millennial generation is showing us the way to do this;

2. The extent to which we have divisions and segmentation in our society which we accept as normal today, but which in an historical context have not been so….such as the idea that we need to educate differently for the sciences and the arts;

3. We need to embrace change and dynamism. Diversity is not enough, but it is a start; disruption is not the goal but it’s a beginning.

4. We can train ourselves in spontaneity and bring this into our lives to create something new, something happy, something wonderful and fulfilling of our lives.

This interview was originally published on A New Business Mindset.

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HR, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH

“It’s” a Shame, Not Me.

I wrote and I published.

I recently published a post about an incident in Dallas while I was traveling for work. I was drugged at a trusted restaurant by a bartender / night manager, who followed me into the bathroom and subsequently tried to pull me in the men’s room. This happened in the middle of April, and it has traumatized me far more than I like to admit. I have kept up a good front and tried to smile through it all.

I originally wrote the referenced post a few days after the drugging occurred, but I was unable to actually hit the publish button until 4+ weeks later. I still suffer from nausea, dizziness, insomnia, digestive issues, and headaches. What I don’t know is if these are the ill-effects of the drug or is it how I have reacted mentally to what happened. I will survive, trust me and I will scream what happened to me from the rooftops. I will post, comment, tweet, snap, pin, insta, and link it to as many different sites, to as many different people, as possible.

Why the Follow-Up?

I write this follow-up because I have been overwhelmed by the hundreds of people who have messaged me in public and private about their own terror and their own brush with this type of drugging. Innocent women AND men who felt the shame I felt, who still carry those scars with them, who were violated in one way or another, who were raped or robbed, abused and broken.

In conversations, written and spoken with friends and others in my own town of Laguna Beach, I have heard from or about dozens of individuals who experienced this here, in their own town – they weren’t traveling and they were at popular, local restaurants or bars. Most had been raped.

I know I was lucky

I know this – I know that my situation could have been far worse. There have been times when I wish it had been, so medical professionals and law enforcement officers, and even some friends and family, had taken me more seriously. That is sad – that is horrifying. I KNOW it could have been worse, but saying to me, “At least you weren’t raped” doesn’t ease my suffering or take away my nightmares. It makes me shake with anger for the many who were, scream for the men who were robbed or beaten, and cry for the young girl whose boyfriend betrayed her, beat her, and dumped her outside of her apartment. And continue to weep for those who hide their shame, who still haven’t told anyone of their terror – because they fear, because they want to forget.
But they won’t ever. I won’t ever.

I know why.

I have also heard why they keep it a secret. Why they cloak their faces. Why they avert their eyes.
Why they feel shame.

“Well, you shouldn’t have been drinking.”
“See what happens when you drink?”
“You shouldn’t travel alone.”
“You need to be more careful.”
“Stop talking to people you don’t know.”
“Maybe you need to slow down.”
“This only happens at frat parties or on college campuses.”
“Such a new and horrible thing that is happening.”
“What were you wearing?”
“Did you show cleavage?”
“Did you flirt with him?”
“Why did you give him your name?”

“You shouldn’t have been drinking…”

  • I wasn’t drunk – I didn’t drink too much.
  • This happened to individuals drinking water, Diet Coke, Red Bull, Lemonade, and so on.
  • I have to travel alone AND I like traveling alone.
  • Yes, I will be more careful and will never again take a drink from someone I don’t know or don’t see them pour. Nor will I leave my drink alone or turn my back on it. This one I accept.
  • I will always talk to people I don’t know – it’s who I am, it’s what I do.
  • I’ll slow down when I’m dead.
  • No, it doesn’t only happen to young women in college. I’m 52.
  • NOT new. One friend told me about how it happened to her 40+ years ago. Oh, and Bill Cosby. Not new.
  • I was wearing a tank top with a sweater and baggy pants from Talbots (better known as the old lady store – because guess what? I’m an old lady)
  • Yes, cleavage was showing. Guess what? I have cleavage.
  • I wasn’t flirting, but if I had been – would that have made it ok? I was smiling. I was happy. Was.
  • He had my name because I paid the bill with my credit card
    (Which, interestingly enough was refunded a few days after the incident.)
  • And this happened because it just did and it does to too many people all the time, every day. And it happened because it is a crime that bad people get away with. No one presses charges because it is nearly impossible to get a conviction or even charges. And because someone close to them says or asks the things above. Because we, the victims, are shamed.

No, your Diet Coke won’t protect you.

Blame it on alcohol or the fact that I had a couple drinks?
Blame it on me for traveling alone?
Blame it on what I was wearing?
Blame it on me for being gregarious?

Blame it on everyone or every thing but the man who did this to me and the restaurant who covered it up?

This is real – this is a real danger we all face in our world.  This could have been your daughter, mother, sister. It could have been YOU.

No one “deserves” this.

I didn’t get what was coming to me and I refuse to be a woman who plays the victim, who locks her door every second of every day, one who carries a stick with her everywhere.
Because I fear. Because it could happen again. Because there are bad people.
There are also good people. There are more good people.
And there are MORE people than you know who have been drugged by someone who wanted to take advantage of them in one way or another. 

We need to make it NOT alright for someone to get away with this.

MANY people have messaged me privately and publicly to say this has happened to them, too. Thank you to those who were brave enough to do so, and I’m so sorry. To those who couldn’t or didn’t message me, I get it, I understand. You are not alone. And I am so sorry you went through this and felt you had no recourse, no one to share it with, no one to report this crime to.

It’s not just women who are raped.
It’s not just women.
It’s not just someone drinking alcohol.
It’s not just someone dressed sexily or one who flirts.
It’s not someone was out or traveled alone.

Not my first rodeo

This happened to me before at an industry event in Las Vegas, at a Human Resources and Recruiting Conference. Someone I knew drugged me. I kept quiet because I was embarrassed. Because I didn’t know what I could do. Because I felt shame. Because I wasn’t sure who did it and I was worried about them and not me.

I will not ever be quiet about this. I won’t be quiet again.

LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH, WELLNESS

My Story, My Warning: I was Drugged.

I Was Drugged

Probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to write.

Mostly because of the shame attached to that phrase and the unpleasant explanation that follows.

I didn’t want to write this. I didn’t want to file a police report. I didn’t want to pee in a cup. I didn’t want to tell my children or my mother. I didn’t want to tell my friends.

But what I don’t want more than any of that is: I don’t want that creep to do it to anyone else ever again. Because, I know – I KNOW – he has done this before. He’s done it before and he hasn’t gotten caught. He’s done it before and no one has reported it, no one has filed charges.

The Story

I arrived in Dallas from LAX the evening before an HR technology conference, in time to have a friend pick me up at the airport and go to dinner. My friend Jackie selected one of her favorite Mexican cuisine restaurants near the Turtle Creek area of Dallas. I love Mexican food — being a California native and resident, it is often the meal of choice in my home and among my friends. The small beach town where I live has several Mexican restaurants to choose from, so I was excited to try a new place.

We arrived and were seated quickly – we ordered a couple skinny margaritas and cruised over the menu several times – plus talked incessantly about life, love, and work. We were having a great time. By the time we ordered our food, our 2nd margarita arrived. Between chips and the chimichanga, plus being a “lite margarita” – Jackie and I felt no effects of the alcohol.  A third round was ordered, but Jackie, being a wise and thoughtful friend, but also the driver for the evening, abstained.

It wasn’t long until a tray with two vanilla shots arrived, compliments of the Night Manager – “You ladies seem to be having a good time.” We were informed to sip it, not shoot it. Jackie took only a very small sip – but I drank it slowly down, still having felt no effects from the margaritas. Another tray of shots arrived, tequila this time. Jackie, again refused, the night manager insisted she, “Just take an Uber.” She stuck to her guns. I did the shot – within 10 minutes, the night manager was at my side, whispering and giving me a ‘scram’ head nod to, “Go the the bathroom, Rayanne.” I, innocently thinking, he wanted me to leave so he could flirt with my friend, did as he suggested.

I entered the bathroom and proceeded to use the toilet. While I was peeing, the Night Manager entered the bathroom – I froze – an intense feeling of personal danger suddenly came over me. I could see him through the crack in the bathroom door, he stood there, listening to me pee. I stared at his shoes. Then he left.

What do I do???

Thoughts began racing through my head and I felt like I was losing control. I know now, that the drug was in almost full effect at this point. I still did not comprehend the absolute fullness of what was happening to me. I washed my hands and left the bathroom quickly, but he was waiting for me outside the ladies’ room. He called my name and tried to pull me into the men’s bathroom. I pulled away and put my hand up in front of his face – my fingers extended – and screamed, “No!”

I walked/ran away as quickly as I could and grabbed Jackie, telling her, “We need to go – we need to leave – he just tried to pull me into the men’s room.” We gathered our things and went to the car — that is the last thing I remember – but not the last thing I did.

I sat down in the car, we drove to my hotel about 20 minutes away. I got out of the car, got my luggage and went to the counter. I checked into my room, giving the desk clerk my ID and credit card. I signed the receipt and put my license and my credit card back in the right place. I took the elevator to my room, used my key to enter my room, locked my door from the inside, set out my luggage, set up my computer and climbed into bed.
I don’t remember any of this.
NONE of it, I have a 4-hour block of amnesia. Complete amnesia – the next thing I do remember, slightly, is throwing up violently and showering and bathing, showering and bathing (yes, twice each) to try and rid my system of whatever I had ingested.

I was not drunk, I was not hungover – I was drugged.

How do I know? Because it has happened to me before and I was too ashamed to say anything to anyone until many years later.

When I woke the next morning, I was in bed – completely naked, my hair was sopping wet with only a vague memory of showering and bathing and throwing up during the night. I couldn’t even tell you what floor my room was on. My only clue was the key card and its cover sitting neatly next to my computer on the desk with the room number scrawled on it in Sharpie.

As I walked around my room trying to piece together what had happened, I felt a sharp pain in my foot. I looked down and saw my pinky toe sticking straight out from the side of my foot, swollen and red, bruising already started. I can only ascertain that I kicked the door jam in my hotel room in the middle of the night – I have no memory of that. But I sure felt the pain then.

I Had to Work

I was in Dallas for work — I had to pull myself together for work. I was responsible for getting things set up: for putting together equipment, for making sure everything was in place and ready for the event. I had to smile all day. And I could barely make it to the bathroom. I laid in bed wondering what to do – I shared my story, as a caution, with a FB group to which I belonged. Their support was incredible but a nagging theme emerged – while Thank God I was ok, I needed to report this.

I didn’t want to – I knew what a pain in the ass it was going to be. I pushed it to the back burner because, well – I needed to work. So, I girded my loins and I headed out the door to begin my day in an Expo Hall. A sickening nausea – the kind which accompanies a concussion – was my constant companion, along with a sore foot, dizziness, and general malaise.  I got through the day, doing all I needed to do, but I was a Zombie. Some of my light had left me. 

That evening I shared my story with my grown children via group text messaging. They were angry, of course, but also scared for what might have happened. They were disappointed I had not reported the crime – I countered that I didn’t have time – that I was there for work and there was still work for me to do. But I researched and researched some more. A blood test is no longer needed to see these drugs in your system – a simple urine sample will suffice, for up to 72 hours, after an encounter with Rohypnol – if it were GHB, it would already be out of my system within 12 -24 hours.  So, I started planning – how can I report this, get a lab test done, and still put in 4 more hours in an Expo Hall the next day, plus pack up everything?

The Uber Driver

The next morning, I pinged for an Uber. One arrived shortly: a compact white Mazda. Harold got out of his little white car and helped me with my luggage. I relaxed instantly. Until that moment, I had been afraid – I worried I would not be able to get in the car, that my fear would overcome me, that my trust was completely lost, and that I would hold the actions of one against the many I needed to trust in my life of travel.

But, the right driver was sent to me. I asked Harold to drive me to the police station – he turned, concerned and I told him my story – he stayed with me for the next 45 minutes. He waited outside the closest police station for me – but get this, it wasn’t open — just a remote station. He waited for me outside the Starbucks where I bought breakfast for us both, while I regrouped and re-planned how I was going to do this. I had asked Harold if he had an important lady in his life – he hung his head shyly and said, “Yes, I have a special lady.” I told him to care for her and share my story – this can happen to anyone, at any time.

My trip to the police station would have to wait until later that day — I had four+ hours of work to fulfill now.

He took me to the conference center and got out of the car – he gently shook my hand and looked me in the eye saying, “Take care, Miss Rayanne. I’m sorry this happened to you.”  Then he placed my luggage on the curb, looked me in the eye one more time and smiled with a nod. And with that, Harold restored my faith in mankind. He eased me back into my world. He, this man – a stranger – relit that light.

The Police Report

The day dragged with conference attendance lighter than expected. Once my colleague and I repacked all our gear and I was able to get the shipping of all our equipment secured, my friend Jackie picked me up out front. I had been given the run around over the phone from two different police departments, no one wanted to handle this. I was finally told that I should go to a local Starbucks and call 911 from there and an officer would meet me to take my report. We selected a shop right by the scene of the crime and waited for over an hour – with my flight time closing in, this inaction didn’t seem like the right course, so we bee-lined for police headquarters in downtown Dallas.

Jackie and I stormed the building ready to take on whoever got in our way. Stopped by what seemed a makeshift TSA checkpoint, two female officers were reticent to even let us in, let alone file a report. I think it became very clear that I wasn’t going anywhere until I filed a report. I said, once again – “What if this had been you or your daughter?” They let us through and I was getting ready to tell my story when I heard the sergeant say, looking down at us from behind the counter, “Unless you’ve had a lab test, there is nothing we can do.” I countered that I would be getting a lab test when I left the station – then came these words,

“Well, you weren’t raped, were you?”

I was stunned and nearly speechless. Nearly. Then I said, “So because I wasn’t raped, no crime was committed? The victim has no voice? What am I supposed to do? What do I tell my daughters?” Jackie started talking too and I think, at this point, the sergeant relented to shut us up.

What if this had been your wife, your mother, your daughter, your sister?

I wanted to scream. I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. My hands were shaking as I shared my story with a female officer who took notes and promised a detective would follow up with me. We left the station with little time to spare and a need to find a healthcare facility where I could give a urine sample.

The battle to get the right test ensued. We found a local urgent care center which couldn’t help us, not having access to a lab or the right kind of test. A nurse who heard my story and was compelled to help, made some calls and found a lab that could do the necessary test.

We called ahead, the lab assistant was ready to close for the evening. I told my story again and she stated she would stay until we arrived and take a urine sample to be submitted for a couple different tests – checking for Rohypnol and GHB. I was able to leave the sample and also had an immediate result test done that was inconclusive. The other two samples were sent off with results to be returned 3-5 days later. And I paid the $150 for the tests.

But the results were negative…

I was told that I should have had the lab tests done within the first 6 hours for the most accurate results. The disorientation and sickness caused by the drug kept me from thinking clearly in those first 12 hours. The shame and continuing sickness, as well as the need to work, kept me from going to the hospital or calling the police once I ascertained what had happened to me.

I wish I HAD called the police immediately. I just don’t how I could have done anything differently than I did. I met with my physician as soon as I returned home and asked how I might be able to follow-up with a hair follicle test 3 weeks following the incident. I had been told that the drug(s) might show up then. With four follow-up calls asking for a lab referral, I gave up.

I haven’t heard from the detective who was supposed to have called me back, though I have left two messages. Without a positive lab result, however, there is not much the police can do. It is my word against a restaurant employee of eight years.

Does it end here?

It could. It could end here with me just forgetting about it. But I cannot. I will not.

I wasn’t drunk. I didn’t have a hangover. I still suffer from the lingering effects of a drug that someone decided to give me. I was drugged by a restaurant employee I trusted who tried to drag me into the bathroom. His timing was off by about 30 seconds. I was lucky. I was lucky that I was still coherent; that I listened to my internal danger signal and my impulse to leave immediately.

But there are those who have not been lucky. And there are those who might not be lucky this weekend or next. So I bring this warning.

DO NOT ACCEPT A SHOT from a STRANGER. Any time. Any where. Ever.
DO NOT leave your drink or turn your back on it. Ever. And if you do, throw it out or get a new one. 

I never will again. I want the shame on the victim of this crime to be gone. There should be NO SHAME on the victim. We live in a world where we have to trust strangers. Uber drivers. Grocery store clerks. Restaurant servers. Baristas. Mailmen. Police Officers.

This was not my fault. I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t deserve it.

No one does. Ever. 

I’m not done telling this story.

I will not be quiet.

LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH, WELLNESS

Sara Robinson Chambless: How to live mindfully, and why!

Sara Robinson Chambless is an inspired self-realization teacher whose writing, speaking, and wellness practice empower individuals to lead rich and satisfying lives free from worry, stress, and fear.

1. Learning from Thoreau that we do not need to lead “lives of quiet desperation”, feeling stuck on a treadmill, but rather can find what we are “supposed” to be doing and move to an authentic life;

2. Happiness is not something to be pursued in its own right, but is something that emerges when we make life choices that put us on the right path;

3. The key to all of this is living mindfully. And Sara not only gives us some general tips on mindfulness, but spends time making it practical and real in a business context.

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This episode was originally published on A New Business Mindset!

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BUSINESS, CONTRIBUTORS, LEADERSHIP, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH

Get used to being uncomfortable

I have a good friend going through a tough time right now. He’s just recently suffered a big loss, and despite putting out a strong front to the world, I know he is struggling mightily.

“I suck at this,” he says. Followed by “I feel so broken.”

I get it. We’ve all been there.

And then today, as I write this, I had a big business setback myself. A project I was counting on fell through at the very last minute.

“How could this have happened to me,” I yelled out loud earlier today, within earshot of my poor wife who had no choice but to listen to my frustrated rant.

I’m feeling pretty blue as a result. This despite the fact that at this very moment in my life, I’ve never been happier, I’ve never felt more optimistic, and the growth track with my business remains overwhelmingly positive.

But setbacks and losses still suck. They still hurt. A lot. And it’s easy to fall into a tailspin as a result.

Here is what I am learning: Setbacks are a regular part of life. As much as you don’t want them to happen, they do. YOU HAVE NO CHOICE IN THIS MATTER.

And instead of curling up in the fetal position, or venting through loud vocal obscenities and rage like I do, foolishly, you have to suck it up and move on.

As a new friend of mine says, you have go forward, “Always Forward.”

Business and life is uncomfortable. It just is. If you expect it to be smooth and easy, you’ll be disappointed.

But it is moving forward, picking yourself back up, taking one step forward at a time = THE ONLY WAY TO KEEP GOING.

You know this, even if you are unwilling to admit it.

All the great ones do this. You can too. I can too. And I have to, for people are counting on me.

Life is uncomfortable. And it always will be. You have no choice but to accept that, and take that on as a personal challenge, and embrace it.

The Sun will come up tomorrow, the clock will keep ticking, dust will keep going through the hourglass, and you’ll still be there…

The question is will you be wallowing in it and sucking on your thumb? Or will you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward…Always Forward?

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BUSINESS, LIFESTYLE

Emily Lagasse: Our pets deserve better food

Joined on the show today by Emily Lagasse, the Founder + CEO of Fedwell Pet Foods. Our pets deserve better food, yes. But learn how one entrepreneur built a business from scratch to solve a very common problem….

Discussion guide from my conversation with Emily Lagasse:

1. The inspiration behind starting Fedwell Pet Foods.

2. Challenges with manufacturing and getting the product made, and how she’s dealing with that.

3. She shares her unique distribution model, and how she will scale the business when the time comes. And what you can learn from how she will accomplish that.

4. She walks us through her current product line, but shares where things can go from here: foods for new animals, and adding new proteins, such as crickets. Yes…crickets!

5. How do you build trust with a new market, in a very competitive market, on a very sensitive subject (what people feed their fur babies)…

6. What are the biggest challenges building a business like this? And can you share some key lessons for those trying to do something similar?

7. Any guidance for finding and recruiting manufacturing for any type of product?

8. How do you deal with the strict testing of product, especially when everyone in your market is concerned, from finicky owners to veterinarians?

9. How do you scale a business such as this, without compromising quality and your principles?

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Emily Lagasse

About Emily Lagasse:

Emily is the founder and CEO of Fedwell Pet Foods, a Boston-based company offering the only 100% natural pet food on the market. Fedwell products are based on Emily’s home- cooked recipes that she used to heal her African dog, Fenway, after he got sick upon their return from Peace Corps service in Togo. Every bag of Fedwell contains recognizable ingredients anyone would be proud to serve their whole family.

Emily was the grand prize winner at the 2013 Female Entrepreneurship Challenge, earning over $30K in cash and non-cash prizes. Emily was also a semi-finalist at Babson’s BETA challenge in 2014, and in 2015 Fedwell was named one of Inc Magazine’s coolest college startups. Fedwell concluded a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, with over 200 backers, raising over $20,000. Fedwell is currently carried in specialty pet stores in Massachusetts and is being featured on the PBS show StartUp, which draws 15 million viewers annually. (Episode 308, Wake up and smell the dog food, airs on Boston’s WGBH on November 22nd at 12:30pm.) Emily is a native of Boston, attended Ohio State University for her undergraduate degree in Marketing and Transportation Logistics and is a recent MBA graduate from Babson college. In her spare time Emily plays in a volleyball league, enjoys outdoor activities with her dog, and teaches life skills to youth aging out of the foster care system.

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CONTRIBUTORS, LIFESTYLE

I am not wishing you Happy Birthday on Facebook. Deal with it.

My birthday is coming up soon, and frankly, I am dreading it. Why?

Not because I am getting older (but that sucks too).

It’s because of Facebook and their infernal mother-farking birthday function. It’s ruined birthdays for me, and has taken the fun out of my celebrating the birthdays of people I care about.

For the record, I no longer wish people “Happy Birthday” on Facebook, or any other social network for that matter.

I really don’t want my greeting buried under hundreds of others.

So, if you’ve been offended that I haven’t said anything to you on your BIG day well, sorry, but I am not losing any sleep over it.

Why?

Because most of what I see and hear isn’t genuine, and stems from one simple fact:

From half of my Facebook friends, I hear from them one day per year. And yeah, you guessed it: it’s on my birthday when I get the perfunctory “Happy Birthday [insert name here]!”

And it doesn’t help when you attach one of those motion-GIFS. Frankly, that’s your attempt to make it “more” personal. Despite the fact that I will receive 100s of those on the big day. All they really do is clog up Facebook’s servers.

These particular Facebook friends who pass along greetings once a year NEVER like anything else of mine. They never engage with me on my content. Never comment on stuff I share, whether it is on music, photos of my activities, food I eat, issues of the day, etc.

Now, it’s a VERY FAIR question to ask why am I connected to someone who only contacts me ONCE A YEAR? Yes, #truth. And the subject of another essay for another day. And I bear my share of responsibility in this too.

Frankly, when I observe others on their actual birthday, I am quite saddened when they are spending time ON THEIR ACTUAL BIRTHDAY responding to birthday wishes on Facebook. Do you not have other things to do on this special day? Really? You have to get out a little more friend…

I also hate the standard “Thanks for all the birthday wishes, I am very blessed, and I have the bestest friends” notes that people post, you know, so they don’t have to acknowledge all of these greetings. Probably from people they also only hear from once per year.

So yeah, at the end of the day, I’ve stopped doing it because I don’t want people to think of me the way I think of others who do it to me.

No, on rare occasion, I will send someone a birthday message via Facebook, but I’ll make it a point to personalize it and make it legitimate. Or, I will take advantage of Facebook reminding me, and send them greetings through another, more personal, medium.

And for the record, I am grateful when someone I know and interact with year round sends me a real, human, personal note.

Social media has changed the world. It connects us in ways that most never dreamed possible, and its wonders continue to marvel and hint and what’s still possible down the road.

But the downsides are its automation and lack of a personal touch.

I’ve been binging the AMC series TURN, about George Washington’s spies. Seeing them write meticulous letters on parchment with a quill pen and ink, that correspondence seems so real and genuine…

…verses the automatron scanning today’s list of birthdays on his Facebook page, and BANG-BANG-BANG-Done.

Ok, good. Moving on to the next task…

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AUTHORS, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH, WELLNESS

Dave Griffin: How running leads to both personal AND professional growth

Joined on the show today by Dave Griffin, founder of Flying Feet Running Programs, and author of a new book called In the Distance: Why We Struggle Through the Demands of Running, and How It Leads Us to Peace.

Discussion guide from my conversation with Dave Griffin:

1. How the focus and drive needed to become a runner can aid and enhance professional motivation. This is more than just about running, it’s about professional development too!

2. How he used the benefits of training and running with others in his leadership of his corporate risk management team – his 4 unique takeaway tips.

3. The statistics that indicate successful leaders are also regular exercise enthusiasts – the psychological truths behind this.

4. How running takes us back to our early childhood years and why it is important to be in touch with that part of ourselves as we mature in business.

5. Of course, we discuss the health (and mental) benefits of running.

6. And for those who are NOT runners, Dave shares some insights on HOW TO START!

Find Dave Griffin’s latest book here:

About Dave Griffin:

Dave Griffin began running in 1976 as a high school freshman. He ran competitively through 1989 with PRs that include a 25:43 5M, a 32:11 10K and a 1:12:24 half marathon. After a 12-year period of casual running when his children were young, he returned to competitive running as a master.

Griffin started the Flying Feet Running Programs in 2004 while his daughter, Katie, was running in high school. The program has since grown to provide year-round coaching and support to runners of all experience and talent levels in the Carroll County, MD area.

Griffin began writing about running and life in 2006, when his bi-weekly column, Dave Griffin on Running, was introduced. In 2010, Dave published his first book, After the Last PR – The Virtues of Living a Runner’s Life.

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CONTRIBUTORS, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH

You don’t need to get up at 4AM each morning to be a success

Every day, I read some article that, if true, someone far more awesome than me has already done the following by 6AM:

photo-1428954376791-d9ae785dfb2d1. They were wide awake, showered, dressed, and at their desk by 4AM…losing a half pound of weight in the process.
2. By 5AM, they had already written 2,000 words.
3. By 520AM, they had meditated for 20 minutes and achieved near enlightenment.
4. And by 6AM, with all the kids awake, bathed, and lunch boxes packed, they had also done yoga for an additional 20 minutes. Namaste my friend!

Let me boldly and proudly declare, that by 6AM, I haven’t gotten out of bed yet. But, according to the internet, I am the only person on the entire planet still sleeping at this time in the morning.

Other essays I’ve read, some of these even more amazing people have also run a 5K (or more), prepared food from scratch (that they harvested from the back yard garden), have read the entire Wall Street Journal by 617AM, and have even done a little work to lower the Earth’s core temperature by .05 degrees.

These are truly amazing people. And all doing overtly sustainable activities before the Sun even rises.

By 617AM, I have probably read one or two articles on the Red Sox. And by then I have a 5 year old Golden Retriever standing on my chest giving me the vulture look. I will usually pretend to go back to sleep to fake her out, but Shiloh usually doinks me in the eye with the cold tip of her wet dog nose to tell me I am full of it.

Around 625AM, I will have stolen a look at my lovely wife, who is forcing her eyes closed so that I am made to believe she isn’t awake yet. For she doesn’t really want to talk to me until 10AM at the earliest. Trust me, she’s awake.

Seriously, I am amazed at the amount of people who have rewritten the U.S. Constitution by sunup. Who are all of these people? Why are they so perfect? How is it that with all of these amazing people, we still have cancer, and why are geopolitical affairs still such a mess?

Are these people for real? Are they even real?

Despite my obvious failings in the wee hours of the morning, I am still happy. I am still running a growing and successful business, I have a wife that loves me (after 10AM), and I have two happy, healthy dogs.

And oh, I haven’t even told you the really bad news yet: The first two things I do in the morning:

1. Check Facebook.
2. Read my email.

Yes, since you started reading this essay, there have been about 300 new articles published condemning humans for checking email and social media before midday.

And yes, despite the fact that I DO NOT get up at 4AM each morning AND check email and Facebook whilst still in bed, here is a list of the things I happen to still accomplish:

1. I read a book a week.
2. I run at least a 5K three to four times a week.
3. I walk my dogs round Chicago the non-running days of the week.
4. I run a business.
5. I conduct a dozen radio interviews for my business.
6. I explore my city (which translates to: I eat a lot).

I do all these things when I can, and when I want to. I check email as often as I want to. I check Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram whenever I want to.

Look, I am not condemning people who have a set morning routine. I admire them for getting up early and achieving things.

It just doesn’t work for me.

For me, every day is different. My interview schedule varies each day. Some days I am on the road. Some days Stephanie and I have plans. Some days are running days. I just simply cannot follow a strict routine day in and day out.

But you do have to find out what works for you. And stick to it. Or at least know WHAT you have to do, and be disciplined to get it done over the course of the day.

Just don’t judge me when I don’t rise at 4AM. We are all different, and we are all wired in different ways. I am glad to hear you’ve figured out what works for you, and appreciate you sharing it with us. It may very well inspire someone to try something new.

Live life on your terms. Don’t be guilted into following a process that isn’t right for you, just to please some superhero that probably isn’t real…

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