Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Next to me in the living room was our Christmas tree. If I do say so myself, it is a pretty majestic looking tree with its burgundy ribbon and ornaments, the lights and full pine boughs sprawling out into the room. For safety reasons, we choose to have a fake tree, and as I looked at it last night, I was thinking about how amazing it is that this tremendous tree was just a few weeks ago jammed into a little box. There was not much to look at when that box was first opened… a short pamphlet of instructions, branches and a thin metal pole. You’d never guess that was all there was since it dominates the house now.
About halftime, my little daughter came running into the room with toys in hand obviously the victim of way too much fudge that her irresponsible father had given her earlier. High on sugar, she was gleaming with a smile that went ear to ear. Running much too fast for the wood floor conditions, she was not capable of stopping herself as she came too near the tree and the crash that followed was pretty funny. Down she went. Down went the toys she had been carrying. Ornaments bounced and ribbon went flying.
But the tree stood.
It was not until this morning that I thought about the incident again. I was looking at the forecasts for snow, for wind, for ice and general winter conditions over the next several weeks and I thought about that tree… it was still standing despite that collision…
Our country is a lot like that tree. At its beginning it was really not much to look at and not all that large. Jammed into a little box on the east coast, this country was just a little over a dozen pieces and we had nothing but a short little piece of paper someone wrote as to how to put it all together.
Over the years, we got those pieces out, figured out how they fit, and after a lot of effort, figured out how to “fluff” them all so the tree grew. It no longer looked like thirteen pieces but a full tree that sprawled way out into the room.
Then came the decorating. At first it was just a few strands of popcorn and things we grew, but soon, the tree was laden with lights and ornaments of every color and size, so much so that the branches droop under the weight! It was beautiful! We invited the world to come and see it, and everyone wanted one just like ours.
To this day there are millions that are attracted to the fullness, the size, the lights, the ornaments and the colors… they’d never even believe it was once just pieces in a box…
But the most important part of the tree? You can’t see it. It was in the box too, but nobody ever pays attention to it. When we first put the tree together, we took great care in making sure we had it and that we set it up correctly, but now that one piece is forgotten…hidden under the lights and ornaments and branches…
It’s the stand.
Last night, had our tree not been firmly clamped in that stand, it would have been in my lap. The branches would all have been flattened, the ornaments all broken, the ribbon a tangled mess. But the tree stood… because of the stand.
Our country had one of these stands when we first set it up as well. There were four legs on it just like ours has...
There was an attitude of preparedness, a spirit of readiness, resolve for resilience and constant awareness. Each leg was crucial to holding the whole tree up.
For years the tree lit the room because it STOOD in the room.
Now, as winter approaches and will be followed by yet another year of tornadoes, hurricanes, wind storms and perhaps worse, we might want to check the stand.
Are we still clamped in there firmly? Is the stand stable? Are the legs still where they should be? Could we take the hit from an event careening across the hardwood floors at lightning speed?
Before sitting down to write this, I walked out to the living room and pushed the gift boxes aside for a moment. It really only took a second or two, but I wanted to check to make sure last night’s near-catastrophic collision hadn’t damaged the stand. Sure enough, one leg was a little loose.
I tightened it up, pushed the gifts back, and I am confident that she will stand throughout the holiday once again.
Check the stand, America… then enjoy the holidays.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Monday, October 1, 2012
Those changes, unfortunately, were not all good. The delegation of responsibility worked well in some cases, but in many, the middle of the year found us here at the office attempting to correct so many errors that we felt we were losing ground. With 6 months left in the year and several huge conferences coming up, we could no longer afford to miss out on opportunities and so we made changes again.
Adding office staff was a big struggle that happened during all of this as well- with money short and time even shorter, who do you find that can take on the full-time position for so little?
I felt as though we were re-arranging furniture in a living room every day when what I really wanted was a bigger living room.
In late 2011 we lost my assistant of several years and our Operations Coordinator took on another part-time job leaving us extremely short-handed. After 6 months, we were lucky to find that assistant that was willing to take on the responsibility.
Things, once again, began to change and I found office hours that had been lost for what seemed like a year. We began to make progress, add people, find new partners and GROW. While it would have seemed like a time to rejoice, the profitability of the change was greatly diminished again when some team members decided they did not like the changes or those that had grabbed the employment opportunities.
For the last 3 months I have handled all of the office communication, correspondence, recruitiment processing, uniforms and marketing by myself in order to appease those that did not want to communicate with the new staff.
As I had suspected, this made no difference but rather simply revealed much about many.
Time for change again.
With almost 200 members again, the Chasing4Life Disaster Response Team is stronger than it has ever been. It is something to be proud of, and its members should wear the team colors proudly as more mutual aid agreements and more contracts and more networking has occurred in the last 3 months than ever before in the history of the organization. Our largest Summit is scheduled for February and for the first time in years, we are very close to running out of room at one of our Summits.
With new partners from around the world (Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, etc), we have more gear, more capability and more opportunity to serve than ever before.
All of this has happened during CHANGE, and those that screamed for these changes have played no role, communicated little, and have participated NONE.
Change often times can be painful. As our family prepares to move to a new farm, I am reminded of when I was young and our family relocated from my childhood neighborhood to a new town. I hated it. New people, new streets, new kids, new school. I selfishly displayed my anger and childish opinion to my parents and made their lives a living hell for quite some time. Two years later I saw that the change had been the hardest on my parents and realized that their sacrifice had made a better life for our family.
It has been the same with Chasing4Life.
The changes have been difficult. I miss the days when I had hours to just talk on the phone with everyone, sit around and dream with them, interact and visit. Those days have been gone for some time as I have been forced to take on all of these responsibilities and have been prevented from utilizing the new staff for fear of angering a few.
Today is the first of October and also the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. For those of you that know your biblical history, it is a season of change...AGAIN.
With so many members, with so many opportunities, with so many demands and so much growth, it is time to shake the dead leaves off the trees and start looking ahead to the Spring.
Our new office staff, along with the old office staff is ready to attack 2013 and we plan on seeing our membership double in the next 6 months. The days of "no-shows" at events are over. The Summit will be full and by March of 2013, we will be ready to deploy like never before.
For our team members, there is new opportunities for paid and unpaid deployments alike for those that attend the Summit and the trainings it holds. There are new relationships within the new membership that are yours for the taking. There is a new opportunity to serve this country with new gear, new trucks, new trailers, new equipment and new agreements.
For our supporters, you are about to see the Chasing4Life team thrive beyond anything you saw in 2005 and 2006. You are about to see more national recognition than you saw in 2008 or 2009. You are about to see an army that consists of truly passionate soldiers of humantiy.
For those of you that simply visit this blog from time to time, these changes mean we are looking for you. Get involved. Contact us about joining. Grab hold of the chance to serve, to train and to fellowship.
For those of you that have been unhappy with the changes? The results do not lie. Dead leaves fall to the ground and that is all. The changes were needed.
The changes have been hard, but a new season was on its way and I am glad we made them. As in my yard, not every tree handles the chill and transition, but Spring looms ahead with the promise of a great yield in the future.
Until next time, I have to go rake some leaves...
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Monday, February 20, 2012
For those that have attended my Chasing4Life community events, you know that I love disaster movies. Every few weeks, you can spend an entire Sunday afternoon watching one after another. When I speak at these events I like to talk about how obsessed America is with disaster, but it is sad to say that we are not nearly as prepared for disaster as we are excited about them.
When a natural disaster (or any disaster for that matter) occurs, we will sit riveted to the television watching update after update as CNN changes on screen graphics and shows us the same footage over and over. We’ll watch, sometimes cry, and usually will eventually walk away glad that it was not here, not our family and relieved it was not us.
As television and social media has evolved, watching disasters has gotten easier. There are few in this country that do not have the ability to “plug in” to watch one as it happens. Documentaries will follow so we can relive the disaster through another’s eyes, and then of course… the movie is made.
As I said, I love these movies. For years I have watched them as most Americans; laughing at the poor production, the cheesey special effects and the horrible “love story” plots that seem to permeate almost every movie… after all, what better time to make out than when the world is falling apart and you are both covered in sweat and mud?
This past weekend I watched Dantes Peak, a 1997 film starring Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton. I have to admit on a personal note, I have always thought that Linda Hamilton was one of the only disaster queens that could hold her own against Helen Hunt.
In the movie, a good-looking volcanologist, Harry Dalton (Brosnan) arrives at a countryside named Dante's Peak after a long dormant volcano, which has recently been named the second most desirable place to live in America, and discovers that Dante's Peak, may wake up at any moment. He of course interacts with Mayor Rachel Wando (Hamilton) of this beautiful mountainside oasis and eventually falls in love with her amidst the mountain erupting and destroying the entire region.
Ridiculous. Really, the entire movie is ridiculous. Our hero seems impervious to sulfur dioxide, he drives an old truck across burning lava with his tires on fire, is caught in a mountain side collapse of rocks that easily weigh 3 tons each, paddles a boat through acid with his hand wrapped in his jacket all to eventually lock lips with Hamilton surrounded by hundreds of rescuers while standing in 14 inches of volcanic ash.
Why do we watch this crap? Because it is how we want it to end. Deep down inside of each of us, we know that it could happen, but as long as we can watch these movies with their poor plots and even worse adherence to scientific fact and physical laws, we can tell ourselves that IF it happens here, we will have the adventure of a lifetime and come out the other side sexier and happier.
The fact is this: that is not how it will end. In fact, it never ends that way.
Over the course of our adult lives we will watch dozens, maybe even hundreds of disasters on television. We will interact on social media during these disasters, read the paper, look up reports in Google and basically become bystanders to every disaster that happens both near and far. Perhaps what we need to do is watch these movies again and start thinking…
You see, the plots are horrible, the scenarios outlandish, but the disasters are very real. From Twister to Dantes Peak, from Category 7 to Earthquake, the disasters could happen and they could change our world.
2010 was the deadliest year in a generation and we watched it in our living rooms. 2011 was an incredible year for disasters here in the States, and forecasts for 2012 are not much better. We have watched climatic changes, increased terroristic threats and crumbling infrastructure take lives like never before, but we have done very little at home to prepare for any of it.
It is as if we feel we do not need to act until it happens. Like in the movies, when the disaster occurs, we will become suddenly resourceful, know how to hotwire a car, make a boat from a tarp, be able to reroute lava and we’ll be the hero…
The continued complacency and procrastination that we all have when it comes to disasters needs to change and it needs to change now. Watching it happen, sharing about it and monitoring Tweets has placed us in a very unstable position as an American community… we’re boiling to death in our complacency.
What do I mean?
The lesson comes from one conversation in Dantes Peak…
As Brosnan’s USGS team prepares to leave the mountainside village of people that don’t think it will ever happen, he shares with a team member this bit of wisdom:
Brosnan: “My 9th grade science teacher always said that if you put a frog in boiling hot water, it would jump out. But put it in cold water, and heat it up gradually, it would slowly boil to death.”
Team Member: “What's that Harry? Your recipe for frog soup?”
Brosnan: “It's my recipe for a disaster”
This week’s weather alone should draw some concern from the depths of your imagination. Snow, wind, hail, flooding, temperature extremes, tornadoes… welcome to 2012. How long will you sit in the water as it gets warmer?
Go ahead and watch the movies again, but this time, ask yourself… would I be ready if it happened here? There’s no stunt people in real life, and certainly no second takes.
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Guest Blogger: Jessica Bacon
Re-posted from “atmos sphaira” (http://jessicabaconwx.blogspot.com)
“Life isn’t easy”, which is an understatement in my opinion, but we make the best of what we have. We find certain things in life that compel us to look for something more. Certain things inspire us to make actions affecting the community and world around us, no matter how so small. New things are discovered daily leading us to cures, innovations, new life stories, and give us hope for that thing we strive for. Now finding that one thing that drives us to achieve life goals alters your life. Once you know it, life seems to shift and you make that thing your priority. Mine is forecasting severe weather.
As a little girl, I loved being bossy, being the leader, telling people how things should be done and why it should be my way or the highway. I loved trying to outsmart and know more than my friends at every chance available. Honestly, I remember learning about weather and different types of clouds in fifth grade and saying, “This is pointless. Why should we have to know this?” It’s amazing how that one ignorant statement, would change to such a deep passion just five years later! Oh the irony.
As I mentioned before I liked to inform people, being able to explain something that was previously not understood was my joy. In 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall on the southeastern shores of Texas, namely Houston where I have family. Remembering Katrina, I was terrified for my uncle! I watched the news anchors and meteorologists on TV for the entire event. Eventually the system travelled up north to Illinois, where I live. I remember sitting on the steaming hot pavement of my grandpa’s driveway watching the storms approach. I was called inside as the adults realized the potential danger of the situation. Once I caught wits of this, I went straight to the TV, and sat for an hour listening to the meteorologist telling us this is dangerous for these areas…. tornado watch issued for cook county… I was entranced! I ran indoors and out multiple times to watch the RADAR and the reality. My friends and I talked with such urgency that usually accompanies a 10 year old’s mind at the thought of some danger. Again I was the one who knew a bit more, and just a bit ahead of everyone else, EXCEPT the people on TV. I did not like that. As the tornado sirens went off, I took responsibility of ushering my sister to the basement since my grandpa was doubtful of nothing actually happening.
My sister and I sat there for half an hour before we went back upstairs to my grandpa who was cutting apples. I heard the wind howling outside, curious I opened the door but my grandpa was outside before I could step over the threshold. I will never know exactly what he saw, but it was enough to pick up my sister and practically throw me down the stairs to the basement. I was inches away from seeing what he claimed to be a funnel. I never saw it. The next day I bragged to all my friends of what happened and I watched their expressions as I told them my story. That was a great feeling. After a while, I dropped my interest in weather again thinking the only decent paying jobs were all broadcasting and were impossible to get.
Flashing forward two miserable years to 7th grade. I was flipping TV channels until I came upon Discovery’s Stormchasers. The show was all science and every second was unpredictable. I loved it! It displayed beautiful shows of nature closely incorporated with scientists trying to crack the atmosphere, trying to figure out what seems impossible. It took me awhile to come to the realization, “Hey, these guys are getting paid. They are making a career out of this. Huh.” I think the main factor may have been that tornadoes are unpredictable; no one can tell what they are going to do. But what if I could? What if I can forecast better than these guys? What if I could make that discovery and know something no one else knows?
Twenty books later, I was obsessed! Nothing but weather could hold my attention for long! I started sneaking my books into class, occasionally getting reprehended, but all worth it. All the books I could get my hands on were “basics of”. I nourished my brain with field guides rather than that new issue of teen magazine! Still it wasn’t enough. I still couldn’t forecast and barely understood why storms formed at all. I started learning the ways of the Internet and shortly discovered NOAA and took a SKYWARN session through them. I remember meeting the Romeoville NWS head and blushing and stuttering so much. I couldn’t believe I was in the presence of someone who knew so much about what I now was.
My mom sadly started to realize that this wasn’t another phase I was going through and I was legitimate about making this my career. Through girl scouts we found Eddy Weiss and Chasing4Life giving out programs on severe weather from a real storm chaser! I was so excited to finally meet someone who has been out chasing and saving lives. My first class was addicting. My mom had created a monster, and I need much much more. Through Eddy I learned the other side of severe weather, the side that left devastation and death. Suddenly my world altered once more and now I was serving two personal goals; to become an extremely accurate forecaster and save lives of people who depended on those forecasts in the process.
One day I stumbled upon the webpage of Chasercon, the National Storm Chaser Convention in Denver, CO. It was something I just had to attend! While other kids were having graduation parties and big fancy gifts, I only wanted this adventure. Eventually I became so annoying and persistent that my mother approved the trip. Meanwhile I went to another of Eddy’s events and mentioned my trip to him at the end. Someone finally recognized me that night and we exchanged contacts. The three days of Chasercon overwhelmed me with information beyond my comprehension! I spent a few months deciphering all the material of supercell development, forecasting, radar technologies, chasing strategies, and so much more.
Forecasting was something I had to ease into. Not one prediction I made came true in my first month of attempts. I started talking with other chasers and their strategies and what they thought of a certain upcoming storm system. I watched the models play out and started to recognize the patterns. One afternoon Eddy called me, “Jessica, I would like for you to forecast for my team tonight. We need your help since I can’t frequently check the models.” That night my forecast made the center of the Storm Prediction Center’s Moderate Risk box. I grew more accurate with every forecast after that.
This itself is large and difficult journey, but add on having one parent (non-chaser), high school applications, and other kid’s cruel harassment throughout the final six months of eighth grade. I stayed true to my passion by keeping in contact with Chasing4Life and other storm chasers who encouraged me through the most difficult days of humility. Their words wouldn’t be the ones to decide whether or not I wanted a career in meteorology. Every pun and joke thrown at me was discriminating, but I found humor in it and laughed along with them. I had established that one thing in my life to strive for, why let arrogant classmates prevent further exploration?
As of today I have progressed more into the field of meteorology and emergency management than I could have ever imagined. I am the Lead Severe Weather Tracker and forecaster for Chasing4Life as well as an instructor! My forecasts have been used through multiple emergency personnel many times in the 2011 season. I have had forecasts ranging 72 hours out, with tornadoes within five miles of my targeted town. The last year has provided me with two beautiful tornadoes and many stunningly structured supercells within my vicinity. I have completed eight FEMA courses and have taken two Psychological First Aid classes through Chasing4Life. The support I have received from my family-blood related and friends- has undoubtedly lead me through the toughest challenges of my life so far, and I can not wait for the 2012 season to begin!
Chasing4Life Note: Jessica is 15 years old and lives in Northern Illinois. She is currently filming for a children's television show on severe weather, attends school full-time, is involved in numerous extra-curricular activities and is a uniformed member of the Chasing4Life Educational Team as well as the Chasing4Life Disaster Response Team.