Thursday, April 16, 2015

ready, set, tornado!

For the last two years I've gone to some newer, lengthier lengths to prepare for Wisconsin's tornado season... usually conducting these preparations after the first ones rip through the region the way this one did in northern Illinois last Friday.

TOUCHDOWN! And not in a footballing kind of way

Nothing like seeing supercells on the weather map to serve as a reminder to get my act together and finish prepping  my tornado box.

fucking YIKES

As my gaze alternated between staring obsessively at the radar on my Wundergound app and my family's tornado box sitting totally disassembled on the dining room table, I decided I had probably waited long enough to dust off my process and gear for the 2015 tornado season. So here you go. 

Why do I prepare? Because I can and -- more importantly -- should. Having evacuated to the basement last summer three times in one week and twice the following week, including one occasion where we listened intently to the local radio station announcing a tornado touching down ON OUR HOUSE... 

Like this, but in living color

... I can assure you that any time + money invested into thoroughly preparing for a tornado returned  tenfold in peace-of-mind. During one such event, as I sat in my car with the pets crammed together in the back seat and thunder booming loudly outside, I mentally reviewed every step I'd taken to prepare. Every piece of equipment I'd bought or gathered and readied. Things I'd crossed off of lists. Each step in the logistics.

And I concluded, even in the midst of an event, that I was as ready as possible. Audible sigh. 

My preparedness comes in three steps: Move to shelter, have the right stuff, and maintain it over time. These broad steps work in general for basically any circumstance, and the specifics here work in my particular situation.

My hope is that you read through this and find your family's own intersection between procedure and materials. Have the right things in the right places at the right time. 

Without further procrastination, here's my approach to tornado preparedness:

Move to Shelter.
What I do: When the sirens sound, my family and I evacuate immediately and without question to our underground parking garage. I take my car keys, my wallet, the dogs on their leash, and the cat in his carrier (which also contains a harness + retractable leash fitted for him).

What you should think about: When the sirens sound, where will your family go and how will you get there? What should you grab on your way there? If you grew up in the midwest you probably recall the drill: Hide under a desk. On the off chance you don't have one of these hanging around your house...

... recommends going to the lowest level of your home and/or to an interior, windowless space. Wear shoes and clothes. This sounds silly, but if you sleep in the buff then at least attempt to grab something. Nobody wants to be rescued naked. 

JK. If this guy shows up, I'm gonna have forgotten my PJs.

Have the Right Gear.
What I do: Because we evacuate to the basement, I keep a tornado box in our locked storage closet. If we evacuate to the basement, the materials I store there will keep my pets + me safe and relatively comfortable for up to three days. I made the executive decision that our first best plan is to shelter in place (in our building); if I needed to completely evacuate the area I could do so by condensing gear to my backpack. I keep a smaller preparedness kit in my car at all times. It contains many of the same supplies and is packaged in a sturdy, comfortable backpack.

BUILD YOUR OWN KIT. Amazon has lots and lots and lots of pre-made tornado kits. 

that's not quite what I meant...

But here's the thing. These kits were all designed and assembled in a very generic, though possibly thorough, fashion. There's basically no conceivable way a pre-made kit meets the specific logistical needs of your family in your home. It might in fact contain stuff you already have in your home (like bandages)! So, while it might save you some time on the front-end to purchase one, you may learn the hard way that only half of it is really worth anything to your family.

Additionally, the simple act of considering, collecting, and assembling the gear will make you more familiar with what you own. It's similar to the concept of learning by writing down. Just adding a line item to a list makes it as cognitively permanent as seeing it on the list. So when it comes to your kit, think about the materials that best suit your circumstance. Comparison-shop for the individual items. Spread them all out on your table and get to know each piece. 

I can't state this strongly enough: build your own kit. Knowing where in the kit you can find which piece of gear, and knowing how to use it, will be imperative in a time of duress... like when you're inside a tornado. 

"Where the deuce is my tornado detector? What's that? There's one right behind me, isn't there?"

I'll just hop down off my soapbox meow and share with you what my tornado box contains.

Pet stuff
  • Food for three days for dogs
  • Food for three days for George
  • Water for three days for pets
  • Litter box, scoop, and litter for George
  • 3 gallons drinking water (1 gallon per human per day)
  • 1200 calories of nonperishable food per human per day
  • Candy, because you can't be in full panic all the time; boredom can get dangerous
  • Wine. You know, those single-serving juice boxes? Hey, if we're gonna hang out by candlelight and listen to the radio, might as well have wine....
  • Flashlight, lantern, and headlamp
  • Hand-crank weather radio with cell phone charging adapter
  • First Aid kit (bandages, tape, ointment, hot and cold packs
  • ICE sheet (laminated), cash, notebook, and permanent marker in plastic envelope
  • Sanitizing wipes (unlike the hand pump stuff, actual wipes will remove grease and dirt from your hands)
  • Duct tape
  • Leatherman
  • Waterproof matches / lighter
  • Bandanas (because they look cool)
  • Leather work gloves
  • Tire iron

What you should think about: If you have kids, what special considerations should you take into account to ensure they're safe and comfortable? If you don't have a basement and instead evacuate to a bathroom or other space, what can you safely stash there in case portions of your home become inaccessible? 

What I do: Every spring I wait for the first round of devastation to occur proactively monitor the start of tornado season and review my gear. Buy fresh water and nonperishable food. Test battery strength in my flashlights and lanterns. 

What you should think about: I guess something similar. Set aside even a few minutes annually to discuss the plan with your family and review the gear together. 

You've waited long enough to see what some of my tornado kit contents actually look like. Enjoy!

This is one of those times when more calories is more better

The tire iron may either pry loose something blocking our exit or be used to defend my kingdom

Contents: various tapes, anti-histamines, anti-inflammatories, gloves, and bandages

The kleenexes are to mop up the tears I'm sure to shed from fear + exhaustion

Can't forget about George's needs. I mean, if I did forget... EW. 

Some parting words from the opinionator (that's me): 
  1. Please don't casually announce on Facebook that you slept right through a tornado. Everyone should have a plan and be prepared and then execute on that plan. If you failed to do so, that's no laughing matter or something you should leverage to draw jokey attention toward yourself. 
  2. Charge your phone before bedtime. Leave the emergency alerts turned on. 
  3. Err on the side of caution. If weather seems a little hairy, be safe. 
  4. Spread the word. It's so cool to be prepared! Be as ready for severe weather as Bey was to drop Lemonade. 
hey becky. I'm ready for yeh. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Happy Panda Day!

Panda Bear! My sweet little perpetually smiling, bright-eyed, bunny rabbit-furred, helicopter tail-wagging, snuggly fur bebe. I couldn't imagine life without you, special girl. What a year we've had.

Panda (fka Matilda) spent a mere three days in Underdog Pet Rescue's foster care with my BFF Lindsey before repeated texts from her convinced me that THIS DOG IS SPECIAL. Truer words have never been spoken texted. So, exactly one year ago today we put a rush on the paperwork and finalized Panda's adoption.

If a picture says a thousand words, then here are... uh... freaking math. Let's see... carry the five... that makes about 21,000 words that ought to put a smile on your face about what will hopefully be the first of Panda's many years with me.

Johnny, Enzo, and Milosh spoiled her for the three whole days she spent in their foster care

Within five minutes of meeting for the first time, Panda + George found a common passion: snuggle-naps

Monkey's paws (left) and Panda's

Whelp... this one basically speaks for itself

Santa knew that Panda has, indeed, been #whatagooddog 

Baby's first Christmas as grandpa + grandma's house

Sit. Stay. Be cute. Good girls.

Lots of road trips + errands


Panda modeled the latest in Stella & Dot scarves at a trunk show

After the LONGEST, COLDEST winter, the girls happily spent plenty of time thawing out on the balcony this spring

MAAAAHM. Let us out! Panda made fast friends with Marty (top center) and Louie (top left)

What did the ocean say to the boat? Nothing -- it just waved!
How did the trees feel in spring? RELEAVED!
What's a plumber's favorite shoes? CLOGS! 

MAAAHM. Is that what I look like?!? 

Back on the balcony enjoying a nose full of the first snow of winter 2014...

... and a little later, snuggle-napping on the couch with her sister (top).

Up REAL CLOSE to the outside of my right forearm

Every day is made more special because of Panda.

P.S. She snores really loud and it's the cutest. The absolute cutest.

Monday, December 1, 2014


In 1996 Mr Savage, my high school anatomy/physiology teacher...

who apparently does NOT age at all

... assigned his students a research project. Pick any disease, learn what you can about it, and submit a paper. As far as I recall, I earned a good grade and the honor of publication in our school district's annual Creative Writing book.

I chose to research and write about AIDS because my uncle had contracted it sometime in the '80s and throughout my teenage years I formed a meaningful friendship with him through regular phone calls and, luckily, a visit to his home in San Diego.

Uncle Richard passed away on August 9, 2014. From his memorial:

Richard lived his life 
with enthusiasm, a hearty laugh, 
and love for his family, friends, and rock and roll.*

* Not mentioned among his joys: Clinique face cream, white jeans, and Madonna. The man had GREAT taste.


Siobhan Reynolds
Grade 11
Homestead High School

As a teenager, I know that HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and that AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. I know that I am sick of hearing about how I can't get AIDS by shaking hands with an infected person, swimming with him, or even getting bitten by the same mosquito. I know that I can only get AIDS by sharing needles that haven't been sterilized, through unprotected sex, or by being born to a mother already infected with AIDS. I know as well as the next educated Joe that AIDS kills. There is no cure. Period.

As an observer and researcher of HIV and AIDS, I know that some of the symptoms are a fever that lasts for weeks; sudden, unexplained weight loss; swollen glands; diarrhea that lasts for a month or longer; excessive tiredness; night sweats; blah blah blah. I know that once AIDS has been contracted, there is no cure for these and other symptoms and I know the reality that AIDS kills. Period.

As a student who cannot escape the media and publications dealing with HIV and AIDS, I know that "Death from AIDS is 19 times higher for African American women than white women." I know that "People aged 20 to 29 are the fasted growing age group with AIDS. Many of these people were probably infected as teenagers." I know that I have read and reread cute little pamphlets titled "Caring For Someone With AIDS," "When a Friend has HIV," and one called "Caring for People Affected by AIDS."

As a kid watching my uncle waste away day after day, fighting a losing battle with AIDS, I know that all of these statistics are bogus. They numerically reflect numbers that are so large that they are inconceivable to ever reader. Does the number 126% mean anything to you? How about 5.5 times? No? Me neither. All I really know when it comes to the bottom line is that once you get AIDS, any way that you got it, you are stuck with it for the pitifully short life you have left.

When I call my uncle in California, it is a good day if he remembers my name, even though I have known him for sixteen years. It is a good day if he remembers what he has done so far that day. It is a good day if he remembers any of what he's done the way it actually happened. He is bedridden, yet sometimes when I talk to him, he tells me he went for a jog. Sadly, those good days are one our of ten. On a bad day, he loses track of what he meant to say three words into the thought. On a bad day, he forgets that he lives in California or even that it really is warm and sub where he is. Every day, though, my uncle focuses a day's worth of energy into a five minute conversation with me, his niece. He wants to impress me. He never wants me to see the way he really is, how torn his mind is between reality and the world he thinks he's living in. He doesn't want me to think that he is in pain today, or yesterday or ever, or how weak his body has grown. He is stronger than I will ever be, though. He has withstood the most relentless of all diseases; he has suffered through pains and an endless barrage of medications that won't make him better.

It is only when you experience this disease that you understand what that little pamphlet meant when it said, "Be there." Only when you hear their pain an see their mind disappear that you understand that all you can do is make them comfortable, whatever that is. Only after speaking to them, do you understand what it means to week without knowing exactly why. Only after you love a person who doesn't know how to love you anymore do you know what unconditional love us.... It lasts forever, even through AIDS.

Friday, January 31, 2014

haiku! bless you!

Admiring this view: 
A cold, snowy countryside.
Lovely place to work.*

* and when I say 'work' I mean 'be a customer here for training'

Thursday, January 30, 2014

der beepenheimer

Hey there pre-Friday. Thought I'd participate in Throwback Thursday this week. Here's my sweet little niece baby, Helen -- you may know her as Beep -- on the morning of her second birthday in March 2012.

The sleepy eyes, her tiny spoon, fluffy hair pointing everywhichway. Every time I look at this picture, which is not infrequent, I get flooded with love for that little girl, and her mom and dad and baby brother.

Counteracting cabin fever with warm-fuzzies. Suck it, winter.

Monday, January 27, 2014

criminal behavior

Hard to know where to start or how to tell it. Just kidding, no it's not. I sat on this article for a couple months because... I don't know why. To protect his privacy? To protect my own privacy? To prove something to myself?

I have a rule about my Internet identity: Don't put anything out there that you wouldn't tell Matt Lauer.

wait. not THIS matt lauer

THIS matt lauer

This isn't about outing my ex's bad behavior (I'll only share enough to provide context), or eliciting sympathy (because that doesn't really move us forward in life, does it?). The only laundry I'll air is my own.

This is about a pivotal period in my life, including the moments leading up to it. The things I learned and felt. This is my story to tell.

In November, I learned that my live-in boyfriend of nearly two years had been cheating on me for the duration of our relationship with a married woman.

In an effort to get to know the one person he called a friend, I met her, had been out for cocktails and karaoke, dog-walking and giggles with this woman.

He had one friend, and that friend was a woman whose marriage was, by her own account, troubled. Even my red flags had red flags.

storm's a-comin'

I don't know what compelled me to check his phone that morning. I snooped. It's what people do sometimes. Found what I feared. He fessed up to a little bit, so I assume it was a lot worse than he'd ever admit.

mmm hm. suuuuure. yeahnope.

And in the end, it doesn't matter how bad it was. I would never again believe anything he said. I would never again trust him with anything in my universe.

It's not that he had a relationship with two women at once, and that one of them was me. The unforgivable act was that he broke our agreement.

Because I project-manage, um, everything, over the course of the two years he and I had several conversations specifically defining the terms of our relationship. The amount and quality of our together-time. Our future. How we defined fidelity.

Relationship crimes fall into three categories: misdemeanors, felonies, and capital offenses. Every couple can apply their own definitions to what constitutes criminal offenses. For some, infidelity is less of an offense than, say, overspending.

Here's how I defined ours: Misdemeanors might take a couple hours or days to get over, but eventually it goes away altogether. The record is purged.

these are the turnstile-jumper-level offenses. nbd

Felonies. Oh boy. Weeks or more. But the problem never goes away. Not altogether. It'll never be funny to recount to your friends at a cocktail party about that time that your partner, say, lost $10,000 in a bad poker game.

Capital offenses. The relationship is over. Immediately.

just stick your ability to trust riiiiight in there. this won't take but a second

Perhaps even the definition of crimes evolves over time. When a couple is dating, sending someone to voicemail might be a misdemeanor. Once they've been married and have a couple kids, however, a misdemeanor probably looks a lot different. Like forgetting your 13th wedding anniversary. Or something.

His crime was clearly, unquestionably a capital offense. In that respect, breaking up with him was a very simple decision. Black and white.

There's the continent of our agreement and here's him:

Hey, look. It's not like I'm Polly Perfect. I made my fair share of mistakes. Even committed misdemeanor offenses. But here's the difference. Mine were committed in the course of trying to be the best person and best partner I could possibly be, working as hard as I could to uphold my end of our bargain. Rarely through acts of selfishness, and never through unkindness.

So what's the lesson here?
  1. Spend time contemplating what constitutes various levels of criminal offenses. Be specific.
  2. Evolve. Our priorities shift and grow as our lives change. I used to prioritize manicures pretty high up on the budget. Now I invest in really good food for my dogs. But make it a conscious choice to evolve, and do so prior to the catastrophe. It's evaluating your possessions and reexamining your homeowners' insurance policy BEFORE the house is on fire. If the place is already ablaze, you will grab at anything to save something and you might make the altogether wrong decision, choosing to save a bag full of socks instead of a cherished photo album.
  3. Be rigid. Make decisions with your heart AND your head. When the decision is made, let both your heart and head act accordingly, and uncompromisingly. Which isn't to say "don't compromise" - maybe that's exactly what's been decided in your heart and head. The point is to follow through. You made the decision while clear-headed and rational, so even if those doe-eyes are staring back at you telling you how sorry they are, the act has been committed so respond accordingly.
And, finally and perhaps most importantly, move forward. In my dating history, the common denominator isn't the failed relationships behind me, but the fact that because of all these trials-and-errors I am both resilient and eager to love. 

Also, the universe does my dirty work. More on that in an upcoming article.

Thursday, December 19, 2013