Death Over Public Speaking

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Our plant manager, during a meeting to discuss the statewide tornado warning drills, took the opportunity to inform his Manufacturing Supervisors that they would begin personally training their direct reports on subjects that we have all been taking via web based training. Subjects like Sexual Harassment, Codes of Conduct, Information Security, and etc.

Hourly employees do not have access to the same online resources that the support staff do. Due to COVID19 occupancy restrictions we have not been able to get everyone together in auditorium style training. To catch up we will train them in Work Center sized groups.

The announcement was met by a low groan from most of us in the room…

…most of us except for R Dub, of course, who promptly said; “I like to train.”

That response was immediately met with my direct manager saying; “Good you can do all of it.” A response that pleases me immensely…until his boss said that he would prefer that each supervisor train their own people.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health a full 75% of people say that they fear public speaking more than they fear death. I find this statistic unfathomable. Holding a hot microphone is one of my favorite activates.

The medical term for a fear of public speaking is glossophobia from the Greek words glossa which means tongue and phobia that means fear or dread. Glossophobia is a completely unbiased ailment that effects all genders, races, creeds, colors and religions equally.

In reality it is doubtful that given multiple choice responses to the question; “What do you fear the most?” that people would choose death over public speaking. But, when the question was posed as fill in the blank, the first thing that popped into 75% of people’s minds was public speaking.

There are some tried and true ways to alleviate the anxiety and fear associated with public speaking. Here are mine.

  1. Know your subject matter. There is no better way to be confident than to know that you are prepared and “THE” expert on the subject at hand. Research and study.
  2. Practice. I can’t emphasize this enough. Write out what you plan to say and begin to speak it well before the moment of truth. Case in point. I gave a eulogy at my father’s funeral. My fear was breaking down while reading it and not being able to finish the eulogy. The words that I planned to say were written out and edited. Once the words satisfied my expectations I read it aloud to my mom and Beth. There were two spots that did make me break down while practicing. So, a mental note was made to skip them if need be. On the day of the funeral the eulogy was given, I barely used my notes because the words came from my heart and poured out until saying goodbye at the end…and…my father was 93 when he died, I’d been writing the eulogy in my head for years.
  3. Have an end game. Not knowing when to stop talking is a common mistake that I see unprepared speakers commit. This is where planning and writing out what you plan to say is crucial.
  4. A common practice to quell fear while speaking in public is to find a focal point and use it. For some it may be a clock at the back of the room. For me it is finding a friendly and attentive face. I’ve only needed to do this once. It was while announcing for the Beaverland MustSki water-ski show team. We were hired by the city of Pittsburgh to perform 6 shows at their annual Independence Day celebration where the rivers meet. Our final show was directly before the big fireworks show prior to dusk on the 4th of July. The crowds that had been a couple of thousand to see the first 5 shows grew to over 50,000. Instead to thinking about how large the crowd was I spotted a family that had been at several other shows and concentrated on them. It worked like a charm.

Speaking is rewarding. If given the chance, please do not shy away from it.

Saying goodbye to dad at the end of the eulogy.

“Sit on it” Ponzi!

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I read today that Bernie Madoff died in prison at the age of 82.

If you are not familiar with the name Bernie Madoff, he is the most famous Ponzi Scheme culprit of all time. Bernie is more famous for his Ponzi Scheme than the namesake of Ponzi Schemes – Charles Ponzi.

What is a Ponzi Scheme?

Ponzi schemes are based on fraudulent investment management services—basically, investors contribute money to the “portfolio manager” who promises them a high return, and then when those investors want their money back, they are paid out with the incoming funds contributed by later investors. The person organizing this type of fraud is in charge of controlling the entire operation; they merely transfer funds from one client to another and forgo any real investment activities.

In the 1920s, Ponzi promised investors a 50% return within a few months for what he claimed was an investment in international mail coupons. Ponzi used funds from new investors to pay fake “returns” to earlier investors.

Madoff bilked a reported $65 billion from 37,000 duped investors. The next best scam of its type was $7 billion. Heck, Ponzi’s victims were out a mere $20 million, which would be valued at $250 million today. Child’s play compared to Madoff.

Many confuse Ponzi Schemes with Pyramid Schemes and even Multi-level Marketing. The main thing to know is that Ponzi and Pyramid are unscrupulous. Multi-level marketing has morals.

Pyramid schemes are structured so that the initial schemer must recruit other investors who will continue to recruit other investors, and those investors will then continue to recruit additional investors, and so on. Sometimes there will be an incentive that is presented as an investment opportunity, such as the right to sell a particular product. Each investor pays the person who recruited them for the chance to sell this item. The recipient must share the proceeds with those at the higher levels of the pyramid structure.

Multilevel marketing is a strategy some direct sales companies use to encourage existing distributors to recruit new distributors who are paid a percentage of their recruits’ sales. The recruits are the distributor’s “downline.” Distributors also make money through direct sales of products to customers.

There are many very successful legitimate and legal multi-level marketed companies. AMWAY is the most successful one that I can think of, AVON, Mary Kay and Herbalife come to mind too.

I’d like to say RIP Bernie, but…no thanks. I’m sure there is a special place in hell for him. It is a good guess that 37,000 people have similar but more intense thoughts on the subject.

Thriving With A Traveling Love

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For decades my work put me on the road. Whether it be for a HQ meeting, training, continuing education, vendor visits or customer visits. Having a suit case nearby was a must.

Since being downsized in 2015…that’s a PC way to say that my employment was terminated…business travel has not been needed for my current employer.

Beth, however, works for a medical group that contracts their services to many hospitals and clinics around the country. Her assignments are relatively local, but overnight stays are a frequent necessity.

Due to impending retirements at Hubbell, there are a couple of manager positions opening up that I have expressed interest in. Infrequent travel is a possibility for both of them.

After we discussed the possibility of both of us traveling for work, Beth sent me a link about work travel and relationships that I found helpful. Perhaps I thought it was helpful because many of the suggestion are things that we do. I will not go over all of them, however the link is at the bottom of this post for those who are interested in reading it.

The focus of this post will primarily be what we are doing that works. We have committed to sitting down and discussing new items together and see what is of mutual interest.

  1. Preparing to plan and planning for trips. Researching and sharing potential locations plus any of the activities, sights, lodging, food and interesting places at those locations. We also make what we call a story board. Each item for that location is written on a sticky note, a board with the dates of travel across the top and time of day along the left edge is made. We then place sticky notes of interest on the board. Notes are moved around to best fit the times available and relative location to each other, some are eliminated until the board is full and we agree on what is in, what is out and when we will do it.
  2. Small surprises. Like calling up a favorite Alexa radio station to be playing when they get home. Having a vase of flowers on the table. A favorite meal slow cooking or in the fridge ready for a quick reheat. And perhaps the most appreciated, having the home tidy and clean before returning home. Personally, I love smelling great food in the house when I get home and one of my favorite potent potables at the ready for post travel unwinding.
  3. Business travel together. Before COVID19 shut many things down, we loved going on the road to conferences together. San Diego, Austin and Kissimmee recently. I even sat in on a few medical continuing education classes. Some of it went over my head, but there was great learning and we did it together. We both loved it. We have both met up with the other for other business travel too. Even if it is for just one or two nights, the experience is a tie that binds.
  4. Utilize technology. FaceTime and mobile phone communication keeps you connected. Seeing each others face is better than a phone call. Texts are OKAY, but seeing and hearing each other is exponentially better. We play electronic games too. Recently Words With Friends, but we have also played trivia games.
  5. Stay supportive. There is nothing worse than putting a guilt trip or extreme sadness on your partner when they have to leave. Our theme for most things is “We’ve got this.” Travel is temporary and essential to the lifestyle that we both want.
  6. Mutual hobbies. We both love to exercise, yoga and working in the yard are frequent. We like looking at homes that are for sale and share listings back and forth. We like the same foods. We both love live theater, comedy and sporting events. Selfishly, I love that she shares the same taste in potent potables. She will share a scotch or bourbon with me and we both like a good brewery. As you know if you are reading these posts, we are attempting a new hobby…gardening.

Here is the article:

Transparent Culture

The gardening saga continues. While relocating cabbage and cauliflower from biodegradable containers (that were disintegrating prematurely) to red solo cups we noticed that the roots of a few plants had grown through the containers and into the diffusion watering mat. It was time for all plants to be transferred to larger containers.

I started with all of the tomato plants that are featured in the YouTube video below. At this time thinning was completed. There is now only one tomato plant per planter. We decided to use clear solo cups that allow us to keep an eye on root growth.

Last frost is expected before Mother’s Day, which is May 9. We will transfer all plants that were grown indoors from seed on that day plus plant seeds for all produce that could not be grown inside.

Those items include several herbs, carrots, radish, peas, beans, onion, potato…I’m sure I’m missing something, but you get the idea.

Here’s R Dub with another exciting video…

A Month of Fasting


Ramadan 2021 begins tonight at sundown and ends May 11 at sundown.

My youngest, Ri attended a college prep boarding school in our town, Wayland Academy, that recruits and enrolls kids from all over the world. Some from the far east, mainly China. However, there were kids from Muslim countries as well. She became close friends with two girls with ties to the Muslim faith.

While the school is primarily for boarding students, 18% of the student population are typically from the area. My daughter was one of the ‘day’ students. She and all other day students were welcome on campus from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm when evening study halls ended and the boarding students needed to get ready for lights out.

Ironically, both of Ri’s Muslim friends were day students, also ironically both families were members of the Presbyterian church that we attended.

One family, the Mohammed’s regularly invited Ri to observe the Ramadan fast with them. I’m uncertain that she observed the fast all days of Ramadan before sundown, but she rarely failed to show up at sundown to partake in prayer, reflection and community with the Mohammed’s.

Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community.

The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities. Muslims believe that Ramadan teaches them to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate, thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity.

Since graduating from college, Ri rarely gets to see her old friends from high school. I wonder if she misses the communal ritual. I will copy her for some reflection on the subject.

There’s Something Funny at the Fine Arts Center!

Dana Ehrmann performed for BDACT in 2018 and 2019
Ton Johnson
AJ Grill

Something Funny at the BDACT Fine Arts Center!Saturday May 1, 2021 – 7:30 pm

Mark your calendars!

3 Professional Comedians!

Dana Ehrmann

Dana first tried stand-up as a college student, and has been self-deprecating and discussing sort-of-but-not-quite-adulthood on stage ever since. Based in Milwaukee, she has performed at the Milwaukee, Floodwater and Great Spirit Comedy Festivals, and opened for Todd Barry, Hari Kondabolu, Dan Soder and Charlie Berens. She’s also sorry she hasn’t watched that t.v. show you recommended, but she just has, like, a lot going on right now.

Ton Johnson

Anton “Ton” Johnson uses his comedy as a platform for the outraged common sense we all keep inside. Based in Milwaukee, Ton is quickly making a name for himself throughout the Midwest after winning several comedy competitions, participating in festivals, and opening for touring headliners in various venues.

AJ Grill

AJ is a standup comedian currently residing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. An Iowa native, AJ started his comedy journey at the age of 21 while attending college in Iowa City, Iowa. After moving to central Wisconsin to finish a meaningless bachelors degree, AJ continued to develop his craft working clubs, colleges, and bars all before graduating from college in 2015. AJ Returned to Iowa and won the 2016 Penguins Comedy Club ‘Funniest Person in Iowa Contest.’ He has performed at festivals all over the country including the Altercation Comedy Festival, Cape Fear Comedy Festival, and the Memphis Comedy festival. His comedy is a mix of humorous personal tragedy, silly wordplay, sprinkled with the occasional rant about respecting large bodies of fresh water.

Thinning Out The Herd

Plucking out the weaker seedlings.
Seedlings that made the first “cut”, more to come I’m sure.

Becoming a gardener has surely been a work in progress. The goal is to learn as we go, or to borrow an industry acronym; OJT “On the job training.”

Our latest learning opportunity? Thinning out the seedlings.

Planting 2 or 3 seeds per planter is recommended when starting seeds. As uncertain newbies, we put 3 seeds in each planter…and with few exceptions, there were exactly three seedlings that sprouted in each planter. We had one planter with 4 seedlings and a handful of planters with 2 seedlings. It was a good start.

What is meant by thinning out the seedlings? Plucking or snipping unwanted seedlings from a planter to give the better seedlings less competition for light, food, water and space to grow healthy roots.

Like most gardening subjects there are multiple approaches to the process. Each claiming that their process is the best one for assuring success. In this case we found two processes that conflict..sort of. Some will recommend carefully and gently pulling the unwanted seedlings out, roots and all. Others say don’t risk harming the remaining seedlings; snip unwanted seedlings off at the soil surface.

In the planters pictured above we have reduced each planter to one or two seedlings. Eventually, there will be only one seedling per planter before their final location in the raised garden beds.

Ideally, thinning should take place before the seedlings have a chance to develop root systems that intertwine. If two seedlings are too close to each other, snipping off the weaker one is preferred by every source that we utilized.

It has been fun plowing ahead into the unknown. Next adventure? Transferring the plants we put in cardboard planters to red solo cups! The paper planters are disintegrating… Exciting! Or no?

Happy National Beer Day!

Beth and R Dub at Ooga Brewing Company Oktoberfest

One of my go to jokes is: “Duct tape separates us from uncivilized cultures.” If that is true then I think that beer transcends cultures.

Not that I’m an expert on the culture of high society, but the brew houses that we support are visited by people of many cultural backgrounds and societal status…if you will.

Fermenting grain into potent potables goes back over ten thousand years. Like pottery from a previous post we can thank our Neolithic ancestors for beer!

I’m more of a Scotch and Bourbon guy myself, but there is always enough room for a beer, especially on a warm day.

Quotes I like concerning beer:

“He was a wise man who invented beer.” Plato

“Beer, if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health.” Thomas Jefferson

“Instead of water we got here a draught of beer…a lumberer’s drink, which would acclimate and naturalize a man at once—which would make him see green, and, if he slept, dream that he heard the wind sough among the pines.” Henry David Thoreau

“Beer, it’s the best damn drink in the world.” Jack Nicholson

…and my favorite…

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.” Abraham Lincoln

Bring me a beer and the facts…we will sort it out, not matter what it is.

A Small But Mighty Wind

Fan set up to gently blow across the seedlings to impersonate Mother Nature’s wind.

Leggy Seedlings

Almost every YouTube video we watched warned of them and instructed how they could be avoided. We thought we followed the experts instructions…but alas and alack…there they were…

What is a leggy seedling you ask? I had to ask too and didn’t really know until weak, long saggy, yellow seedlings appeared in our planters.

Here’s a definition: Seedlings that have long, thin and pale stalks and small leaves. The stem gets weak. It can’t hold itself up. Oof Dah!

What can be done you ask? Me too!

  1. Gently brush the tops of the plants or set up fans to simulate the natural wind. The motion stimulates the plant to grow a nice thick stem. The picture above shows two fans set up to reach all three layers of plant shelving. Yes one of the fans is resting atop a laundry basket.
  2. Make sure that they are only 2″ under the grow light. Tactical error. We planted multiple types of plants in the planters. Some germinated and grew faster than others. It was difficult to make sure that all plants were only 2″ under the lamps.
  3. A main culprit is an outside row leaning toward the middle, stretching to get to the light. Rotate the planters to assure that the plants will begin to lean the other way and straighten themselves out.
  4. Fertilize. We are using a half strength fish fertilizer one day per week.

We were amazed how just 24 hours perked many of them up.

Our education is no where near at an end. A master gardener in Germantown told us to be patient, it takes up to 3 years to really learn how to garden.

Three each 3′ x 5′ elevated raised garden beds arrived Saturday. The soil should arrive the weekend before Mother’s Day. We can hardly wait to transfer our seedlings to the beds and plant the vegetables that we couldn’t start from seed like carrots and radishes and most of the herbs!

You may have noticed that there are 3 containers of basil now. Beth and her daughter Madison bought an established basil plant and used it start several other basil plants. The first 24 hours it showed significant transfer shock, but 3 days later they are all healthy and hale. Maybe we can do this!

The unseasonably warm temperatures make it more difficult to avoid one of the new gardener mistakes…planting before the final frost…

Come on Mother’s Day!

Disturbance In The Force: Chapter Six – The Epicenter

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Chapter 6 – The Epicenter

Francis Hart’s eyes widened with excited anticipation when the familiar tug of a fish nibbled on her minnow. The bobber near the end of her line began submerging spastically. Temperatures are forecast to be unseasonably warm on this early September day. The weather service was correct as the noon sun had already become a little too uncomfortable. She chooses not to let this fish get away despite her discomfort. She can find some shade to enjoy the lunch she packed under the shade of her Suburban tailgate soon.

The bobber violently submerges into the river. Francis instinctively sets the hook by pulling up and back on her rod. The four-pound test line surges quickly to the left, then back to the right. The choke on her reel gives way to a few feet of line as the fish fights against the resistance of the brake and Francis carefully cranks some line back into the reel while keeping the resistance and line tension consistent.

Eventually the fish begins to give up the fight and is reeled in close to shore. While holding the rod in her left hand, she reaches down with her right hand to grab a net and scoops the fish up and onto shore. After setting both the rod and net down on the shore, Francis grabs the fish by the mouth to free it of her hook and holds it up. A crappie, 8 inches long at the most. The fish is put on the weight scale and measures a little under one half of a pound.

“This is your lucky day, my friend.” Francis and the fish move two steps into the slow current of the river slough. She gently moves the fish back and forth in shallow water before releasing it to the safety of the river. “See you after you grow a few inches!” Catch and release is her norm, but a Crappie over 10” would be a keeper. She rinses her hands in murky river water, stands up, collects her fishing gear, and returns to the SUV.

After all fishing gear is neatly packed away, Francis retrieves a small cooler from behind the driver’s seat. There is a mason jar filled with iced tea, a glass container with egg salad. A plastic dish contains a mix of baby spinach greens, cauliflower chunks and shredded carrot. Plus, a bottle of ranch salad dressing, two slices of multi-grain bread…and for an after-lunch treat; one oatmeal and raisin cookie.

Francis, now sitting in the back of her SUV under the shade of the lifted tailgate removes the mason jar lid and takes a long draw of iced tea while gazing west across the river at Gabaret Island. She loves fishing on the Illinois side of the slow-moving Mississippi river waters just east of Gabaret Island. The current is slow, and fishing is good.

The St. Louis metro is not too many miles from where she stands, but the island hides the city. The Hart’s live on the Illinois side of the river, escaping the chaos and dangers that large cities are known for.

Francis begins to reach for the egg salad sandwich she has assembled when she notices a larger than usual migration of birds flying out of the wooded island. Then the sound of a roar bearing down from the south is heard. At first, she thinks that it is the sound of an approaching train. There are railroad trestles that span the river just south of the island.

There is no train, but the sound is approaching with a train like doppler effect that is deafening. As the sound reaches its apex the ground begins to shake violently. So violently that Francis is bounced out of the back of her SUV spilling tea and ice cubes from the mason jar.

In a dazed jerk, she sits up trying to come to terms with the roaring phenomenon of the quake. Before she can adjust, the roar is replaced by the sound of explosions to the west. Francis also hears what she could only describe as the sound of a gigantic slap, like something taking a belly flop onto the surface of the water. Panic overwhelms her as she fears that perhaps the roar and subsequent blasts are a foreign attack. Are they nuclear blasts?!

Scanning the horizon in all directions Francis sees no mushroom clouds and regains some sense of ease. Impending vaporization will not be her fate today.

Jumping back onto her feet, she returns to the car, grabs her mobile phone from the driver’s side cup holder and attempts to call her husband who is working downtown. No service. Francis then dictates three text messages. One to her husband Frank, one to her mom who lives a few miles from their home, and one to their son Frank Jr. They refer to her son as Franky.

“Frank I’m OKAY sweetheart, text back and let me know that you are OKAY!” She touches the send button, but there is no indication that the message was sent or received. The next text is to her mother; “I’m OK. If your home is OKAY, stay put. I will check on you later. If your home is not, I will ask Franky to get you.” Her last text is to their son. “I’m OKAY Franky, text back and let me know that you are OKAY. If it is safe in the house, do not leave. If it is not safe, go to Grandma’s house and wait for me. I will be home soon.” The last two messages are tagged ‘sent’ while her text to Frank Sr. remains in the unmarked status.

Her attention turns back toward the city as the sound of more explosions fills the sky. She wanders slowly toward the shoreline hoping that Frank, mom, and Frank Jr. are not affected by whatever is going on.

Before she could come to grips with the roar that announced the quake and explosions that followed Francis was about to witness one more inexplicable event. The Mississippi river began to flow north! Soon the shallow calm waters of the slough have emptied out. Fish can be seen flopping in the muddy riverbed.

More explosions, but this time the sound comes from the south east. Towards home! Stunned, and now heart racing with panic again she hurries to the vehicle, quickly puts all food back in the cooler and speeds toward home.

The radio station that she has preset and dialed in is off the air. In fact, all of her preset St. Louis area radio stations are off the air. Her Suburban is old school, with no Bluetooth connection to her mobile phone. However, she is able to access breaking news on her phone through the iHeart Radio app. The news is not good. River bridges are all out near St. Louis! How is Frank going to get home?!

Her heart is racing faster. She needs to fight back run-away panic to get home safely.

Paved roads at spots resembled gravel roads, except the gravel was large chucks of asphalt pulverized by the quake. As Francis approached the interstate highway it was backed up to the east for as far as the eye could see and equally backed up at the onramp. What she can’t see is that the interstate has collapsed at every overpass for one mile from the river bridge east.

The belly flop splash sound that she heard early on was the sound of the Interstate 70 bridge that spans the Mississippi collapsing into the river. The number of vehicles that fell into the river with the bridge will never be known for sure.

She makes a U-turn as soon as it is safe, choosing to take back roads home. Normally this route would be a time waster, but today is anything but normal. Travel on main roads leading into and out of the St. Louis metro have become used car lots at every overpass.

Correctly anticipating a rough ride home, Francis engages the fulltime four-wheel drive transmission on her Suburban. What is normally a 15-minute drive from home to the river turned into a 45-minute trek over crumbling roads. She had to drive off the road frequently to avoid large gaps of blacktop. Thankfully, late summer and early fall experienced below average precipitation. When driving off road was needed, her SUV managed to maneuver the task successfully.

There is smoke in the distance toward her home. Prompting a quicker and rougher pace. As Francis nears the outskirts of town, what was just smoke appears now with flames raging beneath the smoke.

Fear of what may be has now turned into panic of what most likely is. The explosions heard after the initial shocks of the quake are natural gas line breaks that have ignited. She is met by a steady stream of cars driving away from the town. What they do not know is that driving toward the city is an impossible task.

She finally drives into their subdivision of homes. Several small acreages with large newish homes. Most built within the last 5 years. Francis sees some homes on fire and other’s in differing degrees to ruin. There is a slight sigh of relief to see that their ranch home is askew but still mostly upright.

The quake did shift the home about 10 degrees to the north. At first glance the house appears to be leaning against the attached garage which is, for the moment, handling the extra strain surprisingly well.

Francis backed her vehicle into the drive halfway up, for a quick getaway just in case the structures failed and plummeted onto the driveway. Exiting the car, she began to call out her son’s name. “Franky! I’m home, Franky! Are you okay Franky! Franky!”

The overhead garage door would be kept shut, she feared that opening it would compromise the structure’s integrity. Weighing her instinct to survive versus her maternal instinct, Francis unlocked the front door after fumbling with her keychain for the correct key. She could not remember the last time she unlocked the front door with a key. Only visitors entered and exited from this door which they unlocked and locked from inside of the home.

The door was flung open and Francis ran into the house still calling our Frank Jr.’s name. First stop was his bedroom. Empty. Then the TV room in the basement. Empty. She checked every bathroom. No one. Taking a moment to think, she checked the garage.

Franky’s car was gone. Francis went back outside of the house through the front door and closed it. What does the missing car mean? Was he gone before the quake? Did he get my message? She looks at her text stream and sees that her message was sent, but not received yet.

She attempts to call Frank Sr., but phone service is still unavailable. Another round of texts is attempted to both Franks and mom. “I’m home safe. I’m worried, please call or text.”

The house is severely damaged, maybe he’s at grandma’s house. “Why aren’t they texting me?” She takes a moment to inspect the house from the front yard, then circles around the home. Despair begins to creep into her psyche, but she rallies and thinks about her family. “This is just a home and it is insured. We can rebuild. I need to find Franky, mom, and Frank”.

Her instinct is to drive into town and check her mother’s home. But she saw the traffic headed out of town. Maybe Franky’s trying get home. Remembering how long it took her to get home on the back roads of rubble she determines that waiting it out at home is the best choice.

Francis’ next mission is to get ready to leave with her family as soon as they are all back together again. She risks reentry into the damaged home and begins assembling outdoor camping gear including dehydrated camp food for a week and four each 5-gallon containers of water. In a large army style duffle bag, she puts several days of clothing for the entire family. She can get clothes for her mom when they pick her up.

She considers putting the fishing equipment away, then thinks better of it and tucks them into a covered storage well in the back of the spacious Suburban SUV. This act reminds her that they may need to hunt for food as well as fish, so she goes back inside to gather up firearms and ammunition. Two 12-gauge, and one 20-gauge shotgun, a .22 caliber rifle and Frank’s 9 mm handgun are retrieved from the gun safe with all available ammo for an extended hunt or whatever else may demand the use of firepower.

The 9 mm is loaded and placed in the center console of the car.

Impatiently waiting for Frank Jr. to arrive she starts the SUV to head into town and drive to her mom’s home or the civic center in case they are seeking shelter there. The gas gauge reads a little over ¾ of a tank of gasoline. Buying gas may be difficult or impossible. Francis risks reentry into the garage and finds four six-gallon cans of gas.

The SUV will only need about twelve gallons to top off the tank. However, there is no use leaving twelve gallons of gas behind when they will need it soon enough. A tote with tie downs and bungee straps is grabbed. Two cans are emptied into the gas tank, then all four cans are strapped to the top of the luggage rack.

Everything that Francis could think of is now packed to the top of the cabin without putting any items in the front seat or the middle seats for passengers. The back seats were folded down to make room for as much equipment as possible. Side view mirrors will be the only way to see behind the vehicle. The trip to her mom’s home should take less than 10 minutes.

Traffic has slowed down considerably in the last hour. However, the sights she sees piques her nervousness and a feeling of dread is creeping into her psyche. The town looks like a war zone. Debris on the roads and buildings crumbled or afire or both. There are large groups of people roaming the streets on foot. Looting has already begun. She nervously speeds up the vehicle until finally arriving at her mother’s home.

Francis is disappointed to not see Franky’s car in her mom’s driveway, but the house seems to have been spared significant damage from the quake. However, the front entry and overhead garage doors are wide open, and her mom’s car is not in it. That is out of character for her mom who is very security cautious.

Initially Francis leaves the Suburban door open and begins to run toward the front door, then thinks better of it. The sight of looters while driving through town made her reverse course. She circled back to grab the handgun she packed, then close and lock the driver’s side door.

Her gait is now slower and more deliberate as she approaches the door with the handgun positioned up like one would see in a movie or TV show depicting the police carefully entering a dangerous home.

Prior to entering the home, she stopped and yelled out; “Mom! Franky! Is anyone home?! Are you OKAY?!” No answer. The questions are repeated as she slowly enters the home. Francis was not prepared for the scene she was about to see.

The home is ransacked with many items missing that should be there. Anything that may have value is gone, most things with little or no value are turned over or broken. That was not the worst of it.

Lying on the kitchen floor are Frank Jr. and her mom. They are both bludgeoned and bleeding. Francis gasps not knowing who to check on first. Franky is in front of her mom. He must’ve been attempting to protect her. She checks for a pulse and breathing but can’t find either. A frantic but unsuccessful attempt to call 911 is made. No service.

Switching her attention to mom now, there is no pulse or breathing. She makes one more attempt to dial 911. Nothing. Francis stumbles to her feet and runs out of the home screaming frantically for help, but there is no one available or willing to assist. She did, however, manage to get the attention of more looters who are now making their way toward the vehicle when they see the treasures that the Suburban may have for them.

Francis aims the gun to the heavens and fires a warning shot that does little to stop the leader of the group. She manages to unlock the door, get in and lock it before the first looter gets to her. She quickly starts the engine, points her gun at the looter who recoils and backs up. The vehicle is thrown into reverse, backs into the street and speeds away from the scene.

The extreme reactions of fright and remorse are more than she can take. The SUV veers slightly from side to side as she sobs. There is great guilt for leaving her loved ones in that home while those animals hovered around the neighborhood like vultures.

She decides the best course of action is to go home and wait for Frank Sr. to get home. The two of them will be a greater force than one person alone.

Panic again sets in when she sees people wandering through her subdivision. These homes are the newest and nicest in the area. A target for opportunistic criminals. Every home has security systems, but there is no electricity to run them and no law enforcement available to get the warning signals even if there was electricity. There is not enough law enforcement for this type of catastrophe.

Approaching their home, it is clear that someone has broken into the house. All doors are wide open, and the garage is almost bare. She must seek shelter elsewhere, flips a quick U-turn, and heads out of the subdivision and onto the county highway.

Francis makes one more failed attempt to call Frank. No service. She sends a text. “May Day! Do not go home! I’m headed to Wisconsin. Meet me there when you can. I love you!”

Upon sending the text she realizes that the word ‘me’ would confuse Frank, so she sends one more text. “Meet us in Wisconsin.” This is technically true. There will be more than one person where she is headed. At least she hopes so. This tragedy would need to be explain in person, on the phone or face to face.

A few miles down the road she opens up a physical map and begins to chart a route on back roads from west central Illinois to south central Wisconsin. The trip will be a long and sad one.