A Post-Katrina New Orleans

This amazing city of New Orleans has so much to offer, and has been through SO MUCH.

There are many significant world events that people often refer to as a measure of time. Pre-war is one…  Although, I recently called the building I live in a “pre-war” building and I had someone ask me “Which war?” Now, I think they were kidding (I hope they were), because obviously that term is used to refer to pre-WWI, but it struck me when I was in New Orleans recently when I heard locals referring to “Pre-Katrina” as a measure of time. It was just in the course of conversation, but it really is like living in a post-war time period for them.

Quick Trip
Photo credit: TripAdvisor.com

I was only in New Orleans for 44 hours, but I managed to squeeze in a whole lot of amazing NOLA experiences in that amount of time! As soon as I got there, I headed over to Mardi Gras World where the IEEE SuperComputing Convention was having their closing party

Mardi Gras World stores the Mardi Gras floats for many of the MG Krewes. I have been there before, but this time it was great to see the Saints SuperBowl parade float and to also see four floats that were totally white, about to be painted anew for the ’11 Mardi Gras! 

Work to Do

The next morning I had an appointment to meet with a meeting planner to see his show that was also in town this week; I bid on this one and lost, but I’m hoping for the opportunity to bid again in the future and it’s helpful when you can see it first-hand. I then did some work back at the hotel and headed to Mother’s for lunch! This restaurant is iconic in NOLA and many a Facebook friend was jealous of the good eats I was enjoying. 

Charity & Fun

I then headed over to the RiverWalk Mall where I bought a dress for a benefit I was invited to that evening. I then sent out a proposal that was due that day and headed with my local friends Cheryn and Meg to a benefit for Multiple Sclerosis. There was a TON of art and excellent items in the silent and live auctions that evening, all to benefit an amazing organization. The band was SO GOOD and the food was amazing. The bonus fun? Archie Manning and his Delta Gamma wife Olivia were there (I did not bother them!) and their eldest son Cooper was the Auctioneer for the live auction. Cooper is FUNNY! He was also inappropriate at times (seemed he knew most of the crowd), but he did a really good job. I joked that I should trip Archie because of what he pulled with the Chargers and Eli’s draft, but… I didn’t :-). What a fun, unexpected night!

Photo Credit: NationalGeographic.com

But the best part of the trip was having the opportunity to help plant Wetlands while there. Cheryn was planning to go to this event arranged by the Young Leadership Council, and the only reason I wouldn’t go would be so I could sleep in… and that sure didn’t seem like a good enough reason. I learned quite a bit from a woman from the LSU AgCenter who helps run the Wetland Center in City Park. This park is in Metairie, which is a suburb right next to New Orleans and it was completely under water because of Katrina. 

The storm completely changed the park! The treeline changed and the grass was ruined. Our task on this morning was to plant and replant different types of individual sprouts of grass in individual pots where they are nurtured and grow. This grass is what makes up the wetlands; they act as a vital buffer protecting land from storms coming in from offshore. Check out this article for more details: http://dirt.asla.org/2010/09/21/restoring-wetlands-to-save-the-gulf/

I hadn’t done anything to help this city that I love so much up until now, so I’m SO happy I had this opportunity!

As I worked alongside these young people who live in New Orleans, they spoke about what they do for a living and with each person it evolved into a conversation that involves Katrina. This horrible storm is now part of the fabric of who they are… Everyone has a story about where they were, where they went post-storm, and when and why they came back. New Orleans becomes a part of who you are and now Katrina is woven into that fabric. I pray there isn’t another war story like this in our lifetime, but in the meantime, the levies are NOT the only things that need to be fixed! The Wetlands must continue to be restored—how amazing that grass can be so powerful, right? 

If you plan on visiting New Orleans any time soon, why not do a little something to give back while you’re there? No volunteers can help with anything related to the oil spill, but you can help to restore the Wetlands! Check out this Web page and reach out if you can lend any of your time while there: http://www.volunteermatch.org/search/opp713050.jsp

And then reward yourself with the fantastic food, drink, and music this city is so famous for!

The “GREENING” of Our World… Overkill or Necessary?

I am right there with those of you who feel the words “green”, “sustainability” and “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) are over-used. I frequently find people using these terms simply as buzzwords to try and sound like they know what they’re talking about, but there typically isn’t much depth to what they are saying. I don’t know what the solution is because what’s at the heart of it is SO important, but I thought it was worth exploring. More often than not, all of these things are better for our environment in terms of what we are not destroying at the expense of the product (trees, for example) or in the energy they are saving and, in the long run, they will save you money. You might make a larger initial investment in windows/doors, for example, than you would have, but you will come out ahead in the long run. I attended the GREENBUILD Convention and Exposition today (www.usgbc.org) and I was completely amazed at how HUGE the tradeshow floor was and how many different types of products there are that are “green” building materials. Seriously, the variety of insulation, doors and windows that will help save energy (saving you money, while being “socially responsible”), types of flooring you can use made from recycled materials, TOILETS that will help you save water (they look pretty cool too), LED light bulbs (planned obsolescence still exists here, but your lights will be cheaper to use and you won’t have to replace them *quite* as often :-), and on and on.
Perhaps we need to stop using the word “green” and find a better, more descriptive word. The meetings industry in particular is one of the most wasteful industries in existence. But I know personally that I sort of glaze over when I see that word in the title of a session at a meetings industry conference. What new could they possible be talking about that I haven’t already heard? Is there a better word to describe saving our planet in our everyday lives? The number of signs and banners that are created and thrown out for meetings happening every day across the country is staggering. Oracle (www.oracle.com) holds OpenWorld in San Francisco each fall and it’s one of the largest educational conferences (more than 40,000 attendees) in the world and over the years they have become more and more green, which has earned them an award in the industry. The first year that they eliminated water bottles they saved $1 million! Saving that amount of money is awesome, but think about the reduced impact on the planet? They really have blazed a trail and it’s quite impressive to see that they’ve also helped the city of San Francisco to become one of the “greenest” cities in which to hold a meeting. Most signs they have printed are made from recyclable materials, all serve ware is compostable, all left-over food is donated to homeless shelters in San Francisco, and they still serve water, but it’s purified tap water from the city that can be put in their provided (sponsored) container or a compostable cup! Oracle uses digital signage in front of every session room (more than 100 concurrent). And, it took almost an act of God, but they are now also recycling shrink-wrap which was that last bulk item that wasn’t fully recyclable that was the elusive piece of the puzzle. They have done so much more than I just mentioned and each year they make more strides in what they are doing in this area and they deserve to be awarded for it!
It’s hard for me to imagine, but the US Green Building Council has only been in existence for nine years. And this industry (including Solar, which is a MAJOR piece of this that has a life of its own – http://www.solarpowerinternational.com/) is the fastest growing industry right now. Attendance and tradeshow participation at these Conventions is growing by leaps and bounds because it’s something that people care about… And it isn’t going away!! Companies will continue to improve the way we build and hopefully cities will adopt the standards being set in this industry as required standards for new developments.
But I have a challenge for you: the next time someone tells you they have a CSR program at their company or that they have “green” initiatives, call them out on it! Really make them have to describe to you what they think it is and perhaps it will spark a truly interesting conversation… Perhaps you will end up teaching them something they didn’t know? And then, maybe they won’t throw the terms around if they don’t have the smarts to back it up? Or, better yet, they will do their homework and they’ll be able to have that conversation intelligently.
My apartment building has no recycling capabilities currently and it has bothered me ever since I moved in (years ago). I’ve been “doing my part” by separating my bottles and cans and setting them next to my dumpster for the homeless people to pick up, but that doesn’t take into account all of the other items in my trash that aren’t being recycled! I’ve brought it up to the resident manager, but he “blames” the owner for not wanting to spend the money because it’s currently not required by the city for multi-dwelling buildings to have recycling capabilities.
Sometimes doing what’s right isn’t always easy, but remember that in the long run it WILL be worth it. I’m going to impress upon the owner of my building  the need for him to provide this to his residents . If he refuses, then I’ll begin putting pressure on the city to require it. I’m pledging to do that… In addition to questioning (in a nice way:-) people who use those buzzwords I mentioned…
What are YOU going to do?

What a Week!

What a blessing to be able to travel to DC as often as I do. Thankfully, AV Concepts (www.avconcepts.com) understands how bountiful the opportunities are in DC and how many great relationships I’ve established in the more than two years I’ve been traveling there regularly. After realizing I wasn’t going to move there, my boss agreed to a compromise of going there once per month. Now, it hasn’t been that frequent because that would be impossible with all of the other travel I’m doing between actual shows, site visits, industry conferences, etc… I’m on the road about 50% of the time as it is. But I have been to DC 15 times in the last 26 months and I’m so grateful! Tuesday night was the perfect example… I went to a Potomac Meeting Professionals International (www.pmpi.org) recruitment event and was able to both reconnect with people I hadn’t seen in a while and get to know some people better whom I hadn’t spent much time with! Even better? I was able to continue the evening and go out to dinner with four people – three of which are potential clients!! It would be tremendous to get all three as clients, but even if I don’t… I know they are friends. I’m reading a book right now called It’s Not Just Who You Know by Tommy Spaulding and he talks about the concept of Return on Relationship or ROR. Your ROR may come when you expect it, but it could come when you least expect it. There is so much value in making connections with every person you interact with because of that potential for the ROR. Getting a referral from someone who didn’t hire me is a perfect example of that (that happened recently with one of my DC contacts). The more people I meet, the more valuable connections I will make and this will potentially come back to me in the form of new business! Lord knows I love to win, but I’m learning there can absolutely be positives even when I don’t get a “W”.

Of course, it’s not earth shattering news that business is all about relationships, but I think it’s nice to be reminded and this concept of ROR is a fantastic one. I’m so fortunate to have built the relationships I have over the years and those in DC are especially great— all of these connections make me feel like I’m “home” when I’m there. I might not be happy with my sales results as of late (despite being ahead of goal for the 2nd year in-a-row with AVC), but I need to remember that all the work I’ve been doing, and those connections that I’ve made, have established a foundation that WILL pay off :->.

I’m a lucky girl!

The Jury is Not Out, But I Am

It’s SO interesting the reaction you get from people when you tell them you have jury duty! About 80% of the people tell me to make racist comments or to do something that would “get me out of it”… I typically just laugh it off, but today I feel like saying something about it. It truly is our “civic duty”! Honestly, wouldn’t you want the best possible mix of people – a true “jury of your peers” if you had to go to trial? I’m sure you’re thinking, but I would never end up in a situation where I needed a trial. But how do you know that? You might just be someone whom a crime has been committed against. And then FOR SURE you’re going to want a good jury and it’s your constitutional right – it’s OUR constitutional right to have a fair and speedy trial, with a jury of our peers. So why is it that people are so anti-jury duty? I would argue that you’re probably only anti-jury if you’ve never served on one. I served on a criminal trial several years ago and it was one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. I find the whole justice system to be so very interesting. We did convict this person of Robbery, Kidnap for Robbery, Car-jacking, felony possession of a firearm, evading… and one other count. Six counts in all and the trial was pretty quick because the defense didn’t have much of a defense. It did not feel good to convict him, but it really did feel good to take part in the process. The US legal system is a good one.
I will admit that all of the waiting around can be frustrating and a true test of patience and the two days I spent at the San Diego Courthouse yesterday and today really did test mine. It took almost two full days to get into our department and to have the jury fully picked. I was a part of the gallery (not in the group of 24 people selected) and I did not end up on the jury, but I still enjoyed it.
Next time you get your jury notice, go. And the next time someone tells you they have jury duty tell them good luck or have fun, but try not to tell them how to get out of it. You will learn something about how our justice system works, you will be fulfilling your civic duty, and you might even make a friend – I did!

No One Wants to Plan It… or Have to Go

The experience of a memorial service is always hard. And when it’s your brother, it’s even harder. One for a sibling was a first for me, but it was the 5th memorial in 16 months that I’ve had to attend. Enough already. Yesterday it was a service where no one was sure if they could speak on Terry’s behalf… whether they could actually get the words out. I couldn’t let that happen, so I found a song called “Fly” that I thought was a great representation of the situation and hoped that I could get through it.  With his love of music, it seemed appropriate to read lyrics… though not a Beatles song, which he would have appreciated even more. And then his best friend of 43 years managed to say some lovely words about Terry and his love for him. It was a wonderful day of a gathering of friends and family who hadn’t seen each other in a long, long time. And now it’s our task to keep Terry alive in our hearts with all of the great memories we have. Easier said than done, but hopefully concentrating on remembering all the good stuff will help the healing process.
Lyrics to “Fly”, by Celine Dion

Fly, fly little wing
Fly beyond imagining
The softest cloud, the whitest dove
Upon the wind of heaven’s love
Past the planets and the stars
Leave this lonely world of ours
Escape the sorrow and the pain
And fly again

Fly, fly precious one
Your endless journey has begun
Take your gentle happiness
Far too beautiful for this
Cross over to the other shore
There is peace forevermore
But hold this mem’ry bittersweet
Until we meet

Fly, fly do not fear
Don’t waste a breath, don’t shed a tear
Your heart is pure, your soul is free
Be on your way, don’t wait for me
Above the universe you’ll climb
On beyond the hands of time
The moon will rise, the sun will set
But I won’t forget

Fly, fly little wing
Fly where only angels sing
Fly away, the time is right
Go now, find the light

The Trials and Tribulations of Travel

I had to cancel a lunch meeting due to flying out earlier than scheduled today, but I was able to schedule a breakfast for a much overdue meeting, so I did (@ 8am). Also, in an effort to save the company some money, I opted to take the Metro as far as I could towards BWI and then take a cab from there. So far, so good. My scheduled flights have me going through Denver to San Jose and I was supposed to get home at 4pm. The flight is smooth and all is going fine, despite my itching to be home with my family… they are all gathered already and I’m not there. So, we’re getting close to Denver and the pilot comes on the PA to say that he has some “bad news”… There is some weather we need to avoid and they have closed the runway we were supposed to come in on, so we’re going to have to loop around. At this point, he’s still not projecting us to be “too late” (mind you, I have 25-minutes to get my connection). And we just keep flying and flying. Next thing you know he tells us that we are now short fuel and we’re going to have to make a pit-stop in Colorado Springs to fuel-up. By the time we get to Denver, I’ve missed my connection by 1.5 hours and the flight they re-booked me on doesn’t leave for 5 hours! And, to add insult to injury, I got a B number (slumming it for us A-Listers). My phone rings about an hour before I’m supposed to leave and it’s SWA letting me know what? Oh, yes, we’re delayed! By the time I get to my parent’s house I will have been traveling for roughly 18 hours. NOT the way I wanted to spend this time by any stretch.

Planes, trains, and automobiles is a great movie, but I sure don’t want to live it. And, although I’m not looking forward to tomorrow, I sure am looking forward to seeing my family – this week was successful for me in DC, but it’s a bit of a blur. It was hard… but tomorrow will be harder.

Cut to 9pm last night and the terrible…

I got a voice mail from my Mom and I could tell she had really bad news… And I had my suspicion what it was. It’s the call I’ve been anticipating, but I just didn’t know when it would happen. You see, having 8 siblings brings with it a down-side. My whole life people have said to me “Wow, the youngest of 9 kids? How was that growing up?” My answer is always that I didn’t know any different. I got to grow up in a crazy, fun, screwy, nutty environment… And as the years go on, people change and situations change. Not every sibling will have the life you expect and what seemed like “normal” within the family dynamic won’t always stay normal. 

My brother Terry had more musical and artistic talent in his pinky than most of my siblings and myself put together. For the first half of his life he was able to channel this in ways that were amazing – I always enjoyed going to see his bands play (or staying in when Mom let them practice in her living room). He wrote great songs and he played the guitar amazingly. I truly thought at one point that one (or more) of his songs would be on the radio one day. He was also a tremendous painter and drawer – his work was awesome. But at some point along his life journey, he lost his way. He never really did well in an environment with a “boss”, which is even more why he should have pursued his art more vigorously. But something took over him. He became stuck and had some personal issues with another family member that exacerbated his already tenuous situation… And he drank. And he drank and drank. And then he spent a lot of time at Santa Clara Valley Med and he was in a tremendous amount of pain. They kept sending him away, over and over, thinking it was really nothing. Until they finally realized he had pancreatitis and that they needed to help him. 

He reached his tipping point and his body gave up. My middle sibling, and brother number five, Terence Gerard Powers passed away this weekend and I don’t think I’ve seen him for three or four years. I’m wracked with guilt. But what could I have done? There were several occasions that we hoped would be his tipping point for the positive – that he would realize he needed to help himself and get into a program – but that never happened. I never visited him in the hospital because I couldn’t take it. I was so mad that he had done this to himself and there was nothing I could do to fix him, so I cowardly stayed away. My poor parents. They eventually took the tough love route after he had stayed living at home for far too many years and sent him out on his own. They had to. Before too long, my Dad began helping him again financially, gave him his cell phone… then took him to the hospital, picked up meds for him. No parent should have to bury their children… I sure hope they give themselves a break. I don’t know that any of us who truly cared about him could have “fixed” him or his situation. But I’m sure we’re all questioning what else we could have done.
So, the downside, you see, is that I have many more family members who I care about and I’ll have to deal with loss more times than most. Rest in peace, brother Terry. Keep on drawing and keep on playing.

Sometimes Terrible Life Events Follow Uplifting Ones

I’ll start with the uplifting part. Yesterday I participated in my 5th American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk and my total money raised in those five years is at almost $15,000. The walk is always so inspiring – tons of survivors and more than 20,000 people participating, all in an effort to increase awareness of the issue of breast cancer and to raise money for the American Cancer Society to continue their research to prevent and eventually CURE this disease that has affected all of us. I’m motivated by the desire to raise as much money as I can because I really believe we are making a difference and after having my Mom, her Mom, three of her sisters, and a first cousin all go through it, I feel like it just might be on the horizon for me and my sisters, so I’m hoping the treatments will continue to get better and even more successful than the 98% survival rate we have right now when it’s caught early. I’m also a little competitive and striving to have my numbers be up there with the highest in all of San Diego helps to stoke the fire of my efforts! My numbers have gone down right along with the economy, but I am extremely inspired by a local San Diego woman named Stacy Matseas who is the #1 fundraiser in the NATION who raises her money for this walk. In 10 years she has raised close to (if not more now) $800K. If she can set a goal of $125K for ONE year, I surely can keep trudging on to get as close as possible to my $4,000 goal. The walk happens and is over in a matter of hours, but we have to continue to raise awareness and help this awesome organization… And I’m honored to do so. Still taking donations, by the way: http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/MakingStridesAgainstBreastCancer/MSABCFY11California?px=1547233&pg=personal&fr_id=27984
I think I’ll put the terrible life event in another post later today so this uplifting one can stand alone.

BIGGEST EVENT OF THE YEAR… AND in my company’s history!!

ORACLE     My most recent work event (http://www.avconcepts.com/) was the crazy large Oracle OpenWorld, JavaOne, and Oracle Develop conferences that all run concurrently in San Francisco each fall. JavaOne was a new add since their acquisition of Sun and it grew the event by 20% over last year. More than 41K people attended more than 2,300 sessions that we provided the A/V equipment and labor for on TEN properties throughout the city. For any of you who have worked with union labor (Local 16 in this case), you know that is no easy task — now imagine managing 247 union workers on setup day and 179 on the peak session day? NO small feat, my friends! Downtown SF becomes a crazy, RED, techie-full, Oracle land during this time of year and it’s an awesome thing to be a part of! When I secured this account in May of 2009, I had no idea the crazy ride I was in for. And now here we are, two OpenWorld’s later and I still have the account… We’re talking about next year already and it’s an amazing, crazy, scarey, exciting, frustrating process that I feel privilidged to be a part of.
PARTY           Along with all of the hard work comes some serious fun! Each year Oracle has an Appreciation Party where there’s a killer concert (or 6), midway games, carnival rides, and food and drinks for 22K people on Treasure Island! Last year it was Aerosmith, Roger Daltry, 3 Dog Night and The Whalers. This year? Black Eyed Peas, Don Henley, Berlin, English Beat, Steve Miller Band, and Montgomery Gentry! It really was more fun than should be legal.
GRATITUDE   I try very hard to show every person who works on my shows how *very* much I appreciate them and how hard they work. With Wayne Hensley as my lead project manager, this team ROCKED the show once again and I really can’t thank them enough for doing such an awesome job!