Evacuated from St. Maarten by Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas Cruise Ship

Part Four of our Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten Experience

We had arrived at the cruise ship port only to be told by the guards that the ship was full.  This was one of my lowest points of our hurricane experience.  To be so close to being evacuated from the devastation of Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten, to be at the cruise ship gate only to be turned away.  To be told that the ship was full, and that we had to go back.  Back to where?  And, our bus was out of gas.

BUT WAIT!  Our bus driver was not to be deterred.  He called the person who had confirmed that we were to be on the ship.  She told him what to do, who to contact from the ship, and to tell that person that we were confirmed to be on the ship, that we were included in their number.  When that person came to the bus and waved us in, there were shouts of joy from all on our bus!  I can’t remember another time that I had felt such despair and such joy in the same few minutes.

We disembarked from the bus, went through security, collected our bags, and then were led to the cruise ship to board.  The walk from the bus to the cruise ship was surreal.  This was the first time that I allowed myself to believe that we were really being evacuated.

Mike & Ship

Mike getting ready to board our evacuation ship, Royal Caribbean’s  “Adventure of the Seas.” 

There was still little information.  The only thing that we were told was that once we boarded the ship to go to the ship conference room.

In the conference room, the first things I saw were snacks and soft drinks.  That was the beginning of Royal Caribbean feeding us literally and figuratively.  We were also given an information sheet.  On the information sheet was information about how to connect to the internet, and that internet was complimentary for us for the length of our stay.   This was the first time in days that we were able to connect by email, or to connect at all.  Also on the information sheet was the fact that we were given free laundry and dry cleaning for the length of our stay.  Wow! How did they know that these two things, to be connected to our families and friends and to have clean clothes, would meet two of our basic needs?  To have come from what we had left, to now being on a beautiful cruise ship cared for in such a manner was almost beyond belief.  There was still no mention of any cost that we would incur for this evacuation.  After we were checked in and given our stateroom assignments, we were then taken through a safety demonstration.  We were then able to go check into our staterooms.

Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas is a large cruise ship.  This ship of 3000 guests and 1000 crew members was on an existing cruise that rerouted through St. Maarten to pick up 300 Americans to take us to safety.  This was clearly a humanitarian effort.


Our first day on the cruise/evacuation ship.

We were finally told that there was no cost to the 300 of us being evacuated, other than if we ordered special services or special meals.  Our room and board, internet, and laundry were all complimentary.  A phone was even made available for us to use to call home, book flights, or for whatever we needed.  All of this was provided for us by Royal Caribbean at no cost.  Contrast this with those who evacuated by military plane.  We were told they had to sign a promissory note to repay the U.S. government the cost of a one-way plane ticket from St. Maarten to San Juan.

The Adventure of the Seas cruise originated in San Juan, came to St. Maarten on Sunday, September 10th, and was to return to San Juan on Saturday, September 16th.  From St. Maarten, the ship was going to Curacao, then to Aruba, Bonaire, and back to San Juan.  I had not been to any of those areas except San Juan. Those of us being evacuated were encouraged to take the entire journey, again, at no cost, although we were able to evacuate at any port from which we could get a flight home.

Mike and I wanted to be home.  Our daughter, Tara, had been in frequent contact with American Airlines trying to get us home.  Now, Mike was as well, since we had internet access.  The problem was most flights from the cruise ship ports went through Miami, and the Miami airport was still closed.  Our best option was to fly from Aruba to Charlotte and then to Raleigh.

Although we were on a cruise ship, to me it was an evacuation ship.  I was not able to enjoy it as a cruise.  The accommodations were lovely, the food was delicious, and the service was excellent.  But I still wanted to be home.  I was not able to do much more than sit and relax.  Most of the cruise ship activities were wasted on me.  I did schedule some spa services for Mike and me, as much as anything, to pass the time.

It seemed to me that those of us who had evacuated from the Royal Islander, our St. Maarten resort, were now in a special club.  There were approximately 10 couples/families of us.  While we might not ever see each other again, for this point in time, we were bonded.  I decided to ask all of those who I could find if we wanted to meet for dinner on Monday night.  Most all wanted to do so and did.  We had a wonderful time of connecting and sharing.

Resort Friends 1Resort Friends 2

Our resort friends with whom we are now bonded forever.

From that point on, we would be going in different directions, although most were taking the cruise ship all the way to San Juan.  Mike and I had decided to disembark in Aruba on Wednesday afternoon, September 13th.

Our first port was Curacao.  While Mike and I did go ashore there, we only ventured forth to the shopping area closest to the ship.  We went to a restaurant and had a snack, then returned to the ship.

Mike & Patti

Mike and I enjoying a snack in Curaçao.

The next port was Aruba, where we arrived on Wednesday morning, September 13th.  We were successful in getting a flight from Aruba to Raleigh through Charlotte, although we would have to spend the night in Aruba and fly out the next day.  Mike booked us a hotel room at the Aruba Hilton.

When we left the ship late afternoon in Aruba, I had conflicting emotions.  I was glad to be getting closer to home, yet aware that I was leaving behind people with whom we had shared a unique experience.  These were not family nor even friends, other than through this shared experience.  But we would be a part of each other’s history forever.  While there was excitement about being closer to home, there was sadness about leaving behind this time and these people.

I was also aware that we were now on our own.  For the past few days we had been cared for by Royal Caribbean, who fed us, made our beds, washed our clothes, and made sure we had connection with the outside world.  All of that would now be up to us.  I was not so sure that we were up for it.

Aruba Hilton

Our peaceful oasis in Aruba, the Aruba Hilton.

The Aruba Hilton was a lovely hotel.  After having a nice meal and a good night’s sleep, the next day we headed to the airport in plenty of time to catch our flight.

Mike ready to go

Mike at the Aruba Hilton, waiting for our transport to the airport,              to begin our journey home.

We boarded our American Airlines Flight around 4:00pm on Thursday, September 14th.  After the usual pre-boarding and boarding details, our plane was ready to take off.   We began to taxi down the runway.  But instead of ascending into air, our plane came to a screeching halt.  I wondered, did we hit another plane, although it did not feel like a collision.  Perhaps we had a flat tire?

I have flown many times, and have never had such an abrupt stop.  It was not clear what was happening.  After a few minutes that seemed like much more, the pilot came on the intercom and told us to stay seated, that we were returning to the gate.

My heart sank.


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St. Maarten Hurricane Irma Evacuation Plans

This is Part Three of Mike and my Hurricane Irma experience in St. Maarten




Our local friends, Ron and his family, leaving our resort the morning we were to be evacuated




Hurricane Irma had arrived on St. Maarten early Wednesday AM, September 6.  Four days later, Sunday, September 10, we were about to be evacuated.  Told to be downstairs by 7am to board the bus to be taken to the cruise ship that would evacuate us, we were still waiting more than eight hours later.

Our friends, Ron and his family, had left the resort when we went to the lobby at 7am.  It was a tearful goodbye.  We worried what would happen to them, when/if we would see them again, and when we would see our beautiful island alive and vibrant again.

During our long wait, we stood a lot, sat some, talked, and even ate breakfast.  The resort staff provided the breakfast, and the respite it provided nourished us as much as the food.  We were in an “on hold” mindset, waiting.  There was little information provided by anyone during this time.

There were about thirty of us at our resort all wanting to get out.  A little before noon, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was spotted passing by our resort.  There was an immediate outbreak of applause and cheers.  Seeing a cruise ship come in was confirmation that we were really going to be evacuated.  This was the first that I knew which cruise ship was going to rescue us.

During the more than eight hours that we waited, there were several buses that came and went, but none to take us to the cruise ship.  There was a truck that loaded our luggage, and parked and waited near us.   We waited and waited.

Some asked questions about when the bus was coming (“soon”), why it wasn’t there (“it has taken some people to the airport and will be back soon”), and what time the cruise ship was to sail (“5pm”).  When 3pm came and went and still no bus, the unrest in the group was palpable.  We all knew the drive across the island to the cruise ship terminal could take us a long time given the road conditions, and we began to fear the cruise ship leaving without us.  Hope began to turn to hopelessness.  What had seemed too good to be true, being rescued soon, might actually be just that.

In addition to the cruise ship evacuation option, evacuation was also possible by military planes.  No mention was made by anyone, to my knowledge, about any cost involved with either option.  I did wonder about the cost, but did not want to make any decision based on that, so I did not verbalize the question, not even to Mike.  I remember thinking that if there was a cost, that whatever the cost was, it would be worth it.  I also remember thinking that if there was a cost involved, that we likely would have been told, since “they” would need to be sure that we were prepared to pay it.

There were some in our resort who elected to take the military planes option.  They were told they could only bring one suitcase and that it would have to be held on their lap.  There was much discussion back and forth among those waiting about which evacuation option they were electing and why.  Those who elected the military planes option left in the morning and walked the two miles to the airport.  We had no information about how they fared.

Mike and I discussed it, and decided to take the cruise ship.  Our decision making about this included the difficulty posed by the military plane option.  We did not relish repacking our belongings into one suitcase each and leaving everything else behind from two additional suitcases.  Having to walk to the airport with our two remaining pieces of luggage and holding the bags on our laps during the flight was also a factor.  And that wasn’t about leaving behind our “stuff” as much as it was the sheer energy required to elect this option.  We were told we could be waiting in line for hours outside of the airport in the heat.  I was also concerned about being able to get a hotel room in San Juan and a flight back to the U.S when there were already so many people there trying to do the same thing.   Comparing this option to being driven by bus to a cruise ship, and once on the ship, having all the details for room and board taken care of, the decision was an easy one for us; we chose the cruise ship.  And not for one minute did I think this would be a cruise that was enjoyable; it would be an evacuation ship.

When hours passed and hope was almost gone, our bus finally arrived!  We boarded the bus quickly and were soon on our way.  Once the bus started moving my fear again turned to hope.  I think we finally allowed ourselves to believe that we were going to be evacuated, and soon.  The drive to the cruise ship did not take as long as I had feared it would.



People waiting in line at our resort, waiting to be evacuated.





Soon Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas was visible, and we were almost at the gate that would be our entry to the ship that would deliver us from our nightmare.  We were soon to begin our circuitous route back to the U.S.


Our evacuation ship, Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas” came to St. Maarten to take 300 Americans to safety.



But not so fast.  The guards who came to the bus driver’s window said the ship was full.  There was no room for us.  We were told to turn around and go back.  The bus driver said he was out of gas; he could not make it back.  Now, not only would the ship not accept us, but what would we do?  The resort had released us and might not allow us to come back, if we could even get back.

This was my second lowest point of the entire Hurricane Irma experience.   My lowest point had been when the hurricane was passing over us and I truly believed that I was going to die by being ripped from our resort and thrown into the Atlantic Ocean or against our concrete building.  The fear I felt now was due to the absolute unknown of what we would be able to do now that our Royal Caribbean life boat had sunk.  I think on some subconscious level I was more worried at this point about what could happen to us before we might die.

While my mind was swirling with these thoughts and fears, our bus driver was in solution mode.  The guards and the gates did not contain him.

The rest of the story is the subject of the next blog.

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Tragedy in Las Vegas

Image result for las vegas shooting


The blog post I planned for today must wait until next week.  Safe at home away from Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten, that continuing story must take a back seat to the tragedy still unfolding in Las Vegas.  I have been unable to focus on anything else today, glued to the TV, wondering how we continue to have so many man-made tragedies.  Mike and I are both so saddened by this tragic situation.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the earthquake that destroyed much of Mexico City are certainly tragedies, and need to continue to garner our attention and action.  But as devastating as they are, we have no control over them. Some may differ with this statement, bringing up global warming, but just for this moment, let’s put that argument aside, and accept that hurricanes and earthquakes are in a different category from mass killings.  As a society, we should be able to control, in fact, avoid, the senseless killings of innocent people.  When will it stop?

As in times of other crises, I have more questions than answers.   For me, this is not a political issue, but a social one.  Yes, social issues and politics are connected, but they are not one and the same.  This is not about gun control or the NRA to me, it is about a society that lets these positions divide us, while innocent people continue to be murdered.

It is also about us at the individual level.  Some turn their heads to aberrant behavior of neighbors, loved ones, and others, not wanting to deal with the conflict of confronting the behavior.  While we do not have any details yet about the motive(s)of the Las Vegas shooter, some people have had information about other shooters that they did not act upon.  It is so much easier to not get involved; until it isn’t.

What is it going to take for us individually and collectively to say, “enough is enough?”  When will we come together as a people, irrespective of politics and party, and focus on the greater good for us all?

What will it take?

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Evacuated from St. Maarten





Our Royal Islander resort, a few hours before Hurricane Irma arrived.



Part Two of Our Hurricane Irma Experience

Mike and I finally arrived home from St. Maarten on Friday, September 15th, nine days after Hurricane Irma devastated St. Maarten.  When Hurricane Irma hit St. Maarten, it was the worst hurricane recorded anywhere, and that record still stands, even with the arrival of Hurricane Maria.  Hurricane Maria hit San Juan, Puerto Rico a few days ago, and destroyed most of the city and did massive damage to other islands, and is still a force of potential danger to the U.S. Also, a 7.1 Earthquake has decimated much of Mexico City.  During this week of being safe at home, I have been unable to write, needing to process what occurred with us, and all the suffering around the world.  But write now I must, before our experience and its lessons are too far removed from recent memory to teach us its lessons.

The day after Irma hit St. Maarten as a category 5 Hurricane during the night of September 6th, and we knew we were safe, Mike and our local friend who stayed with us, Ron, decided to venture out.  They ignored the mandatory 24-hour curfew and drove what is normally a thirty-minute drive to Ron’s home to see the damage there.  They returned five hours later.  Some of the roads were almost impassable.  They found what they expected at Ron’s home.  The roof was gone, and most of the family’s belongings were destroyed.  They took what food was salvageable, and a few other items, and began the long ride back.  At this point the military had not yet arrived, and it was possible to be out without being stopped by roadblocks, but so many cars were on the road that the drive took much longer than normal.  In fact, there was nothing normal about anything at that point.





The hotel next to our resort, Sonesta, was so damaged that all guests had to be evacuated.



The next day all six of us ventured out to go to Ron’s home again to get more of their family’s belongings, as well as to see the main shopping area of Philipsburg.  By this time the military had arrived and set up roadblocks, so it was slow going to get anywhere.  Looters were all over the streets, carrying large TVs and other electronics they had stolen, and the police were apparently unable to stop them.  Looters also wiped out the grocery stores so there was no food left in them.




Front Street in downtown Philipsburg




The road to Ron’s home was now closed to traffic from our part of the island.  The main shopping area had suffered significant damage, both from Irma and from looters.  Looters had damaged or removed hurricane shutters on the doors of the shops, broken the glass, and stolen whatever they could find within.  While we did get to Ron’s jewelry store, Joe’s Jewelry, it was not possible to get in.  It was in the same condition as the others; however, the jewelry had been secured in a large safe in the back of the store.  Hopefully the jewelry would still be there when it was possible to get to it.



Mike and our 17 month old friend, Veer, on our front deck, where we spent many hours.





From Wednesday, September 6th until Sunday, September 10th, we were trying to evacuate St. Maarten.  Princess Juliana airport had suffered significant damage, and there were no commercial planes flying in or out.  Military planes did come in, delivering supplies.  Eventually those same military planes took Americans out, although there was no organized plan for doing so, and no communication of such other than word of mouth.  It was difficult to know what to believe. The people who vacated by military planes did so by walking to the airport and waiting in long lines for many hours. We were told that if we were successful in getting out by a military plane that we could only take one piece of luggage, and that it would have to sit on our lap during the flight.  The military planes were taking Americans to San Juan, where they would need to get their own lodging and flights home from there.  By the time we heard of this option, we were concerned with the number of people who had vacated to San Juan, and the potential for being unable to find a hotel room or a flight home.  We decided we were safer staying where we were, knowing our conditions there.

During these days, there was no communication on the island other than word of mouth; no phone service, no internet, no cable, and no radio for most of those days.  We had food, although it would not last more than a few days.  We also had power by generators.  We did not have running water, although some units did.  We spent our time just sitting and talking.  The time passed slowly.  I did read some, although not enough.  And I did not have any energy to write, although I could have written a book given the time available!  I think I was in a state of shock, not wanting to do anything, but wait.

There was no organized evacuation plan for several days, although the locals clearly wanted the tourists out.  One of the reasons for this is the difficulty of caring for the 6000 tourists during such extreme circumstances.  While our unit suffered minimal damage from the hurricane, other units were damaged beyond usage.  People in other resorts told of being placed in large conference rooms, sleeping on cots, without toilet facilities readily available.  The stories from others made us realize how very fortunate we were compared to many.  Our resort staff did an unbelievable and admirable job, leaving their own damaged or destroyed homes, coming to work to care for their guests.

The resort staff wanted the tourists to be evacuated, for they were concerned for our safety.  The looting in the streets had turned to violence in the resorts, with men with machetes overtaking security guards and robbing tourists.  The resort staff at our property asked us to remain in our rooms and not risk the violence that was all around us. We occasionally left our unit to visit others in our resort and to get food from the restaurant across the street that cooked and sold meals a couple of those days.  We also needed to find out what others knew about the possibility of getting out.




Fellow travelers, waiting for many hours to be picked up by the bus to be evacuated by the cruise ship.




Saturday night at approximately 11pm, three nights after Hurricane Irma hit St. Maarten, the person in charge of our resort during this time, Nina, came to our unit with an evacuation plan.  We were told to be in the lobby at 7am the next morning with all our luggage, and a bus would pick us up and take us to Philipsburg to be evacuated by a cruise ship.  There were no other details provided.  We would leave our local friends behind, and they would need to leave our resort when we did.  A friend of Ron and his family had offered them lodging, and their plan was to move in with that family until they could decide what to do next.




Mike, Someer, Patti, Muskoan, Veer, and Ron saying goodbye







Our St. Maarten family leaving the resort. We have not heard from them since.





Mike and I were in the lobby Sunday before 7am.  Eight hours later, we were still waiting for the bus to take us to the cruise ship.

The next Blog will tell the rest of the story.


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Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten

“Don’t worry about the car; just stay safe.”  This was from a representative of the car rental agency in St. Maarten from whom we had rented our car for our two week stay there.  Mike and I had gone by the day before Hurricane Irma was due to arrive on St. Maarten, to check about returning our rental car early, concerned about it being under water when Hurricane Irma was due to arrive a few hours later.  The rental car agency representative was concerned about our safety, not the car.  The next day when we could get out and survey the damage from the hurricane, the rental car agency and its cars on the lot were mostly demolished.  Our rental car had been parked underground and had no damage at all.

As I began writing this at 5:45am on Wednesday, September 6, 2017, Hurricane Irma was at that very moment passing over St. Maarten, and Mike and I were in our bathroom where there was no outside window or wall.  Our local friends who moved in with us to weather the storm were in a bedroom.  We had done our best to prepare for the worst, hoping for the best.  I was doing my best to keep calm, helped by texts, emails, and Facebook postings of love and prayers from many family members and friends stateside.   I kept pictures of our grandchildren in front of me, praying for the gift of life to see them again. The winds raged outside at greater than 185 miles an hour, a cruel reminder of nature’s power and wrath.

While I was more frightened than I have ever been, I was also grateful.  I was grateful for a strong building that was protecting us from the ravages of this storm.  I was grateful for all the local people who spent days preparing for this impending devastation, knowing they will be left behind to pick up the pieces long after the tourists have (hopefully) returned home.  I was grateful for generators, which kicked in soon after the power went off.  I was grateful for food and water that we had that sustained us for the days that we couldn’t get out.   I was grateful for our local friends who were with us.  Having a 17-month-old baby and an 11-year-old boy and their parents going through this with us kept my fear in perspective.  I was grateful for the resort staff who endangered themselves by going room to room to make sure their guests were safe.  In the days after, I had much more to be grateful for.  This experience was such a testament to the reality that during our storms, literal and otherwise, there is always plenty to be grateful for.  Keeping thoughts of gratitude in focus helped calm my fear, as did writing about the experience while I was living it.

The eye of Irma passed over us, giving us about an hour of calm.  During that time, we put towels and bedspreads down to manage some of the water that came in.  We lost a skylight window, which provided an open portal for the rain.  After the eye passed, the winds and rain started up again as Irma continued its path over St. Maarten.  All 6 of us were then huddled in our bathroom, which we decided was the safest place to be.  I even brought the two noodles we had elsewhere in the unit to the bathroom in case the water came in heavier and I had to swim!

I am grateful for prayers that many prayed for us, and will continue to pray for our safety and well-being.  As hard as it was to be in the middle of this storm, I imagine it was harder for our family, not having any connection with us to know how we were faring.  I prayed, not just for us and our safety, but also for our loved ones, for peace that passes all understanding.



About 7 hours after the hurricane began, it passed us by, headed elsewhere, eventually making its way to Florida and Georgia.  We were left in our condo with water everywhere and power from a generator.  There was no air conditioner or running water, and the hurricane shutters remained on the windows for the remainder of our stay due to a second hurricane, Hurricane Jose’s, expected arrival. We remained in our unit with those conditions until we were evacuated on Sunday, September 10th, four days after Hurricane Irma’s arrival.  Thankfully we were spared a second hurricane.  Hurricane Jose did not arrive in St. Maarten.

As I finish this today on September 13th, a full week after beginning to write it during Hurricane Irma’s assault on St. Maarten, we have not yet made it back stateside.  We are still being evacuated.


More articles about this life changing event will tell the rest of the story.



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Connected to Beaumont

Texas is suffering immeasurable loss due to Hurricane Harvey and the tropical storms that followed. Houston has been hit very hard, which was predicted, although that does not make it any easier to deal with if you are one of those affected.  Another Texas town, Beaumont, has also suffered extensive damage.  Many are remembering Hurricane Katrina which almost destroyed New Orleans twelve years ago.  While massive rain is expected to still hit New Orleans, it seems that the worst of this storm has occurred in Texas.  The hearts of many are with those suffering from this massive storm, and my heart is one of them. I have a special relationship with both Beaumont, Texas and New Orleans.

It was Hurricane Katrina and its devastation of New Orleans that inspired my year of no spending, the journey of which is reported in my recently published book, A Year in the Life of a Recovering Spendaholic.  An article about my journey and book was published in the Beaumont, Texas newspaper.  Subsequently, that newspaper, the Beaumont Enterprise, published several other articles which I wrote on leadership topics.  My articles have been published in many publications through the years.  However, I think I have had more articles published by the Beaumont Enterprise than any other newspaper or magazine of which I am not a regular contributor.  My relationship with Beaumont is on my mind while watching the news about Beaumont and other Texas towns suffering from Hurricane Harvey and the continuing rains.

Prior to my articles being published in the Beaumont Enterprise, I had no connection to Beaumont.  My articles were submitted to many publications throughout the country.  For some reason, they resonated with the editor of the Beaumont Enterprise.  I have always been appreciative of this positive exposure.  As I remember this now, there are several connections between Hurricane Harvey’s damage to Beaumont and my relationship with the town newspaper.

First, there is the connection of control or lack of it.  We can be very prepared, and yet not be able to control an outcome.  Texas was prepared for Hurricane Harvey, yet there was no way to prepare totally for Hurricane Harvey’s wrath nor the path it ultimately took.  I believe many think that the same was not true for Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans.   On a much less important scale, although I submitted my articles to many publications, I had no control over which of those published my writings.

Another connection is that of preparation.  Texas had time to prepare for Hurricane Harvey, and did, although perhaps some cities to a greater or lesser degree.  These differences will likely be debated in the media for years to come.  That was certainly true about New Orleans and Katrina, and perhaps those analyses have helped other cities prepare better for subsequent disasters. If I had been more prepared once my articles were published, I could have leveraged that exposure and had better outcomes. Again, my example pales in comparison to the example of Texas’ preparation for this major disaster.

There is also the connection of responsibility.  Others should and do hold us accountable for certain behaviors when we have a connection to what is occurring.  Pastor Joel Osteen of the Lakewood megachurch in Houston is one example.  Pastor Osteen has been criticized for not opening the church as a shelter early enough, and no explaining away with rationale will probably satisfy those concerns.  An apology might, but that has not occurred.

I feel a responsibility to do something for Beaumont, Texas, in appreciation for what the Beaumont Enterprise editor did for me.  So, just this morning while thinking about my connection to Beaumont, I decided what I will do.

I will donate a portion of the proceeds of my book, A Year in the Life of a Recovering Spendaholic, to Beaumont.  I do not want to make this decision impulsively, so I have not decided about the exact amount or percentage, or “how” and “when” it will be given.  Both of these need further review.  I am however, very clear about the “why” and “what.”  When we are clear about the “why” and “what,” the “how” and “when” become clear.  I feel strongly that my connection to Beaumont means that I have a responsibility to do something to help the people of Beaumont.

“To whom much is given, much will be required.”

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Paying Attention to Discontinuities


Change is disruptive.  Whether it is a positive change or a negative one, it is still disruptive.   Sometimes we do not see the change coming, and it catches us off guard.  At other times, we should see it coming, but ignore the signs.  The signs that we sometimes ignore are discontinuities.  Although the exact definition is longer and more complex, we can think of a discontinuity as a disconnect, something that does not connect, or that does not make sense.

I first heard the term discontinuity when I was in a fellowship program at Wharton in 1993.  The focus of the discussion of discontinuities related to political changes, and how if we are paying attention, we can see the disconnects before we get mired in them, or in my case, fired.  I had just experienced a major change, loss of my job. The discussion of discontinuities clarified for me the disconnects that I should have seen, yet failed to.  In this situation, there were several significant discontinuities, and when I reflected on them, I was amazed at myself for failing to read the tea leaves.  The same thing happened years later when a client engagement ended, and I had failed to see that coming.  Looking back on it, I saw the discontinuities clearly.  In both cases, I had felt that things were different with both “bosses,” yet dug my heels in, ignored the signs, thinking I could fix it.  This also happened during my first marriage.  The marriage had ended long before the divorce.

For an intuitive (which I am), if things don’t feel right, they usually aren’t right.  While I don’t always understand the feeling, I have learned to trust it, and to have the patience to see things unfold.  Others learn this lesson not by feeling but by paying attention to how things appear, or how they look.  If things don’t look right, they probably aren’t.  Trying to convince ourselves otherwise is counterproductive.

One of our challenges is that many of us are so focused on getting things done, that we fail to have enough perspective.   We need to be more mindful of what is happening around us and to us, yet this requires that we slow down and pay attention.

Our most recent Presidential election is an example of discontinuities.  Regardless of your choice of candidate, most would agree that many people failed to realize the significant unrest felt by many people.  The best way that many found to deal with such unrest was to vote against one candidate, voting for change more than voting for the other candidate.  No, it isn’t that simple, it never is, but that was a part of it.

Simplistic thinking accounts for some of the reason for our failure to feel and see impending changes before they happen, or in some case, to be able to redirect the course.  In some cases, denial is involved.  At times we act as if we think if we hide our heads in the sand, that thing we don’t want will go away.  This is avoidance, and avoidance is never effective.

At other times we consciously choose to ignore the signs, pressing on whatever course we are on.  This can be effective if we are choosing to ignore a potential conflict that we have determined will have a negative outcome.   It is not usually effective if we are consciously ignoring signs of change just because we think we can work harder or smarter and keep what we have.  This is another form of avoidance and denial.

In dealing with change it is best to be proactive, not reactive.  Sometimes we do not act quickly enough and find that what we do not want happens anyway, and we have little to no control over the change’s impact on us.

Change often involves discontinuities.  Paying attention, being proactive, and moving with the change are better choices than trying to hold on to what is already gone.


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