Holy Crap I just stole a car

Yes, It’s true. I stole a car today. Sadly, no one even noticed it was gone and I returned it to get a second car.  Now what in the world would a person like me do with a stolen car, you ask? Well, sit back and follow this story that is NOT a tall tale but an actual recount of a car thief’s voyage from virgin to professional.

I travel for work. I go to cities that everyone knows and some that people think are in a foreign country but they are indeed, in the United States even if you’ve never heard of the city.  I try to get hotels that are within walking distance of the client’s office but sometimes it’s just not possible.  Today, I left my house around 830am and arrived at my destination, after flight delays and long layovers, close to 8pm.  I’m not usually bothered by long days or even delays; I take as much as I can in stride.  Despite this VERY annoying lady behind me putting her things under the seat in front of ME, I kept my cool and shoved my things on top of hers.  Even when she got up before the seatbelt sign was turned off to grab her things and walked in front of me, I held it together and ignored her and her inconsiderate ass.  Who knows, maybe she has one of those nagging bladders like the commercials on TV.  I remembered the day before to download a bunch of Amazon movies to keep me occupied and had a nice lunch in Charlotte during my connection, so I forgot all about the world of angry and annoying flyers.

So I finally get to my destination, get my bags on the carousel and head to the car rental.  I have one of those memberships where you can walk right to your car without talking to any humans if you don’t want to; and I don’t.  So after quickly walking up and down the aisle, I check out the AV systems of one, then another, then another (oops that one was for another rental agency – they should really keep those cars separate) and then another (hmm it’s locked – someone’s going to be pissed when they find out someone locked the keys in the car haha) and then finally chose a white SUV.  As I go through my typical routine to set up my iPhone, my music, hotel directions, power cords and such, I realize they forgot to leave the key in the car like they usually do.  So instead of asking the rental return lady across the aisle where the keys are, I just check the usual places; side door pocket, sun visor, center console – winner, winner, chicken dinner.

I start the car, and drive out of the parking garage.  Hmmm, I think, that’s odd. Usually the gate leaving the garage has an attendant and I have to give my license, cards and get “checked out” with the car I’ve chosen.  So I stop to see if I’ve driven down the wrong way or some other bone head move (yeah, it happens sometimes).  But no, there’s only one way to go in and out and I’m going the right way so I keep driving.  Well, I follow Mr Google to the highway and then suddenly in my rearview mirror…. awwww shit!  I really did leave the airport property now. There isn’t another car rental gate to check out. Oh my god, I’ve just stolen a rental car. HA. Wait.  That was WAY too easy.  There is NO way they would even know I have THIS car.  So I pull over.  Not to call them. No. To close the tailgate because I think it was the reason my console overhead light won’t go off.  Yes, THOSE are the things that make me pull over, annoying beeping sounds, things that clang in your car while your driving, not something like finding out I may have stolen a car. I pull up the confirmation email from the rental car place on my phone and clearly see (for the first time) that is says “No Counter Bypass: Proceed to the rental counter to pick up your vehicle keys.” Then I start laughing. Holy crap. I’m a car thief.  And it was EASY. And i didn’t even mean to do it.  Can I put this on my bucket list AFTER I’ve already done it?  Ok, I have to go back now.

Well, that would be easy if my phone didn’t decide to forget it had cell service at that precise moment AND if I could turnaround.  So I’m forced to get on the highway and get my “OJ” on (sans cops thank god).  I think it was about 10 minutes from the moment I drove out of the rental garage to when I pulled back in.  I park it in the same spot I took it from (which is not the rental return section) and as I get out, the same return attendant that watched me take the car earlier says “Are you returning?” to which I casually and confidently say “No.” and walk to the inside counter.


I had every intention of telling them exactly what happened but, it was like those ridiculous scenes in the movie where everyone keeps talking over each other and the character can’t seem to get a word in to give the simple explanation.  Instead of sharing the “funny” story to them about how I just stole AND returned one of their white SUVs, they can’t find my reservation. Oh this will be EVEN better if I went to the wrong rental car company!!!  After a moment, they find my reservation, thank me for be an “elite” customer (if they only knew) and ask if I’d like the complimentary upgrade to a minivan or just take the Jetta. (they might want to reword that for me)  I take the Jetta after I give them my credit card this time of course.
So now I am legally driving a rental car to my hotel and lo and behold what do I see?  Krispy Kreme with the Hot Donuts NOW sign!!! The angels of donuts were watching out for white SUVs tonight and they rewarded my bravery and honesty with HOT DONUTS! Mmmmm


Seeking Your Own Personal Tipping Point

I’ve been a seeker for most of my life now and I find wonderful things in many different places.  One of them is from The Daily Love; a daily blog by Mastin Kipp.  As part  of his blog, he provides quotes pertaining to his blog.  I find that these quotes are meaningful to me in a way that it puts me in a state of mind that I need for the day so I began making it my morning ritual to read his blog before I lifted my sleepy head off the pillow.  Sometimes, the message is selfishly mine and it reads as if it was written just for me but today I find the message is for everyone.

“You must constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most important, what do they have me becoming? Then ask yourself the big question: Is that okay? Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” – Jim Rohn, is an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker. His work has been influential in launching or furthering the careers of many others in the personal development industry, including Anthony Robbins, Mark Victor Hansen, Brian Tracy and Jack Canfield.

Our society has been on this spiral of selfishness and popularity for a long time.  Every network has reality shows or talent shows where bad behavior and celebrity seekers are glorified.  Having a visible “healthy balance” of entertainment and education is a struggle for anyone channel surfing.  We are, like the dog in UP, constantly distracted by the loud voices and drama rather than focusing on our own reality.  We constantly seek approval, affirmation, self-worth from others and rarely take a moment to take ownership of our own self worth and take responsibility for where we are right now. Why aren’t we paying attention to what we do, what we say, who we surround ourselves with and what situations we allow ourselves to be part of – these all make us who we are.

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Jack Canfield

I’m putting myself with people that are closer to a tipping point to turn away from these sensational influences.  I’m surrounding myself with the people that represent who I want to be, who I admire, who appreciate my journey as much as they enjoy their own.  It has made a difference; I can feel it.  I’m seeking other seekers who have found something I want to know more about.  I fill my ears and my eyes with things that make me a more caring, compassionate and knowledgeable person and hopefully someone who others want to spend time with because they feel valued and important when we’re together.

I’m a work in progress with a lot of mistakes to prove that I’m still learning.   I accept that part of me that fails as much as the part of me that accomplishes greatness.  Having the faith to keep trying and not accept failure sounds too much like a Hallmark card that I’d roll my eyes at but Mr. Einstein made a much more acceptable observation of his own attempts towards greatness.

“I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” -Albert Einstein

Kiss Me I’m Irish’ish

For years, I’ve believed that I was Irish; mostly Irish, at least, with a little Scotch and English I was sure. But after using a DNA kit from a Groupon, I found out I’m actually Belgian, among many other European flavors. So despite this scientific evidence, my trip to Ireland is still on and I’m very much looking forward to meeting a few dashingly Irish men.

Here are the places that my single troop will be trying out:
Heritage Golf & Spa
Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel
Muckross Park Hotel & Spa
Dromoland Hotel & Country Estate
Faithlegg House Hotel & Golf Club

So after this very posh trip, I’ll have to check out the Belgian vacations for 2013!


If you are on this page, it is because you have been notified of it’s purpose.

Memorials and Survivors


Walking through the 9/11 memorial, I find myself thinking about what I imagine most of the people here are thinking; recalling what I was doing that morning of September 11, 2001. I was in a training class in Reston, Virginia doing my best to stay awake during one of my many computer courses for work. Our instructor was interrupted during our first session and rushed back into the room to announce that a plane had struck the World Trade Center and anyone that needed to leave would be able to reschedule the course without any penalties. Immediately my cellphone began to ring and I recognized the CallerID as my friend and fellow volunteer EMT/Firefighter. I made my way out of the classroom as I answered her call. “NOVA Task Force has been activated. I need to know if you are available,” she said very quickly and directly. I could sense the stress and urgency in her voice and quickly gathered only the necessary information to allow her phone chain to continue through the other NOVA Task Force volunteers on her list.

I have been an EMT/Firefighter for Loudoun County since 1996 right after my divorce. I was referred to Sterling Volunteer Rescue Squad as the best station in Loudoun County to become an EMT and actually get to do something other than stand around the station listening to other stations get call after call. After months of training, practicals and tests I was working under the tutelage of a senior EMT until I was “released” to operate on my own. I quickly found the work tough, stressful but rewarding and began working toward my Firefighter I level certification. I overcame many of my fears with the added motivation of not letting my fellow Rescue/Fire partners down. I knew that if I was expecting one of my partners to take care of me when I needed it that I must be prepared and willing to do the same for them. So I pushed myself, I learned my boundaries and with encouragement from my peers and friends, I continued to train and learn not only to keep my certifications up but to increase the likelihood of someday making this my career.

But, as time went on and friends came and went in the volunteer system, I began to look closely at my choices both in life and in work. Helping people was definitely something I wanted to do but I realized that it might not be through EMS any longer so I pursued my Computer Science degree and slowly parted ways with Sterling Rescue. Although I have not been active with the EMS systems for many years, I still see myself as part of a family of Fire, Rescue and Police members and frequently use “we” and “us” when referring to them rather than “them” and “they.” Once you’ve placed your hands on the same patient trying to get their heart to start beating again or carried the body of a young child to the arms of you partner, there is an unspoken bond that will always be there.

Many people do not understand how we can do the work we do. I sometimes wonder how I did it too but mainly because at some level, I don’t understand the big deal. Don’t get me wrong, though. I get it. It should be hard to see someone die; to watch the last breath leave their body and to take quick action. A Firefighter, an EMT or even a Police Officer all need to find a balance between compassion, action and subjectiveness. For some, this comes fairly easy; others it is a challenge. I believe this is where a clear division exists between these heroes and the rest of the population. So, it is this very separation of emotion that we find easy to make when it’s necessary to get through a stressful situation. I also believe that sometimes it’s hard to switch off and allow the emotion to come through and experience it when it’s appropriate and even safe.

The emergency field is not a planned field. Accidents, illness and even death happen without approval or permission. So even when we appear to be casual, happy or relaxed and even believe that we are, our insides are always on the edge and waiting for the next situation where we have to stuff emotion into our back pocket and do our jobs. So after 12-48 hours of that constant “on the ready” energy, it is not easy to switch off simply because your shift is over.

So even after years of being away from the field, I find myself walking through this memorial ground a little numb to this now sacred ground of my fellow partners that I will never meet. I, like many others, am caught in this sad and emotionally confusing state of remembrance as well as a thankfulness and guilt.

As I continue to walk around the South pond, the cascading waters slowly and dramatically fall underneath the black marble borders where so many names of those that died that day are etched. For a moment, I’m consumed by sadness and my eyes well with mournful tears but I swallow and walk away. I look to the sky and imagine the towers still rising up from the ground and then close my eyes to bow my head for a moment to gain my composure and my eyes slowly rest on the only pear tree in the grove of trees. There is the Survivor Tree.

20120514-151136.jpg I wonder if this tree is also feeling the guilt that some people felt and may still may be feeling because they survived.

This pear tree was originally planted in 1970 in the World Trade Center Plaza, was rescued from the rubble of the plaza after 9/11 and then survived a tropical storm that uprooted it in 2010. It is now 30 feet tall and continues to grow through the support and care of many people that believed it was important.

So while we mourn those we lost and take our time to heal, I hope that we can also remember those that survived and give them the support and care they so need and deserve.

Is AOL going to come back or fade in the background?

I have the luxury of working at a company that is both youthful and experienced (proven by our AIM AV testing in the photo above). We represent the top talent, creative thinkers, early adopters and sometimes trend followers. In very interrelated ways, my fellow AOLers brought the strange, complicated and even unattainable internet into the homes of the young and old without the need for a 300 page manual. We brought America online.

So where does AOL take us next? That seems to be the big question for us. We claim to be on the path to a comeback but we haven’t quite hit that sweet spot and the headlines continue to beat us down, tell us we’re failing and question whether we’re even still around. Our CEO, Tim Armstrong, is driving our business model to content driven platforms, advertising and hyper-local news.

I started at AOL back when millions of people had @aol.com accounts, everyone used AIM to chat and the stock price was over $100. We were focused on bringing products into the everyday lives of our consumers. I think we did that successfully. We had over 30 million members, beer bashes on the lawn during the week and over 14,000 employees all of the world. Ahhhhh the good ol’ days.

In 2012, we are still struggling. I won’t sugar coat it – I can’t sugar coat it. I don’t even want to know what the stock price is and most of my friends are using gmail. *Sigh* What happened to us? I’d love to be blogging about my awesome stock portfolio and the three vacation homes I travel to but that’s not the case. And, while we’re tired of hearing people ask if AOL is still around, we’re not surprised because we seem to be the largest consumers of our own products. Now, having said that, we SHOULD be our biggest fans, but we’re trying to build products that gain popularity in the community. If we are the only ones using our products, we’re failing. Or, we need to change our target audience to working technologists like ourselves.

The business of creating technology that improves people’s lives is a very tough market. Our consumers are becoming more tech savvy and the bar is progressively getting higher. The younger generations are pushing the needle and they are in the mobile space is masses. They have access to build and deploy simple apps in a very short time allowing the least amount of effort to test out theories, ideas and make relatively small bets in a very open space.

So, where ARE we going? Tim’s vision with Advertising and content is a huge swing from what AOL was in the beginning. We’re spending a larger portion of our time and attention on selling advertising space on our content sites. Yes, our content sites might be fantastic; the authors, bloggers and editors are popular and the topics are important and interesting. But I joined AOL because of the products, services and cool shit we could create, not to get people to buy more shit that don’t need. Ugh, it’s a catch 22, as they say though. We have to generate revenue so we can fund projects to build this great stuff and we don’t have a large enough, loyal enough audience to become a premium service. I’m torn on this. It’s like cable television or apps on iTunes. As a consumer you can get your content for free and be subject to disruptive but sometimes entertaining commercials to pay for the shows you watch or you pay a premium to watch your shows without disruptive commercials.

I don’t have the answers but I wish I did so I could help AOL leap forward but for now… I believe my job is to continue to do my best to support the people around me who might just have that next big hairy audacious idea that will make a difference in people’s lives.

Do your eyes light up?

When you enter a room, notice how the people invite you. Do they smile and make eye contact? Do they avoid your glance? Remember the first time you entered your first freshman classroom. You may not have been able to make eye contact with anyone in the room or maybe you scanned the room for familiar faces. Or maybe you have a meeting that you believe is going to be difficult and your mood is already assuming it’s going to be terrible. So you enter the room without smiling at anyone, already succumbing to this bad energy. You’re already thinking about the drink you deserve after work which you are promptly going to post on Facebook.

I heard someone say recently, “Does your face light up? Do they see in your eyes that you are glad they are here?” She was speaking about how you treat your children but really, we are all children regardless of our age. It seemed to me that all of us could use this in our daily lives whether we had children or not. We all crave acceptance at some level so to be greeted with a smile, even from a stranger, gives us a moment of inclusion and acceptance.

This is what I’ve been working on for several years and I believe it has made a big difference with my work relationships and with my personal ones. Now, let’s enter that room again, but this time greeting everyone with a smile, a casual comment about something funny you watched on YouTube or a joke you remember. Giving those around you a moment to be human, to be real, to be caring and to show regard for another life trying to live through this day and do their best. The tone of the meeting feels different now and maybe the meeting will go just a little bit better this time.

Even if you are fearful or shy or anxious, remember that each time you see someone you know or meet someone for the first time, it is a gift to have the opportunity to greet someone with a smile. Maybe, just maybe, a smile offered genuinely to someone else, could make the difference in their day. And it didn’t cost you anything.

Shape the Path to Make Change Stick

Shape the Path to Make Change Stick.

Are you living up to your child’s potential?

Photo by Vinod Motwani

We do not know which child will become the next great leader, the next great astronomer, the next great parent or even the next great poet.  But imagine if you did know.  Would that change how you treat that child? Would it change the way you spend time with that child or even who they play with?

Our lives are not mapped out so clearly that we know everything that will happen to us or our children in advance but we do try our damnedest to predict or seek out those who might give us a little insight.  We sometimes have bigger dreams for our children than they do for themselves.  How you project those dreams can be either a motivation or a burden depending on the child and your “delivery” of that dream.

Think for a moment all of those children that grew up to become historical figures in the world because they were such great people or even evil people for that matter.  What influencing factors in their lives fueled who they would become as adults?  Who made impressions on their lives as they grew up, made choices and what they dreamed of? John F. Kennedy said “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.”  Now think of your own child, your friends children, your neighbor’s children.  Are they being fueled with words and actions of encouragement that will make the difference in becoming the next generation’s brightest and most cherished leader, poet, songwriter or simply being a loving parent to your grandchildren?

Treat every child as if they will change the world because, in fact, by simply changing your life they have begun to change the world already.

Where am I? What time is it?

Ever wonder what time it is in Hawaii or Bali?  You can search online or do the math in your head but a friend referred me to a Firefox add-in that puts it right on your browser so you always have them right at your finger tips.  Check out FoxClocks and add your favorite vacation spot so you can close your eyes and feel like you’re there.  As they say, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere!

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