To Dodging Bullets

“On Oct. 1, 2017, from a room on the 32nd floor in Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, “***********” (name removed, because I refuse to acknowledge him with a name) rained down bullets on approximately 22,000 concert-goers who were attending a Jason Aldean performance. Police said he killed 58 people and wounded more than 850 others. As of today, it is still considered the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. History.”

Myself, Brent and our friends Alison and Michael were 4 of the approximately 22,000 unsuspecting concert-goers.

As today marks the one-year anniversary of this fateful event, I am releasing my first ever written account of what happened, and how my life has changed since then.  I use an interview style of the various questions that have been asked of me over the last year. This is, without a doubt, the most raw I have ever been. This story is not for the faint of heart, or the weak in spirit. Enjoy.

Were you hurt?

When people ask me “Were you hurt?” my response is deliberate. “We were not physically injured in the attack.”  What I mean here is, we didn’t get shot. But we did get hurt. This kind of hurt isn’t seen to the naked eye. In this kind of hurt, sometimes, months later you wake up in the middle of your kitchen, under your table, because you’ve run there in your sleep. And you’ve run there in your sleep because your dream was a vivid re-living of running away from the gunshots.

Some noises are triggers – the sound of fireworks.  The bang of a car going over a curb. Sirens. Screams. Gunshots in action movie scenes.  Music by Jason Aldean that comes on the radio.

The worst part is that there is no planning for this hurt. There is no direct way to get better.  There is no telling what days are going to be good days and what days will not be. There is no prescription, and no timeline.

Where were you exactly in relation to the gunfire?

Interesting story. Because we had spent the first two days standing on the grass area, we decided to treat ourselves to bleacher style seats on the roof of the House of Blues for the last day of the concert. I had won $400 playing Blackjack that morning, and we scored ourselves the last four seats up on that roof. It was epic – a nice, raised view of the stage, private bathrooms, and a bar right up there. They only had 250 seats up there so it was a small crowd with couches to relax on and big bean-bag chairs.

What we didn’t know at the time was that this raised view would give us a clear view of the crowded area on the ground – the very place where we had spent the last two days of the festival.

Did you know right away that it was shooting?

Nope. In fact, I remember the 10 seconds of disbelief as my brain tried to recognize what my eyes were telling it.  I remember saying to Ali “what is that weird noise?” at the same time she asked me “why are all those people running?” and then 2 seconds later the two of us were on the ground, under our chairs staring into each other’s terrified eyes.  My brain flipped back and forth in rapid succession:

“That’s not gunfire. I have heard gunfire before. I shoot guns. That’s not what it sounds like. It’s fireworks. Oh shit. It *is* gunfire. Wait. No, it isn’t. It’s fireworks. But I don’t see any fireworks. Ok, it’s gunfire.”

Brent’s brain went into autopilot mode. I do also remember looking towards him and saying, “what do we do?” and he said, “I can’t tell if that’s gunshots or not.”

During the third round of shooting, the circumference of the bullets started including the area we were sitting. Any an all doubts we might have had about if it was or wasn’t actual gunfire were put to rest as we all heard the very distinct sound of bullets hitting the chairs and bleachers around us.  At that same time, the bullets hit the stage screens, and the music stopped, and the lights went out.

So, what were you thinking?

I had one, single, clear thought. “I need to call my mom.”

I can’t explain this thought, but that was literally all I was thinking as I was laying there on the ground.  I knew we were getting ready to run, so I looked around me and I spotted my sunglasses case and cell phone. I grabbed both of them.

How did you know where to run and when to run?

While I was on the ground, thinking about my mom, Brent was strategizing.  Unbeknownst to all of us, he had gone into tactile mode. He was looking at the crowd, watching where people were running to. He was watching to make sure he wasn’t going to lead us into danger. See, as we lay there, a few things became clear:

  1. That there was only one shooter. We knew this because the gunfire would stop for several seconds at a time. Multiple shooters could have prevented pauses in the rain of bullets.
  2. That the shooter was not in the crowd or visible. We knew this because it went on far too long for him to have been in the midst of all the police presence that was at the event.

There were many, many unknowns though. One of those unknowns was the direction from where the bullets were coming.

So, Brent watched. He strategized. He had two objectives; to keep our group of 4 together and to get as far away as possible, fast. He decided to have us run in the opposite direction of the entrance, and down the street behind the concert grounds.

And then, we ran.  We made it down the back of the House of Blues, and by this time the chain link fence surrounding the event had been knocked down. We ran down the street and crouched behind a police car for the next round of shooting. Then, we ran to behind the wall of a church.

There was still more shooting. So, we ran some more.

We finally stopped running as Brent hailed a limo-style bus. The driver let us on and took us down the Strip in the opposite direction. My Fitbit congratulated me on completing a 5k run.

By this time, it was evident that an emergency was happening. Ambulances, police cars and fire trucks were screaming towards the festival.

So, I called my mom.

Did you see anyone else get hurt?

Yes.

Oh my God. I can’t even imagine.

No. You can’t. And please don’t try to imagine what it was like going through this.

Are you ok?

Interesting question.  We got asked this a lot during the first few days after we returned home. I decided to be completely honest whenever someone asked me this. Sometimes the answer was yes, and sometimes it was no. We found that visiting with our friends and telling the story was the best way to process through our confusing memories and thoughts as we tried to have normal lives again.

We have made deliberate attempts not to let fear run our actions and choices, but that has been tough.

I found that for the first time ever, I wasn’t able to protect my kids from the news. By the time we returned home, they had seen the news coverage.  It was heartbreaking to have the initial conversations with them about what happened, and what we saw.

I’m definitely ok-er now. I can tell the story without crying. I can now clearly see the lesson in all of this, at least for me.

What did you learn from this?

So many things. Literally dozens of things, but one lesson stands above the rest.  My only regret is that it took this event to make me realize what I should have known all along.

When you get married as a Christian woman, your husband vows to love you as Christ loved the church. What this means is that he is willing to lay his life down for you. Wives, I pray that you never, EVER have to test this vow in real life. I hope you can know now, without going through something like this, that if you have a man that will physically lay his life down to protect yours that you should honour him until your last breath.

I certainly wasn’t the perfect wife, and I certainly don’t proclaim to be now. But, what I now do have is a much clearer view on what actually matters. How you treat people matters. Who did or didn’t clean the dishes, or went out with friends, or left the bathroom a mess, or any of that other trivial crap DOES NOT MATTER.

Jackhammers and Immigration Officers | Nadia La Russa

Jackhammers and Immigration Officers

Goodbye boys, hello new villa!

Week 5! One week to go! We said goodbye to the boys this week as they ventured home and left us girls to fend for ourselves.  On Tuesday, we had to move to a new villa. Our old villa was familiar an comfortable and I was sad to move, however, they were re-doing the road outside and there was jackhammering. All.Day.Long.

So, I reached out to my host, and luckily, she had another villa that was available. So, we packed up and moved into the new digs!

On Thursday afternoon the boys packed up and headed home, leaving the girls and I to explore the new neighbourhood, do a bit of shopping and making plans for the rest of our time here.

The dynamic is so much different with just us here. We can travel in a normal taxi, it’s quieter, and food is easier. But we do miss our boys! We had a chance to celebrate the twins’ birthday before they left with a delicious banana flour cake.

And then, it was off for some excitement! This week we chose white water rafting – wow was it cool! There is only one river here suitable, and I think it was definitely an “easier” paddle but it was loads of fun!  It took us about 90 minutes to cover the 10km journey, passing by beautiful stonework, caves, and trees.  Definitely an unforgettable day!

 

It hit me on Thursday that the girls and I had been here a month, and that our tourist visa was about to expire. So here is the story you have all been waiting for – Nadia and the Immigration Shenanigan.

I went to the visa renewal office alone, with my passport and the girls’ passports in hand, fully expecting a simple process costing approximately $30.  Little did I know what was in store.

Rewind to arrival day – a blurry eyed Nadia gets instructions from the immigration officer that sound something like “You tourist Visa is good for 30 days, make sure you renew it before it expires” which translates to my exhausted brain as “you have a month to figure this out.”

Not so.

When they said “30 days” what they meant was “30 days, and today is day 1.” And that is NOT the same thing as one month. So, we got here on the 24th. When I arrived at the immigration on the 24th I was two days late to renew. Apparently, this is a big deal. I asked the quickly-becoming-less-and-less friendly counter person “So what do I do now?” and the answer was “You leave the country. Immediately.”

So herein lies the problem.  I had no means to “leave the country immediately” for several reasons, the main one being that I didn’t have my children with me.  I started to protest, which was very quickly met with me getting ushered – and I use that word lightly – into the small, grey room with the table and two chairs that you see on television.  Enter Big Balinese Immigration Dude and Even Bigger Balinese Immigration Dude. Dudes were not pleased.

For the next 10 minutes or so, I was subjected to a very loud and stern talking to about the importance of respecting authority, following process, and removing myself from their land.  It didn’t take much to have me do what any self-respecting, confident woman would do – I burst into tears, and sobbed uncontrollably.

That was their cue. They left the room without a word, and entered a very small, sweet, kind and helpful lady with tissues. Calm Sweet Lady apologized for her mean friends, and suggested that there might be another way to get my visa extended.  It all became clear at that point what has happening.

“Money?” I said. “You want MONEY? Frick, why didn’t you say so. How much do you need?”

And it was done, just like that.  I handed over $500 and all of a sudden I became a respected and esteemed visitor. Not only was I allowed to stay, but now my passports were going to be “fast tracked” through the “speedy system.”  The next day, the girls and I made our way to the central immigration office, and were escorted to the front of the line for photos and fingerprints. Amazingly, our files were already at the office all ready and waiting for us.

Upon further research, I learned that this is a pretty common occurrence. That the intake officers at the airport are intentionally vague about the details and that this good-cop-bad-cop game is a way to line everyone’s pockets. Lesson learned for sure!

Thankfully, its all sorted. As they say, every trip has a story!

Busy? Take Control of Your Time!

Tired of Being So Busy? Take Control of Your Time.

How often do you find yourself saying “I’m SO busy”? We have the same number of hours in the day as everyone else. So why can some people take control of their time better than others?

“To me, ‘busy’ implies that the person is out of control of their life.” – Derek Sivers, Entrepreneur.

It’s true. Life gets pretty overwhelming when your time is controlling you, instead of the other way around. If you’re tired of being forever busy, take control of your time with these tactics:

Understand Where Your Time Goes

Document where all your time actually goes. For one day, write down (or use a free timer like Toggl) to see how much time you spend: checking emails, travelling, sleeping, watching TV, going to the gym, chatting on the phone, checking Facebook, cleaning, eating etc. You might be surprised to learn how much time gets sucked up by “simple” tasks. For example popping out to grab a coffee every afternoon might take much longer than you think (i.e. 20 minutes x 5 days adds up to an hour and forty minutes each week). So making your coffee at work could save you a decent chunk of time. Or if you sit in peak hour traffic each morning, arrange to start earlier/later to spend less time in transit.

To-Do Lists

At the start of each week, jot down everything you need to accomplish. Each morning, write down each item that needs to be done that day (the Bullet Journal approach might work for you). Prioritize the order of importance, and if helpful, add the estimated time you think it will take to do each task so you can plan out your day. It’ll feel so good checking off those items! Or, reach out to me, and I will mail you one of mine!

Calendars

Whether on your wall calendar, planner, diary, or Google calendar; scheduling appointments increases your chances of getting them done. Your mind is also free to focus on the task at hand knowing you don’t have to remember when and where everything else is supposed to happen. (Set notifications to pop up if you need to.)

Schedule Regular Breaks

You know I’m a huge advocate for self care! When we get busy, self care activities are often the first to get axed. But it’s so important to take me-time to improve clarity and focus. When you’re working hard for long periods of time without breaks, your brain becomes less productive. Know that feeling of staring blankly at your computer screen? Or getting up to do something and completely forgetting what it was? It’s a sign to give your brain a break!

Checking Emails and Social Media

These beasts get out of hand FAST! Take control of emails and social media by allocating certain times for checking and responding. Turn off notifications and close browser tabs if you get distracted easily. You could set up a system to reward yourself with ten minutes of social media time each time you complete a major task on your to-do list.

Multitasking

It doesn’t work! Studies show multitasking reduces productivity by up to 40 percent! As NPR Science Correspondent, John Hamilton puts it: “The human brain is designed to do one thing at a time…sequentially. We can kind of fake doing several things at a time. But what we’re doing is putting one thing on hold while we shift our focus to the next thing and then we’re switching back. And every time you switch, there’s a little big of a lag. You lose a little something. It takes a little bit longer to get your brain back to where it was.” Though it may only be a 30 seconds wasted at a time, it adds up. So no more multitasking. Pick one project and focus on it.

Say No

Busy-I-Am-TooIf you’re always agreeing to do things for others and your own work isn’t getting done, say no. Or if you have a dozen things to do today, but two items that aren’t really a priority, cross them off the list. Figure out what’s really important and say no to the things that aren’t.

 

What helps you take control of your time? Add your good habits in the comments below!

 

If you need to take control of more than just your time, email me about my new 12-part Take Control coaching program. This powerful one-on-one program will help you take control of the three key aspects of your life: career, money and relationships. I’ll help you uncover and overcome the hidden obstacles holding you back from living the life you really want.

Floating tank

Too noisy inside your own head? Try floating.

When was the last time you switched off for at least an hour? I mean completely. No phone. No traffic. No kids. No noise, flashing lights or other distractions. Besides sleeping, it probably doesn’t happen often. And when it does, your brain is no doubt racing through everything that needs to get done by the end of the day.

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Self-care, Nadia Style

Self care, or self love, is the voluntary practice of maintaining your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Practicing self care regularly not only keeps your mind and body in great shape, it also enables you to better care for others.

When you’re feeling stressed, tired, overwhelmed, disorganized, chaotic, or stretched to your limits, self care helps you gain focus and clarity, and feel calm and relaxed. But it’s not just for when you’re stressed; self care should be a regular part of your weekly routine. It also brings us joy, a more positive outlook, and the ability to better deal with conflict, anxiety and difficult situations.

There’s no official self care strategy, or right or wrong way of doing it. It’s about finding what works for you and making the time to do what you enjoy most. Whether you dedicate ten minutes of your day or a whole hour, it still counts. Try some of these self care activities and see which ones work best for you.

Meditation

Meditation

Meditation is a fantastic self care activity which helps bring stress levels way down. You can do just about anywhere, and it’s free! Find yourself a quiet(ish) corner, sit on the floor or on a chair, and close your eyes. You can pop in some headphones and tune out with calming music, or use guided meditation podcasts like this one from Sip and Om. You’ll learn new breathing techniques from the guided meditations that you can use whenever you feel yourself getting stressed or anxious. It’ll take some time to get good at clearing your mind, but keep it up and you’ll soon get the hang of it.

 Rest

Ensure you’re getting enough sleep every night (that’s 8-10 hours for most people), and don’t feel guilty about having a sleep in or a nap when you need it. Recharge your body, so it’s prepared for whatever life throws at it. Resting also includes disconnecting yourself from the TV and social media. Give your mind a break from all the distractions vying for your attention.

Diet and Exercise

We all know a healthy diet and regular exercise keeps us physically in shape, but our mental and emotional well-being relies on it too. Exercise is an excellent stress reliever, while a healthy diet keeps our brain sharp and our immune system strong (among other benefits of course!). Try keeping a diet and exercise journal for a week to see what you’re putting into your body, and how you’re looking after it physically. See where you can improve and set yourself realistic goals for the following week/s. There are literally gazillions of online templates, apps, and even actual “book books” you can use – even a plain lined notebook will do the trick!

Reading

Do you have a pile of unread or partially read books lying around? Reading is a perfect self care activity. It distracts your brain, relieves stress, and improves your memory and focus. If you need some motivation, join a reading club or start your own! Can’t commit to an entire book? Grab an interesting magazine or newspaper. Don’t want to read? Jot down your thoughts in a journal instead.

Colouring

Colouring is huge right now, and you can pick up colouring books at just about any store. A great anxiety-buster, colouring polishes your fine motor skills and concentration. Leave a book in your drawer at work and take colouring breaks throughout the day – even 5 or 10 minutes. Or colour while you’re on the phone. I have The Secret Garden colouring book, and love it! If colouring is not your thing, puzzle books are just as effective.

Pamper Yourself

Get a relaxing massage, take a long soothing bath, start a new hobby (how about cooking or painting classes?), start a garden, go on a trip, take the afternoon off. Set time aside to just do ‘you’.

How to practice more self care

Practicing more self care is about making it a priority in your week and committing to it. We’re all ‘busy’, but we have just as many hours in the day as everyone else.

So either set aside the same time each day (for example a 15 minute meditation as soon as you get up each morning), or book an hour of self care activity time in your calendar–just like you’d book any other important meeting–and go to the gym or get a massage. Saying ‘no’ is another way of practicing self care by freeing up some of your time to focus on yourself.To do list

You’ll soon start seeing the positive effects on your physical, mental and emotional well-being and realize for yourself why it’s so important to spend more time on you.

Now it’s your turn – what do you do for self-care? Are you accountable? Join me in my February 2016 challenge which will be to consciously practice self-care at least once a week.

10 Great Things About Nadia!

Catchy title, eh? Thanks for reading anyway.

Truth is, this post is more for me than for you. Over the last few days (weeks? maybe longer?) I have felt – and mostly ignored – the mounting and overwhelming feelings of insecurity, uncertainty and general self-dislike. This happens from time to time, and usually ends the way it did today, with me sobbing uncontrollably in the shower trying to figure out *exactly* what is wrong. I still don’t actually know.

The tough part about being me is that most people see me as this happy-energetic-nothing-gets-me type of person, but honestly nothing could be further from the truth. Behind the confident smile and quick responsiveness is a little voice.  The little voice says things like “Really? Are you SURE?” and “You can’t do that!” and “Who do you think you are anyway?”

I would say that I’m having my semi-annual meltdown. The culmination of a severe lack of sleep, endless “to-do” lists and the desire to keep my shit together.  The truth of the matter is that Successful Business Nadia cannot simultaneously be Get To The Gym and Eat Perfect All the Time Nadia.  Supermom Nadia cannot simultaneously be Crazy Workaholic Nadia and Selfless Nadia cannot simultaneously be Please Pamper Me Nadia.

My mother is probably the best at dealing with Extreme Meltdown Nadia, although I’m sure she does feel a bit at a loss these days.  During my last catastrophic meltodown, I ended up in a friend’s basement at midnight, ugly-crying into her throw pillows while she looked at me incredulously and said “Wow. I have no idea what to say or do right now. You are my most ‘put-together’ friend. Huh.”  I realized at that moment that I’m seen in this world as someone much different than I see myself.

Sometimes, it just sucks.

Instead of a woe is me pity party, or a let’s go find someone who has things much worse off attempt (neither of these are difficult tasks), I decided to tell YOU some great things about me. The purpose of this whole thing, of course, is really just to tell ME some great things about me. Because me needs to hear that – from me – right now.

1) I give.  Yep, I’m a giver. If I have something, and you need it, I will give it to you.

2) I’m an open book. You might argue that this is a not great thing about me. However, I will share anything, with anyone, at anytime about my life or experiences.  I have learned *so much* about life and how I live that if would benefit someone, I’m happy to talk about it.

3) I don’t do passive-aggressive.  I’m honest about my feelings.  I don’t get “secretly mad” and not say something about it. How I’m feeling is exactly how I say I’m feeling. I don’t say I’m fine if I’m not fine, and I don’t “act.”

4) I love being a wife. I absolutely love it. I love the smile on Brent’s face when he sees me, I love cooking and taking care of the house, I love being “wifey”.  I would like to clarify that I’m not trying to say I’m the perfect wife, or that I’m an awesome wife. I just love being Brent’s wife. Even the messy parts.

5) I have a pretty catchy smile and a great sense of humour. I love to smile and laugh.  I’m trying to be as positive and happy as I can and it’s tough. But I think my smiley face makes other people smile.

6) I’m a great travel partner. I don’t stress about travel, I’m willing to go anywhere, with anyone, and try new things.  I don’t fuss about travel delays, and I generally love seeing new places.

7) I never complain in restaurants, and I don’t return things to retail stores. Ever. Like, ever.  I once read that someone who is not nice to wait staff is not a nice person. I believe this, wholeheartedly.  I will never, EVER treat anyone in a retail store or restaurant poorly (on purpose). I give loving feedback if I have a complaint, and I’m a fantastic tipper. On the flip side, I won’t shop or dine with you if you are nasty to wait staff or store clerks.

8) I’m a very hard worker. I like to work, and I like to get things done. I always try my best.

9) I love to cook for people. And I’m good at it! I love having people over, entertaining and feeding people.

10) I’m fiercely loyal. Always.  If you are a friend of mine, you are a friend forever.  I love a lot, and forgive easily.

 

🙂 I feel better already.  Off to face this day!