What Ballroom Dancing Taught Me about Situational Awareness

You may ask, “What is Situational Awareness?”
I would respond, well it depends. It is a pretty standard yet important concept, but can be described in many ways by different people. Some might call it being alert, or present in the moment. Others describe it as consciousness, observance. I call it paying attention and trusting your instincts. We will explore situational awareness a little before I get to what I learned from ballroom dancing (and the super-secret tip given to me by my dance instructor).

This term is not in a standard dictionary, but it is used a lot in a variety of disciplines. I pulled out what I believe to be the most relevant descriptive words from a definition I found.

Perception of sensory input, comprehension of what it signals, recognition that something has changed or is about to happen. “It is also a field of study concerned with perception of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic areas.” https://www.definitions.net/definition/situation+awareness

Situational Awareness is used in:
• Aviation
• Air Traffic Control
• Ship Navigation
• Driving!
• Military Command and Control
• Fire Fighting
• Policing
• Martial Arts
• Ballroom Dancing
I am sure you can add to this list if you think about it.

In Aviation, situational awareness is used to evaluate situations and make decisions.
• Look
• Think
• Act

Ensley’s Model (2005), describes it as three things:
• Perception
• Comprehension
• Projection

Cooper’s Code                                                                                                                                                         The late Jeff Cooper (May 10, 1920-September 25, 2006) was a marine, who created the “modern technique” of handgun use and was an expert in the use and history of small arms. He also developed “Coopers Code”. I found this chart here: https://www.bsr-inc.com/awareness-color-code-chart/

Here are some links to learn more about Jeff Cooper and Cooper’s code:

In Law Enforcement -> a reactionary gap.
A reactionary gap is space between the officer and a suspect that gives the officer time to avoid an attack. It takes time to recognize the problem, evaluate the situation, come up with a solution and implement a response. Here is a link to learn more about the reactionary gap: https://www.policeone.com/police-trainers/articles/6258834-The-reactionary-gap-Reminders-on-threats-and-distances/

What does situational awareness mean for you and why is it important?
Think back to driver’s education. Can you remember what the three-second rule is? It is the time and distance you keep between you and the car ahead of you. This is so you have time to react and evade a problem in the road or be able to stop in time without rear-ending the car in front of you. Hopefully, the car behind you was following the three second rule also! Situational awareness, can keep you from being mugged or robbed, being caught up in a developing situation, as well as keep you from getting in an accident.

Now, what does Ballroom Dancing have to do with situational awareness?
First I’ll tell you how I happened upon this. I was newly single, had some time on my hands and asked myself. What would be something fun and new to do with my personal time? I decided to take Arthur Murray Dance Lessons. It has been many years since I took these lessons. I cannot for the life of me remember how to quick step, cha cha, waltz, rumba or tango (my favorite). But I can tell you that people crash into each other if they are not aware of the other couples dancing around them.

This type of situational awareness is called “Ballroom Floor Craft.”                                            It is the ability and practice of gauging other dancers:

• Speed
• Distance
• Trajectory

If you check out Ballroom dancing videos on YouTube you will see what I mean. Pairs act as a team to avoid colliding with others. The lead and partner do not usually look at each other. They are looking the direction they are travelling or into their own space. A squeeze of the hand or on the shoulder is used to signal impending problems. Just like there are rules of the road there are rules for dancing! One must follow the line of dance. Ballroom dancing follows a counter clock wise direction around the floor. If you are an in-experienced dancer you are either dancing in part of the middle or the periphery, staying out of others way or merging in traffic.

What is that super-secret tip I learned that I have remembered to this day?                     My dance instructor told me to “Think from the top of my head” as if you have a string at the top of your head like Pinocchio. This helps to keep your head up and opens up your field of vision (peripheral vision). This helps to be able to see disaster coming for you out of the corner of your eye and take evasive dance maneuvers. He did warn me that at first practicing this may give you a headache (he was right); but that I would get used to it (he was right about this too). I use this tip every day, but not for dancing!

I posit that situational awareness can be a solitary practice, a team or family exercise. Teach your spouse and your kids. Watch each others back. Don’t walk with your head down buried in your cell phone.  Watch and learn to read people.  This is Situational Awareness and it can help you stay safer.


There is a lot of ugly happening in the world today.  Look at any news day and something is happening somewhere around the world. I am talking about Active Shooter/Active Assailant Incidents. Why?  No one really has a complete handle on why.

But I’ve noticed a trend.  Marginalized individuals, bullied individuals who turn into bullies, those without well-developed coping skills, and who knows what else.  Individuals dealing with breakups, work problems, other humans, financial problems.

The death tolls change, the places change: Nine in a church, 26 in an elementary school, 49 in a nightclub, now five in an airport. The faces in the memorial photos change every time…

884 victims

Each gun was used to kill an average of four people, not counting shooters. The 884 people came from nearly every imaginable race, religion and socioeconomic background, and 145 were children or teenagers…


It doesn’t matter your religious, financial, socio-economic status, race, neighborhood, this can happen to anyone.  Most victims are chosen at random.

There are always signs, but most people are too busy to pay attention.  This graphic from the FBI describes where these things happen. At work, at home, at the mall, at school, at church.  Everyone says, “It won’t happen here.” But it can, and it will.  It’s only a matter of time.


Why am I talking about this?  There are things we can all do to protect each other.  Everyone should learn what to do during an Active Shooter/Active Assailant Incident.  You can’t completely depend upon police, fire, ems, swat.  They’re coming but it will take time to get there.  You may have to take matters into your own hands for a period of time.   According to FBI statistics, “The average active-shooter incident lasts 12 minutes.  Thirty-seven percent last less than 5 minutes.” See graphic below.

If you know what to do ahead of time you can save yourself and others.

Active-Shooter Statistics

  • Active-shooter incidents often occur in small- and medium-sized communities where police departments are limited by budget constraints and small workforces.10
  • The average active-shooter incident lasts 12 minutes. Thirty-seven percent last less than 5 minutes.11
  • Overwhelmingly, the offender is a single shooter (98 percent), primarily male (97 percent). In 40 percent of the instances, they kill themselves.12
  • Two percent of the shooters bring IEDs as an additional weapon.13 
  • In 10 percent of the cases, the shooter stops and walks away. In 20 percent of the cases, the shooter goes mobile, moving to another location.14
  • Forty-three percent of the time, the crime is over before police arrive. In 57 percent of the shootings, an officer arrives while the shooting is still underway.15
  • The shooter often stops as soon as he hears or sees law enforcement, sometimes turning his anger or aggression on law enforcement.16
  • Patrol officers are most likely responding alone or with a partner. When responding alone, 75 percent had to take action.17
  • A third of those officers who enter the incident alone are shot by the intruder.18


Training:  Since the Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings , training for police, fire and ems has changed.  The goal is to optimize cooperation, speed and effectiveness of a joint response to reduce the loss of life. If you are the leader of a police, fire, ems department you owe it to yourself and the public to get your department trained.  If you are a member of an untrained public safety type organization, get yourself trained.  Yes.  On your day off and even if its costs something.  You can’t afford not to.  Lives are priceless.

If you are not a Public Safety professional, do not be complacent!  Encourage your workplace, church to have a plan.   Make a plan with your family.  Get trained.

Go here for more information:  https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness

I want to bring up one more point.  This is not the time to turn the other cheek.  If we allow the bad to take out the good, things will get uglier.






I decided to write this post because an acquaintance (Rodney L!) of mine recently got to meet Stacy London one of the hosts from “What Not to Wear”.  I am so jealous!  Yes, I watched the show and loved it.  I have applied a number of ideas to my own fashion issues.  A tailor or seamstress is a great person to know!

Ok, seriously, I do love shoes, but my jobs require sensibility and utility.  This usually means something I can move quickly in, or something protective, like work boots.  Even office employees in New York City have learned (since September 11th) to have sensible shoes available for emergencies or for the trek before and after work to and from the subway or train.  Fancy footwear can prove to be problematic as well as painful, for long walks and not at all good in debris or if you have to run.

As a Police Officer and in Private Security I wore a uniform.  The Uniform, like most uniforms, is designed for safety, protection, to project authority and presence.  As a Police Detective, my wardrobe changed.  A good tailor became very useful.  Women’s clothing didn’t have pockets like men’s.  I’m tall and I found most womens suiting jackets were too short. Sometimes, I bought menswear and had it taken in or altered to fit properly as well as to conceal my firearm.  I had internal and hidden pockets added to some of my clothing for keys, a tape-recorder and other stuff.  Female Police Detectives do not carry purses or wear high heels to work!  These days there are so many more clothing options for women who work in non-traditional careers or even if they just want to get their concealed pistol license and carry concealed.  It’s not easy to hide guns!

Let’s talk about the dress code for investigators.  There isn’t one.  What I mean to say is that there isn’t just one wardrobe or dress code.  You have to look professional when meeting with clients.  If you are going into a dangerous neighborhood you don’t want to bring attention to yourself or to the fact you might be armed.  It’s jeans and a hoodie or simple nondescript clothing.  If you are doing surveillance on a subject at a football game, then you’re wearing a team jersey and hat.  If you are crawling army style through a field, you don’t want to wear your good clothing (oh and make sure some big ugly bug that you’ve never seen before doesn’t catch a ride back with you…true story).

What I’m trying to say is that for every job, situation, arena, or organization there is probably a right and wrong way to dress.  The key is to blend into your surroundings. Sparkles and glitter or fancy duds will just attract attention (unless that is your goal).  As an investigator, your wardrobe may include clothes that are too big (so you can layer and change your appearance alter your size and shape), glasses, hats (baseball, cowboy, stocking, straw/beach) and different styles of clothing and shoes that you would not normally wear.  I highly recommend a good wig (so much fun!) and have found that even people that know me do not recognize me at all.  I can make myself look ten years younger or older with makeup and clothing.  And maybe, once in a great while,  in the right surroundings, one could wear some heels.  But make sure you can run (or walk) in them.

Processed with MOLDIV

shoes shoes shoes….

Non-Traditional Student Problems

I am going to tell you about a funny thing that happened on the way to my bachelor’s degree, as a non-traditional student.   But first, what is a non-traditional student?

According to The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), A non-traditional student is defined as a student with one or more of these characteristics (1):

  • Do not immediately continue your education after you graduate from high school
  • Attend college only part time
  • Work full time (35 hours or more per week)
  • Are financially independent
  • Have children or dependents other than your spouse
  • Are a single parent
  • Have a GED, not a high school diploma

I have attended a number of different colleges at different times in my life.  I attended 1  year of college after high school, got married had children, got divorced, went back to school, got a job.  I then later returned to school, and finished my associates degree in my 30’s.  I did this to be more marketable to other Law Enforcement agencies who were starting to require a higher level of education for their candidates.  I had no idea if I was going to be put back to work or not, and needed to be able to get another job.

Fortunately I have always looked younger than I am, so I was able to blend in a little with younger students.  I really enjoyed college the second time around and got stellar grades (unlike my first year).

10 years later I went back and finished my bachelor’s degree.  This time, I was attending school with people the age of my children. Do not be afraid to go back to school if you are older.  I can tell you, I had a blast!  I was asked to join the Criminal Justice Honor Society.  We did a lot of community projects and went on trips to (New York City and Dallas).  As  college student most of these trips are sponsored in part by the school and partially paid for by fundraising.  I think it cost me $100-$200 bucks at the most (not including shopping or sightseeing)! Eventually they figured it out but I was already accepted into the group.   Again, fortunately I look younger than I really am.  But then this happened…

Several semesters in, on the first day of one of my Criminal Justice classes, the professor handed out a survey.  It asked for a variety of demographics including, what year (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior?), personal income, household income, number of people in your household, age, along with various questions to determine what type of Criminal Justice knowledge we had.  We filled it out and handed it back in.


Much to my dismay, at the very next class, the professor started reading off class statistics…So, we have a range of incomes from $-$$$, this many freshman (she gave a number), and so on.  When she got to age (uh oh) it went something like this…

We have five 18 year olds, two 20 year olds, and so on until she said, and one 40-something (cough cough) year old. Everyone started looking around the room to figure out who the 40- something year old student was. Well I didn’t want to give it away, so I looked around too, as if it wasn’t me (Ha ha, genius right?).  I thought it had worked, until after class.  A guy walks up next to me, gives me a nudge with his elbow, leans over and whispers…”It’s you isn’t it?”

The gig is up…


Well…heres what I think…you are never too old to do anything to better yourself!


  1. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs/web/97578e.asp

“Stilettos on Steel”

I tend to stay pretty busy with my jobs and a number of projects I am working on. Rarely do I get the chance to have a girl’s night or weekend.  I do not get weekends off very often since I am usually working one job or another or attending to family members (my daughter Rachael), but this  past weekend was for me.  I signed up and sent in my payment for a “PMS” weekend.

It’s not what you think…I belong to a women’s motorcycle rider group called “Stilettos on Steel”.   I have been a member for 2-3 years, but have been in between bikes for about 6 months.  The Event is called “PMS, Parked Motorcycle Syndrome”, love the satire of it.  Not a single grumpy, moody woman to be found there.

Here’s how I came to be a Stiletto.  I learned to ride on a Harley Road King while working at EPD,  small police department (about 3 square miles).  I got my learner’s permit and rode with the reserve officers who taught me (Robert S, Mike B.-rest in peace little brother, Tom, Larry N. and a few others).  I thoroughly enjoyed having these guys ride with me and they were so happy to be treated like a person/colleague by a police officer, (because that was not their usual experience).  After I practiced for a while, I went to a motorcycle rider’s course, passed with flying colors and got my cycle endorsement.


A short time after I left EPD, I bought a Harley Dyna Glide, my husband bought a Honda VTX and we had fun with those for a few years.


Much to my dismay my husband sold his bike.  His jobs leave little time for riding during the summer months.  He bought a snowmobile instead.   I sold mine because I felt bad for it, sitting in the garage with me working so much and I was thinking about getting something a little smaller. Recently, the hub and I decided we would get a bike we can both ride together, or alone.  We put a deposit on a used motorcycle (no pics yet).  I can’t wait for us to pick it up.   Anyway, back to my story about “Stilettos on Steel”.

One of my friends (Cari D.) told me about the group and I was in.  I joined SOS so I’d have other people to ride with, mainly other non-judgmental women (which is a premise of the group).  SOS has events for members and some that include non-members and other rider groups too.  Needless to say this was the first big group gathering I was able to go to aside from Bike Time in Muskegon.  The first PMS event had around 20-30 attendees.  The second gathering, was attended by somewhere around 50.  This year, there were 95+ women of all ages (so far 24-79!) and riding abilities!

This group is awesome, because it truly is a sisterhood.  “Stilettos on Steel”, is a female riders group that aims for inclusion, empowerment, and mentoring.  There are chapters across the country and the group is growing each year.  It doesn’t matter what you ride, how long you’ve ridden, or how old you are.  I highly recommend it!

“Stilettos on Steel®’s main mission is to empower all female riders. Regardless of riding experience, we welcome you! “   https://www.facebook.com/stilettosonsteel/



Private Investigations: A Force Multiplier for Attorney’s

So what is a Force Multiplier?

According to The Unites States Department of Defense, it means: “A Capability that, when added to and employed by a combat force, significantly increases the combat potential of that force and thus enhances the probability of successful mission accomplishment.” 1.

Josh Kaufman, Business Author, calls Force Multipliers: “…Tools that help you Amplify your efforts to produce more output.  A hammer is a force multiplier…” 2.

The Cambridge Dictionary says: “something that increases the effort of a force.” 3.

In layman’s terms, any tool that can increase the effectiveness of what you are doing is a force multiplier, be it a Bachelor’s degree, social media, news media, hiring someone skilled in an area you need help with, a hammer (pounding nails with your fist won’t work) and so on…

Professional Private Investigators can also be a force multiplier.  As it applies to Legal Support, most attorneys have high caseloads and not enough time.  Hiring a Licensed Investigator with specific skills can help support a legal defense or offense.  Investigators can determine if a spouse is cheating, locate hidden assets in divorce cases, and can locate criminals, victims, witnesses.  If a client is accused of a crime that they didn’t commit but Law Enforcement has blinders on and doesn’t pursue other possible suspects it could lead to a wrongful conviction.  Investigators can run down these other witnesses, interview them and possibly find information Law Enforcement missed.  Some are also skilled in digital (think mobile phones) and/or computer forensics.  If you were accused of a computer crime and the computer has been examined by Law Enforcement, wouldn’t you want a second opinion or expert on your side rather than taking the Prosecutor or Police Officer’s word for it? I’m not saying police officers or police departments are bad, but sometimes their training is limited and there are a few bad apples out there.  Prosecutors get reelected and their performance is based on their rate of convictions, not exonerations.

Professional Private Investigators usually are experienced retired Law Enforcement or have some sort of government investigative experience.  They can also include Accountants and other professionals.  This means they are familiar with the mistakes some Law Enforcement Officers and agencies can make.  They are valuable at looking at police reports and seeing what’s missing or done incorrectly.

If you need a Private Investigator as a Force Multiplier, you should make sure to meet with them, find out what they can do for you (their skills), make sure they are licensed (very important) or work for a licensed agency.  Licensed Investigators are held to laws and ethical standards, and it is illegal for unlicensed individuals to perform some investigative services.

For your force multiplier in Michigan, may I suggest: http://www.bgiassociates.com

  1. http://www.militaryfactory.com/dictionary/military-terms-defined.asp?term_id=2165
  2. https://personalmba.com/force-multiplier/
  3. http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/force-multiplier

Adversity and Adventure (Camping) Produces Family History

The camping season has officially ended for 2016.  The temperatures are dropping and snow is predicted for Saturday.  Usually, the start of school ends most camping trips.

There have been a few families that I know, who have continued to camp on the weekends even after school started.  This year, the weather here in Michigan has been warm and no one was ready to wave summer goodbye.

This particular post by Bruce made me laugh and brought back memories of camping trips with my family, one in particular that I will describe below.

Go camping, they said. It will be fun, they said.

Go camping, they said. It will be fun, they said.

Camping is a great exercise for families.  It builds confidence and independence in children, problem solving, team building and a number of skills one does not necessarily develop at home and results in family closeness and shared memories.

That brings me to “The Camping Trip.”  Our Last Family Camping Trip.  My sister and I were lucky.  Our Grandparents were campers.  They would also go to Florida for the winter and stay in their camper in RV parks.  We sometimes got to go visit, both sets of grandparents were snowbirds.  Naturally, our parents took us on many trips, including camping, canoeing, youth group stuff and family camping.  The only difference was we tented.

On our last camping trip as a family, the weather forecast was perfect and beautiful. We arrived at the campground and picked out the spot to put our tent on the lot.  It was a smooth dirt spot where many before us had placed their temporary abodes.  Our site was also right next to the water.  It was beautiful.  Typically, my father and I were tasked with setting up the complicated tent (we are both mechanically inclined).  I was also the oldest and enjoyed working in our basement workshop with my dad, building stuff out of scrap wood and other materials.  I learned how to use tools early in life and usually help my father fix things at home.  My sister was three years younger and preferred to be mamas girl.  I was a bit of a tom girl (see post: My Mother Invented the Side Pony-Tail).

My father and I set up the tent, arranged our equipment, coleman stove, camp gear, sleeping bags, clothesline (do not forget the clothesline!), etc.  After a camp-cooked dinner and a nice campfire, including s’mores we all crawled into our sleeping bags and drifted off to sleep.  It did not last long.

A sudden storm popped up, dumping loads of water all over the campground.  Our nice smooth spot was on slightly lower ground than the grass, so the floor of our tent started to slosh.  We had to do something or we’d be in trouble.  My father and I went out into the storm, he produced an ax from our gear, and we took turns digging a channel from our tent to the edge of the water to drain off the quickly forming pool.  It worked!  I loved it!  We crawled back into the tent, tried to get dry, and drifted back to sleep.

The next day, we had to dry everything out (CLOTHESLINE!! Pack one!), and we probably camped for a weekend or even a week.  But I do not remember any other part of the trip.  These types of things teach families they can get through unexpected adversity, bond together and solve problems.   Kids gain confidence, learn problem solving skills, and have a great story tell tell afterwards.  It might not be fun while it is happening, but it sure is fun to reminisce and laugh about later.

This was our last camping trip, we were teenagers and got busy with sports and music and extracurricular activities.  Also, this trip produced such a massive amount of dirty, wet laundry, my mother decided she was done.   We never went camping as a family again.  We did take trips after that, but they were more civilized and expensive (hotel).

I did continue the tradition by taking my girls camping several times after I was divorced.  It was something we could do together, affordable, fun, and relaxing (most of the time).  My current spouse and our children went camping together once too.  I’ve never heard so much complaining!  But, a strange thing happened afterwards (sand in their crevices forgotten) someone commented on how “that was fun!”  We’ve never gone as a family again.  Everyone has grown and moved out and my spouse works long hours during the summer, but I still go by myself.  I enjoy the peace and quiet and solitude, as well as, keeping up on my problem solving, fire building, and survival skills.  Go camping!

But wait until the weather is better.