Monday, July 31, 2006

The Countdown Has Begun

Up until two summers ago, I never really gave much thought to a "last" anything where my daughters were concerned - especially not when it came to the amount of time that I spent with them. Granted, I had given primary custody to their father but they lived a mere 20 miles up the road and we never fought about whether or not it was my day to have the girls. To say that visitation was liberal didn't even come close - if I wanted them for an extra day, no problem, and if something had come up where their Dad needed me to take them for some extra time that was generally no problem either as long as my whacked-out schedule allowed it.

All of that changed when the ex remarried in July of 2004 and relocated to Kentucky. In all honesty, I had always hoped that my ex-husband would find someone who loved him in the way I never had and I was truly happy that he'd met someone but I was also somewhat miffed that he had to find that someone over 900 miles away. Because of different child custody laws in Kentucky, she couldn't move her two children back here away from their father but there was nothing in Connecticut law that said my ex couldn't take the girls out of the State. According to the "Best Interest of the Child" law, as long as he wasn't moving them away just to tick me off then he could do it. Well, of course it ticked me off but he had viable reasons - new wife, new job, new home and there was nothing I could do to legally stop him.

In August of that year my mother and I packed the kids up and made a vacation of sorts out of the drive to Kentucky to drop them off at their new home. Except for the final destination it was a great trip - we spent several days in Pennsylvania and had a wonderful time at Hershey Park before continuing West. However, driving away and leaving the two of them in a strange place was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. On the long drive home the car was horribly quiet with no voices bickering, no feet kicking the back seat, and no one asking when we were going to stop to eat. When I got home to Norwich the house was quieter than what I imagine a tomb might be as I kept waiting to hear a voice yell "Mom, it's my turn on the computer" or "Do we have any snacks?" but heard nothing but silence.

Two years later things have changed a little as now Amanda won't be leaving in the next few days but the countdown has started for Jamie's return to Kentucky. Last night as I was trying to fall asleep the thought occurred to me that it had been her last Sunday here and that every day of this week would also be her "last" until whenever she came back out to visit again. As much as she can drive me crazy, she's my youngest and I miss her when she's gone. I worry about how she's doing in school, whether her Dad is being too strict on her in the overbearing way that he can be, how she's getting along with her stepmom and stepbrothers, and when she'll get to come out again.

I am not looking forward to Saturday morning's early trip to the airport where once again I'm going to have to put Jamie on a plane and then wait while it safely flys off into the sky taking away the child who can mess my house up in the blink of an eye while driving her sister crazy without even trying. Fortunately I'll have the drive back from Hartford to fight down the lump in my throat before I have to go to work but it's going to seem strangely quiet around here again on Saturday night despite having Amanda here. I doubt she'd admit it but I think Amanda will miss her sister, too, when she's gone and we're both going to have to get used to the emptiness that Jamie's departure will bring.

In the meantime, we're going to try to enjoy these 'last' days as best we can and I'm going to try not to dwell too much on Saturday and the heaviness in my chest that grows with each passing day.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I Want My MTV ... Not!

"I wish I was in Tijuana,
Eating barbecued iguana ..."

Does anyone besides me remember when MTV and VH1 actually played these things called music videos? One of my favorites was Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio" ... it was a senseless song but it was fun and it translated well to the small screen. Now you're hard-pressed to find an honest-to-goodness music video on either station. Instead of video killing the radio star, reality shows seem to have killed the video stars. "Punk'd", "Real World", "Flavor of Love", "Celebrity Fit Club", "My Fair Brady" ... the list goes on and on.

Amanda has taken to watching quite a few shows on VH1 - in particular the "I Love the 80's" and "I Love the 70's" series. She's always trying to get me to watch these shows with her but I'm not so sure that I loved either decade enough to want to relive it via VH1's group of non-celebrities with their pithy, constant commentaries running throughout the shows. I mean, come on now - Ron Jeremy? Raine Pryor? Jason and Randy Sklar? You're kidding me ...

It's not like Amanda's actually getting anything constructive from these shows either. Instead of learning about the important things that happened in those decades - the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the Jonestown massacre, the first woman appointed to the US Supreme Court, the Chernobyl nuclear accident - she can tell me who had a "Farrah-do", what year people went crazy for Cabbage Patch dolls, and who "The Hot Rockers of 198_ (fill in a year)" were.

When people say "what's old is new again" they aren't kidding! Fashions that should have died in the 70's are creeping back into society (let's hope they draw the line at leisure suits!) and classic rock groups like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Pink Floyd are all the rage again. Jamie, my 13-year old, is a die-hard AC/DC fan (much to her father's chagrin) and knows more about the group now than I ever cared to know when they were popular and Bon Scott was still alive and screaming his lungs out.

Oh well, at least Amanda knows who's having "The Best Week Ever" and keeping up on the pop culture which is oh-so-important to a 14-year old. I guess I'll just keep trying to explain to her why the original "Omen" was so much scarier than the remake and why anyone ever thought their hair looked good like that!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Awaiting the Arrival of the Stork

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting My weekend dispatch partner is just about 8-1/2 months pregnant with her second child - a boy who shall be named Cayden Jeremy once he makes his arrival on or about September 8th. Said arrival can come none too soon for my liking as this pregnancy has been just about as tough on me as it has been on Jen!

It's been said that women who work together will eventually sync and tend to run on the same cycle (chances are good someone somewhere paid good money to fund a research project on this) but I never knew this applied to pregnancies - especially when there is a chance of the proverbial snowball in hell of the other party even thinking about being pregnant! While Jen has been suffering from edema, heartburn, sciatica, and weight gain it has apparently been my duty as a good partner to suffer along with her. I've heard of the significant male half of a pregnancy having sympathy labor pains and cravings with their partner but this is ridiculous! I have already been through three pregnancies of my own with their own inherent aches, pains, and oddities and was not looking to ever go through another in this lifetime. However, I've got the edema and weight gain down perfectly and am just thankful that the sciatica and heartburn has not decided to join in ~ yet!

I'm sure that none of this would come as a surprise to our supervisor and lead dispatcher who seems to think that we're two peas in a pod most of the time anyway and refers to us as the "two red-headed dispatchers" on a regular basis (and other things that aren't exactly printable!). Despite the fact that almost 20 years to the day separate our ages (Jen's birthday is September 6th and mine is the 9th), we actually do have a lot in common which probably comes from sharing the same astrological sign. For some unknown reason, the best dispatchers always seem to be Virgos and Sagittariuns. My number one partner and still best friend in California is a Sagittariun and she will always stands out as one of the best dispatchers that I have ever had the pleasure to share a console with (miss you, Cyndi!).

At any rate, should the "sympathy symptoms" continue until Jen gives birth I am thinking of asking my supervisor if I can wear "sympathy civilian clothes" - it only seems fair! And the worst part of all this? Jen is thinking of having a third child after this one ... Say it isn't so!!!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Diversion Notes

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Anyone who works in EMS (Emergency Medical Services), another medical field, or spends a lot of time in hospitals for one reason or another is familiar with the term "diversion". For the uninitiated, it basically means that every bed in the Emergency Room is occupied, people are stacked in the hallways like cord wood, and there's no place to put anyone else. This generally happens when there are no beds anywhere in the entire hospital to put patients in so people end up spending a lot of time in an ER bed prior to getting admitted to a floor. When that happens anyone coming in via ambulance ends up being diverted to another facility that has agreed to accept the overflow.

With the exception of the "Q" word (as in "wow, it's really quiet tonight!") there are few words that an EMD (Emergency Medical Dispatcher) wants to hear less than the "D" word. If a road crew member calls from Backus to give us a heads-up that the "D" word is being tossed around, it causes an immediate spike in blood pressure and much groaning and gnashing of teeth as it seems that invariably the only accepting hospitals are Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam or Westerly Hospital in Rhode Island - neither of which are just a stone's throw-away. Ambulances that are diverted to DKH in Putnam seem to magically disappear like hapless vessels that wander into the mysterious Bermuda Triangle and we can pretty much kiss them good-bye for the rest of the shift.

Fortunately the last time Backus went on diversion was after I had gone home for the day and was happily parked on the couch playing Animal Crossing or watching a previously recorded episode of The Closer, I forget which. My company-issued pager was on the dresser in a room upstairs where Amanda was watching TV so when it chirped I asked her to read it for me. "432 is on diversion until further notice with 478 accepting" she yelled down the stairs immediately followed by "what's that mean?" Translation: the Backus ER is full to overflowing and all patients are being sent to Windham Hospital in Willimantic until Lord knows when. Further translation: I'm glad I'm home and not at work!

Now it should be noted that children who grow up in households where either Mom or Dad work for a law enforcement agency, fire department, or ambulance company (paid or volunteer) will eventually learn to speak in code. My kids were never told 'no' but got to hear 'negative' an awful lot, we don't arrive somewhere we're 'Signal O', and if I want them to forget about something it's either a 109 or 10-54 if I'm reverting to cop-talk. For Amanda, the word 'diversion' was just another addition to her "My Mom Talks on the Radio for a Living" vocabulary.

Several days later, we were driving down Salem Turnpike on the way back from visiting my mother and as we passed The 99 Restaurant it was it's usual packed self - the parking lot was crowded with cars and people were milling around outside waiting for their names to be called. Business as per usual on a Friday night when everyone decides that it's been a long week and they need to go out to eat and relax a little. In continuing down the road, we eventually passed Old Tymes Restaurant where I noted that the parking lot was surprisingly full for a change (it's no secret that when The 99 came in some business was pulled from other local eateries). As we drove by I commented to the girls that it looked like business was good tonight.

Without missing a beat Amanda turned to me and said "The 99 must be on diversion and Old Tymes is accepting". Yep ... she's definitely my daughter!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

And then there were two ...

Chronologically I knew that it had to happen sometime, that it was totally unavoidable and would have to be faced sooner or later, but sometimes I have to wonder how it is that "sooner" always seems to get here so darned soon and before we realize it "later" has zipped on by in the blink of an eye. The progression of time is a depressing thing! But, alas, I digress for no matter how much I might wonder how it happened so quickly I now officially have two teenaged daughters.

Yesterday was my youngest child's birthday - the day when Jamie made the great jump from pre-teen smack into teen as she turned the ripe old age of 13. Ah, 13 - probably one of the most confusing ages of all as you aren't a child anymore but neither are you technically a young adult. It's definitely an age of many possibilities as most kids this age are heading into their 8th-grade year and are ready to be the 'big man (or woman) on campus' at their middle school or junior high - for one glorious school year they are going to rule the roost before crashing back down to the bottom of the pile as a freshman in high school where, in the big pecking order of things, they are going to be made to feel virtually non-existent. For Jamie, she will be at the top of her game this year - may she enjoy it!

And speaking of virtually non-existent freshmen, I have one of them in the house also. Amanda turned 14 this past June and graduated from Teachers Memorial Middle School with a nice handful of awards and a good report card. Considering that she had transferred from Oldham County Middle School a few months into her 8th-grade year, I think she did fantastic and I am understandably proud of her. She stands poised on the edge of her high school carer with so many marvelous opportunities ahead of her - new friends, new experiences, new clothes ... well ... eventually the new clothes once we do some back-to-school shopping! Sometimes it's enough to make me wish that I could go back and do it over again armed with what I know now that I didn't know then.

Wouldn't it be great to have the chance for one "do-over" in our lives? But you could only have one so you'd have to choose very carefully and that's where the really tricky part comes in. My very good friend in California and I had a long talk about this one night thanks to the joys of unlimited long distance calling and we were both hard pressed to find the right spot for a "do-over". Yes, we could pinpoint times in our lives where hitting rewind and starting over definitely sounded like a good idea but then there were so many extenuating circumstances surrounding that period of time that it just didn't seem like a good idea.

For instance, I could do my life over starting from choosing not to marry my first husband but by doing that, I would never have given birth to my son so he would never have existed and I would never have known the fine young man he's become, my new daughter-in-law, or my grandson. If I chose to do my life over and not marry my second husband then I would never have my two daughters and how different would my life be then?

They may drive me completely crazy from time to time, especially now that they are both teenagers, but how empty would my life be if I didn't have the girls to leave things laying around everywhere, to constantly bicker with each other, and to leave the lights on all over the house?? Hmm - now that I think about it a little more ... tempting, very tempting ... but no, I guess not for after all, I fully believe that all things happen for a reason even if we may never know what that reason might be. I'm rather hoping that when I eventually die and go to wherever it is that I'm going (there's a good part of me that is expecting warm temperatures!) that someone will hand me a book chock full of explanations for the reasons so many things happened the way that they did. Now that would make for some marvelous reading!

How about you - ever thought a "do-over" would be nice? Ever think you could really do one if you could? I think I'm going to save mine until later.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Down By The Sea

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This past Monday I took a much-needed vacation day from work and with my former dispatch partner from Norwich PD and good buddy Paula (who deserves a major congratulations on the recent landing of a new job as an art teacher at Grasso Tech in Groton!) we packed the kids and a cooler into the car and headed East to Rhode Island and the Scarborough State Beach in Narragansett.

Turns out it was one of the few nice days we've had this summer so it was the perfect beach day and we'd even been unwittingly smart enough to avoid the beaches at Westerly that apparently had a man-o'-war outbreak.
By 11:00 we had staked our place out on the sand with a plethora of towels, bags, the cooler, a boom box, and any of the other 'necessary' beach items that we had thought to bring.

The waves were glorious and once you got used to the initial slap of cold water and that first big gulp of salt water (eyuk!) it was quite nice and very refreshing. The girls actually seemed to be getting along for a change (I swear, they've got bickering down to an art!) so Paula and I congratulated ourselves on a successful summer outing.

Perhaps the celebration was a bit premature ...
I should take the time to explain here that Jamie, my youngest daughter who resides full-time with her Dad in Kentucky but spends the summer here, can only be described as a headstrong, spit-in-your-eye, nothing-scares-her-at-all kind of kid. To tell her not to do something is more or less a waste of time and breath for Jamie has selective hearing - always has and apparently always will. Amanda, on the other hand, has always had more of a sensitive and tentative nature - the devil-may-care genes went entirely to her litle sister - but as the oldest, she feels that it is her duty and responsibility to try to keep her younger sister in check.

And that became part of the problem on Monday ... Jamie kept wanting to go out further than Amanda did in order to catch the bigger waves and ride them in but Amanda thought it smarter to stay in closer to shore and not go out so deep just in case one of the waves decided to not only drag you under but pull you out to sea. For Jamie, that was half the fun of it and she wasn't going to listen to her older sister for love or money - there was adventure to be had and by golly, she was going to have it! This, of course, caused Amanda no end of frustration and in trying to get close enough to tell Jamie to come back in, she kept standing right in the spot where the waves were breaking and knocking her over. With high tide approaching, the waves were coming in at a pretty good clip so there really wasn't much time to get too far out in between waves. For every step forward she took, Amanda ended up backing up another three and her frustration level was visibly rising.

Paula and I stood closer in towards shore and watched this unfold for awhile - Jamie out riding the waves and having a grand old time while Amanda got more and more aggravated at not only her sister but at the waves that kept knocking her over. I finally called her in and explained to her that neither the waves nor Jamie were going to listen to her so she might as well enjoy the day and not worry about either. At that point, I believe that Amanda saw the futility of it all and just decided to hecks with it, she'd hang out closer to the shore with us old people. And, of course, without an audience, Jamie eventually came in on her own.

After close to five hours of being tossed around by the waves (memo to self - you're old, you had back surgery last year, and doing underwater somersaults really isn't a good thing!) and being baked in the sun for way too long (what good is SPF-30 to someone who never goes out in the sun???) we packed up the kids and gear and drove over to Point Judith for dinner at Champlin's. The place had been recommended to me by one of my supervisors at work and backed up by one of our medics who actually hails from Rhode Island. To say that it was excellent would have been an understatement - it was the perfect ending to the perfect day (thanks Brad and Sean!)

Now I just wish this sunburn on the top of my feet would heal so I could wear my workboots comfortably and stop hobbling around like Quasimodo on my way to ring the bells!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

How I Got Here and Where I'm Going - Maybe!

Hello and welcome to my blog! Happy to have you stop by!

To give you some additional background on what this blog is “supposed” to be about ... once upon a time, in the early 1980's, after four years of marriage and one child my first husband decided that there were too many single women in the world for him to deal with the responsibilities of being a husband and father and thus began my first journey in the Land of Single Parenthood. Luckily I was young and possessed the energy, eternal optimism, and resiliency of said youth. It was also at this time that I took my first job in emergency dispatching for the City of Stockton Police Department in Stockton, California. This was when I first learned to juggle a stressful career with being a single Mom.

Fast forward to the early 90's when I moved back to Connecticut to be closer to family and where I eventually became one of the first civilian dispatchers at the Norwich Police Department while still raising my son on my own. Shortly after that, I married my cousin's brother-in-law and heaved a sigh of relief that I was no longer going to be the only adult responsible for the raising of my then 10-year old son. Soon Michael had two sisters, Amanda and Jamie, and I took a brief respite from dispatching to be a Navy wife and stay-at-home mom.

To make a long story short, the marriage lasted ten years before we parted more or less amicably and I granted my 'ex' primary physical custody of the girls in order to avoid a long, nasty, drawn-out court battle. I had been dispatching back at Norwich PD since 1997 and also learned how to deal blackjack and was working part-time at the Mohegan Sun. As their Dad had a "normal" schedule compared to mine it seemed the ideal situation that I took the girls every week on my days off and they lived the rest of the time in Plainfield with dear old Dad and several cats.

Everyone was happy, give or take the usual fall-out from a divorce, until the ex-husband ventured over to and met the love of his life (see? it does work for some people) - who happened to live in Kentucky. Kentucky?!? With nary a thought for my feelings or those of his daughters, he married after a whirlwind long-distance courtship and packed everyone off to Louisville to live with his new wife and her two sons.

Now everyone was definitely NOT happy! I missed the girls (truth be told, I was bereft) and the girls missed me - especially my oldest who was entering that explosive and volatile pre-teen age. Occasional visits back to Connecticut during Christmas and other school breaks just wasn’t doing it for Amanda so her Dad rather grudgingly decided last October that she needed to move back here with me in order to get a little peace in the new homestead.

I guess you could say that things have gone full circle at this point – I’m back to being a single parent and still working in emergency dispatch though now as an emergency medical dispatcher with American Ambulance in Norwich. To say that things have changed in the past 15 years since I was last raising a child on my own would be an understatement! No longer do I have the energy, eternal optimism, or resiliency of youth but rather the aches and pains of middle age, the worries of ever being able to retire, and the awful feeling of deja-vu all over again! Add on the complexities of raising a teenager in this day and age and well … it keeps me on my toes!

I hope you’ll join me on my journeys – through the laughs & the frustrations, the tears & the smiles, and everything else that goes along with juggling work and home while trying to maintain at least a small bit of sanity on the side! I welcome your stories and your comments (though bear in mind, I have the power of veto when it comes to posting your comments or not so please be nice!).

On that note – let the journey begin! As soon as I rest up for a minute or two …