Friday, September 29, 2006

"He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything." ~ Arabic Proverb

I've never been the most energetic person on the face of the earth but neither would I have classified myself as a slug. Not until this past Spring that is, when I started to feel like I couldn't get out of my own way. No matter what time I went to bed I awoke tired and feeling like I hadn't slept at all; the smallest bit of strenuous exercise left me horribly winded with my heart beating at what felt like a mile a minute; and very recently even a short walk up a small incline has left me trying to catch my breath.

I had the feeling that all of this couldn't be entirely attributed to my advancing years, that perhaps there was something wrong somewhere, so I went to see my doctor. After going through the pin-cushion process several times and having what seemed like a hundred tubes of blood drawn, it was determined that I'm no longer on the edge of anemia, where I had sat for pretty much as long as I could remember. Instead I had jumped solidly down on the side of iron-deficiency anemia complete with miniscule red blood cells and low serum ferritin levels.

That certainly explains the fatigue, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, leg cramps, insomnia, etc., etc. - I've been feeling like I'm exhausted because I am exhausted. My red blood cells are too depleted to carry oxygen to my vital organs and apparently one's vital organs don't much care for it when they don't get enough oxygen. Go figure ....

My regular doctor referred me over to a hematologist, a doctor that specializes in blood and blood-forming organs, and as such I paid my first visit to Eastern Connecticut Hematology & Oncology this past Monday. For some reason, it didn't dawn on me until I stepped off of the elevator and stood facing the door that it was the office of Dr. Slater, my father's oncologist.

I had only been to Dr. Slater's office once and that was shortly after my father had died so unexpectedly during his CAT scan. Natually my mother and brothers and I had questions as to what had happened and Dr. Slater himself seemed flummoxed by the whole thing. He seemed genuinely upset about my father's death and assured us that it was not due to his non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He understood that we had questions but he didn't have any answers to give us. My Dad had very much liked Dr. Slater and felt that he had prolonged his life by several years when his previous oncologist had told him he had done all that he could do. In no way did I hold Dr. Slater responsible for what had happened but it was just a little disconcerting to be standing outside of his office.

As I sat in the waiting room filling out my paperwork, it occured to me that perhaps my father had sat in the same place filling out his own paperwork or waiting to be called in for his own appointment. For the first time, it dawned on me that I wasn't at a regular doctor's office, I was at an office that treated people with cancer - with diseases so horrible that we're afraid to mention them for fear that they'll attach themselves to the breath that we used to utter their names and we, ourselves, will become infected. As I looked around at the others waiting like myself I wondered what had brought them here, what their prognoses were, what the rest of their lives held in store for them.

After being called to an outer office and more blood was drawn (geez, I'm anemic as it is and you're taking more blood??) I met with the hematologist who explained my condition to me and the treatment that I needed. The cause of my anemia is yet to be determined but for now what it comes down to is that I'm a couple quarts low on iron and I need a fill-up. To that end, I am receiving intravenous iron infusions once a week for the next ten weeks.

I went in for my first infusion yesterday and though it wasn't painful, the whole experience was disturbing. I was led into another part of the office where reclining chairs are set up not more than four feet apart and though there were curtains dividing each section, they were all pulled back. There were eight chairs that I could count and most of those chairs were occupied by people in various stages of chemotheraphy treatments. To my far left was an older man and his wife receiving instructions on the pump that would be his constant companion both day and night while he received continuous doses of medicine. Next to him was a woman who was sleeping while her husband read a Stephen King paperback in a chair by her feet as the IV pump next to her sent medication through her body for what I later learned was breast cancer. On my right was a young boy of 15 who was receiving a treatment while his mother discussed school with him. There were several others beyond him, all either napping, watching TV, or chatting with a companion while they were in some form of treatment.

It hit me harder this time that I was probably sitting in the very same chair that my father had sat in when he came in for his own chemotherapy treatments; that of all the times he was there chances were real good that he had sat in that very spot several times wondering how the rest of his life was going to play out while my mother sat lovingly next to him and the medications ran into his veins. As I watched the old couple at the end receive their instructions and the man's wife ask a myriad of questions regarding his treatment, I could easily imagine the scene being played over and over again by so many others before them and no doubt many more behind them.

As I watched the fluids drip into my own arm I felt a bit like an intruder, an interloper, in a place where life and death is dependent on the treatments that those around me were receiving. But I also felt a lot of hope and love in that room. Hope that the treatments would be successful, hope that life would go on a little longer because of the medications that were being received, hope that soon maybe life could go back to "normal". The love was evident in the way a husband massaged his wife's feet while she slept, the way a mother laughed with her son, the way a worried wife asked questions.

It was a humbling experience and probably will be for each and every one of the nine times I go back there. Maybe by then I'll have gotten used to that room and the things that go on there but I rather hope not.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

"As a child my family's menu consisted of two choices: take it, or leave it." ~ Buddy Hackett

********************
The on-going debate between Amanda and I here at the Old Homestead as of late has been frozen veggies versus fresh veggies. Being on the edge of poverty, I tend to buy frozen vegetables more than I do fresh because, let's face it, they're infinitely less expensive. When you can buy ten bags for ten dollars as compared to upwards of $1.99 a pound for fresh broccoli, for example, then I'm going to have to go with the ten bags of frozen. Ten bags of frozen is going to go a lot further than a pound or two of fresh plus you don't have to worry about it going bad in the bottom of the refrigerator because you never got around to cleaning it, cutting it, and cooking it. Makes perfect sense to me but to my non-cooking and non-grocery purchasing daughter, it doesn't.

As much as I would love to go the local Farmer's Markets or even the nearest prod
uce section of the grocery store and stock up on an infinite variety of fresh vegetables, I just can't do it. I know me and I know that a lot of what looked really good sitting on a shelf or in a basket is going to be brought home, put away, and promptly forgotten about because I just have neither the time or energy to deal with it. I don't have to think about a bag of frozen veggies - I can just open the freezer door, look inside, and pick from a veritable garden of choices that require simple microwaving or stir-frying with the only effort on my part being to open the bag and pour the contents in a dish or pan. Convenience. It's a great thing.

I do my best to make sure that the vegetables have some taste to them, that they aren't nuked beyond recognition so that they become simply a mouthful of warm mush but apparently that's not good enough for Amanda. The way I look at it, though, is that she's darned lucky to get a hot meal every night! Most evenings when I get home from work, the last thing I want to do is become Martha Stewart and whip up gourmet-style meals that will make a family sit up and say "wow!". Nope, not happening. After dispatching ambulances all day, the best I can do is dispatch some meat and veggies to a pan and throw either some rice or pasta on the side.

It could be worse, I could be pulling a box of frozen pizza or some other Lean Cuisine type meal out of the freezer every night and calling it good or opening a can of soup. I could be calling Domino's or a Chinese food place that delivers. I could be handing her a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a knife. I could be telling her to make her own dinner but I don't do that. The kid doesn't know how lucky she actually has it but as I like to remind her on a fairly regular basis, if she misses home-cooked meals that much then she can always go back to Kentucky where I hear her step-Mom has hot cornbread or biscuits every night.

I'd even be willing to bet that fresh vegetables are cheaper in The Bluegrass State ...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to." ~ Mark Twain

I figured I couldn't write this better myself ...

A priceless email from Erik, one of my dispatch partners, sent out after an incident during today's shift -
"Yes, I have fallen victim to the Mastercard advertisment. Figured I'd make
my own up after what happened today at American .... lol

Cellular
phone plan w/phone $150.00
Monthly bill w/unlimited text(Nextel)
$75.00
Car charger and handsfree set $50.00
Downloadable Screensaver
$5.00
Downloadable Game $2.50

Working in a dispatch center
where it's mandatory to have all devices on vibrate ... Priceless ... especially
as far as headaches are concerned.

Yelling at co-workers for one of
them not having their's on vibrate ... Enjoyable

Realizing
that it's your phone that you're yelling at them about ... Dumbass!!!!"
Thanks, Erik, that was one of the best laughs I've had in a long time!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Never make a defense or an apology until you are accused." ~King Charles I

********************
Yesterday I posted about the beauty of Autumn in New England and whereas I thought it was an innoncent enough post, I apparently managed to offend and step on the toes of my very good friend Cyndi. Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis are probably aware that said good friend lives in the great State of California and that's where I met her some 20 + years ago.

Now ... when I say the "great" State of California I
'm not just using an adjective - the place is huge and takes up most of the entire West Coast. From North to South it extends about 780 miles and East to West is an impressive 350 miles (for those of you who like to consider yourselves math majors this equals out to approximately 158,706 square miles when you count both land and water). No argument there - it is one HUGE State, especially compared to miniscule Connecticut with it's paltry 5,018 square miles (55 miles North to South and 90 miles East to West).

That said, it wasn't very fair or accurate for me to say that people in California didn't get to experience the change of seasons. As Cyndi po
sted in a comment to yesterday's post:
"Linda - I'm crushed. I thought you of all people would not fall prey to the national groupthink perpetuating the fascist myth that everyone in Ca. can drive to the beach in a matter of minutes to throw a crabfeed and surfing wang dang doodle on Christmas Eve. Throwing a bone to the Sierra Nevada mountains won't get you out of this one. I should not have to remind you that the seasons change quite dramatically (and colorfully) in Ye Olde Central Valley, which represents a larger total land mass than SoCal."
For those not familiar with the Central Valley, also known as the Great Valley of California and The Big Valley - home of the Barkleys of 1960s TV fame - it, like the rest of the State it's located in, is HUGE. Measuring in at a whopping 450 miles long and average 50 miles wide you could probably tuck in close to five Connecticuts end to end and still have some room to fit in one Rhode Island. Like I said, it's HUGE and the weather there is as different from the Hollywood Hills as Florida is from Connecticut.

Back in the days when I possessed a California driver's license I spent most of that time living in Stockton, prominently located in the Central Valley, and only about two years in Southern California. Truth be told, I much preferred Stockton to Long Beach and San Bernardino and one of the reasons for that was that there actually was a change of seasons there. Granted, it was nothing on the scale of what we get here in
New England but leaves do change color and fall from the trees in Autumn and there is some glori
ous color to be found on the Valley floor as well as in the mountains.

I apparently left out that fact in yesterday's post and was justifiably threatened by my good pal:
"I should hop a flight to smack you with my leaf blower."
Cyndi has been trying to talk her husband, Jeff, into allowing her to fly out here for a visit but negotiations have not been going all that well due to Jeff's own personal aversion to flying and his aversion to putting his beloved wife on a plane but I get the feeling that should Cyndi tell him about my faux pas and defamation of their beloved Central Valley, he may very well give her the go-ahead to come out here and beat me severely about the head and shoulders with my own garden rake! And though I would dearly love to see her, I'd rather not have violence on the agenda for our time together!

That said - to Cyndi and Jeff and everyone else who lives north of Bakersfield - I stand accused and I sincerely apologize for any slight or insult I may have inadvertently made with yesterday's post. I was wrong - Autumn can be just as beautiful on the West Coast as it can be on the East Coast, you just have to cross over the Grapevine in a nort
herly direction to see it.

Am I forgiven?? Please??

Monday, September 25, 2006

“Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile.” ~ William Cullin Bryant

********************
This past Saturday marked the first Day of Autumn, my very favorite season of the year. There is not a single time of year that can take me back to my youth quicker than Fall - memories of leaf piles that were jumped in, pumpkins that were carved, and foliage that was so beautiful that it could take your breath away. I'm not sure what takes me back in time more - the scenery or the smells - but I always feel more alive in Autumn, which is probably downright odd as this is the time of year when everything starts to die and fade away before the onslaught of Old Man Winter.

When I lived in California, lo' those many years ago, this was always the time of year when I missed Connecticut the most. When you've lived in a place where the seasons actually change, it's hard to live in a place where they don't. You can't really mark the passage of time in Long Beach, California like you can in Boston, Massachusetts. And even though you can go up to the moutains and view some foliage from many parts of California, it's not the same as living amongst the changing leaves and the changing light patterns. You can't really
live the seaons out there as one day just melts into another minus the glorious passing of time that we get to witness here in New England year after year.

If simple things in life are what makes one the happiest, then I would have to say that I am truly the happiest in Autumn. We have survived another hot and sticky summer and have not yet entered the hideous cold of winter. It's the time of the harvest, which in olden times was THE most important time of the year. It's the time of Halloween and Thanksgiving - two of the best holidays in the whole year! And who isn't happy dressing up in a costume and being someone else for even just one night a year?

As a child I loved Halloween - the cheesy costumes, the plastic masks that didn't breath except through a tiny slit for the mouth and eye holes, the one night of the year when you could bang on both neighbors' and strangers' doors and they'd be more than happy to throw something in the bag you were carrying. I loved the spooky stories, too - the ghosts, the witches, the headless horsemen, the haunted houses ... I loved them all. And I loved the parties - the "scary" snacks, putting on a blindfold and touching the peeled-grape eyes and the cold spaghetti intestines, bobbing for apples, and the seance circles where we tried to bring back Abe Lincoln from the dead. The more scared I was the better because this was the only time of year when it was not only
okay to be scared but you were expected to be scared.

Halloween has changed a lot since I was a kid, it doesn't seem like it's anywhere near as fun as it was before some people took a lot of the innocence out of it but the memories remain and maybe that's why I love this time of year so much. I have a ton of happy memories from Autumn and if I stand outside and breathe in the Fall air, they can all come rushing back to me in exquisite detail. And who can't like reliving some of their favorite memories - regardless of the time of year?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

"Enough is enough." ~ Joan Greenwood

********************
If there is anyone left in the entire country who doesn't know about the recent outbreak of e. coli via fresh bagged spinach then they must have been living under a rock as this story seems to have been on the news in one form or another ever since the story first broke back in the middle of the month.

No matter what news channel one watches, there's yet another story and warning not to eat the stuff. Okay, we've got the message - enough. I'm pretty sure that everyone now knows about the outbreak and, even if they didn't, they couldn't buy a bag of the stuff if they wanted to as it's been pulled off of the shelves at grocery stores for well over a week at this point. Even if you had it at home in your refrigerator before the outbreak, by this time you've either eaten it or it's gone bad and you should throw it out anyway. End of story - let's move on.

I don't know what it is about the news media lately that they seem to get hold of a story and it's like a dog with a bone - they worry it to death. Is it because there just isn't much that qualifies as news these days? Is it because there's only so much Presidential bashing that they can do? Is it because they only have so much video footage so they have to keep writing stories around that limited amount of footage?

Whatever the case may be, it's not "news" when it's over a week old and there's nothing new to report. Until they've figured out what it was that caused the e. coli outbreak in all that spinach and can do a report on that then maybe they could find something else to talk about? And if it could be something other than Baby Shiloh or Baby Suri or any other celebrity's baby, the death of Anna Nicole Smith's son (I didn't even know she had a son), Tom Cruise developing his own production company now that Paramount dumped him, or any of that other nonsensical crap - it would really be appreciated!

Friday, September 22, 2006

"One's real life is often the life that one does not lead." ~ Oscar Wilde, 1882

I'm not exactly sure how the comment came up at work yesterday, it probably evolved from another totally unrelated topic like so many of our conversations at work do, but it was declared that I "am not cuddly". Now, normally, I would retort to that with some sort of flip comment, take it at its face value, and move on but for some reason it actually hurt a little bit to hear that. Well, no, I take that back, it hurt a lot. Enough so that without meaning to I found myself actually shedding a couple tears and feeling like a complete and total fool about the whole thing.

I can trace the conversation as far back as talking about Jen coming in with her new son on Tuesday and the fact that I had actually held the little fella for a bit. I guess I didn't realize that were those who would have thought that was totally out of character for me; that I was looked at as such an ice queen that I apparently don't even stoop so low as to hold babies.

There's no doubt in my mind that throughout the years I have built up a protective wall around myself, that I don't let my feelings show very easily, and that I certainly don't get excited about things very often. I had never really thought of myself as unapproachable until today however, it appears that's exactly what I put out there on a fairly regular basis and I find it rather distressing.

Granted, I don't want to be one of those over-the-top, sickly-sweet types that seem to have a smile permanently tattooed on their face - a "Pollyanna", as it were, someone who is cheerfully optimistic all of the time despite the situation or circumstances. If asked if I am a "glass half full or glass half empty" person I would probably say I lean towards the half empty scenario but really, what does all that mean? You can always fill the glass back up again so who cares whether it's half full or half empty - the more important question there might be do you have the means to refill the glass?

Yes, I am a realist, I will fully admit that. Life has thrown too many curve balls at me for it to be otherwise. I've had some tough lessons in life here and there but I'd like to think that I've learned from all of them, even though some of the lessons had to be repeated a time or two before I finally got the answers right! Perhaps I've become a little more "shut down" in certain areas of my life but I certainly don't want to be seen as an unlovable, unapproachable, cold wench of a woman. I know a few of those and they aren't pleasant to be around.

I'd like to say that with me "what you see is what you get" but that's not exactly the case. The life I lead is not exactly the life I want but it's the only one I have right now. I'd love to be cuddly and cuddled; I'd love to be in love again someday; I'd love to come into work every single morning with a smile on my face but I suppose that if I did that then people would get the idea that I had started doing some sort of mind-altering drugs or something!

Talk about a paradox - I want to be thought of as approachable and perhaps even cuddly but I don't want to put on an act to prove it. What to do? What to do? Perhaps I should just not worry about it and take comfort in the fact that those who really know me, know that I am capable of such things.

I'm sure that there are worse things than not being "cuddly", it's just that yesterday I couldn't think of any of them.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” ~ Buddha

********************
ECR passed me the memetic torch of literacy the other day in her blog entry of 9/19/2006. For those not familiar with a "meme", it refers to a unit of cultural information that can be transmitted from one mind to another. When it comes to a blog, it's "an idea, project, statement or even a question that is posted on one blog and responded to by other blogs."

The theme of this particular meme is:
What is written on the 5th through 8th sentences on page 123 of the book nearest you?

Not wanting to be known as someone who cannot reliably handle the torch that has been handed to her, I have grabbed the book closest to me, opened it to page 123, and here we go:
5. When we think about heroism, the mind quickly leaps to men and women who take physical risks to help others.
6. But heroism is as much about inner strength as it is about acts of physical courage.
7. The greatest heroes are often the quiet men and women who are simply and bravely facing up to the many unexpected losses and difficulties that life has to dish up.
8. Don't we all know men and women who are being heroic on a daily basis?
The name of the book is Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation written by the Lama Surya Das. Page 123 is actually the first page of Chapter Seven which is titled Being Heroic in the Face of Loss.

I bought this book in the Spring of 2003 during a particularly trying time of my life despite the fact that I am not now nor have I ever been a Buddhist. I had just gone through the very painful ending of a relationship with someone that I cared for very much when, much worse than that, my father unexpectedly died during a CAT scan. Granted, my father had non-Hodgkins lymphoma (for which there is treatment but no cure) and he had been stoically battling it for several years but his death wasn't from the cancer. Rather it was from his lungs filling up with fluid so that he couldn't breathe while he was lying flat on his back. At the time of his death, he had been in the hospital for several days because of the shortness of breath and the CAT scan was part of the testing process to determine where the problem lie.

My father knew that he wasn't coming out of that hospital alive as he said several times while there that the only way he was leaving was "feet first". I could see in his face that he had given up the fight, that he was tired, and he was ready for his "dirt nap" as he so eloquently referred to his death. I'm sure that fighting cancer for years will take its toll on the spirit even more than the body and Dad was just flat-out tired. Still - those of us who loved him weren't ready for him to go and his death was still a shock despite knowing that eventually the cancer would take its toll and he'd be gone.

That was at the end of February and by May I had pretty much had it with myself. It wasn't even halfway through the year and I had already chalked up 2003 as being one of the worst years of my life. I desperately wanted some change, wanted to feel more like a person of worth, wanted to figure out how to handle all of the loss in my life without going completely crazy, and in my heart I knew that it was going to have to start with me as no one else was going to be able to do it for me. When I saw this book by the Lama Das, I thought it might help get me out of the pit of despair that I had fallen into; might give me some sort of direction to channel my energies towards; might actually help me to like myself again.
"We cry because of our losses; we despair and become depressed because of our losses; we lose hope because of our losses. We are haunted by our losses and we often define ourselves by our losses. But, and this is an important but, we are also strengthened by our losses. We can change and mature spiritually because of our losses. Almost by definition, loss is transformative." Chapter One, Making Sense of the Madness
It took awhile. It certainly wasn't an overnight transformation but eventually I came to terms with my losses and my life was more fulfilled for what I went through. It took more than one book by more than one author, it took more than one phone call by more than one friend, and it took strength and courage on my own part. My life is by no means perfect and I still miss those that I have lost but I've learned to "let go of the holding on" - though it's always a work in progress!

Thank you, ECR, for reminding me of these things by passing on that torch to me and having me pick up the closest book!

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." ~ Albert Einstein

I'm annoyed by people who mangle the quotations of others in an effort to communicate their own ideas.

With the mea culpa tidily handled, I say: It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our sanity--or at least MY sanity.

O.K., you got me. Linda would never resort to such a cheesy lead-in. I confess, I am a guest; guest blogger, that is. I'm Cyndi, Linda's friend, alter-ego, former dispatch partner and part-time conscience, in no particular order. Linda is taking a well-deserved day off. She has kindly allowed me to achieve my 15 seconds of fame via today's post, and for good reason. It is, after all, my sanity that is challenged, but for a change it was not one of my own three kids who sent me plunging down the abyss.

Nope; this time it was Linda's dear Amanda who gave me the hearty shove.

Mind you, most of the time I adore Amanda. She's a great kid. We share certain traits; sensitivity, a love of various arts, a flair for multitasking, and California birth certificates (I had to throw that last bit in just for Amanda. Yo Cali-girl!).

Yep, Amanda's a great kid who somehow felt it perfectly reasonable to tap into my conversation with her mother this afternoon to let us both know that she absolutely had to have the telephone line cleared right away because she had to make a call of her own.

So far, no big deal, right? Sure, Linda and I live some 3,000 miles apart and converse only a couple of times a month, but we were barely in the midst of invoking world peace or ending the threat of global warming when said interruption occurred. Granted, my 14th birthday passed sometime around the time Cleopatra was batting her lashes at Marc Anthony; still, I can vaguely summon that feeling of urgency that drives adolescent talk fests. Finally, it hasn't been all that long ago that my own daughter passed through the age in which a five minute delay in making a phone call feels more like five years of agony.

Given all of this, I thought Linda's response was quite generous, mom-wise: She offered Amanda use of her cell phone to place her call. And Amanda said ... no. Nope. No thanks; only the landline phone would do, because she needed to place a three-way call, and apparently this was not possible on Linda's cell phone.

What I said at this point is ... well ... probably best not repeated here.

Mind you, Ms. Amanda already had possession of the family computer at this point, yet she wanted the PHONE too? For a conference call?

I hereby nominate Linda for Mother of the Year for ever so calmly suggesting that we hang up so she could call me back on her cell phone. Problem solved; so why does the whole thing still stick in my craw hours later?

Answering machines, Call Waiting, conference calls, email, IM's, blogs, Cell phone, texting, Blackberry/PDA, Pager (yup, some of us still carry those along with the rest of the stuff). My purse runneth over, but I don't feel any more in touch than I did before most of this stuff was available.

So I ask you, gentle readers: Am I the only one who thinks that the whole communication thing is getting out of hand? What would Einstein do?

Personally, I'm in favor of leaving the electronic gear in the hands of the teens(or the cats) and heading for a secluded beach; margarita in one hand and a good book in the other.

See y'all there!

Note from Linda: Thank you, Cyndi! I appreciate you filling in for me as I never would have gotten to the computer before 10:00 p.m. last night as Amanda had it tied up so she could work on her Naruto AMV while IM'ing her friends and still making that three-way call of hers. At least she has inherited my outstanding multi-tasking abilities! Oh, and thanks for the nomination for Mother of the Year though we both know I'd have a snowball's chance in a very warm place of actually winning it - were there such a thing!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"The trouble with cats is that they've got no tact." ~ P.G. Wodehouse

tact - Pronunciation: 'takt
Function: noun
Etymology: French, sense of touch, from Latin tactus, from tangere to touch
1 : sensitive mental or aesthetic perception
2 : a keen sense of what to do or say in order to maintain good relations with others or avoid offense
synonyms TACT,
ADDRESS, POISE, SAVOIR FAIRE mean skill and grace in dealing with others. TACT implies delicate and considerate perception of what is appropriate
No doubt about it - P.G. Wodehouse has hit the nail directly on the head when it comes to Marbles, the cat who resides in my house, as she has absolutely no tact whatsoever. I refrain from calling her my cat as I'm pretty sure there is no cat out there worth his or her front claws who would allow themselves to truly belong to a person. They are completely independent creatures who cleverly fool people into thinking that because we feed them, take care of their medical needs, give them a home to live in, and provide playthings and kitty litter that there is some form of ownership involved. Not on your life! Or any of the nine that all felines purportedly have!

Dogs, on the other hand, don't mind in the least being owned. As a matter of fact, I think that they crave ownership as demonstrated by their willingness to fall all over themselves when their owner(s) walk in the door after being gone for any amount of time. When was the last time you saw a cat wiggle around on the floor in sheer anticipation of someone reaching out a hand and scracthing it behind the ears? I'm going to hazard a guess of ... never! Cats just don't do that sort of thing. Instead they look at the people who live in the house with them rather disdainfully like we've invaded their space when we come into our own homes. The nerve!

I adopted Marbles from one of the local no-kill shelters not quite two years ago when, for some stupid reason, I thought it might be a good idea to have a cat here for com
pany while the girls were off in Kentucky. Jamie, my youngest, is an animal lover and thought it would be nice for me to have a pet. She also wanted me to get a cat as her cats had to be given away when they didn't get along with the seven, no eight, no nine - that's right - nine dogs that her Dad and new stepmom acquired. She figured that a cat would keep me company while she and Amanda were away and that when she was here, it would be her cat and she'd take care of it, etc., etc.

Well, sucker that I am, I fell for the whole notion so shortly after Christmas of 2005 I f
ound myself at a shelter with Jamie who wanted to take all of the cats there home. I put my foot down that it would be one - just one - cat and was hoping for something cute and small with hardly any fur as the last thing I wanted was cat hair all over my house. After looking at all of the cats that the shelter had to offer, Jamie decided that we simply HAD to adopt the one that had been there for almost four years as she obviously needed a real home. I was a little skeptical as there had to be a good reason no one else wanted to adopt her but the lady at the shelter assured me that it was simply because most people wanted a younger cat. I must have been suffering from post-Christmas syndrome or something as I agreed to Jamie's choice of feline and Marbles was packed into a carrier for us to make the trip back to our house where she could be showered with all of the love and affection that she had been denied for the past four years. Yeah ... right ...

Marbles spent almost the whole first week hiding either under the bed or behind
the couch, only coming out at night to eat and drink when she knew that everyone else was asleep. She completely ignored Jamie's attempts at friendship by snubbing all of the toys and kitty treats that she was offered and hiding further under the bed. It wasn't until after the girls had flown back out to Kentucky that she finally decided to put in an appearance and to this day, I'm rather wishing she had stayed under the bed!

This cat that lives in our house is not the friendliest of creatures but she is the noisiest. When I get up in the mornings I'm greeted with
loud yowls until I dole out some wet food to Her Majesty and if I dare to stay in bed past the time she thinks is acceptable, she sits by the side of my bed and lets loose with a cacophony of caterwauling loud enough to wake the dead! When I get home from work I am met by the same annoying greeting as she demands her food bowl be replenished - but not with dry food. Heavens no! That can sit in her bowl all day as far as she's concerned - she wants the good stuff - the canned stuff - the stuff that she barely tastes while she scarfs it down at the speed of light.

When I'm trying to watch TV she'll perch herself on the back of the
couch close to my head and then drown out the sound of the show I'm trying to watch while she grooms herself with the most God-awful slurping noises I've ever heard! If I poke her and tell her to go do that somewhere else I am simply glared at for a moment and then she goes right back to what she was doing as if I never spoke. Her idea of providing companionship involves her lying on the floor directly behind my computer chair so that when I back up I practically run her over. She's almost tripped me on the stairs too many times to count, she's taken to sharpening her claws on the loveseat despite the fact she has at least three scratching posts, and I am constantly having to vacuum up cat hair which I not only hate but am allergic to. Oh yes, the joys of having a cat in the house are innumerable!

Still, I guess she's part of the family now even though I'm hoping that one of these d
ays she'll run out the open front door and decide not to come back as she has decided she wants to commune with the squirrels across the street rather than live cooped up with a couple of humans that don't appreciate her. Besides, I might actually miss her were she gone for good as I'd have to go back to setting mousetraps in the winter and she can be entertaining when she's chasing a ball around the living room. Who knows? Maybe in another two years she'll actually warm up to having a family?? Then again - she's a cat ... maybe not!


Monday, September 18, 2006

"All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream." ~ Edgar Allen Poe

Speaking of dreams, I've been having some downright strange ones lately. Granted, I never have what one might call "normal" dreams to begin with - things always seem abstract and out of sync (rather like my MP3 player was earlier this evening!) but lately they've been even stranger than usual and I seem to wake up flat-out exhausted from all of the nocturnal adventures I've been having.

Of course I'm not smart enough to write these things down as soon as I wake up so I don't lose them completely and I can only remember bits and pieces here and there but I know that lately they seem to have an awful lot to do with dispatching. I'm thinking this probably translates out to the fact that I work too much and it's been extrememly busy in the Land of Commerical Ambulance Service the past week or so. When I go to bed and try to send crews on calls when I am not anywhere near either a radio console or computer then I know I'm in trouble! I actually have to wake up and tell myself that I am not at work, someone else is, and let it go.

This isn't the first job where I've done that sort of thing. I repaired ground-to-air radio communication systems in my sleep when I was in the Air Force, attempted to keep up with a very busy fast-food line in dreams when I briefly worked at Burger King, and sat up in the middle of the night trying to figure out where to plug in my headset on a non-existent console when I first started dispatching police in California.

I don't want to dream about work - I want to dream about relaxing vacations, puffy clouds floating overhead, or simply peaceful waves crashing on a shore so that I could actually wake up feeling rested and not like I'd just run back-to-back marathons while doing the New York Times crossword puzzle! And if I'm going to have action-packed dreams can't they at least take place on the deck of the Black Pearl while I exchange witty banter and smoldering looks with Captain Jack Sparrow? Can't they be something good that doesn't have anything to do with work or is that asking too much of my sub-conscious mind?

There's got to be a way to control these things, I'm just going to have to figure out how. Any thoughts? Suggestions? Ideas?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

"Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." ~ Mark Twain

If I did my math correctly, there are 51 days until the midterm elections, which are held on November 7th this year. That means that there are 1,224 hours remaining for the hopeful candidates to bombard us with reasons that we should vote for them and not for the other guy. 73,440 minutes (roughly) of rhetoric, rants, and railings from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents about who can best serve the public. 4,406,400 (again roughly) seconds in which to convince us who to cast our precious votes for.*

All I can say to that is - come on November 8th!!

Honestly, there really needs to be some sort of campaign reform; some sort of reigning in of candidates so that we aren't so heartily sick of hearing from them that by the time the actual elections get here we don't care who wins just as long as someone does and it's over with for another two years. There are too many commericals on TV now; my research states that the typical 30 minute TV show only averages 22 minutes of airtime per episode - though I'm willing to bet it's less than that.

Commercial breaks used to be long enough for you to quickly run to the kitchen, grab a drink or snack, and run back to the TV with hardly any time to spare but now it seems that you can leisurely saunter into the kitchen, prepare yourself a hot fudge sundae with all the fixin's, and still make it back to the couch in time to catch the last 30 seconds of the same commercial you saw in the last two breaks. And chances are real good there's going to be at least one, but more likely two, political commercials in each break.

I believe it's very important that we know who our candidates are and what they stand for but I don't think it's necessary for it to be akin to ancient Chinese water torture whereby a political commercial is played before us every few minutes until it drives us completely mad. I am not going to vote for a candidate based on what they have to say in a 30 or 60 second spot and I'd like to think that most of the voting public is the same way.

So how about it - don't you think it would be nice to have a break? Don't you think that the money spent on all of these advertisements could be better spent elsewhere? I can't be alone on this thought!

*No, I did not take in the time of day I wrote this, the amount of time it took me to write it, or the October 29th Daylight Saving Time clock changes!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

"You can't win if you don't play" ~ Connecticut State Lottery Slogan

Once again the Powerball has managed to grow to a rather staggering number - $157 million as of this writing - and once again I have no chance at all to win. Why the pessimistic attitude you might ask? Actually, there's a very good reason ... I forgot to buy any tickets yet again. Sigh ...

It's not that I wouldn't want $157 million, I'm not one of those people who gallantly states that "I wouldn't want to be rich", and it's certainly not that I don't need the money. Heck, even less than a thousandth of that could make all of my financial problems disappear into the sunset and make me very happy for a very long time but I just never seem to remember to buy tickets - even when I'm standing in a store that has a lottery terminal just feet away from me!

I did remember to buy a ticket last week on my birthday and actually managed to match one number and the Powerball to net myself a hefty $4 prize which I promptly traded in on four tickets for Wednesday's drawing where I managed to match two numbers and nothing else thereby netting myself absolutely zilch. As they say - easy come - easy go.

I can't even fathom what it would feel like to check a ticket and match every number plus that elusive all-important Powerball; to suddenly realize that your entire life is going to change big-time as soon as you cash that ticket in. It would have to be heart-stopping. It would have to be mind-numbing. It would have to be terrific!

My mother has always said that if she won she'd split the winnings five ways (I have three brothers) so I'm hoping that at least she remembered to buy her tickets. If not, perhaps I'll remember next time. Maybe. Probably not. What do you think the odds are??

Friday, September 15, 2006

"Let us introduce ourselves to you." ~ Dr. Mark E. Cohan, NFA Superintendent

Last night was Parents' Night at Norwich Free Academy - an annual tradition to give parents a chance to meet their child/children's teachers and administrators. At least that's what they tout it as but I think it's really a chance to see why our kids come home worn out beyond belief!

Before going to the school, Amanda filled out a copy of her Monday schedule and gave it to me as that was the order I was to follow. We were given 12 minutes in each class to meet the teachers and find out a little something about what was expected of the students during the course of the year before we had 8 minutes to find our way to the next class. The students themselves only get 5 minutes so apparently some leeway for us old folks had been built in to the schedule - thank you!

I started the evening out in the band room in the Bradlaw Building as Amanda's first course on Mondays is Concert Band I taught by the very affable Mr. Mac (technically Mr. McDonald but he doesn't like to be confused with his father). Prior to him telling us about the course, we watched a short video presentation from Dr. Cohan, the new Superintendent of NFA. He thanked us for coming and said how important it was for we, as parents, to be involved in our children's academic lives. Kudos to us and now on with the evening!

After learning that Amanda really needs to be practicing her flute for a good 30-40 minutes four times a week (ahem ... Amanda??) and other things about the band program, the bell rang and off we parents were running to the next class on the schedule. Lucky me - that was clear across campus in the Cranston Building.

I felt akin to a salmon as I fought the stream of people going the opposite direction but managed to make it over to Civics before the "late" bell rang. Ms. Matters explained how her class was run, all about the e-board that she has (the excuse of "my dog ate my assignment" will no longer fly!), etc., etc. before the bell rang and it was back to the Bradlaw Building for me.

This time it was to the third floor and Mr. Bailey's Graphic Design I class. Feeling somewhat winded (translation - sucking wind) I again managed to get to class on time before another 12 minutes flew by and it was off to the Norton Gym for P.E. The crowds made negotiating the trip harder than it would be but from what I've been told, the crowds there last night were nothing compared to what the kids deal with every day. At this point I was really beginning to miss my two-story all-in-one building high school!

After gym, I went back to the Cranston Building for the rest of Amanda's schedule - Mrs. Macht for English, Mr. Sylvia for Algebra, and the mentioned-in-several-other-posts Mr. Johnson for Advanced Integrated Science. By the time the end of the evening rolled around at 8:30, I was more than ready to call it a night though I had a better understanding of Amanda's schedule and classes. Sitting there listening to all that was expected of her in English made my head spin and though I tried mightily, I couldn't for the life of me remember what my freshman English class had been like. I'm pretty sure we didn't read The Odyssey, though I believe there was some form of Shakespeare. It could have been Romeo & Juliet, which Amanda will be reading, but that was 34 long years ago and I can't remember things from 3-4 days ago anymore never mind years!

I really liked Mr. Sylvia, Amanda's Algebra teacher. He's been teaching at NFA for 39 years (holy smokes, Bullwinkle!) and doesn't believe in piling the kids down with homework as he knows they've got tons of it from their other classes (heck, she's supposed to be doing 2 hours a night in English alone, never mind that other 30-40 minutes of flute practice I mentioned!). He cited an article from yesterday's USA Today that backed him up on this and I personally think it's a very forward-thinking idea and I'm glad Mr. Sylvia knows that there's such a thing as "too much". Kids are busy with so many things these days that to expect them to sit down and do homework for three hours a night is really a bit over the top.

My last class of the night was Mr. Johnson's Advanced Integrated Science class and it was also the one with the most parents in attendance. The first thing Mr. Johnson told us is that "you don't need to be here as your kids are already doing a great job or they wouldn't be in Honors Science". Now if that isn't something that makes you feel really darned good as a parent then I don't know what is! My daughter - the Honors Science student - wow! We got a good overview of the class and were even treated to the infamous white mullet wig that he pulls out when the kids start to look a little distracted or bored. A 1993 graduate of NFA himself, Mr. Johnson knows what it's like to run from class to class (though as a former two-time State Champion in track I'm sure it didn't bother him as much!) and he genuinely seems to care about "his kids" as he calls them.

It's been 30 years since I sat in a high school classroom so last night brought back a lot of memories for me. Had I been a graduate of NFA I'm sure it would have brought back more but I think that having Parents' Night is a great thing as it does give us an up-close look at what our kids are doing and who's leading them into the future.

All in all, I'd have to say that Amanda is in good hands. And I'm just glad I didn't have to carry her bookbag for the course of the evening!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Allergies, allergies - something's living on my skin" ~ Paul Simon

With itchy eyes, a raw throat, constant sneezing, and a sinus headache just about every day I am having one heck of an allergy season this year. I'm definitely not alone as Amanda has been suffering from the same things as are a lot of other people at work. Whereas misery indeed loves company, what I really would like is to find something that works to relieve my symptoms!

It was predicted that we would have one particularly brutal allergy season and the predictions certainly weren't wrong. According to an ABC news report, Hartford is ranked number one this year in pollen and
"Experts are calling this one of the worst allergy seasons on record, with people who never have had problems before reporting itching, coughing and sneezing."
I've always had Fall allergies with ragweed being at the top of my allergen list and I guess that all of the rain this year produced a bumper crop of ragweed that is now playing havoc on my system. I've been taking antihistamines and decongestants both to no avail and am seriously considering a move to Antartica until things die down here! As much as I don't want to rush the cold weather, I've been hoping for a couple of nice killing frosts to do in the culprits that are floating freely in the air.

Oh well, relief is hopefully in sight soon as everything I've read says that ragweed usually only lasts until the middle of September and we're there now. That's definitely good news to myself and the other 75% of the population that is suffering right along with me!

Thank you Governor Rell and thank you First Responders!

Governor Rell Declares September 14, 2006
as “First Responders Day” in Connecticut

Governor M. Jodi Rell announced today that she will
declare Thursday, September 14, 2006 as “First Responders
Day” in the state of Connecticut. “As we reflect on the
fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11,
2001, we are reminded of the critical role first responders
played in the recovery efforts at Ground Zero and in their
efforts in making our communities safe and strong. Our first
responders have proved time and time again that they stand
ready to serve.”


“Declaring First Responders Day is my way of urging
the people of this great state to join me in saying ‘thank
you’ to firefighters, police officers, emergency medical
technicians and others for the courage, bravery and
dedication they demonstrate each and everyday on our
behalf,” Governor Rell said. “First responders are true
heroes. For that, we are forever grateful. Unfortunately, we
do not say it enough.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts." ~ Orson Welles

I used to pride myself on not watching a lot of television. I never watched it much while growing up, preferring instead to close myself in my bedroom and add pages to a massive journal; my first husband and I didn't even own a TV set for many years (come to think of it, we got the TV set about the same time the marriage ended); and before Amanda moved back in with me, I very rarely turned the TV on but played music for background noise. I have a massive collection of CDs containing a little bit of everything so variety was never a problem.

However, I now have to admit that there are some shows that I enjoy watching on a regular basis - The Closer, Grey's Anatomy, The Ghost Whisperer, and Boston Legal are my all time-favorites along with, dare I say, American Idol. My preferred method of watching is to record the shows on the DVR and then zip through the commericals. Considering that we now seem to get five minutes of commericals for every ten minutes of actual show, it's really the only way to go! Plus it gives me the added advantage of not actually having to listen to Ryan Seacrest!

With the new Fall season of television fast approaching it was with some dismay that I found my televison set in the living room flat-lined this morning. Where last night there was a vibrant, full-screen picture full of color and life there is now only a black screen with one line of light shining from the center. Gone. Just like that - with no warning - no flicker - no snap - no picture fading to black - just gone. Oh dear.

Amanda doesn't know about this yet as she's in school but no doubt it's going to cause her no end of teenage angst when she gets home as she relies on the TV downstairs to watch her many recorded episodes of Naruto and Full Metal Alchemist along with the assortment of other shows that she records, including The Today Show which she really seems to like for some unknown reason. Maybe it helps her to keep up with current events for her Civics class?

We do have one other small TV in the house, a 13-inch screen in my room, but I really don't think that I want my bedroom to become the central TV-watching hub of the house. Plus, that would mean I would have to disconnect the DVR from downstairs and haul it upstairs to then fiddle around with cables and wires to get it hooked up to the small TV. Somehow it just doesn't seem worth it. Yes, I am perfectly capable of doing it - I was an electronics repair technician in the Air Force - but it seems like such a pain.

I guess that means that somehow or other I'm going to have to figure out how to acquire another TV for the living room. Sigh. If it isn't one thing it's another. Of course, I could just put it on hold and toss it on that list of "Things We Need But Can't Afford" that seems to get longer all the time but it's a television set - the central point of every American household these days! I'm pretty sure it's written somewhere in the parent/child contract requiring every home to have at least two working TVs so that adults can watch what they want while the children watch what they want - anything less would be truly un-American!

Besides, it's so messy to read a book while shelling peanuts ...

Editor's Note: When I gave Amanda the bad news of the TV's untimely demise after she got home from school, I was met with complete and utter dismay on her part. In typical teenage fashion she uttered the ever popular "it's not fair" followed by "how am I going to watch my shows??" and then there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. As I left for work, she mentioned something about shaving her head and covering herself in ashes ...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us ...

...- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." ~ Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863
Though he spoke of the Civil War that our country fought against itself and the brave men who died fighting for what they believed in, I feel that Mr. Lincoln's words apply also to the brave men and women, firefighters and police officers, that died in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

I can't list them all but as a 9/11 tribute, I wanted to profile three who gave their lives in service to others. As a former police dispatcher, I have chosen three at random who were in law enforcement. I wish there was room to list all of those who gave that "last full measure" but more than that, I wish there was no one to list.


OFFICER JOHN PERRY
New York City Police Department


His life reads like a Hollywood movie script. Officer Perry was a tall, handsome, intelligent man who spoke five languages. Before joining the NYPD he served in the National Guard and later earned his law degree. Raised in middle-class comfort, John chose to live in a Manhattan housing project under a special program that provides low-cost, in-city housing for police officers.

At age 38, John was ready to retire from the NYPD and start his own law practice. On the morning of September 11, 2001, he was at 1 Police Plaza putting in his retirement papers when word came that a plane had slammed into the World Trade Center. Like so many other officers that day, John stopped what he was doing and raced to the scene.

John became part of a group of rescuers in the north tower lobby who directed hundreds of people to safety. He was there until the very end, helping people as the tower came down. John Perry died as he had lived, a hero to the very last day of his career.

OFFICER MOIRA SMITH
New York City Police Department

Moira Smith introduced herself to her future husband, James, another NYPD officer, by grabbing his Yankees cap off his head and tossing it across the squad room. But beneath the Brooklyn native's fun-loving exterior was the heart of a thoroughly professional cop devoted to serving others.

One of the occasions Moira showed that devotion was after the deadly 1991 subway crash in Union Square. Moira was awarded the NYPD's prestigious Distinguished Duty Medal for helping to save dozens of lives.

Her second medal--the NYPD Medal of Honor, her department's highest award--was given posthumously. On 9/11, Moira was seen carrying people out of Tower Two, then going back in for more. At least two newspaper photographs recorded her final acts of heroism. Moira, 38, left behind her NYPD husband and a daughter, Patricia. The little girl was just two when she lost her mommy--and America lost a hero.


DETECTIVE JOSEPH VINCENT VIGIANO
New York City Police Department

Shot three different times in the line of duty, Joseph Vigiano was one of the NYPD's most decorated officers. He was also one of its bravest, returning to duty after each incident.

Heroism runs in the Vigiano family. Joseph's father, a retired New York City firefighter captain, had been read his last rights twice during his own career, but survived. His brother John was also a New York City firefighter, and Joseph's wife, Kathy, was also a police officer.

Joseph and John were the only children of their parents, as close as two brothers could be. Both served as volunteer firefighters in the town where they grew up and were now raising families of their own. Both also responded to the call on the morning of 9/11. Both died together in the collapse of the Twin Towers. Joseph's body was found one month later, and removed with a full honor guard. John's remains were never recovered.


For more stories and pictures, please go to the Roll Call of the Fallen Heroes of the Thin Blue Line on 9/11 at the National Law Enforcement Memorial website.

Friday, September 8, 2006

"Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened." ~ Jennifer Yane

Yesterday at work we were discussing birthdays and the whole concept of getting old which is an obvious consequence of birthdays. However, even if one makes the declaration that they "aren't having any more birthdays!", as a lot of women seem to do when they get to be a certain age, that certainly doesn't stop the aging process and only cheats you out of presents and maybe a little extra attention!

Jennifer, a scheduler, said that she really thought that when she eventually got there that she was going to have a lot of problems with turning 40 (I think she's either in her late 20's or early 30's now so she's not in danger of getting there anytime soon!) and I told her that 40 really wasn't a problem for me - once I got past 45 though - that was a completely different story! But it wasn't that I felt old mentally, it was that physically I seemed to start breaking down all at once. My back began to give me major problems, I felt tired all the time, and my energy levels dipped to sub-zero levels. Up until I turned 46 I felt pretty good for the most part with only the standard aches, pains, and ailments but after that ... thank goodness I have semi-decent medical insurance!

But except for my physical body's obvious problems, I just don't feel that old. I'm not sure how one is supposed to feel at my age, whether I'm supposed to be mature and ultra-responsible with no room for screw-ups or whether it's okay to still do stupid things from time to time and like the things I still liked when I was younger.

Does growing old necessarily mean growing up? I think that's what Jennifer's major concern is - she said that she doesn't want to grow up but, I hate to tell her this, Jennifer is a probably a lot more grown up in some areas than I am. I think we all have our areas where we've grown up more than others - where we've matured more than people who are older than us - and we also all have our areas that are the opposite. It's those things that make us who we are. I don't believe that there should be any standard textbook definition of where we need to be at a certain age. Be unique - be individual - be you - no matter how many years you've been on this planet.

Tomorrow is my 48th birthday - do I feel two years away from 50? Physically - yes, I probably feel older than that! Mentally - no, I have to say that I honestly don't. With my family genetics, I've probably lived well over half of my life now but that doesn't mean that the next half - or what's left of it - doesn't have a lot of potential, a lot of room for a lot of good things to happen, a lot of room for growth.

To paraphrase the words from a Tim McGraw song ..
I think I’ll take a moment, celebrate my age...
The ending of an era, and the turning of a page...
Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here...
Lord have mercy on my next ???? years...

Thursday, September 7, 2006

"It's getting the right person - that's the challenge." ~ Bob Schieffer

As pretty much anyone up in dispatch can tell you - I am not a fan of Katie Couric. Occasionally we would have the TV on long enough to catch part of The Today Show and if Katie was on, chances were real good that I'd have something to say that wasn't exactly complimentary. I don't know - the woman just gets under my skin. Maybe it's the over-the-top perkiness, maybe it's the fact that her lips are drawn on, maybe it's the fact that she takes herself way too seriously - hard to say.

I shed no tears over Katie's departure from NBC to go head up the CBS Evening News (and, if you believe any of the scandal sheets, neither did Matt Lauer). However, I was none too optimistic that she was going to be able to take on the seriousness of a positon previously held by Walter Cronkite, that fatherly icon of television broadcast journalism. Dan Rather muddled his good-ole-boy way through for quite some time before sticking his good-ole-boy cowboy boots in his mouth one too many times and decided that retirement was in order. Upon his departure I guess CBS decided that it was time to make a major change. Perhaps they thought that putting perky Katie behind the desk would make the bad news that seems so much a staple of the evening news more palatable and easier to swallow - perhaps we wouldn't notice the War in Iraq or the entire debacle in the Middle East quite so much with a female anchor at the helm.

Earlier tonight I decided to tune in the CBS Evening News to see if perhaps I had been wrong about Ms. Couric = to see if she had become the hard-hitting journalist that she needs to be in order to carry her current spot at the desk, to see if she could live up to all the hype. Nope. Same old Katie with the same old painted-on lips but in a sterner wardrobe. And what was this? She wasn't sitting behind the news desk where all good anchors belong but she was sitting across from Dr. John LaPook, a CBS News medical correspondent, while she interviewed him ala Today Show style about the new cervical cancer vaccine! Wait a minute ... was it 6:45 p.m. or had I somehow stumbled into the twilight zone and it was really 7:45 a.m.?? For a moment there I expected her to hand it over to Willard Scott filling in for Al Roker for the weather ...

I don't think I'll be watching the CBS Evening News anymore, tonight's show was enough. I rather miss Bob Schieffer who had been filling in until CBS thought Katie had been groo
med enough for the spot; call me old-fashioned but I guess I like my bad news coming from a grandfatherly sort. I have nothing against female reporters - I very much liked Connie Chung when she used to do the weekend news for CBS and I really like Anne Curry who does the news over at NBC for The Today Show - where I'm sure Meredith Viera is going to do a terrific job filling Katie's shoes!

And that's the way it is - Thursday, September 7, 2006. Good night!

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

"No matter how busy you are, you must take time to make the other person feel important." ~ Mary Kay Ash

To say that it was busy at work last night would be a major understatement - it was crazy. Some nights are like that - the hospitals decide that THIS is the day that they're going to discharge everyone either to their respective homes or skilled nursing facilities, the emergency room has transport after transport, 911 likes to ring constantly, and to throw some more fun into the mix, Foxwoods Casino (which American Ambulance covers) will also join in with patrons needing to go to the hospital for various and assorted reasons. All of that and more seemed to happen last night. From the time I walked in the door at 2:50 until, exhausted, I clocked out at 11:00 - it was nuts.

To make my night even more fun, the powers-that-be had somehow decided that it was just going to be myself and a part-timer working dispatch minus the benefit of a scheduler or even another dispatcher to help pick up the slack. Now, don't get me wrong, Frank is a very capable dispatcher and is one of the old veterans of American's early days but he's still not up-to-speed on the new emergency call-taking screens that we have, etc., etc. He seemed a bit overwhelmed by the whole notion that it was just he and I for the evening with piles of paperwork to complete and phones that wouldn't stop ringing and I'm pretty sure that at the end of the shift he didn't walk but ran from the room!

But it was overwhelming and even though I consider myself a professional and good at my job, last night was tough going and I have to admit to having lost said professionalism for awhile. I was too busy to give it a lot of thought last night but while debating the merits of staying in bed just a little longer this morning versus getting up and feeding the cat, my conscience decided that it was as good a time as any to kick in and remind me that I could have handled a situation much better than I did.

We have what are referred to as "frequent flyers" in Norwich, people that both ourselves and the Police Department are familiar with as they require services a lot more often than your average tax-paying citizen. Generally speaking, it's the same complaint each time and I suppose that it's very easy to come close to the danger of "crying wolf" because it generally IS the same thing time after time. Still - there may be that one time when it's not the same complaint and so each call should be handled on its own merits and not lumped into the "oh gee, it's so-and-so again with their same old complaint". Unfortunately, though, it's easy to hear an address, recognize the voice, and think "oh geez, not again".

I was guilty of that last night when one of our "usuals" called 911 in the midst of the mess that was yesterday evening and, when she said her address, I audibly sighed. I didn't mean to, it just came out. The caller, of course, took immediate offense and told me not to sigh as she hadn't called in a long time and it wasn't the usual problem (which I'm not at liberty to say due to patient confidentiality rules) but was something different for which she wanted to be seen at the hospital for. I apologized profusely, managed to dredge up my lost professionalism for the rest of the call, and dispatched an ambulance accordingly. And then because we were SO busy, I didn't give it any more thought until that niggling voice in my head started in on me this morning.

I could chalk this incident up to being overwhelmed, I could chalk this incident up to being sidetracked with everything else that was going, I could chalk this incident up to the very real possibility of dispatcher burn-out that exists for all of us in this profession but that doesn't excuse my lack of compassion for the person on the other end of the phone. People don't call 911 to be sighed at or chastised or made to feel unimportant - they call because they need help and just because it may not seem like an emergency to me doesn't mean it's not an emergency to them. Shame on me for forgetting that there was another human being with feelings on the other end of the phone.

My job isn't easy - my job can be horribly stressful at times - but if I want to say that I do it well then I need to remember today's quote and apply it accordingly whether it be a 911 caller, a discharge planner from a facility, or even a fellow employee. It's the least I can do.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

"Some friends play at friendship, but a true friend sticks closer than one's nearest kin." ~ Proverbs 18:24

My friend, Rhonda, and I met for breakfast at Old Tymes this morning for our once-a-month get-together which we haven't had in well over three months due to life's circumstances getting in the way. But whenever we do get together, I am always happy to see her and get caught up on our lives which is easy enough to do as Rhonda is a true friend.

I met Rhonda close to twenty years ago at Westminster Congregational Church in Canterbury which she had been attending for years and years and which I had decided to check out because the history of the building intrigued me. How we became close friends is still somewhat of a mystery to me as Rhonda and I
are about as opposite as they come - she's a stay-at-home Mom who has never lived anywhere except on the same road in the same town all of her life and I'm a single working mother who has moved more times than I can remember. When I met Rhonda it wasn't that long after I had moved back to Connecticut from California for the third time and was doing the single-mom thing with my son, Michael.

Still - it's true that a lot of times opposites really do attract and, while there are a lot of differences between us, we both have a dry sense of humor, a rather wide sarcastic streak, and a very sardonic wit. I can remember Pastor John telling us we needed to either "sit silently or separately" during his sermons as appar
ently we were making too many side comments on more than one occasion. We chose to sit separately as silently seemed to be out of the question!

Rhonda is one of the best people I know. She helps out the elderly in her community, runs errands for any number of people, and is a loving wife, mother, and grandmother. She has stood by me through moments of stupidity, long distance moves, my decision to divorce my husband despite her own good Christian beliefs, and too many other things to mention. She's not judgmental but is supportive while speaki
ng her mind and I am honored to call her friend; I consider her to be a very important part of my life.

I can probably count on one hand the number of people I consider to be "good friends" and, though that may not seem like very many to some, I know these are friends that I can count on regardless of the situation or the circumstan
ces. In this case I definitely prefer quality to quantity as my life would be so much less without that handful.

Friends may very well be "flowers in the garden of life" with true friends being the perennials - the ones that are there for you every season without interruption. I hope that everyone's garden of life has a few perennials and there is at least one Rhonda amongst them.


Monday, September 4, 2006

"You never really know a man until you have divorced him." ~ Zsa Zsa Gabor

As of this writing I have been divorced 4 years, 4 months, 9 days, and an indeterminate amount of hours as I failed to look at my watch at the precise time of the divorce hearing. Pity that because I would like to know exactly how long it's been since I have no longer been married to my fool ex-husband. The legal end of my marriage truly had to be one of the best moments of my life and I neglected to mark it down to the exact second - shame on me!

Normally I don't write about my ex-husband as I prefer not to remember that particular ten years of my life when I very obviously drifted out of sanity. The only good thing that came out of the entire decade were my two daughters and the confirmation that I truly am better off alone than with the wrong person. I had known that before but it apparently took ten years of marriage to an arrogant, pig-headed, my-way-or-the-highway man to really hammer it home. I should've listened to my Dad as we walked down the aisle on that fateful day in August 1991 when he told me "there's still time to turn around". Sigh - one of the many times I should've listened to my Dad!

At any rate, the reason I am railing at the computer screen today is that I had the conversation to end all conversations with my ex yesterday and rather than hold it inside and keep it to myself, I'll do what comes naturally and write about it. Perhaps then I can either understand it from his point of view or at least lower my blood pressure a little bit.

Those of you who have been reading this blog from the beginning are aware that I gave primary physical custody to my ex when we divorced in an effort to give both of us the chance to act like mature adults and avoid a nasty, drawn-out court battle which would have done no one any good, especially the girls. All was well, good, and fine until a love connection was made via eHarmony.com and the ex packed up the kids and all of his worldly belongings to move to Kentucky to be with his new bride and her kids.

After a little over a year, Amanda was sent back to me as she was disrupting the entire house and her father no longer wanted to deal with her. Jamie, my youngest, continues to live with her Dad and new step-family in Kentucky and has adjusted better than Amanda. Jamie is the spit-in-your-eye wanna-be rocker of the family but Amanda is the more senstive and emotional one and she had a lot of trouble dealing with her Dad's extreme strictness.

So ... Amanda has been happily living back here with me for close to a year and has done very well. She brought home excellent grades from school last year, graduated with several awards in hand, smiles a lot, happily spends her time drawing or reading, and has not given me a single problem except for minor stuff like a complete and total inability to pick up after herself or turn off the lights when she leaves a room.

During this entire time her father has not written her a single letter, called specifically to talk to her (except when I prompted him to call her on her birthday), or sent a gift for Christmas or her birthday. He definitely has not contributed one single dime towards her support and yet he has still expected me to send him child support for Jamie. I had been doing this up until Jamie returned after this summer's visit as the whole unbalanced injustice of it just didn't seem right to me. Plus I felt it was more important to feed and clothe the daughter I had here rather than send money out to Kentucky to support the care and feeding of the nine dogs that have found a home with the ex and his new wife. I'm sorry but I don't for a minute think that any of the money I was sending out for Jamie was being used on her as the child looks like an extra from Oliver Twist every time she steps off the plane to visit (the visits that I pay for).

Which brings us to yesterday's conversation ... after missing two child support payments it was time for the ex to call and ask me if I had conveniently forgotten to send the checks and when I explained my reasoning to him as well as outlined the financial strains that I'm under raising a child on my own with absolutely no support from any other parent he had the audacity to tell me that perhaps it was time for Amanda to return to Kentucky as "the one-year trial of her living back there is almost over". THE ONE-YEAR TRIAL??? This was the first I had ever heard of a freakin' one-year trial and I never would have agreed to one to begin with if that's what he had suggested. My recollection of the conversation was that Amanda wasn't happy in Kentucky, her unhappiness was causing problems with the new wife, and perhaps it was time for her to live with me instead. Of course, the ex remembers it differently but that doesn't really come as much of a surprise to me as he has always had a selective memory.

He then went on to state that perhaps if I had a better lifestyle then I wouldn't have the financial difficulties that I have. WHAT LIFESTYLE?? I work, I come home, I go back to work for the most part - I have no lifestyle as I can't afford one! Of course, what he was referring to here is my refusal to attend church services each week and if I would be the good Christian that he knows me to be and go to church all would be well and fine in my life.

Ah, and there's the crux of the matter - one of the major reasons we finally got divorced after ten years of unwedded bliss. My ex is an over-the-top fundamentalist Christian who prefers to attend churches where they interpret the Bible from the original Greek text and believe that women are subservient to men. He believed that he was the king of his castle and that I was there to not only work and bring home income but cook, clean, and raise the children while bowing to his greatness. Obviously I failed miserably in the subservient department (go figure!) and though, before I married the man, I had what I thought was a very good relationship with God, the stuff that he was shoving down my throat left a very bad taste in my mouth for church and organized religion. He need not worry about my Christianity or my lifestyle - both are fine, thank you. As Phillipe said in Ladyhawke,
"Sir, the truth is, I talk to God all the time, and, no offense, but he never mentioned you."
My religious beliefs aside, the whole thing just ticks me off to no end as he is not for one minute thinking about his daughter. When I told him that it wouldn't be fair to send Amanda back to Kentucky when she had just started her freshmen year and was quite happy and settled his response was "oh well, she'll just have to adjust". I don't think so. I don't think she's going back to Kentucky at all and if I have to bankrupt myself with legal costs, I will make darned sure it doesn't happen unless it's something that she wants. And she tells me that she doesn't want to go back - not at all. At fourteen, I think she's old enough to make that decision and hopefully a judge would think the same thing.

So I guess it's back to court for that nasty, drawn-out court fight I wanted to avoid over four years ago. Swell. But what kind of mother would I be to not fight for my daughter even if the person I'm fighting is her father?

My Dad was right - my ex is a goober. And that's being polite about it!

Sunday, September 3, 2006

“Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head.” ~ Carol Burnett

Not quite five days ahead of his due date, Cayden Jeremy Raymond entered the world this afternoon at approximately 1:43 p.m. weighing in at a mere 7 pounds, 8 ounces and giving his Mom one of the easiest labors I've heard of in quite some time!

My memories of childbirth have almost completely faded into the mists of time and will become even more of just a dim memory as time goes on - thankfully! But ... I still have some recollection that the twelve hours prior to the doctor deciding that my labor with Amanda was not progressing well and opting for a C-section were by no means what anyone could call "fun". Now that I give it a little more thought, the phrase "most God-awful pain I'd ever felt in my life" comes to mind!

Apparently Jen had little to no problem with Cayden's birth from the way she described it to me just a few short hours afterwards and she actually sounded quite energetic - not to mention relieved! For the past several weeks, we had discussed in length how she was MORE THAN READY to give birth to this child who had given her sciatic pain and heartburn pretty much right from the get-go and the last two weeks had especially taken their toll on her. I was quite surprised the poor woman was still coming to work all things considered but as she said many times "with a 2-year old at home, I get more rest at work!"

I kept joking that I was going to bring my camera to work as the sight of Jen reclined back as far as possible in our one over-sized dispatch chair with her feet propped up on another while she had a blanket pulled clear to her chin was pretty humorous! Obviously she was beat but I give her a lot of credit because, despite the way she felt, she continued to do her job and do it well. At nine months pregnant she had a better work ethic than I've seen in a lot of people much younger and not even close to pregnancy.

Yesterday Jen was feeling particularly worn out and said she felt like she had been having contractions on and off all day so we had our fingers crossed that Cayden would soon make an appearance. Because of that, I wasn't too surprised when she called me this morning at 10:00 to tell me that she was at the hospital, was 4 centimeters dilated, and that they would be breaking her water soon. What I was surprised about was when she called me at 4:00 to tell me she'd had the baby before 2:00 and she had only pushed for a grand total of four minutes! Apparently when Cayden decided he was going to be born - he decided he was going to be born!

I do have to laugh somewhat about the timing of Cayden's birth as I had a feeling it was going to be on the day I took off to attend a cook-out at my Mom's house (perhaps for Jen's sake I should have taken a vacation day sooner?!) AND it got her out of going to the Woodstock Fair tomorrow which her husband kept insisting that she was going to even if he had to push her around in a wheelchair. She told me that there was no way she was going and she was right! I guess that shows who has a stronger will in that household!

While I will miss working with Jen during her seven-week maternity leave, I'm very happy for her that she has given birth to a healthy son. Congratulations to Mom, Dad, and big sister, Paige - I wish you all a happy and healthy life together filled with many loving memories!

And maybe now I can stop with the sympathy edema and weight gain?!?

P.S., Hey Jen - I told you that you wouldn't be at work for your birthday on the 6th!!