Gimme Shelter


Yes I am sheltering in place even though Mother Nature is about to unleash her wrath and fury upon the land where I live. I’ve received numerous worried phone calls and texts from friends and love ones of concern at my half-baked plan to stay. Their feelings that I should evacuate, or should have days ago, have been coming across loud and clear.

Agreed, it’s all a bit freaky. The worst hurricane in the Atlantic in history!! Yikes. This doesn’t leave for a good nights sleep mind you. And yet, I plan to stay and wait it out. Am I simply nuts?

Well, no, I don’t think so. Having been an emergency worker for 20 years, I wouldn’t choose to shelter in place without giving it some good hard thought and without reasons. Maybe my reasons are emotional ones: my pets and my mother, but I still feel the gamble is worth it.

Where I live is not in a flood zone and my apartment building is a cement box. I’m on the first floor and have hurricane windows on most of windows and on the ones I don’t, I put up my shutters. I have candles, canned food, batteries and will fill up lots of things with water, including my bath tub. And then I will simply wait.

Sure, we may lose power, but after being without power for 11 days in New England in the middle of winter without a wood stove, I guess I can handle it. I have a small battery charger for my phone, and if my car doesn’t get wrecked, then I can charge my phone in my car to let folks know I’m OK.

As long as my Mom, my pets and I’m OK, I really don’t care if I lose stuff. There is nothing I own that is more important to me than my ‘family’. Things can always be replaced. If it blows away or gets wet… so be it. Maybe I’ll end up in the land of Oz…

And the upside of these disasters is that it always brings out the best in humans. Maybe Mother nature does this to reminds us of our need to care about each other. My neighbors have been great. (Note: my neighbor for Canada flew BACK to be here for his Mom and just stopped by to make sure I was alright and didn’t need any help!)

So, yes, I’m staying and hopefully it won’t be a mistake. If it is, well, it won’t be my first mistake. If it’s the last, well…we all gotta go sometime.

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away

The Rolling Stones

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Go Easy…


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Sometimes thinking about the past is appropriate, especially when you get news about someone that meant something to you, even if you haven’t spent much time with them in recent years.

Families are such slippery things–they are fragile and sometimes easily shattered. They also are defined by many different things, not just by blood. And often the ones that aren’t put together by blood can mean more. We define them ourselves.

When the some things that created them, like a marriage, dissolve, then they seem to disappear too–at least in the physical sense. But we may realize, especially at critical moments, they still linger within deeper parts of us; that these people who were once family are still dear.

So when I heard my ex-father-in-law is now in hospice, I found myself extremely sad. He was someone who had been very good to me while I was married. It’s been easy to recall so many memories of the kind things about him: his easy acceptance of our decision to adopt a HIV positive child, and his special love for her. And his overly enthusiastic attitude (and long conversations and questions) about my career as an EMT/Paramedic, something I didn’t always feel at home from his son. He loved the stuff!

I picture him as the typical unassuming New England man, quiet but always willing to help; that crooked smile, bald head and slight limp. He was my go to guy, always aware of what was happening with the weather, and loving to talk about it.

Maybe he’s not officially ‘family’ anymore, but in my heart he will always hold a very special place as he made me feel welcome and a part. I felt like family because of him.

Thank you, and may the rest of your days be easy…

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Expired 


Yesterday was my last day as a licensed paramedic. It’s with great melancholy that I let it lapse. But all things need to come to their logical end, and so it was time for me to step off the bus.

For all my ups and downs, it really was a great run. I had the great honor to be with people at some of the worst times in their lives and with them as they took their last breath. They invited me into their homes, even when they may have felt ashamed, because they knew I came only carrying oxygen, not judgement. There were many neighbors I helped, and some I couldn’t, but I cared about them all. It didn’t matter who you were, why you called me, how much you had to drink, how many times you called that week, if you woke me up in the middle of the night or I had to come in a raging blizzard, I came because I really did like being a paramedic. Sure, maybe we complained a bit about the hours or the pay, but really, there wasn’t any better job than that one.

Where else do you get someone say to you: thanks for saving my wife’s life? Or making a kid with a broken arm feel less pain…or even being with someone when they take they stop breathing  knowing that you helped make their journey easier. 

So, I have no regrets except maybe I didn’t find it when I was younger. I’m gratful for the lives that I helped save, but even more grateful that I never made any mistakes that hurt anyone. 

Thanks to all those emergency workers out there still busting their butts for us all–stay safe and we are truly lucky to have you. 

Out The Door!


From a really bad thing came a really good thing. Today my Mom and I decided I should quit my job. As many of my long time followers know, I was really unhappy in that job anyway. From the beginning that position has been hard for me with difficult co-workers, rude doctors, unreasonable managers and unkind people in general. Not what I wanted in a new position.

I felt that when I moved here, that one priority was to be relaxed and enjoy my place of employment. Stress from years of working in the Emergency Medical field had taken its toll and I was ready for a big break. But admittedly I took the wrong position offered to me from a couple of offers. Figuring this was somewhat within my field and giving me the opportunity to meet more people and slightly more money–I jumped at this one.

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How wrong I was! Money should never, ever guide us, and I should have known better. And while I did meet some very wonderful friends that I hope to keep, the bulk of the folks there were more of the same uncaring healthcare ‘professionals’ that would sooner spit on you than help you.

So when the opportunity arose to help my Mom get well, you didn’t have to ask me twice to walk out the door. I didn’t even give two weeks, which is not my style at all. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that in my life! But with her health, their attitudes and my degree of frustration, I was out.

To my great surprise and gratitude, my boss was very kind and understanding about it all and even said if there was anything he could do he would. If there were more words like this, maybe there would be more retention there, but sadly he is not the one to talk to most people. It happens I go to him because he’s nicer.

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Sadly it’s the loud mouths that run the place who either pretend to be nice or just plain aren’t nice or have their favorites. Of which I was not one. And I am proud not to be! I’m always glad not to be part of the crowd that played games or is too afraid to say what I feel for fear of pissing them off. Bah!

Because I know in my heart what is really important, and it’s certainly not any of those silly folks who can’t walk their talk. It’s about family, real connections and honesty. And hopefully when Mom gets better, it will be time to find a new career. But this time it will be nothing to do with human healthcare!!

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The Volunteer Spirit


Today I had a conversation with a new friend about the spirit of volunteerism in the present day. He has struck me as someone who can be crabby and disillusioned because within the organization where we met, he volunteers loads of his time while he believes many others do not.
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I’m new there, and who knows, maybe he saw me as new blood and easy to recruit. Maybe I appeared enthusiastic, energetic and most importantly, unemployed with lots of time on my hands! So he quickly saw this as an opportunity to try to solicit me for some of the many tasks that needed attending.

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Normally I have nothing against volunteering my time. In fact, I come from a background of this sort of thing. A million years ago I ran a Food Co-op where I was paid for 20 hours a week, but worked 40. And in the great world of emergency medicine, when I first started out 20 years ago, I paid a baby sitter so I could go and volunteer my time on the ambulance.
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But this was all in the past. Today we see a new day dawning in the age of this kind of volunteer. Today getting someone to volunteer their time on an ambulance means no-one will come if you call 911. Small towns all over New England face the same challenge and had to figure out how to get their ‘buses’ out the door. And the obvious answer was: pay the EMT’s.

Why has it all changed? Are people less devoted to causes or wanting to help than I was so many years ago? This may be only part of the answer.
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A real answer I believe is time. Today time means money for most people/families. Many ‘families’ may be single parent households that when they are not working must be home with their children and can’t really be out volunteering. Who would watch the kids? Or even in two income families: the money just doesn’t stretch as far, so people now have 2 or 3 jobs and they need to get paid. It leaves very little time to do much else.

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Some of it though is that people just don’t have the same ethics anymore about donating time I think. Our world has become less about giving and more about taking. People forget that giving brings so much back to us! I think when EMS became a job for me I liked it less, but I needed to get paid–it was now a career.

I am sad for my grumpy friend that it bothers him so much about all the people who don’t help and volunteer. He’s resentful it seems to me. Today I told him that if he is to do this kind of ‘work’, then he must do it joyfully and willingly or not at all. The ones not doing it don’t care that he’s upset that they aren’t helping and it only takes away from the gift he’s giving. He agreed and I hope it helped his sense of  injustice.

So to all those of you out there that volunteer or have volunteered in your life: I say thank you! Time is a precious and most valuable gift to give because it can never be returned. I hope you all reap the rewards you deserve from donating this priceless treasure. And for those of you that are considering even an hour of your time: the payback is immeasurable.
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We all should be able to look back on our lives and hopefully say: I left something good behind. A moment of your time to someone, an animal, your church, the elderly, the homeless or any organization that needs your time will leave you with more than any paycheck ever could!

Is My Dream Coming True?


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Today blooms into a new day and with it hope and expectation! After I left my Mom’s apartment last night about 8:30 last night, I heard the familiar ping of my phone. It means either a text or email, so slipping behind the driver’s seat, I checked. It was from one of the jobs to which I had applied saying I was one of the final applicants and I had been selected for an interview!

It was rather interesting that this email would come through so late at night, especially given that it was for a municipal job as a Park Ranger for the city where I now live. I had until Monday to call. It was so exciting.

I’ve been applying to many, many jobs so far, but this one was really one that I hoped I might have a chance at getting. From the time I was in college actually, I’ve dreamed of being a Park Ranger. Of course, I always pictured it on the Rocky slopes of some western Park, but this is perfect for my “second half of life” ranger dream.

The job would be perfect for me now, giving me the right mixture of autonomy, fresh air, time with the public and use of my emergency skills. Sometimes we have to wait a long time for dreams to come true.

As always, I have to try hard not to get overly excited, because we all know, it’s only the interview. There may of course may be better qualified candidates. But it’s a start–and finally I feel my gender and age won’t be a factor against me, in fact it might even help! Hopefully they will feel that way too.

That along with my glittering personality and I’ll be on my way to all the reasons I moved here in the first place! 🙂

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Last Day


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Eight years ago I began a job in a fire department in a small New England town. Today was my last day. Oddly it  could very well be my last day as paramedic altogether. I have not decided yet, but it’s likely I might  try something different.

More like 20 years I’ve been in the emergency services. It’s been a long and interesting path, with many potholes along the way. But the road also took me down some beautiful roads where I learned to become someone I didn’t know was inside me.

I’ve met many strangers who became dear friends and had friends turn their backs on me. But helping to heal the sick is a blessing that I have been fortunate enough to experience.

So maybe this life guard will no longer be on duty. And the day now may be done on this career. But my patients and my service will always be deep in my heart.

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Bleeding Hearts


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This week is National EMS Week (Emergency Medical Services). I’ve been an EMT/Paramedic for close to 20 years now. It’s been quite a ride, one where I may soon be stepping off of the proverbial bus as we like to call the ambulance.

We are called ‘ambulance drivers’, much to our displeasure–after all, we are much more than that really. Taking countless hours of classes to hopefully be able to perform some life saving procedure on anyone from  a neonate to  the elderly; waking up in the middle of the night during any kind of weather, even it’s just to comfort someone who is scared; dealing with every bodily fluid known to humankind; getting yelled at by your patient even when they were the one calling 911; and getting up again right after that tragic call you just went on and barely tucked away in the crevices of your bleeding heart.

Yes, we are ambulance drivers, but we are sometimes merely taxi drivers. We have been called heroes, we are furniture movers, we are psychologists, comedians, the grim reaper, teachers, advisors, friends, healers, weight lifters, engineers, actors, drug counselors and more. But what we are not is God.

We do what we can and it’s our job to help, but often people wait too long to call and expect miracles. These we can’t provide. And then we are only human, there to hold a hand, listen or cry right along.

For in the end, your emergency becomes our emergency, but we must remain calm. You must never know if we feel fear for you would lose hope. So we tuck our fear, our sadness and our insecurities away for another day, so when the call comes, we answer and give it all we’ve got.

So here’s to all the EMT’s out there! Thanks for all you do, your courage, devotion and hard work. It can be a thankless job, but we love it none-the-less. We love it for those tiny moments where someone looks you in the eye and says: thanks for helping me, or where you know you really made a difference in someone’s life. That’s the true payback.

Here is a poem I wrote today for my colleagues:

We may not all always get along

And we may not always see eye to eye

But when the tires hit the road

And our patients are in need

We put it all aside

Pool our knowledge

Use our skills

And do our best to heal

It can be a thankless job

Or it can be the greatest gift

We are never alone

Our partners have our backs

When we need it most

So when you’re tired and beat

Discouraged and sad

Just remember:

Tomorrow is another day

The day when you will help a crying baby

Sooth a son after the death of his Mom

Help someone breathe a little easier

Actually save a life

Because that’s what we do

Together

Day and night

Sister and brothers

In the back of our special bus

Pursuing Perserverance


This may seem like a redundant title for a blog piece, somehow it seemed appropriate for what has been going on.

I’ve been at my current job as a paramedic for eight years now. As you can expect, the job is bursting with stress. Much of it is the stress one would expect: tragic calls, long hours, low wages, heavy patients and simply seeing the more desperate and sorrowful side of life over and over again.

But there is a stressor that an outsider may not be aware of, but that is equally difficult for an emergency worker. One that often makes them leave the business, seek help or just be mentally exhausted. And that is dealing with fellow workers.

We are generally an odd bunch, coming from all walks of life. Some of us are ‘volunteers’ working with the career folks. So those people may have full-time jobs and come when they can. They may be just as dedicated, or not. This can set up great rifts between the two factions. There are very young and very old. The men and women who have been doing it when the ambulance was a hearse. So sometimes these people have a hard time getting with the times and while they’ve earned their respect, it may be difficult to drag them along.  And the big egos who are in it for the lights and sirens vs. the folks who genuinely care.

The list goes on. We are strange bedfellows, literally as we sleep, eat, cry, laugh and save lives together. It makes for very different working conditions than any other job than I’ve ever had. I’ve made some of my greatest friends, but also met some of the most difficult people in the emergency field.

I’ve wanted out many times because of it. Felt as though it wasn’t worth the hassles, the back stabbing, the gossip. And yet I’ve stayed. I’m not always sure why. I persevere.

Recently, I hit up again one of the difficult personalities that I’m speaking about. This person is a paramedic in my department and we’ve had difficulties before. It’s not something I’ve wanted, but this person has gone through a lot in life, and believe has a hard time separating life and work. Somehow, at times, I become the target for this person’s angst and pain.

In the past it was very hard for me to deal with it. Anger took over because I was so hurt. But the ‘new me’ has been trying to deal with it in a much different way. Seeing it from this person’s perspective has been helpful. Other’s had to intervene because it got personal on the medic’s part.  But on Friday morning I did an extra meditation on it all before I want to work.

Amazingly after this person was called into my Chief’s office, I got an apology. But better than that, we spoke for a long time about everything. We cried together, but these were cleansing tears. We made some promises and we expressed our friendship and love for each other. I truly hope this works.

Tomorrow I am giving this person a gift as a reminder of our promises. I’m really positive and believe that honesty and truth will prevail. The fact that I didn’t give up and persevered was critical. Even though there were some very painful moments, I tried to think about the outcome and what could be. Visualization helped.

Today a little chickadee scratched at my window. I got my “Animal Speak” book by Ted Andrews and looked up what the chickadee totem says. Here is a portion: Those with a chickadee as a totem will learn to express the truth in a manner that heals, balances and opens the perceptions. Truth is shared in a manner that adds joy to your own life and the lives of others.

I think a little birdie was trying to tell me something.