It Takes Kids


If we are lucky, we end up getting more than we expect from something we undertake. So has been the case with the job I started back in December. Just a very part-time and simple one as a lunch room monitor in a very small Charter school, something I honestly felt might not fulfill me as much as my career as a paramedic, but took because of logistical reasons. As it turns out, this non-career position may end up being one of the most satisfying jobs I’ve ever had in some important ways.

I was asked a month or so ago by a co-worker if I would be interested in participating in a 5K race that a bunch of kids and staff members were doing. This race was a two-part thing: one a regular 5K to benefit the Girl Scouts, but the other was called Girls On The Run to get local girls to get psyched and get out there and see what they could do. My co-worker knew I worked out, so approached me and I said: of course! Not really knowing what I was supposed to do though, I registered for the Girl Scout part, which was timed.

Meanwhile, the girls at my school trained, and in the lunch room, we all talked about the upcoming day which happened to be today.

It was held in a lovely park right as the sun was coming up. I haven’t raced in years and planned to just speed walk. The girls were excited and it was great to see some of the teachers out of work.

When the race started, I held to my plan for a bit, but since I had been having a pretty good work out regimen lately (and I’m way too competitive), I thought I’d try jogging just a bit. The paved trail in the park was surrounded by grass, so I was able to jog on it for much of the time. Since the Girls On The Run race started 5 minutes later, a few of the kids passed me and we cheered each other on. One teacher (who had planned to walk too, but was running), passed me also as did a friend’s son. I ended up jogging slowly almost the whole way. It was a miracle.

At the finish line, we all had fun cheering the school in (and collecting thin mints). And it was really crazy when we found out some of us actually placed in our age groups; including me! I was second in mine! Pays to be old. Of course I was 10 minutes behind the first woman, but hey: as a famous woman runner once said, “A win is a win!”

But the really best part was having the girls calling out my name along the way and saying hi, having one teacher telling me how much she loved me (I actually thought she never noticed me), having the kindergarten teacher introduce me to her Mom telling her about how I’m in her class and just hearing from folks how the kids love me (I was asked to be one of the coaches next year).

I worked for 20 years as a medic and rarely got warm fuzzies. Maybe it just takes children and their natural ability for giving joy and love to finally make someone like me feel good in my place of employment!

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Reality Check


It is always interesting when we can have a moment where we can look at ourselves and see some aspect differently.

At work it feels like I am surrounded by many disgruntled co-workers. Or at least folks who are not really into what they are doing; or maybe they are just exhausted? They work with kids in a school, which can be tiring, especially these days for sure–but somehow I figured there would be more passion in the people there.

Instead I find a group of (mostly) frustrated, cranky, unhappy people who seem like they would rather be anywhere be where they are…and I suddenly realized yesterday, after hearing my immediate co-worker complain and whine, that oh my goodness: this was me for so many years in my last career!

How miserable it must have been to be around me! To hear me complain all the time and see my grouchy face. And to hardly ever hear anything nice come out of my mouth. Yikes. It stopped me cold when I realized how it must have been to be work with me all the time.

Because I know what it’s like to be around these folks day in and out. It’s a downer. And how must it be for the kids? We’re suppose to be models for them after all, eh? Was I able to fake it for my patients on the ambulance, because I know these educators aren’t hiding anything from these children.

It really made me ashamed of myself, that I had put everyone I worked with through all my stuff. Honestly, it doesn’t even matter if it had cause or not; I should have left it at home. Work is not a place to drag your baggage. It’s not fair to anyone around you, yet I did it for a long, long time.

These folks may have what they feel are ‘good excuses’, but really none are when you get down to it. If you’re unhappy, find something else to do. It’s hard to find other work, yes that’s true. But if you’re heart not in what you’re doing, we all can tell.

If you can fix the things at work that’s the best solution. Or maybe you can learn to suck it up and push your way through things (not let things bother you as much)…but the ultimate solution may simply be to move on…. That’s the sad truth. I finally left a career I loved because of the extraneous stuff that bugged me too much.

So, in the end, I am very regretful for all those I drove crazy with my unhappiness. It’s clear now as I can see it in others (and it’s hard to take). In payment, I’m trying to be as upbeat as I can to make this place a little brighter…

And I know at least the kids appreciate it.

Just A Wee One


 

Finally I have landed a wee job that fits in perfectly with the criteria I had listed in my head (I hope). It’s been a long and interesting year experimenting with various things while waiting to find something, but hopefully this will work.

It’s nothing much really, but that’s part of my plan. Just a little PT position in a very small Charter school working as a lunch monitor.

So here’s how it fit the bill and my way of thinking:

  • It’s Part time: It’s in the middle of the day so allows me my workout in the am and the ability to get home for the pets in the afternoon or any chores/appointments.
  • It’s a no-brainer: After 20 years of the stress of being a paramedic, I didn’t want to do anything too difficult. Yes, I know, maybe I’m being lazy, but for now, this is the case.
  • It’s NOT in healthcare: I had made a distinct decision that I was pulling out of working in healthcare altogether. This is why I’ve had such a hard time finding something I reckon. With my resume reflecting 20 years in the business, not many folks were interested in taking a chance on me for something new.
  • It’s something new!: This is the very reason it seemed cool. While it’s not some deep, difficult task, at least it’s different.
  • It’s fun: The kids are great (albeit VERY noisy) and it will be a great new challenge to work closely with this population for a change. I’ve had my own of course, but now I have 300!
  • It has potential for more: I’ve been assured it has growth potential should I want it at some point. But for now I am quite content with the hours.
  • It’s close to home: After commuting 40 minutes each way (in ice storms) for so many years, having a job very close is a blessing.
  • I’m in ‘the system’: Once I’m within the public school system (yes, Charter schools are publicly funded), there can be potential for movement.
  • I can handle just about anything for a few hours: Even if there are difficulties, it’s only a few hours a day and plenty of vacations!

So all in all, I hope this works out. My fellow employees in the lunch room seem nice too. I have no idea how I will begin to memorize the names of all these children, but hey, I’ll figure it out.

And I’ve already ordered special ear plugs that will hopefully block out some of the major noise, but allow me to still hear them when they talk to me. (I mean it is REALLY loud in this tiny room!)

But I have to say, we never lose parts of ourselves… Because as I look around at all these kids eating and talking, and eating and laughing, and eating and being silly— the paramedic in me can’t help but think:

Just keep chewing, swallowing and breathing… NO CHOKING allowed!!

 

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

On Dying


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I was in the presence today of a dying person. No, not like you and me–I mean actively dying. We are all dying of course, but this is part of my hospice volunteering, my first day meeting with my new patient.

It’s not at all like being a paramedic because we aren’t given much: only a name. No diagnosis, no real history, no nothing. Of course, I’m not your average volunteer, so I can deduce some things. But, I’m not there to fix really. Only to sit. And maybe to provide some small comfort, maybe some smiles and to help a caregiver get some respite.

In this case I am reminded how much we can tell by someone’s eyes. They may not be able to speak much anymore, but their eyes speak volumes. And maybe they aren’t able-bodied any longer, but it is easy to remember that this same person was someone else, someone before they were dying.

They were like you and me: laughing loudly, arguing, dancing, quilting, walking around, loving, working and most of all–living.

It makes me wonder why people spend time while they are alive wasting it on unhappy things. On things that upset them. On things that they can never reclaim. On people who will never care enough. Why I did.

I need to spend more time living while I’m dying. Because we never know when it will be our turn that the dying will become active. Or maybe the living will simply stop.

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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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Hospice


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Had my training for becoming a Hospice Volunteer today. It was incredibly organized and informative. They don’t mess around–a bit different from the Soup Kitchen, I must say. Of course, it’s a whole different ball of wax. They depend on Medicare/Medicade  funding, so must tow the line, even when it comes to volunteers. We are dealing with patients, so have to follow the same guidelines that any healthcare providers do.

Luckily, having spent so many years in the business, I’m familiar with most of it–and how to deal with death and dying, and families, but it was great to get a brush up and hear their take on things.

The group was pretty big, with kids from high school right up to senior citizens. There was even another female paramedic! Only two males though, as the group was mostly women. It seemed like a really good bunch of folks willing to do a whole range of jobs. I wish I was more talented, so I could provide special things, like singing or music, but hopefully I will give something in my own way.

Once all my paperwork, tests etc. pass, then I’ll be clear to go around with a mentor and finally begin my own work with the patients. Some have no family of their own, but some just need extra. Many (most they said) have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease so might not recognize us from week to week. But that’s fine. As long as we can provide comfort of some sort.

I have some ideas of what I can do. And I’m honored to share this sacred part of someone’s life. To help give someone a good death is important. That transition can be so difficult, we must try the best we can to make it as easy as possible. For everyone: the patient and the family.

And so I step into this realm once again and take this journey with them, hopefully with something to offer.

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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. 

Like A Dummy


No-one like to feels like a dummy. But I think we all can agree that the first day of any new job can make any of us feel that way. Even if it’s a job that we may have experience doing, but especially if it’s something new or if we’re rusty doing it. Then, it’s easy to feel like we’re back in elementary school when the teacher calls on us and we don’t know the answer.

Today was my first day at my new job! And mind you, I made a conscious decision to get out of healthcare! So I totally understood that I could make myself look silly starting over at something completely different. I simply could not take it any longer in a field that I personally feel is rampant with unhappy, over-worked and often petty employees.

So I began to apply to anything that remotely appealed to me or where I thought I might have a half a chance of getting a job. I had certain criteria of course: Part-time was preferable for the pets; close to home if possible; if it had to be a big corporation again, then hopefully it would be decent or have good benefits with it; and if I was lucky, maybe be something I actually wanted to do! Another dream part of the job, of course, would be if I ended up working with great people….

Well, I’ve ended up in a sweet little position working as a cashier at a local Farm market. The farm itself is huge and specializes in sustainability, organic vegetables and fruit, locally grown also, U-pick on the property, all sorts of local breads and other wonderful items. What a difference working in a place that smells nice! It can’t compare to the smells on the ambulance!

They had a sign on the Cash register that said: Cashier in training, Be Nice! So they even have a sense of humor. As I bumbled along trying to figure out why they considered an avocado a fruit and which items were sold singly and which by the pound, my customers were very patient. And even though I thought I knew my vegetables pretty well having been a vegetarian for 40 years, a rutabaga looks pretty much like a turnip when you’re in a hurry.

A place that has a 21-year-old in charge because he’s been there since he got out of High School (he told me his goal is actually to become a fire fighter/paramedic–imagine that), can’t be all bad. And they even have an AED, so while the boss wants me to save him if he has a cardiac arrest, he wasn’t sure the batteries were working. Yikes. Stick with farming dude!

So while I was nervous and felt like pretty dumb at times, everyone was helpful and assured me at the end of the shift, I wasn’t fired yet. Even though I didn’t do a very good job wrapping the breads that came in either. Maybe it’s just the perfectionist in me? And this place seems to have my most/all of my criteria for jobs too? Time will tell…

But riding home in my car I thought: gee, I used to save lives didn’t I? I guess eventually I’ll get the hang of this won’t I? Of course I’m older now…but like we used to say in the back of the ambulance: just pretend you know what you’re doing and be nice. The customer/patient may not notice it’s not true…..