Friday, September 12, 2008
I was puttering around in the kitchen today, preparing food for our RVing weekend. The TV was on in the living room Ö I wasnít watching it; it was just on for company. There was a rerun of ER on; donít have any idea what the episode was about, but I walked into the living room in time to hear Mark Green say to Kari, ďDonít ever let your job become your lifeĒ and with that he closed his locker and walked away.
When I started working as a 9-1-1 dispatcher at the police department 13 years ago we worked rotating shifts. Every 4th Sunday we rotated from days to mids to afternoons. Each time our shift rotated our days off backed up one day Ö if you had Saturday/Sunday off one rotation your days off ďbacked upĒ to Friday/Saturday the next rotation, then Thursday/Friday the rotation after that, etc, etc, etc,
Three years ago the powers to be decided the dispatchers should work permanent shifts. Our days off still back up every 4th Sunday, but our hours never change. Iíve been on permanent afternoon shift (3 Ė 11P) since Feb í05. In a sense my job has become my life. My husband works ďnormalĒ hours (8:30A Ė 5:00P) and my son is a senior in high school. I rarely see the two of them. They are asleep when I get home at night, I am asleep when they leave for work/school in the morning, and I am at work when they are at home together in the evening. Our friends get together every Friday night for dinner. I rarely get to join them. I go out to dinner with them when my days off are Friday/Saturday and Thursday/Friday (eight total Fridays) then it takes seven rotations (28 weeks) to get back to having Fridays off and 28 missed dinners.
Iíve lost out on so many special moments in my sonís life during the past three years. I canít attend his band concerts (heís played alto sax since 4th grade). I used to attend his Boy Scout meetings every week when I was on the day and mid shift rotations, and when I worked afternoon shift if my days off that rotation were Tuesday/Wednesday or Monday/Tuesday (troop meetings are on Tuesdays), teaching merit badge classes, sitting on Boards of Review, and helping with fund raising activities for the troop. I used to attend his swim meets and cross country meets when they were in town. I used to be active in the PTA and was up on all the goings on in the schools.
Last night I missed out on another special event. My son brought the young lady he has been dating home to meet his family. My husband and son cooked a nice dinner for her then they all watched a movie together. Then, since it was a school night, he took her home. It was a short evening, but an important evening, and I missed it because I was at work, again, still, always during the evening when my family and friends gather and share their lives. I feel like life is passing me by.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Today is my birthday. In looking back over the 55th year of my life Iím happy to report I am much happier, healthier and wiser that I was a year ago. Not only have I lost quite a bit of weight, but I have learned a lot about nutrition, exercise, and wellness. Not only has my physical appearance improved, my mental outlook has as well. I look at others differently and I see myself differently. I have more patience and compassion for others and I am more forgiving of myself.
Most of the change in me has come from my association with Spark People. I have learned so much from the articles Iíve read here. I have received support from my Spark Teammates Ö comfort in time of pain and loss, encouragement on bad days, cheers on good days, friendship when I have been lonely. Iíve also found the power to reach deep down inside me for strength I didnít always know I had. Iíve found the peace that comes with being able to forgive myself for my past failures.
Yes, today is my birthday, and thanks to the friends Iíve made here at SparkPeople.com, itís a very happy birthday indeed. Thank you Spark Friends for helping me make this a happy, healthy birthday! You are the greatest birthday gift I have ever received!
... ... ...
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
My job, like everyone elseís, has good days and bad days. The difference with my job is that a bad day usually means someone died. Today was one of those days.
I got a call about a man lying on the ground. The caller wasnít sure if the man was breathing. I toned out ambulance, rescue and a PD unit. The caller then said the man was breathing and had tried to lift his head, but was non responsive. She couldnít tell me anything else; she was pretty upset and was not making a lot of sense. I didnít know whether she was standing next to a man who was intoxicated and had passed out or a man who had fallen while running and hit his head knocking himself out. Then I got another call, from someone who had seen the man lying next to a walking path and had run home to call for help. I told him I had units on the way to help. He couldnít give me any more information because he wasnít with he man anymore.
While I was on the phone with the second caller my emergency units arrived and I heard someone on the ambulance frequency saying it was a code and they were beginning CPR.
A few seconds later one of the police units called. A bystander told him he had seen the man several times, he drives to the walking path in the maroon pickup truck parked near by. The officer had run the license plate on his mobile data terminal and wanted to know if I had any contact information for the registered owner. He couldnít pronounce the manís name, and as he stumbled through the pronunciation I asked him if it might be xxx. He said yes, he thought that might be it. Then he asked me to describe the man. He said he was pretty sure the man I described was the one laying on the ground. The officer asked me to call the emergency room and tell them who he thought the ambulance was bringing in Ö my friend of 16 years.
The officer returned to the police department and spoke to the shift commander. They brought up the driverís license photo of the man who owned the maroon pickup truck and the officer wasnít sure if the man in the driverís license photo was the man he had helped load into the ambulance. The shift commander asked me if I would be willing to go to the hospital and make the identification. I didnít want to go. More than that, I didnít want to go to the hospital and find out it was my friend lying there. I said they should take the photo to the hospital for comparison, and then, if they still werenít sure I would go.
The ward clerk from the emergency room called and asked me to come to the hospital to identify their patient. I told her the officers were coming back with a picture and I hoped that would help them resolve the matter. She said she would call back if they needed my help. A few minutes later she called back. One of the officers was on his way back to the police department to get me; they needed a positive identification and they just werenít sure by looking at the picture. One of the officers from the SWAT team relieved me from the console and another officer drove me to the emergency room. On the way I asked the question I already knew the answer to Ö is the man dead, or are they still working on him Ö is he just unconscious?
When we arrived at the emergency room two officers escorted me into the treatment room. The same room I had been a patient in just a few months ago. I knew immediately and without a shadow of a doubt that the man on the bed in front of me was my friend. I made the formal identification and was driven back to work, to take more calls and deal with other peopleís problems.
One of the frustrating aspects of a 9-1-1 dispatcherís job is not knowing the outcome of your calls. We rarely get told who survives and who doesnít. We check the obits daily to see if the names of any of the people we sent help for are there. This time I wonít have to check the obits to find the answer. I just wish I didnít have to go to the emergency room and identify the body.
Never leave home with out a photo ID. The 55 year old man I identified tonight was the picture of health. He has been running five or more miles a day for as long as Iíve known him. You just never know when your time is up.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
After being gone for nine weeks, my son has finished his summer job as a Trailblazer Aid at Camp Wilderness Boy Scout Camp in MN. He has to return to Camp Wilderness mid month for an Order of the Arrow Conclave, then starts school the last week of August.
We have lots to do to get ready for his senior year between now and then. He has to get his senior portraits taken, get registered for his senior year, start running with the cross country team, purchase school supplies, etc, etc, etc.
His troop is hosting the Tomahawk District's Fall Camporee in September. I am in charge of registration and have lots to do to get ready for the camporee.
We are shorthanded at work, again. Being a 9-1-1 dispatcher is a very stressful job and we have a high turn over rate. We jokingly refer to the "annual summer quittings" because it seems like several people hit burn out and quit every summer. We don't find it funny as it puts more stress on those of us who remain on the job, but we joke about it because there is nothing we can do to change it. It's the nature of the job and we have to deal with it and pull the extra shifts required to provide the public with the 24 hour coverage they need, demand and deserve.
For all of the reasons I have mentioned above I'm afraid I'm going to have to cut back on my spark time, at least until after the school yeas starts. I'm not leaving any of my spark teams, and will continue to track my meals and exercise through spark people. I just won't be spending as much time posting on my team threads, blogging, or welcoming new sparkers in the introductions thread on the message boards. I'm sorry to have to this, and I will miss the daily interaction with all of you, but I want to spend more time with my son and I have to spend more time at work. The time has to come from someplace and I don't know where else to get it.
If anyone needs to get a hold of me during the next few weeks, feel free to contact me via sparkmail or by leaving a comment on my sparkpage and I'll get back to you.
Stay on track, keep your eye on the goal line. I'll miss you all and I'll be back as soon as I can.
... ... for now.
Monday, July 28, 2008
This is really a week over due ... I got back from vacation last Sunday, but this is the first opportunity I've had to sit down and write about it.
This year Hubby and I traveled to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul for the Family Motor Coach Association's 80th Convention. It was our first convention since joining FMCA two years ago, right after they held their convention in our home town. We got a day pass when they were here a couple of years ago and decided if they were ever having another convention close to home we would go.
When we registered we were given a show time. When you've got to park over 2,500 motor coaches you can't have them all show up at the same time, so everyone is assigned a time slot during which they are supposed to show up. I wasn't real happy with out show time ... between 8:00A - noon on Saturday morning. We had paid extra when we registered to get a parking spot with electricity, and the electricity wasn't going to be turned on until 9:00A Sunday. I'm not a camper, I'm an RVer ... I want my creature comforts. The idea of not having electricity for the first 24 hours we were there didn't make me happy.
We left Minot on Friday morning and drove to St. Cloud, MN, about an hour north of St. Paul, so we would have an easy drive to the holding area on Saturday morning. We had no sooner gotten the motor coach leveled, and the slide pushed out Friday night when a representative from the campground we were staying at came around and told us the campground was a right smack dab in the middle of a tornado warning. Great! At home I have a basement to retreat to, but not in the motor coach. They had opened up the campground's recreation hall for those who did not feel comfortable staying at their camp site. We monitored the weather on our TV and never did go to the rec hall ... the tornado missed us by miles. We were off to a good start.
Saturday we arrived at the holding area around 9:30A. We were surprised to drive straight in ... everything was well marked, the directions we had been provided with were perfect, and there was no line of coaches waiting to get in. We were warmly greeted by a team of volunteers who were caravaning the motor coaches to the fairgrounds 6 - 8 at a time. The volunteer who greeted us at the entrance to the holding area told us they were just about ready to roll; they had six motor coaches lined up, we were the 7th. We unhooked the vehicle we were towing, got in line, and were driving to the fairgrounds in about 5 minutes. What great timing!
The folks that set this up did a great job. They took us to the fairgrounds along a route they had mapped out that was all right turns ... that sure made things easy. By sheer luck of the draw we got an absolutely marvelous parking spot. We were on the fairground campground, surrounded by trees for shade, and, since we were on the campground we had electricity from the minute we parked. Folks who were parked in open fields and parking lots had to wait until Sunday morning when they fired up the generators that supplied electricity to those sites.
We were 200 steps from the fairground water tower. On the ground lever of the water tower building there was a laundry, bathrooms and showers. Even though we have a toilet and shower in our motor home we didn't have a water or sewer hook up, so we elected to shower down at the water tower. On day three we found a water spigot a a short distance from our motor coach. Several of us screwed our hoses together and topped off every one's fresh water tanks. FMCA had contracted with a service to drive around and empty our waste water for a very reasonable fee, so we made arrangements to have our tanks emptied since, having topped off our fresh water tanks we would have over filled our waste tanks. We had such great luck with parking, electricity and water I'm almost afraid to go to another convention ... things just couldn't go this well again.
They had a wonderful program. There were seminars for just about everything a person living full or part time in a motor coach could possibly want to learn about. They had arranged with the convention and visitors bureau to set up off site tours in the St. Paul area ... Hubby and I took a showboat cruise down the Mississippi River. They had entertainment every evening ... Hubby and I went to see the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band one night and Gary Puckett (without the Union Gap) another night. They also had entertainment throughout the day. There were motor coaches on display ranging in price from $2.5 million (WAY out of my budget) to $250,000. I took a real shine to a motor coach that had it's own veranda ... imagine bringing your own deck with you when you travel. Unfortunately, that too was way beyond our budget, but it was fun to walk through them all and see how the rich folk live. And of course, there were vendors there, ready and willing to sell you everything you can imagine, want or need for your motor coach.
I got in a lot of walking through the week. Even though they had a wonderful tram system set up to get around, we elected to walk everywhere. I logged at least five miles on my pedometer every day and got up to eight miles one day ... WooHoo!
I had written out a menu before we left and packed the necessary food to stay on track with my eating plan. I followed my plan to the letter, with one minor exception. On the last night of the convention they had birthday cake for everyone to celebrate FMCA's 45th anniversary. I didn't have the cake on my eating plan but figured I had done so well all week I could afford a piece of cake. It was delicious!
We left the fairgrounds Friday morning and headed north to Park Rapids. We spent Friday night there, visiting our son who is working at a Boy Scout camp as a camp counselor. I hadn't seen him since the 7th of June and really enjoyed our visit, even though we only saw him for a couple of hours. We made our way home on Saturday, having spent a whole week ... eight nights, actually, in our motor coach. It's the longest trip we've been on, and we really had a great time. I'm looking forward to being able to use it for weeks or months at a time when we retire.
And by the way, when we got home I weighed a half pound less than when we left. Now that's a first ... losing weight while on vacation!
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