12.23.2016

Looking back




I'm tying up some loose ends as 2016 winds down and it's neat to see how big of a year it has actually been.

JAN:
- First Day hike with swim team friends. What better way to kick off the new year than with a hike in freezing temps with great friends after ringing in the new year with some of the same? We even spotted some bald eagles!

FEB:
- Began coaching the girls' high school swim team. It felt SO good to get back on deck and back to one of the things I truly love.

MAR:
- MOBEX Trigger. The TR fun begins! I discovered so many things about myself that I didn't know, and met so many amazing people that would turn out to be pieces of me I didn't know I was missing.
- Easter. One of my favorite days - signifying so much.

MAY:
- JJ Grey and MOFRO concert. One of my favorite bands and I was able to see them play live. Amazing. Can't wait to do it again.
- Dancing in the rain - literally.

JUN:
- Started working for TR as the state membership manager. When I went to Trigger, I never envisioned myself working for TR as anything other than a regular volunteer and was blown away by the offer to join the leadership team.
- Olympic Swimming Trials. I'm still floating on cloud 9 from that one!

JUL:
- Operation Found It in Eureka, KS. My very first true TR operation. Life-changing and so incredibly reaffirming that what I'm doing (EMT, TR, etc.) is the right thing. Passion, purpose, serving others...all right there. I'm hooked.

AUG:
- Regional Training Conference. My first opportunity to get to know the full leadership team. Lots of work. Lots of fun. Life-long friendships started ('FRAMILY') and solidified.
- EMT class begins. More confirmation I'm on the right path. Felt like coming home.
- Mulvane operation. My first operation working behind the scenes. Amazing to watch this leadership team in action.
- Both kids in public school again after 7 years. Took some time to adjust to that. Still working on it.

SEP:
- Stepped into the role of State Admin. Just...wow.
- Veterans Community Project work day. My introduction to this amazing group and the incredible people behind it. Another life-changing experience.

OCT:
- National Conference. Like the Regional Conference back in August, but on crack. So incredibly cool to put names to faces of people I've admired for YEARS. More framily.
- CERT class, state VOAD involvement
- Ride along #1 for my EMT class. I was nervous until I set foot on that rig. Then I knew I was home.

NOV:
- Chainsaw training. Sawyer 1 certification was on my 'to do' list and I 'to DID' it. Now I work on building my skills and my strength.
- Regional Planning Conference. Laid out the training calendar and plans for 2017 and OH, am I excited. 2017 is going to rock 2016's socks off. Lots of changes coming for our leadership team but change equals growth so let's do this! Can't think of better people with whom to take on this challenge.
- Thanksgiving. Incredible time with family and friends. The opportunity to catch my breath and surround myself with these people I love was amazing.

DEC:
- Another Veterans Community Project work day. More time with this amazing organization only this time I was able to sling a chainsaw!
- Wrapping up EMT-B class with straight As. I'm going to miss these people!
- Christmas. A little tough to get in to the holiday spirit this year but we are all healthy, the roof is still over our head, there was food on the table. Everything else is gravy and no one was shooting at me ;) Along with what Christmas signifies, all wonderful reasons to celebrate.

All of this is intermixed with swim meets, birthdays, Scouts, MacGyver's flight school achievements, panic attacks (hey...it's the good, the bad, and the ugly...), stumbling across letters from my dad, some brutal losses, reading some amazing books, meeting some incredible people through my involvement with the Emergency Management world, hiking like a maniac and getting to the point I can pass the Wildland Firefighter 1 pack test, passing my EMT practical and getting ready to pass my EMT written. (Hopefully), I'll start 2017 by becoming a nationally registered EMT!

And as I look back, I am overwhelmed with one realization:
I.
Am.
Blessed.

So very blessed.

I say, "Bring it!"


12.20.2016

I PASSED!

I passed. I passed! I PASSED!

Made it through my practical exam. I have about two weeks until my written, and assuming I pass that, I will be a Nationally Registered EMT-B. Only took me 23 years but who's counting? Right? And now it's on to (hopefully) the EMT-Advanced course, paramedic school, and life in the EMS world.

The test went pretty well today. The first station was a 2-part station: patient assessment (either medical or trauma) plus bleeding and shock management. I kicked ass on the bleeding/shock exercise. That one was easy. The patient assessment was where my biggest concerns were. 25 year old male presented with sudden onset severe low back pain. Primary assessment went well but I forgot to assess skin condition and I verbalized applying a cervical collar without assessing PMS (pulses, motor, and sensory function) in the extremities. Technically, they could have said that the failure to assess skin condition was a critical fail because I wasn’t assessing for shock, but the patient was not a trauma patient and no other vitals indicated shock so I would have fought that one. 

The second station was a 4-part station: oxygen tank & non-rebreather mask assembly, treatment of an unresponsive, non-breathing patient, CPR/AED, and long spine board. All of those went well and I had no concerns. 

Then I just had to wait for the results - each of our score sheets had to be verified by 2 other people besides the proctor. I was called in for my results and I think they derive some humor from drawing this part out. She had a dramatic pause before telling me that I had passed the patient assessment portion (after already having told me I had passed everything else). But I was so relieved to have passed everything that I just shook her hand and skipped out of the room.



So now I have two weeks to review all of the academic material before the written exam. I have a really good study guide that came with text and a bunch of online resources as well. One of the cooler things about Team Rubicon is that you can't swing a dead cat without hitting an EMT or Paramedic so I've had dozens of offers of help and I'm so grateful. I don't know what I would do without these people.

Sidenote: when I posted on Facebook or mentioned to friends and family that I passed, the response was usually something along the lines of 'Congratulations! I knew you could do it!'.

I didn't. Not completely. We are all usually our own worst critics and I am no exception here. I have my own personal doubts as to my capabilities. I also have my concerns about getting TOO cocky and that coming back to bite me in the butt. I had a few things I missed in this practical - I am human and this is still new to me (well, the details are). So I didn't necessarily know I could do this. I'm not being falsely modest or employing fake humility. I know my own weaknesses.

All of the above leads me to some stuff that's on my heart. This year...has been so indescribably amazing on a personal level. Brutal in some ways, beautiful in others. This year has stretched me to the point of tearing me wide open in so many ways and, while painful, I wouldn't trade it for the world. Growing up, my family was pretty small - just me and my parents. My brothers (half-brothers) are older and were already out of the house and on to their own lives by the time I came along. Our extended family lived in other states. So it was just the 3 of us; often just me and my mom since my dad traveled a lot for work. I moved out at 18, moved away from the town I grew up in at 22, and became a military spouse at 26. None of that played into being surrounded by family. In some ways, the military compensated for that, but even those people came and went.

But this TR family, this 'TRibe'... they are 45,000 brothers and sisters I didn't count on, didn't expect, and can no longer live without. Good thing they are everywhere.

I've been blessed with wonderful friends throughout my life - people that have not necessarily stood in for family, but have augmented and filled holes as needed. I can look back through each part of my life and find those gems - those people that really bring out the beauty in it all. To be able to do that even once in a lifetime is a blessing. I don't know what you call it when you can do it more than once - abundance? What do you call it when you can do it dozens of times? Or when life hands you the most amazing people that just take your breath away?

I am blessed. Beyond measure. Beyond words. Beyond comprehension. I did nothing to deserve these blessings. What a wonderful way to wrap up the year...my family is together and healthy and amazing; the roof is still over our heads and there is food on the table. We have all that we need and more. And while not with me in the literal sense over the holidays, there are these people I love that I hold in my heart so tightly that I sometimes can't breathe.

I could not ask for more. Not one drop more.

Merry Christmas.

12.17.2016

2016/2017...



So we're quickly wrapping up 2016 and I'm sitting here, trying to figure out where the hell it went. But when I force myself to stop and think back over the past 12 months (an effort for someone that is always antsy for the NEXT thing), I realize how incredible and FULL this year has been. I posted back in April about not being dead yet and my goals for 2016. And as I read back through that, I can say that, as of 4JAN2017, when I take AND PASS the written portion of my NREMT exam, I will have nailed 2 of those 3 goals I set for myself. Three of four, if you count getting back on deck to coach swimming. The only one I've not yet nailed was the blue belt in jiu-jitsu. But I have my 4th stripe and plan to get back on the mat as soon as my schedule will allow.

In addition to nailing those goals, I'm close to hitting another one that I set but didn't write about. Team Rubicon has a partnership with the Bureau of Land Management and TR members can become Wildland Firefighters with the BLM. I heard today that TR members make up 25% of BLM's wildland firefighters. I'm not sure if that's true but it doesn't surprise me. To become WWF1 qualified, you have to be able to ruck 3 miles with a 45# pack in under 45 minutes. No running. No incline. We have a great trail just outside of town and I love to hike there. The Nature Trail is about 3 miles so I started timing myself - no pack, just hiking. It has a good solid hill at the beginning of the trail and once I was able to consistently finish the loop in under 45 minutes, I started adding weight. By the end of the summer, I could do 3.1 miles with 38# of weight in 44 minutes. I have no doubt that, should I choose to go test for WWF1 with BLM, I could handle the pack test.

In all of my adult life, I don't think I've ever owned a scale. I've never cared what my weight was. I know when I am out of shape and when I am in shape and it has nothing to do with a number on a machine. But MacGyver came home with one a while ago and, in weighing myself, I've put on somewhere between 3 and 5 pounds of muscle. I'm leaner in some areas, more muscular in others. And I feel GOOD. Or I did until winter hit. Need more vitamin D and some of those full-spectrum light bulbs we used in Alaska! I'm hoping to keep hitting the trail when the weather isn't awful. In the meantime, I have some upper body work I want to do so that I can fully operate a chainsaw for TR. Right now, I have trouble cold-starting the saw and need to build more power in my upper body. Time to start doing some rows and deltoid lifts and bicep curls.

On the Team Rubicon front, we are in the process of adjusting to a new leadership structure and I've moved from State Administrator to Program Manager over the western half of our region - kind of like a State Administrator on crack, covering two states instead of just one. Because, you know, I didn't have enough to do. The reality is that I am loving it. I get to help build our our leadership in some key cities throughout the region as well as help with training events, service projects, social activities, etc. We hashed out our 2017 training calendar and to say that I am excited about all that we have on tap would be quite an understatement. Sawyer classes, Heavy Equipment Operator courses, Chainsaw Train the Trainer courses, ASIST classes, cut days (YAY! More sawyer time for me!), and much more. My hope is that our region doesn't have too many natural disasters to respond to - that's always the hope - but if we do, we'll do it well!

I'm still working on my goals for 2017 but I will say they include the leftover blue belt goal from 2016 in addition to participating in Tough Mudder (and possibly working it as an EMT!), nailing my PM goals for TR, getting ASIST certified and attending the ASIST Train the Trainer course, being able to cold start a Stihl 261 chainsaw, getting my EMT-I (or EMT-A) certification, getting accepted in to Paramedic school...the list goes on and on!

I would write about all of the wonderful people in my life this year, but I can't do so without getting all blubbery and emotional so I'll save it for another day. We'll just leave it at the fact that I am blessed beyond measure.

Right now, I need to go study. I have my practical exam for my EMT-B in less than 12 hours. Whee!

12.01.2016

Stepping into the color



Did you ever watch Wizard of Oz? You know how the movie goes from black and white (well, sepia, really) to color when Dorothy opens the door of the cabin? How she steps out into a vivid new world? That's pretty much what 2016 has felt like for me. None of it happened overnight - not like Dorothy opening that door - my life isn't that exciting. It was more of a gradual onset of vividness; incremental in nature. By the time I realized what had happened, I was eyeball deep in the color of this year and loving every minute of it.


Thanksgiving gave me some time to slow down and really take in all of the blessings of my life. Slowing down is not something I've been able (or willing) to do much of lately. With my state boards and my NREMT exam coming up in less than a month, there is much to do and not much time in which to do it. Recently, we had the Regional Planning Conference for my Team Rubicon region and I came off of that into the holiday weekend, which allowed (ok, forced) me to stop and breathe for a moment. And I realized a few things...


This year has been FIERCE. Intense, powerful, fierce. For some people, that might bother them. Me? I find that I need it; I crave it. That fierceness brings out the color in my life - color that had been lacking in me in so many ways: in my thought life, in my home life, in my relationships, in just about every aspect of my life. It has been, as Glennon Doyle Melton would call it, 'brutiful': brutal in some ways and beautiful in so many others. And I wouldn't change a single, solitary moment. The people this year has brought into my life are in my blood and in my bones - I'd have to tear myself apart to let them go. The experiences of this year have changed me fundamentally and I will never be the same. Nor do I want to.


At church this past weekend, Pastor Eric read through a book, 'A Walk One Winter Night' and it tells the story of a man who goes for a walk to clear his head one winter night, coming across a Nativity scene. It leads to the rediscovery of the joys and wonder of the Christmas seasons. I feel like I'm living that rediscovery of life and of Christmas right now, and part of me is hesitant for the holiday season for a few reasons:

- I don't like to slow down. Slowing down means I wind up inside my own head far too often and that's not a good place for me to be. Staying busy keeps me out of there.

- Everything feels overwhelming at the moment...even the good stuff. And while that sounds like a good thing, I'm finding that's relative. Ever get the spins? Maybe after having had too much alcohol? When I overindulge, I get the spins. The room spins and I feel like I'm going to be flung off, like being on a merry-go-round. I usually wind up with a hand or a foot on a wall to help steady myself. Physical contact does the same for me - grounds me and keeps me from feeling like I'm going to be flung off. That's how I feel when things get overwhelming - like I'm going to be overtaken and flung off. The challenge during the holiday season is to be around people I trust enough that I can stay grounded.

- my people (family, friends) are spread out all over the country and the world and I can't have them all over for dinner. This makes me sad.


But there is SO much to be thankful for and SO much to look forward to in 2017 so that is where my focus will remain. I'm all over the place in this blog post - forgive me. You're getting a glimpse into my brain. Scary place sometimes!


I'll leave you with a book suggestion. If you have a few hours, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of The Go-Giver, by Bob Burg and John David Mann. Absolutely incredible, transformative, insightful book. A little more than 120 pages and worth every minute spent reading it. It was a gift during our Regional Planning Conference and probably one of the most valuable books anyone has ever given me.


Go do good $#!t!

11.09.2016

Coincidences

Note: I wrote this back in MAR2011, briefly after Lex died. I can count on two hands the number of dreams I remember beyond the first few hours of being awake. Far fewer remain with me beyond that. This is one of them. I still remember it, 7+ years later.

Happy birthday, my friend. I do so miss you. 

*~*~*~*~*

I don't believe in coincidences. And rarely do I dream about things that are impacting my life in the immediate time frame. But every once in a while, I'll have a dream that does - one that speaks to a situation I am facing, a heavy heart, what have you. As I did last night.

My friend Lex died last week (MAR2011) and it shook me to my core. I've spent the week remembering all of the conversations we had had about things mundane and monumental, political and humorous. And I spent it crying. Crying for my loss, but crying more for the loss his family and close friends faced. He and I were not close friends and yet his loss hit me hard, therefore I cannot begin to imagine how hard it hit those that loved him and cherished him all their lives.

The first night I managed to get to bed without tear-swollen eyes, I had a dream about Lex. Rarely do I remember the full details of a dream, the emotions that go along with it. But this one has hung on even into mid-morning, even after having fallen back asleep. In my dream, it was evening and I was at my house (I didn't recognize the house but I knew it was my house regardless). I was sad in my dream - having lost my friend - and was coming home from somewhere. My phone rang and it was Lex. I was walking up the back steps to the door when he called and so I stopped and talked to him.

He and I talked for a bit - about things mostly mundane...what have you been up to and how's the weather? And then I told him that we (his friends) had been really worried about him. He explained that he was just fine - wonderful, in fact - and that he was with "his family". I distinctly remember him saying just that - with a slight chuckle and a smile in his voice, as though he was still getting used to the idea. He was with his family. And I remember just feeling so relieved at the fact that he was ok. We talked some more about all of his friends that were missing him and he kind of paused, seeming almost embarrassed that so many people were so wrapped around the axle over him. But he recovered quickly and graciously thanked us for our love and concern.

And then he had to go. He apologized for the conversation being short - said he'd love to talk longer next time. I told him that we all loved him and missed him and were were glad that he was ok. He paused again and then said thank you - that he was speechless over it all. I just remembering feeling so RELIEVED to talk to him again. He said he'd see me again soon and then, he was gone.

I woke up with a smile on my face and a lightness in my heart that hasn't been there since the day I learned my friend had died. Like I said, I don't believe in coincidences. I do believe in God and Heaven and I do believe that the good Captain is there with his parents that he lost at such a young age, with his sister whose loss was more recent and closer to the surface, and with his friend Terry who was lost on that very bad day. And my hope is that they serve Guinness in Heaven.




Pau.




- hfs

10.26.2016

Good for my soul

If you ask me, I'll tell you I'm more of an introvert than an extrovert. My friends argue with me that I'm full of crap and really, truly an extrovert. I usually disagree but last night may have swayed my mind a bit. Being around my TR people last night at one of the monthly socials was overwhelmingly good for my soul.

I didn't realize how badly I need to be with my friends - see them, touch them, hug them, talk with them - until I hugged them yesterday afternoon. I had to fight back tears at several different points and I'm typing this with tears in my eyes right now. I needed yesterday/last night in so many ways. Of course, all of this would be easier if they all just lived in my town. But that's a different story.

Over the course of my life, I've had 7 people I know commit suicide. It's never easy. It never gets any easier. The questions you ask yourself are always the same and the answers never come. The shock and the horror and the heartbreak are just as overwhelming the 7th time as they were the first. It's a brutal path to walk each and every time. And the fact that my friends - people I love and care about - are walking that path breaks my heart in a different way that is no less brutal.

Today is James' memorial service. I do so wish I could be there simply to lend a shoulder or an ear to those that need it and pay tribute to a guy I wish I had the privilege to meet. 

10.24.2016

Ride Along #1

Had my first ride along this weekend for my EMT class. This one was MUCH more mellow than the last one I did...


My medic, K, was wonderful. Easy going, smart, experienced, seen and done some crazy stuff. He splits his time between the private service I rode with and a larger municipal service closer to where he lives. This is his 16th year in EMS and he's quite the jack of all trades.

My EMT, R, is this young, beautiful blonde MMA fighter. I believe this is her fourth year as an EMT and she's hilarious, irreverent, and sarcastic. She has also seen and done some crazy stuff and nothing seems to really faze her.


The shift was actually quite quiet and the 'white cloud' that usually follows an EMT student was firmly in place. We didn't get a call until we were a good 3.5 hours into the shift. And then that call was canceled because the purported patient got up and walked away. So much for that.


Less than an hour later, we got a call for a possible cardiac arrest on a young person (over 18 but not by much). By the time we arrived on scene, the patient had been declared dead and our call was canceled.


Our most interesting call was for an elderly patient that had fallen, struck their head, and was bleeding. They had a syncopal episode and struck their head on the way down. Because of previous heart problems, they were on a blood thinner and it was difficult to get the bleeding under control. We blew through 2 trauma dressings, 2 ice packs, a ton of 4x4 gauze, several pair of gloves and 2 pillowcases (one was used as a makeshift compress until we could get hands on a trauma dressing) and a bunch of hardcore direct pressure and still we weren't able to get it truly under control before getting to the hospital. Then, just to keep things interesting, our patient started having substernal chest pains as we arrived at the ER.


Following that was a young patient suffering from PTSD with suicidal indications. It had been a rough weekend for this person and they had reached the end of their rope. After waiting for the police department to secure the scene, we transported the patient. It was interesting to watch my EMT interact with the patient and I learned a lot in the way she did so.


Last call of the night (again, slow shift) was a patient that had been assaulted. We had the pleasure of working with the local PD as they secured this scene as well. There had been an altercation between roommates and the patient had some superficial lacerations but refused transport.


My medic and EMT encouraged me to practice as many skills as I could and I'm grateful. Back in SoCal, we were told to sit down and shut up and observe but don't DO anything. Here, they firmly adhere to the adage that the best way to learn is to DO. I'm grateful. But what I'm more grateful for is the fact that it all felt so...NATURAL. Yet again, I feel like I am at home. Dark senses of warped humor, trauma assessments, patient interaction...another missing piece falls into place.


I'm so glad I didn't give up.

Stages of grief




My friend, V, drew the picture above last year and just shared it today, in the wake of one of our TR member's suicide this past weekend. I didn't know J but so many of the people I love did, and watching this all play out is heartbreaking. And infuriating.


Let me caveat: this is not about me in any way, shape, or form other than the fact that I am writing from my perspective. This did not happen TO me. It's happening TO them. But I do feel the effects of it and, in order to be strong and help my friends through this, I need to process all of this and deal with it. This is the best place to do that.


Even though this didn't happen to me, there are stages to this just like there are for the people dealing with the fallout of J's suicide. There was shock and then sadness, and now there is anger. But how are you supposed to be angry at a dead guy - a dead guy that fought his demons for so long and then, apparently, just got tired? How are you supposed to be angry at a dead guy you didn't even know?


Because I am. I'm so damned angry. I watch my friends struggle with their grief, their helplessness, their fear, their shock, their anger and rage, and all I want to do is punch this guy. And then hug him and tell him tomorrow will be better. And sit with him to make sure he holds on to see that. But I can't. And they can't. And that just makes me angry all over again.


There are things I want to yell and scream and shout here, but I can't because the idea that someone that loved him would see that and misconstrue my anger - moreso at the situation than at him, but it's easier to be angry at a person than an abstract concept - also breaks my heart and I can't do that. By all accounts he was a great guy - full of sarcastic, cynical, larger-than-life LIFE. And then it was gone and it terrifies me to think that the vacuum he created in the wake of his suicide might suck others that I love into it. And, because my default in the face of fear is anger, I am just so enraged.


I want all of my people in my sight line right now. I want them all in my living room so I can lay eyes on them and see that they are ok. I want to be able to look them in the eye and tell them in all honesty that they are loved and treasured and that my phone is on 24/7 and I'll drop whatever I can drop to be there. Thankfully, I have a family that gets it. I want to hug them all. It's not possible but that's how I'm feeling right now.


When we were in college, MacGyver was working on the Jeep after it had died on him at work, and the hood came crashing down on his head. It was a pretty impressive laceration that required a good handful of staples to close up and some observation afterward due to the minor concussion he sustained. My instinct to all of that - once the initial situation had passed - was to keep him close to me. I didn't want him out of my sight for several days. It's like that now - circle the wagons and draw in tight. There is a TR social tomorrow in Kansas City and I'm looking forward (in a way) to it moreso than I did NatCon. I need to see my people (that part *is* about me), make sure they are ok, hug them.


Long and hard. (get your minds out of the gutter)

10.23.2016

Goodness, what a day




We lost one of our own today. I'm sure you've heard about the 22 a day statistic that is out there, purporting that 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Valid or not, Team Rubicon lost one of our own to suicide today. It's heartbreaking and enraging and terrifying all at the same time.

When Clay Hunt killed himself, I wrote about the range of emotions that wrought. I'm finding they are being dragged back up again tonight. My worry then is the same as it is now:

I don't know what the answers are. I don't know if there ARE answers. That's the scariest part of all of this. What if we do everything right - EVERYTHING - and it's still not enough? Then what? How do we keep from losing more people like Clay? I don't know.

What if there are no answers? What the hell do we do then? And what kind of message does it send to that person that is struggling mightily and doesn't have access to the resources that Clay or J had access too? These guys were SURROUNDED by people that knew of their struggles. They knew the demons these guys faced. Hell, J was ASIST trained - he was trained to know what to look for, how to help those facing exactly what he was facing.

And yet, here we are. Again.

Five fucking years later and no closer to an answer. How do I protect the people I love - that hold pieces of my heart - from this? I don't know how. I didn't know J - hadn't had the chance to meet him yet. But I'm watching my friends' hearts break over this and I'm helpless to do anything. And I hate it. I hate every damned moment of it. I want to wrap them all up in a bubble and protect them from this. From all of it. And I can't. It's not possible.

I hate this. With every fiber of my being, I hate this.

10.17.2016

#TRLC2016




It’s been 7+ months since I jumped in with Team Rubicon at MOBEX Trigger and I’ve still not recovered (not sure that I ever will and I’m OK with that) so I don’t know why I thought giving myself a week to recover from NatCon was going to make a difference. But my head is a little clearer than it was a week ago and I’ve (mostly) caught up on sleep so I’ll jump in and see if I can manage some kind of recap. 


First off, it was fantastic! From a logistical standpoint, the venue was perfect, the programming was solid, the guest speaker (General Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) was wonderful, the food was amazing, and the company/people were good for my soul. The weekend could not have been any better. The Hilton Anatole was an incredible setting - probably one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in. I didn’t get a chance to experience their lazy river or swimming pools but the garden area was beautiful and the amenities were quite luxurious. My room was nice…I think. Can’t say I spent a lot of time in it. I’m sure my roommate thinks I’m nuts, but I didn’t go to Dallas to sleep. Not including cat naps, I racked up an impressive 7 hours of sleep over 3 nights. But that was my plan going in so it wasn’t a big deal. Thankfully the kids had Monday off from school so I was able to sleep until noon and catch up a little.

My experience in Dallas was similar to my first Milbloggers’ Conference. I spent the majority of the time in Dallas just soaking it all in. I felt like the world’s biggest sponge and all I could do a lot of the time was just…BE. It was twofold: I was over-the-moon happy to be back with my regional team. In many ways, we’re a family and this was a wonderful reunion. On top of that was the conference itself, and just the idea of being in the room with all of these people I admire the heck out of - who do so much for so many and are rock stars in their own right - was enough to overwhelm me. So I spent a lot of time just soaking it in. I watched. I listened (two ear holes, one mouth hole. I tried to apply that ratio to how much I listened versus talked). I tried to commit everything to memory so I could go back and relive it later. 

And I knew I was going to do this. It’s how I process things so none of this came as a surprise. I knew I wasn’t going to engage as much as I would have liked this first year. I did better than I expected and met/talked to a bunch of new people, but there are so many more I want to connect with so that’s my goal for next year. However, next year will probably hold a different challenge in that I expect the organization to have grown significantly, which means that next year’s convention will be even bigger (and the possibility exists that I will not be invited - I wasn’t actually invited this year. Instead, I was standing in for one of the regional managers that couldn’t make it). So who knows? 

There are a lot of big, structural changes coming and a lot of uncertainty as they are rolled out. No one really knows what the actual secondary and tertiary effects will be and a lot of things are up in the air. Some people are really stressed about this, which is completely understandable. It’s hard to avoid stress when the parameters you’re use to functioning under are either shifting or dissolving. Change is tough and I’m the first to admit that. I don’t do change well and it makes me all panicky. However, the team I work with…I’ve never had the privilege - and it is truly a privilege - to work with a team that felt more like family than this group of people. It overwhelms me on at least a weekly basis and sometimes more. If any group of people can make it through these choppy waters, it’s this group.

Just today, I was brought to tears by someone saying something as simple as ‘Welcome home’. Silly but profound, all at the same time. For so long - most of my life, to be honest - I’ve rarely felt ‘at home’ anywhere other than in my own home. And, being a military spouse for so long (and being rather transient as a college student before that), even my own home felt foreign a lot of the time. As a kid, I never felt completely like a city-dweller, even though I lived in SoCal but I also didn’t feel like a country kid. In school, I didn’t have a particular group of friends that I specifically identified with. I was blessed to have good friends but they were spread out across different social groups and I never really fit in completely with any of them. Same goes for college - I was usually on the periphery. Ditto for my time as a military spouse. 

And then I find TR. And I find these people that have my back - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - in every way a family should. And they let me have theirs. That feeling is POWERFUL. Overwhelmingly powerful. It brings me to my knees if I dwell on it too much, and I’m not sure if it’s the fact that they have my back or that they let me have theirs, because that is an honor in and of itself. To be needed like that, outside of my own family, is fulfilling and humbling. 

And the more I ponder all of this and dig into why all of this is so overwhelming to me - this concept of family outside of blood - I realize that part of it has to do with the fact that I am unfamiliar with it simply because I have never served in combat and never really been a part of a team or an organization where these kinds of bonds are formed. So it’s new and intoxicating and wonderful. I’m sure I’ll find a balance at some point but for now I just kind of revel in it and do my best to put that momentum I feel to use. It oozes out of me at times and I’m not used to that either but I’m getting there. 

The conference itself was good - lots of TR Kool Aid, as it were. Not so much of a ‘leadership’ conference in that there wasn’t much in terms of leadership development. I would have liked to have seen that but the weekend was chock full of plenty of other useful information and experiences - functional breakouts, ‘speed dating’ with topics like ‘CEO/COO Q&A: Culture, Mission, & Org Strategy’, ‘Comms: Story Yelling, Tattoos, & Brand Friggin’ Standards’, and ‘Membership: What’s Your Safeword?’. All of these had little nuggets of wonderful information embedded in them, particularly for this newbie. 

The welcome dinner Thursday night featured guest speaker and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph F. Dunford. He was a riot and did not disappoint. The hope is that, when he retires, he will don a grey shirt and join us. I suspect he will. 

...my TRibe...
I think the best part of the entire weekend was the people - the ones I already knew and the ones I was privileged to meet. TR has a fantastic online presence and being able to faces to names was great. And the time spent with my regional people is always time well spent. I Also got to take my first Uber ride and that was really cool as well. I convinced them all to try Korean food and that was a raging success. We sang songs at a piano bar, some of us rode elephant statues.


It was a good weekend. I miss them all already and can’t wait to see them again in a few weeks for our Regional conference. 

10.05.2016

Eight years




I was going through some boxes in the basement and stumbled across a letter my dad wrote me back in 1995. It was random...and rare. He didn't write me many letters but when he did, they were always a glimpse into his mind. Having moved out at 18, I didn't get a chance to talk to him as often as I would have liked so the letters he did write to me were a sweet treasure.

It's been 8 years that he's been gone. Eight years. How does eight years feel like eight days sometimes?

Heading to Team Rubicon NatCon soon and I'm grateful. Being surrounded by wonderful people who do incredible things, planning to do even more incredible things in 2017 will be good for my soul. And rather than stuff this all down and gut it out alone (as is my want), I've stepped out of my comfort zone and given a couple of good friends a heads up so that if they see me wallowing too much, they can kick my butt and get me out of my head. Hopefully I will be having too good of a time for it to be an issue, but it's good to know they are there if I need them.

I dread this week each year but this year, I'm going to do my best to revel in the changes that are being wrought in my life because they are the right changes. They are good changes. And I feel like I am on the right path. Finally.

My father would be pleased and that is what I will focus on. I do so miss him but I am oh so grateful for the time I had with him.

9.30.2016

When I was a child...

I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone


I can remember my first panic attack in first grade. My mom had taken me to school and dropped me off and by the time first recess rolled around, I was a mess. I couldn't breathe. I felt scared and anxious all at once. I felt like I was going to fall through the ground into an undersea ocean with the ground closing up around and above me as I drowned. So I went to the school nurse and told her I felt sick. She called my mom and my mom came and brought me home where I felt safe.

I never explained any of this to my parents - I couldn't. I didn't have the vocabulary to do so. My panic attacks were infrequent and I could never discern a pattern or a trigger. And I assumed that everyone dealt with them in some form or another so I saw no need to say anything. I learned coping mechanisms for when they did hit and pretty much forgot about them in between.

When I was in my early 30s, I remember listening to either my sister-in-law or a friend describe what a panic attack feels like and it was like a light switch was flipped. So THAT was what I had been dealing with off and on all my life! Panic attacks. It was weird to put a name to something that had been nameless for so long.

They are still pretty infrequent. Most of the time, I can anticipate them - they are usually a result of too many stressors in my life. For instance, the one that nailed me in 2013 was as I was buying my house...by myself. MacGyver was in Korea and I was doing the single parent thing, buying a house, scheduling a move across town, and scheduling a move from Kansas to Korea. It made sense. The one that nailed me last week came out of nowhere.

People keep telling me I have a lot on my plate and that's somewhat true, but not really. I stopped working at the end of July. I'm going to school full time but my classes are only a few days per week. The material is somewhat review. Swim season hasn't yet really started back full swing. I'm loving my work with Team Rubicon. I have wonderful people surrounding me. My family is good. It made no sense. And it's those panic attacks - the ones that sneak up on me and make no sense - that really do me in. I can still feel the effects of this one. I'm still shaky. I can feel that if I isolate myself (as is my want) I will slip right back into it. The ones with no discernible cause are the ones that scare me. How do you defend against something like that?

Scary.

9.24.2016

This week kicked my butt





I was trying to explain to a good friend of mine what a panic attack feels like. After I set aside the momentary jealousy that resulted from the fact that she's never (to her knowledge) experienced one, I tried to put words to how it feels. And I failed miserably. How do you describe a panic attack?

You know the scene in Star Wars where Han, Luke, Leia, and Chewy are in the trash compactor? It's like that, but have it start filling rapidly with water. And have the music above playing loudly, to the point that it's suffocating.




That's a reasonable description of how my week went this week. I thought it had been since 2011 the last time I had a big panic attack like this, but in looking back through this blog, I find that I had one when I bought the house back in 2013. That one made sense. This one did not. This one came out of the fracking blue and knocked me on my ass. 

The ones I can see coming tend to be pretty short-lived. They are situational and my rational brain can wrap around them and hang on to the knowledge that they are simply a reaction to a current stressor. I can usually just ride them out, knowing this too shall pass. But this one...oh, this one kicked my ass. I never saw it coming. I had an inkling but, by the time I realized it was more than just momentary stress, it was on top of me and I was drowning. 

I don't take meds (maybe I should?) for any of this, primarily because they are so few and far between. So my coping mechanisms usually involved the following:
- prayer
- exercise
- talking with a few trusted friends
- writing
- distraction (reading, watching movies I know will make me laugh and distract me)
- sleep

NONE of that worked. Well, some of it worked but not enough to completely head things off so I just had to gut it out for the most part. It's mostly past but now I feel like a wrung out wet washcloth. A friend of mine that was kind enough to talk me through some of it said I did a good job of pushing through it. I don't see that - I feel like a big giant mess - but I'll trust his perspective more than mine right now. Thankfully I have a few people in my life that have walked this road themselves and can help me talk through it when it happens. But man, I'm wiped.

I still can't point to any one thing as to why this panic attack happened. The one back in 2013 made sense - I was days away from closing on the house, my husband was overseas and we were planning to join him, we had big life transitions taking place. But this one? Not so much. I know I have a lot on my plate but life has actually slowed down a bit now that I'm not working. I have more free time (maybe that's what contributed? I didn't have a bunch of stuff to keep me busy so I wound up inside my head?) and I'm doing things I love.

Whatever. It's done and I'm almost back on my feet. Hopefully it will be another 3+ years before another one hits me. Wouldn't that be nice?

9.20.2016

I do have a life...

...outside of Team Rubicon, I swear.


Life is moving along. The kids are doing great in public school. I'm not sure if I talked about that in previous posts. The Boy decided last year that he wanted to try public school. We've always said they are welcome to discuss a change with us in terms of schooling/education. So he started last year. This year, The Girl waited until *THE* last minute (seriously, 17 hours before the start of the school year) and then decided she wanted to give public school a go. So I jumped through various orifices of my body to make that happen. Thankfully, the school's administration was incredibly accommodating and she's off and running. Well, maybe not running. Swimming. She's swimming.

EMT class is going well. We had our 2nd test the other day and I should get my score back today. I'm not as confident about this one as I was about the last one - I wound up at the Kansas Emergency Management Association (KEMA) conference last week and didn't have as much time to study as I had planned. That will teach me to procrastinate. The practical stuff is coming along well. I'm loving trauma assessments and looking forward to getting more into that side of things. We're starting to schedule our ride alongs as well.
UPDATE: score a 74/60 with the extra credit. Without it, I would have still scored a 'B' - decent but not up to my standards. 

MacGyver is doing well at school as well and should be approaching his 2,000 hour mark soon. At that point, job possibilities (medevac, primarily) open up and we should see some movement on that front. He's busy flying and studying for trig and working his butt off.

The KEMA conference was enlightening. I went as a way to learn what our county emergency managers actually do, the challenges they face, and what they might need from us (Team Rubicon). In addition to all of that, I learned that this might be something I am interested in pursuing and a natural progression of my work in EMS. There is a local community college that offers an associate's degree, but I have a BS already so I'm thinking I may explore a Master's instead. We'll see. Whatever path that takes will have to come after paramedic school.

The trees are starting to change colors, even if the temps don't reflect that it's mid to late September. Today we're supposed to be in the 90s with a heat index of upward of 100. But the trees sense fall coming and are starting to show it. I'm not ready. I love fall but I hate wearing shoes and I don't like being cold. I'm already longing for spring. I'll get over my pity party in a bit.

That's about all I have. October is going to be crazy busy - between swim meets starting again, CERT class, school, ride-alongs, TR stuff, and family life, the month is nuts.

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

9.19.2016

Veterans Community Project



One of the things that Team Rubicon does in its down-time (yes, there is such a thing) is get involved with community service projects, particularly (though not limited to) projects that positively impact the veteran community. Doing so helps us maintain the skills necessary to be effective in a true disaster response operation as well as allowing us to engage our membership and keep them connected to our community.

This past weekend, I had the privilege of heading east to Kansas City with TR to help clear some land for the Veterans Community Project. The VCP is an organization whose mission it is to house homeless veterans in transitional housing in the KC metro area. They acquired a large piece of land that was overgrown and this weekend's task was to begin clearing the land in order to build 'tiny homes' on the site. In addition to the homes, the site will have counseling, mentoring, case management, and other social support to help homeless veterans transition back in to society. It's an amazing concept and the people behind the project are just as amazing.


Early in the AM, before the saw crews arrived.
Look at all of the overgrowth up along that northern property line.

This weekend's work involved not only Team Rubicon but also The Mission Continues, Team Red White and Blue, 2x4s For Hope, Wounded Warrior Project, two different VFW posts, and several other veteran support organizations. The goal was to fell trees (great work for our kick-ass sawyer teams!) and clear underbrush (got to learn how to use a Brush Hog) to get the land ready for the tiny homes to be built. Along with that work, the VCP took delivery - escorted by KCPD! - of a semi-truck load of 2x4s from 2x4s for Hope. They had all been signed (after people paid $3 donation to do so) by people across the midwest in support of our veterans.

2x4s For Hope

I have to brag on TR a bit. A lot of this project came together rather quickly and our leadership (not me - I just showed up to work) handled it beautifully. Everyone was so well taken care of and they were able to get SO much done. When I first arrived on site, there was only one other TR member there - our guy running the show. The people from the other organizations were a little skeptical of our capabilities, but once all of our people showed up and our teams got rolling, they were a force to be reckoned with! I lost count of how many trees and limbs they dropped but it was easily in excess of 25 over a 5 hour period. The goal they set for us was to get done with the north side of the property as well as work our way down the west side to where some conex containers were set up. We not only did that, we were able to get an egress path on the south side of the property cleared per city requirements. Our teams knocked their socks off. It was amazing to watch.


video


Over the course of the day, we had several media organizations show up - both print and news media. Here is a sampling of what it looked like:

KCMB
FOX4KC
Kansas City Star (story forthcoming)
and there are several videos on the VCP Facebook page


We also had several new people show up which is always wonderful. Included in that was the guy that called me last week, worried that he did not have enough time to give to TR. He was amazing and, because of a Facebook message he sent to KCMB, the VCP was able to garner additional press about this amazing project.

Here are some more pictures of it all:


Lunch break safety brief.

2x4s For Hope


Model home plus 2x4s For Hope


Brandon had WAY too much fun in this thing. But he also got a LOT done with it while doing so!

Look at how clear that northern property line is now!
Bryan, Kevin, Brandon, Chris - Veterans Community Project



This weekend was good for my soul on so many levels. To watch these different veteran service organizations come together to help out their brothers and sisters and have such a positive impact on the local veteran community (and possibly the national veteran community, given that several other states are watching this project closely) is inspiring and humbling. Every time I think I can't love TR and the veteran community more, they prove me wrong.

On a personal level, it was partly frustrating because I am not yet Sawyer certified so I feel like I did a lot of standing around, holding down dirt. I was clearing brush early on (and found out I am *not* allergic to poison ivy. Yay!) but wound up holding safety for our sawyer teams. There were a lot of people doing a lot of things and having someone inadvertently wander into the drop zone or cutting area while the saws are working is a very bad thing so I understand the need for adequate safety. It was just frustrating to stand there and watch everyone work their tails off and not really be *doing* anything.

I'll rectify that soon. Can't wait to work with these people (TR and everyone on the VCP project) again soon!

9.12.2016

Do what you can, when you can




I received a phone call from a TR member today regarding an upcoming event. They were interested in helping out but apologetic over the fact that they hadn’t had time to commit. Basically, they didn’t want to give TR the "short end of the stick". 

Here’s the thing…I have one of the lowest TR numbers of anyone I’ve met. My TR# is 0001244. But I don’t put that out there to brag. 

I put that out there with this perspective: I signed up with TR back in May of 2010, after William McNulty came and spoke at the MilBlogger’s Conference in DC. The milblogging community had been supporting TR from the moment Jake posted about going to Haiti on his blog. I believed in the mission, and hearing Will speak about TR sold me so I signed up immediately. 

And then it took me SIX years to get my shit together enough to do anything other than be a TR cheerleader (seriously, National…can we get some TR pom poms in the TR store? Please?). I didn’t do a single TR-related event for six years. With an active duty husband whose op-tempo was insane combined with living on a medium-sized turd in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I was essentially a single parent of two small children very far away from any kind of support system or extended family. There was no way I could swing anything other than cheerleading. 

But then, one day, I could. I managed to eek out time to get up to Omaha and participate in MOBEX Trigger. And it was great. I was hooked. Then we had an op in Eureka, about 2 hours from me, and I managed to eek out a day (0800 - 2000) for that. And they welcomed me with open arms. I was able to go back for a 24-hour period to the same op a few days later as well, and I’ve been able to hit 2 socials here locally. Other than our regional conference, that is all I’ve been able to do. 

And it’s enough because it’s all I’ve been able to do. That’s the beauty of Team Rubicon - they’ll take what they can get and be thrilled that you’re there to help. Nothing more. No expectations of anything beyond that. We are an organization of 35K+ who have full time jobs, full time families, full time lives, and yet a desire to continue to serve. It’s often a struggle to maintain the balance of family/work/school, let alone time to take off and muck out houses or haul debris or cut up trees or go to foreign countries and care for refugees and displaced persons. 

We get it. 

We’re right there with you. My regional leadership team faces the exact same struggles. We have people that work 60+ hour weeks. We have people that have little people at home, counting on them. We have full time students. We have people that physically aren’t in a position right now to take off to Louisiana and lend a hand, no matter how badly they want to. Very few people are in a position to truly serve in the capacity they wish to serve. 

We get it. 

No apologies necessary. Do what you can, when you can.




- hfs


P.S. On my TR bucket list: Meet Harry and give him a big hug. (see video at top of post)

9.09.2016

Fifteen years...

September 2016: I repost this each year, checking to make sure that the links still (mostly) work. I can't bring myself to change any of it; not a single word. I still feel the loss of this man and the losses of this day so profoundly that it's as though they are a part of my DNA. I keep waiting for the ache to dull and it has yet to do so.

I suspect it never will.


Never forget. 









My life has two parts to it. The part up through September 10, 2001 and the part from September 11, 2001 to the present. A defining moment. My life as an Army wife also has two parts. The first part was where the biggest drawback or downside of military life was a hardship tour to Korea. The second part is life as I know it right now.


The morning of September 11, 2001 I was 10 months pregnant and 5 days from my due date. I had 4 days left to go as a teacher before going on maternity leave and was only working half days so I didn't need to be in until 11am that day. MacGyver had a 7am work call and was in the shower when my alarm went off. I remember smacking the snooze button on the radio and through the haze of sleep, I heard the DJ say "a plane has hit the Pentagon.".


I woke up. Quickly.


I turned the radio back on and sat bolt upright in bed as I listened. It took me a minute to wrap my brain around what I was hearing. In that time, MacGyver finished his shower and turned off the water. I got up and out of bed as fast as my pregnant belly would let me and knocked on the door. He answered and I told him he needed to go downstairs and turn on the TV.


How many people uttered those words that day?


Everyone I talk to, every story I hear involves those words. "You need to go and turn on the TV."


We went downstairs and stood, gaping, at the television. We couldn't even cry. We were too shocked. I think the first tower fell while we were watching and that must have sparked MacGvyer to move. He bolted upstairs, threw on his BDUs, grabbed his overnight bag and some food, kissed me goodbye, and left. Still, there were no tears. I didn't know if I would see him again. In my mind, he would deploy. I don't know where I thought he was going or what I expected him to be doing but I did not expect him to come home. Mentally I was trying to steel myself to have this baby alone. And I was ok with that. Hell, after thinking about what the people in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania were going through, having a baby on my own was nothing compared to that.


Still, there were no tears.


I went to school. It was chaos and sadness all at the same time. We didn't get anything done that day (or for a few days after). We all sat and watched TV. And talked. And worried. And prayed. Yes, we prayed in a public school. Seemed like the thing to do at the time.


But still, no tears.


And then I came home. And I sat down and watched TV. And I saw this...





And, for some reason, that image stuck with me. Moreso than any other image I saw that day or any other day. I had read about Father Mychal Judge a while back. I knew who he was. I remember reading about how he tended to the families of the victims of TWA flight 800 when it crashed off Long Island and thinking what an incredible man he was.


When I realized who it was that they were carrying out of the rubble, my heart broke.


And I cried.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Father Mike was so many things to so many people. A Catholic priest. A recovering alcoholic. A gay man. A friend to the firefighting community and a pillar of the community. Larger than life.

His funeral was reported to have the makings of one hell of a good joke. A priest, a lawyer, and an Irishman walk into a bar . . . Who else could have brought together a room full of people from every spectrum of life?

But his LIFE was so much more than how he died. His work as a priest and as a friend touched thousands of lives. He firmly believed in the concept of Alcoholics Anonymous, calling it "America's greatest contribution to spirituality." The day he died marked his 23rd year of sobriety. He believed that the creators of AA did more for humanity than even Mother Teresa.

He ministered to AIDS patients back in the 80s when society was terrified of the disease and those afflicted. He treated AIDS patients with the dignity that each of us deserves from our fellow humans. He was a shining example to us in that.

He ministered to the families of the victims of TWA flight 800 in 1996 when it exploded and crashed off the coast of Long Island.




Father Mychal Judge would become a familiar presence among family members mourning lost passengers. He made the drive daily, for weeks, spending 12 hours a day consoling friends and families who had lost loved ones. He also celebrated Mass every other day, participated in counseling sessions for people of all denominations and organized ecumenical memorial prayer services for the victims' families and TWA personnel.

"When that call came through it was the Lord calling me somehow," he told a reporter during a visit to his third-floor room at the friary. "I went out there that night and I stayed there for all hours of the morning, talking to people from all over the country and all over the world."

Father Mychal helped to organize services on the beach for the Flight 800 families. A news photograph of him at one such service, wearing his brown robe and gazing out to sea, was distributed around the country.

"The water becomes sacred to them," he said of the families.

Those family members became part of his ever-expanding parish.

He remained involved in some of their lives until his death at the World Trade Center.


A Los Angeles Times reporter researching an article on support services for families of air crash victims interviewed Father Mychal in 2000, and he spoke of his efforts to be a healing presence for people whose lives had been torn apart.

"In seminary, you can get all the theology and Scripture in the world, and you land in your first parish, and you find out it's you-- the personality and the gifts that God gave you," said Mychal Judge.

"He was absolutely hands-on. Religion didn't make any difference for him-- he was the same toward everyone, regardless of their beliefs," said Hans Ephraimson-Abt, a New Jersey businessman and longtime advocate for families of air crash victims.

"The TWA families considered him a saint."

- from The Life of Father Mychal Judge



I sure would have loved to have had the privilege of meeting him in person. Guess I'm going to have to wait a bit.


At the memorial, McCourt told the mourners about his own fantasy. Judge, he says, dies and is momentarily disoriented, because after leading such a simple life, he suddenly finds himself in a place with large marble hallways. A figure approaches.

"Can I help you?"

"Well, I don't know where I am."

"What's your name?"

"Judge. First name Mychal."

"Really? Some people call me Judge, too."

"Oh? And what's your first name?"

"Almighty. What kind of work would you like here, Mychal?"

"I'd like to be someplace where there are fires."

"We don't have any fires here. The only one we know about is very far away, and that burns eternally, because all the firefighters are here, and we don't tell them about it, because otherwise they'd be down there fighting it."

"Well, could I go there and give some people a hand?"

"No, Mychal. Because if you go there, you have to be a sinner, you see? And you're a saint."

"Could I have a temporary pass to go there, then? Could I be an honorary sinner?"

"Yes. But please don't bring back any conservatives."

At that point, the crowd, already laughing, started to howl. McCourt paused to let everyone collect himself. "And away he goes," he finally said. "That's my fantasy about Mychal. He keeps working. He never stops. He's trying to get all of us out of hell."


- from The Fireman's Friar




Father Mychal Judge was so much more than the priest whose death certificate bears the number 00001 - the first official casualty of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He was a man - flawed yet repentant - who did his best to serve God and his fellow man.


Learning more about him in the days and weeks that followed September 11 gave me hope in a time where hope was hard to find. Those of us who had babies right around that time I am sure had doubts as to what kind of world we were bringing our babies into. But knowing that a man such as Father Mike sits up in Heaven reassures me that there is hope and that we will be ok.


I will NEVER FORGET Father Mike. Never.




For a list of participants in the 2,996 project and their honorees, GO HERE.


Read. Remember.
Honor.





Pau.




- hfs

9.08.2016

Drinking from a fire hose

The title pretty much sums up the past month(s) of my life. However, that is not a complaint in any way.


Life.
Is.
Good.






I spend most of my days simply trying to contain my energy. I was trying to explain the physical feeling and the best I could do was relate it to licking a 9v battery - that buzz you get on your tongue. There are times in my day where I feel that EVERYWHERE in my body and it takes all of my self-control to keep from bouncing off the wall.

It's such a welcome change from where I was even 6 months ago. I look back, even just in my writing, and I see the change. I don't know what caused it, but I don't care to figure that out either. I'm just grateful for it. And I'm grateful beyond words for the people He has put in my life (or left in my life, as the case may be) that have not only encouraged me on this path but continue to kick my ass down it. Having that kind of support is something I will try never to take for granted.

My friend, DC, wrote a book titled, "Choose Your Super Power" and she asked me to read it prior to its release. The timing couldn't have been better. Her insight into the choices we face and the effects those choices have on our lives was profoundly moving and reassuring to me. If I ever doubted the path I'm currently on, I no longer do. I would encourage you to go grab this book and give it a read (no, I'm not earning anything for plugging her book. She's just awesome and so is the book.)

EMT class is going well. My instructor shushed me last night in class because I was answering all of the questions and not giving anyone else a chance. Whoops. I aced the first test and now we're finally getting past all of the dry/boring material and into more of the hands-on stuff. Trauma assessments come naturally to me (yay for lifeguarding!) and the familiarity is comforting. I'm looking forward to my ride-alongs, but my hope is that they are a little less exciting than the one I did the first time I took the class.

And then it seems I'll be working on my application to paramedic school.

On the Team Rubicon front, things have changed a bit there. National is working to get leadership within each state set up so that the states have more local control over events, operations, etc. Our state does not currently have a Training Coordinator, a Planning Coordinator, and a few other key personnel. Nor did we have a State Administrator (who gets to fill all of those roles personally until they can identify someone to take the lead in that position). So I offered to step into the State Admin role and they were crazy enough to let me! What I lack in experience, I make up in both enthusiasm and support (my Regional leadership team is freaking AMAZING). So I'm trying to be a sponge at the moment and learn as much as I can as quickly as I can. My two basic premises are:

1. There are no stupid questions
2. What are they going to do? Fire me? (probably not the best approach, but hey...what are they going to do? Fire me?)

Kansas is a bit of a blank slate so that helps. We've not had any kind of state leadership before so we can kind of make this up as we go. The blessing in all of this is that I have amazing people to work with...beside me here in this state, at the Regional level, and at the National level. I was in the middle of dispatching some people (my first real op to work behind the scenes on spooling up!) and fired off a question via email to National at 0115 in the morning.

I had an answer in 15 minutes.

Apparently, National doesn't sleep any more than I do. That kind of support is the norm.

While I didn't get the chance to go down to Mulvane, KS and help with the muck out down there, I did get to be a part of an operation from start to finish. It was fascinating to do so. I learned more in those 2 weeks than I could have learned in a month of reading about it all.

And next month, I get to go to the National Conference! I'm fan-girling so badly right now! I remember my first MilBlogging Conference and just wandering around, mouth hanging open, gaping at all of these people I had admired for so long. And they were all there, in one room. And I was there WITH them! It was surreal. That's how I feel about going to NatCon. And that's topped by the chance to spend quality time with my personal TR friends. I've been missing them something fierce since our Regional Conference in Branson so this will be food for my soul.

For now, it's time to study. Airway management, vital sign assessment, and trauma assessment review. Whee!




- hfs

8.07.2016

Give Me Faith

"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day." ~ Abraham Lincoln

When things in my life fell apart several years ago, I remember desperately clinging to Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." 

That verse slammed into my brain just as things started to unravel and it stayed there from that point on. Any time I started to panic (and oh, there were many of those moments), it would flash across my brain like a neon sign in Times Square. Any time I felt like I was drowning under the weight of uncertainty, of doubt, of sadness, of frustration, of fear...it was there. 


And even though I know, on an intellectual level, that God is working things for my good, I am constantly amazed - particularly lately, but also in retrospect - how God gives me exactly what I need, exactly when I need it.


Always. 


I don't know why I ever doubt Him on this, but I do. Obviously I do because, if I didn't, I wouldn't be amazed each time He comes through for me. And yet He does. Every. Single. Time. These past few weeks and months have been one giant, constant reminder that He always does. And I'm reveling in how grateful I am. I am doing my best to commit this feeling to memory so that, if I ever doubt again (and I'm sure I will - I'm human), I can recall this feeling right now and reconnect with that faith.


My pastor just wrapped up a 3-week series on the storms in our lives - how we know they're going to come, how to survive them, and finally how to heal from them. He used 2Cor4:6-10 as the key scripture:


For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts
 to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.


He talked about how the storms in life move on, but often leave us devastated and in the dark; how restarting our hearts is essential; that on our healing journey getting up and and heading toward wholeness is the goal; that we all need to step out of darkness and into the light of God's grace.

He also pointed out that healing = wholeness but none of that equals a cure, per se. God doesn't always cure us, but He definitely makes us whole. Being cured usually means that things have basically been restored to their former state of 'normal'. You and I both know that, when bad (or good) things happen, you never go back to the way it used to be. It's not possible. And, really, it's not desirable. You've changed. You've learned (hopefully).

There is no going back.

I have no desire to go back. Oh, sure, there are parts of my life that I miss - people that I miss. There was an innocence that I miss. But now that I am on the other side of it and I'm working toward whatever it is that God is going to have me do next, things are so much richer. I've shed so much of the chaff of my life. So much has been winnowed away and I'm finding that I'm left with the things that truly matter to me: my family, my close circle of friends, my faith, and this burning desire to live out God's top two commandments:

1. Love the Lord, your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind
2. Love your neighbor as yourself

There is a richness to my life now that was never there before. Not that my life was bland - not by any stretch. But my perspective is different.

I am different. My life is different. And I am grateful for that.






- hfs


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