Sunday, September 7, 2014

Remembering 9/11

*disclaimer - all opinions in this post are my own, and should not be credited to, or blamed on, anyone else*

I have been part of the firefighting/first responder community for five years now, and before that, I was just like everyone else that will likely read this, your average American citizen, going about my daily life.

I remember where I was on September 11, 2001.  I remember what I was doing when I first heard the news.  I remember watching the television and being unable to take my eyes off the smoke coming from the World Trade Tower in New York.  I remember watching the second plane hit.  I remember y my knees buckling when the towers came down.  I remember watching the chaos of the smoke and ash and dust.  I remember hearing what I know now are PASS alarms, and even though I didn't know what they were knowing that it meant something was terribly wrong.  I remember seeing the panicked faces as people ran for their lives.  I remember the determination on the faces of the men and women who were running in to save lives.  I remember hearing that all air traffic was ordered to the ground.  I remember hearing the the Pentagon had been hit.  I remember hearing that a plane had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

The point is.......I remember.  For those of us that lived that day, I don't think that we'll ever truly forget.  But, we've become complacent.  And I think that somehow, somewhere along the way, we've forgotten to remember some of the things that are really important.

I went to my first memorial stair climb this weekend.  I had the honor of watching 343 firefighters, 70 law enforcement officers and 9 emergency medical technicians be memorialized as their sacrificed was memorialized by members of their profession geared up and climbed 110 floors to recognize their sacrifice on the fateful day.  It was done to remember those that that went in while others ran out.  It was done with honor, with courage, with determination.  It was done as a symbol of brotherhood.  It was done as a sign that we will never forget what they gave that day.  It was done because it should be done, because it will always be done, and because it is right.

It was like having steel wool rubbed over a raw wound.  And I will go and honor that sacrifice every year, and re-open that would because they deserve that.

But we're missing something.  We're missing half of the whole.  We're forgetting to honor the reason they made that sacrifice, and it somehow cheapens the sacrifice they made, and I didn't understand that until today, when the keynote speaker's comments really had a chance to sink it with me.

Yesterday I heard some numbers that I'm sure I had heard before, but had never really sunk into my brain, and it made me start doing some thinking.

On any given day, fifty thousand people worked in the World Trade Center in New York.  Think about that, fifty thousand people.  I live in a town of 10,000.  That's 5 of my entire town.  5.   And they evacuated in an hour.  3,000 lives were lost.  And that is tragic.  It is unimaginable.  But 47,000 - forty seven thousand, were saved.  Everyone was a first responder that day.  Whether they grabbed the person in the cube next to them, whether they wore bunker gear, a bullet proof vest and a gun, whether they wore a stethoscope, or just yanked someone off the street to get them away from the flying glass, they were a first responder.  It may have been for a few hours, for a few minutes, for a few second, but for that day, for those moments, they found the courage to do what our heroes do every day.  For that moment in time, they were a part of our brotherhood.

In the Pentagon, military and civilian personnel got people out.  They went above and beyond to save lives.

At Ground Zero, George W. Bush said on September 14, 2001 "I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people - the people who knocked down these buildings will hear all of us soon!"

While I hate to disagree with President Bush - the people who knocked down those buildings had already heard from the American people.  They heard from the American people when Flight 93 that had been taken over by hijackers was taken back by its passengers who bravely took it back and chose to take it down in a field where no one else could be harmed.  They joined the elite of our military that day.  They chose the manner of their death, and turned the hijackers' weapon against them and saved an untold number of lives.

On September 11, 2001, our politicians stood hand in hand and sang the National Anthem, regardless of political affiliation, for love of country.  People lined up to give blood, for love of country.  People flew their flags for love of country.  Young men and women enlisted for love of country.  A national tragedy brought out the best in us, and somewhere along the way, we've all forgotten that it mattered.  Over the past 13 years, we've devolved back to political shenanigans that have stalled our country, people have gotten so mired down in believing that their way is best that we've forgotten the basic lessons that we teach our children - that you have to learn to compromise in order to find the best way to accomplish anything.

And perhaps, most importantly, we've forgotten the most important thing about September 11, 2001.  As tragic as it was, it could have been so much worse.

Eventually, people need to stop grieving.  Unfortunately, in the first responder community especially, we remember to grieve, but we forget to celebrate.  We need to grieve, yes.  We need to remember to take the time to grieve and remember the loss every year.  Not just of the first responders lost, but of the civilians that couldn't be saved, because, after all, that's what the job is about.

But then, when the moment is over, we need to lift up our heads, throw back our shoulders, lift our fists to the sky, and celebrate all the families that are still whole today because of those men and women that gave it all.  47,000 went home that day. That's 47,000 birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings, Father's Days, Mother's Days, weddings, and graduations that still happen because of those that gave it all.  I'd call that a reason to celebrate.  I'd that call a victory.  I'd call that a damned good day.

I'd call that the other half of the story.

Friday, June 27, 2014

It's time to change our national conversation

It's time to make some changes to our national conversation about obesity.  We need to stop talking solely about people being overweight as if that is the only cause of poor health.  We need to stop reducing the problem to a number on a doctor's chart on the wall, or the number on a scale.  The problem is much much larger than that (no pun intended).

We need to begin to change our focus, and look at overall health, rather than focusing simply on weight.  Yes, being overweight can lead to many health problems.  So can being underweight.  Malnutrition can occur at any point on the weight spectrum, and can lead to many of the overall health concerns that people experience when they are overweight.

A child that eats only chicken nuggets, will suffer from malnutrition, for the lack of appropriate calcium, and vitamins that come from dairy products and healthy vegetables.  That child is also likely to be overweight.

A child that eats only lettuce will suffer from some of the same problems, but will also suffer from the lack of protein to build healthy muscle tissue and normal growth.  They will likely not be overweight though, so it's not a problem, right?

And what about the adult that eats all the right things in all the right portions, but doesn't exercise, so is develops brittle bones, or simply has fat instead of lean muscle mass?  But hey, they aren't overweight, so they aren't obese, which means we don't need to worry about them.

Yes, someone who is obese has additional concerns - stress fractures, difficulty breathing, added risk of cardiac issues - but if you really do some research, these aren't limited to the obese, they can be complications of anyone who lives an unhealthy lifestyle and suffers from poor or mal-nutrition.

Ultimately, we need to move away from the scale, and stop reducing the problem to a number.  We need to stop telling our young people that their value and their worth comes from the size of their jeans, and teach them that their overall health is what is important.  We need to teach them that the better they take care of themselves now, the longer they will have to make their mark on the world, to make their legacy, and to show the world just how special they are.  And none of that has anything to do with what they see on the scale.

Just my little thought for the day.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The loss of a brother - aren't you scared?

"Your husband's a firefighter?  Oh my gosh, doesn't that scare you?  Don't you worry?"

Such short questions, with such long answers.  The simple answer is yes, I worry.  But no, not really.  Confusing, right?

I remember when Jason and I first started talking to each other.  I worried myself silly.  We didn't really "date" since we met online, but we talked for hours every night, and I asked tons of questions about his job, and he told me tons of stories.  And, of course, I worried.  And I remember what he told me then - "Babe, don't worry, this is why we train."

So, yes, I worry.  But, when I worry, I do the same thing he does, I rely on his training.  These men and women don't take their jobs lightly.  I mean, sure, you see the ones out there that don't stay physically fit, that don't train, and yes, they worry me.  Not just for the people that they may not be able to help, but for themselves, because one day, their bodies just might not be up to the task, and it might end up being a very bad day.  And in their line of work, a bad day can mean that someone doesn't make it home - ever.

But, for the most part, these folks train their hearts out.  They practice every scenario, they test their equipment to make sure it's ready, they test their bodies to make sure they are ready, they test each other to make sure they work together with mechanical precision.  They train.  And that training saves lives.  Not just yours and mine, but their own.  So no, I don't worry.  I mean, I worry, of course I do, but I don't sit and fret every time he goes out on a call, I live my life, and I rely on his training to bring him home.

So what truly worries me?  Those situations that they can't train for.  The jokers that see the flashing red lights and the big red trucks, but think that whatever they are hurrying to is too important for them to slow down and move over.  The folks that live in 100 year old tinderbox houses and won't spend 40 dollars on a working smoke detector.  The people with 5 kids and no escape plan.  The person that hoards so many "things" in their house that there's no safe way in or out.  The guy with that one piece of memorabilia so important that he'll run back into a burning building to get it, regardless of how dangerous it is.  The militant crazy person with explosives or weaponry in his house that isn't kept in a fireproof safe.  These are the things that frighten me.

On Monday evening in Dallas, firefighter Scott Tanksley was doing what he was trained to do.  When a car lost control on an icy patch of road, he called out to the driver to make sure that the driver was uninjured, and was on his way to secure the scene.  He encouraged the driver to stay in the vehicle for his own safety, and in so doing he saved the driver's life....and lost his own.  Another driver lost control, struck the first vehicle, and then struck firefighter Tanksley, knocking him off the bridge they were on, and he fell 5 and a half stories to his death.  That's what you'll read in the news stories.

Firefighter Tanksley was a husband and the father of three young children, and by all accounts a good and honorable man.  He was also a firefighter, which makes him my husband's brother, and mine.

Here's what you won't read in the news.  On Monday night, wives all over the country grieved with Mrs. Tanksley.  Today, we all grieve with her.  We all held our husbands a little closer, clung to our phones a little tighter if our spouse's were on duty, re-read the last text messages we got from them, and cried into our pillows that night.  Our hearts are broken.  One of our own was lost that night.  This is our family.  And while the news stories and Facebook posts will slow down after a few days, we won't forget.  Those three children, and Mrs. Tanksley will not go through this alone, not ever.  They will always have this family by their sides. Someone will always make sure they have what they need.  It will be done quietly, and without much fanfare, but that's how family works.  We don't need a lot of recognition, we just need to be there.  It's what we do.

And what do we do to fight the fear?  Well, I'm not sure what other women do.  I know what I do.  I tell my husband I love him.  A lot.  A really lot.  And I mean it.  Every. Single. Time.  Even when I'm picking his socks up off the floor, or doing dishes for the third time because it drives me bonkers to have them in the sink, or tripping over his station boots.  And especially when he's doing some laundry because he knows I'm tired, or doing dishes because he knows it drives me bonkers to have them in the sink.  :)

I try to make our home a haven, a safe place.  When he comes home, I want this to be a place of warmth and love, not a place of strife and conflict.  He gets enough of that at work.  When he's had a bad shift, or a bad call, I listen, or I let him work through it.

I go up to the local station house where he volunteers and I hug the guys so they know I love them, even when I want to pinch some of them because they're stubborn or cocky.  Because I love them - even when they're stubborn or cocky.

I get involved.  I ask questions.  I learn as much as I can about what he does so that what he tells me makes sense, and so that when he needs to talk, he can talk, and not have to stop to explain.

I talk to other women like me, other fire wives.  Women who understand what it's like to have your husband do what he does.

I live my life.  I work, I play, I keep myself busy.

And I pray.  I remember that the Bible isn't just a bunch of pieces of paper with cool leather binding and pretty gold paint on the edges.  It's a promise.  It's a promise from God that at the end of all this, even when the things of this world don't or haven't made sense, it's going to be ok.  It's going to be better than ok.  And when I doubt, or when I need reassurance, I hold that promise close to my chest, hit my knees, lift my eyes and my heart to heaven and I call out to the one that can give me peace.  And He never ever lets me down.

Tonight my prayers are for the Tanksley family, that He will give them that peace, and for the members of the Dallas Fire Department that I know are hurting so badly right now.  Your family stands with you.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The difference between being alone and being lonely

I've been thinking about this a lot lately.  Sometimes people will ask me if I get lonely because my husband is gone so much.  When people ask that, I start to reflect on the difference between "alone" and "lonely".

Because my husband is gone for at least 24 hours out of every 72, I spend a lot of time alone.  At least a third of the time, I go to bed without my husband and have the house all to myself.  I guess it could be a challenge for some folks.  I mean, when you get married, you're supposed to have a counterpart, right?

But really, it's not as unusual as you would think.  I mean, think about it, military spouses go to bed alone for months at a time when their loved one is deployed.  Husbands and wives that work different shifts may not sleep side by side for months or years at a time, a spouse traveling for business won't be by your side.  I think people only really wonder because our times apart are "scheduled", meaning we know for at least a year in advance the nights we won't be together (not counting, of course, overtime and trade shifts.)  I think it's also that whole overtime thing (now that I mention it).  When my husband picks up overtime, it doesn't mean he's gone for an extra 2, or 3, or even 8 hours...he's gone an extra day and night.

As I've gotten older, I've realized that "alone" and "lonely" are two very different things.  Alone is a state of being, a physical situation.  Lonely is a state of mind, a choice, almost an emotion.

I spend a lot of time alone, so I've learned how to fill that time up with things that interest me, keep me busy, or just allow me to have more time with my husband when he's home.  On his shift days, I clean house, do laundry, spend time with friends, go get my hair and nails done...just whatever it takes to stay busy and feel accomplished and satisfied with my use of the time and space.  And because I have that "me" time, I never feel like I'm missing out on time for myself.  It also helps me to make sure that in the time my husband is home, we get to spend time together, and not focusing on menial tasks, or feeling like we're just passing in the hallway as we do other things.

For me, "lonely" is more about lack of attention or lack of feeling loved.  I can be "lonely" in a crowded room.  Just because there is someone there, doesn't mean you feel like you have a companion or counterpart.

Do I get lonely, by that definition.....sometimes.  When my husband has picked up a lot of trade time or overtime, and I don't get to see him, I get lonely.  I need that recharge time for our relationship.  I need his attention and his time.  I need him to show me that I come first.

Thankfully, he's good at that.  Not all men are, regardless of their career.

I hear a lot of fire wives complaining about the amount of time they spend alone, and it baffles me.  Most of them married someone that either already was, or was in the process of becoming, a firefighter.  It's kind of what you signed up for.  It's hard sometimes not to say, "Suck it up sister, this is what it is."  But I think I really do understand.  It goes back to the difference between being alone, and being lonely.  These women aren't complaining that they have time alone, they are feeling lonely.  It's important that they learn to communicate the difference, and that their husbands learn to spend the time and attention it takes to make sure that even though they are gone a lot, their wives don't feel lonely.

I wonder if there's a class for that?  Maybe one of these fire training companies should come up with something like that....I bet the guys would sign up for it.  After all, it isn't just about putting out the fire, it's about having something to come home to when the smoke settles.  Maybe a course for wives would be a good idea, too.  I mean, somewhere, someone has to have figured out how to communicate with our firefighters, right?  Maybe we should just go old school, and use smoke signals.

So, when someone asks me if I get lonely, the answer is...sometimes.  Good thing my husband knows how to help me buffer against those times by making sure that I never feel like he's too far away, I'm always wrapped in his love.

Until later.................

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Racism, stereotypes and other nonsense

A freeway in Houston is blocked because of protests over the verdict calling George Zimmerman "not guilty".  Note that the verdict is "not guilty", it is not "innocent".  Those are two very different things.  It simply means that the prosecution didn't prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Not that they didn't prove that he might have made a horrible and tragic mistake....because we all know that he did, just that they didn't prove that beyond a reasonable doubt that Trayon Martin didn't have a role to play in that mistake.

Let's, just for the sake of argument, take the color out of it.  Let's even take the gender out of it.

You're working a neighborhood watch.  It's dark.  It's late.  There's someone walking through the neighborhood, with their head covered, and looking "gangsta".  (Remember, the sweet angelic pictures we all saw were not recent....look at the recent ones, with the jeans hanging down almost to his knees, boxers showing, and middle fingers pointed at the camera)

Ok, so, here's this guy, you can't see his face, you can only see how he looks.  What's your first reaction?  Is it, "oh look, he went and got skittles and tea!"?  I'm thinking not.  If you're like most of us, your first reaction is to make sure the car doors are locked, and to get a little more alert about your surroundings.

Does that mean he's a bad kid?  Hell no, it absolutely does not!  In fact, statistically, he's probably a good kid.  There are far more of those than there are of the bad ones.  Otherwise, we'd have no kids on the streets at all.

However, let's be honest.....looks DO mean something.  How you choose to present yourself to the world DOES matter.  Remember your mom telling you that first impressions are the ones that last?  It's true....sad, but true.  And quite frankly, if the first impression is that you are someone that looks threatening....most people aren't going to engage you in conversation to find out that you're a boy scout.  Seriously, they aren't.  Is it fair?  Probably not.  Is it prudent?  Probably so.  I'd rather lock the door and drive away than end up dead in a ditch.  Sorry, but that's the way it is.

Now, back to our little case study.  You see the guy (no way you can tell how old he is, he could be 15 or 40) with his head and face covered, in a dark street, and your job is to report suspicious call 911.  This is where our story should end.  It is.  The police would come, they would talk to this boy (that is what they are paid for, after all) and find out that he was just out for a snack.  Or, they would talk to him, find out he was up to no good, and deal with the issue....crime averted.  Tragedy averted.

So, where did this go so wrong?  Our "not guilty" guy decided to engage.  He decided on a little vigilante justice.  And the young man fought back.  And then he died.

Is it tragic?  Yes, it's tragic.  It's even more so because it was totally avoidable.  There are so many places where this situation went terribly wrong.  And while ultimately the responsibility lies with the man that pulled the trigger and stole a young life, I believe we're missing some bigger and potentially more important lessons here.

"Gangsta" is not attractive, gentlemen.  It's frightening.  It perpetuates a stereotype that I have heard so many young African American men get angry over.  You want the stereotype to go away?  Then stop feeding into it.  Dress like a respectable young man, act like a respectful young man. I would expect no less of your Caucasian and Mexican-American counterparts, why would you want me to lower my expectations for you?  Isn't that part of what you're fighting against?  It shouldn't matter what the color of your skin is, if you want equal treatment, then earn it.

I understand discrimination.  Believe me, I do.  I have a vagina in a very male dominated workplace.  Guess what.....I don't try to get ahead by displaying it.  I don't get ahead by dressing and acting like a slut.  I get ahead by rising above that, by meeting them at the conference table and just plain being BETTER at their own game.  Like it or not, that's the real world.

We chide young women that dress like hussies for perpetuating a "trailer trash" stereotype.  We discriminate against young couples that love each other but are the same sex.  And yet, the loudest group that we hear from, are the young African American males, who want equality, but don't want to behave equally.

If there is going to be equality, then the simple fact is, we ALL need to look past the stereotypes at the person behind them.

But, I'll tell you this, I don't care what color you are......approach me on a dark street with your pants hanging down to your knees, and your face covered by a hoodie....I WILL consider you a threat and take appropriate action to protect myself.

And for those on neighborhood watch, if you aren't a police officer, trained and certified, stay in the damned car.  Let the professionals handle it.  Don't provoke a situation just so you can "stand your ground".....because if you provoked it, you have no ground to stand on.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Drama queens and "love" - rant ahead

I just don't understand people.  I really don't.

Facebook and blogs are public places....just in case someone thought they were secrets.  And when you air your private business in a public place, people are going to comment on it.  It's just human nature.  We want to give feedback, we want to express our opinions, offer solutions, tell you that you're making a mistake, offer sympathy or encouragement...whatever.  But if you post it in a public place, you need to expect any/all of those types of responses.  Everyone has a different view or personality, and just because you don't get a "poor baby" (on the INTERNET, for crying out loud), you can't get your hackles up and get all pissed off.  If you want someone to feel sorry for you, talk privately to someone you know will feel sorry for you.  BUT (and this is a big one), if you want honesty, at least from the perspective of the people reading your commentary, then post it in a public place.  But be fair warned, you may not get all roses and rainbows blown up your behind, you might get a reality check instead.

And another thing.  What the heck is this "love" thing people keep throwing around?  You see, in my world, love doesn't come easy, and when it's given, it doesn't easily go away.  You don't just flip a switch and stop loving someone.....nor do you just flip a switch and move on to someone else.  Not even in just a physical relationship.  I just don't get it.

I LOVE my husband.  I can't imagine my life without him.  And if he ever left hell would I be out with someone else the next week, or even the next month.  Because, you see, I love him.

Ok...rant over.  Seriously, over.

Now for the good news!  Tonight, I'm headed to see my mom and pop.  I can't wait!  I haven't gotten to see them since forever and ever and it will be so good to get to hang out with them!

AND I get to go hang out with another fire wife on Thursday for a while.  It will be so cool!!

AND I get to see a friend that I haven't seen in almost 2 years, which means she hasn't seen me since my weight loss.  Gonna be a BLAST!!

Have a happy Independence Day!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Granite Mountain

I cannot even get my head wrapped around the tragedy in Arizona. 19 firefighters lost in a single moment. 19 brave souls taken away too soon. I can't imagine the grief of their families, of their community. For those that follow things like this, that makes 61 line of duty deaths so far this year. 61 firefighters that sacrificed it all to help someone like you. That makes me feel incredibly humble. To know that there are men and women out there that would make that sacrifice, to live with one, makes me grateful. Take the time today to go to your local fire department. Or to one of the state or federal ones on a local park. Thank these men and women for being willing to perish in what would be described by most as their worst nightmare. Thank them for being willing to do that for YOU. And when you grumble about how a firefighter makes too your research. Just like teachers, these men and women are woefully underpaid. Stop and much would it take to get YOU to run into that burning building? How much would it be worth for YOU to face a towering inferno? How much would it take for YOU to be the last line of defense between a forest and a neighborhood? God bless the Granite Mountain HotShot crew that gave all yesterday. God bless all 61 of our American firefighters that have made the ultimate sacrifice this year. And God bless those that get on the trucks today, and every day, willing to make that call if it will save one of us.