Trying to Ignore the Inauguration 

The election results depressed me beyond words. To everyone who failed to vote because you didn’t like the candidates or thought your vote wouldn’t matter, or who voted for a third-party candidate as a protest, or voted for T because you were afraid that a Democrat would take away your guns (insert other single-issue reason here), this is what you have created: A single-party controlled government with a press that’s afraid to challenge the new administration because their access will be cut off and the fewest checks and balances ever in our country’s history. We The People are not likable at the moment. The inmates are running the asylum. 

If burying my head in the sand would make the next four years vanish, I would do it. Care to join me in a medically induced coma for the next four years? 

I know. Not a real choice. 

What I will really do for the next four years is stand up for women, stand up for immigrants, stand up for religious freedom and stand up for a free press. 

I commit to living for kindness and generosity. 

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I need a new obsession …

I have a tendency to exchange obsessions. For the longest time, I was obsessed with crocheting to keep my hands busy while watching TV. Everyone in my family has a scarf or an afghan I made for them. My cat’s favorite place to be is the foot of the bed on the blue afghan I made for myself. John has a long red scarf that got wayyyyy too long, almost Tom Baker-era Dr. Who long. But that obsession ended. There’s a rose-colored afghan half-finished in a basket that hasn’t been touched in years. Sorry, Mom! It really was meant for you.

For several years, my obsession has centered on the mini-computer known as my iPhone. From Angry Birds to Words with Friends to Solitaire, these are the time-sucks in my life. I need to stop. But apparently, I can only stop if I substitute another obsession.

Ideas anyone?

The Shepherd’s Crown

  
Normally, I devour books. I pick up a book and don’t put it down until I’ve turned the last page. I find myself savoring this one. I’m reading one short chapter at a time. I don’t want this to be the last new Terry Pratchett novel I ever read, but it will be. I was lucky enough to hear him speak at ComicCon a few years ago, but I never really met him or talked with him personally. I only know him as a fan. But I know his books, his characters, the worlds he created. I have lived in those worlds. I think I would have liked the man. I know I like the author. I will miss the next story he would have written. So I’m savoring this one, his last, my last. But others will discover his worlds, and a little bit of Terry Pratchett will live on in each of us who has devoured and savored the taste of his words.

In Memoriam … Because we need to remember these heroes and the courage it takes to boldly walk into an inferno that others are fleeing to save strangers

From the Courage Under Fire supplement to JEMS, the obituaries I wrote for the EMS personnel who died on 9/11. I was deputy editor of JEMS at the time. 

Honoring EMS personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice, not for family or friends, but for strangers

Three hundred and forty-three FDNY firefighters and officers died in the line of duty on Sept. 11 while responding to the World Trade Center attacks. You’ll find their names, ranks and photos [in the supplement].

Many paramedics and EMTs who worked as firefighters or police officers, who had full-time jobs in the towers or who voluntarily went to the scene also died that day. However, only eight providers were part of the official EMS response.

Twenty-four-year-old Keith Fairben, EMT-P, New York Presbyterian Hospital (NYPH) EMS, was in one of the first units assigned to the World Trade Center after the North Tower was hit. After caring for patients at Church and Fulton streets, he and his partner, Mario Santoro, proceeded into the South Tower. “Keith was fully aware of the dangers that existed and willing to put his life on the line to help others,” says Jack Delaney, director of EMS, NYPH. “He rose to the occasion.”
Although he was a fun-loving prankster, according to Delaney, Fairben could switch gears easily and seriously focus on his as­signments. He had worked for NYPH since Sept. 14, 1998.

FDNY paramedic Carlos Lillo, 37, worked out of Battalion 49, Astoria, Queens. A New York native, Lillo received his paramedic training at Booth Memorial Hospital (now New York Hospital of Queens). He worked for FDNY EMS (and NYC EMS prior to the merger) for 16 years. On Sept. 11, Lillo was treating patients on Church Street, facing the North Tower. Manuel Delgado, EMT-P, FDNY office of medical affairs, remembers seeing Lillo crying as he treated patients on the street. “My wife is in there,” Lillo told him. His wife, Cecilia, worked for the Port Authority on the 64th floor. He never knew she made it safely out of the North Tower.

Twenty-four-year-old Yamel Merino, EMT, worked for MetroCare Ambulance for more than three years. Dispatched from the Bronx as part of the 9-1-1 response, she was on West Street when the South Tower collapsed.

“Yamel never refused an assignment or re­quest. … It happened because Yamel was where she wanted to be, in the middle of the biggest attack in our country’s history, helping strangers,” says James O’Connor, MetroCare vice president.

Merino, the single mother of an eight-year-old son, was honored by the New York State Ambulance Association as its EMT of the Year in 1999 and MetroCare’s EMT of the Year in 2000.

“Yamel was always the first one up and always ready to go,” says Al Kim, MetroCare director of operations. “That was Yamel.”

Richard Pearlman, 18, volunteer, Forest Hills Vol­unteer Ambulance Corp., joined the corps as a dispatcher when he was just 14 years old. At 18, he joined the Senior Corps. According to Bryce Friedman, vice president, Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Pearlman was a good kid, and the volunteer ambulance corps helped give him direction and focus. He was studying for his EMT certificate.

On Sept. 11, Pearlman was delivering documents to 1 Police Plaza, as part of his day job working for an attorney, when the first plane hit Tower 1. He traveled to the World Trade Center in a police car and called his parents on the way. Photos taken on scene show him helping with patient care near the South Tower before it collapsed.

“If we could have a lot more like him, we’d have a lot stronger volunteer corps,” says Friedman.

Forty-year-old Ricardo Quinn was a paramedic with Battalion 57, FDNY EMS, in Bedford-Stuyevesant, Brooklyn. He worked for FDNY EMS (and NYC EMS prior to the merger) for nine years. The Army Airborne Division at Fort Bragg awarded Quinn a Certificate of Ap­preciation for his assistance in training their paramedic students. “He loved what he did,” says Quinn’s wife, Virginia. “He was proud to wear the uniform.”

Ricardo, who was well-known for his sand sculptures, met Virginia at Jones Beach when their two sons started playing together. “It was love at first sight,” says Virginia. “He was warm and generous and a great father.” They were married for 12 years and have a nine-year-old son together.

Quinn loved working with children. This past summer he had shoulder surgery. When he went back to work, he was on light duty and spent time teaching kids about public and fire safety.

Sept. 11, on his way into the South Tower via the Marriott Hotel lobby, Quinn witnessed his friend, Scott Beloten, EMT-P, Maimonides Hospital Ambulance Department, have four of his fingers cut by falling metal. Only after Quinn ensured his friendwas being adequately cared for did he go on ahead to continue caring for others.

Mario Santoro, 28, EMT-P, New York Presbyterian EMS, was working overtime Sept. 11, covering for Fairben’s regular partner.

“Mario was extraordinarily proud of what he did, extraordinarily proud of what the department did. He shared that with anybody and everybody who would listen.” says Delaney. “He’s made the department very proud of him.”

According to Delaney, Santoro was very involved in his community, coaching basketball and football. He also spent as much time as possible with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

Mark Schwartz, 50, EMT, was EMT supervisor and assistant vice president for Hunter Ambulance and a member of the Metro New York Disaster Medical Assistance Team. His wife, Patricia, describes him as “a big teddy bear. He was everybody’s friend.” Sept. 19 would have been their 25th wedding anniversary.

Schwartz had been an EMT for 19 years, the last 14 with Hunter Ambulance. “It’s still not real. When I’m at work, he’s at work. When I’m at home, he’s still at work—because work was his life,” says Patricia.

But Schwartz was also proud of their two children. His 20-year-old son is following in his father’s footsteps and studying to be a paramedic.

A task-force supervisor, Schwartz was on West Street in front of the South Tower walking toward the triage area when the tower collapsed. “I had spoken to him right before he went to the [Trade Center]. He had the adrenaline pumping. He was excited,” says Patricia. “It was important to him to help people. He still had enough sense to call me, but helping was what he was supposed to be doing.”

Thirty-year-old David Marc Sullins, EMT, had worked at Cabrini Hospital EMS for almost two years. His wife Evelyn says, “He was determined to become a paramedic. He was planning to enroll this spring.”

On Sept. 11, Sullins was working a double shift. He was last seen in the South Tower, triaging a patient. His partner went back to their ambulance to get supplies, and then the tower collapsed.

“For patients in life-threatening situations, he would always say things to make them fight, to strive [to live],” says Evelyn. “For young patients, he carried toys in his trauma bag.” He had Matchbox cars for the boys and Barbie figurines for the girls. Sullins leaves two sons, ages two and five.

2015 NOTE: We must also remember the lives of those lost at the Pentagon and in an empty field in Shanksville. 

Their lives mattered. 

Every life matters. 

No Censorship Here

I was just reading about parents censoring what their children read. Made me grateful for my parents!

My dad taught me to read long before I hit school age. I remember sitting downstairs in the basement of our New York home learning phonics from my dad.

My mom and dad both read to us every night. They encouraged me to open my mind. I read every book in our house, from the Bible and the Catholic catechism (no, we weren’t Catholic) to The Hobbit, the Encyclopedia and God Invented Sex.

The only time someone tried to censor what I was reading was a librarian when I was about 10 or 11. We had moved to Tennessee at that time. I had picked out a stack of about a dozen books and was checking them out, when the librarian told me I couldn’t have them. She thought I was too young for the books I had chosen and that I had far more than I could read in the time they could be checked out for.

Mom to the rescue! She gave the librarian an earful, letting her know that if she (Mom) didn’t have a problem with my selections, then it was not the librarian’s place to censor me. Mom also laughed at the librarian’s assumption that I could not/would not have the books read and would be preventing other – more suitable – library patrons from checking them out. Mom laughed and told her the truth, she had to bring me to the library weekly just to keep me in reading material.

Thank you, Dad and Mom!

Go Women!

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Go Patricia Arquette!

My first thought while watching tonight’s Oscars was that J.K. Simmons had the best speech: Call your mom. Call your dad.

Now, I say it’s Patricia Arquette. She wins for best speech, putting it out there for women and equal pay. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all!” Go Patricia!

It just makes me sad that so many of today’s young women see feminism as a four-letter word. Why do women have to wear outrageously high heels to be seen as “powerful”? Heels deform our bodies and bring us pain. Why do so many young women think they have to flaunt their bodies to be valued? Why did claiming control of our sexuality mean women now have to have indiscriminate sex or violent sex?

When I was in college, one of my English professors, Winona Winkler Wendth, gave me  a copy of Gloria Steinem’s essay, “If Men Could Menstruate.” Thank you Professor Wendth! Ms. Steinem said, in part: “In short, the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless—and logic has nothing to do with it.”

Ms. Steinem ended her essay, with words that, unfortunately, still ring true: “… the power justifications could probably go on forever.

“If we let them.”

No more justifications. The time is long past. It’s not just time for wage equality, but time for women to know that just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you have to.

Expect the Worst & Hope for the Best

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My dad once introduced me to someone as the biggest cynic he knew. I’m not sure that description really fits me, but I’ll take it. The title of this piece, “Expect the Worst & Hope for the Best,” is how I’ve often said I look at the world. I’m not sure that’s really an apt description either, but I think it comes closer. I guess I try to see people as they really are and expect them to act as themselves. I don’t “loan” any more than I can afford to never see again. And if I’m not repaid, then my relationship with that person won’t be harmed because I didn’t really expect to be repaid in the first place.

So what does that have to do with anything? Today, it’s just a reminder that we can take nothing for granted. People make mistakes. We need to be prepared for that eventuality.

Today, the pharmacist made a mistake with my medications. It wouldn’t have killed me. The difference was in dosage: 20 mg atorvastatin (aka Lipitor) when I have been prescribed 40 mg pills. I noticed the pills were smaller than I have been taking daily for nearly nine months now. They were still oblong and white, but when I did a comparison to the last of the pills left from my previous refill, the difference became clear. The size was not the only difference; there was also a number printed on one side: 123 vs. 122.

I called. I returned them. I came home with the right meds this time.

I’m concerned. I know mistakes happen, but if this happened to me, how many other people are getting the wrong medications and, not knowing what to look for, are taking something they shouldn’t be?

I don’t want anyone to be fired. I do hope the pharmacist takes the chance to review quality control procedures with the staff to prevent another, possibly more disastrous, mixup.

And I will remain vigilant, expecting the worst and double-checking everything.

Top, a 20 mg pill that came in my bottle labeled as 40 mg pills.

Top, a 20 mg tablet that came in my bottle labeled as 40 mg tablets. Bottom, my usual 40 mg tablet.

Rainy Sunday Ramblings

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First rain in the Bay Area in 2015 this weekend. We’ve been listening to wind howling and rattling the vertical blinds in the bedroom. Cappy keeps sitting by the glass doors to the backyard asking to go out. When the sun briefly came out and splintered into a flat rainbow – yes, flat, no arc, just lines of color across the sky and clouds – we let him taste the outside world for a minute. Nothing like watching a small black cat gingerly put a paw down, lift and shake it, quietly picking his way 10 feet out and racing back inside. He meowed at us, asking why we made him go outside.

I like rainy Sundays. We’ve got a fire roaring in the fireplace. John is keeping the music alive. We’re listening to George Harrison sing While My Guitar Gently Weeps right now. I just finished re-reading a short story, The Ramshead Algorithm, by KJ Kabza. It gets the imagination going. It’s firmly rooted in this world but opens up an infinite number of other worlds.

I’m also doing the mundane. I’m trying to regain what I’ve lost, so I’ve been rolling golf balls around in my left hand this afternoon. It seems ridiculous that I can’t grasp a receipt, clip my nails or manipulate money. I know I’m lucky. The strokes could have robbed me of so much more. Yes, strokes, multiple small cryptogenic embolic strokes. I’m still struggling with the fact of the strokes. I’m too young. I didn’t know I was having them when I was having them. The cryptogenic aspect means I don’t know why or how to prevent recurrence. There’s always a bit of fear in the back of my mind now. I don’t like living this way. I don’t know how not to. I have to find my own way through. Please don’t tell me you know what I need to do. You don’t know. It’s my body, my brain, my chemistry. I did not bring this on myself. Eating or not eating something won’t make me better. Shit happens.

And if you believe in God – any God – don’t waste your prayers on me. I don’t believe. That’s not a challenge. Just a statement of fact.

It’s still raining. I hope it rains for a while to come. In every life some rain must fall. The drought needs to be quenched.

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Watching the World Cup

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What I know about football, soccer to us Americans, can be summed up thusly: A score of 3-1, like the final score of the Uruguay-Costa Rica game earlier today, is a high-scoring game.

Today, despite my lack of knowledge, I’m watching men of various nationalities running from one side of a field to another, facing off chest to chest when a kick goes awry and hits a shin, “injured” players crawling—yes, crawling—10 feet to get out of the scrum and rooting for Italy to beat England. Even if we didn’t have so much family in Italy (yes, I’ll give a nod to Spain for my cousins, too), I’d be rooting for Italy to beat England after that display of a scoring dance by an English player. I swear he’s been watching too much American football.

I miss good sportsmanship. Play to win. Yes. Play with passion. Yes. Play to destroy. No.

And please don’t injure the players in the celebratory scrum.

Note: My husband (who knows only slightly more about this sport than I do) informs me that “scrum” is a rugby term. Now I know. Thank you, love. What should I have said?