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Archive for January, 2011

One of the best parts about being involved in EMS (besides the oh-so-glorious events of getting puked, pooped, and bled on) is the training. And, no, I am not being facetious about this – I am an EMS nerd. I love to learn new things! High school, college, fire school, EMT school – I loved them all!

So once a year, at the end of January, EMS providers from all over Maryland descend on Tilghman Island for the annual Winterfest conference. Despite being held in the most podunk, bass-ackwards place on the planet (sorry Tilghman but you know it’s true), this conference is really quite exciting. The organizers get presenters from Johns Hopkins, Shock Trauma, Children’s Medical, and the University of Maryland to cover some really amazing topics that have included: spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, seizure disorders, how to deal with forensic evidence, provider safety, pandemic flus, mass casualty incidents, the history of paramedic care in the US, motor vehicle and motorcycle trauma, geriatric medical emergencies, and behavioral emergencies, to name just a few.

Unfortunately, this year I had to work so I was only able to attend one day of the conference and had to miss the big Saturday night party (which I hear involved betting and the loss of clothing – those crazy EMS providers get a little out of hand).

But I want to tell you about the highlight of the day’s classes for me this year – helping deliver an electronic robotic baby. The “mother” blinked, talked, dilated, screamed, cussed in Spanish, and popped out a slime-covered “baby.” It was amazing! The two presenters were incredible and led us through simulations of a variety of pre-hospital birthing scenarios and possible problems. I have never in my life wanted to help deliver a baby more than I did after this class! (Of course, I will NOT be lining up to be the one giving birth – even on the dummy, that shit looked PAINFUL!) So, women of Easton, it’s time to call 9-1-1 when you’re having your baby – I am ready to go!

And, yay, the good folks at MIEMSS are going to be having another conference – this one’s in Ocean City in April. Can’t wait for more learning – and maybe this time I’ll stay for the parties…

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When you have spent the last decade of your life in a relationship with one person, you become fairly secure. You stop having the necessary armor and skills set required for life in the single lane. So when you suddenly find yourself checking the single-type boxes on the forms (single, divorced, separated, etc.), it is a very difficult transition.

And what, I asked my previously-divorced friends, is the hardest part about the transition? The rebound relationship was high on the list of answers. Luckily, I have now made those two monster mistakes and have moved on. Let me tell you a little about my gigantic stupidity…

The first was a fireman in a neighboring district that I had actually known for years through my soon-to-be-ex-husband. A man significantly older than me with two almost-adult children, a bitter divorce, a drinking problem, and who bears a curious resemblance to Shrek. And, oh yeah, did I mention that he was ALSO having an affair with my husband’s mistress? Yep, you read that right. He had been sharing the mistress with my husband for at least a year and was royally ticked that she seemed to have chosen my husband as the victor. So, his reaction was to start calling me, telling me that only we could understand the betrayal and that we should be together. He would call and text me constantly and, dumb me, I believed the son of a bitch! I thought he was sincere, I thought that he truly knew what I was going through. Needless to say, he was simply using me to irritate the mistress – and it worked. He did kindly offer to juggle me into his schedule when she wasn’t around but I didn’t think that seemed like a good idea. So, score a 10 on the Stupid Scale for me!

My second rebound was, I’m sorry to report, an even dumber idea than the first! He was a very recent widower and we clung to each other like drowning people to life jackets. We believed the “I love yous” and in the happily ever after fairy tale – we were both so desperate to put our pasts behind us and start again. On the surface, it was actually quite a perfect match – we were both fairly quiet, family-oriented, loving people with mutual interests in history, country life, and the fire department. I think we both deluded ourselves into thinking that true love could happen just that quick. Until, as he tells it, he started having dreams about his late wife. Literally overnight, I was out on my butt in the cold – Thursday night he wants to fool around and to talk about our wedding (in that order) and Friday he is cutting ties totally. And, being me, I assumed it was something I had done wrong and did the requisite insecure girl thing and cried and begged. Yep, I admit it, it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t classy. But he was done with me – refusing to see me, speak to me on the phone, or even respond to text messages, saying he needed time alone to think. Oho, the good old “it’s not you, it’s me” phrase even came out of him – why do men do that?? Do they have any idea how thoroughly irritating that is?? At any rate, two weeks later I received a text telling me has a new 20-year girlfriend and they expect to be very happy and, by the way, don’t contact him anymore. If I thought my husband’s departure left me spinning, this last ending cut me in half. I find myself still turning in circles wondering how in the HELL I had ended up here?

So 2010 was NOT a good year for me in terms of relationships. I saw my marriage end, my Shrek-loving days come screeching to a close, and my merry widower has moved on to a girl who can’t even legally drink. But I have high hopes for 2011! Things have GOT to get better, right? So stay tuned….

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++ does anybody else remember those old color-changing shirts that changed color when you touched it? What were those called? I have a cool plastic cup that I got at Winterfest that does the same thing – changes color when you put either hot or cold water into it. It sure is nifty!! Wish I could find that old shirt, too, and then I’d be all set.

++being fat in this world really sucks! I have to watch what I eat and suffer through weekly Weight Watchers meetings and feel constant emotional turmoil over food – and yet I STILL DON’T LOOK LIKE A SUPERMODEL! GRRRRRR….

++stupid people and mean people should not be allowed to call me before noon – it ruins my whole day!

++thank God for good friends who care enough about you to suffer through endless whining and are just there when you need them – thank God too for the ones who reach out and force you to be a part of the human race and don’t let you retreat into a hole

++I have been having the weirdest dreams lately – – I even had a long conversation in one last night with my friend Liz who died 3 years ago — and I wonder if my subconscious is as restless as my conscious mind…

++do you ever wish you could just close your eyes and *poof* land in some other place? And be some other person? And live some other life?

++I worry constantly – I feel like I am constantly fussed about something — I wonder how I can stop that….? I worry about my friends near and far, I worry about my family and their fun dysfunction, I worry about my life (or lack thereof), I worry about my work, I worry about whether I turned off the coffee pot this morning. I just worry.

++I’m re-reading the most phenomenal book right now – the 1st volume in a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Talk about girl power – she was so far ahead of her time in issues like women’s educations, gender equality, civil rights, political power, economic fairness!

++I have always wanted a pair of multicolor striped toe socks. I don’t know why. And the only time I ever really see them in the stores is at Christmas time and I am always saving my pennies for Christmas gifts, so I never buy them for myself. But I just think those toe socks are a real hoot. Maybe I’ll buy them with the color-changing shirts….

++I really have strong objections to the Country School here in Easton. This private, high-tuition school thrived during integration in the 1950s in order to prevent white kids from having to *gasp* go to school with black kids – and that really just sets my teeth on edge. And, honestly, that school is still that elitist! Only now it’s the rich kids who won’t mingle with the poor kids. Yikes, what values are we teaching our children?

++am I a freak? A friend (thanks so much SJ) told me that years ago and it STILL intrigues me. And that friend wasn’t just talking about my clothing choices. He was talking Usher’s “lady in the street, freak in the bed” type of freak. I’ve never thought of myself as being terribly interesting in the sexual kind of way (god knows my husband certainly didn’t think so) but yet I wonder….?

++I don’t care what anyone says, I like classical music! I just found a wonderful Bizet suite (L’Arlésienne) that makes me want to shiver. I listen to it in my truck sometimes and think, “yep, I am SUCH a nerd!” but I can’t help it. Of course, I’m not totally hopeless in cool – I know almost every Billy Joel song ever written, Elvis is King, Wynton Marsalis and/or Barry White is good bedroom music, Marvin Gaye rocks the nightclub, and nothing says country like George Strait.

++a high school acquaintance is a marathon star now and thinks I ought to take up running – isn’t that funny? Girls with big boobs just don’t run a lot – unless they have a VERY strong system of undergarment support. Of course, he also thinks I should get a tattoo up my nose, so I’m beginning to wonder about him.

++if you ever need a “reining in” of your life, visit a friend who has a 13-year old kid battling cancer. Talk about putting your problems into perspective! If I had half of the courage that cancer patients and their families have, I’d be a superhero. I have so much respect and admiration for people who can face that kind of illness and fight that battle!

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I am one of those people that is truly inspired by the wise words of others. I frequently turn to my favorite sources for quotes and lyrics to express how I am feeling or thinking. I firmly believe that people who are much wiser than I am have already written the perfect way to say something. 

With my life being what it is, I could easily turn to sad, maudlin, “woe is me” music – or rock out to bitter, angry, heavy metal. But, instead, I find myself gravitating to songs that speak to me, that give me some message or meaning. Especially the ones that give me a sense of hope and promise.

My brother gave me a book to read a few years ago called “Wicked” – a retelling of the Wizard of Oz from the perspective of the Wicked Witch. It is a novel about those of us that are different than the “norm” and how we can survive and thrive and deal with heartbreak.  It was a fantastic book – and an even better Broadway show! One of the most dynamic parts of this show is the evolving relationship between Elphaba (the “wicked” witch born with green skin) and Glinda (the “good” witch blessed with elfin beauty).  A song from late in the show creates the moment of goodbye between these two different women who have formed an unorthodox but wonderful friendship.

ELPHABA
I’m limited:
Just look at me – I’m limited
And just look at you –
You can do all I couldn’t do, Glinda
So now it’s up to you
For both of us
Now it’s up to you:

GLINDA
I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you:

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

ELPHABA
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend:
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you:

GLINDA
Because I knew you:

BOTH
I have been changed for good.

ELPHABA
And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done you blame me for

GLINDA
But then, I guess we know
There’s blame to share

BOTH
And none of it seems to matter anymore

GLINDA/ELPHABA
Like a comet pulled Like a ship blown
From orbit as it Off it’s mooring
Passes a sun, like By a wind off the
A stream that meets Sea, like a seed
A boulder, half-way Dropped by a
Through the wood Bird in the wood

BOTH
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better?

Because I knew you:
I have been changed for good.

This song popped up on my iPod repeatedly about a week before what would have been my 5th anniversary. And it got me to thinking about the people and situations that I have encountered in my life that have changed me.

You hear people say that change is bad and that you should never let people change who you are inside. But, you know what? I don’t think either of those statements is true. I think, as we go through life, that we will inevitably encounter events that change the paths of our journeys – and we will stumble upon people who cause us to develop and grow into better people. Those events and those people may sometimes be very painful and ugly – but I would like to believe that they are important and beneficial.

I, for one, can appreciate the most miraculous things that have changed me “for good” – even including my failed relationships, my shattered self-esteem, the chronic depression – all of which have helped me to face tough challenges and forced me to reevaluate the kind of person I want to be. Because I have known some bad people and some people who used me or didn’t love me or ridiculed me, I have been changed (I hope) into a loving person. And because I’ve known some really kind, honest, loving, loyal, gifted people, I have been changed (I hope) into a good friend and a respectful human being.

So, to my husband and all those other people in my life who have caused me to change “for good,” I thank you for helping me to be a better person and for changing the path of my life.

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Hi, my name is Becky and I am a Facebook addict. Yes, that’s right, I love my Facebook. Call it nosiness, but I love seeing what other people are up to. I do NOT need the moment-to-moment play-by-play (that, to my mind, is what Twitter is for) but I do like to see what people are doing with their lives.

Do you know what I think is one of the most interesting features of Facebook? High school nostalgia. It wasn’t like it was the most stellar time in my life (I was a fat nerd who didn’t really fit in to any particular group but boy did I want to!) so I can’t understand why finding all of these high school friends on Facebook has brought back such happy memories. And yet I find myself wanting to hear Brighid’s Adam Sandler impressions. I want to go back to sitting in Mr. Crowe’s English class for the Beowulf lecture. I want to stand in the quickie line in the cafeteria for junk food. I want to go through musical auditions again and wonder if maybe, just maybe I might get a part. I want to hear Mrs. Giacomo expound on the importance of the mitochondria. I want to hear Mr. Dailey’s New Deal lecture again. I want to go to my locker and hear all the LeRoy gossip. I want to sit in the stands at the football games in the crisp autumn air and wait for the halftime field show. Don’t you wish we could go back to high school and know what we know now?

Another interesting phenomenon with Facebook is the race for friends. Some people seem to be in some sort of bizarre competition to have as many friends as possible – even if they don’t know half of the people on their lists. What is that about?? And I always have to giggle when I receive a friend request from some of the A-Groupers from my high school and college –  you know the types I’m talking about. The popular, pretty cheerleaders and the football-playing princes, the ones who wouldn’t give the smart kids or the band geeks the time of day. Now those people want to be my friends on Facebook. And how I laugh – and wonder if that makes me cool now, finally, that they want to be my friends. The ultimate thrill came on the day when the person who had made my life (and several others’) miserable all through our school years actually sent me a friend request. This girl had to have been the most petty, vicious, snotty bitch ever to have existed (not that I’m bitter or anything) and NOW she wants me as a friend. Oh, did I do a little happy dance when I rejected that request!

So, I am admitting here and now to my addiction. I have to check my FB at least 6-8 times a day and, if my schedule doesn’t allow it, I have to battle the withdrawal symptoms. If you aren’t already on it, I highly recommend it. Come, join me on the dark side…

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Now, when I say my husband was from a “whole different world,” I am not of course simply speaking of race. Yes, I am going to say right here and now that I feel that black people and white people are different. Beyond the purely biological differences we face (e.g. higher rates of sickle-cell anemia in black communities, cystic fibrosis in white, etc.), there are astounding cultural variances that define our experiences. I speak in generalities, of course. My husband, bless his heart, was frequently referred to as the “whitest black man ever” due to his alarming penchant for all-things Nascar and Budweiser. And, on the other side of that same coin, you’ve got gangsta rappers who are the palest white boys ever. I’m not saying that black and white are exclusive of one another – I am merely stating that the two communities are different.

No, when I speak of my husband as being from a “whole different world” from mine, I am mostly speaking of his culture and family background. When I met him, he still lived in the house he had grown up in. He had lived for a while on the “other side” (as the western shore of Maryland is known to native Eastern Shore residents) but had come back to take up residence on the family land when his dad passed. He had a HUGE family of cousins, aunts, uncles, and church friends, most of whom he had known for his entire life – but rarely saw. He didn’t want to attend family reunions or Sunday outings with his mother. He was content to live isolated and quiet. He had an inherent distrust of city people, cultivated over years as a career firefighter/paramedic for the Baltimore City Fire Department. He frequently made Haji jokes about people of Arab descent and the phrase “damn Mexicans” applied to any Latino he saw. He had never attended college, other than his paramedic and firefighter training, and would rarely be seen with a book unless he was studying for a promotions test. His idea of enjoying nature is to watch Ted Nugent’s hunting shows on the Outdoor Network. And his idea of a great movie involves lots of guns, blood, and bad guys with bad accents.

Myself, on the other hand, was as different as night from day. I came from a small family with only a few cousins – and we all faithfully and excitedly gather for every holiday and occasion, from weddings to Groundhog’s Day. I had chosen, though, to move 500 miles away from them in an attempt to define myself as a separate human being in those troublesome post-college years. I had two degrees in my hand and frequently read voluminous books “just for fun.” I love to go out and be with people and to talk. I love to travel and venture into new places and new communities to see what I can learn – especially in cities. I love to be outside in the open air, with a breeze blowing through the trees as I walk the dog or the snow falling quietly over me as I shovel.

So we were very different people from the start. Having nothing to do with skin color, although that would later play a major role in the story, my husband and I had vastly different approaches to the world. Add to that the fact that he was 14 years my senior and you will be able to deduce the many lessons I have learned in my marriage, about relationships, about men, and about our society’s approach to anyone that is “different.”

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I had the distinct pleasure of marrying a black man. To some this may fact may seem unimportant and unremarkable; to others it may seem like a highly racist statement. But to me, it is just a fact. And an important one at that, for it was this experience that has framed who I am today and who I hope to be tomorrow.

 I was raised in a home that didn’t see color or religion or ethnicity or gender or economic status. It wasn’t that I was specifically taught that all people were equal – it just was. There was no daily indoctrinations on the importance of equality and civil rights; my parents didn’t feel the need to make a big production out of it. They simply surrounded themselves with people from all walks of life and, should I have made an off-color remark or biased statement, I was politely but firmly set in my place. Admittedly, I grew up in a rural, mostly white, mostly middle-class area of western New York. Skin color had very few hues in that region and there was not the sort of abject poverty one sees in urban downtowns. But there was still a wide variety of people around me – from rich and snobby monied families to barely-getting-by farmer types, high-power commuting executives down to grocery store checkout clerks. And in terms of men and women? My father was a high school teacher and was home with me every day after school, while my mom was a businesswoman who was often away on business trips and would rush in the door at 6 pm or later. The gender stereotypes were just nonexistent in my house and, frankly, have taught me a lot about domesticity regardless of gender.

So, why, then is the fact that I married a black man of any note at all? Why, if I do not see distinctions in class, color, or gender, then is who I married of any interest? It’s because I was lucky enough to be able to cross a barrier, to realize what it means to be joined to someone different than yourself. I think all married people go through that to an extent – after all, to live with someone of a different background and perspective (be it economics, politics, gender-relations, familial alliances, etc.) takes a leap of faith into another’s life. But, when you enter into what society politely calls a “mixed” marriage, you are playing another game entirely.

What constitutes a “mixed” marriage, you may ask? In my case, it was mixed race. But I firmly believe that is any marriage in which two people marry despite the general consensus of their immediate society’s notion of “normal.” Sometimes the break from the norm is racial (a black and an Asian, for instance), sometimes its religious (a Methodist and a Jew), sometimes its ethnic (an Irish and an Italian) and sometimes it’s just economic (a rich woman and a poor man). Now, even, we can include age-related differences in our lexicon for non-standard marriages – anyone heard of a “cougar”?

It all really makes me wonder why these differences matter. I am at a distinct disadvantage in my upbringing, I suppose, in that I was not taught a prejudice or a bias towards any one specific group of people. So, by marrying a man from a whole different world and undoubtedly possessing a multitude of preconceived notions about a variety of groups, I was finally able to understand how it is that people develop prejudice and intolerance.

Stay tuned for Part 2…

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