Thursday, April 14, 2016

Do Not Say Their Names

Most of the work related training sessions I attend deal with some aspect of public safety.  When you're in charge of a facility open to the public, you're expected to know how to handle every situation known to mankind...and a few you've probably never even considered.

These sessions generally occur annually.  Sometimes we know the topic, sometimes we only know the location.  And no, that doesn't always give you a hint of what's to come.  Our session at the Fire Department's Training Facility had nothing to do with fire but with understanding/handling inclement weather conditions.  I have to wonder if the Fire vs. Water thing was on purpose or just coincidence.  Our trip to the Red Cross wasn't about First Aid, but how to respond when your facility becomes an Evacuation Site...and the Red Cross takes over your office.  We do, however, update our CPR training every two years so we have a little medical knowledge.

Today's training began deceptively simple.  Located at our Main Office, when I saw two Deputies wander in, I wondered if we were about to receive an update on our "How to recognize Gangs" training from several years ago.  After introductions the program began with a video presentation.  The first three words which appeared were:

Okay, I'll admit the first thing that came to mind was my current policy on any discussion of Presidential candidates.  My sense of humor deflated as the air was sucked out of the room by the reality of our topic:

What to do when faced with an armed assailant in a public place

My gossiping co-workers stopped whispering and the room grew deadly quiet.  We all looked at the officers as if we'd stepped into the wrong room.  We're in recreation. Senior citizens and kids aged 6-12.  We're not in a situation like Sandy Hook or Columbine or Ft. Hood.  We know these people.

That's when the Corporal told us what we never realized: the shooter in the Mother Emmanuel Church shooting in Charleston lived 15 minutes away from where we sat.

The world has changed.  In my head I heard an old adage from childhood: "Hope for the best but prepare for the worst."

So for two hours we learned what those three words mean.  In a nutshell AVOID translates into, "If you can get to an exit, use it!"  Even though we're wired with "Flight vs. Fight" instincts, there's another one: Freeze.  Many of the victims in the above shootings were killed because they froze.   They simply sat there and waited for what they believed to be inevitable to happen.

DENY does not mean to fall into a state of denial and mumble, "This can't be happening!"  If you can't get to an exit, don't let the shooter get to you...deny him the opportunity. (For you politically correct folks, 98% of shooters are male).  I was amazed to learn that, statistically, when encountering a locked door, most shooters will simply move to the next room.  Lock that door, turn out the lights, line up against the wall next to the door and shut up.  In some instances you may have to barricade it with everything you can find while looking for an alternate exit. 

Unfortunately for some, their only option will be DEFEND.  Let's just say this falls into the category of "do whatever you need to survive", which included the instruction to "fight dirty".  (While it may sound like a 3 Stooges routine, go for the eyes, throat and groin).  One of the deputies,  previously a Marine with a tour in Afghanistan, pointed out, "The only person who ever complains that a fight wasn't fair is the loser."   The Corporal encouraged us to think, "I have to live through this spouse, kids, family, dog."  Whatever it takes to find the courage to live, hold on to that and fight back.

There's one part to these incidents the media doesn't cover: how to respond when the police arrive.  It's simple: DO WHAT THEY SAY!   If you're ordered to put your hands in the air or lie on the floor, don't get huffy and argue that you're a victim.  First, it wastes valuable time in finding the shooter.  Second, the officer has just arrived and has no idea if you're the shooter or an accomplice.  When you're told to exit, GO!  We watched in amazement as a woman came back into a room to retrieve her purse while a gunman held a Board at gunpoint.  Your ability to quickly follow a command can potentially save the lives of those still in the shooter's sights.

When I first started this job, I would've thought this lesson was for big cities. Yet less than 6 months ago, in a gang related incident, someone came to one of our recreation centers with a gun and shot someone.  The Director was standing next to the boy who was killed. 

While much information and techniques find their way into the "Danger" compartment of my brain, perhaps the single thing which stood out was a policy now embraced by law enforcement: Do Not Say Their Names.  Don't give shooters the fame and glory they were seeking with these horrible acts by using their names in conversation about the event.  No notoriety.  Period.

I can do that.  Because the two names sticking with me today are those of the two Deputies who must protect and serve 600 miles of County with limited resources.  Thanks to them, I have the personal ammo I need to not roll over and play dead when the going gets tough.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


If you haven't read Kim Ayres' recent blog post, rush right over!  You'll get to take a cool tour around Africa without leaving the comfort of your chair.  Which made me realize I am...


No, I don't want to jump on a bike and tour the world.  And I'm trying to look at this we-sold-your-Center-but-we-promise-to-build-you-a-new-one as an adventure in the making.  (Although that gets difficult when badgered with questions I'm not allowed to answer yet).  Much of it comes down to a comment that I made to Kim.  Ever since I took my first job as an adult, I discovered something about myself: after 5 years, I'm ready to move on.

It's as if I approach a new job as an adventure: a system to learn and skills to improve.  After I get a handle on it, I work to upgrade that job, make it even more efficient.  And once that's done to the best of my ability...


Which is a relief, actually.  For the first couple of jobs, I feared I'd never keep a job.  What was wrong with me?  My Dad worked in the same industry for his entire career until cancer took him before he reached retirement.  Sure, his company was bought out several times but he hung in there.  Because his generation went to work to support a family, not to feel "personal satisfaction".  I grew up thinking Dad-the-hard-worker was being taken advantage of by his employer.  After all, one of his bosses had a plaque in his office that read, "How can I soar like an eagle when I'm surrounded by turkeys."  Motivational, huh?  That little seed planted itself in my mind and made me think, "I will NEVER work in a place that treats me as just another number!"

Yep.  I've become Dad.  Dependable and trustworthy.  Approaching my 29th year with the same employer.  And yes, some days I do resent the fact that "loyal" is interchangeable where I work with "stupid enough to keep doing her job + more".

But you know what?  I may still be in this job out of loyalty to my husband (who is self employed, therefore I am our insurance) but reading Kim's story reminded me...there's a lot of life out there to embrace.  So I can't hop on a bike and tour the world.  I can still feed my curiosity.  I can help our charity's family of soldiers...after all, even my worst day at work, no one shoots at me or plants bombs for me to stumble upon.

There is satisfaction in knowing a job doesn't define you as a person.  I LIKE helping people.  I like working on the family tree to discover the tales of those who came before me.  (Okay, a couple of them make me feel boringly normal. But I'd rather read about an ancestor's tale of escaping a POW camp during the American Revolution, complete with sword scar to the face and wife sneaking into the woods to nurse him back to health before he returned to battle, than have lived that).

I love writing stories, some of which will never see the light of day but they bring me comfort in knowing I can compile words in an entertaining manner...even if they only entertain me.  

And I love that I have you, out there on the other side of this computer screen. You don't live next door or even across town.  You're spread out across a vast array of countries which you've shared so generously with me in a myriad of ways.  Did I remember to say "Thank you"?

Best of all, no matter what's happening at work, I can take a mini-vacation by checking in to see how things are in your neck of the woods.

So, how's it going today?  And thank you for always listening, without interrupting.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

From thrown under the bus in less than a week

This will be brief.  So I can remain polite.  

If you read the last post, you know work changes are a-comin'.  Can't say I'm overjoyed by it, but change in life is inevitable.  Or in the views of my employer, "You have two choices: take it or leave it."  (As an "At Will" state, they have the perrogative of showing me the door, whether I want to use it or not).

This morning a senior put her head in my door and said, "Have you seen today's newspaper?"  When I shook my head, she backed up and said, "Um, maybe I shouldn't say.  If you don't know....and all."   I assured her if it was about our Center, I probably had an idea.

As was requested, I've been quiet, haven't mentioned a word of this to the seniors because the Boss and I agreed when the time came, he would speak to them.  Ease their fears...especially of change.  Give them the "carrot approach", with the promise of something new to embrace.

Problem is while I kept my promise, the Boss forgot seniors could read.  On page two of today's local paper is the headline, "County Council approves sale of (our) Senior Center." 

Oh joy.

In a pre-emptive strike, I told the group here this morning what was going on.  I began with the headline, paused as they gasped and waited on the million questions to follow.  This time they were stunned into silence.  Hopefully I sounded upbeat and reassuring stating the facts.  Sure,  I had to dodge a couple of questions about location.  (Because I plan to keep my word and not tell "where" until there's a groundbreaking case that plan gets changed too).

So as I go answer my ringing phone for the umpteenth time to calm their fears, y'all remind me that this is a holiday weekend.  That's one less day to answer the phone.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Ides of March...came yesterday

All I can say is this.  After FINALLY getting the floors refinished at my Center (which took 2 years to get around to) the Big Boss came by yesterday.   I knew it wasn't to inspect...because before his promotion to Top Dog, he was my boss, the one who hired me for this position.  I recognized behind the small talk (and photos of his first grand baby, who was cute, so I didn't have to exaggerate) there was SOMETHING ELSE.

After years of having to work part time to help another Center (8 to be exact), being "displaced" for 18 months for our Center to be renovated (the Inmates who worked there had it better than me) and finally getting the floors done, I thought maybe I could finally work in peace.

*Insert dramatic music here*

The Big Boss came by to let me know someone has made an offer on our building and land.  And they will probably take it.

Et tu, Brute?

*That sound you hear is my heart breaking before it hits the ground*.

I'm not sad at the possible (because no contract has been signed yet) loss of this historic building.  I'm not upset because seniors don't like change and this won't sit well when it hits the fan.  I'm not even worried about my job, because I was actually given the opportunity for input on a possible new home.  No, the truth is...

I'm tired.  

Tired of going the extra mile, doing the extra work, turning projects in on time, always being asked to do more because I am dependable...while my co-workers simply show up and work if they feel like it.  I feel as if I'm in a hell of my own choosing and have lost the key to my cell.  Even the Big Boss was shocked to realize that in May, I will have worked for my employer for 29 years...meaning I could've retired last year, but they don't pay me enough to do that.  The truth is, working in local government, even with a college degree, doesn't mean bringing home a paycheck on the Federal Government level.  The first thing cut was Merit raises, meaning no matter how well I do, someone may yell "Thanks!" before handing me another project, but that's it.  I topped out of my salary range a few years ago and trust me, 2% cost of living raises might've been helpful in 1930, but not today.

I'm at that "awkward" age: too long where I've been and not quite close enough to retirement age.  So what do I do?

Probably what I always do.  Encoded in my DNA is the need to do the right thing, even when it isn't the easy thing.  I will try to find the silver lining, or a rainbow or something corny to remind me that this little bump in the road is just that...a bump.  One that doesn't even require a band aid.

But should you see me on the road, you might want to just keep on driving if you see me yelling at the top of my lungs that life, at times, can suck.

If we're both lucky, you'll just see me singing along to whatever's playing on my radio in the comfortable sanctuary of my car...where I'm actually in control, for a little while. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Year and....

...that means my sis-in-law gets a birthday this year.  That officially makes her 14.  (Don't tell her I said she still acts like that when she doesn't get her way.)

Hubby had a birthday last week and can now quit asking me, "So, how does it feel to be my age?"  (We are the same age for a month, until his birthday).  And every year I answer, "How does it feel to be MY age?  After all, you're going to get older."   Some traditions are just weird.  :)

Again, in a sassy move since his birthday, Hubby commented to me the other night, "It's amazing you can walk on knees that old."  This while I was on an errand of mercy for him to the kitchen because his back was hurting and I move faster.  When I turned around and glared looked at him, he added, "What?  Your knees are originals, making them 58 years old.  Isn't anything over 50 considered an antique?  My knees are only a year and a half old."   (Said the man who had both knees replaced in 2014).

Ah love...he still makes me laugh.

So on this, the Leap Day of the year, did I somehow expect something magical?  If I did, I just got what passes for "normal" at my Center.  One of my senior citizens who was there for Line Dancing at 10 a.m. came in the kitchen and asked what I was doing.  "KP," I answered, "I'm peeling 10 pounds of potatoes for tomorrow's lunch."  She shook her head and said she couldn't imagine doing that so early in the morning.  I grinned and told her, "I left home at 8 a.m., bought groceries, have 3 roast beefs in the oven and I've already made cherry cheesecake.  Once the potatoes are peeled and cut I get a break."  She looked at me in shock and said, "You've done all of that already?"

I can't wait to get to the age where 10 a.m. is considered too early to do anything.
So now I'm going to celebrate by sitting and...doing nothing.  Until dinner time.  But at least I don't have to peel potatoes. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

I'm Here

Been busy, like most folks.  In need of a nap.  Spent some time writing...for fun.  No direction except entertaining myself.  Sometimes that's enough.

Glad that yesterday's torrential rains have been replaced by sunshine. Seems all that cold and damp now makes my shoulder ache.  Getting older is definitely not for sissies.  But that sunshine seems like a good start to the weekend.

Have fun y'all!