Latest Entries »


It has been an extremely long time since I have posted anything.  Time has a way of passing quickly without one being really aware of it.  So…  Here’s a long overdue update!

 School:  The good news is that I passed all three classes this last semester.  The bad news is I blew my 4.0 GPA. (sigh)  I managed an “A” in Intermediate Algebra (who would have thought?) and got a “B” in Intro to Emergency Management and American History II.  So it wasn’t horrible by any means, but less than perfect and that’s a hard pill to swallow for a perfectionist.  Someone commented on one of my posts that being a single mother, working full time and going back to school were a lot to deal with and I may have to accept a less than perfect 4.0 GPA.  She was right.  I’m still happy with my grades, but life is busy and kids and work are more of a priority.  Life goes on…  I am taking a break this summer and will continue classes in the fall. 

 Weight loss:  I am down 57 pounds in 8 months!  I’m down about 6 sizes, I no longer shop in the “women’s” department and rediscovered not only my hip bones, but my ribs as well.    I feel nothing short of amazing and I’m still working hard to lose those last few pounds to reach my goal weight.  I gave up with Phentermine about two months ago.  I’m still doing Focus T25 sporadically, no fast food or pop, Shakeology every day (still my favorite part of the day) and I’ve added strength training to tone up.  A detective I work with created an “All Buff No Fluff” workout plan for a coworker and I.  We stay after work every night and work out in the gym and curse his name (smile).  But ~ it’s working.  And that’s all that matters.  I will be participating in my first 5K next month.  I’m suffering horribly with shin splints, but I will crawl if I have to.  Whatever it takes, I will cross that finish line.  Period.

 Work:  Winter was hell and lasted until May.  Now that summer has finally arrived, it has been busy on midwatch.  The natives have been restless and are out in full force.  I’m fine with it being busy at work.  It makes the shift go by so much faster.  We are finally at full staff in dispatch with no one in training.  This is a rare occasion in dispatch centers across the nation.  I’m hopeful it will last.  Training a new dispatcher is exhausting, regardless of how well they are doing.  It’s difficult to sit back and observe for weeks at a time.  It’s hard to give up that control.

 Kids:  Austin is doing well in Chicago.  He took a six week break to come home and get tested for sleep apnea.  He has a severe case and although we discussed surgery options, we won’t be able to do that until he graduates from college.  The recovery time is lengthy and painful and he really can’t take any more time off of school.  He was sent home with a breathing machine and seems to be adjusting to that better as time goes on.  For the first time in a very long time he is getting quality sleep at night.  I really had no idea how little sleep he was getting.  I’m amazed he could function at all.  Taylor is busy with softball this summer.  I think she’s happy to have the break from school though.  I’m thrilled I don’t have to take her to school in the morning every day!

 Love:  One of the biggest changes in my life occurred recently.  After six years of being on my own and completely losing all faith in love, it appears I have found everything I have ever wanted right in front of me.  Somehow I managed to miss the forest for the trees. 

 I met Tim when I was 14 years old in Biology class.  He sat in front of me.  He had blond hair, gray eyes and I was his from the moment my eyes found his staring back at me.  He was 15, beautiful and wild.  And he loved me.  I fell hard for him and I loved him fiercely.  Circumstances beyond our control tore us apart.  He moved to the southern end of the state and I moved to the northern part.  Although we tried, we failed miserably at making a long distance relationship work.  We were kids and we were human and it tore us both apart.  I can honestly say I have never loved anyone the way I loved that boy ~ until recently when I met the man he became. 

 Tim and I remained in contact over the years.  He has always been my anchor, my rock, my constant…  He has loved me unconditionally for 27 years.  He has been there to help me pick up the pieces of my life time and time again.  He knows every mistake I have ever made.  He knows about all of my bad decisions.  He knows my thoughts, my dreams, my fears.  He knows it all.  When I needed honesty, he gave it to me ~ even when I didn’t want to hear it.  He didn’t always take my side.  He disagreed with me on more than one occasion, but supported whatever decision I made.  And he loved me.  Always.  There were years we went without talking, but whenever we connected, it was easy to pick up where we left off.  I have battled my own demons over the years and he fought most of his without my knowledge.  There were times he called me to talk, to cry, and to ask my opinion about something he was struggling with.  Regardless of the fact that I loved him, I never really considered “us” as a possibility.  He lived in Indiana and I lived in Minnesota.  My kids were younger and I couldn’t just pack up and move.  And we didn’t have the best track record with making things work with the distance between us.  So I loved him and prayed for him to find happiness, even if it wasn’t with me. 

 We spent some time together last month for the first time in over twenty years and I fell in love with him all over again.  He is no longer the beautiful, wild boy I fell in love with ~ although I still see that boy when I look into his eyes.  He has become this amazing man I don’t even have the words to describe.  He has surpassed even my wildest dreams of the man I knew he could become.  He looks at me and I am home.  He holds me and I know where I belong.  I have been drawn to him since I walked into that classroom at 14 years old.  He is my best friend, my lover, my soul mate…   He is my gravity.  He always has been.

 He is more myself than I am.  Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.  ~ Emily Bronte

The Up Side of Falling Down

Fall down stairs

In the past week I have fallen twice.  I’m not sure what my problem is with gravity, but both occasions were not pretty.  The first time, I crawled out of bed in the morning to weigh myself.  I don’t weigh myself every day, but I try to check in on my progress about every three days.  Stumbling through my “I just woke up” fog, I stepped on the scale wearing a super soft t-shirt that I sleep in and underwear.  I was incredibly happy with the number on the display ~ I had lost 23 pounds!  In my joyful state I practically danced down the stairs to the kitchen to make my morning ShakeOlogy (my favorite part of the day!).  As I be-bopped down the steps, I managed to miss one and landed on my derriere.  I proceeded to “bounce” down three more steps on my rear end until I hit the bottom of the steps.  In the process, the underwear I was wearing managed to become a thong and I now have carpet burn on my bum.  OUCH!!!!  Truth be told, I said a few choice words and thanked God I wasn’t injured enough to call 911 since I was home alone.  Believe me when I tell you no one wants to see that!  Since there was no one home to give me any sympathy, and I wasn’t bleeding anywhere, I slowly managed to stand up.   I did somehow injure my lower back, so workouts were out for the day, but I was back in the game the next day.  

The second time gravity slammed me to the floor was last night as I was leaving for work.   I was running late and had my backpack, purse, keys and a glass of ice water in my hands as I went into the garage to get in my car.  Minnesota winters are often a cold mess of frigid air and copious amounts of snow.  This year has been a doozy.   As I was walking to my driver’s side door, I managed to hit some black ice on the cement floor of my garage and I went flying ~ forward ~ and landed hard on both knees.  I dropped everything except my glass of water.  Pain radiated upward from my knees.  It hurt.  BAD.  The worst part was now my pants were soaked from the muck on my garage floor and I had to take even more time to change.  Even more painful than my knees as I hobbled upstairs (sniffling and muttering under my breath) to change was the dreaded knowledge that I was unlikely to find ANYTHING else that fit me.  I have been down to one pair of pants for a long time.  Since I started on this weight loss journey, I have not tried to squeeze myself into my smaller clothes.  I was concerned that if I was not able to fit in a smaller size it would put me in a tailspin toward a major depression which has always included eating copious amounts of unhealthy food.  The only other pair of pants I could find was TWO sizes smaller than the pants I had on.  I closed my eyes, said a silent prayer and put them on.  I expected them not to move past my thighs, much less my hips.  GUESS WHAT?????  They fit!!!!!!  I could even button and zip them without laying on the bed!  Woo hoo!!!!!

I have lost a total of 25 pounds so far.  I have 50 more to go.  I am 1/3 of the way to my goal weight in only 6 weeks.  I am beyond thrilled!!!

In an earlier post, I listed several things I was doing to accomplish this goal.  I have been soda/pop free for 6 weeks.  I have had fast food one time in those 6 weeks and it was GROSS.  I had a Taco Bell Chicken Salad that did not sit well in my stomach.  I have been doing ShakeOlogy for 4 weeks and I LOVE IT!!!  Seriously, it’s my favorite time of the day.  My favorite is a vanilla banana smoothie with unsweetened vanilla almond milk.  YUMMY! 

I started the FocusT25 program about a month ago.  Believe me when I tell you this program will kick your a**.  The first time I pushed play I was sweating within two minutes.  It is extremely fast paced and high intensity, but it is a great workout.  Tania is the modifier on the program and I love her.  I am still modifying more than I would like to, but each time I do the workouts it gets easier.  At times, I can keep up with Shaun T, but not completely at this point.  Regardless, I’m seeing results.  I’m losing pounds and inches and my muscles are toning up.  I adore my coach and my accountability group.  It is a very supportive environment and it really helps to hear how others are progressing.  I love the encouragement and the fact that I’m not the only one who struggles with exercising and eating right. 

I did give up the Couch to 5K treadmill workout for now.  I just can’t do both.  My legs are like jello after the FocusT25 workouts.  I may pick that back up in the spring.  I am also still taking the Phentermine and it has helped quite a bit with appetite control.

All in all, I’m making progress and that makes me happy!  I feel better physically and mentally.  I recently discovered my ribcage.  I really wasn’t certain I still had one.  I’m still searching for my hip bones, they have yet to make an appearance, but I remain hopeful. 

This past week I have been educated by the random assaults of gravity, but I have also learned that regardless of how many times I may fall, whether it be physically (with carpet burns and bruises covering my body) or mentally (listening to the negative voices in my head and falling off the weight loss wagon), I always have the ability to get back up.  A friend of mine posted the following on FaceBook:

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” — James Allen

One of the best things in life is our ability to choose one thought over another.  I am choosing to ignore the voices in my head that tell me I can’t do this ~ that I will never lose the weight ~ that I’m too old to change.  I am choosing to put my health as a top priority instead of at the bottom of my list.  I will succeed ~ regardless of how often I get knocked down (gravity be damned!! ~ smile).

Miss 4.0

Miss 4.0 GPA

Miss 4.0 GPA

I am oh-so-happy to report that I have completed my first three courses at JSU!  I’m even happier to report that I have maintained my 4.0 GPA (woohoo ~ happy dance)!  It was easier than I thought it would be, but still pretty demanding.  It requires some serious dedication to staying on task and major time management skills. 

Algebra was the class I was dreading the most and I managed to get 100% on the final exam!  (go me!!!)  I feel much more prepared for Intermediate Algebra starting in January.  American History was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  Seriously, I loved it.  The tests were extremely difficult though.  I’m looking forward to American History II  also starting in January.  I think English was my favorite.  Really thought-provoking assignments and challenged me and now that I’m older (and somewhat wiser) I appreciate that.  My professor really took her time and I took her constructive criticism to heart.  I appreciated her thoughts on what I did well and what I could have done better.  I can’t imagine having hundreds of papers to read and evaluate and critique.  I was grateful for the personal attention.

So I have signed up for three more classes starting January 6, 2014.  I will be taking Intermediate Algebra, American History II and Introduction to Disaster Management.  I have also decided to double minor in Public Safety Telecommunications as well as Homeland Security.  I’m excited about what I will be able to achieve with this degree and hoping it will open some doors to fantastic opportunities.

One of the downfalls of working full-time, being a single parent and going back to school at my age is my complete lack of time to post much on here at all.  I am working on my time management skills and I am hopeful that will improve.  I feel a bit overwhelmed, but honestly it is mostly my own fault.  I am guilty of procrastinating and I tend to wait until the last-minute sometimes to finish assignments.  More than a few times I found myself wildly typing a paper in the last hour of the day it was due.  I must change my habit of doing that.

Although short, I did want to give you an update on my progress!  I am determined to do as well next term and have managed to talk a coworker of mine into going back to school and suffering with me!  She is really nervous and fretful that it will be more than she can handle (much like I was), but I know she will succeed.  Thanks to all of you for your support!

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is a common occurrence in this profession.  Combine long hours (8-14) with forced or voluntary overtime due to sick calls and vacation days and working several days (sometimes up to 7) in a row, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.  We have all come into work bleary eyed with dark circles under our eyes, gulping down various sorts of caffeine in an effort to force our eyelids open.  According to WebMD, ( the following are 10 side effects of sleep deprivation

  • Sleepiness causes accidents
  • Sleep loss dumbs you down
  • Sleep deprivation can lead to serious health problems
  • Lack of sleep kills sex drive
  • Sleepiness is depressing
  • Lack of sleep ages your skin
  • Sleepiness makes you forgetful
  • Losing sleep can make you gain weight
  • Lack of sleep may increase risk of death
  • Sleep loss impairs judgment, especially about sleep

 I have had my own issues with sleep deprivation and can relate to several side effects listed above.  The following is what happened at my worst ~ my most exhausted moment during my dispatching career.

 I was married with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old when I first started my job at Bloomington Police Department.  My husband worked daytime hours and I was stuck on dogwatch due to lack of seniority.  One major change in the cost of living from Indiana to Minnesota was the cost of child care.  I think I paid $100 per week for two kids in Indiana and it was $300-$400 per week in Minnesota.  Needless to say, we really couldn’t afford child care.  So…  I came up with the brilliant idea of staying up during the day with both kids and sleeping for a few hours when my husband came home.  I did that for years.  Once both of my kids were school age, it was much easier because I could sleep during the day.  When Taylor, my daughter was in kindergarten (half day during the morning), I was separated from my husband.  I would arrive home from dogwatch at 0730hrs and sleep until she got home around noon.  Austin, my son, was in 2nd grade by then and at school the entire day.  My husband and I lived in separate apartments in the same complex during part of our separation.  My goal was to wake up before the bus came to drop Taylor off and I would meet her at the bus stop and bring her home.  Keep in mind that my doorbell at my apartment did not work.  I thought this was a great thing at the time.  Trying to sleep during the day and waking up to solicitors ringing the doorbell is not fun.

 After three years (at this point) of working dogwatch and trying to save money on child care by staying up during the day, I managed to get about 3-4 hours of sleep.  Sometimes only two hours.  I was exhausted.  I was living in a fog.  My coworkers told me time and time again I needed to get more sleep.  I pushed their concerns aside, put on my Superwoman cape and plodded down the path I was on.  I thought at the time I was just fine.  I considered my lack of sleep as a sacrifice I was making for my family.  Sure I was tired, but weren’t we all tired with the long hours and the hectic schedule???  I would survive through this!  This isn’t a big deal.  Other people are in worse situations than I am.  I’ve got this!  No problem!  Oh, how wrong I was…

 My coworkers love this story because I made an absolute fool out of myself.  I think they were only disappointed that they weren’t there to see it. 

Taylor Kindergarten 2

If my memory serves me right, it was the first day of kindergarten or at least the first week.  Taylor was adorable as a 5-year-old.  She was bright and spunky and ready to go to school like her big brother!  We got her on the bus with her backpack, name tag, and emergency notification card (in case she got lost).  I was excited for her to start her school career, and even more excited to get a few hours of sleep while she was gone!  I went to bed, set my alarm for noon and fell into an exhausted sleep for a few short hours.  I woke up to a message being left on my answering machine.  In my sleep deprived stupor, I heard a message from an “Officer Sanchez” with Washington County Sheriff’s Department telling me that my daughter had been taken to St Joseph’s Home for Children.  I looked at the time and it was 1:00pm.  AN HOUR PAST THE TIME TAYLOR WAS SUPPOSED TO BE HOME FROM SCHOOL.  I completely FREAKED out.  I had visions of my baby girl finding her way home alone, knocking on the door and ringing the doorbell that didn’t work trying to wake me up to let her in.  I pictured her alone, tears streaming down her sweet face, not knowing what to do.  I tried to play the message again to hear a phone number I could call as I was frantically searching the phone book for the Washington County non-emergency number.  I was in such a panic that I quickly gave up and called 911.  I wish I had a recording of that phone call because I was babbling like an idiot.  The dispatcher who answered was extremely kind and patient with me.  I explained, words flying out of my mouth at a speed that I’m sure was incomprehensible, that I had overslept and was not there to get my child from the bus stop and my doorbell didn’t work and I had received a phone message from Officer Sanchez that she had taken Taylor to St Joe’s because no one could find me.  She told me that their department did not have an Officer Sanchez and asked if I was sure that was the correct name.  She didn’t see any calls within the past few hours involving a 5-year-old child that was left abandoned at the bus stop.  In the midst of my meltdown, the dispatcher told me to take a deep breath and told me to play the message again.  With the dispatcher on the phone, I played the message so both she and I could hear it.  I was MORTIFIED.  It was not a call from an Officer Sanchez.  It was a call from the secretary of another school telling me that Taylor was just fine and was in their office eating lunch; she had not gotten off the bus at the right stop and the bus driver had brought her to this school because he had to pick up kids there to take home.  Oh.  My.  God.

 I breathed in huge gulps of air (I was nearly hyperventilating), wiped the tears streaming down my face and felt an enormous wave of relief.  I was so relieved that no one had taken my child to St Joe’s and that she was safe and sound at a school just down the road from where I lived.  The dispatcher gently told me that everything was just fine, Taylor was safe and sound and she was glad everything turned out okay.  She kindly suggested that I take a few minutes to pull myself together prior to retrieving my daughter.  Remember that list of the side effects of sleep deprivation ~ yes, the one about sleep loss dumbing you down???  Yep, that was me.  Somehow, in my sleep deprived mind, I heard that message say what I feared the most.  As a dispatcher, when we need to find a safe place for children and there isn’t a relative to release them to, we take them to St Joe’s.  St Joe’s is a wonderful place full of compassionate staff members and they do wonderful things there for children going through a rough time.  As wonderful as this place is, it is no place for any child of mine. 

 When I walked into the school office, my daughter was sitting happily in a chair coloring.  The office girls had taken wonderful care of her.  They had made sure she was given lunch, that she was content and reassured that I was coming to get her.  As I hugged her close to me, breathing her in, I thanked God that she was safe and sound.  It was this incident that finally convinced me I could not go on with such little sleep.  I was out of my mind in a state of delirium because I was so exhausted.  Taylor survived the ordeal and really didn’t seem to bat an eye at what happened.  She told me she didn’t get off the bus when she was supposed to and the bus driver took her to the school down the road because he was picking up some other kids there.  Taylor has always been resilient, even at 5 years old.  I was proud of her for being so brave and not being a messy puddle of tears (like her mother) when I picked her up

My coworkers literally howled with laughter when I told them my story the next day.  I received several “I told you so” comments in regard to my constant exhaustion.  I am glad that this was the worst thing that happened to me in my sleep deprived state.  I’m grateful I didn’t fall asleep driving on the way home and crash into another vehicle.  Sleepy drivers can be terrifying on the road.  If you find that you are pushing yourself way beyond your limits and you are at the extreme limits of sleep deprivation, I am begging you to take a moment to reevaluate your situation.  Are you depriving yourself of sleep out of necessity?  Is it worth falling asleep on the drive home and crashing into another vehicle ~ possibly killing the occupants ~ possibly killing yourself?  As dispatchers, we advocate safety to everyone.  We ask our officers, firefighters, and paramedics to stay safe.  We ask our family, friends and loved ones to stay safe.  We give life-saving instructions to our 911 callers to keep them safe.  We need to take our own advice and keep ourselves safe.  Getting enough sleep is a part of that!


The Battle of the Bulge

 Many a dispatcher has fallen victim to the battle of the bulge.  In the past five years, I have allowed myself to gain 75 pounds.  Ugh…  The reason?  Yep…  A broken heart.  After my divorce, I lost 30 pounds, looked great and felt even better.  I started dating a man who I really thought was a perfect match for me.  After moving in together (after 2 ½ years of dating) and getting engaged, I discovered some information about him that he had failed to tell me.  I won’t go into details, but let’s just say it was a doozy.  My heart was absolutely shattered and I completely lost all faith in love.  I just flat-out didn’t care anymore.  And I proceeded to wallow in self-pity (and ice cream) for five years. 

  I have never been this heavy in my life.  Add wallowing in self-pity to a job that has me sitting on my butt for 10 hours a shift, and you end up with what I have become.  I absolutely cannot stand it anymore.  So I’m making a change…

             This is what I’ve done in the past two and a half weeks:

  1.  I have given up pop and sugar
  2. I have not eaten fast food
  3. I have been making better food choices and counting calories
  4. I went to “the fat doctor” and got on a prescription for Phentermine (
  5. I have started the “Couch to 5k” treadmill workout (
  6. I have signed up for an accountability group at with a high school friend as my coach
  7. I have started drinking Shakeology once a day (
  8. I will be starting FocusT25 on Monday (            

  If I don’t lose this weight now and keep it off, I’m going to wind up being 300 pounds of misery.  Who wants that?  I am not relying on just myself to accomplish this goal.  I am doing some extra things like the Phentermine and Shakeology to help me get there.  Is that cheating?  Maybe.  Do I care?  Not one bit. 

  I blame no one but myself for gaining this weight.  No one forced me to eat unhealthy meals.  No one chained me down and refused to let me exercise.  Broken heart or not, I led myself down this path and it’s time to turn things around before it gets too far out of control.  There is nothing worse than shopping in the “women’s” section of a store.  I miss cute clothes.  Seriously.  I find myself staring ~ longingly~ across the aisle at the “misses” section with huge amounts of envy.  It has been so long since I have been able to look in a mirror and smile.  Not only do I miss looking good in my clothes, I miss having energy.  I have been carrying around the weight of a 10-year-old child for so long that I’m exhausted.  I have worn jeans for the past three summers in 90 degree heat because I can’t stand the thought of wearing shorts when I am this heavy.

 So…  I’m saying enough is enough.  I set out two and a half weeks ago to lose 75 pounds and I’ve lost 15 so far.    I have 60 to go!  I am hopeful that by next year, at this time, I will have reached my goal. 

Cutting the Apron Strings

Three weeks ago, I packed up my 18 year old (baby boy) and chauffeured him down to college on the outskirts of Chicago.  He is attending Universal Technical Institute (UTI) for the automotive mechanic program with a FORD certification.  Austin was sick with a sinus infection on the way down (a six hour journey from where we live), so I drugged him up good with Mucinex Sinus Max and he slept most of the way.  Actually, saying that “he slept” is an understatement.  He was out cold the majority of the time.  Even my singing along to the radio didn’t seem to faze him.  I had imagined this trip in my head several times in the weeks leading up to the day of our departure.  I planned to take advantage of our time together and impart all my wisdom upon him in an environment which he could not escape.  He would have to hear me out, or risk serious injury from jumping out of a moving vehicle at 70mph.  It is difficult to impart wisdom to an audience that is asleep.  I was kind of sad that he slept, but knew he needed the rest to get over the illness.

  During the time he was awake, we talked a bit about this exciting opportunity he would have at UTI.  He didn’t appear to be nervous.  He was excited to go and didn’t seem to worry about being on his own so far away from home.  We talked about how proud Papa would be of his decision to go to UTI.  I stole glances at him from the driver’s seat and sometimes saw the little boy he used to be sitting beside me.  Austin was my first born.  He was an absolute angel as a baby.  He rarely cried and always woke up with a big smile – happiness radiating out like sunshine.  He was adorably cute with his brown hair and dark brown eyes.  He never ran off and always held my hand…. He has always had a sense of empathy and compassion for others.  He truly has a heart of gold.  At times, he gets hurt easily.  He expects honesty and goodness from those he encounters.  He has struggled off and on with making sense of how cruel this world can be.  I have always felt a strong connection to him; not just the mother/son bond, but something deeper I can’t put into words.  I see bits and pieces of myself in him.  He is a reflection of me on many levels.

All Grown Up

All Grown Up

 Austin his grown up to become a good man.  Wow, is it hard for me to call him that!  He is fiercely loyal to his family and friends.  He loves and adores his younger sister (even when she is a complete butthead to him).   He seems to have learned from his mistakes and has gained some insight and wisdom as he gets older and the years pass by.  He will be nineteen next month and for some reason that is much harder for me to swallow than it was when he turned eighteen.  I am so grateful he made it through his high school years without becoming involved in alcohol or drugs.  He was never a rebellious juvenile delinquent always in trouble with the law.  I am so thankful he never gave me that heartache.  We may have had our moments when we were angry and upset, but Austin has never called me vulgar names to my face.  He has never disrespected me in that way and often after an argument, he would come to my room to apologize, hug me and tell me he loved me. 

My Baby Boy

My Baby Boy

 As the miles passed, I wondered if I had done enough as a mother (as a parent) to prepare him for life as an adult.  I wondered if I had taught him all the lessons I wanted him to know before I released him into the wild on his own.  I couldn’t help but feel I needed more time.  Does he know how much I love him?  Does he know how much he means to me?  Does he know how amazing I think he is?  Does he know how proud I am of him?  Does he know that my heart aches to think of not seeing him every day?  Does he know that I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to let him go?  As the rolling hills of Wisconsin passed by, the memories came rushing back:  The joy I felt when I found out I was pregnant;  The first time I heard his heartbeat;  The first time I felt him kick;  The relief I felt when he was born healthy with ten fingers and ten toes;  Wondering how on earth something so beautiful and perfect came from me;  The contentment I felt as he slept soundly in my arms as I rocked him;  When he was learning how to walk; The way he held his arms up to me so I would pick him up; The smile on his face and the sound of his laughter when I tickled his belly and kissed his neck;  How he sat in the sand at the playground and played with his cars and trucks; In his highchair making dinosaurs with play dough; His first pair of glasses; How he played with Legos for hours; His first day of kindergarten;  Second grade; His tears when some of the kids were mean; His dad teaching him how to ride a bike;  Watching him play football/winning the championship; Watching him play basketball and being voted MVP by his teammates; Feeling so proud I thought my heart would burst; His first day of middle school;  His first girlfriend; His first time seeing the Grand Canyon; His first time playing in the ocean in Florida; His first trip to Disney World and Sea World; His first day of high school; Getting his driver’s license; His first truck; His first accident; Senior Prom; His first heartbreak; His first job; His tears when I told him Papa was sick; His sorrow when Papa passed away; The strength I found in his arms as he held me while I cried; High school graduation; His car packed and ready to go away to college… 

 I was grateful he slept through my tears…

 If I have learned anything in my job as a 911 dispatcher, it is how valuable life truly is.  How quickly a life can be taken.  I have tried to teach my children to choose their words carefully.  Words said cannot be unspoken and those words may be the last that person hears from you.  Regardless of how angry you are at a friend, lover, family member or even a stranger – be kind.  Find a way to say how you feel without being abusive or insulting.  Regret is a difficult thing to live with.  As morbid as this might sound, I ask myself frequently if something happened to my children and they were physically taken from this world – would they know how much I love them.  Do they know that I regret all the hours I have spent at work instead of being in their company?  Do they know that even though it appears my job means more to me than anything else, it is merely a way to pay the bills to support them?  Do they know how hard it is to support them on a single income?  Do they know that I realize they would rather have time with me than anything else?  Do they know that I have to work this hard just to put food on the table and keep the lights on at home?  Do they know that I am doing the best I can?  Do they know that I carry them with me, every day, wherever I go? 

 I have gone into Austin’s empty room one time since he has been gone.  I haven’t begun the deep clean that I know it needs.  I can’t bring myself to spend too much time in there.  Avoidance is my way of coping.  If I don’t go in his room, I don’t have to acknowledge that he is gone.  I miss him though; every day.  There is a void in my heart that can only be filled by his presence.  He still texts me and calls me, but it isn’t every day.  I long to be an overbearing mother who calls all the time, but I won’t allow myself to do that.  I know he needs his freedom to find his place in this world.  I find it strange that I can’t force him to tell me where he is going or what he is doing.  I worry that he isn’t eating well (enough) and that he isn’t taking his contacts out at night (he likes to sleep with them in).  I worry that he will oversleep and miss class or get sick and not know what medication to take to feel better.  I worry that he will go on with his life and somehow slowly forget about me.  I worry he will fall in love with someone and she will break his heart and I won’t be there (physically) to tell him how wonderful he is and that time heals.  I worry he will be afraid to tell me he screwed up or ask me for advice on how to fix the situation for fear that I will view him as a failure.  I hope he knows that he can always come to me and together we will find a way to “fix” whatever is broken or messed up.  I am far more interested in finding the lesson to be learned from a mistake than judging him for screwing up.  We all screw up from time to time.  Learn from it, move on, and try not to make the same mistake twice.

 I realize this does not have much to do with my job, but this is my confession and it is sincere and heartfelt.  This is a part of my life that I want to share with you.  I love this child more than life itself and I know he is going to do great things in this world. 


Embracing the Nerd in Me

As you know, I have recently gone back to school and some of you have inquired how things are going. I am thrilled to report that it is going very well indeed! History is fascinating to me and so far I have earned three “A’s” and one “B” on my exams. I have eleven more to take; one each week. These exams are SO difficult! It is so much more than memorizing dates and battles and who won what. English is also really fun for me. I have my first essay due this weekend and I am itching to write it. My professor is extremely knowledgeable and gives really great advice in her comments and corrections when she grades my papers. She even used one of my paragraphs as a good example for the other students to view! I am such a nerd that I smiled so big it felt like I had a hanger in my mouth! And algebra isn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be. I still need to finish the first chapter and take the test, but I’m fairly confident I will succeed.

I have been surprised at how much time is actually involved for each class. I’m not sure I will take three courses next semester. Working dogwatch has helped tremendously with giving me time to study when it slows down in the 911 center. I have driven my coworkers crazy trying to perfect my English papers before I submit them. I stress out and sigh and growl and constantly count and recount the number of words or sentences I’m allowed for each assignment. I know, without a doubt that I make things too hard sometimes. I have such a strong desire to do well that even the “B” I got on my history test bothers me. I really want to graduate with honors. Working full time (and quite a bit of overtime) and trying to raise a teenage daughter who is extremely active in sports is exhausting. It seems like I just take a test and in the blink of an eye it is time to take another one. I’m not quite sure where the time goes.

So thank you to those who have inquired about how things are going. I have been so busy that finding time to blog is difficult to come by. I am hopeful that I will learn to manage my time a bit better in the near future. I have several topics I have started to write about, but have not found the time to finish. I would love to hear from other working mothers who went back to school. Any words of wisdom regarding how to not lose my mind would be greatly appreciated!

Back to School

At forty years old, I have decided to go back to school to get my Bachelor’s Degree.  My son, Austin, will be leaving next month for college in Chicago (Universal Technical Institute) and getting him ready kind of inspired me.  I’m not quite sure what I have gotten myself into.  I found an online program at Jacksonville State University (JSU) in Alabama.  I’m a little embarrassed to tell you their mascot is a Gamecock.  (Don’t laugh at me!) I will be majoring in Emergency Management with a minor in Public Safety Telecommunications.  The goal here is to increase my job opportunities when I become deaf, blind and too slow to keep up working as a 911 dispatcher.  I’m fairly certain I have hearing loss from people screaming at me on the phone through my headset.  The older I get, the more I find myself squinting at the screen.  And considering I have about 26 years left of my life to work, I need to make myself as marketable as possible.

 It has been twenty years since I was in college.  Just filling out all the financial aid paperwork (for both Austin and I) was difficult enough.  I feel like a fish out of water.  I felt like I needed a college degree just to comprehend all of it and I haven’t even started classes yet.  I have an Associate’s Degree in Corrections and quite a few of my classes transferred over to JSU.  (Yay me!)  I found out recently, after speaking to my academic advisor that I can’t take any of the fun classes yet.  I have to get through a few general courses first.  So, starting August 21, 2013, I will be taking English, American History and Basic Algebra.  For the love of all that is Holy, that sounds about as much fun as lighting myself on fire. (sigh)  I could have taken a placement test for the math section, but I have never been great at math and the “refresher” course might do me some good.  Austin has mad math skills, but he’s leaving me.  Something about starting his own life or some such nonsense.    So Taylor, who will be taking Algebra II in high school, will have to help me muddle through it.  She may hate me by the time this is over in December. 

 So I have been awarded my financial aid, registered for my three classes and ordered my textbooks.  I’m excited and nervous at the same time.  English should be fine and now that I’m older history really kind of interests me.  Algebra, basic or not, I am absolutely dreading.  I have never taken an online course before, but it sounds fun and I was hoping it might be easy.  WRONG.  To take my course online, JSU uses something called “Blackboard.”  It has (I’m not kidding you) FIFTY tutorials just to show how to use it.  I feel old.  Not only do I feel old, I feel overwhelmed and slightly stupid.  Eventually, I have to take Biology with a Lab.  How on earth do you take a Biology Lab course ONLINE????  How does that work?  It seriously boggles my mind. 

 The other fun part of going back to school is going back to working dogwatch.  Dogwatch hours are 9:00pm – 7:00am.  I haven’t worked dogwatch in years.  My memories of dogwatch include severe sleep deprivation,  exhaustion, constantly being woken up by the phone ringing, sunlight blazing through my curtains, dogs barking, kids laughing and playing, garbage men collecting trash and people generally enjoying life outside.  Ugh.  I am not one of those people that can get by on four to five hours of sleep.  I require A LOT of sleep to have a sunny disposition.  I’m not going to lie.  Sleep might just be my favorite thing in the entire world.  Seriously.  It takes a massive amount of effort to be nice to people when I am sleep deprived.   My family and coworkers can verify this.  So why would I put myself through the misery of working dogwatch?  Well, I’m thinking I might be able to get some of my schoolwork done when it quiets down at night.  That’s the plan anyway.  We bid shifts by seniority every four months.  So, if dogwatch is a disaster for me and everyone in close proximity to me, I only have to spend four months in hell (smile). 

 So I’m crossing my fingers and praying this adventure is challenging as well as enjoyable.  With any luck I won’t fall flat on my face and find that I’m way too old to go back to school.  And I wish the best of luck to my family, friends and coworkers in tolerating me as I adjust to dogwatch hours in September!

Attitude can make you or break you in this profession.  Dispatchers deal with a wide variety of calls on a daily basis.  It is an emotional roller coaster at times.  Sometimes it is difficult to keep a positive attitude when dealing with so many irate people.  I haven’t always had the best attitude in the dispatch center.  There are days when it is really difficult not to speak to people with an angry tone in my voice.  I think when I was younger I was more susceptible to letting this job drag me down.  It took me a while to learn that I can get more information from a disgruntled caller by being sympathetic to their needs.  If I’m just as angry as they are on the phone it takes much longer to complete the call.  It also took me a long time to realize it isn’t my place to judge people.  Everyone is struggling with something. 

When I first started in this profession, society as a whole seemed to be a little more self sufficient.  The majority of people that called 911 truly had an emergency.  It was a simpler time.  In today’s world, people call 911 for everything from a barking dog to their order being wrong at the McDonald’s drive thru.  It’s difficult not to get frustrated.  When I was a child, I was out the door at sunrise and didn’t get home until sunset.  My parents never knew where I was.  I rode my bike everywhere going from one friend’s house to the next.  My parents didn’t fear for my safety.  They knew all my friends and their parents.  They knew the neighborhood.  I grew up with the freedom to explore my world.  My children didn’t have that opportunity.  Admittedly, as a parent, I feared for their safety every time they walked out of my house.  Working in the nerve center of the police department made me an extremely overprotective parent.  Fears of them being abducted by a stranger terrified me.  If my kids wanted to go to a friend’s house, I drove them there.  They didn’t have the freedom to roam – even in their own neighborhood.  I wish they could have had the childhood I did.

 Things are different in today’s world.  Society has changed and I can’t say for the better.  People no longer talk to their neighbors or even know them at all.  People are often afraid to speak to their neighbors about loud music or even a barking dog.  To be honest, I think it’s sad.  People call the police for everything and often tie up 911 lines for things that don’t qualify as an emergency.  Cell phones fall into their own category of nightmare for dispatchers.  911 lines are constantly tied up with pocket dials.  Our agency has a policy that requires us to call each and every one back to make sure no one needs help.  The amount of time I spend a day on cell phone hang-ups is ridiculous.  It creates a lot of frustration in the dispatch center.  It’s easy to have a bad attitude in that type of atmosphere. 

 Every dispatch center has at least one Negative Nellie or Bitter Betty.  It’s difficult to work with people like that and listen to them for an entire shift each day.  There are dispatchers I can’t stand to work with just because they suck the life right out of the room.  They treat people horribly on the phone and I have a real problem with that.  More often than not, we are the first point of contact for citizens calling the police department whether it is a 911 line or administrative line.  If those dispatchers had a family member that called their police department for help, would they want them treated that way?  I would hope not.  The way I see it, you are responsible for the energy you bring into the room.  This job is difficult enough without having to work with someone with a foul attitude.  Dispatch centers are notorious for low morale.  Bad attitudes are a large part of the problem.  That being said, a bad attitude is often difficult to improve if you work in a center where you are underpaid, unappreciated, understaffed, required to work mandatory overtime, and have no one fighting to make things better for you.  I am lucky to work for a really great department.  Our pay is decent and although we are understaffed at the moment, most of us are overtime hounds (myself included) and don’t mind picking up the extra hours.  We do have our own issues in the dispatch center, but the majority of the time, it is a great place to work.  I sympathize with those dispatchers who aren’t as lucky.

 So what can you do to improve your attitude?  Make a choice.  You can choose to see everything in a negative light, speak to callers in an angry, patronizing voice and make everyone around you miserable.  OR, you can search for the good in everything; refuse to let life and the work that you do drag you down into the depths of misery.   Make a choice to be kind and courteous to callers and make a positive contribution to your dispatch center.  If you love your job, but hate where you work, find it within yourself to do your job to the best of your ability anyway.  The citizens and your officers, firefighters and paramedics deserve the best you have to offer.  EVERY SINGLE DAY.  If you can’t commit to that – get out and find something that makes you happy where you can make a sincere contribution to society.  This job isn’t for everyone.  Most dispatchers I know love their job, but hate the place they work or hate their coworkers.  Every dispatch center has its problems.  You have to take the good with the bad.  Whatever your choice is, be aware of the energy you bring into the dispatch center.  If you truly hate your job, you’re doing a disservice to everyone around you that depends on you.  I have seen dispatchers that are so miserable when they walk in the door that they fail to pay attention and focus on their job, putting the lives of citizens and officers at risk.  They have no business being in this profession.  That’s just the way I feel about it. 

 If you choose to become a 911 dispatcher, I wish you the best of luck.  If you can get through the training process and you have what it takes, you will find that even though the job is difficult at times it is very rewarding on many levels.  I believe 911 Dispatchers are an elite force.  My coworkers, officers, firefighters are my family.  While everyone has a bad day every once in a while, make it a point to not bring that negativity into the dispatch center.  Do what you can to improve your dispatch center.  The best way to improve morale is to lead by example.

It goes without saying that working as a 911 dispatcher has affected several areas of my life.  I expected the odd work and sleep hours, the missed holidays with family and the mental exhaustion.   I did not expect to become so emotionally numb to tragedy that I cannot grieve the loss of my own father.   Recently, my mother and I started attending a grief support group.  My father passed away in November of 2012 from stage four brain cancer.   I signed up for the group with the intention of supporting my mother and hoping to figure out why I was having such a difficult time allowing myself to grieve the death of my father.   I can honestly feel myself purposely avoiding thinking about it at all.   I had some suspicion that my job may have something to do with my grieving process, but I was amazed at how much it has truly affected my ability (or lack thereof) to grieve.  While I am not a big fan of group therapy, it has been a good experience.  Grieving, I have learned, is an individual and deeply personal experience.  Grieving the loss of a father is very different from grieving the loss of a spouse.  My mother and I are grieving very differently.  My parents had been married for fifty years.  I cannot imagine how difficult this journey is for my mother.  It breaks my heart that I cannot make it easier for her.  It is a road she must travel alone.  I can be there to support her, but what works for me may not work for her and I need to be patient with that.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve. 

In the eight months since my dad passed away, I have broken down a few times.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it consumes me.  More often than not, I try to avoid thinking about it for fear of losing control.  Dispatchers by nature are control freaks.  Losing control kind of terrifies me.   The sadness tends to hit me out of the blue when I’m least expecting it.  If I had to visualize it, it would be a big wave crashing onto the shore.  It is overwhelming and knocks me off my feet.  It feels like a riptide that tries to pull me into a dark ocean of sorrow.  I wasn’t ready for my dad to go.  I had sixteen months to prepare for it, but I wasn’t ready.  I have found myself battling to stay on the shore.  There are times when I want to dive into that sorrow, but I fear I might drown and never surface.  What if I dive in, lose myself in grief and can’t come back up for air?  Would I be able to perform my job to the best of my ability by allowing myself to really feel the loss of my father?  I’m not sure I would.  So I stand on the shore and look at that endless ocean and the waves that threaten to pull me under.  Part of me wants to dive in and lose myself in the grief that beckons me, knowing I need to feel that sorrow in order to get past it.  The other part of me fights to stand my ground on the shore because people count on me to be that rock that they so dearly need in their time of crisis.  I don’t know how to grieve and still be strong.  The fear of letting go and really grieving for the loss of my father scares me. 

During the first grief support group meeting, as I listened to the others give a brief summary of what brought them there, I heard many stories of heartache and loss.  A lot of deaths caused by cancer (my father included), vehicle accidents, children taken way too young, suicide and even murder.  My heart broke for each and every person in that room.  As I started talking about my father, a few tears managed to escape.  I was grateful for the abundance of Kleenex in the room.  I found myself not only thinking of my father, but thinking of many of the callers I have had over the years that called 911 to report a death.   I didn’t tell the group about those thoughts, but they were there.   I thought of the mothers I have spoken to that have dialed 911 when they found their children who committed suicide.  I thought of the children who have called trying to save their parents who decided life was too difficult to live.  I thought of the husbands and wives that have called when their spouse who was so ill finally stopped breathing.  I thought of the woman that went looking for her husband when he didn’t come home from his daily run and found him dead on the running trail with the family dog that wouldn’t leave his side.  I thought of the mother who came home to find her baby boy murdered by the father that was supposed to love him.  I thought of all those people, both the deceased and the survivors and grieved for them too.  Honestly, it felt overwhelming.  I felt guilty for not being able to only think of my father.   Did that mean I didn’t love him enough?  All of those other people were strangers to me.  How could they have such a strong hold on my heart?   It is a rare occasion that I can put a face to a name when I answer a 911 line, but I still carry those callers in my heart.  I hear their voices in my head.  They are a part of me, but I never allowed myself to really feel their grief.  I listened to their cries and their pleas for help, their anger and shock and disbelief at the situation, but I never allowed myself to bring them or those feelings to the surface.  I forced myself tuck them safely in the back of my mind and I moved on to the next call.   Not only was I grieving for my father, but for all those calls I have taken over the years.   I know in my heart that it doesn’t mean I didn’t love my father enough.  My dad was my biggest fan.  I miss him so much I wonder if this ache will ever subside.  It’s difficult to keep a positive attitude when I feel so sad inside.

 It takes a certain type of person to handle what we go through on a daily basis in the 911 center.     Avoidance is my coping mechanism that allows me to do this job.  Surely, I can’t be the only dispatcher alive that uses this mechanism.    Dispatchers are often an outlet for the public.  There isn’t a dispatcher out there who hasn’t been screamed at and called a variety of inappropriate names by a multitude of callers.  We are the first contact during a crisis and people handle stress in very different ways.  We often take the brunt of the verbal assault.  To do this job, you cannot take it personally.  You have to blow it off.  You can’t do this job (and do it well) if you break down  and cry every time someone yells at you whether it’s a citizen, officer, fire chief or sergeant.  You have to have incredibly thick skin.  That being said, as dispatchers, we tend to become a bit callous.  We use humor to deal with the seriousness of the situation.   It’s a way to survive this job.  I have become numb to a lot of things.  I find that I have to be.  I wouldn’t be able to do my job effectively if I really allowed myself to “feel” the anger, sadness and sometimes helplessness that come with the territory of being a dispatcher.  Although I can’t speak for other dispatchers, I know that it takes quite a bit to get me upset in my life outside of work.  I tend to not understand people who “sweat the small stuff.”  If it isn’t life threatening, I really just don’t see the point in worrying about it.  My children know they have to be on fire or bleeding to really get my attention at times. (They might argue that leaving a mess in the kitchen or their rooms gets them  plenty of  attention.)   I know this has been difficult for them.  As a parent, we are often told by our kids (especially teenagers) that we “just don’t understand.”  I do understand, but if the situation doesn’t involve a dismemberment or loss of life, I really don’t lose any sleep over it.  It is what it is, so to speak.  Move on.  Believe me when I say that I haven’t always been this way.  It has taken many years to get to this mindset I have – good or bad.  Perhaps it is a mixture of the effects of my job as well as a bit of wisdom that comes with age.  I can tell you that I am much happier now not worrying about the little things in life than I was twenty years ago when I worried about everything.  Life just doesn’t have to be that difficult.  Life is too short to not enjoy it. 

So currently, I am taking it one day at a time.  I miss my father more than words can say.  I am hopeful that time will make things easier and the ache of his loss won’t feel so sharp.  Those who have traveled this path before me have told me that time heals.  I will figure out a way to allow myself to grieve this loss because I know I need to in order to heal.  I will do my best to comfort and support my mother, my siblings and my own children who are feeling the loss just as deeply as I am.  I will keep a positive attitude because life is more good than bad.  I was blessed to have my dad for nearly 40 years of my life.  He is gone but not forgotten.  God will see me through this and I know my father is in a better place. 

I am including a link to a song that has helped me for reasons I can’t begin to explain.  A woman with an extraordinary voice sang this during a “Blue Christmas” service for people who were grieving during the holidays last year.  It is a beautiful song.

 Below is the link for the grief support group I found.  The workbook is extremely helpful and they have support groups in the United States, Canada and Internationally.

%d bloggers like this: