Grateful for ordinary heroes; a tribute to our fallen firefighters McCarthy and Croom

When others are running from danger, what kind of man or woman chooses to run intodanger instead? How many people ever stop to think of the job our local firefighters and policemen do? I watched, at length, the funerals in Buffalo NY today for two brave firefighters who died in the line of duty. About 6,000 firefighters from across the country and Canada came to pay respects, a solid line of blue uniforms and white gloves raised in salute or covering hearts. Lt. Charles McCarthy and Firefighter Jonathan Croom heard that there was someone trapped in the basement of a fire and they did not hesitate to go in to search, to try to save someone from the raging fire. When the floor collapsed, McCarthy and Croom were trapped and became victims of the fire themselves. It is a sad irony that no trace of another person was found in that basement. There was no need for them to have gone in; no need for them to have died. Some will say they should have waited to be sure, but they did what they were trained to do. When fire takes over, every second counts and firefighters don’t have a lot of time to sit and weigh the consequences. In those who have chosen to serve and protect, it is instinctive to face the danger head on. It is an extraordinary gift to have the heart to put another life before your own. these brave men and women are ready every day to do just that and we often give little thought to what that means, or how valuable they really are.

After 9/11, firefighters were revered and respected and we could not say enough about the sacrifice of those men following the destruction of the World Trade Centers. There were honors and parades and tributes, all richly deserved. A new respect for boys in blue, both policemen and firemen took hold. It was good. Eight years later we may have slipped back into our complacency. There have been no national disasters to rally our patriotism and gratitude. As we mourn and honor two men who made the supreme sacrifice, we really need to honor those who serve and are willing to take that same risk every day.  Let’s give  them our thanks while they are here to hear it.

Growing up on the east side of Buffalo in the 1950s, I have fond memories of the local fire houses, where the firemen would often be sitting outside. They took time to answer silly kid questions, show us the firetrucks or even join in a game of  jacks. We thought it was pretty neat that they got to hang around during the day while our dads were off to the steel plant or auto factories. They acted as neighborhood guardians and we were taught to give them unflinching respect. If there was a neighborhood fire in those days a crowd would gather, but it had a different feel then- it wasn’t some exciting show to watch.  Neighbors were standing by to aid the victims, wrapping them in blankets and offering to make phone calls (noot everyone had a home phone and cell phones were a Dick tracy fantasy). The older ladies stood in prayer, clutching rosary beads and making the sign of the cross. Someone would always bring cold drinks in the summer or hot coffee in the winter to weary firefighters. It was an honor and a duty to assist in any way possible. We were in awe of those men (no ladies back then) who braved the smoke and fire no matter what the weather or time of day. Those were the heroes of my generation.

I live in a small, rural community now. Our Barker Fire Department is an all-volunteer operation. We may move at a generally slower pace here in cow country, but when that siren goes off and scanners buzz, we have brave and dedicated men and women who drop what they were doing to respond. They may have been plowing a field, fixing a transmission or peeling potatoes for dinner; it all stops as they race to someone in need. The word “volunteer” may be lumped with amateur or unprofessional because few people realize the amount of training these volunteers must go through to become firefighters. Training in many areas continues while they are members. It is a huge commitment that is embraced by all too few members of the community. There’s nothing rinky-dink about local volunteer fire companies anywhere. They are dedicated people who already have jobs they do to earn a living. They have chosen to serve their community and neighbors as professionals. Our lives and property are in their hands and we rely on them. We can go to sleep peacefully at night, without having to wonder what would happen if lightning hit the house or the garage burned. While we sleep  we are blessedly unaware of the car crash that needed the jaws of life or the dairy cows that were herded out of a burning barn before it collapsed. As I watched those funerals today, I felt a little guilty. Our Barker Fire Volunteer Company, and those nearby who aid us, give me peace of mind. What do I do for them? Yes, I try to be supportive of fundraisers  and events when I can, but when was the last time I said “Thank You?”

I’m saying it now. To every man and woman who wears the uniform of a firefighter, I salute you. I say a prayer of gratitude for your noble service and a continuing prayer for your safety. I pray for those families who have lost loved ones, like Lt. McCarthy and  Firefighter Croom.  I say thank you to all those wives, husbands and children who have had to attend events alone, or have their parent miss a softball game and who wait patiently while their spouse or parent puts the needs and lives of others, often strangers, first. During the services today, Croom’s mother spoke about people saying “You must be so proud…” Her response was “I have always been proud.” That’s a very profound statement. It’s important that we let our public servants know that we are not only proud of those who have given their lives, but of all those who stand willing to make any sacrifice when that siren sounds. Yes, we are proud…and grateful. We’ll try hard not to take you for granted. Thank you for all you do.

Well done, Chip and Jonathan… good and faithful servants, well done.

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Sleep Apnea? Not me!!

            I’ve added a new accessory to my wardrobe. It’s a pear shaped vinyl mask with dark blue straps that resembles something out of a bondage catalogue and has lots of Velcro that makes me fear for my long hair. Who would have thought I would become wildly enamored of my strange new sleep buddy? It’s been a week since we started going to bed together and I think it’s going to be a long and happy relationship.

            Okay, maybe I should treat the subject matter with a more serious and scholarly approach but Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) has been written about in scholarly tones for many years. We just don’t pay attention. At least, I didn’t think it could apply to me!

            Sleep, deep restorative sleep, had been elusive for a long time. It’s a gradual thing, this theft of quality rest, but one that comes with aging and a host of medical problems, not counting the stress of daily life. We assault our psyche with a continual bombardment of electronic and media stimulation and then wonder why we can’t turn it off at night. All I know is, I have been trudging along, weary to the bones, for way too long. In one of those head-slapping moments, I’ve realized that I should have done this much sooner, and I’m on a mission to get the rest of my fellow slugs headed for soothing sleep.

            Did you know that 80% of sleep apnea cases go undiagnosed? My own primary physician has suggested a sleep study several times over the past few years in a bid to combat my exhaustion, but I knew exactly why I didn’t sleep well. Or did I? Well, I’m getting older, I’m obese, I have some allergies and asthma symptoms related to my Lupus but most of all, pain is a sleep-wrecker. Tossing and turning to change the position of aching joints becomes a fact of life. Add those endlessly restless legs to the mix and it’s a challenge to stay asleep for anything but short bursts of time. Morning finds you clinging to sleep and your pillow like  achild with its blankie. “Don’t make me get up!” Daytime weariness got the best of me when compounded with some asthma issues and I finally relented, agreeing to a sleep study. However, I would surely know if I stopped breathing during the night, wouldn’t I? I don’t wake up gasping for air like a drowning person, so I fully expected the sleep study to be an exercise in futility. I was wrong. I could have been dead wrong.

 

THE STUDY

            First of all, I was happy to learn that there was a sleep center nearby in Lockport NY, only a 20 mile drive for me. Once you have a doctor’s referral, they set up two appointments, spaced two weeks apart. The theory is, if the findings are negative, you can always cancel the second appointment. They do explain the procedure so you know what to expect but it’s an overview that was quickly forgotten by the thought “What if I have to go to the bathroom when I’m all wired up?” Laugh if you will but it was a very real concern, since you get more like an old Betsy-Wetsy doll as you age (drink, wet, drink, wet). You need to go to the center, with your pajamas, and plan to stay from 9 p.m. until roughly 5:30 a.m. Come freshly showered with no lotions, sprays, ointments etc. Okay, gotcha.

            My appointment was on the Friday of Fourth of July weekend and all the fireworks were going on in my brain as I prepared. I decided to stop drinking liquids a full 10 hours before the test so I didn’t have to go to the bathroom, my usually tied back hair was left free for the equipment and my nightgown was at the ready. The anticipation was palpable. At 4:30 they called to postpone the test because the technician was sick. ARRGGHHH!!! Suddenly, I really wanted the test I didn’t want in the first place. They called on Monday to reschedule for Wednesday, leaving me only two days to get all worked up, so that was good.

On Wednesday, I arrived at the center, a small building in a huge professional complex. In it were three bedrooms, a toilet/bath/shower, the technician’s command center and Mark. Mark was the technician with a wry sense of humor who has this routine down like a drill sergeant.

            Behind door number three, the room is more budget motel looking than medical-like, probably to put us at ease. Lucky for me, a cracker-jack air conditioner made it nice and cool. No, I did not have my papers filled out because no one sent them to me. No problem. He gave me a clipboard and a pen and turned the TV on to show a video about sleep apnea testing and treatment while he went off to talk to doors number one and two.  Hard to watch the video and write, but I finished my assignment, anxious to get on with it. I put on my nightgown and filled out my questionnaires (more later on really being honest about the answers) and waited.

            If you have seen the head wires used in an EEG study and think that’s all there is to it, you’re in for a surprise. You get all that and so much more!

            A belt-like elastic band goes around your upper chest, and another one across your lower chest (to check breathing expansion). Electronic leads get stuck to your legs, two each, and the wires are threaded up through the elastic bands. (I was grateful that I had no leg hair under those sticky patches!). A  few more on arm and neck.

            The process of gluing the array of electrodes in your hair doesn’t take long, but I was surprised at the ones added to the face to monitor eye and jaw movement. Ditto for the microphone (like a watch battery) taped to your throat to catch the snoring. The thin hose that looks like a breathing canula puts tiny sensors in your nose to gauge the air intake. Holding the horse’s-mane of electrical wires aside while I backed into the bed, mark ran me through a series of eye movements, etc. to check the equipment and set baselines. Then Mark added one last touch before lights out, a fingertip meter to tell my blood oxygen saturation level. It glowed eerily red in the dark, like ET’s finger. Now, all I had to do was fall asleep. Yeah, right! 

To be continued……

Sharing

You know how things happen for a reason? Well, I think they do…and my new year emphasis on gratitude caught the attention of a fellow blogger named Daniel Brenton. Daniel has a site titled “The Meaning of Existense (and all that)” that you really need to click on to.  His “Curmudgeon’s guide to spirituality” moniker gave me a great laugh and I was delighted to find his Gratitude Watch. Simply put, Daniel is on the lookout for writings or media pertaining to gratitude, and the cyberfairies brought him to my humble blog. If you visit his site you’ll find links to some great ‘good news.’ 

It seems a somewhat daunting task to try to seek out the gratitude in this world but Daniel is on a mission. I’m certainly grateful to be a part of it! Thank you very sincerely much, Daniel!

Check out http://www.danielbrenton.com/

An attitude/gratitude adjustment

About a decade ago a friend happened on a book that talked about recognizing good things. Sarah Ban Breathnach’s “Simple Abundance” advised readers to get a blank notebook and start a GRATITUDE JOURNAL. Each day, no matter what has transpired, you need to end the day by listing FIVE things you are grateful for. I remember that long-ago journal of mine started with basic, tangible things like a roof over my head shared with my Mom, a car to get me places, food on the table, etc. As the journal continued, not wanting to list the same basic things, I looked harder for things in that particular day that were special. A thank you card from a reader, a brilliant sunshine, the lilac bushes blooming… gifts of nature…of God… that made me feel good. Once you open your conscious mind  to the subconscious reactions to life’s pleasures, you find yourself looking for more. Soon, you realize they were there all along, but once acknowledged they take center stage.

That journal went by the wayside; I don’t even remember when. Years of good things and bad things along life’s highway are relinquished to memory and pulled out at odd times to savor, or regret, yet again. I don’t know exactly when my balance scale starting tipping from optimism to pessimism, but this last year found me spending far too much precious energy worrying about things I could not change and things that should not matter. It’s easy to get caught up in the negative things and a year of political wrangling and a failing economy sure helped. In short, I became way too crabby and cranky for my own good… or the good of those around me. So now, the bad luck year of 2008 is over and the bad habits need to go out as well. If ever I needed a Gratitude Journal, the time is now.

Interestingly enough, the notebook I started my new 2009 journal in is decorated with a smiling female cartoon and the words “Drama Queen.” Yep, that’s me all right. Drama is my middle name. It’s good to be a rainbow in a beige world only if the colors you are exuding are pleasing to those around you. Thankfully, I am blessed with friends who traveled the rocky year with me and loved me in spite of my walk on the dark side. I owe it to them to become a cheerful friend and companion again.

Growing old is inevitable. Growing old, bitter and crabby is optional. I think of the people around me, friends who are ten, twenty or nearly thirty years older than me and still sparkling! I want to sparkle again! And so, I am determined to adjust my attitude with a heavy dose of gratitude for what’s good in life. The rest doen’t matter.

Yes, God, I am grateful. I am blessed in many ways by many people and experiences that bring sunshine into my life. Help me to turn on my own ray to light the way for others.

Butter Babies

  I was in the middle of eating an ear of wonderfully sweet corn earlier today when I realized I still made a butter ledge in the ear to start. A holdover from my childhood! Funny, I don’t remember just who taught me the trick but I was very young and at an Obermiller family reunion at the farm. When you eat an ear of corn, you need to eat a couple of rows the length of the corn to make a butter ledge. Then, when you roll the ear across the stick of butter, the ledge collects and holds the butter in place while you eat the next row! It’s a Butter Baby’s delight.

I formed my eating habits in the 50s and 60s. Cholesterol wasn’t heard of and saturated fat had not been demonized yet. Our public school cafeteria lunch ladies made the greatest peanut butter cookies on the planet and we drank whole milk to wash them down. They had different ideas about nutrition in those days and EVERYTHING was buttered! Vegetables, potatoes and pasta got doused and they buttered the bread of every sandwich…even the hot dog and hamburger rolls! Truth to tell, we ate margarine at home, mostly. I don’t remember the days when you had to mix the coloring into the lardy stuff because it was yellow and in sticks at our table. I remember when Mrs. Filberts made it’s debut; the cadillac of margarines! We even made the coveted Christmas Butter Cookies with it to save money that year. Butter at home was a real treat, like Sunday morning when Mom would walk down to Smolinski’s bakery for fresh, crispy hard rolls and a pound of butter from Markiewicz’s Superette. Those rolls and butter were comfort food at its best; a shared delight. Real butter was the final ingredient in the homemade Hershey’s Cocoa fudge that Mom made sometimes as a treat.

Around 1958, Bethlehem Steel went on strike for almost 10 months. Money was so tight for us and many families that we were signed up for Surplus Food from the government. Every month my mother lined up with her food book to get the allotment for six people in our family. They gave us powdered eggs (yuck), powdered milk (that took a cement mixer to get the lumps out of), oatmeal, flour, sugar and canned meat (double yuck). The best things were five pound blocks of cheese (lots of mac and cheese in those days) and one pound of real butter for each person. That seemed like such a luxury to me. Real butter- all the time! It made those endless grilled cheese sandwiches just melt in your mouth. My mom made some great oatmeal cookies with those other things but it was having butter in the fridge that somehow took the sting out of those months of scrimping. Even then it seemed decadent.

Theres a TV commercial on lately that shows a 50s sitcom kind of mom giving her family baked potatoes with a whole stick of yellow gold in each. Yeah, baby! Baked potatoes and butter are a match made in heaven. I think it’s a commercial for cholesterol drugs, but the only thing that caught my attention was those potatoes. It’s only fair to report that despite my obesity and love of butter, my cholesteral at last check was 163, with lots more good ones than bad. That’s purely genetics, believe me! One of these days those genes may turn on me and I may have to give up the red meat that’s my favorite food, but they’ll have to pry the butter from my cold, dead hands!

The tougher the economy gets, the more luxuries we’ll have to give up. My saving grace is that butter on sale isn’t much more costly than margarine so I refuse to feel guilty. Hey, I already gave up a gallon of Diet Coke a day…a girl has to have some pleasure in life! I’ll keep baking cakes and cookies with butter, cooking my eggs in it, and biting a butter ledge into every corn ear to get more. When we picked yellow buttercup flowers as kids, we would hold them under someone’s chin. If the shiny petals reflected yellow onto your chin, it meant you loved butter. I don’t remember, but my whole face must have turned yellow because I’m a butter baby for sure.

“Pockets” is going to Middleport on Sunday!

The First Annual Community Family Night in middlrport will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, and Pockets the Clown has been invited. This time there’ll be REAL animals to go with her balloon animals, because the Buffalo Zoomobile will be there at 6 p.m.! Holy Cross Lutheran Church is planning and sponsoring the activities, which include a bounce house, games, face painting and much more.  The whole community is invited for an evening of fun and fellowship.

Hot dogs and pop will be available for $1, and all the proceeds will go toward the new playground renovations that concerned citizens have taken on. There have been several fundraisers for MOP (Middleport Outdoor Playground) and you can get cheap treats and help the playground fund at the same time. For information on Middleport activities and MOP fundraising, check out Lynnemarie Donner’s “Towpath Partyline” on Wednesday in the US&J and Medina Journal or check out her Everyday Connection blog link to the right!

Pockets says “See you there, everybody!”

Come join the Relay for Life party!

Coming to the Relay For Life on Saturday? Registration opens at 11 a.m., teams wil be settled in their sites and the entertainment and activities begin at 2 p.m. Everone is invited, admission is free, so grab a lawn chair and join us!

Schedule of Events:

 

*        2:00pm                  Welcome

*        2:05 – 3:00             Red House Guitar Kids

*        3:00 – 3:25            Newfane Choral Group

*        3:30 – 4:00            Danielle Krzemien and friends

*        4:00 – 4:45            Ridgewood Bible Church MIMES

*        5:00 – 5:45            Gravity Pirate Jugglers (Trackside)

*        6:00pm-7:00pm   OPENING CEREMONY (STAGE)

·          Pledge of Allegiance

·          National Anthem – Brian and Kathy Dick and boys; Evan, Spencer, and Austin

·          Speakers: Marianne Currie-Hall, Mayor Tucker, Ryan Wertman, Connie Cox- Survivor mom, Jane Dent

·          Kamilah Robison – Poem

·          Pastor Foster – Opening Prayer

·          DeWitt Clinton Elementary Chorus

·          “Our Rainbow of Hope” Balloon Ceremony

Survivor Lap

Caregiver Lap

Parade of Teams  “Lockport Community Band”

*        7:00 – 9:45            CRS Band

*        10:00 – 10:45LUMINARIA CEREMONY

Moment of Silence

Bagpiper – John Smith (Trackside)

First Baptist Church of Lockport Choir

Poem Candle lighting ceremony

Bagpiper – John Smith  (one lap with candles lit)

*        12:00am – 12:45amFIGHT BACK CEREMONY

*        1:00                        KAROKE

*        Throughout the night – themed laps; backwards lap; holding hands lap; sidestep lap; smile lap; skip lap; kiddie hop lap;

*        6:00am-6:30amCLOSING CEREMONY

Food availability:

4 p.m. Barker Lions BBQ- ½ chicken, potato salad, applesauce, roll& butter, brownie, $7.

At the sports shack- nachos and cheese, lots of candy, plus Molinaro’s pizza, walk-away tacos, pop, water

Coffee

At Quality tent- hot dogs, hamburgers (alone or meal deals), strawberry shortcake, pop, Cotton candy, popcorn, fried dough and sno-cones! 

 

Kid’s area:

face painting, balloons, crafts, bounce house, petting zoo all free. Carnival games for prizes- tickets are $5 for 16. Pony rides for nominal fee. 

More games and fun!

See you there!