Friday, April 3, 2020

911 & The Single Life: Fall Prevention


And now…I’ve decided to continue my series, as planned. As you all know, there is an over-abundance of information and resources on the subject of COVID-19.  but the best bet is to go to the Center for Disease Control’s site, which is always being updated with the latest: cdc.gov.
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Here in Wyoming, we’re all hoping that Winter will be over soon, and that Spring will be “springing”. As usual, we get those freak storms here and there (like we just had), but for the most part, I think that from now on, we’ll be seeing more sun that snow. At least I hope so, because I’ve had a severe case of cabin fever for the past few months. Not quite to the point of “Heeeere’s Carol!!” but…close. Very close!

Looking back on this past Winter, I’ve had a few “snow-and ice combination” near-flips and misses in the driveway, in parking lots, at the station, at the mailbox. Fortunately, I’ve been able to grab something and catch myself. Honestly speaking, there were a few times where  I probably looked like a cartoon character…arms flailing, legs whirring out of control as the fall was possibly (and probably) anticipated and witnessed by several web cams and "Facebook Live" hounds wielding their smartphones.

But falling is no laughing matter. Once I had my “Humpty-Dumpty” moment in the hallway, believe me, I was not laughing. If anything, my awareness for Fall Prevention only increased.

Many would be surprised at the “Fall Call” volume that our EMTs and Paramedics respond to, year-round…in addition to the COVID-19 calls. And believe me when I say that age is not the problem! The causes of falls - ranging from impulsiveness, to intoxication, to falling off a ladder while Spring cleaning - to just being plain stupid and thinking you're invincible...stopping and focusing on what you’re doing is perhaps the most important first step before the "first step" in Fall Prevention.

The Most Common Causes of Falls

According to our Paramedics/EMTs, the most common causes of falls are: 1) Intoxication, 2) Area rugs, and (believe it or not), 2) Pets. In my own case, my big toe caught on the hem of my baggy sweatpants...but to be completely honest, it was my own fault of rushing around that started the whole chain reaction. Nevertheless...

Let's look at the top reasons for Falls:

My admitted weakness - Spinetta Wines
Especially their Black Muscat
IntoxicationEven a little alcohol can impair your balance and reflexes. A lot of alcohol? Well, that goes without saying. It’s a slippery slope towards bad judgment, and ultimately, unconsciousness…because once you’re at that point, you won’t even know if you hit your head on the corner of a table, or how you found yourself at the bottom of the stairs. That is, if you even wake up from such a fall.
   Sure, it’s nice to enjoy a glass of [California] wine, or a nice cold beer in order to unwind after a long day at work…but drinking alone can be an unhealthy risk. So, if you do drink alone…do it in moderation and set boundaries for yourself. And, of course, never drink and drive. Better to just go straight to bed-or-couch and sleep it off, than “decide” in an impaired state to do something inarguably stupid.

Area rugs. Even “anti-slip” backing may not always solve the problem on slick wood floors (be careful about how much you clean/wax those floors, by the way). Rugs on carpeted floors need to be secured down, somehow. If you do slip and fall on such flooring, you might want to think about how our EMTs might be “slip-sliding away” as well, just to get to you...in order to help you.
   Also, be wary of the edges and corners of the rugs you have in your home. Even finish-edged rugs on a carpet base can cause problems; over time, those edges can bend up, or get frayed. So be careful how you enter the rooms that have such a situation or layout.
   You know your home the best. Always think safety first when planning your interior decorating!

My Grand-Puppy, Emma...at the N. Arapaho Pow Wow, Sept 2018
PetsWe love our fur babies, but let’s face it…they can sometimes be a bit, well...unpredictable. There’s really nothing you can do to prevent your pooch from running up and jumping on you. OMG, they’re SO happy to see you! But a medium to large-sized dog could push you right over, or at the very least cause you to lose your balance. Small dogs and cats can suddenly appear right in front of you, so be aware of where your pets aresurvey the area or rooms before you proceed. Train them to “sit” or “stay” on command.
   Okay, so...cats are a different story; they pretty much go wherever they please…however they please! 

Other causes of falls…

Impulsiveness: “Slow down, you move too fast…” Made you sing it! Thank you, Simon & Garfunkel. Seriously, though…impulsiveness was one of the factors that led to my own fall. I looked at the time, started rushing around, not being mindful of my actions and surroundings. Even though my sweat pants were too large, I may not have fallen if I had walked, instead of bolted down the hallway.
   Get up slowlyWalk, don’t run. Life is not a sprint (even if your morning-caffeinated drink would tell you otherwise). I would rather be late to work and still be in one piece…than not make it in at all and have to explain the story to my boss (even though she probably wouldn't be surprised). The fortunate thing is that my boss and the crews know my work schedule and when to expect me. So, if I didn't show up without any word or explanation, they’d probably know something was wrong.
   Watch where you’re going in public places. Look up at bubble mirrors in order to help you see what’s coming around the corner. They’re there for a reason.
   Feelin' groovy...


Slippery SurfacesThis is becoming just a tiny bit irrelevant now, since Wyoming is (finally) experiencing some of the first thaws of Spring. But the nights can still get down to very cold temps, so still be cautious of potentially icy walkways and sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. Even the slightest slips can cause injury as you try to compensate to maintain your balance.
   Clear all sidewalks and driveways! Falls on your tailbone, bracing a fall with your hands…all can be prevented if you just move slowly on a clear, dry path. Wear shoes or boots with good sole traction.
   Know that any wet floor surface can put you at risk for a slip-and-fall, so use and READ “Wet Floor” signs!

Carol's basement stairs.
Yeah, you don't wanna go down there.
StairwaysI have a particularly steep stairway that leads down into a dark basement where I store the bodies (just kidding!)…so I’m always sure to turn on the light, grab onto the handrails and use them all the way down. Same with outdoor porch and deck stairs, especially at night.

Ladders. Spring is teasing us here in Wyoming, but you know…there are always those "over-achievers" who want to clear out those rain gutters and inspect what damage has been done to the roof during the harsh Winter. I don’t care if you fancy yourself as Spider Man with “Spidey-senses”…you’re not going to impress our EMTs when they have to be called out because you decided to climb an old rickety ladder…alone. So, yeah...don't do it alone. Be smart; get a friend to help steady that ladder, and well...you can celebrate your accomplishment(s) over a nice, cold one. Later. See "Intoxication" above...don't make our Paramedics have to save your ass for two reasons.

Flip-Flops. I know, they’re popular Summer wear, and I do love ‘em, but…they can also leave you wide open to a myriad of foot injuries. Never run in flip-flops. If you can’t walk in them properly (and slowly) consider closed-toed or tight-fitted sandals.  Be sure-footed! Wear correctly-sized shoes and slippers (I admit, an ironic name for footwear, LOL)

A History of Falls. Our EMTs/Paramedics get many, many "fall calls". Never would they ever minimize the urgency or importance of such calls, but...when there are other calls that are of priority...especially now,  during this COVID-19 Pandemic...it would help them greatly if they knew the extent of pain and injury due to the fall. In my case, I have no history of falling, but even if I did have such a history, I'd probably drag and drive myself into my car and make the less-than-one-mile distance to the Riverton ER to get treated. But...that's me...a single, stubborn woman. For many, that is not the case.
   If you have a history of falling, it's time to consult your doctor as to what to do. There is no shame in this, and you should never take your own health lightly. You know yourself better than anyone, so take control and have medical professionals on your side.

Reminders…
Keep your phone with you, make sure it’s always charged. Take your phone with you, even into the bathroom. Keep landline phones in their cradles, charged, visible and unobstructed.

🚑 When to call 911…
If you are in extreme pain.
If you are bleeding (more than a little scrape).
If you fell because of an onset of dizziness, light-headedness, blurred vision or vertigo.
If your over 55 and/or taking blood thinners.

Resources:
CDC: Preventing Falls
StopFalls.org
Life Enriching Resources
Tai Chi Foundation


Sunday, March 29, 2020

911 & The Single Life: The Mug Half Full

Now, you might think there are several things wrong with this picture of my cuppa joe this morning...the mug is half empty (full?)...bare, gray trees, dry brown brush and lawn, etc., and "C'mon Carol..why are you drinking your coffee out of a chipped-up mug?"

It's still been a bit chilly here in Wyoming, but I decided to enjoy my morning coffee out on the back deck...watching the robins hop around, the squirrels chatter and scurry up and down the trees...even heard a hawk cry and saw it fly/land right into one of the huge evergreens. Every morning has been beautiful, and I decided that today I was going outside to be a part of it all.

This is one of my favorite coffee mugs that my daughter gave me. I don't know how it got chipped, but I'll never throw it away. Why is it half-empty? Because I drank it down! LOL You can be sure I'll refill it several times today. The chips are reminders that not every day will be a perfect day...there are Nouns that can (and definitely do) chip away at me, may even wear me down a bit. But "perfect" isn't. I believe that every day that I can watch the sun rise and set is a good thing. How I fill my time, my mind, my heart and my soul is what really matters. 

It's been a surreal few weeks at work, particularly difficult for our EMTs, who not only have to answer COVID-19 calls in full PPE, but also have to be on the front lines, as usual, for all of the other 911 calls that come in. Falls, cardiac arrests, stabbings, shootings, car accidents, etc....these are still just "days in the life" for our First Responders. I have to admit, it's been very difficult for me to be on lock down at the station...but after a crazy work week, at least I can go home. They can't. They see so much out there, it can often get discouraging. Stress does chip away at them, too. So whenever you see an ambulance out and about, please think about what they're going through, pray for them, thank them.

Drop them a thank you card. Yes, it can be so easy to just thank them on social media, but an actual, handwritten card that you drop in the (what is it again? Oh...) US MAIL!...means so much.
Here's how (in Fremont County, WY):

It would also be so easy to see the mug half-empty these days. Me? I just fill'er up again...and again...and again! I was taught, "When the moment of need arrives, the time for preparation has passed." So when I moved into my home a couple of years ago, I made sure that I would develop and add to my food storage and emergency supply a little at a time. Each time I go to the store, I buy a couple extra cans of food, a flat of water, an extra pack of essential items (coffee, of course...and yes, toilet paper LOL). When I read about all the hoarding going on, it makes me angry and sad. Two Nouns raise their beautiful or ugly heads during times like these: Compassion and Greed. Compassion fills the cups full. Greed empties them. 

Since a majority of my time during the week is spent at the station, I'm quite blessed to not have to worry about emergency first aid. I know the crews would take very good care of me if something were to happen. I have first aid kits/bags in my car and at home. However, for those who haven't really thought about those "moments of need" and emergencies that could possibly arise - whether we're living alone, or stuck in close quarters with our families and loved ones - I just wanted to mention a few tips/resources that may be useful, should something "happen".

First Aid Kit/Bag
You can buy them ready to go, of course, but you can also get a backpack or duffle bag and fill it with some basic items.

To get you started...
  • Small, medium and large sterile gauze/dressings (packaged)
  • K-Flex rolls
  • Triangle bandages
  • Transpore tape
  • Digital thermometer
  • Alcohol wipes/canister
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disposable (sterile) gloves*
  • Q-tips
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Safety Pins
  • Splints
  • Prescribed medications*
  • Antihistimine creams or sprays*
  • Antiseptic cream/ointment*
  • Benadryl tablets*
  • Cough medicine*
  • Painkillers*
*Be knowledgeable and aware of allergies/allergic reactions to all types of medications. No aspirin for children under 16. I would also avoid Ibuprofen right now.

Don't forget the things that I mentioned in my first blog of the series: Your "411 for the 911".

Other items to have in a bag/vehicle/on hand:
Clean Towels (to pack a wound)
Flashlight(s)
A few water bottles (unopened)
Emergency blanket(s)
Baby wipes/personal wipes (do not flush!)
Disposable rain slicker(s)
Compact umbrella
4 x 6 light duty tarp
Cable ties

This is just a basic list off the top of my head, but it should at least help get you started.
(For those who do a lot of camping, I'm sure you already have most of these items!)

Also...
Since AMR isn't able to offer classes on Stop the Bleed at this time, here's the full course on YouTube:








Saturday, March 14, 2020

History Lessons: Common Sense

I suppose I should take a moment and address what everyone's talking, panicking and joking around about: Viruses. (Interestingly enough, a word that has no plural in Latin.)  I haven't been surprised, and have been somewhat amused as I scroll through Facebook and look at the gifs and memes derived from all the hype and panic on the subject. The toilet paper thing has me a bit confused, but I guess I should just "roll" with it.

I've been asked by several folks thinking they may get some sort of "inside scoop" about what's going on with the current COVID-19 case in Fremont County. I tell them that everything they need to know will always be released and updated from Wyoming Public Health through their local media channels. They can also get educated on the subject by going to Center for Disease Control & Prevention's web site at cdc.gov  Know that your local public health department and officials are constantly being informed and updated, as are the local EMS and First Responders.

Let's get back to the CDC. If you take a little tour through the site, you will find a wealth of information on many, many diseases and viruses. I just clicked on the "Outbreak of Listeria Infections" and read about how hard-boiled egg products from a certain company has caused a "multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytongenes". Now, obviously that's not enough to create a global pandemic, but for the states and consumers affected and the company taking the hit, it's big. Click on "More Outbreaks" and you'll see a myriad of other infections and diseases besides COVID-19.

When I was a kid/teen, my parents rarely took me to the doctor. We were raised to fight illnesses. Living in Wyoming, you can bet that I had plenty of colds. If I had a fever, chills, a distinct and consistent cough, etc. (basically, the flu)...I was confined to my room until the fever broke and was feeling better. I remember once I was so very very sick; I was lethargic, and the 105 degree fever would not break. When OTC meds, old school remedies and a few homeopathic rituals were proven useless, that's when my parents would take me to the doctor/ER.

This was back in the 60's-70's-80's. Don't get me wrong; we did have a family doctor. My mother had a serious, undiagnosable illness. I have only seen old photos of her as a healthy, vibrant young woman. I never knew that woman. There's one memory in particular where my brother and I were called into a hospital room and I saw her in the bed, deathly gray, thinning hair. I was too young at the time to understand, but I look back and wonder if they had called us in to say "goodbye" to her. But then...they didn't know my Mom! She fought for every day of life, living in constant pain. Some days would take her completely down. But she lived on for decades, raising her children, enjoying her grand-children and great-grandchildren. She eventually died of pancreatic cancer in 2005.

My own daughter was born premature. She was taken c-section and whisked away to the ICU. Lungs were almost, but not fully developed. One nurse in particular had been watching over her, observing her breathing, her skin color, etc. The doctor wanted to put her on a respirator, but the nurse said, "I wouldn't just yet. She's fighting. Let her fight a bit, see how she does. If she doesn't improve, then we can put her on." Rachelle never had to go on a respirator. Granted, she's had a host of respiratory illnesses throughout her life, but she's has grown into a strong, healthy, beautiful woman. I can rightfully say that she's been a fighter since the day she was born.

The world is filled with bugs, seen and unseen. Just because we don't see them with the naked eye doesn't mean they're not there. Medical science and technology has come a long way since mine or my folks' generations, and there's a lot more we know about many diseases and illnesses. But there are still those we don't know much about. I am not only fascinated, but always impressed and grateful for the brilliant minds who study these bacteria, viruses and other camera-shy creepy crawlies.

It is true, there is not much we know about COVID-19, but those brilliant minds are learning and you can bet that their mind wheels are turning thousands of rpms. However, a significant concern is not just the virus itself, but the millions of people who are not in the categories of risk who panic and start living in bubbles. What we watch on TV and read into today's "the sky is falling" hysteria will eventually decrease, and we will see recovery rates. We are already seeing them. Yes, there have been deaths, and that is why those who are in those categories of risk need to take extra precaution.

If I somehow got COVID-19...or any virus...I would do what I've always done: Fight. Then again, I don't fall into any particular, significant category(ies) of risk. If anything, all of this has made me more aware of my own health, my environments (home, workplace and public). I've always been hygienic, I've always washed my hands. I'm courteous to my friends, family and co-workers if I've been sick, and not sneeze or cough in their faces. I will go home if I'm sick, and will see a doctor if I need to. Last year I had a horrible headache that wouldn't go away. I fought it for a while, but the pain grew so intense that I had to go to an urgent care clinic. Turns out it was a terrible sinus infection. A few days of antibiotics, and I was up and at 'em again.

Common sense is not so common these days, but perhaps it's the one cure that is needed to help fight the infections of misinformation, ignorance and bad judgment. Get a good night's sleep. Eat healthy. Drink lots of water. Exercise. Educate yourself on facts. Learn, trust the advice of and take instruction from the brilliant minds all over the world who are at work, day and night, to help you and serve you.

A couple years ago...at the beginning of my Third Life...I promised that I'd rid myself from the toxic Nouns of my past, and focus on being the kind of person I've always wanted to be. I promised myself that I would be helpful, hopeful and happy, no matter what. I promised myself that I would approach and find a solution to every problem I might face with the strength, knowledge, wisdom and common sense from history lessons learned. I promised myself that I'd live each day as if it were my last...

Nothing has changed.


Sunday, March 8, 2020

911 & The Single Life

The hallway where it all began...
A few weeks ago I was rushing around, getting ready for work...and in my haste (and stupidity), I tripped and fell in the hallway. Faceplant, right on the carpet…down for the count. I have a bad hip (from an old injury, which complicated things), and when I came to my senses after crying out in excruciating pain and colorful expletives, I asked myself: “Self…what just happened here? You idiot! You know better than this.”

I (stubbornly) proceeded on with my day, thinking about how fortunate I am that I work in an ambulance station located right behind a hospital. But at the end of the day, I go home. What should I do, in the case of an emergency…when there is no one else around?

The incident turned on a light bulb, lighting the way to write this blog series, 911 & The Single Life. I have the honor and privilege of interviewing a few of our EMTs and Paramedics for this series, and they’ve been more than gracious in spending a few moments here and there in their busy lives and between calls to answer my questions.

Always Be Prepared for an Emergency.
No one schedules a 911 ambulance ride. I look back at the times I’ve been through traumatic events in my life, thinking: “I had no idea the day would end up like this when I woke up this morning.”  Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and such wake-up calls are very real.
   One of our EMTs said: “The more I know about you when you’re conscious helps me know more about you when you’re unconscious.” There are things you can do to prepare.

The “411 for the 911”: Create and Post an Emergency Information List
There are several examples and templates available online that you can use as a guide, but listed below is the information that First Responders need:
Full Name
Address
Phone number
Emergency Contacts - Names and phone numbers of next of kin, family, friends, neighbors.
Medical Conditions - List ALL of your medical conditions (Diabetic, hypertension, back pain, anxiety, etc.)

Medications - List ALL of the medications you are currently taking. Important! Include dosages. Keep all medications together in one place.
Allergies – List ALL allergies (food, medications, latex, pollens, mold, anaphylaxis, etc.)
DNR/DNI Order (Do not Resuscitate/Do Not Intubate). Power of Attorney documentation. Must be notarized.
Other items: Copy of insurance card, name of your Primary Care Physician

Keep this information posted on your refrigerator, where it is visible!
Ask me to e-mail you a printable PDF of AMR Fremont County’s “411 for the 911” Information Sheet. You can email me at carol@coffeepong.com

If you have a Guardian Flight Membership, display the sticker in a visible, prominent area...on your fridge, somewhere visible in or on your vehicle, keep your card in your wallet.

Emergency information on your smartphone:
Another way for First Responders to know about your medical and emergency information is to add it to the lock screen on your smartphone. It’s very easy to do:
Go to your phone’s Settings
Go to “About Phone”
Scroll until you see “Emergency information”, and then enter your info.
(On my smartphone, I can enter blood type, allergies, medications, my home address, if I’m an organ donor, and then I added my emergency contact phone numbers.)
The “Emergency” function on your lock screen can now be accessed by First Responders.
If you need help doing this, contact your phone service and they can walk you through the steps.

Keep all of these lists and information current! Update whenever there is a change of information, documentation, medications and medical history.

Make Your Physical Address Visible and Accessible!
Our EMTs are pretty well-oriented with the streets, roads and areas of Fremont County. But if you live in the “wide open spaces”, it can be a challenge, especially at night. EMS stands for “Emergency Medical Services” and response time is critical…not just for you, but for our First Responders as well. There’s a lot you can do to help them help you:

Make sure that your address and properties are clearly marked and describable for the 911 dispatchers.
Mark your properties from the main roads with reflectors, describable landmark-type structures, signs, clear address numbers on mailboxes. Reflectors on fences and gates are helpful.
Know the specific names of the crossroads and intersections near your home. Specific, unique landmarks are also helpful to describe to dispatch.
Make sure gates are open for the ambulances to enter. If you live in a gated complex that has coded access, make sure that 911 dispatch is aware of this.

Make Sure YOU are Accessible!
There have been situations where our First Responders have had to struggle to gain access to not just the property or the front door, but once inside, they need to be able to access you…and they’re looking around at everything that may help them help (and find) you.
Hearing some of their stories – from stacked milk crates used as front door steps…to hoarding situations where they can barely even get the front door or bedroom doors open...to aggressive, anxious and confused pets – there are many things that can hinder them in getting to you in a timely manner. So…
Keep your driveways, pathways and sidewalks clear. Remove any obstructions…kids’ toys, pet toys, bikes, etc.
Clean, clear and maintain your home. Keep the “main arteries” (foyers and front rooms, living rooms, hallways) cleared of any obstructions. Keep all entrances to the bedrooms clear. There are situations where our EMTs may need to bring in a cot or a transport chair, and having to wade through a bunch of “stuff” only takes away from the time they could be saving your life. You also don't want them getting injured in the process of trying to save you!
Medical Equipment: Wheelchairs, walkers, canes, commode safety rails, etc. Use them! Also know that your medical equipment tells our EMTs that you have a medical condition that requires the use of them…which can help them as they’re assessing the scene and providing the care you need.

Friends and Family: Welfare Checks
I’m probably the most extroverted introvert I know! There are times I love to get out and about and get together with friends and family, but...I also value my alone time. Most would think I’m just fine, but the morning that I fell…what if it was more serious than just a faceplant in the hallway? What if I had hit my head on the corner of a table or desk? What if I had slipped in the bathtub or exiting from a shower? What if a large object had fallen on me? What if I had broken my leg or injured my back or neck, and became immobile?

Have a friends and family check in on you routinely. My daughter and I keep in contact with each other often, and she visits me frequently. I have a lot of friends who check in with me online, and if they haven’t heard from me in a while, my phone will start blowing up. I don’t consider it annoying; I consider it caring. Get to know your neighbors. If you're a member of a church or social group, have the pastor or a committee member check in on you from time to time.
Keep your phone with you. Even in the bathroom. Have a specific place you set it in each room of your house, so you know where it is at all times. If you have a landline, know where the phone(s) are and keep them clear of any obstructions. Most of all...keep your phone charged!
Take your prescribed medications. Your physician gave them to you for a reason. If you have diabetes or allergies, know where your kit is. If you take sleep aids, take only the prescribed amount. Consult with your physician(s) if you feel any type of change that might concern you.
Life Alert/Lifeline. I know we joke around about the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” commercials. Sure, it’s all fun and games…until it happens to you. I’m told by our medics that there are folks, young and old, who have life alerts for their medical conditions. There is absolutely no shame in having one. Yes, once in a while they might get a “false alarm”, but it’s our First Responders' jobs to respond, no matter what. One of our medics said they learn something with every call. Every call, including the false alarms and cancelled calls.

My fall wasn’t serious…and it was my own fault. There were several factors that led up to the incident: I was rushing around and was wearing sweat pants that were too big and had to keep pulling them up (hey, the good news is that I’ve lost weight; the bad news is obvious). Prevention measures? If I had kept better track of timewalked instead of rushing to the bedroom to get ready for work…wore better-fitting clothes, like sweat pants that didn’t slip down off my butt…I wouldn’t have fallen.

(“Fall Prevention” will be the next subject in this series.)

More information and resources:


Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Nouns: Trial & Error (I 💓 Food!)

It continues to be "soup weather" here in what I call the "Freezer Belt", so this past Friday night, I decided to create a delicious lentil soup. Many know that one of my passions is cooking, and I rarely, if ever, use a recipe. Sometimes I watch cooking shows, sometimes I scroll through Facebook or Google certain cuisines, and if any particular dish catches my eye, I'll study it and do what I do with most things in my life: Experiment.

During the work week, I get pretty focused on what I'm doing - I'm up early, coffee in hand, updating Amador Community News, and then it's off to the day job at AMR. I'll occasionally have a meal with the crews, but more often than not, they get called out right as the pan hits the stove, or before they can get even get a bite into their mouths. So on the weekends, especially during the Winter months, when the weather puts my road-tripping on ice (literally)....my kitchen becomes a foodie lab. 

My relationship with food has quite a history. When I was little, I always wanted an Easy Bake Oven; several of my friends had them, and I have to admit, I was jealous. One day, an EBO TV commercial came on, and I once again begged my Mom (who was standing in the kitchen, washing dishes) for the coveted Noun. She replied: "Why would you want a toy like that when we have a real oven right here?" My eyes widened and a smile slowly grew on my face, like it was Christmas morning. I jumped up and down with glee...and that was the day my Mom began to teach me how to cook.

She taught me the essentials...how to read recipes, gather the ingredients, settings on the oven/stove, and put it all together. She taught me the basic vocabulary - sift, grind, blend, saute, mince, dice, baste. Then, as Mom always did, she'd eventually step back, assume a more management-type role and let me try it on my own.

My first experiment was Snickerdoodle cookies. I was so excited, watching them bake in the real oven, counting nearly every tick of the timer, the aroma of cinnamon wafting through the air. When they were done, I squealed with delight. I was so excited that I didn't care that they didn't "look" quite right (not like the photo)...they tasted great to me. Proud of my first batch, I was eager to share my little nuggets of happiness with the mailman. He took a bite, and his reaction was priceless: "These are, um...yeah, um...really...good."  Satisfied with his response, I went skipping back into the house, happy as a clam. Several batches of cookies later, I learned about texture, and the mailman became my official taster of my baking ventures. He was always tactfully kind, but I wouldn't have been surprised if he eventually got a garbage can in his mail truck. 

I eventually became a master of the chocolate chip cookie, to which my kids can attest. They were so good, I was lucky to even get a batch into the oven before the dough was gone. If a batch did happen to make it to the oven, they were gone before they even had a chance to cool.

My Mom and Grandma Lund were my first "culinary" mentors. Being from the Depression Era, most of the dishes they cooked were for big families, so they would cook en masse - big pots of soup, stew, chili, chowder, etc. Large casseroles and pies. Mom made the best chili in the world; haven't had better to date. My grandmother taught me how to make the tastiest, fluffiest, butter-basted biscuits ever.  I loved that they would teach me through trial and error....step back and let me try. Each time, I'd do it a little bit better than before. That's not to say I didn't have several disasters along the way, but I learned from each one until I had it mastered, and the results were delicious.

On my journey throughout my Lives - First, Second and now, in my Third - I've developed a taste for the exotic. I always explore as many different cuisines as I can, learn about different herbs, spices and blends, observe different cooking methods and techniques. My senses of taste, smell and "feel" have keenly developed over time, so I try to take advantage of international grocery stores and local markets that carry ethnic foods and spices. I could spend hours in those stores. I have everything I need for my kitchen lab...core ingredients, cookware, tools and utensils...but most of all, the love of cooking. I love to achieve the balance of herbs and spices. I love to smell the aromas that come through as I anticipate the final presentation. I don't claim to be a professional, in any sense of the word. I simply have a passion that makes me happy.

I've learned a lot more from cooking than just the mere enjoyment of it. I've put a lot into my own Recipe of Life, and still have a lot to learn and discover. I have many talented friends who have a wealth of wisdom and knowledge, and I thoroughly enjoy spending time with them, getting to know them better. I've also had Nouns in my Lives where the lessons learned have definitely been a matter of trial and error. I've had a few disasters along the way; so many times I've been caught up in the "fast-food" of the here and now, that I have to step back and remember said lessons. Now, I try to always keep those important core ingredients in my "recipe" file: Love, kindness, patience, honor, integrity, truth. From there, hey...what can I say?
I improvise!

It was very difficult when my Mom passed away...singing at her funeral was the most difficult thing I ever had to do in my life. The emptiness I felt was as if a huge chunk of my life just disappeared. I know that I probably wasn't the easiest child to raise, but I will always remember and appreciate when she'd step back and let me succeed...or fail...on my own. She reappears every time I hear her words ring through my mind when I try something new and different: "Do it better. Do things better than we did..."...and I try again.

And then she steps back.
_____________________________________________________

Carol's Friday Night Lentil Soup Experiment
Without taking a trip to the store, I simply added what I already had on hand, in my cupboards and refrigerator.

1 medium yellow onion, chopped (a core ingredient I always have on hand)
3-4 cloves of fresh garlic (another core ingredient)
1 to 1 1/2 cup chopped celery
Saute above ingredients in about 2 Tbps of butter, olive oil or coconut oil. I used a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of coconut oil. Add a little salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat until you can smell the onion, celery and garlic meld. Then...

Add 1 pound rinsed lentils.
1 large potato, sliced.
Stir together for about 30 seconds or so, then add about 6-8 cups of water and reduce the heat to low
(A word about lentils:  Always rinse beans and legumes before cooking, as there can sometimes be natural fibers, sticks, even pebbles left behind in sorting/processing. You can also pre-soak the lentils if you have a difficult time digesting them. Lentils have a thin "shell" that contain trace anti-nutrients that can affect digestion for some folks. I don't seem to have that problem, so I didn't soak them. )

Let this base soup cook on low heat for about 30-40 minutes; check on it occasionally. The lentils will swell as they cook, so if the ratio of lentils to water become unbalanced, add a little more water to make it more "soupy".

Add:
2 Tablespoons Garam Masala
I love [East] Indian spices! Garam Masala is a staple spice blend. No, it is not curry. Cumin, coriander and cardamom are the most prominent tones.

Add:
1 can mixed vegetables
I would normally use fresh vegetables, but like I said, I didn't have a chance to go to the store, so I used canned vegetables this time. Always rinse canned vegetables well, as they usually contain a lot of sodium, which can affect the balance of flavors you're trying to achieve (the garlic, onion, celery, etc...even the butter and coconut oil lend their own to the mix.)

Now...taste, taste, taste!
Add salt, to taste. Add fresh pepper, to taste. If the Garam Masala isn't quite coming through, add in pinches until it's to your liking. This is where you make it your own! 😊









Monday, February 3, 2020

Coffee & Convo: Competition

Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone...the one time I watch football all year.

Some have said that the Kansas City Chiefs (out of Missouri, I might add) won because of "bad calls". Others say the 49ers are just sore losers. Unlike (and unfortunately) US elections...whose "actual wins" aren't based upon what "We the People" call...it's how the political game is called. Billions of dollars are pumped into an arena of "gladiators" vying for a title...so, call it a sport, or call it pure entertainment...it is what it is these days...and we all have to deal with it.

I recently posted a quote from a movie I watch religiously, after every Super Bowl: The Replacements:

Jimmy McGinty (the coach): You know what separates the winners from the losers?
Shane Falco (washed up Sugar Bowl QB): The score.
Jimmy McGinty: No, getting back on the horse after getting kicked in the teeth.

Every year, the Super Bowl teaches me that humanity wants heroes. We want those larger-than-life celebrities who portray themselves as bigger than our own selves to fight for the win...the battle, the prize, the title, the cause. I myself am inspired by such a fight, such a win. Competition has been the thread that pulls all to push for the "best". USA, all the way!

Let me tell you a little bit about "competition".

Most in Riverton, WY know that, in high school, I practiced very hard to be the best. I competed in several piano competitions...music festivals...received scholarships for Music Performance, etc. I would get up at 4:30-5 in the morning and practice the piano until it was time to go to Seminary (LDS scripture study), and then it was off to school. After school, I was off to piano lessons...when I was in 8th grade, I had entered CWC's Music curriculum, because my piano instructor and mentor (from age four), Francis Kelliher...said that she could no longer teach me...that I was beyond her instruction. Enter Carol Dahlberg, Professor of Music at Central Wyoming College...in the li'l ol' town of Riverton, WY!

It was at that moment that I was truly scared. I remember my first collegiate lesson/audition well. Beethoven's Sonata in G Major (which I had memorized completely by ear)...Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" (also by ear)...and (how very quaint), Mozart's Sonata in C (by both ear and notation, but honestly...more by ear).

You see, I have the blessing and the curse of "perfect pitch". Some say it's a gift you're born with. Other say it's a gift developed over time. No, was born with it...and believe me, it's both a blessing and a curse!

I had won several piano competitions and scholarships, but one of the events that really stuck with me was MTNA's National Piano Auditions in Spokane, WA. I always loved going to piano competitions, because it meant that I met competitors from all over the US or the Northwest region. I kinda lived a sheltered life, so it was so wonderful to meet others in the musical arena who were my age...and spoke the same International Language:

Music.

I very much have my Dad to thank for being a humble, gracious competitor and winner. When I won a piano or vocal competition, he always said: "I'm so very proud of you! Now get over there, and congratulate everyone else!" When I did, blatant honesty ruled:  "You did your Bach piece soooo much better than me!"..."You SO  rocked on your Mozart!"..."Where did you get that Bartok?"..  A language that parents, coaches, professors, etc. don't really ever see or hear...or will probably never understand.

What have I learned about competition?

That there will always be someone better than you...and there will always be the critics, those "arm chair quarterbacks"...but that really doesn't matter. Because what you bring to your sport,  your art, your craft, your "thing" that you do...will and does make an impact!

What does it take? Heart.

YOU are what makes America great. We...the People.

In 2016, I didn't vote for Trump or Hillary. I voted for ME. I was true to myself, not any political, popularity contest or party...and many might deem that as shockingly stupid...but NO one does or ever will represent me. No party, no persuasion...nothing! I still believe in the US Constitution as our Founding Fathers set. I still believe that they would want to do good by my Native American ancestors, and would be absolutely appalled by what is going on in our world today. I believe our Founding Fathers would be weeping tears of guilt and repentance.

But who even cares now? Today, it's all a very, very stupid competition., but...

At least we all have Music.





Sunday, January 26, 2020

Lights & Sirens: They Simply Go

Yesterday, I attended the memorial service for Paramedic Michael Wilder, on behalf of AMR Fremont County. Some think the drive to Rawlins isn't particularly scenic, but I tend to look for the beauty in everything, especially when there are mountains "in the middle of nowhere"...and the sky? Oh, always the sky! It has become my "religion" now, to celebrate life and to stop to wonder at all of the People, Places and Things that are so much bigger than me...just spend a few minutes to enjoy, celebrate, meditate, contemplate...

Split Rock was especially beautiful that morning, so I stopped to take a photo:


Good thing I left a bit early, because I hit some pretty big bad patches of road and blowing snow right before driving into Rawlins. I was glad to be in AMR's command vehicle instead of my little Prius, because I know for a fact that it wouldn't have made it through, as the highway was literally piled with a good 5-6 inches of unshoveled snow and ice, and a big, bitter wind (I was told 50+ mph) blowing the icy snow made for very poor visibility  Even in the command ride, I slipped a bit...there was a big rig in front of me, so I cautiously stayed a good distance behind and crawled the rest of the way.

Participating in the Procession through Rawlins and the lineup at the service brought back memories of when I represented the Tennessee Marine Family at the service of a Fallen Hero ("Remembering Our Fallen"). Mike Wilder's service was beautiful, and though I didn't know him personally, I felt a big lump in my throat and tears come to my eyes as I listened to the words spoken by Wyoming EMS Director Andy Gienapp describe all of our First Responders...and the crews at AMR Fremont County, whom I've come to know and love:

"...In many ways, it's not an easy decision to enter a profession in public safety. If you doubt me on this...imagine a law enforcement officer standing alone while someone points a gun in your face. Imagine yourself at the nozzle-end of a hose as you pause before entering a house with flames coming through windows and the roof. And now, imagine someone looking at you in desperation as their loved one lies on the floor, hoping against hope that you will be the one working a miracle.

Those are powerful and frightening images, and they've stopped many from pursuing these careers. But for Mike, like all of us who do this work, I also know that it was an easy decision.

You see, there's only one thing that brings a person like Mike through a career in EMS, or fire fighting or law enforcement...and that is the idea that a life of service to one's family and friends and community is of unimaginable value. That there are things which exist that are bigger than you are...and that to be counted among the men and women who do this work every day is something to be cherished.

It's the thread that unites all of us dedicated to public safety, and we may disagree or poke fun at each other...but when the alarm bell sounds, and the tones drop, and the radio crackles to life...we know that we are inextricably linked to each other.

Mike didn't know the people who were injured in that crash, and neither did he ask. He simply went. You see, that is what we do. We simply go. Day or night, summer or winter...to the next person who is lost, the next fire, the next crash, the next burglar alarm, the next domestic violence encounter, the next person struggling with depression or addiction, the next injured child, the next homeless person, the next person with a mansion, the next politician, the next factory worker, the next stay at home mom or dad...students and teachers, ranchers, miners, business owners...the next call for help.

We simply go.

How do you pay Mike back for a life of simply going? I don't think that you do. All of the flowers and ceremony and words and pomp and circumstance don't equate to Mike saying, "Here am I...send me."

So no, I don't think you pay Mike back. You simply say, "Thank you."