Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Coffee With A View: United We Stand, Divided We Fall

I usually cover city council meetings as a reporter, but last night I stood at the podium before the Riverton City Council and spoke on my views of the Chamber and what had been happening with the merger with the Chamber and Riverton Ambassadors.
My view(s) came from what I had experienced over the past couple of months, which has been a confusing Journey in and of itself; but as I wrote this speech, I knew I wasn't alone in them. Even though I wasn't speaking on behalf of anyone but myself, I know that there have been several who have shared with me their own concerns on the issue. Some have simply spoken their voice by no longer being members of the Chamber. Others struggle because of the lack of transparency and the expectation to just go along with the powers that be.
Take it however you wish, but at least know that I've spoken my piece and peace (see what I did there? LOL)...and that my conscience is clear.
I go with my gut now, with the Nouns in my Third Life, but I hadn't always been that way. In my previous Lives, there have been plenty of times where I've just blindly accepted things, passed over inconsistencies, ignored my conscience, and let things fly. In the wake of these decisions, I've learned that not speaking out not only perpetuates complacency and the status quo, but also injustices...ignoring the voices of those who may wish to speak out, but for whatever their own reason(s), cannot.
I'm not that great of a public speaker; I'm a better singer than an orator. Perhaps the council would've much rather preferred me to sing rather than hear what I had to say!
Here it is:


Most know me as a Riverton Ambassador, and also as a reporter for County 10. I was also briefly the Editor for the Riverton Ranger, Lander Journal and Wind River News. But I am not here tonight as a reporter, editor, or writer. I’m here as a citizen of Riverton, a Chamber member, and one of the founding Board members of the Riverton Ambassadors.

However, as a reporter…the why questions seem to always be the hardest ones to get answers for. Who, what, when, where, and how…not too hard to get, most of the time. But then there’s the “why”?

In regards to Riverton’s Chamber of Commerce:

  • What is a Chamber, and what does a Chamber mean for businesses and the community?

  • Who is at the helm of a Chamber? How are they nominated and voted in?

  • When and where does a Chamber meet, in consideration of business hours, community activities, and personal/family time?

  • How does a Chamber serve its members and its community?

In the forming of a new WYRiverton Chamber and Visitors Center, and the still yet unconfirmed merge with the Riverton Ambassadors, why was there suddenly a breakdown of communication, transparency, and a departure from current Bylaws and mission statements that were supposed to be about moving Riverton forward? When did working as a whole team fail? Why did they start excluding and ignoring members and volunteers who had given so much of their time, talent, and treasure? What do Bylaws or Mission statements even mean if they are not even adhered to?

Most of the time, we do what we’re told without questioning. Many things are passed in city councils and commissioners' meetings where the public might be unaware or uninformed beforehand. I’m not creating an excuse for the public; quite the opposite. An example…

Riverton City Council has its agendas, agenda packets and minutes posted on its website for the public. That type of transparency is commendable and should be a structure for many organizations. The Mayor doesn’t act alone; even he and Tony [City Administrator] do not act alone. No Councilmember, no city staff acts alone. Given that no system is perfect, at the very least there should be teamwork, communication, and transparency for things to not only work and flow but to establish that element of trust. If any one, few or even all of our City Council…or even law enforcement…just made their own decisions, pushed their own agendas, and just categorically passed ordinances without oversight, transparency or notice, how would that fly with the public? Or just appointed yourselves another term of office, without nomination or a vote? Or as we are doing now…what if the City Council just ignored public comment or input without discussion or consideration?  How would that fly?

So why would that fly with a Chamber membership, with any membership? Why would the assumed positioning of a brand new Board (even an ad hoc Board) without nomination or vote by its general membership be acceptable? What about those who don’t agree with this merger, or those who haven’t been given enough information to make an educated decision about it and cast their vote?

Under current Chamber Bylaws…In May, there was supposed to be a Nominating Committee set up for elections of a new Board. This was not done. Notification of nominations was to be sent out to all Chamber members. This was not done. The Executive Director was to notify the membership of their right to petition additional candidates. This was not done. Ballots and voting instructions were to be distributed by the Executive Director to all members. This was not done.

According to Chamber Bylaws, after 30 days, ballots were to be gathered and tallied by the Executive Director. The next Chamber Board meeting is this Thursday. As a Chamber member, should I just blindly accept this merger and its new Board created by a committee without any oversight or regard to current Bylaws, not to mention a vote from their General membership?

And why, when real questions and concerns were being raised, they were skirted or ignored with “Stay tuned, great things are happening!” That is not an answer.

I know it’s cliche to say “There is no “I” in TEAM”, but I believe it is applicable here. When we make it about ourselves and our own agendas, there is no team. When we ask the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions and get no response or are ignored, there is no team. When we give concessions to a select few, ignore and take a departure from rules and procedures, whether it's local/state/federal/tribal laws or bylaws, and push agendas without any oversight, there is no team. When gossip and backbiting occur, hurting peoples’ businesses and livelihoods, hurting friends, families, and neighbors…there is no team. So if this is how the Chamber…a business organization…does business? Again…what does a Chamber mean, and what does it mean to be a “Member” of an organization that does these things? You cannot just pretend there’s a team when there’s not.

I stood right here around this podium in April, excited about the merger of the Chamber and the Ambassadors. You all know I’ve given of my time, talent, and treasure and I had planned on continuing to do so. But along the way, I had been excluded. Plans and decisions were being made behind closed doors. When I questioned processes happening without oversight or vote, I got ambiguous responses or was ignored. Apparently, I wasn’t a valued member of the team anymore, as if anything I had to say or contribute wasn’t worth consideration or merit.

United we stand. Divided we fall.

This seems to be a theme with variations, not only in this situation with the Chamber, but even a few corporate businesses who come into town outside of Wyoming to assume control, who fail to listen and discount the voices of locals who have been here, lived here, have experience, ideas, insight, and expertise to lend in order to work together in making a vision come to fruition. Unfortunately, this has been my experience in some job capacities and as a volunteer. I don’t do what I do because of some agenda, aspirations, position, perks, or title. I do what I do, whether it’s as a job or as a volunteer, or even as an individual…to serve and support my community in the best way I can.

Lastly, (again, my example as a reporter) I hope that everyone knows that there are many sides to a story. Even when the truth is difficult to find, I always hope to find some facts, some threads of truth and not be distracted by “fake news”. That (at least for me) could be that “I” part of any team I’m on, in that: “I hope we can do this. I hope that we’re all on the same page. I hope we can all contribute our time, talents and treasure to something great.”  But when there is little or no transparency, oversight, communication or trust…how can anything be made rock-solid if the very foundation is made of sand?

Thank you for listening.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Coffee With A View: Writings on the Wall (literally)...

Music and writing have always been my "things". I started plunking out tunes on the piano when I was three years old; started formal lessons when I was four. Around that age, my parents couldn't keep enough paper and pens, pencils, crayons, etc. If I ever ran out of paper, I started writing on the desk, the walls, the baseboards...the shelving and walls in my closet...on the fabric stapled to the box springs under my bed...on the window sill...outside the window sill.

I never really kept a diary or a journal, and don't have an answer as to why. I guess the reason might be that my parents encouraged reading books and triggering the imagination. There wasn't enough paper in the world to contain the worlds I had already created in my mind, yet the greatest adventure was lived every day. Experiencing the Nouns - people, places, and things - was enough to fill volumes..and still is.

So about mid-January, when Grace Andrus of Wyoming Media LLC approached me with the opportunity to become the Editor of the Ranger (a newspaper which was an embedded childhood icon as a delivery girl, as well as the award-winning paper of which my Aunt Betty Starks Case's legacy was as a columnist for 35 years) - something lept in my mind, heart, and soul and caught fire.

This was it. This was the job I could do for the rest of my life!

So I resigned from my employment of four years with Fremont County's ambulance service(s) - through Guardian, AMR, GMR, Frontier - (not unfamiliar with transitions, LOL!) and dedicated countless days and nights to the struggle and uphill battle in keeping the content flowing for a newspaper with an unsure future. For those with questions and critiques in their own minds, Grace truly did save that newspaper. We were both on the same page (excuse the pun, LOL) and had a vision...listened to the readership, and spent countless hours finding relevant content for all three newspapers. We were tired; our brains were on overtime, and literally shot. But the vision and mission were constant, with the communities of Fremont County first and foremost.

When WyoToday took everything over the first week of February, [whatever was left of] the newspaper employees and the public were fed a narrative that, in my gut, just felt "weird". It was explained in a way that was just ambiguous enough to swallow (given the circumstances), but also enough to wonder if that same vision that Grace and I had would carry over. It was always my hope, and as I signed the dotted line as Interim Editor, business cards made up reflecting me as Interim Editor, newspapers stating that I was the Interim Editor...I drank the Kool-Aid.

Throughout my (brief) stint as Editor, I had no news reporters. Brooke Lehto came through with some great feature articles. Even through the transition(s), we maintained a strong Sports section. Advertising and subscriptions began to pick up. Everyone loved the Community Calendar. As one who hits the ground running in whatever I do, I managed the content for all three newspapers with everything I had to give, every single day, no matter what the challenge (outdated programs, emails, systems, etc.) Our composition/layout team kept up, even through moments when they wanted to quit. We finally got it to where subscribers actually got their paper on the day they subscribed! The Wind River News finally had content relevant to the Tribes! To crank out a (semi) daily newspaper on a skeleton crew was insane, but we did it. Every day.

During this insane time (and though distracted), something was not sitting right with me. WyoToday brought someone in from the South (someone who does not reside in Wyoming, and lives out of a hotel here), started calling the shots, and little by little, I was reduced to the title of "Staff Writer"...even though my title was still Interim Editor. "Letters to the Editor" went to him. I sat in on staff meetings as Editor; everyone knew me as the Editor. I worked my ass off as the Editor...waking up at 3 AM to get pages out, covering city council and board meetings, doing what I could to review and recommend potential columnists, actually read several Letters to the Editor that never got published, etc.

When I observed meetings being held behind closed doors...when I was being cut off and interrupted in staff meetings, ignored and treated like a mushroom...that's when I started asking questions. With a history of general assignment AP reporting, copy editing/writing, columnist, editor and founder of a CA news blog for 13 years...why wouldn't I question? Why wouldn't I ask, over and over, what Grace Andrus' role was during this transition?

Who is really in control? The readership and subscribers of Fremont County? Or some opportunistic financial company?

On Friday, March 16, I was looking at the content budget for the weekender (newspaper). Mind you, I'm already exhausted; I'm like, literally scraping for content. There were some little burps going on as far as content-sharing with some Wyoming news exchanges (which were, actually and truly, above my paygrade), but for me, it was a big deal, and so this was an opportunity for me to finally voice my concerns. So I Hal Welch, General Manager of Upstate Today (Edwards Media Group) in South Carolina, who is the boss of the boss of who was my boss at WyoToday (the one that continually and constantly interrupted and disrespected my existence).

Hal Welch? Not a huge deal...but I do quote him as saying to me: "I'm being sued in Seneca right now for $250,000,000...true story, over a series of articles and I've been laughing at it for 3 days. This really is not a big deal."

My response:

"Not a big deal to you...but I just covered a Riverton City Council meeting where a hike in a few dollars in utility fees affects fixed-income and senior families. They're not laughing."

When some "know-it-all" corporate interest comes in and assumes power and control of the narrative, environment and occupation of long-time, hard-working locals who have been here for literally decades...what exactly happens? I can already tell you what happens...not only on the EMS side but on the economic development side.

If these corporate entities are not fully, 100% vested in the economic development of the rural communities of Fremont County, Wyoming, they're in it for their own selves and opportunistic greed, and not the community's interests, nor what and who they claim to supposedly serve. So coming to Wyoming actually becomes a little vacation for them, so they can hunt, fish, get drunk at a local bar or other community events...get a slap on the hand, then go back to their home state, and "it's not a big deal". The gift of the silver, forked tongue.

I have been quite sad for the past month and a half...but not beaten down. I know bullshit when I "feel" it, and that's why I'm writing this today...if I could, on the walls and window sills of every single structure in Fremont County. Sure, there may be all kinds of rumors going around about me and why I left the Ranger, so let me set everyone straight:

If you heard that I went on to/"other opportunities", no. That's a complete, fabricated lie. I had no other opportunities! Zero. Like I said, I had invested my future in the Ranger/Lander Journal/Wind River News, in the vision that Grace and I had when we worked countless hours, laughing, crying, talking, etc. Hoped to make my Aunt Betty Starks Case proud, kept hoping that this newspaper would be one that the readership expected with every single issue.

So no more "interim" Editor. After finally asking WyoToday to give me an official job description as Editor in writing, they told me to consider it my resignation, to "pack my belongings, drop off the laptop and key by the front desk."  Total slap in the face for everything I did over the past few months.

(Well, I never used your useless laptop or needed your slow-ass WiFi. Shows how much you "knew" from afar in South Carolina. I got more done in my own home office). The writing was on the wall and I finally saw through the "bait and switch". Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice? I've been used and abused enough for one lifetime; you poked the wrong mama bear.

What a world we live in these days...where ego, pride, and greed are more important than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness! In my opinion, there's a dire need for more "tea parties", and I still have faith in those who truly love and support their fellow human beings. It takes a lot to snap out of it, stand up, call people out on their bullshit, and believe in what's right. The writing should be on the conference room walls - closed doors, desks, tables, chairs, window sills, etc. -  for those who continue to use and abuse those who actually live here, work here...those with the true talents, gifts, character, and integrity. It's time that we value and respect those who work tirelessly, day and night, for what they bring to their community. It's the very least we can do for our fellow human beings, to call out those with forked silver tongues and expose them for who they really are.


Saturday, January 1, 2022

History Lessons: Too Much of a Good Thing

Most of my friends know that I love experimental cooking. I don't know if it's because I felt set free in my Third Life, or if it's always been inside of me. I get into some sort of "zone"...a place where I can just shut everything out and it's just me and the foodie elements before me. It's my therapy; it's my go-to when I'm tired, stressed, sick, etc.

This New Year's weekend, I've been down with a cold. I bought a whole chicken, some orange juice and (yes, gasp!) a bag of frozen soup vegetables. Being sick, I didn't feel like chopping up a lot of veggies and doing my usual "kitchen witchery", so I threw the chicken into a crockpot, added some onions, garlic, some seasonings, and then the frozen vegetables and a few noodles in towards the end. This concoction suited me just fine for what I needed at the moment on a cold, WY day/night.

Every once in a while, I do a "Refrigerator Day". I do an assessment of the contents of my messy fridge and freezer...throw out the old, replenish with the new. My Mom and Dad had something called the "Rotting Drawer". Old vegetables, potatoes, etc. that never made it into final dishes or meals. When it comes to my own "rotting drawer", I try to salvage as much as possible and make some kind of soup or..."something". I had bought and dried so many herbs and spices that sat in dishes and jars, waiting for their moment to shine.

So when I assessed my fridge, freezer and cupboards this New Year's weekend, I was actually surprised at how many ingredients I had bought so much of, but never used. Always thinking, "I'm gonna make this" or that...but never did.

This cold...this sickness, this down-time...gave me some time to think as I assessed not only my foodie habits, but my Life. That everything requires Balance. Like when I go into a grocery store (like a kid in a toy store) with the best of intentions, but come out with ingredients that may or will sit in a drawer or on a shelf. Not necessarily unwanted, just unused.

It made me think about my own Life and Balance. For example, I love garlic. But I've created dishes where there is just too much of it. I love various herbs and spices; I love my own signature-infused oils and vinegars. I love fresh butter, heavy, flavorful sauces. But I've learned that too much of something in anything doesn't necessarily work in the end.

The take-away? It's about Balance.

My work week literally dominates my time. There's so much in EMS that goes on, that the public...and to tell the truth, even our very own EMS Providers...don't quite understand. Things that happen behind the scenes that just a handful of us have to juggle..and at the end of the day, I'm exhausted. Add on my community projects, and I'm pretty spent. It's often too much.

This New Year, my main goal is to achieve Balance in my life. I have family and friends I want to have coffee or lunch with, and that's important. I have projects of my own that I'd like to do, and that's important. I have down-time and health issues that I need to tend to, and that's important. Balance in my mental, spiritual, political, social and economic life is important.

The demands of everyday life affect us all in so many different ways. But I feel that we need to stand up for what is important to us in our "Every Day". If it means we need time to tend to our families and relationships, that's what it means. If it means that some sort of project has to wait, that's what it means. If it means taking time out to listen and help with someone's crisis or drama, that's what it means. So if too much of any spice or herb can spoil a dish, too much of anything can spoil a Life...and I sure don't want to find myself in the "Rotting Drawer". LOL

Today, I made a batch of hummus (pictured below). Some don't like it, and I get that. But I do. I usually put a lot of garlic in (because I like it, LOL), but today I achieved some Balance and put in just a little garlic, a few artichoke hearts, one sun-dried tomato, some salt and pepper and a bit of lemon juice. Taste, taste, taste...and the result was amazing!

I also made some beef jerky (also pictured below) with Hi Mountain Seasoning's Hunter's Blend jerky package. I didn't veer away and do my own thing (as tempting as it was, LOL)...I followed the directions to the very tee, and WOW! Again, the result was amazing! My Three Wolves were smacking their jowls!

Granted, there are the trieds and trues that you should never mess with. Hi Mountain's directions would be an example. Plus, I would never assume to ever "improve" on my Mom's chili, my Grandma Lund's biscuits, my Dad's pancakes, my Grandma Starks' oatmeal cookies. That would be sacrilegious; those are the generational, sacred pillars of Wisdom!

There's a difference between mere advice and Wisdom. So as I forge through this New Year (like I have with so many before), I can only hope that I am more mindful of the Wisdom imparted and Balance achieved, and that I can apply those virtues to my everyday Life.

Even if it means throwing everything into a pot and calling it good!

Carol's Hummus
Beef Jerky made with Hi-Mountain Seasonings Hunter's Blend
(I used a flank cut on this.)

Friday, October 22, 2021

Some angels are just pushed to the front of the line...

I’ve been blessed and honored to have known three Moms in my life…the one who bore me, the one who raised me, and the one who became a very best friend to me. Throughout my Journey, I have also been delighted and fortunate to have had several “adopted Moms” as well. You all know who you are, and I thank you so very much for bringing your love and light into my world. I am who I am because of all these amazing, strong women in my life. Every one of them has influenced me in my ups and downs, joys and trials, successes and disappointments. I love each and every one of you!

Tomorrow is an especially difficult day for me, as tonight is the eve of the anniversary of my Mom Marilyn’s death. It’s been a year since she passed away, and though I had always believed in living each day as if it were my last, never had it impacted me more than a year ago today.

The last time I saw Mom and Dad together was when they came over to give me more “stuff”. A comforter set, a lamp, and a [computer] monitor. It was a joke between Mom and I that she would be pawning off all of this stuff on me: “You need this, don’t you, dear?”…”and this is nice, right sweetie?”…”C'mon, this is so ‘you’…”…”and you need this, and this, and…”

I knew what she was doing. One day she had a spread of all kinds of kitchen utensils and dishes all out on her kitchen counter. With that slight mischievous smile, she looked me straight in the eye and said: “Okay. These are all yours! Aren’t you so glad?”  LOL  So when Mom and Dad came over, I knew was in no position of negotiation. I accepted the comforter, lamp, and monitor, no questions asked.

The thing that will be forever ingrained in my memory will be the two of them in their warm, cozy winter jackets, walking hand in hand down my front porch steps towards their home, into the chilly dusk of evening. They were always hand in hand, and I thought as I peeked at them through a crack in my front door, as they walked away: “That is truly what Love is supposed to be like.”

I miss my random “girl talks” with her. I miss coming home from work at lunch or at the end of the day, watching her in the garden in the midst of dirt, buckets and flowers, looking up and smiling at me. I miss her listening ear and gentle voice as she would impart her wisdom and opinions to me with a grace and respect that so profoundly defined her. Always listening; never judging. Always asking me how I was doing, how my day was. Simple conversations, which always led into deeper ones. There was always a take-away in a conversation with Mom Marilyn.

On this anniversary, I feel like it’s some sort of “Mother’s Day”. I think of not only Marilyn, but I think of Mom Thelma, Mom Christine, and all of my surrogate mothers who have influenced my life and have given me so much of their own selves so that I can continue living on with their love, strength, and wisdom that guides me on my own Journey.

The night that Mom was whisked away in an ambulance, I went through all of the stages of grief. Shock, denial, anger (I had a screaming fit in my car until my throat was sore)...and eventually acceptance. I was numb for a looooong time; sometimes I would forget to eat or hydrate. That’s when my EMS family came in and, quite literally, saved me from the edge of deep despair. Another example of how family is what you make it, and that those who love and care for you are really, truly there for you.

Even still today, I have a hard time believing this all happened. But in my acceptance phase, I came to realize that some of God’s best angels are, well…just pushed to the front of the line.

The photo is of a plant that Mom gave to me a few years ago. It was just a single cutting from one of her own plants she had grown. I cherish this plant, and so many of the things (yes, even the kitchen utensils, LOL)...that remind me of her. This plant is sitting on my Aunt Betty Case’s display case (another woman of great influence in my life). It reminds me that Life goes on, and that we need to nurture the good, rid ourselves of the bad, but most of all…

Walk down a path, in the dusk of evening, hand in hand.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Coffee With a View: A Rude Awakening

Some folks view me as "happy go lucky"...a Pollyanna...a well-caffeinated soul...someone who always looks on the "bright side of Life" (made you sing it, LOL). However, those who truly know me...know that I've been through hell and back, several times...and have lived to tell those who really deserve to know, the dark tales of Carol [Starks] Harper. Cue "Imperial March" here).

Not much surprises me anymore. I've had to endure enough in Life, let alone the gossip-mongering and back-stabbing. But I've also learned that gossip-mongering and back-stabbing has its place in society. I accept it; hell, I even embrace it. Bring it on! Tell me who you think I am, given all the "privileged" vast information and knowledge you think you have about me! But at the very least have the balls to sit down with me over a cup of coffee...face to face...and let me hear your drivel so I can laugh at myself!

I recently experienced something I never wanted to, ever...but was placed in front of me by the Universe. One Saturday morning last month, I was watering the flowers outside of the garden when a very young Native girl yelled at me over the fence. She was nothing but a t-shirt and shorts...bruised and beaten:

"Please. Can you help me?"

I immediately dropped the hose, ran over to her, and brought her into the house. Called 911. RPD showed up, and then later, BIA. In the meantime, I had a lot of time to talk to this young girl and her plight. I was willing to do anything and everything to get her out of her situation, but...

Long story short...she went back, despite all the best efforts and help offered. To tell the truth, it broke my heart to pieces. I was thinking, "THIS is why we have abused, missing, and murdered Native American women!" At the same time, it made me look in the mirror and reminded me why I survived as long as I have. But this experience also told me that I can't get involved where I shouldn't...can't help when I wish I could...keep my head down re: the powers that be.

I know there are many sides to a story. I wish the whole world would know this fact...that we are all human beings who need love, care and support, regardless of who you are, where you are, or the state you are in. I know, it doesn't mean that just anyone can be trusted, but...all politics aside and gone, I'm with the crowd and community that would at the very least stand up for a young Native girl who had been abused and beaten.

Below is a photo of a necklace given to me by my Grandmother. I do not know the hands that beaded it; I do not know the story behind it. What I do know is that it was given to me in love, and I wear it with pride. I have several Native jewelry pieces given to me over the years, and I cherish each and every one. I wear them at pow-wows and ceremonies.

I'm a very different person, here in my Third Life. Red, yellow, black or white...a tribe is what you make it. A community is what you make it. Family is what you make it. But how are we "making" it? Have we succeeded, or have we failed? Have we pointed fingers at others in blame, indignance, jealousy, rage...or do we look in the mirror and experience a rude awakening?

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Coffee With A View: When you call 911

When I came back here to Wyoming in October of 2017, I considered myself a "newbie". Even though I was born and raised here, I was gone for about 35 years. Changes? Oh hellz, yeah! But not too much had changed, and I absolutely loved it. That Americana, hometown life was exactly what I needed and yearned for. Not to discount my wonderful time in Amador County, California...for it was there that I found my "second home". The little Gold-Rush downtowns, the beautiful, oak-studded hills and Sierra mountain vistas, Amador's wine country...

It was a very rough and tough decision to make, moving back to my home state, but I heeded the call in being close to family and friends who had already made their decision long ago to stake their ground and make a life here. Being close to my "Tribe". That is what building a "Third Life" is all about.

When you settle into a community/tribe, there are things you might expect, and yes (I have to say) take for granted. All of the economical elements come into play: Food, water, utilities, transportation, communication, resources, employment, etc.

However, not many really think about the case of emergency...when you have to call 911...a stroke, a cardiac arrest, a respiratory problem, a stabbing/shooting, domestic violence, etc. Most think it's a "given". Just call 911, right? You live your life, thinking "Oh, that won't happen to me/my family".

And then it does happen.

I signed on with flight services first, and then eventually transferred to ground EMS. My position has been mostly administrative...vehicle maintenance, medical equipment, AP, etc. Basically, I keep the lights on at the stations, the rigs going, the equipment functioning and repaired. I'm also the editor of a [internal] quarterly newsletter for ground and flight for the Northwest Region.

I also manage the community relations/outreach side of things, and although "things" have been quite difficult to manage lately, my heart will always be with the crews of Fremont County, no matter who is at the helm of the ship. They are the ones who bust their asses for every 911 call. They are the ones on the front lines...who get very little sleep, have to deal with PTSD, have to deal with every call and scene day and night, 24/7...and above that, have to deal with the nasty politics that go on above their heads and try their very best to go above and beyond for their patients.

There, I said it.

I've said this before, but here it is again: If you want to know the truth about community relations/society, talk to an EMT. Talk to a Paramedic. Talk to a First Responder that is on-scene and has to deal with what is in front of them. It's often not a pretty picture, and I know tensions are high, given the George Floyd verdict. But just try to put yourself in the situations of our EMTs/Paramedics, whose ultimate goal is to save a life. Doesn't matter whose life it is, they will do their damned best to try to save it. They are not armed; they don't carry anything to protect their own selves. They are vulnerable, yet they put themselves in harm's way to do one thing: Care.

How does a county/community solve the problems of emergency services? There is a lot more to solve before those calls even go out to our First Responders! But what are our city and county leaders doing to actually solve these problems? Crime, murder, assaults, drugs, violence, rape, abuse, stabbings, shootings, suicides, overdoses, etc.

Whose "fault" is it where we all seem to be failing? Where do the justices and the injustices really lie?

This is America, today. Problems need to be solved above the heads of those on the front lines of care, whether governmental or corporate...and unfortunately, they have all failed us. Even the State of WY has failed us, in not making EMS services essential.

Fremont County, WY: On July 1, 2021...when you call 911...what will happen?

Photo by Camille Barnes, EMT

NOTE: The opinions expressed in this blog piece are my own and not necessarily those of my employer and their associates.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Nouns: We're All Essential!

My favorite Sunday mug.
In your lifetime, have you ever felt that you were destined to "do" something? Something special, something great, something meaningful? I used to think that, whatever I did or would do, it'd have something to do with music, for it has always been a part of my life. I thought, at one point in my young life, I was destined to be a concert pianist or vocalist. I practiced hard, performed, competed. I've been a music director/conductor, composed/arranged, did the Nashville scene, etc. Music has always been a part of my being, and always will be.

I also have a passion for [freelance] writing. When I was a kid, my parents couldn't keep enough pens and paper around. I wrote on literally everything (including my desk, walls and outside the window sills, LOL) I've been a columnist and reporter for a few newspapers, had a news blog in Amador County, CA...even started this blog, a platform where I can freely share my thoughts du jour.

I've had several jobs along my journey that had absolutely nothing to do with music or writing. An aerospace company, an electronics firm, a few law firms, an architect firm, a hospital, hospice, a window/glass company, modeling...was a temp as an administrative/office assistant for many companies, did a lot of data analysis/entry. Very fast learner with several computer programs. Wherever I went, whatever I did, I hit the ground running.

I also developed many hobbies and interests. There was a time where I was a recreational runner, eventually trained and ran the Chase Manhattan in San Francisco. I've scuba dived (PADI) in Monterey, Cancun, Lake Tahoe...abalone diving at Fort Point...went tuna fishing off the CA coast...was an avid trail hiker, explorer, nature buff. Loved taking my kids to Santa Cruz!

Some hobbies and interests stuck with me throughout my whole life. I love traveling, road trips...stopping at historical markers, museums, tourist traps, greasy spoons. I used to go rock and fossil hunting with my grandparents, aunts and uncles. My mother and grandmothers instilled a love for cooking and baking. Our family always had a huge garden, every year...and when I moved back home to stay, many of the loves and passions inside of me were awakened and embraced. I still love cooking. I love gardening. I love road-tripping. I'm no pro at photography, but I do love to take photos for what is meaningful and purposeful to me in the moment...and very much appreciate those professionals who have a passion for and make a living in capturing subjects and images as an artform.

I've been married, been in relationships. I've raised children; I have a grand-daughter. I have experienced and survived many dramas and traumas, some that would probably make your skin crawl. I've been in the hospital many times, had many surgeries. I've learned the easy ways and the hard ways. But I know that (and I've said this before)...if I died today, if there were no tomorrow for me, even at the ripe ol' age of 54...I can rightfully say I've already lived a very full and meaningful life.

This weekend, as I pondered my past and present, I've come to realize that the common thread(s) through all of the experiences that have made my life meaningful are the people I've met, and the friends I've made. Some have remained true for life. Some have served merely as a warning to myself and others. Still others I may have only met once, but made a lasting impact, in one way or another. 

In some ways, moving back here to my hometown of Riverton, Wyoming has proven that my life has come full circle. Yet, in so many other ways, being "born again" into my Third Life has created so many more adventures and challenges. I often ask myself what it is I'm doing that might be "great", might be meaningful, might be special...

When I worked in hospice, it was mainly about comfort. It was about families and loved ones making difficult, but necessary decisions. These days, I find myself on the other end of the spectrum; those I work with are those who are emergently saving lives. They see humanity at their worst, on their very worst days (and varying levels in between)...and they do it on very little sleep, little respect and little pay. What you read in the newspapers and the media about Emergency Medical Services (EMS), it doesn't even scrape the tip of the iceberg of what these Providers are doing and have to deal with, on or behind the scenes. Sometimes I count myself fortunate that my own job doesn't require me to experience what they do, first-hand...but that's not to say what they go through does not impact or affect me. As they come into my office to spill their guts on any given subject or scenario, I try to do what I do best: Listen. Sometimes they just need me to be there to laugh, to cry, to vent, to hang sarcastic, be funny, be a bitch, be an asshole...and they know that I will not judge. I've learned so very much as I live vicariously through them, that at the end of the day, my only hope and wish has always been for their own safety and the safety of their patients. I feel this very deeply.

I am involved in several projects and sit on several committees in my community. I do these things because throughout my life, I've discovered that something "special" or something "great" has to do with people. As so many political decisions are made over our heads (so many of which are out of our control), my heart has always been for those on the front lines. Our local providers, our local small businesses, our farmers and ranchers, our artists and musicians, our restaurants and cooks, our oil workers, our mechanics, our stores and boutiques, our doctors, our nurses, our school teachers and coaches, our mail and delivery services, our indigenous neighbors/tribes...those who are the very backbones and heartbeats of our hometown economies. For any entity or power to define or decide who or what is essential, or who or what is not (as my Dad would say) "really tans my hide". No one should ever minimize what an individual brings to their tribe, the pack, their community. Who or what we do, who or what we are, what we bring? It's all important. We're all essential!

The fate of our ambulance services in Fremont County lies in the hands of those we voted for and in whom we've placed our trust. No RFP or contract will be "perfect"; there are always compromises to be made; always that good ol' give and take. My jobs/experience with attorneys (as well as my own in representing myself) ring loud and true in situations where someone needs to come to the defense of those who cannot defend themselves. Back then, in my case, it was my children. In this case, it is those who are on the front lines...doing what they do best. Doing what is great, meaningful and special.

"Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option."
- Mark Twain

NOTE: The opinions expressed in this blog piece are my own and not necessarily those of my employer and their associates.