Sunday, June 17, 2018

Watching My Fathers

Photo by Ellie Caputo
At Sina's Back Roads
in Sutter Creek, CA
Happy Father's Day! I want to give tribute to all fathers out there, but most especially, my own father, Charles Henry Starks. I feel blessed to have the best dad in the world, and I know there are many who feel the same about their own fathers.

However, today I also think about those who don't even know their fathers...or have met them, and they might not have had the best example of fatherhood in their lives. I can only hope and pray that they have had good men in their lives who have set examples of love, hope, strength and courage. To them, there is a quote by Pastor T.D. Jakes that reads: "I want to congratulate all the men out there who are working diligently to be good fathers, whether they are stepfathers, or biological fathers or just spiritual fathers." And I congratulate you, too.

I was adopted into my family when I was an infant of just a couple of months. The youngest of three, my sister, Kim, is ten years older than me; my brother, Mike, one year older. Our father was born in the Depression Era, in 1936, and was raised as a farm boy out on the high plains of Wyoming, near Pavillion. Hard work is something he has always known, and he passed down his wisdom to us. I know he "says" he's retired, but...I see him out and about, always working on the grounds, the gardens...out traveling across the country. It's in his blood. Don't let him fool you...he might be pushing 82, but he's a kid at heart!

I have met my biological father, Jim Richards. He was in my life for a fleeting moment of years, then some family drama had ensued, and I haven't seen him in well over a decade (absolutely no fault of his own). When I first met him, I was about 30 years old, and I have to say, a lot of my life questions were answered. Like, where did my artistic/musical abilities come from? Jim is a guitar player and songwriter...mainly blues. A veteran of Vietnam, in the Army and the Marines. Not just a solider, a survivor. Found out that his brothers (my uncles) are instrumental in my genetics as well: Ben is an accomplished writer; Bill is a classical guitarist who debuted in Carnegie Hall. His sister (my aunt) Rosie was a ballerina in L.A. and Paris. My grandfather, Eugene (Gene) Richards, was the Director of Physical Therapy at Cedars-Sinai for many years. From what I gathered (from my grandmother), the Richards family line goes back to King Richard the III (the good one, lol).

Ah, so there it is! If there's something to be said about the men in our lives, it would be that as human beings, we are all flawed in some way...have made mistakes, maybe some of them significant. However, history lessons are key, and I will always remember what my mother always said: "Do it better than we did." It was her hope that we would, and that we would find happiness. I can only hope that I can be the kind of person my parents raised and hoped me to be. It's not an easy task, as I am only human and make mistakes as well. But I gotta say, I'm a perfect example of how people can and do change when given the chance.

I wrote this tribute to my father about 7 years ago. I hope you enjoy it, as I enjoy reminiscing and sharing it with you.
http://crharper.homestead.com/Watching_My_Father_-_v2final.pdf

Happy Father's Day! 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Caffè Venerdì: Just because you can...

So, we've come to the end of the week, to the end of another month...and I've come to the end of my Caffè Tomasso Portuguese Roast. I'd love to tell you all about it, but the content on the package is, for the most part, in Portuguese...though, I can tell you very simply how it drinks. Basically, if you need a coffee for guests that range anywhere from, say...truck driver sludge to coffee snob...this would be a good serve.

I usually like to sample coffee beans before committing to a purchase, or like to get recommendations from friends, but from time to time, I also venture out to exotic sites and places, like...Amazon! Which is where I found Caffè Tomasso. Sometimes it can be a hit or miss when you spin the online wheel, but this one was a winner, and I must buy more.

This week was just filled with eye-rolls, wasn't it? Roseanne's show being cancelled...Trump's pardons, etc. It will never cease to amaze me what corporate media throws in, blends up and and forces into our eyeballs as "news", but...that's just me. Most of the time I can just skim through Facebook and get the skinny, but I have my own community news blog, Amador Community News, that I have to get going each morning. I don't have too very much time to dwell on the drama du jour, so I really have to sift through and rely on the local communities of Amador County to come through. And they do.

It wasn't so long ago that any subject matter would politically charge me to the point of argument. Most of my friends and those who have followed me on Facebook can attest to this. There was a time where I would skim through the "news" and posts, and something would always set me off. Mainly politics, yes, but some topics would get me chomping at the bit. Sometimes, when I went on a vent, the comment threads would go on for days; sometimes you could cue the crickets. Either way, I've learned a lot about people, their feelings and opinions, their own experiences, perspectives and wisdom...

It's interesting how a major life change can give you a whole new perspective. Looking back, I came to the realization that I wasn't very happy with the person I had become. I was stressed out, filled with anxiety and negativity, was told that I was a "fence dweller" (politically, since I'm non-partisan)...called "dangerously naive"...a "libertard"...was barraged by folks convincing me to jump on their bandwagons (and sheesh, the bands weren't even that good!)...and unfortunately, I lost some very good friends along the way.

It took me roughly eight months to figure out that the Carol I had become wasn't the Carol I wanted to be. But who had I become? It wasn't until I moved back home that I could get an "aerial view" of my life's journey thus far, and saw that I was letting the daily "drama du jour" affect me, define me, influence me. I lived in California, collectively, for about 30 years (with a stint in Nashville, TN in between), and though the interstate transition was wide (obviously physically and politically), I've had to wring myself out and think about how I want to shape the rest of my life. My life.

I'm still non-partisan, and always will be. I didn't vote for Trump or Hillary (I wrote in "Captain America"). I know folks who are full-on Trump supporters. I know folks who voted for Trump only because of their party affiliation, and have expressed their regret and remorse. I know folks who are still crying over Hillary. I know plenty of folks who don't really give a damn.

My perspective now, as I continue on my path for me, is that I'm shaping my life, not based on politics, religion or bandwagons, but on "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." I want to be happy...and politics, religion and bandwagons weren't making me happy. My opinion of Trump, though it might not be popular (and I don't care) is: He's a businessman with a inflated ego that ran for and became President, and, in my estimation, didn't know what he was getting himself into. That's irrelevant now, he's our President. But to me, as I try to get that aerial view from several vantage points of the "political sky"...in retrospect, I wish someone would have sat Trump down at some point, pre-2016, and said: "Just because you can run for President, doesn't mean you should."

I will be visiting California next week, and I'm so excited to see those who are [still] my friends, regardless of red state versus blue. I've been asked, "Why do you continue Amador Community News when you don't even live in California anymore?" Because I can...and should. I've been all about community media for over twelve years now, and ACN has evolved to a point where so many rely on it. Believe me, it wasn't/hasn't been easy to create and maintain an information and resource site that is untainted by partisan persuasion. It's not a fancy site with a lot of flashy ads, bells and whistles, but...you have no idea how many times I am thanked for keeping it going, simply because "of the people, by the people and for the people" was what I had in mind when it was founded.

Of course, I'm never going to run for President...I can't and shouldn't. But if I can make a difference, wherever I live in the country (or the world, for that matter), that's all that really counts, in my mind. It's time to be the "Carol" I am...

...because I can.

Carol Harper
carol@coffeepong.com
Facebook.com/coffeepong

© 2018 Carol Harper. Contact: carol@coffeepong.com

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: A Bag of Important Things to Remember

As I prep for my road trip to California next week, I'm "makin' a list, checkin' it twice". No doubt I've never been happier here in the great state of Wyoming, my beloved home state, but...the truth is that I lived in California for (collectively) the past 30 years, and I can never discount such a life lived.

I'm already packing my bags. Itinerary. Flat of water. "Road trip" food. First aid kit. Toothbrush. Hair brush, shampoo/conditioner. Clean underwear (thanks, Mom).

I moved to California in 1989, from Provo, Utah to the San Jose Bay Area. My son and daughter were just babies at the time; for me, it was an adventure for this Wyoming-grown gal. From two-lane highways to multiple, well...you can only guess how I guided myself across the NV/CA border for the first time. Two lanes to six?? Never did I know that I would experience commute traffic, pollution and social/cultural mixing pots..but, I did.

But, I digress...

While in Utah back in the day, I was an Admin Assistant for an aerospace company, Wencor West/Kitco. I kinda laugh today in reflection, in that I "knew them when", but also quite reverence the tech and communications that was all about Aviation Technology in the late 80's. Funny and ironic that I would connect with the Quality Control tech guy. I (as most did) viewed him as the quiet "nerd", but I learned a lot from him. I don't remember his name, but I will always remember his tech and intelligence. For those who don't know me very well...I'm quite a sponge for information. Did I know he would influence my life later on? No. But he did. So...I did a Google on Wencor West/Kitco. Today, it appears to be an amazing industry. http://www.wencor.com/

I truly believe that our pasts shape our futures. We learn. We learn from our successes and mistakes, every day! I don't think I made any "mistakes" while serving at Wencor West/Kitco, but I can tell you right now, I wasn't in the industry to climb a "ladder" toward any glass ceiling in the aviation industry. Far from! I just needed a job; I had two babies to feed. But I was there to learn. And what I learned is that when one hurts, we all hurt.

Before my son, Kevin, was born, all the women in the Wencor West office got together and sewed a quilt for his homecoming. They held a small baby shower party for me. Every single woman there had smiles on their faces at the surprise that would surely ensue as I unwrapped the quilt. "Astonishment" was a word that couldn't explain my joy. Here were these women...women I worked with every day...who came together to give me a gift I could never repay. The work of their own hands.  A quilt of Beauty, Art and Love.

Many months later, my beautiful baby daughter, Rachelle, was born, with so very many complications. When I needed a ride to the ER, the clinic, the hospital...these women were there, ready to help, ready to serve. They had their own families, their own lives and drama to work through...yet, they were there for me. I am so grateful to have a wonderful network of strong, beautiful women who are always there for me, through the good, bad and ugly!

My point is...there are people in our lives who truly care. Even if you think no one cares...that you are alone, that you think you are at the end of a candle burnt at both ends...

Someone truly does care.

Not many know this, but (now you do)...before I moved back to Wyoming, I was homeless. It wasn't for long, but I do know what it feels like to be without hope. Empty. Done. Bitter, in wonderment of those who you thought were your friends, but who really weren't. Heartbroken for those who, if it weren't for your own pride, would've helped...but you wouldn't have it.

But all it took was telling the truth. I could've said one of the four-letter "f" words that I've detested in my vocabulary:

"Hey, I'm fine."

Once I told the truth...that I was not "fine"...did the angels descend.

This has happened multiple times in my life. And these Angels know who they are. To them, I will always be truly grateful and forever in their debt. Words are not enough.

Life isn't what others make for you. It's what you make for yourself. You choose your own happiness or demise. No "motivational speaker" or preacher at the pulpit ever convinced me, and believe me, I've drunk down many bitter cups. But step back, and think about the "nouns" in your life. The people, places and things. It will give you perspective, focus and most of all, strength in your own self to forge onward, and if needs be, fight back. You think you may be alone in the fight...but you're not.

"If you are happy, rejoice in it. If you are not, do something about it."

Put this in your bag of important things to remember!

Road trip!

Carol Harper

Tonight's sunset...

© 2018 Carol Harper. Contact: carol@coffeepong.com

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Coffee With A View: Remembering the "Nouns"

By Carol Harper

Happy Sunday, everyone! Today's brew with a view comes from City Brew in Casper, WY. I'm drinking their Bucking Horse blend (apparently, has a little more kick! haha), but for those with more medium-balanced tastes, they also have Northern Lights and Anniversary blends.

The ambiance is what I call "very Seattle", but don't let it fool you. Like everything, there are some stories and a bit of history behind it. Ask me and we'll talk about it...over coffee!

Casper is about a 1.5 hour drive from where I live (Riverton), and rather than give you the "skinny on the city", you can "Wiki read" about it at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casper,_Wyoming. Perhaps the biggest thing to happen to Casper lately was the solar eclipse back on August 21, 2017, when the city fell within the center line. I lived in California at the time, and would've loved to have been back here in my home state when the event occurred. From what I understand from the locals, the entire city was packed. The town centers, packed. Campgrounds, everything...packed. As I don't really do well in large crowds, I was content to see many photographers' postings on Facebook. But it did look like a really great time! http://eclipsecasper.com/.

I've had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. Had ribs at HQ Southern BBQ for lunch in Casper...really good, reminded me of a little place I used to go to in Nashville. Small, only a few tables, but...definitely Southern-style ribs, award-winning macaroni and cheese (although I don't think anyone can rival my sister, Kim's, mac n cheese), and the cornbread was like eating "dessert first"! Went to a pretty huge car show for a bit, then attended the Cowboy Country & Bluegrass Jam held at the historic Hotel LaBonte in Douglas...and then explored the area and the beauty that is Wyoming. Again, like I've said before...photos just don't do some of these areas justice. I often rub my eyes, pinch myself and make sure it's not a dream that I live in such a beautiful state.

The photos below are of a place called Ayres Natural Bridge. I think I've found my paradise camping spot. The campgrounds are protected by a red rock cove, and a "river runs through it", the result of which is the natural bridge you see that has been carved out over time. Again, you can Wiki-read about this too, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayres_Natural_Bridge_Park



There was a pasture of bison that I had to stop and video. The video is on the Coffee Pong Facebook page (facebook.com/coffeepong), but I was able to get close enough to get a shot before they were on the move:


As I experience and explore the "nouns" of my life (people, places and things), I find that I am most grateful that I am free to travel around the state of Wyoming without having to stop at military or police check points...free to attend attend local community events...free listen to live local music, to take photos without having to produce a passport or papers. Freedom to gather for picnics, barbecues, camping, etc., and that our families and friends don't have to produce passports, papers or be stopped at a check point.

My new mug matches
my laptop mouse!
In so many places in the world, these freedoms still do not exist. My coffee with a view this week is that we remember, this and every Memorial Day, that freedom isn't free. It comes with a great price, at great cost, and I'm not talking about money. That's not to say the U.S. doesn't have many problems of its own; there have been so many rights and freedoms that have been exploited and taken for granted. Still, I believe that the United States of America is the greatest country in the world, and I can only hope that we can work together to help solve the problems and heal our nation.

The past is the past; we cannot change it. Wars have been fought. Injustices have been done. But in my opinion, we can only strive to improve the present, right here, right now, and hope for the future. How do we do this?

Be good, be nice, be strong. This is my motto, my "words to live by" in order to initiate changes in the world for the better, because it truly does start with me, with us. Be good; don't be bad. Be nice; say/do no harm to others. Be strong; we all have our trials. Make sure they make you better, not bitter. Let's remember that the nouns of our lives - the people, places and things - are what shape each day, from sunrise to sunset, and consequently determine the paths that network through our life journey. And when I come to the end of my life, how do I want my "map" to look? I recently lost a friend to suicide, and her map was very complex. But she was a part of my journey, we "crossed paths" several times, and every time was with joy and celebration. That's what I choose to remember about the "people" nouns. My mother used to say: "If you're happy, joy in it. If you're not, do something about it."

The places I've visited since moving back home have certainly made me happy, as many of you know. As far as things, I live a pretty simple life; I don't need a whole lot. We get barraged daily with so many ads and commercials, marketing campaigns, etc. thinking we need more, better and faster that (I don't know about you, but) just increases my anxiety. Give me the simple life, and then, if I am able, maybe I'll have the means to invest a little extra into the other nouns of my life.

Lastly...I post this reflection every Memorial Day weekend, and every year it seems to always be appropriate to post:
http://www.carolharper.com/Remembering_Our_Fallen.pdf
Especially this excerpt:
"Please, take some time this weekend. Just a moment, it doesn’t have to be long. Maybe have a moment of silence or say a little prayer over your Memorial Day barbecue, but think about Memorial Day as a day of sacrifices, both past and present. Think about our military all over the world. Think about them, not as a unit or a platoon, or on some base off in the middle of a desert in a foreign country. These are America’s sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles. Think about our veterans. They have stories to tell that will help us to never, ever forget why they fought for America—why they did what they did, and why they are who they are today..."

© 2018 Carol Harper. Contact: carol@coffeepong.com









Thursday, May 24, 2018

Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness: Lights & Sirens

Hello, readers, and welcome to Coffee Pong! I couldn't think of a better subject matter to launch my new blog with, than giving tribute to my fellow co-workers at Guardian Flight/EMS.

A little prequel...

I've been working for Guardian Flight since December of 2017, starting out at the Lander ground EMS station (I'm now in Riverton). I've come to know the crew members and have become accustomed to...well, basically...life in an ambulance station. It ranges from very quiet (when they're asleep, or out on calls) to very busy, with pagers going off, the dispatch radio in the background, crew members collaborating on incident reports...in the kitchen, cooking or circling around the coffee pot...

In preparation for this article, I did a few actual ride-alongs with a crew, and I have to say...those were what affected me the most. It's one thing to listen to their stories...it's another to actually be there and witness them in action (which, quite frankly, blew me away). Then, there's the "sleep factor". I tried to stay awake for an entire shift, but by the time 2AM rolled around, I just couldn't do it...and I don't know how they do it. A day in the life of an EMT is, what can I say? A very, very long day.

I submitted this article to the Riverton Ranger and County 10 and I thank them for publishing. There is so much more to say about these every day heroes, but...without further ado, here is the original article:

National EMS Week: Lights and Sirens
By Carol Harper

When you see the lights and hear the sirens, you know that something has happened and it’s not good. It could be a car accident, a heart attack or stroke, a crime scene. It could be a disaster or hazardous situation. It could be a standby for fire or law enforcement, in case things go terribly wrong. In any event, someone has dialed 911, and an ambulance is on its way.

May 20-26 is National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week, and in honor of those who often run sleepless night shifts, never know what they’ll see on-scene, on any given day – here is some insight on the life of an EMT that the public may not know, and often doesn’t see.

Fremont County EMTs and paramedics are scheduled, part or full time, for 48 hours in 12-hour shifts from 08:00 to 20:00. The first thing that’s done in the morning is called a rig check, where the crew members go through each ambulance and make sure everything is stocked with supplies and the equipment is working. The vehicles are maintained by a fleet program that keeps track of mileage, fuel, repairs and scheduled maintenance.

The station is like a second home to the EMT, and there’s always something to do when not on a call. Crew members clean, mop the floors, wash the rigs. There are sleeping quarters, a kitchen and laundry room. There is a code-accessed office area where they input their reports to the Wyoming Ambulance Trip Reporting System (WATRS). There are training rooms where they attend classes, hold skills assessments and continued training to keep their certifications current.

“Station life is like living in a shared home with lots of roommates,” said EMT Jarrett Vargas. “Everyone gets together and keeps the place running like clockwork. It’s a good environment to come back to after a call.”

“It can be difficult, at times, when you want to be home with your family or friends,” said EMT Seth Agee. “However, it’s usually a family environment at the station, and you become great friends with your co-workers. I know at the end of the day, they will have my back, and I would do the same for them.”

There are three ground ambulance stations in Fremont County: Riverton, Lander and Dubois. 911 calls are allocated by location, and communication is key between dispatch, ambulance and hospital. For example, if you call 911 in Riverton, the call for EMS services will go to county dispatch, who then puts the call through their system, and that’s when the EMTs’ pagers at the Riverton station will sound. The rigs are assigned as first, second and third call, so if one ambulance and crew is out and another call comes in, the second will go out, and so forth. EMTs will communicate with the hospitals with patient information, vitals and ETAs. Ground EMS services also do patient transfers and work together with the flight crews.

How does an EMT prepare themselves to handle what they might see on a scene? “My partner and I always communicate while driving to the scene and talk about what we may need to do or what equipment to use,” Seth said. “I’ve found this works very well and sets a game plan with my partner on how we want to proceed, once getting on scene.”

“You never know what you will see on a scene, so it’s hard to prepare for that, exactly,” Jarrett said. “I believe I handle most things I see on a call pretty well. There are a few, though, that I need to talk about with co-workers at the end of the call or shift, in order to wrap my head around it.”

“We see people on their worst days, not their best,” said EMT Cody Woodward. “It’s often a thankless job. We’re not invited to the birthdays, the holiday parties and barbecues. We’re the ones that show up on the bad days…be the ones to try to explain to the wife why the husband isn’t breathing…keep a patient’s family calm in the chaos.”

“One thing I do is discuss a plan of action for the best and worst-case scenario, based on the information we receive about the call,” said EMT Payton Seck. “This method has helped, especially in cardiac arrest calls and vehicle accidents that require extraction of a severely injured patient. I have found that my response to shocking scenes is to do my job to the help the patient get the care they need.”

There are very few breaks for Emergency Services, and the call volume varies as much as the nature of the emergencies. “The most challenging aspect of being an EMT is dealing with the frustration that arises when I feel that someone is abusing the service,” Payton said. “The ambulance service and response times suffer when we get called to a remote location, and the injuries don’t appear to be life-threatening, or we spend a lot of time looking for houses that don’t have address numbers posted. Meanwhile, another call rings out across the county where someone has suffered traumatic, life-threatening injuries. Response time is critical in emergency medicine. We just try to hustle so we’re available whenever the call rings out.”

Paramedic Mike De Atley says the most difficult part of the job is “the sacrifice. To my family. My off time isn’t necessary my ‘off time’, because I’ve got to study, there are classes, a lot continuing education that has to be done. Then, if we’re up and it’s busy…48 hours on your shift, on your rig…you’re burning the candle at both ends before it starts burning down the middle. And you’ve got to sleep. So my family loses out a lot.”

Diane Lane, Interim Director of Guardian EMS, gives some insight and tips for the public: “Call 911 in an emergency, when it’s a matter of life or death. When you hear the lights and sirens, pull over and let us through. Make sure your address numbers are visible. When we arrive, have your pathways and hallways clear for us to get through. Have a list of medications ready. If you have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order, have it accessible.”

“Most of all, understand that our response time depends on many factors,” Lane continues. “Rural locations, weather, road conditions. For example, there’s a lot of road construction happening on Federal Blvd. in Riverton right now, which means we have to take detours and side roads, and know that we also don’t want to put the public at risk when we’re en route. So, as it might feel like a long time before we get there, know that we are on the way, and doing our very best to make it to you promptly and as safe as possible.”

For more information on National Emergency Services Week, visit at: www.emsstrong.org, click on “EMS Week”.

Photos by Carol Harper

Emily Ayers and Kayleigh Majewski do the morning rig check.

L-R: Emily Ayers, Tracy Sessions, Whitney Christmann, Seth Agee, Ethan Curtis, Kayleigh Majewski
at the Lander station.

Josh Poff and Jarrett Vargas pose in front of their rig at the Dubois station.
Julia Miller preps for the next call at SageWest Hospital in Riverton.


Mike De Atley and Julia Miller, on scene at a car vs. motorcycle accident.

Seth Agee and Ethan Curtin washing up a rig in Lander.

We always hope we never have to see the inside of one of these...but if we do, this is what it looks like.
Josh Chavarria and Chris Anglin gave a Q&A presentation for a church group at my parents' home.

Josh Poff, Emily Ayers and Kirsten Larson-Derrick in the training room at the Riverton station.

© Carol Harper. Contact: carol@coffeepong.com