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The Victim’s Mentality When its OK 13

In the past when I worked as a volunteer victim’s advocate, I learned firsthand that there’s nothing romantic about being a victim. That lifestyle and mindset is tragedy either occurring or waiting to happen. Further, I strongly recommend if you see yourself as a victim, to lose that mentality and to do everything possible to stand up for yourself, your family and others and be your own best advocate. Your community has resources. Use those resources and know what services are available.

That being said, on Saturday I volunteered to be a “victim” . . . with the National Guard.

I had no idea what to expect, but as a writer, I learn best by visualizing (and hearing) events in person. Along with several community members, my writer friends Barbara Nickless and Tom Farrell drove to Erie, Colorado and the North Metro Fire and Rescue Training Facility.

Mercury bursts through the thermometer with words Crisis, Meltdown, Big Mess, Trouble, Concern and Issue to symbolize and warn of a terrible disaster or emergency

There, members of the National Guard stood ready to learn how they would handle a catastrophe by running drills. In the representation I attended it was a train derailment carrying ammonia where an explosion had occurred.

At the facility, volunteers stood by to put us through scenarios and to make us look like the walking wounded. Makeup artists placed bruises, scrapes and bloody messes on us. Kudos to one terrific and fun-loving ten-year-old named David who looked horrific with a screw imbedded in his cheek.

We were told to act but not overact. One member was fantastic, did the best moaning job ever, particularly when he lost his fake leg.

In my scenario, I’d lost my daughter and I was supposed to be looking for her. (Now again, they told us not to overact.) And when I reported to the soldiers she was missing, followed by a lame frantic acting job; the soldiers directed me to the cone area to join my fellow victims.

When I started to oblige, a supervisor pulled me aside. “Seriously? You’re just going to go when you’re daughter’s missing?” he asked.

That’s all the permission I needed to slip into character. (&%$# no.)

“Ma’am,” a soldier said, “we need you to go over to the cones.”

“Are you kidding me? I can’t do that. You don’t understand. We were at the railroad tracks when the explosion occurred. She was in the passenger seat right beside me. You have to find her….” Okay that was better, I hope.

The soldiers took charge and said, “We’ll look for her but we need you to cooperate. If you get lost looking for her, we’ll have two people to search for. We need to concentrate on her. Please, ma’am.”

That seemed reasonable, so off to the cones I went until another training supervisor called me back and said to the soldiers, “Aren’t you going to ask the little girl’s name and age, what she looks like?”

As realization dawned on several faces, (including mine) I immediately appreciated how important it is to have these drills.

Fictitiously bruised and scraped and a little bit wiser, I headed to the cone section, where next they put us through the decontamination process. Now, the decon process is where soldiers and medics analyze the injuries, and then spray the victims from head to toe with water in preparation for whatever procedures come next.

Saturday, it was 80 degrees but in one past exercise they told us it was 50 outside. As someone who spent the day shivering, those participants have my complete and utter admiration.

The volunteers and I went through three different scenarios (and three different decontamination processes). We were hot, cold, hot, cold, and a lot of donated clothing was cut off of us. I was extremely impressed as the supervisors and medical personal advised soldiers what they could expect in these drills.

The volunteers were giving and awesome, but not nearly as giving as the soldiers who risk their lives and work to save others. For me this was a practice session and a life experience to apply to my writing. Amazing to think that in the future, these men and women of our military may be called to a scene that is NOT a re-enactment.

I never recommend being a victim on purpose. But in this case, if you ever have the opportunity to help an emergency preparedness team, by all means, “Go for it.”

Happy Monday.

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To New Beginnings…. 3

This afternoon I am attending a wedding I have looked forward to for a long time. One of my oldest daughter’s friends is finally marrying her guy. They have been together now about 4 years. I love this girl–she is a lot of fun and her husband-to-be is one of those guys who has no fear of doing something crazy at least once, twice if he had fun the first time! They laugh a lot and so does anyone who hangs out with them for any amount of time.  The party is going to be awesome and the girls and I are putting on our shit-kickers and planning on having a great time.  For those of you who aren’t country or ranch, “shit-kickers” means cowgirl boots. The weather has turned a little cool so I may just show up in jeans but since the theme is Western I will be just fine.  I plan on dancing the night away with all the young folk and just celebrating the beginning of a great life together.

Last weekend was another of the daughter’s friend’s wedding. That one was a little more formal and truth be told I was not as excited for that one. I love the young man who got married but I have my doubts about the young woman he married.  But the wedding was beautiful and they seem happy so I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will be wrong.

My nephew graduates from 8th grade next week. My niece has only a few more credits to finish and she is done with high school.  DriDri had her first dance recital last night. We were all so proud of her–for 3 years old she showed great style and grace in both her ballet and tap dances. However we may be slightly biased in that opinion!

I was thinking about all the events this month and how with every new beginning there has to be an ending. For the couples that got married it marks the end of their lives as separate persons and the beginning of a life that they will now build together. The challenges they face will be the same but now they will each have that special person in their life to help encourage and support them instead of doing everything alone.

My nephew and niece are also coming to the end of something. My nephew is wrapping up his time in the lower grades and is now heading off to high school. Those last four years will go by so fast and at the end he must have some idea of what he wants to do with his life. That’s a loft of responsibility to deal with for a young person and now more than ever its important for family and teachers to help guide him towards a career that he can be successful in.

His sister is already there. She has considered several options and has chosen to get her training to become an EMT. Finishing up her last couple of courses on-line she will receive her credits and move directly into college classes. I’m proud of her. She has come a long ways in the past two years. She was failing all her classes and on the verge of being expelled but she managed to pull herself back from the abyss and pushed herself to overcome her failings. She ended up taking classes online because she realized she learned much better without the distractions of a regular classroom and her grades improved dramatically. She now ends her days as a high school student and moves into young adulthood. And ending and a beginning.

Sometimes even an ending that seems negative can turn out to be a positive.  A friend is ending his marriage of ten years. It was a painful decision for all involved but the anger and the blame finding was tearing them both down. Hopefully they can find peace and begin rebuilding their lives and at some point regain the friendship they once had for their child’s sake. Staying together was not a healthy place to be and this ending now creates new beginnings for both. Where there was only anger and blame now there can be healing and forgiveness and the chance to have a fresh start.

With all of these changes comes a lot of emotion which at times can be overwhelming. Starting a new life together means a lot of adjustments as two people learn to live with each other.  Starting high school means my nephew moves from the top of the dog pile to somewhere on the bottom which can be scary. Starting college means my niece is going to start meeting more people from different walks of life than she ever has before and she will see that the world is a much bigger place than she ever imagined it to be.  How each of them approaches these changes can mean the difference between success and failure. Either they embrace the changes and flow with them or resist them and fight the inevitable because change is going to happen.

Have you had any beginnings or endings in your life recently? How did they turn out? What changes did you face and what was the biggest challenge? How did you handle it?  Sharing is encouraged!


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They’re back! 4

Today is the last day of school. In a matter of hours, I will have three sons ranging from 9 to 17 hovering around me.

For weeks. And weeks.

I love them. I do. And I love public school. I love the teachers who take them away from me for hours on end most days of the week. I’m going to miss those women and men.

But never fear! I’ve already plotted and schemed to get some hours back. The eldest is doing an internship–full-time! 40 hours per week!–all summer long. The middle son has church camp, “brain camp” and an honors trip to San Diego, so he will be traveling for many of those weeks. And the youngest? In the manner of so many 3rd children, he’s always been extremely good at entertaining himself all by his too-young-to-be-interesting-to-his-older-siblings lonesome.

Stay tuned next month for my “summer-is-too-short- I-never-see-my-kids-we-are-over-scheduled-Americans-and-where-has-childhood-gone?” post.

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