Thursday, April 30, 2009

On Becoming Sixty

My friend is turning sixty. A wonderful event. Another decade to explore and experience.Some feel it means a membership in the Over the Hill Gang, others see it as a license to retire to the recliner and collect crumbs on their chest.

When we were Thirty, we were fueled by our dreams and our youth. We had an open road before us, plans were made, goals were set, we were so happy to be on our way, on our own. We built our careers, homes, families, and friends. We earned money, paid bills, collected memories and photographs. We kept up with technology and best sellers. Sometimes, life was overwhelming. Mistakes made, then made again. Lessons learned on life, love and loss, then passed on to the children watching us.

At Forty, we settled in to routines. Life revolved around the calender on the wall in the kitchen. We were paying off a mortgage and saving for a retirement that seemed so far away. We took the kids to Disneyland and Soccer practice. We cooked Thanksgiving Dinner for all the relatives. We felt like grown-ups, at last.

Turning Fifty was a little tough. There was something about that half-century mark, and the changes in our lives that were difficult to grasp. Our children became adults, our parents began to be more dependent. We had our tenure, promotions, and more vacation time. New activities took the place of PTA and Scouts and the Kids’ sports. We bought reading glasses and wrinkle cream.It was a time of transition. We looked back with alternating pride and regret. We learned acceptance; of our lives and our selves. Priorities shifted; relationships and introspection and spiritually and laughter became more important. We found our own voices and were empowered as we found our inner beauty.

Here we are, my Friend, at Sixty. All that we have experienced has prepared us for today. Some of us know that these are the best years, and we welcome the new decade with open arms. We are at the top of the mountain. These years are the reward, the prize we have won for making the climb.As we plant our flag on this Summit, the vista is clear in all directions; past, present, and future. The path has been uphill, it has been costly and demanding. There have been storms and setbacks, we thought about turning back, but pushed on in spite of it all. We now stand in the warm and healing light of the Sun. We continue to learn and grow. We will know love, loss, laugher, and tears. We will develop our wisdom and wit. We have earned our place at the top, and the joy and sense of pride and accomplishment that go with it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

H1N1.... Swine Flu

Mexico City is almost shut down. More than one hundred people have died, and a couple thousand hospitalized with a mutated Swine Flu. This virulent strain of influenza has now spread to Europe, New Zealand, Israel, and multiple locations in the US in the last seventy two hours. . I have been watching the CDC updates since last week, and am becoming concerned that this could be a devastating event.... possibly a pandemic.

The Flu pandemic of 1918 that killed fifty million people, was a similar strain of H1N1. Swine are the petri dish where the avian, human, and swine flu mixed and mutated, then it jumped to humans, now it is spreading more rapidly than we could have imagined. In 1918, it was spread through the WWI soldiers in the trenches in Europe, then coming home. The virus then ravaged the country. It killed young, healthy adults; unlike the human flu that we see every winter that have higher mortality rates in the very young and the very old.

The CDC and World Health Organization have long been aware of the probability of another pandemic, they are watching this illness spread with increasing concern. The world is watching and waiting, virtually helpless to stop the rapid spread of this deadly virus. There is increased concern because of the ability to travel so far and so fast; not so in 1918, when the GIs came home on ships. We can - and have - spread the virus around the world in about two days time. The next few days and weeks will tell the tale. Is this going to be the one that Virologists have predicted? Is this flu going to wipe out a large portion of our population?

The biggest problem I see, is the apathy that is greeting the news of this virus.... no one seems to care. We are in a cloud of oblivion and are not heeding the warnings that a big storm is coming... and we will all be so surprised when we find ourselves in Kansas!

The CDC has compiled a list so families can prepare for a pandemic. It has been on their website for a couple years, and I have given it to many friends. It is worth looking at, if not following in light of the events of the last seventy two hours. Here it is, Let's all hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

You can prepare for an influenza pandemic now. You should know both the magnitude of what can happen during a pandemic outbreak and what actions you can take to help lessen the impact of an influenza pandemic on you and your family. This checklist will help you gather the information and resources you may need in case of a flu pandemic.To plan for a pandemic: Store a two week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand. This can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters. Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home. Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins. Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home. Volunteer with local groups to prepare and assist with emergency response. Get involved in your community as it works to prepare for an influenza pandemic.To limit the spread of germs and prevent infection: Teach your children to wash hands frequently with soap and water, and model the correct behavior. Teach your children to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues, and be sure to model that behavior. Teach your children to stay away from others as much as possible if they are sick. Stay home from work and school if sick.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Secretaries Week

It is a difficult job if it is done right. There are plenty of folks, mostly women, who are exceptional secretaries...... my mom was right up there with the best of them.
Mom was a secretary back when they were still called "secretary", when pencils, shorthand, carbon paper, little eraser wheels with a brush on the end, and typewriter ribbon were still in style. She took all the classes in High School that would enable her be competent. Back then, there weren't many choices for the girls.... College preparation for nursing or teaching, or Home Economics and Secretarial classes for the girls who were not college bound. Since she was a middle child of a small town Minnesota Meter Reader, higher education was not an option. She learned the skills that were taught in school, then took them into the world to begin a career. Her abilities were excellent, her attitude was exceptional. There was no room for error or mediocrity. She could type sixty words a minute. ... on an old manual machine. She took and transcribed shorthand, ran and repaired the mimeograph machine, addressed and stamped envelopes, and answered phones, taking messages, since voice mail and answering machines had yet to be invented.
Mom and Dad were married just as World War II had begun, and she went with him when he was stationed as a guard in a POW camp in St. Joe, Missouri. She worked as a civilian for the military commander, as his secretary. I remember the stories that she told later that sounded like episodes of MASH. Those simple skills were important; she felt that she contributed her best to the war effort.
When Dad went to Seminary a few years later, she put him through school and supported the family, working at Bell Aircraft, secretary to Larry Bell, himself. We lived with Grandparents to save money, since her wages were disproportionate to her skill level and work ethic. She never complained and we never felt that we lacked anything.
Dad became the vicar of a small town church, and Mom became the "church secretary", transcribing his sermons, mimeographing the Sunday bulletins, answering the phone and the mail, as well as being the pastor's wife and our mother. It was all done with the same level of excellence and personal pride in her work that set her apart from the average secretary.
Years later, when she was left on her own with teenagers to support, Mom went back to what she knew best, and until she was nearly eighty, worked for a doctor whose practice grew through the years to multiple offices and providers and staff. She ran the clinics, made appointments, answered calls, greeted patients, transcribed dictations, and ironed the Doctors' coats. She didn't like the way the laundry service did them. She brought the billing home, along with the coats, and would stuff and stamp envelopes while watching game shows. She changed with the times during those years; learned to use computers, copiers, and multi-line phone systems. The only thing that didn't change was the one hundred percent effort she gave to her work. After three attempts to retire, returning each time to clean up the mess, she was finally replaced by three newly trained Receptionists and Administrative Assistants, and the doctor had to wear wrinkled coats once again.
As I look at my Mothers' life and her work, I know that these are big shoes to fill. Not only because of how hard she worked, or the lack of technology, or the lousy wages, but also because of the integrity, work ethic, and personal pride that were the intangibles that gave her purpose and satisfaction. . She didn't have to have a fancy title, a briefcase, or a laptop. It was about a job well done, as a Secretary.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Bucketeers

There are three of us that have worked together for about twenty-five years. We don't necessarily socialize, but we are there for each other. We are Friends; we have gone through hard times with each other, professionally and personally, we know each others families, we counseled each other during those tough parenting years, we have experienced losses of mutual friends and coworkers.
In Medicine, especially Emergency Department medicine, coworkers form a unique bond as they deal with life and death, major and minor ills in the old and the young, all of them in a crisis of one kind or another. We have learned to work together to stop the bleeding, start the heart, lower the fever, raise the blood pressure, stop the pain, or find the infection. Then we comfort the dying, the families, the staff, and each other. Our friendships are not ordinary, they have the characteristics of the Brotherhood of the Battlefield. We are the Old Soldiers, we have stories, battle scars, and even some shrapnel to remind us of the way it was. So now, we must give way to the young guns, the new generation full of youth and enthusiasm and knowledge, who will take Medicine on to greater heights.
I sat with my Friend yesterday as he told me about his newly diagnosed, rare disease. His life is ending, sooner than he planned. My other Friend fights, without complaint or bitterness, a relentless autoimmune disorder that would knock the sap out of a lesser woman. And, ugly MS symptoms try to take me out of the race, as well. What a team!! But we were really something, back in the day....
We three, the Healers, have become the patients. And so it goes, the wheel keeps turning. It is hard to watch my friends go through this dark valley. They are both so vital, so full of love, life, and faith. They still have so much to offer the world; they are needed by their families and friends, and coworkers, and patients. It seems horribly ironic. Healers should be healed. But, we know too well that life is unfair, we have seen it over and over again in the ER these last two and a half decades. There are no guarantees for any of us.
We are the "Bucketeers". Our "Bucket Lists" are real. We will live with no regrets, we will do the things that we have always wanted to do, say the things that need to be said, visit old friends, write letters, take pictures, build memories for our families. We will laugh and cry without reservation, feel every feeling that comes our way, watch the sun rise and then set as many times as possible, each time with the same awe and wonder as the first. We will live until we die. Then, we will get together in the Hereafter, and do it all over again..... with wings.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


It was a little piece of Americana. It was hot and dusty. It was hard work and fairly dangerous as well. This was a weekend of Bull Riding. For the men and women who raise and train the bulls, it’s life.
Days are long, but they own their time. Chores never seem to end, especially when they have hauled bulls to a bucking competition far from home. Twice a day, they fed, watered, and exercised the bucking stock. Over one hundred two year olds bucked on Friday in a competition that took most of the day, but showcased some amazing athletics. The top ten went home with prize money. Following the Futurity, they moved the three and four year olds to Lone Star Arena from a nearby ranch. No easy task, since these animals aren’t docile!! It takes skill and courage to deal with them; it helps if you can jump up on the rails really fast, too. This was all a treat for me to take part in all of this , but for these Cowboys and their families, it is all in a days’ work.
The Bull Riding event took place over two evenings, a total of eighty Classic bulls were ridden, or tried to be ridden. Again, the focus was on the animal athletes, but those bull riders are just as athletic.
Each event began with the Star Spangled Banner, a military color guard, and prayer. The crowd stood, hats over hearts, patriotism and faith are an integral part of this life.
Cowboy Church early in the morning draws a smaller crowd, but again, there is heartfelt prayer for the safety of men and beasts, for our Country and our President, and for the weather to improve in the Midwest, where so many of these folks were losing newborn calves in a blizzard. The preacher, an old bull rider and rodeo clown himself, answered a call from God, and now holds church in rodeo arenas, ministering to the young cowboys and stock contractors. A small group gathered following the service, and prayed together on the arena floor.
These folks are what this country is made of. These are happy families who work and play and pray together. These are men who never shrink from hard work, who are humble and kind to animals and small children, who’s word and handshake are as good as any contract, and who are not ashamed to pray or have a Bible on the dashboard of the truck. The women, wives and daughters, remain feminine and lovely, but work side by side with the men to realize their dreams. Horses and dogs and pickup trucks, boots and spurs, cowboy hats and chaps, the smell of manure and sweat…..
It was a grand weekend, a taste of America; an America that is fast disappearing under the cloud we call progress. Progress has given us an easy life, but it complicated. The life that these ranchers and rodeo competitors live is difficult, but it is simple. Wonderfully simple, full of faith and love and hard work. It is America at it’s best.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's All About The Bulls

I am off to Texas early tomorrow for a few days. This will be the first trip of the season to watch my bulls try to buck off their riders and earn points and money that will hopefully take them to the World Finals in Las Vegas in November!!
The Brand X Ranch Bucking Bulls will be our retirement income. It sure seems to be a better bet than the Stock Market right now! Four years ago we partnered-up with Shippy Rodeo Bulls, Randy and Jenny Shippy and their two young boys. They are a young, hard working, Midwestern All-American family, living a dream. They do all the work; and it is hard work, and we get to reap the benefits.
The bulls live in South Dakota, on the Shippy Ranch, where they are bred, fed, doctored, trained, then hauled to the various competitions during the spring and summer. The goal is to take these two and three year old bulls to the PBR circuit, and to make a profit in doing so.
It has been an incredible adventure.... I have learned so much about the industry. The American Bucking Bull organisation, founded a few years ago by the PBR, is dedicated to advancing these amazing animal athletes. The bulls are all registered, DNA'd, and drug tested. The bloodlines go back to the famous bulls of rodeo. There is such history here! It is such an honor and privilege to be a part of it.
I tell Randy that I am a poser, since I don't do any of the work. I show up at the events, pay the entry fees, take the pictures, and wear the vest we won in Las Vegas that says "Stock Contractor" on the front, and recognizes that we had a world champ. We named one of our young bulls "Poser" in honor of my status. Who knows, he might be the one that takes us to the top in a couple years. Actually, just being a part of this world is a treat. It's not about the prize money, it's about the bulls. This weekend in Stephenville, Texas, it will be about Tricky Rick and Buckin' Secret. I'll be there to root for "my boys" and spend some time with my partners and friends.