Sunday, October 30, 2016

Recovery after a fall

It seemed like a good idea at the time.
(Nothing good ever follows that statement.)

The stool seemed stable as it stepped up onto it. It was only 18 inches tall, maybe 2 feet.
I was only trying to reach for one thing. 
What could go wrong?

The muscles in the back of my neck cried out in pain from the overextension caused by the recoil of my head after my forehead hit the hard cement floor of my basement. Warm blood started dripping onto that cold, hard cement below my eyes. 
My first thought was; I'm going to pass out here and my wife will find me who knows when. 
I screamed her name as load as I could over and over and over again.

I did not pass out, and she arrived at my side quickly. 
I suffered a bruise to the forehead, a sprained wrist, some other minor bruises and scrapes.
I was lucky. 

I should have listened to my medical team earlier that morning. 
I had anesthesia for a routine diagnostic test. 
 "Your reactions and judgment will be impaired the rest of the day, so don't do any yard work or the like." 
I should have listened. 
I guess the same thick head that saved me in the fall played a role in causing it. 

We are fall, don't we?
Sometime literally, as I did, and sometimes figuratively.  
Sometimes we avoid injury, often we do not. 
Sometimes we need to fall to learn.
Learn to listen to the advice of caregivers, learn we need help.
I called my wife's name because I was scared and I knew I needed help.

When we fall we need to realize and admit, in that moment, that we need help. 
Admitting we cannot do it alone is the first step, the hardest step, and the step that makes real recovery possible.
That's why I yelled out. 
That's why recovery groups work.
That's why unions exist.

We can't do this alone. We aren't designed that way. 
Yes, we have do to do our part, but we are stronger together than alone. 
An individual twig is easily broken in two, but several twigs held together, are difficult to snap.

That is the power we create when we come together.
That is how we recover after a fall.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

"Just a job"

My brother sent me an email with a link to an interesting blog.

To summarize, this ER physician, speaking at a conference of nurses and doctors about burnout, said "It's just a job."
I think his purpose in this statement was to say that if you get so consumed by your work, burnout is the likely result.
He was met with more than a little hostility.

You see, truth be told, those of us "in the field" feel a bit special.
We often look at our "profession' as more than a job, as a "vocation."
I have written about this often.
I feel it too.

The truth is that I also feel the same passion about my work as a unionist.
I feel fighting for "the little guy," "the working class." has dignity and brings more fulfillment than "just a job.".
As I have come to know union members in education and public service, I have come to believe that they also feel that their "work" is also their "vocation," and I can see and totally agree that it is.

I'll be honest, I have had jobs earlier in my life that have felt like "just jobs."
Nothing wrong with that, they provided for my family.
When I found nursing though, I felt fulfilled, and I continue with that fulfilled feeling in my union work.

But looking back, I have always felt a certain sense of pride in any job well done, whether I was working in a textile mill, a lumberyard, or elsewhere.
When I built airplanes, I knew my knowledge, my skill, and my caring, literally made a difference in people's safety.
And certainly, the person picking vegetables in the hot sun is providing just as valuable service to society as the nurse and doctor.

On the other hand. I have known people in nursing and unionism who "mailed it in."

Perhaps all "jobs" can be "vocations."
Perhaps., as the old saying goes.....
All work has dignity.

Perhaps, it is how we approach our work that matters.
Maybe that's what defines if "it's just a job."

And perhaps, those of us who feel "special" because of what we do, should get over it and realize that it is both a "vocation" and "just a job" at the same time.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

An amazing journey

What an amazing journey!

I'm stuck in Ireland due to an unexpectedly delayed flight causing a missed connection.
How is that amazing?
The same way that bad weather prevented us from visiting Monte Carlo a few days ago. 

Missing Monte Carlo meant we spent another day in Italy and allowed us to have perhaps the best day of the cruise, touring the hills, medeavil villages, and farms of Tuscany.  

Being delayed in Ireland meant Guinness in an Irish pub and the chance to walk on Irish sod, to bend down and feels it's thick, green grass between my fingers.

Perhaps that means nothing to you. 
Perhaps if you're Irish-American it does.

Traveling, like life, can be an amazing journey.  
Those who know me best know that like everyone, I face real challages at times, challages that can get me down.
But they also know that I can sometimes make mountains out of molehills, and in so doing, can miss out on opportunities.

This week, because I was able to make the best of situations, I enjoyed lunch at a Tuscany farm, Guiness at an Irish pub, and the the feel of the sod of my ancestors beneath my feet.

And when I can do that, it makes for an amazing journey.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Reality check

I know I don't delve often into education issues, put I feel the need to make an exception.
I don't claim to be an expert by any means.  I have not stood at the front of a classroom and faced what educators do every day. The closest I have been is standing at the end of a stretcher and teaching my patients and families on whatever illness they were facing. 
It's not the same, and I don't claim it to be. 

However, I have come to know teachers and PSRPs in the past year and I can see the dedication they have for their students is so, so similar to the dedication of any nurse or other healthcare worker to our patients.
Perhaps, my perspective as a non-educator is of some interest.

I'd like to speak on two issues.
The first being the resent Connecticut court CCJFF decision.
I agree with the court on the fact that Connecticut's funding of schools is unequal.
Affluent communities are much better able to fund their schools than struggling communities.
We are too dependent on local property taxes and this needs to be addressed.
Connecticut's students deserve high quality, well funded school whether they grow up in Greenich or Hartford.
However, the court's contention that schools are unequal because the evaluation system does not hold teachers accountable is not only an overreach of it's duty in the case, it is both inaccurate and insulting.
The reason schools are unequal is multi factored, including many socio-economic factors and the reliance on local taxes, not poor teachers, as the court implies.
Yes, changes could be made to some evaluation systems, and when educators are involved in the development and implementation of such systems, they embrace them.

The second issue I would like to speak to, is the recent announcement by the State Department of Education, on the possible need to close some of the state Vo-Tech high schools due to spending cuts proposed by the governor's administration.
I spent the early part of my working live bouncing from job to job with many periods of being laid off due to economic downturns and factory closings.
During one such period, the state sent me to CNA training at Windham Tech.
Although the factory layoffs continued, I was always able to find work as a CNA and never again collected unemployment.
Eventually, I returned to school, at Three Rivers Community-Technical College, and began a 16 year career as an emergency room RN.
None of that would have been possible without our state vocational school system, including high schools and colleges.
I know of many others who have stories like mine.
Closing any of these schools would be counter productive.
While it would save a little money in the short term, the long term result would be more unemployment and less tax revenue. 
But the biggest loss, would be the nurses, the skiled tradespeople, the teachers, and the others, who would never find their training, never learn their crafts, and never share their gifts.

In my humble perspective as someone who has not stood at the front of a classroom, I believe in this "new economic reality," we need a reality check.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Cruise day three

Let me get this straight.
Croatia was once part of Yugoslavia, which was part of the Soviet Block, which was the "evil empire," correct?

Except Split, Croatia was lovely, with lovely people.
Our city tour guide explained the history and architecture, complete with occupation by the Greeks, the Venetians, and Romans, as well as the effects of World War. II, and the Bosnia-Serbia War, as only someone who had grown up in the region could.
The shop keeper where we stopped for souvenirs helped us pick out a local wine, asking that we return to give her our impression. When we said we were on the cruise ship and were leaving at days end, she wished us a wonderful journey and asked a pledge that we would return.

"Evil Empire" I think not. Ordinary sisters and brothers interested in the same things we are, I think yes.

Tomorrow, Dubrovnik.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Cruise day two

Having gelato in Venice is pretty cool!

Let's face it, just being in Venice is pretty cool. 

We took a walking tour of Venice on day 2, including St Mark's Square. Our guide was a native, and as such, had lots of local insights to share. 

One thing she pointed out was an area of water in the square. Without her explanation, I would have taken it to be rainwater but she explained it was seawater seeping up from below at high tide. This is becoming a more frequent problem over the last few years she stated. 

As we were walking back to catch the shuttle boat that would take us back to our ship, we ducked into a small shop and found our gelato!

Now we say goodbye Italy for a few days. On to Croatia. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Cruise day one

It's a strange feeling waking up in Italy on Wednesday morning and knowing that the last time I woke up from a bed it was Monday morning in Connecticut.

It was one long day with several "plane naps" and many miles.

We left from Hartford just after 6:00 pm Monday and arrived in Venice about 11:00 am Tuesday, losing 6 hours with the time zone change.

One of Michelle's big wishes was to take an evening Gondola ride in Venice but the excusion sold out before we could sign up so when we arrived we put our name on the waiting list.
Our chances didn't look good, even several hours later so we took someone's advice and tried to strike out on our own.
To say I was nervous about venturing into a country where neither of us speaks the language and have no clue as to the geography of the city would be an understatement.
Anyway, we were no more than 10 minutes from the ship and Michelle could see I was a few steps from panic mode and suggested we abort the mission.
I felt like I had let her down.

When we got back to the room, 2 tickets were waiting for us, and soon we were with a group and headed for the gondola, stress free.

What a wonderful night it turned out to be.

A ride slipping through the canals of Venice with a group of 4 or 5 gondolas being serenaded all the way!
We returned to ship tired and happy, but too late for dinner but no worries....
They delivered steak to our room!


Monday, October 3, 2016

Bon Voyage

Michelle and I have been saving up for a Mediterranean cruse to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary for several years.
Tonight we leave for Italy. 

We delayed the trip for one year after I was elected to my current post of state federation VP, so I guess it's a 41st anniversary cruise.
In that year I took only 3 days vacation.
I would never advise my friends to do that.
We each have an obligation to tend to the needs of our sisters and brothers but we also deserve to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
It is part of taking care of ourselves.

There are many things going on that deserve my attention at work.
The outcomes of the elections will effect us for years, our state workers and some of our educators are still without contracts, we have major battles in healthcare, and our state legislative session will be soon upon us.
So, there is much to do.

But I genuinely believe that We have  a team of officers and staff that is somewhat like the Patriots.
When one player is missing, several others are there to fill in.
I also believe our members are more involved than ever, which is the ultimate goal.

So Michelle and I are off to see Europe for the first time.
Bon Voyage! 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Standing with the community

I've been spending a lot of time in Windham, Connecticut lately.
Our teachers and paraprofessionals and school support staff have been fighting for adequate funding to keep their schools open and prevent students from having to travel out of town for education.
Our nurses and other healthcare workers have been fighting to keep their community hospital open and prevent patients and their families from having to travel 45 minutes each way to Hartford for care when they are sick.

I have been hearing how their is a "new economic reality." That times are tough. That we have to tighten our belts.


There's nothing new about this cry for the need for austerity. 
We've heard it all before. 
There is one problem and it's as old as time.
Them that has....don't want to share.

Donald Trump said it Monday night.
When pointed out that he won't release his tax returns and in his last public tax return he didn't pay any taxes, he said.......
"That makes me smart."

That doesn't make you smart, that makes schools and hospitals close.

We have an ethical responsibility to all share our good fortunes and many of the rich do not.
They take the benifits that our society offer and use every loophole to avoid contributing to the common good.

The result is that teachers, paraprofessionals, school support staff, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who would rather spend their time in the classroom and at the bedside are obligated to take to the streets and fight for their communities.

That's why I've been spending my time in Windham.
I'm standing with these dedicated educational and healthcare workers as they stand with the community.