Friday, January 5, 2018

It’s for the Trailer Park Girls

Here in a little bit I’ll be driving to the USF campus to drop of some work/school related paperwork.  This marks the midpoint of the family nurse practitioner (FNP) graduate program.  Four semesters are down, four semesters to go.  I’m told the next four will be harder than the last.  If Florida can avoid another Irma like hurricane season that’d be great!  Meanwhile, my job with the state rocks on with projects, action plans, SMART objectives, strategic plans, grant writing, blood drawing, staff call outs, etc.  The pay is subpar, the bennies are phenomenal, the work is rewarding.  

People keep asking me what my personal goals are.  What am I after?  Am I seeking more money?  Will I return to shift work and cash in every differential bonus?  Do I want an easier gig?  Am I a bleeding heart, dedicated to a specific mission? Do I covet my bosses position with a desire to make powerful decisions?  Will I climb corporate or political ladders, strategically moving till I reach some point that finally says, “I made it”.  No, no, no, & no…..I am not status driven.  Oh, I am driven just not by conventions.  Then why do I keep going back to school?  I do it for the trailer park girls, the project section-8 girls.  I do it for the one who still lives in me.  I keep going to college because all the statistics say I won’t. 

We were poor.  We were electricity gets turned off, heat the bathwater on the woodstove, clothes frozen on a clothesline, frigid air seeping through floor cracks, it’s time to move again, blocks of government cheese, food stamps, popping the clutch to start the car, mustard sandwiches, free school lunch program, 2 or 3 new school outfits at King’s or Kmart poor.  There was some violence and substance abuse.  There was no money ballet or gymnastics classes. In middle school, I begged for Nikes like the cool kids.  It didn’t even matter they had to last the whole year.  25 cent shoe paint from a yard sale kept them white. I lived in a trailer or an apartment all of my youth.  In Concord, we lived in in reduced cost apartments (aka, section-8 project).  And so, who cares?  Poor is not a crime.  I’ll tell you who cares. Well-off kids care, they notice.  Society cares.  It makes you notice, too.

My parents were so young, so tempestuous.  It could hardly be helped. My parents will read this and feel sad.  They needn’t.  They were wonderful parents in so many ways. Poor is nothing to be ashamed of.  I know that now.  My mother couldn’t drive the first 5 years of my life.  Do you realize what a gift that was?  I had my mom all to myself, every day.  Reading was our daily staple. My dad taught me how to fish, start a fire, bleed breaks, and I damn sure know the difference between a crescent wrench and an Allen wrench.  My dad used to tell me all the time that I was a leader.  He’d say, “never be a follower Amy, you are a leader”.  Now that may have been his pep talk for all kids.  I just believed him.  I believed him so much that when mean kids picked on me I just figured they didn’t know it yet.

Not many people know this but I did not graduate from high school.  We moved to Dade City when I was 15, mid-school year, after a failed few months stint in Starke, Fl.  When I was 16 my parents were at a cross roads in their marriage and various nameless unhealthy habits. Old money, old family names, Dade City noticed this trailer park girl more than anywhere.  At least it felt that way.  I quit school not to escape the work but to escape the judgement, to escape not fitting in.  I applied directly for my GED, which required special permission from the school board due to my age.  The initial age waiver request was denied.  The second was granted.  I started PHCC in fall 1990 that was prior to my high school graduating class turned their tassels in summer 1991.

I have failed at countless ventures.  I have failed in relationships.  Failures are necessary. Failures are learning opportunities so long as you don’t give up. Actually, go ahead and give up temporarily.  Pout and lick your wounds.  Rant and rave a little at some real or perceived injustice.  Cry, have too much wine with a friend. Then get up, get dressed, get going poco a poco (bit by bit).  Trailer park girls are tough and smart. Project girls have more potential, more depth, more failures.  We’ve seen and been subjected to things children should not.  We know our disadvantages are obvious.  We know what the statistics say.  I keep going to college because I hope to empower girls like me.  I want to tell these girls they can.  They are leaders, not followers.  They can go to college.  They can work hard.  They can make a difference in this world.  Be the difference you want to see.  Don’t say it, be it because you can!

I will never be done. There is no end to my journey. It’s not a race though, I’m reasonable with time. I’m the girl who says, “you want to bet, watch me”.  The thief of joy is comparison, right?  I promise I’m good.  Berating the mind in small doses is healthy. I am good and kind and loving and fair and hardworking and I believe. I am all these things despite what anyone thinks or says of me and so are you!  Let's hear it for the trailer park/section-8 girls everywhere!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Don't even feel like finishing the story, so without enthusiasm or flare, here is the ending ........ I had one of our IT guys call the nana's pharmacy about her meds.  He did well considering he hadn't stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.  Next I found a volunteer (a shelter patient) to agree to drive to the pharmacy.  I returned to the mob.  About 4 hours later the volunteer appeared with CVS pill bottles full of the imperative meds.  It was the first time I cried (certainly not the last).  Here was an unpaid person who was evacuating herself.  She had seen to her family, her house, her husband and pets, and also went to retrieve a strangers meds.  This is the good stuff!!!

I thanked her profusely and set out to find the nana who was missing the meds.  At this point I had probably processed 100 more people.  I couldn't even conjure up a image clue.  So I marched up and down the isles of the shelter calling out her name.  When I found her she was curled up all cozy and resting.  Her face became familiar again.  She smiled.  With relief I informed her that I had her meds; she needn't worry any more.  She asked if I had the "pink one".  Um, err, wait......Four bottles and no pink ones!!!!  "It's okay, there are probably some in that little side pocket in my suitcase", she said.  Low and behold, all of her damn meds were right there in the damn suitcase.  That's right, she had them the whole time.  Nana's forget, don'tcha know!!

P.S.  Check their bags before going to all that trouble.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Shelter Story: Barriers, What Barriers? I'm a Miracle Worker!

My initial role at the Special Needs Shelter (SpNS) was "Triage".  I did this both at Fasano and Wiregrass.  I was responsible for determining who met the definition of a SpNS resident.  Those that met the criteria stayed.  Those that didn't, didn't.  They were directed to a "General Population Shelter.  That is, you send em' - I sort em'.  First of all, I hate the name.  Because who am I to tell people they aren't "special"?  It's just awful.  Of course they are special.  Of course they are needy!  Aren't we all during an evacuation?  Anyway, SpNS criteria says they must live at home, use oxygen or be dependent on medical devices that are electronically supplied.  The gray area are always those that need "assistance".  You know, the sweet little Nana that manages in her 500 square foot apartment or mobile.  She struggles in the vastness of a General Shelter.  We absolutely need to assist the Nana.  And then there are ........ let's just say some know that the SpNS has much better accommodations than General Shelters.  That's the long and short of it.

So when you are Triaging, it's you against the world!  You have the cots and they want them!  And many have "pre-registered".  So they want to check-in, drop off their dog, go to lunch and shop because the sun shined for three days and when the rains started zip back to their reservation.  Um, no.  We can't put an Andes mint on your cot pillow and hold your spot.  Either you are evacuating or you come back when you are.  There was me and at least 50 at any given time (during admission period).  Some come with the clothes they are wearing.  Some come with all 500 square feet of their mobile, plus their friends apartment.  They came to help.  All these people are desparately trying to get my attention.  I'm the gatekeeper.   This is what I see.....The Angry Mob.  Imagine telling some of them that they aren't special enough for the SpNS.  

Meanwhile, the Nana is waiting patiently in her wheelchair.  The angry mob is louder, quicker, and more mobile than she.  It was up to me to demand that Nana not wait any longer.  On the first day there was this particular Nana.  She was sweet, quiet, and a bit hard of hearing.  Our conversation went like this:

Me:  "Betty Jones (fake name), what brought you here today?"
Betty:  "Say again?"
Me:  same question, louder
Betty:  In a quiet little bird whisper, "There is a storm coming."
Me:  "Indeed there is.  Betty, what have you brought with you?"
Betty:  "Here is my kitty, Sam.  They didn't give me much time.  I have my pillow and some clothes, a toothbrush."

Betty's eyes are worried.  She fidgets a little in her wheelchair.  I discover her children live out-of-state.  She walks but not so well.  She tires easily and sometimes doesn't "make it to bathroom in time".

Me:  "Do you take any medication?"
Betty:  "Yes, here is my list."  Pulls list from purse.
Me:  There are about 8 or  9 daily meds.  "And you brought your meds with you, yes?  Have enough for a few days?"
Betty:  Clearly upset..... "Oh no!  They came to quickly.  I didn't have time.  I don't have my heart medicine."
Me:  "Betty, you don't have your prescriptions?"
Betty:  "No, there was no time to pack."  She is wringing her hands, clearly distraught.
Me:  I'm racking my brain, thinking.  All 50-75 other people are impatient, shifting, annoyed at the cot assignment delay.  I can't leave.  I need to move on.  Her kids are in another state.  Our staff are filling out papers, setting up cots, cooking meals, hauling luggage, etc....

To Be Continued - Billy wants the light out ;-) 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My blog, here is where I'll express shelter emotions ad nauseam.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I have a song!! My cool and talented friend Tom Scudiero is a musician/songwriter.  He said he wrote this after Shannon and I had been reminiscing of our "olden days".  You can't help but listen again and again.

It’s for the Trailer Park Girls Here in a little bit I’ll be driving to the USF campus to drop of some work/school related paperwork.  ...