It wasn’t my storm!
The storm wasn’t anywhere near us. It was, in fact, over 35 miles across the dry hot desert hovering over the small town of Quartzsite, Arizona. Quartzsite sits along Interstate 10. It’s that little town you drive through about 10 miles east of the California border. If you were to stop you would find a friendly community of retirees who spend their time exploring the desert, organizing community events, dabbling in politics and prepping for disasters. Maybe that’s why storms always hit Quartzsite but never traveled north to the town I was living in at the time, Parker, Arizona. The storms were testing…
I had just finished putting my kids to bed when I saw the first flash of lightening. Excited, I rushed to the window, expecting to see dark Monsoon clouds looming overhead. Nope. Nothing.
You can’t touch me!
The dark clouds were nothing but a wall of disappointment stretched across the horizon, mocking me. “You can’t touch me.” Sure, they were spewing bright flashes of lightning like an angry mother whose children won’t go to sleep but they were too far away to bring cool relief. With a turned down mouth I settled into my own bed and pouted about the unfairness of how Quartzsite always gets the rain but Parker never gets anything (you have to whine aaaaannnythiiiing like a 5 year old would. It really helps to set the mood).
There I was, just about to fall asleep to the sound of my nice, cool air conditioning when I noticed a little flicker of the hall light. Just a little. Just enough to make me think about replacing the bulb in the morning because it was probably just the bulb going out and not the storm (say it with a snicker. It’s fun that way) coming in.
A few minutes later, I wake up to the stifling heat of a low insulated house that’s gone minutes without cool air. It’s like the great desert saw weakness and sucked every last drop of cool conditioned air out of the smallest cracks in my weather proofed doors within seconds. It was hot. It was sticky. I was miserable. Grudgingly I walked to the window, expecting to see the progression of the storm at my doorstep. What? It’s still in Quartzsite? The Monsoon settled over the small town and unleashed its mighty fury without moving. Then why is my power out?
I did the only thing a girl could do, I turned on my scanner and opened Twitter and Facebook to see if there were clues about what was going on. Twitter was quiet and Facebook had a couple of “Why is the power out” posts but the scanner was chirping with activity.
“Yeeeeaaaaah, uuuh, looks like we have a couple of poles down along the 95 (highway connecting Parker to Quartzsite).” “We are getting calls of localized flooding and running washes along Tyson. Can you send someone over to check that out?” “(Fire Department call tones…) Station 33, possible car in a wash, cross streets of Tyson and Wells Rd.” “Dispatch can you notify APS that it looks like 15 poles are down along 95. Half of them are after Tyson Rd and it is completely flooded so let them know accessibility will be an issue.”
You get the picture.
What started out as a disappointing storm for me was turning into a real emergency for the people of Quartzsite. The calls kept coming in. Trailers had damaged roofs, cars had broken windows, travelers were stranded in the night, medical calls, assistance calls; the town of Quartzsite quickly became overwhelmed.
This went on for a couple of hours. I was still hot, I was still sticky but my kids remained asleep and I was safe from flooding and wind, unlike the residents of Quartzsite. I thought of them and what they would wake up to in the next few hours. Not many people outside of Arizona realize how destructive Monsoon storms can be. Microbursts (wind that quickly bursts downwards from a Monsoon cloud) can generate wind speeds higher than 170 mph. The typically hit a small area, less than 2.5 miles in diameter. Anything more than that is a Macroburst. What hit Quartzsite was a Microburst and it dumped a lot of water. I wish I had kept the clippings of the storm damage when I moved from Parker to Phoenix. I remember pictures of trailer roofs being torn off, power poles laying in the street, washes that overflowed into yards and undermined foundations, a car still stuck in a wash, covered in mud and desert debris. Some residents posted pictures on Facebook.
Over the next few days, APS worked long hours to repair the downed poles and restore power to the community. For 48 hours, some parts of the town were without power while I only had to suffer through 12 hours before my power was restored. In Parker, local government agencies got themselves ready to support the town. We thought of shelters, food supplies, games for kids, generators for emergency power for people on medical equipment. The call never came. Why? Because the small community of Quartzsite was prepared. They were resilient! These storms don’t phase them! They already had shelters set up in a couple of churches with back-up generators. Residents with medical needs that required power either self-evacuated or had community help getting to their shelters. They cooked for each other, played games with the kids, entertained and told stories and made plans to clean up after the power was restored and roads were cleared.
I realized the storms don’t come to Quartzsite because the residents are prepared; the residents are prepared BECAUSE THE STORMS COME TO QUARTZSITE!
Talk about an Ah-HA moment (you are probably saying, well duh!). A small community of less than 4,000 people came together to prepare, respond and recover. It didn’t take a major emergency preparedness campaign; it took their own personal experience and community mindedness. First responders, emergency management, public health, public works and town and county officials were freed up to assist with recovery, clean up and mitigation for the next storm.
The residents of Quartzsite taught me a few lessons.
- Monsoon storms can be very destructive. Don’t underestimate their power.
- Personal preparedness starts with experience. I admit that I am not all that prepared. I still have that “it won’t happen in Arizona” mindset because I’ve never personally been in an emergency that stressed my preparedness supplies (I have about a day or two but often run out of stuff before restocking).
- Emergencies don’t have to happen to you directly for you to be affected. If the power restoration took more than 12 hours, I would have been in a pickle.
- Community resiliency (ability to bounce back) starts with and is dependent upon community, not government. Yes, governmental agencies play an important role but the community heals faster when it comes together.
Resiliency starts at home with you, me and our community. Next month is Arizona’s Monsoon Awareness Week. Watch for tips on being prepared and increasing your disaster resiliency.
In honor of National Public Health Week, I thought I would highlight some public health campaigns.
I love me a good public health campaign.
Like reeeeeeaaaaallllly love.
Nothing gets me more fist pumped up than a clever, thought provoking, eye opening public health campaign. Except maybe a new crochet pattern. Oh! I love new crochet patterns!!!!!! -Look at all those exclamation points. That’s how much I love new crochet patterns. I love awesome public health campaigns this much !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Unfortunately, not all public health campaigns are clever, thought provoking or relevant. Some are poorly designed, strange and downright offensive. At least to my biased eye.
So, without much more humoristic lead in (actually it’s not that humoristic. Sorry about that) here is Katie’s review of some public health campaigns (mostly ads but some full campaigns as well).
The Good, the Bad and the WTF?
This public health campaign from Pennsylvania is excellent. The slogan “Earn Your Stripe!” is followed by a tag line of: myth dispelled, truths dispensed.
What I love about it:
It has a diverse cast of healthcare and administration workers. The audience can easily put themselves in place of one of the characters and see themselves getting a flu shot.
The stripe is the Band-Aid but it conveys a sense of importance and civic duty. What do you think about when you see that slogan with the 5 stars above it? MILITARY! So, by getting the flu shot, you are doing your civic duty for the American people. You too can be a 5 star general with your Band-Aid!
The tag line is great:
myths dispelled, truths dispensed
We all know the myths: the flu shot will give you the flu, the flu shot will make you sick, the flu shot is the government’s way of controlling you, the flu is no big deal.
This campaign wants to give you a flu shot AND the truth! I love it.
What I don’t really like about it but whatever:
The cast is all healthcare centric. Yes, it’s diverse but it’s obviously set in a hospital with hospital workers getting their shots. It sorta limits the audience. It’s totally possible that this was designed for a campaign targeting healthcare workers. I’ve seen campaigns like that before. Also, earn your stripes has been used by Kellogs to promote Tony the Tiger and Frosted Flakes (sugary cereal).
What I hate about it:
The poster doesn’t make you think about how you are contributing to childhood obesity, it’s judging you. It’s saying, “you are a terrible parent for making your child fat and they will be doomed to a life of fatness and death!” To the child it is saying, “you are a fat kid and you will be a fat adult. There is no hope for you.” It’s a basic fear and shame tactic that makes me sad.
What I sort of like about it:
The kids are unhappy. It’s like they are demanding change. “Hey, parent, I’m not too happy with this situation, let’s do something about it.” I can dig the read warning labels and the overall font style minus the overall message.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta came to their senses and came out with a new public health campaign that is a lot more actionable. See here: http://www.strong4life.com/pages/LearnAssess/BreakingBadHabits/BreakingBadHabits.aspx
On a similar note, here is another campaign targeting childhood obesity. Notice the difference?
What I like about it:
Instead of shaming the child and parent, the campaign focuses on facts: sugary drinks contribute to obesity and diabetes, by reducing or eliminating them, you are protecting your child. Good parent! The kid is just as unhappy as the other kids and look at that all those sugary drinks behind her! Save her!!!!!!! Give her water!!!!!!
The ad also has a call to action. Give them water, not sugary drinks.
Oh look! Another judgment advertisement.
What I hate about it:
As if women did not stress about their looks enough, this photo pokes fun at the lovehandles. Also notice the website, choosetolivebetter.com. By using the word choose, the agency is blaming every woman with a waistline over 32 inches. It’s your fault ladies! Yes, sometimes it is because of excessive eating but sometimes it’s just genetics. Then there is all the science behind the roles poverty, neighborhood design, pollution and schools have in obesity. Let’s just ignore that and focus on shame.
What I love about it:
This advertisement from France is both awesome and disturbing at the same time.
The kneeling position of the kid shows subservience. The child’s eyes are trusting yet worried.
The hand on the head shows dominance.
The older man, younger boy theme screams that tobacco companies are pedophiles who prey on the weaknesses of the young, exploiting them and forever holding dominance over them.
Which is pretty much the truth but in a very uncomfortable way. Which is why I love it and hate it.
Why I like it:
It’s simple, it’s visual, it’s social and a little viral.
Check this little guy out. This sticker is part of a campaign from the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health. It’s a little bit of
gorilla guerilla marketing. Public health graduate students put these stickers on things that represent public health. For example, placing the sticker on a water fountain because clean drinking water is just a little important (John Snow anyone?).
Plus, it lends itself to this meme.
A pregnant boy?
Does it make you squemish? Does it make you want to turn away? Does it make you think about teen pregnancy? Good! This is brilliantly done! This particular ad targets teens (especially teen boys) to use protection or wait. I wish it also addressed birth control but it’s a start.
I love that he looks a little ashamed and depressed. You can almost hear sad trumpets playing in the background. Waahhhhh Waaaah Waaaaaah
And now….. For the Awesome!!!!
Zombie preparedness was the accidental marketing campaign of CDC’s Office of Preparedness and Response Director, Dr. Khan. It started as a blog that pointed out if you can prepare for Zombies, you can prepare for anything.
What I love about it:
It’s relevant on so many levels. It’s the perfect mix of opportunities.
With the popularity of AMC’s The Walking Dead, pop culture embracing zombies and the perfect platform to go viral, we are talking about a perfect storm.
Dr. Khan’s blog wasn’t meant to launch a new marketing program, but it did. That’s the beauty of it. It was accidental, organic and relevant. Since then, it has evolved into a full preparedness campaign complete with social media and a novella. What’s novella? A graphic short novel that targets young readers. It harkens back to the origins of The Walking Dead: a comic still in production.
You thought I was done, but I’m not. How could I write about public health campaigns and not include one of the best ones ever! That’s right folks. I’m talking about Riester Robb’s most excellent, award winning, gross out tobacco campaign. Unfortunately, I don’t have a link for this awesome campaign (it’s too old) but many of you in Arizona can still quote this tag line.
Tobacco, tumor causing, teeth staining, smelly, puking habit. (a little tear comes to my eye when I think about it).
Marketing public health doesn’t have to be shocking, shameful or blaming. It does need to be clever, thought provoking and relevant. The target market segment should walk away with either awareness or a call to action, not shame and helplessness. There is plenty of marketing science to back me up here. Shaming never works, it drives your audience away, reduces self-esteem and isolates government. Instead of being a partner for change, we become the large figure wagging a condescending finger. “Shame on you!”
Don’t jump forward on a campaign just because it is shocking and you want to shake up your community. Do research your target market, find their motivators and position your product (campaign, ad, whatever) where they will receive it. Build relationships early and become the trusted brand.
Above all, be relevant, step down from the podium and put away your wagging finger.
If all else fails, try a little humor.
I’ve never met Will Humble. I never passed him in the hall of ADHS and stopped to chat about a strategic goal for public health. I never had the opportunity to directly collaborate with him on a grant, public health campaign or new CDC guidance. I never exchanged emails about the difference between rural and urban public health challenges. I never joked with him about the latest public health meme @jgarrow posted. I never knocked on his office door to ask his opinion about the latest statistics from some public health journal. But I feel like I have.
I suppose after hearing someone’s name for 8 years and collaborating on the same projects while on different dimensions, you get to know a person without actually knowing them. Or maybe it’s knowing that Will Humble rose through the ranks of a state agency, all the way to the top, that builds a sense of camaraderie, even when you weren’t comrades. Maybe it’s just the plain fact that his last name is Humble and that leaves you with a sense of understanding. Whatever it is, I feel a kinship to this public health leader and I am a little sad that he is leaving the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Will Humble recently announced that he was stepping down as the director for ADHS. Granted, there was speculation amongst my friends and co-workers as I’m sure there was in the media. Was it because we have a new governor? Is there a sick family member? Is he sick? Is there some turmoil in the agency?
Turns out, the reason was much simpler. Will was quoted in the Arizona Republic, “There’s not an individual or particular reason that I’m leaving,” he said. “The honest truth is I was at the gym last night. I walk out to the parking lot, the breeze is blowing and something came over me and said ‘it’s time’.” The funny thing is, I felt that same breeze and it struck me as a very refreshing breeze. A lively breeze. The kind of breeze that comes with a sunset on a warm May evening in Arizona: cool and warm at the same time. February is not the month for a cool/warm breeze so it stuck with me.
The winds of change. Inspiration came on those winds for Will Humble and I wish him the best, wherever those winds blow him. Maybe, just maybe, those winds will linger in public health a little while longer and we can one day pass each other in the hall, offering nods of concordance, and continue on in our public health ways. Good luck, Will Humble.
Dude, I got the best parking spot today. Right by the elevators in my parking garage. That saved me like 20 feet worth of walking.
Don’t laugh. When the clock says 7:58 and you just pulled into the garage, that 20 feet is an eternity. Suddenly you feel like a Hobbit going on a long adventure, hoping to make it to your meeting with Gandalf only to discover the wizard is running late. Like 2 weeks late because he just had to stick his big nose all up in Sauruman’s business and got himself stranded on top of the tower. But it doesn’t matter in the end because a wizard is never late. He arrives precisely when he means to.
Gah. Freaking wizards.
So, basically, I love my job. That probably doesn’t surprise anyone since I’m doing almost the exact same thing I did in La Paz County. Just less of it. Fewer hats and responsibility. It’s nice to be able to sit down and do one job function all day instead of splitting my time switching back and forth between duties. However, we all know I like chaos so let’s see how long that lasts.
I’ve got this running list of things to accomplish before I consider myself a Phoenician. Yes, John Wright, I used that word. Here is my list so far:
Shop at the Phoenix open air market on Saturdays.
I already do this but I want to be that fully invested hippy that “only” shops at the farmer’s (or is it farmers’) market for veggies and craft goods. Ha. That will probably never happen. I will just end up going for their breakfast burritos.
Join a Gym.
This actually happened. Like, I literally joined a gym. It was amazing. —I think Greg hates all those words.
Drink lots of local craft beers.
Since I joined the gym and mostly gave up beer, this is going to be a problem. I might need to modify this to drink local craft beer and take the “lots of” out. So sad.
Take a spin class.
I have no idea what this is but Phoenician women talk about their spin classes so it must be awesome, right?
Find “my place”
Greg has a place. It’s been his place for like 8 years. I’m totally jealous and I want a place. I just hope I don’t end up liking a place that smells like musty books. Books smell good but musty books smell musty. Well duh. But they smell like musty, moldy things. I’m afraid “my place” will smell like that. “Hey babe, I’m going to my place for a couple of hours. Don’t wait up,” I will say one night. “Just make sure you fabreeze yourself before you come home. I don’t like that musty, moldy smell,” Greg will someday reply. That’s gonna make me sad. Now I have to find a new place.
Get a coach purse
Actually, I’m not going to do this. I just noticed that all the cool girls have one. I’m not mainstream enough for this nonsense. Although I did get new glasses. Coach glasses. They are badass.
In other news, the kids are adjusting well. The boy’s school is fantastic. Madison is the best district in Phoenix and his school is only a few blocks away. He has a specialized team that works with all his special needs and they love him as much as his Parker team did. How could you not love that curly haired cutie pie?
The girl had a bit of a hard time adjusting at first. We originally enrolled her in North High, the Phoenix Union High School in our district, but with 3,000 kids, she couldn’t find herself. Literally. Greg and I remembered the Madison was opening a brand new high school so one day we checked it out. The principle and staff treated us like royalty and quickly wooed Darbs into enrolling. The school is very hands on, uses a hybrid of traditional and online learning and is very focused on STEM curriculum.
She ingrained herself immediately. Now, she is Captain of the cheer squad, President of the Future Business Leaders of America, and all around awesome. Engineering is a required class for the students and she mock designed a set of hand weights that women can carry during nighttime walks. Already been done you say? Well her hand weights have switch blades inside. Yeah. Come at me you nighttime stalker, I’ll cut a man!
That’s my update. I thought I would be blogging my Urban adventures but between the new move, a dippy dog, a marriage, the kids and my Master’s program, I’m a bit busy.
Oh, and I got married. But I’m saving that for another entry.
After almost 14 years with La Paz County Health Department, I am saying goodbye to my wonderful co-workers, colleges and friends and hello to new experiences at Maricopa County Public Health. I’m a huge jumbled mix of emotions: sad, elated, anxious, excited, wondrous. Yeah, I know that’s not the proper use of wondrous but I like saying it.
You know what is another awesome word? Petrichor. Doctor Who fans know what I’m talking about. The rest of you, look it up. It’s a wondrous word.
I will still be working in the realm of public health emergency planning and response, planning for public health emergencies, assisting with training and exercises. OH, that reminds me of a funny meme by emergency management consultant Todd Jasper:
The kids are excited to enroll in new schools. Darby’s school actually has dance classes! No more paying for dance lessons. Well, I will probably still do that but, how cool! She is thrilled!
Carsten’s school will have more opportunities for assistance with ADHD and is only a few blocks from the house. Double cool!
My fiance, Greg, is excited as well. After years of prepping, we finally get to make this happen.
Finally, words cannot express how blessed I am to remain in my lifelong career of public health emergency preparedness.
There will probably be more later but right now, I have to find boxes and start packing.
Take More Time!
Quick! Make a choice. You are walking in a forest near a tree with gnarly, tangled roots when out of the corner of your eye you see… one of those roots slither. What do you do?
B. Jump back
D. Bend down and examine the roots
Answer: According to Risk Guru, David Ropeik, most people choose one of the first 3 answers.
Our brains are wired to make quick choices. We’ve evolved to the top of the food chain because our sympathetic nervous system helped us avoid danger. It goes a little something like this…
You are walking in a forest near a tree with gnarly, tangled roots when out of the corner of your eye you see one of those roots slither. Your amygdala sends a signal to your hypothalamus which begins a chemical reaction in the body. Your heart rate speeds up, your mouth gets dry, your body gets a surge of adrenaline, and your stomach feels like that dude from Aliens who was implanted with an adorable little alien baby. Everything in your body is preparing you to either run, or stand your ground and fight. It’s pretty awesome and, as David Ropeik explains: our brain is a survival machine built for quick reactions based on emotions, not facts, in order to get us through the dangers of lions and tigers and bears in the dark, oh my! This system worked well for getting us out of danger and to tomorrow but it doesn’t work so well now that we need our brain to rationalize risks.
So here we are, enlightened beings, making too many decisions based on emotions and not facts.
David Ropeik goes on to brilliantly explain concept by using a vaccine example.
Remember HPV vaccine? What was your first response? Let me trigger some memory. “We are pleased to announce the release of new vaccine that will target cervical cancer. It’s given to young girls as early as 11, before they start having sex.” That’s basically what many of you heard. Admit it; you had an emotional reaction, didn’t you?
Your first reaction may be to the word vaccine. Vaccines are created by scientists and many risk studies show that people are adverse to things created by humans and more accepting of things that are natural. Think about it. What is more scary (or risky), coal fired power plants or nuclear? Would you rather get the flu or receive anthrax (weaponized by humans) in the mail? Some of you might even recall the false vaccine/autism study that has been debunked by scientists over and over. Yet it’s easier to espouse it because autism is scary and we don’t know where it comes from.
Your second reaction may be to the words cervical and sex. I’ve heard parents say, “I’m not giving that to my daughter. If these girls would just keep their legs closed and not have sex until marriage, there wouldn’t be a problem.”
We feel first and think second. Our brain jumps to conclusions based on key trigger words and emotions flowing through our sympathetic nervous system. VACCINES! OH NO!
The problem is that our first reaction, or our first choice, might not be the best or healthiest one. It’s certainly not the most informed one.
So what does David Ropeik suggest? Take more time….
30 minutes an hour a day
Just take more time.
Start gathering facts. Not just facts from sources that agree with you but gather information from trustworthy sites. Look up the benefits to having the HPV vaccine from cdc.gov. Look up the prevalence (how many people have it) rates of HPV in your community. Research cervical cancer, treatments and death rates. Make an informed decision, not an emotional one. Use your rational brain. Don’t jump away from that vaccine just because you think it looks dangerous.
Take More Time
Oh, and watch David Ropeik on YouTube. (I have a bit of an academic crush on him.)
When you are the parent of a child with ADHD, life is different. After a couple of years you no longer notice how different life has become. You get use to the routines. You now longer notice that your life is divided into blocks of time on the weekdays and that what seems like a free for all on the weekends is still on routine. You adjust to your child’s anxiety, take over more chores than is good for you and plan out 5 or 10 minutes of alone time just to regain your sanity. You forget that you are constantly on edge and worried that at any moment, your son may dash out the house and run down the street because he thought he saw his friend all while you had the audacity to use the bathroom and shut the door and come back out a quick 2 minutes later to find your house empty, no sign of the little escape artist anywhere so now you have to search the entire neighborhood calling his name loudly like he’s a lost dog but thankfully you find him 2 blocks away playing with a friend you never knew he had, but it’s OK because it’s his very best friend that he just met 1 minute ago (true story).
Still, it’s all part of the norm for a parent with an ADHD kid. Until report card time…
At report card time, you open that little manila envelope, rejoicing that there are no Ds or Fs and being totally surprised that there is a B along with a smiley face from the teacher. You jump for joy when you read the note that says, “your son is making progress.”
Then you open up Facebook. What do you see? Dozens of posts from your friends with perfect children getting perfect straight As and making the honor roll with their perfectly happy cherub faces smiling at you with captions like, “Isn’t she so smart” or “proud mom here” or “look at Johnny, he is such a genius getting straight As and taking after dear ol’ dad.” And you can’t help but be bitter all while “liking” the post because that is what you do on Facebook.
That’s when you are reminded that your child has to fight and struggle for a C. That you fight and struggle right along with him. That even though you love him dearly, you secretly mourn the fact that he isn’t a genius who tested into the gifted program and will land a nerdy job that will gain him riches, comfort and let him solve world hunger problems. That sometimes you fear for his future education. That you don’t even know what to do to help him so you try every suggestion possible, ending up in a helpless heap of motherhood on the floor while your child tries to explain that his brain just doesn’t know how to read that big word.
You despair and wallow in self pities of, “why me,” and, “why my child.”
And then, you remember all the quirks that come along with ADHD: the hyper-focusing, the obsessing on physical details of a peregrine falcon verse a red tailed hawk, the ability to think a million thoughts at once and sometimes, nothing at all. That’s the moment when you realize, your child’s ADHD isn’t a disability, it’s their super power and your job as a parent is to foster it. It may not manifest itself in straight As’ or Honor Roll. It may come in the ability to see grand designs or details where others do not or simply in their loving nature.
Parenting a child with ADHD is different. Because it is so different, you can’t just expect your child to measure up to a certain society norm or educational goal. You have to help them find their meaning, hone their superpower and sharpen their tools of survival. So, to all the other parents of children with ADHD, I feel ya. I understand ya. I’m with ya. And for goodness sake, get back up off of the floor and run outside because your little one probably escaped while you closed your eyes for a moment and chances are, he’s down the street, playing with a dead creature he found, trying to understand how it works.
Something wonderful has happened and it has only taken 17 years.
It actually happened two weeks ago but I was too embarrassed and a little ashamed to announce it to many people. Mostly because it’s something that should have happened 13 years ago.
I earned my Bachelor of Science in Business Management.
Because of choice that I made right after High School (yeah, that means I got married waaaaaay too young), I’ve started and stopped and started and stopped and stopped, and paused and whined about my higher education. I started at the junior college in 1996, right after graduation but I got sidetracked with dating. Then I got back into the game in 2005 with an AA. Finally, with support of my family, co-workers and most amazing boyfriend, I started on my BS in 2011.
I’m both jumping for joy while being extremely sad. Like a juxtaposition of thoughts laid side by side, opposing but still in harmony with each other. Or maybe it is just cognitive dissonance that I’m not fully aware of yet.
I do know that I feel as though I should have had this finished 13 years ago. It’s my own personal shame of not facing my fears (cost of college, fear of leaving home, introversion, blah, blah, blah). But then again, dammit, I struggled for this degree. There were days, weeks, when my humble trailer was cluttered and dirty. My kids ate hot pockets and we all did homework together. And I did it for some very important reasons.
1. I wanted it. For myself and for my kids. I really hope that the example I’ve set of sacrifice and determination will stay with them when it’s time for them to make choices about higher education.
2. I didn’t want to live in poverty forever. The stats were against me: rural working environment, poor economy, single mother, woman, and no degree.
3. The constant barrage of comments from my Epidemiologist. Melanie has her Master of Public Health (also BA in English from Harvard) and while I didn’t need a degree to keep my current job, she knew I would need it if I ever decided to move. I complained about her constant prodding but I’m so very grateful for her encouragement (especially in those early years).
4. It was a dream that my mother had. She always wanted us to have college educations but didn’t know how to do it. Her genetic DNA provided me with a jumping off point. I’m naturally smart because of her (and naturally nerdy because of the Turnbow side of me but that’s another blog post).
5. I don’t really have a 5th reason but doesn’t 5 sound better than 4.
I’ve learned that there is no “best way” to go about earning a higher education degree. Just like there is no “best way” to run a marathon (all my marathon runner friends would probably disagree). All that matters is that you do it. That you finish your goal. That you may stop and start and stop and pause and whine about the process but in the end, you’ve stuck to it. You’ve finished the race. I also wonder if marathon runners are just as sad when they finish a race. If they too feel disappointed that they didn’t run as fast as they thought they should. I’m reminded of Philippians 3:12-14 and indeed, many times it felt like I was trying to strain ahead for the goal.
So here I go, starting a new goal, with higher stakes. I’ve enrolled in a Masters of Business Administration in Marketing. I’ve found a new prize and I am racing ahead at my own pace.
Thank you to my mother for her 35 years of support and to my co-workers who constantly pushed me forward and most of all, to @PIOGreg who gives unending support and encouragement.
Let’s do this!
I’ve spent the past two weeks looking at some pretty dismal health statistics for La Paz County. We are second worst in AZ for premature deaths (under the age of 75). We are the worst county when it comes to being physically inactive and excessively drinking. You are more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash in this county than most other counties in Arizona. Almost half of all families in La Paz are single parent families. We are the second worse for teen pregnancies (age 15-19). Almost 1 in 3 adults lack insurance and are obese. A few months ago I was presenting these statistics to a Rotary Club when someone chimed in with, “So you are saying that we are the oldest, laziest and drunkest count in AZ?” Well, we are also the poorest.
How depressing. How dismal and bleak. Why do we live here if it’s so bad? If these numbers are representative of who we are then what is our future going to be like? Statistically speaking, I am a single, obese mother who doesn’t get enough exercise. I will probably die of coronary artery disease before the age of 75 and I will likely die without insurance. OH MY GOSH! Why am I even trying to diet and exercise if this is my future here?
Because, it isn’t our future here.
Inspiration is in short supply. It’s rare. And, if you look at our statistics, we are not really being inspired to make healthy choices. No, I’m not going to get into work related stuff and talk about some of our fantastic programs like Healthy LA PAZ here on my blog. Instead, I’m going to talk about how a few people in our community were inspired to make a change and provide new opportunities in Parker, AZ.
As the poorest and second smallest county in AZ we often feel like we are left out of big, exciting things that happen across our state. March 25th, that all changed. That Monday I attended a dedication ceremony for a new baseball field in Parker, AZ. Not just any field but a brand new, professional, Little League approved, bare feet compatible, green, luscious Diamondback sponsored ball field.
Introducing the Aaron Hill field. Paid for by the Arizona Diamondbacks, APS and Aaron Hill himself.
But what you don’t know is what it took to get this field. We all know grants and programs are hard to come by. The Arizona Diamondbacks have a give back program in partnership with APS, but it took the hard work and dedication of these people below to make it happen.
Over a year ago the Town of Parker council started working with the Diamondback foundation to get a new field for our youth. It didn’t look like it was going to happen when one of the players (Upton) passed up our town for a location in the city. As I was taking pictures of the event, I heard a comment about this lady here.
She was thanked for her hard work and dedication to bringing in a ball field. Tenacity. Marion Shontz is a Town of Parker council member who fought for this field. Born and raised in Parker, AZ, a graduate of Parker High, she contributes to the improvement of our town. Marion Shontz is inspiring. She believes in giving back to the community and inspiring others to do the same. If you need an ounce of inspiration, look no further than your own community. It’s here and it’s growing faster than our health stats.
PS: In full disclosure, Marion is my boss but has no idea I wrote this.
PPS: The ball field really is awesome.