In the summer of 2017, one of my oldest friends and former EMS partner, Darin Daley, (who had since gone on to become a cop), wanted to know how he could “gift” my book Girl Medic to a female co-worker that he also happened to be seeing secretively.
Darin had never cared about my book before, other than reading it and calling it good. He never left a review for it or tried to get anyone else to buy it.
It didn’t take me long to realize that he wanted her to read it because there were many stories about Darin throughout the book. I had warned Darin many times that the co-worker he was interested in was leading him down a wrong road. And that he should be old enough and certainly wise enough to understand.
Unfortunately, Darin was arrested twice in the year 2018. Spent some time in jail. Though I knew his flaws, (we all have them, believe me, I’m not perfect), I did not ever imagine that his flaws would over-take his common sense and that he’d lose everything.
This is an updated version of Girl Medic. You’ll find the story of Darin’s shocking, sad, unraveling in the last chapter.
I tried to a year to help him. But it’s impossible to help someone, when they do not want to help themselves. I’m sure there isn’t one person that knows Darin that isn’t pulling for him to rise from the ashes, leave toxic situations behind, and take his skills and put them to good, productive use.
He was an inspiration because he never complained and his sense of humor remained sharp and strong.
Recently, I’ve learned of a few deaths caused by ALS who were either members of local police departments or close family members of police I know.
And then it was discovered that Bryan Rickards – K9 Officer from Abington- had been diagnosed with ALS in February of this year (after almost a year of searching for an answer as to why his body seemed to be going wonky).
I first met Bryan a long time ago – when I was a Store Detective (security guard – but store detective sounds much more exciting).
I LOVED that job. It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at a job. I worked for Bloomingdales in the Willow Grove Mall.
Bryan would often stop by to visit (as would many Abington cops when they were bored). He always made me and my co-workers laugh. He was always funny, optimistic, cheerful. And almost always had a crazy story.
I never had a close relationship with him and didn’t see him very much for years after I quit. Then a few years ago I started to see him once or twice a year at k9 events. Bryan is one of those people as soon as you see him – you can’t help but smile and be happy that he is around.
So when I learned he had ALS – I was heartbroken. And because my father had ALS, it always seems to strike me a bit more because I am all too familiar with the disease.
Lately, I’ve known many sad situations with friends being diagnosed with cancer, friends having strokes, one young death in the family (all w/in a few months). I’m starting to feel like I can’t do ENOUGH or say enough or pray enough (and I’m not even religious).
Bryan had written on his facebook that he doesn’t regard ALS as a punishment, but more as a gift, because it will give him time to heal relationships that need healing and time for him to make peace where needed.
And that was really the only serious thing he has said. He’s been staying positive. His sense of humor is still as on point as ever. Truly, he is inspiring.
One day, last week, I’d shaved the sides of my head a little bit. And then I decided, “HEY, WHY NOT SHAVE MY HEAD!” in order to raise awareness for ALS and funds for Bryan’s Go Fund me that one of his co-worker’s wife had set up for Bryan and his family.
I even put had the barber shave a little Happy Face into the side because Bryan is trying to remain upbeat and happy, and – thinking at work, customers would ask me about it, and I could tell them about Bryan’s story.
Well. This was a bad, bad, bad, idea. It was a good intention, but for me, a bad idea.
Also, knowing Bryan, he probably would much more have appreciated and got a big laugh if I would have put my fake boobs into a pushup bra and wrote BUST ALS across them. Who knows, maybe that’s still an option (it would probably get much more likes and raise more awareness on Instagram than my buzzed/happyface haircut did). To which I thank the very few people who liked it (you know who you are!).
The short lesson of it is that, buzz cuts on girls (even with Happy Faces) does not inspire much conversation with my customers. At a somewhat conservative grocery store.
The cut does not look good on me.
My husband calls me Larry.
Though very kind people say, “Oh, you’ve got the face to pull it off!”
At work the first night, I was so uncomfortable (but never will I be as uncomfortable as Bryan or those struggling with serious illness). I learned many, many lessons about beauty that night and how it influences people. About how we present ourselves to the public and how it does make a difference. Only three people asked me about my hair/the shaved happy face.
The next shift, I wore a pink wig. Well. The pink wig got MANY compliments. Many people asked me about it, and I was able to mention Bryan and his inspirational perspective on ALS (as well as his GO FUND ME) much more frequently. Old people loved it, young people loved it. It was met with positive reaction.
Geez, instead of buzzing my hair, I should have just worn a pink wig!
But that’s what happens to me sometimes (and I’m sure it happens to other people as well) – we get so caught up, we want to DO something. Like last summer when one of my childhood best (and also funniest) friends lost her 17 year old daughter in an accident. I wanted to drive my car (which barely makes it thru inspection and every warning light is lit) half-way across the country to be there.
My husband said, “Don’t call me to come and pick you up when your car breaks down!” and my best friend said, “I’m working that weekend, so I couldn’t come and get you.” I was quite mad at my husband, but looking back, my childhood friend who had lost her lovely daughter was surrounded by a large family /friends and community and though I know she would have appreciated my support, I could support her just as I’d been doing by keeping in touch with her.
How much we should do, all depends on the person, too. Some people don’t want any attention. Some people don’t really want attention, but they appreciate small gestures. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge. And some people want to bring awareness to their disease (watch the movie Gleason for a very inspiring movie about ALS). There is no right or wrong way to handle an illness. And I’m sure each person has their own unique experience.
But the one thing I have learned, from my father, and now, reiterated by Bryan, is that it is all about perspective. It is all about silver linings. It’s all about finding humor where and when you can. It’s about turning every obstacle into an opportunity; to bring awareness, knowledge, to make someone laugh, to make someone feel valued, to give someone inspiration. Some might want to reach out and be inspiring to the world, and some might just want to be inspiring to those who are closest to them. But I think that the ability to rise above an illness that that is truly a son-of-a-bitch, is really one of the only ways to not let it get the best of you. Not everyone can rise. (Surely, I don’t think I would). But everyone can try. And there are many inspirational people like Bryan to lead the way.
Please consider donating to Bryan Rickards Go Fund Me. If you don’t have the money, please just consider posting it on facebook or passing alone the information, or praying for him and his family.
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” -Viktor Frankl
Below is a poster you can copy and ask to hang it at work or anywhere you think it might help.
Officer Bryan Rickards has served the residents of Abington Township as a Police Officer for the past 19 years. Officer Rickards and his K-9 partner Ivan, are an award winning team, trained in narcotics detection, and patrol operations certified.
On February 16, 2017, Officer Rickards was given the devastating news that he had been diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Laterals Sclerosis). This is a rare and progressively debilitating disease that will prevent him from ever being able to return to work as a police officer.
Bryan has 3 young children, and could really use all the help he can get. The Abington Township Police Association is collecting money to assist in defraying medical costs both current and future and support his family. All proceeds will go directly to Officer Rickards and his family. There is a GoFundMe page, along with a Beef and Beer fundraiser scheduled for April 8, 2017 have been set up to do just that!
Donations are also being accepted by the Abington Township Police Association (A.T.P.A.), PO Box 211, Abington, PA 19001.
It started with a paper route when I was 12 – then baby sitting, and then everything from store detective at Bloomingdales (seriously the most fun job I’ve ever had). Waitress. Paramedic. Sales for a Fortune 500 Company. Decorating cakes and cookies in a bakery.
The one thing I’ve been consistent at is being curious and researching and writing.
My writing may never lead to anything.
I’m okay with that.
I don’t know that my husband is.
He could end-up being my ex-husband if I don’t win the lottery or sell a-lot of books.
I knew as soon as the wrinkles and gray hair popped up on me he’d poop out!
At least I’m always working though (right?).
I know a few women who stay home and don’t even clean or cook and then bitch when the husband works too much.
Not that I cook (anymore). And at least I pick up the dog poop in the yard.
But you’ll never hear me complain that my husband works too much! Or golfs too much.
The key to a great relationship is to spend as little as time together as possible. I read it in TIME magazine, so it must be true.
I’ve met so many people. Learned so much about human nature. And what I discovered is, no matter WHERE you work…from slinging bacon to saving lives; it is always the same.
Clicks. “In groups.”
Miserable co-workers who bitch about their bosses and the job but do nothing to change it. Employees who WANT to raise their voice and change things, but they have obligations to meet and so, they don’t want to rock the boat. But please, if you’re not willing to rock the boat, stop complaining about the stagnate sea. Muck it up or suck it up and shut up.
And it seems the more diplomas and certifications/schooling that bosses/managers have, the more removed from acting with common sense and kindness they become. My best bosses have been the ones with the least “professional” schooling and the most experience in the field.
The past year, I worked at a grocery store part-time. That job has taught me much more than I ever expected to learn about human nature.
Who knew working in a grocery store could provide so much insight to life?
The Top Thirteen Lessons I’ve Learned From Working In A Grocery Store:
1) We are HUGELY influenced by what we are exposed to. This sound ridiculously simple and like plain common sense. But I don’t think we are really, acutely aware how influenced we are by the people/culture we surround ourselves with. How greatly it impresses the choices we make. I worked in a fabulous BAKERY and didn’t gain any weight! Tortes. Cookies. Cheesecake. CANOLI cheesecake! Gained no weight!
Then I worked at a grocery store and gained almost fifteen pounds. It also gave me huge insight into why we are so fascinated with sex, fitness, sports, and, of course, food. – I will write more on this in the future.
2) Old People (I’m talking late 70’s and 80’s)- have far more pride and determination to remain self-sufficient than most young people I know.
Even though they have disabilities, they refuse help to the car. One sweet older lady who suffered a stroke and has only use of one arm, always turns down my offer to help her outside, saying, “Save the offer for someone who really needs it.” They set a great example to me and give me something to strive for.
3) Far too many people abuse food stamps. This is not a racial thing. All colors do it. All nationalities do it. What PISSES ME OFF is, that the senior citizens I described in #2, count their pennies (literally!), and live on oatmeal and fruit. The people abusing food stamps are carrying Coach purses, have manicures, and rack up 300 dollars on shrimp, steak, Cheetos, soda, and snack cakes. It’s disgusting.
4) Criminals have more protection than honest citizens due to lawyers and threats of lawsuits. Our country is upside down:Corruption is ignored or worse, rewarded! Shoplifters are rarely stopped and even rarely ever prosecuted. You have to be REALLY STUPID to get yourself arrested.
5) Liberals allow their kids to roam the store and stand on the seat of the carts. This does not apply to all liberals; only the liberals that wear Birkenstock sandals. And have unshaven armpits. And filthy FILTHY re-useable bags (why can’t you WASH these out? Do you realize how many germs they have?) They also rarely donate to charity. They buy gluten free and organic everything.
6) Conservatives donate to charity almost every-time they come in. I know they are Conservative because they wear USA PROUD hats, send their kids to the local Catholic school, and talk about Trump in hushed, reverent tones. They also profusely thank the physically/mentally challenged baggers even though the baggers often put their cakes in the bag upside down and sideways. Note:*** There are a few customers I have on the “Right” that are so smug and superior and pretentious (they buy Philadelphia Magazine), they can’t even look me in the eye, god forbid they acknowledge me when I thank them and tell them to enjoy their day! They are, however, the exception.
7) The self-check out computers make mistakes. Often.
8) The decision makers at the corporate office are completely, irresponsibly, out of touch with real life. Every solution seems to be: “computerize!”
9) Low prices are fabulous, but they only get you so far. Customers would pay more to have cheerful, thoughtful, well trained, dependable, employees.
10) People are REALLY GETTING TIRED of being asked to donate for a new charity every-time they come in. It’s getting out of hand. And employees are just as tired and feel awful for harping after customers to donate. However, employees have been threatened with write-ups and possible termination for not asking each customer.
11) I’d say half the teenagers stand at the end of the checkout, scrolling through their iphones instead of helping to bag the groceries if there is no bagger. The parent ends up bagging while the kid stands there. Holy heck. This is why we are spiraling down the tubes people! Parents allowing perfectly capable kids to stand around while the parent does the work! See my number #2 lesson.
12) Oreo’s come in a variety of flavors and they are constantly changing. They are available only for a Limited Time. The limited time is a marketing ploy to get people to buy them. It works on me. Every. Single. Time.
They are the number one purchased brand of cookie.