Mentally Prepared

The frantic mother dialed 911, “Please come help me!  My son has a butcher knife and I am afraid he is going to hurt himself, he is mentally ill.”

Dispatcher to 221.  221 go ahead.  Proceed to 2435 Highland Park, 10/96 (insane) subject, armed with a butcher knife.  His mother is on the line with me, the front door is open.

I proceeded to the call and knew my back-up would arrive about the same time I would.   I turned onto Highland Park, a beautiful tree-lined street, in the affluent Dallas, bedroom community that I patrolled.  We ran to the front door and into the house.  The elderly mother motioned toward her kitchen and there I encountered a white male of about 40 years of age.  He was wildly swinging a butcher knife back and forth…there was a large kitchen island in between us.  My partner was behind me and pulled his weapon, holding it discreetly behind his back.  I did not draw my weapon, but began to slowly talk to the man.  He moved to within ten feet of me and said his name was Jesus.

Jesus began quoting scripture and said he wanted to go home, the angels were calling him home.  I asked him several questions about the scripture he was quoting, engaging him in a prolonged discussion on the bible.  (I could hear on the radio, that the ambulance had pulled up in front of the house)

I told Jesus I needed his counsel, that if he put the knife down, I could ask him more questions and perhaps he could help.  Isn’t that why you are here?  To help us?  “Yes, Jesus responded, I will help you my child.”  Jesus threw the knife into the kitchen sink.  I walked over, took him firmly by the arm and made him walk with me into the living room.  My partner and I spoke with him for about 10 minutes until we could convince him to lay down on the gurney to go the Parkland Hospital psyche ward.

It wasn’t easy, I talked myself into being handcuffed to Jesus Christ in the ER of Parkland for 3 hours, but it was worth it to save his life, and possibly mine. As a police officer, you have to mentally prepare yourself to deal with all types of individuals on 911 calls, especially the mentally ill. You have to plot it out in your mind, play scenarios in your down time, think over your play by play as you are enroute to each call. Patience goes a very long way with proper officer safety procedures.

That call for service was about 20 years ago for me, but I remembered it quickly when I saw the following video this week. ***Warning**** video shows Dallas police killing a man. (click on link) I was so sickened upon watching the video, I felt compelled to write this blog. Notice the Tazer gun on the officer’s duty belt.

Every day there are headlines concerning abuse of force and shootings involving police across the country.  The spate of unarmed black men dying because of police bullets has people on their feet marching in several cities as I write this. I must admit, with a couple of those I have been on the fence post with my opinion on the use of deadly force. While others that I have viewed on television have appeared to be outright murders. These killings will not stop until police departments take real efforts to increase deadly force training. They will not stop until we all agree that all lives matter, black, white, and the mentally ill.

Mentally ill subjects are different, not all alike. But guess what? Police officers could be trained to deal with them in like kind, with proper training. The Dallas cops in the video knew a mentally ill man was going to come to the door. They didn’t know he would have a screwdriver, but why did they immediately go to deadly force when a lower level of force was on their belts? Wasn’t the man’s life just as valuable as their own? Why did they stand at the doorway with a car right behind them? Why not back up onto the yard and began a conversation with the man, much like I did with Jesus?

Could I have walked into that kitchen in 1994 and shot and killed Jesus…and it be justified? Yes. He lunged with the knife in my direction a couple of times as I spoke to him. He would be dead 20 years and I would be writing about the time I killed another human being. Instead, he got to a hospital and got back on his meds. I checked back on patrol after a very unusual evening talking to my “savior.”

I just wish the two Dallas officers would have taken a pause…a very brief pause, about approaching that door and the man who walked through it. Now they must go on in life knowing they took one….if only they had been mentally prepared.

These Boots Were Made for Hurling

Juju was seated on the edge of the bathtub, watching her mother get ready to go to the rodeo. The mist of Aqua Net hairspray rained down upon her and she instantly felt green. Juju was six and puking was kind of a hobby for her. The placebo her mother had garnished from Dr. Bulloch had worked for her 1st grade, nervous tummy spewing. This was different though, she felt really sick this time. Yes, she was sick!!  The only thing she had allowed herself to eat that day was an entire bag of jelly beans. Dare she tell her family? Tonight was the annual pilgrimage to the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo. The night they all dined on big slabs of beef, as other forms of the animal were chased and roped below them on the arena floor. Juju took a deep breath and continued to watch the bouffant form above her, she tapped her toe to the Johnny Cash song playing on the radio.

They all loaded up in the Cadillac for the twenty-minute ride to Fort Worth and the Will Rogers Coliseum. The steakhouse had a glass wall and sat high up on one end of the arena. Reservations were impossible to get, but Juju’s father was a chef and worked the food service at the Stock Show every year…everyone knew him. The best table in the joint, front and center was awaiting Juju’s family. She sat in the backseat in her blue jeans and jacket, tan cowboy hat, and red Justin boots. The motion of the car had her head swimming. The bouffant was driving, her father was in the front passenger seat, Juju was surrounded by sisters…and nausea.

The family took their seats, the rodeo started, and smiles were all around. High dollar meals were ordered, even Juju was getting a Texas T-Bone on this night…with french fries and ketchup please!! Besides Christmas, the Stock Show was pretty darn special for Juju’s family. Her father had been associated with it for thirty years…it was a source of income and pride for him. This was his night to show off his family and indulge in a special meal, one he didn’t have to prepare. The plates hit the table and all the smells wafted under Juju’s nose.

What she had been holding back for over an hour let loose. People packed into the restaurant looked on in horror as the little cowgirl did her best to imitate Yellowstone’s mighty blow. Juju’s mother grabbed the collar of her jacket and drug her to the restroom. Not one person in the place was spared from the spectacle. Juju left a trail across the dining hall, as all eyes left the bull riding to see her mother, Jewel, jerk her quickly away…it was surely more than eight seconds.

Returning to the table, Juju had a cold compress to her head. Her family was left staring at their uneaten plates as the busboy threw down white towels and beginning quickly clearing the area. Her father could feel the judging stares upon him. Juju’s family made their exit and were quickly back in the car, heading back to their home in Hurst. The silent ride back was only broken once as Jewel said, “This is going to be one of those nights we laugh about later.”

Juju’s parents settled down in the living room, back to their usual, the TV.  Her sisters went their own way too. Juju put on her pajamas, bummed she had not gotten to see the entire rodeo. Jewel and Jim turned their heads to the loud crunching at the same time, their hunger having left them for at least a day. Juju sat alone on the couch, chomping happily, diving into an open box of Frosted Flakes…her red boots dangling off the edge.

The bright, flickering light of the console TV lit the room, the Bonanza opening theme began to play.  The bouffant turned to her and smiled lovingly.  Juju smiled back and thought….it must have been the Aqua Net.

January 6th

January 6th is the day of failure. I am a half-empty kind of gal, and January 6th is an annual holiday of failure for me, I have grown to own it and love it. You see, my New Year’s resolutions have a six day life-span and it goes something like this:

Day 1: I am cutting out sugar and white flour as my New Year’s resolution!! Look at me!! I am friggin awesome and so disciplined. (Throws all sugar and white flour products into trash can) Mildly disturbed to find out even ketchup has sugar in it.

Day 2: Feeling a bit cranky, and bouncing off the wall because of increase in caffeine intake. Stared at half eaten brownie in the trash can like a black bear looks at a fat, sweating hiker.

Day 3: Not feeling guilty at all about screaming into the Starbuck’s drive-thru window. I said Stevia, not Stevie Nicks damnit! Do I look like I want a 70s rocker in my latte??

Day 4: I have the shakes and would saw off my left arm for some Skittles.

Day 5: Looking at myself in the mirror, feeling somewhat svelte. I think I have lost an inch in my chins. The waitress brings me a croissant with my garden salad. I have restraint…literally, my friend has me in a snot-lock as the waiter takes it away. I start to weep, the salt from my tears makes me want sugar…have always enjoyed the combination of sweet and savory.

Day 6: I should be full by the gi-normous rationalization I just swallowed…along with the donut. I am a failure on a massive scale….no, that’s just my massive weight on this scale. Today is annual failure day and I vow to celebrate my achievement with a toast….and some grape jelly.

There’s always next year.

His Name Is Noah Pozner.


2 years ago today. #NeverForget

Originally posted on Dyke in the Heart of Texas:

NoahPoznerThis is Noah Pozner, forever six because of the unspeakable madness of Friday, December 14, 2012. A news reporter prompted me to write this blog on this very sad Sunday. He looked into the camera and asked if the viewers remember the killers’ name in the Columbine killings of 13 years ago. Two names quickly came to my mind, which I refuse to put in this blog. The reporter then asked if I, the viewer, remembered just ONE of the victims’ names at Columbine. My stomach tightened and I felt personal disgust, at the realization that I could not come up with a name. Then it hit me, that is the ONE reason this American shame continues.

The sick aggressors’ names are rattled off on the evening news as each mass shooting occurs. The next murderer wants his name in that infamous club. It has to STOP. This plague on…

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‘Tis The Season

It is that time of year once again when people tend to smile more readily, you catch them humming a holiday tune. The driver that flips you off for daring to be in the lane they want at the mall, even they have those delightful (insert sarcasm) antlers attached to their Dodge Minivan. Everything you eat has a hint of pumpkin or gingerbread flavor…the drunks in front of the courthouse are sipping peppermint schnapps. You have to love December, right?

As I have learned this Fall and Winter, it just takes one morning for your life to change. I will add this caveat at the beginning of my tale. I merely dipped my toe into the deep lagoon of cancer. There are thousands of people fighting a battle today that is all at once tragic and triumphant.

The doctor entered the room smelling of cigarettes and said, “Well, that’s a bad biopsy, but don’t worry, I know a good oncologist.” I had uterine cancer. The doctor went on to say that uterine cancer is the best cancer to have because it has about a 95% cure rate…we just take everything out. I told him he just ensured me several weeks of worry…had it spread? The doctor said to not worry and began to throw dates at me for the surgery.

I was all at once in a fog. I responded to the doctor’s flippancy with this comment, “What if you came into my office and I told you that you were facing 2-20 years in jail? Do you go home thinking you are a lock for 2 or do you worry constantly about the possibility of 20?” We humans usually worry about the worst thing that can happen to us. The doctor laughed, but got my point.
He told me that uterine cancer spreads first to the lymph nodes and lungs usually. I immediately started coughing as I walked out to my car.

So I went to the hospital for all the pre-op tests, including a full chest x-ray. I told the tech, “Hey, I didn’t do this in 1996 when I had my gall bladder out!” The 20 something tech responded, “Ma’am, we do this on all ladies over the age of 50.” Nice. Two days later one of the nurses called me at my office to say I had a nodule in my right lung, I would need a CT scan with dye injection. Wait? What?? Should I be worried?? The doc and Google says that uterine cancer spreads to the lungs in lots of women!! Long pause on phone…”Ma’am, we will call you back with a date for the CT scan.”

I had the CT scan the day before Thanksgiving and waited seven long days thinking that I now had cancer that was spreading. My gynecologist had already helped me get an appointment with an oncologist and further tests and a possible second surgery were going to be discussed. Dr. Google told me I was basically screwed if the cancer had spread to my lymphatic system. I choked down a turkey dinner and nervously waited…for seven days.

You start thinking about your own mortality. You think about the ups and downs of your life. At no point during the waiting period did I ever get scared of dying. However, I was petrified of having to wage a battle with the Big C…and eventually losing it. It just pissed me off, I was supposed to drop dead of a massive heart attack one day…not die of uterine cancer!

You want to have a dark season and strain to see the light? Try going through a divorce and getting a cancer diagnosis all at once. I tried to focus on good stuff, like the possibility of being so sick that I saw size 12 again. Tremendous friends and family members circled the wagons around me for which I am eternally grateful. I waited.

The doctor’s office called and said the lung nodule looked benign…two doctors agreed. Just come back in 3 months for a follow up scan to see if it grows or starts to look, my term, “cancery.” I stopped coughing.

I had the surgery, a full hysterectomy. Not such a tragedy at my age…although I felt the pain of the younger women I saw in my same situation. They were fighting cancer and saying goodbye to the possibility of biological children.

I consulted with the oncologist, she reviewed my pathology reports and decided after reviewing the size and location of the tumor in my uterus…that I had about a zero chance that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. I am going back to the oncologist in a couple of months for some follow ups, but she basically has declared me cancer free.

In the grand scheme of things, looking back now, it was indeed just a quick slap to the face. I have such empathy for the women I sat with, in the waiting room, at the local cancer treatment center. Such strong women…I knew as I sat there I was not a member of their club. I am a complete wimp.

If I had the misfortune of having the cancer spread…of dying of cancer…I would not have engaged in a “courageous battle” as the obituaries say. I would have whined, bitched, and moaned all the way to the end. It would not have been pretty with me. What is that saying about people getting what they can handle? I got the “Wimp/Level 1” version of a cancer diagnosis. I respect all women facing a cancer diagnosis. If you are reading this and in a battle with the Big C…be strong….I am in no way making light of your fight.

So, I dodged a bullet. I find myself smiling when the stranger in the elevator is humming Frosty the Snowman and my pumpkin latte tastes just a little bit sweeter this year. I am going to appreciate those small moments I preach about this December. Life is fleeting and can change in an instant.

My gift this year didn’t come in an envelope or a box. It wasn’t tied with a pretty red ribbon around it. It was two words uttered by an oncologist during a conversation I thought I would never, ever have. “Cancer Free” What a gift indeed? I think I’ll go be jolly…’tis the season.

Ida May.

The two teenaged boys decided to cut through the woods that separated their subdivision from a busy strip mall, in the middle of the small suburb of Fort Worth.  As they were talking about a possible pepperoni pizza, after looking at music CDs at the Kmart, they both saw Ida May at the same time.  Starting at a pair of pink house slippers, they scanned up to see her abused 83 year-old body, laying on a bed of weeds, under the hot Texas sun.  The two boys ran screaming towards a chicken wing restaurant on the edge of the shopping center.

Ida May had  been murdered the previous night in her own home. The murderer, was her next door neighbor, Charles Simpson (pseudonym).  Simpson was a transplanted felon and violent offender from New York.  Ida May had befriended him and had grown to really like Charles after he did a series of  small repairs to her neat, ranch-style house.   Charles had committed the sexual assault and murder with careless abandon.  Leaving so much evidence that it led swiftly to his arrest and just two days later he was in my department’s holding cell, waiting on a transfer to the county jail.

What I saw at that crime scene remains with me today, many years later.  What Ida May suffered through, before her heart just couldn’t take it anymore, was unfathomable to me before this case.  I don’t know if I have ever fully processed it, just how evil one human can be to another.  I cannot express here in this blog exactly what I saw, only to say the level of torture the victim endured was at a level none of us on my police department had ever seen.    Hannibal Lecter would have run screaming from this crime scene.

Charles Simpson was evil incarnate. I walked into the holding cell area, looked at Simpson the first time, and it just didn’t compute.  He looked a little like George Constanza on Seinfeld. As I walked towards him, he was standing with his head squeezed between the bars, screaming about …now get this…..”Inhumane treatment.”   It had been 5 hours since lunch was served and “You fucking dyke!  You better tell the kitchen staff to bring me my dinner!” I leaned in and spoke ever so softly to Charles.  “I was at the crime scene.  I saw first hand what you did to Ida May.  The unfortunate thing for you tonight  is that this fucking dyke is responsible for your dinner.”

This was a small department and we wore many hats.  One of my jobs as the officer in charge of the shift was to come to the jail once on the evening shift, dispense dinner, then get back to patrolling my district.  The dispatchers monitored the jail camera feeds at all other times, for the four cell jail. Simpson knew he was in for a terrible dinner after our first encounter, he just didn’t know how terrible.  I walked into the department’s kitchen, pulled a frozen chicken pot pie out of its box, jammed a plastic fork, right in the middle of it, and proceeded back to Simpson.  “Hey bitch, this is frozen!!”  “Well, I told him,  the Chief said to give you dinner, he didn’t tell me I had to heat it up!”

I checked with the Texas Department of Corrections a couple of years ago and found out Charles had died in prison, a slow agonizing death as a result of cancer.  I actually smiled, that was more punishment than the lethal injection that had awaited.

Ida May didn’t deserve to die that way.  Her resting place was never supposed to be in a field behind a Kmart.

I write this today, because I ran into one of the teenaged boys last week. He remembered me because after that long ago, awful day, we would occasionally  chat whenever he was about town and flagged down my patrol car or I saw him at the high school ball fields.

I often blog about very small perfect moments in your life that you should hold onto..snippets of perfection, to tuck away.  The moments sustain you and make your life a memory bank of happiness to guide you down your path, especially when times get very hard.

Well, this now 40 year-old man told me he was a forensic pathologist. The terrifying moment at first eyeing those pink slippers had changed the trajectory of his life. He chose a career that allows him to contribute and help prosecute the Charles Simpsons of the world. He chose to never forget Ida May. He chose to never forget a day that most people would surely block out. My practice of small perfect moments yielding goodness was now being joined by a moment of darkness…darkness turned into light.

Ida May lived a long, productive life. She had a family, including ten wonderful grandchildren. She loved thy neighbor and believe that all men acted out of the kindness of their heart, not at the call of their inner demons.

Life is weird. A kid going to buy a Nirvana CD sees something that will become the catalyst for years of good work in his community. What a great thing he has done. What a great legacy for Ida May. A woman, I too, shall never forget.

What Are You Wearing?

Juju walked casually with a group of her fellow “band geeks” to the cafeteria one rainy Spring day in 1975.  The group of 7th graders walked together and in fashion; t-shirts, patched blue jeans, chukka boots or sneakers, evidently the uniform of the time.  Juju playfully ribbed a girl named Gayle about her lunch box and the girl turned and pushed her.

Juju’s return, non-aggressive, shove was met instantly with a man grabbing Juju from behind and around the neck.  The kids called the hold a “snot lock.”  Juju felt pain and a jerk of her neck as the shop teacher yelled in her ear, “You little shit, boys don’t hit or shove girls, got it??!!”  Gayle yelled, “Juju is a girl!!”

With that the shop teacher, missing his left index finger, relinquished the snot lock on Juju, as she turned and glared at him.  “You all get yourselves to class!” was all he said.  No apology was heard as the woodwind section trotted off to Mr. Nettles in the band hall.  Juju’s face was red, a result of the hold and her embarrassment.

Juju had left her house that morning in the safe confines of her father’s  car.  He was retired and enjoyed driving his seventh child to seventh grade, even though it was only about a mile and a half away through the middle-class suburb.  Juju’s father loved his Cadillac Fleetwood and would rest his left arm out the open window, holding his unfiltered Camel cigarette.  He never said a word about Juju’s appearance, even that day when she was sporting a Roger Staubach football jersey, faded blue jeans, and white Chuck Taylor high tops.  Even after retirement, Juju’s dad often got up and dressed in his starched, linen chef’s shirt.  Juju wondered if her dad missed cooking for hundreds of people, he often seemed sad.

Seventh grade was the hardest year for Juju in her academic adventure.  Puberty and snot locks were not making Hurst Jr. High all that fun.  The next year would bring organized athletics for girls, but in 1975 Juju found herself in a band hall, holding an oboe she would never be proficient in.  This will get better she thought, but when?

Juju had a 1970s “shag” haircut in 6th grade and that had helped her from rude people calling her a boy.  The summer before 7th grade though, Juju’s mother had encouraged her to get a shorter style and that seemed to exasperate the problem.  Juju looked in the mirror hanging over her bedroom dresser.  Do they really think I am a boy she wondered or do they know my secret?  Juju had become 100% sure that year that she was indeed different.  A childhood of unusual thoughts had become pretty clear in her 13th year on earth.  Juju looked at the poster of Starksy and Hutch on her wall and back to the mirror.  She didn’t think she looked like a dude.  What are they seeing that I do not, she thought?

Juju was seated in algebra the next day when an envelope was handed to her by one of the office ladies.  “Welcome.  Please accept this invitation to the National Junior Honor Society.  The swearing in will be held this Saturday at 7pm with a reception to follow in the school cafeteria.”  Juju was getting a drink from a water fountain after class when a hand was felt on the back of her head.  Her head was pushed into the water stream, as she quickly released the button.  “Ha, you queer!!  You like that?”  That was the last time Juju ever used the water fountain until 1978.  Which was okay, it cut out all problems going to the girls’ restroom.

Saturday evening came and there were Juju’s parents, seated in the second row. Juju was wearing a dress her mother had made her wear, finding it wadded up in the back of her closet. Who knew her mother could iron it back to perfection in less than 10 minutes? It had been purchased for a relative’s funeral the year before and banished by Juju upon returning home. Uncomfortable in the flower print, she ambled up to Mr. Arnold, the school principal, and gladly accepted her certificate and honor society “gold-plated” pin. As she turned and walked back to her seat, she noticed the big smiles of Jim and Jewel, her parents. She hadn’t told them about the shop teacher or the fact that she spent her days thirsty. Juju knew she was smart, and that fact seemed to bring happiness to her parents. Let’s just leave it at that she thought. I will be the smart one…the one that stays out of trouble and reports none. Some day people will stop thinking I am a boy, or calling me that just because they mean something else and want to hurt me.

1976 brought 8th grade and the death of Juju’s father. Funny how when you are sad about things you don’t think it will ever go away…until something bigger and sadder happens. Grief brings focus for sure. Time passed and things got better. Juju learned to surround herself with people that liked her no matter what shirt she was wearing, or what her hairstyle happened to be. Some of her new friends were even “sporty” girls like Juju. She sat in the bleachers one day and watched the cheerleaders practice their routine on the gym floor. She was waiting for them to clear out so volleyball practice could begin. Juju noticed that even though the cheerleaders were not wearing their red and white uniforms, they all still dressed very much alike, down to the same hair ribbons keeping their pony-tails in place. We all leave the house in a uniform Juju thought, whether it was her Dallas Cowboy jersey, her dad’s chef shirt, or the cheerleaders and their halter tops. How we present ourselves is a big part of who we are on the inside.

After that day, Juju wore what she wanted and cut her hair as short as she desired. She was who she was and there was no changing it. Juju knew she was different and sometimes people would stare or comment. Their intention might be one of mistake or pure ugliness, it would not matter. Juju was going to wear her uniform with ease and self-confidence…and with that “gold-plated” pin. Thanks for the smiles Jewel and Jim.