Stacey Doud is the Editor-In-Chief of The Grapevine Source. She has lived in Grapevine for over almost 5 years now, and is enjoying serving her community. She is a writer/reporter/photographer/public relations expert. She especially enjoys covering feel-good stories and is an avid supporter of law enforcement. She like planes, trains, automobiles and rockets! The following are just a few examples of her articles. To contact Stacey, click HERE.
Visit her LinkedIn page HERE.
October 4, 2021
As many of my regular readers know, I write for a print and an online newspaper. I do my best to read any comments that are left regarding my stories because maybe I can learn something, or at least, understand how others are thinking.
It’s no surprise to you, my lovely readers, that lots of people post negative things, just like on any other social media platform. But sometimes, these comments can be nonsensical. I mean, I know what the commenter means, but I wonder if he/she/they know how it comes across.
For example, I posted this story on a national news outlet:
It was such an uplifting story about how specific dogs are bred and trained to help the “challenged abled” in several communities across the U.S.
But like I say, “You can tell ten people to have a nice day, and at least two of them will tell you to get bent [or insert your own obscene comment here].”
So, here’s my comment block and my responses to the comments. This is hard for me to do at times because I just want to say mean things. But wouldn’t that make me just like them? Wouldn’t it continue a conversation that I don’t want to participate in? So, with much restraint, I try to offer good tidings, even on nasty comments.
There are so many people out there who are having a very hard time (me included). But what you choose to do with these feelings is up to you. As I said, I initially feel mad/hurt/whatever when I read a nasty comment, but I just try to remember that the comment has NOTHING to do with me and to try to be kind to the commenter. Lord only knows what he/she/they are going through.
How do you handle trolls/nasty comments if you post on social media?
Have a great/blessed day and thanks for reading! And thanks in advance for any comments. I’d love to hear the different ways folks deal with nastiness.
Have a great/blessed day!
July 31, 2021
If you are COVID-shot exempt (hope you get stay healthy/get better), then please ignore this article. This is about my personal feelings about the vaccinations, mask policies, etc. I hate that this is still a topic. But, it is what it is, as some dork said.
When all this shizznit hit us last year, there wasn’t a whole lot you could do except wear masks and get on a county vaccine lists that were a million miles long. Since then, there have been vaccines available on that list, and recently, you can get a shot anywhere – Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Blah, Blah. Oh, did I mention it’s all FREE?
So when lots of folks got the vaccine, etc., many businesses that had been shut down were able to reopen and actually make money and feed our weepy economy, with permission from our state and federal government.
All of a sudden, there were HUGE amounts of people who showed up everywhere without vaccines OR masks. Well…not all of a sudden…there were a huge group of people who rejected both (each to their own).
I’m a journalist, and so I was able to talk to a plethora of folks on both sides of the line.
Many folks said something like, “I don’t know what the long-term effects of the vaccine are.” Hey – I hear you!
Some people said that they are scared of needles. I always said, “Well, if a vaccine could guarantee you don’t get AIDS or Ebola, would you take it?” And they would (rightly) say that this vaccine is no guarantee.
But here we go again. And the really sad thing is that this new strain of COVID (Delta – the 4th) is effecting folks who have been inoculated or not, no matter what age, etc. Yet people WILL NOT WEAR MASKS.
I’m as big of a conspiracy theorist there is. I’m not a fan of the government. BUT if they’re actually trying to clear some of the population, wouldn’t you want to do all that you can to prevent it? Don’t get the shot if you don’t want to, but PLEASE do everything else. For all we know, they wanna get rid of the people that think it’s a big government conspiracy, whether that’s true or not.
I’m just tired of seeing the death toll rise once again…maybe we all are next, but, on the slim chance we are not, get your vaccine or at least make sure you and your family wear masks and gloves whenever possible.
Be safe, America.
Hate emails can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 3, 2021
I must admit, I was a bit aghast when I heard that Texas Governor Greg Abbott was putting an end to the mandate he put in place about 8 months ago to wear masks, and he plans to re-open 100% of the state, come March 10.
Recent reports say that to-date, the COVID virus has caused over 42,000 deaths in Texas alone. Unfortunately, I got a close-up view as to what this virus can do, as complications of COVID took both of my in-laws last December. I realize that the number of COVID cases and deaths have dropped significantly in the past few months, along with the number of hospitalizations resulting from the virus.
I also know that the mask mandate was hardly enforced in my area (Dallas/Fort Worth) and much of Texas as a whole, depending on the person and the business. Most businesses let customers in without masks. Why give up sales that may have been few and far between just because a customer is not wearing a mask? Because it’s been proven to slow down the spread of COVID – that’s why!
Abbott’s plan will also take away the restrictions on the number of patrons that businesses are allowed to serve in their indoor dining rooms.
Abbott said that even though restrictions will be removed, it is still up to each person to be responsible about their precautions against COVID spread. I understand that, but I know there will be many people who will be more than happy to throw their masks away.
This is like a mentally ill person who says they feel better and stops taking their medications. The illness comes back pretty quickly, and the person may have done things that they wouldn’t do while medicated, or things that led that person to seek help in the first place.
It sounds like a case of “Monkey See, Monkey Do,” as governors from other states have already eased up on mandates that were in place to help prevent the spread of COVID. As of today (March 3), California and New York are the only states that have reported more deaths from COVID than Texas.
Many health experts are expressing their concerns about lifting mask mandates. The winter storm had many people sheltering together, whether it be with family, friends or in warming stations. Basically, these are the places where COVID is spread the most easily if no prophylactic measures are taken.
These experts also predict a rise in COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths if most people stop wearing masks, whether they have received a vaccine or not.
Abbott had the statewide mask mandate put into place in July 2020, during a surge in COVID cases. But with less-than-ideal enforcement (some members of sheriff departments refused to enforce the mandate at all), the pandemic dragged on and the numbers climbed. Abbott even said at one point that quarantines don’t work.
In Austin, the mandates caused tension between Abbott and the Republican party, which is his own party. There was even a protest outside of the governor’s residence. At the same time, Abbott was getting flak from the mayors of some of the largest cities in Texas, claiming that he needed to do more.
Now, in 2021, while COVID numbers are falling, there are still cities that haven’t found much relief.
The City of Laredo, which major demographic is Latino, has experienced higher numbers of outbreaks than other large Texas cities. They have been running out of beds in ICUs as recently as January. Laredo is an important international trade hub and has been one of the top Texas cities to lay down the law about the mandates. Leaders in Laredo are getting concerned about what results the removal of the restrictions will have.
The lifting of the rules is going to happen. There’s nothing I can personally do about it except use common sense, keep wearing my mask, using social distancing and washing my hands a lot. Do I enjoy doing this? No, not really. But it’s WAY better than contracting COVID.
Stay safe healthy out there!
Tips for Dominating Your Opponents in Trivia Crack
July 31, 2020
If you’re like me, you like to spend some of your down time playing games on tech devices. One of my favorites is Trivia Crack* by etermax, which I have been playing on my iPhone or iPad for a couple of years. One reason I like it is because my brain is full of useless knowledge, thus I tend to kick butt in most trivia games. If I could have been full of scientific or mathematical knowledge, I may have changed the world. But, alas, I have been gifted with remembering an inordinate amount of trivia, which means “unimportant, inconsequential or nonessential matters or things.” Woo hoo!
If you are new to Trivia Crack*, or maybe you aren’t new, but are tired of getting bulldozed by your opponents, I have compiled some tips and tricks that I have learned over time to help the player build up Rewards. My personal stats right now consist of 54,550 coins/720 Tickets/9 Right Answers/261 lives, which I got using the strategies below.
Before I get to the more detailed advice, here is some general information and a couple of tips about some of the peripheral rewards you can get. If you’re a seasoned Trivia Cracker, you may want to skip this section.
About Lives: From what I can tell, lives can only be won by spinning the wheel after you’ve lost your turn, choosing a square on the Daily Question that reveals a life icon, collecting a Card that provides lives or by purchasing them. Extra lives let you play more than one game with different opponents at the same time.
About Gems: These are represented by a diamond icon. Build up enough of them and you can go to the Store to redeem them for Cards, which offer bonus coins, lives and Gems, but only after a certain time period has passed, depending on the Card you get. The Store icon is at the bottom of the screen and looks like a…store. Push the buttons on the machine of your choice to get cards. Here’s a tip: empty one machine at a time. So, if you somehow have 50 gems, redeem them all on the same machine. You want all machines to eventually display a sign that reads SOLD OUT.
About Cards: Each card you get from using gems at a machine in the Store goes into your Album. The idea is to fill up the whole Album to win fabulous prizes. I don’t know what they are yet, because I’m still working on emptying my last machine. Make sure you look at your album occasionally, because if a row gets full, you can click on the end card, which “dances” to get your attention. This can get you peripheral prizes.
Treasure Mine: Personally, I only play this game when I have nothing else to play. If you win several games, you WILL get the items in the Treasure Chest(s), which can be very lucrative, but I have found it to be a lot of brainwork for little payoff. I’m sure there are folks out there that rock at Treasure Mine and are thinking what the heck? I’m just writing about my experiences, and Treasure Mine is my least favorite sub-game in the Trivia Crack world.
Triviathon: This is something I don’t really play often, just out of personal preference. The idea is to beat your own personal record of back-to-back correct answers. I think I got up to 26 once but haven’t done well since. If I was able to break that streak, I’d win 2,500 coins. I’m sure the rewards get bigger and better the more consecutive answers you get right, but I haven’t personally seen them.
The other sub-games are part of the list below.
The List: Without further ado, here are my tips to build up your stash and smash your opponents (in a peaceful way, of course):
1. Classic Mode: If you don’t know the answer to a question and have no coins or Tickets to “buy” another chance, go with the “A” (or top/first) answer.
2. Missions: Don’t ignore the Missions. You will have to go to the Mission screen (which is located on the Main Menu of games) to activate the one that’s being offered currently. There are 5 tasks to get through, but usually the first 2 or 3 are doable, depending on how often you play, and with how many different people you play against. Missions earn you coinage upon completion of a Task. So, if you’re on Task 1 and it says to answer 5 Geography questions correctly in Classic Mode, then you should go for the Geography crown first and hit the Stop button on the Spinner to try to land on the Geography category. Yes, you can tell the wheel when to stop spinning, but you have to get used to it. It may stop at the category next to the one you want. Mess around with it and you’ll get the flow.
3. Make sure you play Guess & Grab (the game…don’t do that to another person) and answer the Daily Question every day that you play. Guess & Grab can yield you up to 2 Right Answers, 30 Tickets or 300 coins. It’s not a windfall, but it’s a great way to pad your Trivia Crack wallet. The Daily Question, if answered correctly, takes you to a screen with 6 squares on it. Choose a square and win coins, lives, Gems, Tickets or Right Answers.
4. One of the quickest, but more difficult, ways to get maximum rewards is to play Trivia Topics. You have to get 10 questions right from 6 different categories, but if you do, you win 7,000 coins, 200 Tickets and 3 Right Answers. The categories are the usual suspects from the game, but there are also other fun and novel categories included, which change from time to time. They are the categories in purple.
5. Survival: If you just play one round of Survival, you obviously won’t be the Champion. But you will automatically get 1,000 coins when the Survival timer runs out. If you want more from this sub-game, keep playing. Prizes are awarded to the top 15 scorers and can be pretty lucrative. If you finish in the top 5, you get 5,000 coins, 100 Tickets and 1 Right Answer. First Place yields 15,000/400/3, and the prize for second place is 10,000/200/2.
* NOTES: I am writing about the original version of Trivia Crack. There are more versions available. I am not claiming to be able to guarantee great results, because much of these games are anchored in random chance (I think, but I haven’t searched for algorithms or anything). Also, these tips are geared to the player who doesn’t want to spend any real money to buy advantages, etc. to keep the game going.
June 29, 2020
Well, crap. Just when the “ordinary world” was emerging again, my county (Tarrant) has made it (basically) a law that people who go into any business must wear face masks.
Of course, it’s up to the store owners/managers to ask patrons to leave if they don’t have protection, but from what I have seen, most folks have been cognizant about the state order and have complied, whether it be a bandana or a cute Pikachu face mask. And I have also seen some pretty offensive masks. We can’t leave out the rebels! Fortunately, most of their messages are directed toward the virus, as in, “F*ck COVID.” But I have also seen political messages on some masks that make me sigh with exhaustion.
Where do these people get their energy to keep this constant stream of hate going? Whether it’s COVID or race relations, people have to be tired. I volunteer for the local NAACP and they are saying, “We are just tired.” So am I.
I call it, “world weary.” Even keeping my parameters (no voluntarily watched TV news) has lost its luster; it seems that I’ll hear about news one way or another, whether I want to or not. Yes, I am depressed.
I do have a couple of college degrees in psychology, but it’s rather hard to diagnose or help yourself. We are too close to our thoughts, feelings, biases, etc. to point out to ourselves what the heck is up. The best giveaway for me personally is isolating myself, not doing anything I used to like to do and sleeping a lot, as an escape. No, it’s NOT my first rodeo. I experienced suicidal depression after the birth of my daughter (postpartum depression). Obviously, I didn’t carry out my plan (or did I? I could be a ghost writer! Haha…total Dad joke).
With basically zero income right now, getting constant calls from, “I’m determined to get blood from you, Turnip,” and a depressed spouse, I’m not surprised I’ve gotten back into that black pit o’ depression.
Confusion also adds to these feelings. Who to believe? Expert X is saying one thing and Expert Y is saying another. I hate to disrespect our Federal Government, but….WHAAAAAT? One thing on Monday morning, the opposite on Monday night. I wish people would quit lying (or twisting the truth) to us. I feel like Austin Powers in that scene where he gets stuck in a golf cart, trying to turn around in a narrow hallway. Bump, bump, bump.
It IS in my control as to how long I stay down here in the pit.. Hopefully, I will start to feel more balanced soon, after walking the local track every day, eating healthier, blah, blah. I don’t feel like doing any of it. And I can’t help but wonder if there is more to the story that the general public is not privy to. I just read that 90-something percent of the COVID tests are giving false positives. But is that true? And if it IS true, what does that mean for the general population?
How are you feeling about this stage of the pandemic? What are your coping mechanisms?
June 8, 2020
I attended a “Solidarity Press Conference” on June 7 that was sponsored by the NAACP in Grand Prairie (GPNAACP). Not only was it an assignment, but I am also an active volunteer for GPNAACP.
“Why?” you may ask. I’m a white girl AND a law enforcement supporter in the middle of all this (i.e. riots, rallies and the Black Lives Matter campaign). I got involved with the NAACP after hearing the president of the Grand Prairie chapter, Angela Luckey, speak last year about her family history. It moved me. Plus, I am an advocate for social change.
Yes, I support peace officers…up to a point. What was done to George Floyd was just heinous. I’m glad to know those officers have been fired and will appear before a Grand Jury soon. I doubt any of them will be “no billed,” meaning no charges or punishments would come down on these four ex-officers. Historically, most of the police officers that appear before a Grand Jury get no billed, but if that happens in this case, we can expect more violence. I pray that the Grand Jury does its job and puts these ex-officers (and murderers) away for the rest of their lives.
The rally went on without a hitch. They had local and state speakers. Some were white and Asian, and I was really impressed with the turnout by people of all races. There was no violence, but there were some powerful presenters.
One speaker who affected me the most was Alex Crane, the brother of Tavis Crane, who was killed by Arlington Police in 2017 after he allegedly ran over an officer.
“When my brother was murdered, we didn’t get to hear about it until we saw it on the news,” Crane said. “Through the news, they villainized my brother and brought up things that he had done in his past. That happened in 2017. It’s only been three years and I’ve been struggling to deal with it and see both sides of the spectrum. I have my grandmother, my mother and my brother’s son here, so that’s four generations of my family that’s been hearing from my community the same thing, which is, “Vote.”
“I understand the power of voting, but I continue to hear the same thing with not a lot of change happening. My people only make up 13% of this country, and I have to make sure that the other 60% understands why it’s okay for me to live my life, for them to go and vote, for me to have the God-given right that they also have. Why should I have to wait for the 60% to understand and hear my cry that I matter too? That’s all we hear: Vote, vote, vote!
“Thirteen percent is going to change 60%? How are we going to get that changed by just going to the booth? My grandmother heard it. My mother heard it. I’m hearing it, and now an 8-year-old [Tavis Crane’s son] is hearing the same thing: ‘Vote. We’re gonna get there. Just go out there in November. Expect to see the change that hasn’t happened in four generations.’ That’s the definition of insanity: To do the same exact thing and expect change,” Crane said
Grand Prairie Police Chief Daniel Scesney was supposed to speak, but it was the first anniversary of the death of their Officer A.J. Castaneda, and they were doing community service in his honor. He sent an email to Luckey and she read it out loud.
Not many police officers were there because of the anniversary, but a few came and went.
[A quick aside: no one looked upon these folks and said they were angels in life. George Floyd had quite the rap sheet in Houston and Minneapolis. He’s no hero, but NO ONE should be treated the way he was.]
I hope that if any other rallies are scheduled that they will be as peaceful as this one.
In Memory Of:
George Floyd, Christian Taylor, Breonna Taylor, O’Shae Terry, Amaud Arbery, Atatiana Jefferson, Sandra Bland, Paul Castaway, Melissa Venture, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Treyvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Botham Jean, Jordan Edwards, Tavis Crane, Carlos High, Sr., Tony Timpa Santos Rodriguez, Joseph Hutchinson, Darius Tarver, Jonathan Ferrell, Renisha McBride, Stephon Clark, Jordan Edwards, Jordan Davis, Sean Bell, Jordan Hatcher, Joe Calloway, Sr., Dewayne Bowman, Dajerria Becton, Aiyana Stanley Jones, Nicholas Chavez, Claudia Gomez-Gonzalez and all of the others that have been killed by police brutality
To watch a video from GP Chief Scesney, click HERE.
June 2, 2020
I went to downtown Dallas yesterday to take pics of the carnage after the non-peaceful protests the weekend before.
For those of you who live in a cave, an unarmed black man, George Floyd, died when FOUR police officers held him down while he was handcuffed in Minneapolis, MN. One of the officers put his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, which may have led to his demise. All four officers have been fired (even the three that were non-white) and a Grand Jury will determine their fate. I know they’ll never work in law enforcement again, at the very least.
Floyd was under arrest for trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. He did resist getting into the police vehicle, falling down on purpose. But as far as I know, there was no prior resistance to the arrest except for Floyd quoting the NWA song, “F*** the Police.” I don’t know why it took four officers to subdue a mostly peaceful criminal. But then again, I could only see a few minutes of this event that unfolded in much more than 10 minutes.
Two autopsies were done, and both found that the manner of death was homicide. But the two reports were a bit different. The autopsy report from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner claimed that Floyd died from a heart attack, noting that Floyd had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, was high on the drug fentanyl and had recently used methamphetamine.
The Floyd family had their own independent autopsy done which concluded that Floyd had died of “mechanical asphyxia,” which is basically the restriction of blood and oxygen to the brain, and is consistent with the knee on neck position.
When I first saw the video, I thought that (ex-) Officer Chauvin, the cop with the knee on the neck (the practice of which has been obliterated from most police agencies across the country, but sadly and obviously, is still used at times), was an obvious murderer. Mr. Floyd can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe!” Yet Chauvin did not get up, nor did his fellow officers try to stop him.
So why was I sent to downtown Dallas? This happened in Minnesota.
It is my belief that people were already on edge due to COVID, and when this happened, the anger broke loose all over the country. What I do not understand is why people think that violence is the proper response to violence. Dallas is hundreds of miles away from Minneapolis. I do understand that colored people are sick and tired of police brutality directed at their race. As a white person, I can only understand on the fringe, though being a volunteer with the NAACP has taught me a lot. And it’s not like ONLY black people were protesting.
It was sad to walk down Main Street in Dallas and see the needless destruction. Very few pedestrians were walking about, but vehicular traffic seemed to be normal. So many businesses were boarded up and closed. It is my understanding that, despite the 7pm curfew, that downtown was preparing for more riots. A few protests were held just outside of the curfew zone in Dallas last night, but the biggest news was a protest in Arlington.
What is this world we live in? When will the Coronavirus cease to be a threat? When will people stop being on edge? When will violence about something that happened hundreds of miles away stop?
I wish I could tell you. But in the meantime, stay safe and please express your opinions peacefully. Even George Floyd’s brother asked for peace. If he can rise above what happened, then we all can.
February 15, 2020
The North Texas Comic Book Show was held February 15 and 16 at the Irving Las Colinas Convention Center. This decade-old show caters to comic fans, superhero movie fans and Cosplayers [costume play] of all ages. I was fortunate enough to get a peek behind the scenes.
The Show featured the comic writers and artists that enable characters such as Spider-Man and Batman to come to life on the page, with many characters eventually making it onto the silver screen.
Attendees come to get autographs, buy comics and character-related merchandise and participate in the Cosplay contest, where they can win cash and prizes.
The electric enthusiasm was in the air, as “fanboys” and “fangirls” got to meet some of their childhood heroes.
“This is actually my first convention ever. It was a great experience,” said attendee James Gadsden. “There were a lot of friendly dealers. Even the other patrons were amazing, helping me out, pointing out deals.”
The Show is the brainchild of Chris Latshaw, who found himself dissatisfied with a comic convention he had attended as a dealer in 2011, and decided to start his own show.
I caught up with Chris and some friends in the VIP lunch room, where the comic celebrities and organizers came to grab a sandwich, a drink or just a much-needed break.
“This show is my baby,” Latshaw said. “This year, we have the oldest living Batman artist, Joe Giella, who started back before Marvel Comics was even Marvel Comics. We have Jose Delbo, who is another artist who comes from a long time ago. He worked on both the Transformers as well as Wonder Woman and a Western Comic at one time called Billy the Kid. We have Bob Layton, who is famous for Iron Man and has been an integral part of what you see in the movies today. He developed a lot of [what you see on the screen] in the comics,” said Latshaw.
There were many artists, including both niche and well-known, who autographed comics and chatted with attendees.
One of the busiest booths housed Spider-Man artist Randy Emberlin, who is now retired from Marvel Comics.
“I have been drawing since age four,” Emberlin said. “Comics actually taught me how to read, so I was reading at age four as well. I mostly drew stuff that was already in comic form back then. I still have a lot of my stuff from back then. They’re drawn in crayon and stapled to look like comics. It’s hilarious to look at now.
“I started inking Spider-Man at the end of 1988. I did it because Erik Larsen asked me to do it. I had met him years before, when he was a kid. He went to DC [Comics] and then to Marvel and then worked on the Spider-Man books. So, when he asked, I said, ‘I’ll take that hand-up any day!’ That was a book anybody would kill to work on,” Emberlin said.
Emberlin retired from Marvel in 2009 after 24 years of employment and now travels around the nation to comic shows and teaches drawing classes to local Portland students.
The other major offering at the Show was the Cosplay contest, which falls under the command of Jacob Long. “Cosplay is basically costume plus play [acting the character]. We just want people to have fun with it,” said Long.
“I came on board with this show in 2014. Cosplay is a natural extension of mainstream media, but it’s also an extension out of comics,” Long explained.
“There’s a community of about 6,000 Cosplayers, mostly based in North Texas,” Long told me. “We are all part of a community called North Texas Cosplay. I’ve been involved in Cosplay since 2012 and I am actively involved behind the scenes.”
The Cosplay contest was different from other contests in that the contestants did not have to be “pre-judged” to enter. Pre-judging in other competitions include minute attention to detail, which excluded many would-be participants.
The contest also emphasized the “theatrical” side of Cosplay. For example, if someone dressed up as Spider-Man, he/she would be judged on the look for the character plus how the contestant stayed in character behavior-wise.
Awards were handed out for best performance, best costume and best in show, which is a combination of both. The adults got cold, hard cash ($100 for first place, $50 for second and third place) and the winning kids got bags full of toys and other goodies.
I was fortunate enough to be able to help out with the contest, directing participants to go to the proper photo spot so the Show photographer could record their appearance for posterity.
The Show is held twice a year in February and July. For more information, visit https://www.comicbooksdallas.com/.
[P.S. I still think Captain America sports America’s Hiney. Sorry, Deadpool]
September 18, 2019
On September 17, 2019, retired NASA employee Herb Baker gave a talk at University of Texas at Arlington about his 42-year career at the space agency. Most of his work was performed at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, but he also helped out at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, as well as NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
Baker holds a business degree, not one in engineering. “I can assure you that you don’t need an engineering degree to work for NASA. They’re always looking for good people from a variety of fields,” he said.
Baker basically followed in the footsteps of his mother, who also had a long career at NASA. “My first involvement with NASA was as a high school student working for the TV networks covering the early Apollo mission doing mostly ‘grunt work,’” he said. “During those missions, my main job was to take reels of film and drive them up to Houston’s Intercontinental Airport from the Johnson Space Center campus twice every day, which is about an hour’s drive each way. Of course, this was a time before the Internet, so this was the only way to get things done. From the Houston airport, the film was sent to New York City so it could be used for the evening news,” Baker explained.
Basically, Baker was a “Jack of All Trades” during his 42 years at NASA. He worked as support on almost every flight from the first Space Shuttle flight to the International Space Station (ISS) to the Orion project, which is NASA’s hope to get men to Mars by 2030, to the attempts to develop commercial space flight.
He had some funny and interesting stories to tell.
He explained several superstitions that the astronauts and cosmonauts have developed over time. “Believe it or not, yes, those cosmonauts are urinating on the bus tires,” Baker said as he showed a PowerPoint slide. “They do this because Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin did this before his first flight, which was successful, and so they consider it good luck. This is the bus that will take them to the launch pad.”
Another popular ritual is for the astronauts to eat steak and scrambled eggs for breakfast on the morning of their scheduled flight.
While it may seem silly to some, NASA respects crew superstitions so much that when STS-13 (Space Transportation System, the way NASA used to identify shuttle flights) was the next number to use, they changed the name to STS-41C. However, the crew decided that they didn’t want superstition to rule their thinking, so they made their own patch that read STS-13 on a black cat, with a space shuttle flying under the cat, which was completely different from the “official” flight patch.
Baker also recalled that employees on the JSC campus were invited to come taste test astronaut food if they had a spare hour. He was given some “space guacamole” and was asked to rate it from one to five on a variety of aspects, such as taste and texture.
“I never pass up guacamole at restaurants,” Baker said. “But this guacamole tasted terrible.”
He went back a couple of weeks later and saw that a new version of guacamole was being tested. Again, he found it less than satisfactory. After one more go around, he said, “If you served it to me now, I’d say it’s okay. It’s tolerable. But when I came back a week later, it had been taken off the menu altogether. Do you know how hard it is to keep guacamole fresh? It kept turning brown quickly, as avocados generally do.”
Baker brought a mock-up of a space suit, and watched as students tried it on.
“I can’t believe how thick these gloves are,” said one student. “The rest of the suit is not so heavy, but I know it’s not technically a real suit.”
Baker was at UT-Arlington by invitation of the North Texas branch of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., which works with students as well as professionals in those fields.
Recently retired, Baker spends his time giving talks around the country, giving tours of Space Center Houston and performing with the Clear Creek Community Theater in Nassau Bay, Texas.
August 19, 2019
I’m sure I don’t have to point out that there have been many publicized deaths in the United States lately. From mass shootings to one-on-one occurrences, they all seem senseless to me. It may seem odd for a journalist to say this, but I honestly have not willingly watched one single news program on TV (sometimes I’m trapped in a doctor’s office with the news on, but I try to ignore it) for over 25 years. This “news fast” has helped with my mood over the years, and if something really big happens, I’ll hear about it from family or friends.
The one thing that I could never prepare for was the death of my 15 year-old dog, Izzy Boo.
I swear – sometimes it’s easier to lose a person than a pet. Dogs (and cats, when they feel like it) give you unconditional love and are always excited to see you when you come home. Sure, they may need to be walked every few hours or wake you up in the middle of the night to be fed, but, in the grand scheme of things, having a pet delivers many benefits the human owner.
There’s even a branch of therapy called “pet therapy” in which trained professionals bring well-trained dogs, cats, pot-bellied pigs and other sweet creatures to visit people in the hospital or even in hospice. Petting a dog or cat has been scientifically shown to lower blood pressure, slow down heart rates that are too high, lower respiration rates and generally help the person feel calmer. And if you’ve ever owned a pet that you were well bonded with, you know that they know if you don’t feel well and generally follow you around because they have an instinct to help.
Izzy Boo was a Japanese Chin, which is not a well-known breed in the U.S. I remember picking him up from the Japanese Chin Rescue Society. The lady that had been fostering him started crying when I took him, and over the years, I found out why.
Izzy Boo had “never met a stranger.” He loved people, other dogs, cats and even my pet turtles. I don’t think he had a mean bone in his body. Sometimes I wish he had been a jerk because maybe his passing wouldn’t hurt so bad.
Izzy Boo came to us when he was about three years old. He was a smarty pants, and learned all kinds of tricks, like “high five,” sit, shake and he’d also run in circles on command (“Chin Spins”).
He was with me through my daughter growing up and moving out, my own divorce and moving away and he spent his last few years as a companion to my mother, who moved with me.
One Friday, we took him to the vet for what we thought was allergies. It turned out that he was dealing with massive heart failure, and so we had to make the difficult decision to send him to Sweet Dog Heaven. I couldn’t stay in the room, but my mom did.
When a person passes away, it can be sad, tragic or even expected, but it is never easy. Funerals are for the living, as we like to think that our person has gone to a better place. But when a pet dies, even though we take them in knowing that we’ll probably outlive them, it can make the world seem silent and empty.
I hope you’re chasing squirrels in Dog Heaven, Izzy Boo, and that you know that you were loved.
If you have recently lost a pet and are having trouble coping, click HERE for some tips and compassion.
August 15, 2019
I was fortunate enough to score free tickets to see G. Love, Blues Traveler and moe. on August 10, 2019 at the Toyota Music Factory in Irving/Las Colinas. I had never been to this particular venue, so I was very curious about how such a large complex opened in a town with only 240,000 residents. Of course, with me being from Houston, I was used to the Toyota Center and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, both of which serve a population of close to 2.3 million people.
It turns out that there was a bond election in 2007, in which Irving/Las Colinas voters said “yes” to finance an entertainment center right off of State Highway 114, almost adjacent to the existing Irving/Las Colinas Convention Center and Hotel. The complex consists of about 210,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, which includes an Alamo Draft House movie theater, several restaurants and retail shops and a bowling alley. Next to these retail facilties is a 65,000 square foot music venue called “The Pavilion at the Toyota Music Factory,” which can seat 4,000 people with its walls closed, and 8,000 people with everything open in “amphitheater [outdoor] mode.”
Originally scheduled to open as the “Irving Music Factory” on September 1, 2017, construction delays caused the opening to be postponed until September 9. The developers announced that the venue was being renamed the “Toyota Music Factory” and would feature Texas rockers ZZ Top as its inaugural concert.
The new venue has done extremely well, featuring mostly “classic rock” artists, such as Ringo Starr, Lindsey Buckingham and Lauryn Hill, to up-and-comers such as G. Love, to family-friendly shows such as Kidz Bop.
I found the facilities very easy to navigate, from the parking garage to the music venue. Once inside (the roof was closed due to extreme heat), there was plenty of room to walk around and peruse the booths that offered show merchandise, as well as food/drink areas, which offered the usual concert fare and beverages, along with some franchise outlets.
The venue itself offered excellent acoustics and plenty of leg room in the floor seats (I am 5’5″ and had no problems. My hubby is 6’6″ and only had minor difficulties). I don’t know how it sounds in amphitheater mode, but I’m looking forward to going back when the weather is a bit cooler.
There were plenty of helpful employees stationed about to direct us newbies when we got lost. The restrooms were placed at good intervals and there were several food and beverage stands placed conveniently around the rotunda.
All in all, we enjoyed the concert very much. We are looking forward to seeing other acts there, and would very much like to try out the amphitheater feature of the venue.
To learn more about the Toyota Music Factory and the talent line-up, visit https://toyotamusicfactory.com/.
July 27, 2019
I was driving to the store this afternoon and passed two cars parked next to a curb, one behind the other. I thought nothing of it until the front car sped off, tires screeching, passing me up illegally in my lane. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw the driver of the other car, who was obviously agitated, hitting the car hood with his fist. The driver looked to be no more than 16 or 17 years old.
Concerned, I backed up until I was close to the young man’s vehicle. He started flagging me down, so I rolled down my window.”Did you see that?” he asked me.”Yeah…what the heck?” I said.”I was buying a Playstation 4 from this chick and she just totally ripped me off! I gave her the money and she drove off!” he said. “I feel like an idiot!”I found out his name was Zane.* He asked if he should call 9-1-1, which I encouraged him to do, and then tried to talk him down out of his anxiety. It turns out the girl got away with $180. “I feel so stupid!” Zane kept saying. “My dad is going to kill me!”
Pretty soon, three Grapevine Police Department units showed up, and one stayed to take Zane’s statement. Amazingly, Zane remembered the license plate number of the thief’s car. And unsurprisingly, this thief already had an established police record. This was definitely not her first time to rob someone.The officer and I ended up telling Zane basically the same things: the chances of getting his money back was slim, though if the girl was caught, she’d end up serving some time in jail; he’d done everything right as far as getting the license plate number and calling the police; and the next time he meets someone to exchange money for items, he needs to insist on meeting in a “Safe Exchange Zone.”
Zane, like many people, wasn’t aware of “Safe Exchange Zones.” These designated areas were first implemented in Texas in 2016 for the purpose of providing a safer alternative for the exchange of goods purchased over the internet. In Grapevine, there are zones at the QuikTrip gas station, located at 801 Ira E. Woods, and the Public Safety Building, located at 1027 Ira E. Woods.The Grapevine Police Department suggests the following for anyone conducting these kinds of transactions (Craigslist, eBay, etc.):
- Be very suspicious of a buyer or seller who changes the agreed upon location;
- Always meet the buyer or seller in a public place and with plenty of people around;
- Avoid meeting on side streets or places that are not well lit;
- Always take someone with you and inform the buyer / seller that you will not be alone;
- Strongly consider conducting transactions in E-Commerce Exchange Zones;
- Trust your instincts – if it sounds like a scam it probably is; and
- Complete the transaction during daylight hours.
Zane finished giving the Officer his report and got a business card with his case number written on the back. I doubt that Zane will see his money again (I hope I’m wrong), but he did learn a valuable lesson, and I hope he passes it on to his young friends. I gave him a much-needed hug, assured him that he wasn’t an idiot and told him that he wasn’t the first person for this to happen to and he won’t be the last. I left knowing that he learned something, even though he lost a good bit of money. The bottom line is to be safe and smart out there!
To learn more about E-Commerce Exchange Zones, click HERE.
*Zane is not the young man’s real name.
July 22, 2019
The Police Officers’ Angels Foundation (POAF) is a non -profit organization that “provides emotional support and short-term financial assistance to any Texas Law Enforcement officer following a serious or life changing line-of-duty injury. POAF’s success relies on strong community partnerships standing behind our peace officers and their families,” which is their mission statement.
Maria Barreda-Alvarado started the Foundation after her son, Corporal Rick Barreda, who served with the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Airport Police Department, was killed in the line of duty on February 14, 1997. A vehicle struck his motorcycle as he sat on the side of the road gauging speeds. Rick also served on the DFW SWAT team and, for a short time, for the DFW Fire Department.
“Our official name is Peace Officers’ Angels Foundation because some folks confuse the word ‘Peace’ with ‘Police.’ We use ‘Peace Officer’ because we also serve our DPS Troopers, Deputies and Sheriffs’ Offices. POAF serves cities, state, and counties,” Barreda-Alvarado said.
In fact, POAF serves all 254 counties in Texas. “We are focused on the smaller cities and towns in Texas – the ones that don’t have support like a 100 Club,” Barreda-Alvarado said. “That doesn’t mean that we won’t help when we can in a big city. We just want to make sure the smaller places are covered, too.”
The POAF relies on memberships and fundraisers to stay afloat. They are hosting their inaugural golf tournament on Monday October 7, 2019 at the Walnut Creek Country Club in Mansfield. They, along with partner TLEOMF (Texas Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund), organize the annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Night at a Texas Rangers game every fall. This year, it will be held on Friday, September 13 at Globe Life Park as the Rangers take on the Oakland Athletics.
As the last few years have seen a record number of first responder deaths and injuries, the POAF is very busy and is always in need of volunteers and financial support.
For more information or to find out how you can help, visit POAF.org. All donations are tax-deductible and a receipt will be provided.
“No donation is too small to make a difference.” – POAF Motto
Editor’s Corner: 81-year-old car brings new purpose to its owner and invigorates interest in law enforcement
July 15, 2019
Richard Borisenko, the owner of a 1937 Dodge D-7 police car, lives in Cleburne, Texas and has interesting stories to tell about the vehicle. He has made appearances all over the state with the antique car. The Grapevine Source was fortunate enough to interview him and take photos of the car at the Grapevine Public Safety Building.
“I sold a house and I had some money from that sale, and the whole time I’d been looking at this police car, but I didn’t really care at that time about the police part,” Borisenko said.
He has never worked in law enforcement, so sentimentality was not an issue.
“I was in trouble with the police a lot when I was younger. They helped me out by letting me sit in the back seat,” Borisenko laughed. “After that, I met a man who was a minister and I turned my life over to Christ, and completely did a U-turn in my life,” he said.
So why did he buy this antique police car?
“This car was on my mind, but I didn’t care much about a police part, so I contacted people about taking the siren out and taking the light off. They said I’d have to do steel, not Bondo [a quick-fix for vehicular blemishes]. I’d have to do some welding and things like that,” Borisenko explained. “So, at night, I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning, thinking about that car, because I really liked the body style. I thought it had a lot of class,” he added.
Borisenko ended up calling the owner of the vehicle to see what could happen.
“I called the guy up and said that I’d like to see that car. He wanted a lot of money for it, and I would text him with what I’d give him for it, and he wouldn’t even respond because what I was offering him was so low. I finally got a hold of him and said that I’d like to see it. He asked me when I could come look. I lived in Arlington at that time and he was on the other side of Waco. We figured it out and I drove down to his garage,” Borisenko explained.
“The car was pretty rough looking. All of the windows were broke out. The hood was white. The trunk lid was white. It had no obvious chrome on it whatsoever. So we drove down the road, and it drove real good, so I thought the car had good potential,” Borisenko said.
They were able to make a deal, and Borisenko became the new proud owner of a 1937 Dodge D-7.
“When [the owner and his help] dropped off the car, the guy said, ‘I need to get this get out of here before I get emotional,’ because I think he used that car in parades and different stuff, even though it was in rough condition. It was after they left that several people came by to look at the car. One was a Tarrant County Constable that helped in the convoy to get the car to me. His girlfriend was really excited about the car, and then after that, several people came by and liked the car [in its original condition]. I think that was the minute I changed my mind and decided to put it back into the best shape a 1937 police car could be. I don’t change my mind often, but this seemed like a big Divine message,” Borisenko said.
“I took all the chrome off – the chrome that was on it was painted black. I took off the bumpers. Every day, I did something new. I had it re-chromed, painted the hood black, painted the trunk lid black, had an air conditioner put in it with the help of some friends, had the inside reupholstered and put lights all underneath the car,” he explained.
“I had a lot of trial and error when fixing this car up. I’d put hubcaps on that didn’t look right, so take them off and put new ones on until it looked right. I got some 1937 papers [auto manual] after they sold me that car, so I had a frame of reference. I tried to make it as authentic as I could,” he added.
The engine in the car is not original. When Borisenko bought it, it came with a .318 Dodge engine in it. The whole lower chassis was replaced with parts from 1970 because 1937 Dodge parts are difficult to acquire.
“I went out to Gas Monkey – they had a show out there – and I won several things. I ran into a guy that had a ’38 Dodge pickup and he told me that he had given up. I asked him why and he said that there were no parts out there. So in 2014, I spent over $8,000 on eBay buying what I needed. I really didn’t need a whole lot of stuff, but it got pricey,” Borisenko said.
The car has won numerous awards, but Borisenko is not too concerned with that. A true servant heart, he just wants folks to enjoy the car as much as he does.
He spoke about the Dodge Brothers emblem that is original to the car. “Take a look at the emblem – it has a Star of David on it,” He said. “Can you imagine that in 1937? I’m very careful with these emblems because, if I can even find more, they are about $700 apiece.”
Borisenko has been offered $90,000 for the car – twice. He’s turned both offers down because, “I don’t believe anybody can do what I’ve done because there are no parts out there. That car is solid steel. There’s no fiberglass and it’s no kit car,” he said, with a bit of pride in his eyes.
“People often tell me, ‘I bet you never get pulled over.’ I say, ‘Man, I get pulled over all the time!’ When they ask why, I tell them it’s usually because [the police] want to take a picture of my car. Then they want to hear the siren. I warn them that it is loud, but they want to hear it anyway. They always say that it’s louder than any police car they’ve got!” Borisenko said with a chuckle.
The car is even popular just driving down the road locally to the supermarket.
“Sometimes I think I need to put a sign on the car that says, ‘Not Responsible for Whiplash,’ because people whip their heads all the way around when I drive by. I think they’re shocked to see an 81-year-old car going down the road.
“I saw a guy that was broke down on the side of the road and he was driving a brand new car. I went by and I thought, ‘Man, I’m in an 81-year-old car and this guy’s broke down in his brand new vehicle.’ It was sad and kind of a metaphor for how cars are made today versus even fifty years ago,” Borisenko said.
He has had some fun with the car, crafting props for it.
He has two mannequins, which he calls, “dummies,” that occasionally ride in the back seat. The windows of the car are tinted, so it is difficult to see into the car from the outside.
“Sometimes people jump or scream because they don’t expect anyone to be in the back seat,” he said with a laugh.
He also has some wooden Tommy Guns (with fake shells) and a cowboy hat that seem to transport him back to the Bonnie and Clyde days.
Since Borisenko is now a Cleburne resident, he keeps Cleburne Police Department magnets on the sides of the car (complete with “bullet holes”), though he has used Johnson and Tarrant County signs in the past.
“Johnson County [the county where Cleburne is located] has been very supportive. They always offer me a chance to gas up for free,” Borisenko said appreciatively.
As our interview was winding down, several Grapevine Police Officers asked permission to take pictures of the car, and Borisenko was happy to oblige.
“I’d like to thank law enforcement for their support. I went through Fort Worth one time, and a few officers saluted me. I thought, ‘You don’t need to be saluting me. I need to be saluting you!’ I appreciate them with all my heart.” Borisenko added.
The car and Borisenko will be making an appearance outside Globe Life Park in Arlington on Friday, September 13, which is the Texas Rangers’ Police Appreciation Night.
To inquire about appearances, email Richard Borisenko at 37Dodge@att.net.
Editor’s Corner: The Grapevine Escape provides opportunities to exercise the brain, encourages teamwork
July 15, 2019
My stepdaughter and I recently visited The Grapevine Escape, located at 160 N. Main Street in Grapevine. We had a terrific time!
Escape Rooms are a relatively new form of entertainment in which the participants are “locked” in a room (there is always the option of leaving the room for potty breaks, illness or other needs) and are given 60 minutes to escape. Each room has a theme and a backstory.
Escape Rooms have gotten so popular that there was a movie made this year called, amazingly, “Escape Room.” It is classified as a horror/thriller, but fortunately, we were safe and sound in The Grapevine Escape.
When we visited, our room was called “FocusTec Labs.” The backstory, which is available to read on the website, involved the Chief Technical Officer of the fictional FocusTec Labs going missing, and unfortunately, she was the only one who could keep the lab functional. Our job was to figure out a series of puzzles, find out what happened to the missing executive and escape the room.
When I say puzzles, I don’t mean crosswords or a box with 1,000 pieces in it. I mean that we had to investigate the room, find clues, keys, combination numbers and the like. It was a real mind-bender with some really awesome special effects. I am lucky that my stepdaughter has a natural talent for puzzles. I’d still be in the room had I been by myself! The rooms encourage critical thinking, teamwork, time management and problem solving, all which exercised our noggins!
Participants are allowed three hints, though our Games Master took pity on us and gave us a couple of freebie hints. Our Games Master was one of the owners, Amber Sebastian, who sat in a back room, watching and listening to everything we said and did. When we ran into a situation we couldn’t figure out, Amber was able to send hints to the television screen in the room.
“Building escape rooms is quite a challenge, but it is also lots of fun!” said Sebastian, who is co-owner, along with her husband, Russell. “We design rooms full of puzzles – a creative sandbox that kids and adults get to play in, and we simply love creating them! However, building escapes is only half the fun – watching teams escape them is the real joy,” she added.
The Grapevine Escape is not only fun for families – many companies use escape rooms as team building exercises. If more than one group books a room for the same time (10 people are allowed in a room at one time), then participants may be paired with strangers to give the experience a whole new dynamic.
There’s also an offering that I have never seen from an Escape Room company. “Escape Excursions” are travel rooms that are administered by The Grapevine Escape personnel in a remote location, such as a company, a birthday party, a family reunion or a just-for-fun party. While not as visually complex as being in one of their Escape Rooms, excursions offer the additional convenience and flexibility of the puzzles coming to you!
While we didn’t actually “escape,” we came close and had a fabulous time trying. The Grapevine Escape currently offers three Escape Rooms. You can check out the backstories and learn more about the experience at TheGrapevineEscape.com or give them a call at 817-601-5663.
June 15, 2019
My dad and stepmom came up from Houston to visit me this weekend. My dad’s birthday is always right around Father’s Day, which is partly handy and partly yucky. It’s like a person having a birthday around Christmas – double gifts or one big one? This year, I gave him the gift of my time, as we don’t get to see each other as much since I moved to Grapevine from the Houston area.
I decided to act as a tour guide as we drove around Grapevine. There is so much to do here! But knowing my father and my stepmom, I decided to show them Nash Farm first.
I have been there several times, so I got to tell them a little about the history. Thomas Jefferson Nash and his family bought 450 acres in Grapevine in 1859. Over the years, it got sold off, and what remains is a little over five acres of land, which is used as a working farm, as well as a tourist attraction and a tribute to the Nash family and Grapevine’s history.
Nash built the house on the property in 1869, and the folks at Nash Farm and the Heritage Society in Grapevine have renovated it and keep it in superb condition. All of the furniture, clothing, kitchen tools and décor are either original to the house or are items that one would find in the late 1800’s.
Outside, they keep chickens, turkeys, sheep and Leroy the Barn Cat. The Farm Store offers all kinds of information and wares that were common in the 1800’s, even though a bonnet may have been sewn last week. The craftsmanship shows that the folks that work and volunteer there really care about what they are doing.
They hold all kinds of fun events. The next thing on their calendar is an Ice Cream Social where folks can enjoy homemade ice cream while learning about the Farm, as well as farming itself.
I drive by Nash Farm a lot, just in my local city travels. I get to see the big field of crops that are grown out front. The crops are changed out by season. Right now, they are harvesting wheat and growing corn. As with everything at Nash Farm, it is obvious that they offer the best, grown with close attention, loving care and a bit of science.
My dad really enjoyed looking at the antique tractors and other farm equipment. My stepmom fell in love with the turkeys, so I didn’t mention that they would be someone’s Thanksgiving dinner.
The employees and volunteers dress in 1920’s clothing and may be found churning butter or sewing a bonnet on an authentic foot-powered sewing machine from that time.
The trip to Nash Farm was a big hit with my family, and they want to come back again to see more.
To learn more about Nash Farm, visit https://www.grapevinetexasusa.com/nash-farm/.
June 11, 2019
A Grand Prairie police officer, AJ Castaneda, age 38, was killed around 10:30am on June 7 while checking radar speeds on the shoulder of the George Bush Turnpike. A 17-year-old driver hit the officer’s vehicle and the officer fell off of the overpass onto the lower highway, about 20 feet below. He died at an Arlington hospital about 30 minutes later.
The person who came upon the accident and reported it was an officer from another city. He had the brains to get into Castaneda’s patrol car and radio directly to his agency in Grand Prairie to let them know what was going on.
I’ve been a law enforcement supporter for many years now, simply because I know I could not to that job, so I admire those that can.
In today’s climate, I often get criticized for supporting the cops; however, I am not a blind follower. I realize that there are bad apples in the policing field, just as in any area of employment. I feel shame when I hear about a cop abusing his or her privileges as peacekeepers.
That being said, I attended a candlelight vigil for Castaneda on June 9, which was held in front of Grand Prairie’s Public Safety Building.
I had never met Castaneda, but when something tragic like this happens, I like to lend my support, even if it’s providing another warm body at an event.
I got there a bit early and parked. As I walked up to the gathering spot, I was overwhelmed with the crowd. Literally hundreds of people, young and old, showed up to pay respects to this officer that I knew nothing about.
As I listened to the speakers, I came to understand that Castaneda was an exceptional officer. He raised money to provide meals every Thursday to the youth of an impoverished neighborhood in Grand Prairie. He saved the life of a choking baby. He earned medals and awards too countless to list.
The question everyone asks themselves when a good person dies popped into my head: Why him? Why him and not the cop that sits in the back of a parking lot all day or night watching movies? But does anyone’s life count “more” than another’s?
The wind was blowing pretty hard that night, and the candles wouldn’t stay lit. The chief suggested that folks turn on the flashlights on their phones instead. What resulted was a beautiful sea of light to honor this exceptional officer.
I cried and cried – not because I knew Castaneda – but because yet another person who had compassion and went above-and-beyond had been taken way too soon. Those traits are hard to find these days.
Remember when customer service existed everywhere? Remember when employees cared about your experiences in their stores? Remember when people would stop to help other folks in distress?
Those days are long gone, and so to lose someone who loved his job, had compassion for his fellow human beings and went farther than necessary to give a helping hand to people he didn’t even know was just another blow to the things we used to cherish, and want to cherish again.
RIP AJ Castaneda. End of Watch: June 7, 2019
They’ll take it from here, brother.
May 13, 2019
Like a lot of folks, I like to play games on my phone/tablet. It’s great entertainment when I’m waiting somewhere. It’s also a nice way to “wake up my brain” in the morning, or to just take a break from work/housework.
One of the games I play is a slot game called, “Hit it Rich!”
I got to thinking about how this game mirrors society a bit. When I first started out, the game gave me $3 million, so when I talk about millions, billions and trillions, I’m representing millions as “lower class,” billions as “middle class” and trillions as “upper class,” as far as financial standards in the US go. Yes, there are players that go beyond that in winnings, which would be “the rich upper class.”
When I started playing the slot game, I liked it because it is pretty mindless. It’s a great game to play when I didn’t want to think too much, like I have to with puzzle games and such. It has a feature that gives me extra money as long as I log in every day and spin the bonus wheel. I can request extra coins and free spins from friends, as well as gift to them.
With my initial $3 million, I tended to alternate getting up to $10 million or so or going completely bankrupt. Fortunately, when bankrupt, I logged into the game app every day and spun the wheel to build up enough winnings to play again. It took me several days to get that “baseline” of $3 million back, but eventually I’d reach that goal and be able to spin again.
Now, here are the parallels, which are completely my opinions.
I’m about to talk about federal assistance. I just want to clarify up front that I will be referring to folks who use the system honestly because they really need it, whether temporarily or more long-term. My mother is one of those people, and we are thankful that the system exists and can help her, which helps me, as I’m the only child (and definitely not financially rich).
I looked at those free spins when I was bankrupt as federal assistance and/or a job. I used it honestly, and built up enough money to “live” on (i.e. be able to spin/play). I did not spin until I had that $3 million back, though I easily could have. Of course, some people who depend on federal assistance (including my mom) have to “spin.” They need food, clothing and shelter. Ideally, the bonus wheel spins that they take advantage of every day would represent a job. But it could represent unemployment or just checking the mail every day for the assistance check or volunteering for a cause that is important to that person.
Of course, many people in this country are honestly disabled, so they may not be able to spin at all and rely on collecting the free bonus every day when they login. But the fact that they take the time to login every single day shows perseverance and initiative. The people who skip days or weeks of bonus spins or just keep requesting coins from friends are obviously not committed to the game.
I was playing along in this pattern of “millions to bankrupt” for a long time. I even gave up playing for a while, but I still collected those bonus spins just in case I ever wanted to play again.
Over time, I accumulated a few billion dollars. I could bet higher and, in turn, my wins tended to be worth more. So I was spending more, but my returns were higher. This is not always the case with the middle class. Of course, one hopes to secure a good-paying job so that they can afford to “bet” more (i.e. have some disposable income to enjoy some “luxury” items/activities) now and then. But these days, it is costing us more for “necessities,” such as food, electric service, rent/mortgage, etc. In many instances, the middle class is just able to pay the bills for a lifestyle that takes care of these necessities and that’s about it.
Of course, there are many, many Americans who live beyond their means and “rob Peter to pay Paul.” I liken this to players who actually buy extra coins, spins, etc. with real money. I realize that these are the folks that keep the game available to me for free (along with the inevitable ads) and allow the game company to update and change it from time to time. They are a big source of revenue for the game “economy.”
With my few billion dollars, I started betting higher, and one day, I hit a jackpot! I went from $1 billion or so to $36 trillion…just like that. And guess what? I started getting showered with rewards! I could move up a level in two spins! And each time I moved up, I got a bonus of at least $4 billion.
What. The. Heck?
I don’t need those bonus things. I can bet $20 billion on a spin like it’s nothing. I give coins and free spins to all of my friends that request it. I’m not the one who needs the extras. The “millionaires” do.
Of course, one could make the argument that maybe the millionaires aren’t managing their money well or are not being thrifty or are not using all the resources that the game provides. And I’m sure this is true with many players. But what about the millionaires that are doing everything “right,” but just haven’t hit a jackpot like I did?
I’m sure I don’t have to point out the parallels here. The rich are getting richer, and they get so many perks and free stuff…yet they’re the ones who can afford that stuff if they wanted it!
Why does a rock star get a free meal at a restaurant and regular patrons don’t? It’s bass-ackwards to me. Mr. Leather Pants could afford to buy every patron in the whole restaurant a nice meal, yet his is free? How is that logical?
I know, I know…it makes Leather Pants come back to said eatery and thus attracts his fans, etc. to the establishment. I get the PR/economics of this. I just think it’s stupid.
While Leather Pants makes millions for dropping one album and touring for three months, regular folks are living paycheck to paycheck. I always thought that if I were talented enough to be a pro sports figure, a singer or actress, I’d do a couple of movies/albums/seasons and then retire. I mean, how much money does one really need – or better yet, how much money is one able to spend in a lifetime?
Sure, I could spend $50 billion (real life) dollars before I die, but it would probably be tough. If you doubt me, try this exercise:
Someone gifts you $1,000. This money doubles every day. So on Day 2, you’d get $2,000, then $4,000, then $8,000, etc. It keeps doubling every day, whether you spend it or not. Use the table below to get started. Make sure you list what you buy specifically and estimate the cost to the best of your ability.
|Day||Amount of Deposit||Purchases||Cost of Purchases||Total Cash Left|
Let me know how you do! This is what the rich upper class deals with daily. Sure, they own companies and invest in stuff and give money to charity. But if you try the above exercise, you can see it’s a drop in the bucket.
The bottom line is that, in my opinion, the benefits to the lower, middle and upper classes are upside-down. My little $3 million in the slot game is a distant memory. I am LOADED RICH, baby! But does that make the game more fun? Not. At. All.
April 12, 2019
We haven’t posted a whole lot on The Grapevine Source lately because we were dealing with a family health issue…and I have to say I learned a LOT.
My mother is a total morning person. When I couldn’t get her on the phone by 9am last Saturday, I drove to her apartment, which is about seven minutes away.
I got there and she was indeed in bed, which at 9am is unheard of for her. Everything was dark. I was able to wake her but she was disoriented and basically couldn’t even sit up in bed. She was trying to speak, but it came out in a whisper and made no sense.
So I called 9-1-1. Fortunately, a fire station is right down the road and the EMS/Fire guys were there within minutes. They assessed her, and her vital signs were perfect. But it was obvious that she was not herself, so they took her to Baylor Scott and White Hospital.
To make a long story short, it turned out that my mom had a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). I learned that infections like UTIs can mimic the symptoms of dementia in the elderly. WHO KNEW? The Occupational Therapist explained that the process looks like this: the person slowly stops hydrating as much as he/she should, as well as stops eating right (skipping meals altogether at times); he/she starts to feel yucky generally; then the mental symptoms can start. In my mom’s case, her psychiatric symptoms started sometime late Friday night/early Saturday morning because she was totally lucid and fine when I spoke to her Friday around 5pm.
The infection causes blood to flow to that area so that white blood cells can try to fight it, and some of that blood comes from the brain. When there’s not enough blood to the brain, the person gets confused and dementia-like. I found a pretty good article on this issue at SeniorLiving.org:
“One of the many unseen, hard-to-detect dangers that senior citizens face today is urinary tract infections, more often known as UTIs. Though easily treatable, the symptoms of UTIs in the elderly can often mimic those of other more serious conditions, like dementia. Given that UTIs are one of the most frequent, hidden infections seniors suffer from, it is important to be able to differentiate them from other illnesses, then isolate and eliminate them.
“Older individuals are vulnerable to UTIs for several reasons. The biggest culprit is an immune system weakened by time that increases susceptibility to any infection…Seniors are also more prone to UTIs because they get an assortment of ailments that cause urinary retention. There are certain health conditions they face that make it harder to pass urine, such as diabetes, kidney infections, and kidney stones. In addition to slowing the process of urinating, diabetes raises glucose in the urine, which also increases the likelihood of a UTI. An older person’s inability to urinate properly can then necessitate a catheter, which is difficult to keep sanitary, making them even more vulnerable to the same infection.”
My mom is now back home and doing well. She uses a shower chair now to prevent falls, as her physical body is still a bit unstable. Home health comes by three times a week, and I check on her every day. She wants to maintain her independence, but she’s 73 years old. Fortunately, she is understanding of her limits. She makes a point to drink plenty of water (dehydration/electrolyte imbalances can add to the cognitive symptoms), and eats three meals a day, even if one meal is a nutrition drink.
We learned a lot, and want to prevent this from happening again. I like to think I am a biology nerd and know more than the average bear about how the body works, but I did not know this. It flabbergasted me.
I wanted to share it here so that our readers will know, and hopefully this knowledge can prevent or quickly treat this medical issue in at least one other person…hopefully more.
Have a blessed day and feel free to email questions to me if you have any. I will do my best to answer them (based on my experience) or ask our home health nurse if I do not know the answer.
November 30, 2018
I have been called “grinchy,” a “party pooper” and a “complete holiday ruiner,” but I don’t even care. I HATE the holidays. “Why?” you ask? Let me tell you, my patient readers.
I’m not trying to sway anyone to my way of thinking or to ruin anyone’s holidays. If you don’t want to read a grinchy post, then please move on. But here are my complaints:
- Christmas, which is supposed to celebrate the birth of Christ (even though “they” got the time of year wrong), has turned into a frenzied ball of materialism. I overheard a conversation in a grocery store recently between an adult and a child of about 10 or 12 (I don’t know how they were affiliated…babysitter, aunt, whatever). The child was talking about going to visit her grandparents on Christmas Day. “I’m just gonna go for an hour or two just to eat and get my presents,” the young lady said. It took everything in me not to go over to them and freak out. Is this what Christmas has come to?
- I do NOT need to be bombarded with Christmas carols and decorations from September – December. This just reinforces point one above. Can I please go Trick-or-Treating and celebrate Thanksgiving before you stuff your shiny Christmas balls down my throat? Please?
- Sometimes, family gatherings just suck. Some families don’t get along that well. They would never pick each other to be in their lives if it wasn’t for that blood connection. Yet, if you don’t go spend time with your family, then you suck as bad as your family dynamics. Why get together with people you don’t even like? Sure, someone gets drunk and there’s drama and that can be fun, but mostly, it bites.
- Food, food, food. You or someone you may care a little about slaves away for hours (or days, for that matter) to make a beautiful meal for family and friends. Those piglets come in for 10 minutes, shovel food down their faces and then go watch football or take a nap. Yay you, for working so hard. And then you have to clean everything up after that.
- Gifts: If I get you a $50 gift card and you get me a $50 gift card, then how stupid are we?? I know there are people that put lots of thought into gifts and I’m not talking about you. I’m speaking to my kinfolk (the lazy people). Why not just forgo exchanging gifts with adults and just get stuff for the kids while they still think Christmas is fun?
- Decorations: Yeah, let’s spend hours and tons of money on decorations that will be up for six weeks max! YAY!! Go on vacation instead. It will probably cost about the same.
Yes, I am grinchy. Hopefully, you are not and think I just need a good massage, therapy, psychotropic drugs or something. But if you’re as green and furry as I am, then you feel me.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays and Happy Diwali. If I forgot your religious celebration, email me at email@example.com.
But seriously, THANK YOU for reading. We appreciate each and every one of you and wish you the happiest of holidays!
November 17, 2018
Teens: Believe me, I get it. Sometimes it seems like school is a waste of a day (or a few hours if you’re homeschooled). I’m almost 50 years old and still have never needed to use calculus or had to know the date that Ben Franklin’s mom’s third cousin twice-removed got married (though that “useless knowledge” is awesome for trivia games).
Looking back, it seems like when the holidays came around, we all started to get antsy. Maybe it was looking forward to the upcoming vacation from the drudgery of school or just that we had been going pretty much every day since August, but November and December seemed like the months where my enthusiasm for school tanked.
But the important things about school are not as obvious as a certain subject or teacher or assignment. It’s showing that you can finish something (whether it be grade school, an assignment or college), and that you did it with a little pride. It’s about perseverance and learning how to deal with other people. It’s about finding some kind of path for your life.
Psychologist Jean Piaget broke the adolescent years into stages…and some of it actually makes sense.
“Adolescence, these years from puberty to adulthood, may be roughly divided into three stages: early adolescence, generally ages eleven to fourteen; middle adolescence, ages fifteen to seventeen; and late adolescence, ages eighteen to twenty-one. In addition to physiological growth, seven key intellectual, psychological and social developmental tasks are squeezed into these years. The fundamental purpose of these tasks is to form one’s own identity and to prepare for adulthood.” [Source: HealthyChildren.org]
Adults: Who didn’t try different “looks” or personality traits as a teen? Hopefully you didn’t dye your hair black (before there were ways to re-color) and walk around with half-black and half-brown hair in high school like I did or steal a golf cart for 30 minutes just because you could. But I’m sure there was something you’re not entirely proud of that showed you that the behavior wasn’t you. And hopefully you found some stuff that was you. That was your job at the time. And all the while you thought school was dumb.
Going to school is the job of the typical adolescent. Sure, you may be super-intelligent or be able to recite Pi to the 2,000th number, but school is still your job (along with all the social BS, etc.). And just you wait…when you grow up (as so many of us were in such a hurry to do), you’re most likely going to have to go to some kind of job every day. If you’re blessed, you’ll enjoy your job and it won’t feel like “work” per se.
But in the meantime, just do your current job, even if you don’t completely understand why you have to do it. It will all become clear some day, and if it doesn’t, please don’t forget to drop me a line and tell me I’m full of crap.
You’ll get through these years. The extreme emotions will die down. Look to the people who love you for help, whether it be with an assignment, a feeling or anything else that’s troubling you. I know you think adults are stupid, but most of us have been where you are and can at least listen and empathize.
On that note, enjoy your Thanksgiving break (if you’re a ‘Murrican) and always remember that there’s more to the story than you think. And PLEASE think a lot and think often.
For further reading on doing well even when you consider your job useless, as well as other tips, tricks, scholarship opportunities and raw dialogue, click HERE.
August 3, 2018
7 Pounds, starring Will Smith, is by no means a new movie, as it was released in 2008. Co-stars include Woody Harrelson, Rosario Dawson and Michael Ealy (known for his dark skin and blue eyes).
I think what drew me to re-watch this movie was my wavering thoughts and feelings about human “goodness.” I used to believe that people were innately good, but this last decade or so had me wondering if my belief still stood true in my own heart.
We hear and read about so many bad, tragic or senseless things these days. Even I, who has not voluntarily watched a news program in over 20 years, am not immune. These stories and events push through somehow: Maybe a friend says something or sends a text. Maybe there’s something on my Facebook timeline that I just “had” to click on. Maybe I overhear a conversation by the water cooler. The point is that it is almost impossible not to be privy to some news on a day-to-day basis.
When I say that I’m watching, “7 Pounds,” people tell me that it tore them up or they just couldn’t bring themselves to watch it. There are a few reasons why I think it’s worthy to watch or re-watch:
- It addresses how tough we can be on ourselves: I don’t know how I would react if my spouse, child, friend or whomever died in a vehicular accident with me at the wheel. I suspect I’d have to at least do a stint in a psychiatric facility or see a therapist every day for a while; however, accidents DO happen. And I know that Smith’s character (Ben/Tim) never purposefully harmed his spouse. Yet, he persecuted and punished himself to the max. His final “plan” was noble, but, in my humble opinion, unnecessary. I believe that the human spirit can overcome almost anything, especially if he/she has a source of faith.
- It illustrates kindness to others: Yes, Tim is on the super-extreme end of the spectrum of things that can go awry in one’s life, but he was able to turn his pain and guilt into something beautiful for seven other people. I’d never advocate for suicide, but Tim had his mind made up; yet he chose to leave so much beauty behind in the form of his bone marrow, corneas, his heart and other vital organs. He even “vetted” the recipients of his gifts for himself, supposedly to make sure he was donating to “good” people. Of course, whether folks are bad, neutral or good is subjective, but I understood what the movie was trying to convey. And whether we want to accept it or not, suicide IS one option for people in distress. We might not like it or want it, but, like so much else, what others do is not under our control.
- It demonstrates how a tragedy can be transformed: Don’t get me wrong…being the driver in a fatality accident is tragic, and always will be, no matter the circumstances. And even though I am not, and would not ever be, an advocate for Tim (or anyone) to kill himself, he does make seven other people’s lives better by taking his own life. The movie makes it clear that he puts an enormous amount of thought into how he would die to make sure that his donations were best preserved, and who he wanted to help. With the assistance of a lawyer and a brother who tried their best to understand and respect his wishes, Tim was almost an “angel on Earth” for most of the people he donated his organs to.
- LOVE: Just love. Even though Tim fell in love with Rosario Dawson’s Emily, he still felt that it was more important to “fulfill his mission” than to blow it off to be with her. With so many people acting selfishly and seemingly only caring about themselves these days, it was refreshing to see Tim put other people first, even though he probably could have had a relationship with Emily. I personally think he punished himself needlessly, but the way he did it was full of love…perhaps it was his way of paying the love that he and his deceased spouse had for one another forward to help others.
THE BOTTOM LINE: I can honestly give this film 4 out of 5 stars. I’m sure many readers will wonder how crazy I am to do that, but I believe that if you watch this movie in the spirit with which it was made, you’ll laugh, cry, scream and jump for joy. And isn’t that what movies are supposed to do for us? They strive to make us feel. And “7 Pounds” absolutely fits the bill. Just have some tissues handy!
★★★★ out of 5
May 24, 2018
Last night (May 23), the first Grapevine Citizens Police Academy (CPA) Class held in the new Public Safety Building graduated at The REC. Class 36 was made up of 30+ members of the community. Over 14 weeks, the class covered topics such as SWAT, Criminal Investigations (CID), K-9 Division and Community Services.
The event began with some words from Sgt. Jason Keller, who oversees the CPA. After some fun with door prizes, Lt. Larry Hallmark gave the benediction, and students, spouses and Officers enjoyed a BBQ dinner by A.J.’s on Main. Volunteers from the Alumni Association and Volunteers in Police Service (ViPS) served the food, along with a few of the Officers, who honored the “Serve” portion of “Protect and Serve.”
The keynote speaker was new Chief Michael Hamlin, who emphasized that the key to a safe community is the relationships between the public and the police. When citizens see something and say something, it defends our beautiful community against the other side of the thin blue line.
Graduates received a certificate of completion, and some special “silly” awards were given out as well. Graduates are now eligible to join the volunteer organizations: Grapevine Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association (GCPAAA) and Volunteers in Police Service (ViPS) if they so choose.
The CPA is held twice a year in the spring and fall. For more information, visit https://www.grapevinetexas.gov/487/Citizens-Police-Academy or contact Sgt. Jason Keller at 817-410-3206.
May 8, 2018
It’s Week 13 of the Grapevine Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy. The topic was Community Relations, and five speakers informed students about this division.
Sergeant Jason Keller emphasized “Unity in the Community” as being one of their best tools for keeping the crime rate down in Grapevine. When citizens and police work together, it makes our community a safer place.
Senior Officers Caldwell, Cabrera and Huski spoke about their roles as School Resource Officers (SRO). Each Officer is assigned to a local school, and some officers “check in” on other schools in the district. Not only do they build relationships with students and identify at-risk kids, but they are there in case of trouble or violence from students, parents or even a stranger with a gun.
Haydee Hall, LMSW spoke about the Community Outreach Center on Mustang Drive. They provide 1st – 5th graders a safe place to go in case parents are working or otherwise engaged after school. This helps keep them off the streets, provides homework help and also a snack and a hot meal. They also provide some classes for adults and a summer camp.
Officer O’Neal entertained students with his often humorous description of his position as Property Liaison. His task is to get to know troubled families and help them when things go sideways.
The Citizens Police Academy is held twice a year at the Public Safety Building. It consists of 14 weeks of information and training. Graduates may go on to volunteer with the Police Department in several capacities. For more information, click HEREor call Sgt. Jason Keller at 817.410.3206.
October 29, 2017
Hello all you folks out there on the Interweb,
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Stacey and I moved to the Grapevine area in June 2017. I lived in Pearland, TX (just south of Houston) for the last 20 years of my life, so moving to the Metroplex involved a little culture shock, to my surprise. I mean, I’m still in Texas, right?
But the humidity is lower, causing me to stock my cabinets with lotion, the allergens are different, and I spent the first six weeks or so on antibiotics for sinus problems. I’ve never heard of some of the restaurants, and some food chains are no longer in existence in Houston, though I recognize some from my childhood (Taco Bueno and 7-11 being two examples). HEB was a grocery store, not an abbreviation for three different cities. Tom Thumb is Randall’s down south. And to get to the nearest adjoining city, I had to drive 20 – 30 minutes in Houston, whereas here I can be in a different town in about two minutes.
I got to know so many wonderful people in Pearland, mostly because of my job at The Pearland Journal. I even find municipal activities interesting (yes, I pay attention in City Council meetings!). I’m looking forward to getting to know the people in my new community and look forward to volunteering where I can. I was an active volunteer with the Pearland Police Department, and am attending Grapevine PD‘s Citizen Police Academy, so maybe I can be of service to the agency here.
Anyway, my point is that, despite of all of these changes, I have been pleasantly surprised with this community. Everywhere I go, people are friendly and customer service is actually a thing. Some folks have gone out of their way to help me, the newcomer, navigate my new world.
I hope that The Grapevine Source will come to be as helpful to my community as The Pearland Source was in my old stomping grounds. If any of you have a suggestion for a new section of The Source, have press releases or event announcements or would like The Source to cover your event, please let us know. It is our desire to be of service to our community!
As The Source grows, we will be offering ad space. If you’re interested in advertising your business here, please inquire! Rates are VERY low right now as we introduce ourselves and get acclimated.
Stacey Doud, M.A.
Want to learn more? Visit my LinkedIn page!
July 8, 2016
This has gone too far. There may have been unjustified shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota. We don’t even know the facts yet. Now snipers assault the DALLAS, TEXAS Police Department during a peaceful-until-then protest. What does Dallas have to do with Louisiana or Minnesota?
This has got to stop. Killing because of killing doesn’t make sense, even though humans have done it since the beginning of time. I understand anger and even rage. If it had been my relative or friend killed by a cop in LA or MN, I’d be PISSED. But standing here in Pearland, Texas, I am scratching my head. Why this violence in a place that has nothing to do with anything?
I place a lot of blame on the media, especially television. All of the major networks are owned by folks that have ties to one place: our government. Just flip through the channels and you will hear very similar, if not verbatim, statements read by the newsperson. That’s because those remarks are passed down to them by the same source. And it doesn’t matter if those statements are true or just speculation…or just plain false. Much of society trusts outlets like CNN, FOX, ABC and NBC. What they say becomes fact in many minds.
Then, social contagion takes over. I’m mad, so you’re mad, then everyone is mad. It spreads like a nasty virus over social media and around the water cooler.
A war has been going on since Michael Brown died in Ferguson, MO on August 9, 2014. Perhaps it had been a cold war until then.
As a law enforcement supporter, I would never say that there are no “bad” cops. There are. And they are everywhere. But let the Grand Jury decide if a shooting was justified or not. Suck it up and look at both sides. I hate it when I research a shooting and come to the conclusion that the police officer was in the wrong, but I have no problem admitting that. I am not a blind cheerleader of police.
The main reason I am a supporter is because I know intimately how tough their jobs are. And I also know I could never do it. It’s not because they’re cute in their uniforms or I’m trying to bed someone. It’s because I respect the profession. I DON’T respect those that abuse it. But does this abuse warrant more death?
My thoughts and prayers are with Dallas PD and Transit Police. It is my hope that the officers in LA and MN get what’s coming to them based on facts, not speculation or mass hysteria, whether it be an indictment or not. Every life matters, but the way we, as a nation, are acting, it seems like the opposite.
August 2, 2015
Shots rang out down the hallways of Rogers Middle School, but I couldn’t look up to see where they were coming from: I was dead.
As a volunteer with the Pearland Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association(PCPAAA), I had the unique opportunity to participate in Active Threat Integrated Response Course (ATIRC) training, which brings together first responders to learn to quickly enter into harm’s way to neutralize a shooter and get the wounded out to higher levels of care during Active Shooter Events (ASE).
ASEs are situations like Columbine and the recent movie theater shootings in Lafayette, LA in which one or more people armed with weapons threaten and/or kill innocent victims, usually in highly populated areas.
The training was provided to members of the Pearland Police and Fire/EMS Departments at no cost to the City by The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center at Texas State University (ALERRT), which is 100% grant funded.
After some instruction and three “pat downs” to make sure we had no weapons at 8am, we were instructed to go to a room where ALERRT instructors waited to give us realistic-looking wounds and to give us direction as to our acting.
Some of us lost legs, some were disembowled, several had head wounds (including me, which is what “killed” me) and one lost the bottom part of his jaw. The lucky ones were just grazed or unharmed altogether.
Volunteers performed in four scenarios, each lasting between 45 – 90 minutes. ALERRT instructors would stage each scenario while officers and EMS/fire personnel waited off-site. After everything was set, an instructor would broadcast a “shots fired” alert across the radio channel they were using. Patrol cars, ambulances and fire trucks arrived at the scene and the intense coordination inside began.
“Integration between Fire and Police Departments in a critical incident is essential for a successful outcome,” said Pearland Police Lt. Kevin Nichols, who is also an adjunct instructor for ALERRT. “This type of innovative training will help prepare the first responders of this city to overcome the challenges that such integration presents. It was also a great opportunity to build rapport and camaraderie between the two agencies.”
Indeed, it was all about teamwork. All “police vs. fire” jokes were set aside as the participants concentrated on the task at hand. ALERRT instructors went above and beyond to make everything as realistic as possible. Volunteers screamed in terror, moaned in pain and laid motionless, no matter what happened, if they were “dead.”
As I mentioned before, I got “shot in the head,” so I had to lay, eyes transfixed and breathing as shallowly as possible, on the floor of a classroom with my head resting on a resin blood pool, for about 35 minutes. Because I was a casualty and nothing could be done for me, I was one of the last volunteers removed from the scene. EMS came by to check my pulse to make sure I was indeed expired. Eventually Officer Oscar Pena bent over me, flung me over his shoulder and deposited me (albeit gently) into a room where the victims were being treated according to the seriousness of their injuries. (Sorry for the back ache, Officer Pena!)
Some volunteers were put in “the box” (ambulance) and taken away. Some had to have emergency tracheotomies (on a prop throat…no worries!). Some had the task of wailing for an expired “loved one.”
Because of the seriousness of these exercises, there was a lot of “barking” going on from police and EMS. Following their directions was paramount to getting everyone treated and extracted in the fastest time possible.
During the next scenario, I sat out as a volunteer and put my photographer hat on.
I stood to the side, out of the way, as I heard the shots fired in a different hallway (blanks were used). The sound reverberated around the building, and the school setting made it quite alarming, even though I knew there was no real danger.
Within minutes, squad cars arrived at the school, some driving across the grass to get into position. Tactical teams surrounded the school with pre-planned precision. Ambulances and fire trucks came soon after, deviating from the “usual” hang-back-and-see-if-they-need-us stance. Fire and EMS personnel were quick to be briefed and followed the officers’ leads.
Some officers had to render “battlefield medicine” aid on the scene to victims who would not survive if they waited. Some EMS personnel had to think outside the box and render advanced first aid until the victim was able to be extracted.
In one scenario, an officer was shot in the leg. He applied a tourniquet to himself and got up to continue helping his fellow first responders. This was actually the first time that ALERRT had ever used an “officer down” in any scenario. The instructors said that the police officers did, “Exactly what they were
supposed to do. If your buddy is shot and there’s still killing going on, you have to leave him.”
The “bad guys” were either arrested or killed in each scenario fairly quickly, freeing up personnel to tend to the victims.
“It’s wonderful to see the Pearland Emergency Responder Communities all come together to train,” said Terry Nichols, a retired San Marcos police officer, one of the founders of ALERRT and their Curriculum Director. “It speaks volumes about what they’re trying to achieve organizationally as a City to prepare for one of these catastrophic events.”
In the end, while we all hope that Pearland never has to deal with an ASE, I know that I, as a citizen, feel much more optimistic about a good outcome if it should ever happen.
For more information about ALERRT, visit http://www.alerrt.org.
To view the slideshow, click HERE.
To read more of Stacey’s articles, click HERE.