Links of the week 12/4/13

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The Worcester 6. (Photo courtesy of http://www.fallen-heroes.org/)

The Worcester 6. (Photo courtesy of http://www.fallen-heroes.org/)

1. This is the story of the 1999 Worcester Cold Storage Fire that claimed the lives of six Worcester-area firefighters including Paul Brotherton, Jeremiah Lucey, Thomas Spencer, Timothy Jackson, James Lyons and Joseph McGuirk. Esquire magazine published this moving piece telling the tale.

Here is an excerpt from the story, written by Sean Flynn:

It’s not so much a bell, really, as an electronic horn, short and shrill. When it goes off, firefighters freeze and listen for the sound that comes next. Usually, only words follow. “Engine 1,” the dispatcher might say–or “Engine 8” or “Ladder 5,” but only one truck–before reciting an address and a task. One tone signals a medical run or some minor emergency, like going out to stabilize a car-crash victim or a coronary case until an ambulance arrives, breaking a toddler out of a locked-up Taurus, or squirting water on a flaming car. Milk runs.

Sometimes, maybe every fifth time, a second tone will follow the first. Two tones is more serious, perhaps a fire alarm ringing somewhere, probably triggered by nothing more than a stray wisp of cigarette smoke or a burp of electrical current jiggling a circuit. Dispatch sends two engines and one ladder truck for those, picking whichever units are available and close.

Even rarer is three tones. Three tones means a reported structure fire, a house or a condo or a strip mall already blowing smoke into the sky. Three tones means blazing orange heat, black smoke, and poison gas; sirens and lights and steam and great torrents of water; men ripping into walls with axes and long metal spears, smashing windows and cutting shingles from roofs, teetering on ladders a hundred feet long. It doesn’t always turn out that way, but three tones, at least, offers the chance of action. Firefighters love a triple.

Thirteen minutes after six o’clock, McNamee’s Expedition–or Car 3, as it is officially known–was on Clark Street, in the northern reaches of the city, Zinkus steering it toward the Greendale Station, when the first tone sounded. McNamee cocked his head toward the radio. A second tone, then a third. “Striking box 1438, Franklin and Arctic, for a fire at 266 Franklin,” the dispatcher deadpanned. “Engine 1, Engine 6, Engine 12, Engine 13, Ladder 1, Ladder 5, Rescue 1, Car 3.”

McNamee and Zinkus stared at each other, brows arched, eyes wide. “That’s a bad building,” McNamee said. He let out a breath, said it again. “Bad building.”

Funds are currently being raised to build a memorial park in Worcester. To donate to the fund, click here.

Santa whizzes by the Empire State Building in New York City in 2012.

Santa whizzes by the Empire State Building in New York City in 2012.

2. Christmas is right around the corner, and if you have little ones, you need to check out NORAD Tracks Santa. It’s a cute site filled with games and activities for kids (and kids at heart). Starting Christmas Eve, you can track the big guy as he makes his annual trip around the world, delivering presents for the good girls and boys.

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 11.07.45 PM3. Heather Homefaker is, without a doubt, my favorite blog on the interweb. It is written by my friend (and ex-coworker) Heather. You never know what she is going to write about (food, adventures in home-ownership, Patrick Dempsy, fashion, etc.) but it is always funny. It’s the only blog out there I read faithfully every day, and you should too. The idea for my “High Five for Friday” posts I am going to be making weekly was stolen (with permission) from her.

4. The 40 most awkward dogs of 2013 (Buzzfeed). Who doesn’t love a good funny dog picture? Here’s 40 of them. Enjoy.

Kindness is contagious, pass it on.

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This actually happened to me at the beginning of November, but I wanted to share it all with you, hoping to spread the idea of doing random acts of kindness for others. ‘Tis the season after all 🙂

From my Nov. 2 Facebook post:

I just had my faith in humanity restored. It wasn’t my finest moment, but I am going to share it with you all anyway because it proves there are still good people in the world.

On one of my breaks from work today I left to get gas so I didn’t have to get it on the way home.

Earlier in the day I discovered that — due to a series of mathematical errors on my part — my checking account was overdrawn. When I pulled into the gas station intending to fill up using my credit card, I realized I left it at home. My car was running on fumes and there was no way I had enough gas to get home.

I had a bad, stressful day overall, and there I was counting my change on the hood of my car praying I had enough for the roughly two gallons of gas it would take to get me home, tears streaming down my face.

There was a man in front of me pumping his own gas, when he was done he came over to me and asked me where I was trying to get to, I told him home to Sturbridge. He reached into his wallet and handed me a $20 bill, said he hopes my day gets better and to do a stranger a favor when I could, got back in his car and drove off.

Judging by the car he was driving, the $20 probably wasn’t much to him, but it made a world of difference in my day. I’ll definitely be paying it forward.

Revealing a Thanksgiving secret

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If you die after eating pumpkin pie this holiday season, don't come crying to me about it. I warned you.

If you die after eating pumpkin pie this holiday season, don’t come crying to me about it. I warned you.

As tradition goes in my family, every year friends and relatives descend on my house for Turkey Day, and more importantly for most of them, hunting season.

They never come empty handed — most show up on the doorstep with pies of every variety imaginable, at least one of these from each family would be pumpkin.

My grandmother pointed out one year that, for some reason, it never mattered how many pumpkin pies scattered the counter at my house, there never seems to be enough that everyone gets as much as one piece.

Each Thanksgiving morning — no less than an hour before the crack of dawn — the house would be filled with the sounds of several sleepy hunters coming downstairs, filling themselves with coffee, putting on their layers of camouflage and heading up the hill to deer camp. My grandmother could be heard yelled at them for hoarding the pies at our hunting camp, located about a mile up a steep, rocky, winding road meant for four-wheelers, or at least 4-wheel drive trucks.

Most of the hunters seem to look forward to the season the entire year, even if they don’t get a deer. I don’t see the appeal of sitting in the cold, damp woods for hours at a time. As the saying goes, ‘There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot,’ same goes for hunting in my book.

Meanwhile — once the men start their adventure — the women stay at home and begin to cook the annual feast. By noon, the turkey has been in the oven for several hours and the side dishes are waiting to be heated. We take the break in the action to visit, play cards and finish off the better part of a box of wine — nothing but the best for my family.

It was about this time of the day last year I revealed a secret I had been keeping from my family for nearly 10 years — the fate of the missing pumpkin pies.

You see, a great uncle of mine who happened to be quite ill, asked his wife to bring him a slice of pumpkin pie before bed. That pumpkin pie would prove to be the last thing he ever ate.

Some years later, on a night in April, my grandfather requested pumpkin pie to go with dinner, he passed away in his sleep that night.

I realized that connection as a sophomore in high school. After that, I made it my personal Turkey Day mission to rid the house of killer pumpkin pies, keeping my loved ones safe and sound in the process.

Each day leading up to, and including Thanksgiving Day, I would sneak out of the house as quietly as I could when everyone’s backs were turned, grab a pie or two… or three, go outside and dump them on the ground behind the barn.

This went on for four or five years, but I didn’t come clean to my family until nearly a dozen years later.

When I finally worked up the courage to tell them the fate of the missing pies, the looks on the faces of the women in my family were priceless. There was a small part of me that was a bit afraid they would be mad at me for turning hours of their hard work into a gourmet feast for the raccoons, deer, and the occasional bear, but they all just started laughing hysterically, tears running down their faces (and legs).

I’m still waiting for the gratitude, after all, prove to me I haven’t been saving their lives all these years.

We no longer own the family farm and our normal Thanksgiving crew will be spread all over the country for the holiday. My grandma has promised to throw a pie off the back porch to keep the family safe.

I’ve asked a friend to swing by the old farm in New York with a few store-bought pumpkin pies so the animals can have another feast.

After all, it’s tradition.

This post was originally published in Hornell, N.Y. Based Evening Tribune, http://www.eveningtribune.com

You have SUCH a pretty face

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Me in May 2013.

Me in May 2013.

If only I could instantly lose a pound for every time someone has said to me, “You have SUCH a pretty face,” I would be light as a feather — literally.

If you’ve ever said that to an overweight girl/woman, I can GUARANTEE you this is what they heard:

“You have such a pretty face, if only you were thinner.”

You may not have meant it that way, but it doesn’t matter.

All my life I knew I wasn’t ugly, but I could never call myself pretty. That’s what happens when you’ve never been anything but overweight — you let your weight define who you are. I’ve learned to hide behind it, to blame the fat for my problems.

I think there was a part of me that was afraid to lose the weight. When things went wrong in my life, when people didn’t like me, when I got dumped by a guy, it was easy to blame the extra pounds. That was better than the alternative — having to wonder if there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I would get depressed about my weight, which would lead me to eat, which would make me gain weight and get more depressed. It is a vicious, vicious cycle.

I let other people’s opinions of me be too much a part of my self worth.

In the last couple months I have told myself I don’t care what other people think. I Just keep telling myself if someone has a problem with me, it isn’t my problem, it was theirs. At first I didn’t believe it, but as time goes on, I find myself believing in my words more and more. I am hoping that change in my mindset will help me along this journey.

There is just something that feels different about this try at losing weight. I think in the past I have done it for others. This time I am doing it for myself.

Hopefully that will make all the difference.

Hopefully someday someone will tell me I have such a pretty face and I won’t hear the subtext.

This post was originally published on my other blog, http://www.fitwithlynn.wordpress.com

War zone on Boylston Street

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Even though I’m a military brat and have never really lived in one place for very long, I spent half of my high school years and all of my college career in Massachusetts before moving out of state. I consider Massachusetts to be my home.

Part of my job as the editor of a newspaper in Missouri is to write a column. Considering my love of my home state of Massachusetts, I knew this week I had to reflect on Monday’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon.

It took hours.

It was one of the hardest things I have ever written. I must have started, and deleted it, a dozen times. It’s hard to write when you can’t stop the tears from flowing.

I posted the link to the column I wrote, but the link didn’t work well for some people, so I have pasted the text below for those of you who wanted to read it.

A war zone on Boylston Street

Marathon Monday is a day unlike any other in Boston. You can feel the excitement and the electricity in the air.

Patriots Day (or Marathon Monday) isn’t celebrated outside the New England states, but in Boston, the holiday might as well be Fourth of July.

That is the day the history-rich city celebrates the anniversary of the first battles of the Revolutionary War.

It’s the day tens of thousands of people descend on the Town of Hopkinton, lace up their sneakers and run the 26.2 miles to Boylston Street in Boston — the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Adding to the excitement is the annual 11 a.m. home game played by the Red Sox.

When I lived in Massachusetts, my friends and I would head to a Boston bar near the end of the route to watch the Red Sox play their morning game. Toward the end of the game the bar would empty out onto the street, joining hundreds of thousands of others along the marathon route, and we would cheer, scream and chant for the runners as they passed. We didn’t know any of the runners. It didn’t matter.

We were proud of them.

We were proud of the first groups of runners that passed for their ability to finish the race quickly, outrunning their peers, finishing the 26.2 miles in blazing fast time.

I was always more proud of the slower runners, those who came one, two, three, sometimes four hours after the first group of runners passed by. These aren’t the runners that were fast enough to earn the right to run the marathon based on their times. Instead they raised thousands of dollars for various charities to earn the privilege of participating in one of the most prestigious marathons in the world. TWEET

Many of these athletes don’t care how fast they finish the race, they just want to finish. They wear shirts with the names of the charities prominently displayed. Others had their own names on the front of their shirts, allowing us to pick them out of the crowd and cheer for them individually.

It’s a unique experience to be a part of. We stood, cheering, about a mile from the finish line. By that point the runners are drained — their legs are exhausted, bodies screaming for them to stop. We could tell by the looks on their faces and the increased pace of their strides, that our cheers were helping them make their way to the finish line.

I wanted to be in Boston Monday to cheer on three friends who ran for their respective charities. Instead, I tracked them by their bib numbers from my office as they made their way along the race route, getting text messages at the 10K, half-marathon, and 30K marks. Each time my phone went off with an update, I became more and more proud of these three people running toward their goal. But the text messages stopped.

At 2:15 p.m., I learned of an explosion in at the marathon’s finish line. My heart sank.

I instantly looked at my phone to try to pinpoint where my friends were on the route. They had all passed the 30km mark, but none of them had crossed the finish line. Looking at the times, I did the math. At least one of them had to be close — very close — to the finish line when the bombs went off.

My mind was instantly filled with worst-case scenarios as I watched the live coverage unfold at the finish line. I was afraid not only for the runners, but for friends I knew would be out there, cheering them along. How many bombs were there? How many more explosions will there be?

It was heartbreaking to watch the aftermath of a truly cowardly act. The finish line of the Boston Marathon is supposed to be a place of celebration where athletes from across the globe can celebrate their monumental accomplishment. Monday it was a war zone.

Slowly over the course of the next few hours, text messages came and Facebook statuses were updated from Boston friends saying they were OK. Everyone was shaken up, but they were all OK.

The friend I was most worried about because of her proximity to the blasts later updated her status to read:

“I was a 1/4 mile from the finish. The cops acted fast and had us run back under the bridge where there was grass. I am so grateful that I wasn’t a minute faster. It was horrific but Boston is resilient. There were so many acts of generosity and kindness. There was no mass hysteria. We were scared but didn’t know the full magnitude of the situation. People were coming from their homes to give us water and sweatshirts and trash bags, anything to keep us warm. People were passing around their cell phones, though not working well, we could reach out to our families. In this great tragedy I saw such acts of heroism and goodness.”

She’s right. Boston is a resilient city. I am confident Bostonians along with the rest of the country will band together to support the victims of this terrible tragedy.

I am confident the person who did this act of terrorism will be found and brought to justice.

Most of all, I am confident the city will rebound from this. The 2014 marathon will be better and bigger than ever. Crowds won’t be scared off. They will multiply. They will line the marathon route cheering louder than ever before — not only for that year’s runners, for the 2013 runners who never got to finish, and for those who were injured or lost their lives.

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I’d also like to take a minute to share this with everyone.

My mom works in Hopkinton, Mass. Every day, twice a day she drives over the marathon’s starting line. Wednesday while driving through town she saw a memorial was taking place near the starting line.

She is an excellent bagpipe player and never leaves home without her pipes. She pulled over, took out the pipes and led the group in song. The moment was captured by a Boston Globe photographer. It has since made national news. I am very proud of any small part she has had in the healing process of those who are grieving.

Here is the link to the video.

At Marathon starting point, Hopkinton holds a vigil

**Note: This blog was originally published on my other blog: http://www.fitwithlynn.wordpress.com