Firefighters: Keeping You From Making The Headline

The Kansas/Oklahoma wildfire gained national attention as the largest wildfire in history for the area. News stations nationwide have kept the country up-to-date on the acres burned and estimated losses.

By the time this prints, the fires will probably be contained.  The Washington Post will likely not report on any Kansas-related events for months to come.  The wildfires will be all but forgotten by most of the country.

The irony of this, is that the very men containing the fires and saving homes are working to keep this event as un-newsworthy as possible.  They don’t want us to be able to report deaths, loss of cattle, and millions of burned acres.  They are working around the clock to prevent as much damage as they can.  They want these fires to gain as little news coverage as possible.firefighter 3

For this, they deserve front page recognition.
I had the honor of interviewing a community of volunteer firefighters from across the country.  I asked them to enlighten me on the hardest and most rewarding part of their jobs.  These were their answers:

Waking up at 2am to go help someone when you have to be at work at 6.  You leave your family during a birthday party for a structure fire, or respond to a call about a heart attack during Christmas.  Going to a call on Thanksgiving to a family who just lost a loved one.  It’s tough, but I love it.- Aaron

The hardest is going on a call only to find someone you care about.  The rewarding part is everything else; being a part of a great crew, and accomplishing what needs to be done.- Mary Ann

My husband and I are both volunteers.  We have two small kids.  It’s hard getting up in the middle of the night and taking them to our Cheif’s wife so we can respond.  We have missed family gatherings, birthday parties, and many other events, but we do it because we love it and want to help our community.- Adriana

There are many things that are hard, including knowing many people on the calls you attend, and not being able to save them all.  It’s also hard organizing work, family, and calls and training.  But, the benefits are many; satisfaction in serving the community, and pride in the recognition you do get.- Jordie

The hardest part is looking in the eyes of your brother or sister and trying to comfort them as everything they hold dear in life has gone up in smoke, and they pray their family made it out in time.  It’s hard knowing you gave your best, but sometimes it’s not good enough.  The most rewarding thing is the family you have anywhere in the world just by belonging to the thin red line.  And knowing when you see that the life you changed is not only your own, but everyone you have come in contact with.  Children have parents because of you.  Families can return home.  Those are the moments that make this job great.- Cassandra

It’s hard.  They are fighting fires with one hand, while the town and the homes are burning, and with the other hand they’re texting their wives and telling them to get out of town.  Many lose their own home while trying to save others.- Magdalene

The hardest part is leaving your family, and not knowing if you’re coming back.  The rewarding part is knowing that you may be helping someone else see their family again, and they might not have if you hadn’t gone that night.- Robby

The hardest part is not knowing what you’re ever walking into.  The most rewarding is seeing lives you’ve saved or comforted after the call is closed.- Ryan

Hardest part is when the whole crew doesn’t return.  We all go knowing we may not make it back, and it can happen at any time.  The most rewarding part is knowing and feeling the support from anywhere in the world.  The brotherhood is one strong community.- Jeff

Sometimes, there’s nothing we can do to save someone/something, no matter how trained, fast, or ready we are.  The most rewarding is kids’ reactions when they see me driving the trucks.  Pure awe, wonder, and excitement.  So yeah, smiles are the most rewarding.- Brian

You wake up at 1am to save someone’s house before work.  Walk into a medical call and see a child unresponsive, and doing everything you can, but not being able to save them.  Never knowing if this call will be your last.  The most rewarding thing is being able to have a relationship with the community you protect.  They know if they call, someone will always show up.  That is part of what drives a volunteer.  It’s not about money or fame, it’s about people.- Cory

The hard part is lack of understanding or respect from the people you bend over backwards trying to serve and protect.  You leave your kids birthday party to go to a house fire, and they want to know why you weren’t there sooner.  You get to a wreck, and there’s an injured child with two dead parents in the front seat.  But, it only becomes hard if you let it.  You have to retain compassion.- Terry

We are sometimes called adrenaline junkies, but we are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters that live to help others.  When fighting wildfires, we pray for the families, farms, and ranches that are in harm’s way.  It could be our place next time.- Rhonda

I live to serve my community.- Tim

The hardest part is leaving my family. The most rewarding is coming home.- Tyler

The hardest are the ones you can’t save.- Tyler

Being in a small town, the hardest is knowing 99.99% of the calls involve people you grew up with.- Todd

firefighter 1

These men and women risk their lives to help others.  They miss their son’s basketball game, or their daughter’s dance recital to save someone’s home.  They drag themselves out of bed at midnight to make sure other people’s families live to see tomorrow.

They give up a part of their life to keep us out of the news.

For that, on behalf of the community, we would like to say Thank You.

*Published in the Minneapolis Messenger of Minneapolis, KS.

(Online newspaper is not available)

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Hardships Of Ottawa County

My most recent article, published in the Minneapolis Messenger, of Minneapolis, KS.

You have it rough.  Whoever you are, and whatever your life consists of, I’m willing to bet you’ve got a mental marquee of less-than-perfect present situations.   

Be it your children, your spouse, your house, your car, your job, your boss, your bank account, or your second cousin twice-removed, something is stressing you out.  Living in a small town can either add to, or help relieve the pressures of life.  We have the fortunate ability to tap into the local grapevine, and gather first-hand knowledge of our neighbors’ struggles.   

Ottawa County has a history of using that very ability to pull together and strengthen our community.  Our past is rich with stories of families who traveled hundreds of miles, and braved many adversities, to settle in this very section of our country.  Their hardships, and their neighbors’ willingness to help overcome them, is what built communities out of diverse settlers. 

The following stories represent a mere fraction of the misfortune our ancestors faced, and the generosity displayed by others in their time of need.   

October 13th,1868-    This date marks the worst Indian raid in Ottawa County history.  While most settlers and tribes were able to live peacefully together, this specific raid was reportedly premeditated and violent.   

Over the course of several days, multiple Indian parties attacked different homesteads across the county.  A Mr. Smith, and his son, Alex, were breaking ground near their home.  Alex took an arrow to the chest, and his father was left for dead with a slit throat.  Alex was found three days later, after having crawled nearly a half mile to find water.  His father was found the day after the attack in his home, after crawling to release the oxen from their yoke, and finally settling in a corncrib.   

Alex’s brother, after finding his families’ bodies, helped the Hardy family escape across the river and on into Minneapolis.  He returned to his home to find all of his possessions destroyed, but his wife and children safely hidden in the woods.   

The Hardy family continued on into Minneapolis, and stopped by a shop owned by Pl Markley.  He had given the order that anyone seeking refuge from the Indians be given something to eat.  The family receive crushed wheat, and baked it over a fire on the end of a spade.   

Summer 1866-    A certain Mrs. Emily Harrison arrived in Ottawa County, and took up residence with her nephew.  She brought all of her earthly luxuries, which were promptly ruined after their mud roof dissolved under a heavy rain.  She spent the next three days cooking under the shelter of her nephew’s umbrella.   

The following summer, Mrs. Harrison relocated to a cabin on the Saline River.  Shortly after her move, the river flooded, and she spent the night on her roof.  After a futile attempt to cross the river, and her subsequent rescue, she became well-acquainted with her neighbors on the other side, who discovered she was an army nurse.   

Mrs. Harrison returned to her soggy cabin.  She was unsure whether or not she would stay in Kansas after all her troubles.  However, as word of her rescue spread, so did her reputation as an army nurse.     

After learning that there was no doctor in Ottawa County, Mrs. Harrison determined to stay despite her unfortunate events.  She lived out her life attending to various medical needs throughout the  county.   

Winter 1869-    The settlers in Ottawa County had become destitute over the winter.  Several people were on the verge of starvation, and others were dying due to exposure and lack of proper clothing.  Mary Bickerdyke, or “Mother”, served as an army nurse in the Civil War.  Upon an inspection in Solomon Valley, she requisitioned blankets, clothing, meat, flour, peas, and other goods through the army.   

Later that spring, she brought in several loads of seed potatoes, corn, and grain so the people could replant their fields and feed their livestock.     

Although many of her acts of kindness were not recorded, there are plentiful accounts of the great debt of gratitude owed to Mary Bickerdyke by the people of Kansas.       

There are many other accounts of self-sacrifice and generosity in our county’s history.  These simply highlight the character and genuine compassion of those who came before us.  During a time where everyone had a reason to forget their neighbor, and focus on their own troubles, the community decided to come together and help.    

We are blessed with the unique opportunity in a small town to know and understand our neighbors’ circumstances; for better or worse.  It’s easy to judge your neighbor for their predicament; it’s much harder to emulate our predecessors and lend a hand.  The only difference between Ottawa County 1868, and Ottawa County 2016, is that we have flat tires, instead of broken wagon wheels.       

Join Us! How To Feature Your Survivor Blog

Check out my new site, and true passion. It’s an outreach network by survivors, for survivors.

Center For Survivors of Rape, Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Assault

We’re a network outreach site for survivors of rape, domestic violence, assault, and abuse.  If you’ve started a blog for your own healing, or to reach survivors, we want to feature it!

As you’re probably aware, most survivors feel completely alone.  We are building a resource of real people, with real stories, to help women who feel like nobody understands them.

However you’ve found healing, it can help someone else. Whether it’s poetry, comedy, photography, raw honesty, rambling, or whatever other category your blog may fit into, it will resonate with someone, somewhere.

If you would like to have your site featured as a survivor blog, please write a post about your experiences, and make sure to include a pingback.  Include how your writing (or videos, or photography, or whatever) has helped in your recovery.  Let us know what style you would consider your blog to be, and we…

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To The Friend Of A Victim: What Her Silence Is Saying

My silence is screaming at you.

Please stop.

I love you, but you’re still talking. Talking at me. Talking through me. Talking about me.

I know exactly what you’re trying to do. I lived with the devil; I learned to see through the smoke screen. You’re no master.

You look at me, and see a broken woman. A victim. A recluse trapped in her past.

The solution? Social outings. Cheering up. Letting me know you understand.

You don’t.

I refuse to move on. It’s not a solution. It’s an escape.

You want me to take a scalpel to my history. Remove the tumor that you see. I can return to normal; the me that existed before he ruined everything.

That’s how you think this works.

Stop giving credit to him for the woman I’ve become. He wasn’t a cancer. He didn’t ruin me. I’m not a victim. Nor am I a survivor.

I didn’t stop becoming my own person when he entered my life. He didn’t make me a generic statistic.  I’m not a label.

I am hurting. In ways I don’t even know, let alone understand. Don’t tell me you know how I feel. In fact, don’t tell me anything.

I have questions. They won’t make any sense to you.

I have doubts. They will seem ridiculous to you.

I have fears. Fears that would scare you.

I am not broken because he changed me, and changing back won’t fix me.

This. Right here. Right now. This confused, stubborn, quiet woman is who I am. Your cheering up missions won’t change that. It’s not that I quit enjoying life. I just enjoy it differently.

I enjoy solitude. Depth. Honest truths. Beautiful details. Harsh realities.

I have developed a compassion you cannot comprehend. You believe you’re the one in the position to understand. Yet, that’s what proves you don’t.

I still love you. I love that you try. I love that you’re still here. I’m not angry, I’m just tired of being alone in my realization of who I am.

Please listen. Stop talking, and listen. I am waiting for you to be strong. I want you to know it will hurt you. It will be ugly. I have learned a raw honesty, and you will have questions. Questions you never considered to be unknowns.

I will not chase you. I will not force you. I will not manipulate you. Come to me only when you’re ready; when you’re ready to accept that who I’ve become is not the result of damage.

Until then, I will wait.

Silent.

 

 

*What is your silence saying?  Comment below.

Said Every Blogger, Ever

Eye-catching statement that piques your interest; controversial and bold.

Just kidding!  I’m a really friendly blogger.  Plus, I have an awesome personality, and I have a really unique perspective on that statement- you’ll see.

I hope you’re still reading this.

See, I have a horrible day job, and the people I work with are assholes.  This blog is my pipe dream.  I secretly hope that one day, a famous publisher like you will search Google for amazing undiscovered bloggers, and there I’ll be.

You will notice my truly unique talent.  My style will absolutely wow you into contacting me.  After all, my content is engaging and informative.

I will get paid for blogging.  Something I’ve done will go viral, and I’ll be famous.

Book deal.

Yes, I’ll actually commit enough time to finish a book.  People totally want to read about my daily routine.  My life experiences are unique!  (Check thesaurus for “unique”- overused!)  Scratch that… sui generis.  My life is sui generis.

See, I’m intelligent as hell.

Plus, I’m ballsy.  By now, this post is basically forcing you to notice me.  After all, nobody has the skills I have.  I’m a golden goose, man.

You want serious?  I can do that too.

“And there, within the satire, dwelt the truth.  Her heart laid bare beneath an honest facade.  Every self-doubt glazed with humor.  That’s the way it had to be.  Without fear, her style was simply words.”

If that didn’t seal it, I’m not sure what will.  You might as well quit reading.  That last bit took every ounce of creativity I had left.  I’ll need eight cups of coffee just to replace it.

You still there?

You’re a rebel.  Nice.  That means you’re willing to take risks.  We would work well together.  You should sign me.

Or at least follow me.

Tweet me.

Like me.

Something!

Now I sound like I’m begging.  I’m sorry.  I’ll wrap this up.

Amazing, ironic concluding sentence.

Sui generis, man.

Sui generis.

I Raped Myself

He said it, so it must be true.

Everything he said was true.  Nobody else liked me.  Nobody else could love me.  Nobody else saw me as worthy.

“Do what I tell you, or else.”

The or else was a scary thought, so I did what I was told.

He paid for my lunch.  He drove me around.  He did me favors.  So, I owed him.

He never let me forget it, either.  I tried to leave.  I tried to get out of his mandated obligations.  I tried to just disappear, and hope he would forget me.

Sometimes, I thought it was working.  I could walk by him, and he wouldn’t acknowledge me.  He wouldn’t even give me that look of disgust.

Did that make me free?

I wasn’t sure.  Before I had a chance to understand true freedom, he was back.  He apologized his way back into power.  He disguised his dictatorship as democracy.

I bought my own lunch one day.  I realized how little I paid for it when I used money.

I asked for help.  More like, a definition.  I was told that I deserved my situation.  I was told there was no definition.  I was given the “get up and move on” speech.

Did everybody agree that I was worthless?

Or, did my own belief in my worthlessness give others the right to treat me that way?

When he said I owed him, I paid.  The payment felt exactly like or else.

He doesn’t deserve my favors.

I buy my own lunch now.

 

~Post from 2014.  In response to a prompt.

Interview With A Guardian Angel

As I’ve said before, I’ve had a few failed blogs.  However, I decided to bring back a few popular posts, and give them new life.  I hope you enjoy this one; it was a response to a contest for a humorous interview.

 

We all have one.  Unless you’re my dad- then you have five.

Guardian Angels.  Those invisible -almost forgettable- creatures we bless with a lifetime of mini heart attacks.  Oh, the stories they could tell!

Being the lucky, fictional journalist that I am, I happened to run into one at the local Starbucks.  His name was confidential, so he told me to call him Joe.

Joe agreed to a short interview.  I hope you enjoy getting to know him as much as I did.

Me:  Joe, thank you for agreeing to talk to me today!  I have always wanted to learn more about Guardian Angeling.  Is it Angeling?  Or Guarding Angelicaly?

Joe:  Actually, we just call it guarding.

Me:  Got it.  So, tell me about your job.  What’s it like?  How did you get started?

Joe:  Well, we’ve modernized quite a bit.  Back when it was just, you know, Adam, Cain, and the rest of the old crew, all we had to worry about was snakes and rocks.  Now, you’ve got falling buildings, machine guns, drugs, riots, and all sorts of people with no common sense.

Me:  Forgive me, but that just put an image of something like the Matrix in my head.  Like, slow-motion bullets whizzing by.  Is it anything like that?

Joe:  Sort of, just without the sunglasses.

Me:  (I was disappointed about the sunglasses)  So, you have been guarding since the beginning?

Joe:  You could say that.  There isn’t really a beginning or end for us.  We just are.

Me:  My job can feel like that too, some days.  Who’s the hardest person you’ve ever been assigned to?

Joe:  Jonah.  Hands down.

Me:  YOU were with Jonah?!  Why was it so hard?

Joe:  First off, I hate fish.  Also, I’m claustrophobic.  I know the story says he was swallowed by a giant fish, but the stomachs of those things are surprisingly small.

Me:  I guess I never thought about it.

Joe:  Yeah.  So there I am, sitting in a stomach, which by the way is full of half-eaten fish, and I’m trying to make sure this guy doesn’t get digested before we get to Ninevah.

Me:  Sounds like a mini torture chamber.

Joe:  Felt like it.  Anyways, that wasn’t even the worst part.  We’ve been sitting there for days, and then God decides that this thing needs to throw us up!  I thought the stomach was small… try being squeezed out the throat of a fish like the last bit of toothpaste.  And we didn’t have showers back then.

Me:  I’ve suddenly lost the desire to eat my sandwich.  I guess that whole experience could make an angel resent the person they’re guarding.

Joe:  We aren’t perfect.  We get frustrated.  Like with Jonah, I knew he could have avoided all of that by just doing what he was asked to do.

Me:  I can see where that would be frustrating.  You see someone disobeying, and bringing all of this hardship on themselves, and you’re thinking they could have avoided it all by just listening.

Joe:  Exactly.  But, we’re still there when people are stubborn.

Me:  Lucky for me!  So, I know a lot of people wonder why bad things happen.  I mean, don’t guardian angels prevent bad things?  How come sometimes you guys save us, and sometimes you don’t?

Joe:  That’s a tough question to answer.  I guess I could see where you can take it that way.  Remember, we aren’t here just to protect you physically.  And I can’t control you.  There’s also always more to a situation than you realize.  Like, say you fall off your bike and break your leg.  Sounds like a bad day, right?  But what if I told you my job was to keep you from turning left at the last intersection so you wouldn’t get hit by a bus?  You never know what we’re protecting you from.

Me:  So, on my bad hair days, where I’m cursing my curling iron, that could be you making me just late enough to avoid some major accident?

Joe:  It’s possible.

Me:  Interesting.  Now, I don’t know if you can answer my next question, but I have to ask.  What is Heaven like?

Joe:  Hmmmmm.  I can’t really give out details.  Plus, it’s something you really just need to see for yourself.  But it’s like this.  Imagine you really love Legos.  Whenever you get the chance, you buy a new little set, and go home and play with them.  It’s the best feeling in the world.  Then one day, when you’re very old, and have collected tubs and tubs of Legos, you die.  You have to leave them all behind.

So you’re sad, because, you know, you can’t take what you love with you.  But, Heaven is like Legoland.  Only better.  Because not only do you get to be in Legoland for the rest of your life, but you get to live in the house of the guy who invented them.  And nobody will ever make you put them away.

Me:  And I’m assuming Hell would be where Legos go to be stepped on?

Joe:  (Chuckles)  Somewhat.

Me:  Well, if that’s what Heaven is like, I know my grandpa is very happy.  Ok, Joe, I only have one more question for you.  I know you probably have some guarding to get to.

Joe:  Ok, fire away.

Me:  Ok.  So, you get around quite a bit.  You’ve seen pretty much everything.  If there was one thing you could say to humans, what would it be?

Joe:  Hmm…..  That’s a good question.  Let me think for a second.

Me:  Take your time.

Joe:  I guess… I guess it would be this.  I see a lot of people who don’t believe in God.  For whatever reason, they think their lives are much better without Him.  I just want you to know that He’s still watching you.  You still have a chance to go to Legoland.  And don’t put off getting to know Him.  If anyone knows how quickly a life can end, it’s a Guardian Angel.

Me:  Wow.  Thank you, Joe.  That was powerful.

Joe:  Of course.

Me:  I’m going to let you go.  But real quick, who do you think will make the Superbowl this year?

Joe:  It’s not really fair to ask me, since I know who all will be injured this season.  I’m a Cheifs fan myself, so I’m hoping they make it.

Me:  Really…?  Why?

Joe:  To restore people’s faith in miracles.

Me:  Well, that’s a reason, I guess.

And that was it!  By the time I had thrown out my five-dollar coffee cup, and turned around to thank him for his time, he had gone.  I’m sure he had some very interesting work to do, and some very interesting people to guard.

Or, maybe he just wanted to get back to his Legos.

Dear Writers,

Blogs are outdated.

I know!  What idiocy; to begin my first article on my new blog with such a statement.

However, if my proclamation is, indeed, true, nobody shall have the opportunity to point it out.

Now, should it ring false, the following paragraphs will be held irrelevant.

And yet, the writer writes.

What I have learned in previous failed blogs and rejected freelance submissions, is that a successful writer is simply one who writes.  Financial gain is not the defining standard of success.  Many artists were long-dead before their work attracted any monetary attention.

Lose-lose situations is what drives the creativity of a writer.  The starving artist draws passion from a hunger for beauty.  The author gleans inspiration from the drama surrounding loss.

We live in a constant state of conflict.  The threat of losing something -anything- cultivates the desire to build upon the impending emptiness.  It’s what fulfills us.

Failure and rejection simply indicate an imperfect work.  For a writer- trivial.  Fixable.  We write on.

The only true failure a writer faces is to put down the pen.  Lift your fingers from the keys.  Walk away from the stories, and be content with the normalcies of life.