Thank You to My Everyday Heroes (Phoenix in the Fire)

“I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”

-Gandalf

The fires are still burning; the west is still awash in flames and blackened embers. And yet, with this devastation, a phoenix was born, rising from the ashes that fell from our skies. I have found hope and love in a world that has gone dark. I found a common urgency for kindness and community as our fears grew. Yes, the fires still burn, and yet our hope has not been extinguished.

California, Oregon, Washington, Montana; all are ablaze and in desperate need of help. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the acreage lost to the actively burning fires stands at 1,652,402- and this number continues to grow every day. That’s not the total for the year thus far; that is simply the large scale fires that are still burning.

I’m in the Pacific Northwest where we are still fighting the Eagle Creek fire on the Oregon side, which has consumed over 33,000 acres of land in the scenic Gorge area. I have friends who were evacuated from their homes a week ago and don’t know when they will ever be able to return. My dad’s house was threatened by a spot fire that erupted when an ember flew from Eagle Creek and landed on the Washington side of the Columbia River. It landed on the same night my dad stayed awake with a hose protecting his home from the embers that fell where he lived. Archer mountain, 4 miles from my childhood home, was dry as a bone and lit up the sky. It’s still burning. It’s tiny in comparison to Eagle Creek; a mere 209 acres at the last update. But it was in my backyard, and when your neighborhoods are being threatened; it doesn’t matter how small that threat may appear; it’s still a natural entity that has more than enough power to consume and destroy everything you care about.

That first day was terrifying; the fire kept growing, the evacuation alerts kept coming, and the damn wind would not stop blowing. I wasn’t necessarily afraid of the fire itself barging down the door- I was afraid of the live embers that were dancing through the air for miles around and erupting into spot fires where they landed. I was terrified of losing my neighborhood, the place that stored all of my fondest memories of the world when it was far less complicated. I was scared of losing my childhood home; the only place that ever truly made me feel like I belonged in it. But most of all, I was petrified because my dad is stubborn as hell, knows enough about fires to be confident (he’s worked for the fire department for over 30 years), and he didn’t want to leave his home. He lives at the end of a dead-end street out in the middle of nowhere; and if the fire came, it’s projected route would cut off his only exit if he hesitated too long.

There’s something insidious in the simple fact that there are situations where you will have no control. There is something poisonous in the knowledge that for those life-altering moments, you might only have enough power to watch the news reports, to follow the weather and pray. This is something our poor friends in Texas and Florida know well. You might have to go to work and explain to your boss why you can’t really concentrate and why you are checking your phone every five minutes, or why you are jumping at unexpected noises- you will explain that you set up evacuation alerts to let you know if your dad needs to leave his home- to let you know that you need to make him leave. That powerless feeling; it burrows deep into your soul; you can’t eat, you can’t sleep, you can’t think or talk about anything else. You function under the sole motivation to collect more information. Because collecting is the only thing you can do. It’s a cruel twist of fate for us humans who have a deep desire to play the puppet-master of our own lives. So you pray- you pray to anything and everything you have ever believed in. Because what else will you do?

We’ve had good news this week; our first responders are amazing- there are truly no words for the appreciation and love we all feel towards them right now. They have been everything; our sun, our moon, our stars. They remind me why we all wanted to be like them when we were little; they remind me why heroes claim the name that they do. They saved our homes, they saved this little community of ours. They dug in their heels, they gritted their teeth and they fought with every ounce of energy they possessed. They fell asleep where they sat- for only a few hours before getting up and doing it all over again. It’s because of them that my friends still have their homes. It’s because of them that my dad’s home is still here. It was their hard work that allowed a young mother to finally bring her children back home after their evacuation alert was lowered. It’s because of them that I can finally start to breathe a little bit easier. The fire has grown; but they held the line and ensured that it didn’t grow towards our homes. Since the last time I wrote, they’ve managed to reach 15% containment on Archer Mountain. That’s pretty amazing, given the terrain and less than ideal weather. They’ve been stretched so thin that there are fire burning in our state without crews attached to them- because they can’t afford to sacrifice the resources. They’ve been here fighting for us instead.

There was a shift in the wind that was good for my little piece of the Gorge; but bad for my friends across the river. They have just shy of 1,000 firefighters on their side, including several hotshot teams (think navy seals of the firefighting world), over 100 engines and a small fleet of helicopters; they sit at 7% contained, and expect to be fighting this blaze through October at least. They’ve done an amazing job; over 33,000 acres, and only 3 homes lost. I know I say that like it’s nothing, but I can feel the shot through my heart with those words. 3 homes; 3 homes like mine full of memories and beloved items; a symbol for your life, a safe place that you will struggle to find again. Every loss hurts. Because we’re all here enduring this together; every loss is a reminder that all it takes is a change in the wind or an errant ember to drastically alter our fates and the lots of the things we love. We walk a hairs width out here, but we walk it together. And we have the bravest warriors to protect us. I say only 3 because without these brace souls with their spot-streaked faces, we would have lost entire towns. They did that for us.

There is something that arises from the darkness that we endure; there is a quality in all of us that only seems to show in these moments of distress. While there are still some who will take advantage of the darkness, ones who will do horrible things; like stealing the vehicles and gear of our firefighters- these lost souls are rare. Most people come together, remembering what is important at the end of the day. All of our differences and disagreements fall away. None of it matters anymore when you walk into your personal hell, you cling to anyone near you; even if you were shooting daggers at one another the day before. The world has gone on around us; the news reminds me everyday of the battles we are all waging, the ideologies we are fighting for, the hopes that we cling to. But for just a moment; those things don’t matter- they do- but, our different don’t matter. People don’t ask you who you voted for when you are reaching out for help. They don’t wonder what you posted on Facebook an hour ago, unless you were begging for an update on a loved one, or looking for a place to stay the night. My daily interactions now include people asking and volunteering information about themselves, their homes and their families. It’s found in the traditionally cut-throat litigators at work asking for a continuance on their case because opposing counsel has been focused on protecting his family and his home, which are on level 2 evacuation notices (level 2 means ‘get set’ and be ready for level 3- 3 means go now).

I found hope in places I didn’t expect it, from people I didn’t necessarily see as being as selfless as they were. This is probably a flaw of mine that I need to work on. On the first day a girl I knew who wouldn’t be caught dead out of her designer clothes and makeup was driving up and down the evacuation zones helping people get their livestock to safety. Neighbors would show up to help each other with trailers in tow. So many items were donated that they were running out of places to store them. At some sites simple things like coffee turned into gold. Businesses offered free food to emergency responders and those displaced. People you hadn’t talked to in nearly a decade would reach and ask how you were- because they remember where your parents lived when you were friends back in school. Strangers spoke words of comfort and compassion to me; they shared the stories of those impacted and brought an overlooked issue to people’s attention. I will forever be grateful. People cared. People helped. And they still are.

It’s just like what we saw with Harvey; when it mattered, we showed up. We reminded each other what we are truly about. When everything is done, I am sure we will go back to squabbling about politics and debating lifestyle choices and generally causing discontent on social media. But there will still be this experience between us; these common things that we endured together. We will still remember those unexpected heroes who showed up when we were in need, the ones that remembered where we were from and took the time to listen when we were scared. Personally, I will try to remember that most people are made of tougher stuff than I realized. We found a small patch of common ground; it might be burnt, and blackened, but it is still our ground, it is still the path we have walked together.

Tonight I pray for everyone who’s struggling, who’s fighting, who’s scared. Tonight I pray for our first responders and our everyday heroes who just showed up. I pray for the west with our fires, for Texas who has a long road to recovery, and for everyone being impacted by Irma. I pray for India and the flooding they’ve been fighting. We might be facing different foes; but it’s the same battle. No matter how far apart we are, no matter what we each believe; we are all in this together. We are stronger when we stand as one, when we reach out, when we put our differences aside and look at each other as humans. I will never turn away, I’m still watching, and when the moment comes- my hand will be reaching out to help you the way others have helped me. Thank God for these everyday heroes; they are the best we could ever hope to become. I strive everyday to live up to what they do.

My Heart and My Hope are in Texas

Hope doesn’t always come in the form that you would expect; it is not hidden in the tone of a speech or written in the drafting of a bill. It’s not going to come swooping out of the sky wearing a cape and decreeing justice for all. True hope comes from simple gestures and an innate sense of compassion. It comes in moments of desperation and defeat, it comes without warning, without prompting, and without demands. It comes from us and the choices that we make. It comes in the way we see one another, the value we place on the lives of people we will never truly know. It comes in a moment of need, it comes with arms wide open and heart full.

It is no secret that we have divided, that the chasms we have created go far too deep for simple sutures to heal. It is no secret that the issues we have rumbling to the surface are ones that will take years to address with any degree of accomplishment. And yet this week it didn’t matter. This week brought the sad reminder of what gives me hope in our country. It is in the simple fact that we have spent months grinding our heels into the dirt staring at one another defiantly; and yet people are still quick to jump up out of their fight stance and help when the need arises.

This week my heart is with Texas. It is with the friends I know and the strangers I do not. It is with the pain and the devastation, and the hope that we will not relive Katrina all over again. I’ll admit that it scares me; the fact that I haven’t heard from some of my friends makes me nervous. Watching the devastation on the news breaks my heart and leaves me at a loss. Mother Nature doesn’t care about your political stance or the color of your skin. She doesn’t care about your gender, your age, or your economic stability. She strikes where she pleases and she reminds us mere mortals of what we truly are.

And yet, out of this devastation, something has risen; something profoundly beautiful in its simplicity. People are helping each other again. They aren’t fighting, they don’t care what you look like or what you believe; they are showing up and giving everything they have to give. They are giving hope.

Today I was able to watch a truck driver be rescued as the reporter tried not to cry. I watched boats manned by both professionals and laymen float through neighborhoods in search of anyone who needed help, anyone who needed out. People with the needed equipment drove hours to show up and assist those they have never met. I’ve heard stories of people who have opened their homes to those who were displaced. Some souls have taken to social media to let loved ones know that their friend or family member is safe. A man who owns a furniture and mattress store opened his doors to anyone in need of shelter, ushering people in saying he had plenty of beds and chairs. He even offered up all of the food they had available at the restaurant his business had inside. People are giving selflessly because there is need. Calls for help are being sounded, and brave souls are going out of their way to respond. News reporters who don’t generally wind up on the side being reported came forward and helped those in need while on the scene; they rescued elderly people trapped in their homes, they directed rescue crews to those they encountered who were trapped, they reminded us of what is important.

It wasn’t about the story or the ratings; it was about that moment of pure humanity and compassion. This right here- this is what we are about; this is the empathy we forget sometimes. This is the hope that will get us through.

When someone is in need, it doesn’t matter who they are or where they come from; their cry should be answered. And right now- people are responding with loud, resonating voices. They are stepping forward, they are doing everything they can with what they have. With the deepest of wounds comes a reminder for hope. Don’t forget the good, no matter how much the bad begs to be seen. Watch these unexpected heroes who simply showed up when they were needed. They are what this country is all about. They are the ones we need to emulate.

My heart is with Texas tonight; all of ours are. Tonight my wishes are simple; I hope that these people find safety, compassion, and help. I hope that we never stop answering that call. I hope we remember the wounds of our past and use them to improve our present. I hope we can remember what a brighter world looks like and how deeply important it is for each and every one of us to look out for each other. Our differences don’t matter right now. Helping one another; that is the key. I hope we never forget.

If you wish to assist, contact The Red Cross at 1-800 RED CROSS, or visit their website at redcross.org. You can also text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation. There are other organizations also accepting donations to the relief effort, but please do your research prior to donating to ensure that your time/items/money will be used appropriately.

Beautiful Souls Create Beautiful Worlds

She was 32 years old, her favorite color was purple. She was a waitress and a paralegal. She lived in an apartment with her chihuahua, Violet. She loved people and wanted the best for everyone she encountered. She felt the world so deeply that any story of hate or oppression could bring her to tears. She stood up for the things that she believed in. And because of this, she was killed- one week ago today the world lost a beautiful soul to the hands of hate. Her name was Heather Heyer; she was murdered when a car intentionally plunged into a crowd of counter-protestors who were ensuring that their own voices would drown out the hate spewing from the white supremacists who had charged into Charlottesville.

I didn’t know her, but I’ve known countless like her. Her death strikes a deep chord with me because she could have easily been one of my friends, my family, myself. She was one of us; she had a compassionate soul which left her no choice but to feel the beauty and pain so evident in this world right down to the core of her being. She was one of us; she never hesitated to stand up for those who couldn’t, give help and strength to those in need. She was vibrant and beautiful, inside and out. She followed her heart, even when it led to her death; she was one of us.

She was only a few years older than me. She worked in the same field as I do; and anyone in legal will tell you that it takes a very special type of person with a very odd sense of humor to handle what you see. She got the job because of who she was, because of how hard she worked- she got the job with a high school diploma and elbow grease, as the saying goes; just like I did. She wanted to help people, she went to rallies and protests and gave a voice to the things that mattered to her; it could have been me standing there, it could have been my sister, my mom, my friends. We have all marched in those lines, we have held our signs and chanted those words. We have all looked at this world of our and tried to make it better. She was one of us.

Some days I feel like I’m lost in Oz, in a land full of tin men who have lost their hearts and scarecrows who don’t know how to think for themselves. The only problem is that they don’t realize it. I remember when relatives and friends were posting sentiments to social media about ramming cars into crowds of protestors because “if they are in the street stopping traffic, they deserve it.” I remember being shocked (and from a girl who has spent ten years in the court system, very little still has the power to shock me). I remember trying to have conversations with them about it- every time they deflected with jokes that they thought were so damn funny- until now when they’re not. Jokes and laughter can be an outlet, but they can also normalize behavior and give people ideas that they are better off not having. My heart broke back then, and it’s breaking now because of the silence exhibited by these same people. They were so quick to laugh and makes jokes at the idea, and yet now that it is once again a poignant reality- they view the subject as too serious and taboo to touch. So they are silent.

The other day a woman who I have known and respected for years made a snide comment about the death of this beautiful woman. “You can’t get killed in a protest if you are at work.” I am still in shock at the callous response from someone who claims to be a good, religious woman, someone who is an involved member of her community, someone who used to bring bright smiles to my day when I was running short of my own. How do you respond to that kind of hatred? How do you react when someone shrugs their shoulders and points the finger at the victim? What happened to our hearts? If it had been me- someone she has known for years, I wonder if her reaction would have been different. I wonder if she would have been sad, or lit a candle in my memory. I wonder if she would have decried the hate that took the life of someone she had known for a decade. Or would she have shrugged her shoulders, thinking I was partially to blame for simply being there. Would her response have been different? And if it had- why? Why would one life matter more than another?

People keep telling me that you can’t look at Charlottesville as if it is a microcosm; you must view the whole picture, and the whole picture isn’t full of that much hate. They tell me that there are more good people in the world than bad, and that these people- the ones who marched through a town carrying torches and screaming Nazi slogan- they are rare, and as such should not be given the attention that we have shown. While I agree with this to a degree- I am still too cautious to nod my head and look the other way.

You see, there were lessons to be learned from Charlottesville, and yet a lot of them were ones that did not present themselves until days later. I agree that most people will denounce the type of open racism we saw last week. And yet in the days that followed I still saw a lot of shoulder shrugging, a lot of jokes, a lot of excuses and red herrings, a lot of people who turned away and found something else to distract them. In the days that followed I saw our bigger problem; and it is in the subtle actions that decry our lack of compassion, our biases that reside just below the surface, our heartless responses to moments of pain and fear. It is etched into the complete lack of empathy for anyone who is even remotely different from those we view as being a part of ‘our tribe,’ whether we chose religion, race, sex, philosophical viewpoints, etc- as the markers for that tribe. We have lost our sympathy and our compassion for anyone outside of our bubble. The river does not need to become a tidal wave to cause damage; it is usually the calmly flowing stream that can erode the banks and change the flow of the river entirely. Our problem is not solely with the blatant hate and prejudice that we saw last week; it is the more subtle daily interactions we have with one another. It is the way people respond to someone different, in the way they so easily dismiss another’s concerns. It is in the fact that members of my own family thought it was funny to joke about how satisfying it would be to ram their car into a crowd of protestors knowing that I have been in those crowds. It is in the fact that I can bring this to their attention- and they will dismiss my words and my concern. They will refuse to have a simple conversation; they will dismiss me and say they were only joking. It is a cold world that will find this funny.

There’s this interesting concept in the world today where people seem to think that they can dictate how others should interpret the world around them. You don’t get to tell someone that what they experienced wasn’t racism. It’s not your job to roll your eyes and tell her she was mistaken- that wasn’t sexism. You don’t get to tell people what lenses they need to view their life through. Your job is to ask a question, to open a dialog and figure out why they feel that way. Perhaps both parties will learn something new about the other. You see, our backgrounds, our appearances, our modes of speech and residence will create the life experiences that shape the lenses we view the world through. It’s easier to be blind to racism or sexism- or any other ‘ism’- if you do not have to experience it yourself. It was easy for people to tell me that sexism wasn’t a problem- and yet I remember when my friend’s boss openly told her that they almost didn’t hire her because she was a woman. People rolled their eyes and said that age discrimination wasn’t a thing- but I still remember the day that a customer refused to let me help him because I ‘looked too young to know what I was doing.’ So instead he waited for the older woman next to me to be available- ironically, she was the woman I was training at the time. It was easy for people to tell me that racism wasn’t a problem; and yet they never stopped to listen when I repeated the stories from my biracial cousin. We share the same blood, we were raised the same way- and yet the world treats us in very different ways. The last time a cop stopped me it was to ask if I was okay and if I needed anything. And yet when he would get stopped, he would be questioned and treated with suspicion- every time. Just because you do not see something through the same lens as another person does not give you a right to discount their experiences. That is not a decision for you to make.

Tonight I am angry, I am sad, and I am at a loss for what to do. There has been so much hate; some more blatant than others, but the subtle kind has been just as dangerous. The problem with our problems is that people want to remain blind. Admitting that there is an issue means admitting that we all have a part to play in it. I’m exhausted with the perpetual hate. I am so damn tired of everyone pointing the finger in a hundred different directions instead of where it belongs. We did this, and we have to fix this. We have to look within ourselves and confront our own monsters and biases. We have to own our experiences and accept that there are a million different viewpoints out there; each one as credible as your own. We have to stop dismissing one another and turning our backs to the problems that we believe don’t directly effect us. We have to find our hearts again, we have to have compassion and empathy. We have to start wearing each other’s shoes and walking for miles through their complex and beautiful lives. We have to stand up and speak out when something is wrong. We have to be patient enough to have meaningful conversations, and above all we have to learn how to listen. We have to share our stories so that people can begin to see the world through another lens. We all have something valuable to add to this conversation, we all have a responsibility to one another to speaks our truths.

Tonight I ask two simple things; if there is nothing else you ever take away from me or these words I’ve tossed out into the world, I pray you take these to heart. First: remember those brave souls like Heather Heyer- those courageous lions who got up every single day with their hearts on their sleeves. Remember the people who felt compelled by their own compassion to go out into the world and attempt to make it better than it was yesterday. Remember them tonight- these real flesh and blood people who deserved more than what they got.

And the next thing I ask: emulate them. Just because the world can hurt you, just because the pain can be so overwhelming- please, don’t ever stop feeling. Don’t ever turn your head away- witness this. Both the beautiful and the painful deserve to be seen and remembered. See this world for what it is and also for all of the potential that it holds. Be kind, be compassionate, tell stories and listen, please for the love of all that is good- listen to the words of others. Don’t dismiss them, talk to them. Be kind. Be human. It is a blessing and a curse to feel the world so deeply- never stop feeling it. That is the only thing that will change all of this. We owe it to ourselves and to one another to throw some kindness back into the world, to shine a light into all of its dark places. Be a lightning rod for change, use your own kind words and gentle actions to force others to see you and what you are doing. Remind people that there is hope and good still exists. Don’t ever let them forget.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Beautiful Festivus and general warm fuzzies to you all

My dearest friends, whatever you may be celebrating today, I sincerely hope it is a day of loving family, closest friends, cuddly critters and happy hearts. My wish for you on this lovely December day is one of simple joy and appreciation for the things that are truly important. I hope it is all that you had dreamed, and I sincerely wish that today is a reminder to us all that we are what truly matters. Reach out to someone you may not always see eye to eye with, go for a walk with a relative you normally don’t spend time with, attempt to come closer and understand one another a little better today. Enjoy your evening, I will not keep you long. 

And if nothing else goes right today, please know that this someone right here is thinking of you all and is very thankful for your presence and support in my life, though we have never met. You are making a difference to someone, you matter, and you deserve to have an amazing day today. With lots of love from myself (and the fur babies that assist me here at Tipsy), I raise my glass in a salute to you all, and I will eat another cookie in your honor (okay, maybe two- you deserve two).

My Christmas Miracle (a lesson for us all)

Last Christmas Eve started out like any other: I got off work at 5:00 (government employees don’t generally get the luxury of leaving early on holidays, contrary to popular belief) and rushed home to change before my fiancé and I drove up the winding roads to my dad’s house where our annual Christmas party was in full swing. It’s always just family, but it’s special because there are many we only see that one time every year. It was a full house last year, family pouring in, a few new babies and step children swelling our numbers in the previous 12 months.

My cousin’s boyfriend had a new car- and it happened to be my fiancée dream car at the time. A white Subaru wrx (very sporty, for those- like myself- who don’t get the whole car thing). So naturally, three of the boys decided to take a little joy ride down to a nearby house. They were gone a long time. And the rest of us started to get mad; we had fussy babies who needed to get home and into their pajamas for Santa, we had presents to open. We needed them to stop playing and come home.

I didn’t think much of it when my fiancé appeared at the sliding glass door and asked me to step outside. But the moment that I did, I knew something was wrong. “Something happened,” was all he managed to say. “There was an accident. It’s bad.” The world stood still and spun all at the same time. I remember asking him if everyone was okay. I remember that he didn’t answer me. I still feel that jolt in my heart thinking back to the moment he said my cousin’s name, and then stopped. I physically stopped breathing. Please, oh please God, tell me Alex is still alive. Please, oh please God, don’t make me step back into that room and have to look at his scared parents who still have no idea what is going on. It took a while before he was able to finally tell me Alex was hurt. Hurt meant not dead, there was a wave of guilty relief that washed over me. For once, ‘hurt’ was the acceptable alternative.

I ran inside to get my dad, a firefighter- he knows how to handle these situations. We all ran to our cars to go to the scene. On the drive there, I was able to find out from Zach what happened.

My dad lives on the top of a hill, well, a small mountain really. It’s out in the middle of nowhere on a long stretch of winding roads. That night it had been snowing, though not enough to be of any concern. The driver had been showing off his car- he lived out there too and knew those roads like the back of his hand. They were driving up, heading back to the house, when he hit the gas right before a corner. He turned the wheel with the curve of the road, but they were going too fast. The car slid to the edge and hit a little patch of gravel before it fell down the steep drop-off that is less than a foot from the road. There were no guardrails. The car flipped one and a half times as it slid down the embankment. It landed on its passenger side door, held up by three spindly little trees that were growing on that steep decline. To this day I am still not sure how those three tooth-pick sized trees were able to hold firm with the force of the impact caused from a full sized sedan carrying three grown men crashing into them at high speed. If they hadn’t, or if the car had slid another foot forward, it would have rolled all of the way down. There would have been no survivors after a crash like that. But miracles happen, their guardian angels were strong that night. When the car stopped rolling, they didn’t know what was holding them up, though they were aware that they toppled all the way down the side of the cliff.  All they knew was that they had to get out before whatever it was gave way. 

They had to climb straight up and lifted themselves out to get out through the driver’s side door. Zach and the driver were dazed, but able to get out. My cousin had been sitting in the back seat. He had been knocked unconscious and had to be coaxed and pulled out of the car, though he didn’t want to leave. They climbed up the embankment and made it to the side of the road where they were able to flag down a single car- there was no cell service where they went off the road. Zach went to get help while they waited. That car almost hit another on their way to my dad’s house to drop him off. For the second time that night, a deadly crisis was averted.

I will never forget the moment that we drove to the scene, the headlights from my uncle’s car lighting the road and down the cliff to that car. I will never forget the way they had to convince my cousin to get up off the ground where he was laying when they first got there. I will never forget that crumpled white car propped up against the trees, the marks of the tires in the gravel, people running between headlights as we stared down an embankment at crumpled steel and injured family.


When you live out that far, an ambulance takes a while. So we decided to drive them to the hospital. In hindsight, that was probably not our best idea, but we didn’t know what else to do. In times like that when everything feels so far out of your control, sometimes action is the only thing that will make you feel better. My brother drove, Zach sat in the front seat, and Alex lay across the back seat with his head on my lap. That was the longest car ride of my entire life, trying to keep Alex awake, fighting the panic that would rise when I would have to repeat his name several times before he would respond to me. 

I stepped into the emergency room with two injured men, Alex’s arm draped over my shoulder. He threw up the moment we stepped through the doors. When he was whisked back, I went with him, even though the last thing I wanted to do was leave my fiancé. They were both hurt, but Alex was worse and the doctors needed information that I wasn’t sure he would be able to give, as he had been in and out of lucidity for the entire drive in. Zach said he’d be okay, his own parents were on their way, he wouldn’t be alone for long. I sat in the back room as they worked on Alex, the doctors and nurses peppering me with questions, some of which I didn’t know how to answer- as we waited for his parents to arrive.

I found out later that he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, which wound up being bittersweet. Looking at the damage later, if he’d been strapped in where he had been sitting, he might have been just as badly injured- the tree smashed the spot he would have been. But because he wasn’t wearing it, he went flying like a rag doll when the car flipped. The front of his head hit the back of my fiancée. Zach was released from the hospital with some abrasions and a mild concussion. Alex’s was a more severe concussion, and it would take him a few months to get back to his normal self, it was a scary few months as we all kept updated on his status. But they were both okay.

The next morning we woke up, shaken and thankful. Zach was still sore, but we drove over to his brother’s house to be there when our niece and nephews opened their Christmas presents. We got to watch the light grow in their eyes as the pile of wrapping paper created mountains beside them. I got to watch Zach take his oldest nephew to the backyard to try out his new experiment (coke and mentos), I got to watch him laugh and play with them, and for once, I was able to fully appreciate the memories we were making.


As Zach and I were helping the boys build their lego forts (they decided to make us race- I lost), I kept watching him as he teasingly snuck gummy lifesavers from the kids, helping them search for the right pieces for their lego creations, and I realize how unbelievably lucky we were. Everything could have ended that night. We could have been that cautionary holiday tale that feels so distant, even while it pours ice into the soul. One weak little tree, one foot forward- and we could have spent our Christmas in mourning; instead we were watching this amazing man play with his nephews like nothing had happened, smiling through the headache he still had.


Moments like this shake you to your foundation, when you realize how close you were to losing everything. I couldn’t stop thinking how they were sitting in that crumpled car and we had been warm in the house and angry with them for being late. So many things could have gone so very wrong. But I like to believe in fate, in miracles, in a reason for the things that happen to us. I had taken the people in my life for granted, perhaps Zach most of all. We had built our lives together, and in a single moment it could have all come crumbling to the ground.

I will forever be thankful for those three spindly trees. I look for them every time we drive up to my dad’s house, my eyes resting momentarily on the turn that almost changed our lives completely, almost ended the lives of people we love with everything that we have inside.

This was a reminder for me- a reminder of what is truly important, a reminder to be patient and kind with those we love. A reminder that your life can turn upside down in the fraction of a second, with one innocent mistake; because that’s all it had been. So take the time to appreciate the people in your life. Don’t let the stress of the everyday color your time together. Be thankful for every second you have, and thank whatever force you believe in when you are granted the priveledge of one more day with them. Last year I learned something that I thought I already knew; life is precious and is not guaranteed to any of us. It is a fragile gift that should be treated with the reverence it deserves. Be thankful for every moment that you have, and when the sand in that hourglass is spent, look back on that time fondly with the love that it deserves.

Love in a Time of Hate

“This will always be the land of the free, so long as it is the home of the brave.”

-Elmer Davis

I don’t know when our differences became bricks we used to wall ourselves in and close ourselves off from one another. I don’t know when we decided that we must scream to be heard in a world that is already far too loud. I don’t know when belittling another’s opinion made us feel more emboldened with our own. I have no idea when we decided that the world had to be seen in black and white, right and wrong; without the shades of gray I’ve always so dearly loved. We drew a line and determined that everyone must take a step, make a stand, choose a side. And then grab a stone to hurl towards the other crowd. All while forgetting that we know so many faces over there. If we demonize them and their ideals, then we can forget the people underneath. We seem to forget that this country of ours is not a comic book- we do not have heroes and villains. We have people. Perfectly flawed people with beautifully varied colors that shade our background and our perspectives. When did we decide that we had to prove the other side wrong to believe in our hearts that we are right? When did we determine that there had to be a wrong answer?

Because tonight, I am exhausted. I am disheartened, I am frustrated. The worst part of this whole mess: we did this. We are still doing this. We want to point the finger at someone, we want to cast blame and doubt, we want to force the other side to concede when they feel just as righteous as we do. We are chasing each other around in circles and we don’t even recognize that the hate we are pointing out in them is also being mirrored in ourselves.

I don’t care who you voted for, just as you don’t care which box I checked on that piece of paper. It doesn’t matter. No lines need to be drawn on my sand, there is no tallied score. We do not need to tear one another down to build ourselves up. We do not need to search the darkest corners of the other’s camp, and hold their worst up into the light as a glaring example of what is wrong with them and their opinions. Because these dark corners- they do not make up the whole of our respective camps. You can not paint millions of people with one brush. Those shadows- they are only a small percentage, they do not define the group.

I am not a democrat. I am not a republican. I am not a conservative. I am not a liberal. I do not wear a label like a name tag. My views land all over that beautiful board we call democracy. What happened to us? How long have we required a title; locking someone up in a box with a small description of the contents- we do not belong in a zoo. ‘Over here you will see the moral fallacies of the Republican Party, and if you take a left at the Statue of Liberty you will behold the dark lair of the Democrat and their misguided ideology.’ No. This is not us. This is not the country that I have always loved, this is not the country that I was raised to believe in.

Not every person who voted for Trump is a racist. They do not all hate the LGBT community. They do not all feel that women are objects to be used and thrown away. Just the same way that not every person who voted for Clinton is corrupt, on a witch hunt for your guns, or a ‘libtard crybaby,’ if I have my terminology correct. Yes, there are some that fall into these categories, but I do not believe that they are the majority. If anyone would take just a moment to stop and actually listen to someone of the opposing opinion without interrupting to explain why their views are better- then maybe they would come to this same conclusion. The point that I am trying to make is that, if you speak to people on either side of the line, you will realize that both have a deep misunderstanding of what is important to those opposing them. It is fueled by fear and misinformation. We need to stop assigning labels to people and inferring their beliefs and opinions based on these snap judgments. We do not belong in boxes. We do not need to drag others through the mud in order to bring more credence to our own beliefs.

Wasn’t that the beauty of this country? We were a haven for those who didn’t belong, those who were persecuted for their beliefs, for their views, for their way of life. We spilled our blood to defend our right to maintain our own opinions without fear. And here we are- destroying each other and everything that we hold dear.

There is a difference between maintaining your views and being respectful of another’s. We are not monsters here, none of us are. And if we took away the labels, perhaps we would begin to realize that our views really aren’t that far apart. Perhaps we would begin to see the path that needs to be followed. Perhaps we would find our compassion again and rediscover the beauty that we used to see in one another long enough to listen- truly listen- with an open mind, without pre-recorded objections and insults to shoot out randomly like poisoned barbs.

We are scared of one another- in a country that prides itself on bravery, we are terrified. Is that it- is that the crux of our anger? Because we don’t know what will happen and we don’t recognize the world that we’ve always lived in. We lost our compassion. I believe that we have a responsibility to one another. We have to look out for each other. We have to protect one another and our rights.

I will admit that I am afraid for us, for my friends, for the values that I stand for; but I am not alone. So to those of you who are in fear because of the color of your skin, your nationality, your religion, your gender, your sexual orientation- for those of you who feel exposed and unprotected in a world that suddenly feels so cold- I stand with you. I stand for you. I will not watch from a distance as you are screamed at, pushed, threatened or hurt. I will fight for you with every fiber of my being. Because I believe in you. I believe in your rights. I believe that you make us better, stronger, more compassionate. I believe that you bring light to a dark part of our society. In a world where you feel like your voice is being lost, I will listen. And to those of you who are afraid for your right to free speech, religion, the right to bear arms- I will protect you. I will not stand idly by if you are unjustly called a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe. I will defend you when you are in fear of retaliation for ideals that you personally do not hold. Whether your belief systems align with mine or not- I will not let someone harm you. Because I believe in peace, I believe in leading by example. I believe in treating others as I wish to be treated. I believe that we are responsible for creating the world that we wish to live in.

In Portland yesterday there was a protest that devolved into a riot. It made international news- there was damage, and as I drove by the city today I could not miss the signs of hate left behind. But what you probably didn’t hear about are the volunteers who got up early today to clean up their city. They did not go to the protest, though many of them supported the protestors. They were not responsible for the damage. But they did not want to see their city hurt or torn apart by hate. So they cleaned, they painted, they erased the harm and brought back the beauty. The peaceful protestors that started the event did not condone the violence that erupted. And yet, though they did not personally resort to violence themselves, they still chose to raise money to pay for the damages. They raised $10,000 in one day. They took responsibility for the world they wanted to live in. These are not things that you will probably hear reported in the news. But these are the people that we must emulate- these are the one who responded to hate with love. They do not question who is right or who is worthy of their respect. They do not cast blame for what has happened. They simply want to see their community thrive. This is what we need. We need to protect each other. We need to respect each other. And we need to remember that our differences are the very things that make us so formidable. United we stand, divided we fall. I do not have to agree with you to respect you.

No more hate. Our candidates have dropped their stones, the mud has stopped flying. That does not mean that we need to pick them up and continue this bitter war. We must stay vigilant; we must still protect our ideals. But we do not have to destroy each other in the process. We are past the point of ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ No, now we must come together. The time for fighting is gone, the dice was cast and we have a future to work on. Now we need to look forward and have an open discussion. We have come too far to fall apart now. We are worth too much to destroy ourselves.

Work Isn’t Everything

We live in a society where we are expected to do it all, to have it all, to be fueled by some mysteriously ever-burning fire that will propel us to new heights. We are told that if we do not hit the ground running then we are lazy. We are told that working over 40 hours a week is the only way to achieve those illusive dreams. We watch people who have their fingers in so many pies that they don’t even know what flavors they have stuck under their fingernails. We are used to pushing, to fighting, believing with the very fiber of our being that if we work hard enough, we will be able to achieve anything. This advice, while not wrong, can be somewhat misleading. We work hard hoping that someday we will play hard. We are so used to clawing our way to the top that we forget to look around.

There is a season for everything, we are told, and yet we are constantly attempting to reap what we have hurriedly sowed. I am no different from the rest of my generation. I work my ass off in the hopes that it will help me build my name, cement my reputation and get me where I have always dreamed of going. And then something happened that forced me to throw a flag on the field. There is a season for everything, and sometimes you have to remember your priorities. You have to pay attention to where you have run. You have to stop and take a breath.

On a Thursday night as I drove home I could hear my phone buzzing periodically as I listened to my audiobook. When I finally pulled into my driveway I turned off my car and looked down, seeing my siblings and mom’s names. I expected a group chat about something- perhaps about my brother’s wedding that was a couple of days away, or a reminder for a family dinner. Swiping it open, I was soon proven gravely wrong. My mom was on her way to the Emergency room, per the insistent instruction of her doctor. We didn’t know what was wrong, we didn’t know how serious it could be, we just knew she was scared and required immediate help.

We went to the hospital and waited with other family members in a surprisingly busy waiting room. We waited for some indication of what was happening, we waited for some word that would give us a direction. We waited and we waited. I eventually texted a few of my friends/co-workers, needing someone to talk to, someone to send good vibes our way. Immediately a close co-worker sent me a private message letting me know that if I needed to take the next day off, he would make arrangements to cover my work- something that I know is damn near impossible given the fact that we have been short staffed for far too long and Fridays are the busiest days of the week. Right off the bat I told him that I would be there, even if I didn’t get any sleep. It wasn’t until after I sent it that I stopped and looked at the words that I had typed. When had that become me? When did I become the girl who would drop family to go to work? When did I become the one that put everything else on hold? At what point in my life did I turn into the girl who would leave her mother in the emergency room to go spend over eight hours in an office?

In emergencies I am always the utilitarian one. I fall apart in private, I don’t like crying in front of people and I am not cut from the type of cloth that lends me to panicking easily. At hospitals I am usually the one with positive things to say who is taking coffee orders and reminding people to eat a sandwich, even if they don’t feel hungry. I am the one running through the list of items that the hurt person may need- do they have fresh socks? Will they need a pair of tennis shoes when they get released? Has everyone been notified? I find tasks for myself to do because I can’t stand just sitting there. I would like to think that my initial reaction to go to work during this crisis was something that fell into this category- this desire to keep myself busy. But I don’t know.

It’s true that I have the kind of job now where dependability is not an option- its not a box you can check one day and not the next. Calling in sick because I just don’t feel like facing a Tuesday is not an option, hell calling in sick because I am actually sick is treading on some thin ice. I am the coverage. I am the one that you call when you decide that you can’t face Tuesday. I am the one that has to be dependable when others are not. But that is not everything.

I came to the sudden realization that I don’t want to be that person- I have never been that person. I am the one who will drop anything for anyone. I have taken time away to get my dad to the doctor, I am the one that you call when you need help- I’m that kind of dependable. I don’t want to be the one that is so focused on climbing a ladder that I miss out on time with those that enrich my daily life.

Perspective is everything. There is a time to push and to fight, and there is a time to take a step back and recognize the things that make your light shine. I am nothing without the people in my life. My job will continue on whether I am there or not. I am replaceable. They survived without me before, and they could easily do it again. But I only have one mom, and as terrifying as the thought is, we all only have so much time we are allotted to spend with those that we love. My life needs to reflect my views and my morals. My job is not my life, my family is. And while I will always go above and beyond with my work, there are lines that should not be crossed. Sometimes it takes a terrifying moment to remember that.

Luckily for me, she is okay. There will be more tests, there will be more changes, but she will be okay. And I will be thankful knowing that I have more time to spend with those that I love, and a reminder that my job is not the end-all-be-all of my life. I can be a good employee and a good daughter. I can be there for those that need me when it is important. I can work my ass off day in and day out, I can leave my day job and come home to type away for my passion a couple of hours. But its important to remember the balance. It’s important to keep your heart open for those that need you, for those that you need.