Things About Doing (all the) Things

"You're such a jack-of-all-trades," she said, with what could be wantonly construed as a hint of admiration. "No seriously, you do it all!"

I shook my head, guzzled the last third of my Flume Creek/Honey Basil mix and sighed. "But I suck at every one of them."

The reality of this has never been more clear to me than it was as I stood raking dirt back into a hole that I had attempted to dig earlier in the week. The hole is big enough to park a Volkswagon Bug in, because I dug in the wrong direction exactly three times (which is how many you need to find all of the wrong edges of the septic tank) in order to begin digging in the right direction to find the second septic tank lid. I say begin because I let my strong, young daughter uncover the second lid much as she did the first one: efficiently and much more quickly than I could have. Being young is such a benefit in so many ways, I still regret my decision to get old.

Yes, I do all of the things. I teach school. I write words. I go on ambulance calls. I work on wildland fires. I pour beer. I cook. I clean. I raise children. I work out. I pay bills. And each one of them I do more poorly than the last.

Case in point: How many people have you met that have DESTROYED food in a Crock Pot MORE THAN ONCE? Like, obliterated past the point of recognition? I burned apple sauce (of all the easiest things) in a Crock Pot. Granted, it was cooking for about 4.5 days while I was carefree and forgetful at work, but the poor slow cooker has never recovered.

My housekeeping skills (or lack thereof) are fairly evident and have been recently and vociferously denounced, so I don't feel the need to dwell on that.

When I open up the most recent edition of the paper that I write for and see a multitude of apostrophe mistakes and there/their/they're faux pas, I quickly let my boss know that I am fired and she insists, in desperation, on rehiring me on the spot.

It's really desperation that saves me. A rurally isolated school desperate for substitutes, a volunteer-strapped first response agency that would LOVE to replace me, starving children who have to eat SOMETHING - I get by on the desperation of others. I'd like to brag that it's my universal skill set and remarkable capabilities that make me a "jack-of-all-trades", but it's really the desperation of myself and others that has propelled me to this level of quasi-success. I suppose all I am really lacking is a desperate man to put up with me for the rest of my life.

"Master of None" should be the title emblazoned on my office door. If I ever had an office, or a door. I suspect they gave me a Bachelor's Degree just so I would stop taking classes and turning in mediocre work. I suspect I get hired at jobs not because of my revolutionary work ethic or brilliant business savvy, but because I operate on just enough of a guilt complex to always show up (turns out that's a rare commodity in itself).

But the truth of it is, we are our own worst critics, and despite my lack of rip-roaring success in this lifetime (so far) nobody has died, either from my cooking or my parenting or my lack of housecleaning. Somehow even in my mediocrity we have made it (thus far) without evictions or homelessness or (very much) jail time. So I guess I need to bask in the glory of the little triumphs, like being reminded 15 minutes before my kids sports physicals that my kids HAVE sports physicals, and 15 minutes is definitely enough time to put the clothes on that I forgot I wasn't wearing when my pajamas just kind of hung around until 2:45 in the afternoon. And successes like getting out of bed at 8:00 AM without cussing at the kid who comes over to get my help with his college homework, because maybe, after all, I am a little bit good at something.

I really am not being fair to myself, because I do have a couple of landmark skills: eating and drinking. Really I am pro level at both. In fact, I am so dedicated to the craft that my calorie counting attempts all peter out at around 2:00 PM when the beer-drinking-cheese-eating frenzy begins in earnest for the day. OK 2:00 might be generous. Can we go with noon? I used to also be an expert sleeper but that skill seems to have waned along with youth and enthusiasm. Now I lie awake all night wondering what I will suck at doing the next day. The one beautiful thing about doing all the things is that I never know, day-to-day, which one I'll be doing. It's like a perpetual, exhausting surprise.

Things About Dirt

There's a good chance that the septic tank at my house hasn't been pumped out for over a decade. Truth is nobody can rightly remember the last time it WAS pumped, when the previous three residents are asked. There's also a good chance that the epic season of toilet overflowing two winters ago had something to do with the unpumped septic tank. If you're curious about those catastrophic events or would just like a refresher in why today is better than anytime between September and March of 2014-15, here are some good links:

The broken toilet
The third toilet flood
Basically 6 months of my blog posts are about poop floods.

Anywhoo... I made an appointment to get the septic pumped next week, before the snow hits and/or the ground is frozen solid. Trouble is, I have no idea where the lid to the septic tank is. I have a vaguely general idea where the tank itself might be, VERY approximately, but I beyond that, I am literally shoveling blind. Feeling energetic, independent and capable (which is ALWAYS a warning sign of impending doom), I started digging in the non-specific area that might lie above a septic tank. Well truth be told, first I had to pick up all of Aspen's stuffed animals that Frank had taken outside and scattered thoughtfully over the general septic tank area over the last few weeks. He has a special fondness for teddy bears and giraffes. There were at least 18.

I quickly realized two things: I am terrible at shoveling and I have no idea what I am looking for. So, after starting a handful of four-inch deep divots in my back yard, it became pretty obvious that a) there was no septic tank out there at all and b) someone probably needed to bring a backhoe over or something because dirt is hard. The dogs thought we were having the Most Fun Ever looking for something like a rock or dirt clods in all the dirt, but really whatever I was doing with that shovel wasn't nearly as much fun as getting balls out from under the couch or as productive as shoveling Frank's lovingly deposited and record breaking piles that also punctuated the dig site.

On the bright side of my unsuccessful "digging" expedition (which closely resembled Derek Zoolander's attempt at coal mining, but way less fashionably [rubber boots and sweatpants only look hot on Blake Lively]), I distracted myself in the tool shed and found a rickety ladder which I can use later to try to pick pears. If I am lucky I will fall from the top rung and break something so I won't be able to work in SPED any more. Lord knows I am never that lucky. I will just end up with a scratched up face to add to my already totally un-dateable status.

In the meantime, I am using the excuse that I need to get a Pulaski from Halle to stall my digging for now, while I think of a better excuse to never dig again and Google things like: "what does a septic lid look like?" And "how to avoid pumping your septic tank, ever". I mean toilet floods aren't that bad, right?

Also I think I got the black lung.

Things That I Read V

All right, here it is, the much anticipated annual event: What Liv Read During Fire Season. I know that you have all been waiting with bated breath since Things That I Read IV was published last October, because who doesn't want to read the pseudo-intellectual, poorly articulated, violently biased opinions of a homeschooled nerd with social deprivation issues about a lot of books that aren't even remotely close to new releases, best-sellers or critically acclaimed? I know I am curious what I have to say, because I will most definitely get into an argument about it with myself at some point. Hey man, without a significant other, somebody has to do the dirty work!

This fire/reading season got off to a rough start. Turns out I actually had to WORK on my first few assignments. First I was in Alaska working in the medical unit at camp all day where people actually notice if you are doing nothing, or even worse, expanding your mind with a book. Then I took a couple tours in my new fire capacity as a Public Information Officer where I had to do busyish things all day like prowl Facebook, rewrite press releases and socialize with other overhead people who also had no idea what was going on with the actual fire. There was simply no place for burying my face in a novel. But FINALLY, I got dispatched as a line EMT to a fire in a remote spot in Oregon, where not only did I have 14 hours on the line every day in a vehicle by myself, but there was NO CELL SERVICE, so my reading productivity was enhanced exponentially without the encumbrances of social media, email or responding to text-tattling from my offspring. Every once in awhile a safety officer or another medic would drive by and interrupt my progress, but overall I'd say I did pretty well...

Because I read A LOT, I will keep my reviews succinct. Also because it's been like 4 weeks since I read some and probably can't even remember what they're about. But I will try. 

The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey

I am a sucker for YA sci-fi fantasy stuff, so when Natalee got done reading this, I immediately needed to borrow it. Of course, that was last December and it took me until August to read it, while my other three kids and a couple of others kept asking me to finish it so they could read it. But call me a borrow-hoarder, I was gonna read that book, dammit, and I finally did, the first on my list this summer. I liked it. I like Yancey's writing style - much less overcommunicative than James Dashner (Maze Runner), but entertaining, easy to read and a great plot line that isn't just regurgitated Hunger Games material. And aliens. How can you go wrong with Aliens? Ok, a lot of ways, but the 5th Wave is a good alien story. I would say that the plot twists are a little bit predictable but it might just be my above-average skills of deduction and intuitive imagination. But seriously, read this one, and the rest probably. 

Resilience - Eric Greitens

This one I had in digital format - I had preordered it after Greitens was featured as part of the Wildland Fire Refresher this spring. The book came out in May but I didn't get around to reading it until I was done with the 5th Wave, because priorities, people. Resilience is perhaps one of the best books I have ever read. Like Deep Survival, which I read and reviewed last year after it changed my life, Greitens hits the mark as he helps another veteran friend find his way out of the dark recesses of alcoholism and PTSD. So. Much. Good. In this book that is as applicable to raising children as it is to special forces combat. Of all of the Navy SEAL books I have read (keep reading, there are a few) this is by far the most humble, approachable, and useful. Can't recommend highly enough. 

Lone Survivor -Marcus Lutrell with Patrick Robinson

OK, so true confession: I am a special forces fangirl. I can't get enough. I watched the Lone Survivor movie after I was about a third of the way through the book (also a digital format for me) and both were awesome. Lutrell isn't really a brilliant writer, but he's ambitious and cocky and boy howdy he has some stories to tell. The book is much more in depth than the movie, but the film does a good job trying to capture the individuals that were lost in July of 2005. It's a good book and a good movie. 

The Martian - Andy Weir

My brother gave me this book for Christmas, and for all my good intentions to not watch the movie before I read the book, I slipped up and saw it just before I got shipped out to this fire. That being said, the book is SO much better than the movie (in true biblio-snob form). Really, it's Weir's characterization of Mark Watney that's so great in the book. I mean sure, Matt Damon gives it a college try, but when you have to cram ALL of that action into a movie based on a book that is actually 98% science and totally geek-out-cool stuff, something gets lost. Read the book. I would loan you my copy but I gave it to a Task Force Leader from Iowa who totally agreed that the book Mark Watney was way funnier than the movie Mark Watney. 

Dead Before Dying - Kerry Schafer

So Kerry is a local author, one I would even venture to call my friend (if it's on Facebook, it's real), and this is my favorite of her novels to date. She signed this one for me several months ago and it got put in the read-during-fire-season pile that I stared at longingly for ages. Dead Before Dying is super fun. It's a great, atypical paranormal mystery with a cool cast of slightly over-the-hill or maybe over-the-edge characters and enough plot twists to staff a roller coaster. Sometimes I think I'd like a peek inside Kerry's head to see where she gets all these crazy ideas, but maybe that's a pandora's box better left unopened? Read it. Last year I read her trilogy: Books of the Between - also fun, but this one really captured me. (available on Amazon)

Unbreakable - Thom Shea

Another day, another Navy SEAL book... Unbreakable is Shea's version of what it takes to be a Navy Seal. A lot of great, solid insights, fed by other SEALS and his "Spartan Wife", Unbreakable was written as a memoir to his children in case he didn't return from deployment. Shea offers advice and even practical exercises to harness your internal dialogue and overcome adversity. It's a good book, but lacks the humility and accessibility that Resilience has. But if you're into Navy SEALs and being mentally tough, it's a good read. 

Half Broke Horses - Jeannette Walls

So I clicked "like" on a friend's Facebook post about preserving the culture of reading and books and it turns out that I joined a chain-letteresque group wherein I sent one book (Deep Survival) to the friend of my friend, and then friends of my friends that liked my status would each send me a book. I got 4 or 5 books out of it, which isn't a bad deal! This was one of them, and it was a keeper. Walls is a story teller. If I could write like her I feel like I would have it made. This is the story of her rough-and-tumble grandmother growing up in the southwest during the depression. It was a yarn so well spun that I kept forgetting it was rooted in the true life memoir of a real person. I'd like to get Walls other book, The Glass Castle, which is loosely based on the life of her mother. Walls seems to come by her imagination honestly. A good book. 

The Bassoon King - Rainn Wilson (with a foreward by Dwight Schrute)

Oh Dwight...This book wasn't nearly as side-splitting from cover to cover as I imagined when I preordered it, but I was very surprised at the more serious insights that Rainn offered. Wilson's brain-child, SoulPancake, is an organization dedicated to bringing positivity and change to the world, and Rainn and his wife Holiday are excellent examples of celebrities who put their money and muscle where their mouth is. Don't get me wrong - it is funny as heck in many places, but I was really fascinated by Wilson's description of the Bahai faith (which I could totally dig) and his generally humility and candor. Basically Rainn Wilson reminds me of the EXACT opposite of a Christian Scientist in Hollywood - he's self-deprecating, intelligent, hilarious and believes in the power of pouring into others. He's just good people. And he lives in central Oregon, so...

Lost in Shangri-La - Mitchell Zuckoff

This book was an accidental/incidental read because it's one that Halle borrowed from my dad and then left at my house and then I found it and brought it along. It tells the story of a sightseeing flight over the New Guinea loaded with service members during World War II. After a harrowing crash, three survivors, including one female from the Women's Army Corps are stranded in a dense jungle with no way out - until the ingenuity of the US Air Force pilots and a band of brave volunteers jump into the fray to save them.  This true story is reported fastidiously by Zuckoff - a newspaper reporter in real life, who captures the survivors and their rescuers with gripping storytelling skills. Halle's gonna love it. 

Given Up For Dead: America's Heroic Stand at Wake Island - Bill Sloan

Also stolen from Halle's pile of books stolen from my dad, this one is the story of Wake Island and the heroic stand that an under equipped, under manned island in the South Pacific took against the earliest waves of Japanese attacks. On the heels of Pearl Harbor, Wake Island stood as a pivotal but eventually expendable way point as troops moved across the Pacific. The sailors and marines there sustained against overwhelming odds with no support for weeks. It's a riveting story, and well reported by Sloan. 

All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque

The classic World War I novel tells the story of a young German soldier and his classmates as they endure the horrors of trench warfare. Remarque captures the gradual demoralization of the men as their numbers dwindle and their cause begins to falter. Heart wrenching and thought provoking, this book was referenced repeatedly in Deep Survival so it's been on my list for awhile. It was sobering, but well worth the read. 

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Because I was running out of books, and because this was a free download on iBooks, and because I had never read it, and because it's like 7,000 pages long - it seemed like an excellent option for a long day on the fireline. Austen and this novel did not come by their notoriety falsely. It's a witty read, endearing and infuriating and all of the things a novel should be, causing the reader to simultaneously love and want to slap the characters into some better communication and a little less propriety. I mean, get it together, Elizabeth, even Mr. Darcy needs a little leeway now and then... It's a good read for a gloomy winter. I laughed out loud. 

The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman

NO, I did NOT see this movie before I read the book. Actually, this is another book I got through the Facebook chain-letterish thing. It also got lost under the seat of my truck until the last couple days on the fire, but I was super excited when I found it because I was really looking forward to reading something that was sort of on a current bestseller list. Like, I am almost cool now... Ok. That's a stretch. But this was a good book. A tearjerker for sure. In fact I had to move my truck a few times so the Division Supervisor couldn't catch me weeping into my steering wheel. It's a heart wrenching drama of right vs wrong, tragedy and hope and despair and love. Stedman has a great storytelling voice, with a definite Australian lilt that made me read everything in an accent. Possibly out loud. When no one was driving by. Actually it's a horrible story and unless you like crying a lot or just want to feel better about your own circumstances, I am not sure I would recommend it. Or maybe I just prefer Navy SEALS. I don't know. 

In conclusion, I also read a western by William W. Johnstone that I found somewhere that was the worst ever. It was a 300 page novel written like a looney tunes cowboy cartoon. People like that stuff, huh? I mean, I am all for Louie L'Amour and Zane Grey, but this was just silly. I was embarrassed while I was reading it - kind of like What Doesn't Kill You from back in 2012. I guess those little detours are good to take to remember what bad writing really feels like. Although I can just turn to my own blogs for that, so... 

If you need a refresher, here are the links to my other Things That I Read:

Things That I Read I - highlights: Inside of a Dog, 50 Shades of Grey
Things That I Read II - highlights: World War Z, The Street Lawyer
Things That I Read III - highlights: The Lies of Locke Lamora and Born To Run
Things That I Read IV - highlights: On Writing, Deep Survival

Things That... Yep.

Coming home from a fire is like the best/worst thing in the world. It's exactly the same as going to a fire, but the opposite. All of the idealistic anticipation about how Wonderful Everything Will Be when you get to where you're going meets the relief of leaving all of the chaos and hardships of where you're coming from behind and it's like this bittersweet mingling of excitement and a Still Small Voice telling you not to be disappointed when it's not as awesome as you had planned. Because inevitably, when you get home, the bathroom will look like a troll habitat, the dog will have pooped in the dining room and Someone has definitely been sleeping in your bed.

Coming home from this last fire was a lot like all of the other homecomings and firegoings, but since it had been a 21 day assignment I was extra excited/full of dread. The dread was definitely offset by the anticipation of getting into my own bed, dirty sheets or not, after sleeping in the back seat of a crew cab for two weeks at spike camp. I didn't INTEND to sleep in the back seat for two weeks, but they kept telling me that I was only staying at spike for two days, so I never put my tent up, even after 7 different 2 day stints. It was probably a divine set-up to make me appreciate my bed all the more.

Anyway, on the way home, after 21 days, I decided to stop at Costco. Mostly because A) I knew we were undoubtedly out of dog food again and B) I wanted to see how much more stuff I could squish into my already loaded down SUV, so Costco seemed like the logical place to stop. Obviously I bought everything. All the things that Costco sells. One of each. I was feeling all perky and energetic and productive - as sleep deprived people with Lots of Caffeine on board often do, plus it was only mid afternoon and I was almost home. I crammed EVERY of the Costco items into the back of my car, even taking the time to shove the cold stuff in my cooler, which for some silly reason has "return to fire cache" stenciled on the lid. With All the Things tucked nicely away, floor to ceiling, in the back of my rig, I careened merrily out of the parking lot at Costco, right into that busy side street just before the light.

Some hideous crashing, crunching, grinding, popping noise happened behind me, and to my horror I looked in the rear view mirror and realized that the back hatch of my fire-mobile had flown open mid-careen into the street. A trail that involved the entire inventory of Costco Wholesale was strewn across the street behind me, along with a few well placed fire items. I watched as my two pack of milk gallons tumbled down the street nine times and three minivans full of screaming homeschoolers swerved around them. It was amazing. Somehow, I found my emergency flashers, which always seem to go missing from the dashboard in the event of a real crisis. I had locked up my brakes and watched helplessly as several Angry Faced City Drivers who were nearly killed by swerving minivans made their way around my entire pantry and assorted socks and underwear.

Out of nowhere, or at least the office building on the corner, three of The Nicest People In America came sprinting into the street, gathering up butter, cheese, commercial sized boxes of tampons and six jars of Nutella at a dead run. One of them was barefoot. I was much too concentrated on my salvage efforts to remember to ask her why she had no shoes on, but maybe she was Buddhist or something, but judging by her leopard print toenails, probably not. These Lunch Hour Angels even loaded my cold stuff back into the cooler and insisted on doing a two-man lift with me to get it into the back of my car (after we had pried it out from under the rear bumper where it had tumbled and wedged). I alternately apologized to and thanked my heroes profusely as I tucked my rank-smelling dirty fire laundry farther behind the dog food and toilet paper. Really they were so nice I almost cried. Miraculously, nothing was damaged. Not the milk, not the bread, not the 6 pack of romaine hearts. Nothing broken or lost - I have no idea how in the world that is possible, other than the cushion of my fire bedroll breaking some of the fall.

I drove home in mortal fear of a repeat event, starting out from every stop at the slowest imaginable pace, pissing off a whole new wave of minivans and Angry Faced City Drivers at every light. Thankfully, the rest of the trip was mostly uneventful, and I made it home with out airing any more of my dirty laundry - on the street at least.

Things That We CAN Do

My parents taught me two very important lessons growing up: 1) life isn't fair and 2) just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean you should. The first one became very clear to me with little effort expended on their part, because when you have 5 siblings in a semi-isolated homeschool environment, basically nothing is fair, especially life. The second one was learned more gradually through a trial-and-error method that had my parents alternately scratching their heads and cursing the day that I was born - or sometimes both. Whether it was running away across the city of Portland at 7 years old to use the swing set at church, or jumping off the top bunk naked to land on a cold metal lunch box with my cousins and siblings, I was forever trying things that I COULD do, but definitely/probably shouldn't have. My parents used to say that if there was a line drawn in the sand, my oldest brother would wisely stay on the lawful side of the line a very safe distance from any possible infringement, while I would brazenly stick as many appendages across to see what would happen. My younger sister is the one who figured out the line the most to her benefit by denying it's existence and/or her knowledge of it in the first place. Typical third born.

Mom and dad were smart enough to know that at some point, external government wasn't enough. I think it was probably the 110th spanking when I wouldn't stay in my bed one night and ended up falling asleep in my bedroom closet in total defiance that really drove that home for them. So, to their credit, they pushed us from a young age to put on self-government. To make choices not based on what we could get away with, but what would bring the benefit we sought, whether that was "bringing glory to the lord", making and keeping friends, or not getting caught watching soap operas in the middle of the day when mom went out to coffee with her friends. Self government is something that I have tried to teach my own kids, with wildly varying results, but who are ultimately turning out to be reasonably well adjusted adultish type people. OK, so nobody is in jail or pregnant. It's a lot of win right there. Self government, y'all.

In light of recent socio-political events, the principle of self-government again and again seems to be the stress fracture where our world is breaking apart. School shootings, gang shootings, police shootings, protests, demonstrations, deleting emails and deporting immigrants... we live in a culture of doing things because we CAN. We CAN riot in our own neighborhoods in protest because freedom of expression, right? We CAN shoot people that we hate. We CAN say things without repercussion. We CAN get away with murder, sometimes literally, because nobody taught us that the actions we choose are bigger than the consequences that we might avoid.

There are more things out there on both sides of the fence that I disagree with than things that I really support, when it comes right down to it. I think people are crazy, liberal and conservative, religious and secular, gay, straight, rich, poor, black, white and everything in between. Bat. Guano. Crazy. The things that we will do to each other and ourselves, the liberties that we take (because we CAN), the actions that we justify, have gotten out of control. But the beautiful thing about where we live is exactly that: WE CAN.

We have this thing called the Bill of Rights that defines the liberty that this nation was founded on, and it promises us that we CAN do things. We CAN choose our own religion, or none at all. We CAN express how we feel. We CAN defend ourselves, need be. We CAN have privacy in our own homes... and on it goes. And no matter how much it angers me to see celebrities disrespect our national anthem - that flag and that song are the exact reason that those athletes CAN do that. People have fought and died so that Colin Kaepernick can have the right to express whatever opinion he wants to. People have fought and died so that Muslims can worship freely in this country. People have fought and died so that I can legally own as many cool guns as I want to. People have fought and died so that we don't have to live with an oppressive external government telling us who we can marry, which bathroom we can use, what we can eat, how we must live. I don't have to agree with Colin Kaepernick, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Black Lives Matter or any other American, but we all get the same privilege of making our voices heard.

All of this CAN is powerful. And with great power comes great responsibility. Just as I don't take lightly the privilege AND responsibility of owning guns legally, neither should any freedom of expression be abused to harm and destroy communities, or exact some twisted form of vigilante justice through rioting, federal building takeovers or the murder of Peace Officers. Because we live in the Greatest Nation (without the help of a showboating political-celebrity hybrid) we have the ability and the charge of making the right choices in our actions to bring the benefit we seek: stronger communities, healthier families, safer schools and neighborhoods and a better world all the way around.

There are so many great things that we CAN do here, and so many terrible things as well. The culture of this country is entirely reliant upon the self government of its people. The choices we make as individuals define who we are as a nation, whether we are breaking out the windows of a 7-11 or candy striping at the VA Hospital, it's up to us. Whether we take a knee during the National Anthem or stand in the rain to memorialize a fallen hero, it's up to us. So while I won't defend Kaepernick, I will stand up for his right to express himself, and I will offer a nod of thanks to every Veteran and active duty Service Member throughout history that has guaranteed that right for him and for me.

What CAN you do? Or more importantly, what WILL you do with the liberties that you have? Voting this November is probably a good place to start...


(In case you can't read the picture)

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Things That Won’t Kill You (or make you stronger)

My underwear are inside out. I just discovered that when I made my first of what will be many forays into the ceanothus bushes on the side of the road today. In my defense it was dark and cold in my truck when I put them on, and also in my defense, at least they are clean. This fire assignment has been one of the ones where I break all of the rules, that, as a mother, are the cardinal guardians of health and propriety. Rules like:

Change your underwear
Don’t sleep in your clothes
Brush your hair
Take a shower
Call your mother
Wash your face
Put on clean clothes

Broken. All of them. I think of myself scolding Halle about her fire showering habits, and at ten o'clock at night as I stare at the line of grubbier-than-me firefighters waiting for one of the five shower stalls in spike camp, I decide that it’s just not worth it. I have deodorant. I have hardly broken a sweat in the last two weeks, except when I had that teensy-weensy fever the other day. I have been wearing the same shirt and pants for two weeks. I have changed my underwear, more than once, as well as my socks. We will leave it at that and allow you to extrapolate the worst. I have had three total showers since I got here 15 days ago. You do the math. And at night, when it’s dropping into the mid 30s and I know I will be waking up to sub-freezing temps, I crawl into my brand-new down sleeping bag in my two-week-old dirty clothes and drift off into a NyQuil induced coma, knowing I don’t have to wake up and struggle into freezing clothes in the morning.

This fire is also a little unusual in that I have absolutely no contact with the outside world. Apparently people in this neck of the woods have never heard of AT&T. I am a cellular outcast, watching with longing as The Others run up to lookout hilltops to call their loved ones and check Facebook on their Verizon devices. I had access to wifi at the incident command post when I would walk All The Way across camp (it’s far) and stand awkwardly in a hallway in the way of all the important ICP people doing important ICP things. But now I am at Spike Camp, where the only cellular activity is the faint hiss-pop of brain cells exploding after constant contact with ambient smoke for days on end.

I got a head cold from a Division supervisor who got it from a crew of unshowered snot bags on the line - one of which might have been my own daughter. It’s like a mosaic of viruses out here, a pretty technicolor blend of upper respiratory and intestinal symptoms that swirl in harmonic cadence to the rhythm of a dry cough. I have been in a sinus-smogged haze for a few days, thinking everyday it is a little better and then waking up with razor blades in my throat or dizzy spells that convince me it is not. Luckily I am part of the medical unit and have All The Drugs to fix what ails me. But not. For the record, DayQuil is garbage. What I need is real sudafed and apparently in Oregon, that’s a prescription drug. So I suffer in semi-silence.

Being The Worst Mother In The World, I also missed my kid’s first day of school. I have been entertained with arguments against myself about whether making enough money to pay all the bills is more important than big landmarks like that, and so far both sides are winning, so it’s safe to say my guilt mechanisms are alive and well. I have gotten used to talking to myself - a habit that comes in handy for a line EMT who sits alone, with no cell service, at a drop point for 14 hours a day. All of the things I think I need to tell The Whole World become trivial information I feed to myself. Also I have read 17 books. That’s a lot.

I am living proof that neither dirty underwear, lack of connectivity, parenting badly or a virus pot-luck can kill you. I am reluctant to assure you that any of the aforementioned will make you stronger, although I can feel my immune system rallying in the form of thick yellow mucus every day.

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