Things About Broken Hearts

Let's be honest: none of us get out this unscathed. We've all had our hearts broken. From the first time that our mothers swatted our hands away from a hot stove and we didn't understand how the nurturer became the bearer of violence against us, we've experienced the pain of betrayal.

We've had our hearts broken as small children when your friends don't let you join them at the potato stamp table in kindergarten (this is me sharing my most vulnerable moments with you), and again as middle schoolers when your BFF tells the cute boy about that one time you picked your nose and ruins you FOREVER.

Your heart is broken again and again in high school when your One True Love turns out not to be and dumps you for the girl who snuck out of the house in the ultraminiskirt. Every disappointment grows in importance as you sense an ever closer approach to Destiny...

And then your heart break again when the Forever that was supposed to be Destiny end in abysmal disaster. Or even if you find some version of Happily Ever After, there are always the ups and downs and mini heart breaks, and the major ones. The days when some hurts feel like they are unbearable.

The more people you love, the greater your odds are, statistically speaking, to face more heartache in your life. Even the happiest of families have their dark moments. We unintentionally inflict pain on the ones we love the most because it's in those spaces that we are the most real, and the most insensitive sometimes. There is no love without hurt. It's the hurting that love causes that gives us art and music and poetry and philosophy.

Even Tim and Faith, with their decades of shining perfection in marriage, have broken each other’s hearts, I guarantee it. With an unkind word, a poor karaoke choice, or that mid 90s turtleneck trend. Even the perfect ones among us inflict a little heartache on each other now and then.

If you're not a sociopath, the question isn't IF you'll get a broken heart, the question is when, and your investment into the lives around you will be rewarded in equal amounts of heartache when those lives inevitably face hardship. 

I've wrestled a lot lately with the whole idea of parenthood as something that is anything more than perpetual heartache. Since my kids were babies it feels like it's been a non-stop freight train speeding, out of control, of things that can (and often do) go wrong. It picks up speed and momentum the older they get. The momentary glimpses of triumph and joy get overshadowed by the hard things. By rejections and  breakups and failures and dashed hopes. Happiness and success come at the high cost of hard work and stress and heartache. 

I watch other parents and I wonder ,when they proclaim the joy of parenting, what it is I am doing wrong as I lie awake night after night and worry whether one kid's firefighting career will be ended by a knee injury and whether there is any earthly way to pay for another kid's college tuition, and just exactly how many sporting events have to be attended and how many phone bills have to be paid to ensure that I am doing my parently duty. As they become adults and make adults decisions, there is little comfort in the knowledge that I am not legally responsible for the grown-up choices they make, because it doesn't exempt me from feeling the pain of the consequences they bear. Raising kids is just an ongoing evolution of breaking hearts. 

But it's worth it. Just like falling in love, knowing the life expectancy of any relationship these days is pretty pathetic, is still worth it. And you step up to bat again and again because those momentary highs are worth it, and even more, the people that you love, that you believe in, are worth it, even when they hurt you. Sure, there are limits. There's a time to pull the plug and walk away. There's even a time to disconnect the phone line and draw boundaries, but in this era of disposable everything, there are still people worth taking the hits for. There are bigger stories than the trauma of a moment. 

What parenting, and love, and being related to other human beings has taught me, is that heartbreak is survivable. It can be endured again and again and again. The real tell of a human being is whether they will get back up and love again after each break. The character of a person lives in their willingness to walk headfirst into the next round of heartbreaks for the people that they love. 

Even in the last few months I have felt the weight of heartache that I didn't think I could bear, and while I struggled to walk the steps of each day in the darkest moments, I knew it would not be my last time in that valley. I knew that I would run back into the fray, I would open up my barely healed heart and I would do it again, because there is no life without love. 

I know each time that I feel like I can't carry another burden for one of my loved ones, somehow there's a second wind and we pick up the pieces and move on. History has taught me that I am resilient, and hopefully that resilience is something that the people I love can learn with me, as we break each others hearts again and again with the mistakes we make. 

The only thing I can promise them is that I will never, ever, EVER, be caught up in a turtleneck craze, and they're always welcome at my potato stamp table. 

Things That ACTUALLY Help During Fire Season

Noisy Creek Fire, Washington State, 2017

It's officially fire season. If you want to know how you can ACTUALLY help out during a wildfire in your area, here are some ideas: 

If you want to do something to help out firefighters working on the lines, here are some tips to help keep the mayhem in fire camp at a minimum: 
- Firefighters are required as part of their job to come FULLY equipped for a two week assignment, with all of their personal gear, toiletries, socks, toothpaste etc. Everybody likes free stuff, but nobody in fire camp should be here unprepared.
- Most camps will turn away donations because they don't have the manpower to deal with distributing them and stuff will just get shuffled off to local food banks, shelters, etc. at the end of the incident. If you INSIST on donating stuff the most useful, most asked things are preventatives like Emergen-C, vitamins, or coffee (see below). 
- Firefighters are provided with over the counter medicines like Tylenol and DayQuil, Gold Bond Powder, foot care items, chapstick, sunscreen and insect repellent through the medical unit. 
- Homemade/baked goods can open Incident Management teams to health liabilities and will usually be turned away as well. They also violate the contract with food caterers in fire camp who provide everything necessary to meet the firefighter's 6000 calorie a day requirement, including snacks. This is for firefighter health and safety.
- Gatorade, water and ice are all provided. Don't buy this stuff for us.
- Contribute to local volunteer departments who have limited funding and face the toughest job during the first hours of initial attack. The volunteers often have to buy their own boots and supplies without any reimbursement, and they don't get paid like professional wildland firefighters who are on the clock, paid, for 14-16 hours a day.
- Fire camp coffee is brutal. If there is a fire camp near town, pay a few coffees forward at a local coffee stand for the firefighters that will be coming through. Or again, if you insist on bringing something to camp, instant coffee packets (like Starbucks Via) are like gold out here.
- Donate to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation ( They will be there for the firefighter when they, or their families, truly need it the most.


P.S. - I know that everybody is an expert, so if you're wondering, I am speaking from 15 year of fire experience in both volunteer and paid positions as a Fireline EMT and a Public Information Officer. I have worked all over the U.S. (even Alaska) for every level of Incident Management Team, including running the medical unit for Type 3 firefighting organizations. 

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