Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Active Shooter.

Posted on | November 9, 2018 | 5 Comments

Active shooter days are hard for me.  I know they’re hard for everybody.  I know that a lot of people take comfort in that saying from Mister Rogers:

Image result for mr rogers meme, look for the helpers

The problem is that I am one of the helpers.  And here’s the cold hard truth, America: the helpers aren’t going to make it in time.  Between 2000 and 2013 the FBI reported there were 160 active shooter situations, the majority of which ended quickly. “In 63 incidents where the duration of the incident could be ascertained, 44 (69.8%) of 63 incidents ended in 5 minutes or less, with 23 ending in 2 minutes or less.”

The 2016-17 report from the FBI didn’t include time data.  Maybe because it was too hard to ascertain.  Maybe because, in addition to the increasing frequency of shootings, the limited amount of time for public safety to respond was too grim to face.  The time for a police response to any 911 call varies a lot depending on which study you’re reading and where you live but it hovers around 7-12 minutes.  The time to get an ambulance on scene is generally the same or longer.  Which means the shooting is over long before help arrives; all that’s left is the dying.

Of course, having law enforcement arrive quickly (or paid security on scene, for that matter) isn’t a guarantee of anything; they get shot and killed, too.  Dead cops can’t save anyone.  And when EMS arrives, they aren’t able to enter the scene until police know the shooter is down or has left.  Because dead medics can’t save anyone either.  In desperation, FEMA, the FBI, and Homeland Security are changing this element of response—now, police are urged to enter a shooting scene immediately, even if they’re alone.  When EMS arrives, they are now escorted into active scenes by law enforcement.  I’m not sure how many citizens can be saved if EMS ends up treating the cops who are shot escorting them into the building.  But, really, EMS’ ability to save anyone at an active shooter scene is limited.

EMS is trained to apply bleeding control, tourniquets, chests seals, and decompress a possible pneumothorax before moving on with police to the next area in search of more victims.  That’s right—there won’t be any immediate extrication from the scene until law enforcement and EMS has cleared the building or area.  You get a tourniquet and then we leave you where you are.  I feel sick imagining how this will play out in real life.  What do I do when a bloody citizen is clinging to my leg, begging me not to leave them?  I asked this question in a training session and the federal law enforcement personnel teaching the course told me to kick them down if I needed to, but we keep moving.  That’s the reality of rescue in an active shooter scene.  How do you like that, Mister Rogers?

Of course, bleeding control measures are life-saving but if you have massive internal bleeding or head trauma or an acute lung injury, then what you really need is a rapid transport to a hospital and a surgeon.  There’s nothing else that will save you.  And according to the surgeons that treat gun shot wounds everyday, even a surgeon isn’t a guarantee.  That’s why shooting victims die in such large numbers.

Maybe you’re thinking that concern about these desperate measures is really just cowardice.  That cops and EMS signed up to give up their lives for citizens in need and if they don’t like it, then they should quit.  But in my small town, the majority of public safety personnel don’t just work here, they live here, too.  I have 4 children in 4 different area schools.  My co-workers have kids in schools all over the district; we all have family members working in community businesses, attending local churches, filling the stands at sporting events, dancing in the park during concerts. Every single one of us would rush in, would do anything, would give it all up if we knew we could stop the killing of our friends and families and loved ones.  But our bodies, our lives, won’t stop the shootings from happening again and again and again.

Active shooter days are hard because I have to remind my kids that when the shooting starts, they need to move.  They need to move and keep moving, even if they or their friends are injured.  Their only chance of survival to is to move away from the gunfire and if they are injured their best chance for quick medical treatment is if they are off the active scene.  I’m not going to be able to help them.  I am not going to make it there in time.

A couple years ago, I was at work when we were notified that there was credible evidence of an active shooter threat at a local high school.  Two of my kids were in that high school that day.  I was working on the ambulance that is the responding unit for that high school.  All of the public safety agencies were in high gear—investigators tracking the threat, tactical teams getting in place, the school on lockdown.  EMS headquarters was preparing to load the ambulances with extra supplies for multiple patients.  Public safety was doing everything they could do to mitigate the danger.  And as I sat in the front seat of my ambulance, waiting to get a call for an active shooter at the school where my kids were locked into their classroom, I knew there was still nothing I could do.  They were on their own.  The helpers aren’t going to beat the bullets to the scene.  So active shooter days are hard for me.

I’m not comforted by the thought of arming more and more citizens.  Nothing about adding to the plethora of guns lets me sleep easy at night.  Because I believe the research from the CDC—-at the least the research that the government allows researchers to do.

I’m not comforted by the new policies of throwing first responders at shooters in the hopes that a human sacrifice can stop the shooting spree.  Bodies do not seem to be a reasonable alternative to effective gun control legislation.

I can’t comfort myself by telling myself that these occurrences are rare.  Because they really aren’t anymore.  The afternoon of the shooting in Thousand Oaks, I received an automated email from my kids’ school saying they had a rumor of a gun on campus and were investigating it thoroughly.  After the Thousand Oaks shooting, it was discovered that some of those present at the Borderline Bar and Grill had been at the Las Vegas shooting last year, the deadliest mass shooting in US history.  This is what it’s come to in America—-you might survive one mass shooting, but you may not survive when you’re caught up in the next one.  The next one, Mister Rogers.

I’m really uncomfortable with a lobbyist group (the NRA, of course) telling the doctors that treat gun shot victims of all kinds that their opinions on gun control are unwelcome.  If anyone gets to have an opinion on gun violence, it’s the doctors left to treat the damage inflicted by the bullets.

So instead I spent the day doing what I usually do on active shooter days.  I wandered through my life putting things in order.  After I dropped kids at school I did my workout and ran my errands, picking up the items I needed to disguise leftovers into a new dinner.  I returned a shirt that had been patiently waiting in the backseat of the van for weeks to be returned.  I came home and paid bills and balanced the checkbook.  I hooked up the frost-free hose for the RV and weather-proofed the water spigot so I don’t lose water during the upcoming freeze.  I confirmed Big’s medical appointment and called the insurance company to dispute a charge for Little’s last doctor’s visit.  I took the crates that had been sitting on the deck for weeks and moved them to the barn.  I washed my sheets and towels and aligned my comforter so that each side that hung off the edge of the bed was perfectly even.  I refilled the birdfeeders and put out fresh suet.  I put on the cattens’ flea and tick medicine.  I went back to the school and dropped off Middle’s lunch because he forgot it.  And I just moved along checking off each little item because focusing on the things I can get done takes my mind off the things I can’t control.  Apparently I am not the only person that this works for—accomplishing mico-goals releases dopamine in the brain.  So that by the end of the day I can pick up my kids from practice, drive them to work, kiss them goodnight, then head in to class to teach a new generation of EMS providers, without picturing my loved ones bleeding out in a street or hallway waiting for help.  It keeps me sane, but it doesn’t keep them safe.

What would Mr. Rogers say to this advancing threat?  I guess we won’t ever know because Mister Rogers died in 2003.  Fifteen years before a gunman killed 11 worshippers at a synagogue in his Pittsburgh neighborhood.  An active shooter in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood.  I’m glad he died before that happened.  Rest in peace, Mister Rogers.  It’s a peace increasingly hard to find for the rest of us.




Posted on | November 4, 2018 | 3 Comments

This is National Novel Writing Month which means I pledged to write every single day this month.  It also means I am doing everything except rewriting the 198 pages of the novel.  Not editing, rewriting.  Because I decided it was way too descriptive and I also wanted to change it up to start each chapter with an action scene.  It’s okay, I can face making the change.  I just need to do everything else in the world before facing it.  Since I can practically spit clean (that’ s a real thing, by the way, and science backs it up) my house in all of 15 minutes I had to venture out into the garden.  The fall garden needed a lot of fall cleaning.  A lot.

I decided I would move forward with my plan to shorten the rows to leave an open area for a bonfire pit as well as large spaces for herbs.  Now that my kids are so busy they only eat at home about 3 times a week I don’t need as many veggies.  But I do need a bigger bonfire pit suitable for whisky drinking and s’mores (surprisingly good together).  Also I need to move the current bonfire pit away from the front engine of the RV–although using the headlights for light is convenient, it kind of makes my guests nervous.  I’ve assured them the gasoline tank is a solid 24 feet away from the engine but people are such nervous nellies about fire and gasoline.  Plus I should certainly start experimenting with a wider variety of herbs.  Homemade herbal tea goes well with living alone, having cats, and spending as much time reading in bed as possible. Also herbal infused or mulled whisky drinks are all the rage and seem so much classier than just sipping it out of the bottle between bites of s’mores. Read more

A Day In San Francisco.

Posted on | October 11, 2018 | 1 Comment

We beat the traffic in San Francisco and parked at Union Square. Even the homeless people were still asleep and none of the shops on the square were open.   So we made our way to Mr Holme’s Bakehouse and by the time we had navigated our first San Francisco “hills,” we were ready for specialty croissants and donuts.  Plus a pic with the famous sign.  I don’t think Little gets it, do you?

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It Will Be Cold Again.

Posted on | October 8, 2018 | No Comments

Life was always happening in the garden and the barn.  The summer heat, the winter wind, the spiders and their webs, the birds and their nests in every nook and cranny.  While everyone else was moving from their temperature controlled house to their temperature controlled car to their temperature controlled office, I was slogging through spring mud or breaking the ice layer in water buckets or dripping sweat onto the tomato plants as I pruned them.  I knew the minute slug season arrived, and tick season, and when the field mice abandoned the field for the greenhouse.

Of course, I always retreated to my air conditioned house.  And we all know about my love affair with the woodstove.  Despite all my outdoor activities, I woke up in the mornings like everyone else–surprised when I peered out the window and discovered it had rained during the night, shocked when I opened the deck door to get the dog her breakfast and found a cold front had moved in and temperatures had dropped.  I took shelter in a brick house that, as all good little piggies know, withstood weather and wildlife very easily.

Enter the RV.

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Big Lessons.

Posted on | October 4, 2018 | 5 Comments

The problem with parenting is that you never really know anything until you’ve lived through it.  Sure, you can read parenting books and you can ask other parents, but until you’re actually trying to convince a living, breathing 2 year to put his poop in the potty you don’t really know, well,…you don’t know sh*t.

That’s why raising the first child is less like parenting and more like a partnership.  A partnership in one of those random, crazy start up companies that you invested in because it seemed like a good idea, the guy was cute, and you had a little bit of money laying around.  What could go wrong?  And the next thing you know, you are sitting in a nursery that cost thousands of dollars in renovations, going on your 17th sleepless night, and it’s just you and your firstborn, weeping hysterically.  Both of you weeping hysterically.  No one’s in charge on those nights.  There is no parenting.

Oh, there were with sleepless nights with the rest of ’em.  But by then I had plans and tricks and strategies and coping mechanisms.  All of which I learned from Big when he was little.  That I learned with Big.  And that’s how it played out for the rest of his childhood–from the right preschool to the easiest road test examiner at the DMV.  I researched all the options, gathered reviews, and then thrust Big out there.  If it didn’t go well then he had an interesting story for his memoirs and his siblings had better odds at getting it right the next time around. Read more

Over the Mountains and Through the Woods.

Posted on | October 2, 2018 | 1 Comment

So there we were in Bakersfield, CA in the summer of 2017.  Bakersfield wasn’t originally part of our trip.  My original plan was to head north from Phoenix, hit the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Death Valley, and then the Sequoias.  ‘Cause they’re all lined up neatly from east to west.  Too bad there’s no pass through the southern part of the Sierra Nevadas.  Which kept throwing me off in Google Maps.  How in 2017 was there no road through the mountains?  In 2017??  Honestly, I didn’t realize the Sierra Nevadas were much more than a beer, never mind something that can barely be crossed in the 21st century.

But travel is nothing if not a chance to see things that you weren’t planning on seeing.  So we cruised down Hwy 99 past all of the fruit packaging plants.  We saw the home of Halos and Cuties mandarin oranges as well as Dole packing plants and a Sunmaid Raisins facility with its own storefront.  Although I admit my favorite part was blooming shrubbery in the highway medians.  For mile after mile we flew past flowering pink and white oleanders.

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Cleaning house.

Posted on | September 29, 2018 | 3 Comments

So I’m gonna start at the ending and work my way back to the beginning.  Which is against the rules, I know.  But the rules are kind of fast and loose around here lately.  If you wondered where I was for almost the past year, I was cleaning house.  That seems like a lot of cleaning.  And it was.  Oh, it was.

I’m writing to you from my 32′ RV.  Where I stay now.  Overlooking the pond and garden on a raised gravel lane with my own power pole and water line and, of course, wifi.  I have 2 indoor/outdoor cattens (1/2 kitten and 1/2 cat. You missed their full-on kitten stage) from the animal shelter that hang out on the couch when I’m in here and underneath the rig when I’m not.  They are pleased to join me when I open the door and start passing out cat treats but just as quick to dump me if they see anything interesting going on outside.  They are, after all, cattens.  Capable of dispensing love and indifference in equal quantities.

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There You Are.

Posted on | November 6, 2017 | 4 Comments

I was writing about my summer vacation and I had to download some more photos.  It took a couple days because in order to “download some more photos” I had to track down Pretty (whose schedule is fuller than a rock star), get the pics off her camera and onto to a little card, shove the little card into the laptop a hundred different ways until the computer finally recognized that the card was there, then hunt through the computer files to find where it placed the photos off the little card (Pictures?  Downloads?  Imported?  The Third Dimension?).  When I finally sat down to write some posts about the rest of the vacation photos, I had nothing to say.

She was gone.

I have no idea where other people get their inspiration. Personally, I have a writer inside my head that notices everything.  She makes snarky comments about people’s behavior at the grocery store or oohs and aahhs over puppies at the park or snorts with laughter when overhearing the conversation of the preteens in the backseat of the car.  She almost always has something to say about everything.  And all I generally do is ponder over her comments, edit them for suitability of public viewing (It’s a lot of editing.  A lot.), and put them down on paper.  Even when I am writing a story and not a blog post, it’s usually just a matter of fleshing out an idea or series of thoughts that she tossed out into my mind.  Leaving me to connect the pieces or fill in the blanks.

But she was completely silent.   Nothing. Read more

Old West.

Posted on | August 11, 2017 | 7 Comments

There are a lot of national parks out west.  But the boys can only see so much majestic scenery before they become underwhelmed by it and ask to stay in the car.  And Pretty is a big city freak, wanting busy sidewalks and traffic and coffee shops.  And The Other Half wanted to visit small towns where people wear cowboy hats and drive old trucks.   Basically, I had to cover everything that everybody wanted on this trip.  Including me.

So we rolled up on our stay for the night, the historic San Jose House, in Tombstone, Arizona with a couple frozen Tombstone pizzas in the back of the car.  Because what I wanted was to eat a Tombstone in Tombstone.  Except the San Jose house, Tombstone’s first boarding house built in 1879, did not have an oven in it.  Or even a stove top.  Or microwave.  Historic housing is not my favorite housing.

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Left Behind.

Posted on | July 28, 2017 | No Comments

There is something fascinating about places that stand the test of time.  Remnants of earth’s ancient past, testaments to humankind’s presence.  From the silly to the sacred, the Southwest is filled with these places.

We were up bright and early to get back to Carlsbad Caverns and tour the cave.  We passed a herd of Barbary sheep that were already looking for shade.  These sheep are not actually sheep (or goats) and they are not native, only appearing in the late 1940’s and 1950’s.  Most researchers believe they were originally escapees from the McKnight private game ranch in New Mexico that imported the breed from their native North Africa.  And such began the parks’ struggle to restore the decimated native Bighorn sheep (actually sheep) population and remove the Barbary sheep.  The Barbary sheep are winning.  Talk about humans leaving their mark.

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