Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Longest Day

Alex sitting cool, Summer Equinox, Fortuna, California. 7:19 p.m.

While I have managed to unpack the car and even finish washing, drying, folding and putting away the road trip laundry, I have not finished my travelogue... my snapshot-memory book of our travels to and from Oregon. The last days of our drive home got a bit dramatic, because of the California fires. Then we had a very short time with Geoff before he had to leave for Chicago. Events and passages, daily duties and life, have been swirling and bouncing, and I have not quite managed to catch-up. Catch-up?! Seriously, have I ever been "caught-up," organized, with it, on top of things, in control?

Max teaches Maria how to throw a shoe. June 20, 2008. 7:39 p.m.

About those fires... I should have calculated how far I would drive from Fortuna, the second day of our drive home. I should have decided on a reasonable stopping place and called ahead for a room.

We spent the night in Fortuna, and had a relaxing dinner and evening at Eel River Brewing Company, a place making my list of awesome road trip stops. And later that night William, Alex and I squealed and shuddered witnessing the sky cracking thunder storm and rain, seeing the lightning. It turns out this was the same storm that began all of the lightning strike fires California is suffering.

7:40 p.m.

The next day we were seeing CDF vehicles and personnel everywhere. Fire fighting crews from all over California and other western states were on the move, and it was disturbingly reminiscent of way too many fires and evacuations from our past.

Closure of highway 1 in Watsonville from one fire, rerouted me away from Bill and Alison's place, so I continued down the 101 through San Jose, and as we approached the east side of Watsonville we could see flames in the hills. Further south we began to consider stopping for the night, and we pulled over in King City, where we discovered every room was booked... just as it had been in Santa Cruz and Monterey. The parking lots were full of CDF crews and evacuated families.

7:42 p.m.

We called Geoff. We had already been driving about 10 hours and between the fire and the heat wave, I could tell we would need help booking a room. So, I kept driving south, while Geoff called every hotel/motel between Greenfield and Pismo Beach. By now we were witnessing the fires burning on the eastern slopes of the Big Sur coast, and Geoff was having no luck finding us a place to stop for the night. Everything was booked due to the fires, summer events and an inland heat wave.

The Eel River, Phillipsville, California. June 21, 2008. 10:19 a.m. For hundreds and hundreds of miles I would think to myself: "This is beautiful. This place, this sight, this moment, those flowers, the light, the water, the air. I should take a picture."

Maria needed facilities and I stopped in Phillipsville... a small, remote place in the middle of the Redwoods and we found a camp store. I helped Maria, and I gave the children a $20 bill and instructions: Buy something. A treat. Anything you want." Maria and I joined them in the store, where they were still pacing up and down the 3 or 4 aisles of the little provisions shop.

Max asked, "Anything? Even soda?
I was tickled with what was becoming a happy diversion, "Yes, anything."
Max again, because he has to be certain of all the rules: "Even ice cream?"
We had already done 2 full tours of the entire shop, carefully weighing the options. Maria was embracing a snack package of Oreos. 6 cookies awaited her rapt attention and grateful nibbles. William pulled a grape soda from the cooler. Alex was peering into the ice-cream freezer. My satisfaction and pleasure was in watching my children revel in the bliss of choices, freedom and the anticipation of a camp-store treat. Max and Alex chose Tollhouse ice-cream sandwiches, William savored his grape flavored soda and Maria's 6 cookies lasted a sweet hour or more.

Strawberry fields and road side stand. North of Hopland, California. The Redwood Highway. June 21, 2008. 1:06 p.m.

Our next stop, our lunch, came from this strawberry field...

1:08 p.m.
This would have been a good time to call ahead and book a room... maybe in San Jose or even San Francisco, so I would not have the crisis that awaited us later.

We pulled under a huge oak tree, rinsed the sun warmed berries and began our picnic. The berries were sweet. the day was hot. I gave the chicas more water.

I sort of get the saying "Money can't buy happiness, but I have never believed it. I understand it, but that's not the same as believing it. Money does not guarantee happiness, and having money does not prevent unhappiness. Money gives opportunity, security, options and freedom. It can save us from hunger and strife, from limitations and hardships. I think it helps to know life with money and without money, to deeply appreciate the difference. This is a topic that I appreciate merits more than a paragraph, but I am going to keep this simple: I am so grateful to have options and freedom, to be blessed with a reliable vehicle and gas money, to have cash on hand for a box of berries.

Cameras, cell phones, fabric for homemade dresses, chickens as pets, Oreo snack packs, tickets to see "Wall-E," clean water and time are wonderful luxuries. Strawberries, sweet and fresh, eaten in the shade of an ancient oak tree are happiness in fruit form.

Golden Gate Bridge trail-head parking lot. 4:12 p.m.

Hours before I knew how long the day would be, before finding booked motels, I stopped here. I gave the chicas more water, and called Ron and Delia. I tried to nap a bit, but couldn't.

Later that night, armed with the Internet and phones, Geoff finally did manage to find us a hotel room. I had to backtrack 10 miles, and by 11:30 p.m. we were in a safe, comfortable room, and pulling covers over ourselves. 13 hours of driving were over, and we were, finally, free to rest.

Did you read all the way through? Long day = long In years to come, I think it will be nice to recall this challenging, fun, beautiful, long day. Our adventures and trials, the way we see the world, makes our lives worthwhile and meaningful. And our friends and family do too, so thank you. Thank you for your emails and comments, for sharing our deep thoughts and other musings. While I have not managed to catch-up, I am sustained and motivated by your thoughtfulness and kindness.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Oh My Goodness, It's December!

I woke-up feeling giddy, a bit elated, easily amused, full of itchy anticipation. I think it's partly relief that we've finally had rain to really wash away the soot and ash that has dusted everything. And the rain sounds so lovely pattering the sidewalks, dripping from the trees, streaming down the gutters. Last night the wind started blowing too... oh it's so lovely to have a weather change, to see an excuse to snuggle under quilts and hang twinkly lights.

There's so much to do! It's December, and I still have ambitions to make gifts and finish works in progress. I have the cold, like Maria, Alex and Max, but we are forging ahead as best we can. I finished the Autumn quilt, my Trail Quilt, with hand quilted leaves, grapevines, swirls and waves. It came with us to the zoo and on a hike we took earlier in the week. It's layered with an old and worn flannel sheet, so it's light and easy to carry on little excursions.

Of all my 997 posts I think about 60% of them make some reference to my less than stellar domestic skills. Today I would like to make a small, yet delighted, note of pride: The house is pretty clean. Uh-huh. Clean. Cleaner than most days, and maintaining. It's all part of a renewed effort to embrace what is, to expect more of the children, to attend to the little messes, before they become insurmountable. It's a maturity moment, when I am finally comprehending and believing that I can perpetuate my own truth. So, whatever my shortcomings are if I choose to emphasize them, they will become stronger, and more entrenched. My new mode will be to accentuate the positive, keep my focus on my objectives, and no matter how far I fall short of my ideal, I will look for the success in the mess the process. LOL... 6 days in a cleaner house and I'm full of high thoughts and deep feelings!

In the midst of "so much to do," I hope we include reflections of gratitude, quiet time together as a family, more hikes and excursions. This is a very hard time for Geoff, and we feel it too. He has to work long hours, which is saying a lot if you know his regular schedule of long hours. So, speaking of reflections of gratitude... I am so grateful that when we are together, when Geoff can be home, we have fun. We enjoy each other's company, and we value the simple pleasures, like listening to the rain, singing Christmas carols, watching the children play and invent.

Recently our server has been acting funky and that's always frustrating. I think it's good again, so if I keep posting at my regular pace, I will be at post 1,000 in no time. I promised a contest and a prize. So much to do! There are an awful lot of blog contests, swaps, giveaways, celebrations. So much generosity and creativity. Well, I guess I am not being too original, but sharing joy and marking special occasions is irresistible, so count on me to play very soon.

Thank you for the birthday messages for Maria. We've had fun teaching her to say "I am three." She says, "I am five (or 6, 9, 8.)" And she's had fun getting her nails painted by her Aunt Gretchen, with Max's help. She's had fun opening her presents, like the scarf I made her, and the Little Ponies from Gretchen and Hans, and Grandma Nancy, the paper dolls and dress from Tutu and Grandpa Corm, the markers and Crayolas and princess cloth from Grandma Boo Boo and Grandpa Ronnie... new treasures to play with. Joy!

Oh my goodness, it's 9 a.m.! Enough reflection! It's time to get busy. Have a wonderful day!

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up

Early this morning, in the faint dawn light, I heard Maria running to the playroom, followed by a Fwump! Of course my camera was handy, and since she was already cheerfully announcing, "I'm Okay. I'm Okay..." it seemed like a good time to take a photograph. So, there she is, swallowed-up by Alex's empty and wide open school bag.

I admire her resilience.

I have a touch of post funeral melancholy.

Suppressed memories, strong emotions, conflicts, grief, sympathy... it's all swirling around in my head and my heart. I am struck by how much of memory can be a blur, like a photograph out of focus, or a movie with sound that comes in and goes out... Yet with the slightest urging, or the prompting of a melody or a picture, the sound of someone's laughter, a fragrance... any little thing can bring back a full, vivid recollection of entire events, conversations, feelings. Our stories matter, I believe. The connections we have with community and family, the church our grandmothers attended, the park where families we knew picnicked and played; our traditions and relations are such a rich and complex fabric. I am not trying to make point. Just thinking out loud.

Max is still coughing... even the cat has been sick... cleaning his fur, he ingested junk that has made him barf a lot. The vet says it's fire related. He seems to be improving. (The cat has been to the doctor, the boy has not. I wish our vet were a pediatrician; I have more confidence in him.) We really have not finished cleaning all of the fire fall out. I miss my family, and I worry about my brother. Geoff's dying vehicle is effectively dead. I took him to work today. We all miss Tamsyn. The demands and expectations of school life wore me out last month and anticipating upcoming events makes me less than eager to meet the holidays.

Holidays and home life are just too sacred to relinquish, so I contemplate home-schooling again, which I would love, which makes me ponder: What else would I love? And then I know I want to go a on a big, family road trip and rediscover our voices, and read whole passages of great books aloud, and sit beside creeks and watch leaves fall. I want to watch Alex build robots and draw gnomes, and listen to William describe "Spore" and finish teaching him how to drive, somewhere where people are kind, even in their cars. I want to go on long, pointless walks with my husband, and watch some movies with him, then design a house that we will actually build, then live in. I want to dance with Maria and play with dough and paint and glue, and take her to a warm ocean and let her learn how to swim. I want to read with Max, all of his "-Ology" books, and then I want to show him that he could make a wonderful book too... on any subject, and it could be full of his ideas and thoughts. And it cheers me to realize that my children and my husband are such a source of joy for me... consoling, and encouraging.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

HaPpY HaLLoWeEn!

Alex the Dragon Wizard is roaming the halls of academia. Much like last year, when he was the invisible man, his costume is home-grown, creative and a family project that should have been started 6 months ago. Trouble-shooting and design challenges aside, he looks pretty cool in his dragon head and with his apocathry belt laden with potions and salves.

Maria is wearing anything with tulle... a thrift shop dress and a tutu and yellow ribbons in her hair. She says she is a princess fairy. I love that she made it herself, picking what passed for her vision and adamantly declining anything did not fit in her plan.

I will have to post in increments today. Max is, unfortunately sick... some post-fire cough, a little fever, sore throat and a mix of too much school party anxiety. He is not really sorry about the prospect of missing the parade and festivities. He is worried about missing school work. He's in our bed doing school assignments. I am looking forward to sharing his very Max costume... stay tuned!

William and I are going to juggle today, wearing many hats as volunteers, doing his school work, keeping Max company and finishing William's costume. I think I will be Eeyore... it just fits.

After School Update

What the hay! Never underestimate the complexity of a simple idea.

And never give-up just because it's tough, or you might miss out on something that, in the end, works surprisingly well.

Somehow, Max as a bale of straw... an unassuming, camouflaged costume with a built-in escape hatch... just fits. He loves it. He likes that he can disappear...

and make a showing whenever he feels like it.

Maria's princess-fairy costume evolved throughout the morning, until she finally made her debut in her princess dress, with fairy tutu, Jack' o lantern shell and "Mary Poppins'" hat. Smashing! Dazzling! Original!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Finishing October

I ought to have a separate label called "Shocked" and under its heading would be all the posts that express my amazement about the lateness of the month, or week or day... seems I am always caught off guard by the passage of time. It's Later Than You Think could be my theme song. So, anyway, I am taken aback, surprised, turned around... October is nearly through? Oh my.

OKay. Who needs a costume? William asked for a black dress shirt that will be suitable for Frankenstein's Monster; something in keeping with the literary description of the creepy fellow. Alex's costume is nearly complete, I think... wait, I seem to recall a strip of elastic I need to attach to his head dragon's head. And for Max, I need to get to a feed store and buy a flake of straw. Maria... she says she wants to be a "Cutie Bug!" I think that can be open to interpretation, so I hope she is happy with whatever I can manage in the next 24 hours! Pictures, yes. I will take lots of pictures.

Last week, when we came home from our very exclusive evacuation center, we were greeted by 2 parcels. One from Hawaii and one from Oregon. Seems the grandmas were in sync and they both had Halloween on their minds. I cannot describe the pleasure we derived from those care packages... it was as good as a party and a wonderful distraction from our fears and anxieties about the fires.

My mom sent Maria little tulle tutus, and Tutu sent her a bracelet and a necklace. We also received gag gifts, like a fake cigar and a chewed wad of gum prop, Halloween pencils, paper plates and a tea towel with a pumpkin cookie cutter. Tutu added her traditional chocolate covered marshmallow treats, which the boys jokingly say can only be found in Hawaii. Thank you grandmas and grandpas! We love our treats.

Interesting crossroads... I am struggling with a decision about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate to discuss in a blog. I know that very personal or emotionally charged subjects are considered taboo for some, especially in a family blog or when read by people not as comfortable with the whole blog genre in the first place. Yet some people would actually find it remiss of me not to mention an important, or significant event or passage... maybe it would seem indifferent of me or insensitive of me to not acknowledge sad news. And lately I have left quite a bit unsaid, preferring to respect privacy, and perhaps I should continue in this mode. However, I make this blog a chronicle of our lives and a means to connect with family and friends.

And so I must mark this day, quietly, though publicly, and extend my deepest sympathy to my cousins. My tio passed away last night... it is my cousins I am thinking of, their loss, and I am sad too... once again caught off guard by the passage time, and full of memories of our times together as children, playing under the watchful, loving eyes of our parents. I pray for their comfort, that they may feel the warm embrace and loving kindness of family and friends, near and far.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Too Soon Monday

From this angle it looks like we have a handle on life and impending festivities, but the truth is this has been a difficult week and it's not getting much easier. Never underestimate the effects of Santa Winds, raging fires, evacuations, clean-up and traveling the road back to Normal. In the midst of our own little dramas we are trying to cope with other people's agendas... like school parties on steroids. And then there are family matters that arise and make all else pale by comparison... so, I dropped everything to try to comfort my cousins in L.A. Sigh. Truly, this is not me complaining. I am just taking stock of all the factors that may account for my lack of sleep, for feeling stressed, sad, melancholy and well, frankly, irrationally cranky and sometimes even rationally cranky.

The boys are just... ahem... a wee bit late for school. What can I say?

So, I took stock of what is making life challenging at the moment. Now I am going to play a therapeutic balancing game and reflect on what makes me hopeful, grateful and willing to keep on trying...
1. Geoff put gas in the car before I made the sola trip to L.A. This is romantic, kind, thoughtful, helpful and comforting.
2. I got to see my cousins and Grandma, aunt, uncle, tio, and my brother Bill. TIme with family is precious.
3. When I came home everyone was happy and safe and I was overcome with the knowledge that I love this family with my heart, soul and mind.
4. Dominic learned to walk. Sure, I am missing the fun of actually seeing him walk, but at least I got to see Bill impersonate his son walking. Cute. Cute and funny.
5. I have been hearing from family and friends and new Chickenblog visitors, and I love the conversations and exchanges. Love it.
6. Tracy says I make her smile and she handed me an award for it. I wish I could sing, but making people smile is also a sweet skill. Tracy makes me smile too.
7. Frozen, nitrate-free turkey sausages are on sale.
8. I finally found my cell phone... to 21 people: Sorry I missed your call!
9. 21 people called me. OKay, some of them were recorded messages from the school district.
10. Did I mention how much I love my family? It bears repeating. I love their laughter, creativity, thoughts, actions, dreams, plans, goals, motivations, smiles, drawings, carvings, dances, songs, music, style and hugs.


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Friday, October 26, 2007

Can't Believe It's Friday

Today is all about staying sane and looking for our routine... wait, I just remembered we never had a routine! Just kidding. We have never been a super-disciplined family, but I look forward to returning to our own brand of chaos, and leaving soot, smoke and sore throats in the past. I keep meaning to show up at an evacuation center, but with four children it's difficult to make myself a community volunteer, so I will continue to act locally.

Since I am not thinking-up deep thoughts, I'll share some links...

Fire Safety is the name of the game and this Escondido resident has some good advice. Fire Safety Begins at Home

Or, if you are a special member of our sadly polarizing society you may be enjoying this service... private fire fighters for the castle crowd.

Remember my confusion about how to save the planet and have a China-free Christmas? Well, Jennifer, of "Infinity More Monkeys," has some helpful thoughts and ideas about the subject... she helped me focus on my motivation.

Finally, if you really need to escape, there's always bird watching.

Be safe.

2 p.m.
More good news!
From my cousin Debbie, in Colorado, news that their local Red Cross volunteers have been very busy helping San Diego fire evacuees. Isn't that wonderful? They've been down at Petco Park, and cooking for families in Valley Center, with the help of First Baptist Kitchen.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Now We Get to Clean

Clean-up: A blessing and a nightmare.
Once you get over the initial honor and blessing of having a house, still standing and undamaged, then you have to come to terms with the scary prospect of cleaning ash, soot, microscopic particulate matter that is carcinogenic, from outside, inside, the cars, the bottom of your shoes, your hair, the cat, the toys in the yard... everywhere!

May I just re-emphasize how clean and lovely our home was, inside and out, Sunday afternoon?

This stuff is nasty. Nasty in the short term, because of the spread and volume, and it breaks in to an infinite, airborne dust as soon as anything touches it or a breeze swirls. It smells bad too. Nasty in the long term, because it is like inhaling a sample of every plastic, synthetic, hazardous material burning in San Diego County. And those little white masks from the hardware store? "Better than nothing, maybe, but not effective in keeping out the junk."

And when should you start cleaning? The fires are not contained. While it is impossible to maintain the same level of heightened awareness, anxiety, adrenaline... the reality is we are still in the middle of an emergency and disaster. Exertion is ill-advised in this air-quality. Sweep the porch and come back to sweep again in 20 minutes? Kind of pointless. Ash is still falling, and more will come with every wind gust. I swept our entryways in hopes of keeping us from tracking more stuff in. We have to conserve power too, so no dishwashers, or laundry... is everyone following these requests?

We are faring well under the circumstances. Yes, we are coughing and sneezing. My eyes hurt. My nose hurts. William and Geoff cough a lot.

I find myself avoiding trying to comprehend the magnitude of all of this, because emotionally, it devastates me. I sympathize and empathize and I am overcome when I think too long on families and houses, burn victims, losses, fears, little children, animals, trees, the places I know and love, the businesses hurt, the firefighters, law enforcement, volunteers... so much pain, so much fear and loss, and we are not done yet.

I just keep a prayer running in my head, in my heart... keep everyone safe, and thank you. Thank you for fire fighting crews coming from Grand Junction, Colorado, and East Los Angeles and Tijuana and Tecate, from all over the world.
Thank you for cooperation and compassion.
Thank you for Petco; they are not only raising money, but they are at the evacuation centers providing supplies and helping all of the animals.
Thank you for the messages of encouragement and love coming to our home from friends, new and old, far and near. Last night I received an email from Perth Australia... Laura R. has been reading Chickenblog and the maps from yesterday helped her and her evacuated San Diego friend share more information. Thank you Laura for writing to me, for sharing your kind thoughts.
Thank you Debbie M., Beverly, Carol V., Jess, and thank you Jennifer... Infinity thank yous!
Thank you "Natalie from Phoenix"... and don't give-up on your blog... it's worthwhile for all the friends and support you will find!
Thank you Jeanne and Julie... we Hens gotta stick together!
It cheered me to hear the sound of "One Hand Knitting." Thank you Diane.
Thank you to my California blog buddy at Nikkipolani.
Thank you Andylynne and I hope you start blogging too! Thank you Mary.
Janece, I know you are praying, thank you, and I am keeping your family in my prayers too.
Thank you Anne... and Janice, Maria and Belinda, whatever is for dinner, it is always better with friends!
Thank you Hans... your evacuation offer is intriguing lol.
Thank you Ron and Delia, and Ruth and Jim... and Grandma Nancy... we could never be homeless, not really.
Thank you Holly and Rich, for going above and beyond the call of duty. We owe you.

Keep everyone safe, keep everyone safe... Keep praying.

And find little things to be thankful for.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

San Diego County Wild Fire Updates

New maps of the situation were posted about 2 hours ago. Our county emergency web page is a great source, but very slow, since it is very busy. I printed and photographed the map, so you don't have to wait for it to upload...

Red: Active burn areas
Orange: Fire perimeters/hotspots
Purple (looks gray): Mandatory evacuation (Fairbanks Ranch, San Marcos, Harmony Grove, Julian, Scripps-Poway, Peñasquitos, Rancho Santa Fe, parts of Escondido, Valley Center, Fallbrook, Palomar, Pauma, Jamul, Dehesa, Skyline, Sweetwater, Bonsall, parts of Oceanside, Otay, Camp Pendleton, Lake Henshaw)
Green: reopened areas

Sample scale: The distance between downtown Carlsbad and downtown Encinitas is 10 miles
Yellow roads/highways are closed.

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Disaster Relativity

Geoff watching "Charlie and Lola" with Isabella and Maria. He did spend some time with us, when he wasn't defending the homestead.

"It's all relative" goes the expression. We are safe, relatively. We were much safer thanks to relatives. And we have not suffered, relative to those families still evacuated and learning the sad fate of their homes, possessions and pets. So, I can't complain... but I will anyway... ha-ha! OKay, not so much complain, but assess the anxiety and recount the details, because it's too stressful to keep it all bottled up in my head.

Last night the voluntary evacuation for our community was lifted, and we returned to Garage Mahal about 9 p.m. It stinks bad, but the air is surprisingly clear (again, that's relative!.) We are keeping a watchful eye on the Witch-Poomacha Fire. That's two fires that merged early this morning, for a jumbo fire that has burned 220,000+ acres and is still uncontained. I-5 was closed for many hours this morning, due to 3 uncontained fires at Camp Pendleton... unsettling to lose that escape route, but it's recently reopened.

Let's see... other than having our nerves rattled and still feeling alert and on edge, I think we are okay. Of course we're okay, right? Pets are here, house is standing, friends we've heard from are safe... check, check and check.

How to Be a Good Parent in a Disaster: Let your children feel empowered, even if it means filling the tub with Lego bricks covered by soaked towels.

Everyone is hearing about the Santa Ana Winds that are finally calming and they report that as good news... Santa Anas are powerful, hot winds and gusts that come from the east when there is an area of high pressure over the Great Basin in Utah. Relatively, it is good news, but, and you knew there had to be a big but here, the off-shore breeze blows back all of the smoke that was moving across the Pacific as far west as Hawaii. Off-shore winds are also less predictable than the Santa Anas and make it much tougher on the fire fighters as they try to anticipate where the fire will move... + the Santa Anas are not gone, just turned down, so those poor fire fighters are dealing with multiple wind directions. Another issue is that the new wind direction, means the fire is switching directions, going back over areas that were in peril and heading to all new areas. Julian, the mountain community we were visiting last week has lost power and phone connections and they are under mandatory evacuation.

This is a very recent update on the overall situation.

Well, I have had enough of wild fires, evacuations, fretting, stinky air and feeling heart-broken watching displaced families looking at ash piles and rubble, and from plenty of past experience, I know we are a long way from back to normal. I remember after the 2003 fires for a few months we could smell ash-smoke-fire stench every time the wind blew... it took quite a few rains to wash away that smell and it took even longer for me not to feel a moment of panic when the smell of fire was in the air.

Last Friday I paid to have the carpets cleaned lol, and we spent Sunday sprucing and scrubbing the yard... it looked awesome. We are blessed. A sooty, smelly, disheveled rental palace is still a home and we are happy to have it. Thank you to everyone who has called, emailed and left comments. Your thoughts, prayers and kindness have kept me sane, distracted and happy... it really is wonderful to feel connected. I hear helicopters... I see blue in the sky... I smell soot... I feel tired. I am going to cook the dinner I had planned for Mom's Night Out, which I was supposed to host last night. Soup anyone?

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Encroaching Witch... time for a cold beer

Geoff came to our family evacuation center. I was happy to see him and the kids felt better having their daddy here.
The rest of the story: We checked the fire map and confirmed that the fire is making a strong push westward and around to some particularly direct access canyons, so what do you think? Yup, he's on his way back to Garage Mahal. Something to do with not wanting to disconnect the hard-drives unless it is absolutely mandatory.

Dear God, please don't let my husband be on the evening news.

Pretty much reaching a point of surrealism. Fire is worse than ever, and all I can think about is how badly I need to start exercising and wondering whether the Lego bricks really will be okay under the wet towels in the bath-tubs... And I can't quite fully accept that this is far from over. The initial rush and anxiety has subsided and my brain keeps proposing a return to normalcy... Let's go home. Time to clean-up. Are we there yet?

San Diego Unified School District closed schools until Monday... we suppose it will be the same in our district... I wish I could show you the barely contained elation on Alex's face!

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Passing Time and Thinking

William and I are sharing Geoff's laptop. Yes, he's still home. Others I've heard from: Jola, B, Karen and Yanina are all home and ready to head out if necessary. So, from our laptop command center we are following The San Diego County Emergency web page.... oh, which is now failing... may be you'll have better luck.

I also have my map out... most recently I used it to confirm my suspicion about the Harmony Grove mandatory evacuation. Harmony Grove is where the 1996 wild fire burned, moved to the coast, devastated La Costa and sent us south when embers were landing our roof. Harmony Grove is in a deep valley or canyon with arteries that reach the coastal communities of Olivenhain, Leaucadia, South Carlsbad, Encinitas and Cardiff... fires love those dry, hard to access canyons.

Mandatory evacuations are happening well ahead of the fire, so that time will allow for safe exit. So, the fire that was on the north side of Lake Hodges and Del Dios Highway must have done what we feared and climbed the hills that run east-west... so that it is traveling towards the backside toward Elfin Forest, San Marcos, San Elijo Hills and the Escondido Creek, which is an entrance to Olivenhain and Rancho Santa Fe. The actual Witch Fire does not have to reach these points... Santa Ana winds, hot and fast, carry embers miles away and ignite palm trees, dry brush and debris, then the fire just spreads.

Concern: A new fire in the Palomar Mountain area, that started as a house fire, is now 20,000 acres and growing. Firefighters express fear of it merging with the Witch Fire. The Harris fire, in the southern part of the county is growing too.

Even though we are welcome and safe here with Holly and Rich and their children, I really, really want to go home. No more wise-cracks about my Garage Mahal Rental Palace. Home is home. And, goofy me, I am really upset that I cleaned it so well, then all hell broke loose and it's a mess. The boys filled the tubs with some of their Lego bricks, then covered them with wet towels! How precious is that? I'm sure the house stinks... it was bad after 1 day. We ran around like headless chickens pulling stuff out and debating its value in our Evacuation Plan: Swim fins? Change jar? Bamboo driftwood that looks like a reindeer? Chicken collection? All my cleaning efforts shot to hell. Minor. Minor. Minor.

I would go home, but so much depends on very undependable factors, and when the fire has a chance to move fast, it moves very fast. So, it would seem obvious and reasonable to stay put... ah, but who wants to be reasonable? I feel anxious and bored, hurried and caught. You can imagine the scene: 6 children going stir-crazy, 2 adults trying to work from home, heat, bad air, the news running 24 hours, and me sitting in the middle, blogging and being mostly useless. Holly runs a wonderful evacuation center, but if I don't start making myself useful they may send us to the Stadium... lol.

At least I showered.

I forgot my toothbrush, and I couldn't find my cell phone.

I should volunteer myself as an example of how not to parent during a crisis. Don't stare vacantly at ceiling. Don't show children worse case scenarios and maps of projected fire paths. Don't buy cases of glazed donuts and promise children the best Christmas ever! Don't remind husband to bring the butt wipes if when he evacuates. Don't mock officials that set-up evacuation centers in the line of fire.

I'm going to check the news, then hug the children, then call Geoff and remind him that I love him. Keep writing to me, so I have a valid excuse to sit with the laptop.

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It's Morning
I think by now our plight is on the national news... our news is local only and we can't get enough. Nothing changes minute to minute, but I hang on every word, waiting for any update, anxiously.

We are safe... the animals too. We packed some basics and headed for Holly and Rich's, where the air is much clearer and the fire seems far less likely to spread. My friends? I don't know... some have certainly been evacuated, some I know have homes in the burn areas. Even where there is no fire, smoke and air quality conditions are horrible and it's almost impossible to comprehend how close the fire is. They do know it's burning straight to the beaches, with no containment.

Containment: The fire is circled.
Controlled: The fire is getting put out.

I know Rachel A. called our home last night and talked to Geoff (left a message?) I hope she's with her dog, in a safe place. We have a lot of friends from school that we are thinking of and worried about.

Yes, Geoff is still at the house. Yes, I am worried. No, he's not in immediate-super-extra danger. You may be wondering What the @#$! is he doing there? I can't explain it, but this morning, looking at the latest map and evacuation mandates, all I could think or feel was a huge compulsion to go home and stand my ground. It makes no sense.

Have I ever posted about my super powers of navigation? Geoff calls me his Nativigator. My mind is mapping every street, canyon, ridge, creek valley and neighborhood, and I have a good memory for the last two fires that had us evacuating our homes... uh, did I have a point? I guess I am just keenly aware of how bad this situation is.

It would touch your heart to see the things the boys brought, the things they wanted to bring, the things they tried to protect before he left Garage Mahal. They loaded our photo albums. I brought important papers, pillows and blankets, some quilts. The cats, bunny and bird are with us. Last night, as I was looking for diapers in the car, I saw the boys had packed Alex's yearbook painting, a 1948 publication of "Cheaper By The Dozen," their homework!... such dedication. This is the 3rd time I leave my house in the path of a firestorm and What to Bring? is still a weird, disturbing and surreal challenge. I follow the disaster preparedness checklist So Cal residents keep handy, but trust me, there is a great deal that becomes overwhelming and emotionally stressful. I left my ironed, folded fabric! My engagement ring is still packed somewhere in the garage. I know, I know... family is the most important, things can be replaced... or can they? This is not as easy in practice as it is in theory.

Anne, where are you guys? I called your place before we left, and I assume you guys have headed out. Linda, Josie, Betsy, Susan, Jola and Mark, Julie G., James and Deanne, Belinda? Hey friends. You are in my prayers. Prayers for everyone. Prayers and concern going out to our firefighters, law enforcement, volunteers. Doug and Blanca... stay safe, God bless you.

And one more thing... tonight I am MNO host. On the menu: Chilled wine, maybe some Margaritas, albondigas and hot corn tortillas as an appetizer and then chile rellenos for the main course. Dessert? Chocolate brownie cake. Mom's Night Out sisters, this is the first MNO that won't happen and that we'll never forget! Let's have a make-up night as soon as possible... we'll go straight to the wine and dessert!

Leave comments. Get in touch. It's good to hear other news.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Our neighborhood is being evacuated.
I really want to come back and say we over-reacted.

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Again? Really?

We are looking at a completely brown sky, listening to howling winds, and monitoring every news broadcast in San Diego County. I suppose nationally, the news can't stop brooadcasting the Malibu fire, where there are famous people, but once again San Diego is in big trouble... worse than '96, and (is it possible?) worse than '03. Here's one account of what's happening with the eight out of control fires in our county. We've seen this before and I can tell it is worse... the winds blew hard all night, there are more fires... No school today. Many friends in evacuation areas...

Um. It's weird to be in this situation, because it's easy to feel alarmist and yet the conditions are prime for catastrophic scenarios. Seriously.

I have already seen news coverage of familiar places burning, places we were just visiting. Adjacent neighborhoods are being evacuated, and the offical statement from county officials, the sheriff's office and the fire department is that the fire is 0% contained, out of control, cannot be fought on the ground or from the air, and will only worsen with these wind patterns and low humidity. Worsen.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Always charming, Julian in the Fall.

There is evidence of the fires, from the ravaged hills and valleys, to the relief center at Town Hall, from the conversations between shop keepers, and the signs posted everywhere: "Thank you fire fighters. We love you." And there are signs of healing too. Soft green grasses are coming up from the charred, black earth. It's a small indication of nature's cycle, but very impressive. And there were a lot of visitors in town. They were shopping and strolling, enjoying the sights. People were perceptively warmer, gentle, soft spoken; like friendly acquaintances visiting someone recovering from a bad accident.

Max and Alex left toys, clothes and money at the relief center. We had lunch at the Miner's Diner, then stopped at some of our favorite shops. We were Christmas shopping for family and friends. We found great stuff at the Wandering Sage. We skipped the pie at Mom's this time, but we did enjoy some hot apple cider.

William put his arm around my shoulders and asked to hear the stories he knows I like to share. We went to find Handsome Eddie and Eileen's home, and I held my breath until I saw it there at the end of the winding road. Still cabin-red, with manzanitas growing along the ditch and the stone steps climbing to the front porch, where Eileen used to wave us in from the cold. I stopped to listen for Asco, the black lab, and to recall the smell of the garden, the cellar, the pines. Faintly, I could hear Eddie laughing and hear his jovial and stern voice, telling us of miners and their lost treasures. He expected us to be good children and he praised us sincerely, with love. Eileen's voice is in my head and guiding my aspirations, feeding my soul to do good, be nurturing, make life welcome and celebrated. I put my hand on the railing and looked at the house, quiet and alone,

but too full of memories to ever be a lonesome place for me.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Gracie, evacuated and sheltered.

Though the Paradise fire is not 100% contained, it is well enough under control that the moratorium on new fire policies has been lifted. That was a lot of words to say "escrow will close!" I am here at the Rancho, meeting repairmen and packing mops and tools, and then last of all my computer. It's really time for lights out.

Meanwhile, out west, the evacuated Chicas are living in a sectioned off area beneath the back stairs. It's not home. We let them out the first day and Luna trekked down the road to the neighbor's rose garden, twice. Joan was amused and surprised and very friendly, but we have kept a much tighter rein on the adventurous Chicas ever since. Poor Chicas are not very happy penned in and without their usual spread to cruise. This morning we let them out for a brief bit of freedom. They have many options, but are most attracted to kicking all the wood chips out of the flower bed and on to the sidewalk. In a matter of minutes they mange to create an impressive mess. Don't let my brave front fool you. I am very sad about making the responsible decision to let them stay at the Rancho. I love them. They make me happy, and messy or neat, I never tire of their antics.

I have also discovered that I will miss our market. In two years I have never waited in line to buy groceries, because they always rush to serve. Manuel in produce knows us by name, and he always slices fruit for us to sample. We know the managers and cashiers, the baggers and the bakers. They are friendly and attentive, and even through the grocery strike, our local market has maintained astoundingly awesome service. Major Market deserves a poem or some sort of recognition for doing their job well. Though it's a long drive, I may continue shopping there, rather than suffer long lines and indifferent service at the local markets.

I will miss the view from here; the beautiful hills and sunrise light, the flocks of egrets crossing every morning and afternoon. Yesterday evening a great horned owl sat on the house antenna and looked down on Geoff and me. I will miss his soft "who," and the distant and distinct call of the ostriches. I will miss our neighbors, who have been kind and generous, and the wide open sky that has shared stars and storms, sunsets and breezes. It has been quieter, and slower here, and it has been hotter and colder too. There are many things we are leaving behind.

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Saturday, November 01, 2003

Did someone pray for rain? Thank you. Things are far more hopeful today than they were at the beginning of the week, and we are cautiously optimistic about containment of the fires. The total damages, so far, are terrible. Julian was saved, but I am deeply grieved by the price. I don't think any of my dearest memories or sentiments about Cuyamaca, Julian and the back country, are worth a man's life. All of the firefighters gave fully and I hope we can convey our fullest gratitude.

Thank you to friends and family who have stayed in touch. We are doing fine, and looking forward to settling in to our new home. Right now I am supposedly helping Geoff clean and repair; still finishing the tedious details of moving.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

We are heading back to the coast. Let it rain. Please, let it rain.

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Spreading out; winds are moving from southwest to northeast. The wind direction helps us, but is keeping Julian in peril.

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Updated view of Paradise Fire from San Pasqual area looking northeast.

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Check this map for an overview of the county and fires: activefiremap-1029-10am.jpg 791x527 pixels

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Prayers for the firefighters and their families. One firefighter, defending Julian from the Cedars Fire, has died. Two other firefighters were also sent to the hospital.

The weather is still making containment impossible.

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Escrow cannot close on Friday. Due to the fires, no insurance company will insure new home buyers, and so escrow cannot close; possibly for weeks. We also cannot get new services to the rental home, so we are holding on to our internet connection here at the Rancho. There is an undeniable degree of suckiness to this, but I don't feel entitled to wallow in self pity. We have our home...two homes in fact. We will continue to receive email here, and our landline is set up as well. And I am trying to keep up with cell phone messages. It's encouraging to hear from family and friends, and know that some parts of the world are's hard to get perspective in this bizarre atmosphere.

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Humor makes things bearable. This goes out to Bill and Alison: We are evacuating ALL the chickens!

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