Surviving the Creek Fire

LA City firefighters put out hot spots in the Skirball Fire on a canyon along Linda Flora Drive in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, on Wednesday, December 6, 2017.
(Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

You may have heard that we’ve been having a lot of fires in CA this week. Unless you live in a cave, I doubt you’d been able to avoid the coverage. And sadly, the media likes to play up the worst aspects of a devastating event like this and get people even more worked up than they already are. So, I thought I would just tell you my story – perhaps it will provide a little perspective.

Monday night the winds were high and my friend and I went to dinner. We were even making jokes about how ‘wind’ was southern California’s version of winter. We’d heard about the Ventura fires of course, but they were far far away.

Tuesday morning, the wind wasn’t so funny. Around 8 AM my room mate told me we had some smoke and a few little flare ups on the hillside just down the street from us. I heard the helicopters flying above and was confident they’d snuff them out quickly. Just after 9 AM, the police came to our door and told us we had to evacuate.

Shock. Even during the Station House fire, which was horrendous, we hadn’t been told to evac.

Things went from somewhat concerned to flat out terrified in moments. I stood in the middle of my room trying to figure out what to take with me, feeling like a hand was pushing me out the door at the same time. When people say things about your mind spinning, this was it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so scared.

I ran around tossing things in a bag—toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, my external hard drive, charger, kindle. Then I had to think about my pets. I have a little dog but also two cats. There was nowhere to take any of them. And with all the commotion – the cats were hiding and I couldn’t find them.

The only thing I could do was put out a lot of food and water and hope like hell nothing would happen to the house. I threw what I could into a bag, put my dog in her carrier and piled everything into the car. Of course I had no idea where I was going. The one shelter in the area was already full. The other shelter was on the other side of the red flag zone, and the two friends who I might stay with were smack in the middle of things.

As I drove toward the street corner, I saw my room mate outside a neighbor’s house and stopped to ask him why he was just standing there. They all said they were staying. I was torn. Should I stay or should I go? Though there was a fair amount of visible smoke and a few flare ups on the hillside (a somewhat common sight when you live up here) we didn’t really seem to be in any danger. And I had nowhere to go. I also knew if I left, the chances of being able to get back in where slim to none. So I pulled back in the drive, leaving all my stuff in there, and went back into the house. I settled the dog and then joined my neighbors.

Photo by Ben Kuo on Unsplash

As the day went on, we saw more fire. Closer. We saw huge billowing clouds of black and brown smoke. We saw flare ups on the hillside and in the Wash (a dry riverbed that runs behind our house). But we also saw the helicopters racing back and forth dropping water and retardant.

I turned on the news. I scoured the internet for any updates about our fire and where it was but more importantly where it was headed. I cringed every time the wind gusted and rattled the rafters.

I called my two friends. One was okay. The other had flames shooting up behind her house.

Throughout the day it was a cycle of calling my friends for updates on their situation, watching news coverage, gathering outside with neighbors to watch the firefighters, and praying. A lot of praying.

I went on face book to update friends and family so they wouldn’t think I was dead or trapped.

My eyes burned, I smelled of smoke, my lungs hurt. My body ached. My mind raced.

We climbed up on ladders and kept eye on the Wash and the hills. We hosed each others’ roofs and lawns and the causeway behind the houses. We reassured each other. We cried. We – none of us – really slept that night. The helicopters flew all night. In the darkness the hills glowed like live coals, orange and hot. Nothing seemed real.

For the next three days, our lives were about keeping watch, praying, checking in with friends, trying to get damage reports, hoping nobody would end up homeless. It was a weird kind of prison. I’d committed to staying and I couldn’t leave.

BUT the thing that I started to notice as time passed was the way the media was reporting the fires. I noticed that they kept putting up pictures from the first day as though that were still happening, they only showed the scariest and worst images they could find. Not once did I see them take a crew to an area where things were okay, where neighbors were helping each other, where people were keeping vigil, protecting each other and their homes.

And to me, that is the story that should be being told. Yes, the fires are God awful and I pray that they are all out very soon. And my heart breaks for those who have lost everything. But it’s times like these where you really see and feel other people’s humanity, their hearts, and their love.

We are out of danger and our evac has been lifted.

Thankfully, no one I know personally lost anything, nor was anyone injured. In fact, in the Creek Fire, the last I read it was only 15 homes that were lost. Not the 30 or 40 they kept reporting. We did lose some animals, horses mostly, and that’s terrible, but no people.

And I truly believe that our staying made a difference – that the constant watching, the watering, the working together kept our area safer and maybe even saved a few homes.

From the bottom of my heart I thank anyone who uttered a prayer for us – friends, family and strangers alike. We felt your prayers, we really did – and they helped.

If you can, please donate to relief organizations to help the victims. So many people were not as lucky as we were and need so much help. Ventura Country United Way, Salvation Army Ventura, LA Country Animals

And so my friends, thank you again, and I pray that this never happens to you or anyone you love.

Annie

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HAPPY LABOR DAY – LET’S HAVE A PICNIC..OR SOMETHING…

It’s sad I suppose that summer is on its way out and well Labor Day is the punctuation mark that heralds the end of the season.

Did you know that in a galaxy long ago and far far away that there was this rule that you mustn’t wear white after Labor Day?

So what’s on the menu for your Labor Day picnic – fried chicken, two maybe three kinds of potato salad, sandwiches and lemonade? In that case, these recipes are sure to please.

And don’t forget the cocktails

If  you’re planning to stay home and do some serious binge watching on Netflix or Amazon Prime, check out Ray Donovan, Bosch, Luther, Gilmore Girls Reboot, House of Cards, The Man in the High Castle, all the Star Trek iterations and more…

If you want to get out and about and live in the L.A. area check out the top weekend events, fairs, festivals, fun in the sun and lots of eats

Or just stay home in your jim-jams and read a good mystery

Whatever you plan to do or not do as the case may be – be well, be happy, and be safe.

And say a little prayer for our firefighters out here in CA, presently working 24/7 to knock down the La Tuna Canyon fires – and our friends struggling with the havoc of Hurricane Harvey.

 

Annie

Thoughts about Dallas

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  • We have to stop killing each other.
  • We have to stop believing that killing each other solves anything.
  • We have to realize that anger unfocused only makes things worse.
  • Are things any better because these husbands, fathers and war veterans are now dead?
  • If you find these deaths cause to celebrate, what does that say about you?
  • How does protesting an unjust death by committing an unjust murder make things right?
  • Is this some kind of competition, where the only goal is the even the score?
  • Whose wounds are now healed because of this?
  • When did we stop valuing all lives?
  • How did we get to this place?
  • How do we get out of this place?

If you want to read about the fallen officers you can here and here.

Or share your story via Twitter #bluestories

Please pray for the police officers and their families and everyone impacted by this terrible event. And that we can find a way to heal without further violence.

Politics, mob rule and social media—what I’ve learned

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So in the last few weeks I’ve been paying attention to politics on Facebook. I’d been very intentionally ignoring it up til then because we were miles away from the actual election and I don’t need to decide what I believe in since I already know.

So one day, a few weeks ago, I started to actually look at the political stuff in my feed, scan the articles, read some of the comments and move on. It was intense. I mean, I’ve been a political junkie on and off for many years but things were more intense than I’d seen them since people in Florida were counting chads.

As is my habit, I made a general statement/observation about a certain set of supporters of a certain candidate. To me it was light, somewhat humorous and meant to illicit a laugh. Instead I was attacked. This not only stunned me but made me reexamine my statement to see if it’d been really inflammatory. Nope. Still seemed relatively mild to me. And then from there, I was hooked and frankly until the last couple of days, haven’t come up for air.

So after my foray into the depths of the political trenches I’ve learned the following:

  1. Some of your friends are willing to toss you aside for a stranger who makes promises they can’t keep.
  2. People can become so invested in someone they are willing to call you every and any name in the book including skank, whore, bitch, and worse.
  3. The anonymity of the Internet emboldens people to spew hatred, vitriol and insanity everywhere they travel.
  4. Some people will believe absolutely anything despite a mountain of facts that categorically disprove that belief.
  5. There is no low too low for some people.
  6. Logic often has no place in politics and frequently is the first victim to be thrown under the bus.
  7. Some people are more than happy to ruin others’ lives simply because the do not agree with them.
  8. Free speech is relegated, apparently, to only the chosen few.
  9. Fairness, objectivity, and truth is a matter of opinion.
  10. You cannot convince an angry person of anything.
  11. To some, winning justifies any tactic, no matter how abhorrent, despicable and dirty.
  12. Many people don’t actually do any research on the candidate they champion and when that is pointed out, you better be wearing full body armor.
  13. There are a lot of angry people out there who are misdirecting their anger at total strangers on the Internet.
  14. I long for the days when cute cat videos were the most popular thing on the Internet.
  15. Apparently anybody can run for president these days and people will treat them like they know what they’re talking about. Hey – maybe I should run.
  16. I trust my dog more than most politicians.
  17. Going to a political rally is a lot more dangerous than it used to be.
  18. Orange has become a really popular color – not with me, I look terrible in orange.
  19. According to the polls, the presumed candidates for the November election are two of the most disapproved of people in America.
  20. So far, nobody has attacked any candidates’ pets, but give it time.

How about you? Enjoying the current political happenings? Have you been trolled, flamed, attacked or is it just a barrel of laughs as far as your concerned? Learned anything or is just politics as usual? Feel free to observe, vent or yammer in the comments.

 

Peace out, Writer Chick

Be afraid, be very afraid…

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Not long ago I read a blog post about fear. The blogger went to great lengths to rant against how the government, media, and capitalists were all manipulating us with fear to get what they want.

Ironically, during the rant there were a few fears thrown in for good measure – global warming, government intrusion and guns. These apparently were the good and legitimate fears that we should all believe in.

After reading the comments, I could see that by and large the readers agreed with the post and related some of their own experiences with fear being used as a manipulation tool. Various solutions were suggested – though nothing new or startling.

What’s missing here?

But here’s the thing that the post seemed to miss. There is a reason fear is used in anything from news reports, politics to selling widgets – it works. So then, rather than just ranting about fear and manipulation perhaps we could drill down into the topic further and examine not the use of fear, but why fear works as a manipulation tool.

Fear works because:

  • Everybody has a bias. If you can tap into that bias, then that person is yours for the asking.
  • Most people hate being bored and modern life creates a lot of boredom. Let’s face it, modern technology has taken much of our critical thinking away from us. We don’t need to pursue information in earnest anymore, we have Google and Wiki. And they are happy to do our thinking for us. Hell, we don’t even have to drive or parallel park our cars anymore. Technology will do it for us.
  • Sensation is king among humans. This is a bit of an extension from the boredom bit. Humans love to feel stuff. They love the rush. It interests them, it kicks in endorphins, and it relieves their boredom. Otherwise, no one would ride a roller coaster, sky dive, mountain climb, read horror novels, or go to horror movies or truth be told, watch the news. Sensation makes humans feel alive.

What to do about fear manipulation?

You could do many things about it, if you had the will to do so. If you are the kind of person who is strong willed you can simply refuse to give into it and go about your business

Though the better solution might be to find a hobby or activity that interests you and creates more sensation than the lookie-loo joy of watching blood and guts parade of the nightly news.

But above all else, and you’ll hate me for saying this,  I think we need to stop seeing ourselves as victims. So what if capitalists, marketers, and politicians lie and use fear to manipulate? None of them is holding a gun to your head. You don’t have to take the bait. You don’t have to see yourself as a victim.  You can actually take responsibility for your own fate and pursue what is important to you in life.

This is not to say that I don’t sympathize with people who are truly victimized. Crime, abuse, violence, natural disasters, illnesses, and accidents are all equal opportunity victimizers and there is usually no rhyme or reason or discernible why. But that is the exception to the rule. Most things you can walk away from and refuse to be victimized by:

  • Mean words
  • Critical comments
  • Being cut off in traffic
  • Liars
  • Jerks
  • Ass-hats
  • News reports
  • Celebrity spats
  • Opposing political opinions
  • Stupid things said by public figures

You can trade in that fear for something that excites and interests you. By doing so you might find it makes you happier in the long run.

How about you? Do people in your life try to make you afraid? Do you take the bait? Or do you ignore it and go about your business? Regale us with your stories in the comments.

Dear Mr. Gubberment

Dear Mr. Gubberment

When I was a kid I watched lots of old movies – especially B movies. In those B movies there was often some backwoods, gun-toting, paranoid country fella who was on the look out for rev-a-nooers. Lately, I’m starting to understand his paranoia. In the case of the movie character it was generally linked to the fact that the fella had a still producing moonshine somewhere on the back property. In my case it has more to do with not needing nor wanting a babysitter or replacements for the parental units. More and more it seems our government feels duty bound to guide us in our every decision.

I don’t know about you, but I am fully capable of making my own decisions and living with the consequences happily. When it comes to my own life, I quite literally don’t recognize any authority higher than myself. And there are many things I think Mr. Gubberment should have nothing to do with. Such as:

Admonishing me for eating certain foods and not eating others. What I put in my body is my business. You say that abortion is okay because a woman has the right to determine what goes on with her body and yet in the same breath you can tell me I can’t eat a ho-ho, a big mac or chili dog?

Telling me I’m too fat. Well maybe I am but what business is it of yours? If I have to struggle into a size sixteen that’s punishment enough without listening to the big-bootied first lady preach about vegetables. She’s not the boss of me.

Using tax dollars to promote stupid things like, breast feeding, organic vegetables, school lunches and anything else.  Much less giving tax breaks for such things. It’s not that I have anything against any of these things but the government is supposed to be concerned with roads, security and other similar matters. Not how we feed our children or where we buy our food.

Punishing people for being successful. Hey, sure I’m envious of people who have a lot of money. I’d like to have a lot of money too. But I never think it belongs to me because I want it. That is theft. Why then do you get to decide who makes too much money and that you can take it and give it to other people who want it?

Forcing me to buy something I don’t want. Yep, that’s right, not all of us want health insurance. Is this a shock to you? Well, I don’t get sick, have accidents and have an illnesses. I don’t need health insurance. Besides, aren’t all those taxes levied on cigarettes, liquor, and junk food meant to pay for health care services? I also don’t’ want to be forced to buy a hybrid, any green technology, or panty liners. If I want something I will buy it. If I don’t’, I won’t. Pretty simple really.

It’s not that I have anything against you in particular, Mr. Gubberment – government can be a good thing in a civil society. But you have to get over yourself and realize we don’t need extra parents – for the most part, our parents did or are doing just fine. That we know more about our lives and our decisions therefore make more sense than any decision you might make for us (no matter how well intended). That if Americans wanted a king, the American Revolution would never have happened.

Copyright 2011

Does Anyone Want a Solution?

There is a lot of stuff happening in this country and the world today. I suppose that is always the case, although in the last several months it seems worst than it has been in the past. And honestly, much of what is happening I find personally scary and alarming. The deficit, the apparent disinterest on the part of our leaders in what the average citizen is concerned about, states going bankrupt, no legislative body showing any real concern about approving a budget much less making budget cuts, giving unelected officials the right to rule and regulate our personal lives, making the EPA part of a shadow government and in the future will tax us for exhaling, politician’s accosting private citizen’s and being defended for their actions, dissention being targeted as hate speech and terrorism, government taking over entire industries, the blame game left and right…..

In my opinion anyone who isn’t alarmed by such actions and much more is either delusional or has been living in a cave for quite a while.

But I for one, would really like to stop the blame game, the partisan rhetoric, and the gotcha games and pose a very simple question: Does anyone really want a solution? Seriously, let’s consider this shall we? In private life, most people when they encounter problems whether large or small tend to want to solve the problem. They may not always succeed but there is certainly an effort to find solutions to those things that work against us. Whether they are created by another person, a circumstance or a natural disaster. For example, last year we had horrible fires at the end of the summer in my community. In fact, I posted many pictures of the fires, some of which were literally down the block from me. I’m proud to say that my community, the firefighters, the police and so forth focused on the problem and did everything in their power to solve it. It did take a while and not everything tried work but I can truthfully say that a solution was everyone’s focus. And in the end, solutions were found, used and the problem was handled.

So, when it comes to larger problems, national problems, international problems, etc. why then is not a solution the focus? Why is the American public by and large satisfied to just let our leaders lay blame. It’s so and so’s fault because he did this and now this is why I can’t do that? A person elected to be a leader is supposed to be a leader and a leader is supposed to be the guy or gal who knows how to solve problems, right? Whether it is the president of the United States or the local city council member. But rather than solving problems PR damage control is the focus. Anecdotes about conversations with children are offered rather than finding solutions, nice speeches or not so nice speeches filled with excuses and finger pointing.

And all the while, while our leaders fail to solve existing problems they legislate more rules, regulations and attempts at taking over parts of our personal lives. Laws now exist that say American citizens must buy certain products or be fined or imprisoned. The government now must decide what we may eat, breathe, think, say and do. Those are not solutions those are impositions upon personal freedoms.

And then the causes….don’t get me started on those either. When was the last time you saw any cause that was for something rather than against something? In my mind being for something is much more likely to bring it about than being against something is likely to stop it.

I admit that I am a bit of a political junkie and I find the field interesting, fascinating and somewhat nauseating – and I love debate because I think it is debate that brings about different views, and can in reality if done sincerely can bring about real change. However, most political debate is about hating the side you are not on. About smearing and belittling people and degrading them in public forums. And I’m not talking about satire I’m talking about venom, hatred and vitriole.

I wonder if some of the most popular people to attack were on ‘the other side’ if they would be so hated. If Bill Clinton had been a Republican and gotten sex in the Oval Office while he was supposed to be doing the people’s business would he have remained in office? If Sarah Palin were a Democrat, would the ladies on the View be fawning over her left and right? If Al Gore had been a conservative would anyone have gone to see An Inconvenient Truth? If George Bush had been a liberal would his bailouts, prescription medicine initiative, and budget and deficit fall-out been hailed by the media? If Maureen Dowd spewed her venom about liberals would she even have a job? If Chris Matthews loved Chris Christie and got a tingle down his leg every time he spoke, would MSNBC issue his pinkslip?

The point I guess I am trying to make is maybe if we stepped back and viewed any leader whether public or private on the merits of what they were actually saying and doing from the standpoint of truly wanting to add to the solution to the given problem, rather than adding to turmoil would things change?

Personally, I think the time has come for Americans (at least) to stop and think. Forget what ‘side’ people are on and really evaluate if that person is trying to solve anything (particularly those things for which they are responsible for solving) just trying to get you worked up into a lather about something so you won’t notice that they are solving nothing.

No one would accept that kind of behavior in their private lives. Bosses who seek to bring the company down and fire good and effective workers are hated not revered. Co-workers who goldbrick and get paid for doing nothing and resented. Businesses that treat their customers with resentment and condescension don’t long remain in business, pastors and priests who exploit members of their congregations soon find their churches empty, criminals who steal, harm and injure other citizens are thrown in jail. Why do those who supposedly lead get a pass?

At the very least, it may be something to think about.

WC

Want to help cut spending in Washington? Here’s your chance

That’s right folks, you too can have your voice heard. Go to the YOUCUT website and have your say.

How it works:

YouCut – a first-of-its-kind project – is designed to defeat the permissive culture of runaway spending in Congress. It allows you to vote, both online and on your cell phone, on spending cuts that you want to see the House enact. Vote on this page today for your priorities and together we can begin to change Washington’s culture of spending into a culture of savings.

All of us want to be able to do something and this is about as easy as it gets. Vote on the cuts you want and make your own suggestions while you’re at it. You aren’t even required to register as a ‘member’ before you can vote. So quit your bitching about the budget – speak up and vote.

If we have any hopes of ever changing how things are done in Washington by our leaders, then we have participate too. Try it, you may like it.

Writer Chick

In the News…

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The AP reports the following two stories, which I find of interest:

The fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, later for Obama and previously for John Kerry has been indicted on bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges in an $292 million Ponzi scheme. The accused, is Hassan Nemazee, he is charged with fradulently obtaining loans from three banks.

Nemazee was Clinton’s national finance chairman for her 08 campaign, later raised dough for Obama and was Kerry’s finance chairman during Kerry’s 2004 campaign.

Wow, and we thought Clinton, Obama and Kerry had nothing in common. Go figure.

Also…

Forty members of the Senate (all but one, Repulbicans) are pushing to end the bailout nightmare by urging the Treasury Secretary to let T.A.R.P. program expire by year’s end. No word from the Treas Sec yet, and he could let it go on until Oct 2010. The group of Senators pointed out in a letter to Geithner that the money could be used to reduce the deficit (fancy that) among other things.

According to the AP story:

Every Senate Republican except Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire signed the letter. The only Democrat to sign it was Mark Begich of Alaska.

Congress approved the TARP with bipartisan support in October 2008 at the request of then-President George W. Bush during the height of the financial crisis. Bush administration officials initially said the money would be spent to buy up bad assets from financial institutions. Under Bush and Obama, however, the rescue fund has also been used to bail out the auto industry and to obtain ownership interests in banks and in insurance giant American International Group.

“This direct investment certainly was not the intention of Congress in passing this legislation,” the senators wrote to Geithner.

I’ll say that wasn’t the intention! At least you have to give them a little hurrah for trying – although I have a feeling it will fall on deaf ears.

And the picture…well, I have to have my fun, don’t I?

Writer Chick

Michael Jackson – Farewell

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While I’ll admit to not being much of a Michael Jackson fan in recent years, I do have to say that he has left behind him and enormous body of work. The young boy with the amazing voice who I believe started singing professionally at the age of eight had a certain something. Charisma? Charm? Talent? A special light? I don’t know but it did reach people.

Off the top of my head I can think of many of his songs that I loved. Billie Jean, Thriller, Beat It, I’ll Be There… His music has definitely been part of my life soundtrack and will remain so.

Though later in his life he resorted to what can only be considered extremely weird behavior, not the least of which was the endless plastic surgeries designed to make him look more and more like a mannequin – as well as other activities that we aren’t going to discuss here – the fact is, the man brought music to the world. And that music touched millions world wide.

Farewell Michael Jackson – may you sing now with the angels.