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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Remembering our Fallen

Memorial Day is often thought of as just another three-day weekend, a chance for barbecues, awesome sales or even a day at the beach. I like all of those things too and will probably participate in some of them this weekend. But I also like to take some time to reflect on the hundreds of thousands of men and women who  gave their lives so that we can enjoy our freedoms. Please pray for our fallen and their families.

 

Power posing, body language what it tells us about ourselves

wonder-woman-552109_640
Over the weekend, I stumbled upon this TED talk by Social psychologist Amy Cuddy. She discusses how body language affects how others see us, which I thought was interesting.

But the truly relatable material for me was when she touched on how our body language affects how we see ourselves. In particular, when she relates her own personal story of feeling that she didn’t belong or deserve to be in an academic program I was touched to the point of tears.

I think we can all relate to that feeling of not belonging or deserving an opportunity and I’d urge anyone who has felt so, to watch the talk. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Meanwhile, I’m gearing up for NaNo!

Have a great week!

Annie

I still remember

Fourteen years ago, on a fine September morning, our lives changed. We didn’t see it coming. We, never in a million years would’ve expected it. We were horrified. We were overcome with grief. We were afraid.

But true to American spirit, we banded together. We united. We bounced back. We vowed never to forget. But I think we have. A lot of us. Conspiracy theories, wars that have gone on too long and sacrificed too much, and laws enacted to protect that actually oppress, have made us weary. Have made us lose sight of the fact that we lost 2,996 lives that day. And more as the days and months wore on.

They were fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, friends, co-workers and acquaintances. They can’t be replaced. And they leave a permanent void in the space they should be occupying, for their family and friends.

For many years, I was one of the bloggers involved in Project 2996. A valiant attempt originated by one blogger, DC Roe, to pay tribute to those lost lives. Following are the tributes I personally wrote – my small contribution to remembering. With a sincere hope that I could offer at least a little comfort to the families and friends who lost a loved one.

Steve Mercado

Deborah Medwig

Paul Lisson

Bruce (Chappy) Boehm

Ted Moy

Craig Amundson

Peggy Hurt

I hope you’ll join me in saying a prayer for those lost lives and the family and friends they left behind.

Godspeed, Maggie

margaret thatcher

We lost an amazing woman today in Margaret Thatcher.  AKA the Iron Lady.

Whether you loved her or hated her, she was an historic figure, a pioneer for women in politics and a staunch and loyal friend to America.

I just finished reading this incredible speech, given by Lady Thatcher and thought you might enjoy reading it too.

I for one, will miss her.

Godspeed, Maggie.

Writer Chick

 

Sometimes a tragedy is just a tragedy

When something inexplicable happens the first thing people want to know is, “Why?”

The cynics among us are quick to lay blame and point fingers of accusation—often naming a cause that hasn’t any direct connection to the event or the individuals involved. And by doing so they provide a benefit of doubt to the actual responsible person unjustifiably.

The complacent among us may shrug their shoulders and declare it an act of God or the universe. And attribute it as something completely out of the control of anyone at all.

Still others assign whatever applicable conspiracy theory they like as the source.

Most rational people, however, attempt to asses the facts to learn the truth. To discover the whys and the wherefores.

By now, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of words have been written about the senseless murders that took place in Tucson last week. And although I’m not sure my words will add anything positive to the situation, I feel compelled to state my feelings, unable to remain silent any longer.

The facts tell us that the man who committed these crimes acted alone. That his disturbing behavior was known about before the crime and that little was done to prevent what now seems inevitable. That the young man frightened and concerned those who knew him. But that no one really seemed to know him nor the demons that drove him to obsession and murder. That whatever events and experiences in his life that lead him to such cold and vicious acts are not to be found on radio broadcasts or newspaper articles. But rather and probably only to himself. And…that sometimes a tragedy is just a tragedy.

I believe the truth is that whenever anyone perpetrates violence against others, particularly strangers that there is no why. Not in a rational sense. There are no neat, easy to understand motivations for a sociopath. Such individuals have no conscience and so it is easy for them to justify anything. They have no empathy for others and so cannot feel the pain and fear they inflict upon their victims. Ask any law enforcement officer who deals with such individuals and they will tell you that that is the truth. The reason this young man did what he did is, I’m sorry to say, because he wanted to. I truly believe looking for any deeper reason is futile and will yield no secrets or deeper truth.

Imagine how he must be enjoying this speculation and the uproar that he has caused. Imagine how much he is enjoying his fame – because believe me folks, that is what it is about for him. It is not about his bad childhood or books he has read or hanging with the wrong crowd. It is about psychopathic narcissism.
Personally, rather than give this dark soul gratification by accusations amongst ourselves and heated debate I’d rather that we pray for the victims and their families. For the people this should truly be about. The people who were harmed simply for living their lives and wanting to engage in their communities and lives. For the six people whose lives were cut short:

Christina Green
John Roll
Gabriel ‘Gabe’ Zimmerman
Dorwan Stoddard
Dorothy Morris
Phyllis Schneck

And for the thirteen people who were injured – some of whom have a long recovery ahead of them.

Susan Hileman
Mavanell Stoddard
Pamela Simon
Ronald Barber
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
James Tucker
Kenneth Veeder
George Morris
James Fuller
Randy Gardner
Mary Reed
Kenneth Dorushka
Bill Badger

For what it is worth, I’ll be praying for these people. I hope you’ll join me.

Writer Chick
copyright 2011

A possible explanation for why the middle class feels broke this Christmas


Wondering why you can’t afford Christmas gifts even though you make a pretty good income? Check out the following and h.t. to zelda and please please do follow the durden link.

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Why, indeed? Over at Zero Hedge, Tyler Durden has an interesting answer:

Emmerich analyzes disposable income and economic benefits among several key income classes and comes to the stunning (and verifiable) conclusion that “a one-parent family of three making $14,500 a year (minimum wage) has more disposable income than a family making $60,000 a year.” And that excludes benefits from Supplemental Security Income disability checks. America is now a country which punishes those middle-class people who not only try to work hard, but avoid scamming the system.

Maybe President Obama and Mr. Krugman should direct some of their attention to this problem rather than spending so much of their time complaining that the rich don’t get soaked enough.

And while we’re on the topic Rep. Bernie Saunders can shut his big fat mouth going on and on about how the ‘rich’ aren’t paying their fair share. This is so bogus. People who work for a living earn that money – it doesn’t belong to the government or anyone else who just happens to want it. Those who think they have a right to decide who does and does not need the money they earn are the same people who are robbing the Social Security and Medicare funds blind and are desperate for more money to put into that black hole, so they can rob that too. Seriously folks, if this doesn’t open your eyes you just don’t want to know the truth.

oh…and Merry Christmas.

WC

Scarcity, Control and Fear

A basic premise in marketing is to create a demand for your product. One of the tricks of creating a demand is scarcity. The scarcer something is, the more valuable it will seem and presumedly the more people will be willing to pay for it. Think oil, gold and diamonds, for example. Scarcity also creates in some people a desire to have that scarce commodity whether because of wanting to feel different or better by having such a scarce substance or the desire to be seen as special and therefore possess more power than others.

Scarcity has also been used throughout history as a means of control. Consider this, if Germany had not been in such dire straights, such dismal economic conditions, if jobs and food had not been so scarce – would Hitler have risen to power? Or perhaps a more general question – if millions of people hadn’t been convinced that we were running out oil, clean air and polar ice caps, would so many of us be so scared we were going to kill the planet? Or feel we had to come up with alternate solutions (even bad, expensive, unworkable solutions) to deal with that fear of scarcity?

For example, the United States has lots of oil. However, we’re not allowed to drill for it. Our government has essentially ensured that we cannot tap our own resources. How? By creating other scarcities, from animal and plant species to clean air to clean water and other reasons why we dare not tap resources that might create other scarcities.

The tactics used are many and varied – however the most effective among them is fear. Fear that the planet will be killed or destroyed. Fear that we’ll all be wearing gas masks. Fear that we will die because we have no clean water to drink. Fear that if we don’t get our unemployment checks we will starve. Fear that if taxes aren’t raised the national debt will just continue to rise and never be paid off and our children will become slaves. Fear that if we don’t allow the government to grope us at airports we will be blown up by domestic extremists. Fear that if ordinary citizens are permitted to own guns that crime will rise. And the list goes on.

When people are scared they are ever so easy to control. Don’t believe me, think about this – ever been in a situation that scared you? Your adrenaline is pumping, you are confused, you don’t know what to do. And then suddenly some cool-headed person steps in and takes charge, directs other people’s actions, makes things happen and gets the situation under control. Think car accident. Think house fire. Or even family emergency. We’ve all been there, something devastating and terrible happens and we lose it. We can’t think, in some cases maybe we can’t even move. And thank God somebody came along who had a cool head and could think in a crisis. Had they not, God only knows what might have happened – how much worse things might have turned out. And so maybe the next time something terrible happens we look to that person, rather than ourselves to get things under control. We give power over to that person, rather than address the situation ourselves. Soon, whenever that type of situation rears its ugly head, we wait for that special talented person to take care of it for us, perhaps even giving up our own control or ownership of a situation. And before we know it, we think what we are told to think, do as we are told and simply have no choice but to go along.

If you think about it the concept of scarcity is actually pretty ridiculous. Just do a cursory study of planet Earth and all her natural resources – not the least of which is the human race. Without the human race we would not have any kind of machinery, power, agriculture, technology, art, music, literature, etc. Though human beings have gotten a horrible rap of late for their greedieness and consumption, few have acknowledged what human beings have brought to the planet. In fact, if not for human beings you would not be reading this post. There would be no Internet, no computers, no cell phones, facebook, twitter, text messaging nor commerce – heck there wouldn’t even be green technology. I submit that mankind has more than contributed to life on this planet and will continue to do so, as long as it exists. And it is man’s ability to think, consider, and create that has enabled us to evolve and live better, more interesting and productive lives. There is no scarcity of ideas or solutions – yet we seem to be convinced that there are.

Today we are told there is a scarcity of jobs. Well, I suppose that is true in a way – however not quite. If you haven’t been living in a cave you may have read articles discussing the fact that businesses throughout the United States have lots of funds that they are sitting on and not using. They are not hiring and they are not expanding their businesses. The resources are there, but they are not using them. Why? Because the business world is expecting scarcity. They are expecting that their profits will dwindle because of new taxes and government regulations. They are expecting they will not be able to compete and do business without further and additional restrictions, that they will have less control over their businesses, the decisions they can make and fewer options. So, the scarcity vicious cycle is creating even more scarcity than has been created. And this scarcity perpetuates more scarcity – because people believe there are no jobs, that no one has any money and even if there is money that no one will spend it and so they look to the government to make up that scarcity rather than put on their thinking caps and resolve their own situations.

I believe that as long as anyone believes in scarcity, they will continue to be controlled and manipulated. I also believe there is no scarcity of anything, anywhere on this planet. If an animal or plant species dies out, other and new species come along and take their place. When sources of oil or other resources dry out, others are found or resources that can replace their function are discovered and created. If we all just believed in abundance for all of us, perhaps we’d discover that indeed abundance exists everywhere we look.

copyright 2010