Fire – Was I Prepared? Would you be?

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It started out with a little haze; I thought it was just the marine layer hanging out longer than normal. Then the smell, the one you fondly remember when camping out, but dread when living right next to acres and acres of brush-land.  My husband, luckily home today, sprints up the block to the ridge and returns with the words…“It’s definitely a fire!” that was at 10:15am.

We haven’t received a warning on the phone or email, so I checked the Twitter feed of Anaheim Fire & Rescue – yep they posted at 9:57am a vegetation fire was confirmed.  Weirdly enough there was a fire at that same location the previous week, so I felt like my mind was semi-prepared. The first fire moved toward the east but unfortunately today’s fire is being blown towards us due to the Santa Ana winds blowing southwest.

10:26am – Be Prepared to Evacuate – Phone alert

I call our neighbors and go to notify the caregiver for Evelyn, the 97 year old who lives below us. As I go outside the sun is eerily shadowed by the veils of smoke now reaching us, the smell is getting more intense.

Looking out the Condo

Texts and calls go back and forth from neighbors. One call is to possibly grab Sandy’s dog if she can’t get home.  Another is from Julian to check on his fiancé who isn’t answering.  He’s stuck on the freeway and won’t be home in time, he said she will be afraid.  Everyone is good and on the move, time to pack.

We have a list of important things to take in case of an emergency.  Like a fire or that inevitable earthquake we all wait for in California.  It’s a list to follow when panic takes control of your senses. I start going through it:  cat/carrier/food, medicines, clothing, important paperwork.  Oh and the fire box – why do I need to take that if it’s a “fire” box?

We carry labeled boxes of pictures down the spiral staircase then down the stairs to the garage. Damn view, the elevation of the condo is great for enjoying sunsets, but hell on your legs when trying to evacuate.  This fact is proven when carrying a CPU, a laundry basket full of hard drives, baby books and essentials from the loft to the garage (thank you husband).

10:37am – Evacuate due to Fire- Phone alert

A calm panic now begins. We have all the picture boxes in the cars, cat carrier is loaded with cat and food, and bathroom items and prescriptions are laid out. Clothing and essential paperwork are next.  I start going through my files and grab medical files, insurance paperwork and auto paperwork – not sure why I grabbed these, but at the time I felt they were very necessary.  The check book, weird receipts on the desk, my address book, safety deposit key, IPad and a current client file are thrown into my briefcase.

Priorities….

The calm panic has now accelerated and so has my breathing. I get my suitcase out and throw in underwear, shorts, t-shirts, and the cool new black blouse with the crazy buttons – wait, what?  Will I really need that?  It’s an effort to stand before my closet as the panic increases and then I decide – I don’t really need any of these clothes.  As an afterthought, perhaps packing a pair of jeans and maybe a sweatshirt would have been nice.

On the other side of the suitcase are the framed pictures taken from the wall and carefully wrapped in our Blackhawk jerseys?   Sensibility has left the building, guess my calm plan of actually putting clothes into the suitcase went out the window.  Oh crap that’s right we need to close the windows so the smoke and ash don’t saturate the inside.  Too late – it smells like a bonfire in here.  We do manage to get them closed and the air on before we leave.

I grab the beautiful picture book from our Italy trip last year and head down the stairs. I come back up for one more look at everything we have worked so hard for or have been given or have collected and say goodbye to it all, not knowing what will happen next.

It’s true it’s only stuff, and I’ve said it a billion times to family, friends and clients, but when taking that last look at everything my heart did hurt, just a bit. All my paintings, books, the champagne glasses we received for our wedding, the signed Bears helmet, Jeff’s train set from his youth and my box of treasures are all left behind.

11:15am – We leave our Home

We pull out just as the police go door to door and the helicopter starts a run on the ridge with a water drop. As I drive out I can see the hills surrounding us on fire and have no words.

Cannis

Back of Car

We are safe, our cat is alive, our family pictures, clothing, jackalope and already wrapped Christmas gifts (don’t judge, they were already in the laundry basket) are safely in the back of the car. We are safe

After spending the afternoon at my husband’s work with a few neighbors, we head out to a Sheraton who graciously allow us to bring the cat – maybe because I sounded stressed when I made the reservation or maybe because I had reiterated at least 5 times that we have been evacuated .

In the parking lot I remove the framed pictures from my suitcase to lighten my load. I drag the suitcase; carry the cat carrier, my briefcase and a backpack.  My husband meanwhile lugs his suitcase, laptop, backpack and cat box.

What a sad smoky site we make!

In the room we start to calm down after ordering dinner and a bottle of wine.  I look in my suitcase to see if I actually remembered to pack some pj’s.  In my search I find a few items that I have no idea how they got in there.  A winter long sleeve shirt – perfect for 80⁰ weather.  Then there’s a spandex body shaper that you wear under tight dresses – what the?  Something every evacuee needs…  I guess panic also causes you to become blind when packing.

I lie in bed and try to go through every detail of the day.  What would I have done differently? A phone tree would have been great!  That way I’d only have to call one person with the details. Our emergency list could have been a bit more complete.  Perhaps setting aside those important papers in one special spot labeled “IMPORTANT PAPERS” would have helped.  I would have put clothes in my suitcase instead of framed pictures and should remember my hairbrush, because you know you can’t buy one of those…

Once again the universe opened up and reiterated the lesson it’s always trying to teach me –

WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT?

I’m getting better because I was able to walk away from everything, except those baby pictures and wrapped Christmas gifts.  I was able to smile and feel blessed and grateful to be able to drive away because we were safe.

If I can share one thing with you it would be this.  Walk through each room in your home, open each closet, look in each drawer and cabinet then decide – “What would I take?” What would be important enough to put in the car those last 15 minutes before leaving, forever?

It was cathartic going back to the house when the evacuation was over. Knowing I can enjoy everything in it but having the ability to lose everything without being too emotionally attached – because after all – it is only stuff.

I realized I’m surrounded by things I love but I’m not burdened by them. Which is sort of a cool way to look at life and relationships, don’t ya think?

Grateful for you and my spandex body shaper,

Sheree

P.S. My heart and prayers go out in a special way for those who lost everything here in Anaheim and in Northern California.  Thank you to the Anaheim Fire and Rescue and all the firefighters throughout Southern California.  You worked tirelessly to save ours and 3500 other structures, losing only 80.  There were 1,660 of you, plus 36 hand crews, working on 9,217 acres.  You used everything you had:  21 aerial support resources, 8 dozers and 255 engines to protect us all.  We are blessed by your courage.

Exhausted Fire Hero…

It once was green…

 


pink

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October has become synonymous with the color pink – Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

pink

pink

There will be pink Starbucks mugs, pink license plate holders from car dealers, pink shoes, pink scarves, pink shirts and socks.  Football players will be wearing pink cleats and arm bands.  There will be numerous walks and at every store check-out there will be something that says:  “donate to the fight…”, “a percentage of this goes to…” or “support the cause…”.

I have supported and fundraised for a breast cancer cure for over 30 years. I’ve walked the little walks and the big one, 60 miles in three days.  I, like millions, have bought the pink stuff each year hoping somehow that the pink pen I purchased will bring about the end of breast cancer.  We all buy with incredibly good intentions, but the percentage actually donated from these products is commonly unknown.  Does the money really go to an area that is helpful or am I just paying for the stupid pink pen? I’m sure all the pink-washing carried out by vendors this month is meant to be supportive and financially beneficial to the curing of breast cancer. But is it out of control?

I’ve wanted to write this for years and I guess the death of my friend in December just sent me over the pink-washing edge. I’m asking you to consider something before you hand over that pink money.

Please ask yourself the following four things before purchasing another pair of pink socks or a pink pot holder or eat another pink-labeled yogurt.

These points are taken from the site: Think before you Pink

  • Does any money from this purchase go to support breast cancer programs? How much?
  • What organization will get the money? What will they do with the funds, and how do these programs turn the tide of the breast cancer epidemic?
  • Is there a ‘cap’ on the amount the company will donate? Has this maximum donation already been met? Can you tell?
  • Does this purchase put you or someone you love at risk for exposure to toxins linked to breast cancer? What is the company doing to ensure that its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?  

I know it’s work, but so is living each day with the diagnosis, the fear and the unknown. It’s easy to pick up that pink candy bar from the cash register or throw that pink t-shirt into your cart at Target.  But it only takes a few minutes to think about where your pink money goes.  Where’s the best place it could be used?  Who will be affected by it and where does it have the most impact?

I found an informative article that includes sites to help you decide the best place to spend that pink money – How Can I Avoid Breast Cancer Charity Scams?

The Think Before You Pink site said it best:

“Consider giving directly to a breast cancer organization

whose work you believe is most essential to addressing

the breast cancer epidemic.”

Breast Cancer —

  • Took the life of my dear friend Peggy 14 years ago and last December my friend, Pam. Three months after being diagnosed she passed away leaving her adored husband of 10 years and her 7 year old daughter.
  • Tiernne deals with it daily.
  • Carrie, Jane, Sharon, Katherine and so many others I know live their amazing lives in the shadow of it.

When we can feel confident that our money is truly being used where it is needed and feel as if we’re actually helping with this epidemic, we might not need to add another pink thing to our collection.  October can then return to the colors of Autumn…

Grateful for you,

Sheree

Respectively remembering the teal of September – Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and the lives it took — my dear friend Marian, Sue’s sister Jeanne and Joy’s good friend Elliot.

How NOT to Grow a Tumor…

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Every year I take a little time to review a few of the life changing events that have shaped my life. This week I’m celebrating the 5th anniversary of my little ‘something, something,’ the one we called Boomer.  Well it wasn’t quite little, it was 3 lbs. of ‘something.’

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / bertoszig

Boomer

In the two weeks before surgery during the ultrasounds, cat scans, biopsy and blood draws, I lived trying not to believe I had a ‘something’ inside me.  But the dark side crept in and I ran through a lot of scenarios in my mind.  Leaving my children… Not dancing with my son at his wedding or helping with my daughter’s wedding dress.  Not holding grandbabies or retiring with a husband who had gone through so much with me.  I wondered how it would be to leave my sisters; each held a special place in my heart.  How could I say good-bye to my entire family or my friends, the ones that meant so much to me?  Would I miss hearing the wind through the leaves or the birds in the morning?

What about sunsets and sunrises, would I miss them too?

They described my ‘something’ as a retroperitoneal sarcoma a “rare tumor occurring almost exclusively in female patients…”  No explanation of where it came from or how long it had taken residence in there.  Exclusively female – hmmm – would that be because women keep so much hidden inside or the need to make everyone happy?

After I physically recuperated,

  1. It was time to put my big girl pants on, be gentle with my psyche, and get on with the business of living…
  2. Put into action all the heart-to-heart talks and promises I made to God in the days leading up to the surgery.
  3. Appreciate all those things I thought about missing.
  4. Prioritize my life.
  5. Figure out how and why I grew that little ‘something,’ so my daughter or friends wouldn’t grow a Boomer too.

This is what I’ve observed after 5 years of research.

How NOT to Grow a Tumor…

  • Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry… you’ll deal with whatever it is.
  • Don’t keep things inside, unsaid and undone. Swallowing your feelings, your thoughts, your desires, your dreams and pushing them farther and farther inside creates – what I believe – a Boomer, a cancer, an ulcer, a disease.
  • Justifying stress, anger, worry, indifference, unkindness, insecurity, loneliness, jealousy, and greed just adds to that ‘something.’
  • Say things that need to be said, you can do it with love and grace, don’t swallow it. If people can’t hear it, it’s their choice. You needn’t make them believe what you believe; they’ve got their own thing going on.
  • Some things don’t need to be said if they are meant just to be hurtful.
  • Be good with ‘you’ every morning. Believe that today might be the last and be at peace with everyone and everything.
  • Don’t talk about people. If friends talk about other people, know they’re talking about you and it’s drama that just causes my first bullet – worry.
  • Re-evaluate the value of your relationships.
  • Be kind, be respectful, be loving and give as many hugs as you can.
  • Sit quietly, be still and listen. I myself have like 47 voices in my head, it takes a little while to quiet them all down, so give yourself the time you need each day.

    Don’t Live for the “LIKES.”

  • My daughter and her boyfriend asked me to watch an episode from the series Black Mirror on Netflix. This specific show is Season 3, Episode 1, titled “Nosedive.” It’s a perspective how the ‘LIKES’ can shape our lives – and NOT in a good way. It’s really something to watch.
  • Don’t wait to get the call that something has grown, something has developed, or something is spreading, to make a change. Believe me and my 47 voices… it’s not worth it.

Thank you for reading my mind-dump blog for the past three years and helping me celebrate the 3 pounder that shifted my life, hopefully, in a better direction.

Grateful for you and all those who got the call and bravely deal with it each day!

Sheree


Has the Human Race Ceased to Evolve?

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When did the human race cease to evolve?  Let’s review and see if we have evolved at all in the last 156 years…

April 12, 1861

Civil War

Four years later – 620,000 souls had died

Reasoning behind the Civil War:

  • Industry in the North vs. Farming in the South – Southern economy was based on slave labor
  • States’ Rights – The southern states felt that the federal government was taking away their rights and powers
  • Expansion – North and South battled for power in each new state that was added to the country
  • Slavery – Self-explanatory – not good –never was –never will be
  • Lincoln – Who was against slavery and was elected without being on the ballots in 10 of the southern states
  • Secession – Eleven states attempted to leave the country and Lincoln was having none of that, sent in troops and began the Civil War

Have we failed our youth by not sharing these stories?  The reasons so many lost their lives?  The reasons why the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were created in the first place?

Is today a rerun of the 1860’s or the 1960’s?

There’s rioting, groups impeding free speech, troops lining the streets, defacing of monuments and personal property, and a resurgence of BIGOTRY: intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.

I don’t remember our country being like that on September 11, 2001. I don’t remember the hate between political parties, between skin color and religion that day. All I remember is the quiet and an entire country coming together to try to comfort and heal one another.  What has happened in 16 years that has made us attack each other?

Friends have parted ways because of political parties.  Religions are practiced in fear and there’s an anxiety of speaking our truth for fear of being ostracized, criticized or killed. There is no discussion, there’s only “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.”  I wonder if the entire country has forgotten the caring nature each citizen felt after 9/11, will it take another catastrophe to return to that caring?

Is the hatred for each other just a portrayal of what a handful of biased people wants us to believe?

People have been speaking about our founding fathers owning slaves.  Sadly — that’s what ‘was’ done at that time, emphasis on the ‘was’. Fast forward 200 years and the thought of slavery isn’t conceivable in the 2000’s, at least not in our country.  The fact that the founders helped to create one of the greatest countries in the world and abolish slavery, is a sidebar to many.  Can we really compare the lives of people who lived 200 years ago to our standards today?  Is that logical?  Without a baseline of their lifestyles – good and bad – how could we show that we really have evolved?  Can we honestly say we have evolved past the self-righteousness of believing there is only one way to think?

If we remove all monuments of historical events – good or bad – will the memory of the lessons learned – good or bad – be removed along with them?  Would removing parts of our darkest history like the Pearl Harbor Memorial, the September 11th Memorials, and or perhaps bulldozing the actual Trail of Tears in nine states, remove the horror?  Do we wipe clean the side of Mount Rushmore, discarding these men’s accomplishments?  Don’t these monuments stand to remind us that maybe, just maybe, we have evolved from those times, just a bit?

Here is part of an address from Calvin Coolidge at the opening of the work on Mount Rushmore on August 10, 1927 I found inspiring:

“Other people have marveled at the growth and strength of America.  They have wondered how a few weak and discordant colonies were able to win their independence from one of the greatest powers of the world.  They have been amazed at our genius for self-government.  They have been unable to comprehend how the shock of a great Civil War did not destroy our Union….The progress of America has been due to the spirit of the people… If coming generations are to maintain a like spirit, it will be because they continue to support the principles which these men* represented.”

*George Washington – Political Independence – our Constitution

*Thomas Jefferson – The element of Self-Government and Expansion of the Country

*Abraham Lincoln – Permanency of our Union and Freedom to all Inhabitants of our Land

*Theodore Roosevelt – Political Freedom plus Economic Freedom

Watching the Charlottesville videos of both sides pushing, shoving and name-calling made me physically sick. We are so blessed to have an amendment granting us the right to Free Speech.  The right to free violence – nope, I don’t think so.  White supremacists, Antifa, and any group that speaks with anger, hate and selfishness should be left to speak alone.  If no one listens, or attends and no one puts them on camera, will they accomplish the hate spreading?   We CAN stop listening to their ranting’s and not give them a response.  They’re sort of like children who crave attention – they’ll take it any way they can get it, positively or negatively.

I wonder if we are all a little to blame for what seems to be the beginning of another Civil War? Left against Right, white against black, poor against rich, and coasts against the heartland?  Do we incite a little flame each time we talk about, post or tweet something trying to convince people our way is the only way to think?  Should we post something if we don’t know it to be factual?  Can anger and rage make us live on a treadmill of fury for four years if the person we voted for didn’t get elected? Is that how people felt in past elections – wounded for 4 or 8 years?  So much time wasted…

Why can’t we all be just humans?

I guess now’s a good time to confess to all five of you, who may be reading this.  I have “un-followed” some friends on Facebook. Yep I’m coming clean!  Many of you may have done this to me as well. We’re actually still friends on Facebook (and in life) but in the 15 minutes I scan the daily feed I’m not looking for the latest news story.  (Although I fear that many young people may believe that posts are actual news.)  I’m really looking to smile or laugh or be inspired.

At the end of last weekend I needed to step away from all the finger-pointing on the News and Facebook. Thinking deeply, as I always do in the midst of laundry, I was struck by the amount of lint caught in the dryer vent after the blanket finished drying.  I wonder, does this happen every time we speak badly about someone, dig up dirt on someone or forward negative or inflammatory posts about another human?  Do we remove a layer of their humanness?  Do we suck the life out of people?  Are WE a dryer?  Perhaps that’s why the most intelligent, honest, responsible and sensible people don’t run for office, who would want to, just to be thrown in the dryer.

My wish, today for my children, that they think with their intelligent minds and not be swayed by the masses.  That they not believe everything that is fed to them by Facebook or the media.  That they listen to all sides of an issue.  I hope for them that this country can come together without being forced to by an international crisis or a civil war; just as I’m sure the families in 1861 wished for those 620,000 souls who died believing there was only one way to believe…

Grateful for you,

Sheree

P.S. The thought of being honest and kind while keeping our differences was put together so thoughtfully by Heineken in Worlds Apart.  It’s truly worth the watch!!