If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. ~ Adlai Stevenson

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Well...Hello There!

It's been so long that I am not even going to bother trying to "catch up" but instead will just start fresh, and share what's going on!

...The Girl...
A retrospective of fifteen years
She turned FIFTEEN this month! Can you believe it? She's studying math, writing, ancient Chinese history, environmental science, and baking at the moment. Her plan, as of now, is to start at the local junior college next fall, or sometime soon thereafter, entering the culinary arts program with a focus on baking and pastry. Eventually, she'd like to start her own bakery-café, but will spend at least a couple of years working for someone else to build experience.

In the meantime, she paints frequently, still loves sculpting, and still enjoys documentaries. She's also taken up archery. She helps cook dinner nearly every night, and on the nights I work late, she is always the one to pop a casserole in the oven and make a salad, although she and The Boy did make a veggie burger dinner together last week!

...The Boy...
Happily fixing his aunt's car
The Boy is enrolled in his first automotive class at the local junior college, and absolutely LOVES it. He's working toward becoming a fully ASE certified mechanic, and also dreams of having his own shop one day. He's also studying math, Russian, writing, environmental science, nutrition, and ancient Chinese history. He's rebuilding a 1972 Chevy pickup here at home as well.

Still loves reading, art, and science fiction movies! His ankle, injured from parkour a couple of years ago, is looking more and more like it will need surgery, so we'll be working toward that for summer. He'd love to get back into fencing by late fall, ankle permitting.

I'm still working at a grocery store, and at the local university. A month or so ago though, I came to a huge realization. I'm a decent teacher, but I'm not a great one. I'm simply not passionate enough about it. And students deserve someone passionate, and absolutely dedicated. I know a lot of people who are... just not me. Where I do really shine is in administrative work (aka secretarial work). And there are some good potential opportunities coming up at the university. I'd like to work there, at the junior college, or for a good nonprofit.

I am still working on my Master's degree as well. I had plans to tackle my thesis over winter break, and then the kids were sick, and I was sick, and then we all got better, and then we got sick again. Added to the unfinished thesis are the facts that I still need some foreign language under my belt, and I need to take the literature comprehension test. So that I don't kill myself over the next few months, I'll be paying for "project continuation" units over the next year; taking French over next fall and spring, taking the exam next spring, and working on my thesis throughout.

...And in Other News...
We fixed our leaky roof! The family room has been getting increasingly bad over the years, leaking so heavily last year that the room semi-flooded during the heaviest storm. But we put on "peel and seal" roofing, and it actually works! Our next major project is the kids' bathroom plumbing, which leaks like crazy unless we replace washers every two weeks. We're going to get a conversion kit to change it from an old, two-knob set-up to a single knob set-up. And we need to re-do the shower surround at the same time. Fun times!

M sadly lost his job last fall, and has been going through some health issues. We are working toward solutions for both, but it might be a while, which is part of the reason I've been putting in about 50 hours a week, and not working on my thesis. I'm exhausted most of the time, but the kids are really helping me hold it all together.

So, to finish things off for today, here are a couple of random pictures! The first is a drawing I did last night of an orchid from a book on orchids. It was the first time in years that I actually sat down and just drew, and it felt fantastic, and I am mostly pleased with the sketch. The second is a picture I snapped when leaving the university campus a few weeks ago.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

We Are So Lucky...

If you follow the news at all, you may have seen my home town featured a lot in the last few days, though not for any reason I'd like.

Sunday night was a perfectly normal evening. We had dinner, watched an episode of Leverage, noted the howling wind, and headed to bed. At 4:45 am, I got a call from my dad, that he was possibly being evacuated, and then a barrage of emergency notifications came in from the university where I teach. The funny thing was that both my dad's retirement home and the university are in the next city down, and were not in danger at the time. Still, I got on Facebook and the news, and was horrified to see the northern part of MY town blazing in a fire that went from 200 acres in another county to 1,000 acres in mine in just one night. Hospitals being evacuated, an entire trailer park razed to the ground, hundreds of homeless in only hours. And as the day progressed, the evacuation lines kept moving outward. At seven, I woke the kids up and told them they had to pack only what they needed.

Our part of town was never touched. In a fire that so far destroyed over 2,800 homes in city limits alone, we remain safe, with power, and honestly, if we stay in our neighborhood, we'd never guess what was going on beside all the smoke and ash. My dad did end up being evacuated for a day, during which we couldn't find him because the home didn't contact any families, but is now safely back at home. All the schools in the county are closed. The Whole Foods where I worked was closed for a couple of days with no power. Thousands of people now have no homes, thousands more have no electricity or gas. And the fires continue to spread -- there are five or six of them now, started
through flying embers, downed power lines, exploding propane tanks and gas lines. Every night is restless, waiting for the gusting winds to shift direction. We've kept packed up and ready to go. Most of what we want is already loaded in the car, with only our clothing bags waiting by the front door. The cat hasn't set foot outside since Sunday evening so that we don't lose track of him.

It is strange how much priorities shift when something like this happens. I've been talking for years about wanting to declutter, to simplify, and now I can say I know exactly what items really count when it comes down to a choice. And believe me when I say, it isn't much.

We are so lucky. We haven't lost our house in this. But The Girl has had stomach aches all week. We all feel sick from smoke inhalation and a lack of sleep. We've lost a sense of safety we had here, and it will be a while before that comes back.

The main fire was at 10% containment this morning. I am not unpacking until we hit 60%. And the other fires were at 10, 3, 0.... We have firefighters coming in from as far off as Australia, trying to conquer this.

In the past few days, I have also seen an outpouring of love and compassion that amazes me. Our community is being made stronger through loss. Strangers are offering a place to sleep, a shower to use, clothing to wear, meals to eat. Firefighters are putting in 24-48 hour shifts. Police from all over the western United States are helping patrol the streets to stop looting and gawking. Bowling alleys are offering free games, toy stores free play hours, there's free WiFi everywhere, and endless cups of coffee. I returned to work yesterday and hugged customers when I didn't know what else to say.

Needless to say, there's been no actual "homeschooling" this week. My heart isn't in it while I'm trying to figure out each day. There's time for that later. We've been cataloging our possessions, studying our homeowner's insurance, watching a lot of TV to pass days inside. We'd volunteer, but right now, with enthusiasm as high as it is, they have all the volunteers that are needed. I know in another week or two, they'll need more, and then we can help.

Be thankful for what you have. Hug your children. Don't take anything for granted.