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

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.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Another Month...

Time sure flies by, doesn't it? I can't believe it is August already!

The Boy is really enjoying his job training program. So far, he's worked on a resume and cover letter; learned about pay checks, deductions, and budgeting; learned about employee rights; gotten his Food Handler's certificate (with honors!); and worked a shift in the on-site cafe. Next week, he'll put in another shift in the cafe, and participate in mock interviews.

The Girl has been reading Ballet Shoes and the original Winnie the Pooh book. She's working, off and on, with her dog -- training does need to be more consistent! I also took her to meet a horse!

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Learning about horse care
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And a riding lesson
It was a good, and fun, experience for her. Since the junior derby league has pretty much fallen apart, I am trying to find other activities she will enjoy, because frankly, she needs to be a lot more active.

I've been working, and trying to figure out fall, when I also start working as a tutor for the Writing Center at the local university. Whole Foods is okay so far. The people are nice, and all that, but it's not my dream job.

I did apply for what seems like a fantastic opportunity, as a "Literacy Paraprofessional" for a small, local, elementary-middle school district. I would love the work -- helping kids with reading -- and it would be great experience for the teaching intern program I'm applying for in January. Fingers crossed!!!

I also watched Minimalism with the kids, and we are determined to own less stuff.

Math is going well! The Boy is working through The Great Courses Algebra 1 still, and loves the professor. He says the explanations are very clear. We're still using Jacobs Elementary Algebra as additional practice. I found a geometry course for him as well, to tackle next! The Girl is back to Math Mammoth to tighten up a few loose ends, and it is working really well.

The Girl decided also to really tackle nicer handwriting, and better spelling, so I am thrilled with that. They are both working on writing, with me bringing in new elements of the Brave Writer Lifestyle bit by bit.

We're reading both The Hobbit and Homecoming (Cynthia Voigt). Two very different books, but we are enjoying both! We're watching a variety of shows: Eureka, The Flash, Sherlock, and Arrow.

I have let exercise slide the last month. I just don't have time, or energy, or even the desire really, for the intensive workouts that group of friends is doing these days, as they prepare for a physique competition. So, to get going again, I'm looking at these workouts... simple, straightforward, doable. I've also really changed how I'm eating. I stopped counting anything... calories, protein grams, etc. I'm really working at eating more intuitively. Sometimes at first, this process has meant too much junky food, but I'm feeling a desire for more healthful fare again. I am really trying to learn to trust my body. And in this process, I have gained back about 4 pounds, which once would really have stressed me out. Now though, I'm okay.

Our Gulf Fritillary caterpillars are back! We didn't have any last year (the drought?), so we were excited to see them out on the passion flower vine.

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I love our passion flowers....

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So that's a sort of run down as to our current state of being. Things are going along, good here, challenging there. Still a good summer though! Tonight we're going to see a free (traveling) drive in movie... The Goonies, to be specific. I'm really looking forward to it, as is everyone else. We've gone to a free concert in the park; spent hours and hours at the beach, in and out of the water; spent hours laughing with friends; played a lot of board games; and just enjoyed time together!

Hope anyone who reads this is having a great summer!