This has been a challenging few weeks for the family. I’ll give you a few more details so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about.
Things began, of course, with the foot disaster, which I’ve already talked about a bit (twice, even). Although there’s still a decent chance that our middle child have to have some sort of surgery to deal with that, there’s also a possibility that he won’t. Apparently. There’s been a lot of doctors’ appointments and talking to doctors on the phone and running around. This complicates things, because there’s also ...
Our annual Heroscape tournament was a week ago, and it was a great success. So in general this was a happy thing during this time period (which, as it turns out, is somewhat of a rarity). But it also required a lot of preparation from yours truly. I had already planned on taking 4 days off work during the 2 weeks leading up to the tourney, but, with all the extra medical stuff going on, I ended up taking 6 days instead. I was actually really excited about the format, because we did some something radically different this year: we went to a team format, where we try to pair the better players with the more experienced ones. When you play as a team, your and your partner’s fate are tied—
I’ve been sick for about a week now. So, after only putting in 2 days’ worth of work for two weeks in a row (and only physically making it into the office for half of those days), I was suddenly saying I still wouldn’t be coming in because I was likely to infect all my co-workers. I did continue to work from home, but it’s been hard: this week was supposed to be the week I finally wrapped up my work project. You see, I’ve been working on this big project at work (I believe I’ve mentioned it here at least once), and it’s been going on for a while now. A few weeks back, I turned a corner and polished off the last truly difficult part. I figured it was all downhill from there: just wrap up a few things, dot a few i’s, cross a few t’s, that sort of thing. But then the foot, and the time off for the tourney prep, and now the sick? I’m taking a month (of calendar time, granted, but still) to polish off what really should have taken a week or so. Also, being sick is not fun. I smoked for many years, and, while I like to believe that I quit in time for my lungs to heal before I get truly old, there’s no doubt that I can hold on to a cough like nobody’s business. You’re sucking on cough drops all day and popping Nyquil in order to sleep at night, waking up with cough drop hangovers where your tongue is coated with that sickly-sweet mediciney taste ... I mean, come on. It’s already hard enough to concentrate on work. But it gets worse because of ...
You may have heard of something in the news called the “Borderline shooting,” which happened this past Wednesday night. This was actually very close to my house, relatively speaking ... I’m not saying it’s within walking distance or anything, but it’s just a town or two over. It’s the town where we used to live before we bought this house. My eldest son still works in that town. It’s right next door in our eyes. And we knew one of the victims ... not well, but she was in our homeschool group. She was close to the same age as our eldest. The Mother and the kids would see her on park days sometimes. Note also that many of the same folks who were present at this mass murder were survivors of the Las Vegas shooting last year, where The Mother also knew someone who was killed. This was a lot for us to process, but there wasn’t really time to do so, because ...
Thursday afternoon my phone made that harsh noise it does when you get an emergency alert, and we had to start worrying about something called the Hill Fire. Now, if you haven’t spent any signficant amount of time in southern California, you may not know what the Santa Ana winds are. We get them every autumn, and they’re kind of scary: on bad years they can approach 100mph, with gusts going over 150mph. Even on “good” years they’re no picnic, as every loose thing imaginable is suddenly in your yard, in the middle of the road, and, of course, clogging up your pool. This year the Santa Anas are about average, I’d say: we’ve fished 2 heavy pool chairs out of the pool (one of them twice), not to mention countless other small debris. I’ve given up trying to keep the intakes clear. But, really, the inconvenience of dealing with the pool is only the tip of a very large (and much scarier) iceberg, because a fire that would normally be put out pretty much instantaneously can be caught up by the Santa Ana winds, and fanned, and carried, and spread, until it becomes declared a state of emergency by the governor. This happens with disturbing frequency this time of year. If you live in Florida, you worry about hurricanes; if you live in Missouri, you worry about floods; if you live in Kansas, you worry about tornadoes; and, if you live in California, you worry about wildfires. And also earthquakes. And sometimes mudslides ... actually, why does anyone ever live in California? Oh, yeah: the beautiful beaches and year-round summer. But there’s always a price to pay, I suppose. The point is, when you get an alert on your phone telling you there’s a fire, you sit up and pay attention. On the Ventura County website, they tell me about the Hill Fire and that it may be headed my way, but it’s still a ways out. Don’t get me wrong: we knew people impacted by this as well. CSU-Channel Islands had a mandatory evacuation, and our eldest has a close friend there, so we were trying to get in touch with him and make sure he was able to get out okay. But it didn’t seem like we needed to be personally worried. The Mother was taking the eldest to work at the time; I sent her a message saying I didn’t think we needed to worry yet. She told me she could see the helicopters dropping the fire retardant. I said, that’s crazy, the Hill Fire is all the way in the next valley. She said you’re looking at the wrong fire.
The Woolsey Fire started in the open space of Liberty Canyon, which is just south of us. It quickly grew out of control and in fact become a much bigger threat than the Hill Fire. Perhaps the quick response of the California firefighters (who are, let’s face it, insanely amazing individuals) kept that one from getting out of control; I can’t say for sure. But I’ve read that it’s at least possible that the quick committing of all available resources to battle the Hill Fire may have kept the Woolsey Fire from receiving immediate attention. I don’t say that to blame anyone; it’s just a terrible coincidence that caused some dominoes to start to fall. By Thursday evening, we could easily see the glow of the massive fire over the ridge out our window. We had packed our “go” bags, gathered all our animals into the house, and were sitting around praying for the wind not to shift. It did not, and that’s excellent new for us. However, we have many close friends to the south of us, and the fact the winds stayed steady, blowing south and southeast, put them right in the path of the fire. Just to give you a taste of the weird combination of tension and worry that we were all experiencing: Friday afternoon, our middle child came into the room where I was trying to fix some issues with my big work project. “It’s park day,” he announced. “And it’s 2:30 ... why are we not at the park?” I gently reminded him about the “big fire.” His face went slack and he nearly burst into tears. “Oh, right, I’m sorry, I’m an idiot, just forget I said anything.” And then he ran out crying. Becuase, you see, he had been excited all week about playing Heroscape on park day (see above), and for a moment he forgot about the danger and was just focussed on doing something normal, and then I had to go and remind him that there was a very real possibility that his two best friends were now homeless, and he felt sad, and guilty, and worried, all at once.
Currently, the fire has left our area and has gone on to burn down Malibu, which is exceedinly tragic, especially considering it wasn’t that many years ago that a decent chunk of it burned in another wildfire (also fanned by the Santa Ana winds). As far as we know, both the families of the Smaller Animal’s friends still have homes to go back to: in one case, the fire went high up on the ridge and their house is in the neighborhood below; in the other, the fire came so close as to singe the lawn of their next-door neighbors. But we still don’t know what sort of smoke damage they’ll have to deal with, and that can be devastating all on its own, even when your property never sees a single flame. As far as I’ve heard, neither family has been able to get back to their homes yet. So while we are very thankful that our house was spared, we’re still very concerned (but hopeful) for our friends. And of course there were many who were not so lucky as that.
So it’s been a pretty stressful week, coming off a fairly stressful few weeks prior. We’re safe, and we’re grateful to whatever forces run the universe, and hopefully we continue to appreciate each other and what we have. But we’re also sad, and worried, and trying to remain hopeful that things get better for everyone. And we send out our condolences and our deepest regrets for those who lost loved ones in the Borderline shooting, or either of the two wilfires. Next week will be easier, I’m feel sure.
Please help support the mother of our friend who was killed at Borderline by contributing to the memorial fund set up for her by our homeschool group.