Monday, September 2, 2013

2 Years Ago...

Greetings Kind Reader! Thanks for understanding that I couldn't really put up a post last week because I was still dealing with the 'Ick from the Sahara'! Good grief - I thought I'd never stop coughing. But finally, about 3 days after the last dose of antibiotics and inhaled steroids, I was able to make it through the day without thinking I was going to hack up a lung!

Now I'm back to my normal rambling self (it's difficult to ramble when you're coughing!) and gosh am I glad, too! Because now I can focus on other things - like posting here. But enough with my malady update!

The title of this post is 2 Years Ago...

If you've been with me for the long haul - you'll know that 2 years ago (Labor Day weekend 2011) my family and I had only been in our new house in Austin for about 2 weeks. We'd unpacked all the 'stuff' as we moved in on August 17, Jessica had just started high school, and we were all getting acclimated to the area. It had been a ridiculously hot and dry summer that year and all over the place there were 'no burning' signs and 'wild fire warnings' (see where this is headed?) but we weren't really worried.

Until the day before Labor Day. I was baking a pie, my mother was reading one of her books (smoking her 'smokeless cigarette' as we forbade her to smoke 'real' cigarettes when she came along with us), and both my husband and daughter were planning a trip to the comic book store. (When we last lived in Texas from 2000 - 2005 those two used to go to there all the time - and it was nice knowing the store was still there and that it was something familiar to slip back into doing)

And then came the knock at my door. That's when the chaos all started. One of our neighbors had come to our house to warn us that 'there's a fire on our side of the dam'. I didn't understand what that meant. She repeated it and then said - 'it's coming this way'.

Oh. So the smoke I'd smelled when I opened my back door wasn't someone smoking ribs or a brisket? And the hazy sky wasn't just dust? No. It wasn't. There was a wildfire that was quickly approaching the houses in our neighborhood.

We had to evacuate. Geez! All I could think was we've been in this house for just a couple of weeks and now it might burn to the ground. Damn! Lucky for me though - I was able to go into full 'teacher/crisis mode'. I threw on my teacher voice and started telling everyone what to do because my family was sort of stunned into 'inaction'. We gathered clothes for a few days, grabbed our important papers, the dog, the cat, the grandma, and other special things.

It felt like we were moving in slow motion but actually it only took us about 15 minutes to grab everything. Even so - there was already a Sheriff's car going down our street with its lights flashing, siren going 'whoot-whoot' followed by "There is a wildfire coming this way. Evacuate your homes immediately!" Then came the fire trucks - so many fire trucks. More than the ones that are at the station in our neighborhood.

These trucks were from outside of Steiner Ranch. Gosh, it must really be bad. We put everything in our cars - by this time ash was falling around us like warm, gray snow. The sky was a weird shade of orange and the wind was whipping. Time to go. We didn't have a choice.

Only time would tell what would happen from this point on. Steiner Ranch has something like 4,000 homes and everyone was being forced to leave. There was no 'going back to get something'.
So we went to the only place we could think of that would let us take our pets - the La Quinta where we stayed when we had arrived and were waiting to sign the papers for our house.

When we arrived at the hotel - the folks there were so nice. And there were so many evacuees. Come to find out - they weren't ALL from Steiner. No. There were 2 other wild fires. One in a region of Austin called Spicewood and another in a town called Bastrop. All in all, thousands of people had to leave their homes that Labor Day weekend.

We looked on the TV screen in the lobby of the La Quinta and saw overhead aerials of all 3 fires. It was surreal. And when we met people we'd ask where they were from - meaning 'which fire did you escape?' It was all very weird.

It took them 2 days to contain the fire in Spicewood - on the 3rd day they got to go back home. It took 3 days to contain the Steiner Ranch fire, we got to go home on the 4th day. And it took nearly 2 WEEKS to truly say the Bastrop fire was 'out'.  Those poor folks from Bastrop.  100s of homes were destroyed. 1000s of acres of land blackened. And so many people with nothing to return home to.

In my little neighborhood, we lost about 20 homes completely and about 10 had to be taken down because they were too 'gone' to be repaired. Click here for a link to all the YouTube coverage of the fire. For about 2 weeks after the fire, every time I heard a siren, I'd get nervous. My daughter was able to return to school - to normalcy - only to find that some of her classmates who lived down the road from us had lost their homes. (We were SO lucky they were able to contain the fire where they did - just 1 road away from our home - because our house would've gone up in flames if they didn't) And it was around this time that Todd had to go to China for 10 days.

Have you ever heard the phrase 'when it rains, it pours'? The day after he left - I was taking my mother out to pick up some flowers for my flowerbed (Sept 19, 2011) when she had a 2 . Yep. Lucky I knew the signs and got her to a hospital within 15 minutes of noticing it. To tell you how early into the stroke she was - the people at the hospital actually thought I was mistaken but I insisted - 'I know what I saw and I know it's a stroke!' So they had her do a simple walking test.

She looked normal - was speaking fairly well but then she said, 'Well, my right side feels weak.' And that's when they knew. I wasn't nuts. She'd had a serious brain event and wound up in the hospital - for nearly 6 weeks. (2 for 'Stroke care' 4 for rehab). The doctors think the stress of the move and the fire sort of hit her all at once, her blood pressure skyrocketed, and she had a Post Traumatic Stress Stroke.

Now - it's been nearly 2 years since her stroke. She's 'better' but not the same as she used to be. She doesn't chit chat like she used to and she doesn't really like to walk around. Oddly though now she's actually much healthier than she was because I watch her diet and her meds like a hawk!

Jessica is having a great time at her school - she's even going to be in the Fall production of A Midsummer's Night Dream! She's playing guitar and she sings with it too - so well that her teacher wants her to play an open air venue. (Yeah, she really is that good) Todd is enjoying his job because it's got flexible hours and he's been able to go to Brazil twice.

As for me - I'm writing. and when I'm not writing - I'm editing. And when I'm not editing - I'm reviewing books. And when I'm not reviewing books - I'm helping other writers promote their books. Basically - I'm busy!

And I like it, too.

Yesterday my heart sort of skipped a beat because I heard sirens on my road and saw a fire truck. But it wasn't a fire. No. Someone in my neighborhood had gotten overheated (as it was 105ºF yesterday) and needed medical attention - the fire station down the road was simply the first to respond. Whew! Nothing like a siren to get one's heart pounding!

And with that, I'll end this rambling bit. Thanks for stopping by and catching up with me!

Here's wishing you ALL a safe Labor Day and everyday after it, too!

That's all I've got ... til next time!