Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Dry Front

There are few things that bring us joy in Central Texas like the building of clouds in the sky.

Today, the cold front was approaching and the sky was filled with big, tall billowy clouds.  The kind of clouds that could bring life giving rains.  They were beautiful to see.  Their dark mass gave us shade from the sun and kept the afternoon temperatures down.

After work I sat on my front porch and listened to the thunder and saw the flashes of lightening.  And I waited.  Waited for the sound of raindrops hitting the ground and the trees and the sidewalk.  I walked the dog and felt a drop of rain hit my face.  The wind was blowing as the storms approached the area.

I waited.  Soon the darkness set in and the thunder dissipated.  The lightening moved further away.

Once again the good rain, the rain we need so desperately stayed away from My Town and most of the county.  We could see it on the radar but it was moving away from us.

How cruel Mother Nature can be.  In her infinite wisdom, she has banished the rain and left us dry another day.  I wonder why she has abandoned us.  I wonder why she would see fit to allow tall, majestic trees to wither and die from thirst.  I wonder why she would need our soil to be barren, our gardens unable to grow.

I don't understand it nor do I have any control over Mother Nature.  We have prayed, we have begged.  We have patiently waited for the seasons to change and Fall to arrive with the cool rains of the past.

Tomorrow the front makes it through, the winds pick up and the dry weather continues.  Another high fire danger day.  One of many.  One of hundreds.

I think about the people living through that horrible decade known as the Dust Bowl years.  We are in year two, they endured ten. They endured a decade of the harshest of lives.  Many left, relocated elsewhere and missed the land's return to the green and the giving.  Many didn't survive at all.  Their stories are worthy of reading should you ever find the chance.  Documentaries allow us the opportunity to hear their words as survivors tell their stories.  I can only imagine what it was like to live in that area in that time.  I don't have to imagine what its like to live in this time, the here and now.  I find myself having to remember what a lush green lawn looks like and a time when the land was alive and growing.

Surely, God and Mother Nature will grant us mercy and good favor.  Surely, another Dust Bowl is not in the offing.  Surely.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Sound Of Sirens

The risk of fires rose yesterday and today.  Humidity levels dropped into the teens and the south winds off the mountains of Mexico heated us up to over 102 degrees.  And its Fall or so its suppose to be.

All afternoon, we have heard sirens and firetrucks moving and responding to hot spot flare ups.  Helicopters moved into the area dropping water on some of the same locations that were already decimated by the wildfire of Labor Day weekend.

At one point today, resources were already beginning to strain as the amount of calls coming in reporting small fires grew. 

We see no smoke in the sky and while that is comforting, the fact that the land is still dry and primed for any spark that may come its way, is not.  The risk remains very high and that doesn't seem to end.

A cold front will blow in this evening, winds will pick and and shift.  There is no doubt that as long as we have no rain, we had better get used to the smell of smoke and the sound of sirens.

And here I was just getting used to clouds in the sky again.

Being The Little Man

My Son is twelve and in the sixth grade.  Its a most difficult time for him and I want to spend a little bit of  your time telling you about it.

My Son is one of those exceptional people you meet.  He is compassionate, caring and considerate.  From the time he was 2 yrs old, he would play quietly, not fuss much and always tried to be a good boy.  He simply was not a bothersome child.  He was a joy then as he is now.

He isn't a budding athlete, he prefers to make movies and cartoons.  He's just creative.  He loves animals and with them and me, his tenderness shows.  He likes people and wants desperately to just be friends with everyone.  He understands that  he goes to school to learn.  He told me last week that he loves going to school, he loves his classes and his teachers and he loves all that he can learn.  He simply hates the kids at his school.

I know that he is not mean to anyone as he has endured the cruelty of his peers.  As he once said to me, "Mom, I can't say mean things back to the kids because I don't want to make them feel the way they make me feel."  I suppose this only makes him more of a target for those kids less kind and more aggressive than him.

Last year, his 5th grade year, was a great year.  He had no problems with the kids, but that was last year.  This year is shaping up to be much different.  Being less athletic, he is constantly criticized by other students when engaged in field soccer or football.  He has tried all the sporting games and it's pretty much the same thing.  He's not good enough to deflect the wrath of his peers.  During one soccer game, he went to kick the ball and another boy attempted the same thing, they collided and the other child fell on the ground.  The fallen child got up and began pointing at My Son calling him a bully and before long, many of that child's friends were trying to take My Son out of the game by hurting him.  How ironic and what a spin on reality.  To imply that My Son, of all people, could bully anyone.  Yet there they were, pointing fingers and yelling "Bully, Bully".

School started August 22, the fires came through Sept 4 and in the four weeks we have been able to have class, he has come home every day, sometimes nearly in tears because of the cruelty of the other kids.  He takes their venomous words to heart.  I remember what it was like to be a kid and how deeply those words and deeds are felt and no matter what I say to encourage him or what coping tools I give him, he simply can't fight the masses.  And if there is one thing we have learned is that bullies seldom work alone.  They surround themselves with kids with similar mindsets or kids that prefer to side with the bully than to leave themselves a potential victim of one.

During the summer, he and I changed our diet, lost weight and improved our overall health.  He was excited to go back to school looking leaner than last year.  He had grown taller and he was proud of his accomplishment.  Last week, the kids began calling him fat.  The fat kid.  "Mom, the entire sixth grade thinks I'm fat."   Again their words chipped away at  him.

In order to keep eating healthy foods, I send a healthy lunch with him every day.  They tease him and make rude comments on his food.  Last Thursday, they unmercifully thrashed him about the soup he brought for lunch.  "Mom, I love that soup, but they just kept telling me how disgusting it looked.  I tried to eat it but they started pushing my lunch bag into my soup trying to spill it.  I only got to eat a couple of bites before I just gave up fighting with them and trying to keep the soup from spilling.  So I packed it up and just didn't eat."

That was my last straw.  Friday I sent him to school with lunch money, telling him to buy his lunch in the cafeteria and just not to worry about it for one day,  hoping he would at least have some rest from that part of the school day.  I sent an email to his counselor and asked for some help with the situation.  I explained what was happening to him and what had happened with his lunch the prior day.  I also let her know that he felt no one at the school cared about bullies.   She was eager to visit with My Son and made time to do so.  He would not give her the names of the students out of fear of a further escalation of already unbearable events.  And that's ok, this process will take many steps.

As it turned out, that very morning, My Son mentioned the bullies to another classmate who quietly told his math teacher.  Mr. T  called My Son into the hallway and talked to him, asking him what was going on.  Again, he would not give names and Mr. T told him to tell  him anytime something happened.  He assured him that he would take care of those kids.

When My Son came home from school  he told me he had the best day ever.  He rattled on about Mr. T and how when they reentered the classroom from the talk in the hallway, all the kids were quiet and no one bothered him.  He said no one bothered him at lunch mainly because there was a parent visiting at the table.

For the first time in many weeks, My Son was smiling and happy.  There is no doubt that he needed to know that school officials really did care and that help was there if he needed it.  Now mind you, it will take no time at all before those obnoxious children begin their antics again and things will return to the way they were.  But as I explained to My Son, this is a process.  It takes time to build a case when it comes to bullying.  I have documented every email I have sent regarding the incidents and my requests for help from the lower staff levels.  If it continues, the emails will go higher.

You see, My Son certainly isn't the only child on that intermediate campus that must endure those harsh days.  My Son is not weak because he wants to follow the rules and only goes to school to learn.  He is not weak because he does not fight back when pushed or shoved into the ground.  My Son is not the one with a problem to solve.  He is entitled to have a safe environment in which to receive his education.  My Son is the bravest man I know.  I can't even imagine what his days are like, but I can imagine what they should be like.

So as long as he keeps trying to get through his days, I will keep trying to make sure they are better days.  I will keep documenting and emailing and if and when My Son reaches the point where he has to push back, there will be ample evidence to justify his actions.

Patience is a virtue.  Adversity will build strength of self and an understanding and acceptance of life's hurdles.

As a parent, it is my responsibility to turn each obstacle and hardship into a teaching opportunity.  It's just so hard because I'm his mom and hes the little man.  My instinct is to protect but now, at this age, I have to do so from a distance.  I simply can't carry him through the fire, there are parts he must walk alone.

But rest assured, he knows, I will be waiting every day at the end of the path.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stepping Into The World Of Atticus Finch

Tomorrow will be a first for me.  At this age, imagine yet another first.  I have always heard that when you are young, life is full of firsts.  Your first words, your first steps, your first day of school, your first love, your first job and so on.  Then you reach a point in your life when the firsts yield to the mounting lasts.  The last time you talked to your mom and dad, the last time you saw your friend, the last time you let someone break your heart.

But tomorrow will hold a first and that's exciting.  Tomorrow, I will be interviewed for Jury Duty.  Now before  you start laughing, let me tell you that I have waited all my life to be called.  I even went out and voted in hopes it would boost my chances of being called.  I renewed my license when required, doubling my chances to be called for this prestigious civic duty.

A month ago, I had just been saying that I had never been called for Jury Duty.  That very day, the summons came in the mail.  I can't begin to tell you how excited I was.  Finally, my chance to participate in this judicial system that is a thread in the American fabric.  Love it or hate it, going to court is what separates us from other cultures that often resort to chopping off hands and fingers in order to seek justice.

Since My Town is small and not much has been happening except a massive wildfire, I don't expect this to be the crime of the century.  But it won't matter.  I am excited to experience it.  I don't even have to be picked for the jury to claim tomorrow as a great day.  It is a first, one of my few first left. 

I will not lie, I have entertained visions of being sequestered while serving on a jury for some complex trial.With work, kids and animals all needing my attention, I would think of this sequestering as a vacation and I would be just fine if it ran on for weeks.  Not a chance that I will have that opportunity tomorrow but oh, I can dream.

I spent this evening thinking of objective responses to questions posed by people from the legal field.  Since I am an objective person, this was not at all difficult.  Honestly, you would think I was studying for my SAT.  But, this is my chance to see the judicial system from a vantage point so long denied me.  Never before have I been questioned as a potential juror.  Never before have I sat in a room with lawyers.  I find it all simply fascinating.

I know that when I emerge on the other side of this process, I will probably return to my world of work, kids and animals unchanged.  But the memories are what count.  It's the first that counts.

And that puts a smile on my face.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Long Tailed Caps And The Entrance Of Fall

So far this week, I have yawned more times than my entire life combined.  I sleep fairly well but by the end of the work day, I feel compelled to crawl in my bed and start my good nights sleep.

We have noticed the lingering darkness that is now the morning trip to work and school.  No longer does the sun pierce our eyes as we start our day.  The darkness is just beginning to fade these days as we head out and the evening finds the sun setting a little earlier.  The mornings now have a cooler feel to them.

I've recognized that the body, at least MY human body, loves the onset of the winter months.  The notion of longer nights and shorter days fit right in with my idea of long slumbering nights. I do believe I could easily wear one of those long tailed nightcaps so often featured in written and pictured lore of long ago.

After what seemed like an endless summer of high temperatures and no rain, coupled with a horrendous fire that destroyed so much of our town, the mere idea of cooler weather and shorter days is just simply delightful.  Perhaps it is just the change we all need.  Putting this long miserable summer behind us will help in so many ways.  Before long the holidays will be upon us and there will be much to look forward to.  But with this change, I wonder, is it possible that there are people who hibernate better than others?

Normal summers, summers with rain and yard work welcome those long days.  There is a need for time.  This summer was just one very long hot day or so it seemed.  I preferred the dark during the summer, at least that way I couldn't see how dry and dead everything looked.

As I recall, the official time change will occur in November, apparently a full month and a half after my body has recognized the need for it.  Already, I'm feeling the slow down and the anticipation of the night that comes early every day.  I welcome the cold nights that are to come.  It will be a great relief from the months and months of excessive heat.

This day is winding down and it has tired me or the seasons changing has tired me.  It is not even 9pm and I am ready to curl up in my bed and bid this day adieu.  So as to my earlier question about the adaptability of humans to hibernate, I may well be the poster child for hibernation.  It is innate and uncontrollable.  It is part of who I am and I'm sure stamped within a part of my DNA are the words PROLONGED SLEEP.  Of course they most certainly appear as little tiny letters.

Where does one find a long tailed nightcap?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Complicated Ease of Friendship

I've always heard it said that friends are made regardless of gender, race, economic status, religion and even species.  I've seen time and time again the bond between animals that would be the most unlikely of friends.  And now, I see such a darling example in my own  home.

In a prior post, I shared the story of how Cayce came to my home.  Neglected and unloved, this white schnauzer has struggled to find a role in the household antics of several cats.  Not everyone has taken with Cayce and with two of the cats, she is not even tolerated.  But everyone is finding their boundary and special space of places to be within our  home.  They are all learning mutual respect along with the loathing.

With that being said, there is one cat that has taken to Cayce.  The most unlikely of cats within the fold that call my house home.  Miss Liz is primarily the outside cat.  She grew up outside and prefers the solitude of the outdoors to the many paws that reside inside.  Naturally, when the temperatures outside are over 100, we bring Miss Liz inside to enjoy the day sleeping in my climate controlled bedroom.  She has her corner that she curls up in and sleeps the day away.  When we return from work and school at the end of the day, she is eager to get back outside.  We are respectful of the things that make our animals happy after all, their lives are not endless and every day matters, just like us humans.

Yesterday, I was awake early, the sun not yet up.  The morning was cool and the air fresh.  Cayce and I went outside for our morning round of the yard.  She is very engaged in this activity.  I'm not sure what all her nose reads when she sniffs the ground but it is like the never ending novel far too delicious to ever put down.  Our walk around turned into a nice walk around the block. She is quiet and rarely does she bark, so we made our way down streets and sidewalks, our only sound the clicking of her nails on the cement.  It was a nice walk, filled with silence and sounds of the world still sleeping.  We both thoroughly enjoyed it.

In the four weeks Cayce has been here, she and Miss Liz have slowly become friends.  There is a preoccupation with each other, this dog and this cat. They kiss with their noses and feel comfortable with each others company.  Naturally, Cayce will take the playtime too seriously and Miss Liz will  have to bring out the slash as a reminder to Cayce that there is love but even this love has its boundaries, for now.

This morning, leash in hand, we went out for the morning yard walk.  I had entertained the idea of another walk around the block.  I gauge the notion based on what ache or pain is tormenting me when my feet hit the floor.  This morning seemed a green light for the walk but when we went outside, the smell of burned earth and trees filled the air.  The air was humid from the misting rain of yesterday.  Since I know how much was burned and still smolders around my town, I decided there would be a shortened walk beyond our yard.

Cayce and I took off down the street.  Our plan to only walk to the end of the street and then back  home.  Again I heard the small sound of her clicking on the road and she walked like a dog in the biggest dog show of her life, her gait brisk and happy.  I almost felt like I should be doing the half walk run their dog handlers do in those amazing dog shows. We reached the end of the street and made the circle to head back home.  A short long walk is better than no walk.

As we reached the view of my house, I saw Miss Liz sitting at the end of the drive.  When she saw us she came running down the street, a sight that made me panic but there were no cars moving about.  She ran up to us and I picked her up to keep her safe while we were in the street.  Cayce was on a leash and I could make sure she was safe from harm, but Liz was free roaming and being the mother and caretaker of all may children and animals, I decided my arms were the safest place to be.  But Miss Liz wanted nothing of that.  Down she went and walked with us back  home. 

Here I was, walking a dog and a cat before the sun had risen, before the world was stirring and in the bathing light of a soft street light.  A most amazing moment, just the three of us. 

Within my home are many mini families.  Together we make up the tribe.  Even in my home there is the semblance of order and structure.  So it is with all living things.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Finding James Taylor

For those of us that have aged gracefully over the year, music has been a part of each decade.  From our youth to our middle age, the sounds of guitars and drums and pianos have played a part in the recollection process.  We hear a song and we remember where we were when we were listening to it on the radio. It takes us back to a time and a place.  We can see in our mind's eye details not readily recalled without the musical prompt. 

It seems the older we get the more we come to appreciate what has been around us all the time.  Perhaps we tend to look at things differently and sometimes we look at things, really look at things, as if for the first time.  This week, I have found a new appreciation for James Taylor.

A week after the fire, as the nation paused to remember and reflect on September 11th and all it meant on that day, James Taylor was playing his guitar and singing for the people gathered at Ground Zero.  There was something very comforting about the sound of his voice.  The simplistic working of his guitar and the haunting lyrics of his song gave us all a measure of peace.  It was as if the song had been written for this one day.

I can remember hearing James Taylor's songs on the radio and while sweet to hear, they failed to create a need for repeated play.  As I recall, I would think "that's a nice song" and dismiss it as such.  That all changed this week.  No matter the time in my life, when his song came on, I immediately recognized his voice.  Its as unique as this words.

For some unknown reason, the sound of James Taylor's voice and the words to his songs have stirred a hunger and sincere appreciation for his musical talent within me.  There is nothing flashy about him or his songs but there is magic in his voice.  Simple and unassuming, he sings his songs with ease and allows the music and words to envelop the listener.  Perhaps I've finally reached the place in my life where James Taylor speaks to me and my heart.  Perhaps I'm finally hearing what he has to say.  It took decades for me to understand the place from which he writes.

Regardless the reason, I'm enjoying this gem of a musician that has been around for most of my adult life, hiding right there in plain sight.  I won't spend time worrying as to why he has eluded me all these years.  Instead I shall relish in the talent that is James Taylor.

Finding James Taylor was absolutely the best thing that happened to me all week.  I love it when new discoveries are ones that can endure for all the years to come.  That indeed is the measure of a treasure.
If you haven't heard him lately, find some JT music and have a listen, perhaps he is sounding exceptionally sweet to you too.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Healing Properties Of The Game

Tonight, our high school football team will take to the field and for the first time since the awful fires, people of My Town will think about something other than what has happened and what they have lost.

All day long, it was a mixed bag of emotions.  Today, access to one of the major subdivisions destroyed by the fire, was granted.  Families were going to the place they used to call home.  They came for their children and together they drove down familiar roads and stopped their vehicles where their houses once stood.  They saw all that they had now reduced to ashes and debris.  It was hard for them, I could see it in their faces.  They called it closure.  To me it seemed like much more.  The therapeutic trek to what once was, allowed them to come to terms with their new reality.  To be able to physically stand where their home once was, to see what was left and what was not, was not their closure, it was their cold shower of reality.  Perhaps it will be easier to move forward now.  I  hope so at least.

Amidst the pain of the today was the anticipation of the football game.  For the first time in two very long weeks, the students were doing what they had always done, they were getting ready for a big game.

In My Town, every football game is a big game.  This one in particular, because of what all has happened, was big. The town would show up at the big beautiful stadium and for three hours, cheer and yell and this time, the enemy wasn't a fire, it was an opposing football team.  Harmless and exciting, nothing feels more normal to My Town than high school football.

The end of the school day found the student body and all the faculty in the main gym for the pep rally.  The band, the cheerleaders, the dance team, volleyball players, cross country runners, all there to lend their voices to the mass of high school students.  It was loud and busy and very very normal.  It was as if nothing had happened.  As if homes and favorite pillows, prized collections and memories had not been lost to the fire. For a moment, everything was as it once was.  All was good.

Tonight, the half time show will be dedicated to all those firefighters, first responders and police officers that battled the beast two weeks ago.  The entire town will be there to put their hands together and show them the appreciation they so richly deserve.

And then My Town will enjoy some football.  GO BEARS!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Seeking Normal

The school doors opened again this past Monday.  The children came and we managed to keep things as Normal as possible.  There were plenty of tears as the fire took so much from so many.  When 1500 homes are gone, it affects a large population of this small town.  So many are displaced, not able to go home either because their home is now gone or its simply not safe to return to the areas where homes remain intact.

The fire was the topic on everyone's mind Monday and Tuesday.  Today, Wednesday, it was less and less.

People really are trying to get back to the Normal, whatever that is now.  There are plenty of needs and they are a constant.  From shelter, to clothing to food to health care, there is a large population of people that are having to find their way back to Normal.

Its impossible to be Normal right now.  The fires changed too much for that to be the case but we are trying.

People here are having a hard time sleeping and our dreams are filled with smoke and fear and sirens. People are finding it difficult to concentrate and focus on things that need to be done.  Details elude them.  Time will need to heal the wounds, however, it will take rains to put out the fears completely.

Rain seems to be the elusive fix for us.  It remains absent from our skies and the forecast is only the most slim of chances.  How long will this go on?  I see brown dead lawns, dying trees and a landscape that is primed for another fire.  Until the rains return, the threat will be constant and real.  Constant and real just like the need left in the wake of the fire. 

Just so you know how things are going here in My Town, it seems to be a guarded OK.  We still wince when we hear a siren, we still look to the sky for signs of smoke and clouds must be verified.  Meanwhile we are working and going to school and grocery shopping and going ahead with our lives.  And that's just the ones that were unaffected.  Those that lost everything are in a daily battle to rebuild and to find something Normal in every day.  Temporary shelter, temporary lives waiting for a semblance of routine.

Maybe, with some luck and no more fires, next week will seem a little better.  That is my sincerest wish.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

You Can Close Your Eyes

Well the sun is surely sinking down
But the moon is slowly rising
So this old world must still be spinning 'round
And I still love you

So close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it's all right
I don't know no love songs
And I can't sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I'm gone

It won't be long before another day
We gonna have a good time
And no one's gonna take that time away
You can stay as long as you like

A drive through My Town revealed what we feared most.  The following pictures taken by my daughter this morning allow us to see how much our landscape has changed.  How everything has changed.

The scorched earth goes on for miles and miles and miles.  Random devastation blown by a brisk north wind on a Sunday afternoon.  It almost looks like winter came early.  Today will be 101 degrees and there is a fire to the north.

You can close your eyes, its alright.

The Art of Reflectiveness

This Sunday, we reflect.

Not only do we mark the ten year anniversary of the attack in New York that changed our nation, we note the one week mark of the fires that changed our town.

I thought much about this day this morning.  The scope of reflection is vast and narrow all at the same time.  Looking back at that horrible day ten years ago and looking back at that  horrible day a week ago, seems overwhelming. It matters not the time span, loss is loss and its painful.  Dark days are remembered.

I gave consideration to all that has happened to my family in the ten year span since that unbelievable day in September of 2001. We have moved, buried our mother, struggled with Logan's suicide and a thousand minor dramas that are part of every life.

While the deaths in our family were by far the most difficult to endure and as with Logan's death, events we were unsure we would survive, we did.  Not unlike that dark day and week in September when we thought we would never move beyond the images of planes and building, the years eased the pain and lifted some of the burdens.  Nothing erases the memories of pain and the feelings of uncertainty but somehow life went on.  We continued to live our lives, we worked, we fed our families, made plans for the future and moved on.  We moved on past those days that left us numb and lost.

As we look back at where we have been, what we have done,  how we have felt, ways we have changed, we see the sorrow and the joy of the many days we have been given.  Each moment, good and bad, makes up the fabric that is our individual lives.  A tapestry at the end of amazing colors and designs.  Designs that appear as paths we chose, decisions we made and hues of emotion.  In the end, that tapestry is passed on to the generations that follow us.

May we mark this day with reverence and reflection.  Many of us are still in the throws of emotional days and wrestle with the twists of fate.  But let us not forget that is was the promise of our birth, that things will happen, we will be tested, we will feel pain.  But we will also see great moments of joy and know pure happiness.  We will see with our eyes visions of heaven on earth. We will know kindness and compassion.

In all things there is balance.  Accepting this balance is to accept ourselves, our lives and our futures. Let not the pain of the past keep too tight a grip upon your hand.  Like travelers on the road, we must either leave the pain and sorrow behind or allow the path to part.

To those of you who have lost people you love, buildings you called home and possessions of a lifetime, please know that the future is embedded with possibilities and opportunities.  The obstacles will be bypassed, the hurdles jumped and the wounds healed.  Life has proved to us time and time again that we can overcome hardships.  In that we must trust.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday Comes To Life

The morning started slowly this Saturday, the first Saturday after the fire.  I made my way to the grocery store where I found it eerily void of the masses that usually shop on Saturday mornings.  The aisles were mostly empty, there were no bottlenecks on the bread aisle, no waiting on a break in the line of people with baskets moving in and out of each aisle.  I was in and out of the store in record time.  I've not known that before.

We headed up to the Producers Market on highways with less cars.  I was the only person in the market.  I visited with the lovely man that operates the building.  We talked fire and community and change.

After lunch, a tour of the downtown area revealed life I've not seen in My Town for nearly a week.  I saw vast donation areas, filled with all kinds of things, from food to clothing to furniture.  Everyone is giving and that is because everyone is in need.  The warm temperatures detoured not a soul.  People were out there, under tents, handing out water, making food, helping with insurance claims and just listening as people talked.

And I saw people. Lots and lots of people.  My Town was packed. I saw people from other towns here volunteering their time and resources.  An outpouring of affection for a town and its people. 

Today has renewed my spirit and allowed me to see that we will be OK.  From Mary's email this morning telling me thoughts about rebuilding her house, to the distribution centers filled with cars and people.  There is life after the fire.  Its different but considering how we feel about each other now, in many ways it will be better.

As long as the fires stay away, we can move forward.  Forward and beyond three days we would just as soon forget.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Walking Familiar Trails For The First Time

Day 5?  Day 6?  I'm completely unsure right now.  All I know is Sunday will be one week since the devastating fires erupted and decimated My Town.  Its been such a full week and yet my ability to remember many of the days is clouded at best.

This day was a beautiful warm day, with plenty of sunshine.  Those blue skies were still there and while there was no rain, there was also no smoke.

I drove around the downtown area with My Son this evening.  My first journey out into My Town since the fires began last Sunday.  I took the same route I took last Saturday, the day before everything changed.  I passed the spot where the fireman held out the boot for collection of funds for some charity.  I drove across the bridge that spans the Colorado river.  From the bridge you can see for miles in any direction and I did look.  I looked for smoke.  I saw none.

As I drove, I passed parking lots with mobile shower units and canopy covered areas used to prepare meal for those without homes.  I saw churches full of people helping people.  As I drove the perimeter of the Walmart parking lot in order to get to my destination, I saw travel trailers where people were staying because they had no where else to be.

My Son and I entered the local Subway sandwich shop only to find a couple of people there eating their dinner.  Everyone was quiet and when they spoke it was almost with a whisper.  No one is laughing, no one is relaxed.  No one is normal yet.

Turning back for home took me on the access road to the freeway.  It was nearly 7pm on a Friday night.  Normally, traffic is heavy as people are either coming home from work, headed out to football games or trying to find a place for dinner out.  Tonight, very few cars were on the road.  The roads were quiet.  Things were not normal.

I wish you could have seen My Town before the fire.  It was a beautiful town and when you approached it, you saw the lovely rolling hills covered with towering pine trees.  A little slice of heaven it was.  I know it will be again one day but for now, it has a gaping wound and is scarred.

I heard that tomorrow, the south end of the major roadway will open once again.  That route will take you past much of the devastated area.  I must be honest, I don't think I can bare to look at it.  Not right now.  I simply prefer to remember it the way it was as I know once I see it, that will become my last memory and the beauty will be gone from my mind.

Tomorrow I will make my weekly trek to the Producers Market.  I know along the way I might see some evidence of a fire but I will not be traveling the direction of the big fire.  I will travel the same route I traveled last Saturday, when the world was normal and over 1400 families had homes and the pine trees were standing tall on the rolling hills of My Town.

My trek tomorrow will be that familiar route, the route I've taken every Saturday now for several months.  But I know, in light of all that's happened, I will be seeing the journey with different eyes because nothing is normal and nothing is the same any more.  And it wont be normal for a long time to come.  No matter what we do, we cant make that big black scar go away.  Time will take care of that.  We simply can't be in a hurry.

But for me, for right now, I choose to not look that way, not that direction.  Not just yet.  Just a few more day please.  Just a few more days with my memories.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wallets and Purses

This evening, darling Pepper made his way into my bedroom.  Sasha was not amused and has determined that this intruder is a threat to her bedroom.  Now Pepper is pretty much odd man out.  Since Cayce has joined our home, he finds his food eaten by this noisey, active non-cat creature.  Pepper has become elusive.  He only really comes out now when that heathen dog has go to bed for the night.

Tonight, I saw him making his way slowly through my door, mindful that the mighty Sasha would be watching his every move.  I gave him a little food and then sat with him on the floor for awhile. By the way, I'm convinced that it is very good for the soul to sit on the floor now and again.  My purse was within arms reach and open.  I noticed my watch inside and vaguely remembered tossing it in my purse when we were packing to leave because of the fire.  I'm still walking around packed bags in various rooms in the house.  I suppose we haven't returned to normal just yet.  Not til we've had enough rain can we really let our guard down and not think about the threat of fire starting or returning.

As I sat on the floor with Pepper, I decided while I was down there, protecting him, I would clean out my purse.  I began pulling out my wallet and dollars just shoved down inside from the last trip to the grocery store.  You know the moment they hand you your receipt, the coin change and the dollars all at the same time and the person behind you is already shoving their cart into your space.  So I secured the loose bills inside my wallet and continued cleaning.

Pepper ate some and Sasha moved from the bed to near my computer chair and just sat there, wide eyed and staring at Pepper.  I could feel the love.  As I continued my journey into the abyss that is my purse, I came across a CD that a friend had made for me.  I remember sitting at work and she came by my window and handed me this CD of music.  I promised her I would listen to it but I'm sure I was busy at work and just stashed it in my purse for another day.  Another day that hasn't yet happened.  There is sat in my purse.  I pulled it out and looked at it.  She had listed the songs and the artists and then wrote "Love Mary".  She's just thoughtful that way.  When I put out a call to friends that I was looking to reuse some of their glass jars with lids, she faithfully brought me her cleaned peanut butter jars.  I was beginning to think that's all she ate as she was bringing them so often.  But I was grateful to her for remembering me.

I held the CD and thought to myself.  Mary had given the CD to me about a week before the fire.  Now Mary's home was completely gone.  How much life had changed in a week.

I continued my journey through my purse.  Pulling out receipts and crumpled grocery lists, stacking them up for later discard.  Then I pulled out these stickers.  I remembered getting those stickers last Saturday.  My Son and I had headed out to the Producers Market on the edge of town.  As we slipped down the alley behind Main street, I saw the firefighters were collecting money for charity.  I had reached down in my purse and pulled out the loose change and dropped it into the boot held by the fireman.  He was smiling and friendly and grateful.  He had handed us the stickers for our donation.

Our trip to the Producers Market took less than an hour and as we back tracked our way home, heading down the same alley, we saw the same fireman and the same boot, made another donation and received more stickers. 

I held those three stickers and thought about how none of us knew on that Saturday that 24 hours later, that fireman would be out there in those woods and in those fields fighting the fire of his life.  None of us knew how life would change for everyone.  We were just going about our daily lives. 

As I finished cleaning my purse, I wondered how long it would be before I stopped associating things with that day the fire started.  Oh I did this just before the fire started, or I went there to eat the morning the fire started.  The fire has become the mental time marker.  Maybe the moment it started was the end of one life and the beginning of another.  Maybe that's why it seems so important and noteworthy.

Mostly likely its because those four days with the fires were so traumatic, even if you lost nothing, that all we can remember is before it started and then its as if we woke up four days later when the smoke cleared.  Long days with no sleep and constant fear does odd things to our mental  perceptions.

Either way, the purse is cleaned, the stickers are tucked away in my wallet as a reminder that life can change in an instant.  A reminder that I will not take a moment for granted.  Never again.

And neither should you.

Day 5 and Those Magnificent Blue Skies

When your town is small everyone knows everyone else and they probably know where your grandparents went to school and everything about everything.  These people in My Town have been together for generations.  They have watched the town grow from a two lane road to a highway, from Lock's Drugstore to the super Walmart.  They have seen it all.  They have been through so much through the decades that helping one another is not just for funerals, its for anytime someone is in need.  I'm not originally from this town and I'm envious of the connection they have to one another.  Of course, their kindness and generosity isn't only for the natives of this town.  They give freely, its just how they are.

The skies were clear this morning for the second day.  The beautiful blue sky was brilliant and the sun was shining bright and warm.  I had almost forgotten what that looked like.  A cold front brought fresh brisk winds back to our area.  Instead of smoke and fire this time, we had lovely breezes and crisp blue skies.  Five days and finally we are seeing the light at the end of this tunnel.  With the region still primed for more fires, we hold our collective breath but we are feeling less anxious and more hopeful. 

I returned to work for several  hours to help place and receive calls as we urgently tried to find our students and their families.  Many were safe in their own homes and just as many were displaced and scattered across the numerous surrounding counties.  The total count of lost homes now stands at just under 1500.  I have 1500 students that attend my campus.  Those numbers boggle the mind with its enormity. 

Part of our campus was turned into a donation, collection and distribution center.  The outpouring of donated clothing, toiletries and household goods was heartwarming.  We soon had so much that is was open to the public.  Everything free just come in and select what you can use.

Some homes untouched but in the areas affected by the fire will be without utilities for as long as six weeks.  Families are having to relocate even though their world is still standing.  So massive and complete was the fire that half of our town is now gone.  Gone is the magnificent State Park that was the cornerstone of this town.  Gone are the neighborhoods that surrounded the town.  Gone are many of the families that made up our community.

All that may be difficult to imagine to those that live here and are still here.  But something really wonderful is happening here in My Town.  As I mentioned before, the outpouring of generosity simply left me speechless.  As I manned the phones on my campus, I took call after call after call, people saying "What can I do to help?" They were so thoughtful, even asking if I was OK, if my home was OK.  I'm also seeing the young people of this community busy helping, distributing, collecting, moving, being extra hands and using those strong bodies to help those weakened by the fire.

This fire, while it stole so much from so many, left in its path more than charred land and broken homes.  It left a tender, caring spirit in its wake.  I see people caring for each other on a level I've never known before.  It is genuine and it is real.  Its as if the hearts of each person here reached out and grabbed the closest hand to hold.

With the smoke gone and the fires farther away, every new day brings new healing.  Soon we will open our campus doors,the school bell will ring and we will find our way back to the new normal.  It will be OK, we will all be OK because we have each other along with tremendous love from people and places we never even knew existed.

I am blessed to have seen the worst and the best all in a single week. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Giving Thanks

As the skies finally cleared over My Town, it is time to recognize those that put their lives on the line to try and save all that could be saved. These men and women battled valiantly for three days against insurmountable odds. They faced a fire that destroyed and devoured all that was in it's path.  It was one of those fires that will always be a part of My Town's history.  They worked tirelessly in a coordinated effort, keeping the people of My Town current with information and providing a team who's single goal was to stop the fire.  While all that changed with the Federal Govt came to town and assumed command, we cannot forget what they gave us in those early hours and days of what was an historic firestorm.

The men and women of fire departments both local and afar, stood shoulder to shoulder doing their job.  When the rest of us were running away from harm, they walked to it.  They worked in high winds, fierce heat and for most little or no sleep. I give thanks to them and to the many volunteer fire fighters that put their own lives aside, got in their vehicles and drove all night to My Town.  I give thanks to the police officers that assisted with getting people out of neighborhoods and out of danger.  I give thanks to those that flew both helicopters and planes dropping water on a fire that seemed without end.  Their hours of hard work made the difference.

I'm sure that I will never know all those that played a part in bringing this event to a close and while the door is not completely shut on this fire, life looks more normal than it has looked in four long days.  The blue sky has returned, the planes sound far away and the sounds of normal life have returned to my neighborhood.  I remembered it was my day to water the lawn finally and turned on the sprinkler.  The first routine thing Ive done in a long time, it seems.

I leave you, my dear Reader, with a final picture of this fire and those that battled it.  May this one man represent the hundreds that stepped up to our defining moment in time.  They raised their fist in defiance and vowed never to surrender.  They are our heroes.

There is no possible way that those of us who lived through this fire can ever forget what it was like, the way it smelled or the loss we feel.  But in time, nature will reclaim what has been lost, people will rebuild their worlds and a new normal will be found.

May this fire be over soon so that our heroes may rest.  May they know our gratitude as it is unending.

One Picture, One Moment

Yet another aspect of this horrible fire is the plight of the animals.  Both domestic and wild, its been a survival game for them.  Many did not and we now see buzzards flying low, a sign that there is death in the fields and woods.

Many people were able to get their pets out in time, many were not as fortunate.  So many stories of cats and dogs dying in the houses that burned, their owners away from home and unable to reach them in time.

On the land surrounding downtown are many  farms and ranches.  Cattle, horses and other livestock have had a home very close to My Town and their owners had struggled all summer long, enduring the drought to keep them fed and watered. When the fire appeared last Saturday and people immediately knew this was going to be bad, most had time to get horses and livestock moved and secured.  Unfortunately that was not always the case.  The same with pets that couldn't be caught by owners.  Frightened by the smoke and fire, they did what instinct told them to do, they ran.

People are now finding lost dogs and cats, cattle are roaming as are horses.  With no time to secure them, they were released from fences and allowed to flee the fire as best they could.

I looked through a friend's FB pictures from yesterday and found one that just said it all.  It speaks to many things. The fire, the fear, the displacement, the desperation, the separation, the kindness, the compassion and the single moment of thousands of moments that make up the memories of this fire.

To this officer, I say thank you for taking a moment to just be there with this horse (might be a donkey).  Lost, confused, injured, yet alive.  Somehow alive.  Somehow through that roaring fire and thick smoke, this animal managed to live.  It just looks so tired and lost.  Just like so many of the people of My Town.  The fire affected everyone and everything.

This morning, Day 4, the smoke had settled again on the downtown area.  I still hear helicopters and planes but reports from the air support team indicate that things are looking much much better.  We desperately need much much better.

Do we dare to exhale?

Faces On A Map

It seems the whole country has seen whats going on in my little town. Prior to this past weekend, if I mentioned my town's name to someone in another part of the state or another part of the country they might say "from where?".  No one knew where we were.  Now everyone knows because of the fire.  That monstrous beast that stole so much from my town and devastated so many people put us on the map and on the radar.

I have seen amazing photos taken of the fire over the past few days.  It was every bit as big and bad as those pictures represent.  The amount of homes lost and land charred is newsworthy.  But what seems to be missing are the people and their individual stories, of which there are many.

In my little town, we have some people that have money and some that do not.  When it came to the fire, both lost equally.  People, regardless of how much money they had, what they drove or the quality of clothing in their closets, lost everything.  Yet there is one thing that will serve as the defining line between the two groups and that is their ability to rebuild.  Those with ample money had insurance and those that lived a modest life didn't.  Not through their own personal neglect but simply because they didn't have enough money to take care of that detail.  Bills to pay, children to feed and clothe, medical bills and sporadic work, simply didn't leave extra money for the luxury of full coverage for the homes and belongings.

I have heard people say, "well, if they didn't have insurance, then they deserve to not have a place to live."  After  hearing this, I had to think long and hard about how we view our fellow man.  In the face of utter devastation, are we really so calloused that we can judge someone else, a complete stranger and then dismiss them and their needs?  Are we really going to divide ourselves into the deserving and the undeserving?

My brother, who has left his home to stay with us while the fire is still a threat, went into town to have coffee with some friends.  One had already lost his home to the fire.  Self employed, his friend also watched his small mechanic shop go up in flames.  So, in one person, there is an example of someone not only losing their modest home but also their livelihood.

As they sat there drinking their coffee and talking about the day so far, what they had seen and where the smoke was, they watched a family come into the restaurant.  This three generation family sat down at the table near them.  They overheard one of the children ask the dad for a quarter to put into one of those penny toy machines that now cost a whole lot more.  The father sadly shook his head and said, "No, we cant afford that right now."   His friend dug in his pocket, finding all kinds of change but no quarters, so he took what he did have to the counter and got what he needed.  He then took the quarter over to the little girl and off she went to claim her prize.

A few minutes later, the grandfather came over to the table where my brother and friends sat.  Tears streaming down his face, he simply said "Thank you".   No explanation as to why that one quarter was so important but in light of all that has happened to the people of this town, a random act of kindness can have an overwhelming impact and it can touch people deeply.  We all feel that here, the need to go the extra mile to help in the face of so much pain.  Sometimes its as simple as a quarter that feels like a million dollars.

Another man my brother talked to today, was an older gentleman.  He told my brother about how he was going to purchase the last of the wood he would need to start building his home.  He had been saving and storing all the lumber in a large barn and on Saturday, he would have enough and the last purchase of wood would be made.  All the years of saving and planning were coming to an end and soon he could begin building his new home.  Before he could make that last purchase, the fire came through and with five minutes notice to evacuate, he watched not only his home but all the lumber in the barn go up in flames.

In his conversations with people today, of which there were five including his friend, all had lost everything and none had insurance.  I'm sure the stories I've just shared can be echoed a thousand times in my small town.  Each story unique yet all have the same ending.  The fire stole everything and the future is uncertain.

I know that as I deal with people in the community, I will be doing so without judgment.  I will be treating each with the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings.  They are people existing under pressures none of us can imagine unless we have been there.  How much money they have means nothing.  Whether or not they had extra funds to ensure insurance coverage means absolutely nothing to me.  They are a value to our community and they are worthy of my compassion simply because they exist.

It really is that simple.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Holding Patterns Aren't Just for Planes

As we enter the third day of this fire event, the morning sky was as it has been for the past two days, smokey and ominous.  Fires continue to the east and now the west of our small town.  The north appears to have smoke and the south more than yesterday.

View from Austin looking towards my town.  Another great pic of a really bad fire.

Slowly as the morning progressed, the sun's light was dimmed by the growing smoke in the sky .  It is the third day of these fires.  We began to smell smoke for the first time since the fires began.  The wind had been pushing it away but today, today the thick smoke found its way into our yards.  Faint at first, then so strong that it was difficult to breathe.  Ash began falling from the sky and we wondered where exactly this fire was.  It seemed so close, so very close.

Our bodies are tired as are our minds.  The constant waiting for information takes a told on those waiting on a possible evacuation.  But we have it good.  We woke up in our homes, in our own beds yet free to wander around all our possessions.  So many of the people of this town are not.  Those are the people I wanted to write about this morning.

As if hidden by the smoke that blankets our community, these people who have lost everything are more than displaced.  They have left the area or are staying locally with family or friends.  They wake up on someone else's sofa or in someone else's bed.  They look at all they have in the world and it all fits in a single suitcase.  All those everyday tomorrows and the plans they made are no longer clear.  The future is hazy, not unlike the sky.  Evacuees? Displaced?  These people are so much more than an adjective.  They are mothers and fathers, grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins. They are young and the not so young. They represent all ethnic and social background.

Then there are those people with no place to go.  Many too proud to go to a local shelter or unwilling to abandon family pets.  So they are sleeping in their cars.  Local gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores, even the Walmart is a sea of RVs and cars with families living in them.  Everyone just trying to find a place to be.   Sometimes all you want is your own parking place in the middle of a crowded parking lot.  Just a place for you and your family.  Just a place when there is no place to be.  They are lost for now, coping with a world that changed in a day and trying to find their way through the new normal. The fire took their worlds and cared not their status in it and we should not be lulled into complacency by their label or their numbers.  They are us and they need time to heal and help to rebuild. 

With more than 5000 people in this town evacuated, the number of displaced people and families is staggering.  How do you go from having a home and all the things that make up your personal world to nothing but the clothes on your back, your family sleeping in a car in your own prized parking spot in a Walmart parking lot?  I guess more importantly, how do you recover from it all?

Those of us left in town have opened our doors to those in need.  Offers have gone out to those who need a meal, something to drink, a shower or just a quiet place to take a nap.  Offers have gone out to temporarily house horses and livestock and pets.  Up and down my street, I can see extra cars and RVs, I can hear extra dogs barking and I can see our town in the midst of change and upheaval.

How we took for granted our mundane, normal lives.  How we took for granted the beauty of our town.  How we took for granted all that we had.  But look at who we are.  We are a people that are kind and generous and giving.  In the midst of tragedy, there are moments of compassion and care. We are people of a small town in Texas where neighbors help neighbors and hardships are shared. We are a people that will endure and recover and restore. We just need the fires to end so we can get busy doing what we need to do.

It is day three and I hear the planes.  The battle isn't over yet nor is it lost.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Fire Claims A Second Day

As we awoke to clearer skies and cooler temps, we imagined a better day.  It was not long before the smoke began to rise and it seemed like yesterday all over again.  In lieu of dramatic words, I thought I would simply let pictures tell the story of this fire that has held us hostage for now 48 hours.  Giving credit where credit is due, many of these pictures were taken by my daughter, some were taken by others and posted on FB.  I am deeply grateful to all those that shared pictures of what its like here in my little town.  The different perspectives help give a deeper understanding to what is happening here.  Thank you to all who shared your photos and to my daughter for getting out there and recording what will certainly be memories we will never forget.

An amazing picture - kudos to the photographer

The fire is not contained and with humidity levels extremely low, the battle will continue another day.  Over 5,000 residents of my town have been evacuated and nearly 500 homes destroyed.  No matter what tomorrow brings, my town is changed forever.  As are the lives of so many of it's people.

Which is Worse, Waiting or Running?

This exceptional day in my town has led to a very long night.  What started as a quiet morning, peaceful and calm, followed by lunch with the kids enjoying great food and atmosphere, has turned into something beyond belief.

After noon, the winds picked up here.  When we stepped outside the restaurant, the wind blew dust and dirt in our eyes and mouths.  We watched the wind blow dirt across the roads and My Son kept saying "Dust Bowl, Dust Bowl".  I could imagine those that lived through that terrible decade had seen many days just like today.

Then the smell of smoke and the sirens were heard.  Once again, our hearts sank at the thought of a fire after so many months of heat with no rain at all.  Everyone went on alert and this time, with very good reason.  This fire was no ordinary fire.  This fire would be whipped by high winds and fueled by dry and dead vegetation and trees.  Nothing was surviving this summer of drought.  We all knew this would eventually happen.  I guess we just all prayed it wouldn't.

Dark smoke became visible in the sky to the east.  It was the blackest darkest smoke I've ever seen. By the time the fire was spreading rapidly, it appeared  to cover the sky behind my home.  We listened to alarms and emergency transmissions all day long.  One subdivision after another was evacuated.  Friends and coworkers alike affected and displaced.  Then news came of more fires breaking out as the winds continued to whip across the area.  We knew they could never contain a fire of this size with the wind at the helm.

Picture courtesy of S. Braley and FB

News came of this store and that home and this area all lost to the fire and still it continued.  The smoke now looked like clouds in the sky, tall and storm like in appearance.  It looked like a bad storm was coming.  A storm that would bring rain to our parched land. But this was no storm that would help us.  This was a firestorm.  This storm would consume lives and dreams and memories.  Mementos of years and loved ones and milestones.  All gone in minutes.  The beast was hungry and very angry. 

Night has fallen now and we can no longer see the smoke that served as an indicator of where the beast was located.  Fires continue to break out around town and we have been warned that everyone in town must be ready to evacuate.

We gathered up some belongings and made a plan of what would be taken if and when we were forced to leave.  As I went around the house, I began to wonder which was worse, no notice to evacuate, just grabbing whatever you could find, or having time to think about it and try to make decisions.  I looked at the big TV in the front room.  Never in my life did I think I would have such a luxury.  I looked at my bed, my favorite place in the world, never would I find another one like that.  I looked at my mother's old Singer pedal sewing machine and the Jelly Jar Cabinet.  I looked at the boxes of old photo's my mom had kept all her life. Not much could be taken in the evacuation.  We grabbed a few days worth of clothing, the safes, our purses and other things we would need to just carry on another day.  All the belongings that had taken a lifetime to acquire would have to stay behind should we need to leave.

Which is worse, no time to think, or too much time to think?  I don't really think it makes a difference as both will be filled with regret.  Regret that I didn't have time to secure this item or too much time and choosing to leave an item behind.  All these things that make up my world.  All these things that have been in the way but too precious to part with.

So if the beast comes my way tonight or tomorrow when the winds are expected to increase, we will take the few things we have packed, our animals, our children and leave.  I decided that if God cleaned my slate and forced me to change everything in my world, well, He must have a very good reason for it.

I will be praying for those that lost everything today while I pray that God decides that my slate does not need attention and that my world can be left as it is.  I have all night to pray as there is no way I can sleep.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Freefall of Disconnecting

Technology allows us to do things every day that our grandparents never dreamed of.  Our phones, our computers, each give us access to information, people and entertainment.  We manage our finances, our health and our education with tools run by technology.  But what happens when that technology fails us temporarily?

Anyone who has lived with technological advances for several years or so understands the Disconnect that we feel when our perceived lifeline has been severed. We wander around behaving as if we were lost and confused.  There is even a level of panic that arises in us as we try to recall a time without our connection.  And that is what it is, a connection.

For at least an hour after the Disconnect, our minds race to list the thousands of things we wanted to use our connection for and during this Disconnect, we feel our souls knot up in complete disarray.

There is little doubt that technology has become the platform for our daily existence.  But seriously, is the Disconnect a bad thing?  Seriously?

Within the last year, my computer was down for an entire week while I waited on parts to arrive.  It was probably the most productive week I've had in a long time. Curiously,  I watched everyone in the house saddle up to their machine and each made sure not to make eye contact with the odd man out lest they might be asked to share their machine for some online time.  How technology has changed us.

The personal relationship with a computer is most fascinating and at times disturbing especially when the Disconnect occurs.  This intimate relationship with a machine, woven like fabric into the hours of our day, can negate isolation and even loneliness.   We go to it for answers, we go to it for information, we go to it for a way to pass time and to socialize.  We are indeed integrated with technology and our machines.

There are many different scenarios which could leave us without the machines we depend on today.  Concerning as that notion might be, what we have to remember is that on our way to today, we had centuries of yesterdays.  Each yesterday was lived richly and fully, most without technological conveniences.

Perhaps we should embrace the temporary Disconnect when it occurs.  It is an opportunity for us to explore our lives with less distraction and more perspective.  Our hands can do more than type, our eyes more than stare at a monitor. 

How sad it is that we must be forced into the Disconnect in order to learn the valuable lessons of it's absence.  The Disconnect must occur before we can see what we did before we became connected.  We really were OK, we really were just fine.

As I'm writing this, My Son is enduring the Disconnect. It's only temporary.  I'm trying my best to teach him about life before a computer, before instant access to everything, before constant information, before Googling was a verb.

In a bizarre twist of fate, I also find my self not wanting to make too much eye contact with him.  Oh, how technology has changed us.