Paradise – The Aftermath

This is second in the series People Who Inspire

Kathy is smart, pretty, talented and tough. She is also a genuine-dyed-in-the-wool heroine. She survived the infamous Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise. California. The  fire burned one hundred ninety-two acres and took the lives of eight-five people.

While driving her grand-daughter and her friend to school, Kathy noticed the black smoke moving in from the east. Wildfires are not uncommon in this rural area,  but even so, the smoke was alarming. The school was not being evacuated, but Kathy returned to her home, gathered a few papers, her dog, grand-daughter and friend, and began the drive down The Skyway toward Chico in the valley below.

She didn’t get far. By now, the smoke had turned day into night. The fire moved incredibly fast. After several years of drought, the dead trees provided ample fuel for the fire. Fire-generated winds and the rugged topography made fire-fighting impossible. The first responders focused on saving lives.

Kathy and her passengers follow the instructions of the fire-fighters. They parked the car and went to a parking area where almost one hundred people were gathered to shelter in place. They lay on the tarmac, covering themselves with blankets and clothing. They would not be able to leave the area for eight hours.

At one point, fire-fighters asked if anyone had food in their car. A man with diabetes needed help. Always prepared, my sister had cookies in the car in addition to the bottled water she had shared.

Paradise and Magalia often used propane to fuel their homes. The parking area they were in had propane tanks on the edge. At one point, the flames reached this area and exploded the tanks. Those on the tarmac were moved to a metal building to shelter from the fumes of the propane.

The evacuation plan was dependent upon bulldozers clearing the burned cars from the Skyway so that caravans of evacuees could moved out of the area and down to Chico. The bulldozers arrived and the caravans began.

The scenery was frightening. Local business were on fire. The hospital burned and all familiar landmarks were gone. Flames licked both sides of the road.

Eventually, Kathy and her passengers made it out of the area and to the home of a friend. All this time, Kathy focused on keeping her grand-daughter, her friend and her dog, calm and secure. It was not an easy task. Later, Kathy described the area as looking like a war zone.

Kathy’s story could have easily ended differently. She was one of the fortunate ones. Her car was not damaged and her family survived. When I asked her how she got through this experience, she said she did it by focusing on what she had to do at that moment to keep everyone safe.

The damage from the Camp Fire will not be repaired for many years to come. Some homes may never be rebuilt. The trauma suffered by many, including Kathy, is immeasureable.





People Who Inspire

This post is the first in a series about people who inspire others. They are not celebrities, just real people who make a difference in our communities every day, simply by being themselves.  

My friend, Bob Schneider, has been many things in his life: husband, father, restorer of vintage cars and one wonderful Victorian home, an antique dealer, and a world traveler, just to name a few.

He has always shown his concern for his country and community. He enlisted in the Navy just after high school and is justifiably proud of being a Navy Veteran.

Many years later, Bob retired from SMUD, the local utility district. Both he and his wife, Louise. continued their service to the community by volunteering at Kaiser hospital.  Bob volunteered for fourteen years.

He ‘retired’ as a Kaiser volunteer, but that wasn’t the end of his service to the community. For the past nine years, he has been on patrol as a volunteer for the Roseville Police Department. Recently, he announced he will retire as of April 23, 2019.

He has volunteered numerous hours over a twenty-three-year period. Thank you for being such an inspiration.


Looking For Love (Inspiration) In All The Wrong Places

In 1980, country singer Johnny Lee recorded Looking For Love. It became a hit. In fact, years later I find myself humming the tune, even though I don’t agree with the lyrics. I offer my apologies to Johnny Lee for borrowing the title for this post. The first line of the song is “Looking for love in all the wrong places…” (I’ve forgotten the rest.)

While writers may or may not be “looking for love,” (I’ve found it – not looking), all writers are always looking for inspiration. I thought I would share three photos of the places I have recently looked for inspiration, sadly not yet finding it.

in the great outdoors

gazing into the fireplace

in the ‘fridge (Although the Hagen Dazs was somewhat inspiring.)


In an effort to de-clutter my house, I’ve taken to reading more on my Kindle and buying fewer actual books. This has been a semi-successful strategy – after all, there are more things that form clutter-clusters than books.  There are some problems with E-readers. When you attempt to find a meaningful quote you read on an earlier page, or track a character’s first appearance in a book series, it is much more difficult on a Kindle than in a physical book.

Recently, I’ve started re-reading some of the books I own. In 2001,  I read Move to Strike, a newly published book by Perri O’Shaughnessy. The main character, Nina Reilly, is an attorney. The attraction, for me, besides being a really good, fast-moving, law-themed mystery, was the setting in nearby Lake Tahoe, with side trips to Monterey County. I lived in Monterey County for twenty years and it was delightful to revisit the area through the eyes of Nina Reilly

Life intervened, and unlike my usual habit of reading everything that particular author has written, I didn’t read any more of that series – until recently. I was delighted to find that the O’Shaughnessy sisters are still writing under their pen-name Perri O’Shaughnessy.  If you are a mystery fan, their books are a must-read. Their website is

Have you recently discovered or re-discovered an author you would recommend?




How Do I Write Thee? ( with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, How Do I Love Thee, Sonnet 43)

Not too long ago, I saw an interview with a writer who claims to do his best writing in unique, beautiful settings or on a cruise ship. He claimed these venues inspired and informed his writing. They even had pictures of him actually writing while in one of those beautiful places!

I admire that quality. At one time, I found I could easily focus on a specific task (balancing my check-book, listening to my child, correcting student work, writing letters) while sitting on the living room floor with the television blaring. I literally did not hear what the television was broadcasting, so strong was my focus.

I imagine, with my ability to shut out the world and focus on a task, if I tried to actually write while in one of those beautiful settings, the beauty would be lost on me. That’s why we have photos – they allow for delayed inspiration.

I find I no longer can focus on one task in the face of chaos – or maybe it’s just that I’ve redefined “chaos”.  I need a quieter, less demanding environment in order to write. I recently completed a first draft of a picture book. After reading it aloud, I find I really don’t care for the story. I feel obligated to attempt to “fix” the draft, mostly because of time already spent on the task. Perhaps it’s time for a little “delayed inspiration.”


Orchids found in one of Hawaii’s botanical gardens. Now that’s inspiration!






Paradise Lost

I am a creature of habit. I like my routines. They make the small tasks easier and less time consuming. That allows me to focus on more important matters. I get cranky when those routines are disturbed for more than a few days.

when my sister and nephew’s family had to evacuate their homes during the Camp Fire in Butte County, I could not begin to imagine the disturbance and devastation that comes from such a disaster. My sister, her grand-daughter, grand-daughter’s friend and small dog, spent eight hours on a cement parking lot. They were waiting, along with first-res-ponders, for a way to break through the flames that enveloped one of the two main escape routes known as the Skyway. They were fortunate. The escaped without injury. The first-res-ponders were amazing.

If you have seen the videos or photos of the Camp Fire, my sister, and nephew assure me, they are not exaggerations. Flames, whipped by wind, towered over forty-foot tall pine and redwood. The thick black smoke changed the blue sky to black in minutes. The air was toxic. When the flames died down and moved away from Paradise and Magalia, the area looked as if a bomb had dropped. There were some surviving homes, but even those most likely suffered damage from the smoke and soot.

So what is next? No comforting routines or habits will help. Those are gone and will only be re-established in the future. The only thing that can be done is to take one step at a time.  Food, clothing and shelter first, and then consider long-term issues. Do you rebuild, or do you move? If you move, where to? How long will it take to rebuild the infrastructure to support homes and business?

There are groups tackling the long-range issues. Paradise School District had found buildings in nearby Chico to house their students. School will re-open on December 3, 2018. The schools are an important community center, particularly in a small town of 27,000.

Paradise, Magalia and the residents of Butte County will  need all the help they can get, both short-term and long-term. You can contribute to victims of the fire and first-responders  in several ways.  Cash and gift cards are always appreciated and offer the most flexibility. The Salvation Army and Red Cross are collecting donations and can be  found on-line. Firefighter support sites include Members, International Association of Firefighters Charitable Foundation, North Bay Fire Relief through the Redwood Credit Union and NVFC Volunteer Firefighter Support Fund, all found on-line.

Part of the history of Paradise. My BFWW won the prize for the Best Reconditioned Production Car – a 1922 Willys. The event, sponsored by the Horseless Carriage Association of America, took place in  the town of Paradise in the 1960’s.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes – You Want a What?


I like my local tech store, really, I do. But I only visit the store about every six months and in that time, things change. Like most stores, they occasionally move inventory from one place to another. So, each time I visit, I have to ask the clerk, (AKA * sales person, agent, representative, techie, team member) where I can find a specific item.

Since my tech vocabulary isn’t up to date, the conversation usually goes something like this:   “Hi. Can you tell me where to find the memory sticks or the thumb drive thingies?”

There is a blank stare from the clerk (sales person, agent, representative, techie, team member) and then they reply, “Your looking for a what?”

I respond in my pre-tech language,  “You know, that little thing you plug into the side of the computer so you can copy something from the computer.”

“Oh! You mean the flash drives. Right over here. I’ll show you.”

The language of tech changes very rapidly, probably more rapidly than any language in human history. But all language changes, even if it is at snail-mail speed.

For example, here are some phrases and terms from a  novel set in San Francisco in the 1880’s.


Mare’s Shank

Lucifer (not a biblical reference)

carbon copy



(Just kidding. The last three are from the 1960’s)

Some fun books to read about San Francisco in the 1880’s (pre-earthquake) are Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini’s Carpenter and Quincannon mystery series featuring a male and female detectives and M. Louise Locke’s mystery series featuring a female business woman and a male attorney.  Both series are very well researched. If you have ever visited or lived in San Francisco, or even read about it, these books help you realize how far San Francisco has come and how much our language has changed.

  • Also known as


Confessions of a Cat Mom


I have two resident cats, plus one that drops by for breakfast and dinner on the front porch most weekdays. I live in suburbia near a wooded area and a creek, a perfect place  for a burgeoning feral cat population.

In spite of county animal control and a very dedicated cat rescue group, we are flooded with cute kitties every May. My two cats were rescued as kittens as was their mother. All were taken to a vet, spayed, given initial vaccinations, taken in to recuperate by the local rescue group and then returned to my backyard. I have no regrets. They have proven to be delightful companions for the past five years;  but I fear I am in danger of becoming a full-fledged Cat Mom.

It’s not just that I talk to my cats, I do (but at least so far they have not talked back) -it’s the paraphernalia that accompanies cat “ownership.” The bags of kitty food, the kitty toys and the bedding can be overwhelming.

And then, there’s this.  A few days ago, Mom cat showed up for her evening meal. She will only eat on the front porch and does not stay around to socialize afterwards. It was a cool evening, so I left the front door open, but closed the screen door. When I checked on her later, she was curled up on the front door mat where she could see into the living room, purring loudly. A pretty nice thank you from a very skittish cat.


Just a nice picture to contemplate.

Sunset over the Great Lakes