Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reflections at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an exclamation point in the year. This holiday is bittersweet in our home today. There are empty places at the table. The past few years some loved ones were called to heaven by God.

Other absences are more voluntary in nature. Divorce separates not just the couple going their separate ways- it leaves its sad shadow on all who loved them, both as individuals, and the two as one, joined in sacrament.

Still, we celebrate. Despite complications in the family, there is so much to be grateful for. Today we will feast with the family of our dear neighbor, Dennis. A man who after 29 and 1/2 years of loyally serving his company, was laid off last week.

When faced with adversity there are two choices. Wallow or get up and get going. The latter is always healthier.
We have had far more good fortune than otherwise. We can choose to make tragedies valuable learning lessons- keeping us from leading thankless lives.

Words matter. Reading the Thanksgiving Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln-the wisdom of why our Founding Fathers only spoke of separation of church and state is revealed. They never said Faith and State should be at arms distance.
Faith and State holding hands helps great things be accomplished.

Thanksgiving Proclamation

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.

To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
Flag is being carried horseback by my late father-in-law, Kenneth A. Plunk.
Edda Gahm (mother) and Robyn Green (daughter) of the late Coberly Neal.
Tile cross is in center courtyard of Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church and School, Diamond Bar.
Stained Glass Windows are part of the Unitarian Church, Riverside, California, collection.
The Army Review photograph of the Civil War was taken by Matthew Brady and is part of the National Archives.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What Rains May Come

What rains may come, we are ready. My husband cleared the gutters- last week the Santa Ana Winds filled them with leaves and ashes. The gray and brown scrap

now tops the heap of
approved waste in the compost bin. There it will all age into the rich crumbly brown compost. Nature will reincarnate it into the ultimate in good nutrition for the garden.

We tested the drains: the water flows quickly. The bird feeders are filled.
Now it is dark: we can rest. The fireplace is lit. Before I pull up the blanket to read I will say a prayer that where the hillsides are bare. the rain will be light. Let mudslide season not follow the rainy season this year. Some people have lost more than enough.

It was just last week, the ten mile wall of flame made a midnight march Diamond Bar. But in my garden, the hummingbirds darted between flower and feeders, like they were sipping from different tables at a wine tasting. The Monarch butterflies floated about underneath the only patch of blue sky in southern California. The roses blushed with blooms. It was so surreal. Was I living in a Salvador Dali painting? No. This is paradise: ultimate beauty on this earth is not synonymous with perfection.

Saturday, soot straddled the stratosphere.

Sunday, the inversion layer shoved the grimy remainders of the hillside’s burnt offering down upon us. A dingy gray coating was smeared upon everything outside. It darkened the normally bright California colors in the image of something out of Charles Dicken’s London. A time when the great city was clothed in drab mourning colors by the dirty coal-fired furnaces in the Industrial Revolution of Victorian England.
The gathering clouds were so heavy with moisture they could not lift their heads up: fog shrouded everything in its chilly embrace. Time to start the clean up.
As I scrubbed and polished and cleaned every flat surfaces on the patio, my thoughts turned to the late Cindy Derr.
Cindy lived a block away. On a particular late autumn day, when our children were students at Chaparral Middle School, I had driven 45 minutes on backroads to my brother and sister-in-laws' home in Riverside, avoiding swaths of fires which were sweeping through fields along the regular route earlier that day.

The boys and I walked into the TV on. OMG- it was our neighborhood- It looked like the TV crew was filming from our front yard. The hillside- Cindy’s house- other homes- were on fire.

But for the Grace of God go I*. Had the wind swept through our little canyon from the other direction, my house would have fallen victim, not hers. Not the other - I think it was- 5 homes.

Kelley-Clarke, Inc, with an office just over the ridge, rushed to the Diamond Bar Jaycees, a generous care package for Cindy and her neighbors. The homeowners all toiled the better part of the next year, piecing their homes, and lives back together. As best they could. Cindy's son saw his pet iguana after the fire. Cindy said it gave him nightmares for a very long time.

After the fire, Cindy wanted everything clean. Which to Cindy meant white. Not eggshell. Not ivory. Purest white was washed over every surface. White walls. White tile. White flooring. The pureness of perfect light reflected back to her eyes meant her home was cured of smoke and soot. It was her comfort.

We lost Cindy much too young. Ovarian Cancer. The second child her parents had to bury. How sad. I don’t think it matters how old your children are if you must bury them. It is the cruelest crime against a parent.

Cindy is in one paradise. I live in this other. In Cindy’s paradise, I like to think she is looking down on us, wearing white and smiling. Knowing, this time of hardship will pass.

Photos of burned areas by Yorba Linda resident Jody Schmalz.

Photo of line of fire by Alta Loma based photographer, Gene Sasse.

The rose is an AARS winner- 'Disneyland'- a floribunda

*John Bradford, Born 1510, Died 1555 at Newgate Prison, London. Reformer and martyr. Famously uttered the phrase while imprisoned in the Tower of London as he watched a criminal on his way to be hanged for crimes.

David Perdue maintains a lively website on all things Dickens at Fleet Street Photograph is from the archive.

This marble Greek statue signed ANTIOCHOS is a first century BC copy of Phidias' fifth-century original that stood on the Acropolis. Photogrpaph by Paris, France based photographer Marie-Lan Nguyen.

The Seraphim Angel is part of collection manufactured by Roman, Inc. and can be ordered through //

All photographs are used with permission. If there is no credit listed, it is from my private collection.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Great Moments

This is one of my favorite stories. This is probably the only post without photographs on this blog. But this remembrance deserves to stand proud by itself. I would like to dedicate it to those unexpected moments, rare and fleeting, which catch us unaware. That brand our hearts forever with love. Read it. Remember your own.

The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget

“I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life…”

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.
It was a cowboy’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss.
What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry.
Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, and made me laugh and weep.

But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night. I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partyers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.
When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.
Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away.
But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation.
Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.
So I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knick-knacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
“It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”
“Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”
“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”
I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.
“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You have to make a living,” she answered.
“There are other passengers”.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”
I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.
We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Kent Nerburn is the acclaimed author whose work focuses on spiritual values and Native American themes. This beautiful story originally appeared in Kent’s book Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace. He kindly granted permission to reprint. He cordially extends an invitation to visit his website at /

Thank you to Glenda Thompson-Bona for forwarding this story. She is someone I can recall the moment we met. She stood up at a Maple Hill Elementary School Community Club meeting. She was dressed simply, in an outfit I recall included a wool plaid skirt. Her exemplary posture and carefully modulated voice of thoughtful words exuded an assured aura.

Because we were both parents of kindergarteners, we were often brought together on "projects." Glenda became my first mentor in writing; teaching me to grab thoughts from the air and sculpt them into written words which stood a chance of lasting. I deeply appreciate how she unfailingly challenged me to grow in thought processing and skill.

Knowing Glenda taught me that people can disagree intensely and still be the dearest of friends when there is trust and integrity at the center of the relationship. Through thick and thin, earthquakes and fires, Glenda is always there when I need her. Here's love to you Glenda- and all who visit here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thank you to Action Heroes

Heroes are not crafted of words or images. They are made by actions. Theirs. These are the Fire Department Personnel who were given a standing ovation at the last Diamond Bar City Council Meeting.
( L-R) Deputy Chief Mike Bryant, Captain Mike Leckliter, Community Services Representative Leticia Pacillas, Captain Greg Cleveland and Battalion Chief Mario DeFina.
These are real heroes. Afew of the 538 public safety personnel assigned just to Diamond Bar plus an additional the 3700 firefighters who protected us from the Triangle Complex Fire last weekend. People who willingly dedicate their lives to what Daryl Bowler described to his mother as "Hell on earth." These next 3 images, taken by Jody Schmalz from her Yorba Linda home illustrate what Daryl felt from his home, not so many miles from hers, as the fire marched towards us.

The fire has been a big reset button for many. An instantaneous reminder of what is truly important. A lesson as to how Thanksgiving came to be as a holiday not during great prosperity, but after times of tremendous loss- first after the Pilgrims lost half their numbers after landing at Plymouth Rock. Then when it was made a holiday by President Lincoln after the Civil War.

There is no logical reason why the fire started on the Yorba Linda end of the Puente- Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor. Why some of their neighborhoods did not have time for the fire departments to send in an evacuation notice like they could here. Diamond Bar and her residents were just fortunate. We had time for the heroes to set up. The good fortune for the winds to have died down.

"Tremendous!" is the word Diamond Bar resident Vinod Kashyap described the effort in Diamond Bar.

"Everything I ever worked for stood in the way of the fire."As he waited in the evacuation center, he was aware that it was possible he could come home to a scene such as at the right, also taken by Jody. Sadly, some of her neighbors lost homes and the treasures within.

Vinod was born on another continent. Lived in many countries. During another conversation, he explained that he has lived places where he and I would not have been allowed to speak, because we are of different races. This night he declared to all who listened, that the response to the fire was just one more reason that he, "Thanked God for letting me live in this country." No where else would the effort have been so valiant, so open and without discrimination.

These next four images were taken by Daryl Bowler during breaks when he and his father stayed behind to help protect their neighborhood, which sits at the outskirts of Tonner Canyon.

Daryl and his father, John Sr., are part of a handful of people who are qualified by temperament and judgement to stay behind the lines in such a situation.

For a bit of perspective on the economic cost of fighting a fire:

In 1.5 days, 30,000 acres burned.

Phoschek drops cost $5600 per hour.

Imagine the destruction without them?

It will be good when the 3 National Guard C-130's are approved for added air support in fire suppression- scheduled for March, 2009.

Photographer Gene Sasse, who earlier allowed me to share the night shot of the fully formed 10 mile long line of fire wanted to share from his personal file from the 2003 Grand Prix Fire, which threatened his home

"This photo has alot of meaning for me, The photo was taken in front of my home with all the vegetation gone, it was so surreal - I didn't see the fireman waving until after I had processed the film. I always wished I could have said thank you to them!" - Gene Sasse

Many blessings are sent to all who called or e-mailed concern this week. I cannot adequately thank all who contributed photos, quotes and information for this short series of posts during and after this Triangle Complex Fire.

Our prayers remain with those who have suffered harm from the wildfire.

To any firefighter who reads this. From all of us: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thee White House Comes Through

Thee Anaheim White House Restaurant is doing something nice for its neighbors. The people have shared their good times: when the Triangle Complex Fire struck without warning...
Below is the email sent to the clients of one of Orange County's fine Seafood and Italian Restaurants. While the offer is only through tomorrow, its intent will stay with me. Please join me in supporting a business that understands their responsibility to the community. Not just in good time. Not just when they are rolling in money. But when it is needed. For we are all in this life together.
Many of our loyal customers live in the local area and our hearts go out to those effected by the recent OC fires. You have supported us all these years so we are trying to help you out this time. Beginning tomorrow, Sunday November 16 until Friday November 21 we are offering free pasta to those who lost their homes. If you reside in one of the areas effected by the recent OC fires, join us to receive a complimentary plate of pasta.

The pasta will be served from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Sunday, November 16 thru Friday November 21 Only. Please call to RSVP to (714) 772-1381 or make an online reservation..
The restaurant is located at
887 South Anaheim Boulevard :: Anaheim, California 92805 :: Tel (714) 772-1381

The top photo was taken by Jody Schmalz from her home in Yorba Linda as she was being evacuated. The gentleman, friend and Realtor, Roy Rhino. arranged to share. Hugs and God Bless You Both.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Diamond Bar Community Foundation Postpones Gala, Donates Gourmet Meal to Fire Evacuees

Photographs have been inserted from previous events so readers can see the type of event which was superceded by the Triangle Complex Fire (and just know just how GOOD the food which was donated to those at most risk- willingly and thrillingly). If I am able to get photos from Red Cross Evacuation Center- I will be pleased to share the love which was served with food- Lydia
Also- There is a 20 foot long "Thank you Firefighter" card/ banner resident Jerry Hamilton will have up at the Diamond Bar Community Center everyone is invited to sign starting at noon today.

By: Ling-Ling Chang--Chairperson, Diamond Bar Community Foundation

Diamond Bar, CA-As a result of the Triangle Complex Fire and the mandatory evacuation of many residents in South Diamond Bar, the Diamond Bar Community Foundation made the decision to postpone the Fifth Annual Diamond Bar Community Foundation Holiday Gala scheduled that evening at the Diamond Bar Center. As Chairman of the Foundation, and one of the residents ordered to evacuate the area, I, along with Gala Chair, Jody Roberto, who was responsible for coordinating the Gala and its attendees, made the difficult decision with the rest of the board to postpone the Gala in light of the day's events. Members of the board worked feverishly to contact the over 300 attendees regarding the postponement. The Foundation also made the decision to donate the gourmet meals from the Gala to the Diamond Bar evacuees, many of whom were forced to stay at the Evacuation Center set up at Diamond Bar High School. Jody and I, along with Diamond Bar Mayor Jack Tanaka and Council members Steve Tye and Wen Chang were on hand to help distribute the food at the Evacuation Center on Saturday night..We were ecstatic that we were able to donate the food to families in need in our City. This is the mission of the Foundation, and we are thankful that we could do our part in this community effort. We are also incredibly thankful for the firefighters, agencies and groups participating in combating the fire and coordinating a safe evacuation in our community.
The rescheduled date is January 4th 2009. We hope to see you there.

The Diamond Bar Community Foundation (DBCF) is a non-profit/public benefit organization whose mission is to preserve, protect and enhance the quality of life by establishing programs and facilities to address the cultural, recreational and social needs in the community.
For more information regarding the Gala or DBCF, please contact us at:
Photos from 2006 DB Foundation Dinner
Top photo is Andrew Wong with Ling-Ling Chang
Second Photo is Mrs Patty with Councilman Steve Tye
Third Photo is Jody Roberto, Ling Chang (the evening's honoree) Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe with Assemblyman Bob Huff
Last Photo, taken in front of the DB Community Center
Andrew, Jody, Ling and Assemblyman Bob stand to the left of my wonderful neighbor, Matt Rezvani. Matt is in management with BP America. He is seen here presenting a check on behalf of his company, to help the Foundation meet its goals and missions. BP was to be honored at this year's Gala- I look forward to standing up and giving Matt and BP a standing ovation for all the good he has done on their behalf. Not just here, but throughout all of Southern California.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Notes from the Aftermath

Orange was never more beautiful. Air traffic never sounded so orchestral than it did last weekend.

Smoke has stained the air like tea does a tablecloth, but gratitude flowers in the aftermath. Because the fire started at the other end of the Wildlife Corridor, there was time to lay down a line of Phoschek between leaping flames and Diamond Bar. This is what you need to know about living in the vicinity of bureaucratize is "an event". Getting anywhere is horrendous. One mile from home might take half an hour. Across city limits to Brea took a local hairdresser three and half hours. You might not be able to get where you want. You might not want to turn around. And even if you did, you might not be able to get back in.
Some families did double evacuations- fleeing their homes in Yorba Linda, only to be evacuated again in Diamond Bar.

On our knees or otherwise, we all prayed.

Some families were split up involuntarily as roadblocks went up. Some, like John and Trisha Bowler's did so voluntarily. John and son Daryl stayed behind to defend their home, sending Trisha to the safety of her BFFF, Councilwoman Carol and her husband, Art Herrera. Their son, Eric, tried to join his family: he couldn't.

Fire is chaotic. Kudos to the news agencies who did their best to transpose, in real time, what was happening on the ground into some sort of logical flow . That they renamed people, mismatched pictures to location names is not so important as capturing and relaying the storyline.

Sunday was to be the annual Diamond Bar Foundation Gala. Chairwoman Jody Roberto and her dedicated crew spent the entire last year planning and preparing for what is our town's most important social event. What does a committee do with 300 paid-for filet mignon and chicken dinners? The Foundation donated them to the Red Cross Evacuation Center at Diamond Bar High School. Andrew Wong, Ling-Ling Chang, Bridget del Rio Cortes and others work their phone numbers in an effort to get out the official cancellation notice. Staffing the Red Cross Shelter with volunteers was easy duty.

Refugees never ate so well as they did that night in Diamond Bar.

Yesterday morning, as I was finally able to leave the house on errands, I saw the most beautiful site. Firemen having coffee at Starbucks. They were packing up to go home. I craved to take their photograph: but I did not want to delay them getting rest for so long as a nano-second.

The emergency ebbing, Edda Gahm and I kidnapped our refugee friend, Trisha Bowler,
for lunch at a favorite hang-out, the Mandarin Taste Restaurant.
Afterwards, we dropped-in across the parking lot to the office of Assemblyman (and now California State Senator-Elect) Bob Huff's office. Jody is a field rep there. A legislative briefing by the Office of Emergency Services was about to start.

While Edda and Trisha "caught up" outside, Jody let me listen in on the linguistic ballet of government. The data download. Questions ladeled without corruptive nuance. Phrases not used in normal conversation normalized the fluid chaos into something solid which could be handled. Phrases like interested parties, pre-position of assets, migration of resources. These words, out in public are too droll and emotionless. But in this setting they an aria filled with wisdom, hope and promise.

" To whom much is given, much is expected". Luke 12:48

Thanksgiving after a fire will have special signifcance. So close disaster. Diamond Bar and her people were spared only because we were given time. That gift which is either spent well or squandered. There is no in-between.

As we count our blessings this year, because we were spared, we have a special responsibility . We have a duty to assess our challenges and craft from them something of greater value.

Next time, the fire might start closer to us. How can government prepare with the facts of this region to continue our good fortune?

There is a map. The map of the Wildlife Corridor Conservation Authority. If you look where the Triangle Complex Fire traveled- you see where it started and where it was headed. If the wind had not slowed down, if the fire had not been stopped where it was- the fire was headed straight to Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights and Whittier. The potential for loss of property which would dwarf what happened in Sylmar and Montecito is real. How to avert future tragedy?

The duty of government is to do collectively us what we cannot do as individuals. When it comes to change, I don't want it to be spare. I hope it is comprehensive and forward thinking. It is time to build a reservoir. This would give us some water-independence from the MWD- who has announced- as I recall- a 40% rise in rates over two years. It would give us an additional water-source to fight fires or to be otherwise accessible in the event our imported water is cut off by an earthquake.

Planned well, there is the real potential in pairing this local lake with a bypass roadway in the Tonner region. Not just mitigate everyday traffic problems. With the anticipated increase in traffic from the proposed NFL Stadium, it would be a relief valve for any increase in traffic on the 57/60 Freeway Interchange. It would provide a real defensible line against wildfire or an escape route for other disasters.

Hills for Everyone has a great map of where the fire path, actual and potential could be followed on page 33 at

Top photo is by by Sr. Master Sgt Dennis W. Goff, courtesy of US Air Force. Believe in Sylmar area.

The cross is the front cross at my home church, Mt. Calvary Lutheran in Diamond Bar. Traditional, contemporary and Chinese language services. 23300 Golden Springs DrDiamond Bar, CA 91765 (909) 861-2740

BFFF is best female friend forever.

The Mandarin Taste Restaurant is located across the street from Mt. Calvary at 23391 Golden Springs Dr., Diamond Bar, CA 91765 (909) 861-1819

MWD is Metropolitan Water District

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fire and Smoke

Fire. Nature's majesty and horror in one. The lights of civilization dwarfed by encroaching fire.
Our son, Kenny, called this morning. The smoke in Fullerton was so thick- he thought in the middle of the night that perhaps his apartment was on fire.

So far, we have been fortunate. But this friend of Trisha's son was not. A few months ago, this beautiful home in Yorba Linda was his proud home. This is all that is left.

This morning, smoke lay down in the valley in a suffocating haze. So far, we are safe. But all it will take is a burning ember to hit one of the leaves turning to brown- but still clinging to a tree- and fortune could turn with the quickness of a tidal wave.
The evacuations have come to Diamond Bar. Trisha is packing up her car. Evacuations in The Country are now mandatory. I warned a neighbor- if she goes on her planned excursion- there is a chance she might not be able to get back in.
There is a word which explains how it is to live with fire coming at you. Powerless. Not the same as helpless. But darn close to it.
May God protect the firefighters and residents.

Thank you to photographer Gene Sasse for providing the photo at the very top. Taken last night.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Living with Santa Ana Winds

There are three things you have to know about Santa Ana winds in California.
First they blow away all the smog. Colors shine bright, outside looks like an expertly cleaned painting.

This old rose, name long-ago forgotten, is one I cherish. It's blooms are beautiful. But the first few years, it only put on on one show, in spring. Only its compelling beauty spared it from being shoveled out for a more ever-blooming variety. With the passing of years, the roses' bloom time increased- with surprise showings sprinkled longer along the seasons. Like some of the best people: maturity has mattered. I'm fortunate not to have dumped it when it first didn't meet my expectations. It's a keeper.
The second thing is, these warm days turns on the the gardening gene. You wake up wanting to garden. To turn the dirt. Add compost. Pick out the weeds. Fertilize the flowers. Soak some seeds.
The speaker at So Cal Hort this week, Greg Rubin, owner of California's Own Native Landscape Design, glorified the virtues of shredded Redwood compost. You may have seen it bagged up as 'Gorilla Hair.' It holds put on hillsides and IF it burns, it does so at a much lower temperature than other decomposing mulches. This would be an excellent choice for our back hill.

The third thing about Santa Ana winds- you've been watching on TV. They are Mother Nature's blow torch breath.

The pit that opens in the gut whenever the unmistakable rising of smoke is sited is something you never grow out of.

The distance can be deceiving. You check the TV and radio to to see how close. If it is in Diamond Bar- it is time to get packing. There is more than one fire in this region. The fire corridor runs along between here and the Border's Store I worked at for two years. Brea, Yorba Linda, Anaheim Hills and Corona. No way I can reach anyone there to help. Leave the lines open in case anyone needs a place to spend the night. I say a prayer that Chino Hills State Park is a big enough buffer for firefighters to stop fire's spread this direction.

Fire is the ultimate democratizer- it has no preference for rich, poor: black, white. It will destroy us all if given a chance.

All the brush clearance I managed on my own- it seems so little now. I tell myself it is far better than in years past. Turn on the sprinklers. Put away the patio cushions- cancel plans for the day. Make sure the windows on the house are shut.

This is how we live in California when the deep blue sky becomes filled with smoke the color of a battleship. We hear the droning of water-filled aircraft piercing the smoke's hull. We feel the
smoke in our lungs. We pray for the firefighters to succeed. Quickly and with safety.
So Cal Hort is Southern California Horticulture.

Friday, November 14, 2008


My mother told me her earliest memory was her aunt getting her gussied up in her Sunday best-and then there was no room at the orphanage... Perhaps that is why I've always had a soft spot for those generous people who welcome "strangers" into their hearts and homes. How blessed are those who do not hoard love. Who give it away with abandon- and reap heaven-on-earth in this life.

Imagine spending an evening trimming, bathing and blow-drying this soft little darling. When you are done, it will be tired and thankfully fall asleep in your arms...

This chinchilla needs a home. So do her brothers and sisters. Thanks to Karen Bel they've made it through the door from squalor towards a happy life. They already a little pudgier: happy how their rescue is proceeding. They can't wait to meet their new family.

Please help spread the word...

Karen will adopt out some of them from home. Petco in Anaheim Hills is helping -
8092 East Santa Ana Canyon Road, Anaheim, CA 714-998-6833

The Bunny Bunch at The Burrow is helping with cages, supplies and fostering- so the rest of the adoptions will be through them. Their adoption center can be reached at (909) 626-39464601 Brooks St, Montclair, CA 91763Hours: Wednesday 2 p.m. to 8.p.m.; Thursday & Friday Noon to 6 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday Noon to 4 p.m.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pet Passion

Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.
-- Mark Twain

I first met Karen Bel when her last name was Gould. I was 15 and we were candystripers at Whittier Hospital. When I got a job pushing pancakes at Sambos to earn money for college: it became my duty to stuff the place with my friends. Karen followed me.
Karen got married, moved away to Washington. Lost track of each other for a few years. But she found me through my son's contact information at CSUF. It is so reassuring for all the changes, Karen still has a passion for pets. This is the email she sent this morning.
I now have 26 Chinchillas in the house! I rescued 24 of them from some dumb woman who is an animal hoarder and got evicted. She started with 2 she adopted for free from a Petco years ago and let them breed and inbreed until she had 37 of them. That doesn't take into account the ones that died. She also had massive breeding cats plus reptiles all over and huge aquariums. The smell inside was horrendous!

When we picked them up they were filthy and the cages hadn't been cleaned for a long time. They're malnourished and very dirty. She hadn't dust bathed them for months and was feeding them sunflower seeds. Some of the females have to be pregnant. Some lost their fur or part of it. Others are matted right to the skin. They've all had dust baths now and tonight I got 3 of them bathed with shampoo and trimmed down to get rid of the matting. They're eating like starving children.
A chinchilla supplier we've shopped with is donating 25 pounds of food and dust for bathing. I contacted a rabbit rescue who started to include Chins and Guinea Pigs and they're loaning me clean cages and giving me food, dust, chews, treats and toys for them. Several have eye infections and they're bringing me medication for them.

The lady is going to come by to do health assessments on them for me and she's going to advertise and have a fund raiser to pay for everything. A bunch of them will go to foster homes with the rescue until they're ready to adopt out. She'll also have the males neutered before they go to homes. They'll take care of the screening and adoptions, too. I need to come up with names to put with their pictures for a mass e-mail they'll send out to get people interested.

I'm thinking about hanging on to a few females in hopes of having babies to raise again. I'd love to hand raise them like I did with Mr. Pibb. Maybe I can make a deal with the rescue to raise the babies when they're born.

I did adopt a female Chin from work last weekend. She's the most beautiful one I've ever seen and she will sit in my lap all evening without pooping on me! She's champagne color with pink eyes. I call her Bunny. I should keep one of the rescue males for her so she's not alone.

Thank you for sharing, Karen!