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Musing life's ups, downs

“I can’t believe it’s October already!” “Time is going so fast!” “I can’t believe I’m this old.”

These are comments I’ve uttered recently, and have been echoed by relatives, friends and co-workers, some of them still in their 20s. Where did September go? It seems like time speeds up the older we get. And my young co-workers are learning that “adulting” is tough. Now that I’m in middle age, I’d like to regress back to childhood.

Much has happened in our small town community in recent weeks. The tragedies we must heal from; the joy we should hold onto with gratitude. 

Last month, I took a week off to travel to California and Oregon, to spend precious quality time with my siblings. Our mom died nearly three years ago, so it’s just me, my twin sister and our older brother standing between eternity and our children and grandchildren. 

I flew into Sacramento so my sister and I could drive up I-5 to where our brother and his wife live in southern Oregon. Fate took a hand, though, and that visit was delayed.

The west has suffered drought and therefore each year’s wildfire season appears to be getting longer, and lasting into fall. Such was the case in mid-September. Ironic, since the Carolinas were being slammed by Hurricane Florence about that time. 

Authorities turned us and hundreds of travelers back, just as we had gotten past sparkling Lake Shasta. The Delta fire had flared up and was considered too close to the highway to be safe. Danielle and I spent the night in Redding. 

We prepared to head out again the following morning, but my sister’s check engine light came on. So, we took her car to the Kia dealership to get it checked out before hitting the road again. Thank you service consultant Justino Alvarez for your kindness and professionalism. You, and everyone we made contact with in Redding, was friendly and helpful.

When we left the Kia place, heavy smoke from the fires had wrapped itself around Redding like Sherlock Holmes’ clammy London fog. We bought Danielle an industrial style face mask from a lumber company, thinking that would keep her from having an asthmatic attack, and looked up the online smoke advisories posted by the area’s firefighters. I should mention, here, we saw handmade signs everywhere – in front of restaurants, stores and on overpasses – thanking firefighters for their sacrifice and dedication to protecting Redding’s citizens and property. 

My sister’s mask wasn’t enough protection, and she had to use her rescue inhaler. We called our brother and he confirmed our worst fears – several fires had also flared up in Oregon, and his town of Grants Pass was experiencing severe smoky conditions. As my brother recently had heart surgery, he has to confine himself to his home when the smoke gets too heavy. When we called he had just taken a few quick minutes to hose down his garden from falling ash before heading back indoors.

Danielle and I headed back to Sacramento, disappointed we had to cancel our plans, but infused with a greater respect for and gratitude to firefighters. They are the west’s heroes.

During my visit, I got a call from my husband, who told me about the high-speed chase that ended in the deaths of Ludowici’s police chief and an innocent bystander. I immediately called breaking news correspondent Lewis Levine, who was already at the scene. I am appreciative to Lewis, for his objective reporting under personal duress, and to my staff who handled the ensuing chaos while I was out of town. Jeff Whitten took the helm as editor, and reporters Asha Gilbert and Lainey Standiford stepped up their game, as did our videographer Lawrence Dorsey and production staff Eliese Bowles and Chandra Hughes. They put together two issues without missing a beat. I am thankful to have such a great team at the Courier.

I want to brag, a little, on Lawrence. He was interviewed recently by Jesse Holcomb for a Columbia Journalism Review article on the use of virtual reality videography. Lawrence is cutting edge when it comes to technology. 

The news team will be putting out a special section on Oct. 27, dedicated to Breast Cancer survivors and to those who lost loved ones to the disease. Asha’s own mother succumbed to breast cancer just two years ago. Asha came up with the idea for the series. That’s one small way to turn a personal sorrow into a positive form of expression.

Asha is planning a fundraiser in honor of her mother’s memory. She speaks about it here:

“Lisa’s Bowling for Boobies is a bowling fundraiser to raise money for Susan G. Komen. I came up with the idea after realizing the second anniversary of my mother’s death from breast cancer was almost here. Last year on her death, although surrounded by friends, I was completely inconsolable with the emotions I kept buried an entire year after she passed. That’s why I wanted to channel my energy to positivity this year and do a bowling fundraiser to raise money for Susan G. Komen.This fundraiser is not only dedicated to my mother, Lisa Dj Roberts, but also to the men and women who have fought this disease. My hope is that raising money for breast cancer research will make sure future generations won’t ever have to feel the absence of a loved one due to breast cancer. Lisa’s Bowling for Boobies is Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. at Savannah AMF Lanes. You can register here: Registration ends Oct. 16.”

We all have our ups and downs in life. I think I have finally learned it’s how we react to life’s pitfalls that matter.  As long as my family and friends are by my side, it’s all good. They help me make it over the void without falling in. 

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