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Wildfire - Nature's Fury

Smoke wall during the Bastrop fire in September of 2011. (This photo is not mine) 

           Back a few years ago, I got excited about springtime coming.  For the second year in a row, I can honestly say that I am dreading it.  As most people in America know, 2011 wasn’t a kind year to Texas in regard to rainfall and moisture.  We experienced the worst drought in history for this state and many old timers were comparing conditions to that of the dust bowl days.  I’m sad to report that meteorologists are calling for a carbon copy of last year for us.

            (Deep Sigh)

            Used to I waited in anticipation for the warmer weather to come, the longer days, and most of all, the storm season that this region usually saw.  Last year I think we got maybe three good storms for the entire year, and if I remember correctly, one of those came in October of all months!
            For those of you who are not familiar with the way Texas fire departments work, many are run by volunteers.  In fact, men and women whose day jobs are not firefighting control around 75% of departments.  First responders hold a special spot in my heart.  My father was a Lieutenant with Woodrow Fire Department for over twenty years.  He is now a paramedic.  I see what kind of stress jobs like that do to a person, yet they still do it for one main reason – to help people.
97% of the state of Texas was declared in a drought and burn bans were issued everywhere.  About 27,000 fires broke out, incinerating almost 4 million acres of land.  The fire season started up in west Texas and progressed across most of the state.  Most know about the infamous Bastrop County fire that forced major evacuations of many towns in that area.  This fire is referred to as the most catastrophic fire in Texas history. 
            Fire departments all across the state were worn thin.  Men and women dedicated hundreds of hours to help to try to control these burns, and keep in mind, most were volunteers, not even pulling in a paycheck for their time spent out there on the front lines.  Volunteer fire fighting funds were also cut drastically in 2011, leaving people in charge of paying for their own gear, which is very expensive.  My thanks goes out to the men and women who worked hard to keep the citizens of Texas safe.  Long hours, dangerous situations, and times when it seemed impossible to put the huge walls of flames out are just a few of the things these dedicated people endured during the wildfire season. I can’t imagine what it feels like to have someone come to your home and declare a mandatory evacuation.  How would a person even decide what to take with them?  It would be horrible to think that the next time you came home that it could very well be burned to the ground. 
            I am currently in the process of writing a sequel to my novel Through Smoke that is based on the 2011 wildfire season here in Texas.  I am about halfway through with the manuscript and am really hoping that I can do the situation justice.  I’ve thought about a possible goal as to when I plan on having it published, but who am I kidding? I rarely get it done in the time I say! Right now it’s just very unpredictable with my school schedule, but I started writing this back in late November and am already half way done, so if I can keep the pace up the release date could possibly be soon!
            I will finish this blog entry with me saying a huge THANK YOU to everyone who dedicated their time during the Texas wildfire season of 2011.  With the way the weather patterns are looking for the upcoming months, it appears that we are in for some more of it for 2012.  We’ll just have to keep praying for that rain and continue to offer support where we can. 
God bless all of you first responders out there!

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012

2011 has come and gone, and while it wasn’t all that bad of a year, I’m glad to say goodbye to it.  I’ve had some good things happen in this year, and compared to 2009 and 2010, I think my family was long overdue for a somewhat good year. 
As some of you know, in 2009 I lost my grandma and my Pepa.  In 2010 I lost my Mema.  As 2011 came along, the family was still grieving over losing three people in the matter of a year and a half.  I remember just a few years ago, priding myself on still having three of my grandparents.  I blinked and suddenly they were gone.  The reason I bring this up is because in 2011, I feel that my family has split apart.  One of my Mema’s biggest fears was the family going their separate ways once she was gone, and low and behold, it’s happening.  I’ve been stuck in the middle of a lot of drama that I shouldn’t have been.  There have been arguments, petty disputes, and situations I really wish I didn’t have to hear about.  It has completely changed me as a person, and throughout the past few months, I have felt myself withdrawing from certain people, and I really hate being that way. However, if it means keeping the drama out of my life, I’m going to do it, because I have better things to do and other things to accomplish in bettering myself. I know this happens with all families, and I just wish things would stop. 
I’ve even had people tell me what I can and can’t post on the internet in regard to my grandparents.  All four of my grandparents were amazing people.  They said, did, and accomplished things I could only dream of doing.  A lot of what I’m saying here in this blog is what my cousin recently said in a letter that she mailed to all of us, and as I read it, I felt as if she was reading my mind.  I couldn’t have agreed with her more.  If something one of them said could teach and change someone’s life, I’m going to post it.  If I feel that it helps me cope with their passing, I’m going to post it.  Sometimes putting their quotes or sayings on the internet is a way of honoring them, not exposing them.  I really am not happy with the fact that someone feels like they have a right to tell me what I can and can’t say on my personal Facebook account, on my blog, or anywhere for that matter. 
The bickering and fighting that my family has endured in 2011 has made me want to pack up and get out of here for a while.  I hate the fact that I’m feeling like I’m being chased off, but until things change, it’s going to stay that way.  I love it where I live.  I’m out in the country where it’s quiet, but I’m also a safe distance away from a good-sized city.  But since all of this has happened, each day it’s getting easier for me to say goodbye.  As I’ve said, I’ve already pulled away from a lot of family. 
But, to try and be positive, a lot of good things have happened in 2011 as well.  I was declared a degree candidate with Texas Tech University and filed my intent to graduate for May of 2012.  For the fall semester of 2011 I made the Dean’s List and finished with a 3.75 GPA. My goal going in to the semester was to make the list, so I was more than thrilled when I found out that I had accomplished it. 
In April I went down to San Antonio to take part in the last Friday Night Lights screening for Gridiron Heroes, a charity for football players who have suffered spinal cord injuries.  I got to mingle and hang out with the cast, and it is a night I will never forget.  In May, I participated in a celebrity golf tournament in Bastrop, TX, which helps The Buoniconti Fund to cure Paralysis.  It was hard work out in the Texas heat, but it was worth every second.  I got on a first name basis with Kyle Chandler, an actor that I have been following since I was eight years old and first saw in the movie Pure Country with George Strait. It was surreal to hear him call me out by name. I also got to meet other celebrities, and the majority of the people there were amazing. I hope to get to do it again next year, but with graduation around the date that the tournament is, it’s quite iffy.  I’ll know more as the date nears.
The summer of 2011 for Texas wasn’t the best.  We set several records for heat and had the worst drought in history.  Many old timers were comparing it to the dust bowl days.  I have lived here my whole life, and I’ve never seen it as dry as it was.  I have never seen so many wild fires either.  God bless all of the men and women who are out there, most volunteer, who have had to fight these horrible fires.  In October we experienced a haboob that was over 7,000 feet high.  I watched it roll in, and honestly, was pretty scared.  I usually don’t get scared with stuff like that. 
2011 has been pretty good for my books as well.  I published Through Smoke in February and Dance With the Devil in November.  For the month of December, they both had record-breaking sales and great exposure.  I hope to carry on that success through 2012. 
I have gained new friends and lost others.  Many people have wronged me, and I’m sure I’ve wronged others as well.  One thing that I have really learned is that there is no weakness in forgiveness.  But, on the other side of the coin, I may forgive, but I certainly won’t forget!
2011 wasn’t all that bad.  I know things could always be worse than they are, so I have to just keep thanking God for everything and remember that he is in control.  2012 is here.  Lot’s of big things coming up - Graduation in May, which means it’s time to finally get that career rolling.  It’s scary and exciting, all at the same time.
May you all have a wonderful 2012!