What started as IDC (Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma) in 2011, then turned into CHF (Congestive Heart Failure) in 2013, probably partially caused by chemotherapy along with a genetic pre-disposition. Here we are now in March 2016 and I am newly diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in the left breast and liver (LMBC - liver metastasized breast cancer).

So the focus has shifted yet again, BUT... I continue to THANK YOU for your prayers, love & support. I receive them with open & loving arms. My wish is that I will gain strength from you, will provide helpful information and strength to others & will help to strip away the fears we each experience.

I am strong. I am loved. I am healthy. I WILL SURVIVE!

Have you or your loved one had their annual mammogram? PLEASE, don't put it off. Speaking from experience, I highly recommend monthly self exam as well. And if you are now cancer free of breast cancer, do everything you can to insist that your doctors follow up with an occasional PET Scan and labs for tumor markers.

Contents may be uplifting, sad, funny, scary, downright depressing ~ THAT IS CANCER .... at it's best, at its worst.

PLEASE ~ Feel free to share this blog with anyone who is interested to learn about my journey. While I welcome their support, I hope that by sharing this experience freely to the universe I may help to support others by breaking down some of the barriers and fear associated with breast cancer and the treatment.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Life of a Metster

My 2018 continues in a positive direction, and for this I feel very blessed. Having lost another BC sister to Mets recently always puts that worry into me, and I presume others like me. I send much love and comfort to Dawn and her family. She is at peace now, and I hope that in time her smile, generosity, and kindness will bring them all sweet memories. She will be sorely missed.

But we must take this one day at a time, one foot after the other, like Dawn did for five years, because we each lead similar, yet different, journeys in this road called the life of a Metster.

Yesterday I had my visit with my Oncologist, Dr. Ian Anderson, at the Round Barn Facility for Sutter's Cancer Center. It has become a visit of many reminders for me. No longer is it just the reminder of my current journey, but it is the reminder of the horrific wildfires that hit our region just a few months ago. The trees in the parking lot are still charred black, as are those in the Kaiser facility just across the street. The iconic Round Barn is no longer, as is the nearby Hilton Hotel, Journey's End Trailer Park, all within a stones throw of my oncology center. And that doesn't even touch on Fountaingrove Drive and the thousands of homes lost there as well, and the Coffey Park area just across the 101 Freeway. I could go on, and on, but I will leave it there.

We just returned from a lovely RV weekend just North of Ft Bragg for an annual crab feed we attend at Pacific Star Winery. A day before the trip, I went in for my port draw and labs, in anticipation of my quarterly CT Scan and checkup. We left Ft Bragg early Monday morning to return just in time for the scan Monday afternoon, and returned back to Santa Rosa Tuesday afternoon for my check up.  

All is well!

Everything is stable and the same as from my CT Scan 3 months ago. All lesions are about the same. There were a few notations on the scan that my oncologist did not bring up (and I did not notice until my return home), so I will take it as still a great report. We talked about the week break I took from the Xeloda the week after Christmas, which gave me three weeks off this chemo. Since I continue to have a good response to this drug, even 16 months out from my start date on the Xeloda, it is best to do all we can to continue this routine while things continue to be good. I'm way past the average 9 months that most tolerate this drug, or that the cancer is kept at bay by the Xeloda. So Dr. Anderson suggests I continue at my current dosage. And if I feel there is a need to take another week off at some time, it may help to give me more months on it. Or we may consider decreasing the dosage in future if need be. But for now; it is "continue this regime" while it is working well for me. 

My hands are still dry and cracking so I am trying to get a handle on this. But my feet seem much better since the week off. I will return in two months for a followup and will have my next scan three months from now.

Our weekend away was a lovely time on the coast. We had lovely warm, still air, then some wind gusts, and just a nice time. The company was such fun, and the crab and all the food delicious. I feel so blessed and privileged to get this time to be out and play. 

And for a couple of days each for the two weeks before this I got to spend fun times with two wee little ones in Davis that I am lucky to be a Grammie to, while their regular sitter was on vacation. Life is good.

Back to school we go
Sibling love

Fun time in the park

I'll be participating in the Women's March this weekend. I had mixed emotions about participating, just feeling bleh about our political climate these days; sad, disappointed, lost, confused, shocked and uninspired. But I will get out there yet again, as this is no time to be complacent. It may not be much, but I will be there. Hope to see some of you there on Saturday at noon at our beautiful Sonoma Plaza.

Wishing you all good things to come, for us all, in this New Year of 2018.

#SonomaStrong #GlenEllenStrong

B  E  L  I  E  V  E


THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.

You can also find me on FacebookRavelry, and just occasionally on Instagram and TwitterJust click the word above to go there

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy, Hopeful, Thankful, Blessed, Lucky...

Happy New Year 2018

Happy , Hopeful, Thankful, Blessed, Lucky... How do I really feel this first day of the new year 2018?

I feel like I am ready for a new year...
  • I feel happy that I have a loving and healthy family that supports me no matter what.
A beautiful Christmas from daughter, Alura. It says it all.
  • I feel hopeful that our Country, the United States of America can find peace and equality for all. 
  • I feel Thankful that I am feeling pretty well considering all things my sweet old body has tackled this past year. 

  • I feel Blessed for the life I live, the one I've been given, the one I have earned and enjoy.

  • I feel DAMN LUCKY to be here on this sweet green earth, today, and this year.

Our kitchen window this beautiful New Year's morning

2017 has brought many positive things; but it also continues to bring challenges and worries for me, my family, and our Country. But today is a glorious sunny, slightly warm for the season, day. And I will cherish this one day first, before moving forward to the next, soaking in the good that each has to offer.

I will close with the following good wishes and a link to the post I have been struggling to write since the October 8th wildfire that devastated Sonoma County, Napa County, and many other areas; took homes and loved ones and businesses from so many; but also brought so much love, friendship, and hope to so many, those who lost it all, so many who have watched and worried about those same neighbors and loved ones. It speaks to the resilience of the human spirit and mankind. 

It gives me hope!

A beautifully hand made Christmas gift from daughter Sarah. Holly Angel

May this Holly Angel be a sign of all good things to come, for us all, in this New Year of 2018.

#SonomaStrong #GlenEllenStrong

B  E  L  I  E  V  E


THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.

You can also find me on FacebookRavelry, and just occasionally on Instagram and TwitterJust click the word above to go there

10/17 Firestorm - The Never Ending Northbay Fire

October got away from me, for obvious reasons. I really didn't get the chance to post about Metastatic Breast Cancer during BC Month. Ces't la vie!

And now it is January 1, 2018, and it feels odd to be writing about the firestorm over two months later. But the challenge of doing all this on my little phone, since ATT and all that it includes was down for a full month, was frustrating to say the least. Not to mention the wanting to get back to some sort of normalcy and just being hard to even fathom all the devastation to so many. But I feel compelled to tell the story, my story, our story, finally.

So I guess it's time. It's long, but I just couldn't tell it any other way. And it feels like it needs to be documented in this manner.

Here goes...

This is my story about the October 2017 Northern CA Firestorm, also known as the Wine Country Firestorm, that devastated my community as well as much of Sonoma and Napa Counties, and as far north as Redwood Valley near Ukiah. Thankfully, and what feels like almost miraculously, I am hear to talk about it and Brookfarm and my family are all safe.

There is a bit of a back story to set the scene, as this all plays into it; and I seem stuck on telling stories in chronological order.

The weekend of October 6/7/8, 2017, was a tough one. Our sweet dog, Tessa, had gone in for emergency life-saving uterine surgery in the wee hours of the night Thursday, October 5th, after a late-afternoon visit to our vet for what I thought was an unusually long heat cycle. It turned out Tessa had Pyometra, so I rushed her to Pet Care in Santa Rosa on Mendocino Ave, just off Chanate, very near Fountaingrove. Tessa did not rebound after surgery as expected and by Friday her blood count was very low so we opted for a blood transfusion. By Saturday she still had not eaten and her blood count was better but still below normal. I drove in to visit her and to try to get her to eat something. Petcare SR had all sorts of food available for her, cooked chicken meat, baby food, canned dog food, many options. I really couldn’t get her interested in any of it. It was heartbreaking to see her so weak and lifeless and not interested in eating anything. Of course I cried for our poor sweet girl. When I called in later that evening, not much had changed and I told the vet that I would probably pick her up in the morning,  regardless. Our thinking was, that if nothing else, maybe when she got home her appetite would return, and she would eat for us.

Sunday we had fully intended to go to our Glen Ellen Village Fair celebration; the local celebration with parade, craft booths, food, music; just a great gathering of lots of friends and acquaintances of our sweet little town. But instead it was time to bring Tessa home. PetCare wanted Tessa to stay another day or more. I told them that they had done all they could, and I would bring her home well knowing that she may or may not recover.

That was Sunday afternoon, and for some odd reason I drove over Fountaingrove Road and decided to venture off and see some of the homes in the area, for the first time. I drive that road frequently to see my oncologist, and had always been curious what was on the side roads. Little did I know that a colossal firestorm would strike that night, burning down thousands of homes.

Tessa got home and still was pretty lifeless, eating a bit of hamburger out of my hand to get the antibiotics and pain meds in her.

Sunday, October 8th, around 11pm

The wind was horrible; worse than I can ever remember. At midnight I had just finished a movie and Mark was trying to get to sleep as he had a 5am alarm set for the morning. He couldn't sleep and I finally told him I was concerned, not only for the wind but the strong smell of smoke. At about that same time, we both heard a news report of two fires in the Napa area, so he said not to worry. Less than a half hour later, a friend texted us to say his son had just been evacuated from nearby Kenwood, and "were we ok"? I alerted Mark to the text and we both said out loud, almost in unison, "This is not good". Mark got dressed and we went outside to check on things. I don't recall what we saw at that moment, but Mark decided he would pull out his firefighting hand tools and do some prep outside. We had also just seen news updates on TV about two Kenwood fires, one near Beltane Ranch just North of Glen Ellen on the other side of Highway 12, and one on Lawndale Road in Kenwood. So the plan was for me to stay inside watching the news and following Facebook, and anywhere I could get information.

We decided I should pull some things together, so I asked what I should gather. Being the retired Asst Fire Chief, he said, "Well, people usually grab their wedding album and important papers". I decided to first load Tessa into the car, since she was so lethargic, drugged, and very hard to move. I felt she would be safe there, and if evacuation became urgent, we wouldn't forget her and she would be all loaded and ready in the car. Besides, I needed to keep that space open for her, as she is a big dog.

I first grabbed a bunch of old photo albums, then our tiny firesafe which contained passports, birth certs, and important policies and wills and such, and all my medications, which there are many. These things were staged by the door for ease of loading. They eventually made it outside nearer to the car. I suggested to Mark that he open our electric gate, just in case emergency crews needed access, which he did. During this time, I made several phone calls. First to my dear friend Bev, who I knew was all alone and was on Henno Road in Glen Ellen, which would be nearer to the fire than me. She didn't answer her home or cell phone, so I presumed that she was already evacuated. I then called our neighbors, the Voteks. Both the home and cell numbers were not answered, but Joe immediately called me back wondering what was up, but knowing something must be amiss as I would not be calling him at 1:00 am otherwise. Another call to a neighbor up the lower road went unanswered. They are new to the area and used to visit only on occasion, so I hoped they were away.

By now, I had hollered out to Mark to check on him as I was bringing things outside, and he walked me over to two spots in the yard. He pointed to where the Beltane fire was and things had calmed and the sky was no longer glowing. Then he pointed over to the Lawndale fire, which was still aglow, and said that had him concerned as it could wrap around the hill and be on top of us. At this very moment, we heard a large explosion and the area where the Beltane fire had calmed, lit up with a large glow in the sky. Simultaneously, we looked at each other and said, again almost in unison, "Uh Oh, that is not good". Then we heard random explosions from that same vicinity over and over again, presuming they were transformers or some such thing.

Urgency was very clear, and we kept preparing in anticipation of possible evacuation. I threw a bit of jewelry into a grocery bag, added in a few pairs of undies, grabbed my ukulele and current knitting project, and then we heard the Sheriff driving around frantically saying something over a bullhorn. At this moment, he came flying into our road and up to the front of the barn where Mark was standing, and said, "Get out NOW!", and told us to go towards Sonoma. The Sheriff then turned his siren back on, almost deafening Mark who was right in front of his car, and drove out just as fast. Within moments Mark was in his truck and I in the car with the stuff I had grabbed. I was concerned about our neighbor, Diane, who rents from another neighbor and has been sick and in a wheel chair. I tried calling Joe again, since her house is right next to them, but no answer. So I sat in the driveway in the car as Mark drove up to check on her. Joe was already there helping Diane into her car. As the caravan drove out before me... Joe, then Diane, Joe's wife, then Mark, we swiftly drove out; Mark and I headed to Sarah's in Sonoma, as we had just texted both girls briefly saying there was a fire and we were being evacuated.

I don't recall seeing anything on the way down Warm Springs Road, as it was nearly 2:00 am, dark and very windy. But I later learned from the neighbor I mentioned above, who was home on Emery Road but had not heard my call, that when the Sheriff called her a little after 3:00 am, they left and encountered flames on both sides of Warm Springs Road and had to turn back towards Kenwood, landing at the Kenwood Fire Dept for evacuation.

That night, Sunday into Monday morning, was a huge blur. We did not sleep, although Gaige was soundly sleeping in his bed, thankfully. Sarah, Chris, Mark and I kept glued to our phones, gleaning updates constantly, listening to the radio, (they did not have WIFI or TV), and trying to stay abreast of the fires that were happening all around us, and quickly spreading. We were hearing from friends and family continually. Later, Gaige played during the day and kept himself occupied well throughout the day. Needless to say, there was much distraction and we were not very attentive. Luckily, this was a school week off and his "other" Nana had previously planned to take him for a 4-night sleepover with his other cousin. The problem, her house was also now in the path of the ever-spreading and connecting fire as she lives just below Lovall Valley Road, which was being threatened from the fire that had already burned over the hills from Stornetta Dairy area on Napa Road connecting the fire burning above the Sonoma foothills from the Partrick Fire. So we were all on edge.

Monday, October 9th

At noon, Mark was ready to attempt to return home to Brookfarm. Had he not been set on getting me out of there safely, he would have most likely never left, hunkering down to try to protect our property as long as he could, planning to leave when he absolutely needed to. So now it was time to get back in if he could. And I was fine with that. I knew he would be safe. We all knew by now that resources were thin, the Strike Teams that might have already been moving to Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Sonoma for protection, were on the Fountaingrove and Coffee Park fire, known as the Tubbs Fire, that originated in the Calistoga area; a fire that blew through that area with nearly 80 MPH tornado like winds, engulfing more than 36,000 acres and nearly 5,000 homes, ultimately killing 21 people. This time lapse photo shows just how quickly the Tubbs fire traveled and became massive in 24 hours.

Mark did get back home to Brookfarm about 1pm, but it wasn't easy, even though he tried using some privilege as the retired Asst Fire Chief of Glen Ellen FD. He said that if it wasn't for him needing to be sure I got out safe, he probably would not have left Sunday night. No one really cared about who he was as he approached the road blocks, especially because in this short period of time, resources had come into our Valley and all fire areas, from near and far away; and to them, he was just some guy trying to sneak into a mandatory evacuation zone. Albeit wearing his GEFD bright yellow wildfire jacket (see photo of him getting into his red truck in the slideshow below). For all they knew, he could have been a looter, since he no longer carries FD ID.

This is where the texting begins between the two of us. Me asking how things are, what does he know about the area, this friend's house, that friend's home, businesses in our little hamlet. I feel so far away suddenly. Rumors are flying on social media that are later proved false. Things like the market, London Lodge and Dunbar school are burned. They did not. This is when you start to realize not to believe all you hear. How can something so false be posted with such confirmation? Guess it is the sign of our times.

The power is out at home so Mark is hunkered down in our trailer, listening to the radio, and a scanner app on his phone. His truck serves as a means to keep his phone charged. He is sleeping fully clothed, alarms set every hour or so to check the direction our flags are flying and check in with any little bit of information he can glean from the few resources he has. The first two nights he even sleeps with his boots on. Guess the trailer will need a thorough cleaning after all is said and done.

We are trying to find out news about dear friend Beverly on Henno Road and her home there, where many homes were lost. A Nextdoor app post is listing address from Henno and reporting on whether homes are standing or not, but Bev's address is not listed. I try to get better info over Nextdoor for her, as we all have lost hope for her home.

By this evening, Chris has driven over to his mother's home (Nana) on the North East border of Sonoma Valley, as fire is encroaching from the hills above her between Sonoma and Napa County and they are about to be evacuated. Chris helps her and her partner take some things and then she comes to pick up Gaige for the next several days.

Everything is so tense, and moving so quickly, yet in slow motion. AND we aren't even 24 hours into this, the what seems to be never-ending-fire, as we will realize several days later when the tension still has not let up.

9:38 pm and Mark signs off for the night. He writes, "Good Night (sliver moon emoticom) Sleep well - rest up. Tomorrow may be draining. Emotional for sure. I'm camped out in the trailer. Dozing off. All really quiet here. Hopefully you will be able to come home tomorrow. LUV U LOTS ♡ Tessa doing better?"

And so it continues, each night closing with something like, "Maybe tomorrow you can come home".

Tuesday, October 10th

And the mornings start with me texting, "Any updates on when I can come home?"

Days were spent looking out over the hills to the North and East of Sonoma, seeing plumes of smoke that looked much closer than they were, following along social media, checking in with friends, and neighbors, and Mark.

We discuss road closures and how I might get back. He says there is light traffic over Sonoma Mountain Road (SMR) so there must be a way in. Apparently SMR is no longer in a mandatory evacuation zone, so that gives me hope.

But we also learn my sister, Christine's Father-in-Law is missing since the Oakmont evacuation. We don't know if he got the evac notice and where he may have been evacuated to. They have transported and routed the Oakmont residents to many different evacuation centers all over the county, some as far as Geyserville, some are in Vacaville. He has some health issues and communication is a challenge, so they are unable to reach him by phone. People are calling all over and family members help by going to some of the centers and checking lists, etc. Friends have friends or relatives living there, but all are evacuated so that isn't much help until the evacuation is lifted. The Sheriff is alerted to do a well-check at the home, but they are super swamped and will not get there for a day or even later.

We learn that many homes in our town of Glen Ellen were lost that first night. More than 20 homes on a short distance of Warm Springs Road are all gone, just 1/4 mile away from us. O'Donnel Lane, practically non-existent, so much of Dunbar Rd, Sylvia, Bonnie Lane, between Highway 12 and Henno Road are mostly gone. I hear my BFF bud Beverly lost her home. We are all just devastated at the thought. A local friend got into her street to confirm. But later we learn that he mistook her house and it is standing. I can't imagine what she is going through. But so much news is like this -- some monument is gone, then it is not; others are truly lost in the fire. It is hard to trust what you hear, even from those who appear to have accurate information. We were all led astray from moment to moment during the confusion; grappling for any bit of information we could find, wanting to believe it all, disbelieving some things, later learning what was real and what was not.

Neighbors on Lupine Ridge had the fire come to their back door. Friends on Moon Mountain Road were frantically looking for Fire Department support as the fire approached and no one was around. Later, after barely getting out themselves, they learned an engine did arrive, and the fire burned all around their home. Friends and acquaintances all around us lost homes, Glen Ellen, Kenwood, Santa Rosa; and this had all barely just begun.

Mark reports in via text, "I read and surf for info, discharge my battery, charge it up and repeat. How R U doing?
Staying with Sarah for another night? or two?
LUV U❤️". All the while I learn later he is feeling pretty lonely, has no idea if there is support nearby or not. He is trying to lay very low so as not to be forced to leave, so I try not to divulge he is there.

Our neighbor, Joe Votek checks in with Mark each morning, and later each day he calls me. He was able to sneak in earlier in the day and check on things, then the road block was secured the moment he left and things really got locked down at this point forward.

There are times when the smoke above Vallejo's home in Sonoma where I am staying, right across the street from Sarah and Chris' home, is making me very nervous. I drag Chris outside and one house down for a better view to be sure he knows what's happening. I'm sure he thinks I am losing it at this point. Late that afternoon Sarah drops me at our friends a couple of blocks away, the Sperring's home, so she can ride over to her friend's, Cara, to check on Cara's parent's home and their kitties. From the Sperrings we walk out by the church and see the plumes of smoke over Lovall Valley and know it is not good. Sarah calls me to say she was on her way back to get me, then changed her mind and drove back to help Cara. Later I learned, when she was gone for a couple hours and I began to worry, that they were loading up things for her parents, important papers, that wedding album I had mentioned to Sarah earlier, some photos, and things. So I decided to walk the few blocks home to her Sarah's house taking photos along the way. Chris and I walked out into the field at Vallejo's Home after dark and he shot a bunch of photos. Later on, he would make a few trips into the Lovall Valley area and get some pretty fantastic shots of the fire in action.

That night after dark, Sarah and I walked down to Whole Foods for some food and wine, but it was closed to support all the employees in the area dealing with the fire, or having been evacuated. I needed some dog food for Tessa too, so we made a stop at 7-Eleven.

By the end of the day my chats with Mark had gone all over the place. He was so thrilled to learn Beverly's home was standing, "Finally some good news, Hallelujah!" he says. There is more talk about Oakmont and Annadel, and now we have a new Advisory Evacuation for Bennett Valley. Nunns Canyon and Loval Valley are kicking up, he says. And so we continue.

Glen Ellen/Sonoma Fire View from the air.

Wednesday, October 11th

I check in with Mark, "How r things this am? How r you? I Love you😘"

He replies, "I'm feeling overwhelmed and kinda like questioning everything - not trusting my answers. Weather change overnight. Breezy and maybe getting stronger during the day. I reached out to Jim (Sonoma Valley Firefighter) and he will talk to me later with current incident information. I just about to have coffee and cereal. Stay Safe."

I share with him the article about the 75 homes reported lost overnight on nearby Bennett Ridge, later to be counted as nearly 100 homes,  and the drone video of the Coffee Park area that is so very hard to even comprehend what you are seeing while viewing. (A few days later I realize he never read that email about Bennett Ridge and had no idea of the destruction so close to us, yet again.) I learn of my cousins son evacuated from the Bennett Valley area and he is the back door neighbor to my oncologist. So now I am trying to find out more about them and we have connected via email now during all this craziness.

The weather report is not good for later today, red flag warnings, and wind to pick up. We are both (everyone is) worried. I tell him about our friend Paula's video of her first approach to her home on O'Donnell Lane in Glen Ellen, burned to the ground, a pile of ash and devastation. It so hard to watch, but much harder to imagine what she is feeling and going through, and what the future holds. Thankfully for her, she has her main residence in SF. But this was a very special place for her to visit, and I loved seeing her on occasion when she was in town. I know she will be back in time.

We all start tuning into the daily 1pm Sheriff's report with updates on the situation in our county.

Mark tells me he is "looting" our home a bit, as he calls it, taking a few treasures, carefully wrapping them in blankets, and pillow cases (he tells me they work great for framed photos and such), storing them in his truck and the trailer in case he needs to evacuate again. I ask for a few things I never took, maybe another pair of shoes, and extra pair of pants, etc. I never get these things as he never leaves until days after I return nearly a week later from today. He is also starting to cut a fireline around our property with the tractor, he checks in on our neighbors' homes on Emery Road, laying out hoses, and ladders up to roofs, just in case. He has found and turned off most propane tanks, closed doors and windows, and rescued a laptop on a neighbors bed.

Sarah and I plan to leave Sonoma this evening as the smoke is horrendous, so we take an outing to gas our cars. Other than this, I've barely left her home. By evening, Sarah and Chris have packed our cars with things from their home for us to take. Chris will stay put. We will head to my brother, Matthew's home, in Petaluma. They have graciously invited us there, as have so many others. We have heard that traffic is very bad as so many people are evacuating all in a short time. By dark we are ready to go, and a bit earlier Sheriff's drove by several times announcing over bull horns that it was "Advisory", but we should "Get out now". We are on the north end of town and the fear is that the fire in the hills may come over the hill. Cal Fire is cutting a 6-blade wide fireline with dozers now to hopefully keep the fire away from the City of Sonoma.

So Sarah and Ruby (their dog) and me and Tessa (our dog) head out. Traffic is very slow exiting Sonoma, but not bad at all once we get to Highway 116. We pass the highschool with many buses and vans parked out front and National Guard trucks trailering huge massive pieces of equipment. Later I learn that the SDC Clients evacuated to the high school are now being moved to the Dixon fairgrounds, so hence all the transports out front of the school.

We get to Matthew's in Petaluma and are warmly welcomed. Sister Christine and her family have just arrived. There RV is parked out front so they have lodging there. Sarah and I take over nephew Matisse's room. Friend Nathalie and her 2 children are in another room. Christine's Father-In-Law, has finally turned up, and he is in another room. He had ignored the Oakmont evacuation; but then later left to shop at Safeway and was unable to return home due to road blocks. So he made his way around to Ken & Christine's via Santa Rosa to Petaluma to Sonoma. All the boys will sleep in the living room.

Matthew and Marie prepare us a wonderful dinner, and this is where we become a house of 14 Humans, 4 cats, 3 Dogs & a Hamster!

Thursday, October 12th

Our morning texts start out:

Mark - "Awake Now! Good Morning. Things are all quiet here. Calm, cool, and pretty clear. Weather report indicates more wind today. How r u and Tessa doing? When you get a plan for today let me know. LUV U"

My reply - "Morning. Just waking. Slept hard. That is wonderful news. Thinking we should go back to Sarah’s if things are ok there. Will check in with Chris. Tessa slept in car. Need to go check her. Will call you once people are awake here. K? I hear Sonoma fire nearer bart park (Bartholomew Park) and Buena Vista."
Mark - "I do not know..."

I share how Tessa is eating and all bodily functions a go. She is looking better and seems to love the cozy back of the CRV as her sleeping cave. She is still on pain meds so doesn't have much energy.

I share how Chris is at his mom's and he says "Shit is picking up, all sorts of air traffic". Mark says that is good, he was hoping the smoke would lift enough "for them to fly" (air bombers to dump retardant on fire), and adds that the area is the hottest line on the fire right now. He adds that it is breezy and that "Makes me nervous 😩. My thoughts are with the crews on the east side of Sonoma. " I tell him I know. This is all so devastating. Mark says, "Yes indeed - no matter who, everyone is affected. It ain't over yet! I wish it was!!!". Retired Fire Chief, and dear friend, Mike Cahill has returned to help out with the fire at some level, and is expected to be in Sonoma today. Mark is hoping Mike may have an update for him.

We talk about some bills I am trying to pay online, but I don't have my banking log-in and such on my ipad. I finally call the bank for help as those records are now buried away in a box "somewhere". He tells me he watered pots on the deck and talk about a camp trip we are supposed to do with a group of Sonoma school chums next weekend. After some discussion, the group decides to cancel. Besides, Cassini Family Campground has offered free cancellation so they can offer spaces to evacuees. And we learned yesterday that droves of RV'ers haver converged on Sonoma Raceway as yet another evacuation site from the High School, Vets Building, Ramekins, and so many more.

Mark and I talk how I may be moving on to Alura's home in Davis tomorrow as the smoke is still horrible. And after another wonderful dinner prepared by lovely Marie, and then breakfast the next morning by the Jansons and Nathalie, et al; it may be time to move on. After all, tomorrow is day 6. The never-ending fire, I tell ya!

By now I am thoroughly exhausted, sad, crying at times, just feeling empty and confused. I'm sure the stress is getting to me, but I push on; like we all do.

Friday, October 13th - Yes - Friday the 13th, and my dearly departed Father's birthday.

My morning starts similar as to those in past, waking up with Sarah nearby, checking in with her and our devices before venturing out into the busy house. I check in with Mark, all the while there is a yummy breakfast being prepared for us all by most of the adults in the house.

There are many kindnesses happening in my little Glen Ellen. Friends that have special connections to "get in" are trying to bring food and things to those who have "stayed in", helping those around them, sharing updates as they can. Some times they are successful, but eventually they are not.

Stories of some looting, or attempted looting, are being shared for Glen Ellen, and other fire stricken areas as well. Another reason that Mark is one of those "stayers" and is watching over our place and neighbors on Emery Road.

Tessa is sneaking some of Ruby's kibble, a good sign she is on the mend and her appetite is returning to normal. Hard to imagine after all the raw hamburger and canned dog food she has been getting - something she would never get at home under normal circumstances.

Mark has commandeered a generator from our neighbor's and has it hooked up to our water pump. He has been able to sneak some goodies from our neighbor's homes, granola, coffee, a beer or two - THANK YOU VERY MUCH! I've checked into our ATT Voicemail remotely and find calls from long lost friends checking in on us. I am on a few texting threads with different groups of friends, some in Glen Ellen, some elsewhere, an email group thread for the Emery Road neighbors, and all are checking in, offering mental support, questioning what is taking so long, sharing updates and frustrations and confusion about everything.

All those displaced are wondering why they can't get back in yet, when will power and phones be restored. We are all frustrated and tired and worried - for ourselves, our families, our friends; just plain old stressed about everything. We are all wearing very thin.

And these are the kinds of updates we follow on social media, the radio, online, and via friends:

Official Cal Fire Updates 10/13/17 1:12 PM. (as translated from someone online)

Takeaway: CAL FIRE is feeling good about things even w/impending winds (Red Flag warning up to 45 MPH). Stay off the roads & evacuated areas.
1. Four fires have merged to become one: #NunsFire, #PartrickFire, #NorrbomFire & #AdobeFires. Now called #NunsFire.
3. #PocketFire near #Geyserville is moving east towards mountains, dozers are building fire lines to protect Geyserville. Keeping it moving east is priority. North section is burning near Geysers Rd & river drainage.
4. #TubbsFire comfort level in north, south section, and areas near #SantaRosa is high. Re-population has started. In #Calistoga, biggest concern is Robert Louis Stevenson State Park where 747 and helicopters are fighting fire.
5. #NunsFire in #Oakmont has major improvements. "Looking good" with "great aggressive firefighting." Dozers & handcrews put dirt & are doing backfires to protect Oakmont in lieu of red flag warning. CAL FIRE hopes that wind doesn't blow embers from trees. More protection towards #BennettValley too.
6. Nuns Fire in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is working towards #StHelena (on ridge overlooking town). Dozers are working on Napa side and to west of Hwy 29 to control growth.
7. #PartrickFire (part of Nuns Fire now) (Lovall Valley Road area, was GunBun & Scribe) has great comfort level and is mostly "out" but they are still not 100% comfortable with it because of impending winds. Good progress though.
8. Nuns Fire near City of #Sonoma has tons of dozers and handlines protecting town and structures to keep it on hillside. Worked really well.
9. Nuns Fire north of Sonoma (Moon Mountain, Cavedale, Mt. Veeder) is busiest area right now with crews working hard. LOTS of air support from helicopters and planes.
10. Trying to balance fires with re-population. "We don't want to keep people away from their homes as long as we have to" says CAL FIRE.
11. 256 people currently missing in Sonoma County.
12. Curfew remains in place in Santa Rosa and looters are being arrested. Arrests being made throughout county of people who are entering mandatory evacuation zones and giving police a hard times.
13. If you hear about price gouging (10% increase of goods/services after emergency declare) report it to Sonoma County District Attorney'.

I head out for Davis and Sarah will stay another night in Petaluma. I think she could use the quiet space of the bed to herself. The Barsuns welcome me with open arms and hugs from two adorable grandchildren. We have a nice dinner together. The sky is blue, air is fresh and clear, and it feels good to be away from the smoke and the constant fear of fire in the 24/7 social media connection; although I feel like I am too far away from home and everything. Tessa settles into Alura's backyard, and is looking better each day.

Saturday, October 14th

I awake in the middle of the night at 3:30am to much wind in Davis and can't get back to sleep. Again I connect with my husband and online with the rest of the fire world to see what was happening. My first text of the day to Mark says, "Very windy here. So nervous for you. something tells me you are awake." Shortly I hear back from him, "Hi Hon. Yes.... I am. It's breezy here. Not bad, but seems to be increasing by the hour. The hot spot is 7th Street (in Sonoma). Lots of posts about the fire in that area."

So things were good at home, for the moment, but not so in other parts of our valley. Several hours of wakefulness and again I am so drained. I am thinking of everyone who has lost so much, homes, belongings, loved ones. The threat is still not over yet; although it has reduced considerably. There are still areas that are burning. This seems to be the fire that never ends. I am thankful for what I have. There has been amazing show of community support and love for one another, people reaching out to neighbors they did not know before. The world will be a better place, but it will be a different place as well.

Mark encourages me to get some sleep; he'll let me know if things get bad. I comment that there are now mandatory evacuations in the area where fire is coming down 7th Street in Sonoma. He reassures me that the evacuations are to save lives and open up the area so personnel can fight the fire, rather than rescue people. Choppers are flying at first light to help fight the fire.

Some friends of ours just evacuated East Side of Sonoma, headed towards Napa Airport in their trailer. The NOAA weather report is not good, but not terribly bad for Brookfarm either. At least not like it was the first Sunday/Monday of the fire. I finally get back to sleep at 6am for an hour or so.

Mark reassures me again telling me that Weather is weather and all you can do is observe it. "The best that CalFire has are on the management team. They are veterans who know how to fight fire and save lives. Many of them grew up in Sonoma. A couple of local guys were assigned to our division this morning, working for another local guy. The amount of resources must be staggering. They will take action! I have done a lot to help save our home. There is always more to do, but every little bit may help." He says, "In other words, if this fire doesn't back down on its own, it will be stamped out by an attack force that will not give up! Your morning affirmations! Love U Lots."

We chat about Tessa, the continued bleeding, should we check in with the vet; which I do later. I should wait a few more days to remove the cone, so that will help. Stitches will not dissolve and need to be removed. 14 days, or a bit longer is about right for that. So all is good there for now.

Mark tells me that the fire near Oakmont, the Pythian Road & Melita Rd areas, has a line around it and the spread has stopped - no new structures lost. But a couple of homes were lost on or near Castle Rd on the North East side of Sonoma.

It is only 9:00am and there is zero wind at Brookfarm. I tell Mark I am tired and about to take a nap; but only if he tells me all is good at home, which he does. He mentions he just met up with Chris Landry, which is great to hear.

Nico has a soccer game late morning and it was so nice to get out and see him play. By early afternoon I take the grandkids over to the block party held in their neighborhood each Fall. Alura and Stephan are finishing up their potluck dish and will arrive soon. It is a fun event where everyone from a few blocks around congregates. There is much to do for the kids - a jump house, pumpkin painting, masks to make, and much more. I stay for a bit, but talk seems to keep coming back to the fire when people hear where I am from. I just feel like I am going to burst into tears at every moment, so once Alura arrives, I sneak out and head back for some quiet time at their house. I take some time for a shower and laundry and a call to talk with Mark. Rusty Sims was about to pick him up, a local GE Firefighter and bring him down for dinner at the Fire Station. I'm so glad to hear this.

A link to a Santa Rosa neighborhood devastated by this fire: A walk through the Fountaingrove neighborhoods.

Sunday, October 15th

Each morning at 7:00 am my phone goes crazy. A couple of text groups with good friends usually become active about then. Questions start to fly about propane tanks, what is safe, what about smoke and toxins inside homes that didn't burn down, how do people know if it is safe to enter, etc?

Mark says we dodged a big bullet, AGAIN. But he says it still "ain't over". We need to continue to dodge the bullet for another couple of days. The Oakmont fire is kicking up again in the high, steep, rough country; in the area where Bald Mountain, Sugarloaf State Park, and Hood Mountains all come together. They are "throwing everything at it". It started as the Pythian fire from yesterday, which joined forces with the Northern sections of the Nunns Fire. Fire is also burning from the Napa County side.

We both decide we need a nap, and that it is safe to do so. Mark says, "Turn off all devices. You are safe! Your home is good! Your family is safe. Your husband is going to take a nap." He is a smart man and I love him so.

Sarah and Gaige arrive and settle in. We make adjustments to the sleeping arrangements at Alura's.

Mark tells me he is listening to the sounds of helicopters in the distance, and listening in on their communications, which reminds him that this fire is not contained. But things are quiet outside and he is hearing crickets - a good sound. The generator at the winery across the creek from us has finally stopped. Whew. He is projecting that some road closures may be lifted on Monday, and the quiet time will be gone. Hopefully electricity will be restored, and lights will return.

Mark and I talk about some new homes of our friends that the fire has consumed. It will be slow going for utilities to return, and he reminds me to relax-breathe-enjoy-laugh-hug-cry-eat & drink well. It is all so sad, so much loss, so unnecessary. Not fair; undeserved. Fire storms are that way as are most natural disasters.My parting question to him is, "So maybe I can come home tomorrow?"

Alura's husband, Stephan, is out of town for work, so us three girls enjoy a glass of wine and sit around the table after dinner chatting. Then the three kids decide to have a dance party, and follow that with asking Alexa to tell jokes, then knock-knock jokes. Alexa's jokes are pretty darn funny and corny.

We all turn in for the night. Alura will head out to work in the morning; and Sarah and I will decide what's next.

Monday, October 16th

Mark and I start the day with "Good Morning" text messages.

People keep asking me where I am where is Mark, is he with me? I've repeated the details many times to so many, but we are all so discombobulated; so much info is flying everywhere so fast, it is hard to keep it all straight. 
I consider returning home today (yet again), staying somewhere in Sonoma. My sweet husband reminds me (yet again)... "It's a question of air quality and your breathing - respiratory system health... which has direct effects on your ❤️ "

I've had many offers to stay here and there, but there is the concern of Tessa and her needs too. She is now able to go without the cone on her head, and still has her stitches so I need to consider this all. Mark replies that the air quality at home today is yucky compared to yesterday. Today is going to be warmer and less windy than yesterday which translates into bad air.

I send him a video of the grandkids jumping on the bed. It ends with a flash second of Gaige falling and hitting his head. Mark replies, "Thanks for the video! Love it. Thanks for the laughs. How's Gaige's head? Hugs all round! Tell him ... that Papa wants him to be strong 💪. Don't cry!"

Several friends have asked me to ask Mark about certain things, like hazards on their property. Everyone is stressed and worried, confused about what to do, anxious to do something. I ask Mark about the fires near Sugarloaf? He tells me they are hitting them hard this AM. TRYING to keep them west of Hwy 29. He's heard the Oakmont fire still has some heat on it on the NW as well. We talk about the contract truck driver who lost his life battling the wildfire while driving a water tender for CalFire. A dear friend's brother is doing this kind of work and she is worried, until she learns it was another guy. Still so sad. Someone has lost a husband, a father, a brother.

We learn  from Sonoma Co Sheriff advisory that the mandatory evacuations are finally lifted in Bennett Valley, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Boyes, Sonoma. Due to road closures, the only way for me to get home is via Sonoma Mountain Road from Roberts Rd over from the Rohnert Park side of the mountain?  There is no access to Glen Ellen and Bennett Valley Road is still closed. It is all so  hard to figure out and navigate.
Sarah, Gaige and I are going to head out while Nico is at school, I need some toiletries, maybe some clothes (I took very little with me as it was "just precautionary", or so I thought), so it may be time for some shopping. Maybe lunch too.
Mark and I still talk about me returning home late in the day. He says that's great, if I want to come home to no power and bad air. He is seeing a steady steam of cars on Sonoma Mountain Road now. Mark sends me a pretty picture of day's-end at Brookfarm. My plan for tomorrow is to leave Davis early morning, head to Petaluma for our mail and then UPS packages held at the UPS center there. Then stop at a market somewhere in Petaluma for some provisions so I ask him to let me know what he would like along the way. 
A GE neighbor texts me about a fire near us. NOT AGAIN!!! Will this ever end? Mark reassures me it is not an active fire, but a stump, hot spot, or some such thing they are mopping up. These things pop up frequently in black areas so they dispatch firefighters to take care of it, but it is nothing for me to worry about. I'm beginning to think all this texting is good, yet bad, all at the same time.

Tuesday, October17th

It was a long day and convoluted route to get back home today, finally on day 9 of having been evacuated from our home and farm on the low end of Sonoma Mountain Road in Glen Ellen, in the dead of night on October 8/9th, with only a few things from our home. I start this day out with Gaige and Nico helping to paint the back window of my CRV with hearts and a big Thank You to all the first responders on this event. They worked hard and long to save us all in one of the most unrelenting fire storms in the history of our Valley, and this is just a little way for us to let them know how appreciative we all are. 

A Thank You to All First Responders.

It takes several hours to get home as I have belongings to drop off at Sarah's, mail at my sister's. I pick up Juanita take out for dinner, then head to Petaluma for those errands. Traffic is very slow in several spots. Lots of people are making their way home, or to see what is left of it.

By the time I am approaching home over the Mountain, seeing more devastation, black, and destroyed homes, it is 4pm. Mark messages me the power is on, then it's off again. It is still very smoky at home, and the house has a bit of smoke smell too.

We are invited to dinner at our neighbor's the Voteks. It is a lovely diversion, with wonderful friends, all the while the power going off, and then on again. We walk back home in the dark thoroughly exhausted. Mark needs to sleep in the trailer one more night to be sure all is ok. I am SO VERY HAPPY to be home and sleeping in my own bed.

Stories to talk about for years to come, for sure.


The next days and full week continue a bit like this. Trips out for an air purifier, a visit to see my oncologist and cardiologist (he lost everything to the fire). Road closures and lots of long drives around just to get to Sonoma. Coming down with a bad cold and bronchitis, requiring prednisone and antibiotics, I am coughing so much and hard my ribs feel cracked.

Venturing out is sad and tearful; even so to this day, 1/1/18, I still have not seen most of the really bad stuff. But my almost daily trips over Warm Springs Road are continually frightening, trying to remember what was there, who lived where? It is just all still so unbelievable. Everything turned upside down in a moment.

Everywhere I go the conversation is all about fire, evacuations, devastation; how did you get the word, where did you go, and so on. 

The story of how we got out is one I will never forget. And all this the same night that we brought our sweet dog Tessa home from Pet Care after a 3 day stay from emergency surgery. She was not recovering well, still not eating, medicated. But today she is very well and thriving. Like a new dog.

My photo journey of the 2017 Firestorm

Mark's photo journey


I could never have imagined this fire would last as long as it did. It felt like it would never end. By the 10th day away, I was physically and mentally exhausted. I had traveled to three different homes to stay, all very loving and hospitable, but very confusing all the same.

I was away from my dear husband all that time, out of my home with literally the clothes on my back, and a few important papers and photo albums.

I finally arrived home 10 days later, power was finally restored late that same night. It would be nearly a month before our landline was restored and so many things it affects.

But there still is this feeling of grief for so many around us. Then there is that feeling of confusion we are all having, especially those that are still displaced from homes.  

I'm calling this the never ending firestorm. I am thankful for what we have. There has been an amazing show of community support and love for one another, people reaching out to neighbors they did not know before. The world will be a better place, but it will be a different place as well.

My heart goes out to all those who were displaced or lost homes or loved ones during this firestorm.

#SonomaStrong #GlenEllenStrong

B  E  L  I  E  V  E


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Friday, December 29, 2017

A Most Wonderful Christmas 2017

We had a lovely Christmas with family this year. Typically, we have all my siblings and associated family, and a few friends, over a week before Christmas for a potluck, and then some gifts for the young ones. 

This year we held our gathering on Saturday, the 23rd. This put a bit more pressure on us to have all gifts wrapped, not only food for the larger sibling/family gathering planned and prepared, but the same for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner with our daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren. But it all worked out just fine.  Thankfully my energy level is pretty good these days.

The Saturday celebration was lovely. It was a nice clear day, with a bit of sun, and Papa Mark put out a new basketball hoop for all to enjoy. All my siblings, Dan, Nancy, Christine, Ed, and Matt, were here, sadly absent our sweet Montana sister and family Donna. Nephew Josh, and Niece Charlotte, travelled down all the way from Washington State, and Crescent City, CA, respectively. We were also sadly missing Nancy & Josh's sweet Nat, who left this earth this past April.

Even dearly departed (many years ago) brother Rich made an impromptu appearance via a video that arrived the previous day from cousin Chris Dallara. It was about 1980 and contained a fun family reunion where we got to watch the Dallara cousin men hang the family banner at Samuel P. Taylor Park, me and my siblings rush to hug my Dad, whom we hadn't seen in some time while he was living in Tucson, AZ for a stint, a funny singing telegram to cousin Ray Dallara. Also included, was old film of the Kenwood Pillow fights that both Chris and Mark participated in, and Calea Dallara's second birthday party.

My, we were all so young and adorable back then. Now I see all of us in the younger family members now -- so much similarities -- these Dallara genes are strong and beautiful, if I do say so myself. Oh to be back there then. But then I/we wouldn't have all this wonderful life experience to share with the younger family.

On Sunday we had our traditional Christmas Eve Dinner with our daughters, their hubbies, and the grandchildren. This dinner is not as formal as in past years, with the little ones and all. But all in all it was a nice evening and they each opened one gift to keep occupied so we could relax and visit after dinner.

And Christmas was the usual fun gift exchange extravaganza. It is so nice when both girls can stay over and be here for Christmas morning. The trailer helps to make that possible. We know this won't go one many more years as the "kids" will want to be in their own homes at some point; but for now, we are loving it.

So now we are rolling on towards a New Year, 2018, in just a couple of days. And we are looking forward to putting 2017 behind us. The last few months have been pretty stressful from the fire and bronchitis. But generally I've had a pretty good year. I am still on my daily chemo pill every other week, and while there are some side effects, I am tolerating the Xeloda pill fairly well. My oncologist recommended I take a full week break, and I am doing so right now. Hopefully my hands and feet will recuperate a bit during this down-time. I'll start the new year off with an oncology visit and CT Scan mid-January. 

Here is a slide show from the weekend. Hope you enjoy!

Wishing you all a belated Very Merry Christmas, and the best New Year that 2018 has to offer.

May there be peace and equality for all.

Filling my life with love, laughter, family & friends!
~ Peace and Love ~

B  E  L  I  E  V  E


THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.

You can also find me on Facebook, Ravelry, and just occasionally on Instagram and Twitter. Just click the word above to go there.