Saturday, June 28, 2014

 Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires

Forest fires are no joke!  For our final week residing in Arizona, we lived within sight and smell of a massive forest fire. The San Juan fire began during the week prior to July 4th, 2014.  An alarm sounded in the neighboring town of Show Low alerting of the danger and there was chatter in all the checkout lines about the possibility of evacuation.  I remember quickly gathering my items and alerting Brian via phone that we may be evacuated.

Fire as seen from end of driveway
The drive home was surreal.The closer I got to the ranch the more visible the smoke plume became.Being new to such "excitement", I made a quick detour to stop at the general store about a mile from the cabin.The long time locals explained how we would be alerted to any  evacuations and my fears subsided a bit

Red glow at dusk
Night fell and the fire grew.  An eerie glow could be seen on the horizon and Brian and I made nervous jokes about how the view resembled Mordor.  Flames could actually be observed with the naked eye from our front porch.  The fires was burning just 6 miles (as the crow flies) from our front door.  Neither of us slept well those first few nights.
We worried about the men and women fighting the fire.  It had been determined the fire's origination was "human" and therefore entirely preventable.  Emotions of sadness and fear easily swayed to anger with this new information.

We were not unfamiliar with the toll a forest fire can have on a small town when we saw the smoke stack rising over the horizon, just miles from our homestead.  The Yarnell 19 were still fresh in our memory from the summer before.  The Yarnell Hill Fire was ignited by lightening on June 28, 2013.  On June 30, 2013, the fire over ran and killed a crew of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots.
Never Forget!

People lost their lives and the mourning was palpable.  It was the talk at the post office, the general store and the local watering hole in our small town of less than 1000 residents.  News traveled quickly and concerns rose as drought like conditions plagued the "forest" at our own back door.  Flags in every community were at half mast.

In Vernon (a neighboring town), a town meeting was scheduled and we were encouraged to attend.  I took Truman and drove over to the meeting.  Officials were sharing information with residents regarding the status of the fire and possible evacuations.  Many locals were agitated over what seemed to be a lack of "aggressive tactics" on the part of the fire crews.  These emotional flames were soothed by the memory of the Yarnell 19.  That wound was still raw in most Arizonans.
Vernon San Juan Fire Mtg

Emergency Management Leads explained they did not was a repeat of Yarnell Hill.  They had learned from that fire and in order to protect lives, crews would focus specifically on containment.  Evacuations would be advised using a "door to door" method if necessary.

In all, the San Juan Fire burned close to 7000 acres.  It was noted that this total would have been worse had preventative measures not been in place.  Prescribed burns are one of these methods.  They are used to reduce the amount of "fire fuel" which are key in forest fire growth.  Ground debris is gathered and burned with monitoring.  Since 2004, following the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, policies were put in place in the state of Arizona that resulted in 70,000 acres of mechanical treatment over a 10 year period (which concluded in August 2014).  A large portion of those treatments were directly in the path of the San Juan Fire aiding in fire suppression efforts.

Horse riding meeting goers
So what's the point?  Dear readers, when camping, please be considerate of "Fire Threat Levels" and abide by local fire restrictions, if posted.  Make sure fires are never left unattended while burning and completely extinguished when leaving the area.  Support local prescribed prevention efforts.  This was our home and continues to be the home of people we know and love.  Fires are not always preventable nor predictable, but awareness (to avoid human origination) is key.    

Fire as seen from Hwy 61

Monday, June 23, 2014


For weeks I have felt nothing, but stress.  Everything has been tight...from my pocket book to my clenched teeth.  I would go as far as to say I felt hopeless.  I discussed with friends how I felt like a bad parent.  They would laugh.  But seriously, who takes a infant/toddler across the United States and then runs out of money?!?  I was angry with myself.

At first, I tried negotiating with the new landlord.  We hadn't had to pay a security deposit here and we had waived the deposit for our own tenants back in Pittsburgh.   Unfortunately, this was a dead end.  The home owner felt very strongly about having a deposit in place.  Apparently, they had been lenient in the past and had un-recovered damages.  

Then I reached out to friends with means to see if they would be willing to loan me money to move.  This could be considered a success.  I did have friends offer to loan me money to move.  Unfortunately, their loans did not equal near what I needed to make the relocation.

Yesterday, after several recommendations to use Go Fund Me, I started an account.  I was hesitant to share.  Flooded with concerns of rejection and judgment, I have received nothing but support and feel nothing less than GRATITUDE!  I could just kick myself for not starting sooner.
The stress is beginning to melt away and things seem to be falling into place.  My Go Fund Me campaign is off to a strong start.  In less than 24 hours I have raised $1007.00 towards my goal.  That is almost half!

Much thanks to the friends, acquaintances and strangers who are  generously giving to make this dream a reality. 

"Little by little becomes a lot!"

My sincerest gratitude,

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Need to Move Along...

Haven't touched base in a while. It's been a stressful few weeks. All of my child care jobs ended at the end of May and we are really feeling the financial crunch. I have even considered selling my wedding and engagement rings...I still might.

Tensions run high when money is tight. And when I say tight, I mean I couldn't even buy toilet paper today. I have been waiting on a repayment from our land lord for purchases made for supplies for his vacation rental that I clean and stage. Apparently, those funds won't be available until tomorrow. Never have I been so happy to have baby wipes and paper towels on hand.

Our current choice to live in a rural area of Arizona, without significant research into the child care job market has done a serious number on our finances. 15 months on the road and we have been able to do it all on our own...until now.

Oh...and we have to move. The property owner stopped by about 3 weeks ago and told us the property is being sold and they will be starting repairs immediately to prepare for it's sale. We had been considering relocation, but this made it real...and urgent.

So the search began. It's like throwing darts at a map...well sort of. The radius needed to be a place our car would make it (as it currently could use some TLC). It also had to be a place where I could successfully secure consistent employment. I hopped on and in search of both affordable housing and abundant job options (this is something I failed to consider before relocating here last Fall). Lesson learned!

Why use VRBO?...because when you sell everything you own to travel, furnished rentals become a necessity. Colorado appeared to be both affordable and plentiful in high paying child care opportunities. I found a couple housing options, but in the end monthly price dictated the housing decision.

The selected house is located in Colorado Springs, more specifically in the Old Colorado City part of town. It is a house with a fenced yard and a neighborhood with sidewalks. There are playgrounds (plural) just blocks away in either direction. Apparently, I can even walk to the grocery store. This is a link to the house is such a great way to showcase my skills for free as well as find employment. Once I knew where we were going to settle, I began sending email applications to perspective families. I've had 4 responses in less than a week and 3 phone interviews. I currently have 2 families checking my references. I am 98% certain I will have a job by the time we arrive in our new home.

As I left the checkout line, unable to buy a 90 cent roll of toilet paper, I realized it just may be time to put aside my pride and reach out for help. I had shared privately with a few friends and those friends recommended Go Fund Me . The set up process was easier than anticipated and I was pleasantly surprised that within just hours of signing up we had our first donation.

If you choose to donate this is how your money will be used...


$1100 Deposit

$1100 First month's rent

$ 99 One time rental fee


$100 Uhaul Trailer Rental

$100 Gas

$35 Oil Change

$85 Registration Renewal


$100 Lodging for July 6 and 7

$50 Meals on road

The donations may be used for any and all of the above depending on how much money is collected. It may also be used to pay back loans to those who offered monetary support, but in the form of a loan. Ideally, with the current time line, I will need the funds for housing by July 1st and the additional funding by July 6th.  I have been able to negotiate an option with the owner to pay the deposit over 2 months, so if the goal is not met I will be leaving the donation page open for continued donations over time.

Any "known" donations will receive personalized "thank you" post cards created from pictures of our travels. I will reach out for addresses once we are situated in our new home.

Our intent is stay in Colorado a minimum of a year, to get financially stable once again and to figure out where we want to go from here.

Lastly, should you choose to share or donate, I send my deepest, sincerest thanks. Thank you for your part in helping me get where I need to be!