I didn’t realize how much fire affected me until I started reading the reports of all the fires and homes being lost and livestock and pets being in harm’s way.  Suddenly, it all came rushing back to me, the memories of when our home burned down on that fateful summer’s day back in June, 2005.  I swear, sometimes I can still smell it!  It is such an awful odor of wet, burnt things, and it just gets in your nose and stays there.  Apparently forever.

Of course, for us, ours was the only home that burned, and everything else around us stayed the same, pretty much.  Except for that tree in the front yard that never did recover from the heat damage. 🙁  But all we had to do was drive down the road, and everything seemed normal again. Not so here in Texas. It’s the opposite, in fact. Our neighborhood is fine, but if we just drive down the road, we can see the smoke billowing from the fires in Bastrop, and all around us we can find blackened spots where fires have been.  It looks apocalyptic.  In many ways, for far too many people, I suppose it actually is apocalyptic, if you understand that word to mean the end of your world as you knew it.

To give all of my friends and family back in North Carolina (and other parts of the world) an idea of how bad it is, I’m posting these screen shots from Texas A&M’s Texas Interagency Coordination Center.  I’ve included arrows to show where we live, in the midst of it all.

Please pray for all the families who are now homeless, and for those who are still evacuated and not sure when they will get to go home, or if they will have a home left to go to.

Where We Are In the Big Picture

The Heart is Over Our Neighborhood

Lord, have mercy on us!!

I love Austin.  It’s so. . .  WEIRD!!  We went downtown today because we needed a dress for Abby to wear to the Murder Mystery Party that our homeschool group is having this Saturday night.  Her character, Candy Cann, is an entertainer/showgirl, and we were thinking we could rent or find a dress really cheap.

So, I Googled “Costume Shops Austin”.  There were 375,000 results, but the very first one caught my eye:  Lucy In Disguise With Diamonds.  Well, I love a good play on words, and think that is one of the most clever I’ve ever seen.  So, I clicked on the link, and learned that they have over 8000 square feet of costumes available for sale or rent, and of course, they have extended hours for Halloween.  And, much to my extreme delight, they are easy to find, because they have a 12 foot zebra on their roof dressed like Carmen Miranda!!  Her name is Carmen Zebra-Jones.  😉  Ohhhhhh. . . .it just doesn’t get any more “Austin” than this!!  We had to go.

First we stopped at a restaurant just up the street called “Hopdoddys” and had fantastic hamburgers.  Next time we’re down on South Congress, we’re going to have to try Guero’s, but these hamburgers were perfect.  Then, we strolled over to “Lucy’s”.

Carmen Zebra-Jones

The place was wall-to-wall costumes, and laid out very much like a labyrinth.  The sales staff was super friendly and helpful, which was a good thing, because navigating that place on your own could be an endless task.  I think Abby looked at every possible costume in the store before she finally found one that she liked, but thankfully, find one she did, and Mom bought it for her.  (Never shop with a 13 year old girl!)

So, now we are ready to roll for Saturday night’s “whodunit”!  If you’re ever in the SoCo district of Austin, be sure to check this place out.  It’s great!!

I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.
~Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With The Wind”

We are down to the wire now, and are frantically working to finish packing everything up so we can load it all into a moving van this weekend.  I have been on the phone disconnecting current utilities and services and trying to figure out which ones to connect at the new house. This time next week, we will be in Austin, Texas.  It is all very surreal. 

We have had lots of friends tell us they want to get together with us before we leave, but sadly, that time is past, and we have no choice but to focus all of our time and energy on the task at hand.  I am not happy to be leaving North Carolina.  This is my home. I love it here.  I am leaving behind my dearest friends, my beautiful custom-built house, several beloved pets, and most of all, my oldest son and his new wife.

Am I grieving??  Yes!  But, I must take the Scarlett O’Hara approach if I am to retain any shred of my sanity.  I desperately hope that my friends understand that I am not being cold or unfeeling.  I have no option but to ‘do the next thing’.  I’m sure once we get settled in Austin, and everything starts to sink in on me, I will have many good cries.  But not yet.  I must think about that “tomorrow”.

Alex and I got to Austin on Tuesday afternoon.  It is, ah, much bigger than I remembered! We are staying with my friend, the amazing Donna F., who is treating us like royalty!

We started the house-hunting process right away, and discovered that this is going to be tough.  We thought we’d found a great house in South Austin this morning, and I even heard the property management lady tell the realtor (over speaker phone) that she would hold it until she got our paperwork.  Then he called me a few hours later, after I’d already gotten money orders made out and spent money faxing forms to Gaylon, and he had already faxed them back to the realtor, to tell me that she had rented it right out from under us!  Wow.  That was a really tough blow.

We have a few other things lined up, and are praying hard that we will find the perfect house.  We don’t need anything as big as what we have in North Carolina, and we can live almost anywhere for a year, right? *sigh*

However, in the meantime, Alex got on the internet and found a really awesome lunch spot for us: Shady Grove.  It is a Tex-Mex Burger Joint not far from Zilker Park (Austin City Limits) and it was a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!  I had a green chile cheeseburger, and it made my lips burn!!!  Yes!!!  We both loved the funky-cool “Keep Austin Weird” vibe, too.  We felt right at home, after all, we are from Asheville!

Then we went with Donna and her fiance, Dave, to a place called Central Market.  Now, we have Whole Foods and Earth Fare back in NC, and I love them.  But this place was like Earth Fare on mega-steroids!!!  We found so many awesome items.  For example, I can’t wait to try their sausages (like the one with cherries and pecans!) or the mushrooms!  Finding just the right mushrooms for the pierogi at Christmas is gonna be very easy from now on. 😉  Alex found the “real” Dr. Pepper, made with Imperial Sugar, instead of corn syrup.  He is a true blue “Pepper”, and my cousin, Branden, got him hooked on the “real” Dr. Peppers years ago.

Tomorrow, we are planning to look at some more houses, and we have an appointment Saturday morning to look at one up in the Brushy Creek area that looks very promising.  Alex and I also decided that the best remedy for our stress and discouragement is to spend some time in Eucharistic Adoration, so we are planning on finding St. Williams up in Round Rock tomorrow and doing that.  We know it won’t necessarily make things easier, but it will definitely give us strength. Gaylon and Faith (who now wants to be called Abby) will get here tomorrow afternoon.  I am very much looking forward to that.  I feel so much calmer when Gaylon is with me.  We will probably head downtown and check out whatever is going on down there tomorrow night, too.

Okay, after a great deal of prayer, discussion, and downright agony, we have decided that even though Gaylon is working in Merkel, Texas, only 20 minutes from Abilene, that it is just not the right place for our family to live.  Abilene is so, ah, West Texas.  And we are so. . . granola!  Let me explain:  West Texas (for those of you who have never been there) looks just like the backdrop of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western.  And the people there pretty much have the same attitude as the cowboys you see in the Pace Picante Sauce commercials:  “New York City?  Get the rope!”  Just substitute the things we love for “New York City”.  For example:  “Homebirth?  Get the rope!”  or “Vegetarian?  Get the rope!”  You get the idea.

There are no health food stores in Abilene, to speak of.  And by “health food store”, I mean something along the lines of Whole Foods Market.  Not some hole-in-the-wall place that sells ridiculously overpriced vitamins.  They have a homeschool group, apparently, but they have not responded to my email, which I sent almost two months ago. There are no midwives nearby, unless you count the one I found in Brownwood, which is well over an hour away.  Organic gardnening?  I doubt it seriously.  Actually, I seriously doubt you could even get any kind of garden to grow there.  I sure as heck couldn’t in Southeastern New Mexico when we lived there! They don’t even have Verizon there!  No, really!

So, let’s talk about where we DO want to live. 🙂  We have decided that Austin is as close to Asheville as we can get.  The major differences are that Asheville has these amazing Blue Ridge Mountains and is practically sitting on the Appalachian Trail; but Austin has the beautiful Hill Country of Texas, complete with fields and fields of Bluebonnets, and Austin has Tex-Mex.  Mmmmm. . . . tasty!  Austin is full of “culture”, as one of my best friends, Donna, puts it.  And she would know.  She lives there.  When I asked her if they had health food stores there, she laughed and informed me that Whole Foods Market was actually started in Austin!

There are several large homeschooling support groups there, and I have contacted two of them so I could get on their mailing lists and get a feel for the homeschooling community before we get there.  I have been blown away by how friendly the folks are there.  But, I shouldn’t be.  Texans are the friendliest people on the planet.  Austin Area Homeschoolers has 1375 members on its email list.  That’s a LOT of homeschoolers!  And that’s not even counting the really big fundamentalist, Christians only, group.  Or the other group that I contacted, the Holy Family Homeschoolers, which is the Catholic homeschooling support group.  So, I am very excited and hopeful.  The kids and I are very anxious to get there and get settled, and quit living in limbo.  Mom, who of course is going with us, is also very excited and hopeful.

So, please pray for us.  Pray that our house will sell really, really soon, so that we can get on down there and get settled in before the school year gets going.  I know the economy is not so good right now, but with our God, all things are possible!

Wow, just when I thought things couldn’t get any weirder, they did.  I love it!  In Austin, Texas, somebody hacked into some of those construction road signs with dire warnings about zombies.  “Caution! Zombies Ahead”!  “Nazi Zombies Ahead!  Run!!!” “Run for Cold Climates!! The End Is Near!!”

Apparently there are little computers inside those signs, and somebody hacked into them and changed the messages.  But they didn’t stop there, they also changed the passwords, so city officials could not easily change the messages back to what they were supposed to be.  The City of Austin is not amused, and are still looking for the culprit(s).

Honestly, the Zombie warnings aren’t any worse than some of the political stuff I’ve been reading lately! Below is the video from KXAN, Austin’s television station.

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