Rising from the Ashes Sunday, May 20 2018 

It is almost five years since the Black Forest Fire robbed us of our home and all of our possessions except for one car and the clothes we had in a suitcase.  It has been quite a journey and I decided to record a few thoughts about the experience.

We were aboard a lovely ship on the trip of our dreams to Alaska when on our third day out we happened to see a news flash on Fox News about a fire in Black Forest, Colorado.  The news reporter said it was just 15 acres and was near Highway 83.  We comforted ourselves by thinking 15 acres wasn’t much, and besides it was six miles away from our home.  The next day we learned the true extent of the fire which by then had claimed our home and all but one of the homes in our section of the Black Forest.  We didn’t leave the cruise because we learned that the fire was still burning and nobody was being allowed in.  The prediction was that it would be several days before we would be able to survey the damage, so we might as well stay put and begin our recovery.

Using a small netbook computer, we began creating lists of everything we could think of:  contents, documents, immediate needs, people to call, businessmen to contact, etc.  We created a file for each room of the house and began listing everything we had in that room, drawer by drawer and shelf by shelf.  It was a daunting task, but one we knew we would have to do for the insurance company.  Little did we know how involved the final listing was going to be, but this helped us tremendously because things were still fresh in our minds.

We arrived home on June 17 and the forest had still not been opened up for people to enter.  But on the 18th, residents were given three hours between 6 and 9 pm to go in and survey the damage.  Rebekah came in from New Mexico and Ian, Paula, James and Breanne accompanied us in for that first look.



Restoring our lives took awhile and  I am only just getting back to this blog.  The focus is changing from homeschooling, which I am no longer doing because my peeps have all graduated, to dealing with the disaster of the fire and what we did to recover.

My book, Rising from the Ashes will be out soon.  Please feel free to contact me through this blog with any comments or questions.


Why the book? Friday, Jun 1 2018 

Rising from the Ashes is written for homeowners who endure a loss of real property in the hopes that you will find clear guidance in your own reconstruction.  We are almost 5 years post-fire, and our reconstruction is complete.  On the way, we learned a lot by trial and error.  Hopefully, this handbook will help you avoid some of the pitfalls and enable you to get on with your recovery with confidence.

I’m here for you.  If you have any questions, please contact me at this blog and I’ll do what I can.




Remembering Dad Saturday, Mar 14 2015 

Today marks the 17th anniversary of my wonderful Father’s passing.

Dad was born in Tubac, Arizona, into a ranching family.  His father, Grandpa Santiago, had migrated north from Alamos, Mexico, and homesteaded in the valley.  Grandpa Santiago taught his children the value of an education and of the need to learn English, and my Dad took the lessons to heart.

He was the only one of the seven children who went to college and then left the Southern Arizona area for work.  Before anybody had ever heard of government quotas or affirmative action, he was a hispanic who achieved based on his own hard work, and he rose up in the ranks of the National Park Service.  He served as the United States representative on a major expedition to Antarctica conducted by the Chilean Navy, and when he returned after five months on the ice-cutter ship, he was in high demand as a speaker all over the United States.


After Dad retired, he was invited to write his memoirs for the Journal of Arizona History, and he did so. His story, Memories of My Youth at Tubac, From the Old Homestead to Adulthood, was published by the Arizona Historical Society in 1995.  Then, in 2004,  he and my Mom were featured in  Beloved Land: An Oral History of Mexican Americans in Southern Arizona.

Dad was a pillar of the local Catholic Church, a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus, and an active volunteer in the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  He spread cheer and Christian charity wherever he went, and he mentored countless people during his active life.

In addition to people outside the family, he mentored his own seven children.  He taught us to love God.  He taught us about the value of family.  He taught us the value of hard work and perseverance.  He taught us to get an education and to aim high.   By his own example, he taught us what it means to give of yourself and to love without counting the cost.  He taught us to forgive and encouraged us to get beyond our differences with others.   He bore sorrow with manly dignity, and in the end, he taught us how to die.  He chose to die at home, and most of his children were privileged to be at his side when he crossed over into eternal life.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

I miss you, Dad!

Thoughts on the Titanic Friday, Apr 13 2012 

I find it interesting to compare Irish and American reports about the Titanic as the centennial of its short-lived history is noted.  Everything I had heard or read about the Titanic was from the point of view of American writers, and almost every story mentioned the unsinkable Molly Brown.

Having spent a week in Cobh, Ireland, we have been given a different perspective.  Cobh was the last stop of the Titanic before it headed out into the open sea to its tragic fate in the Atlantic.  The Titanic didn’t enter the bay because its arrogant owners didn’t want to take the time for it to dock, so it remained outside and the “tenders” ferried the mail and 110 passengers out to it anchored outside the bay.   Cobh was known as Queenstown when the Titanic left, and the last sight they saw as they left their home was the beautiful Cathedral of St. Colman where they had attended Mass and received Holy Communion only hours before.  (The steeple wasn’t on the church yet, however).    They were seeking a better life in the United States and would cross in Steerage.  We in America have only bad descriptions of steerage, but for the day, the steerage section on the Titanic was quite a step up from that in other ships.  It wasn’t the Ritz, but many of the people were amazed at how nice it was.  Many of their ancestors had been sent away from Ireland on prison ships to other parts of the world, only to die en route because of disease and shipwreck, not to mention the wretched conditions aboard.

Many of those on the Titanic were escaping poverty and so the ship seemed a hopeful way out, and they knew it wouldn’t take weeks like in other ships, so anything would be tolerable.  They were going third class, but that didn’t  matter—it was their ticket to prosperity, or so they thought.

The people of Cobh pulled out all the stops to prepare for the centennial.  We were there the week before it all began, so we got to experience the hustle and bustle of people preparing for something important.  The sidewalks were cleaned of the gum.  In Ireland, gum is everywhere on the cobblestone and brick sidewalks, and they have gum-removal trucks to deal with the problem.  It took days to clean it all up.

They built a grandstand which would protect the” important” people who would arrive for the commemoration.  Statues were painted; stores all had Titanic displays in their windows and the Titanic memorabilia was for sale everywhere.  We saw a mural take shape on a concrete wall and met the artist and his volunteers who worked to create a memorial which would be visible from Cobh Bay.   A large ship, the Balmoral arrived in time to imitate the path of the Titanic.  People with deep pockets had bought up all the tickets as soon as the voyage was announced.  I am not sure I would want to tempt fate like that!  There was not a room to be had at any price in Cobh if one hadn’t booked months in advance.

The commemoration which took place in Cobh was more of a memorial to those who died and a recognition of the thousands of lives which were affected by the loss of family members in such a terrible accident.  It was a ceremony befitting people who haven’t forgotten their own.  The grandstand, park and streets were filled with people.  It is good to see that 100 years have not erased the memory of loved ones.

The Titanic stands for many things.  Pride gone awry—remember she was “unsinkable”; Hope for desperate people—those many poor people were seeking a better life—not out of greed, but in many cases out of desperation; progress—she was made to the most update specifications of the day.  I had read before that the reason there weren’t enough lifeboats was because the powers-that-be were unconcerned about the lower classes.  While that may have a kernel of truth to it, the real reason is that the government regulations and the industry regulations didn’t require more than enough for about a third of the passengers—primarily due to the hubris that the boat was unsinkable.

The Titanic was built for the wealthy.  It carried the well-heeled Americans and Europeans who had the means to amuse themselves by cruising on the latest and greatest ship.  But for me, the real story is of Irish emigration.  The Irish have had a very oppressed life for centuries, under the heavy thumb of the Brits.  They have suffered slavery, deprivation and famine.  The Titanic represented a way out of the misery.  Theirs is the human-interest story that needs to be told in America.

Using a shower Monday, Apr 9 2012 

Traveling is an adventure and I say “vive la difference.”  I learn as I travel that I can’t assume things will be like they are back home, and often, they are very different.

Bathing is one thing that you wouldn’t think would be so different, but it can be.

We stayed at a delightful “self-catering” apartment in Cobh, County Cork, Ireland.  It is in the basement of an old Victorian house which has been retro-fitted for modern needs.  In Ireland, as in the rest of Europe, the electricity is 220, so safety measures abound with everything that involves electrical appliances.  And because electricity and oil are so expensive, extensive measures are taken to insure that no power is wasted and that the user is safe.

At our apartment, the use of the shower was not intuitive, and we had to have a tutorial to make it work.

First, the power had to be turned on from outside the bathroom.  Again, because of the 220, there are no switches or plugs inside the bathroom, so forget standing at the mirror to do your hair or shave.  The plug for the hair dryer is outside the door.  So, there were three switches outside the bathroom door:  The first, to turn on the light:  The second to direct power to the bath instead of the kitchen sink:  The third switch actually turned on the power to something in the bathroom I couldn’t identify.

The next step is to enter the bathroom and pull the string on another power switch which is on the ceiling.

Then you climb into the bathtub and find the flash heater which has two dials.  The one on the left is to turn on the actual flash heater.  The one on the right is to work the actual water temperature, which because it is straight out of the flash heater, can be almost boiling temperature.  After all that, you shower.  There isn’t a lot of water pressure, so it takes awhile.

I had forgotten from previous trips that soap and wash cloths are not provided.  I had a little bar of soap in my cosmetic bag which came in handy for bathing, but between my husband and me, we used that up very quickly.  I finally bought a bottle of shampoo which we used for hair-washing and bathing.  You learn to make do and store up memories for future stories!

Observing youth Thursday, Apr 5 2012 

Dear Reader,

I am about to write about youth as I see them generally, but not specifically.  I know many fine young people who don’t fit into the mold I am going to describe–many in my family, church and community.

We are observers of people everywhere we go and like people-watching just about better than anything.  No matter how many we see, no two are alike.  Or am I wrong about that?

We have come to the conclusion that young people—say those between 15 and 25, are mostly alike, no matter where we go in the world.  Understanding that there are exceptions, here is where I am going with this.

In the United States, Canada, Russia, Germany and Ireland (and probably everywhere else as well), the young people wear a uniform, which if imposed from above, would cause utter rebellion in their ranks.   That uniform is torn jeans, tank or tee-shirts and some variation on the athletic shoe or sandal).  There is more variation in the shoes than in the tops and bottoms.  The hair is rarely styled in anything but a mess, and the piercings and tattoos are ubiquitous.   How has this happened?  Has some Hollywierd type decreed this  the uniform, or has some fashion designer set the trend, or have the public schools made this mandatory dress? What has happened?

We are in Ireland right now and are struck by the hospitable nature of the Irish people.  Those above 25 are generally the first to greet us on the street, to offer help if we appear lost, and to offer a smile in passing.  If we have asked directions, they watch to make sure we head in the right direction.   It is truly remarkable how friendly these people are.   But……the youth are plugged in to their MP3s, they are sullen and surly, and they don’t respond if we speak first.  Not only that, they are clueless about their surroundings and can’t give directions to the next corner.   They don’t seem to be at all connected to the Irish culture which is their birthright.  Rather, like the youth we have encountered in other parts, theirs is the culture of youth—dictated by their music and their pop heroes.  Their world is very small, though it is universal and known only to them.   They demand much of their parents and country, while expecting to give nothing back.  The high schools are a wreck and really just holding-pens for them for a few hours a day.  They riot when the government tries to reign in the spending because their plan is to be on the dole rather than to contribute to the well-being of the country by doing honest work.  They have abandoned the religion of their parents and seem to be aimless.

What has happened?  The world-youth-culture has taken over.  The hard work and values of the family and nation have been superseded by the culture of narcissism.  The future is tenuous for all of us, but particularly so if left in the hands of these young people.  It is time for parents to really examine how they are raising their children, and to do all they can to minimize the impacts of the culture on them before it is too late.

It is sad to think that Ireland could lose all the charm of its people in one generation more, but it will if some change doesn’t come about.  Ditto for the rest of the world.  This culture of youth is unproductive and uninteresting.  Perhaps hard times ahead will wake us all up!

Walking with St. Declan Tuesday, Apr 3 2012 

The Camino de Santiago holds great fascination for me and I would like to do it.  I have reservations about trying it “at my age” though I know that many people who are a lot older than I am have done it.  If I could only see past the hostels that most people stay in……

We did a mini camino today called St. Declan’s Walk.  When I say “mini” I do mean mini because it is only 3.3 miles long on a peninsula in Southern Ireland.  We started out at the Cliff House Hotel which is a luxury place overlooking the water.  It was windy, cold and threatening rain, so we decided to fortify ourselves with some hot coffee before going.  We had a wonderful waiter from Poland named Ariel, who brought us our coffee and a “jelly” which I think was made of quince.  It was lovely.  He then mentioned that the chef was preparing something for us in the kitchen and it would be right out.  Well finally a little plate of freshly made chocolate short-breads appeared.  I guess you don’t just go into a world-class hotel and order coffee!  Anyway, we enjoyed the coffee, quince and short-breads and a visit with Ariel; then we headed out for our walk.  (Not a very penitential way to begin a pilgrimage, I must admit).

Anyway, in single-file, the three of us headed out on the walk along the cliff, coming to the ruins from the 400s and a well.  We prayed the rosary for our family and friends and then the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for our deceased parents, grandparents, ancestors and other loved ones.  It was lovely to be able to walk holy ground with our loved ones in the forefront of our minds and hearts.  Along the way were ruins of places important in the life of St. Declan and other faithful Christians throughout the centuries, and always the water of the Atlantic to our left.  The breeze was cool, the mist in the air invigorating and the temperature kept us moving.  We ended our mini camino at the church where a beautiful tower remains standing–testament to the building skills of those 8th century monks who needed a place to find refuge from the Vikings.  I feel such a kinship with the Christians of Ireland who have always had a hard time against their detractors.

I can’t wait for the next such opportunity to connect with our spiritual ancestors.  Since this is only read by you Image


dear Family and friends, please be assured of our prayers for you during this time.

Till next time….

My Review of The Way of Saint James Saturday, Feb 18 2012 

Originally submitted at Aquinas and More

Over the lovely “Camino de Santiago”, the Way of St. James, which is the ancient route leading from the Pyrenees to the famous and ancient shrine of Santiago de Compostela, this documentary followsthe journey of several pilgrims who differ in culture and religious faith, united only by a …

Informative but a bit too secular

By Fran from Colorado Springs on 2/18/2012
3out of 5

Pros: Spanish Landscape, Camino hints, Spanish Churches

DVD, English subtitles
English commentary

For anybody even considering doing the Camino de Santiago, this DVD gives you a good idea about the landscape and towns you will encounter. It convinced me that I can do at least part of the pilgrimage because not all of Spain is in the mountains. It provided interesting information about the origins of the camino as well as the meaning of the name Santiago de Compostela.

However, I was hoping to hear more about the spiritual aspects of this pilgrimage. Most of the people interviewed were doing the camino for secular reasons such as meeting a new challenge, getting away, etc. Since the camino at its heart is a spiritual pilgrimage, I was put off by the lack of emphasis on that aspect.

Also, the commentator said more than once something about the “worship of St. James.” NO, NO, NO! Catholics do not make the pilgrimage to worship the remains of St. James. Venerate, yes, but worship, definitely not.

While the commentary was in English, all of the interviews had subtitles because they were not dubbed. I am getting tired of having to read DVDs!


Saint Movies for February Tuesday, Jan 31 2012 

There are four feasts for which I could find movies in February–Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Valentine, St. Bernadette and St. Josephine Bakhita.  The story of Our Lady of Lourdes (feast February 11)  is told in two documentary DVDs titled Woman Clothed with the Sun:  Zaragosa, Guadalupe and Lourdes and The Miracles of Lourdes.  A recent film,  Lourdes – A Study of Faith, Science and Miracles is an intriguing story of a non-believing journalist whose research leads him to a bit of his own family history and whose own life is affected by what he uncovers.   The feast of St. Bernadette is on February 18, so you might want to check out Bernadette or the old favorite The Song of Bernadette, which has been reformatted for widescreen.  A new film about Bernadette is called Bernadette of Lourdes, which is especially appealing to children because all the actors are children and young adults.  One story told, particularly for children is Bernadette – The Princess of Lourdes, the ever-popular animated version which is engaging to the very young.   But what of Bernadette after the visions ended?  You will find The Passion of Bernadette fascinating as you follow her beyond the grotto of Lourdes.

A relatively unknown saint is Josephine Bakhita, the first saint from Sudan whose feast is February 8.  Her story is compelling and is relevant today because the suffering in Sudan continues.    Her story is told in a newer film called Bakhita:  From Slave to Saint.    Though the movie is in Italian with English subtitles, you will be drawn in to this beautiful story.    Bakhita  found her sanctification through the trials she endured and is an inspiration for all of us.

Of course, the saint everybody celebrates but few know why, is St. Valentine, whose feast is February 14.  Learn the true story of this in third-century martyr in the film, The First Valentine.

Films are a great way to bring to life those people who have lived lives of heroic virtue and fidelity.  Why not plan a family film night and get to know one of the many saints of the Church whose feast is celebrated this month?  You won’t be disappointed.

Re-visiting Saints by the Month Saturday, Dec 31 2011 

OK.  So I am starting on my first resolution for 2012–that is, to do a bit more blogging and update my Saint Movie recommendations monthly.  The movies are good for family viewing and can be used as part of the homeschooling curriculum.

In 2008, I could only find a couple of saint movies for the month of January.  To the movies about St. John Bosco is now to be added The Dreams of Don Bosco featuring Doug Barry of Radix fame.   The feast of St. John Bosco is January 31.  Be sure to invoke his intercession for editors and those who work with young boys on this day.

The feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is on January 4.  A recent movie called Time for Miracles tells the story of a wealthy American woman who was reduced to poverty when her husband died of tuberculosis in 1803.  She converted to Catholicism and shocked her society friends as well as her family by doing so.   Nevertheless, she forged ahead and founded the American Sisters of Charity, the first American parochial school and left a legacy of hospitals and orphanages, as well as over 20 communities of nuns around the country.  This “can-do” woman is a model for all Catholic women, as she shows us what can be done, no matter what the odds are against us.  St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is the patroness of many causes:  against problems with in-laws, against the death of children and parents, for people ridiculed for their piety, and for widows.   She is a good advocate for teachers and homeschool parents because she was so dedicated to the education of children.  

Following the feast of St. Elizabeth Seton is, of course, the Feast of the Epiphany when we commemorate the visit of the three wise men to the Christ Child.   The Fourth Wise Man, while not one of the three, represents all of us and our journey to the Christ Child, no matter how long it takes.

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