By Julie Schneider Ljubenkov (posted by D. Shaw)

A note to BAGSC members from the BAGSC Executive Board: Julie has the same email address, phone number and post office address as is listed in the roster. BAGSC is contributing a gift certificate to Target so that Julie and her husband can get things they need. If anyone would like to add to the gift certificate fund, please send checks made out to “The Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California” or “BAGSC” to Deborah Shaw, Treasurer. Please put a reference on the check to Julie and/or the fire. We will also be taking up a collection of art supplies for Julie at the January 19th BAGSC meeting. If you have any extra supplies please bring them to the meeting. Our thoughts and support are with Julie, her family and all of the victims of the fires as they work to put their lives back together.

Some of Julie’s artwork can be viewed on the BAGSC web site, at: http://www.bagsc.org/ljubenkov.html. This BAGSC gallery page has additional links to view Julie’s work on other sites as well.

On the night of October 23 we were asleep. Upon retiring we had felt fairly safe: all the big fires in San Diego County were at least 15 miles away and the wind was not blowing in our direction — plus the wind had died down and it was a beautiful, clear autumn afternoon. We did get a few things ready to evacuate earlier that day, since we thought it would be typical that some nut would try to start a fire here and it would be wise to be ready. We’ve been evacuated twice before in the last 13 years. It is a very tiring experience — like moving — so we didn’t do a complete job getting stuff ready to go because we were very tired. At 3:50 a.m. my husband woke up and opened the window, smelled smoke and saw an orange glow in the eastern sky. The winds had picked up and again were howling. We knew this meant we were probably going to lose our home and that we needed to get out quick. We called our next door neighbors and they had just woken up too.

We threw clothes and prescription drugs in waiting suitcases and made a total of three trips to each of our cars with the stuff we had waiting by the door — mostly stuff to keep us working. My husband is a marine biologist; he grabbed his microscope and some of his most important literature for identifying animals. For me, this was a couple of sketch books; some computer disks; some stuff for teaching which had been packed up already for next week’s classes; some botanical and landscape prints I had packed for an upcoming engagement; plus, our pre-packed fire suitcase with all our important papers and some photographs.

Those trips to the car took ten minutes. Within that time the flames surrounded the house on three sides. There was a large fire funnel tornado on the hill above the house which advanced towards us. Luckily our driveway was only burning on one side, and as we backed into the flames we knew the house would be gone. We filed down the dirt road behind other fleeing neighbors. There were no fire fighters in sight and no evacuation calls.

Our friends, the Marx’s (Wes Marx is author of Frail Ocean) had called us previously wondering how we were fairing with the winds and the fires. At 4:15 a.m. on the way out, unable to reach my husband on his cell phone and wondering if he had actually got out behind me, I pulled over to the side of the road and called them. They let us stay in their downstairs apartment for three weeks and took care of us for the first week, as we were zombie basket cases for a few days. They shopped for us, picked up our prescription drugs, and took us to the relief centers to get us started on the recovery process.

With the help of the insurance company, we are currently renting a small place while our manufactured home gets rebuilt. We hope to be back to our property in May 2008.

People have asked us what we need. Here is our current list. We don’t want anyone to feel compelled to get us anything, but maybe if you have two of something, or you would like to get us something on the list that would be wonderful. We know our insurance will not cover replacing the contents of our home, and we don’t qualify for FEMA or SBA, so we appreciate anything anyone wants to give us.

Here’s our current list:

  • Mattress pad, California King
  • Pillow liners, king size
  • Stepping stool for indoors
  • Wire brush (for cleaning up charred and burnt stuff)
  • Bottle brush, large and small sizes
  • Kitchen serving trays/or for eating (2 to 4)
  • Basting kitchen tool
  • Bread maker
  • Clothes line with wooden clothes pins
  • Indoor clothes drier/rack (wooden or metal)
  • Letter opener (2)
  • Colored folders with pockets for class outlines (10)
  • Copy holder for computer typing
  • Book ends
  • Head sets and microphone for landline phones
  • Blank cassette tapes
  • Electric pencil sharpener
  • River walker shoes, women’s size 7
  • Warm down coat – women’s medium size 12
  • Warm down coat – men’s XL or XXL
  • Women’s cotton socks, dark colors
  • Fax machine
  • Topo map program of California on CD for a PC computer
  • Pictures from magazines or calendars of flowers, landscapes, and animals (for my classes – we use these as image libraries)

I also miss all my 60’s and 70’s rock and roll music:
Elton John, The Beatles, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Gordon Lightfoot, ELO, Supertramp. Right now I can listen to both cassette tapes or CD’s.

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