Nonfiction Blog


New Year, New Start

When I was growing up, my dad got my sister and I these journals; inside it was filled with blank pages. Every year, on New Year's Day, my dad would ask us to write three lists in the journals. One list for our goals for the coming year; one list for our goals - or where we wanted to be - in 5 years; and the last list was our goals for 10 years out! Since I've been doing this since I was a child, I think it is very valuable and important because if we don't stop, pause, reflect and think about our lives, how will we know what direction to go in next?

This year, I would like to continue with my professional goal of remaining present and in the moment during my classes. Over the summer, I took a Mindfulness and Meditation class and it taught me the importance of trying to live in the present moment and not worry about the past, yesterday or tomorrow. I think this goal has had a positive effect on my teaching, and I feel closer to my students than in past years.

With regard to my beautiful son, I want to stick to the goals I set a little while ago. I resolve to improve my communication with Gianluca, listen to him more carefully, stop nagging him, and be as supportive as I possibly can. From little things to big things....

Personally, in my marriage, David and I set a resolution regarding our cell phones. We are constantly asking each other, "Who is calling you?" "Do you have to take that call?" "Why is so-and-so blowing you up all the time?" Since we spend so much time together, we have resolved to stop pestering each other about cell phone use. We both agree on the times when it is not appropriate to have our phones out - meal times, date nights, watching movies etc. - so it should be easy enough to stop nagging the other when it IS OK to be on our phones!

Last, I resolve to continue to learn Italiano! I spent most of my free time during the break studying Italian. Io voglio parlare in Italiano pronto! Sono felecita! Buon Anno Nuovo!

Con tanto amore-

Ms. Miller


Twice Traumatized

In all my life, I don't recall ever having been terrified or traumatized. My stepdaughter Morgan loves Borderline; she goes every Wednesday with her friends for college night. David - her dad - and I went to Borderline with Morgan a few months ago. When I awoke on Thursday morning to a text from my best friend in the valley that read, "Heard about the shooting at a club in Thousand Oaks. Hope everyone was okay." I screamed out in terror to David, "CALL MORGAN NOW!" My best friend didn't even say it was Borderline, but I knew it was in my gut and because that's the only club in T.O. David was disoriented and didn't know why I was screaming like that. He phoned Morgan and she picked up the phone immediately. Thank God. All of Morgan's friends went to Borderline, as they always do on College Night; she did not go for some reason. One of her friends - a bouncer - was killed. I spent the day trying to process the feelings and emotions that I had about her safety AND the reality of another mass shooting in our society....

That night, that fateful Thursday, November 8th was the second time I was traumatized in one day. ONE day! I was at home in bed dealing with a migraine (probably brought on by stress) when a text came in from my dear friend and teacher here, Jen Hankins. It read, "Les: mandatory evacuation for Oak Park is now in effect. Get your parents evacuated!" My parents have been living in my childhood home in Oak Park, at the base of the foothills for 40 years. I grew up in that house. When David and I arrived to evacuate them the Woolsey Monster was "3 hours away from Oak Park." By the time we left, it had changed to "1.5 hours away from Oak Park." My parents were dawdling and it was frustrating. David and my dad thought I was overreacting! We had been evacuated 2-3 times in the last 40 years, but nothing like this every occurred.... We deposited them safely at my sister's house in Moorpark. When we arrived home - on the WLV side of Lindero Canyon Road - the situation had become "horizontal" and dire. It was 10:00 PM: we couldn't see, there was ash flying everywhere, the smell of smoke was suffocating and I was completely in flight mode. Thank goodness Gianluca listened to his Mommy and did exactly as he was told. My husband was chilling in bed; Mr. maucho man. I was like, "We need to leave now!" He was like, "It's fine." I'm like, "There's about 40 emergency vehicles roaring up Lindero right now, are you kidding me?"

10:30 PM. Gianluca packed up his car and was in front of me going up Lindero toward the 101. It was three lanes of bumper to bumper frantic traffic; horns, shouting, screaming etc. I was not sure we would reach the 101 freeway in time; the fire was on our hills. We had two choices - head to family in Ventura County or head to the valley to who knows where! Every fiber of my mama bear being was telling me, "Get out of the countryside; don't go west; go EAST!" "Head to the Concrete Jungle. I phoned by best friend Hillary in desperation; she said come to her house in Northridge. Perfectly situated (amid concrete and no hills!), I said thank you.

I spent the better part of Thursday night, Friday, Saturday and Sunday glued to the television. I normally do not watch the news on television (I prefer to read), but I could not take my eyes off of Channel 5's coverage: my hometown, the home of my son, my parents' home and the homes of my students and their parents were at stake. Day after day, I watched in horror as the Woolsey monster tore through one community after another. I thought to myself, "Is this ever going to end?" I had several group texts going and I realized that I was going to be the point person for a lot of different groups: groups of neighbors, groups of students, my family, groups of colleagues....

When I returned home on Saturday with David and Gianluca - before the mand evac was lifted, I was shocked, saddened and worried. I could see the damage the monster had done to Oak Park and it felt like the monster was still smoldering; it was a very eerie feeling. I told David and Gianluca I was leaving again; I didn't want to be here. I didn't think they were still in fire danger (because everything around us had already burned), but that I was going to follow the rules and go back to my Concrete Jungle Safe Haven.

On Sunday evening, my husband really wanted me to come back. As a rule follower, I as afraid to come back until the mand evac was lifted! I went home anyway to make him happy. It was around 5 pm and I was on pins and needles for hours. I didn't want to be there; I was uncomfortable breaking the rules. We tried to watch Sunday Night Football and I couldn't focus or concentrate. At around 9 pm, the mand evac was finally lifted! I felt a huge sense of relief and joy! That marked the end of phase 1 of trauma: what is your immediate response to a crisis. I learned that mine is to FLEE! I want to live! I'm a scaredy cat! I got the hell out of there as fast as I could, and I would do the same again. I believe in being safe than sorry. The long work of healing over the next two weeks would present its challenges, but I knew the emergency crisis had now passed and the worst was behind me.



North Korea Can't Be Trusted

I had no idea the Korean War was technically going on! I learned a good deal about how the current situation came into being. For example, that North and South Korea were satellite nations to the USA and the USSR, respectively, during The Cold War. I also didn't know that we helped rid the peninsula of Chinese invasion and domination. Arguments that N. Korea can be trusted are that presently north and south are on speaking terms and that the USA president - for the first time - received a verbal agreement from Un to denuclearize N. Korea's stockpile. Evidence against N. Korea centers primarily on the fact there is no proven track record that N. Korea keeps its promises.

I don't trust Un at all. I heard an analyst on NPR a while back and he was saying that part of a dictatorial megalomaniac's strategem is to make nice-nice in public and then turn around and do evil things behind the world's back. We saw this with Stalin and his brutal regime and Hitler and the Nazi party. Un is responsible for murdering people who oppose him and not taking good care of the needs of his people - often times, they starve. America: don't trust the "peace."