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Cynthia Wisehart on Christmas

I’ve never done this before but this month I’m going to go personal and local. Especially since many of you have seen my Out of Office messages these past two weeks as I struggled to meet our deadlines while evacuating first one fire near my home, and then managing the evacuation of my parents, sisters and their kids in the Thomas Fire. Tonight it still rages and across over 270,000 acres, but the worst is, I hope, over.

As we go to press tonight, my 80-something-year-old parents are finally allowed return to Santa Barbara home after over a week in various motels. They’ve tried to make it surprisingly fun, even though my father is seriously ill. I think that’s 80-something for you. Perspective. Just a few days before they were evacuated he was at home from a week in the ICU with a giant oxygen tank and a 50-foot cord so he could move about their large home. The last thing you want, he told me wryly, is to be tethered to a big tank of oxygen when the fire comes.

Now they will go home, gather some things and come down to me for the holidays because the air in their canyon neighborhood is still dangerous to breathe. I will also get my sisters and nephews back—they spent all last week here and the sleepover continues.

I haven’t Christmas shopped, I haven’t cleaned the house, I haven’t even put back a lot of the stuff we evacuated from our fire down here. The sprinklers are still on my roof where we dragged them about two weeks ago now when the Creek Fire was raging in 60mph winds just a mile away. I’ve just been keeping busy wranging chaos and worrying and trying not to fall too far behind at work. I did not succeed. Possibly there will be typos.

Today, as it starts to turn for the better, for now, I’m so grateful that I am left with nothing more serious than mess and missed deadlines. I’m sad for my neighbor who lost their ranch and others who lost too many horses. Two people tragically lost their lives. In relative terms, a surprisingly few number of houses burned, given the scale of the fire.

But I’m also grateful for something else—this is definitely not the holiday season we envisioned in so many ways. My family still faces two serious immediate health challenges that will still be there when the literal smoke clears. But it’s been a long time since we were this connected, at this level of needing each other. That’s the unexpected gift. I’m sure all of you have had this experience around challenges in your own lives. It’s pretty universal. But this year, for this Christmas, it was my turn to be reminded of what matters most.

Happy New Year. I hope it brings you and your family prosperity and more of whatever brings you peace.

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