It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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Nothing Like a Wildfire to Get Your Priorities in Check…

Nothing Like a Wildfire to Get Your Priorities in Check…

What a week it has been.

Wednesday, I awoke to the smell of smoke inside my home. I rushed to my back door and found that smoke filled the air outside as well. Immediately, I knew something was wrong.

I turned on the news and saw that wildfires were raging out of control just a few miles from my home. I watched in disbelief as firefighters battled brush and winds on the hillside along our big freeway, which was engulfed in flames.

It looked like a scene out of a movie, but this was real life. And, it was unfolding in real time.

My daughters called to see if I was okay. One asked me, “What’s happening?” I told them it would be fine, but then a friend called and told me she was evacuating. With urgency in her voice, she told me to grab some stuff and get out now.


I could feel my kids’ anxiety about the situation. I could feel my friend’s anxiety. But still, I didn’t think I needed to move just yet. Then, I found out that my neighborhood and my street were being told to prepare to evacuate. (I learned this via an email that was forwarded to me, not a text message, phone call or more immediate form of communication. I think this system of alerting people needs to be modernized.)

Prepare. Prepare to evacuate at a moment’s notice, said the e-mail. Gather up what you need, it stated. Medicine. Pets. Important Papers. Precious belongings. You must be ready at a moment’s notice to leave.

Immediately, I found myself in the midst of making split-second decisions about what mattered to me and to my kids, and what didn’t. (I’m not a quick decision maker, but in this instance, I surprised myself.)

My heart beat fast as I grabbed the notes and cards my kids had written to me, which luckily I keep in a bag next to my bed. I grabbed their school drawings off the wall and threw them in my car. I grabbed something from each of my parents. I grabbed some other family photos and a few other items from people I love. I didn’t grab a single bag or piece of clothing, although my daughter did grab one purse that my mother had given me. In that moment, when it felt like I had everything to lose, nothing else mattered.

I know it shouldn’t take a wildfire to remind me how unimportant “stuff” is. It shouldn’t take a wildfire to remind me how important friends and family are, or how deeply I love my kids and how proud I am of them. But, in these moments, you really are reminded of what really matters.

My daughters were amazing, calm, helpful, and generous during these uncertain moments. (Both of my boys were out of town.) I was proud of them. Proud to see what they grabbed for themselves and for me. Proud that they were so concerned about so many others.(They even called to ask their brothers and dad what items they should grab that meant to them.) They were also especially focused on all of the animals in harm’s way.

So many people have lost everything in these fires. So many others in America lost so much in the hurricanes earlier this year. So many people have lost everything they own this year. Everything they worked their whole lives for. In a moment, they lost it all.

In a moment, everything can be gone. Everything can change. We’re reminded of this all the time on the news. We see it all around us every day. A moment can make all the difference.

Click to Continue Reading Maria Shriver's Sunday Paper


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