The Walk of Gratitude

Welcome to MakeUsSmile.com. The kids and I made a gratitude site this summer in thanks for good things after the fires.

Welcome to MakeUsSmile.com. The kids and I made a gratitude site this summer in thanks for good things after the fires.

After finishing my manuscript for my fantasy where the main character is a wildfire survivor, I was talking with a friend about those first weeks, months, and years—what it was like. And the words spilled out about all who helped us. Suddenly I knew what we could do with long hours on hot days this summer. We could each use our gifts to not focus on ourselves but on others’ goodness in a new way.

Jonathan with his engineering side, Chief Tech and Director.

Joey as Chief of Fun with dances and camera angle insights.

Mom writing some of it and helping edit the message to make it clear.

Dad as chief audience, too.

This is your official invitation to come visit MakeUsSmile.com, a fun website where we thank people, companies, and organizations that were so helpful after the wildfires took everything in 2007. With our Camp Gratitude this summer, the boys used their aptitude for technology in a great visual thank-you note.

It’s not easy to start over, but with the kindness of a few, it has multiplied into much. Don’t ever think that a small gesture to someone who’s broken and looking for the new path forward goes unnoticed. We will forever be grateful to all. And Joey’s dancing party is not to be missed!

Bless you in your new beginnings!

For 2015 Wildfire Victims, How To Emergency Evacuate

I’ve been watching the maps with more than seven states dealing with wildfires and wanted to post some tips if you or your friends know anyone that might need to evacuate. As a wildfire survivor, we’ve learned a few things along the way and wanted to share them in this difficult time.

I’ll also be making a video with tips for starting over soon, so stay tuned to my YouTube channel. Hope this helps someone in need. Please share the word.

Thank you, Elizabeth Van Tassel

How To Emergency Evacuate, Five considerations:

1. Video your home – even if it’s roughly done, open every closet and main area and take it on the way out. This will help greatly if you have an insurance claim. It can be hard to remember the details if you’ve had a shock.

2. Key documents and records – hopefully you’ve got your critical records like birth records, marriage certificate, etc. in one location. Having an up-to-date filing system will help you greatly on the other side of things if you have a loss.

3. Contact information – bring something with phone numbers for key people. Often your mobile devices and computers will be enough, but you’ll treasure being in touch with caring people. Make sure at least one other person outside the area knows where you have gone. Communications often fail when there’s a large emergency and your friends can be a single point of contact as you assess what’s happened.

4. Emergency accommodations – if you are out of your home and need a hotel, they will often offer “fire” or “emergency” rates to help with evacuated families. Just ask the manager. Try to stay at least an hour from where the emergency has occurred as it can take time for emergency crews to establish a safe perimeter.

5. Momentos – be sure to take at least a few things that mean a lot, like a certain quilt, or photos, grandma’s silver spoon. Having a little bit of something special can make all the difference later on.

Finally, be safe. Listen to the authorities. Trust your eyes and ears more than the television, which can be far behind the actual events and swirling winds that lead up to a wildfire. And my good wishes go with you and yours.

For more information about how to live with loss and tips to survive as a family, see ElizabethVanTassel.com. To learn about our fire story, see our website at MakeUsSmile.com.