Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Expectation of Perfection

I was watching Oprah (again). It was an episode on resilience.

One woman was talking about believing that life would be perfect because she lived it the way she was supposed to live it. She followed the rules. Then one day she lost her 2-year-old son and husband in a plane crash. She mentions that in healing she allowed herself to have and experience the emotions that came up rather than denying them because others believed she should be feeling differently. She also talks about asking why such things happened to her and then asking why not. Why would others be more 'deserving' of that suffering?

I have pondered many of these same things in the last four months. Why us? Well, why not us? I believe many of us (particularly when we are young) believe that we are invincible. Bad things won't happen. We won't suffer. We will be healthy. But that isn't always the case. And I don't believe that we get to choose those events (sorry if you subscribe to the Secret- but I don't believe that my thoughts brought on the fire any more than others' thoughts kept their homes safe).

The events of the fire have increased my anxiety at least a hundred fold. I am working extremely hard on those feelings because I don't think that I can live my life afraid of tomorrow. Every time I hear a fire engine does not mean that it is my house. Every time I feel a twitch in my face doesn't mean that I'm relapsing. I hope that I can learn... and I hope you can too and share with me your successes... how to be more present, to live in this moment. Because it is the only one that we are guaranteed.

2009

It has to be better than 2008. I am affirming that 2009 will be the best year of our lives.

We will be moving into our new home in February (the date has been pushed back to the 13th... and I will try to complain as little as possible). I can't wait to start getting things organized and feeling grounded once again. We all feel like we are stuck, unable to move (on) until we get back home. 2009 will be the proverbial rebuilding year.

2009 will also be a year of great health. The Bell's Palsy has taught me a lot about trying to find balance and live stress-free. I am making my health a priority, and that is something I expect to continue. It's easy to say that you will make a commitment to your health when you are sick. It's another to follow-through when you are healthy. I hope to be able to remember how much I dislike illness.

2009 will be the year of family. I am committed to building a family that we are proud of. We are so excited to teach Kellen and watch him grow. It's a year to reestablish traditions and to make new ones with this new life and new normal.

Finally, it is a year to start making my dreams a reality. Too often we push our dreams aside out of a sense of obligation to other things or fear of failure. We don't know what tomorrow holds, and we do ourselves and the world no justice by putting off that which we want to accomplish now.

Here is to a healthy, prosperous, and joyous 2009. May you and yours find the same throughout the coming year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008

This is the time of year where I pull out my journals. I have a yearly tradition of writing about the previous year and reflecting on years past. There are some years where I don't write much more than that final year-end entry. The loss of my journals, the loss of those stories hits hard as I reflect on my year. However, I've also been thinking a lot about how much we focus on our past to define us and our future. That belief is so limiting. We are not an accumulation of our past. We can choose to change at any time (though the work to make those changes is hard!). Perhaps the loss of my past frees me from those limiting experiences and opens up my life for a new and wondrous future!

Regardless, the year in review!

January brought change. I started the year changing positions from a special ed advocate to a teacher. I worked in a classroom with junior high students who had emotional or behavioral disabilities. It was an incredibly challenging yet rewarding position. January 30th was the first snow day of the year. It was a Wednesday. We had been trying to get pregnant for a year, and we found out that day that we were expecting. It was quite a surprise!

In March, Dan and I visited New York during Spring Break. I hadn't been back since leaving in 2005, and I was anxious to see my friends and return to some of the places I had called home. We brought back several mementos from that trip, a few of which were replaced by a friend this past week (thanks Z!).

In May we found out we were having a boy. My family has all boys in the next generation, so I was hoping for a girl, but we were thrilled to have a boy. We decided on a rock star theme for his nursery, and I started making preparations to clean out the junk room to turn it into habitable space! At the end of the month, my family joined us in a surprise party to announce the gender.

In June we picked Kellen's name on a drive up to our family's cabin in the Sawtooths. We also spent a weekend in Sun Valley with our dog. We managed a short hike up part of Baldy (though at 6 months pregnant, it was a bit tiring!).

July brought a trip to Bend, OR, to see my mom. We celebrated our birthdays (mom, step-dad, and I all have birthdays in the same week!). We had gone into an organic baby boutique in Bend to pick out some unique things for Kellen. I was pretty tired, but looking back on the trip, I felt very contented. We celebrated Dan's birthday later that month. My friends and family through us a co-ed baby shower BBQ. It was a great end to the month.

August brought about work. I started going into school regularly to set up my classroom and prepare for maternity leave in October. Little did I know that this preparation would be needed sooner rather than later. August 25 was the first day of school. It is hard to believe that it has already been four months since that day.

The past four months have been a blur. From the immediate aftermath of the fire to celebrating Christmas in a(n almost completed) home, I could never have imagined that 2008 would have turned out this way. I never imagined that I would end the year building a home to grow into. It would have been hard to imagine that we would be picturing raising our children in Boise, in our neighborhood, when we spent much of the former half of the year talking about places we might eventually move. It's hard to believe that my baby is already trying to sit up. After spending so much of my life wanting children of my own, I can't believe I now have one. He amazes me everyday, and we can't wait to see what 2009 has in store for him.

I believe very much in speaking our intentions. I believe in attracting in our life that which we seek. Tomorrow a post about my hopes and dreams for 2009, a year that I believe will bring us great fortune.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Packing

I've done a lot of packing in my life. When I was young, my sister and I would pull out our duffel bags before the end of the school year. The day after the last day of school we would be on a plane to Boise to our dad's. I had a pretty good strategy for packing. When I left for college, we had two carloads full of my stuff. What I thought I was going to do with all that stuff is beyond me! I wanted my dorm to be like home. Having a roommate ruined that delusion.

At the end of my sophomore year of college, I packed up all my things and moved to D.C. My appendix ruptured that summer, so my mom had to pack my things up. I am pretty organized about my packing (except for the last two boxes, which are always junk boxes), so unpacking that year was a little tough.

After college, I packed my things and had them shipped to Boise. I thought I was going to move to San Francisco. Instead I moved to New York. We shipped everything back east to NYC. The shipping place unpacked EVERYTHING I had worked so hard to pack to ensure it wouldn't break!

A year later, my stuff was again in boxes and back in Boise. Since then I've moved three times.

I always used moving as an opportunity to de-clutter. I save everything, so it is a great time to take stock of my possessions and decide what I really want to keep. I wasn't the best at getting rid of things, but at least it was a start. We had been in the house for 2.5 years, and I still hadn't unpacked all of the boxes in the garage. I joked that I could probably just throw the boxes away because I obviously didn't need whatever was in them. By that point I didn't even really know what was in them. Oh how the universe has a sense of humor! A fire has a way of de-cluttering your life and possessions for you.

I am preparing to pack again. I am usually excited about moves, but none top the excitement of this move. I've always been "home" before, just moving to a new home. We haven't been home in 4 months. Even though we don't know where everything will go, I am trying to be systematic about how I pack. Kellen's stuff will likely be half of our possessions. People were so generous with baby things. We are looking forward to having room for all of his things. Before, I would have boxes of which I was uncertain what was inside. The items were sentimental and not quite as functional so sat a lot longer. Now we have boxes of things of which we are uncertain... but only because we still don't know what all we own. I am (for once) looking forward to unpacking to uncover those items.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

We spent the day up at the house surrounded by friends and family. I decorated the staircase railing with red garland and set up a table with food in the to-be kitchen.

Merry Christmas!



































Saturday, December 20, 2008

Current Address

"Do you still live at 3417 Sweetwater?"

It takes me by surprise EVERY TIME!

My responses are varied.

"Sort of."

"We are rebuilding there."

"Mail can be sent there."

"Ummm."

I was told today that move-in will be the first week of February at the latest. That is less than 7 weeks. I'm going to put a counter up for February 1 in the sidebar so you can count down the days with us. Paint starts Monday. We have parts of the stair railings up. Stucco should be finished soon, and as soon as it is painted, I will update with a picture of the front of the house. We've started ordering furniture. Kellen is getting a sleigh crib (and raised panels). Our coffee table is the coolest thing ever (but I'm keeping that a secret until move-in). It seems like everyday we are overrun with boxes. And we start packing after Christmas. If you are interested in helping us sort boxes and accumulated stuff, we can definitely use the help (have you tried packing with a 3 month old?!).

Speaking of three-month olds... I have to share today's picture because he is just the cutest darn baby ever!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Family Photos

We want to thank Bonnie with Once Remembered for doing a free photo session for us. We were able to take pictures at the house during the foundation stage.

We also want to thank One Stone, a group of kids at Riverstone International School, who coordinated a family photo shoot for us. We are grateful to photographer Bill Burns and HP, who allowed the group to do the printing.

From Once Remembered:





















































From Riverstone:















Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ornaments

I have always loved ornaments. I had many that had been made by my grandmother and great-grandmother. Growing up, we would pick out an ornament each year that represented that year. As an adult, I had taken great pride in finding unique and interesting ornaments. Last year we got a cat ornament because our kitten suddenly died right before Christmas. Decorating the tree this year wasn't quite the same without those memories.

But, we have new ones. My mom sent me a few of her collection from my grandmother and great-grandmother. My sister sent me a few that she collected. My mom's book club collected ornaments from Virginia Beach so I would have some memories of the beach. We bought some Hallmark ornaments. One will start Kellen's ornament collection. Here are some of my favorites.











Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rebirth

I was going to blog about something really light today, but then I saw a couple of minutes of Oprah.

Will Smith was promoting his new movie and was talking about how we often perceive life as linear. Birth. Life. Death. But no, he says. Instead it is circular with birth and death next to each other. Birth. Life. Death. Rebirth. Most religions embrace this idea in some way or another. It is an idea that speaks to me.

But Will Smith wasn't just talking about the birth and death of our physical bodies. He was talking about it in a greater sense. We go through so many births and deaths in this life. Our house had a birth, one I wasn't even aware of (in fact, I was 7 when the house was built). It had a life, a life that harbored many other lives and had many stories. Our presence in that house was only a small fraction of that house's life. And it had a traumatic death. All of our things went through similar births and deaths. They all had a story.

Now is the rebirth. And in the rebirth of our house, we too are going through a rebirth. And birth isn't always easy (ask Kellen). We are presented with our new lessons. But we are also surrounded by love, incredible love in birth. And if we trust the process, our needs are also always met.

Tomorrow- ornaments.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Tree

So we finally got a Christmas Tree. The fact that this is an afterthought and almost mundane is just one more reminder that this year is not like the others. Normally I would be anxiously awaiting the first weekend in December to buy a tree, hoping that it would last through Christmas. I would have already looked through my ornaments and carefully thought out which should be displayed in the front and which could have less prominent, but equally important, placement in the back of the tree. Each night leading up to Christmas would be celebrated with white tree lights lighting up the room. The tree would be filled with gifts, those for family and for friends. I spend a lot of time wrapping presents. In fact, it is one of my favorite things of the season.

But not this year.

We have a tree, and there are presents sent from my mom and sister in the back room. I've even bought some presents. I had great plans to make things. But I'm just not feeling well. I haven't wrapped anything yet. I suppose I will.

But we have a tree.

We actually got the tree from Grandma's Trees on Eagle Rd. We got an email from Patti that they were having a hard time selling trees and were going to have to shred the trees. Instead of shredding them, they were offering them to families in need. We bought ours, but we went to them because they were willing to do that for families. So if you still need a tree, they have them, and they are really nice.

I'll post pictures once the tree is actually up. We are going to put it in the rental and then move it to the new house on Christmas Eve for our Christmas day party.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kellen

It's hard to believe it's been 2 and a half months. And it's absolutely amazing how much he's changed in such a short amount of time. His personality is also coming out now. Here is what we know:

Kellen likes the mornings.

He smiles and chuckles when we stick out our tongues at him.

He laughed, really laughed, when Dan tickled him in his armpits. I think it was the cutest sound ever.

He is tall. He was in his newborn clothes for 6 weeks, and then in his 0-3 month clothes for 4 weeks. Yikes!

He has long fingers, which is not something he got from either Dan or myself.

His toes are just like my mom's and grandfather's.

He loves music. He watches intently when Dan plays the guitar for him. We listen to music before bed. He calms when I sing to him.

He is super strong. He has been holding his neck up since birth for the most part. He sits upright in his bumbo.

He snores!

We cannot wait to bring Kellen into the new home, his home.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Awareness

I've been doing some reading on healing of the soul and letting go. Letting go is something I have always had a very hard time with. I like the illusion of control, and the idea that I have none is deeply unsettling. My anxiety right now is such that I spend a lot of mental energy trying to combat those thoughts, imagining that somehow this battle gives me some amount of control. I was reading some interesting points by Guy Finley, and he writes that the very idea of acknowledging those thoughts to try to retrain your thinking gives those thoughts power. I find this so interesting. I was talking to someone else earlier this week who told me to stop thinking so much. How does one quiet the mind? I don't have good answers to that question yet, but I am working on finding some. It takes too much energy to think all the time (and to think about thinking!).

I have also been thinking a lot about happiness. I am having a hard time finding joy even though I know there is much to be happy about. I have been known for laughing at most anything. I don't find myself laughing at much recently. I have been thinking about how we know we are truly happy and what that feels like. But maybe it is the absence of happiness that makes the promise of it so much more alluring. It is ok to recognize that this is my winter (in the words of Finley). Our lives all have seasons, and we want to believe that it will always be spring and summer, happiness and glory. And I suppose for some, their lives are mostly that way. But for most of us, there are times of sadness, of suffering. The magnitude of the events are not as relevant as the ways in which we are affected by them. But the promise of another spring is not forgotten even in those moments.

Dan and I were talking tonight about the laws of the universe and the idea that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If so, I have to believe that tremendous good is coming our way to balance out the bad of this year. It is that promise, that hope, that carries us this winter.

The lost year

I feel like I've lost a year.

Halloween wasn't the same. We didn't even carve pumpkins, which is something that Dan and I have done since we started dating. We did make it to the pumpkin patch, but it still wasn't the same.

Thanksgiving wasn't the same. I didn't get to cook Thanksgiving dinner. We spent the last two years at home starting our own traditions. I was looking forward to Kellen's first Thanksgiving in our home as a continuation of those traditions.

Christmas isn't the same. It is still the plan to spend Christmas in the new house... even though we won't have carpet or hardwood yet. But had we been in our house, we would have a Christmas tree up by now. We have no Christmas tree (and nowhere to put it in the rental even if we did). The ornaments I have managed to collect (or have been given) sit in a box in the garage. The usual joy I find in buying Christmas presents and wrapping them (I LOVE wrapping gifts) isn't there. It just feels like an obligation.

This is usually my favorite time of year, from September to December. We should be in the house by the end of January, and we will start to reclaim our lives. Even so, I feel like it won't be the same until next year, when we are able to celebrate the holidays... in our home.

Thanks to all who have sent recipes and emailed me in the last week or so. I really enjoy getting those emails... from people I've met and from those I haven't. The best part of this whole situation has been the community of support and all the people we have met because of it. We hope that all those people (and all of you) will stay in touch with us as time passes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Backyard

When we bought our house, it was marketed as a "landscaper's dream." This is code for be-prepared-to-put-$10,000-into-the-yard. The yard was dead. There were no sprinklers. There was barely anything living. And what was living was Russian Sage (and weeds). The backyard had railroad ties (and not very good ones at that). The backyard felt like you were living in a hole.




































The first year we lived at the house, we pulled out the sage and built a raised flower bed in the front yard. I planted Hydrangeas... and they were gorgeous! I also had Hostas and daisies.












The next summer (a year and a few months ago) we put in a sprinkler system, yards upon yards of topsoil, 2000+ square feet of sod, and built a 650 square foot deck... ALL BY OURSELVES (with the occasional help from our neighbor and some friends). We started building the deck in early July, about 2 days before a 17 day 100+ heat wave. We stained and screwed in nails at 11 p.m. We used spotlights to extend daylight. The ground was so hard that we had to use a jackhammer to dig the posts.






















Earlier this year, I started landscaping the tiers. I had put in rhododendrons, periwinkle, hydrangeas, and bushes. I wasn't done, but I had a good start. The railroad ties were still ugly.

With the fire, our backyard can finally live up to its possibilities. And it is beautiful. We have trees (TREES!) and a waterfall. We have retaining walls. And I'll have a garden to start growing my own vegetables. I am just so in love with my backyard. I can't wait until Spring to really spend time out there enjoying our yard.




















Monday, December 8, 2008

Brighter Days

The sun is shining today. The sun in my soul also feels lighter. I know that the bad days are not yet over, but I will take a good day! My eye is closing a little better, so keep those good vibes headed my way.

We are headed back to Boise tomorrow. I have spent the last 12 days processing. I have a lot of questions and very few answers. What I find most interesting is the lessons that keep cycling through my life. I know I have written before about how I feel like I have been presented with these lessons at such a young age and not being certain why. Regardless, they are here. The fire alone is not why I struggle. The palsy alone is not why I struggle. And the two together are not why I struggle. Rather, these challenges have brought much to the surface for me, things I have struggled with before and naively thought I had resolved.

I am amazed by the perfection of my son. He knows only good. He has experienced only love. He struggles (mostly when he needs to poop), but he is comforted. When in our lives does this stop? When do we start learning that life is challenging, that there are struggles? When does the perfection of a little baby turn into anxiety of adulthood?

I am reading a book called You Can Heal Your Life. Interestingly I had the workbook in the old house. My mom bought me the book without knowing I had that book. I don't believe in accidents, so I guess I should take to heart what is being written. She writes about people being ready for change and not being able to confront their issues until they are ready. "We all begin to make our changes in the right time, space, and sequence for us." I am ready to make those changes... but I didn't choose to be ready, life thrust itself upon me. I suppose I could have failed to learn from this experience, chosen not to grow. But I don't really know if that is an option when life is so blatant.

I return to Boise, in the process of healing both physically and mentally. I know this path is not easy, but it is my path. And I will walk it in the sunshine and out of the fog (as best I can).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thorns

We are putting together our Thank You cards, and I've been looking for quotes about gratitude. I came across this quote, and I thought I would share:

Some people are always grumbling
because roses have thorns;
I am thankful
that thorns have roses.

Alphonse Karr

What an interesting perspective. I think we spend a lot of time worried about how bad things ruin beauty (or joy). I wonder how differently we would view the world if we focused more on the beauty that comes out of all situations. I don't think that anyone is very happy when they get stuck with the thorns. But at least if we can recognize that the thorns have some goodness, some beauty, the world literally has much more potential and possibility.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Myth

I would like to dispel the myth that you cannot sneeze with your eyes open. I have learned that this is, in fact, a myth. For Christmas, I would really really like my ability to blink back. If you could all remember to ask Santa for my blinking back I would greatly appreciate it!

I am in Palm Desert with my mom right now. It is sunny here. And it is really nice to have the extra hands.

I have yet to get any recipes. And I know that people are reading. I will be very sad if I don't get any recipes!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Recipes

I love to cook. I can't wait to move into the new house so that I finally have room to cook (and room for all of my fun appliances). One of the things we bought for the new house was a pink KitchenAid mixer. I had been lusting after it for years, and I am so excited to have it. We have replaced most of the appliances I used to have. I still have to replace the bread machine that we got for our wedding.

I was reading a friend's blog about trying new recipes in January, and it made me think about all of the recipes that I lost. My grandmother has been working on putting together a recipe book for me. I would love to add to that book.

If you have a recipe or two that you would be willing to share, you can email it to me at life_after_the_fire@yahoo.com or post it as a comment here (you don't have to register to post). I would love some holiday cookie recipes, holiday meal recipes, and soups. We eat mostly fish and poultry. I am also trying to eat more vegetarian meals, so those would be great!!

And in the spirit of giving, I will share my favorite recipe: chicken pesto penne!

I cook with whole wheat pasta. I usually just pour in the whole box because I'll eat the leftovers!
I use chicken tenders. I cook the tenders in the cut strips and then as they start to cook, I use the spatula to cut the chicken into chunks. I cook the chicken in a couple tablespoons of olive oil (I am not very precise in my cooking!) which makes it really moist.
I make my own pesto sauce. It is really good on Brie as well! I don't have the precise recipe because it was in a cookbook in the house. So this is my best guess of the actual numbers!
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (toast in the oven until they are light brown). Let the pine nuts cool.
In a food processor, blend the pine nuts with a bag of basil (I use the bags from Fred Meyer but will be able to use my own once our garden gets in this spring!), lemon juice (I use a quarter of a lemon), a garlic clove, kosher salt (the amount is a personal preference. Personally I think that it is pretty bland if you aren't generous with the salt here. I use about a dime size in my palm and then salt to taste if it needs more), and a dash of white pepper (told you I wasn't precise!!). Blend in the processor.
Add a quarter cup of EV olive oil. Make sure you add slowly and use a spatula to push the basil mixture down off the sides if needed.
Add in a quarter cup or so of Parmesan cheese (I use the grated kind not the flakes). Pulse until just mixed in. Add salt as needed.
You will probably have more pesto than you need, so I just save that for other things (like Caprese sandwiches!!).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Things I know

I know that I am strong.

I am learning it's ok to be weak.

I know that I have (literally) a community of support.

I am learning it's ok to ask for help.

I know that our house will be beautiful.

I am learning that it often takes patience and time before we can see the beauty.

I know that I will come out at the other end of this a better person. I know. I wish that I didn't have to go through this. I wish that I could hand this burden off to someone else. But I also believe that this is not a mistake. That I was meant to walk this path. I know that I will learn the lessons I was meant to learn. I am learning.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fog

I picked San Diego as opposed to the Oregon Coast so that we could get some sun. Of course while we are here, it has been foggy. Oh how I am learning a lesson about life's plans.

As we were walking down the beach yesterday morning, I was reflecting about feeling like I am in a fog. Fog clouds your perception of the future. You look ahead and cannot see what's in front of you, and so you are forced to make decisions based purely on what you can see. And in the fog, what lies ahead looks dark and often a little menacing. When the sun is out, you can see a path, and it is bright. Because you can see what is ahead, you can prepare for your next move. If driving in the fog, you can change lanes based on brake lights or slow down when traffic is backed up. In the fog, you do not have the benefit of long-term planning and judgment.

But fog eventually lifts. Sun burns off the low clouds, and then there is light again. So too will there be light for us. Like the morning fog, the light will take time to break through, but once it is there, the path will be visible again. The fog is just an obstacle. And we will get through it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

To all of our friends (new and old) and family... to all those who have helped us in the past three months... to all those who have held us in their thoughts... to the Boise community who rallied around us in the days, weeks, and months after the fire... to my internet family...

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

We are so grateful for all of you. Had the fire not happened, it is likely that we would not have ever met many of you (even if all we do is meet on this blog). Thank you for sharing your hearts and your stories. May you be blessed at your Thanksgiving table today. And may you have joy throughout this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Grateful

Today I am thankful for:

* A mini smile. I am able to move my lips into a small smile if I try really hard. It is still lop-sided, but it is improvement. I can also move my entire eyebrow... again, it's not equal to the other side, but all improvement is good!

* Contractors who need work. As hard as this experience is, the fact that we can help out contractors in the area who haven't had much work in this economy, is a great thing.

* My semi-circle retaining walls in my backyard. We tried so hard to make the railroad ties that used to be there work, but really, I hated them. The stone blocks are awesome!

* The fact that I have a warm place to lay my head every night. I may not like the rental, but at least I have a place to sleep tonight. There are so many who are struggling with the state of the economy right now. I am grateful that I can turn up the heat if I am cold and huddle under soft blankets. And I will hold those who can't in my thoughts tomorrow as we celebrate Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Perspective

I feel like I have been "burned" many many times in the last three months (today is the three-month anniversary of the fire).

I broke my toe several weeks ago. That was really bothering me until my face became paralyzed. That consumed me, and the pain in my toe was forgotten. I tend to worry excessively, so of course I worried that the palsy was more than just that even though I am getting better each day (my eyebrow is moving today- it's a big deal for me!). Yesterday I got some news that some test results came back abnormally, so I have to go get that checked out in mid-December. This newest challenge has made the worry of the palsy almost disappear. The palsy is temporary, and I will fully heal. Amazingly, the abnormal results have calmed me down. I feel like I am being forced to let go of control. As much as I struggle with my faith, I do believe in something greater than myself, and I believe that whatever that power or energy or being is has not failed me.

A friend told me that she still believes we are not given more than we can handle. I have questioned that in these last few weeks. But she is right. Even with all of these challenges, I get out of bed every morning and I live my life the best way I can. It may not be the best, and I may not always think I can make it, but I live it.

We are leaving on Friday for San Diego, a chance to sit by the water, get some perspective, and hopefully heal a little bit. I think the change of scenery is necessary to our health. I will try to still post as much as I can, but it might be a little less frequently.

Today I am thankful for:

* Eddie Bauer selling "normal" clothes. As much as I've been a faithful patron of the Gap for many many years, I am not happy with them when they try to be trendy as they have this year. But Eddie Bauer has normal shirts and sweaters, and they are actually really nice for the holidays.

* Pretty wrapping paper. I'm kind of obsessed with wrapping presents and can't wait to have a wrapping station in my craft room.

* Movement in my eyebrow.

* Vision. I can envision my house as it will be when I move in. I can envision next year's Thanksgiving, surrounded by friends and family, and next year's Christmas with the tree in the entry way (yes, we've already discussed where it will go). I can envision my hydrangeas blooming in a year and the view from my craft room. And I can envision my life beyond this. I will survive this. And in surviving this, my life has new purpose. That vision keeps me going.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Am I your Someone?

I was talking to a friend the other day, and she said that I am now her someone. I know someone who lost their home in a wildfire. I know someone who had Bell's Palsy. I'm that someone.

I can spend a lifetime asking myself why it is that I am that someone. Why did my house burn down? Why did I get Bell's Palsy? Why am I sick? But that won't really get me anywhere. I believe that I am supposed to learn a great lesson out of all of this and share it with others. Another friend and I were talking of this same idea. She said that she believed we aren't given more than we can handle (though I have my moments of doubt) and that this experience is setting me up to help others because few have walked in my shoes (and few would want to). I expressed that I quite like my new shoes, even if they've been full of bad news lately.

I am currently reading This I Believe II. In it there is a letter from a woman who writes that this isn't the life she expected (nor would recommend). She says, "I believe we are all connected to one another, that we are not alone, even if we never meet, that we are all part of the human experience and the most we can do is give comfort to one another." These experiences have connected me to the greater human experience, allowed me to share and connect to each of you (even if we never meet). And in sharing, we find comfort.

Dreams

It's amazing how much power our dreams have. I was peaceful, dreaming of fun, laughing, really, really laughing. I remember rolling on the floor I was laughing so hard, something I haven't done in months.

And then I was caught in a forest fire, stuck as the flames came in around me. I had to drive through the fire to save my life. I remember screaming for help and the pain in my whole body. The pain was so so real. I woke up and was just afraid. I am still afraid. I don't want to relive that pain, so I don't want to fall back asleep. As good as dreams can be, they also have power to uncover our fears and make them more real than they are in the comfort of rationalization.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Today I am thankful for...

* Kellen's stuffed monkey that makes him laugh.

* Archiver's, the scrapbook store

* Eye drops

* Christmas music. I never listen to it until the Friday after Thanksgiving. But this year I've broken my rule!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving

In the spirit of thanksgiving, each day this week I'm going to post some things I am thankful for.

* My son, whose smile lights up this house.

* Gas prices falling below $2 even if I have a Prius.

* The beach... and that we are going to spend 5 days there next weekend.

* Shade, whose love is unconditional and who reminds me that you can find joy in the simplest of things

* Gerber Daisies... particularly pink ones.

* My new shoes

* The Boise community... and BSU football.

Moving on

It's almost been three months. We should be moving on, right?!

I feel like we are at a place now where people expect that we will have accepted our plight, dealt with it, and moved on. We are getting a beautiful, new house. We have a beautiful son. We should be happy.

Those are all of the shoulds. The reality is sometimes much different. I love my son and feel blessed to have such a beautiful baby. But I can't smile at him... in a time where smiling at him should be the only thing I want to do. I can't console him when he is crying because the ear pain is piercing, and the screaming is excruciating. I can watch my house be built, but I can't live there. I am stuck at the rental. I refuse to organize anything here because it's not my house, and we are moving soon. Even when we move in, there will still be moments of loss. Our sense of normal was taken from us. Every moment is different. We live in constantly abnormal-ness. Sitting on the concrete patio will be a reminder that we lost the wood deck that we built. Looking at the Japanese Maple we plan on planting will be a reminder that this is now our long-time home. We weren't going to plant that tree until we moved into a more permanent house. We have also lost our sense of security. When you drive home to your neighborhood on fire and then lose your house, every trip out feels like a risk. I am afraid of the heating pad for fear it will catch on fire. I worry that the flat iron was left on. I don't want candles. It's hard to live in that place, that level of awareness.

Fortunately Dan reminded me that our neighbors, particularly the wives, were all experiencing much of the same. I called one of our neighbors last night who reassured me that she was there. She also said that a friend who had lost their home said that this was normal. We will be forever defined by this moment. Our lives are completely different because of it. And it's ok... Normal even... that it is taking more than three months to be ok again.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rising

There is nothing like a morning reference to Nelson Mandela to put your challenges in perspective.

I was watching Good Morning America (just the tail end because Dan let me sleep last night!) and heard Nelson Mandela referenced. The speaker had sat next to him on a plane once. Diane Sawyer asks him if he asked Mandela how he endured his time in prison. The response was something to the effect of not being beaten by our circumstances and that our challenge is how we respond in times of crisis.

This of course made me wonder. Did Nelson Mandela have his dark moments? I am sure he did. Even as a strong person, difficult moments may temporarily defeat us. I don't mean to assume I know how he felt or dealt with his time in jail. But I just cannot imagine that he didn't have one moment in which he wondered why he was asked to carry this burden or endure this darkness. If only he had lived in a time and place to blog about his experience!! Then we could have lived that with him as opposed to keeping those moments private.

I have wondered if I am weak. Have I allowed this experience, these moments, to beat me? Am I as strong as I want to believe I am? Does writing about moments of self-pity expose me to my weaknesses?

I see this experience as a path that is forever unfolding. I will continue to learn and grow from it likely for the rest of my life. I cannot judge myself based on one day or one week. It's ok to have low moments. As Mandela said, "The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." I will rise from this experience. And I will be better for it. And it's ok if I don't always enjoy the ride.

****
This is my 100th post, which I think is pretty cool.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Some lessons

Yesterday I would have posted an entry titled, "Why me?" I didn't have access to the computer because I went to Sun Valley with my mom to get away and take a deep breath.

I am 26 and have been presented with so many lessons in that relatively short life. I feel like every time I get my life on course and feel happy something tragic happens... something major that takes me off course, makes me leave my joy and progress behind. My mom was commenting that many people don't start to recognize cycles of life lessons for many years. Mine are becoming readily apparent. I don't mean to sound self-indulgent or self-aggrandizing, but I feel like I was put on earth to do something big. I've felt that way since I was a small child. Perhaps I need to learn some of these lessons early to make room to accomplish those bigger things. But for whatever reason, this is where I am. While I have still had moments of self-pity today, it is better. And so I thought I would share some of the lessons I am learning out of this. (And yes, I really do sit around for hours everyday trying to process through the reasons why this stuff happens to me.)

- There is an amazing sense of loss when you wake up and can't feel one side of your face. But I am lucky. This loss is temporary. I will regain my facial movement and be able to smile again. I will be able to blink again. There are so many people who wake up everyday and have to endure pain or disfigurement that is permanent. And they put on a smile... whether it is inside or out... and walk through their day doing tremendous things. They are heroes and have great courage.

- We make such judgments about people based on how they look. I currently do not look approachable and even appear to be slow in my mental abilities. This perception has led people to treat me differently. They approach me as though I need help. My words are judged (since I fluff my "f"s and "b"s). This judgment is unfair, and we should be more careful of how we perceive others.

- We are so lucky to be alive everyday. But living in that consciousness is overwhelming. It is much easier to live obliviously and not focus on the fragility of our lives. I cannot yet decide if this has made me more likely to take risks (because I'm not a risk taker at all) or more cautious.

There are many other lessons, but those are the big ones from today.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I can't

"I can't" is a phrase I don't use. I try to eradicate it from my students' vocabularies. I was raised to believe I could do anything, and that attitude has gotten me a long way.

Today I said, "I can't." And then I started to cry. Given the stress of the fire, having a baby, and now my face being temporarily stuck, I had to take some time off work. But having to say "I can't" was so hard for me.

In the past I have run when I got overwhelmed. Instead of doing what I needed to do for myself, I would find an out. I don't know if I can recall a time where I walked in and said that I needed to take care of myself first. But I did today. And as hard as it was and as much as I cried and felt like I should take it all back, I am proud of myself for finally saying "today, this is what I need." I'm sure it is one of a thousand lessons in all of this.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

All smiles

I cherish my smile. It has always been big, gregarious even. It makes me appear friendly. Kids gravitate toward that friendly face. Half a smile is not attractive, does not exude friendliness. I think it makes me look scary, creepy, mentally challenged.

How ironic then that Kellen has started smiling. It's such a big event, one that should bring a smile to my face. It makes me smile inside, but I can't show that smile back. Developmentally, a kid's smile is supposed to make the parents smile which makes the child smile more. When I look at my son, he doesn't see a big smile... he sees creepy. Fortunately he smiles at objects as well, so I can keep him smiling. I hope it is simply a matter of weeks before I can smile back.

Anyway, here was my attempt at capturing his smile.





























Saturday, November 15, 2008

Paralyzed

I feel like the facial paralyzation is such a good metaphor for my life. Since the fire I've felt paralyzed. I don't feel like I can do anything or go anywhere without being consumed by the fire. Every step feels arduous. Nothing is involuntary. Every movement is deliberate and involves great thought to do even the of simplest things. And sometimes I think I am moving forward and instead I am standing still. I look in the mirror and I try so hard to smile or move my eyebrow. I think that maybe if I think hard enough about that muscle, it will move, even a millimeter. If I look at Dan and do it, I sometimes think it's actually moving. But it's not.

The smile on my face right now is probably a more accurate reflection of my insides. Instead of being big and exuding happiness as it has done for the last several months, as it always has, it is pained, lopsided, changed.

My eye is droopy as though it is melting off my face. How ironic. The fire melted my possessions. The palsy is melting my appearance. They have both melted my sense of self.

I have neglected my needs over the past 60+ days. No rest. No stopping. I was pregnant and now have an infant who needs me. We are building a house, and we have so many decisions to make, places to be. I am back to teaching... and even on maternity leave was working some. My kids, staff, parents need me at work. But the more I read about this condition, the more I realize that if I don't stop, don't take a break, a REAL BREAK, I could end up with permenant damage. I'm not sure I know how to take a break. And I know that the only way I can do it is by leaning on others, rejecting the notion that I alone can do it all. If I am unable to do that, I'm afraid I might be paralyzed forever.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pictures

First, Frankenstein:















I really am trying to smile here. What appears in the picture to be my left side (actually my right) is the affected side even though the right side looks funnier.

House update:
View from the right:











View from the left:











View of the entry from the second story hallway:











Our 18-foot master closet
















We're still hoping to be done sometime the first of January. More pictures to come soon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bell's Palsy

Remember my post about things happening in threes? Well, I've decided that things happen in 25s for me.

I woke up this morning and drank orange juice as normal. It tasted kind of strange, and I didn't finish it (which is unusual). I had breakfast and noticed a muted sensation when I ate and thought it was kind of weird but didn't give it much additional thought. While I was teaching reading, I noticed a weird sensation in my mouth but thought I needed chapstick. I came home to nurse at lunch and was doing funny faces for Kellen. I noticed that my smile felt funny so went to look at it in the mirror. I couldn't smile. I rolled my tongue to see if my tongue was having problems as well, and while I could roll it, it wasn't the same as my left side. Dan had run up to the house, so I called him to come home. I only had one class in the afternoon, so I thought I could go to school to teach that. As I was leaving, I noticed that I couldn't close my right eye all the way. I drove about a block before I realized I shouldn't be driving and turned around.

All the way to the ER I was thinking that I had suffered a stroke. One side of my face was acting paralyzed. I was reassured by the fact that I still had sensation in my cheeks if I lightly scratched it. When we got to the ER, the doctor came in almost immediately. I told him I was really scared. He said that he could reassure me immediately. It's Bell's Palsy. He said they see it about once a day and that it occurs in young, healthy people. I was so worried about having this lifelong inability to smile, but he said it was temporary and should go away in the next couple of weeks. Until then I have slight paralyzation in the right side of my face.

I am amazed at by lessons in my life showing me that I have no control. As we were leaving for the ER, I thought to myself that I couldn't control what happened, even if it was a life threatening thing. I was afraid that I wouldn't get my smile back, a smile that I love. But I told myself I would trade that for being there for my son as he grows up. It's another reminder that each day is a blessing and that we shouldn't take any time for granted. We have our lives and our families and our friends and a great community. And today I am grateful for that. Even if it took a paralyzed face to bring some of that back.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Fire"

I was at a presentation tonight for teachers. In the middle of the presentation, the presenter starts to give an example about our senses and chooses smelling smoke and a fire in the house as her example. This was a small group of teachers, all who knew my story, and I felt like maybe this presenter should have known better.

As soon as she said "smell smoke," my heart started racing. I actually plugged my ears because I was so stressed out about thinking about this imaginary fire and running out of the house. It is amazing to me that just the word caused such a reaction.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

First week back

It is truly the woman's dilemma.

I love what I do. I am a semester away from a Master's degree. I love working with kids with learning disabilities and ADHD. I love the intellectual part of reading research and figuring out how to best help kids. I remember the teachers who have made an incredible impact on me, and I hope to be that teacher for my kids.

But, I hate leaving Kellen at home. I miss him all day and worry about him. I can't wait to see him at lunch and am anxious to get home after school. I always knew leaving a kid at home would be hard, but it is 1000% times harder than I even imagined.

I have made it two days, and I will make it many more. And Kellen will be ok.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Giving Thanks

November is the month of thanks. I'm having a hard time doing so. I've been told by many that I have much to be thankful for, and I know that in the next year I will be able to look back and give thanks for those things. Right now I can't.

I told someone last week that one of the things you shouldn't say to someone in this situation is, "At least you are all ok" or "You have your lives." I recognize that we are lucky to have gotten out of the house. Saying those things make me relive the horror of sending my husband into the smoke and waiting for him, dry heaving, by the side of the road. There are days where I'm not all that thankful to be alive. I know that sounds harsh and dramatic. But the grief process is also harsh, and living is sometimes hard. I also think those comments diminish our loss, as though losing our home, possessions, and sense of peace and safety is somehow ok because we made it out.

I was talking to my mom about this tonight. She has been trying hard to help us move on. I'm not ready to move on. I'm angry. I'm sad. The first two months I was in shock and had a newborn. I am finally dealing with our loss and grieving... in a month where I am supposed to be thankful. We talked about the fact that people want to help, and they think that telling us it will be ok and will have a great house will help. And we always think that we need to have some response (trust me, I am that person). Sometimes we just need someone to listen (I'm not one of those people- listeners). But my emotions are so heavy, and I don't want to burden others with those feelings. Perhaps this blog is a way to diffuse the burden onto a lot of people so no one person has to carry it alone. I have friends who say to call anytime, but in my desperate and sad moments I don't feel like I can call anyone and instead feel very lonely.

I still haven't decided what to do for Thanksgiving. Hopefully this cloud won't last long. I don't want to become like Chandler from Friends and be known as the girl who hates Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Power of the written word

I love words. I love to read them, and I love to write them. In high school and college, I was a newspaper editor. In New York, I had done some freelance writing and was published. I had also attended a number of writing workshops, putting additional writing together for my portfolio. That writing portfolio was in my bookcase next to one of my favorite books: Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I also lost my journals. Even though I haven't always been overly diligent about journaling, I still had much there.

In addition to that writing, I was incredibly proud of my college papers. I received an A+ on a paper for a cultural and medical anthropology class. She was a difficult teacher, and I know there were not many As. I know we don't always like to admit to being prideful, but comments on my papers made me incredibly proud.

In the box I received yesterday were some early writings. I found a story written when I went to school in Boise in the 5th grade (the only year I went to school here). I currently teach in the classroom next to my 5th grade class (and my 5th grade teacher). It was submitted to a district contest, and there is a letter accompanying it from the district supervisor about my writing ability. There are also papers from pre-Kindergarten where I write about "scgatig wit mie fend." I guess I wasn't always a good writer.

Of the many hats I wear, writer is one that I am comfortable in (and have found my voice again in this tragedy). Losing a lot of my writing made me feel as though I had lost some of my identity. This stuff makes me feel as though I may be starting to get some of it back (and the blog helps as well).

Friday, November 7, 2008

My past

I hope I've given the impression that I am a collector of my past. I am. I held onto everything, and I was sad to lose so much of what built my identity. I am still that person without that stuff, although I somehow feel as though I've lost some of me in the ashes.

Today I got a package from my mom with some of that stuff, some of my past. When I was deciding what I wanted from my mom's house when I moved out after college I left behind much. It was the stuff that wasn't as important. It's amazing how important it is to me now.

She sent me t-shirts. MY T-SHIRTS! There is something so comforting about an old shirt with holes and memories (see post on Clothes). I now have a few of those comforting feelings back and am writing this while wearing one of my shirts. (Oh how good it feels to write the word "my".) I can drop food on them or get stains on them and not feel like I'm "ruining my new clothes."

She found a yearbook from my freshman year of high school. Apparently I had an extra.

I got a book of poetry I wrote when I was 15, poems about love. As embarrassing as they are, I am so glad to have them (see post on Contents).

I received a Cabbage Patch doll. My collection now stands at two.

I got pictures: my Kindergarten class photo, my high school band photo.

I haven't even gotten through it all, but I am so excited to have this box. One box of my past. The amazing thing is that I had forgotten about all of this stuff, but I knew immediately what it was upon seeing just hints (like the orange three ring binder). What am I forgetting that was in my house?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Back to work

August 25th was my first day of school. I had been working most of August to get my room set up and start getting my curriculum in place. I was planning on doing some preliminary testing of students the first week. That night derailed all of my plans. I couldn't make the changes I had planned on making. I was literally just trying to put one foot in front of the other and not break down in the process.

My maternity leave ends Monday (yes, it has been six weeks... unbelievable!). Parent-teacher conferences were this week, and I've been at school every day until close to eight. I will likely be working on school and curriculum all weekend.

I am looking forward to working with my students again, though I am sad about leaving Kellen. I worried initially that because of the house, the baby, and teaching that I wouldn't be able to juggle all three parts of my life and do each well. However, I've found that teaching is a great distraction from all that has been going on and is a nice break from the last two months. It is my hope that Monday, my first day back, is much less eventful than August 25.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Blog

Many thanks to Danielle and Blogs by Danielle for this fabulous blog design!! My eyes have been opened to a whole new digital scrapbooking world. Yikes! I've set up an email account: life_after_the_fire@yahoo.com and welcome emails. I may not get back to you immediately, but I will respond (and bug me if I don't). Also, I hadn't realized before that you had to register to leave comments, so that has now been fixed and anyone can comment. We will also try to post pictures as the house gets built in the sidebar. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I'll be home for Christmas

I'm dreamin' tonight of a place I love
Even more then I usually do
And although I know it's a long road back
I promise you

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents under the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light beams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

I'll be home for Christmas. Even if our home isn't finished and we aren't moved in, I'll be home for Christmas. I plan on setting up a tree in the new house and putting campfire chairs around the tree. We will open presents and have our stuffed french toast Christmas breakfast up there. I will write much about Christmas in the next two months, but know, I'll be there... not only in my dreams.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hero

All of us are presented with moments in which to be a hero. My biggest moment was a year ago when I came across a middle school boy in the road who had fallen off his skateboard and was laying face down, unconscious. I thought he was playing a joke at first and almost didn’t stop. It’s a good thing I did. I wasn’t prepared for that moment. I don’t know if we ever are. It’s true that we have a choice of what to do and whether to step up as the hero. But ethically, I don’t know if we have a choice. We are duty bound to be the hero.

There are so many who have stepped up to be our heroes. Their deeds highlight their noble qualities. Some of these heroes are duty bound by their occupation: firemen, police officers. And yet, some have stepped up beyond that role and filled a void in our community to ensure that those of us in these situations are taken care of in the immediate aftermath. Others simply stepped up because they were neighbors, and they felt a responsibility to protect us, or coordinate for us, or hydrate us. Our community members held us up, gave us strength. Some of my heroes have just given me the space to cry and the shoulder to hold my tears. All of them, all of you, have made us stronger. You are our heroes. And so are our neighbors, who put one foot in front of the other every day, who rebuild, who share their stories.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween

I have been planning for Kellen's first Halloween before I even found out I was pregnant. I had bought a pumpkin outfit last October when it was on sale. It was the month we had been on fertility meds. I bought the outift in size 0-3 months, which actually wouldn't have been the right size had we gotten pregnant that month. When I found out in January that we were expecting, I realized that all my clothes that I had bought before getting pregnant were the perfect size. I commented about how happy I was that he would be able to wear the cute "Baby's First Christmas" onesie that I had bought at the Gap and the Halloween clothes. How ironic.

I was so excited for Kellen's first Halloween. It would be low-key. Dan was supposed to be in class. It was a mostly online psychology class that met in person once a month. I would be on maternity leave. And we would go to a few neighbor houses and then pass out candy.

Instead we spent the day visiting various people and picking out stone for the house. We actually lost part of his costume in the process, which was really upsetting (more so given my unstable emotional state at the moment). We went by the house and then stopped by to see some of the people who have helped out the last two months. A few people weren't home. It wasn't the Halloween I planned, but we made it work.

I am worried about Thanksgiving and Christmas. The first year in our home, right after we were married, Dan and I hosted our first Thanksgiving. I cooked my first turkey in that house (which took a lot longer than I had planned). I used my Bride and Groom Cookbook to try a new Cranberry Sauce recipe. It wasn't my favorite. Last year I had Dan's family and some friends over. I remember finding a native American Thanksgiving prayer. I had kept it for use later. I know that I have much to give thanks for... but I sometimes have a hard time finding those things in my lower moments. We had bought a Pottery Barn table to replace the one that had been left behind by the previous homeowners. The other table had been held together with duct tape and a fifth leg in the middle. It took us almost a year to discover that. I won't get to host Kellen's first Thanksgiving. I had worked hard to start creating those traditions for our family. It's like pumpkin patch picking and carving. I just couldn't carve pumpkins this year. We don't have the space, and I didn't have the time (which has nothing to do with the baby). I feel like my traditions are on hold.

Christmas is another post. I almost can't talk about it. I can't believe tomorrow is the start of November. The holidays will be hard. This year it might just be enough if I can find the strength to put one foot in front of the other for two months. Right now it's not taking it one day at a time. One day is too long. There are times where it is literally taking one moment at a time, making the choice to continue on for just one more minute until the sadness passes. Kellen's monkey costume made those moments easier. I hope that tomorrow will bring more of the clouds lifting.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The grief cycle

When the Statesman reporter came to talk to us after Kellen was born she told me that she read my blog and could see the grief cycle when looking at it objectively and in its entirety. I just re-read my entire blog and am surprised by my frame of mind at different points. This week has been really hard. I am starting to see the toll this is taking on me emotionally and on our relationship. Like I said yesterday, I was surprised by how angry I was when I started talking about our loss. I've cried more this week than I have since the first week. The grief cycle isn't linear. There are moments of acceptance, moments of anger, moments of incredible denial. And I wonder how long we will continue to cycle.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bad day

I was talking to someone yesterday about the intangible effects of the fire. I've felt "fine" for the last several weeks (minus the morning that I smelled and saw smoke). Something about vocalizing those effects made me incredibly angry, and the more I talked, the more upset I got. I walked away a little shaken up. Apparently writing this blog isn't the same as talking (or yelling) it out.

But I still didn't really address my feelings yesterday, so I woke up in an incredibly grouchy mood this morning. It wasn't the day to have the Dell guy take up three hours of our morning. It wasn't the day to go to the house to see that our balcony-turned-enclosed-bump-out had incredibly SMALL windows on the side. It's pretty hard to have a view of downtown when your windows look up at the sky and are freaking SMALL. I had such plans to get stuff done today. And instead I just felt angry and got little accomplished.

Speaking of which, I really need to get more of this inventory done for insurance. I can't wait for that to be done...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pictures

Since Kellen is a month old, I thought I would post some pictures from the last month.








































So Cool!

Kellen is one month old today. It's amazing how much he's grown in a month and how much has happened for us this last month. I can't believe I have to go back to work in 2 weeks.

Amazingly though, Kellen being a month old is not what's so cool. We got home today to find a package from Marc Brown in the mail. For those who don't know... he is the author of the Arthur series of books for kids. My first ever autographed book was a Marc Brown book. I believe he came to a scholastic book fair at our school, but I'm not certain. So I excitedly open the package in disbelief. Did HE send me this book? Inside is Arthur's New Puppy, signed for Kellen with a picture. I am in tears. I don't know who arranged this for us, but Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, Thank You. I cannot begin to explain how much this means to me.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Two months

Scenario A:
I drive home. On the way up the hill, I pass by the location where I helped a junior high boy who had crashed his skateboard and was unconscious when I got there. I drive past the few dozen homes on the way to ours and notice the leaves turning from green to red to orange before slowly falling onto the still green grass below. I pull into my driveway of my first home with Dan. It's an italian-inspired three bedroom with custom tile. I think of our deck that we hand-built and how much I can't wait until next summer to see the plants from this spring take root in the railroad-tie retaining wall and start their slow decent down to the deck. I'm excited. Kellen is here and we are leisurely enjoying our time together while I'm off on maternity leave. Dan is in school, but we have the days together as his classes don't start until 3:15. Every time I walk by Kellen's nursery I am proud. This junk room is now a bedroom, a sign of the reality that we are now a family of three. I am planning Halloween, Christmas. Dan and I talk about our plans in 3 or 4 years. I might start my Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a focus on child development. We would have to move. Either way, in 3 years, we will have outgrown our house and will need to move. It will mean new neighbors, a new start as our family expands.

Scenario B:
August 25. A fire. Total loss. A community of support. New friends made in the middle of tragic conditions. Moving to a new house, a rental that someone will try to break into in the early morning hours of October 25. Kellen will not be home until January or February. I spend my maternity leave looking at price lists, trying to inventory my losses. We take Kellen to pick out windows, doors, carpet, hardwood. The sleepless nights seem like nothing. We've been through so much and lost sleep over more. We are building a house to grow into- 5 bedrooms. We talk about the reality that this could be our forever house, the one that our kids return to as adults with their children. We think about our life in Boise, where our kids will go to school, what Dan will do. We talk about Ph.D. options since there is no psych program here.

There have definitely been other defining moments of my life. Every moment is theoretically defining I suppose. But often we do not see those crossroads until many years later when we reflect upon our choices and our realities. This moment has been a defining moment in my life, and I knew it as soon as it happened. It has fundamentally altered the direction of our lives. We know we will not move for many years. What would that move have meant? Kellen has been in the spotlight. How will that affect his life? Charlie, the fireman, asked me if this change in course was good or bad or just different. It's just different. We don't have the option of living the life the other way. I have no way of judging its relative goodness or badness because I don't know what things would have been like otherwise. It just is. And I will make this path good. Knowing that doesn't stop me from thinking about my other life, life without the fire.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Experiment

We were talking to our neighbor today, and she was telling me how she tries to describe doing the insurance list to others. I challenge you to think about it (and maybe even try) because I think it is the best way to understand just how difficult the contents list is.

Walk into your kitchen. Look through all the cabinets, pantries, refrigerators. Walk out. Wait 1 minute, 5 minutes, 1 hour, or 1 day. Then write down everything that was in there. Take your list back into the kitchen. See what you missed. I bet it's maybe a little more than half of what you had. If the whole kitchen seems too daunting, try one pantry. If you really want a challenge, just write down what you think is in your kitchen before you look.

We don't have the luxury of getting to look just one more time. And we don't get to say the whole kitchen is too much, we'll just do the pantry. We have to do the whole house. And whatever we miss is money we can't claim. If it seems daunting, it is. It is.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Range Management

This may seem a little off topic, but I've been thinking about it lately, and I think that our fire demonstrates why range management is so important.

The land below the homes on which the power lines sat was poorly managed (from what I understand). The brush was thick and hadn't been cleared in years. There was one small patch where horses were kept, and they grazed that small amount of land. The area where the horses grazed wasn't burned in the fire. This scenario plays out in a much greater area all over this state and others. There are thousands upon thousands of acres of undeveloped desert land with sagebrush everywhere.

My grandparents and aunt/uncle are cattle ranchers. Their cattle graze on some of this land, much of it public BLM land. Many people are upset about the fact that cattle are allowed to graze on public lands. But the reality is that we need them to graze this land because otherwise it becomes a fire hazard. I've witnessed a few of these large brush fires that burn way more than a small little area like under our homes. The animals that graze truly protect this land. I wish that more of the land below us had been grazed. It might have saved our homes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Planner!

I loved my planner. It was a light blue Franklin Covey planner with a small brown leather strap. I had used the Blooms inserts but changed to a different design this last July. It was purple and pink. I kept the previous years dates to refer back to. They were stored in my bedroom. I had codes to Dance Dance Revolution in there. I was addicted to Dance Dance Revolution (even though I wasn't playing while pregnant). I kept track of all my tutoring time in there. I felt like without it I didn't know left from right (though if I'm really honest, I don't know my left from my right- it's a flaw, I know!). My mom said that one of her first thoughts after the fire was that I wouldn't have lost my planner because I would have had it with me. I'm kind of surprised I didn't. But we were just running a quick errand, so it didn't seem to be a big deal to take it with me.

A week after the fire I went to Franklin Covey to replace the planner. I spent 30 minutes there and couldn't pick anything out. I didn't want any of the binders. I wanted mine back. They had one similar to mine but the colors were different. I would have picked the pink one, but it was sort of the color of a muted Pepto Bismol. So I've been planner-less for 6 weeks. I've felt kind of lost.

Today I went back to Franklin Covey. They got a new binder. It's pink and brown mostly. It isn't exactly what I wanted. I have to use a spiral bound planner insert, but it's do-able. It almost makes me happy. Of course the new planner insert doesn't start until January, so I had to get a partial insert for the rest of the year.

My planner tracks my life. I feel like I can start to have one now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Walls




Walls have such immense meaning. They give us boundaries, defined space, both internally and externally. We build walls for protection. Sometimes these walls keep us hidden, away from that which we probably need to confront. But we build them anyway. When we tore down the old walls, we opened ourselves up to a huge community of support and love. We stood completely vulnerable, but we were embraced and protected by new walls. As we build our new house and put up new walls, we remind ourselves to remain open. These walls mean so much to me. I have a space. I have a home. I may not be able to live in it yet, but the walls define my space, and I feel at peace for it.