Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tearing down

We got to the house early this morning to get things set up. We were expecting around 20-30 people and wanted to organize as best we could. Of course the best laid plans never quite work out... a lesson I have learned in a very hard way this week.

The first group of people showed up shortly after nine, and we figured out the best way for them to help. We had thought we would shovel into buckets and sort, but that didn't seem very efficient. We were concerned about tennis shoes because of nails, but that didn't seem to deter people from heading in to the garage and pulling things out from the house.

Early on we found a pocket of photos that a girl helped sort through. We found broken china and some candlesticks. Someone also unloaded the dishwasher for us. All in all we ended up with about 15 buckets of "salvageable" material. I told one person that there was really a difference between salvageable and recognizable. I would say that most of the items fell into the latter category rather than the former.

We had 40 people come throughout the day, and we were mostly finished by noon. At least half of the people who came were people we had never met or only recently met because of the fire. It was so completely overwhelming to have such an outpouring of support. We are so thankful to everyone who came out. Thank you to friends and family who came out. I am so grateful to the high school girl who sorted through my photos and separated them so they could dry. We had a boy from Timberline come who worked so incredibly hard. Apparently he found out he didn't have to work today so threw on some clothes to join his mom. A local neighbor ensured that everyone had water and continued to stock the neighborhood cooler. One statesman reporter came out, not to report, only to help. Another reporter did do some reporting, but mostly he just sifted through the debris and ash.

By the end of the day, the floorboards had been removed, the debris had been moved to the side, and the entire crawlspace was exposed. I thought we wouldn't be done by tomorrow afternoon, and instead we have little to nothing left to do. I have some sorting, but that is an individual task.

Seeing the foundation with nothing else was the only time I cried today. Insulation hugs the side in some places but the concrete is mostly just bare. It echoes emptiness.

Of the things we recovered, I want to tell you about two of them:

- We found 16 pearls from a pearl necklace and matching pearl earrings. My dad bought them many years ago when he was in Hong Kong. When I was 18, he was diagnosed with stage IV non-hodgkin's lymphoma, and I moved to Boise to be his primary caregiver. At the end of the summer, he gave me the pearls. Two years later during his second relapse, he moved to Washington, D.C., to live with me while he was being treated at UVa in a Clinical Trial. The clinical trial has been successful, and my dad is still here. Having those pearls, though, is incredibly important to me. I don't have the whole strand, but I have enough to recreate a beautiful piece of jewelry that will be a tribute to my dad and the hardships we endured together.


- A letter from my grandfather. His handwriting is impeccable and truly beautiful. I didn't have much from him to begin with, but those letters were a connection to him, especially after he died of bladder cancer. To have one letter he wrote me means so much.

Photos from the Statesman can be found at:
http://www.idahostatesman.com/258/gallery/489349-a489345-t3.html

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Update to sorting plans and other needs

We always want to start by thanking those who have donated and offered help. I know I have said it a million times, but we are so overwhelmed by the generosity of those in this community and beyond. My sister has been incredible in coming up with a list of things that we lost. I had great socks... I really love fuzzy socks and colorful Gap socks. She went out and bought me some socks that my mom brought out. (Oh yeah... my mom got here today. Everyone needs their mom during these kinds of things!!) She also remembered our toasting flutes from our wedding and got them re-engraved.

As far as the things that we no longer need:
- We have been offered so many cribs. We are set on a crib.
- We also have a swing, bouncer, and high chair.
- We have received a lot of baby clothes.

If you have those items to donate, City Lights (I believe) is an organization for women and children through the Boise Rescue Mission. The Interfaith Sanctuary has a family room and takes in homeless families. The Ronald McDonald House is also a great place to take items. BabySteps is an organization that helps young mothers.

REGARDING TOMORROW: We are planning on getting started tomorrow at 9. We may be a little disorganized as first, but we will get it figured out. What we need:
- Shovels
- Masks
- Rakes
- Brooms
- Gloves
- Trash Cans
- We are hoping to have some kind of a dumpster, but we will figure it out if not
- Coolers with water
- Wipes
- Food
- Folding Lawn Chairs

Nanny

Dan and I had a solid plan of juggling the baby between my teaching and his school. Now that he has to work on the rebuild, we are struggling to figure that out. We need some nanny recommendations so we can start looking into people to hire. We don't know exactly what the hours are going to be yet. I would prefer someone young(er), maybe a college student or someone who has taken some college classes in education or early childhood. Let us know if you have someone that you would recommend.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Attitude

I was just reading a letter by one of our neighbors and was reminded of how important attitude is during an event like this. I have stopped and talked with many people and written to family and friends about this very thing. Many people wonder how we can all be reacting in such a seemingly strong and collected way. For me, it's a choice. Amazingly when we saw the fire across the street and Dan ran into get the dog and our photos, I did not panic. I tried to get in (which wasn't very smart). When we got to our friend's house, I thought maybe then I would. But I've been working very hard on accepting what is and not allowing myself to get anxious. I reminded myself that I had absolutely no control over whether that fire burned my home. I trusted that the fire department would do what they could, and I said that we would deal with whatever happened when we knew. And even once we knew, I wasn't overly reactive. It was what it was. Other than maybe yesterday, I have been able to stand back and accept what my life is now. I had no choice over whether the fire destroyed my house. But I do have a choice in how I respond. I can choose to be immobilized or I can choose to move forward and find the humor and the light in this situation. I choose the light.

One of those things has been the incredible outreach of this community. I truly have no words to describe how overcome I am by the generosity of others... of people who don't know me or have any connections to me other than being members of this community. A woman stopped me at Babies R Us today to let me know that she had purchased our high chair along with another woman and that it was being stored there. It's just incredible.

I have people calling asking what they can do to help, what we need, if we can use their condos. I really hate saying no (I've always had a problem). But I also don't want to take what others can use. There are so many organizations out there right now who are in need. If it's something we can't use, please consider them. I am going to try to post some other organizations that donate to women who are pregnant or have young children in the coming days so that some of the offered items can perhaps go to them.

Thank you all for making this a wonderful community to live in.

Our nursery

I just looked at the pictures of the nursery. I feel really sick. I had forgotten about the picture on the wall of the sleeping baby that hung in my bedroom until I left for college. While I know there is nothing I can do about it, it still just rips out your heart.

Here are the pictures of what our nursery had looked like. The playyard and other stuff was off to the side.
















































































































Some things that we lost:
Star bumper from Restoration Hardware
Star Pillow from Restoration Hardware
Baskets and liners from Restoration Hardware
Curtains from Restoration Hardware
Star Mobile from Babies R Us
Star pillow from Babies R Us
Dutailier Glider from Babies R Us
Nature's Purest Playyard from Babies R Us
Amby Baby Hammock
Metal stars from Bed Bath and Beyond
Star stick-ons for fan from Craft Warehouse
Diaper bag from Macys
Diaper Dude for Dan with guitars from diaperdude.com

Irreplaceables:
Hand-me down dresser- third generation
Hand-me down rocking chair
Hand-me down toy chest
Handmade blanket from my childhood with Bambi that I basically wore out
Hand knitted blanket from my mom
Sleeping baby picture that hung in my room as a child
White stuffed bear brought back this summer from Peru from mom
Cabbage patch kid collection from my childhood
Marc Brown book signed by the author when I was in the third grade
Sweaters knitted by my mom and worn by me as a child

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Overwhelmed

I think there is only one way to describe today... completely overwhelmed in absolutely every way.

When I woke up this morning, I was overwhelmed by the people offering us continued support. I have cried at the house several times, but today I cried because of the outpouring of love. I just can't believe what is being done for us, in this community and beyond.

The list of to-dos is also overwhelming. Thankfully we have so many offers of people who are willing to call businesses on our behalf to find out what we need to do. It is amazing the "strangers" who call up offering to do things for us. I have so many new names written in my notebook. It's just so incredible.

We registered at Bed Bath and Beyond today. I believe it is online. The reality of our loss hit me very hard during that time. I looked up at a wall with at least 50 spatulas on it and couldn't decide what I wanted. All I could think is, "But I liked my spatula better." It was also very hard to put things on to replace what we lost. We just bought a Dyson vacuum a couple of weeks ago. I have allergies, and it really helped to keep the hair and dust up. The guilt though doesn't seem to go away. The manager at Bed Bath and Beyond was amazing and gave us a gift card. We were able to buy pillows, REAL PILLOWS to sleep with. We allowed ourselves to get nice ones as sleep is so critical to us right now. Pillows are also incredibly important to a pregnant woman.

Being pregnant is also very overwhelming right now. There is so much that I need to do, and it involves being on the go all the time. I'm not hungry, but I have to think of what the baby needs and force myself to eat. Alone I could go on little sleep. Pregnant I cannot. I want to sift through the remainders of my past, but the air is so toxic that I really shouldn't.

And speaking of being pregnant, I had a doctor appointment today. I am measuring a little ahead, but everything else looks great. At the end of our appointment, we were taken into a back room where they had planned a baby shower for us. It was absolutely unbelievable. The staff of Treasure Valley Women's Health at St. Als had a table overflowing with gifts. They also had a cake for us. It is amazing how much was put together for us in such a short time... and to think I almost canceled my appointment because I was so tired. We have gone through a few gifts and are just so overwhelmed by the generosity of others.

I know we will continue to feel overwhelmed... not only with the work that is to be done but also with the outpouring from the community. This is an absolutely amazing place, and we are so fortunate to be surrounded and supported by you.

Labor Day Weekend Plans

We will be sifting through rubble on Sunday and Monday and would love any help that we could get. Because of city codes, we cannot use a back-ho like was previously planned, so we will be shoveling out debris into small piles for people to sift through and put anything that is recognizable into boxes. We will start around 9 a.m. on Sunday and work until at least 5. It is probably best to come in shifts of two hours to conserve energy (emotional and physical) as well as resources.

We will need shovels, gloves, wheelbarrows, boxes (or plastic tubs), and masks. We would also be really grateful if someone could bring in some food for those helping out.

Times:
Sunday
9-11
11-1
1-3
3-5

Monday
9-11
11-1
1-3
3-5

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Assistance

We have been asked by everyone what they can do to help. First, let me say THANK YOU. Losing everything has been an overwhelming experience, and the support of our friends, family, and community has been unbelievable, not to mention some internet support from a group of pregnant women I have befriended. It is not the easiest thing to take a "hand-out" particularly when you are accustomed to being so self-sufficient. But we are learning an incredible lesson in this, and it is very very humbling. We know that had this happened to others that we would be there ready to help as well, and we know that our turn will come one day to help others. That is the nature of being a part of a community, and it is what has made ours so great. (We will be posting a list of thank yous soon for what we have already received. Please know we are so grateful.)

Immediate needs:
We have a place to stay, have gotten some supplies donated for our pets, and we have access to food. Dan and I have even gotten a few outfits, and bought real stuff to take a shower with this morning.

What we need in the next week is more clothes for Dan, especially stuff for rummaging through rubble. I think a lot of clothes have been donated, and we are waiting to hear when we can come get some things. He wears a 36-38 in shorts/pants and is a L in shirts. We do need to get underwear, so gift cards would also be greatly appreciated.

We also need shovels and gloves... and if you are willing, labor. We are planning to start sifting through the ash to recover anything we can this weekend (Sunday and Monday). If you are willing to donate a shovel for the weekend, please be sure to label with your name and contact information so we are sure to get it back to you. Boxes would also really help as well as gloves. We are planning to pick up boxes of masks to ensure that no one has to breathe the nasty air.

We would also ask that you please be considerate when viewing the damage. While we understand the curiosity and appreciate the support, we also need to ensure that essential persons (homeowners, fireman, insurance adjusters, demo crews) can access our street and homes. I would ask that those viewing the properties not park in front of any of the damaged homes. Please respect our property as well. Many of the sites are not really safe, particularly because of the amount of nails that are sitting around. The ash may look like just that, but to us, it is our life and keepsakes. Please let us sort through it.

Short-term needs:
Over the next month, many of the families will need continued access to food. We have no flour, no spices, no bread. It is probably best to get things like gift cards to grocery stores so that we can ration the food over the next month or so and not have spoilage. Restaurant gift cards are also helpful. Many of us have limited cooking supplies. Additionally, our days are very long and filled with many appointments and to-dos (which never seem to quite get done). This is a great way to take some stress off what needs to be done for the day.

Baby needs- We had finished our nursery and had our baby shower, and now we are starting over with 6 weeks left until this child arrives. We are in the process of updating our baby registry at Babies R Us with the items we lost and those we need that we hadn't anticipated needing until we lost many hand-me-downs. We are registered under Brooke Linville and the registry number is 44161686. Dan and I are fairly environmentally conscious, so we are planning to cloth diaper (though disposables are still welcome).

Long-term needs:
Clothes for Brooke. We have received many maternity clothing donations. I am hoping that I will fit back into regular clothes sooner rather than later. I lost all of my regular clothes and will have nothing for the winter. It is hard to say what size I will be, so gift cards are again a good option. I also don't have things like nursing bras.

Construction: Dan and I did many do-it-yourself projects, and we plan on being very involved in the rebuilding of our home. Home Depot (or Lowes) gift cards would be fantastic. We will need things like a lawn mower and tools among many other things.

Other: I am an avid book person and lost many autographed copies of books as well as classic hardcovers. It is unbelievable that I have none left and am literally starting a library over. We also lost all of our movies and CDs. I am planning on setting up a registry on Amazon.com for anyone who is interested. That should be up in the next day or two. We are also registering at Bed, Bath, and Beyond with all of the other homeowners tomorrow (hangers, linens, pillows, etc).

That is all I can think of for now, though I am sure that there is more. Above all else, we need your support and are overwhelmed by how much has been done for us already. We are certainly loved and blessed in so many incredible ways.

Our address remains the same for now (3417 Sweetwater Boise, ID 83716), and we will be able to pick things up from the post office, UPS, and FedEx.

Donations are being accepted by the Boise Fire Department (Burn out fund) and American Red Cross.

The damage

I can't write about the damage nearly as well as these photos can describe:

The view from the front:














Our kitchen:














The unloaded dishwasher:














Our dining room:















Dan digging through the ash:














The standing wall:



















What remains of the nursery:















My clothes:














Dan's electric guitar, saved by the firemen:














The remaining wood deck:














Ironic page out of a book:














The "unblemished" part:














Another ironic keepsake, sent in an entirely different situation:














Our home:

August 25

August 25 was the first day of school. I got to school early and had scheduled a massage that afternoon. It was such a great day, and I remember feeling that I was so relaxed, for the first time in a couple of weeks.

When I got home that night, Dan and I needed to run some errands. We decided while we were out to stop and get dinner. When we walked out of the restaurant, we noticed that the wind was really gusty and commented about the crazy weather. We had a last minute errand that needed to be run, and then we were headed home. As we drove along Federal Way, we could see smoke, and my heart started to race. I couldn't be certain, but the smoke looked very close to our neighborhood. As we got closer, we could tell that it was below the homes on the hill, and we thought we were safe. We thought maybe it was just a house fire. Regardless, we hurried home, taking a back route to get there faster as we could see people were already starting to flood the area.

As we pulled into the neighborhood, the smoke was getting pretty thick. I could barely see a firetruck that was parked on the corner. I had planned on going to the house with Dan to get the animals and some keepsakes, but the smoke was too thick, so I dropped Dan off. I told him to get the dog, the cat, and the photos. I turned around and tried to see if I could get through another way. I got to the corner of Sweetwater and Immigrant's Pass and could see people evacuating. A neighbor came out telling us that another neighbor's home was on fire and to get out. At this time, the fire batallion chief drove by and announced the evacuation order. The fire seemed to be contained to one or two rim homes and more firetrucks were on their way. I had talked to my husband who said he had the dog and was grabbing photos. He couldn't find the cat. His phone was dying, and this was the last phone conversation. I waited at the exit to the road. I kept trying to call him, at one point leaving a message screaming, "GET OUT." The evacuation order was spreading and seemed to be getting more urgent. I waited some more. I had called a friend who offered her home for us to wait it out in. I told her I didn't know where my husband was or where the fire was. Finally, Dan emerged with the dog. He couldn't get the cat. The only solace we had was that she was outside and hopefully would flee.

We went to our friend's house and waited. My husband wanted to watch the news coverage. I couldn't bear to do it. It's one thing to lose your home. It's quite another to watch it happen. So I sat on the couch holding on to the little bit of hope that one can find in those moments. I had my dog and was hoping my cat was safe. Both my husband and I were ok. Those were good things. I also reminded myself that I had no control over the situation, and that we would deal with whatever happened.

We started getting calls about 8:30 and assured everyone that we were indeed out and ok and that "yes, that is our street." My mom was in Sweeden, planning to return to the states the next day. I looked up her hotel information and called her, asking the receptionist what time it was there. 4:10, she said (9:10 our time). The phone rang, and my very tired step-dad answered the phone. I told my mom about the fire and that we didn't know if we still had a home. She turned on her cell phone, and I promised to touch base.

My husband and friend's husband decided to return to the neighborhood to see if they could get any additional information. Around 9:30 we got the call that the police were checking to see if we still had a home. I said aloud, "I have about 3 more minutes of hope, and then I will know." And then we did. Total devastation.

We have spent the last 48 hours figuring out how to rebuild a life. Everything from our past, with the exception of a few photo albums, was gone. The picture frame in our living room with our wedding photo that would soon be replaced with an 8x10 family photo. The engraved toasting flutes from our wedding. The dresser in the nursery that had been passed down from my grandfather to my dad to me that we had just painted. The coming home outfit for our son that I had put so much thought into. The Christmas stocking for my husband that I had just finished quilting. The books... the books, especially the ones that authors had signed over the years. The antique cameras that had been given to us from various family over the years. Literally, everything.

Intent

Thank you for visiting our blog. We hope that this will provide a place for friends and family to come to get updates and find out how they can best help and provide support. We know that everyone wants to know how we are doing, so this is the best (and most efficient) way for us to get out information to you. Thank you for all of your kind words and support. Rebuilding is going to take time, and there are many things that we won't ever be able to get back. But we will survive this... and our kid is going to have one heck of a story when he gets older!!