Monday, September 29, 2008

Last names

Dan and I were married in a beautiful ceremony in October of 2006... it's almost been 2 years. After we got married, I thought about changing my name but didn't know if I really wanted to. I'd had this identity for 24 years. I wrote some after college and had bylines with my maiden name. I was used to it. It was who I was. Changing my name to something else seemed to change my identity... and I guess in a way, my identity was changing. I just never thought it would be a big deal.

I guess you don't ever expect to be thrust into the center of a story like this and all of a sudden have to defend a choice. I knew when the baby came that I would likely use Thurber socially but keep Linville professionally. It's not that uncommon back east. I may, however, change it now or at least hyphenate it. We are a family... and I don't want others to assume we aren't simply because my name is different.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Kellen Duncan Thurber

Our baby boy was born this morning at 7:42. He weighs 7lbs 13oz and is 20.5 inches long. We had a long night of labor, but we couldn't be happier. We are so in love with our son, and I can't wait to post pictures!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Waiting for baby

We think the baby could be on his way. Of course I'll say that and it will be another couple of days!! We are currently taking guesses on date, time, and size! We'll post more when he gets here!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

One month

Sometimes months fly by and you wonder where the time went. There are moments where I feel like this last month has flown by and just been a whirlwind. There are other moments where I feel as though I've lived a lifetime in the course of one short month. I think the rest of the time I just let time go by... certainly not as an idle participant but without thinking much about it. Some of the lessons of the last month:

- Living in a smaller community can be a great thing. I have seen such goodness in people, and it is amazing that it has continued as long as it has. I thought for sure that the community would have forgotten about us by now, but I continue to be amazed by the continued outpouring of support.

- Sometimes people react in ways you don't expect. We have been amazed by the people who have stepped up to help us. Family members who we don't talk to much have shown up to help while others have yet to call us even a month later. We have gotten cards and donations from acquaintances and strangers and yet some friends have remained distant, almost ignoring the loss. I have learned that family means more than who you are biologically related to. And my family has grown exponentially in the last month.

- I have learned that kids have such promise. We should never forget the idealism of a young child. Their hearts are the most innocent among us, and their approach to life has truly so much to teach those of us who are hardened by the realities of life.

- I need a home. I've always known that I liked being home more than not. I was born in July; I'm a cancer. We're home people. Even when I lived in New York, I would rather have stayed in my apartment than gone out every weekend. Perhaps it's why I decided to leave. Even though we have a place, it's not home... I won't allow it to be. Rebuilding our home will make me feel secure again, will give me a place to center myself. Maybe I need to learn how to find that center without a structure, but for now, that's what I need.

Had the fire not happened, I would be sitting around waiting for this baby, blissfully unaware of what life could have been. I don't want to say I'm glad that it happened because I'm not. And I don't think that coming out of it stronger makes it ok. But I do think that you have to take what you are given and make the best of it. This is our path now. And it's our job to make it through it... and be better for it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cards

I have kept cards for forever. I think I had birthday cards from young childhood. I kept them in a couple of boxes in a closet or in the attic. The attic was the first place to catch fire, so those are gone. We did find some interesting cards when sorting (most of which I still haven't done). I also had a bulletin board with wedding cards that were slowly being changed to baby cards. The circle of life is somewhat amazing.

Losing these cards has been really difficult for me, even if the cards just said "Happy Birthday." It was always a reminder of those who cared about me and were a bright spot in some lonelier moments in my college years.

I now have a new card collection. I have been keeping them in a file folder, but it is outgrowing its location. I think I will try to find a box for cards today. If my cards before were a reminder of those who cared about me, these are a reminder of the support of our friends, family, friends of friends and family, and community members who have never met us. For as sad as I am to have lost my cards, these ones are a reminder of something maybe even better. We are a part of a larger community. And without that community, we would be lost, not just in this tragedy but in our lives as a whole. We are all dependent on one another, even the most dependent of us. Thank you for that reminder. And thank you for the cards. One that my friend sent has a little boy with his head on the sidewalk. On the inside it says, "Sometimes it just is what it is." I have to agree.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bedrest

The doctor has me on bedrest due to high blood pressure. I can still get up and do some things throughout the day and go to the store and such, but she wants to get rid of some of the outside stress (as much as is controllable) and see if getting my feet up helps resolve this issue.

Since I am now at home until delivery, I get more time to reflect and blog. Lucky you ;-)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Another baby update

We had a growth ultrasound today because the doctor was concerned that he was getting to be too big. They guessed that he is about 7.5 pounds, which is great. Hopefully that means no 10 pounder as long as the estimate is close to accurate!!

My blood pressure is high, which it has been for the last week. I can't imagine why it would be high. I suppose that stress might cause the body to react in such a way!!

It's ok now if the baby comes anytime. I'm rooting for sooner rather than later!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Savoring the moment

I'm not exactly the most patient person (which is why waiting for this baby is killing me!). But we had saved a few things to enjoy over the course of our relationship.

Our 1998 bottle of champagne and Beringer Cab from our honeymoon were two of those things. We'll have this when... Or I know I can't use this now, but when ___ happens, this will be perfect. I even saved my wedding dress, knowing that I would never wear it again but not yet ready to part with it. My plan was to donate it to a charity that resells wedding dresses to raise money for cancer.

I think it's good to have things to work for, but I am also sad that we didn't enjoy those things when we were able. I wonder how this will change as our lives return to "normal." Will I save bottles of wine? Will I hold onto clothes that no longer fit? I can't see this behavior changing, but I also think I might just live a little more for today and a little less for tomorrow.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Meeting Place

When I dropped Dan off at the corner to go in to get the animals (and photos if he could), it was my plan to get in as well. I drove around the block trying to come in from the other direction. When I realized that I couldn't get in, I was in touch with Dan through our cell phones. However, Dan's phone died (which isn't surprising actually... it was something that happened often, and we had talked about how it was a real problem). So I waited in my car on the road. I decided that I should wait at the crossroad of two different outlets (there were 2 more) that were likely for him to take. And I waited. I didn't know when (or at that point it was even a slight IF) he was coming out. Thankfully, he came out right by my car. I have replayed in my mind the thought that he may not have come out that way and then I wouldn't have known where he was or if he was ok. They were evacuating the street I was waiting on, so I couldn't have waited there forever.

I am asking that anyone who reads this please sit down with your family tonight and create a plan. I keep thinking that we should have had a meeting place in case of emergency. I know they talk about it in elementary school, but I don't know how many people actually have a plan. You should agree on a place to meet in case you get separated. And then you should agree on a backup in case that place is for some reason unavailable in that situation. Tell your children. Tell their caregivers. Write it down. Review it. Please.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Contents

Dan and I are finally starting to put some real time into our contents list. I feel a little more detached from the whole thing now, and it seems ok to think back through the loss. It's amazing to me the things our friends remember that I have forgotten. I know that there are specific memories for them attached to different things, so it's different. I'm most worried about trying to think about what was in the garage. I can remember what I saw everyday. It's harder to remember the nostalgic things that were stored away. Some of the things that we've realized we lost:

A small wooden kid's chair. I think it was made by my grandfather who did a lot of woodworking. It was in my dad's house as a kid. Whenever we had friends over with kids, they would always sit in this chair. Dan and I had a Cabbage Patch doll in it in the corner for a while because it was amusing.

The journal I kept when I was 10. I can think back to experiences as a child, but it is really hard to recreate the emotions that I was actually experiencing. Not that it is always comfortable reading about your teenage angst, but I will never be able to read about my first kiss or date again.

My college newspaper. I was the editor of one of my college's newspapers. I kept the old editions. I also had copies of articles that had been published to use as writing samples when I pitched stories to magazines. I had edited a few books as well, and I lost those manuscripts (as well as the final copy of the books that had been signed).

A ceramic prayer wheel with all of the major religions of the world. It was so unique and perfect and served as such a great reminder of the circle of life.

The Christmas stocking I had just finished for Dan. My mom made me a stocking in my late teen years with embellishments from my childhood. I had just been thinking a couple of weeks before the fire how I would never need another stocking. I wanted Dan to have a handmade stocking as well, so I had picked out the fabric and crazy quilted him a stocking. All I had left was the finishing stitches on the binding.

A bottle of 1998 Champagne that we were saving for Dan's college graduation. Dan has struggled in school, and going back to college was a huge deal for him. He has had to work so hard, and taking this semester off has actually been really difficult for him. We bought the bottle on our honeymoon, and we had saved it for the right moment. I guess that's what you get for delayed gratification.

A pansy box my mom had painted for my 13th birthday. The box went back and forth between my mom and me for many years during my teenage years. I "gave" it to her if I was mad, and she gave it back when I was nice and cooperative. I've had it now for many years without needing to return it!

The thing is that they are all just objects. I had been having an inner dialogue about knowing that I needed to learn a lesson in non-attachment. But I AM attached to things and to the memory of things. I cannot recreate my journal or my emotions, and I have nothing left of that time. My children will never be able to go through my high school things and laugh at how ridiculous we were... or how silly our clothes looked. They won't be able to look through my senior yearbook and see that my picture isn't there and have me tell them the story of the mixup between schools and the yearbook teacher who was mad at me for something that was written in the school newspaper that I edited. There are also some things though that I probably needed to let go of and wouldn't have otherwise. There were many things from my parents' marriage- letters while they were engaged, their wedding album... there were letters from ex-boyfriends. I didn't want to let go of that part of my past because it made me who I am. But I think you have to let go a little in order to move on. And I am learning that lesson over and over. I have to let go of my past in order to move forward. I am making room for the new memories... the memories that Dan and I will create with our children. And I guess that's ok.

'Thank You'

I have always felt weird about Thank You cards. It's not that I'm not grateful at Christmas or my birthday... but writing thank yous seems so superficial and not very genuine.

"Thank you [person's name] for the books. I can't wait to start reading them. Look forward to seeing you again. - Brooke" They seem to follow a predictable format and pattern and are more of an expectation than something I do because it feels right. I would rather call them and thank them and check-in or give a gift to show that I am appreciative and grateful, something that really fits the person and makes me think of them.

I had just started to work on my thank yous from my baby shower, but those and my list burned up. I hope the people who came understand and know that we are thankful.

I'm now at a complete loss. How do you ever begin to express your gratitude to all the people who have helped? A card just doesn't seem to be enough. How can you thank someone you've never met and yet who has sent you a gift to help rebuild simply because they can't imagine losing everything and were touched by your story? While it's our intention to send out thank yous once the baby is born, I know it's not enough. I suppose the only way that I can truly thank people is to continue to push forward, to rebuild, and to help others in need as they experience tragedy in their lives. And I will continue to tell my story... not only because it helps me heal, but because I believe it allows others to as well. Thank you for being a part of my story.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The not-so-good

Trust me. I am not always happy and strong. I have moments of weakness, bitterness, and discontent. It's the little things that seem to bother me.

I had this pillow that had been broken in over a couple of years. It was like a temperpedic. We got another pillow, but it is so hard and unfriendly.

Our home had tilework throughout. This place has carpet everywhere. It is probably what is bothering me the most right now. It just feels like it's a constant reminder of the loss, the pain of the loss.

The refrigerator is old and kind of falling apart. The top shelf needs a soda as a pillar to hold it up. There is no where for orange juice. There is hardly a place for ketchup. Coffee bags don't fit in the freezer.

Even after a trip to Barnes and Noble and some books given to us by friends, our books take up one row of a very small, footlong bookcase in the closet.

I know we will rebuild and recover a lot of our loss. I will even break in my pillow. I'm just really sad that I even have to worry about that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Amazed by kids

A lot of people have done incredibly nice and generous things for us. I can't wait to share some of the photos from the baby shower. I can't even believe how much work went into that shower for us. I also had a woman bring by a bunch of things she had collected from various people and businesses in the area. It was so touching. As much as those things have meant, it's the kids who have stepped up that make me a little weepy.

I remember reading a story in the Statesman about a boy who couldn't sleep until he took his piggy bank to the firemen. I have several drawings from kids sending their sympathies and best wishes. They always seem to say the right thing: "Sorry your house burned down." We were told last night that a young girl was making us a blanket with her newly acquired knitting skills. I've received cards with donations from kids. And we have a VERY large plastic bottle bank in the baby's room that is filled with coins from a collection by kids.

Today I was stopped by my principal who told me the most amazing story. A boy at our school just celebrated his birthday. He told people that he didn't want presents, but rather wanted to take donations for us. I know how important birthdays are, especially at that age. I can't even imagine making that decision, and I think that young man has an incredible heart. I know that good things are in his future (we will be sure of it!).

I often hear people gripe about kids. It doesn't seem to matter what generation it is. Kids always seem to not behave the way adults think they should. I have met an incredible bunch of kids in the last three weeks, and I have to say that if we are raising our kids this way, our country is going to be in great hands. I hope that we continue to foster the kindness and idealism that makes them so special. That is something I try to teach everyday. And the kindness and idealism that is being shown to me now teaches me incredible lessons that will never be forgotten.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Anxiety

I have always been a little on the anxious side. I would worry sometimes coming home that my dog had somehow jumped or burrowed under the fence and gotten out. I worried if I saw smoke. I would panic if I couldn't get ahold of my husband and thought he should be home. Coming home to your neighborhood on fire and sending your husband in to get the dog doesn't make that anxiety lesser.

We left the dog in tonight. I worry about him getting out through the fence at this house. We are too close to a main road. I spent much of the night quietly nervous about what would happen if there were another fire. I have to believe that no one goes through this twice in one month, but it doesn't matter. I still worry that I will come home to ashes. We saw two fire trucks on the way home, so I worried that it was a sign. Of course we pulled up and the house was standing, and the dog was waiting happily inside... having eaten all of the cat's food.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Giving and Receiving

My step-mom was telling me the other day about seeing a homeless woman walking with her possessions and three children down the road. These are some of the many people in need of help in our community. And they are exactly the type of people I am likely to help. I had a tub of items to donate to the Interfaith Sanctuary sitting in my garage on the day of the fire. Having lived in both Washington, D.C., and Manhattan, I am accustomed to seeing poverty and homelessness at a level those in Boise can probably only imagine. Whether it is a choice or not, it brings me sorrow to see someone without a home… and sometimes without hope. I’ve often given to people on the side of the road, knowing that some of them are not being honest about their situation. That is something only they can answer to. I allow myself to give freely, knowing that by giving I am doing what is best for my heart as a part of a greater community.

As someone who is so accustomed to the giving role, I feel out of place as a receiver. I accept that I have lost everything (I may want to bury my head, but I understand that I have). Many of the items in my house were given as gifts, whether as a child, young adult, for my wedding, or for the baby. I have always been touched by thoughtful gifts that I know have been given because the person thought of me when they saw the item. All of those gifts are gone now, leaving only the memory that someone once gave me something. I think about the college rituals from the small women’s college I attended in Central Virginia. I had so much saved that was a part of those events that had such meaning, even if to others it just looked like a cup with paint pen on it. I think that is why the gifts from this are so meaningful to me. It’s amazing that a college friend’s mother-in-law sent me a card with a gift card inside. I am touched by my sister’s immediate attention to the fact that we lost our toasting flutes from our wedding. She went out that next day to have them re-engraved. It can’t replace what we lost, but knowing the kindness behind those gifts is truly overwhelming.

Regardless, I have had great guilt over receiving gifts since this happened. I’ve never felt like this at Christmas or a birthday or even for ‘just because’ gifts. And I’ve hesitated sharing this feeling, though those closest to me have definitely heard me talk about it recently. So many people I’ve never met have given us a donation of some kind or purchased items for us off our registry. The woman at Babies R Us who bought the high chair and then has helped plan the community baby shower didn’t know me three weeks ago. Now I consider her a friend. When she first told me she had gotten it for us, I couldn’t believe that these people who didn’t know us would be so openly generous. And the more we get, the harder it seems. When I, individually, do something for someone else, I am just one person doing what I am able to do to help out. I never thought about how it would feel to be the person receiving so much from so many. It doesn’t feel like individuals anymore. And the number of people who reach out to help can feel overwhelming. The help is so appreciated, and the gifts truly do brighten my day, but I think at some level I have a hard time feeling like I am taking help away from others who I feel truly need it. I think I have a hard time accepting that at this time, I might be a person who truly needs that help.

In discussing this with my mom, she remembered an article she had just read by Andrew Weil. He talks about getting older and learning to accept help graciously, especially when you are used to being independent. He says, “At some point in our lives we all need help from others.” At 26, I am used to receiving help from my parents, and maybe some career mentors. But I never thought that I would need such extensive help so young, when I feel so capable of caring for myself. Weil goes on to quote psychologist Robert Hill, who suggests that when we accept help we cultivate altruism in others. People want to help. I want to help. Despite being in our situation, we are still trying to help others. This morning we paid the remaining $4 so that a man could buy milk and eggs. Just because we are in need at this time, doesn’t mean others aren’t either, and helping give back right now makes it easier to accept help. I believe in moments like this, we all have an opportunity to be (or find) our best selves. For some, that is expressing altruism. For us, for me, it is learning to accept help and finding peace within myself when that help comes knocking at my door.

Denial

They say denial is a part of the grief cycle. I think that's where I am.

I won't go up to the house to see the flattened, completely demolished land. I won't go through my recognizables tubs to see what made it through the fire. I won't look at pictures of the house. I don't want to work on our list of possessions. Truly, I would like to stick my head in the sand and pretend that this never happened.

My husband goes through the What Ifs sometimes when telling someone about that night. What if he had stayed in the house another five minutes? I can't talk about it.

I keep thinking about what we would be doing if this hadn't happened. Dan would be in school and be working on his homework tonight. I might be cooking. We would be thinking about Kellen, whose name would still be a secret, and wondering what he looked like. We wouldn't have had the ultrasound. I probably would have started cleaning the house for his homecoming. But really, I only talk about those things in my head. I know it's not my reality anymore. I just wish it were.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Normal

Dan and I have done a lot of shopping in the last few weeks. I'm not happy to have new things, even if they were things that I have wanted for a couple of years. Instead, I am just really bummed that I even have to do this. There is nothing comforting about shopping to replace the items you have lost. Many of the things I had are no longer sold. Not only can I not replace those items, but I don't have a way to determine the replacement cost for insurance.

In the midst of all this shopping to keep our lives running (like pots and pans to make dinners) or to restock the nursery to prepare for this baby, we run into hundreds of people. And all of them are out shopping, doing what they would normally do on a Saturday afternoon. Mothers and daughters are at the craft store looking for Halloween decorations. I look at the decorations, wanting so much to be doing the same thing. Instead I think about how I don't really have anything to decorate. I'm just trying to make sure we have some couches so that people have a place to sit if they come visit the baby or making sure that the guest bed has sheets so when my mom comes to stay after the baby is born, she has something to sleep on. I don't have the luxury of looking around for Halloween decorations. I've overheard the most mundane conversations about shoes, and I feel out of touch. I can't relate to a conversation about shoes wearing out. As of now, my oldest shoes are three weeks old. When I read I should bring an old pillow to the hospital, I almost laugh. I don't have an old pillow. Three weeks ago, none of this would have phased me. Now it frustrates me. I feel like I have been robbed of normal, of routine. I feel like I have been cheated out of a mundane existence (at least for a while). I desperately want to go back to a time when I could think in those terms, where I could be happy to be a part of those conversations instead of a little bitter.

But I can't. I don't get a redo. I will say that receiving the donated Halloween basket was one of the highlights of my week. It felt normal. Even if I can't look for Halloween decorations, it doesn't mean fall isn't coming, doesn't mean that life won't go on. And that basket reminds me of that.

Friday, September 12, 2008

How are you?

I am working on a post about giving and receiving, but I am trying to find the right words. In the meantime...

I posted before about the ways that we use words and how cavalier we sometimes are about them. They don't really affect us until we are in a situation where they speak to us in some way. On that same topic of words, I think that we go through our days making small talk, completely unaware of what we are REALLY saying and those around us. I've thought about this a lot given the number of times a day someone asks, "How are you?"

My day started out at Starbucks with this question. I responded, "Ok." I felt that was honest enough. I thought that it was also somewhat safe and wouldn't take the person totally aback. She still seemed to respond with a surprised tone. The expected response is "Good." Anything other than that (unless it's "Excellent") is somehow socially unexpected. Do we expect that all people are having a good day... everyday? Why is it that we are so ready to ask that question, but we aren't willing to hear the answer, the real answer?

I believe in being honest with myself and others. If I am having a bad day, it is not authentic for me to say otherwise just to satisfy someone else's need for comfort. I also shouldn't feel obligated to rehash my life or my reasons for my response. I don't really want to talk about the fire all the time. I write about it because it helps me process. That is completely different than needing to retell the story 80 times per day, sometimes to people who don't know me or seem to need me to help comfort their fears about a house burning up.

I don't really understand why it is the socially accepted way to greet someone either. Whose business is it really how I am doing or feeling today? When I go to Starbucks, why can't I be greeted, "Good morning. My name is ___. How can I help you?" And that leads me into tomorrow's post about help and the different times in our lives when we help... and when we accept help. Imagine if that was our focus each day.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Baby Update

We had a doctor appointment today. I had the choice of being checked or not. I might not have, but with all that has been going on, I wanted to know whether I have had any progress. I thought he had been moving down and was likely engaged. Looks like the baby is starting to make his move. The doctor said it is likely that the baby will be here in the next two weeks. Of course, she is going out of town on Tuesday for a week. We'd like to make it to next Friday when he is 37 weeks, but we have enough ready in case he comes earlier than that.

Shade

We got our black lab/racehorse/pointer mix a week before we closed on our house. He was 3 months old, and was so cuddly. Even then he seemed to have only two speeds: spastic and dead. He would run around, tire himself out, then flop on the floor. Then he would get up and do it again. His favorite thing was running outside in the morning, jumping onto the railroad ties in a dead sprint and nearly jumping the neighbor's fence to check on the squirrels. I know that the neighbors were sometimes amused that all they could see was this little head popping up over the fence. He thought his job was backyard sentry, protecting us from the evil squirrels. Fortunately the squirrels seemed to like this game, so they kept each other entertained. Shade is incredibly full of life, and he brings such joy to our lives.

The night of the fire, we had left him inside. We hardly ever do that. I don't know if it was better this way or not. Had he been outside, would he have tried to jump the fence (because he could)? If we had come home 30 minutes later, would he have been freed by the fireman or have already succumbed to smoke inhalation? I don't play the "What If?" game in my mind much because you just can't allow yourself to go there, but these questions plague me.

When we saw the fire and raced home, I let Dan out at the corner and let him run into the incredible smoke with the house across the street on fire. We couldn't leave the dog there as he is like our child. But I also can't believe I let Dan run in.

Every morning Shade jumps on our bed and snuggles in with us. He loves us unconditionally, and we love him the same. I always tell him I am so thankful he is alive. Without Shade, there would be a void. And having him makes getting through the days easier.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Another thank you

I forgot to thank Jacki, Erin, and Julie for all of their help with the organizing of the shower. You have all been amazing, and I am truly overwhelmed by what you are doing. The invitations are absolutely precious and match our nursery (and what it will look like in our new home) perfectly. We are so excited for Monday, and it's all because of your thoughtfulness.

Tabby

Our cat, Tabby, has always been a little shy. When we first got her in January, she hid under the bed for a few weeks. She is 3, so this wasn't unexpected. Our black lab is also part racehorse, so I can see why she would be a little afraid of him. I spent a lot of time getting her to be comfortable with me, and she seeks me out.

She likes to lay by my head... actually she likes to eat my hair. She eats her food in one spot in her bowl, exposing the bottom. Then she meows. She doesn't like it when the bottom of her bowl is showing. I think this is a ploy to get attention when I put food in the bowl.

I've always had wandering cats. Our last kitten would take walks with us around the block. Tabby did not leave our yard, except to sit in our neighbor's bushes, looking at our house. Of all the things, Tabby loved our Hydrangeas. I loved our Hydrangeas.

I have always loved babies and especially Anne Geddes prints. Hydrangeas remind me of those pictures. The first spring we lived in our house, we designed a raised flower bed in front of our house. Not knowing anything about planting at that point (we've learned a lot since), we filled the flower bed with MiracleGro and Peatmoss. I wish we had known about topsoil! We called it SuperSoil, and anything could grow there. Because the plants we so little, I was scared to plant them too far apart, so I moved them a little closer. Two years later, they were a mass of Hydrangea, and they were gorgeous. Tabby loved to hide in them and watch the world go by.

At our house, Tabby had a room. It was her safe zone, so if she was frightened, she would go in there, and usually she would hang out under the bed until it was safe. We don't have a safe zone for her now. Amazingly, she has adjusted really well to this change, and I actually think that she has become a little more social with us since. Last night, she slept on top of the couch while we watched our newly installed cable (I never thought I would be so happy to have T.V., a distractor!). She stayed out in the living room all night, and snuggled into the Lazy Boy. And she doesn't seem to be as eager to go outside. I think part of it is the lack of plants in our yard (unless you count the prickly weeds). Or maybe she just misses the Hydrangeas. I know I do.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lost

It took almost two and a half years to fully move into our house. Earlier in August, Dan had organized the garage, and it felt like our things had a home. What an ironic reality. I knew where things were and where they went, FINALLY.

Now, I don't even know what I own. While we were setting up the nursery, Dan was looking through some of the healthcare type things we've gotten. There was a surprise waiting in every drawer. "Oh good, we have one of those." I actually think of all of us, the baby has more possessions now than either Dan or me. It's quite funny, really.

Every morning is a little bit of a challenge. I don't really know what I own in regards to clothing to know what to put on. All of my maternity clothes have been donated, so I kind of fumble around looking for something that a) fits and b) matches. The more I expand (which seems to be hourly), the less I really have to wear. I keep thinking just another couple of weeks and then I will actually be able to start considering a wardrobe again. I think I'll start with a coat.

**On a completely different note, the firefighters have amassed a huge amount of donated items. We were invited to look through some of them earlier, but they weren't able to organize them much, so it was a little overwhelming. They are working this week to get everything organized, and then they are having a community yard sale this weekend with the proceeds going to the Burn out fund for our families and future families who lose their homes to fire. On Friday, the families will be able to go through the donated items and pick out what they need. Anyhow, they desperately need volunteers. If you are interested, contact Fire Station #21. Also, if you need things, the yard sale would be a great place to look!**

Double entendres

It's interesting how we use words. For someone who loves books and writing and is very attuned to words and their meanings (and use), I've been really interested in how little attention I've paid to many phrases that seem to ironic now that this has happened.

When I was organizing our clean-up party, I told someone that I wanted to organize shifts so that people didn't get burned out. It's a phrase I've used numerous times, but this time the irony sat in the air, mockingly.

Last night we were at dinner with some of the other families and volunteers. I was asking one if this had become her full-time job. She told me that as of today, she was fired. It was an interesting choice of words, but the only one that was appropriate (though she was joking).

One of the names that we considered for our son was Ashton. If we hadn't been so sure we wanted to name our son Kellen, I might have gone back to that name under the circumstances. I think he might have enough stories though for now.

We burn calories, burn the midnight oil, burn the candle at both ends, burn our bridges, fight fire with fire, talk in rapid fire, get caught in the crossfire... and right now, it's a sure-fire way to get a funny look or even a chuckle around the families whose homes were, that night, caught in that crossfire.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Two Weeks

Two weeks ago, I woke up to my first day of teaching at a new school. I was rested, and my day was busy and productive. I was preparing my classroom for a great year and along the way getting it ready for my maternity leave in October. Dan made my breakfast as he has had to do everyday during this pregnancy to keep me from getting sick (yes, still getting sick in the third trimester). I had a massage that afternoon and came home to find the house without my dog or husband and a little panicked. When they returned, we uncharacteristically left the dog inside, and we left to get dinner and run some errands. It was so normal. That day feels like a lifetime ago.

Now we have a new normal, although it still doesn't feel right. I teach as best I can. It is returning to normal, but it is still not what I planned. I come home and sort through piles of donated clothes. I go to the store to buy the things I need and try not to break down over losing simple things like a spatula (I found the one I used to have, by the way, at Fred Meyer. It was a simple thing, but it made me feel better). It used to seem fun to be able to go out and buy all new things. That is a delusion... especially when you are buying it to replace everything you lost. We almost have the new nursery set up. It is not the same, but it is a place to store his things and bring him after he is born.

I think if you were to look around our place, you would think we were just another couple in our mid-twenties preparing to have a baby. You would not readily see the chaos of the last two weeks. You would not see the sleepless nights and the paranoia of smoke and fire. You would not see the stress that this has put on our family. You couldn't see the devastation of losing a semester and likely a year of school after trying so hard to get this far. You would see perceived normal. And I guess that's what it is now.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Insensitive Comments

As a child, I learned that if I couldn't say something nice not to say it at all. I will admit that this has been a lesson I struggled with most of my life as I find myself being fairly blunt, sometimes too much so. However, I do know that in moments of tragedy, you learn to say, "I'm sorry," if you can't say anything else.

I have read some of the online Statesman articles. I know I shouldn't read the comments. I have read them before, and they don't always seem to have the greatest insight. But they are too tempting. So I read them. Journalism has changed so much in the last five years, and the internet is revolutionizing how the people interact with democracy through the media. Sometimes I think this is a bad thing. And some of the comments to those articles make that case stronger.

One person said that when he learned that someone lost a 50 inch plasma T.V., he lost empathy for us. First of all, I don't know if empathy is the right word... probably more appropriate to say sympathy. We all lost our homes and memories in the fire. We also lost stuff. If someone were to walk through my home, they could say a table was replaceable or a bookcase. The problem is that they don't understand each piece of furniture (each T.V. even) has a story. For someone who loves books and stories, this is heartbreaking. I won't walk by my table and be reminded of how hard we looked and where we went and how we eventually found it. It will just be a table now, a reminder of the fire and of the loss of the memories of the old one. I also didn't realize that one could only be sympathetic to those without possessions. I consider myself to be a pretty generous and caring person, and never once have I thought that only those who are destitute need my help. Everyone has their low moments, and everyone needs to be picked up and carried through those moments. The generosity of this community, the cards, and the sympathetic words help carry me.

Another comment that was made that was since we had accepted donations, it was unfair that a sign was placed in front of the neighborhood asking people to respect our privacy and not turn our street into a circus show. I don't think any of us ever pointedly asked for donations. The day after the fire, those organizing the volunteer efforts were inundated with people wanting to help. I am sure I would have been one of those people had this not been my tragedy. The people who send cards do so of their own volition. And I keep them with me in a file folder and read them when I need to be lifted emotionally. Regardless, the acceptance of donations or even writing a public blog does not mean that our street should be a carnival. The day after the fire, we had hundreds of people streaming down our street, watching as we dug through our memories, watching as we grieved, taking pictures of our breakdowns. We had so many people parking in front of our homes that we (and our insurance adjusters and others) could not even get to our homes. We had people who thought it ok to walk through our rubble, to find keepsakes of their own of our memories. That is not respect nor being sympathetic or concerned of our needs. I understood those wanting to come through, but I also understand my neighbors wanting that privacy. Those were our homes, and we need a place to grieve them.

And we need space to grieve as well. And I hope that space is filled with the love and comfort that most of this community seems so willing to provide. As for those who can't understand, know that in your time of need, this community will still come through for you. They will stand alongside you, grieve with you, and then lift you back up. Because it's a community, that kind of community.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Baby Pictures

We decided to get a 4-D ultrasound. With all the sadness, it was really great to have a happy moment and get to see our son. He is a chunky baby with big cheeks. He definitely takes after me with my lips, nose, and cheeks. His chin is Dan's. I can't wait to meet him.


























































Some thank yous

We are keeping track of individual donations if names were included, and we will be contacting you to let you know how much we appreciate everything. It likely will happen after the baby is here because we would like to get a family photo, especially for those who donated baby items.

I did though want to publicly thank some specific individuals and also local businesses (some a part of large corporations who have been amazing!).

Patti Wagstaff has been incredible. She thinks of all the things we don't have time to think of. We wouldn't have been able to access half the community resources that we have without her organization and support.

The Broadway LDS ward who adopted us and Margaret who has organized tons of help. Your ability to get things organized quickly has been amazing. I know that the LDS church does a lot for communities, but I have been amazed at how much they have done for us, not being LDS.

Charlie Ruffing. The man. I don't know how you got appointed to be the Burn-out contact person, but you have done so much for us. I can't even begin to express my gratitude. You also always seem to have such an amazing attitude when you are around all of us, and I know it brightens my day to see you at meetings or other gatherings.

Chip Schultz. I have heard so many good things about you and how much you have helped. Thank you for stepping in and filling a void.

Carol at Columbia Village. Thank you.

Federal Way Bed, Bath, and Beyond. We have been so amazed at the national companies who have been able to step in and assist, making local decisions to help us out. Registering was a completely overwhelming experience, but your staff made a huge impact on us. Everytime we go into the store, we are greeted and asked how things are going. The familiar faces and generosity have been a bright spot in these last couple of weeks.

Babies R Us on Eagle Road. We can't believe how much you have done for us. (I promise not to be too upset about my glider.) It truly is the people at a company who make a difference, and those who we have worked with there have been exceptional.

Jake's Dry Dock in the mall (Life is Good store). The day after the fire, we needed some close-toed shoes and stopped by after we got them. After telling them what had happened, they gave us a discount and also called corporate to get us free t-shirts (we got ones that said "Let me stand next to your fire"). I always said that I wanted to own everything in that store. I guess now is my chance?

Panache - Thank you for helping me to start replenishing my make-up stash.

Benjamin Street Home Decor - Thank you for the dining room table and the child dresser. It is a great start in our rental.

Downtown Hound - Shade loves you, and so do we. Thank you for giving him a home while we were cooped up in the hotel. And thank you for the dog bed and food. Shade loves his Taste of the Wild, and I am glad we didn't have to switch it on him!

Bark N Purr - Thank you for the discount on cat and dog stuff. We are glad we've found you!

Starbucks on Apple - Thanks for the free drinks that first morning. We had about 2 hours of sleep and a long day ahead of us.

I know there are others. We are appreciative of everything, and I will add on as I think of things.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Threes

They say things happen in threes. I don't know if that means that once the three things happen you get a break or if they just start over.

My grandfather passed away this morning. It wasn't unexpected, but it happened a little sooner than we thought it might. It's a strange thought to think about one life ending and another beginning in such close proximity. We picked the name Kellen Duncan several months ago and have known for well over a year that if we had a boy, his middle name would be Duncan. It is my step-dad's last name. My mom and step-dad have been married since I was very young, and I grew up with that family (and spent the summers with my dad here in Boise). I spent my holidays in a small Virginia town with my step-dad's parents, and I felt as close to them as my own grandparents. With Opa dying, it seems even more appropriate that we give Kellen the middle name Duncan. I am glad to be able to honor them in some way.

Because of the timing of things, my mom has to fly back to Virginia to be with my family and to attend the funeral. I obviously can't fly. Selfishly, I want my mom to stay until the baby is here. I know that she can't, but it doesn't change my feelings.

On top of the house burning down and my grandfather's passing, my mom is also flying back to Virginia tomorrow... in the middle of a tropical storm.

I would like to call a time out on all of this sadness. I know that when this baby boy comes, the joy will return. I need it to return.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Signs

When I thought about leaving New York, I asked the universe for a sign. My immediate thought after that was that I would never know the sign anyway. It's cloudy today... it must be a sign. You can take any situation and interpret it to be whatever it is that you want it to mean. The next day, my wallet was stolen while I rode the train. It was a sign I understood. I left a little over a month later.

Two weeks before the fire, I saw smoke coming up from the direction of our house one day when I left school. I had been setting up my room and needed to run to Office Max. I panicked and drove up to Federal Way where I saw that the fire was likely around Gowen Field. My husband and I talked about what would happen if there were a fire and that I wanted the pets and the pictures. When you can only get a few things, I suppose these are the most important. I believed it could happen but didn't imagine it ever would.

The problem with believing in signs though is that sometimes things happen that may not have any meaning, but we assign meaning because of what is going on around us. When we looked at our rental, a fire truck pulled up to the house across the street. It was an event that didn't really involve me, but it still made me a little nervous. Likewise, as we were moving in today, the fire alarm started to go off. A faulty battery or wire. Given my current situation however, both things made me incredibly anxious and a little neurotic. Do I think they are signs? I don't know. The interesting thing is that the signs never make sense until later. Had I not been looking for a reason to leave New York, having my wallet stolen would have just been something that I dealt with living in Manhattan. Had my house not burned down, the fire two weeks before would not seem prophetic. They just would have been little blips in my life. Now they are events burned into my memory.

Rebuilding

A lot of people have asked if we are rebuilding. The decision to rebuild was made almost immediately. The first day Dan talked about moving to a new home, especially with the way the market is. These are the reasons I feel we need to rebuild:

The fire was such a devastating moment. Thinking about that first night and seeing our house leveled by the fire makes me so sad. I can't replace many of the things that we lost in our house. If we leave the land as is, my last memory of our first home, of that land, will be sadness. If we rebuild something beautiful there, a home we love, a home we can grow into, then those sad emotions will be replaced with happiness and cherished memories with our children.

We also went through a pretty traumatic and quick moving fire that destroyed ten homes in a matter of a couple hours. Those people who live around me understand that pain. Even though we were young and most of our neighbors were ten to twenty years our senior, we were good friends with many of them. Having them as a support system (and being a support for them) helps the healing process. Watching them rebuild and create new memories helps us all.

We have met with one set of contractors who are giving a bid for the rebuild exactly as the house stood. We cannot rebuild the house in that way because of the foundation, but that's what insurance requires. We have been looking through design books and are meeting with the architect today. One thing I desperately need in a new house is a craft room as my scrapbooking and quilting took over many rooms in our house. Dan needs a place to play music, and we've always talked about a music room. This is our opportunity to do that. These things will help us build those beautiful new memories.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

We have a house!

We signed our lease this afternoon and started moving stuff into the garage tonight. My mom and husband will start moving furniture in tomorrow, and we will sleep there tomorrow night. I cannot wait to sleep in a home. I plan on setting up the nursery this weekend.

To all the people who have offered furniture or advice or nanny information, we will get back to you this weekend or early next week. I had to get a home before I could even process anything else.

Thanks for all of your support. A post to come tomorrow about progress on demo and rebuilding... and the decision to rebuild.

Sleep

The night of the fire, we got to bed around 2:30. I woke up at 3:15 and was back to sleep around 4:00. We were up for good at 5:30 to go look at our home. We have had varying degrees of successful sleep since.

Two nights ago, my husband woke up, unable to sleep and said I yelled throughout the night. I remember dreaming about fires that night.

It is currently 1:30 a.m. I woke up thinking of how big of a fire hazard our hotel room is. I don't know how I will be able to go back to sleep.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Preparing for baby

I am a planner. The most shocking thing to my friends and family was that I didn't have my planner with me when we were out running a couple of errands. I researched car seats to find the safest one (which has now been replaced and is ready to go in our hotel should we need it). I carefully thought out all the details of the nursery. I had researched cloth diapers and knew the exact sizes and weights for each kind. I would walk by my nursery in awe that this is where I would bring my son home.

We had also registered for birth classes, a 12-week series to prepare us for a natural childbirth. We had finished Week 8, and our birth plan was due (pardon the pun) the day after the fire.

For as prepared as I was to have a baby, for the sleepless nights, for the juggling of schedules, I now feel so disoriented. I can't think about a birth plan because the idea of laboring at home seems ironic and painful. Finding something to distract me in the early stages is laughable. I have no Friends DVDs to distract me. We have no games to play or magazines to read. I can't even consult one of my five pregnancy books about going into labor.

We have likely found a rental. It's still not the home I planned to bring my son home to. Even if we recreate the nursery as it was, it is still different. His freshly laundered clothes don't hang in the closet. His new ceiling fan doesn't hang in his room with blue stars for him to stare at. The basket of books doesn't sit there waiting to be read. The due date guesses from our shower are no longer waiting to be fulfilled.

Losing this home for my son is the hardest reality for me. We will rebuild our home. But it will never be the same.

Home

They say home is where you lay your head. This hotel is not my home. Today's top priority is finding a home. For those who have never been pregnant, this last month is a nesting period where all you want to do is prepare things for the baby. All of the generous donations leave us with stuff for which to prepare... we just don't have a place to set it up. We have some leads, so hopefully by the end of today, I will at least know where we are moving either tomorrow or Thursday. Everyday we establish a new kind of normal. Having a home will really expedite that feeling.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Cats

Several of us in the neighborhood have cats. Since moving to our street two and a half years ago, we've lost two cats. My first cat Mo disappeared one day. That cat had moved from my apartment into D.C. to New York to Boise with me. He had actually flown from the east coast to Boise, back to the east coast, and back to Boise in his life with me. I was really sad when he disappeared. The next cat was a young kitten we had for a year. Last Christmas, he fell over and died while I was wrapping Christmas presents. They think maybe it was a heart problem or an aneurysm. In January we got another cat, Tabby. I didn't want to get another kitten because I know that it's harder to adopt out the older cats. She is 3. We brought her home, and she lived under the bed for a month, scared of us and scared of our dog. I spent many hours trying to coax her out and make her comfortable. As scared as she seemed of everyone else, she really warmed up to me. She would come to me when called and wanted to cuddle with me every night. When we realized how close the fire was, I wanted to run into the smoke because I knew the only person she would come to was me. She also stayed really close to home, and I worried she wouldn't flee. Of all the wandering cats I've had, she is a home body. She would much rather sit in my hydrangeas than chase mice. The next morning I got to the house and was afraid to call her. My worst fear was silence. I went in through the abandoned house behind our house. I called for the cat. I heard a jingle of a collar and was so elated to think she was alive. I then told myself I couldn't be sure until I saw her and didn't want to get my hopes up. I looked through the open hole where a fence used to be and saw her standing by the fence. She looked up at me and meowed, one sad meow. She didn't move. It seemed like she was saying, "Come get me." I couldn't get down, so I ran around (in my great pregnant waddle run). A fireman was trying to bring her up by the time I got down. She was so happy to be with me, but also was quick to want to get down.

Our neighbor's cat was much more social. He was fat and happy, and I always loved seeing him. Even Tabby was starting to warm up to him. One of our first encounters with our neighbors was when the cat went missing while they were out of town. The person caring for the cat hadn't seen him. The next morning he was prowling around, and I put him in our house until we could let them know he was ok. He was not happy to be in our house!! While we were waiting to see if the house had survived, they contacted us to find out what was going on. Since I knew they weren't home, my immediate concern was for the cat. When I talked to them the next morning, that was my first question. Fortunately, the cat had survived and was waiting for them.

There is also an orange cat who is around a lot. I initially heard that the cat was missing, so I was so glad to see him a couple of days later. He has been prowling around the construction sites, meowing at everyone. He was pretty social with the other cats. Because his owners didn't lose their home, I imagine that he is wandering around looking for them, thinking that everyone has abandoned him. I think he misses his paw-se.

"Victim"

We have seen the word "victim" used many times to describe our situation. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word literally means "one who is harmed or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency, or condition." I suppose that literally that could be used to describe our situation. But I do not feel like a victim.

I have always prided myself on not having a victim mentality, for taking responsibility for myself and my actions. Even when something bad happens, I like to think that I do not wallow in the event but find what I can do to improve my circumstances. Our home was the victim of a fire. I was a homeowner who lost my past... and to some degree my sense of peace and security. I look at a candle and think, "Will I ever be able to burn a candle in my house?" My husband hears the A/C making funny noises in the hotel and turns it off because he is worried about fire. But even with those losses and the emotional toll this week has taken, I am not a victim. I believe there are things that I can control, foremost amongst them being my attitude. As long as I can do that, no act or circumstance can MAKE me suffer.

And speaking of which, it was really good to see a picture of myself laughing on the Statesman this morning. Seeing an empty hole yesterday was a very difficult thing. But reminding myself that there were good things, very very good things that happened yesterday, diminishes that pain a little.

Dan's Guitar

When I dropped Dan off at the corner Monday night, I told him to grab the animals and the photos. I didn't even think of his guitars. I don't know if he had to make that decision, but he came out with 7 scrapbooks and our wedding photos. His first comment to me was, "My guitars."

By 9:30 we learned that our house was gone, and he again commented that his guitars were gone. Dan has worked for everything he has ever had. As a kid he delivered the Statesman early in the morning before school to be able to buy the things he wanted. When he discovered his musical gift (he struggles with reading music and plays by ear) he spent up to 10 hours a day practicing on his guitar. For a kid with ADHD who had struggled in school, he finally had something he was successful at. So he saved his money and purchased an Eddie van Halen guitar (it is the same make and model of the guitar used by Eddie van Halen). In his late teens and early twenties, Dan played in a band and booked shows out of Seattle. They had spoken with record label reps, but a tragedy occurred before they were able to sign. He wrote a song on the guitar that he posted on YouTube and had considered trying out for America's Got Talent this past Spring. He had an audition time, but he decided that he needed to stay in Boise because it coincided with an English class, and he was committed to school.

When we were able to return to our street early Tuesday (1:00 a.m.), we watched the remainder of the fire being put out. We looked down over our house from the backyard of the abandoned home behind ours, and knew that nothing was left. Dan continued to comment about his guitars. I left because the house was still smoking, and I didn't want to inhale the smoke. When I called to find out when Dan was coming out, one of the neighbors who had come down with us told me that the firemen had rescued the guitars in the fire and Dan was coming out with them. He opened the fence, a guitar in each hand, set them down in the driveway, and opened the burned cases to inspect the guitars. His Taylor 814 CE accoustic was in tact but not playable. His electric guitar was still in tune (though we are still unsure how it will work when plugged into an amp. All but speaker rims were burned from his amp in the fire).

We have asked several firemen how exactly they were saved since they were in a covered window seat in the nursery. It is our understanding that the fireman who saved them would be contacted to be in touch with us. We would love it if we could arrange that. I know Dan wants to thank him and hear the rest of the story.