Friday, October 31, 2008


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


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


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


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 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.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cleaning/organizing help

If anyone has some time and wants to help clean or organize, we could use the help. Between taking care of Kellen and running up to the house or going to pick out things like doors and the like and trying to finish our insurance list, our house just seems to be getting out of control. I also am having a hard time mentally wanting to organize anything because I don't want to think of living here for very long. I keep saying I'm going to go through salvageables, but I just feel like until we finish this insurance list, I can't do anything else. And I only have three weeks left of maternity leave! We would be so grateful for any help.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Apparently this "I'm better" thing is a facade. I had real intense anxiety in the initial weeks after the fire. I've worked through some of that... partly through writing, and partly through strategies I've used to deal with anxiety in the past. I like when the universe shows me reality.

This morning we had a memorial service to go to. I actually got to sleep in, and time was tight. I walked out the front door, and immediately I smelled smoke and looked around to see where I thought it was coming from. The sky to the north and west was brown and smoky, though I couldn't tell what was going on. Since we had to get going, I called my mom in Virginia and asked her to look up the news online to find out where the fire was. I was shaken. And that fear and anxiety took me completely off guard.

Tonight we had a housewarming to go to. I stopped to buy a card to go along with a bottle of wine. I was shocked at my inability to pick out a "Congrats on your new home" card. I stood in the card aisle paralyzed with grief. Home. All I want is my home. How many days are there in 4 months? When do I get a place to call home?

Wind Quotes

Given the nature of the wind the night of the fire, I find all of these quotes particularly ironic. If you have any quotes that you find with "wind" in them that seem fitting I would love to read them:

“I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” Jimmy Dean

“If a man does not know what port he is steering for, no wind is favorable to him” Seneca

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” William Arthur Ward

“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” Arthur Golden

“It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go.” Jim Rohn

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” Jim Rohn

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Framing starts today!! I can't tell you how excited I am about this. Gary and Donna got a good part of their frame up yesterday, and I almost cried up there last night. There is something about seeing the walls up for the new homes that gives me such hope that we are going to all be ok. Dan and I have felt like we were in such a holding pattern the month of September before Kellen's birth and while we were waiting on the house. Kellen is here, and now the house is starting to go up. We are out of limbo, through the clouds, and every other cliched phrase you can think of. Watching those boards go up is the physical rise from the ash. And it symbolizes our emotional rise as well. We are survivors.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Faith. It’s a loaded word, and not one that I take lightly. I have thought much about religion in my life even though I don’t go to church. I have questions, many questions. I don’t have many answers other than what feels right in my heart. And I find religion deeply, deeply personal, which is why sharing these thoughts is hard. But this is my outlet, and this is me being as authentic as I can be.

I would call my religious beliefs unconventional, at least for Idaho. Maybe not for Bend or California… In my house I had three Buddhas: one was a sand Buddha, white, quiet, contemplative; one was gold, bought in Chinatown in Manhattan, lively, almost; one was small, ceramic, happy. I also had a Buddha face in three panels hung in my bedroom (I just noticed this theme of three- always with religion, always). On my bookshelf I had Conversations with God, which I read in my teens, a book on ethics written by the Dalai Llama, a book entitled If Buddha Came to Dinner. In the lost childhood box I had a picture drawn when I was five of the color of my soul. I had drawn it at the Edgar Cayce Center in Virginia Beach. In my high school box were many letters from regional Unity church retreats.

In the last few years I have seriously questioned my faith, faith that seemed so solid as a child. I want to believe in something more, but I leave room for the possibility that there isn’t, that we are a collection of cells and live and die. I’ve had a particularly hard time finding a community in Boise in which I feel my beliefs fit.

The fire has caused me to reflect on my faith. I say things like, “The universe won’t give me more than I can handle” and “The universe knew we needed a good baby who would sleep through the night.” I like the term universe. God seems finite and loaded. If I believe that there is some power that is protecting us right now, I have to have faith… it doesn’t work any other way.

I am also amazed by the things that survived the fire and the way in which they were laid out. I suppose I could chalk it up to coincidence. It is possible. But it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel coincidental.

I think the biggest thing that has made me question our existence and the likelihood of “more” is Kellen. Dan and I tried for a year to conceive. We had even seen the fertility specialist and been through a round of treatment. The month we got pregnant was a complete fluke. Given that our house burned down when I was eight months pregnant, I have thought a lot about timing. What if we had gotten pregnant when we first started trying or the month we were on medication? Kellen’s life would have been completely different. His birth wouldn’t have been front page news. His life wouldn’t have been started by the generous community. He just would have been one of the “victims” of the fire. And I wonder how much that will affect who he becomes. I couldn’t have known about what was to come. But I feel like the universe did. And he was timed perfectly.

I still don’t have answers, only questions. And reflection.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


How do you quantify a life?

Instead of a nice, leisurely maternity leave, we work on insurance. Dan and I are trying to finish up our content's list, and this question plagues me.

I can put a monetary amount on a crib. I can't quantify its value. I can't include the memory of me at 2.5 (yes, I remember) moving to Virginia Beach with my mom, walking into my new bedroom, seeing the crib, and thinking of how much my mom must have loved me to get a crib for me. I can't account for the cost to ship it across the country to have in my house. And I can't include the loss of sharing it with our son. How do I quantify my life?

I can list the replacement cost for each yearbook I had growing up. But I can't quantify its value. I will never be able to recapture the comments in those yearbooks. I will never be able to share those yearbooks (and said comments) with my children, even as embarrassing as some of them might have been.

I can include $3.99 for every card given to me. But I can't quantify their value. Those cards were sent by family and friends to share in my joy... and in my sorrow. I can't replace those emotions. How do I quantify my life?

I can theoretically replace my cabbage patch doll collection. But I can't replace the love I had for those dolls growing up. I can't replace the scratch on one of their heads from playing too rough. I can't replace the stuffed bear who was so worn that I set him aside as a child out of fear that he would be loved too much and would disappear like the Velveteen Rabbit. I can't replace the stains in A Little Princess or the memories of reading the book in my childhood bedroom with my mom. I can't replace my wedding guest book and most certainly not our wedding video. I can list a price for the cassette to record, but I can't get back the video of our hot air balloon over Napa Valley. What number do I write down for my memories? How do I quantify my life?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rolling Over

Technology is amazing!! We got the video of Kellen rolling from his tummy to his back at TWO WEEKS from our cell phone up to YouTube. We are ordering a camcorder tomorrow since we lost ours (and the video from our wedding and honeymoon). Kellen's an overachiever!


I have a lot of things to write about... the concept of heroes, the idea of timing and how much different Kellen's life would be if the fire hadn't happened or had happened at a different time, the fact that our two week old rolled over from his tummy to his back today (not kidding- I have video). But I wanted to reflect on the wildfires in California first.

In 1988, my dad took us to Yellowstone. We were in the middle of the park when an evacuation was ordered because of the fire... the big fire that burned the whole park. It took us nearly the whole night to get out of the park, with fire lining the road the whole way out of the park.

In 1992, a huge wildfire burned outside of Boise. My mom had come into Boise for a week to see her parents, and we were in Boise for the summer with our dad. We drove out to my grandparent’s ranch in Mayfield (off the Stage Stop exit toward Mountain Home) and saw smoke. That night the fire took off and burned hundreds of acres and almost engulfed my aunt and uncle’s home. My aunt was 9 months pregnant and was hosing off her roof to stop the fire. I’ve joked with her since that I was just trying to emulate the end of her pregnancy.

But even with those experiences with wildfires, I have felt so detached when hearing about wildfires in California. I would have thought maybe I would have connected with the fear of them, but I guess I didn’t.

Now I feel an eternal bond with those going through even the threat of a wildfire. When I saw that there were fires outside of Napa (and then outside of LA), I was so sad, sad for the homeowners, sad for the firefighters, sad for the land. I read that two people lost their homes, and I want to reach out to them, tell them that I’m sorry, tell them that it will be ok. Because it will.

Friday, October 10, 2008


There is something about a used pair of jeans and an old sweatshirt. That sweatshirt might have some subtle holes in the seams around the wrist.

I'm certainly not back to my pre-pregnancy size yet. But I am starting to be able to wear "normal" clothes again. I have no normal clothes. The clothes I had the day of the fire were maternity clothes. Most of the donated clothes have been maternity clothes (which were great by the way, since I didn't want to go buy a whole new wardrobe for 4 weeks!). Now all I want is to be able to walk into a closet and pick out clothes, my clothes, to wear.

I've lived in Manhattan. I know there are people who reinvent their wardrobe every season. That's not me. I love comfortable jeans. I like corduroy pants. I need a black pea coat. I was invested in my grey tweed Banana Republic jacket. Those things take time to acquire... years. And I had packed away those acquired clothes ready to wear after the baby. They were supposed to help me gauge my post-baby size to know how close I was to pre-baby. Now my oldest clothes are from 2008. No diversity of seasonal trends. No old t-shirts from college. Not even a pair of painting pants. I wonder how long it takes to break in a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. At what point do they become old, worn, comfortable? I can't wait to get there.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Breaking Ground

We've officially broken ground!! The footings for the foundation were poured yesterday, and the foundation was poured today. We should have the house framed in with a roof by the end of the month. We wanted to make sure it all got done before the winter weather came in... and then the weatherman started talking about snow today. Yikes!!

Demo- getting rid of the ashes:

Prep work:

Digging out the new foundation:

The footings: (It looks so small)

The new foundation:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Two years ago I woke up to a warm October day, knowing that I would be sharing my vows with Dan later that afternoon. I had friends and family in from the East coast. We all stayed at the house. It was a tight fit, but it was great to have everyone there at our house.

I had made a guest book to match our black and white theme. We had CDs made for favors. The night before Dan had given me a teardrop necklace wrapped in a onesie that he had screenprinted to say, "I [heart] daddy more than mommy." We knew we weren't ready to try for a baby just yet, but we knew that having kids was important to us and that it would happen within a year or so.

I loved my dress. I had seen it in a magazine, and we designed the whole wedding around it. It was a white dress with black pleats. I still had it hanging in the closet the day of the fire. I knew I would never wear it again, but I just wasn't ready to part with it. I had decided when I was ready to let go of it, I would donate it to an organization that sells second-hand wedding dresses for breast cancer. I'm sad that the dress will not bring joy to another.

Dan and I wrote our own vows. That day I promised Dan many things. What stands out at this moment is the promise to continue to grow and to grow toward one another. When I made that vow I didn't expect that growth to include a devastating house fire. I didn't expect our marriage to be tested at such an early stage. We are both being forced to change and grow as a result of the fire (and the baby... and the combination of the two). And our challenge is to ensure that growth keeps us together rather than pulling us apart.

Dan promised to keep our lives full of joy and laughter. It seems so simple and ironic now. But even in this event, he has managed to do that. The child we both created brings us immeasurable joy. The day after the fire, we wore shirts that said, "Let me stand next to your fire." Humor will keep us going. And love. That's what we celebrate today.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

One Week

A week ago today I was in labor, ready to meet my son for the first time. Who knew that I would be so in love with such a tiny little being and that our lives would dramatically change again for the second time in less than six weeks?! The sadness of the fire has been replaced by something else... Hope!

Our little boy brings such promise for the future. I look at him and think about how amazing it will be to bring him home to our HOME, our dream home. I look at our house plans and can't believe that we are building a home that we could live in most of our lives. Having Kellen makes it easier to plan for the new house, makes it so much less painful to be going to pick out countertops, floors, and cabinetry. It makes it possible to go up to the house and mark out the outline for the new house and see the promise that lies within that home, the new life that we will create. I am so blessed to have this little boy and the promise of tomorrow that he brings to our life.

And a picture... because I think I have one of the cutest babies ever:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Letter to Kellen

Written in the spring of 2007:

Dear baby-
Your dad and I have decided to start trying to conceive you. Conceive is an interesting word, meaning literally to begin or bring into one's mind. But this is not the beginning as I have thought of you often. You were with me as a child as I comforted my baby dolls, imagining holding you for the first time. You were there when I took care of other kids, watching others parent and making silent vows to be the best mother to you. You were there on our wedding day as your dad and I promised to love each other and remain steadfast in our goals to maintain a healthy family. And you are here now, a yearning that is biologically rooted, a desire to be a mother, to be your mother.

I am so glad to be Kellen's mother.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Life changes in an instant.

Losing our home brought so much sorrow and sadness. Our whole world was turned upside down. Dan's college was postponed. Our plans for our son were dramatically changed with regards to how we would structure our days.

For as much sadness as there is over losing our home, there is double the joy in having this baby. He is absolutely precious, and I would do anything to protect him. I am already someone who worries. I always thought I would probably be a little overprotective in the beginning. I worry about all the things that could happen to him. Rationally, I think that the risks are so minimal. That rational thought is overtaken by the thought that the risk of having your home burned down in a wildfire is also pretty minimal, and yet, it happened to us. I try to remember that there are things that are out of my control, and I enjoy every minute I have here and with him.

I love his blonde hair. I can't wait to find out if it is wavy or straight, thin or thick. I love his little nose and the fact that he sucks on his tongue, causing his lower lip to pull in. I love that he sleeps with his hands above his head and that he is a thumb sucker. I love his big feet and long toes. He is so perfect. While I'm still sad about my house, I am so lucky to have this baby to focus on. There is much to be thankful for.