Sunday, June 28, 2009

Celebrate your progress

Yesterday I went to a bodywork session (combination of massage and acupuncture). They ask about relevant medical history. I wish I could ignore that the fire happened. I wish I didn't have to always say, "My house was one of the homes that burned down LAST [I sometimes say this and then remember it's almost been a year] summer." But I have incredible anxiety and stress related to the fire, and it is relevant.

One of the first comments was that I should celebrate my progress and look at how far I've come. While I appreciate that line of thinking, I felt as though skipping over the fact that my grief is real minimizes how traumatic the fire was. I need people to recognize that my grief is real, that my life is changed, that the fire was horrible. Maybe that is part of my struggle in moving on. If I let go then I feel as though I'm not acknowledging the struggle that this year has been, the incredible impact it has had on my emotional and physical well-being. I don't know why I feel such a need to have others validate the experience. I know they cannot possibly understand unless they have been there. Of course stuff is just stuff. But do you know what it's like to be taken from that stuff in such a traumatic way, in such a vulnerable (pregnant) time in life? Probably not. And yet I still want you to get it, to struggle with me. In a sense I am lucky that a neighborhood was lost because I have do have other people who get it and who struggle with me. It's the reason we rebuilt HERE.

But I also need to remember to acknowledge my progress (which I do think I have done). I have gone back to the mall, I threw away the rest of the ash, we are working on buying new patio furniture, I have let go of the beautiful hydrangeas and accepted that the landscaping company didn't plant the same kind.

I think that the recovery from the fire is kind of like ground cover. The first year they sleep, the second they creep, and the third they leap. The first year is hard, so so hard. I expect the second to be easier but still slow in our recovery. By the third year, I think it will be much much better.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My lonely place

In the days, weeks, and month after the fire I was amazed by the outpouring of support for us. We had talked about leaving Boise eventually because of better job opportunities for Dan when he graduates. But after the fire I couldn't figure out how we could ever justify leaving this community. Not to sound whiny, but where has everyone gone?

It has been months since I talked to many of the people who helped us out. Many of the people who we met BECAUSE of the fire, I befriended and assumed I would continue to have relationships with. We had an open house, and many of those people I assumed would at least come to that. But most didn't. To me celebrating our new home was just as important as helping us sweeping up our old one.

As I am writing, I am wondering if it's because I haven't made contact. But I have... not with everyone, but a few people at least. Given the lack of reaction from them though, I suppose I am reluctant to reach out to others.

It's a lonely place 10 months (today... it's been TEN months) after the fire. And it's strange to have a blog where I can share that, and you can read. Our door is always open.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Further response to Statesman article

When I was initially contacted about an interview for last Sunday's article, I ignored it. I didn't understand why the follow-up now and didn't want to talk about the struggles we continue to have. I also recognized that the city is tired of hearing about it.

But when I got the call last Thursday, I decided to talk, initially off the record, simply because I needed someone to listen. It seems that there are a lot of people who want to hear your story in the beginning... but nine months later, it can be a rather lonely place. I didn't want to talk on the record about how I struggle to find safety, that there are days I'm not sure I can leave my house because I am worried that something could happen to me while I'm out or happen to the house. We had a one in a million wildfire happen to us, and it makes other one in a million events seem so much more likely. I want to tell the story that the city wants to hear- that nine months later, we are home, we love our new house, that even though something tragic happened, we are better for it, it's an opportunity. And I hope that one day I can tell that story. But that day isn't today, and I believe in being honest and true to my feelings.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe I should share those thoughts publicly. The article was going to run anyway. We have been given an opportunity to be a voice. There are approximately 117 million house fires each year. And most of those people don't lose their homes in such a public manner. They don't have an entire community rallying behind them, they aren't asked their opinion on what could have been handled better, they aren't invited to lunch with the mayor. But I am sure that at least some of them go through the roller coaster of emotions that we have endured. It is likely that you will know someone else in your lifetime who loses a house to a fire. By speaking out about the difficulty we are having in settling into our new home, our new normal, I hope that it allows others who have lost their homes to realize they aren't alone. I hope that family and friends of those people realize that in the months after the fire, they are needed just as much as they were in the first few days. I hope it shows that picking up the pieces isn't just about sorting through the ash and remnants of a past, but rather it's about the emotional housekeeping, the continual checking in, helping on the days when things seem overwhelming, taking them up on their offers to get coffee or lunch and listening.

We have heard a lot of people ask why the Statesman keeps revisiting this topic in the last couple of days. I've even heard it referred to as a "victim article." I think that such feelings are the reason we stay in our house. Everyone is sick of hearing about the fire. But the fire is my reality. I don't get to take a break from it. I don't get to be sick of hearing about it. It's my life. And every time I walk through the front door, I am reminded of that.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

About the Statesman article

I didn't realize that the Statesman was publishing tax assessment information about our new homes. And quite frankly I don't think it was appropriate.

The information in there is merely records obtained from the county assessor's office and not the "cost of construction" (at least in our case).

I'm really not sure what is useful or newsworthy about that information. And while I understand that it is publicly available information, I think it was in poor taste to publish it, especially since we weren't told it would be in there, and I feel like we have been more than cooperative with them about information.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I went to the mall today. It's the first time I've been since... well, I don't even know. I've not always been mall-averse. I actually used to enjoy buying clothes, browsing, buying a few things. But shopping has felt like one more thing we had to do, one more thing on a list, one more reminder that things are so very different.

I also managed to return several things to Bed, Bath, & Beyond that I bought right before we moved home. They've been sitting in a pile, but I just didn't want to go to the store. Thankfully I have all the receipts and was easily able to return them.

Shopping for everything is exhausting. There is no slow accumulation. There are empty walls and nothing in a pile to pick from. No old pictures, no childhood drawings, no random phrases to hang on the wall. And blank walls are even worse, as though they are taunting you with their emptiness. I had said that I wasn't buying summer clothes this year. I just didn't feel like it. I have been wearing the same two pairs of jeans and rotating shirts so that my standing Wednesday appointments didn't see back to back shirts. I even pulled out summer maternity clothes that were donated to wear. But I need clothes. And the shopping, as it turned out, wasn't so bad. It almost felt like I was just buying clothes to be buying clothes as opposed to a necessity thing.

Afterwards we went to Borders. I bought Kellen two books, neither of them replacement anything. Just buying books to be buying books. It's normal. And I think we are starting to find that place again.

The Statesman is running a big follow-up article on Sunday. I expected it to run in August on the anniversary of the fire, but apparently this is the weekend. The reporter and I talked about the fact that nine months have passed. People expect us to be moving on. And I suppose we are in some ways, slowly. I'm not really sure anymore that moving on is the right word. I won't ever forget that my house burned down. I won't ever be comfortable seeing smoke coming in the direction of my neighborhood. Those are all a part of who I am now. But I can see normal again. It's on the horizon. And each day I take one more step toward it. Today I went shopping at the mall.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Non attachment

A woman on our street dropped off a flyer asking if anyone was interested in holding a garage sale this weekend. A garage sale, really? The stuff I own is less than a year old! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I did have stuff to sell. I had been asking Dan to try to sell some of it on Craigslist, but it wasn't going very well. At first I thought we only had a few things to sell so I wasn't sure if it was worth it. Most of that stuff is stuff I just didn't feel like returning- I just couldn't go back to the store. I had also saved a lot all of Kellen's baby stuff. When we have another child, it's likely they won't be born the same time of year, and I will want to buy new stuff I'm sure. So I've culled through his clothes and baby items, and I am amazed at how easy it is now to get rid of things. I've always had a hard time parting with stuff. I just don't feel that anymore. Maybe it's because I haven't had it long enough to develop an attachment. Or maybe my feelings about "stuff" has changed. That said, I do think I am more attached to things that survived the fire, whether in ash form or at my parents' houses.

If you or anyone you know needs baby stuff or home decor (I have some bar stools and really nice linens, candles, dog food holder, etc), the garage sale is Saturday at 8:00 am at our house. New stuff at garage sale prices. Doesn't get much better than that!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fire Season

The temperature is rising. School is in its final days. Lemonade fills my glass, and sunglasses are a must. Shorts (if I had any) are replacing pants for the next several months. It's summer. And all I can think about is the fact that it's fire season.

According to news reports this year is going to be a "normal" fire season, "and that means it's going to be an active one." It was great to get some rain today, but its presence reminded me that it has been a very dry spring, and that is not good for fire season.

Am I worried about our hill? No. It's completely charred. Am I worried about my house? Always. The PTSD has made it almost impossible to listen to fire engines, to smell smoke, to see fire without being paranoid, frightened, panicked. I've turned around when I've seen smoke, even if it's in front of me, and my house is behind me. I worry about the smell of smoke drifting over the valley. I fear that we won't be able to go to our family's cabin in the Sawtooths or go to McCall. We went rafting a couple of years ago, and there was a large wildfire that made the air in the whole canyon thick. I don't think I could handle that.

I suppose we'll be staying close to home. We don't have any camping gear anyway other than some chairs, which make great front porch furniture ;-) I'm just hoping that if it's an active fire season the fires stay away, and the wind stays calm.