Sunday, September 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Kellen!!

Hard to believe it's been a year since you were born. We love you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


What do you do when you hear a fire alarm going off in your house? Do you walk around looking for the beeping alarm to change the battery? I know I used to. What's the point of a fire alarm if it doesn't alert us to fire but rather is alerting us to the battery charge? What is the point when we become so desensitized to the alarm that we don't first think, we should get the kids out of the house?

I worry about this. I worry because I've noticed a significant change in behavior since the fire. I don't immediately start walking around my house when I hear the alarm. No. The first thing I do is check for signs of a fire. Do I smell smoke? Is it hot? I walk outside. Honestly, the alarm can go off for a few minutes. I would rather it annoy the neighbors than be caught in a real fire thinking it was just a battery.

This brings me to another point about smoke alarms. You really need to test them once a month. They don't do you any good if they don't work. (And they really don't do you any good if you are annoyed by them and took them down.) Replace the batteries. Please.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


We currently need to replace TWO lightbulbs.

I know this doesn't seem like a lot, but it is. It means we have lived in this house long enough to need replacement lightbulbs. It means I've walked in the mud room enough times to have burned out the light.

It's a milestone, a small one, but a milestone. Lightbulbs.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New house stuff

The idea of a new house sounds so nice. Everything is new, nothing is broken. Everything works. Well, let me tell you a story about new houses! That is so not true!! And I think it's time for us to actually get on the fixing of the stuff before warranties expire.

For example, our microwave is possessed. It is electronic and has a touch-screen and is nice. But it freaks out EVERYDAY. It can't figure out what time it is and flashes from the front screen to the clock and back and forth and back and forth, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.... BEEEEEEP. This is why our microwave is unplugged.

We also have an issue with one of our outlets where if you plug in anything with a motor (like a vacuum or a drill) the fire alarm goes off. I don't know what it is with us and fire alarms, but it's bizarre. Why can't the lights dim or something instead of throwing me into an all-alert panic?

And our master bedroom is on some kind of special new breaker that is super fire protective, which is great, except it breaks ALL the time.

Our laundry room door won't stay open. I don't know how to fix that.

I know these are all minor in the grand scheme of things, but they are just little annoyances that I just wish we weren't having to deal with. I'd take the cracking tile, the lack of weather-stripping under the door, and the non-fire door in the garage. I would.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

How did I get so much stuff?


Where did this stuff come from?

And why can I still not find things I actually need? Like tape? Or a hammer? I do have a can opener though! That I do have!

I might have empty bookcases, but I still feel like I have crap everywhere. I think I can thank Kellen for that. I don't actually think it's that we have that much "stuff" as much as it is that the stuff we have gets spread out a lot. Maybe the stuff that we have is stuff we actually use and need (like clothes and dishes and scrapbooking paper!). Whatever it is, it is all over my floors!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Contents List... AGAIN

I am dreading the contents list. Dreading.

But I know we need to do it. An actual list, of the actual contents of this house, rather than a list created from memory, with who knows how much of our stuff excluded. We have receipts. We've been really good about that. And we have a cool receipt scanner from Costco. But we need to do more than that to make sure we are fully insured in this house.

And since we are doing it, I am inviting you to join me this fall. Go through your house. Take pictures of each room, each drawer, each closet, the garage, the attic (trust me on the garage and attic- you won't remember what's in a place you don't see everyday). Upload those photos to a site like Shutterfly, take them to your parent's, put them in a safety deposit box, hope you'll never need them. And then go through, room by room creating a list of what you own, how much you paid for it. Do it little by little if you have to. A room a week, a month even. And then look at your insurance and see if the amount you are covered for in contents is more or less than what your total is. If you ever need to use that policy, you will hope that it is more. I also highly recommend replacement coverage to ensure that the actual cost of the item is covered. You should see the price lists that insurance companies use to determine the costs of goods. You want $20 for that lamp? GOOD LUCK! Here's a nickel.

If you are a RENTER, look at that content list and decide whether you can afford to replace all of those items out of pocket. If not, please (PLEASE) consider renter's insurance.

I would love to know how this goes for you. Like I said, I am dreading this. It was at this time last year, we were starting our list from the old house, and it was no fun. Fifty pages in Excel. Fortunately I have a lot more records now. But it doesn't seem any less daunting. Just a little less emotional.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


First, I promise I will get photos up. We have been having weird technology voodoo around here, and computers are down, and I am reluctant to delete any photos off my memory card for fear that we will lose the photos if the computers crash again.

The first surprise of the week has to do with cameras. Last night, Tabby (the miracle cat) was sleeping in my flower pot, and I really wanted to get a picture. I grabbed the first memory card I could find, and turned the camera on. The card was full, so I looked through the photos to see what I could delete. On the card were pictures from the day after the fire. We had gone to Best Buy to get a camera because we needed documentation of the house for insurance. We also wanted to get photos of those first minutes. I was torn about keeping them. They weren't high quality images, and I have much better pictures. But there is something raw about them that captures the emotion of those first few hours. Dark, black, bleak. I decided to erase a couple and was able to get Tabby in the flower pot. (I will upload as soon as my laptop is fixed because the card reader on my desktop doesn't work- and yes, we have a lot of computers.)

The second surprise came this morning. We have been trying to organize the house, really get things into places that are functional as well as decorative. (I will post later about how hard it is to "decorate" without kitschy things.) I was putting some of my "old" things into a box. I love having newspapers from high school that I edited and wrote for. I love my grade school pictures and report cards. But I also don't need them on the floor, so they are in the garage. I found a book my mom had sent. It wasn't a book I really had much of an attachment to, and I've laughed often at how the things that I didn't really want (and therefore left at my mom's house) have become the things that I now cherish from my past. This book probably would have been in a giveaway pile a mere eighteen months ago. But Kellen was playing with it this morning (he likes to "read" to himself), and inside the front cover was a note from my grandfather. If you remember this post, when we were going through the remnants of the house, we found a torn letter from him. He died a few years ago, and I miss him. A love of books was something we shared, and his handwriting is beautiful.

The note reads:
"Dear Brooke,
I'm very proud of you for being an avid reader! Yes, reading provides food and pleasure for the mind - Don't ever let your brain starve!
Christmas '96"

Speaking of books, I just started the book, Life is a Verb. The premise is that the author's stepfather was given a cancer diagnosis and died 37 days later. What if you had 37 days to live? I know it is kind of morbid, but really, the one thing the fire has left me with is the fragility of life. How would you live your last 37 days? And since none of us can know when the end is, why not start living your life like that now? I'm hoping to share with you more of this book as I go along.

And to end on a really good note, I have started scrapbooking again. It's been a challenge because I was devastated to lose Kellen's baby book I started. I have gotten several pages into his book, and more photos should be here today. I am also starting my house scrapbook. And hopefully I will start my fire shadow box that is going to go in the living room soon. I can't wait to share that project.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Art in the Park

I have been waiting a WHOLE YEAR for Art in the Park. Last year we picked up some pieces, mostly replacements of stuff we had before, but it was hard to buy for a house we didn't have.

So much of the "stuff" I had in my house had a story. I could look at the table and tell you that I got it as a floor sample from Pottery Barn or look at the typewriter that I loved and tell you that I bought it at an antique store and about how every kid that walked through our doors played with it. I could tell you about the old photography equipment and how it was found by rummaging through my great-grandparents' stuff and by helping my dad move out of our family house the week of my wedding. I could tell you about the collage picture on our wall that a friend of mine from high school made as a wedding gift.

But most of the stuff in our house now doesn't have much of a story... and we were given so much so quickly and bought so much right after moving that the stories kind of merge together. Granted there are things that have stories I can tell you, like the piggy bank baby bottle or "Douglas" the big stuffed bear. But I miss having my own stories associated with objects in and around my house.

Which is why I've been waiting a year for Art in the Park. We bought a flower made out of recycled goods (picture tomorrow), a guitar playing skeleton for Halloween (I can't wait to show you pictures of our house decorated for Halloween!), and Christmas ornaments. We are also considering a glass piece for the wall in our bedroom. It's my hope that someday (SOON) I will be able to look around my house and tell you a story without having to refer to the fire every third word.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jarring dreams

I don't have fire dreams all the time anymore, which is why when I do have them, I wake up completely off, starting the day 100 yards behind where I expected to.

Dreams are a defining characteristic of PTSD as I've written before and have been the most difficult after-fire experience because I have no control over them and am really shaken when they happen.

In this morning's dream, we had been at an event to come home to our neighborhood gone. The strange thing about dreams is that sometimes the scenery is different (I don't always dream that the house that burns down is our old house. We often live in a different neighborhood or city in my dreams. But the outcome is always the same.) I was sitting in a pile of smoldering ash looking through my decimated home, when the fireman brought me the remnants of a hospital ID tag from my birth. I was crying. And crying.

And then I woke up for the day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kids and fire

I was watching the Today show this morning (do you see a theme?). They showed a segment (below) about kids and lighters and matches and how even with a talk about how dangerous they were, that kids still play with them. I am asking you, blog reader, to have a conversation about fire with your children. Discuss the dangers. And put your lighters/matches in a safe place that isn't reachable by your children.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I love fall

I love Fall. I love that night comes sooner and morning comes just a little later. I love the thought of pumpkin carving (after a visit to the pumpkin patch). I love seeing kids on their way to school and off to sports practices. I love tailgating and Football season (and love that I have a team to root for). I love long sleeved shirts. I love fall because it is comfortable, and if you've been to my house or know me, that's my life. Comfortable.

I was robbed of fall last year. Fall was sadness, stress, overwhelming. Not comfort.

There was little to decorate or decorate with. We went to the pumpkin patch, but we forgot to carve the pumpkins. It was just one more to-do on a list that was already pages too long.

I might go a little overboard this year, but that's ok. I have already starting making my October crafts. And I've been looking around for even more decorations. (I need to figure out how to light the pumpkins without candles.) We have thrown ourselves into Football season. I am embracing Pumpkin Spice lattes. I am so excited that it's fall. And I'm glad for the new year feeling that has continued to settle into my heart.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Have or had?

I know I've mentioned this before, but the question of "Do I have that?" or "Did I have that?" has been surfacing a lot lately. As time goes by, it becomes harder to remember what was and what is. For example, Kellen's practice cake had come out of the oven, and I was trying to ice it and lay the fondant. I knew I had a cake decorator plate that spun, but I couldn't find it. So Dan and I had to sit and think whether it was something that I HAD or HAVE. I was sure that it was something I had bought A.F. (after fire) because I hadn't been decorating cakes beforehand. After much searching, we found it misplaced in a cabinet. (That's the other problem we are having- where should stuff go?!)

I know this HAD/HAVE thing happens with people when they donate or sell something, so I'm not alone, but this happens to us with a little more frequency than before. I'm also never sure quite how hard I should look for something because it might be a very futile search. Usually it entails more of a searching through my memories to determine when I think I would have used it.

I also find myself asking whether I claimed something on insurance. Someone will mention an item in passing, and I will think, "Was that on our list?" Since our list was 50 pages long in Excel, I'm not really inclined to go look it up. I know there are things that weren't claimed, but at this point it's moot (or a "moo point" if you are a Friends fan).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

California Wildfires

I like watching the Today show. When I went on my news strike, I missed watching my morning "news."

I had to turn it off this morning as they had footage of families looking through their homes, which looked a lot like the remnants of our home. I also felt like I was invading their privacy. Those first moments are so raw and jarring, and I don't know how I feel about TV cameras being there.

I feel for those families, and it makes me even more certain that there needs to be an organization that is dedicated to helping them navigate the first days, weeks, months after the fire. I try to find information about how to help, and there is little. If there were an organization that oversaw donations and such, it would be so much easier to get the families what they need.

I really would like to help the families, both in the southern CA and Auburn fires. I know the Red Cross is accepting donations, but I refuse to donate to them after last year. I am still uncertain as to how much of those donations actually go to helping the families in need.

Please keep all the families who lost their homes in your thoughts. They are at the beginning of their journey, and they have a tough year ahead of them.