Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jumper cables

I never imagined I'd be so mad about jumper cables.

Yesterday I got a phone call from Dan (one that was common in days past with his '96 Ford truck) telling me that his car was dead. He asked if I could come to school to jump him (or rather his car).

Sure I said, though I was a little annoyed to deviate from my schedule of errands. "Do you have the jumper cables?" I asked. "Uhhhh," he said. And then I realized. No, he doesn't have the jumper cables. I don't have them either. Honestly I cringe to even think of what they must have melted into. And then I was mad.

I am mad mostly because I don't want to buy jumper cables. Again. I don't. I'm tired of spending money on stuff I had. (The last time I wrote a post about this someone commented "Seriously." This time please (seriously) spare me!) I really don't want to go buy anything I HAD again. We're still decorating the house and looking for unique pieces to fill up our bookcases. It isn't money I want to spend on stupid jumper cables. Insurance money is long gone, so now it is money out of our pockets. Honestly I doubt the jumper cables made our contents list for insurance. The items you seldom use are the ones you so easily forget when you are trying to sort through the contents of your house in your mind. (Nevermind that the items in the garage were the hardest for me to remember in the first place.)

Thankfully Dan found someone at BSU to jump his car. It spared my having to buy cables. And I probably won't. I'm on strike!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The "other" anniversary

We are counting down to the one year anniversary of being home. It falls, as it did last year, on the same day as the Light My Fire fundraiser. I'm not sure if they will show our video again, but I am preparing myself for the emotional impact of seeing our home burn down again. But that's not what this post is about.

We've almost been home a year. There are days it feels like we've been here a month and others where it feels like we have always been here, that we never left.

I am trying very hard to get my house organized before that year mark. I moved the plates and glasses in the kitchen because the way things were just wasn't working. It's what you do the first year in a house, you know. We've moved couches so that they work better. I've been getting Kellen's big boy room set up and am planning on painting it as soon as the comforter gets here (pictures and more on my mommy blog). It's really starting to feel like our home. And the memories of our old house are starting to become fewer (as are the nightmares, though they are definitely still there). I've been able to take up projects in this house the same way we did the old house, and that is comforting, reassuring.

With less than two weeks until we celebrate a year of being home, it is a good time to acknowledge that we are HOME.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Out in the blogosphere, there is a tradition of doing just photos on Wednesdays. So here is my Wordless Wednesday photo...

One day's worth of meds!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why I haven't donated to Haiti's relief efforts

This post will probably make me unpopular, but hear me out.

I am very sad to hear about the tragedy in Haiti. Very sad. A loss of 200,000 or more lives is staggering, and the number of children left parentless makes me want to lie in bed cuddled with my son for the next week sobbing. And yet I haven't donated to the relief efforts. As someone who was the recipient of incredible donations, you might wonder why.

I believe that big relief organizations use these major tragedies as a way to stoke their coffers, if you will. We learned a very big lesson during the fire that just because you donate money to a relief organization for a particular cause doesn't mean that money has to GO TO that cause. A portion of it might, but... I thought that specifically ear marking it would make it so the money had to be used in that way, but I was apparently mistaken. I also learned that there are incredible inefficiencies with some of the major organizations (for example, we were asked what we needed most, and both Dan and I told them I needed mental health support because of my nightmares- two weeks later and no one had called me to even check in). I believe that many of these organizations have incredible resources at their disposal and are using the donated money to continue to build their money pool for future disasters. I actually don't think this is bad either, but the lack of transparency is VERY frustrating to me.

Relief organizations are also asking for cash donations over specific items. I *completely* understand this. I know the firemen were given a lot of things for us that they didn't know what to do with. They were fortunately able to turn the unclaimed items into a community yard sale, but it is a BIG job to sort and funnel items instead of cash.

One of the main reasons I am not donating to Haiti, though, is that I am trying to donate locally as much as I can. As I've written, the Boise Burn-Out fundraiser is on the 6th, and it is VERY important to me. The assistance that families need who lose their homes in the next few months is no less important than the major humanitarian disasters. Their loss may not be as unfathomable, but it is still incredible.

And a final note, we all seem to have very short memories for tragedy. These families and communities are still going to be hurting six months, sixteen months, six years from now. One of the best things we can do as a part of humanity is to send positive energy into the universe so that the Haitian nation can heal. (And once the immediate needs have lessened, send items of love (pictures, cards).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Kellen and his teddy bear

Kellen loves stuffed animals. Because of the incredible generosity of others, we aren't lacking for them!

When he was a little baby, we would hold up his stuffed animals for him before nap and bedtime to see which one he wanted. He made it known! So he has two that he religiously sleeps with: the blue doggie ("woof woof" Kellen says) and the blue beanie baby striped lion. He has recently added a monkey from my aunt and uncle into this mix. He has a thing for soft tails. I can't explain it.

Aside from those though, he has a very special teddy bear named Douglas. I think I have shared this story before, but I don't have a very good memory these days, so I will share it again, in case. Douglas is a HUGE teddy bear that was donated by a boy who attends Riverstone International School. We met this boy when they arranged for us to have family pictures done after the fire (which was just fantastic!). I don't know how the bear got the name "Douglas" but it is inscribed on his foot.

Anyhow, Douglas has been a staple in Kellen's crib for a LONG time, way before it was "okay" to have something in his crib. And Kellen loves him. Instead of a pillow, there is Douglas. Every night Kellen is asleep on Douglas's leg. When he is awake in his crib looking at books, he leans against Douglas like one of those study pillows. And the other day I went in his room, and he laughed and charged into Douglas. He loves him. And I love these memories. Thank you for this bear. It is one of many gifts that will be cherished forever.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Light My Fire

Last year we were invited to be a part of the Boise Burn Out fund's annual Light My Fire event. It was the day we moved home, which made it even more special to us. We participated in a video for them about how important the Burn Out fund was to us. I'm not sure how articulate I was at the time, but I have now had lots of time to reflect on the significance of the burn out fund.

One of the first people we spoke to after the fire was Charlie Ruffing, a fireman who took up this project several years ago and has become the fund's chief go-to guy. We didn't know it at the time, but we would come to rely on Charlie to help us through this time. I don't think Charlie knew it either, and having spoken with him several times, I'm not sure that the emotional side of things is where he expected to find himself!

The Burn Out fund organized several events to raise money for the Oregon Trail fire. Part of the money went to their general fund and part of it to the families. The immediate impact of their donations allowed us to get some necessities while we waited for the insurance advance (dealing with insurance is a whole different topic!). It also was crucial in our ability to eat. We were living in a hotel. We had no pots and pans, no real kitchen (though our hotel did have a kitchenette). We were on the go ALL day meeting with contractors, insurance inspectors, demolition crews, city officials, neighbors, friends. We were at the store trying to figure out what we NEEDED (toothbrush, brush, deodorant, a couple shirts, underwear, a clean pair of pants). The burn out fund donations were also useful in allowing us to do our own clean up. We wanted to sift through our belongings, not have some crew do it. And we had many volunteers show up to help (so many, in fact, that we got done in a one day by mid-afternoon). We needed supplies to help protect those that came. We bought masks and gloves. We also needed tubs to put salvageable items in... tubs that are still in my garage without much use given their ashy condition.

The burn out fund also held a community garage sale, and we were able to sort through donated items. We were able to furnish our rental through the generosity of others and the foresight of these incredible firemen.

Beyond the financial assistance, Charlie Ruffing's presence in our life, through phone calls and visits, was probably one of the best things they could have ever given us. I know that most of the families who get assistance through the fund do not see the firemen week in and week out. But we did. And it was reassuring to know that people still cared, that they hadn't forgotten.

Boise's Light My Fire fundraiser is February 6 at the Doubletree hotel in Downtown Boise. It includes dinner and a silent auction. Please consider attending this event. I believe in donating locally, and this organization is very much needed and very much appreciated. You can RSVP here.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fiesta Bowl!!

One of the things Dan and I did this fall in an attempt to create new after-fire (A.F.) memories was get season tickets for the Broncos. We found that going to football games with a one year old... or trying to find a babysitter for one... wasn't always easy. But it was fun nevertheless, and the memories are good ones!

We come down to California for New Year's most years, and this year was the same. Since we were within a short driving distance to the game, we headed over to Arizona, and we spent our first night away from Kellen. It was great!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Reflections from 2009

I wasn't planning on doing this. I pretty much summed up 2009 in my failed Christmas letter post. But my friend, The Writer Chic, had this questionnaire on her blog, so I figured it was easy enough to answer a few questions. And maybe I'll find something good about the worst year ever.

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
Moving home. I am so proud of Dan for building us our home and getting us there. I still remember vividly sitting in our living room for the first time with no furniture posting our Live from Sweetwater Drive post. I cried. It's almost unbelievable to me that we haven't yet been home a year.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
Answering this question.

I am having a hard time deciding what's been the most challenging: resettling in our house and feeling like I still wasn't home even though I was, being sick and not knowing why, dealing with Lyme Disease and the side effects of the antibiotics, losing my grandmother...

In reality the most challenging "thing" was coming to terms with my not being in control of... well, just about anything. Although as much as I am working on this, I am still not there yet, which was proven again to me today when I saw smoke come up over a mountain and had a panic attack about where the fire was. I guess I am coming to terms with the unexpected as well.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
Finding Stroller Strides. It was really nice to get out of the house and be around other moms and kids. I haven't been able to go this fall, and I'm looking forward to being able to start up again this winter.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
Dan's hernia surgery. It has been such a rough year, and I thought we had cleared all the hurdles. I was looking forward to celebrating a calm December and enjoying the Christmas season. Instead, I was dealing with Dan's recovery. I think that a huge part of it was just the stress of *one more [bad] thing*.

5. Pick three words to describe 2009.
challenging, exhausting, home

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2009.
full of anxiety
He says: "Oh my god."

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2009.
home, growing up
He says: "Oh my god." and "Are you serious?!"

8. What were the best books you read this year?
Re-read Eat, Pray, Love

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
Kellen, Dan, my neighbors, Beth who has held my hand through every step of our tragedy and who never fails to offer help, my dad's family as we dealt with my grandmother's passing, my Strong Mommas!

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
Realizing that "have to" is subjective. I felt like I "had" to do so many things to ensure that I was creating memories in our new house and to deal with the fire. But really, only I was imposing those expectations, and I could change them at any time. By December, surviving was my only expectation.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
I think when you are on your knees wondering if you can get through the next hour, much less the whole night, you are being asked to grow emotionally in ways you can't yet articulate. I have learned that simply surviving is sometimes enough.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
I think I have become more settled in my beliefs, and my feelings about the afterlife have helped pull me through my darkest hours. I have also reflected a lot on my life's purpose and karma.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
This question is strangely worded. The biggest physical challenge has been dealing with Lyme Disease and treatment. I had known something was wrong but was unable to get any answers. I am fortunate to have doctors who listen. I also think that I've learned how much emotional stress translates into physical distress and is a major reason why I need to learn how to better manage emotional hardships.

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
I continue to learn to ask for help... and continue to be amazed when asking for help translates into action, often by those who barely know me.

15. What was the most enjoyable area of managing your home?
Finding things that are "just right." I love our new entertainment center, and it definitely feels like my home. I've also enjoyed my kitchen. I love my kitchen.

16. What was your most challenging area of home management?
Trying not to get discouraged when parts of our home still aren't done or don't feel like they reflect us. I also don't like how bare my shelves are.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
It's really hard for me to admit this because I love the women on my message board, but it has definitely been a time suck for me, and I am planning on cutting down this year on internet time.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
Spending time watching Kellen grow. Our big family walks to the Co-op and Lucky Peak are also my two favorite memories from the year.

19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?
That things can always get worse.

20. Create a phrase or statement that described 2009 for you.
I'm borrowing a few:
"The only way out is through." - Alanis Morrisette
"If you're going through hell, keep going."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Fire project 2010

It's a NEW YEAR! I actually cried watching the ball drop in Times Square knowing that 2009 was O-V-E-R! I am hoping that 2010 brings only good things to us and it proves to be a year of incredible healing and gives us a sense of truly being settled.

One of the projects I am working on is a book. I've been asked repeatedly since the fire if I would write about it, and the simple answer is Yes. I would eventually like to write a memoir, but for now there is a greater need. There are NO resources for people whose homes burn down. Trust me. I needed one! I needed to know how to navigate insurance, how to deal with accepting help when I wasn't a person accustomed to needing it. I needed help in understanding rebuilding options. I needed an emotional map to get me through the roller coaster of getting settled back into a new "normal."

But I need your help. If you read my blog and have survived a fire, I would love to interview you. If you know someone who has lost their home, I would love to interview them. If you work in the insurance business or construction business or the legal business or in the psych field, I would also love to talk to you. I am hoping to incorporate stories of loss and hope as well as real-world advice to help deal with the hours, days, weeks, months, and even years after such an enormous loss.

I have a proposal in the works and need to get some sample chapters ready and then will be sending off to a publisher (depending on how I do this, I *may* bypass an agent given my contacts in the industry). I am excited about this project, and I hope you will join me on this new journey!