Friday, July 30, 2010

Fire Season is here.

Lightening storms have taken residence in Boise over the last month. I've been awoken a few times to Dan watching the sky flashing with white streaks of light. He thinks it's awesome. I find it terrifying.

I read earlier in the week about fire warnings because of the lightening and that firefighters would be stationed on local mountains watching for strikes and possible fires. Just reading about the possibility of wildfires was enough to stress me out. That was heightened when I walked outside Wednesday and the smell of smoke clung to the air. It was a sweet smell, quite unlike the smell of our fire and the aftermath, which smelled of propane, burned rubber, and charred wood. This smoke also didn't burn my lungs as I breathed in fiberglass as it had almost two years ago.

I knew that there was a fire burning east of here in a more remote location. But I also am fairly smart and understand wind direction. I thought it would be fairly odd for the smoke to be blowing west. One peak at the news on my laptop, and I knew that there was a fire in Eagle (a suburb west of here). Within a few hours I knew that a few homes had been lost.

I'm sad. And scared. We decided to rebuild in the same location to bring some amount of emotional closure to the fire. We would have new memories here. And for the most part, our life has affirmed this decision. But it doesn't mean I'm not stressed about the possibility of fire. We still live next to a field of brush. And while the power company says that they are maintaining it, any amount of brush in that field is enough to concern me, apparent fire break or no. We had a road as a fire break, and it did little in preventing our home from burning down. I just don't know how many summers I can deal with this fear, worried about lightening strikes or power pole surges.

I'm also really sad for the families. I know the devastation, the loss, the emotional wringer that follows. And I want to reach out. I also know how overwhelming the first few days are, and I don't want to overwhelm the families any more than they already are. The reality is that in the big fires, so much help is given, but in small day-to-day fires the community doesn't reach out in the same manner. It's hard for me to reconcile my wanting to reach out in this instance and not reaching out for every fire. It's why I feel so strongly about creating the site for other families who have lost their homes. And that brings me to another point, which is my energy just isn't up enough to help right now. It sounds like a crappy excuse, but I consider a good day one where I can make dinner. Anything else is just a bonus. I'm hoping that others are able to reach out and do more than I am able at the moment.

I also read on the news about the fast-moving wildfires in L.A. It's just such a reminder about the ferocity of nature. Please use this time to prepare in the event of an emergency. Do you have a fire ladder yet (we do!)? Are your smoke detectors working? Have you taken pictures of your house in the event you needed to itemize your content? Do you have a plan to meet in case you get separated? Do you have renter's insurance or are you fully covered on your home? If you haven't had these conversations, please do. I hope you never need to be so prepared. But you just never know when it's your turn. I never thought it could happen to me. It did.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Seattle and Venus

I can't believe it's been 10 days since I last posted.

Dan is finishing up his math class, and should be getting an A (or a high B). It's really an achievement, and his schoolwork is finally starting to recover from the downslide after the fire.

We spent the weekend away in Seattle, our first real weekend away from Kellen. Although we missed him, it didn't hurt to have a weekend away from the constant demanding needs of another human. The first night we were out to a nice dinner on the water, and another family came in with a whiny toddler, and I wanted to tell them that I had a No-toddler-within-50-feet-of-earshot rule while on vacation, but that didn't seem fair! We have certainly caused our share of raucous at restaurants.

Our trip was mostly for my check-up with the Lyme doctor, and we decided to add on a couple days away. This was the view from our hotel room:



We watched cruise ships load and unload passengers as though it were a 24 hour cattle call. We made a mental note that if we ever went on a cruise, we'd arrive late and make sure we could afford to be a VIP.

On Friday, I had a PICC line put in. It's a more permanent IV line that allows me to give myself daily meds that will hopefully penetrate the blood-brain barrier and kick these spirochetes to the ground. After I had it put in, I told Dan we needed to name it. When Dad was sick with cancer and we were being given a five year life expectancy (it's been nine years thanks to a great clinical trial), we named his IV stand Freddie. Whenever it was time to walk around 4-south, one hand on the pole, the other closing his hospital gown, it gave us a momentary laugh to call for Freddie, the IV stand. I guess it personalizes medicine a little and makes it less scary or... medical. Dan decided that we should name it Venus, the intravenous PICC line.

And if life wasn't exciting enough, the air has started filling with smoke as two wildfires burn in the area. I really don't know if I'm cut out to live in an area where wildfires are an annual occurrence.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Kellen playtime

Kellen and I are at gramma and grandpa's house. We got to play on the playground, which is Kellen's favorite. We can't pass a slide or swing without a grand pronouncement of its presence.









Apparently my son has a need to stick out his tongue when he is seriously contemplating something... like climbing over a giant half-circle monkey bar:




Gramma got Kellen a tricycle. We thought his legs would be long enough, but they weren't. So he just pushed it along with his feet. We are practicing using a helmet with all bicycle modes of transportation.





At first he didn't like the helmet, but it grew on him...


... to the point, that he's been wearing it all day... even at dinner.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Christmas story

I've been hesitant to post about this, but I am pretty certain this is going to happen, like 99.5% sure.

As many of you know I've been writing a lot since the fire. I've always known I was a writer and would write. But I have had numerous starts and stops because, well, WRITING IS HARD. I believe that you've really got to want to be a writer to really do the work that makes you a good writer (in one of my workshops someone said it takes 10,000 hours of practice- OYE!).

But after the fire and the facial paralysis and the Lyme disease, well, I've had time to write (and check email, and post on Facebook, and Tweet... there's always ways to procrastinate). I also chase after a toddler, which can be an incredible brain drain.

Anyhow, I checked some of the upcoming themes for Chicken Soup for the Soul. I just needed to get published again while I work on my book. They had a deadline for a Christmas book, so I waited and waited and waited until the very last day. I sat down, wrote out my essay, and submitted.

I hadn't heard anything back so gave up on it, thinking that I shouldn't try to submit work that I've written in an hour or so anyway.

And then one day, while trying on clothes in the Eddie Bauer dressing room, I got the notice that my story had been accepted as a finalist. Most stories in the final cut make it to the book. After some back and forth about the contract, I signed, and this last week I ok'd the edits (of which I don't think there were many, but I haven't compared the two side by side).

The book is scheduled to come out this fall. I get ten copies, and I'm planning on giving a few signed copies away once I have them in hand.

Meanwhile, back to the blank page...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

It's my birthday!

I'm twenty-eight today. I feel years older. In honor of today, I'm going to share 28 things you might not have known about me (stolen from my dear friend Heather, who turned 30 a couple of days ago).

1. I am proficient in saying the alphabet backward.

2. My favorite part of my birthday is watching Wimbledon.

3. I used to be a great speller, but that's one thing Lyme has taken away from me. It's rather cruel actually.

4. I am a game fanatic, and, more importantly, I really hate to lose.

5. I have changed my mind about what I want to be when I "grow up" at least a dozen times. In college I changed my major once a semester, ultimately majoring in political science. I then went to school to be a book editor and ended up working in a law firm when I moved to NYC.

6. I love to cook. And I think I'm pretty good at it.

7. I am really bad at gardening. I don't understand why.

8. When I was pregnant with Kellen I craved potatoes and couldn't stand the thought of Mexican food (even though that's what we ate the night of the fire).

9. I love french fries. I am a healthy eater, but I really love french fries.

10. I spend WAY too much time on the computer.

11. I am fascinated by the way that social media allows us to *know* people we otherwise wouldn't.

12. I design blogs and logos.

13. I have very few close friends. I tend to make friends and then lose them rather quickly (or because I move, which I've done a lot of).

14. I am really critical of other people. It's not a good thing, but I find it very difficult to change.

15. I am ridiculously good at Wheel of Fortune. I tried to get on the show, but I didn't have a favorite NASCAR driver. Not kidding.

16. I am blunt (ok, if you know me, you know this). I actually admire this about myself. I have a lot of family who skirt around issues, and I think it's just easier to get it out in the open.

17. I grew up on the water of the Chesapeake Bay. I miss it. The Boise River just doesn't do it for me in terms of bodies of water.

18. I am addicted to reality TV. I know the outcome of The Bachelorette (thanks Reality Steve), and I still watch it. I also love the Real Housewives. They are all totally crazy, but I still love it.

19. I love to sing even though I suck at it. Yet, Karaoke scares me. I'm working on this.

20. I made up a dance with my step-sister to Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" when I was in elementary school. A video of this event may or may not still exist ;-)

21. I've had two early miscarriages. This scares me about my ability to have more biological children.

22. I have a room full of scrapbooking supplies and yet have barely started Kellen's. I need a scrapbooking friend.

23. Dan got me Chanel No. 5 for my birthday. I had almost a full bottle before the fire, and it's taken almost 2 years to buy more. Two years without perfume is kind of a long time!

24. I've always thought that I was going to be famous, or at least well known. Even as a young child I thought this, not in a "I wish I was" kind of way, but rather in an "I know this to be true" kind of way.

25. I used to hate flip flops. Now I love them. Same thing with jeans. I hated them as a kid and was glad I lived in the 80s, era of the stretch pant.

26. I also used to hate black pepper. I'm becoming more tolerant.

27. I've always wanted to be 30.

28. I love pink gerber daisies. If I could have a house full of them at all times, I would be forever happy. Probably not, but it would at least make me smile!

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And now, your present to me, dear reader... share one thing I didn't know about you!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fire Story Friday

This blog is finally reaching out to a larger community of fire survivors, and I have been so fortunate that many people have reached out to share their stories. I am starting a series each Friday (hopefully) that shares the stories of others and the lessons they have learned through the experiences. I truly hope that you will consider sharing your story. Please email me at life_after_the_fire@yahoo.com. I just got a wonderful email last night from a family who is moving home today after their fire last fall. I want to wish them all the best. Home. You don't know how much you will miss it until it's gone.

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Today's story comes from a woman I met on Twitter. I feel fortunate to have been able to connect with her and maybe help as she deals with the trauma that the fire has inflicted on her life. Here is Steph's story.


My house burned down on September 25, 2008 [exactly one month after our fire if you're counting]. I was 30, a mom to 2 young kids, and raised exotic animals in my house. My husband and I had been married for nearly ten years and had bought our house shortly after we were married.

On the day of the fire, I was out of town, in Minneapolis, to lend support to my friend and goddaughter, who was critically ill. The day had already started off poorly, as I had just learned that my husband lost his job. We were on our way to the Rainforest Cafe at the Mall of America when my phone rang. That call would change my life.

It is believed an oscillating fan in the house shorted out, though they have never been able to definitely prove this. When the dispatcher from the police department called me, I was terrified and worried about the animals that were in our house, including my fifteen year old border collie who I later learned did not survive. I had gotten this dog during my previous marriage, and she had been there during my divorce, remarriage, adoption of our daughter, and pregnancy. She was my best friend, quite literally. The hardest thing for me is imagining how she might have died. Those images haunt me, and I often have to take anti-anxiety medication to sleep. I have struggled with crippling PTSD since the fire that make it difficult to leave the house and almost impossible to leave town. I also store less of my items in my house and refuse heirloom hand-me-downs.

One piece of advice I have is to never leave electric appliances running when you leave your house even if they seem benign and run on a timer or thermostat. The possibility of a short exists.

As far as insurance, it has been a nightmare because the origin of the fire has never been conclusive. I recommend giving them whatever information they ask for even if it feels intrusive or irrelevant because if you don't, they will use it against you. Write down all details of your conversations with your insurance company, including who you talked to, what time it was, and what they said in detail. You may need it. Also, don't be afraid to get your agent involved if you have one or to contact the state insurance commission; they are a powerful tool. Also, submit your contents list as soon as possible but reserve the right to add to it as you remember.

I finally settled my claim with insurance a year ago yesterday, on my birthday.

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Steph has recently been blogging about her fire, and I encourage you to check out her blog and read her story in more depth there. I believe that writing is cathartic and a powerful tool in healing. Thank you for sharing your story Steph.