Thursday, November 17, 2011

Finding happiness

For the first time in over THREE YEARS, I think I can finally say that I am enjoying my life.

It's been a long time coming.

I can't say that I don't have bouts of depression still or that I'm not still scared that my house is going to burn down again or that I'm going to get sick again or that something will show up tomorrow at my proverbial life doorstep to derail me again, but for right now, in this moment, I am happy. And I am happy about my life.

I look at the last decade, and I am amazed that I made it through. I am often saddened by the events that have unfolded, even in the midst of incredible life events like my wedding and the birth of my son. It wasn't supposed to happen like that. But it did. And yet, I am okay. I didn't always get out of bed. I didn't always make the choice to be happy because that happiness would have been inauthentic. But I lived.

I think a lot of my renewed contentedness comes from the business. I am happy working. I am finally at a place where I can get out of my head all day and converse with others. I may not always be able to relate, but just being able to be a part of my community again has made a huge difference.

I can survive. I may not always want to. But I can. And more than that, I can be happy again. And that is something to be incredibly grateful for this Thanksgiving season.

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For more about what I'm thankful for this month, find me on Facebook.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Family emergency plan

November 9 is the test of the national emergency broadcast system. In preparation of that event, there have been calls to create an emergency plan for your family. I highly encourage you to pause for a few minutes over the next week or two and think about, discuss, and create a plan for your family. The likelihood of needing that plan is small; however, I have known several people in the last year who have encountered natural disasters, and someone has to be the 1%. You never know when that moment will happen, if it does, and being prepared NOW is critical to ensuring that you and your family stay as safe as possible should a natural or man-made disaster occur.

1. I know I've discussed it before, but I don't think I can say it often enough: HAVE A PLAN. Have a plan, have a plan, have a plan. Discuss where you would meet if you got separated. It's not enough, honestly, to have a spot by a tree across the road. While our fire was very, very unique in intensity, you don't know what the situation is going to be that you are presented with. There is no where in our neighborhood that was safe to meet because the evacuation order quickly spread several blocks. And there is only so long you can sit in a car wondering if your husband is alive before you need to get yourself out of danger. It would have been a bit easier in those moments had we discussed where to meet, away from our neighborhood. I can see this being especially important if you have older kids who might be at a sports practice or school or with friends. There needs to be a plan in the event that your cell phones DO NOT WORK (the horror!). I think it's prudent to discuss a few options. A) The tree across the street in ___ yard. B) The gas station down the road. C) ____'s house, a few miles away.

2. Protect your important documents. Again, we were in a unique situation with the fire, but our neighbors' fire safes were destroyed in the fire. And unfortunately you don't get warning about what's going to happen to you, so having your documents out of the house is advised. If it was a tornado or a flash flood, you also might not have time to get the things you need in time (and I know of too many people who spent a few too many minutes in their homes trying to locate their important documents before evacuating. Those moments are stressful enough without worrying about papers.) I have most documents in a safety deposit box. But I've also started giving them to my mom as well in the event we needed them. Our wills, insurance information, birth certificates, etc. Put them in a manila envelope with your name on them and ask a family member to file away.

3. Inventory your house. I am such a hypocrite on this because I still haven't done what I said I was going to, but I have thought about it at least!  Even if you don't create an entire list of everything you own, take pictures and store online. Take a picture of each room, open drawers, document your clothes/shoes/jewelry. And please please take pictures of your garage and attic. It was far easier to recall the items I passed every day. It was not so easy (read: impossible) to figure out what was in the boxes in the garage. Insurance cannot compensate you for things you don't remember you had.

4. Review your insurance policy. If you live near a river or canal, consider flood insurance. Look at possible exclusions. Know your policy limits and ask your agent about reappraising your house if it's been a while and you believe your house has gone up in value (probably not as important today as in 2007). If you have jewelry exclusions or art, consider itemizing those items on your policy. Read. Ask questions. You don't want to find out in the days after a major trauma that what you thought was covered isn't.

I know there are a lot of readers who've lived through a fire. I'd love to hear additional suggestions as well as hearing what you, as a family, have done to prepare for the What if.

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's a...

We had our anatomy scan yesterday.  The baby looks good but was a bit uncooperative.  We were able to find out what we're having.  And here is your clue:



The dragon in the middle is Kellen, who makes a pretty cute dragon if I do say so myself.  Also, pipe cleaner fire is far safer and funnier than the real thing!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Depression

I've written a lot about mental health issues in this space, mostly related to PTSD.  But I've rarely mentioned depression, in a way I think because it's a tough issue to talk about.  After the fire, I wasn't really depressed.  I was overwhelmed.  I cried.  But I still was able to look at the world and see goodness.

A few days after the Bell's Palsy, when the doctor called with an abnormal test result, that's the first day I took antidepressants ever.  Honestly it wasn't even depression.  It was life, and I was so overwhelmed by the amount of really, really shitty things happening that I wanted a pill to take those events away.  They couldn't.  And as it turned out, I have a really bad reaction to the medication they prescribed.

Depression and anxiety seem to be associated with Lyme, and I definitely had my fair share (in addition to the anxiety caused by the fire, which was its own beast!).  There were many days I couldn't get off the floor (where I was trying to play with my son) and was worried about my ability to get through this illness, through the pain of the events that have bludgeoned my spirit (not to be hyperbolic).  As we treated Lyme, the depression seemed to subside, and I was able to see the sun again.  I still might not have been able to see the world in the same optimistic light as before the fire and the Lyme, but at least I could enjoy what was immediately present in my life.  I also stopped expecting bad things to happen.

Until now.

I don't know if it's pregnancy related or the fact that some of my neurologic issues are returning mid-way through this pregnancy, but I feel like the darkness has found me again.  It's hard to conceptualize depression; it's more than just a black cloud that follows you around.  Depression is a weight that settles into your heart and makes every thought, every action feel like the very last bicep curl after a long workout.  Depression drains you of energy and sucks joy out of even the most supposedly joyful moments.  And worse, depression makes you a narcissist, assuming that all actions and reactions are a result of something you've done.  All rationality disappears, and you are left with hurt, pain that only you can resolve and yet you are in a place where you are unable to care for even the most basic of needs, much less find your way through a dark and lonely tunnel.

I have 20 weeks left of this pregnancy.  While I wish I was one of those women who loved every minute of being pregnant, I do not.  I am sick.  And I am sick of being sick.  Most of the symptom flares I am unable to treat because the medications are not safe for my child.  I have twenty weeks until I can take the medicine I need, twenty weeks for my disease to once again get out of control, twenty weeks to start the arduous climb back toward health.  I want to look forward to holding my child for the first time, for those first moments of recognition.  Instead, I look forward to swallowing a blue pill, one that I hope will stabilize my health.

Sadly, I don't even know if this frustration is the cause or the result of depression.  Regardless, I am struggling to feel like there is happiness again in my future.  I am tired of the battle.  I am tired of feeling like the person life shits on when there is too much joy.  I'm tired of being the person who everyone has come to expect will be negative or lack enthusiasm.  Certainly there are worse life circumstances.  I know this.  But I still feel like I've lost some sort of life lottery.  And I'm just tired.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Five year plans

Dan and I celebrated our five year wedding anniversary on Friday.  I've written before about how difficult the last five years have been for us (Sometimes I Do really does mean "for worse") and how I never could have predicted the events that would follow our wedding.  It's been a trial for sure.

At dinner, Dan and I talked about the past and tried to talk about the future.  As someone who used to live for my Five Year Plan, this seemed like an appropriate time to pull out a pen and paper and start making a list about all the things I'm going to accomplish between now and 2016.  Instead, we looked at each other and sighed.  There would be no five year plan.  There likely won't ever be another five year plan.  The old ones burned up in the fire... as did our ability to believe that we could even pretend to make a list about where we see ourselves five years from now.

I don't think this is uncommon for fire survivors.  In a way we are lucky to have so many people around us who understand.  My neighbors and I have discussed this very subject, and it seems to me that most of us have this block.  Life changed so dramatically in a matter of minutes, and, even if it's irrational, there is this belief that emerges that it could change again that quickly.  No amount of planning can prepare you for that moment, and I wonder if having a firm idea in your head of where your life is supposed to be makes the event, the dramatic change, more difficult to absorb.  Not only have did we lose a house, our stuff, we lost our direction.

This isn't to say I don't have some goals or we don't talk about possibilities in the future.  I just am not nearly as committed to those ideas as I was in the past.  It's freeing, in a way, not always having to look forward and instead just being where you are.  Even so, it's still an adjustment, especially for someone who used to believe that life could all be worked out, plotted on a graph in a neat little line.  I guess that only really works if you are graphing with hindsight, plotting your steps as they happen, not as you wish them to be.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Third Birthday Kellen!

Three years ago (yesterday), I woke up in a strange house in a foreign neighborhood with a lot of baby stuff invading this unfamiliar space.  Within a few hours I was pretty certain that our son's arrival into the world was imminent.  Later that night, I circled the block trying to encourage my contractions, reflecting on how different the experience was than the expectations I created, how the houses I were walking by were not the ones I had pictured most of my pregnancy, how we wouldn't be bringing our child home to our house for months, and even then, it still was a different house, a different me.

It's amazing to me that three years have passed.

Kellen is no longer a baby.
















He can spell his name, knows the alphabet, has a sense of humor.  He has preferences (and makes them well known!).  He has a personality and likes rules.  He plays games and loves trucks and trains.  He is his own person.

That's what I think the biggest change is about this age, the realization that our children are individuals, that while there still is attachment, they are no longer extensions of us in the same way they are when they are fully dependent upon us.  Kellen goes to school, has friends, does work, expresses himself, all without me present.  He has a life outside of me, a life that I can only know if he chooses to share it (and so far most of what he shares is the fact that he cried in his class that day, usually because I left).  There is still some amount of knowing from being able to talk with other adults in his life, but it is still up to Kellen to share his own experiences.  And this reliance on his telling of his life will happen from now on (and will hopefully be able to withhold from interjecting my own version of his experience on him).  While the things I want for my son still matter (to me), he has choices and will exert his independence in ways that could change the course of his life.

I think this is a hard shift for a mother, especially when your children are still so young.  We want to believe that we have more control over our kids' choices.  But watching Kellen develop into his own person, his own strong-willed person, has made me realize that there is a process of letting go that happens far sooner than eighteen.  And I hope I can be the kind of parent who can step back and support my son's (healthy) choices as he gets older, each year releasing a little more control.

Happy Birthday Kellen!  May you have a year full of smiles and laughs and continue to grow and learn and become.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nursery, version 2 (sort of)

I knew this pregnancy thing was going to be hard for me emotionally.

I don't think it's uncommon to compare one pregnancy to another.  And for me, one pregnancy was mostly before the fire and the other is after.  We've been trying to move things around the house to clean out the nursery for this baby.  And all I can think of is cleaning out the room that was supposed to be Kellen's.

The room before it was the nursery (or was supposed to be the nursery) was, for lack of a better description, our junk room.  At one point it was an office.


On a side note, it's really strange to look at some of the contents on the floor as "Oh yeah, I forgot about that" thoughts reverberate through my mind.  And Dan's electric guitar is in the left corner.  The bench it is sitting on opened up for storage, and it's only because we put his guitars IN there that they "survived" the fire.

After hours and hours of work, the room was finally clean.  A few weeks later we moved all the books out of the bookcase.


And over the course of the summer, we ended up with this:


More pictures and the scope of the loss from our old nursery can be found on this post I wrote the week after the fire.

And here I am again, faced with the challenge of cleaning our the nursery, converting it from Kellen's toy storage (his "playroom") back into a room for a child to sleep.  I'd be lying if I said there aren't still fears that we won't get to bring this child to our home either, a fear that I know is totally unfounded but still resides in my heart.  And if we lost this home, why do all the work to prepare the room if won't exist anyway?  I push those thoughts away and try to focus on the excitement of the new baby.  I'm sure some of it is just the fact that it's our second child, but I do feel that the fire has also robbed me of the opportunity to enjoy this process because of the fear that it could all be taken away within minutes.

We moved Kellen's toys, got out the baby swing (and put a Cabbage Patch doll from my childhood in it for Kellen to kiss good-night), moved the glider back into the room, and put the crib pieces along the wall to be set up once we know whether we're having a boy or a girl and get the room painted.

I wish I could view the fire as a neutral event, something that happened with no lasting effect on my life.  But that just isn't the way it is.  And the nursery is just one more reminder of the life that I worked so hard to create.  And the life that was so quickly turned to ash.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Update on 30 by 30

It's hard to believe I'll be 30 in less than 10 months.  I've thought a bit about my 30 by 30 list and thought it would be better for me to reflect on the list throughout the year, instead of looking back in a year and thinking about how I didn't do what I wanted to.

1.Launch the Life After the Fire site - we are SO so close.

2. File 501(c)(3) paperwork for Life After the Fire so that we can fundraise to assist other families in rebuilding their hearts and homes after a fire. The paperwork is crazy, just in case you were wondering! - I finally have read through the IRS paperwork and am just waiting on a response from my attorney.

3. Submit 3 essays to anthologies or newspapers.  Even if they aren't published, it's important to keep submitting. I haven't even worked on any... will put on my list.

4. Finish my shadow box with things left from the fire (there's not much) and hang it in my living room. I've talked about this.  I need to finish the photo collage for the background and then I can start actually working on it.

5. Finish painting Kellen's bookcase- I started it over a year ago. DONE

6. Launch our business website. DONE.  You can check it out at Boise Web Design - Digavise

7. Secure 15 clients by the end of the year. Working on it.

8. Remember to not overdo it and to continue to rest as needed. Trying.

9. Take Vitamin D everyday; my levels are a bit low. Mostly compliant.

10. Attend 2 business related conferences... and make friends while I'm there. DONE, though I don't think we really made "friends" at Mozcon.

11. Remember when I said I was going to try to send out cards, actual physical cards, every week?  Well, I didn't even send one.  I really want to revisit this and send more cards.  Let's set a goal of 12 this year that are "Just Because." I pulled out my card pile, and I've written the cards in my head.  I just need to write them out and send!  

12. Actually get the photos for HGTV taken.  This has been a nightmare. DONE. I'll let you know when the article is out.

13. Try to be kinder about criticism while still honoring my need to be direct. I'm trying.

14. Spend more time in my real life and not in the virtual one.  It's hard to do when you work online, but it's important. Also working on it.

15. Cook more meals. Nope.  I am really struggling with this because of the pregnancy.

16. Create a blogging schedule for this blog and Mommy in Chief... and STICK TO IT! Not really, but I am almost ready to relaunch my mom blog, so that's exciting.

17. Read more books. Why is this one so hard?  I love books.

18. Channel my son's smile in the midst of his tantrums (this will be the hardest to achieve by far).  Not successful so far.

19. Read and comment on more blogs. Trying.

20. Learn to cross-country ski. Will have to move this to next year when I won't be 7 months pregnant!

21. Make a decision about completing our family.  I'm not so sure it counts as a "decision" but regardless, the decision has been made. 

22. Finish Kellen's second year in his scrapbook. I'm almost done with the first year, so that's progress!

23. Continue cleaning out the house of things that we no longer need. I've been purging!  After next year, we'll really be able to clear some things out.

24. Celebrate how far we've come since the fire. I feel like I've been better about this.

25. Tell my friends and family (more often) how much they mean to me. I probably still need to work on this.

26. Try to find the beauty in each day, even when I don't feel like it.  Especially when I don't feel like it. Ummm...

27. Accept the limitations of my health... and be ok with the frustrations that come with that acceptance. Being pregnant has thankfully helped in this department.  I have trouble accepting the nausea though!

28. Go camping once with my family without stressing out about the open flame. Will have to be moved to next year.  I didn't want to go camping pregnant and sick.

29. Allow myself to just be. Trying.

30. Journal more... just for myself. Is this really one of my goals... darnit!  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lyme disease and pregnancy

* Disclaimer - This is not medical advice or a medically-based post, simply my experience.

Before I got pregnant, I was doing ok.  I'd probably say I was at about 80-90% most days.  I occasionally had some fatigue. My nerves sometimes freaked out and started acting like I was hooked up to a low voltage machine pulsating electric current through my fingers and sometimes my legs.  I still often felt like I was sitting on top of a washing machine, my insides vibrating to the point it often made it hard to sit still.  And the dizziness was better, though I still had days where I was really dizzy, in particular if it had been a long day.  I had been on the heavy metal chelation protocol, and even though it helped tremendously sometimes I was a little lazy about my meds.  Honestly after two years of daily meds, I was just tired of popping pills, even if they made me feel better.

Getting pregnant was not exactly our plan this summer.  While I definitely was talking about babies (baby fever and on my 30 before 30 list), we were looking more at next winter, not right now.  You'll also remember that I was afraid to get pregnant myself because we weren't sure how my body was going to handle the pregnancy.  I would be lying if I didn't say that it scared me (and still scares me) that my Bell's Palsy could come back.  And even if I wasn't any worse pregnant, I certainly knew that pregnancy itself has a tendency to kind of make you feel, at least for twelve weeks or so, that you've been mauled by a bear and yet are expected to feel so, so blessed when all you want to do is throw up on the shoes of the people who are talking about what a wonderful blessing this kid is.  I have been sick for long enough, and the thought of nine more months made me cautious about pregnancy, even if I truly did want another child.

I joked with my Lyme doc that since I couldn't make up my mind about how to complete our family I just threw my hands up and let the universe decide for me, which is ridiculous because I understand biology, and well it's far less complicated than whatever the divine plan is will happen.

And as it turns out, my fears about my Lyme symptoms so far have been mostly unfounded.  According to my doc, most women tend to have a reduction of symptoms when they are pregnant (and my totally unscientific theory about this is that chronic lyme can turn into an autoimmune issue and for me, I'm almost certain it's more autoimmune than active infection).  But I was still nervous.  I know where I tend to fall in the odds category, and it doesn't often seem to be with the majority.

I stopped my chelation meds once I found out I was pregnant.  The last thing I needed to do was load a tiny fetus up with some mercury and lead!  I was worried that my dizziness would return, but I've actually had far fewer days where I feel chronically dizzy.  I still have episodes, but after three (THREE!) years of nearly round the clock spinning, I will take mere episodes.

I have also had some neuropathy, especially at night in my hands, but I had that with Kellen and is likely more related to the pregnancy than the lyme.  B6 seemed to temporarily help that, but it does appear it's back, and I have returned to the oh-so-chic wearing of wrist guards at night.  They really freak Kellen out.

Honestly, the hardest thing for me so far has been the nausea.  With Kellen I got sick, but then I felt immediately better.  With this bundle of joy (;-)) I feel sick from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed, and even if I'm hungry, food makes me feel worse.  I finally got some meds for the nausea yesterday and have finally been able to eat, even though the meds give me a headache, so I'm also taking Tylenol.

Speaking of meds, I'm also taking a mild antibiotic in the event that I still have the Lyme bacteria.  One of the pitfalls of the current state of Lyme disease is that there is no way to ever be sure that the bacteria has been fully eradicated.  And it's just not a chance we're willing to take. So much for being tired of taking pills!

Overall, I honestly feel better than I have in a while, other than the not being able to eat or drink thing.  Even with the pregnancy fatigue, I still feel like I'm able to do more than I have in a while, and I'm hoping that a second trimester energy boost will help even more.

It's hard to predict how I'll feel the next six months and if the Lyme symptoms will stay at bay.  But for now, I feel really lucky, and I'm glad that we were forced into this situation, that I didn't have to make a choice about our family in terms of being finished or surrogacy or taking this risk.  More than that, I'm glad that I haven't felt worse than before, which would have made me feel guilty about this pregnancy.  I'm hoping that I am just as lucky post-partum.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lessons from the past three years

I've thought a lot about what I wanted to say today, feeling that I often repeat myself in my posts, even when that recycled emotion or thought feels brand new.  I went back to my posts from the first and second anniversary and watched the fire/rebuild video.  I don't know if I could express my feelings about this day any better than I did last year.  So instead I wanted to share some life lessons I've learned over the past three years, both in recovering from the loss and trauma of the fire and in dealing with an unexpected chronic illness.

1. Sometimes life sucks.

2. We live in a culture that expects us to always find the silver lining.  This has been interesting for me to observe, now that I'm not so irritated by uninformed responses (like "it's just stuff").  When bad things happen, it seems like the world around us expects us to stand up, dust ourselves off and talk about all the "blessings" that came out of said bad experience without giving us the space to grieve.  I believe this is unhealthy, and I encourage people to give others the space to explore their difficult emotions rather than just expressing some platitude that ultimately hurts more than helps.

3. Sometimes there is no silver lining, merely experience.  Sometimes life just sucks.  We don't have to find good in every situation.  That doesn't make us pessimistic, merely products of experience.

4. Good luck trying to convince others of that.

5. It's ok to NOT "get over" a traumatic experience.  It's a part of your story, and the idea that we can forget and move on is a false belief.  I carry the fire, the Bell's Palsy, the Lyme with me.  It informs so much of my life, day to day, for better or worse.  I don't expect to wake up one day and suddenly have that stuff not matter.  In some cases, the anxiety has eased up, which I find comforting.  But the reality is that I lost my home in a fire, and fearing that happening again is not irrational because I know that it *can* happen.  I try not to be consumed by it, but I don't believe I'll ever "get over it."

6. Respect your boundaries.

7. Or set them.  I didn't recognize boundaries all that much before the fire.  I wanted to be in control, and I thought I could do everything for everyone and make them better people.  But with the fire and being very sick I was unable to do for anyone, much less myself.  I realized though that respecting boundaries, setting boundaries, allowed everyone more freedom to be successful.  It has certainly upset a few relationships in the short-term, but it improves them in the long-run.

8. Own your thoughts and emotions.  And don't apologize for them.  Those who have not been through a similar experience have a hard time relating, and as I stated above, they think that encouraging you to look for the positive they are helping.  It's ok to say, "I'm sad, and that's ok."

9. Share your story, even if it makes others uncomfortable.  There are several people in my family who are uncomfortable with how open I've been about my experience.  Too bad.  This is my story, and by sharing it I have opened myself up to a community, given voice to those who are yet unable to share.  And that's important to me.

10. Believe that others are listening, even if it seems like you are surrounded in silence.  I didn't start this blog for anyone but myself and to keep my family and friends informed.  But in sharing my story, I've found that I am not alone.  And that shared experience helps carry me through, especially on days like today, when I remember what we lost and how much my life has changed in the last three years.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The other side of tragedy

We learned yesterday that someone we know tragically (and violently) lost their young adult daughter.  I am truly heartbroken for this family, a family who helped me in my hour of need.  In fact, it is the brother of this young woman who is responsible for my happening on Kellen's name.  I did not know Katy personally, but I knew her brother, mother, and father, and they are all incredibly kind people, and I can only imagine that their daughter was just as beautiful and talented and generous.

It's true that bad stuff happens everyday.  Sadly, murders happen everyday.  But there's only been one other time in my life where it has affected someone I know.  I've spent the last 24 hours incredibly sad.  As a mother I cannot even imagine losing my child.  And as a self-proclaimed helper, I want desperately to be able to do something to undo this tragic event.  I can't.

I've been reflecting on being on this side of tragedy, being the person who knows the person but not knowing how to help.  I can send a card and an email, but that's most definitely not enough.  I could send flowers, but even that seems like so little given the scope of the tragedy.  I know rationally that nothing I can do can take away the pain, even though I wish so much that I could.

I know that our fire and this are absolutely different situations, but I do remember being asked what people could do to help and not knowing what to say.  That is where I am today, wanting to know what I can do.  And yet when you are in the midst of dealing with such a horrible situation, you have no idea how to tell people how to help.  All you want to do is cry in the midst of having to do all the things that have to be done that day.  But sitting here on my couch, I feel totally helpless, and I hate that.

What can I do to help this family, to reach out, to let them know today, six months from now, on the three year anniversary that I'm thinking of them?

Monday, August 22, 2011

The week that changed everything

That Monday was so full of promise.

Young children lined up at their classroom doors, anxious to meet their new teachers and classmates, eager to find out if what they had heard over the summer was true.  There was an energy in the school that is only outdone on the last day of the year when the kids are like an over-tired two year old who finds a burst of adrenaline at ten p.m.

I spent that Monday running around the school, lining up assessment tests, working on the parent newsletter, working on maternity plans for the first of October.  I spent so much time on my feet that I scheduled a prenatal massage that afternoon to relieve the pressure on my back.

Even with the excitement of it being the start of a new school year, it was still just a day, a day just like those preceding it.

And then everything changed.  The days that followed were no longer just days, they were a part of "after."

Today is the first day of school for Dan (public schools start Wednesday this year).  The three year anniversary of the fire is Thursday, but this Monday will always be a part of my memory.  The first day of school will always remind me of the day that seemed to contain so much energy and excitement and, that when it was over, had changed my life forever.

I could break down the next week in slow motion, hour by hour, remembering so many minute details, memories that wouldn't matter except for the fact they are tied forever to that day.  Memory is funny that way.

I can't believe it's been three years.  There are days when it seems like it could have been last month.  And there are other days when the fire feels like it was decades ago even though my emotions are often stuck in that moment.

It's amazing how much changed in that week, has continued to change in the last three years, change that only happened because at 7 p.m. on August 25, 2008, my home burned down.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Parallels of time

Next Thursday is the three year anniversary of the fire.  Three years, how is that even possible?

What's even more bizarre is that this month marks the point in time where we will have lived in our new house longer than our old one.  We moved into our home in March 2006 and lost it August 2008.  We moved back in February 2009.  It's now August 2011.  It doesn't feel at all like we've been home as long as we were in our new house.

My theory is that the other house will always be with us.  I call it the ghost house.  When I'm talking about it, I still point to exact locations as though whatever I'm talking about should still be in that same spot, and it is, in my mind.  We've lived on Sweetwater Drive for over five years, and it's impossible to separate the two homes, even as we become more comfortable in our new house.

In a way I feel like I am finally back to the place we were when the fire happened.  It was the third year for many of our plants, and this is the third year as well.  I'm irrationally excited about next summer to see what happens once we get beyond that three year threshold.

Three years also feels like the appropriate amount of time to finally feel settled.  You start to feel like you know a space, know its quirks, let go of some of the things you thought you'd fix but never got around to doing.

I am feeling at home in my house, if only the wildfires would stop for the summer.  It's been a really bad season in the lower elevations (from my perspective), and I am ready to stop seeing smoke every time I step out my front door.  Those are the moments I regret our decision to move back home.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The pink shirt

I bought the pink shirt sometime in the spring of 2008.  I remember one of my students commenting on how nice it was (and receiving a compliment in a classroom full of social/emotional/behavioral disorders was a far less frequent event than being cussed out and having a chair flung at you).  That student said it was the style now, which is actually even more amusing, partly because it was a maternity shirt.  None of my students knew I was expecting (for good reason).

The pink shirt at my baby shower before the fire
The v-neck shirt is a rich, bright pink that brightens my entire skin tone.  There is a wide band that sits right under the bust line, tying in the back like many of the older style maternity shirts.  It then flows out a bit at the bottom.  It was my favorite maternity shirt, which is probably why I was wearing it that first day of school, August 25.

I didn't know it would be the only shirt I owned that day that I would ever wear again.

That night, the pink shirt absorbed the smell of smoke, carrying it with me even after we escaped the imminent danger of the fire.  It was only because of some intense Arm and Hammer detergent and the diligence of my very good friend that the shirt was ever wearable again, honestly.  

And I did wear it again.

I wore it frequently in those weeks after the fire because it was the only shirt I actually owned.  Because I was due so soon after the fire, I mostly borrowed maternity clothes.  It seemed silly to buy a wardrobe that would last for a month.  Some clothes were donated, but they still didn't feel like mine.  The pink shirt was it.  

And shortly after Kellen's birth, it was packed away, folded neatly into a Rubbermaid container and stored in the garage, first at the rental and then more permanently at home.  

I've looked at it a few times in the last three years, usually when I was sorting through baby things to figure out what to donate.  It would not be given away, probably ever, even if a moth destroyed it.  The pink shirt was one of only a handful of things (STUFF) that tied me to me life before.  

When we found out we were expecting again, I pulled out the maternity clothes box and stared at the shirt.  Would I ever be able to put this shirt on again?  And even if I did, would I get through the day without the constant reminder of that night?

The answers?  I have worn the shirt.  I hesitated the first time I put it over my head.  But I wore it.  (And ironically enough had lunch with that same very good friend who told me she was surprised I kept the shirt.)  But even though I've become a little more desensitized to the immediate emotional toll the shirt takes on me, I still do think about that night every time I hold it in my hand, every time I hang it up in the closet, every time I pull it over my head.  It's as though the shirt asks, "What would life had been like if August 25 hadn't happened?"

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

10 things you should know before BlogHer

1. I prioritize my day as follows: Sleep, food, friends, beauty.

2. As such, you should expect that I will always pick sleeping before staying out until 1 a.m. to socialize/network.

3. I wear ponytails a lot.  This is usually because I slept in and ate.  I have a lot of hair, and it takes time to straighten.  I look a lot better with my hair down (if it's straight, not if it's banshee hair), but if it's a choice between sleep and straight hair, I will always pick sleep.

4. I am pregnant.  I've gained 15 pounds in 3 weeks.  I look very puffy because of the water retention.  I'm not wearing a wedding ring.  This is no reason to suggest to Bob Harper that I need to audition for The Biggest Loser.

5. I don't look seven weeks pregnant.  I look 20 (at least).  I have no clothes.  I might wear jeans the entire conference; after parties be damned.

6. I don't wear shoes that hurt my feet.  But I do have a pretty damn cute pair of pink Born laceups.

7. I will likely balk at pictures taken of me.  Don't be offended.  I just feel like a giant marshmallow.

8. I might actually look like a giant marshmallow.

9. You will probably hear about the fire.  It's my main blog.  I'm sorry if you have to hear the story ten times.
 
10. I'm pretty sure I'm have absolutely no clue what the hell I'm doing.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The family that lost their home in the fire

Yep, I'm that family.  I'm "the woman who lost her home in the fire.  The big fire."

I remember so clearly walking through stores in those first few weeks and watching as a few people whispered into their friends' ears, looking at us.  You might think this is an exaggeration.  It is not.  I remember buying a new comforter for my bed with a gift card at Macy's and the woman seeing my ID and whispering to us how sorry she was.  We were "that family."

It's been a while since I've been referred to that way.  The fire has been (mostly) forgotten.  We no longer walk along the aisles trying to restock our house, avoiding those who want us to tell our story to them.

And then I got pregnant.  I hope that I can convey over the next few months how much this pregnancy has brought me emotionally right back to the fire.  The things I didn't have to deal with because I was hurriedly trying to prepare for my son's birth are now sitting like a willful two year old right in the middle of my heart.

Many of the care providers who helped ensure my son's safe arrival haven't seen us in three years, haven't seen us since the trauma was still smoldering.  And we're still "that family."  They want to know how we are doing.  It's understandable, and it's cathartic to talk about the progress we've made.  But it's one more reminder of the hell that became our lives in that last month of pregnancy, a hell that I hope to god does not find us once again as we await the arrival of our second child.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Secrets

One thing you should know at the start is that I'm really, really bad at keeping secrets.  I think it's why I'm so open and straightforward; it's too hard for me to be any other way.  I also don't like having secrets kept from me so somehow think that if I just share all then maybe the openness will be reciprocated.  It rarely is.

The longest secret I think I ever kept was my pregnancy with Kellen.  Other than my mom and dad and a couple of people at school because of my working conditions, I think we kept it a secret from everyone else until twelve weeks when we graduated from the fertility specialist.  I remember thinking then what a miracle it was that I had made it so long without talking.

I think Kellen is probably the longest secret I'll ever keep because this time I only made it seven weeks.

Yep, you got the subtext.  I am pregnant, with what Kellen has affectionately called the baby whale (though who can blame him; the ultrasound does look a lot like a whale, and quite frankly I feel a lot like one right now).  We saw the baby and the heartbeat today, and even though I know that miscarriages still can happen, the risk is low enough that I decided to start sharing (partly because I'm going to a conference with a bunch of bloggers this week and going to one conference without being able to talk about why you're hanging out with the toilet more than the other attendees is enough!).

If you've been reading this blog for a little while (or a long while I hope!), you know I kind of had baby fever a month ago.  Because of the Lyme, we didn't know if it was a good idea to carry a baby, and we were researching surrogacy options with the hope of figuring out our plan by the end of the year.  I joked with my Lyme doctor that this surprise was my way of not having to make a decision because, quite frankly, I didn't want to have to make that choice.

So here we are.  I have a lot of thoughts on the pregnancy and how it's forced me to relive a lot of the fire, but I will save those for a later post.  Today is just about being excited about adding to our family with Baby 2.0.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It really could happen again

On Thursday night I hopped in my car with Kellen in the backseat, ready to head to a friend's house thirty minutes away.  I started driving toward the interstate when off to the left side of the road I saw a plume of brown smoke.  At first I dismissed the smoke as being the by-product of the computer chip manufacturing company headquartered near us.  But it wasn't the white smoke that normally billows out of their offices.  It was brown, brown smoke I had seen before, brown smoke that indicated something far more ominous.

Despite my insane fear of fire, I drove toward the smoke.  While I am deeply afraid of fires, I am also afraid of not knowing, and if I could figure out where the fire was and where it was heading, I guess I thought I somehow would have control of this situation.  Rational thought finally overtook my brain though, and I turned around before we got anywhere near the fire, though at least I had enough information to call Dan and have him check the news.

The fire burned over 2,000 acres, but thankfully the wind blew it away from our neighborhood.  It was out that night.

In the last couple of weeks, there have been at least TEN small fires in the southwestern corner of Idaho, two being close enough to us to make me believe that a wildfire could happen to us again, especially with the lightening storms we've had this summer.

Some people try to reassure me with odds, somehow believing that because it's happened once it can't happen again.  I'd love to believe that logic, but in reality, I know that fires are independent events.  One has nothing to do with the other and having survived one makes me no less likely to lose my house than my neighbors whose home was spared the night of August 25.

I feel lucky each summer night we survive without losing our house.  Every time a storm rolls through, I stay up, way past the point of utter exhaustion, just to make sure we're all safe.  I stalk the local news' Twitter feeds for reports of fires, and I contribute way more than necessary to the local newspaper's ad revenue given the number of times I refresh the top news for reports of fires.

I wish I could have faith that it won't happen again.  But I know in my heart it's completely possible.  We could lose our house, the life we've worked so hard to rebuild, once again.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I'm afraid...

I'm not exactly the bravest person I know.  I once got off a roller coaster in middle school with a bunch of friends because I was convinced I was going to die.  I was never a safety officer in elementary school, but I've more than made up for it in my adult life.  I research safety records; I stay on top of recalls; I'm paranoid of food contamination in my kitchen.  Basically, I'm neurotic.

Before the fire I was afraid of some things- like flying.  I once had a panic attack flying back to Boise from Virginia Beach in mid-air, and I felt so lucky they were looking for people to give up their seats that night for the oversold flight from Chicago to Boise.  They even paid for our hotel, which seemed ridiculous since I felt like they were doing ME a favor.  But that was just one time, and overall, my fears were pretty well managed.

I try to let go of my fears, remind myself that the odds are in my favor that the day is going to end just as happily as it started.  But really, who starts off their day thinking they are going to return to their home in flames?  That was the least of my worries the morning of August 25.

I try to remember that I'm not in control, which is really hard for a person who, well, likes control (I had some examples, but I decided you would all really think I was nuts!).  But the reality is that letting go only helps so much.  I still have thoughts that seem to also be out of my control.  What if this restaurant has tainted lettuce?  What if someone comes into the mall and opens fire?  What if a fire starts tonight while my husband is gone and I can't get out of my room to get my son?  And if he sleeps with me, what happens if I die in my sleep?

I recognize the irrationality of my fears.

It doesn't stop me from having them.

Monday, July 4, 2011

30 before 30

I meant to post this yesterday for my 29th birthday, but instead, I spent a great day with family and friends.  Happy birthday to me anyway :-)  I've always wanted to be 30, so really, I'm not all that disturbed by the coming year.  This is my list of what I want to accomplish in the next year (which doesn't include blogging everyday because we all know how well that worked out).

1.Launch the Life After the Fire site (pretty sure this was on the list last year, but we should have it up this month).

2. File 501(c)(3) paperwork for Life After the Fire so that we can fundraise to assist other families in rebuilding their hearts and homes after a fire. The paperwork is crazy, just in case you were wondering!

3. Submit 3 essays to anthologies or newspapers.  Even if they aren't published, it's important to keep submitting.

4. Finish my shadow box with things left from the fire (there's not much) and hang it in my living room.

5. Finish painting Kellen's bookcase- I started it over a year ago.

6. Launch our business website.

7. Secure 15 clients by the end of the year.

8. Remember to not overdo it and to continue to rest as needed.

9. Take Vitamin D everyday; my levels are a bit low.

10. Attend 2 business related conferences... and make friends while I'm there.

11. Remember when I said I was going to try to send out cards, actual physical cards, every week?  Well, I didn't even send one.  I really want to revisit this and send more cards.  Let's set a goal of 12 this year that are "Just Because."

12. Actually get the photos for HGTV taken.  This has been a nightmare.

13. Try to be kinder about criticism while still honoring my need to be direct.

14. Spend more time in my real life and not in the virtual one.  It's hard to do when you work online, but it's important.

15. Cook more meals.

16. Create a blogging schedule for this blog and Mommy in Chief... and STICK TO IT!

17. Read more books.

18. Channel my son's smile in the midst of his tantrums (this will be the hardest to achieve by far).

19. Read and comment on more blogs.

20. Learn to cross-country ski.

21. Make a decision about completing our family.

22. Finish Kellen's second year in his scrapbook.

23. Continue cleaning out the house of things that we no longer need.

24. Celebrate how far we've come since the fire.

25. Tell my friends and family (more often) how much they mean to me.

26. Try to find the beauty in each day, even when I don't feel like it.  Especially when I don't feel like it.

27. Accept the limitations of my health... and be ok with the frustrations that come with that acceptance.

28. Go camping once with my family without stressing out about the open flame.

29. Allow myself to just be.

30. Journal more... just for myself.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Firework Safety

It's amazing to me that fireworks could be such a contentious issue, though I realize that most people have not lost their home in a traumatic wildfire.  As was mentioned this morning on a local radio station by the fire chief, our fire (the Oregon Trail Heights fire) was not started by fireworks, but a similar scenario is not hard to envision given the right conditions.  All you have to do is Google "housefire fireworks," and you'll see this isn't an overstated risk.

I do concede that many people still want to set off fireworks.  So if you are inclined to do so, please be smart.
fireworks Chicago
1. Don't set off fireworks in extremely dry conditions, or next to a field of dry brush.  We are right next to a field of sagebrush, yet we are not classified as the foothills (where it is illegal to set off any fireworks).  It is not responsible to set off fireworks anywhere near this brush.  Fires have been started before, and I hate to say this, but I am certain they will be started by fireworks again.

2. Only set off LEGAL fireworks.  There's a reason that certain fireworks are illegal, and it's not just to piss off the libertarians.  Light a sparkler.  Don't light off a mortar shell.

3. Don't let young children light the fireworks.  In 2010, there were 8,600 ER visits for children due to fireworks.  Sparklers burn at a temperature of up to 2,000 degrees.  Please supervise older children, and do not let younger ones play with them.

4. Spray off fireworks before throwing in a trash can.  There was a report locally last week of someone who lost part of their home because they put hot ashes in a trash can in their garage.  If you are throwing away firework debris (which is the responsible thing to do), douse them in water first.  And then put them in a trash can that's not in your garage (or house).

5. Watch a public display.  Our neighbors get together at the end of the street and watch the city display.  We sit around and laugh and catch up.  It's safe, and the display is better than anything we could light off anyway.

Whatever you do, please stay safe this holiday weekend.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Home inventory

One of the absolute worst projects after the fire was trying to create our contents list from memory of 1400 square feet plus a garage with who knows what in it.  Our contents list was 50 pages of an Excel spreadsheet, and I'm pretty certain it was only 3/4 of our things. 

If you want to know how hard it is to recreate your home in your mind, close your eyes right now, imagine the space, and then write down everything you think is in there, including the brand.  Then take your list into that space and see how much you forgot.  It's like that game where there are ten items that you have to remember, except multiplied exponentially... and done under duress.

It is unlikely that your home will burn down (or a tornado will level your house or a flood will come through taking everything downstream).  But... it CAN happen, and it can happen to YOU. 

Other than having a plan for your family, which is of the highest importance, creating a home inventory is probably the best thing to do before a disaster.  And if you never need it, at least you know everything in your home! 

I have struggled with wanting to create a new contents list because the old one was so emotionally taxing.  But I know it's important, and I'm starting to work on it, one room at a time. 

In doing research for some of the resources for the new website (which should be ready by August 1), I found this home inventory system.  It's free.  I just set up our house in it with each room and closet labeled.  It even has categories of items so that you can add quickly.  Honestly, I wish I could have used this right after the fire.  It likely would have made the inventory list easier.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fire Survivor blogs

I'd like to create a list of fire survivor blogs for others who might need it.  If you add your blog in the comments, I will add it to my list.

Life After the Fire
Burning Down the House
From Under the Piles
Fire Survivors
Shoshwrites

We are a small group, eh?

There is another blog PTSD Ministry, written by a fire chaplain that you might also find helpful.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Asking for money is hard

If you are a friend of my Facebook page, you might have seen my donation request for a friend who lost her home in the Minot flood this week.  (If you'd like to donate, go here.)

One of the things that talking to her made me reflect on was our culture's view on asking for help.  In those first few days after the fire, we needed so much help: time, money, food.  And yet, it was almost impossible for me to ask.  I wanted to believe that I could do this on my own, even though I desperately wanted to reach out to others.  It was ESPECIALLY hard to ask for money.  It even makes me a little uncomfortable now thinking about receiving money.  Thankfully, others asked for me, and we were able to get the help we needed.

I think for a lot of us, being able to stand up and say we can't do this alone or with our own resources is very difficult, in part perhaps because of our pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of mentality.  Our culture is very individualistic, which is great in so many ways.  However, we sometimes forget about the needs of others - or maybe not forget but sometimes don't look out enough to see the needs of others.  I can tell you that having to do ask for help is very humbling.  I was amazed by what our community, my friends' communities, strangers were willing to do for me once we were able to say we needed help.

I feel like I'm rambling.  I probably am.  I guess my point is that it's really hard to ask for help, even in our time of need.  Today, my friend needs help.  And I'm willing to ask for help for her.  Their family does not have flood insurance.  She has three small children.  And I know that anything you can give to them will be used to help them rebuild their lives, lives that, unfortunately, will never be the same.  One of the things I vowed as others helped us is that we would continue to pay it forward.  It's why we're starting the non-profit.  Helping Jessica is just one more way for me to continue to give (and allow others to give) in thanks for all of those who gave to us.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

National Pink Day

How did I not know today was National Pink Day?

I love pink, so much so that I think my mom was worried when I registered for wedding gifts my house would become its own Mary Kay lady hell.  (To be clear, light pink has never been my thing.  The bolder, the pinker, the better.)

I try to keep my pink love in check.  The walls of our house are beige; the kitchen plates are dark purple; the living room walls are olive green.  But my office?  Pink!  I learned quickly that if you want a pink rug as an adult, you have to shop at Pottery Barn kids.  And buy junior size scissors.

From my couch, I can see my pink Franklin Covey purse, Pink Garden Tool Bag, and Pink KitchenAid Mixer.  I have a pink laptop bag, and my new favorite shoes are my Born laceups.  I have at least five pink shirts for every season.  And quite frankly I would have a bright pink car if I didn't think it would make the road a little less safe.

I love pink so much that my son has also declared his love for the color, to the point that I'm starting to think that even if I don't have a daughter, I could still get the pink room I have lusted after for the past decade.

I love pink.  And now I love it even more because it has its very own day.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I want a redo

My step-sister gave birth to her son early yesterday morning.  I got to hold the tiny little boy last night.  It's not helping the baby fever!

I'm pretty certain that nearly everyone I went to high school or college with is either pregnant or just had a baby.  I am surrounded by babies.

As I wrote about earlier, we are having a hard time determining how to complete our family because of my health issues.  I've thought a lot about this, and I think one of the reasons I want to be pregnant is that I just want a ReDo.  I know that probably sounds insane.  I was pregnant; I had a beautiful son.

But I also had a horrible, traumatic experience in the midst of it.  I didn't get to prepare the nursery and bring my son home.  All the work we did, all the excitement we had was gone.  I read about all my friends' pregnancies, and, quite frankly, I'm jealous.  (And selfishly, I wish just one would reach out and say that they thought of me in those last weeks and, even if they couldn't understand, at least thought about how hard it might have been to lose everything.)  I want a pregnancy redo. 

I want to decorate the nursery.  I want to bring my child home to OUR house.  I want to sit around enjoying my child instead of running around town meeting with contractors.  I want to be able to smile at our infant when he smiles at us instead of worrying about whether I'll ever smile again.  I don't want to sleep through the first year wondering if the doctors are ever going to figure out what's wrong with me. 

I just want a normal, uneventful life, a normal, uneventful pregnancy.  And part of me is afraid I'll never get those things.  And even if we did, it can't undo the one that wasn't.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Michael Buble's HOME

If you've seen my house video, you know that Michael Buble's song is THE music I attribute to my old house.  Any time it comes on the radio, I am immediately transported to the moment I stood on my hand-built wooden deck staring into the empty foundation where my old hopes and dreams for my life, my family disappeared.  I know that sounds melodramatic, but I can say with all honesty that I cried in that instant for the life that was, the life I knew I would never get back.  It was more than my house I lost that day.  And HOME is the song that encapsulates that emotion for me, even though it is really about something so so very different.

My be surrounded by a million people I still feel all alone.  Surrounded by people and yet all alone.  It's so hard to explain, but I am pretty certain that it's not entirely foreign.  We've all had moments where we feel no one can understand; for most of us, that feeling doesn't last three years.

The part of the song that makes me cry, every.single.time, is I just feel like I'm living someone else's life.  Sometimes I wish I was.

I know I've written about this song before; I've posted about it on Facebook.  But I mention it again because I just got tickets to see Buble in concert in August.  I don't think I've ever been so emotional about a concert.  It's suh a reminder how music, how words, connect us to the human experience.

I'm always curious about other people's songs.  What song resonates with you, what lyrics touch your soul?  Mine will always be "I'm coming home" even if I know I never can.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Triumph over Tragedy?

It's photo shoot day for the HGTV magazine feature about our rebuild (which I am really excited about!).  My story will be in the October issue (the very first!) of the magazine.

In the instructions to the photographer, the editor mentioned "triumph over tragedy" which got me thinking.  Is it really? Have I triumphed?

It has become evident to me in the past three years that we, as a collective people, do not handle true emotions (particularly of others) all that well.  Even in those first few days after the fire, when I would think grief would be the expected reaction, we were lauded when we could see the "good" in the situation.  That Thanksgiving, the news did a story on us talking about all the things we were thankful for.  I guess the message was that if even we could find something to give thanks for, anyone could.  But in reality, I didn't feel all that thankful at all.

There was something about that message of triumph over tragedy that struck me the same way this week.  Yes, we rebuilt.  Life went on.  What other choice did we have?  Maybe I'm too hard on myself and am splitting hairs over the meaning on the word "triumph."  I just don't feel triumphant.

We survived.  To me, that's enough.

(I know I didn't post yesterday.  We had the golf tournament all day and then threw a surprise party for my friend, and in the end, I chose sleep and my health over the blog.  But I'm still trying to post everyday until my birthday!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Light My Fire Golf Tournament

I almost forgot to blog today.  Starting a business has been exhausting.

Tomorrow we are sponsoring a hole in the Light My Fire golf tournament to support the Burn Out Fund and fire prevention programs.  I'm glad we have the opportunity to give back, though I have to admit I'll be glad when this week is over.

And that's the kind of post you get when I promise myself that I'm going to post everyday and yet am absolutely exhausted!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I have baby fever

I always wanted four kids, spaced four years apart.  My thoughts about the number of children I want has changed since becoming a parent, but I still think a four year spacing sounds pretty ideal.

Kellen is almost three.  And I've learned you don't just get pregnant the second you want it to be so (though certainly I know people for which this is true).  And then there is that whole nine month thing.

And oh yeah, there's that Lyme thing.  I feel good, better than I've felt in almost three years.  But I still am not 100%, and I know enough from those who've been there before me that being pregnant with Lyme isn't an easy road.  I would have to be on drugs my entire pregnancy.  And there are limits to what I can take to deal with Lyme symptoms that occur as a result of how a pregnancy impacts your immune system.  It's also hard for me to know I'm going to feel like crap after having been sick for so long and finally feeling like I'm on top of this illness.

I've considered our other options.  I always thought I would adopt, but that option has become less doable for me personally as I have assessed my own life.  I've also considered surrogacy (and if the local newspaper's comment section says anything about the public perception of surrogacy, this also has some major hurdles).  I'm having a hard time with either option, knowing that for me, neither is an ideal way to expand our family.

Kellen isn't an easy kid either.  He wasn't an easy baby, and it's hard for me to want to go back to the infant stage and sleep deprivation.

With that said, I know I want at least one more child.  I want our son to have a sibling.  And I want to experience holding a tiny baby again, a baby who is all mine to love.

It feels like everyone I know is having babies, either about ready to deliver or just finding out their pregnant.  I tried to get rid of my baby stuff, thinking that maybe we could have just one.  But I knew going through Kellen's stuff that we weren't done.

We still have a year to make some of these decisions and still have kids four years apart.  At least I've made one decision already and that's the choice to have at least one more child.  The only questions now are when... and how.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Platitudes

Yesterday someone on Twitter commented about the ridiculous comment they received about their divorce: "Life goes on."  He seemed frustrated by the other person's apparent lack of compassion, understandably.

After the fire, we heard our share of platitudes: "It's just stuff."  "At least no one was hurt."  "Everything happens for a reason."

istockphoto
Those things were hurtful then, and even thinking about them makes me seethe a bit.  After the Twitter comment I started thinking about why we say those things, even when they are disingenuous.

I'm pretty certain that these sayings having nothing to do with the people living through any number of bad situations.  Instead, those things are said to make ourselves (those not living in a nightmare) feel better.

If everything happens for a reason, then we protect ourselves from the randomness of trauma.  If all of our things are just material possessions with no meaning, perhaps if we do find ourselves on the other side of luck, we can imagine it wouldn't hurt us.  Telling others that life goes on is our way of removing ourselves from the emotional intensity of stress.

But this protection is fake.  You cannot protect yourself, no matter how many trite phrases you think of to reassure yourself in the midst of someone else's trauma.

All of us endure tragedy, and all of us need reassurance in those moments.  But what we need isn't false emotion.  We need human connection.  We need a hug.  We need a hand.  We need a crew of friends and strangers to sift through our ashes.  That is genuine compassion... and a hell of a lot more helpful than telling someone "Life goes on."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kellen's Lyme test

It is unknown when I contracted Lyme.  Given the way neurologic Lyme presents, though, it is very very likely I had Lyme while pregnant.  I either contracted it when I was pregnant, or I had a dormant infection.  So much is not well understood by the medical community about Lyme Disease, and transmission to a fetus is one of many contentious aspects of this disease.  According to the CDC, Lyme can be transmitted, but it is no big deal with proper antibiotic treatment while pregnant.  Isn't that helpful?!

I've met enough people in the Lyme community who have children who are believed to have contracted the disease in utero to make me have at least some concern about the possibility that Kellen has been exposed.  Knowing what I do about the damage this disease can cause, I believe the proactive route is the best one.

And that's how I found myself sitting in a pediatrician's office (and then the hospital lab) this afternoon waiting for my son's first ever blood draw (and possibly his first memory).  

It was horrible.  The fact that the pediatrician's office decided they couldn't do it was enough to set me off, and then we had to register for a simple blood draw.  And wait.  I got my blood drawn first because I needed a Vitamin D test anyway.  It was the easiest draw I've ever had in my whole life.  I thought the same would be true for Kellen.  Nope.

I restrained him in my lap while the nurse prepped his arm.  And then the screaming began and the flailing and the gagging from the crying.  All the while, the blood slowly trickled into the tube. Two tries... and not enough blood.  I felt like the worst mom ever.  I made him endure this, and we didn't even get enough to make it worthwhile.  And given Kellen's imagination and current fears, I can only imagine this will not bode well for future doctor visits, not to mention we still have to go back.  

This parenting stuff is hard, even when you think you're doing the absolute best thing for your child.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Zoo Boise

We went to the zoo yesterday after soccer.  I got some incredible photos because I mistakenly brought my telephoto lens to soccer.  Sometimes accidents are good.

The new butterfly exhibit:


















While we were looking for the giraffe, the male lion was making quite a scene, but by the time we got around, he settled down.














Kellen was popping up in the plastic holes while we looked at the Prairie dogs above!











I don't know how we got so lucky with the tigers, but they were gorgeous and decided to play in front of us. 










I call this photo "Yoga Giraffe." Alternately it could be "Limbo."

One of the highlights was the zebra putting his head down with the giraffe.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pee Wee Soccer

Kellen started soccer this morning with the Pee Wee Soccer group in Boise.  It was quite entertaining to see a group of two year olds running around, and Kellen wanted to kick the ball more than play the group games.  But it was a great activity, and we're looking forward to many more "practices" to come.


Kellen's first team meeting:


He obviously didn't quite understand the part of the song "we don't use our hands."  He might be better suited for handball.

We figured out our feet.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Backyard Birds

I never thought I'd be a bird person, especially with two very hyper labs to drive them away.  But after I was down in California watching all the birds my mom attracted to her house, I decided to dive into the expensive act of bird feeding in hopes of seeing some pretty birds.

I had to get a sturdy feeder.  I don't know if you've heard, but apparently we get high winds up here.  We found two good feeders at Zamzows, where we also got our bird food: Bird Lovers Deluxe and Song Bird Mix.  We also added a finch feeder with Nijer seed.  We get at least 30 birds at a time, and surprisingly, they don't seem to mind the dogs.

The sturdy metal feeder with happy little birdies!


 One of our goldfinches.


More happy birds

 A Lazuli Bunting- so pretty!

A house finch

Kellen and I also made some pinecone bird feeders this week, though our birds seem pretty ambivalent.  

Some of the birds nest in late June, so I'm really hoping one decides to nest in our yard, though our trees still aren't that mature, so it might be another few years.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Normal! Day

I admit this post is a total cop-out... but I haven't had time to post because I've had a normal, really full day.  Hell, I've had what feels like a pretty normal week.  It's been so long since I've been able to handle this kind of workload, though I do need to remember to take breaks so I don't overdo it.

I got up this morning for my weekly massage neck torture.  This has become a part of my treatment to deal with the dizziness.  My head is still sore, but it helps, so I go!

I hurriedly drove to our new office for my teleconference with the company handling our payroll.  Thankfully that was a quicker meeting than expected.

I then spent the day fighting with the internet connection, reviewing logos, talking with our insurance agent about liability insurance, and generally geeking out on business to-dos.

I came home after giving up on the internet connection (we are sharing an office and are waiting on our own wireless connection!).  I emailed with the photographer doing our HGTV photoshoot, changed into clothes for the gym, and picked up Kellen from school, where all the 2 year olds went through their daily routine of calling me a spider.  We went to the park at the elementary school nearby where Kellen splashed into a puddle on the slide, soaking his pants. Dan took Kellen home, and I went to the gym.

I came home, packed Kellen up, and we went to my dad's for the evening.  Kellen only threw two or three major fits, but for the most part he was good and played dragon cave and found a doggie on a string to pull around.

It might sound tedious to write about.  But really, surviving days like this makes me happy.  I might still get tired.  I certainly still have dizzy spells.  And I misspell words far more frequently than I care to admit (to myself), but it's a sign of improvement.  I feel normal.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's not just a story; it's who I am

My name is Brooke. I have blue eyes. My house burned down in 2008 when I was eight months pregnant.  I like pink.

I am learning, for better or worse, the fire defines me, just as my hair color, body type, and shoe size.

I often have a goal of getting through an activity without mentioning the fire... or Lyme.  I usually fail.  I'm starting to wonder if it just wouldn't be easier to wear a badge or tell people within seconds of meeting them.

I don't talk about the fire to get sympathy or for entertainment.  I see my life and myself through the lens of a fire survivor, and without that context, I find it hard to be me.

I'm sure it's exhausting to hear the story over and over, though I'm starting to question whether being around those who are exhausted by it is the right environment for me.  Living this has been far more exhausting, I can promise that.

Because the fire is a defining part of me, it's been difficult to see the story within to craft the memoir.  It's been the reason I stepped back from writing; I needed to see the story as just that and not as a third leg.

Stories have endings, need a climax and a resolution.  But I don't have the ability to turn off that experience, disassociate myself from it and move on as though it never happened.  It's ingrained.  The fire, Lyme Disease - it's who I am.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Self-reflection and why I piss people off

Lifesize
I'm not really known as an insecure person.  And yet, a few things have happened recently that have made me step back and question myself.  Self-reflection isn't always a comfortable task, but I do think it's necessary (I just wish I wasn't constantly in self-reflection mode!).

I know that I can be somewhat abrasive and definitely critical (both of myself and of others and most certainly of misplaced apostrophes).  I used to think I was an optimist, but I've grown into a realist.  And I think it's hard to go back once you see the world through lenses that are often tinted with a bit of black soot.  I think I've started assuming that everyone sees the world through this same pragmatic prism.  I'm learning, the hard way of course, that I'm wrong.  Some people need reality softened, requiring a much more delicate touch than I seem to be capable of.

For the most part, I don't dislike this part of myself.  I am straightforward, and those who know me well know that they will always get the truth from me, whether it's flattering or not.  I see little value in the art of bullshitting, believing that I would rather have a few genuine friends than be liked by everyone only because I am capable of blowing smoke up their asses.  This isn't to say I feel like I don't have many friends, just that I seem to piss them off in regular intervals.  I hope that most realize I am well-intentioned.  But we all know where good intentions take us (though I often feel I'm living among the seventh circle anyway, so maybe that's how I got here).

This last week has made me feel very insecure about the person that I usually feel very confident in.  Do I really need to speak that truthfully?  Am I compromising a bit of myself to fit into a societal convention that I feel is not authentic?  And what is the cost of that compromise?  Right now, it's making me uncomfortable in all social situations, to the point that I appear socially awkward.  And that seems to be alienating the friends who do love me for being Blunt Brooke.

I think we are all capable of minor adjustments as we accrue experiences in this life.  But at our core, it seems that major change is almost impossible (except maybe for the person who experiences a major brain trauma and has a completely different personality).  At the very least, I own who I am.  Even if that makes everyone else uncomfortable.

Monday, June 6, 2011

PTSD nightmares resurface

I was going to write a happy post today, about my love of pink and how we've brought that into our new house.

But today isn't that kind of day.  Early this morning, in what was supposed to be a period of restful REM sleep, I found myself in an alternate world of grief.  In my dream we rebuilt our home on a hillside, next to the ocean.  It was still our house even though it was in another location.  I was away from the house (again) and returned to find it leveled.  It was my worst nightmare.  In our real fire, we got our laptops and saved many of our photos.  But this time, they were gone.  The garage was untouched, but the house was gone.  The grief I felt in my dream was the same that I felt standing over my home three years ago.  It was heartbreaking, even if it wasn't real.

I haven't had a PTSD fire nightmare in what I think is at least a year.  I was talking to someone who knows a lot about PTSD recently, and even proudly declared my nightmares gone.  To have them return was, at the very least, jarring and unsettling.

This morning I was trying to understand what might have triggered the dream.  Was it the fire in the foothills Saturday?  Was it reading about the evacuations in Arizona?  Was it my fear last night about falling asleep with the dryer still running?

In the nightmare, I remember the decision not to rebuild anywhere wildfires occurred, preferring to move to a greener, wetter location.  This morning, I questioned whether I could live here with the threat of wildfires a constant presence every summer.  I'm not sure I know the answer to that.  And I'm not sure whether my dreams help or hinder in figuring that out.  Or in overcoming PTSD.