Finding the Humor

As I had mentioned before, my mom is kind of the serious one of the family. The more mature one, so to speak.

However, the night of the fire, her ability to find the humor in the midst of the tragedy was surprising and refreshing.

I remember her commenting to several of the fire service men, especially the one who walked us through the house for the first time, that she had just cleaned the bathroom and scrubbed the kitchen floors. And she had. You would have NEVER been able to tell that, though, never in a million years.

We also came out in our pajamas (Public service announcement: ALWAYS wear pajamas!) so when a neighbor offered black sweatpants and white tube socks to my mother who was in a nightgown, we all got a good laugh at how she may have been channeling Michael Jackson in her outfit that night.

The day we came back to clean out a few things that might be salvageable, I had gotten my parents and myself some clothes at Goodwill that we could throw away afterward so we didn’t contaminate anything with mold. Well, my dad’s appearance was quite different than normal that day. His jacket looked a little scruffy, he emerged from the house with soot all over, and had his hair flying every which way. A friend of his took one look at him and told him he looked homeless. Well, without skipping a beat, he acted like he took offense to that comment and quipped back with, “Actually, I am! Thanks for bringing it up!”

I don’t think you can go through something like this and not turn to humor at some point. I appreciate how well my family does this. We will be doing something hard, like inventory, and chide about how this was one way to de-clutter, or talk about rebuilding and throw in some jokes about how my parents were wanting to remodel anyway.

Humor is definitely one coping strategy that works for our family, and I hope that people will be able to continue laughing right along with us as we begin to put the pieces together.

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Are You Okay?

Above all, the most frequent question I get asked is: Are you okay?

The short, simple answer is yes. I am okay.

But it’s more complicated than that.

You see, there is a reason I am okay. There is one BIG reason that my family and I are okay – actually, we are more than okay. We are feeling blessed and even joyful in this tragedy.

Our faith is in the Lord.

The fire that destroyed our possessions, is an event that happened to us. It stinks, it’s a mess to deal with, and it’s inconvenient. Despite that, my family leans on and gets comfort from a God that is close to the brokenhearted.

I am so thankful that I grew up in a home that modeled this. Our family has seen our share of tragedies. Not as many as some, but plenty more than others. And each time a horrific event or hardship rolls around, we turn to God and His people for strength and support. It’s actually a really beautiful thing.

God has shown Himself in so many ways over the last couple of weeks. I cannot, nor will not be able to explain how much this has meant to us. There have been so many times when I have said (or thought to myself) this is a God Thing.

When we went through the house for the first time, I found the photo above of the Bible verse that was hung on my wall. Philippians 1:6. It was very poignant for me. God is not done with me, or my family, just yet. There is more work to do, and I plan on letting Christ use this experience to grow who I am and make me an influencer for Him.

I cannot tell you how many people have stepped up and helped out. Messages and cards and financial gifts being so freely given have truly been overwhelming. When I get emotional about the fire, it’s rarely because of anything we’ve lost, it’s when I think of all the people who have reached out, shared an experience, (There are a TON of people I know that have had a house fire! Okay, maybe a handful, but way more than I would have guessed before we had one ourselves.) invited us to stay with them, offered a meal, or sent a card or gift. Each person and group who have shown their love has touched our hearts.

This circumstance we are in, is not permanent. If you think about it, it is rather small in the realm of tragic things that could happen to someone. And if we, as Christians are truly living a life set on Heavenly Purposes, the things that we lost do not matter anyways. We are choosing to praise God through this storm, because just as storms pass, this too shall pass.

My hope and prayer is that others who are watching this story unfold will see God’s glory in all of this as well. May our family’s tragedy bring others closer to Him, or cause them to seek Him for the first time.

I wrote recently about the hope of spring, and referenced the connection to Easter coming up. Every year at this time, we are not only reminded of what Christ sacrificed through His love for us on the cross, but also that our God conquered death. That which seemed so tragic at the time, in the end showed the world that beautiful things come from the darkest of times.

 

 

About

On March 26th at 12:30 pm, our house caught on fire. By the grace of God, no one was harmed, but the damage to the house was extensive. Here are some stories and thoughts about the experience we went through.

Shift Work

One thing that I was really impressed with the night of the fire was the skill and efficiency of the firefighters that came.

Also, how many there were. I bet there were 50 in all. At 12:30 in the morning.

By the time all of the trucks had arrived they lined the whole block up and down. I think I counted 8. The funny thing is, I think I counted, but now that I am actually thinking about it, I’m not sure I did. There are lots of memories like that, I am not sure what has gotten lost in the “smoke” of that evening.

Anyway, as I was watching them gather outside the front of the house with all their equipment; oxygen tanks, hooks, axes, helmets, fire suits, and so much more, I couldn’t help but be calmed by their sense of routine.

They knew what they were doing, and they were doing it well.

I could see teams coming out, heading to a recovery area, where they got water, took off some of their gear, and rested. At the same time, another team of about 8 went in. One shift in, one shift out. Like a well-oiled machine. For four hours.

Their axes and strange hooked poles kind of scared me and made me realize that there was going to be a lot of damage inside. Even though I knew that in my head, it was still shocking when we were finally allowed to go in.

A big thank you to all the men and women out there who literally put their life on the line to control this beautiful, dangerous force of nature we call fire. I am sure grateful for you and your expertise in keeping us all safe. You are truly heroes.

Telling the Boys

There are many, many things I am thankful for during the night of the fire. One of the things I am most thankful for was the fact that my two boys, ages 11 and seven, were not home at the time. I am so glad that they were spared the trauma of seeing a fire envelope the house, and didn’t have to stand outside all that cold, dreary, drizzly night.

After the dust had settled on Sunday, and we were facing the reality of our situation, I had the task of telling my kids what had happened. This was something I was absolutely dreading.

The boys had been with their dad for the weekend, and weren’t expected home until around 6 pm. I knew I had to be the one to tell them, and because of the relationship I have with their dad, I knew if I asked for any changes in drop off or pick up, things would get messy quickly. Because of the emotions and logistics that my parents and I were dealing with, we decided it would be best if we waited, took care of our business, and tried to pick them up a little early to tell them.

This worked out okay, although, it did give me the whole day to worry about how they would react as I was going through the motions of the day.

Before the fire, the plan was that Elliott was going to be dropped off at our house by his grandpa at 5:30, and then I could go pick up Spencer from baseball practice at 6:00. I decided to call the boys’ grandpa to request an earlier pick up time, because I didn’t want Elliott to get dropped off at our house and see the destruction without any explanation beforehand.

This worked well, but the reason I gave for needing to pick Elliott up early was that we had a family emergency. I should have told his grandpa not to relay this information to Elliott, because the poor kid was so worried about what the emergency was when I picked him up, and he didn’t let it go when I told him I would tell him after we got Spencer.

We went and got Spencer from practice, and while driving in a car and with clothes that smelled heavily of the smell of a house fire, we told the boys about the fire. Spencer was a bit indifferent, almost skeptical, and Elliott began to cry. It was tough.

Elliott’s room got hit the hardest, and we weren’t able to salvage anything from his room. He’s also my child who is most attached to his things. He loves his toys and his stuffed animals and I could tell he was crushed. It crushed me. I tried to turn it positive and remind the boys that no one was hurt and that is really the most important thing of all.

Spencer took it like Spencer takes a lot of things-in stride. He acted like it didn’t bother him much, but he did have quite a few questions. Elliott did too. That was a pretty hard question and answer session. Quite awful, in fact.

We drove them to the house and showed them the back where the fire had ravaged the most. Elliott began to cry. No one wanted to get out of the car, so we left and went to my sister’s house for the night. It was somber. Lots of cuddles and more and more questions from Elliott as the reality of the situation set in.

That was a really, really hard mom moment.

 

What Do You Take?

When I realized that this was a real fire, I wasn’t dreaming, it wasn’t going to be put out, and that it was heading into Elliott’s (my youngest son’s) bedroom first, I stood at his doorway and blanked. I knew I should grab somethings that are precious to him, but I couldn’t think at all.

My mind did process that my parents were out of the house, my boys were not at home, so that was the most important thing.

If their lives were safe, what else was important?

I certainly didn’t know.

I finally made my legs move over to his dresser and grabbed a few stupid things: his shell collection that we had just put in a jar and decorated with the words ‘Elliott’s Do NOT Touch!’, his wallet-sized school picture that he wanted to get a special frame for, and his Darth Vader piggy bank. I also grabbed his new electric guitar and amplifier.

Talk about dumb.

I forgot his pillow pet and blankie. Two things I know he has a super soft spot in his heart for. I mean, I knew this, but because my mind had completely cleared I didn’t think of them at all.

Luckily, Elliott has forgiven me for not saving pillow pet and blankie. Amazingly, we have already replaced them, and he doesn’t seem nearly as upset as I had first feared he would be.

If you were faced with this situation, do you know what you would take?

My Mother’s Cry

For those of you that know my family well, I get my sense of humor and my creativity from my dad, and I get my grit from my mom.

She had a rough childhood and instead of letting it break her, she put her faith in God, and came out stronger from it.

That’s why it hurt so much to hear her cry the night of the fire.

We knew that we couldn’t put out the fire ourselves, that it was getting bad, and the firefighters hadn’t arrived yet.

It was a such a strange thing to just sit there and watch, helplessly as the fire consumed the home my parents had lived in, and made their own for 32 years.

That’s when I heard my mother weep, and it about broke my heart. Watching my dad embrace and console my mom until the firefighters arrived is a memory that won’t easily be forgotten.

I know it’s just a house, and what was lost was just things, but it was sad and scary and horrible all the same.

I really hope I never have to hear my mom cry like that ever again.

Exhaustion

Well, today was clean out day. I will write more about the events of the day later, but I wanted to briefly record the level of exhaustion my parents and I feel.

Tonight, it’ll be one week, and it’s been a long one.

After resting a bit on Sunday, and getting a few essentials for the week. I went to work each day, my dad went on Tuesday, and my mom went Tuesday, Wednesday, and half the day on Thursday.

We tried to keep the schedule as normal as possible, but needless to say, with the countless items on our post-fire to-do list, each day and night there was something that needed to be done.

Sleep didn’t come easy all week either. The first few nights were riddled with flashbacks, visions, phantom smells. Toward the middle of the week, I would collapse with exhaustion, but couldn’t stay asleep until morning.

I think it all caught up with us this afternoon after the clean up.

My mom and I went to grab a few things at Target, and I know I felt like a zombie. I was walking around the store with some vague knowledge of why I was there, but just going through the motions. At some point I had become conscious of the fact that I hadn’t blinked in a while, and that I probably had crazy eyes.

I know this feeling of exhaustion will pass, but I have a feeling we still have a ways to go.

 

 

All The Single Ladies

My single moms group has a fierce game of loving on people who are in need, or who are going through tough times.

The morning of the fire, I got a text from my friend, Dana saying that she had the perfect Saturday night, just chilling with another friend and I eating pizza and enjoying a glass of wine.

I had to text back that I had a great night, too…up until 12:30. And then I told her about the fire.

What a weird text to type.

Anyway, she along with a few other single moms from our group, got to work. They went to Target and bought a bunch of stuff they knew I’d need. They got underwear, socks, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, a razor, shampoo and conditioner, yoga pants, tank tops, dress shirts, and sweaters. They also got me a jean jacket. They got me a gift card to Starbucks (It’s all gone, by the way! Man, did I need that!) The only thing I might add that they didn’t think of, is a pair of tweezers. I have a few stray eyebrows that are super bothering me. I now had the means to get presentable and some outfits to wear to work the next day.

They threw in some extra goodies too, like wine, (along with a corkscrew) toilet paper, and paper towels. These guys are good people. I love my little tribe.

Then, to top it all off, they collected even more money and gave it to me at our Wednesday night meeting. These women, the ones with only one income, and who have so many obligations on which they need to spend that money, chose to give it instead. They are living out the Bible. They are the woman who put two coins in the offering.

So thank you ladies, you touch me and you inspire me.

 

 

My Father’s Hands

The day of the fire, my mom, dad, sister, and I went back through the house again. We took some pictures and we grabbed a few things. It was somber.

My sister made the comment that while walking through all the debris and what was left of the house, everywhere she looked, she saw my dad’s handiwork.

It was true.

My parents have been in their home for 32 years, and they have made several home improvements. My dad has made them all.

He tore down our teeny one-car garage and made a three-car garage and work space that would make any neighbor jealous.

He designed and constructed a two-story club house for us as children, complete with bubble windows, a fireman’s pole, a slide, and a sandbox.

He painted that dang house blue, then finally realized that houses should not be blue and put up vinyl siding.

He built an amazing deck for outside living space and entertainment.

He installed a new roof.

He finished the basement and added a family room, an office, a bedroom with a walk-in closet, and a bathroom.

He tiled the kitchen floor and painstakingly designed a tile back splash as well.

His most impressive project was a sun-room addition. It was a room that everyone loved to be in. With sliding glass windows on three sides and an impressive gabled peak full of windows. You felt as if you were outside, except that you could enjoying air-conditioning and a pleasant lack of insects.

So, even though the house can be rebuilt, it feels like such a loss that it will not have all the personal touches throughout.