Monday, September 21, 2009

Real estate agents. . .

. . . can be real pieces of work. Your emergency is not theirs. You don't apply to an agency, get accepted and look for a place, you ave to find a place, then apply, then wait!

I'd rather submit applications with money and get accepted and have freedom to look. Then, they don't try to lease the house and tell you anything about it, they stand around without pointing out features. A few nights ago, my husband went to a place with two other couples and the renter seemed to have been abducted at the last second. Was the real estate agent apologetic? Nope! She shrugged her shoulders and said, "They were given 24 hours notice." I realize that she can't lose sleep over this, but she could have pretended to be embarrassed. This place is somewhere between Girdwood and Talkeetna.

When I started crying when I thought about a melted light switch in my house, another agent told my husband that he needed to get me some talk therapy-- I was telling her that I'd never light candles in the pretty house! Oh-- but she offered in a very condescending way that maybe we could get together and talk-- but she was being mean. What gives? I'm not crying much like I had been. . . now the doldrums have set in and I just wants a semi permanent roof!

My relationship with my junk

OK, my life is not all about sadness right now. This past weekend I went out while my family was in church and I walked several miles and took lots of pictures that I posted to FaceBook which is presently down. Here is one of my dog-person. He came over to see the kids in our pet friendly hotel. Tiger said that he went back to her place and slept for 12 hours straight as the kids wore him out!

What is getting to me right now, and I have been told that much of this is mourning, is the junk that I had amassed in my house that all at once I miss but don't want to ever see again. I had rubber stamps, so many art kits. . . what do I actually have time for and what is worth taking up space?

I miss some of my designer clothes that my mom bought me in high school. I have some blazers from the Brass Plum back when it was classy, some J. Peterman outfits that my husband let me splurge on at the holidays, custom cowboy boots and figure skates, that seem impractical to replace. OK, the blazers, yes-- the high necked Victorian blouses that I loved, yes, because they are part of my personal style. My corsets for certain. But do I need custom cowboy boots, riding boots and $300 breeches or $900 figure skates with $300 blades? I didn't use the skates enough to justify the cost! I may as well cost those out. And the breeches-- I can buy less costly ones for my occasional rides-- I don't even own a horse any more!

Last weekend I went shopping and looking at how I will want my new kitchen. I started crying and had to leave. I slept on it and my husband said I was robbing everyone of the fun of this so I allowed myself to try to enjoy it and asked lots of questions of salespeople and customers alike and I brought no one down.

I like minimalist stuff; if we can afford it, I want wood interiors, a Scan-interior look. We may have the house partially unfinished so that I can learn to do things that are reasonable. (One of my friends does rock work and I am going to spend some time with her and see if it is reasonable that I can commit to doing inlays on our counter tops.) My husband says that our house should look more like it's lady. I am slender and attractive, not a lot of fussiness. Intelligent enough to be entertaining, but I am not think-tank smart. I had so many books-- argh! I don't even want them like I had them and if I do, I have to have discreet bookshelves! If I looked like my house did, I'd weigh 600 pounds and be clean, but wear gaudy jewelry. If was how the house got after ten years and I had been in the process of decluttering.

I've been crying over things. I >>know<<< that I shouldn't have run in to get my father's cowboy hats, but I find myself wishing that I had and thinking how I was already in and what trouble would it have been really. . . and of course my cowboy boots and my riding boots were right there. My grandmother's dolls are gone, and the needle point Christmas stockings from my mother are gone!

I had bunches of salt and pepper shakers, one pair that I used to play with as a little girl and I'd make them dance on the dining room table and get married (they were a king and queen) and gosh, they were within an arm's reach in the kitchen when I grabbed my purse!

The other day a friend wanted a book title so I ran between our hotel rooms, I had two copies on a dresser. . . I couldn't find it and it bugged me and then, "Oh. . . it was on my dresser."

I keep coming back to knowing that my family is safe and that we are safe and that we had the added bonus of the old pictures being lightly scorched but OK and that nothing else matters. I have been told that I will mourn the old stuff but find new stuff and ways to occupy my life and space.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I do have to laugh. . .

This evening a dear friend offered to take us all out. This is no small thing to do since with nine people in my family, we are pretty expensive. Cloud wanted to get dressed up which we all did. We looked great!

The kids over the age of 8 got to order adult sized meals and the younger ones got to order chocolate milkshakes. We toasted success and the resiliency of the Crumpet clan. This friend told the kids each individually what they were doing right in what is going on, not just to make my husbands' and my life easier, but for them, too. He talked about what a great group we are. My husband toasted me, saying that the greatest day of his life was when he decided to forgo his doubts and marry a mom with three kids and he said that I made every moment an adventure. I toasted the man who has made everything possible, who has been wise and loving when things have been rough.

The kids were very well behaved, then Mudd started feeling sick and I thought it was the commotion of the day. . . then Calamity Jane "got sick" neatly in her child's portion basket. She didn't want to drive in the car, so we walked the short distance back to the hotel. She got sick a couple more times and as of this moment, feels better. Mudd isn't sure how he feels. This is NOT a good sign!

Seven kids, two hotel rooms, one mom with a can-do attitude! I got through a fire last week, but the thought of dealing with the flu after chocolate shakes and pizza for the little people has me feeling very insecure! LOL

Thursday, September 17, 2009

We are closer to finding a house to lease!

Finding a house is rough! I had no idea how hard it is to find a place to dwell. I think of "to dwell"-- to live, a permanent or at least semi permanent place to live, and I have always taken it for granted. I met a lady yesterday from Guatemala and she came to America the old fashioned way-- over the border 25 years ago. She is now legal, but while I am temporarily homeless, the desperation that drove her to leave her country was sickening. I am homeless, but she had been roofless. I don't feel happy thinking of people worse off than me, but I did whisper prayers of thanks for what we have and asked G-d to take care of those who struggle far worse than we have.

Today marks a week post burn. I was lucky to get out of my house as I did. On the day of the fire, I swore that I had never in any real danger, that there was never much smoke for me to breathe, that I got out with time to spare, etc. Memories are coming back. When I decided that the fire was too big for me to deal with, I left the room fast, went to my sons' room to put out a candle (I had thought that the fire would be contained to the one bedroom) and went to the living room to get the kids who were home out. I saw the bedroom that was on fire as I had to pass it again and it had spread the length of the bed and gone across the room. I must have gotten out right before it went "voomph" (my word for being taken over in flames without an explosion.) When I recollected this to my husband, he said that the fire investigator said that with the polyester covers and the stuff that mattresses are made of, that this would have happened.

I really hope that this doesn't become a focal point of my life-- what COULD have happened. Right now I am thinking about it a lot, but it was only last night that I realized how much danger I was actually in. The first few days after the fire, I was imagining my kids stuck in the house when 7 of the 9 were in school and college. They weren't in any real danger. I was less than a minute away from being seriously hurt. I was moving fast but not aware of how bad it could have been. I keep thanking G-d for the fire safety classes from elementary school so I knew to get out.

I went to bed and slept without valtrex last night, but my doctor wants me to keep a 3 day supply on hand lest I be kept awake with memories as they return. (He wanted me to have more but I am afraid of getting an addiction. I have my favourite pharmacy but it's not open on weekends and he wants me to have access.) When he said this to me a few days ago I was like, "I was never in danger, stop that!" He was a Navy firefighter and smiled at me and said, "Your house burned down in 20 minutes and you had to have been in there for at least five. You are not remembering things and you will be a little shaken up when they come to your mind. Right now you are assuring yourself of your safety." Am I freaked out? I don't know. It's scary for the close call, but there are KIDS in Afghanistan who are under fire every day, seeing their friends get hurt and getting closer calls than I am. People are in custody battles-- put me in the hands of AllState to an Alaskan judge any day! I had PTSD over my custody battle several years ago-- for over a year afterward, with the battle taking 3 years, I was calling my lawyer confirming things that I just missed!

The house-- one of the nights my husband went out to look at a place, he said it looked like the family had just disappeared, like evaporated from the face of the earth. (This was with Another Company, NOT Jack White/Prudential, who AllState suggested.) The leasing agent wasn't even embarrassed! She shrugged her shoulders, "The renters were given a 24 hour notice." The place stank and the dishwasher was open with yuck in it. I realize that the agent didn't have control over what the renters did, but she could have pretended that she was sorry for wasting my husband's time as well as that of the two other couples who were looking.

Why are the renters of that place so rude? I was a single mom and had just had a baby. The owner wanted to sell and there was no way I could get things cleaned up so he could show it, so I told him that I'd like to get out of my lease so he could sell the place and he was thankful for my consideration of him.

Jack White is established, but we had wanted to give a smaller, upstarting company a chance. Well, there is a reason that the bigger companies do better. Maybe if James and I amass a bunch of rentals, we can work with a fledgling firm and help them get off the ground, but we are a family of nine who needs a house three days ago. Jack White had several homes for us to look at and they have been excited to show us the homes. I'm all, "I want to cry! I lit the candle that burned my house down!" and they are saying, "What is done is done, it was an accident and you won't do it again. You have a chance to do a little better, try out a new nighbourhood, see if you like it! Allow yourself to enjoy this!" That is nice. They want us to have a nice experience.

Another rental company was contacted by friends. I didn't know (and don't mind) and I called and asked after a place. I mentioned that I needed a place ASAP as my house had burned down. The woman who had an annoying voice told me a bunch of info on me and when I finally told her to stop talking about me and that I wanted to see a house, she said it was too small. I asked if she had another one in what her first decided was my size. Well, no. . . I couldn't fathom why she gabbed so much at me and yelled at her for wasting my time. That was another small firm. Maybe she was bored?

We saw a house yesterday on Lake Luciele where we could see SP's float plane-- my mother and step dad were in ecstasy when I told them! They'd fly up just so they could be on the lake where she lives. (This can be sung!) I'm not crazy about the x-guv but what got to me about the house was that it has a white carpet. It's like a '70's show house with a cool staircase and very open, lots of wood. A gargantuan intercom which isn't needed in a house like that because it's so open.

Another house is really cute and is a tri-level that I loved, but it's in a neighbourhood that I think was built on a man-made hill. My mom used to be huge in insurance in Alaska and when I looked in the back yard and saw the cliff, then saw what appears to be a sink hole, I thought of what kinds of gymnastics she'd do if she saw it. Really, it was maybe 30' from a cliff and you could see that it just isn't safe. One slightly bad earthquake would send this cute house careening down the wooded yet almost vertical cliff! We could end up with the Crumpet Annual Disaster Relief Fund!

Cloud saw a house on the other side of the area that we live in. She'd have to change schools, but she said that two friends are moving over to the other school anyway and they are on her athletic team. She loves the house and I may go for it. She wants to choose from the donated furniture. . . I will get to design our new house, but I think for her, coping may be to design and do this interim place. She even pointed out the neighbourhood to me, "You can walk every night and we've been here at Christmas and everyone has pretty lights!" She's adorable!

One of my son's former teachers had a housefire a few years ago. Apparently she was talking to a fireman after a fire prevention class for her students and he got a call and had to go. A half hour later, her husband called the school and told her that she had to come home, that their house was on fire. She went and the fireman she'd been talking to was there with his crew.

Last night we went to a church family's house for dinner. They are so nice and sooooo smart. Very learned people. I started crying for my books when I saw theirs. I'd borrowed a book from "the wife" and started to cry more because of course I can't return it. I wanted to know what it was so I could get her another one and she wouldn't tell me so I can't buy her another one! My books. I have so many thank you notes and I looked in my new art supply area of the hotel and only one book survived that I took out after the fire, but it's not in great shape. [I do artwork on my envelopes and it's important to me and the books are gone. :( ] I miss them. If I didn't have kids, I might have died saving my books! I know that bibliophiles understand this.

I had just wanted to update on the rental and I said more. Did you stay with me? I am doing well. Memories are coming out that are bugging me and may shake me, but I have a life to live and lives to lead. I have a penpal who I normally write several times a week just because I normally come up with things to draw and I need to write to him today, and there are thank you notes that I am blessed to write. I am buying a charity box for our new place-- our pushke that we had got burnt up in the kitchen and I hope that some of the money can be washed and recovered and donated to an emergency fund-- it was getting heavy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Because stopping isn't an option. we are dusting ourselves off. . .

Today is good-- my voice is 1/2 back and I can stand listening to myself speak. My mom was really happy since I talk to her so much! LOL I am having adrenalin let-down. I don't think it's emotional so much as it's physical. It's like a hangover without a headache. My flexibility is crazy and if I did yoga, my teacher would be yelling at me and sending me home. I am almost disjointed, like how you get after you have a baby.)

Yesterday I was actively mad (pissed and I hate using that word) at my neighbour for having hovered and I still don't like her, but the anger is like, "I never have to speak to her again. Since she hovered near me and the freaking fire marshal during the fire, I am claiming a psychological aversion to her face and voice as a PTSD thang and to stay away from me for forever." This, my friends, is beautiful! (I feel bad for her because she is needy, but she is like a donkey who thinks it's a lap dog. I've tried to be friends with her in the past but she has MAJOR boundary issues.)

Church members have had us for dinner which has been nice because we don't sit down as a family in the hotel. I may buy a table cloth to toss over our bed though. . . that is why I prefer eating with friends and at IHOP, we sit down together. When I was growing up, no matter how late my brother's hockey practice went, my mother MADE SURE that we sat together and ate. I have ALWAYS appreciated this. With church friends we have great conversations.

I was really impressed with 13 yo Cloud yesterday. She said that one of her coaches asked why she wasn't looking sad since her house burned down and she was a little annoyed and said something like, "I can't spend my life thinking about that! I have other things to do while my house gets rebuilt!" He high fived her.

I have a life coach who used to be a psychologist, but she tired of the psychologists' regulations. She worked with my eldest daughters when we had a court battle when she was a psychologist and I liked her. She knows I don't need to analyze my relationship with my dog from when I was two and that I really need someone to bounce things off of for a few sessions to get a hold of things. One of the things that she said to me last night (I'm sharing because it is common sense and you all may use this with your own friends) was that while I told her how I felt about candles and oil lamps around my church was to remember that I use knives all the time and seldom cut myself, that I drive every day, etc. and that this was like anything else-- I was not playing roulette with the candle, I had lit them in my house hundreds of times, and that like driving after an accident, or geeze, even after slicing my finger, sh-- happens and I'll get past it.

My husband is a devout Orthodox and I know it's important to him to have an oil lamp in front of our icon wall and I told her that I don't want to make him suffer for my neurosis. Well, I can redesign my house with a great room concept so we see the icon wall and the candle/oil lamp. We can put the lamp a few feet out and high up with a higher ceiling-- do you all get the idea?

I think that my greatest fear is having this control me. I have dreams of candles all over the house and falling after they ignite a fire. I do have some control over my dreams and I do say things to myself like, "This is a dream because in real life I didn't panic and it wasn't like this."

The kids are great. Mudd is five and wants to sleep between his 4 year old sister and 6 year old sister. Normally he is a turkey but he hasn't been. He likes to know that Starshine is OK-- I think she was the one who knocked the candle off the counter top (unless it was Jack the Dawg.)

Guy, Basil and Dmitri all seem OK with things. More put off at the inconvenience than anything else. We had a big yard and their pals near by.

Yesterday I saw my cool neighbour, Andrea. OMG-- I had wondered if she was around but didn't want to call her, "Hey, my house is burning down! You wanna come over?" She was there but didn't want to bug me and seem like she was hanging out with the tragedy! The good people have their boundaries! She sent one of her kids up and told him to see if my kids were OK-- he's sixteen and said that he walked up, saw that my body language didn't seem like there was a death and told it was JUST the house burning. When I say JUST the house burning, I am not discrediting that we lost everything, but JUST the house burning and not a loss of one of the kids.

You know, before the fire trucks got there, my stupid neighbour had called the closest school who called the school where my kids were and before the fire trucks came, several mommies drove by and in soccer mommy voices exclaimed, "Oh, Tea! I HEARD! OH MY GAWD! Can I get you anything?" (Like. . . a latte?) I was ticked, "GET OUT OF F***ING ROAD! Fire trucks are coming!" I think I'm mentioned this already-- there goes my anger!

Tiger is here for an over nighter and this has affected her and Peaches, too. That was their home for the last 10 years.

Starshine is happy-- she always has me to herself even if I am lost on the computer. She runs in and kisses me! Cloud says that she could have bumped that counter when she ran out of the room-- for all we know, the dog did it.

My brother, came out the first couple of days and he was great just to have around. We grew up together being only a few years apart and his seriousness about the situation, then joking when I needed it was like a breath of fresh air.

My sisters came by yesterday and had done a Costco run and filled our fridge at the hotel. I am making a pot roast in the crock pot for dinner. Oh-- we have a dishwasher here! Yay!

I went to the house and cried on the lawn yesterday. The restoration people were there and the lady was so sweet-- now I want to work for them! She found some family pics and told me how she recognized all these different photographer studios but how we all looked happy and not uncomfortable or stiff and what a great mom she knew I was and what a sweet husband I have. Of course I told her our family history!

Yesterday Dmitri's friend Stormy's mom saw us in the 'hood and we spoke and she will have us all over to their place for dinner next week. They knew Dmitri when my husband got laid off and I was pregnant with #9, but I declined her offers of kindness because I didn't have anything nice to wear, we had so little, and MY HOUSE WAS A MESS. I'd met her a few weeks ago and really like her. She and her husband are young but have a huge house and really nice cars-- they are the kind of people that you smile for for having the early success that they enjoy. They deserve every bit of it and a lot more! Anyway, she told me that when my husband was laid off that every night, Stormy prayed for him to get a job.

Well, in the next day or two, I probably won't be dwelling on this fire much and instead biatching about finding a place to rent, and soon we will be ready for the donations of bunk beds and computer desks.

I want to tell you all that your prayers are working and to please keep them up. They are working. A few weeks ago I think I mentioned that I was sick sans my suburban and had to walk to my kids' charter school twice, once to get Calamity Jane and second to sign up for school clubs. What has happened to my family is worse than what I went through then, but we have insurance and we know that in a year, we will be having a "House Cooling Party/Weekend" for everyone to come visit and see pictures of the house that ~*~I~*~ design with our limited resources. I am not as uncomfortable as I was on the day that I had the flu and had to do all that walking. The custody battle with my ex husband was worse on me than this. (We're in better hands with AllState than the red tape of Alaskan judges who really don't give a sh--. I think insurance companies should hire judges because they'd be looking for judges who would make them not liable!) If we didn't have insurance, we'd be up a famous creek, but we will land on our feet. I will add though that the fact that I was the one who lit that candle will always weigh on me, but it won't keep me down.

If you got through this, I thank you!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

So my house burned down the other day. . .

I have nothing but good to say about what has happened. (OK, one neighbour seemed to be fascinated by the loss and I found myself tending to her when I really needed to focus on the fire marshal and my own thoughts. She called the school when I already had things squared away and she gave me bags of stuff as the house was smouldering and I was like, "WTF am I supposed to do with this?" but I smiled and said "Thank you." Her kid lectured me about my kids bugging his dogs while Mom smiled. Whatever!)

On the tenth, I had two kids home. Dmitri was sick and as always, Starshine was home because she is three years old. She'd shut down my slow lap top and I sent her to her room, having forgotten that I'd lit a candle in there. What follows here is nto my report, but parts that are relevant to me.

She came running out in a top and panties and went to the dryer. I glanced up from my computer and saw lights coming out of her room. I thought that Cloud, who loves all things retro, had bought a strobe light or disco ball and I went in to check stuff out. There was a fire on her bed. I grabbed Starshine and put her in the living room with her brother, told him that there was a fire and to not leave the room. (He was on the couch.)

I went into the bedroom and tried to smother the fire but it shot back up at me. I remembered my forth grade fire education classes like they were 'last week' and the fireman's voice was in my head, telling us that when the flames got too big for us to control or that we might catch fire ourselves, to get out. I remembered how he told us that they didn't want to fight fires, but that they were trained to fight them and liked to fight them, but that they really didn't want to rescue someone who could have escaped. (Or something like that.) I wear long skirts and looked down at mine and realized that it might catch fire. It was time to leave. I went to my sons' room and blew out the candle.

(Later, I'd remember that there was a fire by the closet in my daughters' room, but it was what I could handle at the time with the fire on the bed. I like that I didn't notice the fire by the closet because I may have panicked.)

I went to the living room and fell trying to run the kids out-- I slipped on the hardwood floor, perhaps on a piece of laundry since I had clean clothes on one of the couches. For some reason, I laugh when I think of that.

I got the kids out, called 9-11, then went back in. I am one of those people who will be holding my cell phone and ask where it is. I decided that I needed my purse because I wanted my cell phone even though I was holding the cell phone. Flames were quite visible in my daughters room and were spreading. I ran to my room, no purse, paused at some pictures that we'd been looking at the day before and I briefly thought about taking them, but knew if I took one box that I'd have to come back for the others. I was thinking about pictures of my dad that would be lost to the fire that was making a lot of noise and a lot of smoke and I have no doubt that he was there. (We didn't get along. . . Eternity will last a lot longer once I get there and I doubt he wants me to join him!) I imagine him saying to me, "Kel, get your purse and your laptop. I'll take care of these."

I got my purse and my laptop. As I was leaving I noticed that the flames were near the door of the bedroom and going toward the linen closet. Probably little more than two minutes had passes since the fire had started.

I got outside, ran to the end of my driveway where the kids were standing next to my suburban and moved it up the road. (The kids were rooted where they were. Smoke was coming out of their house, they were probably seeing fire in the house through the front window. It was surreal to me, I can only imagine what it was for a couple of kids who didn't understand what was happening.)

(My obnoxious neighbour who I am sure "only wanted to help" called the school who called my kids' charter school and even though I had made arrangements for the kids to be picked up, I got a call from my kids' school. I'm sorry-- this irritated me. I wish the particular woman just sat inside her house. There is a reason I seldom spoke to her before. She had a "need" to help. My house was burning down and she was talking about where she'd be bringing me bags of unwanted clothing. That was so far from my mind!)

I went back to the house. At various moments, I called my husband and my mom. One of my friends-- it's funny how people respond in emergencies. I had everyone who needed to be called, called, and I needed this friend to get my kids. I called her, "Listen to me, I'm fine, everyone is fine, but my house is burning down." She jumped on me, "Don't call me! Call 9-11! Call your husband!" Argh! I eventually got her to understand that I knew what I was doing and that if she could, I needed her help! LOL

When I waited for the fire trucks to arrive (it seemed like forever) and saw fire shooting through my attic vent on the other side of my house, I knew I was loosing the house.

The Red Cross was there while the firepeople were putting the flames out. Two well dressed ladies in suits came and they had vouchers for a hotel suite and personnel items. My husband went to talk to them because I was more, "Is this real?" and dazed.

One of the firefighters is a friend of my eldest. When she said hello to me I ran and hugged her, "I'm so happy you are here!" She knew my mental state and laughed something like, "Well I'm not! This really sucks because your house burned down!" We'd find out that several of the firefighters have kids who attend my kids' schools. I felt good knowing that they were people we kinda knew.

Friends from church have helped us immensely. They knew we'd be overwhelmed by donations and one of the ladies is sorting through clothing. They are all arranging meals for us. My brother who is about to leave state came to help us and brought my eldest daughter out. Tiger was funny-- when I told her where we are staying, she said, "Pool! Do the boys have-- haha! I'll buy you all swimming suits! Kohl's is having a sale!" So. . . she came out with swimwear for all of us! I can't swim right now since I am hacking. She took three days off from work to be with us!

It was peculiar as to what I remembered right after the event and what I remember now. The fire marshal explained that I was amped up on adrenalin and that when I came down, I'd remember things a little differently. I assured him that I was fine. I kept coughing and he kept asking me if I was sure I didn't inhale any smoke. Oh yes, I was sure. . . yesterday I went to the ER clinic because I was hacking a lot and my breathing was at 50%. It wans't a cold. They said it was caused by a combination of the cold Id not gotten over, possible allergies and yes, inhaling chemicals in the smoke. I was in the house too long to have not inhaled.

We found my treasured photos on the lawn. Many were singed, but they were intact. Peaches was thrilled as she'd been looking at them the day before the fire. She is restoring them for me and all the photos of my dad survived. (That's why I feel like he protected them.)

I do not know what the coming year has in store for us. The insurance company is really going out of their way to help us. I am in the mode of, "When we rebuild, I want TWO fire alarms in each room, we will have ZERO candles even for icons, I want firewalls between each room. . ." I am in overkill mode.

It was bugging me how Starshine started the fire because I put the candle in a place that she couldn't reach it. Over breakfast this morning, Cloud provided the missing piece of that puzzle. The cabinet in her room that I set the candle on was wobbly and I had no idea as I'd never used it personally. Cloud knew that it wobbled, but there was no reason to tell me. Sometimes Starshine got in to it. Cloud said that all she had to have done was open the cabinet door with a little force and it may have slid.

In retrospect, I could have saved the house had I shut the window as soon as I saw the fire. There was a breeze and it fed the fire, although once it went into the attic, it was spreading.

My room had major smoke damage and was pretty much destroyed. The smell is sickening. Everything is being gotten rid of.

I learned how heat rises. On the other side of the house, doors were singed for the top 18 inches and were just sooty below. The heat was bad on top.

It was strange looking at the chairs I'd just been sitting in a couple of hours before, charred.

We lost our cat who adopted us during a court battle with my ex husband. She just showed up on the day that I temporarily lost custody and stayed. She was in the boys' room asleep on the top bunk. I cried a great deal for her.

It may take up to a year to rebuild our house. My clan in an apartment is NOT appealing but at least we will be together. I hope to stay in the same area for the schools. My husband and I may become big in volunteering for the Red Cross or, if not major volunteers, in a year or two put in some time helping them with a project.

Even in the midst of the tragedy, there is life. The night of the fire, my brother in law observed that we had just survived one of the scariest events in our lives, but there was Tiger handing out swimwear to the kids, they were excited to be at a hotel with a swimming pool and they were like little electrons around her, laughing and talking. She smiled at me right then and said, "Mom, take the good with the bad!"

Today we had breakfast at IHOP. It was the first meal where were all sat down together since Wednesday night. The kids were noisy and funny, Mudd discovered that where he was sitting that he had to dive under the table or make everyone move if he had to use the bathroom, so he claimed to need to use the bathroom several times. Finally my husband said, "You are not going again." He made a crass potty joke. Cloud realized that she had one of my rhinestone necklaces in her purse (WTF?!! she gets in to my stuff!) but I was happy she had it. Basil was taking advantage of the bottomless orange juice. Starshine was like a puppy on Tiger's boyfriend's lap, insisting that he hold her and he didn't mind. I actually ate enough so the steroids for the smoke inhalation would not make me sick. It was refreshing.

We lost everything, but I also feel like good will happen. We keep looking up and looking ahead.