Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday, October 18

Tonight marks 5 weeks since the fire.  5 weeks since our life was turned upside down.  5 weeks since we lost Schnitzel.  5 weeks we have been dealing with insurance, with smoky, salvaged items, with donated clothes, furniture and house goods, and with setting up house in a strange home.  5 weeks.  Some days it seems like it was 5 years ago; some days it seems like 5 days.

Things have settled down.  We've kind of found a new normal.  This house has lost the "strange" feel, and we've figured out how to do life here.  People have been so kind and generous.  One person, whom we don't know, gave us a freezer with a good amount of beef in it.  Another person, an eye doctor, offered Paul a free eye exam and a free pair of glasses.  Paul works for the local funeral home and picked up lady who had died.  The lady's son and daughter in law recognized Paul from a clip the local news station did on the fire, and called him, and offered us the majority of the contents of his mother's house.  Two leather recliners, lamps, end tables, coffee table,dining room table and chairs, china hutch, china,  kitchen items, silverware, a king size bedroom suite along with many other items were given to us.  All our homeschool books have been replaced, and then some, along with boxes of school supplies. My children have more and nicer clothes than they had before the fire, as do Paul and I.  Our kitchen was stocked, and we've received several giftcards to walmart, kroger and publix.  A gentleman in China, who wanted to help those affected by Irma, purchased a triple bunk bed for out boys.

We have been so blessed.  God has been faithful in providing for us, over and above what we have needed.

It's still hard.  It has been hard going to the old house and salvaging items.  It's emotional seeing your home and all it's contents in such devastating conditions. It's hard seeing where Schnitzel is buried, and remembering him.  It's exhausting at times.  The transition to this new home has been so much harder than I anticipated.  I couldn't have imagined how the loss of your house and stuff would affect every area of your life.  It was cool this morning, and I realized, 5 weeks after the fire, that I have no socks.  Or jacket.

Sometimes it's hard to know what to feel.  It can be a roller coaster, and we have to remind ourselves that it's ok to feel bad.  It's ok to feel sad and cry.  We have suffered a great loss.  Yes, it could have been much worse and we are thankful it wasn't, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a loss. 

Beauty from ashes.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

September 15

Sam and Ben, who had spent the night at their friends house, were sick.  Paul went and got them early Friday morning.  They had a stomach bug, but Sam's asthma was flaring up.  He could hardly breathe.  Those poor boys laid around all day, hardly able to move.

Paul and I met a TV reporter at the house.  She wanted to do a story on our house, and why it burned.  She interviewed each of us, then walked through the house with us.  It was the first time I'd been in the house, other than the night of the fire.  I was amazed at the devastation.  There was mold growing already because everything was wet.  The house smelled badly of smoke, mold and wet insulation.  I was able to grab a few things, but not much.  It was very evident that we needed breathing masks to go back in.

Anna had come up for the day to help me get our new place into shape.  The people who had let us stay in their house are really good friends of ours, and it was very kind of them to immediately open their home.  They are planning to rent this house, but were not expecting people so quickly, so their stuff was still in the house, which made moving in a little difficult.  Anna cleaned and organized so I wouldn't have to.  That was such a blessing.

We were so thankful to have a place to live as long as we needed it.  However, this was hard.  This house was not our house, and this stuff was not our stuff.  We did the best we could at the time, but we were all feeling the stress.  The shock and adrenaline rush was quickly wearing off.

Paul and I went and picked up Jack and Emma, and left with more clothes for the kids.  People had been blessing us over and over with gift cards, donations of money and stuff for the house. It was also becoming apparent that Jack was having a hard time dealing with the fire and smoke of Wednesday night.  He watched the first several minutes of the drama from the driveway, and it affected him.  When we got to Paul's mom's house after the fire, he quietly turned to Paul and said, "Daddy, I'm a little scared".  Broke my heart to hear that.  If anyone mentioned going to the "old" house, he would start crying and screaming that it was too scary.  Paul took him to the old house for some reason before we realized he was traumatized,  and he screamed and cried and Paul had to leave.  All we could do was reassure him that he was not going back to the "old" house.

Friends of ours made dinner for us at the church that night.  It was delicious and so kind.  While we were eating, a couple of people stopped by with donations of clothes, household items and schoolbooks. 

Friday night was the first night we were all in the "new" house.  We were short 3 beds, but people had graciously bought or gave us air mattresses, and sheets and pillows, so we were all set.  I didn't sleep well at all this night and wondered if this house would ever feel like home.

Monday, October 9, 2017

September 14

Paul and I finally got into bed around 3.  My mind was so wound up and I had developed quite a headache.  I wondered if I would sleep at all, but I drifted off around 3:30 or so, only to be up by 7.  We both got up and went and sat in the living room with Paul's mom.  It was surreal to remember what had happened the night before.  Thankfully, the kids all slept in with the exception of Sam.  He woke up quite early also.  We both also had so many messages and texts to respond to.

Within 2 hours of us waking up, people were literally at the door.  People from church, good friends and people we didn't even know.  We were given so many gift cards and money.  Friends of mine from CC were collecting school books, and another group was collecting clothes for the kids.  I felt like I was in a fog.  One of the sweet lady's from church offered to come and get Jack and Emma.  I thought this would be great for them, to get them away from the trauma of the night before.  When she arrived, they were so eager to go with her.  When I handed her Jack's bag, I told her, "This is all I have for him".  It was a stark reminder of the great loss we had suffered.

Ellie and I went out and did some clothes shopping.  We had nothing.  We ran around for a few hours then met up with Paul for a late lunch.  I'm pretty sure we were all still in shock over the events of the night before.  All day long both of us received several texts and messages, and gifts.  It was amazing how quickly people came together to help us.

Our biggest concern was a place to live.  We were told it would probably be six to nine months before we would be able to return to our home.  That's a long time and we needed a place big enough, hopefully in our neighborhood.  Paul had thought of just the place the night before, and before he even woke up, he had a text offering us a place to stay for as long as we needed it.  It was a God send.  Literally.  We were very thankful.

We had supper at the church that night, prepared by a couple of ladies.  While we were there, some of my school friends dropped by with big tubs of clothes for each child and crates of school books and supplies.  There were even some toys.  I was so thankful.  What a blessing.

Jack and Emma spent the night at the Bearchell's and Sam and Ben spent the night at Dillon and Jimmy's, so it was just Paul, Ellie and I for the first night in the new place.  Paul was at men's night at his friends house, so Ellie and Paul  Jr. ran to Walmart, bought a dvd player and some movies so we could watch a movie.  Paul got home and within five minutes of the movie starting, we both knew we were exhausted and just needed to go to bed.  So we did.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

September 13, 2017, Part Two

I sat in the van, with the air on full force, watching the firemen wrap up what they were doing.  They had removed the stove from the house in their efforts to put out the fire.  They were going in and out, doing who knows what.  I couldn't cool down, so I sat in the van.  I called Anna and Zack, and then my mom.  I felt bad calling them, but I did not want anyone to find out on Facebook.  I finally realized I had to use the restroom, but I did not want to go in the house where the kids were.  I knew they were going to ask about Schnitzel.  I went and got Paul, and we went in to tell them the sad news.

Sam and Emma cried.  Ben took it hard, but didn't cry.  Jack listened, but I'm sure he didn't understand.  It was sad to tell them and see their reactions.  Sharon had been so kind to them.  They were having a Christmas in September party, watching the Grinch and eating snacks.  I am so grateful to Sharon for trying to make sure the kids were ok.

It wasn't long after this that the firemen asked us if we wanted to go into the house.  Paul didn't want me too, but I wanted to see.  We went in the back door, into the laundry room and my first impression was that it was gray.  The ceilings and the walls were now gray, and the fan blades were now hanging straight down.  It was unreal.  We walked further in and I realized that I wouldn't be able to go any further because I was wearing flip flops.  The fireman told me I needed better shoes.  I told him all my shoes were in the house.  It was funny, yet, it wasn't.

The kitchen was destroyed.  It was black and unrecognizable.  The dining room was only a bit better.  I couldn't get a good look at the living room, but I was sure it was destroyed also.  I didn't stay in too long- it was still very warm and the smell of smoke was strong.

I took the kids and we went to my inlaws.  They had quickly prepared beds for everyone, and the kids were exhausted.  It was now almost 11.  I took Ben, Emma and Jack upstairs and got them situated in their beds and they were out, almost immediately.  I was too wound up to sleep yet, so I went downstairs where Sam was.  We watched tv for a while.

Meanwhile, Paul, Ellie, Paul Jr. and a couple men from our church were getting as many valuables as they could from the house.  With so much damage, there was no way to secure the house.  They brought some stuff over to Paul's parents house and went back for more.

I decided I needed to run to Walmart.  We had nothing.  Sam didn't even have shoes.  No hairbrush, no toothbrush, no clothes, etc.  Sam and I went out and got in the van and Paul pulled in behind us, unloading more stuff.  Ellie decided to come to Walmart with us.  When we got there, we got a message from Paul.  Another fire had broken out in the attic, a pretty large fire.  He, along with Paul jr. and Dale had been in the basement, and Paul Jr. had noticed it.  One firetruck was still on the scene in case another fire broke out.  They loaded the attic with water to be sure the fire was out.  This in turn caused all the ceilings to collapse and all the stuff in the attic to fall out.

The second fire was just as devastating as the first.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

September 13, 2017 Part 1

For the majority of Maconites, Hurricane Irma was no more than an annoyance.  For most of us, the biggest problem she caused was the loss of power.  We lost power around 9am on Monday, September 11.  I was a little surprised we had lost power so early in the day, but we packed up and headed to the church, which still had power.  We arrived, and within 30 minutes, power was lost here too.  We spent most of the day here, with several others, and rode out the "storm", such as it was.  Lots of trees and branches down and the annoying loss of power were really our only problems caused by Irma.

We had hoped to have power by Tuesday, but no.  The church had power restored Tuesday afternoon, so we spent most of Tuesday at the church, and hoped to have our power back on by Wednesday.  There was a huge downed tree on our road, so we watched that tree.  We knew there would be no power on our road until that tree was moved.  On the way to church Wednesday night, we drove by and were so happy to see the tree was moved off the wire and the linemen were working on the downed lines.  After church, I checked the Internet and saw that power had been restored to our road!  We quickly left to get home.  Sam, Jack and I left the church and headed home.  When we turned on our road, we cheered as we saw lights on in every home.  I could not wait to lay in my bed with the fan right on me!

As we rounded the large curve heading up to our house, I noticed the porch light on!  We cheered again, but even as I was cheering, I noticed the house looked "strange".  I didn't know why, but I knew it didn't look right.  I also knew I left living room lights on, and I could see the lamp in front of the window wasn't on.  I didn't give it too much thought as I pulled in the driveway, but as I pulled up, I saw smoke around the porch light.  Again, I didn't give it too much thought, thinking maybe it was fog, or condensation in the air.  I jumped out, grabbed the keys and my purse and headed toward the door.  I put the keys in the lock, turned the knob and swung open the door.

Black smoke hit me full force in the face.  I couldn't figure out what was going on,  I looked in the house but could see nothing.  Finally I realized the house was on fire.  I yelled for Schnitzel several times, then threw the phone to Sam and said call dad, the generator is on fire!  I then went back, and called for the dog again.  I heard noises in the house, and all I could think of was that the dog was in one of the bedrooms and was scratching at the door to get out.  I never really thought of going in because the smoke scared me.  All of this took place in about 30 seconds.  I quickly ran next door and pounded on their door and yelled my house is on fire.  They both came running out and I think they both called 911.  I yelled to Nick that Schnitzel was still in the house and he ran to the open door.  I was afraid he was going to try and go in and I yelled for him not to.

All the while Jack was standing in the driveway, watching everything play out.  At this point, Sharon got him and Sam and put them in her house. Paul, Ben and Emma drove up.  Sharon got Ben and Emma in her house and Paul ran around the house to the backyard to make sure Sam wasn't in the backyard, even though I told him Sam was in the neighbor's house.  Paul and Nick quickly moved the cars so the fire trucks could get close.  Paul really considered going in the house and I yelled at him not to go in.  Thankfully he didn't.

3 big firetrucks arrived and the firemen took over.  Many neighbors had come out at this point to see what was going on.  Paul Jr. and Courtney arrived and Ellie also.  It was unreal to be standing there watching your house in flames. The firemen quickly put the fire out.  I kept hoping Schnitzel was going to be ok, that he had been hiding in a back bedroom under a blanket.  I saw the firemen come out of the house, winding up the hose and I asked the fireman standing next to me if they were done.  He said yes.  I told him about Schnitzel.  He went up to one the firemen, who then put his mask back on and went back in the house.  Soon after, this fireman came back out and I watched as he went to Paul and put his hand on Paul's shoulder and shake his head.  Schnitzel didn't make it.  I knew he had probably died, but until that point, I had hoped for a different outcome.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Epic Road Trip Day 11

Wednesday was the day we had set aside to tour Boston, although, we were in the city for several hours the night before.  And, Wednesday also happened to be my 51st birthday!  We slept in a bit (even though we really didn't want to, but didn't get to sleep until after 1:30 am the night before), got up, cleaned up the apartment in the church, packed the van and left.  We drove to the train station, parked the van, bought tickets, got on the train, rode to the first stop, got off and got right back on going back toward the van.  Why?  Because Paul couldn't remember if he had locked the van.  Since we were so close, we decided that he would go check, and then buy another ticket and we would get back on the train.  Otherwise, it would have bothered him all day.  Turns out, he didn't lock it and was so glad we went back.
                                The kids and I waiting patiently for him to return.

We had purchased a trolley tour.  We could ride the trolley from place to place, get off and get back on.  With the trolley also came a boat ride in the Boston Harbor.  We boarded the boat, and decided to sit down on the bottom floor, where it was air conditioned and had nice chairs.  Ellie and some of the kids went up to the upper decks, but Paul and I enjoyed the bottom the entire boat ride.

 Ben and Emma enjoyed the snack bar.
 The weather was perfect!  While it was hot, it was not that humid (at least to these Southerners), and the sky was amazing.
 The round building is where Paul worked security while we were in college in Boston.  Over 30 years ago!

 Jack came down from the upper deck to join us.  He also really enjoyed the snack bar!

We got off the boat and walked a short distance to catch the trolley.  Boston is so full of history; it seemed everywhere you looked was a sign telling what had happened in that spot so long ago.

 The Bunker Hill Monument

 Nap time for Jack.

 We got off the trolley in Chinatown for a late lunch.

 Someone got squid.
 After lunch, we got back on the subway and rode it to a store that Ellie wanted to go to.  It was a strange Japanese store, but she found what she was looking for.  We rode the train back to where the van was parked and headed to Connecticut.
 We were staying at Sun Valley the next few days at Paul's brother Ron's trailer.  The kids were so excited because of the lake, and the fishing, and the golf carts.  Paul and I were happy to have a few down days after being on the go the last few.  We arrived, and then Paul, Jack and I went to the grocery.
When we got back, he grilled me this beautiful steak for my birthday.  It was delicious!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Epic Road Trip 2017 Day 10 part 2

After the Old North Bridge, we headed to the train station, parked the van and rode the train into the city for the Independence Day festivities.  We were going to hear the Boston Pops from the shore of the Charles River, and then watch the fireworks.  We were excited!

 We were looking for a place to eat.  We actually ended up eating at the odd shaped building in the middle of the picture.

 We wanted to eat dinner in Quincy Market, but it was packed and very hard to find a place to sit.

 So we ate at the odd shaped building and it was very good.  Now, onto the concert!
 These are some of my favorite pictures of the trip.  The lighting was perfect over the city.

 The area for watching the actual concert was very small, so we ended up sitting in an overflow area.  This screen was huge and the sound was great.  There were food trucks all around.  Our one regret was that we had no chairs and had to sit on the ground.  We got there about 30 minutes before the concert started, and before the night was over it was packed, with no room left on the grass to sit on.

 It was such a patriotic concert.  In the beginning, when the Star Spangled Banner was played, everyone got up and sang along. I looked around and saw the police officers (there were many) standing at attention with their hands on their heart, saluting the flag. It was so moving, in this day and age, to see that many people singing the national anthem, and no one (that we could see) protesting.  Later on, they played the songs of the military, one by one, and the men and women that had served in that particular branch stood up and everyone cheered and clapped for them.  It was an excellent concert.  Right after the concert ended, the fireworks began and what a fireworks show it was!  It was set to music, and was so colorful.  We had a great view of the show!  Jackson loved it, until he crawled up in Ben's lap and dozed off, even though it was very loud!

After the concert and show was over, we tried to leave quickly.  The train/subway closed at Midnight (or so we thought), so we started walking that way, as did everybody else.  When we reached the subway stop, the line was up the stairs and well out into the street.  We knew if we waited in that line, we would probably miss the last train.  Ellie found a map on her phone and led us to another subway station.  Several miles away.  By this time we were exhausted, but we had to keep walking.  Poor Jack gave out and Ellie carried him on her shoulders.  Sam, Ben and Emma were amazing and never complained.  We finally got the to station and got on the last train out.  By the time we reached where the van was, it was after 1am and we had walked over 8 miles.  Wow.  What a day!  And we were getting back up the next morning and heading into Boston again.  We all literally fell into our beds that night.