Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pavlov’s Dog

I could have been writing this whole time, but it would have all been the same. It has been one month since my house burnt down and I am in the exact same position I was in three weeks ago.

I finally made it over to my next house.  I would love to say that the wait is over, but it is not. We’ve moved stuff over, but it is not finished. I’m about to just start staying there and live like a squatter, I don’t even care anymore. But even then, it is only temporary.

I knew before the fire that where we were was not permanent, but now everything seems so pressing. The future is eminent. It is now.  Oh, if we could only have what we want, when we wanted it.  Poof – new house with everything in it! I should stop doing that to myself. It only makes things worse.

Unfortunately the future is still unknown. We have only looked at one place and I didn’t really care for it. But honestly we don’t have time to look at houses. It’s a vicious cycle. Work on moving into rent house, don’t get to comfortable because you’ll be moving into your house, look for your new house, stop looking for new house and move into rent house, work on moving into rent house. Over and Over and Over.

I’m retracting my statement that it would have all been the same. Some things are not the same. Leaving the house is not the same. Every time I walk out the door, I question whether what I’m leaving behind will still be there when I return. I have developed anxiety. For those of you that know me, you probably know this is a big deal. I’ve never had anxiety. I’ve always been a “whatever happens” kind of person. Now, I’m constantly a “what if this happens” kind of person. I HATE IT! I hate the thoughts that go through my head after every move I make. I can’t stop. I can’t turn a corner without some doom and gloom thought passing through.

Not having a home makes me anxious. My purse is full of all kinds of crap. It’s disgusting, but I’m such a mess there’s nowhere else for these things to go. They don’t have a place. Nothing has a place, so I just carry it all around with me. And every time I open my purse it reminds me that we have no place and I get anxious all over again.

The wind also gives me anxiety. Its scares the shit out of me actually. And then it pisses me off. I’m like Pavlov’s Dog.  Wind = Fire. Now instead of enjoying a breeze, I search the sky for smoke. I’m sick of being scared and anxious.

I’m sick of everything. It’s time for a Chance and Shandi Vacation!

On that note I will stop, with my pity update. Hopefully, next time you hear from me it will be more uplifting and positive. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

Thanks for Bursting my Bubble

The bubble of denial has finally burst. I’m frustrated. I’m angry.  I’m tired and I just want to go home and I can’t. It’s a horrible feeling not being able to just go home. I feel like a little kid that’s been running errands with mom all day. I don’t want to be blindly dragged along, I want to go home. It’s not even about the things anymore it is about the comfort of those things. It’s about not having that comfort anymore. I have lost my comfort zone. I can’t just go home and sit and be comfortable. Comfort is lost and it is going to be a long time before I find it again. Everything has changed now.  

Now it is just a waiting game. Everything is in limbo and it seems like my entire life is suspended in the air, hanging over my head.  For the last few weeks, I have had to just wait. It’s hard because all I want to do is move forward and I can’t. I have to sit here and wait.

When you’re waiting, all you can think is, What’s next. What now? When? How much longer until we DO something?
I drove to Dumas today. For those of you who have never made the drive to Dumas, it is a very vast…..nothingness.  It’s nothing but brown grass, dead shrubs and no trees. Desolate nothing. And that pretty much sums up how I feel. It is very depressing.

But, then you look up and in contrast there is the wide open sky. It is a perfect blue. It’s serene and calms my heart. No clouds or blemishes just vast openness and in engulfs everything. I guess that means there is hope. There is always room for something.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

We Survived - Again.

Well this entire second week lasted as long as a blink of an eye. Its gone and over with and I still feel disorganized, but I can at least see some progress. Things are finally starting to slow down, but not much. We still run around like crazy.

I finally got the sleep I needed. I went to bed at 10:30 Friday and didn’t open my eyes again until my phone rang at 10:00 the next morning. Then I went right back to sleep and had a dream I have yet to determine the meaning of.

Chance and I were stranded in the ocean and we each had a big black box we were using to float.  I could see the lights of the coast getting closer.  A small boat with three men headed our direction. We were going to be saved. One of the men reached under the water with his foot and tried to pry my wedding ring off my hand.

We were not going to be saved, we were going to left to die in the hideous black water.  I fought and fought and my ring finally broke. I held onto the pieces between my fingers and wrestled my hand away.  I put the broken pieces of my ring in my mouth.

Then as dreams often do, or maybe I just don’t remember, everything skipped forward. We washed up on shore with nothing but the clothes on our backs and the broken pieces of my wedding ring in my mouth.  That’s all we had.

I there is good and bad in this dream.  It was so vivid and I don’t remember my dreams often, so I wanted to share it. It was terrifying, but we survived - again.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Live Simply

March 8, 2011

I am completely exhausted. I honestly don’t know how I am still functioning, albeit I am not functioning on a high level. We have stayed up late every night and been late to everything the next morning. Meet this person here. Pick up this, drop off that.  Call here and take care of that. Write this down and don’t forget this. Neither of us has sat down just to sit. At all. Even for a second.

I spent 3 hours on the computer trying to compile my contents list for the insurance and that was my “relaxing” evening. At least I got to sit down for a little while. However, my brain is so worn out, I can’t even speak a coherent sentence by the time my head hits the pillow. And once my head hits the pillow, it’s over. Lights out – Hello completely unconscious.

I think the disarray of our lives, is what keeps driving me forward. Every time I walk past a stack of clothes or paper, I have an impulse to try to get at least one piece of it where it should go. But then I run into, “What is it? Where did it come from? Where does it go?”  Next thing I know it’s been an hour and I’ve been walking in circles randomly putting things in random places. This leads to a long hours with little progress.

Not to mention, the piles of clothes and what-not everywhere, in every corner and on every surface, give me an anxiety attack each time I walk in the room.   I’m slightly OCD. I can’t just put them away. I have to know if they even fit. I don’t have room for things that don’t fit. So until I can try them on and make sure they fit, I can’t wash them. I can’t put them away if they haven’t been cleaned. So I’m up to my eyeballs in dirty clothes that I don’t even know if they fit. Once the clothes are clean, they go into another pile. Is this work or is this play? Hot or Cold? Where should I put it?  How am I going to do this? Am I going to finally get all this put away and then it will be time to move? 

Can you see why I am exhausted? I would love to sleep for days, but I can’t because my head would just keep going back to all the things that need to be taken care of.  I still have yet to even make it to the grocery store. We have been grabbing food whenever and wherever we can. I feel so overwhelmed and I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. How can there be this much to do and take care of?

You would think losing everything would simplify your life, not complicate it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

One lifetime to go

March 6, 2011

It has been one week. This one week has felt like an entire lifetime. How can something be so vivid in your mind and be so distant at the same time?

We went to run errands. On the way back, Chance drove straight past our turn. About sixty seconds later, he realized he was driving to our house that wasn’t there anymore. That’s like a sucker punch to the gut.

We met the insurance lady on Saturday. Turns out we have to list every item we owned. I happen to find that very cruel. I don’t want to sit down and remember everything we owned and I certainly don’t want to feel like I have to “prove it”. It’s making me angry just thinking about it. I assumed since the entire place was absolutely destroyed and the policy is minimal, they would just call it a day. Nope, here’s your stack of papers to fill out. We had triple the policy limit in assets, why force us to re-hash it?
Oh, and by the way go check your policy. Turns out that there is a limit on what you can claim for jewelry. $500.00 – yeah that was another one of those sucker punches. I told her I had one bracelet worth more than the limit, one bracelet out of my entire jewelry box.  “Sorry honey, that doesn’t mean shit to us. Guess you should have insured your jewelry separately.” You can imagine the awful things I was thinking.

I went to Red Cross. I can’t even describe the feelings and emotions that put me through. You’ll never know the feeling of being a “victim” and having to stand in line to receive assistance, unless you go through it yourself. Nothing can make you understand those emotions, I don’t even understand them. But Warren, my case worker (who was my hero that day), gave me a debit card! Which was awesome, because I didn’t need bottles of water. Thank You Red Cross. Seriously.

We took Bocephus to the scene of destruction. I thought he’d be all over the place, but he didn’t set a foot in the ashes. He didn’t want anything to do with it. I wonder how much he understands. Does he remember?

I came up to my office. Strangely, it was really really hard. We had spent several days grieving over the fact that all of our possessions were gone. My brain was finally comprehending and accepting the concept. Then I walk in my office and I have things. My possessions were right where I had left them. It was like being in the Twilight Zone. It wasn’t registering in my brain. I sat in my chair and looked at every item in the room. Every shelf, every picture, everything. I have things again. I felt a mixture of relief and anxiety at the same time. I don’t know why, but its hard to accept. Why are these things here and my other things are gone?  Why can’t everything just be where I left it? Why?

One week down. One lifetime to go.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

You Can't Go Back

Devastation is not just a word to describe the ruin of my home, it also describes what I feel every 15 minutes.  I can’t stop thinking of all the things I should have saved. All the things I could have thrown in my car and would be able to hold in my hands today. I can only distract myself for so long before they start creeping back into my thoughts. I can see myself standing there doing nothing, I want to reach out and push me as hard as I can.

I know what you are thinking. I’ve heard it over and over.  “It can all be replaced. Things are not important, what’s important is that you are alive.” 

But that’s not true. Some of those things will never ever be replaced.  The jewelry box my husband gave me the day after our wedding, so many pieces of jewelry that each had their own story, my writing book full of thoughts I wrote down so I would never forget, the page from a coloring book my sister colored for me when she was seven years old.  I could have grabbed any one of those things or a hundred others, but I didn’t. I just stood there. 

I’ve often heard people say “No Regrets.” I’ll never be able to say that.  Regret consumes me. In fact sometimes it seems I’m more upset about how I reacted, than about the actual loss.  I can’t even say that I tried and that kills me inside.

But, I can’t go back. I just have to hope that with each day the sickness of regret will stay away a little longer.  I have to repeat to myself- What’s done is done. It’s over and the sooner you come to peace with that, the better off you will be.  Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don’t. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thank You

In lieu of writing out the events of March 2, 2011, which I assure you are very tedious and boring such as talking to insurance people and going to Walmart, I am making this my Shout-Out Blog.

I know that I have said some horrible things about this Po-Dunk Cow-town, but let me tell you one thing – There is no place I would have rather been than here, when this fire happened.  The people of this community care and they know how to show that they care. Oh crap, I’ve already started to tear up. This one is gonna be a hard one.

The moment I had to evacuate my home, I had people calling and sending me messages. The outpouring of generosity and kindness from the people of this town has absolutely blown me away. I have not passed a person that hasn’t tried to offer their help. It is truly what has gotten us through.  Big hearts are the reason that I can sit here and even write any of this. You don’t know how much it means to someone that has lost everything, just to receive a kind word. Everyone asks, “What do you need?” Well, I don’t know what I need and I can’t answer that question, but I know that they mean it. And I know that when I do know what I need, there will be someone there to help me get it.

My original thought was to list out individuals that have helped us, but that would take way too long and be way too hard. If you are reading this, you know who you are and you know there are no words I can say to you that would ever express a fraction of the gratitude I have.  I only hope that some day I will be able to help someone the way that I have been helped.

That being said, I think it is time for some humor. So I would like to make one special Shout-Out and share it with you.

Andrea Gulley, you are an absolute angel and I am forever indebted to you for your kindness. Now, I know that you sent me that cute stuffed turtle in your gift basket to make me smile. Oh, and it did.

I had to run an errand, so I sat the gift basket on the bed and left. I guess since you included bones and beggin’ strips, Bocephus thought that you had sent him the turtle. He took it upon himself to accept his gift.  He LOVES toys. He always had toys strung around the house. Toys in the kitchen, bathroom, and I’ve found them in my bed.  So, when I came home and saw how happy he was to have a toy it made my heart swell with happiness. Thank You. It was just what we both needed.    


You Have Ashes in Your Hair

March 1, 2011.

I’m sure very few of you have had the misfortune of opening your eyes when you wake up and seeing piles of ashes were your house should be.  I hope you never do.

Today we got up and had coffee as a family. I sat at the table and began to call places like dishnetwork and wildblue. I felt bad for these people. They are all cheery and ask well why are you cancelling, “Was it our service?” “No, my house burnt down.” Yea, they weren’t expecting that one. Then they try to do the good thing and console me. But really I’m just a stranger and they feel bad but they can’t wait to get off the phone. I called the insurance again, no luck. I started to write a list of people who had brought us things. And then, we finally got the news that we could go to our house.

We put on borrowed clothes. I found some rubber boots and gloves. And we went.  Neighbors, who had not lost their home, were at our house waiting. They had shovels, rakes, and buckets. They had come to help us sift through the ashes. I was glad to have them there. Just to have other people surrounding me. I don’t think Chance and I could have done it alone.  That in itself made me want to cry, but I didn’t.

I took that first hesitant step into the ashes. I was scared at that I might step on something, but it didn’t take long to realize there was nothing to step on.  At first, I couldn’t see anything but then things started to pop out. The stove and mangled dishwasher with broken dishes wrapped in it. The twisted metal that used to be our mattress. Chance’s toolbox that could have been the refrigerator or dryer for all I knew.  So we started sifting through the ashes. 

We would get excited if we found something we could make out. Here’s a spoon! I found a vase! Hey I think this was your toilet! I had not prepared myself to walk away empty handed. It was absolutely without a doubt the most depressing thing I have ever experienced.  After hours of picking up dusk, I told Chance I had to leave. There was no point in what we were doing. I thanked everyone that had helped from the bottom of my heart. I needed those people. And we left. I did not look back.

The Family went to Burger King. We were all standing in line and Chance looked at me and said, “You have ashes in your hair.”

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The End that Caused a Beginning

February 28, 2011.   

By 10:00 am our hearts were about to explode. Imagine sitting in one room for hours on end not knowing if everything you’ve owned your entire life is gone or if it is just waiting for you to return.  Your head is like a projector. Images of every thing you’ve looked at and walked past everyday for the last twenty years flashes in your thoughts until you think your heart will come through your throat.  Everyone you know keeps asking if you know yet, and you don’t know anything. No one will tell you anything.

By 11:00 Chance and I decided we were going to find out. We had to know. Chance, my sister Presley, and I drove to the other side of the canyon. There were already several others doing the same. We started to hike. Chance was yards ahead of me and I began to run.

I ran through burnt land and destroyed houses. I ran over power lines and smoldering debris. I ran until I saw him stop and put his hands over his face. Then I knew. I knew that our home had caught on fire.

What I didn’t know was that everything from the roof to bobby pins on my bathroom counter had turned to ash.  There was NOTHING. I had expected burnt things. I expected something recognizable only kind of black from the smoke. I had really high expectations. As I scanned the rubble for something, for anything I knew, the tears began to fall. The indescribable pain flowed from my lungs as I tried to breathe.  My knees hit the ground and we both just cried.

I don’t remember the ride back. I remember dry heaving in my parents’ front yard trying to get the sickness I felt out of me. I remember Chance, Presley, and Jen, holding me as though they thought I would melt into the grass. 

The rest of the day was a numb blur. Telling my friends and family, and starting to cry each time I had to say it again. Calling the insurance company and explaining to a complete stranger that everything was gone. Sitting, standing, wandering around. Not knowing what the hell you are supposed to do. What do you do? Where do you start? How do you start over from complete scratch?

Then it starts. You start thinking every little thing. Your jewelry, that painting, the collection of magnets from all the places you’ve been, the pictures of your family that those magnets had held to the refrigerator.  Every item you’ve collected over your lifetime. 

Then you realize, shit, I can’t even take a shower because I don’t even have underwear. I don’t have anything. I have start all over from the very beginning.

What Happened

How many times have you sat in your living room and wondered what you would do if your house caught on fire?

February 27, 2011, I was in my kitchen washing dishes. Chance, my husband, was working on the shed he had built the weekend before. He opened the back door and told me he could smell smoke. Minutes later I could smell it too. I opened the door and smoke filled the sky. Black clouds billowed above my home and the wind tore through the neighborhood.  We drove down the street to try and find the source. We made it about a mile and saw the fire across the water. I called my stepmom, Jen. She was watching from the rim of the canyon. There was a fire on the south rim. We went home and sat in the driveway. We debated gathering things and packing the cars.

As we sat there, black ashes began to fall from the sky. I told Chance we have to start packing. We ran in the house and started to grab computers and cameras. I ran to my closet and just grabbed an armful of clothes. As I was running out the front door, I could see a wall of flames across the street.  Complete terror took over. I began to cry uncontrollably and became completely useless. Chance was running through our home collecting a pile. If it were not for him, would not have made it out with a single thing. He grabbed pictures and gifts and memories. I ran from room to room and I just couldn’t hold on to anything. I didn’t pickup a single thing. I had so many opportunities to take the most important possessions in my life and I didn’t. My hands hung useless in shock. I couldn’t make my brain think, it wouldn’t tell me what to do. Finally I just stood in the living room looking at all my things. 

My head kept telling me we could just leave and come back and everything would still be there, my heart told me that our entire life was about to burn to the ground.

I was yelling for our dog, Bo, and Chance to get in the car. I just wanted to leave. My parents came speeding up the road.  I began to cry even harder. My dad and Chance turned on all the water and started to spray the house down.  The neighbors yard was on fire. The Sherriff came driving up the road with a speaker telling everyone to evacuate now.

The entire street was lined with cars.  My parents’ house was full of evacuees. That’s a strange word. Evacuees. In the middle of the Texas panhandle, less than 3 miles from my home, I was an evacuee.  I think of hurricanes and tidal waves, not a fire. At least I used to think that way.  As we stood on the porch watching the smoke, all we could think was, “Is that smoke my house, is my house still there?”  I thought the next fifteen hours of my life were the hardest hours I had ever been through.  We just had to wait.