Crisis Averted

So, here it is.

Two weeks ago, my computer crashed and I lost about 65,000 words of the novel I’ve been working on, all summer. I spent some four or five hours in a frantic tizzy, trying to bribe a guy named Hutch at Google to help a girl out, before he and I finally found a way to “sort-of” recover my words. This was a big frickin’ crisis. I mean, I had a total mental breakdown–sobbing-in-the-fetal-position-lost-my-mind-kind-of-day.

BUT the words were found, and though there will be some effort required to get them back in the shape/format that I want them, all is not lost.  I have a hard copy, and that is all I can ask for. That was the worst day of the summer, for me.

Until… fast forward seven days, to last Thursday. My two big kids had gone to the high school football game. Hubby and I had finished dinner and cleaned up, and we sent the two littles upstairs to brush their teeth and put on their pajamas. A moment later, they came back down, announcing that the lights wouldn’t turn on upstairs and that there was a weird smell up there.

Hubby and I investigated and found smoke, though the source was uncertain. We checked lamps and plug-in air fresheners, radios and fans, to no avail, until I went into the kids’ bathroom. The first thing that I noticed was something odd had dripped onto the toilet seat. At first, I thought that little man had made a mess when he’d gone to the bathroom and just hadn’t told us, but when I looked up, I could see scorch marks on the ceiling. Hubby brought in a flashlight, and when he touched the metal cover of the ceiling vent fan, it was hot.

I’d like to say that we were totally on the ball, rushed into our pre-planned fire escape scenario and handled the whole thing with aplomb, BUT that would be a lie. First, he removed the cover and we stared up into the smoking remains of a clearly fire damaged fan. Then, I opened all the windows upstairs to let out some of the smoke. We sent the kids to the basement, to get away from the bad air, but at this point, we were seeing no flames and we honestly thought that the motor had blown on the fan, but had been contained by the metal box that held it.

So, we talked about electricians and told the kids that they could sleep in the basement overnight, and that was that. Except it wasn’t. Hubby called his dad to see what he thought about the situation, and I got on the Google. Turns out, a lot of house fires start in a bathroom vent fan. Turns out that it can start the insulation in your attic to smoldering, and you won’t even know you have a fire until WHOOSH! Your whole attic and roof goes up in flames.

I was sitting there, at the computer, and in the back of my mind, I could hear my dad’s voice. For those that don’t know, my stepdad, who raised me, passed away a few years ago. He was a fixer and a tinkerer, and he was my go-to handyman. If he were alive, I’d have been on the phone with him, right then. I stared at the screen and I heard him say, as plain as day, “Don’t you leave it like that. Get up. Go check.”

I took the flashlight out and shined it at the roof, and my heart stopped. I could see smoke leaking out of the roof. Our home was on fire.

The next moments were a whirlwind of activity. I called the fire department, gathered the kids and their beloved blankies. We unplugged the external hard drive that holds all of our pictures and I grabbed the file folder with the hardcopy (see above: the only copy) of my novel, and the kids and I hopped in the car and drove away. We passed a multitude of flashing lights on the road–four huge fire engines, a couple of smaller fire trucks and an ambulance, maybe a police car. To be honest, I lost track. In my mind, all I could see was that smoke, rolling out of our roof.

In the end, we discovered the fire, just in time. The damage was fairly minimal, in the scheme of things, and we have a great Home Owner’s Insurance policy. We have worked with an excellent restoration company that has gotten the mess (mostly insulation from the attic) cleaned up and livable, once more. We are very, very lucky and very, very fortunate.

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The fire department told us that we had maybe 15-20 minutes before the whole roof caught. If we hadn’t been home, or if we’d been asleep–we could be looking at a total loss. We could be looking at a loss of life. We could be looking at the kind of grief that I cannot even put into words.

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The last few days have been hard. The mess was being cleaned up, but I needed to wash every piece of clothing and stuffed animal and bedding and everything from the kids’ rooms. We’re talking about 40 loads. We couldn’t run the A/C until the ducts were cleaned, and it has been hot and humid, these last few days. I got sick–whether it be stress, or back-to-school germs, or allergies from the dust, and that hasn’t made things easier. And I’ve been walking around with that feeling, like after you narrowly avoid a car accident.

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Holy Shit. Something really, devastatingly horrible almost happened. Something that changes everything, forever. But it didn’t. You know the feeling that I mean? Adrenaline shaky and checking everyone over for bumps and bruises? Waiting for the other shoe to fall.

I nearly lost my mind when I thought I’d lost my book, and now, faced with the possibility of actual, horrible loss, that feels downright trivial. It feels microscopic. It feels like it happened to someone else, entirely. I haven’t cried over the fire. I don’t need to. We lost nothing that cannot be replaced. We were lucky. We were fortunate. We are blessed.

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Two weeks ago, I almost lost my book.

Last week, I almost lost my home, and I could have lost so much more than that.

This week, I am just going to breathe deep, let the tears come if they ever need to (although, I don’t expect them). It’s all good. I’m going to watch both of my sons play football, tomorrow, and I’m going to try to relax. Because when that book–the one that I lost, and then found–gets published, I’m going to have a damn fine story to tell.

Stranger than Fiction

I am having a weird day. It’s one of those days when I am pretty sure that the universe is trying to tell me something… I’m just missing the translation manual.

To begin with, I crawled out of bed this morning around 5:45, woke the two oldest kiddos, and trundled downstairs to begin packing lunches. I fed the dog and opened the slider, and he ran outside onto the deck… where he stood, stock still, staring out into the distance. After a few moments, when he was still there, I decided I’d better see what was up. I was greeted by the sight of my neighbors’ 45 foot tall, seemingly perfectly healthy tree, lying earthbound in my yard. Sticks and twigs are littering my deck, but thankfully, only the topmost branches hit our deck (which is above the walkout, and therefore a story off of the ground), and no damage was done.

That near-crisis resolved before I even woke up, I went back inside to continue my lunch making. Scheduling issues with twelve-year-old, problems getting a ride for 15-year-old, worry that no one will, in fact, be home when 5-year-old gets off the bus… All of these crises are solved before the first round of wary travelers leave for school/work. 

Second round awakens, eats, dresses, etc. and they’re off to school, as well. Once they’re dropped off, I head to the store to buy minutes for 12-year-olds phone… or else all of his scheduling issues may combine into one, giant, misplaced pre-teen with no way to reach mom or dad. On the way, my husband calls. He is on his way to sign the papers on the new warehouse we are buying. He just wants to let me know that the gate of said warehouse, which we have been renting up until, oh… today, is not working correctly. Awesome.

He signs papers. I arrive at the store, only to find that they aren’t open, yet. I drive to a different store. Second store doesn’t sell minutes, anymore, and by this time, the first store is open… so back to first store.

Sigh. Drive home. Start making my breakfast. It’s only 10 a.m., so still reasonably breakfast time…ish. But, I need to accomplish my to-do list, because I have to be at the warehouse to receive an order around 2:00, which has led to all of this afternoon’s finagling. Toast toasting, butter in pan… cell phone rings. 

“Honey, could you do me a favor? I locked my keys in the van.”

So, I turn off the stove, take the toast with me, and head to open the van for hubby. On the way, he calls me to let me know that the order that I’m supposed to be getting at 2:00 is delayed… until tomorrow. Then, the middle school calls. The track meet, which has necessitated a veritable army of assistants to get #1 son where he needs to be, due to a field trip, *might* be canceled… if we get the thunderstorms they’re predicting. So, can I just “play it by ear?”

But… I’m cheerful. I’m peppy (I *may* have drank a Red Bull because I didn’t have time to make coffee). I’m happy to do my job as chief chauffeur and crisis averter. I unlock said van, visit with hubby for a few, and head back home, hoping to salvage some writing time, today.

I’m almost T-Boned by a Suburban that can’t decide, despite his blinker being on, whether he is stopping/turning, or just psyching me out before he guns it through the light. I’ll break the suspense: the answer is “Punch it, Margaret.” BUT… I avoided his front bumper, just in time to see a silver trailblazer with a woman driving that looks a lot like my sister.

Can’t be my sister. She lives an hour away. I pull onto the street that I am NOT suppose to be on, save a ridiculous sum-total of coincidences and bizarreness, only to see my sister’s novelty plate, staring back at me.

I pull up next to her and call her cell phone. “I’m right next to you,” I say, and she replies, “Hey, what are you doing here?”

The universe is trying to tell me something, and if I wrote this many coincidences and oddly improbable scenarios into a novel, I’d be told that it was too impossible to believe, but there you have it. I’m just not sure whether to buy a Lottery Ticket or hide under my covers for the rest of the day.