The fire that Almost was

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I had a plan to talk about this at the beginning of the month.  I was waiting to work through the process that this “almost” fire generated.  Then I ended up needing to work through some other household stuff, stuff that I am still working through, stuff that will probably come up in later posts.  And suddenly, I am thrown headlong back into thinking about this “almost” fire.  A house fire in our community this past Friday ended with a family losing their two children.  I can’t even begin to understand how they feel and am not even sure how I feel writing it out since I didn’t know them personally.  The cause of the fire at this point is unknown.  I know what went wrong in our house, and hopefully by sharing someone out there reading this will be extra vigilant about monitoring their home.

Around the end of February, my dryer began making a loud banging sound.  I thought that something must be wrong with the drum so we called out a repairman.  I’ve really never had an appliance repaired because when something has gone wrong with them in the past, it has been beyond saving.  The dryer, however, was only two years old.  The repairman came and listened to the banging on Tuesday, March 1st.  He planned to come back in two days, clean it and our venting and repair the drum.  We were not to use the dryer.  This created a mini crisis of clothing.  It was snowing that night, so we hung dry some essentials in the basement with a fan blowing on them.

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When the repairman came back and unhooked the dryer, he could not believe the amount of lint that was in the hose.  He said that the ducting line had probably never or rarely been cleared in the 35 year life span of the house.  It began to make sense.  There had been some condensation that had dripped from the duct this winter.  We assumed it was because I do a LOT of laundry in a day and that was a lot of hot air going through a very cold basement.  We figured the seam just needed sealed, but looking back the lint was probably backed up all the way to that point.

 

Lint backed up all the way to dryer

He took the dryer apart and there was lint just sitting in the base of the dryer.  I think a lot of lint was getting through the trap even though I clean it out every time.  He began to get into the the electrical component to start the cleaning process and discovered that the dryer had been on fire before.

 

The metal electrical component on the right has obvious burn marks

 

Burn marks were at the back after removal of electrical component

It was a little confusing to the non-electrical me.  He called it a fire; he called it a smoldering.  All I knew was that this was bad.  He hadn’t seen one that bad and said that we were really lucky.  The noisy drum was from the wheel freezing up.  He could finish cleaning it and guarantee his work, but that really didn’t mean that it couldn’t still start on fire.

My mind was reeling.  I felt sick and had to walk out the room, leaving him with my husband.  I could feel the tears welling up at the “what-ifs”.  The laundry space is a closet on the main floor.  My son and daughter are each in a bedroom right above this space.  We would leave the dryer running while we were gone and sometimes go to bed at night before the cycle was complete.  I could not imagine having this appliance in my house wondering if it was safe.  Nobody could really say that it would be safe.  The stuck wheel had probably saved us from using it to the point of an actual fire.

The duct was so clogged that the repairman was going to have to come back with a stronger blower.  Saturday, March 5th, we went down to Lowe’s to pick a new dryer.  I hate appliance shopping (remember my refrigerator nightmare a few months ago- well I replaced the dishwasher at the same time since it had been limping along).  I ended up with an LG dryer in white.  I mention that because my washer is blue and so now I am mismatched.


I was overjoyed when they said they could deliver it the next day.  I didn’t even know they had Sunday delivery.  The repairman had left us with a hose to vent the dryer out the front door until he could get the line cleaned.  He came back on March 8th and could not clean out the duct. The lint was wet and so compacted that it would not come out.

 

The temporary set up

My husband took his shop vac, which can be placed on reverse, and duct taped the hose to an opening in the basement.  We let this run for long periods when we were home.  He then got a brush kit from Home Depot. He spent lots of hours covered in dusty lint working through the line which exits under the porch. Finally, the entire line was clear and he was able to hook back up the dryer to the duct system.

This had only been fully resolved about a week when I received a text from my son telling me about the local fire.  It brought me back to my fears.  It is one of a mother’s worst nightmares to lose one of her children. I tend to be overprotective of my children because I have a tendency to fear the “what-ifs”.  I reflected over how when my children were little I used to write a card to them before I would leave town.  I did this mostly because I was fearful that if I didn’t return they might not know that they were my everything.  Being a mother was my one desire above all others.  I pulled out some of those letters and reminisced with my boys.  I think I started writing them because 9/11 happened when my middle son was a month old. It changed my entire thought process about safety and stability.


I stepped back from my blogging and social media quite a bit over the past week.  I was dealing with household things, but also I started a Twitter account and things move rapidly there. I’m still trying to learn it all and I needed to step back and ruminate on why I started blogging and why I let myself be heard in the public.

It was a process between me and God.  A time of being faithful to what I felt he was saying and discovering where he was leading.  I needed to step back and be sure that I was staying true to that path. My family has needed me this week and that was where I needed to place my focus.  My motherhood is still my favorite role and the one I feel privileged by God to hold.  He has brought some good words into my soul this week and even though I still get plagued by the “what-ifs”, I know that I can turn them over to him.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? – Matthew 6:27

You hem me in-behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me – Psalm 139:5

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

Irish Blessing

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In light of today being St Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d share my favorite Irish blessing. I first heard this blessing nearly 18 years ago.

This is the church where we were married.  I loved that it had a tall, white steeple

 

My husband and I were dating, but had entered into “considering marriage” territory. We had a whirlwind romance so that consideration came pretty early. My husband had bought a piece of property in one of my favorite sections of town. You still lived on acreage (after growing up with land to roam, this was important to me), but you were close in and could pop over to Starbucks, Publix, and Target-three of my favorite places! The beach was 6 miles away, but I was still in the land of pine and palmetto.

 

The dirt driveway to our future home.  It would be gravel,  eventually have a circular area by the house, and much later be asphalted.

We had discussed having children and it was important to me that they be raised in the church.  Even though at this point in my life I wasn’t attending a church, I felt very strongly about being married in one and then bringing my children up there.  I found a church of a particular denomination nearby.  Since both my husband and I had been brought up in this denomination we found comfort in attending here.

 

The house pad for our future home.  We cleared only the minimal amount of trees necessary.  We wanted it to feel like we lived in a forest.  Plus, they were there first.

There were things that were new to me about the service.  The fact that that they all stood and sang :

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

after the offering (tithes) had been collected was new to me.  I didn’t know the words, but by the second visit I had it down.   The other thing I had not been exposed to was that at the end of the service, after the altar call and prayer, the congregation would all hold hands and sing this Irish Blessing.
   Not one person was left out, so if you thought that being on the end of a pew would get you out of it, you would be wrong.  I am a pretty introverted person until I get to know you so this one caused me a little panic the first time.  But I grew to love this ending.  The words were so beautiful.  At the end the person holding your hand usually gave it a gentle squeeze, as if to say “I see you.  We are one in God’s family, and I hope you have a wonderful day.”

 

Our wedding day.  Most of the photos were staged afterwards because flash wasn’t used during the ceremony.  I love this picture because it is a prayer said during the actual ceremony.

I wouId be baptized in that church.  We would end up being married in that church.  I would give birth to our first two children while still in that church.  And at the end of the service I would mean those words as I sang them.

 

My boys

When my middle child was about 8 months old, I started attending MOPS at another local church.  MOPS would be a life altering experience for me.  I would learn to push outside of my comfort zones for the first time in my motherhood.  The growth that God had in store for me during that time was tremendous.  I participated in group discussions with strangers, some of whom became my closest friends.  I would press out farther after my daughter was born and stand before the 50 or so women, giving my testimony of what MOPS had meant to me, shaking at the thought of speaking publicly and sharing things about myself that I usually kept inside.  I did these things at the insistence in my soul that God had called me to do them. During the time that I was pregnant with my daughter, I would feel led to leave my old church and began attending this church until we moved away in 2008.

 

Fully pregnant with the youngest

I would spend two years on the MOPS steering committee.  One of the women that I shared a role with would turn out to be my neighbor.  We lived on the same street and had never met (this was not uncommon since we all lived on 2 1/2 acres).  My daughter is 2 months older than her middle daughter.  Her oldest daughter and my middle son are days apart in age.  She would become my best friend.  We would take family vacations together and is still the friend I seek out when I return home. I wanted to be sure that all the newly visiting moms felt welcome at MOPS.  The steering committee was also mentored by amazingly wise women who would help me continue to grow.

 

The middle and the baby

When my youngest started preschool, I stepped out of the MOPS roles and began to attend the women’s bible study.  My small group leader loved on us tremendously and for that I will forever be grateful.  At the beginning of 2008 a job change for my husband was looming.  My husband and I each spent time in prayer over the change.  It was during a Beth Moore study that I read “it is better to go with God to places unknown, than to stay like dry bones in places we’ve always been” and I knew we would be moving from my hometown.  Away from my family, the home that my husband and I had built, and the one where all our children had been born. Because of those words, I was at peace with the decision.

 

My creative geniuses figuring out how they could all travel ’round the driveway

After the move, this friend that I had met in MOPS would bring me a housewarming gift.  A piece of wall art that would have the Irish Blessing printed on it.  She did not know that I loved this blessing or what it meant to me.  She just saw the piece and thought it fitting.  Since that day, in every home in which I’ve lived (and there’s been 5 since I received the gift) that art has hung as closely to the front door as I can place it.  It is a remembrance for me and a blessing that I offer to all who enter my home.

 

Always hung in my home

Let your light shine!

Amy

Looking for a getaway

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I love the smell of saltwater floating on the air and the way that the ocean breeze cools your sun drenched skin. It takes me back to places I have loved, places that I call home.  When I stand at the edge of the ocean, I feel God’s enormity.  I cannot see the end of the ocean and its expanse reminds me of God’s unfailing presence in my life.  On the days when the waves gently kiss the shoreline, I feel my anxiety and stresses washing away with each retreat of the water.  There are days when the ocean has what I call “angry waves”.  They are not always in the presence of an impending storm.  They are just waves that produce an energy that makes me feel as though they are looking to take you to their depths, far out into their center.  On these days I stand near their edge, admiring them with a strange mixture of fear and awe.  I am reminded that God is in control even in my moments of feeling scared or overwhelmed.

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It is this love for the ocean that makes me want to return over and over again.  I spend most of my time on land admiring, contemplating, and watching my husband and children enjoy its depths.  My family found surfing in our last hometown and their love for that has only increased. I am content to search for shells and sea glass during the low tide, but I envy their entrancement with the moment as the wave catches and propels them forward.  I have surfed once with them.  I enjoyed the exhilaration as I popped up and sped forward through wave, its energy and momentum making the board move swiftly.  I felt the freedom that can be found in the surf.  I have not been back on the board because I want “bunny” waves.  Rolling under the wave at the end, being sure to protect my head as the board is swept above me, and trying to put my swimsuit back in its proper place before standing up, left me a little leery.  Even though I am afraid of what lies below me in the water, I will be trying again.  Because that is what this year is about.  Not letting fear stop me.

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We had a free weekend and decided to head down the Carolina Beach.  We discovered it last spring when we wanted to get away to the beach, but didn’t want to drive all the way back to Florida.  We ended up spending a week there over the summer.  Since that visit, we have been considering getting a second home there.  It’s still a 5 1/2 hour drive, but much shorter than the 15 back to Florida.  We have never been condo people (we can be a loud bunch….maybe, just me).  We like to be what we call “masters of our own destiny” meaning that we don’t necessarily like a bunch of people being able to change the rules. However, we decided a condo might make sense for us.  We will not be living there so you can just close it up when you leave and some have the option of being able to rent them out.

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We had a realtor that we’d been working with since last summer so we arranged to see some condos that seemed to meet our requirements.  Some things that were in our consideration list were:

  • Size of the HOA -in our experiences, smaller boards magnify any differences of opinion so we were not interested in the ones along that contained 6 or 9 units.
  • Location- while I was infatuated with oceanfront, my husband reminded me that the salt spray would rust any nails, etc. sooner than other locations.  In turn, this would create a need for repairs to the condo more often.  I knew this was true even though I was still enamored with being able to hear the ocean lapping at the shoreline.
  • More on location – even though we weren’t looking at oceanfront, we still wanted it to be walking distance to the beach
  • Cost of HOA fees and what they include – you need to be sure to look at what is being covered so that you are comparing apples to apples when determining whether they seem reasonable.  They seemed to cover: Master Insurance, Flood insurance, exterior maintenance of the buildings and roads, and a fee for the HOA management company.  It also included pools and tennis courts if the complex had them.  A lot of times water was included, and one that we looked at included cable.  These little differences are all important when you are factoring cost.
  • Size of the unit – we have three children, but to be cost effective we were looking at 2/2 condos.  We won’t be living there full time and with a pull out sofa we would be completely fine in this scenario.
  • Storage- some units have a storage closet that is assigned under the building.  This would be especially helpful with not having to carry everything down each trip we took.
  • Obviously cost of the condo was a large consideration, but this range is different for everyone.  We had a tight window that we wanted to stay between since this isn’t a primary residence and we haven’t won the lottery.

I’m sure there are lots of other things, but this covers the main areas we considered.  This is a busy time for real estate there.  People are hoping to buy a place so that they can close on it before the summer.  We wanted to see six condos and a house.  The house went under contract the day before we were heading down.  I was disappointed, but am a major believer in signs.  I spend time in prayer before every major decision (yes, I should before minor ones too.  I don’t always do that and I also don’t always listen when my gut check says no) so when a door closes I try not to dwell on it too much.

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We left early Saturday morning to head down.  That morning, another condo matching our criteria came up so we asked our realtor if we could add it to the list.  We got into town around noon.  We decided to grab some lunch and go down and admire the beach.  The water was too cold for us, but we watched the surfers out there in their wetsuits.  Since it was just an overnight, we had booked a night at the Marriott (disclosure: I am in no way compensated financially or otherwise for this – just adding the link for reference).  In the past, we have rented condos, but the stays required are longer.  With 3 teenagers, hotel rooms can be a challenge.  This was a suite overlooking the ocean and was perfect.  From there we were able to walk around and do a little shopping.  Then it was time to meet our realtor.  Our sons went off skateboarding while our daughter joined us (she didn’t really have a choice).  We looked at six condos.  We couldn’t get into the newly added one until Sunday morning.  After looking at the six, we had narrowed it down to three.

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We came back to hotel to do a little research over wine and dinner.  I always go to the public property records that I can find online.  Sometimes I work up my own comps based on recent sales.  I understand that most of this work can be done by the realtor, but I know they a busy people out trying to earn a living and I hate to use up more of their time than necessary.  We have made plenty of real estate purchases over our 18 years.  Plus, I’m a list maker, number cruncher, and quite possibly have a control freak tendency!  One of the condos had some things that raised red flags for us so we ruled it out. The two that we had left were like night and day.  One was gorgeous, furnished, and overlooking the bay.  The other not so much.  The next day we were seeing one for less money in the same complex as the “not so much” unit so we decided that we would see the new one along with a second visit of the one overlooking the bay.

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Sunday morning we had all three children.  They were, as to be expected, in love with the one overlooking the bay.  Now we had some considerations to think about.  We said goodbye to our realtor, bopped around town for a little while, and then began the long drive home.

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Things we had to think about:

  • The cheaper condo needed a complete gutting.  There was no way around replacing the entire kitchen, flooring, paint, and window treatments.  The bathrooms needed redone, but could be put off.
  • The cheaper condo would need furnished.
  • The cheaper condo could be rented out weekly and while the condo overlooking the bay didn’t say it couldn’t in the covenants, it was frowned upon (leading me to believe it would be voted as no short term rentals at some point).
  • The condo on the bay had a storage closet.
  • The condo on the bay cost more and had a higher HOA (it did include cable, but still cost more even at the apple to apple basis)
  • The cheaper condo was smaller

Plus, a plethora of other thoughts surrounding them.  We ran our numbers on Monday, were discussing and weighing out our thoughts, leaning toward the condo on the bay when we hear from our realtor that the condo on the bay had an offer.  We could have put in an offer also, but that felt rushed and we didn’t want to be in a bidding war.  A purchase this large should never be entered into without deliberate thoughts and comfort in the process.  So we opted to let it pass.  Now we are left deciding if we are interested in the cheaper remodel (we do all the work ourselves, so it seems a little overwhelming) or if we just want to watch as new things come on the market.

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My love for the ocean makes me hopeful that it will all come together, but I am learning to be “content in all circumstances” -Philippians 4:11

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

A Little Brother

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The first little boy I loved, my brother.

Since my baby brother’s birthday is rapidly approaching, this week’s throwback will be about the beginnings of siblinghood.

My brother is four and 1/2 years younger (to the day) than me.  While I have faint memories here and there prior to his birth, for the most part I have no memory of life without him.

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We lived in the trailer (which you can see to the right in the first picture) by the time he was born.  In fact, his imminent arrival was the reason we moved out of the school bus.  We would end up moving into the house we would spend the rest of our childhood in, and where our parents still live, sometime between his second and third birthday.

I have faint a memory etched into my mind of seeing an ultrasound being done while my mom was pregnant.  My mom did say I was in the room while it was being done.  My memory is of peering into the doorway and seeing a screen with some movements.  I do not remember her being pregnant.  I do not remember the day that she went into labor, although I was there for that too.

After water breaking in the night, it was a day of walking, castor oil, and labor beginning the next night when she walked through the hospital doors to be induced.

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They had not found out the sex of the baby, although my mom had bought boy clothes, sure that’s what she was having.  I remember going to the hospital with my dad and my Uncle Phil.  I was so excited that I was going to get to see my brother.  I would get to hold him and hug him.  I remember riding the elevator.  The image seared into my mind is the steel doors and two set of legs.  I must have only come up to my dad’s knees because that is all I can remember.

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A day trip we took as kids

When I was born, fathers weren’t even allowed to hold the baby until you were off of hospital property.  Fast forward 4 1/2 years and they got some common sense.  The babies were kept in the room with the mother and siblings were allowed to come during visiting hours.  Unfortunately, when I showed up my mother had just been wheeled down for elective surgery so my brother was in the nursery.  There would be no holding of him that day.  Nobody was allowed to touch them in the nursery.  I remember my dad picking me up so that I could peer through the window to find the little bed that held my brother.

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Cars of Yesterday – link in first pic

My mother said that as soon as he was brought home, my mothering instincts kicked in.  I remember wanting to carry him around everywhere.  I had a Tippee Toes doll (the link is the commercial for it, which I always thought was a strange commercial because she came with little white undies) and I used to push him around in its stroller until one day it broke because he was too big!

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Cars of Yesterday – Now Sarasota Classic car museum – link above

I could understand his language better than anyone in the house.  Isn’t that the way it goes with siblings?  So if anyone was unsure of his toddler speak I was able to interpret for him.  When he first learned to say my name, he would call me Mamy (sounds like Amy, with an M in front).  It would stick in my mind enough to repeat it and to this day my cousin still uses it as a term of affection for me (talking to you, Jenni).  Because that’s what it was.  Affection.  He loved me enough that he wanted to learn my name and so that’s who I was, Mamy.

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Easter.  I like this picture because I was always a ham for the camera, trying to come up with different things.  So I told him to feed me a piece of candy, and like the ever, obliging little brother..he did!

 

I remember one day where he was fussy.  I could tell he needed a nap.  This was still before we moved into the house so I was 5 or 6 (I’m thinking this is the age where solid memories must have started taking place for me-although still sporadic, there are more).  I tried to get him to lay beside me in my bed, but he was at that point past exhaustion.  So I laid on the bed and laid him on my chest.  I rocked my body side to side and bounced it up and down and back and forth again, until he fell asleep on me.  I’m sure I learned this from watching my mother doing the “bounce the baby” to sleep.

It is the first time I remember doing the mothering thing.  I remember liking it and receiving satisfaction out of calming him and helping him fall asleep.  Happiness with knowing and understanding his unspoken needs.  This early love for mothering would shape all of my future desires to want to have children.  It would have mothering, for me, come before a career (to clarify: it was the reason why I didn’t want certain careers when I was a 16 year old high school graduate).  It would place a strong desire in me to be home with my children long as possible.

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2nd birthday – in the trailer.  The dog, Smut, my parents got right after they got married.
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His 2nd birthday

Soon before his third birthday, we would move into our exciting, new home where we would have many adventures.  We would have best friend days and worst enemy days, but through it all we would have love.

So I celebrate my brother, my only sibling, who shares in the tales of my crazy childhood.  The one who still adventures through the backwoods of Florida, teaching my kids and his own about the excitement to be found there.

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I am 7 or 8 and he is 3 or 4.  This is the 80’s and I’m rocking some Cyndi Lauper wannabe. Our first family dog, Girl.  I named her, can you tell?  I love the background because it reminds me of home.

Let your light shine!

Amy

Raising Strength 


Raising a daughter at times feels intimidating. We are rolling into that age (12 1/2) when everything you say or do is interpreted on their belief system. And that belief system seems to change daily. The clothes or hair that were fine yesterday may be the end of the world today. I can still remember those days clearly from my preteen and early teen years.

I’m really lucky that my daughter, for the most part, is relatively drama free. We have not had tears caused by middle school “mean girl” syndrome. If she is being exposed to it then she is letting it roll off. She is a hard worker in her school and athletics and has dreams and goals. Ones that she determined and created for herself.

I see a lot that I admire in my daughter. She is growing into a strong woman. She doesn’t seem affected by petty drama, by what somebody else determines is fashionable, or by what anyone thinks about who she should be.

This is one of my dreams for her. That she would know so strongly who she is, the complete level of respect she deserves, and how greatly she is loved.

So on this International Women’s Day, I remember the strong women who helped shape me and continue that tradition by helping her continue to grow into the strong woman that she will become.


Let your light shine!

Amy