Step by Step

As usual, I started Sunday on "E" and ended on "F". Sometimes I go to church with such a bad attitude, like "what's the point?" but always glad in the end that I did. The best part is when church is just getting out and everyone is chit-chatting in the halls. Did I say this before? My three-year old son is slowly adapting to his new class. My wife or I always sit in with him. He needs a nap around that time.
Sunday school lesson was on Pride, and a classic from the archives. This is always a horse pill for me because I am quite bone-headed in certain aspects of my life. A whole lot of lip-service but not much real change in the last 10 years. Holy crap, I'm forty.
My children are healthy and sturdy-limbed. I love them ever so much. I really lucked out in the kid department, I'm really having a good time as a dad. I found a note written by my daughter (soon to turn 10): "Dear Dad, Thank you for all that you do like playing with us, being very funny and keeping us safe." Wife, kids, home, God, community, and hobby. It's all a beautiful recipe.
My wife made a great dinner: potatoes, cheese, broccoli, and meat. And an ice cold cream soda.
Really not much to say. Everything is groovy. I'm ready to get cracking tomorrow morning.
I feel inclined to make my usual disclaimer, in case there are new readers. I do not consider myself especially good or righteous. I am always a little reticent to talk about church or spiritual stuff. I include it for the sake of completeness and also in hopes that maybe someone will be uplifted.
Response from a Reader
Hey there Shawn,
I just read your blog tonight "Step by Step", I needed to hear something uplifting, so thank you! I am not extremely spiritual, but was raised a catholic and went to catholic elementary school... You don't know my current living situation, but my wife, myself and my four boys live in one of my parent's houses, it is a huge house and we have a downstairs apartment, we are living here while our house nearby is in the process of being built... Here is something I had emailed to a few friends of mine, and thought I'd send you a copy so you know why I felt uplifted reading your blog...
Wow, I am thankful today... People don't really consider themselves thankful when everyone is safe, they take it for granted...
To give you some background, the house we are living in right now is massive, probably close to 6,500 square feet and about 23 or more rooms... two exterior work rooms, 3 car garage, etc... Now we only live in a small portion of it though, and the downstairs where we are is not connected to the inside house, so most of the time we stay downstairs in our apartment. My studio/office is on the second floor and is isolated on one wing of the house. The rest of the house is largely unoccupied, especially this time of year...

To give you an idea of the house, it is all made of logs, each log is about about 18" thick, so it is very sound proof. You could stand in a room upstairs and yell as loud as possible and someone downstairs wouldn't hear you.

We've been here alone for some time, my parents are at one of their houses in Jackson Hole and my Grandmother (who was living with us since the holidays) has been in the hospital going on close to 3 weeks now (they said she can come home in about 2 weeks!), it has been quiet and isolated here... just the way we like it.

Well, this evening I came up to my studio to get my art schedule for tomorrow ironed out. We are in a severe storm watch right now, with about 20" of snow expected tonight at our altitude, it is about 20 below zero outside right now... So I get up here at about 6pm and start working.

At about 6:15 the fire alarm starts to go off... Now keep in mind that over the last few months, whenever my wife cooks something the alarm goes off because it is over sensitive in the kitchen in our apartment, so I hear it go off and don't think much of it. I figure that she is cooking... I know it is a bad thing, but the smoke alarm going off is really kind of normal now and we have gotten accustomed to it going off and don't react.

At about 6:18pm, with the alarms going off for about 3 minutes, my studio phone rings.... it is my wife "I'm not cooking anything..." is all she says to me. So suddenly it hits me that there is a fire alarm going off and I jump up and run into the house.

I start going room to room, I am kind of frantic, I cover the main floor and move upstairs, nothing... I get to a bedroom on the far end of the top floor and open the door... it is like something out of a movie, the entire room is ablaze with a massive fire. The smoke is thick and nearly impossible to see anything. It is really like something you see in a movie, just not real... it wasn't hot like you'd expect for some reason, it was just there... the glow from the flames made an erie reflection around the room... I just charged into the room without thinking.

I didn't want to take the time to go get the fire extinguisher down stairs, in my mind I knew the 45 seconds or so it would take me would be too long... I took a blanket from the bed and begin beating out the fire. It is bad and I am getting burnt. I kick out a window and begin picking up burning debris and throwing it outside into the darkness below. My wife is on the bottom floor and later tells me that she sees flaming debris falling down into the snow outside.
After a few minutes the fire is under control and I I finally get it all out. The bed is burnt, the oil stove is destroyed, there is a huge humidifier unit in the corner and the plastic has melted into an unrecognizable blob... the window that I kicked out is trashed. It is horrible in there!
Luckily all is well now, and the structural damage is extremely minimal, mostly cosmetics like the stove, carpet, window, etc. The main structure is ok and the log wall construction only has minor scorches that I think will sand out and can be re stained with no problem. After some minor investigation, I have determined what happened...

Each room has an oil stove that automatically turns on when the temp in the room falls below 40 degrees. This is a necessity out here because of pipes freezing in the floors and walls. Even though that room is not used, it still has the heat. With the temp outside hitting twenty below, that room just got too cold and the oil stove kicked on. From what I can tell, a pillow from the bed had fallen off and laid up against the oil stove. One of the dogs must have gone up there to lay on the bed and when the dog jumped off she probably kicked a pillow down and it has laid up against it for who knows how long.

It was a very scary experience. Had my wife not called me, I may have not even really investigated the situation for another 2 or 3 minutes which could have been enough to have lost the entire house, the fire was almost out of control beyond my capabilities to put it out by the time I got there, so a few more minutes might have been the end!

The nearest (real) fire department is about 70 miles away... There are some volunteer guys in the town about 35 miles north, but they don't even have a truck... there is no outside water right now, the outside pipes are drained and turned off for the winter months... We would have had PLENTY of time to get the kids out, clothes, photo albums, the two vehicles, etc., heck, I'd even have had enough time to get my computer equipment out of my office had it gotten that bad... but it really makes you think about "what if"... I'm going to be 37 years old this year and I've never had a house fire before, wheww...

So, with all that being said... I highly recommend everyone checks their smoke alarms and makes sure they are all up to speed and have batteries checked, etc... The smoke alarms in this house are hot wired into the electric, so they are constantly on and have mini battery backups in case of a power failure. I can't tell you how many apartments or houses we've rented that had no smoke alarms, or just had wires hanging out of the ceilings where they should be, and you always say "it won't happen to me"...

Having 4 sons and my wife, the responsibility to keep them safe is something that weighs heavily on me, constantly looking out for them and taking care of them is a full time job in itself (and one I am happy to have)... Someone up there was looking out for us tonight and although I am not extremely spiritual, I do pray and know that we were watched over!
My drama for the weekend is over! :)
-anonymous reader



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