Friday, March 21, 2014

The Fire Department is at Your House...WHAT?

I didn't even get to see if any of the firefighters who responded to my house today were cute. By the time I got home they were long gone and the only evidence they left behind was the air conditioner that had been in my son's window (now perched on my kitchen counter) and a few muddy footprints on my basement carpet. Oh, and the furnace was shut off, some windows were opened to let the smell out, and there was a good measure of soot down in the basement.

I had just picked up the little guy from my sister's house when my cell phone rang. It was the Jamesburg Police calling to tell me that the Fire Department was at my house responding to a report of smoke from the basement. My mind raced.

I've been through a house fire before. Shortly after college I was sharing a 2nd floor apartment with my friend Stacey and one of the apartments on the first floor caught fire and became completely engulfed. It was the middle of the night and we were upstairs sleeping at the time. People tried to yell up to us. They tried to knock on our door. We didn't hear them. We were saved by our functioning smoke detector. The fire was all around the stairwell through which we exited and we had to crawl on the ground to avoid the smoke which had already started to fill the apartment. We watched as the fire from the first floor apartment jumped from the building to my parked car and breathed a sigh of relief as the small town volunteer firefighters showed up and did their thing.

The apartment was uninhabitable after the fire and we had to throw away a lot of our things due to the smoke damage. One thing I remember clearly though about the aftermath - Joe showed up. We weren't dating at the time, but he was there, climbing up and down those stairs helping to pack things up and move them to my Grandmother's place where I would live for the next few months. 

In the 30 second conversation with the Jamesburg Police Department those were the scenes that flashed through my mind. The fire at my old apartment. Escaping down the stairs only to watch the front of my car burn to a crisp. Joe there, strong and patient, just doing the next thing to help me out. I noticed that my mind was no longer racing and neither was my heart.

Be strong. Be patient. Do the next thing.

I called my mom who lives nearby to see if she could head over to the house. She didn't get to see if there were any cute firefighters either. They were gone by the time she got there. While en route to my house, I received two more calls with updates from the Jamesburg PD (very efficient) and made a call to the company that services my furnace (once it was determined that was the problem). The owner of the company came over tonight to check everything out and will be back in the morning to do the cleaning. 

I realized as I was doing my 8 mile training run on the treadmill tonight that I reacted quite differently to the call from the Jamesburg PD than I would have maybe even a few months ago. I think that I am now finding a way to weave Joe's strength and patience into my own life. In that way, he lives on every day as a part of my and my son's lives. That may sound strange but I know I can draw on those parts of him when I need them on my own journey. Today was obviously one of those days.

And it was all confirmed 100% when I walked back into the locker room after my run and heard of all things the familiar croon of Mr. Greg Dulli coming through the speakers. The Twilight Singers playing at Retro Fitness? Yes, on this night at this time, it was none other than the man himself. And I knew in that moment that I was figuring it out and that somewhere Joe is smiling.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Creating Space - 40 Bags in 40 Days

I'm participating in the 40 bags in 40 days challenge found on the White House Black Shutters blog. I decided on this as my Lenten discipline to be paired with a regular focus on this writing by William Arthur Ward:

My goal in doing the 40 bags in 40 days was to create more space in my life - physically in my house, emotionally in my heart, and spiritually in my soul. I'm on Day 3 and I'm shocked to say that it's already happening. I found myself just a little overwhelmed tonight as I filled up the rest of my first garbage bag and took out my 2nd load of recycling. Overwhelmed and accomplished.

So far I have tackled the following areas:

1) Two laundry baskets from my bedroom full of odds and ends. Believe it or not one of the laundry baskets included remnants from my son's Easter basket from last year.
2) The top of the small cabinet next to my front door. This included several dishes with candy (from as far back as Halloween) and a catch all container that had gotten way out of control.
3) The top of my bedside table which had grown into a version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and a magazine rack which somehow ended up holding a Christmas gift I received in 2012 (still in its gift bag).

As I daily reflect on the fasting and feasting poem and do the work of physically making more space in my home I am seeing the results in a powerful way. As the spaces that surround me become less cluttered so does my mind. As I slowly organize the pieces of my life I can see a path toward balance where I was feeling chaos just a week ago.

And I know that Joe is smiling on this because 40 bags in 40 days is a Lenten discipline that he would have been happy to see me act on. Every time I hesitate over something, trying to decide whether I should throw it out or not I hear his voice in the back of my mind and it pushes me towards simplifying.  I'm thankful for that because I know that at the end of 40 days I will be at a place where there is space for so much more of what truly matters in my life.

Tonight after spending a relaxing evening with family to celebrate my birthday and completing my 40 bags in 40 days task for the day, I felt a unique peace. 

For some reason in the midst of that peace I was drawn to the two chocolate teddy bears that have been sitting in my refrigerator since Thanksgiving 2011. For more than 2 years now I have thought about but always avoided finally eating them. For Thanksgiving that year we bought a bear for each of us who came to dinner with our name written on it. Joe and I never got around to eating ours.

Maybe it was the spiritual frame of fasting and feasting. Maybe it was the emotional space created by all the bagging up of stuff. Maybe it was the fact that I was staring down another birthday and I just needed some damn chocolate. Whatever it was, I decided without hesitation that tonight would be the night.

So, with Algiers and then Faded by The Afghan Whigs playing on my iPhone and the movie Mannequin on the TV, I savored every single bite of those still delicious chocolate bears. And I cried. And I celebrated the creation of spiritual, emotional and physical space in my life.