Sunday, January 31, 2010

By the light of the speaker

So many of today's gadgets have indicator lights on them, turning our homes into star spangled applause. A bright blue light from my desktop speakers, a brilliant white light from the end of my laptop charger cord. A red light glows from inside my mouse.  A green light blinks at me from the smoke alarm. My Blackberry blinks green, red, blue, orange and yellow, depending on the status.  Green and red from the microwave's time and program. Turquoise letters and numbers on the stove panel.  Status lights on your vcr, dvd player, stereo components, television, and most all cell phones when friends come to visit. 

My clock radio also has it's own electronic display happening.  Power bars hold another status light that glowers at us from beneath desks, behind entertainment stands, or next to the bed. We are gadget maniacs. I'm just as guilty as the rest. Most of these indicator lights are LED now, so very little energy, and bulbs last longer.  But we have lost the darkness from our homes.  I often orient myself in the dark to the glowing lights here and there, guiding my way like a chorus of dwarfed and confused reindeer.

It's what I enjoy most about camping in the wilderness - no residual light, just mother earth and all her goodness as it was meant to be experienced. Camping season is just around the corner, and camping in a vw camper will be much warmer, so I can go earlier!  I just need to get the camper. In the meantime, I shall continue to plan and prepare for the trip, and sit by my new lamp.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Housefires Suck

No, there hasn't been another fire. But every single day and nearly every single hour I am thinking about the fire.  Sometimes I've remembered something else I lost in the fire and I either get angry about it, or I'm ready to cry again.  Sometimes I'm brooding about wanting to get back in there and sift through the rubble.  They're tearing it down bit by bit, and a few times when I've driven by, I can see my old burnt up furniture in the back of the truck they are using to haul it away.

I chose to move into a furnished apartment just up the street from my old place, as it was easier to stay with the same landlord, and they had something available that very day I went looking.  As well, I didn't have to really change much about getting to work, except that now the ferry terminal is too far away to walk to in the morning, so I've also been robbed of that pleasure.  I just didn't have it in me to learn a whole new neighborhood, and a different bus schedule to get to work, not for just a few months.  However, the drawback is, I now have to pass my house every single day as I head to work, and every single time I am driving through the city.  I always look, but now it's getting harder and harder to look at the burned up carcass that used to be my lovely apartment.

I get reminded all the time that I am lucky I was able to escape with my life and my kitty.  Yes, I know these things.  I know them quite intimately, as the smoke filled my apartment while I was calling 911 and looking for Stormy.  I am still pissed about the fire though.  I mind very much that instead of hunkering down for the winter in my cozy apartment with my big screen tv, teddy bear furniture, and all of my books and hobbies around me, I am in this shitty little apartment filled with crappy furniture. It was to be a winter of regeneration.  Instead it is a winter of bitterness. Partly my fault, I did choose the apartment.  I just hate it. There is no living room, which i didn't think would bother me as much as it does.  I miss curling up on the sofa or in my big chair & a half.  Now I have to sit on a shitty old bed to watch the 20inch television propped up on a tall dresser.  I have thought about getting a cheapo second hand chair to stick in my bedroom, however I can't handle a chair on my own, and I've mentioned it enough times to my mother who offered to find someone help me handle one, but that seems to have been forgotten.  So a month later, I am still sitting on the edge of my bed to watch television.  If I make other plans to get a chair, that would likely be the exact day my mother arranged to have someone drop a chair off and I would never hear the end of it. 

I only have basic cable, with no PVR or digital box.  I was complete spoiled for 2 years with my PVR.  Now I barely watch anything on cable because I just cannot stand the commercials, and the fact that I have to check the channel guide on channel 8, and can only see what's coming on in the next half I watch my dvd's instead, mostly ER. I usually end up laying down to watch, and because it's a crappy bed, I have to change positions quite often or my hips get sore.

I also mind that I don't have any of my kitchen stuff to cook with.  It isn't worth it to replace most of it, as I would only be storing it in April.  So now I barely cook at all. Not like I have much of an appetite anyhow. Lost that in the fire too.  Some days I can eat a meal, while others, the food has no taste.

It isn't about the owning of material goods, it is more about the comfort I've had to surrender.  Each piece I bought for my apartment last year was carefully chosen for a reason, and things just all worked.  Most everything I had chosen to ship down from the north was also carefully chosen, not wanting to pay Canada Post to ship junk.  I had kept what I did for mostly emotional attachments.  Now most of it is in a charred heap.  And then there are all of the things that may have survived the fire, but are likely being dragged off to the dump by the demo crew. 

That's when my anxiety sets in.  I had a few boxes of paper, which likely only scorched and sat in a soggy heap while the fire burned everything else, as tightly packed paper doesn't tend to burn too well.  Now my personal papers are likely blowing all around the dump for everyone to see. Stuff like student loan papers, my university transcripts, my health records, my divorce papers, my bills, private letters I've hung onto for years, income tax papers, the list goes on.  My mother would be having a coronary about now, given she shreds even the envelopes because her name is on them. 

I am rather depressed.  I'm quite certain about that, and know how to recognize the signs, given my profession as social worker.  It doesn't make things any easier to manage.  I'm still depressed, i just know why and how.  Every day I get up thankful to be alive, but ruminating about the effect the fire has had on me.  I really resent that I had to go through the ordeal.  Dealing with all of the post-fire stuff is downright exhausting.  Between the seemingly endless shopping, the insurance claim, sifting through the few things I did recover from the fire, setting up house again, and talking about the fire to everyone who asks is just draining sometimes. Having to buy all of your clothes in the middle of winter when you are planning a trip somewhere warm for a year is quite a challenge, though I have to admit, even though it's January, summer items are slowly making their way to the stores.

Replacing clothing is no easy task.  When you think of your assortment of clothes in various closets, dressers, etc, it is an accumulation of items. Things that were bought during different seasons, at different places, probably 2-3 items at a time or less.  Much of it might represent your interests, particularly the t-shirt collection I had.  Most of my t-shirts were souvenir ones, from concerts I had attended, music festivals, exotic locations, musicians I enjoyed, or themes that I enjoyed.  I was able to get a nice assortment of rock t-shirts at Old Navy, but it isn't the same.  There is absolutely no fond memory attached to any of them. 

It isn't just me that has been affected.  Stormy is without his 'teddy' that he had since he was a kitten and held some weird fascination with.  He wouldn't play with it at all when I was in the house, but as soon as I was gone, even to the dumpster, he would be using the bear, and I could tell because it was in a different place than when I left, even just for 5 minutes. I'm not sure what he did with it in my absence, but I think there was some licking involved...

Housefires suck.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Fascination With ER

Since the pilot first aired for ER in 1994, starring Anthony Edwards and George Clooney, I have been hooked.  I have seen every single episode.  I owned 11 seasons of ER on DVD. I rescued 10 of them.  The other season was on the tv stand at the time and not on the bookshelf.  I was in the middle of Season 5.  I have watched these DVD's right through from the first season to the last several times.  Some more than others as they only release a couple of seasons per yer, if that, so it has taken awhile to collect this many seasons.  I don't always watch the entire show while sitting on the sofa engrossed.  I know all of the episodes very well, particulary the earlier ones, as they have been played more often, so I often will have it on in the room while I'm doing other things. 

I have come to know each of the characters very well over the 15 years ER was on the air.  I don't find it as gossipy-drippy-beverly hills meets desperate housewives as Grey's Anatomy.  I have watched Grey's from time to time, but I like how ER has so many patients and we get little snips of each person's life. It's like peoplewatching from the safety of my living room within reach of my fridge and a bathroom. They sure covered a variety of medical issues on ER.  I think I could breeze through medical school with my ER knowledge....ha ha...kidding, but whether they are technically correct in every single scene (I really don't care or know the difference, or care that I don't know the difference) I have definitely increased my knowledge of medical terminology and can use some of it in context. 

The stories were real everyday occurrences, and tragic rare happenings.  Not everyone lived, including the staff. In all of their 15 years on the air, the only truly cheesy scene I felt did not fit with anything else they filmed was when Romano was killed by a helicopter that fell on him in the ambulance bay.  I mean, give me a friggin break.  He lost his arm the year before by ducking too close to the tail rotor, so had a "fear of helicopters", rightly so.  But then to be killed by a falling helicopter? No one even found him until the mess was cleared away the following day...ewww...I'm sure they could have slipped what was left of him under the door.

I certainly enjoyed the casting on the show, including all of the guest appearances each week.  The highlight for me was Alan Alda playing a retired army doc with Alzheimer's.  I was also a M*A*S*H fan as well and have ALL seasons of that show on DVD.  The steady characters were richly written, and the guest appearances, introduction to new characters, and the loss of others were well written and I enjoyed each and every episode of the show.

But after all of what I've written about why I like the show, the prominent reason I watch the show on DVD is because the show, the set where it is filmed, and the characters of the show have been the only steady part of my life for a number of years.  I have moved from one end of this country and back again, and through all of that, I have been watching this one show, this one hospital drama.  While my home environment has changed, moved, burned, sold, etc, ER was still there every Thursday night, waiting for me.  And once the series ended after 15 years, I still had my seasons of ER on DVD.  No matter where I am, including this rundown little apartment, I can forget about it while I tune in to ER. 

I know it's a weird fascination, but it's how I roll.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Counting Down the Days

The days are ticking off until I leave for the west coast. There are 74 days left until I leave.  Wow, that seems like such a small number now.  I only have 46 days of work left before the end of my term of employment. I can't wait. I have enjoyed my work, and feel a fair bit more knowledgeable about the field than I did upon arrival here just over a year ago.  Now it's onto the next stage of my life. Post-student loan era...I can smell the freedom, it's that close. Sometimes it makes me giddy.

Although the fire has certainly influenced my perspective on life, my path has not wavered.  If anything, I feel more determined to hit the road and head west again. My daughter is there, as is my sister and her boys, and a great deal of good friends. I've spent so much of my life living on the east coast that I feel I'm due a change of scenery and an improvement in weather conditions. That also makes me giddy. I do worry about the heat, but reckon I'll adapt soon enough once immersed. 

Driving home from a worksite visit yesterday in heavy rush hour traffic, I was began thinking about how very different Tuesday at 5pm will be in just 3 months from now. I won't be coming home from my current 9-5 desk job.  I'll be on the open road, heading west.  I come home to this new apartment, and nothing about it feels like home.  It is too big for the measly amount of items that are mine here. 

Moving into a vw bus for a year will be both a challenge and a relief.  The smaller space is much less to warm up to, and will be "pimped out" (as my daughter would say) in whatever design I reckon I can stomach for a year in such close quarters. I am thinking I'll stay away from stereotypical hippy bus design. I've seen a few and they look cheap or juvenile.  I have been drawn more towards the cooler colors of the ocean - the blues, blue-greens, and emeralds, with a dash of deep purple here and there (cause I have to have some purple). Warm that color pallette up with some natural linens and cotton fabrics and I think it will turn out okay. I just want somewhere I can feel very relaxed. 

I still have a great deal of prep for the trip, as I lost all of my planning books, my lists, a great deal of my camping gear, and so on.  It almost overwhelms me, but then I remember I don't have a great deal of stuff to pack up now, so it should be much less of a physical challenge than past moves have been. Bittersweet realization. But hey, I'm ready to move on now.

Tomorrow it will be 73 days.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pain and Suffering

Someone asked me if I was going to sue for pain and suffering.  Hmm, I hadn't thought about it really.  I'm not really interested in pursuing a lawsuit only to lose.  No one gets much in this country, so most people don't bother.  However, now that I have been through something traumatic, I see things in a different light.  Am I in pain and suffering? It depends on how that is determined.  I don't have any real physical pain from that night other than ripping all the skin off my knee when I tripped over a fire hose and a little smoke inhalation.  Emotional pain - lots. I cry every single day, and sometimes it turns into sobbing, which I don't even recall doing in a very long time.  I've been pretty emotional this past year due to my father's impending death.  He passed away in early September.  Now I have something new to cry about.

And I hate crying.  I have little control over it, and I despise being reduced to a soggy mess holding handfuls of soggy tissues.  Or would that be considered suffering? I sure felt like I was suffering when I was sobbing through filling out my fire claim.  It has very little to do with the loss of material goods.  It has more to do with lost memories.  It also has to do with having to do all of this alone.  And the fact that I can't get it out of my head how close to death I came.  Sure, I've probably cheated death a few times in the past while passing a semi on the highway, but I don't know that I really was aware as I am now.  It sure has me counting up how many lives I've used up like a cat.

And then I start thinking about some of the rumors, that the explosion was a planned event.  That would mean that whoever blew up the building had no regard for human life, as all of us were at risk that night, not just the intended target, if indeed he was. It's that shit that keeps me awake at night - how fast your life can change without any input from you.  That someone else has that ability to knock you off course, changing your life.  I know this fire has changed my life. 

I'm still very much in shock, and surviving on a very basic level.  I've been sick this past week so haven't had much contact with other people.  I can't believe it has already been 13 days since the fire.  It seems like a couple of nights ago. I still wake up in the night and think I am in my old apartment, and it isn't until I slam into something that I remember I'm not.  When I'm out and about in my car, I sometimes drive by my new place, heading to the old apartment, before I remember that isn't where I live anymore. Sometimes images go through my head as I envision getting home, putting away the groceries, and settling in on my big chair.  Then I remember, oh yeah, the fire. 

There isn't anywhere to sit comfortably in my new place.  It doesn't have a living room, so the only place to sit is either on a kitchen chair or on a bed. I was so looking forward to a cozy winter at my old place, and someone blew up my building and that all changed.  Does that qualify as pain and suffering?

Is it April Yet?

Many people ask the same question about Friday.  I've said it many times, particularly when Monday is a rotten day.  I ask it of April because January has been so very unpleasant so far.  In April I will be hitting the road, heading west in search of adventure.  So April is my Friday.  I can't friggin' wait.

I've been running pell mell since the fire, obtaining all my various wallet items - driver's license, health card, debit cards, and the numerous points cards.  I think I'm gonna let them go.  My wallet was too heavy anyway.  I've had to replace so much stuff just to set up house for a few months.  Much of it came from the dollar store and Walmart, but even that part alone is very draining. I've been buying things with my trip in mind, so things I can either leave behind or take with me.  I don't want to buy anything I will have to store in April. I'm hoping there will just be one or two boxes so it's not a huge imposition for anyone to keep them for me. 

Stormy is another matter.  I really like him.  I have enjoyed hanging out with Stormy for almost 5 years, since he was just a wee kitten. And then I risked life and limb to save him from the fire after the explosion sent him running scared under my bed. How can I leave him behind for a year while I travel? Will he miss me? Probably not is my guess. As long as someone keeps the food and water coming and a clean litterbox, I don't think he really cares who does it.

I've also been processing items I was able to recover from the fire.   The clothing was no real chore, just rinse off the charcoal bits and dry.  I'll take them to the laundrymat for a good wash and they'll be just fine.  The solid items were a bit more work, rinsing, scrubbing, and scraping fire mess off them.  Some weathered the fire quite well.  Others, not so much.  The paper and photos were the worst chore. There was so much and I only had a few places to hang things, so ended up putting up temporary clothelines to hang it all from. Some of it I will just photocopy and ditch the crinkled smokey original, but others I'll keep and store in ziplock bags. I have to make sure they are absolutely dry before doing that.  it was not an easy chore, sifting through such a soggy mess, seeing what has been ruined.

Now I have a dirty storage unit at U-Haul to clean up.  I had stored everything rescued from the fire in there and brought so much at home at a time, as I didn't have enough room to deal with it all at once, and I didn't want bags of smokey stuff sitting around in my apartment. I only brought home what I thought I could process that day.

I have to replace my passport too.  Dammit. That one is a bigger chore, but totally worth the investment of time if I am to cross the borders.  At least I live in a city with a passport office, as there are none in the three northern territories.  I was hoping to wait a few days until the bags under my eyes were gone before going for my new passport photos.

The insurance claim has been the real albatross here.  I ended up with 39 pages of items for which I had to supply information for - date purchased, where purchased, purchase price, current replacement cost, and where replaced. Easy for some items, impossible for so many others.  I owned quite a bit of original one of a kind items.  How do you ask for replacement cost on those if they cannot be replaced?  In any event, the claim is hopefully complete and they don't come back asking for yet more information.  My brain can't handle it right now.  Again the investment of time is very much worth it, the issue was whether or not I had the stamina to finish it all.  It was rather emotionally draining, listing everything I've lost. 

I think the biggest challenge for me has been that I live alone.  I don't have a husband to turn to when I can't finish something, or would like a little help (not that I did when I was married, but you get the point), or just a simple hug to tell me it's going to be okay and we'll get through it.  There are times when I really miss being part of a couple/family.  It can be very lonely.  At 2am when I can't sleep because the images of the fire keep me awake, it sure would help to have someone other than Stormy next to me for comfort.  Stormy is a great help, but he doesn't give good hugs...

Is it April yet?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Adding It All Up

I finished filling out my insurance claim for the fire that destroyed my apartment on New Year's Eve.  It was quite a list. I came up with about $5,000 over what I was insured for. It didn't seem like that much until I started to add it all up.  Interesting what dollar value is assigned to the remnants of our lives. There are several things lost in the fire that are priceless, if only to me. It was quite emotional when I had it completed and looked back over the list as a whole.  I put an asterisk next to the few things I rescued from the ruins a few days ago. There weren't many.  When I think about it too much, panic begins to rise in my chest, my heart pounds, and memories of things lost flash in front of me. Then I hear fire trucks approaching and want to run and hide.  The snow plow just rumbled into the parking lot with lights flashing, and I nearly pissed my pants.  I thought there was another fire.  When I think about how close I came to losing my life, and how fast the fire spread (mere moments from explosion to flames licking the sky) through our building, I get the same feeling.  When I think about how lucky I was to get out with Stormy and only minor smoke inhalation, I am thankful to be alive.

I've been processing the event constantly in my brain.  It has become very difficult keeping my mind from wandering back to the night of the fire.  I feel like January 1st was more than the beginning of year 2010, but a new chapter in my life, one free from material posessions that threatened to possess me.  I could have done without all the drama, and simply downsized yet again.  I'm already tired of talking about the fire, but at the same time, feel compelled to continue to process it through conversation with friends, or if I'm at home, with Stormy...(laugh if you must, but you ALL talk to your pets).

I have a great deal of things I rescued from the fire to clean up.  They're all over in the storage locker.  I had hoped to go over last night and tonight but I have been feeling just rotten with a cold and super exhausted. and now I'm burning the midnight oil. I was resting most of the evening in bed, but got up in a fit of coughing and stayed up for a late night snack.  I need to go through those things I rescued, however, I hesitate, just wanting a break from talking or thinking about the fire at all. My mind spins on crises mode.  Just the bare necessities can limp their way through my brain.

I will send in my claim on Monday and expect payment by the weekend.  Wow. Then what? I am only replacing a few things, so have to determine what to do with the rest.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Picking Up The Pieces of My Life

I still have to remind myself sometimes that my apartment burned down. I've found it comforting to be in my car. Not much has changed about my car.  It looks the same as it did before the fire, with much of the same stuff in it.  There I can almost forget that I have lost so much that night. Almost.  My life experience is very much displayed on my car.  There is a bumper sticker about social workers, and a few representing my alma mater.  There is one about a cat in heat standing next to the scratching post like it was a hooker under a lamp post. Hilarious, and a few other funnies. There are other cause oriented ones on there, or representing something such as music.  Most, however, are from places I've been.  Las Vegas. Northwest Territories, The Grand Canyon, Ragged Ass Road in Yellowknife, Dawson City in the Yukon, Chicken Alaska, and so on.  Now they are my only souvenirs.  All the more reason to return to visit those places again.  I also had a great deal of my camping gear in my car.  camping dishes, MEC pots, real cutlery, propane stove, axe, and so on.  Stuffed in around the dishes were some items I had packed last winter in anticipation of camping with the non-resident daughter last Christmas...they are all Christmas prints kitchen things - tea towel, oven mitt, placemats, etc. Weird.

Also in my car were some other useful items - a pair of sneakers, flip flops, WD40, rope, and a sleeping bag. Unfortunately I had brought my new one I bought this year into the house to store.  The old one is too small, as I bought it not realizing it was a narrow fit bag. When I'm in , I can't move.  So now I guess that is motivation to lose weight - so I can fit into the only sleeping bag I have.  Then I remembered that my dad left his really nice sleeping bag, and I hadn't brought it home from Grand Bruit yet.  Perfect.  I hope to get that sometime this winter, along with many other things I had packed up in my old house there, and from my parent's home.

It has been a super busy weekend, with so much to do.  I felt almost frantic, wanting to power through getting some necessities, so I can relax.  I have a hard time relaxing.  I force myself, but it doesn't last long. There is so much to do, that it nearly overwhelms me.  Then I take a deep breath and slow down for a few minutes, regroup and prioritize. Tomorrow will be another super busy day.  I have to get my driver's license replaced, along with health card, bank card, credit card, and so on.  At least I have my passport and birth certificate.  They were in the firesafe I had in my bedroom closet.  Phew.  Waiting for a birth certificate would probably just about finish me off. If you don't live in the province in which you were born, you can't get a rush certificate.  You have to wait, sometimes for months. 

This loss has also been somewhat freeing.  I will strive not to re-accumulate STUFF this time around. I want to hit the road in April if possible, even after all this, so with owning very little, there is so much less to deal with.  Each time I have moved, it is dealing with STUFF that wears me down. Moving stuff from one place to the next, selling stuff, packing stuff, throwing stuff out, giving stuff away, and buying stuff, which can be equally exhausting.  Sure it's great to have new stuff, but this year, in buying mostly new stuff, I then had to deal with it.  Paying for it isn't always the most challenging.  Then I had to stuff it into my car, drag it up out of my car over the steps to my apartment, take all the packaging off, try putting it together, and then find a place for it, before sorting through all of the packaging I now had to deal with.  Nothing can go in the same place. Styrofoam forms, plastic bags, paper instruction manuals in 17 languages, extra parts, receipts, bags, boxes, staples, packaging materials galore.  The only thing I bought that I did not have to put together or do anything with was my sofa. Even my chair & 1/2 I had to flip over and cover the bottom of the legs with non scratching thingys.  Which I had to buy also.  Stuff may be just stuff, but there is a great deal of work in accumulating it.  It doesn't just show up in its proper place ready to use.  And I had sold, thrown out, or given away so much up north that I had a lot of shopping to do even for the basics. 

In three days I have already accumulated some more STUFF.  But I am being much more discriminating about what I choose to bring home with me.  If I don't think I will use it in the next 12 months, it doesn't come in.  No more hoarding arts and craft supplies. I just can't drag all that STUFF around with me forever. I haven't used much of it for years.  It looks like the quilt I was making for my mother for the past 13 or so years will never get finished.  I did however give her my first little hand quilted quilt to have at her house that earlier this year as she didn't have much of her own personal things from Grand Bruit, having left herself in a bit of a hurry with my Dad a couple of years ago.

Picking up the pieces of my life is going to be a challenge, but I think I am up for it.  With less STUFF to deal with, I should have more time to enjoy life.  I almost lost my life a few days ago.  I have long believed in enjoying every day, and this recent experience will certainly continue to drive that ambition.  Life is too short to be bogged down with STUFF. I'm free.

One Last Tale From Dartmouth Cove

Well, I won't be writing from Dartmouth Cove any longer. My apartment building exploded and caught on fire just after midnight on New Year's Eve.  I've lost nearly everything and barely escaped with my life.  I did get Stormy out with me, along with my coat and boots, my blackberry and my laptop. That's it. The rest is toasted, literally. You can see the news article about it here. at the Chronicle Herald site.  The apartment on the top floor that you can see the sky through, is/was my apartment.  They have the address wrong, but what else is new. I also did not see anyone from the Red Cross there, and I stayed for hours. I luckily jumped into my car when I got out of the house and drove across the street and parked it. I DID have insurance.  I was the only one in the building though. I'm bunking in at a local hotel with kitchenette, and hope to move into a furnished apartment later this week. 

Not exactly how I was planning to start my New Year.