1. Everytime I look at my children, I get tearful, and am filled with gratitude that they are all safe. Keep tissues with me at all times.
2. Neighbors are the salt of the earth. One that I barely know rode up on his John Deere tractor the day of the fire and handed me a check for $100. He wouldn't take no for an answer. Our next door neighbor took in the kids, fed them pizza, cared for our cat, and called her niece to bring us clothes. Said niece dropped them off at the hotel the day of the fire and if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have had a shirt on my back the next day.
3. I love my dog even more than I knew. He's being loved to death by a dear friend and her sons, who were thinking about getting a dog. It's a good trial run for them. But I just made coffee for the first time since the fire, and the habit of grabbing his leash, rubbing his silky Golden ears, and watching him hop up and down is sorely missed.
4. Speaking of coffee, I am ever more grateful for Starbucks and a coffee pot of my own. Hotel coffee is...sustaining, but not very good.
5. Losing all your clothes allows you to redefine your wardrobe, but it takes time. I don't have much in the way of ministry clothes yet, and when I got dressed to perform a wedding yesterday, found myself digging through my daughter's clothes, and borrowing her size 8 (children's!) Justice tank top to wear under my blouse. I do wish I liked to shop more. Shoe shopping itself is enough to make me want to scream.
Shopping for essential clothes with my 15 and 12 year old yesterday almost killed me. A whirlwind tour through DSW, Marshalls, Plato's Closet, and Target = sore feet, sore back and happy girls. I am also now shod with new sneakers. I still like to bargain shop though! Plato's Closet was a definite WIN.
6. Children are resilient, but only to a point. So are adults. I'm looking forward to church and an afternoon by the hotel pool, catching up on work. And yes, the wireless at the hotel is finally fixed! It will be good to catch up on work and setup my new laptop. I missed my media!
7. Love my iPhone. Couldn't have survived without it.
8. Don't shop at WalMart. They don't care if you have no underwear and will not help you out in a pinch when your new checks won't be read by their cash register.
9. Do shop at Anne Taylor Loft Outlet in Waterloo. My checks wouldn't clear there, but they called the bank, and figured out how to use my Red Cross debit card so I could buy clothes to perform above mentioned wedding. They also secretly took 40% off of my total order.
10. Mariott also gets a huge round of applause. They didn't have rooms available for us to stay consecutively, but the hotel manager moved other people around to accommodate us in our suite until semi-permanent housing can be found. Julio is my new bff.
11. Traveler's Insurance also - well, I just want to kiss them. You know that State Farm commercial where the insurance agent magically appears after an accident? Well, that should be Traveler's commercial. Chad was there within 2 hours. He referred us to Mike, who called us, texted us, emailed us, dealt with the hotels within 6 hours of the fire. 72 hours later, we were hooked up with Rich, our large claims agent, who explained everything in minute detail, over and over, and is awesome. They are covering everything in the house, plus the reconstruction (or whatever happens). They are helping us get everything laundered to try to salvage the kids' clothes, have a cleaning company coming in to take everything out, and a placement agency negotiating a rental. Looks like we'll be out of the house for at least six months. They are also reimbursing the Red Cross for our hotel stay and grocery/clothing money. The agent said, "You have insurance. Other people don't. We want the Red Cross to be able to take care of those other people."
12. I really am not attached to material things. That doesn't mean I don't burst into tears when I realize I don't have a hairbrush when I get out of the shower. I also miss my bed. And it's not coming back, people. It's a charred mess on my back lawn. I also miss my awesome Born boots that I got in Chicago at J-term this year.
12a. Just because I am OK with losing my stuff doesn't mean my kids are. iPods have been replaced, sparkly shoes have been bought. Making things as normal as possible is vital for the kids and even me. It was a huge relief to climb into the shower on Thursday and have my brand of body soap, shampoo, shaving cream, deoderant, etc.
13. I have the best friends and church(es) in the world. My best friend has watched my kids. The church has given us money. Our friends and even people I don't know have donated to PayPal. I am so grateful to each and everyone of you. It has allowed us to get groceries so we can eat our normal food and accommodate the kids' dietary needs. It has allowed us to buy undies and shoes, to replace my laptop, to feel some modicum of safety net.
14. If you already have tickets to an amusement park when your house burns down, GO. We went to Seabreeze with our homeschool friends on Friday and it was definitely what we needed! It was wonderful to go on rides, eat junk food and see my kids smile. And I laughed when I climbed to the top of the water slide with Jude and a little boy assured me that "it is perfectly safe." I thought, "now this is a child who has never been through a fire. Nothing feels perfectly safe and isn't it odd that we're here doing some "safe" thrillseeking!"
A friend brought lettuce out of her garden for our salad, and another brought pasta and sauce and lettuce for our dinner that night. It was twice as delicious because it was given with love.
This is the first I've had Internet since Tuesday. We're headed off to church for my oldest daughter Emma to sign the membership book and become a new member of First Unitarian of Rochester today. A landmark day for sure :).
I have much to be grateful for is the biggest learning. I was already grateful; I just didn't know how much.