Friday evening, I did what most hot, young single gals do...I started a pot of chicken stock and watched a PBS special on TV. #bejealous

When I woke up Saturday morning, I had big plans: photo shoot at 9:30am, Whole Foods for groceries, then home to prep food and edit photos and just generally enjoy being home in my "finally decorated the way I want it" home.

But, as I was pulling away from Whole Foods, I got a call that changed everything.

All I heard was the word "Fire." Of course, I thought of the pot of chicken stock I'd left simmering on the stove. Surely that didn't spontaneously combust or something. The whole way home, I cycled through various scenarios trying to figure out what could have happened, how bad the damage might be, and if I'd have anything left.

My experience with house fires had been limited to what I've seen on TV (flames flying upward through the roof) and the three other fire-related incidents I've had at home.

1. When we were kids, my brothers decided to play with matches in their room, because they are crack heads (not literally...that's just what I call them, because it fits) and set their mattress on fire. My dad was able to put it out and keep it from spreading and it was just a little smokey for a bit. We opened the windows and it was fine in a few minutes.

2. One holiday season I decided to do an advent wreath...and went to bed without blowing out the candles. I woke to a bright light and found that the wreath and my kitchen table was on fire. In my shock and sleepy haze, I went to the sink and filled a glass with water and poured it on the  fire. Obviously, that did nothing. So, I grabbed a blanket and smothered it and then ran from the smoke and soot. My house had to be cleaned from top to bottom and every stitch of fabric had to be washed. But, within a week it was as if it never happened...except that I didn't have a kitchen table...and swore off advent wreaths for-ev-er. (If you don't get that "Sandlot" reference, then...go rent and watch the movie, immediately before reading on. It's ok. I'll wait.)

3. About 2 years ago, I arrived home from work and was hit by the strong smell of electrical fire. As I got closer to my door, I realized it was coming from my home. Upon entering the house, I saw a bit of smoke still hanging in the air but couldn't determine the source. I called 911 and the fire department arrived and we discovered that my laptop battery had exploded. Again, my home had to be cleaned from top to bottom and linens had to be washed, but this time, and my coffee table and area rug had to be replaced.

So, as I stood outside waiting to go in, I was imagining something along these lines. Sure, I'd have to clean and wash everything, but I'd be able to stay in my house and go about life as normal.

Not so much...

As I waited outside, my landlord and I spoke a bit about how long it might be before we could go inside and where I might stay "because it might be a few days" before I was allowed to go back home to stay. I assured him I had ample couches to crash on and not to worry.

This was a small relief to him. He truly seemed more worried about his tenants than himself.

After about 45 minutes of waiting and wondering and standing in the hot June sun, the Fire Chief gave us the all-clear to venture in. Again, I was expecting it to smell and to need a good cleaning, that was it. I was not prepared for what I saw on the other side of my front door.

Just for reference, this is what it looked like before...



But, now I can add a few more items to the list of things I know about house fires.

1. Firemen are not gentle or careful. They don't care about messing up your stuff. They also curse a lot...in front of anyone.

2. The water they use to put out the fire, in many cases, actually does more damage than the fire itself. Between Katrina and this fire, water is inching further and further up my list of things I don't like a whole lot.

3. Renter's Insurance is da bom dot com. No joke. If you rent, make sure you have it. It may seem like a waste or whatever...it is not. My insurance is not only handling reimbursing me for what I lost to the fire and water, but it is also handling my temporary housing and the packing up, cleaning and storing of all of my belongings while I'm displaced. Plus, everyone is just being super nice and making me feel like it's going to be ok.

And, honestly, I really do feel like it all is going to be ok. For my part, every thing is working out way better than I thought  or imagined...except, of course, what I imaged was on the other side of my door that first day.

Though it looked horrible, the actual property/precious things lost was minimal. Nothing of great value (monetary or sentimental) was damaged. The living room ceiling caved in just inches away from my television and the computer I had connected to it. My laptop was across the room. My camera was with me. My refrigerator had to be shoved out of the way so the firemen could work, so that didn't get saturated. And, not one piece of my fiestaware was damaged. What's more, the fire was largely contained by the firewall separating my unit from my neighbors, so really only the ceilings were damaged. My insurance company set me up in a hotel room with a kitchen so I can eat real food instead of always having to do convenience food or eat out while I'm displaced. On top of that, my friends and family have just blown me away with their expressions of care and offers of help. It's really just been one blessing after another.

I can't say the same for my neighbor. She is elderly, semi-disabled and lives with her adult son...or rather, her adult son lives with her.  (#readbetweenthelinespeople) She did not have renter's insurance and lost a lot. They were able to salvage their clothing and many of the books and cds and such that were in the front part of the house, but most of what was in the back half is lost, including their bedroom furniture and most of their shoes. Their living room furniture is also probably not salvagable. What's more, she has been working tirelessly to salvage what she can and clear out their home, largely alone.

Several people have asked what they can do for me or what I need. My standard reply has become this "I'm good. But, my neighbor could use some help." Though she won't have a place to store any tangible donations like furniture until we are actually able to go back home, she can, I'm sure, use some monetary assistance in replacing items when the time comes and really just to get by between now and then in terms of replacing groceries and such.

If you would like to help Ms. Cora with a donation, I've set up the handy dandy pay pal button below for contributions. I'll pool together everyone's donations and put it all on a Visa card for her. I assure you, you couldn't help out a sweeter person...or one who would be more grateful.

If you'd like to send a care package or just a card or note letting her know you are praying, her info is:

Cora Coleman
4512 Park Dr. S
Metairie, LA 70001

I guarantee, anything and everything will be received with gratefulness and thanksgiving.

Through this whole thing so far, Lord has been so kind to me in this, I just want to funnel some of that over to Ms. Cora. If you choose to join in on that...God Bless You!