Good morning, Colonel!

I waved to the Colonel again this morning, and he waved back. He is a retired colonel of the United States Army. He probably does not know who I am—I am just a face behind the steering wheel of a car. But we frequently cross paths in the morning. He walks west on the sidewalk, part of his morning routine, walking for his health. I drive east on the street, on my way to work. We do not see each other every morning—neither of us has a routine so precise that one could set a watch by our passing. But when I see him, I wave, and most of the time he waves back.

His wife and I have spoken a few times. She represents our part of the city in the state legislature. Last year she and her staff helped to unravel a difficulty my family was having with a state agency. To the state agency, we were just another family in the system, to be passed from desk to desk and phone to phone with no resolution in sight. Once the agency heard from an elected official, though, they were able to produce the paperwork my family needed, and they did so quickly. They say that you can’t fight city hall, but if you know how to go over their heads, even the most powerful government agencies will respond.

Therefore, it is partly out of gratitude to his wife that I have started greeting the Colonel with a friendly wave. At the same time, I am grateful to him as well. I don’t know all the details of his service, but a little internet research tells me that he spent thirty years in the army, including two tours in Vietnam. He has risked his life fighting for his country. He deserves no less than a friendly wave from a passing stranger in the morning.

The Colonel and I have never spoken to each other, and possibly we never will. We don’t even smile when we wave to each other. I know that he waves to other drivers when they wave to him first. Our greetings are part of the morning routine, part of being neighborly. I like to think, though, that they are a little more than that. I like to think that my anonymous greeting is a thank you to the Colonel and to his wife for their faithful service. J.

 

Secrets Revealed: 10 Things Bunheads Do When They’re Not Dancing…

I am certain all of you will enjoy this. J.

Clara's Coffee Break

Pointe Shoes Image Pink 1.pngYou’ve always wondered…Here’s the truth… 😉

1. Daydream About Dance

All the time. Everywhere we go. When you would never suspect it.

(Via Giphy)

2. Choreograph in Our Thoughts

If we’re listening to music, there’s a good chance we’re mentally creating, staging, or restaging ballets.

(Via Giphy)

3. Binge on YouTube Ballet Videos

Oops, 6 hours just passed? Oh well…

(Via Giphy)

4. Read About Ballet

As difficult as it is to remain still (if we’re not watching dance), we suffer through it for articles, books, and blogs about ballet…

(Via rebloggy)

5. Sew Our Pointe Shoes

It must be done—like it or not. But listening to ballet music, a ballet podcast, or a ballet advice video helps pass the time…

(Via Giphy)

6. Cross Train!

This is why you watch/listen to TV, right?

(Via youbeauty)

7. Look at Social Media Accounts of…

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Patriots Celebrate America, They Don’t Denigrate America!

The always readable Dr. Lloyd Stebbins with some anecdotes appropriate for Independence Day. J.

Dr. Lloyd Stebbins

Parade

Once upon a time, when our politicians did not tend to apologize for our country’s prior actions, here’s a refresher on how some of our former patriots handled negative comments about our great country.  These are good:

JFK’S Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 60’s when DeGaulle decided to pull out of NATO.

DeGaulle said he wanted all US military out of France as soon as possible.

Rusk responded, “Does that include those who are buried here?”

DeGaulle did not respond.

You could have heard a pin drop.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

When in England , at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of ’empire building’ by George Bush.

He answered by saying, “Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great…

View original post 476 more words

Seven at One Blow

I vividly remember a story I read several times when I was young. It was called “The Brave Little Tailor,” or sometimes “Seven at One Blow.” The story is in the collection of folk tales gathered by the Grimm Brothers, and it also is in the Blue Fairy Book collected by Andrew Lang.

The story begins with a tailor fixing himself a sandwich. His jelly draws a swarm of flies, which he swats, crushing seven of them with one blow. To celebrate the achievement, the tailor makes himself a sash adorned with the words, “Seven at One Blow.” He then sets out upon a series of adventures, during which people frequently assume that the sash refers to seven people rather than seven flies. With a combination of fast thinking and deception, the tailor is able to increase his reputation for strength and daring. Finally, completing a series of seemingly impossible tasks results in his marriage to a princess. When the tailor talks in his sleep about sewing, the princess realizes that she has married a commoner and plots with her father to have him killed. Word of the plot reaches the tailor, and the next night he pretends to be asleep and talking; he lists his exploits and announces that he is not afraid of the men hiding behind the door. By this final deception, his life is spared.

I remember the story vividly because the opening premise always seemed improbable to me. In my experience, houseflies are rapid and elusive. Generally, when trying to kill flies with a swatter, my experience has been one in seven blows rather than seven at one blow. Sometimes I get lucky and squash a fly with a single blow, but that success is rare.

Sometimes a fly gets into the house during the day and becomes annoying while I am reading at night. In response, I create a trail of lights to the nearest bathroom, turning them off one by one to draw the fly into the bathroom. Then I close the door and the match commences. Sometimes I manage to knock the fly out of the air with the swatter, then crush it on the floor or in the bathtub. Other times I deliver the killing blow after the fly has landed on a wall or on the mirror. I don’t give up until I have won, but seven blows or more are not uncommon in these battles.

This spring a bag of potatoes spoiled in the kitchen. Before we realized what had happened, a family of small flies had bred in the bag and were scattering throughout the house. I don’t know how momma fly and poppa fly arrived; perhaps they had already visited the potatoes before they were bought and taken into the house. It took several days for us to locate the source of the flies inside the house, and meanwhile we were taking several measures to try to reduce their population without threatening our health or that of our cats.

One of our precautions was to try to keep the kitchen as clean as possible. We wiped down counters, rinsed dishes if we were not immediately ready to wash them, and tried to keep food packages sealed. Where they found moisture, though, the flies gathered, and if the liquid was sweet they were especially interested. Sometimes I would walk into the kitchen, see a group of flies gathered on the counter, and give them a swift swat with my open hand. Soon I was matching that fabled tailor, and then even exceeding him. My proudest moment was when I eliminated twelve at one blow. “Bring on that wimpy tailor,” I said to my daughters.

After we removed the potatoes, the fly population diminished, although it took some weeks before the house was finally fly-free. Since I am not a tailor, I did not make a sash to boast of my accomplishment. But at least you know now that I am capable of twelve at one blow. And I am not afraid of those men hiding behind the door. J.

Bigfoot–fact or fiction?

This week Rob Lowe announced that he feared for his life while camping in the Ozark Mountains as he heard the sound of a Bigfoot approaching his campsite. Lowe was in the Ozarks, oddly enough, filming a television show about Bigfoot. While Lowe’s announcement is probably nothing more than promotion for his show, this news tidbit sent me wandering far and wide across the internet, gathering information on Bigfoot (or Sasquatch) in the United States.

My family and I live in a developed suburban community—not an environment where Bigfoot is likely to be seen. Yet open wilderness areas exist quite close to our home. Many nights we have heard the call of coyotes, and some evenings the hoots of a great horned owl. To my surprise, I discovered credible reports of Bigfoot sightings within a few miles of my home. They took place in densely wooded areas and included both deer hunters and off-road vehicle drivers as witnesses.

I am convinced that the vast majority of Bigfoot sightings are spurious. Some of them, I am sure, are pranks, and others are the result of wishful thinking. Many reported sightings of Bigfoot probably were actually bears, and others were tricks of the light reflecting off foliage, tree trunks, and rocks. Reclusive people—some of them escaped criminals—probably hide in wilderness areas and are mistaken at times for Bigfoot. Taken together, these false sightings most likely account for the vast majority of alleged Bigfoot sightings. Yet some descriptions of Bigfoot sightings are not so easily dismissed. Enough credible reports can be found that I am willing, for the time being, to maintain an open mind.

The ivory-billed woodpecker—a large and unique bird—was assumed extinct for decades. A few years ago, evidence emerged that a small number of these birds still exists in remote wilderness areas of the southern states. If they have survived without being detected for several generations, why couldn’t a reasonably intelligent species of mammal also remain hidden in scattered wilderness areas around the continent?

No dead Bigfoot has ever been found in the wilderness. But how many bear carcasses are reported each year? Aside from those deliberately killed and preserved by hunters, the rest of the dead bears disintegrate through natural causes. No one has ever captured a live Bigfoot. But how many people have tried to do so? If it exists, Bigfoot is much more intelligent than a deer or a bear. Being also much rarer than those animals, it is unremarkable that none has yet been captured.

Three years ago a scientist called for collections of hair thought to be left from a Bigfoot so he could conduct DNA tests. He received thirty samples. When tested, half of them proved to be from bear, and the rest from smaller mammals. One, from China, came from a polar bear species that was thought to be extinct for thousands of years. If a rare polar bear colony can still exist in the mountains of China, why not the Yeti as well?

Every time a convincing argument is proposed against the existence of Bigfoot, further reasoning or evidence appears to swing the opposite direction. The Patterson-Gimlin film of 1967 remains controversial. Too many people have confessed to taking part in a hoax involving the film for all of them to be believed. Too many experts have analyzed the film, only to reach conflicting conclusions, for me to be convinced one way or the other.

I have no personal experience connecting me to Bigfoot. Nor do I care enough to hunting for Bigfoot. I probably would have spent much less time considering the possibility that Bigfoot exists if I hadn’t read accounts of possible sightings near where I live. The world is too big and too complex for me to insist that Bigfoot is impossible, yet the evidence is too vague and too suspect for me to insist that Bigfoot exists. For the time being, I intend to keep an open mind. J.

Powerless

One day earlier this month a powerful thunderstorm swept through the neighborhood. I knew it was coming, having checked the weather online. It was late in the afternoon, and I had a casserole prepared to go into the oven. The winds ahead of the storm were just beginning to blow when I sat down at the computer and opened a program. Just as it opened, the computer and lights flickered and went out. I was left in the dark.

Rain started falling a few minutes later. The clouds were so thick that I needed to light a candle to be able to read a book. I thought of the repair team that was probably out in the wind and the rain, clearing a tree from the road and stringing a new power line. My cat was unsettled and wanted extra attention. The rain continued to fall.

After a while the downpour eased to a steady rain, and I decided to drive to the mall. One of my daughters works in the kitchen of a restaurant in the food court. She is currently without a car, so she generally calls home when her work is done to ask for a ride. With the power out, the phone would not work. Besides, I would rather eat a hot sandwich at the mall than dig into a cold tuna casserole in the dark at home.

The dropping air temperature and rain had cooled my car, and water had condensed on all of the windows. It required several minutes to clear the windows, using the defroster on the back window, blowing air on the windshield, and toweling the side windows. Then I was able to drive safely. A mile from home I came to an intersection with a traffic light. The power was out there too, but a police officer was directing the traffic. The other traffic lights beyond that intersection were working, so I felt confident that the mall would also have power.

I arrived, went inside, and ordered my meal. My daughter was surprised to see me, since she was not done with her work and had not called for a ride. I told her the power was out at home, and joked with her and the other employees about hanging out at the mall for the air conditioning and the lights. They gave me my meal, and I sat down to eat.

About five minutes later, the lights went out in the mall. Oddly, only half the mall was darkened; the other half still had power. The restaurant was in the dark. The workers were surprised when power did not return quickly; they had experienced power interruptions before, but usually power was restored in less than a minute. My daughter and I remembered the post I wrote for April Fools’ Day. We were happy to see that no one was stranded on the escalators. Some customers came into the restaurant hoping to buy food, but the evening manager told them they could not sell any food while the power was out. The manager did not want to close for the night, but food was cooling as the blackout continued. The manager eventually had the employees take the meat back into the kitchen to try to keep it warm.

My daughter finished her work in the kitchen and I drove her home. The power was still out at home. When I left for the mall, I had left a flashlight by the door. I guided my daughter to her room, then found the thermostat and switched off the air conditioning. Then I went around opening windows. For a while I read by candlelight.

Power was restored about 7 p.m. I blew out the candle, reset the bedroom clock and the alarm, then returned to my reading. It occurred to me that evening that it would been ironic (and sad) if the storm had damaged the new shed being built behind the house. The workmen had finished the main body of the shed; it was still waiting for shingles, siding, and electrical work. I would not have wanted to contact the insurance company and the general contractor to report a tree lying on the shed, but that did not happen. J.

Catching up again

The last two weeks have been busy. I’ve hardly had time even to look at WordPress, let alone post anything. So let me share some quick highlights:

  • I attended a four-day conference. While I will not be discussing it directly in this space, it has inspired some thoughts that I will share in the coming days.
  • I continued working with the burnt shed. The first contractor to look at the shed was also the first to send a proposal. However, the contractor got our email address wrong. A phone call the following week fixed that problem. Meanwhile one contractor wanted to see how much the insurance company is paying before writing a proposal, and a third promised to save us money by fixing only the part that was burned—ignoring the burn damage that stretches to the back of the shed in the rafters and the scorch marks on the outside of the back wall. (“You can paint over that, and no one will be able to tell that you had a fire.”) Others failed to return phone calls; one promised to come and broke that promise. So obviously I signed a contract with the first company. Demolition will begin in about two weeks. Meanwhile, we are working on identifying which contents were destroyed and which can be restored. The first cleaning company we contacted played phone tag with us for a week. Tiring of that, I called a different company, and they sent out a representative the same afternoon. Cloth items have already been picked up for cleaning. Wood, ceramic, and glass items will be picked up next week. More on this as new developments occur.
  • I got one book to the publisher, even as I have made progress on this summer’s writing project about the parables Jesus told. Later this month I will share portions of that book.
  • Dim decided to clean and restain her deck, something which she last did four years ago. That time she did the work in July, getting to work at six in the morning before the day was too hot to work outdoors. At least this time she is starting later in the day. Her first step was to get a power washer and use it to remove the old stain along with any dirt that has survived her daily blowing. That required days of work. While she had the power washer, she decided to polish her driveway. Another man was helping her—I think he owns the washer—but she was not happy with the speed of his work. With great attention to detail, she scrubbed every section of her driveway. Then she did it again. Then a third time. Then a fourth and then a fifth. The racket continued for days. After power washing, she discovered that she had damaged the wood of her deck by washing it too hard. So for another week she has sanded every piece of wood she washed, using (of course) a power sander. Upright pieces were removed and sanded in the garage, which allowed her to keep on working even while it was raining. She is almost done sanding and will soon use another power tool to apply the stain and sealer.
  • During the conference I attended, I discovered a large used-book store. In the history section I found five out-of-print books that are frequently quoted in other books I own on the same topics (President Nixon and Watergate). Of course I had to buy those books, and now in my spare time I am reading one of them.

Memorial Day weekend begins the social season of summer in the United States, even though the solstice is on June 21. I am on my summer schedule, and I have already heard my first cicada of the summer. I’m still waiting for the lightning bugs to appear. J.

Trouble rarely comes alone

My daughters dance. They dance in competitions, and some of them have reached championship levels. They also dance for programs. They dance in schools and nursing homes and libraries. They dance in community events and ethnic festivals. They dance in parades. They dance in churches and in taverns.

Because they dance, they also practice. Imitating an idea of their dance teacher, I bought four 4 x 8 sheets of plywood and taped them to the garage floor to give them a private dance studio. The wood warps and flattens due to weather conditions, and the duct tape has to be replaced periodically, but the convenience of a place to dance cannot be beat. All they have to do is open the garage door, back the car onto the driveway, plug in their music, and they are ready to dance.

Our house includes a two-car garage with two steel garage doors. Since the day we moved in, half the garage has been filled with boxes of things that are not a car. (Yes, even with a 388 square-foot workshop and storage shed, we also had to keep things in the garage.) Over time, the contents of the garage have changed. More and more, they include the property of family members who have gone off to college—and I am very happy that none of those boxes were transferred into the shed.

One of the garage doors, the one on the storage side, broke several years ago. The door tangled with something, probably a bicycle, and the steel cracked and tore at the top of the door. The door could still be opened and closed manually, after I fixed it with some scrap lumber, but it could no longer handle the energy of the mechanical opener. I knew that the door would have to be replaced before the house could be sold, but we were willing to live with a faulty garage door.

When the shed burned two weeks ago, the items that could be rescued, and some that are being inventoried to be replaced, were moved into the garage. That means that the car sits in the driveway now, and it also means that the dance studio is closed until further notice. One of my daughters moved a few items to get to one sheet of plywood, which she pulled onto the lawn to practice. She left the plywood out, but I didn’t want the grass to die, so I put it away. Later that night another daughter wanted to practice. I told her she could get the plywood out again, but I wanted it returned to the garage when she was done.

She did not put the plywood far enough into the garage before closing the door. The door tangled with the plywood and began to crack and tear the same way that the first door had broken.

I researched online to check the cost of a new garage door. First I looked at the web sites of the big hardware stores to learn what the doors alone would cost. Then I researched the work required to install a garage door. In the past I have had to reattach springs that had broken, which is difficult enough; I decided that I could not handle the entire burden of replacing the doors. I found a local company that specializes in garage doors, noted that they had an online coupon, and made arrangements to have them provide and install the two doors.

The workman came Tuesday. That meant that I had to get up early Tuesday morning and empty half the garage so he would have room to work. I was carrying boxes of material left behind when family members went to college. I was carrying boxes of old toys—a toy kitchen set with a large box of plastic food and plates and so forth; a box of Lego blocks; a box of Lincoln Logs—you get the picture. I was also moving things that came from the shed and things that replaced what had been in the shed—a new lawnmower, a seven-foot artificial Christmas tree (which I assembled at the end of the driveway to air it out), rakes and shovels, a World War I footlocker that had belonged to my grandfather—again, you get the picture. The lawn was covered with boxes and assorted items. It looked as though we were having a lawn sale; I even joked about putting up a sign that would say, “Nothing here is for sale!” Then, when the garage doors were installed and the bill had been paid, I had to put all those things back into the garage.

As a result of all that lifting and carrying, I have irritated a pinched nerve in my neck. Every few years the problem flares up—some years ago I underwent three months of physical therapy after the family doctor discovered that I had lost strength in my right hand because I was not using it due to the pain. Although the pinch is in my neck, the pain extends the length of my right arm, often aching in my elbow and forearm. Two fingers in my right hand are numb. When I had physical therapy, I was taught stretching exercises that help to relieve the pressure on the nerve, so I am returning to those exercises, as well as occasionally swallowing medicine for the pain.

I am reporting problems, but I hope it does not sound as though I am complaining. I am happy to have two new garage doors; that work would have needed to be done when it came time to sell the house. I also need to repaint seven rooms, plus two bathrooms and three closets, and then replace the flooring before the house can be sold. Since I am hoping for a job offer in a different city, I might go ahead and start working on that painting soon. J.

Catching up

In the two weeks since my workroom/storage shed went up in flames, I’ve been dealing with that reality as well as reaching several other landmarks.

The insurance company sent a pair of adjusters to look at the damage and estimate the cost of repair and replacement. They indicated that contractors would probably prefer to raze the structure and build from the concrete slab rather than trying to replace all that was damaged by the fire. After considerable study, they estimated the cost of replacement, subtracted our deductible and depreciation, and handed me a check. The check had to be sent to the holder of the mortgage, since that company’s name is also on the check; someone will sign the check for the company and mail it back.

In addition to the cost of the building, my insurance policy also includes contents of the building. As a result, my family and I have spent much of the past two weeks listing everything that was in the shed, then researching the cost of replacement. That started the day after the fire, when I went to the hardware store to replace tools that I need to use this spring. The next replacement purchase was the lawnmower, which did not appear to be damaged, but which started once, ran twenty or thirty feet, and died, refusing to start again, even after I replaced the air filter. Children’s clothing and toys, which my family was gradually removing to donate to the church for its periodic rummage sale, now has to be listed, photographed, and in most cases discarded. Some homemade dresses are being saved for their nostalgic value. Then there’s the Christmas decorations. Many of the ceramic and glass figures were scalded by the fire. I will soon make arrangements with a professional cleaning company—recommended by the insurance company—to see what can be saved rather than replaced.

Meanwhile, I am inviting general contractors to place a bid on the work to replace the building. Many of my readers probably know a lot about general contractors, but some might not know about them. (Mrs. Dim didn’t understand them. When I asked her if she could recommend a general contractor, she told me not to use the one she had used. He showed up once, then took her money but sent other people to do the work.) General contractors oversee a building project, but they hire various specialists, such as carpenters, roofers, and electricians, to do the work. A person can save money by not using a general contractor, but that saved money is balanced by the time it takes to negotiate with each specialist, along with the necessity of knowing enough about construction to speak with those workers and to know that they are doing what they should be doing. The insurance company recommends a general contractor.

One general contractor came to the property the same day she was called and promised to email a bid. I haven’t received that email yet. A second general contractor did not return the phone call for two days, promised to come by on a certain day, and did not show up. A third came to look at the shed and wanted to know how much money the insurance company provided so his bid could match the insurance payment. I told him I planned to get several bids and compare them all to the insurance company’s evaluation, but he said he would submit a bid with a paragraph promising to adjust his figures. I’m hoping to receive one more bid, so I have three to compare.

All this overlaps wrapping up the school year and preparing to teach a summer class. At the same time, I have started my summer writing project, a study of the parables of Jesus. (I will post a few chapters, but since I plan to publish the whole book through amazon, I don’t want to share the entire work for free.) My car—a 1999 Ford Escort—crossed the 200,000 mile mark this month. I have seen license plates from forty-seven different states this year, but I am still looking for Maine, Rhode Island, and Delaware. And the exhibit I curated is open until the first of July. J.

Up in flames

When I went to bed last night, I wondered if I would think in the morning that the day’s events had been just a bad dream. But the smell of smoke was too pervasive and the memories too vivid for me to think that I had dreamed about the fire.

The day began normally. I had been at work for two hours when the phone rang. I answered it and heard a voice saying, “The storage shed is on fire! I’ve called 911, but they aren’t here yet!”

People like me want to believe that we respond calmly to a crisis. Sometimes people like me say foolish things calmly in a crisis. “Do you think I should come home, then?” I asked. Of course I was out the door and on my way home as quickly as possible.

The drive home takes twenty minutes. I spent those minutes praying two things–that no one would be hurt, and that the house would be protected. I also reminded myself to breathe and to pay attention to traffic. The fire trucks were there when I arrived home, so I parked down the street. The fire was contained by then, and the firefighters were preparing to soak the contents of the shed to ensure that no hot spots would reignite.

A family member had used a power tool in the shed that morning. She did nothing wrong–she used the tool correctly and put it away when she was done. But some fault in the outlet began a small smoldering that was not immediately evident. Twenty minutes later, the same family member took some garbage to the curb and decided to bring back the recycling bin–the latter task is something I generally do when I come home Friday evenings. Her spontaneous decision to do so yesterday gave the opportunity for her to see flames and smoke far sooner than they would have been noticed otherwise.

When we bought the house, the shed was already part of the property. It is about ten feet wide and twenty-five feet deep. The front end had workspaces with shelves underneath and pegboard on the walls for hanging tools. The back end had shelves on the walls for storage. To the right of the entrance we kept lawn and gardening tools and an area for potting plants; to the left was workspace for carpentry and the like, with hand tools hung on the wall and power tools on the shelf below. Beyond that was a work table with boxes of clothing and an antique, homemade dollhouse that had been given to the children. Beyond that were boxes of outgrown toys and clothing, disassembled cribs, and the like. On the back shelves were boxes of holiday decorations.

I was already doing triage in my head while I drove home. The tools were all replaceable and probably covered by insurance. The children’s clothing and toys were things we were slowly removing, donating them to the church for its rummage sale. The Christmas decorations would be the saddest loss, but I was resigned to that loss already so long as no one was hurt and the house remained safe.

No one was hurt. The house remained safe. The fire fighters had been delayed because they were giving a program at a school. One of the children had asked them what would happen if there was a fire somewhere while they were at the school. They had said they would leave to fight the fire. A minute or two later they got the call about our fire.

The lieutenant told us there was a clear V-shape of damage from the outlet where the fire began. It traveled up and then crossed the length of the shed, following the air flow. The lawnmower was on the floor of the shed. Although charred boxes fell onto it, it was undamaged. A tank of gasoline, half-full, was on the floor of the shed about five feet from where the fire began. It survived unscathed. The power tools, on the shelf under the work area, were likewise unharmed. The hand tools that had been hanging on the wall were gone. Our grill for cooking with charcoal was, of course, unharmed, but the electric starter for the coals melted completely and will need to be replaced.

After the firefighters left, I called our insurance company. As they began the claim process, they advised me to take pictures of the building and its contents, then to begin removing contents that were not damaged. After taking pictures, we started at the front, taking out the lawnmower and power tools and other items that had survived. The antique dollhouse was, ironically, harmed much in the pattern of the shed that contained it–most of the damage to the roof and upper structure. As we worked our way to the back of the shed, moving aside charred and burned boxes, we could see that the boxes holding Christmas decorations were darkened and soaked but not burnt. One by one we carefully carried those boxes to the driveway and inspected their contents.

We did not have time to do an item-by-item inspection. Some of the ceramic and glass decorations had been damaged by the fire, but we set all that aside to handle later. Most of the clothing that had been on the work table was merely soaked and smoke-scented. We spread those items out on the grass to dry and to freshen in the breeze. The day was dry, sunny, and windy, which made it ideal for rescuing the clothing. It looked much as if we were preparing for a garage sale, and we wondered if we should post a sign saying that these things were not for sale.

Some items came to mind before we could enter the shed; others came to mind as we worked our way through the shed. Four wooden folding chairs–probably older than I am–survived, although they will be to be refinished. Handmade children’s clothing of sentimental value was found and proved to be unhurt. Even a box holding a stamp collection was retrieved from a lower shelf, essentially unharmed. The primary loss was the building itself, but the insurance adjuster has not yet looked at it to tell us so.

In spite of the trauma of enduring a fire on our property, my family and I feel that we have been blessed by the Lord. No one was injured by the fire. The house was spared. (The corner of the shed where the fire began is about ten feet from the nearest corner of the house. Two large oak trees next to the shed could have spread the fire, but we’ve had a wet spring and they remained unsinged.) Insurance will cover most of the loss. I expect to order a dumpster and clear the remaining contents out of the shed. I have been hoping for a while to receive a job offer in another city; this event may have helped to prepare for a move by forcing us to deal with extraneous possessions before the urgency of packing. Many people (including some of our neighbors) can see only loss in a fire like this. My family and I see instead how all things work for good. J.