Up In Smoke….

Up In Smoke….

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I don’t think I will ever listen to “Ring Of Fire” again, and I LOVED THAT SONG. Have you ever had that feeling something bad was going to happen but you just didn’t know what or when? I have been having that feeling for quiet some time. I have been paying extra close attention while on the road, worried that the dang big rigs were going too fast and wouldn’t be watching what they were doing on my farm road. I have not been  driving at night as much. I have been checking on my kids more that normal. I have been saying extra prayers of protection over my family and I have even been telling my children to make sure to pay attention to what they are doing and of course to thank God everyday for His protection over us. Now, they have NO IDEA that I have had this feeling, BUT just the same, I have really been struggling with not being fearful of something bad happening. It is not like me. I am generally happy go lucky, but this has just happened to be a pretty crappy year personally (honestly this is why I haven’t blogged this whole year because I was raised “if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all” at least not publicly-ha! I just have a lot of talks with God about things).  So, I have had to work extremely hard on loving people in spite of them being ass holes, working on forgiveness even when people don’t deserve it, keeping my mouth shut when I feel like screaming from the mountain tops what people have done or what they are really like, trying to find one thing nice in everyone and focusing on that. Because in the end you can’t fix stupid, you can’t change ass holes, you can’t make people like you, or do what is right.  You are only in charge of what you think, feel, say and do.

I have been very excited that 2014 is coming to an end, due to it’s general “crappy” aura and starting fresh in 2015.  IT’S DECEMBER!!!!!! DECEMBER is my MOST FAVORITE TIME OF THE YEAR! I am the equivalent of Clark Griswold in a female version. I have been busy at the studio making Christmas gifts for customers to give to their loved ones, getting through Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, making the new purses, so I am seriously almost two weeks behind getting my Christmas decorations up! I had planned on doing it the week before Thanksgiving but I struggled with “it is a SACRILEGE to put Christmas up before Thanksgiving” so I made the decision to do it the Monday after Thanksgiving with JR and the boys. JR and Briggs would be back from hunting, I would be through with the studio for a few days, so it would be great. Kash and I ran in San Antonio to pick our Christmas tree, and have it ready for decorating when Daddy and Bubba got home.

The next morning the boys can’t stop talking about Christmas and decorating, lighting a fire in the fireplace and watching National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. That is a family tradition (it’s bad when you four year old knows the words so well he uses them on you when you’re driving on the highway and he thinks your going to fast, “I don’t want to spend the Holidays DEAD!”).  As we are  getting ready for school I let them know that we will work on putting up all the Christmas when we get home!  That afternoon I pick up Kash at 2 :45, and the first question out of his mouth is, “Did Daddy put the tree in the house?!” and I had to tell him no.  Adult things have happened today and Daddy hasn’t had time to do it. He really wanted to and he will do his best to get it done. Next we go back to get Briggs at 5 at our little school, and the first question he asks is , “Did Daddy put the tree in the house yet!?”.  I have to give Briggs the same answer. They are both not happy with my answer but understand. We head back to the studio so I can get a few more things done and they can get some homework done  (honestly I also needed to wait on JR because I can’t get all the Christmas in without him!).

By the time JR is done in town and we all head back to the farm it is after 7. Both boys are chompin’ at the bit to get the Christmas up! Bedtime is at 8, we still need dinner, baths, JR hasn’t got the Christmas in from the cinderblock house and so you know what’s coming next, right? “Guys, we are gonna have to do it tomorrow. I am so very sorry but sometimes days get away from you and things come up like they did for Daddy today and we just lost our time! I don’t know what tomorrow will hold either because Briggs has football practice ’till after dark and Daddy has a meeting in San Antonio, but I give you my word it will be this week if it kills me!”.  Yep, they grumbled and whined but by the end they understood.

Tuesday morning we are still discussing putting up the Christmas. By now maybe you are getting the feeling that Christmas at our house is a big deal. It looks like a department store! I have every room decorated! The boys have trees in their rooms with their own decorations that we started collecting for them when they were born.  My door frames are draped with garland and bows, I have mistletoe hanging in my kitchen door frame that hung when I was a child and my parents would sneak a kiss under.  Now JR and do! I have beautiful sugar plum wreaths and vintage glass ornaments that were my Grandma Tomlin’s and tons of other vintage ornaments that I have collected since I was in college in glass jars everywhere. I have so much you can’t shake a stick at it and I LOVE IT! My children love it, JR HATES putting it up, but secretly he loves it too! Our tree always touches the ceiling, and it is not full of new ornaments but mementos from my children, my childhood, JR’s childhood, my grandmas, my wedding, my friends, places we have traveled, my collection of McKenzie-Child’s ornaments that friends and family have given me for 20 years on my birthday. It has sugar plum garland and drips with ice crystals too!  It has pearl garland and SO MANY LIGHTS! And the BOW- well….anyway. It’s my favorite! Briggs has the most beautiful Nutcracker collection…..we started it with one of my Grandma’s collection and have added to it every year for him. Yep, we love Christmas.

When I picked up the boys Tuesday, I told them Daddy and I would have a big surprise for them on Wednesday! They tried to guess but I wouldn’t budge! I LOVE SUPRISES and so I try to do that for the boys when I can and they weren’t gonna talk me out of this one! We head home by 7 again and sit at the dinner table discussing our day and the Christmas program and say a pray for Daddy to get home safe from San Antonio (that bad feeling I was talking about at the beginning has never left, I have just learned to say prayers more often and ask God to continue to keep us safe).  I have the boys go take their bath and realize, when I am getting Kash out of the bath, that he has a very bad bite on his back. I bring him to Briggs and ask him if he noticed any wasps at school. Kash is allergic to them and he said he felt something get him as school. I just have to watch him for swelling. I was pretty worried about it.  I was putting Benadryl ointment on him when JR runs into the house…..his face was not right. He just looked at me. I said, “Hey Daddy, can you look at this bite, I am worried about it.” He said “Krista, the cinderblock house is on fire!” I said, “WHAT DID YOU SAY?” “The cinderblock house is on fire!”

So, let me explain a couple of things. First, I live in the first school house in Uvalde County- 1836 is about when it was built. I have a Woodsman of the World Hall building that was brought in and attached to the school house by the previous owners who lived there from early 60’s to when we bought it 16 years ago. We have been in it almost 11 year and we gutted it added central AC and heating, re-did the wiring, etc…. Second, The cinder block house is directly behind my room, which in the Hall, back about 50 or so feet. Because my house is so old I have no attic, one closet in the school house, we built a big one on our side where the Hall is, but we have no garage, no storage. That is what the cinderblock house is. I keep EVERYTHING in there. I trade out winter and summer clothes, I keep all my photos in there, antiques are in there, our taxes info is there, all my decoration for every season (yeah, I decorate for every season), JR has 90% of his hunting gear in there, so so much… Third, we are about 10 minutes from town.

I walked to him and he smelled like smoke. I said, “John, what do you mean, did you go out there? Let’s go put water on it! Go get the fire extinguisher!” At this point the boys are freaking out! I run to the back door and see the smoke and see flames coming from the roof. JR is pacing back and forth, I go to the side of the house and see the fire extinguisher. I run back to him and he has gone out the back door and is walking back toward the side of the house. The flames are growing and I start yelling, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! WHY ARE YOU NOT CALLING 911!” See, JR tends to freeze at first in these kind of situations. He was now pacing back and forth outside but at this point he was looking up the fire department number to call them direct. I found out that when he pulled up he saw the smoke, went to the barn, got the extinguisher, opened the door of the cinder block house and saw the fire pouring down the ceiling. So when I was yelling at him to put it out,  get the extinguisher, do something, he already had. When he was frozen it was because he knew I was going to loose all my treasures and he had already tried to save them but upon opening the door and seeing the fire, the blast of smoke he took in made him get out of there quick. He was frozen because he was thinking about what his next move was. 911 would have taken longer. They would have sent a deputy out first to see if there was a real fire. Calling the Uvalde Fire Department was the best bet but he had to look it up.  Saying all this to me was not happening so he paced.

Briggs ran to the back door and saw the flames jumping into the trees. We have huge oak tree, that hug each other and his fear was a canopy fire. It was mine too but I didn’t say it. He looked at me with so much fear and said, “We are gonna die!” I told him to gather himself. Never allow Satan to put thoughts like that in his head. Even if the fire took this house we had each other and just pray. I told him to go put his socks, shoes, and coat on and then to do the same for his brother. The boys and I were all in our pajamas about to get in bed when all of this started. I ran to my room, grabbed a sweater and my boots and got the boys. We went out side to JR, and move all the cars for the when the fire department came. I kept hearing all this popping and JR yelled, “GET BACK!! THAT IS AMMO GOING OFF!” I had forgotten that almost half of an entire back wall of that house was full of ammunition JR has been collecting over years and years for Zombie Apocalypse. I had my phone with me so I videoed what was happening. I guess because I just couldn’t believe it. It was like a metaphor for what I felt like the year has been. I just sat there and watched. Then it hit me. All of the things I treasured. So many of my grandmother’s antiques (The dresser she put her makeup on at everyday of my life till she couldn’t do it herself anymore. I was going to redo and put in my house after Christmas), JR’s grandmother’s antiques, my baby crib, my boys baby crib, by mom’s high chair, my wedding quilt, picture upon pic that I can’t replace, baby blankets I was saving for my daughter in laws that I pray daily for. Books, books from 1850’s about Catholic religion, Baptist religion, and more, collections of 1900’s Science books and history books that I had bough for the boys, and other old books, out of print atlas’, vintage maps, branding irons from the 40’s. I cried and cried.  So much was in there. JR left to go meet the trucks at our front gate as the boys and I stood there and watched. I don’t know if you have ever experienced watching your things burn to the ground but it is excruciating. When I saw the posse coming down our road a since of relief began to hit me. I had ran back in the house to get my purse while Briggs stayed with Kash and I looked out my window in my room where my bed is. If they had they been 20 minutes longer the trees would have burst into flames and my room would have caught fire. The heat was so intense from the cinder block house to my bed room I had to get out of there. I was scared to death. I mean scared.

I ran back to my boys and watch these everyday heroes come to help us. I told the boys to start praying for these men’s safety. Kash thanked everyone of them as they raced by us. He looked at me and said, “Mama, I will be a fireman when I grow up.” I told him one of my most favorite men in the world is his name sake, Jack Tomlin, my Grandpa, his Great Grandpa, and he was a fireman and the fire captain in McAllen for many, many years. It is in his blood. Helping others is what God calls us to do. Grandpa Tomlin would be proud if he became a fireman. Briggs was just scared. I felt so bad for him. Being 10 is hard. Things are now VERY REAL at 10. So I just held him and cried with him and told him we were fine. After an hour of watching this I was done. I couldn’t bare it anymore. It’s a slow torcher. The firemen had most of it out by now and the trees were no longer a danger and the popping had stopped. I took the boys in the house who quickly said they were both getting in my bed and putting on a Santa movie.  I went and sat on my couch and cried some more. Now I know what the bad feeling was. This was it. I never saw THIS coming though. I knew it was something, but FIRE? Then another wave hit me, I walked back out to JR who was with our Fire Chief watching the guys still find hot spots, and I said, “JR, did you go out to the house to try to put out the fire before you came and told me there was a fire?!” “Yes.” “You mean to tell me, you saw the smoke, and the flames coming from the roof and you opened the door?!!” “Yes.”  Neal and I just shook our head. I proceeded to ask Neal to remind him what is the first thing we learn in school from the fireman? IF YOU SEE SMOKE OR FIRE TO TOUCH THE DOOR AND IF IT’S HOT DO NOT OPEN IT!!!!! Then I begin to cry again because I realize he could have been burned or killed!!!THE AMMO WENT OFF FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR AND A HALF!!!! That is how much was in there! IT COULD HAVE HIT HIM!!! I mean seriously, hasn’t he seen Backdraft!!!!  JR said, “I was trying to save your stuff by there was so much smoke when I opened the door it blew me back!” No, JR that was a big hairy angel with smoke breath pushing you back!

Finally the water truck and the all the firemen had the fire put out. At 8 pm is when I found out and after 10 we were wrapping up. JR and went inside and hugged our boys and thanked The Good Lord for it not being worse and keeping us safe and all the men who helped us. Then I caved. Kash held my hand as we slept and said I will make you new treasures Mama. I can make all of that stuff again. Sweet boy. God bless him. I woke up at there having a nightmare JR was screaming for me. Then it all started again. I cried and cried and have had a hard time not crying.  It is DECEMBER!!!! My favorite time.  I am now pushing through. JR put the tree in yesterday and it is bare. I sat in my living room last night looking at my house and our bare tree and cried. For those of you don’t keep things you may not understand but I keep things. And my Christmas tree was full of keepsakes. I don’t have the best memory in the world so I keep things to help me remember.  When I touch that certain something then I remember. I am not a hoarder by any means but I am very sentimental. My tree was a reflection of who and what I love. I had an ornament on there from my very first friend in San Antonio, Michelle Edgerton. She gave it me in ’85 I think. She has the same one. I have had it on my tree every year since then. I look at it and it bough back such great memories for me. It is gone along with all of the treasures, gone up in smoke. Yes, I know, “treasure people, not things”.  I live far from those I love and treasure and the things bring me close to them. Yes, “Look at the bright side, you didn’t loose your house and your family is safe.” I AM!!!! I swear though, if I hear that one more time I may throat punch someone! OF COURSE I am looking at the bright side, but at the same time I sit here thinking, “I am sad, I am pissed off! I want my treasures! I hate this for my kids!  I HATE fire!”.  It is beautiful in a fireplace but other than that I am not a fan. I will push through this just like I have pushed through this year. BUT UNCLE.

Here is the most interesting part: Last year at this time, same time in the evening too, an antique standing mirror fell on Kash, who was 3 at the time, at our house. It gashed open his forehead, and almost cut off the side of his nose. It was a miracle the glass didn’t cut a main artery.  Briggs was so good in that situation while JR paced for a bit then got it together.  On Tuesday JR was supposed to go back to Alpine but ended up having to go to San Antonio for a meeting, so he stayed. We planned on him and I decorating the house all day Wednesday and surprising the boys when they came home from school Wednesday afternoon. No surprise now. Had JR been gone, I would have put the boys in bed with me, crawled into my bed read them a book or two and fallen asleep. See, I never smelled the smoke and I didn’t realize that my batteries are out on my smoke alarms. I am also a very hard sleeper. The fire would have engulfed the cinderblock, canopy fired in the trees and hit my all wood house. I can not bare to think of the rest. God is good. He answered my prayers in spite of me and the things I am working on. I may be mad, it may have been one of the crappiest year I have ever had, I may be heart broke right now, but joy comes in the morning! End the end, it is what it all is!



P.S. What started the fire? We are not quiet sure but when JR opened the door at first he saw those old fluorescent lights from the 60’s on fire, and that is what was dripping with the fire. Our fire chief said 9 times out of 10 those start them every time. If you have them remove them and make sure all your smoke alarms have working batteries! And stop and hug the next fireman you see. Hug all the every day heroes who risk their lives daily to save ours. After I stood in the ash and smelled that smell I will never know how they do what they do. Hug your family, thank God for what you have, forget the ass holes, if you are one, stop it :P!

“This is a full-blown four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on. We’re going to have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny f’ing Kaye!”-Clark Griswold (and Krista) 😛