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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother | Tag Archive | house fire
Tag Archive - house fire

Ten Years Post Fire & Why I Love Evansville, Indiana

'House Fire' photo (c) 2009, Doug Shick - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/On the night of August 11, 2001, our home burned, along with our 1-year-old mom and pop shop business. We rebuilt, and our business survived, by the grace of God and with the help of good friends.

Neither Richard nor I grew up in Evansville. We’re both transplants. That night, and the months that followed, changed our lives forever. I can never thank enough those who helped us survive. Some heroic memories last forever:

  • Bob and Steve working with Richard, pushing and dragging our office equipment over wet, debris covered stairs.
  • Jean, Kathy, Lori, and Andrea helping me salvage some pictures and family items – and then finding clothes to lend our family.
  • Friends who hosted a rebuilding party so we could set up a temporary home in an apartment.
  • Friends who helped us find temporary office space and equipment.
  • Local contractors who helped us pack out, demolish, and rebuild in 3 months.

In my soon to be released book, He Uses It For Good, I describe how so many friends did what they could to help us. God used them all to carry us during a terrible time.

The morning after our fire, we went to Church, albeit in borrowed clothes, with no home, no idea how to save our business, and no clue how we would survive. I think it was more humbling to see my children in borrowed clothes than my own wearing them. How would we provide for our children?

By the grace of God, and the heart and grit of Evansville friends, we survived. We may have been transplants, but our Evansville friends made us feel as welcome as family.

That Sunday morning, on my knees, I begged God to carry us. Other than a Sunday after a broken arm and one after surgery, I’ve been in Church every Sunday since. The first thing I do is thank God that He blessed us another week.

Then, I thank God for bringing me to Evansville, Indiana, the land – and the city – I love.

6 Steps to Advocate and Protect Your Own

Squeaky wheels get the grease. I’ve effectively used the same advocacy steps in tough medical, educational, and insurance challenges.

My challenges?

  1. Medical – because of a rare blood incompatibility (PLA1-), I destroy baby platelets. My son’s pregnancy included 4 PUBS, 5 weeks of high dose IvIgg treatments, and a month-long hospital stay.
  2. Educational – 1 of my children needed intensive early intervention.
  3. Insurance - 10 years ago, our home burned, and we had to rebuild.

I used the same steps to get my son medical treatment he needed, obtained needed speech therapy, and rebuild our home.

  1. Assess. Determine the issues, the players, and your resources.
  2. Organize. I use binders with dividers and prep like I’m an attorney getting ready for trial. During my son’s pregnancy, I kept a file of all diagnoses, lab results, and insurance correpondence. We took it to each appointment and procedure. With our IEP meetings, I kept a binder with diagnoses, insurance correspondence, school correspondence, along with applicable state and federal laws. For our fire recovery, I compiled a file bucket for claim information, orders, and contractor estimates.
  3. Plan for meetings. Before tough meetings, write your talking points. Simplify them to 3-4 points and 1 to 2 goals. Keep those in front of you to stay focused. Just before a tough meeting, I pray, asking God to help me do what’s needed.
  4. Delegate. Evaluate your talent pool and delegate. Delegate roles during meetings – who argues, who takes note, and who’s the good cop.
  5. Find experts. During my son’s pregnancy, I found the world’s leading expert in New York, spoke with him, and convinced insurance to cover his consultation. With our speech therapy issue, I found the world’s leading expert (at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN) in his problem, took my son to meet him and be diagnosed, and asked him to help us advocate for services in our local school system. When we disagreed with our fire reconstruction contractor on replacement of a bedroom ceiling, I brought in an engineer friend who backed up my concerns; after it was demolished, they found mold growing in it post fire.
  6. Use the Internet. Tweet, email, and blog to find other resources.

Sometimes, with those you love, your job is to be the squeaky wheel. Your agenda is their health and well-being – not policy, protocol, or bottom lines. Squeak loud, early, and often till you get the needed grease.

This is a chess game – with lifechanging stakes. Sometimes, the survival of a crisis depends on who’s the best advocate.

Advocate. Protect Your Own.

Christmas Lights

On August 11, 2001, our home and business burned. A month later, September 11 attacks changed our world.  We returned to our rebuilt home just before Thanksgiving and continued to rebuild our lives that Christmas season. 

I wanted somehow to show our kids, ages 5 and 7, that in times of great loss, we celebrate new beginnings and hope for the future  – and to inspire and encourage neighbors on our quiet, urban street. Thus began Operation Christmas Lights.

That December, a friend and I collected milk jugs and asked our friends to help.  We collected over 50 jugs, made Chinese lanterns of them with votive candles and kitty litter, and attached a Christmas card to each milk jug handle.  It  took us days to complete.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, our families worked up two city blocks, placing a lantern in front of each home.  I was nervous placing candles in front of some of our neighbors’ homes; sometimes inner city neighbors are volatile.  It was growing dark, the wind began to whip, and we hurried to light the candles before our family went to Christmas Eve services.  I couldn’t be late because the kids were singing before the service, and I was “volunteered” to direct them!

A light dusting of snow began to fall while we were in the service.  When we returned home, the white snow dusted the street and sidewalks and reflected off the dark night sky.   There was a unique calm and silence on our street.  In front of each house, reflecting against the snow, were our recycled milk jug Christmas lights.  They lit the path to our newly rebuilt home. 

The neighbor I most paused at leaving a light in front of had rearranged the milk jugs so there were three lights in front of her home.  Even they caught the Christmas spirit that evening.

My prayer now, as my kids are teens, is that they remember to share the light they have with others, especially in bad times. And they know no matter how bad things are, there will always be a path of lights leading them home for Christmas.