Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thirty Years Ago This Month

I thought of this a few weeks back while sitting by Ben & Tricia's Christmas tree and just sorta reflecting and whatnot...

I was reminded of it by all the kid-made things they have on their tree.

Thirty years ago this month, Mr. Smith asked his 6th grade class (which included me) to make ornaments for his tree. He wanted us to put our names on them, so when he looked at them years later, he could say, "Oh yes, Mark Riggs, I remember when he was in my class."

I'm pretty sure he didn't use me as an example, but you get the idea. He said something like that and used a kid as an example.

I remember I put one of my 6th grade pictures on my ornament, to help him remember me.

While sitting and staring at Ben & Tricia's tree, I wondered if Mr. Smith still has that ornament (and the one Tricia and the rest of the class made, for that matter). Speaking as a teacher, probably not. Speaking as a packrat, it's possible.

So it remains a holiday mystery.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pictures From My Burned-Up Bedroom (And Bathroom)

Here are some pics from my stairway, bathroom and bedroom. Enjoy!

This was my first clue that something was wrong... those streaks don't belong!

This wasn't so visible when I to this part of the stairwell--it was pretty dark.

Imagine seeing this with only the light coming through the window (and thinking there should be a shower curtain in front of the window).

But it was when I set my laundry basket on this surface in the near-pitch-blackness that I put everything together and figured out something was very, very wrong!

The rest of this I'm going to try to put together in another post. It'll be captionless, but will go up more quickly!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Short Version: Fire At My Place

Ruth and I just spent a couple of days getting Dane moved from Jefferson City to Jefferson Place Apartments in Olathe. This is enough stress for me, in my opinion, but apparently my opinion doesn't count.

So, I'm driving down the street to my place tonight, and I notice the porch light is off. As a residual reaction from more stressful financial days, I first wonder if I didn't pay the electric bill.

As I walk in the front door, I smell the past tense of a fire. The place wasn't filled with smoke (the downstairs lights worked fine). I thought maybe a piece of paper got on a heating vent and that's what I was smelling. I checked the living room, the dining room, and then went into the kitchen.

When I tried the kitchen light, it didn't work. At this point I thought maybe a breaker blew and that's the former-fire-like smell I was picking up. I decided to go ahead and get the other laundry basket out of the car and take it upstairs.

As I'm going upstairs, I realize the lights are off upstairs (the upstairs everything is connected to the porch light--and apparently the kitchen and dining room lights... maybe. I was just thinking how I should maybe go down the the basement and check on that breaker when I notice it looks like water or something had been running down the wall by the stairs.

So my new theory was that a branch or something landed on the roof, water got in (I wasn't sure if it had rained or what while I was gone), and that caused some electrical issue, and that's why I smelled the past tense of fire and the lights weren't all working.

I decide to go on upstairs, with the theory in my head that there's a hole in the roof. I can tell by the light coming in the bathroom window that there's something odd about the shower. I have a shower curtain hanging up in front of the window in the shower--as the window isn't opaque at all.

I'm starting to wonder if a huge chunk of the roof is gone, but that doesn't seem right, as it's freezing cold outside and not so much inside... but I still think I was sticking with this theory.

I walk into the bedroom and set the clothes basket on the bed. I can do this in the dark because I've done it so many times before.


Based on my previous theory, my first thought was there were a bunch of dead leaves on my bed.

I reached down and touched the bed, and whatever I touched fell away as I touched it.

Insert a moment of insanity here. The sad thing is, if we were to ever travel back in time, it would be too dark to make out my facial expression.

I try to use my cell phone to get some light. I can't see anything at first, but then realize the bed has been burned to a crisp.

Seriously: burned to a crisp.

My first instinct is to reach down to where the space heater is, and touch the buttons--to feel if they're on or off. Of course, I can't remember which is which, so I then hold the phone up to the buttons to actually see.

I can't really make anything out with such little light, so I go downstairs for a flashlight.

On my way down, I call Tricia. I figure they're not TOO far asleep at this point, as I'd left there not long ago--and I figure I'd be staying there if it turns out I'm not dreaming the whole bed-is-a-pile-of-ashes thing.

While talking to Tricia, I go back up with the flashlight. I hope I get pictures of this, because I'm not sure I can describe it. I guess it's a fire miracle, as the house is still standing, and the roof isn't burned up.

It looks like my bed just burned up, melting stuff around it, but not catching anything else on fire. Books that were less than a foot from the bed look more heat-damaged than anything else.

Oh, and I think I figured out where the fire started--but I'm not trained in that sort of thing, so I could be wrong. Tricia was adamant that I call the fire department, and I wasn't sure how to reach them--I mean, 911 is for emergencies. Turns out there's a non-emergency number in the phone book.

They send a couple of guys over to check things out. I explain my theory, but they're all weirded out by the fact only the bed is burned (and a patch of carpet by the bed). Everything else was damaged by the heat more than the first, it appears.

So they say they have to call in the arson specialist!

Well, I am a teacher. So arson isn't out of the question, right?

One guy goes and checks the breaker box, and a breaker had been tripped, so they think it was something electrical--but the arson specialist will still have to check things out tomorrow (or today, many hours from now).

So let's focus on the positive: The downstairs is pretty much unscathed. (Febreeze gets out past-tense-fire smell, right?)

I wasn't in the bed when this whole thing happened.

My new laptop was downstairs at the time.

The first probably ran out of oxygen, and nothing too upsetting was totally destroyed (although the book I was reading is now a pile of ashes--I'd left it on the bed... along with another book, actually. Oh yeah, positive...)

So that's what I'm dealing with right now. I'm going to work tomorrow, as I have a full week, and I'm not sure what good I'd be standing in my charred upstairs. I don't know. Maybe I won't go to school tomorrow--well, if I don't, I'll still have to go in to set up plans, etc., but you know what I mean.

Check it out: The first year in years that I haven't done the fire-hazard-y tree and house-lights--and here I am without a bed, and maybe without a place to live for a while! What's up with that.

Remember to pray for my friend who is having a little surgery on that tumorness tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

On A Lighter Note: Snow

A beautiful thing:

Middle school kids are too cool for a lot of things... but they aren't too cool to stare wistfully out a window when a heavy snow is falling. Probably they're dreaming of a snow day, but I think they also get caught up in the sheer beauty and peacefulness of it. Or maybe I'm displacing. Whatever, it's a beautiful thing.

First, The Heavy Stuff

As I was driving to Ben & Tricia's on Sunday, I noticed the Perkins on Santa Fe had it's gigantic flag at half mast. At first I thought maybe somebody important had died that day--or some big thing happened. As it's after Thanksgiving and before Epiphany, I have holiday music going in my car 24/7, and am pretty much out of the news loop... so it was possible I'd missed something big from Saturday.

Then I remembered it was December, and thought maybe it could be for the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor... which was immediately followed by an embarrassing debate about the date of that event. Basically, I always think it's December 11th, for several reasons, the least of which not being that 11th and 7th rhyme.

Anyway, I somehow found the right synapse that was grounded in solid memory, and remembered it was a 1-digit day, not a 2-digit day.

This then led me to think about Uncle Bud, who died at Iwo Jima (I know I've mentioned this elsewhere in this lengthy (and often typographical-error-filled) blog). I was just struck by the notion that 67 years ago, he was... 16, I think. He might have had some inkling that this was going to be a big deal, and he was a young man approaching 18, and the odds were he'd be going off to war...

That then led me to think, "And some number of days later, he was dead."

Which is just a sort of simple thought that my mind finds mind-blowing at times.

So I spent the past couple of days googling different things. First, he's on the internet. How odd is it that you can find my dead uncle on the internet. Not his photo, or his diary or anything. Just his name.

And some other information, it turns out.

I knew the story of his death--at least the one related to mom and the rest of the family by a man who came to see them after the war (or maybe after he was discharged, as I remember Mom saying he had been missing at least a limb or four). He said he was there at the time. Uncle Bud was medical (Pharmacist's Mate, 3rd Class), and didn't have a weapon. When everyone around him was down, he did the country boy thing and threw rocks. And he died.

Less that 1,200 days after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Less than 40 months later.

But, guess what: He's in a book, even! At least, his name is. I have yet to see a copy of the book... maybe there's a picture, but I doubt it. And he's mentioned in a obituary from 2004... and that makes me wish I'd thought to look around on the internet five years or so ago--I could maybe have found someone who knew him while he was overseas.

For a long time, whenever I'd think of Uncle Bud, I'd dream about going to visit Iwo Jima, for reasons I'm not sure I understand.

I probably won't, but it's okay: I found pictures. It looks a lot different than I imagined. I figured it'd all be in black and white. Everything else was back then. As Calvin's father explained in one strip, things used to be in black and white, and then one day everything was in color...

Anyway, that was the first heavy thing. Just a depressing subject to start off a heavy post.

The other thing is a prayer request. I have a friend with what amounts to a brain tumor (or tumors). I'm not going to post a lot here, as I haven't spoken with her about giving names, etc., but you can just say, "Mark's friend with the brain tumor or tumors". God will know who you mean.

They're going to remove some of it (them) on Monday, and they'll know more at that time. Apparently an operation to remove all of it (them) isn't an option, and they need to find out how to treat it (them).

So, a long Iwo Jima obsession posting, followed by a prayer request. I'm here to keep y'all entertained... both of you!