I was reading a friend’s blog last night (fellow artist, Anne Butera) and her post inspired me to write this bit about my life lessons with white tennis shoes. It’s funny the little things in life that teach you Life lessons that you never forget. It’s a little drippy.

Being a hoarder by nature, I tend to hang onto many things and save them for ‘someday’. Until this ‘incident’ I’m about to tell you about was a punch in the gut reminder about living life to the fullest and celebrating each trivial moment.

Mostly, I remember a new pair of white tennis shoes. The year was 1994, I had gotten married in May of that year and my husband and I had just moved into our first house and first mortgage. Some things were still in boxes as I was busy and had quite a lot of things already for a 24 year old. But I had managed to set up house with passed down pretties arranged about, new wedding gifts along with our photos from our engagement and wedding proudly displayed.

By the back door, sat our row of shoes. Along side of a very worn and ‘broke in’ pair of shoes were my very white tennis shoes that had been worn less than a handful of times since they were being kept ‘for good’. I would wear my tattered shoes all the time not really deeming anywhere I went on a regular basis as worth breaking out my ‘good ones’ I was saving for who knows what. But then it happened. Less than two weeks of moving in, our new to us home caught on fire.

It was a cold December night. We only lived two miles from the fire station, but it was a volunteer department. One of the few down sides of living in the country, sadly. We had no neighbors, no one heard my screams.

At first, before I understood it was fire, I thought our wood burner had backed up. Smoke was everywhere. I called my in laws and asked them what to do (they lived 20 minutes away) My mother in law said my father in law would come help me. I quickly went in the back room where it was and thought it odd that smoke wasn’t coming out of burner.  I remember thinking to myself thoroughly annoyed mind you about what a mess all this smoke was going to make and I was probably going to have to wash all the clothes, curtains and walls. I went about opening all the windows I could with the alarm blaring. Smoke was billowing down from the ceiling very fast. My cats were panicked, following at my feet. It got to where I had to duck to breathe.

I realized this was more than a backed up wood burner and I grabbed my cats and took them out to the truck. I ran back in and then saw flames shooting out of the ceiling where the wall met it. I rushed to the kitchen and called 911. They asked if I was still in the house and when I said yes they said lay the phone down and get out. I did what I was told.

There are two sensations that stay with me strongly to this day, 20 years later. First, the sound of the fire. It angrily roared and was deafening. Second, when I ran outside to wait for help to come, it was so crisp and so cold outside. I looked up to the stars with the sound of fire now ravaging my home. I remember how dark it was but with shades of beautiful blue (like Prussian Blue) and there were millions of stars. I could see what looked like the milky way, wisps of smoky like stars so far away. It was breathtaking. For just a moment, I didn’t hear the roaring and I felt peace wash over me as I looked to the heavens and I knew I would be alright.

I calmly walked back into the house and got a plastic tea pitcher out from under the sink and filled it up with water. Well I was tired of waiting and no one coming while my house was blazing! I went back into the burning room and threw the water up as best as I could without breathing. I did this quite a few times before my husband’s father showed up and together we tried to get the hose hooked up and reach the back room. It did not.

I did not want to give up. My father in law tried in vain to get me to wait outside as he stood by the back door. Finally, the fire fighters showed up and made me get out. It was extremely hot by this point and burning my face and hands. Knowing it was over, I headed for the door hunched over from the smoke. Ironically, I had to step over my white tennis shoes that had been trampled by this time to get out the door.

Insurance considered it a total loss and my ‘good shoes’ were a memory along with lots of truly cherished items left to me by my grandmother. I salvaged, then scrubbed and cleaned as much as I could that wasn’t ashes. I was told the fire was the hottest they had encountered and that it reignited twice after they left.

Our home in Marion, Kentucky after the fire

The back door where we kept our shoes and on the ground, my plastic pitcher I tried so hard to put out the fire with

Kitchen after the fire

I found this quote that I think sums up life when you experience loss as we all do in many forms.

“I get it now; I didn’t get it then. That life is about losing and about doing it as gracefully as possible…and enjoying everything in between.” ~ Mia Farrow

My white tennis shoes taught me valuable life lessons.

  • Number one: ALWAYS have fresh batteries in your smoke detector – it along with my Guardian Angel truly saved my life. The fire happened while I was alone and asleep. I made the 911 call at about 2:30 a.m. Seriously, go change your batteries and remember to test your smoke detector every so often. They should also be replaced every 5 years. It could save you or your family’s life.
  • Number two: Cherish your treasures but use and share them often! Allow yourself, your friends and loved ones to enjoy them with you. What good is it to be hoarded away? Life is a gift, enjoy it… celebrate the smallest of things. We have nothing without love, family, friends and memories. Material things aren’t worth near as much as a life well lived life that is rich with experiences with friends and family.
  • Number three: Tell the people who mean a lot to you, just that. Give hugs freely every time you meet and part. Say I love you everyday. Hold no grudges – forgive freely, never withhold love, say I’m sorry without resentment ~ Be released. Choose to be happy.

“There are no pockets in a shroud.” ~Author Unknown

“I choose to be happy.” ~Jaime Haney

On a side note:

The painting used as my featured image part of a whole titled “Valley of the shadow”. It is an oil painting that I have put aside trying to decide if it’s finished yet or not. It’s a visual story of that night and highly symbolic to me.

Whole painting of "Valley of the Shadow"


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