January 18, 2017

The totality (and impact) of losing everything


This is not, by any means, the most lighthearted of topics for my second entry of new year, I know, but I feel that in order to proceed forward and start afresh in my life, I truly need to share these thoughts with all of you.

As we sit here just over half of the way through January, it strikes me that it is entirely possible that the complete impact - insomuch as it pertains to our lives in the much longer run - may not have even fully presented itself yet, but again, I want and need to get some of these thoughts and reflections down on virtual paper all the same.

Most of you are aware that three months ago now, in mid-October, Tony and I lost our home, virtually all of our possessions, and our precious cat, Stella, when an arson fire destroyed the entire fourplex that our home belonged to.



{Exceptionally large volumes of water were required by the local fire department to put the multi-home blaze that destroyed our house out on the night of October 13th. It took several hours, but they were eventually successful in quashing the blaze before it spread to any of the dozens of other condos/townhouses in the immediate area. The end result of such though was that on top of the smoke and fire damage itself, our possessions were greatly harmed by water as well, including over five whole feet worth's that was shot into the basement alone - as you can imagine, everything there was a total write off, as was very nearly everything else in the whole house. Vintage image source.}



In the immediate aftermath, shock and disbelief filled our days. Our brains – or at least mine - fluctuated constantly from feeling completely foggy to clear as a bell. Adrenaline fueled us onward for weeks, sleep was elusive (and fraught with nightmares when it did happen), and we absolutely had to focus on tasks like the arduous insurance claim process, getting an approved removal crew into the burned out remains of our house (this step was required for our insurance claim), and buying those day-to-day staples of life that were most pressing and important.

Amidst this chaos, emotions soared, hearts ached, and a sense of disbelief rang out across the crisp autumn air. One day we had a happy home filled with our belongings, I was running my Etsy shop, our pets were both fine, and we were getting ready to celebrate our wedding anniversary the very next day (October 14th).

Then, that night, everything changed instantly when one person's staggeringly malicious, thoughtless and life threatening act destroyed just about everything under our roof (save, thank goodness, for our own lives and that of our precious dog, Annie).

More than mere things themselves, I was struck almost instantly by the haunting sense that I had lost my very identity (or at least a sizable portion of it) - as well as the cocoon of comfort and serenity that I had build up for myself throughout my adult life.

As a someone who does relentless battle day in and day out with multiple severe chronic illnesses and who is frequently far too unwell to leave the house for days, weeks, and sometimes even months at a time, my home was my beautiful sanctuary. It wasn't huge, but it teemed with items of all sorts that brought me incredible joy and peace, inspiration and comfort.

In many ways, it really did feel like a suit of armour that helped, at least in part, to shield me from whatever life threw our way - that is until it vanished quite literally in a (giant) puff of smoke.

I remember, shortly after the fire, sitting on my parent's couch one morning - borrowed clothing hanging from my exhausted shoulders - and being struck by the fact that I felt an unforgettable mix of numbness, gut wrenching emotion, and as though I was witnessing someone else's life unfold before my eyes, as right then and there, my world no longer felt like my own.



{For the first few weeks immediately following the fire, I felt adrift without my usual wardrobe, surroundings and possessions. It was an alien and vastly unpleasant sensation and one that I would never wish on anyone. Thankfully, the more time that passes, the less this feeling takes center stage. Vintage image source.}


Mercifully, though elements of those feelings all still linger, something astonishing happened to help bring me back to myself: all of you.

From your staggeringly generous monetary donations, to your awesome care packages, to supporting us via the surprise of a lifetime that was the private VSS, literally thousands (in total) of caring emails, private messages, and blog comments, and scores of other amazing ways, the vintage community was there to catch me and Tony and Annie alike as we proverbially fell further and further into the abyss of this tragedy.

Your hands and hearts reached out to us. In some instances we didn't know yet know you, in others we'd been friends for many years, and in others still, we might have only been acquainted for a short while, but no matter what, you were there for us.

It was as humbling and touching a thing as either of us have ever experienced in our entire lives and the mere words "thank you" will never feel like enough to express our deepest of gratitude to all of you.

There is a great totality that comes with losing everything (again, virtually - we estimate that we lost at least 99.95% of everything that we had before the blaze and I really want to stress that, of course, while I'm speaking mostly from a first person perspective here, my darling husband Tony lost everything, too, and was likewise hit to his core by such) - especially when it is caused by someone else's hands and comes completely out of the blue.

"Everything" may be an easy ten letter word to say, but wrapping one's mind around - and fully accepting - what that really means in terms of your home and its contents is another beast entirely.

At first - and to a degree, still even now - the closest thing that my brain could compare how it felt to suddenly not be around my possessions any longer was to liken it to being on a holiday and having lost your luggage en route, thus seeing yo reach your destination with just the clothing on your back.

This was no vacation though - very far from it - and as we came came to grips with what losing everything really did entail, a barrage of emotions, thoughts and pain hit us hard. Yet we persevered.

We were alive and unscathed physically by the blaze, we had each other and Annie, and as dark as things were, a voice deep inside of us kept reminding us that there would be brighter days again - we would just need to be patient and keep working hard to make them happen.

Though most of you know me primarily because of my strong ties to, and passion for, all things vintage and I certainly lost a substantial amount of antique, vintage, vintage reproduction, and vintage appropriate items (some categories of which - such as hats, plastic jewelry, and mid-century novelty print skirts, as well as books, magazines and catalogs - continue to pain me more than I could have ever imagined their loss to do), that was not all that I lost by any means.


Some other key categories of my personal belonging included the following:

-A massive supply of scrapbooking, stamping and other paper crafting related supplies (honestly, I had more than I could probably have ever used in ten lifetimes and it was a collection that I was both proud of and extremely grateful for). As well, all of my completed scrapbooks were lost, too. That cuts to the core, let me tell you.

While fortunately I did have photographs that had been uploaded to Scrapbook.com of some of my finished projects, dozens of pages and cards hadn't been shared publicly yet and as my computer and our external hard drives were all destroyed in the fire, so too were the images of I had of these creations.

The loss of my craft room and its contents is on my mind constantly and, as time goes on, rebuilding a new version of it will be an immense priority for me, as crafting is essential to my happiness, well being, and the state of my health.


-A large supply of jewelry making products, tools, and related items including multiple totes full of vintage findings, cabochons, beads, charms, etc.

-A smaller, but still decent sized, selection of other assorted crafting supplies, including items for cross stitching, embroidery, sewing (sewing machine included), and holiday decor making.

-All of my photography equipment - Canon DSLR, lens, flashes, tripods, stands, backdrops, a white box, camera bags, etc. You name it, it was destroyed.

-Over 600 modern books (and hundreds of vintage ones, too), plus dozens and dozens of crafting and home decor related magazines.

-A substantial collection of Canadian and (to a lesser degree) international Girl Guide and Girl Scout patches, badges, pins, books, uniforms, and other related items, many of which would be next to impossible - due to their scarcity - to replace these days, even if one had Bill Gate's bank account at their disposal.

-A few dozen plush toys (stuffed animals), a few modern dolls (including some Pullips and their wardrobes), and even a few of my childhood toys.

-Oodles of Halloween and Christmas decor (including some family heirloom items), and a smaller array of decor for various other holidays.

-At least three large totes of items from my childhood + teenage years and another couple full of keepsakes, letters, and souvenirs pertaining to my adult life.

-A substantial number of items pertaining to my spirituality.

-Every single item (listed or unlisted at the time of the fire) for my Etsy vintage shop, as well as all of my props, packaging and shipping materials, and every thing else related to my business.




{Like most of us, I had amassed my possessions over the course of many years and listing everything would be quite the task, so I've opted to just focus on some of the key areas here, especially since they're the same ones that I'll be aiming to rebuild collections of from here on out. Vintage image source.}


There are were many other things, too - from family photo albums to 40+ metal cookie cutters, medical supplies to our printer - that were lost, as well scores of the sorts of things that most of us barely even think about on a day-to-day basis, such as toothbrushes, pots and pans, undergarments, vitamins, and countless other items.

As well, in losing my computer and external drive, I lost a great deal of information and images pertaining to my blog, including Word documents that housed hundreds of potential ideas for future blog posts, all of the images I’ve shared here over the years (including photos of myself), drafts of about twenty future blog posts, and research that had been gathered for dozens more.

I want, and need, to mention, that I don't list the physical items above or talk about what I used to own in any sort of (intentionally) bragging or even so-called "humble bragging" kind of way. That is , categorically, the polar opposite of the type of person that I am and I would never want anything that I do or say to come across in that way.

This post is being penning both as a healing tool for myself and, to a degree, for a sense of posterity, as well as to honour, in a way, the memory of those items that were lost.

My collection took a lifetime to amass - a combination of online and in person purchases, coupled with a fair number of items that were amazing gifts from friends, family, CV readers, neighbours, and (in more recent years) blog sponsors, too.

A great deal of what I had was bought on sale and very often even modest items were saved for before being purchased. I never took what I had for granted and was (and still am) immeasurably grateful to have had an abundance of possessions pertaining to so many areas that are near and dear to my heart before the fire.

Given that we were grossly under insured (far more so than we realized before the fire; we would have increased our coverage had we known), we won't be able to replace most of what we lost beyond the bare bones basics of our household needs (dishes, bedding, towels, a table and chairs, etc), nor are we otherwise in an economic position to do so.

This stings, of course, but as I constantly remind myself, once, a fairly long time ago now, I started out with nothing and created the life that I (and later "we") had as an adult.

There was a time when I didn't own a single scrapbooking item, when I could fit all my books into a lone backpack, and further back still, when I was just starting to wear vintage and owned less mid-century pieces than I had fingers on one hand.

Though I never imagined that I'd need to start from scratch again in some many different areas of my life at the age of 32, that I am (doing) and instead of bemoaning what was lost, I am just thankful to be alive and to have the chance to rebuild certain collections over the course of time.

There are many, many factors that will prevent me from most likely having the same sized collections again - at least not for decades - and I accept all of those as best I can.

Some of these factors include things such as that a lot of what I used to own was bought online back when the US and Canadian dollars were on par and (also) USPS postage rates were still reasonable, that there are few to none (depending on the category of items) shops in our town that sell such items, and that that our household budget and expenses are vastly different today than where they were, say, when I was in my mid-twenties. In addition, there is the critical fact that we need to focus our finances elsewhere at present and for the foreseeable future.

It is certainly possible that some categories may never really materialize into collections again (I sense Girl Guide related items may be one such area, for example) and again, others will likely be smaller.

As much as I'd love to go on a giant shopping spree, that isn't even remotely possible. Instead, in what is perhaps a very vintage approved sort of manner, I will gather items slowly and with great though. Each dollar weighed, each purchase contemplated. Baselines, so to speak, of various categories will be - and in some cases, already are beginning to be - established and built upon.

Just as Rome wasn't built in a day (though, much like our old house, it too burned), my future wardrobe and the other areas of my world that matter to me will take time to rebuild.

I am trying to look upon this as challenge as an adventure. A chance to hone in all the more on those areas that matter most to me, to discover new treasures, rewrite wish (and holy grail/unicorn) lists, and not, importantly, feel like I need, by any means, to own as much as I did before.

I loved everything that I had and will miss nearly all of it for the rest of my life, but thankfully in the world at large, there are still lots of most of those types of things to be had and some of them will end up living with me.

We lost so much that night. At first I felt like a fish out of water. My vintage threads were gone, my comfort zone had been obliterated, our wonderful cat's life was taken, and my Etsy business was destroyed. Our lives were on their heads and everything felt out of sorts.

Now, several weeks after the fire, thankfully, a greater sense of order is beginning to enter our world again. We have met - in no small part thanks to the aid of others - many of our basic needs, we have a temporary roof over our heads until at least this March (the search began in full force earlier this month for longer term accommodations, as touched on here), and there is a degree of structure in our world again.

It isn't the same world as before the blaze. That would be impossible. It different. Starkly, extremely different, but it is also positive because we've survived and in time, that survival will, we truly hope, progress to thriving as well.

The unexpected can happen to any of us at any point in time. Tragedy hurts, loss hurts, and devastation hurts. It is important to feel those emotions and not try to brush them off, to live through the process honestly and openly. Yet it is also just as important to believe in the future and yourself. To think positively and focus more on what you still have, then what was stripped away.

There are, and will continue to be, many challenges in our lives that would not have been present if this arson fire didn't occur, but that's okay. We'll tackle them head on, bolstered by the strength of those who care about us and a steadfast belief that we rise up again.

This new year is the ideal time to really begin down that path and I am so thankful that it's here. I have no clue what 2017 holds in store, but I can promise you that it will see us continue to fight, to put the pieces back together, and to reconnect with many things that have been integral parts of our world for a long time now.



{Even when - and arguably even more so - times are tough, there are still valuable constants in our life to focus on and get excited about, and few work better for new beginnings than the annual return of January. Vintage image source.}


Even though my previous belongings are gone, it's awesome that Chronically Vintage and the online community at large that it belongs to are still here. Physical objects matter and there's nothing wrong with that in the slightest, but life, how will fill our days, the relationships we experience, how treat one another, and the way that we lead our lives matter far more.

Thank you for allowing me the chance to share these cathartic thoughts with of all of you here today - very good job, if you've made it this far. I know this wasn't the smallest of blog posts by any means. :)

Here's to 2017 - each day and every hour, the prospects and promises that it holds in store, the many firsts and old favourites alike.

Let us hope that it is not only a good year, but a great one for ourselves, our loved ones, and the world at large. We need it something fierce!


*PS* Thank you very much for as well to everyone who commented on my last post and/or otherwise expressed care and concern regarding my minor surgery last week. I'm happy to report that it went smoothly and that I'm now recovering at home (I'll have my followup doctor's appointment in a few days's time).

My health in general though, as touched on in that same post, is struggling massively in the aftermath of the fire. It took me, for example, more than two full weeks - working in stops and starts, as I could muster the ability to do so - to pen this post. Pre-fire, it would have almost certainly have been written in a single day.

As you can imagine, this situation is currently having a profound impact on my ability to blog or be online in general, and between my health and the continued hectiness and challenges of our lives, my posts here, if possible at all, will be very sporadic and I view this site as still being on indefinite hiatus.

I appreciate your understanding and kindness on this front beyond words.

69 comments:

  1. Loss and recovery are not a linear process. Even though I found your blog through the vintage world, it is the loss of your crafting things that hits home to me. All the ways in which you are creative and contributing to the world are such a profound loss. This fire has been life altering for you and Tony and it is still early days on this recovery journey. I hope you can find a new home within your community and reach a more solid ground within yourselves, very soon. I wish you well Jessica; well with your health and your coping and new life making. Seeing two posts over the past month was happy-making but please don't feel under pressure and be kind to yourself and let yourself use all the time it needs to take.

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    1. Wisely said, dear Merrian. There are many layers to our grief and loss right now, too - and the continued profound pain of losing Stella is certainly an overriding element that is with us around the clock. We're coping though for sure, but that alone does not erase the pain or the difficult memories.

      Thank you deeply for your caring and insightful comment and for sharing in the loss of my crafting supplies and finished scrapbook albums. The more time that passes, the more that one just tears like a massive knife into my heart. I know that in time I will create a new - likely much more modest - craft room and stash of supplies, but that does little to dull the pain of what was destroyed.

      I think, actually, that crafting again - as soon as such is possible - will help a great deal on the process of recovery and moving on. In recent days I've been thinking about it and may even (down the line, when more of the initial trauma has passed) scrap one or more pages about the fire itself (and of course plan to create tribute pages to Stella as well - especially since she'd been a star of my albums for years).

      I will take your words to heart and truly appreciate your compassionate understanding.

      Many, many hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  2. Reading this just makes me have so many feelings Jessica. I cannot imagine how this can be first hand.
    I can see that this is part of the process. Its grieving, its letting go of something through words.
    I hope many good things come your way and that you find a place to rebuild your home. Hugs.

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    1. That is such a moving and beautiful wish, dear Lorena. Thank you deeply. It really is an ongoing process and one that, as we're discovering, hits you in waves. We're holding on though, which is a blessing unto itself, and garner such tremendous from the support of our online friends, like yourself. I couldn't possibly mean it more when I say that the care and goodness we've received have made a night and day difference in our lives over the past three months - just as they will always continue to impact us positively going forward further into this new version of our lives.

      Huge thanks and hugs, my sweet friend,
      ♥ Jessica

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  3. Hugs and good vibes to you and Tony, Jessica! A very moving and mindful post on loss, grief and moving on. It's okay to grieve for things - they're touchstones for us in this very brief life.

    I didn't know you collected Brownies/Guides badges - I *think* I still have my full collection of 30-ish Brownie badges and about 20+ Guide badges from the 70s/80s. If I find them, I'll drop you a line (could be several months from now - I'm not fast at cleaning things out!).

    So glad to be a very small part of your new life. All the best to you, my dear.

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    1. Thank you deeply, sweet Shelia. A tidal wave of hugs and appreciation coming right back at you.

      That's awesomely sweet of you to say. I'd be so honoured to give them a new home one day. Thank you very much!

      Tons more hugs coupled with happy weekend wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

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  4. Thank you for sharing this, Jessica, and don't feel bad about the length of this post. I read the entire thing (with tears in my eyes.) I do hope that writing this was healing for you, a perhaps small but still important step along the road towards your new life. Your positive outlook and determination to stay strong no matter what are a constant inspiration. May 2017 bring you many blessings and a strong start of a (different, yes), but wonderful new life!

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    1. Thank you so much, dear Grace - including for reading this post from top to bottom. I've certainly had longer ones here before, but given the gravitis of this entry and how little I've been able to post (and interact with the blogging community) as of late, I knew full well that it wouldn't be the most read or commented on entry of all time by any means. That's 100% okay though. Writing this post was quite cathartic for me and I'm grateful to have had the chance to get the thoughts that I shared here out of my head and down on virtual paper at long last (relatively speaking).

      That's so touchingly sweet of you to say, thank you. I am genuinely optimistic about this year and hope that it will be a fantastic one for you and your family as well, my wonderful friend.

      Giant hugs & the deepest of thanks for everything,
      ♥ Jessica

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  5. (((((((((((((((((hugs))))))))))))))))) My heart breaks for you my friend.

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    1. You are the epitome of sweet and caring, dear Kim. Thank you so much.

      It is isn't easy, it isn't quick, and it isn't without a barrage of continued challenges, but we're mustering on and are steadfast in our belief that we'll come out of the other side of this nightmare intact and happy with our life (and home) again.

      Giant hugs straight from my heart coming your way,
      ♥ Jessica

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  6. I'm glad you're sharing your experience with us, mostly because it seems to be helping you to talk about it. This was a life-changing event that will take a long time for you to process and recover from. You already seem to have acquired some valuable wisdom about what's truly important in life. Best of wishes to you, friend.

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    1. Thank you very much, Ally. This hellish experience has certainly driven home some incredibly important life lessons and blessed us in the wake of such a tragedy in many ways. We're so grateful for every good and positive thing, thought and action that has been directed at us and know that we'll be stronger, wiser people because of this ordeal.

      I hope that you're doing well and having a terrific January.

      Many thanks again & joyful weekend wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

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  7. Jessica, my heart is hurting for you but I'm so glad that you are fighting through, and that you were able to use the medium of your blog to share what is happening with your followers (who care very much!). I don't comment often, but I've been reading your posts for several years and I am always touched and encouraged by your kind, compassionate and positive outlook regarding everything that comes your way. You are in my prayers as you cope with these losses and rebuild - please don't feel obligated to post updates, but please also know that it is good to see you in the blogosphere again! Many hugs!

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    1. Sweet dear, thank you so very much for your beautiful, comforting and supportive message (and for being a long time blog reader - I am, as well, of your exquisite blogs, too). It sincerely means a great deal to me. So much of what I've been living through since the fire has been in my head (and heart), so getting the chance to share this post here with my readers this week has helped quite a lot and certainly lightened the load from my soul a little.

      So many heartfelt thanks & hugs to you,
      ♥ Jessica

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  8. Oh dear Jessica, this was so beautifully written! Thank you for sharing your heart with us and letting us see just how beautiful a soul you are. I mean we knew it before, but this just proved it again! You will rise, you will shine just like that glorious bird, the Phoenix! And I will be keeping my eye out for Girl Scout and Girl Guide memorabilia!
    Blessings to you, Tony and Annie!!
    g

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    1. Dearest Gina, you are so very lovely - as is your immensely touching comment and kindness. Thank you you for bolstering my spirit and for keeping your eyes out for GG/GS items (which, much like with my scrapbook pages, any photos - and I didn't have my whole collection photographed by any means - that I had were lost in the fire).

      Humongous hugs and tons of appreciation coming your way,
      ♥ Jessica

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  9. Ooh, dearest Jess. Again I really don't know what to say. I simply cannot imagine loosing everything and cannot say anything that will comfort you. I think you really should prioritize what you buy, in the sense of if buying creative materials make you feel better sooner, you should buy these instead of other more practical things, that you might be able to do without. I suppose you now have toothbrushes, table, chairs and beds, so making lists of what you need (both of you) and prioritizing the lists is a good way to start. Humble person as you are, I suspect you would never prioritize your creative materials over e.g. bedlinen, but I am sure that Tony are on my side in my suggestion. I wish I could do even more, and perhaps I will send you more. I haven't written to you since I know you have the feeling you have to answer and I think you have other more important things to use your energy for. Your mental health is very important, and you should really do what makes you feel better. Therefore I also sent you some collections of threads for embrodering and metallic cardboard for card making or even scarpbooking, since I thought such things were just as important as vintage dresses. When I read your lists I could literally feel your loss. We are so alike, and I have lots of books, my own room full of creative materials, many of which from my childhood and I know the feeling of ones home being the warm and safe and lovely cocoon in which you feel good among things you love. This will happen again, but it takes time, I know. Sending the warmest hugs your way all over the pond and do not in any way feel guilty about your blog, we all love you (and I read this long post at work just because I could not wait until I got home) XOXO

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    1. My beloved friend, thank you very much for your wise, caring, understanding and heartwarming message. I am with you entirely. I have virtually no budget to speak of for personal shopping right now, but with what little I'm blessed to work with, I am focusing on craft supplies, books and items pertaining to my spirituality. Doing so is helping substantially, as I'm sure it will continue to as time marches onward.

      We do have a fair number of our basic needs met at this point, which we're extremely grateful for. We've stuck to the bare basics (and those items that are essential to Tony's job) for now, especially since we don't know how big our next house will be and what we might need for it. We have one bed, a dining table with six chairs, various cooking and serving items, cleaning supplies, toiletries, a TV, a coffee table for the living room, a small couch and two small arm chairs (the three were very generously donated by a friend of my parents), a little bit of clothing each (this area is extra challenging for Tony, being a bigger sized chap in a town with next to no plus size men's wear options), all of the basic needs for Annie, a desk and chair for Tony (though not for myself yet), and a few other bits and bobs (plus the wonderful care package and VSS gifts from others, I mean). It isn't a ton, but it's certainly enough for us at the moment and as time goes on, we'll grow that list further and probably replace or expand on some areas.

      Your gift of crafting supplies, so early on after the fire, was astonishingly beneficial and was the beginning of my new collection of such. I will never, ever forget that you included such in that amazing parcel and have already started using some the thread. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for everything that you've so compassionately bestowed on us - your insight and love completely included - since the fire, as well as for knowing me to the degree that you do.

      You are so dear to my heart and I am endlessly grateful that we're friends.

      Giant hugs & happy weekend wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

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  10. This is such a moving post, and I actually had tears in my eyes when I finished reading it, which I know was not your intention. There is no way that anyone can imagine how it must feel to lose everything, until it actually happens, but it can only be devastating. You are so brave, Jessica, and I admire you immensely for laying bare your feelings and thoughts in this post. You have to let grieving takes its course, but I think it's amazing that even in your darkest hour, you kept reminding yourself that brighter days will one day come. For 2017, I hope (and trust!) that many good things will come your way and you can make a start in rebuilding your life. Many, many hugs! xxx

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    1. Sweet Ann, oh how I miss interacting on a regular basis with you and your optimistic, beautiful spirit. Thank you for your awesomely kind, supportive comment and for reminding me that grief takes time. That it most certainly does and the process is not a straight line from point A to point B, so to speak, by any means.

      I certainly did not mean to make you - or anyone else - cry with what I wrote here and am very sorry for upsetting you so. You were not alone though and I will openly share that I had tears streaming down my face more than once over the course of composing this post.

      Let's give each other the biggest virtual hugs possible, dry our eyes, and keep looking ahead to better days.

      xoxo always ♥ Jessica

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  11. The totality of your loss is so devastating and I can completely see how it was so central to your identity. My clothing is very important to me I have a real connection to it and its a part of who I am so I totally understand. Of course as a pet mom I know the loss of Stella is incredible painful. Still of course while I can sympathize I can't feel this first hand and I can't make it better. As always though I am in awe of your strength. You gave me the confidence to start my blog and I am forever grateful

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    1. Oh, Kate, what a movingly compassionate and beautiful message. Thank you deeply. It is profoundly humbling to know that I helped inspire you to launch your blog. Hearing (reading) that genuinely lifted my spirits - as did everything that you said. I appreciate your understanding and that you can relate entirely to how central one's wardrobe can be to their identity.

      I hope with every fiber of my being that you never experience anything like this and that your darling pets are never the innocent victims of anyone's crimes, as Stella was here (as was, Annie, too, but thank the universe, she wasn't injured by, or lost to, the blaze).

      Huge hugs & many, many more thanks,
      ♥ Jessica

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  12. I'm actually finding it hard to find the right words to say. What a sobering and truly thoughtful post. What you guys have been through, and will continue to go through, just cannot be comprehended by so many of us. When you said "As well, all of my completed scrapbooks were lost, too. That cuts to the core, let me tell you.", that really got to me. Probably the most gut-wrenching loss I could imagine from my possessions are the things that I have made. It's not the fact that they are particularly important in any way, but rather the time, effort, thought and joy that went into creating them would be lost.

    I do have to confess, I thought I had commented on your previous post, so I am sorry that I didn't. I loved seeing you surrounded by all the VSS gifts. I do hope mine got there on time. I'm glad your op went okay and that you're recovering well. Do make sure you take care of yourself.

    My heart goes out to you both again, and I send you lots and lots of big hugs xx

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    1. My wonderfully dear friend Cate, thank you for your compassionate and loving comment. The pain of having items that you've created yourself lost - at the very same time as all of your tools and supplies to create further projects - is unlike anything I have experienced before. I have known pains that were more brutal, but few that "gut punched" me, so to speak, to the same degree. I try to take solace in the joy I felt while making those now vanished items and what I learned along the creative process road, but it still stings...a lot and I suspect that it always will to some degree. Time, the gradual rebuilding of a craft space and supply stash, and creating again will, I truly hope, all help to counterbalance that pain and to move forward from this tragedy all the more.

      On a more cheerful note, thank you immensely for your incredible VSS gift. I was blown away by each thoughtful, awesome and completely "me" present that you included and swear, some of the items made me cry tears of joy. Your generosity and kindness knows no bounds and made our Christmas extra merry and bright. I will always be grateful to you for that and for each and every way you've been there for us.

      Endless hugs coming right back at you,
      ♥ Jessica

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  13. Dear Jessica,
    Your strength is truly inspiring. You are an amazing person, and my heart truly goes out to you & your family. Although many of us cannot be with you in person, rest assured you are in our thoughts.
    All my love, Jenny xx

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    1. Lovely Jenny, I so miss you and am very touched that you commented on this post. Thank you for the extremely sweet things that you said. Please know that you - and all of my dear online friends + readers - are in my thoughts and heart day in and day out. Knowing that you're here even when I'm not able to is a great comfort.

      Tons of love & hugs coming right back at you,
      ♥ Jessica

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  14. Catching up on posts...glad your surgery went well and you are on your way to healing. As always, you, your life and your words are inspiring. Much love.

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    1. Thank you sweetly, dear Ruby, that really means a lot. Thank you as well for your absolutely wonderful VSS surprise gifts. I will always, always treasure each gorgeous piece of jewelry that you so thoughtfully sent my way.

      I hope that you're doing well and having a great January.

      Tons of hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  15. I run out of words to say about your situation and the immense loss you're faced with on a daily basis. I think until (heavens forbid) it happens to you, your understanding as an outsider can only go so far. I'm glad you have the blog still and can use it as part of the healing process and I hope you never feel bad about doing that because you really shouldn't. You are such a strong person and more than deserving of all of the kindness of friends and strangers that you've experienced. Always thinking about you and hoping you're getting through each day as best as can be xx

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    1. My darling friend, thank you with all of my heart. You are completely right. I could empathize and sympathize, feel for and grief in spirit with others who went through great losses like this before, but living it firsthand is another matter entirely and something that, in a perfect world, no one would ever have to face.

      That said, those very things - sympathy, understanding, kindness, patience, love, and many others - are invaluable when one is going through this sort of terrible ordeal and yours means more than I could ever adequately put into words to me, dearest CiCi. Thank you for always being such an incredible - and compassionate - friend. I love and miss you so much!

      Giant hugs always,
      ♥ Jessica

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  16. I can't begin to imagine what you've gone through. Losing your cat must have been the worst, but then all the little things on top of that... You are being very brave and strong, and I admire that. It's okay to be sad and have wobbly moments too - who wouldn't?

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    1. Oh, sweet Mim, it truly has been - hands down, no questions asked. Getting through this first holiday season and in turn my first post-fire surgery without her (she was a huge cuddle bug and always stuck to me like velcro when I was extra sick and/or recovering from being in the hospital) immensely lovely, gentle presence there for either was exceptionally hard. We are in grieving for Stella every bit as much as we would be for a treasured human who passed. Having her ripped away from us like that - especially knowing that, in theory, she could easily have lived for another 8 - 10+ years - is unequivocally the worst and most painful part of this whole heartbreaking ordeal. She was a wonderful, loving, awesome pet who will be missed dearly for the rest of our days.

      Thank goodness though, our equally sweet and beloved Annie is okay. She - and her boundless energy - is helping us to keep our chins up and our determination strong no matter what comes our way. Pets really are remarkable parts of one's life and we're beyond grateful to still have Annie (who turned four years old this month) in ours.

      So very many hugs & heartfelt thanks,
      ♥ Jessica

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  17. Dear Jessica, I was so long without internet that only now I can come to you again. My darling girl... I have to say that is extremely painful to me to know the massive impact that this tragedy had on you. It's so massive! You are being tested on a big way... but I believe that you will be refined and shinning more than before. Because I know you, you are suffering tons and tons but you will bloom like the most beautiful flower and shine like the most precious star... that you are already. Please have my gentle hug and so many good healing vibrations. Although I keep fairly quiet for so long get to know that you are always on my thoughts and heart.

    Your friend Beta <3

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    1. Sweet Beta, thank you for your immensely touching and comforting words. This is certainly a test for us, I agree. As challenging as it is (and goodness knows, it has been - and continues to often be - very challenging!), things could always be worse and we're so very grateful for the abundance of blessings that have come our way in the wake of this life changing tragedy. Ultimately, I know that we will survive and one day thrive again, too. Different, wiser and no doubt, stronger, people because of this experience.

      Sending endless hugs your way,
      ♥ Jessica

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  18. Happy to have found our blog, and so sad to have read about the fire. How terrifying it must have been. Wishing you a 2017 filled with many joys. xo

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    1. Thank you very much, Laura. It's so sweet of you to "follow" me here from Scrapbook.com. I've started following your beautiful blog now, too, and am delighted that we're getting to know one another better through our sites.

      Many hugs from BC,
      ♥ Jessica

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  19. Jessica, you are strong beyond your own understanding. Why this lesson of humility and forgiveness happened to you and your husband may never be fully comprehended but you still have yourselves, marriage, family and friends that will always be here for you. Such an unexpected death of an important part of your life is going to take time to mourn and heal. Take that time and know your friends and followers are here whenever you need us. All my love and support. 💞

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    1. Thank you with all of my heart, Lyssa. Your words are empowering, caring and precisely what I need to hear (and believe) right now. The fact that you "get" the time involved with rebuilding our shattered lives and recharging our exhausted souls sincerely means a great deal to me.

      Huge hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  20. Dear, sweet Jessica, I think about you multiple times each and every day and my heart breaks for you and Tony. I am a hugely sentimental person and I can't even imagine how you must feel, losing all your memories in physical form.

    The loss of Stella. Oh Jessica, I was so hopeful she would come home to you, I was checking facebook daily hoping for good news and with each blog post, I longed for positive news. I know what a huge hole you have in your home and in your hearts for sweet Stella, but know you did have her and she was and still is loved.

    Losing your childhood toys must sting deeply. That strikes a cord with me as I had a beloved thing taken from me as a child, a doll house which is one of my last links with my dear grandad who passed away when I was eight. It was taken away, then ended up thrown away, I had no say, so I can relate on some level with you about the loss of childhood things especially. I hope you don't think this a silly thing for me to say, I know it isn't the same but a little bit, just a little bit, I understand.

    Thinking of you always xxx

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    1. My very sweet friend, that is a million miles away from "silly". I am touched that you wanted to share such an intimate story of your own loss here with me (and all of us). I'm very sorry that your beloved childhood dollhouse was destroyed like that and can completely understand the pain that you feel. If only we lived nearby and can could build a dollhouse together to help us both reconnect with lost treasures.

      As slim as the odds were, we held out hope that Stella was somehow alive, too, until the very last moment. It was 24 days after the fire before her body was found (no one was permitted into the charred ruins until, 22, I believe it was, days after the fire occurred) and though that struck like a knife to the heart, the fact that we at least had closure and that Tony and I were able to lay her to rest ourselves was certainly important. Our grief over her loss runs deep though and I know that I will think about our darling little grey tabby with eyes like that twinkled like her Italian namesake every day for the rest of my life.

      Thank you so very much for being the sweet, wonderful and caring soul that you are, Melanie. I really appreciate your comment and understanding.

      So many hugs always,
      ♥ Jessica

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  21. OH Jessica, I wish I could give you a big hug right now but a virtual one will have to do. HUG! I know it is a hard time for you and Tony and as much as you know so many people are behind you and supporting you, it's still not easy. BUT it will eventually get easier and I know you know that but I wanted to say the words. However you need to mourn and that takes time, so take as much time as you need Jessica. We are here if you need anything and I'm glad that your surgery went well. Rest and focus on your health, we want a healthy Jessica for many more years to come :)

    lots of love

    Liz

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    1. I can feel the warmth of your virtual hug and welcome it gladly. Thank you for sending strength and love our way. The hunt for a suitable (longer term) house continues and is proving to be unbelievably difficult (to put it mildly). We have devoted many hours to it every single day this whole month and still the hunt continues. Having the support of awesome friends like you here behind us as we do everything in our power to find a place means an immeasurable amount to myself and Tony (and, I'm sure, Annie, too).

      A ton more hugs coming your way,
      ♥ Jessica

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  22. I'm very glad to hear your surgery went well and I really hope to hear in the coming months that your health is improving. Like I said in my other comment, I think about what happened to you and Tony all the time and I just can't even fathom what you've been through. It certainly puts all my troubles into perspective because no matter what I've been facing recently it's nowhere near as devastating as what you have had to deal with and the strength and resilience you've shown in this post, as well as your desire to try and find the positives and focus on them is so admirable. I wish nothing but the best for you and sincerely hope you and Tony find a permanent place soon and can feel like you're making progress in rebuilding your lives. It's such a long road but at least you are trying to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. I would like to think if I were ever in a situation as harrowing as yours that I'd be able to show as much strength as you have. <3

    littlehenrylee.net

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    1. My sweet friend, thank you so much for both of your recent blog comments here and for your immense kindness and understanding, well wishes regarding my health and sweet hopes for our future. You are such a lovely soul and I feel blessed to know you. I second your hope and while I wish I had good news on the house hunting front, we have not been able to find anything suitable yet in this very small, very (!) expensive market (and that's with having expanded our search radius to a total of more than six hours in various directions). Being homeless - especially with Annie - isn't a viable option though, so no matter how long it takes, we'll keep plowing onward, hoping for the best and giving the hunt our absolute all.

      That is an exceptionally beautiful and moving thing to say. Thank you deeply. I'm certain that you would and that you have the strength of a thousand lions in your soul.

      Huge hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  23. I'm so glad that you were able to write this, and are starting to work through what has happened- moving from crisis into recovery so to speak. We are here for you Jessica, and take all the time you need. Sending love your way today!- Nicole

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    1. My super sweet friend (whom I miss interacting with on a more frequent basis sooo much!), thank you very much for your lovely, caring comment and each and every way that you've been there for me/us since the fire. I felt - and continue to feel - your love and am sending my own back to you by the bushel.

      Tons of hugs & happy wishes for the coming month,
      ♥ Jessica

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  24. Dear Jessica, you know how much I feel sorry because of what happened, because it's getting a bit better, but I still have the post-traumatic stress that followed after my parents' death, within a few months, in the same year. So I completely understand, of course in another way (not belongings, but losses, I mean) what you are feeling. Like your life was being taken without your consent. You had a lot of things, and you said you won't have that number anymore, cause normally we don't need all what we have, but they were yours, you loved them, you needed them to feel good at home, like a sanctuary, as you said (I see mine the same way, our homes are our temples). And no one had the right to destroy your things and your (tangible) memories. The pictures, the objects that were dear to you. I wonder what happened to the girl that started the arson fire. I know you will recover (your health too) and your financial situation, but still, that event will always be there, like a before & after. Many people may say "this is time to overcome that", because the majority didn't lose things like you did, but take time - everyone has his/her own time to recover, or the right to have feelings of loss for how long they want. You know I would love to be more present to you, but I try to send positive vibes - you are a wonderful girl and you deserve all the best - and scrapbooks will go on, vintage finds too, and stay positive! Many hugs and regards, dear Jessica!
    DenisesPlanet.com

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    1. My dear friend Denise, loss is a haunting and very unique being isn't it? People, pets, possessions - each a form of loss, each so deep and transformative. I know I've said it before, but I really and truly am sorry from the bottom of my heart that you lost both of your parents in such a short span. That must have felt like you were being sucked into a swirling vortex of pain, emotion, and uncertainty. I applaud your courage and fortitude, and sincerely appreciate your understand, stemming as it does from the hardships that you've experienced firsthand, too.

      The arsonist was arrested that night and is currently going through the legal and mental health systems. We - as in all of her victims from that night - haven't been overly involved (by the legal system) in her case, but we do get told (and/or hear in the local news) little bits here and there. It's my understanding that her sentencing hearing is to take place sometime in February (it was initially slatted for January, but for reasons unknown to me/us that was changed). It will be extremely interesting to see what sort of sentence she receives (she has already plead guilty to at least one of the charges against her; I don't know know where things presently stand with the other charges).

      Many hugs & heartfelt thanks for everything (all of your caring emails entirely included),
      ♥ Jessica

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  25. What a moving post and very brave of you to put it out there. Some of it rang so true with my own situation last year. How it feels when your sanctuary is gone.

    If it helps at all my sister still misses certain things, and always will but she says it does get easier over time and it's not the same sharp stab of loss when you think of them. Give yourself all the time you need it's different for every person. Big hugs x x

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    1. Thank you through and through, my lovely friend. I just have to say again how truly sorry that your sister went through a terrible experience like this of her own as well. It's gut wrenching how many people are impacted annually by house fires. I find myself thinking all the more these days (than before our own blaze, I mean) that I hope one day something is invented that can instantly put out a fire in any building. What an astonishing game changer for civilization that would be.

      Right now we are focusing so incredibly hard on finding our next place (which is proving to be a staggeringly huge challenge in a market with the slimmest of prices, tons of competition, and mind blowingly steep prices) that there's little rest for the weary, so to speak, but it is my profound hope that once we do find a house and are settled into it, I can focus on resting, healing, working further through my grief, and better establishing how I want to move forward with/in many areas of my/our life. Thoughts of those days ahead definitely help me get through the challenging ones of the present.

      Tons of hugs & thanks for everything,
      ♥ Jessica

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  26. Thanks for penning this; it can't have been easy emotionally or physically. I'm glad to hear you are recovering from the surgery.

    Your loss has been so immense and I honour your ability to talk about it so candidly. I was happy to be able to participate in the VSS this year and send you a few small items to bring some comfort and use.

    That's also a very good point about your insurance. I'm sure many of us undervalue our collections, either because so many items are gifts, or we have their purchase value in mind rather than a replacement value.

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    1. Sweet Rhiannon, thank you immensely for being a part of the super secret VSS and for each caring, amazing way you've reached out and been there for me/us in recent months. You have such a warm, beautiful spirit and a very generous heart.

      Definitely! I simply cannot urge folks enough to get as much insurance as they can afford and to routinely assess if they need to further increase their policy. One silver lining to come from the fire has been that a few people in our lives have now increased their own insurance and/or taken greater measures to protect their own homes and belongings in case the unthinkable were to occur to them as well. If we can help others to struggle a little less in the face of (potential) tragedy than that is at least one positive to be come out of this painful ordeal.

      Huge thanks again coupled with countless hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

      *PS* I've thought of you and your own recent struggles so much over the last several months and wholeheartedly hope that 2017 is proving to be a kinder year so far than the last was for you, dear gal. ♥

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  27. Hi Jessica, thanks for sharing your thoughts despite struggling with your health and still picking up the pieces of your lives after the fire. I have moved quite a few times in my life, and packing up and disposing of a lot of my belongings always gives me cause to reflect on the value I place on material things. Yet, I completely agree with you that these things often provide comfort and pleasure, and I end up accumulating them again in my new place. I can only imagine how it must feel for you to have lost everything in one fell swoop and to be faced with building up your vintage collections and Etsy shop again from scratch at a time of financial hardship and poor health. I can really relate to the pain you must feel about losing long-held collections and one-of-a-kind treasures that you've accumulated over the years, as these are the things that often offer the most satisfaction but are almost impossible to replace.
    I admire your resilience and optimism about rebuilding. Some people who go through such tragedies emerge stronger and with a new perspective on life, and I suspect you are one of those people. I hope you don't tire yourself too much getting back to blogging -- your community will still be here whenever you are ready to return. All the best to you and Tony as you continue on this long road back to normalcy.

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    1. Thank you deeply, sweet Janet. Your words are laced with the wisdom of personal experience and the compassion of one with a very empathetic heart. I do believe that we (Tony and I) will both come out of this stronger, wiser wiser people and can definitely tell already that my perspectives on many things are changing and/or becoming more clear. Very few elements of our lives will ever be the same again, but in some respects, that isn't per se a negative thing - simply a different one. An alternative version of the reality that I'd envisioned for my (our) future - but, hopefully, ultimately, no less of a meaningful, happy or fulfilling one (who knows, perhaps it will be even more so!).

      Thank you so very much for everything.

      Immense hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  28. I'm so sorry about all your losses, and the (unsurprising) effect this has had on your health. As someone with chronic illness myself, I know how important a peaceful and comfortable home is in supporting our health. This post has really made me appreciate what I have, and I wish you both the very best of luck in finding somewhere just right for you and making it home. With love, Samantha X

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    1. My very dear fellow CI (chronic illness) fighter, thank you so much for your warmth and understanding, as well as for your positive wishes for our house hunt. A solid month of pouring ourselves into it body, mind, and soul for many hours a day each day has not yet yielded a new dwelling for us (there is soooo little to be had, scads of competition for what does exist - especially that accept dogs, and sky high prices), but there's no choice. It's find a place or be homeless and obviously the latter is not an option for countless reasons, so the search will continue in every bit as much earnest as we head into February. Finger beyond, beyond crossed that something comes our way super soon.

      Lots of love & hugs coming right back to you,
      ♥ Jessica

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  29. That was a very powerful piece of writing, it must have been hard to do but I hope that it has helped in a small way and allowed you to begin to process all that has happened. I just can't imagine how hard it must be but I know that both yourself and Tony are strong and resourceful and you will find ways and means to start again. I do know what it is like to loose a beloved pet, although not in unnatural circumstances, and I feel for your loss of the lovely Stella. I didn't realise that you collected Girl Guide items, I will keep a look out for you. Big hugs.x

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    1. That is deeply sweet of you to say and to do, my darling friend. Thank you so much! The UK is the ancestral home of Scouting and Guiding and so many amazing items from both movements have been produced over the years. I had some GG ones from the UK in my collection before and really adored them.

      It was a hard post to pen - and not just because it took me more than two weeks to complete - and yet, in some ways also an easy one, too, because I felt like these thoughts and words had been begging to be let lose from my mind for quite some time now. Writing this didn't send them all packing for good, of course, but it was certainly a beneficial, cathartic and important thing for me to do - especially knowing that it would be read by some of the people who I cherish most in this world.

      I'm immensely sorry that you'd experienced the monumental pain of losing a pet as well. Stella was not the first pet I'd lost, but thank goodness, she was the only one to pass in such a brutal and unnatural manner. No matter how a beloved animal leaves us, the hurt that we feel is indescribable and there's no way we can ever forget or stop loving the darling critters that we've been blessed to share a portion of our own lives with.

      Thank you so very much for everything. I adore you to bits, dear Kate-Em, and am so blessed by the many years of our friendship.

      Huge hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  30. Dear Jessica,

    I hope you are doing as well as possible. I think about you, Tony and Annie every day. And, sweet Stella too.

    It is so good to see you dipping your toe back into the blogging world. I can relate to this post...lots of emotions, feeling a loss of identity, shock, pain. Sadly, the older one gets the more losses one has.

    Jessica, you are such an beautiful inspiration to me!!! I am sure you are also an inspiration to everyone that is lucky enough to find your blog. I haven't been reading vintage blogs that long but I am impressed by all the love and support around the world, especially the VSS (Bravo for Tony for keeping it a secret!)

    Sending you lots of love and hugs!!!
    Best wishes,
    Dee

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    1. Lovely Dee, your words are like gentle bear hugs, your compassion and understanding like warm ray of sunshine. Thank you deeply for each meaningful thing that you said and for all of the love + hugs that you're sending our way. They are received with the most open of arms and my (our) own head right back out to you as we embrace February and the next leg of 2017.

      Giant hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  31. I'm truly sorry about everything you lost, Jessica. It's hard enough to lose almost everything, but it's even more painful to lose irreplaceable items you can't just go to a store and buy again. Many survivors of the Shoah and Armenian Genocide were left with only their lives, or only a few recovered or hidden possession, and had to rebuild everything from the ground up. As successfully as they rebuilt, it couldn't take away the pain of remembering what was lost. There's a line I really like in Pete Townshend's solo album Psychoderelict (structured as a radio play), from one of the dialogues: "Remember, you don't have to bury the past or the pain. You can USE it."

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    1. Thank you deeply for your sagely comment, dear Carrie-Anne. I swear, I have thought many, many times in recent months about the seemingly insurmountable challenges that countless others have faced throughout all of human history - plenty, of course, which are much more severe than our own life altering tragedy. I try to take and find strength in their own strength and to remind myself that just as many others have done throughout the course of history, we are capable of rebuilding again from the ground up. Easy? No, but doable in time, of that I am certain.

      I sincerely appreciate all that you shared, very much including that excellent Pete Townshend quote. It describes my world right now so perfectly.

      Tons of hugs & appreciation,
      ♥ Jessica

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  32. My heart goes out to you Jessica! I hope you will be able to get things back on track as much as you can this coming year and that your health and well-being improve. Huge hugs to you. <3

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    1. Thank you much, honey. That is an awesome and very kindhearted wish, which I (we) appreciate immensely. I second it as well and hope to the moon and back that by the end of 2017, our life will look a whole lot more like "normal" again. Right now, with our hunt (aka, struggle!) for a new house still entirely underway that point seems very distant, but I am confident in my heart of hearts that we will reach it again, whether it ("normalicy") happens again this year year or a bit further down the road still. Little by little we'll inch closer until one day, I like to think, we won't feel like getting from morning to night is a struggle any longer. What a glorious and freeing thing that will be!

      Huge hugs & happy start of February wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

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  33. Sometimes writing is the best way to get everything floating around in our heads organized and I think you showed a lot of strength in this post. Hope your recovery has gone smoothly and wishing you happy early Valentine's wishes! ♥

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  34. I am so glad to read this post and feel the strength and courage that you have shown since that awful October night! There are many things in our lives that we can all relate to, but to have lost, as you so poignantly describe, everything, seems inconceivable. But yes, we know things like this can happen without notice and you are wise beyond your years to write about it, and to keep writing about it. Your story will be one with a happy and positive ending to it, because you have the drive and determination, the courage and the desire to move forward in spite of any odds you might be facing. You will build collections of things that you will love in a different way, but you will love them nonetheless and they will have special meaning. Of this, I am certain. When you find your new house and begin to make it a home, you will know that you have already accomplished far more than most anyone of your age, and you will have done it with grace and "elbow grease". Things done that way are the best things. Take good care and know that you are loved.

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  35. Just wanted to let you know that you and your family are in my thoughts. I hope that things are starting to get better.

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  36. I can't even begin to imagine what this would feel like and i think the way you are handling this is truly inspiring. Hopefully the new year will bring some good luck your way. Big Hugs <3

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  37. Aww.. My heart melt down every time I read your article, Jessica. :)
    This is article is one my favourite pick <3
    You are one of my inspiration to start my own vintage online store called Eclectic Room

    with Love,
    Daisy Ridley

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