Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What to save? - Kandy Shepherd

What would you save if your house was on fire? I’ve sometimes pondered the answer to that question—but a few weeks ago I was put to the test.

We had a fire at our farm house, started by an electrical fault. Thankfully our wonderful neighbors not only discovered the fire and contacted the fire department, but also broke a window and put most of the fire out. In our valley, most of the men are bush fire brigade volunteers, so they knew what they were doing. They saved our house from total ruin. Real life heroes!

The kitchen was destroyed and the rest of the cottage severely smoke damaged. Fortunately we were insured, because every single thing in the house was covered in horrible, stinking chemical soot. The “disaster management” team leader who came in to clear the house and will assess what can be saved and what will have to be replaced, asked me to tell him what was particularly important to me. There was nothing that wasn’t replaceable or repairable but he stressed that you can’t put a price on items with sentimental value.

Of course I was too shell-shocked to think straight at first. Luckily all the photo albums and other irreplaceable items were stored elsewhere. But I went through the rooms with him and found it wasn’t so hard to direct him what to try and save at any cost. My teen daughter’s horse riding trophies. Her adored border collie stuffed toy. The furniture my husband had spent months restoring and finishing. The carpet I’d hauled back from India with me many years ago. The watercolors of lavender painted by my friend for my bedroom. My mother’s china. My stepmother’s linens. So much stuff that was precious.

Then he came to the bookshelves and the atmosphere got gloomy. Books, he told me, were very difficult to salvage from smoke damage. I would be advised to only rescue the minimum. So, in the limited time we could stay in that poisonous atmosphere, I had to sort through hundreds of books and prioritize them. The collection needed culling. I wondered why I had hung on to so many books I knew I would never read again. But then there were the ones I adored and wanted to immerse myself in again. And there were the signed editions from my author friends. Precious children’s books I had read aloud over and over again to my daughter. Cook books. Gardening books. Interior design books. Travel books.

What I saved for possible repair, and what I didn’t, gave me pause for thought. All of the above I saved. But I said goodbye to many novels I knew would cost more to restore than replace, without too much heartache. Why? Because I knew I could easily replace them with e-books. And that’s a decision I wouldn’t have made so easily even three months ago. But a digital library is so much more fireproof than the other kind!

Above all, the thing the whole family mourned the most was the cupboard full of my preserves: the cherry jam, the peaches, and most of all the plums. Our disaster manager said it simply wasn’t safe to keep them. Please, plum tree, bear a bountiful crop again this year!

What would you put first in your list to save from a fire or other disaster? Could a digital book ever replace a “proper” one? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment for a chance to win a signed trade paperback copy of either of my novels HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS or LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD and include your email address and which book you would prefer if you want to be in the draw.


Vanessa Barneveld said...

Kandy, I'm so sorry about the fire. Just heartbreaking. I'm glad so many of your families treasures were salvaged, but I so understand how awful it would be to part with those books!

Aside from my cats and hubby and important documents, I would save my laptop. It's been so good to me! All my precious photos and manuscripts are on it. Oooh, I'd save my wedding dress too.

I hope the restoration of the cottage goes smoothly. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a bumper plum crop!

Virginia C said...

Oh,Kandy! I am so sorry about the fire at your farm house--such a shock, and quite devastating! As you know, I recently had my own experiences with lightning and fire. Please take care! I will be thinking of you and your family!

Since I am already lucky enough to own both of your books, let me say this: "Love is a Four-Legged Word" and "Home is Where the Bark Is" are two of the most charming, delightful and addictive romance reads ever! I want more : ) Both are *5 STAR* reads for romance lovers and lovers of good food and wonderful, wonderful animals!!!

petite said...

What a terrible experience. I hope that your life has been easier now and things will improve for you. Your books sound delightful. I would rescue the dogs and all the photo albums from way back since they are precious.

Nikki said...

I am also so sorry about the fire. I can't imagine what you have gone through. I think I would try to save my laptop (pictures) and my jewelry, because some of it was my mom's, who died 26 years ago. And this goes without saying that my husband, dog, and I are all okay. :) I wouldn't hesitate to replace my books with digital--I got a Kindle in February and I love it. Now I think I need to go start purging.
Don't enter me in the contest, please. I already have your books and love them.
Good luck on your renovation/restoration.

Michele L. said...

Oh my gosh! I am sorry Kandy! My mom's house caught on fire over a year ago. The one corner was severly damaged but the whole rest of the house was severe smoke damage. I know, smoke damage is the worst of all! So glad no one was injured at your place.

As for what I would save if I had a fire, just me and my loved ones most of all! As for material items bible, photos of family, and pets.
I would love to win your book LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD. e-mail: deseng (at) myfrontiermail (dot) com

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Vanessa, thanks for being my first visitor today! Oh yes, the vital laptop! Lose our computers and we lose so much...
I love that you would save that beautiful wedding dress. How romantic!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Thanks Virginia, for your lovely comments on HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS and LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD. I can't tell you what a lift to the spirits they gave me!
I thought of you a few days ago when I was on my computer and lighting was about. I kept shutting down, unplugging and leaving the room! You were so lucky...

Na said...

Kandy, I am so glad you and your family made it safely out of the fire. I have never had a fire situation in my home but I can imagine the worse and it is scary and heartbreaking thought. I agree, firefighters are among the everyday heroes. They put their life on the line for our lives, our property and our pets.

If I was ever in this situation and hopefully I never am, I would try to save the photo albums. Nowadays I have most of the pictures post-digital camera era and important files all in one hardrive so if anything goes wrong I can save that in addition to the photo albums where older film-based pictures are stored.

I was fortunate enough to win your lovely book "Home Is Where The Bark Is" and therefore would love to win "Love is a Four-Legged Word". I love reading about animals in stories :)

Sonali said...

hi Kandy,

So sorry about the fire but i'm glad to hear that you and your family are ok. Human life is more precious than anything else in the world. I know it tough when possessions that you have spent your whole life collecting and cherishing gets destroyed.

If i ever had to save something from any disaster after making sure that my family is safe it would be all the important documentations and our family albums. The memories saved in them can never be replaced.

I don't know why, although i live in the technological era, i still can't believe in digital libraries. Although it's yay technology for everything else but when it comes to books i prefer it to be the traditional kind.

If i get a chance to win one of your books, i'd love it to be 'love is a four legged word'.


Kandy Shepherd said...

Yes, petite, I was so lucky the photo albums and the animals were not inside the house when the fire started. They are beyond precious! I really should do something about scanning the old family albums dating back to my parents' time into some kind of digital repository.

traveler said...

I am sorry to hear about the fire which is a shock. If I had to rescue items I would definitely want my precious late father's artwork which is meaningful. I hope that you are settling down and everything completely restored.

Kandy Shepherd said...

Blogger was playing up for me yesterday, sorry I'm late in replying to everyone's comments!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Nikki, yes husbands, dogs, laptops and jewelery with family connections are definitely top of the list!
When the firemen went into my house, they patted down the beds to make sure no people were in them, but they also searched for pets for which I was grateful. Lucky my four-legged friends were outside.
Thank you for your kind words about my books, I'm so glad you enjoyed them!
I'm also interested in your comment about the Kindle and e-books.This fire really made me think about the value of e-books!

Kandy Shepherd said...

MIchele, that smoke damage really does have to be seen to be believed, doesn't it! I am still thanking my lucky stars that no human or animal member of the family was injured!

Kandy Shepherd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Na, I have to say I was so impressed with our firefighters. The fire inspector who met with us to talk through the fire and discover its likely cause (the dishwasher) was compassionate and kind under trying circumstances and we were so grateful for that!
I'm so glad you enjoyed HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Sonali, I haven't seen you here before--so nice to meet you!
While I enjoying the convenience and immediacy of e-books, I still love the traditional kind too. I hope in this publishing revolution we are undergoing at the moment that we will continue to enjoy both!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Thank you traveler for your good wishes, thankfully repair and restoration is under way.
I can see why your father's artwork would be top of your list to rescue--what a wonderful and deeply personal momento to have of him.

Virginia said...

So sorry to hear about your fire but at least you and your family are all right. Most other things can be replaced.

For me the most important thing to save would be my family. Maybe photos and important papers other then that most things can be replaced.


Laurie G said...

I can't relate to the smoke damage but water damage yes. Twice we've had major water damage. Once our electric heat failed and all of the water pipes froze then burst throughout the house while we were gone for a 10 day vacation. The second time was hurricane related and the roof came off the back half of our condo building.

I would definitely save pictures, momentoes from your life, your parents and your children, important papers and all valuables, camera, paintings, silverware and jewelry.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

I'd love to read Home Is Where the Bark is.

johns lake at usa dot com

SiNn said...

im so sorry for the devistation honestly im semi parnoid i carry alongw ith me those few percious keepskaes i worry ill losemainly a photo book or so iof irrplacable pics i have a few books i stasha way and ebooks can never replace print aditions for me

Alison said...

I am so sorry to read this - what a horible thing to have happen to you, and how wonderful that you're still able to be positive. It's something I worry about and like you I don't know what i would save until it happens, but family photos and other memory items would be top of my list.