Get Smart

There’s been quite a bit of hype about smart homes in recent years. But these are not the top-to-bottom smart homes that were envisioned in science fiction books and movies for years, of course. Those were houses that had a central artificial intelligence that controlled everything and inevitably went rogue at some point. Gladly (!!) and instead, modern smart homes are usually traditional homes just like the one that you live in, but have been enhanced with sensors and or devices and the occasional digital assistant, like Siri or Alexa.

Some people are thrilled with how technology is changing the way we interact with our home environment. Others aren’t quite so happy with the direction that this trend is heading. Love them or hate them, though – there’s one thing that you need to accept: The smart home isn’t going away.

What Makes a Smart Home?

A smart home is one that has a variety of sensors and controls within it that give you additional information or functionality when it comes to your home. This can range from information like whether you left the front door unlocked or what the temperature is in your living room to functions such as controlling your lights with your voice. Some smart homes use a central hub or device to control everything, while others use components that connect via wifi and are controlled by your phone.

Some smart homes feature appliances or other major fixtures that have “smart” capabilities while others just use devices or sensors to make day-to-day life more convenient. Because of the device-based nature of modern smart homes, homeowners can choose exactly the components they want to help make the smart home installation meet their specific needs. Additionally, smart home devices and controls can improve energy efficiency allowing owners to offset their carbon footprint.smarty

Smart Home Devices

There are a wide range of smart home devices available for homeowners. Some of these are fairly well known, such as smart thermostats that feature programmable temperature controls that “learn” how best to keep you comfortable. One such item is Nest thermostats which allow you to program temperature controls throughout the day. Others are less common but very handy, such as leak sensors that alert you when your pipes leak or window sensors that let you check to see whether your windows or locked or unlocked. You can get smart lighting that can be controlled remotely and can even change colors, smart locks that you can lock and unlock with your phone or a key fob, smart smoke and CO2 detectors, motion sensors that activate security cameras but that are able to ignore pets and small animals… the list is quite extensive. Most of these devices are programmable so you can automate specific tasks, or can at least be paired with things such as a digital assistant (like Amazon Echo devices or Google Home) to schedule automation and even voice control.

Safety and Privacy

There are a number of advantages to using smart devices, including saving money and increasing convenience in your daily life. However, some people have security and privacy concerns as well. Some smart devices have been exploited in the past, allowing hackers to listen in or speak through the devices to people in a smart home. Some devices featuring video also raise security concerns as people worry that others will be able to record them going throughout their day. While these are valid concerns, security breaches and flaws are taken seriously by manufacturers. The majority of cases where unwanted access has occurred were either due to flaws that have since been patched or due to someone gaining access to the password that secures the devices. This is why it’s important for those who buy smart devices to use strong passwords on their accounts and to make sure that their devices have up-to-date software, as these two actions will mitigate the majority of security concerns.

Get Smart

Whether you already have smart home devices installed or you’re just curious, there are installers and consultants who can help you determine exactly how your home could be a little smarter.  And if you are interested in buying a new smart home, or making your existing home smarter, contact me. I would love to help you with your real estate needs. Just text “MovingDay” to 85377 for my Smart Business Card!

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Lesley Davidson, PE, MBA

Realtor,  EXIT Real Estate Gallery

904 509-2424

Let me help you make a house your home!

More Math

So I am working with a For Sale By Owner (a FSBO). I have a buyer for their home. I am researching the value of the home to see if they have overpriced the home. Turns out, my valuation shows that the seller has not priced their home accurately.
Here is the math:
Value I estimate based on Professional Realtor sources: $326,380
Value the homeowner is trying to sell house for without a realtor to save them commission: $299,000
So, let’s look at numbers.
Sale with realtors assuming each gets 3%=
$326,380 – ($326,380 * 0.06) = $306,797 Profit to seller.
Now let’s look at the FSBO sale to see how much a seller could make without using Realtors.
FSBO sale representing yourself and giving 3% to a realtor who comes with a buyer using Seller’s purchase price of $299,000
$299000 – ($299000 * 0.03) = $290, 030 Profit to seller.
Notice, if the FSBO seller actually pays NO commission and sells their house alone, they still only get $299,000 because they have not priced it accurately with the professional tools that a Realtor has.
So, the seller will lose $16,767 they could have made using professional Realtors!!!!! And a whole lot less hassle!
Moral – use a Professional Realtor.  They will help you sell your home faster and for a better price!

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The Problem With Math

I haven’t written a blog in a while. Actually, none this year so far. But like Shrek says, “It’s on my to do list!” So here goes…The Problem With Math.


The problem with math is that it’s not just a math problem. I’ll explain that eventually. When people hear that I am a structural engineer, they always say that I must love math and that I must be very good at it. Blah Blah Blah. To be honest, I never really loved math and I didn’t think I was particularly gifted at it. Sure, in high school I was a Summa Cum Laude honor roll student. Math class was easy, but I was not Rain Man idiot savant flashing prime numbers or multiples in my head. And in college, I became a solid, mediocre calculus student. Until it clicked. And then when it clicked. I started getting A’s. This is why I tell everybody to keep at it. Because I learned what the problem with math is. And I’ll tell you below after relating this little story.

I remember the very first class I took in engineering. I had been out of school for several years after completing my first two degrees at Emory University. I was going back for a career-focused degree; something that would provide me with a skill and a secure job because being down and out in Southern California isn’t as glamorous as Nick Nolte and Bette Midler portray it as in Down And Out In Beverly Hills. I was tired of competing for jobs as a liberal arts major. And I was broke after the real estate bubble burst. Yes, that other one.

I arrived in my first class at the College of Engineering at California State University, Long Beach (Go 49ers!) in the evening after the kind of nasty sun-blinding commute on the 5 freeway for which California is infamous. I’d left my full-time accounting job (yes, I know I said I didn’t like math…. but I DO like money!) with no time for food or a change of clothes. This would become my normal life for a few years. Work until 5 pm, drive a heinous hour-long commute up the 5 freeway to Long Beach for classes until 10 pm, then commute home to BEGIN nightly homework until about 2 am. Rinse. Rise. Repeat.

The October “Save The Ta Ta’s” Breast Cancer Awareness this month reminded me of that day; that first day of my engineering degree. I was enrolled in Analytical Mechanics “Statics” class, an entry level engineering course. I was wearing a hot pink linen-cotton blend dress and feeling very out of place. I took a seat at the front of the class. Students poured in until it was standing room only. Not only was I about 5 years older than the other students, I was a female – one of the few in the room, and Caucasian in a room blended with Asians, Mexicans and Persians. (As most Americans are not adept at identifying specific ethnicities from one another, I generalized that the room was full of Asians. And, of course, the common American view that all Asians are smart and good at math made me all the more anxious. Yes, I was THAT naive. Funny thing is that I come from an immigrant family myself.).

Nonetheless, I was in the minority. The professor stood up and introduced himself. He explained that he had only agreed to teach this class as a one-time favor to the engineering department. He was actually part of the administration. And, he was a United States Military Academy West Point Engineering graduate. Lungs inhaled. Jaws dropped. Other parts tightened. The tension in the room was thick. He proceeded to lecture and in the first 15 minutes of class he covered my two years of calculus, two years of physics, two years of chemistry and any other known science topic I had ever heard about. I scribbled furiously knowing I would have to look up and learn and relearn everything he covered.

After class, in complete panic, I went to the bookstore to buy my books. Think zombie walking! As I balanced 30 pounds of textbooks, a woman spotted me in the book line and veered toward me (older students will remember these lines and how they could wrap around a building. Disney has NOTHING on university bookstore lines!). She ran over to me and grabbed my arm. I stared at her in shock as she said she recognized me (hot pink dress for ya!). I’ll never forget how surreal this event was. She said, “You’re in my statics class. I saw you sitting up front taking notes. You’re smart. You know everything.” I literally laughed out loud in her face. I was almost too stunned to reply. Luckily for me, I recovered and replied. I told this woman, who would become one of my best friends, that I indeed was in the class. But I was furiously taking notes because I had been out of school for years and he just covered my entire academic career in 15 minutes.” Turns out, my friend was in the same situation. Small world. She had graduated with other degrees and was returning for an engineering degree. We talked during the hour in line and she gave me a ride around campus to my car. It also turned out that she lived only a few minutes from me. Kismet?

We became fast friends. And we started a group of Women In Engineering for support. We both succeeded in making honor roll and being inducted into Tau Beta Pi National Engineering Honor Society and Chi Epsilon National Civil Engineering Honor Society. Along the way, we learned that men were not better than women at math or engineering, Asians (or Vietnamese, Mexican, Columbian and Persians as our ethnic mix actually was) are not better than any other ethnic group at math or engineering, and that our West Point professor was only a C level student! This he admitted in our second Statics class after about 25 people dropped! He even taught his method and mantra, all West Pointers graduate with an engineering degree so stay until you think you got a C at least, then leave. I didn’t take that advice.

So, after all that, you are probably wondering what is the answer to the problem that is math? Here again, my friend and our circle of students figured it out. Math is simply a language to understand and describe the physical realm, both static and dynamic including energy. And the secret to learning how to do this is TWO things. First, just do it. Follow the steps and rules (like order of operations etc.) and do not ask WHY! Once I just decided to follow steps and not ask why, I started getting everything correct. The second thing is USE A LOT OF PAPER! Sorry conservationists, you simply must use a lot of paper when doing math problems so you can see where mistakes are. Once I started using a whole sheet of paper and wrote legibly, I could see errors.

So that’s it. Don’t let math be a mental block or a roadblock to your career. Math is a stepping stone. It is a language to describe and address problems and find solutions. Stick with it and you will succeed. When mentoring new STEM students, I always tell them that math is only an initiation. Stick to it and you will get through. It’s not as scary as you think it is.

My advice. Sit up front. Don’t ask why. Practice practice practice. Use lot of paper!

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csulb (2).jpg


Get Back On Your Ass

Choquequirao Incan Cloud City

Don’t you love Facebook memory posts!? The memory post of my trek to the Incan city of Machu Picchu popped up in my feed. It made me laugh as I remembered the good times on the trip. But also, because it reminded me of type 1, type 2 and type 3 fun.  Have you ever heard of this concept?



Type 2 Fun. Scary as hell but also fun. Cameron crossing Apurimac River

To explain briefly, type 1 fun is having a super exciting time as you are doing something…like snow skiing, surfing, or riding roller coasters (IF you love roller coasters as I do). Type 2 fun is an event or activity that is a challenging and tough but at the same time fun. Again, like having fun riding a roller coaster but when you never really liked roller coasters before. Type 3 fun is that sort of happening which is basically brutal during the event, but upon looking back, sometimes after a few years and many beers, you think, “yeah, that was fun.”  Epic adventures with unexpected occurrences sometimes fall into this category.  Think about the movie The Hangover.  Classic type 3 fun.

My buddy

Anyway, my ten-day trek through the Peruvian Andes to the Incan cloud cities of Choquequirao and Machu Picchu is a classic type 2 fun adventure. It could have been different though – a type 3 adventure – if I didn’t have the guts to get back up on my ass.

Most people I know say they are going to travel when they retire, but long ago I heard a story about a work associate who waited until after he retired to go on his dream scuba diving trip to the Maldives. As the story unfolded, I learned that he had health issues during the long flight from his home in California to his dream destination. He was not able to scuba dive and he was medically evacuated home. This tragic story forever altered how I balance my work and vacations. I don’t wait. Many years later, I read Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4 Hour Work Week, and it reinforced my belief to travel now.  In his book, Tim discusses the value of taking sabbaticals and mini retirements. Preaching to the choir, in my case. I wholeheartedly believe that more people should take sabbaticals if not mini retirements.

firstdayToday, I’m known for my adventures. And hiking through the Andes to the Incan cities was quite the epic: nine days of trekking through Choquequirao to Machu Picchu along the Salkantay and Incan Trails at high altitude in extreme environments that varied from parched, dry forests to wet, bug-biting rain forests through cold, high elevation valleys and over glacier covered passes.

switchbackWhat they don’t tell you when they say ‘trekking through the Andes’ is that you aren’t merely hiking through the mountains. You are hiking OVER the Andes. You hike from say the Apurimac River up thousands of feet to the top of a peak and then back down to the Rio Blanco! From a riverbed to a peak and back down. Repeatedly. Did I mention at high altitude?  And, low OXYGEN?! On day 2, we crossed the Apurimac River in a basket and hiked up 99 switchbacks for 5 hours before lunch.

Joel Antony Huaman Aimara with Apus Peru

This trek is a challenge for the most fit let alone the untrained even with a guide service who provided pack mules for gear and meals. Our guide was Joel Antony Huaman Aimara with Apus Peru. I cannot say enough about Joel and Apus Peru. If you go, I highly recommend using Apus Peru! Joel is a descendant of a Quechuan shaman and is more at home in the mountains than anyone I have ever met. Struggling in the high altitude in hiking boots, leaning on poles, we counted, “one step, two step, breath step” while Joel flew from the front to the back of our group of six hikers wearing only his tennis shoes while carrying a pack.  Each night, my daughter and I would ask Joel about the next day’s trek. How long are we hiking? How high are we going? Joel, bless his heart, would tell us that the trail was “pretty flat.” It never was. We started to call it “Peru flat,” which we figured is about 30 degrees. Usually up. Don’t get me started on what is considered steep!

Unfortunately, I was not in my usual tip top shape and I felt it immediately in Cusco’s 11,154 feet altitude. Exhausted from working full time while completing my master’s program full time, I was unrested, unacclimated and ill prepared for the extreme nature of this trek. This had dire consequences.

Day 4 Leaving Choquequirao

On day 3 of the trek, my nose started to run. Torrents. I had caught a head cold probably from the long plane rides from Orlando to San Salvador to Lima then finally to Cusco. I made it to camp on day 4 and it was clear I was very sick. I hit the tent early to try to get ahead of the cold. Day 5 included hiking up from our camp at Rio Blanco to Victoria Pass, an elevation of 14,900 feet, and then down into Yanama Valley.

I was pressured to give up and ride, but I refused until we reached the base of Victoria Pass. I was stuck. Miles from the nearest village. No roads. Nothing. My only recourse was to get up on the spare ass and ride. Now you might think that riding the ass is the easy way to go, but I will tell you that the trails are so slippery and steep that being higher on an ass is WAY MORE scary than trying to hike. The ‘good news’ for me was that the spare ass was in training and had never had a pack or a passenger. The thought was that he would not be as ornery as asses can be (yeah, I went there) and he would be gentle. And he was for the most part.

Trail down Victoria Pass into Yanama Valley

I climbed on the ass at the base of the pass. The trail was a foot wide, steep and littered with boulders. As we gained elevation, the ass was having a hard time climbing the trail. As we approached the midsection, the steepest part of the trail where the cliff fell away steeply, i.e., NOT Peru flat, the ass stumbled on a boulder and I bounced down his back and landed (THANKFULLY) on my feet with a sudden stop.

Surprised, I froze and looked down the cliff and then at the ass’s ass and he in turn swung his head back and was staring at me. We were both in shock and didn’t know what to do. His handler, the amazing Carciana from Yanama Valley, came back to assess the situation. Not only did I not think I could get back up on the ass on the trail, I didn’t think he could climb up the trail with me on his back! I begged Carciana to let me hike up to the peak. Slowly, the ass and I climbed boulders on the trail and wound around switchbacks until we caught up with the rest of my friends and our two Canadians (For an amazing time, always have 2 Canadians on your trip. #lifeadvice). Once we cleared the pass, I could see Yanama Valley below. I slowly hiked down to our campsite in the valley relieved to have completed the day.

that mule ride
Heading down Yanama Pass with Carciana

But it was clear that I wouldn’t be able to make the challenging day 6 through Yanama Valley and up over Yanama Pass at 15,000 feet and beyond to Saint Theresa. Unfortunately, I was too sick to continue hiking. After the previous day’s fall, I rode with much less fear. And I think the ass did too! Thankfully, the day of rest was enough for me to regain strength to hike the remaining days to Aguas Caliente and Machu Picchu.

When I used to think about the trip, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of defeat for having to ride the ass. But after logically assessing what really happened, I realize that skipping one day of a ten-day hike is not a big deal. If anything, getting back up on that ass taught me I could persevere and solve problems. I apply this rational to new dilemmas now. I don’t let minor failures block me from succeeding. You shouldn’t either. When faced with an obstacle, get back on that ass and make an opportunity.

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Machu Picchu
















Are you stuck?

Status Quo bias, as explained by Daniel Kahneman, Jack Knetsch, Amos Tversky and Richard H Thaler among others, is an emotional reaction and preference for the current state that biases against loss aversion or endowment effects.  Loss aversion is the propensity to avoid losses over gains even when comparing an equivalent value.  For instance, people would attribute a much higher value to losing a hundred dollars than gaining it.  One implication of loss aversion is that individuals have a strong tendency to remain at the status quo because the disadvantage of leaving the status quo loom larger than the advantages.

An endowment effect, in short, is when people demand much more to give up an item and they would be willing to pay to get it. As a realtor, I see this often in real estate.  People often attribute a higher value to their home when selling it than they would assign to it if they were buying.  Emotions of this endowment effect cloud what the market data supports.

IMG_5332Furthermore, the advantage of staying with the status quo increases with the number of alternatives. This is often called a paralysis of choice.  When faced with too many choices, Barry Schwartz, as described in his book Paralysis of Choice, found that psychological concerns of missed opportunities and perceived “happiness” could hinder choosing an option on its merits alone and resulted in no decision or status quo.

Why should you be concerned with status quo bias, loss aversion and paralysis of choice?  Because it blinds proper decision making that can improve your financial decisions and overall happiness.

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BTW.  My choice is the Cooper’s Hawk Sparkling Rose and then their Almond Champagne!






Never Surrender Pursuing Your Passion

xfilesMany years ago, when I lived in sunny Southern California studying engineering at California State University at Long Beach (Yes, Long Beach State. Yes, the 49ers.  No, not football.  The football program ended in 1991 the year I started college, but that is an entirely different story!)  I watched the Chris Carter’s new X-Files show as I studied.  I loved the strange and unexplained phenomenon featured long before the plot became an alien agenda.  I dreamed of writing for X Files.  Even after I graduated and became a bridge engineer, I plotted story lines and mimicked Fox Mulder and Dana Scully’s repartee.  I counted sentences. I counted syllables.  I counted beats.  Yes, by rewinding a VCR.  Yes, THAT obsessive.

Then a few years later, listening to Zydeco at a music festival in Sacramento, I happened to meet somebody who actually worked on the X-Files show.  We struck up a friendship based on our love of the Sci-Fi show.  He told me David Duchovny and others often wrote and directed episodes and that X Files would accept speculative scripts.  I had some great ideas and immediately started working on three of them.  Once I finished the first script, I gathered courage to call Kim Manners, producer and director for X Files at the time. And, remarkably, I reached him.  Miracle in itself!

Mr. Manners liked my idea and really thought it had hope, but at the time, he explained, they were negotiating a new contract with the studio. As part of the new contract, they were required to follow an alien conspiracy theory story line.  My script was not about aliens or the alien conspiracy theory; rather it was on Native American shamans. (See X Files is FBI and FBI has jurisdiction over tribal lands.)

scriptIMHO (of course!), it was a wonderful script and I still laugh when I read it today (Well, I think I’m funny!). But hearing Kim’s news dejected me, and I put the scripts away.  What I should’ve done was use the script for a writing sample or calling card for other writing jobs. But instead I quit.  I was a new mom, head of household with all the responsibilities and obligations that entails.  Excuses. Excuses. Blah Blah Blah.  I retreated into my safe, secure engineering career abandoning my passion.

But here is the thing.  You can never get a true passion or desire out of your mind.  And, if you are like me, you won’t stop thinking or obsessing over that passion.  PRO TIP: Don’t give up! Go after it!  So, here I find myself behind a computer screen.  This time, I am not calculating bridge beams or analyzing mast arm foundation depths.  I am sculpting scenes into eight mini movie formats, mirroring antagonists and protagonists, and bending character arcs.  Whether I am successful or not is moot because you cannot abandon your passion.  And, passions generally yield successes!

Devils Tower
I want to believe!

I made this!

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Lesley Davidson


When BIG FIRE Happens!!!

In light of the big This Is Us fire, I thought I would take this time to share my experience of being in a house fire.  My home burned down on Halloween weekend in 1980.  It was a three-alarm fire meaning three fire stations were dispatched to the blaze. “Big fire on arrival,” best describes the scene.  Huge plumes of toxic gray smoke billowed out and up the back of the house as flames licked (my best description of flame action from my memory) out the windows and up the eaves toward the roof.


In some ways, it was the classic fire nightmare story, perfect for a movie script.  My parents were out of town for the weekend.  My younger brother was luckily at a sleepover with friends.  I was out with friends at a roller skating rink until after midnight.  I know.  Mom always said, “Nothing good happens after midnight.”  My older sister was home having a party with friends – you see where this is going?

I returned home to a post party house…you can picture it.  Keg in the back yard and the hush hush of my sister.  That night, for the first time in a month, I slept in my own room.  I had been sleeping on a sofa due to nightmares I had from watching the movie Friday the 13th.  The first one.  That I watched at the theater on my birthday, August 30.  Anyway, that is another story.  But, for the first time in weeks, I slept in my own room.  And, on top of that, I shut the door thinking that if there was a fire or something I should close the door.  Strange coincidence or fate?  You decide.

I don’t know about you, but as a youth I had those common questions like what would I take with me if my house burned down.  What would I save?  What would I do?  My room had been redecorated from the blue Holly Hobby motif that my mother had chosen years before and repainted a dark sienna brown color…earthy tones were so in back then.  And, I wasn’t very girly girly then anyway!  I mean, WHO has ever heard of Holly Hobby!?  I know I didn’t know who Holly Hobby was.  At the time, my new Pentax K1000 camera was my favorite possession.  I was the yearbook editor and shot football pictures when I wasn’t playing in the band.

Fast forward to the night of the fire.  I jerked awake as if pushed up by some unseen force (ask me about my thoughts on that another time).  My dark sienna brown walls were cloudy.  The whole room was cloudy.  All I could see was haze.  I couldn’t hear anything.  I got out of bed and went for the door.  I remembered those “what to do in case of a fire” videos from elementary school; “Touch the door.  Don’t touch the door handle (hot!). Get low beneath the smoke.”  I went to the door.  Yes, it was hot.  I recall thinking that this was stupid and pointless.  The house was obviously on fire.  Get out was the answer.

My camera was on my desk.  My favorite green corduroy pants were on the floor.  (Eighties, remember? Before fluorescent was in!)  What do you think I grabbed?  What did I do?  I am here to tell you that the answer to the ‘what you will rescue during a fire’ question is – NOTHING.  Nothing matters.  You won’t take anything.  I did, however, put my pants on.  Score one for vanity.

With pants on, I moved to the front window.  I opened the window and was struggling with the screen.  I decided to try the side window.  I took three to four steps toward the other window and started coughing and choking.  I couldn’t breath.  I was going to die if I stayed inside any longer.  I ran back to the other window and pushed through the screen and landed outside in a spiky juniper shrub.  Not a comfortable landing.  My parents always planted spiky shrubs around the house to stave off burglars.  I don’t think it works, but I know it makes for a bad escape.

The house was dark and quiet except for the loud roar of flames.  Fires seem silent when you are inside…you are lulled into the roar until you don’t hear it.  Knowing my sister was inside, I ran to the front door.  I beat on the door and hit the large glass side panel which split beneath my forearm.  I started running to my neighbors to call the fire department and saw my sister crash through the juniper bushes.

I returned to the house but couldn’t find my sister.  I went into the back yard and saw the entire family room engulfed in flames.  Though the patio door, I could see a large flame like a sinister tongue licking up the ceiling and into the kitchen.  The fire was spreading out the family room window to the eaves.  Foolishly or maybe that I felt helpless, I grabbed a hose and started spraying the roof and eave.  I heard an oil lamp explode in the house.  Intense heat pushed me twenty feet back.  I felt like I had an instant sunburn.  I turned from the flames and a girl I did not know jump out my parent’s bathroom window and run. I wondered if anyone else could be in the house.

Sirens sounded and firemen surrounded me.  I backed off, trying to breath, my throat felt burned and a rough dripping sensation was in my chest.  Hoses were strewn all over the ground as firemen worked the stream on the fire.  I watched firemen dump the keg out and use the barrel to pour water through the threshold so others could approach.

The aftermath is as great as the fire although I must admit I don’t remember the fire being out or the firemen leaving.  I slept at my neighbors house that night grateful of a place to stay and surprised that so many of my neighbors, who I didn’t know well, had offered to take us in.

The next day, my older brother and sister came home with my younger brother.  We were lucky.  No one was hurt.  Even the cats and dogs escaped.  But the house was seriously damaged.  From the street, you couldn’t tell the house had burned.  As it was a brick house, I can’t say it burned down.  More like it was burned out.  We walked the house and comedy relief took over.  “Remember that spot on the carpet by the fireplace?  Well you don’t have to worry about it anymore!”  We joked in our shock and dismay.  A neighbor came over and chastised us for burning the house down.  NOT what we needed to hear.  PSA: Take my advice. That is not a good thing to say to someone whose house has just burned down.

Everything that was not scorched or melted was smoke damaged.  Anything manufactured with any plastic was melted into shapes making a guessing game of what it had been.  The telephone had melted down the wall.  It still worked, but it was like a Salvatore Dali painting.  A wall of book cases was charred.  Curtain rods drooped and clothes singed off wire hangers were clumped on closet floors.  Hollow core doors were burned through revealing the cardboard spacers inside.  The wool carpet was singed flat and half burned furniture was thrown throughout the back yard by the firemen.  And the smell.  There is nothing like the smell of a fire.  My memory of that smell will never go away.

Fires can be a dramatic plot twist for a movie, but in real life they have deadly consequences and life long effects.  The house took over 6 months to rebuild.  The burned lungs would take a few weeks to heal.  Though some effects were longer lasting.  For years, I would wake in the middle of the night and get up to touch the walls.  Beige walls were the worse as they reminded me of the smoky haze.  I would touch the walls to make sure they were cool.  And I am super conscious of anything that heats up.  Although the cause of the fire was a cigarette that fell out of an ashtray onto a sofa, I love automatic shut offs!  Electrical items, especially when they are malfunctioning, terrify me.  But I know how blessed we were to survive this fire.  Watching fire movies have a visceral affect on me that I don’t wish on anyone.

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Lesley Davidson