Going up in flames

I’ve gone through a handful of transitions over the last couple of months – between work, home and my personal life, everything has changed. Some of these were expected, and others, not so much. But over the past few days, I’ve been getting some signs and signals that revolve around fire that I’m finding hard to ignore.

It started last Friday when I had to call the fire department because my carbon monoxide detector alarms went off. Eventually two fire trucks arrived, and five of Evanston’s finest (all TOTALLY HOT I might add) strolled down my driveway wielding axes. I felt safe as they roamed the premises with detectors and concern, and came to the conclusion that a nearby sewer was releasing gas that had entered through my garage, thus sounding my alarms.

Three days later, I find out I’ve been cast again to be on another episode of “Chicago Fire.” In this particular episode, a homeowner calls the 9-1-1 because her carbon monoxide detector goes off.


While on set shooting my scene where I play a reporter, I discover the crew will be filming the rest of this episode ON MY STREET in a few days.

What are the chances?

Then, on my way home from shooting the “Chicago Fire” episode, my son calls.

“There are 5 fire trucks in front of our old house, Mom!” he said with great concern. “It’s on fire!”

Several texts from neighbors and friends confirm that the home I’d sold in December was now up in flames.

Apparently the house, which was bought by a builder, was being used as a training ground for the Evanston Fire Department before it was to be demolished.

What’s with all the FIRE??

I decided to do some research on “The Symbolic Meaning of Fire” and here is what came up:

“This symbol signifies upward mobility and forward motion. To move into the energy of fire is to be utterly consumed, transformed and lifted out of limitation. It is a symbol of positive action, sexual prowess, passion, warmth and positive direction. As an oracle this symbol indicates a blossoming of understanding that will light the way for new adventure. It also indicates winning and success, and is a symbol of victorious warriors.”

You had me at “Lifted out of limitation” and “sexual prowess”!

I went on to find that in Tibet, fire is a tool for “declaring love, taking right action, and moving through blockages.” The Chinese speak of fire as a symbol of “clarity, independence, and transformation.”

Today, I decided to drive past my old house to see the fire ruins for myself. While this was by no means my “forever” home, it was the place that hugged me after my divorce. It propped me up when I felt I couldn’t do it alone, and was a respite that enabled me to provide for my son, and re-connect to my soul. It was where I lived, laughed, cried, and loved for the past 5 years.

As I pulled up to my old address, a bulldozer was tearing down what was left of my charred 1876 farmhouse.

Holy shit!

Standing in front of the wreckage, I was shocked at how sad I felt watching that truck fill a dumpster with what used to be my foundation. The bulldozer took crumbles of my past (and parts of my beautiful oak floors) into its’ jaws like a shark effortlessly eating a meal.

I picked up the phone and called a friend as I tried not to cry on the street.

“What are you up to?” I asked as he answered the phone.

“I’m at a funeral reception,” he said.

That’s ironic. So am I.

I then called another friend and mumbled something into her voicemail through my tears about my old house being destroyed and asking if this was symbolic for my whole life.

She texted me back:

“It’s symbolic in a good way. You’ve evolved from that temporary landing pad and now you’re on a launching pad…in time you will see that you have grown and matured and found harmony in that space when you needed it, but now it’s time to move on, literally and figuratively. You’re shedding your skin and it’s pushing you into the universe in a way in which you will grow and expand and find your place…So keep your head up. Good times await you in all aspects of life!!”

As I read her text, I kept hearing part of a song from the 1936 movie “Swing Time” in my head, sang by Ginger Rogers to Fred Astaire:

“Nothing’s impossible I have found, for when my chin is on the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again…”

Onward, Jen. It’s time to launch.

8 Replies to “Going up in flames”

  1. Had just finished reading your last book before the holidays–and then I see you the next day at a Hawks game–my sign to follow your blog, FB etc. Always great stuff! You make me laugh & smile often.

  2. Think of yourself as a Phoenix, rising once again through the ashes of what went before. Beautifully written, Jen!

  3. I love how you see things and better yet how you articulate them so other people like me, have a window into your thought process. It is interesting, therapeutic, illuminating, and funny, all rolled into one awesome burrito. Thanks as always.

  4. Shared this with several of my gal pals who needed to feel the fire and release the past. Thank you for your honest transparency! Looks like a transformation!!

  5. I thought the same about those beautiful oak floors as my guys used axes, saws, Halligan Tools, (many if the things you will see on Chicago Fire), to cut through & bring pretend trapped & unconscious firefighters up from the basement. We rarely have the opportunity to have a real home to fill with theater smoke, giving the simulation of zero visibility & the extra urgency of a person or fellow FF trapped. Minus the high heat of real fire of course.

    Over the course of 3 days, we ran multiple drills with half the 5 Stations in the morning, & the others in the afternoon. We had the rare chance to show newer firefighters techniques on saving our own, & themselves if trapped. We used the theater smoke to have firefighters search for lost victims, feel for hazards such as a hole in the beautiful oak floor. As the smoke cleared, & the crews talked about the methods they knew, & shared newer rescue techniques, I looked at the front door, & the obvious care & pride that had gone into that home over the years. I too felt sad that it was being torn down soon to be replaced with something that would never be as strong as the floors my crews worked so hard to get through to save the fallen firefighter. But I was thankful that this home you once occupied gave it’s last gift of training our guys to hopefully fall back on that muscle memory when a real victim or fellow firefighter is in need of a rapid rescue from harm.

    So just like your own memories, your former home will be replaced with newer memories & hope. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and your former home with the Evanston Fire Dept.

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