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Rising From The Fire

My parent's old home was left standing. Melted shutters.

Many of you familiar with my history and my work know that in 2008 our house burned down. I had, up until that time, maintained a busy and successful Real Estate career. It was a challenge, in a falling market, working with two other family members and a team of assistants, but it was a well-oiled machine that left us in the top 10 of just about every category in Northern California. I was proud of it.

When our fire occurred, it gave me the opportunity to do something else. Insurance gave us some living arrangements (a small one bedroom apartment), which I mainly stayed in by myself. Our property and house were an all-consuming job for my husband. Plus we had about 50 chickens, our Dobermans and “visits” by people who thought it was a good idea to help themselves to some of our things. He was doing battle with the insurance company, contractors and cleanup crew. All my clothes were either burned or affected by smoke.

Here are some scenes from the recent Wildfires in Santa Rosa. Not my house this time, but way more devastating.

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/business/7539286-181/lesson-for-santa-rosa-in?artslide=0

I had a couple of choices. I could go replace everything, pretend nothing had happened and just resume my former business, or I could take a little time to sort out what exactly I wanted to do. We had to decide whether or not to rebuild the house, where we would live, what things we would throw away and what things we'd save for later sorting. My head was spinning.

Because I was alone with the apartment, next door to our office, I solved my lack of sleeping problem (too much to think about) with some late-night movies, and some reading. I did more reading than I'd previously done in years. I discovered Outlander and it got me hooked into good old fashioned storytelling. I even began an email dialog with Diana Gabaldon at one point.

Although very stressful, the fire actually became the catalyst for my writing career. I think opportunity comes from stresses that seem at the time to be overwhelming. Just like diamonds created by millions of years of pressure and heat from earth masses, the creative side of me, one that hadn't been tested or expressed, began oozing out and I spent more time in my fantasyworld than I did on reality. I did it first out of self preservation. And then I began to do it because I felt it was my calling.

I wish I could say the process was clear, direct and in a straight line to success. Just like everything worthwhile in life, there are ups and downs. But, looking back, if I had to do it all over again: sacrifice some of my very precious things for a chance adventure into a new realm, or to wake up my fantasy world, I'd do it all over again. I really would.

Like the Phoenix, I emerged from the fire a completely different human being. I think about this these days as I drive past burned out homes and consider all the decisions and issues affecting people's lives who have survived our horrible wildfire.

Remember my premise: circumstances don't make a person. They reveal a person. This path wasn't one I'd planned on following. But it's one I chose once I had the options. I guess that's why they say we have to understand the difference between what we can control and what we cannot. And be good with it, focusing on what we can control.

In a way, my house burning down was a blessing. I hope some of this will be the experience of some others this year. Terrible tragedy in most ways. But not all ways. There are some people who are going to be given choices they'd never really had before. And that's where the rising, the magic comes.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 24 comments
Gayle Latreille - October 29, 2017

So glad your parent's home still stands, Sharon.
The fires in your area and British Columbia have been devastating. My heart goes out to all affected.

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    Sharon Hamilton - October 29, 2017

    Thanks, Gayle. It was amazing that it survived. Really amazing. Nothing left standing. As if the will of my mom (she loved that house and passed away while living in it), was protecting it like a guardian angel.

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E.L. F. - October 29, 2017

Beautifully put, Sharon. Kudos to you for your inspirational words and for taking this devastating experience and using it as a catalyst for change. Hugs.

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Michelle Ponce Mazuros - October 29, 2017

Sharon,
You have blessed so many of us with your stories and I appreciate the tough decisions, that placed you on this path.

As someone who lives in coastal Florida, I empathize with anyone who has felt Mother Nature's wrath. She tends to remind us that she's in charge, but I wish she would do it less often, and in less devastating ways.

Thank you sharing your family's experience with us. I continue to pray for everyone affected by natural disasters. By a simple twist of fate, it could be any of us.

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Jill James - October 29, 2017

Sharon, I still remember your stories of that devastating time in your life. It reminds me of a current commercial about the disasters. You've lost everything you own. You haven't lost everything.

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midsumrnghtdrm - October 29, 2017

Am glad you and your Family are ok and the losses were small, sad for all those that lost it all including their lives. Take care and may the Angles keep watching over you and your Family…
Jara

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J.D. Hart - October 29, 2017

Your story is so inspiring. So happy that your parents home is still standing. I'm just so very thankful that you and your family were spared from the recent devastation. Plus, there is a new family member to keep the family tree growing. Here's to angels that watch over us.

xoxoxoxoxoxo,
YP

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    Sharon Hamilton - October 30, 2017

    You got that right! Little Lily came through while all this was going on for others. One look into her perfect little face and I know the future is bright indeed!

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Judy - October 29, 2017

I love your perspective. I'm learning to burn the house down without actually doing it. I spent 10 days on an adventure with friends, and it was eyeopening. It burned down the mental house I'd built and thought I lived in. Coming home, there are people who want to put me back in that house that they're comfortable with, but I'm not anymore. I really needed the encouragement to keep rising and not let them put me back in the box. May God bless those whose lives will never be the same; may they see the opportunity you embraced. Thanks for sharing your much-needed brand of inspiration. 🙂

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    Sharon Hamilton - October 30, 2017

    Thanks, Judy. I think what you have done is marvelous. Who says we can't put outselves in the paths of miracles, right? Sounds like that's what you've done. Brava, my dear friend!!

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julie beasley - October 29, 2017

I'm pleased your parents house survived the fire. Fate sometimes takes extraordinary ways to show as a new path to travel

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    Sharon Hamilton - October 30, 2017

    If you'd known my mom, and how she loved that house so, we all came away with that. Her force of nature was even stronger than the fire. Our lineage goes on!!

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Marlene - October 29, 2017

Thank you for sharing this. It's a wonderful and inspiring story.

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tcarle - October 30, 2017

I so admire your taking something so horrific and turning it into something so wonderful. Your fans truly love you and your work!

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Thonie Hevron - October 30, 2017

Well said, Sharon. I'd like to share this on my Facebook page. Maybe it will smooth out another fire-victim's wrinkles.

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    Sharon Hamilton - October 30, 2017

    Absolutely! Go right ahead. Thanks, Thonie. Anything I can do to help expose the light on the other things about starting over, the better.

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PJ Fiala - October 30, 2017

Wonderful story Sharon and I love that you’ve found your creative self among the ashes.

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