The answers to the most simple yet important questions: Karen's house burned down, but she and the puppies are completely okay.
Now, some things that I have learned, experienced, and had reinforced the last few days:
-There is no worse feeling than driving on the interstate, knowing you are too far away to help.
-That feeling was magnified when Joe tells me that he can't go check on Karen...cause our apartment complex is on fire as well and there are 3 fire trucks in the parking lot. Armageddon now seemed plausible. (Luckily, it was a small fire two buildings down and no one was hurt).
-Hearing that Karen and the puppies were okay was great. Seeing that they were okay was a lot better.
-I have stood and watched fires before. Now, anyone who was not friend, family, or neighbor, I wanted to punch in the face. I know it makes no sense--none of us could do anything else but stand there and watch as the firefighters worked. But it's how you feel.
-Firefighters are some amazing, brave people. Fire Marshals have a tough job and some pretty amazing people skills.
-Karen looks pretty funny in her neighbor's clothes.
-I would make a horrible fireman. Not due to a lack of bravery, but because when they gave me a helmet to walk through the house with, I put it on backwards and didn't notice.
-Lightning sucks. The bolt that hit Karen's house must have been an evil male one, because it struck her clothing closet first and destroyed everything in it.
-Katie and Rachel Voytko rock even more than I knew--they gave Karen clothes the next morning. This does not excuse the fact that Rachel think Tomb Raider is a good movie and that Katie thought Alicia Silverstone as Batwoman was cool, but it's a start.
-The morning after a fire, everything looks a lot worse.
-The smell of burned and water/smoked damaged stuff hangs on you like a bad prom date.
-Insurance rocks. Seriously.
-Karen is a pretty amazing. I'd be a total basket case at this point. One of Karen's first reactions: "NICK! Darth Tater survived!!"
-Yes, Darth Tater, pictured above, came out unscathed. So did nearly every other piece of Darth Vader paraphernalia that she owned (which if you know Karen, you know her odd fascination with this character). The power of the dark side, indeed...
-Karen's family is pretty amazing as well. Her mom and sister in law, Stephanie, drove all night to get there and help the next day.
-Even more weird stuff in her house survived. Her bassoon and the reeds she had with it all came out unscathed. Her ipod might have some water damage, but it still worked. Important documents that she kept in Rubber Maid containers all made it. You hear that Rubber Maid? Do you hear that commercial endorsement opportunity screaming at you... :)
-No matter what you think, you cannot force Karen to sleep when she is in "must get things done" mode. Even with her going on 1 hour of sleep, this task proved impossible.
-My birthday is today, and even though it's cliche to say so, the best present I could get is having Karen and the puppies be okay.