Sleep Eluded Me

Getting a good night’s sleep is pretty much an every night occurrence for me so on those rare occasions when I wake up during the night and can’t go back to sleep, I’m fidgety and squirmy and very aggravated with myself.

Last night I went to bed about 11 and as with most nights, I never lay there for a moment – I almost instantaneously go to sleep. But at 1:30, I was wide awake. I know not to let my mind wander or I will begin thinking of things and that’s what happened last night.

  • Lisa’s Quilt – I knew Vicky was sending it off to her last Saturday and I wondered if it had arrived; if she liked it; if she had let Vicky know that she liked it.
  • Santa on Speed – I smiled as I remembered how much I like that quilt. I was tempted to leave it on the bed even after Christmas. One year I left my beloved Jim Shore Nativity Scene out all year. I wanted to enjoy it every day! Then I didn’t have the excitement of putting it out when I added my Christmas decorations the next year so I didn’t do that again. Likewise, I put Santa on Speed away and will be thrilled to see it again next year.
  • Topsy Turvy 9 Patch – I’m teaching that pattern in a few months so I thought about whether I should make up some more blocks and border pieces to be able to show, along with the completed tops.
  • Borders – I’m teaching borders next week and kept going over which quilts I will bring, what I will say, whether I need to revise my “Borders” handout to include new borders I’ve made since the handout was written

Then my mind wandered back to July 2, 1992. It was actually the night of July 1. A Wednesday night. We were living in Texas. My marriage was failing and we both knew it. We had tried for several years to hold it together for Chad’s sake but looking back, we should’ve seen it was pretty hopeless. Both of us could’ve done things differently, but we didn’t.

Back then I was a more sound sleeper than I am now. Once Chad got to the point of sleeping through the night, which he did at a very young age, I just never woke up during the night. On the night of July 1, 1992, although it was the morning of July 2, I woke up and smelled smoke. I remember looking at the clock and it was 2:03 a.m. I continued to lay there for a second or two, thinking to myself I wonder why I smell smoke. Then I bounded out of bed to find the house on fire. Only the garage part of the house and maybe a bit of the office and laundry rooms which were near the garage were in flames but the entire house was smoky — not yet filled with smoke but there was plenty of smoke in the house. I met my ex in the hall and he said “Don’t go down the hall. I THINK the house is on fire!” I’d say the house is definitely on fire. I grabbed a phone and called the fire department. I don’t think we even had 911 back then in our small town. They told me they had already received the call (through our burglar/smoke alarm), had called the house and the ex had told them he thought it was a false alarm. Maybe he did think that .. maybe he didn’t. I frantically began throwing clothes and “stuff” into whatever I found — can’t remember if it was a bag, a trash can or what. The fire was still in the garage area and had not yet gotten into the kitchen or living room. After a few minutes, I called the fire department back. HURRY!! They were coming, they’d be there shortly. We lived close enough to the fire department that we could hear the siren they sounded for the volunteer firemen around town to know there was a fire and they were needed. I never heard it but I was pretty frantic. I called Mom and Dad before 3 a.m. I needed help and I needed it NOW and even though they were 2 hours away, they were the first ones I thought of when I needed help.

The smoke had not gotten a whole lot worse in the house so Chad was still in his bed asleep. What seemed like an eternity was probably less than 5 minutes.

I heard the sirens from the fire trucks arriving. During this frantic few minutes, I had been deciding what to tell Chad, now four years old. I didn’t want him to see the house; I didn’t want him to see the fire trucks there. I wanted to shield him from this experience.

As the fire trucks arrived, I grabbed Chad from his bed and ran outside with him. He was a heavy load and I had my pajamas on still, but I had grabbed a bag of clothes/shoes for both of us. My sweet neighbor, Mrs. Byerly, heard all the commotion and came out at 3 a.m. Chad was still sleeping in my arms, I was crying and Mrs. Byerly took him from me and put him in bed in her house. He never woke up.

The fire was put out quickly and only the garage, our vehicles, the office and laundry room suffered much real fire damage. The entire house was a big mess from smoke and water.

Word traveled quickly through our small town. As daylight approached, our State Farm agent was there with coffee and donuts; friends came by, a cousin who lives in town came by, many people from our church came, all with offers of help — you can stay at our house; you can drive our vehicles, etc.

Thursday was Mother’s Day Out at First Baptist Church and a friend, Georgia, was director. She came by very early that morning and offered to take Chad home with her, bathe and feed him and take him to Mother’s Day Out. He was still sleeping so she and I woke him up at Mrs. Byerly’s house, asked him if he wanted to go home with Miss Georgia and then go to Mother’s Day Out. He was thrilled and never seemed to notice that he was in bed in a strange house. Georgia distracted him and they left without him even noticing the fire trucks at our house.

Eventually we could go back in and retrieve things we needed. Mom and Dad arrived. Arson investigators were called in from Houston. Neither the ex or I were allowed to leave town until the arson investigators could talk to us. At some point, they must’ve realized I was pretty hopeless — either too dumb to start a fire or I probably wouldn’t have started it and gone back to bed with my precious child still sleeping. I was told I could leave. Mom, Dad and I picked Chad up at church and left to go back to Lake Charles to stay with them.

I’m not real sure what happened with the arson investigators. I just knew I was never going back. After a few days, we did tell Chad there had been a fire at the house. He wanted to know if his room had burned. He had a race car bed and he was worried about that. No, the race car bed had not burned. His room was fine. He was happy.

My van had the least damage. It needed new brakes, new tires on one side and I can’t remember what else. It was towed off to the tire shop in our town and there it was fixed within a day or so. I had to go back and get it. The pickup truck had lots of damage and couldn’t be driven until it was fixed. I had go to go back to pick up my van as the ex had his work truck which was parked away from the house and not damaged. Mom took me back and I was surprised to see how much of my car had melted. It would be fixed but I would get that done in Lake Charles. The van was just a few months old at this point. Chad saw all the damage and wanted to know what happened. I told him I had parked too close to a fire. He was terribly disappointed that I had done that! 🙂

After a while, we did tell Chad there had been a fire at the house. He wanted to know if his room had burned. He had a race car bed and he was worried about that. No, the race car bed had not burned. His room was fine. He was happy.

The insurance company took care of getting the house back together. I guess they hired someone to do all the work. They kept calling me to ask about paint colors, carpet colors, drapes, ceiling texture. They had a hard time accepting that I truly didn’t care . . I was never, ever going back to that house and I didn’t. I never set foot inside it again. Someone else (I don’t even know who), took care of getting it all packed and my stuff moved. The house was sold.

We stayed with Mom and Dad for a few weeks, then rented a house, and then bought a house.

But the weird thing is that on July 2, 1994, at 2:03 a.m. I woke up again and smelled smoke. The ex and I had already separated and I was living at my own house. When I woke up, I looked at the clock, wondered for just an instant why I smelled smoke, then jumped up and ran to get Chad out of bed. Before getting to his room, I realized there was no smoke in the house. There was no fire . . it was just a very real seeming nightmare. But, that day, on the advise of the attorney I was working for, I drove back to Texas and visited with the police and fire investigators and learned some things I had not known before. Things that shook my world and shattered any sense of security I had felt.

The fire in 1992 was bad but the realizations of 1994 were worse. Nothing was ever proved except (1) the fire was arson and (2) our own gas can was used to start the fire.

Back to last night . . I could not stop thinking about these things. I could not go back to sleep. I contemplated getting up and going downstairs to sew but I figured I’d wake Chad (if he had even gone to sleep yet) and I didn’t want Vince to wake up and wonder why I was not sleeping so I just continued to lay there and think.

When my alarm went off this morning, I was in the Bird Brain booth at the Road to CA show so . . I must’ve fallen back asleep at some point.


  1. 1


    WOW! Your ex sure exhibited some strange behavior, to say the least. I think the worst (besides the obvious possibility of him setting the fire) was him telling the fire dept. it was a false alarm.
    On a lighter note….did any of your stash burn???

  2. 2


    OMG what a story. No wonder it’s hard to shake that feeling and memory. Best, and smartest thing you ever did was getting away from your ex. Really strange stuff. Sounds crazy but did you eat before bed-that makes me hae bad dreams and my ex is sometimes involved…ugh!

  3. 3

    Toni says

    Wow Judy,

    I cant believe anyone would start a fire when you and your baby could of been killed…a false alarm..hmmmmm….some people are just sick…

    I am so glad you got out safe with Chad…

    Did this ever happen again in your old town?

    Hope you sleep better tonight….Toni

  4. 4


    Oh my gosh, Judy! I am speechless with my mouth hanging open. I am so glad that you and Chad were o.k. and never went back. You were meant to spend your life with Vince. You are an adorable couple.

    On a lighter note, did you come up with any more fantastic quilt designs while you were not sleeping last night? lol

  5. 5


    That’s such a scary story, Judy. Truly scary! Thank goodness you and Chad weren’t hurt, and got out of that situation!

    So what did you buy in the Bird Brain booth last night? ILY

  6. 6


    Oh, I forgot. I haven’t mailed Lisa’s quilt yet. I’ll mail it on Monday. She was unsure whether she was going out of town or not, so I thought it best just to hang onto it until next week. I’ll let you know what she thinks. (Hugs)

  7. 7


    What a sad story-at least you and Chad got out okay. What did he(the ex)think he was going to gain? Cherish Vince and give him extra hugs for being one of the good guys.

  8. 8

    Peggy says

    Your story could be a Law & Order episode except that, thank heaven, no one was hurt. I love Bird Brain as well. I first started shopping their booth when it was about 6X6 at the Pacific International. Entrepreneurship is so wonderful!

  9. 9


    Thank goodness you were so lucky and woke up! I am glad to know that you and Chad made it through that ordeal! In a city close to me, there was a mother and her 3 or 4 kids that were killed in January by the father and he tried to cover it up with fire and blaming the wife. Very scary stuff!

    Again, glad you and Chad were OK!

  10. 10


    The world is blessed that Chad and you survived that night back in ’92. I truely know how scared you were when ever you have this dream or think about that night. Hopefully by sharing it with all your blog friends we can each take a part of that dream away from you so you never have it again.

  11. 12


    That’s scary to find out it was arson that destroyed your first house. I would be frantic if I woke up and smelled smoke too, after that. Glad it was just a dream. Being in the Bird Brain booth is much more pleasant, lol.

  12. 13

    Evelyn says

    Amazing that you did wake up Judy. What a scary thing to live through – yikes! And my own son is 4 1/2 now so I can relate to how you must have been feeling, trying to protect Chad from knowing what happened. No wonder you had bad dreams about it. I am very nervous about the thought of fire and have more smoke alarms than needed, plus easy to reach fire extinguishers. And a gas alarm. And a C02 alarm.



  13. 14


    Scary, scary story! God was looking out for you and Chad. I’m glad to know that you have found someone who truly loves you.