Thursday, June 28, 2012

From Here to Almost Home

Work has come to a standstill at our house. The insurance company gave us the old 'check's in the mail' story...but it wasn't. They've decided to disagree with our third party consultant who says the work on our house is 85% complete. They believe it is not 85% complete and stopped sending money. With no money, we can't pay the crews. Or buy the windows. Or pay for the siding. Or the insulation.

The Big Guy does battle everyday with the insurance company. He copies and forwards bids. He sends receipts. He sends lists of code violations. He sends letters and affidavits. He calls. He e-mails. It is exhausting just watching him fight this battle. Then he goes to battle with vendors and subcontractors. There are doors that are ordered but don't come in. There are bids that never show up. Sometimes it feels like a never ending nightmare.

With no work happening and no money to work with yet, I see our big moving day looming ever farther on the horizon. It is depressing. So, I decided instead of wallowing in our lack of progress it was time to take a look back on just how much progress we've made.

Let's look at the kitchen. This is what we saw the night of the fire.
I's just a mess. Here is what I see when I look at this photo. I see the blender, melted and full of black water from the fire fight. I see pots and pans pulled from under cabinets with charred edges. I see a can of apple pie filling, destined earlier that night to be dessert, with bulging ends ready to explode. I see plywood over the broken windows. I see the trim melted off the counter. I see the warped, melted drawers. I see the plastic cups melted into bizarre shapes. I see my microwave and part of my wall sitting in the floor. I see insulation from the ceiling on everything. It was completely surreal. What you can't see in the photo is that we were standing in a foot of soppy, black insulation and drywall littered with busted dishes and window glass.
The baker's rack.
This was our baker's rack. It was red and white. It was covered with lush, green plants. Ivy trailed down the sides and through the bars. There were 3 plastic pots on this rack. You can't see them because they melted away, but you can see the dirt there on the bottom. Some of the charred ivy plants were hanging out the back window when the firefighters left. The retro-style radio is melted into a twisted glob.
Stove and slow cooker.
This is where the fire started. You can see the remains of the slow cooker, the stupid crock sitting on the stove top. The firefighters pulled the microwave and range hood from the wall. The cabinet there is what the insurance company calls 'burnt out of sight'. The fire here burned through the ceiling into the attic.
Kitchen, bay window and ceiling.
Here we are in the demolition phase. And there is our contractor, probably wondering what he had gotten himself into. The appliances have been hauled out. The cabinets and all of their contents are in the dumpster. At this point, they had not touched the ceiling. The fire did all that.

The sheet rock is out and the fixtures are gone. It was easier for me to see at this point because I could no longer see our 'things'.
New kitchen ceiling. 
Here we are with the ceiling all framed in.

And here we are with the framing finished. The roof is complete now so there is no more water in the floor. We actually now have plumbing, HVAC, and electricity here to.

So, there is the progress of one room. It, like the rest of the house is 85% complete. As soon as we get a check from the insurance company we can add insulation and sheet rock and start cabinets and flooring. The check is on the way. I would insert a joke here but I'm just too tired.

We've come a long way. We are at the far end of the journey. It won't be long now until I am standing at my new island baking cookies with the kids. 

Say it with me: "There is no place like home. (click) There is no place like home. (click) There is no place like home. (click)"

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Post Blueberry

Life does go on. Here is a glimpse of our life And post-fire. Or is our life. Good geez.

I had surgery Tuesday morning. I left the hospital Wednesday morning. And I spent most of the week like this:
Soft blanket, not-so-comfy couch, good meds.  
Notice I kept the phone nearby so I could have phone conversations I would not remember. If I spoke to you this week, please don't assume I remember our conversation. 

This is pretty much what I do remember of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday: I wake up. I take a shower. I take a nap. I brush my teeth and put on something of my face. I take a nap. I change my band-aids. I dry my hair. I take a nap. I eat. I take a nap. Then it's time to head up the stairs for bed again. I have no idea why I'm so tired!    

I've also moaned, groaned, and whined 5 million and three times. Precisely. At first I was sure my rib cage was tearing away from my skin every time I had to get out of bed. Or move. Or just take a breath. Now the pain comes mainly when I take a big step. Or laugh. Or burp. Or hiccup. Oh my stars! The hiccups! Of the devil, I tell you.

I have 4 small incisions and 1 giant hole in my belly button. Maybe they thought I wouldn't notice if they put a hole in my belly button but I do. And quite honestly, I'm offended. They ruined a perfectly good belly button. It was the only remaining area of my belly without stretch marks. And now it is scarred! I'm also seriously disappointed in my surgeon. He poked five holes in my belly, stuck all sorts of ports and equipment in there, and did not even have the common courtesy to suck out some extra fat while he was in there doing his thang. So flippin' rude. I intend to take this up with him at my follow-up appointment. 

I decided it was best to keep band-aids on over the tape strips holding me together because heaven forbid my shirts would brush against my wounds. I'm a big wimp like that. But now the band-aids seem to be rebelling and are doing more damage to my skin than my t-shirt possibly could so I'm ending our relationship. Goodbye, band-aids.  

Notice I said t-shirt? Yeah. Because I haven't actually figured out how to wear pants yet. Someone should make post-gallbladder surgery pants for big girls. (I think they are actually called yoga pants, but I don't own any yoga pants. Sigh.)

Well...I couldn't whine around all week. My dear Fish had turned another year older while I was off at the hospital losing an organ and it was time to celebrate. I managed a skirt, folded down at the waist and a nice lose t-shirt and I slowly waddled my way into Michaels for a tie-dye party between my naps. 

Really, Tuna...the outfit cannot be that bad with flip-flops.
Clearly, Tuna was mortified for me. Actually, she was just embarrassed that I paired this outfit with flip-flops instead of black Converse Chuck Taylors. She'll get over it. 

My Fish is the most amazing girl, and so obviously the middle child. She was incredibly understanding that my surgery took precedence over her birthday dinner. She has said nothing of not getting to pick a cake or dessert for her actual birthday. She was completely okay with buying a chocolate cake at the store instead of me making her the tie-dye cake I promised. She just goes with the flow. 

Happy 12th birthday, Fish! Sorry life got in the way, girl. 
Happy birthday, Fish. 


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I Am A Bruised Blueberry

Just call me Violet Beauregarde. You know...the girl who turns blue and swells up into a blueberry in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. (Or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory if you're of the younger which case I don't like you because you probably don't have stretch marks or poor abdominal muscle tone.)

It was 2:00 am when I sat straight up in bed and propelled myself quickly toward the bathroom. I grabbed a hair clip on the way because I was pretty sure I knew what was coming. I clipped my hair up as I broke into a sweat and began to shiver. Then the pain hit. It was like a never ending labor pain. There was no 'breathe through it until it stops' because there was no stopping.

I grabbed a bucket and headed back to bed because lying back down might make it magically go away. It didn't. I laid on my left side. I laid on my right side. I got on my hands and knees. I stood on my head. Okay, I can't stand on my head but I did seriously consider it. I told my husband I had to go to the hospital.
This. Cannot. Be. Happening. (I am being brave sharing this really wretched pic because I want to share
the true essence of the experience with you. I'm generous that way. I'm also still on good drugs. )  

Hospitals are fabulous. They have morphine. That stuff is awful going in, but after a few Just...w o w. I had an ultrasound during which I'm pretty sure the tech actually perforated my gallbladder and broke a rib. Then I had a CAT scan. Then I had a sadistic shot from hell lovely shot of something that stopped the abdominal pain and some antibiotics and I was on my way to room 401 to be scheduled for emergency removal of my gallbladder.

They scrubbed my body with blue surgical scrub. Blue! It is much more attractive than that putrid yellow I have seen before, but blue? Hence, I look like a blueberry. But wait! There's more!

I have only 5 small incisions or puncture wounds. The wounds are not really the bear of this surgery. The bear is that they use one of those little openings to fill your abdomen with carbon dioxide so they have more room to work and greater visualization. In other words, they inflated me like a balloon. And holy hell, that hurts! So, I look like a big, plump blueberry. With band-aids.   

I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason. I cannot for the life of me figure out what the reason could possibly be for my needing emergency surgery in the final weeks of our fire recovery. I suppose maybe I complained one too many times about shopping and packing and sleeping in the rented bed and this was just meant to be a distraction. Who knows? 

At any rate, I have no insurance. I am in some serious pain. And they scarred up my perfectly beautiful, stretch-marked, saggy belly. How dare they! I even have a new stretch mark, I presume from all of that carbon dioxide inflation. 

Because...WHY NOT?!
Apparently, I have a new allergy to add to the list.

Update: My arms are on fire. As if I have a serious sunburn. I'm itchy. Yup. I'm having an allergic reaction. The doc has called in a different pain medication which I needed two hours ago. I feel like having a tantrum and saying ugly things but that would require actually moving my belly so instead I will sit, very very still, and pout. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Half Baked

"My head is stuck in the clouds
She begs me to come down
Says "Boy quit foolin' around"
I told her "I love the view from up here
Warm sun and wind in my ear
We'll watch the world from above
As it turns to the rhythm of love"

Recognize that? It's the lyrics from the Plain White T's Rhythm of Love. It reminds me of the Big Guy and myself. He is the eternal dreamer, and I, the realist. He dreams our dreams and makes them come true. I keep his feet on the ground.  We've been dancing that dance for 21 years.

And so goes the rebuilding of our house. He sees an almost rebuilt house. A place that will be move-in ready very, very soon. I, see a construction zone...a disaster area...a place we can't possibly live in by the end of July. So, he dreams the dream and works to make it come true and I say "boy, quit foolin' around." I keep his feet on the ground and plan for the what-ifs. Like, what if we don't have walls by the end of next month?

Quite a pair we are. 

He is still meeting with subcontractors and battling with the insurance company and picking up and delivering supplies to the work site that is our home. I am planning and organizing, packing and labeling, making lists and checking them off as we purchase the makings of a home. 

Part of the problem is that his brain thinks in building mode so he sees progress. My brain thinks in living mode so I see a disaster. He sees a house being built really well and fairly efficiently. I see a house we can't live in yet. 

For example...
He sees windows and a door and a deck. I see plywood.

Back yard...sort of.  
He sees a patio, a deck attached to that pier in the bottom left corner, and a fire pit. I see plywood, other wood, and nails. Lots and lots of nails. That point UP.

Let me just take a second here to talk about the flippin' nails. Nails are sharp. If you leave wood laying around with nails sticking UP, you could put a nail through your foot. The moral of this little where you walk around wood with nails sticking up everywhere. Yes? 

No. No, apparently not. It seems at least once a week someone steps on a nail. I'm going to take a dishpan and some Epsom salt over there and label it Nail Remedy. I have threatened to leave a first aid kit there but the guys assure me they are just fine with duct tape and rags. We've had one nail in the scalp incident and they handled that adequately (and by adequately, I do not mean to imply it was in any way sanitary) with their rags and duct tape. The nail through the foot thing bothers me though. I firmly believe that when one has a nail through their foot they should be required to soak said foot in salted water and see a doctor. And one should not argue with the big lady that owns the house. And that's all I'm going to say about that. For today. I was saying...

Under the back room. Gosh, we need a better name for that area. 
He sees fascia boards, soffits, and new doors. I see more wood.

I really don't mean to be pessimistic. It's just...well, it's just, we're coming up on 9 months now, and I still see bare wood everywhere I look. True, there are shiny, blingy things there now too like ventilation ducts and plumbing, but mostly there is a lot of wood. A whole lot of wood. 

Master bedroom, and one of our fabulous framers.  
This wall is the exterior wall of the master bedroom. It was the wall farthest from the actual fire. Nothing in this room burned. Nothing anywhere near this room burned. But it baked. The heat was so intense that the 2X4 studs splintered. The sap ran out and baked into a powder. Each stud had to be sistered. (There is something very funny about that phrase by the way.) Each stud is now supported by a new stud to add integrity to the structure. Translation: there is now more new wood in this house than old wood.

My lack of photography skills combined with  the lack of lighting in the house create a very poor illustration, but the new wood is easily discernible from the old wood because all of the old wood was sealed with shellac, or secretions of the female lac bug. (Also very funny.) (Or maybe it's just me.) (Maybe I'm just slap-happy from not sleeping in a decent bed for NINE months.) The wood treated with shellac is white. There is very little of it in comparison to the amount of new wood. 

I find it very odd to say "our house caught on fire." The phrase 'caught on fire' just doesn't explain it. 'Burned down' would seem more appropriate, but it didn't. It was technically still standing. We've discovered there is an in-between type of  fire description- 'baked'. Our house baked. The kitchen essentially burned down. The family room and dining room caught fire. The rest of the house baked. And melted. 

And summarize this all-over-the-map where-was-she-going-with-this blog post...he is a dreamer and a builder, I am struggling with a harsh reality on a practical level, our crew doesn't know where not to place their feet, our house is nothing but a sea of wood right now, and I'm slap-happy. 

Yup...that pretty much sums it up for now. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

So Not Ok

H A V E    M E R C Y !

See-through house. (Sorry, were just in the shot)
It has been 8 months since we've been home. Yes, 8. It's been 8 months since I got the phone call that would send me speeding home, all adrenaline and nerves. It's been 8 months since we stood huddled together in our driveway, firetruck lights illuminating our yard in eerie red and blue. It's been 8 months since our friends, neighbors, and family members gathered around us and held us tight and prayed for us and offered words of comfort.

They told us that we were ok. Heck, we told ourselves we were ok. As I settled down into a  hotel bed at 8:00 am the next morning, a separate bed from my husband, my children split up into various rooms far down the hall and my dogs, still sick from smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion, with extended family, I understood something deep in my soul. I was not, ok. True, I had not admitted it to myself yet. But I knew it. I kept up a mantra to my children- "we are ok, we are all ok, we are going to get through this." But, deep in my soul, I knew. We were not ok. 

I promised to keep it real here, and this is the real. I'm not ok. I am traumatized. The terror in my daughter's voice when she called to say "come home now Mom! The house is burning!" will be forever etched into my memory. Forever. The fear I felt trying to drive home to my family, not knowing what I would find when I arrived, is forever embedded in my soul. The complete emptiness and helplessness I felt laying down in a hotel with nothing but what I had with me when I had left home to go to work that has taken a toll on me. I am exhausted still. I have realized that I have little memory of things going on in my life in early September. I cannot remember what classes I was attending at college. I can hardly remember some of the details of my own home. 

I am not ok. I am alive. I am grateful. I am putting one foot in front of the other. I smile. I laugh. We all do. But we are not ok. 

I have hope. I hope, sincerely, that when we move home...when we can no longer see through the walls of our home...that we will feel ok. But, I don't know. Perhaps we are forever changed. We'll see. 

I do know that today,  I personally, Limitless Lisa, have just about reached my limit. I want to go home. 

But, not a home.

Not a welcoming entry. 
And not a window.

Not a good view. 
And not a bay window.

Also not a good view.
And not my bedroom.

Not how I pictured my bedroom. 
Not yet. I know it will be soon. Hopefully before the end of July, because that is when the insurance company will stop paying our rent for our temporary home.

Excuse me now while I try to find my 'ok'. I know I've got it here somewhere. Maybe the fire restoration company took it and tried to clean it.