Moving along

Things are moving along nicely on the house now.  The heating and air conditioning have all been reinstalled.  Most of the interior painting has been done, the master shower and jacuzzi are back in and the tile is down in the bathrooms and laundry room.  The interior doors have been painted and hung, the gorgeous new front door has been installed.

Still to come are electrical (all the outlets and switches have to be replaced), kitchen cabinets and granite, vanities and backsplash tiling, carpeting, hardwood floors, ceiling fans, light fixtures, door hardware, and all of the minutiae involved in moving back in

We think we've seen the last of the "Smurfs"...at least we hope so!  They're the bio-suited folks who had the odious task of doing the mold remediation in the crawl space.  This was one of the most important processes to us, because without a guarantee that the house is mold-free, our house value would be severely impacted.

We didn't make it back in time for Christmas, but now we're hopeful that we'll be back in by the end of January.

I think February will be the perfect time for a housewarming party.



Time Passes

Some years fly by in a whirlwind of fun, adventure and joy.  Some just pass, almost unnoticed, in the monotony of daily routine.  2008 has had some fabulous highs for us and some dismal lows, so I can't say I'm sorry to see it go.  I have high hopes that 2009 will be better for all of us.

Thank you to our friends, family and acquaintances for all your love and support throughout this trying time.


Como é grande o meu amor por você

The title is the name of a song that is very important to me.  I learned it 27 years ago and have never forgotten it.

I was an "exchange student" just out of high school.  I put that in quotations, because I had already finished school in the US and didn't actually attend much in Brazil, where I was sent.

Instead, I immersed myself in the full-time pursuit of travel and fun.  The last family I lived with was absolutely amazing and I loved my time with them.

I was especially close to my "sister" there.  Her name was Eulice Gomes Duarte.  She was close to my age and had the most amazing spirit.  She was my sister and my best friend.  She taught me so much about Brazil, about family life there, about her hopes and dreams and, ultimately, about myself.

I begged and pleaded not to return to the US.  I cried when I got on the plane in São Paulo and the entire way home to New York.  I was heartbroken.

In the early '80's, there was no internet.  International long distance was prohibitively expensive and the mail was unreliable.  We managed to keep in touch for a few years, but eventually, time and distance contrived against us.  I went about 25 years without hearing from her or her family.  Without anyone to speak it to, my Portuguese was almost entirely forgotten.  A huge part of my life was missing, and I've been bereft without it.

About a year ago, I installed Skype on the recommendation of a friend.  I quickly began searching through the member rolls to try and find someone from Brazil I knew.  I eventually found the brother of a friend I had there.  His sister was actually one of my first friends in Brazil because we shared the same first name, "Virginia."  She always went by "Gina" and I by "Gini," but we always thought it was cool that we shared that unusual name.

Anyway, I contacted Gina's brother, Ernesto, who happened to remember me.  He put me in touch with Gina.  Gina looked in the local phone book and found Flávia, Eulice's sister, for me.  After a long and convoluted process of emails, skype messages and phone calls, Flávia sent me Eulice's email address.

Part of the problem I had in finding her was that she no longer went by the name Eulice.  She had changed her name to Lelê and her last name had changed with marriage.

When I got the first email from Lelê I wept.  All of the years of separation disappeared.  She is still the same sweet, beautiful, intelligent person I remember.  That missing part of my heart has returned.

I look forward to renewing my sisterhood with Lelê and eventually hope to be able to visit her and my whole Brazilian family again.

A few nights ago, we got to talk face-to-face via Skype video.  It was wonderful.  Somehow age has escaped her and she hardly looks older than she did back then.  But her voice is exactly the same.  She remembered a song in English that I taught her and sang it for me, "Follow me, where I go, what I do and who I know, take my hand and say you'll follow me."

I regaled her with my poorly-pronounced rendition of that song she taught me that I never forgot.  We both laughed through our tears.

Welcome back to my heart, sweet Lelê, and never forget:

Como é grande o meu amor por você!


A Moratorium on Whining

I whine.

A lot.

It's sort of a hobby of mine.  And I'm very good at it.

But today is Thanksgiving, and someone asked me yesterday what I was thankful for, so I've thought about it all night.

I'm thankful for my family, both near and far.  They put the "fun" in "dysfunctional."  

I'm thankful for my friends, who listen to me whine and only occasionally slap me upside the head and tell me to get over myself.

I'm thankful that it was water and not fire that got our home.  As devastating as this has been, I think a fire would have been worse.

I'm thankful for insurance and specifically USAA's Angela and Rob.  I do a lot of whining to them and they have been pretty great about all this. 

I'm thankful for the water mitigation company, ServPro of Springfield.  I do my greatest amount of whining at, to and about them,  yet they keep sending workers to fix my house anyway.

I'm thankful for my husband.  I know, I mentioned him up in family, but he deserves his own paragraph.  I whine to him most of all.  Poor guy has to listen to me gripe about just about everything under the sun and he never loses his cool.  He has overseen every step of the restoration and kept a sense of humor the whole time.  I have never been so glad to have him here on my side as I am right now.  If he was still in the Army or (shudder) overseas, I would have been hauled off by the guys in the funny white coats long ago.  There is no one I'd rather spend Groundhog Day with.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  The whining resumes tomorrow.


No Virginia, There Is No Santa Clause

A few days ago, around November 10th or so, we were talking to the guy who'll be doing the interior painting and mouldings throughout the house.  He's also the cabinet maker building our kitchen cabinets.  His arrival is pretty exciting to us, because that's the first stage of the "finishing."  

We asked him how long it would take him to complete his portion of the job, which has to be done before the counters, hardwood, carpet, tile, granite, bath fixtures, etc. are installed.  He told us it'll be at least a month.

My mind was doing the long math, "Let's see, he plans to start on November 17, that means he won't be done until December 17.  Uh-oh!"

I looked at Jeff's face and could see he was thinking the same thing I was:

"They told us we might be back in by Christmas."

You could almost hear our hearts sink.

One of us asked him approximately when he thought we'd be back in the house.  He said that it'll probably be at least February.


So last night, we're lying in bed reviewing our latest Groundhog Day, when I counted on my fingers and told Jeff, "Do you realize that if we're not in until February, that means we're only halfway through?"

Have you ever made a grown man cry?


The pitter patter of little fins...

I think this one item that showed up on our household inventory list deserves its own blog entry. Feel free to chime in if you have a clue what this could be:

3 pairs fish shoes

What in the h**l are fish shoes?

I found these lovelies online, maybe I had a pair (or 3) stashed away that I didn't know about----------------------------------------------------------------------->


Groundhog Day

I think we've found the person who can bring peace to the Middle East, universal healthcare for third-world countries and quite possibly an end to the national debt.

His name is Jeff and he has, for the past 15 years, been seriously underestimated.

While I continue in my boring, repetetive, monotonous routine of going to and from work every day, albeit to a hotel instead of our home, Jeff has been negotiating the Deal of the Century.

Let me explain.

We have one of the best insurance companies in the country, with excellent coverage. We have met the senior adjuster and found him to be caring, diligent and personable. We also feel that we've hired a general contractor with those same admirable qualities. They're both highly experienced and knowledgeable in their fields and have the same goal: our return to our completely restored house in the shortest time possible.

Unfortunately, on the occasion of those two venerable gentlemen meeting in person, their opinions of each other were identical: an instant dislike, mistrust and lack of respect.

The insurance adjuster thinks the contractor is incompetent and the general contractor thinks the adjuster is ineffectual.

So Jeff's job for the past two-and-a-half weeks has been to act as the chief negotiator of the peace between these two grown men.

Without going into details (the minutiae of which would put you to sleep), suffice it to say that I seriously underestimated my husband's ability to handle stress and keep all of the respective parties on track and on task.

He cajoled, he threatened, he wheedled and he, dare I say, bullied these two to agreement under circumstances that would have driven Mother Teresa to curse like a sailor and fire them both. He managed to do this with dignity and panache and never once had to resort to raising his voice.

When you live in a hotel, with none of your worldly possessions around you, there's nothing to distract you from the despair of your situation. Had Jeff not been able to handle all of the dreck in the details, I would indeed have gone completely, totally and irrevocably insane by now.

So if this retired house-husband thing doesn't work out for him, there's a world crisis going on somewhere that could really use his skills.


Chapter 4: Hans Was Right

The blissful numbing shock has worn off....damnit!

Hans said it would.

Hans works for ServPro.  He's a General Contractor - slash - Psychiatric Counselor - slash - Panic Mitigator.  He's been through all this before.  He knows the ropes.

When we were not feeling too horrified about what had happened at the beginning, he told us we were in shock.  He said that would end and we'd have good days and bad days.  Really bad days.

"Curled up in the fetal position with a bottle of vodka and a fistful of Xanax bad days?"  I asked, naively.

For the first several days after we discovered our flooded house, we were in shock.  We were fairly clueless as to how long we'd be gone.  As an example, when they told us to get whatever we needed to live on out of the house, I packed up enough of my prescription medicine to cover me for about four weeks.  I mean, surely we'd be back in the house within four weeks, right?  I packed the half tube of toothpaste instead of getting a full one.  Heck, I didn't even bother to pack any extra blades for my razor!  How long could it take to dry out a house, three weeks?  Four weeks?


 Can you hear that?

There it is again, listen!


It's the sound of the Fickle Flood Fairy laughing her fluffy fanny off at our naivete.

As of today, it has been seven weeks since we got home to a flooded house.  It's been nine weeks since we slept in our own bed.  Sixty-three nights in a hotel room.  From the looks of things, we might be halfway there.

Can somebody pass the vodka?


Chapter 3: "Mrs. Briggs, I Think It's For You"

In the last episode, our tragic heroine (that would be me) was watching all of her personal belongings being shoved into bags and boxes at a high rate of speed.

Well, in a flash of rare insight, I decided that there were a few very personal belongings that I didn't want strangers to view or handle, if you know what I mean!

Anywho, so I surreptitiously crept through the soggy house to my soggy bedroom and opened the drawer to my soggy bedside dresser and carefully removed all of the above-mentioned personal items into a small paper bag, which I then duct-taped shut. I then waited until one of the packers was looking the other way and I, very sneakily, stashed the bag in the bottom of one of the packing boxes.

I was so proud of myself for saving myself from the shame and embarrassment of having my, um, personal items from public view!

A few hours later, the aforementioned hulking young gentlemen were hauling boxes into the garage. One of them carried a (very obviously vibrating) box to me and said, "Mrs. Briggs, I think your cell phone must have fallen into this box, and I think you have a call." The sweet dear offered to unpack the box and retrieve my "phone" for me.

Right about then my loving husband almost swallowed his tongue.


Chapter 2: We Don't Know Anything About Flooding, But We Stayed In A Holiday Inn Last Night

Our insurance company (the fabulous USAA, to be featured in a future blog entry), recommended we hire a cleanup service. The one they recommended and we chose was part of a major national chain, their motto is "like it never even happened," their name rhymes with "PervSwo." My hesitancy to name them specifically comes from the fact that the jury is still out on what kind of a job they're doing...

Anyway, they immediately began emptying our home of every single item within it. They had movers and packers come in and box up everything and several hulking strong young men came to tote and carry and heave everything from within the house to the garage within the first few days.

Two of these young gentlemen had arrived at 9 in the morning and were preparing to enter the house through the garage. I looked at them and politely said, "Guys, would you mind taking off your shoes, I just mopped the floor?" One of the poor souls started to take his shoes off sheepishly before he realized he had been had.

No one ever said that when I lost my mind I lost my sense of humor with it!


Chapter 1: While we were underwater, so was our house!

Underwater is where we most love to be.  We've travelled all over the world and have spent many hundreds of hours beneath the Earth's spectacular oceans and seas.  We even named our jewelry business "Missouri Ocean Design" in honor of our intense love of the sea.

So the irony of having our home disappear underwater is not lost on us.

Join us in our journey through a completely different kind of underwater adventure.  Here's our story.  Be sure to click on the links to see photos associated with our "adventure."

We got home after two blissful weeks on vacation in Bonaire, an idyllic island in the Netherlands Antilles, at about 10:30 pm on a Tuesday night.  We had been either on an airplane or in an airport for over 18 hours.  From Bonaire to San Juan to Miami to Dallas to Springfield, we had flown around two hurricanes, dealt with long flight delays, no food, bitchy flight attendants and screaming children and the only luggage that completed the journey with us contained our diving gear.  We were tired, hungry, grumpy and stinky...and probably several other of the seven dwarfs.  To top it all off, I had to be back at the airport the next morning by 5 to catch a flight to Chicago for an 8:30am meeting.

Jeff noticed the large puddle in the middle of the garage floor first.  His mom had said we got a lot of rain while we were gone, but the wind must have blown really hard for the water to get under the seals of the garage doors.  This was strange, but no bells were going off in our heads yet.

When he tried to open the door between the garage and the house, it wouldn't budge.  At first we thought that someone (his mom and a good friend both have keys to the house) accidentally locked the door from the inside.  But Jeff said the handle was unlocked, it just seemed that the door was blocked or obstructed.  He finally body-slammed it and it opened.

He immediately shouted a few golf course words that I won't repeat here.  I walked in and was shocked to find myself up to my ankles in water.  We could hear water running, although it didn't register in my mind right away.  I remembered setting the dishwasher to run before we left and immediately assumed that was where the water was coming from.  Jeff was more alert than I was though and he ran into the hall bathroom and found the culprit:  one of the cold-water supply lines under the sink faucet was running full-force into the cabinet.  He immediately shut the water off.

I continued to slog around through the water, just repeating over and over, "holy crap," or something similar, like a complete idiot. 

Every surface in the house was either covered in water or covered in mold.  The carpets were floating and had a sickly film of mold on top, like a stagnant algae-covered pond.  The hard-surfaced floors had all buckled and lifted.  There were several inches of disgusting mold growing up all the walls.  All of our shoes, clothes and furniture were covered in mold.  The water had wicked up the bedspread in the guest bedroom and the bed was covered with mold.

The doors were all swollen shut and split open as soon as they were opened.  Many of the furniture legs had already started to split.  The wallpaper in the dining room was falling off the wall.  There was a "high-water" line on the drywall about three feet from the floor where it had soaked in the water like a sponge.  I can't even being to describe the smell!

I kept repeating, "what do we do?" over and over again, like some sort of idiot.  Finally, Jeff said, "we go to WalMart, buy toothbrushes, underwear (lost luggage, remember?), vodka and cigarettes (we don't smoke), and we check into a motel for the night.

And that's just what we did.

Stay tuned for Chapter 2: "We don't know anything about flooding, but we did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night."