Sunday, February 18, 2018

My house saga: 4th installment

Okay, so this is not about the water leak. It's about my trees.

Last fall (long, long ago...when I had just moved out of my house), I became aware that a creature had been busy in my yard. Yes, "busy as a beaver." In fact, it was a beaver. I've never met him (or her, or them) face-to-face, but I've seen their work. I was going to say "handiwork," but of course beavers don't use their hands so much as their teeth. I saw their toothiwork?

I didn't quite know what to do about it. I did call my town's animal control, which is a division (well, one person) of the police department. He told me he didn't trap beavers. All he wanted to know was if the damaged tree was on private property. Once he knew that it was, it was obvious it was my problem, not his.

As time went by, the beaver more or less cleaned up after himself, chewing the log and branches into pieces and dragging them away into the creek. I knew this tree was a goner, because he chewed all around it, so it was bound to die.

Okay, yes. This tree is a pussywillow. A pussywillow destroyed by a beaver. Oh, grow up.

Well, just at the end of December, when I was living with my sister-in-law, we had an ice storm. Branches and trees were breaking and falling down all over the north county, including my back yard.

And by the way, my sister-in-law's house lost power for 46 hours.

Anyway, when it was all said and done, a good number of trees in my back yard had sustained damage or been destroyed. I had to call a tree guy to come out. He was getting lots of calls, but he did meet me—and my sister-in-law, who knows practical questions to ask—out at my place to see what I needed and make an estimate. A week or so later, his crew came out to deal with the mess.

A large pin oak, almost as old as the house, standing right behind it, did not (mercifully) come down, but branches had broken and fallen:

We had the tree guy just prune that tree extensively:

Another pin oak, not ask old or big, but quite large enough, had split and fallen right onto my neighbor's chicken coop:

My neighbor told me that no chickens were harmed, but naturally she and her husband were eager to see my tree removed. So we had that one just taken down:

One next to a shed fell over, root ball and all, so we asked him just to get rid of it:

I'm not sure what kind of tree it was. I have lots of trees because my dad liked to plant trees. He would say, "Old men plant trees, and young men sit under them."

A birch tree by the creek went down:

A neighbor's tree with a double trunk had already been causing me concern by how one side of it leaned toward my garage, so we obtained the neighbor's permission to have that part of the tree removed:

We asked the tree guy just to get rid of the doomed pussywillow:

And I sadly gave the word to take down a Deodora cedar that was not damaged by the storm but had failed to thrive since a neighbor's trees had grown tall enough to block the sun from it:

My dad had liked that tree very much, when it was in its prime.

Have I mentioned we had a lot of rain this winter? When the tree guy's crew came into the yard with their equipment, they left their mark:

The tree guy felt pretty bad about it and said that when the weather was suitable he would come back and try to fix it as much as he could.

So, indoors and out, it's been quite the year for my house. That's my house saga so far. I hope the story has a happy ending.

My house saga: 3rd installment

After all my belongings were removed from my house and placed in storage, I came back from Ashland (where I had enjoyed seeing Julius Caesar, Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Beauty and the Beast) and moved into a hotel in Bellingham. An "extended stay" hotel.

My homeowner's insurance booked the place. My dog and I moved in on Labor Day, and we were there until shortly before Christmas. It was a nice enough place, but it's a weird feeling to live in a hotel. It's a kind of limbo. It's not home. I made my own meals, using the microwave and stove top in my room. There was no conventional oven.

One nice thing was that because the hotel was in Bellingham, where I also work, I could drive there for lunch. It took about 15 minutes each way, so I had about half an hour to spend in my own space.

Sometime in December, my dog's special dispensation to come to work with me expired. The first estimate I received, back in August, for how long it would take to fix my house was "probably three months." Well, three months was up, and I needed to find a new place for him to be while I worked.

I enrolled him in the doggy daycare program at Hyline Hotel for Dogs. That's where I boarded him when I went on vacation. They play with the dogs and give them attention, so he's been pretty happy there. He goes in willingly with his tail wagging, unlike at the vet's where (although they are very kind people there) his tail drops, he trembles, and he tries to hide behind me.

At one point, I became depressed about living in a hotel, so the dog and I spent a weekend with my sister-in-law. Then, at Thanksgiving, we spent that whole 4-day weekend with her again.

Close to Christmas, my dog became ill. He was droopy and sad at all times and had no appetite. So I had to take him to the kind vet's office, where it turned out he had elevated counts of liver enzymes and white blood cells. So I came away with an antibiotic and a liver pill (Denamarin).

Also close to Christmas my insurance company felt they had paid for my lodging quite long enough. They had approved three months, then added one more, but that was it. They decided the reason for the delay was the choices I made for having tile installed instead of just replacing the laminate and carpet that I previously had. They were probably right. Anyway, I was on my own for lodging. Once again, my sister-in-law to the rescue. I moved into her house just before Christmas, and here I still am.

So what has been happening with my house? you may ask. Well, workers came in and installed new drywall.* This involves multiple stages, putting there, taping it, "mudding" it. I really don't know anything about the process. I'm just trying to drag out the description to match how long it took to get done.

Then painters came in and painted all the walls and ceilings in the place. I told them to match the wall color as much as possible to the old one and do the ceiling the same color but a few shades lighter. I have read that a lighter ceiling looks higher. My ceilings are low. Some of my taller relatives can touch the ceiling just standing on the floor. I come from a tall family, although I am not among the tallest.

This winter we had tons and tons of rain, and after the dry-walling and painting were complete, In December, I received an email from the contractor that water was seeping in through the north wall. Have I explained that I live in a daylight basement? The front of the house faces north, and on that side the upstairs front door is at ground level. The ground slopes down to the back yard, and on the south wall my downstairs entry door is at ground level. So the north wall of my place is part of the foundation, and behind the drywall is cement.

The contractor believed the water was seeping in because of all the rain we'd had. They needed to open up some of the just-installed drywall to find the leak. It turned out to be coming in through a "snap-tie" hole. That was a hole left over from when the cement was poured into the mold when the house was built. Snap-ties held the mold in place and when the cement was set then the mold and presumably the snap-ties were removed. This hole was a ways up the wall and probably leaked this year because of the exceptional amount of rain we had, so that the ground water went up that high.

The Pacific Northwest is famed for being rainy, so when you have exceptional amounts of rain, you know it's a lot.

Well, what with the holidays and all, it was mid-January before the hole was sealed up and the drywall replaced and repainted. Meanwhile, I had picked out the floor tile and also a wood flooring for the stairs to the upstairs unit.

The floor guys had to do some leveling before laying the tile. The southwest corner of my house has sunk a bit in the 35-plus years since the house was built, and the floor tilts visibly in that direction. But they got it prepped and they laid the tile. Just this past Friday I met them there to choose a grout color. I think they were grouting this weekend. Then, workers will put my bathroom fixtures back in place, including a new "vanity." And they'll put in the baseboards and door trim. And they'll clean up the drywall dust.

I've recently been told my place will be ready for my stuff to come back in by Thursday of this week! I'm going to confirm that Monday or Tuesday. (Monday is Presidents Day; I'm not sure if the contractor's office will be open.) I did tell the mover guys that date already. I want to make sure it's still good. I mean, I was told three months back in August, then mid-December, then mid-January, then early February. So I have a slight trust issue about completion dates.

I will say, however, that the new paint and the tiles, even without grout, look great. I am SO looking forward to moving back in.

* Another word for "drywall" is "sheetrock." My uncle, my dad's oldest brother, was a contractor, and he once told my dad that all sheetrockers are crazy. My uncle was given to sweeping statements.

My house saga: 2nd installment - Supplement

I should mention that during the time they were packing up and moving all my stuff out, I was stressed out by the state of my leg. I wrote back in August about knee pain and the feeling I had one day that something popped in the back of my knee. My lower leg swelled up some, and then one afternoon at work I had a pop in the back of my knee or calf again and it hurt quite badly. I went to the doctor that same day, and he said that, although they had to test for a blood clot, he thought most likely I had a Baker's cyst.

So the next morning I went to an imaging clinic and they did an ultrasound of the leg. The woman performing the ultrasound said that I did not have a Baker's cyst or a blood clot.

A day or so after that, I had a phone call from my doctor's office telling me to have an MRI on my leg. The woman making the call said we needed to find out what the "lump or mass" in my leg was. Lump or mass? My mind immediately told me: CANCER! I began googling symptoms of bone cancer.

I went for the MRI. It's not a comfortable procedure. A friend of mine was talking about the claustrophobic feeling of sliding into that tube, but that was not the issue. As a matter of fact, they only inserted my lower half into the tube. I simply was uncomfortable lying on the thin metal shelf they place you on. They did their best to stuff pillows around me so that I could relax, but I was not comfortable, and when they're doing an MRI you have to remain as motionless as possible. It's not a quick snapshot, like an X-ray, it's multiple sessions of loud bangs and thuds surrounding you.

It was a couple days for the results. I continued googling my symptoms frequently and carefully reading the most horrifying results I could find. While the workers were boxing up all my belongings, I thought, "What if all this trouble is for nothing because I am going to die of cancer?" I pretty much made myself ill with worry.

Finally my doctor's office called me with the diagnosis: a hematoma. (Just an aside: Spell check wants to change "hematoma" to "tomato." Ha, ha. A tomato in my leg would be serious issue.) I said, "A hematoma. That's basically a bruise, right?" Right. I didn't bump into anything. But the woman at the other end of the phone call said that sometimes a blood vessel breaks spontaneously. She said the blood would be reabsorbed by my body. Gross. I mean, what a relief. And I was relieved, very relieved. I was grateful to get the good news before I went to Ashland with my sister-in-law.

It took some time, but eventually my leg unswelled (that should be a word) and the pain went away. I think it took a couple or few months, but it finally happened. And that's the story of my leg.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

My house saga: 2nd installment

My insurance company referred me first to a local water-damage mitigation company. I made an appointment with them, and they came out and made their recommendation: Pack out almost all of my belongings, cut away the drywall to a height of four feet on every wall touched by the water (technically that water was considered sewage), take out all the carpet and laminate and have it replaced, then they'd come back after contractors fixed the walls and installed new floors. So a huge truck came to my house, near the end of August, and they packed boxes and boxes and boxes of my stuff. In addition to my own not inconsiderable accumulation my house contained a fair amount of my parents' belongings that I and my siblings had not decided what to do with--they cleared out each of my folks' dwellings after each death and some stuff we knew right away to give away or who would take them, but whatever we didn't know whether to donate, toss, or keep, stayed at my house for me to decide. After my parents died, I was pretty sad and down and did not leap to the task. So I had a lot of stuff.

They took out most, but left the large appliances, my piano, and various pieces of furniture and odds and ends, assuming the contractors could move those from room to room as they made their repairs. Then they tore out the floors, cut away the walls as determined, ran fans to dry everything out, and treated all the exposed wall studs with mold preventative.

By this time, it was September. My insurance company next referred me to a local contractor. They came and made their estimate for the insurance company, which covered the cost of restoring my house to what it had been like before: wall repair, laminate flooring, and carpeting. That's how much the insurance would pay.

I had already been thinking of replacing my floors...someday...with either hardwood or tile. I had been thinking I'd do that in a few years. But it would be silly not to do it now. To have new laminate and carpet installed and then later replace them would be just dumb. So I told the contractors what I wanted. I decided on tile. Tile is a lot more expensive to install than laminate and carpeting, so the estimate for the difference between the insurance payment and what I'll have to pay is substantial. But it's time to bite the bullet and do it.

The first thing the contractors needed was for the cleaning company to come back and take all the stuff they'd left behind: the large appliances, piano, and so on. The guy who talked to me about it said that in the course of the repairs drywall dust would infiltrate any furniture in my place and it would be difficult to get it cleaned up. So there was about a week's delay until the cleaning company had a crew available to come and take everything else.

Once that was finally gone, it seems like there was a gap of a couple or few weeks until the contractors actually got started on the repairs. I guess their crews were still finishing other jobs.

As for me, right about Labor Day I moved into a hotel in Bellingham where the insurance company had arranged for me to stay. It was dog-friendly, as the phrase is. So the two of us moved in there. It was like a very small studio apartment. It had a bed, a couch, a desk, a full bathroom, and a little semi-kitchen with a 2-burner stove, a microwave oven, a fridge, and some cupboards and drawers with plates, pots, and silverware. I eventually worked out a pattern of shopping online for groceries from Fred Meyer on Friday night and picking the order up on Saturday morning. They brought it out to my car, so I didn't need to leave my dog in the car or in his kennel in the hotel room. If I had done that, he would have barked and cried and generally made a nuisance of himself. For a few months, I had special dispensation to bring him to work, where he spent my work day under my desk.

I had packed what I thought I would need for 2-3 months, so that even though it was August when I moved out, I took a big sweater. But I did not take my winter coat or the fuzzy robe I often wear in the house in the winter. I was vaguely given to understand that I would be out probably until Thanksgiving.

This is as much as I have energy to write tonight. I'll continue with the next installment when I feel up to it.

My house saga: 1st installment

I keep wanting to tell the story of my house damage and repair, and I keep putting it off until I have time and energy because it feels long, and then the longer I put it off the longer the story grows. So I'll just start. Blogs don't have to be highly crafted; they're just a place to dump some ideas out of a bucket onto the grass, so you and a few others can look at them.

So last August, a pump failed at my house. I live in a daylight basement and my housemates live above me. This daylight basement is below ground on the north, street-facing side, and at ground level on the south, backyard-facing side. That is because of the slope of the ground. So I have a deck and my door in the "back" of the house. Anyway, because I'm below street level, all my wastewater has to be pumped up out of my dwelling to the water lines above. There is one pump for this job. The one I had was installed in 1988 when my folks retired to Lynden and finished the basement in this house.

So on a certain August evening, I got out of the shower and there was water on the floor. The water was not just on the floor of the bathroom, but of the furnace & laundry room (where the water pump lives), of the kitchen, the hallway, and -- I did not realize at the time -- the bedrooms. I threw down every towel I owned to soak up the water and called a plumber. People who answered the phones at the plumbing places assumed that my pipes were backed up and I needed a rooter, but I strongly suspected the pump because a couple years ago I had some water spillage when the pump was unplugged. Anyway, it took me a while to find a plumber who wasn't booked out several weeks, and finally got one who could come in a few days. In the meantime, with no way for the pump to handle waste water, I essentially had no plumbing. It was the weekend by the time I got ahold of a plumber and received a promise of someone coming the following week. Each morning I got up and threw on some clothes and drove to the public restrooms in downtown Lynden to use the toilet. I did not shower until the plumber had come and installed a new, functioning pump.

My niece, who cleaned house for me every other week, let me know a while later that the bedroom I use as a library smelled bad. I keep that room closed off when I'm not in it, so that my dog can't wander in there unsupervised. I got a name from a friend of someone to call to tear out the carpet, which I assumed had been dampened by the water, and while I was on the phone with him I went into the room to pace out how big it is, and I discovered that the carpet was more than damp, it was saturated. Blech. I had my sister-in-law and her grandkids come over to move furniture out of that room into my guest room so I could have the carpet out. They discovered that the carpet in my guest room was also saturated. My sister-in-law said that my laminate flooring was also bubbling and suggested I start an insurance claim. So I did.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

One year

One year ago today, my father died. I still feel the shock of losing him. I still love him so much.

Today I drove to the Muddy Waters coffee stand in Lynden and bought a 16-ounce mocha. When my folks were still living, every Saturday I would go to Muddy Waters and get a 16-ounce latte with a package of raw sugar for Dad and a 16-ounce mocha (no whipped cream) for myself. Mom's order changed over the years from mocha to tea.

I had already stopped at Blossoms flower shop in Lynden and bought an African violet in a little pot. So I drove to Monumenta Cemetery, where the folks are buried. From Front Street, I turned in at the gate closest to their grave. From the road in the cemetery, I could see their stone. It has a plaque on the back commemorating Dad's service in the Air Force.

I parked as near as I could then took the violets and my mocha and went to their grave.

I stood before their grave while I drank my mocha. I told them they had been good parents to me. I thought about some of the Saturday visits with them. I stood just feeling my love for them. I said the Lord's Prayer. When I left, I quoted a few words from a hymn: "Till we meet at Jesus' feet, God be with you till we meet again."

I sat in the car and cried just a few tears. It's hard to have them gone. Death is such a strange thing. As I drove away, I sang the hymn, although I mis-remembered some of the words. I sang:

God be with you till we meet again,
In his arms securely hold you,
With his sheep securely fold you,
God be with you till we meet again.

Till we meet, till we meet,
Till we meet at Jesus' feet.
Till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again.

Here's a more correct version:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Tweede kop vrij

I visited the Netherlands some years ago, when my parents were stationed there with the Air Force. This was during the Cold War. In the Netherlands, if you order a cup of coffee in any eatery, they bring you a cup—not a mug—of coffee, on a saucer, with a cookie on the saucer. The wait staff do not wander around, as they do in the States, with a pot of coffee to “top off” or refill anyone’s cup. If you order another cup of coffee, they will bring you a new cup, on a saucer, with a cookie, because you have place a second order. When the bill comes around, you will pay for each cup.

My parents kindly travelled with me by car from Soest, the Netherlands, to Chartres, France, on this particular visit, and, along the Dutch freeway, there was a restaurant, something akin to a truck stop in the States, and a sign on the freeway advertised that here you could have a “tweede kop vrij”—“second cup free.” We stopped there for lunch and when we wanted our “tweede kop” we got in line with a lot of Dutch people eager to enjoy this bargain.

Nowadays, when I get up Monday through Friday, I generally have a cup of coffee with my breakfast, but I am watching the clock, mindful that soon I have to hurry out the door and go to work. But on Saturdays I can leisurely have coffee with my breakfast, then have another cup comfortably seated in my living room, with my dog on my lap and a book or some knitting to occupy me. I love it. I remember that phrase and say to myself, “tweede kop vrij.”

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My home away from my home away from home

So a couple months ago I mentioned some plumbing issues, just an off-hand phrase. But it turned out the issues were serious—damaged floors and drywall. I started an insurance claim. A company came and packed up all my belongings, except my piano and the few things I took with me, and tore up most of my flooring and quite a bit of the drywall up to four feet high. This is a sample of what my home looks like now:

My insurance company found me a home away from home: Marriott Towneplace Suites in Bellingham, Washington. Ever since I got back from Ashland, I've been living there in a studio-type room that has a bed, desk, couch, and "kitchenette." My dog is with me:

Tonight, however, I am at the Salish Lodge, in Snoqualmie, Washington. (My dog is at the Hyline Hotel for Dogs, in Everson, Washington.) I am spending one night here prior to attending a work conference tomorrow. Our company got a deal because the Lodge either is or recently was renovating and had unbooked rooms. When the conference ends tomorrow evening, I'll drive back to my home away from home.

Right now, my home away from my home away from home is lovely. My co-worker and I got here around 5:00 p.m. and checked in. I have a room to myself that has a door to a little balcony outside, from which I can hear, though not see, the Snoqualmie River and Falls. The Salish Lodge is a spa, though I won't have a chance to do the spa-type stuff. But in my own room is a deep tub with jets:

That's practically like a spa already. When I joined the conference-goers for dinner, we were all expressing excited anticipation of going back to our rooms and taking baths. What's more is the rooms have wood-burning fireplaces, and you can open sliding screens to be able to see the fireplace from the tub.

I came back from dinner a few hours ago. The co-worker I came here with had advised me that she had asked if a hotel employee could light the fireplace for guests, and the answer was yes. I was glad to hear that. The instructions about opening the damper, lighting a rolled up newspaper, and holding it up the chimney to warm it up so it would draw were quite intimidating. So I called the front desk and shortly a friendly young fellow knocked at my door. He came in bearing a blow torch, and he used it to blow flames up the chimney and warm it up, then he used it to light the fire. I thanked him and he departed.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

That first cup of coffee

Just a brief note from Ashland, Oregon, where I am visiting the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Note: The B.C. smoke eventually blew away from Lynden, but here in Ashland, nearby wildfires are creating smoky air. Every evening at about 6:30 a "smoke committee" at the OSF has to determine if air quality permits the outdoor performance in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre. They have had to cancel several shows in the recent past. My sister-in-law and I have tickets for the performance there tonight of The Merry Wives of Windsor. If it gets cancelled I'll receive an email.

Anyway, today's episode is about my coffee dependency. When we checked in two days ago, there was a packet containing a coffee pod for use in the tiny automatic drip coffee maker in our room. I used it yesterday. This morning, I slept past the complimentary "Continental" breakfast offered by the hotel and, having no coffee in the room, decided to drive down the road to a Dutch Bros Coffee stand I noticed yesterday. My sister-in-law came along.

Walking to the car, I veered into a bush beside the sidewalk. Under the best of circumstances, I veer when I walk. It's a family trait. We don't walk a straight line. We zig-zag. My in-laws have all learned when walking with their spouses to expect him or her to bump into their arm every nine or ten paces before reeling off again to a distance of up to a yard away. For the most part, we avoid crashing into objects lining our path, but this morning, pre-coffee, I walked into a bush.

We got in the car and I backed out of the space, put the car in drive, and gently pressed the accelerator. No action. Eventually I realized I had the emergency brake on, loosed it, and we drove out of the parking lot onto Siskiyou Boulevard. I drove a little ways before my sister-in-law suggested I pull out of the bike lane into the lane of traffic. I did.

I made it through the process of pulling up to the coffee stand, ordering, paying for, and receiving coffee without undue mishap. I got a drip coffee with cream, my sister-in-law a white chocolate mocha. We drove back. Before getting out of the car, I fished in my wallet for the room key, which is a card, not a key. You wave it in front of the door handle and the lock clicks open, a green light flashes, and you can open the door.

We got up to the door and I waved my card around to no avail. I looked more closely at it to see if I was holding it in the right direction and saw that in fact I was waving my Kaiser Permanente insurance card at the door. My sister-in-law came to my rescue and opened the door. We came in and I was finally able to drink my coffee and return what passes for normalcy.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Dry days

What's there to say today? We continue with the smoky skies. It would be nice if it would rain, but I don't see any rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future, just hot, dry weather. July and August are the hottest, driest months in the Pacific Northwest. The rest of the year, it's pretty reliable to get either a mixture of clear and rainy days or mostly rainy days. It's only this time of year that we get dry weather, and we don't get that every year. It is tradition that during the Northwest Washington Fair, which is always the 2nd or 3rd week of August, we get at least one rain shower. This year the fair is August 14-19, so we'll see.

This afternoon I took a long, deep nap. My plumbing issues have disrupted my routine. I don't like disruptions, and I do like routine. Anyway, I think I sat down to give my dog some one-on-one time. Petting and cuddling with a dog relieves stress. In my case, my stress was so relieved I sank into a deep sleep for several hours. It was a good sleep.

Apply as needed for stress relief.