Monday, August 10, 2009

How To Lose A Home In 10 Days...And The Reason I Blog

Just hire the wrong contractor, who will hire the wrong roofers. The list goes on. The pictures that I posted only show some of the damage. Picture what you see in every room. Most of the rooms are much, much worse. But I'll share more over time. This is part of my story, and only a peek inside the life I live. I don't have the luxury of spending time with my children without feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. There are no carefree days, no matter how hard I try. I cannot forget. My anger has diminished, but I am overcome with stress and sorrow. I am lonely. We don't have free time to spend with friends and many friendships have been abandoned. Not intentionally. It is worse for my husband. He is still so angry. He doesn't deserve to be angry. He has helped more people in his life than most. He is a paramedic firefighter, he volunteered at the WTC site for two months, looking for signs of life and then recovering remains for loved ones. After Rita and Katrina, he left us for two months to help those displaced and those left with nearly destroyed homes. I long to see the creases from worry fade into smiles and carefree days.
I recently made a vow to get more personal on my blog. I have really enjoyed my followers and readers. I have enjoyed your entries and comments. I review lots of great stuff, and it is a wonderful escape. It takes my mind off the devastation I face every day. I have not been bought. I only write about products that live up to my standards. There are items that I have tried and you will not see them here. So while it seems all happy and everything is good, it really is. I will never write a false review or recommend anything I would not buy. But why would you believe me? You don't know me. I am going to make an effort to put myself out there and be judged. I have had my wake up call. I am a mommy. I want to be seen as a mommy. Not an ad.
I struggle. I'm not asking for pity. I am blessed. I have a beautiful family and will once again reclaim what was taken. In order for you to understand, I must start at the beginning. It all began on March 1, 2007. Around midnight to be exact. A raging storm brought destruction into the lives of many when an EF-2 tornado landed in our back yard. Neighbors witnessed the funnel cloud touch down on our sun room/screened-in porch. We were home at the time. My husband was asleep, dead to the world on Benadryl because he had an allergic reaction earlier in the day. Logan was lying in bed, wide awake, listening to the winds howl. Being a night owl, I was finishing up a good book in the tub. Lightning was popping and it felt eerie for some reason. As the storm grew worse, I decided to cut my "me time" a bit short. I threw on some comfy PJs and walked through the house. I checked on Logan, which I always do (at least several times!) and noticed he was wide awake. His eyes were so big with fear. I'll never forget...and neither will he. We heard the hail as soon as it started. It was pelting the sides of the house and I was sure the windows would shatter. I was clueless to the in the southern tornado alley, I'll never make that mistake again. You think it will never happen to you, until it does. I rushed to wake my husband. He didn't budge until I jumped on him and shook him violently. I yelled at him and told him I was afraid. He was still pretty much asleep and told me to go back to bed. We joke about that now. I heard a horrible noise and looked out the front door. A huge three tier concrete fountain, my first Mother's Day gift, was gone. I screamed at my husband and told him it was no longer standing. I rushed to the back door only to find our enclosed porch also missing. And beyond that, the massive playset (Rainbow King Kong package 3, which was my husband's gift to the family after he spent 2 months away working with FEMA to help those in New Orleans after the hurricanes) was destroyed. About this time, my husband heard trees snapping and falling, which seemed to snap him out of his comatose state. I laid down with Logan while my husband checked things out. No damage inside. We were lucky. Outside was a different story, but we fared better than a few of our neighbors. Later we would find out that this tornado claimed several lives before reaching us. My heart and prayers still go out to those families. After we managed to shove the front door open, the first thing I noticed was the silence.. It was intense and very surreal. Flashlights in hand, we did a quick scan. We realized that aside from personal belongings, only our roofing, siding, a window, and our back sunroom needed replacing. Since my husband is a paramedic/firefighter, he immediately took off to help those in the community after making sure we were okay. A sheriff's deputy made rounds and I was still in shock as I stuttered that we were okay. Alone with my child, I tried calling my parents. They live less than 2 miles away. Unable to reach them, I feared the worst. Calling my grandmother (she lives next to my parents) at two o'clock in the morning, I found out they were all oblivious to our situation. She woke my parents (their phones were out) and my dad began the hour long journey to our house, driving around trees and power lines and other debris. My husband made it home late that afternoon.

You always see the Red Cross on TV, but you never think you will need them. Over the next few days, they delivered water and meals. It took several days for power to return, but we stayed home anyway. Late one night we heard a knock on the door. Our road was closed and we were a bit surprised. We could not find the culprit, and later we heard that looters were knocking on doors. If you didn't answer or turn on a flashlight, they were breaking into homes and taking what they could. We live in a very rural area and I never expected anything like that to happen. I guess it happens everywhere.
A month went by and we began settling with our insurance company, who later refused to renew us. They were not very fair with some of their settlements, but we didn't have lots of money to change their attitude by hiring a lawyer. We moved on with our lives and did our best to find a great contractor. We did find one and we saw several of his projects. The work was immaculate. However, he built a wall for us that fell apart. $2000 spent and a lesson learned. No we did not try to recover losses. We knew that it would cost more to recover that money so we found somebody else. And here our real nightmare begins. Just before we hired this "licensed" contractor, we nailed in the last piece of exotic walnut flooring in our living/dining room and entry. It was gorgeous! I wish I had pictures of our home before this happened. I had lived with pet stained carpet left by the previous owners for a few years, and the carpet had been cleaned so many times, it was rolling in some areas. We had just finished painting, put up new trim, bought new kitchen appliances and renovated our kitchen with granite and maple cabinets. No, we do not have money. It took years of doing things gradually. Our kitchen was put together as we could afford it and it took two years of cooking/cleaning around a work in progress. I am still waiting on one more drawer! The flooring was a gift from my husband's late grandmother. And the appliances were our very first major purchase after months of saving. Oh...we had just bought a new dining room table. The first piece of furniture that we had ever bought. Everything else we owned was handed down. We always seemed to be working, making our once foreclosed and neglected/trashed house, exactly what we wanted. Our dream. Those dreams were smashed when our "contractor" hired "roofers" that thought they could do the job one rainy day. To their credit, it didn't start out that way. I was in the house as I noticed the first leaks. Soon, I would be dodging falling drywall, watching my brand new dining room table get destroyed along with everything else. Almost the entire front half of my house was littered with water and collapsed ceilings. Two days later, the back half of our house was flooded. My kitchen was standing in several inches, new appliances were scratched and dented. Blown in insulation was everywhere. It took 10 days to lose our home. We moved out and began making temporary repairs to keep the water out. We thought the roofers insurance would repair our home. Our roof was covered with a bright blue tarp for more than a year. I am still finding pieces of it. If I ever see another blue tarp, it will be too soon. Two and a half years later, we are still displaced and taking as much as possible from each paycheck to put our house back together. My husband has spent many days on the roof in the hot Georgia sun rolling out roofing and tarring the seams. Yep, that's mold below. Nasty stuff. (But is is now gone!)
Below is a picture of our house the night before we moved out. I wish I had a better picture. This picture was taken before our "contractor" removed the siding and left the front covered with wood and a little bit of house wrap (which tore and shredded every time it was windy), took our savings and decided not to come back. Oh..he took our boat too and decided it was his to sell. Funny that it was never signed over to him. I'm still wondering how he did it. We tried to file a police report, but since this guy was our contractor and we were trading the boat for a fireplace which was never built, the officers refused to talk to us and would not allow us to file a report. They said it was civil. Our house was uninsurable so we had forced insurance. We paid $664 a year on insurance before this happened. After we were dropped and took forced insurance, we had to pay more than $800 a month. We save every penny because it takes it (and more) to live. How much more can we take? My youngest has never been to the home we worked so hard for. My oldest talks about "the white house" and doesn't have the memories of growing up there. He only sees the state it's in. Insulation piled as high as the doors and no ceilings or walls. I am not sure how we held our family together. Even with prayer, it has been tough. Two and a half years later, we still have dreams of living in our home again soon. We spend every day off and every vacation working on our home, hauling debris, throwing out ruined belongings, and bagging drywall. My dad and my mom have been a huge help. My dear brother too. We also have a wonderful friend that has put in a lot of time and my husband's co-workers have helped immensely. We owe them so much. This past week, I spent my days laying in the attic sucking up insulation with a shop vac. If you've ever wondered about some of my recent absences, this is why. I'm getting too old for this. This is not fair. Will we ever catch a break? I'll let you know how it goes. To be continued...


Anonymous said...

Wow what a great information...... beautiful blog........ keep moving.....

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Tylerpants said...

Oh my goodness...I can't even begin to imagine what you're going through. But you sound like a tough cookie, hang in there!

H.E.Eigler said...

Hi! I found you from the MomDot content linky. how horrible and stressful this must be for you! I agree with Tyler - you sound very strong. I hope you can get through this and have a happy home

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable! That's enough misfortune for the whole town, not just for one family. I give you so much credit for being the way you are. Sometimes people who experience hardship become cynical or negative, but not you!
Thank you for sharing this story with us. And you are right, it helps your audience to relate to you better as a person.