Out of time

I’m not the only one who is shocked and dismayed that just 2 days from the one year anniversary of my house fire, the rebuild is not done.  The insurance company has said “Enough!” too.

I have until the end of February then they cut off my housing allowance .

It’s ironic.  When the settlement was made with Liberty Mutual, my insurance company, I was told by my personal adjustor and others advising me that they, Liberty Mutual, would be involved in every step, that they would hold the money and send out inspectors to check each milestone and funds would only get released when they said so.  Those I was working with told me this was unavoidable and unfortunate because it would add time to the process – waiting on insurance to inspect and approve.  Then, in what I was told was a stroke of “good luck” the insurance company wrote a check to me for the full settlement and said, get the job done.  I now realize what a stroke of bad luck that was.  I wish with all my heart that the insurance company had been my partner in this process.  As it is, I am the only one who is arguing with the contractor, staying awake at night worrying about the costs and schedules.  I have no ally, no partner, no help at all.  I have never felt so completely alone.

This has been and continues to be one of the most difficult things I have ever dealt with.  If you knew me, knew what I’ve managed through, you’d understand what that really means.  I’ve dealt with dementia and debt, with incredibly stressful jobs and people.  I’ve bought homes.  I’ve dissolved marriages.  These are supposed to be the most traumatic events in ones life but they were nothing compared to the absolute isolation and frustration of this rebuild.

I could stay in my apartment on my own dime, or (for less money) move into a local dive motel but I’ve decided that I will move back into the house at the end of February, in whatever state it is in.  I know it has a roof, window and doors.  I will make it work.  If this is the case, then I will fire this contractor and hire individual craftsmen and piece by piece, room by room, finish the house myself.  This decision has given me some measure of peace because it gives me a plan.

If, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the fire was a result of devine intervention (on the part of my mom in heaven) to give me a brand new home, I’m sure she’s looking down with shock and regret because no one, not even the devil and certainly not my mom who was an angel, could have anticipated how badly this has gone.

Yes, some progress has happened, work was started 9 months ago after all, but you tell me – is this 9 months work of work?

IMG_0836

DSC02763

DSC02762

DSC02760

Effective giving and Give Back Tuesday

Unknown-1

Tis the season.  The stores advertise their sales to lure us in.  There is holiday music in the air and the electricity of consumerism.  I love to shop, especially when I can get a great deal – whether it be for myself or for friends and co-workers.  However again and again I hear from people, “I have too much” or “I don’t need anything.”  I have said those words myself.  But let’s be honest, it is still a pleasure to receive a gift and to give when you see someone’s face light up.  I think it’s the excess that people are tired of.  Unless you’re younger than 16, one small thoughtful gift is all you need.  Home baked gifts, movie passes or theater tickets are great gifts.  For decades my in-laws, who live in a small apartment filled with the accumulations of a life, insisted that all gifts be consumable.  Dinner in a basket is ideal for them.

This year, celebrating in the shadow of the refugee crisis, I feel guilt at the quality of life I have. I am so fortunate compared to so many.  Every day my inbox is filled with hundreds of emails aimed at getting me to buy newer, prettier, shinier, bigger, smaller, smarter and better.  It illicits in me the same reaction I had when I visited Kenya years ago.   I arrived home without a single memento. I felt too overwhelmed by the hordes of sellers hawking their wares to buy from anyone.  There were some lovely items being offered to me but the volume made it impossible for me to see them.  I regretted arriving home empty handed.  The emails are having the same impact.  I select “all unread” and delete them without reading a single one, perhaps missing an amazing deal.

To satisfy my urge to shop, to respect my families wishes for fewer “things” and to try to share my good fortune this year I am going to be making more donations to charitable organizations.  I’ll share some of my research in the coming days.  One which I already know a great deal about because I’ve been volunteering with them for the past 8 years is WriteGirl.  WriteGirl is a small organization.  They’re not Doctors Without Borders or the Red Cross but they can save lives because they help girls see the path to a better future.  On average there are 300 girls who are active in WriteGirl each year – most of these girls stay with WriteGirl for three years, some as many as five.  Of those 300, about 60 I would guess have their lives completely transformed.  These are the girls who didn’t plan to attend college. No one in their family had gone beyond high school. They had no role models for that future.  WriteGirl gives them the encouragement and the information they need to identify the right school, to navigate the application process, and to find the grants to help them afford it. Beyond that WriteGirl gives them the belief in their ability to succeed in college.  I know that money given to WriteGirl is spent on the workshops and on the girls.  A great deal of volunteer time and effort is spent soliciting donations – no money is spent on the meals fed to the girls, the writing journals they cherish that they get at the start of each year or on the speakers who give up a Saturday to share their knowledge and experiences with the girls.  You can check it out for yourself at:  www.writegirl.org.

 images

How to react to the tragedy in Paris?

I am so conflicted.  When I first heard about the attacks in Paris I was disgusted and angry.  It is beyond my comprehension that one (or eight) human beings could indiscriminately murder innocent people. I wondered at the type of brainwashing the suicide bombers succumbed to or the life they led that they were able to carry out these evil actions.

I thought back to the Nazis.  They were the evil of their era and it took a world war to finally put an end to them. Is that what it will take?  I found myself joining in with those who were prompting our and other governments to step up the attacks on Isis.  I’ve never been a war monger. I was disturbed that I was leaning in that direction.

Then on NPR this morning I heard an interview with a refugee living in Paris who had the opposite reaction.  His first thought upon hearing of the terror attack was to hope that now a cease fire in Syria would be negotiated. He pointed out that the rise of Isis comes from the fog of war and the hopelessness of young people who have lived so long with violence from within and without that they make a game of identifying the type of bombers that fly over their schools, homes and streets.

Sadly the need for governments to increase attacks on Syria out of vengeance and as proof to their citizens that they will be kept safe leads me to believe that all we have to look forward to is more of the same. We attack them; they attack us.  I fear for our future and my heart breaks for the innocent people caught up in the fighting who will have fewer and fewer avenues of escape.

We should be asking why can Isis convince people to do these acts?  What had Hitler told his followers that led them to hate and act out of hatred; what are Isis followers being told? What conditions exist that people gravitate to Isis? We need to get to the root of the problem and fix it.  Like weeds, we can pull up the ones we see but until we eradicate the roots they’ll just keep popping back up.

I want off this roller coaster!

images-1

I ready to pull the emergency lever, smash the glass, hit the blue button – whatever it takes to just make this be over!

I’m tired of scheduling time with my contractor only to be stood up, again and again.  I’m fed up with being told things are going to happen by such and such a date then watching that date go by without a word of explanation or a sign of progress.

I’ve tried to be sweet and docile.  I’ve tried being a b*tch.  Neither work and nothing changes based on anything I do.  I create calendars and schedules hoping they mean something only to be reminded over and over that they don’t.

I’m just fed up.  I no longer care.  He tells me to order something then tell me not to have it delivered because he’s not ready, sorry but it’s being delivered, deal with it.  I’m going to do what I need to do and he can just suck it up.

I would warn anyone to not be fooled by the charming contractor who makes big promises and seems so together and nice because beneath that exterior lurks a self-serving, duplicitous, liar.

Something gets added, something gets taken away…

It seems to be the rule of thumb recently.  For each thing I receive; something it taken.  It began over a year ago.  I was given a house but for me to get it, my mother was taken away (I trust to a better place).

It all began with the inspector who was being a bit of a hard case.  One one hand I was glad because I want to make sure everything is built properly but on the other, it was frustrating that he didn’t go through the entire house to give notes but stopped his inspection as soon as he encountered something that he didn’t approve.  That meant nothing could move forward.  It was also a bit frustrating that one inspector says something can simply be modified then the new inspector comes in and says no, it’s got to be rebuilt (to new code) or removed.

The “it” in this case was the sun porch that was at the back of the house and wasn’t a room that was used much but which I had hoped to turn into a “woman cave”  – why should only men have the?   However, given the choice of bringing it up to code or spending 1/4 of the money to demo it and have a clean slate to work from, I chose the latter.  My only regret was that it was the only room in the entire house that didn’t sustain any damage from the fire and so remained as a reminder of what the house looked like when my mom was alive.  Now there is nothing which she had a hand in.  Sure the house still has the same layout and overall footprint but every wall, light, door, window will be new.  I hope the house will still be imbued with her spirit.

For those who knew my mother, they’ll understand that her warmth and kindness was evident in all the touches she put into the house.  I was always the practical, cynical and logical one.  She was the generous, empathetic, caring one.  Thinking back on it, I marvel that after all she endured – the bombings during the war, the death of so many young men she knew in that war, having to care for her mother with dementia, being abandoned by her husband, raising a child on her own (before it was an accepted practice) and being an ocean away from the only family she had – she was typically cheerful and in good spirits.  She always said she felt blessed.

So I lost the sun room but I gained a roof.  With the roof on, everything else can move forward.  Next will be drywall!  Before I know it the house will start taking shape. But, as they say, the devil’s in the details.  So many details still to be ironed out!

Here’s the house before and now…

DSC02470DSC02702

And here is what the back of the house now looks like…

DSC02483 DSC02484

Soon those short walls will be gone too.

The four P’s – read on to find out what they are

I know this doesn’t count as something to particularly stress over but that doesn’t stop me from doing just that. I can’t seem to find the right vanity for the master bath. I found one that would be great but it only comes in black or white. When I mentioned to the sales person that those colors aren’t what I had in mind – I was hoping for a gray or brown to go with the bath tile I was informed “normally one selects the vanity and matches the tile to it.” Good to know but that doesn’t help me given that I ordered the tile… oh about two months ago! The thing is, I believe that there is a solution out there – the perfect vanity but I’m just not looking in the right places. I spend free time trolling the internet but I keep coming up with the same four manufacturers who don’t offer what I want. Then I went to the Restoration Hardware site. Yup, found not the perfect option but a good one except that the counter top alone costs twice as much as every other vanity I’ve found and then I still need to buy the actual vanity to go with that counter top! Do I really want to spend nearly $6000.00 for a bathroom vanity? The answer is most definitely NO! So I keep searching but a voice in the back of my mind keeps saying that I’m being silly and I should just pick from one of the many available options out there and move on.

Well, I wrote that a few weeks ago and never got around to sharing the post.  So fast forward to yesterday.  I set myself a deadline.  I was going to make a decision yesterday.  I took the morning off from work to go back to the three showrooms I’ve already visited probably a dozen times over the past four months.  As I sat in my car in the parking lot, I was tempted yet again to google other options but I stopped myself.  I told myself I’d done my homework.  I had found items that were the correct size, ecological, attractive and competitively (if not inexpensively) priced.  I bought two toilets, a tub, a sink, a vanity and shower trim!  I then went on line and ordered the master bath vanity that fit the bill exactly – yes I found it! – but only on line.  Decorplanet.com  had the 60″, Mahogany, single sink, contemporary (not modern!) vanity I wanted.  The first time I test a drawer or look at the finish and color will be when it is delivered to my house.  That’s a first for me.  If I love it, that’ll be a huge step in my life as an on-line shopper.

By now you’re wondering about those four P’s.  Here it is – psychologists (not one of the 4 P’s) track our on-line shopping behavior and have determined that, like grief, it gets divided into stages. Grief and loss get five, shopping gets four:  we search for items, we save those items (so that we can revisit them – the most widely used means being Pinterest), we revisit those items (a lot and for a long time as it turns out – my four months does not make me an outlier) and then we purchase.  It’s the four P’s  Peruse, Pin, Pine, Purchase.  And you thought you were unique!

Quick update on the house – still no progress on the roof but the sun porch which I’ve learned had been enclosed without a permit, is coming down and, because it’s a code issue not a fire issue, that’s on me not the insurance company.  Oh well.

Back to the bell!

Well not quite.  I am back at school but there are no bells because it’s one class ALL DAY! The last time I sat in a college classroom was 1980.  That was so long ago, I think it’d be a safe guess that more than half of the people I work with now weren’t even alive then!

I’ve taken a few community college classes but all for fun things like cooking and cooking and cooking.  Hmmm, clearly I’m not addicted to education.  I was a good student.  I don’t have anything against being a student it’s just that I was too busy trying to earn a living to go back to school when it still felt fresh and the thought of going back to school after being out for 20+ years, well it gets intimidating.

So why am I back in school?  My company offers an education reimbursement program which I’d never taken advantage of.  With things shifting at work and it looking like I might be taking on more managerial responsibilities I went to the internet to see if there was a community college class I could take.  What I found instead was a Management Development Program offered by USC’s Marshall School of Business.  In seven weeks they touch on all the skills, understandings and current trends a manager needs to grasp.  Perfect!  The course met reimbursement criteria so I signed up.

I was nervous as I stepped onto the USC campus.  Having done all my undergrad studies across town at UCLA I must admit to a slight prejudice against USC.  I was surprised how spacious and beautiful the campus was. I easily navigated the large campus (no small feat as I am navigationally challenged) and found the modern (interior) yet inviting (exterior) building where my class is held.

IMG_0705

I was thrilled to see that a majority of my fellow classmates were middle aged folk, like myself, looking to improve their skills.  I feared I’d be the oldest or only old person in the room!  (I am older than the professor)

The pace was fast but geared to keep us engaged so it was terrific.  I realized that since I was a student so much has been learned about how to teach.  No longer is it a sit, listen, take notes situation.  There was so much interaction and the material was presented in such a way to engage all types of learners, visual, audio and kinetic.  So much better to be a student these days!

I enjoyed the class immensely.  I learned a ton and met many interesting people.  Now I’m sorry the class is only 7 weeks! I might get addicted to learning after all….