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Category Archives: Bastrop fire

Normal Boring Day

It is days like today, when I am caught up in my very normal, mundane daily activities, when routine and kids and chores are all that I think about, it is days like today that I am thankful. Thankful to have a normal boring day. Thankful to have a friend to go with me to thrift stores just to see what hidden treasures they might contain. Thankful beyond words for my mischievous and beautiful baby who is already keeping me on my toes at only 12 months old. Thankful that my 5 year old is adjusting so incredibly well to the vastness of kindergarten despite all of my fears and trepidations (and hers) for all these many years.

I am thankful because it is in this normality that peace settles in and one can move beyond the day and live in the now.

I am thankful for this day because on this day, this very particular day, that normal has not always been my experience. The first year, everyone remembered. The second year – and perhaps it is only my own myopic perceptions, but it seems as if those of us in this exclusive club fear to mention it, even amongst ourselves.

I have had other traumatic events in my life, as nearly everyone has. Those life defining events that you remember the date of from year to year. For myself, it was the death of my most beloved dog, Carbon. He was a puppy that I got while a Peace Corps Volunteer – we grew up together in a sense. He was my soul mate, my best friend, the “Best Dog” in my wedding. And 8 years later, the loss of him still takes my breath away. The first years after his passing, I always remembered, always grieved. And then, as time went on, I began to live that day as normal, forgetting its significance in the history of my life. And then I would grieve even more fiercely for having forgotten him, as if that somehow indicated my lack of love for him. Reaching that point took years and I am sure that some therapist would say that it is a good sign of my healing. To me, it is another loss of one of the few things that I have left of him.

So today, it took me rather by surprise that my day went as planned, normal, routine, boring. A state of which I had longed for as much as I have ever yearned for excitement. That it was not until an hour after the time of the event that it occurred to me. I did send a text to another club member hoping that she was OK today. But, from the many people that I know, I saw nothing on their Facebook posts indicating the date. The only people that seem to remember, and are willing to talk about it, are the news media. They talk about recovery, or lack there of, of dead trees and missing houses. Of the state park and the fun run to raise money to replant the trees.

They don’t mention the exhaustion, the weariness of soul from the never ending task of rising from these ashes to reach that ephemeral state of “recovery”. The knee buckling gratitude to strangers with a debt to people unknown that can never be repaid. They fail to mention the joys of the mundane. The anxiety of potential repeat loss. The deep instinctual knowledge that the odds don’t always play in your favor; that at some point, you will be the 0.05% of people affected, no matter which god you honor. The understanding that it really isn’t the loss of “stuff” that is so traumatic but rather the effort to return to and find… normal.

Our house isn’t totally done, we have much yard work to do, tree stumps to take out, grass to plant. Our vista is full of blackened skeletons of the true “Lost Pines” and of small green spires of the future growing from the ashes of their parents in the form of baby pine trees. We cannot forget simply because the mere act of looking out of our windows reminds us every day. But it seems that we can reach the much despised phrase of “new normal” – despite how far we have left to go both in a physical landscape of our property and in the psychological acceptance of our hearts.

Strength comes from hardship, of trials and trauma. We are stronger people because of today – both this day 2 years ago and because of where we are right now. It is an anniversary of endurance and honor and it is as much a part of me as my beloved dog.

So I will say it aloud. Today is the day that the nations worst wildfire ever started*. Today is the day that our lives changed. Today is the day… and we are just fine.

 

* (by financial losses per capita in the county – 3rd worst in general)

Household Inventory

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emergencyPrint available at Esty shop Whisker Prints.

Quick.

Name every DVD or CD in your collection.

What brand of underwear do you have?

How many of each color?

How old are they?

Can’t answer all of that?

Then welcome to the club – most people can’t.  Yet, if your house is robbed or you are in a natural disaster, you WILL need to know this!

The disaster is the first of many insults and traumas  if you ever get to go through something like this.  After the disaster the turmoil will largely be a result of what you have done to prepare before hand.  As in – do you have insurance?  Do you have enough?  Do you have a list of EVERYTHING that you own?  Do you know what your individual insurance agency requires if something happens?

LIST EVERYTHING YOU OWN.  Why?  Because in the case of massive disaster, you get money not just for the TV but for ALL of your stuff.  It’s called contents insurance (renters insurance is the same if you don’t own your house) and is generally a total value, not individual (though this varies by provider – check your policy for details).  After a disaster, you will have to list ALL of your stuff and then will be given a DEPRECIATED value of your posessions.  So while your undies and ketchup in the fridge may not matter much, they add up fast and add to the total value of your contents.   Including a general list of what you keep in your pantry for food.  (And the freezer – think of the value of all of the meat and frozen fruit!)  If you don’t have enough on your itemized list to get ALL of your contents money – you just won’t get it.  Some insurers will only give you 25% of your total content value if you don’t itemize (I believe State Farm is like this among others) – so you want a total list.   You will NEED all of the money you can legally get from the insurance that you’ve paid for for years because it will take more money than you ever expected to replace all of those little things.  And getting back to normal is worth making this list NOW.

Also, many insurers will not accept pictures and serial numbers as proof of ownership anymore.  You will need a copy of the receipt!  And be careful – receipts fade over time so either scan it or take a picture of the receipt and add that to your database in your inventory.

We never think that it will happen to us.  And I don’t know the statistics (but would love to find out) but if you figure everyone involved in Hurricanes Sandy, Katrina, Rita, Ike… the wildfires like Bastrop of 2011, Colorado 2012… Just because the odds are 1 in 100 (or whatever it really is)

SOMEONE HAS TO BE THE ONE!!!!!

It could be you.  It was me.  It was nearly 1700 homes in my town.

Be prepared.

And the folks in Colorado learned this lesson last year, as is reported in the Denver Times.  Good information on why and how to make an inventory.

Overwhelmed with the idea of making a list of all of your stuff?  You’re not alone.  I still don’t have a complete list.  Me.  The one who lost it all.

http://blogs.kxan.com/2013/07/24/insurance-information-institute-info/

But, on the local news today the president from the Insurance Information Institute was on the news.  They have apps for apple and android to help you to make the list.  I haven’t tried it yet but you’d better believe it that I’m going to look into it. (And the reviews are only mediocre… so I won’t be using this app.)

http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0100-consumers/0060-information-guides/0040-residential/upload/HomeInventoryCombined2008.pdf

Want to go old school and make a paper list?  The California Department of Insurance has a nice PDF file that you can print off, fill in info and tape in pictures.

However, at least in our fire, fire safes didn’t actually protect anything from the fire – so I would ignore their advice on using those.   Best bet?  Use a safe deposit box at a bank.  Even if you don’t have the key to get in to it, the $150 fee to drill the lock out is cheaper than what you’ll loose if you don’t have your list.

Update

After looking at MANY programs and organizing systems, I have finally found the method that I’m going to use. 

http://insurance.lovetoknow.com/Home_Inventory_Forms

This has PDF forms that are editable and list major items per room – plus a blank form that you can use for your special stuff that isn’t included on their pre-made forms.  I am planning on going through and filling this in and also taking pictures of all of the stuff, including clothes (adds up fast!) – then, saving the pictures in folders organized by room.  It’s not quite as organized as I would like it with the picture next to the item description, but it’s the best I have found so far.  And it is FREE.  And it is on my computer and not out there in the cloud.  Once I am done with this huge project, I am backing this up to a jump disk and having my husband keep it in his office at work.  And as things go into the house or out of the house, I will edit the list, too.

Issues involve baby clothes – they grow out of them so fast!  And fabric.  Ack – how do I inventory that?  And yards of fabric add up fast as do their prices!

This will not be a quick project but it is one that must be done.

Whatever you do – start on the list.

Because I know that lightening does strike in the same place twice.  That it can happen to me again.  And this time, I will be better prepared.

Vintage Mixing Machine

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I need a mixing machine.  Mine went with the house and before, with wedding money from my parents, I had a beautiful Bosch mixing machine.  It was strong and durable and I really didn’t like it.  Why?  That annoying and silly center post.  I know that is central to making it work but it meant a lot of scraping… and it just wasn’t my thing.  (However, MANY bread making folks out there adore it.)

So, after the fire, after we moved into the new house, I had to start filling in with something.  And I started looking.  And again, like on my quest of a food processor, I realized that most modern machines meant to mix breads and cakes are just lousy.  And so, here I am, still without a mixer.

Part of my struggle comes with our new diet, at least for a couple of us in my little family.  And more of this will come on a later post but basically, baby Eleanor has had some tough GI issues since about 2 months old.  Basically, severe constipation.  And after working with our amazing pediatrician in Austin, and talking to some family – I went gluten free to see if it helped.  Eleanor is still on Miralax, though at a low dose, and that keeps any day to day issues at bay.  In the rare experiment where I cave to gluten (and the stuff is stinking everywhere – especially in resturant foods) she quickly becomes clogged up again.  As in 24 hours of my bad meal (though the seafood while at the beach was really yummy).

So, since it appears that she will be gluten free for the undetermined future – do I need a heavy duty mixing machine that developes gluten like a dream?  Does the $700 Verona Assistent justify its expense on a gf diet?  And in all of my readings I keep hearing about the wonders of machines made in the US in the 50s and 60s that were durable and did what was needed of them and are still going strong – where are those today?  No where.

What does it leave a girl to do?

dormeyer

Do what her grandma did of course!  Buy a vintage machine.  Please realize that my sewing machine, my Bernina 830, is a 40 year old machine and I heart it deeply.  So, it’s not a big leap to figure that I might equally come to admire the virtues of an old mixer.  The question is – which one?  Unless you’re a fair bit older than myself, you likely aren’t familiar with a Dormeyer mixing machine.  And yet, it seems that they were amazing mixers of the 30’s to 60’s.  And I’m currently considering a Dormeyer 4400 or 4300. 

There are other mixers of good breeding out there, too.  Vintage (40 year old or older) Hamilton Beach model k.  Or the much revered Kenwood.  Or the Sunbeam model 12 (not to be confused with a 12 speed, which makes ebay shopping tricky).

If you are like me and are also looking down vintage lane because of the lousy stuff currently being made (plastic gears – really?) here are a few resources that you might be interested in.

Tips on buying a vintage machine.  Be sure to read the comments for more good info.

WACEM yahoo group.  We Actually Collect Electric Mixers group.  No really, it’s a really yahoo group.  With lots of good info that you can read in their messages without joining and proving what a dork ahem collector you are.  And yes, I’m thinking about joining just so that I can ask questions.

Neslson EZY vintage mixer repair service.  You might reconsider buying vintage when you see what it will cost to get your old machine back to new working order but consider this.  If it lasted 50 years the first go around, it will likely last another 50 years… and what current machine on the market now has the chance of doing that?  And, I have no idea of the quality of repairs from this guy so use the service at your own risk.

So, I’m currently waiting to see if I am outbid on a Dormeyer on Ebay.  My max bid is $20 with shipping being another $17.  I’m rather regretting bidding on it and hope that I get out bid this morning as I don’t want to miss out on a different machine, also a Dormeyer, for $20 more but that has a buy it now option.  And I might cry if I miss out on both at the same time.  Why the Dormeyer?  Great reviews (what few there are) and metal bowls.  And I have 2 little kids – metal stands a great chance of surviving another 50 years than glass, at least in my house.

I’ll keep you posted on what I end up with.  It’s an adventure to be sure.  And if you have one to sell to me – I’ll happily buy it!

Finally – I have my food processor again!

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food processorPlease ignore the nearly dead plants.  And the bottle of hootch.  Which is amazing and made locally by people I know.  Click on the picture for a link to their page.

Yup, it’s true.  I bought this pretty lady the January before the fire.  It’s taken over 1 1/2 years to get to a point of replacing it.  Why?  Because it’s stinking expensive!  (And, we bought the first one with a gift card earned via credit card points earned with work travel … so really pretty much free.)

If you are anything like my husband, you would like to be able to buy things made in AMERICA and not in places like say, China.  Not that there is anything wrong with China per se BUT – first – we’d like to have our own country actually employ people and support those people as they make real things.  Second – China is rather like the Wild West – few regulations and lots of cutting corners and who knows all what…  Stuff is made in China because their production costs are cheaper (and they’re likely cheaper for a reason – it’s just not as good).

But, I DARE you to find a food processor or nearly anything else NOT made in China or another Asian country.  First – there are no food processors made in the United States.  Second, I’m totally happy with supporting higher standards and pay of employees of the nice folks in Europe.

So what did I get?  A Magimix!  This lady, she’s speaks French!  And comes with a 30 year warranty.  And is crazy awesome and I missed her greatly and even looking back half way wished I had packed her into the car, too.

Because… I was wanting to buy her again 2 months ago!  But, for whatever reason, there were NO MORE in the US.  And the snooty store William Sonoma is the only retailer of Magimix and so I was just out of luck.  Now, there’s a long story to go with the purchasing saga of this little machine that I won’t bore you with but… do yourself a favor.  Don’t buy via Williams Sonoma over the phone or on their website.  They are lousy.  As in not emailing receipts, computers not accepting orders, store managers on the phone not even having a clue as to one of their higher priced items… blah.  (But, if you do, sign up for their emails – you get free shipping and 10% off your first order, and with these prices, you’ll need the discount.)  (And, I should say, that for all of my drama they finally gave me a 25% discount – doesn’t make me much happier but it I’ll take it.)   If you do need to buy this machine (and really, it’s totally fab) then go to a real store if you can.  Just saying.

Anyways. … I made dinner last night using cabbage.  A real cabbage not a bag of pre-shredded cabbage bits.  And I made crinkle cut carrot slices (I decided to go for it and got the extra blade pack while I was at it) and I have a LONG list of stuff to make in it!  Not to mention – baby food!

I’m just thrilled with my new machine, less than happy with the purchasing experience, and happy to be able to really cook again…

Which leads me to a post in a couple of days.  A new vintage recipe from my new vintage cookbook.  I’m SO excited.  I can’t wait to share!

Happy Wednesday!

Clothesline

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line b

So, after nearly 2 years of whatever it is that we have been doing, my clothesline is back in business.  The hubs put it in 2 weekends ago and I promptly washed some vintage tableclothes so that they could dry on the line.  Rosie had to help me of course.

Part of the rest of the clothesline is the steps out the back door.  So that I can walk out the back door in the laundry room right to the clothesline.  Going around the burned double tree stump and past the little oak tree regrowing from the old oak stump to get to the line.   I don’t have pictures yet – they still need to be painted, but they are functional and fabulous.  We thought of buying the premade concrete steps but they didn’t come tall enough for what we needed, so hubs spent several hours building a set from wood and hardy plank.  Considering that he’s never built stairs before I think he did a great job.  Thank heavens for the internet and instructions on how to do everything.

The line being back is a milestone of sorts.  Another step closer to … to what I’m not sure.  I really hate the phrase “new normal” and yet, it is new and it is sort of normal.  Normal before the fire was one kid in a house that needed a lot of work.  Normal after the fire is 2 kids in a house that is pretty OK but with a yard that needs a LOT of work.  It’s different.  It’s great.  It’s normal?

I was talking with friends recently, and trust me when I say that there are a lot of folks in this area who are also in the fire club, and what we concluded is that people who have never been through something like this or who don’t closely know someone who has – they don’t get the recovery process.  Nearly 2 years out and we’re still fighting our way back to the top of the hole.   And that it is the little things, like a clothesline, that mark a small victory.

I remember last year emailing a friend and telling her that I can’t wait until life returns to boring.  To a time when I’m not making a zillion decisions about a new house or baby or… when we get back into everyday routines and occasionally, delicisouly, find ourselves bored.  To me, that is probably the definition of recovered.  When life becomes routine and mundane and I think about a bit of excitement…  I’m not there yet.  There’s to much new in our lives still.  Kindergarten, the baby hopefully soon learning to crawl (and the chaos that that will cause) and the work on the yard… so much to do and think about still.  Being bored means that I have time to mentally recover, to not be so exhausted just getting through a day and have more of a buffer between being OK and wanting to throw rocks at the world.  Disasters take that buffer away and it is seeming to take an exceptionally long time for the buffer to return.

Little things though, they seem to help on the buffer issue.  Being able to hang out wash by myself on my clothesline while looking at my chickens and a couple of newly planted baby trees… it helps.  Planting flowers around the clothesline poles (I put in 4 oclocks) and hopefully watching them grow and bloom.  That helps, too.  Sewing 45 baby bibs… and working on my next project (details coming later this week)… I think that this is why recovery is so long though.  It took ages to get to the point of putting the clothesline back in, it wasn’t high on the priority list, but yet…

So, here’s to small victories, and growing buffers – a load of wash on the line at a time.

Baby Bib Give Away!!!!!

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Eleanor in her bibIsn’t she cute?  8 months old and LOVING food.  Especially MANGOS.  I have no idea why.  But seriously, you’ve never seen a baby so excited about any one particular fruit.  It’s funny!

bibs

And because she needed bibs, I decided to make a FEW bibs.  So, I pulled out the fabric that I had (much of it donated or yard saled) and started cutting out.  And, as I tend to like to cut out a bunch of anything at one time and then spend weeks sewing… well, I cut out a few.  Just a few.  Like as in enough for 35.

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My idea was to send bibs to people that I know who have or are about to have little babies and would be able to use and appreciate bibs.  Part of my “Pay it Forward for the rest of my life” plan.  So, about half of these are already spoken for.  The rest I planned on putting in my stash to use as baby gifts to people I know or don’t know in the future.

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The pattern I used was the Bapron bib pattern that is currently for sale for $6 at Craftiness is not Optional blog.  I saved the pattern a couple of years back when she still had it up on her blog for free.  Even at her current price – it is a good price!

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I also made ALL of the bias tape used in all of the bibs.  First, you should know that each bib needs about 2 1/2 yards of bias tape.  Each.   Yes, you did the math correctly.  That is over 80 YARDS of bias tape that I made by hand.  80.  Yards.  I got the fancy Clover Bias Tape Maker and bought flannel fabric…. and realized that flannel doesn’t work in bias tape makers.  So, 2 yards of flannel had to be ironed into tape.  By. Hand.  Sigh.  At over $2 for a 4 yard packet of less than wonderful store bought stuff in boring colors… I got 20 yards or more from each yard of fabric that I bought for $5.  So, I saved a bit of money ($5 vs $10 for store bought) but it is MUCH prettier!   And really – not that hard!  It was almost fun all of the ironing while listening to NPR (which is what I do most of the time when I sew).

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I bought normal fabric for the edges and really, small print is best.  The browns and purple came from Walmart of all places (about our only local option and I wasn’t going into the city any time soon) but worked up really well and was a surprisingly nicer weight fabric.  But, because my brain is a bit slow on baby sleep, I had to resort to on-line tutorials to figure out how to make the tape.  To get the most tape out of a yard of fabric, I used this tutorial at Whipstitch Fabrics to cut the fabric on an angle and then sew it to the other side – so the entire yard of fabric can be cut into strips on the bias.  But, they then wanted it to be cut all in one long strip and honestly, drawing lines on the fabric and then pinning and then cutting – blah… too much!  So, after I got my yard cut and re-sewn the right way, then I switched over to Dana Made It and used her tutorial on how to cut the strips and then sew the strips together once they’re all skinny.  For me – much easier!  Plus, Dana has a fab description of what bias tape is and the different types of makers and sizes and… good basic info!

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As I was sitting in my little space sewing, I was thinking about the year past in this house of ours.  You see, this past weekend was our 1 year anniversary to move into the house.  It wasn’t done (still not entirely finished – still no steps out the back doors and some trim still needs to be painted) but it was time and I was hugely pregnant and not fitting so well into the RV any more and…  We were so relieved to be back into a real house.  We still are.  And we are so grateful to the huge number of people that helped us get back to this state of “normal”… Part of my  “Pay it Forward” campaign is to have give aways just because.  To share the love with people that I don’t know just as people that didn’t know us helped me helped during my time of disaster.

bibs give frontsm

So, I am giving away these two bibs.  (Above and below pictures – they are the front and back shots.)  Both gender neutral so good for little boys or girls.

bibs give backsm

To enter, please comment below, be sure to include your email address.   Please tell us what random act of kindness you’ve done recently.  Big or small doesn’t matter…

Like me on Facebook at Life on the Clothesline  and then leave a comment on the contest post on FB for an extra entry.   If you already follow me on FB, please leave a comment on that post, too.

Contest closes May 19 at midnight.  That’s two weeks.  Please tell your friends and share the love.  More importantly, be kind to each other and help when you can.  Even if you never hear the words “thank you”  it doesn’t mean that your actions didn’t matter.   Thanks to you all…

House in Pictures

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Sorry for the exceptionally long delay in posting.  I have lousy excuses other than the insanity of mentally getting through a disaster.

A few things have changed since last I posted…

ImageRight now, I’m 32 weeks pregnant with our second daughter!  We very much wanted to have another child, but I had a very hard time getting pregnant… needless to say, chlomid (an entry level fertility drug) and disaster recovery make for some interesting mood swings.

Eleanor Edna is due August 29… but as I will likely have a repeat c-section, she will probably come a week earlier.  And, the first anniversary of the fire is Sept. 4, so apparently we decided to have as much change in one year as possible.

We also got a new kitty in November.  A calico named Ruby.  She turned 1 around June…

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We also got a new house.  But, as people were asking what it looked like here before, I am doing a series of pictures below.  From before, right after, during and now…

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March 2009, the day we moved in.  Rosie was 8 months old then.

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This is spring 2011 I think.

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Fall 2010.

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September 2011

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And then, today.  the new house, which is currently in the process of being painted by volunteers.

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The new house was built by a group called Christian Aid Ministries, which is a cooalition of Mennonite and Amish volunteers who go to disaster areas and help.  We paid for materials, Russ did a LOT of the labor, but they did 3/4 or so of the house building, the stuff that was beyond our tool and capacity set.

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The carport has been taken down, Russ will put it on the left where the car will park eventually.  The shed will be pulled to behind the house.  The RV sold.  And we still have a lot to do after that.

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There’s a lot more sunlight than before.  A lot fewer trees… we’re slowly planting back trees and Russ had planted annual rye grass to stabilize the soil over the winter.  He’s since planted tall native grasses around the perimeter – we’re not used to being so exposed and are wanting some privacy back.

Officials say it will be 60-100 years before the trees return to what they were.  Maybe Rosie and Eleanor will get a chance to see it.

I really hope to be posting more now that I’ve braved it all again.  My stress is getting less, with each step towards normal that we take.  I have even started sewing again this week!  More later… thanks for stopping by.

Pictures of our new “home”

So, about 2 weeks after evacuating, we bought and moved into an RV.  At the time, we thought that insurance was slow in getting us the money for the RV, but since then we realize that we had very unrealistic expectations and that USAA moved exceptionally fast.  Thank heavens for the displaced housing allowance!

And, I had thought of waiting to take pictures until we were unpacked all of the way and it was pretty and perfect but… whatever.  It is what it is and if you don’t like it, look away now.  🙂

This is the RV at my friend Katie’s house.  We will owe Katie and her family for the rest of our lives – they’ve proven to be really great friends.   That said, for a hermit family that we are well…

We moved back to our property a month ago.  Russ and his friend Chet worked so much on the property, getting the dead trees cleared, the foundation removed (it was crumbling – the fire was that hot and the county is not allowing re-construction on burned foundations anyways) and base material/gravel trucked in to allow for driving on the sand.

We added the car port to have a living area outside of the RV and that can be used later for something crazy like parking a car under.  The picnic table and chairs were donated at our fire shower and we use them ALL of the time.

We discovered that our sand is at most 6 feet deep, though have heard that in other areas the sand is around 20 feet deep.  It is this deep sand that allows the pine trees to survive here.  It is otherwise too dry and the trees go away when you’re not on this soil type in this area.

Though, you can see here that it has finally rained a little in the past month.  We’re still painfully far behind but… And, thanks to my pal Lynnette who helped us put in the sidewalk!

This is our new bird feeder and bath… the black thing on the post is a bit of metal to keep the squirrels out (it really does work, though right now, there’s not many squirrels to worry about anyways).  The birds are slowly coming back and my feeding station is a popular place.

The RV is a 2 bedroom (who knew, right?) so Rosie has her own room.  If you collapse the table, you can technically sleep 4 in there, but as it stands, we use the top bunk for a dresser (shelf unit thing from Target), a play area with the table and storage for books and undies in the built in cabinet.

Russ’ mom made the slip covers for her table benches.  That’s her little pal Luke (son of Katie) playing with the cute doll house.

And her bed… we’ve since added a “tent” of fuzzy pink blanket that hangs down from the top bunk.  Apparently, her little room wasn’t little enough.  And, when I say that this is a little or tiny house, I am always corrected – this is a big house according to a 3 year old.   (“Real” houses are “giant”  just so you know.)   Apparently, tiny houses are for dolls.  How’s that for a bit of perspective?

The RV has a slide out, which for those of you who don’t have an RV, means that part of the side RV literally slides out about 4 feet, giving much more space on the inside.  It is the slide that allows us to be modestly comfortable and function on a long term basis.

The TV is pretty cool.  The RV came with the space but we had to add our own TV (it came with an anteanna) and the best part – it rotates!  We can watch it from the couch (also came with the RV and is a hide a bed just so you can shoe horn 2 more people into the RV) OR you can rotate the TV into the master bedroom and watch from the comfort of the bed.  In fact, after Rosie goes to bed at night, we usually go to bed ourselves and either watch something on Netflix or just go to sleep.  Yes, we’re old.

The living area more…

The tiny bathroom – a tub just big enough for a toddler!

The kitchen…

With a fridge maybe twice the size of a small dorm fridge, 3 burner stove and a tiny double sink.  Yes, I cook in here, no I have not yet used the tiny oven.  The white thing on the front of the counter (next to the little pink toy) is actually a Toddy coffee maker, cold brew, that you can buy on line.  One of the little splurges and great for lowering the acid in coffee …

The key to sanity in the RV and kitchen especially is small and collapsible.  As in strainers (really bulky otherwise) and measuring cups and… and a minimal amount of stuff.  The big red square is a dish drying mat I found at Bed Bath and Beyond for $5.  Works great and doesn’t take nearly the space as a RV dish drying rack – we put it on top of the stove while doing dishes.  As far as supplies… a skillet, a sauce pan and a stock pot and that’s it.  A couple of knives, set of 5 for silverware (kept in the red flower pots), 4 matching coffee cups from the grocery store…

And you know what?  We’re just fine!  Yes, the first month in here I ate a lot of frozen dinners but really, the small is making us eat what I cook, we’re wasting less food, eating fresher stuff (farmers market on Tuesdays) and it’s not that bad.  This would be hard to do if we weren’t forced into it – but now, well, it’s not so bad.  We’re very grateful to have our own space (again, a trait common of hermits) and to be this comfortable.

Speaking of – this is our bedroom looking in from the door.

And, looking from the head of the bed.

Closets are tiny, but considering that we don’t have that much, it’s OK.  And, as stuff comes in, I am constantly weeding out stuff I don’t like or doesn’t fit as well or… and taking it to the donation center for fire people.  I’ve only taken a couple of things from there actually.

So, not as bad as most people think – we’re actually kind of enjoying the RV.  It’s forcing us to stay minimal, to realize the needs verses the wants and to appreciate what we DO have.

Next post will be more on minimalism and other fun stuff that we’re learning the hard way!  Have a great week!

What To Say to a Disaster Person

So, you know someone who has been devastated by a death or illness or house burning down or…. the sky falls in various ways and inevitably, you will be faced with trying to find the “right” words to say to your friend.

What you say has an impact on your friend first of all.  Have no doubt, words to matter.  And saying the right words can help you help your friend, help you get in to deeper conversations (either immediately or later on) OR your words can shut the door.

A previous commenter on my How to Help – After the Disaster post asked how to say “good luck”… and I realized that it is a topic that really does need to be talked about.  I have gone through my share of sky falling events and inevitably, I get upset at what some people say to me – not because they are ill intentioned, but because what they do say jabs at the pain and doesn’t do anything to help ease it.

So, let’s talk about WHAT NOT TO SAY, shall we?

It’s OK or It will all be OK.  Really?  How do you know?  Because for me (and this is all based on my recent wildfire experiences) NOTHING can make this OK.  You can’t bring my house back, you can’t make my little girl not scared of pictures of flames, you can’t do it.  THIS IS NOT OK.

–  It’s all part of God’s plan or It happened for a reason.  First off, please do not assume that I’m religious or that I am your version of religious.  (And trust me, now is NOT the time to try to convert me, either.)  Unless you happen to go to church or temple or the ashram or whatever with me, you most likely don’t have any idea what my religious beliefs are and have no way of knowing what my god thinks on this subject.  As far as a “reason” for this happening well… maybe not so much.  For me, the reason is that it is blasted dry here in Texas (worst drought in recorded history) and the electric line sparked it off and the winds were crazy bad and…

Along those lines, if you are lucky enough to have had your house spared, please don’t tell me that you “prayed and prayed and that’s why your house is OK”.  Seriously, it’s been told to a friend of mine and yes, it pissed her off.   Because by saying that, you insinuate that others didn’t pray enough or were somehow unworthy and they were subsequently punished by having their entire life’s worth of everything taken away from them.    And really, I don’t think that I’m that bad of a person – in fact, I think that I’m actually fairly decent and yet – yet my house is still gone.

–  I know how you feel.  Um, unless you’ve been in a similar situation, no you don’t.

–  You tell me your own horror story.  OK, so I get it, everyone goes through sky falling events eventually.  And, you’re right, your story is just as bad if not worse than mine – but right now, all I can do is barely deal with my own life.  Dealing with the horrors of yours is currently beyond any mental capacity that I might have left.  So, leave the “my life sucks worse than your life sucks” bit at home for now – K?

–  It could always be worse.  Yes, it could be worse, thank you for reminding me of that.  Without you telling me this, I would have never figured it out on my own.  In fact, that’s what Bill Cosby is for – to tell me that in a funny way (remember that?).   He said to “never challenge worse” – and so I haven’t.  I know that we could have not had any time to get anything (several friends were out of town the weekend of the fire and didn’t get anything out) or one of us could get really sick (cat has double pneumonia right now) or  or or … yes, I get it.  But it still sucks.

–  Don’t tell me how I am supposed to feel.  A lady I know, who also lost her house in the fire, she did that to me this week.  Really pissed me off.   She was all positive and “It’s God’s plan” and I can make this positive crap.  I’m not sure why she was telling me this because really, according to EVERYONE else that I know who also knows other fire people, I am supposed to be dealing with this better than anyone else they know.  (And yes, that surprised me more than anyone – I’m not normally known for my calm rational reactions, more of a very emotional girl actually.)

The bottom line on this one – MY FEELINGS ARE VALID.  By telling me that I should “look on the bright side” and other rainbowy things you’re really telling me that I’m not reacting appropriately to this – otherwise known as telling me that I’m wrong.    That’s crap.  Sorry, but it is.  Everyone deals with stuff differently – in fact, the Austin American Statesman had an article on this very topic a couple of weeks ago.

–  I could never do what you’re doing.  OK, this is also crap.  Because, NO ONE wants to go through this and yet- when you’re faced with no other choice,  you do it.  Everyone does.  Is it fun?  No.  Do I want to do it?  No.  Will I get through it?  Someday, yes.  I hope.

OK, so now that I’ve shot down all of the things that normally come out of your mouth, you have to be wondering what is possibly left to say?  Is it better to say nothing?  NOOOOO!  Please talk to me!

You’re right – this is terrible.  I’m so sorry that you have to go through this.  What can I do to help?

That is the PERFECT thing to say to anyone who has suffered a death, or lost their home or is facing a terrible illness or…  By saying this, you’re acknowledging that the fire really is a horrible event, your not diminishing the tragedy, you’re admitting your own grief for the event and you’re offering to help.

The next thing to do is to LISTEN TO WHAT THEY SAY NEXT.   Usually, I said something like “Thanks, yes it is terrible, we are OK (still can’t explain how that is but…) and if you really want to help XXXX.”  Sometimes, I said that I didn’t need anything.  Other times, I needed a dog house or information on donation centers or… The important thing at this point is to then do your best to help in the manner indicated.  This will show that you mean what you say and are there for more than just words.

By saying the “right” thing, you open up the door to future conversations – which are very much needed right now.  We disaster folks need people who are empathetic, not judgemental, who will listen and not diminish feelings or emotions, who will help or find help when the need arises.

Recovery is a LONG process – the trauma will never be gone from our lives and we will need to talk about it and deal with it long after you have forgotten the exact hour and day (which we will likely never forget) of the last time we saw our homes.  We NEED YOU to help us get to a different version of OK.  We need the help in figuring out what our new normal is – for some it will be the same as before, for others we’re taking the opportunity to build a lemonade stand and make the changes that we’ve been thinking about for a long time.  Both options are valid and appropriate.

But, no matter what you say to us, the fact that you care enough to say anything at all is a wonderful thing.  Please know that now, as always, we appreciate all of the support you have given…

10 Important Questions for your Homeowners Insurance Provider

When we bought our house 2 1/2 years ago, my husband was nervous about the insurance.  We decided to go with USAA since we could (have to have been in the military, or your parents, to join) and their reputation is better than most.  That said, our mortgage provider only required that we insure the HOUSE – and nothing else.

Fortunately, hubby is a paranoid guy and decided that the $100 or so extra a year to add on the “extras” was worth it.  Right now, we owe our future to those extras…  We got lucky – we had adequate coverage BEFORE the disaster… but some of our friends who lost their homes weren’t as lucky.  Other friends, who had to evacuate but still have a house, they’ve since found out that their coverage was not what they had thought.

NOW IS THE TIME TO REVIEW YOUR COVERAGE WITH YOUR INSURANCE.

Seriously.  Do it NOW.  You never know when the sky might fall and if it does… the extra money spent now will be returned in spades.

And if you’re stupid enough to not have insurance at all… well… PLEASE go get coverage now.

So, a few of us moms in my local Mom’s Club were talking via email about what sorts of things you should check on to make sure you’re covered in your insurance.  Again, this is just stuff we’ve learned by going through it ourselves, we’re by no means official experts but… (Thanks to Tracey and Stacey for the questions other than the 3 that I added to the list!)

1) Tree coverage, from $250 to $500 per tree. Not trees dead from the drought, but ones that were destroyed through acts of nature. Do they pay this to you as a separate coverage, or is it included in your total house coverage?

2) Smoke, Flood, Hail, Vandalism, etc type damage. Where do you stand with coverage if it is not a total loss? What is your deductible? Do you have that same deductible if it’s a total loss?

3) Clearing the lot of debris and sometimes foundation slab replacement where a home is a total loss. Are these paid as extra, or included in your total house coverage? Quotes I’ve seen: $10,000-$14,000 for clearing the lots of debris, and another $10k-$12k for slab removal.

4) Jewelry has a cap on coverage, unless you have it covered separately as an add-on for theft only or on an appraised amount in order to have other reasons besides theft included. These caps can be as low as $500, which doesn’t even cover a wedding ring usually. If you are wearing it regularly, perhaps you don’t mind if it’s covered or not. If you don’t have an add-on policy, and it’s a big value piece, make sure store it in a fireproof safe all the time.  (Or my preference – take pictures of the items after they’re appraised and place in a bank safe deposit box.)

5) Replacement Value for the House.  If your house is a total loss, and your total coverage is only the value of your house as if you were to sell it, is that really a proper coverage level for you? If clearing the lot, foundation replacement and tree removal coverages are INCLUDED in your total coverage amount, and not paid out separate, you are down by $20k or more right off the bat. If that’s the case, consider a total coverage amount as high as they will let you, as close to a $90 to $100 per sq ft rebuilding price as you can get it. In checking with builders, that is how much is costs you today to rebuild your home on average. It will put you closer to a true cost amount if you had to clear your lot and rebuild.

6)  Cost to Rebuild – When coming up with the coverage on your home structure, you may want to consider not only what you could resell your house for but also what it would cost to rebuild that structure. In our case, those numbers were quite different.

 7)  Additional Structures...(Pools, Decks, etc.) – In our case we had coverage for additional structures which included our pool and our decks. If you ever came to our house there was a lot of decking. Unfortunately we did not insure these items for the amount that it would cost to rebuild them. (Most people don’t think about these things until it actually happens.) That is one thing that I would change if we had it to do all over.
8) Content coverage.  It was an add on for us (USAA) and thank heavens we did.  What do you need as proof for contents?  Be sure to take pictures of EVERYTHING in your house, clothes included.  It will help for proof and also to jog your memory should you have to itemize everything you own.  Also, there are different requirements for different situations – disasters like this one our insurance didn’t question anything and gave us 75% of the insured value of the contents (but this payout level varies widely from different insurers)… but in the case of theft, I think that the requirements for proof are very different.
9) Displaced living allowance.  Basically, if your house is destroyed or made un-livable, this is money to pay for housing until you can get a house rebuilt or cleaned up/repaired enough to move back in.  In our situation, USAA was willing to pay out a lump sum, which we used to buy an RV with – but from talking to other folks, this is NOT typical.  Be sure to add this on to your policy and know what is allowed before you get in this situation.

10)  Pets.  Does your insurance cover boarding of pets while you’re out of the house?  Ours didn’t… also, medical expenses for pets caused by the disaster.  Our cat is STILL at the hospital and if not for the vet giving a huge discount….

Better safe than sorry… and in this case, you might be REALLY sorry if you’re not properly covered.  Hopefully, the sky will never fall for you but if it does…you’ll be happy that you paid the few extra dollars for the right coverage.