Friday, September 29, 2017

no, really, it is me

I've spent the last two days mostly dealing with FEMA, all of whose personnel I will say have been very pleasant and helpful. Last Wednesday it was two weeks since I went to the Civic Center and checked on my application when they told me an inspector had been appointed and would call within a week to set up an appointment for the inspection. So I went back last Wednesday since it had been two weeks and no call to learn that they couldn't verify my identity and so no progress had been made and they sent me to another table where I was told that specifically, they couldn't verify my ownership of the property. The name on the title besides Marc's is 'Ellen Abbott', my most common use of my name and signature. My application to FEMA is in the name 'Edith Leva', 'Edith' being my first name that I have never in my life used or been addressed as except by teachers on the first day of school that didn't know me and assumed every kid was called by their first name. 'Leva' is my married name and although that is the one on my driver's license and SS card and is my legal last name, it's one I only use under certain circumstances. So legally, my first name is Edith and my last name is Leva and that is how the application to FEMA was made out even though I told the agent on the phone who was helping me, that I didn't use it. No matter. That was the one they wanted. I suppose I could have just reversed it like I often do on forms, or depending on the form, drop it altogether using Abbott as the middle name or initial but this was an agency I wanted money from, hence...Edith Leva.

So, after I explained all this, Katie, the very nice and helpful agent on the other side of the table, said, “no problem, this can be easily fixed”. Did I have my SS card? No, lost long ago. I have utility bills in my name. I have my driver's license. I'm on SS. Did I have a payment stub? No, direct deposit. Property tax bill? In my husband's name 'and wife'. No legal document with the name Edith on it? Nope. “Well”, she says, “the best thing is to get a replacement SS card, they won't charge you a fee if you lost it in a disaster, and they will give you a receipt and we can use that. What we can do now is have you write a statement explaining the name thing and signing it with picture ID, but really best is to get another SS card.”

On the way home, I remembered my tax return which I still file in my maiden name so Thursday morning I went back with last year's copy and this time sat across from Sue, also nice and helpful, who copied that and added it to my file to be faxed to the central command, and who also urged me to get a new SS card. So I left there and drove the hour to Victoria, waited until my number was called, and requested a new card to replace the one I lost back in my 20s when my house flooded and “please make sure all four of my names are on it”, and drove the hour back to Wharton and back to the Civic Center and back across the table from Katie again.

So I was here yesterday”, I started. “I remember”, she says, “the name thing.” “Well, I drove to Victoria and back today and here is the receipt for a new card with all four of my names on it”. “Perfect”, she says.

So now I am waiting to have my identity verified and a call from the inspector...again.

Since they didn't bother to inform me that there had been a problem the first time, I plan on going back early next week just to make sure.

Any questions?”, she asked as we were about done. “How difficult would it be to change the application from my name to my husband's name, you know, just in case?”


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

work commences

Finally sat down yesterday and made a list of 'formulas' for my color samples for the drowned feathers and rocks and just now realized I didn't do any for the sand. I have 24 opportunities, which I thought would be plenty, and quickly realized that wasn't enough. I could cut out more fiber blanket forms but I don't know where my template is or if I even kept it. I think I did. I'm pretty sure I did but what box it is in I have no idea. I haven't found it in the places I thought it might be. I could make a new template but all the cardboard from which I make such things drowned in the flood. So I guess I'm going to have to reconsider some of my formulas.

Work on the house commenced Monday and continued yesterday. Poor Rocky. He's got too much work and he's doing his best to get them all moving forward. I understand. I understand because I have been in that situation. Not fun. Makes you not want to answer the phone. He's been here with a helper he is training the past two days. Rocky's a good man. I haven't heard him raise his voice once with his helper, just explaining what he wants.

that's Rocky on the ground, he's spent most of the last two days under the house replacing the seals and floor joists

The other thing I did yesterday was finally take the long handled nippers and the stump killer and cut down and treat the stumps of all the trees growing along the fence line in front of the shop yard on the ditch side just on one side of the driveway. Minimum 15 trees...hackberries, pecans, and a tallow. Mostly hackberries. I avoided the poison ivy which has taken hold in the ditch and on the fence as best I could, used gojo hand cleaner with cold water, then soap with cold water and I hope like hell I don't get a rash. I still have to do the fence on the other ditch side of the driveway and the shop side of both sides of the driveway but I need more stump killer. Maintaining that ditch would not be such a chore or downright impossible if it wasn't so deep and so steep and now still lots of debris from the flood.

just some of the trees

FEMA has not called. It's been two weeks since I went to the convention center and conferred with the representatives there and they told me my inspector would call within one week to set up an appointment so I guess I'll be back today to find out what's going on. Several of my neighbors have already gotten their grants. Paltry amounts, really, considering how much damage but none of us had flood insurance and while technically we are in the 1,000 year flood plain and no one living here can remember when or if it ever flooded, that makes a big difference with FEMA. Have flood insurance? You get the big bucks. Don't have flood insurance because no one ever thought it would flood here? Too fucking bad. The two awards given people that I know of whose whole house flooded got $13,000 and $12,000.  And if you don't have flood insurance and you get money from FEMA and then don't get flood insurance, if it happens again, they won't help you.  

And Trump is basically telling the Puerto Ricans 'fuck you' cause you aren't real Americans and there's a big ocean and you're in heavy debt to Wall Street because I welshed on our deal.  Such a guy, that Trump.

A few random photos...

pampas grass blooming

squirrel in the magnolia tree with one of my pecans

sparkly totems

big garden spider

Sunday, September 24, 2017

back to the real life

Last Wednesday, it was three weeks since we were rescued by airboat as the water lapped at the door. Last Friday, three weeks since we saw the house for the first time. Those three weeks were filled with long days of physical labor. Nothing is back to the way it was but we've managed to reclaim some sense of normality now that we are back in the house. I feel lucky in that respect. Walking the dog early on Friday, stopping and talking to Gary to see how he is getting along and news of other neighbors and visiting with Leonard and Judy further down and next door Deb and Robert, all of whom are still working to get one room of their houses livable so they can move back, I know how much we were spared.

Now that I've hauled everything to the street, I'm no longer working hard long hours though I could easily spend a week doing just that over at the shop cleaning up behind the demolition over there. I work til about 2 PM and then quit mostly or do small things. I've gotten my wind chimes all cleaned and rehung and the totems and plate flowers are all cleaned and put back in place. I'm working on clearing the yard of all the fallen green and rotten pecans because they are starting to pop out of their husks and I don't want to confuse these dried up things with real nuts if we still have any up in those trees and they start falling.

I managed to find the jar of already mixed kiln wash for a shelf to do my color samples on for the drowned feathers. Fortunately there was just enough to do the kiln shelf because I have no idea in which box in which room or building the powder is in. I've set up the forms I cut out and cleaned the jars of frit and powder that floated in the water for three days. Out of 23 jars, only 3 seeped any water so I need to scoop out the damp frit and wash it and dry it out. And I've also got the drowned feather waxes set up and ready for molds to be made.

I had thought that I would not do a fall garden this year but then someone gave me some beet and lettuce seeds and I went and bought some spinach seeds and I just know that when the little plants become available I'll want to get some so I went over to the gardens to pull up the okra and check out the state of things over there and the state of things over there is nut grass and johnson grass have colonized my two original raised beds but I did notice a few volunteer tomatoes. I pulled up the smaller okra plants but the two big ones are like small trees with trunks about 2 1/2” in diameter! Could not pull those suckers out, had to get the shovel and dig them up.

It is still blazing hot out there. Mornings are a little cooler but it doesn't last.

Friday, September 22, 2017

ch ch ch changes

you didn't think that little reprieve was going to last, did you?

Since the flood has reshaped our reality just about everything I write about has/will reference it in one way or another. For a while anyway. Currently I am without a studio. I can set up my desk at some future point before the room is remodeled and work but my environment is gone. The kites still hang but that's all that's left of my studio. 

No star lights, no paintings or prints or other wall hung decoration, no 'kapow', no place to hang my keys and caps, no roll of 3' butcher paper, no so many other things. Right now I'm set up on the dining room table. Not the best option but the only option.

The shop is also changed. It was full before, containing our stuff and a lot of our friend's stuff who is in the process of a major move himself, moved but still adjusting. Now, with our stuff, our friend's stuff, and all the stuff from my studio and the back bedroom that survived and the total demolition of the 4 built-in rooms in the metal building that is our shop and the contents of those rooms...with all that stuff in the big bay and the small bay, it's stuffed full and unusable. Still we are planning on casting these waxes I spent the summer on because I have committed us to the December open house and we need these pieces for that so we're starting on that this weekend.

It seemed to me that when we first returned and in the first week or so after there were no birds. I don't know if this is true, perhaps my situation didn't allow me to notice them but slowly they have been returning. First one day I saw a cardinal, then a few days later I heard the wrens fussing and today I saw in the white crepe myrtle beside the house a titmouse and chickadees fussing and two mockingbirds. I've put out birdseed in the little feeders that I can't see from here.

The neighborhood is changed too. Some left and I haven't seen them since. Some are about but not everyone is in residence yet or they are living in rougher conditions, or in their travel trailers of which there are a few. My neighbor on one side has rigged up an outdoor kitchen. Another neighbor has put a hog fence perimeter around the front of their house and trailer. This is also one of the few houses that keeps lights on at the front of their house all night every night. Clearly they live in fear. Rocky is suddenly inundated with calls for bids to repair their houses as everyone is ready to get back home.

The big claw truck came down our street again earlier this week. They had cleared along the front of the house once 

but then the debris from tearing out the shop rooms got dumped and I've spent the last three days making sure every ruined thing that I wanted gone from either property was on the pile. Many others put out another load after the trucks came by last week. I even managed to get rid of an ancient rusted frozen up heavy as shit flat lap and the water heater from the shop, neither of which I could move, when one of the metal scavengers happened by while I was on the street.

I've mentioned how the things in my gardens have fared. What I didn't mention is the ox-blood lilies. They liked all that flood water. Three or four days after the water receded, up they popped.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

finally, a post that is NOT about the flooding or demolition or clean-up

I did a little night photography earlier in the summer over the course of about two weeks when I happened out in the little backyard at twilight, not quite full dark and the outside light by the door was on. I took these using the automatic flash on my phone camera.

night blooming jasmine

white butterfly ginger

pink plumeria

yellow butterfly ginger

All wonderfully fragrant in their own subtly different ways.

I hadn't gotten around to doing a post with them and last week I noticed 5 flower buds on my night blooming cereus, the Queen of the Night, a flat leaved gangly cactus. 

And, as the gods would have it, they were going to open Friday night, the night the hurricane would blow in. Needless to say, I brought it in and they did bloom, filling the room with heavenly fragrance. I took these pictures holding the flashlight in one hand instead of the camera flash as it was too bright and yellowed the flowers.

Monday, September 18, 2017

one foot in front of the other

Every day has one or two or three or more goals. Sunday I got two done but they were the main goals. I had a few others, you know, if I had time and energy. I'm satisfied with achieving the main two especially since one of them took most the time. I scrubbed both sides of all the rubber floor mats that interlock and cushion the hardness of standing on concrete in shop and garage and set them out, propped on chairs or trees or whatever is available, to dry. Finally I covered as much of the exposed sub-floor in the kitchen as I could. Not a great floor covering but better than the sub-floor.

The other task was cleaning the metal frame of my desk, the two desktops, and the counter top from my cold working station in the garage and get them moved off the driveway and inside. The cabinet part of my cold working station is toast but the top is still usable. The minor items on the list were to finish cleaning the bathroom, finish vacuuming the house, and hosing down the floors on the slab one more time.

We moved back home on Saturday. The cat and dog were a little freaked out by the changes but enough remains the same so that they are getting used to the new normal. Today is yoga class but if my arms at 5 PM are as tired as they were Sunday at 5 PM I may not go, waiting til Wednesday instead.

Stopped to talk to a neighbor while walking Minnie last evening, trading damage stories mostly, how we are coping stories. Mentioned that the kitchen tiles had to come up because the sub-floor was wet. She said that 'they' are saying if the sub-floor got wet the floor has to come out. Nope. Not doing that. Not tearing out my hardwood floors, they are just a little wavy, I'll take my chances. I've got that high powered blower blowing under the house through the vents and I move it every day or two or so and Rocky is going to assess the floor joists and sub-floor when he gets under there.

I have mostly cleaned out the yard and gardens. Some things survived, some things looked like they were going to survive and then wilted like the Philippine violets and the toad lilies, some things survived in one place and died in another like the yellow bells over at the shop,

some things were washed away as if they had never existed like the ox-eye daisies and the periwinkles and the four-o-clocks and the purple coneflowers and 99% of the orange cosmos. 

My one german verbena survived for which I am glad and the black and blue salvia and the rock rose looked dead but some of both are already coming back. I'm not sure about the roses as they mostly look OK but some branches are starting to die. The flower beds at the back of the property are all mostly intact though I did lose the bulbine that I replanted after it froze last winter. The penta looks unfazed but it's losing foliage from the bottom up but that just may be normal for this time of year.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

about two weeks later

We are home. We are trying to reclaim some sort of normalcy but nothing about this is normal.  We have been at our second home, my sister's house, for about two weeks. During that time the lower house was torn apart, the upper house became a store room of sorts, and the cat was confined to the indoors. Minnie had a yard she could go out in but cats jump the fence.

It smells musty. At first, it smelled like rancid river water mixed with all the cow patties and overwhelmed septic systems. Not pleasant. Then after liberal sprayings with vinegar it pretty much didn't smell. We're still using the blower under the house. Right now it's blowing under the bathroom and the closets in Marc's office. I guess I'll move it tomorrow.

I want to use the hose to wash down the floors one more time in the part of the house that flooded. Our son ordered some product for us that eliminates odor and I plan on using it back there and in the kitchen on the sub-floor. Tomorrow I plan to scrub down all the interlocking rubber mats and make a new floor in the kitchen. I don't much like walking barefoot on the sub-floor.

Still waiting on the call from the FEMA inspector to schedule an inspection.

I'm feeling the need to clean every square inch of this house. Whether or not that gets done is another story.

I spent the day scraping out the old caulking around the tub and re-caulking it. It's not pretty but I hope it's effective. The knobs for the tub/shower leak which has caused decay behind the laminate on the walls. One more thing to be addressed in the remaking of our house. It's pretty ugly but hopefully it is sealed and won't cause any more decay until we can re-do it.

I'm tired. Tomorrow is another day. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

blessings in disguise...

beginning with that little 3 month old puppy someone dumped in our neighborhood two years ago and who made her way into our yard and hearts. It's not that she has brought a lot of joy and laughter into our lives, which she has, but that without her I would never have met the neighbors on the street who I now stop and visit with while walking her in the evenings and most especially Rocky and Melissa. I would not even have known that Rocky was a contractor/carpenter and without Rocky, I would have been at a total loss as to how to find a good contractor or one that would jump on the work immediately and not take advantage of me. I trust Rocky to be fair and do good work and he did not hesitate one minute when I finally walked down to his house last Sunday and asked him to come assess the rotten wood I had uncovered.

And while it would appear that half the house flooding would be a disaster and the aftermath would entail long hours of hard work, which it has, it too is a blessing in disguise for several reasons. The first of which is that we would never have discovered the damage to the structure of the house if it had not flooded and we hadn't had to tear out the sheet rock in the back bedroom and little bathroom and two layers of siding on the outside of the upper house. The damage there was not caused by the flood but the flood caused it to be revealed.

The second reason is that, while we did lose the bed and a chair and the futon and bookcases and my art and design books and everything else that was within reach of nearly 18” of water, we really didn't lose anything that would have devastated us.

And third, while we talked a good talk about remodeling those two rooms, in truth, we probably never would have done it. Now we get to.

And last, ditto for the shop and the four built-in rooms in the big metal building. They were awful but in the going on four years we have had the shop we have done nothing. That part was unusable for many reasons and for the last two days, Rocky's crew have been engaged in not just tearing out the part of the walls that got wet, but demolishing that entire part of the shop. I'm thrilled! Once he has completed the work of rebuilding people's homes damaged in the flood, he will start on rebuilding the interior rooms of the shop and I will have work space over there that I can heat and air condition and be able to work in over the summer.

And finally, while we have been inconvenienced for a few weeks and now have a great story to tell about the great flood and suffered some loss, so many more lost everything. For all this I can be grateful.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

work begins

Saturday, the water had receded to the point that we could get to the house in my sister's car and we drove over there in the morning to get the rest of the dry goods groceries and stuff and to pick up our car which you might remember I had parked over at the shop the day the flood happened as it was the highest ground I could get to. Fortunately the water there only rose about 6” and the car was undamaged. 

the butterfly garden

the water lily pond is under there somewhere

the front flower bed

Drove back to Pam's and picked up Marc and we headed back to the house to start emptying the two rooms and getting ready for demolition removing the paneling in my in-house studio and the sheetrock and wet insulation from the walls in the back bedroom and small bathroom about four feet up, vinyl flooring hauled out and floor tiles scraped up. Over the course of the three day Labor Day holiday our son, daughter and son-in-law and grandson, and friends Gene and Brian came out to help us. We still had about an inch of water in the house so we started sweeping it out and moving out the stuff that was up high and savable and dragging out all the stuff that was damaged. Oh, and the smell was just horrible.

all my art books..muerta

my design research books..same same

It's been 10 days of continuous hard physical labor though about halfway through I did take a day off. We're living at my sister's house, generally get to our house about 10 AM and work til 6 PM and drag our sorry tired butts home to a great dinner ready for us to do it again the next day.

After the holiday, Gene and Brian and their friend Lee came out on Tuesday and hauled stuff over to the shop and worked in the shop all day dragging out the wet carpet there and in general doing as much clean up as they could as the shop got about 6” of water in it and I was finally able to hose out the floors in the house and wiped all the exposed wood down with vinegar. Wednesday another friend came and helped get the garage washed out and the stuff that was savable off the driveway.

Then I spent the next two days emptying the brick planters of stinky river soaked dirt, gravel, and brick pieces that whoever built the house thought was a great idea to build INSIDE the house. The dirt got spread out in the low spot beside the house, the dirty gravel got spread out on the driveway which was in need of it, and the brick pieces got chucked as far into the Wild Space at the back of the property as I could chuck them.

Then some of the floor tiles in the kitchen popped up and we discovered the sub-floor was wet (which is why the wood floors in the upper house are now a bit wavy) so those had to be all scraped up. Friend Wesley loaned us a high powered blower which we are using to help dry the sub-floor from underneath the house. 

Then I noticed the siding shingles were bulging on a corner of the upper house and pulled off a few of those to find some serious damage to the structure of the house and removing the sink and toilet in the little bathroom and the wallboard there also showed some major damage. 

That was last Sunday and this was more than we could deal with. Time to get a professional on board so I walked down to Rocky's house, our neighborhood carpenter/contractor, for an assessment. The siding on the house needed to come off all the way around and the shower had to be taken out before he could know exactly what the damage was and what needed to be repaired. So yesterday and today he and his crew worked on that and discovered another large area on the front of the house where there was a lot of rotten wood and squashed floor joists which is probably why the front door frame is out of square.

that pile of rubble used to be the shower

Marc and our grandson, who drives out nearly every day after he gets off work from his job in Houston, had cleared the yard of all the debris and hauled it over to the burn pile and mowed several days previous. The mosquitoes have been big, black, and fierce. Starting yesterday, I was finally able to address what is left of the flower beds. I'm slowly working my way around the yard raking debris into small piles as I go, discovering what survived and what didn't.

We've about got as far as we can get on the house now until FEMA comes out and inspects the damage and we see what they will offer us . We had no insurance or home owner's insurance. They do provide money grants which is what we are hoping for but probably all we will get is a low interest loan which we will decline. Not interested in borrowing money. Once we can turn our attention to the upper house and get it cleared out of all the stuff that has been moved in there, we can move back in and do the remodel at our leisure. Rocky will go ahead and repair the structural damage before the inspector comes but I will take plenty of pictures for proof, as if the obvious new repair isn't proof enough, and then he will do the minimal demolition over at the shop until such time he gets a breather and can demolish the entire built in part of the shop. He was headed to the lumber yard with a materials list when he left today and I'm waiting to hear from him to find out how much this is going to set us back.

Our street, like so many in the county and town, is a canyon of ruined possessions and construction materials piled high on either side. Many of the homes on my street were built entirely on a slab and they lost everything.

As bad as things are for us it could have been so much worse.

last: blessings in disguise

Sunday, September 10, 2017

water walk and first look

Friday, Sept. 1st, Wesley brought us back to my sister's house after we spent the night at their place, The Dragonfly venue. Early afternoon I got a text from Carolyn that Wesley was going to try to check out the Wharton Historical Museum to see if they took on water and since the museum is just down the road from our neighborhood, did I want to go with and see if we could get to the house. Yes!

So Wesley picked up Marc and I in his high water truck and we headed out to try. Richmond Road, also business 59, was blocked off by the police and even though I showed my ID proving that we had a reason to get down the road and the truck we were in was obviously capable of getting there, the officer would not let us pass. “You will need a police escort”, she told us, so we pulled into a parking lot while Marc called the Wharton police who told us, “You're in the county, call the county”. Right about then the officer who denied us passage walked over and told us that we might be able to get there through some of the smaller roads that didn't have roadblocks set up but 'you didn't hear it from me'.

Unfortunately there were only three roads that went through to where my neighborhood is in the county...the one we were on, the next main road one block over that was also blockaded, and the third on the far end which was blocked off because the bridge had washed out. Then I remembered a county road that sort of circled around through another neighborhood and came out on the other side of the road with the washed out bridge so that's where we went. The road was dry for the most part but then we reached a point where even it was under water but not so deep that Wesley wasn't willing to keep going as long as he could see the edges of the road.

This road makes a little squiggle before it makes the left turn that takes it back to the main road from which we could access my neighborhood and as we approached the squiggle the water continued to get deep and because it was muddy, the edges of the road were not visible. Wesley was still willing to continue but he was concerned about going off the edge and if we did that we would surely be fucked so I put on his rubber boots since I don't own any who lives in the country for nearly 8 years without owning rubber boots! and yes they were too big and climbed down out of the truck and walked in front of it finding the edges of the road. The water was about calf deep...five steps forward, then side stepping to the right counting my steps til I felt the grass, then side stepping to the left til I felt the grass, then back to center and five steps forward etc. and we continued that way as the water got deeper and deeper until it was almost up to my lady parts before it began to get shallower again. In this manner we navigated through the squiggle and the left turn until Wesley could see the edges of the road again and we continued unimpeded to the house.

The street was mostly dry but the yard was still flooded with about 6” still in the garage and the lower part of the house. Waded through to the door into the upper house to find it was dry with no evidence of water having been in! The wood floors were slightly raised at the edges, just a bit wavy from the sub-floor getting wet but not so bad it can't be lived with. We grabbed some clothes and my computer and headed back to my sister's house. We didn't have to repeat the path in as the blockade was just preventing people from going out of town, not coming in and by the time we got to it, it had been removed anyway.

I took no pictures this day.

next: work begins