Chap 6: The "School of Hard Knocks"

The laundry area portion of the eat-in kitchen before demolition started

Early on in the process of restoring and renovating Rosehaven Cottage, we realized that we needed to break everything down into phases in order for it to be more manageable. The fact that Hubby is an Information Technology project manager (and I'm a former project coordinator) probably helped bring that fact to the forefront early on in the process. We could both see that in order to manage such a massive undertaking, it was necessary to break go through this process to create manageable chunks as well as work on some things simultaneously.

This got really tricky.

Sometimes it was obvious that we could work on two things at the same time because we were utilizing the same equipment. And sometimes it wasn't so obvious.

We had determined that "Pre-Phase 1" consisted of everything necessary to get the house in a state where we could physically move in and not sleep at my sister's house. We went down the list of things we absolutely had to have to make that happen:
  1. a bed
  2. a toilet
  3. a shower

We had a toilet upstairs so the installation of the downstairs toilet wasn't technically necessary to move in. We also determined that the kitchen sink was not a must-have.

So logically, one would assume that the priority would be to focus all our energies on the downstairs bathroom. Yes, well “logic” doesn’t always apply when you’ve got two new homeowners on your hands.

During the escrow period of buying our home, we were so enthusiastic about thinking up all the new things we would do with the house once we had the keys in hand that we went out and purchased a new refrigerator, dishwasher, and stacking washer/dryer. They were on sale, so we couldn't pass up that! The problem was that, like the delivery of all our belongings from our apartment, we scheduled delivery of the appliances under the original delusion that everything would be done in 2-4 weeks. And because we couldn't delay the delivery much without running the risk of losing the appliances altogether, there were items on the "to do" list that got bumped up in priority over just simply finishing the bathroom.

Here's how the chain of identifying dependencies ended up happening in this case:
  1. Appliances being delivered on August __, 2000
  2. Appliances are hard to move once the delivery guys have set them down, SO…
  3. Appliances need to have a finished kitchen floor to be set upon by delivery guys so we don’t have to move them around later, SO…
  4. Old kitchen floor needs to be torn up
  5. Also, the old laundry area wall plumbing and wall repair needs to be finalized for washer/dryer as well as having the flooring finalized
  6. So, technically, the new kitchen floor can be put down even though kitchen cabinets aren't done
  7. This will be a piece of cake!
“Logic” gets very skewed when you work through a project plan like this. Add to that my own need to personally be doing something productive at all times while the contractors and Josh were working, and “logic” really goes out the window. What I really should have been doing was just “supervising”. I’ve learned from experience that when someone isn’t the designated overseer or foreman on the job things happen that shouldn’t. Holes end up in walls that probably didn’t need to be there. Things get torn out when you could have saved time and money by keeping them where they were. And your husband shows up at the end of his workday wondering what the heck happened and why.

Yeah, “logic” gets really skewed.

And I’m surprised that Josh put up with it all. His work would jump from one room to another depending on what seemed really critical at the time. He started ripping up the old linoleum in the kitchen when I got frustrated at not being able to tackle the ancient glue on my own (I hadn’t built up biceps yet).

Feeble attempts at removing the linoleum and underlayment until Josh devised the "human crowbar method"

As he often did, Josh devised a completely unique way of prying up the linoleum and underlayment to expose the subfloor underneath. He would get an edge up with the blade tool we had. Then he’d lay down on the floor on one elbow and shove one boot under the edge that he’d pulled up. Using his arm strength, he’d slowly shove his body under the edge until he could fit both boots under. With both boots under, he’d continue to push with his arms until he had shoved himself under the edge up to his hips. With half his body under the linoleum and underlayment, he’d twist around so he was in a position to do a push-up. Then with brute force from his arms, he would push his body up and literally use himself as a crowbar under the material that was being removed. It was quite amusing to watch the “human crowbar” in action. To this day, I wish I had a video of it.

With the subfloor exposed we could move forward with sheet rocking the laundry area wall where the plumbing contractor had cut out large sections to install new supply lines and a beefier waste line.

Above left: The new laundry area plumbing with updated supply lines and waste
Above right: The new sheet rock over the updated plumbing

Also with nthe linoleum and nasty underlayment up and out, we discovered that there were sections of the subfloor that needed to be replaced before any new floor could be put down. As often happened through our renovation process, when we tore something old out we uncovered another “to do” that hadn’t been on the list before. And after a long conference under the kitchen sink, we determined that the cabinets were completely unsalvageable and had to go--so that was another “to do” on the list that was growing by the day (along with our budget).

Josh and me having a conference under the kitchen sink regarding the state of the cabinets
(thanks Hubby for this "lovely" photo)

The hope of having a new floor for the appliances to be delivered onto was diminishing rapidly. We decided that if the appliances got delivered onto a solid subfloor, we’d be happy.

I was learning an important life lesson again…

Because I didn’t just sit down, supervise, and stare at the kitchen cabinets long enough to realize there was no way they were in any condition to be salvaged, I ended up slathering layers of non-toxic-paint-stripper-monkey-snot (and irritating my brother in the process) on cabinets that eventually had to be torn out altogether. And I would have seen that the original cabinet configuration wasn’t going to work at all with modern appliances anyway.

I learned that it is important to sit down and simply ponder before moving forward with decisions both big and small. Now, when I’m changing a space either inside the house or out in the garden it is critical that I take time at various stages throughout the change process to sit down at a vantage point where I can take it all in, ponder, and let inspiration come.

I know that now, thanks to the “school of hard knocks”.

To be continued…
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Chap 5: Learning What Matters Most

The first couple of weeks in August 2000, we were still delusional enough to think that we really could have the house in livable condition before the end of the month when The Starving Students Movers would come to our apartment, load up all our belongings, and drive them up to our “new” house 35 miles away. We really did think that was still possible. We were so naïve.

As I steamed wallpaper and stripped paint while my brother tore the bathroom walls down to the studs, Hubby was locating an electrical contractor and a plumbing contractor to do the work that none of us were qualified to do. He had a former acquaintance that took the electrical job which entailed making sure that the old Frankenstein-like electrical system was updated so it was safe. The first plumbing contractor we hired (also an old acquaintance of Hubby’s) flaked within the first week, so our electrical guy gave us a reference to another plumbing contractor that was able to come in and complete the major job of replacing the hot and cold water supply lines to the kitchen, laundry, and downstairs bathroom as well as replace the main waste drain system from the downstairs bathroom, kitchen and laundry.

Above: The old hot and cold water supply and drain lines going into the bathroom under the water damaged sections of the hallway floor

The job was made easier by the fact that Josh had torn out most of the bathroom floor. For a couple of weeks, we had guys crawling all over the place in the 3-foot space under our house.

The miniscule water heater in a sliver of a hall closet also had to be replaced. We found the largest water heater we could fit into the tiny space and then waited for the plumbing contractor to come and install it. By this time, the flaky first plumber (and other setbacks with the electrical and plumbing work) had dashed our naïve hopes of having the house anywhere close to being livable by the end of the month. So when the water heater installation got delayed again and again, we were so jaded we had just come to expect it. What I didn’t expect was when the plumber finally did show up to install the water heater. Despite his lame attempt to cover it up by wearing dark sunglasses, he was so intoxicated that I could smell the alcohol fumes as soon as I opened the front door. No matter how desperate we were to have our water heater in and running, I was not about to let a plumber do it in a drunken cloud. That install waited until another day. And fortunately, that was the last phase of the plumbing work that needed to be completed by that contractor.

With our original timeline blown to pieces, we came to the conclusion that although our stuff could move in to the house at the end of the month, we couldn’t. We didn’t have a shower or a tub. We only had an upstairs toilet. And we had no kitchen facilities. No, humans couldn’t move in yet. We had to come up with some sort of living situation in the interim.

Fortunately, my sister and her husband came to the rescue. They were renting the bigger home of a couple while the couple was serving a church mission. My sister informed me there was an extra bedroom upstairs we could take up residence in as long as we needed. I don’t know how we would have managed without that huge burden being relieved for us. So when our stuff moved into our house at the end of August, we moved into a spare bedroom at my sister’s and continued to make the 35 mile commute every day to work on our house until 11 pm or midnight and then head the 35 miles back to where our bed was at my sister’s.

This circumstance of being 35 miles away from a hot shower and soft bed taught me another valuable life lesson. I learned not to care what I looked like in public. My “uniform” eventually consisted of painter’s overalls over a t-shirt with work boots. My hair was always pulled back in a ponytail or braid. I never wore makeup on workdays. There wasn’t any point. When we had to head over to the local home improvement store (practically a daily occurrence), I fit right in with all the rest of the contractors milling about the aisles. It was easy going there dressed like that.

What was harder was when Hubby, Josh, and I would finally need to get some dinner. There’s only so much fast food one can stand. We finally got to the point where we would dust ourselves off from all the debris and demolition dust, pile into our vehicles, and go to a sit-down place like Spaghetti Factory wearing our construction overalls. We were tired and hungry and that trumps really caring what others think. And do you know what I learned? Other people really don’t pay that much attention to what YOU look like! They really don’t. I learned that valuable life lesson firsthand, and I never would have otherwise.

Over the course of the remainder of the month of August and then the month of September, we were able to move forward and check off major milestones along the way.

Milestone 1
With the plumbing under the house completed, Josh was able to begin the process of rebuilding the bathroom. The water damaged subfloor planks had been removed in the entire bathroom. The water damage had extended out into the hallway too. In the hallway, we carefully removed all the remaining vintage red oak flooring so we could put it back later. Josh then proceeded to put in brand new subfloor panels in the bath and hallway.

Above left: New sub floor in the hallway outside the bathroom
Above right: New sub floor from the hallway into the bathroom

Above: The new sub floor planks where the toilet would be installed

I distinctly remember the feeling I had when Josh presented me with a completed subfloor. It was the first indication that we were indeed going to succeed at this crazy venture—that all the demolishing efforts would eventually turn into rebuilding efforts and we would have a house with a solid floor. To this day, I am grateful for the oft-overlooked blessing of having a floor under my feet that is solid and without drafts (yet another important life lesson learned).

Josh showing off his work

Milestone 2
The sheet rock was able to go up on the walls once the sub floor was in. Fortunately, my mother had a great deal of experience hanging sheet rock when I was young and my parents had decided to build a house in the mountains of Colorado. I have vivid memories of watching her cut and hang sheet rock, mud and tape seams, and texture. At six years old, she had put a putty knife in my hand and taught me how to fill nail holes with joint compound. I had watched her for hours as a child—fascinated by the entire process. My mother’s first visit to our house was the day that she graciously offered to come and help us hang sheet rock in our bathroom. So I got to watch her at work again. Except this time I was an adult, and all my childhood memories were coming back to me as I worked on my own house while my mom gave me a refresher course in the art of sheet rocking.

My mom giving me a refresher on the art of hanging sheet rock

Milestone 3
The new subfloor also facilitated the installation of a new tub! With all our sore muscles from the daily work, we had gravitated toward finding a jetted tub that would fit in the 5-foot long space. We were fortunate to find one that was VERY budget-friendly and bought it.

After consulting the installation instructions for the tub, Hubby and Josh took on the tricky task of setting the bathtub in mortar encased between sheets of plastic membrane. The instructions said that it was imperative that heavy weights be placed in the tub once it was set on the mortar pad and that the weights needed to remain there until the mortar set. Although unconventional (and certainly not what the bathtub manufacturers had envisioned), we found that the heaviest thing in our possession was the trashcan full of plaster demolition debris. Josh and Hubby hefted it up and over the side and set it down in the bathtub and that’s what served as the weight to set the tub.

To outsiders, our milestones probably seemed small and insignificant. But to us few that were in the trenches everyday, they were huge. Through this process, I was learning what really matters most in life.

And more importantly, each dilapidated piece of the house that I tore out with my own hands was symbolically a piece of my broken childhood being torn out. My healing process had begun. With a hammer and crowbar in my hands I was acting out the process that I had going on inside of me. And I knew then, as I know now, that a loving Heavenly Father was orchestrating this whole circumstance so I could learn, grow, and heal.

As Rosehaven Cottage was being torn down in order to be rebuilt, so was I.

To be continued…

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Chap 4: An Archangel in Overalls

Over the course of my life, I've learned a valuable life lesson. Often when things seem daunting and insurmountable, there is usually an "angel" not far away that will ease my burden--not take it away, just ease it. More often than not, that "angel" comes in the form of just a normal everyday person. Sometimes it's a friend. Most of the time it's a family member. And it never ceases to amaze me how well that particular individual's talents help to ease my burden that I'm struggling with at the time. I know it is the Lord's way of giving us His own hands through someone else's hands.

I learned this life lesson in a big way as we faced the daunting and seemingly insurmountable task of making our house livable. It was still the summer of 2000 and just heading into the first days of August. My younger brother (8 years my junior) was on a break between semesters of university and happened to be between jobs as well. A former tiling apprentice with a lot of other handyman experience, he was the "angel" that was sent to ease our burdens.

Have you ever seen the 1996 movie "Michael" starring John Travolta? That's the kind of angel my brother was--an angel dressed in overalls with strong biceps and the heart of a lion... and sometimes a temper to match. Cut from the same cloth as our grandfather, my brother often showed up wearing Grampy's old overalls. I had my own archangel in overalls.

Hubby had to work 8-5 so it was just my brother, Josh, and me... and a beat-up radio tuned to a country music station because that's what Josh was listening to at the time (had something to do with a girl he was wooing).

Just the two of us and the radio playing country music

I'd get to the house first after driving the 35 miles from our apartment that we had until the end of the month. Josh would eventually roll up in his big Ford Bronco having driven almost the same distance to come from his home. I got to where I could hear the low rumble of the Bronco coming down our quiet street before I ever saw it.

Hubby and I hadn't completely demolished the bathroom, so Josh started tackling that monumental task. The bathroom is a small space (5 feet by 7 seven), so for my own safety I had to find other things to keep me occupied elsewhere in the house while he blasted away at the walls with hammer and crowbar in hand.

A friend had graciously lent me her steamer and, wanting to get it back to her as soon as possible, I busied myself steaming wallpaper off the walls despite the 90-100F (32-37C) temps outside. Can you say "insane"? Fortunately, the nasty pink and green plaid wallpaper that covered the kitchen ceiling was so caked with 60 years of cooking grease that it just came off with a mere tug of my hand without any steam required. But the ghastly tomato-print wallpaper in the laundry area wasn't as cooperative unfortunately. It had to be steamed off... one little strip and shred at a time amidst billowing clouds of steam.

Wallpaper shrapnel

When I ran out of wallpaper to steam, I busied myself stripping paint off various surfaces I intended on refinishing--doors, cupboards, cabinets. It was a water-soluable non-toxic stripper that looked an awful lot like snot. Josh would inadvertantly lean on a slathered surface on a regular basis.

When in doubt for what to do next, I stripped paint

After getting a handful one time when he leaned against the kitchen cabinets to rest, he finally said to me in exasperation, "What's with you and this monkey snot?"

I replied, "Well, I have to do something while you're working!" And from that point on the joke was that if Cindy was ever in doubt as to what to do, she would strip paint.

While I was steaming wallpaper and spreading "monkey snot" all over, Josh was demolishing the bathroom and doing a great job of it. He got all the walls down to the studs and the floor down to the severely water-damaged sub-flooring. He took out the toilet without much effort.

The toilet was out

Then we both stood there staring at the 1940's era heavy steel tub that stood in the way of the rest of the demolition. Obstacle No. 1: the tub had to weigh at least 250-400 lbs. Obstacle No. 2: at 60 inches, the tub was as long as the bathroom was wide. Obstacle No. 3: the adjacent doorway, even with the door removed from its hinges, was only 28 inches wide. Obstacle No. 4: beyond the doorway was a narrow hallway and many turns before any exit to the outside. Obstacle No. 5: it was just me and Josh.

Obstacle No. 4

I was completely stumped. But I shouldn't have been.

I wasn't in the room, when Josh chose to take up the battle with the bathtub. I really can't recall exactly where I was.

I just remember Josh rather nonchalantly approaching me and saying, "The bathtub's out."

I was stunned. He had to be kidding!

But he wasn't. He led me out to the garage, and there was the bathtub teetering on top of the growing demolition pile. And Josh had done it single-handedly without cutting the bathtub or any of the framing studs that it had been jammed between.

Where the behemoth of a bathtub lost its battle with Josh

I kept asking him in stunned amazement, "How did you do that?"

And he really couldn't give me an answer that made any sense. He tried to describe how he managed to get underneath the bathtub and lift it out of that tight space all by himself. And then how he managed to carry it to the garage. It all seemed so impossible and surreal, I just couldn't get me head around it. Even to this day, he just chuckles about it.

That was the first of many herculean feats that I would witness Josh perform on behalf of us and our house.

Yup, I had an archangel in overalls.

Josh standing below the bathroom sub-floor on the ground underneath our house enjoying "nature's air conditioning"

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Chap 3: “Two weeks… Two weeks… you sound like a parakeet, there.”

The main bathroom was so bad, we started demolition within 24 hours of closing escrow

There is an early Tom Hanks movie called “Money Pit” where the main character (Tom Hanks) and his girlfriend (Shelley Long) buy a “fixer upper”. When the contractor comes to give him the estimates for how long it will take to renovate their house he tells him, “Two weeks.” Tom Hanks’ character says incredulously, “Two weeks? Two weeks?” And the contractor mimics him saying, “Two weeks… two weeks… you sound like a parakeet, there.” That line will live on in infamy in our minds and would become the favorite fallback phrase throughout the next NINE years.

We closed escrow on our house on July 28, 2000, and by the next day, we were in the house pushing up our sleeves to begin demolition. It was just the two of us on that first day—us and a measly collection of tools in a hot and stuffy house.

During the previous weeks in escrow, we had spent a great deal of mental effort figuring out the logistics of how this was all going to work. The house was not livable in its current state so we couldn’t move in yet. And since we couldn’t afford a mortgage payment AND a rental payment, we had to get the house livable by the end of August when all our belongings were being moved from our apartment to the house. Even though we would be sleeping 35 miles away, it was better than trying to rough it amidst demolition and construction. We optimistically and naively determined that we only really needed 2-3 weeks to get the house livable anyway.

Seriously. We really thought that at the time.

Because the house had an upstairs sliver of a half bath (wide enough for a small toilet), we calculated that if we tackled the scary downstairs bathroom first and got it completed with new plumbing, then we could move in. We could live without everything else. We just needed a working toilet and a working shower. That’s all.

There was NO WAY we were ever going to shower in there! Not even to say we did.

We knew we’d have to hire a plumber to replace the corroded supply and waste lines to and from the bathroom, laundry and kitchen, but we figured we could save money by doing all the demolition ourselves before the contractor came. We were on a tight budget. Besides, if everything was all open, it would be easier to determine what needed to be done. Sounded simple.

So on that day, July 29, 2000, we squared our shoulders and started dismantling the bathroom. So many surprises were in store for us as we began to remove the layers.

The first surprise was that what we had thought were ceramic tiles going halfway up the bathroom walls, were actually aluminum tiles that looked like ceramic and were attached with some sort of liquid-nail-adhesive. The tiles would pop right off individually with the flick of a screwdriver.

The second surprise we uncovered was that the shower enclosure walls were really just thin pieces of veneered masonite held together with chrome frames at the seams. It, too, just pulled right off in our hands. As we wrangled the unruly bending masonite off the walls and out the bathroom door, we dubbed ourselves the “Masonite Cowboys”. We had to do something to entertain ourselves. And humor was, and continues to be, our fallback.

When we finally got the weird first layer off the walls, we realized we would be demolishing the actual walls within the shower too. We hadn’t intended to need to do that, but the walls were covered in layers of adhesives from various enclosure installations--one of which being a thick tar-like substance that couldn’t be worked around or over. So the sheet rock started to come out.

The third surprise on the list of “first day surprises” was when we found that our house had been constructed during a transitional time in wall construction when the practice was moving from lathe and plaster to sheet rock. Our walls were a composite of both! A layer of sheet rock called “cracker board” was nailed to the studs and then a thick coat of plaster was applied over the entire surface with the plaster oozing into the “cracker holes”. It was like lathe and plaster, but different. The plaster was thick and very hard to pound through. And it was messy.

The fourth surprise we found that day was that our house had been built with all redwood framing! Back in the 1940s, redwood was still used instead of pine or fir. So all the framing in the original footprint of the house was made of BUG RESISTANT redwood! To this day, we have never uncovered any termite damage in the original construction because of this wonderful lumber choice. It has been a true blessing.

At the end of that first day, we were both covered with plaster dust. Our muscles ached. Our stomachs growled for sustenance. And our hearts were full. We were homeowners, and we were starting on the journey that would transform this home into what we could see in our minds.

As we packed it up to drive the 35 miles back to where we could shower and lay our weary bones for the night, we talked over what lay ahead. Hubby had to work full-time. And I couldn’t do all of the work alone everyday until he got there after work. In addition to the plumbing contractor and electrical contractor, that we still had to locate and hire, we realized that we would have to call in re-enforcements. And those “re-enforcements” went by the names of Josh and Mom.

To be continued…
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Chap 2: Even air-raid sirens couldn’t deter me

Our front door prior to remodelling

The end of the month of June and the month of July are often scorcher months temperature-wise around here, and the first week of July back in 2000 was no exception. We had placed an offer on the house, it had been accepted and now it was time for all the wonderful things that happen when you’re “in escrow”.

Hubby had to work during the day, so I got to be the one that met with our agent while the inspections happened the morning of that first Wednesday of July 2000. How do I remember that it was the first Wednesday of that month? Well, I’ll tell you.

Our agent, Joan, and I were standing in the stuffy house as the inspector was going through every nook and cranny to determine if this house was sound enough to be a wise purchase. Hubby, Joan, and I had already been through a previous inspection on a previous property that we had wanted to buy. That previous inspection had uncovered issues that we were not willing to take on so we called the deal off. Having had a trial-run with our inspector, Jim, we knew he was good… really good. He left nothing uncovered. And he documented everything in a very well presented binder at the end of the whole shebang.

So on this hot day in July, Jim was crawling around in the 3 foot crawl space under the house checking the foundation. He was up in a non-insulated walk-in attic that had to be over 100 F or more even at that time in the morning. He poked, he prodded, he kicked, and he scraped.

While Jim was doing his inspecting, Joan and I stood around in the bare kitchen taking stock of the place. There was pale pink and green plaid wallpaper on the kitchen ceiling that had been there since the house was built. And it was encrusted with almost 60 years worth of cooking spatter and nicotine residue. This ceiling paper butted up against the laundry alcove off the eat-in kitchen area that had a bright red tomato patterned wallpaper (gotta love that combo). The rest of the walls were yellow while the kitchen cupboards had been faux wood-grained in a deep mahogany tone. Paired with the original black tile countertops and backsplashes, it was a real cave.

You can see the plaid ceiling paper and then the "lovely" tomato print paper on the walls

Our "cave" of a kitchen before remodelling

As we looked around, Joan was trying to be optimistic and cheerful but I could tell that she thought Hubby and I were extremely naïve and looking at things with much too rosy an outlook.

As we stood there chatting about all the DIY things I knew how to do because my parents built their own house when I was 6 years old, our conversation was suddenly interrupted by the wind up of a deafening air-raid siren. It sounded like I had walked into an old WW II movie. Joan’s eyes got huge and all her pretending that she wasn’t concerned for us went right out the window. The siren continued to blare for what seemed like an eternity (in reality it was probably about 60 seconds). We ascertained that the siren must be coming from the Shell oil refinery whose “lovely” stacks we can still see peeking over our tree-line in the back garden.

When the siren finally wound down (sounding much like a deflating goose), Joan rehearsed with me again how we could back out of the offer for various reasons. She reminded me that if we found out someone had died in the house, we could walk away from the deal (just in case there were ghosts). If we drove through the neighborhood at anytime during escrow and saw drug deals or seedy characters, we could walk away. And she intimated that if this air siren from the refinery was indicative that our health would be at risk, we could also walk away.

I suppose under any other circumstances, I would have been the first to say, “Air raid sirens aren’t my cup of tea. We’re walking.”

But surprisingly, I felt very calm inside. I had this peaceful sense that it was no big deal. I just smiled and genuinely giggled at the comedy of the whole situation. Joan laughed along with me, albeit nervously.

Jim completed his inspection not long after the siren had gone off.

I asked him what his preliminary verdict was. He said that he found the foundation to be sound. The house was even strapped to the foundation so it would be solid in an earthquake. He said the house “had good bones”. It just needed lots of TLC.

Joan asked him for a ballpark estimate on how much “TLC” we were looking at (again she was trying to be realistic with this obviously delusional woman standing next to her). Jim casually rattled the figure of $50,000 minimum to get the house truly livable. And despite that figure, again, I was calm and cool (not like me at all).

In the week following the inspections, our little house was tented in a large covering looking much like a dirty red and yellow circus tent so it could be fumigated. We drove by it once while it was all wrapped like a giant birthday present. It looked so odd like that. We were glad when the tenting came down.

The weeks of escrow passed quickly and soon we were signing the final documents that made the house ours. By July 28, 2000, we were handed the keys and the house was all ours.

The following week, on the first Wednesday of August, the air-raid sirens went off again… at 11 o’clock in the morning just like they had when Joan and I were there. It turns out that is the oil refinery’s scheduled monthly drill to make sure the sirens are operable and in working order.

And every Wednesday since then at 11:01 a.m we are serenaded with the sound of a deflating goose.

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