20 March 2016

Four Days, the Shocking Finale

Now we're on day 3.5 of having no power.  I've lost my mind on the customer service rep, the in-laws are in a hotel, and the brother is on a flight to Chicago for work because of course he is. 

We borrowed the heater from the parents house so we had some heat.  Our house is little but it has vaulted ceilings so while it kind of took the chill off the house, it was by far not cozy.  We considered sleeping in the front room but relocated to our bedroom with the heater instead. 

But neither of us could sleep.  The power was due to be on any minute now, for real.  We knew that  when it came on, we had to make sure that everything was okay not only in our house but in the parents house as well. 

I've been listening to the Canadian radio station for 3.5 days and I'm starting to tire of it.  Commercials are the bane of my existence and like all radio stations, there are a finite amount of songs being played.  But the no power thing makes listening to Sirius, Pandora, or Amazon not feasible.  But I'm so tired and overwhelmed that I can't conceive of just trying to find another radio channel. 

I have finally finished the book I've been trying to read for months, only to discover there is a sequel.  A sequel I don't have in my possession.  Begrudgingly, I started another book but all I could do was be bitter that I couldn't just go into town and get the other one. 

So, I'm restless.  I'm tired of living in the stone ages, I'm tired of being cold, I'm tired of country radio, and I can't work on anything that I wanted to do.  Fun fact: I do my chores and shopping on Fridays, if I can pull it off, or first thing Saturday so I can have the weekend to do whatever. Now it's Saturday at midnight and  I had  that lingering over me; laundry, grubby house and general malaise.

Now I'm just sitting around watching laundry pile up more, knowing the house is going to need sanitizing and not just cleaned, and now the freezer/fridge needs gutted and cleaned.  I'm not one to have a big to-do list, it triggers the ADD/OCD alphabet soup that is my brain.  Oh, and we had to go to the grocery store to replace everything I was tossing if the power ever did return and the dump to rid us of the yuck that was our refrigerator.

All I could think was the sequence of events we had to do once the power returned.  It's not like "Oh, the lights are on, all is right with the world."  It was "Once the lights come on, there are hours of work to do."  Kevin was having the same thoughts so we sat there, unhealthily obsessing over our situation.

Finally, we went to sleep. The puppy slept with us one more night and I will admit that the heater (which is a faux fireplace) is quite lovely in our room. In any other circumstance, it would have been quite cozy.

3:45 am the power clicked on and it felt and sounded like the house roared to life.  We woke up almost immediately and instead of joy, we were all "Ugh, where do we even start" and "It's FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING."  Kevin turned our water on and flushed our toilets to prime everything again then headed next door to make sure that every light in the house plus the water wasn't on there, and to finally turn the generator off.

Oh, the generator.  I forgot.  It needed a fuel/oil mixture in order to restart the other day. (remember when it broke down?)  Reportedly the brother looked at it but "It just wouldn't run."  Kevin mentioned it to me at the time "Well, I'm sure you heard him working on it."  and I did, indeed, not hear it nor see the lights that were still plugged into it flicker to life.  The brother has a way of looking at things while being defeated and helpless so I was suspect that he even tried.  The fact that it took Kevin fifteen minutes to fix it after he returned from  the memorial service proved me right.

And, there are few more wearying sounds than a generator.  It's one of the things I do not enjoy at the racetrack, the droning noise of the generators.  In fact, the track has a curfew for generators, that's how loud they can be.  So the roar of the house being rekindled was welcome over the droning, grating sound of the generator.

at 4:00 am, I can't reasonably start cleaning the refrigerator, if there is such a state of mind, and the hot water tank needs an hour to start up and reheat so I am at a standstill.  Once Kevin came back from next door, I turned on the television and we both slept the sleep of the dead for a few hours.

8:00 am finds us happily showered in a warm house and on our way to get coffee.   I needed a bucket of mocha and chocolate mini doughnuts just to consider looking at the refrigerator.  But we had to take all that food to the dump so it had to be done first. Once we got home, really all I wanted to do was lay on the couch and watch television.  Instead I turned my Amazon music to my Loud Playlist and got to business.

All in all, it wasn't that bad. I had two garbage bins and I methodically went shelf by shelf tossing things out.  Then I scrubbed everything down and even had two boxes of baking soda to put inside to absorb  the odors.  The only rough part was the floor of  the freezer.  It was a science experiment.  I turned up James Brown really loud, breathed through my mouth, and got it done.  Cross that off my Life List.

Oh, and the guilt I had about not recycling containers was immense.  But it just wasn't feasible and the Gross Factor would have been so much more. Kevin and I loaded up the truck with not only our stuff but the parents and neighbors.  A big Dodge truck hauling a full load food poisoning, at least we looked good.

I can complain only a little bit about this part.  Because Kevin had the task of babysitting his parents while they cleaned out their refrigerator.  As it was, they tried to keep yogurt, an opened package of bacon and sausage links, and mayonnaise.  Yep, mayonnaise. I feared for their lives, not from food poisoning but at the hands of Kevin.  Kevin said he just dead-eyed them and dropped it all into the garbage can then walked out.

Oh, and the sister-in-law felt like this was the perfect time  to go out of town to visit a friend.  Not only leaving their dog at the parents (don't get me started, that's a whole other topic)  but leaving Kevin to go pick them up at the hotel and get them resettled into the house.  AND, AND, AND, we had to call our niece to come take her grandma shopping, which is usually the s-i-l's responsibility.  It was kind of a d*ck move that I'm still not quite over yet.

Then we trek into town.  First was the glamorous task of the dump and  then buying a heater because OF COURSE there is another big storm on the way.  Then we braved the grocery store. Every person from the valley was shopping that day. It was so overwhelming that I couldn't wrap my mind around everything that we needed.  I just shopped like usual then tossed random condiments into the cart.  I figured the grocery store is open every day so I could come back later.

While shopping, I remembered years and years ago when one of my oldest friends had his house flooded by a 100-year flood.  He told us about how surreal and strange it was to go from a house with two feet of water in it and utter disaster to town where everyone is just living their lives like nothing else was wrong in the world.  We were definitely feeling that over these four days.

 Once home again, I scrubbed our bathrooms to a shiny clean and started the first of almost ten loads of laundry.  (I hadn't done laundry since Tuesday, so nearly a full week of it...ugh) and tried to remember what it was like to live in civilization.  Oh, and the previous weekend we had guys in to fix our new flooring in our bathroom so this is weekend #2 of our house being torn up. 

Finally, about 2:30 I was finished and Kevin said he was coming in early.  We both wanted to just sit and mindlessly stare at the television and enjoy our electricity.  We cozied up in the living room and just started to relax when the wind kicked up again.

Our lights flickered a few times and I thought we were both going to cry.  We discussed it and made an immediate decision: if it goes out again, EVERYONE was going to a hotel.  But it stayed on and we relaxed again.

Until one big gust hit the house and we heard a crash.  Kevin jumped up and went outside but didn't see any downed trees or anything like that.  Until he spotted a big hunk of wood in our rock garden.  The wind had torn off  three sections of roofing from the house.  Our house is only ten years old so that tells you the size of gust it must have been.

I actually heard him yell at God "Are you EFFING kidding me!?!?!"  He came back into the house, changed into work clothes, and got up on the roof to fix it before the rains started.  This made me pretty nervous because the wind was whipping all around him.  But there was no other choice.

About an hour later, he was back in his chair trying to forget that all this had ever happened.  I got up to make dinner and decided that I would just make breakfast so we could just stay cozy in the living room.  Right up until I realize that I didn't buy syrup.  Because OF COURSE.  I ended up making a breakfast sandwich for Kevin and I had oatmeal.

Now today, we're a week away from that adventure and we're still a little shell shocked.  While shopping yesterday, I still had items that needed replacing.  The house is clean and laundry is finished and the house feels kind of like when it was when we first moved in.  There is a novelty to it.

The shiny side is that we have a more concrete plan should this ever happen again so that's comforting.  It gave us a story to tell so that's interesting.  Otherwise, we're just trying to forget it ever happened. 

Oh, and on Tuesday I received an email from the power company, requesting a customer service survey about "our recent contact with the company."  I'm ignoring it right now and will continue to do so until I can list more things than curse words and angry emojis.

19 March 2016

Four Days, Part Two

Okay, where did I pause?  Saturday morning. Day 2.5 with no power.

Actually, I need to back up a tiny bit.  10:30 on Friday night, the generator died.  Kevin tried and tried but couldn't get it to restart.  He literally sent his parents to bed and then we did the same.  We are now completely in the dark, no one has heat, and remember we have a well and septic system so no water nor potty. 45 degrees outside, windy and raining.  Super fun.

Oh, and Dear Swistle, I reluctantly admit that your concerns about the Big Earthquake may have merit.  If we're looking at this experience like a drill, we are HOOPED.  But, in our defense, we were caught completely off guard.  We have never gone more than 24 hours without power.  Now we know what NOT to do.

So, Saturday morning.  It was Kevin's turn to work a Saturday and he didn't feel comfortable telling his guys  that he needed to trade with such short notice so off he went.  Lucy and I stayed in bed and slept.  Because there was really nothing else to do at this point, other than call the power company.  They were not appreciating my every four hour dedication and I wasn't certain if I was helping or hurting our cause. But the fix was simple: turn on our power and I will stop calling. 

I have already had tense, curt, and probably sarcastic conversations with every customer service rep at Puget Sound Energy at this point.  I had been told that they had "determined the problem", they "were on site" and that they would be there at any given time increment.  I was also given a lesson on how circuitry worked (so wrong) and that I "just don't understand what was going on."   I was told that there were the aforementioned "only five metres on the road" multiple times until they must have highlighted the notes in neon to Not say that.  I bet if I phoned right now, they would be able to identify my voice and  that there were "six houses, eleven people - three of which are elderly and two who are under five."

Oh, and here is the most frustrating part: all that needed  to happen was a breaker/fuse to be replaced.  There was no damage to the line, pole, transformer, anything.  The breaker popped.Easy Peasy.  Now, I understand that the workers need meals and rests.  It's a dangerous and often miserable job.  But when we knew it was such an easy fix, it was difficult to be understanding.


My mother-in-law phones about nine o'clock and asks for information about a tiny motel that is down the road.  It is located across the street from a tavern in a one-stoplight "town", if that gives you any indication of the "quality" of this motel.  I had already told Kevin that I was down with having a hotel but just not that one.

The night before we had talked about putting the parents, or everybody, in a hotel but the power company kept saying that the power would be on soon so we kept putting it off.  My sibling-in-laws had heat so the plan was for the parent to relocate there.  But for some reason, the parents were resistant.  I'm unsure why and I just didn't have the brain space to consider what was happening.  Oh, and this is after the m-i-l getting teary and upset that they had heat and we did not.  The logic defies.

I gave her the number to the hotel after calling and getting no answer.  Then I called my sister-in-law and let her know what was happening.  She was also Up To HERE with the parents, which also is an indication of how sideways things have gone.  She never loses her cool and she had nothing.

About an hour later, I hear my brother-in-law in the driveway.  He is picking up the parents and taking them to the motel.  I freely admit to having a little glee that finally He has some responsibility in caring for his parents.  (sidebar: things always seem to happen when he's not around.  Or he manufactures a reason to not be around. Or, he just doesn't participate because he knows his brother will take care of it.  Oh yes, now that you mention it, it Does make me stabby.)

About 11:00 am I took Lucy to the coffee stand to get treats and me a coffee and something to eat.  This also allowed me to warm up in the truck and charge my phone.  I momentarily considered moving into the truck until our power returned, seriously.  But the power was due to be back on somewhere between Any Minute Now and Never so I kept holding out hope.

We had a memorial party that afternoon that could not be missed.  This was a small reason that the parents wanted to get a motel, even though only one of them were attending.  Oh, right, I forgot to revisit the father-in-law's condition.  The break/fracture/crack.  He went from "Oh, I'm FINE. I can walk on it" to NEVER WALKING AGAIN.  No, seriously, Kevin's mom said about a week ago "We just don't know when he will walk again."  Umm, let me think...doing math...remembering 2012...in SIX EFFING WEEKS.  It's as if they've forgotten that both me and my s-i-l had broken our ankles in the last three years.  What.Ever.

The memorial is near my parents house so my plan was just to pack up and go down there to get showered and revert to human form.  It occurs to me that I should call my mom to make sure she had power and that she would be home.  There is no five minute conversation with my mother so fifteen - twenty minutes later, I am packing up to go.

I was supposed to print out some photos and a speech from the cousins who live in the South for the memorial.  But, as I might have mentioned, I had no power.  I had to box up my laptop, my internet, and my printer to take to my parents so I could print everything out.  Yeah.

Now, Kevin hasn't showered since Wednesday evening so he is miserable.  He didn't have time to stop by the parents to shower before going to the memorial so he had (warning: I'm going to use a phrase that make me squint and he uses it on purpose)  a Whore's Bath in the truck shop.  He was not a happy camper.  I kept telling him that we will get a hotel after the memorial service.

The memorial service was more of a party for a cousin who passed due to damage inflicted by heavy drug use.   It was difficult to get in the mood for this event when we felt like we were living Armageddon. Her husband is the brother of one of Kevin's oldest friends and her brother is the only surviving member of that branch of the family (other than his kids) so it was inconceivable to not be there.

However, there were babies there.  A whole lot of babies.  Nothing makes  the word a better place than babies.  It was nice to see everyone else, of course, but: Babies.   A set of four-month-old twins, a one-year-old and a two-year-old, all children of our younger cousins.  Younger cousins being in the age range of early 20's to 30's but whatever.  We were definitely appreciating the circle of life in this setting.

My sister-in-law stated that the parents wanted to come back home, even if the power wasn't on.  They had been in the motel for four hours and had paid $100, $25 of which was extra because they had their little dog with them.   When I asked why, she stated "I don't know and I just can't care."   Again,  things have gone horribly wrong if this girl has that attitude. Imagine if the Dalai Lama was all "Eff this Sh*t", this is my s-i-l's level of frustration at this point.

 Our aunt, the mother's younger and only surviving sister, happened along at that point and asked what was going on.  We explained and I said "Maybe they could stay with you for a few days..."  She Walked Away.  I cracked up laughing, because it felt like vindication that they are and have been challenging lately.  Her own sister was all "Nope, I'm out."

Kevin and his brother intervened and told their mother that they were absolutely not returning home until the power was back on and had been on for an hour or two.  As neither of them can drive at this point, they were stranded at a motel.  A place, crappy motel or not, we would have gladly traded with them.

Before we left the party, Kevin called the power company one more time.  The person he spoke to and said that there was someone on site right now and that our power would be on by six o'clock.  It was about 5:00.  Because we had heard it all before, we were skeptical.  Kevin expressed his skepticism and was assured all would be well.  He ended the call with "You will know if it isn't because heaven help you if we drive 45 minutes home to find we have no power."

And, yeah, we got home and no power.  No trucks or people in sight.

I might have called and yelled.  Actually yelled.  And cursed.  For about ten minutes.  The words "Stop talking" may have been used.  and "I'm not done."   I lost my sh*t and I never lose my cool.  Never.  But it was so far gone that I didn't even feel bad. Usually I rationalize that they are just doing their job and  they are probably not having much fun either but I was so over that. 

The poor girl said something like "I can relate" and my head came off my shoulders.  "I don't know that you can. Do you have power, heat, and water where you are right now?  Yes, you do.  Is all the food in your refrigerator and freezer good because ours isn't.  Are your elderly parents home in a warm house? Ours are in a cheap hotel because of this mess. Don't tell me you understand."

Yeah, it was ugly.

A customer service manager phoning me thirty minutes later ugly.  Documenting my entire story and all my words ugly.  Hostage negotiation tone of voice ugly.  I'm sure I've won some sort of Customer Service Worse Caller Ever award this year.

And our power still wasn't on.  Nor would it be for another twelve hours.

16 March 2016

Four Days in the Dark

You know your life has gone sideways when a memorial service is the best part of your weekend.

The ever so lovely Pacific Northwest had a March storm that took out our power.  We were without for almost four days. While this is the headline, it is way not the story.

I came home a little late on Thursday afternoon because it was storming and I wanted to take photos of the bay. When I pulled onto our road, I noticed what I thought was a branch had fallen and caught in the trees.  I stopped to look and thought "Well, it's a little sketchy but I'll hurry underneath."

Once I was on the other side, I stopped and got out to take a better look.  So, so much worse from that angle.  The top of a tree had snapped off and caught in the other trees and the end was resting on our power lines.  It was about a twenty foot section of tree.

So, I phoned Kevin to tell him what happened so he could get off a little early and see it in the daylight and do any clean up that needed to happen.

I went home, let Lucy outside to do her thing, and stood on the deck for a minute looking at the tree and wondering when Kevin was going to get home.  Returning into the house, I finally realize that it's really quiet.  Our power is out.  *bad words*  Oh, and of course it is because Tree on the Wires.

I phoned the power company and reported the outage. She said that two others had reported it earlier but gave no further information.  "It should be restored by the end of the day."  Okay, so that sucks and we'll have to go out to dinner but we're fine.

Then I phone Kevin's parents.  His mom tells me in a completely unconcerned tone  "Oh yeah, well, the tree fell on the power line and our power went out." 
"Did you phone the power company?"
"Oh no, we didn't have to.  The fire department did it when they came because the tree caught fire."

The. Tree. Caught. Fire.

And they didn't call their kids.  When there was a FIRE.

When did this happen?  I ask, rubbing my forehead and actively thinking about not strangling them.

"Oh, I don't know, about 10:30 this morning.  We just went to  town."

Head.Desk.Head.Desk.Head.Desk.  Are you kidding me.

They drove under the dangerous, formerly on fire, tree to go to town.  And didn't call their kids.

*Deep breath*

I hung up with her and phoned  the power company back.  I gave her all the details and included that my mother-in-law was in poor health and often needed the ambulance and oxygen.  The power company again stated  that it would probably be on in the evening.  She even mentioned that it was important to mention things like my mother-in-law's poor health.

Kevin came home and cleaned up the tree a little bit then came home.  We decided to go to dinner and wait it out.  While we were at dinner, Kevin phoned his parents to give them the update.  "You know, next time there is a power outage you might give one of your kids a call."
"We knew they had been contacted so we just didn't think about it."
"How about next time there is fire, you CALL YOUR KIDS."

They actually had the nerve to sound insulted. This is not something we would think would need to be said but apparently it is.

So, we came home and we still didn't have power.  I phoned the power company again to get an update.  Now it was pushed to by midnight that night.  I was annoyed but really, at this point the house was still warm and all we were missing was television. And water.  And toilets.  But it was temporary. It was quaint.

We set up the generator so we could have lights and his parents could have lights then we went to bed.  It wasn't super cozy but we were fine.  Also, Kevin helped his brother set up his generator because his brother is a big effing baby when it comes to these situations and that's all I have to say about that.

The next morning we awoke to still no power.  I sent Kevin off to work and called the power company again.  Oh, now  the power will be on around noon, the evening at the latest.  I expressed disappointment and just a tinge of annoyance.

The helpful customer service rep told me that they were on site.  I told them they were very much not on site.  "You may not be able to SEE them."
*throat clearing*  Um, yeah, I CAN actually but THANKS.  Oh, and everyone else in a two mile radius has power so um, SHUT UP.

About 10:00 am, Kevin phoned to tell me that he was on his way home.  He had talked to his parents and they were getting cold enough that it was starting to affect his mother's health.  He was coming home to reconfigure the generator so they could have heat.

So, he hooked up their little electric fireplace and all was good again.  Because this was temporary, the power will be back on in the evening.  No worries.

He and I went down to where the tree fell and cleaned up the rest of the branches, leaves, and mess that the tree had left.  He had bought lunch on the way home for he and his parents so we were set until dinner.  We just hadn't showered.  The fun had dwindled and we were beginning to get irritable.

Dinnertime started approaching and I phoned the power company again.  Now it wasn't due to be on until midnight.  This time I did express displeasure at being over 24 hours without power.  "Well, ma'am, there are only five meters on that road so you are not a priority."

Cue: Head Explosion.

"There are SIX HOUSES on this road, SIX.  Three of the people are elderly, one in poor health, and two small children under the age of five so PLEASE explain to me how we are not a priority." 

Yeah, that went over well.  About as well as (spoiler alert)  four hours later when it was Kevin's turn to call the power company, only to hear very similar to the above.  He has this sarcastic giggle when he's at the edge of losing his sh*t and I heard him do it.  "Well, Ma'am, I think the point that might be missing is  that all SIX of these families PAY THEIR ELECTRIC BILL and deserve to have timely service.  I'm sure we would be a priority if WE didn't pay our bills."

*Slow Clap*

Now knowing that we weren't going to have power anytime soon, Kevin talked to his parents and his brother about moving his parents down to their house.  Because we live in a tiny house and they have a pellet stove that was keeping their house warm, it made more sense for them to go there.  No, the parents want to just stay where they were.  Kevin started getting wound up about this and somehow I stayed in my mature space and said "No, let them be.  Let it be a consequence."  He was so tired and frustrated that he did let it go.

We went to bed grouchy, unshowered, and cold.  We actually let the puppy sleep with us so she would be warm and frankly, to help keep us warm.  I kept telling myself that this was going to give us a good story to tell when it was all over.

6:00 am on Saturday and Kevin's alarm goes off.  Still no power.  And this is where I end this chapter.  Stay tuned for the next post.  :)

05 March 2016

Are You My Dad?

Because I just can't leave well enough alone, I'm now uncovering family history that I had no idea about.  With the help of my maternal grandmother's albums, which includes two generations back (from her) family tree, I'm entering information like a crazy person into ancestry.com.

I was momentarily befuddled though.  I knew my uncle wasn't my dad's full brother but I always thought he was the younger brother.  I was completely wrong.  He is an older brother by about three years.  His dad was a man I had never heard of until I found their marriage license online.

My mom said that my grandma and this man were married just long enough to produce a child, essentially.  My grandpa then took him as a son, including giving him his name.  According to photos, he was a young toddler when they got together.

But then my grandma kicked my grandpa out when my dad was in the younger grade school age because of his drinking habits.  She was a single mom for awhile.  Dating...perhaps marrying, again...and then she was with the man I knew as my grandpa Earl on two different tries.

I told my mom "Well, good on Grandma.  Just keep trying."  My mom said something along the grandma version of "I know, right?", which surprised me a little.

OH, and then, my mom was married twice as well.  (I know, soap opera writers are going to request our family tree for plot lines)  I was explaining to my mom at a family dinner that I was going to print out a timeline of the family tree.  "But it shows you were married three times, twice to dad, so I have to fix that."

She looked panic stricken for a second and said "Well, not *everyone* knows I've been married twice."   I'm guessing she was referring to my nieces, who would think it was cool.  But then she didn't tell me until I was nineteen and literally days away from marrying the first time so....

Anyway, today I'm plugging away, entering information on the website when I found my grandparents (my dad's parents) marriage certificate.  I looked at the date and thought "Oh, there must be some mistake."  I double-checked, only to discover that my dad was conceived out of wedlock.  His birthday was June 4 and they were married on March 16.

This had to be scandalous, back in the day.  But it also made me wonder, my grandpa gave my uncle his name, was there any chance that my dad wasn't his son?  The mind reels.

So, divorce records are going to be my next adventure. I texted my brother and his blithe reply was "Lol, Kinda figured that long ago."  What. the. Actual. Hell. family?

I'm morbidly fascinated in what else I am going to uncover.  I don't think I mentioned that my married name is the same as my grandma's maiden name.  Yeah.  "Lucky" for me, it is an extremely common last name so odds are good we're not second cousins.  *fingers crossed*