07 October, 2009


So I'm sitting here wondering about how one thing leads to another. We ripped up a piece of carpet and padding in the computer room and found black mold. That led back to a broken dishwasher in the kitchen 18 months ago. The insurance adjuster came and pulled the new dishwasher out from the cabinets and found a lot more mold. He took down a piece of drywall in the computer room and found the base of the wall behind the kitchen black with mold. He lifted the carpet in the living room along the same wall and found more mold. He crawled under the house and found mold on the underside of the floors under the kitchen cabinets and under the adjacent computer room floor.

I've never liked the arrangement of the cabinets in my kitchen. I've always wanted ceramic tile on the floor and a matching ceramic splash guard above the counters. This mess might make it possible. But, it's going to come at a cost. The money isn't the issue. It's the mess and the timing. We're supposed to host Dan's family for Thanksgiving. And, the insurance guy is telling me that once they remove the cabinets and floors, we can't live here. Black mold.

When I was living in Terre Haute in 2007, we had a massive flood. It hit the hardest in an area of town that was not on a flood plain and hadn't seen flooding in the 150 year recorded history of the town. The folks who owned those houses were lower middle class folk, most of them retired and living in houses whose mortgages had been paid off for years. These folks had their houses flooded to the height of window sills. The church I was serving flew into action helping people find temporary housing, organizing work crews from other churches to help us clean up people's homes, helping people put their lives back together.

Work crews were given their task: take everything apart and empty the houses so that we can stop the mold before it starts. Tearing apart the walls was no problem because all that mattered was opening up the walls to get rid of the moisture before mold could form. We used sledge hammers and shoveled everything away into giant dumpsters and trash heaps. We had huge crow bars to lift up hardwood flooring and carpets. Most of their belongings from their main floors and basements were damaged beyond salvage. Furniture was piled on the curbs, food from basement freezers rotted before the water receded. Life long collections of memorabilia was handled by people with N-95 respirator masks and full body protection from the mess. We helped people through the loss -- the shock, the grief, the anger, the numbness, the mindless FEMA paperwork, backlogged adjusters and contractors, and no savings to cover their losses -- not to mention the scammers that such a disaster attracts. And we stayed with the families until they were back into their homes 6, 9, 12, and 15 months later. Those masks and body protection outfits were a barrier between the workers and the mold. They were also a barrier between us and the pain of those home owners.

This is my house. We didn't have a flood. We had (maybe) 30 gallons of water (three loads of dishes in the dishwasher). We're not losing all our belongings; we're only dealing with the inconvenience and mess that's probably no worse than a remodeling job. We have insurance that will cover a large portion of the expense, a bank account to cover the difference, and an adjuster who was in the house within 24 hours of my reporting it, and who was able to take his time and go through the house systematically and thoroughly. We have a list of contractors who are hungry for work instead of being back logged. We'll be back into the house in weeks, not multiple months. We won't be the ones swinging hammers, carrying trash, wearing protective clothing. We're not losing our live-long memorabilia or, frankly, any of our "stuff."

In the midst of all this confusion and mess, I am thankful that I have been blessed with prosperity, with the means to make this happen smoothly. When I complain about the delays and the hassles, I hope I can rejoice that it's not a disaster, the it's only an inconvenience, not a loss. As the kitchen I really wanted to begin with begins to take shape, I hope I will be grateful. And when I'm not, I hope you all will remind me to count my blessings.