Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Super-storm Sandy: A Blessing in Disguise?

This past weekend, 11 months and 2 weeks from the day that SuperStorm Sandy devastated our area and destroyed our home, we moved back into our newly renovated and updated house.  It's gorgeous, if I do say so myself.  The design is updated, everything is NEW and fresh and clean.  Everything is top notch or at least as top notch as we can afford.  We have a new foundation, walls, plumbing, electric, natural gas, paint, design, colors, furniture, bathrooms, kitchen, bedrooms, appliances, etc, etc... it's truly amazing all that our contractor (Billy Flanzer of Flanzer Construction) and my husband have done to get this place in order.  I will say this:  I am blessed to be surrounded by all this beautiful stuff and to now have a home to enjoy with our family for years to come.
I'm so happy about moving back home that I almost forgot the heartache, stress and physical pain we all endured this past year.  My sense of optimism WANTS me to claim that the storm was a blessing in disguise.  Matter of fact, so many people have said it.  They say, "WOW, you made out after the storm", "Oh how beautiful your home is, wasn't this a blessing in disguise", "We can't feel sorry for you anymore! Your house is amazing!" or less directly "aren't you glad you did all the work now?"
However, this pain and suffering is not yet over.  Despite the beautiful home, there are lasting negative effects of Super-storm Sandy that I don't think I can forget just yet. (Sorry optimists!)  Here's a few I simply can't get out of my head...

  1. I have lost my sense of security that if you do the right things, you will be rewarded:  Thanks to the federal government, insurance and mortgage industries my sense of security and trust has been completely destroyed.  As I continue to fight for my insurance settlement, and get lost in unnecessary paperwork, phone calls, incorrect information, etc., they destroy me more and more each day.  This will not go away.  None of their processes, systems or people will change.  It saddens me (and worries me) that other people will have to deal with the same things we've dealt with this past year.  I really need to write a book or something to help these poor people!  Unfortunately, since the process and systems only get worse each day, and the people are less and less focused on helping others get through the mess, anything I write will be irrelevant in minutes.
  1. My aching back, his cough, the kids' unhealthy attachment to their toys... they're all after effects of the storm.  I am physically injured due to stress and falling down the stairs, and then again falling through our broken deck and lifting heavy boxes through the 4 moves we made this past year.  My husband has been coughing since October 30, 2012... the day after the storm.  The mold, dust, exhaustion has gotten to him but unfortunately there is no test to prove it, no "cure" to take.  The only indication is his cough.  It's constant and almost reflexive.  He doesn't go 3 minutes without coughing and he's a 30-something, healthy man.  My kids are confused, they don't understand nor are as resilient as everyone says they are.  The baby (2 year old) hasn't lived in one place long enough to know what is home.  She has anxiety when new people are around, she holds onto her "stuff" and is possessive over people taking her toys.  She has to bring EVERYTHING with her when we leave the house.  Now, this may be regular 2 year old behavior... but her night terrors are real, her confusion when she gets out of bed each night searching for mommy and daddy is real.  The 6 year old is more resilient.  She was just so happy to ride her bike again and have her room with all her things.  She's excited to ride the bus to school again with her friends and have a play date with the kids in the area.  She's planning fun things but has sacrificed a lot for a little kid. She's also possessive over little things that she's collected. It's almost hording behavior and she won't give up a thing no matter what compromise we make.
  1. Our financial situation is not pretty.  We've always lived within our means.  Both my husband and I work full time (60-70 hours a week) on salary, the kids are in school/daycare/aftercare, we take one vacation a year, focus on saving for retirement, pay our credit cards off each month in full, are never behind on the bills and don't have to borrow from anyone.  In this past year all those ideals have broken down.  Our life savings is spent, we've borrowed A LOT of money, our credit cards are maxed and we're only making minimum payments.  Yes we invested in our home to make it better than it was before but that all came at a huge cost.  We no longer have our emergency fund and we owe money to so many people that it's a full time job to track.  I know we'll get things back in order, but that comes at a cost of my own sanity and our credit score.

Well then, lets get off of this pity party.  We're "blessed" in that we do have a semi-healthy family, a home to grow in (that is beautiful!) and a lifetime to live.  It was amazing eating our first home cooked meal.  Doing the basic stuff like playing with the kids on the floor or going for a walk down the block make us feel amazing.  I missed this so much.  I really felt my stress level go down the minute we moved back home.
Over the next few months I'll continue to fight for our money from Wells Fargo, our mortgage company (they're holding it in escrow), from our insurance company National Flood Insurance Program and from FEMA. We hope we will get grant money from the NY Rising program despite the fact that we make an income.  It took me 3 full days to fill out that application! AND last but not least, we will recover.

Our Family has only just started recovering - our mental recovery will take a while but being home was the biggest and first step in that recovery.  I only hope that others who are still rebuilding, still displaced and still begging for their money from their insurance and mortgage companies get what they need to move forward.
So, thank you to all our friends, family and neighbors who have wished us well along the way.  We are blessed to have you to help us through and hold us up through the difficult times.  I do not ask for your pity, only your support and understanding that going through a disaster like Super-storm Sandy will never really be a "Blessing in Disguise".  I would much rather have renovated my house within my own means, on a schedule without uprooting my family, wreaking havoc on our lives and financial situation.

No, Sandy was not a Blessing.  But we learned from the experience and are stronger because of it.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

WNYC Interview of Sandy Czar Shaun Donovan leaves much to be desired

#sandy #disaster #wnyc

I listened to an interview of Shaun Donovan aka the Sandy Czar this morning on WNYC NY Public Radio.  Interesting interview where Mr. Donovan claimed that there was so much help available.  I think they forgot about a few things so I left this comment on their site:

----Begin Comment----
I'm a bit unimpressed by this interview this morning.  Soterios let Shaun Donovan off scott free by not diving into his comment regarding insurance.  Mr. Donovan stated “if they have insurance, they need to work with their insurance companies to get that”.  Interesting comment as none of these FEMA funds he is referring to during the interview are available to homeowners who have not yet heard back from their insurance companies… EVEN if their insurance company happens to be the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) administered by the US Department of Homeland Security (and FEMA).  It’s been 3 months and I haven’t heard any idea of when we’ll receive our money from NFIP.  When you call to complain, they hang up on you.  I just received my insurance renewal bill in the mail from FEMA/NFIP… they were on time with the bill and even raised it a few hundred dollars but they can’t even remotely respond to me on our claim from 3 months ago.  Now that’s a story NPR should be reporting.  The true story of why Sandy victims are still in a bind despite all the “help” available.  By the way, I live in western-Suffolk county which was hit hard by Sandy.  Don’t forget about us tax paying, insurance covered, homeowners over here that are struggling to find a place to live in the aftermath.
----End Comment----

Let's see if they respond...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

NYS complaint center response 30 days later "you logged your complaint in the wrong system"

A month ago I read an article in Newsday that stated if you're having trouble getting a response from your insurance company, log a complaint with the NYS Department of Financial Services here-

So, of course, I filed a complaint.

30 days later, I recieve a call from this complaint center only to be informed that my insurance company (National Flood Insurance Program) is a federal entity and therefore NYS can't follow up on my complaint. Instead, I have to log a complaint with the Federal Government.

So being facetious, I ask the woman on the phone "how do I log a complaint about the NYS complaint system?"

Yea, that got me nowhere... ;)


Monday, February 4, 2013

When "Charity" Runs Out...

#sandy #fraud #sandyvictim It’s been 3 months… and today I’ve hit my bullsh!t limit.

If you are easily offended, please do not read on.

Here are some stories that everyone in their cushy homes and their comfortable situations can ooohh and ahhh about and say “I’m sorry” and “this is terrible” and “this isn’t right” and then go on their merry way.

Yes, this is a bit of bitter mixed with a dash of hostile served up in a cocktail of frustration for your reading pleasure!

Three months into this Sandy saga and we are no further along than we were the day after the storm. No insurance response, no place to live close by, no money in hand, no building permit, no architects plans, no regular schedule… (shall I go on or do you get my drift?)

Every few days we still go to our oil flooded home and pick up the mail… I haven’t changed our mailing address for two reasons; (1) it is added confusion and we simply aren’t permanent at any other location and (2) my sense of pride and my arrogance (two things no one can take away from me) refuses to receive mail at another other location but my HOME.

Well, I picked up the mail this Saturday afternoon and saw 2 letters from FEMA. When I opened them I realized they were from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which is the insurance company I pay to insure my home from Flood. Yes, the same insurance company (government funded) that has NOT responded to my requests for information on my claim.

Guess what they sent me? I’ll give you a hint… what do you think they should be sending me at this point 3 months down the road? Ok… now you have that in your head, flip it 180 degrees… what is it now?

Yes, you got it! THEY SENT ME A BILL!

They want to collect my next year’s insurance payment at $700 more than last year’s payment. Yep… they want to collect that money and they STILL haven’t given me my money that they owe me or any indication of what I should expect to receive for my claim.
All of this after:
- J was in the hospital Saturday morning due to cutting his hand on a broken dish and needing stitches
- I fell down the stairs and literally broke my butt on Monday; and on Sunday limped 5 miles of a ½ marathon due to a foot injury
- My daughter hasn’t slept a full night since we moved into J’s Uncles house; so I’m on 3-4 hours of sleep a night
- I have a tearing pain in my shoulder and a never-ending stiff neck from sleeping in a 50 year old bed
- Another cold shower because the place we’re staying has a problem with letting me ever have a hot shower (J gets in the shower and it works… I get in.. it’s cold)
- The DVD player broke just as we were attempting to watch a movie as a family for the first time since the storm (well at least we finagled the computer and a makeshift indoor campsite to get it working)
- None of the people offering apartments for rent have called me back; they are not wanting to rent to people with kids (yea sure it’s illegal but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen)

OH and don’t forget that the next few weeks are going to be absolute hell because J is traveling and I’ll be dealing with the kids, the 2hrX2hr commute and the job all on my own.

Seriously people, I CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!

Back to the bill from NFIP - So what do I do with this bill? What do you think I should do with it… maybe I should have a vote on this… burning paper airplane? return to sender with a nice “F YOU” message on the front? Scan a copy and send it to my adjuster as a claim?

Well at the time all were possibilities but instead, I did the semi-sane thing and shook my head and pulled out of my oil ridden driveway to drive to my cousins house so I could attempt to forget the ridiculousness for a few hours.

And now for... "this is what made me go insane":

NFIP stands for “No Fing Info People”?
Monday morning hits an I’m on a new path to fixing all my problems. I have phone numbers, fax numbers, paperwork, the works in my bag and I’m headed off to work. I make my first phone call just to find the fax number to NFIP (my insurance company) and this is where everything goes terribly wrong (dun dun dunnnn)…

A lovely lady by the name of Porsha (I swear… not making this up) verifies my information and I ask her for the fax number and she says, “Mam, is your husband there? I need to confirm with him that I can speak with you about your account.” WHAT?!?!?! I have called over 30 times to this call center in the past 3 months and they have NEVER said I couldn’t talk to them because I wasn’t on the account. So, 4 people later, being hung up on 3 times by the manager (Barbara), by the employee, etc. and I’m nowhere. I can’t even get the damn fax number!!!! AHHHHHHH!!!! I call back and speak with a nice gentleman and I don’t give him my account info… instead, I ask him for the fax number and guess what? He gives it to me! Is that crazy or what? I proceed to find out that my adjuster has finally submitted his paperwork to NFIP and they can’t give me any information for 7 days. Don’t ask me why it will take 7 days or how they determined 7 days was a good time to add to the 3 months I’ve already been waiting but they said 7 days so I’m sticking with it. J proceeded to call the adjuster and tell him he is out of compliance for not sharing the info with us directly and scared him into the sending the information to us via email. All that and all we had to do was have J call the adjuster and threaten to tell on him. REALLY PEOPLE?!??! CAN THIS GET ANY MORE DIFFICULT?!
Oh… BTW, we still have to pay the bill or it will go against our credit. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Ok… on to the next one

Apartment Mess: I receive a phone call from the apartment complex that we are applying to so we can move back into the area and reduce my 2 hour each way commute down to 30 minutes a day. The woman Karen tells me that they’ve increased the price of the apartment. When did this happen? On Saturday, the day before I handed in my application. Why didn’t they tell me this on Sunday? They didn’t understand the terms so they were unable to communicate this then. So now they want to charge a sur-charge for the lease being less than 1 year. All this from an apartment complex that is advertising “Help for Sandy Victims” and they even had an article written up in the local Patch stating that they were the only place in my area that were helping people by modifying lease terms and reducing the security payments. At first I complained to her. How could she change the terms 1 day after I handed in my application!?!

Then I literally BEGGED this lady to fix this problem. She wouldn’t give me the contact information for the landlord but called me back an hour later and stated that she can give me the lowered security fee but will still have to charge me the surcharge. This is how “charity” runs out. My recourse, nada… I need a place to live. I can’t complain, report them, etc. because then I’d have nowhere to go!

Building Permit: We can’t get a building permit to raise our home until we have an architect’s drawing. We can’t start work on the house at all until we have a building permit. The architect said he’d be done in 2 weeks, it’s been 4 and yes, we’ve already paid him the first payment.
Rock. Me. Hard place.

AT&T Service is Down:
We are living in another town at J’s uncles house. We don’t have internet access at said house. Instead, I worked with my company to purchase a wireless 4g hotspot so that I can connect to the internet at “home”. I also signed up for AT&T service through my iPad and guess what? My phone service is also AT&T. On Friday a problem began with the cell tower in our area. All 4g/3g service is down until February 10th. There is nothing they can do to help me.

I can’t make this stuff up.

Ok so my Monday absolutely made my head spin. I’m done… reached my limit in being nice to people on the phone, and following the godforsaken process and still being hit with a NO WIN, YOU LOSE situation.

What recourse do I have in any of these situations? Nothing. Absolutely nothing can be done other than write a letter and hope your local officials look into it. These places should be fined for the way they’ve done business and the money should go to the people effected!

But no, our officials are focused on “ousting LIPA” to blame them for not restoring power in time and passing laws about gas stations having enough gas during a storm. Seriously? What about the people that are still suffering? What are you doing for them? Answer is… NOTHING (oh but the Patch will write an article if you want.)

Shall I come back in another month and tell you that nothing has changed or is this story getting old?


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Race Log 2013

Date Race Name Race Length Time Pace
1/5/2013 Joe Kleinerman 10K Classic (NYRR-Central Park) 10k (6.2 Miles) 1:02:27 10:05

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Going Crazy, Must Swim, Please Provide Access to Nearby Pool!

Going Crazy, Must Swim, Please Provide Access to Nearby Pool!

It seems that everywhere we turn lately there is a roadblock.  People have moved on from Superstorm Sandy and they don’t have the appetite to help anymore.  A few weeks ago I tried to find a place to swim close to our new temporary residence.  However, another door shut in my face.

Here is my letter to the Town of Hempstead Supervisor, Kate Murray regarding providing me access to a local pool for triathlon training.  I sent it in through their website today ( hoping that they’ll find a way around their rules for once.

Note that items in red have been changed to help ensure the privacy of myself and others involved.

----Start Letter----
To: Kate Murray, Town of Hempstead Supervisor

My family and I lost our home in Town, NY to Super storm Sandy back at the end of October.  For the past 8 weeks, we have been living at a family member home  (name of family member “Uncle”) at Street Name, West Hempstead.  We have all been through a lot the past few weeks and know that we will have to remain out of our home for at least another 8 months.  Uncle has welcomed us to stay at his home and although it is quite far from our home town, school and work, my husband, two young girls and I will continue to live there until we are able to get back home.  We simply do not have any other options.

I am a training athlete; often running, biking and newly (the past year) swimming as well.  I completed two sprint triathlons in 2012 and am hoping to continue onto longer competitions this year.  I also do work full time so my training is limited to early mornings, late nights and weekends.  About 3 weeks ago, I called the Echo Park facility to see if there was any way I could swim there on Saturday’s.  I explained my situation to the woman on the phone and she was quite empathetic and wanted to help me.  I explained that I do have a pool I can swim at near my home.  The cost is around $10 a session but unfortunately, it is almost an hour’s drive away from where we are living now.  With two young children, it is impossible for me to be away for over 3 hours on a Saturday.

She said she would have to speak with her supervisor but was going to do anything possible to help me get a temporary pass to the pool as (she explained) the pool is only open to residents of the Town of Hempstead. 

My husband’s parents live very close to Echo Park.  They would typically watch my children while I go train. I’m living on Street Name, which is within running/biking distance to the park as well.  It would be best if I could do my swim training at this facility due to its ideal location. 

Unfortunately, about an hour after my call to Echo Park, the woman I spoke with called me back and was very upset to share with me that her supervisor said there was nothing he could do to help me.  The park is only open to residents of the Town of Hempstead and since I do not have any bills in my name at the Street Name address and my driver’s license still shows me living in Town, NY, I am not able to use the facility.  I even offered to bring in a bill from Uncle to show that he owns this house on Street Name or perhaps show a rental agreement but that was not sufficient.  She explained that my license must show I live at Street Name.

I am writing this letter in the hopes that you will reconsider this policy or perhaps make a single exception for me for the next 8 months so that I can swim in a pool close to my temporary home.  Also, I read on the Town of Hempstead website that there is a non-district resident access available to the pool however, the folks at Echo Park were adamant “non-district” still meant that you had to be a resident of the Town of Hempstead as “district” meant that you live in West Hempstead.  Please help me understand the true rules of use.

Thank you for your consideration,
Phone Number

----End Letter----

Let's see what happens... shall we?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sandy on Green (part 4) - Two months later... still no end in sight

Two months later... still no end in sight.

It's been a rough 2 months.  We're living at J's uncles house about 45 minutes away from home.  My commute in the morning is to take my daughter to my mom's house so she can be picked up by the bus and then I'm off to daycare to drop off the other daughter and then to work.  This is about 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours on a bad day.  Yes, traffic sucks and my commute "home" (aka J's uncles) is worse.  What hurts the most is that my kids are tired of it, they want to go home but I can't give them that.  We can't go home.  Oh and the kids have been sick, I've been sick, the washer and dryer here need to be replaced, there's no plugs with a ground because everything is outdated and I couldn't take a real shower here until last week.  BTW, add in a flat tire, 2 required oil changes, a wedding out of town, family in the hospital, Thanksgiving, Christmas and I'm about to go insane!

I laugh a lot at the ridiculousness of it all.  People at work, home, etc. approach me to ask how we're doing.  I want to tell them things are okay and they're moving along but unfortunately they are not.  Not even close.  Sometimes I actually say "we're hanging in there", sometimes I vent and tell them the truth and they do anything and everything to get out of the conversation.  It's difficult for people to understand, and they're busy... they were only trying to be nice and ask how I was doing... they didn't really want to know the truth.  They want to watch their Sandy Relief concert on TV and donate to the Red Cross and hope for the best.

What I can say is that I've learned a lot so far... and can sum it up in a few words "if you do things the right way, it doesn't mean things will go right".  Or maybe, "Don't hold your breath" is more appropriate... I don't know, you decide for yourself... read below and let me know a good way to summarize what I've learned.

What I've learned...

  1. If you have flood insurance, FEMA does not help you (even if you have National Flood Insurance administered by FEMA).  Don't ask people if FEMA is helping them! Please, it's adding insult to injury.  Oh, and every time FEMA tweets about how they're helping people, a fairy loses it's wings. (shout out to my Liv for that one)
  2. The SBA loan that everyone is talking about is just an advance loan to cover what insurance will give you.  It is not in addition to what you will get from insurance.  It's actually a hilarious concept... federally administered flood insurance can't get their act together to get you the money that they owe you so they offer up another branch of government to give you a loan for that money and they charge you interest on said loan.  Don't waste your time... we wasted days speaking with people, trying to fill out paperwork only to be told the real truth.
  3. Oil damage will be "cleaned" by insurance company even though "cleaning" it will not leave the home safe to live in.  Yes, they do not care and they will not be back to help you in 2-3 years when the fumes from the oil they left in your foundation are seeping into your home threatening your family's health.
  4. Flood insurance will provide an adjustment with a check at their leisure.  2 months and counting, we have no idea what we'll get from them and when.  Oh, and that advance check they promised - don't hold your breath.
  5. Flood insurance will not replace items.  They will give you money for the depreciated value of items.  You have to figure out how to find difference somewhere (your own pockets, a 401k loan, a personal loan, credit cards, a home equity loan - see #7, what ever.)  Oh, only bottom cabinets are covered. (LOL) I've heard this so many times I want to puke.  Yea, yea, yea... flood insurance doesn't care about the value of your home.  They're not going to replace your entire kitchen even though the entire kitchen was damaged.  They will work to see what they can do to make your home liveable.  You have to deal with the home value issues later.
  6. Mortgage companies stating that they are there to help are only doing it for publicity.  They are not there to help, they waste your time and tell you they cannot help until the federal government releases loan options over the next few months. "Come back to talk to us on January 28th and don't forget to pay your mortgage as that hiatus we gave you... no that won't last and you will have to pay back all your missed payments in one or we'll ding your pretty little credit."
  7. You cannot take out a Home Equity loan if you do not have equity in your home.  Of course your home value has gone down due to the storm.  Why would you think that your mortgage company would help in this situation?  They do not care that you are trying to save an asset that they hold a lean on.  They'd rather you go belly up and then there are "programs" they can offer you. Oh, and if you flip out on them in their trailer (where they've been sitting for 2 months "helping victims") it doesn't actually help the situation... but it doesn't make it any worse because they're powerless anyway.... so maybe flip out just to make yourself feel better.  Yea... that's what I recommend. :)
  8. If you need rental assistance from FEMA (because you're paying a mortgage and rent at the same time and can't go back to your home), you'll have to call them multiple times and find the right person to speak to as each person has a different way of handling that situation.  Oh, if you want to live in a one-room hotel with your husband and two kids, then you can do that... go ahead, find a hotel and FEMA will reimburse you. (Insert "Don't hold your breath" here.)
  9. Flood insurance does not cover relocation or storage costs.  Homeowners insurance does, but you are out of your home due to a flood so they don't want to hear from you.
  10. If you do receive a check from any insurance company it will be made out to you and your mortgage company.  Good luck getting the money.  Mortgage companies like to "escrow" the money until they see that there was work done on the house.  So... let me get this straight, you need money to start work, insurance gives you money, mortgage company takes money and holds it in escrow, you have no money to start work but the only way to get money is to start work.... wait a minute... do I see a catch-22 here?  Anyone? Anyone? (read last two words in monotone voice).
  11. If you want to try to raise your home and increase the security and value with renovations, you will have to find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow because that's the only way you'll be able to find the funds... Your good credit doesn't mean squat and the $30,000 that FEMA is supposed to be offering to raise your home... that comes after you pay an architect $6,000 to do a drawing, wait for an inspection and in the end, that $30k actually comes out of the total amount you could get back from insurance.  BTW, to raise your home on Long Island, the cost ranges from $80,000 - $140,000.  There is a rumor that says if your house is flooded more than once in 10 years, FEMA will give you a grant to raise your home.  BAH!  Not on Long Island with these home prices!  Yea, the Katrina homes with values that range from $30k - $120k, sure they'll raise those and give you a few bucks... but not the $400k - $1M homes that were hit by Sandy.  That's too damn expensive.... the feds would rather restore our beaches.  Last comment on this one... if your house floods 3-4 times in two months but you didn't fix the damage from the previous floods, it's not a new claim and it won't help you get your home raised (good try though!).
  12. If you do the right thing and report an oil spill to the DEC, it will cost you 10's of thousands of dollars to clean it up (on your own dime) and yes, no one will want that job... they'll keep pushing you off to the next guy.  Oh, and you may even get a fake letter sent to you stating you will be fined $25,000 per day that you don't clean up the mess. Even better, when you get that letter, please read it while sitting in your car in your oil ridden driveway, outside your oil ridden home that you are doing everything possible to figure out how to pay for the clean up.  Please do that because you won't get the effect unless your engulfed in that beautiful environment while reading something that looks like an official letter.
  13. If you are displaced and attempting to find something normal in another county that you do not pay taxes in, do not expect to be allowed to enter the county or town facilities (say for instance an indoor swimming pool so you can train for a triathlon).  They do not want your kind there.  There is nothing they can do to help you and by the way... why are you calling them and wasting their time?
  14. No one with a job, insurance and good credit will see any of the "Sandy Relief" funds that are pouring in.  Don't hold your breath... just watch the damn concert and be happy about it. 
  15. The Red Cross stops by your home every day.  Be there to pick up food rations, cleaning supplies, diapers and such.  Did I mention that you need to be there?  Oh, you can't be there because you work?  Tough luck!  Go sit in your car, in your oil ridden driveway outside of your oil ridden house and wait for that darn truck to come by with supplies you do not need... because that's the only help you're gonna get! Wait? You want a loan?  No... fed doesn't do loans, they only give hand outs... you do-gooder you... trying to be all "I'll pay it back, I don't want a hand out"! Hahahaha.  You make me laugh.
  16. Living without a printer, internet access or TV SUCKS!... oh, and I miss my pizza cutter... cutting pizza with a knife sucks too... have you seen my socks? Are they in storage?  And that 3D awesome 55" TV you bought and saved in the storm... it doesn't work without the cables that are in the very back of the POD behind all your other crap.  Good luck getting them.  The TV is better being a bulletin board anyway.  Where else would we hang all of Liv's drawings? Do you remember the time you used to do laundry at the laundromat?  Do you remember that at that time you had all the time in the world because you were single and your job was close and you had no kids?  Yea... I remember that being easy too.
  17. Everyone else would have done something better to prevent what happened to your home.  They know better than you... you stupid person who lives by the water!  Why wouldn't you just move?  What the heck is wrong with you?  I know that all the smart people live in the center of the island.  You must be dumb.
Thank you kindly for reading... this was actually quite fun to write up.  I hope the sarcasm doesn't scare you too much... my insanity is showing a bit.  I only let it out every once in a while.  Putting it away now... HEHEHehehehe (sounds like evil laugh drifting away).

In the words of Arnold "I'll be back..."


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sandy on Green (part 3)

Tourists and Vultures In the Aftermath of Sandy
We took what we could by hand that morning (Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012).  We returned later in the day to find that we weren't allowed to drive down there anymore even though the water had receded to about 1 foot in the street.  The police were blocking people from driving down as there were too many tourists and vultures (i.e. people who want to see and people who want to take).  My wish of the tide taking the debris out was not granted.  We had even more now... hey check out that jeep in the driveway!

We had taken a few plastic bags and bins so that we could take some stuff with us but walking a mile back and forth with heavy items wasn't really working for us.  We had to wait until the water receded fully and we could see the debris in the road before driving a truck down there.

We went back to my parents house to start making phone calls; insurance company - their phones were out. FEMA, DEC and Waste Oil removal services - no one was ready to help yet.  They all took my information and told me they'd get back to me.  We had no internet access, cell service or cable at my parents house but we did have electricity and heat... unlike most of Long Island.  To get internet access from our iPods, we had to drive up a few blocks into a supermarket parking lot... it was like a haven for access.  Cell service, 4g card, everything worked there.  I don't have a clue why but I wasn't complaining... cell service and internet access were like gold at that time.

Although none of the other service providers (that I actually pay for) were available, we were able to get a POD scheduled to be delivered the next morning at my parents house (at a pretty penny might I add).  The guy on the phone said it was the last one he had on the island and with none of the bridges and tunnels open, it would be a while before another would be available.  Not sure if that was his sales tactic (I was buying anyway) but I did hear later on that people were waiting a month for a POD.

With the oil saturating our house, we needed to do everything we could to salvage what we had upstairs.  The smell was terrible and everything inside and out was being damaged by the minute.  I did what I could at the time, make phone calls and try to save what was left.

On Wednesday we returned to find more debris but less water. Not sure what to do first, we started cleaning outside.  Moving the debris away.  Here's an interesting picture of the flood level in our garage (42").  The lines you see there are markers from previous storms.  The dirt/water line is from Sandy.  The other picture is of the pile of debris we had outside of our driveway.  We just kept on dragging stuff over, hoping someone would pick it up.  The Village of Babylon did, using a big backhoe a few days later.

J went to find a truck to rent to bring our stuff to the POD.  After 2 hours of searching, he found one and we started to vacate the premises.  Family came out to help (my sister, his brother, both sets of parents).  My mom watched the kids for us, everyone else started packing and cleaning; we ate halloween candy and pretzels for lunch as it was the only thing that was available.  We wore masks so that we could breathe and booties so that we wouldn't ruin the upstairs carpet... what good that did as the smell of the oil alone has saturated everything now.

I posted for help on Facebook to see if anyone had any boxes or bins we could use to get everything out of the house but most people didn't have internet access so it was a futile attempt at first.  In two days we removed all of our "stuff" furniture and all from upstairs and then we started the demo.

All I could think about was where were we going to put our stuff and where were we going to live?  My parents had one bedroom open for us.  All of our stuff that couldn't fit in the POD was in their already packed garage.  Our clothes were in their dining room, our electronics in their living room, OH and we had tons of other people living there too because everyone was displaced due to the storm.  My brother-in-law with his dialysis machine, my aunt, my cousins would stop by from time-to-time as they were hopping from house as well.

I can't even begin to tell you the devastation I felt and saw.  I don't think I slept those first two weeks just trying to get organized.  This wasn't going to be a 1 month thing, not even 2 or 3.  This was 8 to 10 months of hell we were facing and I didn't know the half of it.

To be continued...

Sandy on Green (part 2)

Somewhere in the middle of the night between Monday and Tuesday I was woken up by the phone in our borrowed room buzzing. We must have lost power and now the hardwired phone was buzzing on battery; it's amazing the things you hear when you're in a dead sleep! That was the last of my sleep for the night. I jump right on facebook on my phone and realize that there has not be any updates from my neighbors in hours... I think "How could they not be posting at 2am?!?!". Frustrated, I get out of bed, shower, get dressed and proceed to pace around the house until the transportation woke up (my dad with his truck). I literally was pacing the house while they all slowly woke up, got dressed, ate breakfast. I was almost ready to walk to my house. It was only 3 miles away, hell, I could run that in under 30 minutes. Anyway, my dad was finally ready to go around 9am so he drove J and I over to our cars (that we had evacuated to higher ground) and we then proceeded to take the high roads down to our house. We were stopped about 5 blocks away as the flooding hadn't subsided and the police were not allowing people to attempt to drive down. We began walking the rest of the way down in waist high water. I'm not sure if I was shaking due to the cold or due to the shock. It was a mess. Fences were floating down the block and you could see the water line on houses that have never even seen water on their grass before. As we waded down the road, a man ran out of his devastated home to ask for help. "Can you help me pull out my generator?" J ran to his aid while I rudely commented to myself "what the f are you going to do with a generator? You don't even have dry ground to put it on!" But I was happy that J went to help the man. At least he was trying to do something to save what was left of his home. I walked on... the water was getting deep and I was nervous about stepping on something. A dead fish floated by. Then a fence. Then there was a car.. yep, it was crazy... and this was at low tide the day AFTER the storm!

My head was going two ways... on one hand, my rational self was telling me that our house got hit hard. "Expect water in the house" she said. "It's going to be bad" she yelled while my irrational, luck driven, praying self was trying to out do her with "It can't be that bad." "You're a good person and good things happen to good people." I think this is why it wasn't until I approached the back gate of my house and saw the water line around chest high that my rational self won. I took a picture... what else could I do. I turned into the action driven person that I always am. I tried to tell myself to just be there to take pictures, to show what we've lost and later, I could be sad.

But as I pushed in the back gate, and wasn't able to get it to go more than a foot because it was blocked by debris, I broke down. Yep, crazy me came out (much more fun than rational and irrational me). I was screaming at the top of my lungs, crying and pushing the gate.  Then I pulled it the opposite way and was able to get in and see that the thing that was blocking the gate was my daughters swing set. It had floated about 20 feet to end up where it was. To think, it took 3 people to put the thing together and move it in place and now it was just upside down, broken and mangled. I walked onto my back deck and saw the first of the real mess.  The water line was scary.  About knee high in the main house and waist to chest high in the utility room.

I started looking at the debris and trying to figure out what it all was.  Where did it come from?  This stuff wasn't mine.  No, all of the stuff in the driveway and even on my back deck had floated there from other yards down the canal.  I guess we were the storms dumping ground.  Maybe when the water recedes it would clean up after itself. hahahaha, yeah right.

There was something else that I couldn't figure out.  The smell.  It didn't smell like seawater or sewage.  It was worse than that.  It smelt like gasoline or OIL!  Yes, it was oil.  I ran to the side of my house to see if my oil tank was okay.  The one that I could see had shifted about 5 feet over but it didn't look like it was leaking.

I couldn't see the front oil tank so I decided to enter the house first and try to get a view around the front of the house.  This is where I cried.  No more screaming in anger.  No, this was real, full blown hysterics.  I tried to take pictures.  Focus on the pictures. 

Our house was destroyed.  The new room, the new appliances in the kitchen, all of my donations (kids clothes, toys, etc. ) ready to be donated were soaked.  The wainscoting that took J 2 full days of work to get done for Liv's bedroom, destroyed.  But then, I didn't know the half of it.  The smell of oil was intense.  I was feeling sick inside so I opened the front door and saw the front yard.  Oil, everywhere.  Propane tanks and tons of random junk floating in the thigh-high water.  Oh, and a nice huge piece of fencing on my front stoop.  I didn't walk out into it.  I didn't have waders, just my work out clothes and a pair of five-fingers so I wasn't going to try to injure myself but the red tinge in the water told me that our oil tank was leaking, a lot.

J finally arrived then and he waded out in his waders to see the damage.  Surreal.  He took pictures from the front of the house... and the oil tank...

To be continued...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sandy on Green (part 1)

We had decided to stay in the house during the storm (despite the warnings to evacuate) because seriously... when do the weathermen actually get it right?! At low tide on Monday, October 29th (the day of the storm) the water was up to our front door. J and I knew that it was going to come in at that point so we spent the morning and afternoon moving everything upstairs (or rather everything that we could move upstairs). In the 50 years that our house has been standing, it's never seen water in its first floor. Yea, we're used to the crawl space getting filled up and the garage getting water. We even prepare for this by raising everything in the garage up on cinderblocks and opening the garage door to allow the water in and out with the tide. Other storms cooperated nicely like Irene in August 2011. But Sandy, she didn't want to go with the flow. Here’s a shot of our house at low tide at 10 am, October 29th.

Here's a shot of our neighbor getting stuck on his lawn... btw, in case you were wondering, that's the street not the canal...

Around 2pm we smell something burning and find that the boiler, oil heater and laundry machines were already getting wet with salt water and sewage (so much for the clothes I had in the dryer…). The bathroom/boiler room in our house that was 3 steps down, was already under 2 feet of water. J threw on his waders and went down into the area to turn off the emergency switch. We then proceeded to shut off the electric to the bottom half of the house and J went outside to shut the propane tanks. NOTE to all you "why didn't you evacuate earlier" folks... If we would have left the day before, we would have not known to turn off thes items and our house would have been on fire. Now, let's move on, shall we?

By 4pm, we had turned off all power to the home and were evacuating our house, wading through waist-high water, in fierce wind and rain. It was nice that a block away there were volunteers in motorboats driving people out of the area. Only they weren't using the canals if you know what I mean. Yes, the girls and I took a rescue boat 4 blocks up to where my mom was waiting with her truck. We had already evacuated our cars up to higher ground the night before (good thing too because there were cars and trucks all stuck in the water at the corner of our block). At the time I was freaking out to new levels… I was taking my babies out in a hurricane.


At that point, we should have stayed put but my dad pounding on our front door said otherwise. In hindsight, I wish we would have stayed. I would have been able to save more stuff and perhaps prevented the other things that occurred but we’ll get to that in a future post.

For now, let's talk about “saving stuff”...

-- begin rant--

So many people that didn’t lose “stuff” in the storm have told me “you can always replace your stuff”. I actually hate that response (sorry people who are trying to be helpful). It doesn’t help, especially if it’s coming from someone who isn’t in my situation. Our stuff is a culmination of our life. We gather stuff to remind us of events, to celebrate times in our life and to reward ourselves for a job well done. When J and I invest in a purchase, we do so in a calculated manner (more because of him than me but just sayin). We don’t just buy “junk” that can be replaced! You cannot replace the couch that took us 4 months to find and 8 months to receive and that we’re still paying off on a credit card! You can’t replace it because we dedicated time to this purchase… time isn’t replaceable! So… for all of you thinking I’m being materialistic… try, just try to put yourself in my shoes (I know you can’t because I know I was never able to do this until now). Try to itemize out all the “stuff” in your house. You know what, just try to do one room… put it in a spreadsheet… identify where it was purchased, what it cost and how long ago you obtained the item. Now imagine that you have to do that for your entire house. Now estimate the time you took to purchase each of these items. Next actually go to the store(s) and buy the items. Now try and tell me that “stuff” doesn’t matter.

--end rant--

Now back to the original story. So, we leave the house in the middle of the storm with no idea what would happen to our life that we built. Liv will tell you that the evacuation was “scary” and that she was “freezing the whole time” and that she “got wet with cold water” which all is true. I had Ella in my jacket so she was pretty much covered but Liv is much bigger and she just had a hooded sweater on because we didn’t think to bring her winter coat out. So, J was struggling to hold her and hold up his waders (oh… btw… I walked in the friggin cold water without waders but my fivefingers worked well :)). He handed her off to me in the rescue boat but there was no blanket to cover her from the wind and rain. I unzipped my jacket to try to loop her into Ella and my warmth. At this point (you mom’s will understand this), I was SO ANGRY AT EVERYONE who agreed to take MY BABIES out in the storm. Liv was freezing and terrified! All of this could have been avoided if we just remained in the house and stayed upstairs. Yea, we wouldn’t have power… but we wouldn’t have been in a life threatening situation either! I was thinking the kids were going to get hurt. I was nervously laughing with the volunteers that boated us out of there telling them to hurry before a tree fell… I think they thought I was crazy… they’d be right about that. I was crazy for listening to everyone else who told me what to do to protect my kids and not trusting my parenting skills and ever so trusty gut. NEVER AGAIN will I allow that to happen. Ok, so that rant is over too… (insert nervous lol here).

In my mom’s truck I realize that I lost my phone… wonderful. I go back into the storm and try to remember if I left it in the suitcase or in the house. I call J with my mom’s cell and he finds it in the house. Now, I was able to explain that situation in 3 sentences… I’ll tell you the frantic nature of this situation was to new levels. I was absolutely in a state of “LIVID”. Is that even a state? Well that’s what I was… angry, enraged, incensed… yes all those states too… bottle them up as one and throw in an Alka-Seltzer, shake it up and KABOOM! Yep, that’s how I was. The phone was the tipping point. (Side note: there’s a word for the fear of losing one’s mobile phone. I heard this on NPR one morning. It’s called “Nomophobia”.... I think I have this.)

The next few hours are a blur to me. I shower to get the filth of the seawater, oil, sewage, off of me. I try to get warm. I attempt to “move in” to my mom’s house. I attempt to console my children but the tough ol’ me was not there… I was out to lunch… missing in action… The terrible feeling of not knowing what was happening back at home was grating on me. I was simply not a nice person to be around. In hindsight I’m upset by this. I am pride myself in being rational at all times… although I may get loud… I’m still rational. I don’t think I was rational after this so when my mom started in on me with what I “shoulda” done… I went APE on her (is that a technical term?). Ok, another rant but it will be short. Let me explain to you who have not been through terrible situations (I say this in jest as I know everyone has been there one time or another). DO NOT EVER (never ever) try to explain to someone what they should have done when they are in a state of “LIVID”. That will only make them go “APE”. You really must be stupid if you think that suggesting what they should have done or could have done better will actually help them. Even the use of “should have” or “could have” should be means for hitting you over the head with a blunt object. K, I’m done… I think we all get it now.

The power flickers a few times at my parents’ house but it doesn’t actually go out for an extended period of time. We’re there with my aunt as well as her house was in the flood area too. Her kids are displaced as well but they all found "high-ground" to stay. I’m attempting to find out what is happening back home by logging into Facebook and pinging my neighbors. Around 5:30 pm, my neighbor across the street sends us this pic… the water has hit the top step. You can tell because the doormat is floating away in the picture. This means that it’s in the house… and it's not yet high tide.

Then we go dark.

To be continued…