Saturday, January 10, 2015

Author Heals After Two Weeks of Renovation Hell

By Cal Orey

An Old-Tahoe cabin that has been my home for
15 years as I transitioned from magazine journalist to book author
Articles, books, my fur kids
grew up in a house I called home that
turned into renovation hell
After two weeks of chaos due to a projected two-five day small bathroom renovation (a job that was supposed to allow me to live/work at home in my study), I find my body, mind, and spirit exhausted from being displaced and tossed out like a wild animal. I sensed a nightmarish event could have been the end result but I was clueless to how horrific it would be. Now it's time to heal and share a few lingering images...

Postponed WA/Canada Trip:
I should have been here tonight
This disorganized mess affected my
well-being/booked trip

Tonight I would have finished an awesome book signing at Barnes and Noble in Bellevue and savored a four star hotel before an early morning to catch the train to Vancouver. I planned this business trip for three months to have it demolished in two weeks. Sadly, Wednesday night I realized I lost. I had to cancel my flight and hotel bookings, book signing, and research meetings in Canada. I felt like the fisherman with his big fish in the Old Man and the Sea classic--my dream was disappearing bit by bit.
On the upside: The Washington Barnes and Noble discussion/signing is simply postponed. Not canceled. I will be using my same itinerary and flight plan/saved miles for pre-early Spring. Still, it's heartbreaking that instead of business and anticipated pleasure, I find myself cleaning up a huge mess from a job that should have taken a few days (I called Home Depot experts explaining the process day by day). After two weeks--an obstacle course throughout the house from day 1 without a toilet/shower for days, I am left with pieces of junk and vivid nightmares of invasions...
More wood against book shelves
important work/papers
tossed here and there

If kitty landed on more kitty
My Rock: During the ordeal I turned to my Siamese cat for friendship, comfort, and sanity while my two dogs--a young Aussie and senior Brittany were stashed away at the kennel for a more structured environment. It was for their welfare--I couldn't be selfish--their needs come first and I was too emotionally challenged due to the inexcusable behavior I (and my only sibling) endured. 
The separation from my fur kids on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day broke my heart. (I was under the impression work would continue on since Home Depot was open on January 1.) I rarely cry but my tears didn't stop. I did rescue the dogs after the Reno Barnes and Noble book signing on January 3 (after all, it was day seven) but after four days of losing rights due to debri to the front and back yard--back to the kennel. 
Zen provided constant comfort
during the 14 day isolation
and  inhumane treatment
Buckets of liquid chemicals were
scattered everywhere, near the
electric stove and gas heater
So, I was hostage in my brother's rustic cabin--fine for one man, not so fine for a finicky woman who loves lots of windows, house plants, fish aquariums, fresh food, home-cooking for my work, and ample work space for my new book release, and book projects, columns, and marketing.  Zen, my dog-like Siamese cat was my rock, my best friend through the minutes, hours, and days that lingered. I talked to him, he purred. He listened. He licked my tears. He slept with me. He stayed by my side. This cat was a constant companion during the worst of times.

Two Dogs: I was anxious today picking up my canines. It's like they witnessed a great earthquake full of ongoing arguments during the demolition, confusion, chaos, a disorderly home, strangers invading their comfort zone....and then taken back to the kennel. Surprisingly, this time around they were excited to see me. Smiling and wiggling their docked tail bums. After walks and food, they settled in like a earthquake-tsunami was over. Yes, they are whooped like me, my sibling. This 14 day hellish nightmare greatly affected our well-being, peace, and lives, work and play. But the two dogs survived as we did. They sleep at my feet. We are one.

Sub floor wood slammed against
leather couch/book shelves
Displaced to a Small Cabin: The place I've lived for 15 years was in someone else's hands. I was blindsided. I was not allowed to get clean clothes or food.  It was no longer my home. Rather than going to a hotel--more novelty with its own pros and cons (as I learned when we fled the Angora Fire), I chose to rough it in my brother's home--while he worked and stayed with a friend. On Day 11 I allowed him to have the vacation rental (finally offered) because I didn't want to uproot my sensitive feline and have him flee.

I wasn't familiar with living in my brother's small cabin and didn't have my belongings in a row so it was one disorganized challenge after another. No tea. The water pressure of the shower was off; I ended up not showering for days due to my long hair and hardship of getting out the shampoo and creme rinse. The remote controls to the TV are different than mine and soon I was without a picture. The heating system was quirky, too hot and too cold. I did have my computer and phone--but often needed to recharge. (I'd sneak into the house when it was empty; no structure to work days--another challenge.) A real bed with a heated blanket versus a waterbed was foreign to me. Worse, I missed my dogs (who slept with me since pups) more than life itself. The fridge wasn't stuffed with fresh organic food. I was amid processed canned goods and boxes of food that I avoided. I can now fit into size 2 skinny jeans.

I'm invaded by memories of the charming, 1947 abode, an author's place made into a comfy home converted into a workshop in the kitchen, living room, dining room, entry to hallway and bathroom as well as an open crawl space leading into the bedroom. In the mountains that spells toxic spiders to feral wildlife. For the first few nights, I was allowed to sleep in the cabin but it was frightening and the fumes were too strong. Each room was chock-full with horrors: The heater was cranked up to 90 degrees at night; taped cord to an outlet so I wouldn't unplug a heating light underneath the bathroom floor;  ceiling fan (the worker recently ridiculed the electrician's work) on high left on 24 hours a day; chemicals of all kinds (some labels warned of 
causing cancer and kidney disease) were left by the wall heater. Then the lack of sleep, no food, nightmares followed, day after day.
I'm not balanced without my dog duo...kenneled on New Year's Eve
and Day to speed up renovation but nothing was done

HEALING POWERS: Tonight is the beginning of healing and finding my balance once again. I'm on the road to putting the pieces back together as people do after being blindsided by a disaster. My family is back.  I feel peace amid me. We are on the road to recovery from renovation hell. Tomorrow I will stock the fridge and pantry with all natural foods--fruits, vegetables, whole grains. 
I will continue to clean room after room, to get rid of the thick dust, disorder, and chemical residue. The deck, front yard and back yard are still full of debri, paint stains on the deck, wood, nails, and other dangerous pieces for pets. It will take a lot raking, sweeping, hosing down the deck to clean up the aftermath--much like a tornado. The sad thing is, this wasn't an act of Mother Nature--it was man-made due to a poorly fit toilet leak...and then a remodel linked to poor organization, no structure in work hours, lack of communication, apathy, and disrespect of a good tenant followed. But we will survive and this too shall pass.

Update: I took my two dogs to the vet for constant sneezing. Diagnosis: No kennel cough. It was allergies due to stress and environmental changes. Still itemizing damages to my possessions, but thankful for feeling almost centered, a good night's sleep, fresh food, and that this surreal renovation is over.

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