Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Great Unveiling!

In a little over a week we will be hosting our housewarming/unveiling party and invite our readers to come by a take a look. The transformation has been amazing! My favorites are the utter transformation of the kitchen and our sexy little bathroom!

Of course, we are still working on things. Recent events forced us to get a second vehicle so money is tight again. That and doing things by ourselves while we are living here makes progress very slow but we are so happy here in our cozy home.

Everyday we see our neighbors or folks bicycling, jogging or walking by and know that we are blessed. Sacramento has its warts, to be sure, but it has become so vibrant, diverse and alive! When I sit out front joggers will pause to talk to me out of the blue and everyone meets my eyes and smile. Everyone comes in all shapes and sizes yet they all seem so comfortable in their skins. The clothing choices are fascinating and daring. People seem to dress and act and talk their individuality and I feel reborn. The blossoming of Midtown is exciting (although I blame Rick's Dessert Diner for my recent weight gain!) and the parks are full of happy children with hip, interesting parents. My kids have big smiles on their faces and my youngest daughter has a posse of friends at her school.

We are happy here and without the help and support of our community, family and friends we would not have been able to make our home here. Please join us for our housewarming so we can welcome and thank each and everyone!

Saturday March 31
2 pm to 4 pm

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Who I Am Now

I'm precariously perched while replacing the glass in one of the windows.
When you take on a project like this you only think about how your home will change, not so much how the process will change you. I have always been relatively handy by necessity -my father always insisted that if there was any kind of work going on, I needed to be involved in some way- but nothing had prepared me for the massive magnitude of what we are currently involved in. This job is so big and with time and funds so limited, I have found myself doing things I had never imagined. I took a deep breath yesterday and sat for a while (sitting is so odd to me now) and took stock of how I felt about myself.
Nick and I work on the
frame for bathroom cabinet.
When this all started I was incredibly frightened, unsure and even paralyzed by what seemed like a Goliath of a project against our David resources. I was reluctant to step foot on the property, I felt powerless and over-powered. I spent hours skimming craigslist trying to find little apartments that would take a family with great references but no credit and almost no down. We were told early on that we would not get this place livable in time, by professionals (contractors, etc.)no less,  and I was panicked. My early efforts were with little heart as I felt we were doomed to fail.

Morgan watches Jax while we work.

Then friends, family and even strangers stepped up to donate time, money and materials. When my friend Flo showed up and jumped into the mire with her petite frame and incredible power I felt as if I were swept up in a stream of energy. As others entered the fray with us I felt wave upon wave sweeping me forward, empowering me. I knew I could not avoid the project while others worked on it, if they had faith for me I sure as heck better have some faith as well. I worked as I could but often had to be sidelined caring for the kids until my oldest daughter came to rescue after my concussion. She decided to stay and cared for the kids while I threw my heart, soul and body into the project.
Nick enlists TJ in the madness.
I gave myself over to trust and faith and the new family we had forged. In the two weeks before our move we were impossibly behind with setbacks that became unreal –surreal- in their frequency and devastating effects.  Even our volunteers told us it looked impossible but in the same breath would pick up a hammer and get back to work. Some people I had known for just days or weeks pulled all-nighters with us leaving the property at 3 am in the morning to go to work in a few hours. How could I not put in as many hours? I resolved to work alongside any volunteer who would show up, as soon as one project ended I would leap to the next. I ran to get them what they needed and threw myself into work with them if I suspected they had any need of me. I would not leave them, I refused to let anyone work on my home while I rested. As urgency grew I took on projects that I refused to touch just a day or so before thinking it was beyond my scope.
Justin became our flooring expert via
YouTube then trained us up.
I was particularly intimidated by the flooring. The bamboo planks were so ethereal in their beauty and the compressor driven nail guns were heavy and loud and required strength to use but as we grew desperate Chris decided to rent a second nail gun and we needed two teams to work to get it all done in time. I discarded my fear, grabbed a nail gun and became a fury. It got to the point where if someone dared touched my nail gun I would snarl and get back to work. Breaks became unheard of because I was afraid that if I walked away from my nail gun it would be taken over. I worked a 12 hour stretch without eating and one bathroom break, reluctantly taken, and I was just as sweaty as any of the other men on the job my hair in disarray and any concern for female propriety abandoned.

In the past few weeks I have done more than I ever thought I could: I have run power equipment that I never would have touched before this winter. I have installed sinks, lights, cabinets, flooring, a hood vent, replaced window glass, repaired walls, painted, put up trim and grown into someone so much less afraid, so much more capable than I ever thought possible. There is a long road ahead but knowing that I have some amazing people rooting for us, working side by side with us, I feel like almost anything is possible. If I die today I know that this project will speak to my life, not for what we accomplished but HOW we accomplished it. We gathered friends and families and strangers and together we have done what the experts told us was impossible. It is a legacy I know my children will remember, one that they will tell their children about and their awe and joy fills me with courage and hope and happiness.
Yesterday there was so much to do but I spent the day on the couch, unable to move. After our incredible push I have tried to leave our exhausted volunteers to their rest but with them absent it seems so too is that surge of energy that had carried me. My hands drop things now and I can barely work for 20 minutes at a time without needing to take a break. I have used myself up and at moments I do berate myself, ashamed that I accomplished nothing yesterday. There is urgency and so much more to do but the fear is gone and I am more prone to moments of gentleness with myself. I do have a certain amount of pride in what I have accomplished and I recognize that those two weeks of incredible energy were a gift. I have no physical strength left in my body, but a steel rod of strength has been forged in my heart and soul. No matter how battered I am by life I have that time to look on and know what I am. I am finally content with who I am. I am good enough. I have earned my place. Here… on 58th Street.
Robert, Leah, Ken, John and Flying Eagle were some of the volunteers during the Big Push week.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Home Depot Hero

When we started this adventure of ours we had no idea of just how massive and overwhelming the project would become. We had no idea the amount of money we would have to invest, the number of setbacks –and subsequent tears shed- we would have to endure, the lack of sleep, the worry and we still have so much more to do! We also had no idea that there were so many giving, caring people in the world, people who had never met us before who have gone so far out of their way to help us. Georgio Herrera is one of those amazing people.
As the weeks and months have gone by we have made hundreds of stops at the Power Inn Home Depot. It got to the point where we were greeted by employees who knew us by sight and would ask us how our project was doing. It became a joke about how often we were seen. We would say good-bye to our cashier with a “See you in a few hours”. In all these weeks, we had yet to directly run into Georgio until last week.
Georgio pulls his weight.
We were finally at the point where we were trying to make our kitchen work with the cabinets that had been donated to us but we still needed several pieces. We searched wide and far for matching pieces and when we found a few cabinets up high on a shelf on the back wall at our local Home Depot my husband and I stood staring at them when Georgio walked up. He seemed genuinely interested in our needs and went out of his way to help us find what we were looking for. As he did so he managed to help several other customers by answering questions while he worked, always with a cheerful smile that never failed to infect the customers he talked to with his happiness. I was amazed at his knowledge of his store and in the several times I have seen him since he has never missed answering a query as other customers passed by. This guy knows Home Depot.
Flo watches Jax while we load her truck.
When Georgio asked us what we needed we told him that we had a very tiny budget so we were trying to figure out which cabinets we could get and which we would have to leave behind. The matching cabinets to ours were discontinued so we were hoping to get a deal, we explained. He asked us about our project and we ended up showing him our blog and explaining what our challenges were and what we were trying to accomplish. As soon as he heard about the kids he got a very determined look on his face, placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Wait here. Let me see what I can do.”
Georgio talked to his manager and fellow Home Depot employees and through various feats of kindness and charity we were able to get all of the cabinets we needed within our modest budget. We have talked to Georgio often since and have seen him show just such concern and care for other customers as well. It’s not that WE were so special as to deserve his help, it was that Georgio is so special that he cares about everyone.  Before Georgio, it was just a store like any other but now we have such a strong sense of loyalty to our Home Depot store. I used to be a bit down on what I considered a “chain store” but have discovered that within those warehouse walls real people work to help us fulfill not just our material needs, but our hopes and dreams as well.
Nothing is free in life, nor should it be, but with people like Georgio in the world, the impossible can become obtainable. There is a real hero in Sacramento and he works down the street at Home Depot. Thanks Georgio, we will always consider you a part of our new and growing family.
Also thanks to Ralph at Home Depot for teaching me how to install cabinets, they went in perfectly! (P.S. Georgio, if you are reading this would you please send us the names of the other Home Depot folks who helped so we can give them a thank you as well? )
Curious to see what the cabinets look like? We will be hosting an Open House Unveiling party early spring (as soon as we can get a lot more of the essential work done) that is open to anyone interested in viewing our "finished" product. If you want an earlier sneak peek, we sure can use a lot more help so feel free to email us and let us know if you can help.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Waiting to Exhale

Ken "Aquaman" Malinowski lived in our bathtub for three days.


The past couple of weeks have been full of mayhem, craziness, all-nighters and an incredible amount of bonding with family and friends who have become family. I have so much to tell you but I still don't have much time. I have spent hours with a nail gun, a little time piping in grout, installed cabinets, bathroom sinks, lighting and so much more. I am amazed at all I have learned and at all I can do now. Here is a brief update and I hope to start giving you much more information in the next couple of days.

Teaser. A brief glimpse of the living room as we enjoy a GroveTribe dinner provided by Leta Channell.
Phase One Ends, Phase Two Begins
WE ARE IN! Special thanks to Nick and his friend TJ for exhausting themselves to get us out of our former residence in time! We reached our goal and made the house livable in time for the move, but livable and finished are two very different beasts. There is lots more to do but you can see how beautiful the house is going to look so very soon. I will be posting progress pictures but I will not show you the finished look until after we have our unveiling party this spring. We have decided that we will have a public unveiling earlier in the day followed by a thank you party for our volunteers. We have had new donors and new volunteers showing up but we still need a lot of help so if you want a sneak peek and give us a hand feel free to give us a shout.

Not pretty.
Yesterday was fun as we discovered that the basement was flooding from a backed up sewer line. Trouble is, over half of our belongings were stored in boxes stacked five high on the floor and I was home alone with the kids as Chris drove back to Folsom for his return to work after to weeks off to work on the house. While Morgan watched Jax I was ankle deep in freezing water, sobbing as I hurled our belongings to safety through either the large front window or the small back door of the basement. I think I had one of those adrenalin surges that folks use to pull cars off of people because I worked so fast that almost everything was saved.

Well, not everything...
Chris lost all of his yearbooks and most importantly some papers that documented his 200 mile bicycle trip with his father. I lost something I had not even realized that I had: a small old booklet that was filled out by my grandmother me telling me about my family and her life. I read the soaked pages and cried some more realizing there was no way to save it.

So we lost a day to renting rootering equipment and drained the last of our funds. We have $30 to last us until payday and we owe folks money.  Jeez....

Georgio at Power Inn Home Depot
Home Depot Hero
Georgio Herrera went to amazing lengths to help us. More on this later because what Georgio did for us deserves its own blog.

This name has been shouted over and over again in the past couple of weeks, Nick and his father Ken have spent long days helping us with flooring and are solely responsible for the STUNNING tilework in our bathroom not to mention a hundred other ways they have been there for us. Guys, we owe you BIG TIME and we are amazed at your spirit, intelligence and work ethic. Ken is a landscaper by trade and I have spent a lot of time with him and watched him work. If you need any landscaping done by someone who will do an amazing job with honest integrity please contact Ken. He and his family deserve to be too busy to help us anymore (which is what happened to our wonderful painter Mike).

Ken Malinowski
Owner, Garden Grow Landscaping
(916) 730-4000
Justin and Nick tackling the bamboo flooring.
 We want to thank John Neil, Leta, Justin, Nick, Ken, Mike, TJ, Georgio, Flo, Paul, Ralph (Home Depot, taught me how to install cabinets all by myself) and so many others for their help this past week. So much more to share but we have so much to do! Come join the fun!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vandalism and Theft on Christmas

World's Worst Christmas Present

Sometime between when we left the house late Christmas Eve to when we returned the morning after Christmas we made an unpleasant discovery. Someone had gutted our power box. Because the incident is being investigated (we had to make an online report to the Sacramento Police department because they were just to understaffed to send someone out) we can't give out too many details but there may have been one witness and one of the neighbors had installed a security camera that we hope may have recorded the event. Until then we have found ourselves with yet another huge setback. We now have to pay to replace the panel and for the electrical work to fix the damage. When I start to feel upset by this senseless act I find myself wondering how pathetic some one's life must be to stoop so low to do this and then all I feel is a deep pity. Sure, we are going through a tough time with plenty of setbacks but we have are surrounded by love. Which makes me think of...

My Christmas FaceBook Message
Just the night before we discovered this I had posted a late night message to my FaceBook page. I wrote:
"I am surrounded by so many beautiful people. People with such light inside of them that they brighten my darkest days. They turn a time of hardship and pain into a night sky of painted lights of wonder and magic. I find myself perversely blessing those very hardships for helping me see those stars in my life. I am so very grateful to all of you, my stars, my beacons of light."

For every setback we face it is a time to reflect on how blessed we are. We have so many people who have shown us their love and caring, we have had neighbors help us again and again. We have the love of our children who are still so excited by returning to our family home. If you look into our bank account you may think we are in deep financial straits but if you could look into our hearts you will see that we are overflowing with riches.

We will find a way to do this and we will do it together with the love and support of family, friends and our community.

Tony of SOS Plumbing
BELATED THANK YOU'SWith all the challenges arising in the past week or two we have been late in thanking a few folks. We have had an electrician, a plumber and a general contractor give us discounts and allow us to make smaller payments so that we could get much needed work done in time for inspections. 

East Sac Hardware
I knew that we had to find some reliable help and FAST. So I went to East Sac Hardware for guidance. (I used to go to East Sac Hardware as a child and my mother would always buy me a Crush soda from their now vintage soda machine. Yes that was 30+ years ago!!!) I was directed to a gentleman by the name of  Tahoe who introduced me to Torrey Stoddard, the owner of TMS Construction, whom we hope can guide us the rest of the way in our project so that everything is done just right. 

Tony Chance of  SOS PlumbingEast Sac Hardware also directed us to Tony who quickly came in and got the work that we needed for the inspection done. Thank you so much Tony!

Morgan and Robert
Morgan and her boyfriend came to help us for a week and together they have been an amazing help. I honestly think that their being here to help us has saved my sanity. Thanks guys! We love you.

We have so many people to thank who continue to help and support us when they are able. Please take a moment to visit our thank you page to see what an amazing community we have supporting us.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fly or Fail

It looks like we have some help on the way in the form of a general contractor and a plumber willing to help us out. Today will be the big test. If all goes well we can get the tremendous boost we need if not then we may be in dire straights. I am working on pictures and will post a blog tonight letting everyone know how we did. This morning I visit the doctor to follow up on my concussion before work begins. Tune in later for a big update and lots of pictures!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Blog, Interrupted

First, please allow me to apologize for what may be disjointed blogging. As you will see, I have a good reason for my lack of… can’t think of the word! Going to ask someone for help thinking of a word… eloquence.  
On December 7th I had promised you a blog and on December 8th I was home alone with my toddler diligently blogging when my vision exploded and then went black. I awoke to my toddler frantically calling out to me and bringing me toys. I only blacked out for a second but the incredible pain in my head told me I needed to call my husband right away. Trying to call up his number when I could not focus my eyes and trying to calm a hysterical toddler was not the easiest task I had undertaken. With a bag of peas clutched to my head we made our way to the Med7 only to be told that they felt that I had a concussion and that I had to go to the hospital emergency room. Two hours later I was diagnosed with a concussion and urged not to exercise, lift objects or make important decisions for the next week and to expect the symptoms to last several weeks.  I was not to be left alone for 24 hours.
My husband drove up to Oroville to bring (back) down my oldest daughter and her boyfriend so they could help take care of Jax and me.( Morgan had just been down visiting for her birthday but you will read about that later.) What a blessing they have been and a very tough time in our lives has been filled with a light of joy for all of us by having them here.  I will be posting another update blog of what has happened to us since the emergency room visit but first I wanted to at least publish the December 8th BLOG, Interupted
Chris with angel electrician Paul Marquardt
My biggest concern before moving the family in was safe electricity. Ever heard of “Knob and Tube”? I had no clue what it was until the walls were opened up and I saw the ancient electrical system slithering its way through our walls.  It was going to take a complete re-do of the electrical system and that was an expensive prospect but one we knew we needed to have 100% professionally done. We obtained many quotes and they fell in the range of between $4,000 and $7,000. We found out about Paul Marquardt through Inside East Sacramento and after talking with him he agreed to do the work for us at a FREAKISHLY HUGE discount. It was still a significant chunk of money but the work that Paul has done is stunning. (Was it the hot chicken melt I made him for lunch?)  All of our power needs are met, everything is up to code and the work is tight and tidy. The relief that I feel knowing that Paul is part of our barn-raising family now is beyond words.  Thanks Paul!

Meet Nick. Ok we need a better picture of Nick.
In the Nick of Time
We have lost some volunteers who have had to return to their busy lives but we have had one special young man come in and blow us away with how strong, capable and dedicated he is. Nick was one of my tai chi students when I taught free tai chi in the park in Folsom. In the past two weeks Nick has spent several days a week, all day, helping us. Despite his youth – he is on the cusp of twenty years old- he has a surprising amount of skill and experience from working with his father and has quickly become one of our most amazing volunteers. (He hasn’t quite tied with Justin yet though. ;-) Nick, we are so lucky to have your help when we need it the most!

Flying Eagle, our "foreman".
Sometimes Giving of Oneself When There is little to Give Is the Right Thing to do!
Okay, one of the guilty pleasures of having a blog is being a bit wicked and wallowing in a little “I told you so!” once in a great while. I had a lot of people treat me like I was not thinking too smart when I offered to teach tai chi for free in the park last spring. I was still trying to recover my strength and time and money was precious. I was told to either not teach or that I should charge for the classes and I refused to do either.  I was called foolish for giving of myself when there was little to give. To quiet the criticism I insisted that doing all of this was strictly selfish as my students were the ones that kept me doing tai chi even when I felt too weak, something that made me stronger and stronger as the months passed by. (Besides it is something that both my daughters would do with me as well and I really enjoyed that.) It was only through these classes that I met and befriended amazing folks like Flying Eagle and Nick. Without Flying Eagle THIS PROJECT WOULD NEVER HAVE WORKED and Nick has been such an amazing help! I may have people reprimand me for giving of myself but I will never regret it in my heart.

Happy, Happy, Happy 19th Birthday Morgan!
Yes, folks. I am now the mother of a nineteen year old daughter! (I know, I know… I look WAY too fabulous to be old enough to have a teenage daughter but yet I do! I attribute my dazzlingly youthful beauty to my Paiute bloodline. ;-)  With funds tight and a crazy schedule it was going to be tough to sneak in a birthday party but despite all that and a migraine the size of New York we pulled it off with Becky and Leah’s help.  We had the party at Becky and Leah’s house, with Leah using her artistic skill to decorate while the kids and I whisked Morgan away to McKinley Park to feed squirrels and ducks. You may not think that this is what a nineteen year old wants to do on her birthday but it has a special meaning for her and I. When she was little she always loved going to the park (either McKinley, East Portal or Capitol) to feed the squirrels. Oh, the stories we can tell. (Imagine undulating waves of winter-starved squirrels racing towards you while you drop your bag of peanuts, grab your daughter’s hand and make a run for the safety of your vehicle!)  It wasn’t an expensive birthday –although we did splurge on our traditional lemon cake from New Roma- it certainly won’t make MTV any time soon, but it was full of love and laughter and goofiness and it was wonderful. (Special thanks to Robert for letting us borrow Morgan!)
Acts of Service
When my husband and I had dated for a while (I think around “Date 11”) Chris gave me a book and asked me to read it and take the quiz in the back. It was “The Five Love Languages” and at that moment I knew this was the man I was going to marry. That was almost six years ago and I have never felt more loved in my life and we both refer back to the book as a guide in our relationships.
The love languages in this book include: “Words of Affirmation”, “Quality Time”, “Receiving Gifts”, “Physical Touch”, and “Acts of Service” as a way to show someone you appreciate them.  I not only apply these concepts to showing my family what they mean to me but to our friends and volunteers as well. While I was helping Becky rake her lawn she mentioned how tight her time is and how there are so many tasks around the house she isn’t able to devote a lot of time to. With the kids and I spending several days a week at her home, often from early morning to night as Chris and our volunteers worked, I really felt a strong desire to repay her hospitality with what I thought she may need most: Acts of Service.
Scrubbing Becky's counters.
First, I always try to make sure that I leave her house as clean as I found it. With me sometimes spending all day there with one or more kids I decided to make good use of that time and go one step further: I detailed her kitchen. Jax was an eager if not incredibly efficient helper as together we scrubbed tile, cabinets, floors and appliances. It took all day (Jax enjoyed an extra long nap-break and my efficiency improved tremendously then)  but  [end December 8th blog to rush off to Emergency Room]
[Back to December 20th] I am pretty exhausted just from writing the brief intro to this blog but I plan to have more up later today or tomorrow with help from my family. Click back in soon for more pictures, more updates and more of our barn raising saga