Monthly Archives: May 2016

When it Rains…the Basement Leaks

December 2015 brought us record setting rains which caused our basement to flood.  The carpet soaked up much of the rain and kept the water from moving swiftly to the sewer on the other side of the basement.  While the majority of the finished area of the basement was affected, there were areas that remained water free because of diligence on our part.  When he discovered the water at 10 AM, my husband immediately started the shop vac roaring.  At some point family members lent their shop vacs and hands and by the time the rain finally stopped at 8 PM we had three vacs and five people working frantically. The water came in as quickly as we vacuumed it up.  Furniture was put on plastic lids and books were carried upstairs. Our insurance company informed us nothing was covered since it wasn’t sewer water. (Thank goodness it wasn’t.)  Water mitigation companies were called.  We were placed on waiting lists because they had more calls than they could handle. By the time we dropped to bed in exhaustion that night every fan we owned was running in our basement and the water was no longer flowing.

The enormity of trying to prevent mold and trying to take care of our belongings seemed paralyzing. For days we moved things up, down, and around. Our double garage was filled with things from the basement. Every room of the house had (and still has) extra books, chairs, and other belongings. The main plan was to get things off the damp carpet but we had no place to put all of the things we had accumulated through the years.  We knew it would take months to get the basement repaired and things put back in place.

Some of our “stuff” began to lose its importance.  We started purging those items we could easily decide were unimportant.  These we piled in boxes and took to a local thrift store.  Purging became a little more of a challenge after the first few times we filled the minivan with donations.  But when we waited several days between our assaults and trekked things immediately to the thrift store we began to throw caution to the wind.  Some unidentified containers and containers full of needed items are buried so deeply in the depths of our garage that we won’t be able to tackle those for months.  After nine or ten trips to the thrift store, one thrift store pick up of furniture and larger items, and many weekly bags of trash, we were finally able to get one car in the garage and find the lawn mower.  Of course the other half of the garage is stacked about five feet high. My husband and I made a pact that nothing goes back in the basement without the approval of both of us.

Probably my own personal biggest “collection” was books, both adult and children’s books.  I had books I had never read, books I knew I’d read again, books I thought I’d read again. The PTO at my old school held used book sales every year and I always walked out with bags of books, some of which sounded only mildly interesting.  For years I have used my Nook Glow for most of my reading as I can check out books online from the library and don’t have to remember to return them to avoid hefty fines. I can also carry many books with me on one small device, which is great for traveling. My first book purge was pretty simple.  If I hadn’t read or thought about reading a book in the last five years it would go.  It became a little more difficult when I started perusing my shelves full of beautiful gardening books.  I kept my dog-eared favorites of course, including my first gardening book which is honest about which plants are aggressive or health hazards to dogs or people.  Several of my books were printed in England and had information on plants that are difficult to find here. Although beautifully illustrated, these books were big and bulky and out the door.  I use the Kemper Plant Finder site to research my plants now so I haven’t opened these books in years.  My children’s books, left over from my teaching days, were mostly in rubber containers and they got carried out and buried in the garage some place.  Those I may use some day if I ever decided to tutor or if I have grandchildren. (I know purging means parting with things you might use “some day”… but children’s books don’t count.) I purged more than 50% of my adult books.

My husband’s biggest collection was old paint.  It’s not easy to dispose of used paint and so it has accumulated.  He has spent months drying out paint in every way he can so that it can be discarded.  It’s a process!

Meanwhile, the actual basement has been partially taken apart and is still in the process of being rebuilt.  The mitigation company sent a team a few days after the event. Drywall was cut and fans and dehumidifiers ran for days.  We decided to have drain tile and a sump pump installed, which involved research, bids, a wait time, and six days of construction.  The remodeling company has rebuilt the drywall.  We are currently making decisions about carpeting and looking for sturdy shelving as the wooden storage shelves were torn out when the drain tile was laid.  It’s been a process that has been all consuming and keeps us tied to the house.

I saw the quote below one day and immediately thought about all of the old energy being removed from our house.  I am patiently waiting to see what new energy will now enter.

energy quote


The Basement

December 2015 marked the end of our 29th year in this house.  When we first moved into our home, we had some cracks in the foundation in the laundry and storage area that leaked a bit during heavy rains.  A professional company used epoxy injection to alleviate that problem and we lived with a dry basement after that.  Years later, when we decided to have our basement refinished, the repaired area was not even part of the living area so we had no concerns.

Our basement has gone through an evolutionary process over the years. Our children, three in number at the time our basement was remodeled, used the space to entertain friends.  Our son’s bedroom was also down there. Because our stairs enter the basement at an inconvenient place, the living spaces are separated.  Through the years, various sections of the basement have included a foosball table, a television viewing area, a dart board, two desktop computer stations, a treadmill, a weight machine, a fairly extensive library of books and several old tables used for a variety of activities.  The storage area near the laundry space held whatever we needed to store. The closet under the stairs was home to off season clothes, luggage, and Christmas decorations.

The college years arrived.  Each year of their college career our children brought home their belongings “for the summer.”  After the freshman dorm experience, they each moved to new apartments every year.  Many of the belongings that came home in the spring did not go back with them in the fall.

Our son and daughters graduated and left us with a “not so empty” nest. After college my oldest, our only son, moved into an apartment with a friend.  His collection of Legos, Playmobile sets, photography magazines, Pinewood Derby cars, model cars, rocket sets, shop class projects and foosball table stayed behind.  Eventually the foosball table found its way to his flat, but the other sadly abandoned items seemed to multiply.  My second child left college and moved to another city.  She bought new things for her apartment, took some of her belongings from her younger years, and left others behind, including a fragile 4 cubic foot dollhouse that my husband had constructed from a kit. After several years away she decided to move back home and work on her Master’s Degree, asking to stay with us for six months.  At this point she brought with her an extensive collection of furniture, home décor items, kitchen appliances, and clothing.  When she moved out two and a half years later, she left behind things that somehow would not fit into her new apartment because her roommate had duplicates.  These items, too, seemed to produce progeny.  Then my youngest moved to another city.  She left behind drawers full of scrapbooking materials, a guitar, a keyboard, juggling equipment, and prom dresses.  Of course all three of them left behind shelves full of textbooks that they knew they would use again!

By 2013 all of the children were gone from the nest, but it was far from empty.  The foosball area gave way to stacks of plastic containers and the bedroom became a walk-in closet. The wardrobes that were meant to hold desktop computers now were used for storage as my husband and I had graduated to laptops.  The basement that had been crowded but seemed to provide sufficient storage when the children were home was now packed with bits and pieces of the lives of five people because, of course, my husband and I had also accumulated new things. My children occasionally took things that they realized they wanted, but that didn’t seem to make a difference. I think they were secretly adding other things to the collection.

So….December 2015 marked the end of our 29th year in our house.  Then the rains came. This is what the National Weather Service reports about our St. Louis precipitation for that month.

The following weather records were broken during this event:

                St. Louis

  • Wettest Year on Record   61.24”   (Old Record 57.96” in 2008)
  • Wettest December on Record 11.74” (Old Record 7.82” in 1982
  • December 26th Record Rainfall of 4.87”
  • December 26th Rainfall of 4.87” set Daily Rainfall Record for December
  • December 26th Rainfall was 3rd Wettest Day Ever Recorded in St. Louis History
  • December 28th Record Rainfall of 2.59”


The week after Christmas my husband went to the basement one morning and found puddles about an inch deep at the bottom of the basement steps.




Where Did the Second Year Go?


     Over the last week I have thought about all the end of the year school activities that have been occurring. The school at which I taught is at the end of my subdivision and I pass it many times during the week.  My first year of retirement I sometimes felt like a stalker, looking each day to see whose cars were in the parking lot or which teachers were on the playground.   I noticed when the Maypoles were in place and what was written on the sign by the street. I even felt a bit of nostalgia on nights when cars crowded the parking lot as parents attended conferences.  I know from talking to neighbor children that all of the normal end of year activities have been taking place and I have thought about the feeling of exhaustion that all of the staff have been experiencing.  But this week, like the rest of this past school year, I barely glanced at the building except on those few days when I volunteered.

     Still, the teacher in me surfaces as students and staff begin summer vacation.  While some people reflect and project on January 1, I find the distraction and excitement of the holiday season to hinder serious reflection.  After the holidays, one goes back to normal routines.  The rhythms of life don’t really change. Conversely, the last day of school affords a distinct interruption of the norm. As a teacher I always attended numerous summer workshops, but these experiences were very different from being in a classroom.  The teachers sitting by my side were not the same.  I was absorbing information with the gift of time…time to soak in the learning, time to digest it, time to reflect on the most effective way to use this new learning with my students not that day, but weeks in the future.  When the school year began again my students were different and some of the staff had also changed.  I found the distinct variation of the summer months the perfect time for reflection and transformation. 

     This year has brought its own ebb and flow.  My husband retired. My basement flooded. I followed one of my dreams. I found a new volunteer opportunity. My daughter got married. I sadly discontinued some things while I started others.  Today I ask myself, “Where do I go from here?”  ……and so…..I’m back!