a tale of two weekends

Weekend #1 – Mine

I made plans several weeks ago to spend this weekend visiting my grandmother in Hammond, Indiana. Although she is 96 years old, she still lives in her home of 60+ years on her own, with helpers coming to spend time with her each day and to help her remember to take her medications, provide meals, and so on. I have visited her each summer for the past 4 or 5 years, and it’s become a nice little tradition that we both enjoy.

Now, weekends with 96-year-olds are not all that exciting, so I like to add in something fun each time I go. It seems I know a zillion people in the Chicago area, so I try to catch up with friends on each trip. Accordingly, my first activity upon arrival in Chicago on Friday was lunch with Sue and Christine and their adorable boys, Cohen and Joel. I had so much fun hanging out with these four. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at a playground, where the boys were content and so were the moms and me. It was a real treat to get to meet in person two of the amazing women I’ve met through the blogosphere. Thanks for spending some of your Friday with me, ladies (and gentlemen)!

The rest of the weekend was pretty low-key, and consisted of watching TV, knitting, reading, and playing on my laptop. Thankfully my dad and uncle have set up wireless internet at Grandma’s house! She and I had some nice conversations, usually with me yelling as loud as I could so she could hear me, but she also napped a lot, leaving some quiet time for me to enjoy.

I was supposed to come home Sunday afternoon but due to the hurricane moving up along the east coast, I decided on Saturday to delay my return to Monday. I figured it was better to use a vacation day and spend an extra evening at Grandma’s than to spend hours on end at the airport on Sunday trying to get home.

Weekend #2 – Craig’s

Craig had a very different weekend, thanks to Hurricane Irene. We were really not sure what to expect in Baltimore, since we are not directly on the Atlantic Coast, but we are right off the Chesapeake Bay. The forecasters said to expect serious winds and heavy rains, which is what we got, starting Saturday afternoon and lasting until Sunday morning. Craig said the storm was pretty intense with some fairly scary wind and several inches of rain. And I guess he was telling the truth, because this happened in our back yard:

That’s our tree (a tulip poplar that I first estimated was at least 60′ tall but will now guess is more like 80′ or 90′ tall, given the fact that our lots are 50′ wide and it stretches easily across almost two of them) lying across our neighbors’ yard. We are so lucky that the tree fell the way it did, parallel to the back of our neighbors’ house, and not onto their house or ours. The tree took up a big chunk of earth (the top of the earth/roots there is about 8 feet high off the ground, to give you perspective – check out the basketball hoop behind it, too), and with it our shed and several shrubs. Clearly the fence was taken down. It also crushed the fence on the other side of the neighbors’ yard, and it looks like it pulled some gutters and shingles off of the house two doors over. Our next door neighbors often have a car in their back yard (which is really annoying to us), but thankfully, they didn’t on this occasion. The power lines to both of those houses went down, too. All in all, the damage was minimal, and we are thankful for that. We are waiting on an adjuster from our homeowners insurance to come out and tell us what is/is not covered. We will obviously have to remove the tree, replace the fence(s), and replace the shed (and whatever contents – lawn mower, etc. – were damaged). I am really sad to lose the tree, which was beautiful and provided a great deal of shade to our house. It was slowly dying, though, and I imagine its roots were not strong enough to keep it in place when the ground was beyond saturated and the winds were so strong. We will really miss that tree.

I am wondering if there's any way to save the shrubs and grasses - can you see them?

Looking back toward our house (what's left of the shed in front).

So, the tree fell around 11pm on Saturday night, a couple of hours before the worst part of the storm came through. The power went out around midnight. It stayed out for about 20 hours, which was about 8 hours longer than the battery-run back-up sump pump in the basement could run. Thankfully we had that, and it worked through the end of the rain storm. But, the ground is so wet, and we apparently live on top of an underground stream (I used to think the neighbors were making this up, but given the fact that our sump pump runs all the time, even during dry times, I tend to believe it), we ended up with a soaked basement.

Craig said he had a pretty sleepless night, worrying about water in the basement and a bit freaked out by the storm. I don’t blame him; I would have been freaked out, too, and I certainly would not have liked being by myself. On Sunday morning he spent some time talking with the neighbors, who were thankfully quite understanding. They’ve always been nice people, but you never know when the worst in people could come out.

By the time I got home today, the power was back on and the sump pump had drained the standing water. The carpet and padding were goners, though, so Craig and I ripped that out. Okay, Craig ripped it out and I did helpful things like hand him the exacto knife. I offered to get him work gloves and then I realized that they are in the decimated shed, which is totally inaccessible at this point. Whoops! We’ve already replaced the carpet in the basement once, and since our basement likes to get wet, we are not going to put carpet in again. We will have a tile floor installed and I’ll find a big area rug to make the room feel more usable, but that will have to do. In the end, we think the drywall did not get wet so we will not have to pull that out (which we have already done once in this basement).  Craig is also looking into a water pressure operated sump pump system that wouldn’t need any power to operate. I swear, this basement is the bane of his existence. Remind us to never buy a house with a finished basement again. Seriously.

So, Craig did not quite have the quiet and relaxing weekend that I had. I felt so bad that he was left alone to deal with all of this. But he handled it well and even got a claim in to the insurance company before I got home. One of the neighbors already got in line to get a quote for the tree removal, and I will call a couple of places tomorrow to get estimates for replacing the fence. With our dogs, we can’t go without it for too long, so we would like to get someone lined up to act as soon as the tree is removed. We have long dreamed of replacing the chain link with wood, but we’ll have to see how the estimates come in and how much the insurance will pay out before we can decide whether to upgrade. We’ll see what the insurance will cover and deal with the necessities first, and then we may have to take our time on the basement floor over the fall and winter. This is really not a good time for us to be taking on home improvement expenses, but then again, when is a good time for that?

All in all, Irene was definitely a big storm, but we feel lucky that the damage we suffered was limited to this. It could have been much, much worse. We see the flooding that’s occurring north of here, and we hear about the 20+ 40+ people who have died as a result of this storm, and that certainly puts things in perspective.

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11 Responses to a tale of two weekends

  1. Sarah says:

    Wow! The pictures of the tree are amazing! I am SO glad the damage was “minimal” and no one was hurt- although I’m sorry about all the work you have to do now. Yuck. Hats off to Craig for literally holding the fort down while you were out. Hang in there beagles, you’ll get your yard back, eventually…

  2. Christine says:

    Wow. Just wow. I almost feel like this post deserves two comments…

    I love that you had a good time with your grandma… I’m so happy about that! AND I love that you got to meet the fabulous Sue and CK… you know they are near and dear to me too… like you! 🙂

    Now, poor, poor Craig. I wish we lived closer so we could have fought Irene together. Or, at the very least, so I would have had someone to freak out with. 😉 I’m so sad about your tree…. and all the damage that it caused. But SO happy it’s all easily replaceable in the grand scheme of things.

    And yes, I think the plants can be saved. Especially if they are perennials with some roots still in tact. I “steal” plants like that from my mom all the time… and I just plant them with some of that white transplant powder. (My label is completely faded and you know what my memory is like)

  3. Alan says:

    Sorry to hear about the house woes, Kelly! We were thinking about you guys and all of our other friends and relatives further north and east.

    Glad nobody was hurt. Also agree with the decision to put down tile. One of the best things we’ve ever done.

    Hang in there…

  4. kwatkinsinfl says:

    Wow. You are so lucky that tree didn’t fall on your house. We have 80+ trees in our 3/4 acre backyard, so this is always our biggest fear during hurricane season. So far, we’ve only lost big limbs and branches, but I always assume it’s just a matter of time. Glad all is well. Relatively.

  5. Holli says:

    Oh, Geesh! I’m so glad you are both safe and sound and that the tree took the liberty of falling the “right” direction.

  6. sue says:

    holy cow. that is a big tree! so thankful it didn’t hit any homes. and your poor basement ): . so sorry you had to deal with ripping the carpet out again. ugh. although i cracked up about your description of the ripping out process! at least you were honest! hee! i think that starting a new project will bring on a referral. i’m thinking about painting my kitchen in hopes of a travel call (; . wouldn’t that be nice if it actually worked! i think i would repaint our whole house!

  7. Christine K says:

    I can’t believe that huge tree fell! I’m so glad it didn’t damage your house. Sorry about the flooding in your basement, too. How frustrating! Tile sounds like a good option.

    We loved being able to meet you for lunch! I’m so glad I could talk with you in person–we’ll definitely have to do it again!

  8. Kelly says:

    I love how you juxtaposed the two weekends like this. I could almost hear the crickets and rocking chair creaking softly in your scene, while the winds were wipping around Craig and the beagles were howling. And … obviously the tree was falling. Holy cow that tree was big. You and your neighbors are very, very lucky it fell in that direction. Thank goodness. Now about your basement … ugh, I feel like you poor guys are constantly pumping water out of it! I actually use you as an example whenever Jon brings up “finishing our basement.” I hope you don’t mind …

  9. Angela says:

    That tree was huge!!!! I’m glad everyone was safe despite it was uprooted. I remember you guys recently had work done in your basement and hoped you were spared this time. Sorry!

  10. Wow! That is a big tree in a bad spot. I’m glad that you are both safe and, since this comment is a bit after the fact, I’m hoping that the clean-up and subsequent renos have been going well. As well, I can’t quite imagine how scary that night was for Craig. Just a couple of days ago, we had a crazy loud thunderstorm, and some of those cracks of thunder made me jump. We didn’t even have crazy winds.

  11. What a storm! I can’t imagine how I would have handled it if I was home all by myself. It must have been crazy for Craig when that tree fell down! I can’t believe how huge it is. What a miracle that it didn’t do any bigger damage to a home or vehicle. I hope that it doesn’t take too long or too much money to clean up everything, including your basement.

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