I was expecting jubilation and fanfare and merriment.
Instead I got, "It went up."
Indeed, the floor went up. It went up 6 inches plus some.
We have level floors!!!
Do you understand we don't have a 6 inch slope in the living room anymore and the only thing that cracked was a small bit of the plaster in the two downstairs bedrooms! Do you know how many discussions we have had with people in the last 2 years about whether to do this or not? Do you know that we significantly changed the scope of this phase of construction? Did you know that up until 2 weeks ago we weren't planning on leveling the floors? Did you know that last week 3 guys spent all their work hours separating our house into 3 different sections so only the section that was sloping would move today? Do you you know we weren't sure if this would work? This is huge news.
But for the 6 men who patiently and knowingly raised it this morning, it was just another day at the office.
The space under the house looks like some medieval catacomb or abandoned mine. These structures are massive. Sort of like a giant's game of Jenga.
And it is these structures which are now holding our raised floor in place and will continue to do so until the new walls are sound. The house will then slowly and gently be let down again.
Outside, the very dainty posts and jacks in comparison did all the work.
Am starting to think the orange cones and temporary power pole could actually be the latest trend in home design. Call it something like industrial chic.
Joking aside, we need to address the curb appeal of this house. It has none. No, it's worse than none - it has negative curb appeal if that is even possible. The plywood arches, the 2-tone brown, the glassed in porch, the 20 feet tall columns that are holding up the stairs. It's all so bad and it's so bad that it is blinding us to the potential.
One day I can see it and then the next day I can't. It's the transitions to the back yard and to the main entrance that seem to weigh the most heavily - so of course we should design to meet those needs. But working with what you have can often be so much harder than starting from scratch, so instead of paying our architect to come up with new iterations that we may or may not like, we took to paper and pencil. Well, my husband took to paper and pencil.
And the boys played.
And I took it all in, trying to digest it all.
This is how we designed everything in Phase 1 - I should just trust this will unfold the same way.
It is surreal to be walking through our house in it's current state. In a matter of 4 days, it has been stripped of drywall, tile, brick, carpet, wood paneling, outdated electrical, paint and one mummified rat.
Other than the 40 year old rodent, some panty hose and a few domino pieces, the excavation of our house has not yielded any hidden cash or other treasure. But it also hasn't yielded any really really horrible issues - which I will take as a hidden treasure over a pot of gold any day. But demo isn't done and the few minutely horrible issues that we did find haven't been completely unearthed yet, so I might need to retract my current positive attitude next week once we meet with the architect and structural engineer. We expected this.
For now, what stands is the skeleton of potential that we somehow have believed in since the Sunday afternoon in September 2011 when I first walked into the Open House. Our ideas are moving from the page and our heads into 3D and I can say that I am almost giddy. And I don't get giddy. As K would say "It's for real life, mom." Oh yes it is.
The effect of removing 24+ yards of debris (measured in the 7 cubic yard space of the debris trailer) is immediately palpable. As my friend Heather said as she walked through, "The heaviness is gone." And that is exactly how it feels.
There is more heavy tile to sledge out and concrete to jack hammer and debris to carry down our endless stairs but the end of this phase is near.
That is NOT the subject line you ever want to get in your inbox. Especially not when you are standing inside City Hall, waiting to talk to the person about picking up your permit.
Basically I couldn't contain the frustration any longer and when it was my turn to approach the counter, the tears they were a flowing.
And you know what the dear building inspector said to me "We've all been crying at some point in the last few weeks." Again, not exactly what you want to hear.
Our plans were approved on Friday September 5th. Yes, approved! But my verbal confirmation came with the fine print: it takes about 4 days for issuance and the department would be closed for a training the following week for 4 days, then it was an alternate Friday so they would be closed again but I was told we would have our permit on Monday, September 15th.
That week delay was actually a breath of fresh air: We moved out. We emptied the house. We emptied the fridge. We drew on the walls. We set up life in San Francisco.
Two days ago, on Monday, as I stood amongst 15 others who were "checking in" on their projects, I suspected things were not as they should be. But I was still smiling, still patient, still understanding. I was told our plans were on a desk, with 2 others, awaiting a signature. Wednesday afternoon would be the earliest it COULD be available.
So today, on Wednesday, in the afternoon, I returned. And as I was waiting, I just happened to check my email.
Today's setback was an IT problem - one that has slowed the issuance process to a snail's pace. And when I say issuance process I mean the process of generating a yellow piece of paper that says I am allowed to start working on our house in the manner that was approved. No compensation, no appeasement, no "here's what you get instead", just a whole lot of "wish we could do more."
There is nothing we can do. I could play hardball but I don't even know what playing hardball would like in this situation. It is apparent that there is something seriously out of alignment within the city's Building and Planning Department and the atrociously long bureaucratic permitting process is just the tip of the iceberg. There are whisperings of hirings and firings, new rules, new routines. And yes, tears. And yes, waiting.
We are no longer waiting for outside plan checkers to peruse our plans. We are no longer waiting for comments to be emailed to us. We are no longer waiting to answer questions. We are no longer waiting to hire a contractor. We are no longer waiting to move out. We are just waiting for a piece of paper.
And today I was told it could be a week, probably less, hopefully not more.
We are one step closer to getting this show on the road. Sort of.
I just got finished with my first official "pre-con meeting" which usually happens once you have your permit but we are doing things a little backwards. What is a "pre-con meeting" you ask?
Well, it is 15-20 minute meeting, at your house with the architect, the builder, a person from the Planning Dept, a person from the Building Dept, a person from the Fire Dept, a person from the Police Dept and a person from the Public Works Dept.
Of the 8 who were required to be here, 5 showed.
Ann talked about the scope.
John was told how to manage a construction site, as if he didn't know.
We all learned that pissing off your neighbors is a REALLY bad thing to do (there are 15 projects in our little town that have red flags because neighbors complained about something) and that waiting until the last minute to get a change approved is not a good idea. So submit changes early.
The Police and Fire and Public Works representatives didn't show so the Planner gave the "highlights" of what they would have told us:
Don't block the street - leave 11 ft clearance at all times.
Don't work outside of the allotted construction hours.
Don't rinse paint brushes at the curb because all water runs to our creeks.
Don't piss of your neighbors.
I do get why this is useful and maybe even necessary, it just doesn't seem like the best use of everyone's time. But none the less, it is a rule of the game and we started this game, so we are playing along. Can we please just get started now?
It's 3am and a little boy was having trouble sleeping an hour ago which means that I am now wide awake.
And right at this very moment, I am utterly grateful for my iphone in the dark, Facebook, my friend Lesley and the author who wrote...
"A house is a home when it shelters the body and comforts the soul. But a home isn’t always a physical structure, or a specific location on a map. Home is wherever the people you love are, whenever you’re with them. It’s not a defined place, but a space in your heart and mind that builds upon itself like little bricks being stacked to create something stable that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go."
Boom. There it is. A big fat reality check. My pity party is over.
The old couch is gone, the bathrooms are bare, all the closets have been cleaned out and all that is left is to pack up our clothes and empty the pantry in the kitchen. And that will happen as soon as we have a pretty little piece of paper from the city called a permit.
This living in limbo is hard for me. It feels disruptive but stagnant. And messy and disorganized. And that is a place I am not very comfortable being in. I get that. I like order. I like being tidy. I like to know where things are.
And I know that our mess is self-created and self-chosen which makes me very aware that my complaining about is extremely indulgent. And it makes me feel bad that I feel bad because in the world of problems to have, this one is basically ridiculous. But it's what we are dealing with and it has unsettled me.
All I can do is to simply be ok with what is. And to embrace the mess. And to see the joy of having Central Station in the dining room.