The Summer of 2022 Taught Us Many Things…
I began writing this in September 2022, after the majority of these things had passed, but it was just too much for me to handle emotionally to finish writing this post. So, seven months later, I’m here to tell a story, which happened over the course of only SIX WEEKS. I’m still trying to keep learning the lessons I see in front of me. Old habits die hard, but life has a way of stretching us to the point of discomfort in order to teach us how to grow. It is up to us to take our life experiences and make the very most of each opportunity. I hope this post can share some useful nuggets of wisdom for all my readers.
In mid-August, our whole family got hit with covid. We had evaded it for years until someone at a youth group activity was a carrier from their infected family and coughed in my daughter’s face. It really is that contagious. Every day, another family member fell ill. Six of seven of our household caught it. (My husband and I were both fully vaccinated for our professions.) We missed an entire week of work. Even one of our cats caught it. Everything you hear about the difficulties of that illness is true. I hope we do not have to endure that again.
Right as the last stragglers were regaining our health, a home disaster struck.
At 5am on a Thursday, I woke to a giant belching sound simultaneously coming from both of the bathrooms, followed by noxious fumes flooding our 2000 sqft house.
Both toilets and both showers in my home spontaneously began backing up. Each had a violent reflux of fecal water and 50 years worth of sludge coming up from the drains. No amount of plunging saved us. It took 2 more days for my landlord to get a plumber over. The drains would partially slow-drain, but the stench and the sediment of nightmares lingered. The toilets lost their water pressure, but at least they flushed, sort of. It was a 50/50 chance whether their contents would come up the shower drains.
Everything my family of 7 did on a daily basis, from dish water or laundry water, to restroom contents, etc. now flooded my laundry room. It was the lowest point of the house, so the water had to go somewhere. I could hear it from the bathroom and kitchen sinks. I constantly prayed that it would not flow upwards. That would be my worst nightmare. (As if it weren’t already.)
When the plumber came in, he spent 3 hours with a very long plumbing snake and found nothing. Just nothing. Can you imagine the sound we had to deal with for three hours with an industrial wire roaring and banging in the pipes? It was a rough, deafening day. I don’t believe all that time was necessary, but he was on weekend on-call pay rates.
The plumber said the house didn’t have an emergency port access. (We found them a month later.) He said they would would come back 3 days later to dig a trench in my back yard. They would locate the blockage, remove it, and install an exterior relief system for the system, should there be any need for it in the future. We would not be allowed to send anything through the pipes until then.
Dishwashing? No. Showers? Nope. Laundry? Impossible. No flushing. No hand washing. No. Nope. NO. Nothing. FOR THREE MORE DAYS?! HOW IN THE HECK WERE WE SUPPOSED TO DO THAT?
I learned a few things about my landlord that weekend (and some I knew already but didn’t ever think mattered until that moment.) What it all boiled down to was that this house is a hobby investment for him. He and his brother cut a ton of corners when they chose to fix it up. Fine by me, this is temporary. But what I didn’t know (I had no need until this very moment) was that the income he gains from my monthly rent payments was being spent. It was not even partially allocated into a maintenance expense account to prepare for emergencies. Therefore, he was unprepared. None of this was our fault, but now it was definitely our problem. It turned out to be a bunch of tree roots and what looked like baby wipes (we don’t use OR flush baby wipes), which caused the blockage. It was gross.
In short, we were partially displaced from this disaster for six days total. We had no emergency savings at the time, because it had been spent during the two weeks prior while my entire family endured covid for the first time, and missed so much work. The landlord knocked $100 off our monthly rent, because he did not see this fully displacing us. He didn’t even cover emergency cleaning services- my husband and I did it ourselves for about $250 in extra cleaning supplies plus extensive labor.
Our washer and dryer were RUINED after sitting a full week in sewage. We lost so, so much, equivalent of many thousands.
Whilst in the midst of the plumbing repair, life got even more difficult. Our, then, 3 month old Malinois puppy caught Canine Parvovirus, even though she had not associated with any animals or gone anywhere except our back yard in the many weeks that she had been part of our family.
We had been intentionally keeping her quarantined from society while she was adjusting to her new family, so that was a shock. The vet said there was a city-wide outbreak, so it is possible a wild animal could have made droppings in our backyard and infected our little puppy girl. The only other possibility was a bulk-bin chew bone, which we had purchased from a business we do not normally shop. I think the vet’s theory is more plausible.
Thanks to the great vet staff making room for Lottie almost immediately, she was treated as soon as possible. After a whole week of critical care, our little puppy love overcame the devastating virus. She came home grotesquely emaciated due to the horrific ordeal. I have absolutely no doubt that she would have died without such intensive medical intervention. I got her up to a healthy weight quickly with some good ole stick-to-your-ribs homemade dog chow. She is back to her cute, energetic self, but we will forever worry about her gut health now. You can read about that journey here and here.
Due to my anemia and some additional problematic health concerns, I had to have a total hysterectomy and unilateral oophorectomy. During pre-admission labs, the hospital hosting my medical procedure said I was fine with my recent covid illness. Three weeks had already passed, and I no longer had any symptoms and was feeling great. However, the office staff at my doctor’s office made a giant fuss when they saw that apparently I am one of those lucky ones who carries the markers in my blood for weeks following the illness. The office assistant literally called me “one of those freaks.” (Super classy.) They tried to move my surgery date, but my awesome doctor cleared me and allowed everything to continue right on schedule, for which I was extremely grateful.
Lastly, two days shy of the 6 weeks mark since our family SHTF ordeal began, right before sunrise, my sweetheart was heading to work in one of the nearby towns. Out of nowhere, his car collided with and was completely totaled by a large buck. I feel awful about the beautiful buck, but it died immediately, which gives me comfort to know he didn’t suffer. The airbags deployed, keeping my husband safe, but the whole front end of his vehicle was blown to pieces.
I can not tell you how many hours I have since whiled away, evaluating the many scenarios where one minor factor could have been different, and my husband’s life would have been lost. I can tell you confidently that miracles are real.
What Have We Learned?
So here is a sprinkling of things that my husband and I noticed and learned. Always consult a professional advisor when making important life decisions. I am not a professional, so these are the things I would say to my younger self.
- INSURANCE: Even if you rent, pay for insurance to protect your life from calamity. It is a necessity. Just 2 weeks prior to our ordeal, I had been griping to my husband that I wondered if we even needed the coverage. We did! You never know if you will, and you don’t want to be caught unprepared. While you’re at it, if you can afford it, opt for the extra coverages on your homeowners or renters insurance. It covered some of the things that would have been a pain to replace, which aren’t always covered.
- GAP INSURANCE: Do the same for your vehicle coverage. We had gap insurance, and we would have been in trouble if we didn’t have it. It’s worth it. A word to the wise, however… You need to stay up to date with your vehicle payments. I know that with covid shutdowns in years past, many people struggled to pay bills and deferred some payments to the end of their loans. Did you know that gap coverage only covers the original time frame of the loan? I didn’t know this until they chose to reimburse us for only the value of the number of months agreed upon initially in vehicle loan, as opposed to the balance owed on our loan which included deferred months tacked onto the end. This caused issues and delayed the closing of our insurance claim by two weeks. (Another helpful tidbit is that when you pay off a vehicle loan early, you may be eligible for a reimbursement of a portion of your gap insurance premiums. Pay attention to your gap insurance provider, because you’ll have to request in writing for this reimbursement. They will not necessarily volunteer that information to you.)
- BUNDLING: You can bundle your insurance. It’s not only nice, but it provides additional discounts. I believe at this current moment, we are saving about $25/month because we have it and a few other things bundled.
- PET INSURANCE or PET HSA’s: if you are a committed pet owner, this is for you. Pet insurance or a Health Savings Account for your pets would not go amiss. Paying such a large vet bill out-of-pocket stung. Come up with a plan to cover their annual expenses so it doesn’t overwhelm you. We live in a small town in OK, and vet expenses are more than double what they were when we lived in Vegas.
- MISCELLANEOUS EXPENSES: There are a surprising number of “nickel and dime” situations where you’ll have a sudden expense, like getting documents notarized 4 different times for one claim, or buying massive amounts of tissues, cold and flu and cough medicines according to age/weight needs, or stocking up on a month supply of soups, crackers, electrolyte drinks, and disposable dishes and utensils because the entire household is too sick to function.
- SUPPORT SYSTEM: Related to the miscellaneous expenses, it reminded me that my sister surprise Zelled me a “get well soon” favor right at the beginning of our family illness, because she had a hunch that she KNEW she had to follow. I had no idea what we were in for, but learned pretty fast, and it meant the world to me that someone was looking out for us even from afar. Having a support system is vital for survival in life regardless of what is going on. Find your tribe. It doesn’t matter how many people, whether they are related by blood or not, whether you have known them for life, or for a few weeks. Find those “ride or die” comrades in your life and protect those relationships. Regardless of distance, they’ll be there for you even when you don’t see your own struggles trying to consume you. This is about more than just $$$. It is about EVERYTHING.
- RECORD KEEPING: Keep receipts and records for at least 5 years, including serial numbers, for everything that you would need to ever replace in a hurry. This includes appliances, household linens, family wardrobes, perishable foods, and even homeschooling records and books. Your insurance company does pay attention to whether you document the things that matter. It doesn’t take too much effort to figure out a simple system to keep these things organized.
- TIME is MONEY and MONEY is TIME: “Just because you can does not mean you should…” On the morning that my husband’s vehicle was totaled, we wasted an hour attempting and failing to tow it home. Yes, it would have been faster than the complimentary towing service, but ultimately, it delayed the end result, because we could have dispatched them sooner if we weren’t being dumb. It was an important reminder that our time is much more valuable than we have been treating it. Additionally, take advantage of the services you are already paying for! Maybe we were too stressed and thought we didn’t have it until we asked. It’s blurry now.
- MAINTAIN YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH: Do whatever it takes to stay flexible. Keeping your body active and flexible will prevent injuries throughout your life. Even very basic yoga will keep your body toned and flexible to prevent life altering injuries. While you are at it, get yourself a trustworthy massage therapist and chiropractor, too. Make them your health’s best friends.
- MAINTAIN YOUR MENTAL HEALTH: Take naps whenever possible. It’s totally worth it. Look up the scientific benefits of learning how to power nap. They’re different than normal naps, and they are amazing. Splurge on a treat every once in a while. Go ahead and treat yourself in those moments that you know you’ll need nourishment but might be too busy to manage everything.
- SAVINGS: Always build your savings. Follow the budgeting formulas financial professionals recommend. It helps turn potentially major problems into major nuisances instead. Pay into your savings every chance you get.
- AGE WELL MENTALITY: The older you get, the faster life tries to happen. While you want it to slow down, it will continually speed up faster. When you have a large number of people you look after, life will stay busy and keep you on your toes. For me, age 40 is when life got crazy!! The younger your mindset, through positivity, gratitude, abundance, manifesting, etc, the healthier and younger you can feel and look.
- PRAYER and MEDITATION: Find your spirituality and nourish it. For me, prayer is spiritual sustenance and keeps me going from one moment to the next. If you prefer meditation, that is such a beneficial exercise, too! Fill the voids of your life with powerful exercises that will boost your mental well-being, and you’ll be surprised how well you stay afloat
There are probably a hundred other things we ought to be doing to prevent disasters in everyday life. Hopefully, these nuggets of experience will prove beneficial to someone the way they have been for my family. We are indescribably grateful that we were able to get through those tough weeks and the after effects of picking up all the pieces.
Stay safe, my friends, and be well.
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