“The Whole Kit and Caboodle” is the continuing story of the loss of our home in the San Diego Witch Fire 2007. To read earlier chapters in this series, please click on the links below:
Prologue – Any Way the Wind Blows
Chapter One – The Valley That Time Forgot
Chapter Two – Eye of the Storm
Chapter Three – In the Blink of an Eye
Chapter Three.One – Too Far From Home (Tiffany’s story)
Chapter Four – Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Chapter Five – In a Blue Funk
Chapter Six – Back to Square One
Chapter Seven – One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Chapter Eight – Not Me, Why Me, Who Me, It’s Me
It’s now Tuesday, October 30th. It was another bad night for Coco. Though he didn’t bite me in the face like he did the night before, he cried off-and-on all night long; a pitiful, mournful cry so loud we thought for sure that he would wake the household. Nothing we could do would comfort him. Finally, I got up at 5:30 a.m and started answering emails. I turned on a small light on the desk and Coco quieted down and fell asleep. I don’t know what has brought about this period of calm. Does he need a light on? It’s just so weird, disturbing and heartbreaking.
Since I am up, I send my sister-in-law an email that we are moving out on Friday. While this seems like an insensitive way to “give notice,” our schedules have not aligned and I haven’t actually seen her for several days, even though we are guests in her home. She and her husband are early risers and leave for work before we are even out of bed in the morning. Also, for the last couple of days, I have arrived home after they have retired to bed.
In my email, I tell her that while we can’t thank them enough for opening their hearts and home to us with open arms, with no pressure and no time constraints, we have to take this opportunity of moving into our own space in order to attempt to normalize Coco’s behavior. As a childless couple, Coco is our world and the thought of losing him, too, would be the final straw in the surreal existence that has become our lives. Although we have felt nothing but a cocoon of love surrounding us, we have to put Coco’s needs first and try to provide him with the security he needs.
I’m starting to feel sick. I’m coughing considerably and feel like I have the flu. These symptoms will continue for three weeks and I’m sure many other people around our county had the same problem with the prolonged smoke wafting in the air.
I go to work and muddle through the morning trying to engross myself in my projects so that I don’t worry about the overwhelming tasks ahead of us. I leave at noon and head back to our in-laws house. Charlie and I load Coco in his carrying case and then into Charlie’s SUV (we never leave him alone without one of us throughout this whole ordeal).
We head over to our property and meet the catastrophic adjuster assigned to us by our homeowner’s insurance company, who arrived from Texas the day before. He’s kind and thorough, taking pictures of the devastation and then spends about two hours with us going over every detail regarding the structure of our house, recording his questions and our answers.
He asks me it I know how to use Excel. I answer yes. He tells me that I need to start working on our home inventory now, while my memory is still fresh and that I need to put this inventory on an Excel worksheet, with columns describing the item, where located in our house, the date purchased, the purchase price and the replacement cost. I ask him “How detailed does this list have to be?” His answer, “You need to include everything, down to the last toothpick. If you don’t list it, you don’t get paid for it.”
Then I ask him, “How am I supposed to remember every little detail in our house?” He leads me to what used to be our front door and says, “This was your front door, right?” I shake my head “yes” in response. “Well, pretend you are opening this door. What do you see in front of you? What do you see to your left? What do you see to your right? Are there cabinets, drawers, cupboards, closets, dressers? Open these drawers, cabinets and closets and visualize what’s inside. Describe every item. Use this visualization method and go room by room.”
He encourages me to start this project right away because the insurance company will need this list, the whole kit and caboodle, before they will settle this portion of our claim. Then, we drive around the property with him so that he can see our well, our well house, electrical panels, etc., which are all located considerable distance from our destroyed home.
As we are finishing up with the Texas adjuster, the other adjuster from New Jersey arrives. He’s from the insurance company that insured our artwork under a personal articles floater policy. Introductions are made all around and our homeowner’s adjuster leaves, vowing to stay in touch. He tells us he is available 24/7 via his cell phone and we are welcome to call him anytime with any questions as we navigate through the claims process.
Then, a reporter shows up and asks if he can interview us. He’s doing a story on the “white dog.” The “white dog” was a large, very friendly, homeless dog that roamed our valley looking for handouts and affection. His master, a farm worker, had died a few years earlier and that’s when he started wandering. Several people in our valley tried to adopt him over the years, but he just liked wandering around.
Everyone had a different name for him; we called him Ozzie. Don’t know why – just seem to suit him. Charlie is taken aback by this interview question and is rude to the reporter. He’s upset because we are trying to work with two adjusters and are interrupted by this reporter during this critical meeting. The reporter leaves, no story in hand, but understanding. Later, a friend sends us a link to the on-line story written by this reporter and we learn that Ozzie survived the fire, but was then hit and killed by a fire truck as he was crossing the road, a two-lane highway that runs through our valley. We are saddened by this outcome; he was such a sweet, friendly dog.
We walk over to our nephew’s storage garage with the artwork adjuster and he takes pictures and documents everything for that claim. He goes over our artwork schedule, noting the art that did not survive the fire. The artwork that was saved by the firefighters is smoke damaged and most of the frames are either scratched from being moved through a burning house, to an outdoor “staging area” and then to the safety of our nephew’s garage. We ask the adjuster how we are supposed to restore our art from smoke damage. He advises that he is sending an art restoration specialist from Chicago and we will hear from her in a few days. They will ship any of our art that requires restoration to Chicago and back. And, he will issue a check for the artwork that was destroyed in the fire as soon as he gets back to his office and completes his paperwork. We thank him for his time and thoroughness and we part ways.
Since it is so late, we stop for dinner at a local restaurant before heading back to our in-laws home. And, again, we have a relatively peaceful night because Coco’s is so exhausted and stressed out by today’s trip to our property that he has just given up.
It’s now Wednesday, October 31st. Coco slept through the night for the first time. His poor little kitty body could probably do no less. Since cats normally sleep 16 to 20 hours a day, and Coco hasn’t been sleeping much, he’s not able to fight it any longer. We are relieved and somewhat refreshed from a relatively good night’s sleep.
I go to work hacking and coughing, but put in my first full day of real work. I got much accomplished and am glad for the distraction. With two major projects underway, it’s good to have a focus other than anything related to the fire.
I have tickets to see the play “Jersey Boys” with girlfriends. We have had these tickets for months. At first, I thought about cancelling my outing with the girls, but then, after talking to Charlie, decide to keep “my girls night out” and join my friends after work. Since I work downtown and the theater is downtown, it’s only a few blocks away. I drive to the restaurant where we agreed to meet and have a wonderful, relaxing evening with friends. Pretending that I have a normal life, I enjoy the play immensely and head back to our in-laws home. Everyone’s asleep, including Coco, when I arrive near midnight.
Also, today the various government entities declare the fires contained. The firestorm that moved through out county on Santa Ana winds is now no more.
The “Tim Burton Skeleton Trees” that I mentioned in Chapter Five.
My Princess House Napkin Holder – I took hundreds of pictures of “rubble” to help me recreate my inventory list from memory.
Another “rubble” picture for my inventory list. These were in my kitchen hutch.
Garden tools – all traces of wooden handles are gone. Another “rubble” picture for my inventory list.
This was a large tin (cute popcorn tin that I had saved); storage for my cookie cutters.
These were 3 beautiful copper trays of various sizes. The largest was quite large – at least 20 inches long.
The series continues tomorrow with Chapter Ten – “Feathering the Nest.”
Until Next Time,