“Apple Pie Order” is the continuing story of the loss of our home in the San Diego Witch Fire 2007. To read earlier posts in this series, click on the links at the end of this post.
My sister, Dawn, and her husband, Jay, offer to host Christmas at their home in Arizona. This means that all of our San Diego family needs to make hotel arrangements and travel plans to pull this off. Decisions are made all around on how to handle Christmas and with the holiday plans decided, we start working on our insurance claim and looking for a contractor.
After talking to several contractors and receiving “phone bids,” we are dismayed that we may not have enough money to rebuild. While I was originally sure that we were adequately insured, now I’m not so sure. At this point, we haven’t yet decided on whether or not to hire an architect first. Every day that goes by is one day further away from moving back to our property.
My mother gave me a stack of magazines and newspaper clippings to read while I was sick. She thought I’d enjoy the distraction, but since I was so sick for several weeks, I just put them aside having no interest in anything except getting well. Now that I’m much better, I decide to take a look at what she’d collected. In that stack was a large newspaper advertisement from a local area contractor, relatively well-known in our part of the county. He is a new home builder, so it never occurred to us that he would be interested in a rebuild. But, his ad said exactly that – he would rebuild fire-victims’ homes. I’m so excited when I see this ad. We’ve toured many of his model homes over the years and have liked what we’ve seen. Plus, he has the expertise to work with the county on a home with acreage, rather than a home in a sub-division. We look at his website and find that he already has 30 house plans to choose from, pre-approved with the county! One less hurdle to handle!
So, we call his office and make an appointment to meet with his VP of Sales at our property a few days later. The day arrives and it’s raining! The first rainy day in many months and the day we have to meet someone on our property – our property that now has no shelter! So, umbrellas in hand, we arrive to meet this gentleman. All three of us are standing in the drizzling rain, umbrellas overhead, discussing our property and the potential rebuild!
He is very prepared, bringing us copies of contracts to review, floor plans, references, the works! He tells us that they have an in-house architect, an in-house engineer and an in-house decorator/designer – all at our disposal during the construction process. We would not need to go outside of this firm in order to get these things accomplished. We are impressed and then he gives us a verbal quote per square foot that is well within our budget! Charlie and I glance at each other with bug eyes, but we don’t want to let on to the salesman that we are excited and pleased! We need time to review everything, consider our options, etc. We thank him for his time, thank him for coming out in the pouring rain and tell him that we will get back to him in a few days.
We go home and get on the contractor’s website, again, and this time, we spend hours looking over everything. We look at all of the various plan options and eliminate our choices down to three. We read all of the bios on the staff, we review all of the previous sub-divisions built and we make a plan to visit several of the sub-divisions in our area so that we can do a “drive by” of the finished homes. We call all of the the references and chat with each one, and all give this contractor and his company glowing reports (of course, why else would they be references?).
The next weekend, with our map in hand and a formulated plan of sites to visit, Charlie and I drive to the various neighborhoods and confirm what we already knew – we wanted this contractor and his company to build our home! We call the VP of Sales and ask him if there are any vacant properties or model homes that we can tour to get a feel for the interior craftsmanship. He says of course, and we make arrangements to meet him at one of the building sites. After touring several model homes, we tell this gentleman that we want them to build our house and arrange to meet at their offices to sign the contracts and give them a down payment.
This meeting happens on December 21st. Our home burned to the ground on October 22nd and by December 21st, we had selected a contractor, signed the contracts and the process of rebuilding was officially underway!
All during this time, I continue to work on the Excel spreadsheet required by our insurance carrier for reimbursement on the Personal Property portion of our claim. I enlist the help of family, asking them to provide any interior photos that they have of our home to help jog my memory. I also call all of our credit card companies and ask if they can provide any documentation. Without fail, every credit card company had 5 years worth of records and every one of them sends these records to us promptly and at no charge. This is a great help to me in recreating a list of our belongings because it shows a pattern of buying behavior as well as establishes and documents purchases. I am very grateful to the employees of these credit card companies who, without fail, took the time to hear my story and make arrangements to provide me with this information.
However, our bank is another matter. It wants to charge for every single monthly statement and while they can, too, provide 5 years worth of records, we decide NOT to pay the bank for this information. If we need it at a later date, we will try again. Some of you may be wondering why we just didn’t retrieve these records on-line. Charlie is an old-fashioned guy and not very trusting of on-line resources. So, we never established an on-line account through our bank. This bank was in financial trouble and eventually bought by a larger bank.
Although we had to transport elderly relatives on a long driving trip to Arizona and back, we had a wonderful, stress-free Christmas celebration with all of our family! And, our new neighbors took care of Coco for the few days that we were gone. As cat owners and cat lovers, we knew Coco was in good hands!
Coco on the TV cabinet in our rented condo. Sorry for the blurry shot, but this is the only one that shows our 2007 Christmas tree on the right!
This is Coco in our neighbor’s, Jon, lap. Coco is a tad anti-social and Jon’s lap is the only one, even to this day, that Coco will sit in! He won’t even sit in my lap! And, boy-oh-boy, am I ever jealous about that!
Jon rough-housing with Coco. Jon bought a leather glove just so that he could do this! Fortunately, just like sitting ONLY on Jon’s lap, Jon is the only one that Coco will play with in this way!
Coco’s Midnight Crazies – one day, we were perplexed as to where all of Coco’s balls disappeared. Then we noticed them inside this ceramic drum table!
Our living room in the condo. Notice the printer next to the small sofa? This was my “office” as I recreated our massive Excel spreadsheet of our personal contents for our insurance company.
Another view of our living area in the condo. The abstract painting on the wall is a piece created by my father.
The small dining nook in our condo. The painting is one of our paintings that we took in my car during the evacuation. My sister, Gail, gave me the beautiful blue bowl in the center of the table. The small blue, green and yellow acrylic and resin sculpture in the display cabinet on the right was created by my father and one that we took during the evacuation.
The guest bedroom in our condo. We decided to make it into a true guest bedroom so that relatives could visit and stay with us while we rebuilt our home. We even had the lovely Alexandra come from England for a few weeks to stay with us the following July!
The series continues tomorrow with Chapter 13 – “All Hands on Deck!”
Until Next Time,
(other posts in the fire series)
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
Chapter Nine – The Whole Kit and Caboodle
- Chapter Ten – Feathering the Nest
- Chapter Eleven – The Blind Leading the Blind