Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Ultimate Purge

Okay, most of you know that usually I write, let the content percolate, edit, and then after much editing release. But today something really really bad happened and enough of you are "need to know" that it's easier to post it here. My apologies for the lack of professionalism and the time shifting.

To bring you up to date, we found a house we really like in a town we really like south of DrC's work. We've done most of the work to get the kids into school, and we were all set to move in this weekend.

The problem is that the house -- which we call Chicken House because chickens were browsing in the front yard the first time we saw it -- smells like cat piss. In fact, I think the former tenant locked about a dozen cats in the front half of the house for several months without a litter box. It smelled a bit when we visited it, but we thought we could take care of it with cleaning.

Strike One. Cleaning didn't get rid of the smell. Removing the carpets in the affected rooms didn't get rid of the smell. In fact, the hardwood beneath the carpets is so seriously damaged, I'm at a loss what can be done to fix it. So we opened up the windows, left them with their little security latches, and fled the house yesterday.

Strike Two. Today we got back to the house and the smell was worse. This wasn't the terrible part. The terrible part was that the suitcases we had left in the dining room were gone. And the two boxes, my sewing machine, DrC's backpack, Mera's new school back pack, and my sewing kit. Gone. Investigation revealed that someone had broken in through a back window, opened a side door, and rolled off with everything we own.

The nice police man Chris told us that it would have helped if we'd dogged all the windows, but that the job was done by someone watching the house. It was probably a neighbor or the former tenant, we believe.

The nice Victim Support counselor said she could find us some kit, some clothes, some furniture. She also said the house was unlivable with the smell. Good it's not just my opinion.

The nice woman at the broker said she'd get the landlord over there to figure out what to do about the smell and to investigate whether additional locks on the windows or an alarm system might make sense.

All these nice people just made me cry. Of the 10 cases of personal and household goods we so arduously packed and shlepped from La Paz to New Zealand, we have two left. We have a few items of clothing, the kids most precious dolls and blankies, my laptop, and DrC's iTouch. We don't have hard drives, boat gear, or business clothes. We don't have our Rapid Chef cookware or my collapsible measuring cups, the sewing machine or sewing kit my mother put together for Christmas. We don't have Mera's diaries or the collection of bits and bobs Aeron stowed in the wooden painted chest that we also no longer have. We don't have the files I did for my client last month -- or the backup I put on the hard drives -- or the software disks I use to create the files I build for my clients. We're missing three computers, three external hard drives, a handheld GPS that kept us from running aground countless times, our captain's log for Don Quixote, and all our paperwork for the boat.

A couple things on the positive side. First, all of DrC's credentialing papers and his disks with his grandparents videos are all here at the hotel for no reason we can understand. Also, when we were in Sacramento in August, we made a copy of those external hard drives so all we've potentially lost is Sep 09 to Jan 10 when I got my new laptop. Frankly, the best of it is on this blog or on Flickr. We still have the kids' most precious items they can't live without as well as our guest book from Don Quixote. Finally, the mysterious gremlins of fate tossed my ziplock baggie of precious jewelry on the floor where it lay... completely obvious to anyone looking. There it is... my wedding ring, the jewels DrC gave me when the girls were born, the jade from my grandmother and the fake silver charm bracelet Mera gave me for Christmas this year.

Perhaps the biggest thing on the positive column, however, is my daughters. We all cried at first. Mera lost the most and cried the most. Initially. But after a few hours and on the drive home, they all sort of reluctantly admitted to me that they weren't terribly upset. In fact, the girls are almost over it. Jaime said, "Compared to leaving Isabel and Sam or Don Quixote or Dulci, this doesn't feel so bad." Aeron and Mera agreed pointing out that it was much more upsetting saying good bye to Uncle Glenn or Heather or Pamela or Noey or Carolyn... before the list got us all sobbing again I cut them off.

My girls are so resilient. Isn't that one of the major reasons we decided to do all this? They are so equipped to handle disaster. They are better equipped than their mother who fell apart in front of the nice policy man, the nice victim lady, the broker, my husband, the grocer, my blog audience. They are so strong, so capable, and so unattached to things.

Jaime remarked, "At least I didn't lose my birthday gift... I still remember the sea lion biting my foot."

To which Mera agreed wholeheartedly, "I think that proves we should just keep giving experiences for presents, don't you?"

"Okay, Mom, for my next birthday, I want to go to the Rainbow Park!" chimes in Aeron.

Okay, well, this was one hell of an experience. Whoever gave it to us, I'd like to know the return policy.


Anonymous said...

Hi Toast!

I've been lurking for a while now, ever since I discovered the idea of cruising a couple years back. I'm sorry to hear about your rough welcome to NZ.

That being said, my parents are big cat people, and I can vouch for the odor neutralizing powers of vinegar. (Vinegar reacts with ammonia in the urine, and, IIRC, produces salt water).

I've only tried it on carpet and fabric, but if you use a spray bottle to apply some to your floor, it should work, wood being quite porous.

You could also try making a paste of vinegar and baking soda, applying it, and letting it dry, which is supposedly safer for the wood.

Bear in mind that there will probably still be cat marking scents left behind, which other cats may take (messy) offense at in the future. I think enzymatic cleaners, such as Nature's Miracle, are usually recommended for removing these. YMMV. I hope this helps!

Andrew, Bridget, Walker, and Josie said...

Sorry Karen, tough deal. You will perhaps laugh someday, but that day is a long way off. Hang in there.

Andy in Minneapolis.

Relentless Toil said...


I wonder how long it will take a Snickers to get to you, because you really ought to be allowed to have one, or six. I imagine the things you lost, if they had been mine and if I had lost them, wouldn't be "just things" if they were some of the only things I had. This seems like so much to endure, and then there's the violation of your home, your privacy, etc. etc. JEEZ.

Nature's Miracle kinda worked on our cat pee issues. If all you had was spot trouble a blacklight would help identify them. It sounds like you've got a much bigger cat pee situation.

judith said...

I agree with the vinegar it works and is really cheap. I once did the same as you... opened the windows only to find the neighborhood Tom Cat spraying through the window screen, into my living room from the flowerbed outside.

That's so sad about the theft. Sounds like an inside job. You said the smell was worse after you took possession of the place... they could have sprayed scent spray in the house knowing it would cause you to open windows and leave. Find an excuse to visit your landlord... perhaps in a few weeks he'll be using your computers. And keep an eye on all your neighbors.

We were victimized and sure enough one of our neighbors had done it. His sister whom he lived with ratted him out when she said "I don't know how he was able to afford a TV that big, he doesn't work and never leaves the apartment complex."

I'm sad that you and your family had to experience this, but you have definitely raised some amazing children who know what matters most in life.

Bethany said...

Uh oh. I've never been ripped off, so I have no idea what you are going through. This is so very sad. What is wrong with people?! Hang in there...I don't know what else to say.

William T.Mack said...

After study a few of the blog posts on your website now, and I truly like your way of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Pls check out my web site as well and let me know what you think.

vacuum in USA