Now that three weeks have passed since the flood in the basement wiped out 1500 sf of my stuff, I reflect on the lessons learned.
God knew I was being stubborn on the concept of “stuff” and He helped me out in one fell swoop to declutter and simplify.
God has gifted me with the most amazing church family. They are servants of the highest order and they show the love of Christ in all they do.
God knew I did not have much insurance coverage for a sump pump event and He kept the mitigation crews working at someone else’s disaster so as to not use up the meager funds on something we could do ourselves.
God has provided all that I need. The exact right number of people arrived at the exact right time for the exact number of days it took to clean it up. God apparently took away all that I did not need!
I knew there were abundant prayers being prayed and answered on my behalf as I was in a frame of mind that transcended all understanding. Many people commented on my positive attitude as 50 years of memories went into the dumpster.
It pays to support missionaries for their mission trips as I had those gifts returned 1000 fold.
God taught me not to openly speculate with an insurance agent the cause of the sump pump failure as I learned that any water causing this issue that came from the outside was a flood event and not a sump pump event and it would not have been covered at all.
A perfect stranger (a young friend of the Smith family) called and offered to drive from Columbus to Indianapolis to help. The devastation of floods had weighed heavily on his kind heart and he wanted to do something. He also visited our church last Sunday.
I felt truly loved. Always being alone and responsible for everything, God saw to it that I had the help I needed and the love I needed too. The Yingst’s took me to a picnic and concert in the park on Saturday and this took my mind off all that had transpired. The love and friendship from that thoughtful act was so deeply appreciated.
God continually gives me abundant material for my stories!
This love of Christ was clearly demonstrated to my neighbors, my friend Tammy, to all my Facebook friends, to my work associates and my friends and family.
Even the songs Tony chose for worship were fitting for a water event to include storms, oceans, walk upon the water, water you turned into wine. I can think of nothing he missed. Here is an exerpt.
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Water You turned into wine
Opened the eyes of the blind
There’s no one like You
And even when I’m caught in the middle
Of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back I know You are near
Oh no You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no You never let go
In ev’ry high and ev’ry low
Oh no You never let go
Lord You never let go of me
The wind is strong and the water’s deep
But I’m not alone here in these open seas
Your love never fails
I needed to record the details of the flood for my own benefit. It is long, too long, but God is in the details.
Details of the Flood
Everyone always says I have too much “stuff” but I love my stuff. I now live in a house with a full basement and it is full of 50 years of memorabilia. I dislike things that are packed away and since the basement is mine all mine, I could cover every square inch and it simply did not matter. I had hundreds of boxes that my God-daughter Kirbie packed when she packed up my entire life and we moved it from Florida to Kansas and then back to Indiana. My church family helped me move these boxes from my mom’s house to my very own basement two years ago.
In addition I have added a house full of Christmas decorations and I can store Christmas trees fully decorated in the basement all out and easily accessible. Even my writer friend Cathee Poulsen recently challenged her blog readers to simplify and de-clutter. No chance of me winning that prize!
Indiana had record rains this summer and more flooding than I can ever remember. I had worked hard at making my basement water proof. I brought in fill dirt to slope the ground away from the window wells. I put in an extra-large downspout in my gutter system which eliminated the overflow that used to fill the window wells and soak the basement. I had two sump pumps and through all the day-long torrential downpours, I was as dry as a bone. All the hard work had paid off and I felt victorious.
Awakened in the Night
Then on a night when it was NOT raining, I was awakened from sleep to a sound like I had never heard before. I got up to investigate only to find 8 inches of water standing in my basement. My air conditioner was running and of course it is located in the basement, as is my hot water heater, water softener, dehumidifier etc. I looked over at the electrical box which was only accessible by boat and knew better than to walk in water to try and switch off a breaker. I ran to the thermostat and turned off the AC. Now what do I do. It was after midnight. I needed some advice and was scared to death about live electricity and water in the basement. It was too late to call anyone and wake them up.
By some miracle I knew where to find my insurance policy as it was on top of the pile to be filed. I put in a call to claims and had the sweetest young lady take all my information and she assured me an emergency response team would be out that night and she had expedited the claim so that an adjuster would call me within the hour. I was impressed. Then God took over.
The emergency response team called to say they could not take the claim as they were backlogged with all the other claims. I asked for advice as to what I should do. There was no help forthcoming. No adjuster called within the hour. I googled “flooded basements” and had the life scared out of me as to what would happen if the electricity electrified the water. I wanted to call the fire department and just ask for some advice, but I knew they would come calling with alarms blaring and I actually thought a quick electrocution might be the best overall solution. I would then not have to clean up the basement and I would be in heaven and both sounded absolutely perfect.
I tossed and turned for a couple hours and then realized I would not have hot water or air conditioning for some time, so I had better pack up enough stuff to stay somewhere else for a few days. Then I starting thinking this situation might produce a fire and maybe I better get all the important things packed.
There are never any excess sick days at work and I had just returned from a nice long vacation, so I drug myself into work after no sleep, a delightfully cold spit bath and two hours packing my car in order to stay somewhere else that night.
Hung Up In The System
The insurance company informed me that the night clerk who took the claim had prepared it incompletely and it was now hung up in the system and the IT department was trying to get it unstuck. I had to laugh as I have significant experience with an IT department where things get stuck. Meanwhile, they would get the date changed on the claim to fit within the “catastrophe” dates so as to save me from an “exorbitant increase” in my rates. How kind.
The insurance adjuster who was in Oklahoma City told me that I needed to get the water out of my basement and I needed to get the electrical certified as safe before a mitigation team could come in. Apparently I had purchased the DIY policy. It was my blessing that the mitigation people were all busy. God already knew that I only had a total of $5000 in coverage for a sump pump event. If they arrived with professional air dryers and dehumidifiers, this would have easily used up most if not all the coverage.
Tough in Trying Circumstances
God has blessed me with an ability to be tough in trying circumstances. I called Tony, one of our pastors who has an electrical background. He told me what I needed in terms of a pump. We strategized by phone and then I started calling rental companies. I also put in a call to my HVAC friend who installed my new heat and AC system last year. About this time I am wondering why a good agent would not have pointed out that $5000 in coverage for all mechanical in the basement, all possessions in the basement and the cleanup and “mitigation” of a flood was certainly NOT nearly enough.
Todd, my HVAC friend said he would come to help. I told him I wanted to do as much as possible myself as I had just learned I had very little coverage and I needed to conserve funds. I told him I would get the pump and get started getting the water out.
Side Note of Humor
On my way to the rental place, one of my vendors from work called on my cell phone. Darren is one of my favorites and one of the most Godly men I know. We talk about Jesus as we are troubleshooting vending machines full of railroad safety equipment. It is not lost on me that he lives in Palestine, Texas! I tell him what I am doing and then I said “Darren, I just might have to break down and find myself a husband.” He says, “Miss Polly, if I was not so happily married, I would just come to Indiana and marry you and help you out.” I told him that I would be looking for a Godly man just like him and did he know any. There was a long pause and he said he did have a friend who traveled all around scouting oil leases for the oil companies. He asked if I used that thing called Facebook. He said we could connect and he would take care of the rest. Next thing I heard was my phone sounding off with the Facebook ding and Darren and I were now friends. He reminded me that God works everything for good for those who love the Lord. He said wouldn’t it be funny if my basement had to get flooded in order for us to be having this conversation in order for God to orchestrate a husband for me. I knew it would take the parting of the Red Sea for me to ever find a good husband, so this all made perfect sense.
I got the pump home along with the two 50 foot 2 inch hoses. I lugged it all in and down the steps and attached the hose and rolled the hose up the stairs, through the kitchen and down the driveway. I gingerly put the pump in the water and when I did not get electrocuted, I went upstairs to plug it in. I went back to the basement only to find that the hose had a big hole in it and was pumping 63 gallons per minute onto the only dry spot in the basement which was my ceiling. I got it shut off and then had to commence to taking it all apart and switching the hoses to put the hose with the leak outside. There is a high heat index warning and humidity is just making everything drip.
Was electrocution still an option?
Todd arrived once I had been pumping for all of 15 minutes. He had on tall rubber boots and since I had proven the water was not electrified, he decided to walk over to the electrical box and look for tripped breakers. Sure enough the breaker that controlled the sump pumps was tripped. He flipped it and a sump pump roared to life. In short order, like about the time it takes to visit my hairdresser and get a color and cut, the basement had been pumped out. And that is exactly what I did. My hair appointment had been rescheduled from earlier in the week when my stylist had her own flooding problems. On my way to color my gray, I called dumpster rental companies. In order to get a dumpster by the weekend, I had 10 minutes left in Thursday to find a company with one available and get it ordered and delivered on Friday. This left little time for price shopping. As it turned out everyone in town also needed a dumpster, so I got the last one available and it was also the biggest one available at 30 feet.
Todd had opened up both the AC and the hot water heater and cleaned and serviced both and God blessed me again by giving me the good sense to turn off the AC when I first discovered the flood. He further blessed me by allowing my mechanical components to work. This would have been a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of a single woman. Instead my friend was charging me next to nothing to come to my rescue. We have discussed Jesus together on a number of occasions. I wonder if that was a factor.
Call for Help
I put out a late night email to our church group on google groups. I also posted a call for help on Facebook. I had to orchestrate a major plan of attack in case anyone showed up to help. I had no choice but to take the day off work. Again I was up at 4:30 am. My kitchen was a wreck, I had all these fresh peaches that had finally gotten ripe and I had to return the pump to the rental place and pick up a car load of things from Lowes all before 9:30 when I told the church group I would be available to start. I made a quick peach cobbler to use up the peaches so I would at least have something good to serve any workers who showed up, got my dishes done and rushed off to return the pump and inform the rental company of the hose with the big hole in it.
I was just pulling into my driveway when Tammy Smith and her daughter Ellie arrived. (I apologize I have no pictures of them. I think I was still in some shock.) They drove all the way from Franklin to Indianapolis to help. I had gotten a Facebook message from Rochelle Sudler that they would help and they had 3 kids who could help. Pastor Tony arrived with a dehumidifier and an air mover and said his entire family would be back for the night shift and he would bring dinner too! I was positively overwhelmed. God had motivated those who would be my greatest help. That little donation to the Sudler’s mission trip was the best money I had ever spent!
God sent them all in the perfect timing. Not too many and not too few and as quickly as was possible. I had the right number of people who were able bodied, strong and with great organizational skills. They worked like troupers. The morning shift had worked miracles and all we needed was a dumpster delivery.
We were piling the waterlogged stuff on the driveway. We set the things that we hoped to dry out around the yard. People pulled in thinking it was a yard sale! Then the afternoon shift arrived. Sherri Hillebrand came and Rochelle Sudler took on another shift and they helped me. They got everything that had been set out to dry moved into the garage as the thunder started to rumble once again.
Next Todd arrived with a new sump pump with a battery backup. Sherri’s expression sums up how we were all feeling in the heat, humidity and water-soaked stuff.
I had two hours before the night shift arrived. I had to get off my feet. Todd was in the basement working on the new sump pump and I was upstairs on the couch when the next storm came rushing in. Todd yelled upstairs and said “you better come down here. I have never seen anything like this.” I went down stairs to find water squirting with force out of the wall. It hit an outlet on the wall and fried it. It hit another and that one sizzled. About this time Todd’s partner the electrician arrived and not a moment too soon. Off to the store they went for new gfci outlets and waterproof boxes. We had learned that the water softener with a gfci was on the same circuit as the old sump pumps and this was a really poor idea and most likely is what tripped the breaker and caused the sump pumps not to work. While they were gone to pick up supplies, another friend Tammy came.
The storm came with a vengeance and so did the dumpster delivery. So much rain came that it filled my window wells and then we lost power but not before Todd had the new sump pump with battery backup installed.
Wiring Up Electrical Circuits Standing in Water
So we have two guys standing in water wiring up two new waterproof circuits. Something is just not right about this.
Then Pastor Tony’s family arrives bringing dinner. They had worked at their own garage sale all day selling their stuff and then came to rescue me and all my wet stuff. I see Nancy lingering behind and I find out she is in such pain she cannot move. She comes out in the driving rain unable to even walk to try and help me. I put her on the couch and told her not to move that is until we ran out of heavy duty garbage bags at 9:30 pm. She was coerced into making a run for more bags. Tony, Sydney and Tammy loaded all the waterlogged stuff that was in the driveway (which had been triple soaked by the torrential rain storm) into the dumpster in the rain. Then they made trip after trip up the stairs with more stuff. That was day 2.
Day 3 started bright and early with my friend Tammy arriving at 8 am. She is a tiny little Korean woman that can’t even weigh 90 pounds who I met through Todd. I have been mentoring her for the last eight months. She did the work of three people. Cigarettes and Diet Coke are her fuel of choice and I just shook my head.
I got a very welcome text at 10:30 saying the Hillebrand family was on the way. With the heat index reaching well over 100 degrees and humidity worse than the tropics, Bob, Sherri and Kim work like they are teenagers. Last year at this time Bob was bedridden. God is so good.
After working for hours, we stopped for a break and some peach cobbler. And there in the pink kitchen, Bob and Sherri get to share their exhilarating spiritual experiences with Tammy from their recent conference. Kim told Tammy about the World Race which was her mission experience of 12 countries in 12 months. God was indeed in the house.
My next door neighbors arrived to offer their children as slave labor. They even cut my grass. I was so weary from three days of work and agonized on how I would have the strength and endurance to mow in the jungle-like conditions. I arrived home from Church on Sunday and I found my neighbor had manicured my yard.
At Peace in the Loss
For some reason, I am at peace. All my prized possessions mostly memorabilia are being carted out and it is all ok until I got to my little accordion. I got it when I was six. I played that thing until I outgrew it and switched to piano. I had recently sent the little accordion to Helene’s grandson in Chicago with the hope his accordion-playing uncle would teach him to play. The boy was not interested so Helene packed up the accordion and sent it back to me just a few weeks before. I had run it down to the basement and now it was soaked. I tried to see if I could salvage it but to no avail. In pieces I laid it to rest in the dumpster graveyard. The alligator skin case and the red label that said Polly Jo Perry, 6404 St. Joe Drive was now just a memory.
I got a bit melancholy as I found a box of actual photos. This was my life before digital. There were several husbands in that box, mansions to mobile homes, foster kids, Jaguars and pickup trucks. There was my neon art business and all the creative neon art pieces that hung all over town. There was the little townhouse in Key West that I turned into a tropical paradise that made the front page of the paper. There were pictures from when I was young and beautiful. I just could not part with these memories. So one by one I pulled wet photos apart and spread them all over the floor of my garage. And for three hours I took one last trip down memory lane.
I had been invited by Tony and Nancy to have a picnic in the park and enjoy a concert. This was exactly what I needed to get my mind off the mess and it finally be able to sit down. We had great laughs as we watched middle-aged women dancing to rock from their middle aged youth. They made me feel not quite so bad about myself!
Church was on Sunday and I was asked by a friend if I shouldn’t just stay home and rest. I could not conceive of this. God had just blessed me beyond all measure and delivered me from a giant mess. I had to go and give thanks. Pastor Gary even asked me to share the experience with our church. The attitude of gratitude was the leading subject of the sermon as well as not letting “stuff” get in the way of being “all in” with God.
Polly Riddell writing as G. Polly Jordan is a storyteller connecting people and the stories they tell.
God has blessed me with the best of a church family.