Monday, June 01, 2015

2015 Missoula Mile





Liam dragging me home. 9:54 for an 8 year-old with no training is not too shabby. Way to go buddy! We are at the 7:10 mark of the video.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys - Hot Hands





Thanks to Kevin Kronner, I've discovered a whole new group of artists collaborating through Earthworks Music in Michigan. I guess I have another excuse to head back to that wonderful state soon!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Life Marches On

Since my last entry about our home disaster, much has changed and life keeps marching on. We are now well into our 5th month of disaster recovery and still quite some way from getting our home and life back, but we are definitely on the way.
It's been almost a month since Grant Creek Excavating showed up in front of our home on a Wednesday morning at 6:30 am with a large backhoe. The owner was there to go over the job with the crew and introduce himself. It was an incredible gesture as, you see, they were supposed to begin work two days earlier but had gotten delayed on another job.  He wanted me to know how sorry he was for our problems and to tell me his crew had every intention of doing whatever it took to finish the job still in the original time frame. And boy did they ever. I'm not sure I've seen a group of harder working guys. By 8:00 am they started ripping up our front lawn and having at it in earnest. They worked 12-14 hours each day digging, ripping, laying pipe and constructing the water containment system in our front yard. Thy then connected the system to the storm sewer for primary overflow and constructed the upper overflow system to daylight any water that reached that high into our front yard. Even though we still scratch our heads at being required to create such a sophisticated system,. we are grateful to WGM for the design and for everyone else who helped build  the Beast Container 9000 (I just made that name up).
Although it seems trivial and out of touch now, seeing the plants go, some of which were transplanted from my first house in Missoula, and others of which were planted with a lot of love and sweat by Jen and me was a little heart breaking. The first night I just stood in awe at the mess and monster hole that used to be our yard. On day two the big backhoe was replaced by it's little brother and a remote-controlled machine used to tamp down the earth when they started back filling. It really was a site to see.
After Grant Creek completed their portion, another crew came in to connect the interior drain to the exterior containment system. We all waited with baited breath to see if it worked. Within about 4 hours, water was successfully moving through the interior system and out to the containment system.  In a testament to just how compacted the clay and rock are on the side of the mountain, after several more hours water was already draining into the storm sewer, meaning stage 1 of the system was already full. Since that time we've been monitoring the system daily to make sure it works and are now prepping to finally fill in the remainder of basement slab so that we can move on to re-building.
As Will Smith so famously sang, we are now about ready to, "Get Jiggy Wit it" and have been busy getting bids for interior plumbing, electrical and other work, while Daysprings crews are arranging drywall, flooring, ceiling, and other details. Matt Schmidt and the pros at Beaudette Consulting Engineers have been helping us assess structural needs and concerns and we hope to have a stairwell back in our basement in a few weeks. We love our home, but it was built in the 1950's, so we are getting used to hearing contractors and inspectors say things like, "well now that this is exposed it will need to be upgraded as it doesn't meet code anymore..." every time a wall is opened or ceiling tile removed. I don't really go to sleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head these days...it is more like dollar signs adding up! But I digress...work has been at a standstill for a few weeks but should start again within a week.
In the midst of all this, our dear friend Kristin English started a gofundme page for us to help offset the mounting personal costs. When the idea first came up it was sort of brought up in a joking manner and we brushed it off. The second time she brought it up in a group and everyone agreed we should do it but we politely thanked them and said no. When she brought up a third time we had a serious discussion and talked to another friend who had a gofundme site built for him after a terrible crime was committed against him resulting in very large medical bills. I also talked to a few other people, all who advised us to let our friends help in any way they wanted and let them have a choice. So we said yes and the results have been nothing short of miraculous for our family. In less than two weeks the site has collected over $13,000.00 and other people have donated directly. It has allowed us to take less of a loan and relieved to much stress and worry. We cannot thank everyone enough and promise to pass it on to others in need.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

We are Humbled

Over the course of the past several weeks friends have asked us how they could help with our ongoing personal disaster involving our house. Due to some complications and exclusions in our homeowners insurance agreement, we are faced with a little over $50,000.00 in out of pocket repair/restoration costs.


Our patent answer was the same, "we're fine, We are still eating three meals a day, the kids are still doing their thing, we have a roof over our heads...we'll get through this". One dear friend suggested we set up a site where people could donate to us if they wanted to help. No thanks was our answer, there are plenty of others who need more help.

Then I had a conversation with my good friend Russ, who was the victim of a senseless attack in downtown Missoula that resulted in multiple hospital stays, a severe head injury, cracked teeth, and loads of rehab. One of Russ' friends set up a site for him and together his friends donated a significant amount of money to help defray his large out of pocket healthcare costs. He relayed some of the same feelings I had when this idea came up...it was a little embarrassing and uncomfortable and it seemed like others needed much more help than we need. I am charitable, but have never needed charity myself (well not entirely true...there were the lean years when I relied an awful lot on my friends for meals and my family for the same and more!) But Russ said in retrospect it was a blessing...people want to help, and frankly he needed it and I guess so do we.

So we said go for it to Kristin English...an incredible friend who is family.  Kristen set up a site for us on Monday and we have almost $4,000.00 donated. We are extremely humbled and grateful to everyone who has helped, monetarily or otherwise.
O'Connor's Home Disaster Fund

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Those Winter Sundays (Poem)

#TWPT (Truly Wonderful Poem Tuesday...I just started this hashtag so help it spread)
Those Winter Sundays (Robert Hayden 1962)

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No on ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know,
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Biting the (Water) Bullet

When last we met our intrepid waterlogged homeowners (that's us), they'd played a gamble that they could tap into the old drain fields in their front yard (that's our front yard), a $950.00 gamble to be precise. The hope was by digging up the portion of the yard just outside the homes northeastern most foundation, they could replace the tiles that connected the old drain system under the slab with a newer version, connect them to an exterior gravel drain field that would allow the groundwater to seep back into the earth, button it all up, and be on the way to repair of their desolated basement.  That gamble failed and the family (us) was left with a huge hole in their front yard and no progress towards resolution. And they were poorer to boot!

Now, a month later, we rejoin our story, already in progress...

Today is day three of "il-proń°ett basmeent grand" (that's Maltese for The Grand Basement Project :) ). Much has transpired since my last blog post. As I write, our basement is a mere shadow of its former self. The walls, which had been mostly removed with the initial water damage, are now gone for the most part. The studs have been cut at about 4 feet high and removed down to the slab. The slab itself has been jack-hammered and chopped away on three sides of the house and today a crew came through and hand dug the earth under the exposed slab to below the foundation.
More of the old drain tiles were discovered and sit neatly stacked in a corner, perhaps on their way to some drain tile museum somewhere. This is surely a story for the ages.

Basement slab post jack-hammering
After learning that the drain field in our front yard was beyond repair, we began to reassess our situation. I was still convinced (and part of me still is) that the stream flowing through our basement was not an underground spring at all but instead was freed drinking water, recently escaped from a leaking pipe somewhere above our house in a Mountain Water supply line.  And so, because I was not ready to give up the ghost, I called Mountain Water yet again and told them we had a depression in our front yard that caused me to believe we had a leak...and they sent up a leak investigator.  The investigator was a great guy who freely admitted he hated coming up the hill to our mountainside neighborhood due to all the leaks in the system. Evidently the original water pipes were asbestos, not metal, and are to this day nearly impossible to locate. At some point in time the water company purchased the original Farviews Water Company that serviced our area and they've been paying the price ever since. All you have to do is drive down any street in our neighborhood to see the big square patches of replaced pavement where the water company had to dig. The City is currently trying to condemn the Utility in court so as to purchase them and one of their expert witnesses recently testified the system has had up to a 50% leak rate in a year...all this only buoyed my confidence in the leaking water theory. At any rate, the investigator was intrigued by our situation and agreed to call in another investigator with a sophisticated listening device that could locate leaks. The following Monday we had a glimmer of hope because they did find a leak a block above our house, right along what would be the fall line: Crews came in with a backhoe, dug up the street, creating yet another of the aforementioned pavement patches. The leaking pipe was replaced and I danced a jig in celebration, but it failed to slow the flow of water in our basement (still at 50 gallons an hour).  So, we finally raised the white flag and accepted defeat; this was going to be our problem to fix and our problem alone.
Busted concrete removed 
Because the bottom of our foundation is below street level, we were immediately faced with a predicament...how do we install a system that can move the water around the home and, if necessary, into the storm sewer.  The City was equally as concerned and told us we could only include the storm sewer in the plan if our new system was professionally designed by an engineer. Otherwise we'd have to find a way to "daylight" the spring to the surface, which also means that if water leaves our property and damages another downhill, we are liable for the damages. Once again the dollar signs started spinning like a slot machine in my head. In actuality, we managed to connect with a fantastic engineer at WGM Group who created a super cool design at a very reasonable price in short order. The system could allow us to potentially capture some of the water to use for irrigation on our yard! It sort of looks like a giant underground rain barrel with no bottom and slit sides. There will be 4 feet of gravel under this rain barrel-ish thingee, and a pipe flowing out of the top into the storm sewer with a pump above that. The theory being water will be caught by our interior drains, funneled around the
A River Runs Through it
outside edge of the interior and into the containment system. It should flow back into the ground but if it doesn't it will collect and rise in the system and be given the opportunity to flow into the storm sewer or be pumped above ground for our use. Very cool, albeit expensive, or at least expensive to our thinking.

Once the containment system was designed and approved, we then had to decide if we were going to go for the exterior curtain drain option, which would involve completely ripping up our back yard and digging a trench the entire length of our house (216 cubic yards of dirt would have to be removed) OR go for installing an interior foundation drain system. As the photos indicate, we went with the latter. Unfortunately, none of this is covered by insurance because we cannot show the water is anything but an underground spring, which is excluded in our policy.  So, off to the bank we went and because we have the most amazing banker in the world on our side, we were able to secure a loan tp cover the cost. Did I mention we will be having a bake sale to help pay for our kids college, because this project is costing us more than a college education (cue very small violins).
Once again, Ryan and the good folks at Dayspring Restoration jumped in and laid out a detailed plan for us of how they are going to restore our house and our sanity.  So far, so good. Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tweedy, The Top Hat, Missoula 03/11/2015

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer last Wednesday night at the Top Hat.  I wanted to go but missed the boat on tickets as the show sold out super fast (Missoula loves anything related to Wilco and Wilco seems to love Missoula as well). I'd resigned myself to just hear about the show, which unfortunately seems to be the trend in my life rather than the exception these days. But happenstance and luck reared their heads again and two tickets fell into my lap thanks to Alex & Nick Simmons making the state high school basketball tournament.  Jen pooped out and various friends couldn't go for one reason or another (the best excuse coming in the form of a text from Mexico apologizing he had to miss the show due to lounging on the beach....BAH), so I headed to the show with my friends Karl & Lolo sans listening partner.  As for the problem of the extra ticket, after standing out front for 15 minutes with no taker, I popped a message onto Facebook and sold the ticket within 5 minutes. The buyer was a friend of a friend and we did the age old, "I'm wearing a blue flannel-ish shirt with glasses - I'm wearing a denim jacket with a brown shoulder bag" exchange. Easy peasy and rather fun..

Minus 5 opened the show early. Most folks (including myself) were blown away by what has been called, "the side project to end all side projects" that Minus 5 represents. The band has had a who's who of rock n' roll float in and out, collaborate, tour, and just have fun with the leader of the pack, Scott McCaughey This time around was no exception with none other than Peter Buck of R.E.M. fame on guitar. Buck has played with the band on and off since its inception and was effortless in keeping up with the pace. They played a lot of music I'd never heard before and a great rendition of not ready to die, die, die. There was a cameo from Liam Cunningham, who is on the Tweedy tour. I came to find out he is Jeff Tweedy's son's best friend and he is a killer musician, Thoroughly enjoyable and a great way to start off the night.

Tweedy took the stage shortly after 9:00PM, a refreshing change of pace for an old fart like me who dreads it more each time when bands don't take the stage until 10 or 11.  The first thing I noticed was how much he was smiling. The crowd went crazy of course (did I mention Missoula loves Wilco?  Did I mention they've played here three times in the past 6 years and two of their films had their debuts here?).  Then I noticed his son Spencer on stage and man is he young but man can he play the drums. Tweedy engaged the crowd from the get go with plenty of jokes and references to Waltz's and the age of the audience. The band took there time and they appeared like they were actually having fun. Great mix of solo, covers, and Wilco tunes. In addition to his solo music, the band played covers of Mavis Staples, Uncle Tupelo, and Love Like A Wire, a lovely song written by Chicago songwriter Diane Izzo. Tweedy, rather on purpose or not, went from the melodic flannel rock Uncle Tupelo cover to a hard rockin' tune with a big smile on his face, perhaps his ode to want to be a punk rocker. About half way into the show the band left the stage and Jeff Tweedy did an acoustic set of Wilco tunes including plenty of music from A.M. and Sky Blue Sky.  At about 11 the band left but came back for a great encore set which included a fantastic rendition of California Stars. The show was incredible and made my week.  Thoroughly tired the next day but my head was swimming in the memory of good, live music!