It started with a baby shower—mine of course—and ended, well… it’s still ongoing so I am going to have be a little bit careful with what I say. For those of you who know me, I’m not much of a writer especially when all the particular events have yet to unfold. I’m more of a …”Let’s look back and reflect type of girl”. But in all honesty, I do feel like I owe some explanation here as we just had a wonderful baby shower and then disappeared… no “Thank You” notes sent, no status updates on social media… just BAM, gone from the world. I can’t tell you enough how horrible my last month has been… a lot of those same emotions crept up … the ones I had when my father was first diagnosed with stomach cancer, but these were almost worse. I mean, for goodness sake, I’m responsible for a human being growing and developing inside my womb. Controlling the stress, the anxiety and the emotions have been challenging – but thank goodness I have prenatal yoga! Well, anyway, I am going to make light of this situation in true Aki-style because laughter is the best medicine and I don’t like people feeling sorry for me… but this really was and still very much is a true nightmare. So, without further ado…
How Can Something So Simple Go So Very Wrong?
The day after our baby shower, I heard running water under the house. I quickly notified our landlord, who lives out of state, and her plumber… and within 30 hours, it was confirmed, yes, it was running water, and yes, it got fixed. Because I’m a control freak, I shadowed the plumbers like a lost little puppy dog. Asking them all sorts of questions… what do you see, and now what do you see? How bad is it? I was 34 weeks pregnant and I wanted to know everything!
As luck would have it, the situation was not good. The water was hot from the boiler (very bad) and hitting the infrastructure and integrity of the house (worst case scenario). On top of which there was a now a lake under the house—a breeding ground for bacteria, mosquitoes and bugs… oh my! We jokingly called it Lake Michigan—but very soon, I would learn this was no joke. The head plumber told me that the professionals would have to come and clean it up… and all would be okay in the world again.
The next day, our landlord sent a home inspector to tally up all the damages, air quality, etc, etc. I rated her 5-stars on this because it seemed like she wanted to fix the problem ASAP …safely with the utmost integrity. I followed this guy like a puppy dog as well—pulled information from him and learned that if the clean-up process didn’t happen soon, bad things happened.
Well, the clean-up process didn’t happen—(If you Google it, remediation needs to start within 24-48 hours), and a week in, I started having major health problems. Oh, by the way, after my landlord received the reports from the plumber and home inspector (including the toxicology report), she decided to stop all two-way communication with us and I very quickly took away her 5-star rating. Right before she hung up on us, she suggested we get a hotel several times but she wouldn’t tell us why. We weren’t going to be bullied out of the house, but like I mentioned earlier, the health problems kicked in. I had a dry coughing fit for about an hour and afterwards noticed specks of blood in my tissue. Tom kicked me out of the house (because as you all know I’m at home 24/7… always working on the nonprofit from home). I spent about 12 hours away from the house that day and felt so much better that I came back!! The next morning, my eye was closed shut. I was experiencing other respiratory problems—but hey, which pregnant woman hasn’t, it was hard to figure out what’s normal and what’s not normal. The eye thing really scared me and it was my final straw…we packed a bag and moved into a hotel where we stayed for weeks.
Seriously, What’s Wrong With The House?
Tom decided to hire our own home inspector. Best. Investment. Ever. We learned the house was officially Uninhabitable. Between building code violations, Lake Bacteria under the house, and a toxic mold problem… yes Toxic Mold… our house was well, not suitable for humans and their pets to live in. So, I’m going to give you a quick mold lesson because … I want too. Mold is everywhere, you probably have some mold in your house too BUT, the type of mold and the amount of mold in our house, made the environment toxic. The control level outside was 253 m3. In our house, it was 690,000 m3 and growing rapidly like wildfire.
And Where Is The Landlord?
Gone. Girl. Gone. When she finally arrived back to planet Earth a lot had happened. We were legitimately settled into our hotel. We had a 60-something page detailed report of just how unsafe our cute little corner house had become and we were just waiting. Like playing a very slow version of chess, it was her move. After what seemed like eternity, we finally got an email that basically said her remediation crew was coming the following day and I kid you not, she even added “time is extremely critical.” Seriously? Seriously?!!! Yes, time was very critical! Key word was—and that ship has sailed. Anyway, because she was out of state she would have her agent attend to her affairs.
But finally, a move was made and even though we had so many questions, we kind of just had to let it go and give her the opportunity to remedy the problem. However, we learned that she didn’t have a crew hired– that she was in the “bidding “process. And not only that, her agent Sharon who was supposed to be lady Friday opening the doors and making sure the “crew” weren’t helping themselves to an open bar or any of our personal belongings, was actually a plant. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little here, but seriously, after we received a second notice for a new remediation team to check out the house (over 3 weeks later), I came by and noticed a key to my house between two plants on the floor. I mean, I’m sorry I can’t be at the house to let people in (because I live in a hotel) but really, her idea of “agent” is to leave a key on the ground????!!!!??? Why not install a lock box? Well, anyway, that is not an “agent”– that’s a welcome opportunity and a free for all. And let me tell you that we get a lot of solicitors… around one to two people a day.
I wrote her an email pleading with her to take care of our stuff. Every time she had someone come in to give her a “bid”, it released more toxins into the air and exposed our belongings to the elements (my concern). Every time she had someone come in to give her a “bid”, it gave more opportunity to not-yet-hired contractors to take something especially because no physical agent person would ever be in attendance (Tom’s concern.) Did I mention that all of our baby shower gifts were still nicely wrapped up in the corner of our house? And as expected, I received no response. Not even a wink or a poke, just absolutely nothing.
A Broken Heart and a Realization
A couple things happened during our many weeks stay at the hotel-motel-Holiday-Inn. First, I learned the first names of all the employees, their schedules & some very interesting gossip (although I think I was the butt of the jokes—at this point I was a full term-pregnant lady) , and second, our pre-natal specialist looked over the toxin report and told us that the type of mold in our house can cause infant lung bleeding. And since we hadn’t had an actual conversation with our landlord (who I strongly feel is the Devil), since day 4 of when this all started, we realized that we couldn’t trust her. I’m not sure who eventually closed this game of chess—whether it was us deciding we weren’t moving back in or whether it was her deciding she didn’t want us to move back in– she did give us the final “checkmate” though – we received a legal document that said we had to comply to how she wanted to do things (Agent Sharon, random remediation companies, no communication….) or move-out within three days.
Yeah, well, nobody backs the Smiths into a corner. Anyway, as you start receiving your Thank You notes (so so so sorry it took me this long) please take note of the address change. I’ve been very busy these last few days unpacking, panicking while getting excited for baby’s arrival. I’m very grateful for many things, but most of all, for your compassion, patience and understanding while going through this crazy, challenging time. We’ve learned that we are #SmithStrong and our biggest losses were some sanity, a bunch of tears (mine and Tom’s), a lot of money, and a great deal of time—but all will be recovered one day. Here is to the future…