Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Lesson in Being Content

Last weekend I was having a really hard time with things. Our house wasn't right, my weight was too high, my clothes weren't nice enough, and my kids weren't behaved enough. I was in a funk, depressed, and wishing I could start all over again with everything. To top it all off, one of the houses in our town that I've been in love with is now for sale. Because I like torturing myself, I went online and looked at pictures of it. Everything looked so nice and better than our house, including a nicer entryway, a garage, and a claw foot bathtub, things I all really want and don't have now.

Monday night around 9, I was sulking as I was paying bills and updating our budget. The dog wouldn't lay down, the cat wouldn't stay out of my lap, and all I wanted to do was go to sleep.

That's when the beeping started.

It was just four little high pitched beeps. Mason, our dog, heard it first and starting whining. I put him outside on his line because he was underfoot, and began looking for the source of the beeps. The beeps came again, then were quiet for a few seconds, and started beeping again. Finally after running around the house like a chicken with it's head cut off, I discovered it was our carbon monoxide detector. We had just bought it a couple months ago as our previous one decided to die. I checked it over to see if it was also faulty or in need of batteries, but no, the label said if it was four beeps, it was indeed the alarm.

I called Pete home, who was a mile down the road for guy's night at our pastor's house. He rushed home, verified that it was the alarm, and checked the coal stove chimney to see if it had been plugged. We had just started to stove earlier in the afternoon, and hadn't checked the chimney to see if birds had nested there since we cleaned it out mid-summer. The chimney appeared clean, and I dialed that panic-inducing number, 911.

While I was on the phone, Pete started getting coats on kids and I helped him pile them in the van. The first responder showed up, and a few minutes later came the fire truck. We explained the situation again, and they went in the house. A few moments later, a responder came out and gave us the news:

"You have a carbon monoxide leak. You cannot stay here tonight."

Panic really starts to set in now. I begin calling and cancelling babysitting jobs for the morning, and also call Pete's parents to see if we could spend the night at their house, which is only 20 minutes away from where we live.

An ambulance arrives, and a paramedic goes in the house next. After a few minutes, he comes back out and says we should be checked out. Apparently the levels, although not fatally high, were highest in the kid's bedrooms where there is little ventilation; the levels were 46 parts per million in their rooms, and about 23 parts per million in the dining room by the coal stove. The level in the dining room is low compared to what it should have been as Pete and I started ventilating the house as soon as I called 911.

So we pile in the ambulance. The kids, although scared, are so brave and are answering all the questions the paramedics have. They get checked without a fuss and even remember their manners! This was (and still is!) one very proud mommy. All five of us had perfect vitals, and the kids were all given stuffed bears for great behavior.

After all the responders had thoroughly checked the house, they verified it was definitely the coal stove that was the cause of the leak and shut it down. We were allowed back into the house to grab bare necessities for the night and morning, and then had to lock up and leave with instructions to not come home until we heard from the local building code inspector. We got to my in-law's after 11, and went to bed.

Tuesday morning we were all exhausted, and kept the kids home from school and Pete called into work. We heard from the inspector at 9, and Pete and I raced home to meet with him. He was nice, but very to the point. He gave us a list of things we had to do before being allowed to move back in to the house, including installing more smoke detectors, a carbon monoxide detector that displays the levels of CO, and getting the coal stove inspected. Annoying, yes, but to get back in my home? I'd do anything!!!

And then came the set back: when I called to get the stove inspected, they told me no. Apparently I was the fourth call in two days; it's not cold enough to turn the coal stove on. If it's not cold enough, you don't turn the stove on high enough, and if it's not high enough, it doesn't draft out of the house properly. If it doesn't draft properly, CO backs up into the house. When I explained this to the inspector, he said that he would not clear us to live in the house until we had a working heat source. Our propane furnace broke in the spring, which is why we turned to coal stove on. Thankfully when I called the furnace repair company, they put us on the list for the day, and someone would call us before coming out. We said good bye to the inspector, who was going to check back on our progress mid-afternoon, and we went to get our supplies.

The morning dragged on forever. We completed our list of things to do, I did some cleaning, and we waited. Around 2, Pete called the furnace company, and we were next on the list. He went to pick up the kids and Mason from his parent's house, and I waited.

The technician showed up around 2:30, and around 5:30 he left, and my furnace was still cold. The prognosis? Our heat exchange was corroded, and whenever it would try to heat up, it would short out the whole furnace. Our options were either replace the exchange, or buy a new furnace. He called back to the home office, and when the company owner heard what was going on and that there were kids in the house, he said he would come out that evening to check it out and get an estimate immediately so we could have warm kids.

The building inspector stopped back while the technician was here, and cleared us to live in the house again, with instructions to get the coal stove inspected within the month to make sure there are no problems.

 Around 6:30, the furnace company owner showed up bearing space heaters. He didn't want us to have cold children, so he said we could borrow them until the furnace was fixed. He looked at the furnace, agreed with the technician's diagnosis, and wrote down serial numbers. He said he'd check out to see if the part was under warranty; if it was, great, they'd replace it and we'd only have to pay a few hundred dollars for labor. If it wasn't under warranty, we'd need a new furnace. Apparently if this part goes, it's not much more money to replace the whole furnace as it is to replace the heat exchange. After he left, I pretty much crashed. I was exhausted, I had a migraine, and I was frustrated. Every time we feel like we're starting to get somewhere financially, something goes wrong. We were making great progress on our car loan and then our water softener system broke and that needed replaced. We were making great progress on paying that off, and we were hoping that wouldn't interfere so much with our financial goals. And now the furnace? How would we pay for it? We might be able to pay for it in cash, but then we'd have nothing in our savings accounts, and when you have kids, that's not a great thing to do. I tried to not to worry, but due to the stress and lack of sleep from the past day's events, it was not easy.

Wednesday morning I get the phone call from the owner of the furnace company: we were indeed blessed! The warranty covers first and second owners of the furnace, and was a twenty year warranty. We made it by two years!!!! He was ordering the part immediately with hopes to install it Thursday, Friday at the absolute latest. I thanked him for all of his help and for sponsoring programs on our radio station, and we talked for a few minutes longer. He was so nice and said we were high priority for them for the week, and if I needed anything, don't hesitate to call.

Thursday morning before 8:30, a technician calls and he's on his way to fix our furnace! Five hours later, we have a spotless working furnace, a warm house, and very satisfied (but exhausted) customers.

So that was our week. It's so weird thinking a week ago I was having a pity party for myself. Now I'm so thankful that not only are we all healthy, but we are all alive, even the pain in the butt animals. My house may not be perfect, but leaving it Monday night was so hard; it's like another member of my family. It's funny to see Pete and I today, we were doing little things around here, such as finishing painting the living room from two years ago, and other little jobs. We are still exhausted from the week, but we are so very thankful for what we do have. My attitude has changed, and I'm hoping that the next time I get into a funk about things again, I'll remember this post and change my attitude before it gets changed for me!

Have you checked your smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors lately? Do you have both of them on every level of your house that has either a bedroom or a heat source? Don't wait; do it today! You never know when an emergency will happen. Your life is too important to wait.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my! What a crazy week!
    We had similar issues with our coal stove and had to get a draft inducer. Chris can tell you more.
    I'm glad you're all safe.