Monday, December 24, 2007

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

It’s not uncommon for traumatic events to cause family members to indulge in self destructive behaviors as a coping mechanism. Resorting to abuse of drugs or alcohol to escape the memories of the trauma is a common pit fall. I’m sorry to say we have experienced some of these behaviors in our family.

Sparky has issues. I refer to him as Sparky (sometimes Stripey) but you all know him as Chairman Meow.

I mentioned some time back that he had exhibited some aberrant behaviors. I chalked it up to the weather, or a bad bite of tuna, or maybe a little cabin fever. Sparky hasn’t been outside since the flood. Today is December 24th. We left him locked in the house when we went off to work Tuesday morning December 4th so he’s gone 3 weeks now without being able sniff the bushes, charge at crows, or otherwise frolic in the wet grass. Add to that the traumatic memory of being locked in a cold dark house (no power) as flood waters rose then fell, and it is reasonable to think that he has experienced “emotional scarring that has altered his behavior and relationships “. Cat therapy is on our list of "things" as we recover from the flood; right after that beach bungalow on some south pacific Isle.

Here is the sad tail, … er tale:
In cleaning the house the other day, Mrs. C discovered that someone had broken into the little secret compartment on the cat carrier where the sealed ziplock bag of catnip is hidden. This isn’t easy to get into. Designed for and by humans, it requires (or so I thought) the opposed thumbs that we humans find so handy … (Get it? Handy?) A little hinged-lid compartment with a sort of friction lock. Anyway, it appears that some social deviant was able to open the compartment and went on to claw or chew his or her way through the heavy duty zip lock bag, and then through the less hearty plastic baggie inside and then apparently devoured ALL the catnip (about a ‘nickel bag’) and maybe a little plastic in the bargain.

I had a talk with Sparky about this: He denies all knowledge, says he didn’t even know we had a catnip stash and though he had seen the ripped up baggie, he had no idea what it was, or how it got there. When I asked about his red eyes he became righteously indignant and said cats always have red eyes, all humans know that, then he sulked off in the general direction of the couch. In the future I guess we will have to lock the catnip in the liquor cabinet.

There are developments on the house front:
Friday I went on a FEMA/SBA scavenger hunt. Mrs. C had previously completed a pre-application for a loan with the Small Business Administration (SBA), and in order to complete the ‘final’ application we needed a little more documentation. Some financial records were lost so I had to go visit my financial adviser to get current investment balances. That was depressing, I could have sworn I had more socked away. Then it was out to the county seat to get a copy of our trust deed (also missing, post flood) and to talk with the assessor. Here is a little tiny tip: It’s always good to store your important documents in that file cabinet, but not so good to store them in the bottom drawer. Put the good stuff higher up in the file cabinet. There was good news (well sort of) at the assessor’s office: If I ask (and I did) they will send an appraiser out to reappraise, on the off chance that our house might have dropped a bit in value. I hate to be reminded that our house is such a mess, on the other hand I don’t mind the idea of paying less in property taxes for awhile.

Then it was off to the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Rochester to chat with the SBA folks to assure that we had all the stuff we needed to turn in our final application on Saturday. I also needed to ask a few clarifying questions (like how do we value personal belongings such as furniture which were lost in the flood). I also needed to talk with the FEMA mitigation specialist. Mrs. C had been in the day before and this fellow said he hoped to have some additional information soon. When I stopped in he didn’t have the new information but we talked at length about how mitigation funding is handled. It is a subject which seems to be shrouded in mystery. I gather that our chances of getting assistance (for things like raising the house) will be helped if we are vocal and advocate for it. I am thinking I may become the community organizer that tries to get my fellow Oakvillians to speak with one voice on the matter. That night Mrs. C and I sat at the kitchen table and filled out the application and associated documents.

Saturday morning we were headed back to the DRC to turn in the loan application when the mail arrived with an advance check from the yet to be finalized insurance settlement. Of course the mortgage holder was listed as a co-payee on the check so we had to engage them to figure out how we are going to get their signature on this and future checks.

I won’t name names but let me just say, we financed our home purchase with a very large national corporation and our home buying experience was not great. I have been dreading getting them involved, fearing that the process of disaster recovery would also be a bureaucratic challenge. So far, my fears appear to be confirmed. You would think that a large, nationwide mortgage lender would have a pretty standard process for something like catastrophic damage to a property that they hold a mortgage on. They probably do, but apparently they are large enough that the left and right hands don’t know they are connected to the same body, never mind knowing what each other is doing.

This took considerable time so that we arrived at the DRC in the afternoon. I was worried that the place would be crowded but we were the only customers when we got there. The SBA folks reviewed our app and complimented us on our thoroughness. (we got an A+ for penmanship and an A- for completeness!) They said they would rush the application out today and that we should hear something in about 10 days. Before we stopped at the DRC we made a Xerox copy for our records. I know what it is like when someone calls you about an application and starts asking you questions and you don’t have a copy of what they are reading. Remember this, it will be important later.

We then went round and talked with Mr. Mitigation again. Still no new scoop. He seemed more upset than I. Either he is a great car salesman or he cares about the work he does. I suspect the latter, we shared stories about our Katrina and Rita experiences.

Finally on to the house to do some work. Right now I am working on the floors. There are lots of nails and staples in the sub floor that need to come out. This is pretty mundane stuff but really great for me right now. It’s mindless but requires just enough attention that I don’t have to think long term about what is going to happen to this house. While at the house I got a call from the SBA lady at the DRC (don’t you just love acronyms?) Remember when I said earlier that the fact we had made a copy of our app was important? Well it seems that right after they deposited our application package in the FEDEX drop box they realized that FEDEX was going to be on holiday, until Wednesday. So they asked us to come on back to the DRC with our copy of the application. They made a Xerox copy and then faxed the thing off to whereever it needed to go, Washington DC I suppose. I thought that was a great example of customer service, and remember, this was from that great bogeyman of poor service, the federal government. Not some large private sector mortgage corporation.

Today, I got my rando bike out in the light and gave it a look. It’s a mess. It was in the garage where we got 18” of flood water for I don’t know how long. So it had a nice long soak in beige soup, up over the hubs and the bottom bracket. This was hard to take. I’m reading notes from my riding friends about training rides, and coffee rides, and easy chat-along rides and I'm thinking I should be out riding my bike too. Mrs. C and I should be riding out the South Bank road to Elma for pie and coffee on the tandem. But I’m not going to be doing much riding for a while. Anyway I took the Tournesol up to my favorite mechanic at my favorite Local Bike Shop (LBS) to get it looked at. I don’t assume it has suffered any significant damage but I can’t just let it sit there covered in silt. Friends offered to give it a once over, and I really appreciate the gesture, I just need to get it out of sight for awhile. I’m sure I’ll feel better about it when it comes back shiny and ready to ride.

While at the LBS I picked up Mrs. C’s bike. I had a fair amount of work done on it as a Christmas gift. We are going light on the Christmas gifts this year so that’s most of what she gets from me. The gift that keeps on giving.

Tomorrow is Christmas. I’m getting a pretty special gift, my oldest son and my youngest daughter are coming for a visit. Gunnar will take the train up from Portland and Turi will drive down from Seattle. We had them at the house for Thanksgiving dinner along with my Youngest Son Ole. That seems like such a long time ago. It will be great to see the kids again, though it is a misnomer to call them kids. It will be good to have family close by, if only briefly, the very best gift of all.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a better next year, we plan to.


  1. We're so sorry to hear about the flood and damage to your home and belongings. And very sorry to hear about Chairman Meow's PTSD. We've been grateful that our own Princess Penelope (aka Penny) survived her 30 days in quarantine/solitary confinement with only some weight loss and perhaps becoming a bit more clingy than before. Of course, now we're moving her again, but no quarantine, but probably some moving around until we're settled.

    We hope your bike comes back as new and we hope you can get back to riding soon.

    Thinking of you, from Australia,
    Melissa & Scott

  2. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was first brought to public attention in relation to war veterans, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.