when it rains…

4 Nov

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It has been about a year since we have posted anything on this blog. Everything I read or see about Hurricane Sandy and the people struggling in the wake of its aftermath has me reliving the days and months after Hurricane Irene. The memory of the sludge on my hands can still give me pause. And I still reach for things that are no longer there. I don’t have that book I want to lend you. I don’t have that photo from third grade I wanted to show you. That piece of furniture is just gone. And the letters from my childhood friends and grandparents: all the words have washed away.

But in a year’s time, things have gotten so much better for us. In the middle of what we were going through, I couldn’t have imagined where I would be today. We had been saving for years leading up to the flood to buy our first house. We had actually looked at one house just days before Irene. We put house-hunting on hold while we picked up the pieces of our broken lives and moved in with Michael’s mom. Your donations came in as fast as the flood: food, clothes, furniture, cleaning supplies, garbage cans, bedding, office supplies, and money. We needed it all, every single last thing. I honestly think I cried after taking each gift back to our little attic room at Marta’s. As we sorted through the contents of our flooded home, we found some things could be salvaged. Family and friends scrubbed and disinfected right along side us. Sometimes it was all I could do to stare off into space and shake. Trauma does interesting things to a person’s mental state. In the days immediately following the flood, it was difficult to perform typical daily routines. People stepped in and took over certain tasks: finding and filling a storage unit with our remaining belongings, making food, washing clothes. There is no way we could have done this alone. NO WAY. Anyone out there helping the communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy, you are changing people’s lives right now.

I am writing this from a 200 year old farmhouse that we purchased 4 months after Hurricane Irene. I look around everyday, I swear, and try to take in all that I have one year later. I feel more blessed than I ever have in my entire life. This is what happens when you lose something big and you experience the powerful protection of helpful human beings. We have a couch and bed that a community’s donations helped us buy. We have dressers for our clothes that were either donated or refurbished by our family or friends. We have lamps to read by that people gave us. We combed yard sales, Craigslist and thrift stores to recreate what we had taken years to build. We have everything we need. We eat all our meals at a beautiful kitchen table that was given to us by a friend. I think of her kindness almost every day. Michael is back to making and recording music because he was able to replace his equipment with the financial donations we received. The Small Business Association steps in to FEMA communities and lends people low-interest loans to rebuild their lives. This loan gave us the freedom to buy a house and replace things we lost.

Sometimes I cry because I feel so blessed. Sometimes I cry because I am not yet over what we went through. It was a life-changing event that shook me to the core. I’m grateful to have friends who allow me those moments of sadness, knowing that grieving is an important part of moving through to the other side of something. I am grateful for all the people who checked in with us on the days leading up to this most recent hurricane. “How are you feeling about this?” they called to say. Thank god we made it through this one with no damage. I’m not sure how I could have handled it.

A small plum tree was planted this week in our side yard, a precious gift from the students and parents at the school where I teach. These offerings have been so huge to us. We take nothing for granted. Each moment of our lives feels rich. Our relationships with family and friends feel more important than ever before. Receiving such copious amounts of kindness has altered my life and its meaning. Whenever I read about the relief efforts of Hurricane Sandy, I am reminded of the caring hearts that helped us heal. Everything we are all doing right now to stand by those who lost their homes, lost loved ones, lost their livelihoods, is essential to the whole picture. Keep reaching out.

Dance Party!!!

25 Oct

So Mark and Susan from the cafe asked if they could do something nice for us post-flood.  They proposed a dance party fundraiser after Michael DJ’ed a party for Rosendale Town Supervisor candidate Jen Metzger at the cafe.  We said let’s do it!!! It’s going to be a big fat dance party to usher in new beginnings!! Come out and shake your booty boot with us! Here’s the cafe event link.

And our big news is we are buying a house in Stone Ridge! We’ve been involved with the RUPCO first time home buyer’s class since last November.  Losing our house kicked us into high gear and it corresponded with us finishing the RUPCO savings plan. We move in December and celebrations are in order! We may have lost half of our possessions but we still have a dance or two left in us for Mary J. Blige.  See you soon!!! xox

Turning a dirty wreck into renewed hope

18 Sep

Because of your generous contributions, we have slowly begun rebuilding our lives. After some negotiation, our renter’s insurance coverage was officially denied because of a clause stating that we are not covered for flood-related damages. The local FEMA staff were friendly and easy to work with and did give us a small grant that would have covered a month and a half of rent at our old house. The loss of the contents of our home will not be covered. Therefore, your help is what will ultimately see us through to the other side of all of this. We have already been able to replace shoes, food and toiletries that were lost in the flood waters. In time, when we move into a new home, we will have some freedom to replace furniture, electronics, bedding and other larger items. It is a slow process of recovery from such a blow. But, all in all, we realize how truly privileged, blessed and lucky we are. THANK YOU!

For now, we wake every morning to the scampering of two of the cutest cats in the world. We have settled in quite comfortably at Michael’s mom’s house for the time being. Yesterday, a cadre of friends descended upon us to wash the muddy silt off the furniture that was salvaged. Our gracious friend Stu Dorris, a talented wood-worker, whisked off with the hardest hit of our dressers, one Jacinta had had since childhood, one that was now moldy, black and swollen, and promised to take it apart, plane it and turn it into something new and utterly beautiful. And this is the metaphor for how these last three weeks has been. You are all helping us turn a dirty wreck into renewed hope.

a little more from the past week…

7 Sep

As you may have already heard, we were impacted by Hurricane Irene. The Rondout Creek, our favorite summer swimming spot, flooded the house that we have been renting. The first floor of our house (bedroom, kitchen, living room, bathroom & dining area) became submerged under three & a half feet of rushing, muddy flood waters.  But we are both SAFE. We lost our bed, antique furniture, some of our clothes, most of our electronics, shoes, important paperwork, many family photos, food pantry, keepsakes & more. In the end, we guess that we will feel liberated from all this STUFF but for now we are still processing the loss.

We have been humbled and touched by the generosity of our friends & family.  We had loved ones working ’round the clock to clear out our house, sorting that which could be salvaged from that which was standing on its last 4 legs. There were people sweeping the pounds of mud off the floor so the helpers were not wading through this on their way in and out of the house. At the house, with no running water, our friends set up a 4-part washing station to clean small trinkets, jewelry, dishes, etc. Another friend loaded her truck with every pot, pan, kitchen appliance, utensil and serving spoon we own and took them to her outdoor kitchen to clean & ready them for storage. She did all this without electricity. There were others who diligently walked through the rubble, documenting each and every ruined item in a notebook (adorned with kittens), our team of impromptu assessors, tallying the losses for FEMA and (possibly) insurance claims. Michael’s mom sat with Jacinta and typed up the list in a useful spreadsheet as they both cried. There has been a lot of crying. Our renter’s insurance does not cover flood but we are keeping our fingers crossed that they will make exception because of the state-wide nature of the disaster. Jacinta’s parents and their neighbors in Pennsylvania are diligently trying to restore Jacinta’s antique furniture that she has had since childhood.

Michael was out of state during the first several days, trying, but unable, to get a flight home. Jacinta was able to pull through all this without him here because of this amazing community.  A team of friendly DIY document savers laid out the 1,000s of letters, documents, elementary school report cards, yearbooks, taxes, passports, Michael’s original song lyrics, etc. to dry in the sun on the driveway. The photos of this and the rest of the wreckage, taken by Michael Asbill, are stunning and colorful, and will make an amazing healing art project one day.  Jacinta’s co-workers did all of the work setting up the classroom for her so she can be ready for the first day of school without even having to go in beforehand. There were friends who let Jacinta crawl in bed with them or wake them up with phone calls at 2 am when she was sobbing and panicked about losing her nest. There were other friends who stopped by where Jacinta was staying and heated up food for her at just the right time, when she was dizzy from not eating or sleeping. Some took us out for 10 minute walks just to get away from it all.  Friends called from other states and offered truckloads of furniture. If we typed up the generous offers on paper, they would certainly fill our now-empty house.  And perhaps this is the beauty in all of this. What we are left with is ALL OF YOU, our community and family. Turns out, love is the most tangible thing we have.

A lot of people have been asking us if they could help us out with financial donations. After some cajoling, we’ve set up this blog. You can read the whole story here and/or donate so that we can eventually replace lost food, clothes, spices, shoes, furniture, electronics, etc.  We realize there are others in way worse shape than we are, people who lost everything and have no one to call for help. Parts of the Hudson Valley were hit worse than any other place along the coast. But this is for those of you who asked how you can help us directly. Many of you have already sent in donations. We are so blessed beyond belief. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

We will be staying at Michael’s mom’s house in Stone Ridge for a while to get back on our feet. We live with two kitties here, something both of us have sorely missed. Sometime in the next few days, we hope to go out and replace the shoes we lost in the hurricane. One step at a time. It has been hard to find time to eat, let alone go to the store. We have taken out a bit of time to share meals with friends & family almost every day and the laughter around the table is what keeps us sane. We have been diligently saving for the last year to buy a home through RUPCO’s First-time Home Buyers Program. And we will get back on that saddle when the dust settles. For now, we have a beautiful room at Marta’s.

Many people have offered replacements for our lost household goods. Lists of any items can be sent to Amy Myslik at breathe311@gmail.com.  She is compiling a list and we will start to respond in the next few weeks/months. Right now we don’t have a place to put anything extra but we love that you are thinking of us. We read each and every one of your emails. We listen to all of your messages. They all help us through this difficult time. Thank you for reaching out to us. We are a little overwhelmed. Just know we take each of you into our hearts. You mean the world to us.

We did lose Jacinta’s oldest Winnie-the-Pooh and original copies of her very first coloring book made on a photocopier, and Michael’s book of song lyrics and notes. These are the losses that make us pause. For those of you who know our work with Hudson Valley BRAWL, the good news is: all of Jacinta’s pink wigs and fanciful costumes survived, as well as Michael’s referee shirt! The October BRAWL will go on in style! We haven’t had time to sit down and write this all down until now but we know that many of you are worried so we wanted to give you an update on our current situation… but now we must go back to sorting and cleaning.

Eerily,  Jacinta found one solo scribbling in the notebook she carries around in her bag that was from April. It reads “I have recurring dreams of having to make my way through channels, over bridges, and through canyons that always flood and it is impossible to leave. Last night in my dream, I finally turned behind me and found that there had been a backdoor out the whole time, unlocked.”  In this challenging experience, we have found the back door out. And it is all of you.

Much Love & Gratitude,

Jacinta Bunnell and Michael Wilcock

http://www.girlsnotchicks.com

http://www.michaeltruckpile.com

 

Jacinta and Michael’s house was flooded by three and a half feet of water.

30 Aug dining area

During Hurricane Irene, the waters of the usually calm and placid Rondout Creek rose suddenly and completely overtook the house that we have been renting.  Without time to move our belongings to higher ground, the first floor of our house (bedroom, kitchen, living room, bathroom and dining area) became submerged under three and a half feet of rushing, muddy, flood waters.  The waters were so strong that they ripped the whole porch and our propane tanks off the house and sent them downstream.  The waters floated our couch off the floor and drove it through the sliding glass doors, creating an open stream through which many of our belonging then raged downstream. Everything is the house was crashed around as if on the high seas. The refrigerator rose off the ground and was found lying on the floor.

We lost our bed, much of our furniture, some of our clothes, most of our electronics (phones, tv, dvd player, vacuum cleaner, dehumidifier, speakers, hard drives), important paperwork, family photos, etc.  We have been humbled and touched by the outpouring of generosity from all our friends and family!  You are all amazing!  People helped for days & nights on end packing our ruined household items into contractor trash bags, chopping open our water logged furniture to sort through the drawers, drying out our muddy, water logged paperwork, belongings and clothes, and doing load after load of muddy laundry until late at night.  You all truly embody the definition of community.

This all happened while Michael was on a trip to visit a good friend in Bellingham, Washington.  His flight back was scheduled for Sept. 1st.  He went to the airport early to try to get a flight home, but there was nothing available because the airports were filled with people whose flights were canceled during the storm.  So he took charge of many details from a distance.

A lot of people have been asking us if they could help us out with financial donations, so, after some cajoling, we’ve set up this site.  We tend to be more comfortable being on the other end of this type of thing and it is not easy for us to ask for or receive help. But we are settling into the idea and have even found some solace in it.

If you feel inclined to make a donation, we will accept any gift no matter how big or small.  But don’t feel pressured. The link below is a secure paypal button that will allow you to donate money with your credit card, debit card, or paypal account into our account.  Feel free to share this site with anyone you think might be interested.  We will slowly be replacing the damage items as time allows.

Thank you all so, so, so much for all of your help and generosity.  It’s a humbling and powerful feeling to have so many people in our corner during this time.  Please know that we are so immensely grateful to all of you for all the different roles that you’ve played in lending us a hand!!

One piece of good news is that Jacinta’s much-loved koala bear has made it through the flood safely! We feel grateful that our top floor was completely untouched…which means all of our art studio, guest bed, Michael’s deejay equipment, and some of his music studio survived.
Since setting up this site, we have had an awe inspiring outpouring of financial support, loving emails, texts, offers of furniture, household items, and places to stay from SO MANY OF YOU! We REALLY regret not being able to thank people individually right now. Our days and nights are spent sorting through the wreckage and recovering from the trauma. We will just try to take in the kindness and accept the beautiful gifts that you all have given us. From the bottom of our hearts: a big huge loving thank you. You know who you are. You mean the world to us.

Update since the flood waters receded:
1) Jacinta spent the first several days at Carrie & Mike’s and Hope & Sean’s. The level of caretaking and help she received was unbelievable. There was an INCREDIBLE, compassionate, hard-working team of support that just kept expanding during these first few terrifying, stressful days.

2) We will be staying at Michael’s mom’s house in Stone Ridge for a while to get back on our feet. We have a beautiful room and we get to share daily meals, coffee, inspiring chats, and quality time with Marta, which is a silver lining to all this.
3) We have many of our personal items packed up, cleaned, and in storage.  We had an incredible gang of friends and family come to our aid in this mammoth endeavor.
4) SO many of you have offered replacements for our lost household goods. Lists of any items can be sent to Amy Myslik at breathe311@gmail.com.  She is compiling a list and we will start to respond in the next few weeks/months. Right now we don’t have a place to put anything extra but we love that you are thinking of us.
5) Before this happened, we were in the process of saving money & looking at houses (through RUPCO’s first time home-buyers program) to buy in the Rosendale area. We are halting that process so we can deal with all the dizzying details of the hurricane’s aftermath on our lives.
6) We have begun the process of applying for FEMA.

7) We are talking to our renter’s insurance company about what they will or will not cover. Our policy explicitly states that it does not cover flood…but this is a hurricane, so we shall see. Our landlord has flood insurance so we are also looking into that. What coverage, if any, we will get is unknown at this point, but we are working on it!

8) Michael has returned safely back to the Hudson Valley! YAY!

9) Jacinta’s mother, step-father and neighbors in Pennsylvania took many of her antiques that she has had since childhood to try to restore them. They were muddied, swollen, and smashed apart by the gigantic waves that tore apart the house but we are getting positive reports that some of the furniture can be saved.

10) We have a new storage unit where many things are dry and safe.

11) We read each and every one of your emails. We listen to all of your messages. They all help us through this difficult time. Thank you for reaching out to us. We are a little overwhelmed. Just know we take each of you into our hearts. It means the world to us.

We have been absolutely moved to the core by everyone’s generosity. We understand that there are a lot of people in need of help right now and by no means do we think that we are the only ones or even the ones in the worst shape.  Do not feel obliged to donate.  There are so many people in need in this area and there are various ways you can be of support to them. Entire farms, homes and businesses were lost in the Hudson Valley. Rescue crews, highway dept crews, firefighters, etc have been working around the clock. Consider donating to them and other families that have lost everything. The firefighters and county employees were loving angels to Jacinta as she sought help and information about how to proceed. One firefighter held her hand, cried with her, and invited her into his home anytime she wanted a cup of coffee.

From the spectacular outpouring of love, we have been made acutely aware of how beautiful of a place this world is and how totally awesome all of you are. No joke. There are many blessings to be found in this. A letting go of material possessions can be completely cathartic. And the way this brings us closer to our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and community is breathtaking. There hasn’t been a day we haven’t cried out of the sheer awe we have for each one of you. This relevant quote comes to us from our friend Tricia. It helps to be friends with a lot of social workers during times like this:

“Barn’s burnt down—

now

I can see the moon.”

–Masahide

Love, Michael Wilcock (Truckpile) and Jacinta Bunnell

Donations can also be mailed to:

Jacinta Bunnell & Michael Wilcock
PO Box 325
Rosendale, NY 12472

 


view more photos here

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