On Velociraptor Incidents

On Velociraptor Incidents

I am out of cope. My whelm is over. There is a lot going on right now, and I’m not handling it as well as I normally handle things. I’m writing this late at night while sitting on a hard floor covered in pillows, in a big empty living room in a home that is not my own.

Let me back up. Adam and I have adopted a rating method to help us categorize the severity of problems and crises that we’ve had to handle in the last couple of years. It happened a bit like this, in a conversation over instant message:

Me: Hey. We should put this on the wall at home and keep track of how many days it’s been since the last major crisis in our lives.

Adam: Print one out.

So I did, and we put it on the wall and placed a post-it note with the number four on it. This was in December of 2014.

Going back a bit to late November, we had enrolled in extensive lifelong training for our dog Summer. It was a great investment, and the training was amazing for her, and without it we were worried that her separation anxiety and howling every time we left her behind meant that we’d have to find a new home for her or get kicked out of our apartment. Neither option was a good one, and we were feeling a lot of stress and helplessness. So we put $1,500 in dog training and gear on our credit card and implemented a plan to pay it back.

A week later we learned that Lyra needed more dental surgery (her first was when she was three) to make room for the adult teeth coming in to her tiny mouth. A $1,000 dentist bill later, our credit card statement was unimpressed, and we tried to adapt our repayment plan.

And four days previous to Adam’s and my conversation above — a couple of weeks after the surgery announcement — on the day that Adam’s grandmother passed away after a rapid an somewhat unexpected descent into illness, we took Summer to the 24-hour emergency vet. Her breathing had become laboured, she looked sick and weak, and she wouldn’t lie down because she couldn’t breathe when she did. She had developed pneumonia and her lungs were full of fluid, so they kept her at the animal hospital overnight and told Adam that if he hadn’t brought her in she may not have survived the night. A $1,000 vet bill later and the next morning, we brought her home, recovering.

Each of these incidents on their own were trying, exhausting, and stressful, and expensive. Having them come one on top of the next without a chance to recover and breathe in between each one, right before Christmas and in a time when we were mourning a member of our family that meant a lot to us — it was becoming too much. We didn’t know how to handle it all. And then we put the Velociraptor Incident sign on the wall, and somehow that made everything just a bit easier to deal with. It had been four days since our last Velociraptor Incident (VI).

Categorizing events in the last couple of years as Velociraptor Incidents and non-Velociraptor Incidents helped put things into perspective. Cancer? Total Velociraptor Incident. Lyra’s surgery when it happened in January? Not really, since we’d been through dental surgery with her before and knew what to expect. One thousand dollars extra on the credit card? Manageable. $3500 all at once on the card? A bit more like a Velociraptor Incident. It made it easier to cope with things knowing we had a scale against which to measure them.

Two and a half weeks ago we had another Velociraptor Incident.

The great Spring flood of 2015

Adam phoned me at work just after noon on a Wednesday, one of the days that he usually works from home. His voice was an inexplicable hybrid of calm and frantic as he told me, “We have a major problem.” From his tone I knew that it was going to be a big one.

Our place is flooding. There’s water pouring down the wall of the girls bedroom and I don’t know where it’s coming from. There’s nothing I can do.”

I told him that I would come home, packed up my computer and stood outside on Hastings St. waiting for the next bus to Port Moody. It was a long time coming, and while I waited I received update after update from Adam on how things were going.

The Strata called an emergency plumber but they haven’t shown up yet.”

The water is filling up the floor in the girls’ room.”

“It’s moving into the hallway and going into the bike room and our bedroom.”

“It’s started running down all of the walls in their bedroom. I can hear it in the ceiling.

The plumber can’t find the water shutoff valve for our unit. Or for the entire building.”

Helplessly I stood at the bus stop, then sat on a bus that took forever to get me back home. By the time I had arrived, water had been flooding our place for two hours. It was still pouring out of the walls in Lyra and Pan’s bedroom with the water reaching nearly every room in the house, and the plumber was waiting for the City to arrive so they could shut off the water to the entire complex. The dog had been sent to dog daycare, blankets and towels were trying to hold back the deluge in vain, and all we could do was shift things out of the bedrooms and into the living room our out onto the patio and watch it all happen.


I was somewhat mistaken above… it was an electrician, not a carpenter.

By the end of the day we were booked into a hotel room, the dog was booked to stay overnight at the daycare, and we were shellshocked. I had rescued some clothes for the four of us, my guitar, and a couple of books and stuffies for the kids to sleep with at the hotel. Adam had already spoken to our insurance company, our landlord, the strata, the strata’s insurance, the emergency recovery team, and all of our neighbours. And he had reset the Velociraptor Incident sign to zero.

A new (temporary) home

We sat in the hotel room that night trying to figure out what to do next. The water damage to our place was thorough and meant that we couldn’t live there while it was being fixed. And there was some mold for the strata to deal with. According to our insurance company, they could find us alternate living arrangements, but we had a fixed amount in our budget to work with. They told Adam that the places they could find would cost a thousand dollars a week or more to rent, and may or may not keep us local to the kids’ school and daycare. It was a less than an ideal situation.

I took it upon myself to find a place for us, and looked up local furnished short-term rentals and AirBnB listings in Port Moody. The very first ad I saw on Craigslist was perfect – near our neighbourhood, still on transit lines (mostly), and big enough for the family. It wasn’t available until late June, but I decided we could make it through June with the multitude of offers we had to stay at various friends’ houses, or in hotels, or other short-term rental places. So I contacted them and explained the situation and hoped for the best.

The rest of the week we spent coordinating with all the relevant parties. They had moved giant dehumidifiers and fans into our place, and all of our belongings were in various piles of disarray. Our hotel suite was only available for two nights, so we moved into a friend’s basement (one of many basements offered to us that week) for the remainder of the weekend, where we had a Skype call with our future new short-term landlords (who live out of town) and made arrangements to move into their place far ahead of the original late June move-in date. It meant we would be camping out in a giant, empty townhouse, with whatever scraps of furniture, dishes, supplies, and beds we could piece together from our friends and by scavenging our own place before our things went into storage.

We moved in on June 1st. Our things have been moved to storage from our old place as of this week, to be assessed for damage (which doesn’t appear to be a lot in most cases though some of it was smelly from the dehumidifiers) and cleaned. This place we’re renting is ours until August 31st, at which point we either move back into our old place (if it’s ready by then) or find a new place to live temporarily until it is ready. Unless we figure something else out.

My status in all this?

I’m tired. It’s not from lack of sleeping – with no home internet for the last two weeks, I’ve been getting plenty of sleep. But the cumulative stress over the last two years has caught up to me. Each individual thing we’ve dealt with since early 2013 – almost buying a townhouse and deciding the timing was wrong (VI), then discovering my cancer and going through that treatment while trying to start a new job (VI), and then Adam developing a severe stress-related sickness for seven months once I was in recovery (VI), plus the aforementioned dog and massive expenses in December items (more VIs) they’ve torn me down a piece at a time. And the thought that we have to move again in less than three months — so don’t settle in fully or anything, folks — is exhausting.

I’ve lived optimistically for a long time. It hasn’t always been easy, but since my late twenties or so I learned how to do it, and eventually it came easily. I usually believe that things are going to work out, and while I may feel stressed and tired for a little while, I snap back to hope pretty quickly.

My elasticity is gone. I hesitate to say I’m depressed, but that’s partly because I don’t want it to be true. I don’t think I’m there yet; perhaps I am pre-depressed. But I’m not myself, and it’s all I can do some days to put my self together and get things done. Getting things done and dealing with things is what I do, so I am doing it, but I am exhausted, unhappy, and overwhelmed by it all. I feel as though this one thing is beyond my capacity to get through with any sense of humour. I am just a bit broken, and I’m lucky to have Adam to pick up the pieces I can’t hold together.

Part of me doesn’t want to move back in when the old place is repaired. It was already getting too crowded as the girls got older, and it was always damp and underground and dark and not ideal. But we find ourselves facing townhouse purchase prices beyond what we can afford as first-time buyers, or renting a bigger place that will cost easily twice what we currently pay in rent (as much as or more than a mortgage without providing any long-term financial benefits of being in the housing market). I feel trapped, which leaves me feeling hopeless. It’s not a feeling I enjoy.

I’m not who I want to be.

I want to think that this is an opportunity to pursue a major change of some sort in our lives. I want to turn this into something to be hopeful about. But I’m struggling with just getting through each day.