Lisa Murray thought opening the storage containers that sat idle for a year would be like crossing the finish line of their house remodel. She had looked forward to sifting through family photos and baby quilts made for her two children by her late mother, and uncrating the art books she had built a library for. Murray and her husband, Craig Hinkley, built this house to settle down their vagabond family that had moved every two-and-a-half years for the past 16. The family momentos would help make this house a home.
Cottage shared by family of four---plus dog.
After a year of construction while the couple shared a tiny cottage out back and the two kids — 14 and 12 – plus the dog, Millie the boxer, slept in bunk beds in the garage, Murray was ready to put their family lives back in order. They had lived with an overflowing toilet, electricity outages, and a winter of rain that left mud bogs that Millie tracked inside. At one point, Murray wretched her knee and needed a cane after tripping on broken flagstone.
Lookiloos and the Mercury News have been chronicling their remodel odyssey.
Daily, she shuttled back and forth to Home Depot to pick up odds and ends for her contractor so he could stay focused on the building and she could get her kids out of the garage and into their home. As a family, they pickled ceiling beams on saw horses in the back yard. She and her husband climbed into the rafters to install fiber optics for an art installation in the master bedroom.
The inconveniences and stresses were worth it. She kept her eye on the prize — a big house they downsized during planning, a house where this avant garde artist could express her creativity in bold colors and bubble chairs, Gothic details and a female portrait she painted on a sliding door that disappears into the wall.
Woman on Sliding Door---Truly Stunning!
Still, she had a reality check when her son, Cal, was attacked by a dog last summer that tore a gash into his face that threatened to leave lasting scars. This is a woman who understands what’s important in life — Los Gatos remodel or not.
When she and her husband opened the storage containers last weekend, they were devastated. To save money, they had decided to keep three storage containers on their property during construction. They covered them with tarps to add extra water proofing.
That wasn’t enough.
Through the heavy winter rains, as she was choosing tile and light fixtures, ninety percent of the art books she had collected in her travels were turned into muck. All the Nancy Drew books that she and her daughter, Madison, read together in bed each night were ruined.
Cherished Childhood Memories
“My best friend gave them to me when she was a little girl,” Murray said. “I was going to read them when I’m a grandmother to my granddaughter. Ours isn’t a drop in a buck to people who lose everything in a fire. But the feeling is horrible. Maybe its God’s way of saying, ‘You know what? Think of other people who are less fortunate than you.’”
The baby quilts her mother had sewn for the children were covered in mildew. A needlepoint her mother had made of her son’s birth announcement was safe. But she hasn’t found her daughter’s yet. She can only pray it survived, too.The house still needs final inspection. And her husband has already settled on take-out Chinese food for Thanksgiving. House guests from Hinkley’s native Australia are arriving in less than three weeks and the pressure is on to be moved back in.
“It’s our own stupid fault,” she said. “But it’s one of those things you don’t count on. It’s heartbreaking.”
“It’s like a marathon. You want to finish triumphantly,” she said. “But you’re kind of wounded going across the finish line.”
There have been successes along the way, though. Her children have become closer living in the garage, reading by flashlight when the electricity is out. She appreciates more than ever the support of her husband through the chaos. And a giant stained glass window of an angel — a piece she bought through Craig’s List that once adorned a mortuary — was safely installed in the living room.
As she sweeps up dust, she enjoys watching its blue light filter across the barren living room floor. When she feels a little despondent, it gives her a little hope.
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