What we got here is a failure to communicate

A memorable line from the classic film, “Cool Hand Luke”, it keeps replaying in my mind as our house makeover proceeds. It seems the more technology enters into our most simple, everyday tasks, the more complicated it becomes. The more we let it replace direct interaction with one another, well, it seems like we end up with just a plain, hot mess. Today was my Waterloo.

20150403_2286Everyone working on our project has been great. From the flooring guys that have tackled a nearly impossible job to the electricians and carpenters, all have proceeded as smoothly as possible while trying to complete a not small project in a specific time frame. It is the coordination that is starting to drive me crazy.

We could have avoided most of this angst by just hiring a “Big Box” store to act as General Contractor. We are buying many of our materials from them. But, the labor costs of them acting as the GC is quadruple what the individual tradespeople charge. So, frugality and sensibility take precedence over ease. Up to now it has been o.k. But, the kitchen project requires the efforts of several tradespeople so the designer/cabinet maker is coordinating, more or less, that part of our project. He says he likes to communicate mostly by email and text and voice mail – as well as some face-to-face, of course. It is here that the bogeyman of technology raises his ugly head. Examples: Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. The Redhead gets an email from the kitchen guy: “Electricians will be at house tomorrow”.  Foolish me asks the Redhead, “what time”? She says, “I don’t know. I’ll email him back”. Hmmm.

Thursday, 7:15 a.m. I’m in the shower singing my third rendition of, “I Left my Heart in San Francisco” (I’ll learn the real words, someday). The Redhead yells into the bathroom, “The electricians are at the house and can’t get in ’cause your not there”.  No kidding. Who needs to rinse off, anyway? And breakfast? Ha!

And so it went all day. Emails to the Redhead from the kitchen guy’s staff: “Plumber’s coming Friday or Monday. Need toilet and valves”. Message duly given. Foolish me asks, “How can the toilet go in when there is no drain yet”?  Or walls? Or floor? Just small details, I suppose.20150402_2276There’s more. But, you get the idea. Technology is fine. To a point. But, can an I Pad really replace a,”My Pad”? All the numbers, names, notes and dates you could possibly want or need – all at a fingers touch!

Bill's My PadBill’s My Pad

Not all is lost or gloomy, though. Far from it. Thanks to the Redhead’s vision, the most beautiful house we could have imagined will soon be our home. 20150402_2277

In the meantime, can somebody just pick up a phone!


From a Distance


Often, changes are seen only from a distance.

So it is with our house renovations. Since we signed the closing documents on our soon to be new home a bit over two weeks ago, our lives have been compressed activity. It is not unusual for two or more groups of contractors to be working, or at least inspecting, at the same time. Since Debbie and I decided to act as our own “general contractors” after having been staggered by the labor costs associated with using a well known home center as our main coordinator for our projects, we have interviewed many painters, kitchen cabinet suppliers, flooring installers and builders and roofers. If it sounds like we are doing a lot of work, well, I guess we are! But, changing a house is not nearly so challenging as changing one’s life. And, so far, so good.


We have learned to really listen to those presenting us with work proposals. It’s often not only what they say, but how they say it, that determines who we will agree to work with. We’ve been blessed to come across some very decent, hard working folks that believe their crafts are the signature of their lives.

Dave is our lead man for the floor demolition and will also take part in the installation of the new tile. He comes to work early and is determined to remove every bit of what was intended to be a “permanent” wood floor. One arm is tattooed with a barbed wire design and the other with the Confederate battle flag and the words, “The South shall rise again”. He smokes too much. But, during his breaks he speaks of his wife and a son afflicted by what sounds to be autism. Dave’s hardness is mainly in his arms and back. We hope he will join us when we have our “new home” celebration party.

There are others we have met during this “extreme makeover” for which we are grateful and fortunate to have met. There are some that we wish we could have worked with but our budgets or schedules were not in sync.

We also have met several of our new neighbors. We are keeping the promise made to ourselves to be outgoing and speak with those we live near and those we meet while walking our neighborhood. Here it is easy. While many of our new neighbors are not originally from Jacksonville (many are from the mid-west) there is something different here in the way neighbors interact. At least in my experience. Debbie has had the good fortune of experiencing Southern graciousness before. There is a book I am nearly finished reading titled, “Southern by the Grace of God”. It gives an interesting insight to Southern thinking, values and custom. I cannot help but think of the similarities between the Southern way of life and that of rural Irish living, from which I am not far removed. Perhaps I am closer to home than I had imagined.


And, so, yesterday I took The Redhead’s advice and went for a neighborhood walk before returning to our apartment. I had spent much of the day at the house with the workmen. Sidewalks are a neighborhoods best friend – they connect homes and people. It was while speaking with our neighbor, whose home also is on the pond, that I was able to see our house from a distance. She remarked how she noticed already some changes. She was right. Some of the changes could better be seen – from a distance.