The wonder of it all

Blue Ridge Mountains, late afternoon

January, so far, has been one of those periods of time when it seems life runs its own course and we just have to sit back and wonder at it all.

Such was the case when, earlier this month, The Redhead’s father passed after a lengthy illness. No matter when it comes, the passing of a parent stirs emotions that cannot be expressed but is understood by everyone that has gone through it. During it all, our family and friends in Connecticut, Florida, here in Staunton and elsewhere, brought us much comfort, support and love.

Death, for those that believe in its finality, can be devastating. Yet, if death is understood more as a passing or moving from one reality to another, it can bring comfort and even joy. To experience contrition, forgiveness and love at any time is wonderful, but at the end it is beautiful. Truly, God’s Hand in all matters is a wondrous thing.

Before her dad passed, The Redhead had us facetime. We spoke about several things, one of them being the building of our house here in Staunton, VA and his happiness that his daughter would be living in such a beautiful home and area. He reminded me of our walks and talks along his beloved Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine and I told him that I would also remember his tips about planting a flower garden – “always add a pop of white, it brings out the other colors”! I’ll do my best, but Augusta County clay soil is a far cry from the soil found in coastal Maine. Thanks for the tips, Norman. And, thank you for The Redhead.

So, now things are starting to really come together at the house. The framing is nearly complete and the rooms, while still only 2×4’s, are now clearly defined. A few tweaks here and there remain: a repositioning of the vanity in the Master Bath, the addition of an entry hall closet and a little tweak in the dining room to accommodate a hutch – little things that will mean a lot to us now and later. Our Builders, Eric and Amy Argenbright, have been very understanding of what we are trying to accomplish: a beautiful home that will suit us now and for a long time to come. We appreciate their ideas and especially their attention to quality and craftsmanship.

Following are a few photos of the work that has taken place in just these past few weeks:

Building the front porch
Setting the Trusses
Eric Argenbright selecting the correct roof truss for the crane
Risky Business
Man and Machine
Getting There
Back view, it looks bigger than it is! The sun room is in center.
Our soon-to-be new home in Staunton, VA

Thanks for reading and a special thanks to our very special friends that are our family.

Everything is going to be o.k.

Every year ends the same: We are bombarded with lists of “Best Of” and “Worst Of” the previous year, reviews of what actually occurred from last year’s list of predictions and, of course, new lists of what will happen this coming year.

I’ve got this figured out now!

Sages and pundits will have a prediction for everything: what  the “hottest” colors and fashion trends will be, what will happen to the stock / housing market, what will happen with foreign friends and foes, etc., etc. I’ll bet there will even be a few soothsayers that will predict who the next president will be! Ya’ think?

Oy, Vey, what will happen??

I’m thinking, though, that like this past year, when events do unfold most of us will simply scratch our heads and think, “Well, ain’t that something”. Is this the result of apathy or disinterest? No, not at all. It’s more a belief in that everything is going to be o.k. and some of us have been “around the block” a few times. There are, believe it or not (to coin a phrase), people that actually make a living trying to scare the bejeepers out of us. Oh, yeah!

Are ya’ scared yet?

So, because everything is going to be o.k., here is what we plan to do this coming year:

Plan our “Housewarming Party” for this coming Spring.

Plan which trees and shrubs we’ll plant on our property because, despite an abundance of clay soil, it’s going to be o.k. – something will grow.

Plan on a layout for my new basement workshop because, yes, I’m getting back to work.

No more working in “The Dungeon”! No wonder I lost my hair!

Plan to find some porch rockers because, despite being new-comers here in Staunton, VA it will be o.k. Friends and new neighbors will come by and set awhile on our front porch. And, vice-versa!

Entertainin’, Gibby style!

But, mostly, I plan to be happy and thankful. Because everything is going to be o.k. Believe it!

Thanks to all of our friends, old and new, that have become or have remained such an important part of our lives. And, I am truly thankful to God, His Holy Mother and St. Joseph and St. Padre Pio for the gift of healing my beautiful Redhead this past year.

Below are some pics of an unexpected Christmas / New Year gift from our builders: our framing has started!

Front of house, library will be second window from left!
Some views!

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.  Everything will be o.k.

Bill

Punked

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Nobody is going to punk her.

Today’s news carried the tragic report of an eight year old girl that died from injuries she had sustained several months ago. The details of the report, although few, are bizarre and shocking. The girl was at home with her family when she became involved in a game of Dare. Someone dares you to do something and if you do it you get to challenge them. If you don’t fulfill the dare, well, it depends on the group playing. This eight year old girl, surrounded by her family – adults and other children – was given the dare to drink a glass of boiling water using a straw. She accepted and the resulting injuries sent her to the hospital where, after several operations she was returned home, but with lingering complications. Two days ago she complained of breathing difficulties and before the arrival of an ambulance, she died.

Comprehending what type of family would allow this type of “game” to take place in the presence of adults is even really beyond the ability of someone that has seen a lot. But, what has left me absolutely shocked is the explanation and rationale of the events as explained by one of the adults witnessing the game – the little girl’s aunt. Going forward, I will refer to the little girl as, “Angel”.

Aunt to Reporter: Well, they were all playing that Dare game. Everyone knows you don’t dare Angel, because she will not be punked (note from Bill -while there are several definitions of the slang term, “being punked”, in this instance it refers to being made to feel someone’s inferior).  She will accept the dare and do it. Everyone knows that’s the way Angel is. So when they brought out the boiling water and dared her to drink it with a straw, she did. She wasn’t going to be punked. No, sir, nobody is going to punk her.

Angel, unfortunately, is not alone in refusing to be punked and then paying the consequences. Every day and I do mean every day, there are reports of people, many of them kids, shooting and being shot, killing and being killed. All of the old excuses for violence: the lack of jobs, the need for more gun control, poverty, poor housing, etc., etc., simply cannot explain what is going on. Here in Jacksonville we have an abundance of jobs, and good ones. What is considered to be a rundown neighborhood here would pass for a middle-class neighborhood in many cities up North. There are miles of beachfront and riverfront open to everyone, recreational opportunities are so many and so varied they can’t be counted. Most cost little or nothing. Yet, something is destroying us. Is it drugs? Is it families that teach their kids to not be punked, no matter what? What is happening?

For the sake of Angel and all the other Angels, we had better find out.

Looking Within

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It is interesting how we react when something goes wrong.

These past few weeks have presented a few challenges. It was a challenge for my patience when rain came into our house because our roof hadn’t been flashed and sealed properly. More likely it was the reaction of the roofer that presented the biggest test and, yet, this setback also set into motion a remarkable gift of kindness. And then there was the challenge of practicing patience and charity when confronted by unpleasantness. It has taken me these past few weeks to sort things out before I could write of them.

Florida rain is something that has to be experienced to be believed. At best it is strong. At worst it is like a fire hose directed down from the heavens. Two weeks ago we had the fire hose treatment. We had just left the parking lot of Lowe’s, having picked up a few things for our house. We sat in the car waiting until we could at least see out of the windshield before driving the mile or so to home. How great, we said, that all of our remodeling was coming to an end. Sister Swammy was coming soon and so, too, were Sue and Mary Ellen. We spoke of enjoying late nights talking in our new sun room and enjoying the pool. Imagine our surprise when, upon arriving home, we opened the door and found the pool moved from the community clubhouse to our living room. Water. Everywhere. Mercifully, the rain soon stopped.

The reaction of the roofer when we called him to report the leak and water into our home was the challenge to our patience. I hadn’t been aware that Friday afternoon signaled the end of a roofer’s work week and that there was nothing he could do. We also didn’t know that our problem was “our problem” and we’d be put onto a list.

Now, this roofer is a nice enough young fellow, I suppose. He inherited the business from his parents that had built it over a period of thirty five years into one of the areas most respected roofing contractors. I guess Sonny Boy forgot rule #1. While I may have been speechless with everything, I wasn’t finger-less. I typed an email to “mommy and daddy” (who still run the office part of the business). The following morning Sonny was at our door with a dehumidifier and a ladder. But, not a smile. Imagine! He continued to blame the leak on the sun room folks, the chimney repair folks and “whoever else” may have been near our house. To his credit, within the next few days his crew fixed the “not flashed” areas and sealed and shingled the remaining parts of the roof. No more leaks!20150812_2514

Now, the gift of kindness. We notified the sun room folks, as well as the chimney repair contractor, about our leak. After a few seconds of silence the sun room builder said, “Mr. Bill, we’re sorry this happened to you folks. The problem is in the roof. We pointed it out to the roofer (I knew this). But, we’ll fix everything. Any damage that was caused, we’ll take care of it. Don’t give it another minute’s thought.” Interestingly, it turned out that the damage was confined to some paint and baseboard (our tile floors were superbly installed with excellent adhesive and grout).

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But, the offer was made with a “worst case” scenario still possible. Ryan Hammer (what a name for a contractor!), also a young guy, (surfer, too) knows Rule # 1 very well: take care of the problem, take care of the customer.

The second recent challenge came when we met with one of the men that had painted our house a few months ago. He had been polite and diligent while working here.  So, when he asked to meet with us to discuss having started his own business, we said, sure, come on over. He explained how he and another fellow worker left their old company and started their own business. They would do everything right, he said. He then proudly showed me his new business card. The logo had an image of “The Old Rugged Cross” and below that, in bold face type, was written, “Working for God and People”. Interesting. Seconds later he made a derogatory remark against a religion, not his own, but close to me. It was like being slapped – in my own kitchen. After a minute or so I thanked him for coming and walked him to his car. I then said, “You know, …, you made a remark about people of a certain religious belief. My family is of that belief.” It seemed that he would nearly feint. He said he didn’t mean it; that he was sorry that he said it. I’m sure he was. The conversation, the business card, the remark – all have stayed and troubled me this past week. It is because I saw a glimpse of myself. It is one thing to carry a cross or a medal or a mezuzah or, whatever might be a symbol of your faith. It is another to live it. The challenge, my challenge, is to live it. Always. All ways. And, I thank that young, careless-tongued painter for reminding me of that.

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On another note, the sun room windows are being installed this week. It certainly makes the area more room-like, rather than the open space it has been these past few months. The overhead fans will be installed this coming week and we have decided to put in flooring – easy care, no carpet. We’ll probably do some type of a no- worry, vinyl wood-look that will hold up to any humidity or “accidents”.

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Our kitchen pendant lights and some additional exterior lighting has finally been hooked up, too. 20150818_2523 (768x1024)

We’ve decided, too, that the 2nd bedroom/office will be furnished with a queen sized bed so everybody staying here will be comfy. Rather than duplicating the beach cottage look of the other room this room will have a New England feel to it. It is where I will do my writing – when not otherwise occupied.

As I write this it is pouring rain. Funny, after a few leaks, both the Redhead and I keep looking around for drips…or worse. So far…no, I won’t jinx it!

But, aren’t rainy days for reading? How I miss my little library! This week, I have ordered, from Wayfair (first time), some nice looking bookshelves for my still packed books.DaVinci-MDB-Bookcase-M5926E (222x378)These shelves will go into the living room and perhaps more will be added later.

Everything is coming together! There are a few things missing. But, soon, very soon they will be here.

Will this ever get done?
Will this ever get done?

Let there be light!

At the end day
At the end of day

So, there now appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.
After a several-week setback with our sun room addition – due to the unexpected finding of wood damage to the chimney – work has again started. chimney repairsMore importantly, each phase of the remaining work has been re-coordinated to ensure everybody involved in the work was on the “same page” with what needed to be done, how it was to be done and in what sequence. Sometimes, getting several independent contractors to work together is like herding cats. But, after getting sometimes conflicting information about how to proceed with our project from each set of workers, I had had enough. I called each contractor and told them: no more texts, no more emails, no more voice mails. They were all to meet with me and each other this past Wednesday at 11:00 A.M. to figure out how to proceed. So, after dropping off The Redhead at JAX airport for her week-long visit to NYC and Connecticut, I met with the roofers, sun room installers and the chimney/stucco contractor. What a party! Up on the roof they went. When they came down 30 minutes later there was a solid plan. Of course, all this would not have been necessary had there been no discovery of the wood damage to the framing and chimney – but there was and it had to be dealt with. The lessons from all this: 1) Coordination is key. It may be inconvenient for everybody involved in a project to meet – face to face. Too bad, it must be done. For me, while I know this is all part of God’s plan for us and that this is “our house – our home” I cannot be too laid back about managing this project. 2) There is truth in the adage, kindness can sometimes be mistaken for weakness. While I will always try to be kind, I must be mindful not to appear passive when it comes to business dealings. 3) There is no substitute for face to face communication!

Counting on all of our sun room construction to be completed by mid-August and hopeful nothing new crops up, we have scheduled our House Blessing to take place on Friday, September 4th. It was hoped we could do it on Sunday afternoon, but our Pastor’s schedule is more than busy that week, especially since it is the beginning of the 450th Anniversary celebrations down in St. Augustine and the Church has many events planned. So, the blessing will be on Friday, the 4th. “Sister Swammy”, Linda, and her husband arrive here Saturday. Our Open House – celebrating the Blessing, our new house, the end of construction and a thank you to all of our new neighbors for their patience will be on Sunday the 6th.

view of DR and entry

Living room with view (800x600)

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With our move and the remodeling and decorating of our new house now nearly finished, it’s time to focus on the next part of making “here” our home. For me, it is again finding purpose in work and in holding onto the family and friends we have and in making new friends. Ties with my “blood” family are few, the result of fate and, to some extent, choice. But, I have been blessed with “Family of the Heart”. Blood may be thicker than water. But hearts brought together by love are stronger than the power of genes.

deb and bill wed Jennie's speech 2 20140720 Redhead and The Godmother at St Augustine fort (800x600) 20141102_2049 Mary Ellen  20141113_2096 Gino

The Redhead is up in Connecticut this week visiting some of those that are Family of the Heart.  One or two of these folks may not even realize how much they mean to me. We’ll have to do something about that!

garage workspace
But, the work. I want to get back to working on some furniture. But, Lordy, it is hot in that garage! I’ll try adding a fan to cool it off a bit and see what happens. At least the garage is now cleared of all the excess boxes from our move. I’m still trying to figure out where to put my books, but the many cartons of them are stacked in a safe place out of the way. Once the sun room is completed, the wicker furniture can be removed from the garage, too, and be enjoyed again. I might even be able to park my car in the garage someday. Imagine that!

Hope to see you soon,

Bill