Building a Home – 8

It’s been a while since I’ve posted updates of our home building project here in Augusta County, Staunton, Virginia. Because of the current virus distancing protocols, we haven’t been able to visit the site as often as we had previously. But, this afternoon, The Redhead and I met with our builder and went over a few remaining details and got an up close look at all the progress that has been made these past few weeks. What a change!

Most of the heavy work has been completed. The rear deck is awaiting stairs and the stairs to basement and attic will be finished shortly. Plumbing fixtures will be installed soon as will be the granite counter tops and kitchen cabinet doors. The Hickory wood floors have all been installed and are in the process of getting a final sanding before the finish is added. But, it really has come together.

Two features that we think will be very beneficial are ceiling fans in almost every room and the addition of interior insulation. Both features will help in maintaining comfortable temperatures year-round and the insulation of the interior walls will also help to  reduce noise between rooms. I’ll update on this after we have settled in for a while.

Now, come along and take a peek at what will soon be our new home.

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View of Living Room from front entrance. Fireplace is awaiting custom cabinetry. Sun porch is through doorways.
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Sun Porch with view of deck. Facing East, we’ll get views of sunrise above the mountains and sometimes our neighbor’s cows! Walls are getting paint touch-ups.
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Wall of cabinets awaiting granite counters. Marble subway-style tiles will be used as back splash and wall around stove vent and duct. Walk-in pantry is to right.
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Another wall of hand-made cabinets.Top section of upper cabinets will have glass fronts. Dining room is through doorway.
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One of the guest bedrooms, view of front yard.
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2nd guest bedroom, view of sunrises and cows!
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View of front entryway and dining room. Notice the extra tall front door.
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Painter David doing touch-up painting in Laundry Room. Ya’ gotta love that “Corona Doo” hairstyle! David started out on our house as a framing apprentice but turned out to be an excellent painter.
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The Redhead (wearing hat) visiting with our across the street friends and neighbors, Ann and James.
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Front of our new Staunton , Virginia home. Front porch columns, when finished, will be tapered in a Craftsman style.

So, there you are. Work on the house is now going full-steam ahead. Closing may be very late this month or possibly the beginning of June. The lock-downs have caused a bit of a slow down with personnel and the material supply chain. But, all seems well now.

The Redhead and I are going to have our work cut out for us in landscaping the yards, planting shrubs, etc. Any volunteers??

Personally, I can’t wait to set up my workshop in the spacious basement and get back to reviving American vintage furniture. It’s been several years since I’ve mixed my varnishes and stains and used my glues, clamps and brushes. Let’s hope I’ve retained some of my Redeux Vintage Furniture skills!

A special thanks to all of our friends and “family of the heart” that have kept us in their prayers. Without your support and prayers, tonight’s blog may have been a different story. And, thanks to St. Padre Pio, your intercession has never failed.

Bill

 

 

Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli

One of the many lessons I learned years ago as a young policeman in training was to “watch the eyes”. The eyes will tell you everything, kid, the veterans would say. Watch someone’s eyes and you can tell when they’re lying, when they’re afraid, sad and when they’re broken. They’ll tell you when someone’s hiding something. They’ll tell you when someone’s crazy and when you’re going to have big trouble. Watch the eyes, kid.

We’re in trouble. Big trouble.

Since moving here a year and a half ago, one of the things we noticed and one of the deciding factors of choosing to relocate here was the friendliness. Not just a quick, “How are ya”, from folks we’d meet, but a genuine smile and, more often than not, a conversation. The government’s decision to incarcerate us all within the confines of, if not our homes, certainly within our personal space of six feet (or is it 23 feet this week) has taken a toll on all of us. Our walk yesterday through Staunton’s beautiful Gypsy Hill Park proved that.

Normally, people walking by would smile and at least say, “Good morning”. If you’d meet near the duck pond, some type of conversation would arise: the new geese, the number and size of fish in the pond or how beautiful it was to be at the park just then – even if it happened to be raining. The world is filled with Stauntons (or at least somewhat close to it), but something has changed.

No eye contact. Even folks fully encased in face masks, gloves and eye wear literally moved to the other side of the road, heads down, when either approaching or passing us. And, it wasn’t just us. Except for folks walking in pairs, everyone avoided everyone else. If we said, Hi, or, Good Morning, to someone, almost always…silence. People have moved beyond being sensibly cautious to being afraid. We’re in trouble. Big trouble.

Think of the differing and often conflicting messages we have been given by our so-called experts and elected “leaders”:

Wash hands often. O.k., sensible and good.

Avoid unnecessary contact with people that are sick or appear to be sick. O.K., Mama told us that.

You can’t tell if someone is sick, even they may not know it, so avoid everybody. Huh?

You can’t get a haircut, it’s unessential. Whaat?

Abortions are essential, so they’re o.k. No Comment.

Wear a mask. Weren’t people arrested ( Richmond, VA) just a few weeks ago for wearing a mask in public?

Wear gloves. Now we’re being told that wearing gloves might not be such a great idea. Just wash your hands.

This “Lockdown” is for your own good. Really?

You can get a hamburger or coffee only at the drive-thru. Oh, well, I wasn’t planning to wear this shirt for more than 4 days, anyway! (LOL)

You can’t attend a drive-thru church service. Hmmm, we’ll see about that.

Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot,  etc. are essential so they can stay open. I have no problem with that.

Small Retailers are not essential so they Must close. Really, who decides?

And, here’s my latest favorite advice from none other than the esteemed expert in viruses and contagious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci: Avoid going outside your home, BUT, it’s o.k. to “Hook-UP” with a Tinder or Grindr “date” if you think it’s worth it!! This would be a joke if this “expert” wasn’t so influential in directing the madness affecting all of us. (https://nypost.com/2020/04/15/fauci-endorses-tinder-hookups-with-a-caveat/)

The list of these conflicting and mostly unwarranted regulations and advice could go on and on. But, here’s the real problem: People are getting sick, really sick, from THE LOCKDOWN! Reports are beginning to surface that Suicide Crises Centers and Substance Abuse Hotlines are seeing dramatic increases in calls for help from people that can’t take this anymore. And that number most likely reflects those among us that are already or have been in some type of emotional or substance crises. Can you imagine the stress on a young family when the family income has been turned off? Or on a small business owner that has worked day and night to start a business to have it suddenly deemed, “Non-Essential” and shut down? This is not only nonsensical and unnecessary, but, I would say, probably sinful. Bureaucrats and self-styled experts have wrecked the lives of an entire nation and also taken away two things that are so important in times of crises: The ability to pray with and be with one another. Our country has gone through many wars, both on our soil and abroad. But, I am not aware of when churches were closed. Or of when we looked at everyone else with this fear and suspicion. Something is wrong. You can see it in the eyes, kid.

We can fight this virus. After all, we have had epidemic and pandemic viruses many times before. But, we are social and spiritual beings. Take that away and we’ll do to ourselves what no virus can.

See what happens when you keep me locked up!

There is the famous line in the movie, The Godfather:Leave the gun, take the cannoli. Even a hitman, after taking care of business, knew that being social was an important part of being a family. Can’t we, too, take care of business and still remain a family?

Pray, Be kind, Stay safe, Think.

Wake up and Smell the Coffee

At 7:00 a.m. this morning there was a worldwide sharing of prayer for the end of the Corona Virus. Rather than being a sign of panic, this uniting in prayer is one more – and probably the best – weapon in our arsenal to defeat this sickness. If you missed this event, rest assured that millions upon millions of people are praying all the time for this scourge to end and we can join them at any time.

But, in addition to prayer, we can do something else with this quiet time we have been forced into.

How are we spending this time? For me, I have, for now, just about reached my limit with both Netflix and Amazon. The other day I attempted to find movies dealing with how people endured times of war. Not much luck – at least with finding decent movies that did not require additional fees. So much for watching the classic, Mrs. Miniver. Reading has always been a passion for me, but nearly all of our books have been packed in anticipation of our move. Thanks to our friend, MaryEllen, I do have a few that are still unread and were tucked under my nightstand. Whew!

Social distancing has certainly kept our personal contacts at a minimum.

Are Ya’ Home?

But, many folks continue to check on family and neighbors however possible, even if it’s a text or phone call just to say, Hello, how are you, can I do anything for ya’? Small things go a long way.

Speaking of small things, one small but significant highlight for us is our cup of coffee. Usually, we’ll have one (maybe two) in the morning and later in the afternoon. We enjoy it and recently my doctor told me that coffee, in moderation, can be beneficial. Since Costco is off limits for us now, we no longer have access to their store brand of “100% Colombian” coffee. For what is termed, commodity coffee (basic), it’s pretty darn good and cheap. With all this new found time and the need to seek other sources, I’ve “discovered” two new favorites.

First, is a whole bean, Mocha Java coffee from Mayorga Roasters. It’s smooth and flavorful. It’s available in 2 pound bags from Amazon or directly from Mayorga. Our Second new favorite is an organic whole bean Honduran coffee available from Aldi. Pretty good and we’re glad we found it.

Two of my favorite coffees

So, what’s your favorite coffee that you make at home? Let me know!

Pray, stay healthy, keep in touch and… Wake up and Smell the Coffee!

Bill

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