The Good, the Bad and the ‘Lectrifyin’

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Lake Sherando, Augusta County,VA

So, this past month or so The Redhead and I have been going full steam ahead with scouting the area for where we’ll call our new home. How did it happen that we’re doing this on our own? Well, you asked…

First, we’ve been jilted. Yep, jilted by our realtor.

Having met her in July and been treated wonderfully- three days of area tours, explanations of where to shop, dine, etc. we were in love. With Staunton and her. Our return trip in September reinforced that we had made the right decision – to move here and to work with her. But, our radar should have gone up when it took a full month of living here to see her again. Lots of apologies: I’ve been really busy, my dog’s been sick, etc.( I kid you not). Oh, well. But, we didn’t exactly pine away waiting for her to show up, either. Nope, we drove around these mountains and the surrounding towns discovering more and more natural beauty and many very nice people. Actually, everyone we’ve met has been very nice, helpful and kind.  Except LBF.  And, more of that in a bit.

To make a long, well four-month long, story, shorter let’s just say in four months we’ve seen “our realtor” twice. And one of those times was to have her here for lunch. Still, we like her. Really. We just wish we knew what caused her to drop out of sight. Personal issues? Maybe, and if that is the case we hope she is o.k. But, we can’t and won’t chase someone that doesn’t seem to have the time we need to find our new home. Besides, LBF is pushing us hard.

Yes, LBF- Little Big Foot lives above us. He romps and stomps and jumps and bangs 10 to 13 hours a day, every day. He’s a forty pound four year old that might be described as, “an active child”. When our walls start shaking at 7:00 a.m. he earns other names, but, LBF will do for now.  Live below him and you’re ready to buy ANYTHING!! Maybe he’s a realtor’s secret weapon.  Every realtor except ours, it appears.

Recently, we tried the help of another agent. It seemed everything we were shown was in the area we specifically said we were not interested in. Our second and last day together was a real doozy. Among the highlights: New construction community nestled right up to the regional insane asylum (hmmm).  Another newly built home with lovely views of a pasture. The problem was that in order to keep meandering cattle out of the homes’ yard an electric fence surrounded the property. Grandbaby would love playing there!! Talk about a shocking development! Lastly, the Piece de resistance, so to speak, was a building lot not near but IN a cemetery!! When I blurted out, “What the hell, you’re bringing me to a boneyard?”, my helpful home advisor realized the tour was over. Ya’ think!

So, while not exactly as we had planned, our home search continues but on our own for now.  The search has taken us into the town of Staunton and out into the county where we’d probably have more scenic views. We’re still considering building, but finding an existing home that is just right is becoming more likely. We just don’t know.  Both scenarios have their pluses. In-town means very easy access to shopping, dining and some new friends and our church. Out in the county, we have limited our search radius to no more than 11 miles, about 17-20 minutes, from our church in Staunton, St. Francis of Assisi. Back in November that trip might have taken us 2 hours or more. Think Columbus searching for a route to India: Don’t turn right when a left turn is needed. Knowing our way around a “bit more” opens up several options for finding a home. Hint: don’t rely on only your GPS to explore a new area. Use a good fold-out map and then use the GPS to get where you want. The Redhead is getting quite a kick out hearing me exclaim, Well, I’ll be a Monkey’s Uncle, when I discover a way to go somewhere that actually makes sense.

In addition to driving and exploring we’ve written up a short letter to leave with folks we meet while in neighborhoods we are especially drawn to. It explains that we are looking to buy a house and are drawn to their home and/or neighborhood. So far, we’ve gotten several responses but the houses turned out not to be “just right”.  One, in particular, had extraordinary views of the mountains and came with 13 acres of land. But, with 5 bedrooms and 4 baths it was “just a tad” more than required – unless we open up “Boys Town East”! Keeping our trust in God and our noses to the grindstone, the right home will be made known to us.

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“Main street” Spring Hill, VA The surrounding area is idyllic farm land!

In the meantime, especially with The Redhead off “gallivantin’”this past week, our meandering has turned up some beautiful and interesting sights.  The hamlet of Spring Hill and the towns of Bridgewater and Dayton were explored this past weekend by yours truly. Organic farms, building lots nestled up close to grazing cattle, abandoned, yet starkly beautiful old buildings, country churches, 19th century architecture and a country deli turned an ordinary day into a real adventure. Hope you enjoy these photos of our little slice of heaven; you were already along for the trip.

As always, comments or questions welcome.

Bill

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Green metal roof, Spring Hill, VA

 

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Detail of church stained glass windows, Spring Hill, VA
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Spring Hill, VA church detail
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Organic Farm, Spring Hill,VA
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Bridgewater, VA Beauty
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Bridgewater,VA roof with ice stops.
Note surrounding pasture and grazing lands!
Sunrise Deli, Dayton, VA Surrounded by farms and pastures .
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Heading for home after shopping at Sunrise Deli Dayton,VA

Pax Vobiscum

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Schola of St. Francis of Assisi, Staunton,VA

Christmas. It is both the beginning and the end. The Alpha and Omega. The fulfillment and the promise.  It is what we let it be.

We are blessed, The Redhead and I. We have our health, our family of heart and blood, a new beginning and hopeful expectation. We have one another. And we have our Faith. None of it has come easily and for that we are all the more grateful for having what we do.

For us, this Christmas is a new beginning in many ways. Our move from Florida to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia has opened up possibilities and opportunities. We have no idea of where we will call home or what we will be doing in the future but we are filled with a sense of peace. We are, we are sure, where we are supposed to be at this time. There is an expression that I have used over the past number of years, “Before you can know what you have, you first have to lose everything”. We know what we now have.

Our parish church here in Staunton, St. Francis of Assisi, has been a source of comfort, strength and inspiration to us. We decided to attend Mass at the Christmas vigil this year. Before Mass there was a “concert” presented by the Schola of classical musicians and singers. It was a mix of both traditional and religious songs and hymns. No, “Santa Baby”, was not one of them! One of the traditional songs was a Charles Floyd/Yo-Y o Ma arrangement of “The Wexford Carol”. Here it is performed together by Alison Krause and Yo-Yo Ma (click here.)  The rendition sung in church was very close to what was sung by Krause, thanks to soprano, Nancy Hanna. The video’s bagpipe drone section of the music was substituted by the church organ. It was very stirring and served as an excellent example of how contemporary music can be sacred. This Vigil Mass was one of the most reverent we have attended in many years and Father Wamala’s Christmas message was simple: Love God, love one another and find your way to serve.

 

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Christmas Vigil altar St. Francis of Assisi, Staunton

Christmas Day was something different for us: a little baby will do that! Baby Jonah kept his parents hopping, yet Grammy (The Redhead) found a way to lull him to peaceful sleep.

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Sleepy Baby

Some Christmas music was played during the morning.  The organic farm just up the road provided us with a fresh turkey for a special Christmas dinner (I’ll write more about that farm at some later point).  It was truly a peace-filled day.

And now, New Year is upon us. No silly resolutions…at least for me. Yes, I’d like to take advantage of the more temperate (for me) weather and get outdoors more. But, dreams of six-pack abs have been diminished by the reality of a half-keg belly! Our goals are more straightforward: 1) Find a new home (are ya’ listenin’, Becky!), 2) Find a place to resume my furniture restoration interests, 3) Learn how to use my new Nikon 5300 camera that was a gift from the Redhead and 4) Develop a social circle of friends in our new hometown while keeping our family of the heart ever close to us. Doable? Yes, I believe it is.

In closing, here are some more pics from our continuing explorations of the Shenandoah Valley.

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old hamlet of Brownsburg, north of Lexington,VA
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Valley farm, near Lexington,VA
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Blue Ridge Mountain farm, Edinburg, VA
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Edinburg Mill. Detail showing charred timbers resulting from Union General Sheridan’s raid and burning of the mill and town, 1864

 Peace be with you. Thank you for reading. Happy New Year to all! 

Bill

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.

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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.

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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

Tests and Setbacks

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Home, Sweet Home

So, 8 days after moving into our still-being-renovated home, we are tested. Tested in our resolve to keep going, in our faith in believing that we have done the right thing and tested in patience.

It began with the air-conditioning starting to act a bit quirky. Some days it would run fine; other days it would cause the circuit breakers to trip.  The electricians checked the box and said the breakers were fine. The home-warranty company sent a tech out and he found nothing. Maybe it was all the work being done that caused an electrical overload, he thought. When the breakers for the unit tripped during the day it was inconvenient. At night it was something else.  Waking up sweating and knowing that I’d have to go into the garage to re-set the breakers was beyond inconvenient. Everyone knows, especially those of us born and raised in northern cities, that southern snakes lay in wait for us to walk in slipper-clad feet into a dark garage. Past moving boxes and assorted renovation material I needed to go. So, a plan for dealing with the sure- to- be- lurking prey needed to be devised. Aha, confrontation! So, I’d get up, turn on every light on the way into the garage and start banging on the walls and saying loudly, “come out you dirty bums and I’ll cut your heads of”!!  It worked. Never did those dirty-bum snakes show up. When I’d get back to bed the Redhead would just look up and  say, “Are you crazy”? I suppose she just doesn’t understand the theory of Sun Szu and his The Art of War.  But, it worked.  This was only the beginning of what was to come.

After another week of the air conditioning acting up, it just died. Gone, fried. The condenser was completely shot we were told. Not to worry we thought. Our Home Warranty, purchased when we bought the house, was meant for just such an emergency. A little over a week in our new home and we now have no air-conditioning in 95 degree weather. The indoor temps stayed in the 85- 90 range. Thankfully, we had extended our apartment lease until the end of this month, so a night or two sleeping on our pull-out sofa until the unit was fixed wouldn’t be too bad. Or, so we thought. Wrong. For whatever reasons, the warranty company has kept dragging its feet authorizing the repair/replacement of the unit. Repeated calls just kept us moving through an anonymous labyrinth of “help desks”.

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New air-conditioner!

Having gone without air for over a week, with no help from the warranty company, we bit the bullet, called a local A/C company that was recommended by friends, and had a new unit installed. We knew we would need to get a new one someday, but had hoped to get a year or so of use from the old unit. What’s the old saying about, “best made plans”? The warranty company says that it will give us a “buy-out” for only the wholesale cost of the condenser unit part of the system. At least it something and now we have a very efficient unit cooling our house. Beware of Home Warranty policies when buying a home!

Round two.

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Sun Room framing

Our sun room addition was going along nicely. Ahead of schedule, actually. It will be a nice room with a great place to view the pond. Yesterday, the workmen building the room discovered some wood damage on our chimney area that was undetected during our pre-buying home inspection.

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Impact Enclosures team building sun room

We need to get it fixed before we can continue. We have called our carpenter friend, Wayne, to give us a second opinion and possible fix. We’ll know tomorrow what our real situation is.

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Luis installing baseboards

On the bright side our interior work has just about been completed.

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Cutting the baseboards

The new baseboards are being installed and I’m taking care of some minor electrical work like moving switches.

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Ray from New Millennium Tile
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Tumbled marble and Italian glass tile

The kitchen tile back splash is completely finished and looks beautiful. Pictures have the glass tiles looking green but they are more like sea-glass blue.

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The new kitchen

Tonight, The Redhead made dinner in the new kitchen of our once-again cool house. All  is good. We have faith. And the vision of Sister Swammy that this truly is, “Our House”.

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Living Room, a blend of old and new

Home

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Monday, June 8th was the deadline set by our insurance company for us to move into our home – ready or not – or else…no insurance. Never mind that we had been spending at least 8-12 hours everyday at the house, we had to sleep there. Cat-naps didn’t count.

So, on the morning of the 8th, Debbie met the window shutter guy at the house and I coordinated the movers. Thanks to the help and handy pick-up truck of my friend, Bill, nearly everything left the apartment and garage in one trip, including bicycles and plants. Most of what was left behind that day has been brought over bit by bit. Thankfully, we had extended our rental lease for an additional month just so we wouldn’t be too crazed on moving day. Just this morning, Debbie and I remarked how very different this move was from when we left Connecticut: Less stuff to pack; no Sue or Mary Ellen.

20150603_2359For several days we sort of roughed it. No stove, no sinks, except a utility sink in the laundry. We did have a shower and a half-bath. Now, we are all set.

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20150611_2376Our cabinets are all in, all appliances are hooked up – and working.

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Both baths are fully finished (except for paint in the guest bath). Shall we have a painting party??  We’re still fine-tuning some electric and baseboards are due to go in this coming Wednesday.

20150610_2372The new roof is coming along and should be finished in the next day or two.

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The foundation for the new sun room addition has been poured and work on the framing should commence this coming week.

It is a lot of work. But, we wanted to get everything that needed attention, or that we wanted, to be done before or shortly after we moved in. So far, so good. We are very blessed that we could do this and lucky it is going – for the most part – so smoothly.

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So, what’s next? Sometime later this month or early July we will have our housed blessed. At that time we’ll have a house-warming party for friends, neighbors and many of the folks that worked so hard to make this all possible for us: tilers and tile suppliers, carpenters, electricians, folks that helped us find our new furniture and those that helped us pick out paint. We are grateful to so many. We hope our dear friends in Connecticut, North Carolina and Rhode Island will be here, too.

After we have settled in and cleared some of our things from the boxes now jammed into our garage and a spare bedroom we will be able to focus on other goals and projects. For me, it will be again restoring and reviving vintage furniture. I’ll figure out a way to cool down the garage during the especially hot season of June – September so I can work with my paints and stains. Not sure where this will wind up taking me, but it’s time for me to again be productive.

Well, that’s it for now. Keep good thoughts and prayers for us. Hope to see you soon.

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