Plain Living

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Old Order Mennonite buggy, Dayton VA

So, here we are at home on a really lazy Sunday, partly because the weather forecasts warned of an impending ice storm. So far, nothing but sunshine and a moderate breeze, albeit a bit nippy!

Last night, expecting this morning to be like an ice age, we drove into Staunton to attend Mass at our high-on-a-hill church, St. Francis of Assisi.  Despite the rain and fog, the church was more than usually filled. It happened that three busloads of young adults and their chaperones, enroute back home to Alabama after attending the March for Life in DC, stopped at St. Francis to attend the evening vigil Mass. No banners, No shouted slogans. Just a quiet reverence and knowledge that what they were doing was…right.  Every generation, it seems, has a contingent, sometimes small, of those that stir our conscience.

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Route 42 looking north toward Harrisonburg

Since moving to the Shenandoah Valley, we are often struck by the peacefulness and beauty of the land and people. Here, it is different. Perhaps, it is because so many of the people are, in some way, tied to the land. Perhaps, it is because Staunton and many of its neighboring towns are small towns. The Mennonites, of which there are many here in the Valley, refer to themselves as, Plain People. ( for an excellent article on the Shenandoah Mennonite communities read this article by Guy Schum click here . And that may be it in a nutshell: it is, in the very best sense, plain here. If you are sick of the antics in D.C. or NYC or any other cosmopolitan, trend-setting megalopolis, come here for a spell.  It may be just what the doctor ordered.

This past week we rode out, once again, to Dayton. It is a lovely ride. Along the way I tried using my new camera, a Christmas gift from The Redhead.  I’ve included a few more photos below, as well as a “quick pic” of the former Western State Lunatic Asylum, now partly a hotel / apartment complex. Much of the former hospital had been designed by Thomas Jefferson’s apprentice, Thomas Blackburn, who was among those early pioneers of compassionate care for the mentally ill. Locals claim that the buildings are haunted, mostly as a result of the “care” that was provided starting in the early 1900’s. Nonetheless, the architecture is beautiful.

As always, comments, Likes and questions are most welcome.

Bill

Churchville VA farm Alleghany Mountains in rear
Dayton VA Farm looking East
Route 42 looking east from Dayton
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Former Western State Lunatic Asylum, Staunton

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?