Peaceful

Have you ever been absolutely sure that you were in the right place at the right time? Well, that is how The Redhead and I are feeling right now.

Allegheny Mountain views from what will be my library, only 5 minutes to downtown Staunton

We arrived here in the Shenandoah Valley nearly a year and a half ago. During the first few months we spent the majority of our time exploring Staunton and most of Augusta County, Virginia and acclimating to life here. Every day seemed to bring a new adventure – mostly found by driving around discovering which areas might suit us best for making our new home. Along the way we met a lot of folks, mostly because we really enjoy meeting and talking with folks. Without exception, everyone here was welcoming and helpful. If there was anything that may have been a source of frustration it was that we couldn’t easily find the house/neighborhood that would be perfect for us. We were, based upon the number we tried to work with, tough customers for realtors. It’s one thing to listen and hear and another to hear and understand.  We may have flip-flopped on a few things, such as septic systems and neighborhoods (city vs county), but the basics remained the same. We will be close to the center of Staunton and our church, St. Francis of Assisi. We held fast on not having a well – we will have County water in our new home. And, the style of house – single level – remained an absolute “must-have”.

But, there is something more that assures us that we are in the right place. It’s the peace; the kind of peace that comes only in silence. The peace that comes with being close to, well, to say, “nature” sounds like a cliché. But, seeing mountains and endless fields and forests and cows – lots of cows – is peaceful. There is also a simplicity to all this that is very refreshing, especially to someone who has lived, until moving here, a city life – filled with the congestion, noise, values and violence of urban living. Some folks may thrive in that type of setting and never wish to leave, but, not us.

There is also the peace that comes from forming bonds and becoming friends with other “kindred spirits”: our friends, first met at St. Francis, who have become such important parts of our life, our neighbors at the new house and a few others that have been so welcoming and in some cases patient with us. Building a house can make even “Mr. Easygoing” a bit crazy!

So, yes, we are sure and very thankful that we are in the right place at the right time. It could not have been any other way. We look forward to when we can share this peace with family and friends.

Following are several updated pics of our home building progress. Thanks to Betty for reminding me to “get with it” and post a new blog!

Work on the house is going very quickly now. The wiring and plumbing were done this week and the heating system is coming along. We decided to also add insulation to the interior walls. This will cut down on inside and outside noise and help with saving heating and cooling energy.

This coming week the interior walls will have sheet rock installed and soon the exterior siding will also begin.

Mike preparing front wall for stonework
Finished! More stone detail work will be installed on house side and front porch. Stone is Tennessee ledgestone.
Stone on side wall. Landscape grading not yet finished.
Guest bedroom suite viewed from living room.
Guest bedroom with interior insulation added
Kitchen framed with electricians busy wiring
Kitchen with interior insulation added…cozy and quiet!
Living room and dining room with added interior insulation.
Part of MBR showing The Redhead’s “reading nook”.
View of sun porch before insulating.
Installing the last of the front windows. Large windows throughout will allow plenty of natural light into house.
Front entry. Siding coming soon!
Front porch view of Blue Ridge!

Thanks for reading. Comments and or questions always welcome.

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

The Front Porch

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Is there anything more welcoming than a front porch?
For years I have lamented the near demise of the front porch. As a kid growing up in a city neighborhood, the front porch was part of everyday life. It was a playground on too hot or too rainy days, a fort, and the place to plan all the events that we could cram into our summer’s days. It was also, and probably most importantly, the place that neighbors visited when strolling by one another’s house.

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Those old cement and wooden porches were the foundations of the neighborhood. We could play with Buster Madison all day long but he became even more popular when his parents came out onto their porch in the evenings after supper. It was then that Mr. Madison would treat every kid to a piece of butterscotch candy. Mr. Madison would tell us that what he was sharing with us urchins was a piece of Callard & Bowser Butterscotch –“the finest in the world”.  He may have been right, we just knew it was a special treat. To this day butterscotch of any type conjures up images of sitting on the Madison’s front porch with our little piece of England. At the other end of the block was Mrs. O’Leary. Her son was a policeman so we always settled down a bit as we passed her house. Ya’ never could tell when being extra nice would come in handy! Anyway, Mrs. O’Leary had some fine honeysuckle bushes in her yard. When she would sit on her front porch, we’d ask if we could pick a few (a few dozen, it always turned out) to get the honey. We could – if we didn’t trample her roses. Not being complete fools, those roses were treated with lots of respect for sure.
And, now, neighborhoods are mostly absent the front porch. We won’t even discuss gated “communities”. Our neighborhood, like so many others, has replaced the front porch with rear decks or sun rooms. Although, many of our neighbors have taken to setting up folding chairs by their front doors and garages to mimic the old porches. It works, kinda’. There’s even a sort of code: one chair, wave as you pass. Two or more chairs, you’d better stop and sit a spell. Our friends, Maria and Tom, usually have at least 4 and can somehow produce several others in the blink of an eye. Like true copy cats, we have assembled our hodge-podge assortment of “front porch” chairs, too. It’s great.
So, imagine my surprise and curiosity when it was announced that Jacksonville was holding this weekend its Second Annual Front PorchFest in the Springfield section of town (PorchFest) . Since The Redhead was up North visiting friends and family and my list of things that needed to be done had dwindled, I figured it was a good chance to explore another area of town and to see some front porches – I hoped.
Sure enough, Springfield is about 25 minutes from here, a hop, skip and jump from the downtown and Riverside areas. Tricky folks over there – hiding in plain sight. Arriving a bit early, 12:00 noon and the music was set for a 1:00 P.M. start time, I had time to walk around. It’s a mixed area, with Main Street being the closest thoroughfare. The neighborhood is filled with large, early 1900 era homes sitting side by side with bungalows and craftsman-style houses.IMG_3283 (799x1024)Some have been converted to professional office spaces but most are home-sweet homes. Mixed in is an ample dose of abandoned and run down houses and buildings. I’m told these are being bought and renovated on a rather steady basis. None the less, home is where the heart is and this place, it turns out, has plenty of heart!
For a bit over three hours the hands of time had turned back. Front porches everywhere! People were walking around on the sidewalks and in the road. Food trucks, set up on the periphery, sold everything from fresh ground beef hot dogs (yep!) to fish sandwiches to organic fruit “hand pies”. The Redhead will be happy to learn I was very sensible and stuck with the fish. I did get the address for the local bakery making those hand pies, just in case.
But, the music was reason most everyone was there. The Methodist Bell Ringers set up on the park green, A Soul Group was singing to heaven and us up on Silver Street. IMG_3296 (1024x768)Blue Grass was around the corner. IMG_3301 (980x1024)A folksy gal was on third and the popular Firewater Tent Revival was just up the block. Note the Drum Kit(note the drum kit)

Too much? No way! All of this was within a short stroll and a few hours. Evening would bring out larger musical groups, some of which I had had the pleasure of hearing at the Riverside Art Mart or my beloved Lillie’s. For me, previous and much looked forward to engagements (plus some unseasonable heat) kept my time at the PorchFest too short. So, I hoped to find that one special group or singer that would be “better than good”.

I was not disappointed. Complicated Animals is a duo now in Jacksonville, but singer, Monica da Silva, originally hails from Brazil. They call their style of music, Indie Nova. Their arrangement of, “Take a Walk on the Wild Side”, was an intriguing blend of Lou Reed meets Suzanne Vega meets Astrud Gilberto, without a hint of pretension. Wonderful stuff. Complicated Animals http://www.complicatedanimals.com/ can be found at several venues right here in the Jacksonville area when they are not touring. This Saturday they sung, just for me I think, from the front porch of a charming old colonial. Complicated Animals (1024x768)
How wonderful front porches are!

Hope to hear from you. Better yet, stop by. The front porch is all set!

Call me Killa’

I call you killer

Alice: “I’ll be right back, Killer. And, I call you, Killer, because you slaaay me.
Ralph: “And I’m calling Bellevue because you’re nuts”! Link to TV clip

Last week was my “face your fears time”. It began early one morning with our friend and neighbor, Lydia, knocking on our front door. The Redhead went to the door, as did our two friends visiting from Connecticut, Sue and Mary Ellen. There was a brief conversation, three sentences of which can be recalled: Lydia – “There’s a snake by my backdoor, a bad one. I don’t know what to do”. The Redhead – “I’ll get, Bill”.

Tell me there is a lion in your backyard. No problem. Tell me there is a leak in your faucet. No problem. Tell me there is someone walking down the street, wearing a mask, and carrying your neighbor’s TV.  Absolutely, no problemo. But, tell me something is crawling in your backyard and it’s not wearing a diaper. That’s a problem. For me. That this bit of news was delivered by Lydia to The Redhead and Sue and Mary Ellen made this a stomach-churning, knee buckling, cold sweat type of problem. At least for someone still believing in chivalry. And, as Don Quixote found out, chivalry and common sense don’t always go hand in hand. No sir. And timing. Timing is very important. Oh, yeah. Ya’ have to think some things through, very carefully. And, that takes time.

But, on this beautiful sunny morning, time and common sense were two gifts denied me. Thanks in part to dear friend, Sue, blurting out, “I’ll go over”, I needed to DO SOMETHING. Fast! Because, as well intentioned as she was, Sue, from Queens, NY, knows about as much about snakes as Donald Trump knows about hair style and humility.

Trump

So, no contemplating a plan. No assembling of an appropriate arsenal of weapons. Just time to grab a shovel, slip on a pair of moccasins (oh, the irony!) and hot foot over to Lydia’s backyard to see, The Bad One.

There he was, curled up just outside her back door. Just a Black Racer napping, I hoped. Now, if someone really hates snakes, as do I, the best hope is for a snake to be (1) a tool used by a plumber, (2) a Black Racer. Both are useful and won’t hurt you. Usually.

shovel snake

So, let me just give this little bugger a nudge and send it on its way somewhere else. What a hero I’ll be – without breaking a sweat! So, tickle, tickle, my little pal. Up goes its head, open goes his mouth, rubbery go my knees. The open white mouth tells the tale: it’s a water moccasin or “cotton mouth”. The books say it all – Avoid, venomous, dangerous, and nasty. Lydia was right, it’s a bad one.

The next five or so minutes must have been like watching the Wallenda Acrobats walking a tight-rope wearing clown shoes. It’s a dangerous act, but it brings out laughter. Lydia has out her camera phone. Sue is saying, “oooh, oooh”! Both are laughing. The snake is not laughing. He looks straight at me as I bring down the sharp edge of my Ames spade shovel. Whack, whack, miss, whack. Another look at the snowy inside of his mouth as he wiggles a little closer. Whacko. This SOB won’t die, I blurt out. More laughing. Oh, ladies, it seems I was born to amuse you. Yikes! This thing is still moving. Whacko, chop. Take that!

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20151005 snakey1At last. Finito! What might have made a fine pair of boots for a midget is now a nearly tri-sected length of nasty. It must be three feet long. Hmm, with a little effort I could stretch this to being an 8 foot menace to humanity. No, we’ll leave well enough alone. A quick catapult into the nearby woods and it’s sayonara for this critter.

Let’s hope the next knock on the door brings with it a friend with a piece of apple pie, maybe a bit of pumpkin bread or a ”I’m just here to visit, put on the coffee”. But, if not, now I’m ready for anything!

After the first step

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Nearly two months later than our target date and almost seven months to the date since we first saw our new home, our remodeling work is DONE!

To celebrate the event – and to thank all of our new neighbors for their patience and kindness during our home makeover – we had a Neighborhood Open House party this past Sunday afternoon. Friends we have known for about a year – before moving to this home and friends just recently met came and helped us celebrate and give thanks for all we have been given.

The week before the Neighborhood party we had two big events here: Our house – each and every room and space – was blessed by our parish priest and pastor, Father Jhon Guarnizo (Blessed Trinity Parish ). Our home is and will always be a house of peace and love.

Fr. Jhon and Debbie on Blessing Day. Note batik of St. Luke in background
Fr. Jhon and Debbie on Blessing Day. Note batik of St. Luke in background

The following day Sister Swammy (Linda) came with her husband, Dave, for a too brief visit. Linda and Dave met several of our friends at our Labor Day picnic where we gave some of our southern friends a lesson in how to make a “real” hot dog – grill it baby! No boiled or steamed dogs in this house! The Swammy also regaled our friends with the story of her vision of what our new home would look like and when we would find it – months before it happened. She was correct about everything. The Swammy was presented with a special memento of her predictions.

swammy linda 1

20150906_2570 (883x1024)The day after Linda left to visit family further south, our sun room floors were finished with a vinyl planking – perfect for the room since it is very durable and nice looking, too.20150910_2579 (1024x768)So, now that our construction work has been completed, what next? When we moved here to Jacksonville from Connecticut we did not expect to  become different people. What we did hope for was a chance to have a life which we could build together. We are doing just that.  Having completed step#1 of our new life we’ll need to think and pray for our next step to be made known. 20150915_2595 (1024x768)

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.

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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