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.
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.
My mother had an expression she would use if she found us hanging around the house too much: “Get out and blow the stink off.”
If hanging around the house can make you stink, many of us are now close to down- right putrid.
There isn’t much more to say about this virus lock-down. We’re all talked out about it, I think. Some areas are starting to see rebellions of one sort or another, but, so far, these are, for the most part, peaceful and sensible. People want to work and be with their families and see their friends and pray together. No one wants to get or give the cooties.
This past week, The Redhead and I did try to get some of the stink off. We drove and walked around Staunton and yesterday, Saturday, we joined several of our friends for what was a real treat. It seems that even this virus can bring unexpected blessings.
So, here are a few pics of our lock-down life here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Come on along.
We are now past the one month mark since the United States began declaring a state of emergency regarding what is known as Covid-19 or the Wuhan Flue.
Government officials and health “experts” have given varied and sometimes conflicting information to the public. For those that are eager to have a better understanding of the Covid-19 virus pandemic, one that is free of political or monetary motivation and based on science, it can be difficult to find knowledgeable, unbiased sources. It is also especially difficult to find someone that is knowledgeable about which practical and sound measures can be taken to cope with this pandemic, both as individuals and as a nation. Obviously, I am referring here to the response of the United States, but the same or similar measures might be used by a number of countries, depending on several variables. Fortunately, there are two sources that are now gaining more attention based upon their real expertise and experience.
Both of these sources were recently interviewed on television. Yes, these interviews were on Mark Levin’s, Life, Liberty and Levinprogram, but I sincerely ask that those of you that may dismiss anything coming from Fox, please give this your attention. Mark Levin has shown himself to be a knowledgeable, able and respectful interviewer.
If we are to emerge from this pandemic bruised, but not broken, we must have a better grasp of the facts: what should be done to protect ourselves from the sickness and what must be done to protect our nation from a catastrophe we can not even begin to imagine. While there may be some that wouldn’t mind pushing us a little further to the edge, I believe – and pray – that the overwhelming majority of us want the best for our families, our neighbors and our country.
There is a saying, “Knowledge is Power“. But really, “Knowledgeable Action is Power“. We need to get the knowledge and then proceed.
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.
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?
In April, 2006, I flew to Madrid, Spain to be with my son and daughter-in-law following the still–born death of their daughter, my first grandchild. It was Holy Week.
There are some sorrows that only can be described as profound; ones that leave you speechless and empty. Or, sometimes, in rage. This death, this loss of a purely innocent life, was such a sorrow. In the midst of this ancient city, I asked God to be with me, to help me understand and to save me from bitterness.
As Good Friday night fell, I walked through the narrow, darkened streets from my son’s apartment back to my hotel. Through the Plaza Mejor and down the winding Calle de Atocha, I suddenly found myself within a mass of people. Everyone was emptying the narrow street and moving onto the sidewalk. I had no choice but to move with them until I was able to find a small spot just across the street from Parroquia de Santa Cruz, the Church of the Holy Cross. The street outside of the church was filled with a formation of white robed, black-hooded figures carrying lit torches. I had never seen anything like this, but being American it conjured up unsettling images; I truly did not know what to expect.
Suddenly, the church doors opened. Another robed, hooded figure, carrying a large staff, appeared in the church doorway. He banged his staff on the steps and the robed column in the street came to attention. Another tap of his staff and he and the procession behind him started to move from the church toward the street below. This group was similarly robed and hooded and was carrying a platform supported by long poles. Atop this platform was a statue, but, because of the darkness, I could not determine of whom. The procession came to a halt in the street and the platform was lowered. After a few minutes and some prayers (spoken in Spanish, of course) the leader tapped the staff once. The figures lifted the platform to waist height. Another tap and the platform went to shoulder height. No other sound could be heard along the entire street. Two taps more and the procession started toward Plaza Mejor. Of the statue, all I could determine was that it was clad in black.
Most of the crowd waited in front of the church, Santa Cruz. With nothing waiting for me except a silent hotel room, I, too, stayed, unsure of what for. The tap of the processional leader’s staff could be heard echoing through those dark and still silent streets, first sounding more and more distant and then becoming closer. Whatever was coming, it was coming soon. Gradually, flickering torch light could be seen at the far end of Atocha, approaching our position in front of the church. I took out my camera and moved into a position to better see what was being carried by these silent, dark-robed, anonymous marchers. Perhaps it was the expectation, but through the absolute silence that filled the street I could feel something welling up inside of me. Fear, sadness, grief? I was not sure.
And, then it, rather she, was there. Atop this heavy wooden platform was a life-sized figure of the Blessed Virgin, depicted as the Mother of Seven Sorrows, adorned in black velvet with silver threading. Into the church she was carried. I moved on, but knowing something had happened that I could not express, even within myself.
The following day, returning back to my son’s apartment, I again entered Calle Atocha knowing I would go into the church and see the statue up close. On the steps of the church, against the wooden doors, sat two beggars, gypsies, actually. I had been cautioned about gypsies, but their presence did not concern me. Inside, I found an alcove, enclosed by an iron gate, in which was the statue I saw the night before.
I have been a Catholic my entire life and have seen thousands of statues and religious icons of every sort. But this, this was no ordinary statue. Beyond the absolutely stunningly beautiful garments was the face. The face of Mary. A face of unspeakable sorrow, a face of grief so profound and complete that it could only be brought about by the death of a purely innocent child. She took my grief onto herself. But, something else would happen that will stay with me – forever.
Call it imagination. Or transference. But, on the way out of the church I took closer notice of the two beggar/gypsy women. One was older than the other and I would later learn that they were mother and daughter. I gave each a small coin and went to my family. Later that afternoon, returning to the hotel, I again came to the church. The women were still there, sitting against the doors, bundled against the chilly spring wind. A quick visit inside and on the way out, as I passed them, I noticed their faces. The mother was perhaps 40. The daughter – I had to turn around and go back to view the Blessed Mother. Outside, again, it was true what I had thought. The faces were the same. Several days of visits further confirmed this. After about a week, my daughter-in-law asked to go for a walk. Of course, we went to the church that was only about a 10 minute stroll from her home. The women, as expected, were again on the church steps, their “spot”. I mentioned to my daughter-in-law my observation about the younger girl.
A week or so later, before returning back home, I asked that my daughter-in-law accompany me to the church to say a prayer – for healing, both emotional and physical. After our prayers I asked that she, since she was a native Spanish speaker, interpret something for me to the women. I explained how I was struck by the similarities in the faces and how interesting it was that it was this particular church, with that particular statue, that they chose to be close to. They agreed to have their pictures taken (something that is very unusual for them). The girl was, Magdalena.
Two years later, when my daughter-in-law had to return to Madrid for business, she paid a visit to Santa Cruz. There was Magdalena. She asked if I was there, too. When told no, I was back in the U.S., she got up and went into the church. When she came back out she handed my daughter-in-law a picture and said, “I will never forget your father”. The picture was a photo of the statue and the faces are still identical.
That Easter of 2006 was, indeed, a Holy Week. And I will always remember to look closely at what is in front of me. It just may be a face from heaven.
For those that are suffering or grieving this Easter, please know that you are remembered and not alone.
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.
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.
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!
If you are, you have lots of company. Not since Y2K or was it the Bird Flue epidemic or maybe it was the AIDS epidemic has there been such widespread panic and fear among us.
Today, The Redhead and I went to the grocery store to stock up a bit since we had heard there was a run on basic staples such as food, medicines and “personal items”. There were plenty of groceries and produce at our local Martin’s Grocery. Some milk items were a bit sparse as was the bread aisle. But, no, nada, zilch of “le papier toilettes”, as the French would say. It was the same story at Walgreens, Food Lion and, believe it or not, Costco. Forget about investing in gold in case of the stock market going haywire. Put your moneyinto Charmin!
No doubt there will be lessons learned from this viral epidemic. But, until we learn the cause and the non-hyper facts, let’s try to keep a level head, protect ourselves and our families and have Faith. Everything will be alright.
In the meantime, a little dose of reality and pleasantness for you all.
Our house here in Staunton is coming along nicely. Since my last writing, the siding is being installed, the interior has been sheet rocked, the electricity has been turned on, the lines for the propane gas have been run and the ducts for heating and cooling have been installed. Preliminary grading of the landscaping has also begun this week.
Interior painting will start this coming Monday. The Redhead and I had fun picking our paint colors. We’re keeping it simple – one color for the common areas of living, dining laundry and sun rooms and another color for the bedrooms and baths. The extra-tall front door will benefit from Red’s long-standing wish of having a front door painted red.
Our flooring was delivered today and is “acclimating” in the garage. It is hickory wood of four and five inch widths and various lengths. The floor will be stained and finished “on site” by one of the last skilled craftsmen, working here in the Shenandoah Valley, who can provide a custom finish. Pre-finished flooring is now the “go to” product for most home builders.
We have also picked out our gas fireplace and logs. The logs will be a new hybrid mixture of special concrete and ceramic. The surround of the fireplace will be made by our builder, Eric Argenbright, who will also build our kitchen cabinets. The Redhead will truly be in her glory “starting” a fire with the push of a button.
All for now. As always, Comments, Likes and Follows always welcome!
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:
Thanks for reading and a special thanks to our very special friends that are our family.
Winter has come upon us here in the Shenandoah Valley, although the Spring-like temperatures of the past several days has everyone and everything simultaneously confused and grateful.
Work on our Staunton, VA home has progressed a bit since the last posting. But, a week or so of rain and the arrival of Christmas has slowed things down a bit. The foundation walls are finished, the sanitary system has been plumbed and inspected and much of the floor deck and joists have been installed. Some of the exterior walls have been assembled, but not yet erected or put into place. More materials have been delivered to the lot: roofing trusses, some lumber and the exterior decorative stone that will go onto the foundation walls and porch columns. Most likely, just after the first of the New Year, work will resume at full pace and the exterior walls will be built and the crane will arrive to lift the huge roof trusses into place.
Building a home is an interesting adventure. On one hand, because this will be your home, you want the house finished quickly. On the other, you want things done “just so”. What may look great on paper may require a bit of tweaking on-site. And, what seems incomprehensible to a layman begins to make sense once the builders go about their work. Patience, skill, diligence and trust are all required. For us, this is just not another house being built, this will be our home.
One feature of our new home that is a bit surprising is the size of the basement. Yes, it is not quite finished and the heating and other systems have not yet been installed, but, this is going to be one big basement!
Over the past five years or so I have truly missed being able to work restoring and “preserving” antique and vintage American furniture. What was born of a need became an engrossing hobby that became a passion. From beginning in a garage to actually having a store and workshop, finding, researching and working on vintage and antique furniture became one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done. Not being able to work on furniture during our “sojourn” in Florida was a disappointment. But, I fully expect to be able to again get back to my brushes, waxes, glues, etc. in my new basement work-space. Once I have the space up and running, you’ll be able to follow along on my “discovery” trips, finding interesting pieces to restore and the process of doing so. I, for one, can’t wait!
As a real-world antidote to the Alice in Wonderland, mind numbing nonsense, passing as news, I decided to spend a bit more time watching the workmen build our new home here in Staunton, Virginia. A worksite is definitely a “No Spin Zone”; everything is real… and verifiable.
This week, the foundation is being constructed. Despite this week’s often cold, damp days, tons of concrete blocks were being meticulously set, one upon another, by hand. The only machines on site are a motor driven mixer for the sand and cement being turned into mortar and a forklift to move pallets laden with concrete blocks to the scaffolding once the walls have reached an above-head height. The rest is all hand labor, just as it has been done for centuries. It takes heart, strength and determination to keep going for hours on end. A skilled brick tradesman can spend years learning his craft: how to properly use and read a level, to wield a trowel so that the right amount of mortar is applied to each block and to know the right formula for the mortar, based upon a number of factors, including weather and specific strength needed. In a bow to modernity, Michael, the bricklayer, also utilizes a laser tool to precisely determine the correct height needed for each section of wall.
Michael had an interesting story as to why and how he chose to become a bricklayer / mason. His father is a farmer, so it would have been natural for Michael to continue working the family farm. “But”, says Michael, “there was a slight problem. I’m allergic to hay”! So, after watching a bricklayer do some work on the family farm, Michael became this man’s apprentice and later went out on his own, starting his own business. Michael said farming and bricklaying are both hard work. “But, at least I’m not sneezing”!
What fascinated me the most, I think, was the hand – motor skills needed to apply the correct amount of mortar to the bottoms, sides and joints of each block. Having done some very small plaster repair jobs in previous homes, I can attest that using a trowel efficiently is no small feat. My efforts more resembled the art work of “Ivan the Gorilla” than anything that Michael and his assistant would tolerate on any of their jobs.
We’re thinking and hoping the block work will be completed within the next week or so. At that time, Father Joseph Wamala, of St. Francis of Assisi church in Staunton, will bless the foundation and building site, asking for God’s protection for all those that will build, live and enter our home. A further blessing will take place when the house is completed and we move in.
The following pictures will show some of the activity taking place this week at our home site.
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