Best Foot Forward

So, you’re retired?

Yeah, kind of.

From what?

Well, I guess from a few things.

How do you like it?

I’m looking to be un-retired.

This conversation, with several variations, has been happening with me more and more frequently. I wonder, am I looking much older than I feel? Do I have that look of being part of the leisure class? Does my latest fashion statement that I consider to be a combination of bon vivant and bohemian nonchalance really signal that I am not reporting to any legitimate work anytime soon? Upon viewing a picture of this outfit, emailed by The Redhead, my buddy, Maryellen, called to tell me that I needed an intervention.

fashion statement

Maybe, I just need a job.

For a few weeks I have attempted to volunteer my time and whatever talents I may have to several area charities and non-profits. Phone messages remain unreturned or the person that I do get to speak with tells me to go online to get information and to leave a contact number. But, I’m speaking with you now, I tell him. No, you have to go online, he says. I do. But, after I fill out the online form a window pops up telling me it’s best to directly call the office.

Yes, maybe I just need a job.

So, what to do? I’ve told myself no weekends. No nights. No holidays. Last week I was told to not put so many obstacles in my way in finding a job. Good advice. After all, it’s only part-time work I’m looking for.

I’ve made a mental list of what I have in the past liked to do and what I can now still do. Several things have come to mind. A business that we’ve had dealings with recently seemed that it might be a good resource in locating a lead. I called and explained that I was planning to un-retire and wondered if they might know of any similar business that might require part time help. As a matter of fact we do, they said. Us.

I’m putting together a resume this weekend. And Monday I’m going to put my best foot forward. But, guaranteed, no matter what the outcome is, that best foot forward won’t be wearing socks and sandals. At least not black socks!

Tests and Setbacks

IMG_2338 (603x353)
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”.

20150624_2432 (1024x768)
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.

20150619_2427 (1024x768)
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.

20150618_2425 (1024x768)
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.

Luis installing baseboards

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

20150624_2404 (1024x768)
Cutting the baseboards

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

Ray from New Millennium Tile
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.

20150624_2434 (1024x808)
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”.

20150614_2384 (1024x768)
Living Room, a blend of old and new

Atilla the Hun and The Redhead

atilla (287x176)June 8. For history buffs, it is remembered as the date on which Attila the Hun invaded Italy (who doesn’t remember that!). For The Redhead and I it is the date we are scheduled to move to our New Home!IMG_2338

The neighbors have promised that we will be more welcome than was Mr. Attila.
It has been an exciting and interesting two months since we closed on the house. We have learned a lot – about the complexities of remodeling a home, how to search for and hire the best tradesmen, about being cautious and about what motivates people –others and ourselves.

20150513_2318 (800x654)

If you could see my desk right now (why not?) you might think that disorganization was a characteristic of mine. I don’t think so – at least not always – but the way I often organize is by keeping things needed within sight. Clutter actually drives me crazy so I keep only what I need or think I’ll soon need within sight and reach. Organizing a home remodeling project requires organization of a different sort. You have to organize people according to the hierarchy of their work and how each coordinates with the others. 20150402_2277 (800x600)Ripping out things was fairly simple: carpenter rips out cabinets, plumber disconnects water supply, carpenter rips out sinks, etc., electricians turn off electricity to certain areas and re-wire for future needs, tiling people tear up existing floors (ours were a nightmare and a testimonial to modern glues). Then ceilings are re-plastered, painting is done, new floors are put in (all tile) and then new cabinets and vanities are installed. Along the way you realize that future needs should be addressed now because: (1) later you be too tired to continue; (2) you may have to redo something; (3) You may have spent any remaining funds on a psychiatrist. Seriously!
Right now we are at the end of the painting stage.20150513_2311The house looks beautiful and very different from what it did a few weeks ago. This coming Monday the laying of the new tile floors begins and the appliances are delivered and kept in the garage (except the washer/dryer which will be installed). The following week the cabinets, vanities and lights are to be installed as will be the new front and back doors. In early June the construction of the new glass sun room and the new roof begins. But, we can and, hopefully, will be in the house when that takes place. It’s a real ballet – poetry in motion. But, one serious misstep and our goose is cooked!!
But, so far, so good. A few set-backs have happened, yet things kept moving. And here we are: nearly at the end of this chapter. Still smiling. Still talking to one another. Still excited about this new beginning and very grateful for this blessing. Who wouldda’ thunk?20150403_2287

Continue reading


What we got here is a failure to communicate

A memorable line from the classic film, “Cool Hand Luke”, it keeps replaying in my mind as our house makeover proceeds. It seems the more technology enters into our most simple, everyday tasks, the more complicated it becomes. The more we let it replace direct interaction with one another, well, it seems like we end up with just a plain, hot mess. Today was my Waterloo.

20150403_2286Everyone working on our project has been great. From the flooring guys that have tackled a nearly impossible job to the electricians and carpenters, all have proceeded as smoothly as possible while trying to complete a not small project in a specific time frame. It is the coordination that is starting to drive me crazy.

We could have avoided most of this angst by just hiring a “Big Box” store to act as General Contractor. We are buying many of our materials from them. But, the labor costs of them acting as the GC is quadruple what the individual tradespeople charge. So, frugality and sensibility take precedence over ease. Up to now it has been o.k. But, the kitchen project requires the efforts of several tradespeople so the designer/cabinet maker is coordinating, more or less, that part of our project. He says he likes to communicate mostly by email and text and voice mail – as well as some face-to-face, of course. It is here that the bogeyman of technology raises his ugly head. Examples: Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. The Redhead gets an email from the kitchen guy: “Electricians will be at house tomorrow”.  Foolish me asks the Redhead, “what time”? She says, “I don’t know. I’ll email him back”. Hmmm.

Thursday, 7:15 a.m. I’m in the shower singing my third rendition of, “I Left my Heart in San Francisco” (I’ll learn the real words, someday). The Redhead yells into the bathroom, “The electricians are at the house and can’t get in ’cause your not there”.  No kidding. Who needs to rinse off, anyway? And breakfast? Ha!

And so it went all day. Emails to the Redhead from the kitchen guy’s staff: “Plumber’s coming Friday or Monday. Need toilet and valves”. Message duly given. Foolish me asks, “How can the toilet go in when there is no drain yet”?  Or walls? Or floor? Just small details, I suppose.20150402_2276There’s more. But, you get the idea. Technology is fine. To a point. But, can an I Pad really replace a,”My Pad”? All the numbers, names, notes and dates you could possibly want or need – all at a fingers touch!

Bill's My PadBill’s My Pad

Not all is lost or gloomy, though. Far from it. Thanks to the Redhead’s vision, the most beautiful house we could have imagined will soon be our home. 20150402_2277

In the meantime, can somebody just pick up a phone!


A Closing

Most cliches have some element of truth or wisdom.

“When one door closes, another door opens” is one that is true for us. Tomorrow will be the day we “close” on our new home. We will soon be saying goodbye to the apartment that has been our safe haven during our transition period here in Jacksonville. Living here has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience and a wise decision for us. We explored nearly every area of this city…and beyond. Our feelings and ideas of where we wanted to settle changed several times over the course of the nine months since we arrived here. From the convenient area in which we now live to the funky Riverside area to the Beaches and back, again, over the Inter-coastal Waterway, each area had its draw. But, in the end, we were finally able to zero in on what it was we really wanted in a house and neighborhood. To feel being part of a community, close to the water, has been a constant for us. As far as a particular house – we knew we would know it when we saw it. Or, rather, when we felt it. We spent a lot of time trying to imagine ourselves in a lot of houses. With this house, we did not want to leave the very first time we saw it. It was love at first sight – warts and all. Actually, blemishes and all. It was, too, the house sister Linda saw in her “vision”. Another story and a true one.


We will have a view of a pond. There will, of course, always be room for family and friends. My initial idea of having a library for our books and music has been replaced with an open floor plan with books and music everywhere – exactly as it should be! Our winding street has sidewalks on which people actually walk – often and at all times of day. It is only a 7 minute drive to the beach and stores and restaurants are within 5 minutes by bike.

IMG_2073 (458x519)

This week we will begin our updates and renovations. We have our list and, hopefully, at least most of it will be completed before we leave our current apartment in June. We have found, rather quickly, that it pays to do a lot of leg work yourself – searching out the best and most reliable tradesmen and suppliers. More about this later, perhaps.

And, so, our new life together begins another chapter. It is a Southern Life Redeux.