You know it’s coming. Will it be the end of everything as we know it? What happened to all the assurances that we were in a safe place?
Like an unwelcome relative that insists on coming for the holidays, Irma, with potent unpredictability, smashes and wrecks and ruins everything she comes near.
We pray. At home, at church, together, by ourselves. Please, Lord, let Irma turn toward the ocean and let every sailor at sea escape her wrath.
First, it’s the islands of the Caribbean. Devastated. Then the mainland. Northward, then west. Please, spare the Gulf, we pray. She straightens. Northward, again. We’re assured she will weaken. Every bully does. Eventually. Toward sparsely populated areas she sets her sights. And, then, she sees her prize to the east. She wants to visit the City of Rivers. It’s been such a long time. Hasn’t it? I’ve missed you. Let me visit. Not a good time? Oh, I insist. Irma comes through the back door. But, not before first waking the dead of St. Augustine. Then, it’s over the rivers and through the woods to Grandma’s house she goes. And, to ours. She has misplaced our address. For now. But, like a raging drunk at midnight, she shatters the peace of our neighbors. Trees crash into homes, roofs are ripped, windows are shattered. And, too, are so many lives.
We are now three for three. This yearly upheaval has stirred up something within. Of smashing. Of terror in the night. Of trees strewn in the front yard, albeit now ones without lights.
A prayer, once said for many years, comes to mind: Lord, let me know what You want me to do, and give me the courage to do it. Amen
It’s been months since I’ve wanted to write, much less take the time to actually sit in front of a keyboard again. Why tonight?
Tonight our book club met to discuss this month’s selection, The Swerve. If you haven’t yet read it, the 50 cent review is: a Renaissance era papal scribe goes on a search for ancient classic manuscripts. He comes across a poem written by one Lucretius, a Roman living approximately 100 years before Christ. The poem , On the Nature of Things, deals with the nature of life. It has influenced many philosophers and writers and, according to the Swerve’s author, Stephen Greenblatt, formed our modern world’s understanding of life’s purpose and essence. Lucretius described a universe where there is no God, we were created by randomly colliding and binding atoms, our life’s purpose should be the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, all religions are a hoax and, at the end…nothing. Greenblatt apparently concurs. I couldn’t disagree more.
It’s been six months since I’ve gone to work. At times I think I miss it. But, actually what is missed is the doing of work. Not willing to work weekends, nights or holidays does limit one’s prospects of finding part-time work. Being able to enjoy time with The Redhead and to explore the surrounds of our new home are important. That she goes to work three days each week has put me in the unenviable position of haus frau. But, it has also given me time to think.
Retirement, for some, is the long sought after golden fleece, awarded after a certain number of years toiling in the workplace. Yet, there are those that really like to work. Perhaps they are the ones that were lucky enough to have drawn a paycheck doing something they loved. Those aren’t jobs, those are blessings. With work, I’ve been blessed three times, so far. Interestingly, each of those three work blessings came from out of the blue – completely unexpected.
So, what might our book club meeting have to do with writing again? Writing helps clarify what I see. And, if I truly believe that we are put here for more that our own pleasure, perhaps, by writing, I will see what is now calling me. After all, even the sea bird in the picture above found his reward in the hurricane devastated moonscape of what was once lush Little Talbot Island. All he had to do was see it.
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!
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).
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.
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”.
Our kitchen pendant lights and some additional exterior lighting has finally been hooked up, too.
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.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.
We’ve begun to bring a few of our belongings over to our home: bags and boxes of clothes, some linens, pottery and two pieces of furniture. I just had to hand-carry our Victorian muffin stand (from my old Redeux Furniture shop) and an arts and crafts period clover leaf side table. The pottery pieces, from local artists, were also taken to the house today to ensure their safe passage. If those old pieces of furniture could talk I wonder if they would be saying,”where the heck are we”, or “hey, there’s no dust here”! In any case, they are a long way from their original New England homes. Hope they like their new digs!
Being somewhat gluttons for punishment, we’ll enjoy only a day or two of relative quiet in the house. Sometime between Tuesday and Friday the following is scheduled to happen: The kitchen finished – counter tops installed, drilled for fixtures and all fixtures installed (at least we have the refrigerator); bath vanities completed with counters and fixtures; all remaining electrical hookups completed. Then the fun starts! The foundation for the new sun room has been staked. The city inspector is scheduled for sometime Monday (maybe he will help carry a few boxes!) to give the go-ahead approval. Also, Tuesday is when the dumpster for the new roof is being dropped off. The roof will be started sometime after Tuesday and will take about 2- 3 days, weather permitting. The foundation for the sun room will be poured sometime next week and work will commence on the frame about 3-4 days latter. With luck, everything will be completed by early to mid-July. Of course, we will be living in the house all this time. We leave the apartment entirely by the end of June. But, we expect to be completely out as soon as our appliances are hooked up at the house. Whew!
The kitchen cabinets are turning out to be fantastic. The carpenter installing them is Mr. Wayne Moss.
Wayne has his own woodworking company but is the installer for the kitchen cabinet folks. Lucky us. Wayne is a perfectionist and has an old fashioned ethic about him. As he was making sure everything was just right with the cabinets, the layout man for the counter tops arrived. Watching him measure and cut the patterns for the tops was intriguing. It turns out he used to work for Embraer – American Airlines in Brazil. Life happens and now he uses his skills to be the pattern-maker for one of Jacksonville’s best stone, granite and quartz fabricators.When friends and family visit us they will see the work of several very skilled tradesmen – tilers, carpenters and stone cutters. It is amazing what God has done for us by putting these folks in our lives.
With all of this work going on around us, I am getting the itch to again start working on some furniture. My skill level is nowhere near that of some of the men that has worked on on new home. But, in looking at some of the pieces from my shop that we kept and will put into our new home, I am grateful for the “new-life” I was able to restore into so many pieces.
A real Morris chair. Soon to be restored by Redeux South!
Sometimes, it is interesting to guess where all of those bits of furniture are now and how they are being used. Ours will always be treasured.
In looking around for just the right piece to put under our TV I’ve searched through several antique and cottage furniture shops in Jacksonville and Neptune/Jacksonville Beaches. Today I re-visited one on the beach, Bungalow by the Sea, that is a small beach-type house with several rooms, each for a particular artist or crafts-person. Perhaps I’ll look into putting some things there. But, first, there is this little thing called renovating a house that is keeping my attention. You never know, though.
Less than three months from when we started the house renovations we will move into our new home and begin our new life.
From first deciding to leave Connecticut and then exploring areas in which to relocate and finally deciding to make Jacksonville our home, it has been an interesting experience. We have met many wonderful people. Some have lived in Jacksonville for all their lives; some have come from other Southern states and a few from “up North”, which can mean anywhere north of North Carolina. We have seen a lot, too.
Our renovations have brought us into contact with people we might otherwise not have had the chance to meet: men that work with tile and wood and concrete; men that start work at 6:00 A.M. and often work until 7, 8 and even 9:00 P.M.; men that work 60-70 hours a week and yet still have to weld bumpers onto their cars to keep them going; men that offer a handshake stronger than any written contract. And we have met a few that know the inside of several jails but who wouldn’t steal a slice of bread if they were hungry. There have been some interesting ladies, too. Some are our new neighbors – wives of Navy officers. They raise their families often in the absence of their husbands. Unlike some of the families of corporate executive we knew in Connecticut who commuted to NYC or elsewhere, these women say goodbye to their husbands when they leave for Iraq or Afghanistan or somewhere not to be disclosed. These are some strong ladies. There are other women that we have met that have made this such a comfortable place for us to live. Some are business owners such as Marni of Duval Tile, some are folks we meet in our day-to-day business , some are friends for the Redhead, some friends for us both. New friends, yet not replacing those we love and long to see from “up North”, wherever that may be.
So, we are nearly at the end of our renovation work – at least the interior work. The painting is done; the various floors have been replaced with new tile throughout, new doors have been put in and this weekend the new kitchen is being installed. In just over a week we will move in – ready or not! The sun room is being started next week. But, we can live in the house while that is going on. Hopefully!
During all of this work we have learned and noticed a few things. First, it has been better to deal directly with the folks that are actually doing the work rather than working through a middleman.
The kitchen cabinet project is a good case in point. While it does require the efforts of several trades, communication has sometimes been not as easy as when we have dealt directly with the tradesman doing the work.
Secondly, we have noted that those folks that have communicated primarily by text or email have been the least accessible. I’ve written about this before and it becomes more apparent everyday: nothing can replace direct contact – voice or in person. Sorry, Google, Twitter and Microsoft, etc. – you have your limitations – even if the new internet connections will be through ones pants (http://fusion.net/story/141560/google-and-levis-are-teaming-up-to-make-computerized-pants/ ) Yikes!
Thirdly, shop around. Since we are both frugal (where it counts) and love to poke and pick, this wasn’t too hard for us. It is amazing how very often we found better quality materials for 40-60 % less than that found in “designer” showrooms. Beware, too, we found, of sources often suggested by middlemen such as designers. There are built in markups. If you have the time, as we did, shop around. Don’t be swayed by fancy showrooms and sales reps in la-di-da outfits. The best sources for product knowledge often come from someone that has just buggy-loaded a bunch of tile, paint or hardware.
And, lastly, talk to everybody and double check references. You may meet some wonderful folks and might save yourself some grief, too! But, most of all, trust. If it’s right and good, it will happen. So, we may as well not worry.
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!
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.
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. 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.The 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?