The wonder of it all

Blue Ridge Mountains, late afternoon

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:

Building the front porch
Setting the Trusses
Eric Argenbright selecting the correct roof truss for the crane
Risky Business
Man and Machine
Getting There
Back view, it looks bigger than it is! The sun room is in center.
Our soon-to-be new home in Staunton, VA

Thanks for reading and a special thanks to our very special friends that are our family.

Building a home (4), the Signature Board

View of Blue Ridge Mountains from what will be our front porch!

Late yesterday afternoon, to our great surprise, The Digger showed up at our Augusta County building site. And, that means one thing; the footers of the foundation of the house were being dug. It sounds unexciting, but without the footers, no foundation. No foundation…you guessed it, no house.

The Digger and Mr. Mike checking the footer depth

So, late into the night and throughout most of today the excavation crew dug and pushed and measured the earth around what will be our home until they got it just right: the proper length, width and depth. Transom levels ensured the accuracy, skill and pride ensured the job would get done right.

As I watched the work from the sidelines, one of the crew, Mike, approached me, figuring I was the soon to be owner. He said that he had heard that I had wanted each and every worker building our home “to sign a board”. I explained that we’d like for every worker constructing our house to sign a wood board that we planned to hang in our home. Each tradesman, craftsman and laborer would be a part of this house and we wanted their efforts to be remembered and recognized. Mike said he had never heard of something like this, no one had asked for this before. He liked the idea and signed it and then passed it to the other members of the crew. Was the board really going to be displayed, he asked. “Yep, probably in the front hallway”, I answered. “What if you run out of room on the board”? I’ll get another board! “You know”, said Mike, “I don’t often get to see the finished house. I just dig the foundations”. Well, a house without a good foundation wouldn’t be much of a house, would it, Mike. “No, sir, it wouldn’t”, he said.

Getting it right. Note the red clay soil

 We look forward to Mike and crew coming by to see the finished house – and their “board”.

The Augusta County, Virginia Inspector will check the footing trenches, hopefully tomorrow. Once approved, gravel will be put into the trench, followed by poured concrete. Then the block foundation can begin to be laid by another crew of skilled tradesmen.  Maybe, we will need an extra Signature Board”!

Comments, questions always appreciated. Click “Like” if you do and “Follow” if you’d like.

Bill

Building a Dream

It’s been one month since we signed contracts for the purchase of our property and the building of our new home here in Staunton, VA.  After nearly a year of searching for the right place to settle, we now find ourselves chomping at the bit for construction to begin on our house.

The first step was to choose the style and design of the home.  Luckily, there are so many designs to be found online that there are probably several home plans to suit just about anybody. The home plan we chose is a single level “craftsman” style having three bedrooms and three full baths. A few modifications were made to the original plan: the floor plan was reversed to accommodate the lot configuration; the living room in the front of the house will become a library; the family room width is expanded by a few feet and the rear facing screen porch will be made into a windowed sunporch. One of my favorite changes is the expanding of the covered front porch from the standard 6 foot width to 8 feet wide and running along most of the front of the house. Our builders are Eric and Amy Argenbright of EA Homes Construction here in Augusta County.

A couple of weeks ago we spent an afternoon with Amy choosing just some of the details of our home: the exterior finishes, types of windows, flooring and some interior alterations to the original plan. Since we had fairly recently gone through a huge remodeling project in our former home in Florida, making some of the decisions was not as difficult as it may have been. We knew what we really liked in our past homes and what we would like to be different in this, our “from the ground up” home. It’s been interesting in coming to decisions that satisfy both The Redhead and me. We both wanted a fireplace. Red wanted a gas fired unit, but I wanted “old school” wood burning. We decided on the gas style since it is cleaner and much easier for Red to have a fire anytime she wishes. In almost every other detail we both had the same ideas.

One feature of the house that I’m particularly looking forward to (besides the front porch) is the basement. Yes, the basement! For it is there that I plan to revive my vintage/antique restoration activity. It’s been over 5 years since my Redeux Vintage Furniture http://redeuxfurniture.blogspot.com/2012/ closed when we moved from Connecticut. For several reasons it never revived while we lived in Florida. But now…yes, indeedy!!  I plan to get going finding and reviving vintage American-made furniture as quickly possible.

The Redhead and I drive to our lot several times a week to look at where our house will sit. We listen to the wind, the just- turning- color leaves of “our trees” rustling in what seems to be a constant, steady breeze coming from the nearby Alleghany Mountains and a variety of birds. We’ve already met two of our soon-to-be neighbors and they just smile when we park at the side of our little road and just sit. They feel the same way about this little slice of heaven.

Eric from AE Homes clearing the way for our new home
Eric and Nick happy to start our home

This past week work was begun on clearing some ground for the house to be built. Just as many trees as necessary will be removed, the rest will stay. Some large pieces of rock will be utilized as part of our natural landscaping plan. Later this week the footprint of the house will be staked out and then construction will, hopefully, begin to progress at a steady pace. I hope you’ll follow along!

Bill

Pax Vobiscum

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Schola of St. Francis of Assisi, Staunton,VA

Christmas. It is both the beginning and the end. The Alpha and Omega. The fulfillment and the promise.  It is what we let it be.

We are blessed, The Redhead and I. We have our health, our family of heart and blood, a new beginning and hopeful expectation. We have one another. And we have our Faith. None of it has come easily and for that we are all the more grateful for having what we do.

For us, this Christmas is a new beginning in many ways. Our move from Florida to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia has opened up possibilities and opportunities. We have no idea of where we will call home or what we will be doing in the future but we are filled with a sense of peace. We are, we are sure, where we are supposed to be at this time. There is an expression that I have used over the past number of years, “Before you can know what you have, you first have to lose everything”. We know what we now have.

Our parish church here in Staunton, St. Francis of Assisi, has been a source of comfort, strength and inspiration to us. We decided to attend Mass at the Christmas vigil this year. Before Mass there was a “concert” presented by the Schola of classical musicians and singers. It was a mix of both traditional and religious songs and hymns. No, “Santa Baby”, was not one of them! One of the traditional songs was a Charles Floyd/Yo-Y o Ma arrangement of “The Wexford Carol”. Here it is performed together by Alison Krause and Yo-Yo Ma (click here.)  The rendition sung in church was very close to what was sung by Krause, thanks to soprano, Nancy Hanna. The video’s bagpipe drone section of the music was substituted by the church organ. It was very stirring and served as an excellent example of how contemporary music can be sacred. This Vigil Mass was one of the most reverent we have attended in many years and Father Wamala’s Christmas message was simple: Love God, love one another and find your way to serve.

 

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Christmas Vigil altar St. Francis of Assisi, Staunton

Christmas Day was something different for us: a little baby will do that! Baby Jonah kept his parents hopping, yet Grammy (The Redhead) found a way to lull him to peaceful sleep.

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Sleepy Baby

Some Christmas music was played during the morning.  The organic farm just up the road provided us with a fresh turkey for a special Christmas dinner (I’ll write more about that farm at some later point).  It was truly a peace-filled day.

And now, New Year is upon us. No silly resolutions…at least for me. Yes, I’d like to take advantage of the more temperate (for me) weather and get outdoors more. But, dreams of six-pack abs have been diminished by the reality of a half-keg belly! Our goals are more straightforward: 1) Find a new home (are ya’ listenin’, Becky!), 2) Find a place to resume my furniture restoration interests, 3) Learn how to use my new Nikon 5300 camera that was a gift from the Redhead and 4) Develop a social circle of friends in our new hometown while keeping our family of the heart ever close to us. Doable? Yes, I believe it is.

In closing, here are some more pics from our continuing explorations of the Shenandoah Valley.

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old hamlet of Brownsburg, north of Lexington,VA

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Valley farm, near Lexington,VA

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Blue Ridge Mountain farm, Edinburg, VA

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Edinburg Mill. Detail showing charred timbers resulting from Union General Sheridan’s raid and burning of the mill and town, 1864

 Peace be with you. Thank you for reading. Happy New Year to all! 

Bill

Hold Your Fire!

We’re three days in our new home here in the Shenandoah Valley Virginia town of Waynesboro. Moving cartons are everywhere – open, full and some empty. Our third bedroom has been turned into a storeroom with furniture piled on top of each other and boxes not yet to be opened crammed into whatever available space there is. But, as I write this, our bedroom, the guest bedroom, living room and kitchen have finally been put into order.

It has been an exhausting few months. The idea of selling our home, marketing it and having a wonderful buyer come forth immediately was emotional but not too stressful. It was the packing and tag sales that started to ebb our energy. As I’ve written before, no one wants to help you pack and fewer than none want to help unpack. You’re on your own, baby!

So, imagine if you can sleeping soundly in your bed after two days of heavy lifting and sorting. The cool mountain air, drifting in through the slightly open window, has given you some of the most restful sleep you’ve had in several years. And then it happens.

A female voice, young sounding, comes from just outside your window. At first it seems like only a jumble of words, loud words, but not quite making sense. It’s still dark. What the heck!

The word jumble takes form and the young woman seems to be speaking  shouting to someone on her cell phone. This can’t be happening. But it is!

The conversation gets louder. This gal must live upstairs and is having a conversation while walking outside, I’m thinking. Now her words are coming together.

“You know”, she says, “I’ve always been a sort of worrier; maybe even depressed. No, not depressed, just kinda’ into my feelings, you know”.

Lady, I’m thinking, if you knew what I’m feeling you’d tone it down a notch. And further away, too!

But, she continues. “So, like, my parents knew I couldn’t open up to many people so they bought me Snowball. And, I’d like talk to Snowball all the time, ya’ know. I’d tell him everything. And, I mean EVERYTHING!

Oh, please have mercy, I’m thinking. Please, please be quiet!

Now, The Redhead is awake. Her eyes are closed, but I know she’s awake.

“So, like sometimes I didn’t even have to talk to Snowball. He just knew what I was thinking. My parents sensed how much I loved him and could talk to him so they bought me Snowflake. She was a girl, ya’ know. So, I’d talk to them and then one day my aunt and uncle bought me a baby seal and I named her Snow Crystal. Yep, another girl. So, I had one boy and two girls that I could talk to about EVERYTHING!

This can not happening.  But, now I hear laughing. This woman is outside my window on speaker phone! In the dark!

So, one year my parents took me on winter break vacation to the Bahamas, she continues. It was fab, ya’ know. But, I wouldn’t go unless Snowball, Snowflake and Snow Crystal could go ,too. My parents thought it was cute so they bought an oversize suitcase to put them into.

Wait a minute! These snow things are dolls, stuffed animals!!?? Oh, Lady, you’ve got to be kidding me!

“And, so”, she continues, “as I got older I still talked to Snowball and Snowflake and Snow Crystal all the time. About EVERYTHING! About how I felt when the other girls started to develop and I didn’t, ya’ know.

More laughter from the other end of the phone.

And then, louder if possible, “So, my mom knew I was feeling bad and how I could talk to Snowball and Snowflake and Snow Crystal about EVERYTHING (more speaker phone laughter) so she said I should talk to them about wearing a training…

Wait a minute! This is altogether too much! I’m putting an end to this conversation right now. So, I throw off the covers and realize that since our bed is now on a padded carpet it’s a bit higher. My feet can’t reach the floor! So, I hop off, slightly twisting an ankle already sore from all the bending and lifting of the past few days. Dang it!

I hobble over to the window to tell The Conversationalist that her conversation is over and to pipe down and move on!

And then…wait a minute! She’s inside our room! What??

I turn to her voice. What the heck is happening? Son of a … It’s the clock radio tuned into a public radio station and broadcasting a “repeat performance” of Storyteller something or other. No one’s outside my window. Hold your fire, Gibby!

The still closed eye Redhead says, “What’s wrong with you”?

“Nothing, My Sweet”. I hop back up in bed and laugh The Redhead fully awake and  myself back into deep slumber.

Good Night!

P.S. Note the change of photo at the top of the blog. It was taken back in September not far from where we now are.

 

Getting Closer

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Just the beginning!

We’re a bit more than two weeks away from “D-Day”, the day the moving van will arrive and Florida will be in our past.

It’s been an interesting four years. So many people of our age have, for quite some time, been settled in the place and circumstances they are. Not us. Perhaps, that is the consequence of a fledgling being thrown from the nest. Or, perhaps, my mother was right – there is a bit of the Tinker in me. And, everyone knows about Redheads! In any case, off we’ll go. Taking those things which we can’t part with. Books, furniture and art we found together, photos. And memories, mostly pre-Florida. And one another.

Moving is like a kaleidoscope – look at it one way it appears as such. A little twist and it looks much different. An opportunity? A loss? A mistake? That it’s part of a Plan is all we’re certain of. If it were just up to me I’d certainly screw it up. So we’ll follow our hearts and listen. And see.

In the meantime, we pack. And pack some more. And give or throw away. It’s amazing that after three tag sales we still have some things we’re deciding not to take. The plan is for us to unpack only what is essential for our temporary home – the apartment in Waynesboro – and keep everything else in a spare bedroom: patio furniture, cartons of books, pictures, tools and some more. This way, we’ll have much less to repack when we find our new home – or it finds us.

We have become somewhat expert in packing. Heavy brown craft paper, used by contractors to protect new floors, makes excellent carton cushioning and protective wrap for china. Bubble wrap is less expensive on the internet. Home Depot has sturdier boxes than Lowe’s. Bending over boxes can give you a crook in the neck – set up a work station on the kitchen table. Columbus had an easier time finding the New World than you’ll have finding someone to help you pack. Nobody likes it. No Body!

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And More!

 

 

Staunton

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West Beverly St. Downtown Staunton

It’s been nearly a week since we made the trek from Jacksonville to Staunton, Virginia to prepare for our relocating there in about six weeks. Skirting the effects of hurricane Florence turned a nine hour trip into 15 driving hours through Georgia, up into Tennessee and finally slipping over the mountains into Virginia from the West.

Along the way we spoke of what lay ahead of us and what we were leaving. Four years earlier we had had a similar conversation of what we were leaving behind in Connecticut as we drove along I-95 toward The Bold New City of the South. We said we would make a home that would be our “forever home”.  As singer-songwriter John Gorka wrote, “the old future’s gone”.  Apparently, this bold new city requires a sensibility different than ours.

Here, friends were made, acquaintances, too. Some were lost, some just recently made. Some know, too, that this is not their “forever home”.  Our reasons are mostly the same: too much heat, traffic and violence. There is also the feeling that something better is possible, if only a chance is taken.

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Our cross mountain conversation centered on what was most important to us. Not just now, but what has always been so: Family, of blood and heart, a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging to and in a place and a shared Faith.

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St. Francis of Assisi Church

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How odd, then, that by moving we hope to better have these things. The Redhead and I will be closer to “the kids” and our Connecticut friends. Staunton is also closer to northern Tennessee than is Jacksonville, making it easier to still be close with some of our family of the heart who will be leaving here, too.

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The Shenandoah Valley in many ways reminds me of the western Ireland of my heritage: rolling hills dotted with cattle and the abandoned homes of those that once worked the land, all in the shadow of the nearby mountains that, like those in Eire, also witnessed a bloody, never forgotten, conflict.  Yet, there is a gentleness to the land that has been smoothed by time.

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Abandoned cabin, Churchville,VA

The main purpose for our trip was to find a rental property to settle into as we explored and learned the area. It turned out that finding something we liked was not as easy as we had imagined. But, after a few days a very nice condo-type apartment in the town of Waynesville, about 20 minutes from Staunton, was found and secured for our arrival in early November. After taking care of a few more business matters we spent the rest of our week exploring the area and enjoying an afternoon at the Blackfriars PlayhouseStaunton certainly has no shortage of interesting things to see and do.

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Staunton Arts Center

Each day, now, we pack a little more. Boxing what we’ll need immediately and sorting it from those treasures we cannot part with but may not see again for a year. It is a strange experience.  We know that we both are resilient and optimistic and our prayer for guidance is simple: “Lord, let us know what You want us to do and give us the courage to do it”. Who knows what’s in store for us? It’s all part of a plan.

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All according to plan, Swoope, VA

 

 

 

Heading to the Mountains

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It is 8:00 P.M., Sunday, September 16th and unbelievably hot here in Jacksonville. This evening my beloved Patriots have had a rather unpleasant trip to this Bold New City.

Normally, this would be enough to put me into a funk – at least until 90 Day Fiance comes on ( yes, we’re hooked) and somehow nothing seems quite so unpleasant by comparison. But, tonight, there is no funk. There is only a feeling of hopeful anticipation.

It’s been only two weeks since we first put our house on the market, accepted an offer and had the home inspection. What began one year ago as a mustard seed of curiosity bloomed into an idea and, finally, into the thought that, yes, it is never too late to start over again. Tomorrow, we will drive to Staunton, VA to secure a condo rental until we decide where, exactly, we want to buy or build a new home.

It’s a bit odd, moving again. When we moved here we thought it would be our forever and always home. Sometimes, life has a way of taking unexpected turns.  Those twists and turns can either be set-backs…or opportunities. With experience comes knowledge and knowing what you don’t want is at least half the battle.

Come along for the adventure!

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

4th of July Reflections – happy anniversary

This weekend, in many ways, marks our one year anniversary here in Jacksonville. While it was actually the end of June last year that we arrived, it was the 4th of July when the reality of our having moved here struck us. A year ago we knew very few people here. Our world was ourselves, the beach and our beloved Lillie’s. We were determined to explore and to make this home. The night of The Fourth we went to Neptune Beach to see the fireworks. We were awed by the displays lighting up the night sky from Jacksonville Beach all the way down the coast to St. Augustine. One year later and much has changed. We have, once again, our own home. We have made several good friends. We have found a church – Blessed Trinity, which has become our spiritual home and anchor. Fr. Jhon (correct) Guarnizo, our pastor, will bless our new home once all the construction (and repairs) have been completed. We are hopeful this will be later this month. lillies We still go to Lillie’s. Katy, Lillie’s owner, will be at our house warming and blessing party. She has played a big part in making us feel so welcome here. This year we probably won’t be at the beach for the fireworks. Instead, we will celebrate Independence Day with friends and possibly view the fireworks from the nearby Inter-coastal bridge that has sweeping views of the beaches. bridgeThis past week has been a time of reflection. Cleaning out our apartment and turning in the keys brought a finality to the first chapter of our move here. Many good memories were made there with new friends and visits from family and friends from “up north”, including the North Carolinian’s. One friendship lost continues to bewilder us. For me, the loss is also a sadness which I cannot fully explain, even to myself. Reflection was also brought about by conversations had with several friends and family members this past week.  Despite knowing that our move was absolutely the right thing for us to do, I miss them. Very much. Their visits are always too short and too infrequent. That reality is a compliment, I suppose. It is certainly the truth.

The construction of the sun room being delayed because of damage found (some wood rot) has been a set back. Finding it now, while a huge disappointment, is a blessing, though. Imagine, if the sun room roof was being built another way and the problem was not discovered until next year or a few years from now. The damage would have been much greater. Now, we expect the repairs to commence this coming week and all the bad parts will be cut out and replaced within 2-3 days. The construction of the sun room will then resume and, hopefully, be completed by month’s end. It’s a life lesson, for sure: cut out the bad before the damage is too great.

Painted Headboard (note slats and rattan details
Painted Headboard (note slats and rattan details

On another note, we are nearly done with all interior work. A few cosmetic touches only remain. For our “Florida” guest room we have found an interesting headboard. It kills me to buy a piece of furniture and have it painted. But, until I get the ole’ workshop set up, this is a good option. Ditto, with the small console for our living room.

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Painted Console for TV and stereo stuff (gray blue)

Once I clear out the garage, having an outlet for my refinished/painted furniture should be no problem. Can’t wait!

Happy Independence Day!