Peaceful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. Comments and or questions always welcome.

A Topsy-Turvy Life

Sometimes, no, make it most of the time, what I thought would happen, didn’t. In matters of family, work, marriage, relocating – just about every aspect of my life has gone not how I thought it would or should. Thank God!

For those that read this blog that know me there is no sense in reciting all the instances of this pattern of being turned topsy- turvey. You know most of them. For other readers, who cares, right? So, let me just tell you about the here and now and a bit of how it all happened.

Five years ago we – my beautiful Redhead and I – moved from Connecticut to Jacksonville, Florida. We had checked it out before making the move and thought this would be the beginning of a new life. It was; but, not as we had planned.

Heat is heat but Florida must be God’s preview of Hell.  Only joking.  A bit. But, an endless summer is not what we planned for the long term. Storms are storms but Florida hurricanes are something else.  Snakes? Oh yeah! After four years (quick learners we are) we figured this might not have been our forever place.  We explored both North and South Carolina. Nope. We explored and researched Tennessee. Hmmm, but no.  And then, Virginia.

We researched and visited the Staunton, Virginia area in July of 2018 and moved here in November, 2018. We have been renting an apartment in nearby Waynesboro while we explored the areas and sought just the right place to have our home. Let’s just say it’s been an adventure.

Downtown Staunton, VA

There were some days we thought something was wrong with us. We just couldn’t decide where we wanted to live or what type of home would be right for us. And, when we did come to a decision, it just didn’t work.

So, we prayed. Really prayed. Just asking God to let us know what He wanted us to do. It’s funny how the Lord answers our prayers and puts everything into place.

The Redhead was diagnosed with a serious medical condition. It had been missed in Connecticut and in Jacksonville and initially here in Virginia. But, then it was discovered and our world changed. Nothing mattered except my Redhead. And then things began to happen. The Redhead was put under the care of some of the best surgeons and medical people in the country. It has been a rough few months, but the Redhead is going to be o.k. That was Part One of answered prayers. The Second Part of our answer as to what we were supposed to do and where we should be was through the love, concern, help and genuine friendship shown to us by our friends here. They came from nearby and from miles away to bring food, flowers and love to The Redhead. Never have we experienced anything like this. And then, Part Three.

In the early morning darkness of August 20th, I awoke, more restless than troubled, I had been dreaming of what we should do about finding a home. Continue renting? Maybe. I had no idea of what was about to happen.

I prayed. To Jesus and His Mother, Mary. To St. Joseph. And to St. Padre Pio for his continued special intercession. I felt the urge to check, once again, the real estate listings -but only for land.  Immediately, several parcels of land popped up. They had been on the market for a while but we had never seen them, nor had any of the 5 real estate agents we had been in contact with this past year plus ever mentioned them.

Later that morning, a bit past dawn, I told The Redhead that there was some land we should take a look at. It was in the County, just outside Staunton city limits, no more than 15 minutes to the steps of our church, St. Francis of Assisi. We drove past mist-shrouded views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, passing rolling farmland and up a sloping gravel drive, past several signs showing several lots for sale. And, there it was. At the corner of two, short, cul-de-sacs, nestled among trees on higher ground…home. We knew it immediately. We called the name on the sign and the following day we met the agent/builder for this small cluster of homes. She explained the details and we told her our plans.

Our little slice of Heaven

Next week space will be cleared for the foundation of our new house. We are… home. Prayers answered.

Plain Living

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Old Order Mennonite buggy, Dayton VA

So, here we are at home on a really lazy Sunday, partly because the weather forecasts warned of an impending ice storm. So far, nothing but sunshine and a moderate breeze, albeit a bit nippy!

Last night, expecting this morning to be like an ice age, we drove into Staunton to attend Mass at our high-on-a-hill church, St. Francis of Assisi.  Despite the rain and fog, the church was more than usually filled. It happened that three busloads of young adults and their chaperones, enroute back home to Alabama after attending the March for Life in DC, stopped at St. Francis to attend the evening vigil Mass. No banners, No shouted slogans. Just a quiet reverence and knowledge that what they were doing was…right.  Every generation, it seems, has a contingent, sometimes small, of those that stir our conscience.

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Route 42 looking north toward Harrisonburg

Since moving to the Shenandoah Valley, we are often struck by the peacefulness and beauty of the land and people. Here, it is different. Perhaps, it is because so many of the people are, in some way, tied to the land. Perhaps, it is because Staunton and many of its neighboring towns are small towns. The Mennonites, of which there are many here in the Valley, refer to themselves as, Plain People. ( for an excellent article on the Shenandoah Mennonite communities read this article by Guy Schum click here . And that may be it in a nutshell: it is, in the very best sense, plain here. If you are sick of the antics in D.C. or NYC or any other cosmopolitan, trend-setting megalopolis, come here for a spell.  It may be just what the doctor ordered.

This past week we rode out, once again, to Dayton. It is a lovely ride. Along the way I tried using my new camera, a Christmas gift from The Redhead.  I’ve included a few more photos below, as well as a “quick pic” of the former Western State Lunatic Asylum, now partly a hotel / apartment complex. Much of the former hospital had been designed by Thomas Jefferson’s apprentice, Thomas Blackburn, who was among those early pioneers of compassionate care for the mentally ill. Locals claim that the buildings are haunted, mostly as a result of the “care” that was provided starting in the early 1900’s. Nonetheless, the architecture is beautiful.

As always, comments, Likes and questions are most welcome.

Bill

Churchville VA farm Alleghany Mountains in rear

Dayton VA Farm looking East
Route 42 looking east from Dayton

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Former Western State Lunatic Asylum, Staunton

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.

 

After the first step

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let there be light!

At the end day
At the end of day

So, there now appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.
After a several-week setback with our sun room addition – due to the unexpected finding of wood damage to the chimney – work has again started. chimney repairsMore importantly, each phase of the remaining work has been re-coordinated to ensure everybody involved in the work was on the “same page” with what needed to be done, how it was to be done and in what sequence. Sometimes, getting several independent contractors to work together is like herding cats. But, after getting sometimes conflicting information about how to proceed with our project from each set of workers, I had had enough. I called each contractor and told them: no more texts, no more emails, no more voice mails. They were all to meet with me and each other this past Wednesday at 11:00 A.M. to figure out how to proceed. So, after dropping off The Redhead at JAX airport for her week-long visit to NYC and Connecticut, I met with the roofers, sun room installers and the chimney/stucco contractor. What a party! Up on the roof they went. When they came down 30 minutes later there was a solid plan. Of course, all this would not have been necessary had there been no discovery of the wood damage to the framing and chimney – but there was and it had to be dealt with. The lessons from all this: 1) Coordination is key. It may be inconvenient for everybody involved in a project to meet – face to face. Too bad, it must be done. For me, while I know this is all part of God’s plan for us and that this is “our house – our home” I cannot be too laid back about managing this project. 2) There is truth in the adage, kindness can sometimes be mistaken for weakness. While I will always try to be kind, I must be mindful not to appear passive when it comes to business dealings. 3) There is no substitute for face to face communication!

Counting on all of our sun room construction to be completed by mid-August and hopeful nothing new crops up, we have scheduled our House Blessing to take place on Friday, September 4th. It was hoped we could do it on Sunday afternoon, but our Pastor’s schedule is more than busy that week, especially since it is the beginning of the 450th Anniversary celebrations down in St. Augustine and the Church has many events planned. So, the blessing will be on Friday, the 4th. “Sister Swammy”, Linda, and her husband arrive here Saturday. Our Open House – celebrating the Blessing, our new house, the end of construction and a thank you to all of our new neighbors for their patience will be on Sunday the 6th.

view of DR and entry

Living room with view (800x600)

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With our move and the remodeling and decorating of our new house now nearly finished, it’s time to focus on the next part of making “here” our home. For me, it is again finding purpose in work and in holding onto the family and friends we have and in making new friends. Ties with my “blood” family are few, the result of fate and, to some extent, choice. But, I have been blessed with “Family of the Heart”. Blood may be thicker than water. But hearts brought together by love are stronger than the power of genes.

deb and bill wed Jennie's speech 2 20140720 Redhead and The Godmother at St Augustine fort (800x600) 20141102_2049 Mary Ellen  20141113_2096 Gino

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!

Home

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Monday, June 8th was the deadline set by our insurance company for us to move into our home – ready or not – or else…no insurance. Never mind that we had been spending at least 8-12 hours everyday at the house, we had to sleep there. Cat-naps didn’t count.

So, on the morning of the 8th, Debbie met the window shutter guy at the house and I coordinated the movers. Thanks to the help and handy pick-up truck of my friend, Bill, nearly everything left the apartment and garage in one trip, including bicycles and plants. Most of what was left behind that day has been brought over bit by bit. Thankfully, we had extended our rental lease for an additional month just so we wouldn’t be too crazed on moving day. Just this morning, Debbie and I remarked how very different this move was from when we left Connecticut: Less stuff to pack; no Sue or Mary Ellen.

20150603_2359For several days we sort of roughed it. No stove, no sinks, except a utility sink in the laundry. We did have a shower and a half-bath. Now, we are all set.

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20150611_2376Our cabinets are all in, all appliances are hooked up – and working.

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Both baths are fully finished (except for paint in the guest bath). Shall we have a painting party??  We’re still fine-tuning some electric and baseboards are due to go in this coming Wednesday.

20150610_2372The new roof is coming along and should be finished in the next day or two.

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The foundation for the new sun room addition has been poured and work on the framing should commence this coming week.

It is a lot of work. But, we wanted to get everything that needed attention, or that we wanted, to be done before or shortly after we moved in. So far, so good. We are very blessed that we could do this and lucky it is going – for the most part – so smoothly.

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So, what’s next? Sometime later this month or early July we will have our housed blessed. At that time we’ll have a house-warming party for friends, neighbors and many of the folks that worked so hard to make this all possible for us: tilers and tile suppliers, carpenters, electricians, folks that helped us find our new furniture and those that helped us pick out paint. We are grateful to so many. We hope our dear friends in Connecticut, North Carolina and Rhode Island will be here, too.

After we have settled in and cleared some of our things from the boxes now jammed into our garage and a spare bedroom we will be able to focus on other goals and projects. For me, it will be again restoring and reviving vintage furniture. I’ll figure out a way to cool down the garage during the especially hot season of June – September so I can work with my paints and stains. Not sure where this will wind up taking me, but it’s time for me to again be productive.

Well, that’s it for now. Keep good thoughts and prayers for us. Hope to see you soon.

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Ready, Set…

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. Muffin StandI 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!

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The kitchen cabinets are turning out to be fantastic. The carpenter installing them is Mr. Wayne Moss. 20150603_2349

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.  20150603_2352As 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.20150603_2358When 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.

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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!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.

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Debbie’s “pen-shell” entry light!

http://www.iloveshelling.com/blog/category/pen-shell/

Hope we see you soon!

Bill

8 Days

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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.

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Finished! glass tile fireplace front

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.

David Brobst tile master
David Brobst, tile master, laying start line

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! 20150528_2326 (956x1024)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.

A highly skilled carpenter lays out his tools before starting work
A highly skilled carpenter lays out his tools before starting work

New Cabinets
New Cabinets

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.

New floors
New floors

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.

Front door
Front door

See you soon!