Just as I suspected, the parking lot was almost empty when we got there around noon today. It was post doctor and post laboratory. Garry needed labs for his appointment on Friday and I needed them for my appointment today. It wouldn’t have taken nearly as long if I had any veins, but each year they get more difficult to find.
I take so many medications — bunches of blood pressure meds and pain-killers and anti-migraine stuff — that every now and then the doctor figures he needs to see if I have functional kidneys. I occasionally wonder myself.
It’s a very medical couple of months. Garry and I both have appointments this week. I have a phoner tomorrow and my cardiologist (annual checkup) at the end of the month.
One of Garry’s hearing aids — not the cochlear implant; the other one — stopped working over the weekend. I think it has been going bad for a while because his hearing has gotten worse. I didn’t know why (and neither did he), but he has also been complaining that this aid seemed to need an awful lot of batteries. So something was wrong. The question is what — and how expensive will it be to fix?
Also, my (our, actually) doctor wants to send me to his favorite pain clinic. Although everyone has already told me there’s nothing they can do for me, he says these people are miracle workers. I’m definitely up for a miracle. I’m just wondering how they are going to get the information they need when they can’t take an MRI because of my metal, magnetic Pacemaker. That should be interesting. I have nothing to lose but money — those Cat-scans and other tests can wind up expensive and we are SO broke. Still, maybe they can come up with an answer. Or something that helps. Anything that would help me get a night’s sleep would be really nice. It is so ironic that the pain is worst trying to sleep. I should probably sleep in the recliner, but I like going to bed. Cozy comforter, soft pillows, and the warm bodies of dog and husband are just not available in a chair.
I like this early voting thing. Especially out here in the boonies, it make voting SO much easier! AND it isn’t mail-in voting. This way, at least I know the vote actually made it to the poll and don’t have to worry about whether or not the postman forgot to deliver it.
We even took some pictures and as soon as I can force myself to download them, I’ll find something appropriate for this and at least one more post.
Arthur Poisson, who has worked for us before, does beautiful work. When he is done with a job, it looks finished. He says his goal is when he’s done, it should look like it has always been that way … and it does. There’s not a scrap of garbage around and everything is absolutely perfect. The quality of the doors he put up in the kitchen are so much better than anything I could have afforded and the man said it will never rot, never need painting. And it perfectly matches the front door, probably because he bought it at the same place we bought the front door. He probably checked the records. We have … gasp … matching doors! And the back door has a lock and keys and everything. Like a real door is supposed to have.
Duke and contractor
He got the whole thing done in a day and Duke helped. Garry things the Duke needs a special sweater that says “supervisor” on it. Both men had dogs of their own, so they didn’t find anything odd about chatting with the dog while they worked. I would have taken more pictures, but it’s a really bad angle from the dark kitchen out into the bright porch and everything is off in a corner. I’ll take a few more pictures in the morning. It was very exciting. This contractor cost about 10% more than the other contractors and boy, is he worth every penny!
As we were finishing up this job, I started to add in my head the work we’ve had done on the house over the past three years. This is NOT counting all the work we had done before then … but it added up to a staggering number and suddenly, I realized why we are broke. Garry pointed out that at least we had something to show for it. It wasn’t like we spent it all eating out or buying fancy clothing. True, but I think by now we’ve bought the house at least twice. We aren’t finished because next, we have to do something with the kitchen — like buy cabinets. Also, we need to replace the deck. And paint and fix the floor. We won’t get it all done but at least the things that were worrying me are done — for now. The house is 50 years old which for a house of this type is quite old enough.
I realize that this may not be your most exciting moment, but it’s exciting for us. The door we’ve had came with the house. A 50-year old dark brown dutch door. I loved the old dutch door, but it couldn’t be repaired anymore. And it leaked like a sieve all winter. So finally, I saved the money from the last government grant and it paid for the doors. It looks great and it matches our front door. It also lightens up the kitchen. I didn’t think it would make such a big difference.
And one last one from the kitchen. As you can see, we are a bit tight on space.
My favorite place in Jerusalem was the Western Wall, sometimes incorrectly called the “Wailing Wall.” In Hebrew, it’s Kotel — it rhymes with motel. I used to go to the Kotel to pray and leave messages for God.
I loved the approach to the Temple mount. I would stand for a while, looking down at it from the approaching steps, trying to form an image of what it must have looked like when it was the hill where God talked to Isaac, where God said that He would never again ask for another human sacrifice. So what was with all the war and massacre and death? Doesn’t that count?
Then I would walk down the stone steps to the wall and get as close as I could get, so my nose grazed the Wall. I would lay my cheek and the palms of my hands flat against it and feel the humming of power in those ancient stones.
From close up, you see the messages, tens of thousands of messages rolled tightly into tiny scrolls tucked in the crevices between the rocks. Every kind of prayer, every kind of message, all on tiny folded pieces of paper, cradled by giant stones.
Tucked between the stones were all the prayers, hopes, fears, and gratitude of people who came to this special place to leave a messages for God.
The Wall talks to you and says “You can leave your message here. God always checks his messages and He will get back to you.”
I always brought a message and tucked it into the stones. I knew God would read my message and get back to me. As surely as I knew Jerusalem is the center of the universe and closer to Heaven than any place on earth, I knew I lived down the street from his message center. If every prayer is heard, prayers left at this address got to Him sooner.
There were groups of rabbis who spent their lives praying at the Wall. For a small fee, they would pray for you. If you believe there is a special potency to the prayers of pious men, the rabbis of the Kotel were worth a donation. They didn’t ask for much – whatever you could afford and for your money, you got a prayer specialist to put the word in for you.
I probably went to the Kotel more than a hundred times over the years, but I most remember one day above all others. I went that day because my mother was dying. I wanted to ask God to give my mother and I some time together.
It seemed pointless to pray for her cancer to be cured. It had spread too far, had invaded too much. I knew it was her time. I accepted death, even my mother’s, but time didn’t seem too much to ask. I bought prayers from the rabbis, then went to the Wall and left my message among the stones.
Almost 40 years have passed, but I bet my message is still there, exactly where I left it. With all the other messages left for God in the Western Wall at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
I wonder if the malls will ever open again? I wonder how many shops will still be “alive” when our siege finally ends? IF our siege ever ends. Sometimes I look ahead and I don’t see an end, just endlessly more of the same. I was never a big “mall person.” Other than for occasional holiday shopping, I tended to avoid malls and more recently than when I was younger because it was so much walking — and I had a lot of trouble covering the distance. I was grateful for the benches and chairs along the walking routes.
Sometimes, those analog filters can make something that’s right around the corner look 100 years old. Really, the bridge is 100 years old, but the road that runs over it has been paved many times, but is still the primary postal route from this valley to Boston. It’s a long, winding drive on many roads because around here, a “route” isn’t necessarily the same as “a road.” So here’s the stone bridge in a postcard from the past.
Old building make great pictures. They aren’t nearly as much fun when you live in one, though. There’s only so much architectural admiration you can give your house before you yearn for effective heat and good plumbing. Toilets that flush and windows that open and close. Doors without rotted sills. Maybe even a garden which hasn’t run completely amok. Still, old buildings make great photographs.
So, Fandango would like to know what is “something that brings me joy.” Brings me joy? Well, I was briefly very happy that our appraisal came back at $10.000 more that what we needed and learned at the same time, that houses like ours are in high demand. You coulda fooled me!
These houses were all built by a single builder and he was minimally competent. At best. For example, he put a piece of our house on the neighbor’s land and it had to be later addressed by a property swap. Why did he do it? He didn’t believe in measurement. There was a big rock on the right side of the property, so he couldn’t put the house there. He could have moved the house forward on the property … or deeper on the property, but that would have been too complicated. So he moved it to the left and a quarter of it was then on someone else’s land. He also dug the well in the middle of the front sidewalk. But let’s not be fussy.
Most of them are on this road, but there are a few nearby. They aren’t beautiful to look at and in fact look rather like a big breadboxes. But they are easy to live in, easy to maintain. Big enough — and easy to redesign, exterior and interior. They have no style at all, so whatever you want them to look like, that’s what they look like. Modern or colonial or eclectic. Anything goes. Most of the single family homes in the area are much older than this one. They are more elegant to look at, but they have all the issues of 200-year old houses including seepage, crumbling foundations … and a design where absolutely nothing is anything resembling a standard size. This may not sound like a big deal until you try to buy new windows or doors. Or anything, really.
So that was a good thing. But we still don’t have the paperwork OR the money. Nonetheless, the guys were here early this morning and built the new boiler. Tomorrow morning, they will be here to remove the old boiler and install the new one. So, by tomorrow night, we’ll have a new boiler. I’ve put down the downpayment and the August payment, but by September, I sure do hope this refi is won and done.
The problem is largely that no one is in his or her own office. Not only the company with whom we are working (Mutual of Omaha, who really ARE familiar with the process). Not the appraisers. Not the underwriters. No two people are in the same office space at the same time, so everything take at least twice as long and my agent took his family on vacation last week. I took it personally. He should have stayed home and taken care of my refinance.
I’m told not to worry because as long as we get this done by the end of the month, we’re good. I sure hope so. So that’s the good part.
The bad part? Everything else. I’m good with Kamala Harris, though I really wanted Elizabeth Warren, but I get it. Biden was under a lot of pressure to pick a Black woman and that’s not unreasonable, but I still like Warren better. But I’m not unhappy with Kamala and the combination of Biden-Harris is pretty good. He’s a softie and she’s an attack dog. That could work out well. Also, I’m really looking forward to Pence V. Harris. That could be … well … something special.
And tucked in the back of my mind is the hope that in the end, Trump will be out on his big, fat butt and we will have our country back.
In 1987, my ex husband and I, along with our two children, spent weekends and summers in a one bedroom cottage on my mother’s property in Easton, CT. My grandparents had lived in the cottage when I was growing up. It was fine for them but at this point, both kids were sleeping in the living room. It was time to get a bigger house. So we decided to build one on a piece of adjoining property that Mom gave me.
We hired an architect and spent nine months designing a beautiful but budget friendly house. Unfortunately, our architect was calculating costs based on the prior year’s cost per foot. And costs were apparently rising at a ridiculous rate. When we put the house out to bids from contractors, the bids were twice what we had budgeted. We couldn’t afford to build our dream house anymore!
Only one bid came in low enough that we could just barely stretch to afford it. It came from a general contractor we knew personally. Mac was a well-liked, well-respected member of our tennis club. He had even been president of the club. We knew his friends and family. We asked him why he could put in such a low bid. He said he was just starting in the contracting business and wanted to use our house as a marketing show piece. He’d do it for cost and not expect a profit.
We drafted an air tight contract (my ex was a lawyer). We broke ground. We wrote checks. The house was framed out but not enclosed. Winter was coming. We had put in all the money we were contractually obligated to put in. It was up to Mac to put in his share. On paper.
Mac told us he didn’t have the money to finish the house. If we wanted to protect the structure from the coming winter, we would have to pay for everything going forward, above and beyond the contract.
We were between a rock and a hard place. We’d lose our significant investment and our house if we cut our losses and walked away. We were frantic. We ended up selling three of my thirteen acres of land to help finance the now much more expensive house. We also borrowed money from my parents and went deeper into debt. We finished the house but it took forever. I kept paying all the bills I received but contractors either didn’t show up or came but did a shoddy job. We couldn’t understand what was going on.
Until one contractor came to me, toward the end of the process. He complained that Mac had not paid him until he threatened to sue. When he did get a check for $2500, it bounced. Mac had told him that the reason he was stiffing the contractors on their bills was that WE were not paying our bills to Mac. I was shocked. I showed the contractor my canceled checks to Mac, covering everything.
I hired a lawyer. He said that this was the worst case of construction fraud he’d seen in 15 years of practice. Apparently, Mac had just taken most of our money for himself. He was doing the same thing to another family at the same time. When contractors demanded payment, he would use some of my money or the other family’s money to pay them off and get them off his back. He was robbing Peter to pay Paul and visa versa. He was paying the contractors just enough money to get the jobs done – eventually. It took a year and a half to build our house.
We fired Mac and finished the house without him. His partner told us that he would never work with Mac again. He also told us that the estimate Mac gave us was based on no calculations and no facts. Mac just came up with a number he thought we’d accept.
We couldn’t sue Mac because our lawyer couldn’t find any of our money. Mac was broke. There was no money to recover. No one could figure out what he had done with all the money he took from us, that didn’t go into our house. It came to over $200,000! His wife swore he didn’t spend it on his own house or family.
back of house almost finished
porch and bedroom almost finished
Years later, his wife discovered that Mac had conned her as well. He was supposed to be contributing his income to the college funds of his three kids. There was no college account. He was also supposed to be filing and paying the family’s tax returns. He not only didn’t pay taxes, for years he never even filed returns. The IRS came after his wife, who worked, and garnished her salary. That’s when she left Mac, taking her three kids with her.
Mac was obviously a sociopath. He screwed a lot of people. The building of my house turned out to be one of the major stress periods and financial drains of my life. I love my house and am still living in it 28 years later. But it is in spite of all the angst we suffered during the building process.
front of house today
view from backyard, today
I recently renewed my friendship with Mac’s ex wife. We commiserate together over being taken to the cleaners by Mac. We still have no idea where all the money went. We think it might have gone into a land deal that went south. Mac always had some new money-making scheme in the works. But we’ll never know. They say that building a house is throwing money into a black hole. Well, in our case, it really was a black hole.
A major shortage of towers has thwarted the return of Rapunzel. Maybe in Boston, though horses have a hard time on the packed street. Out here, where horses live, there just aren’t many towers. Not even that many in Boston, with a few notable exceptions. Around here, a “tower” rarely exceeds four stories. Some Victorian houses are taller than that.
Right now, in this moment of extraordinary reflection on systemic racism in our society arising from the quite justifiable outrage over the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other African-Americans by racist police, it may seem like a lot of frothing and fuming over lumps of bronze and marble that have been standing in parks and in front of courthouses for more than a century is a waste of time and resources. It may seem especially reckless to be having this national conversation while the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed 110,000 Americans and counting, still rages. But it’s not. This needs to happen. It’s a reckoning with our past and part of a reassessment of our history. As a historian, and as a white man who has benefited greatly from the systemic racism that’s embedded in so many institutions in our society, let me make this clear: the Confederate and racist monuments all need to go. Every single one of them. But we also need to do more than that.
More than a few parks and courthouse squares in the U.S. have seen a curious nightly ritual. Men and women, some wearing masks, come in the middle of the night with cranes and jackhammers, and the next morning another bronze Lee, Forrest or Beauregard is carted away to a storehouse. Historian Al Mackey of the Student of the American Civil War blog has been documenting many of the removals, here. But when the pandemic is over (if it ever is) and the clouds of tear gas from the protests clear, we’ll be left with a lot of empty pedestals whose very emptiness will remind us of the battles we fought over them and the pain they’ve caused. So, tearing down racist monuments isn’t enough. We need to put up something else in their places that cements in our minds a new version of history, supplanting the false and disingenuous pseudohistory of white supremacism that the erection of Confederate monuments, most of them in the early 20th century, was deliberately designed to build.
The header image of this article is a large statute of Union Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman in Washington, D.C. The picture above is a Google Maps street view of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, and the statue of the man on horseback in front of it is John Brown Gordon, a Confederate general and likely head of the KKK in Georgia after the war (though he never admitted it). The statute of Gordon, erected in 1907 specifically as a response to a race riot, obviously needs to be torn down and melted into ingots. But that will leave that ugly pedestal standing there. What do we replace it with? How about William Tecumseh Sherman?
Sherman, who burned Atlanta and carved a path of destruction through the state in 1864, would be a perfect choice to honor in front of the Georgia State Capitol. It would represent a wholesale turn against the slave-owning past of Georgia and a powerful rejection of the toxic “Lost Cause” pseudo-historical myth that tries to pretend that the Civil War was about anything other than slavery. In fact, I think a statue of a gilded General Sherman on a horse, similar to the one in New York City’s Sherman Plaza, would look so good in front of the Georgia State Capitol that I’ve taken the liberty of photoshopping an image to show you how nice it would look.
After a lot of people suggested I get a UBS at least to deal with the router and modem, I went looking on Amazon and realized I don’t know anything about what I need. Nothing at all. I used to rely on APC, but their ratings have dropped precipitously. So now, I have no idea what would be a good buy.
Owen says he has a friend who may have some answers, so I await information. The problem is that the UPS doesn’t give much power. Twenty to 30 minutes for things I can afford which would at least avoid the mini outages we get from our internet provider.
If we want to be really SAFE, we’d need a generator — and that’s big money. The generator isn’t expensive, but its installation is a major event and definitely not a DIY job. Something that would keep the water pump, refrigerators, lights, boiler, and maybe the TV running is a medium-home-sized unit, but by the time you get it installed, you are looking at thousands of dollars. Hospitals and other life-and-death places use huge generators.
Small, medium, or big, it is not happening. First, we need a boiler, a new deck, and a few replacement windows. And a big dehumidifier for the lower level to keep the mold away.
I feel as if we are buying the house a second time. I know it sounds stupid, but I somehow thought that once you fixed something, that was it. Done.
Who knew we’d still be living here when the roof we put in when we moved here started to deteriorate? Or when the 12-year-old boiler would suddenly (and startlingly) be a 31-year-old boiler 20 years later? Who imagined we’d still be living here 20 years later?
Who expected to need three hot water heaters, new pipes, three new well pumps — not to mention a new well. Life goes around, comes around. The problem is the money doesn’t necessarily show up at the same time.
Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.