Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On Hiatus

Just a quick note to let y'all know that I won't be blogging for about a month. Got the opportunity to travel recently and I'm taking it!! Shoot, I need a break!

Today, I worked at my house from 8am til 7pm (with a one hour break for lunch) finishing up the gutting. My mom worked from 10am to almost 5pm!! We had to remove nails, remove drywall from the bathroom and other overlooked areas, and even gain access to the attic (an attic fan blocks the entrance). I also spent some time TRYING to connect a downspout to the gutter... alas, no success. I'm pretty sure I need a soldering tool and a smaller pair of metal snips or a hacksaw. Anyway, I returned home exhausted, FILTHY, and in pain. Guess what, y'all? Construction (or deconstruction, in my case) work is HARD!!

So I'm ready for this much needed break. When I return, I'll be diving right back into work... and it'll be even HOTTER.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Getting Ready

June 1st – the first day of hurricane season. And a very active season it’s predicted to be. Are we prepared? Humorously enough, the city launched a huge Hurricane Preparedness Week campaign aimed at the citizens of New Orleans, complete with checklists and everything. However, I’m not sure that the city itself is ready. So, I’ve decided to include my own checklist for our local officials. Let’s review the checklist, shall we?

- A new and improved levee system that is stronger and higher than the one that breached when Hurricane Katrina hit, flooding 80% of the city and resulting in the worst disaster this country has ever seen.

Well, that’s all I’ve got, but I don’t think we can check that one off, can we? I’m not sure what exactly is going on. Between the local government, the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers, there appears to be a lot of finger pointing, but unfortunately very little action. This is quite odd, in my humble opinion, seeing that the majority of damage was caused not by the hurricane itself, but by breaches in the various levees. Well, to their credit, $700 MILLION has already been spent on repairing the levees to pre-Katrina standards. But is there any extra to make them better? What magic treasury does this money come from anyway? That is a whole other discussion, but I wonder sometimes how this country can carry a trillion-plus dollar debt that grows each year and then billions of dollars seem to appear out of thin air for various causes. If that is the case, then can we tap the money tree for a few more billion to improve the damn levees?!

I feel like there’s not much I can do. Well, I came out here on faith and will be riding out hurricane season 2007 on faith as well.

Now to the updates:

Lots has transpired since my last entry. (No good news about my bike, except that my seething anger has subsided… for the most part.) First, my volunteer work. As you know, every Thursday, I help rebuild homes with The St. Bernard Project. I’m learning lots as I go along as well… as you’ll see in the following brief photo essay.

A before-ish shot of the laminate floor we laid at Ms. Melanie's house

And now the after-ish shot. Doesn't look like much, but cutting the wood to fit around the edges is hard!

The following Thursday, I laid ceramic tile at Ms. Keyes' house. Hers was the first house I'd worked on when I started volunteering; I helped gut. So it was awe-inspiring to see the progress that had been made since then and to be a part of that. Here's some of the crew practicing during our "training."

I look professional, huh? Want me to tile your floors?

Ms. Keyes' bedroom floor after we finished laying all the whole tiles.
Cutting tile for the edges will happen later.

Next, MOLD. Mold is the bitter enemy of all post-Katrina “pioneers.” Mold is the stealthy villain whose invisible spores attack the lungs and cause all kinds of respiratory problems. Mold is the reason I decided this week to gut the entire house, floor to ceiling, and start anew. Last entry, I mentioned that I was FINALLY 100% finished gutting… the walls four feet from the floor. I thought that was satisfactory since the water had only risen about 3 ft. into the house. Well, I had a mold inspector review my handy work this past week, JUST to be on the safe side. He burst my ignorant-yet-blissful little bubble. Using his fancy-schmancy equipment, he discovered that most of the walls and ceilings still held significant amounts of moisture and enough mold growth to be cause for concern. Yes, it will now cost more to install new drywall, since I have to buy three times as much as I thought I’d have to. And it’ll take more time. But I’m telling myself that it’s cheaper than the potential doctor’s bills, not to mention the inextricable guilt, should my child contract asthma (if we end up living there) because I decided to cut corners.

So, I took a couple people up on their past offers and assembled a group of 8 volunteers to help me tear down the remaining walls and ceilings this weekend. Five guys from The St. Bernard Project came with shovels and brooms. And a friend of mine from NY, who’s here organizing with Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and People’s Hurricane Relief, came and brought another person!! I giggle to myself when I think about the fact that my mom and I have spent the last two months gutting my house four feet from the floor… and these guys came in and ripped out twice as much in a day! AND my uncle Eli (who got a flat on the way to meet me, fixed it and came anyway) repaired the gutters around the perimeter of the house! Many hands make light work, they say. Tis true… tis true. And the ultimate “icing on the cake”- as we said our goodbyes, each group asked ME to call them when I need more help. Thanks to all of you. And INFINITE thanks to my mom, who kept my daughter THE ENTIRE DAY while I worked at the house. Here are some pics of that day (I only have four... couldn't justify playing photographer while these guys worked their asses off on their day off in 90+ degree heat):

Dasaw spent a few hours working in the morning, left for a few and CAME BACK to work until sunset! That's admirable.

Todd and Pat working hard!

Mike, the organizer of the St. Bernard Project group, and Steve cleaning up the floor after they removed tile from the kitchen. Yes, they even did that!!!

Good ole Uncle Eli, repairing my gutters. Thanks!

Last, but definitely not least, I must mention a huge milestone achieved this past week at my mom’s house. We FINALLY got through the seemingly endless piles of file folders, papers, and random paraphernalia. I gave my mom a big high-five when we were all done. LOL. I did. This is a woman who was saving canceled checks from the 80’s! I kid you not. And this is why I am SO proud of her for purging. There was a day when I spent the entire time just feeding old papers to the shredder, while she sorted through each folder. There was SO MUCH STUFF! But now it’s been whittled down to only four boxes that neatly fit in a closet, instead of mounds of crap overtaking a whole room.

We also took up that nasty carpet! And found intact hardwood floors underneath most of it (the side hallway floor had plywood since it was originally a side porch and the floor slanted downwards towards the edge of the house). So I look forward to refinishing those in the next few months, and tiling the other areas… since I have gained that skill now! Anyway, so now the house is ready for volunteers to stay.

And we have our first group coming down at the end of July! I owe it all to my friend Anietra from NY, the powerhouse who never fails to go above and beyond in whatever she does. She told me she was gonna come down to help out earlier this year. In classic Anietra style, she ended up organizing 8 other people to join her! I will write an entry all about them when they come down, but I thought I should mention this wonderful news. And express my gratitude to Anietra and everyone in her group. Now I have to make sure I’ll have enough tools and supplies ready! That’ll be no problem though. Someone told me once, “Just jump… and build the wings on your way down.” It’ll all work out.

BTW, I’ll be going out of town in a few days and won’t be back til mid-July. So, you’ll see my next entry then. :)