Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Wheels Keep Turning

First of all, I must share with y’all that…. I GOT A NEW BIKE!!! Those new to this blog may not understand why this is such thrilling news. (Well, you need only read this to come up to speed.) But those faithful readers who have been with me through my ups and downs will surely rejoice. Oh, how my life has improved. No more depending on a bus system that is unreliable to the point of being useless. No more coordinating with my mom to borrow her car and risking returning it late (or forgetting to lock it up or turn the lights off… details, so minor, yet so important). No more opting to just stay home in order to avoid the aforementioned. Now I’m FREE! And I’m also being gentle with both the environment and my wallet alike. I must thank my father for offering to purchase it (and all the accessories!) for me. Thanks, Baba!

Now onto even better news! Over these 6+ months of rebuilding this house, I’ve become keenly aware that having help is SOOOOOOOOOOOO important. I cannot stress this enough. With a group of energetic volunteers, tasks can be completed in a fraction of the time it would take to do it myself. “Well, duh!”, you may remark. However, coming from a person who often opts against asking for help, this is a significant breakthrough. Anyway, this is all to say that I am eternally grateful to the 10 volunteers (again, from the Unitarian Universalist Church) who showed up at my house a few Mondays ago ready to work. And to NENA for sending them my way! I don’t know how long it would’ve taken me to prep and prime three rooms, replace several ceiling boards, replace two window panes, fashion and install a metal downspout, remove that stubborn closet frame in the back hall, remove a few obsolete pipes from the kitchen and install drywall, AND begin putting up the shed roof. My guess is – a few months. But with assistance from this wonderful group of UU’s, we accomplished all these things in ONE WEEK. As if that wasn't enough, on the last day, they thanked ME and gave me a Home Depot gift card.

Nina cleaning; Jim and Cliff replacing ceiling boards; Judy scraping old paint. What a team!

Finished walls. It's beginning to look like a home...

Frances May caulking; Stacie applying paint stripper; Stan and Veronica.... stripping. (Well, that IS what they're doing.)

Thank you, Stan the handyman, for the wonderful downspout. I SO appreciate it!

Since the volunteers left, finishing the roof has become my focus… really, close to an obsession. It’s all I think about these days. It’s the one thing about my house that actually might be FINISHED soon. Last week, I finished putting up the rest of the corrugated metal panels, only to discover that I was short three panels. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

So many obstacles had been keeping me from finishing (the wave of rainy days, mostly)... and now this. I was irritated. I had to stop work and call Fran at Corrugated Metal to order more. But by the end of next week, it should be DONE. At that point (and after the garage door is installed), I’ll be able to securely store all my tools and supplies outside the house and re-focus my energy on the interior.

I must also thank my neighbor Kelvin who has been a tremendous help to me since the last post. A few weeks back, I asked him to help me pick up my metal roofing order and return some unused drywall. After that, he also came by to help during the Fabulous Volunteer Week. Like me, he’s rebuilding his house by himself. The week after my volunteers left, I went over to his house and helped out for a few days. He has more tools and experience (and muscle) than I do so I feel that he’s more of an asset to me than vice versa, but I will figure out a way to balance that. He’s in the process of installing drywall now, so I’ll be there next week to assist.

In keeping with the “good fortune” theme, here’s another piece of fortunate news. So, every Thursday, I attend the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association meetings. I usually end up leaving the meetings early, as my daughter gets progressively more disruptive the longer we stay. This particular Thursday was no different. However, on our way out this time, a man representing the Laurel Foundation for American Baptist Churches of the South stopped us. He was giving out $500 Home Depot gift cards!! What luck! He gave me one and one for my mom, and then he was on his merry way. Like magic. Well, my mom gave me hers and I was able to purchase a garage door (and installation) for my back shed! Pure serendipity. Things like this brighten my spirits so much, especially since the year is almost out and I was supposed to have been done by now. And my insurance proceeds will most likely not be enough to cover the upcoming repairs. But I have a little more faith in my dream (rebuilding this house with my own hands) when I see that there are entities out there who believe too.

Another such entity is Dave Macauley. I found out about Dave through my neighbor, Sarah. She and her husband Simon put in some work at the Community Garden Clean Up Day I organized about a month ago. Anyway, she suggested that I send my Clean Up Day photos to Dave for his Help Holy Cross website, which I knew nothing about. Though Dave lives in Kansas City, he’s been working intensely for the revitalization of the Holy Cross neighborhood since April 2006. Well, after I emailed him about the Community Garden Clean Up Day, he responded saying that he’d be in town from Oct. 9th to the 13th with a group of three architects and engineers, evaluating Holy Cross houses. This past Friday, I showed them my house. They gave great suggestions on how to better insulate the house; how to better ventilate it, since I won’t have air-conditioning; and how to best remove that bathroom window and re-install it in the adjacent wall. Dave said they’d come up with a plan for helping the evaluated houses. I’m looking forward to that.

A final piece of good news (my UU volunteers will be pleased to hear this) – last week, City employees came by and removed the broken-up cement on my curb! Why is this significant? Well, the City had announced that, as of September 30th,FEMA would no longer be picking up resident’s construction debris. Not only would the City NOT take over that responsibility, but would be issuing fines for curbside debris. I wasn’t sure if this was an empty threat to force residents to expedite the rebuilding of their homes, but I certainly did not want to be fined. On the last volunteer day, I’d borrowed my uncle’s truck and we hauled a bunch of concrete to the dump. The line at the dump was very long and my uncle’s truck wasn’t very large, so we ended up taking only one load and leaving a lot there on the curb. So, I was very pleased when a big dump truck showed up at my house last week and scooped up the remainder of that pile.

Gone, baby, gone!

So, all in all, this has been a wonderful few weeks. Some unfortunate things have happened as well, but I shan’t rain on this parade by mentioning those. I hope and pray the good things keep coming. I REALLY hope I win the lottery or money falls out of the sky or something. Until then, I’ll keep plugging away at my house. Next Friday, three volunteers (organized by Bret, one of the New York volunteers who came down in July) are coming for the weekend. One is a contractor! I’m really thrilled about that. So, hopefully, I’ll have more good news to share next time.

These beauties popped up by surprise in my overgrown side yard.