Saturday, March 15, 2008


Oh, the progress that has been made since the last post! I don't want this entry to be TOO long, so I'll just get right down to real nitty-gritty. BIG TINGS!, as my West Indian brethren might say.

Guess who has plumbing now?!

The sink (aka the lavatory, as the plumbers call it. This, I've learned.) hook-up in the bathroom.

Finally, I purchased the tankless hot water heater. Cost more than a regular hot water heater upfront, but in the long run, it will save money.

Guess whose house is wired?!

Again, wish I had more pics. This is where the light in the back foyer will hang.

I know it doesn't look like much, but believe me, these are HUGE strides. I actually have access to running water now (the plumbers hooked up a spigot at the back of the house). "Look, the light! There it is! Way at the end of the tunnel." says me. For a while, I couldn't see it. Seemed like this process was never-ending (albeit thoroughly challenging and enjoyable). But now it seems that I truly AM nearing the relative end of the rebuilding project. I say "relative" because there will be lots of little projects to complete after we're in the house - the biggest being the installation of real flooring. Can't afford hardwood floors right now, so I've decided that a couple coats of nice deck paint over the plywood underlayment and several strategically placed sisal remnants should do the trick in the interim. My father will win the PowerBall any day now, so when he does...

But seriously, guess who's just about ready to close in the bathroom and back foyer walls?! Yeah, me again! My friend Vicki came down from New York a few weekends ago to help out. She'd never built a window frame before, but because she's such a handy person (and a sculptor by trade), I asked her to build and install my bathroom window. I knew she'd do a great job and she did! Thank you, Vicki!

Vicki securing a stud in place. Me cutting a larger hole in the wall.

Vicki and I proudly posing in front of the newly installed bathroom window. Later, I added the outside trim.

When I found out that Vicki was coming down, I sent out a call for other friends to come. We achieved a lot that weekend!! Shawn and Nate hung the kitchen wall cabinets. Andrea cut a hole and built a frame for the bathroom medicine cabinet. And I started building the bathroom storage closet.

Andrea measuring for the medicine cabinet frame. Shawn and Nate re-attaching the hinges to the cabinet doors.

Also, my house is purple now!!! At my daughter's request (and with the kindness of an organization called Catholic Charities), the exterior was painted a lovely light purple with dark purple and white accents. I love it! And it really pops out on the block now. One of my main goals for rebuilding this house was to help revitalize the neighborhood by showing others that people ARE coming back; people DO care about New Orleans and DO want to live here. Even though the house isn't finished yet or occupied, just having the house painted achieves that. I'm thrilled. And it looks great.

The house is purple now!! (It used to be a pale drab green)

Oh, bless you, good volunteers of Catholic Charities.

The INSIDE is painted too!!! Feel free to comment on my choice of colors. I didn't want a drab monochromatic interior, as you can see. That's all I will say about that.

More Catholic Charities volunteers. Since it was raining outside, they decided to tackle the interior.

My orange living room.

The green room.

This will be our bedroom.

My daughter and the neighbor's kids painted the office (aka The Blue Room). It's bright, huh? gets their own paragraph on my blog because, well, I love them. This is the one volunteer-based group that has come in and really "owned" the project. Since I have started working, I haven't had a whole lot of time to dedicate to the house. (BTW, I don't work at Whole Foods anymore. "You just started!" you say. Well, yes, but I just resigned as well. Long story. But now I am working for my community and Replant New Orleans, planting 525 trees and creating a new greenspace in Holy Cross. Much more fulfilling than fronting shelves.)Volunteers from, especially Sarah and Matt (my new best friends), have really taken charge and are making sure the house gets finished. I appreciate their integrity and follow-through; I appreciate their patience and understanding (sometimes I'm so nervous and unsure about certain aspects of the building that I can be difficult to deal with); I appreciate their time and energy (they even come on the weekends!). Through, I've gotten the wiring done by a LICENSED electrician for FREE; the attic is now clear of debris and most of the dust/dirt; the baseboards are installed with holes cut for the outlets; I HAVE A FRONT DOOR NOW; and the list goes on. They even cleaned up a mess another volunteer group made AND managed a volunteer group when I was unable to be at the house. I'm trying my best not to fall madly in love with these people because they are only volunteers who will be gone as soon as they're done with the house, but it's HARD. Not only do they do all this work, but they're also friendly and genuinely caring! What a blessing.

Super Sarah and good ole Cory, scraping baseboards in the garage.

Jesse the electrician. We had some communication issues, didn't we, Jesse. I hope "free" doesn't turn into "regret." So far, so good... I think.

Some more volunteers, scraping the baseboards. Thanks, y'all. I REALLY appreciate it.



I mentioned in a previous post that the American Community Garden Association (ACGA) had planned to have their annual board meeting here in New Orleans in February (we're hosting their annual conference this October). They wanted to help out during their visit, so Patsy and I submitted a Wish List and started planning for their arrival. During the planning, we found out that the 89th birthday of our garden's namesake, Mrs. Laurentine Ernst coincided with the board's visit! So, we decided to roll a birthday celebration in with the work day. Then we met an ambitious, go-getting young gardener named Cory, a short-term volunteer. He wanted to fulfill some of our Wish List items as well. The big day, February 23rd, turned into a huge success. We honored Mrs. Ernst (who was present!); the ACGA board assembled a compost bin; and the volunteers cleared an adjacent lot, built a cold frame, removed a tree stump, AND created a new bed (busting through concrete to do it!). Good stuff.

(l to r) David showing some kids how to plant in a newly created garden bed. Nat, Patsy and good ole Cory discussing composting issues. ACGA board president James Kuhns thanks Mrs. Ernst for her commitment to green spaces in Holy Cross. The cold frame that Cory and the volunteers built. All of us posing for a photo.

It just wouldn't be the same without Chauncey the goat.


Finally, I must shamelessly plug Horton Hears A Who, a new movie (released yesterday, in fact!) made by Blue Sky, my old company (miss you guys!). I modeled the main antagonist, the Kangaroo and her little joey. So go check it out!! My daughter, mother and I saw it yesterday and LOVED it. And that's not just because I helped make it. I was not a huge fan of the ROBOTS movie, even though I worked on it. P.S. I also modeled Ms. Yelp (the mayor's secretary) and one of the councilmembers. Yes, this plug is quite shameless. Hey, I'm proud. What can I say?

My beloved Kangaroo. Worked long and hard to make her model just right. Seeing her alive on screen was nothing short of awesome.


vicki said...

first off jenga, a pic of your home is featured on Dwell's blog!
i got here through the holy cross link you posted..
nice to read about all you're accomplishing! SO MUCH! and love the pic of the kids painting, i know they've been eager to help..
as always YOU are an inspiration.
xo vic

Sumor said...

Everytime I go to the site I want to burst into tears from all the love and kindness that I see happening there. You know, it sets up really great roots in the city becuase now we see it being planted in love and cooperation and humanity and not.... slavetrading, octaroon balls and other dastardly plans. Jenga and her bunch of super heros!

Nneka said...

Super Jenga, for real! I'm so proud of you!! I think about you often - toiling away down there... it's so inspiring to see the progress you've made and to read about all you've learned and done. It's awesome, truly.

Kelly said...

Gee, where did you get the idea to paint the house purple? Was that Azana's idea? ;-)

Mtume said...

Cool post, Jenga. After all the depressing news and theft and delays and all, it's great to read some good news and see such significant progress. I like all the colored rooms and I agree that the pic with the kids painting is a keeper.

But by the way, me and Beth and Jahi saw Horton Hears A Who last weekend and I have to say the kangaroo had quite a presence. I wanted to pop her one, frankly. Good job.

Keep on rockin, Jenger.



Anonymous said...

Once again, Jenga, your life (and your blogging) blows us away. And we're so proud of you for having a purple house! You go, Azana!

pointpusher said...

Jenga, you did a wonderful job on those characters too. I miss having you here. You were a great person to work with, and only in your absence have I truly felt the gravity of the void left by your presence.

Loye said...

As a fellow resident of Holy Cross, I want to congratulate you on the progress you're making with your house.