Three Day Story – Conclusion

Day Three

Florida in the rain. Darker than usual with the clouds. Everything green, almost fluorescent. Humidity almost like being underwater. Frogs coming alive, tropical croaking sounds from all quarters. Smells of  damp leaves and rotting vegetation. Hello Open House Day.

It was pretty much a bust. Four people went through the house. One was the next-door neighbor (the one under the tree branch) and the other three were friends of the realtor’s son who came to see him more than the house. We did get a lot of talking time with the realtor though. He came up with a couple of things he thought would be simple improvements in the rental house which he thought Joe could take care of for me. When he left at 2 pm, I couldn’t quit thinking about them so I texted Joe and he called back, then came over.

It was still raining off and on, but the work was inside so we spent a couple hours doing that. I could tell he was thinking about “the branch” because he kept looking out at the tree and the ladder. Sure enough, a break in the rain and that’s what he wanted to do.

Joe is Mexican and his “English as a second language” is adequate for his work but not always understandable to the average person. Even though I have developed an ear for it, I often put on a knowing look and nod while trying to figure out what on earth he is saying. He does have a phrase which I understand perfectly because he uses it often and it describes a common action which we use a lot when he pressure washes the house. It’s the “jumping over” method. He jumps (throws) the rope over the roof and hangs ladders to reach the high places.

The plan for the branch was to set the ladder as close to it as he could and jump the rope over it, hoping it would catch so he could pull it down. The thing that was troubling him was where to put the ladder. The trunk of the tree was too far from the dangling branch, and the ladder wasn’t high enough to reach outlying branches. Joe credits me with the idea we went with, although I had moments of being sorry I suggested it. I drove the truck under the tree and we put the ladder in the bed, making it almost four feet higher. It touched a nearby branch, just barely.

I sat at the base of the ladder, hoping to hold it in case it slipped, while Joe climbed slowly to the top and strapped the top rung to the branch with a bungee cord. He came part way down and I passed him the end of his rope. Going back up, he straddled the branch, got himself stable, and hauled the rope up into coils. His “jumping over” procedure worked after the third toss. The rope was caught in the branch and wasn’t coming down unless the branch did too. All the commotion was bringing down other dead twigs on me and the truck, along with a lot of water. It was getting dark and starting to rain again, but Joe was excited, having roped his branch at last.

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Our big dead branch, no longer dangling above our heads.

He came down out of the tree and we took the ladder off the truck. I have to admit I gave a sigh of relief as I got myself and the truck out of the way because Joe was pulling and the branch was making some serious cracking noises. It finally came free and fell. We have quite a pile of wood now, which Joe wants to come and load in his friend’s truck. I don’t know what he does with all the things he gets rid of for me, but he and his community find value in everything. Wouldn’t surprise me if he sells it.

I think the most fun part for me was taking Joe home and hearing how excited and satisfied he was that he had conquered that branch. He talked about it all the way there. I think there are other workmen who would have said no to the job, unless they had more equipment or more money – the job itself wouldn’t have drawn them like it did for Joe.

Joe is definitely part of what we will miss about Florida. The husband says we should pack him up and move him to Wisconsin with us, but frankly, I’m having enough trouble getting us there. Just sayin’…

Three Day Story continued…

Day Two

We have lived in Florida for thirty years now and the husband mentioned a while back that he had never been to our closest state park, only twenty some miles away. I have been there numerous times on family outings and could hardly believe he had missed them all. Since we are soon to leave Florida, we had planned a visit to the park with some dear friends on Day Two of this story. We had to leave early, which is why I had asked Joe to come the night before to get instructions on work to be done in our absence. We left, knowing that he would come and get things done. He is that dependable.

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A long boardwalk out into the marsh along the Myakka River is an excellent place for bird watching.
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The husband watching birds. Well, maybe not birds, watching something. I don’t know.

We returned around noon and found Joe busy setting posts around our parking area, paying attention to spacing and leveling, like he always does. I was glad to see that he had already mowed the lawn because it was starting to cloud up. Our realtor had scheduled an open house for Saturday (Day Three of this story) and I wanted the yard to look as good as it could. We are getting into the time of year when rain often comes in the afternoon and getting grass cut around all the wetness becomes a little summer game. In addition to that normal weather pattern, we had a tropical disturbance bearing down on our coast making it even more rainy than usual.

I had asked Joe not to go up on the ladder when there was no one around to call 911, but now that we were back, it was the first thing he wanted to do. He fully extended the ladder and set it against the trunk of the large oak and went up, armed with his heavy black rope. His plan was to throw the rope into the lower dead branch and pull it free.

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My special friend, the ladder, that has it’s own spot at my house and spends a good deal of time here.

It started to rain, but just enough to make the ladder and the tree slippery, not enough to make Joe quit. My job, as I mentioned, is to be ready to call 911, and occasionally to steady the ladder. A couple tosses put the rope where he wanted it and a good jerk brought the smaller limb down with a thud. I say “smaller” but it amazes me how something that looks little way up in a tree looks a lot bigger when it lands on the ground a few feet away from you. Joe was pleased.

If it were not for the approaching roar of serious rain, he would have continued with the job, but no. I think Joe is well aware of the dangers of lightning in Florida since he’s often up on a roof, having to get down quickly. He came down the ladder and we did our best to pile up the debris where it wouldn’t be visible to the hordes of people coming to the Open House the next day. We left the ladder where it was, up against the tree, and ran for shelter.  Joe comes and goes by bicycle or rides from friends, so Day Two ended early with me taking him home in the truck, in the rain.

It’s a three day story and tomorrow is the last day!

Three Day Story: Day One

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Chris’s house and the offending tree

Chris is incidental to the story, but it started with him. Chris is the new neighbor to the south of the oneacrewoods. He appeared at the door a week ago to introduce himself and, “oh by the way, you have a large dead branch hanging in your tree right by my house and I’m afraid it might fall on my roof.” I’m all for preventing things like that, especially since hurricane Irma last year. A large branch from that same tree did fall on that house and poked a hole into the attic. The previous owner and I split the repair costs.

Living in this grove of old live oak trees requires regular tree maintenance because they are always growing, limbs get heavy or diseased and weakened, they rot and fall off. Some owners prune heavily and leave only the clean canopy. We have followed the more natural path and let the trees self-prune, except the ones that could damage our buildings. You have to understand that it costs a lot of money to hire people willing to climb up in your trees with saws or bring in their machinery (cherry pickers). I’m talking thousands here.

I did check around with neighbors to see if anyone was planning to bring in an arborist, thinking we could add our little problem to his “to do” list, but nothing was scheduled.  So, I told Joe, who is the main character in this story. I’ve written about him before, (here: A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter H)) but I have never explained his devotion to the DIY lifestyle. I suppose it is the reason Joe can do so many things because he just never thinks of hiring someone else for a task. If he can’t do it himself, he doesn’t have it done. It is an interesting philosophy. I’m a little bit that way myself which is why I like Joe’s work. We are a dangerous combination.

He immediately began thinking, planning how he could get the branch down. The challenge had a hold on him and we walked around the tree, looking at the height of the dead, dangling debris. There were two branches, one completely detached and caught in another that was larger and higher but still partially attached. Joe started talking options. He always says “if you want, we could…”, and even if I reject some of his options because I don’t want him to kill himself, I do want the branch down, of course I do.

All the options involved his ladder, so we went in the truck to get it.

Joe’s tools are all over the place because he doesn’t have a home of his own. He stays with one friend after another and has a large community of people who evidently like to host him. The ladder was in the yard at his present abode. It’s a large aluminum extension ladder which has spent a lot of time at our house actually, and I treat it like a friend. We put it in the back of the truck and weighted it down with a huge stump. Since it was now dark and starting to rain, Joe stayed and promised to be at the house the next morning to work on several things I had asked him to do.

I drove the ladder home and took it out. I left the stump in the bed of the truck, primarily because it weighed a ton, but also because I already had a couple of other things in the yard that we have used to weight the ladder in the past. I didn’t want to add this one to the collection. So ended Day One of the story.

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The husband made me take the stump out of the truck. Another yard ornament, oh well…

 

And We Wait…

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Yep, that’s our house.

Life is strange now. I want to be out of Florida before hurricane season, but I’m horrified by the finality of a sale and having no home. It has taken so long to get ready and yet something about it seems to have happened so fast it’s scary.  Hurry up and wait is an accurate description of what has happened.

Having a house for sale means we are in a state of constant tension. Showings are requested at random times, and of course we don’t want to say no so we must be ready. Part of the tension is being ready and then having nothing happen when it seems that something should be happening, or being ready and full of anticipation only to have the showing cancelled. It seems to happen frequently.

We’re eating out a lot. People want to see the house over lunch or dinner time when they are free, so we make the house presentable, turn on all the lights and make sure the AC is going, then we vacate so as not to interfere. The logical place to go? A restaurant where we can sit and eat and not mess anything up in the kitchen at home. It works for every reason except our so called “diet”. We have pretty much left that behind for the time being.

Last night we went to the local diner, “The Recipe Box”, during a showing and I was feeling a bit frazzled. I noticed immediately the relaxing music – soft jazz, recognizable songs, like at a piano bar. It was such a different sound from normal restaurant background music, because it was live with a real person playing a keyboard. She played during our whole meal and it was a gift from God to my house selling soul. She was so good that I bought her CD. There were only a few of us having dinner and we all clapped and commented on the songs.

The immediate result of all this showing is that we find out new reasons why people don’t want to buy our house. They have reservations about getting their RV down the one lane drive, reservations about the kind of neighborhood we’re in, reservations about whether they could remodel the way they would “have to”.  Hmm… I don’t remember having any reservations when I moved here. I thought it was heaven on earth and could hardly believe it would be my new home. Was there something wrong with me? Thankfully, most who have looked have felt it was unique and fairly priced.

At this point, I can honestly say that I’m not upset about waiting. I am expectant of something interesting, and happy, and good. I fully trust that the process was started by God, in his timing and we’ll be looking back on it at some point and marveling at how it came about. Something is going to happen. I can hardly wait. No, wait, I am waiting. Whatever…

A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter G)

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A sign for the letter G

But as for my theme, G is for Garage

Once upon a time, in Florida, we did not have a garage. We had a carport only. It never really was enough room even for our car, truck and trailers. When we moved to the oneacrewoods, we were overjoyed to have a large two car, attached garage with an automatic door opener! My parents in the adjoining house also had a large two car garage. Both of these garages had pull down ladders leading to large attic storage space. I don’t know how many readers will recognize the potential for catastrophe here, but I will just tell you – it is real and present danger, unless you are a very disciplined, organization freak.

We are savers. At one time our garage was so full that I stored my precious lumber (yes, I had lumber) on the floor in piles just high enough that I could park the car over them. Every spare part for sprinklers, various engines, draperies and blinds, lawn equipment, along with nuts, bolts, nails and hardware from every project we ever attempted was all put in the garage. At one time, effort was made to corral like items in boxes, jars and little cases with tiny plastic drawers but it never worked very well. At least 50% of this stuff was/is unusable and should be thrown away, but that is a job in itself and we are always tired when we get done with our projects.

When the hurricane came last year, I got both of our vehicles in the garage but I don’t know how I did it and it hasn’t happened since.

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And because I’ve just carried everything down from the attic, it won’t be happening this week either. BUT SOON.

Now, garage clean up has to happen in order to sell the house. And it includes the attics above the garages! I understand, the buyer is not going to want my stuff. I don’t even want my stuff. I feel embarrassed at the 10 years worth of National Geographics that I saved and was going to use for…? And  how is it that there are more seashells to be found in my attic than at the seashore? And do you know that it’s probably 120 degrees up there?

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These magazines weigh a ton! I hope they weren’t valuable, nah….

The truck and men that I wrote about a few days ago took the big furniture out for me but I have been working on the boxes of saved toys and glassware, books and canning jars all afternoon. The renters are still working on their side too but I think this might be their last truckload.

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Today I read about something called dostadning, or “death cleaning”, which is a Scandinavian term for getting rid of your stuff so your children don’t have to do it after you’re dead. But really, it would be good for us to do a little of this for our own well-being and sanity. Keep this in mind, the only thing worse than having to clean the garage is having a garage sale, because then you have wasted a whole half day (at least) and still have to re-store the leftovers in your garage or haul them to a donation place. Just give it all away in the first place. My thoughts.

Rain-R-Shine PVC Cement

After my last cement post I got requests to write about mortar, and grout but in writing as in life, you don’t always get to choose. Sometimes the subject chooses you.

 This morning, getting ready for the day, I turned on the bathroom faucet and nothing came out. This always is cause for alarm because we have a complicated water system with a deep well and a submersible pump way down there somewhere. A leak anywhere in the house or outside the house causes the system to shut down to save the pump. The leak has to be found and fixed or we have no water, and our renter in the next house has no water because we are on the same system.

For years I have had the rule that the woman of the house does not take care of the water system. The husband is a physicist, which is like a science expert and the water system needs an expert because it is a chemistry nightmare. I stay away from it. But I needed water so I started hunting for the leak.

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The culprit leak, white sand and mud bubbling up from the depths.

I found it out in the yard. There was a big puddle for a clue. Oh funny, it was right where the cement truck had made a big rut while backing up.

I knew this was going to be my next project.  I do kind of understand the pipes, valves and spigots that are all over the place and I am the person in our family most likely to survive digging and bending over a hole without serious back injury. I have never subscribed to the “learn one new thing every day” mantra because I prefer doing things I know how to do already, but an occasional new thing keeps life interesting. Doing this new thing would save me money – that’s what it’s all about.  This girl can fix a broken pipe.

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Oh yes, it works even when the parts are wet.

I found the broken pipe down at the bottom of the hole that I dug. A trip to the hardware store and a couple of conversations with the plumbing guys made the job sound pretty easy.  The plan was to saw out the broken part of the pipe and attach couplings and an adjustable repair thingy. The new parts had to be glued on and the primer and glue were the special ingredients to this recipe.

I’m happy to say it went well when we turned on the water to test it. I feel pretty confident about PVC gluing now and can hardly wait until the next irrigation leak. I’m not an expert plumber yet but I did good on this project (I’m also quite experienced with toilets, but that’s another story or two, or three.).

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My fuzzy photo of finished pipe repair. I got a little messy with the blue glue. Wanted to make sure there was enough of it.

Oh Cement

I don’t think I’ve ever written about cement before. You might not think you have any interest in cement, and believe me, I didn’t either. But I feel smarter about it now, and you can never tell when being smarter about cement will come in handy.  Anyway, it’s part of my life and I have to write to relieve the tension…

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Gravel was my temporary fix for these sections that had to be removed.
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Who would have thought these two smooth, patches would be so much trouble? Who?

 I’ve spent a lot of time this week trying to get cement to replace the gravel patches in the driveway. I drove into a couple yards where I saw cement trucks and big piles of sand coming and going, but evidently regular people like me do not just come into these places and order a few yards of cement. In one there was no office, only huge trucks honking at me to get out of the way. In the other, there was an office but the person there had no idea what prices were or whether my project was something they would stoop to do.

I finally called a contractor, one whose ad said no job was too big OR too small. Most people would have done this first, I know. The initial quote for the work was $1200, just from my description of it, adjustments to come with the final proposal. I don’t think he was talking about adjusting it down. I am so tired of everything costing in thousands of dollars. Whatever happened to hundreds? I keep hoping to save money by doing some of the work myself which is why I don’t call contractors except as a last resort.

My friend who was pressure washing the house (it’s a Florida thing), heard me gasping about the price, and immediately started talking me into hiring his cousin instead. “We do it tomorrow, if you like. Less than that, and we do it tomorrow.” And to be truthful, it was good to hear that it would cost less, but hearing that it would be done tomorrow was the clincher. I cancelled the other contractor and hired Higinio.

When people are trying to help me get jobs done at a good price, I always end up feeling sorry for them when unexpected things come up. I think it took a little longer than they had anticipated for them to remove all the gravel that had been put in the holes. Under the gravel were huge tree roots, the troublemakers that had ruined the previous cement, and they had to be chopped out. I wish I could say they had some handy machines to help them, but no, it was muscles and an ax. They worked nearly a whole day prepping for the cement, which was due to come at 5 pm, only to find it delayed until the next morning. In addition to feeling sorry for them sweating all day in the heat, now I had to feel sorry for them coming back another day.

At 9 am a huge truck was waiting at our drive. I held my breath as it maneuvered down our narrow drive and through our yard, backing up to the holes. It was interesting to watch the truck combine everything on site and slide it into place. Interesting also to watch how the men floated it, troweled it – all those things that they do to make it look good. The holes were filled, the tools were washed off, and the truck was pulling away. It was then, making a tight turn that the wheels ran off the cement drive and cracked it in a brand new place. I heard the pop and saw the edge sink, along with my hopes of not spending too much money on this job.

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The last minute disaster, entailing another couple hours of hard work.

And then I felt sorry, because the men had to saw away the broken edge of the drive, remove the concrete chunks, build a form, place the wire and mix 11 sacks of Sak-crete by hand to do the repair. Oh cement, you are so much work.

It is now done. One more job crossed off the list in getting the oneacrewoods ready for sale.  It ended up costing what the original contractor had bid but was done much sooner. It was good to learn about mixing cement by hand – actually not too hard, kind of like mixing pancake batter. I think I could do small cement projects if I had to…  if I could lift the 80 lb. sacks of Sak-crete.

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Oh cement, you are so much work.

Going Through Hurricane Irma: Final Thoughts

Over the last two weeks I’ve written several posts, in my mind, as I was raking or hauling brush, but they have never made it into print. This kind of event pushes one into concentrating on what is urgent, and a lot of that is hard, physical work. I have not had the creative energy to write.

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Before the storm…
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and after. I guess this is how tropical depression becomes emotional depression.

Most of the urgent tasks are done now. Each day we hear less about Irma and that is fine. Those of us who are able to move on are glad to do so. I have actually “run away” to North Carolina to visit my daughter, and it’s here that I’m getting the time to reflect on what we went through.

I’m amazed at how longer periods of stress, like a hurricane with its stages of waiting for, experiencing, and recovering from, take a toll on the health and well-being of individuals within a community. I’ve gotten a new awareness of adrenal fatigue issues and steps I can take to lessen the problem. I have renewed respect for the checks and balances that are built into our bodies to help us weather anxious times like these. I am more strongly motivated to eat well and moderately, to pursue healthy sleep habits, to exercise regularly in moderation, to think positively and to honor faith in God.

Even as I took time to help others, I was greatly encouraged by people who volunteered to assist me. Some of our neighbors were the first to come over with chain saws and muscle power, helping to clear away our tree that was blocking driveways. Within three days most of the debris that had littered our yard was raked into piles and taken to the road or burned – by friends, relatives and church volunteers. It was not just the physical acts, but the caring that motivated those acts, that gave me strength. The time spent on these personal relationships has been the best thing about the storm.

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How good to see a smiling man with a chain saw in hand…

Another good thing is simply that a cleaning has taken place. Complicated places have been stripped bare and have a chance at starting over, in a better, more thought out way. It has happened like that in the yard, in the house, and in relationships. We are more aware of basic needs, worthwhile skills, and the things we truly appreciate because of their honesty and beauty. I absolutely have hope in restoration and that things will become as beautiful, and maybe more beautiful in the future. I wish this could happen for every person, in every storm.

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From this…
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back to this, with the help of two strong guys and a handy machine or two.

Hurricane Irma: The Aftermath (post 4)

Sunday night, September 10, 2017

We spent an uneasy couple of hours in our “safe room” before it became apparent that the winds were not as loud. Some of us even slept, but the people most uncomfortable moved to the bedrooms. We were curious enough at this point to venture into the kitchen and get a report from the radio there. We still had power, but no cable or internet to follow the progress of the storm. The report put the eye of the storm to our east and moving away from us. We were very thankful, very relieved, but aware that the storm was still raging around the house.

Monday, September 11, 2017

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The demise of the kapok tree. RIP my friend. 

Monday morning I got up early, hoping to survey the Oneacrewoods as soon as there was light. The first thing visible shocked me like I haven’t been shocked in a long time. Our landmark kapok tree was lying horizontal on the ground. It had ripped down through our large grapefruit trees, and had also taken limbs from the surrounding oaks. Some of it’s larger top branches were caught up in the oaks, dangling precariously. It had missed a minivan belonging to one of our friends by a few feet, crashed through a board fence and landed across the neighboring driveway.  The torn root ball was up in the air, exposing a huge hole filled with mud. It might be a little silly to be emotionally attached to a tree, but I’m a silly woman when it comes to nature. It was a special tree.

The rest of the yard was covered with water, and branches of all sizes, but there were no other trees down and no damage to the house. Neighbors were starting to walk around. Several came down to look at our carnage.  On our way out to the street to see if the vehicles parked there were still there (they were) we heard that the curfew, that was to go until 3 pm, had already been lifted. Even though it was blustery and raining off and on, Kathy and I decided to walk across to their mobile home park and see if their house had blown away.

Emergency patrols were already in the park, marking damaged buildings with orange spray paint. They warned us that it might not be safe to be there with so much loose metal lying on the ground, and the wind still gusting. We made it to Kathy and Mark’s mobile and found it looking untouched. The canal behind it had come to the top of the bank but not high enough to flood their house. The damage in the park was hard to figure out – homes with the roofs ripped off were right next to ones that were untouched. The two residents that had stayed in the park in spite of the evacuation order said that there was a tornado which might have been responsible.

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At Golf Lakes MHP

Around 11 am chain saws were being heard everywhere around us. Our neighbor who had weathered the storm elsewhere arrived and came over to help us clear as much of the driveway as possible. He and his girlfriend pitched in and started cutting branches and making piles of debris. We loaded it onto our truck later and began to haul it out to the road. There are six residents bordering our drive and all of us had downed trees and branches. The piles out by the road grew larger by the hour.

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Multiple truckloads on day 1 of aftermath. Easy to throw stuff on, actually harder to pull it off out at the road.

We worked all day until we couldn’t do it anymore. I loaded brush and hauled for the neighbors to pay them back for clearing the drive. We slogged through the flooded yards getting muddy, sweaty, tired and hungry. For the first time ever, we had the neighbors over for hot dogs. It took a hurricane to make it happen but I’m glad it did.

Day one of the aftermath ended with much accomplished but so much more to do that I felt physically, emotionally and mentally oppressed. The knowledge that everyone needed to attend to their own damage left little hope for finding help. I had only one person I could think of that might be able to work with me on my mess. I had texted him earlier in the day and hadn’t received an answer. I figured he was somewhere working for someone who needed him more than I did. When you believe as I do, that God knows and helps you through things in one way or another, you wait for help, or for strength until it comes. That’s the way we left it on Monday.

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Views designed with depression in mind.

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Grab a rake, please.

Going Through: Hurricane Irma (post 2)

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Hi y’all. My ‘rained on’, coffee loving, early morning self along with my friend Kathy.

Sunday morning and we still have power. Kathy and I were both awake at 6 am and having morning coffee while catching up on hurricane progress over the night hours. It is still coming with not much change expected. They talk about wobbles and zig zags but I don’t think it matters much to us yet.

In the night I had “visions” (I use the term loosely) of the trees being nothing but leafless stubs, all the fences gone and many buildings missing. With that in mind I went out early and put more things away that I had previously thought too heavy to move. Winds that tear buildings apart can pick up a potted plant, no matter how heavy. We don’t need those things flying through the air. It was cool and very breezy and raining by the time I got done. The garage of our adjacent rental house was empty so Mark drove his car, with all their valuables, into that space. The renters both work at an assisted living facility and have to be at work during the storm.

Since then we have been eating breakfast and keeping in touch with people on phone and facebook. I finally muted the tv and put on some worship music. I can only listen to the forecasts so long without feeling the tension. Since it’s already about as bad as it can be, anything new will be better and I can catch up on it anytime.

Kathy and I have been brainstorming our inner shelter plans, having picked what we think are the safest parts of the house and what we need to do to be comfortable in them. We will start equipping them with water and food in the next hour or so.

It is definitely getting more wild outside. I realize it more as I sit here looking out the window at the tops of the trees. They are so flexible and there is so much movement up there. As I walked around taking pictures of the outside for insurance purposes, I noticed again the one tall pine on the neighbor’s property that has been giving me concern for years now. If it falls, it will most likely reach our house and come through the roof. It is the weakest of the trees around us in my estimation. Trees are a blessing in that they raise the wind up over the house, but I’ve seen trees that big lying on the ground with the root ball up in the air too – and that would not be good for us.

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The big trunk on the other side of the fence is the pine I’m expecting to come through our roof.

We are a few more hours closer to the end of it, and a few more hours closer to the worst of it. Hopefully our angels are up and on the job.