Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Being a Local Snob

I admit it, I've become a local snob, though for a guy like me, that's being a poseur of the umpteenth degree. We went to the climbing gym yesterday and it was so crowded that we had to leave, and the reason it was so crowded was because it was full of people from out of town. I surmised this from two things-the cars in the lot were all out of state plates (Mass=Boston, Connecticut, and New York), and the people inside were all hip and clearly movers and shakers of the city set. In other words, city folks.

I shouldn't complain, they are visiting where we live because people like various aspects of where we live, but I will say this-they do come up here with a sense of entitlement, that age old attitude that money can buy anything, and the more you have, the better you are.

Either way, they had invaded for the holiday rush, and we were left out in the cold. No matter, we jumped in the car and headed to the rec center in Hartland and skated on the local rink. It was very cool, there were even a few of our friends out there, and Audrey and Nicholas had a blast.

Best of all, it was free. So good things came out of it. I guess I need to thank the vacationing crowd for that one.

In the meantime, Ruth has asked me to finish the shelves I built about seven months ago, but I've found that staining can be a chore. Plus, the cats will make this challenging, to say the least, but I'm just making excuses. What else is new?

I'd like to say some good things about Pro-Optical. Great deals on glasses if you're willing to bend a little on styles. I'm amazed how expensive glasses are, but they not only gave me a good deal, but their service was great. The guy who helped me was Dan and he gave first class service. Now I have new glasses.

We're supposed to get some snow on this New Year's Eve/day. We shall see. Until then, my name is Fred Lee, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Back in the Fold w/Karate

I finally made it to Karate class last night, and as luck would have it, class was canceled the week before, when I couldn't make it, so I didn't actually bail on class. It had been three weeks since I last attended, so I felt guilty, but in fact, I only missed one class because the last two weeks had been called off. Call it serendipity. And, I was the only person to show up, so Chip put me to the test and gave me a workout. It was fun, though he made me spar with him for about ten minutes, and I was panting and sweating bullets. A good workout, and it felt good to be back. I'll be preparing for my blue belt so I've got to practice. I find class is less stressful when Grand Master Hammond is not focusing all of his attention on me because I don't feel the pressure not to screw up.

I also spoke with Homestead Gary and I'm grateful to the guy for thinking about the barn. His latest thoughts were that even though foam insulation is extremely expensive, it will insulate the walls much better, will resist moisture better than fiberglass, and might even add some structural integrity to the walls. All good points, and worth looking into. I was concerned that in not tearing out the exterior panels and replacing them with plywood, we would run into the problem of drafty walls, but in reality, foam is a fantastic insulator.

So we shall see. Looking forward to a quiet, mellow new year in Vermont. We're supposed to get snow, and maybe a lot of it, so I may have to get on the roof once again.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Missing Karate and the New Year

I haven't made it to karate in three weeks, and I worry that Master Hammond is going to be pissed and want to kick my ass when I go back. In all fairness, I showed up two weeks ago and class was canceled without my knowledge, but what does that mean, in the end. I've been practicing, but it's never enough, and my original goal, which I haven't kept, was to practice drills and katas every day so when I did go back I'd be sharp as nails. So much for that one, but I do have two days.

One thing about living up here is that life really does slow down and change when Winter hits, and that suits me just fine, though the irony of it all is that there is still a lot of hard work to be done. The snow has stopped and the temps have warmed up considerably to a balmy 45 degrees. Consequently, the snow is melting and becoming crunchy, though I am glad that I raked that roof, for a number of reason. I believe that it will get cold again, so once again we get to enjoy the treachery of extreme icy conditions. Bummer.

We haven't done as much XC skiing as we'd wanted, but we've gotten a few good days in, and that's good enough, for now. The beauty of having your equipment before the season starts is that once the snow falls, you can hit the trails. Speaking of which, we've had considerable winds the past day or two, and the trails are littered with debris, though the snow is surprisingly good condition.

I haven't been so inspired to snowboard, though. I was so looking forward to Winter to hit the slopes, but when I went last week, the snow and wind made it way too difficult for a wimp like me. I couldn't see a thing, and man was it cold and miserable. To aggravate the situation, all of my friends, with the exception of Jake and Tammy, have left the slopes, and Jake is next. It's good for all of them to move on with their lives, but sad to see them gone.

We went skating last night at the Woodstock family skate and Audrey and Nicholas have come a long way in their skating. It's so great to see, and we had a lot of fun.

Looking to New Year's Eve as a quiet, family evening. We need to plan our meal, and I'm not sure what's on the menu. We were invited, once again, to Marie's, and I feel bad for bailing out, but it's just so hard dragging Audrey and Nicholas to a party that goes so late, so we'll see. I'd like to stop by, at least, but again, we'll see.

Sorry for being absent, lots going on but not much to report. My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Brutal Day, Being a Man, and Then a Ray of Light

Yesterday was one of those brutal days that force me to step back and take a good look at myself. A little introspection goes a long way, especially when you're trying to figure things out.

It started out rough from the beginning. The previous night I had tried to move the car so that Kurt could plow the driveway and proceeded to get stuck. Not only that, but our darn windshield wipers broke, so now were facing this dilemma of driving a car without wipers, a dangerous proposition. Electrical problems on cars are always hard to find and fix, so I was bummed. On top of that, the snow kept falling, making driving very difficult, and for whatever reason our drive went the entire day without a plow.

I hate to admit it, but by the end of the previous day, I was weary of the snow. Fortunately, come Monday morning, the snow had stopped and it was a beautiful day, but there was so much snow to attend to. Now normally this wouldn't bother me. Given the day, I don't mind going out and shoveling snow, especially when it's a beautiful day and Audrey and Nicholas are having fun, but there was something weighing on my mind, and I couldn't ignore it.

There was about three feet of snow on the shed dormer on the back roof. The snow usually rolls off at an extreme angle like the front, but on the dormer it's much more level and the snow just sits. The biggest problem was that rain is forecast for Wednesday, and all the snow is like a sponge weighing down on the roof. The thought of it makes me cringe. I was hoping that I could simply ignore it and eventually, come Spring, it would melt and we'd all be fine, but the little voice in my head kept saying, "There's no avoiding this, Fred. Deal with it."

Even dealing with it wouldn't be so bad, except that it would require getting on the roof, which is one of my biggest anxieties. Kurt offered to help, and part of me thought I could just pay him to do it, which would benefit both of us. But as we've all learned the hard way, relying on other people to deal with your stuff never turns out optimallly. So I resolved to break out our 28 foot ladder and rake the snow.

It didn't start out well. As I may or may not have mentioned, I broke my glasses last week, and luckily found an old pair that still work, though the lenses are terribly scratched. When I got my ladder out and leaned it against the house, a whole blob of snow nailed me right in the face. Wanting to clean my glasses, I wiped them off and proceeded to snap the frames in two. What a drag.

Fortunately I have contacts, but I couldn't believe I broke two pairs of glasses in less than a week. Not a good start. As it turns out, however, I didn't actually need to get on the roof. Our rake is long enough so that I could simply stand on the top of the ladder and rake the snow off. Bear in mind, it's not that stable, and it was freezing cold up there. The wind was whipping snow all over me, and gloves and pants got soaked. To make matters worse, it was so slow, because I had no leverage standing on that ladder and couldn't yank on that rake. It was literally like chipping away at the stone, the sort of situation where you can't think too much about the big picture and have to be in the moment.

It took me about six hours to do it, and I'm about 95% done. I'll have to go up again today, but if it came down to it, could leave it at that. The snow was pretty incredible, though, so much of it. There was probably 3 feet up there, and though it was a drag, I'm glad I did it for a number of reasons, the main one being that a hazard to our roof has been lessened, but also because I dealt with something that made me afraid, and just did it.

I was cold, my gloves were wet and frozen, and the sun was starting to set. I still had to fill the wood box, and since I'd spent all day on that ladder, I didn't shovel the path to the wood, so I had that to do. I was tired and irritable, and this is where a moment of introspection is due. I quickly cleared the path, filled the wheelbarrow and as I was carting it to the house, hit a bump and spilled all the wood.

I was infuriated and started throwing wood at the ground and swearing. Fortunately Audrey and Nicholas were safely inside playing so they didn't witness my tirade, of which I'm ashamed of. It made me really stop and take a good look at myself, because in the face of hardships, the last thing you need is a bad attitude. It's a good thing to think about.

When all the wood was in the box and I was finished, I wasn't ready to cook dinner, so we went to Ramunto's at the Jiffy Mart and picked up a pizza, though the truck got a little squirrely on some of the uphills. We got home and were pleasantly surprised to Ruth was there, she'd come home early, and she had good news to report-the wipers started working.

We had dinner and hung out, I bailed on Karate but have no regrets. We all needed a break. Of course, today I still have a lot of work to do, but most of the hard stuff is out of the way.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Roughing it in New England

We got so much snow yesterday that I actually found myself doing the unthinkable-wishing for it to stop. The main reason I had had enough was because we were having car issues and for whatever reason Kurt never showed up all day to plow. I'm guessing that he was busy with life stuff, but we got probably upwards of 15 inches of snow throughout the day, and we could have used two plows, but it makes sense in a way that he waited until the end of the day. Even still, we got stuck.

The biggest issue we face is that our darn windshield wipers aren't working. It's a seemingly small thing but we can't drive without them. Plain and simple. We'll see how this one plays out, and if the weather permits, try to get it to a mechanic. We're hoping it's not a major problem.

The snow was amazing yesterday, and I tried to go skiing at Quechee but it was a complete whiteout and the wind was whipping the stuff into my face. I called it a day after about five runs because I couldn't see a thing. I hate trying to ski with zero visibility, and quit while I was ahead. It was nice, in the end, to get home and be with my family in a blizzard.

Also, all my friends at the ski hill have left or are leaving. Total bummer. I spoke with Jake and he said he's done with New England and he's off for North Carolina. I understand that it's a pain living in this area because it really puts you to the test, but we've found value in overcoming challenge. It really engages you in life and makes you appreciate the little things, but I'm not going to convince the skeptics in the audience of this.

I shoveled so much snow yesterday, and I'm going to have to go out today and finish the job. I broke out my ladder and looked at the roof, thinking I was going to rake the top of the house, but it's a little hairy and I'm not sure what to do about the snow. I'll have to consult Kurt about it and see what he thinks.

Today will be a mellow day, Christmas is just few days away and I still need to get some shopping done. It may have to wait until after Christmas, since Ruth will always understand. We've gotten a boatload of stuff for Audrey and Nicholas, so they'll have lots of fun.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

More White Stuff and Water Quality Issues

Wow, we got socked with tons of snow, not that I'm complaining because it's really nice to see. It snowed all night, we must have gotten over a foot, and this morning it's still coming down. Ruth and I were commenting on how when you live in Vermont, you really get the white Christmas thing going, unlike most places. It's the real deal out here, and that's why we love it, though it adds an extra burden of work to your life.

Speaking of which, I have mega amounts of shoveling to do. I shoveled all day on Thursday and now I'm going to be out there all morning, but at least I filled the wood box and we have heat. Wouldn't it be nice just to sit inside by the wood fire?

We finally got our water test in and like the loser that I am I forgot the coliform test, which is probably the most important. The whole thing confuses the heck out of me, why are there so many tests? I returned the wrong ones but in the process sent back the one I needed, and now I have to order a new one. Will it never end. There are times when I think that forces are conspiring against us in terms of getting this barn finished. Every step of the way there's a new challenge, which is all the more ironic when you consider that we were inches away from the place being finished. If we had simply gotten a lower estimate, the project would be moving ahead, but instead, it's dead in the water.

In certain ways, it's as it should be. We had gotten too soft, it was too easy to come to rely on Bob to fund the project, and in the end, we acted irresponsibly by washing our hands of any involvement. Consequently, we put him in an uncomfortable position, and then he backed out. I'm guessing there's still an outside chance that he'll re-enter the fold, but for now, we're on our own, and though it's hard to imagine how we'll pull this off, I really feel like we can do it. Don't ask me how, but I'm an optimist. It comes with being naive.

I spoke to Terence Shearer with the state and he's been really cool about getting these tests done. It takes a lot of time to get the results, and he's been completely cool about it, so we caught a bit of a break right there. He's a nice guy, I'm glad we're dealing with him.

At least things are moving, and that's the key.

We've been doing lots skiing on the XC trails, and boy are we lucky to have the trails right there. Audrey and Nicholas have really taken to the sport, and we've been going out every day. It's nice to have the chance to do it so easily.

So much to deal with as we dig out of this storm, not that I'm complaining. My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let it Snow

We finally got what I would consider to be a good snowfall, and it was really nice. The snow fell for a few hours and we got good coverage, enough to make getting out of the driveway a bit of a chore, though our Nokian Hakkas shined brightly. Somehow I foolishly feel like good snow tires are the answer to it all.

Of course, with the heavy snow comes the added responsibility of having to deal with it, and we spent a lot of the day shoveling and raking snow off the roof, but it turned to be fun. Audrey and Nicholas helped out, they actually enjoy shoveling, and we had a really nice day. Best of all, the snow kept falling, and I'm thinking the skiing will pick up. Time to break out the snowboard and hit the slopes.

A quick note-as much as I love the weather, I don't mean to make light of all that people are going through with the power outages and all. Strangely enough, we weren't affected, because last year we lost power regularly, almost every other week, but this last one, where people have been without power for five to six days, we never lost it. We got lucky on this one. Our hearts go out to everyone.

There is supposed to be another big storm rolling in on Friday, so I plan on stocking up tonight (Thursday) and filling the wood box in anticipation of the big one, which may or may not materialize. With this in mind, I had to clear a path to the wood, but so far we're all set.

Looking forward to doing some XC skiing, as well, and I'm not sure if the trails have been groomed, but we can break trail with our backcountry rigs. I can't tell you how cool it is to have the skis at the beginning of the season, so hopefully we can take full advantage of the trails that run through our house. Last year we seemed to be lagging because we got our skis so late, but boy did we get a good deal at LL Bean. I love that place.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Giving Spirit

The recent holiday concert that Audrey sang in had free admission, and all they asked for was a donation of some food to feed the hungry. Initially I thought that since our daughter was singing in the show, we didn't need to bring anything. Then I got to thinking how counter that was to the spirit of the season, and for that matter, the fact that we take for granted how good we all have it and hunger and need are not things that occur only during the holidays.

With this in mind, I thought, bring some food, don't be such a dolt. I was prepared to bring in a can or two of beans, and then felt like I was being a bit of a Scrooge. After all, how cheap can a guy be? I ended up giving up our precious spaghetti sauce and pasta, but in the end, I feel a bit ashamed at being so self-absorbed in terms of food. We are not rich, not by a long shot, but we have a roof over our heads and food and heat. And we have each other, so we shouldn't complain.

And there are people where each day is a struggle, so why not help out whenever you can? Forget about the holiday spirit, these are issues that exist every single day. Besides, I've found when you give a little, you get a lot, though that shouldn't be the reason you do it.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Dark Clouds Hovering and No Karate

I have this big issue that keeps bugging me and I seem incapable of dealing with it. Consequently, it eats away at me and makes me depressed, even though it's a pretty simple thing. Of course, it involves that barn. I need to not only return the other test ($150.00!), but we really need to deal with testing the water. The state will only be patient for so long before they tell us to take a hike, and the longer we wait, the more it bugs me. Just do it, as the saying goes. So maybe today?

Either way, this barn is going to be a project, that's for sure, because we are on our own. Bob is finished with it, he's washed his hands of it all, and it's a bummer, that's for sure, because in reality we cannot afford to pull this off on our own. The cost is going to be enormous, and we struggle just to make ends meet, but somehow I have this crazy optimism about the whole thing. Sure, it won't happen overnight, and could take years, but mark my word, we will finish this project. We will make Bob proud. Hopefully they'll live in the darn thing, but you just never know with those guys.

We can't let that discourage us, have to move forward.

I was sick as a dog last week so I missed my beloved Karate, and I was looking forward to this week because I enjoy sparring with Chip and Peter, even though I get my butt kicked, it's good training fighting with someone who's so above your level. Either way, the class was canceled. I had a sense when I got there and the parking lot was empty. I had mixed feelings, because in the end, I wasn't feeling 100%. I am still not sure if I've completely kicked this bug, and I have no appetite. It made me wonder if I was ready to go a few rounds with my sensei.

One thing about class is that the Grand Sensei, Grand Master Hammond, has been paying particular attention to me and teaching me bo katas. I'm honored to be working with him but he intimidates the heck out of me, he's a no-nonsense guy that doesn't smile that much, especially in class, and he's fully capable of killing me with his pinkie, so it's a little scary. I take it VERY seriously and want nothing more than to live up to his expectations and make him proud, which only adds to the pressure. He's very patient.

I feel like I have a chance now to practice my stuff, rebuild some strength and stamina, and get ready for next class. Two things I really want to work on are my footwork for sparring and stretching. Actually, I also have to practice my katas and my one-step spars. I keep thinking that if I do a little bit every day, I'll be in good shape, but one week later, I still haven't done much. Go figure.

I am putting thought into the barn, though, and I need to finish Ruth's shelves, they've been languishing for months. Also, the darn deck still leaks, and I'm wondering if it's in need of a rebuild.

Like I got time for any of this? My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Concert and Feeling Fortunate

Last night was Audrey's big performance, and the kids did a stand-up job. They were really cute, and showed no signs of jitters or nervousness. We were proud of them. There was a good crowd last night on hand for the annual Hartland Christmas concert at Damon Hall, and I don't know how long it's been going on, but it was our first. The show was a little on the late side for us, but that's because we're dull homebodies.

Either way, Audrey was excited all day. She couldn't wait until the show, and put aside all other scheduled and non-scheduled events in anticipation of the big moment. Consequently, we had really mellow day, lounging around and not doing much of anything. They owe me a day of workbook, however.

It was a cold day, too, in the aftermath of this crazy weather we've been having. So many people are without power, to the point where it's dangerous because of the cold, and we feel lucky and grateful that we haven't had any major issues, thus far. The weather is supposed to continue it's crazy ways in the coming week, so let's keep our fingers crossed.

I went into West Leb and WRJ to get some food and the place was a mess. Apparently Stern's was closed yesterday because of the power loss and people were there in droves to make up for lost time. At least they were up and running today. I managed to get our shopping done and get out in one piece.

The show was after dinner, and Audrey looked so cute, as did all the kids. The place was filled with locals, and though I feel like we get out and about, there were so many people that I not only did not know, but didn't recognize. How does that happen in such a small town?

The show was wonderful, the Hartland Choir does a really nice job, and Richard should be proud fo their performance. Their hard work really showed. Of course, we couldn't wait for the most important part, the children's choir. They were awesome, and of course we were partial to the duets, but they all did a nice job.

Afterwards, we filed downstairs, said our goodbyes, and went to be. Audrey said she had a great time, and it was yet another special moment in our small town of special moments. We feel grateful to live here.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Weather Beaten

The weather has been crazy, and chalk it up to living in Vermont, or perhaps global warming, but it sure is strange. We haven't gotten the beautiful, bountiful fluffy white snow that I live for, and it's not looking like we'll get any soon. Instead we're getting the warm/cold cycles that are even worse and make everyone's life difficult. We had a decent snowfall followed by a tropical storm that dropped inches of warm rain, melting all the snow and leaving a swamp in our driveway. Of course, that was followed by windy, freezing cold weather (today will fall into the single digits) that left everything frozen solid and felled trees and power lines all over the area, not to mention the entire Northeast. Total drag.

We didn't lose power but apparently a lot of people did, including our friends. I know what that's like. Luckily we have gallons of water stored in the basement, so at least we can flush our toilets, but hopefully we won't need to use it.

Now that I'm feeling better, I managed to get some maintenance stuff done around the house, but it was a little brutal. Shoveling wet snow is a bear, especially when it's like a swamp. I knew a cold front was moving in, and if it froze solid it would have been a disaster, so I had to get on it. It took a toll on my back, but I managed to clear a path to the wood, bring in a load, and then rake the roof. I've decided to stay on top of that and see if I can avoid icicles... yeah, right.

I noticed that the dormers are badly in need of repair on the trim, and what bums me out the most is that I let it get that far. The trim along the roof on the shed dormer in the back is fried, as well, and some of the clapboards on the south face are rotting. AND, the south face needs to be painted.

Looks like it's going to be a busy Spring/Summer for Fred Lee, and I'm going to try to finish the barn. I did finally manage to clear out some of that rose bush near the kitchen window so I can access the wall, and I didn't have to glop off all of it. It had spread outwards, enough so some of it is left and it still looks intact. Best of all, it no longer causes spray to hit the clapboards, and I can now access them.

Okay, all this home improvement planning makes my head spin. There's so much to do, but I'm into it and looking forward to tackling it. I've been talking a lot of Jim and Homestead Gary, and I'm thinking they'll be a significant part of my Real-Man training team.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Magic of Small Town Life

Two nights ago I got a real sense of living in a small town with a tight community, and though it's in conflict with my quest to be a real man, it almost brought a tear to my eye. We went to the Christmas concert rehearsal at Damon Hall and the adult choir was there, as well. It was awesome seeing Audrey on stage doing her thing with the kids, who by the way were incredibly cute. They did a good job, and got their first taste of having a full audience. They performed like stars.

It was late, but Audrey and Nicholas wanted to stay and watch the adult choir, so we sat in the audience and watched them rehearse. They sounded beautiful, but what really touched me was that here was a group of adults with their own lives to lead, taking time out to take part in a community event on their own time, with no compensation other than the desire to sing for their community. It was obvious that they'd put some time in the production, you could see Richard Waddell's hard work, but it was just nice to see.

It made me realize how lucky we are to live in Hartland, what a nice community. Now I know there are choirs and community groups everywhere who donate their free time to the good of the whole, and it's the lifeblood of any neighborhood, it's just nice to see it in action in your own home town. And they did such a nice job of it.

Hartland rocks!

I missed karate last week because I was on by deathbed, and I'm bummed because I feel like I let Master Hammond down. He's been paying extra attention to me and I feel honored and scrutinized at the same time. I feel like I can't let him down, and have been practicing my katas to show him I can do it. It's not unlike trying to impress your dad. I think belt testing is on the horizon, and maybe even a competition, which mortifies me, but is part of my real man training.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Snow Coming, Christmas Trees, and Planning the Barn

We are on the cusp of getting our tree, it's really on our radar. We have Gary's truck, so it would be a breeze, and the guy who sells them is a local, right here in Hartland, or close enough, and Audrey and Nicholas can't wait. I have to admit, I'm getting into the spirit of the season, as well. I've noticed that several of our neighbors have done a stand-up job decorating their houses, something I don't seem to recall having happened in the past.

I have been talking to Homestead Gary about the barn, and as I've mentioned, he's willing to help out by offering his expert advice, which I'm more than happy to take. I've been looking through a book I have about home improvement and it actually outlines the steps to make an exterior wall, and it turns out it's simpler than I thought. Not easy, especially for me, but I understand what's going on.

A plan, I need a plan, and in order to come up with a plan, we need to figure out what we want. The problem is, I don't know what the heck I want. I'm not good at planning or following directions, and it generally gets me into trouble. What I would benefit most from is having a practice barn to work on and through a process of trial and error learn the ropes. Unfortunately, I've got no such luck.

Ideally I'd like to just finish what's there. The problem I'm facing is that what's there might not be adequate enough, and I'd have to retrofit the current design with something to better insulate the building. If that requires me to pull the vertical beams off and put plywood or Tyvek/Typar underneath, that's fine, as long as I can reuse those boards. I don't want to toss all that wood. Not only is it wasteful, but the cost of replacing it bums me out. I need to consult with some people.

Homestead Gary mentioned having a framing person come out and check for adequacy, and that's fine. Again, I'm fine with ripping the boards off and putting up plywood. In fact, that's something I think I can do. Just have the wood delivered and nail it in (I know, I'm oversimplifying, so sue me). Then put up the wrap and then the siding. I'm under the impressiong that once the plywood (if I use that) is up, I can even use clapboards, because that's the extent of it.

Either way, who knows. Ruth has asked me to finish the bookcase that I've stalled on for months, so I don't have the reputation for reliability. At least not yet. First things first, as the saying goes. I'm hoping to meet with Gary this week and maybe get some advice, though I know his time is valuable.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bright Notes

When things are looking this glum, you can't help but wrap your hands around the few bright spots that come your way. Throw me a bone, as the saying goes. First off, it turns out the septic permit does not expire, so we can move ahead with this and maybe even finish it without rushing the completion of the house, which ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

Also, my good friend, Homestead Gary, is willing to offer his expertise in building a house to us, so at the very least we'll get some advice. I think I can do certain things in terms of building, I just need some help (lots of help!) in knowing what to do. Ignorance is bliss, except when you need to know.

We are short on snow up here in Vermont. Audrey and Nicholas went out in the yard the other day and they had a blast sledding, even though the grass was clearly visible through the thin snow. It was slippery enough to sled, and we built a killer ramp with some scrap wood. I realized the mistakes I'd made last year in trying to make a jump, and employed a ramp instead of just a lump. When we get a boat load of snow the ramp will be killer.

Need to dust off the XC skis and the snowboard in anticipation of the coming season. I'm excited, and can't wait for the hill to open up. Also, we have our skis so we can dive into the XC trails as soon as they're covered. That will be exciting.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A New Perspective

I don't know how far we can take this on our own, but I really feel determined to try our best to finish this barn. We had come to rely on Bob to make our lives easier and it was nice not having to think about it, in a way, but also it relates back to what I've always believed but can't always employ-that when you come to rely too heavily on anyone but yourself, you not only lose control of the situation, but things never turn out the way you want them. Besides, it's never as satisfying.

This is not any judgement of Bob, he's well within his rights to choose how the project would proceed, and in the end, it was a good thing because the price was too high, and Ruth and I were very apathetic about the whole process. Hell, I didn't even look at the quote, which was totally irresponsible of me. Truth be told, we really just want to finish the barn so that Bob and Joanne can spend more time with us and have a real house to live in. That is our only motivation, so now that we're kind of on our own, we'll use that as our guiding principle, because this isn't going to be easy, to say the least.

The first order of business is to have a plan. I was reading somewhere that building a house is 80% planning, and though we are going to do this piece by piece, and it may take years, we still need a plan. The problem is, where the heck do I start?

My first inclination is to start reading, and I've been finding that books on how to build a house are not that prevalent. There are plenty of how to books on how to work with a contractor, but what I need is how to do it with your own hands. I haven't asserted myself, and I'm sure there are good references out there, I just have to keep looking.

In the meantime, I'll do what I do best, and that's ask friends for guidance. Homestead Gary said he'd be happy to help, and I'd like to pay him for his time, so that's a start. I'd love to hit the ground running come Spring, or even begin now and just chip away at the stone, but we'll see where this goes.

In the meantime, I still have assorted home improvement projects that I need to address. The darn front porch still leaks, big time, and there are clapboards galore that need replacing, not to mention painting that needs to be done, but that will have to wait til Spring. Water leaking issues are the biggest deal.

And, of course, there is the septic system. I need to contact Dan Clay to give him the latest update, but we're looking at Spring.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Foiled and Building the Hard Way

This is difficult for even me to believe, but the barn project is now dead in the water. I can't believe it, but in the end, we have to respect everyone's wishes, and I have to confess to being somewhat relieved. Furthermore, the price of the project was just too high, and that message wasn't being conveyed properly on both sides. It's pointless to try to lay the blame on any one party, because on the one side people weren't being clear about what they wanted, and on the other, people just weren't getting it. It's too bad, but it brings me back to our guiding philosophy in life: doing things the hard way.

It was easy enough to sit back and let Bob fund everything and just be a spectator, but is that really how you want to get things done? We've decided that we're more determined than ever to finish the barn, and we're going to do it ourselves. This has been a huge learning experience for everyone involved, but mostly for us. It just doesn't pay to sit on the sidelines and be a passive observer, especially when something means so much to you.

So in the end, we're going to try to build it ourselves. Can you imagine a bigger case of boys doing a man's job? I'm excited at the prospect, and I have to confess, it is more of how I'd like to do it. It's just that I don't know a thing, though I've learned a great deal in just the short time that I've interacted with Paul. At the very least, it's taken some of the mystery out of it, and it's the mystery that frightens me the most.

We've bought ourselves more time, at the expense of Paul, of course. I feel terrible for him and Kurt because they were looking forward to doing this job, but again, it just came out to be too expensive. This complicates our lives, of course, because now we can't turn to Paul or Kurt for hiring because we've cut ties with them. It's a delicate situation and we have to be tactful in our ways, but it's not insurmountable.

The first order of business will be to move forward as we've been doing and get those well issues addressed, then look into getting the septic system installed. That has all been lined up, and it won't happen until the Spring, but at least we know what to do.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.