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Yesterday I woke early, intending to blog about my peaceful, happy Memorial Day weekend. Before I could sit down to it, I got word from a friend that another friend was racing to the scene of a family tragedy. One person was dead. Another’s life would be irreparably altered, not for the better.

Torn between my personal contentment and my friend’s catastrophe, what could I write? Nothing at that moment and even now nothing more than some cliched observation on life’s vicissitudes. Even the phrase “life’s vicissitudes” seems gratingly pat and bromidic.

I don’t know the circumstances of the tragedy and wouldn’t feel free to talk about them if I did. But it appears to have been a case of an otherwise good young person doing something stupid. How many times did all our younger selves do foolish, risky things — and fortunately for us and others in our path — get away with it? Gads, I shudder at some of the dumbass moves I made and I am so grateful that nobody had to pay any irrevocable price. I’ll bet we all have such stories to tell.

And then there’s that 1-in-a-100 life in which one moment of dumbassery becomes a catastrophe instead of a headshaking tale to share once we’ve survived into healthy middle age.


This morning I woke even earlier, sore, stiff, but satisfied from yesterday’s good progress on the Great Foundation and Screen Porch Project.

Although not finished, today we’ll probably reach a good stopping point, the goal point I set after we realized the Big, Scary Project was going to get even more complicated than it looked.

Over the weekend, I made a list of 10 mini-projects, all related to the structural integrity of the house, all directly or indirectly connected to the work we’re now doing. Some of the minis are tricky, grueling, and completely unsatisfying from a “gosh, look at what we just did” perspective (yet another foundation beam, minor jacking in a very difficult spot, and repairing a floor that currently has a big, rotted hole in it). Others are gratifying but not so urgent (framing the screen porch). Others are hard but open the way to future satisfaction (ground grading that will both solve the last drainage problem and let me start creating a patio/garden area). Some of the minis are a couple days work; some only a few hours.

Getting all 10 done this summer and fall would be spectacular — but probably not realistic. So I attempted to prioritize them based on a) what’s most urgent and b) what I most want. Naturally, there was no overlap at all between needs and wants. Ain’t that the way it goes?

But. Once all 10 of these are done, the house will be structurally sound and the newly done improvements will all be covered and protected against weather, house-eating vermin, and other everyday hazards. After that, only finishing projects (paint, porches, landscaping, floor coverings) would remain. And that, my dear friends and blog readers, would be amazing.


As I mentioned yesterday, I owe a YUGE thank you — once again — to supporter D. Although I’m not trying to raise funds for this stage of the household resurrection (you all having contributed so much last year), a handful of generous readers have taken it upon themselves to keep me and this work going. And to make other things, like that icon-painting class, possible. And to extend themselves to do good not only for me but for others. I’ve said thank yous before and you know who you are. But extra, extra thanks to D, who seems to have made it a regular part of his life to surprise me with support, always exactly when it’s most needed. Yesterday was one of those days and there once again came D with major, unasked assistance. And encouragement.

What can I say? YUGE.


  1. firstdouglas
    firstdouglas May 31, 2017 8:28 am

    Agreed, am lucky to be alive, given my younger self. But just occasionally, I notice that apparently I’m not entirely through with foolish, risky things..

  2. Shel
    Shel May 31, 2017 9:51 am

    I’ve been personally very lucky as well, including once as an unrestrained passenger in a Corvair convertible sliding sideways at about 55 mph; that particular vehicle wasn’t unsafe at any speed. There are other incidents, of course, that I won’t admit to. I don’t know if Ernest K. Gann coined the term, but Fate is the Hunter is as good an explanation that I can find.

    For another example of unthinkable tragedy, Todd Heap, the Baltimore Ravens tight end, recently accidentally ran over and killed his three year old daughter in his driveway.

  3. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal May 31, 2017 11:00 am

    Many times I did stupid, thoughtless things which should have killed me. Usually not realizing that they were stupid and/or thoughtless until the act was in the past. It makes no sense that I would still be alive when more deserving/useful people aren’t. But, of course, the Universe doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t care- that’s MY job (even when I don’t do it very well).

    Keeping up with houses seems to be a matter of staying just ahead of total collapse. I have a carport which is threatening to collapse at any time. Or, the roof is. The rest is sound. But, every year more “important” maintenance projects crop up to use the limited funds, and the carport gets pushed to the back of the line again. But, next year, for sure…

  4. Joel
    Joel May 31, 2017 11:35 am

    I was speaking to a truck driver this morning, who apparently noticed my limping walk and my creaking prosthetic. “You a veteran?” he asked, “Get blown up in Vietnam?”

    I said, “No, I’m sure they’d have been happy to do it to me, but a lady in a Pontiac beat them to it.”

    Whether we’re being stupid or the person in the car down the block is, life can change or end in a heartbeat and there isn’t always anything we can do about it except stay alert for the things we can change and not let the knowledge that there are things we *can’t* change paralyze us.

  5. ExpatNJ
    ExpatNJ May 31, 2017 1:26 pm

    Claire –

    I am sorry for your friend’s loss, and for what must no doubt be the emotional toll it has taken on you.

  6. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty June 1, 2017 5:57 am

    Very true, Joel. When people ask how I’m doing I usually say something like, “Putting one foot in front of another, the best I can.” And not everyone even has that option. 🙂 Life is not fair, there are no guarantees, and “stuff” happens to everyone – eventually.

    It’s amazing, when you think about it, how many people survive and even thrive anyway.

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