Building a new house. The excitement, and endless decision making.

foundationThree years ago Brad and I bought land in a gated community in the North Georgia Mountains, with the intention of building a summer home of our dreams.    Last fall we bought architectural plans, hired a contractor, and received building permits to start construction at the beginning of this year.  Upon clearing the land and building a foundation our one level, two bedroom cottage turned into three levels.  There went our small house!   The lot is sloped, so it needed a large deep foundation.  Our high ceilings begged for a loft so that space wouldn’t be wasted.  It made sense, and the second bedroom was relocated upstairs as we made room for a larger master bedroom.  We also added an office in the loft overlooking the great room. This was all decided from our house in Florida with numerous phone calls and video chats with our contractor, Duane.

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When framing neared completion we flew in for a walk through.  The kitchen was too small, but we had a random room behind it where we could expand.  We changed some windows, and added a door in the bedroom leading out to a spacious deck.  The three of us figured out the placement of appliances, what made the most sense for an easy flow,  marking accordingly for electric and plumbing lines.

buliding1Before we headed back to Florida we picked out windows, roofing, outside paint colors and other immediate issues.  We continued daily chats and photo updates with Duane as he got things done.  Construction was moving along, until we didn’t hear from  him.  A week or two passed, we finally got word that he was in the hospital from a massive heart attack. We’d become friends with Duane, this tragic news affected us and our community.

My husband decided he could take over the completion of our house.  We loaded up our plane, dog and necessities for the long haul. Already owning a rental duplex we stayed there, getting kicked out on weekends to keep our rental agreements intact.  The evening of our arrival we checked on construction progress.  Much needed to be done, but I knew Brad could make it happen and I’d help anyway I could. 

He looked at his phone a bit teary-eyed.   “I just got a text.  Duane passed away at 7:45.  That’s about the time we walked in here.”

“Wow.  So sorry, but it didn’t sound very promising the past few days.”

Brad got busy organizing specialists for the upcoming weeks. Electric, A/C, flooring, painters, trim, plumbers, and cabinets.  There were no shows, high quotes, phone calls not returned and others too busy to take on new projects.  In the mean time we had my handy nephew drive up from Florida to help with some minor stuff.  We kept him busy with the outside fencing and cleaning.   We found dependable hard-working painters who started right away on the exterior.

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We had to decide on fixtures, starting on the door handles.

“I’d like a statement piece on the front door.”  I said.

“What about the rest of the doors?” he asked.

“Just normal door handles.” I responded.

“What’s normal?  They have different colors, types, locks?”  He asked.

“Just the normal round knobs in nickel.”

“You don’t like the hooked door handles?”

“I don’t care, its a just a round knob with a lock right?”  I said in frustration.  “You pick the rest of the handles, and I’ll find the statement one for the front door.”

This is pretty much how we chose the details at first, until we sat down for a day or two searching and comparing our individual styles on Amazon and similar sites.  Fans, lights, sconces, sinks, faucets, fencing, appliances, indoor paint colors, trim colors, flooring and tiles. I missed Duane’s opinion as he was helpful with decisions. We made daily trips to Lowes, an hour and a half round trip. I noticed the details in these things everywhere I went in restaurants, stores and houses.  They were in my nightly dreams when I wasn’t running around trying to save my pup from strange creatures chasing us… a topic for another blog or a psychologist.

cincy1We visited my family in Cincinnati for a weekend, allowing occupancy for renters who had booked months prior.  We had to pack up everything  into storage or take it with us. A heat wave engulfed the east coast which made flying around or above the cumulus clouds and weather a bit harrowing.flying

hikingBack in the mountains I made a point to go hiking when possible and occasionally relax at a winery for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc with an amazing view.  Amazon packages arrived regularly, and on some days the construction site looked like a beehive with everyone working.

We’re leaving the basement unfinished for now.  It’s framed out with space for two bedrooms plus a storage area, and a sauna/hot yoga room wired for the required 220-240 voltage.  We have to leave again this weekend for our rentals and we’ll either camp out at our new house, or visit a nearby town such as Asheville. I’ve been slacking on  blogging, but it’s been a busy yearsmile nature1

New year, new beginnings.

new year10After watching the year in review on several TV channels, I can’t help but think it’s been a crappy year for the world.  Lately, natural disasters, mass shootings and political turmoil are normal, but this year it seemed even more extreme.  I had several people tell me the past few weeks that it’s been a rough year, for some their worst, and they are waiting to begin anew in 2019.  It has nothing to do with the economy, since that is thriving.  Just personal unrelated hardships and frustrations in today’s fast paced life.  I feel we need to slow down, tolerate others, think before acting, be calm and be nice to one another.

For me, I’ve had challenges, setbacks and hurdles to overcome.  But I’ve also had some amazing adventures, experiences and personal growth.  I’m putting 2018 behind me, remembering the good times and letting go of the rest.

I’m starting fresh and positive, aiming for the betterment of our communities, society, America and our planet.  Let’s help each other in this sometimes complicated nation.  Put down our phones, and think twice about constantly checking social media.  Take moments to enjoy the natural landscape and gatherings with family and friends.  Consider what’s important in life and pursue that, because at the end of the day it is  what really matters. Together let’s make 2019 the best year ever.

“Be always at war with your vices,
at peace with your neighbors and
let each new year find you a better person.
Happy New Year”

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Let’s give a warm welcome to the year that starts a new, appreciate each moment that the year shall behold, so let’s come together and celebrate a wonderful start to the New Year. Happy New Year.

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And always find a reason to laugh.  It may not add years to your life, but it will surely add life to your years.

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The Best Gift: Love

yoda5I had a major scare this month with one of the loves of my life, my pup, Yoda.  She is a sensitive girl with quite a few unknown allergies, as I learned each time the hard way.

I dropped her off at her veterinarian for a routine teeth cleaning, a first time for my nine-year old Snorkie (schnauzer-yorkie) breed.  I was worried about putting her under anesthesia for a painless deep clean, but her vet and groomer assured me she’d be fine, and she needed it to keep her teeth into old age.  She loves food, so I considered her future.  For the procedure I couldn’t feed her in the morning, so I planned on picking her up late afternoon with a junior burger.

Upon arriving she gave me concern looks, Why am I here getting poked and prodded while I’m hungry?

The doctor said he’d call after the procedure to let me know how she’s doing.

I got the call early afternoon.  “She’s stable,” he said in a shaky,  stressful tone.

He then explained that she made it through the cleaning and woke up with a cough, so he gave her penicillin and she went into anaphylactic shock. She needed three epi pens to come around, an iv, and she’s now on oxygen.

I paced as tears flowed down my cheeks.

He continued.  “I want to keep her on oxygen, and monitor her closely.  She will need to go to a 24 hour care facility around 5:00.  I’ll call and let you know in a few hours.”

“I want to see her before she goes into intensive care,” I managed to say without a sob.

“Yes, I’ll need you to pick her up for the transfer.”

After hanging up I paced some more, made a few phone calls to those who could listen and just floated around not knowing what to do.  There was nothing I could do but hope for the best outcome, her survival.  I was at home waiting for the air-conditioning repairman to finish his work.

He looked at me with concern. “Is everything okay?”

“No, my dog.”  I sobbed.   “Hospital.”

He was compassionate and showed it, although his English was limited he understood and kept saying “sorry.”  I’m sure it’s hard for a stranger to watch a woman cry, but he was gracious and fixed my AC.

I lingered and wandered around the house, and then my office building around the corner until I got the phone call to transfer her to ER.

When I arrived to pick her up, the vet emerged holding Yoda perched in his arms.  It looked like they both went to hell and back.  He gave me the address and let me know they are expecting her and fully aware of the situation.

What should have been a 10 minute drive turned into a harrowing half hour.  My right hand was on her tummy making sure she breathed.  We sat in holiday traffic as I had to remember to stay calm despite her struggle for steady breath.  She flashed me, What the hell looks.”  I glanced back with love, although my nerves and mind seemed uncertain and scared.

“We got this,” I whispered to her.  “Hang in there punky.”

The facility and staff were welcoming and amazing.  She’d be in the best care, level one, which is like intensive care with constant checking in on her well being.  If necessary, they’d notify me with updates and I could call anytime to check on her.

I called in the evening.  They told me she’s fine but still on oxygen, and she’d been through a lot.  My heart dropped and worried.  She had to pull through because she loves life and is loved dearly by many.

In the evening I learned from my groomer friend that she had more machines on her than her body size.  The scene was pretty chaotic and tense from what she said.  They were determined to keep her alive, and I’d be forever thankful.

It was a difficult night for both of us.  With my husband out-of-town and dog in the hospital I watched a feel good movie.  Throughout the night, I sent good vibes to both of them, and the universe knowing she had to pull through.  Our time together was not over, not yet.  We have too much love to share, and lessons to teach each other.

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The next day I picked her up, bought her that Wendy’s hamburger, fed her meds she spit out and just enjoyed each others company.  I got the evil eye, followed by looks of unconditional love.  That to me is the best present I could have.

 

 

My Love, my first and forever dog.

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The gloved life

blonde gloves - CopyAbout a year ago I noticed red dots on my right hand which would come and go over the course of a few months.  Then they showed up my other hand, bigger and redder, so I decided to see a dermatologist.

“You have atopic dermatitis.”   She said.

“Okay.  What’s that,” I asked.

“It’s chronic eczema.  I see it all the time.”

She explained that for the next two weeks, I’d apply a steroid cream to my hands and cover them with plastic gloves each night.  My hands cleared.  The rash came back and I did the same treatment.  This went on for months as the rash kept getting worst.  I felt like something I touched caused it, especially on my right hand, my dominant hand.

Researching my diagnosis, I eventually came across a website called, eczema exposed.  My perpetual rash could be an allergy, I convinced myself.  Contact dermatitis sounded more realistic, and I had to take matters into my own hands.  The rash continued to get worse and more painful.  I needed a cure.

“You’re allergic to your phone.”  My husband teased me.

“I think it’s nickel. We’re going to have to replace all doorknobs, appliances, and fixtures.”  I told him, believing it to be true.

A panel of thirty-seven common irritants were uncomfortably taped to my back for 48 hours.

“Wow.” The doctor’s assistant said over and over while removing my panels.  “This one blistered, one of the worse I’ve seen. And number ten is just as bad.”

She gathered up the number’s, printed out the results and additional information as I waited.  The doctor came in and asked to see my back.  “Well, what’s the results?” I asked.

“I don’t know, or care.  My assistant will bring you the info.”  She left in her sparkling red high heels and white coat.  I was shocked. She was the rudest doctor I’ve ever met.

The blistered result was bacitracin which I already knew about. I was surprised they tested me for it since it appeared on my past medical history. I guess the doctor just wanted me to suffer.  I concentrated on the second one, a product used in the processing of rubber.  The assistant handed me all the paperwork and suggested this is where the detective work begins.  She sent me out the door with no other guidance.

Okay, that was pleasant.  I didn’t know much about rubber, but I didn’t think it played a big part in my life. Over the next few weeks, I’d learn how much it does.

cord bundleI called a friend to share my results. My husband was right, my phone cover had a rubber rim.  I removed it and went to the nearest best buy for a plastic one.  All electric and iPhone cords are possible culprits, so I started taping parts of those with body tape to shield me.  I bought a clear nail polish for protection from my headphones and ear buds I use daily.  I tossed the rubber wristband I wore. The gloves I used to treat my allergy, yes latex.  I replaced those with vinyl.  Bike handles, pens, golf clubs, tires and buttons on the remote, golf cart steering wheel all contain partial rubber products.

I climbed inside our small single engine plane and stared at the cockpit.  I was flying in a rubber nightmare.  I decided to deal with it for the ride and when I arrived at our destination I became proactive.  I’d order gloves.  Silk gloves, lacy gloves, leather gloves, in all colors.  I’d have fun with it. The gloved life, until I figure it out.  I’m not sure if I look like Micky Mouse or My Fair Lady wearing my white gloves.  I’d like to think the latter.

micky mouse handsMy Fair Lady dance

The chemical I’m allergic to relates to rubber, latex, neoprene, elastic, spandex, lycra and things I’m still learning.  Latex allergies are becoming more common and life changing.  My allergy may get worse if not dealt with in a timely manner. In fact the Association of Latex Allergy suggest I get an EpiPen and a medical I.D. warning of my allergy.  I’ll be rubber free before I allow that to happen.

It’s a tedious process of finding out what products have these ingredients and I wish manufacturers  were more forthcoming.  Until then it’s a matter of acting as a detective, with research and trial and error. I’d like to see a chemical free environment going forward because this growing problem is not going away.

Being proactive I’ve changed all under garments to 100% cotton, except my running bras.  As a “C” cup it’s impossible to have a supportive high intensity workout bra made of cotton.  So my solution was to run to Wal-Mart and find a few cheap cotton ones to wear under my spandex’s bras.  Problem solved and they are so much more comfortable.

If you are diagnosed with eczema, get an allergy test just in case it’s something you can eventually control.  I respect most doctors, but I don’t always trust their judgement.  Ultimately, you are responsible for your own health.  Do research, ask questions, and talk to others who have been through similar experiences.  Please share your comments, experiences or questions below.

micky mouse

 

A look back at 2017

As a new year approaches, I’d like to look back at highlights in the news and my personal life this past year.

Natural disasters battered the United States this year with record-setting hurricanes hitting the east coast and fires blazing though the west.

hurricane2Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, leaving 82 dead and many homeless.  Total rainfall from a single storm set a record at 51.88 inches and total damage costing $180 billion.  A few weeks later Irma threatened the entire state of Florida, pushing Harvey out of the spotlight.  As a category 5, it was the largest Atlantic storm in history, reaching winds of 185 mph for 37 continuous hours. The cone of death affected the most populated cities of the east and then shifted to the west coast of Florida. Mandatory and voluntary evacuations caused the largest evacuation irmaof any state.  Massive traffic jams ensued.  I left the east coast, as did many of my friends.  Hotels were sold out and people just started heading north, out of the state.  In the end we got very lucky as far as deaths, we had widespread damage, but not devastating as predicted. Irma initially hit landfall in the Keys and then the west coast near Marco Island.  Hurricane Marie formed as Irma left.  After causing catastrophic damage across the northeast Caribbean, it hit Puerto Rico knocking out its power grid, three months later over half are still without power.  The death toll is reported as 64, although many believe this number is higher.

ca fire 1The 2017 California wildfire season is the most destructive one on record.  I visited southern California a month or so prior to the  fires, and the dryness was evident everywhere. In October a series of fires broke out in the north’s scenic wine country. It killed 44 people and destroyed about 9000 structures. Southern California had its outbreak in December.  High priced land in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles county got hit the worst with the Santa Ana winds exasperating the situation.  The Thomas fire, the largest blaze in California’s history destroyed over a 1000 structures and over 50,000 had to evacuate, causing gridlock in an already congested area.

rabbit fire 2Good news came from all these disasters and people came together helping each other, and especially close to my heart our furry friends.  Dogs and Cats were flown from Puerto Rico rescue centers to Florida.  One of my friends adopted one of these dogs who went from extremely skinny to a loving pet.  Wildlife officials rescued a mountain lion with burnt paws during the Thomas fire.  A video of a man rescuing a rabbit on the side of the road while evacuating, went viral.

With all the natural, social and political disasters, sometimes it feels like the world is coming to an end.  Mass shootings, vehicular homicides, nuclear escalation, sexual abuse, an opioid epidemic, increasing homelessness, and ongoing wars.  Yes, it’s there, but in the new year let’s make it a priority to focus on commonalities and solutions.

On a personal level it’s been a great year. My travels took me to Helen, Georgia to witness a total eclipse, Southern California for a father-daughter bonding, various Florida cities, Andros, Bahamas to visit a dear friend, and mostly Bimini, Bahamas where I live part-time.

I  continue my pursuit in physical, spiritual and mindful growth.  Yoga keeps me on track with daily mantras and challenges.  I can recognize my emotions easier and think before reacting.  Running gives me the cardio I love while listening to audiobooks to fulfill my craving for knowledge.  I put my own novel, Breakfast In Bimini, into audible format.  Sales for my paperback and kindle edition have done well this year.  All three formats can be found at:  https://www.amazon.com/Breakfast-Bimini-Sierra-Michaels/dp/1533699062/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1514674744&sr=8-2&keywords=breakfast+in+bimini

What is your word for 2018?  What are you hopeful for and what are you doing to make it happen?  Be the change you want to see in the world.  My word is Love.heart

 

 

The homeless problem: From condemnation to compassion

homeless-cart2.jpgMy recent visit to southern California left me frustrated by the rampant homeless  problem seizing the golden state.  I lived in the heart of L.A for over a decade, and homelessness existed, but it didn’t seem permanent or ubiquitous.  Mostly confined to Venice Beach, downtown at Skid Row, and the freeway ramps with beggars holding honest or creative signs.  This time I noticed them everywhere, even in the out-of-the-way, senior living town of Sun City.  This desert town was once only occupied by the 55 and over crowd, retirees looking for cheap living in a safe community.  The youths were watched closely, and vagabonds non-existent.  This visit I watched backpackers and cart pushers wandering though town with all their belongings.  A few were passed out in bushes, homeless man 2others displayed burnt hard faces of the street life, and some lived in their car.  I felt disheartened, and disappointed that this seemed to be the new norm.

 

On the evening news, they showed permanent homeless camps along the L.A. river.  What in the hell is going on in this state, I thought.  Do people seriously want to live a homeless life?  Why can’t they get a job, or move to where they can live a better life?  The trash they leave behind is unbelievable!

I visited Santa Monica for a few memorable days to enjoy my old playground on the beach and in the mountains.  My morning runs took me though Venice Beach, where the homeless have always migrated. Again, it was out of control. Camps with tents, personal belongings, bikes and stoves.  They’d wake, use the public toilets and drink their lattes.  An ambulance was called for a dispute or injury between two of them.  Great, your tax dollars at work for those that don’t contribute.

Later that evening as I walked to dinner they hung out on main street, and I didn’t feel safe turning some dark corners.  Why let these people invade prime property?  Why do locals accept and support people who do nothing  to better society?

Back in Florida we also have a homeless problem as do many towns.  Sometimes they harass me, other times I smile at them.   I’m trying my best to hold compassion for everyone, including the destitute.  After all, I don’t know their story.  Many jobs have gone overseas, and the cost of living is increasing, especially in California.  I have since opened my mind and heart and compassion is my new word of the month.  With the holidays upon us, I hope to keep my eyes and heart open to those in trouble and need.homeless familycompassion jpeg

-Compassion-is-an-action-word-with-no-boundaries

Total Eclipse from North Georgia

Like many others I eagerly awaited August 21, 2017 for a chance to see a total eclipse. In Helen, Georgia that meant 1 minute and 41 seconds of complete darkness. People flocked to our town and others within the path of totality. Many events took place in the surrounding wineries, parks, schools and communities.  Wanting to avoid gridlock, we chose to have our own celebration at the Innsbruck Club house overlooking the golf course, and a regular meeting place for local residents.

About 50 people showed up with side dishes to compliment the burgers my husband cooked on the grill.  Moonshine cake and moon pies sat among the salads while the bartenders served up Tequila Sunrise cocktails.  The sky was clear, a telescope for viewing sat on the veranda porch alongside golf clubs, balls and corn hole games. Everyone brought their viewing glasses and excitement, the eclipse had just begun with the moon slowly casting a shadow over the sun.

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I’d glance up at different stages, taking a few photos with my iPhone.  We milled about, socialized, ate, drank and looked up again.  An amateur photographer with a professional camera rigged a solar filter by duck tapping part of the eclipse glasses to his lens.  After an hour and a half the sky became grey. Everyone spread out on the porch, parking lot and even the golf range for the moment of totality.  It was easy to spot through the cardboard glasses since everything including the sliver of light went black, then it was safe to look directly at the sun.  I stared in awe, mesmerized for almost two minutes until the sun, known as the diamond ring, peeked through the other side.

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Afterwards, about half of the crowd left, not really interested in the waning of the moon passing over the sun.  The rest of us shot golf balls off the deck with the goal of hitting the 9th hole about 100 yards in the distance.  A young lady in her early 20’s hit her ball closest to the flag, as professional golfers competed against her shot to no avail. Drinks and some new age conversation flowed until the sun and heat returned full force and the party dwindled.

I had witnessed partial eclipses in the past, but it doesn’t compare to a total eclipse. During the brief moment of totality the world seemed so different and so small in comparison to the universe.  I later learned that this phenomenon occurs every two years in different parts of our world.  I found it so memorizing that I’d consider myself a total eclipse chaser.  Here I come South America in 2019.

total eclipse

Photos by Josh Garrison