Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Made it home

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we made it home safe and sound on Saturday at 7:15pm. It was sad to watch the temperature plummet from the beautiful 29 degrees centigrade to around zero, but spring is on the way.

I will post a photo montage in a few days once I have had a chance to collect my thoughts and find my camera.

A HUGE THANK YOU to all the folks in Kilmarnock who welcomed us and whose hospitality was top notch. So many had a hand on making sure we ate, we slept, we built and we worshipped. You are all integral to the success of our journey.

Until we meet again.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Homeward Bound

Fridays are always days of mixed emotions. We busily try to complete the projects we started, we continue to share in fellowship and then we have to say our "see ya rounds". It really isn't goodbye, or at least we hope not. We all hope that our paths will cross again either on one side of the border or the other.

It was a gloriously sunny day with the temperatures topping out at 29degrees celcius. Couldn't have asked for better than that.

I was able to get the last of the shed cleaned up before we left and will share a picture when I can located my camera...I know it is in the van, just not sure where. I meant to take a before and after photo. I will have to check previous years photos as I believe I have a photo from then to which I can compare it now.

We were able to get a little shopping in at the Leesburg Outlet mall before retiring in Hershey PA for the evening. Time to get some rest for the remainder of the journey tomorrow. Thanks to Elise and Robert Farrell for their lovely letter tonight - Happy 50th - they are enjoying the celebrations with their family a little further south this year. We raise a glass to you both for such a wonderful milestone.

This time tomorrow I will be sleeping in my own bed, being pestered by my cat...ah, can't wait to be back in the land of the maple leaf

See everyone soon

Friday, March 18, 2011

Our Last FULL Day

Once again, the build site was a buzz of activity, everyone wanting to finish their projects on the site before we have to head north.

The back side of the roof was completed and the front side was completed as far as it could be as the front dormer wasn't completed - the framing was completed by the end of the day which means that the roofing could be completed by the end of our 1/2 day tomorrow.
The young people, under the wonderful tutelage of John, began constructing the shed and should have a good chunk of it completed by tomorrow. Inside was also busy with the cutting of subfloors for HVAC equipment, spacers for drywall were added and junction boxes were added throughout the house. I was surprised to find out that more than 60 boxes were needed in the house - between outlets and light switches, I guess I just haven't really counted them on one floor at home before.
I spent the day cleaning out the tool shed which I am told hasn't been done in at least 6 years probably more like 10. There was plenty of "stuff" including pails of random tools which all now have their own place in the trailer, some really old, ratty paintbrushes and cloths, and plenty of mouse poop. I wore a mask when sweeping the floor - between the amount of dust, dirt, sawdust and mouse poo, I though it best.
Some of the group left the worksite an hour early to head to the local 10 pin bowling lane for an afternoon of fun. It was a great break and everyone seems to have enjoyed the experience. Just before leaving the worksite, we endulged in some really good brownies and lemon squares that Megan and I purchased in town at lunchtime from a local gourmet food store.

For dinner, we were hosted by Larry Adams and his wife at Moratico church about 1/2 hour north of Kilmarnock right on the Rappahannock River. A beautful spot to enjoy the sunset. Toni, her daughter and grandson joined us and we presented her with the quilt. Both the kids wanted the quilt in their room so I guess they will have to share it.

It was also a bittersweet evening as we said goodbye to Leonard, John's childhood friend who is an incredible teacher with a wonderfully wicked sense of humour and plenty of stories which he is always happy to share. He is heading back to North Carolina first thing in the morning and we wish him a safe journey home and thank him from the bottom of our hearts. He is a true blessing and an important part of our experience.

Tomorrow will be a busy day with packing out from the hotel and finishing our tasks on the jobsite as well as saying our "See you laters" to everyone who has been so kind and generous. True southern hospitality.

Tonight we spent some time preparing our Thank you cards to be sent locally to all the folks who fed and watered us on this journey. We enjoyed a great variety of meals including BBQ, grits, chocolate eclairs and so many other choices, too many to list. Thank you to Ryan Monkman for his lovely letter and also to Jimmy Carter for the forward in a book which I am bringing back to KUC about the history and philosophy of Habitat so all of you can learn about the program.

We have been blessed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rain turns to bright sunshine

This morning it was a little damp around the job site. The first order of business was putting the straw around the house so that we weren't working in a mud pit.

Jobs for the day included installing the interior walls, shingling the roof with white shingles - I still can't get used to them, insulating around the shower enclosure.

It is hard to belive that we have reached the halfway point of our journey and only have 1.5 days left on the build site. Once again we have been welcomed into the community by so many people here that it is like coming home to family. There have been so many stories shared and so much mentoring from our hosts.

Tonight we enjoyed two letters from home, a video blog from Stephane and a note from Kate and Richard Batty.

Full Speed ahead

Today, a little cooler than yesterday, saw the group split into two groups to take on multiple tasks. One group stayed on the build site to assist with the installation of the roof trusses. A boom truck was brought in to help lift the trusses up to the roof which allowed for the job to move ahead swiftly. By lunch break, the group had the trusses up, and one side sheathed.

The other group, returned to the Willis house to do complete some last minute tasks before they take posession on Wednesday. The bathroom towel racks were installed, a front path was set with patio stones and the leftover stones were used to put a couple outside the basement door and the bottom steps of the back deck. There was some raking of the yard which is currently all sand and the stray garbage and leftover building supplies were picked up and the tools were removed. The house looks great and we certainly hope that the Willis family will fill it with much love and have many wonderful memories.
After lunch, the roof crew returned to sheath the other half of it and then put up the tar paper. If it doesn't rain on Wednesday the shingles will be put on. We are told they are light coloured which will certainly be very different than we are used to. This is part of the new "green build" model that the affiliate is trying to incorporate during the building process. We will have to update folks tomorrow on the outcome.

The building then got wrapped with Tyvek, the some of the interior walls were prepared to be installed tomorrow, the shower and bathtub inserts were moved into the house and the inside stablizers were removed - a little demolition is always fun. Before leaving for the end of day two, the lumber we will need to use tomorrow was moved inside the house so it won't get wet overnight.

There is lots to do tomorrow, hopefully we won't be too many people indoors - we may need to come up with some other things to do to keep everyone busy.

Thanks Helen Pinel for your kind words this evening.

Here are pictures of the house at the beginning of the day, and what it looked like when we left for the day.

Good job everyone!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A First Day Pictoral

The First Day

We arrived at the site today with the sun shining and a slight breeze. It wasn 't really warm but above zero!

The day started with our usual safety talk from Herb - HE who must be obeyed. We prayed and then it was off to work. Lumber had to be moved from one place to another, the subfloor needed to have the plastic removed (which was keeping it dry), table saws needed to be set up, 2x4's needed to be crowned, and the walls begun. It didn't take long before the worksite was a buzz of activity with the hammers banging and the chop saw humming. All the red hard hats were heads down and hands were busy.

After lunch the first wall was ready to be raised. And up it went! Then the back wall. With braces in place, it was time to start on the two shorter side walls. And by the end of the day, we had encased the entire house, and cut out the front door.

It was a great day, a tiring day, some folks found muscles they didn't know they had. I am sure more will find those tomorrow after a nights sleep. All in all it was a safe day on the worksite, maybe a few slivers and only one swan dive off the side of the wall by yours truly! Poor Nick watched it all unfold standing on a ladder at the opposite end of the house and couldn't do anything - I knew after I took the first step off the edge that it wasn't going to be pretty but I just let myself go (as lesson taught to me by my wise grandmother) and then waited for the eruption of laughter or gasps from the rest of the group, only to have silence - then I thought Oh, no one saw me, just get up and brush myself off and then I won't have to explain.....that would be too good to be true! I got up only to have Nick looking at me wide eyed at the other end of the house asking me if I was okay - to which I responded a firm YES!

We were also being watched today, by an inquisitive hawk that had a nest up in one of the trees on the edge of the lot. I am sure the bird (assuming it was female - hope to be able to ID it tomorrow) was wondering what was going on. There hasn't been been any work on the site for a few weeks so it has been quiet, then today it was hive of activity. The hawk would return to her branch every so often and make a just enough noise to let you know she was there and then off again. The outdoors are waking up, everyday something we didn't see yesterday - robins, nuthatches, flying insects and the wonderful calls of the spring peepers. There have also been plenty of daffodils and dandelions as well as a pretty purple flowered ground cover that seems to add just enough colour to the landscape.

We wrapped up our day around 4pm and returned to the hotel for a little down time before heading to Grace Episcopal Church for dinner. What a wonderful meal of Brunswick stew (chicken, corn, tomatoes and lima beans in a broth), fresh garlic bread - with cloves of garlic baked right into the loaf, and some very decadent brownies, chocolate chip cookies and ice cream for dessert.

During our evening gathering we shared our experiences of the first day and read a wonderful letter by Lauren Delcourt (miss you and wish you were here!). The group is playing a rousing game of paper telephone - it is quite entertaining but wonderful to hear the laughter being shared amongst the group of 16, teens and adults alike, some of whom, only days ago had never even met.

Tomorrow the boom truck will be on site to get the roof trusses up on the roof so we will have a variety of groups working on different tasks: a shed needs to be built and there are some finishings that need to be completed at the Willis house before they "close" tomorrow. The weather is calling for a little rain tomorrow afternoon and Wednesday. Hopefully it won't set us back too far.

I'm not really sure....

How to describe today's events.

I am not sure I could adequately relay our experience at Macedonia Baptist Church today. The 2 hour and 20 minute service included praise worship, liturgical dance, the women's choir, a powerful sermon on Commitment and a whole lot of clapping and proclaiming Jesus. They were so warm and welcoming to us. We had a wonderful turkey dinner for lunch in the church hall with everyone in their Sunday finery. It is always interesting visiting another church and it always causes pause for thought on how we do things in our own congregation. You can check out their website and snippets of the Pastor's sermons are there and you will get a little taste of what we shared in today. http://233140.myvideotalkstudio.com/streaming/pages/6

After lunch John, Herb and Leonard took us over to see the Willis house (the house we built last year). It was beautiful! The family takes posession on Wednesday of this week. There were still a few things that need to be "detailed" but the place looks great and will be such a wonderful improvement to their current living quarters.

From there, we headed to this year's jobsite to see where we would be starting tomorrow morning. The joists are in and the subfloor on top, so we will be starting with the walls and hope to have 4 of them in place before we leave the site tomorrow.

Then, on to the BEACH and had some fun in the sand and surf. It's not a huge beach but offered enough space for a frisbee to be thrown (until it needed to be fished out of the ocean water - thanks Megan), some beachcombing, some reading and most important! Catching some rays and Vitamin D! It was so nice just to be able to ditch the coats and the boots, put on the flip flops and some shorts and enjoy the warmth. The sign in town said it was 75 - the weather network said it was 16. Either way, we'll enjoy it!

For dinner we all headed over to a new Mexican restaurant which has moved in to where a great seafood place used to be. The Mexican family that owns the restaurant were very welcoming and the food fabulous. The waiter even came in with 5 plates of food all at once - he stacked them up his arm (4) and then held the last one in his other hand.

We spent the rest of the evening sharing our thoughts of the day, sharing a song that I think reminds people that it is the small stuff that changes the world on a daily basis (Johnny Reid's - Today I'm gonna try and change the world) and Bev sent us a wonderful letter reminding us about being "bucket fillers" - Thank you. And then we played a variety of card games.

First day on the jobsite is always a busy one! Should get to sleep.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring does exist......

It just happens to start about 800 km south of Ottawa.

This morning we awoke to a dusting of snow on the vehicles that Tom so lovingly cleaned off for all of us and we were off on our way. It was an uneventful drive...until we got back onto the highway going north instead of south after a pit stop - Oh well, just our version of groundhog day.

As we headed further south, the signs of spring started to appear: the grass started greening up, the buds of the maples were bright red and ready to pop, the motorcyclists and muscle cars were out in great numbers, and the greens on the local golf courses had pins in them and people teeing off at the tee box. The bright sun also helped as its warmth beamed through the van window. The further south we went, there were daffodils in bloom, magnolias in bloom and plenty of wildlife. There were 2 bald eagles, an owl (were not 100% it wasn't a decoy), numerous hawks, turkey vultures and the all american zebra.

We arrived in Kilmarnock just as the sun was setting and took a quick drive down Pond Park Lane to take a peek at our handiwork from last year. The houses look wonderful and were obviously being enjoyed - it appeared that at least one of them was having a gathering of friends. After speaking with John, the Willis house will close on Wednesday and we will have a chance to see the place before we leave. It will be great to see the Willis family again and share in their excitement of new homeownership.

Our hosts left us some gift bags with wonderful treats for everyone and are greatful for their generosity. We also got our 2011 shirts which we will wear out to church tomorrow. Thank you Steve and Wilma for your letter.

Oh the fire alarm in the hotel is going off...need to rally the troops.....False alarm. We are all back inside.

Time for bed, lose an hour's sleep tonight.

Friday, March 11, 2011

It was an ordinary day.....until...

It is always nice to start a trip with a new experience....usually! We got away in good time, just after the lunch hour, all vehicles packed and on our way.

We arrived at the bridge and border crossing in on time and were surprised to find that the lineups weren't too long. Often times when we arrive, there is an agent directing traffic into specific lanes, but not today, there weren't enough cars to warrant it. Often times we don't all go through the same wicket so we congregate just past the border on the large shoulder to wait for the rest of the caravan - which we have jokingly named the silver bullet brigade as all vehicles (except Sue's) is silver.
Sue goes through first, Tom pulls up behind a few minutes later and then we wait......and wait......and wait.....finally Bob pulls in about 15 minutes later.....only to tell us that Ruth & Jason and Joanne & Gavin have been asked to vacate the vehicle and hand over their passports....there was papers they had to sign - meanwhile, the sniffing dogs are desperate to get under the car.

Now I have to also say that the vans we have are brand new...two had less than 70kms on them and the other only a few hundred.

So we waited......and waited......an hour and a half later Ruth had been cleared and told by the Custom's agent "Welcome to America" and sent on their way. Upon their return to the van, it was evident that Fido and his master had taken a good look - here is the paw print to prove it and as I write this, Ruth is wiping the dog snot from the outside of her suitcase.

Then it was time to stop to have a washroom break which we usually do just over the Wellsley Island bridge in the park rest area. The parking lot was quite full with people doing the same thing. Lo and behold, who is in the parking lot? but the group from Pakenham Pastoral Charge who were heading to Syracuse to board the train for their Habitat Trip to Mississippi. They too were waiting for someone from their group to get through the border. We wished them well and continued on our journey.
As you know, this is our first year doing the 15 hour drive in 2 days which so far, everyone has thought was a good idea. This is very similar as to how we do the return journey and gives everyone a chance to rest.
Tomorrow will be a long day filled with various word association games, billboard reading and discussing, movie watching, karaoke and getting to know one another. Another mission trip has begun!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

3 days and counting....

Until our next journey begins, our 6th, which I find hard to believe. When I look back to how many people have been involved over the 6 years of builds there are many. I am always inspired by the youth that spend all of their highschool March Breaks helping to make someone else's life better.

Plans are busily coming together, forms are signed, safety equipment packed, car "fun kits" are prepared with snacks and games to keep 10 teenagers occupied for the 15 hours of van time. We are set to take off at noon on Friday and for the first time in 4 years, take 2 days to get to our VA destination.

Mother Nature is toying with us at the moment with warm temperatures when we arrive and then cooling off for the build days. We are hearty Canadians so I don't think it is anything long underwear and constant motion won't be able to handle. We may also need to find some fun activities to fill a rain day - some bowling or swimming will be great fun.

Thank you for joining us on this journey from the world wide web. We hope you will enjoy our adventures

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Here we go again....

How is it that we are already less than one month out of our 6th HFH trip? Once again, we are returning to Kilmarnock,VA to build another wonderful house with an incredible affiliate who have taken us in like family. It has always been a pleasure to work with them and this year will present new opportunties to build in another part of the county and renew friendships while developing new ones.

This year we are a smaller group with only 17 people participating. While this is fewer than we have had in the past, they are no less eager to complete the same amount of work! I am sure on the first day the group will be talking about where they would like to get to in 5 days. We are always amazed at the house that stands before us on the last day as we pull away from the build site........I am getting away from myself, there is still plenty of work to be done before we even leave home.

We are excited......we are truly blessed to be participating.