Monday, November 26, 2007

The Money Pit

So you're the proud new homeowners! Aww! Congratulations. You've worked hard. You have so many ideas on how to make your new home just perfect. Big dreams, maybe some do it yourself projects, just a tweak here or there. Soon it will be just as you want it.

GOOD LUCK with that.

Our home has been a work in progress, for well, about 2 years now. Sure we only bought the land 2 years ago but that is when progress started. Designing, plotting, erasing, starting again. Then we broke ground and things really got going. Fortunately we were 2,000 miles away and didn't see all the day to day progress but we knew it was chugging right along (I swear that's the only way to have a house built. You be far, far away). Finally the day comes and we move in. Ya there was the punch list, ours maybe a little longer than typical, but manageable. Too bad the dang thing had to go all smoke house crazy on us before we got the list completed, but we just tacked on about 130 little things to the bottom of it and kept our chin up. I mean how long could things take? Really? Well I suppose if things were done according to some sane person's schedule it wouldn't take that long. But this is construction we are talking about. Construction in Tennessee.

Don't get me wrong. I love seeing Bubba and Junior and Bubba Jr and Bubba who drives the red truck and the Bubba who drives that Vega. They are all great guys. We love company. But when Bubba says he wants to start work tomorrow, I make a mental note to at least brush my hair that morning before I send the kids off to school. Maybe even pick up the house a little bit, do some dishes and sweep up some Legos.

So I wait and wait and wait. Maybe Bubba isn't coming over like he said. 2:30 and the kids will be home from school soon. Eventually up the drive comes Bubba!! Now the particular job doesn't sound too difficult, he and his team are to work on paint and drywall in our house. He takes a look around and decides he needs some more materials for the job. He'll back back in 2 days. Is around this time OK? Ya, sounds OK to me, I'll do my errands tomorrow and then the next day I'll be lazy like I usually am and start picking stuff up around noon.

6:30 am the next morning and I hear someone coming up the drive. I answer the doorbell as I lick my finger with spit to try to wipe off yesterday's mascara from under my eyes and there's good ol' Bubba ready for work.

He comes in and starts laying out materials and saws and drop cloths as I try to shuffle kids out of the way before they head off to the school bus. Bubba mentions to me not to worry about a thing as he has 7 kids himself and boy was it a hoot one time when the middle one decided he wanted to take a reciprocating saw to the electrical outlet. About burned the house down that time, but how are kids supposed to learn a darn thing if you never let them touch anything?

Eventually kids are off to the bus stop and Bubba looks like he's making good progress, I mean that big pile of dust seems to show that right? Soon it's 10:30am and it's time for lunch break. Apparently a long lunch break. Kids are home from school. I make a special mental note to keep them away from reciprocating saws. Bubba reappears and says that he's going to have to come back tomorrow, he'll leave his stuff under the tarp where the kids won't be inclined to fiddle with it.

The next morning at 8:30 I was pleasantly surprised to see Bubba coming up the drive. And not only him, but 2 more trucks full of guys. Apparently Bubba decided he wanted to get this job over and done with. I knew he'd come through! I greet him at he door with an enthusiastic "Hi there!" He lets out a sigh and informs me that he has gotten called to another job and needs to take his equipment over there. But it should be a quick one and will be back in 2 days.

So the next day I figure that I may as well go treat myself to a trip to Target after all I had been through and jump in the car for a little shopping. I come home and unload my treasures and then decide to go check the mail. Upon my return from the mailbox I notice a little note on the door. It reads, "Came by to finish job. You were not home. Be back next week."

Next week. WHEN next week. What day? What time?

Sorry. Doesn't ever get any more detailed than that.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Driving in Tennessee

Now I know that Tennessee must have some traffic laws, problem is I have never actually witnessed anyone following them. Well, I take that back. The one and only traffic law to be obeyed is the speed limit. And rule of thumb there is to take the speed limit and reduce it by 10 mph just to be on the safe side. The double yellow? Just double the fun to cross. Red light? Just a suggestion. Stop sign? What's the point. Left turn on green? Only in emergencies (pray that you are the point car in the left hand turn lane. If you find yourself 3 cars back it would be much easier to make a right and then a U-turn.)

Let's just say that the roads in TN are roads only in that they may have some asphalt and a few painted details. And at one time, they were probably more than adequate for vintage Model B's. And since change comes slowly to TN, I would say that the roads are still adequate for Model B's but that's as far as it goes.

Now I'm sure to someone who has lived in 10-OC for 25 years or more, the roads make some sort of sense. There are no straight roads in TN. To head off to the south, you must first start out on the road that is marked "west" which begins its life heading north. Never turning off that road you will eventually end up south of where you started. I have a feeling that most of these roads began their lives as cow trails. Then one fine day a farmer thought that the cows had a pretty good route going and decided to drive his truck down after them, then the neighbor across the way decided that it all looked pretty fun and he'd take a shot at it too. Later some local kids dared each other to drive on the rut tracks and before you know it that road was paved and a Route 46 sign stuck in beside it. As a matter of fact I know that they had to be single file cow trails because there is no way 2 cows could even pass side by side and still have room before falling into the ditches that line each side of the roadway.

When I first started driving these roads I drove about 35 miles an hour in a cold sweat. I didn't dare take my eyes off the road because there is no room for sight seeing, with that double yellow on one side, a white stripe about 5 feet over to the right of that and the 3 inches beyond a 4' deep ditch. And when a semi is coming from the other direction at 60 mph, well, I'm telling you, all the Six Flags white knuckler rides have nothing over it! Add to the excitement deer jumping at you, turkeys playing chicken , bicyclists using the double yellow as route guidance and you're in for quite an adventure. One day I got brave and tried to hold the speedometer at around 58 mph. I made it to 2 miles to the red flashing light at the 2-way intersection before I had to drive back home to go lay down for 3 hours.

Driving on the back roads is something entirely different. I have yet to figure out why there are double yellow lines on these roads as they are not wide enough to warrant the effort to paint them. My theory is that they are there mostly for the hound dogs. So they know just how far they can run out into the street before getting skinned by a tire. Tree limbs get trimmed when unsuspecting semi trucks drive by. Actually I think it's a licensed betting sport out here to see how many limbs a semi can knock down before putting a hole in the trailer. And the locals, the locals can somehow smell it if you're new around here. When they see you driving, they cross the double yellow and wait until you've slammed on your brakes and have one tire in the ditch before moving over. Then they give you a big wave and a smile as they drive by.

Yep. A lot of good fun out here on the Tennessee public road system.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Biggest Little Smoke House in Tennessee

So when I used to think about Tennessee before I lived here, I'd think that there was more tobacco and smoked hams than there were people. Lots of smoked hams. And those smoked hams were in smoke houses tucked away behind every respectable house with at least 8 hound dogs in the yard. And come smoking time, boy did it smell nice in the ol' holler. Funny that when went house hunting, we couldn't find one decent smoke house.

But we found that if you just hold on to your ideas for a while that the ideas come to you. And just 6 months after we moved to Tennessee we had ourselves here the classiest smokehouse in Leiper's Fork. Heck, we were so dang proud of it that we invited the Leiper's Fork Volunteer Fire Department out to come take a look at it. And did you know that they got so excited over our new smoke house that they called in the Fairview Volunteer Fire Department to come take a look-see at it, too? You should have seen it. It was just breathtaking....there was a whole parade of lights and sirens running up and down our road. People nearby where already standing in line out front of the place just to see when we would start selling our cured hams and bacon and jerky and venison. You just can't buy that kind of advertising anymore. As a matter of fact the sheriff came out and was directing traffic just to keep things moving. And the neighbors were so nice! They were so excited for me and so worried that the new business venture would go to my head that they would just run up to me and give me a hug and tell me that everything was going to be OK and to just trust God to help us through this until things were back to normal. You just can't find that type of people anymore. Things were going quite well and the excitement was building by the minute. As a matter of fact one of the school buses came by and parked in front of the house for about 20 minutes before the Sheriff was able to convince him to turn around. Then that bus driver went out to the school and told everyone there about the new smoke house in town. When something is this good, word just travels so fast.

But you know what? I think the Volunteer Fire Department got a little bit jealous of our new found calling and began to think that maybe a smoke house the size of ours would just be too much for this little town to handle, you know with all the traffic and things, because they ran up into our house with their fire hoses full of water and put our whole dang operation out of business!!! Pretty soon all the smoke stopped pouring out from under the roof and you can't have a very successful smoke house business without smoke. The people waiting in line could see that their orders for hams, bacon, jerky and venison were not going to get filled anytime soon and after much low level exchanges amongst eachother they decided to go on home. The neighbors were still so sweet though and held my hands and told me to call them anytime if we needed anything at all, since they knew that most of our money was tied up in the new smoke house thing. Did you know that even the Red Cross came out and tried to cheer us up by giving us some gift certificates to the local hotel, so we could get our thoughts together and not have any hard feelings about things because you know that most businesses fail the first year so we are actually in some pretty good company and if I talked to enough people I bet I can find some that have had to deal with things like this too. I mean where can you find hospitality like that except here in the south?

So anyhow, I suppose that Leiper's Fork isn't quite ready for so much success, so we will try something a little different next time.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

And We Have Arrived!!

Well, yes I know it has been awhile and left you all hanging, but in Tennessee time we just arrived like a week ago with no worries; just in time to sit back and enjoy some bugs and the view. So far the place is great and the people are great, nice and friendly. The locals don't pay much mind to that yellow line in the road, but one learns to play chicken mighty fast in these parts, so maybe we're fitting in alright.

The house wasn't quite ready when we expected, but we barged our way in and lived without some creature comforts for awhile and things are still getting worked on every now and then. That's fine with me and I enjoy a knock on the door every now and then. I just kick some toys out of the way and tell the construction workers to have at it. Now if I see the builder coming on by, I break out in a cold sweat. I mean I warned the guy that I have 5 kids. Five that never learned not to put dirty hands, crayons, markers, Hot Wheels cars, basketballs and the like on the walls. That beautiful paint job, gone in a week. Those beautiful hardwood floors, distressed in a month. I know, I know, it's just a house, but builders take pride in their work and sometimes to see it lived in a little more than expected can just depress a guy. But sometimes a little living is good. To get out in the night air and just breath it in. Like what happened the other night.

This isn't so much a kid story, where one of the kids does something crazy, I have enough of those. It was just one of those days stories that happens to the best of us. Now we're from Southern CA and we're not used to the 55" of rain that comes along out here, but we are learning. And we learned that having 18" deep water collecting in the crawlspace of your house isn't the best thing. So our builder has some guys take a look and the determine that somewhere out there are some drains that just aren't draining quite the way they should be. They start off with some shovels and before I know it, there's a backhoe in the front yard starting to dig some holes. The boys decided that since it was getting on to 3:00, that they probably just do this job tomorrow. And so it was.

The next day they continue to look for the blocked drains. Apparently they pretty much gave up and decided to dig some trench for the new drain pipe. Apparently they weren't quite sure where the water main line was because they dug that up, too. And promptly broke it in two. Since the kids were in school and the one that is home is in diapers yet, it wasn't a huge deal for me that I was without water. But the combination of broken water main and the release of water from under the house resulted in some pretty wet soil. And if there wasn't enough of a party on my lawn, here comes the propane truck.

Well, I knew we were probably in need of propane, so I hoped that the propane man would brave the crowds and at least take a look at our tank. He sure did and he decided that indeed it needed some filling. And filled it got.

By 4:00 I had water back on in the house, a dry crawlspace, a filled propane tank and a school bus full of kids coming home headed down the road. Oh what a day. But back to putting those Christmas decorations away. So I take a box out to the garage. And it smells like propane. Of course it does, the propane man had just been there. But it smells like propane A LOT. So, I decide to take a peek. And it really stinks. And the tank was hissing at me. I didn't think tanks were suppose to hiss, but this being a Tennessee tank it's apt to do just about anything it wants. So I decide to give it about 5 minutes to get a hold of itself and just cut that stuff out. Only it didn't want to. And I didn't want to, not only having been here a couple of months, but it left me no choice. I had to dial 911. And they came. Down our quiet little street. Red lights flashing and just giving the kids the thrill of all thrills....firetrucks in your very own driveway!!

Mr. Hissyfit Propane Tank was given a quick look-see and it was determined that he was going to be trouble and that the house must be evacuated. Coats were grabbed, shoes put on and we quickly made our way out into the dusky winter air. Where we waited for propane man to make a call and tame our tank beast. Only he was busy, somewhere else. 90 minutes away. The kids sat in the fire truck to stay warm. Cars were parading up and down in front of our house. Looking at the excitement that had descended upon their quiet little place. And finally, my husband, who I was able to warn by cell phone about his first encounter with Leiper's Fork's finest, appeared. We were told it would be at least another hour before things could be secured and we could go back into the house, so a few Happy Meals and playland action was called for. Seatbelt laws be damned, we got into the G-35 and headed out.

By the time we got home 90 minutes later, all was quiet and dark and yet again peaceful in our little part of the woods.