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Monday, November 27, 2017

Trip to Florida

I managed to squeeze in one more work trip, right after Thanksgiving and two weeks before my solo parent trip to Texas with four kids.  It was nice to get a break from the cold although Florida felt too warm for me as I'd already acclimated to 40's.  I didn't take many photos while there, didn't go to the beach at all but I did manage to catch a Pokemon that can't be found in Maryland while on a coffee break so that was cool.

My hotel was very cute, it felt like an apartment building because it had a kitchenette and faced a lake that I kept thinking I'd walk around but never did.  I guess it was a busy work week but I did manage to squeeze in dinner with a friend and breakfast with another friend. 

Even if I don't get to the beach, it's still nice having Florida as a work base for a few visits per year.  Maybe I'll get to the beach on the next visit.  Having shorter day time hours definitely affects my ability to visit the beach.  I don't want to go at night by myself and it's dark when I get off work so I have to really motivate myself to get up at 6am and head there for an hour before heading back to work and it can take 30-45 minutes to get there and back in the morning.  I've noticed that when I visit in the summer or fall, I usually go to the beach at least 2-3 times in the evenings.  Light has everything to do with it.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Homeless in Hagerstown

The art class is over for this season, but we are in the habit of going to the City Park every Saturday so I got the kids ready and went at the same time.  I looked for Lisa but did not find her in the usual spot.  I had a bag of food ready to give her and decided to keep it in the car just in case I found her later.

We left the park around 11 and I drove through town, the kids played Pokemon Go while I kept an eye out for Lisa.  I finally found her under a bridge near Roy Rodgers, oddly enough right next to the police station.  I gave her a bag of food and we reviewed her options again, they were still the same. 

At one point, I offered her the use of our shed in town to put her stuff but she thought it might be too far to walk. 

"Dolphins In Love", by Charlotte

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

We have so much to be thankful for, but the top of the list is my immediate family.  We were all together this year, save my dad who passed away in 2004.  Mom came over, John and wife came from Pittsburgh, Vernon's local so of course he was here.  Not alot of people, just 6 adults and our 4 rowdy kids.  We played games after the meal, Parcheesi with mom, followed by a walk on the C&O Canal, then more games after it got dark outside.

My mom loves to tell the story of how she used to play Parcheesi with her family growing up.  She said her dad would play and he loved sending his kids home, he didn't care if he won, he just enjoyed the game.  She loves to tell this story, so we thought it fitting to play the game with her.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

2017 Fixer Upper House Update

At the end of 2016, our contractor finished demolition on the inside of the house, removing plaster walls, back porch and part of the back wall to survey water damage.  At this point, they realized that a structural engineer was needed to draw up the plans to get a permit for rebuild of back wall due to a large beam that was no longer used in construction.  They didn't have one on staff and made some recommendations.  Basically, they refused to move forward with us and that was a bitter disappointment.  I won't call them out by name becuase I don't believe in bad mouthing a company unless they have really done us wrong and this is more a situation that I guess neither they nor us could foresee until the house was stripped.  Regardless, we were unable to get anyone to freelance and do the work.

In 2017 my husband spent the year doing the measurements and drawings himself along with maintaining the property.  By the time we were ready to submit the drawings to the city for permit, we realized we either had to do it as self-contract work, or through a contracter.  We tried calling back the prior constractor but he refused unless the drawings were done by a structural engineer.  We tried another contractor but he quoted something crazy like 40K to finish the roof and rebuild the back wall.  We would still have to dry wall the entire house, refloor, build out the kitchen, laundry room and bathrooms and we'd already spent 60K; we reached a point where I was unsure we'd be able to recoup the costs with the price of houses in the area going for 120K. 

I had really hoped to not take on another mortgage but it seems like the world is not set up very well for this type of remodeling.  If we had started out by getting a Rehab mortgage maybe things might have worked out a little bit different, but I think we would have still been shocked and overwelmed by the numbers from contractors and lack of responsiveness. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017


I walked into the Washington County Art Museum, dropped my umbrella into the holder by the front door, then headed straight to the coat closet to hang my coat.  The guard at the front desk smiled at me.  He knows me from our weekly visits to the kids art class.  I then went to the bathroom and finally to the kids art exhibit.

A homeless person would not do these things, especially one with a giant cart. 

I woke up that morning to the freezing cold rain with one thought - how was Lisa going to get through the day?  As I pulled my kids together for art class, I hoped to maybe get her a tarp or something.  The morning flew by and my husband suddenly decided to come with us.  Together we got the kids to class and he waited with the youngest set while I walked down to the pavilion where I had seen her the week before.  She was there and I asked her if I could get her anything.  She said she had some plastic bags to cover her stuff with.  I told her I'd go get her a tarp.

My husband needed to get some measurements from our house in town, so I dropped him off, then rushed over to Home Depot to get the tarp and some zip ties, I then rushed back to pick him up and back to the park where I had just enough time to drop them off to her and then back to the museum for the kids class ceremony. 

She was very grateful.  I asked if she'd had any further luck with getting a room at Reach.  A police officer got her in for one night but that was it.  I told her I'd keep looking into things for her. 

Fall Art Class 2017

We've put Charlotte into art classes at the Washington County Art Museum since moving back to Hagerstown, MD 4 years ago but last year she started feeling shy and not wanting to go.  Our son is not as inclined to do art but I thought it might be helpful for Charlotte to have someone with her so I signed them both up for the fall classes.  The teacher is very unconventional and the art is usually mixed media.  I like the variety and creativity she brings and it helps the students who may not feel as comfortable with drawing.  Here are Sam and Charlotte's finished pieces from this class:

Friday, November 17, 2017

C&O Canal - November

Every November, the earth tilt is just right to get a sunset and mirror image of the C&O Canal.  

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Homeless in Hagerstown

More than one person in my home church has asked me about how they can help the homeless of Hagerstown.  I suggested to one mom to make zip lock bags filled with snacks and useful items that can be given out instead of money but after a few months they wanted to take it to the next level.  I'm not really sure how I became the nominated person for this pursuit.  Maybe it's this story I've told a few times, this is really where I began to see homeless people differently.  When you put a name to a face and learn someone's story, it's not easy to look away.

It was suggested that we could serve at a soup kitchen or support a local shelter but I wanted to know more from a homeless person directly as to what needs they wanted fulfilled.  Literally one week later I came across a homeless women in the City Park.  She caught my attention because it was a cold day and not one where you'd usually find people in the park.  I happened to be there because my two oldest were taking an art class and the younger set convinced me to let them play for a bit. 

Lisa, I'll withhold her last name for privacy, has been homeless for two years.  She says someone from her prior work told lies to her boss and got her fired.  She lost her apartment, car, and cats.  She said this person has friends in the Hagerstown police department and she thinks they have gone to the Reach center in town to spread more lies about her so she can no longer get a room there.  She said the Salvation Army has also banned her so she's sleeping on the street at night unless other police officers, not associated with her tormentor, can help convince Reach to give her a bed for the night.  All she wants is to get a job, an apartment, and hopefully another cat. 

The biggest problem for Lisa is finding a safe place for her stuff.  She has an overflowing shopping cart that contains all her worldly belongings.  She's terrified of losing the items in this cart because she has no way to replace anything with no income. 

Lisa has no disabilities, no children, no drugs or drinking issues, no history of sexual abuse, and she believes she has no mental disabilities so this pretty much rules out all the options that are available to homeless or people of need in Hagerstown. 

Her story begs many questions but until I could find her again, I decided to research resources in Hagerstown, maybe there was something she missed. 

I visited my favorite local charity, the Hope Center to find out what they provide but it turns out they only offer rooms for men and two meals a day to anyone who needs it.  I asked if they might know why Reach would bar someone from their facility and the lady said she didn't know.  I went to the Reach website and they have strict rules due to drugs and alcohol abuse, I assume they need to look out for the safety of their volunteers. 

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Jury Duty - Part 2

After my last post, there were only three more required days.  I was honestly surprised that I was only asked to go in 6 times, of which 2 days were canceled the night before.  My entire life, I've heard people moan and groan when they get assigned to jury duty so in my mind it became a HUGE commitment.  Turns out it was only a very minor inconvenience to my regular work schedule, a few late nights and everything was back to normal.

Day 4 - actual trial!  The judge went through a long list of reasons to call people up to the front, it took an hour.  Once they narrowed down the list of jury members who might be suitable for this trial they begin calling us up in groups of 6 or 7, can't remember the exact number.  We stood in a line and one by one they called us to stand forward one step.  They look at their paperwork, they look back at us and then say "Juror selected" or "Pass".  I was not selected.  This particular case was 1st degree assault and battery.  I was very severe that day, dressed in all black with my hair in a tight bun so I can understand why I might have not been selected.  I got to leave by 11am.

Day 5 - actual trial!  This time I was determined to look softer and approachable so I wore browns with my hair down.  I was selected!  It was a DUI case and I was thrilled to sit on the Jury panel and witness how the system works.  During the lunch break, which was 1.5 hours long, I got to walk around downtown and have coffee at The Plum restaurant, which I've always wanted to check out but it's only open during business hours and when am I ever downtown during business hours?  Only on jury duty I guess!

Day 6 - I requested off due to a dentist appointment.

Day 7 - was canceled! 

And that sums up my entire 5 weeks of jury duty.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Remember Remember the 5th of November

November is my favorite month, so anything that falls in November is a fav.  This movie, with all it's V words reminding me of our Violette, is becoming a classic.  The fight for justice by a vigilante is invigorating to say the least.  I hope our V girl enjoys this movie some day.  Nathalie Portman is outstanding to watch.  May we never lose our freedoms the way this movie has shown.