Monday, October 16, 2006

Housing Perspective

For years I've been dreaming, planning, and drawing. The Wimberley house will be a nice weekend getaway in the country, a great place to go for a different perspective on life. I now stand on the brink of achieving that dream. As incredible coincidence or God's master plan (take your pick of the two) would have it, my perspective got a major attitude adjustment over the past four days. I was part of a group that traveled to New Orleans to help with the hurricane recovery effort. A group of loving people whose building skills ranged from "rather amusing" to "wow, not bad". The first photo shows one of the homes the team worked on, with their efforts clearly visible in the front yard. It is one of the tens of thousands of homes owned by displaced Americans still craving an end to their long hurricane nightmare.

The second photo shows our volunteer team from Houston, a group I scarcely knew at all before the trip, but now can never forget. We stayed at the Salvation Army during our visit, but had the luxury of having dinner in this historic home in a rare not-so-damaged part of New Orleans. Ten hours later we were starting our second day of work not far away, but on another planet altogether.

I feel like I could write for days and never fully explain what it's like to finally understand this tragedy. I've traveled to New Orleans several times on business since the disaster, noting the incredible damage but not really appreciating the real human impact. Maybe I was too busy planning the Wimberley house to see it. I've witnessed extreme poverty all over the world, but somehow was not ready for this. It seems impossible to reconcile how a country that can launch a cruise missile to within inches of any target in the world can't do more to help. So, for now it is up to us, and the battered but tough people of New Orleans.

I'm not sure when I'll be able to avoid crying when thinking about our team, the people they helped, or the people they couldn't help. Hell, I'm not sure I ever WANT to stop crying about it. About the only things I am sure of are:
1) I feel blessed to have gone,
2) I want to go back to do more, and
3) Picking interior decorating materials for the Wimberley house is not so important any more.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


In the beginning, God created.... The tank. Or more correctly, the water tank foundation.

Pictured at left I'm leveling that crushed granite shown in an earlier posting. Level is good in the tank world, since irregularities in the base can cause leaks. This turned out to be a bigger task than I had planned, but as my sweetheart accurately says, most projects I plan turn out that way. All this not-so-fun work was in preparation for the first really substantial part of the new house, a 5,000 gallon rainwater storage tank which will hold all of our potable water supply.

A few days after the foundation was done, a truck and trailer showed up with the tank on board. The next group of photos are in sequence from arrival to the completed installation which took about 2 1/2 hours. Those of you who know anything about safe unloading and lifting procedures will cringe at some of these. Luckily, the tank was installed with no major incidents. In the first photo, notice the lone driver/unloader staring at the tank, trying to figure out what to do with it.

Here the tank is lifted by a single strap hooked to one tank eyelet. The wild spinning of the tank in the wind could not be captured with a still camera! After lifting it off the trailer he put the tank on the truck's fifth wheel plate, an arrangement which did not inspire much confidence from me. But, since the trailer was not suited for being taken down the rough road to the construction site, it was the only option.

Mounted up and heading down the construction road, the height of the crane ensured that no overhanging tree tops survived the ordeal. By the time the truck made it to the pad I had prepared, the crane was dressed up with a collection of broken branches.

Whew!!! Safely in place, the tank is now ready for an assortment of fittings, and will shortly be filled with a few thousand gallons of tanked-in water for construction purposes. Next comes the filtration, pumping, and UV germ-zapping equipment need to make the water pressurized and drinkable. Once the house is roofed, guttered, and pipes are installed from there to the tank, all we'll need is some help from mother nature to fill it up. Then we'll have the world's best drinking water.