Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Perspective ...

As I watch the news and the Louisiana flooding just 30 miles away in the Denham Springs/Baton Rouge areas, the hardships that we've experienced with flooding are still fresh and my heart goes out to those affected.  If you haven't experienced such devastation, you just can't imagine what it's like.

Our first experience with flooding was the May '95 flood, when our very first house that we owned took on about a foot of water after over 19 inches of rain in less than 48 hours.  We were in an area that wasn't supposed to flood and since this was "before Katrina", flood zones weren't a thought back then.  We didn't have flood insurance, nor did any of our neighbors.  I remember sitting in the back of our pick-up truck out front (no where else dry to sit) and chatting with the neighbors while waiting for "The Red Cross" truck to deliver dinner ... better than the ice cream truck! The "Salvation Army" truck also made its stops, providing cleaning supplies, snacks and water.  These two organizations were so generous, and The Red Cross even gave us a new mattress!  I have to say, FEMA was also a blessing and they were the reason we were able to keep our sanity.  FEMA provided us and our neighbors with the funds to restore our home and put our lives back together.  We learned a lot from that flood ... that we could recover and that there are still tons of good people in the world.

One year later we sold that house and built our raised dream home on the bayou ... and we bought flood insurance!  All was good until August 29, 2005.  Long story short ... our house was fine but everything below was destroyed and covered in a thick, stinky mud.  Flood insurance won't cover anything below the living quarters, so we lost quite a bit in lawnmowers, tools, etc.  However, we were grateful that we still had a place to go home to.  We didn't move home right away, as we stayed in an RV at a friend's place for about a week while making trips to the house to clean & remove the mud and trash. That same week also included several trips about 30 miles away (close to the now flooded areas) just to get gas for the generator and a burger.  We found a truck giving out MRE's and water, and we lived off of that for a while.  Once again, the "Red Cross" & "Salvation Army" brought hope to folks and set up stations for the community.  There was no such thing as going to a local grocery story ... it seemed that just about everyone was affected by the storm.  

Below are pics of our dream home on the bayou that we built .. it was the first house Ken had ever built, and the start of his building career.

Once back in the house, we lived without electricity for about a month.  The heat was brutal!  No electricity also meant no water since we had a well.  It wasn't unusual to go a few days in the heat of August without a shower .. good practice for the boat, right?!  But again, we were grateful to have a clean place to stay .. while we fixed our flooded rentals!

We had three rentals that flooded ... two up to the ceiling and one with just enough water to have to gut it 4 feet up.  The clean-up was tough ... again, with thick & stinky mud everywhere and refrigerators full of spoiled food leaving a stench that would almost knock you out!  The two tenants that lived in the houses that flooded to the ceiling left us to remove their ruined items. They seemed to conveniently be "evacuated" until everything was on the street and ready for them to sort through.  The good news was that we had flood insurance this time around.  We needed it since we not only had huge repairs, but also lost rental income on all three of our rentals!

We also had my 80-something year old grandparents, my 70-something year old grandmother, and my mom's house needing help with clean-up and repairs. They all lost everything.  Needless to say, Ken had a lot on his shoulders, as the family looked to him to repair everything.  After all, he was the contractor in the family.  While other contractors got rich from Katrina, we spent our time fixing our rentals and our family's homes.  We were glad to help, but boy was it rough!  

Katrina really put into perspective what's important, but it also wore us out emotionally & physically.  It took us over two years to get back to a normal life, and then we were crazy enough to buy a gutted house on the water in an area we wanted to live in ... and then our little rental that got a few inches in Katrina flooded again!  We endured more repairs for another year.  We rented out our dream home on the bayou and eventually sold it & the house we bought in it's place in 2014.  We thought we were done with flooding until ... that damn lil rental flooded again in 2014 ... and again in 2015!  After just restoring the rental from the 2014 flood, the waters came again.  I tell ya, we wanted to pull our hair out.  Thank goodness for flood insurance, but it sure sucked.  We don't have much of a choice but to keep on renting the place instead of selling ... nobody wants to pay anything for a 1-bedroom house that's flooded several times.

The cursed rental in 2015 ... it's cute, but what a pain!

When storms once again threatened to flood our little rental this past week, we tried not to think about it.  We kept our fingers crossed that we wouldn't get too much rain, and luckily we didn't! We dodged a bullet, and we are so grateful!  We may have to face flooding again (thanks to that 1 rental), but at least it wasn't this time.  Hopefully it won't be for a while.

Anyway, this all started with seeing those poor folks just down the road who are now going through some really tough times.  They will endure some of the same things we did ... the brutal heat, the lack of a/c & ice, the lack of gas and the lack of security that a home brings.  My son-in-law headed towards the devastation with his Air Force Reserve unit to provide assistance at one of the Baton Rouge shelters.  He may be home Friday ... maybe.

Ken & I have become frustrated the past few months with the slow progress on Nirvana.  We'd hoped to be moving aboard by Ken's 50th birthday, which is this Friday but we've got a few more months of boat work before that happens. Work gets in the way, we get tired, and it rains.  Seeing those folks nearby sleeping in shelters and leaving their lifetime possessions really puts things in perspective.  We are once again reminded of how fortunate we are to be sleeping in a warm bed, running our a/c, and living in a dry house.

Those folks will recover thanks to so many generous folks & organizations.  I've never lived anywhere else, but I hear that us Southerners are some of the kindest people in the country ... I have no doubt. I'm hoping we can "pay it back" and get to the Baton Rouge area soon to help out the "Red Cross" or some other organization.   They were such a big help to us, and we'll be forever grateful.

Remember, when things get tough it may not be all that bad compared to others.  It's all about perspective. Nirvana waits, but we're blessed!  

Hasta luego ... until then.  Mid-Life Cruising!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gettin' It Done!

Yet another month has gone by since our last post.  I wish I could say we've been "gettin' it done" on Nirvana, but that would be a lie.  We haven't done anything more than wash Nirvana a few times since her new non-skid.  We have been busy though!  Ken and I finally finished up our last vacant rental ... and turned over the keys to seemingly great tenants less than a week ago.  It seems we've been working on our rentals way too much lately  Three of four rentals had vacancies lately, but with three new tenants we're hoping that we're done with rentals for a while!

With temperatures reaching the "feel-like" in the 105 range, it's been hard to find the energy for Nirvana.  Not only did we have the rentals to tend to, but Ken's been trying to wrap up long-promised jobs for a few clients.  I've also been busy ... in just the past two weeks I've gotten two new real estate listings and picked up a buyer that's been keeping me running the streets.

We're still attending our once-a-week navigation course, which is taking up a good bit of time.  The 2-hour night class has never lasted any less than 3 hours, and usually lasts 3.5 hours.  With the driving time and class, we spend almost 6 hours a week at class.  Add the 2-3 hours a week for homework .... we're not working on the boat!  Ken and I are enjoying the class, and we're learning a lot about reading a chart, plotting a course, and estimating where we should be at a given time.  It's been well worth the time!

Ken & I have also taken the role of caregiver to our daughter lately.  She had foot surgery about 5 weeks ago, and she's on crutches ... still not allowed to put any weight on her foot.  With her husband working (and now out of town for two weeks), I've been driving our daughter to her appointments & errands, and making sure she doesn't go stir-crazy.  If you're a parent of an adult child, you know that they never stop being our "kid".  Ken & I have enjoyed being able to take care of our daughter a bit and spend some quality time with her.

Now that the rentals are wrapped up for now, we hope to start working on Nirvana and getting her deck hardware installed in the near future.  However, with the heat & humidity it will be a slow process.  There's a bit of guilt for not diving right into the boat projects, but we're both still busy with stuff ... so I say "we'll get to it when we can".  This blog makes us feel a bit accountable, but we have to enjoy the journey as well ... and keep our sanity.  We're looking forward to cooler weather!  

As I told Ken, getting the rentals renovated with good tenants and taking a navigation course is all working towards our future.  I wish getting the boat ready was the only thing required to cruise ... there's a lot of factors with making the dream a reality!

Hasta luego ... until then.  Mid-Life Cruising!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Pensacola Getaway!

When Ken's helper informed him that he'd be on vacation last Wednesday through Friday, we quickly thought that we should take the opportunity to get away ourselves ... until guilt set in.  We're still working on our one vacant rental, and Nirvana has a ton of projects waiting.  Responsibilities won, but not for very long.  After working half a day on Wednesday in the miserable heat & humidity, we said "screw it".  We headed home, got cleaned up, and packed a bag.  We were heading to Pensacola!  The Florida beaches were only 3 hours away, and we were in need of a quick road trip.

After crossing the Alabama state line into Florida, we stopped at the "Welcome Center" for a hotel coupon book.  While there, we also enjoyed a cup of free orange juice ... they have the best!  We played around with the photo booth, and had a great picture of us taken.  Of course, since we liked it so much ... it never arrived in our email!  We did get this picture of Ken ...

While Ken drove, I found a coupon for a Days Inn in Downtown Pensacola for only $58 bucks a night!  We'd never stayed in Pensacola before and didn't know exactly what "Downtown" meant, but we were going to check it out.  It turned out that "Downtown" was a pretty cool area with restaurants, bars and boutiques.  Our hotel was at the end of the strip, and while it wasn't anything fancy it was clean.  We couldn't ask for more than that for $58 bucks ... except maybe a free breakfast?  Yep, that was included.

After settling in, we took a quick drive across the bridge to the beach.  This area was nice, with the bay on one side of the road and the beach on the other side.  The bay had a boardwalk and was like a big swimming pool.  It was a great place to watch the sunset.  We then headed to the beach side for dinner and a few beers ... we had escaped!

The next day started with a visit to the Naval Base to see the beaches, the lighthouse and the National Naval Aviation Museum.

The lighthouse wasn't open for another hour when we arrived, so we just walked around and enjoyed the views.

Just across from the lighthouse was the beach ... and a Stairway to Heaven!  The base was really pretty ... beaches and lush greenery.

After exploring the area, we arrived at the National Aviation Museum.  We didn't expect much since the museum was free, but we wound up spending a couple of hours there.  The museum had a ton of planes and cool displays, and we'd recommend a visit.

I loved this old plane with all the wood ... like a piece of art!

This plane that resembled a shark was pretty cool ... bad ass!

Look at the size of this prop!

This was the actual raft that three men spent 34 days in after their Douglas Devastator bomber ran out of fuel and they had to ditch in the Pacific Ocean.  They were on an anti-submarine mission in January, 1942 and were in an area patrolled by the Japanese navy.  The men endured brutal sun, lack of food & water, high seas and sharks!  Notice the photo of the three men .. so thin!  You can read more of their story here.  There are so many sad stories of those that fought for our freedom ...

We grabbed lunch at a waterfront restaurant and then headed to the beach.  After soaking up the sun for a while, we ventured into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Ken & I love body-surfing and playing in the waves ... we could have done this all day!

I can't believe I don't have one photo of the beach!  We left our phones in the car to avoid work, and our camera was back at home.  Sometimes ya just have to enjoy the moment ... and we did!

The evening was spent at Margaritaville for live music and beer ...

After filling our bellies the next morning with free breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and took the scenic drive towards home.  We drove through Gulf Shores, Alabama and took a ferry ride from Ft. Morgan to Dauphin Island, Alabama.  We left the car behind and just rode the ferry to Dauphin Island and back.  It turns out that we should have taken the car, as it was a short-cut home.  Oh well, I have a feeling we'll be back to Pensacola again this Summer, and now we know.

The ferry ride was fun, and we even saw dolphin each way!  While enjoying the 20-minute ride each way, we imagined sailing these waters on Nirvana.  It was a windy day, and the Mississippi Sound wasn't as bad as our Lake Pontchartrain ... it wasn't intimidating!  We were getting excited.

We got home Friday night, and had a busy Father's Day weekend planned.  Saturday was spent with my Dad and step-mom, and Sunday was spent with our daughter and her husband's family.  The kids took us to the local Abita Brewery for a tour.  We remember when this tiny brewery opened years ago, and they've really grown.  Damn, we should have invested!  It was interesting to tour the area ... and even better to drink a few samples!  If you've never tried Abita Beer, you should.  It's a really good beer, and they're now throughout the country.  We even found them in a Dominican Republic gas station!

It's now been a week since we left for our escape ... how time flies!  We're back to work, and planning our next project on Nirvana.  Hope we can handle the heat!

Hasta luego ... until then. Mid-Life Cruising!
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