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The First in the Deck Series

Our most recent DIY experience through the process.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Gotta love a new beginning, right?

Peppermint Shortage

Just a funny afternoon.

Coffeyville, KS

I loved this experience so much that I had to write about it. Then, through e-mails it spread to Coffeyville itself.

Photo Restoration

I had a lot of fun with this "old school" photo. It turned out too cool to not blog about it.

Kitchen Remodel (part one)

This is the first of a nine-part series documenting the remodel of our 50-year-old kitchen in our 100-year-old home!

A Proper Entry

One of the troubles we had concerning the entry to the backyard from the driveway was that there was a considerable downhill slope from the driveway.  The garden wall with its arched top door made for a nice entry point into our backyard but the slope made you feel uneasy particularly since it was mostly exposed dirt littered with gravel.  It certainly wasn't worthy of what should have been a grand entrance.

So, to remedy the situation, we dug out the area and poured some concrete curbs which will double as a retaining wall holding back the higher ground of the driveway while also serving as a proper step.

I like doing concrete even though I have little experience with it.  The most time I spent on any significant project was during my first trip overseas to Haiti.  I traveled with Global Go Team to help pour piers and a concrete slab floor for the first building that was going in to the soon-to-be campus of Shepherds House Ministry.  The experience was invaluable and life-changing for a ton of reasons too numerous to attempt to list.  I even learned some practical tips on how to work with concrete.

I'm not done just yet.  I need one more 80 lb bag for a finish coat which I will pick up on the way home from work today.  I plan on using it to smooth out the sides of the vertical walls and to create a slight slope towards the brick patio so that this area won't hold any water.  It wouldn't be a very good entry if it just became a puddle every time it rained.

Jodi and I plan on writing all our names in the concrete along the back of the curb.  We haven't really signed anything on this house, but thought that this masterpiece of ours deserved to have an artist's signature on it somewhere.

The Man Nobody Knows

I'm currently reading The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce Barton.  It's an interesting book, not just because of the content but also because of the history behind this particular copy of the book.

I'm fairly sure that it's a first edition printing although I could be wrong.  The book was printed in 1925 which makes it 90 years old next year.

I acquired the book just after Christmas of 2012.  I took some money that was gifted to me and bought several boxes of books from a book reseller in Ozark, MO.  I asked him where they came from and he said that he buys books in bulk from estate sales mainly but also from garage sales and flea markets.  He groups them together by genre and sells them as large lots on Craigslist.  I think I paid him $80 for over 200 books.

Inside this book, I saw the name 'Naomi Bradley' written carefully along the top of the first page.  Soon after that, I found a small scrap of old newspaper inside that someone was using as a make-shift bookmark.  It had been in the same place for so long, in fact, that the old newspaper had slightly stained the page it was holding so faithfully for its owner.

The newspaper scrap had Joplin written on it, so what was I to do next but start Googling things out of pure curiosity?

I found three results from my searches.  One was from that mentioned Mrs. Naomi Bradley in a 1925 obituary as a survivor of her 12 year old sister.  It also listed another surviving sister.  Of the three sisters, she was the only one already married, but I surmised that she was still pretty young.

I also searched "Dr. F. E. Tipton" from the newspaper clipping and found that he was in practice in Joplin from 1917-1934.

The last thing that I found was a photo of this headstone in a database of the cemetery plots in Joplin, MO.  This explains how I found myself to have become the owner of the book in subject.

From all my findings, the following is the story that I have decided to tell that is entirely fabricated, admittedly, but based on a true story:

Mrs. Naomi Bradley was a beautiful young woman of 18 who had no trouble finding a husband with a bright future. She was the second child born into her southern-Arkansan family but joyfully played the role of "second mother" to her two younger sisters.  Life had been good growing up in El Dorado, Arkansas which had benefited from steep financial growth from the oil industry moving into town in the late teens.  Unlike her grandparents, due to the vast job opportunities from the oil company, her parents' generation had been able to provide their children with many privileges including higher educations.

1925 had been quite the year for Naomi.  She turned eighteen, graduated high school, moved to Missouri with her older brother where she met, fell in love with, and was quickly married to a 16-year-old heir to a 600-acre farm in Sarcoxie, MO.  She was still living on the high of a newlywed and hadn't been down to see her family in Arkansas since before her June wedding.

It was now the second of November and she was beginning to make plans for a trip to her parents' for Thanksgiving.  Her new husband, who had never left Missouri in his life, was looking forward to the adventure of the trip.  Naomi was beyond ready to spend quality time with her family, especially her sisters.  Despite both sisters being bride's maids in her wedding, she didn't get to have much time with them due to all the busyness of her big day.  All this was going through her mind as she was washing the dishes from lunch and passively watching the dogs chase squirrels up the pair of trees in the backyard outside the kitchen window.  The sounds of the dogs barking and the scratching of the squirrels claws in the tree bark was interrupted by the sound of the phone ringing in the foyer.  The news of her baby sister's sudden death rocked her like an earthquake.  And, like an earthquake can immediately remove one's faith in the earth's stability that had gone without question previously. the news left Naomi doubting if life was everything she had always believed it to be.  The days were long after that as if somehow the pendulum of the grandfather clock in the parlor had suddenly decided to defy gravity and the earth took notice and matched its slowed pace.

It was now Sunday afternoon, Nov. 22nd.  Thanksgiving would be on Thursday and they were to leave early the next morning for El Dorado, though the prospect of visiting with family brought more fears than relief.  Gone was the excitement.  She now worried that she wouldn't be able to hold it together.  She felt guilty for choosing to moving away.  She knew it wouldn't be the same as holidays before and her mind wouldn't stop imagining scenarios that brought even more emotional pain.

A knock at the door came.  She hadn't even noticed the sound of the 1922 Wills Saint Claire pull up the driveway yet there it was outside the window sitting beautifully in the late afternoon sun.  She recognized it as Judy's family car from the church she had only just begun starting to attend in early October but to which she hadn't returned since receiving the life-changing phone call.

Naomi let Judy in who had come alone.  She tried to play the role of a good hostess, but Judy required no formalities and just embraced Naomi which somehow unleashed an ocean of pent-up grief.  After a long time and a good cry, Judy presented Naomi with the book she had just bought from Osterloh's Bookstore in Joplin, The Man Nobody Knows.

This book helped Naomi deal with some of her misconceptions about God, about Jesus, about what she had always believed to be the nature of her existence.  It wasn't a book about death or pain or even comfort.  It was a book about knowing Jesus.  And, that, helped Naomi come to terms with her sister's death and where and with whom her sister really resided.

With the significant impact the book had on Naomi, the book never left her possession until after her own death 78 years later when she was reunited with both her sisters who had preceded her to the Kingdom.

Brick Repurposing

One of the things that I wish I was more diligent about is taking before photos.  Jodi and I both are pretty bad about just jumping into a project without remembering to take that photo of what it looked like before our project.  So, I'm really glad that it happened to dawn on me while I was taking this chimney apart that I would like to have a photo of where it came from.

To recap the last blog:  I ran out of bricks while I was laying our new brick patio.  Jodi successfully negotiated us some free brick from our neighbor's house that is under renovation.  I'm getting the brick for free, but I have to dismantle the chimney myself.  I've only worked on it for two evenings now.  The first evening, I was able to take it down from just below the roof line in the attic to just below the ceiling of the first floor.  Last night, I got it taken all the way down to the floor level.

I still have to take it down in the basement, but I think that I'll come back to it at a later date since they're on a break right now on the house project anyway.  I have enough brick, at this point, to finish the patio which is super exciting.  I'll work on that when I get home this evening before Lyric's soccer practice.  There's a small chance that I could actually get all the brick laid tonight.

Saturday is a neighborhood cleanup day where I can throw out some garbage that no one would want.  I'm hoping to be all prepared for that so that Saturday morning I can get it all hauled off.

Then, through the weekend, I plan on completing the following tasks:
  • Dismantling the old hot-tub-turned-sandbox for disposal
  • Cutting up the old fascia boards for disposal
  • Filling with sand in between the newly laid brick
  • Pouring the concrete for the entrance at the garden door
  • Cleaning up the backyard
  • Cleaning up the driveway where the brick was stored for years
 The house is getting closer and closer to being done and I'm really looking forward to reaching that point.  It will be here before we know it at the rate in which we are working.  Stay tuned for a completed patio picture!

Scoring Some Much Needed Brick

Jodi scored some brick for us to finish our patio!  The house next door is getting fully renovated.  It's been gutted down to the studs already.  And, yesterday, they started tearing off the roof and redecking it.  Jodi spotted that the chimney was gone from sight so she went to ask about it.

It turns out that they just dismantled it down below the roof line because they would no longer be using it as an exhaust vent and didn't want to have to roof around it if they didn't have to.  Jodi asked if they were taking it down any further to which the owner replied that they weren't.  They gave her the brick that they had taken down and she asked for them to let her know if they run across any more.

With the bug in the owner's ear, he changed his mind and told Jodi that I could take the chimney all the way down to the basement if I wanted the brick.  Um... yes, please.  So, I started working on it yesterday when I got home from work and managed to get the chimney worked down to just below the ceiling of the first floor.

It should go faster now that I have it accessible from the first floor.  I was working in the attic which is not very fun to do in a gutted house.  Carrying two 5-gallon buckets full of bricks while balancing on 2x4 ceiling joists makes me feel more like a circus act than a home renovator.  But, the budget home renovator does what is necessary to get projects completed.

The best part about all this?  With this latest score of brick, it should be enough to complete the last leg of the patio.  AND, it means that I can say I didn't pay anything for any of the paver bricks that I have laid on our property.  Equity, sweet equity.

Why We Love The Church? To Read Or Not To Read?

I recently read Why We Love The Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.  It's a pretty good book, I suppose.  It's not my favorite of theirs, but it's good.  I have read Why We're Not Emergent by the pair which I really liked, as well as one of Kevin DeYoung's solo works, Just Do Something, which was also a good little read.

There were parts of the book that I really appreciated being talked about, but for the most part, I found that the title was a bit misleading.  The book wasn't about "why we love the church" so much as it was a lengthy constructed argument against authors who have sprung up seemingly everywhere with their "why we left the church and why you should to" books.

That said, I do appreciate the defense.  I get tired of hearing about the "evils" of the church and how everyone is more like Jesus somehow when they refuse to step foot inside an official place of worship.  Those that write and speak about these things do touch on some truths.  I'll give them that.  Sure, there are issues with all churches.  But, the expectation of perfection in any organization is nothing short of completely unreasonable.  And, if these people who have left an organized church (noun) to "liberate" themselves with how church (verb) should be done applied those same requirements of their respective organized employers, they would most certainly find themselves needing to quit their jobs to take up some entrepreneurial enterprise.  I know I've never seen a perfect company.  Perhaps, applying those same requirements to their grocery stores would drive them to garden and farm themselves?  Banking?  Deciding what automobile manufacturer to purchase from?  It's a very deep rabbit hole.

To me, it appears to be an issue of grace.  Do people have any for others, for their church leaders, for their congregations?  Requiring perfection is lunacy.  God gives us grace since we aren't perfect and He's our example from which to refer.  It's only sensible to give grace to others.

To close, I enjoyed reading the book.  It needed to be written, I believe.  And, truthfully, I didn't need to read a full-length book listing and expounding on reasons why I love the church.  I'd love it anyway.  So, it's alright that the book was mostly dealing with people's reasoning for not loving it instead.  After all, you can't get past your stumbling block until you deal with it first.  You could hand someone a list of reasons for liking potatoes but if they have even just one thing that they don't like about potatoes and you don't address that one issue, the list will make no progress in changing their mind.  So, in that regard, perhaps the title wasn't as misleading as I originally thought.

The book is a good read.  Probably my favorite part is the following excerpt.  It shows the logical inconsistency with the arguments against organized churches.
“The church-is-lame crowd hates Constantine and notions of Christendom, but they want the church to be a patron of the arts, and run after-school programs, and bring the world together in peace and love. They bemoan the over-programmed church, but then think of a hundred complex, resource-hungry things the church should be doing. They don’t like the church because it is too hierarchical, but then hate it when it has poor leadership. They wish the church could be more diverse, but then leave to meet in a coffee shop with other well-educated thirty-somethings who are into film festivals, NPR, and carbon offsets. They want more of a family spirit, but too much family and they’ll complain that the church is “inbred.” They want the church to know that its reputation with outsiders is terrible, but then are critical when the church is too concerned with appearances. They chide the church for not doing more to address social problems, but then complain when the church gets too political. They want church unity and decry all our denominations, but fail to see the irony in the fact that they have left to do their own thing because they can’t find a single church that can satisfy them. They are critical of the lack of community in the church, but then want services that allow for individualized worship experiences. They want leaders with vision, but don’t want anyone to tell them what to do or how to think. They want a church where the people really know each other and care for each other, but then they complain the church today is an isolated country club, only interested in catering to its own members. They want to be connected with history, but are sick of the same prayers and same style every week. They call for not judging “the spiritual path of other believers who are dedicated to pleasing God and blessing people,” and then they blast the traditional church in the harshest, most unflattering terms.”

Brick Patio (part three)

Well... I ran out of bricks.  I haven't counted yet, but I'm estimating that I'm in need of about 200.  And, to make matters worse, for the first time in quite a while, no one is selling any pavers on Craigslist.  So, unfortunately, it appears that our patio is just going to have to exist for an undetermined amount of time with a large hole on one side.

(Sorry about the photo.  It doesn't do the patio justice.  There is a layer of brown sand over the back two-thirds, the initial lime sand layer on the section in the bottom-right has been compacted with water and the new section bottom-center hasn't been compacted yet.  So, this may be a little difficult to know what you're looking at.  For that, I apologize.)

What bothers me about running out is that just a week or so ago, I started wondering if we would run out of good complete bricks before I was done.  I hopped on Craigslist to find this ad.  I even screenshot-ed it because I considered that I might wind up needing some.

But, alas, now that I know I need some, the ad has been taken down.  The product is sold, no doubt.

So, I'm reaching out here.  No, I don't expect that of my humble readership, I will have someone with exactly what I am looking for.  However, maybe my expectations are wrong.  So, if you happen to have any quantity of red clay solid paver bricks lying around, please comment here and let me know how to get a hold of you.

With four days of rain starting tonight in the forecast, I might not have done much to it anyway.  I'm very eager to get it done so that I can quit blogging about a partial patio, among other obvious reasons.

Brick Patio (part two)

The patio is coming along quite nicely.  Today, I finished going through all the used bricks that still had mortar on them.  It was quite a chore but I got all the mortar knocked off of all of them.  I wound up with a nicely sized stack when I was done.  I didn't figure that a lot of the bricks would be useable, but almost all of them were.

I started laying some of them, but I knew that I would be limited in what I could do because I only had a very small pile of sand left with which to work.  I will go back to American Landscape and Quarry supply on Monday and get another half bucket of sand.  That should be about the right amount to get the remainder done.

While I was laying bricks, Jodi was spreading the brown sand over the top of the bricks that have been down for a while.  We have been waiting on a good rain to come and cement down the lime sand that I have been using as a base.  The lime sand is especially good for this because it gets pretty hard and compacted rather easily.  We didn't really want their to be white sand in between the bricks, but we knew that the first good rain would compact everything that had already been laid and allow new room for a surface layer.

I can't help but just stand and stare at it.  One of the downsides of performing a home improvement project is that since you're in the thick of it throughout every step, you kind of miss the "wow" factor.  It's like not really noticing how fast your children are growing because you see them everyday.

But, as you can see from this photo, we are dangerously close to being done.  The perspective doesn't really show it, but it is probably more than 3/4 of the way complete.

It cracks me up how long we have been planning all of this outdoor space.  It was December of 2008 when I uploaded this Google Sketchup 3D rendering of our plans.  And, even before I made this Sketchup drawing, we had discussed, planned, and drawn out a rough layout of what you basically see here.  So, for at least 6 years, we've had this pictured in our mind's eye.  In that regard, it's nothing short of amazing to see that we have actually done it and accomplished what we dreampt up so long ago.

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