Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

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The lights went on in the dorm at 6:10 a.m. this morning, and I was not ready to be awake, yet, so I just pulled the covers over my head and slept just a bit more as everyone else got ready for breakfast. I finally got up and got myself together when most of the other folks were out the door. I guess I needed just a little more time alone or something.

Breakfast was sausage, eggs, and a biscuit with the usual juices, cereals on a side bar, and plenty of their percolator coffee. I ate my biscuit and sausage and kind of moved the scrambled eggs around and went for a bowl of cereal. I probably shouldn't have eaten so much, as, on the way to the work site, we stopped at a donut and coffee shop and I couldn't see buying anything there other than a cup of real coffee. I needed that badly after the last three days worth of percolator coffee. I think we're going to make a habit of it.

We just went right to the work site as soon as we got our coffee, and Gabe and his mom and dad showed up. We had Gary look over the crazy bathroom tiling job, and he just said that we should tell the site manager. We got a chance pretty quickly, and he thought it would be okay with a little caulking along the edges. The window gaps were also going to be fixed with caulk, and there was no one that really wanted to learn how to caulk. So I volunteered as there wasn't much more putty to be applied.

I did putty what needed puttying first, but then I had Gabe open a tube of caulk and he showed me what I had to do. Every bit of baseboard needed a bead of caulk applied on top of the quarter inch round at the bottom, and another bead at the top after tape was applied to keep it off the rest of the wall. Each door frame needed three beads of caulk along every crack after the frame was set into the hole for the door. Each window frame needed at least three beads of caulk as well. So I had plenty to do the moment I picked up the caulking gun.

And I spent the day learning like mad. Learning what "a bead of caulk" really looks like. It's not actually a line that lies on top of whatever crack that needed caulking. Usually it's laid on top of a place where two things join and it's supposed to finish the join and be invisible to the eye. It's supposed to cover every crack and make a smooth line over the crack so that paint or something else can be applied on top and make the whole thing look like just one, smooth piece.

I started by just using my finger to fill in and smooth the line. Then I found out that if I held the cut tip at a certain angle, I could actually use the tip instead of my finger tip to smooth the line. If I got it right. If I got the correct amount of caulk to flow at just the right instant for the amount of gap to bridge. If... if... on a completely dynamic problem. I loved it. I love these hand-eye coordination things in order to make something perfect. It's a lot like tai chi, a moving meditation, where one can see nirvana and know that it's nearly impossible to obtain.

Everyone else was complaining, the other day, about having to set screws into the sheet rock at "just the right height" and they all blessed the stops that would only allow them to set a screw so far into the rock. I cursed them because in the corners, the lip would make it so that the power screwdriver couldn't even reach the screws, much less do the right thing with them. I went without the lip because I trusted my hands to stop at exactly the right instant when the screw went into the surface just enough but didn't break the paper too much.

I love those kinds of problems, and everyone else calls them tedious. It's not that inner perfectionist, as I can't get it perfect all the time, and I don't give up or call it quits because I can't get it perfect. It's the courageous part of me that tries and tries and goes fierce and determined and gets focused and wants to learn a hundred miles a minute with every single experience I get.

When I was starting to really get it, Gabe asked me, "Can you imagine doing that for days?"

And I replied, "Yes. I'd get good at it instead of being half-assed about it. I'd learn how to use this damned tip. I'd learn how to get the flow right. If I did this every day, all day, I'd get good at it."

I think it took him aback a little. I don't know. Cursing church members, perhaps, or the fact that I could imagine it and would want to do it in order to really get good at it. He later said that he has spent days doing just the caulking. I believe him, totally. I'm only going to have three days worth, but I'm going to make the most of it. There is so much to do and no one else wants to take the responsibility for doing the caulking, and Gabe and John are too valuable in coordinating everyone else's work or doing the really skilled things that I'm probably going to be caulking girl for a while. But I managed to take a few breaks and putty up all the baseboard and quarter inch boards and door frames that Gabe put up as well.

For lunch we went back to the other house, and the professional, trained taping and mudding crew was in finishing what the sheet rock people had put up. They mudded all the screws and were putting tape over all the seams to allow for a completely smooth finish on the walls. That work is even more exacting and precise than my caulking job, and when they screw up, it's not just a wet towel to fix it. So everyone was glad that they were the ones doing that job.

John ran around like mad and got our laundry into the dryer along with running half a dozen other errands. He got several requests to do other people's laundry as well. That was pretty funny.

We got back to our house, and Teresa and Vicki worked on painting all the doors. Teresa had been working on it all day yesterday and all day today. She needed more help as there were a lot of doors in the house and every single one needed sanding, some needed fixing the paint jobs that had been botched before, and then they needed to be painted on one side and allowed to dry overnight before doing the other side. And a whole new set of doors appeared because the old doors were the wrong size for the holes they were supposed to be fitted into.

Kristen, John, and I finally were able to completely finish a baseboard in one of the bedrooms. I'd spent the morning sanding everything, cleaning it all up with a shop vac, and then wiping down all the surfaces before caulking the quarter inch line and caulking in the gaps between the baseboard and the wall. John and Kristen then went and taped the wall and the floor. That was when I was caulking the other door frames and trying to putty up the quarter inch boards in other parts of the house so that I could sand and wipe and caulk those tomorrow.

When they finished taping, we did an assembly line kind of thing. I caulked the top of each baseboard between the tape and the board. Kristen painted the baseboard from tape to tape. Then John went behind her and pulled up all the tape while the caulking was still wet. This was so that the caulking would not pull up with the tape. This is how professionals finish the baseboards when they want to do a really solid job quickly, a single guy will do five feet at a time in order to keep it all fresh. With three people we just ran all the way around the room in very, very little time. But it was kind of nerve-wracking to do the caulking while someone else was waiting on me, in a way, though Kristen was really patient with me. She was fast, too, and I didn't want to keep her waiting.

But we did it fast, and afterward, both Gabe and John were really pleased by the results, so I did well. Not perfect, as there were a few gaps where the big gap actually dropped the caulk and made holes just a few spots, but I'll be able to touch those up tomorrow. And the whole job was quite pleasing to the professionals, so I feel good about that.

I'll get to learn more of that tomorrow, probably a whole lot more.

I caulked some of the really big gaps that I found, after that, and there's plenty more to do in the house. The bathroom is next, and it's small enough to be quick. The back bedroom is pretty huge, but most of it is ready for what comes next, and with the doors done, the front livingroom will be open for sanding and ready for the whole treatment as well.

At 4:30, we packed up and went back to the dorms. Someone also put all our clean laundry on my bed, so I quickly sorted and folded and got John all his stuff in time for his shower. Then I slid out of my shorts in order to get them in someone's laundry load. I need them for work tomorrow, so I should find them sometime. *laughter* Then I put on another pair of shorts, found an open shower, and cleansed myself of all the sticky, sweaty, and dusty results of my work. Right after my shower someone else was drying towels, so I threw my towel in with theirs so that I could have a dry towel for tomorrow's shower. That was very good timing, all in all, and I was very grateful.

Dinner at the cafeteria was at 5:30, and consisted of cafeteria lasagna, canned green beans, and a light salad bar with cheese and bacon. It was hearty and plenty after a hard day's work. I was so sore I couldn't even keep up with John's walking. My knees really ached, especially the reconstructed right knee, I was squatting half the time I was working near the floor, so I can't really be that surprised; but it just hurt. It's just pain when I'm working. It's something to really slow me down only when I don't have something interesting to do.

From there we headed immediately to Back Bay Mission where nearly all of us met in order to go to a revival meeting in Gulfport. A Baptist church there was having a week's worth of revival meetings, and were kind enough to allow us all to go as well, and we non-blacks, nearly all white, filled half their tiny church and sat there looking kind of appalled on the most part as they sang and clapped and joined in the service with their comments, exclamations, and their singing.

It was odd for me, as so many of the volunteers seemed to take it as some kind of performance for their benefit rather than something they were supposed to participate in. The songs were really repetitious and easy to learn, but no one sang, and it seemed... wrong to not try and be a part of it. So I sang when I could, I clapped when it was easy, and I stood with the rest of the white folks when they all stood or sat as one body. That felt weird too, as the congregation would sit or stand as the Spirit took them, rather than just all as one.

One big man was invited to speak for part of the service. They called him Big Ham or Hammet or Emmet, I'm not quite sure which, but he started his speel with "Thank you God for lettin' me be alive above ground today, as it sure beats getting buried below..." And he had a beautifully funny piece about faith and hope for a community that seems to really need it. It was about how to be thankful for each day, for each meal, and for each breath, that enjoyment and thankfulness for the moment, for the present, is a great gift to God from a good God. I really liked it, but I could also tell that a lot of folks had trouble following it, but I loved the vernacular and his way with the musical speech of his congregation. I loved that.

Then Don, the minister of Back Bay Mission, got all of us stiff outsiders to go up front to the choir stand and sing for the congregation. The songs were the ones he taught us yesterday, and we were pretty tentative when he wasn't singing; but we did okay. He helped our "leaders" and got it really going and ended with the chorus as the closing song for us. It was interesting for me, as I think I finally got that folks really wanted to do it "right" rather than just enjoy the doing of it. And I'm realizing I've changed drastically in not that long a time.

The sermon was about Daniel 6, about the proclamation that if anyone prayed to anyone other than King Nebuchadnezzar, then they'd be thrown in the lions' den. And Daniel went home, opened the windows, and prayed to God three times a day until they came and got him and threw him into the lions' den, above the objections of the King. And he comes out with good wishes for the King's health! I always loved that. And the sermon was pretty straightforward about how a Christian is supposed to meet both two-legged and four-legged lions with faith and how everyone meets up with lions in their life.

The sad and painful part of it was that he really got loud and used the sound system to really abuse our ears and eardrums and it was so loud that my ears are still ringing. I liked that he went from the Spoken Word to the sung word, but if he could have done it without blasting my eardrums out I would have been much, much happier. Everyone around me was cringing, and it certainly didn't make a good impression. It just hurt.

Afterward, we went out with the congregation, and I thanked the ones around me for allowing us to participate in their service. They thanked us for coming and helping some of the members of their congregation with their homes. Some of the suits they were wearing were really beautiful, a few were actual Zoot suits with pinstripes and bronzed cloth. We in our t-shirts and jeans were woefully under-dressed compared to them, just as we'd been under-dressed at the gospel service in Seattle. They were out in their glory, and we were only in what we could pack.

So it is. Our carload went and found the Snippity Meow Bow Wow Spay and Neutering Clinic, right next to the Humane Society. It was the one landmark John remembered from the last time he'd been here along that street in Gulf Port. Yes, that does say something about John. laughter

We also went to find a grocery store for Bill. We found the smallest little shop behind the big mall. It was tiny, but it had soap and candy and drinks, as well as two slow cookers filled with boiled peanuts in both plain and Cajun spice. John had to get a cup of the Cajun spice ones, and I had to get another roll of paper towels for the women's bathroom. It was a very useful stop. The boiled peanuts were soft and mealy and spicy as anything, not quite my thing, but John happily passed them around for a bit of local flavor.

When we got back I got to work dumping my brain, but John passed his celphone into the women's room to be handed to me. It was Jet, he wanted to talk with me. But the celphone cut out in the middle of the conversation. Reception wasn't that good in the room, so I went out of the concrete room, perched at the top of the stairs to the second floor, outside, and talked with Jet for a while. He spoke about school and PE, about having fun with Granny and Grandpa, about playing, and when I asked he talked about how his tooth was moving a whole lot. They were supposed to have gone to a supper with everyone else at the church, all the supporters and the families that had been left behind; but I didn't get a hint of that. Jet was happy and cheerful and talked about wanting to call earlier, but we were probably busy or something, but he was glad that he got to talk to us and it was bedtime, so good night, Mama.

Good night, baby.

The other dads told me that their kids had fun playing with Jet, that was pretty funny in a way. But good, too, to realize he was connecting with the other families that way.

Afterward, John went off with a bunch of people go to out exploring. They said that they weren't going too far, but they wanted to do something for themselves after the quick dinner and the revival. I had to dump my brain in here. It's late enough now I should be going to sleep, too, to get up at the usual time. I'm not sure I'm going to avail myself off the breakfast as much in the morning as there have been promises to go to the bakery and get real pastries and coffee instead of the usual, greasier breakfasts. I'm kind of looking forward to the work, so I should get some rest in order to really be able to do it.

So good night.
Tags: building_things, katrina, travel

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