When you don’t recognize life falling apart

Have you ever had something fall apart … right.in.front of your eyes?
Have you ever seen something come unglued … but you didn’t recognize its undoing in progress?

Maybe it was a relationship … or a piece of equipment … or an article of clothing?

Over a year ago, I noticed that the nails on my deck were slightly exposed. I NOTICED … but I didn’t realize what was happening.

This photo shows the nails completely exposed, but when I first noticed them, there was just a slight gap between the single 2×14 piece of wood that ran the length of my deck. I expect that the extended, intense summer months of rain fostered this unraveling. The normal weight of the deck floor was increased by the fact that it was so heavily waterlogged. I think we had rain for six to eight out of ten weeks this summer.

Completely exposed ... and useless ... nails

S . l . o . w . l . y
and quietly, the deck slipped away from its mooring.
While I first noticed there was a change in the way the edge of the deck looked with the exposed nails,
I really didn’t understand what was happening …
until the entire coming apart process had come to fruition.

Exterior wood for bracing ... completely unattached from deck

And I’ll be honest. I was lost. I decided I would certainly have to hire someone to repair the deck. It looked to me as though the entire deck had warped! It looked like at least half of the deck floor boards would have to be replaced.  This would be quite costly and I had no idea how long it would be before I would be brave enough to have someone give me an estimate because I knew it would cost me hundreds … if not over a thousand dollars. I asked the children to stay off the deck for their safety, and I pondered.

With no “extra” thousand dollar bill in sight, I began to wonder if I could fix this? Maybe … just maybe …. those boards could go back into place? But, I was so afraid. HOW? How could I get them back in place? What if I got hurt? How much money would it cost? What about power tools? Roaring … cumbersome … frightening power tools??? ::trembles:: What if I spent a lot of money and made a mess and did more damage than good? What if I did all that work and it didn’t “hold?”

I had never even SEEN a deck built … unless you count the one my father built when I was in early elementary school in my College Park, Georgia home over forty years ago. And even the building of that deck couldn’t qualify as a comparable learning experience because it was built on a cinderblock footing on the ground as opposed to a deck built four feet above ground, suspended on 4×4 posts.

After several months of thinking about my resources and the execution of a plan,
I decided I had to at least give this repair a shot. I was ready …..
trembling and frightened and fearful … but ready to try.

Double jacks! Yes!
I got The Joy-Bucket to help me move some railroad ties under the deck. They were too heavy to carry by myself. We positioned them so that my sweet van’s jack and Glory’s car jack could fit securely underneath the deck. I was surprised that the deck flooring jacked up easily. It appeared that the wood wasn’t warped.

But … I knew the next step would involve this warped piece of wood. It was bowed away from the deck a good two to three inches.
So … I stalled again … out of fear.

Disconnected ... *boo*

With Glory getting ready for a trip to Atlanta on Sunday,  I knew that I had to get her jack OUT from underneath the deck and back into her car if she needed it in the case of an emergency on her trip.  With that pressure propelling me forward, I got busy taking down that bowed wood.

With James holding one end, I pounded the board off the frame and we flipped it over to find that it wasn’t bowed at all. The bent nails had kept it at a distance from the posts!! Yay! Reuse of the already cut-to-fit board saved me $22.00! Yay again!

Removing board nails

Had the deck had been put together with screws rather than nails when it was first built, the hold would have been strong and the deck floor would have never slipped out of place. Looking at the nails, it was amazing that it didn’t come apart even sooner.

weak nails

 

While  Joy removed the old nails from the 2×14 board, I went to Lowe’s to pick up the items I would need to make this repair. As I drove to Lowe’s, I was so excited. I had figured this out! I had come up with a plan!

I had picked up some 4×4’s from someone’s curb last year so I had the wooden support posts I needed. I just needed screws, cement post supports and a long drill bit. The screws were 4″ long and needed to be able to be screwed in all the way. I didn’t think I could do that without pre-drilling.

I also picked up some connectors. Well …. I don’t know what they’re REALLY called! They’re just pieces of metal that connect one piece of wood to another. I know they’re used by contractors to connect rafters when building a house. I had to look at all the different styles to figure out which one would work for this project.

The box of nails cost around 8.50, the connectors around $5 each (used 2), the post holder $7. (used 2) and the drill bit $2.50.  So, I spent a total of $35.00 … not the hundreds I first feared the job could cost.

My purchase

When I got home, I got busy getting the posts ready. I put the connectors in place so that the weight of the deck would rest in the middle of the 4×4. I knew the connector would keep the post from moving in the future.

Post stabilizing

I jacked up the deck a little farther than level so that I could get the posts into place.

Plumbing! Yes!

Once level and screwed into place, I let the deck back down so that it was level and resting on the posts.

My deck posts!! woot!
Oh! My! Goodness! This was working!

Level!

James held one end of the board while we put a few nails in to hold it in place and then
I began my pre-drilling. I’m telling you, I was so excited. I felt like God had walked me through all of this and helped me figure out each step.

I chose to move the end rail up by about an inch and a half  from its original placement.

A slightly raised deck edge

This allowed me to secure the deck floor boards AND the undergirding support system to the outer piece of wood … and I like that the board is now flush with the deck floor.

The deck support board

My total time spent outside Sunday afternoon was probably about two to three hours. It took me a while to mentally work through the logistics of this repair
and it took me significantly longer to push past the fear of actually doing it,
but Sunday afternoon
my deck went from this

My fallen deck. s@dneSS

to this!!
My repaired deck!

Now, I’m not afraid to walk on the deck.

In fact, I thought about a question that Oprah often asks guests on her show.
The question is the meat of the topic of her editorial in O Magazine every month. She asks the question

What do you know for sure?

“What do you know for sure?”

I’ve given that question a LOT of thought over the last year. I thought about making it a monthly blog topic … but then thought …. “I don’t even now if I could come up with a full year’s worth of posts!”  Life has been such a chaotic, crazy unpredictable ride the last five years that I’m not sure I know much of anything for sure.

But, as I screwed in the last screw from that brand new 47 count box of  four-inch galvanized screws,
I laughed out loud and said to myself,
“Well, there’s one thing I DO know for sure. THIS deck won’t fall again from lack of support!”

A level deck! Yay!
After this project,  I am a little less afraid
to conquer the next project that will surely show itself pressing.

My happy deck

I watched my deck  … pull apart.
I saw indicators. I saw evidence. I saw slow, faltering movement.
But I didn’t recognize it as something that should have been alarming. Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world ....
This physical act reminds me of the spiritual parallel that fits well.
Sometimes our relationships become unglued, unhinged, unraveled.
We may only recognize the benchmark
in hindsight.
My focus has never been and will never be
to live in a dull, dry, empty relationship
that never experiences trials or even an unraveling.
My focus in any relationship is make note of what happened in a trial
and use that experience to build a stronger more stable friendship.
We live in a fallen world with broken people.
Decks … people … relationships … come apart.
It takes time, focus, energy and ingenuity to figure how
to make things stable again,
but for the one who sees value in the investment
the time is well spent. Sweet Gum

Fall is upon us.
I look forward to more well invested time
seated upon this sturdy deck with friends and family
in the weeks and months ahead.

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