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Archive for the ‘People make the difference’ Category

Robert and Jamaica

My brother-in-law’s eyes glisten, when he describes the ocean views in every direction, from the family’s hilltop home in Jamaica. At every window, you can feel the ocean breeze. Even on the hottest, most humid days.

When Hurricane Andrew struck the Caribbean in August of 1992, the television news media showed shots of that house, being ravaged by the winds and rain. Small sections of the roof being peeled off, and flung away. Closed window shutters being ripped from their hinges, then twirling and hurling through the air.

Miraculously, the huge white stucco house stood unscathed otherwise. Structurally sound. Most of the interior had been left undamaged, except for marred walls. A few pieces of wood furniture were scratched and water damaged. A few dozen earthen floor tiles loosened.

Repairs took time, and cost a small fortune. Most construction materials had to be imported from the mainland. The United States, primarily.

The lost roof sections and window panes were replaced first. Destroyed wood window shutters were replaced. As necessary, interior surfaces and living spaces were repaired and refinished. Uprooted landscaping was replaced.

In 2014, the entire property was restored to its original appearance. Certain “upgrades” were added that featured construction materials and techniques designed to withstand major disaster wind currents, rain, and flooding.

1. A new roof was put on the house and adjacent building. Roof tresses were stapled and tied down with special stabilizers.
2. All windows were replaced with units designed to withstand 250-mph storm winds and gusts.
3. All wood shutters were stripped, refinished and re-installed with solid steel hardware.
4. The exterior surfaces were pressure-washed, with a special compound, then repaired and prepped. An extreme environmental exposure primer sealer was sprayed on. Then, three coats of tropical-formulated paint were brushed, rolled, and sprayed on. Note: Products were heavy-duty. Manufacturer: Sherwin-Williams.
5. All interior painted surfaces were stripped, filled and sanded. Then, three coats of off-white stucco paint were applied, using brushes, rollers and spray systems. Manufacturer: Glidden’s.
6. All natural wood railings, wainscoting, and trims were repaired, filled and smooth-sanded. Then, two teak oil-treatments were applied. Manufacturer: MinWax.
7. The tile floors were cleaned with a mixture of natural elements, then re-grouted, and resealed.
8. The wood furniture and cabinetry were cleaned. Most received a teak oil-treatment.
9. Wood furniture and cabinetry with badly-abused surfaces were carefully wet-sanded. Then the pieces were painted with high-gloss indoor or outdoor latex.
10. Upholstered pieces were repaired and recovered.

The property remains in the family. Since 2007, the property and the resident owner receive visitors on rare occasions, and only at certain times of the year.
Still visible from every window, veranda and door is the ocean’s face. As peaceful, yet as changing and unpredictable, as the winds overhead.

The last month has been an ideal time to reflect on that home in Jamaica – and its very long recovery. Even with plenty of money, the owners have had to exercise immense patience during this reconstruction process.

And, as someone else’s in-law told me as Hurricane Maria threatened the islands last week, “Hurricanes are a part of island life, Bob. You take the major damage with the major joys.”

The man knew what he was talking about. At 71, he was still a life-long, and full-time, resident of St. Anne’s and Kingston. He’d ridden out many major storms in the past. And, even as he knew the Category 4-5 was ripping off shutters, uprooting 50-60 year old trees, and pouring rain into every crack, he smiled. Totally accepting and content.

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Natives bring island life into perspective for mainlanders.
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Best regards to both Roberts: the one back home in Jamaica, the other one wishing he were there.

Copyright 2017. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

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TORNADOES

IN 1946…

At age four, my mother watched a “swirling, dirty gray” funnel approach her at the kitchen window, then lift from the ground. A while later, her father stood outside the farm house. He followed the path that the tornado had taken after lifting.

Directly above that window, the funnel tore off over one-half of the roof shingles. It ripped out red bricks from the chimney. Inside, it popped sections of plaster from the ceilings and walls in every room. Not only behind painted but also wallpapered walls.

The tornado had just missed the family inside the house. But, the “big wind” had pushed in the walls. Then it toppled the big red barn, killing four horses.

In 1993, my grandfather told me that he never figured out where the Billy goat had hidden that day. But, he was the only larger animal spared.

IN 1971…

At age eight, I stood at my third-grade classroom’s span of huge windows, and watched. “Look, Mrs. D., a BIG gray cloud.”

Then, the school’s muffled alarm went off. My teacher shouted, “Hurry, everyone into the hall!” And, next came a deafening and strong WHOOSH! Like a real powerful vacuum cleaner.

The country school was spared, except for windows blown out of four of the classrooms that stood in the tornado’s path.

By the way, from our family’s home located a little southwest of the school, my mother saw the funnel heading for my elementary school. And she phoned the school principal.

IN THE LATE 1980s…

My father had just filled his roller with more paint. A supervisor at the Lever Brothers plant shouted, “Hit the floor, everyone!”

And total chaos hit next. Toppling cases of liquid Wisk laundry detergent. Bottles of Snuggles fabric softener flying and swaying through the air. Steel equipment ripped apart.

It took a while until our company got the call that we painters could return to finish the “safety” paint job. In fact, the project was greatly expanded, because of the major repairs and reconstruction after the tornado struck. Our paint job at the plant got extended over three months.

On September  of 2017…

Decorative painter Jonathan, a friend at Melbourne Beach, secured his one-man paintshop. He hunkered down for Category 3-4 Hurricane Irma’s arrival during the next day.

He’d lived through a number of other major hurricanes and tropical storms. He wasn’t worried. But from experience, he was cautious.

What he had never faced was a tornado.

“I’ll see that twisting and hear that locomotive the rest of my life,” he said on the phone. “My shop is in shambles. All my brushes, paints, templates, etc? Fine.” The 55-year old native of Los Angeles County sounded very shaken. A guy that grew up along the San Andreas Fault Line.

IN CERTAIN PARTS OF THE MIDWEST…

Tornadoes are common and frequent.

“We batten down the hatches,” said aeronautical inventor and industrialist George Manis in July of 1960. He’d arrived home minutes before a set of tornadoes whipped across Lake Wawasee.
But too late to help his wife, Mary, and my mother secure the boats tied up at the piers, and move the heavy wrought iron patio furniture.

“Those lakefront homes were all well-built,” my mother said last week. “They were made to withstand tornadoes, as well as the brutal winter snow and ice storms.”

IN THE SOUTHEAST…

Tornadoes are often spawned from tropical storms or hurricanes. Sometimes by electrically-charged lightning storms.

Wherever they occur with some regularity, the residents have learned to heed the warnings. They pay attention. They try to secure outdoor furniture, vehicles, boats, etc. They pack up. They move near a sturdy inside wall.

SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE WITH TORNADOES…

My mother noted that, like those homes hit in Indiana years ago, the ones heavily damaged this month in Central Florida will require major repairs inside and out. “Some reconstruction and restoration.”

Agreed! Many of the Florida properties will also require toxic mold remediation before any repairs can be made. Before any reconstruction and restoration can take place. Before any painter can take a brush, roller or spray gun and apply a beautiful new finish to any surface.

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Both tornadoes and hurricanes can leave behind irreparable damages,
irreplaceable losses, and unforgettable memories.
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Stay storm safe and smart. And, thanks for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

Copyright 2017. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

The Pianist, The Painter, The Singer, The Statesman

Periodically, my mother’s interior design class toured Chicago area properties.

On one, day-long tour, they visited three luxury homes that set on Evanston’s high bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan.

One home featured fine examples of classic contemporary design: simple lines, solid colors, smooth finishes, subtle textures, geometric patterns, and sleek woods, tiles, glass, and chrome.

From its trimly landscaped and broadly sweeping circle driveway, to the double set of solid red lacquer front doors, to the nine-foot main hallway that trailed through the house, to the four glass doors at the rear, that overlooked the lake.

The sprawling, one-story structure suited its owners: a concert pianist and conductor, and his wife, an artist and author.

The music room stood out. Its two most striking amenities: the magnificent black lacquer Steinway concert piano and the 12-inch square, black and white marble tiles that covered the floor.

Features also included the following:

1. dome ceiling with a huge globular skylight;
2. solid black marble fireplace;
3. two walls lined with white-enameled bookcases, stuffed with books, bound volumes of sheet music, also wood and ivory artifacts;
4. couches and easy chairs upholstered in matching white-on-white striped damask.

All of the other sixteen rooms featured equally elegant, yet comfortable appointments. It was a home that clearly represented the personalities of the owners, and met their needs perfectly.

Shortly before the design school students’ visit, the owners had decided to retire in that house. And, they’d put their South Florida home up for sale.

Nearly twenty years after touring that home, my mother was led into the luxury apartment of a former opera star, Adeline Arrigo. Interestingly, she had performed with the concert pianist on philharmonic stages throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

Madame Arrigo resided on the second story of a red brick, three-story walk-up built in the early 1900s by her husband’s Sicilian family. The South Racine Avenue building, located on the southeast side of Chicago, set across the street from University of Illinois’s Chicago campus. And, the three-story building had five large apartments – all occupied by “Arrigos.”

The focal points of the two bedroom apartment were the portraits of Adeline and her husband, the late Victor Arrigo. On every wall, every shelf and every table top were representations of the owners famous lives. Adeline, the opera star. Victor, the Illinois statesman that drafted, then championed the Federal Fair Credit and Collection Act. (Note: A stronger version of the law is in effect today.)

The traditional apartment also featured:

1. 12-foot high, white-sponged stucco ceilings;
2. white plaster, also deep red painted, walls;
3. tall wood-paned windows in each of the eight rooms;
4. white marble, wood-burning fireplaces in three rooms;
5. crystal chandeliers;
6. lustrous hardwood floors; and,
7. large oriental area rugs depicting eighteenth century country scenes.

The apartment was appointed with elegant, yet comfortable seating in every room. In the living room: deep red velvet-upholstered sofas, and black leather fireside chairs. In the bedrooms: European-designed settees and chairs, covered in deeper pink or soft rose moiré. Plush velvet upholstery covered the dining room chairs. And hand-sewn satin, moiré, and crushed velvet pillows set on every piece of seating.

The two distinctive period homes – the sprawling contemporary house of the 1960s-1970s, and the large traditional apartment of the 1940s-1950s – provided a very similar peak into elegant yet understated living. In their respective spaces, the owners and residents had created environments that supported their need for creative thought, good taste, peace and contentment. All had surrounded themselves with meaningful symbols of who they were as persons. And, what they represented.

The Chicago area featured many architectural and design masterpieces. I never had the privilege to visit the residences described above. Yet, I have had the opportunity to work on many similar homes. In doing so, the greatest pleasure has been in meeting the unique persons that have lived there.

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Fine design deserves to be preserved with the hand of a fine painter-craftsperson.
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Thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

Copyright 2017. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

Painter’s World: On Being a Paint Superintendent, or a Boss

One time, I jumped all over my father for coming down hard on a new painter.

Dad said, “He deserved it.”

I said, “No, he deserved some respect. He deserved a chance to learn, then to get it right.”

Less than fifteen minutes later, my dad took the new crew member aside. He apologized and showed the man the correct way to do the job that he’d been assigned. Then Dad stepped away.

It was the first and last time that I ever heard him yell at a crew member. And, after he died, many painters told me that they had never heard him do that.

Yes, he raised his voice. Yes, he called out the painters when they deserved it. Yes, he corrected them. And yes, he even told them what to do.

But, when a painter was not getting it – or not getting it right, Dad would help him rectify the situation. Often cutting into his own time schedule that was already under tight constraints.

When more than one painter was not getting it at the same time, Dad stopped everything. And he conducted a little, on-site crash course. Whether the problem was a new product, a stubborn piece of equipment, a resistant surface, uncooperative weather conditions, etc., he showed the entire crew that was there what needed to be done. Or not.

During Memorial Day week-end, a retired and former member of our old crew e-mailed me the following…

“Bob, your dad was a commanding force wherever he went. Wherever he stood. I knew him for over forty years. We joined IBPAT (IUPAT) about the same time.

“He was a man to be reckoned with, but never a man that insisted on it. He knew the painting trade backward and forward, inside and out. He was so blamed skilled and experienced in the trade that he could do anything that he tackled. A top rate superintendent or foreman, a ‘take charge’ person that everyone respected…”

Working under my dad was overwhelming at times. His six-foot, 200-pound frame served him well for the job he was given in life. It partnered well with the way that he needed to run a job, paint crew, powerful piece of equipment, or even dealings with a client or architect.

And the nickname “Moose” suited him like a custom pair of whites. His caribou-like walk sort of shook the floorboards when he charged through a job site. More than once, I tensed up waiting for him to bellow.

Some painters and decorators are cut out to be superintendents or bosses. You just look at them, and you know that. You see it. You hear it. You sense it in the way that they approach even basic, mundane tasks. With a unique command of and presence in everything they do.

One more thing: Commanding forces such as my father often attract equally commanding forces. People just like them. In my father’s case, it happened to be very successful entrepreneurs and founders of established enterprises. Men and women whose natural inclination was to take charge… to assume responsibility… to accept accountability for how things turned out.

Being a superintendent or a big boss was never my thing. Thankfully. For one thing, I don’t know if my father could have taken the strain, or competition. (And my mother? Forget it!)

Early in my painting career, I found my niche: serving as the go-to guy for those superintendents and bosses. Their back up when trouble loomed, and things got tough. Fortunately, every one of them, including my father, has been more than glad to turn things over to me. And to trust me with them.

Being able to fulfill – and to exceed – their expectations and needs on a consistent basis has been so worth all the effort. And the hard knocks.

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Great leaders must have great people to lead.
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Thanks to all visitors to “Painting with Bob.”

Copyright 2017. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

Volunteering Your Painting and Decorating Skills, Part II: Options and Action

When it comes to volunteering our painting skills, we may overlook the needs that exist in our own community or neighborhood. Two large categories below:

1. Steer your skills where they can matter the most at this time.
Examples:
A. Local low budget nursing home unable to afford staff painter.
B. Local public school severely hurt by sharp budget cuts.
C. Local free medical clinic.
D. Local small church or church school.
E. Low income or fixed income neighborhood.
F. Family that’s been uprooted by severe medical bills, or death of main breadwinner.

2. Consider discreetly volunteering your skills for persons that you know.
Examples:
A. Relative or friend.
B. Elderly or disabled neighbor.
C. Your church pastor and family.
D. Members of church family.

Also, we may not know how to go about finding these needs in our own back yards. Two ideas:

1. To locate a local needy person or family, check with your pastor or one of a nearby smaller parish.
TIPS: Some churches only accept volunteer work through their own parishioners. Also, people have their pride. Offer help only to persons or families willing to accept to accept it.

2. To find a local low-income church, organization, facility, school or group, I suggest that you write a brief letter offering your painting skills labor-free. Include the following information:

A. summary of your experience
B. work you’re available to do, including days, no. of hours, morning or afternoon.
C. availability: 1 time, temporary for 3 months 1 year, etc.
D. statement about who buys and who pays for needed supplies – eg. paint, caulking tubes
fillers, sandpapers, paint thinner.
E. statement about when supplies would need to be purchased.
F. statement about your limits – eg. interior work, environmental conditions, hazardous conditions, tools
and equipment.

A FEW TIPS ABOUT DOING THE VOLUNTEER PAINTING JOB

1. Aim to leave behind a finished job as good as you do in your paid painting job.
2. Follow standard and exceptional policies, procedures, and techniques that you normally follow.
3. Be neat, thorough and friendly.
4. Respect all the health and safety rules that you would normally follow.
5. Be professional on your volunteer job, too.
6. Respect the rules that apply to your work for the person, family, organization, group, etc.
7. Maintain your pre-set volunteering parameters. Do not volunteer to do more than you have
offered or agreed upon, at least the first time that you help out that person or group. Even
one extra room, area or park bench can require more time than you have available.
8. Be honest.
9. Set and keep to a schedule. Cancel or change work dates and times only if necessary. And,
give prompt notice.

MY VIEW: I want to do my best. And, I want beneficiaries to want me to come back and help them again.

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When a painter volunteers, he or she adds special strokes of hope into the lives of others.
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Thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”
Copyright 2017. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

Volunteering Your Painting and Decorating Skills, Part I: Where You’re Coming From

Whatever your painting capabilities – and specialty areas, there’s a cause or program out there that can really use your help. From the local, loosely formed grassroots organization to the international non-profit corporation, the need for skilled craft persons is basically the same.

It’s up to you to find that niche – and then help to fulfill it.

So, how do you volunteer your painting skills and abilities toward a good cause? One that you’ll feel good about while you’re working on it, then after you leave.

TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED ON YOUR VOLUNTEER PAINTER’S PATH

1. Your interests. What grabs your attention – and won’t let go?

Examples: Neighborhood park; local school/ learning center; pets, animal shelters, zoos; people: elderly staying in own home/ ALF, or skilled nursing facility, children with chronic diseases, disabled adults, homeless families; churches, church fundraising arms, youth programs; historic preservation properties, museums, art/theatre/culture centers; community/ civic centers.

2. Your obligations. How often can you help out?

Examples: 1 hour a week, two hours a month, one-half day (4 hours) a month 1 week (5-7 days).

3. Your schedule. When can you help out?

Examples: Mondays only; mornings (8am-12 noon); week-ends (Saturday and/or Sunday); vacation/ break/ sabbatical.

4. Location. Where can you help out?

Examples: A. Locally/ close to home (within 10 miles); B. In this half of county; C. Anywhere in county; D. Within my state/ region of state; E. Region of country: Northwest, West, Southwest; Plains, North Midwest; Northeast, East, Southeast; South; F. Anywhere in U.S. mainland; G. Foreign country – eg. Sudan.

5. Your availability. Are you available to live on-site – say for 7 to 10 days?

Examples: New school construction, third-world country; hurricane disaster community in U.S.; remodeling of free medical clinic on Indian reservation; restoration of historic estate; rebuilding of burned out orphanage in Appalachians.

6. Your accommodations. What, if any, special accommodations do you need in order to be able to help?

Examples: Good HVAC system (heat, ventilation, A/C); building access ramp and entry/exit, handicapped parking; assistance with lifting, carrying, moving anything over 10 pounds; limited walking; special diet. (For extended stay, on-site projects); sanitary sleeping/ restroom facilities.

7. Your tasks. What specific painting tasks do you want to help with, or handle?

Examples: New construction only; Brush/roll only; spraying; surface/ area prepping; powerwashing; mixing/ matching paints; wallpapering; cleaning up graffiti; cleaning high-sanitation area; decorative finishing.

8. Your environment. Which works better for you: interior or exterior work?

9. People. Do you want to work on a small crew? Or, with a large group of volunteers?

10. Your role. Are you interested in supervising others? How many persons? Which skill level(s): skilled, semi-skilled, unskilled?

11. Entity. Do you want to help with the same group or organization each time? Or, do you like the idea of working on projects for different groups/ organizations? OR, do you want to work on special projects only?

12. Your Transportation. How will you get to-and-from each volunteer site?

Examples: Your car/truck/SUV/van; public transportation – commuter bus or train; plane; boat.

13. Your finances. Can you afford to volunteer any time, without pay? Will you need financial help to pay for getting to-and-from each volunteer site?

Examples: For gas, oil, parking fees, road tolls; tickets, fares, fees.

14. Your personality. What type of volunteer opportunity, as outlined above, really matches who you are? Under less than perfect circumstances? When very little is in your control? When the other people involved are very different from you?

15. Your health. What health issues, if any, do you need to consider when choosing a volunteer outlet for your skills and interests? Which volunteer opportunity(ies) will be very doable for you? Which needs will you be able to fulfill while helping to provide a healthy and safe atmosphere for yourself and others?

16. Your commitment. How serious are you about volunteering your painting capabilities? Are you willing to switch around your current priorities to make room for this new one? Or even let something else go?

17. Your reasons. Why do you want to volunteer at this time in your life? Examples: Have more time; see need for your kind of help; recent experience raised your awareness level; social consciousness want to pay back kindness you/your family received; realize what you’ve been missing by not volunteering.

18. Your ultimate goal. What do you need to get out of the experience? What do you want to leave behind? What, if any, personal motive do you have?

Here, I’d like to add one more thing:

19. Your “what ifs”. What if you can’t find a fit? What if the volunteer opportunity you chose turns out to be less than anticipated? Or more than you can, or want to, handle? Or very different than what you signed on for?

THE CHOICE IS ALWAYS YOURS

Volunteer where you feel you’re needed.
Volunteer where you believe you’ll be appreciated.
Volunteer where you see that you can make a positive difference.
Volunteer where you know that, later, you’ll still know that it was the right thing to do!

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A special “thank you” to all painters that have stepped up to the plate and volunteered.
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Copyright 2017. Robert D. Hajtovik. “Painting with Bob.” All rights reserved.

Creating and Painting: Murals by G.B. – Part II

Do you remember the muralist, G. B., that I blogged about in December of 2015?

Well, G. B. – Gerard – resides now in an “elder care home” located in South Florida.

His knees click when he stands or bends. His arms won’t reach overhead without a painful struggle. His fingers crimp when he tries to grasp an artist’s brush for longer than three minutes. And, many tiny black dots dance through his narrowing view.

Has he given up painting?

“NEVER!” he cheered on the telephone.

Instead, guess what the 72-year old artist is doing:

He’s painting small murals on different walls throughout the facility where he resides.

He paints small flower gardens – of their choice – in the rooms of neighbors in his wing. For Marlene: a patch of red, yellow, orange, pink, and lilac Tulips. For Clara: tall Gladiolas in bright peach, coral, yellow, orange, and scarlet. For Harry: three Rosebushes full of young blooms. For Jen Lee: a garden of wild flowers: Tiger, Peace and Day Lilies; Daisies, Iris, Goldenrod, Roses.

He’s painted an herbal garden on the wall along a short hallway near the main kitchen’s pantry. In the main dining hall, he painted two wrought iron café chairs and a table, complete with a setting of Limoges Haviland tea service.

At the end of one corridor, he created a “wall” bird sanctuary. He painted in three birdhouses, a bird bath, a large ceramic frog, and “a squirrel that has seen better days.” Along another corridor, he painted butterflies. A variety of species, colors and sizes.

In January, the facility’s administrator “commissioned” Gerard to design and paint a music staf half-railing along one wall of the music and band room.

What’s next? Gerard is designing an “open-themed” half-wall mural for the “Activities Room.” He’s recruited fellow residents who want to help paint it. A group project, complete with snacks and lunch – furnished by the kitchen staff, and the administrator.

I think that G.B. – “Gerard” – is a fine example of life after life alters the way a painter – a person – must pass through it. Tweaks here and there. Some adjustments.

And changes. A part of life from birth.

Like Gerard’s 15-year old grandson e-mailed, “So what’s the big deal? Grandpére is amazing!”

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Thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”
Copyright 2017. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

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