So, one of my big dilemmas in changing careers from banking executive to stay-at-home mom and now to working on homes is that I’m a perfectionist when it comes to work. Maybe not so much with a lot of other things. But when it comes to things I place a high value on, know others will be critiquing, etc…. man, I can overthink things! What does that have to do with this dirty ol’ 7-Up bottle? Well, read on!
Since deciding on my career direction, I’ve been wrapped up in my own head a bit about the inherent knowledge gap that comes with starting my own business. *Especially* because if I screw up and take too long or have to re-do work, it costs me money. All on my own dime. It’s not like I can screw up and still get my nice monthly salary with supportive co-workers who share encouraging words such as “Oh, you’re still new and getting settled in. Give yourself some time!”.
Well, everything happens for a reason. This whole conversation has been going on in my mind over the last few months. How am I going to learn the things that I know I can do (or at least oversee) and not kill the renovation budget in the process? I’ve come up with a thousand answers (and so has my ever-patient husband) and none of them acceptable. Sorry, honey. Until I was sitting in a café reading a home real estate magazine for the little ski town we were visiting. In that magazine, one of the profiled owners of some home-related business mentioned that their team volunteers once a year with Habitat for Humanity. I swear I heard one of those old fashioned vinyl record screeching noises. Why so gleeful? Well, I just found my answer! Habitat for Humanity is this awesome organization that builds and restores homes for families in need. They rely on the generosity of volunteers to make this happen. Of course, they have “experts” there volunteering (such as the aforementioned business owner who takes his team to volunteer once a year), but they have an ongoing need for people to help them build houses. No experience required. What!!!! I could barely wait to tell my husband and let him know he (and all of his great but no longer needed) ideas were off the hook. I’d solved the great mystery. Done and done!
So, I signed up and then panicked for two weeks straight. Renovating while at home is one thing, but working around a schedule outside of the house hasn’t happened in our household for a while. We talked to the kids and they worried and had a million questions. They vacillated between being really excited and proud that mommy was going to help people, and then worrying about themselves and what that meant for them. But we forged on and the lunches were packed, the sturdy work boots set out, we were all ready. And then one of the kids walked in to the room sounding like someone had stuffed cotton up her nose and the glassiest of glassy eyes you have ever seen and sadly announced “Maahhhmie… I dun beel so gud.”. Oh crap. Five minutes of semi panicked brainstorming later and I had a reliable babysitter all ready to save our day. She would stay home with my under-the-weather kiddo and I’d trudge “off to work” as the kids put it. Sick kid was excited to get the sitter all to herself and watch unmitigated amounts of princess videos, so all was right in the world. Except now I was PAYING to learn. It was a little easier to digest the whole volunteer-to-learn thing when I thought it was a financial wash. But, I figured a lot of people do internships and don’t get paid a dime so a day here or there wouldn’t hurt.
So, at 7:07am I rolled out and headed off to a small town north of Boulder to go be of civic assistance and learn some construction skills. The Habitat staff was friendly and welcoming so it was a relief to not feel like I was in the way. As it turned out, there was another home site about 15 minutes away that needed a few more volunteers so we loaded up into the oldest work truck in operation and chugged down the road to help there. We got a brief explanation of work safety, signed some waivers, heard a little about the family who would be living in the new home (third generation in this small town, husband is blind and lost everything when the big flood in 2013 came through). The site foreman did a great job of telling us where he needed us and seemed to have a good handle on what we could help out with.
We cleaned up the work site (to the tune of a completely full construction dumpster!), sorted and loaded extra siding to go back to the other site, sorted out 1″ and 2″ pipes to go from the electric utility poles to the house and garage, dismantled a staircase, dug a trench and drove back and forth between the two work sites a few times.
So, it may not sound like any earth-shattering learning was done but I had a great time. I thought of my Dad, Glen Hurley, and grandfather a lot throughout the day. My dad because he owned a lumber yard and the smell of freshly cut wood was all around us, which always reminds me of him. But also because he was the first one to put many of the tools I had into my hands as a little girl and told me I could do it. I forgot that until I was using the crow bar and hammer and drill to dismantle a staircase pretty much all by myself. I also thought of my grandfather as we kept unearthing really old glass bottles (the home was on the site of a former dump so we found all kinds of old leather shoes, glass bottles, metal egg beaters, etc.).
The highlight of our treasure finds was one old glass 7-Up bottle that I’m going to clean up and use as a little vase for the single flowers the kids are always bringing by. It’s broken and we left the pretty cobalt blue bottles for the homeowners. But the old work truck (“Old Blue”) we used to go back and forth between the work sites may very well have been my grandfather’s old pick-up truck. It smelled like it with it’s old upholstery and leather smell. It even had about a dozen windshield cracks just to prove how tough it was. It was just missing a knob on the steering wheel…
So, I’ll keep volunteering as long as they’ll have me. I figure this is all a great supplement to the skills I already have. Aforementioned fantastic dad taught me how to throw down a mean subway tile, use a chop saw and drive a forklift. For all of the other things, I learn fast and take pretty good mental notes. I’m hoping it won’t take long before I’m even more helpful and valuable of a volunteer for them. As far as on-the-job training goes, this is a pretty awesome way to go about it. And maybe we will drive in “Old Blue” again and I’ll take his picture because he’s pretty awesome.