leave old job....leave old home...enter new home...engage new life...maintain what matters

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Alternative Home Builder: Week 23

“By selling all shares of Medtronic stock, you are closing out your Wells Fargo account.  Do you confirm?”  Gulping, I paused, not ready for that question from the customer service rep on the other end of the line.  We needed the money, or most of it at least, to cover overruns on the house and leave us at least a little cushion.   But closing my account---the Medtronic stock I’d purchased over my 18 years with them---meant yet another end.  Another big no.  It also meant the end of another nest egg.  Maybe if I could have flash forwarded to the rest of my day, the decision would have been a little easier. 
As our passive solar system (south facing windows) warmed our house to a balmy 80 degrees, the sheetrock mudders finished their third and final coat.  Ready to sand tomorrow. 
In our refreshingly cool cellar, the HVAC guys completed the plumbing for the in-floor heat.  Now all we need is to hook up the solar hot water.
Beating my chest, I chain sawed the monster boxelder.  Thud!   Thud!  Thud!  One after another, the 2’ thick limb sections crashed to the ground, ready for splitting.
And best of all, perhaps, hunting hawk, suddenly rising from the ridge before me as I walked the spine trail home. 
At Medtronic, I often succeeded (and simultaneously annoyed people) by what I called ‘ruthless prioritization’.  I said no a lot, so that when I said yes to those few winning engagements, I committed and got it done.   That’s what this journey is for now.  Leave old job.  Leave old home.  The two big no’s.  And now there’s another little no:  close Medtronic stock account.  By so doing I can shout a louder yes.  Yes to enter new house.  Yes to engage new life.  Yes to maintain what matters.
I'm like wooly bear crawling out the safety of his wood pile into the unknown of a January sun.

“I confirm.”
Today I was shocked by the one thing---amongst all the amazing things I did today---that really got my heart beating, something so un-Mike-like.  Beautiful as it was, it was NOT the blood red boxelder revealed to me after one mighty swing of the splitting maul.

 Interesting (and disturbing) as it was, it was NOT the nest of carpenter ants frozen inside the next split stump.
Unbelievable as it was (for a Minnesota January 10th), it was NOT the turf springing beneath my feet as I walked back to the tiny cabin, nor the punky ice on the sunny north shore of the east pond.

Exciting as it was, it was NOT the arrival of the Root River Hardwoods truck and the first sight of our new interior doors

nor the red elm paneling which will one day grace our walls.

No, what really got my heart a beating today was cleaning.  That’s right cleaning.  The house was coated with dust from sanding sheetrock.  And if Linda’s reading this up in Minneapolis I want you to know that I’m not kidding.  She’ll tell you (and she’s right), I’m not much of a cleaner.  Yet I knelt on the concrete floor and vacuumed away until the coming darkness forced me to stop (we’re still a little short on lights).  It wasn’t until I walked home that I understood what possessed me.  I’m finally working on the house.  Me.  Doing real work.  For the past 22 weeks, I’ve pretty much done what I’ve always did at Medtronic:  make decisions, help others do their job better.  But now Linda and I have entered the DIY phase.  We will paint the interior.  We will acid-etch the concrete floor.  We will lay the Marmoleum Click kitchen floor.  We will lay the cork Yoga loft floor.  To me, cleaning sheetrock dust was the first step in painting.   Right now, as I type, my heart started beating a little faster.  And so it begins.

I dusted.
I vacuumed.
I covered.
Ready to paint.


There it is!  The first paint brush strokes on our house.  I’m trying really hard to be enthusiastic since we didn’t get done what I’d hoped.  We primed half of the ceilings (bathroom, guest bedroom, master bedroom, hallway and living room).   I’d hoped to get them all done.   While it’s often said that hope is not a strategy, I say it’s an even worse forecaster.    I wonder what percentage of all my sour moods is due to the world not meeting some expectation I cast upon it.  “Do this, world!”  I’m beginning to have grave doubts about the usefulness of expectations, save perhaps of my own behavior.   And of that I did really, really well today.  I started on time.  Ended on time.  Worked hard and learned a lot in between, and I have the ceiling-roller’s stiff neck to prove it.   Thank goodness for Doug, my friend and painter extraordinaire, who not only bought all the right paint, but generously offered great tips.  “Just pour it into a smaller bucket.”  That was Doug’s advice for how to deal with my first 5 gallon pail of paint.  And when I did it, first thing this morning, without spilling a drop, I strutted like a barnyard rooster.  So tomorrow, I plan to try a few more things I’ve never done, including holding off on any other expectations.
Expectations or no, real work is real hard.  So hard that I couldn’t muster Friday’s blog until Saturday morning.  Ceiling painter’s neck aside, I actually did enjoy myself.  Having a friend rolling at my side certainly helped, not only those special conversations that occur between friends working side by side, but the feeling, the silent camaraderie, of doing it together.  The dance of work.  (And Linda had a great idea that made everything come out better;  bring a sawdust toilet in from the shed and put it in the basement.  Presto! Instant potty.  What other toilet design could be so adaptable?  Need a toilet?  Here you go!) 

All this sure helped overcome what is now the biggest challenge:  no windows to look out.    Not a one.  Every window, every door is covered with plastic.  I’ve lost the Connection, the reason for the House the Land Built.  The Land doesn’t exist.  Is it still snowing?  Can’t tell.  I’m a horse with blinders, single-mindedly focused on my one goal:  paint the house.  And that, my generous reader, is going well.  Oh yes, we finished priming the ceiling. 

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