(Ms D doing her day care with the shop hounds)
My options were limited. I could run an ad for a carpenter, and risk the same experience I had with the last one. I wanted to go through this about as bad as I wanted to have my wisdom teeth pulled with a claw hammer. I pretty much gave up on the idea of hiring some handyman or contractor because of the added cost. I was the one that was responsible for the mess and it was me who gave him the advance. The way I saw it, it would be me who would get us out and me alone who would take the hit for the advance.
I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do this. I just knew I would somehow see it through to the end. Before we can learn a lesson and move on, they say it has to hurt, even sting. You have to walk before you run I guess. If that’s the case I was on a dead run.
In my mind, there was one thing I could do. It wasn’t what I had first envisioned, but it seemed like a possible and practical solution; that was for me to finish the work, or at least attempt to move forward with the project until I found a carpenter. There was just one problem with that plan.
I had no experience at installing kitchen cabinets or counter tops. In short, I didn’t have a clue where to began.
I remember having a huge headache. I just sat in my shop thinking (and feeling a bit sorry for myself) about my options and next move. I looked up and noticed someone walking down my driveway towards me. It was Sid, my plumber’s friend. I had missed him the last time he was here, I was taking a nap.
In his heavy accent he asked, “How’s it going?
“Not worth a darn!” and I briefly explained the predicament I was in. He listened carefully, and let me both vent and finish explaining what had happened with the carpenter.
After I finished giving him the details, he asked, “Why don’t you finish the job yourself?”
I tried to explain that I had never installed a kitchen before.
He looked right at me and as if he didn’t hear me repeated,” Why don’t you finish the job yourself?” but added this time, “Possibly, I could help you.”
I stumbled out, “Do you know how to? Do you have experience installing cabinets? Would you be able to …”
Interrupting me, he answered with a smile, “I helped a friend once and did my own a while ago and they turned out OK”.
I thought about it for a moment and decided it wouldn’t be fair for me to ask him to help because if something went wrong I wouldn’t want him to feel like he was to blame. I got myself into this mess, I needed to work through it and get myself out. I thanked him for his offer, but declined his help.
We then made some small talk for a while. I offered my apologies for not being much for company. I had a lot on my mind. He seemed to understand. He stated that in a couple weeks he would be done with his teaching job. He taught in an alternative high-school for the socially and academically challenged. In other words the losers; the kids who got kicked out and no-one wanted to have in their school. I knew the school in which he taught. It wasn’t located very far from where I lived. It is a very tough school.
I explained that I was just getting my shop going. I wasn’t in any position to hire anyone let alone try teaching anyone because I didn’t have any experience to speak of as a carpenter.
He said that he just wanted a place he could come to and try help out. He loved woodworking. He helped his grandfather build boats with hand tools in the Bahamas.
“I’ve never lost my interest in woodworking. I don’t expect to get paid. I just wanted a chance and don’t have a place or shop where I can work.” With a pained look on his face, he explained that he was recently separated from his wife and she had all his tools. He didn’t even have access to them.
I wanted to know why, but I didn’t ask or make any comments. He seemed both grateful and relieve I never pried or ask any more questions. I then found myself saying, “Well, if you would like to come by when you finish school, feel free to do so.” I went on, “I’m sure we could learn from each other.”
His face lit up. He turned and walked back down the driveway towards the road. He suddenly stopped and returned saying, “Dusty please inform your neighbors that its ok with you if they see this black man hanging around your shop, just in case you’re not here.”
I was taken back, even shocked at his statement. I snapped back, “There won’t be any need for you to hang out and wait for me if I’m not here.” I reached into my pocket and gave him the key to my shop and house. I then said, “I’ll see you in a couple weeks. It’s time for me to get some work done. I have a kitchen to build and I turned and walked towards my shop.
I remember thinking out loud, “I wish I had a clue how I’m going to build this kitchen or, for that matter, where I should start.”
I finally decided to approach it using my training in law as a para-legal. Let me try to explain this. I was trained that when a client brought a problem to the law firm, the lawyer in charge of the case would assign me the task of doing the required research. Study the facts of the case, I would review the pertinent case-law, become familiar with any legal precedent, and research a number of other sources relating to the problem being presented. I would then take all this information and organize it in a memo, report, or brief so that the client could be given an overview of the case and the most likely outcome. Then strategies could be devised and various options proposed to solve the problem. After presenting this to the client, a recommendation would be made.
This is how I approached the challenge at hand to finish the cabinet installation and countertop. I started from a problem-solving vantage point. I identified what needed to be done, and researched how to best do it. I then put in place the plan; this I adjusted as necessary. I keep good mental notes as the job progressed. I paid particular attention how I would do this type of work differently, if I were to do it again. I am a quick study and I learn best by doing it myself with my own hands. I am a very visual learner. I am also quite analytical and logic-oriented. I relied on my background in drafting, law, and being around and observing the various construction trades.
The single biggest challenge, it turns out, was overcoming my own mental doubt that I could do this. This is not to say that I don’t really appreciate all the talent, complexities and time it takes practicing the craft of fine carpentry or cabinet making. I’m simply saying, because of the predicament I found myself in I had few options. This seemed like the best way to go about solving my problem.
When I look back, all I can recall is, I just started. I took a few tools, and just started hanging upper cabinets. I had read a few how-to books and articles about how to install cabinets. I even made a special trip to the local big box hardware store and they gave me a few tips.
I just dug in. It’s as simple as that. No the job wasn’t simple; the simple part was I really had only two choices. They were, to try installing the cabinets and complete the job, or find someone else to do it.
It’s was that simple.
I wish I could claim that some great wisdom came upon me and I installed the cabinets.
That simply wasn’t the case.
I took one cabinet at a time and screwed them to the wall.
In hindsight this was a real life lesson for me. For so long I had convinced myself or had been told by others that I couldn’t do that type of work.
I had come to believe it; I even acted it out. I had told myself that, because of my hand and lack of training in carpentry work, I couldn’t possibility do it.
Was the job perfect?
No, not even close.
But, it was well within acceptable standards. I can show you every flaw in the kitchen. I find I’m a perfectionist I also know that I am my own worse critic. One of the hardest things I had to overcome, and still do, is not to let myself become paralyzed over a project. I find it easy to come up with any number of excuses not to do something. I’m not proud of this flaw, nor have I overcome it. I am just aware of it and try to work on it.
As it turns out, I still use the problem-solving approach that I used to finish Ms. D’s kitchen. It has become the model that I use to teach myself carpentry and fine furniture building skills.
I take one step at a time; even baby steps at times. I need to walk before I run.
I need to remind myself of this; time and time again.
The next time I was to be reminded of this hard lesson was when I found myself in cross-fire between rival gangs.
This was not exactly a good time to review one of life’s lessons.
I guess you never know when you will be called on to re-learn the lessons of life.
Copy right all rights reserved D.Jerzak 03-12-07