Thursday, January 19, 2012

Who I Am Now

I'm precariously perched while replacing the glass in one of the windows.
When you take on a project like this you only think about how your home will change, not so much how the process will change you. I have always been relatively handy by necessity -my father always insisted that if there was any kind of work going on, I needed to be involved in some way- but nothing had prepared me for the massive magnitude of what we are currently involved in. This job is so big and with time and funds so limited, I have found myself doing things I had never imagined. I took a deep breath yesterday and sat for a while (sitting is so odd to me now) and took stock of how I felt about myself.
Nick and I work on the
frame for bathroom cabinet.
When this all started I was incredibly frightened, unsure and even paralyzed by what seemed like a Goliath of a project against our David resources. I was reluctant to step foot on the property, I felt powerless and over-powered. I spent hours skimming craigslist trying to find little apartments that would take a family with great references but no credit and almost no down. We were told early on that we would not get this place livable in time, by professionals (contractors, etc.)no less,  and I was panicked. My early efforts were with little heart as I felt we were doomed to fail.

Morgan watches Jax while we work.

Then friends, family and even strangers stepped up to donate time, money and materials. When my friend Flo showed up and jumped into the mire with her petite frame and incredible power I felt as if I were swept up in a stream of energy. As others entered the fray with us I felt wave upon wave sweeping me forward, empowering me. I knew I could not avoid the project while others worked on it, if they had faith for me I sure as heck better have some faith as well. I worked as I could but often had to be sidelined caring for the kids until my oldest daughter came to rescue after my concussion. She decided to stay and cared for the kids while I threw my heart, soul and body into the project.
Nick enlists TJ in the madness.
I gave myself over to trust and faith and the new family we had forged. In the two weeks before our move we were impossibly behind with setbacks that became unreal –surreal- in their frequency and devastating effects.  Even our volunteers told us it looked impossible but in the same breath would pick up a hammer and get back to work. Some people I had known for just days or weeks pulled all-nighters with us leaving the property at 3 am in the morning to go to work in a few hours. How could I not put in as many hours? I resolved to work alongside any volunteer who would show up, as soon as one project ended I would leap to the next. I ran to get them what they needed and threw myself into work with them if I suspected they had any need of me. I would not leave them, I refused to let anyone work on my home while I rested. As urgency grew I took on projects that I refused to touch just a day or so before thinking it was beyond my scope.
Justin became our flooring expert via
YouTube then trained us up.
I was particularly intimidated by the flooring. The bamboo planks were so ethereal in their beauty and the compressor driven nail guns were heavy and loud and required strength to use but as we grew desperate Chris decided to rent a second nail gun and we needed two teams to work to get it all done in time. I discarded my fear, grabbed a nail gun and became a fury. It got to the point where if someone dared touched my nail gun I would snarl and get back to work. Breaks became unheard of because I was afraid that if I walked away from my nail gun it would be taken over. I worked a 12 hour stretch without eating and one bathroom break, reluctantly taken, and I was just as sweaty as any of the other men on the job my hair in disarray and any concern for female propriety abandoned.

In the past few weeks I have done more than I ever thought I could: I have run power equipment that I never would have touched before this winter. I have installed sinks, lights, cabinets, flooring, a hood vent, replaced window glass, repaired walls, painted, put up trim and grown into someone so much less afraid, so much more capable than I ever thought possible. There is a long road ahead but knowing that I have some amazing people rooting for us, working side by side with us, I feel like almost anything is possible. If I die today I know that this project will speak to my life, not for what we accomplished but HOW we accomplished it. We gathered friends and families and strangers and together we have done what the experts told us was impossible. It is a legacy I know my children will remember, one that they will tell their children about and their awe and joy fills me with courage and hope and happiness.
Yesterday there was so much to do but I spent the day on the couch, unable to move. After our incredible push I have tried to leave our exhausted volunteers to their rest but with them absent it seems so too is that surge of energy that had carried me. My hands drop things now and I can barely work for 20 minutes at a time without needing to take a break. I have used myself up and at moments I do berate myself, ashamed that I accomplished nothing yesterday. There is urgency and so much more to do but the fear is gone and I am more prone to moments of gentleness with myself. I do have a certain amount of pride in what I have accomplished and I recognize that those two weeks of incredible energy were a gift. I have no physical strength left in my body, but a steel rod of strength has been forged in my heart and soul. No matter how battered I am by life I have that time to look on and know what I am. I am finally content with who I am. I am good enough. I have earned my place. Here… on 58th Street.
Robert, Leah, Ken, John and Flying Eagle were some of the volunteers during the Big Push week.


  1. Dawn, you & your family are incredibly AWESOME!! Thank you for sharing your heartaches & your triumphs. Cheering you on from behind the scenes. :)

  2. Yeah you guys are awsome, awsomely amazing!! i cant wait to see you all again and come down to help i miss all of you especially you miss Morgan.Cant wait to see you all soon, hopefully