Measure twice, cut once, swear often

I know the adage is “Measure twice and cut once”, but I think my version is more accurate. I have been helping my cousin and her husband replace the siding on their house. They have been so supportive of me through the years and I really enjoy their company. They are very much in love and it is so fun watching them interact.

Between the three of us, we have over 80 years of professional problem solving experience. There are dozens of videos on YouTube and home improvement sites that show that various steps involved. Some videos even have tips on how to deal with some of the challenges that arise during project implementation. Despite preparations, careful measurements, and double-checking measurements, something unexpected occurs. Home improvement projects have caused a significant number of disagreements among spouses. The successful ones who get through the project without barking at each other have learned to work around the unexpected issues. I’m happy to report the three of us are still talking to each other, the most difficult side of the house is complete, and if I say so myself, the work is very impressive! However, installing siding is not on my possible career change list. I spent 32 years in IT, so I already know how to swear in several human languages and in close to three dozen computer languages.

What are the challenges? Houses settle through the years, so what appears to be a straight line is not. Garages and other add-ons made after construction of the house add layers of complexity the videos do not consider. Outdoor work is dependent on the weather and is very unpleasant if the mosquitoes and gnats are hungry and invite hordes of their relatives to the all-you-can-eat buffet also known as your exposed skin. Ladders and scaffolding need constant moving. There is a lot of arithmetic with fractions (my metric using friends do not worry about this) because a 1/16″ misalignment on each row becomes very noticeable after installing the fourth row. Nails bend or their heads peen. Studs are not where the stud sensor indicates. A needed tool drops a dozen feet to the ground while reaching for it. Some of the cuts are exotic and vinyl is somewhat difficult to cut; it also gets softer in warm weather and more difficult to score with a knife. Vinyl has sharp edges after cutting. Thumbs are prone to hammer strikes. None of these challenges are insurmountable.

Part of problem solving is quickly formulating an alternate plan if Plans A, B, and C fail. Bouncing ideas around works, especially if everyone is willing to listen and participate. Each encountered challenge provides a lessons learned moment, which prevents a future occurrence of the problem. Everyone has unique skills and strengths and oftentimes an idea or a hybrid of two or more suggestions resolves the issue. In some cases, some of the work gets redone because there is no alternate solution available. Staying focused on getting the job done is the key.

Lucy and I took on quite a number of home improvement projects. Neither of us had carpentry nor plumbing skills. I do OK with electrical work, and we each had done some painting. We installed five laminate floors, painted every room in the house, installed borders and wallpaper, reworked some of the plumbing, installed wainscot and wood trim in the rec room, installed a patio and brick walkway, installed drywall in the basement, and became reasonably adept at gardening. Not bad for two people who rarely used power tools before buying a house. We did have a lot of help from family and friends, and we were willing to help out others when we could. Lucy and I were willing to try things outside our comfort zones and we supported each other fully. There was no blame game or finger-pointing. I think that is why we were so successful with our home improvement projects and with our marriage.

Life is very much like a home improvement project. There is a lot of work, some unexpected events, problem solving, “winging it”, and moving forward. All of this is easier with a partner who sees you as an equal, who trusts you, and who is willing to work with you even in adversity. It makes getting through the tough times easier and makes the good times even better.

Be willing to think outside the box and be supportive. Stray outside the comfort zone occasionally; you may discover a new hobby, a fun activity, or meet someone wonderful. Do not miss an opportunity to give or receive a hug, and be generous with giving them. Be willing to provide comfort for a blackened thumbnail, cut, scrape, sore back, or other sign of working hard. As always, give your special someone a meaningful hug and let that person know how much you care. Thank you for sticking with me!

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