Thursday, March 24, 2011

Making Mistakes

My second Women Build clinic wasn't quite as fun as the first.

Our mission was simple: take the wooden frame we made the week before, apply sheet rock, and add trim (aka casing). Gino, our fearless leader, zipped through his demo--showing us how to measure the casing and use a miter box to cut the pieces on a perfect 45 degree angle. He even cut the sheet rock for us.

His partner in crime, Gina, warned us several times of the two most common pitfalls: overzealous hammering that splits the sheet rock; and angling the casing in the wrong direction. We paired up, donned our safety goggles, and set to work.

Disaster struck almost immediately. The nails went in cockeyed. The sheet rock shifted, and then I split it at one corner. We moved on to sawing the trim, and I figured things would improve. After all, I knew my way around miter boxes from all those years of assisting my dad (and building doll furniture from scraps of wood that my sister and I stole from the new housing developments that sprung up all around us.)

Wrong. My partner, Bridgette, said, "You go first!", and I did--instantly cutting my angle in the wrong direction. Damn! Soon, cries of, "Well, it's not going to be perfect," rang out around us, as all of the women encountered similar difficulties. Gino reassured us, saying, "Of course it's not perfect--it's the first time you're doing it!" Gina added, "That's why caulk was invented!"

Bridgette and I laughed, and traded comments about the perfectionists in our lives who would say otherwise. I sited my brother and my dad, then downgraded my own inner critic to "picky." Who was I kidding? I hate making mistakes. Always have. I could blame it on having grown up under a regime that had a no-tolerance view of getting it wrong. Or blame it on the finicky artist in me. Whatever the reason, I'm harder on myself than anyone else could ever be.

Thankfully, I'm not alone. The following morning, I clicked open one of the daily inspirational emails I subscribe to, and the first thing I read was this: "If you want to be successful, get used to making mistakes...The idea that something has to be perfect before you start is just fear masked as perfectionism." So--this is the universe nudging me. Telling me it's okay to loosen up. To ease up. To remember that mistakes are just part of the process of learning.

The email ended with a challenge: What mistake would you like to make today? My response to that? "Yikes--not so fast!"

Monday, March 21, 2011

Late for Work

It's March 21. The calendar may say "Spring", but there's still time for one last snow event. Or two. Making us realize who is really in charge. Making us surrender to the moment.

And making some of us late for work.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

River Walk

In February I began following Leah Piken Kolidas' blog, Creative Every Day, and have been enjoying her monthly “theme” challenges. She chooses a word and then offers a list of suggestions for responding to it creatively. She’ll share some of what she’s doing and open up her blog so followers can, too.

The word for March is “Nest”, and it has really struck a cord—triggering an art project I’m loving and some haiku I’m not. On Friday Leah shared the idea of taking a walk with a camera in hand, saying: “Simply having the camera with me helps me see things in new ways. It reminds me to look up at the sky, to look down at my shadow, and to notice the little moments of beauty that are everywhere.”

I became aware of this exact same thing last summer. When I took my camera to a park, or a friend's house, or on an excursion to a new town, I saw things through a different lens. So today I put it in my pocket when Jim and I went up to Nyack Beach State Park for one of our favorite walks: the path along the Hudson. I was on the lookout for signs of spring, but found so much more:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Frame It

This week I discovered a new form of stress relief: hammering!

That's right: I attended my first Women Build Clinic! For the past four years, Habitat for Humanity has been partnering with the Lowe's in Paterson, NJ, on a series of free clinics designed to teach women the basics of home construction. Novices like me are encouraged to attend as many as possible before signing up for a build project.

Despite my admittedly snobbish belief that I know plenty (having served as my dad's trusty DIY assistant for well over 10 years), I decided to sign up for a few of the sessions that covered things I wasn't familiar with.

Tuesday night's focus was framing, and I'll confess I was excited as I walked towards the gathering of women at the back of the store. After signing in and being outfitted with my very own apron, someone asked, "So what drew you here?" Without pause I said, "I wanted to be carpenter when I was a girl." Of course I went on about how volunteering for Habitat was something I'd been thinking about for years, but on this night it was all about stuff I loved as a kid: measuring, sawing, and hammering.

Our instructor, the patient and affable Gino, put us through our paces. And yes--I listened as he gave me pointers on how to toe a stud and swing a hammer without wrecking my shoulder. There was even a pop quiz at the end, with answers like "16 center", "shoe," and "speed square."

Jessica and I--the two newbies--won a very cool tape measure by answering everything correctly. More important than that: I met an interesting group of women, laughed a lot, and discovered that pounding nails into two-by-fours is really relaxing. So I came home and signed up for every clinic they've got.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Coming of Age

I take my friends for granted.

It’s not intentional. No more than forgetting to feed the cat or call my mother back is intentional. And I don’t sit around thinking, “I’m so blessed to have such great friends—I think I’ll take them for granted!”

But I do. Just as I assume I’ll wake up tomorrow. And my legs will carry me to the kitchen to make coffee. And hot water will stream out of the shower head. And my car will start. And my computer will make that funny little ding when I hit the “on” button. And Robynn will read this post.

For many years now, I’ve been a proponent of living each day as if it were the last. But doing it has proven impossible. Oh, sure—when I hear an awful story of someone dying suddenly or being paralyzed in a freak accident, I manage to stick with it for a day or two. Then I get caught up in the whirl that is my daily life and fall back into the old routine: “I’ll call her back tomorrow, or next week, or next month.”

But lately I can’t stop thinking about my girlfriends. About how lucky I am to have them in my life. And how I don’t make the time to connect with them as often as I could. They are truly my chosen “family”—the women without whom my life would be devoid of laughter and fresh perspectives and trendy accessories. I expect them to be there when I call—for smart advice and a shoulder to lean on.

I celebrated my birthday this month as I always do: with a series of girls-only dinners. Maybe all this thinking is the result of being with them all in such a short span of time. Or the fact that five of them turned 60 over the past two years. Or that the wrinkles I see in the mirror have multiplied dramatically over the last 12 months. All I know is that last night, as I settled into my seat for the train ride home from the last of this year’s birthday dinners, I got teary-eyed thinking about how much they mean to me. Is this what it means to grow up?