Today is Canadian Thanksgiving! As I was talking to my parents last night I was telling them how hard it is to remember to call on certain holidays because they aren’t celebrated here in Haiti. There aren’t a lot of Canadians in our immediate area, and Chris is a dual citizen, so we typically do a bigger celebration during American Thanksgiving than we do for Canadian Thanksgiving. It’s hard when it’s still over 90* each day and I’m sweating to be thinking about fall. But, I do try!
Last weekend I whipped out my fall jute twine garland I made last year and hung them in the windows. I also put up my “give thanks” sign. Christmas is really the time that I love to decorate, but I’m also really mindful of the fact that we’re moving in two months – just before Christmas. So, this year things are going to be a little more subdued around here.
Because it IS Thanksgiving I wanted to share a few things I’m thankful for this year…
~I’m thankful for this adventure that we’re part of right now. Building and moving is exciting and a bit scary because it means settling into a new community after so many years in Haiti. I told a friend the other day that it’s like starting over, but having a decade of experience under your belt. A crazy combo. And yet, as we push closer I find myself thinking, “In x months we’re not going to have to deal with this thing any more.” I’m very much looking forward to the move and just having a whole different connection with our community than we have now.
~I’m thankful for my little family. Chris is amazing and keeps me challenged. He’s my perfect partner. Our kids are amazing and exhausting all at the same time. They’re at a fun age and I often find myself just staring at them when they don’t notice me watching, trying to absorb so much of who they are right then.
~I’m thankful for my bigger family. It’s hard being away, even after all these years, and I often feel I’m missing out on things or just not even part of stuff because I’m physically removed from it, but when we do have time together it’s sweet and amazing. I miss them all, especially during holiday times.
~I’m thankful for our Haiti family. Our staff are amazing and every day I feel blessed to be working alongside these people. Our friends here have become our family here and we’re so thankful for the quirky mix of crazies that we get to life with.
When I was talking to my dad yesterday he was thankful that I was still alive. Apparently my parents base my existence on how often I blog, and when there are long absences they start to wonder. I explained that one of the best ways to find out if I was still in fact existing was to simply write me an email, but you know, old dogs… ;)
I had a really busy week last week, especially the end. And it’s all been good. Super productive, in fact. I know I’ve mentioned that I’ve been working on a website revamp for the mission, and it’s literally been going on for over six months. There have been holidays in there, so that’s something. Most often though it’s been me working on it in fits and starts. Well, last week I punched out a huge amount of work on it and we’re getting very close to launch. I’m hoping for late this week or early next week. I just need to get this thing off my to-do list so I can move on with life. But, we’re almost there! I’m excited with how it’s come together and now just need to do technical stuff in the background. Pray for me!
On Saturday morning Chris was brewing and the kids were watching a movie, so I decided to go down and finally finish putting together my work benches. I had all the wood cut and had started screwing some things together, but had to leave it for the week. By the end of the day I had everything together, and sanded.
I love this thing! Things??? I custom designed it to fit my needs and it actually turned out better than I thought it would. I do all my work by myself, and one of my big frustrations has been not having a long enough space to cut down long boards. Here we can get boards in 12, 14 or 16′ lengths. I typically get the longest ones because it means less bulk and more versatility when doing cuts. 14-16′ is a loooooonnngggg piece of wood to maneuver and support by myself. I wanted something that would allow my saws to sit level with my bench, and yet something that was really versatile and portable. When we’re working out at the new house it’ll be handy to set up in the living room, for example, and work on the kitchen cabinets across the room.
The platform will sit on a lip with screws that sit in holes drilled in the platform sides so it doesn’t slide off. There are two platform lips that are at heights that will allow my table saw and miter saw to sit level with the benches on either side. The benches are really tall, but so am I. I’m 5’10” and have back problems, so constantly bending over to drill or cut or measure is hard on me. I wanted to be able to work at a comfortable standing level. When I finished putting everything together I looked at it and wondered if I’d made a mistake because it was high. I decided to try working with it for a while and then would adjust the leg lengths if needed. After doing several things on it I think it’s perfect. I don’t have to bend over at all, and yet still have the right height to get force behind a drill or anything like that.
When Chris came to look at it after I was all done he was noticeably impressed. He’s not good with hearing about a concept and then imagining how it will come together, which honestly, has probably been our biggest challenge with the house. I can get the idea and see it very clearly in my head and what I want it to look like, but no matter how much I try to explain it he can’t really get it until it becomes something tangible. I remember walking through the first floor of the house after the ceiling was on and for the first time he said, “This is going to be a great house”. I think it was the first time he was really able to get a vision for things beyond engineering drawings.
I share all of that to make a point, which is that often when I tell Chris I want to make something there’s a certain level of skepticism, until I do it. And then he brags to everyone about it. He doesn’t work with wood in any way, shape, or form, and has no desire to. It’s just not his thing, which makes the execution even harder for him to comprehend. When he saw my work benches all set up it all came together for him and he was really excited about them for me. Later that night we were talking about them more and how excited I was to finally have all the tools I needed to do really good work, how much time that saves and how much better I can do something I love doing. He threw me for a loop though when he had an idea.
One part of the work we do is to weld up steel filter molds for us and other filter projects in Haiti. The new site is going to have a separate welding shop with it’s own locked storage room for tools, a roof and fan. Right now everything is smooshed together, so it’s going to be great to have more space for this one part of what we do. Chris made a valid point, which is that our demand for molds has declined in the past few years because we haven’t done a lot of training, and we still have a supply of molds to sell before we need to manufacture any new ones. That welding space won’t see heavy, continued use, so his suggestion was to make it do double duty and use it for welding, but also for a workshop for me! He wants to have one welder, not several like we do now, so there would only be two of us with keys for the shop. I’m so excited! We haven’t done any formal designs for the space yet because it’s pretty straight forward, but now we can design it with those things in mind.
I was planning on using the storage room under our stairs for my tool storage, but now that we’re going to shake things up it’s going to be a pantry instead of using the storage room as pantry space too. I’m excited about this because it just makes more sense, and gives us more room in the storage room for actually storing things. The pantry is just handier to get to.
When I stained my workbenches yesterday I used it as a practice lesson with my new paint sprayer. That’s the main reason I don’t love the stain. If I was putting it on with a brush I would have put it on and rubbed it to a nice finish. I just sprayed and let it dry. Utilitarian, remember? Before I stained I knocked a few other things out on the work bench before it was out of commission to dry.
When we were in Miami I bought two sets of brackets so I could make some saw horses, so I put those together yesterday and then put them right to work. A while back I mentioned that I had started staining our interior doors. I got five of them done that day, but my arms were killing me afterwards. I had just leaned them up against walls and posts, so I was rubbing stain up and down. Yesterday I took my new saw horses and two super long 2×4’s and was able to lay the last 4 doors out on them. I got the rest of the staining done and it was much easier. They’re all ready for varnish now, and with the paint sprayer that’ll be super fast.
I made a clamp pad for my new Kreg pocket hole jig, too. I have the Kreg Junior, which was fine when I was just doing smaller projects, but it involved a lot of clamping, and unclamping, so it was time consuming. When I knew that we were going to be building all the cabinets in house I decided to spend the money and get the bigger version.
This thing is slick. You clamp it down to the work bench and just release the clamp pad. Clamp your wood in, drill your holes, unclamp, slide your wood down, then repeat. It blows me away how much faster and more precise I work with the right tools. It literally took me hours to cut wood before, and now I can do all my cuts really quickly. So much more fun!
And, because it’s Thanksgiving and fall, I made pumpkins…
I call them scrappy pumpkins because they were literally made form scraps I had lying around. I grabbed my boards and loosely drew something that resembled a pumpkin shape, then cut them out with my jigsaw. That whole process took maybe 10 minutes for all of them. I cut some 1×2 down to size for each pumpkin. Sanded the pumpkins, then drilled two pocket holes in the back and attached them to their bases.
Alex had found a great driftwood stick, which is kind of weird because we don’t get driftwood here. I cut chunks down on my miter saw, then very carefully sliced them in half and attached them with wood glue. Because I’d been staining things I had paint thinner that I had used to clean stuff and I just used a brush to brush that on, then wiped it off. I let the stems dry over night, and this morning just wiped on some satin varnish I have. Done! I think they’re fun :)
Okay, off to do some websiting. And Dad, I’m not dead. Just busy. And write an email, okay?
PS – My father also informed me that I haven’t posted a house update so he had no idea what’s been going on. It’s been a lot, so an update is definitely needed, and I promise it’s coming.