On Change, in Life and Blogging

I’m sure you all have noticed that I’ve been largely absent from blogging for awhile and have fallen almost 12 months behind in reporting what I’ve been up to. The main reason for that is that the past year has brought some unexpected changes, the biggest of which was accepting a job as construction supervisor at Mesilla Valley Habitat.

A brief summary of events: Tom and I arrived in Las Cruces the third week of last September expecting to work through April (both of us) and continue learning how to manage a Habitat site while gaining more experience on the tools (me). But about a month after our arrival the sole construction staff member left and the affiliate asked myself and Steve, another volunteer, to step up and continue working on the houses – 3 in various stages of framing, and 2 not started. We both agreed immediately in hopes of helping the affiliate and the partner families, and thus co-managed the site through the end of the year. In that time we began work on the next 2 houses, finished framing and shingling on the first 3, and even began drywall on the first house. It was crazy trying to figure out all the things we needed to know but Steve and I gained confidence as we passed our first 3 framing inspections and began receiving positive feedback from the volunteers on site. But around New Years Steve was suddenly unable to continue working, and with that development I went from being a volunteer in October to co-manager in November and December to the only person in charge by the time we returned from holiday break.

When we arrived at the end of September I had a timeline in my head in which I’d spend another 3 or 4 years learning various aspects of building and managing before moving into a leadership position at a Habitat – and then I’d always thought I’d work at a small, rural affiliate that built 1, maybe 2 houses a year. It’s not only the scenario I kept picturing when thinking about my professional goals but the one which I felt I was best suited for. It literally never crossed my mind that I’d go to work – now – at an affiliate building 5 houses simultaneously, with an average of 20 to 35 volunteers each day, and to have the homes completed in 7 months. Honestly it felt overwhelming, but I quickly realized that despite the (continuing!) challenges and the steep learning curve I could do it — and that I truly loved it. And so even before the houses were complete in April I accepted a seasonal, full-time position there and will be returning in a few weeks to begin preparing for the construction of the next 5 houses.

Going forward I don’t anticipate blogging as much in general, specifically not as much in relation to building in Las Cruces now that it’s my job. But I had some personal reasons too for letting my blog go this past year in addition to the new time constraints, and I will continue to give myself permission to not-write or write as I feel like it. Despite having fewer adventures and hikes this past year I still have plenty to catch you up on however, especially the past 3 months in which we’ve been traveling and hiking and also building in Montana and Colorado.

So, more pretty pictures are on the way! Promise. Until then, below are some shots of our first few months of progress on site. I was actually building the first month as I said and Tom captured a few shots of me doing so, but after October I would only pick up tools to demonstrate or help fix something and so I had plenty of opportunities to capture the volunteers on site as they framed up the 5 houses.

Care-a-vanners Dave and Janet laying out the first house

First walls going up on World Habitat Day

When things don’t fit, use a bigger hammer. 🙂 Steve and care-a-vanner Dave adjusting wall height.

Me nailing off braces in the rafters as the first trusses go up

Care-a-vanners Jake and Angela putting up subfascia

Me putting in outlookers

Tom and Care-a-vanner Steve plumbing internal walls

Second house getting started

Busy days on site: houses 2 and 3 getting framed

Local volunteers, care-a-vanners, and homeowners together papering the roof

Me explaining To how I want to the garage door opening framed out; photo courtesy of local volunteer Mac

Care-a-vanners Tony and Cathy doing drip edge

Steve working with care-a-vanner Gail to straighten out our twisted truss tails

Care-a-vanner Cathy finishing up exterior door installation

Cutting sheets like a boss lady

The All-Ladies shingling crew

Overlooking the framing of the last house from the roof next door

Care-a-vanners and locals beginning the shingling of the 4th house

Local volunteer Mike and care-a-vanner Michael sheathing the roof

Tom working with volunteer Rain from Lockheed Martin to put up soffit

Sheathing the gable end of the last house

Morning meeting with 49(!) volunteers