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September 19, 2014
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I’m Hoping for at Least One Callus

It doesn’t happen often, but my wife recently gave me a compliment. I wish she would have dropped the tone of astonishment from her voice when praising me, but I’ll take what I can get. I don’t want to come off as sounding braggadocios (yes I do), but the compliment was well deserved. After all the years of not finishing a home remodeling project because I lack the skill and/or desire (hence the astonishment in her voice), I finally completed a project – and it worked.

For the past 20-plus years, I haven’t had the most physically demanding job. You might be surprised, but sitting at a desk and typing doesn’t lead to callused hands. Don’t get me wrong, there are hazards – paper cuts, electrocution from accidentally spilling a 44-ounce soft drink on your keyboard and the occasional stapler mishap. As a child, one of the few joys in my wife’s life was picking the dead skin from her dad’s callused hands. I’ve been a huge disappointment. My hands are as soft as three-ply toilet tissue – the quilted variety.

I don’t live in an alternate reality where I believe I’m Bob Vila reincarnated (which would be hard to do since he isn’t dead) and can take a dilapidated house and turn it into something that would be suitable as a guest house on Bill Gates’ sprawling estate. I’ve also learned if he can complete the project in a one-hour television show it will take me approximately two days, five trips to the hardware store, and three hours of watching You Tube videos to find out what I did wrong. If it takes Bob more than one episode to complete his project…let’s just say I know my limitations – so does my wife.

Knowing my limitations doesn’t mean I won’t attempt a project. There is another factor that almost always trumps my limitations. Greenbacks, Dough, Moolah, Deniro, Smackers (insert your favorite slang term for money here)! Unlike some people who enjoy working on cars or remodeling their home, I’m not particularly thrilled about getting my hands dirty, cut, scraped or, worse yet, a big, nasty blood blister under my fingernail from where I missed the nail with a hammer. The lack of funding has forced me to learn to do things I don’t want to do. However, there is a sense of pride when a project is complete – if it works. I will gladly wear a blood blister as a badge of honor if I don’t have to redo a project.

My most recent project was uninstalling an old garage door and installing a new one. I went online to determine how difficult the project would be. My heart skipped a few beats when one do-it-yourself website simply described the project as “Hard.” I read it as “Hard, but for Ryan it is nearly impossible.” I knew then we should check on the cost of installation when we checked on the price of doors. With two garage doors needing replaced it didn’t take long to realize the factor that trumps my limitations was going to kick in.

I only missed a couple of sections in the instructions and had minimal parts left over, but the door goes up and comes back down. Bob Vila could probably complete the project in a half-hour show. The Vila to Ryan conversion rate (which should be an official algebraic equation) means it took me two days, four trips to the hardware store and two hours of watching videos. As a bonus, my wife let me buy new tools with only a few sneers and twice rolling her eyes. I call that a successful project.

I still have one more door to install. Since I have a little more experience and confidence, I think I can complete the project in nine hours, two trips to the hardware store and one hour of watching the how-to video. I’m also hoping for at least one callus.

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