Monday, April 16, 2018

My Work Ethic Quite Possibly Began With A Single Paint Stroke

In 1980, when I was 7, my parents bought a huge, gorgeous farmhouse in New Hampshire. It was a 3 family house. We lived on the first floor. There were 2 apartments upstairs. In addition to being second-time homeowners and contending with renovations, my parents were now landlords. Within the first year of owning the house, one of the tenants moved out. My parents viewed this as the perfect time to renovate that apartment.

I was 8. My brother was 7. Of course, back then, we were no stranger to doing chores and helping with light yard work. When my parents began the tedious task of renovating the apartment, we were expected to help out. My brother and I were old enough to haul light boxes and debris downstairs. I knew how to use a vacuum, sweep and mop floors, clean a bathroom and a kitchen, and wipe down walls.

A couple of years later, the other tenant moved out. My parents decided to renovate that apartment. Like with the first apartment, my brother and I were expected to help out. We were a couple of years older. Able to do more.

My father ramped things up a bit. For the first time, at almost 11 years old, my father taught me how to paint. He hated painting. When I reflect back on this time, I knew that slowly relinquishing this responsibility was both difficult and a blessing in disguise.

It was difficult for him because my father was somewhat of a perfectionist when it came to certain things like spackling and painting. He wanted things done right the first time. He had very little tolerance for half-assed work. He had no tolerance for sloppy, rushed work due to lack of ambition, laziness, or simply wanting to get the work done to do fun stuff.

I was both honored and intimidated that my father was allowing me to take over some of the painting. At the time, he started me off with painting the kitchen cupboards both inside and out.

He was firm with instructions. I listened. I watched. I learned quick.

It took me a long time to paint the kitchen cupboards, probably double the time it took him, but he was strict. Do it right the first time. If you take your time, pay attention to what you're doing, you'll be on the right track.

He praised my work.

In the years to follow, as tenants moved out, the walls in every room, along with the kitchen cupboards, got a fresh coat of paint. The apartment was thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom. The carpets were shampooed.

Eventually, I was responsible for all of the painting.

This work always took place on the weekends because my father worked full time plus he had his own business. My mother ran a licensed, professional daycare/preschool from home Monday through Friday.

Of course, as teenagers, the last thing my brother and I wanted to do on the weekends was clean out apartments, paint, haul things up and down the stairs, etc.

But, we did it.

If it had to be done, my parents let us know. Once and once only. We didn't question the hard labor infringing on our weekend plans. We didn't argue. We didn't complain. We. Just. Did. It.

Sure, it sucked because the process always began Friday when my father returned home from work. My brother and I went upstairs with him and assisted with prepping the rooms for a full day of work on Saturday. That included, but wasn't limited to, hauling stuff downstairs that the tenants left behind. Vacuuming. Wiping down walls and baseboards. Hauling paint buckets and other supplies upstairs. Making sure drop cloths covered all of the rugs.

On Saturday morning, we got up very early, had breakfast and then headed upstairs. We painted, cleaned, shampooed the carpets, fixed anything that was broken, cleaned the refrigerator and oven until it sparkled, and washed windows.

That was an 8 hour workday for all of us.

On Sunday morning, we double checked our work, brought all of the supplies, tools, and paint cans downstairs, and made sure every inch of the apartment was pristine for the next tenant to move in.

By mid-afternoon, everything was done.

That's when we could all exhale and have a little fun. This was when my parents rewarded us with a dinner and fun night out.

During the summer months, we'd eat dinner at the Tamarack. The fried seafood, onion rings, and lobster rolls tasted heavenly after a weekend of hard work. After eating, we'd walk the boardwalk at the Weirs Beach, get a handful of quarters at the arcade, and end the night with ice cream or fried dough. When it was off-season, we dined at Papa Ginos and then made our way to FunSpot.

Since then, throughout my life, I reflect back on those days. As of late, because of assisting with renovations upstairs and planning for our Big Painting Project next month, those memories are surfacing more and more.

I'm not going to lie, my childhood and teen years sucked and fell far into the bucket of dysfunctional, but as an adult, I've chosen to embrace the good and the lessons my parents taught me growing up.

At the top of the list is what I have just shared with you.

Both of my parents were hard workers and they instilled that methodology with both my brother and I at a very young age. My parents were not rich. They worked hard for what they had and provided for my brother and I. They took pride in that. In return, we appreciated everything and didn't complain about doing chores and spending the occasional weekend renovating the apartments upstairs when tenants moved out.

Not once did we get an allowance for doing chores. When work needed to be done outside of our chore list, my parents let us know and that was that. We didn't pitch a fit. We didn't dare to because we knew there would be consequences.

My brother and I were well aware of those consequences because, after all, we were kids. Not perfect. Once in a blue moon we threw a little fit or expressed our disdain. That was quickly followed by a week or two of no TV, no stereo, no phone, no weekend plans, extra chores, and an early bedtime.

My parent's philosophy and what they taught me growing up about hard work and contributing to the household has played a major role in shaping me into the woman I am today.

I happen to be proud of that woman.

Lisa was raised the same way.

I'm exceptionally proud of her too.

We both work hard for what we have every single day. We take pride in our home and our family. Most of our weekends are spent working on household stuff and chores that were not able to get done the week prior. We're also usually available to assist others when needed.

We very seldom get any length of downtime. 

But, that's how we were raised. And, we take a great deal of pride in that. We do what needs to be done.

On the flip side, these traits have often been scrutinized by others. We've been labeled as hardasses. Old fashioned. Mean. Militant. Strict.

Those labels used to bother me. Now, not so much.

I've learned to look at the source. Their work habits or lack of. Their response when something is asked of them. How receptive they are to sacrificing a good chunk of their time to hard labor versus fun stuff.

Instead of bothering me, I'm at the point of not giving a shit what others think.

I'm also at the point of being wise enough to know that no matter what example I set or what I say, I can't change people's work ethics, views, or lead them down the same path we walked with our parents and grandparents.

Sadly, and more frustratingly so, times have changed.

The only thing we can do is lead by example. Continue to work hard. Trudge through this gorgeous thing called life.

Take pride in our life, our home, and our family.

That pride radiates from every bill paid.

Every meal we put on our table for us or to share with family and friends.

Every paint stroke.

Every sacrifice and compromise.


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