Category Archives: Habitat For Humanity

Gary Gopher

From yesterday’s groundbreaking:

I was glad to see the little guy. I figured if he wasn’t too nervous to come out, if his little gopher senses weren’t all a tingle, there probably weren’t any rattlesnakes in the immediate vicinity.

It didn’t occur to me until just now that he might be thinking the exact same thing about us…

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Groundbreaking 

We (i.e., Homes for Families, i.e., Habitat For Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys, i.e., where I work as Director of Finance) have a new housing project that’s getting ready to start. We build affordable homes for low-income veterans – this will be a tract of 56 homes in Palmdale, California.

Palmdale is in the Antelope Valley, in the far northern part of Los Angeles County, about 35 miles north of the San Fernando Valley and  55 miles north of Downtown Los Angeles (as the freeways wind through the passes). It’s considered “low desert,” only about 2,300 feet above sea level, but definitely desert.

July + desert = HOT

It wasn’t that bad – with the breeze it only felt like 99°!

Space in the shade under the tent was at a premium as we set up.

Yes, right now it’s 9+ acres of dirt, weeds, some dumped trash, and no doubt a few reptiles who would prefer we weren’t there. But rest assured, I’ll be posting pictures as we go – in a couple of years there will be fifty-six veteran families with new homes here.

Fancy gold shovels for the ceremonial events.

But first we got speeches. Politicians from the local, county, state, and federal levels were all here, as well as local sponsors, representatives from various local veteran organizations and groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, members of the free press, and families from our existing projects in Santa Clarita. We even had a couple of the local beauty pageant queens present.

Hunt Braley, our Board Chariman, was speaking here. To the left behind him is Representative Steve Knight, along with Theresa Gunn (CalVet Deputy Secretary), and Jim Ledford (Palmdale mayor).

Everyone did their best to stick to the schedule and keep their speeches short. (If you’re wearing a suit in 102°, you’ll keep it short too, even if it only feels like 99° with the breeze.) Then it was time for the ceremonial groundbreaking, some cool drinks, snacks, and a mad dash for air conditioning.

The turnout was great, the speeches short but sincere, the event a wonderful success.

Now to start building homes!

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Another WE Build Lesson

My exercise/smart watch (a Garmin, not an Apple Watch) is very good at bugging me if I’m getting sedentary or not reaching my current daily walking/exercise goals. (Currently at about 8,000 steps per day.) It also is very good at handing out cheap rewards if I hit that goal. It vibrates to get my attention, then shows a brief fireworks show in celebration.

From yesterday’s WE Build, I learned new things about that Garmin.

  1. When you hit that goal about 08:30, you know it’s going to be a long, long day.
  2. When you hit that goal a second time in any given day (i.e., something like 16,000 steps) it goes off with fireworks again.
  3. Ditto for the third time…
  4. When you hit 4x your daily goal, it should tell you, “Jesus, are you trying to kill yourself? Sit down! Chill!!”

It doesn’t, but it should. My brain filled in the correct dialogue.

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Filed under Habitat For Humanity, Health, Paul

WE Build 2017

Last year about this time (not a coincidence) I shared pictures of our annual Habitat for Humanity WE (Women’s Empowerment) Build. This year we once again had something like 300 women out on our Santa Clarita construction site, working to put low-income veterans into homes.

There were a couple of groups pouring concrete, including this group putting in a stretch of sidewalk. Other groups poured curbs and V-ditches (for drainage).

One group was putting stucco on retaining walls.

The group I was working with all day was putting up fencing. Here’s a picture from VERY early at the beginning of the day…

…when all that was up were the posts and cross braces which had been installed earlier in the week.

We had teams of four women, each responsible for building about 40′ of fencing.

We used screws for the assembly, with the power drills being both easier to use, cheaper, and much safer than nail guns.

As with much of the work done at a WE Build, women who had rarely (if ever) done this sort of construction work were pros as it within a couple of hours.

Keep it level with the plumb lines at the top, keep the spacing consistent, keep it squared up and level.

While it may have taken a half hour or more to place the first two or three planks, by lunch time the teams had turned into lean, mean fencing machines.

By the end of the day, hundreds of linear feet of fencing were done and we had all actually moved beyond the initial goals and were well into the “bonus” section of fencing – and coming damn close to finishing it as well!

Between all of the different work teams, not only did the donations for the event add up to many tens of thousands of dollars, but the work done was worth almost $100,000 that we would have otherwise had to pay to a subcontractor!

A good time was had by all! And I might have picked up enough sun to leave me still re-radiating in the infrared as bright as a quasar.

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Goodbye, March – Don’t Let The Door Hit You In The Ass

In what was a pretty high stress inducing, low stress relief, royal pain in the ass month, there were at the other extreme some pretty good times. There wasn’t a lot of middle ground it seems.

Without whining and bitching, let’s just say that this time of year, being in charge of two different accounting departments, both for non-profits that are living up to that descriptor, has been…”challenging.” There have been a lot of hours and a lot of wondering, “Okay, how do I solve THIS one?”

Yet here I am, still (more or less) on my feet.

Meanwhile, there were two very lovely weeks where it was great to see my son home on leave. He’s in the US Air Force and was finishing a couple of years there and heading towards a couple of years over in this other part of the world, so it was great to see him again. To their credit, my boss and co-workers did a great job of kicking my ass out of the office to go to hockey games and baseball games and conventions with him. (To be quite clear, while the job has its good days and its bad, the people I work with are wonderful.)

The hockey was nice, even if my beloved Kings are hanging onto their playoff hopes by a thread with a week to go. But baseball starts on Sunday and hope springs eternal, even if my hockey team is checking out tee times.

The convention I went to last week was a ton of fun. I saw lots of good friends that I hadn’t seen in a while, in some cases in a long while. I could stand to do that more often.

We made plans, plane tickets, hotel, and car rental for our trip in August to see the total solar eclipse. More on that later, I’m sure!

And despite it all, I have managed to make some progress in the last few days on a number of long-range issues. There’s some satisfaction there, despite the two-steps forward and one-step back nature of it sometimes.

While I can itemize many good things that happened, over it all hangs a pair of clouds – I’m so freakin’ tired all the time, and I dread turning on the news or looking at what’s happening in politics. Both of those things are such a constant drain.

Yet we carry on.

Now we waltz into April. And the jokes are already filling up Twitter and FaceBook. Let’s hope there are some good ones. I could use them. We all could.

 

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Filed under Family, Habitat For Humanity, LA Angels, LA Kings

My Long Day At Work

It’s time for our annual Builder’s Ball at work, our big fundraising dinner for the year. Y’all have a nice night. I’ll be just a bit busy.

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One Down, One To Go

The “small” audit is done, with the CAF auditors from Dallas on their way back to Texas.

I understand that it’s a part of the business, but I really hate audits. It’s the same thing with any kind of huge test, such as college finals, solo auditions when I played an instrument in high school, or my flight test for my private pilot’s license. It’s not that I don’t pass – typically I do very well. In fact, I can’t remember outright failing one in forever.

But audits in particular are procedures that put you on the spot, under a microscope, like an oral dissertation defense but one that can last days or weeks.

It’s the Spanish Inquisition, with fewer physical tortures and more mental ones.

So the two days defending (pretty well) my CAF accounting work are done, and tomorrow I dive right back into the “day job” year-end close and audit. With luck, they’ll be done by April 15th without needing an extension.

It might be a long eight weeks.

Good thing I’m stubborn, mule-headed, and too stupid to know when to quit!

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Al Pacino Cosplay

Rather than our usual Wednesday morning construction meeting with six or seven co-workers and our CEO, this morning we were hosting a big seminar attended by about two dozen other CEOs. I may be old fashioned (okay, for the record, on some things I’m not, but on many things I am the poster child for old fashioned) but given the crowd I knew would be there, I figured the Director of Finance (i.e., me) shouldn’t be in cargo shorts and flip flops.

Instead I was wearing my blue pinstripe $1,000 suit (another long story) and a bright red shirt with a red, white, and blue tie. It was like I was either going to be interviewed on Fox News or I was doing my best cosplay of Al Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate.”
The saddest part of the entire day was that, no matter how many times I used that Al Pacino cosplay line to people who were wondering why I was in a suit (people! people! people! it’s not that big of a deal!) not one of them gave any indication that they had gotten the reference.
Kids these days!

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No Context For You – January 3rd

img_8690Whatever it was, it was patriotic!

That first day back at work after nine days off? Wowzers, it’s a doozy!

Today I took names. Tomorrow I’ll kick asses. I could be doing this backwards.

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One Year

A year ago today I re-entered the ranks of the gainfully employed after being out of work for two years and forty-five weeks. To be given the opportunity to contribute and make a living again after being at one employer for so long (strike one), being my age (strike two), and having been out of work for so long (strong three) was a wonderful thing and it would be hard to overstate my gratitude.

On the other hand, it seems that I’m holding my own and pulling my weight, and then some. With the magnitude of the changes I was expecting there was a sliver of doubt that I could still make the grade (see strikes one, two, and three above). There have been days when I’ve been exhausted and a few where I’ve been a bit down on myself and frustrated (gee, I’ll bet some of that comes through in these daily brain regurgitations!) but despite that things are better now than they were a year ago, both for me and for the Habitat for Humanity affiliate where I’m the Director of Finance.

A little thing went a long way to making my day today. I got a card from our CEO, a simple little congratulations for making through the first year. An acknowledgement of the anniversary, a bit of praise.

If you think that’s not that big of a deal, consider that at my previous employer no one from the President and Vice-President down to the executive secretary ever acknowledged any kind of work anniversary. Not one year, not five years, not ten years, not twenty years, not twenty-five years. Forget about the proverbial gold watch for twenty-five years – no one knew and no one cared.

There are a lot of reasons that this job is so much better than that one. I like the job and the company goals more, I like that we’re actually making a difference in people’s lives, people who need the help. (We build houses for low-income military veterans.) I like all of the people I work with. The commute is much, much shorter — if you don’t think that’s a big deal, come and drive around in LA traffic for a few morning rush hours. I now have people to work with who I can truly trust to be teammates, people that I can count on to get things done, help me when I need it, and ask for my help when they need it.

The fact that we take the time to set up a calendar to give out a card on work anniversaries is small, but very important. It makes a huge difference.

Here’s to the next year and to all the years beyond!

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