Category Archives: Habitat For Humanity

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!


Filed under Habitat For Humanity, Paul

Over The Edge

Surprisingly, it wasn’t even the latest abominable revelation in the press about our Presidential race that pushed me over!

I mentioned yesterday that I had spent the day helping to toss folks off the top of a 25-story building. I also invited anyone who wanted to come on out, make a donation to our eminently worthy cause, and participate.

None of you did (I’m only the teensiest, bitsiest disppointed), so there were slots available…


(Photo by S. Meechan)

Here I am girded for battle. Well, girded for safety, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite the same way.


(Photo by S. Bardelli)

Here I am, about halfway down. On my left is Hazel, one of my accounting staff.

For me it was a tremendous, exciting, outrageous, and exhilarating experience. Adrenaline – ask for it by name!!

We had real photographers all over the place, so next week I should be able to get some much better pictures.

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Filed under Habitat For Humanity, Paul

Congratulations To The Long- Suffering Wife!!

Today was her last day as a working stiff after more than forty years in the workforce and more than twenty-five years with Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. Starting tomorrow, she gets to sleep in as late as she wants seven days a week.

Well, except that I have to get up at O’ Dark Thirty to be at a work event in Universal City by 07:00. I’ll try to be quiet.

While she spent the day being congratulated by one and all and thanked by everyone who ever worked with her, I spent the day helping to throw folks off of the 25th story of the Universal Hilton.





More fun tomorrow! (All for a good cause – we’ve raised over $100,000 on this event. If you’re free in Los Angeles tomorrow and want to give it a try, we still have slots available – $1,000 a shot and I’ll take your credit card right at the door! Sold one this afternoon…)

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Filed under Habitat For Humanity, Paul, Photography, Ronnie

When The Going Gets Weird…

As I mentioned last night, we’ve had a convergence of several very high stress, time critical, labor intensive deadlines this week that has everyone working long hours and testing the efficacy of their deodorant. While this is without a doubt a pain, it was not unexpected. We’ve seen this one coming for a while.

What was totally unexpected this week, at least by me, was this:


I had no idea I had been nominated, let alone had made it as a finalist.

Gobsmacked, indeed.


Filed under Habitat For Humanity, Paul

One Of Those Stretches

“You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred!” – Super Chicken

At work, we’re trying to close escrow on Friday for fifteen of our twenty-eight new homes. The pace and pressure to get everything done on time went somewhere beyond the “you’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me!” level a couple of days ago.

In addition, for me personally, I had my first big presentation to the Board of Directors tonight. It was a huge PowerPoint presentation that I’ve been working on for weeks. The good news is that it went very well. The bad news is that I’m really exhausted.

Two more days…

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Key Ceremony

I don’t much about my work – somehow that seems to be a separate thing from what this website is about. At work I don’t talk much about the things that are here and here I don’t talk much about work. But today is different.

I’ve now been at Habitat For Humanity SF/SCV for about nine and a half months. Our particular HFF affiliate (Habitat For Humanity is not one, huge, monolithic organization) builds houses for low-income veterans. By Habitat standards, we build a LOT of them. While the average HFH affiliate might build a house a year, or do restorations on a handful a year, we’re building a tract of 78 houses, about 26 a year over three years.

Today was the Key Ceremony for our Phase Two veterans. It was a long, long day with pretty much non-stop work by everyone on staff to make it happen. Others in the company were in charge of the planning – I just had to be a glorified go-fer.

Here are some of the homes our families will be moving into on October 1st and November 1st:



I wasn’t with the company for last year’s Key Ceremony for the Phase One homes so I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be a very emotional day as I got to meet many of the families that were just names and lot numbers to me.

I saw kids seeing their new homes for the first time and seeing where they would have their own room, where now the entire family is living in a bedroom at a parent’s house.

I heard a little girl squealing with joy when she saw where the recreation center would be and she could play basketball.

I heard stories from families that never thought they would be able to own a home who now are ready to move into a community made up entirely of fellow veterans, people who will understand what they went through in combat.

I saw families from Phase One, who moved in last year, telling Phase Two families who throws the best BBQ and who puts on the best football watching parties.

I saw families from Phase three, who won’t be moving in for a year or more, there to support the Phase Two families even though their homes are still just concrete slabs.

It’s good to remember on the days when I’m running around like my hair’s on fire that this isn’t “just another job.” It really is something to be grateful for. The fact that I really like the people I work with is just the icing on the cake.

Finally, I spent hours and hours and hours on my feet, trying to keep up with my much younger co-workers. Yesterday I showed how my smart watch was bugging me about “falling off the wagon” on my exercise. Today, not so much of a problem.



Filed under Habitat For Humanity

Out Of The Frying Pan

You may have noticed that The Long-Suffering Wife and I were on vacation in New York City for the last eight days. It was pretty much a “go, Go, GO!!” trip, trying to hit as many first-time tourist spots as possible in one of the largest tourist traps on the planet.

All good things must end. Today it was back to the real world, the office, and everything that had occurred back at the office during those eight days. The good news is that I have a fantastic team there (great job, Esther and Hazel!) and while today was a bit frantic, there weren’t any crises to speak of.

One might think that I would be grateful for a “short week” since I was off in the Big Apple on Monday and Tuesday. But that’s not to be. As busy (and occasionally exhausting) as the road days were, this upcoming weekend will be as frantic or more so.

It’s time for this year’s “Wings Over Camarillo” airshow! (Previous years’ pictures here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

With the Southern California Wing of the Commemorative Air Force being both a major sponsor of the show as well as one of the lead performing groups (at last check we’ll be flying the PT-19, the SNJ-5, the Hellcat, the Bearcat, the Zero, the Spitfire, and the PBJ (flying at her first airshow). The Mustang is currently down for repairs, but will be there to gawk at, sans engine.

With my volunteer role as Finance Officer for the CAF SoCal Wing, I’ll be extremely busy all weekend.

So much for the theory which says, “I’ll catch up on my sleep when I get back from vacation.” Somehow “I’ll catch up on my sleep ten days or so after I get back from vacation, put in long hours at the office, and then put in eighteen-hour days all weekend” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue the same way.

Don’t worry. I’ll take lots of pictures to share. Sometime after I get caught up on my sleep.


Filed under Airshows, CAF, Flying, Habitat For Humanity, Travel

Living In A Tinderbox

At lunch I posted this on FaceBook & Twitter:


I particularly liked the way the “wind chill factor” brought the 108° in the shade down to where it only felt like 102°. And while I might have stretched the facts just a bit with the comment about “2% humidity,” I wasn’t exaggerating much. and the wind was blowing pretty good.

What happens under those conditions?

img_9587Yep, another large brush fire. I had been hearing sirens every five to ten minutes for quite a while. We’re a half mile from a very large hospital (“Hi, Long-Suffering Wife! I can see you!”) and in Los Angeles, so sirens aren’t uncommon, but having that many for that long was.

Someone mentioned they had heard there was a fire up in the Sand Canyon area, and someone else said they had seen it but it was small and should have been put out quickly. Then we looked out the window toward the northeast where Sand Canyon would be.

Well, there’s your problem!


Sand Canyon is a part of Santa Clarita, which is where we’re building our 78 homes for low-income veterans. As in, where we currently have 28 homes in various stages of framing, roofing, plastering, and generally being very exposed to flying embers and debris.

The good news is that our site is about five miles just to the left of where the smoke’s rising, and the wind is obviously pushing it away from us and the city of Santa Clarita, off into the canyons and mountains. That makes it harder to fight and put out, but it keeps lots of houses (not just the ones we’re building) safe tonight.

As I left the office, just after sunset, there were two vastly different views available. To the west, it was a sunset that was a couple of notches above average.


To the northeast, the pyrocumulus clouds of smoke were still rising, lit by the last fading rays of the setting sun.


Is it me, or does that smoke cloud look like one of the dwarves from “The Hobbit”?

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Filed under Habitat For Humanity, Los Angeles, Photography

WE Build 2016

I’ve shown pictures and talked about the Habitat for Humanity WE Build (“Women’s Empowerment”) before (here and here). This year, I’m on the staff side. To no one’s surprise, the physical challenge of it all for an older, out of shape dude such as myself was epic.

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Gathering for breakfast & the opening ceremonies.

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My particular team that I was “helping” was pouring two concrete walls. Concrete was mixed in the two wheelbarrows, shoveled into buckets, the buckets relayed to the women stationed along the wall, and the concrete poured into the forms.

By “helping” I mean that I tried not to get in the way too much and I was available for raw, beast of burden, grunt work when needed.

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Mixing and making the concrete.

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Another group was landscaping the hillsides above the neighborhood.

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A third group was framing an entire house in one day.

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A fourth group was putting down a walkway in the community playground.

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The women in my group, who had never poured concrete in their lives, busted their butts all day long to get their job done. There were setbacks…

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…which were overcome.

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At the end of the day, there were two concrete walls.

When these women are asked what they did with their day, they can tell everyone that they were AWESOME!!


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Filed under Habitat For Humanity, Photography

A Classy Affair

As I mentioned yesterday, last night we held the annual Builder’s Ball fund-raising event for Habitat For Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys, which is where I’ve been working since November. The event was wonderful and successful, and I was able to get some better pictures than the one I had from two years ago. It helped that I was on staff and could go wherever I needed to behind the scenes.

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We were (as usual) at the Universal Sheraton, one of the many iconic hotels in Los Angeles. Outside, overlooking the east end of the San Fernando Valley, one of our major sponsors, Anheuser-Busch, had set up a beer garden.

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Inside, the tables are arranged but not yet set, as the lighting, audio, and video get set up and tested.

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Our stage backdrop, since we’re all about building homes for low-income veterans and opening doors for them after they leave the service.

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I was amused that the table setting started with a pass through the whole room by “the knife guy,” to be followed by…

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…the fork guy. I might have just had guys all over the room with forks, knives, and spoons, but I’m guessing they know what they’re doing.

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Ready for registration, Richard Doss is our Chairman of the Board. Displays let folks know about items available (for the right price) in the live auction part of the event. What’s that one, second from the right? Looks like a P-51! I wonder where they got a ride to auction off?

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The tables fully set. It looks like the spoon guy, the butter knife guy, the little plate guy, the coffee cup guy, and the fancy napkin folding guy followed the knife guy and the fork guy!

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Ready to rock and roll!

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Let the festivities begin!

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Filed under Habitat For Humanity, Photography