This post comes from Renovation Road Tripper Meryl Phillips of Picardy Project, as she tinkers her way across the country.
Our final stop on the Renovation Road Trip was after a two day drive across the northern United States from Wisconsin to Oregon to visit Heather of Just a Girl with a Hammer in Portland. After twelve days on the road Chris and I were a little bleary eyed, especially considering we had just spent 34 of the past 48 hours driving. When we pulled into Heather’s driveway and got a big smile and a warm hug, we felt just at home.
Heather is famous, and you don’t even know it. While looking for a house to purchase she applied to be on “My First Place” and had her first time home buying experience documented by HGTV.
It was really interesting to learn about her experience both buying her first home and having that experience filmed. It was fun to hear about how things had to be done a little backwards, out of order, and sideways. Heather’s honesty and humor keeps you interested and laughing all along the way, even if you cringe at some of the fearful discoveries we’re all nervous about finding during a home inspection (questionable electrical work anyone?).
Like many people we’ve visited, Heather’s home renovation prowess was birthed out of necessity: she wanted a home with a good sized yard (because she loves to garden) and she didn’t want it to be shoebox sized. That meant her home needed a little love. Over the years she learned some electrical, has finished off her basement and touched up several rooms. When we arrived we were eager to help her tackle a list she had been saving up.
The three of us motored through several tasks and we moved on to uncovering a junction box in her ceiling someone had covered up some time ago. Heather was hoping we’d be able to wire up a light and illuminate her otherwise cave-like living room because this now-covered junction box was the only source of overhead light in the room.
Like projects go from time to time for home renovators, this one proved to be a bit troubling. First off, the wires that were covered up in the ceiling were still live – a huge fire risk and not safe at all. But we also could not seem to find what they all belonged to. Some fed outlets in the same room, others outlets in adjoining rooms. But there was one, mysterious wire that seem to disappear into her walls. And it confounded Chris.
Time was spent in the attic moving insulation around searching for where it might run to. We took apart other light switches, lights, and outlets on our way to hopefully discovering a rogue wire.
But no question was answered. Chris and I both felt horrible. Heather, being the wonderful person that she is, with such a great attitude, kept telling us that the hole in her wall with the questionable wire was an improvement. This task had been on her to do list for a long time and our progress unearthing the wires was leading to her final destination of a new light in her living room. Not to mention, the task also needed to be done before she re-insulated her attic, so we were spurring her forward. Or so she told us. Chris and I couldn’t help but feel like we arrived on her doorstep, only to hand her a bill she’d be getting from her electrician because we couldn’t accomplish the task. We felt terribly guilty.
But Heather is awesome. She pushed us to get over our immense shame and encouraged us along the way. She had a great attitude and plainly told us to get over ourselves. It was refreshing. So we tried our hardest. We moved on to more tasks for her. We attached her bathroom vanity to the wall to make it more stable
We took her side door off its hinges and repaired the weather stripping, a constant source of ire (and cold air) for her.
But when the day was done and we had to pull away from her house, Chris and I still felt our guilt. Heather could not have been more nice, more understanding and humorous about the circumstances. And when we tried to think logically about the situation, we had to remind ourselves that we were visiting five different houses, carrying as many tools as we thought were going to be helpful and going on mere emails back and forth (and some photos) with our new friends about what projects we would be tackling. When it really came down to it, the fact that only one project at only one house wasn’t a rousing success, we had to realize that was a pretty good record. But we still couldn’t help but feel like we let Heather down. The good news is, she’s only a 90 minute plane ride away, and she already offered her car to us in trade to discover her awesome city if we made it up her way again. So we might just get the opportunity to rectify our slightly soiled record. We’re shooting for a perfect game.