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Mileposts in the Distance – Lot Lessons

Note from Stacey: Every Thursday we’re thrilled to offer Laura’s Mileposts in the Distance column. You can read more about Laura below.

The three lots just sat there, empty and waiting for over four years, separating us from our nearest neighbors up the street and effectively divided the street in two as we ended up socializing with the families on the other side of our house and into the cul-de-sac beyond.  My office looks over the lots and as time passed I watched spaces once neatly cleared sprout scrub pines amid puddled water.

Early in the spring of 2011, the neighborhood was abuzz with the news that a builder had scooped up the empty lots throughout our little subdivision and was going to fill them with new houses.  It caused a bit of a furor as people who bought at the top of the market didn’t want their potential re-sales compete with new homes that reflected the changed landscape of real estate.

MDR and I listened to the sound and fury, but returned time and again to the irrefutable fact that the lots, sitting there empty, didn’t do any good for the neighborhood.  Once all the neighbors felt the construction company truly listened to and allayed their concerns, the building started.

In June 2011, the three lots were cleared then construction started on the middle one.  In August the lot furthest from us showed signs of construction.  By Christmas there were two nearly finished homes up the street, but the lot next to us remained empty and still.  The builders used a lot of the earth in that lot for fill so it was a muddy mess of clay and dirt.

Two months ago, a huge dump truck came up the street – the first in months.  The driver moved the black mesh construction fence, backed into the lot, then unloaded a huge mound of dirt, broken cement, and branches.  I think they dumped three loads that day and before dinner we studied the result curiously: there were pieces of a sidewalk, a large tree branch randomly sticking out and scarily, a white hard hat.

Nothing happened for a few more weeks.  Then a guy with bulldozer came and in less than two days, he flattened out the hole – pushing the concrete and branches and hardhat to the forest side of the lot.  He squared off the hole – thereby confirming our thought that the house would have a walkout level, not a slab foundation on top of all that stuff.   Less than a day later there were pink lines all over the bottom of the hole, outlining where the building would stand.

Again, we stood at the side of our driveway, discussing what was to come.   By this time, the Lovely Daughter started counting down in earnest the days to her departure for her summer internship.  She was not quite sure what to make of her parents’ constant conversation about a project for which they had absolutely no working knowledge but a large, consuming interest.

We came home from South Carolina to find cement poured between those pink lines (and some forms) at the bottom of the hole.  We were puzzled by the fact that the curb cut for the driveway is on our side of the lot, but the garage looks to be on the opposite side.  The Lovely Daughter just listened in pained silence and counted.

The ensuing work started by 7 am each morning as the crew built forms for more concrete.  On Monday afternoon, the concrete trucks came to pour.  On Tuesday the foreman was back at 7 am, inspecting before the crew got there.  By 7:30 they were taking the forms off.

Today the lot is quiet, except for a delivery of bricks.

Noting the ins and outs of a home build (one that’s not mine) may not be everyone’s favorite pasttime, but for me it’s a big arts and crafts project and getting a mezzanine seat from my second story office is fascinating.

It’s also taught me a couple of things that I never really expected.

To build a foundation you have to clear the space.  It was interesting to see how in order to get to the proper level, they just went in and cleared out everything in that hole – even stuff that the builders had put in there.  No dithering about what to keep, what to toss – it all got pushed to the side for consideration later.  (And I will be watching with great interest about what is kept or tossed then.)

The next time I am stalled starting something new – a blog post, a book, a website, I am going to  remember that sometimes it would serve me best to dig down and clear away the debris of long held, no longer useful ideas and emotions.   I can add what still serves me back when the time comes.

Second, without a foundation your project will fail and fall.   This applied to me this morning.  I’ve signed up to run another OBX Half Marathon in November.  Then in a fit of insanity, I suggested to Jolie Blonde that we should run the Disney Half Marathon two months (to the day) later so I need to start my training now. I pulled out my Galloway 19-week plan and co-opted it to my training schedule.  I am determined to get back on pace with training with no injuries.

Today was a 30-minute run.  In view of the fact I haven’t run consistently in months, I divided the 30 minutes into two minutes of running followed by two minutes of walking.  And then repeat.

As each running section wound down, I found myself thinking, “Oh just run a little more.”  When a woman about my age moved past me at a faster pace I found myself thinking, “Oh, just go a little faster.”

And each time, instead of the whiny, bossy Head Cheerleader voice in my head asking why I wasn’t running more or going faster, there was a calm one saying, “Nope, you are setting the foundation.  If you don’t do it right, the base won’t hold come November.”

I really thought that.  The word foundation never would have crossed my mind if I hadn’t been doing my Gladys Crabtree imitation from my office window.

Finally, and maybe the hardest thing to learn is it’s never too late in the day to start a project.  There are plenty of times I hold myself back by looking the clock and limiting what I can do at that particular point in the day.  From my perch I can see and hear crews dropping things off or starting a new step at any time of the day.  When the time comes to head home, they secure everything, then come back for more the next day.

It’s never too early or too late to start something.  There is only the perfect time, which is in the moment.

With all our ins and outs the rest of the summer,  I know that house will appear to grow by leaps and bounds.  And I’ll no doubt share what I see, if only to share the photos.  But for now, I’m grateful for the chance to watch a new home grow.  Maybe I’ll make an album for my new neighbors and tell them what I learned.

Laura Reeth lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with the man of her dreams. With kids off at college, she no longer plays the role of active, day-to-day parent, and has moved into the complex understanding-parent-of-nearly-adult-children role. The main difference is she gets more sleep now.

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