Plenty of great words have been posted online about the event in various places. Sean did a great job of posting a daily record complete with pictures and video at Annabelle's Circle. We even made the local paper! I thought I'd throw in my own compressed version of the experience.
I arrived in Lemon Grove May 23rd and got to stay with the Lindens the night before everyone descended on their place. The calm before the storm. The original intention was to kick them out of the house after the first day so we could keep some of the projects a secret, but we may have realized early on that we needed all the helpful hands we could get. They stayed through the weekend and Memorial Day. I am glad that they were able to see the wealth of friends, friends of friends, and complete strangers wiling to lend a hand.
The first weekend was a big push of people getting to know each other while we tore out windows and walls, dug out the yard, and scraped off the old paint and dirt. Tearout day is one of the best. You see so much progress, and it is pretty fun too. Some folks got started on their individual projects; Arik in the garden building planter boxes, Dave retiling the kitchen counters. It was great having some folks who knew what they were doing and were ready to go at it.
By the end of the holiday weekend we had the new window and sliding glass door in, the insulation and some sheetrock up, and a significant pile of concrete and yard debris out front. Tuesday after Matt and Holly had left, we had a new group of enthusiastic helpers so we set them on tearing out the roof over the deck and prepping and painting the house. Again a number of them didn't even know the Lindens. The sanding of the floors also began in earnest. The job would be tedious with many people lending a hand, but largely headed up by the ladies. It would go on for days.
This was one of the wonderful things about the project. No one hesitated to jump in wherever they were needed. There was ditch digging, rototilling, hauling concrete, scraping paint, endless sanding and grinding concrete. Lots of hard and boring jobs, but no complaints, just progress.
The middle of the week saw some setbacks. It started to become clear that we may have started more projects than we could complete, the sewer backed up into the laundry room and bathtub, and the code enforcement officer stopped by the jobsite. He called out the building inspector, and though they seemed willing to work with us, they wanted us to stop work on the family room. This was of course the focus of the week, so it was pretty discouraging.
We moved outdoors and took on the deck, landscaping, irrigation, painting, tilework and assembly of the gazebo. We were chasing daylight each day. Even though dinner would arrive, many of us would keep going reasoning we could eat in the dark. That was another unexpected surprise. Someone arrived every day with both lunch and dinner for the crew. Every day. There was also bagels or donuts for breakfast many days. I had packed a bunch of Clif bars figuring that would be my lunch. I ate better on the jobsite than many days at home. People would also stock the coolers with water, pop and beer each day.
The end of the days were a time to enjoy a beer, unwind, step back and reflect on what we accomplished in the day. When you're buried in the details it was hard to see the progress, but we knew progress was being made somewhere. Like all construction projects, there are days when it seems like nothing got done. A few years ago I had a customer come home and in a pretty pissy voice say "what did you even do today?" Those days are bookended by the rush of tearout day and the last couple of days when it all comes together.
And the last day was a rush. Sunday was supposed to be devoted to cleaning, but we just had too much left to do. In the last hour or so before the Lindens arrived, there was a mad dash to clean up the tools and leftover materials, get the furniture back in the house, and at least do a little sweeping and dusting. Some of the kids had made a banner welcoming home Matt and Holly. We had lots of kids running around all week, pitching in where they could, with their Moms splitting time between working and keeping an eye on them.
The reveal went pretty well. The Lindens were led around the house to see all the changes. They seemed pretty impressed with how much we had accomplished in a week. Of course the family room was still sheetrock and studs due to the work stoppage, but we didn't want to share the reason until we had the permits situation resolved. We shared hugs, a few tears and more than a little wine.
I stayed over a couple extra days to finish up the deck and try to help clean up a bit. It was also nice to see Matt and Holly for a couple extra days. I wish I could have stayed to see the job to completion, but it wasn't in the cards. People are taking this weekend off to give the Lindens some time by themselves and to regroup.
The makeover project was an amazing experience. The video on Annabelle's Circle from Monday May 26th gives you an idea of the mass of people and projects that were going on at one time. Matt just walked from the front to the back of the house catching everyone in action.
There were so many great people involved. Some I knew, some were names I had heard over the years but had never met, and of course many others were complete strangers. Everyone was great. Several people commented on how hard I was working, but when I looked around as darkness fell, there were lots of others painting and sanding in the dark. There were a couple of times where we had to stop people to tell them to go home. Matt and Holly are wonderful people, and their circle of friends are brilliant. It was my honor to work beside them all.
We all wish there was more we could do for them. Some will be back in the weekends to come to help Sean get things buttoned up. The home is in a bit of disarray, so the Lindens are probably still feeling a bit displaced. And of course an updated house doesn't make everything all better. They need our continued support and prayers in the months ahead. But hopefully looking around the house will remind them that they are surrounded by people who love them, and that we are here for them always.