A Man, A Van And An Ill-Conceived Plan

A man, a van and an ill-conceived plan

By Lisa Earle McLeod

I come from a long line of do-it yourselfers. Yes sirree, there’s nothing my family likes better than tackling some big unwieldy project involving overly-optimistic plans, a completely unrealistic assessment of our own skills and a total disregard for time constraints. I learned early on that there’s no need to call in a pro when, with thirty-seven trips to the hardware store, a few minor injuries, and a big ole’ fight with your spouse in the driveway, you can get it done on your own. Or in our case, almost get it done. I’m embarrassed to admit it; but we really weren’t “do-it-yourselfers”, we were “do-it-halfway-yourselfers”. We loved starting projects; we just didn’t enjoy finishing them. I spent the better part of my childhood walking around a pile of lumber in our driveway that was supposed to become backyard planters. (FYI, that 10-year guarantee on pre-treated wood starts when you buy the lumber, not when you finally get around to using it.) There was also the decade-long basement rec room project. It only took three hours to buy the wallpaper and ping-pong table, so surely we could knock out the rest of the job over a few weekends. But alas, our enthusiasm waned after we’d hauled the first six boxes of old books to the outside shed. The rec room ultimately got to the 75% stage, which was pretty good for us, and the ping-pong table made a perfect flat surface for the junk we never hauled out. Sadly the giant 1973 beach mural didn’t look quite as dreamy when it finally hit the walls in 1981. But what we lacked in project management skills we made up for in confidence and enthusiasm. In fact, sometimes, we were so doggone confident that we even tackled jobs for other people. Like trying to take down a 50-foot tree with a Dodge van and a rope. During the 70’s energy crisis my Dad and my brother decided that they would take down any tree for free as long as we got to keep the firewood for the wood-burning stove we had ambitiously jimmy-rigged up to our fireplace. My Dad’s friend called because the dying oak that stood between his house and his mother-in-law’s home was poised to topple straight through her roof. While she wasn’t his favorite person, he knew that if his tree fell on her house, he’d never hear the end of it. Enter my Dad, a man with a van, a rope, a 13-year-old assistant and, in hindsight, very little knowledge of geometry. After tying the ends of the rope to the van bumper and the top of the tree, the three of them began chopping away in the direction they wanted the tree to fall, thinking that once it was “almost” ready they would pull it down with the van. However, the tree did not cooperate and began swaying precariously over MIL’s roof, lifting the rear of the van completely off the ground. At which point my father jumped into the van and gunned the engine, giving it enough power to lurch forward bringing the rear wheels down right in the middle of MIL’s prized pansy bed. My Dad recalls, “As I felt the tires hit and start to spin, I looked in the rear-view mirror and all I could see was a cascade of beautiful colors flying through the air. I was mesmerized. It took me a few seconds to realize that I was watching an entire flowerbed become air-borne.” The house was saved, but when MIL came out and saw her precious pansies strewn across the yard, she didn’t thank them for saving her home; instead she began bellowing at the man with the battered blooms dangling from his bumper. Can you believe it? The only job our family ever completed and this woman wants to complain about it.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect” and “Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear.” Contact her or join her interactive blog at .

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© Copyright 2008, by Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved.

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