For my husband, Mondays are stressful.

A new week means a new group of volunteers and, no matter how skilled the workers, this means my husband usually spends Mondays getting tugged hither and yon, explaining, demonstrating, instructing, and answering question after question after question after question after— You get the point.

It’s no one’s fault, of course. This is just the nature of the job. With new workers, there is always a period of adjustment as the volunteers learn how the agency (and us, as project leaders) functions, what the house plans are, and where the tools are kept and how they work. They’re adjusting to the heat, to new sleeping arrangements, and a new diet. They’re familiarizing themselves with the streets and the stores. They’re meeting the homeowner and any local people who show up at the jobsite (and puzzling through the Spanish), and getting to know the other volunteers. So naturally, it takes time — time to figure out the job and time to learn how to work together as a team.

On the outside, my husband appears jovial and patient (I think he does, anyway, though maybe some of the volunteers would say otherwise?), but on the inside he’s stressed and worried, frazzled to his core. I don’t know how this will go, he tells me privately, ominously.

It used to be, I’d get all sorts of fretful, listening to him stew. Oh dear, I’d think. The week is already ruined and it’s hardly even started, oh dear, oh dear, oh DEAR. But now, three solid months into this gig, I know better. Now when my husband sings the blues, I just smile and remind him, It’s Monday. Tomorrow will be better. And usually, it is.

Monday morning this week, I drove over to the jobsite to check in on everyone, show my brother-in-law where to go (he’d just arrived, two days late, thanks to a canceled flight), take a few photos, and touch base with my husband.

That last goal — to touch base with my husband — was laughably futile. No sooner did he manage to extricate himself from the goings-on and come over to talk to me then someone would approach him with a question and off he’d go.

I watched from afar as he managed, directed and explained…

“Yeah, the nail gun shuts off after awhile…”
To his brother, “I know you didn’t get to see the safety video yet, but make sure you wear glasses when making cuts, okay?”
To someone else, “Hey! Where’s your glasses!”
“Here, hand that to me through the window.”
“That tool is in the trailer — go look in there until you find it. I could have someone show you where it is, but it’s better if you have to search for it. That way you’ll learn where everything is kept.”

…and then, the situation resolved, he’d stand there, looking around, observing, assessing, calculating, planning.

And then I’d do a little reminder wave — yoohoo, over here, hon — and he’d snap to and scurry over, all apologies. But wouldn’t you know, I’d only just start talking before he’d spy yet another situation and rocket off, to wrestle with a tool, perhaps, or poke his finger in an electrical box, or help move a ladder. It was like trying to have a conversation with a ping-pong ball. Eventually I gave up and just settled for photographing the guy.

Right before I left, I managed to catch him alone outside the house.

“It looks really good,” I said. 

“Huh? What does?”

“It — this. It looks good.” I gestured expansively. “Everyone’s working. They’re doing stuff. This is great.”

“Yeah, but I’m not getting anything done.”

I threw back my head and hooted. “Oh, honey! How many times do we have to go over this? This is your job. Making other people work is exactly what you’re supposed to do.”

“Yeah, well,” he sighed heavily. “I guess…”

So every Monday, this is the routine: my husband despairs, I lecture him, he still feels rotten, and then the rest of the week happens and on Friday he comes home with a slightly startled, dazed look on his face and says, slowly, carefully, as though he hardly dares to believe it might be true, “You know, I think we actually accomplished some stuff this week.”

And I just grin. Sure you did, honey. Sure you did.

This same time, years previous: fresh peach pie, pile it on, the quotidian (8.8.16), the quotidian (8.10.15), best banana bread, crunchy dill pickles, elf biscuits, a bout of snarky.


  • Anonymous

    I am so appreciative that you and your family are taking the time, and making to commitment to do this work in P.R. I feel blessed that you are documenting this for the rest of us. I like your honesty in the reporting of things. I laughed with you about the "what we wear in a week" segment. I am always intrigued when I read that feature on the blog you mentioned. I do appreciate classic fashion and quality fabrics. One of my questions is how do they (as well as us) look at the end of the day. Maybe we should submit pictures of our working wardrobes!!! It is quality of a different nature. Thank you for the work you do, and thank you for the writing you share.
    Nancy from the Ozarks

  • Anonymous

    Jennifer, you and your husband (and kids!) should be very proud of the work you are doing there. If it was easy, everyone would want to do it!

    Kim from Phila.

  • Karren

    What an amazing, exhausting, productive and thoroughly marvelously expansive life you are all living. Watching your blog, I'm filled with admiration and envy. You are wonderful, all of you. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures.

  • dr perfection

    And for the next post, I would love if the husband wrote about how he talks you off the ledge. That would complete the story.

  • Melodie

    It's neat to see the house coming along, even from this distance. Just "photographing the guy" — your guy, must have been kind of fun. Great pics!

Leave a Comment