Recently, I stumbled upon an article that contains 40 photos that capture people experiencing things for the first time.
- Baby meets a dog
- Soldier meets his daughter
- First ever snow
This creative piece made me stop and think about how long it’s been since I did anything for the first time. When we are children, it happens routinely without us even realizing it. But as a 50-something adult, it’s not often I find the new in life. Over the summer, I played pickleball for the first time, but I had to watch two YouTube videos and call a friend before I could figure out all the rules (why do they call that space a kitchen?). During this stay-home time, I tried a few new recipes, but since I’m a terrible cook, none of those really worked out well—no matter how many people swore they were fail-proof!
However, I finally have my first “win” in a 2020 virgin experience. I made a coffee hutch.
What exactly IS a coffee hutch you may wonder? Here’s a quick Google search to help visualize it. The ones that caught my attention were the “makeover” ones, where people took broken–down china cabinets and repurposed them. So I began my first-time furniture refurbishing adventure by searching for several weeks for a cheap, thrift store unit that had good bones to build upon. After traveling hundreds of miles and crossing two state lines, I ended up finding exactly the right unit in my own hometown for $35. So excited! It took a lot of work, but I was able to transform it into exactly what I was looking for. Check out the before and after photos below—but first, the three important life lessons I learned in the process:
An eighth of an inch matters.
I have always been a person who lives by the mantra of “close enough, it will work.” I’m not a stickler for details, and I can’t think of one time when I have required perfection in anything. However, when I put the paneling in the back of the hutch, even after measuring multiple times, I couldn’t get the cut quite right. The bottom left corner was a smidge shy of being flush, and it looked bad. So, I had to find a solution to fix the blemish. I decided that a small trim, much like a frame, would hide the ugly. Sure enough, it did cover up the mistake and even gave the cabinet a better look when it was done.
This lesson, when applied to our personal lives, serves as a reminder that when things don’t go the way you plan, there may be a simple remedy that improves the situation. When many of us lost work, we used the time to get organized or tackle the projects that had been begging for our attention for a long time. It didn’t change the stress of our circumstance, but it did feel good to purge those closets!
Having the right tools makes a difference.
Because we are not handy at our house, the toolbox is very limited. I have screwdrivers, hammers, a drill, a jigsaw, and that is about it. I was determined not to invest any more than I had to in this project, so I attempted to get things done without a miter saw or a sander and my work bench was the top of our garage freezer. I have no doubt that using the wrong tools led to the 1/8–inch shortage mentioned above—the jigsaw didn’t work well on the paneling, but I forced it to cut and then swore at it when the last inch splintered off and made the rough edge I later had to cover up.
This lesson, when applied to our work lives, serves as a reminder that we shouldn’t expect others to do what they weren’t trained to do. I’m all for cross-training and preparing teams to fill multiple roles because then we can operate more efficiently and handle absences seamlessly. However, when we demand that people step up and perform like those who were born to the do the job, we may end up with all kinds of splintered–off problems. Even during our challenging times, we must make time to plan, train, coach, encourage, and support those who are being asked to do more than ever before or perform new tasks.
First times are exhilarating! Make it happen!
Every step of this project was a first-time experience for me. I had to Google how to do certain steps, research product options, and scan Pinterest for creative ideas. I made more trips back and forth to the big box supply store than you can image, and I ended up returning at least half of the things I thought would work and didn’t. But I stuck at it, just a few hours each day in the garage with a crisp fall breeze and music playing, which kept all of life’s distractions at bay. When it was done, we moved it into the house in a perfect spot. The moment came when it was time to turn on the lights—my favorite part of the design—and I stood back and enjoyed the end result. I had a huge smile on my face, and I couldn’t wait to share the before and after pictures to boast of my success. (See below.) Now, every morning, I make my coffee at the hutch and I smile. Every evening, I turn on the lights and make hot tea under the amber glow, and I exhale in contentment.
This lesson, when applied to our soul, serves as a reminder that we need to keep stoking the flames of hope, peace, contentment, and personal pride no matter what is going on in the world. I realize these observations don’t create change “out there,” but these thoughts do create change “in here”—inside my brain, heart, and soul. If we don’t look for ways to bring joy into our life during challenging times, then it’s hard to be a source of light for others.
I am throwing down a challenge this month: Identify one thing that you have always wanted to do but never have, then chase it down with gusto. When you are done, I want to hear about it. Seriously, I want to hear from you and I would like to see the pictures that go with it (assuming it’s appropriate, of course!). I recently started a new mini-series called “Shake Your Brain: Where Good Ideas Happen,” and I would like to interview a few of you who found a “brain shaking” moment in your first–time experience. Watch the first episodes of the new show, and get in touch about your first time project when you’ve achieved it.