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Labor of Love

Good morning this morning! :) Sometimes I wonder about the shit that comes out of my head! lol! It's either seasonally influenced, calendar timing, choice of words, alignment of thoughts inspired by a post written before, .. I don't know. What I can tell you is that what I'm about to share with you hits on almost every coincidence, ironic, assist from a past post, alignment from the stars, feeling from the universe, timing of idea, to timing of circumstance... you name it! All of which found itself into this week's grateful message. :) Last week I talked about the "joys of Labor Day" and how for the last many years I have found myself physically laboring away on my birthday week and into the Labor Day weekend. Although I had a playful rant about what was going to be required of me to wrap-up my overdue projects of finishing wooden beams, mantel, floating shelves, and painting, it turned out to be an incredibly productive Labor Day weekend. It was one that brought closure to uncompleted work, while simultaneously rooting me deep, deep into my past, that upon completion, left me spiritually emotional. It was not until I started putting the pieces together for this post (Friday btw) that cleared the dust in my mind/heart/soul that allowed me to effortlessly connect dots of my past, written about my future, that brought me to my present.

Did you follow that?

weird, i know...

Having titled last week's post "Labor Day"... the beautiful connection of entrenched influence from my childhood, compounded by action from this past weekend, I could only follow-up with naming this week's grateful message, "Labor of Love".

and this is nothing short of just that. To understand the significance of these laboring connections, I have to show you why. I've talked about my GP and Gramma for years. I told the stories of their endless influence on me, specifically my GP. I share much more in greater detail regarding the day he passed away, 8/28 on 8/28, just three days before my birthday. When I graduated high school I was presented an opportunity to go to Tucson and spend the entire summer with my grandparents. The idea was so appealing that I literally quit my then full time job at the pool store without notice. The notice was so short that the owner ran my tax withholdings, hand wrote me a check, and disappointingly handed it to me. I was in Tucson the next day. :) I have been by my GP's side for years. When I was about 11-13ish (I think) they were actively building their custom home in the Tucson desert. Off and on as the summers came I would work on their house. Doing so exposed me to the basic training my GP put me through, of which has made me the craftsman I am today. Being the adult man, full time craftsman that I am today, it's spiritually sad to me that my GP never got to see me in my stride. I am grateful that he was there when things started at a professional level, but there's no taking away how much I wish I could share with him the stuff I am doing today. By the time I graduated high school, the home he and my gramma built was good and done... well, for the most part - remember my GM's Jacuzzi tub?... sure looks done, but never was used. lol!

From my youthful perspective, watching someone literally build their own house from the ground up, outside of their full time day job no less, I could only ever see that completed accomplishment as nothing short of a masterpiece.

And gosh damn was it a masterpiece!

It was intentionally designed to be built into a small hill. The front of the home looks like a two story, whereas the back looks like a single story. An elegant driveway rounds the property while climbing up the hill bringing you to the main floor where there were only two bedrooms for the almost 3500sf home. My GP's were in one room and I had the fortune of calling the guest room my own. :) It was south western designed to seamlessly blend in with the desert surroundings.

It had massive!

huge ass, overbuilt!

SOLID wooden beams ~ everywhere!

Downstairs there was a large 4 car garage shop adjacent to a huge lower room. It was intended that if someone wanted to turn the room into a living suite, he already had the kitchen plumbing provisions to do so. From the time they built it, to when they sold it, it was only ever an extra hobby room and guest bedroom for grandkids to crash in. The real gem was the deck on the upper floor! It faces east and encompasses the entire panoramic footprint of Mt Lemmon. Literally, from the north to the south, you could easily see the mountain range. Having been there throughout the years, the sunrise would alternate from one side to the next. Don't get me started on the monsoon season watching it roll in... the smells, everything!

Damn it was gorgeous.

Evening sunsets would be off the shoulder while out of your eye's so you could grill, but you could still enjoy the view while it nestled down below the Tortolita mountains to the west.


Revitalized for the next generation... metal dust = man glitter and powder coat = super man glitter :)

There doesn't go a day when I'm sitting in these do I think about my GP's house... closing my eyes I can see Mt Lemmon, I can smell the desert, and! If I slow down enough, I can hear my GP form the chair right next to me... or maybe even the same exact chair I'm sitting in. Once through the huge! handmade wooden door you're transported to one of the most uniquely, but well thought-out houses I have ever been inside.

Man! knowing what I know of how to build shit today. My grown ass 41 year old mind... lord! I don't even know how I would build such a door. I would love, love! to have been old enough to help him build this door. The man even built the hinges and door handles?! Walking through the home you are surrounded by 12'-14' high ceilings. The drywall has a gentle handcrafted texture to it. All of the inside and outside corners are rounded 2 - 3". Meaning, envision the vertical walls connecting to the ceiling line, rather than it being a hard 90 degree, picture a skateboard ramp curling from the wall into the ceiling. There were almost no hard edges. Meanwhile, big ass, enormous beams are everywhere.

I remember GP saying that when I wasn't around and wanted a big hug, he would wrap his arms around the giant center beam and squeeze. Massive floating like shelves would be sprinkled around.

There were true skylights in the ceilings that when accompanied with the endless windows, the space was flooded with natural light. You didn't have to be outside on the deck to appreciate the mountain-scape before you. Your eyes were drawn to endless wood details. Long round beams would span the ceiling line from one side of the home to the other.

Here he designed this portion of the cabinetry to literally be suspended from the beams above.

Look at that travel distance and suspension load?! I remember visiting one summer when these mental anchors hadn't been built by him yet. So in typical GP fashion, the damn near, moved in, lived in house, had these trucker-like tie down straps holding this part up! hahah! It was so not classy, but so my GP's style!

"for what we're doing here, this will be just fine"

But damn dude! When he got done handcrafting the metal support!


It was always GP's plan, my GM's hope, that he would install glass doors on these cabinets. It was intended to be shared between the kitchen and the amazing, unbelievable dining room. :)

Hand carved headers are above all the windows and doors. Here the dining room pulls in the western sunset highlighting the face of Mt Lemmon.

I can see myself there... lord I miss that place!

Wandering down the turning staircase brings you to the lower shop and hobby room. Just to the right is the pseudo office area. Eloquently designed, my GP's trophy showcase.

Man does this top me in my tracks.

Feeling the gravity of this moment is slightly overwhelming.

Like a ripple from the my past, cresting on the shores of my today..

dude... heavy shit.

Spending that summer was likely one of my best childhood decisions I could have ever made. The house was done at this time. Our summertime project that year was preparing the foundation for his 6500sf aircraft hangar. Being 18 at the time really allowed me to appreciate the home this man had crafted with his hands while participating as an active resident rather than just a guest. Before we concluded that fateful summer visit, I had the joy and privilege of celebrating my 19th birthday in Tucson. My Grandparents threw me a quiet birthday party where my former classmates, including my good buddy Chris, RIP, drove down from Phoenix to Tucson to be with me. As the stars and universe would have it, this took place on that Labor Day weekend in the year 2000.

damn... Fast forward literally, 20 years into the future from that very summer, I now have a house shared with my little family. Sadly, my GP passed away six days to exactly two years before we closed on what is our home today. For years growing up as adults, Chas and I got to watch many of our friends work on and remodel their homes. It was neat to see people do creative things to their living spaces. Prior to just a few 2 - 3 years ago, all we could ever do was pretty much paint our bedrooms. For the time, that was really good. I likely could have done something, which I did mildly with our landscaping, however, all of my constructive and creative efforts were in the thousands of hours spent in the garage, my shop, building water features for people all over the country. As my handyman business experience extended beyond garbage disposals, art, toilets and fans, my willingness to do some serious shit started clicking. I closed the door to my water feature business and was strictly real estate and handyman. This left a gap of expendable time in my availability. I recall being hired to take down a handmade mantel for a customer. She had just bought a home and did not like what was there. I took down the old and installed her newer, now leaner, mantel. Having spent so much time at my grandparents home, beams and shit always intrigued me, so I was all about seeing how someone built it. To my surprise, she said I could take the mantel home with me... which I was ALLLL about! As time goes on, I have found that I grossly underestimate my capabilities. I feel like an ass saying such words, but it's true. I spent years designing and building really, really, complicated mechanical pieces of art ~ water features. Anything that was not a water feature I would be mechanically intimidated by. But then when I looked at it in closer detail, I was like...

Pff... I can build this shit!!

And sure'nuff, it was pretty simple. Far less complex than a functional water feature.

side note: regardless of the cool shit I build, I am still really gun-shy about new shit because I still get in my head about the complexities about the simplicity of shit... all to find out, it's wayyyy simpler than I thought.

So... go-by mantel in my hand... pff... I can build this shit! Not keeping things simple, my stupid ass bites off a fat chunk of an idea... I'm telling Chas... You know what!?

Deep in her phone..

what's that?

I think I could make some beams in the ceiling of our dining room'ish area.

Oh yeah?..

But instead, rather than keep things simple, I think we should make an "X" in the beams. From one corner to another! Dude! it'd be so cool!!

Cool... just don't fuck it up. :)

HAHAHAH! that's the point of where we're at in our home remodeling relationship hahah!! I'm playfully paraphrasing of course! but that is how shit rolls in our house - now... I still remember her asking me in our first house...

"are you sure you know what you're doing??"...

HAHHAH! that's a classic joke nowadays! All I knew is that I shared what I was thinking, and Chas was all for me trying to pull it off!


I don't trust the builders... where exactly is the center... how would GP approach this??? got it! STRING!

A= Builder center B= Real center! Clear the room!

Using my GP's scaffolding helped a lot. With some solid idea on how to secure a box beam to the celling now ~ I got this shit! And I def made that shit happen! :) It worked beautifully!

Shit! the corners! How can I pull this off?!?!

Got it!

On it!!

Installed and dun!


While in the throes of the "X" beams, my overachieving ass also thought building a wall unit at the same time with a matching mantel AND some random floating shelves made a whole lot of sense too!



The universe blesses me with another two years!... It is now Labor Day 2022... exactly 22 years to the exact weekend my Grandparents threw me my bday party. For me, I was all about partying in the sun at 107 degrees all Labor Day weekend!

Sand, sand, sand, and sand some'mo!

Chas and I fell in love with a second hand distressed table we picked up from a handyman customer moving across the country. They asked if I knew of someone who wanted to buy it...

I was like.. ummm - ME! lol!

From the get-go, the finish here was the hopeful outcome... with my stack of extra "distress-able" products I was like... hmmm... let me give this a go.

and sure'nuff... pulled this shit off!

You can hardly see the difference!



Time to make it happen!

Unlike times past, I let the wood talk to me. I felt like a tattoo artist seeing the grains in the wood and drawing on it. Rather than "man make" this shit, I let the natural wood talk to me. I could see the grain and would trace its natural flow.


Shit turned out hella-gud!

Once the noted areas had been sanded out, we took a high octane fuel w/torch flame to the areas. Man! did this make a huge difference in the distressing!

Once it had been "heat distressed"... it was time to pound on dis-bitch.. creatively speaking.

  • A- Hammer

  • B- Hand planer

  • C- Sanding block (80 grit)

  • D- Meat tenderizer - legit, we pound steaks w/this!!

  • E- Finish nail punch

  • F- Cut off lag screw

  • G- Flat head screwdriver


Stain time!

Bro! I was stressn!

I think the shop measured 112 degrees this day!


Considering it was so hot in the shop, the stain seated on the quick side! As soon as it was applied all the moisture left making the urgency of wiping off the excess quite urgent!

But dude! the final product!!


The outcome is dialed in like nothing I've ever done!

Can't have a distressed beam without a love story!

The entire final outcome was the kicker for me...

The whole time I was working outside in my shop with my hands.. I would be lost in thought regarding every move, sand, bang, slam, scrape, or swipe of the stain motion... I was at my GP's house... I was reliving what I can only imagine what was unfolding in that wise man's head. :)

When it was all said and done, cleaned up, put away, I was left in a quiet somber...

Seeing the final outcome in person... I really can't blame myself for feeling this way.

Hot damn I was proud... Proud at a deep, deep level. :)

Not until I started taking pictures and cleaning up did the quite emotion start coming through,

Hey Chas! I want to make a set of beams that cross each other like "X" in the middle!!



After looking at some of the before and after "beam'iage" completion pics... I'm compelled to share. :)

Before we started with the home remodel I told Chas I want there to be consistency of finish with every move within the house.

What do you mean?

I said you're talking to a guy who needs to have his hat and his shoes match his belt. I want to be able to walk inside the home and follow a visual and textural theme throughout each step of the home... This is what the visual "cohesion" feels/looks like... From my office door, looking at the landing hall w/the half bath

From the landing hall/into the main walkway...

Though the main walkway/living room looking back...

I wish like nothing else that I could share these pictures with my GP... damn I wish I could!

All of these efforts bring me back... back to specifically that Labor Day weekend in 2000... Crafting away downstairs in her hobby room, my Gramma made me this handmade birthday card. The birthday card received is from that "after high school summer." It was meaningful enough that I've kept it all these years. Having literally celebrated my birthday just a week ago, it only made sense to reminisce in their message.

I am without words as I re-read...


From my Gramma:

Dear Josh, Hope your birthday is a wonderful one, and this next year filled with joy and fulfillment. Enjoy your first ear of college - how exciting! love you!

From my Grampa:

Dear Josh, Have a great birthday! I sure enjoyed the time spent this summer! Keep setting higher goals and enjoy your accomplishments. Grandpa

Right now... I'm short of a bag of shit. My GP has never seen my house, nor the mechanical craftsmanship level I have strived to achieve in his absence. I am still a young pad-one! seeking the approval of his sensei/master. He ends such words with "enjoy your accomplishments"... Damnit man! Tears roll down my left cheek making my right eye twitch with absent anxiety. My buddy, my mentor, is not here to see the outcome of his influence. I did not have a house to build from the ground up... but, I did build what I could, with what I had... I wish he was here to share this with. Only within the last 2 - 3 years have I been able to love the inside of my house. There were times I felt like an animal let out from the zoo, running as hard, as fast, and as long as I could. Looking back in writing's past, these 2 - 3 years have been a blur. "keep setting higher goals and enjoy your accomplishments"

damnit man...

Living room before:

Living room after:

Dining room before:

Dining room after:

Kitchen before:

Kitchen after:

Kitchen before:

Kitchen after:

Half bath before and after:

These can feel like accomplishments, but when I look at these closer, at least feel what I am seeing, it's truly a labor of love that motivates me... or maybe, more likely, it allows me to be closer to the one that showed me what was possible... I just wasn't old enough to connect the dots... I hope you can see this GP! <3 Thanks for going on this ride with me. :) Have a grateful weekend!

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