My niece, Michelle Stevens is a very talented artist, but what I didn’t know, or didn’t realize, is that she also has a heart of gold. I always knew she was a sweetheart, but she is also a wonderful giver and teacher. Recently, I was working on a gift I wanted to give to my sisters, and I knew that if I wanted it to look as good as the picture I had in my head of what it would look like, I would need help. And I knew that Michelle was the one to ask. The gifts were to be a combination of an antique looking heart filled with trinkets, and some lettering, which was where I knew I would need help. Little did I know it wasn’t the only place I would need help.

Of course, with her big heart, Michelle agreed to do the lettering for me…even though in the end, I didn’t really give her the amount of time I should have. Then, as I was gluing the trinkets onto the canvas, I sent her a frantic text. Looking at my work, I thought, “This is awful!!” I was so disgusted that I sent Michelle a text saying, “Ugh!! I’m about as artistic as a box of rocks!! What does this need??” I wanted to cry. Somehow, Michelle saw something I couldn’t. She told me it looked good…and that the problem with homemade gifts is that part way through, you begin to doubt yourself…a time she calls the “ugly teenaged phase.” Well it was ugly alright. My clumsy fingers kept dropping the trinkets and there was shiny glue everywhere. It was a mess. Nevertheless, Michelle knew how to fix it. She also knew how to best phrase what I wanted to say on the project. When she was done, they were a gift I was proud to give to my sisters. I’m sure you’ll agree that in the end, and only because of Michelle’s expertise, they turned out beautifully.

I am so proud of my niece and her wonderful artistic abilities. Of course, her own work is absolutely stunning, but with her teaching abilities, she can take even the most bumbling attempt at art, and make it look amazing. Her artistic ability makes her an excellent artist, and her heart of gold makes her an amazing person and teacher. That is a combination that is so special, and a gift few possess. Today is Michelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you, and thank you sooooo much for your expert help!!

As Spring arrives, many people, including my husband Bob and I, have started thinking about the home improvement projects they want to get done. Depending on what you have in mind, it can be a few minor improvements, or it can be big projects, like room gut-jobs and remodels. Whatever it is, you can count on it being work, because no home improvement project is easy. Still, I wonder if we would consider our own home improvement projects to be a daunting a task as the one that took place on the Woolworth building in New York City.

Retailer Frank W. Woolworth commissioned the building in 1910, which he would name after himself. This was just a year after the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company moved into their 700-foot tower on Madison Square, just a block away from the triangle-shaped Flatiron Building. The Metropolitan Life Tower had become the world’s tallest building at that time, having taken over that title from the New York headquarters of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, completed in 1908. Of course, as buildings go and builders follow, the latest “tallest building in the world” is nothing more than a challenge to see who will build the next building to beat the record set by the last building in the category.

Building a super structure is difficult enough, to be sure, but what about when such a structure need something like, a outside paint job. The reality is that it was going to take some great painters…who were very brave, and hopefully, not afraid of heights. This was no ordinary job. Now, I love hiking, and I have been to the top of a few mountains peaks, but I still don’t like being at the edge of a cliff. I have no desire to stand at the edge of a cliff and look down to see how far away it is. That makes me squeamish. Nevertheless, the brave men chosen to paint the top of the Woolworth building years ago, had to have stomachs made of cast iron, and nerves of steel. They not only went up there and painted the building, but they even found time to prove their bravery in pictures while they were there. I don’t know how OSHA would feel about the stunts they performed, but perform they did, nevertheless.

When my girls were about 4 and 3, my in-laws sold their place west of Casper and bought a place north of Casper, because the old place was becoming more and more a part of town, and they wanted to live in the country. We had moved our mobile home to their old place while we got our new place east of Casper ready, so when they sold the old place, we moved with them. The new place had a 14 X 60 mobile home on it, which would definitely not be big enough for the family. So began a family project. We would build them a house, and everyone was going to help. It was rather exciting for me, since this was something I had never done before…much less ever thought I would do.

I had the initial job of running the tractor while one of the guys went behind me with a scoop to move the dirt and level the site. This was a big job since the home was to be built into the side of a hill to help with insulation. I had never run a tractor before, much less with a person hooked up behind it, so I was a little bit nervous, but in time, I became an expert through repetition. Finally the site was ready for the home to be built. The foundation was laid, and the next step of the family project would begin.

The home was to be built out of cinder blocks. For those who don’t know, cinder blocks are like a very large, usually gray, brick. My father-in-law, it seemed, could build just about anything he put his mind to, and I don’t know if he had laid bricks before, but he did this job with the skill of an expert. This was to be a big home with a huge garage attached. The family would no longer be cramped for space.

Everyone helped, right down to the little kids. Barry, my nephew, was just about 1 or 2 when we were doing some of the finishing touches to the house, and he helped too…even if someone had to lift him up so he could reach. Every family member had a hand in the building of the house, and we can all take pride in the accomplishment.

While my in-laws have long since moved to town, my brother-in-law, Ron bought the land next door to the house, and still lives out there with his family. The home that was our family project is still there, of course, and houses a different family now. Whether they know it or not, the house they live in has quite a unique history…and they are very blessed to be living in it.

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