Ellie Peterson Speaking

The Perfect Equation for a Life Lesson

Life Lesson: Learn Something New + Overcome Fear Equals Inner Satisfaction

When our garage roof needed repair my three children and I took on the task of reroofing it. Why you ask? You can bet so did my children. My response to my 15, 13 and 10-year-old kids was that their education costs took a big chunk of the budget. As a single parent, it was exciting to save money on something I thought we could do. How difficult could reroofing be? Lay one shingle down, then another.

As "Ellie-from-the-deli", making $10 an hour and teaching fourteen workout classes a week, I was doing all I could to meet our financial obligations. So I had my motivation. Reroofing the garage seemed like a simple enough task except for the fact that I was afraid of heights. No way would I have attempted my house roof because of the sharp incline plus I'd heard of people breaking body parts after falling.

This was the perfect equation for a life lesson: learn something new + overcome a fear = inner satisfaction.

First I needed to learn what to do. After talking with my Dad, I wanted more input. So I started asking questions. Keep in mind this was in the 80s. An Internet search and a Do It Yourself video was not an option. So in my casual work interactions I interjected the question, "Have you reroofed a garage before?"

Gradually I resorted to only asking members of the testosterone-loaded gender because of the quizzical looks I received from my female co-workers. Gender and other biases can show up in unexpected places. Like the time I was standing in line waiting for my coffee. The staff person was talking about getting a tattoo and she thought it would be okay if her new tattoo was neutral and partially hidden. An elderly gentleman was standing in line behind me. When I turned around, and asked him if he wore his jacket to hide his tattoos, he asked me "What did you say?" We laughed when he said he never expected to be the recipient of that question.

It's Bird Not Me

If you ask enough people, you do find someone who has done what you are attempting to do. Kevin was my guy. Like everyone else, he asked why. After hearing my response, he shrugged his shoulders and proceeded to tell me what I needed to know.

Nails and gloves were the only required purchases because I already had the hammer and ladder. My Dad said he would bring the work belts. Once the weekend was chosen, the shingles and tar paper delivery order was placed. The kids looked at me in disbelief when I announced we would start removing the old shingles on Friday afternoon. Saturday we would put the new shingles on and if needed finish on Sunday. We were ready to go.

Now it was time to overcome my fear. That meant I needed to get up on the roof. As my daughters were also afraid of heights, Josh, my ten-year-old son and I were to remove the shingles. The girls would pick them up off the ground and dispose of them in plastic trash bags. Later I learned this was a poor decision because shingles weigh more than I expected.

Josh went up first. He was immediately standing up and walking around. It was like he had climbed into heaven. "Mom, I can see the capitol from here. It is so cool."

Standing on the ground I was sure cool wouldn't be the first word out of my mouth. At the top of the ladder, I tried to figure out how I was supposed to move my body onto the roof. I thought, "Oh shit, I should have watched better how Josh did it."" Was I shaking? Yes, in more ways than one.

Once I made it onto the roof, I just sat there. How could I stand up? Just like a kid, crawling would need to be my interim before walking. Breathe, breathe, breathe was my mantra. Josh continued talking excitedly and walking around freely. You know what it is like when someone else is enthralled with the same activity that scares you. What do you do? In this case, I tried adopting Josh's no fear perspective.

As I gave myself time to adjust, I decided to keep my mind focused on the task. Removing the shingles was more tedious than I thought. After three hours we had the hang of it, yet were only halfway done on one side. At this point, our attitudes were aligned. Josh was no longer saying how cool it was and I seemed to have forgotten my inner satisfaction and financial motivation.

When the delivery person arrived, we discovered the shingles came in 150 lb bundles. Once positioned, Josh and I wouldn't be able to move them. Not sure if this was standard protocol but the delivery guy put them up on the roof for us. It was at this time that I decided we would only remove the shingles from one side of the roof. It's legal. There's actually two different ways people reroof. Remove the shingles or just reshingle over the existing ones. As I adjusted my original plan, I reminded myself that we learn as we go.

On Friday night one side of the roof was shingle-free. When my neighbor casually asked what I was going to do if it rained during the night, I realized I hadn't thought of that. Even though I had no recourse at the time, I slept lightly. Fortunately, we had clear skies.

My Dad arrived on Saturday morning. Earlier that year he had back surgery so he gave instructions from the ground. Had he been well, I'm pretty sure I would have ended up as a ground assistant and not overcome my fear of heights.

By following my Dad's instructions, we laid the tar paper down which was the easy part. It was tricky to keep the shingles straight and level while nailing them down. As we started the second row, the shingle seams needed to be at different points to keep the rain out. Our roof was more lopsided

After these instructions were executed correctly, my Dad left. Not being up on the roof seemed to pain him. Eventually daughter Tammy did venture up and help us nail the shingles down. The kids became disenchanted early and by sheer coaxing they worked until 3:00pm. It was time for them to stop because our rows were beginning to go downhill instead of straight.

My next door neighbors had an outdoor party. Three of the men partiers made loud comments directed towards me. As I waved to them, I really wasn't sure what they said. What I wanted was the attention to move off of me and back to the party. As I continued my shingling, they went back to their drinking.

Sunday morning the kids left to visit their Dad which meant I was to work alone. When they came home around 4:00pm, they did help me finish before nightfall. Yeah! We had a new somewhat lopsided roof.

With an aching body intermixed with feelings of satisfaction and pride, that night I slept soundly knowing that our roof would not let the rain in.

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