Q&A / 

October 1, 2013 AsktheBuilder Newsletter


This is going to be the strangest newsletter I've authored in the past fifteen years. Next week we'll get back to normal.

You're wondering what the subject line was all about. I'll get to that in just a bit.

Here's a quick update with respect to home improvement:

  • I taped approximately 40 videos two weeks ago showing how to STOP water from entering your basement or crawlspace. I'm in the process of producing a professional DVD for you. Watch for the pre-sale next week.
  • Upcoming Tool Reviews: Senco screw gun, Kreg pocket-hole jig, Milwaukee impact driver, Veto "backpack" tool bag - yes, a backpack!
  • I'm VERY DISAPPOINTED in Husqvarna. They're not paying a local dealer that fixed my lawn mower while it was still under warranty. Bad form Husqvarna!!!


If you're a regular subscriber, you know I'm almost always in your inbox on Tuesdays. But for the past two weeks, I've been AWOL.

Two weeks ago, I was in a mad rush getting ready to go on an eight-day road trip with my son. Last Tuesday I was shooting about 150 photos 1,000 miles away from New Hampshire for an upcoming new project I'll share with you later this month.

Suffice it to say, I was overloaded and couldn't produce a newsletter.

Please stay with me to the end of this newsletter. I believe it will be worth your while. If not, I apologize. You may want to grab a tissue.


As we were headed home last week from the road trip, I told my son that today's newsletter was going to focus on the trip and what I / we discovered.

"Dad, you should have the subject line say - What's Best in Life. Remember that line in the Conan the Barbarian movie? But instead of crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentations of their women, you focus on what we talked about this week."

Indeed. How profound.

Every now and then it's important to turn off your computer to allow the RAM memory and other components to reset. Failure to do this can cause the computer to become confused, sluggish and produce inferior results. Doing this complete overnight shut down is called a hard reset.

I have evidence the same thing can happen to you and me. We need to do hard resets of our brains.

Being a writer, I often look at words and how there are built.

Think of the word recreation.

Why is recreation important in your life?

Take apart the word: re-create.

When you recreate, you refresh your brain and your life.

Recreation causes you to do a hard reset so you can come back to your work and life recharged.

I did a hard reset in my life, quite unexpectedly, last week. This newsletter is devoted to convincing you to stop and take a look at where you are.

After last week's road trip, I'm much more focused on the *best things* in my life. Perhaps the things you focus on each day in your life are not really the best things.

I feel I have proof that says family, friends and relationships are best.

Money, power, and material objects are also rans.

My hard reset was triggered during the road trip, but could have just as easily happened if I had stayed at home. It's all a matter of recognizing where you are on your own personal pathway.

Last week, I was lucky enough to take my relationship with my son to the next level. It required maturity on my part, and me recognizing his current plight. He's a statistic. You may have someone in your family or hear about people like him in the news.

He graduated from college five months ago and is trying desperately to get a job. His field of interest is about as thick - or I should say thin - as a piece of plastic wrap. He's a talented 3D character artist. He uses computers to create stunning creatures and characters for video games or any other digital project. But jobs in this field are scarce.

As you might imagine, he's frustrated, embarrassed and he feels enormous pressure to produce. That's put a strain on our relationship.

Before last week, I was stuck in time. I had failed to realize just how old he is and what I was doing when I was his age. Prior to last week, I was pretty much treating him as an older child, not an adult.

I was also not offering him as much help as I could have, expecting him to figure it out on his own. How foolish of me.


The first stop on our journey was a WW II re-enactment. The one we attended is touted as the largest in the USA. It was spectacular. There were over 1,200 re-enactors and countless working tanks, machinery, guns, and all the things soldiers used in their daily lives. My favorite thing was a pristine German field kitchen wagon.

My son has always enjoyed WW II. In fact, years ago he subscribed to a print magazine devoted to the topic. I felt he'd really enjoy going to this event. He agreed six weeks ago and we started to plan the trip.

The road trip would take us farther west than the city where he was born, where I grew up for 55 years, and where his grandfather, aunt, uncle and friends still live. Yes, I had some folks I'd like to see too. It was decided we'd swoop down and spend a few days there before heading back to New Hampshire.

My personal goal for the WW II re-enactment was to reconnect with my dad. My dad was a POW in WW II. He was captured by the Germans in southern France and grew potatoes for their army in Poland for thirteen months. That experience, coupled with him being a medic in General Bradley's army, saddled him with a bad case of PTSD. Seventy years ago, they called it battle fatigue.

Remember the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? My dad received the same shock treatments administered to Jack Nicholson. The intent was to make him sane. Guess what? It didn't work - not on Jack nor my dad.

My dad's depression got worse. His sedentary lifestyle and stress were responsible for his early death. Along with my mom, sister, and his brothers and sisters, we had to send him back to Heaven when I was just 24.

Since he was so sick, he was not in the state of mind to share with me what it was like to be shot at, to not sleep in a bed for weeks on end, to be out in the rain and cold, to be a soldier. Then he died and took his stories to his grave.

I went to the re-enactment to try to get a feel for what my dad experienced.

I knew all of this before we left on the trip. Fortunately, my father-in-law - my son's grandfather, is still alive. We wanted to see him, hear his voice, and soak up more of his knowledge. He's 94 and just keeps on going. But for how long?


Two years ago, a hurricane ravaged Vermont with flood waters created by the heavy rainfall. When we head west from New Hampshire, we travel through Wilmington, VT. The residents there suffer from periodic flooding that starts in the mountains north of town.

After the big flood waters recede, they paint the high-water flood levels of the different years on the siding of historic buildings in town. They do this so people don't forget.

As the road trip progressed, I became aware I was at a high-water mark with any number of friends and family. It started last Tuesday when my son and I visited the graves of my mom and dad. We were in the peaceful and tranquil Spring Grove Cemetery.

It was a warm day with a light breeze. We both bent over and trimmed the grass around their bronze headstones with our fingers. We had no tools. My mom and dad were laying next to one another as they had for the twenty-seven years they had been married.

I stared at their headstones and did some quick math. BAM! In a nanosecond a cascade of thoughts rushed through my head.

Oh my gosh - I've been married to Kathy for thirty-nine years! How lucky have I been to enjoy so much more added time than my mom and dad. How much time do I have left to be with Kathy, my kids, my sister and my friends?

I got all choked up at the cemetery and the next two days I tried to heal myself in deep conversations with my son, my sister and many of my friends in my hometown.

If only I could have stayed long enough to visit all of them. Some are subscribers to this newsletter and please don't bust my chops for not calling you or having lunch with you. "I'll be back" as Arnold said in The Terminator. Or you can come to New Hampshire. The roads are two-way.

My son and I ended our trip with an amazing dinner at my sister's house. It was a night of belly laughing, good food, and mouth-watering pumpkin muffins. My sister's husband did a fantastic job of teasing my sister - and she was a great sport even though her face was as red as a maraschino cherry from time to time.


Everything. It has everything to do with you.

Were you a subscriber a year ago? Do you remember how the death of my very close friend Mike sent me into a tailspin?

That anniversary is just days away. That coupled with what happened last week caused me to really take a hard look at what I do each day.

I decided to open my heart to encourage you to bury any hatchets.

I decided to share with you the joy I had last week of reconnecting with old friends.

I decided to share with you the joy I had driving around immersing myself in childhood memories of where I rode my bike, where I hit home runs over a wrought-iron fence and where I used to steal kisses from Kathy sitting on a bench in Mt. Storm Park before we were married.

There's an old Indian saying I'm told:

Your heart may never be as soft as it is today.

Yes, as we grow older we tend to get colder and harder.

As we drove from the WW II re-enactment towards Cincinnati, we stopped to visit a dear childhood friend of mine. Roger.

Roger suffered a life-changing head injury when he was just 21 years old. His Honda 350 crashed on Calhoun Street. He's been 100-percent disabled since that day in 1970.

He suffers from extreme attention deficit disorder as a result of the accident, but his long-term memory recall was enhanced.

As he shifts from topic to topic every 90 seconds, he'll often say something profound.

During our visit, some memory triggered him to say:

"Forgiveness is underrated."

Amen to that Roger.

Why is it hard for you and I to dispense forgiveness?

Simple. It's your ego.

Your pride gets in the way.

You want to be right - for whatever reason.

Guess what? No one cares if you're right. Well, you care.

That's the fuel of selfishness.

Selfishness is the root of all the problems in the world.

That's a fact.

My best friend in Cincinnati, Richard, told me years ago that the stronger person in a relationship needs to give in first to mend fences.

I encourage you to be the strong person.

Take the first step and do a hard reset on your life. Before it's too late.

You'll feel like you were dipped in magic waters. They're still dripping off of me a week later.


More home improvement tips next week. Stay tuned.


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