Thursday, January 7, 2010


For those who still might be unfamiliar with me I am a full-time stay-at-home dad and part time traveling artist during the warmer months of the year. Since making this transition about five years ago every winter has been an incredible struggle to make ends meet...or let's call it an even more dramatic struggle than the usual one the rest of the year.

Each of those off seasons from selling art I've sought unsuccessfully some type of temporary employment to prevent the need to constantly borrow money from family members to make it through the cold months. Most employers aren't very interested in hiring someone who has several hours available each day scattered between nursing hours, doctor appointments, therapies, and the inevitable "sorry I can't come in - the nurse is sick so I have to keep Ben." A long story short (you can catch the longer version at our blog over the next few days - it is quite interesting) I've recently found work that fits perfect with all of those scheduling conflicts! Officially I am now a house painter helping a friend with a fast track renovation of her house which happens to be very in I am certain I found hieroglyphics behind some old masonry recently removed.

For the most part I am truly enjoying the work. I despise a cramped office environment and though technically I have a boss to answer to, I get to work on my own. Most importantly I get to work with my hands. I guess I've discovered my collar is more a shade of blue than white.

Last week after a conversation with one of the other contractors on the job I began thinking about the correlation between the renovation project and the work involved in raising our exceptional son. The comparison at times has been quite startling. Most construction jobs revolve around a blueprint or a master set of drawings providing each trade very specific and detailed information about how to complete their work. In the case of this project I'm now involved with our plan of action is based upon what we might find behind the next wall we tear out.

In the case of a typical child there is plenty of information available to serve as a blueprint for his or her growth. I recall reading those "What to Expect When You Are Expecting" books during the first few years of our daughter's life. With an exceptional child there are no master drawings, no detailed specifics of how to get from point A to point B. Instead there is an ever-changing environment with few clear answers and difficult choices that involve creative thought, an adaptable mindset, and willingness to endure physically (and emotionally) challenging hardships.

This was made very clear to me this morning as I surveyed the work I've completed over the first few weeks. When I started I honestly didn't know if I had it in me to actually do a good job of painting. Yeah I am an acrylic painter by trade but this house painting stuff is a completely different animal! Also I found it difficult to know where to begin. We're talking a repaint on an entire house inside and out with other skilled workers needing to complete their work as well. To say it seemed like a confusing mess would be like saying Tiger Woods has a slight image problem at the moment.

Essentially I just followed my intuition (and a few hints from the homeowner about what she wanted completed first) and just started. The first few days it didn't feel like I was accomplishing a whole lot - doing a good paint job involves a great deal of preparation before applying that first coat of paint. I also got to know my coworkers who have been most helpful in communicating and organizing our goals so that we all work efficeintly.

So as I finished cleaing up today I felt a sense of pride and confidence that I didn't have two and a half weeks ago. That feeling was not unlike the one Joan and I felt back in October when we celebrated Ben's tenth birthday. It was amazing to appreciate the "work" we have done ourselves working a decade without a blueprint.

Ben and Bennie usually do most of their construction at A Work of Art: Raising Our Exceptional Son.


  1. So great! Wonderful that you were able to find a part-time gig and wouldn't be surprised if some others followed.
    I love the idea of raising your child without a blueprint--I don't even open the parenting books any more. I guess I'm keeping them in case I have other, typical children.

  2. Bernie, I always love your essays and how you seamlessly weave your "normal" life into your life with you son. I wish I had a painter as wise and talented as you nearby!