This I Believe

Marybeth - Evansville, Indiana
Entered on July 15, 2008

I bought my grandmother’s 2 bedroom cottage when she passed away the summer after I graduated high school. The house was built in the early 1900’s and I don’t believe grandmother changed a thing. Everything was original, the linoleum, the coal furnace converted to gas, the porcelain sink and the basement gas burners where she used to make soap. I didn’t know a thing about remodeling, never even held a paint brush. No one in my family was handy either. But I learned. I went to the library and got book on remodeling. I replaced the linoleum with some beautiful vinyl. It took two tries, but I did it. The salesman had assured me that the glue was flexible and that I could “wiggle the vinyl in place once I had made the rough outline. He was wrong. I had to scrape up all of my lovely vinyl and walk on the sticky, sock-eating mess covered with newpaper until I could earn enough money to buy more. Over the years, I gradually remodeled the entire house. Paneling, cabinets, windows, doors, everything was replaced. Sometimes I made mistakes and had to start over, but so what?

When my kids and I had outgrown grandma’s house, I got a loan and built a new house. I went to almost 15 banks before I found a bank willing to let me be my own subcontractor. Banks didn’t loan money to single women wanting to build houses. Finally I found a woman loan officer willing to place a bet on me. I did all of my own subcontracting, put in windows, doors, water lines, etc. and have now lived there happily for almost 20 years.

My dad didn’t want me to get a job with the Post Office like he had because being a letter carrier was “too hard for a woman�. But I became a rural carrier and now 50% of rural carriers are women.

Whenever someone says that they wish they could make or do something but don’t feel like they have the skills, I tell them to try anyway. I think the skill of sewing I learned from my mom helped me read blueprints and imagine the finished product. See how things fitted together. I’m only 5’ tall and not that strong. A lot of things that look too heavy or too hard, can be broken down into manageable pieces if the will is there. No woman should let the stereotypes of the past keep her from trying anything and everything out there. My mom had immense artistic talent but women didn’t work in the 50’s so she was a stay-at-home mom who did Girl Scouts and carpools. I’d like to think that in today’s world, she’d have her own studio, selling her art all over the world. Never look at something and think it’s too difficult. Go to the library and learn how to do it and try. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish.