June 1, 2017

I remember when Nick and I were dating. He was on his first submarine tour while I was working and building up my resume after graduating from college.

The only communication you have with submarines is via email. I clearly remember emailing him to tell him I was going to get a Masters degree and that I was going to scrimp and save so that I didn’t have to take any loans. Another time, I emailed him to tell him I asked for and got a promotion. Another time, I emailed him to tell him I was going to be a Girl Scout Leader for a group of first graders that I didn’t even know.

Whenever Nick goes away, I look at it as having time to invest in myself. I end up doing things that I have always wanted to do. Things that are outside my comfort zone. Things that I didn’t have time to do before. I try to find ways to volunteer to share the extra time I have.  This is the best way for me to deal with him being gone.

And honestly, since the only communication I have with Nick is via email, I want to have things to email him about. We can’t even send pictures, just email. And he doesn’t have access to the Internet, so emails from me are the only news he gets. It would get really boring if all I had to write to Nick was that I did some work and cooked dinner. I try to keep the emails interesting!

Knowing that Nick wants me to be happy gives me extra motivation to get out and try new things that I can tell him about. I feel like I am on a mission to find the things that I want us to do together when he gets back.

For years, Nick and I have talked about wanting to do Habitat for Humanity. We both have grand visions of buying and fixing up a house when Nick retires and we both have no idea how to do that.

When we got to Hawaii, I signed up to get email notifications about build days. I got an email last week and decided it was time to finally make it happen. So I grabbed some friends and decided it was finally time to do it.

Habitat for Humanity
We showed up at 8 am and started right away.

Then one of the people in charge explained how Habitat for Humanity in Hawaii works. It’s not free houses like I initially thought. You must be within a certain income level – you can’t be above or below it.

If your application is accepted, Habitat for Humanity helps you get a 100-year least to the land for $100. This is a big deal because in Hawaii, the government owns the land and it’s hard to lease or buy it.

Habitat for Humanity provides the families with a zero-interest mortgage. They must show that they can pay the mortgage back within 20 years. The free labor obviously also helps to reduce the cost.

The families have to put in “sweat equity,” meaning that they have to put in a certain amount of building hours. They must help build houses before their own house, they have to help build their own house, and they have to help build houses after theirs is built. We worked with a family whose house is slated to be built next.

You also have to be at least 50% Hawaiian to qualify in Hawaii. With people like Mark Zuckerberg buying lots of land in Hawaii and trying to force Native Hawaiians from their ancestral homes, I think that this is a good thing.

The man whose house we are helping build was there as well. He provided us with lunch, lots of help, and the most gratitude I have ever seen.

The house is in the very beginning stages. It is hard for me to describe because I still don’t know that much about it, but we were working on the foundation of the house. I helped put in blocks of wood to support the foundation.

One of the guys in charge showed us how to use the tools. Even though we were slower than everyone else, they still let us do stuff. I was happy about that because I thought I would just be handing people things.

When they say that you need zero experience to be able to help, they are not kidding. They want you to get something out of the experience, to learn skills that you could use later on in life. I really appreciated the time that the other volunteers took to show me things or explain things to me.  Honestly, the day probably would have gone faster without me, but if I keep going back, I am sure I will get better.

I found out that they also do wahine-only (Hawaiian for women-only) build days which I heard are a lot of fun. One girl told me that they get even more done on those days, which I totally believe! I plan to go back when there are more slots open. They have different groups coming in all summer, but I hope to go back in the fall when there is more space for volunteers. And at some point, I’m definitely bringing Nick with me.

I would love for this to be something I can do during his deployment and that we can continue when we move back to the mainland and Nick has more free time. By the time Nick comes, I’ll be the one showing him the ropes!

I wanted to share this story with you, not for head pats, but because I want to encourage you to get out and try new things, whether you are a military spouse are not! Don’t wait for your spouse to be ready, just do it!

What’s something you have always wanted to do but just haven’t made happen yet?

Have you ever done Habitat for Humanity?

6 responses to “My first experience with Hawaii Habitat for Humanity”

  1. Jen says:

    I absolutely love that you did this! Habitat for Humanity is such an amazing organization and they do so much good. I love that those receiving homes there must also do work, I think that builds a sense of pride.

  2. This is so neat! I’ve always been interested in Habitat for Humanity; my church group volunteered with them in college but I didn’t get to participate. With the move to Iowa, Andy will technically be home, but will most likely be working long, long days 6 days a week, so I’m already making a list of things I’d like to do to keep myself busy while he works!

  3. I’m hoping to find somewhere to volunteer this summer as well.

  4. Casey says:

    This is so awesome and I completely agree – I try to look at any time away from Greg as time to get stuff done and focus on me. Once Riley was born that changed a little but I still kept a similar mentality. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  5. Sarah says:

    This is amazing!! And I learned a lot from it about how Habitat for Humanity works as well as submarine communication! When I was in college I had a good friend whose boyfriend was in the military in Japan (which he did so he could pay for college). We took a poetry class together and she wrote this really beautiful poem about scuba diving in a lake in the middle of Ohio in winter… she ended up telling me afterwards that whenever he boyfriend was deployed in Japan she would make herself do something to distract herself, and ended up getting further scuba diving qualifications each time he was gone! That story really stuck with me, and so the year that I was in a 5,000 mile long distance relationship I ended up taking a pottery class and I made about 30 bowls on a wheel that year. Which was great because it distracted me but also I had something to talk to my boyfriend about! So I totally get your habit of trying something new and big each time Nick leaves, I think it’s really really healthy and positive and something to look forward to 🙂 My boyfriend is going to India soon and it’s not that I’m looking forward to him leaving… but I’m looking forward to whatever plan I concoct whilst he’s gone 😉 WOW long comment, but I also wanted to say your plan of building a house together is AMAZING and I hope I get to read about it in the future 🙂

  6. Audrey says:

    I think it’s awesome that you get out and do stuff while Nick is gone! I like that you do things BOTH of you want to do, and then plan to bring him into the picture once he’s home (verses waiting and doing nothing until he gets back). When I was in 3rd grade we helped with a Habitat for Humanity house and I remember nothing about it… K and I should look into that. K is super handy with that kind of thing. The Hawaiian restrictions are interesting!

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