Continuing education: Why a Royston woman became a carpenter

It was a natural promise; one that many would make under the circumstances.

Mo Nordstrom donned a carpenter’s tool belt to fulfil a promise she made to her dying husband.

Mo Nordstrom turned to NIC for training so she could continue the renovation of her Royston home after her husband passed away. Her story was recently featured in a Chatelaine magazine feature on the choices women make.

After all, her husband Rick was the key player and “I was support staff.”

“We planned to move into this old house and fix it up step by step,” she said, perched on her couch in front of a collection of photos showing various stages of home renovation.

But in an instant their plans were forever altered after Rick had a seizure and was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour, a glioblastoma multiforme. Their focus changed from renovations to precious time together.

“Before he died, I promised him I would finish the house. I would finish what we started.

It was a natural promise; one that many would make under the circumstances.

But when Mo first ventured into Rick’s workshop alone, she realized the enormity of her pledge. Sure, she could hire contractors to work with her on large projects, but what Mo really wanted was to be more self-sufficient. When she heard that her next door neighbour, Dale, was enrolling in a construction foundation program at North Island College she decided she would sign up as well.

“When I first arrived at NIC and saw the carpentry shop I was like, wow, this is it. This is where I’m supposed to be,” Mo said.

It wasn’t long before she flourished in the previously foreign and intimidating environment and learned not only how to operate her husband’s tools, but her own.

“When I started, I thought I’d be the last person in the room to get hired. I don’t feel that way anymore. I now have a skill set I can bring to the workforce.”

It was a transformational shift from that first foray into Rick’s workshop.

“If there is an opportunity to work outside, to swing a hammer and stay fit, that’s the best job for me. It’s the first time in my life I’m not responsible for anybody’s happiness but my own and I’ve decided not to allow guilt or worry or resentment into my life. It’s a waste of time — and it makes your face wrinkly,” she said with a laugh.

Instead, Mo focuses on finding a piece of joy in every day, from working on small construction projects to sharing precious time with family and friends in her backyard. Following her late husband’s advice, she makes room each day for two things — laughter and fresh air.

“The biggest thing I learned is everybody dies but not everybody truly lives so I don’t waste any time,” she said. “It’s very liberating to know that today is a gift, to be healthy and active, I don’t take it for granted.”

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