Keep on when life gets tough!

In my line of work, I meet many people who keep on when life gets tough.

In 1992, we knew a home office was part of the plan when we bought this house. I met with my Design Resumes clients upstairs while my husband built the office downstairs in the room off the driveway. Soon after, I relocated to a convenient and well-equipped office that unfortunately was always cold.

In 2005, we had a wood fireplace installed in the living room and the downstairs office grew colder. I migrated upstairs, working with clients in various spaces.

Unused office area discovered

Our large family room drew me in, a room with banks of windows on two sides and a patio door opening on our large deck on one side and another deck overlooking the front of the house.

When I needed some plumbing repairs, my plumber, Tom Martinez, also talked about the finish carpentry I needed done. Later Tom e-mailed me to recommend a carpenter.

Anyone reading my blog knows I am captivated by stories. Tom told me the story behind his recommendation. Elijah Miller from Explicit Homes was a 32-year-old experienced carpenter, builder, and designer recovering from a brain tumor that almost killed him.

The rest of the story Elijah told me himself.

He was on a job site in December when he felt strange, dizzy, and unable to continue his work. Doctors found a golf ball-sized tumor in his brain, lodged on his brain stem that gradually increased in size for many years.

Keep on when life gets tough!

Without removal of the tumor, Elijah faced death. Operating, not once but three times, trying unsuccessful methods to remove the tumor, the surgeons entered through Elijah’s ear. Elijah is now deaf in that ear but the tumor was removed. A shunt was installed to drain fluids from his brain and Elijah remained in the hospital to recover.

Most people at this point would have given up, perhaps choosing to claim disability for the rest of their lives. Not Elijah. He got out of the hospital at the end of January. He says he’s just stubborn. I’d rather call him a walking miracle.


Just a Quick Fix

When I initially consulted with Elijah, I planned to have him finish trim the patio door and find a solution to finish the  new gas fireplace exterior.

Keep on when life gets tough!

Our former fireplace had been left unfinished for 17 years sitting on a wood platform. I was bound and determined the new one would not remain unfinished.

Elijah designed an attractive, cost-effective solution using the finish molding I had, stone leftover from the living room fireplace, and tile purchased for the base of the former fireplace.

Watching his creativity, knowing his story, and with other goals in mind, I asked Elijah to get me a bid for a new ceiling and find replacement lighting for the old fixtures in the ceiling.

Elijah and his assistant, Andy, got along great with Teddy, our German Shepherd. It occurred to me that the best time to install a new ceiling in my office would be when I left for Baltimore and the Career Thought Leaders Conference.

Keep on when life gets tough!

I wouldn’t be out of my office for long, Teddy would have even more people to care for him. I wouldn’t have to deal with a week of disorder.

The end results

The fireplace has a new look, the new drywall ceiling is installed and painted. New can lights are positioned to provide best lighting for target areas of my office. Elijah resolved other wiring issues, I painted the walls, and the end result feels like a brand new office.

I am drawn to people who keep going when life gets tough. A lifelong builder since a young boy, Elijah wasn’t willing to quit. He wasn’t willing to compromise his dreams and goals even faced with a challenging medical condition.

The job seekers I see succeed when they experience difficulty or job loss are the ones that take Elijah’s attitude and keep going when life gets tough. Stubborn, maybe. I prefer determined.

If you need help telling your story in your resume and LinkedIn, I can help.

Photo credit

Keep on when life gets tough!


  1. Kim Woodbridge on April 13, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    The office looks gorgeous!

    And I’m amazed by Elijah – I can’t imagine having a tumor that size and surviving – I’d say hearing loss in one ear is worth having my life.
    .-= Kim Woodbridge´s last blog ..8 WordPress Spring Cleaning Tips =-.

    • Julie Walraven on April 13, 2010 at 7:57 pm

      Thank you, Kim! Elijah worked for me for well over a week before he told me about the loss of hearing. He never seemed to not hear me or miss anything. He’s also building his own house and the last day he worked for me, he left to go golfing with Tom. Nothing but determined. 🙂

  2. Davina on April 13, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    I love hearing these kinds of stories — inspiring! I agree with your choice of words; definitely determined over stubborn. I get the feeling from reading this that he didn’t personalize the cancer but remained aloof from it… if that makes any sense.

    • Julie Walraven on April 14, 2010 at 4:40 am

      Hi Davina, Thanks! These are my favorite stories too!

      The tumor wasn’t cancer according to him. It was a steadily growing mass for about 17 years. The danger was that it had lodged in the location on the brain stem.

  3. Andrew on April 14, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I am printing this out for Mom to read as she doesn’t always make time to have me show things online on the computer. You were right in doing this. I am grateful that I was able to contract if Refined Refinishers to do the kitchen floor here when I realized that I could not get the right equipment to effectively take care of it alone. Sometimes hiring a good professional is necessary.

  4. Julie Walraven on April 14, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    It was a good decision and it benefited both myself and Elijah so it was a win-win, my favorite kind of working relationships!

  5. Master Resume Wirter on April 15, 2010 at 4:15 am

    What a lovely story, Julie!

    Tenacity, persistence and heart = people who keep going when life gets tough. As well, their ‘engagement’ with people like you who lift, support, encourage and celebrate helps move them through challenges to success.

    Nicely done!

    • Julie Walraven on April 15, 2010 at 5:10 am

      Thank you, Jacqui! Elijah was an expert and watching him frame the door quickly told me that. His attitude and persistence made me decide that I wanted to have him do more than the first projects I planned. I would hire him back in a heart beat and if I am blessed with business, I have lots more for him to finish for me, including a kitchen that was in need of remodeling 18 years ago.

  6. Reeta Luthra | Stress and Health on April 15, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Lovely office Julie! You and Elijah have done a fabulous job.

    And Elijah is an inspiration. I love reading about people who’ve made their life their own in spite of everything. You must thank him for allowing you to share his story.
    .-= Reeta Luthra | Stress and Health´s last blog ..Is That Thought a Weed or Flower? =-.

    • Julie Walraven on April 19, 2010 at 4:51 am

      How did I miss commenting back, Reeta? I asked Elijah about sharing his story and he was good with it being blogged but I haven’t talked to him since I wrote this so I don’t know if he caught it yet. Loving my new space though and the back story on how it happened!

  7. Ali Davies on April 19, 2010 at 4:34 am

    I agree with you Julie, it isn’t stubborn at all. It is about not quitting and keeping going even after setbacks. That is one of the traits of successful people. Nothing to do with stubbornness.
    .-= Ali Davies´s last blog ..Why your product/service isn’t what people are buying. =-.

    • Julie Walraven on April 19, 2010 at 4:47 am

      It’s one of the qualities I admire most in business people and career changers. People who keep going despite obstacles. People like that also motivate me.

  8. Jane C Woods on April 19, 2010 at 5:10 am

    I don’t know how this post passed me by! Love it! What an inspiration your man is. And how nice your office looks.
    When you work alone as we do it’s really important to have a great space. I splashed out on beautiful silk curtains covered in hand embroidered lilies. Well, it’s my room! I have filled it with things I love that have meaning for me.
    Your office will have the added ‘karma’ of that amazing man having worked on it!
    Lang may yer lum reek!

    • Julie Walraven on April 19, 2010 at 5:20 am

      Thank you, Jane! I’ve really been on a mission this year and that’s why your post, “You Can’t Do It All” really resonated with me. I get so impatient when progress isn’t happening fast enough for me and this year in particular, I am playing catch-up on things that I have been meaning or wanting to do for years.

Resume Design and Job Seeking Tips

Here are Design Resumes' latest articles on job search, resume design, resume writing, and Linkedin optimization articles I've written.

FREE Resume and Job Search Tips by email

Get free tips and strategy direct to your inbox. just add your name and email below. I respect your privacy.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Julie Walraven, Design Resumes

Julie Walraven

Professional Resume Writer

Here are ways I can help you land your dream job.

You may be halfway across the country or the world. When you work with me, we share coffee, laughs, and concerns. This turns the scary job search into creative, consultative writing and learning sessions.