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Demo Day at The Guest House - Why sometimes blowing up your life, is the best way to rebuild it.

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

Pictured: Alisha Perkins (Dovetail Builders), Kelly Hettwer Olsen (owner), Mandy Meisner (owner) and Kurt Weber (Contractor Dovetail Builders)

We stood in a small cluster, listening intently to our on-site project manager, Kurt, as he walked through the demolition plans for the day. Our quaint little kitchen surrounded us in silence, her white tile countertops and metallic hardware glowing in the morning sun as we talked about the tools and methods we would use, and I wondered how she felt about her own demise.

Kurt was thorough and direct: we had to demo the entire kitchen in a few short hours. Another crew was coming to start phase II. If we didn’t do our part on time and it caused a delay on the rest of the work, it would cost us all money.

I wondered for the hundred and eleventh time; How did I end up here, on the verge of another first...?

I am not what you’d call a do-it-yourselfer. Although I grew up with men who worked with their hands, it was never my inclination to learn for myself. When I married, we would hire out any work we needed. Indeed, for the 20 years I was married, the most complicated home project I was involved with, was rolling a coat of paint.

Today we were tasked with removing every inch of the kitchen, eventually connecting it with the room next door. This was definitely more involved than rolling a coat of paint and I worried if I had gotten myself in over my head—again.

No matter. If the last two years has taught me anything, it’s to lean-in to challenge.

We go one at a time, first Kelly, then Alisha, then me while Kurt offers continued direction and encouragement. When it’s my turn to use the sledgehammer, I throw myself off balance, nearly knocking a hole into a wall that should remain intact. Laughing, I ask how much the sledgehammer weighs and am embarrassed to learn it is only 10 pounds.

One of the things I love about working with other women, is seeing how they claim their power because this always inspires me to claim my own.

I start out timidly, unsure of my capability I gently tap away. But as I watch Kelly and Alisha work, they wield the tools with strength and a kind of abandon that borders on joy.

And why not? How often are women in a circumstance where we can let loose and not be labeled as aggressive? By the third round I find myself in a cathartic state, small bits of white debris speckle my black hair.

Bam. I thought I suffered from Mom Guilt when I was married, raising two teenagers as a single parent feels like a constant fail. Bam. Politics is damn hard and if you’re a woman, it can be even harder. Bam. I wish anyone who ever called me a socialite during my campaign could see me now! Bam. How will I put my own stamp on the Guest House amidst this dynamic group of women? Will I lose my money?

Bam. Bam! BAM!! A thousand thoughts came and went about having to demolish my own life to start a new one; leaving a 20-year marriage, running for office, investing in a new business—all significant firsts that demanded trading my safe and predictable now, for an unknown future.

As the physical elements start coming down, our (once) quaint kitchen reveals all her secrets; the color of her original hardwood floors, the jig and jag of the plumbing, what we speculate was an inexpensive design solution to install a cabinet. And when everything is stripped away, we looked back in time to an original wall made of the tell-tale, horizontal wooden slats of lathing.

We finish on schedule. We’re tired and all have scratches and aches of unknown origin. Standing in the same spot where we started a mere few hours ago, we glug down water and look around. It is a privilege to have been part of this job with these women. It was a timely experience to reflect on how different things have turned out for me and gives me hope for where I am headed.

There is still one final item left to do. To break open the wall for expansion. Using sledgehammers and crow bars, light eventually escapes through a tiny pinprick. In short order, the small point becomes a large opening. We cheer, giving each other high-fives and decide to do something symbolic. We go in order of the day; first Kelly, then Alisha, then me.

Dust covered and weary, we all step through—an unknown portal—to our destination on the other side.


Mandy Meisner is one of nine female co-owners of The Guest House; A restored Victorian home serving as a vacation rental and event venue in the beautiful city of Excelsior, Minnesota. Walking distance from Lake Minnetonka.

This is her first venture as an entrepreneur. A creative at heart, she graduated from the Perpich Center for Arts Education and continues to be an advocate for the arts, community and philanthropy.

She is a blogger for various syndicates, including the Minnesota Orchestra and has been nationally published. In addition to writing, she enjoys taking ballet classes, cooking and having a glass of wine with friends. She lives in the Twin Cities with her two children.

Mandy is also the Anoka County Commissioner in District 4. She is the first woman to hold this seat and the first person of color on the Anoka County Board.

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