Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I’m a Lackluster Mom, but I Love a Project

Please understand right from the start, that I’ve never felt I was a particularly good mom.  I have two daughters who are now 24 and 19 (not to mention a step daughter in her 30s) and there are still times when I feel like I should apologize for how I’ve warped them.  Having read my fair share of crime thrillers I know that no matter what, it is always the mom’s fault that a psycho is a psycho.  It’s a rule.  The mullets I had their hair cut into, the insane outfits I let them pick out and wear, and the photographic evidence of these crimes against good taste will come back to haunt me when it comes time for them to pick out my nursing home.  To be fair, my husband has always agreed that the best reason to have kids was to dress them funny, but I am sure that they find that merely an endearing foible of his while I bear the brunt of their simmering resentment. 
That being said, as they’ve gotten older and I spend less time at swim meets and parent teacher conferences, I’ve been looking around for other projects.  Ask my kids about me and I promise you, the first thing they will say is “She really likes a project”.  They will also roll their eyes, especially if I am chatting about whatever the project du jour happens to be.  The latest project is getting a part of the basement finished off before Christmas.  This has the added bonus of getting my husband involved in one of my projects which, I can assure you, he loves.  He and my brother are doing the construction, but I will do the finish work and paint.  Painting a wall adequately isn’t exactly my idea of creativity or fun, but the effort to results ratio is pretty good so I find it pretty satisfying. 
I’ve always taken charge of all interior painting, and ten years ago when we destroyed our old house and had our current house installed, I ended up putting the majority of the paint on the walls.  I look back on that time and wonder how I did it, mostly because I had no iPod or podcasts.  Podcasts have totally changed how I perceive mindless tasks like painting, and I am convinced that with the right podcasts, I could change the world in one hour chunks.  Right now I am obsessed with two podcasts. 
The first is WTF with Marc Maron.  I am sad to say that I had not heard of Marc Maron prior to becoming fixated on his podcast, but he’s been a respected stand up comedian for quite some time.  For whatever reason, I happen to be intrigued by stand up comedy as a profession which is why I am endlessly fascinated with the way he interviews other stand up comedians and comic actors about their craft.  It is often hilarious, sometimes horrifying, but never ever boring.  I learn something every time I listen and am always a little sad when it is over.  I am not sure how many people are as interested in the nuts and bolts of what it takes to be a comedian, and the people who are drawn to it, but if you are, might I suggest you give him a listen.
My other favorite podcast is Smodcast with Kevin Smith and Scott Moiser.  Anyone who is even remotely familiar with Kevin Smith knows that this man can talk, and listening him banter with his long time friend and producer Scott Moiser is magical.  I used to listen to them while I’d walk around the neighborhood for exercise.  I had to stop doing this because I’d find myself doubling over and braying with laughter, so rather than get a reputation as the crazy (possibly dangerous) laughing lady, I’ve opted limit myself to listening in the privacy of my own house where my reputation is already firmly established. 
During my younger daughter’s senior year of high school, I found myself sewing a prom dress for her.  As a rule, I try to avoid sewing, but since my sweet baby has been blessed with a disproportionate figure, and I really wanted her to feel pretty, I reluctantly agreed to take on this task.  I ended up working on it for about two weeks straight and even took a vacation day to finish it off.  While I sewed, I listened to Smodcast.  At some point, my baby came down to keep me company and together we listened as Kevin got his mom high on pot brownies (with her permission) and asked her about her sex life with his dad.  Was it appropriate?  Hell no.  Was it funny?  Oh yes, we laughed our keisters off! 
A few months ago, when it was advertised that Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes were coming to the Detroit area to record a podcast before a live audience, my baby wanted me to go with her.  She is currently in college and working part time, so she has the money to buy her own tickets, and she has friends her own age she could go with.  When I mentioned this she said “Yeah, but no one would be as much fun to go with as you”.  Needless to say, we bought the tickets.              
The Butcher

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Ghost of Jobs Past Part 10

Bookseller at Barnes and Noble

For five years I had the distinct pleasure of working part time as a bookseller at Barnes and Noble.  Hands down, this was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.  It taught me so much:

  1. People LOVE good service.  Barnes and Noble train you well in providing excellent customer service and this one of the reasons they are so successful.  Eye contact, a smile, and “can I help you with anything” go a long way.  A bookseller is trained to take customers directly to the book they want and place it in their hand.  If they can’t find something, they are empowered to do whatever they can to help their customer, even if it meant calling a competitor.  Much of what I learned working for this company still helps me on a daily basis.
  2. To be able to look forward to going to work is a blessing.  I’ve worked some good jobs with great people since, but this was the first place that I enjoyed totally and consistently.  The setting, the product, the whole experience just fit my personality.  If it weren’t for the nights, weekends, and holidays that are an inevitable part of retail, I might still be there.
  3. Working with a lot of like-minded people can be good for awhile.  Most of the people I worked with at Barnes and Noble were quite a bit like me.  We came from similar economic backgrounds, had comparable educational histories, and were pretty similar in a lot of our political beliefs.  It was nice and safe and comforting.
  4. Barnes and Noble was and is a good place to work and they treat their employees fairly.  Eleven years after leaving, I still know many of the people working there, and they still remember me.  Of course, the fact that my husband and I end up there at least twice a month, may have something to do with it, but I can’t think of another place that retains so much of their staff.

The fact that I still knew so many of the employees came in especially handy when my baby girl JB needed a part time Christmas job.  They were willing to take a chance on her, just like they were willing to take a chance on her older sister DR several years earlier because of our relationship built up over the years.  While I am happy for my baby earning a steady check, I’m even happier that she will have the chance to learn how to superior customer service from the best.  I know how well those lessons have served me over the years, and I know that they will serve her equally well.      

The Butcher

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cats Part Three

I promise this is the last cat-centric blog for a while

Here is a picture of the cat houses after I primed them.  Yes, I primed two Styrofoam boxes that are going to sit outside for feral cats.  I know that seems excessively detailed, but I believe in a good primer coat.

I used latex drywall primer.  I'm not sure I needed to,
 but I had it and it seemed like a good idea

After a few days I painted both of them with a quart of mistinted latex paint I bought at Lowes for $2.50.  I got one coat all over and a second coat on all sides.  I also realized how soft the Styrofoam was and that I should have put something harder on the floor so the cat claws wouldn’t rip it up. If you are thinking of making one of these, I would suggest you put some old vinyl tiles or flooring down before you put the top on.  Just make sure it is something hard.  Don't use carpet.  I got something in there, but it isn’t pretty.  Of course the instructions warned me about this, but I just hadn't read them closely enough.   

Actually, this doesn't look too bad.
After the paint had dried I sealed all cracks with more silicone.  We filled one with dry straw (only use dry straw – any rugs or fabric will absorb moisture and will actually make the cats colder) and set it by where we feed them.  Since these are so light weight, we used bricks to keep them from blowing away.  It is still pretty warm but we want to get them used to it before it is absolutely freezing.  We’ll put the second one in a more sheltered area, and eventually move this one next to it.

This is Mr. Tom's look of pure hate.
As exciting as the houses are, the biggest excitement came last weekend when we actually caught Mr. Tom, the neighborhood alpha male responsible for a lot of feral kittens.  After setting four traps away from the house but near his favorite territory, he took the tuna bait.  He was big and fierce and angry, but I managed to drive the 10 plus miles to get him neutered even though he spent the whole trip thrashing and fighting and hissing.  His "proceedure" was uneventful, and after the 24 hour waiting period, we released him yesterday. He wasn’t moving as fast as he had, but I’m sure we’ll see him strolling around the neighborhood in no time.

Why is Mia pointing?  Beats me, but Will does it too.

In less than a month, I’d accomplished what I’d wanted.  I’d trapped and had neutered the three cats living in our yard as well as the big tom cat responsible for our feral population boom.  I’d planned pretty well for their safety this winter.  I also have a plan in place to help our neighbor get his colony under control next spring.  Not a bad way to spend a month.
The Butcher

Below is a diagram of how you cut up a 4’ x 8’ 2” Styrofoam to make two cat shelters*.  If you have any questions, please ask and I can direct you to some wonderful resources if I can’t answer.
*cut 6" wide by 5 1/2" tall holes for doors into 2 of the 12" x 20" pieces for entrances.