Friday, February 28, 2014

Channeling Uncle Tilmus

A Family of Carpenters

Let's just skip over the part where I make fun of Jerry's favorite uncle's first name.  Fair fodder for making fun that it may be, let's not even stop to wonder what the woman who birthed that innocent baby was thinking at the moment when she named him.  We won't dwell on this truly creative name because this was Jerry's FAVORITE uncle, a quality person, a real sweetheart.  And he was a bad-ass carpenter, too.  During the summers of his youth, Jerry used to visit his southern relatives and follow his favorite uncle around in awe.  He wanted to grow up to be just like Uncle Tilmus.

And he did.  Although not a carpenter by trade, my husband has done his share of construction projects, from paneling our basement in the '70s to rehabbing our historic home in the '00s.  I have grown to appreciate his talent over the years.  He's more than talented.  Like his uncle, he's an artist.

Renovations complete on the circa 1864 house in OH
During these projects, I have learned a thing or two about my husband.  He likes me to be there supporting him, but he prefers SILENT SUPPORT, not actual words of encouragement.  Speaking distracts his focus and makes him crabby.  This I know.

Jerry wants me to be the Vanna White to his Pat Sajak, or, better yet, to be the operating room nurse to his surgeon, passing him the appropriate instrument at the proper time.  Unfortunately, I don't always know what tools he's asking for, even when he asks for them by name.  Hey, I'm a girl.  Get over it.  

I've also learned that my carpenter likes it best when I DO NOT QUESTION. He'd rather do something twice or even three times than have me interject observations.  Silence is that incredibly important to him.  Since I've witnessed him shoot his palm with a nail gun, I keep quiet.  Silence is difficult for me but not as difficult as seeing that was.

My husband has learned some things about me, too.  He cringes when I speak the words "Couldn't we just…" because he knows that whatever words will follow that statement will be anything but "just."  A project is coming and it will be massive.  All of my "couldn't we just…" projects take double the amount of time (and triple the amount of money) that I think they will.  That's a fact, backed up by nearly four decades of marriage.
We finally completed my most recent "couldn't we just…"  -- adding a front deck. The project morphed into something a lot larger than I intended (as they always do.)  Jer ended up ripping out a window and replacing it with a door wall, tearing off and re-decking the flooring of the existing porch, adding a knee wall to the kitchen, building two sets of staircases (one with a removable gate) and then the main event: a monster deck only slightly smaller than the state of Rhode Island.  Plus exterior illumination; I don't want to forget the lighting.  

It took four months.  Blending the new deck with the old porch was tricky.  At the beginning, the building inspector said, "If you choose to have a contractor do this, you're gonna need to be sure he's licensed in this city."  I realized later that what he actually meant was, "Man, I don't think you know what you're getting into!  This thing is massive.  You're gonna need to hire someone to finish this before it's over."

Because I couldn't access the nebulous plan that Jerry had tucked away in his brain, I repeatedly offered design advice along the way and, true to form, Jerry got annoyed.  At first I thought it was because I had broken the afore-mentioned  DO NOT QUESTION rule. That was not it.  The problem was that, to his credit, my husband actually saw merit in a couple of my ideas and wanted to incorporate them into the final project.  

By the time I had my flashes of insight, he had already poured the concrete footers that the deck would rest upon and installed the beams and floor joists as well. In order to include my amendments, he had to add lots of additional support underneath which meant that he would have to squirm under the framing, dig holes while lying on his stomach and then pour concrete into those holes.  That is exactly what he did.  No wonder he was crabby.  It was brutal.

Three separate times a white knight rode in on his trusty steed, rolled up his sleeves and got dirty.  (Translation:  Jack Chirch drove here from Virginia on three separate occasions and was an enormous help.  While he was on the job, I didn't have to be - a gigantic plus, in my view.)  For over thirty years these two have been each others wingmen on building projects.  As a rule, both guys think the other's project is spawned from insanity and (silently) question their own lucidity for volunteering to help.  Jack's last project involved a floating dock, a Jeep, a tree, a cable, a come-along, a bunch of chain, and prayer -- but I am getting off track here, aren't I?  Suffice it to say that, when they are completed, every project ends up better than anyone ever expects.  This deck was no different than the projects that came before it. 
After four long, long months and more visits to Lowe's and Home Depot than you can even imagine, the fabulous deck was at last completed.  We all heaved a collective sigh of relief. 
All dressed up for its first Christmas
Jerry proudly surveyed his masterpiece and then said, "As I worked on this deck, I kept thinking about my Uncle Tilmus.  When I had problems, I thought, 'What would he do?'  I used power tools and a pneumatic framing nailer, but Uncle Tilmus made every cut with a handsaw and drove every nail with a hammer.  His work was just so much more physically demanding."

Although that is true, if Uncle Tilmus can see Jerry's deck from beyond, I'm sure he's proud of his little nephew's work.  I sure am.

The paperwork from our final inspection had a note on it.  "Nice work," it said.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Searching for Myself … Online

The Google Search

Why is it that all my friends who write cooking blogs go from twelve readers to twenty thousand followers in a couple of weeks, yet after three years I still have a limited readership?  Even factoring in that eating is lots more popular than laughing, it still seems like more people should have randomly stumbled onto my blog than have.  I decided to do a Google Search.  I typed in the name of this very blog and found out that, like the Star Ship Enterprise with it's cloaking device enabled, I'm there - but I'm invisible.  

A less zealous individual would have given up when she realized that there is a motion picture by the same name.  Swimming Upstream is an Australian film about a swimmer.  (Well, I get that part.)  It's labeled "inspirational" which is a code word in my mind for "not-very-funny" but that might just be sour grapes.  I haven't seen the movie Swimming Upstream but even if it were great, I still would be prejudiced against it because it eats up prime Google Search Results space.  Space which I would like to occupy, but that goes without saying.

Don't get me wrong - I like films.  I even like inspirational ones.  Remember the Titans; Save the Last Dance; Stand and Deliver; Music of the Heart; Hoosiers - all among my favorite movies.  All inspirational.  None named "Swimming Upstream."  Would you categorize The Shawshank Redemption or Double Jeopardy as "inspirational?"  I liked them too -- then again neither of them bore the same name as this blog either.  

And then there's the band.  It has third page visibility.  There are also various sites that actually have to do with fish.  And the Dutch photographer who won a competition with a photo which was titled Swimming Upstream. (Congrats Kathalijne van Zutphen! You deserved to win.Then comes page after page after page of people who have mentioned the words in articles or speeches.  Next are lots of other bloggers.  And then, finally, there's me.  On page 25.  No wonder strangers don't stumble upon my blog.  Even my friends can't find it!   

I've been Swimming Upstream a long time.  That probably won't change anytime soon, but the name of my blog will.  My tekkie friend Kathie and my smart son-in-law Brent put their heads together and figured out a solution.  As of today, I am the proud owner of:

Now I am the Digital Diva of my very own domain!!  (Thanks, guys!)

Go ahead, Google Search it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Story About Feathers

Kate and the Feathers

My daughter Kate decided to make her boyfriend Jason a present for Valentine's Day and what that present was to be was a brand new pillow.  Only Jason only sleeps on a feather pillow.  A feather pillow stuffed with CHICKEN feathers.

Turns out she CAN'T FIND a pillow made of chicken feathers to buy so she decides to MAKE one and buys three old feather pillows on eBay.  What did we do before eBay??  (And who sells used pillows?)

The grungy pillows come (I saw them.  They're worse than you can imagine.) and she decides to wash two of them, which she does.

Now she has a dilemma.  How to dry them?  She puts them into pillow cases, closes them with rubber bands and pops them in the dryer on the air only cycle.  Three cycles later she’s progressed to “low heat” but they are not any closer to dry than when she started and feathers are beginning to leak out into the dryer.  She gets the bright idea to take the pillows out of the pillow cases and out of the pillow ticking and spread them all over her living room floor.  All over.

Her apartment now smells like wet dog.  It takes two days for the feathers to dry out.  Then she stuffs them into new pillows that she’s sown out of ticking.  Finding pillow ticking is totally another storybut the point is that SHE DID find it and she sewed her fella four new pillows out of it.  Then she stuffed them.  Then she threw an entire garbage bag of extra feathers away.

It was like the miracle of the loaves and fishes only with feathers.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shortest Job Interview Ever

Interviewer:  What are you looking for?

Me:  I'd like a job where my employer valued my contributions and paid me what I'm worth.

Interviewer:  Wouldn't we all?