Word of Advice

Note: Since first publishing this blog article back in March of 2016, I’ve found myself back in the job market. Today I was looking at my own advice for job interviewees, and found it needed some updates that I had missed, probably because applying for jobs and interviewing has changed a lot over the years.  I’ve also done more with Craig’s List/Ebay etc, and am updating those sections as well.

Job Interviewee – Take a shower, groom yourself for Pete’s sake. Put on professional clothes and shine your shoes, lose the gum and brush your teeth. It really IS true, you never have a second chance to make a good first impression. This advice applies whether your interview is in person, or is a video interview. What’s that, you say? A video interview? Yes, Virginia, a video interview. Today’s businesses are beginning to use video interviews as initial screening interviews. The HR representative can record themselves asking a series of questions, and then the interviewee has a predetermined amount of time to respond. It saves the HR rep a lot of time, by not having to schedule the calls or bring people into their offices. You do, however, need to treat it as if it’s a true face-to-face interview. Test your system first, make sure your lighting is good, that you don’t have a distracting background behind you. I invested in an inexpensive photography backdrop that I hang up behind me, and put that up. If you set yourself up facing a window you’ll get nice, diffuse light that is flattering, but if that’s not available make sure you at least have enough light that your face can be seen.

For in person interviews, learn how to shake hands. Do you have any idea how many people I’ve shaken hands with that don’t know how? If you aren’t sure how to, then you probably don’t do it well. Go ask someone you know that is a confident business person to evaluate yours and help you improve because a limp handshake is horrible, and look people in the eye when you shake their hand.

Drive the route to the interview BEFORE you need to do it so that you know how long it takes. Don’t be late. If you’re going to be late, call. If possible, send a handwritten, yes, I said handwritten thank you note, and if your handwriting is illegible (you know who you are) then print. If you only had a phone interview or video screening, you may only be able to send a thank you via e-mail, and then you should do it that way, but that’s only if you don’t know an address for your interviewer. If you have an actual address, a handwritten note is always better etiquette.

Craig’s List/Ebay Buyers – Have you ever sold anything on Craig’s List or Ebay? If you have, then you know what an adventure it can be, but it can just as easily be a pointless exercise in futility. We’ve been cleaning out our crawl space, trying to get rid of a few things, make a little money, you know the drill. I’ve learned a few phrases that are rather helpful. “Cash is king” and “cash talks, bullshit walks” are my two favorites that my husband is continually beating into my brain. Now I started out being a Craig’s List softie…”oh, you need a day or two, sure, get back to me, I’ll hold it for you…”, or negotiating simultaneously with one buyer who then couldn’t deliver on time, going with a second who could then feeling bad when the first wanted more time because “I promised him he could buy the item, even though he didn’t have the money right then” or feeling like I needed to answer every email, and telling people that I had other buyers and what the conditions were. However, after being taken advantage of a few times, I’ve changed, become a radical hardliner. Gavel down, BAM! “SOLD to the first one at the neutral (and safe) meeting place with paper money that passes the counterfeit test wins the prize.”  For all you potential buyers on Craig’s List out there, here are some helpful tips.

1.Don’t email me to tell me “I’m interested.” I’m tempted to reply “that’s nice, so what?” Because I don’t care if you’re merely interested, I only really care if you want to BUY IT.  So if you really want to buy my item, tell me you want to buy it and when you want to meet, otherwise stop wasting my time.

2. Read the dang ad AND look at the pictures. I took the time to take photos, at different angles, to show you lots of information. I also said in the ad that the item a) works, b) does or does not have scratches c) is new or is used, etc. Now if you want more information about it that I didn’t put in the ad, that’s a different story, please go ahead and ask for it.  But don’t waste my time asking about what’s already there.

3. Don’t contact me unless you’re interested and plan to follow through. This week I had someone tell me she wanted something, we exchanged messages about connecting, then she dropped off the face of the earth. Meanwhile I had another person waiting to see if the item was still available.  I mean really, did you want it or not? If you changed your mind, I don’t care, you’re not hurting my feelings, just say so. Stop wasting my time for the love of…(are you seeing the theme?)

4. If you ask me to ship you the item because you’ve decided you don’t want to drive to me, realize it’s an inconvenience for me, act accordingly. Don’t dictate terms of this to me, I’ll choose my shipping agent, thanks.

5. And here is the kicker. If you ask me to accept money through PayPal, then you pay the fees to transfer! You came to me knobhead. I’m not taking a loss in my profit as a convenience to you.

Ebay Buyers – There isn’t as much to say here, probably because it’s an online bidding process and Ebay has already taken a lot of the guesswork out of it for you. The best advice I can give is to just pay promptly, because I won’t ship anything until your payment has come through. So any delays on your part will result in a delay in receiving your item.

Grocery shoppers – it’s just like driving (assuming you’re in a country that drives on the right side of the road). Carts on the right please, although I’d love to know if it’s opposite across the pond, where they drive on the wrong side of the road.  Do they move grocery carts on the left side of the aisles as well? : ) But how hard is it really, to get your cart out of the middle of the aisle. When you stop to get something off the shelf, just move to the side. Don’t stop in the middle. Look around. The aisles aren’t 3 carts wide. If you’re in the middle, ain’t nobody getting around. My parents brought me up to be polite, Minnesota nice, to say a gentle “please”, and “thank you”, and “excuse me”, and to cover my mouth when I burped in public. I am SO over that in the grocery store now (The Minnesota nice part. I’ll still cover my mouth when I burp in public, I promise Mom), it’s a firm and vocal “Excuse Me” that’s a whole lot closer to East Coast than the Midwest.

Anyone under the age of 35 – chronologically or mentally. Remove the phrase “I deserve” and “entitled” from your vocabulary and attitude. You don’t, you aren’t. Period. The world owes you NOTHING, you have to earn it. When you act like they do, you not only show your immaturity, but I really want to swat you off my shoulder like a gnat. Scat, go away!

Just sayin’.

 

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Things Mom Never Told You, Vol 1

From time to time I find these little helps referred to as “lifehacks” by many, a term my husband detests. I’ve put a couple of them together to share with you, and over time as I come across more I will keep doing so. I want to make you all a promise right out of the gate – I will never share something with you that I haven’t personally tried. I won’t tell you it works if I can’t prove it. Where possible I will share photos or a video. If something is an epic fail, well I’ll tell you that too as I think that is just as valuable. So with that, I bring you the inaugural edition of “Things Mom Never Told You”.

Have you ever wondered…

…What to do with old toothbrushes?

Bet you always wondered what to do with a) your old nasty squished toothbrush or b) the free toothbrush you get from the dentist that you don’t like/use because you have an electric one. Well stash em all over your house, because they’re amazing cleaning tools. They’ll get the dust out of little crevices on your appliances, in grout and corners, in windows, in your car. Firm bristles scrub well too, and aren’t just for getting light cleaning done. We have them everywhere! I’ll even wrap a sanitizing wipe around one for some of the cleaning, like when I’m cleaning the caulk around the sink to get into the tiny crevices.

…New use for old flannel sheets

I cut mine up into small pieces, and I’ve used some as dusting rags or glasses cleaners as they don’t give off lint, others for wrapping up delicate items before packing away like china or other breakables. If you cut off the edges that have the elastic on the bottom sheets you can use those too. They also work well for staining and painting rags.

…Breathe new life into old plastic flower pots (or other plastic stuff)

Get a large bucket that you don’t mind ruining. I use a Homer bucket – you know the ones I’m talking about, from Home Depot, the big orange project buckets. You’ll also want plastic or latex gloves you can wreck, just get a cheap pair of the dishwashing kind. Next select 2 (or more) colors of spray paint that you like and want to have together on an object. Finally, choose the item you want to work with for this project. For this project I picked a plastic flower pot.

IMG_1287I’m doing this one with the color it is, which is the mock terra cotta, but I’ve also done it by first spray painting it with white primer so that my base was white. IMG_1288

You can also see this pot wasn’t new to start with, and was pretty sun bleached and dirty. I did scrub it up with some simple green but you don’t need a new one, just a well cleaned object.

 

 

Step 1. Fill up your bucket with cold water, deep enough to fully submerge the item. Take the bucket outside and put it on the ground, either in the grass, or on something that protects the area underneath it.

Step 2: Set up some method for drying the item you’re going to cover. You may want to hang it to drip dry, if possible. I have several large “S” shaped hangers that were originally used to suspend birdhouses or birdfeeders from trees, and I now use them as hangers from trees to spraypaint items or as my dryers. If you don’t have a way to suspend outside, you can hang the item from a garage track with something underneath, or even inside as long as you have something underneath to catch drips.

Step 3: Take your spray paint and spray on the surface of the water, alternating colors. You can spray in concentric circles, or vary it up. Do a bunch of concentric circles, then start a new set next to that. You’ll need quite a bit on the water’s surface though. (I know, in your mind you’re thinking “that much?” Sorry I can’t be more specific. It’s a learning process.) After you spray on what you think you need (add more for good measure), take a popsicle stick or tooth pick and with the tip lightly pull a bit through the paint, so you’re creating a bit of a pattern on the surface. You don’t need to do much, and if you try to do too much you’ll get paint sticking to the stick and start pulling it out of the water.

Step 4: Put on your gloves, then pick up your item and SLOWLY immerse it into the water. I recommend starting with the top of your item, so if you run out of paint, and have to respray and resubmerge it will be toward the bottom of it, not the top. For the first time, however, dunk the item all the way under water and hold it there for about 30 seconds, which helps the paint to start setting up and harden.

Step 5: Remove it from the water, hang it up and let it drip dry. Voila! You have a crazy new painted pot!IMG_1745

IMG_1245Here are a couple of other things that I’ve done as well. The table was originally black, we then spray painted it a light blue. I decided to try the two colors but it was too big for the bucket.

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In a flash of inspiration (and sheer stubbornness because my husband didn’t think I would be able to find anything large enough to dunk it in), I lined our wheelbarrow with plastic and then filled that with water, and took the table apart into two pieces, dipping those separately.

 

 

 

 

IMG_1259The shell was a plain white/cream. I did that in a magenta/pale pink to accent in our bathroom. In hindsight the pale pink barely shows through, it almost looks like it’s the white, so I could have selected a different color for more of an accent. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, and can tell the difference between the pink and the white, it’s just subtle.

 

…Remove Old Stain

OK I admit this one isn’t something most of us run across too often, but the need we had and product we found for the job was such a revelation that I have to show it to you. We had an old aluminum canoe that was under a deck when the deck was restained, so the canoe had oil-based stain that dripped onto it. We didn’t notice it right away…or even later…we saw it probably a year later. Ugh. Fast forward to about 18 months later when some friends asked if they could borrow the canoe. Now it’s not a new canoe, it’s probably 30-40 years old, and has gotten banged around on rocks a fair bit, so it’s scratched, dinged etc. But stain? So I did a little research and found on something called Motsenbacher’s Lift-Off #4, Spray Paint and Graffitti Remover. It doesn’t dissolve the paint, it breaks the chemical bonds between the paint and the surface it’s on. Here are some initial before and after shots:

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In the top photo I had already started to remove stain when I realized I’d better get a posterity photo so I quick shot one, hence the little gap on that middle spike. On the bottom photo you can see the left spike of stain is gone. I literally sprayed on the Lift-Off, waited 2 minutes, then used a plastic scraper (like the ones you get from Pampered Chef) and just a tiny bit of elbow grease to get it started. Once it started to come off, it truly peeled off. Once my husband saw how well it worked he said he’d finish it up, then decided he would also give the canoe a good overall scrubbing. Here is how it looks now:IMG_1424.JPG

Crazy, aint it? I linked to a YouTube video on the product name above so you can learn more about it if you would like.

 

I hope you found this fun, informative and/or helpful. Volume 2  is already underway, packed full of more great tidbits!    

The (Lack of )Trouble with Harry

Now I’m not one to go all gaga over the British royals, acting all starstruck and speechless if I were to see them – in fact I rather think I’d keep a good poker face on. Even though their grandmother is the Queen, I’d be a normalish, like it was just another day, anything goes kind of person. Because let’s face it, you have to feel a little sorry for those poor princes, Harry and William. Dealing with the paparazzi all the time has got to be a nightmare, and they sure didn’t ask for it, they were just born that way. Honestly, they aren’t bad kids, and would you and I handle all the fame and nonsense as well as they have? Probably not.

(Anyone figure out the theme of the first paragraph yet? If not, here’s a clue:)Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 7.42.59 AM.png

More seriously, I’m often struck with how extraordinary Princes William and Harry have become. Growing up under a microscope had to be absolutely unbearable, and many of us saw some of the ways that played out for Prince Harry thanks to the Internet. Over the past 5 years however, he’s worked hard to clean up his image, and demonstrate that he’s grown up. Most recently he and his brother, Prince William, accompanied by Princess Kate, have become strong vocal supporters for mental health advocacy. Prince Harry has been openly discussing his struggles with depression and how the death of his mother, Princess Diana, affected him. They seem to be determined to break old stereotypes and blaze new trails for royals. Can you even imagine 25 years ago, when Princess Diana was still married to Prince Charles, if she had openly discussed her struggles with depression or bulimia? How different things might have been if she could have, but at that time there was such a stigma about it all. Even now, we struggle to talk about mental health comfortably; we still want to treat it like it’s weird, or defective. Perhaps their openness on the subject will be what we need to begin breaking through for everyone.

I’ve run across a couple of stories I wanted to share about Prince Harry that for me at least made me think “what an amazing individual” he is, how real and genuine he seems. The first is from a trip that he made to Australia last year. Here is the link to a video on NBC news.com on the trip, it’s very short, but worth watching and is delightful, particularly in these harshly partisan times.

The conditions aren’t the best, it’s raining out and he’s doing a fan ‘meet and greet’. As he walks the line he sees a familiar face. Watch his face – you can clearly see the delight when he recognizes this fan, and see when he mouths her name as he bends down in the rain, gives her a hug and kisses her cheek. They chat for a few moments before he moves on. What really struck me is that she is 97 and they are in Australia. He’d apparently met her the previous year when he visited there, and according to her, greeted her then and “he kissed the other cheek”. Think about this for a moment…how many people do you suppose he meets in a week…a month…a year? Yet he remembered her name – Daphne – you can see him say it, and clearly with pleasure from the smile.

I think that’s what the story from Australia was really about, Prince Harry being absolutely real and present, in the moment. In that video is a still photo of him capturing a moment of pure happiness in the moment, with his old friend Daphne. How many of us honestly are in the moment with the people we’re with, whether old friends, new friends, casual acquaintances or even someone you just met? If Prince Harry can do it, so can every single one of us.

Be In The Moment

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I challenge everyone reading this to just stop at least once this week, and pause to reflect. Are you in the moment? Not thinking about all of the distractions around you, the pressures and stresses, the kids, the bills, who made you mad or sad, but right now, in the moment. Go somewhere you can do this if you need to. Find a park, go to a zoo, or the animal shelter and hold a puppy or a kitten. Just take in that moment and hold it, realize its preciousness.

I also found an adorable story about him from when he was recently at the Invictus Games in Canada. (For those of you who are asking “Invictus Games, what the heck are those?” here is what it says about them in Wikipedia:

“They are an international Paralympic-style multi-sport event, created by advisors of Prince Harry, in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans take part in sports. Named after Invictus, Latin for “unconquered” or “undefeated”, the event was inspired by the Warrior Games, a similar event held in the United States. (The first Invictus Games took place in March 2014, and Harry attends each time they are held.)

Prince Harry was watching the volleyball finals, sitting next to friends, and their daughter started sneaking some of his popcorn. After he caught her at it, he started to make the most adorable faces at her, some of which were caught on camera. There is also a short video clip of it as well which can be found in the article in People Magazine online. If this doesn’t make you smile, nothing will!

Lightening it back up a bit, so are you still stumped on the first paragraph? I did my best to ‘turn it up to 11’ but no, it’s not about Spinal Tap. That first paragraph had 11 Lady Gaga songs in it – well, 10.5 since I changed one word slightly in one of her biggest hits, so with all due respect and appropriate apologies to Lady Gaga, it’s still her hit, and there are no copyright infringements. Here you go:

Now I’m not one to go all gaga over the British royals, acting all starstruck and speechless if I were to see them – in fact I rather think I’d keep a good poker face on. Even though their grandmother is the Queen, I’d be a normalish, like it was just another day, anything goes kind of person. Because let’s face it, you have to feel a little sorry for those poor princes, Harry and William. Dealing with the paparazzi all the time has got to be a nightmare, and they sure didn’t ask for it, they were just born that way. Honestly, they aren’t bad kids, and would you and I handle all the fame and nonsense as well as they have? Probably not.

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There’s a Wasp in My What?

If you own a home, chances are at some point you have, or will have to get rid of a wasp nest somewhere on your home or property. It isn’t all that fun, but at least when you can see the darn thing, you can come at it with a spray can of Raid at night and kill the buggars.  But what about when you suddenly notice the damn things are flying around your house, and there’s no sign of a nest? That happened to us the other day, when I was pressure washing the side of our house on a fine, warm fall day. I hit a corner of the house where the bowed out area for our patio door meets the house again. Suddenly I noticed dozens and dozens of wasps everywhere, and they’re all flying behind the inside corner strip at the top, right by the soffit. Seriously? So I do what every sane woman does in a situation like this: holler for my husband. Yeah that worked well. He didn’t have any better idea of what to do than I did, except to wait for dark.

Well, we got a can of Raid and waited, and tried to listen in the walls to see if we could figure out more precisely where they were, but no luck. We weren’t even sure if spraying up by the soffit would work. THEN we did a little Internet research and stumbled on what is turning out to be a cheap and ingenious solution to the problem. It needs just a few things most homeowners already have at thier disposal: A shop vac, a ladder, some tape or velcro, and either water and dishsoap, or bleach.

  1. Put a few inches of water and a bit of soap in the shop vac. Make sure your filter is in place, and the exhaust port uncovered. ALTERNATIVELY you can put a few inches of bleach in the shop vac, no soap is needed.
  2. If you have rigid extension tubes for the shop vac, connect as many together as you can (we used 4), then connect your shop vac tubing.
  3. Rig it up to a ladder with tape or velcro. Get the nozzle of the shop vac right up where the wasps are going in.
  4. Plug in the vac and turn in on.
  5. Sit back, watch ’em get sucked in and die.

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The first day we did it, we ran the shop vac for maybe 3 hours total. I’m running it a second day as there are still more wasps, although it’s slowed way down now. The goal is to get all the drones out, and eventually the queen will come out as well. When she does, your work is done.  You can plug up the area, but it’s my understanding that a new queen won’t move into an old nest.

Something to be aware of, if you do use bleach, you’ll get wasp soup. Bleach, as you might recall from high school science class, is sodium hypocholorite, and it does in fact, dissolve organic things like wasps, and rather quickly. So we aren’t too sure how many we actually caught, because by the time we took the cover off the shop vac maybe an hour after we turned it off, they were already dissolving. As a precaution, if you turn it off, make sure you disconnect the hose and COVER the opening, because if there are live wasps remaining they will fly out.  I think most of the wasps died right away, so we probably would not have needed to wait an hour.

(There are many videos about this on YouTube, so so need to add one from us.)

Unfortunately, as we walked around the house we noticed the little suckers busily trying to build new nests in a few other places. So we’ve done our best to hit those spots with the Raid, in hopes of driving them out before they’ve gotten too cozy.  I know one of the spots seemed to have a queen inspecting it, and I think we did get her, so perhaps we’ve dodged on bullet. I’m not entirely convinced we’ve dodged them all so I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

A Trip to the Twilight Zone

Several years ago, my husband brought a proposal for a trip to witness an event to my attention, and at the time I really didn’t think he was all that serious about it. Fast forward to a few months ago when he brought up the topic again, and it was readily apparent to me I’d significantly underestimated his interest in this event, so we began planning how we might be able to be among those who watched the 2017 Solar Eclipse, and in August we took a road trip down to Columbia, Missouri for the big show. We are terribly fortunate, my husband’s brother and his wife live there, so we were able to stay with them, and his nieces were in the process of moving from Florida to Jefferson City which is about 30 minutes south of Columbia. One was there already and was gracious enough to let us stay with her for the first two nights in spite of the fact that she didn’t even have towels or pillows unpacked yet, items we were happy enough to bring along. (Thanks Mary!!)

The trip down was mostly good, up until the last half hour before Jefferson City, when we hit a heck of a rain storm. Suddenly our long drive got even longer, when hubby had to slow WAY down just to see the road. Fortunately that didn’t last terribly long, and after winding our way on a curvy, hilly road in the dark, we got to Joanna and Mary’s house, a couple of weary travelers stumbling out of the car and into an unexpected wall of warm humidity. Yeah, that wasn’t planned for at all, after all that time in an air conditioned car and we were instantly dripping wet. Fortunately his nieces’ house had AC, so we were quite comfy inside. What we didn’t realize is that Missouri is known for it’s humidity, and the air conditioners go on May 1, and don’t go off until the end of October. The other thing we didn’t know, is that there are armadillos in Missouri…yep, you read that correctly, armadillos. We saw a couple of dead ones on the road, and fortunately other drivers hit them, not us, as I’ve heard they can do some awful damage to your car. I guess it’s because they have this weird startle reflex causing them to jump straight up in the air…so when cars drive over them, they jump up, and that lovely armored shell causes all kinds of damage to the undercarriages of cars. Ugh.

Sunday morning we headed up to Columbia, where we had the unique experience of attending church where my husband’s brother is the pastor. It’s not an ordinary church, but rather is an international church on the campus of Baptist University. There were attendees from a number of different countries and cultures there, so his brother is kind of acting as a missionary right here in the United States. His wife teaches Sunday School to the children, and she said it can be really interesting as some of the children don’t speak any English at all. She finds she has to be creative, and uses lots of crafts to teach the kids. Look out on glitter Sundays!

Monday dawned, and was the big event. We set up our lawn chairs and waited, then watched in dismay as hazy clouds started to fill the sky. Apparently this isn’t an unusual phenomenon with eclipses, as the moon begins to cross in front of the sun and the temperature drops, it causes clouds to form. So on top of the partly cloudy sky we already had, we got more haze blocking our view. We did get to experience and see the eclipse, and while it wasn’t nearly as good as some parts of the country, I can’t really fuss because back home in Minnesota, I understand it rained all day and where they were hoping for a partial, they got nothing so I really shouldn’t whine.

The experience – now that was something else. While I can’t say the four of us were moved to tears or were overwhelmed, like some folks seem to have been, it certainly was an awesome and amazing sight. IMG_9633Perhaps if the sky had been clear it would have been different for us, but the sun/moon were periodically disappearing and reappearing behind clouds, so we had less than the 2 min of viewing the corona that a lot of others got. (I want a do-over!) It was beautiful, eerie, and kind of otherworldly. My husband and I took some photos that unfortunately were also a bit on the hazy side. The thing that was weird though, is that it got dark out, but not as dark as I thought it would. IMG_9651The light that remained literally made you feel like you were in the Twilight Zone, and then all of a sudden it was done, the sun peeked out, warmth came back and the haze disappeared.
We also got a few photos on the “exit” side. You’ll note that the sun looks orange, which is more from the color of the filter covering the lens of the camera than anything.

So would I travel again to see an eclipse? You’d better believe it! They happen about every 18 months somewhere in the world. There are total, annular and partial eclipses. I’d never heard of an annular eclipse before and had to look that one up. That’s when there is a ring of the sun that is still visible, where the moon isn’t quite covering all of the sun. In that case you can’t remove the protective glasses at all. It’s like having a “ring of fire” in the sky. I think that would be interesting, but not nearly as much fun as a total eclipse. So who knows, maybe we’ll plan some around the world vacations around the coming total eclipses. There are a couple that go over Australia, and I’ve always wanted to go there. Can you imagine what a trip that would be? Dive the great barrier reef, visit New Zealand AND see a total eclipse? Truly a trip of a lifetime for us. Have you gone anywhere that you considered your “trip of a lifetime”? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

M is for…Martyr?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

“Oh no really, you shouldn’t have”, or “It’s no trouble” or “No, that’s ok, we’ll take care of the food, you just show up”. Do any of these sound familiar? If you live in Minnesota, chances are you’ve most likely said at least one of them, because, well, we’re just so gosh darn nice. We don’t like to put anyone out, other than ourselves, and what are friends for, anyhow? Here in Minnesota, we put the M into lots of things…mosquitos, Joe Mauer, Mall of America, but the best is martyr – just ask Garrison Keillor, I’m pretty sure he’s told many a story of the long-suffering Lutherans who would rather cut off an arm than admit someone is putting them out. I should know, it’s how I was raised, and I felt the spectre of those roots rise up recently when we invited some friends over for dinner, so they could enjoy the new screen porch my husband had recently finished building for us, better known as the “Tiki Hut”.

When we extended the invitation to them they immediately offered to bring the main course, and being the good Minnesotan that I am, my first instinct was to respond “oh you don’t need to do that, we’ll take care of everything”, but for some reason this time I didn’t. We’re trying to pinch expenses right now, and their offer was timely, however I immediately felt the pull of the automatic response wanting to come out. It was like there was a little “martyr Beth” on one shoulder, and a little “feisty Beth” on the other, and they’re both talking into an ear. “Just go with it, they want to do this” says one, and “tell them they don’t have to do that” says the other. You see, we’re just so conditioned to not stand up for ourselves or push back on anything, it’s absurd. Ask my mom or husband what my favorite phrase is, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “You can’t be a doormat unless you lay down”!

Somehow, I did it. I relinquished control of dinner to someone else, and guess what? The world didn’t end, dinner was wonderful and the evening was a success with less work for me. The very best part was that we got to enjoy all of it in the aforementioned Tiki Hut, which meant a night free from another M, the Minnesota mosquito, which are serious business around here. We live very close to two swamps, and right after we moved in here I was sitting in my living room one sunny day, and suddenly I heard the sound of a helicopter very close over my house. As in so close I felt the cavitation in my chest! Running outside, you can imagine my shock as I saw them basically doing a turn over our house before nearly doing a touch and go on the neighbor’s garage across the street and then plunging lower toward the swamp. After I pulled my heart out of my toes, where it had plunged, I realized they were dropping mosquito control pellets in the swamp, but for a moment, I seriously thought Radar O’Reilly was going to pop up yelling “incoming!”.  Our mosquitos are evil, vicious creatures. They’ll wait until you’re nearly asleep before buzzing your ears, bite you in a spot that you can’t possibly reach to scratch, or bite you when scratching would be really inconvenient (first dates, job interviews, you get the idea.) Of course, we also have our favorite mosquito jokes too. Have you heard about the nearsighted ones that drained a blood bank last week? I want to offer a big thanks to Gary Clark, for the use of his wonderful cartoon.

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Copyright Gary Clark. Cartoon used with permission. See more by subscribing to the free daily cartoon at: http://www.swamp.com.au/subscribe.php

What are you a martyr about? Come on, fess up! I’d love to hear what gets some of you out there.

There Ain’t Nothing Like a Plan

A while back I had promised my mother that my husband and I would replace her kitchen flooring for her. We had gotten as far as buying the laminate flooring, then tucked it away in her garage, and there it sat for the next couple of months, not quite forgotten, but repeatedly deferred behind other projects until one week when I finally took a few days off work and we committed to getting it done for her.

My mother  lives in a townhouse and her kitchen is an open floor plan with an island, but smallish, maybe 75 sq feet. We’ve installed laminate flooring before, so felt this was a job we could handle. I told her to bring it in the house to get it warmed up and humidified for her home, and arranged for her to to have her refridgerator emptied out so we could move that. Thursday we arrived at 9 am with our tools in hand, all set to remove the old floor and bang in the new one. We figured, somewhat optimistically as it turned out, how hard could this be? We had a plan which looked something like this:

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Not bad, right? About 30 minutes later we’re making our first run of the day to Menards, which if you aren’t from the area is a big box home repair store as we quickly discovered we hadn’t brought along a small trim puller to get the trim off the cupboards. Finally get that going, get the trim all off and start pulling up the old flooring. Some of it was glued, some not and of course the first piece was glued…12 feet wide! After all that was up, we decided to replace the underlaiment, as some of the old had gotten wet and was ruined. So, tear that up.

So we put down the new underlaiment, and pull out her staple gun to secure it, then found it didn’t work. We spent about 90 minutes trying to fix a $20 staple gun, because isn’t that what everyone does? We tore it completely apart, got it back together, never did figure it out. So off we went to Menards for our second trip of the day for a staple gun. Hubby spots one that looks just like something he picked up at a garage sale for $1, that one’s worked beautifully for us, so we bought it for my mom as a replacement. It’s simple to use, and easy to hold. We got back to her house, loaded it up, pressed the handle and…nuttin’. Say WHAT????  You guessed it. Defective unit. But of course we can’t just go back to Menards, we (meaning my darling spouse) wanted to try to fix it. After an hour of trying he was able to successfully reassemble it with no spare parts but never did get it to work, and we made our third trip of the day to Menards to replace it. By now of course, our simple plan was looking a lot less like “idea, plan, action” and a whole lot more like the flow chart at right.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 11.19.55 PMFortunately he is very wise, and brought along a test board, so we could test it in the parking lot before we left. Once we had proof it worked, back to my mom’s we went.

We finally got the underlaiment down, and started putting in the actual flooring. In the meantime I sent my mom off to the big box stores to see if she could get reducer strips to put between the flooring and carpet, as her old one looked horrible, and of course she couldn’t get them. (Side note: We bought her flooring at a local builders overstock warehouse, that didn’t sell the reducers.) So even though her flooring is a discontinued color, I took a chance and called customer service at the manufacturer and asked if I could still get them to match. We totally lucked out (we could!!) – which partly made up for the 3 trips to Menards. So those were ordered and arrived a week later.

We managed to get about halfway across her floor, then realized we didn’t have the jigsaw that would be needed to cut the hole for the vent in the floor. By this time it was 10 PM!  So we called it a night, and went back for day 2.

The second day went smoother than the first, but still took more time than expected, and by the time the flooring was in place, the quarter round was put back in a few places and appliances returned to their original spots, it was nearly 5 pm. The remaining quarter round was held to be repainted. (My mom’s kitchen cabinets are white, and the quarter round had gotten some dings so it needed painting/touch up.) Later we found out we’d actually left a bit too much space on the edges for the floating  floor and ended up getting new quarter round that was wider, as hers was the absolute narrowest and cheapest that her builder could buy when they built the place. Fortunately her other son-in-law has the skills to install that, along with the threshold between the carpet and flooring.

You’d think this would have made me run screaming for the hills, wouldn’t you? Nope, not in the least. In fact, it’s strangely the opposite. We need to replace the flooring in our own home, so I’m looking at it as a test run: what should we do differently when we do ours. Yes, there is quite a list we’ve compiled, from check the staple gun to verify the width of the quarter round and the hell with how much the directions say to leave for the floating floor! But after it is all said and done, I’m still glad we did it. We saved a ton of money doing this for her, and about every 2 weeks in the first two months after we finished, she sent me an email telling me how much she loved her new kitchen floor. That made everything worth it. My only regret is that we can’t get any more of it to do her entry ways by her front and garage entrys, but there’s always Craig’s List.

Dear Mom—about your 50 year nursing career & Medicaid… Woman’s post PLOWS the GOP

So many of us have thoughts and opinions about Obamacare vs Trumpcare, Medicaid vs no Medicaid, rising premiums, subsidies, etc, and the list goes on and on. l stumbled across this letter from a woman named Betsy, written to her mother with dementia, and creatively cc’d to the GOP. It’s compelling and thought provoking and I wanted to share it here.

Source: Dear Mom—about your 50 year nursing career & Medicaid… Woman’s post PLOWS the GOP

The Involuntary Adventurer

For what I hope is short lived I have found myself with a bit more free time on my hands this summer, but while I do have that time my husband and I have decided we’re going to try very hard to do some of those things we’ve been saying we want to do. Yesterday we made good on our promise to each other, and set out on our first adventure to downtown Minneapolis and the Mill City Museum and Mill Ruins Park. The Mill City Museum is located on the Mississippi River on the east side of downtown, and tells the story of the history of when this beautiful city of lakes (and a very big river) was the capital of flour milling. From the late 1800’s into the mid 1900’s in the birthplace of General Mills and Pillsbury, the mills on the banks of the Mississippi produced the largest percentage of the worlds flour, and by 1915-16 was producing 20 million dry barrels annually. (Total geek that I am, today we measure flour production in cwts, which is a hundred weight, or 100 lb, and a barrel had about 196 lb of flour. That’s about 3920 million cwts annually. Minnesota’s production in the first quarter of 2017 was 6.86 million cwts, putting us 4th in the nation.)

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Mpls milling district from the Mississippi River, approx 1907. The Washburn A Mill is about in the center. The tall spire with the round clock looks like it’s part of it, but it’s actually behind it. Note the original Stone Arch Bridge on the right, and the railroad trestles in front of the mills. Some trestle remains exist in the ruins today. Photo from MN Historical Society

The city was knicknamed “The Mill City” and even had a professional basketball team for a time, the Minneapolis Millers for those of you old enough to remember them. (As a kid, I’d heard of the Millers, but always thought “what an odd name for a team, I wonder why they called them that?” I never thought to ask my parents. Now of course, 30 seconds on the internet and there’s your answer!) One of the things makes the museum and the park so interesting is that the old mill is the site of 2 fires, and the park has a portion of the mill ruins that were excavated.

The first Washburn A Mill, built in 1874, “was leveled by a flour dust explosion that claimed 18 lives. That explosion and the resulting fire destroyed much of the riverfront business area, cutting Minneapolis’ milling capacity in half.

The A Mill was rebuilt by 1880, with state-of-the-art machinery that permitted safer operations while producing higher quality flour. At the time it was the largest and most technologically advanced mill in the world, featuring new automatic steel rollers instead of traditional millstones.  During its heyday, it was said that the mill ground enough flour to make 12 million loaves of bread a day“. Mill City Museum History

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1991 Washburn A Mill Fire, Courtesy of MN Historical Society

As production shifted to other parts of the country, mills began to close and in 1965 all of the remaining mills in downtown Minneapolis were as well. The building sat empty, and in February 1991, fire broke out in the abandoned building nearly destroying it a second time. Since then efforts have been made to safeguard what remains, and excavate some of the ruins of the old original mill.

 

We had wanted to see it for quite some time and because much of it is outside, we waited until summer to go. In retrospect I have to say that was good only in terms of ease of walking around, however while the museum is good and has a ton of information, the ruins were rather disappointing. Take a look at the photos below; you’ll see what I mean.

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©2017 Beth Younker

 

The photo on the left is one I found from another blogger on a general Google search (I’ve provided a link to her blog so she gets credit!) taken 10/26/2010, and below is one I took 6/20/2017. You can see how much overgrowth of weeds has been allowed to happen at the site. It’s been virtually taken over by the weeds, trees, and foliage, to the point that there was so much of the ruins that I didn’t even realize existed until I found the other photograph online! For example there is some sort of large round object about halfway up and toward the right side in the left photo, and if I blow up mine and know where to look I can just barely find it.The three windows are nearly obscured, and just off the end of the walkway is a large slab of something. In her photo it’s clearly a piece of structure but in mine it’s almost not noticed. So our visit was interesting, but rather underwhelming, primarily because you just couldn’t see much at all. In addition, I’ve been trying to find information online that has diagrams showing me what it was I was seeing. Don’t get me wrong, there is some information on the small information stations located along the parkway in the area. Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 5.30.03 PMBut the information isn’t as clear or informative as it could be. One example is where a sign stated that “the tailraces are visible” and it had a picture of tailraces that may have looked a little like this to the right:

 

Now honestly, does anyone know what a tailrace is? I sure didn’t! And I sure couldn’t figure it out just by looking at the picture. Was it the part sticking out? Was it the part going in? Was it the path over the whole thing? Well, here’s your vocabulary word for today. The tailrace is the place where the water comes out from the flume from the mill,  those little small canal-like areas. Here is how those same tailraces appeared yesterday noted by the yellow arrow, from a slightly different perspective.

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©2017 Mike Younker

I also mentioned earlier in the blog by that very first photo, that there were remnants of the train trestles still present. You can see them here. They are the bits of rusted iron that are sticking up just to the left of the walking path on the right side of the photo.
Trying to find online maps and diagrams has been fruitless, which is frustrating. I’m not sure why that wouldn’t be available, as it seems it should be relatively easy information to get and provide. Just figuring out what the railroad trestles were was almost impossible until I stumbled on something in someone else’s blog.

I’m not sure if funding for the park has been cut, or if it’s deemed to dangerous to try to get in and weed the ruins or what the issue is. I can say that it was a less than fulfilling experience, and I hope that the Minneapolis Park Board will take a hard look at this. I know in recent years their stance has been to let a lot of areas go back to natural, such as the area around Lake Nokomis, which may work for some areas. Near the ruins there was even a sign indicating that there is work to bring back some of the natural prairie grasses to the hillside. In this case, if in fact they are allowing the mill ruins to revert to their natural state, this certainly means a loss of our rich milling heritage as the ruins are swallowed up by nature and will soon be gone for good.

How Low Can Bad Videos Go?

I’d like to say it’s been a really bizarre week, but honestly, who am I kidding? It’s been a bizarre 5 months since our new President was sworn in. No one met with the Russians, well maybe they did, they can’t remember, oh you meant THOSE meetings?…the Russians didn’t hack the election, well maybe some Russian patriots did, who knows?…alternative facts…Spicey’s in, Spicey’s out, Spicey’s in the bushes, Spicey’s rolling through Manhattan – oh wait, that Melissa McCarthy doing a skit for SNL. Sorry…Screen Shot 2017-06-02 at 7.00.09 PM

And then there was covfefe. Yeah, I don’t even know what else to say about that one. Neither, apparently did Merriam-Webster, those wise and wonderful dictionary folks, who tweeted this out in response that morning. (If you aren’t following M-W on Twitter, now is a great time to start. Their social media manager, Lauren Naturale is hilarious. For that matter, why aren’t you following me, @MrsMike921 on Twitter as well? Just sayin’.)

So moving on.
The thing that really has made an impact on me this week, however, was the story about Kathy Griffin and the poor decision she made when she created a short video depicting a beheaded Trump with a crawl at the bottom of the screen “he had blood coming from his nose, his eyes, his whatever” (or close to that). Since it was posted it was supposed to have been taken down off YouTube, she issued an apology, has been fired from her New Years’ Eve gig with Anderson Cooper at CNN, lost multiple stand up gigs, lost endorsement deals, been harrassed by the Trump family, recieved death threats, and had a visit from the Secret Service. Then today there was a video from a press conference where she stated that the Trump family is ruining her, and they’ve “broken her, and she doesn’t believe she’ll have a career after this”, crying while making her statement.

First a couple of things to level set. I’m no fan of Donald Trump, but I’m also not overly fond of Kathy Griffin either and find her rather annoying and a bit of a bully. Having said that, I’m sure this is a difficult situation for her, and I don’t doubt her sincerity and that she is sorry for having made the video. No one, I repeat, no one, should ever get a death threat, it’s terrifying. As to the rest of it…I’m having trouble being more sympathetic, and here is why.

In her original statement, Griffin said “I crossed the line..I move the line and then I cross it. That’s what I do.” Guess what? If your job description includes “be provocative, push the envelope, push people’s buttons” that sort of thing, then it’s incumbent on you to also be responsible enough to know how far is too far and when to stop. If you don’t know, then for the love of God, get a trusted circle of advisors and bounce ideas off of them when you’re really pushing the edge of the envelope. We’ve all seen stories in the media about threats to past presidents that bought someone a visit from the guys in dark suits with no sense of humor, who talk into lapel pins. Some threats were pretty real, others were vague and non-descript. Internet chatter is monitored to pick up anything that might be a possible risk, guys flying in homemade gyrocopters that land too close to the White House suddenly find themselves with an arrest record. You’d have to have lived under a rock or in Siberia for the last 30 years to not know about these things. Griffin’s statement of “I crossed the line” is just too pat, and quite frankly, is a cop out.  If she gave it any thought at all, perhaps she figured as a celebrity she was exempt from consequences? I personally believe that Griffin simply didn’t think. At. All. Unfortunately for her she’s learning the hard way this is one time when her celebrity status doesn’t matter worth a hill of beans. Do I seriously think she was making a threat against the President? No, of course not, and the Secret Service probably didn’t either, but it’s not their job to guess. It’s their job to investigate, verify, and determine based on facts obtained from interviews.

If I do something in my job that my manager or my company disapproves of, there are consequences. Every year I am expected to review a corporate code of conduct, and sign off on that document indicating that I’ve read it, I understand it and will abide by it. If I don’t live up to it, I am subject to a number of potential forms of discipline  up to and including termination of employment. I can’t misrepresent my company, I can’t accept monetary gifts, I can’t share insider information, etc. I would expect there are similar rules in place for self-employed celebrities when they sign employment contracts with networks to do shows, such as  Griffin did with CNN for the New Years Eve show. While I’ve never seen that type of contract, some quick searching on Google did produce readily available information on morals clauses in contracts for the entertainment industry.  If her contracts had them, then her failure to understand terms and conditions lies squarely on her own shoulders.

I’d be a whole lot more impressed with her if she said “the mistake was mine, I didn’t stop to think. I was stupid and careless and can see how this could have been percieved as a  threat to the president. The Trump family has every right to be angry with me and I’m going to take some time away from my career to reconsider some things. I may or may not be back.” She is both pushing this onto someone else as well as whining about the Trump family bullying her. The former demonstrates the lack of insight on her part, which is unfortunate and the latter, well, that’s kind of “pot, meet kettle”. Bullying is wrong, no two ways about that, and both have done more than their share. I just find it a bit hypocritical that she’s now the one complaining about it.

I’m not saying she doesn’t have a right to push boundaries in her career as a comedianne, or even to cross lines, so before folks jump on their bandwagon I want to make sure I’m clear about that. I just don’t think she should have crossed THIS one.