Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Labor of Love: Race into the Nothingness!

With walls and trim up in the bedroom, it was safe to move the cat in, and safe enough for us, so we packed up the Motel 6 and headed for the house that would become a home of sorts for the next five years.

Once there, the bathroom was more than a necessity because running to Wendy’s every time we had to pee became a liability in fatty food after a while. We got some sheets of mock-tile wall board up over the studs, caulked around the tub, installed the fixtures, laid the cheapest vinyl squares we could find and called it a day.

With our Master Plumber, Matt, hard at work we finally were able to shower on day three in the house. And nothing, before or since, had ever felt so good.

While stripping plaster downstairs we happened upon a covered up doorway which led from the kitchen to the small room that we intended to designate as the dining room. Matt had opened the doorway even wider into a pass through and framed it out to match the opening on the other side, which led to what we intended to make the living room. Jerry installed our working outlet on the front wall of the house in the living room.

Since the dining room was the smallest space with the least number of surfaces to cover and would also be the least utilized, it could be finished last. So we turned it into a makeshift pantry and by running an extension cord from the living room outlet, the dining room suddenly turned into our kitchenette.

We took a piece of unfinished plywood and placed it flat across two saw horses then we loaded it up with everything we could cook without a stove and store that did not require refrigeration.

It occurred to me that perhaps the original owners were onto something with their six thousand outlets per room, they were certainly never going to run out of places to plug in the many devices required to live in the modern day. We needed a coffee maker, refrigerator, toaster and microwave just to get by. And that was only downstairs.

At one point in our early days I remarked that perhaps I should write “The Least Expensive, Quickest, but Highest Sodium Known to Man, Microwave Cookbook”. Matt said it would never sell but I knew there must be other people out there doing kitchen renovations who would drool for Matt’s Ghetto Mac, made from a box of shells and cheese and a can of chili. We drained pasta and washed our plastic plates and cutlery in the bathroom sink.

Tuna melts were a staple of our diet because the ingredients were cheap, and as long as we unplugged the coffee maker we could make them in the toaster. We ate a whole lot of Wendy’s and McDonalds salads and dollar menu items, and we became frequent shoppers at the Big Y grocery store chain.

Things were moving slow but at least they were moving.

About this time we had all but run out of money and we both decided it would be Matt who should go back to a day job as I could continue plastering, sanding and painting out the house before we listed it, sold it and made our capital to go and do it again.

For a while he worked with my dad, doing similar work on an income property he and my step mother had purchased in Fitchburg, but when that project came to a close Matt knew it was time to settle back into a desk job.  He set out to find one in the mortgage business and came to land at a company where the rigid structure of the workday was so bad the employees had to ask to go to the bathroom. Seriously.

Matt was in the Processing department and every area of the building had a camera pointed at the cubicles so employees performance could be continuously monitored. You know, like a sweatshop in some foreign land. Guess I never realized before but apparently Connecticut was a third world country at the time.

He was only allowed a half hour lunch and two, fifteen minute breaks everyday. And they were scheduled. If he had to use the bathroom at any other time he actually had to ask a supervisor if it was alright to leave his desk.


That job lasted until he came back a literal 2 minutes late from lunch and was written up. At the time I was about halfway done with mudding and sanding the drywall so I told him to just get out.

So he did. In grand fashion. One day after requesting a bathroom break of the Warden, er, his boss, and denied, Matt went back to his desk, packed up the couple things on it that were his and wrote ‘I Quit’ on a post it note which he proudly displayed in the center of his monitor as he walked out the door with a smile.

Two days later when the Human Resources Manager called him I heard him say something to the effect of ‘What do you mean where am I? Didn’t my note get the point across?’

We were back to no income but with two of us to mud and sand, the pace of construction picked up some. He knew he had to find something though and landed at a Broker in CT doing Processing work.

We had decided that the ceilings should be popcorn texture as it would hide a multitude of sins but after spraying out the living and dining rooms and seeing not only how much of a mess it created but how much product it took to create, we decided to throw caution to the wind and install all manner of different treatments.

Hey, why not right? It wasn’t like we wanted to ever sell the house or anything so why not toss on a little extra work for ourselves!

The first floor bathroom and second bedroom were going to be flat, kitchen would get staple tiles, second floor bath would be a rolled sand texture, our bedroom would be a swirl treatment that Matt picked up while working with my dad, and the third bedroom was going to be pine wainscoting.

We got down to installation just as Matt’s boss was starting to show his true colors. Those being his violent streak. In the space of two days he punched a hole in one of the hallway walls and threw a file right at Matt’s head. We chalked it up to another W2 for our Accountant and he got out of there, quick.

Matt was looking for another job and had his resume out to a number of mortgage companies and head hunters so I knew it was time to find something of my own. I landed a Receptionist position through a temp agency. The job would be answering phones and greeting clients for the premiere construction company in western Massachusetts, Kent Pecoy.

It wasn’t much but the commute was only about fifteen minutes and they let me start out part time which allowed me the flexibility to continue with the house. On top of that I was studying with a correspondence school for a certificate in Interior Decorating as the entire décor side of home construction truly fascinated me.

It was then that Matt finally landed a job. It wasn’t in mortgages. But we really didn’t have a choice as our bills were not getting any smaller. He started working the night shift at Roncari, a Valet parking service located at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut. Those were some of the longest nights of my life as I knew we lived in one of the sketchiest areas of the state.  And we didn’t own a firearm.

Each night I would lock the front door, lock our bedroom door and push my bureau across it just so I would feel safe enough to sleep alone. More than twice we had seen the scooter store across the parking lot from us, robbed in the middle of the night.

I sprinkled some lavender in a ring around my home and Matt went off to work. He would come home at about seven o’clock in the morning, just as I was getting up for work. With our financial position precarious at best, we shared a car so Matt would drop me off and then go home to sleep.  He would pick me up, we'd have dinner together, and then he was off to work again.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

The two of us were running on almost nothing, both financially and physically, and every free minute of our time was spent dong work around the house. But as with the bad comes the good and so when Matt landed a well paying, excellent titled position with GMAC Mortgage, and I was hired on full time at KPC, our financial concerns were finally put to rest. At least for a while.

With most of the walls and ceilings done, and our necessary shift in priorities, the work on the house didn’t just slow down, it stopped. Completely.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

This Is Serious So I’m Compelled to Post it Twice

A lot of you don’t know but I write another blog, its one I share with a very select number of people and is where I vent about all the shit that really irritates me.

This morning I read an email that seriously touched a nerve and it forced me to write a post that came together in about thirty minutes. After I posted it I reread the words I had put out there and suddenly had wished I had posted it here so more people would know how I feel.

But because it was so perfectly suited to the theme of my other blog I decided not to delete it. Instead I apologize to the few of you who will see this twice but I feel compelled to share it with all of you.

Chapter Eight -- Outsourcing All the Men with Women?

This morning I tucked in to read my email and opened one from my sister with the subject line “FW: The End of Men”. I assumed it was an internet joke. I was wrong and it turns out, the real joke is going to be on all of us women if we don’t slow this train of alleged progress way down.

As women, we have fought with dignity and pride to claim our equal rights in this world and nothing makes me happier that I am just as likely as a man now to get fired, hold office, go bankrupt or make a million dollars. I personally, in conjunction with my entire gender, am smart, funny, ambitious and headstrong; going after everything I want.

But have I left the men in my life behind as a result?

The article she sent put it out there plainly -- what people are looking for, as far as qualities go, is the ability to communicate and openness, not to mention stillness and focus. Apparently men do not possess these qualities as it further went on to share that, not only are women the predominant gender in the working world now, but that scientists are working on a way to sort sperm for gender selection.

Everyone get out your paint, we’re coloring the world pink. Either that or we're turning it into Gattaca. There really is a fine line and I think we've started to cross it.

I started seeing this trend take hold years ago when a friend and I noticed how many women treated their men like dogs. They assumed he would cheat, so she beat him to the punch. They presumed he would lie, so she lied better. They were tired of being treated as a “lesser” gender, so she dumped his sorry ass, got a job making six figures, a sperm donor, a big house, and a full time nanny to raise her kid.

Can someone please explain to me what the men of this generation did so wrong? I have seen them embrace our ambition and encourage us to make the most of ourselves. I have seen them stay home with the children and be full time dads when their women have gone back to work. I have watched them hold a purse in a store, cook dinner, clean the house, work hard, prioritize the women in their life beyond anything else.

And we somehow find fault in that? Fault enough to all but tell them they are useless? Um, yeah.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a traitor to progress or anything and I am fully grateful for the right to vote, work, plus all the other stuff that men tried to hold us back from for so long, and we were able to finally take control of our own lives just a few short decades ago. But I think we are letting the power that comes with that very control go right to our heads and using it for evil, not good.

I get it. Men did it too. Way back in the day it was generally men who were screaming ‘Witch!’, ‘Off with her head!’, ‘Woman, go make me a chicken pot pie!’. We were, according to the powers that be (mostly men at the time) inferior and not much more than common help and a baby machine. So believe me, I get why some of us would be a little bit, let’s just say, anxious to put our own needs first.

But I think we missed the point of balance and now everything is tipping way too far over the edge.

There are machines to do heavy lifting, which women can drive. Vibrators for pleasure, which are so realistic these days it is almost scary. Exterminators can kill the bugs, which women are taking on as a career more frequently than ever. The local sperm bank or adoption agency will be more than happy to provide a gal with a baby. Self betterment books teach all of us how to treat ourselves with the utmost respect.

Wow. The more I think about it, the more I realize we are just a gender full of promise. A gender full of possibility for what the future could hold. If women could not only run the home but industry as well, we could surely run the planet, and since we wouldn’t even need men to procreate anymore, we could go right ahead and phase them out completely. And in such a short span of time.

A world full of nothing but women. Just the thought scares the ever loving shit out of me. Women in power? Right on. Women in prominent roles and industries? Absolutely. But women as the only necessary gender? I’m not sorry to say an emphatic no.

There is nothing, not even the love of myself, that can take the place of my husband’s arms around me when he says I love you. I respect men both in and out of power because when it all boils down to it, each of us is just human, regardless of the body parts.

And humans should all be afforded the same rights. Isn’t that what we women spouted back then? Now we are taking back everything we supposedly stood for by rolling right over the other gender that we fought to take it back from.

We are no better than they were back then. Shame on us.

I am an ambitious woman who is trying to make a place and name for myself in this big world and perhaps there are times when I will be doing a lot of that on my own, but to think that means I don’t need the man I married, my male relatives, friends and acquaintances along my journey is just lunacy.

Be careful what you wish for ladies or some day all of us will be sitting around a lonely table, wondering where all the “good” men went, very likely blaming them for their own disappearance.”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Under the Wire with The Dish!

I tossed and turned. My brain was all tingly with excitement for the vast array of possibilities. A burger recipe. That is what we were charged with conceptualizing for The Dish! in June and immediately I realized it would be no easy task. There are so many different types of burgers it was going to take some serious crafting to come up with the perfect one.

I toyed around with the idea of a meatless burger because the veggie burgers they sell in the store are not only processed but always seem to have mushrooms. I figured “If you want something done right, do it yourself”. Unfortunately my limited brain capacity for cooking didn’t really allow a good filter and I never came up with anything (yet, I swear it will happen one day!)

Instead Matt was the one to cook up some ground turkey burgers by adding a whole bunch of spices and some home grown basil to make one super tasty treat! We cooked them on our George Foreman grill and although we didn’t have sliced cheese, Matt improvised and pulled some string cheese for his own unique take on a cheese burger.

So here’s Uncle Matty’s Spicy Chipotle Turkey Burgers

1 lb ground turkey (85/15 fat)
¼ tsp ground chipotle spice
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Mix it up well and grill to your desired level of done-ness. We like just medium so did 12 minutes on the Foreman Grill. We ate them on light wheat buns; top with your favorite condiments.

Now Matt also mixed up ½ tsp chipotle, ¾ tsp sea salt, ½ tsp garlic powder and 1/8 tsp ground black pepper to sprinkle over our fries on the side. He baked for about 20 minutes on 400.

The meal was spicy but not “mouth on fire oh no I might pass out” hot which was just perfect on the cool night we ate these.

Now are you a burger person like we are? If you are and you write about it then submit your link to The Dish! by July 5, 2010 and you could win a $60 CSN Stores gift certificate to spend however you want.

Um, score!

Seriously, we all know burgers of some sort will probably be involved in our meal plan this upcoming weekend so why not snap a photo of it & toss a post up on your blog? You might just win the GC but even if you don’t win that you score anyway because you got an awesome burger out of it!