Sunday, June 28, 2009

Catering Again...

So, to help pay for my wedding there was the need for extra income.

Off to the hotels I went. With a scrappy little resume I applied for banquets catering.

Got to serve weekend brunches, and clear many tables while wearing a tuxedo.

The experience in some ways can be surreal. You have a breakfast served at a fancy hotel and then guests of all shapes and sizes come in to dine.

You will see the guests in suits and refined outfits. Nice morning clothes.

Then there is the more casually dressed. Jeans, polo shirt or nice top.

The next group are the t-shirt and shorts, or sweat pants crowd. They are usually wearing sandals or flip-flops.

However, by far my favorite group are the pajama people. OMG! It's past 10:30am get out of your pajamas you're in public. And, some are not allowed in the dining area for lack of footwear. Who's house are you in?

There also seems to be a directly proportional amount of food consumed to level of attire. The more upwardly mobile the attire - i.e. business suit - the less the food. A bagel, a juice or coffee, and a yogurt or piece of fruit.

Pajama people - robe pockets and sometimes sleeves filled with fruit and such for later, two or three plates of food for breakfast eaten on the spot.

Each person executes breakfast in their own style. They dance around each other and never make eye contact with people beyond their own parties and a server or two.

Life is so surreal.

Oh, Yeah - Got married...

If you truly love somebody. You look at them and can not think of ever living without that person by your side...that's when marriage makes sense.

Did I love my husband. As much as I knew at the time. Loved him with all that I knew how.

However, I can honestly say I was obsessed with the idea of getting married more than anything else. I was nineteen and had already put money down on the dress before he asked. It was the end of the season for the dress and it would be gone forever. Still have pictures of the dress. More of the dress than of him.

Worked second and third jobs just to pay for the wedding. He was supposed to buy our rings. They ended up being $10 for a pair at Bizarre Bizarre. Purchased 2 nights before hand. Woo hoo!

Wanted to cancel a week before the wedding. But, had been chided about cold feet.

Cried up the aisle and through the ceremony.

Fought with each other during the reception and honeymoon.

Moved out 1 year and 11 days after we had said "I Do".

There were deep issues to contend with that I won't discuss. It was a time of great pain, sorrow, growth and learning. Just glad that it is not my present.

Met many wonderful people from that relationship. Have reaped many joyous occasions and splendiferous events from having 'been there'. And, if having gone through the less than blissful times meant getting that bliss - it was well worth it all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cleaning and MacroMind

Left the trades. Can you blame me?

So, what to do immediately? Got a job at Brooms Unlimited. Yes, back to the old standby.

They handled many small client accounts. Brooms also had an account with Arthur Andersen. Loved days with A.A. accounts. You would get 4 units in the same building. Could get them all clean in 4 hours and paid for a whole day.

About 2 months into cleaning I am sent to clean at a business on Wolfram Street; and my life is about to change.

The job on wolfram is a small business with a kitchen. They need the place swept, vacuumed, bathroom cleaned, kitchen cleaned, dishes washed.

It's a small bustling company. And, the phone's ringing away. Marc Canter, my future boss, asks me, "Do you know how to answer a phone?"

That's all it took was a wry look of disbelief that any human being could not answer a phone, and asking the name of the company.

He hired me that day. However, I did let him know that Brooms got a two week notice.

MacroMind was at the time a small company in Chicago. With two spaces down the street from each other. One space was the office, the other space was the studio with a first floor mail room. The studio is where all the computer artists and programmers worked together. The office was the logistical part of the company, accounting, sales, customer service, support. It was a very Organic company. There were under 30 of us.

When I came on board the big project was MacroMind Director. Animation software for the Macintosh / Apple system. This is 'pre' Swivel 3D kiddies. I can still remember the day we got the 512K computers in; and were excited at the amount of memory they held.

Still crisply remember the day one of the first midi cards came in. It was cutting edge at the time.

Could have stayed with MacroMind forever. Grew from a reception job to administrative assistant to the president in no time. Got to beta-test new software. I could make a system crash faster than anybody, plus accurately log how it happened.

The company got an offer to move to California. However, I was newly married and had to stay behind.

So, the company left just the same as it came in for me. Helped them pack. Saw them off. Cleaned up the space. Turned over the keys.

Rock and Roll Baby!

So, what do you do with four months of workman's compensation for emergency surgery?

Let's see I'm nineteen. Getting paid $375 a week to do nothing, with stacks of uncashed overtime checks and over $50K in the bank.

I met a rock photographer; and went to every single heavy metal and punk concert that came through Chicago. For three months solid.

Was great playing assistant. Buying tickets, getting passes, loading film, going backstage, getting interviews, and stage diving. (Just kidding. Only did a stage dive once. Very exhilirating experiment in communal trust.)

Invited many of the bands back to the Oak Park house after their concert.

Yes, it was totally cool talking about how this band or that band came over. And, how some of them did not seem to want to leave. ('Meatmen', 'Love and Rocket's talking about you here.)

By the time most bands get to Chicago they have bounced around endless number of gigs on their tour.

They are seriously appreciative to have a house to go to after a concert, instead of several little hotel rooms. A living room in which to watch cable. A kitchen with a full fridge to make whatever meal they can fix.

Many bands are on a per diam, and don't have much for extras while on tour. Compound that with hours that have you finishing work later in the evening. Most meals are from 24 hour stores and restaurants purchased on a budget.

So, sorry to pop any bubbles. Don't have stories of rockers partying out. It's more like comforting down. Think the biggest vice may have been too much soda and sweets right before bed time.

Oh, and the realization that we are all human and enjoy winding down after work.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

From HS to Where? I.B.E.W. 134 That's Where

So, where does an honor roll student with high PSAT and ACT scores go after high school?

Take up one of the scholarships from: Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Illinois Chicago, or Westminster College?


Stay at home and continue to run her maid service. Well, at least for another 6 months.

Much to my father's dismay. He said he was NOT going to have me at home all day making phone calls and visiting with girlfriends. A.K.A. making appointments and assigning work.

So, on an extremely cold day in winter at 4:30am I bundled up and made my way to Humboldt park. To stand in line with several thousand other people. For over six hours. The electrical trades had just opened up and we were all hoping to get accepted as residential apprentice trainees.

By the time we had gotten into the field house, that did not open until 7:00am, they would have to help us hold a pen to fill out the form. Many of our hands were too cold to clutch the darn thing.

As fate would have it I made the cut.

Next step was to go to Washburne Trade School. On the first day there were over 500 of us taking an eight hour test. Before the test they let us know that only 100 of us would make the cut.

Made the cut and immediately started an eleven week intensive. We had four classes. Basic Math, Basic Wiring (low voltage), Electrical Code, and Pipe Bending. There were exams every three weeks, and final exams at the end. If you got three F's you had to start the course all over again. You were given three tries.

With the intensity of the classes I had to close or sell my maid service. One of my lead girls bought the service with a loan from her dad. A sweet $50K. However, all I was doing was hanging out at home and talking with my girl friends all day. Right?

Math, Basic Wiring and Code were a breeze for me. Pipe bending was a little more difficult. The math part of figuring out how much pipe length would be lost in a bend, how to make the degrees precise, and how to make the pipe lay flat with two or three bends in was doable. No problem with half inch pipe. No problem with three quarter inch pipe. However, one inch pipe and larger was ridiculous. At all of 110 pounds I was hanging of the bender like a monkey on a stick. No matter how much longer I made the handle I just could not get the leverage. Thank goodness for my pipe bending partner. The guy towered over me and could probably bend the stuff with his hands.

The cockroaches at Washburne were huge. We would joke about them by saying that they wore leather jackets and had tattoos. Many of the students wore their pants tucked in their socks for fear of a leg crawler.

Between classes we would sit in the halls waiting for the doors to open. On one occasion one of the bigger roaches was making it's way down the hall. There is nothing so funny as watching big guys screech and move to their feet to get away from a bug. We got in big trouble that day. With a piece of string I lassoed the little monster. And, another student hung him from an administration door in the hall. Hey, we thought it was funny.

Washburne housed more than classes for tradesmen. Yes, it was training Electrical Residential Apprentice Trainees - or RATs. And, it was home for the Carpentry Apprentices. However, it was also teaching several classes for upcoming chefs.

The lunches at Washburne were incredible. For $2 you could fill up your tray with gastronomic delights and foo foo pastry deserts. Lunch was definitely my favorite part of the day.

Well, when the eleven weeks were up we assigned our first jobs on the last Friday of school to report to work on Monday.

It was my first time on a construction site. The foreman, boss, did NOT want me there. He told me to go back to the union hall and get another assignment; that he did not work with broads. That morning he showed me how to load a Hilti stud gun and handed it to me. Showed me where the 20 foot ladder was; and had me start shooting studs into the cement ceiling.

The gun was difficult at first. I thought it was just because it was new to me. On the fourth or fifth shot the gun recoiled and threw me from the ladder. The safety steward, an older electrician, came running over to see what happened. First to see if there was any bodily damage, which besides bruises there was not. Secondly to see my Hilti license. Which I did not have. Did not know I needed. Then he asked me which box I had gotten the gun from. Replying there was no box the foreman handed it to me, the steward went to see which gun I had been using. It was the gun that had been marked do not use. The thing was broken and had recoiled the previous week sending another electrician to an emergency room. The foreman purposely tried to get me off the site since the union would not pull me. Wow, and not even lunch yet.

Remembering what my father said about how some people out there would make it tough on me, I stood strong. Stayed there and worked my day out, worked the next two months out on the same site.

But, that first night when I went home - boy did I have the break down. Cried like a child. Heck at 17, you still are a child.

The electrical apprenticeship program at that time lasted for four years. Once a year you would go back for another education intensive. Second year classes were for eight weeks. Third and fourth year classes were for six weeks each.

Many of the men treated me like the original foreman. There were many slashed tires at the end of the day on my car. There were letters on my windshield telling to: 'go home', 'leave now', and asking me 'do you have a death wish'. It seemed that the only workers that had no issues with me were the older journeymen, and guys in the other trades.

There are many things I learned in the trades that I still love to this day. One, I will never need help with electrical at home, even though I only worked in industrial and commercial. And, then there all sort of other things like the thrill of power tools. Coring holes in cement, threading heavy wall pipe, the chipping hammer, and band saws. Learned all about welding - prefer oxy/acetylene to mig or stick. Oh, and best of all - learned that on the job site you use an electric pipe bender for all pipe one inch and large on a sweet machine by Greenfield. You could even set the degree of the bend.

Learned that men really do act differently without women around. There is more of a pack mentality. And, boy can they waste time talking and talking and talking. Getting to see men in a no woman zone had really given me a more informed and enlightened view of them. In ways a whole new respect.

My favorite job site was the Brookfield Zoo Dolphin building and life support building. My name is written on the ceiling in the ladies washroom above the tiles of the suspended ceiling. It was my first chance to work with PVC pipe. Got to meet the man that invented the pipe. But more than that had a chance to walk the floor of the tank and look out like a dolphin would.

The last job site was the United Airlines terminal at O'Hare airport. There were over 3,000 construction workers there. We were all on mandatory overtime - ten hour days, seven days a week. You work so much you don't have time to cash your checks much less spend the money.

While at O'Hare I collapsed. Had had a stress stroke four months earlier while working at Stickney sanitation plant installing new fiber optic meters. That's when they found the gallstones. They had to clear a group of runways and send an ambulance through. Was cut open in the ambulance to relieve some of the pressure so the gallbladder would not burst.

Had 3 months off of work. Went back for three months and quit.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oak Park and River Forest High School

Freshman Year to Senior Year
1980 - 1984

A-Period - Homeroom - Mr. Krass
Nice quite guy that taught shop.

Shared homeroom with a great bunch:

Dallas Barber, Tony Dornacher, Bill Earle, Susan Ebert, Anne Eckstein, Karin Eitrheim, Ali ElSaffar, Ray Elliott, Susan Engel, Ellen Engelhardt, Dianna Englehart, Mary Enright, Robin Enstrom

Shared Lunch with:

Michael Bloch, Mario Bobzin, Allan Bolchazy, Steve Cline, Tony Dornacher, Bill Earle, Ali ElSaffar, Joe Foley, Eric Sanders, John Szadziewicz

and at times: Sean Gleeson, Cary Lahucik, Paul Wagner

And of course: Kelly Morrissy to lighten things up.

Had way too many classes and fellow student to mention them all, however, some teachers stick out more than others.

Mr. Granias - English - He was inspirational. His favorite book and one of mine, in turn: 'The Little Prince'. Can still picture a snake that has eaten an elephant.

Herr Schoepko - German - Always a surprise. He would tell us on chilly days - One - It is not cold it is invigorating. Two - Deutsch is cool. Three - warmth comes from within.

Ms. Vana, now Mrs. Anderson - Biology and Anthropology - Brilliant relaxed teaching style. When she and fellow science teacher Mr. Anderson got married she invited her students to attend.

Mr. Pekala and Mr. Fuller - Chorus - Two men that filled our lives with music. Still think of Mr. Pekala every time somebody says when without a whispery 'h'. Because, WEN is a tumor NOT a time.

Mr. Campbell - English Literature - For smelling really good and getting dressed for school. Had a huge crush on him and would grade freshman papers last period to sit and watch him. After graduating went to his house and had tea. His wife was stunning.

Mr. Swierk - Math - Liked his teaching style, but even more than that - the guff he gave my older sister.

Worked during High School:

Freshman Year - SAGA Foods or as we called it 'Soviet Attempt to Gag America'. They had the food contract with Concordia Teacher's College. My sisters and I worked banquets as servers.

Sophomore to Senior year - Maid service.
It started as a few houses to clean from the high school job board. By my senior year - had over 10 girls working for me cleaning houses.

Learned some extra jobs while cleaning for clients - like what it takes to work in an upholstery shop, how to properly pleat curtains, and how a kosher kitchen is ran.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Never Too Young To Pitch In

Born with a "Time to lean, time to clean" attitude.

My clothes were always folded, shoes all lined up with the toes pointed out, and dolls played with but kept pristine. Could spend all day playing in the yard and not come in with dirt.

My family has a film, (yes film), of my first birthday. They put a slice of cake in front of me. My older sister and other various family members all have the same type of milestone on film. All the other babies are covered in frosting in no time. I just lightly touch the cake and neatly have some.
To get the baby covered in cake take for the film library my dad smudges cake on my face. They now have the first 'if looks could kill' shot of me.

Around four years of age I decided fresh sheets were on the 'daily' agenda. Had learned how to make the bed. My mother, being of above average intelligence gave me my own shelf and basket for my sheets. She simply folded the set in my basket and put it back on the shelf until they were actually dirty.

When I was seven I received a "Betty Crocker First Cookbook" and a whole new chapter of my life was opened. The very next day my father okayed the first on my own cooking. I made three whole loaves of french toast. My family helped me eat all that they could. And, coming from the philosophy of 'waste not - want not' was told that all the rest had to be eaten before more cooking could be done. I ate french toast morning, noon and night for three days.

Made every recipe in that cook book. Dad even made me a bench that ran across the full width of the stove. By the following year I could make bacon, sausage, eggs and pancakes at the same time. Not so good at coffee - still can not master that.

Looking back I think my dad made that bench for more than just feeding my passion. He always said that our mom was a religious cook. She was great at making burnt offerings.

Our Uncle Bill was not a biological relative. He was my dad's best bud. Used to drive my mom bonkers by calling her Soph and smackin' her butt. He also ran his own television repair shop in the city, on Belmont. Married and father of two.

Uncle Bill gave me my first money making opportunities. I do NOT count my dad paying a quarter to scratch his back for half an hour a money making opportunity. In fact, it could be considered child labor.

The summer after 7th grade and on weekends throughout 8th grade I worked at the TV shop. My older sister and I would take the bus to work. We started at 8am.

Swept the front area by the tube tester, and in back by all the work benches. The back was all guy. It smelled of cigarette smoke, smoldering solder, and silicon.

When a set came in it was my job to find a shelf spot for it. And, when a item was done I would have to relocate it to a spot, and update the work ticket so the counter person could find it.

In the winter, when things came in they did not go directly on a shelf. They would get put in two large garbage bags out back. Then, you would have to spray raid in there between the bags. The majority of the customers were lower income, so the bugs would climb in the sets for warmth. Every time I smell insect spray I think of the TV Shop.

At times people would decide it was too expensive to repair their item. These things would become throw aways. They would then end up next to the parts bench. I could sit at that bench for hours on end. You would take apart the TV, radio, stereo, whatever and just keep going. If part of a board was fried I would get to use the soldering iron and take apart the board diode by diode. Then I could sort and store them up front.

Loved working there; and thought that I was making a killing. My uncle paid me $13.00 a day and all that I wanted for lunch. This is where I thought I was pulling one over on him. I could eat two burgers, an order of fries, a full kosher pickle and a shake every day at lunch.

It seemed that as soon as my mother could, she would pimp out her daughters as baby sitters. So, by the New Year's Eve that I was to watch my uncle's two children, a five year old boy and some month old baby girl, it should have been a cinch.

How do I describe the boy? He was obsessed with Spectre Man. He would jump off furniture yelling it, fly around a corner yelling it, appearing out of nowhere with another Spectre Man, Spectre Man. But, I could handle it - a little discipline and artful distraction.

Let me tell you, he ran circles around me. Every time the baby needed feeding or changing he was up to something. Climbed the cabinet to get to a bowl of sugar that he was eating by handfuls. Under the sink pulling everything out.

Well, during one diaper changing he put ammonia in the dog's water dish. The dog was vomiting everywhere.

Had to call mom. No way to contact my uncle, there were no cellphones. She came with two sisters in tow to help with the baby sitting and left with the dog.

The dog did come back home. They pumped his poor little stomach. And, from then on babysitting there was a two sitter job.

Learned so much from this experience. My mother became part of the Mr. Yuck campaign. It is a round green sticker, a sickly color of green, and face similar to the smiley face with it's tongue sticking out and eyes squinting to put on chemical and medicine bottles.

I talked with the local fire department and set up a babysitting certification program. Baby sitters could go to the fire department and learn CPR, Heimlich maneuver, poisoning prevention and basic emergency care.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Grace Lutheran

4th - 8th Grade

What an incredible learning opportunity. We had the luck of being some of the last classes in Concordia Teacher's College student laboratory. We always had music, art, and religion as a full class. However, all the other studies could have student teachers involved. We had the newest teaching techniques, smaller student to teacher ratios, and one heck of a great time. We would compete to learn more - happily.

4th Grade - Mr. Krauss
Not much to say about Mr. Krauss or 4th grade for that matter.

Spent most of the year adjusting from moving from the city to the suburbs.

Our neighborhood in the city had drastically changed. We used to play outside in the streets until the street lights came on. When they cut down a big tree we would all climb on it over and under for at least a good week.

By the time we moved there were prostitutes on the corner, and daily gunshots in the street.

Was strange moving into a house 1/3 the size without a dog kennel in the yard.

Not as strange as my grandfather's funeral the first month of 4th grade. While at his gravesite standing beside the casket I looked down and saw my name.

We had pets, a kennel and much older relatives so death or a funeral was not so weird. No, just out and out unsettling to see your name on a gravestone with a birth and death date.

Started reading my mother's parapsychology books. Also, Edgar A. Poe became a good read.

5th Grade - Ms. Kruse: Actually had "Common Sense" listed on school supplies, and sent one of my classmates home for coming to school without it. She had a dried out Iguana in the classroom. Owned several kitties - a white one that was deaf. Would always point to things with her middle finger - a gas in 5th grade.

We made a rock in Ms. Kruse's class. Many of my fellow students have said they still have their's. She taught us about types of rocks, plus the difference between stalagtites and stalagmites.

Every year her class would draw think green shamrock drawings. Every year it snowed the next day.

6th Grade - Mrs. Uitti: She reminds me of Ms. Crabtree from the Little Rascals. She was sweet, quiet, and had everybody's attention. She was also the mother of one of our classmates. She was also in charge of the 7th and 8th grade cheer leaders.

In 6th grade we had to make a Country Notebook. Import, export, population, location, language, history, food... We had a student teacher from Mesopotamia that year. He talked to us about where he lived.

I think that was the year that one of the teachers brought us chocolate covered insects. Let's just say that if you have the choice between grasshoppers or ants - choose ants.

7th Grade - Mr. Mortensen: What can I say about him? Reminds me of Pat Sajak. A mighty nice guy I must say. Enstroms were the bane of his P.E. existance. Well, at least us first four were. He used to verbally push us around the track. I don't run - I walk.

8th Grade - Mr. Koenig: He was very professional. The next year he became principal of the school.

Mr. Bauman - Our choir teacher. He had once taught the Vienna Boys Chorus. He could get music out of a tone deaf child's head. We won state competitions year after year. Saw him drag a student out of class by his ear. We once practiced for the Christmas pageant to the point of three students passing out at the front of the church. Good times. Good times. In all actuality, I love this man dearly for the music he brought into my life.

Gunther - the bus driver and school custodian. He was old school German. All of us children were respectfully frightened of him. You got on the bus, sat down and behaved. The year of the big blizzard with all the school closings never affected us. Our school was heated and free of snow. He made to every house on the pick-up route and also picked up students and teachers not on the regular route. Most amazing thing I ever saw him do, and he did it often, was to kick a ball OVER the three story school.

In 8th grade you could take on added responsibilites. I got to run the schools supply store before school. A small roll out desk with pens, paper, pencils and erasers. And, at the end of the school day would help the kindergarteners get on their shoes and button up for the bus.

Every year Grace had a large school fair. I can still remember all the fudge and homemade pickles. YUM!

St. Paul Lutheran

Kindergarten to Third Grade

Mrs. Busch was my kindergarten teacher. She was a twin. Her sister's name was Ella. Her name was Mirella. Insisted on calling me Marilyn. She took our entire class out the her house. There was a swimming pool; and we had hotdogs with chips for lunch.

You always remember your kindergarten teacher.

Mr. Reichardt was my first crush. He was the third grade teacher. Taught our class the Lord's Prayer and Silent Night in German. He also would let our class watch Bozo's Circus during lunch. He would bring in albums and play them at the back of the classroom - The Singing Nun's Lord's Prayer and Oh What a Feeling are the two I liked the most.

Can still remember parading across the street to the church for morning prayer. It was always cold. In winter we would sit in coats and hats. In summer we looked forward to our time with God.

Had to leave St. Paul Lutheran when we moved.

????? Nursery School

Went to nursery school for an entire week.

At the end of the second week of school my mother received a call asking if I would be returning after not going for a week.

The call surprised my mother.

That entire week she had put me out at the end of the driveway with my older sister - snack bag in hand.

Each morning that week I waited for my sister's bus to pick her up. Then, went and hid under the front porch until the nursery school bus rolled back down the street around noon.

My mother freaked. When she asked why I didn't go to school. I explained that we had the same games and toys at home. Plus, I didn't have to share a swing set at home.

She gave in on sending me to nursery school, and waited until the next year when my sister and I took the same bus.

Mom made her hold onto my hand until I was on the bus.


???? Nursery School
September 1970

St. Paul Lutheran
Chicago, IL
1971 - 1975
Grades: K - 3

Grace Lutheran
River Forest, IL
Grades: 4 - 8

Oak Park and River Forest High School
Oak Park, IL
Grades: 9 - 12

Washburne Trade School
Chicago, IL
Residential Apprentice Trainee - Construction

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Chicago, IL
October 1990
Food Service Sanitation Certification

Professional Bartenders School
Chicago, IL

Ohashiatsu Institute Chicago
Evanston, IL
Massage Therapy