19 March 2010

House Cleaner Mafia?

(Photograph copyright 2010, all rights reserved.)

I guess hindsight is not 20/20. Ok. That's a bad pun, but it fits with the picture AND the situation that my best friend, Mother of the Cool Niece (henceforth to be known as MOCN) called me about on her lunch hour today. I need to give you background, first.

About four years ago, while MOCN was still living across the courtyard from me, she was raving about her cleaning lady. " A goddess", she said, "and she doesn't charge the earth, either!"

So I hired this Cleaning Goddess (henceforth to be known as CG) and, you got it, she was a tornado in the house. The place literally sparkled when she got through with it. Every corner, every crevice, every spot where dirt might accumulate glistened after four hours of her time. She cleaned the TOPS of the shower heads. She vacuumed the baseboards BEHIND the heavy furniture. She dusted the doors, the door frames, the blinds (all we have are wood blinds) and the window frames. In four hours, she could do what I couldn't manage in three days.

The house was so clean it made me slightly nervous. Really, who vacuums baseboards that you can't even see more than twice a YEAR, let alone twice a month? No one I know, because life is just too short to move furniture all the time, right? All this and she adored the cats, too! Plus, she was NICE. A sweet young woman from Poland with permanent resident status, a husband who drove truck (at the time, anyway) and a thoroughly engaging and pleasant person.

MOCN and I recommended her to several people. At one point, she was working for another three or four people in this townhouse complex and everyone agreed that she was a great cleaner with a sterling character who never, ever broke anything. Ever. She came, she cleaned, she got paid, she moved on. Two to three houses a day, five days a week. She made good money. This was a busy lady, as you can understand. Anyone who does work that good can write their own ticket in this town.

Alas, as always seems to happen with young married women.... the CG got pregnant. Sigh. She worked until her fifth month, but had to quit because she just couldn't manage the lifting any more. She recommended a friend, I told her that she was welcome to come back whenever she was ready and that was the end of it. I didn't go to the shower, but I did order a car seat off her registry. This was last spring. By my reckoning, she's had about ten or eleven months off by now.

I ended up firing the lady that was recommended because she just wasn't doing a good enough job. For the same money that the CG was charging, the new lady made the house look like, well, like I did it myself. It just wasn't worth it to have her come in twice a month to do what I do every week, right? Again, I thought nothing of it and resigned myself to doing my own dusting and toilet scrubbing and waiting for the CG to come back to work.

So. We come to today. MOCN called me on her lunch hour with her ethical dilemma. The CG's recommendation for MOCN's house worked out extremely well. Almost as good as the CG herself, so MOCN kept her and paid her exactly what she'd been paying before.

MOCN doesn't generally manage to get home during the day. Even though her office is walking distance from her house, her job has her driving all over the city most of the time, so when it's cleaning day, she leaves the cash for the cleaner on the kitchen counter and comes home to a clean house. It works well for her. Today, though, MOCN had to go home for a few minutes to pick something up and the current cleaning lady was just finishing. They chatted and MOCN found out that the CG not only has no intention of coming back to work, she was taking a THIRD of the wages away from MOCN's cleaner and all of the other ladies that she'd recommended when she went on "maternity leave". The poor girl was terrified and BEGGED MOCN not to tell the CG what had been going on.

It seems that the "sweet, lovely" CG was taking a third of the wages of ALL of the women that she said were "substituting" for her while she was on maternity leave! For almost a full year! How's that for a sweet deal? I suspect that she's making at least what she was making before, because her substitutes have to have found other clients on their own during that time and CG is taking a third of THAT money, too! MOCN was furious. Hopping mad. So mad that she fired the cleaner on the spot.

So, you must know what the dilemma is by now. What should MOCN do? The cleaner she fired didn't do anything wrong, and she needs the income from her cleaning jobs, including MOCNs. Then again, like MOCN told me this afternoon, she's damned if she's paying some racketeering, lazy-assed, slimeball for work that she's not doing! Now, I know some of you are thinking this already - it's not fair to the current cleaner, right? Why should she be victimized twice? First she's being extorted, then she gets fired. Hardly fair. If I could get the girl to go along with it, I would call the CG and tell her the girl was fired. Then I would let the cleaner know that she was off the hook with the CG and she could just keep cleaning my house and keeping the money.

It would be tempting to do it that way, but I don't think I'd go for it right away. The burning question in my mind is, "Why is that girl so scared that the CG will find out that her nasty little secret is out?"

16 March 2010


(Photographs and original art work copyright 2010, all rights reserved.)

Top: 18" tall, 18" diameter. Terra cotta, Gloss Black glaze wiped down, then covered in Matte Gray glaze and low fired.

Middle: 10" tall. High fired stoneware. Glaze is Temoku, which has been washed off, leaving only traces. Afterwards, the piece was dipped in yellow salt. Don't try this unless the kiln gods are smiling. This combination can run and destroy a kiln shelf.

Bottom: Terra cotta, Matte Gray glaze with Red Underglaze, low fired. The red wasn't supposed to be glossy.... Oh well.

Ok. For those that are curious, I'm talking to you, Schuyler, These are three recent pieces. I've been playing with the three-lobed base for a little while, and I think I'll do one more piece before I move on. I tend to do things in series and beat up a shape until I'm happy with it. these haven't quite hit the mark for me yet.

I also tend to go through phases where I'll fiddle around with one thing for a couple of weeks, so once in a while I have to take a break from that and make something in a couple of hours from start to finish. These are fiddly - I'm right now firing something that I did in a single three hour session.

Some of my best work is done in a short session using minimal tools. When I do this, I use my hands, a soft rubber rib, and a tiny dental spatula. I don't necessarily remove the tool marks or fingerprints, either.

14 March 2010

Here we go again!

(Photographs copyright 2010, all rights reserved.)

Ok, it's an aaaaaaawwwwwwwwww moment! Meet the newest addition to the Messy household. I give you Charlie (as in Parker...the Bird....). He's 15 weeks old and stinkin' cute. Also, he's as tall as our adult cats and yes, I know what that could mean. He's doing all of the obligatory cute stuff and so far doesn't seem to be afraid of the older cats. I suspect there will be some - er - leveling before we're done here.

But that's not why I'm here. No, I have a conundrum, and I'm going to ask....everyone else for advice. Oh, I know what I SHOULD do, and I know what I'd tell OTHER PEOPLE to do, but I'm asking anyway. Ready?

As some of you know, I'm what The Boy calls a stay-at-home-mom-with-no-kids. What I've been doing for the past few years is working on things that I love to do, but never had the time for, one of which is take clay classes. By way of explanation, I don't make functional things. Ever. If something I make looks like it might become a vessel of some sort, I poke a hole in it. It's just my "thing". I don't throw pots on a wheel either, I hand build everything. A fair number of people work that way now, but not many did when I started. I'm regarded as somewhat radical because of this.

So. We moved here, I found a new place to take classes, and a new teacher is a good thing. I've learned a lot from my first teacher, so I figured I'd take an advanced course. As luck would have it, there's a resident artist from Japan working at the studio for a year or so and I signed up for her class. She's a terrific instructor. I've learned a lot.

Here's the "but". This is an advanced class, and it attracts a different sort of student. Now you have to keep in mind that clay folk are a mellow bunch. "Instruction" is pretty much like herding cats. Generally, teachers work with the first-timers and there are various assignments given to teach the basics. Those who have already done that sign up for class and pretty much do their own thing, asking for help if necessary.

There's a student there who is younger than me by about a decade. She has an MFA, which is as far as you can go in educational terms, and never lets anyone forget it. She doesn't have the time of day for anyone but a friend of hers and the instructor. In fact, she's so busy telling the instructor (patient and kind soul that she is) what she's done that if anyone DOES want to ask a question it's generally not happening. I find this student VERY irritating, because as far as she's concerned, the rest of us shouldn't even be there. We aren't as "important" as she is and are therefore beneath her notice.

I am battling an intense desire to smack this person. She seems to have an issue with me personally and because I don't play those games, she's getting more pointed. Last week, for example, I went to class tired (we had got back into town late, after a LONG travel day) and I know my patience was thinner than usual. I started dumping out tools on the table to get to work, said hello to the instructor and went to get a cup of tea. When I got back with it, I walked up to the instructor with a finished piece to ask a question about glazes, and this broad shouldered me aside (!?) with a question of her own. She then addressed the air, saying, "I don't know why some people bother taking this class."

I left. I figured that I was too tired to deal with that kind of crap and I'd probably put my foot in it within a millisecond if I stayed. Besides, we'd been gone for a week and I needed to hit the grocery store.

I know I'm going to have to suck this up to some extent. There are a LOT of things I'd LIKE to say, but I won't - at least not where anyone else can hear me, if you get my drift. Clay classes, after all, tend to attract a pretty eclectic group. There's an older man in the class that I absolutely adore. He's a sweetheart, and his wife is a lucky lady. There's another "artiste" that spends a lot of time staring into space. The usual.

So, how patient should I be, everyone? It's not like they can fire me..... I just don't get why it is that some people are so freakin' competitive that they feel compelled to deride everyone around them who isn't a True Believer in their greatness. So tell me. Can I let'er rip?

Betcha never thought Messy would be asking for advice, right? Right?

10 March 2010

Ah, Vacations!

(Photographs copyright 2010, all rights reserved.)

I'm back! Surprise, 'tis I!

Yeah, ok. No one noticed I'd even gone, I know it...and I bet Schuyler's going to put up prettier pictures than mine, too. Sigh.

However, these photos are of what I consider to be one of the greatest places on the planet. I know everyone will have a favorite place that they like better, and that's just fine. We hiked through coastal rain forest (Cathedral Grove) in pouring rain and didn't get wet because of the trees, then went on to the Little Qualicum River (not so little), and on a perfect, sunny, gorgeous day, we went to Dave's Peak (And who the heck was Dave, anyway?).

We hung out with The Boy's parents, did a lot of hiking, eating and drinking and had a grand old time. The trip involves trains, planes, automobiles and an hour and a half ferry ride, but it's always worth the trip.

(Check out that moss!)

01 March 2010

Flowers From an Alberta Summer

(All photographs copyright 2010, all rights reserved.)

I'm done with winter. It's March and I'm ready to see some color again. To that end, I recently bought a nifty scanner so that I could have photos from my non-digital days on my computer. These are just a few. You'll be seeing more (whether you like it or not!) over the next few months. Consider this post a reminder that it really WILL be spring soon.