Skill Set

We spent the weekend in Brookings, SD visiting our son and daughter in law. They moved to a new town home a couple of weeks ago, a place they will reside for a couple of years while they financially position themselves to purchase their first home.

Every time they move to a new place, they request my assistance hanging pictures. They insist that I am the only one who can hang the pictures straight, at the correct height, perfectly centered, and do it virtually error free. They say they make too many extraneous nail holes if they do it themselves.  So, I scramble on top of the sofas, chairs, beds, and other furniture, measuring, marking, stretching, reaching, and pounding nails and picture hangers.

Each time they ask me to do this, I demonstrate, one more time, how to figure out where the center is, how to make sure groups of pictures are evenly spaced and at the same height, and I show them the tools they need. I also demonstrate how to hide extraneous holes with tiny screws of tissue and/or toothpaste. It isn’t rocket science. I learned this from my mother, who was a meticulous picture hanger, measuring side to side, ceiling to floor, to find the perfect spot for the nail.

They were so happy to have the pictures on the walls, and declared that the art and photos made their new place truly home. It could have looked like home much earlier if they did it themselves.

What skill set does your family depend on you for? What is your plan for teaching them to do it without you?



31 thoughts on “Skill Set”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Cooking, Baking, and Pies (yes, a form of baking).

    We are headed up North for the weekend. I don’t know if I will be on the Trail at all. I may check in again on Monday.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Morning all. I am the animal wrangler in my circle. Loose dog in the neighborhood, bat in your house, bunny found in your yard – I get the call.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve read your charming article three times Renee. Two things strike me as being possible. You might be exceptionally skillful at putting up pictures, in which case I salute you. Or your family might be exceptionally skillful at getting you to do a job they prefer to not do, in which case I’m impressed with them. Well done. Well done!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. In our extended family, namely Robin’s siblings and their kids, everyone seems capable of hanging their own pictures, but I am the guy who cuts the mats for them if they need them.
    In my more immediate family and especially my daughter and her husband who own their own home, I have been the go-to guy for issues both plumbing and electrical, including replacement and replumbing of bathroom sink and toilet, replacement of bathtub faucets and replacement of their water heater. I’ve also repaired their washer and dryer and my daughter’s sewing machine. Whenever possible, I try to involve them in the repair process as I do it so they have some understanding of the systems.
    Needless to say, I also apply the same skill set in my own home.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. i think the story of my next door neighbor coming over to trim the tree in the back year and cutting all the branches off and then laughing so hard his sides hurt when my dad looked out and saw a stick with no branches on it in the yard where the tree had been before don tanaka trimmed it fits the spirit of the topic today. i can still hear dons cackle of a laugh. dons not the one who taught me to trim trees

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It is humbling to ask myself which skills I’m famous for. That would be a very short list! As a handyman, I’m Renee’s opposite. People who watch me try to fix something are sure to volunteer to help me (or more likely to take over the job). I used to prepare some dishes that were family favorites at the table, but other people could have learned to do them better if they had given it a little effort. I surprised several people by proving I had the skill set to be a wedding photographer, but by the time I did that it was too late to try to build a business doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Unfortunately, paperwork is the skill set that people in this household depend on me to do. It’s unfortunate, first because I’m not fond of doing it (however I am pretty good at dealing with incoming paper, setting up systems so it flows smoothly both in and out, and filing the few papers that need to be kept). The other reason it’s unfortunate is because I think it’s a pretty necessary skill to have because if you don’t deal with it, it causes a lot of chaos and a big mess and yet nobody else in the fam is even remotely interested in learning my system (I’ve offered to teach them and even nagged) – or any system. When I’m gone, they will all soon be drowned in piles of paper. And I will just laugh.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ve put my card-making skill to use twice today – a graduation card this morning and a “thanks for being great neighbors” card this afternoon. Some outside work but not too much – cooler in my studio w/ a good fan on me than outdoors!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. The granddaughters are here today and spending the night, so the focus is on them today, but yesterday I received a copy of a book I won on eBay. It was printed in 1853 and it’s in terrible shape, but I knew that. Perusing the online booksellers reveals that there are only 2 copies of that edition available internationally. One is priced at $165 and the other is $425. None of that would matter if the contents of the book weren’t of interest to me. But they are. I paid $19.99 for my copy, but, as I said, it’s in terrible shape. The challenge is to restore it.
    Yesterday, after it came in the mail, I took the cover off and stripped the glue off the binding. Then I separated the signatures of the copy block. (The signatures are sections of pages, usually 8 to 12 sheets that are stacked and folded together and stitched to other signatures to make up a copy block.)
    The signatures are really sheets of four pages—2 front and 2 back—that get sewn in the middle, so that a stack of four sheets represents sixteen pages and so on. In the process of separating the signatures, some of the sheets get split down the center, so the first thing I have to do is to re-attach the split pages using rice paper to span the split and rice starch as an adhesive.
    Once all the damaged pages are mended, I can resew the copy block. The steps necessary to prepare the copy block for the cover are pretty standard.

    The cover is especially worn at the spine. That’s typical. I’ll cut away the spine and replace it with a new one in a color that matches the rest of the book cover and then reattach the original spine to the replacement.

    Hopefully, if all goes as planned, I’ll have a book that once again handles and functions as a book.

    Incidentally, I could get a copy of the book print-on-demand for not that much more than I paid for my derelict copy, but such books are, to my sensibility, soulless. I like a book with a history.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. you can take responsibility for baboon book binding bill. i love old books. especially ones i care about the contents of. do you hunt first editions huckleberry finns or anything like that?


      1. I looked it up. First edition Huck Finns start at about $2500. Unless you have really deep pockets, it’s a good idea to pick something less universally familiar to collect if you choose to collect anything at all.
        This particular book that I’m restoring will be part of a collection of books that would have, in a sense, inspired Mark Twain when he was just becoming a writer. They’re a generation older than Huck Finn and they are not the sort of books that any bibliophile would have preservrd in a pristine state.


        1. i was reminded when i visited the minneapolis institute of arts on friday when i saw the ansel adams print of the graveyard at sunset in new mexico that i wanted to start collecting ansel at that time and i had a guy who knew how to get me the access to ansels stuff for 500 a copy. i said i really should get a couple. then ansel died and the price went to $50,000 per copy instead of 500. i think 1st editions are going to be the same thing when the ebooks phenomenon takes center stage. an appreciation of fine limited editions stuff is a little like lakeshore property. they arent making any more of that stuff


        2. The book is called “A Stray Yankee in Texas” and it was published in 1853, only five years after the Mexican War and less than a decade after Texas statehood.
          It’s considered a humorous book about the roughneck society inhabiting that territory at that time and I look forward to being able to read it when its not in pieces.
          I’ve never personally focused on first editions; to me that seems like an affectation and too much of a commodification of something that I prize for its content and not its market value. Those arbitrary values, not based solely on intrinsic worth but rather on demand at some point in time can be capricious. Ask any of those people that bought a Thomas Kinkade painting as an investment.
          Besides, if you want to play in that space, you have to stick to commodities that are recognized by the widest swath of people, which almost by definition makes them fundamentally mundane. The books I collect and that interest me couldn’t ever realize that sort of irrational valuation, not because they aren’t fascinating or important, but because the demand is so low. And the demand is low because it actually takes some research effort to even know they exist.


        3. Wait…you mean that Thomas Kincade painting I have isn’t worth much?

          (Kidding…if there is one thing I would not invest in, it would be a Thomas Kincade painting. Shudder.)


  8. My skill set is definitely not hanging pictures. My wife is the interior decorator/designer. I’m the grunt. But I can cook the pants off of any food you give me. My plan for leaving my wife instructions on how to cook for herself is to paint a big red arrow on the wall that points to the bookshelf full of cookbooks I’ve used over the decades.

    Chris in O-town

    Liked by 3 people

  9. my picture hanging prowess is known far and wide. it takes me a while to visualize what goes with what and where then its time to pull out the hammer and the stepstool and away i go. my ocd kid goes nuts because i go alter level and measured distance. if you are certain never to have them line up it becomes a given that you see the groupings in the overall composition of the wall instead of the detailed perfection renee achieves. i like it. my mom asked me to come over and do her walls over after watching me assemble the third variation on an art collection in recent memory
    what am i known for? cumin in my potatoes, changing the oil and the brakes on the cars, being the dog whisperer, talking to strangers in a fun way, climbing ladders (i just about bit the big one today) scrambling, being the guy who bitches when bitching needs t be done ( i am effective) , im off to vegas next week and i get to write recreational marijuana into my expense account, part of the creative book keeping i am known for

    Liked by 2 people

  10. In my family, my sister has a near monopoly on skill sets. I can make a good piecrust from scratch, but I don’t think anyone is going to be carrying that down to the next generation. My nieces would probably go the pre-made refrigerated crust route.

    I don’t know what will happen with Thanksgiving dinner when my sister passes the baton. It might become a restaurant meal. On the other hand, it’s possible one of my nieces might buy a house and decide to take it over out of nostalgia.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. From the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook:

        1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
        1/2 tsp salt
        1/2 cup shortening
        4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
        Combine the flour and salt, cut the shortening in with a pastry blender or fork, and add the water a tablespoon at a time, forming a ball. Roll out & place in pie pan. Makes a single crust pie.

        You can use butter, lard, or shortening.


    1. My son phoned today to ask how to make a pie. He had it easy, as I mixed up dough for several crusts the last time we were there, so all he had to do was thaw the dough and roll it out. He needed some coaching on how to crimp the crust.


  11. My sister has three kids, all remarkable in his or her own way. The daughter, Mary, has a skill set I am tempted to call “awesome,” but maybe that word is used too often. Until I observed Mary doing things, I thought Martha Stewart didn’t really exist. She was just an actress hired to play a role, for nobody can do so many things so well. But Mary can. She cooks well. She runs a horse boarding ranch. She wraps gifts as well as a professional. When she dolls up her home for a party, you’d think Martha Stewart had designed the decorations.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hey Kids!
    My mom says I inherited Dad’s ability to fix things. Watch band? Wheel on her walker? Computer?
    I may not know what I’m doing, but I’m not afraid to push buttons and try stuff.
    It’s surprising how many people are afraid to ‘Just try!’ that switch or to click on something. I figure as long as you don’t hit ‘Delete’ you’re safe. That works 95% of the time. Maybe 90%…

    We’re off to DC on Monday. Kelly has a work conference out there. Daughter and I will try not to get lost and not to make each other crazy in the hotel room.
    sounds like a week of really nice weather here and I’ll be sorry to miss that.
    I’ll have an iPad and will keep up with you all.

    Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.