A day in the life

Last week one of the students in my class at Marc Adams asked what a typical day was like in my world. I had to say there was no such thing; the days are all different, depending on the work at hand. The only time my workdays have a high degree of sameness and I can work with virtually no interruption is when I’m installing built-ins out of town or teaching. In both cases I spend the whole day doing the same thing (installation or teaching) and return home after the trip to find a mountain of backlogged correspondence and paperwork on a desk littered with cat hair.

But since you asked, Tyler, here’s what today looked like. If the rest of you think “a day in the life” is an exercise in navel gazing, please delete this post forthwith.


6 a.m. Dear Mark brings coffee to bed and we wake up together. (OK, yes, he was already awake. That’s how the coffee “got made.” Sometimes I love that passive voice. It makes everything seem just magical. Did I mention that Mark is a saint [most of the time; I, of course, am saintly all of the time — not]. He also fed Joey and fed Lizzie, our elderly cat, her first breakfast*.)

7 a.m. Check email and respond; read posts on Rude Mechanicals Press and Finn Koefoed-Nielsen’s blog (both highly recommended). Feed Lizzie her second breakfast.*

8-9:30 Rip door frame stock for the current kitchen job and start cutting rails & stiles to length

9:30 Drive into Bloomington with Voysey two heart chair leg template for scheduled meeting

10 a.m.** Meet with graphic designer to discuss how best to transfer mortise positions and other details from my chair leg template to her PDF so readers can get their own paper templates through my website. This is related to the book on English Arts & Crafts furniture that’s coming out in, like, a week. Last week Steph was on vacation and I was teaching, so this was the first chance we’ve had.

10:22 Stop by a recent client’s house to drop off the pair of Stewart Huff c.d.s she loaned me. (Highly recommended for his spot-on cultural criticism, provided you can stomach his expletive-laden irreverent humor.) Drive back to home/office/shop.

11 a.m. Conference call to discuss (in exquisite detail) plans for four-day shoot of kitchen cabinet building video in Iowa this August

12:30 p.m. Lunch. Check the obituaries and letters to the editor in the local paper, look at Instagram. Feed cat lunch.*

1 p.m. Check a few dimensions on my original Voysey chair template, because the graphic designer needs them, and send her the revised information.

1:22 Call David Keller with inquiry about his jig (related to cabinet building video). Leave message. Feed Lizzie her second lunch.*

1:25 Return call from potential kitchen client who left a voicemail message yesterday. Because she seems serious, knowledgeable, and our schedules have potential to mesh, I listen to her thoughts and respond with my own, then set up a meeting for next week.

2 p.m. Resume door making for the current job

3 p.m. to 3:07 Make a cup of tea. Feed Lizzie again.* (Note: A 7-minute break)

3:24 Answer my husband’s phone call (because husband). He wants to discuss the potential kitchen job; the woman who’d called me asked her husband to contact him about his availability to figure up a quote, because I told her that I rarely work with other contractors any longer and tell her that Mark is an excellent carpenter/general contractor who, along with his crew, is adept at installing my unconventional built-ins. Discuss how packed his schedule is already, apologize, etc.

3:30 Resume mortising and move on to tenons

5:45 Stop to visit with my wonderful former employee Daniel, who has come by to pick up my old radial arm saw on his way home from a week’s class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

Daniel and Nancy May 25 2018

We really were not intending to push La Croix sparkling water or Crucible Tool Works products, but in both cases, I would be proud to have people think that was my intention.

Because it’s Friday, I decide not to cut, haunch, and fit the remaining 54 tenons for the doors after Daniel leaves but to make a run to the liquor store for vodka instead.

7 p.m. Feed Lizzie her second dinner.* (Mark gave her the first.) Sit down at desk to write with Lizzie lying on a pile of paperwork next to the keyboard, farting. (That’s Lizzie farting, OK? Just to get that straight.)

Lizzie on my desk

Don’t judge. This is how I work.

8 p.m. Make a martini. The cat is still farting next to me. Now on to another bit of writing.

*I have no idea how old she is. I adopted her from the local shelter in 2004. She was already mature and had clearly been well cared for. Translation: spoiled. She knew about half and half, canned food, and came to my notice when she batted the bowl of dry “food” provided by the shelter attendant to the floor, a look of disgust on her face. The vet diagnosed her with a thyroid problem last fall. I started giving her the meds for that. If you’ve tried to give a cat oral medication, you know what that’s like. They basically say “F you, a**hole” even though you’re trying to help them. So in the end I decided her quality of life was more important than maxing the length thereof. She is skin and bones but pretty darn happy. 99% deaf and about 50% blind, she spends her days sleeping, eating, and snuggling with us, occasionally venturing outside to explore the area between the back door and the front.

**Yes, it does take half an hour these days — and that’s if we’re lucky — thanks to “improvements” made to the route in the past 20 years; it used to take 10 minutes. #progress

One response to “A day in the life

  1. ❣️❣️❣️ Your tally of your day made my day.

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