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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Labor Day Project Torment

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

The exact "founder" of Labor Day is under some dispute, but most accounts agree that the original idea was conceived by a labor union tradesman. (There are two competing candidates for this honor, but both were active in labor unions.) It is ironic that today unions are under repeated legislative attacks, but it is the unions who drove improvement in the lives of working people in the early years of this country. I think of those early unionists as heroes, who unified their fellow employees to negotiate shorter work weeks, better and safer working conditions, and other fair work rules that still benefit us today.

Most us view Labor Day as the official "end of the summer" three day weekend, with families planning time on the water, at the shack, or traveling; some use it as a family gathering day for good food and probably some speculation on what the Packer season will look like.

But my attention was captured recently by another "proposal" for a way to spend your holiday weekend. The big home improvement stores think you and your agreeable spouse should tackle a home improvement project " specifically, an interior painting project.

I love painting. It is one of those tasks that can make a big difference in the appearance of your home, a place we spend so much time. It is effort that results in a positive improvement for a long time " unlike doing dishes, cleaning or laundry, where you complete the task knowing you will be doing it again very soon. When I do a major painting project I admire it several times a day for weeks " getting satisfaction out of it each time.

But the home improvement store's ideas for this painting project are astonishingly complex. In watching their TV and on-line ads, they show a lovely, if neutral, living room, and then an attractive and well-dressed couple putting masking tape lines everywhere on the walls. Clearly, they are having a wonderful time and enjoying this project very much. Next comes two contrasting colors of bright paint " "verdant green," perhaps, and a shade called "sunset orange." The couple paints attired in their nice clothing and neither one of them seems to have any drips on their pants or daubs on their face. Then they sit back, in their tidy room, with its new gaudy wall and look smug. I think it looks hideous.

Another ad shows a nice stairway in neutral tan and white "before," followed by six or seven rolls of masking tape application by another ambitious couple who apparently don't enjoy outdoor activities on Labor Day. Afterwards? "Wow" there are now purple zig-zags painted up the stairway treds. Again, they admire their work with a couple of charming toddlers extremely excited about the stair paint job. My question is what prompts the thought behind all of this labor? Have I ever looked at a stairway and thought, "this is just so boring. I wonder what it would look like with purple zig-zags? Well, since I have three whole days to spend and can't think of anything else of interest to do, let's find out!"

I had a good look at a project like this because when we bought our home in Oklahoma someone had done a lot of custom painting. Most of it was very attractive, if not to my taste. But one of the first rooms I always showed people touring our new home was our half-bath. Someone had laboriously masking taped and painted vertical stripes in the small room, stripes about 2 inches wide. It was in alternating colors of dark brick red and intense harvest gold. The effect was dizzying, and weird. I don't know why anyone would go to such efforts for such a paint job, when you can buy wallpaper just as ugly, which would be much simpler. I can tell you it took four coats of primer to beat this nasty striping job into submission to be repainted.

I could go on and on about how I look during my painting jobs " paint all over me, including my hair; and paint on the dog and one of the cats who just can't stop coming to see what I am doing, dragging their tails along the wet wall in the process. The final product features only one boring color and a noticeable lack of zig-zags or stripes. If I told my husband my idea for the Labor Day weekend was to spend it with him having a blast painting two different colors on a wall using a few rolls of masking tape, he'd think I had totally lost my mind!

But this Labor Day weekend I won't be inside painting " I'll be visiting family and friends, and enjoying myself. I wish all of you a safe holiday, however you choose to spend it, but do take time to remember those who inspired this day. And I thank all of those who will be laboring on this Labor Day to take care of our needs " you are appreciated in a special way.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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