My email box is overflowing with COVID-19 updates, resources, responses and even cures.  Sigh. How the world has shifted. Still, I know like I know that while this pandemic is in many ways the worst of times, it will also usher in the best of times.  

Communities will bond together, virtually.  Families will find each other. First responders and essential workers (like our crews at ZOOM DRAIN) will respond…and do their part to keep us healthy and fed and warm and sheltered.  Everyday workers will elevate to crisis time heroes. 

My job is to help our team go to work.  To help them – and our communities – stay safe and sound as we navigate this brutal outbreak.  And there are decisions to be made. 

Which brings me to the first of three things I’ve learned (or remembered) in the last three days… see video above!  

xo$ Ellen


I wrote this love letter to tradespeople nearly 20 years ago.  Over the last few weeks, I have fallen even deeper in love with the men and women who work the front lines as drain cleaners, plumbers, septic pros, electricians, HVAC techs and all those who serve and protect us.  As the COVID-19 virus spreads, most of us have had to stay in. They go out. Thank you for your service. 

First appeared in Plumbing & Mechanical Magazine…. July 2001

Have I Told You Lately? 

I adore a man who can work with his hands.  I admire a woman who knows how to handle a channel locks.  I appreciate a well laid-out mechanical room. I’m a huge fan of trades people.

 Trades people are more in touch with the truth than other people.  They are a no-nonsense group. They know that the electrical current is there, or it’s not.  The burner fires up, or it doesn’t. It’s plumb, or it’s out of plumb. Trades people have remarkable “baloney” detectors.  They identify quality by performance. They know that actions, not words, are the true measure of a person. Trades people understand the material universe and the way things work.  That understanding is becoming increasingly rare. 

Dear trades people, dear craftsmen and craftswomen of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling-Electrical industries, do you have any idea how amazing you are? 

Have I told you lately that I’m grateful?  Have I told you lately that I love you? 

All hail the Electricians! 

Dear Electricians, you are Lightning Wranglers!  You channel raw energy into orderly lines of controlled power, from just enough to energize a night light to more than enough to illuminate New York City.  The Internet is an amazing feat of technology, and it’s driven by electricity. Even the wireless world is sparked by finely tuned connecting dots of electricity.  Electricians routinely handle enough power to blast a man into outer space, or into the next life, and deliver it in just-right doses.

Three cheers for the Heating and Cooling Professionals.  

My friends, you create weather!  You deliver cool breezes inside when the temperatures soar outside.  You keep folks roasty-toasty in the winter. You screen the air to remove dust and pollen to keep us from sneezing.  Too much moisture in the air? Not enough? You can fix that!  

And hurray for the Plumbing and Drain & Sewer Pros! 

Consider our collective daily contributions to the plumbing system.  Where does it all go? Plumbers and Drain & Sewer Pros make it disappear!  Like magic. Isn’t that incredible?

I’m especially fond of Plumbers.  Dear Plumbers, you are heroes. And not just for clearing the inevitably clogged pipes on the day after Thanksgiving.  In the aftermath of a natural or manmade disaster, what is the number one necessity? Water. Water to drink. Water to wash away the threat of disease.  After an earthquake, tornado or even after a flood, you restore the water and waste systems.

Remember the nuclear power disaster in Chernobyl?  It may be the closest our world has come to a full nuclear meltdown.  In a meltdown, the radioactive reaction continues unchecked until, scientists suppose, the core of the reactor will melt through the earth.  (Hence, the expression, “The China Syndrome.”) Who saved the Chernobyl disaster from destroying even more of the world? The Plumbers. Plumbers in full scuba gear swam through radioactive waste to find and open the water valves that flooded and cooled the reactor.

I’m so fond of Plumbers that I married one!  Hot Rod, like most plumbers, has common sense and a clear concept of right and wrong.   I find these traits very attractive.

The Plumbers hand it off to the Drain Cleaners.  They handle septage, which is dangerous stuff. Chock full of more diseases than doctors could ever cure.  And they move it along, using crazy cool equipment for clearing, jetting and managing the drain lines. 

Ultimately, they hand it off to the Septic Scions and Waste Eliminators.  Isn’t it amazing how they can incorporate the nastiest waste into our earth in friendly, fertile ways?  They finish the water cycle and turn bad water into good again, using the filter of Mother Earth. They turn wine into water.  Isn’t that a miracle? 

Close your eyes for a moment.  Picture the city in which you live.  See it in your mind’s eye. Now, strip away the walls and floors and furniture.  Take away everything except the complex network of plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical systems.  Picture the lines and pipes and wires and pumps and various components of these systems, like the circulatory system and nervous system of our society.  Orderly lines, coming and going, offering incredibly accurate delivery of power, water and weather. How well it all works! If not for them, we would be wallowing around in muck, in the dark, and struggling to keep warm.  Thank goodness for the professionals of the PHCE trades!

Alas.  Trades people have demonstrated their skills so deftly and with such ease that their accomplishments are grossly undervalued.  In first world societies, most people consider indoor plumbing, heating and electrical services as their God-given, Constitution-protected rights.  Trades people themselves undervalue their contributions, mistakenly believing that because these skills come easily to them, they are not worth very much.  How many times I have heard someone introduce himself as, “just a plumber!”

“Just a plumber?”  It’s like saying, “I’m just an astronaut” or “I’m just a miracle worker.”  I’m in awe of the skills and talents you possess. I’m dazzled by the good work that you perform.  How few people can do what you can do! That’s why I am such a pest when it comes to your selling prices! 

What will it take to elevate trades people to the level of success enjoyed by other professionals?  Mark Victor Hansen says you can raise your rates as often as you raise your self-esteem. How can we raise the self-esteem of this entire industry?  By recognizing and honoring the people in it, for who they are and what they do. 

Assignment for the PHCE Professional: 

Have you told yourself…

…how wonderful you are?  Start keeping a journal. Write down your goals and dreams.  Jot down stories about yourself, your family and your co-workers.  Make a list of things for which you are grateful. Keep a list of things you want to do and places you want to go.

Document your jobs.  Keep a running commentary on particularly challenging projects.  Describe your trouble shooting techniques. Draw pictures of your great inventions.  Take the journal with you to classes and record the most interesting and useful pieces of information.

And every now and then, flip back to the beginning page of your journal and read forward.  You will be amazed at how much you’ve learned and accomplished. It’s easy to lose sight of accomplishments when you are focused on how much there is still to do.  As you look back, acknowledge yourself for what you have achieved. Tell yourself you love you.

Have you told them lately?

Chances are you are working with other professionals in your industry…apprentices, jour