I had no clear understanding, of what welding was, or what it entailed until my son, Ramon, took welding in high school. More importantly I had no idea how dangerous it is…
He must take proper precautions, and wear protective equipment, such as heavy leather gloves, leather aprons, and long sleeve jacket to avoid exposure to extreme heat and flames; protective goggles and welding helmets to shield his eyes from ultraviolet light; a mask to protect him from dangerous gases and particulates and toxic fumes; ear plugs to protect his hearing and steel toe boots to protect his feet and toes!
Welders are always exposed to fire hazards and explosion because of the compressed gasses and flames used in many welding processes. And now I understand why some welders, especially the highly skilled ones, could command a six figure income… a well deserved salary, if you ask me.
When he decided to take welding as one of his electives in his senior year, my husband and I were completely surprised.
“Welding…? Arrrrrrr… you – sure…?” looking at Ramon quizzically.
My husband and I looked at each other puzzled, bewildered, and confused. We were thinking to ourselves… “How could he…? Why would he…? But he is neat and clean. He goes to school in style. He’s got expensive taste in clothes” – RoundTree & Yorke – top of the line black leather blazer, Murano pants, Oxford shirts, Vera Wang sunglasses and shoes, whose name brand I can’t remember. This was Ramon’s attire during his junior and senior year in high school. Good thing he’s our only child, otherwise, we’ll be eating ramen noodles every day. Ramon went to school looking more like a genius supermodel than up and coming welder! No wait. He looked more like one of the stars in John Woo’s movies, or maybe both! OK… you may not agree with me here, but hey! I’m his mother.
“Most of all, this boy is highly intellectual, and simply hates physical work. So why in the hell is he choosing welding?” were the thoughts we kept to ourselves. His dad was thinking “becoming a college professor because of his analytical mind and laid back attitude would be perfect. Maybe become an author and write several books.” But then before Ramon was introduced to welding, he also had a budding thought to become a surgeon.
Deep inside, my husband was relieved that Ramon foregoes the idea of becoming a surgeon. “Welding, well at least we can afford that. But going to medical school to become a surgeon? I don’t know how we’re going to afford that,” thoughts he shared with me one day. I however, my ears perked up like rabbit’s ears, upon hearing his desire to become a surgeon. I was transported into a dream like state, soaking up the idea like a sponge soaking up water. I reverted back to being a typical Asian woman – hanged up in prestige and status. I can see it now… “So, Tess, what does your son do for a living?” One of my friends would ask. And I’d reply with dignity and pride, and a hint of snobbishness… “My son is a surgeon!” I would have earned the right to be a snob like those Asian women whose children became doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other so called elite and white collar professionals. But on a second thought… I don’t think I would have been able to pull it off. I know where I come from. I came from a dirt poor family who used to live in unfinished nipa hut. Sooner or later I would have been reminded of this fact. But I would not have cared. I would have reached the pinnacle of my life – making up for all my failings…
But Ramon has always been his own man. He was his own man since he was a baby. He hated sleeping in cribs. Just when I think he was sound asleep and safe for me to lay him in the crib, he’d wake up just as soon as I take my first step away from it. He’d scream as loud as he could, to which I’d quickly pick him up out of the crib and lay him next to me. And just like that, he is back sound asleep as if he’s never awakened moments ago. Another one of his resolute moments is when he learned how to read. He pretty much forced us to teach him how to read, shoving books in our faces to read to him, over, and over, and over again. He was barely one, and couldn’t talk yet, other than “mamma… dadda…” Armed with a book, he’d force his way up into the sofa where I or Willie would be seating, relaxing watching TV. Ramon would say: “Omm, Omm…” his little finger tapping on the picture book. That means he wants me to read the book to him. He’d open the first page, and would again tap his littler finger on the picture. “el-uh-fuhnt… el-uh-fuhnt…” I’d say. “Omm… omm!” again, his finger tapping to the same image. “el-uh-fuhnt… el-uh-fuhnt…” I’d say again. I’d have to repeat these two or three times. Only when he is satisfied and felt he understood what the picture was, is when he’d tap the next picture on the page, and until we finish the whole book. There were occasions when we hid the books so he couldn’t find them. Sometimes we got tired of reading the same book over, and over, and over again. But the boy was persistent. By the time he was 3 years old and 4 months, he was able to read pages of People’s Magazine, impressed and entertained our friends during our 14 hour flight to Okinawa, Japan. He was in kindergarten barely three months when we got a call from his teacher. “We’d like both of you to come in to talk about your son, Ramon” said Ms. Williams. “Oh, oh… what our baby did now…” was our reply. “Oh no, no… no… no… it’s nothing bad. I have good news.” Ramon wrote a short story with sketches to boot, about our travel from Jacksonville, Arkansas to Okinawa, Japan. Ms. Williams was very impressed that a five year old boy could do this. She thought Ramon was highly intelligent for his age and should be jumped to first grade!
To this day, Willie firmly believes that Ramon taught himself how to read. He always knew what he wanted and settled with nothing less.
We allowed him to flourish and nurtured his individuality, and his many talents. And we think because of this, he is such a strong person, both mentally and emotionally. Very mature and responsible for his age.
Again, the questions remains… Why welding?
He has so much talent.
He could write. We saved most of his essays and stories he had written in high school. He could have been a bestselling fiction writer for all I know.
He could draw. I was in awe of his sketches. I even framed six of his charcoal and pencil drawings, four of which are hanging on our walls, and I am still waiting to find the best place to hang two beautiful portraits of a girl.
I know I am his mother. And adoring his only child’s many talents is nothing out of ordinary. But I envy him. I really do. I wish I have as much talent as he does. And I wish I have the same parents as he does. Willie feels the same way. We both come from a dysfunctional family. Only mine was worst. Ramon’s knack for creating something with his hands came from my genes, I think. (My dad was illiterate but great with his hands.) And his quick wit and ability to express himself in writing came from his Dad.
I mean he could have taken anything. And welding was so out of left field in our opinion! But he fell madly in love with welding. Ever since he took welding during his senior year… that’s all he wanted to do. He found his other classes boring. He just wanted to weld… all day, every day! Something extra ordinary happens to him when he welds. “I don’t know if this makes any sense, mom. But when I’m welding, I can shut out everything else around me. All I have is peace and serenity. And I get this laser beam like focus when I’m welding. I lost track of time. Sometimes when I come to, three hours has passed…” I remember him saying one morning as I was driving him to school.
I admire any man or woman who knows exactly what they want to do in life. And it seems that my son knows exactly what he wants to do with his life…
He found that he could very well express his talents in welding. He’s got great “hand-eye” coordination, manual dexterity, and attention to detail – a rare combination, and exceptional attributes of a great welder. Matter of fact, he’s already demonstrated and still demonstrating this in welding. He has achieved “top one” in one of the phases, and currently is on top in “high frequency – TIG welding” – that is welding on aluminum and stainless, his chosen field of specialty.
We don’t know where welding would take him. But if we know our son, welding would take him places we have never imagined. He is only 18… And sometimes I wonder where he would be 20 years from now. My heart flutters in excitement when I think about it…
I am in Tulsa with him. I have been here for several weeks now. He loves the break from cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping. And he has me for company. He is more relaxed and less stressed out, and therefore has more energy to only focus on his welding studies. Other than helping him with the much dreaded house chores, I am also here to help him with his resume, work references, and job search. His school is going to play a big part in referring him to companies who need welders, but at the same time, I am here to make sure that happens. So in just a few weeks, we’ll probably be moving to another city or state, depending on where he accepts employment.
Since I have been here with him, he welcomes anything other than cereal and granola for breakfast. He is excited to eat something different. And one of the foods I have been cooking him for breakfast is a combination of hash and scramble eggs, with shrimp, garlic and onions. This recipe was his idea. I’ve also cooked this with Italian sausage instead of shrimp.
He’s been eating this for breakfast for more than two weeks now. I don’t expect anyone to do the same. But my son is just like that. When he likes something, he’ll keep eating it for days, and sometimes weeks, and then stop. No more of the same thing. He’s ready for something new.
This stuff is hearty, with plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates. Maybe that’s why he likes it. This supplies most of the calories and nutrients he needs in order to keep up with the physical and mental exertion when welding.
I like it too, because it’s simple and fast to make. I can usually have this cooked and served in 25 minutes, and that’s pretty fast for me considering how slow I am in the kitchen.
Shrimp Hash Scramble
(This serves one, maybe two at most. So if you are cooking for a family of two, please adjust the recipe accordingly.)
1 medium size potato – peeled, cubed, and precooked
1/3 medium onion – diced
3 large garlic cloves – peeled and sliced
10 medium size shrimp – peeled and deveined, cut in halves – crosswise
2 large eggs, well beaten
2 – 3 TBSPs. extra light olive oil
½ tsp. kosher salt – divided
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne (optional)
Fill up a small sauce pan, half full, with tap water. Add one teaspoon kosher salt and bring it to a boil over medium high heat.
Peel, wash and dice the potato into ¾ inches cubes. Add potatoes to boiling water. Boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove and strain.
(While potatoes are boiling, I peel and chop the garlic and onions. Slice each shrimp into three pieces.)
Heat a large nonstick skillet and add 2 tablespoons extra light olive oil.
Add potatoes into the hot skillet and fry until golden crispy on both sides. This would take about 3 minutes on each side.
Push the potatoes to the side and sauté garlic and onions, until onions are translucent and garlic light golden brown. Again, push these to the side next to the potatoes.
Add the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until cooked about 2 minutes on each side. Stir to combine with potatoes and sautéed onions and garlic. Sprinkle ½ tsp. of the kosher salt over the potatoes and a pinch of cayenne if using.
Scramble the eggs and season with the remaining ¼ tsp. salt, black pepper and cayenne. Pour eggs over potatoes and shrimp mixture. Cook one side and then flip the other side.
with Italian sausage
Variation: If using Italian sausage instead of shrimp. Use one link sausage and removed its casing. Crumble the sausage and cook in a separate skillet. Pour excess oil and keep the sausage warm in the skillet, until ready to be added in place of shrimp.
Another dish that Ramon requested I cook for him was spaghetti with meat sauce. So for several days last week, he ate nothing but spaghetti with this sauce, and with toasted Italian bread. Again, this is an easy recipe, yet very good.
I made this sauce spicy as in most foods I cook. So if you’re not into spicy foods, just buy the non-spicy sauce. To save time, I buy pasta sauces made by Classico which I love. It’s a bit pricier than other brands, but I think it’s worth it.
Oh, remember to get these too:
2 boxes of spaghetti noodles or other pastas you like (I like the Ronzoni Healthy Harvest 7 grain pasta)
Italian Bread or French Bread
Parmesan Cheese (optional)
Spicy Spaghetti Meat Sauce
(This serves least 4 – 6 people. So you might want to cut the recipe in half if there are not that many people eating.)
5 tablespoons extra light olive oil – divided
2 pounds ground beef (I use 85% lean)
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic – smashed, peeled and chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 – 8 ounce jar mushrooms (pieces and stems) – drained
1½ tsps. coarse celtic sea salt (use less if using other type of salt)
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
¼ tsp. ground Thai hot peppers (optional)
2 – 24 ounce Jars Classico Spicy Tomato & Basil sauce OR any pasta sauce you like
½ cup green olives – chopped (optional – to be added just minutes before serving the sauce.)
In a deep stew pan or large nonstick deep skillet (with cover), brown ground beef in two tablespoons olive oil. Remove and strain. Wipe the skillet and place back on the stove over medium heat.
Add the remaining three tablespoons olive oil and sauté the garlic and onions. Add the strained ground beef. Stir and add the green bell pepper.
Stir until the green bell pepper turns bright green. Add mushrooms, oregano, bay leaf (laurel), sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and ground hot pepper.
Stir and allow the whole mixture to blend for about five minutes.
Add Classico Spicy Tomato & Basil sauce. Stir to fully combine the meat and the sauce. Cover and let the sauce comes to a boil over medium heat. Turn the heat down and simmer sauce for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so sauce won’t stick at the bottom of the pan. Add the chopped olives, if you’re using it. Stir and serve over spaghetti noodles or other pasta you like. Topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Cook spaghetti noodles as directed on the package. (I add about 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the boiling water, to keep the noodles from clumping together.)
Toasted Italian or French bread
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Slice the bread into one inch thick slices. Line bread slices in a heavy duty
baking sheet. Toast for 8 – 10 minutes.
Serve on the side with the spaghetti noodles and sauce.
NOTE: Ramon likes his bread garlicky. So I peel a large clove of garlic and cut about 1/3 off from the bottom. Once the bread slices are toasted, and while still hot, I rub garlic on the cut sides of the bread.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking!