All posts by PamBurke

Starting Out

The Model
The Model

‘Hurry, you don’t want to be late!’ I told myself as I pulled into the parking lot for the Las Vegas Convention Center. We had been told to park in the back, and come in through the doors where the staging and equipment were delivered. There were nine of us plus our dresser and a hair and makeup artist. We would be modeling for a booth at the International Congress of Shopping Centers for the next three days, but we needed to get to the booth and set before the show opened.

It felt strange to me to be showing up with no makeup on. I rarely left the house without at least some makeup on my face. I had been told several times by Judi Moreo, the owner of the agency that I worked for that you should always leave the house as though you were going to meet someone important. There was no telling who you might run into and they could very well be someone interested in hiring you. Sandy, who was doing our hair and makeup, had asked me to come with hot rollers in my hair. I felt very unkempt and unready to be on stage when I first arrived at the convention center.

Quickly, Sandy applied our makeup and styled our hair. Judi dressed us in our first costume change and determined which group of girls would be on stage first. We would be performing as mannequins all day, and she was planning a number of rotations so that everyone would have time to rest. We would be on our platform for about twenty minutes at a time.

After my hair and makeup was complete, I felt much more like the model that I had been hired to be. It can be a lot of fun to work shows like this, but it is also a great deal of work. Unfortunately, it is not very steady.

The people running the booth were so nice to us. They had food stations set up for the convention attendees and so they fed us as well. We were asked to stay out of sight as much as possible when we were not on stage so as not to dispel the illusion that we were mannequins, but they certainly did not mind if we took plates back into our dressing room. I remember “made to order” omelets and bacon, nice sandwiches at lunch and King Crab legs around 3:00 in the afternoon when they began to serve cocktails to the attendees. I didn’t get to see much of the actual convention, but the booth was a great place to be so I didn’t mind not having the opportunity to check out the rest of the show.

Judi had brought in some male dancers to act as the stage hands that would move us into position. They knew how to lift and talked to us about how to move to help them. One at a time, we would step onto the dolly and be wheeled out to the stage. The men would position us and we would stay in that position until they came back to load us back onto the dolly. We would do our best while we were on stage to barely blink or move. It was great fun to watch people come up to us and try to figure out if we were real or not!

Some people would stand close to us and tell jokes or stories to try to get us to move or to laugh. We would joke about it when we were in the dressing room and enjoy the jokes then. All of us were very proud of our ability to stand perfectly still and appear to be dolls.

Modeling was a great experience for me and taught me a lot about myself. Some of it rang true while I was modeling and some of it has become clear over time. When I was young, I didn’t have the self confidence that I now possess. I was not comfortable in my own skin, and was constantly looking for the flaws and faults. It can be very difficult to maintain a good self image while working as a model, because you constantly feel that you are being compared to others. When someone else is picked and you are not, it can be very difficult not to take it personally or to realize that perhaps they were looking for a specific type. It is important to realize that not being hired is not a reflection on you or how you look. It’s just a matter of the client’s personal preference.

It might seem like a long way between modeling and maintenance and repair, but the journey did not seem to be that long to me. Modeling is sporadic employment, and I needed something more consistent. I worked in retail for a while, and then in offices. I wanted to make more than minimum wage, but thought that it would be difficult to go to college as I now had a toddler at home.

Then, an opportunity to test for an apprenticeship with the Operating Engineers became available. I knew they performed maintenance in casinos, hotels, hospitals, and other large facilities and they had good benefits and made a healthy wage. I took a day off from work so that I could test.

The test covered reading comprehension, math and mechanical comprehension. All of the phases were timed. There were quite a few people taking the test and we were told there would only be a few openings over the next two years. At the end of the two years, a new test would be administered. If we had not been placed, we would be welcome to re-test at that time.

I received a call later that week from the apprenticeship coordinator. I had scored well enough to be placed before the end of the year. He gave me a choice, and allowed me to decide if I wanted to serve my apprenticeship in a casino/hotel or at a hospital. After some discussion about the differences, I made the decision to wait until there was a casino opening.  The casino where I would be placed had more differing types of equipment and I could get a better on-the-job education.   There was one drawback to that choice, however. I would start school before I started working in the trade. I determined I would be able to do that, and looked forward to the opportunity.

When school started, I was working in administration at the Frontier Casino and Hotel. I was the administrative assistant for a manager of both the Bus Program and the new Player Rewards Club program. On school days, I would leave promptly at 4:00 p.m. to be on time for my 5:00 pm class. I was very excited to be learning a new trade and was looking forward to being placed at a property.

It quickly became apparent that the other apprentices had never seen anyone like me in trade school. I often wore a dress for my office job, and so would show up to school in a dress, heels and with my hair and makeup done when everyone else was in work boots and a uniform. I was one of only two women in the class. The other woman was working in the trade and had been a slot technician prior to becoming an apprentice.  She came to school like everyone else, in her uniform.   I certainly didn’t fit in!

I was determined to do well, though.  In spite of some critics and opposition, I made up my mind I was going to be good at this.  I applied myself, even though it was often very challenging for me.  My first year was electrical, and in addition to the hands-on work, we were required to pass a county test on the National Electrical Code for journeyman status at the end of two semesters.  If we didn’t pass the certification exam, we would not be allowed to continue school the next semester.

After about six weeks, I was finally placed.  I would not receive my uniform until I had started, but I was supposed to show up to the job ready to go to work.  That meant work clothes, work boots and some tools.  I could wear jeans and a flannel shirt, but needed work boots and some tools.  It was time to go shopping!

I thought to start with what I supposed would be the simplest part, work boots.  While I was in high school, I had worked at Sears.  I knew that they carried work boots, so I thought it would be a good place to start.  I went to the shoe department and began looking at boots.  The salesman came over to see if he could help me.  I told him that I was looking for a pair of work boots, but they needed to fit a woman with a size six shoe.  He started laughing, and then called another salesman over to tell him about it.  The second salesman began laughing too, and they told me that they did not carry “little boys” boots that would fit my feet.  They clearly didn’t think that I should be shopping for boots at all!

I tried several other stores at the mall, with similar results and no luck finding boots.  Finally, I decided to try Red Wing.  I knew that my father purchased his work boots there, so I hoped that they would be able to help me.  I had much better luck there.  They had boots in my size.  They were very proud of the fact they had four styles of women’s boots!  There were actually only two styles, but both came in a low top and a high top style.  I purchased a pair of high top boots and at least I now had the proper attire.

Tools turned out to be the easy part.  I had a list that had been provided by the apprenticeship, and it was easy to fill that at Sears.  I purchased a tool pouch to carry them in and then the list of minimum recommended tools.  I was ready for my first day of work!

I knew that it would be challenging, but I thought the hardest part would be the physical aspect of the work.  I was greatly mistaken!  I would have to grow as a person while I grew in the trade!

Before I continue the story, I would like to take some time to familiarize you with tools.  The next chapter will cover some basic tools that you will want to own.  The tool list that I started with was much more extensive, but this is an excellent start for you if you have never accumulated any tools.  Let’s get started!


Shedding A Little Light

    A diva is always looking for ways to better their personal environment while still watching the budget.  Here are a few tips and tools to do just that!  Most are relatively simple and quick, so let’s get started!

 By now you have probably heard that you can save some money on your utility bills just by changing out some light bulbs.  But you are still a little skeptical.  Just how much money could I save, you wonder.  So I am going to provide you with the formula, and a way to see how quickly the investment in compact fluorescent bulbs can pay off for you.

Say you have a typical 4 light fixture in the bathroom.  We will assume that you have four 60W bulbs in the fixture.  The following calculation can show you just how much these bulbs are costing you for every hour that they are burning.

Cost per Kilowatt-Hour  x Wattage of Appliance / 1000 x Hours Appliance is Running

Cost per Kilowatt-Hour (according to my bill)       $.1129

4 60W Bulbs                                                                        2400W

Divided by 1000 (Kilowatt is 1000 watts)                 0.2709

Multiplied by the Hours it is running or on            4

Cost per Kilowatt-Hour multiplied by wattage divided by 1000 multiplied by the hours it is on = cost per hour.

Electricity is billed by the power company based on kilowatt hours.  Simply multiply the cost per kilowatt- hour by the wattage of the appliance.  My utility company bills at .1129 cents per kilowatt hour.  Then divide by 1000 to convert it to watts, since is a kilowatt is 1000 watts.  Multiply that by the hours that the appliance is running.  The cost for those four 60W incandescent bulbs in one hour is $0.27.  Let’s say that you turn that light on for 4 hours per day. (It is in the bathroom, after all.)  Multiply the cost per hour by 4.  Your daily cost is now $1.08.

$1.08 doesn’t sound like that much money, does it?  Now let’s figure out how much you spend in an average month.  We will use 30 for the number of days in the month, although some have more , some have less, and some months have 30.  Multiply the cost for the four hours by 30 days, and the cost has just gone up to $32.52.  All for only 4 light bulbs that you only turn on for 4 hours per day.

Now let’s see how much we can save by replacing those 4 incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lights.  The fluorescent lights will be just as bright but use less electricity, so they will use fewer watts.  Watts is simply a unit of measure for electricity consumption or use.

Cost per Kilowatt-Hour (according to my bill)    $.1129

4 14W Bulbs                                                                        56W

Divided by 1000 (Kilowatt is 1000 watts)                 0.00632

Multiplied by the Hours it is running or on            4

Now, those four bulbs are costing you less than $0.03 per day.  The cost per day for the same 4 hours is now $0.025 and the cost for a month is $0.76.  You have just saved $31.76 per month on your utility costs!

But, you tell me, compact fluorescents cost so much more than incandescent!  So what is the real savings?

These bulbs cost $11.97 for the pack, and you will need two packs for a four light fixture. 8ff90330-ae05-4d6d-992a-8bc81097fedd_145

The incandescent bulbs cost $4.97 for the pack, and you will need two packs for a four light fixture.  So the cost difference between the bulbs is $7.00 per pack.  In the first month your savings drop to $30.39 per month, but they go back up to $37.39 for each month that the bulbs last.  The incandescent light bulbs will last for approximately 3,000 hours or 2 years.  The compact fluorescent bulbs will last for approximately 7 years.  05436614-f827-4074-99d9-f80a0d607e81_145

In one year, with just changing the bulbs, your energy consumption just decreased $386.37!  Over the course of seven years, you will have saved $2,704.60!  Wow! Just by changing some light bulbs!


Being A Diva

  Being a Diva is not just about the physical.  While it is important to present the image you choose to the world, presentation goes beyond the physical.  It is vital to have emotional content in everything that you participate in. Emotional content is not the same as drama.  Heart, courage, intensity, kindness, joy and compassion are all key elements to a successful approach.

     Proper focus and emotional content bring power to your presentations, your approach and your life!

     So how do you accomplish that?  Approach situations with a spirit of cooperation and collaboration.  All great performers benefit from an amazing supporting cast.  It makes sense to help your supporting cast have an amazing performance so that you can shine all the brighter!  Helping others results in a much more fulfilling experience and life.

     Always remember that your supporting cast are stars in their own right (and in their life).


On our workshops


Workshops for Divas-in-Training

Pam Burke brings a unique background of experience to your home repairs. A former fashion model, Pam successfully completed the Operating and Maintenance Engineers Joint Apprenticeship program. From there she went on to achieve many professional licenses and distinctions including: Journeyman Electrician, Journey-man Plumber, EPA Refrigeration Technician, Certified Bonded Locksmith, Plumbing and Heating Contractor’s License, OSHA Construction Outreach Trainer, and Building Energy and Sustainability Technician Certification. In addition Pam has taught classes in technical areas for private and public schools including College of Southern Nevada. The Diva has served on many boards including the Clark County Planning Commission. She now focuses her philanthropy efforts on the Home Repair Diva Foundation, a non-profit foundation that assists parents in providing a safe and caring home for their families.


Tools- Don’t Be Intimidated

On the Level

Clear the Air  – Filters, etc.

Stopping the Hogs – A Quick Energy Audit

Easy Electrical Fixes

Simple Plumbing Projects

A Great Approach  – Landscaping for Divas

It’s All About the Prep  – Painting Tips for Beginners

Our workshop series gives you a basic understanding of simple skills you can use around the house to complete household repairs and save money.

Each workshop is approximately one hour in length. At the completion of the series you will be awarded with a Certificate of Completion.




A straight flush



Do you have one of those toilets that just doesn’t want to flush?  You flip the handle and nothing happens.  You try it a few more times with the same result, and then you either give up and take the lid off the toilet to see what is the matter or you call the plumber.  It can all be very frustrating.

But you don’t need to get flustered.  It may be something very simple, such as a broken flush lever.  This is a very simple fix.  We are going to discuss how to diagnose it and how to fix it.  It can be your first simple plumbing project.

First, let’s take a look at the toilet.  The flush handle is usually on the right (if you are sitting on the seat) since most people are right-handed.  On the toilet pictured below, the handle is white.  When activated, it moves but nothing happens.  In order to discover the problem, you will need to remove the tank lid.  It should just lift off.  Set it to the side where the porcelain will not get dropped and broken.




Now that the lid is off, you can see the lever.  It attaches to the flapper at the bottom of the tank.  Lifting the flapper upward allows water to flow out of the tank and into the bowl, flushing the contents of the bowl down the drain.  The flapper is the red and black object located under the lever.  It usually attaches to the lever with an adjustable chain.

The lever is held in place with a nut that screws onto the back of the handle assembly.  This picture shows the nut on the inside of the tank.


In this picture, you will see that the lever is cracked, so that when the handle is operated the lever just flops around and does not lift the flapper.  The handle and lever will need to be replaced.

This is another picture illustrating the break.


This is the new lever that we are going to install.  New levers are inexpensive, generally less than $20.00.  This will be a simple and inexpensive repair.

This shows a pair of “426” Channel lock adjustable pliers.  This pair has seen some use but will certainly get the job done.

Since the lid is already off, you will have access to the lever and the nut.  Disconnect the flapper from the lever.  Using your pliers, grasp the nut that is holding the lever to the tank.  Rotate the pliers clockwise, turning the nut to remove it.  After the nut has been removed, the lever will slip through the face of the tank. You will pull the handle toward you.  It may be necessary to rotate the lever a little to remove it.

This is the lever and nut that have been removed.

Now you can take the new lever and slip it into position.  Hold the handle at the angle that you would like to have it sit.  Tighten the nut, turning counter-clockwise this time.  Another way to think of the direction that you will turn the nut is that right turns tighten and left turns loosen.  The nut is only plastic, so be careful not to over tighten it.

The next step is to re-attach the chain to the lever.  This chain has a hook on it that makes it easy to slip into the notches provided on the lever.  Test the handle to make sure that when it is operated, the lever lifts the flapper, letting the water into the bowl.  After the water is out of tank, the flapper should fall back into place, sealing the tank and allowing the tank to fill again.



The handle has now been repaired.  All that remains is to replace the lid, and your project is complete!  Now, wasn’t that simple?



Time for a little pruning

So now that we have a plan and a budget, it is finally time to get started. So, first I will use my weed trimmer/edger to clean up the edges of the grass.  I will also use it to mark an edge where I want my retaining wall to be placed.  This allows me to see some immediate progress.  Seeing progress as you go will help to keep you interested in the project.


This is a progress picture before I began trimming but after I had edged and swept the sidewalk.  Again, if you break the project down into short components, not only will it help you stay on track but you will see progress without feeling overwhelmed. I always like to clean up as I go, so that if I need to stop or am interrupted, I feel better about leaving the project.

Time for a little pruning and shaping.  I have a vision in my mind of the outcome, so I will work at putting that into practice.  If this is your first pruning, it may take you a little while to decide your desired result.  Have a clear vision of what you plan to accomplish with the pruning.  That will help you to stay on track with the shape.


This is the beginning of my pruning process.  I began by using my sawsall to cut some of the larger branches off of the bottom, working up a little distance on the trunk.  I want to give the grass under the tree a better opportunity to thrive.  Note the sawsall, a few branches already on the ground, and the trash bag.  As I said before, I like to clean up as I proceed.  It really helps to keep the project manageable if I break it down into components.

The bottom of the tree has been trimmed up, and notice the difference just that little bit of trimming made to the front of the house.  You can actually see the front door now!

This is now the shape of the tree from the garage side of the house.  It has a better shape.  There is still a small section at the top that needs to be trimmed.  It has died, but I need another tool to reach that piece.  One of the tools that I used for this portion was a hedge trimmer.


The tree has been shaped and with one small exception (which is the area that I was unable to reach with my 8 ft. ladder) it is ready for some lights.  We are going to be doing the lights later, but we can move on to the next step.  Trimming and shaping this tree has made a difference in the front.  It is now possible to see the door and the shrub that is nearest the door!  We can see progress and all of the trimmings have been bagged up for disposal.

The next step will be to begin building the retaining wall to add a little visual interest and separate the grass from the rock a little more distinctly.