Designing the perfect car cupholder, creating a new cut of meat, telepathically speaking to animals, working with celebrities–all in a days work for these extraordinary FOFs! Read on to find out some of the wackiest careers we’ve come across, and find out what a day in the life is like for these women who strayed from the typical 9-5.
Kari Underly – Illinois
Kari Underly comes from a bloodline of…meat. Both her grandparents, as well as her father, were butchers. In fact, it was Kari’s dad who first exposed her to the business. “My first paid job was one my dad told me about at the meat department of the local grocery store,” says Kari. “I was really excited, until I showed up and found out my job was cleaning up after the meat production was done for the day. I worked hard and moved up the ranks to the corporate level.”
Kari applied to Martin’s Super Markets meat cutting apprenticeship program. After being denied three times, Kari was finally accepted and trained for three years. She eventually became the meat and seafood merchandiser at Martin’s.”I’ve always worked mostly with men,” says Kari, “and at every level there was a bit of having to prove myself.”
Kari earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in 1992. She worked pricing, buying and marketing meat for various companies. In 2002, she founded Range Inc.–a company dedicated to research and education of meat cutting and merchandising. The company partners and works with farmers, commodity boards, grocery stores executives, chefs, butchers, and consumers on a variety of projects. Through Range Inc., Kari has even worked to develop new cuts of meat. “Many consumers are familiar with the Flat Iron steak, Denver Cut, Ribeye Cap, and Ribeye Filet,” says Kari. “Range actually helped to develop and market these cuts…by teaching consumers how to cut and best prepare them at home.”
Kari published her first book, “The Art of Beef Cutting,” in August of 2011, which was nominated for the prestigious James Beard Award. “People kept asking me if I had a book or manual. I began documenting, hired a photographer and started cutting. It’s a great tool, especially for the person who has mastered the grill and wants to experiment with at-home meat cutting.”
Dr. Emily Blake – New York
Dr. Emily Blake was working as an OB/GYN when she began to feel she wasn’t being given enough time to perform one of her very important job responsibilities. “I was doing a number of circumcisions, and there was a lot of pressure to see patients quickly. It was very frustrating to me as a physician,” says Emily. “At the same time, my Judaism was becoming more and more important to me.”
Emily became a certified Mohel in 1990 –someone of the Jewish faith who is trained in the practice of the Jewish ceremony of brit milah or the “covenant of circumcision.” Since making the transition from part-time to full-time mohel in 2000, Emily’s days consist of speaking with potential clients who are expecting babies, designing a brit milah ceremony that best suits the family, and even helping choose a Hebrew name for the baby.
“I get most of my calls from families who are Jewish,” says Emily, “but occasionally I’ll get phone calls from families who are not Jewish but are either delivering with a midwife who is unable to do circumcisions, or they feel like they would like to have a little more gentleness for their son when he’s circumcised, so they decide to have it at home. Sometimes I’m called by families who have a baby girl and we’ll do a naming ceremony [without the surgical aspect.]”
Since she first started practicing as a mohel, Emily estimates that she’s performed over a thousand circumcisions. “Over 90 percent of the babies [I circumcise] literally sleep through it.” says Emily. “I feel it’s part of my calling to do this work. I love that I can do it in a way that makes the family comfortable and send the message that we welcome our children with gentleness and love.”
Carol Queen, PhD – California
Carol’s interest in human sexuality started in college. “In the 80s, when the HIV epidemic began to really get critical, I realized that there was actually a professional life to be built within sex education and sexuality-related teaching,” says Carol. While Carol was pursuing her degree, she took a job as a salesperson at a store that specializes in sex toys called Good Vibrations. “It always had a really substantial focus on information and education, more than any other store,” says Carol, who loved working there so much that she stayed even after earning her doctorate in Sexology in the mid-90s. At that point, she took on the responsibility of handling media relations for Good Vibrations.
Carol has since taken on many other responsibilities including curator of the Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum. “We have at least one or two hard crank vibrators that go back to before the turn of the century,” says Carol. “We also have a cluster of very early century vibrators from 1903 to the 1920s.”
“A normal day might consist of responding to any reporters that have reached out to me, attending marketing meetings that involve representing the company to the press, and writing answers to customers who have sex questions,” says Carol. “My colleague and I post the answers on the [Good Vibrations] blog so that other people can learn.”
For any FOFs who are in the market for a new toy, Carol has some advice. “Ask questions about how strong it is, and the best way to use it. Spend a little time alone or with your partner exploring how it feels if you haven’t used one before. Give yourself a learning curve and experiment with various positions, because not all women are the same in their sexuality. Explore yourself.”
Shannon Seyler – Florida
Obituary Writer and Founder of ObitCity.com
Shannon Seyler was always interested in obituaries. “When I was a kid, it was the first section of the paper I’d read,” says Shannon. “I was just fascinated by life stories. I would read about all these people and feel as if I knew them.”
Shannon pursued a degree in English, and worked as an English tutor and a freshman composition instructor, in addition to being a journalist, but she never lost her love of obits. “I’ve collected them most of my life,” says Shannon, “and I thought, maybe I’ll just put them online and see if anybody is interested. I [did and] got overwhelming amounts of emails from people.”
Shannon’s website, ObitCity.com started with just the Arkansas obituaries from her collection, and has since grown to include all 50 states. Shannon travels all over the U.S. to add to her collection, and has a number of volunteers who send them in. “I go to public libraries and pull them from there. Some are sent in. Other people tell me oral history and I write obituaries off of that.”
What makes ObitCity.com different than most genealogy sites is that it’s free to the public. “So many sites charge people to see obituaries and newspapers cost money, but I’m not charging anybody,” says Shannon. “We make money off ad revenue.” The site is also interactive. “People can submit obituaries if they like,” says Shannon. “I’ve had people send me huge numbers of obituaries. Anyone who wants to give their input or send us obits can do so.”
Nancy Demarco – New Hampshire
Equine Massage Therapist
Before she became a licensed massage therapist, Nancy Demarco was a horse owner with a problem. “Something was wrong with my horse, and even the vets couldn’t figure it out,” says Nancy. Finally, the vet suggested Nancy “call Jack Meagher.” Jack was the equine massage therapist for the Olympic team at the time. He’s also the founder of the logic and technique of sports massage for humans and horses. Jack came up the next morning to take a look at Nancy’s injured horse. “Within ten minutes, he had fixed it,” says Nancy. “My horse had an old injury in one of his pectoral muscles that was very deep. Jack put his hand behind the horse’s shoulder blade–his hand was buried up to his wrist [in the horse] when he said, ‘Oh there it is!’ I thought ‘Wow, I have got to learn to do that.’”
Before Jack would teach Nancy his technique, he insisted that she attend massage school for humans. “His reasoning was that horses cannot vocalize their pain,” explains Nancy.
So, Nancy went to massage school, worked for a year as a massage therapist for humans, and finally, Jack agreed to teach her his method, which is now taught at the Jack Meagher Institute of Sports Therapy.
Fifteen years later, Nancy works as a freelance massage and equine massage therapist, making calls to horses and humans up to 50 miles away from her home. “They find me,” says Nancy. “I went to do one horse today, and there were about three people there asking, ‘Oh do you have time for another one?'”
Silvana Clark – All over the U.S.!
Mobile Marketing Tour Manager
When Silvana Clarke’s daughter, who was 12 years old at the time, returned from a trip to Africa, she started speaking at local churches about her experiences. She received great response in getting churchgoers to donate to the support efforts she had worked on. “We decided to take a year and travel around the United States,” says Silvana. “She could speak at a different church every Sunday.” Lucky enough, the Chevy’s corporate headquarters gave Silvana a truck and an RV at no cost in order to fuel their mission, and in 2002, they toured all over the U.S. for the year speaking at churches.
Silvana and her husband enjoyed being on the road so much, that when their daughter went to college in 2007, they signed on for a 19-month tour with a shoe charity, distributing shoes to those in need in 42 states. “We just loved it,” Silvana says. “So, we made up some cute little postcards–the heading said, ‘We don’t look like your typical young tour managers, but we’re professional to work with!’ A company called us and said it was the best piece of marketing material they had seen, and signed us on for a six-month tour with Avon.'”
“We visited the 23 cities that had been hit by tornadoes in 2011 in Mississippi and Georgia,” says Silvana. “Every day we gave out a thousand bags of [necessities like] deodorant, bug spray, and body wash. These people literally had nothing.”
Last month, Silvana and her husband started another tour with Avon, this time, one that provides outreach in hispanic communities. “My husband and I both have sprinter vans and we’re staying in hotels,” says Silvana. “We rented out our house to this nice family. We have this job until December, and then basically we’re homeless, so in December we’ll be ready for another tour!”
Is mobile touring for every FOF? The perks: “We get paid for this and have no expenses other than our cell phones. We get paid for gas and [are given] a stipend for food,” says Silvana. “But, It takes a special couple. My husband and I are together 24 hours a day; we work together, live together, sleep together. Every day is different, you never know where you are, you don’t know shortcuts, you can get lost, but we like it. We could do this for quite a few more years.”
Follow Silvana’s journey at www.silvanaclark.com.
Bev Feldman – California
Owner and Operator, StarPrompt.TV Teleprompting Service
“It was 1982 and I needed a job,” says Bev, “You know how that is?” Bev graduated from Immaculate Heart College with a degree in Art, and had become tired of life as an artist. She took a job with a teleprompting company that had invented a state-of-the-art, computerized teleprompter. “I was calling producers and getting people to try to use this, and ended up running the company because the three male owners were going to war against each other, while in the meantime I had booked us jobs. I had to go out there with an operator and the equipment and follow through. It was an accidental thing that I fell into but it worked for me.”
Bev got married and had a daughter. When she started working part-time a year later, she got an offer that she couldn’t refuse. “I was at NBC, and they said ‘We really love you, but we don’t like the company you work for, can we get you and not them?’ I said okay, and started my own business and bought my own equipment.”
Today, Bev owns her own company, Starprompt.tv. Her daughter, Silver, and husband Tom work with her part-time. “My job is to get there and affix the teleprompting equipment to the teleprompter,” explains Bev. “We go what’s called ‘through the lens,’ so the talent is looking straight down the barrel into the lens and they look like they’re looking into your living room. We get the script ahead of time, and put it into the software and format it for readability. Once I get there and the talent rehearses, I see their particular way of reading, so I finesse that as well.”
In her 23 years on the job, Bev has worked with celebrities, hosts, anchors, and yes, even one porn star…accidentally. “The [call sheet] said Cinderella Productions,” says Bev,” so I thought, ‘Oh, it’s a kid’s show!’
Whose Bev’s favorite celeb to work with? “Tom Hanks,” she says. “When you’re in a room with him he sees you, you’re not invisible. I had a great conversation with him. He is a delight.”
Terri Jay – Nevada
Terri was using horseback therapy with special needs children in 1990 when she first discovered that she had a gift. “I carried on a delightful conversation with a little boy, and one of the volunteers said to me, ‘Well, you are sure talking great.” The volunteer was making a joke–the boy that Terri had been talking with hadn’t said a word, because he couldn’t. Terri went back in the classroom and saw the boy had typed out on his communication device, “horse lady can hear me.”
“I was in shock,” says Terri, “I was not into any of this, none of it. I was the biggest skeptic in the world.” When Terri told the volunteer what she had read on the boy’s communication device, he asked her, “Why don’t you learn to communicate with the horses then? It’s the same thing.”
Terri was married to a horse trainer at the time, so she had plenty of potential clients to practice on. “I started working on the animals we had coming in,” says Terri, “and then people started calling me and would ask about their horses. I could tell them over the phone what was wrong.”
Today, Teri offers her services as a pet psychic, medium, energy healer, life coach, and grief counselor by appointment through her website, TerriJay.com. You can view the teaser for her upcoming TV show, Cowgirl Shaman, by clicking here.
Chris Shinouskis – Michigan
Engineering Specialist for Storage at General Motors
a.k.a., “The Cupholder Lady”
Chris initially pursued her degree in chemistry. “I figured I would be doing something in a lab, some sort of research,” she says. “Once in college, I changed my study to Chemical Engineering, because it broadened my future opportunities.”
Upon graduation, Chris started working with General Motors. In her 30 years with the company, she’s held a number of different titles, and worked on many assignments including analyst in a waste-water laboratory, environmental engineer in a manufacturing facility, production supervisor in the plant, materials engineer specializing in plastics, textiles and paints and a manager over material engineering and recyclability.
“I have a passion for in-vehicle storage,” she says. “It’s important to my family, since we spend so much time in vehicles, and I knew it was important to others too. So I worked with one of my managers to develop this function into a separate job.” That separate job title became affectionately referred to by her co-workers as “the cupholder lady.” Chris has many cups covering her desk in all shapes and sizes, as she works to make sure the storage spaces in GM vehicles accommodate a variety of people’s needs.
Being “the cupholder lady” involves a lot of research. “I do research to understand exactly how storage is important to the customer,” says Chris, “to find out what storage areas they like or dislike in their current vehicles and why, what items they’re bringing into their vehicles, how they use those items while they are in the vehicle, and what the sizes [of those items] are.”
So, what’s Chris’s favorite part of being “the cupholder lady?” “I like working on a specific part design to optimize the storage performance,” says Chris. “Making changes of just a few millimeters can significantly change how satisfied the customer will be.”