Sunday, December 31, 2006

Here's To It...

New Year’s Eve. Tradition has one posting either a thoughtful retrospective on the past year or a hopeful prophecy for the next twelve months. Am I too tired, too strung out, to bow to tradition?

First of all, like almost all of us who have attained the half-century mark or more, I am once again flabbergasted at how quickly the year has whizzed by. Especially the second half—since we signed the papers to become genuine, bona-fide members of the ranks of small business owners. Silly me! I thought that coming out of "retirement" and becoming an entrepreneur would somehow impede the march of time. As if filling the days with the myriad responsibilities of the corporate executive would weigh them down sufficiently to slow them, at least a little.

In fact, the opposite has happened. July First was…yesterday. Or at best, last week. Even though I’ve spent more than the recommended percentage of the last 4416 hours awake, frazzled, running my butt off, stuffing my brain with facts and figures, pulling old, moldy management techniques out of my ass, polishing them off and trying to see if they still work (the jury is still out on that…) You would think all that…all that insanity would have put some drag on the rush of time. But no. If anything, all those things have slammed their considerable bulk against the back bumper of the year and sent it bolting past more quickly than ever.

There have been years—1995…1999… and maybe all the years between and a couple beyond—when the best I could say for a year was that I had survived. I survived. December 31 came along and I was still breathing; sometimes, it seemed, unmercifully. But this year…this year has been hard. A real test. A bona fide, in your face, do or die challenge. And I…HAVE…SURVIVED.

Not merely survived, but learned. And grown. And I’m not done yet.

This fifty-something matron, who as lately as twelve months ago, motivated by a sudden unnerving perception of her proximity to the great beyond, had embarked upon a search for spiritual reality… A superficial search that ended in frustration… This fifty-something matron can sit in her recliner, with circles under her eyes, feeling a bit like a helium balloon on the fourth or fifth day post-fill; defiantly typing in her New Years Eve 2006 blog entry: I’m not done yet.

Isn’t that a gift?

Happy New Year, my friends.

Lisa :-]

Thursday, December 28, 2006

...So Far This Week Part 2

And here is the rest of the story…

In an anti-climactic sort of way, 5:00 girl showed up (five minutes late) on Tuesday night. I’m not sure whether I dodged a bullet or just delayed the inevitable. It was kind of awkward, actually. I was fully prepared for the husband and me to close the restaurant alone. And, truth be told, we could have done so with no problems. It was actually an inconvenience and a waste of labor dollars for Ms. "I’m-Going-To-Quit-Any-Time-Now" to show up. Sigh!

We got out of there about ten seconds after pulling the chain on the "OPEN" sign. I went home and felt…nothing. Shell-shocked, maybe. Or perhaps I’m just getting used to having the crap beat out of me. I really wanted to be pissed…to be worried…to be something. But I was just too tired.

I went to bed and slept remarkably well. Which is an accomplishment in itself. Time was, employee debacles of this magnitude would have me up ‘til all hours fretting, rehashing and second-guessing myself. But somehow the sheer ridiculousness of this situation has led me to conclude that the problem can’t possibly be with me or anything I have done (except, perhaps, that my "panic hiring," of my first few months at the café was coming back to bite me in the ass…) So, knowing that I had two reliable employees opening in the morning, I slumbered like a baby. An exhausted, menopausal, hot-flashing baby… J

All I knew was that I didn’t have to open on Wednesday. That I didn’t have to work a fourteen-hour day. I felt like a sailor on liberty. I didn’t set the alarm. Woke up at my leisure. Had a couple cups of coffee and interacted with my poor neglected animals for a few hours before hauling myself to work (notice that I didn’t say I cleaned house…) I arrived at the café shortly before noon. Everything was ship-shape, prep had been finished, breaks had been taken, the place looked great. Wouldn’t have looked better if I had been there myself.

To condense a long-winded yarn, Wednesday was as good as Tuesday was bad. Business picked up to an almost-acceptable level. I set up interviews with three girls who had applied, returned, and dutifully checked up on their aps in the past week. And, unbelievably, a former employee—one who had quit in pique not too long into my tenure as owner (but had at least given notice…!)—came in and asked for her job back. A funny conversation, that. She: "This is humbling…but, I need a job." Me: "Are you kidding? Can you start, like, tomorrow?" And so she did.

A good friend of mine wrote in her blog the other day that her life was a game of "Chutes and Ladders." And I felt like I was right there with her.

At the moment, I’m at the top of one of those ladders…

Cafe Christmas

I'm sure I remember someone asking for pictures...

My Week So Far

I know you want to know the juicy details Or maybe not, but I’m going to write about it anyway…

Monday—the best that can be said for it was that it was a day I didn’t have to work, and didn’t have to worry about what was going on at the café without me there. We shuttered the place and hied us hither to Eugene to spend the holiday with my family. Without nagging café issues to keep my mind spinning and my stomach churning, I was mostly comatose. The life of the party, I was not.

What I remember about the day is that I ate way too much, generally had some kind of alcoholic libation at my elbow, and didn’t engage in a whole lot of physical activity. Basically, I just sat and let the party(s) go on around me. But I didn’t fight with sister C, and I didn’t spend most of the day in tears…which puts Christmas 2006 head and shoulders above 2005’s version.

Tuesday—Back to the grind. And the grind mangled me pretty good. The day started crappy and just kept getting crappier. Cook no-showed, I had to drag myself out of bed two hours earlier than scheduled to subject myself to one of those infamous fourteen-hour days. Which turned out to be like watching paint dry, because business was terrible. If I have to be there from open to close, I at least need it to be busy enough to keep me awake. It wasn’t.

What kept me awake was the drama surrounding the second employee no-show of the day. I manage to get a fourth person to come in to cover lunch (to make up for missing cook)—the good and faithful "D." Lunch sucks…it becomes obvious that I didn’t really need to pull "D" in on her day off. But my one other decent employee—"T"-- is feeling under the weather, so I send her home and "D" stays to finish out the lunch shift. To be relieved at 2:00 by "T2," who we know is going to be there because she just called a little bit ago to check on when she was supposed to work.

Two o’clock comes and goes…no "T2." "D" calls her house…no answer. Leaves a message on the machine. We wait, and twiddle our thumbs, and business is still abominable, so all there is for us to do is make up theories as to what has happened to "T2."Maybe she had to walk to work. Maybe she’s having a fight with her boyfriend. Maybe she got hit by a truck and is lying dead by the side of the road somewhere… At 2:45, I decide to call "T2" again.

This time, someone picks up the phone…and hangs up. I call back, and the line is busy. I assume the phone has now been taken off the hook to prevent further attempts to call or leave messages. I further assume that this indicates that "T2" has given her notice. Or not.

Business is so terrible that I send "D" home at 3:00, even though I will be alone until somebody else shows up. I know the husband will arrive some time before 5:00, and judging by the rest of the day, I don’t seem to be in danger of being swamped. And I will be spending the time on pins and needles anyway, because my 5:00 girl (who, by the way, called earlier to find out what time she worked) is also hanging by a thread. She has another job, I know she has another job, but she doesn’t know I know. Rumor has it that she is trying to decide whether to "just quit" or wait until the new job actually starts. So it would not be out of the realm of possibility for her to become the third no-show of the day. In fact, I am fully expecting it.

I spend the next two hours trying to figure out how I am going to fill a 180-hour-per week schedule with just myself and my two decent employees.

And I have run out of time for writing this morning, so I’ll have to finish this later...


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Was it Merry?

Unbelievably, Christmas 2006 has passed into the annals. It came and went so fast that I didn’t even have a chance to eat its dust.

Things are going abominably at the café again. Last week was almost passable. We had a great little Christmas party (which I planned and provisioned in the space of about six hours…) and the week’s business was much better than I expected. Things seemed to be looking downright satisfactory as I locked the doors Sunday afternoon and prepared to take off for Eugene.

I should have known it couldn’t last. Not only was business in the crapper today, but I had two, count them—two employees no show/no call on me today. One of these I was fully expecting…and I was feeling pretty smug about calling it right. But the other one completely blindsided me.

I feel like a flat tire.

I’m going to sit down now and try to make up a new schedule that primarily consists of me.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What's That Sign Mean?

Did you not guess what

was all about?  I first saw this sort of sign in a neighbor's yard.  And I thought it was a symbol for some mytic brotherhood or something.   "What the hell does that mean?"  I asked my husband as we cruised by.  " mean the "no el" thing?

So, for those of you who, like me, were is the international "no" sign through an "l"...  No el.

This particular one was mounted on one of Portland's famous Christmas Ships.  We camped out on the dike on a cold winter's night to watch them navigate up Multnomah Channel past Scappoose back to Portland.  Our own private parade.  Here are some pix of the other ships...    

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hiding Out

Tarnishing The Mountain

In my sidebar self-introduction, I boast of being able to see the "ring of fire from my front yard (almost)." "Almost," because there is a rather large church preventing me from calling my lot a "view" property. But if I go out my front door and travel one block south and two blocks east, I can treat myself to a view of three snow-capped peaks from the luxurious expanse of the McDonald’s parking lot. Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood. That last bears the fond moniker of "THE Mountain," so dubbed by those of us who conduct our lives in the hem of its skirts.

Seen from our perspective in the western Columbia Valley, The Mountain is the perfect incarnation of every pre-schooler’s drawing: its wide base narrows gracefully to a pointy peak iced with white even in midsummer. And in winter it is breathtakingly robed almost completely in snow. There are mountains galore in the continental US that exceed Mt. Hood’s mere 11,249 feet. The Cascade Range itself boasts three higher peaks. Nevertheless, we Oregonians dote on our Mountain. We photograph it, ski on it, fly over it, quaff pricey drinks in luxury hotel lounges perched on its shoulders, and fork over serious money for properties, however distant from it, from which you can catch a glimpse of it. It is our mascot; the stately silent guardian that watches over everything we do. We can be sitting in a cubicle performing the most unglamorous of office jobs, but all we have to do is look up and scan the eastern horizon for that reminder of exactly why it is we live in Oregon.

This past week, our Mountain has found itself at the center of a cyclone. Three climbers, veteran outdoorsman all, were lost during a pre-Christmas trek to the summit. One body has finally been recovered. The other two will have to wait until Spring…or might never be located, if the likely scenario pieced together by rescue crews—that the pair were blown off the sheer face of the summit by 100-mph storm winds—was indeed their fate.

I have to admit, I have been angry with these men for the tumult they have caused. Sobbing family members suffering the intrusion of nosey cameras. Hundreds of thousands of dollars squandered on a rescue mission which, in the end, will yield approximately six hundred pounds of frozen human flesh. If that. A taint of fear and menace attached to our beautiful mountain in the middle of the season in which it is meant to really shine. All because three careless men thought cresting a "minor" peak in winter might be a worthwhile Sunday afternoon pastime.

But two things seemed to put the affair in perspective for me. The first was a quote from an interview with the dead climber’s wife.

"I married a man so full of passion and love of life," she told the Dallas Morning News. "How do you take that away from someone? How do you take away what makes them tick?"

I guess you don’t. She was well aware of the risky nature of what he chose to do for recreation. And she accepted that risk. So, though I was at first angry with Kelly James for putting his family through this nightmare, I believe I see now that he had their permission to put his life on the line for the thing for which he had a burning passion. Do I understand choosing to risk one’s life for something as superfluous as reaching the highest point on some mountain? No, I do not. But I acknowledge that there are people who feel they need to do that, and people in their lives who make a conscious choice to allow them to do so.

The second revelation I had was this: There are worse ways to die than to fall asleep in an ice cave—literally enveloped by the majesty, beauty and fury of The Mountain—and never wake up. Certainly it’s preferable to being blown to bits by a car bomb in Baghdad, or fighting a years-long losing battle against cancer or Alzheimer’s. I’ve wondered lately whether man isn’t a little bit crazy, being the only animal that knows it’s going to die. These guys who choose to walk up and spit in death’s eye—for recreation…maybe they’ve got it right. Maybe the sense of power they get from exerting even a smidgen of control over the fact of our lives over which we traditionally have the least control—where and when we will die—is the high that keeps them climbing dangerous mountains in winter. The thought that they may choose the possible platform from which they step off into the great beyond, must be heady stuff indeed. Headier yet if they walk past the platform, smile and bow. Knowing they will come back again and again, until the last time, when death will no longer be cheated.

But dancing with death should be a private thing, played out in the quiet depths of the soul of the man or woman so engaged. The jarring headlines and tabloid-like tear-jerking mock the solemn challenge. Our culture has crossed some kind of line that was better left uncrossed, when it comes to the exploitation of death and its surrounding whirlwind of emotions. We eat that stuff up like bratwurst at a tailgater. Perhaps that is the ugly thing about this whole affair. Perhaps that is what has hung that pall of macabre menace—that twinge of sadness and fear that we all feel now when we look to the east for what was once an awesome, comforting presence—over our beloved Mountain. I know that will fade with time. But right now, it just feels…wrong.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

We haven't reached the solstice yet, but I'd swear the days are getting longer...

This morning, as I tried to stuff a load of aprons into the dryer at home, my sister pointed out my laundry room window and said, "Hey…look! Quick!" And lo and behold, there was a bald eagle flying right over my back yard. I thought, "Great! That must be a good omen for the day."


It has, unfortunately, been another one of those "one step forward, six steps back" kind of days.

I am the too-exhausted-to-fall asleep kind of tired. All I can do is sit here and type nonsense on this damn machine. And feel the waves of tears washing up against the levee in my head. If that levee gets breached, I am in all kinds of trouble.

Time to take a hit of bendryl to paralyze my brain just enough to sleep.  Or maybe I don’t need the benadryl…

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Listen to the Music

I brought Judy Collins to work with me today. I heard this song again, for the first time this Christmas season. And between the cream cheese and the burgers and the omelets and the fries, I was touched once again by her words…and  my eyes filled with the tears that come every time I hear this song. I am haunted by it…

The children of Sarajevo may now be living in peace. But what about the children of Baghdad? Or Darfur? Or the next place on the planet where human beings contrive to exert power over other human beings by visiting death and destruction upon the innocent? In those places, death may not scream out of the sky as it did in Sarajevo… Maybe it waits around the corner in a mini-van piloted by a suicide bomber. Or it storms out of the cover of darkness in the person of Janjaweed "militia", carrying guns and torches, and unzipping their pants…

The cyber-gods have denied me the ability to provide a link to this song. Can’t find it anywhere on the internet. But it’s in my heart and my mind. And if you find it and listen to it, it will be in yours, too. And you will cry with me.

Blood in all the streets
Running like a flood
There's nowhere to hide, nowhere I can go
I reach out my hand
touching death itself
Just another holy day in Sarajevo

I can hear my heart
pounding like a clock
Hiding from the planes and from the bombing
Fire from the sky
burning down my life
There is no more love, no more longing

But when I close my eyes
I dream of peace
I dream of flowers on the hill
I dream I see my mother smiling
When I close my eyes I dream of peace

Once I had a home
Once my life was good
Once my mother sang to me and held me
Then the fire came
falling from the sky
There is no one left who can protect me

War's a wicked bird that never comes to rest
Feeding on the dreams of all the children
War's an evil bird flying in the dark
Every holy promise has been broken

But when I close my eyes
I dream of peace
I dream of flowers on the hill
I dream I see my mother smiling
When I close my eyes I dream of peace

Can't you stop the war
Bring it to a close
You are tall and strong and I am just a child.
Can't we live in peace
Stop the flowing blood
Make a blessed world where I can be a child...

When you close your eyes
Do you dream of peace?
Do you dream of flowers on the hill?
Do you dream you see your mother smiling?
When you close your eyes do you dream of peace?

Song for Sarajevo (Revised 9/97)Words by Judy CollinsMusic by Judy Collins
Universal Music Corp. (ASCAP)/ The Wildflowers Company (ASCAP)(Administered by Universal Music Corp.)

Girl Power?

Yesterday, Andrea posted her thoughts about a young co-ed’s (haven’t heard that term in a long time, have you? Once again, I prove I am older than dirt) choice of work-out attire. It seems this young woman sported a t-shirt that proclaimed, "I went to college to find my bridesmaids." And Andrea pondered the message the girl meant to impart. I suppose we can all hope that our buff blond was attempting satire…

Still, it is to be assumed that this girl actually was a college student. Somehow managed to wade through the bewildering challenge of applying, being accepted, registering for classes and financial aid, and then attending at least some of those classes. Which is, in and of itself, an accomplishment that far exceeds even the wildest dreams of the class of "0-whatever" grads I have encountered lately. Especially the female ones.

I currently have six young ladies under the age of twenty-five working for me. "S-1" is shacked up with a guy more than ten years her senior who has children more of an age to be her siblings than her step-kids. "T" is pregnant and moved in with her boyfriend when she found out about the baby; but they aren't planning a wedding yet because "they don’t want this to be the reason they get married." (Good plan; could be that marriage to a guy who knocks down Christmas trees and punches inanimate objects might not be the wisest choice…) "D" is hooked up with a guy with whom she has had an on-again, off-again relationship since high school…which became "on-again" just long enough for her to support him for the last five months while he lived it up before going into the military (he left yesterday…she is devastated.) And "S-2" is living with some guy who won’t have anything to do with her family or friends, and puts enough pressure on her about her appearance that she constantly pops diet pills, eats almost nothing, and downs "Red Bull" by the six-pack.

Certainly each of these girls has brains and talent equivalent to those of Andrea’s t-shirted bridesmaid-recruiter. So, what do they lack that has sentenced them to working part-time in what could only be called dead-end jobs? And, for the most part, involved in dead-end relationships with really icky men? What has caused them to set the bar so low for themselves? Why don’t they have the pride and self-respect to dream big dreams? Or even little ones?

I hate to use college as the yardstick by which to measure anyone’s moxie. Considering the product turned out by our higher education system—teachers who can’t spell, athletes who can’t read, health care professionals who don’t care—I often wonder whether a "BS" isn’t precisely that. Obviously there are legions of university students who share Ms. T-Shirt’s philosophy about attending college; sometimes their timetables go awry and they end up actually getting diplomas.

However, going to college could at least be construed as understanding that adulthood is about to happen and it might be good to make some plans, or acquire some tools, or spend four more years in a more or less sheltered environment, fending off the inevitable. These young women who work for me, and so many others I’ve encountered lately, just get out of high school (if they make it that far) and throw themselves to the wolves. They don’t know what to do, so they just do whatever. And they seem to think that having a man, any man, is the greatest goal to which they can aspire.

I’m not even sure why they want men. Apparently, they don’t know what to do with a man once they have him (besides procreate…) They don’t seem to want them for financial support, since most of these girls are hooked up with deadbeats who are un- or under-employed. It’s not for security; a hallmark of these relationships seems to be that the man is allowed to do anything he wants, and is not necessarily obligated to inform his significant other of his plans or whereabouts. And it’s not with the idea in mind of having a home and a family of one’s own…so many of these girls are living in squalor and toting around babies from several different relationships. So what’s the attraction? What has our society done to this generation of young women to rob them of the will to achieve?

So, Andrea…don’t be too hard on Ms. T-Shirt. Her logo at least hints that she has some kind of plan in mind for her life. She is way ahead of so many girls of her generation.

How sad is that?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Another Long Week

Yet another week has gone steadily downhill since the early hours of Monday last. Remember those "Ten Good Things" lists I was posting earlier this year? I feel so far from those lists… Even though I sometimes had a hard time coming up with those ten things every week, I don’t think I could come up with one for this week. Well, maybe one. I’m still alive. And my husband is still safely ensconced in his comfy chair to my left…that’s two. And there’s still a roof over my head, heat coming out of the vents, lights that spring to life when I turn a switch, food…well, certainly not here in the fridge. But I do have access to plenty of food, approximately 1.1 miles from my recliner.

Look at that…I’ve come up with six good things without even trying. But that wasn’t the point of this post. I wanted to whine J .

So, am I after coming up with a "Ten Bad Things" list? No, I guess not. But it does still seem, at times, as if life is out to get me.

Yesterday was the capper. I mashed my finger between a 75-pound meat slicer and the wall. Third finger, left hand. What saved my finger from being busted was my ring. My ring. Which is now hopelessly mangled.

I had to cut it off my swollen digit with a wire cutters. I worked the cutters between the back of my throbbing finger and the band of my ruined ring, squeezed and twisted until the chink of the blades meeting signaled the deed was done… And then I sobbed like a five-year-old.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

'Tis the Season For...Home Improvement

My friend Robin is a tad nonplussed that her DH chose now to tear a hole in the wall of the dining room of her ninety-year-old house. Her saga has brought back memories for me…and, after all, that’s what the season is all about, isn’t it? Much as I love Christmas, the fond memories that are floating to the surface today are of…home improvement projects.

I don’t know where I got the home improvement gene. My parents weren’t big on remodeling. Dad was an accountant, who took tools in hand in order to save himself the cost of a professional. He painted and puttered and worked on a few rudimentary plumbing and electrical projects, like updated lighting or new sinks or faucets. With mixed results–his wiring sometimes smoked and his plumbing often leaked. In fact, when I was thirteen, and the house we lived in was beginning to need major work…we moved.

But for some reason, after I married and started feathering my own nests, I caught the home improvement bug. Husband and I signed our lives away on our first mortgage contract in 1978. I was 23 years old, husband was 22.  I have always thought of that as a remarkable achievement. Is home ownership some kind of yardstick of maturity or respectability? I guess not…but having been born and raised in suburbia in the fifties and sixties, it represented some kind of a right of passage. It was just what you did. How many 23-year-olds do you know today who are card-carrying, mortgage-laden homeowners, or even aspire to be? To be fair, home ownership is a much bigger stretch now than it was thirty years ago—what with barely habitable homes tipping the scales at nearly $200,000 in some markets. That figure alone blows me away. Our first home cost us $43,000.

That house was a tiny (less than 1,000 square feet) ranch in the distant northern suburbs of Chicago. No garage and a 4000 square foot lot. The one saving grace of the place was that it had a full basement, which contained a laundry room…and a pool table (which came with the house when we bought it and went with it when we sold it.) We lived there for a little over five years. And, young as we were, we managed to completely remodel the kitchen, update the bathroom and redecorate (complete with wallpaper and new carpeting) the master bedroom. I was so proud of that bedroom remodel. It was the first decorating project I had ever designed and implemented, and it turned out amazing, in a seventies sort of way.

And the kitchen… We tore out cabinets and re-arranged them. We replaced the kitchen carpeting with different kitchen carpeting. Remember kitchen carpeting? It was such a bad idea…but, like leisure suits, so chic, and so…late mid-century? The new carpeting of which we were so proud was a low-napped indoor/outdoor sort of affair with a fake woodgrain pattern. Just the thought of it now, nearly thirty years later, sets my teeth on edge. But it was definitely cutting edge in those days.

Our first home was also where we got our first taste of the endless home improvement project. The one where you have gotten in so far over your head that you have absolutely no idea how to finish what you’ve started. Very early on, we realized that we were much better at talking about projects than at actually accomplishing them. Every undertaking looked so huge in the design phase that we were, more often than not, totally intimidated by the job; so much so that we never got into it. So, somewhere along the line, we developed our signature method of home improvement that persists to this day: Tear it apart, then figure out how to put it back together the way you want it.

In 1980 (I think) it was the wall between our miniscule living room and barely adequate kitchen/dining room that became the object of our first foray into "rip into it and then puzzle out what to do with it." The two rooms were downright claustrophobic, and we knew that if we opened them up to each other it would give the house a much more open feel. Trouble is, we didn’t know how to go about figuring out if the wall between the two was load-bearing, or if we would have to build a header (I’m not sure we even knew what a header was, back then) to keep the roof from falling in on us. Nevertheless, we ripped off the wallboard on both sides, down to the bare studs. And then we froze. So we lived with that half-torn-apart wall for, as far as I can remember, almost a year before husband just got out a saw and said, "Here goes…!" and sheared those studs out of there. Of course, the roof didn’t fall down; and he proceeded to create a magnificent set of display shelves between the two rooms. It really did look great. A few months later, we sold the house and moved to Oregon.

Which became rule number two of our home improvement philosophy: Put the finishing touches on a beautiful, endless project, admire itfor about five minutes…and then move.

Oh...I have more home improvement stories.  At least one for every house we have lived in. I'll write more as time and wits permit...

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Have Yourself A...

Okay…roller coaster is on the uphill track now.

I’m sorry. There are times when my naturally pessimistic nature and a lull in the action combine to drag me to the depths…

I’m coming up for air now. And not in a frantic, desperate, gasping rush to the surface, either. I’ve just filled my lungs, held my breath, and am waiting for the laws of nature to send me bobbing up into the realm of life and air and restoration. Those good ole laws of nature. Those unbreakable ordinances that keep us in our places.

I realized I wasn’t a salmon, and I had to quit trying to make like one. Quit struggling upstream…just stretch out and ride the current. Maybe even float backwards a little, because sometimes there’s no other way to go if you want to stay alive. You slow down, plan your next move and carry it out deliberately, instead of throwing everything but the kitchen sink out there in a frantic search for something that will work.

Yesterday I took a minute to think. And the thought that came to me was this: It’s Christmas, Mr. Scrooge. My favorite time of the year…which, with only the slightest of wounded sniffs, I was prepared to sacrifice to the Entrepreneurial gods. Well, the gods rejected my sacrifice. Blew the smoke right back in my face. So I guess I’m free to take my Christmas back. What kind of a stupid, ungrateful idiot would I be not to do exactly that?

So I ordered tickets to a performance of Handel’s Messiah (highlights, anyway…through which I will presumably be able to stay awake.) I printed up a "Secret Santa" sign-up sheet for my crew at the café. Between bizarre rushes at work, I’ve been stringing beads and snowflakes on fishing line to hang in the windows. And I cut my own hours (why was I trying to put in seventy hours a week during the holidays…?) so that I might actually be in possession of one or two of my wits by the time That Day arrives.

A Merry Christmas… Let’s have one, shall we?