Wednesday, January 31, 2007

...Losing a loved one

A couple months ago, I posted a flowery tribute to "one of my own." 

His brother will be going soon...  This time, I have no words... 

Sunday, January 28, 2007

...and More

Despite all the awe and power and mystery we have ascribed to our Supreme Being, isn’t it obvious that we have totally dumbed down the Power behind the Universe? The gap between It and us is so vast…we are pathetically unequal to the task of quantifying It, pigeonholing It…relating to It in any meaningful way at all. And so we have humanized It. Over the millennia, we have acknowledged Its greatness, Its control, Its vast superiority to ourselves, in the only way we could fathom.

We took this overwhelming preponderance of stuff—knowledge, perception, understanding—that we do not have, and attempted to vacuum-pack it all into one neat bundle. A package that would reduce all the unknowables to something we could get our arms around. We made it a bigger, better, more perfect version of ourselves. After all, we want our God to be omnipotent, but not inhumanly so. And so we conceded to the Universal Power the characteristics of the highest human authorities with which we were familiar: Father. King. Lord. And threw in a few traits that were beyond human aspiration: Omnipresent. Omnipotent. Eternal. And to top that off, we then had the audacity to proclaim that It had created humankind in its very image. I remember the catechism question and answer verbatim: Q: What is man? A: Man is a creature composed of body and soul, and made in the image and likeness of God.

When you think about it, how arrogant, how incredibly ballsy, is that presumption?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

More About...That

How many people do you know who have sailed off on spiritual odysseys? Researched and studied and read and meditated. And came out with…something. Whatever conventional definition of the Greater Power filled their personal voids. But five decades of my life have, for whatever reason, worn down and given the lie to the simple, child-like notion of a God who is patriarch, brother, and/or friend. We’re supposed to believe that this great Guy in the sky loves us beyond our capacity to understand. BUT he allows us to screw up, suffer, experience excruciating emotional or physical pain, in order to teach us Important Lessons. Or to make us worthy to stand in his presence at the end of our lives. Or because his ways are unknowable, so we just have to suck it up.

I’m sorry…I’m not buying it. What father, brother, or friend capable of relieving pain or ending suffering, wouldn’t do it? Whoever came up with all this must have issued forth from the mother of all dysfunctional families. And had some really rotten friends.

Yet millions of mortals are devoutly convinced they have seen or experienced some irrefutable proof of the existence of this God, this spirit being who bears such an uncanny resemblance to…humans. But where the real power lies is in human desire. We can want something so much, with all the incredible force that only the human will can exert, that we virtually command it into existence. We can believe something—even the greatest lie—so strongly that it becomes truth. I’ve seen it; I’ve done it. In fact, anyone who has lived through the events of the last six years of American history has witnessed this phenomenon in spades.

In light of what I have lately witnessed, in my own life and in the world around me, conventional human religious beliefs appear fundamentally flawed. At best, perhaps they are mankind’s panacea for our unfortunate cognizance of our own mortality. We need to believe that death is not the end. Without an "afterlife" to aspire to, we probably would have gone irretrievably insane centuries ago.  Check that...we ARE insane, aren't we?  I guess that hasn't been an effective tactic after all...

At worst—and I fear this is closer to the truth—our major religions could easily be intricate webs of lies, heresies, fairy tales and black magic woven together by powerful individuals seeking to enhance and expand that power. It’s difficult to believe otherwise when faced with the death, destruction, murder, mayhem and intrigue done all over the globe, throughout human history, in the name of "God."

to be continued...

Friday, January 26, 2007

RE: The End of it all...

Last year at about this time, I went a little crazy. I took a notion to blindly and cluelessly cast about for something—anything—to light the darkness that my fiftieth birthday had brought uncomfortably close. Death. The Big Sleep. The end of existence.

But it was too overwhelming. In the end, I just put the whole idea aside and determined to set my focus on something else. Bought a business instead, which has proved quite the counter-balance to my tendency to wrestle with the unsolvable.

Which is not to say that I have been completely successful in putting that fear back into its Pandora’s box… I certainly don’t have the conscious time or mental energy to tackle issues as huge and amorphous as Death. But some nights, when my dwindling hormones have me doing the sweat-freeze-toss dance, my mind spirals down into that dark pit of questions with no answers. An intimidating place to find oneself in the middle of the night, when the veil between life and death seems the most gossamer.

My problem is, I just can’t buy the popular Western concept of the after-life—the Heaven and Hell upon which I cut my baby teeth. It all seems too simple. Too custom-made by and for what amounts to a mere minority of the mass of human culture-past present and future. But the idea of just…ceasing to exist…is something with which I am not particularly comfortable, either. Which is a pretentious way of saying it scares the bejeezus out of me.

This post has taken on a life of its own, and is coming out in fits and it's going to take me awhile to get to the point.  How about you read this part and come back for the next chapters? 

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Alarming State

I’m so glad I have to work tonight. It will afford me the opportunity to give George W. Bush’s State of the Union address all the attention it deserves—none. I think the American people are all too aware of the state of our country. Since the 2004 election, reality has crept up on Americans, tapped them on the shoulders… and slapped them upside their heads. We know where Bush’s War on Terror, raids upon our Constitutional rights, energy and environmental policies have landed us. Our nation is firmly lodged in the bottom of the toilet, waiting for the fatal flush.

Tonight, when Mr. Bush stands before Congress and the American people prevaricating, sugar-coating, glossing over and selectively forgetting inconvenient highlights of the past twelve months of his administration, I will be slinging hash, scouring pots, or on my hands and knees scrubbing baseboards. And if I didn’t have my own restaurant to do these things in, I would probably hire myself out for the evening. Because anything, anything at all, would be a more worthwhile investment of time than watching George W. Bush spreading his poisonous flatulence over the airwaves. I’m sure if I sat down to watch him, I would be in the market for a new TV by the end of the evening.

But, hey…let’s have some fun with it. I know…let’s all try to guess how many times he’ll refer to "9/11" in the course of his speech. I’ll go for twelve. Twelve times. Anybody else wanna play? Of course, someone will have to watch the speech to see who wins. Any volunteers? Sorry, I can’t do it. I’ll be working. J

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Another Sunday


Hmmm… Another week of silence between posts. I like to think that I’m coming up for air once in awhile and letting my friends know I’m still alive, but it looks more like "Coming to Terms" is developing into a once-weekly whine-fest…

I guess it goes without saying that the past seven days have been rough. But who am I to let something go without saying?

 We had "weather" in the Pacific Northwest this week. Winter weather, to be precise. Snow, ice, frozen fog, sleet; you name it, we had it. Luckily, winter stayed at bay long enough to allow the café a decent business day on Monday; I wasn’t really expecting MLK Day to bring us a sales boost, but there it was.

The weather went sour on Tuesday. Ice and snow kept most sane Oregonians closeted safely in their homes for most of the rest of the week. And those who weren’t housebound by the weather were struck down by a couple of nasty germs that were making the rounds. I was "scheduled" to open only one day last week, but I ended up dragging my ass in there every day at 7:30 because one or the other opener was either sick or couldn’t make it down out of the hills to get to work. By the time this morning rolled around, I was desperate for one day where I didn’t have to set the damn alarm. I am NOT a morning person. Never have been. But small business owners do not get to pander to their own personal schedule preferences. And, wouldn’t you know? Since I fell into bed at 9:00 last night, I couldn’t sleep past 7:00 this morning. Sigh!

But, other than the rotten weather taking a bite out of our sales, and the circles under my eyes starting to take on the proportions of the rings of Saturn, the week was decent--

¯ Yesterday we said a fond farewell to the last useless cook left from the "previous administration." (Hey,,,he’s a nice kid. He gave me almost a month’s notice, he showed up every day between his notice and his last day… I wish him well. But I’m so glad he won’t be working forME anymore!)

¯ My most recent hire is turning out to be quite the good little worker (at last, someone who doesn’t lean on counters and stare into space when there’s "nothing" to do!)

¯ Customers are starting to complimentMY cooking.

¯ And the whole atmosphere of the place is starting to improve. What a difference it makes to have employees who enjoy their jobs (as much as one can enjoy a job) and don’t act like they’re counting the seconds until they can bolt out the door!

On the down side, one continuing annoyance has been that my wi-fi at the café, for which I pay the exorbitant sum of $60 a month, was out most of the week. In spite of two house calls by the phone tech, and his spending a total of about five hours messing with it, it still doesn’t work. Maybe it’s time to fire the phone company and look into cable, or whatever else is out there. What was meant to be a service offered to build my customer base has turned into quite the opposite. Folks tend to get pissed off when you tout your wi-fi, and then they drag out their laptops and can’t connect. L

Oh…I did manage to get one Christmas tree boxed up and put away. But the living room tree is still standing there in all its disheveled glory. I have two days this coming week when I don’t have to be at the café until noon. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be able to set aside a couple of those "free" hours to finish "de-Christmasifying" the indoor portion of my home. I’m thinking the outdoor lights will have to wait until…Memorial Day?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Happy Sunday...

I have designated Sunday as my day off, and this will be my second Sunday off in a row, barring any unforeseen complications—like yet another employee quitting or calling in sick. I honestly don’t know what I’ll do if I end up having to go in to the café today.

Then again, I don’t know why I should want a day off. My "Home" to-do list is longer than my "Café" one. I have two Christmas trees that are still waiting to be taken down. One is already sans ornaments and is just sitting in the corner of the bedroom looking forlorn. And the other is down in the living room, scorning me from its corner, with the bottom eighteen inches of ornaments, lights, and ribbons hanging askew—as they have been since hours after they were hung. Having been "catted" into submission by a couple of furry orange devils. Ugh! I hate taking down Christmas; this year, more than ever. By contrast, de-decorating the café was quite painless. One of my crew disassembled the Christmas trees and packed them away for me on a slow morning just after New Years. I wonder who I could pay to make my home decorations go away?

I have kitchen counters full of a week’s accumulation of dishes, groceries, and mail that have to be dealt with. For all that we only use the house to sleep, shower, and watch a little tv, we sure can make a toilet of it. I’m convinced some little gremlins creep out of the woodwork while we are away and have a field day—scattering dirty dishes, blowing clouds of animal hair all over the place, flinging mail and newspapers everywhere. Certainly I am not responsible for this growing tangle of clutter.

On top of that, I have a sick kitty, who spent half of last week at the vet, and we got out of hock on Thursday to the tune of almost $600. And for all that investment, they couldn’t really put their finger on what’s wrong with him. I half believe he is dying of loneliness. For the company of people…us…his "mom and dad." Because we are never home anymore, and he has always been more of a person than a cat. I know one is not supposed to play favorites with one’s children, but this guy….he is special. I would part with $600 more, and more after that, if it would make him better. But I have a growing conviction that he is just…done. And I cannot even go there. Not right now.

So though I have a pile of jobs and worries the size of a small planet sitting on my threshold, I don’t think too many of them are going to be addressed today. I am exhausted and sad…not a highly productive combination. And the husband will be riveted to the television for at least half of the day. His beloved Bears will be in their first playoff game in umpteen years today. So I can’t count on any help from that quarter.

Maybe I’ll just get cleaned up and go to work.

Update: Someone DID call in sick, and I DID have to get cleaned up and go to the cafe. (This person will be jobless as of Wednesday morning... No big deal. I have been preparing for her departure since before Christmas. She will be the last of the dead weight to be heaved off the ship...) So I didn't have to invest too much brainpower into how I was going to amuse myself while husband watched football. The Bears won, by the the skin of their teeth.

I am home now and rooted to my recliner, where I just might stay for the rest of the day. I'm confident the mess will still be there when I'm ready to take care of it... J

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Political Pimping...

I hate to admt it, but my travails at the cafe have so taken over my life that I am nearly clueless about all things poltical.  I didn't watch/hear Fearless Leader's speech last night.  Maybe I just wanted to keep my dinner down...

But Andrea tuned in to Mr. Bush's little show.  And she has this to say about that:  Our Options Are Closed Andrea is a smart lady, a talented writer, and she just happens to hail from (almost) my old stomping grounds--the great state of Illinois. And I am trying to bring her on as part of an ensemble bog I'm hoping to pull together (a blog of women's insights written for insightful women...anyone want to join?) 

Please go read her thoughts.  I couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Mastering the Technology of the 21st Century Workplace

I have a love/hate relationship with cel phones. On second thought, no I don’t. I just hate them.
I loathe ring tones. There you are, enveloped in the perfect ambience of a beautiful restaurant, with classical or jazz murmuring softly in the background, and out of nowhere the Notre Dame fight song starts jangling from somewhere. Or the Minute Waltz. Or the thumpa-thumpa-scream of Top 40 hip-hop. To be followed by someone, always one or two decibels louder than necessary, discoursing into their pocket-sized annoyance.
I abhor cel phone service and reception. Dropped calls and stutter-step conversations ("What? Are you still there? Can you hear me now?") make me want to heave the monumental nuisance through the nearest plate-glass window.
I hate people who talk on cel phones and try to drive. I am not an idiot, and I believe I have better-than-average hand-eye coordination skills, but even I have a hard time piloting a vehicle through traffic and carrying on a phone conversation. I shudder to think of how that combination of activities might be handled by those possessing lesser skills.
And, frankly, I’m annoyed and more than a little frightened by the fact that no one seems to be okay either alone with their own thoughts, or with the present company. There always has to be that tiny box attached to their ear. The antithesis of the still small voice. The uninvited guest who steals the engagement from the companion across the table.
In the last six months, I have found yet another thing to detest about cel phones. It has to do with trying to operate a small business in the dawning decade of the 21st century.
Back in the olden days, those good ole nineties, employees had homes, with phones that were attached to those homes in some way. And if you needed to speak to an employee, you could call her on that phone, and if she were home, she would answer it. And you could say, "Someone called in sick today. Could you please come to work?" And she would say, "Yes." Or, "No." But you would have your answer right away and could then move on to the next person on the list if necessary.
But now it’s 2007. And I own a business in a small town. With a miniscule labor pool. And none of my employees have permanent addresses, much less telephones attached to those places. They have cel phones. Which are sometimes turned on. But which, much more often, are not. At least, not any time before noon, when it comes to young twenty-somethings who have not yet tired of the novelty of being on their own, out of school, and able to party far into the wee hours any night of the week. And we won’t even talk about weekends.
And then there is that handy little feature of cel phones, where the number of the caller is conveniently displayed to the "callee" when the phone rings. Which gives callees the opportunity to choose to ignore calls from unwelcome callers. Like bosses, or their places of employment.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I have hired the most sickly human beings in the county. And if an employee isn’t sick, some disaster has befallen a family member. Apparently, working at the Old Town Café brings down some kind of curse upon the relations of any unsuspecting unfortunate who accepts a position at my restaurant. Car crashes, diseases, multiple hospitalizations and deaths have been epidemic among my employees’ kin. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, almost without fail.
Those cel phones are damned convenient for calling in with the grisly details as to why Jane can’t come to work today. But somehow, the reception is all static and dropped calls when it comes to me trying to contact one of them to stand in for a fallen comrade.
Today, though…. Today I got just the teensiest bit of revenge.
One particular employee, the one who has hardly worked an entire week without calling in or going home "sick" at least once…finally hit the wall with me on Saturday. We had to call HER ten minutes past the start of her shift (and got, of course, her voice-mail) to try to ascertain where she was. Ten minutes later, she called back, obviously still in bed and obviously the worse for the night before. "I overslept." "Okay, so you’ll be here as soon as you can?" "Um, sure…."  Another ten minutes and the phone rang again. It was Little Miss Party-Hearty. "I’m sick. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it…"
So today, I made two phone calls. The first was to my accountant to arrange for a final paycheck. And the second was to Miss Party-Hearty. Her cel phone. It went immediately to message. And I fired her. Right there on her voice mail.
That is SO not the way to fire someone. I knew it. And I knew I should feel really bad about it.
But you know what?
I didn’t.
Shame on me. J

Sunday, January 7, 2007

So He's gone...Now What?

Last Saturday evening we tuned in to NPR to be treated to "Special Coverage" of the execution of Sadaam Hussein. What a bizarre, jarring, but decidedly anti-climactic turn of events. The grisly coda to our Fearless Leader’s misbegotten war of choice. It demanded some kind of reaction…but I couldn’t put my finger on my exact feelings. And, as the coverage unfolded, it was apparent I was not alone. "Man-on-the-street" interviewees, university department heads, reporters in downtown Baghdad…no one, not even the anchors, seemed to really know what to do with the news.

Continued coverage further muddied the waters. Scott Simons talked to representatives of Iraqi ethnic groups that had been persecuted by Sadaam’s regime. Were they satisfied that Sadaam’s reign was finally over, that he could do no further evil? No…they were not. They could only whine that Sadaam had not been tried and executed for crimes against their people. Sadaam’s conviction and punishment for the one war crime didn’t give their people satisfactory "justice." Read, "revenge." So even if we could argue that we went into Iraq with the idea of saving the people of the region from a despotic, dangerous murderer…we can no longer argue that the end result was satisfactory to anyone, not even those we professed to wanting to save.

And, of course, no one can claim that Sadaam’s death is the end of anything but Sadaam himself. The conflict in Iraq rages on, escalating exponentially on a daily basis, so far beyond our control that it becomes more obvious every day that our only sane choice is to pull our people away from the deadly chain-reaction we put into motion, stand back and watch Baghdad burn. With blood running in great flaming rivers from our hands.

So what has been the use? What has been the ultimate lasting good in our sudden (hatched in about, say, 2000) commitment to policing the globe and inflicting our "best" form of human government on anyone we can pin down, pry open their mouths, and force it down their gullets? Is our nation safer? Is the world safer? Who have we saved?

What have we done?