Friday, January 30, 2009

Wrapping It Up

It has been a tough winter, and it promises to get nothing but tougher, from a business and a personal point of view. The economic outlook scares the bejeezus out of me; I can't even think too much about it, lest I throw my hands over my head, assume the fetal position and go catatonic.

At home, my oldest kitty—the one who has hung in there through eighteen years, four homes, and a "Mom" who has gone from workaholic restaurant manager to semi-retired stay-at-home and back to workaholic—looks like she is in her last days. There's something about the short days of midwinter that saps the life force away from the weakest flames…

And so it's become apparent to me that another ending is also in the cards. Actually, it has already happened…but it has taken me this long to acknowledge it. "Coming to Terms…" has run its course.

I said in my previous post that "I came here (to blogland) in desperation, to get the noise out of my head…with the small germ of hope that someone might read." I thought I could go back to that. Thought that I really was "okay alone." But I'm not.

Regardless of what "…Terms…" started out as, it became rooted in AOL J-land. It was my presence in the community. It was my voice, my telephone line, my letter-box, and sometimes my soapbox; where my friends indulgently smiled and patted me on the head when I climbed up and shook my finger at the world… And though I was always more on the outskirts of the community that in the midst of it, I stayed. Through the "Unwanted Ad Exodus" and beyond, I stayed. Through generations of readers that came and went, I stayed. It was my place…it had welcomed me when I was at a particularly lonely juncture in my life. And so…I stayed.

And I sweated and cried and toiled over my keyboard for hours when AOL decided to shut its doors. The race to save the blog took energy I did not have and could not spare, but it was essential. But I know now…though the blog is saved, though five years of essays are here, many of them are meaningless. Silly, even. Because they tell the story of getting to know and being a member of a community that no longer exists. "Coming to Terms…" was a unique part of a unique place. And now that the place is gone, "…Terms…" has lost its purpose.

It's possible I will start another blog, under another name, where I can re-establish that theme of writing to get the demons out of my head, and taking the chance that someone might read. But I can't wrestle "Coming to Terms…" back into that mold. It is way beyond that, an entirely different entity than it was when it started. It is not a place I come to be alone.

So…this is


and goodbye to my sweet Bebebe, who slipped away quietly this evening... Bebebe

Friday, January 23, 2009

Getting Nowhere

For awhile, I was able to convince myself that this economic downturn would deal us only a glancing blow. I fantasized that I was properly placed in the market (cheap) and well enough established after almost three years, that people would still come. Enough people to keep us in business.

But the bank account continues to bleed… If it's not being pummeled by a meteoric rise in the minimum wage (from $7.95 to $8.40 as of January 1) it's exsanguinating into broken equipment or some other unforeseen damn thing. I'm starting to slide back into that chronically over-stressed, sleep-deprived place that I thought I had just finished climbing out of. But the ground beneath my feet has suddenly tilted to a crazy angle and become slippery as glass.

A few days ago, I had the kind of ah-ha moment that no small business owner ever wants to have. I realized that we are not getting anywhere. Realized that after a year of what looked like pretty decent forward progress, we have not only stopped progressing, but we are hanging on with fingers, toes and teeth to stay where we are. And I thought, what if this is as good as it gets? What if last year was the best year we'll ever have?

Certainly the community growth we expected—that was part of our business plan—has been put to a screeching halt by the economic downturn. Developers have stopped developing, the homes they built just before the crash are sitting there unoccupied, and the occupied ones may soon get over it, as the young families who inhabit them lose their incomes or their sub-prime mortgages.

Six months ago, I let myself believe that we had turned some kind of corner. I thought I was starting to get a peek..I squinted, I rubbed my eyes. Yes, there it was. It looked like someone holding a bic lighter at the far end of the Chunnel. But it was a light.

I emerged from my exhaustion-produced fog and thought, "Ah! Now I can run this business like a human being…rather than constantly flying by the seat of my pants, and being so tired I don't know my own name half the time." Quality of life hovered right there on the horizon. So close, I could almost touch it. I reached out…and it disappeared.

I'm back to the sixty-hour weeks and being lucky to get a day off. I would like to say that I did this before, and I can do it again. But I don't want to do it again. I don't want to be that tired. And there's a hopelessness about it, this time around. Until now, I could almost convince myself that it was worth it to be in that intense, foggy, overworked place. I thought it was finite. I thought that if I just do this for x more months, I could eventually crawl out of the fog and get a life.

But I don't know that now. In fact, it looks like I'll never get out of this place…never get anywhere. Never get to where I can feel a lasting sense of success or accomplishment with this thing…much less make any money at it. That is not how I want to live. I have to…HAVE TO at least feel like I'm getting somewhere, making some kind of progress. And since I've never been one for choosing my own reality, I am not capable of assuming progress where none exists. I don't lie well, not even to myself.

I have to figure out where to go from here. If there is indeed a "where" to go. And even, where "here" is. The time is fast approaching where I'll have to choose between two very clear, very black and white courses of action. Get somewhere…or get out.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Not Moving On

Gannet passed an award on to me the other day. This one is called the "Friends Award;" and here is the obligatory explanatory text:

"The Friends Award isn't about being the most popular blogger or having the most read blog. It is just because you consider the author a friend. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

Robin's nod made me smile and sigh at the same time. It was nice to be reminded that I do have a handful of solid friends who came into my life through this medium. The thought of passing the award on to eight other bloggers was kind of intimidating…until I listed them here, I didn't realize that I do indeed have eight friends who have been with me for almost my entire five-year run here in the ether. Robin. Cynthia. Kat. Alpha-Mary-woman. Judi. Jackie—my real-life friend as well as blogging buddy. Lisa—who disappeared for quite awhile, but is back now. And Kay, who is actually my newest blogging friend—we don't go all the way back, but certainly several years. Ladies, consider yourselves awarded.

However, I've recently been tossing around the idea of hanging up my blogging spurs. Wondering, really seriously this time, whether there is enough left here for me in blogland to keep me plugging away. There has been a decidedly unsubtle change in the community since the demise of AOL J-land. Indeed, the "community" has all but dried up and blown away. Even those friends mentioned above touch base much less frequently than they used to, be it because of real life involvements, or simply because they have tired of…this place.

The community aspect of the internet experience has moved on to places like Facebook and MySpace. Those are the hotspots, now; they're all about having, flaunting, and making more "friends." Yes, I have a Facebook page. But I almost never go there. I neither understand nor enjoy all the jillion little games and quizzes and snowball fights and whatever that are part and parcel of Facebook land. There is really nothing I can do there, like posting pictures or "writing" to friends and family, that I cannot do—have been doing for the past five years—here on my blog. I guess with my life as full as it is with the trappings of my entrepreneurial endeavor, I don't have the time or energy to pack up and move on to the new neighborhood. I'm sure it's all very nice, and I'm not necessarily dissing anyone who does it. It's just…not for me.

So that leaves me here…one of the last houses on the block with the fire still burning and the lights still on. Leaving the latchstring out…but there's no one around to lift the latch, lean in and say "hi." Most of the time, I'm okay alone. I was alone when I moved in to this neighborhood…more alone than at any other time in my life. I came here in desperation, to get the noise out of my head…with the small germ of a hope that someone might read. Understand? Learn? Relate?

Those things happened…and more. I found I had fallen into a community. I found friends. Something I had not had in a really, really long time. I am not exaggerating when I say that blogging saved my life. Or at least my sanity. And I also found that I could still turn a decent phrase or two…a skill I had thought lost beyond any redemption.

But now, with everyone going on to…wherever they are going…it's down to me and the language and my keyboard. It has to be about me and the writing…which I thought was what it was about when I first embarked on this endeavor. Until I found the community, and realized it was about so much more.

Is the writing enough? Can I bear to keep going, knowing I'm merely a pitiful little squeak in the deafening noise of the blogosphere? Unsure whether all the words I can wring out of my soul are remarkable enough to make anyone stop, read… Understand? Learn? Relate?

Every other time I've come to this juncture, by the time I got to the end of my rant, my mantra would return: I can't not write. Here is where I write. Here I'll stay.

This time?

This time…

I'm not so sure.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Hard decisions have been made RE labor and other costs at The Old Town CafĂ©. Toward that end, I cut staffing hours by 25% last week, and made up the difference with *TA DAAAA*… myself. Worked thirty-six hours in three days.

I remember being this tired. Vaguely. It was during the first eighteen months of owning the business.

I recall being so chronically exhausted that I felt as if I was functioning on about 60% power all the time.

I remember despising that feeling with all the passion I could muster at 60% power.

And with all the passion I can expend at the roughly 80% power to which I am presently reduced, I hate it all over again.

Hard. The last thirty days have been hard. Hideous weather. Disappointing (to put it mildly) sales. Coming to terms with the reality that, yes, indeed, the hard economic times are going to bite us in the ass after all. I so hoped that we were going to dodge that bullet. What was I thinking?

I told a customer today that we were going to have to hold on by our fingernails until things get better. We're not out of business (yet.) We're not even really in danger of going out of business (yet.) But we're not making the progress I was so hoping to see by now. In fact, I realize anew that entrepreneurship is so much a back and forth dance. If you are very lucky, you can take two steps forward before you have to take that backward step.

But take it you will.


Am I too old for this?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Next Year…Maybe Not

I set about the task of de-Christmasifying the house when I got home from work today. Husband was firmly entrenched on the family room couch, attached by some invisible umbilical to the idiot box. The outdoor lights that he had promised to deal with were still swinging from the gutters. When I asked him why he hadn't taken care of them, he cried, "It's my day off!" "Oh, goody!" I cried back. "Do I get one of those?" My days off are spent scrubbing toilets, chasing giant dust-bunnies, crawling around on the floor cleaning up cat puke, paying bills, scouring countertops, planting flowers, polishing windows, sweeping decks, dusting furniture, vacuuming stairs, putting up Christmas decorations, taking down Christmas decorations…

It occurred to me, as I stripped the baubles off the upstairs tree, that I'd hardly had time to enjoy them. The only opportunity I had to handle them, and to let the memories wash over me, was when I put the tree up. And then again this evening as I took it down. And it struck me. I love these things. They are beautiful and shiny, whimsical and sweet, and every one of them means something to me. To ME. Only to me. And not to another soul in the whole world.

My husband does not love them. He stays as uninvolved with them as he possibly can. His major contribution is to whine while he pulls the boxes out of the garage, and whine again when he has to put them back. The rest of the time, I'm on my own. There are two people living here, and only one of them gives a damn about any of these pretty things. And it's the same story, really, with everything in the house. It's my furniture, and my art hanging on the walls, and my china gathering dust in the hutch, and my flowers in the garden every summer. He doesn't love these things. As a matter of fact, I have no idea what he loves anymore.

Football. He loves football. And the television. Hour upon hour of it. The TV is the only thing in the house he would save if the place caught fire. In fact, I think he might just grab it before he grabbed me. After all, I should be able to save myself…

Now that I spend 90% of my waking hours at the restaurant, the trappings of my life…my former life, the one where I had a home, a family, a loving husband and a friend or two—don't make any sense anymore. Christmas just makes that all the more clear. The season used to be about sharing with my beloved, and my family and our friends. And then it became about cherishing the memories. And then the memories just made me feel lonely and sad. And eventually I have come to where I just go through the motions, and I don't even know why anymore. The family and the memories and the friends—and the beloved—are all so far away.

It crossed my mind to just pack it all up and drag every last speck of glitter to the Goodwill. It hurts too much to be surrounded with so many things that only remind me of the things that are beyond my reach.

But I can't do that. Not yet. Some day, when I'm less tired, less isolated, less bereft, maybe my pretty things will make me happy again.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Coming to Terms…with 2008

At the end of December 2007, I happened upon an idea for a New Years post that really appealed to me. It spoke to the basic structure of my being—which is to be more inclined to scrutinize the past than charge into the future. I don't highly recommend this as the best way to conduct one's life…it simply is what I do. What I cannot help doing, evidently.

Still, examining history can prove quite interesting, and can be a pretty accurate indicator of where one in fact will be heading, in spite of whatever resolutions one might invent in anticipation of a brand new set of 365 days.

So, following is a record of the first line (or two) from my first post of each month of 2008 here at Coming to Terms. (And some parenthetical commentary.) Let's see what kind of story this will tell…

January~~Here we are, already more than a week into the new year. I SO have not been feeling like writing. (But unfortunately for you, dear reader, I have decided to go ahead and write…nothing… anyway.)

February~~Hi Dad!
I got to thinking about you today. It is a day for thinking about you.
(February will always begin, now, with the anniversary of that loss.)

March~~You all knew I'd have something to say on this subject, didn't you....?
Dubya is possibly the lamest duck in the history of the genre.
(Was there ever a more fertile topic than the eight-year serial drama of our soon-to-be-ex bungler-in-chief?)

April~~Things are getting a little funky around the old homestead…
I think the general population is starting to get the fact that we are indeed in a recession.
(And, of course, I'm never more than a heartbeat away from stressing out about "living the dream"…)

May~~You might remember the gist of my earlier post being that if I want to do anything at all, I have to just go for it.
At this time, I'm proud to announce that I am going to apply that piece of my personal motivational philosophy to the ensemble blog I suggested last month.
(The birth of "Women On…" which has, unfortunately, become more like "Lisa On…" **sigh**)

July~~Today is Independence Day. The day we Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence—our first step toward becoming a sovereign nation. (Wouldn't be my blog without a good old fashioned political rant or two…)

August~~I've written in this space previously about my spiritual agnosticism. I'm not an atheist. I believe there exists a spiritual plane to which we are intimately connected, and about which we know almost nothing. (…and another chapter in "An Agnostic's Quest for the Meaning of Life.")

September~~Fall has slammed down like a guillotine. Officially, Autumn does not start for almost three more weeks, but the season is here now and seems disinclined to take "no" for an answer. (Fall always inspires the more poetic side of my nature…)

October~~Funny how no one has been posting much. AOL tells us they're going to be closing their doors in 30 days, and we all just…abandon ship. (Lest we forget the final betrayal of AO-Hell…)

November~~Ahhhh…the time change! I can't say I'm going to love that it will be getting dark at 5:00, but I think I hate getting up in the dark more than just about anything. (Already revving up to hate winter…)

December~~This is turning out to be about the fastest Holiday season on record. I'm still trying to figure out what happened to August, and here it is, less than three weeks until Christmas. (And the annual scramble to try to wring something meaningful out of the Christmas season before it slips out of my hands.)

Hard to put in a nutshell what this all says about my 2008. No huge traumas; no instances of life grabbing me by the throat and beating a new lesson into me—which, these days, seems to be the only way I learn anything. (You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it ain't easy…) Maybe it was just a year of…having found my bearings. A year of coming back, of no longer being overwhelmed by the challenges I had set before myself.

Perhaps life now, and going forward, is more apt to be a mingling of the best aspects of what I was before (an under-challenged semi-retired introvert) and what I am now (an overwhelmed workaholic entrepreneur.)

And that isn't half bad.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Following...Not Following

In case anyone notices, I have gone through and "un-followed" many of the blogs to which I had added myself as a "follower."

Now, don't get in a tizzy (I'm writing this as if anyone actually cares whether I read or not. But just in case there are one or two who DO...). I have decided I prefer to use my "bloglines" feeds as a tracking tool of the blogs I read. Most of you were already there anyway, and it was kind of redundant to track you in two places. Bloglines is less cumbersome for me than the whole blogger "follower" thing. So everyone is on my bloglines list now.

If there is someone out there (again, this assumes there is anyone at all out there reading) who would like me to visit his/her blog, or perhaps become a regular reader thereof, please leave me a link in the comments and I will stop by and get better acquainted