Friday, June 30, 2006

Where The Rubber Meets The Road...

So, this is it. The Big Day.

I have purposely not been focusing on what this day means, in terms of my life. In terms of my future. In terms of the awesome responsibility I will be taking on my shoulders. (Not to mention the awesome amounts of money changing hands.) The big picture is just too much for me to assimilate, and too overwhelming for me to contemplate. So mostly, I’ve been looking at this as a pile of random jigsaw puzzle pieces, each one representing one of the million responsibilities, plans, forecasts, talents, challenges, crap-shoots and sure things that, when properly assembled—over a ridiculously long period of time that is sure to try my very limited patience—will become a picture of a successful entrepreneurial venture.

Success. It’s hard to even define the word, as it applies to this situation. I’m pretty sure my hopes are not too high. At this point, I’m thinking if we don’t go broke in eighteen months we can claim success. Actually making money hasn’t even entered the picture yet.

And I’m pretty sure it’s the process that I enjoy the most, not the expected result, whatever that may be. Wednesday night, I stayed up until 2 am designing new table tents advertising our (pitiful) beer and wine list and our tiny array of dinner specials. I proudly put them out on the tables yesterday afternoon, modestly accepting the oohs and ahs of the staff. (Unfortunately, my little project seemed to act like customer repellent. Not one customer darkened the doors of the café for two hours yesterday evening. I sincerely hope that all the other little "subtle" changes I’m planning to make as soon as the ink dries on the contracts don’t have similarly negative effects. I don’t want to go in the crapper within the first three months…)

This afternoon at 4:30 pm we will sit down and do the deed…the deed which the ever-cautious bean-counter genes I inherited from my father have been agitating against since the idea of buying a business first entered my head. Luckily for me, I have been able to blow off those genes at times when I knew that listening to them would keep me from having any kind of a real go at life. So, Dad…put in a good word for us with the Universe and just…hang on. The ride’s about to begin.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ten Good Things--Week Fifteen

All the myriad of lists and chores and errands and minutiae and details I’m stuffing into my days has inspired me to present myself with a creative challenge for this week’s 10 good things. Not just short and sweet. I tried that a couple of weeks ago. No…this time we’re going for ultra-short. One word short. One word per good thing. Or how about two? Let’s see what we can do.

  1. Last-minute reprieves.
  2. Grown-up kittens.
  3. Scented candles.
  4. Bald eagles.
  5. Drip irrigation.
  6. Indispensable husbands.
  7. Completed paperwork.
  8. Air-conditioned trailers.
  9. Employee relations.
  10. Final week.

Not very poetic, huh? More like cryptic… Oh well. At least I know what I’m talking about.

Things are good.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

I'm Still Alive...Barely

A week ago, I wondered if I would be reduced to posting snippets of whatever creative flashbulbs went off in my head in the midst of all the hubbub. At this point, I’m wondering whether my brain has enough spark left to generate even a firefly-esque flash. I passed fried a long time ago. I’m very nearly comatose.

The sheer amount of stuff we are trying to pack into every twenty-four hours has produced one interesting side effect. For the past many months, I have felt like time has been slipping through my hands like oiled rope. Lately, there is so much going on, so many things to keep track of, that time seems to be expanding–like one of those new hefty garbage bags—to hold it all in. Yesterday, I went to the hardware store on my break in order to get a key made. When I thought about that little errand today, it seemed like it happened at least a week ago.

Five more days to go until we sign the papers. I’m being stretched in a hundred directions, some of which I haven’t even had time to think about, yet. Today, I told Mr. Current Owner that I thought my head was going to explode, and he said, "Well, don’t do it in here. We don’t want to clean up the mess." Ha ha. No sympathy from that quarter.

Maybe tomorrow morning I will have enough time, and have my batteries half-charged enough, to go into some detail about what’s been going on. But now….now I just have to go to bed. A task much easier said than done, since, on top of everything else, the mercury has soared over 100° here in the Columbia Valley for the second day in a row, and sleeping is something not best accomplished in an upstairs bedroom that a bank of west-facing windows has lately transformed into a sauna. It always cools down at night around here, and we’re counting on two fans blowing full blast right on the bed to make the accommodations somewhat livable within the next couple of hours. Meanwhile I’m…typing. And falling asleep with my fingers on the keypad. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ten Good Things...Week Fourteen

It’s almost Wednesday, (well, I guess technically it IS Wednesday. But I haven’t been to bed yet, so it’s still Tuesday to me…) and I haven’t done my Ten Good Things list for the week. Okay, okay….I’m doing it already. Sheesh!

  1. I was able to wangle enough time to go out to Astoria and work at the Scandinavian Festival. It is one of my favorite events. I get to wear the costume, I get to enjoy the music and the dancing, and I get to sell good food to a lot of people who really appreciate it. Can’t ask for more than that.
  2. Looks like we have figured out how we are going to be in three places at one time this coming Saturday. I’m making an all-out bid to please everybody this weekend. We shall see what the results shall be…
  3. Astoria. Prebyterians. Pie. Pecan pie on Saturday. Chocolate chip pecan pie on Sunday. Need I say more?
  4. Eagle sightings on the outskirts of Astoria, on the way to the fairgrounds where the festival is held. Always a good omen.
  5. Twenty percent sales increase over last year at the festival. First time this season we have shown a good increase. I’ll take it.
  6. What good thing can I relate about my hours spent with my future employees at the café last week? That I didn’t kill anybody? That they didn’t kill me? That’s about as good as it gets…J
  7. My sister "D" has been a godsend during this month of juggling conflicting commitments. I owe her bigtime. Or maybe "owing" is not something one does with sisters. We’re family. We help each other out. That’s the way I always thought it should be.
  8. I discovered that the swallows are trying to build a nest in the shed, but apparently, the first few eggs either blew or fell off of the rafter under the eave. This morning, I screwed a little "wall" to the framing, in an attempt to keep things, like eggs and baby birds, from tumbling off onto the floor of the shed. Mama bird checked out my "home improvement project" under the watchful eye of Papa bird. It will be interesting to see what they do now…
  9. Despite an entire week of running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I managed to keep the house in some semblance of order. This is very important to me. Being semi-retired the last several years, I’ve been able to invest time in housework that was heretofore unthinkable. I don’t want to go back to living in a pit just because I’ve gone back to work (outside the home.) Managing to fit it all in for the time being…
  10. Did I mention that my husband is always a good thing? He has been as indispensable these past few weeks as sister "D." His on-again, off-again commitment to Café de la Rue seems to have evaporated, and he has been right there to help every minute of every difficult, demanding, mystifying day. Maybe it won’t be too long before he can drop out of the workaday world and come into the business full-time. I’ve always thought we make a heckuva team.

There. All done. Are you happy now? :-]

Monday, June 19, 2006

Keeping the Fire Burning

In the past, when my life has shifted into overdrive, my writing has fallen by the wayside. But up until the last three years, I had not allowed myself to see my writing as an art form, and a talent that I have no business wasting. Now, I need to take a look at how I’m going to relate to my art when I don’t have a lot of time to sit and stew about it. Do I continue writing whatever off-the-wall snippets spring into my mind, and hope once in awhile a gem will pop out? Or do I wait until I have the time to sit down and write "properly?" I don’t think the latter is the solution, because I’m very much afraid I’ll stop writing entirely. And I’ve come to see that my life without writing isn’ life.

So, here’s a snippet…

Driving home through the small towns strung along Highway 30, we passed a reader board in front of a gas station proclaiming "Happy Father Days." Yesterday was Father’s Day, wasn’t it? A holiday I no longer have reason to acknowledge. The mortal remains of my dad lie on a hill overlooking a peaceful cemetery on the western outskirts of Eugene. My husband’s dad is also gone. And since we are not parents, Mother’s and Father’s Days have no personal meaning for us (Zookeeper’s Day would be appropriate…the "children" could wrap a bow around a mouse…)

But when it comes to Father’s Day, it’s as if it no longer exists. I have other days reserved for wistful thinking about Dad. I just…don’t go there on Father’s Day.

Friday, June 16, 2006

My Two Worlds Colliding

For the past week, I’ve existed with one foot in each of my two worlds. Trying to put time in at the café, so that I can be up to speed by the time we take over, and at the same time, preparing for one of our larger, and one of my favorite, events with the concession trailer. It’s been hectic, and busy, and up until yesterday, I thought, "I haven’t felt this alive in a very, very long time."

Today, though, I think I hit the wall. Things are not going well for me at the café. It’s no surprise that the crew is not welcoming me with open arms; I’m bombarded by negative vibes emanating from all concerned. And while I completely understand why they feel as they do, it is extremely hard for me to function with that dark cloud hanging over me. It was busy during lunch today (unfortunately, the first time it has been busy all week…which doesn’t bode well, does it?) And I didn’t know whether to jump in and help or stay out of the way. I felt like it didn’t matter which I did, it was going to be resented. I spent six hours there this morning, and by the time I left, I felt like I had a thousand-pound weight strapped to my back.

In contrast, yesterday I drove the trailer out to Astoria to set up the booth for the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival. It was so very nice to fall into my old routine. Café de la Rue fits me like a well-worn shoe. Whereas Old Town Café feels like someone else’s custom-fitted boot. It isn’t comfortable at all. Yet.

I feel very much like Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz, flashing back and forth between the Emerald City and the farm. When I’m behind the counter of Café de la Rue, I feel like "We’re home, Toto!" Struggling around in the negatively charged atmosphere of the café, I know I’m not in Kansas anymore. And I do hope that I won’t come to realize I should never have left my own back yard to go looking for my heart’s desire…

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ten Good Things—Week Lucky 13

Oh, no! I’ve been so busy, I’ve blown off the "Ten Good Things!" I’m here to remedy that…but I’m so damned tired, I’m going to make it as short and as sweet as I can possibly manage. Okay…here goes:

  1. I’ve been enjoying the antics of a family of song sparrows that hatched somewhere nearby earlier this season. We usually have one or two of these little guys hanging around. Lately, we have a whole brood. And the fledglings are so funny. They are too stupid to be afraid of me, so they just sit on the fence a couple of feet away and go cheep! cheep! cheep! and cock their heads when I talk to them.
  2. The honeysuckle on the arbor over the gate between my front and back yards is blooming. It smells absolutely marvelous. I’ve been able to enjoy it as I run back and forth between "Big Red" the concession trailer in the back yard, and the garage where all my traveling restaurant equipment is located. I’m working my butt off, but at least my world smells nice.
  3. Made our first appearance at the Tillamook Farmers’ Market. It wasn’t a huge success, but we DID at least do the sales I had projected for the day. That’s the first time we’ve hit my projection all year. And it didn’t rain, and it wasn’t cold. And there was only the occasional whiff of the ever-present Tillamook dairy cow smell carried on the breeze J
  4. Pretty much locked in the deal on the café… yay!
  5. Drove out to Vernonia on Sunday… Vernonia is the major town in the central part of the county (the rest of the larger towns are strung along Highway 30) Because of its isolation from the rest of the county, people round these parts call it "Ver-nowhere." But it has a lovely little lake that you can walk all around in about twenty minutes, and this great old abandoned mill building that has turned into the grandest indoor arboretum. Thirty foot trees grow through where the roof once was, and the inside walls are decorated with some remarkable modern spray-paint art. (And I forgot my camera. Sigh!)
  6. Had the initial meeting with Ms. Emotional Manager, and it went well. I mostly smiled and said nothing. Aren’t you proud of me?
  7. Found a great gift to give the husband for his fiftieth this July. I’m shipping him back to Illinois to a reunion with his family (and hinting they might want to give him a little party…) He will love the heck out of it, and I can stay home and work myself to death at the new restaurant without feeling guilty.
  8. I’m finding I am much more efficient when I am busy. I am the personification of the theory that a body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to remain at rest…
  9. We’ve been eating out a lot because we’ve been so busy. Bad for the diet, but good for "competition shopping." And we found that the one little rinky-dink restaurant in St. Helens is our favorite place. Because we see the same waitress every time, she knows our order, she plunks our drinks down in front of us within seconds of when we walk in the door. Something to emulate in our own venture…
  10. I haven’t gone broke, lame or crazy…yet.

I think these are getting easier. At least it didn’t take me two hours this time! As my life gets more hectic, I suspect my writing will become a little less over-thought and a lot less tediously edited. And that might be a good thing, as well…

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Thanks for The Thoughts....

First of all, thank you all for your counsel. I had to laugh, though. I don’t think one person who read my entry  about the "fragile manager" (with the exception of Jackie, who knows me personally) has any concept of the hellish trials through which I have passed in my work life because of my "blunt" personality. I think it just goes to prove that I really am from another planet…

"Tell her directly but with humor that you’re blunt and straight-spoken." Has anybody ever actually done this? Has it worked? Because, in my life, when I’ve tried to give people an "honest" assessment of who I am, it has fallen on totally deaf ears. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that people have a tendency to hear much more of what they want to hear than what you are actually saying. …

"I…pretended I was in high school auditioning for the lead in Mary Poppins" Great advice, Maryanne. Really. But I am a total introvert. As such, do you think I ever in my life auditioned for anything? One of the biggest hurdles I have faced in my interaction with other human beings is that I can’t act worth a tinker’s damn.

"I find it hard to believe you are as brutal a personality as you seem to believe…" Thank you, Gigi. I wish I could say you had a point. For years, I didn’t want to believe I was a "brutal" personality. But the statistics tell quite another story…

"Bite your tongue, kiss her ass and wave sweetly to her as she walks out of your life forever when the two weeks is up." I understand that ass-kissing is a valuable skill in the world of modern human interaction. But it is something of which I am utterly incapable. On a very elemental, unconscious level, I don’t believe in it, which is probably why I suck at it. As time has passed, I have truly regretted my deficiency in this area. But it is what it is. And, "bite my tongue?" Apparently I have absolutely no talent for that, either…

"Xanax. For you, and for her." Love that advice, Wil. And, though I am a somewhat of a noncomformist when it comes to psycho-active drugs, I am almost desperate enough to take this advice quite seriously.

"…stay calm, cool and collected during this two-week period, listen well and take in silently what's going on in the business currently…" Excellent counsel. The part about listening well and taking in what’s going on in the business is definitely included in my plan. Staying calm, cool, and collected, however, may be much more than I could ever hope for …

"Sit down with her and tell her a little about yourself. Tell her that if you come off a bit forceful, it's not's just who you are." See my previous reaction to the idea of telling someone that I am blunt and plain-spoken.

"Oh, and the ever popular count to 10 before you said something you'll regret." The problem is, I never know I’m saying something I’m going to regret until it has already been said, and I’m wallowing through the aftermath…

"Most people would be worrying about the money, or the utilities, or the fixtures, or the leaky basement walls, and you are worried about someone being NICE." It’s not that I worry about her being nice. It’s that I know what happens when "nice" runs into…me. It has never been pretty.

Probably the most practical and practicable advice I got from someone who doesn’t know me personally came from Karen: "My personal experience is that you can't make people be who they are just be yourself and suck it up for 2 weeks and know that you can do anything for 2 weeks and still live." How true.

Whatever happens, I know there is no "dead baby in a box," like there was after my sister gave birth to her still-born daughter in 1991. And no nine-week, roller-coaster death-bed vigil, like there was with my oldest sister in 1995. And I won't be stumbling through attending a beloved parent during a short, losing battle with cancer, as I did with my dad six years ag0. Having survived all of these, I know that the world will not come to an end if I don’t find a way to send this fragile young manager out the door after two weeks with no hard feelings.

I’ll give it my best shot. And whatever happens, we’ll go forward from that point.

Friday, June 9, 2006

I Don't Know What Got Into Me...

Precisely what I did not need right now was another haircut from hell. I don’t know what possessed me to walk through the door of a salon the other day. I have been dancing on the edge of insanity with everything that’s been going on, and I felt the need to go out and do something just for me. And my hair has been driving me crazy. Still, I know much better than to think I’ll get any kind of a positive jolt from a haircut. There is not a human being on earth, apparently, who speaks my dialect of English when it comes to understanding what I want them to do with my hair.

I very carefully explained to this stylist that the last four haircuts I’ve received have been from hell. I very carefully explained (I thought) what I wanted her to do. We talked about how the "longer in the front" thing that is so popular these days has been tried, and it just does not work with my hair. We discussed how I just needed it trimmed to collar length in the back, and then layered away from my face in the front. L-A-Y-E-R-E-D. She had no concept of the technique whatsoever. I realize it is not exactly fashionable in the world of the "do" these days. In fact, it’s a decidedly eighties style. But, as I tried to tell Ms. Stylist, I’ve lived with this hair for almost 51 years, and I think I know by now what works and what doesn’t.

And I could have excused her if she had been some young thing who hadn’t even been born yet when I first had my hair styled in a layered cut. But this babe was every bit as old as me; I’m sure she must at least have some memory of the concept.

She was physically unable to do what I told her to do with the front of my hair. I kept telling her, "It needs to be layered away from my face so that you can see my ears." She would pick up the piece of hair, snip off another sixteenth of an inch, put it down and say, "Like that?" Augh! I SO wanted to grab the shears out of her hand and just hack into my own hair. Finally I just told her, "Fine. I’ll go home and dry it and it will be just fine. Thank you." When I got home and tried to style it, I looked like the Little Dutch Boy.

So this morning, I grabbed my best sewing shears, and...hacked into my own hair. It doesn’t look any better. But it doesn’t look any worse. All I can say is, it’s a good thing that most of the professional styles these days look like the models have attacked their own heads with a dull dagger. It makes my current haircut look all the more fashion forward.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Where Things Stand Now

Today, I delivered the non-refundable deposit the seller of the business we’re buying insisted he needed, in order to quit holding "other offers" over my head. So now, more than at any time up until now, this looks like a done deal. How I would love to be breathing a sigh of relief. How I would love to be looking forward, unconditionally thrilled, to assuming the captaincy of my own ship. But this whole exercise is turning out to be like a game of "Whack-a-mole." Have you ever played "Whack-a-mole?" It’s the arcade game where you get a big padded mallet, and you use it to pound these little mole-heads back into the holes they pop out of. As soon as you whack one mole, another pops out of another hole. Sometimes two or three at the same time.

So, I whacked the "financing" mole. And I mashed the "mollify the seller" mole. And I’m working on wrestling the "OLCC" (liquor license) mole back down into his little hole. But, what’s this? A monstrous head just popped out of a crater the size of a manhole.’s the "present owner’s overly-emotional manager" mole! Mr. Present Owner has gone out of his way to warn me that this girl’s family has lived in the county for a hundred years, and that even the appearance that she has been ill-treated in the transition could cost me big in terms of community relations for the next...century. Oh. Thank you so much, Mr. Present Owner!

I have met this girl. She is very nice. She is sweet. She is eminently likeable. In fact, everybody likes her—customers, staff and (obviously) Mr. Present Owner himself.

She is the absolute antithesis of me.

Nothing can strike more abject fear into my heart than the prospect of dealing with a sweet, likeable, fragile psyche. I am the personification of the bull in the china shop, when it comes to personal relationships. I have no guile, no political savvy, no off button. As a general rule, whatever is in my mind just falls out my mouth. I know enough not to be outright rude or abusive, but somehow that makes the situation even worse. It really hurts my feelings when people don’t get me. If I had a rhinoceros-tough hide to go along with my social ineptitude, it wouldn’t matter to me that I make such a god-awful impression on most people the first (second, third, gotta-know-me-for-a-year-before-you-can-tolerate-me) time I meet them.

Mind you, I only have to work with this girl for two weeks. And Mr. Present Owner has already promised her a generous severance package. All she has to do is work with me long enough to allow me to get my feet under me concerning the day to day operation of the place. But when you combine what he has been so "kind" as to tell me about her, and what I know from having interacted with her for a couple weeks a year ago, I know that she and I will get along like gasoline and a match.

I am scared shitless.  My friends…. Any suggestions?

Monday, June 5, 2006

Ten Good Things--Week 12

Last week, rather than concocting yet another list of ten short recaps of good things that had befallen me over the week, I chose to write in depth about one good thing—the one thing that had hit me in the head with a brick of blessing and wonderment. This week, I’ll go back to my original formula.

Or maybe not. It occurs to me that my little lists are getting boring, and are no longer particularly engaging to anyone outside my head. But I made a commitment to the exercise, and I’m going to continue it. So, rather than go into a lot of tedious detail that no one reads or cares about anyway (except me) I’ll make the items short and sweet. Let’s see how good I am at editing.

And, oh…this list is going to include the things I left out from the previous week, too. Mainly because there was more good stuff that week than this past week, and I‘ll need to go back that far to flesh out the list.

  1. Found some neat plants at my favorite nursery outside Florence. Now all I have to do is get them in the ground…
  2. My good friend Jackie and her mom, Kathryn, surprised us at our event in Yachats over Memorial Day weekend. Went out to dinner with us afterward and we all had such a good time.
  3. Single-handedly, sans step-by-step telephone instructions from the husband, I remembered how to set up the canopy on the trailer. I am woman, hear me roar. (After the 45-minute saga of backing the trailer into the campsite, this was a much-needed victory.)
  4. Lovejoy’s Tea House. Great food. Great wine. Great décor. Wish it were mine.
  5. Truck threatens to crap out (yet again) 150 miles from home. Spend $35 at a Dodge dealership to find out it is just being a pain in the ass.
  6. Took advantage of the luxury of a commercial-sized 3-compartment sink to thoroughly wash all my baking pans. God/dess willing, very soon I shall have one of my very own.
  7. Contacted lawyer. Contacted accountant. Progress is being made.
  8. I am now officially the president of a corporation.
  9. Successfully combined last weekend’s event with a five-day camping holiday. Dog, beach, campfires, cribbage, rain L … But enough sunshine to make me feel that I have accomplished vacation. Maybe the last one for a few years…
  10. Met a set-up challenge at the event we just finished yesterday, with a free, no-trip-to-the-hardware-store solution. Husband was bummed. He lives for those hardware store trips. But the bank balance came out smiling.

There you go. That was quick and painless. And a very welcome bright spot after today’s grueling schedule of dealing with people and matters about which I am utterly clueless. It takes a tremendous act of will for me to sally forth into this kind of uncharted water. And tonight, I am just exhausted. Time to try to get some sleep around the hot flashes (they seem to pick up steam when I am stressed) and start all over again tomorrow.

Overthinking It

For a moment, I consider that I am simply too old to be standing with a foot suspended over the abyss of the unknown. On the verge of leaning forward, about to shift the weight to that outstretched foot, confident that the resultant free-fall will be an escapade of the highest order. I have been there, and I have done that.

Thirty years ago, that expectation of adventure was richly rewarded. There may have been accompanying bumps, bruises, a compound fracture or two….but they always healed quickly, and always the golden nugget of knowledge, of experience, was squirreled away into memory.

Perhaps there are, at last, too many of those little nuggets stored in the cupboards and closets of my mind. They are stacked to the rafters and oozing out under the doors and around the hinges; no longer golden, but turned to dross. Unrewarded risks, confident forays into mud or mire, heedless wagers placed on losing horses… They mock me; they haunt me. They drag me down. To safety. To uncertainty. To paralysis.

All I can do is strap on the blinders…allow no look back, nor to the side, nor too far ahead. Certainly no further ahead than the next footfall. Just make myself keep moving, and I will get There. And once I am There, the fear, the restraint, the immobility will be pushed aside by the process of contriving to make it from day to day…the simple groundwork of success.

Friday, June 2, 2006

Why I Love My Job...

Because I get pictures like this...

...during my off hours.


Thursday, June 1, 2006

ONE Good Thing, Week 11--The Gift

Since this installment of "Ten Good Things" is being churned out three days late, I’m going to break with my usual model this week, and only write about one good thing. The best thing.

It’s funny, the things that suddenly become important when a loved one dies. When we were dismantling my parents’ household seven years ago after my dad passed away (my mother went into Assisted Living when Dad died) I couldn’t let go of things that smelled like Dad. Dad stopped smoking a pipe when I was a little girl, yet somehow, his oldest, most treasured personal objects—the ones he kept in his top drawer—held on to that smell for decades. So, too, did the old briefcase. Though slightly musty from years spent in the bottom of a closet, it retained that hint of metal and leather, pipe tobacco, and hand oil that will always be the scent of Dad to me.

I treasure that ratty old briefcase, that relic, that antique. Stiff tan leather, it’s more of a satchel than what we think of as a briefcase nowadays. It has a lock (for which the key is long lost) and buckled leather straps on either side, one of which has been shortened by age and abuse. It has Dad’s name discreetly engraved in gold lettering above the lock. I think he received the case as a gift upon his graduation from the University of Oregon in 1942.

It’s just the right size to hold Café de la Rue’s menu signs. And I need that part of my dad to be part of my business. I hate that he never got to see me reach out and grab hold of this handful of personal challenge and success; small and unambitious as it may seem to the casual observer, it has been a monumental step for me. I like to think that Dad would have been proud. So I keep that briefcase. I take it to every event. I even call it, simply, "Dad."

This past weekend, "Dad" was packed up with everything else and trucked over to our event at the coast. As always, our lodging consisted of a couple of campsites in one of Oregon’s lovely State Parks along Highway 101. And because it is spring in Oregon, and because it is the coast at any time of year, it rained 70% of the time. Friday night, after a long day and a couple of glasses of wine, my sister and I attempted to gather all the things we needed to take to "work" on Saturday morning. I had the briefcase in my hand, intending to take it over and put it in her car for the morning. Then, in my fifty-something menopause-addled way, I got distracted, set the briefcase down on the picnic table, and rushed off to grab something else.

We packed the cooler, the supplies we had picked up at the store that day, the ice… Checked them off the list, dusted off our hands, and went to sit by the campfire with dinner in our laps and more wine at our elbows. Yawned and stretched at about 10 pm, and hit the hay early (for me…)

It had rained all night the night before. If you have ever been inside a camp trailer when it’s raining, you will understand why I was groggy from lack of real sleep. It’s like trying to sleep in a shoebox under a constant pelting of raw rice. Too loud to be white noise, but not loud enough to keep you really awake. You spend the night in a state of perpetual half-sleep. But Saturday morning, I awoke well-rested and refreshed. It had not rained a drop all night. I climbed out of bed, opened the door to let the dog out. And then I saw it.

Sitting on the picnic table, out there exposed to rain, wind, hail—any element the Almighty might have chosen to throw at it—sat Dad’s briefcase. And, inside it, my ink-jet printed menu signs, all ready for the event we would be commencing at 7:30 that morning. All of which would have been completely ruined had the weather decided to reprise its Thursday night performance.

I clucked my tongue at my cluelessness, offhandedly thanked Providence for smiling upon me so unexpectedly, picked up the briefcase and brought it into the trailer to be packed with the rest of the stuff I had staged by the door to go with us to the event.

Fifteen minutes later, it started to rain. And it rained all day. That’s when the hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I had the distinct impression that a Power somewhere just beyond my ability to comprehend, the Power I so often doubt, had bestowed upon me a most special, tender, and thoughtful gift.