Thursday, April 26, 2007

On Moving On

"I learned that I HAVE moved on." I said I would write more about this…

My older sisters took over my mother’s care back in 1999 after my dad died. During Dad’s short, intense battle with cancer, we all stepped up to try to nurse him, to allow him to die at home, as was his wish. I, however, had the luxury of being able to quit my mostly useless job and spend the most time with Dad, do most of the organizing and cooking and running him back and forth to the hospital. It was excruciating, but I took on that responsibility because no one else could, or would.

After Dad passed away, the blame for everything that might have gone wrong or been handled inadequately during his illness fell squarely on my shoulders. My sisters summarily relieved me of any responsibility when it came to my mother’s care, obviously convinced I had done such a piss-poor job with Dad that they could not allow me to reprise that performance with our surviving parent. Mom was critically ill herself at that time, so the family basically revolved around her care and concerns; and I was rather brutally pushed away from that activity. Of course I was crushed…and indignant. But it quickly became obvious that the only way for us to come to any kind of peace after Dad’s death was for me to back off and bow out. To the point where, ultimately, the husband and I felt it was in our best interest to move away—back to Portland, where he had a job and a life. Whereas I had neither. Anywhere. I needed to get a life.

We moved north in May of 2001. We bought a lovely home, the nicest we’d ever had. Husband made enough money that I didn’t really need to work. Which was just as well, because I struck out repeatedly trying to find a decent job. I was lonely, isolated, and sad. At loose ends, I flitted from project to project, never really accomplishing anything, or even staying busy.  I cried bitter tears for a home and family that had been the center of my universe but no longer existed. And I wrote. Pages and pages of anything that I thought might ease the pain. It didn’t take me too long to realize I knew what I needed, but it was way tougher to accomplish than it was to figure out. I needed to get a life.

For five years, I spun my wheels, or rolled uncertainly in directions that tookme halfway to where I needed to go, but always terminated in dead ends. Everything I tried to do to become independent from my family—or the memory of what my family had been—only served to drive me back to them. I started my own little business, but found I needed to rely heavily upon my sisters to make it work. That seemed like "the" solution for a time. I cherished the germ of hope that I was providing a way for us to regain some of our lost closeness. Even as I watched their interest flag; even as I sat wistfully on the sidelines while they got their own new lives… I needed to get a life.

Going "home" for visits was rarely pleasant. I craved those visits, hungered for them like an addict for a fix. But in the end, there was always some episode, some incident that demonstrated once again that there were clear reasons why we had moved away. I needed to get a life.

On July 1, 2006, we signed the papers on the café. In the months preceding that momentous occasion, I fretted and worried and wrung my hands about the decision. It was a whole lot of money, this $100,000 we were about to spend on what amounted to a somewhat crazy gamble. But I could no more have stopped myself from signing those papers than I could have held a gun to my head and pulled the trigger. Because I knew…I knew I was buying my life.

Last Sunday, as the husband and I took our stolen moments from the café and enjoyed our walk with the dog up on the dike, I stood and looked out across the greening fields. I looked west toward the backdrop of the misty dark hills, looked toward my home. My café. My town. I took a deep breath and I realized all at once that I had finally done it. I had finally got a life.

A couple of weeks ago, the news came from down south that my mother had fallen when she tried to get out of bed one morning. She was not seriously hurt, but my sisters took her to the hospital anyway, to try to determine why she fell.. Mom is 84 years old, and has been in poor health for, oh, about twenty years. She’s a tough old bird, and has managed to hang in there through some pretty nasty episodes that might have killed a less tenacious soul.

At first, that old frustration threatened to take over me. I bridled when my oldest sister failed to keep me informed of what was going on, then cut me off when I calledher for news. And then it hit me—what could I do from a hundred miles away that would be of any possible use?

So I let it be. The history will never go away, so it stung some. But I made a tacit little deal with my sisters: You take care of all of this. I’ll pay for the privilege of being on the outside by NOT giving you a hard time about what you do and how you do it. Which is more than you did for me when I was struggling to deal with Dad’s issues. It seems like an eminently fair exchange to me.

I shook my own hand on the deal, and then I turned around and dove headfirst back into my life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ten Good Things...Anyone Else Wanna Play?

Back by popular demand (!?) The Ten Good Things.

This time, though, I took the liberty of creating a template for the list. For two reasons: One, because my sleep-deprived brain needs a little prompting in order to create a decent list in less than six hours (or to keep myself from falling asleep in the middle of it….) And, two, because I thought maybe some of you who like the list so much would like to play, too.

So how about it? Post the link to YOUR ten good things in the comments…

Ten Good Things Template

  1. Best thing you’ve seen in the past week
  2. Best thing you’ve heard in the past week.
  3. Best thing you’ve eaten (or not, for dieters) in the past week.
  4. Best thing you’ve learned in the past week.
  5. Best place you’ve been in the past week.
  6. Best thing you’ve accomplished in the past week.
  7. Best thing you’ve said (or not) in the past week.
  8. Best thing you’ve read in the past week.
  9. Most touching moment in the past week.
  10. Biggest dragon you’ve slain in the past week.

Here are mine:

  1. Best thing I’ve seen? Standing room only at the café. We had a little event last Thursday night: We arranged with a student at the local high school to do his senior music class project at our place—so we had a "Café Concert." The students were happy, the parents were beaming, everyone was well-lubricated with various beverages (wine and beer for the adults, Italian sodas and coffees for the students.) We will have to do this again…
  2. Compliments. The positive feedback is starting to roll in at the café. Customers commenting on the food, the service, the décor, telling me how much they love the place and how "we need a place like this around here." I don’t think I could ever hear too much of this…
  3. I’ve been trying revive the Weight Watcher’s religion. To limited success—I’ve only lost about two pounds in three weeks—but at least my eating is not out of control anymore. All of my pants have been "shrinking" over the past several months…and I was NOT inclined to go out and purchase a whole new wardrobe. Again. So I dragged out the points counter and started recording everything that went into my mouth. I may not have lost much weight yet, but I feel a whole lot better.
  4. I learned that I have moved on. In a big way. I will write more about that later…
  5. I love our walks along the channel with the dog. We have been lucky enough to have decent weather most Sundays. This past week, we didn’t see any eagles, but we did say "hi" to the osprey up on top of the power tower. And we got to smell the cottonwoods…a sure sign of spring in Oregon.
  6. Since we hardly live at home anymore, house cleaning is mostly about trying to control the clouds of animal hair, washing a few wine glasses and dessert dishes, making the bed and doing laundry. And I struggle to have the time or energy to even keep up with that. But last week, I actually had time to vacuum through the downstairs. Woo-Hoo!
  7. I told one of my girls that she was swiftly becoming my favorite employee. Which in itself isn’t the best thing I’ve said all week but I hope it’s representative of what I’m trying to accomplish with my employees. Positive feedback. Strokes. Making a point of complimenting a good performance. Most of my crew are still in training, so I spend a lot of time telling them what they aren’t doing right. I’m trying to balance that with giving them a sense of accomplishment when they demonstrate they have learned something. I think it’s working…
  8. I’ve seen a couple of really pithy bumper stickers lately. One of my favorites: "Bush Deserves Another Term…Prison." We can dream, can’t we?
  9. Geez…I’m having trouble with the "most touching moment" concept. I think it’s because my life lately has been about trying to turn off emotions, the better to keep pushing forward. How about this: I’ve actually been getting compliments on my clothes from the youngsters who work for me. I guess that must mean I’m not a hopelessly dated, shriveledup old hag…yet.
  10. Payroll is a big pain in the ass for me. Anything I have to take time off the line to sit down and address, and then physically leave the premises of the café to accomplish, is an iffy proposition at best. And my accountant is an idiot, but that’s a different story… But this past week, I dispatched the "payroll demon" with amazing alacrity. I got it to the accountant on time, picked it up from the accountant on time, and got the checks written and organized the night before they were due out. Which was a good thing, because my cook chose Friday morning to wimp out on me and I was stuck standing in for her during the time I had planned to sit and write payroll. I just felt like sticking my tongue out and saying "neener-neener" on that one…

That’s it for this time around. Anyone else want to play?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Getting The Hang Of It

When I stand back and look at it, it has taken an amazingly short time to get my bearings and start moving forward with the business. Nine and a half months. The span of time that I might have been pregnant with a first child. I don’t know if there is such a thing as actually being pregnant for more than nine months, but several women have told me it FELT like they were…

Business start-up and pregnancy. Quite the analogy, really. We’ve all known women who say they loved being pregnant. That they had never felt more vital and alive. All I can say is, "Yeah…right." I know myself, and I know how I would have been. Weary with the process. Overwhelmed by the life changes. Intimidated by the unknowns. Totally relieved when it was over. Much the same emotions I’ve been experiencing since last July.

And I suppose it isn’t over—but I can’t help feeling I’ve turned the corner. I’m not lost in the weeds anymore, not feeling my way inch by inch, waiting to be blind-sided by the next weird glitch to come at me from out of nowhere. Even as I waded through those dark days this past winter, I knew…I KNEW that there were better days ahead. Knew that all I had to do was learn…learn the business. Soak up every bit of information thrown in my direction…puzzle it out. I knew I was perfectly capable of doing so, because I have done it before. I may be an old dog, but I knew I could learn new tricks. Or re-learn the old ones. I only had to give it time. Time that--eminently patient soul that I am (not)--threatened to be my undoing.

In the end, I am victorious. Or, at the very least, not done fighting. Yet. Not by a long shot.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Haven't Done One of These In Awhile...

Found this at Jackie’s Place and am too stupid to come up with anything original at the moment…

  1. What is your favorite thing to wear? Anything that makes me look ten pounds lighter and ten years younger…
  2. Last thing you ate? A stale cinnamon gummy bear.
  3. Nastiest thing you’ve ever eaten? caviar. Don’t know why anyone would consider something that comes out of the wrong end of a fish a delicacy...
  4. I say shotgun, you say? Creek (A BLM picnic ground that used to be one of my dad’s favorites)
  5. How many US states have you been to? Hmmmm….thirty?
  6. How many of the US states have you lived in? Two—Illinois and Oregon
  7. What is your favorite romance movie? While You Were Sleeping
  8. Favorite type of food? Ice cream
  9. Do you care if your socks are dirty? Doesn’t everyone?
  10. Have you ever cheated on a test? Tried to, but I couldn’t come up with the right answer anyway, so it didn’t do me any good…
  11. Has anyone ever sang or played for you personally? Yeah…my first boyfriend played piano…seemed embarrassed by it, but I did talk him into playing for me one time. He was pretty good.
  12. Do you like Bush?See my sidebar…
  13. Have you ever gone white water rafting? No…it would probably scare the crap out of me. I’m not much of a swimmer, and I hate cold water.
  14. Have you ever met a real redneck? I live in a town called "Scappoose." Draw your own conclusions. Actually, one of my fondest online friends is a card-carrying redneck. Do try not to indulge in negative regional stereotyping…
  15. How is the weather right now? Sunny, wonder of wonders. I’m confident that situation will change momentarily. Spring has sucked in the Columbia Valley so far this year…
  16. Where was the last place you went besides your house? Costco. Bought $250 worth of stuff for the café and $150 worth of personal stuff, including two great big bottles of wine, which I plan to crack open once the sun goes over the yardarm…
  17. What are you afraid of? A Republican presidential victory in 2008.
  18. How many pets do you have? Seven. Six cats and Lucy.
  19. What’s one thing you’ve learned? You can’t fix anyone but yourself.
  20. What do you usually order from Starbucks? Charbucks? Ew. Nothing, unless it’s the only thing around.
  21. Have you ever fired a gun? No. I hate loud noises. In addition to just hating guns and anything associated with them. Period.


Friday, April 20, 2007


Often times, I have little energy in the evenings to do much more than sit and stare at the boob tube, or the computer screen, if there’s nothing on tv. Sometimes, I will go back and read old journal entries. Which can be a mixed blessing.

It’s great to happen upon those really good essays…I can nearly break myself in half reaching around to pat myself on the back…J Then again, I’ve also learned that a couple of glasses of red wine don’t mix well with some of the more gut-spilling old entries… L

This evening, I’ve experienced both the extremes. Plus, I’ve found that I could be downright prophetic. Kind of raises the hair on the back of one’s neck just a little:

March 25, 2005—"I worry that my life is a little unfocused and a tad superfluous at the moment. I’m not accomplishing anything, or really even staying busy. And I’m mindful that my days are getting shorter, and I hate to think that I’m not living them to the fullest. But, I don’t know…I don’t hate my life. I know I need something, but I’m not desperate for it; at least, not most of the time. I almost feel as if I’m in a lull just before something really big is going to happen. Like I should take advantage of this time of peace and solitude because it’s not going to last too much longer. I’m even starting to lean toward not feeling so guilty about not doing anything. I worked my ass off for a lot of years. Maybe I deserve this time of freedom..."

Is there anyone out there who doubts that the Universe speaks, even when we aren’t really listening???

I KNEW I Could Do This. Sort Of...

Some time ago, I realized that I need constant reaffirmation. Quite the realization for a card-carrying introvert. Aren’t we supposed to be the souls who neither seek nor require outside approval? Aren’t we supposed to be okay, no—better, on our own? It was a bitter pill to swallow, this realization that I need other people to think me worthy, or intelligent, or talented, or good at what I do. Maybe that is one of the strong ties binding me to this blog…J

During my eight-year stint at my dream job, I found my stride as a manager; my "style" eventually cultivated a crew of competent, honest, hard-working ladies who were good friends, could work together with a minimum of back-biting, and were truly invested in the success of the business. Eventually, I simply took it for granted that I knew what I was doing, and I was good at what I did. But, most importantly, my crew respected me. They liked me and appreciated the job I did. That was what put me at the top of the world.

It was twelve long years between my exit from that wonderfully nurturing environment and the realization of my dream of having my own place. In those intervening years, my self-confidence took a severe beating at times; but I never doubted for a minute that, given the right opportunity, I could make the magic happen again. Unfortunately, my months-long struggle with staffing my restaurant ground what was left of that confidence right into the dust. I had the opportunity, and I was falling flat on my face. Maybe it had been too long. Maybe I was too old. Or maybe I just sucked at what I had once taken such pride in. The financial success or failure of the café was something I could take in stride—we’d given ourselves over to the risks involved and were willing to take our beating, if that was how things played out. But the fear that I might have lost or been mistaken about the things I most valued about myself, nearly did me in.

Perhaps it was difficult for some people to get used to working elbow to elbow with the owner. I can understand where some people would be intimidated by that, while others might be inspired. Maybe it was just a matter of getting people who meshed with my style. And, to a man, those people have been…women.

In the early days of my restaurant career, I always feltthat I got along better with "the guys" than with other women. I think that’s because I was one of the few women in the kitchen. The "girls" were the hostesses and the waitresses and the bartenders. They weren’t the sweat-hogs on the pizza line or flipping the burgers or swabbing the floors at 2 am. But I was. I was down there in the trenches with the guys. And to survive in those trenches, I had to learn to give as good as I got. I laugh and shake my head when I hear weeny 21st century women whine about sexual harrassment. Back in the day, you ate that crap up and spit it right back at them. That was how you earned their respect.

I played their game, and I was mildly successful at it. But it wasn’t until I got the title—"manager"—that I realized how much better females are at this work. Women are more empathetic, so they are better not only at dealing with customers, but at dealing with fellow employees. They’re much more likely to accept the kind of wages I can pay. They excel at teamwork, at multi-tasking, and, most importantly, at taking direction from another woman.

Yes….I know. I am a total male-bigot. But it’s MY place, and I can follow any agenda I please. And it is a fact that my crew began to "gel" the minute we saw the back of the last atom of testosterone polluting our kitchen. The biggest difference I have noticed between inexperienced young people of each gender is that the girls are willing to learn; the boys think they know everything. And I don’t have the time or the energy to crack through that know-it-all hide.

And then there have been the tales and rumors of the feats of other local restaurant owners that make me feel like some kind of freakin’ genius. One of my major competitors decided last fall that he wasn’t going to achieve his goal of "putting every other restaurant in the county out of business," so he put the place up for sale. The lady who bought it is now engaged in trying to steal help from every other restaurant around, because she felt compelled to go in and fire her entire crew. All I could think when I heard that was, well, two things: I’m glad I wasn’t stupid enough to do that (though there were times I could have cheerfully swung the axe with wild abandon); and she better stay the hell away from MY people.

The guy up the road a few more blocks was at one time in possession of one of my most brilliant new hires…He f****d up that relationship by not giving her a promised promotion, and by shaving hours off her paycheck. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why a manager/owner would treat people that way. Several readers remarked in the comments of my last entry that it was "good of me" to let my cook have the weekend off to spend with her kid. That’s not being good, it’s just being…human. Beisdes, the way I look at it, there are damn few perks I can offer my people. I can’t afford to pay much, and there is no paid sick leave or vacation or insurance (yet…) So, doesn’t it behoove me to give my crew a perk I can afford—schedule flexibility? To me, that’s just a no-brainer.

I don’t know…I suppose they could all walk out on me tomorrow, and I’d be right back to questioning my worth as a business owner, a manager, and a human being. But, at the moment, I’ve got a few weeks of managerial success under my belt, and I feel my confidence re-inflating like a rainbow-striped hot-air balloon. I am so ready to cut the tethers and soar.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What a Difference a Crew Makes

There are some jobs that competent young people are adamantly unwilling to do anymore…and restaurant work appears to be one of them. That "you want fries with that?" mentality—the image of food service being the bottom of the social and intellectual barrel—has received way too much press. The actual fact is, restaurant work requires a level of competency and multi-tasking ability that similar "unskilled labor" jobs—like retail or light manufacturing—cannot approach. My girls have to be baristas, waitresses, cooks, bakers, receptionists, bussers, dishwashers, cashiers and clean-up crew. They have to know how to take a phone order, how to handle a customer complaint with grace and poise, how to jiggle the insides of the toilet tank in the ladies’ room to stop it from leaking, and how to balance a till, along with about a million other tasks, large and small. And all for slightly more than minimum wage ($7.80/hr here in Oregon, as of Janurary 1) because that’s all we poor starving entrepreneurs can afford. Come to think of it, restaurant work doesn’t really look all that attractive, does it? But not because it’s only for stupid losers.

When I think back now to those dark months of November, December, and January, when my crew just imploded before my incredulous eyes, it’s hard to believe this is the same restaurant. In my head, I knew all I had to do was get the right people and things would improve 500%. I knew it; but given the non-response I got to every "help wanted" ad I placed in the local papers, coupled with the fact that every person I did hire seemed to come with a ton of negative baggage, I was nearly convinced that acquiring an adequate crew was the Impossible Dream

This evening at the café, I cooked a busy dinner, aided by one of my amazingly competent recently hired young cooks. We made good food, and we made it quickly; we were organized and efficient. It was a thoroughly pleasant experience. This same young cook assisted me in the kitchen this past weekend—the chief cook’s weekend off—during the incredibly busy Saturday and Sunday breakfast hours I had sweated about all the previous week. "What if we get really busy?" I fretted. "What am I going to do??" Oh, we did the busy hours all right; but in the end, the dread was unfounded. We smoked ‘em! I honestly was beginning to doubt I would ever see the day.

But now…. Now,I’m not only beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m eagerly anticipating the day I’ll need to break out the SPF 30…

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I Promise I'll Write...

It hasn’t escaped my notice that I’ve been rather neglecting the journal the past few weeks. The problem is, nothing and everything are happening at once. When I sit down at the computer in the evening during my last 30 minutes of semi-conscious time each day, I’m too drained to do anything but go around to my friends’ blogs and leave a lame comment or two. Writing anything more than three coherent sentences strung together is the impossible dream after a day spent juggling the endless tasks of the fearless entrepreneur.

On the other hand, things have been going along so decently that I really want to share my victories with everyone, as much as I shared every woeful tale wrung from my exhausted gut all winter. But then, the "going along decently" part spawns its own set of obstacles. Yes, business is improving. So I’m still tired… It’s just a much superior incarnation of exhaustion.

I am in the middle of a 12-straight-day string—my cook asked for the weekend off, so I had to don the chef hat for the weekend. Including Sunday, which is my normal day off. To say that I was a bit cranky about having to work today would be putting it mildly. Yet, I don’t begrudge my cook the days off. Her daughter’s birthday was this weekend, and Ms. Cook wanted the weekend to spend some "quality time" with her kid. You can’t say "no" to that…

So…sometime this week, I will try to asseble enough conscious time to post a "ten good things" list. And, for the first time in…forever….it might be difficult simply choosing the ten best things that have happened over the past few weeks.

Happy happy!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What Happens When You Play in the Toilet...

This hullabaloo surrounding Don Imus has been bugging me.

Don’t get me wrong. Imus’ remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team were vulgar, obnoxious, and thoroughly objectionable.

But—here’s the thing: This guy has made a living since the 80’s being vulgar, obnoxious and objectionable. Like Howard Stern. And Rush Limbaugh. And the jillion other shock-jocks and shock-jock-wannabees that have dominated the airwaves across the country over the last thirty years.

Obnoxious is what they have been paid to be. Obnoxious is, apparently, what people want to hear. Obnoxious has sold the credit cards and the cel phones and the office supplies and the dish soap and the automobiles for more than two decades.

So, what….? This guy makes one remark that is some degree more heinous than everything else he’s ever said, and suddenly we’re all clapping our hands over our virgin ears? We wallow around in the latrine with these guys for decades, grinning our secret grins and tittering our embarrassed laughs...  Then this particularly smelly turd floats by and we freak out.  We haven't noticed before now that we’re neck-deep in shit!?

What bunch of laughable hypocrites we’ve become.


Saturday, April 7, 2007

An Agnostic Considers Easter...

Today was Good Friday, wasn’t it? I was so busy that I hardly gave it a moment’s thought. Some small remnant of the faith of my Mother (I was raised Catholic) has me anticipating the fires of hell, or at the very least purgatory, for not acknowledging the day. For not feeling anything. And for not even remotely regretting that I felt nothing.

Driving up Highway 30 to the county seat, one passes at least a half dozen churches, most with illuminated reader-board signs standing sentinel at their driveways. Today, as we trundled up the highway to set up for the Easter Egg Hunt, I perused each of those reader boards. Sighed at some. Frowned at others. I honestly don’t know whether to be charmed by their naivete or peeved at their small-mindedness.

These days, when I consider those concepts that used to seem so powerful to me-- "Christ has vanquished death and Satan!"; "He is risen, just like he said!"; "Come to our Sonrise service on Easter!" —they just seem…too small. Too weak. Too much a matter of encapsulating the Divine into something the human mind can attempt to comprehend. Sort of.

One of the churches made a particular point of inviting all to their "Resurrection Day" service. Ahhh, yes. Those head-over-heels born-againers who refuse to apply the pagan term "Easter" to this most glorious Christian holiday. That same stupid crap was put forth 25 years ago when I was attempting, mostly unsuccessfully, to live the life of a good little young Christian wife. Even then, I thought it was a little, shall we say, anal retentive…

What I have since learned is that Christianity has a history….and, like all human religion, it is as much a political vehicle as a sacred one. And political power is measured in numbers. How many of "Us" are there, versus how many of "Them." So, in the dawning days of the movement, compromises were made—small concessions, little tweaks of the orthodoxy—in order to appeal to and win over the "pagans." In order to post more numbers in the "Us" column, and subtract from "Them."

Unfortunately, the new Christian Right is all about denying the history of Christianity. They want to say, "Everything starts from square one as of now. The Gospels, The Epistles, The Old Testament—those are all in. Two thousand intervening years of political machinations, power mongering and cultural concessions—those are out." After all, those things might make us look—god forbid—human!

This Easter, I’m more about considering the promise of spring. The renewal signified by the swelling bright-green leaf buds and bursting blooms in my garden. The dependability of our lovely planet to follow its eternal agenda—the awakening of spring coming on the heels of the slumber of winter. The temporal nature of human "faith" shrinks to insignificance in comparison.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Kudos to Elizabeth Edwards; Thumbs Down to Critics

Early last week, Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards stood beside his wife and announced that the deadly specter of cancer had returned to Elizabeth Edwards’ life.

Can you imagine? Can you just imagine being compelled to share such a moment of unimaginable personal challenge with a nation so lately devoid of common courtesy and compassion?

What is wrong with the American public these days? Do we feel entitled to know the dirtiest details of our next-door neighbors’ lives? Of course we want to know, in a sneaky, snoopy way. But we also know in our hearts that poking our noses into our neighbors’ personal business is an unwelcome intrusion, not to mention just plain rude. So why is it that we throw etiquette to the four winds when it comes to our public figures?

People all over the country have felt obliged to comment on the Edwards’ decision to continue the campaign. As if, because the couple has dared to enter the American political arena, every citizen has the right to scrutinize the most minute aspect of their personal lives.

Our Saturday newspaper published a letter written by a Texas woman who apparently feels entitled to an opinion because her own husband had battled cancer for 10 years. She felt that he had lived as long as he had because they "teamed up" against the cancer; and Elizabeth and John Edwards owed it to their youngest children to put all their energy into squeezing every possible hour of life from her compromised body.

And then there was the Katie Couric interview on 60 Minutes. Hard to believe that Couric, who herself lost a husband to cancer, would lend her journalistic credentials to such a tabloid-esque grilling of a couple for whom she should have had a particular personal affinity. I didn’t watch the interview, but I did research it after hearing the controversy it caused.

It appears to me that Elizabeth and John Edwards acquitted themselves quite impressively during that conversation:

Elizabeth Edwards:
"You know, you really have two choices here. I mean, either you push forward with the things that you were doing yesterday or you start dying. That seems to be your only two choices. If I had given up everything that my life was about – first of all, I'd let cancer win before it needed to. You know, maybe eventually it will win. But I'd let it win before I needed to.

And I'd just basically start dying. I don't want to do that. I want to live. And I want to do the work that I want next year to look like last year and... and the year after that and the year after that. And the only way to do that is to say I'm going to keep on with my life."

John Edwards:
"We don't understate or misunderstand the seriousness of this. I mean, this could kill her, and we know it. And what we won't choose to do is... we choose to live our lives fully, and with strength and optimism.

We get to make that choice. And that's what we choose." (Emphasis mine.)

Many of us have watched a loved one die of cancer. And in the end, we take up whatever personal lessons the experience has taught us, and go on with our lives. A little sadder, a little emptier…hopefully a little stronger and with a greater store of compassion for anyone forced to walk that same road.

Someone who has not gone through that most exquisite pain has no right whatsoever to voice on opinion on how other human beings must wage that debilitating battle. But someone who has gone through it should absolutely know better. Katie Couric—and anyone else who would take it upon themselves to weigh in on this very private decision shared under duress with a voyeuristic nation by a very public couple—shame on you.