Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reality Bites

I apologize to several people (you know who you are…) for pooping out on the interview. I have been stretching my neck, a la Curlin in last weekend’s race, towards the goal of an actual weekend off. Plans were made, way back in February, for three days of R & R over the Memorial Day weekend. And up until about thirty hours ago, those plans looked tantalizingly viable. "Ah," I thought. "I will have plenty of time to contemplate and communicate wonderful interview questions on my little vacation…!"

Alas! I should have known better than to count on being able to scrape myself away from my "dream come true," even for a few days. My flaky cook (who asked for part of this weekend off and was denied it) has contracted some dire mystery disease; and she has no idea when this illness will abate enough for her to come back to work. I suspect this will happen sometime around next Tuesday…

And so I am feeling extremely put-upon as I come face-to-face with a stark reality of my new life: Only under implausibly favorable stars can a small-business owner hope to finagle more than a couple of hours away from the "baby" that unwaveringly wails for attention.

And I am just soooo tired tonight….

Thursday, May 17, 2007


I am the youngest in my family. The tail-ender. The "baby." But I am mystified when other youngest siblings giggle about how spoiled they were, how the whole family petted and fussed over them. Ummmm…not. The thing I remember most about my early life was the laundry list of things I couldn’t do. It chafed no end that I was always the last to "get to" do things. Any things. Even things like mowing the lawn or washing the dishes. I was—and still am—a fiercely independent little cuss. I wanted to DO things.  And I wanted to do them by myself. No leg up from a sister or a parent. Not that I was offered one…

In good time, I did get to do things.  But I always felt that by the time I did them—starting school, graduation, learning to drive—they had been done to death. Things that were way important to me were stale and boring to the rest of the family. Why, then, didn’t I strive to achieve greater things than any of my sisters had? I could have been the first to go to college, or the first to hitchhike across Europe. For some reason, I wasn’t capable of thinking that big. Maybe it mattered too much that my little accomplishments went so unnoticed. Maybe I couldn’t have born it if I had done something really big and met with the same ennui.

Eventually, I learned to be my own cheerleader. I understood that my motivation and satisfaction had to come from somewhere inside me. I piled up the bricks and built my own little staircases to get me where I wanted to go. I may not have gone much of anywhere, but the places I did go, the things I did achieve, I did on my own.

Still, it hasn’t escaped my notice that something is missing from my life. When I hear other women testify that they couldn’t have made it through without their circle of closest friends—this core group of women they’ve known and shared with for umpteen years—I look down and I see nothing but my own empty hands. I've spent my life with my head down, totally focused on doing "it" on my own. Not a good way to collect a circle of friends. I’ve had women friends, but they've always stayed at a discreet distance. I’ve never had any friend with whom I’ve shared the deep secrets of my soul.  You have to be willing to give depth to get depth.  I never could.   

But there have been times when I could really have used a friend. When my sister was ill. When my dad died. During this intense period of adjustment with the restaurant. Wouldn’t it be nice, I sometimes think, to have someone to sit and relax with, to bounce ideas off of; someone who would drag me away from whatever demon I’m currently wrestling to go have a glass of wine and listen to some music or something?

But I’ve never had that, and I imagine I never will. It’s just a little pipe-dream that runs through my head from time to time. I am utterly incapable of allowing myself to need other people in that way. For whatever reason, when life’s building blocks were put in front of me in my earliest days, I chose to build staircases—and walls—instead of bridges. For good or ill, I have determined to wrestle my demons alone.

Giving credit where credit is due, this entry was inspired by Cynthia, who posted a quite different essay on friends...


Monday, May 14, 2007

HAPPY Mother’s Day…

Hello all. I’m sorry I seem to have fallen off the face of the blogosphere, right after running a participatory meme… I spent much of last week preparing for, and then having, a busy Mothers’ Day at the cafĂ©. We blew away last year’s Mothers Day sales numbers by over thirty percent. Sunday's sales, added to a strong showing the rest of the week and a really good Saturday, pushed us to a new record sales week, breaking our previous record set just three weeks ago. Woo-hoo!

Anyway, all of you who threw your hats into the ring for me to interview you, I just want you to know that I have every intention of coming up with great questions for you…but it may be a bit of time before I can get to it. My next day off is Sunday (the 20th)—by then I should have my lists of questions ready for everyone. Until, then… Well, it’s a lovely day, I have a few hours "break" until I have to go back to the restaurant, and I think I’m going to go outside and take a nap. And maybe get some color in my face and on my legs at the same time. That’s me: multi-tasking even in my sleep…

Friday, May 11, 2007

An Open Letter to AOL

Recently, we have been attacked by a supremely annoying pop-up from AOL. After you sign off, this "AOL Connectivity Services Update" thingie pops up on your screen. You can’t minimize it, you can’t tell it not to bother you right now, you can’t make it go away. It stays on your screen, no matter what other applications you open. The only way to get it out of your face is to click it and drag it as far as possible off the side or bottom of your screen. Or turn off your computer and not make the mistake of signing on to AOL again.

My husband emailed "AOL Help" for a patch to get rid of this damn thing. It took them two days to get back to him about it. Only to tell him that there is no way to get rid of the thing other than to click on it and allow this "update" to download. Here is a copy of my reply (warning) to AOL—I’m sure you’re reading, little gremlins…

The whole point of this inquiry is that we DON'T WANT to 'Update Connectivity." The last time I did, whatever changes were made didn't mesh with my firewall, and I couldn't connect to AOL at all for weeks afterward. I finally had to get involved with live tech chats from another computer. Which are never fun, because of two things: a.) Most of the time, the "technicians" have no idea how to resolve even the most mundane of technical problems and b.) there is always a language barrier issue to deal with.

I have no intention of "updating" my AOL connectivity, and if you can't tell me how to get rid of this annoying pop-up, I WILL get rid of AOL. We have been members for ten years; I've stuck with AOL through the Journal-land ad wars, obnoxious ads dancing all over my email, AND the granting of free access to services for which I have faithfully paid all these years. If this Connectivity pop-up is indeed unkillable, it will be the last straw.

So, my friends, "Coming to Terms’…" days may indeed be numbered…

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bloggers Playing Bawbwa Walters...

(okay...I had to change the title of this post.  Seems I had improperly used the term "paparazzi" in the title and was too tired last night [this morning?] to address the boo-boo..)

Sometime long ago in J-Land, we played this interview game. It seems to be making the rounds again…or maybe it never stopped, but it just took it this long to get back around to ME.

I became reacquainted with it at Judi’s place—"Talking to Myself…" I raised my hand to play…and she obliged me with these five questions. Read and learn, Grasshoppers…

1. Where were you born? List some of the places you’ve lived and/or traveled.

I was born in the northern suburbs of Chicago. When my parents first moved to the ‘burbs, my mother’s city-dwelling relatives all scratched their heads as to why anyone would want to leave the city to move out to the cornfields. Remember that song, "I was country before country was cool"? I was North Shore before the North Shore was…built.

I don’t feel particularly well-traveled, though I’ve visited three-quarters of the lower 48 states. But my road-trip days were so very long ago. Most of the decals stuck to my life’s suitcase were acquired between 1966 and 1984. That last being the year the husband and I packed as much of our lives as we could fit in a barely functional twelve-foot rental truck and hit the "Oregon Trail"—Interstate 80, straight (and I do meant straight) through the heartland, over the Continental Divide, take the north fork at Salt Lake City and continue on for about another 800 miles. I was twenty-nine years old.

And just now, writing this, I realized something: I was born in Illinois. I grew up in Oregon.


2. Name a truth you’ve learned in adulthood, e.g., an aha! moment, but one that you might not have believed as a kid or even as a young adult.

I’ve blogged about this, actually. One of the very early entries in "Coming to Terms…" that no one read. I could provide a link, but thanksto that long-extinct concept of the 2500-word limit, I can copy and paste that entire entry right here:

"For some reason, I maintain this fantasy that, growing up in the sixties, my family WAS ‘The Donna Reed Show’. And then somehow, as we grew up, all that fell apart and we became ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.’ When I really LOOK back at it, I realize we were never perfect; much like other families of the time that had young post-war couples raising large broods of baby-boom children. They were EXPECTED to marry, EXPECTED to raise families. Never mind that many of them weren't particularly suited to being parents.

"In your twenties, you spend a lot of emotional energy separating yourself from your family...trying your wings, as it were. In your thirties, you start to realize how your parents' parenting formed large portions of your personality. You start to blame them for your neuroses. Understand how their failures became your own. And resent them for it.

"When you hit forty, and the old man and old lady are shrinking before your eyes, and you realize they won't be around forever, you start to forgive. You come to the great epiphany that Mom and Dad didn't wake up every morning trying to think up ways to ruin your life. Most often, they did the best they could with what they had. And they made mistakes. They are human, after all.

"I suppose if I had children, these realizations would have come to me sooner, and through experience rather than contemplation. I have this sort of third party, standing back and observing point of view, as I see my contemporaries go through with their children what we went through with our parents, only from the other side of the generational fence. And, really, I don't think I have what it would have taken to be a good parent. If my children had rejected me, as they DO...I would have been hurt beyond endurance. For this reason, I'm glad I HAD the choice not to become a parent. Even though, when you reach this age childless, you start to wonder what you will be leaving behind when you go."

3. Name three favorite guilty pleasures - personally, I’ll admit to Egg McMuffins, Snoballs (those coconut covered cupcakes) and cotton candy...

I hope we’re not talking only food here. Since I joined Weight Watchers, I’ve tried to overcome the whole idea of feeling guilty about eating…

That said, number one on my list is the Astoria Presbyterian Church Ladies’ pecan pie. All the better if it’s the "dirty" variety (with chocolate chips…)

Number two would be that I love to drive. To just get in the car and go, to see what there is to see. I can spend hours behind the wheel, or in the passenger seat scanning the skies or horizon for birds, clouds, views, sunsets, trees or lovely gardens, beautiful homes, waterfalls or whitewater rivers. And, of course, the ocean...

Luckily, living in Oregon, I don’t have to burn up too much fuel to see all these things. Still, in these days of War for Oil and global climate change, one can hardly sneak off on a non-essential trip without feeling guilty.

And number three? Doing what I’m doing right now would probably qualify. Clickety-clacking away, when there are other things I should be doing. Like sleeping…

4. Where/when would you go if you could time travel? Who would you meet?

Card-carrying agnostic that I am, I think going back to the Judea of a couple of millennia ago and looking up a popular young rabbi would go a long way toward changing my mind about certain beliefs (or lack thereof0 I have cultivated over the past several years.

And if it turns out that, as some historians preach, there is no such actual person as the "Historical Jesus," I would opt for being a fly on the wall at any/every meeting of this country’s founding fathers. How fantastic would it be to learn firsthand what "the framers" had in mind when they laid the foundation of our blessed/accursed form of government?

5. What’s your greatest strength?

Good lord, this one gives me the willies… I’d have to use all my fingers and toes to count the times I’ve had to come up with the most calculatedly brilliant answer to this question, seated opposite some human being who seemed, at the time, to hold my fate in the very palm of his or her hand. I’ve touted my organizational skills, my work ethic, my management style and my high personal standards to people who, with one unconvinced blink, could turn my lifetime of accomplishments to a handful of crap.

Given all that, and the challenges I’ve faced in the past nine months of my new life as a gloriously clueless entrepreneur, I’d have to say my greatest strength is this: No matter what misfortunes befall me on any give day, I get out of bed next morning, get dressed and keep putting one foot in front of the other. It doesn’t sound like much, but sometimes that very simple act can take on the proportions of a try for the summit of Everest.

And now, the requisite "Rules of Engagement:" in Judi’s words (because it’s 1:00 am and I am too tired to come up with my own):

If you’d like to play, leave a comment asking me to interview you. I'll respond by asking you five questions: I get to pick the questions. You'll update your weblog with the answers to the questions, and you'll include this explanation with an offer to interview someone else in the same post. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you'll ask them five questions.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A Sunday Morning's Mental Meanderings

For some reason, as I penned my most recent political rant, I wondered what my dad would think of the "Current Occupant." Dad was not much of a political animal. I’m sure he had his views; but, along with religion and "family matters," he felt personal politics were something best kept to oneself. Still, I pondered…would Dad have voted for Bush? Once? Twice? The only political statement I remember Dad ever making was that some president who was running for re-election (and I can’t remember which one it was...Nixon?) was doing a pretty good job so far, so why make a change? Was that the prevailing political agenda among my parents’ generation—that if a guy was "doing okay" you just kept him in office? Perhaps… maybe that’s why FDR had to die his way out of the White House.

And then I wondered what Dad would think of my political writing…or any of my writing, for that matter. Would he read? Even if I asked him? Dad worked with computers practically from the time they cobbled together the first mother board. He set up the first computer system in the business office of the hospital he "controlled" for thirty-five years. So he was hardly one to reject newfangled technology. But he retired in 1982…long before the computer became the be-all-and-end-all of communication devices. He’d be 88 years old now…would he have given the nod to the technology of twenty-first century personal connections? Probably not. I just can’t picture my dad pecking away at the keyboard of a laptop. Sad.

Sad because none of my family reads my journal. It’s public. I’ve invited them. They could read if they wanted to. But they don’t. In fact, they’ve made it abundantly clear they have no interest in what I have to say. I’d like to say I don’t let it bother me. But it does sting. More than a little.

As a result, I am unencumbered by the constraints that confound some bloggers. When I read some of my friends’ worries about what might happen if someone from work or from—god forbid—their families read their journals, I have a hard time relating to their fears. I just don’t have that problem. If anything, I tend to be a little more acerbic when writing about family matters than I might otherwise be…since I know nothing short of tying them up, taping their eyes open and holding a shotgun to their heads will induce my family to read my work.

So I had to wonder…what or who would compel me to censor what I post here? And I had to concede that I probably wouldn’t change much for any of my surviving sisters… Our history of the last decade has created a certain climate in our relationship; one that does not encourage me to suck it up and suffer in silence. And the idea of my mother reading is so unlikely I can’t even entertain it. At this point in time, sadly, she’s lucky she remembers she has children (no she doesn’t have Alzheimers; she’s just…winding down.) But even were it not for her aging issues, she never showed much interest in any of her offspring’s escapades or accomplishments, good or bad.

The husband? I read him most of my posts, so he "reads" whether he wants to or not. So I’m not really worried about him.

There are only two people who would have had the power to influence what I write. My dad. My oldest sister. It would have mattered to me if I hurt or disappointed one of them. My sister was extremely sensitive. She spent her entire too-short life struggling to relate to a world that was often too cruel for someone as deeply emotional as she was. My writing would be completely different if Joyce read my journal. But I would have done it, for her. I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t do just to have her here now; to have had her for even a few more years…

And if Dad was reading? I don’t know. I honestly don’t know if I could handle it. Dad was always the guy who set the bar just a little higher than you thought you could reach. Not to set you up to fail, but to get you to stretch yourself to get to the good stuff. And I can’t help feeling that, for the most part, we let him down. He tried to be the subtle, strong and righteous influence in our lives…and most of the time, what we really needed was a baseball bat upside the head. I think I might just turn myself inside out trying to write up to what I would imagine were my dad’s standards. It could have made me into the writer I’ve always wished I could be. Or perhaps the self-imposed pressure would have caused me to explode after my first couple of stabs at writing for eyes other than my own, never to be heard from again.

The could-have-beens. The should-have-beens. Useless to ponder, I suppose. But an interesting exercise, nonetheless…


Thursday, May 3, 2007

Impeachment: It's Not Just For Adulterers...

I’ve had a political rant bubbling around in my head for about a week now…

These days, American government is like a bad case of hives: crazy-making and torturous, and you don’t know which itch to scratch first. It’s nearly impossible to focus enough on one bad thing to compose a coherent rant. In 6 ½ years, the Bush Administration has screwed up everything it has touched. And it’s not just that they have failed to make lemonade out of the lemons handed them by 21st century global dynamics. Mr. Bush and his partners in crime have actively scoured the globe grabbing lemons, only to turn them into the most corrosive acid.

"Partners in crime." Not simply a colorful euphemism, but legitimate, literal truth. Crimes have been committed by the Bush Administration. Crimes against humanity—the White House cavalierly espouses the theory that torture and other blatant human rights violations are perfectly legitimate tools in the "Good Guys’" arsenal. Crimes against the American people—the Administration has taken every opportunity to chip away at our Constitutional rights in the name of providing "security" for a frightened, overwhelmed, and tractable electorate. Crimes against the world community—pre-emptive war? Elective war? Call it what you will, the Bush Administration is guilty of initiating violent action against another sovereign nation, of the type heretofore soundly and righteously condemned by the United States of America.

Bill Clinton was railroaded to impeachment on the basis of one weak, nearly negligible "crime:" One ill-advised lie offered in answer to a question that should never have been asked. How can it be, then…how can it be that this charlatan who currently squats in the Oval Office can offend and re-offend and offend again—huge offenses about things of tremendous import—and we simply allow him to go about his business unmolested? Let’s face it: the man lies nearly every time he opens his mouth. That is, when he somehow manages to communicate a coherent thought. How can we tolerate it? Where is our moral outrage? Did we exhaust it all on Bill Clinton’s much juicier sexual escapades?

Anyone who lived through the tedious, never-ending media circus that was the Clinton impeachment trial is most certainly loath to see the nation dragged through a similar septictank less than a decade later. Much easier, I think, to rationalize that the Bush Administration is suffering from terminal lame-duckness and has less than two years to live anyhow. But every day brings another sound bite of our ridiculous caricature of a bumbler-in-chief sticking his foot in it yet again. This latest tug-of-war surrounding his veto of Congress’ war-funding bill—played out against the backdrop of "Gonzales-gate"—is nothing if not irrefutable proof of Bush’s determination to do as much damage as humanly possible every day he holds on to that office.

All those folks who have been screaming "Impeach! Impeach!" since before the last election… Even I believed that they were a little too strident, a little too drastic, a little too over-the-top. But with each passing day, the idea of impeachment becomes a little less outrageous. In fact, I’m starting to understand that it may be the only way to keep this idiot/madman from perpetrating unnumbered new and original atrocities before his fingers are pried off the keys to the kingdom.