Tuesday, December 30, 2008

White-out Christmas

I posted my "Bleak Midwinter" entry both here and at "Women On..."

It seems that those few who read it thought I was creating a quaint little card celebrating the winter wonder of the first White Christmas we've experienced in the twenty-five years we've called Oregon home.

Ummmm…not so much.

A White Christmas is something to love in a place like Chicago, where there are snow plows, road salt, snow blowers, and platoons of technicians trained in the art of confining the sparkly white stuff to front yards and toboggan hills.

But here in the valleys of western Oregon, snow is a freakish meteorological hiccup. We have no more capacity to deal with it than we would a biblical plague. Two inches of snow is a monstrous inconvenience that paralyzes entire towns, cancels school, and causes a noticeable blip on the insurance rate scale, as clueless drivers skid and crash into one another with wild abandon.

Two feet of snow is a bona fide disaster.

Christmas 2008 will go down in history as the Christmas that was literally canceled by snow.

It made its first appearance on December 14th. We should have been warned of its malicious intent by the fact that, rather than turning to rain and dutifully washing away almost immediately—as is the usual habit of snow in these parts—the weather instead turned icy cold and froze us below this first six inches of snow. Four days later, we were still slipping, sliding and crunching around on the stuff when another storm blew in and it snowed some more.

And again the next day. And the next. In fact, it snowed every day for an entire week. Up to and including an additional two inches—adding insult to injury—on Christmas Day.

By the time all was said and done, I had easily twenty inches of white Christmas piled in my front yard. And that same twenty inches had fallen on every street in town—this town which does not own a snow plow.

In 1984, the young hubs and I emigrated to Oregon. Hard as it is to believe now, I worried that I would miss the four distinct seasons we experienced in Illinois. I was sure I would miss snow. But I consoled myself with the knowledge that all we would have to do was drive a couple of hours to the mountains whenever we suffered from acute snow deprivation.

Can I now confess that, in all these 24 ½ years, we have never got so homesick for snow that we jumped in the car and drove up to the mountains to visit it? Especially since it has adopted the habit of blowing down out of the mountains to visit us every couple of years?

Turns out I don't miss snow too much after all. But I would love to be given the opportunity to try…




Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas 2008

This is the eighth Christmas we have spent in this house…in this place to which I fled when my family imploded after my dad's death. And, truly, we couldn't have picked a more perfect place. I've come to love my home here, come to think of this town as my town. It's as much as I could possibly have hoped for.

For the first six years of my "new life," I expended all the emotional energy I had on reworking my relationships with the people that were already in my life; re-building from ground zero those ties that were incinerated when my father passed away. I was emotionally battered and bruised…I didn't have anything left with which to seek out new friendships.

And then we bought the café, and the fun really started! All my energy, emotional and otherwise, has gone into that place. I'm only now starting to feel human again…starting to feel like I've got a handle on all this and that I can go forward with a plan and a hope for some kind of success. But friends? Who has had time for that? I have customers…I have employees. I have pleasant relationships with these people; they brighten my life, and I hope I add something positive to theirs. But they are not my friends.

My only friends have been ethereal ones…

In 2003, I began my journey into journal land. And it was always a paradox. Simply by virtue of the depth of emotion I shared with the people I encountered there, they were the best friends I had ever had in my entire life. My personal (skewed) definition of friendship has always included a depth of connection that I have never actually had with any friend in my "real" life. I felt so much closer to this "community" of people I had never met than to anyone I had ever known. So that was the community upon which I came to depend—heavily—as I wallowed through the emotional mine-field of rebuilding my life.

But internet relationships are fraught with strange rules and uncomfortable limitations. The friendships are often too intense to last a long time. They grow quickly, and disappear in a flash. In the end, corporate interests opened the flood gates and poured us out into the internet-at-large; and the community, or what was left of it, flared bright for one last moment…and dispersed into the ether.

This Christmas Day, I'm in a place where everywhere my mind turns for comfort, it finds…nothing. The tenuous long-distance ties I've maintained to my far-away family have been buried under the snow-dump of the century. Along with the new traditions I've tried to build—café Christmas party, holiday concerts, even driving around town to look at Christmas lights; all made impossible by the impossible weather.

We will not be sharing the holiday with loved ones. We will be sitting in our family room, staring at the boob tube, eating food we don't need, crossing our fingers that our roof doesn't suffer the same fate as the ruined patio cover crumbled upon the deck outside my back door. My worries and woes will wrap around me like a damp blanket.

Bah. Humbug.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Craving the Magic

It seems to be a point of honor for bloggers to showcase how well-read they are. We have gadgets like "Shelfari" available to us, where we can show off all the wonderful books with which we are currently enchanted. Me? I'm still wading through The Audacity of Hope (I've committed myself to reading at least a few pages every night until I'm finished…I may be done by the Inauguration…) So, yeah…I guess, in the end, I'm not much of a reader.

Series novels have always been big. Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, and now the "Twilight" series. Okay. I can play that game, too. I have a favorite series. The one I have read over and over and over and never tire of. I love it as much today as I did when I first checked the books out of the grade school library a lifetime ago. I can nearly recite the best parts by heart. (And, do you know, I still do not own my own copies of these books?)

My favorites? Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books.

Christmas time always brings Wilder's stories to mind. Especially this Christmas—as we watch our consumer economy undergo the trial by fire that will distill it to the essence of necessity. I consider all the things we think of as part and parcel of Christmas… The standing in line outside of whichever store commands the largest supply and lowest price on the latest electronic toy or game without which our child cannot live. The ubiquitous animated reindeer and giant inflatable snowmen appearing on every other lawn the day after Thanksgiving. Twenty-dollar-a-pound chocolates and forty-dollar bottles of champagne; crown rib roasts, caviar, chanterelles, artisan breads and parmegiano reggiano.

And then there are the Little House stories. Stories of a family, one hundred twenty years ago, drawn by the pioneer spirit of its young patriarch out of the Big Woods of Wisconsin, to Indian Territory in Kansas, back to the creeks of Minnesota and then to the Dakota Prairie.

How I love the stories of the Christmas magic in each of those places. Young women crimping their hair and starching their finest lace collars for a holiday dance in Wisconsin. Three little girls heading to bed on a Christmas Eve out on a lonely claim, miles from anyone; thrilled upon discovering one candy stick and a small cake made with real white flour nestled in the toes of their stockings on Christmas morning. Or the year of the Long Winter of blizzards and near-starvation, when Christmas—in the form of barrels of clothing, food, books and newspapers—arrives in April, on the first train able to get through since before Thanksgiving.

Can you imagine? Can you for one moment imagine being twelve years old, enchanted to speechlessness by the sight of the first Christmas tree you had ever seen? To us, that sounds like something from some emerging nation, maybe in Africa or the Far East. But it was here, on our continent, in our own country…not so very long ago.

That wide-eyed wonder…that child-like naiveté.


What has happened to the magic of Christmas? Is it me? Am I just too old, too tired? Have I seen too much, yet not enough?

Have I had too much? Yet…not enough?

No, please don't lecture me about "the Reason for the Season."

And don't point me back to the simpler times of MY life—fir trees, tinsel and big, hot lights; marshmallow Santas, jello, onion dip and cans of whipped cream; vinyl dolls, wooden sleds, Monopoly and Candyland… Yes, those were less complicated times, but they still foreshadowed our great monster of a consumer society.

I crave the truly simple days I never knew. The life that was anything but simple, but which thrilled to plain and humble pleasures.

I am so very aware that my life is not nearly hard enough. So simple pleasures could never be enough to satisfy my craving for the magic.

And that is not a good thing.

Cross-posted at Women On…

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Small Business in a Small Town

Lately, I've discovered one more…inconvenience?...of being a small town business owner. Ex-employees do not just disappear into the general population. You meet them at the grocery store, they come to the café with their families, they stay in touch with current employees. You hear from them and about them all the time. And that is not always a good thing…

One girl in particular has been a thorn in my side the past few weeks. This is the smart-ass little high school student I fired last spring. Such a smart girl, but circumstances of her seventeen years have molded her into a cocky, brash loser always a breath away from doing the foolish thing that will land her in real hot water. How she has managed to stay out of jail thus far is beyond me.

It became obvious after I hired "S" that she had real problems with authority, and I was, apparently, going to be the authority she chose to have problems with. For whatever reason, she projected all her teen-age rebellion and angst on to her relationship with me. She hated my guts, and was not shy about making that perfectly clear to anyone who would listen. I ignored it for awhile, tried to let it slide by having my shift supervisor deal with her, rather than having any direct interaction with her. But eventually it became obvious that things were never going to change or improve; and I decided that if I had wanted that kind of crap from a seventeen-year-old, I would have had kids of my own. So I terminated her. The circumstances of the actual firing got out of hand, and I ended up losing my temper. It wasn't pretty.

For several weeks afterward, I watched my back. Not that I was afraid she would do violence to me personally, but I did have a nagging fear of coming to work in the morning and finding the front window smashed in and the dining room trashed. Possibly the only thing that saved us from that fate is the fact that the restaurant is right across the street from the police station, and this IS a small town. After a while, I relaxed and let the memory of "S" slide into the past. Only to be rekindled when she began looking for a new job and didn't have enough sense NOT to use the café as a reference. I did not trash her to any prospective employers, but I felt it would be unethical to perpetuate the fantasy that she had quit her job at the café.

Well, she eventually found another job. She works at the little grocery store up the highway from the café. My favorite little "Grocery Outlet." (My default supplier of things like lettuce, fruit, eggs—things we often run short of at the restaurant.) Wonderful. I'm happy for her. Maybe she can be successful there. Would that this could be simply a "let bygones be bygones" situation. But, alas…

A couple of weeks ago, I ran in to the store to pick up something, and saw "S" out of the corner of my eye—she was the only cashier at the only open front register. "Oh, great," I thought. "I really don't want to have this confrontation today…" I was in the back of the store sorting through the bags of romaine when I heard her call for back-up. Score! I rushed through my shopping and attached myself to the end of the back-up cashier's line, which was at the other end of the bank of registers from "S." Made my purchases and left, thinking that the Universe had smiled on me in the matter of dealing with surly ex-employees, at least for that morning.

A week or so later, one of my current employees mentioned that she had seen "S" at the grocery store. And that "S" had regaled her with this story about how I had come into the store, stood in her line but wouldn't speak to her, was extremely rude to her (I'm not sure how I communicated this rudeness if I wouldn't speak to her) and she finally had to call a manager to ring me up. I was ready to believe "P" might be embellishing this story a bit until another employee reported having the very same mystifying conversation with "S" a few days later. Oh, and "S" went out of her way to tell both of them that the only reason she QUIT her job at the café was because she was offered a job as a nanny for $15 per hour, cash. Talk about choosing your own reality!

I'm not so much angry at "S" for making up a story about the confrontation that never happened as I am irritated by the thought that now I have to be aware of what she might say about me every time we meet…or don't meet, as the case may be. I don't have time for that.

I'm utterly mystified that someone would go through the trouble to construct such an elaborate lie for what was, in the end, a non-event. What's the point? Isn't "Get Over It!" the big mantra of the younger generation these days? It bothers me that not only has this girl not gotten past her largely self-inflicted bad experience of working for me, but in her own weak and pathetic way, she's bent on continuing to paint me as the Wicked Witch of the West to anyone who will listen.

In a larger gene pool, like suburban Chicago, or Portland, or even Eugene, she could spread this crap to two hundred of her closest friends, and I would still probably never be aware of it. But out here in this two-horse town, it is right there in my face. Not only do I have to hear about her conversations with my current staff, but I have to worry about how her behavior might influence potential customers. And I don't like to be in the position where I feel like I have to be afraid to do what I need to do when it comes to staffing my business. Ugh!

This concludes today's rant. Now I have to get out of bed and get ready to face another day at that place that is the fulfillment of all my dreams and the source of all my ulcers…

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Dog

Despite the tendency of this season to fly by in fast forward mode, I am making headway in the decorating department. I have to simply ignore that nasty little voice in the back of my head that keeps sneering, "You know, in three weeks you're going to have to take this all down and pack it away again..."

So last night I invaded Lucy's space with the upstairs Christmas tree. I used to put up a tree in my bedroom, but for the past two years I've decided to put it somewhere where everybody could see it (without having to keep my bedroom straightened up enough to be presentable to visitors), so I put it up at the top of the stairs. There's a sizable landing there, and just enough room for a smallish Christmas tree. Right next to the dog's bed.

So here is the dog, looking cute, but a little non-plussed that the item behind her might steal a little of her thunder...

puppy for christmas

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss It

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.

Time was, it was the challenge of baking, cooking, decorating and housecleaning, making sure there was a gift for everyone on the list, getting out the Christmas cards, and attending everyone else's Christmas parties that caused one to need the entire month of January just to recuperate. Why is it, then, that even though I don't do any of these things anymore, I'm still running around like a chicken with my head cut off?

Well, let's see. Now, I have a house and a restaurant to decorate for the holidays. I have employees for whom I must organize a party and other fun stuff (this must be worse than having kids…?) I have other people's parties to plan and fuss over (two parties of fifteen last Thursday, and a party for 50 renting the entire café next Saturday night…YAAAH!)

And I have to stress out about the economy and how it is ultimately going to affect my little fledgling business. Every morning I grill myself on whether it looks like we're finally going to take the hit, and what I should do about it when and if we are. Should I sink money I don't really have into marketing just to keep butts in the seats? Will I have to start literally giving food away just to keep butts in the seats? At what point would an empty dining room be costing me less money than trying to keep it full? These questions are banging around in the back of my head like the seeds of the mother of all migraines. Yet I can't seem to dwell too consciously on them ,because I'm almost afraid that giving my secret dread too much credence will bring it that much closer to reality. And I want to keep as far away from that reality as I possibly can.

So, I expend a lot of energy putting a good face on it, exuding positive attitude. Because, in the end, if we do tank as a result of the economic downturn, there's not a whole lot I'll be able to do about it, anyway. And the constant energy drain makes me feel like I've run ten miles by the end of every day.

So today is my "day off," and I have to spend it…doing everything BUT having an actual day off. Come about ten o'clock tonight, I'll flop into my recliner and just…sit. For thirty seconds, before I pass out.

But, ahhh….don't we all love the holidays!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Today's Amazing Bird Picture

I know... This is starting to look like a photo blog.

But you don't get too many pictures like this, and I wanted to share it

red tail flies
Red-tail taking off from a utility pole...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving...We Had One

We had no plan... The turkey that was "supposed" to take five hours to cook was done in three (It was little more than a big chicken...don't know how the husband figured five hours for it...)

I forgot my good dinnerware, serving bowls and platters. So we had to make do with what we had at the restaurant.

And we did...

Cafe tgiving

Last year wasn't much of a holiday for us. We didn't actually have Thanksgiving, and Christmas was small and sad. This year, with distance from the loss, we were ready to give it all we had. Which wasn't all that much...

But it was enough.

cropped edited sis pic

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Home for the Holiday

After last year's "bye," we are again playing host to the family Thanksgiving celebration. The party is getting smaller and smaller…only eight of us will be in attendance this year. And in a few more years, the last few of the younger generation will be off into their own lives, and they will also disappear from the family table.

This year, I won't have to replace my living room furniture with a hospital bed and a portable tv, won't have to tear the door off the guest bathroom the better to accommodate a walker. But this is one of those things that is at once a liberation and a burden…

And this morning, I am feeling frustrated with the procedure of readying my house for guests. One of my favorite parts of having company, since I was a young wife working fifty hours a week, was taking one whole day before the event to just…prepare. A day of lonely toil—no help from the husband…puh-leeeze!—to touch, rearrange, primp and preen over all my things that I never much get to enjoy any other time. Twenty-four hours of solitude and sanity to prepare myself for the madness of the party. Unfortunately, in the world of the small restaurant owner, that kind of indulgence is not on the docket. Sigh!

I know. You're all thinking, "Charlie Brown! You're the only person I know that can take a happy season…and turn it into a problem!"

This IS Thanksgiving. And, yes, I am thankful for so many things in my life. Too many things to name, really. But I wish, I just wish I had the luxury of that one day of nesting and grounding before the hubbub begins. I needed that twenty years ago. I need it so much more now.


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Other Visitor

Here is a (very poor) picture of the other little woodpecker visiting our feeder these days.


Unlike the redhead of my previous picture/post, this guy is not the least bit eager to stick around and pose for a portrait. I only had enough time to fire off about five frames before he spooked and flew away, and in two of those he was bending over eating off the back of the feeder, so...he has no head.

So this shot is the best of the lot, and it isn't great. But I do now have pictorial evidence of both woodpeckers of 2008. I can't decide whether our friend here is a "downy" or a "hairy" woodpecker. The two species are almost identical, except one is a little bigger. I thought this must be a downy because he isn't very big, but the call I hear around here when the 'peckers fly overhead is definitely the "kingfisher-like rattle" of the hairy.

I know...this is a little more info than anybody really needs.

But I'm feeling kind of weird about being the kind of person who gets excited about red-headed sapsuckers and hairy woodpeckers in her back yard...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Another Round of Thanks to AOL

Ten to fourteen of my waking hours every day are spent in the media vacuum of the café. Actually, it has been kind of refreshing. I probably would have gone completely crazy this election cycle if I had been as plugged into the overload of media hype as I was in 2004.

But the thing is, the AOL j-land expulsion had one unforeseen complication for me. Though I hate to admit it, logging on to the internet through AOL at least gave me a glimpse of news headlines several times a day. Wedged in there among the ten tons of ads, pop culture overload, self-help fluff and general crap, there were usually one or two links to meaningful stories containing real news. Silly as this sounds, I kept informed of current events through AOL's home page.

When AOL booted us, I changed my home page to the Gmail page, thinking that would make sense, since the reason I logged on to the internet several times a day was to check my mail. Unfortunately, I realize now that I don't just want to check my mail. I want to catch up on the news. I want to see my local weather forecast. And I want to see if I have mail. All on one page. Things I had been accustomed to getting on the AOL home page for the past ten years.

I suppose that if I put some time and effort into it, I could find a different home page that will do all these things for me. But I don't have the time, and I don't have the energy to expend the effort. Actually, I don't appreciate that I have been forced to find the time and make the effort. Or languish in a sorry state of news deprivation.

Just one more example of the thanks we got for being loyal, long-term AOL members…

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Visitor


This is one of the woodpeckers who visited the yard on Sunday…

And to my delight, it seems he is not just a hit-and-run type of guy. When I stepped outside to replenish the food supply this morning, there he was, clinging to the side of the apple tree. He wasn't all that afraid of me…he just flitted over to the side of the plum tree about ten feet away. We spoke for a moment (well, I spoke; he…didn't fly away.)

Welcome to the table, pretty thing!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Remember Ten Good Things?

Back in, I don't know…2005? I began a weekly series I called "Ten Good Things." It was a marginally successful attempt at training myself to recognize good things that were going on in my life, at a time when bad things seemed to outnumber good by a ratio of 100 to 1.

Then we bought the café, and "Ten Good things" went the way of…all good things. In fact, I think I've only posted one or two half-hearted lists in the past twenty-eight months. From July 2006 through about February of this year, I was way too lost in the weeds to think much about good things. I had tumbled headlong into the abyss of stress, fatigue, disillusionment and second guessing that is the world of the neophyte entrepreneur. Now and then I fought my way to the surface and gulped some air. And if I was feeling particularly smug, I might decide that I had turned the corner, and it was time to sit back on my heels and breathe a little. For about five minutes, until the next glob of excrement made contact with the oscillator.

I am no longer suffering from that chronic sleep-deprivation, no longer wrestling that feeling of trying to navigate in an atmosphere the consistency of half-set jello… The rusty capabilities of this old warhorse have finally caught up to her dreams. Running the restaurant has at last become a matter of employing systems, habits and muscle memory, rather than fielding a daily barrage of physical and mental challenges that nearly did me in. It has not escaped my notice that I'm beginning to feel like a bona fide human being again. And now that I'm able to pay attention to something besides the daily grind at the restaurant, I've noticed that quite a few good things have been smacking me upside the head, without my even having to go looking for them.

The last few days, in particular, have presented a veritable feast of delectable occurrences. I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning, being handed package after brightly-wrapped package, each one filled with something chosen by someone who knew exactly what would make me squeal with delight.

Let's open them, shall we?

  1. Autumn leaves—though the season is drawing to a close, the trees in my own yard continue to burn bright yellows and reds. And my fuchsias, geraniums and begonias are still blooming, since we've had no frost yet to speak of.
  2. A walk on the dike yesterday seemed to correspond with the nightly sandhill crane flyover. I stood rapt as flock after flock flew low over our heads, punctuating silent wingbeats with calls of Crrroooo-crrroooo! Crrrroooo-crrrrooo!
  3. Another trip to Oregon wine country yielded a bottle of locally bottled Methode
    Champenoise; and this time I remembered to bring a camera.
  4. Pouring coffee this morning, I looked out my kitchen window and spotted not one but two woodpeckers enjoying birdie buffet. I have never seen a woodpecker at my birdfeeders before, so this was indeed a red-letter day. (In case you're wondering, they were a downy [hairy?] woodpecker, and a red-headed sapsucker….)
  5. Business has been exceptional this week, with three days up over the magic $1000.00 mark.
  6. I was able to connect my new ipod to my old cd player at the restaurant, and it played over eight hours of my continuous favorites.
  7. I was able to return the $150 fancy radio/docking station I had thought I needed, after I found all I really needed was a $15 cable to connect my ipod to my old cd player and be able to hear my music.
  8. We finally have two lighted signs on the front of the café…so that traffic coming at us from that direction might know who we are and what we do. For the first time.
  9. I found the 8-dvd "Hornblower" A & E series for $40 at Best Buy, and we have happily immersed ourselves in the adventures of Mr. H and the Indie for the past three nights.
  10. All this, and President-elect Barack Obama.

So I'm all smiles tonight… J

Thursday, November 13, 2008


In the past week, I've run up against so many reminders of the fleetness of this life.

Last week's stormy weather—the first of the season—took me inevitably, unwillingly, back to a year ago (seems like yesterday)…those dark days when my mother was wrestling against her exit from this earthly plane. In the end, it took the winds of the storm of the century to carry her tenacious soul on to the next world…

Several friends of the café have gone on, as well, in the past few weeks. And there are one or two who look as if they are not far behind…

So, when I have a few moments to collect my thoughts, to hold them up and inspect them from every angle, I see that there has been somewhat of a sea change in my attitude…at least for the present. This person who once tended toward melancholy and depression, toward discontent and unfulfillment, has somehow learned to set her sights higher.

If there is beauty in my world, I reach out and grab it…hold it gently in my hand and gaze at it. I let it sink down into my soul like gold dust to the bottom of a stream.

If there is laughter, I gather it up and store it in my heart.

If there is joy, I let myself feel it down to my toes.

I immerse myself in the deep gratitude—to the Universe, the Creator—that rises up to meet me at the shriek of an eagle, the sparkle of fairy lights, the mysterious white visage of the full moon, the kaleidoscope of the changing seasons, the rhapsodic harmonies of inspired music… If for only a moment or two, I completely give myself over to that joy.

And it gets me through the day. And more.


I found this prayer over at Search the Sea. It immediately struck me as exactly how we must beseech God, or in my case, The Universe, for the tools needed to undo the damage that has been done in our country and to the world in the past eight years.

For our new president, and for ourselves:


May God bless you with discomfort
at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in the world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Cross-posted at Women On...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fair Business in an Unfair World

I hate it when being a small business owner presents me with moral dilemmas that I have neither the desire nor the capacity to confront.

I recently made the decision to split my grocery order in half and receive two small deliveries a week rather than one large delivery once a week. This works much better for us all around, in terms of making the best use of my limited storage capacities; plus, it controls labor dollars by keeping me from having to bring on an additional staff member just to help put the stock away. My supplier requires a $500 minimum per delivery, and since we are (finally) able to meet that requirement with bi-weekly deliveries, this looked like a no-brainer to me.

But, of course, it can’t be that simple, can it?

Ever since my old grocery company made the misstep that forced me to make the change to a new supplier, I have been very vocal with my new sales rep about how difficult it has been, as a small business in a small town, to get any service from any supplier, much less decent service. Every time I see this poor guy, I beat him up about prices and products I can’t get, just because I’m a small independent restaurateur. The whole system is skewed to favor huge, multi-unit operations. He knows it and I know it. And he knows I know it, and I’m not going to let him forget it.

This supplier’s entire pricing system is based on volume: The more you order, the lower your prices. For instance, if I buy an average of $4000 per month, my price on a case of widget sauce will be $X. If my average purchases are $5000 per month, my price on that same case of sauce will be 95% of $X. If I should be so stupid as to ask them to split that case of widget sauce for me, I will pay 25% more per unit. And, I have discovered, there are products out there that they literally will not sell me because some big chain restaurant has “confined” the stock. If this doesn’t look like a conscious, deliberate effort to put the little guys out of business, I don’t know what it is.

So, poor Mr. Sales Rep has had to sit across the table from me, twice a week for the past four months, and listen to me gripe about the system. He has tried and tried to assure me that The Company values my business, and that my puny little account is as important to them as any other. I want to believe him, but the evidence proves otherwise. In fact, last Monday he showed me something that put another nail in that particular coffin…which happens to be the “moral dilemma” I am trying to deal with now.

When I finished reading him my order last week, Mr. Sales Rep spent a few moments tickety-ticking on his laptop, then he turned the thing around so I could see the screen. It showed the total cost of my order, the total profit margin on my order, and my salesman’s total commission on my order. The cost of the order met the $500 minimum. The profit number I was not particularly interested in, but my sales rep’s commission was ZERO. Zero. He did not make one dime on my $500 food order, and he spent at least an hour just sitting there with me, not to mention the gas it took to get here and etc.
It seems the profit on any given order has to be a minimum of $60 before a salesman can collect commission. And apparently, that $500 minimum order does not necessarily guarantee a $60 profit for the company. So, if I place my orders in the way that makes the most sense for me—dividing it into two smaller orders instead of one big one—my sales rep makes NO MONEY on my account. How very motivational! Tell me that he is going to be just as solicitous of my business as he is of a larger account when he makes no money from me.

What the hell kind of a way is this to do business? Why is business so skewed toward the negative nowadays? Time was when sales people were compensated for any sales—maybe not very much, but if they brought in a dollar for the company, they made something on it. If they were very good, very successful sales people, they would receive bonuses for increasing sales or making large sales. They could make a good living for being good at what they did. In this day and age, however, if you bust your ass and over-achieve, you might be able to make ends meet as a commission sales person.

Why do big companies believe that the only way they can make money is to rip off their employees? The executives and the stockholders get the best of the spoils. The leftovers are thrown to the employees—those people upon whose backs the money is brought in—as if they were the dogs under the banquet table. And if there are no leftovers, the employees get shafted.

So here I am now, looking at one of the few companies willing to do business with a small restaurant in a small town…and their stupid, avaricious business policies just make me sick. I SO want to tell them to go to hell; that I won’t do business with a company that can’t even pay their sales people a fair wage. Of course, I don’t see how I can possibly do that, since there doesn’t seem to be a company available to me that does compensate their sales people fairly. But I’m not entirely okay with simply ignoring the situation. No, I’m not responsible for that company’s crappy compensation package. But I can’t help feeling that as long as we all acquiesce to the daily rip-offs of big businesses, they are not going to go away. And this doesn’t even address the havoc their policies can wreak on ME as a small business owner.

Sometimes I wish I could just keep my head down and NOT think about the more global nature of the things I do every day, or even about how the way I conduct my business affects the other members of the small community of folks that inhabit my immediate world. I wish that I could just worry about getting myself through every day, and let everybody else take care of themselves. Unfortunately, I just don’t work that way. And it’s kind of a pain in the ass...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What a Difference Four Years Makes

Four years ago, I was so depressed by where our country found herself, so saddened by the depths of inexplicable depravity in which she had wallowed for more months than I cared to count, that I could barely rouse myself on the morning after the 2004 election. I had held so tightly, so desperately,to an unfounded hope that the silent majority would miraculously arise, shake the fog from their heads, and hand the Bush Administration its walking papers. I could not quite believe that my fellow Americans would award the Axis of Evil an additional forty-eight months to indulge its acquisitive lust for power, money, and more power.

And so I rose on the morning after Election 2004--the election that I firmly believed would be the most important of my lifetime--hope warring with dread in the core of my being, looked out the window at the new day and contemplated…

I decided I would let the dawn be the omen. If we had a spectacular
sunrise, no matter who won, things were going to be all right. A rainy, drizzly,
weeping dawn would foretell of dire consequences for our nation. Funny thing…I
knew the forecast was for sun today…knew the rain had stopped and the clouds had
scuttled away before we went to bed last night. I think I was creating a
scenario in my mind where my "good omen" daybreak was more than likely to

But we didn’t have a spectacular sunrise. The day dawned bright and
brittle. The sun just marched up over the horizon, cold and hard in the east.
And it frosted last night…the first frost of the season. The bright hard rays of
the rising sun glittered off the sodden masses of my garden flowers that were
killed by the frost. So, tell me…what kind of omen is that? Coming to Terms… November 3, 2004.

November 5, 2008 dawned grey and drizzly and dark…very much a typical late autumn day in the Pacific Northwest.

Yet I jumped out of bed, bustled into the café and gushed to my staff and any customer within earshot:

“Isn’t it a beautiful day!"

And I wasn’t talking about the weather.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

History Begins Now...


Election 2008



Today is the Day

This will be my “Dr. Jekyll” Election Day post.

You can find my “Mr. Hyde” rant at
Women On.

Today is election day. The day for which I personally have been earnestly yearning since January 20th, 2001.

The Bush Administration is circling the drain, no matter who comes out on top in today’s election, and that in itself is cause for unfettered celebration.

Still, we must hope for so much more.

We must hope for a leader who will drag us out of the gutter of fear and divisiveness into which the Bush Administration pitched us and held us for eight long years.

We must hope for a leader capable of speaking the words and inspiring the policies that will shepherd us back to the moral high ground we once held.

We must hope for a new administration that will truly join hands across the aisle in Congress, fulfilling the empty promises that George W. Bush—President “Uniter-Not-Divider“—made to the American people, fingers tightly crossed behind his back, at the outset of his presidency eight years ago.

We must hope for a president who will seek the counsel of all the best and the brightest in this great nation, heedless of party politics, rather than make every attempt to fill all the high positions of government with unqualified cronies and “yes-(wo)men.”

We must hope for a president who relies on knowledge, wisdom, sound judgment and wit to carry this nation and the world to a higher plane, rather than one who openly scorns these things in favor of the politics of fear, ignorance and xenophobia that have formed our national policies since 2001.

It’s no secret that I believe Barack Obama is the best choice in this race. And I firmly believe that the majority of Americans believe it, too.

But it’s not enough to believe it. You need to act on it.


Do not, under any circumstances, believe that you can spare yourself the ordeal of standing in line for hours, because all the polls say Obama is going to win, and he doesn’t need your vote. I have seen disastrous things happen when people trust the system to carry out their wishes without doing their part. I’ve seen hate measures become law, I’ve seen bad candidates squeak to victory, all because the “good guys” were sure that the bad guys didn't stand a chance, so they…didn’t vote.

Lucky me, I live in a “vote-by-mail” state. I sat at my dining room table a week ago, studied the candidates and the measures, filled out my ballot, stuffed it in the envelope and trundled it over to city hall.

For those of you who are not quite so lucky, I wish you fine weather, short lines, good company, and godspeed.

In a little less than 24 hours it will all be history.

The first page...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cafe Ramble

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. I want it to be day when I roll out of bed, thank you very much. At least light enough to see my hand in front of my face, anyway. Of course, I went to bed at 9:00 last night, and by 5:30 I was done sleeping. My body is still on daylight savings time, evidently. So I have a couple of minutes to fire off a little post.

I’d like to say that things are perfect at the café, but the place is like a game of “Whack-a-mole.” I whack one issue back into its hole, and another one pokes its head up somewhere else and sticks its tongue out at me. While my employee issues seem to have smoothed out for the time being, now I’m having fits with my vendors. I had to switch grocery companies in August, and that was a nightmare. We’re finally getting to where I’ve found my footing with that situation, and my wine supplier bugs out on me.

I have to wonder whatever happened to the concept of customer service, particularly when it comes to restaurant suppliers. As a small restaurant in a small town, I have come to expect terrible service, or no service at all, from any vendor with whom I try to do business. You would think we were located somewhere in the godforsaken wilderness, rather than on the northern fringe of the largest population area in the state. The vendors who do condescend to deliver to this area act like they are doing us the biggest favor in the world to even consider taking us on as customers.

But maybe that’s the problem. There are plenty of customers to be had in the Portland metro area proper. Vendors don’t need to come “all the way out here” to get business. Why waste the fuel? So while Portland restaurateurs can choose from a half dozen specialty bakeries that will bring marvelous artisan breads right to their back doors every morning, I am stuck with Giant National Bakery’s five varieties of “marshmallow” bread. And have a hard time even getting that.

And then there’s the concept of fresh produce. When I sit down at a higher-end restaurant in Portland and read how “fresh local produce” is featured on today’s menu, I have to laugh (with a wistful tear in my eye.) I have not yet figured out where that commodity is to be had, and I’m pretty sure that if I did find out who provided it, they would not bring it to me. Personally, I’m beginning to think that the produce used even in the upscale restaurants in Portland is no more local or fresh than the stuff I can get my hands on; or if it is fresh and local, it’s a large part of why meals at such places are $30 a plate.

My latest run-in was with my wine vendor. I have been doing business with a little wine supplier out of Northwest Portland. I inherited the account from the previous owner of the restaurant; this particular supplier has provided wines for Old Town Café since the grand opening 3 ½ years ago. The service has always been a little…shall we say, lax, but the salesman was personable enough, and the company didn’t hold me to a minimum purchase. This was important, because we’ve only recently built our dinner business to a point where we sell more than one or two bottles of wine a month.

So my routine has been that I call my sales rep when I need wine, leave my order on his machine, and he shows up with it in a couple of days. Last week, however, when my wine did NOT show up when it was supposed to, I had to open an investigation. Several calls into layers of automated phone system hell finally put me in touch with a live human voice, which told me my wine vendor had been sold, and New Wine Company had taken over all accounts.

I had never heard of New Wine Company. And my wine rep had not so much as whispered that a sale was in the works. And New Wine Company had evidently not heard of me, because old wine rep was doing an intentionally poor job of communicating with everyone involved. Long story short, it took more than two weeks (rather than the expected two days) for me to get wine in the place; and, in fact, last Monday I had to make the thirty-mile drive out to one of the closer wineries in the area to get my own damn wine. (Which wasn’t really a hardship. It was a beautiful drive, the weather was gorgeous, and I got the wine cheaper than I would have from the dealer anyway.)

Now that I am a full-blown business owner, I find I am swiftly being healed of my chronic phone-o-phobia, and I have no qualms about demanding what I want. If I need something, I’ll get on the phone and track it down. And if I get frustrated with poor customer service, I am not shy about letting whoever is on the other end of the phone have it with both barrels. I had to growl and bare my teeth all the way through the process of switching our phone service to digital voice. I’ve “squeaky wheeled” my way through this process of changing grocery vendors. And I blasted Mr. New Wine Company rep when he finally did get in touch with me last Friday. I’m afraid I’m getting somewhat of a reputation as a…demanding customer. I want what I want, and I’m not going to settle for less. I’m sorry I can’t be Ms. Sweetness and Light, but I’ve never been a schemer or a cajoler. I fully expect to be able to ask plainly for decent customer service, and get it. That is what I offer MY customers…I’d be out of business if I didn’t. And I expect no less from the people who call me “customer.”

Did I say this was going to ba a "little" post? Well, the sun is up now…and it’s time to get to it. Another day, another story…

Friday, October 31, 2008

Old Picture ...Day

Over at Mary's Place yesterday, I saw something that looked like fun. It's called "Old Picture Thursday."

Yeah, I know. Today is Friday. But I want to play anyway. It must be Thursday somewhere (Mars, maybe?)

I'm not sure if there are rules about how old these pictures have to be. This one is pretty old...though not an antique. Yet.

m & l honeymoon

Hubs and I in Keshena, Wisconsin.

Though we look like we're lined up in front of a brick wall ready for a firing squad, we are actually crouched on the ground in the driveway of Matt's folks' summer home in the great northwoods.

Needless to say, it isn't June. And it isn't Hawaii. But we are on our honeymoon. And the camera is on top of the wall across from us, set to give us thirty seconds to run into the frame, pose and smile. And yes, we are freezing our butts off.

Thirty-two years ago, give or take a couple of days. October 17(?), 1976.

Who are those children?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Life? Okay... Cafe? Good!

I realized today it’s been awhile since I’ve taken the opportunity to elucidate upon the happenings at the café.

My writing muse is most typically roused by angst. If I’m miserable or I am knee-deep in shit, I want to run and write down everything I’m thinking or feeling. It’s always been my way of working through the rough spots in my life.

So I’ve not been writing about the café lately, simply because it has not been driving me absolutely crazy. I don’t feel like I’m never going to get a handle on it all. I don’t feel like I’m on the verge of having to run the place all by myself. I don’t feel like the economy has me down so low it looks like up to me…

A couple of surprisingly successful hiring decisions have me feeling like a genius…at least for the time being.

I’m not able to pay myself (yet) but at least I am able to step out of the trenches and perform the duties of an owner (for now…and how I know that can change at any moment!!!)

And, in spite of the plummeting Dow Jones and economic forecasts as bleak and confusing as a pool party interrupted by a white-out blizzard…

Old Town Café will be enjoying a 25% sales increase over last year for the month of October.

A far cry from the tune I was singing a year ago.

I don’t want to say that I feel like I finally have this figured out…because I know the minute I DO say that, someone will throw a gigantic load of excrement at the oscillator, and I’ll be wading in it and trying to scrape it off the walls in no time.

But right now, at least as far as the café is concerned…

Life is good!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October 28th


Today would have been your 86th birthday.

Yes…it’s written in stone.

But I see you so clearly in my mind’s eye. Surely you are not gone. And it has not been almost ten years since Dad left us.

It’s not so difficult to think you still at home. At the kitchen table. Watching “Barney Miller,” working a crossword puzzle with Little Buddy curled in the crook of your arm.

Dad is in his room, a book in his lap and the television flickering…keeping track of both through his eyelids.

I love you. I miss you.

Happy Birthday, wherever you are.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Pelicans at Road's End beach (they should call it "Pelican Beach...")


I took a walk on the beach early Friday morning. The beach was not particularly remarkable, as Oregon beaches go, but there is a colony(?) of pelicans that roosts on a giant rock just off shore.

Pelicans can usually be seen flying in orderly lines of six to a couple dozen birds, just above the crest of the incoming waves. Fishing, I assume.

Line after line of pelicans came winging down the waves along this beach. Always flying north. I have to assume that they looped south again in order to make more north-bound fishing runs, but I never saw one pelican flying south. I felt like I was inside one of those lamp shades that has a scene painted on it and goes around and around.

Anyway, the new camera got a few good shots...

(And I see size "Big" Flickr pictures are just a teensy bit too big for this space... Gotta stick with "medium" or portrait-oriented shots, I guess.)

Trying to Get it Right

I am taking a stab at posting bigger pictures here in my little space...

punkin test

This is "Punkie..."

And...lookie lookie! I figured out how to make my blog fill the whole screen!

Between messing with html and figuring out my ipod, I'm starting to think that maybe I have finally been dragged (kicking and screaming) into the 21st century...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Up and Running

It’s after midnight and I have to open the restaurant in the morning. So what am I doing sitting here with my computer in my lap?

If you could see me, you would notice that there is a delicate white cord attaching me to a cobalt blue matchbook-sized package perched on the arm of my recliner.

And Jim Brickman, George Winston et al are tinkling their ivories directly into my ears…

Victory is mine, you itty-bitty electronic demon! :-P

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Gift of Music...or Not

I got a cute little, itty bitty ipod “shuffle” as an anniversary gift from the hubs.

It came in an itty bitty box with an itty bitty (useless) instruction book.

I have absolutely no idea how to get music on to this thing. And it’s starting to drive me a little bit crazy.


Sunday, October 19, 2008


Did you miss me?

I’ve been away—both from home and from the internet. We were with family in Lincoln City in a beautiful little house high up on a hillside overlooking the ocean. The weather was gorgeous, the shopping was decent, and…well, there were a few familial bumps in the road, but we had a good time overall. (Let’s just say next time each family of the family will have its own space… ;) )

Isn’t it great that I am in the place where I could confidently leave my restaurant in the hands of my crew for FIVE DAYS with only a minimum amount of trepidation…

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ready to Get Back to It


Now I can get back to writing again.

The thing that has so vexed me about this AOL expulsion has been the lost writing time. For ten days, I spent every spare minute glued to my computer, feverishly dealing with the deadline, frantically yet painstakingly copying and pasting post after post, comments and all, from one blog to the other. But I wasn't doing the thing the blogs were created to do. I wasn't writing.

As I re-posted all my political rants leading up to, and following, the 2004 election, I was impressed anew with the clarity and passion of those posts. And I realized that I had things to say, soapboxes to mount, about the 2008 election and its cast of notorious characters…but there was no time. I had a job to do. Copy, paste, edit, post. Copy, paste, edit, post.

As I weighed the merits of every meme and "assignment" and pimp, I balanced the deadline against the preservation of the continuity of the community relationships. I wondered about the state of those relationships once we had all moved to new digs, who would follow and who would disappear; and I wanted to write about my fears and my hopes. But there was no time. Copy, paste, edit, post. Copy, paste, edit, post.

As I watched the names of each of my now long-standing journal 'friends" appear in the ranks of my commentors, I wanted to write stories about each of them and how I came to know them. But there was no time. Copy, paste, edit, post. Copy, paste, edit, post.

As I copied and pasted the entries alluding to my first disappointing interaction with the business I now own, I longed to write about the challenges and satisfactions of the hour, the day, the week… But there was no time. Copy, paste, edit, post. Copy, paste, edit, post.

I had labored my way through over 360 of 774 total posts when the word came down that AOL had figured out how to lower the lifeboats. I'm pretty sure I was one of the first over the side…

Perhaps the time was not wasted, as it was a fantastic journey back into the early days of j-land. And an encouraging review of my re-birth as a writer. But the worry and the stress and the fear of losing it all proved, in the end, to be entirely unnecessary. I feel as if I shaved minutes, if not days or weeks, off the end of my life for no reason whatsoever.

But, for now, I can get back to what this has been all about from the very first. Writing. Putting one word next to another and then another, and following them wherever they go.

I'm so ready for this…

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How I feel about having “Coming to Terms” safely transferred to blogger:"

One of my favorite little Christmas cartoons is “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.” It first aired when I was…eight? Nine?

There is a scene (and I swear to god, if I could find a “you-tube” of it, I would embed it here) that is exactly me, here, now.

Scrooge (Magoo) has awakened on Christmas morning, having endured the visits of the three ghosts, and realizes he has been given a second chance in life; he is a changed man. Bouncing off the walls of his boudoir (to the tune of those signature sixties cartoon sound effects) he effuses:

“I don’t know what to do! I am as light as a feather. I am as happy as an angel. I am as merry as a school boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man!”

(Yes…I know the dialog was written by Charles Dickens.) But I’m feeling cartoonish. Defying the laws of physics. Floating in mid-air. Hanging from the windowsill by my toenails.

Coming to Terms is alive. In the safe embrace of its new home.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Day 26--Driven



With all the things I have to do, all the responsibilities I’ve accumulated in the past few years, with the café, and my husband, and my family…I’m driven to save this journal.


Of late, I have barely had two hours a week to invest in the writing I so love, and have so missed. Now, I spend four or five hours a day, copying, pasting, saving. 


As soon as the danger became known, there was never any question.


Never any thought that I wouldn’t find the time.  Never an ounce of consideration given to just letting it go because I would not find the time, in my real life, to deal with this.


Because this, this journal, has been such a huge part of my life for the last five years.


In many ways, and on many occasions, it has BEEN my life.


Or saved my life.


So, yes, I have AO-hell to thank that my world has been turned upside down.  And that an additional dire deadline is hanging above my head.


And I have them to thank that I will spend the next 26 days more stressed, more sleep-deprived, more desperate that I would have otherwise been.   Something I definitely did not need.


But  I will not let my words disappear at the whim of…well, who knows whom.


Thanks AOL.  Thanks for treating us like negligible, expendable crap.


It’s the American Way, is it not?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Countdown: Day 27

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. Actually, if everyone else is spending the hours and hours it is taking ME to painstakingly transfer my entries and comments to blogger, I know exactly why everyone has been so incommunicado.

I have spent, oh, about ten hours so far on the "copy, paste, redate, publish" thing… It reminds me of the hellish months I spent trying to re-invent myself as a data entry clerk. Very much why I ran screaming back to the foodservice business. B-O-R-I-N-G!!!!!

And, yet, the entire time I’m doing this, I feel this sense of doom hanging over my head. As if there is no way I’m going to get this all finished before the deadline. Auugh!!!

I have gotten all the way through March of 2004. Which means I have only 4 ½ more years to go.

And I haven’t noticed any helpful e-mails from AO-Hell telling us they’ve figured out how to move our journals to…somewhere else. I’m thinking it will be a cold day in hell when that happens. And I’m also thinking there is no way I would entrust THEM with this precious compilation of the last five years of my life. Sure as s**t they would lose it all into cyberspace, never to be seen again. There is no way I would take that risk.

So, soldier on, everyone. We shall meet again on "the other side!" :-]

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Countdown: Day 32

Let’s count the days, shall we? The days left until AOL leaves us twisting in the wind?

What an apt Halloween prank their pulling the plug on us will be…

Oh, I have another non-aol blog. The one I started back in…what was it, 2005? When AOL sprang the ads on us, and all hell broke loose?

Anyway, poor little old "Better Terms" hasn’t had much of a workout since we bought the café. I decided "Coming to Terms…" was just easier.

And I compose most of my worthwhile entries in "Word," and then save them to my hard drive. So it’s not like I’ll be desperately scraping to retrieve my great essays…

But I will mourn the community. The community of which I have never been more than a reluctant, shadow-dwelling part. It is quite a shock when someone hangs the "going out of business" sign on one of your favorite haunts.

At any rate….

For those of you who will want to follow me wherever I go (all three of you) I will be here:

Better Terms

Stop by, say hi, leave a comment…so I know you’re out there.


Having Taken a Moment to Think About It...

It occurs to me that what might actually be going away here is…AOL.

Of course, they don’t want anyone to know that yet.

AOL is no longer hip. AOL is no longer at the top of the techno pile.

Evidence the fact that AOL has continued to provide a place like AOL journals, where old farts like us can write, and attempt to hold on to the shredded remains of a once vital community.

And, let’s face it, fellow old farts, we are not the demographic that anyone cares about anymore.

I wonder…does AARP offer a journal space?? J

I suppose AOL has done us a favor. They could have—and it would have been quite in character—just presented us with a fait accompli and turned us off with no warning. But they have deigned to give us a month’s notice, and offered to help us move our blogs to other blogging sites.

(But, just by the by, I wouldn’t trust AOL techs to move a vase of flowers from one side of the desk to the other…)

So, if that’s the case, if AOL really is preparing to trudge into the ethereal tar pit…

I apologize for my "You SUCK!!!" comment.

And I’m sorry for the many of you (mostly in Asia these days, I’m afraid) who will be pounding the pavement soon looking for new gigs.

And, to be gracious, I guess I need to say—

Thanks for the memories.

Good luck, all




Thanks, AOL! 


I'm sorry...I just can't believe they're doing this to us...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ten Minutes 9/28~~Love Hurts

Today was our day off.  It was a lovely early fall day, warm and bright as summer.  I had it in my mind to take a little buying trip out to one of the wineries south of here.  We stopped in at the café for breakfast, and almost immediately got into an argument…over something stupid and insignificant, as seems to be our habit of late. 


We finished our meal in silence, got into the car and drove in that same cloud of anything but amiable silence.


Eventually, I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I racked my brain for a lead-in line…wondering just how to start the conversation without starting a fight.  Finally, I asked him.


“What one word would you use to describe our relationship these days?”  More silence.  I had nearly decided he had chosen not to respond.  And then…


“Strained,” came the answer at last.  And I couldn’t argue.  Because the word that had been circling round my head was…similar.


We drove on.  But I was determined not to let that silence close in on us again.


So we tore it open.  We argued.   We accused.   We laid blame and we took blame.   We thrust and parried, ducked and wove, and each landed a few really good (verbal) punches.  We arrived at our destination, stayed in the car and kept dredging it up and dragging it around for another good half hour before I think we were both just too exhausted to go any further.  And nothing, I think, was resolved.  Except that we’re still married.  For now, at least.


It has been a long, hard two years since we strapped on our armor and sallied forth onto the danger-fraught path of business ownership.  Yes, we did arm ourselves…or we thought we had.  It turns out the dragons and demons we are facing are not what and where we imagined they would be.  We find ourselves pitifully ignorant of, and therefore perilously exposed to, the actual threats we smack into head-on.


We thought we at least knew how to physically run a restaurant.  (Turns out we did once, but we had forgotten a lot of what we knew and had to learn all over again.)  We thought we could work together as a team to accomplish what one person alone cannot do.   (Turns out we can’t, andI’m not sure why “we” ever thought we could.)  We thought that, with thirty years of shared history under our belts, we would know each other well enough and love each other deeply enough to be the support system we would each so desperately need.  (Turns out that we had no idea how thin our bond would be stretched by the exhaustion and the stress of our endeavor, and that in its current emaciated state it couldn’t withstand an attack by an angry gnat.)


And tonight I’m sad and incredibly tired and…lonely.  I’ve had one friend I could count on for more than half my life.  And right now, we just don’t seem to like each other very much.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

September 25th


So, this is my first "blog."  I wonder how this will affect my writing, knowing that someone might actually read it?  I've been writing journals since I was in high school.  Always with the secret hope that someone might read them, and get to know or care about my thoughts, confusions, and yearnings.  (0 comments)



one year ago today, I opened the Pandora’s Box of AOL journals. LOL! I shouldn’t really call it that…nothing bad has come out. Except maybe the guilty feeling that I’m spending too much time here that could be better spent on something else; like housework, WORK work, exercising, reading Shakespeare…all the self-improvement crap you never do anyway.  (15 comments)



Seven hundred thirty-one days ago (that’s two years, including a leap-day), "Coming to Terms…" sprang forth from my keyboard to the AOL ether-waves. Well, maybe "sprang" isn’t exactly the word. More like clotted, chugged, and coughed. In those early days, posting entries presented challenges—both electronic and verbal—that are now the stuff of distant memory. (17 comments)



I just realized that I have passed the three-year mark on "Coming to Terms."

And what a long strange trip it’s been…Could it possibly be only three years that I have been chained to this love/hate relationship with the world of the blog?

Surely it is longer than three years…decades, perhaps…that I have known and cherished my "friends of the ether" out in journal land.  (8 comments)



Happy Birthday,

“Coming to Terms...”  (8 comments)



People and things that have endured at least five years of me:


My family (at least, most of them…)

My husband (31 years and counting…)

Eighteen pets… 

One or two friends…  Three homes…  Two jobs… 


…and “Coming to Terms…”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ten Minutes: The One Senior I'd Love to See on Tuesday

As I prowled the dining room last night looking for tables to bus and patrons to schmooze, I accepted the lavish compliments of the old folks.  Tuesday is Senior Night, and they love my meat loaf.  They say it’s the best they’ve ever had at a restaurant.  Who knew a humble concoction of ground meat and secret ingredients could be such a hit? 


I smiled to myself.   Who knew, indeed?  In spite of all my thirty-five years of restaurant experience, my food tends more toward the homemade than the institutional.  The forms and flavors run to rustic and comfortable, rather than edgy and haute cuisine.  As I swiped a damp towel across a table peppered with the particulate remains of a satisfied patron’s feast, I suddenly thought about my Dad.  I thought how strange it was that, though I hadn’t learned to cook, as my sisters did, as an apprentice at Dad’s elbow in our family kitchen, the food upon which my café is building its reputation is very much from the tradition of that kitchen.  Simple, rib-sticking fare, jazzed up just enough to make it interesting. 


What I wouldn’t give to have Dad sitting at one of my tables, tucking a napkin into his shirt front and digging into my meat loaf or homemade lasagna.  He’d be 89 this year…but I’m convinced that if he were still with us, that’s exactly what he’d be doing on some Tuesday night.


I wondered, my eyes welling with stupid, out-of-the-blue tears, what he would think of my little place.  I think he would have gotten a kick out of it.  I think he would be proud.  He had this way of secretly beaming when one of us did well.  He was not a man given to effusive praise or outpouring of emotion.  But if you caught him when he didn’t know you were looking, you would see the pride and the praise in his eyes.  You could read it in the set of his tiny, satisfied smile. 


It was only after he died, I think, that I realized I lived for that smile.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Very Cool

Today the city of Scappoose held its annual festival. Which brings the entire community to the blocks right outside the door of my café.

But what we learned from enduring the past two years' Sauerkraut Festivals is this:

Yes, the entire city parties right outside the doors…but they bring their own food.

So, this year, we decided to just…be open. And let the citizens of our fair town feel obligated to buy a cup of coffee so that they can use our bathrooms. Sigh!

Business being what it was, husband and I had the opportunity to "do" the festival. Which took all of about ten minutes. We did, however, come up with one incredible find.

An original oil painting, entered into the fine art contest at the library:


Look familiar?

Probably not.

Hint: The painting is titled "Café in the Heat of the Day."

My café. On the right. Tables on the sidewalk and all.

Very cool.

P.S.  Of course, the painting was for sale.  And yes...we bought it.  :-]

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dealing With (Someone Else's) Grief

I don’t know what has been eating me the past several days.  Things in my world are going relatively well.  I have the new hair (upon which I have been getting an embarrassingly large number of positive comments…) and the new nails (of which I have only broken one, so far L.)  Business at the restaurant has been surprisingly un-bad, considering this has traditionally been the time of year when sales fall off into winter oblivion.  I hired a new cook who is actually a mature woman with experience, though I suppose it remains to be seen whether that is in fact a plus or a minus (she starts this afternoon…)  I’m making headway on some of the major projects that have been hanging over my head for months.


So why do I feel as if, somewhere in the back of my conscious mind, someone is scraping fingernails on a black board?


I think I may be suffering from some kind of weird variation of survivor’s guilt.  I have two good friends who are going through horrendous bad times right now.  One has lost a husband, one has lost a child.  I feel so sad for them.  I hate the walk that they will be walking for the foreseeable future, for the rest of their lives, actually.  And since these are internet friends who live thousands of miles away, I hate that I can’t help.


Not that there is anything anyone can do for someone who is deep in grief.  Everyone grieves differently; there are no rules.  Even in my personal experience, I’ve handled grief for my sister and grief for my dad in two different ways.  When my sister died, I lived entirely IN my grief, and then gradually climbed out of it, healing myself as I went (well, you’re never healed, but you learn to pack it up and take it with you.)  When Dad died, I had to completely step away from the pain, and then revisit and assimilate it in small pieces at a time.   There are probably as many “formulae” for handling grief as there are human beings on the planet.  Or more.


The disconcerting thing about having internet friends going through bad times is that in the worst of times, there are just no words.  Shortly after both my sister’s and my dad’s deaths, people we knew lost loved ones, too.  And I remember very clearly being physically unable to offer words of comfort, because I knew from all-too-recent experience that no words were adequate.  We come up with things to say or write upon occasions of bereavement because…why?  Because we think we need to?  Because we’re uncomfortable and seek to fill the sad silence with something?  Because society tells us we need to? Mostly a waste of breath, or ink…


But my relationships with my internet friends are built upon words.  We havebeen all about sharing words since we “met” almost five years ago.  So what comfort can you offer someone when the thing upon which your friendship is founded has become more hindrance than help?  I feel frustrated and helpless.  And then I feel like an ass for making their grief “about me.”


All I can really do is hope that they know I’m thinking about them every day.  And try to write the right thing when the need arises…