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…


Friday, September 12, 2008

Ten Minutes: This and That

Well, so much for posting a ten-minute entry every day.  Hey, I kept it up through most of the month of August, anyway.  Actually, it’s not like I haven’t been writing.  The past week we’ve been doing a lot of anti-Sarah Palin groaning over at the ensemble blog.


My, how that one sensationalist stunt of John McCain’s put our undies in a wad!  The whole tenor of “Election 2008” was transformed in one fell swoop.  It went from being an almost civilized contest where the issues were almost given due attention, to a pop-culture media circus of Britney Spears-like proportions.  Starring a forty-something Britney Spears who just  happened to be sitting in a governorship at the right moment.  Ugh!  I’ve said as much as I’m going to say on the subject over at Women On…  Go there if you’re interested in our take,..


I’m hating September so far this year.  After the Summer That Never Was, we seem to be having summer now.  We’re looking forward to temperatures in the nineties this coming weekend.  Well, someone may be looking forward to that, but not me.  I was done with summer a couple of weeks ago.  Now it just needs to…GO AWAY!  At least the geese won’t be denied.  I heard their wild honking through the skylight this morning as I was performing my toilette (getting ready for work.)  They know it’s supposed to be Autumn. 


And I have continued along on my mini-makeover.  Last week it was purple hair, this week, it’s the claws.  Yep.  I got my acrylic nails.  They are lovely fall colors of russet and gold, with a hint of glitter.  And they are a royal pain in the ass, and I’m having to learn to type all over again.  Which is why it’s taken me about twenty minutes to type this ten minute post.   

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Short Purple Hair...

See my new sidebar pic...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ten Minutes…Just Stuff

Today started out on a sour note, with terrible news from one of my best and longest-term ethereal friends.  Such an evil way to begin a day…and yet life is full of jarring realities.  They are at once shocking and predictable, on some level.  My heart sighs and sobs for my dear friend.  Her news seemed to have put the day in an entirely different perspective than it would have otherwise been. 


When someone you love is visited by tragedy, you look at each moment of your own life—past and present—a shade differently than before.  You feel grateful that you are not the one walking that walk; you feel helpless that you cannot bear some of the terrible burden.  You look at the sun with the realization that it is shining as always above your own head, but is possibly as remote as Pluto to this person you love.  Sadness, empathy, helplessness, gratitude…a strange cocktail of emotions to carry through the day.


Still, I had a hair appointment I had to keep.  And keep it I did. 


I am now sporting the shortest hair I have had since I was about ten years old.  I have been so frustrated with my hair.  Menopause seems to have turned my barely acceptable mane into a completely unmanageable rat’s nest.  Two months ago, I had my recalcitrant locks cropped to about chin length.  It was nice…it was presentable.  But after two months, it had already grown to the point where I could no longer deal with it.  So I resolved that on THIS appointment—which I had made two months ago when I had my last haircut—I was going to do something completely different.  Cut it the hell off, and do some kind of color I had never had before.


So now, I have short, purple hair.


I know that doesn’t sound great, but it actually looks okay.  It’s different.  It’s manageable (I think…I haven’t tried to style it myself, yet.) 


And my stylist kind of gave me the whole day-spa treatment.  She waxed my eyebrows (Ouch!)  and my “cat whiskers” (god, I love menopause…not!)  She offered a little mini-pedicure, which was particularly indulgent.  Hot soak, nail clip, painted toenails and a bit of a foot massage.  Ahhhhh….! 


All in all, a good/bad day off.  But I think I’m ready to dive in with both (painted) feet tomorrow morning...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ten Minutes 9/03: Oddness

A lady came in for a coffee this morning, carrying one of those little mini-animal carriers made out of cute print fabric with little doggies on it.  I assumed she was carrying a…little doggie.  Some kind of purse dog, like an itty-bitty Chihuahua or whatnot…you know, the ones that cost $100 an ounce.


It crossed my mind to tell her she could not have an animal in the restaurant, but she seemed inclined to leave it in its little crate, and I didn’t think it was hurting anyone, as long as she didn’t take it out and let it run around. 


Eventually, I became overwhelmed with curiosity, so I walked up and asked, “Who do we have in here?”


She looked at me kind of sheepishly, “It’s my rat.”


Yep.  A rat.  It was, in fact, a “rex” rat—like as in it had steely grey, curly fur.  Like a “rex” cat.


It was a really cute rat.  But it was a rat.  Lady got her coffee, zipped up her rat carrier and went on her way…


A short time later, a girl walked up to the counter and asked, “Do you eat snake?”


“Uh, what?”


“Snake.  Do you eat snake?”


“Noooo…can’t say as I ever have.  Why?”


“Well I have some great pieces out here.  Really cheap.  About three dollars a pound…”


“Um…  No thanks.”


“Okay!”  And she turned around with a big smile on her face and went her merry way.


No shit.  A door-to-door snake-meat salesperson.  I guess.


I thought the full moon was next weekend…

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Goodbye Summer


Fall has slammed down like a guillotine.  Officially, Autumn does not start for almost three more weeks, but the season is here now and seems disinclined to take “no” for an answer.  I’m already swabbing heavy condensation from my car windows before I can take off down my driveway in the early, misty mornings.  The crabtrees lining my way to the cafe are shooting off little sparks of red and orange, teasers for the real show coming in a few weeks.  My planters are lush, green and bursting with blossoms, yet I know in thirty days or less they will be frost-bitten and bedraggled.

It was such an odd summer.  Short and hot and drizzly and humid, with a couple of truly spectacular thunderstorms thrown in for good measure.  The good weather has held when we needed it to, but the rest of the time, it has gone off on several unusual tangents.  We’ve hardly had a week with no rain…very unusual for this part of the world.   So the summer that never really was has receded down the road and made room for my favorite time of year to unfold grandly, albeit a bit prematurely.

I wish the coming of autumn was not so symbolic of my life.  I don’t want to care that the days are shortening and the end of the year is roaring up on me like a freight train.  I just want to stand outside, open my arms wide and gather it all in.  Into my lungs, into my arms, into my spirit. 

Welcome, beautiful season.  Let us embrace and dance a lingering pas de deux before the winter curtain falls.