Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Few Words

As usual, it’s Saturday night, and I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. But this week, it was a truck full of customers.

We had our first back-to-back $1000+ days since we took over the café. And almost made it back-to-back-to-back—missed it by fifteen bucks today.

So this is not the desperate, frustrated, one-step-forward-two-steps-back kind of tired I’ve been slogging through for the past eight months. This is the "We just might have finally turned the corner" fatigue for which I have been thirsting all these 273 days.

And I am just too damned beat to write any more.  

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Teach the Children...What?

Here I am, back in the position of managing young people. This time, the age gap between myself and the people I am supervising (mentoring? guiding?) is easily 1.5 decades greater than the last time I was called upon to fill this role.

Fifteen years ago, I was nearly old enough to be the mother of my youngest employees. At 36, I could (biologically) have had a seventeen- or eighteen-year-old of my own. I was superficially cognizant of that fact, but it didn’t really register. I felt like an overgrown eighteen-year-old myself sometimes, back in those days. I was able to establish a sort of mentor relationship with my girls; the fact that I was almost twenty years their senior never seemed to be much of an issue—to me, anyway.

Fast forward to 2007. Other than my 38-year-old cook (who has a thirteen-year-old daughter of her own), my oldest employees cannot even claim a quarter of a century on the planet. So I am WAY old enough to be their parent. It’s an interesting dynamic. Having never had children of my own, I don’t see these girls as "children." I’m sure I have an entirely different attitude toward them than their (younger than me) parents have. Most of the time, I don’t give it too much thought. But then there are times when I wonder…exactly what DO these children think of me?

For one thing, I don’t think they realize I am older than their parents, most of the time. Not being a parent myself, I don’t act like a parent. Which is not to say that I don’t sometimes come off as a complete old fart. I’m sure that when I’m back in the kitchen grooving to my "tunes" on the radio (I found the greatest radio station out of Portland—they play all sixties and seventies music. The music of my childhood…!) my employees are thinking of me exactly what I would have thought of my mother hopping around to "Big Band" stuff when I was a kid. Come to think of it, my mother never did that. Was there (is there?) a certain dignity to being a parent that I completely lack? Or some rule in the Mom Handbook that says you should never let your kids see that Once Upon A Time you might possibly have been just like them?

The other day, I found myself expressing my spiritual ambiguity to one of my girls. She’s college-grad age, so I don’t feel guilty of poisoning a young mind with things of which her parents would heartily disapprove (I’ve met her parents and I’m sure they WOULD disapprove…but she’s old enough to make these kinds of decisions for herself.) But this is a small town, and this girl was brought up in a strictly religious family. So I wonder, really, how my lack of reticence about my beliefs colored her opinion of me. I try to think back to myself at that age…what would have shocked me? What would I have considered TMI from someone old enough to be my mother?

Then again, times were WAY different when I was a young twenty-something. Much as we would like to have thought we were so hip and so liberal and so enlightened… Let’s face it: I was an almost-affluent child of the lily-white suburbs. What today’s kids don’t give a second thought would have shocked my socks off. Here at my own little café we’ve had an openly gay cook, girls working on their second or third out-of-wedlock baby, tattoos, pierced everythings, the dark specter of methamphetamine in several employees lives… And this, as I said, is a small town. So imagining what might have shocked me at that age is totally irrelevant.

And even if I did suspect that I should keep a tighter rein on what I betray of myself to my employees, I doubt that I could actually DO that. I am who I am--almost completely without pretense or guile. It just doesn’t occur to me to be secretive about who I am or what I believe. Which, I concede, is not always a good thing. It’s certainly not "managerial" or "owner-ial" behavior. I suppose I should give great consideration to the persona I intend to create for myself, and project that and only that image. I’m sorry. I have about as much chance of doing that as I do of crawling back into my mothers womb and calling for a "do-over" of my entire life.

So god knows what kind of reputation I am creating for myself in this little town. If only to give myself one less thing to obsess about, I will choose to believe there is nothing about me that my employees won’t be better off for the knowing…

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Saturday Night's Reflection

I feel like I’ve taken a step backward in time. Here I sit, ensconced in my bunk in the trailer; flashing back to the essence of what was the sum total of "My Business" less than a year ago. The 8 ½ months of nearly overwhelming work and worry that have been the story of my life since July 1, 2006 have, for at least a few hours (with me wielding the biggest mental eraser I can lay my hands upon) faded into the background. For this short time, I have returned to what was definitely a simpler life.

A far less challenging life.

A far less frustrating life.

A far less rewarding life.

For what great reward was ever gotten without sacrifice? Without a massive investment of time? And energy? And blood, sweat, and tears?

Life is not the lottery. It is not a matter of buying the winning ticket and having it all handed to you on a silver platter. We say that’s what we want. The easy life. Instant success.

But what would we be, really, if that was what life was all about?

Could it really be called "Life?"

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Some Good Stuff

  1. Another Sunday off! And this makes, what, five or six in a row? Can I finally say I have enough of my shit in one sock that I can take one scheduled, predictable day off every week? It will probably jinx the whole thing to mention this, but things might be (dare I say it?) starting to gel at the café. I have employees who are happy, motivated, and enjoy their jobs. I can take a day off without wondering what kind of damage control I’ll be performing for days afterward. I always knew this day would come, but it seemed for awhile as if I wasn’t going to physically make it to this point. Hallelujah and pass the rolaids…
  2. On the subject of the day off, we took Ms. Dog for another walk on the dike, and were treated to sightings of both our eagles, and possibly a third (which I think was a young eagle, since it looked the same basic shape and size, but lacked the white head and tail.) This time, one of the eagles was being very vocal. Quite a piercing, wild sound, the call of the eagle resounding up and down the length of the channel. Gave me goosebumps.
  3. After our walk, we headed back to our restaurant for lunch. Weather was pleasant, and we had the dog with us, so we sat out on the sidewalk. How odd it is to be a small-town business owner and a total introvert at the same time. We have lived in this town for almost six years and literally do not even know our own neighbors by name. But, there we were, sitting out in front of the café, and getting honks and waves as regular customers driving by recognized and hailed us. Not something I’ve ever experienced, or ever thought I would. Just goes to show, even when you’re older than dirt, life can throw in a few surprises if you open yourself up to it…
  4. In the course of an employee performance appraisal today, the "appraisee" went on at length about how much she enjoys working at the café. She remarked that the crew and management are so nice, and everyone gets along so well, and everyone is so willing to help. And that the customers seem genuinely happy to be there and to be having a good time. Did that ever crack a smile somewhere deep in my soul! The trials and pitfalls of buying this restaurant and dealing with the horrific staff issues have had me questioning everything from my management skills to my worth as a human being. To have someone say in so many words that they think MY restaurant is a great place to work probably added ten years back on to my life. (BIG Old Shit Eating Grin…)
  5. Between the unwelcome time change and a turn in the weather, it’s obvious spring is truly on its way to the Columbia Valley. Daffodils are smiling, camellias are bursting forth, the flowering apples, cherries and plums need only a few more days of sun and higher temps to pop their fat buds into full bloom. Of course, I can hardly enjoy all this while steadfastly averting my eyes from the ever-lengthening grass and burgeoning population of weeds I barely encounter in my poor yard between twelve-hour stints at the restaurant. I have no idea how we are going to keep the property from looking like an abandoned rental this summer… The husband and I spent an hour yesterday searching for a little scrap of paper that had been stuck under our front door, touting the reasonably priced landscaping attentions of "Manuel." Surely small businesses keep the economy turning by creating work for one another!
  6. We have another event coming up this weekend which will require my absence from the restaurant for three days. I’m so tired, I barely have the energy to pack…but can I say how much I’m looking forward to the break? Poor hubs will be stuck at home on café duty, though. We could sure use an actual communal vacation.
  7. Bought fabric and trim for curtains at the café. Now all I need is someone to sew them for me ( I SUCK at sewing.)
Okay. I’m all done for tonight. Sweet dreams!