Friday, April 28, 2006

just a dream away......

This is where I'd like to be this weekend..... at the beach listening to the waves slap against the sand, watching seagulls divebombing for food, catching some much needed rays of vitamin B, and having a cabana boy named Juan wisp off to refill my ice tea as needed. With a book by my side, plenty of suntan lotion, and no phones, I could easily drift off to sleep and let the cares of the world stay at bay for a little while.

Instead, I'll be assaulting my legs and feet once more with another wedding to cater. Oh well, it pays the bills, right?

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, and gets to enjoy their moments away from the drudgery of the working world. Even if I can't be there, I'll be dreaming about it in my few moments of downtime.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

a thursday chuckle.......

A Florida senior citizen drove his brand new Corvette convertable out of the dealership. Taking off down he road, he floored it to 80 mph, enjoying the wind blowing through what little hair he had left.

"Amazing!", he thought as he flew down I-95, pushing the pedal to the metal even more.

Looking in his rearview mirror, he saw the highway patrol behind him, blue lights flashing and siren blaring.

"I can get away from him-- no problem!", thought the elderly man as he floored it to 100 mph, then 110, then 120 mph.

Suddenly, he thought, "What on earth am I doing? I'm too old for this nonsense!", pulled over to the side of the road and waited for the trooper to catch up to him.

Pulling behind him, the Trooper walked up to the drivers side of the Corvette, looked at his watch and said, "Sir, my shift ends in 30 minutes. Today is Friday. If you can give me a reason why you were speeding that I've never heard before, I'll let you go."

The man, looking very seriously at the Trooper said, "Years ago, my wife ran off with a Florida State Trooper. I thought you were bringing her back."

"Have a good day, sir", said the Trooper.

Monday, April 24, 2006

a successful party and a happy birthday girl..........

Several months back I had received a phone call from a regular customer that was planning her own 50th birthday party. Since I know she has particular tastes and styles (obviously, since she was planning her own party), I decided to meet with her in person rather than to try and set her catering up over the phone. A personal touch does go a long way, and my decision proved to be well worth the effort.

Our initial meeting lasted over two hours as we pondered over her choices of menu, placement of food, and staff needed. Since she lives in an exclusive (georgeous/ manicured/ gated) golf community that had just come into full bloom, I had no problem with that.... as the scenery into her backyard resembled fine gardens worthy of Monet. She was planning to have the party in her gardens.... scattered tables and eating areas, all listening to a band she had hired for the event. I had to remind her that (in my experience) most people gathered around the bar area, no matter where you placed tables..... just as they do in kitchens, when it is an indoor party. It never fails....ever. She still had designs of her plan she hadn't ironed out yet, and enter me with the expertise to lead her in the right direction. We clicked once more, and she took my suggestions with very little protest. We ironed out all the details, she took notes (as did I) and we came to a meeting of minds. Yes, this was a going to be a nice party, with only the best silver in attendance to fulfill the effect.

Usually I ask for a final count one week before the event, so that it gives us ample time to start purchasing the menu product... and start the prepping some things as early as possible. If you ever had to cook for 120 people, you get the picture. Two days before the event I received a phone call from her, and she's had a change of mind about her food. As we are on the phone, the truck arrives with the mushrooms and potatoes she wants to nix, and have shrimp cocktail in its place. As delicately as possible, I convince her that it really is too late at this point. If she only called me one day earlier, I might have been able to do something for her..... but, geez, the truck has already arrived with her fresh produce ready to be made into the wonderful delicacies she had chosen originally. Not to worry, she already had shrimp and scallop kabobs and bacon wrapped scallops as part of her choices.... wouldn't new potatoes and herb stuffed mushrooms widen the variety choice? She relented, and gave in. Whew!

Since I knew this was still not going to be an easy set-up, I asked if I could come the day before to bring the chafers and as much equipment as possible to put in place, because the next day it would be very hectic.....oh, and did I mention that she is an easily excitable person? And not the "haha" type, but more along the lines of "determined to run things as the mistress of the house" personality. No big problem, as I already knew all this, hence my suggestion. She is not the type of person who can plan things in her head, and depends on visuals. This means that we changed the placement of chafers on her diningroom table a dozen times. She would step back to investigate.... not be very pleased, then we'd start all over again. As it turned out, it took longer to set the diningroom table then it did to unload my truck (and I can pack a lot of equipment in there); I was glad for my decision to come a day early.

Friday set-up night saw the sky get dark, thunderclouds move in, and once again threats of horrendous tornado warnings. Not so much for our area, but we would get the rain, no doubt. In my mind, I could only think of the lawn that would turn to mud from such a soaking, and I wasn't wrong. My trip to her house on Saturday, 3 hours before the first guests arrived, had me face to face with a woman who greet me in shorts, curlers in her hair, and the look of pain on her face because the clouds hadn't quite cleared yet. Since she had rented a tent, and had it set-up in her nice big driveway, we placed the tables there, and erected a bar down in her bricked garden area. Everything was now in its place, and the band had arrived to set themselves up as well. Walking through my final details, and putting even more equipment into place, all I had to do was wait for the food to arrive, which it promptly did at 3:00. By now, the sun was out, but the grass was taking a pummeling from all the walking I had to do to stock the garden bar. This would prove to be a slight problem to the ladies arriving in their spike heels, as they did sink in upon occasion.

Guests arriving at 4:00... and all the way up to the fashionably late ones at 9:00, were greeted, offered wine and shown to the gardens for a tropical drink called a Mojito, in case they didn't care for wine. When I first saw the amount of wine cases she had purchased for this party, I really was under the impression that she'd have many bottles left over, and I was wrong in that assessment. These people really packed the wine and Mojitos away.... and I was thankful that most of them were either within walking distance, or had taken their golf carts instead of cars to arrive there. No one get sloppy drunk, but still, a lot of alcohol was consumed.

The guest of honor had just enough time to ready herself further, before the first guests arrived, and luckily she was not indecisive about her fashion attire. All the guests brought lovely wrapped presents, which were collected and brought to a bedroom to be placed on the bed. By the end of the night, I had a chance to go in there for something, and couldn't help but think that it was going to take her a month to write out all those thank you notes.... the bed was covered, and it had spilled over to the dresser. It was better than Christmas!

The party went off without a hitch. Delicious food aromas waifed through the kitchen, and the people were showing signs of being hungry. The pre-hors d'oeuvres were not enough to sustain them, and at 6:00 we opened the buffet. This proves to be my busiest time during any party. Between keeping the chafers stocked, and collecting any items from people who are finished and ready to be rid of their plate and silverware, it causes me to be in several places at once. For the most part, this is also when the time flies by the fastest at any event. You actually have no time to even think about time..... except when it comes to your legs and feet. (Which reminds me, I need a more comfortable pair of shoes!)

The next thing I know, it's 8:30..... the party is winding down, and the sun is setting well into the west. A nice comfortable cool has arrived in the air, and the guests are starting to leave in pairs of two. It's serious clean-up time for us. We have to collect all of our equipment, empty the pans of food in containers to be set in their refrigerator, and load our vans. I am now on my 8th hour of working this party, and to say my "dogs were barking" is an understatement. I have hit hobble mode. Luckily I didn't have to carry any heavy equipment, as my two male partners get those honors, but I did need to oversee everything that we took away to make sure it was ours and not some of the dishes she supplimented in the table displays. Going off without a hitch, the vans are loaded, and the boys are on their way back to our kitchen to start the dishes. I wait around for payment of the invoice, while also wishing I had that bottle of Aleve in my hands to stop the throbbing my aching legs are shouting to me. The night is over, and I am thankful that I live somewhat close to this particular event. Whatever got loaded into my truck can certainly wait till Sunday to clean.

Handing me the check, with a very nice tip included, I thank both mistress and master of the house for allowing us to cater this event. It was indeed a pleasure, and I told them to call me anytime we could help them with special food needs in the future. (It's a standard line, but everyone gets a smile out of how I drop that "it's a pleasure to serve you" schtick. It makes them feel very important, and we get recommended amongst their friends.) She was beside herself telling me that everyone had complimented the food and catering company.... we had indeed made her party a success, and she wanted some cards to hand out to friends for future business. Oh sure.... cards?.... you betcha! Since we can't put a card holder out at a private party (too tacky), we have them on hand for anybody who asks. This little marketing technique has paid off well in the past, and I do private parties for people who wouldn't think to use anybody else. Our level of service is that good.

Hobbeling into my vehicle, I set the dashboard on auto pilot and head home. No matter how tired I am, the car instinctively knows the way to my house. Parked in my driveway, I breathe one sigh of relief before I collect my purse, and limp my way up the last flight of stairs I have to climb that night. It's time to rip off the tux shirt and get into jammies.... and in finally floating off to sleep I smile to myself knowing that we successfully earned another golden star in our list of distinguished patrons.

Friday, April 21, 2006

just what the doctor ordered......

After that nice garden you planted for Earth Day.... nothing seems better than a well deserved massage for your efforts. No garden, you say.... no problem. If you make a concerted effort to be kinder to the earth, you still deserve the massage. Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

we've got the whole wide world in our hands......

I've always been under the impression that there was a reason why we are all here. In my opinion, I think it has much to do with evolution; as well as powers beyond our imagination of who God is. Without a good mixture of both, we would probably fail at surviving. Stay with me here... I know this sounds a little freaky. To me, our "God" is everything around us: the sun and the air, the land and the sea. We are but visitors here, just as everything else was before man made his first appearance. Somehow our species managed to evolve due to the careful ingredients of God and evolution. Our brains expansion along with the capacity to communicate made our species the smartest because of this intelligence. But being so smart has not helped to pay off a future for us, as we are destroying our God in the process.

For nations to come under attack against each other perpetuates the demise of our species (remember us, the intelligent ones?), as well as the very ground we stand on. Most of these conflicts come about because of religious beliefs.... and who's got the better "God". What's forgotten in the process is that "God is all around us"....... have we forgotten one of the first rules of religion? It's the only one theory I hold from my former days as a Catholic..... I did believe in that one. Here's where I differ from most, and my agnostic beliefs surface. If God was all around us, then he was in everything; he was our magical exlixer for a better life...... not a long, long life, just a better one. He was also in my heart in the way I treated my fellow man. He was in the ground we stood on, making the Earth habitable for our species to thrive. He was in the sun and air, allowing us to adapt to the atmosphere that holds our life. He was in the good and bad things we need to learn in order to survive. These survival techniques became our "evolution" into who and what we are today.

Somehow, we still do not heed the message of God..... and to me, it's not some man on his throne who lives in the clouds of heaven...... it's the God of "earth", in which we have found random ways to destroy the land. And now it seems like "it's" found ways to come back and bite us in the butt. Due to the many ways we've polluted our environment, raped and pillaged its forests, and dumped our wastes in the oceans...... is it to no wonder how the weather is effected by this. The earth is still a fragile planet that has taken a lot of guff from our species, but everyday it finds ways to fight back and place warnings to the greatest of our minds. It becomes scary to think we are not paying more attention to these warnings.

In two days we will celebrate Earth Day. In searching wikipedia on the web, there are a couple of versions how Earth Day was started, but there is no doubt that business manager of the Nobell Research Foundation, John McConnell had a big hand in the efforts we see today. He designed the first Earth Day Flag, and introduced the idea at a 1969 UNESCO Conference on the Environment in San Francisco. It was determined that the vernal equinox that marks the precise moment that spring begins in the Northern Hemisphere, and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere, would be a perfect day to celebrate. At this global moment, both day and night are equal lengths everywhere on earth. At the South Pole, the sun sets, bringing an end to the six month long day, while at the North Pole, the sun rises, ending six months of continuous darkness. If you were to stand a pole perfectly vertical at the equater, no visible shadow would show. It was the equilibrium where differences were to be forgotten and nature's renewal would be celebrated by all.

In 1970, the original date set around March 21st ( the vernal equinox), got changed to April 22nd as the new date to celebrate Earth Day. This day is coincident with Arbor Day that started in the 1800's. Laws were passed by Congress in the wake of 1970 Earth Day, including the Clean Air Act. These laws would protect our drinking water, wild lands and the ocean..... and in this wake, the EPA was created in 1973.

So thanks to the efforts of a few good men (who were paying attention), we are aware that we need to replace the things we take away, and quit destroying the things here that are bountiful to our nature. But we do have a long way to go. An effort by all of us here who haibitate this planet, makes it our duty to keep it clean and safe for the next generations behind us. My generation dropped the ball. We were supposed to send our greatest minds out there in 1975 to make the world better and safer environmentally. Plans of wind power and electric cars were supposed to be part of our society today.... isn't that what the salutatorians speech was all about at our high school graduation? We failed, because the greedy 80's and 90's were more appealing. Yeah, we did get that nasty smoke out of the air, and the quality of breathing did get better. Our rivers and oceans are supposed to be cleaner than they were in the 60's and 70's......but I state once again, we do have a long way to go.

I am fortunate to live in a town that takes this very seriously. We have regular recycling pick-up, as well as a center where you can bring just about everything to (except household garbage, as that's picked up seperately). I make my monthly trecks to our center one mile away and unload all my cardboard, plastic bags, magazines, used oil , batteries, plastic containers, and anything else they'll take. You can even bring old appliances there for a dumping fee. They crush everything down and have it trucked off to a plant that will recucle it into something usable again. In a disposable society, this is an important element to the cycle of garbage. Americans put out about 30% of the world's garbage, and although we only constitute 5% of the worlds population, we consume 24% of the worlds energy. We're the biggest bad guys of them all, unless we change the way we use up and dispose of our resources.

So if you've stayed with me so far, I'd like to leave a few parting words with you.......

"May there only be peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life."
~ U Thant, Secretary General of the United Nations: 1961- 1971

"Let every individual and institution now think and act as a responsible trustee of Earth, seeking choice in ecology, economics, and the ethics that will provide a sustainable future; eliminate pollution, poverty, and the violence, awaken the wonder of life and foster the peaceful progress in the human adventure."
~ John McConnell

No cards need to be sent out for this day.... all we can hope for is that everyone plants a seed, grows a garden or cleans up their act, because, after all, if we don't take care of what's in our hands today, we risk extinction of everyones God tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

happy birthday, Charles.....

Hubby's birthday was actually yesterday, but that it was so close to Easter, we celebrated on Sunday combining the events and making him share with the Easter Bunny. He received lots of nice presents, and the red velvet cake you see above. (We go through this all over again in May on Chris' birthday, which falls on Mother Day.)

After dinner last night, we sat on the porch and talked a little bit about the whole birthday thing. He said that he did contemplate his age and started to ask the why and how of his life.... especially now that he's half way into his fifties. Isn't that what we all ask ourselves when we hit certain milestones? It's not an unusual request, and it's something we all do, whether we want to or not. It becomes another one of those"life happens..." moments where we take stock in our surroundings and hope that the path we chose put us close enough to the goals we made.

He is born and bred "southern", and has lived almost all of his life in Georgia. This didn't stop him from being a well traveled person, as his passion has always been reading and exploring. There isn't a free moment in this mans time that isn't spent with a book, magazine, or map in his hand. He is very much a history buff, and has passed that particular gene down to our son... luckily. If I don't understand a world event, he can fill me in on it as if he were the one making policy; where I can objectively and effectively chew on it for awhile. We never go anywhere without checking out the history behind the situation, and I can't think of how many Presidential homes we have visited up and down the east coast on a trip to New England, but know it was many. Not to mention all the museums, parks, and places of interest in the greater Georgia/ Florida area.

He comes from a family of two youngers sisters, and two younger brothers, who are some of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. Each has their own personality, but it is so alike when it comes to ribbing each other. It is truly a masterpiece to watch when they all get together, as the wit flies, and the laughter is long and loud. There are no jealousies, no painful interventions, and no squabbles. Each have their own role, and each is grateful that life has been very good to them. No one is rich in the monetary sense, but they are rich in ways many people dream of.

He has trained as an apprentice carpenter, sous chef, journalistic student, and gardener; making him very well-rounded in lifes curveball occurrences. All these areas suit him well, and I am fortunate for his abilities and strong work ethic. We did hit many, many curves along the way, but the road has been smooth for a long time because we found a way to work through the tribulations that come with marriage.

The greatest joy of his life would be our son. There is not one thing he wouldn't do for Chris, and that moment started on the day Chris was born. He showed infinite patience during the colic "years" (and yes, it seemed like years... but was more like months), and never said no to Chris whenever a toy was "needed". I, on the other hand, was the sea hag who said no to everything; but money was tight, and the yankee frugal gene never quite got lost in my system. There were many times when I would become frustrated over being the disciplinarian, but equal balance of both sides won out with Chris, and he has turned out to be a wonderful person in his own right. By all intents and purposes, he should have turned out to be a spoiled brat.... but he didn't.

Both Charles and I are agnostic. He was raised Methodist, and I Catholic, but neither of us believed that strongly in our raised religions. This should spell disaster when it comes to raising a child, but it didn't. Chris is Christian (self professed) and through a discussion with him a few years back, I found him following his own golden rules of good and bad. We never brought him to any church (which didn't go over all that well with his Grandmother at first) but found it wasn't necessary, as he possessed a strong moral center. I had told him that we didn't think he should be raised the way we were: fearful of an entity. When he was old enough, he could decide for himself.... a decision both his father and I agreed on. We were fortunate that his moral core was intact, and never wavered. He would even take it upon himself to read the Bible, and even asked for the Charlton Heston tapes about religion for a Christmas present one year. Charles and I took a great gamble, but the rewards have been more than we could have imagined.

So Happy Birthday, Hubby! ...... and many, many more to celebrate as we travel down the road to old age together. Of course I still have a few more years to go before I catch up, but that's another story for another day.

Monday, April 17, 2006

lazy, but not handicapped.....

Yup.... that's me today. I should be working, and I actually do have some orders piled on my desk to go through, but I lack the ambition to carry the tasks forward. Being off my game, and wanting nothing more than to be left alone to watch old movies (or any movies, for that matter) brings no solace to my state of mind. I'm just plain off my game, and trying to make any excuses as to why I should deserve this day off.... which technically is not a free day for me.

I surfed the web for hours to see if I could come up with something that peeked my interest as a post, and much did, but the words were not there to transmit. I saved many pictures, read jokes, and scrolled through miles of cartoons and articles.... but the brain came up blank as to how I could pull it off, or put it together. I even distracted myself into thinking I had some housework to do.... but failed in that mission as well, as I took care of that little task on Saturday. So left with nothing to do but channel surf, I found that it bored me even more. Okey dokey then.... time to get serious and find something that will stimulate me other than the chocolate scones I've already had too many of today.

But then more thoughts of laziness have crept up, which isn't always a hard stretch for me these days. Why not just relish the moment of being slightly lazy, and let the chips fall where they may. But no, I'm just far to obsessive compulsive to let moments like this take over. If I don't keep up with things, they have a tendency to multiply my work tasks for the rest of the week, and then I suffer feelings of being rushed. Besides, I already know that too much depends on the work that starts with me.

Yet the mind works in mysterious ways.... and it is easier to make even more excuses why I should just put it off till the last moment; after all, it's not going anywhere, right?
No doubt I'll have to pile through the work orders I already have keeping a watchful eye on me, and at some point, I'll have to get out and mow the lawn once more. Yup, the tasks are getting more visible by the moment, but my willingness isn't. I'm certainly not handicapped.... just plain lazy. Perhaps a small nap to mill the idea over during REM might help.

Here's hoping you all had a more productive day than I.....

Friday, April 14, 2006

whether you observe or not.....

Easter Greetings to all..... and may your baskets be filled with plenty of chocolate and brightly colored eggs!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

bill gates vs. general motors.......

For all of us who feel only the deepest love and affection for the way computers have enhanced our lives, feel free to read on:

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated. "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon".

In response to Mr. Gates' comments, General Motors issued a press release stating: If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

1) For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.

2) Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.

3) Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull over to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue.

4) Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down, and refuse to start, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

5) Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive--- but would run on only five percent of the roads.

6) The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single "This Car Has Performed an Illegal Operation" warning light.

7) The airbag system would ask "Are You Sure?" before deploying.

8) Occasionally. for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.

9) Every time a new car was introduced, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

10) You'd have to press the "Start" button to turn the engine off.

~~My thanks to Pat for sending me this in an e-mail.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

sleeping like a baby.......

Suffering bouts of insomnia can certainly set off the "cranky" button if one is sleep deprived. I am a sufferer of this at times..... when my mind cannot shut off, but my legs are too tired to carry the weight any further. Not so tonight. I am going to relish the moment when I can just climb into bed and let the worries of the world wait a few more hours to tackle.

It's been a very busy few days between breakfasts', lunches, and dinners. Needless to say, KFC got my business tonight, because I was even too tired to cook. What's that saying about the cobblers children wear no shoes? That's how it is in my house. Being a caterer does not necessarily mean that I am going to prepare a gourmet dinner every night. The last thing I want to do at the end of the day is to stand over a stove. Some nights I just grab a bowl of Cheerios and call it a meal, as it's easy, quick and convenient. It works for me, and there's no messy pans to fiddle with cleaning up afterwards... just a bowl and spoon.

So all that said... it is time for me to retire for the night, as I have been yawning for a few hours and look forward to that soft pillow that will take me to dreamland. I plan to sleep like a baby tonight.... and then come back with a vengeance tomorrow. Here's hoping you all have a good night's sleep as well.......

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

enough said........

Each day as we rise out of our warm beds, and try to make some semblence of the day ahead, we face the one person who is more critical of us than anybody else. Ourselves. Dream big, and strive to be the lion in a cat suit. It'll fit you better than you think.

Happy Wednesday, everybody!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

the calm after the storm.......

There is one thing you can be sure about tornados~ they are random, sneaky and deadly. Everything else is pure science, and there are many explanations as to how they develop. It is with this knowledge that we face the winds, hail and that ever present "train coming through the backyard" noise. Luckily we have doppler radar and the latest technology used by our meteorologists to keep us informed of any impending storms heading our way.... and if you live in an area that is prone to this type of wrath, a local town siren. It's very wailing makes you drop in your tracks, look up to the sky, and then shake you to your senses to find cover immediately.

We didn't have that chance early Saturday morning, as the storms that inched across the plains, and into Georgia, didn't arrive in our area until 4 AM. There would be no looking to the skies, because it was still dark outside. And for some reason, the sirens never went off. My son must have a built in "animal instinct" to the barometer sometimes (on the days I'm caught off guard), as he awoke to the rains that pounded on our open windows, turned on the TV, and noticed that the map they were showing was our area covered in bright hues of red, and cute little lightening icons. I was fast asleep, and never heard or felt a thing. He came into my room, nicely jolted me awake, and proceeded to tell me that he thought we might need to take a trip down to the basement. Luckily, we were never in any immediate danger, and there were never any "trains" coming through the yard, nor any accompanying hail; so we sat and watched the development on TV. As soon as it crossed the area, the winds subsided, and within a few hours, the sun came up. It was time to assess the damage.

Never hearing any cracks of limbs falling with a loud thud on the ground, I knew we only would have seen blown leaves strewn across the yard, and perhaps a few bird houses down. As it turns out, I didn't even have that trouble. It was as if I our house was in a voided area. Everything was pretty much normal, even if a few hours before the trees were bending sideways while trying ever so hard to stay rooted. Well.... how nice is that? No clean-up, no mess, no limbs to clear. Life truly was good, and all was well. All I would have to do is wait a day for the grass to dry, because it certainly needed another mowing.

Not so true for other parts of the town where an F1 tornado layed a path of snapped pines and uplifted oaks. Damage to roofs in the form of whole tree trunks (that could no longer hold their ground), and roads (that no longer displayed their white seperation lines) was only a mild price to pay for this storm. I have seen worse... but that's still no consolation to the people who will have to live with a tarp over their home for the next few weeks.

On my way to my kitchen to prepare for a birthday party we were catering Saturday night, I was able to witness some of the damage first hand. It wasn't hard to follow the path of where the tornado touched down, as it resembled a drunken giant literally stomping everything down in it's path. It followed no real road, and created a new one through the sparce woods of what wasn't already in the development of new subdivisions. Passing by a church, I saw members with leaf blowers and chainsaws who were in the process of readying their parish for Sunday services. What struck me as odd was the cross on the front lawn shawled in a purple scarf that never lost it's cover. Since I pass this church frequently, I notice it all the time. It was as if this tornado experienced a momentary lapse, then picked up once it passed the path of the bold cross. While street signs dangled twisted in shape, trees snapped mid-length, and leaves littered the area, this one cross maintained it's dignity and shawl. How odd is that? It brings new meaning that God truly does work in mysterious ways. All of this occurred five miles from my home.... far enough away to not be touched by the destruction, but close enough to know that no one is truly out of the path, wherever it deems itself to go.

This is not the first time I've had close encounters with tornados, and have been in several in the past. The first one I experienced was back in 1985. Still being new to the area, I had no idea I was in the middle of one. I had the night off from work, but hubby was busy prepping Easter brunch for a hotel that we both worked at. It wasn't until he called me after it had touched down (to see if I was alright) then explained what all the wind and noise was about, that I knew I had luckily escaped a trip worthy of Dorothy. I did hear the wind, did go to inspect that loud noise I heard outside, and did witness my sliding glass door to the patio bowing in at an odd angle.... but somehow, was not smart enough to connect the dots. There must have been a "guardian angel" who was watching over me that night, or perhaps the saying, "God protects fools and children" was in effect. I was either lucky, or foolish not to know how much danger I was in.

Weather is a funny thing. We all praise the beautiful day with plenty of sunshine and mild temperatures. Soft breezes that roll across the landscape, and bright blue skies with big white puffy clouds are a favorite of everybody. And why not? It confirms our ideas that all is right with our little corner of the world. Occasionally a nice rainstorm washes away the dryness of the air, and unclogs the pollen dusted sills of earth. But the weather has a mind of it's own, and is not always kind in staying mild. It throws earthquakes, blizzards, tsunamis, and the occasional twister at us.... which reminds everyone that no one is safe when it comes to atmospheric shenanigans. We can only do our best to track it with all our new technology and hope that the damage suffered is slight, and loss of life is minimal.

With all the carnage and destruction, there is still one fact that remains about storms of any kind. When they end, and people are allowed to peek past their safe areas, the skies have been cleared and the air takes on a new freshness. I remember my brother telling me once that the nicest skies were the ones he witnessed after a hurricane out at sea, on duty. He had snapped many pictures of it, and his collection was quite impressive. As it turned out, we were to ride out a hurricane together in 1985 when I was up visiting him in Boston. This was my first real "one of these" as well. After it was all over that early evening, we decided to visit our Grandparents, who lived in the next town across the river, for dinner. The setting sun threw on the nicest colors to ends it's busy day, and it was truly obvious that "red sky at night, is sailors delight". It was one of the prettiest sunsets I've ever seen. Looking across his back porch at the city before we left, I saw a silhouetted Boston in black, layered across a canvas of purple, yellow, pink, orange, and the most dominent color of red.
It's was the calm after the storm.

Friday, April 07, 2006

in another lifetime.......

Looking into the past always brings on a feeling that we all arrive at our given path due to the directions we took along the way. How can it be any other way? Roads diverted, hurdles jumped and decisions handled, all make up who we are, and how we manage the changes.... how we arrive at today; this very time and place of who we are now.

We are always making choices, whether they were pre-planned or pre-destined (if you believe in that sort of thing). And then there are those pesky curve-balls that seem to divert your attention and circumvent even the best laid plans. It's what we call life.... and it's what we live and deal with on a daily basis, if not momentary sometimes. John Lennon said it best: "Life is what happens when we're busy making other plans."

What should be a time for me to look forward, I've been looking back, and taking stock in all I have learned along the way. Were they the right choices? Were they the wisest paths? Were it not for me, would I have done something different with the advise I learned from the "sages" I have become accostumed to glorifying? Well...... maybe, maybe and maybe. Who knows, and really all that matters is that I am comfortable in my surroundings of where I'm at now, because in the grand scheme of life, I've only myself to please at the end of the day. It's not like we all get out of this one alive anyway.

In my humble assessment, it makes me feel grateful to know that I worked through the ranks the hard way. Struggles had to be overcome, tasks had to have my hands all over it to know that I played a role, and small sacrifices had to be filed away to be filled another day. It's the daily grudge.... it's what life is all about.

Part of that was finding the "right" job. Because I only went to the school of hard knocks, not having any formal education (except for a class I took in Interior Design), it always meant that I had to start at the bottom and work my way up the ranks. At the time of my graduation from high school, it wasn't really necessary for girls to go to college.... not that we didn't, it just wasn't necessary. Those were different times then.... and not like anything today. Girls didn't have the same pressures, because most of us just thought we'd get married and settle down with our 2.5 children and white picket fences. Yeah, yeah, silly thinking I know.... but this was the late 70's and we were kids born in the late 50's with June Cleaver moms and Eddie Haskill friends. If it wasn't for my Dad having a nice chat with me about the facts of life, love and marriage, I probably would have ended up a statistic with no idea how to support myself. He was instrumental in making sure that I had saleable skills, just in case "my husband" decided to leave me for his secretary... or worse, died and left me with a "passle of kids". Ouch... that little chat stung, and I sat there crying about a bleak future well before I had any idea what a future was.... or even how to map one.

I started working in a small local grocery store where I learned how to stock shelves, order food, cashier out customers and help in the deli. A customer came in one day and asked if I 'd like to come work for him in a wholesale optical company he ran in the next town over. Why not, the pay was a bit better and I could learn something new.... after all, I was 19 and it was time to start moving on to the "big time". Years went by, and my feet became itchy again. I was working as a customer service rep and had to deal with some of the nastiest people on the phone. (This probably was a good thing, as I have a habit of making faces.... and it was easier to do via phone where they couldn't see me.) After a break-up with a cheating skunk of a boyfriend, I packed my bags in my little Toyota and moved to Atlanta, only to start anew again.

My first endeavor was to wait tables. How hard could that be? Always having disposable income at my fingertips, free meals.... woohoo, I thought I'd hit the jackpot with that decision. Ha! Waiting tables is not for the weak of mind, weak of stomach, or weak of arms and legs.... nor could I make faces at the nasty people who demanded unreasonable things. My faces had to wait till I was safely in the kitchen to curse their food, carefully replacing the self induced semi-botox smile as the doors swung back out into the diningroom. Having already worked for a caterer part-time in New Hampshire, I already knew a few of the basic skills.... and having worked customer service at the optical plant, my "nice" skills were in order. If an outlet was needed to vent, there was always the cooler in back where it was easy to slip in to, and scream your head off.... just to let the steam out. I became a frequent visitor on the really busy nights, and found that the cool-down restored my sense of humor instantly. Nothing is more unpleasant than a public tantrum; besides, I always had that little angel on my shoulder that told me: Never let 'em see you cry... suck it in, then blow it out in a cool-down area. Peace will be restored, and the night will end. And it always did.

I went on to wait tables for many years, because there were as many nice people out there as there were idiots.... perhaps many more, and I became very good at my profession. My skin grew an extra layer, and trips to the walk-in became less frequent. It's what is commonly known as "taking it all in stride". At least I didn't have to bring any work home, and the income was still good. But then I had an epiphany. I was easily reaching an age where I thought I didn't want to be a waitress all my life; surely I had skills that went beyond carrying trays and fetching drinks. I wasn't a young chick anymore; at 34 these thoughts go through your head like lightening to a rod. I quit my waitressing career and went back into the grocery business, where I worked with chefs in the food court of our local Kroger store.... which really resembled a mini warehouse of one stop shopping for every task known to man. Besides doing your regular grocery shopping, you could do banking, photo stop, dry cleaning, pharmacutical refills, and rent movies. In the grand scheme of their plans, you also didn't have to cook because we provided meals on the go as well... nicely prepared by novice chefs working their way through the Culinary Institute of Atlanta as part of a work program. It was nice, and I did enjoy my time there until they transferred me to another store 30 more minutes away from where I lived and put me on nights. I lasted one month on the transfer, and took a job as catering coordinator back at an old restaurant that was 5 minutes from my home. To suppliment my income, I also waited tables on the weekends. But still I was not happy... and there is no future of ever retiring because disposable income is just that: disposable. I needed to start thinking about the bigger picture... beyond the box I put myself in.

As luck would have it, or divine Providence (who knows), I was in the right place at the right time.... or so I thought. My boss became tired of having the restaurant/ catering business and offered it up to two other managers as well as myself. We scrambled at the chance to purchase it for pennies on the dollar thinking our ship had come in. Boy were we ever delusional to think we could do a better job. There was a good reason why this place was headed to the porcelain waste basket, and all it needed was someone to flush the handle. It came in the form of an abundance of restaurants and bars opening in our area that had deeper pockets and corporate financing. We cut our losses, dropped the overhead and went strickly to catering. Our business grew, and suddenly the light at the end of the tunnel was not another on-coming train, but daylight and sunshine. The best part was that I could move my office to my home, and tend to it without always having to get dressed up everyday. I remember my first day on the "new" job. I picked up my purse and walked downstairs.... how convenient was that for a commute?

But all good things do have a way of unraveling themselves, as the craze caught on that catering was an easy and profitable business. Every Mom who thinks she has the best recipe for lasagna, every restaurant with or without the deep pockets and have back doors, and everybody who knows how to tend a stove caught onto the act. So the pie pieces have shrunk once more. Once more, we need to re-tool. This time, I'm not overly worried, as our reputation stands by itself.... heck, I still have people who call me wanting to make reservations at the restaurant, which closed in '98. We also have regular customers who wouldn't dare use anybody else. They are less frequent than we'd like them to be, but we haven't sunk the ship yet. It's something I learned along the way that keeps me from running to the cooler.... take it all in stride, because, after all, tomorrow is another day, and yesterday is a lifetime ago. I make it my new mantra to remember when the phone does not ring off the hook as it once did.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless tempest- tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

With these very words, my Grandparents entered the United States in order to make a life beyond one they lived in Italy. They came in the early 1900's, traveling by boat; with the understanding that it was a *crap-shoot* whether they would be able to remain or not. In their case, they were fortunate that no one was even slightly ill, for this could be cause for them to be deported back. Their first stop was Ellis Island, and from there the families settled in Boston and Pittsburg. This would make me second generation on my mothers side. My fathers family has history that dated all the way back to the Pilgrims and the Mayflower. So put this altogether and you have what is commonly known as "American": the blend of cultures, the spirit of freedom, and the land of opportunity.

This is all not lost on the immigrants of today. Many still do cross the borders legally, and for many of the same reasons my Grandparents did. To those people, I have the highest regard for their efforts to become acclimated into American society. To make an honest endeavor to leave all you knew behind, and bank your future on a country completely foreign to you is indeed a brave adventure.

However, we now have an influx of immigrants that have not gone through proper channels to be here. This is no secret, and has been the subject of debate for many years. We're all just really waking up to it now since it's become a topic for our political candidates to wrap themselves around, while positioning themselves to be the next occupants of the White House. While positions are being jockied to do the correct thing, much is being lost in what course to take.

Because we are a nation of free-thinkers (some freer than others) comments have heated the debate from all sides. If you were to read a comment from a KKK member, he would tell you that they all have to go; only whites are Americans. But then that assessment would also include Jews, Catholics, Blacks, etc, etc..... I sometimes wonder if they remember that their forefathers were immigrants once. A migrant worker from Mexico would debate that they are here because they are only doing the job of some American who doesn't choose to do manual labor. Well, I tend to think they are closer to the issue than the KKK member.... but then that's because we put them in that postion in the first place. Let's face it, in no way would we want to do some of the jobs that the migrant workers do. Aren't we always preaching to our kids that they need a good education so they won't end up flipping burgers for a living? That's because we have higher aspirations for ourselves and our children, whether we are willing to admit it or not. It's not a bad thing necessarily; all our forefathers came to this country with the same idea in mind: a better life for my family, even if it means I do manual work as a first generation immigrant. It was a necessary pill for them to swallow mostly due to language barriers. However, these forefathers of ours came in through legal channels, which is not our current situation. Yeah, no doubt some rogue immigrants did sneak in illegally, but not in the numbers we see today.

But the issue remains at a stalemate because we were asleep at the wheel long enough in our greed to tend to it before it got out of hand.... the numbers are a staggering 12 million illegal immigrants to date.... if not more. So what to do now? Well it's not like you can just round everybody up and show them to the border and say: KEEP OUT! That seems like a reasonable answer, but the practicality of it doesn't solve the issue. It's only a matter of time before re-entry into the US is imminent to their plans. What we need to do is seal our borders off, and make it damn near impossible for them to get in to begin with. The population already here needs to get themselves registered for citizenship and face the same *proper channels* our forefathers did, or face immediate deportation. Seems harsh, but this is serious business and demands action before the numbers triple..... and at our current rate, that's not too far off into the future. If they prove to be serious about being in the United States, then they can comply with the rules we live with everyday; if not, they need to return to the country of their origin.... or whoever else will take them. They should not be allowed to handicap our system, for they have no rights here as citizens.... just as I would have no rights in their country.

For those willing to risk their past life on a new future in America, I say we hand them the * Bill of No Rights*, just so they know what they are getting into by being here. As a matter of fact, we Americans should follow a few of it's examples; if for nothing else, it makes complete common sense, and might clarify a few things for everybody.

* The Bill of No Rights *

We, the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, restore some semblence of justice, avoid any more riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior, and secure the blessings of debt free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great- grandchildren., hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines for the terminally whinny, guiltridden, delusional, and other bed-wetters.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that a whole lot of people are confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim that they require a Bill of No Rights.

Article I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV or any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire them, but no one is guaranteeing anything.

Article II: You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone-- not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc., but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.

Article III: You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy.

Article IV: You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch-potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of another generation of couch-potatoes.

Article V: You do not have the right to free health care. That would be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested in public health care.

Article VI: You do not have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim or kill someone, don't be surprised if the rest of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.

Article VII: You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you away in a place where you still won't have the right to a big screen color TV or a life of leisure.

Article VIII: You don't have the right to demand that our children risk their lives in foreign wars to soothe your aching conscience. We hate oppressive governments and won't lift a finger to stop you from going to fight if you'd like. However, we do not enjoy parenting the entire world and do not want to spend so much of our time battling each and every little tyrant with a military uniform and a funny hat.

Article IX: You don't have the right to a job. All of us sure want you to have a job, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities of education and vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.

Article X: You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have a right to PERSUE happiness--- which, by the way, is a lot easier if you are unencumbered of idiotic laws created by those of you who were confused by the Bill of Rights.


Perhaps these words written by Libertarian writer and US Senate candidate Lewis Napper might be a bit ungracious, but it might be time that we remember common sense rationale for which this country was founded on. This country wasn't founded for free-loaders, be it illegal immigrants or naturalized citizens, to abuse. It was for huddled masses of oppression to hold up to the world as a better plan to govern it's people. Why do we have such a hard time doing that, and instead have become a laughing stock to the rest of the world?...... but then that's a post for another day.