business, challenges

A View From Behind the Mask

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I don’t bring it up often, but my family is in the restaurant business.  My husband and I met when I came to work at his family’s restaurant when I was 20 years old. I was taking a mental health break from college for a semester and needed a job, so I stumbled in to a local restaurant and ended up working there on and off for over a decade.  That’s a story for another time.

Suffice it to say, I have worked the front of the house in a restaurant for a lot of my life.  Server, bartender, hostess, manager, banquet server, retail sales, I’ve done it.  I have learned that it is not the life for me. (Add that to the list of stories for another time.)  Still, my husband’s restaurant is a huge part of our family economy, so there are certain days every year when I go to work and pitch in. Father’s Day, Oktoberfest celebrations, and so on.  Mother’s Day is usually one of those days.

As you likely know, the restaurant business has been radically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many establishments are closed.  Others are trying take-out, delivery, family-style offerings, and whatever else they can cook up. Heck, some are even offering grocery-style shopping. Pivoting quickly to focus on survival.

It was just recently that Georgia decided to allow restaurant dining rooms to open with detailed, extensive safety measures and very limited capacity.  We are lucky to have a restaurant with a large dining room. Other restaurants may not even be able to try to open their dining areas just because of the safety measures and square footage requirements.

This Mother’s Day was the first time our dining room had been open in well over a month.  My daughter and I were pinch hitting to help things run smoothly. Here are just a few of the rules: Paper menus instead of plastic sleeves so they could be disposed of each use. Gloves…I think I changed my gloves 50 times during a 6-hour shift. No bringing pitchers to the table to refill any drinks.  Just bring a new fresh glass. Spread guests out at every third table or so.  No groups over six people, which is often the minimum number for many tables on Mother’s Day at our place. Deep cleaning all surfaces…we scrubbed tabletops and every part of every chair anyone touched with sanitizer all shift. Since we couldn’t use our typical tablecloths, this was a lengthy chore. When done, we left a card on the table letting customers know it had been thoroughly cleaned.

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Maybe the biggest change was the masks.  I had a coworker from my school make me cloth masks to wear a while ago.  They are more or less comfortable.  They are much better than the awkward constricting bandana I tried at the beginning of corona. Still, after a while with the mask on you find yourself breathing differently.  It’s always sweaty and warm under there.  I was breathing more heavily, like I was working out or something, after just a minute with the mask on.  It was a relief to take it off every once in a while, or just let my nose peek out for 30 seconds or so.  Apparently it’s even worse if you wear glasses.

I wondered, could people tell if I was smiling at them? I do smile with my eyes but I’m still not sure. (No comment on my overgrown eyebrows which are tragic, or the bags under my eyes!) I wore more eye makeup thinking that would be the part people could see.

I learned quickly that most guests couldn’t understand what I was saying, so I spoke less and less as the shift wore on.  I hardly wished anyone Happy Mother’s Day, which is usually a big part of my job being the “Comfortable Committee” on those days.  I suppose I was just caught up in the strangeness of it all.  It didn’t feel festive.  Not many dressed for church.  No tables filled with gifts or flowers for the Moms. Only a handful of photos taken. The dining rooms weren’t crammed with smiling faces.  (And we are usually wall-to-wall with a waiting list for hours on Mother’s Day.)  It felt tense, with our focus on staying safe and sterile over warm and welcoming. It is what is needed right now. We want our customers to feel safe with us. Still, it is very different than the atmosphere in most years.

Just an insider’s view of what it’s like to work in a restaurant for Mother’s Day during the pandemic. Thankfully, we had quite a few people dine with us and many families took brunch and sweets to go.  This daily income is truly a lifeline for your local restaurants.

Sadly, when I got home from working, I read a long string of complaints and disappointments on social media from people who had waited hours for food ordered from major chains. Steakhouses, southern cooking, seafood, you name it.  All took enormous numbers of online orders and the system broke down.  People waited and waited, no one answering the phone, no one updating them.  When only a few miles away we had tables sitting empty and cooks and servers ready to make great food! It won’t always be perfect, but please give your local places a chance.

Our family’s place has been the site of engagements, weddings, showers, celebrations of all kinds and so many other special occasions. Please support those quirky, unique little places now.  Support the ones that hold your memories, even if it is a little strange to do these days.  If they are able to open at all, they are likely working their tails off to keep you safe and keep their business alive and employees working.  If you can, please dine with your favorite local places! Support the places you want to see come out the other side of this challenge with your dollars, your social media buzz, and any other support you can offer.

 

 

perspective

Special Deliveries

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I am a huge Amazon fan.  Like, huge. Maybe too big.

Me and Amazon go back a long way. I peeked in my decades-old email inbox and saw my oldest email from Amazon.com is from 2003 when I had a baby registry there.  I know I was a customer years before that though. I loved Amazon when they just sold books and  spending 25 bucks to get super saver shipping was the coolest. Prime wasn’t even a thing.

I loved Amazon when it was losing money and people didn’t think it would survive. (Yes, there was a time when Amazon did not make money!)  I was a college student then, busy falling in love with knowledge and reading and all that nonsense, when Amazon was the place for all my little philosophy and poetry tomes, long before Amazon baby registries.

I do know that Amazon isn’t everything. Over the years I have learned to seek out and shop small businesses when I can.  Local bookstores, hardware stores, boutiques…I try to shop them often.  But still, there are some times when Amazon’s selection and even price and return policy can’t be matched. (Not to mention you can shop them in your pajamas when you just think of something you need and voila!  It’s there in 2 days.)

Of course, the pandemic has caused retail pandemonium. Even more people are shopping online. Delivery services are taxed to the max. Amazon didn’t escape this fate.  My little reliable Prime symbol doesn’t even mean 2-day shipping anymore. Only “essential items” from these categories would be delivered quickly: baby products, health and household, beauty and personal care, grocery, industrial and scientific, and pet supplies.  Everything else was in slow motion.

I guess this didn’t really sink in for me for a while. Here I am, spending most of my time at home, many businesses closed.  Times have truly, deeply changed, both in a global sense and in a personal sense. I’ve been using my hour once spent commuting to the gym and work to read every morning. Of the many changes I’ve taken on, that has been a bright spot.  But, my book supply was small, and reading for nearly an hour each day has me flying through books quickly.  A visit to the local Barnes & Noble isn’t an option. Libraries are closed (?!?!?)  So, of course, I ordered a couple of titles from Amazon.

FOUR WEEKS.

It was going to take four weeks!  And one is a best seller!  Geez.  Another sign of the times.

I see Amazon trucks scurrying everywhere through traffic and their delivery people running up to doors.  I know people are working hard.  I’ll survive.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I was granted a hundred dollars from our school PTA to spend on classroom supplies earlier this week. I had to spend it quickly, so I just piled a bunch of colored copy paper in my Amazon cart and hit order now.  I knew we didn’t have any at work and I knew we wouldn’t need it anytime soon, since we won’t have students in the building until the fall.  It was just a simple thing to stock up on and Amazon usually has decent prices.  I clicked it and forgot about it.

Then, VOILA.  What shows up on my doorstep in less than 24 hours?  The 8 reams of paper I didn’t really need for months, in a large box marked “HEAVY.”

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I was shocked.  Really?

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the books I ordered weeks ago, the items I truly needed now – or even last month.

I guess this probably sounds quibblesome to many.  A definite first-world problem.  Maybe it’s selfish of me to wish I could have somehow deemed my books essential items.  After all, they are what I am using to work on my mindset and my future wealth.  I get that books aren’t at the top of many people’s priority lists. Screens are more an essential for most these days, and others have said that focusing long enough to read in these troubled times is impossible.  But for me, books have been a saving grace.  And for those who are isolating alone, I can imagine books can be essential for some.

Still, I can wait.  What was sillier to me was my heavy, cumbersome box of Atomic Orange copy paper, which I didn’t need anytime soon, zipped to my home address like it was on the Pony Express.  Can I find a way to trade my priorities?  Or somehow push the paper down the delivery list so the urgently essential items (whatever those are) can get to their destinations more quickly?

But in the end, who decides what is essential?  And why? It’s different around the world, and not without controversy.  Amazon, who started out in the book industry, now has books as non-essential items.  Amazon, you’ve forgotten where you came from!  (The conspiracy theorist in me says, of course they don’t want us to read!  Reading means we can think for ourselves!  They’re trying to limit our access to information.  And did I mention that the LIBRARIES ARE CLOSED??!?)

Calm down, Beth. Really though, it’s probably not much more than another shuffling sign of the times in the age of corona.  And it brings a new appreciation for the conveniences I took for granted. And a whole lot of neon-colored paper collecting dust in the cupboard.

 

 

 

 

 

perspective

Value

I have thought a lot about value in the past few weeks. A few articles I have read, some life experiences and then some other circumstances pushed the value proposition in front of my eyes again. Below is my take on my value perception today.

My first note is relating to essential jobs and the current state of the employment scenario. Many teachers, caregivers, grocery clerks, nurses, among others are female. It appears there is a shift in roles on the employment side that reflect more women in the workplace are noted as essential. How do we value these roles and the dual nature still expected on the home front as teacher and cook and so on? My perception is many overlook this value on the home front. I could be wrong or I should say I hope I am wrong but time will tell.

Next up is the value of independence. My perceived value of independence is off the charts. When it comes to my kids I think they need to be self-reliant when they enter adulthood. They need to independently seek answers to find solutions to problems they didn’t anticipate in life. This is ever so important now because we are in unprecedented times. There is no roadmap. We need to teach our kids to bend and flex so they have value in times like this.

A different example of independence would be relating to getting time to do things on your own. Being able to spend money on your own. Make decisions independently. Whether you you are a homemaker, student, or bread winner in your family having the opportunity to spend independently has value. Limits can be set on amounts but there is a huge value in independence from a financial or recreational perspective.

Moving on, self worth is an area some overlook. The value set on oneself is extremely important. In a household, if one spouse devalues another there is a rippling effect that can take shape amongst the ranks of a family. Each person within a family needs to know their value. Each amount may be different but if one doesn’t articulate their value it could be overlooked.

This has surfaced a few times for me when I look at role reversal during corona. A once male-dominated family may be more reliant on the female spouse income during this turbulent time. That is a big value in that family now, to maybe have health insurance and steady income from the grocery clerk job. That value might have been overlooked in the past or maybe thought of as a hobby. Either way it should be noted even if temporary.

Finally, self care including fitness, friendships, healthy eating and so on. Self care ties into so many aspects of life. One must feel good in their own skin to support others. One must be in good mental, physical and emotional shape to endure critical times such as corona that make one dig deep to navigate troubled waters. Self care has a value that many overlook. Poor decisions in the past may lead to painful times today. Don’t underestimate the value of self care especially in today’s environmental conditions.

Value is everywhere. The examples above are not all-inclusive. Look around your world and define not only your value but those around you. Think about independence, self care, contributions and communicate with your tribe. Set a plan for yourself in the not-so-distant future to grow your personal value. Share your growth with others.

Don’t be a discount coupon in life. Don’t let somebody redeem a lesser value for you. Demand premium value for you. You are always worth top dollar!

perspective

Every Game is a Gift

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I looked out over the field, early that morning.

It was a beautiful April weekend.  Still a little crisp in the air, but the bright, direct sun warmed your skin enough.

I thought to myself, it is a perfect lacrosse morning. Right now, we are in the heart of lacrosse season, the sport both of my daughters and many of their dearest friends love. I looked out over the field where both of my daughters played their first seasons of the sport. It should have been bustling with warmups and whistles. Instead, it stood completely empty, the “closed” signs warning everyone away. Corona was in town.

When my older daughter was in high school, she told me that lacrosse was the only reason she went to school some days. In those high school seasons, she fought through injuries of all kinds.  From ankle twists and endless bruises to plaguing knee injuries and surgery.  Most notably, as a dynamic and skilled attack player, she also suffered at least three significant concussions. Because of these brain injuries, she watched many games from the sidelines, cheering her teammates on with all her energy and might while she waited for her head to heal.

After making her way through the recruiting process, she earned a spot playing in college.  There were many ups and downs, but she made it to the college playing field.  I was so proud to see her play at that level.  But just a few games in to her freshman season, she took a hit to the head that knocked her out for several minutes.  She lost some of her memories.  She couldn’t stand bright lights our music louder than a whisper.  She was just not her usual sharp self for a while.

Days off the field turned into weeks and months.  Her college freshman season ended and even though there were a few glimmers of hope, she finally got to the point where she realized her playing days were over.  Yes, she could continue coaching and being a referee, but she would never pick up her lacrosse stick competitively again.

God, I loved watching her play.  She was such a competitor on the field.  It was amazing to witness and cheer for her. Seeing that end too soon was devastating for us both.

My younger daughter has taken her own path through lacrosse.  She has great talent and has loved the sport for many years. She was just finding her footing in her first full varsity year when corona came to town. When I ask her these days what she misses most about school, she says lacrosse.

Each of them, in their own ways, now have “lost seasons.” Seasons that should have been played. Goals that should have been scored. Laugh-filled bus rides that should have been ridden. Late night meals with teammates that should have been shared. Wins that should have been celebrated. Defeats that should have been endured. Lessons that should have been learned.

Coronavirus has served many of us lost seasons. Weddings, holidays, so many celebrations shifted, even canceled.  I think especially of high school and college seniors in their final months of school, what should be a time of togetherness, of celebration for them and their supporters. I hurt for them, even though the changed celebration doesn’t change the effort they put in or the elation they should feel. If you know someone who has a lost season because of corona, I encourage you to reach out to acknowledge that loss. Most of us don’t quite know what to say, but just being there to listen and recognize what is lost may be a help.

An unexpected concussion ended my daughter’s lacrosse career too early. From that time I knew, every game is a gift. Every time you get to step on the field or out on the stage or wherever you do what you love…every time you get to do that, it is a gift to be cherished and a challenge to be embraced. When we emerge from this, I hope we are changed in a way where we remember that.

challenges

Distant. Detached. Depressed.

Corona has already taught us a lot.  A lot about ourselves.  A lot about each other. A lot about how our society is set up. And maybe a lot about how lucky we’ve been.

I have realized how often I come into contact with SO MANY people!  I never really thought about how interconnected we all are.  From the gym where I share equipment with dozens of members, to my job in a library circulating books from hundreds of households most days, to going through the door of the grocery store, grabbing a cart without a thought for wiping the push handle, etc.  In light of the corona crisis and my newfound hyperawareness of germs, surfaces, and more, I think sometimes it’s a miracle I am still alive and healthy!

(Confession: I have been moved for years by the scientific revelation that the Amish have fewer allergies in their population likely because they are exposed to dust and allergens early and systematically.  I always used this as a back pocket justification for my disheveled, dusty house.  Ok, I know it’s a stretch, but I am not a fan of cleaning!  Still, at times I have thought that we oversanitize our lives to our detriment.  Covid has me rethinking that approach at the moment, with my bucket of bleach solution in hand, replacing that back pocket argument with a mini hand sanitizer.)

From the beginning of the corona crisis, I have seen the war metaphor as useful.  I generally don’t like it when we talk about everyday things using war phrases.  For example, I cringe when we talk about educators who are “in the trenches” or the need to “bite the bullet.”  But in my mind, corona is a war.  We all are fighting it. And there are people, heroes, on the frontline.

We can see a similarity between now and wartime as well, knowing that in our history, times of war often bring about the greatest lasting transformation.  Huge leaps forward in creativity, innovation, problem-solving, and efficiency happen in wartime.  Problems take on new urgency.  We already see this today in experimenting with existing medications, splitting ventilators to serve multiple patients, and more. Even small businesses like restaurants and retailers are being forced to move forward in new directions, using online ordering, repackaging their offerings to suit families, and so on.  Distilleries are retrofitting to make hand sanitizer. Gyms are delivering classes online, offering advice and help on form through videos, and so on.  It is a time of great change in more areas of life than we can count.

We are seeing how many meetings could have been emails.  We are learning why dozens of Zoom meetings are exhausting.  Also, we are seeing why sometimes physical proximity honestly can’t be replaced. Social distancing, my bet for Oxford’s Word of the Year, is everywhere on the news these days. I get it.  It matters, and apparently it works.  But, I can’t be the only one who is tired of that term, even confused by it. Really, it should be called physical distancing.  Basically keeping bodies (and germs) as far away from each other as we can.  We still need to connect socially in meaningful ways.  A recent podcast about loneliness and its’ many consequences only reinforces this. 

I realized early on in this crisis, people are what we look forward to.  People are what we cherish.  Our daily connections matter. It’s easy to slip into lonely.  Distant. Detached, even depressed. Social connection is more important than ever.  And in some ways connecting is as easy as it has ever been.  Technology affords us so many possibilities, but weeks later I realize it only goes so far. Check on people. Make plans to see your people safely, even if it is hanging out car windows with a cup of coffee.

I try to stay optimistic as much as I can.  This time is fuel that will push societies and communities in new directions.  Things will be lost along the way, including, I fear, many local “mom-and-pop” businesses that give our communities their unique character.  Adapt and Overcome, another military motto, comes to mind here.  Those who can’t adapt may have a hard time making it, especially if this haul turns out to be a long one.  Support the local businesses you want to see make it to the other side of this war. Their survival may depend on your dollars!

As it is with post-war eras, things will also be gained.  Technologies we can’t even imagine yet will become commonplace.  We will have new and meaningful ways to connect. If we focus on nourishing and sustaining what matters, it has a better chance of surviving, and so do we.  We will adapt and we will overcome.

 

 

dare to be different

Life is Tricky

What does one do when they have extra time? For me I have cleaned a ton. I shopped more than I should online. I made headway on many house projects. I did many arts and crafts projects. I worked on my budget planning and even took a financial survey (results below). Kept up with workouts including group challenges virtually and so much more. The point is I’m still planning ahead with the actions I’m taking! I’m not living in the past or in the darkness. I’m looking at what’s ahead on the horizon.

One area that has caught my eye a bit is slowing the life pace down. Smelling the fresh cut grass. Listening to the birds chirp. Playing games and adjusting to a much slower work pace. By no means am I not working but everything seems in slow motion of sorts. It won’t last forever but it’s given me time to pause and appreciate surroundings. Microsoft even told me my email chirps have been slowed the last 14 days so I have confirmation from big brother!

My pause could be a walk outside during a work day. It could be doing 30 sit-ups an hour in between phone calls because working at home nobody cares if you do a workout at your desk, right? It could be hand written note from a friend I get in the mail or writing one to a person in need.

As I’ve adjusted to a new normal, a new routine has set in. I stay up later. I sleep in later and everything in between is arranged in alternate ways. There are many things that I do differently or less of, etc. in lockdown. There are things I thought I would miss that I don’t. There are people I miss greatly and some I don’t. How will I re-enter society when bans are lifted? That’s the big question and why I think life is tricky.

45 days ago I was on a fast-paced rigid path. Now I’m on more of a yellow brick road skipping down the path in a more carefree manner. Where will I go tomorrow? I’m leaning toward climbing a hill or mountain of sorts.

Time to change it up and see what sticks and what doesn’t. Time to broaden the horizon and be thankful for the new or refreshed look on life. Post-corona will look different for many. I plan to adjust to my surroundings, truly live more in the moment and focus on what’s in front of me while keeping an eye on the big picture.

I plan on helping those around me weather the storm. There are many young people coping with real struggles now. There are many elderly with different struggles and everything in between. Just like my days look different so do others. What was normal before corona will not be the same. In time life will adjust but in the interim I plan to adapt and help many in my own way.

I’m getting excited to see how high the mountain is along with the terrain. I never choose the easy route. I always look for the bumpy road with twists and turns. The terrain will make me stronger in my mind and hopefully in body and spirit. What tools will I need or have for my journey?

Hang tight! The all clear will come soon for many in stages. We just need to continue to exercise our patience muscles.

What will you do different post-corona? Life can be tricky. How will you adapt to life’s curveballs? I can’t wait for the fresh start. Maybe I will see more of you on the other side of corona or maybe not.

adventure, balance, inspire

Nature Therapy

If you recall we posted a digital doomsday blog and noted all the negative vibes around what’s missing these days from the school experience from a teen daughter’s perspective. All the time stuck with eyes glued to a laptop. No time to move between classes. No friends to laugh with.

However, after reflecting on the extra time available to take a walk with my daughter outside because of the “downtime” in our schedule and her lack of spending time with friends or at sports activities, a different vantage point appeared. Again a negative turned positive. Below is a great pic we snagged on a late night stroll together. We are embracing nature in a way we never have before. Just listening to birds chirp in the morning is a new kind of peaceful way to start the day. Very different than how life started a month ago and hopefully different than next month but for today we are embracing what options one can celebrate.

One wish for us is that the vast majority of people would or could look past themselves and their immediate discomforts during this pandemic and see the sunshine that is around the corner. It may not be the brightest sunshine but even every sliver of light can be embraced in the darkest hour.

If even just a few people out out there choose nature as a stress relief today it can spread. Think about others as well. Your aura reflects on others. A joyous smile is infectious when you pass somebody at the park from 6 feet way. It’s free and simple and may be the one interaction that person has that day. It could be mind altering that day. There is always somebody in a worse situation than you despite what you see right in front of you. Pass on the positives during this dark time.

As we write this, Spring is springing forth in the USA. Color is starting to dapple the landscape. Flowers are beginning their parade of blooms. Here’s a tip: find some local flower growers and follow them on social media. If your feeds are full of gloom and doom, trim those folks back (mute them or unfollow) and add some beauty to your screen.

Even better, reach out to flower farmers near you and see if you can connect that way. Farmers near us, used to relying on farmer’s markets or florists, are now offering porch deliveries or pre-orders to open air markets. These small local farmers are suffering from the breakdown of routines and supply chains just as many other businesses are. They are forced to innovate on nature’s timeline. Many can offer you bunches of exquisite little treasures that you can enjoy and share with others. Here’s a recent pickup we enjoyed, and supported a couple of small businesses in the process.

As we have said in many ways at many times, you become who and what you surround yourself with. Get out and surround yourself with fresh air. Bright, warm sunshine. Sweet breezes. Walk your feet on fresh grass. If you’re having trouble getting out of your head or you’re feeling anxious, do a 5 senses countdown exercise out in the world. Clear your mind and notice what is happening in nature. Surround yourself with reminders that time continues on.

New life is coming. Even though part of nature is going haywire at the moment, much of it is marching in its usual rhythm. Bees are buzzing. Baby ducks and bunnies will soon appear at local parks. The earth is waking up from its yearly nap. Let this reassure you that this dark season will also pass. In the mean time, don’t miss the things we are often too busy to notice.

This post is dedicated tho those full of raw emotions relating to Coronavirus. We all have them. We opt to share ours with the world via a blog. Our posts are edited multiple times and viewed by others subjectively before going live. Although only one vantage point, it may help somebody reading along.

Nature therapy has worked for us during this crazy time. Walks in our community. Short jogs. Bike riding. Gardening. Swimming. Kayaking. Hiking. All activities that allow physical distancing while embracing nature. Chick 1 even climbed a few trees.

We don’t need to be confined to our four walls to be safe. We can be distant and enjoy nature. Opt outside when you can.