family, Teddie Aspen

Dog Lessons

It wasn’t long ago I was digging through boxes leftover from my childhood home. I ran across an American Kennel Club certificate. Maximillian was his name.

I had heard his name many times in my life, often with a sneer from one of my brothers. They loved their dog, and I was the reason we got rid of him. Maximillian, the prized pooch, couldn’t stop knocking me over as a newly walking toddler. So, he had to go.

All this to say, I didn’t grow up with dogs. I had a cat named Snoopy I treasured but was allergic to (a story for another post), but never a dog. I just didn’t get dogs. Never wanted one. And who knows, maybe I was even a little scared of them from all my hard knocks as a babe.

As an adult, when my family wanted to get a dog, I resisted. We even had a dog live with us for a while that didn’t really work out. We ended up taking him to a new home where he could have the room and attention he needed.

Then Penny came along. My sister-in-law became her unexpectedly permanent foster mom. She needed a place to live and a family to love her. Would we be interested? I didn’t really want this at all. We could take her for a 2-week trial to see if we could handle it.

And she never left. We live together but I wouldn’t say she loves me. Still, my heart softened seeing how much everyone else loved her. She changed our family.

And then came the dog that I really did love. Chester. The unlikely, homely, wiry guy from the pound. The underdog. I didn’t even know why we would ever need 2 dogs. I was just getting used to 1! Then Chester who got scared by sudden movements and noises, Chester who always backed out of the room…Chester came along. He was very shy at first but eventually came around and became sweet, playful Chester. He loves to run and bound through the woods, and his sad eyes will pull at your heart strings every time. Chester changed my heart about dogs.

Now there’s the newest member of the clan named Nash, who I’ve taken a liking to. I even embrace my extended family and friend’s dogs. Heck, I even get to walk dogs and dog sit once in a while. Truthfully, I still don’t know how to act around dogs, and they can tell. It doesn’t come naturally for me and maybe never will. Thankfully, I’ve learned that many dogs are pretty forgiving if you at least try. They teach me about protection, loyalty, priorities and unconditional love. They seem to bring out the best in people just by being there and present in the moment. That bowls me over in the best of ways.

friendship

Surprise!

Everyone likes a surprise. Nobody likes secrets. Generally speaking I can’t keep a secret. You shouldn’t tell me anything that wasn’t meant for the world to know. Just a fun fact about me.

Ironically, I picked up the phone one day and was recruited to keep a secret from a special friend in my inner circle. Clearly the requester had no idea how bad I am at this or they wouldn’t have asked, right? Maybe I was the only option? Of course I signed up for the job but it wasn’t going to be easy. I just couldn’t say no.

The person being surprised is a sleuth. A gal with 1 million questions and a memory like no other. I’m going to get caught I just know it. She is going to be so mad at me for being deceitful. How will I overcome this?

Why did I volunteer for this? Who can I can recruit to help me be sneaky? At least if I’m not the only guilty party she can’t be mad for long, right? I got the pack on board. We each played our part. So far so good. Days are turning into hours. We are honing our deceitful skills as we speak. 

While we are being deceitful the suspecting party is catching on. Her latest line of questioning was Kim asked me this weird question and then Sarah asked me this on the same day…. Me: okay, so what are you trying to say? She: I hope they are not being sneaky for my birthday. Me: I doubt it. You are imagining things. Big sigh. She: Who are you talking to about flowers? Me: somebody asking a dumb question. She: Who? Me: my sister. Bad answer she is a master gardener. Oh well, dodged another bullet. I think.

We have been keeping a secret about a surprise birthday gathering of an unsuspecting or maybe inquiring soul for what seems like months. In reality it’s a week. It’s been torture to say the least! I’ve had to make sure I don’t slip up in a text, in person or on the phone. Talk about challenging.

Close call the day before. Somebody said I’m bringing your gift tomorrow. Oh no, did she catch on? Nail biter for sure. I deferred and deflected but not sure sure if she fell for it….

It’s been kind of fun in a way but I’ll be glad when it’s over. At the end of the day the surprise went off without a hitch. Tears of happiness were flowing in abundance and a very special person was recognized by many who appreciate her.

When the surprise can be kept, the outcome is amazing. It makes all the scandalous secret keeping worth it. I’ve had my fix for surprises for a while. I don’t even like to wait for Christmas to see what I got for presents. I like to know now. 

The best part was a virtual birthday card. Pretty proud of the idea. Excited for the unveiling but it will be a gift that she can look back on many times. So many people sent amazing messages. Not sure why I’ve never done a virtual card like this before but it was my favorite part of being sneaky. 

A big thank you to my Miagi who put all the videos together for an amazing end result. More tears. As expected. Time to shift back to honesty is the best policy motto. Have you had the opportunity to surprise one of your close friends? If not, be sure to give it a try. See if you can keep the secret surprise!

family

Mother’s Day Moments

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Mother’s Day during the pandemic.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  Honestly, many Mother’s Days in our home pass without too much fanfare. My own Mom is no longer alive and some years are harder than others.  It’s also one of the busiest days of the year at our family’s restaurant, and often that is the focus. More years than not I spend working at the restaurant just to help be sure people are happy. (This doesn’t really bother me. I always say those are the kind of days that pay my kids’ college tuition.  This year it’s more like my mortgage, but you get the idea.) I worked this year as well.

It may not surprise you that the gifts I often enjoy most are cards.  Taking time to write someone a meaningful note is a rare treasure.  I’ve gotten several amazing cards and letters from my kids in the past years. When my youngest asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day, I said “fifteen pound dumbbells” with a belly laugh.  Stores have been out of fitness equipment for months since many have set up home gyms during corona.  But then I just told her my real answer:  a card. Honestly, I don’t expect anything, especially right now.

So the night before Mother’s Day, when my son asked me if I would be around in the morning, I had no idea what to expect.  There would be a delivery, he said.  I was touched by the very thought that he would have something delivered.  I figured maybe it would be flowers, since I do have a great love for unique blooms.  I was floored when a bag was dropped on my doorstep and I pulled out this amazing super sparkly tumbler he had made just for me.  Yes, it’s awesome and I love the Georgia Bulldogs.  But even more amazing is the fact that only about 5 days earlier I had complained about needing a bigger insulated cup to increase my water consumption.  My workplace closure has brought my water intake way down since I don’t have my infused water any longer.   So not only is it a personal design, it showed that he heard me and responded.  What a heartwarming gift!

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My middle daughter made our whole family dinner on the Monday after Mother’s Day.  She made tacos, which are my food love language.  Fresh guacamole, all the fixin, and she is a healthy eater herself so it was all more or less in my eating goals.  Even protein baked goods for dessert!  She also gave me some lovely hydrangeas, some of my favorite flowers, and a candle in my second favorite scent.  (That’s a story for another post).  Finally, a card with all kinds of beautiful words.  It was a beautiful, thoughtful evening.

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Lastly, in an unexpected turn, my youngest walks in the house with a pair of…you guessed it…15 pound dumbbells.  I was in shock.  She went to two stores…the first had nothing.  The second had all of 3 dumbbells and unbelievably they were fifteen pounders.  Ah-May-Zing.  !!!!  I’ve already used them several times.  Yay for less frustration in workouts.

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Of course I saved all the cute little handprint and rhyme Mother’s Day gifts from their elementary school days.  They are precious!  But to be heard, seen, and known as an individual with interests, goals, and preferences by my kids is a different sort of celebration, and in some ways all that much sweeter. 

 

 

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

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.