A Tasty New Endeavor

Recently I’ve been meaning to write about my latest adventure: I got a summer job!

I know, you’re asking yourself how someone who is clearly in need of a vacation could possibly think it’s a good idea to get a summer job? Well, I’m thinking that I will have some extra cash to spend on all those chips I eat out of the vending machine at school. (I have a problem. Don’t judge me.) Anyway, I have this new summer job at a barbecue place in town. And so far I’ve only made a few mistakes! My first week has been very interesting and also very tiring. I work the evening shift so I get there at four and work until a little after nine during the week. Apparently this Saturday I get to work from three until ten. I’m so excited I could pass out and never move again!!

Unfortunately that isn’t an option so I’ve been making the best of the extra long work hours that I’m not used to. And the fact that my sisters have consistently woken me up before nine every morning this week. At least I’ve had some time in the mornings to catch up on my writing… Anyway, I’ve been working in this totally new environment and I don’t think they plan on firing me so I guess I’m doing alright.

It has been a weird transition for me. I’m used to doing all my stuff early in the morning so at about two I get really antsy. I’m really wanting to get on over to work and I’m also aware that if I leave my house at two I’m going to be very bored for a very long time. So I’ve been trying to keep myself busy in the mornings. Looking on the bright side at least I’ll be used to staying up late and getting up early once I get back to school!

In truth, I’m really happy that I managed to find a summer job. My parents totally didn’t think I could do it. (They’re still probably wondering when I’ll quit.) After all, I am a very academically geared individual, and barbecue, while totally the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten, isn’t exactly mentally challenging. But I am learning how to be a team player and gaining valuable people skills. So I’m ok with it. And the woman that was helping me wash the dishes yesterday didn’t even get mad when I soaked both of us. So I guess I’ll be ok.

Forgotten Treasures

I walked into the building and smiled as I noticed my friend already hard at work. “Look at all this stuff!” I said as I walked over to the boxes and tubs piled in a haphazard array. She smiled, “Yeah, I don’t know where we’re going to put it all.” I shrugged, she had been working on organizing this stuff much longer than I had so I didn’t feel entitled to an opinion. I opened up the first box I came to and I was pleased to find a rather large book collection. These books were clearly the forgotten remnants of someone’s childhood. I flipped through the pages to see if there were any treasures hidden among them. Finding nothing I put the books on the bookshelf among the other children’s books.

The books weren’t the only things we dug out from the boxes. Long-forgotten Christmas ornaments and a metal figurine of a cow holding a milk jug were among the stuff that we retrieved. Some of the things are so incredibly odd you find yourself wondering why someone would ever want to keep them. We certainly don’t keep many of the things that aren’t any good. There was a large pile of trash by the time we finished sifting through everything.

All these things were long forgotten and someone stopped caring about them. That’s how they ended up in a storage unit auction. From there my dad packed up all their forgotten things in his truck and brought them to his shop where we organize all these things that were clearly important enough to keep, but not important enough to keep in their homes. These storage units are eventually lost; whether to bad memories, lost bills, or hard times. These lost units are eventually found again by someone looking to sell the all the once-treasured things.

Going through the boxes is truly an enlightening experience. You stop to wonder if all these things were really that important in the first place. I’ve promised myself I will never get a storage unit. I think it’s better to just get rid of the things you no longer need. It’s also therapeutic to let go of that part of your life. There’s only so much room within four walls for things, but there is infinite storage in our minds for all of the wonderful memories. All of those books I found, they were the remnants of a childhood that someone wanted to preserve. How futile it seems to try and preserve something that is already lost to us.

A Letter to My Sister

Don’t think I haven’t noticed you’re getting old on me. Next year you’ll be in the sixth grade! That’s really exciting and really scary. You’re probably wondering why I decided to write this letter to you and I suppose I should tell you. Little sister, I am writing you this letter to let you know it’s ok to be you. You’re growing up much too fast. I know that’s because you’ve felt pressure from the sister in high school to be just like her. I know it’s because your other sister left you to go on to college. I know it’s because all your friends are trying so hard to act mature and you just want to fit in. I know. That’s why I’m telling you it’s ok to still want to be yourself.

If you want to wear nail polish, makeup, and fancy dresses then I want you to do that. If you want to get muddy, ride horses, and raise chickens then I want you to do that. If you want to study hard, get smart, and make lots of money I want you to do that. If you decide that you don’t want to be just a stereotype then I can support that, too. I don’t want you to feel like you’re trapped in a bubble of who you are allowed to be. I know the world says otherwise, if I’ve learned anything in psychology it’s that people love to put everyone else in boxes. You must always remember to stay true to yourself despite what everyone else says.

Little sister, I’ve been where you are. Times have changed a lot since I was in your shoes. I didn’t have an iPad in elementary school or text my friends every evening. If you had asked me if I had a Facebook in the sixth grade I would have laughed at you. (What is that? A book of faces? Gross!) All this new technology is a dangerous thing and I want you to remember that. The internet is a place where your whole life can be documented. That means that your future employers can scroll through your Facebook feed and see if you’ve got a positive attitude or not. Technology is telling.

In this world it is becoming more and more important to present yourself favorably all the time. I know that’s probably not what you wanted to hear. After all it’s hard enough to figure out what you’re going to wear tomorrow without worrying how people with think of you in five years. I advise you to start thinking in a socially active way now. I realize you probably don’t know what being socially active is, you can come ask me if you want me to explain it in more detail. What I mean is that you should start volunteering regularly around home. Get mom to take you to the local food kitchen or volunteer at a local dog rescue. If you go ahead and begin developing volunteering habits now you’re setting yourself up for success later. Volunteering really allows you to develop skills that can be used to your advantage later.

It’s also not too late to begin working on beefing up your STEM skills. There are lots of programs aimed at girls your age that encourage a growing knowledge of science and technology. Use that to your advantage and I promise you’ll be happy you did. It’s never too early to begin thinking about how you’re going to make it through college. I know I wish I had started earlier thinking how I would get the money. (Mom and Dad are not helpful in this area. They just yell at you.)

I know this is a lot to think about before you ever get into the sixth grade. It’s a lot to think about when you’re in college. I just thought I would warn you that who likes who is not the biggest issue you will ever face. I want you to be prepared to take on the world in a way that I never was. I know you don’t like it when I give you advice. I’m still living with our parents so how much could I really know? Just trust me on this and start thinking about how you can grow yourself into a better you.

I know you’ll be just fine.

XOXO

Finding Herself

I recently wrote a post about loss. In it I mentioned that loss and I are old friends. Today I’m going to write why I think of loss as a friend.

 

Loss and I are old friends. Not because I like to lose things. Loss can be inconvenient and hurtful and just plain old awful, but it is my friend. Much like any other friend Loss comes and goes and everything it does with the best of intentions. Because Loss isn’t about hurting people for no reason.

People like to say everything happens for a reason. In the religious world we like to tell each other that God has a plan. In our darkest moments we like to ask the age-old question: Why me? Somehow between the highs and the lows we forget how we’ve gotten this far. We can’t remember how we got through it all the last time. Once we hit the low that accompanies Loss we reach desperately for a bandage to patch up our broken souls and sometimes we don’t find one. It is human to forget that we can find the light at the end of the tunnel. To be totally cliché: Even the darkest nights have to end.

It is at the end of these low points we find the thing we’ve been looking for. You lose your job so you can find an excuse to start your own business. You lose a friendship so you can find a new friend. You lose a pet so you can find a new one that needs a home. You lose a piece of yourself so you can find renewed faith. The beautiful thing about Loss is that it is often paired with Found.

I have experienced many losses in my lifetime. I have experienced feeling so low I thought I was already in hell, but I wouldn’t change those moments for anything. It is through my losses that I have found myself. I have discovered who I am and what I am capable of. I never would have grown into the person I am were it not for all the things I have lost over my lifetime. So it is with great pleasure that I can say Loss is my friend. Without it I would have never become the person I am today.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

~Amazing Grace by John Newton

For the Love of Eating

When I was much younger my family used to get together constantly. We would all gather at my great-grandparents’ house for food, fun, and family. My favorite part was always the food. The deviled eggs, macaroni salad, banana pudding, and my favorite: my great-grandmother’s chicken n’ dumplings. I used to call them fluffy white clouds and I loved them.

There was just something about the southern comfort food I used to eat as a child. All the rich flavors and mouth-watering scents. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything better than the dishes that would be served at my great-grandmother’s house. Maybe it was because the food served as a little reminder of how much I was loved by those around me.

Many years, and a few heartaches later, we don’t get together at my great-grandmother’s house anymore. She’s been in a nursing home for a few years now. I’ll probably never have her chicken n’ dumplings again. But I think the worst part about her growing old is that she doesn’t have the strength to hold our family together anymore.

When I think back to those days I get a little sad because my little sister will never get to have those memories of playing at our great-grandmother’s house with everyone around. She was too young to remember all the great times we had there. I can still imagine the living room. The smiling faces taking up all the available space. I remember running from my great-grandfather’s bees in the back yard and playing basketball with my cousins. I remember how great the sun felt.

In the digital age we’ve lost the need to be as close to our families and neighbors. Why get to know your family when you can just text your friends? We’ve all become strangers to everyone around us. In an age of microwave dinners it’s not even necessary to sit down as a family and have a meal. I remember my great-grandmother letting me help her in the kitchen, some of my favorite memories are when we bonded over biscuit dough.

Maybe I’ll go outside today and get some fresh air. Or call someone to ask about those recipes.

The Date

I walked up to her door and rang the doorbell. I had been rehearsing what I would say all week. I told my friends I wasn’t ready to go on a date yet but they insisted. So there I was ringing a complete stranger’s doorbell on a Friday night when all I could think about was how the cat was probably ripping up the curtains.

Then she opened the door.

She was much prettier than I expected her to be. I mean, we were already in our thirties and hardly any good women are single in their thirties. But there she was. She smiled and asked me if I intended to just stare at her all night or if I was ready to go. I laughed because I must have seemed awfully stalker-y and probably a little creepy. Just standing there. I honestly was mortified that she’d felt the need to say something.

We drove in silence. I couldn’t think of anything to say and she didn’t know how to work the radio. So there we were, in total silence. I was busy panicking thinking about all the awful things she was probably thinking about me. I thought we would never get to the parking lot. And then we were there. Suddenly I felt myself begin to do that nervous-sweating thing my mother always told me was gross. My mother had been very supportive about it. I believe she said something like, “You’ll never find a woman that will love you if you keep doing that.” That probably explains why I was tempted to shove my date out of the car and drive away.

“Aron, are you going to park the car?” She asked, her worry lines showing. “Oh-Yeah, absolutely. I was just trying to find the prime parking real-estate. Y’know. I’d hate to make a pretty girl like you walk any further than she had to.” I must’ve seemed completely unhinged because she just nodded and turned back to her cellphone. I pulled into a parking spot close to the entrance, the empty parking lot implying an empty restaurant. Crap. There won’t be enough people to be distracting. I’m going to have to talk to her. I began panicking again. “Aron, are you going to turn off the car?” I snapped back into reality and killed the engine.

~~~

He was acting really spaced out but I wasn’t terribly worried about it. In fact I was rather thrilled to have a date that wasn’t watching my every move like I was under a microscope. He was making things too easy. I glanced at my phone as we walked through the parking lot, “Are you still watching the Supernatural marathon?” I quickly shot off a reply, “Yeah, it just got to one of my favorite parts.” Emily was such a great alibi. She always felt like texting and it was easy for me to use her as my witness. I had text her earlier letting her know that I’d cancelled the date I had with this Aron guy in favor of having a night to myself. Emily didn’t argue with me over it, she was a “single woman for life” and had offered to come over and make it a girl’s night. I’d told her the dog was enough company.

We were escorted to a little table near the back of the nearly empty restaurant. It was kind of disappointing actually, that the place was almost empty. I had spent a good part of my day applying makeup and putting on the wig. Not to mention the dress I had picked out special for the occasion. It would, of course, need to be burned so it was very bothersome only a few people would ever get to see how absolutely lovely I looked in it. This night was hardly any fun at all. I was actually considering bailing when he finally started talking, “So, what is it you do for a living again?” I tried not to roll my eyes, “I work as a waitress at the diner on main street. The really old-fashioned looking place.” I was running out of professions to claim that I had which is why I resorted to saying I was a waitress. Don’t judge me.

“That sounds lovely,” -liar- “Maybe I can stop by sometime and you can show me the good stuff on the menu.”

I nodded, “Yes that sounds nice.” Then I can choke on my own vomit.

“I’ve always wondered, are people really as bad at tipping as they say?”

I shrugged, “It wouldn’t be so bad if wait staff got paid without accounting for the fact people are supposed to tip.”

“That sounds awful. Y’know, I’ve got a friend in HR in my office. I could arrange for him to interview you. You seem very smart and I bet you would like it there.” His face was contorted like he was genuinely concerned for me. I was almost regretting the disguise, clearly I was too pretty.

“That sounds very nice. I’ll have to make sure to give you my email.”

At this point the food reached our table. I was silently thanking the heavens for sending me an excuse not to talk anymore. He was making my head hurt. Calm down, he’s only making small talk. Soon this will all be over. I coached myself. This night was dragging on a lot longer than usual. Normally these middle aged guys did their best to show how much fun they could be by taking me to amusement parks and to concerts. I always got a nice token to remember them by on these adventures.  This date really sucked. There was no fun to be had in this quiet little restaurant. So I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu. He hadn’t seemed at all bothered and had even asked the waitress if she would be so kind as to get us some wine to go with our meal. I grabbed the cork. Better than nothing. 

~~~

She was acting kind of distracted and she kept checking her phone. Not that it really bothered me. I’d just left mine at home. I really should quit assuming people will want to talk to me when we go out. Everyone always has their phone anymore, dummy. Get your act together. I sighed and resigned myself to eating. The wine was wonderful, as per the usual. The waitstaff here knew me. Owning a restaurant has its perks. Cynthia, our waitress, came back over to ask if there was anything else she could get us. “No, but I have to ask – Why is the restaurant so empty tonight?” Cynthia shrugged, “There’s some big celebration being held down at Emma’s restaurant tonight. They’re doing free desserts, even if you just walk through the door. It’s ridiculous.” I nodded, at least this wouldn’t be a thing. The restaurant had experienced some hard times before but I wasn’t mentally prepared to do any firing this year. I had come to really like all of my staff. I looked across the table at Sara. She seemed to be enjoying the food. I wondered how she would feel about the dish. I had considered taking it off the menu a thousand times but people always begged me not to. It was a favorite and I respected the opinion of my diners. “How is it?” I asked.

“Fine. I would have preferred if it had a little more zing to it, but it works very well with the wine you ordered.”

“Thank you. I try to make sure the food and the drink work well together.”

“Oh, so you’re into food stuff?” She asked, looking a little incredulous.

“Well, I have familiarized myself with fine dining. I’ve tried to make it my business to know.”

She looked very unimpressed, “You must’ve traveled all over trying new dishes.”

I was a little hurt by her tone, “Yeah.”

~~~

He was so incredibly annoying. I prefer when they don’t talk too much but that’s all he seemed to want to do. He was probably a divorcee. They always want to talk. I’m convinced that after you live with a woman too long you start to act like one. All the feelings and such nonsense. I shoved the food down my throat, I hadn’t really cared to taste it. “Are you ready to leave?” I asked hastily, it was probably too pushy but I wasn’t really worried about the second date. “Yeah, let me get the check.” He said as he waved the waitress over, “Can we get the check?” She laughed, actually laughed. His face must have told her that wasn’t appropriate because she stopped, “Oh — You were being serious!” She glanced over at me and a look of recognition came over her face. Then my phone buzzed. “OMG! I need to come over to your place right away!” I sighed, This is rather inconvenient. How do I imply I don’t want guests without tipping her off? “Now really isn’t a good time. Is it an emergency?” He looked over at me, “Are you ready to go?” “Yeah, yeah. Let’s go to the park.” I said, glancing back at my phone. “Ok?” he said, striding through the restaurant like he owned the place or something. Men.

I have never been so grateful to be in my park. Turtle Park has always been very poorly lit and the turtle pond in the middle gets deep enough in the middle to easily drown Sasquatch. Or, for that matter, to hide an idiotic middle aged man. I grabbed his hand as we walked into the park, this was the easiest part. It was always the same. Guys never notice if you walk behind them, I don’t think they care as long as they’re the ones dragging you. It’s on my long list of things I hate about them. As I began to slow my steps so I could casually move behind him he slowed down too. I have never been more frustrated. “What are you looking at?” He seemed genuinely interested in why I had slowed down. I’m looking for a good place to stab you, idiot. “Oh, I thought I saw a squirrel! I guess it’s gone now.” He nodded, “Yeah, they’re wily things.” I waited for him to speed back up but he just wouldn’t. Normally I would be leading him toward the pond but things were not going as planned. I had to improvise, “Hey, what’s that up there?” I had seen some movement ahead of us. He was so excited he started moving faster to look and I quickly took the opportunity to stab him. Right in front of a freaking old lady on a park bench!

~~~

I looked up from the sweater I had been knitting for my dog, Toto. He loved his old red sweater so much I had decided to make him a new one. I’d been so busy knitting I hadn’t noticed how late it had gotten when suddenly a couple came down the walkway in front of me. The poor fellow’s face fell into a frown and tears came bursting from his eyes. It took me a moment to realize he had a knife sticking out of his back. The young lady that was with him stared at me like she was the one that had walked onto a murder scene. Before I could move she had grabbed the knife out of his back and had run away. I asked the young man if he had a phone on him. He would be the only young person without a cellphone. I told him I’d be back and I walked toward the phone booth outside the park.