Just One

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

When I was young, the expectation was that there’d be a singular answer: doctor, lawyer, teacher, nurse, policeman or fireman.  Pick one.  No Career Day speaker ever told us little tykes that we might have a first career that would pay off the student loans and build the down payment for the starter home, before transitioning to work that we find ourselves more suited for as we age and change – to say nothing of a possible third gig that supplements the social security in retirement years.  That would have been too much information for little kiddies at Career Day.  That scenario also may not have been as common in the 1970s and 80s as it is in this new millennium.  So it’s no surprise we were conditioned to believe that one is supposed to do one something with his or her life not many.  But I knew before I hit middle school that such would not be the case for me.

At five, I had a role in my school’s performance of The Little Prince.  So in first grade, I wanted to be an actor when I grew up.  Several years later, I sat down at the plastic typewriter my mother gave me and banged out what I thought was a tortured but eloquent memoir.  It was five sentences long.  Suddenly I wanted to be a writer.  Somewhere along the line, struggling working class parents made clear in not-so-subtle ways that the two things I wanted to be might make paying the bills harder than it had to be.  So I added a licensed profession to the list of future jobs.

Flash forward several decades, and here I sit, having enjoyed a successful and fulfilling first career in journalism, a short stint in the law that made me miserable, and several soul-smiling years (and counting) teaching Kung Fu, awaiting news of whether a potential investor in my food company will become an actual one.   While weighing the possibility the investment will fall by the wayside, I’ve been forced to envision a return to career number one or two.  The first thing that came to mind was: “I can’t switch again; that’ll make me look crazy, like a person who never knew what she wanted to be when she grew up!”  Gratefully, it took only a moment to toss that thought into the mental trash can.

My problem, for those who would call it one, has never been career confusion.  It’s been sincerely wanting to do them all – and not caring that I was expected to pick just one.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Little did I know at age five, eight, 12 or 17 that the singular answer wasn’t a career at all.  The answer was and is that I want to be master of a destiny as full as my interests, skills and time will allow, with a minimal fear of being broke and a maximum disregard for the scoffing of others.

On most days, for more than a decade now, I’ve been exactly what I wanted to be.  That makes gratitude easy, even in tough times.  It also makes me glad I never thought to stick with just one!


…Right in the Jungle

“I gotta hurry back upstairs to the television!” I told my son as the screen door closed behind him.  “It’s the final fight scene in Kill Bill.”

“Omigod!  It’s so cool you have it on, too!” Aaron yelled, jogging behind me.  “That’s why I’m late.  I was watching it at Chris’s house!”

“Did you lock the front door?” I asked rounding the corner to the stairway.

“Shit!  No!” he answered, frozen in his tracks for a moment, weighing whether the lock could wait for the end of the movie.

I could launch into a diatribe about the themes of Kill Bill Vol. II and how much this martial arts mom relates to them.  I could present a laundry list of the traits my son and I have in common and how similar our tastes are in art and music.  In fact, I could fill pages with both subjects.

But as my first born and I sang the soundtrack tune “Goodnight Moon,” watching Beatrix Kiddo drive off into the sunset, my mind centered on a collection of facts that had strongly shaped the moment and that are more important than commonalities with my child or my love of a movie:

  • I had to become a mother to care about my character.
  • I had to quit living like a frat boy to learn what character really is.
  • When my son started living like a frat boy in my house, the character that motherhood made me care about compelled me to show him the door.
  • Showing him the door now brings him back through it with a level of respect and love that I’ve wanted us to have from the day he was born.

The rest of the afternoon’s visit consisted of chowing down on hard shell crabs that Aaron brought with him, chatting about his job, friends and flirtations, and waxing philosophical about the best first career choice for a talented young man who’s bound to have more than one.  It was an afternoon that made the week, if not the season.

“The lioness has rejoined her cub and all is right in the jungle.”  That’s the final statement in Kill Bill… and it’s the truth.


A Most Welcomed Surprise

Friday, a child who isn’t mine hugged me as if she were.  When I let my arms fall away from the bear hug around her lanky 10-year-old frame, hers remained so tightly wound across my rib cage and back that I couldn’t move if I wanted to without taking her with me.  A blue sash level student of mine who’s leaving for six weeks of summer camp out of state isn’t just going to miss Kung Fu; she’s specifically going to miss me.  I didn’t expect it and don’t know if I deserve it, but it was a most welcomed surprise.

“I miss,” are two words I find myself saying more often than I’d like.  The most recent family funeral three weeks ago was a goodbye to the last of the four women – two aunts, a grandmother and my mother – most responsible for my character and my better childhood memories.  But it isn’t just the dead I miss.  It’s also the remarkable young man I raised who no longer lives in my house, and the eccentric, now-teenaged girl who stopped dancing in the car years ago.  I miss the former colleagues who only kept in touch when my departure from the office was new.  And I miss remembering with ease where I left my glasses – or simply what day it is.

There is nothing new, of course, about middle aged people bemoaning the passage of time and the unwanted changes it brings.  There’s nothing new about melancholy accompanying loss.  And perhaps the most familiar remedy of life for ridding me of any hint of self-pity is the embrace of a family member.  So there’s nothing new in the comfort of a hug either.

But there was something new in having a child who isn’t mine hug me as if she were.  It gave “I miss” a happy meaning for the first time in recent memory.


Teeth and Tattoos

I’ve spent four months away from writing, and with each day that I’ve been away, it’s been harder to make the time in my perpetually-sleep-deprived days to return.  But with two young Kung Fu Sihengs weighing heavily on my heart these last weeks, one of whom I just finished speaking with on the phone, the re-entry point is clear.

My son is boarding a plane to Texas tomorrow morning to visit his grandparents for a week.  When he returns, he’ll have one day to dot his “i”s and cross his “t”s before heading down the highway to Georgetown University, which is also my alma mater.  I was scared shitless, as they say, when I found out this child was on the way.  I don’t think the fear was evident to anyone but my therapist – a man who knew enough about me to gently suggest that motherhood might not be the best choice at that point in my life.  My marriage was the epitome of dysfunction, which, given the emotional and physical messes we both were, was all it could be.  But to my therapist’s amazement (and my own!), I consciously chose and gave my all to getting my act together for the sake of the boy who’ll be boarding a plane to Texas tomorrow morning.

He’s getting on that plane missing half of one of his front teeth.  That fact infuriates me for two reasons: first, because he injured himself doing something thoroughly irresponsible and thoughtless, which wasn’t particularly legal either.  ‘Nuff said on that.  Second, the fact that he’ll be taking off for college with this new look, despite having the means and opportunity to cap the tooth, tells me it’s a look (persona?) that he prefers, and it will likely be with him a long time.

So, the mom who stopped being self-destructive in order to enable her child to become exactly what he became – the sought-after valedictorian, scholarship student  – will, for the foreseeable future, be reminded every time she sees her boy that it’s now his turn to be self-destructive.  And he’s taking it.  Repeatedly.  If only someone had chipped his tooth in a sparring match!  I’d still want him to cap the damn thing, of course, but it wouldn’t actually hurt to see it missing.

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The visuals that half tooth gives me, both of my past and of my son’s possible future, are probably nothing compared to the imaginings in the minds of the parents of a young man with a brand new tattoo.  The adolescent who taught me how to make a long staff give me gold medals is entering his last year of college – and counting down the days to his commission as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Siheng Bad-Ass, as I affectionately refer to him, recently returned from an ROTC training mission in Fort Knox that cut him off from the rest of the world for a month.  He was excited and proud as he talked about repelling down walls, while taking practice shots with a machine gun, and I knew before I asked what assignment he’d be requesting ten months from now.

“Oh my God, your poor parents!” I said aloud before I could catch the words.  I was imagining him ducking bullets in Iraq or Syria.   “You’re going in as an officer with a great record.  You can pick anything you want.  You don’t have to choose the infantry,” I said as if I were his mother, telling him what he knew better than I did.

“It’s my calling,” he answered with a big smile.

A week later, he walked into Wushu class with a tattoo on his forearm that reads: “For those I love, I sacrifice.”  I’m not sure I’d be able to read that on my infantry-bound son’s arm without crying each time I saw it.

I worry almost as much about the future of the boy-Siheng who was my teacher as I do about the future of the boy that’s mine.  I haven’t seen the future soldier’s father in months, because my schedule at the store has kept me out of his Saturday class.  But I wish I could give him a hug of commiseration.

We get them ready to walk into the world on their own two feet, then, we have absolutely no control over the size, sound and rhythm of their steps when that walk begins.  At the end of a job well done, what remains is watching and waiting.  Please, God, please…give us a good and happy show.


Long Lines and Loss

I come from a long line of women who won’t take no for an answer – even from God.  When people told my grandmother she didn’t have the constitution to eat whatever she wanted and continue breathing, she ignored them for thirty years, until thirty feet of her intestines had to be removed.  When my father told my mother he would never marry her, she simply changed her last name to his and waited years – for nothing.  When the doctors told my aunt that an epileptic with sickle cell could not carry a child to term, she miscarried five times before menopause permanently decided the issue.

So begins a compilation of autobiographical short stories I wrote a while back.  That opening paragraph has been popping into my head for almost two weeks now, when the last of the three women mentioned in it died less than seventeen days after her ninety-sixth birthday.  That long female line of mine is down to me and my daughter.  I knew that was coming, of course, but I still wasn’t ready.

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I thought my grandmother would make it to triple digits.  Her older sister made it to 101.  But perhaps becoming the last living member of her birth family made her more ready to join her husband and half of her kids.  The longevity of the generation once removed from my own was a source of hope when the early deaths of my mother and three of her siblings made me anxious about my own mortality.  That sporadic anxiety is back.

It is now Good Friday, about a week after I first started this post.  I would love to claim that phenomenal success of the shop has occupied too much of my time to finish writing.  But mama drama is the better explanation.

My son has regressed to his 14-year-old self.  That was the year he acquired new friends and the first real girlfriend and became so out of control that I was ready to ship him to his grandparents in Texas.  Now, a lack of consideration and respect, on multiple levels about multiple big-ticket items, need not lead to a plane ticket purchase.  After all, he is legally – and financially – able to sign a lease.  While my love for him is unconditional, his ability to live in my house is not.  But that fact doesn’t keep the mama bear in me from wanting to keep him safe – especially from himself.

Loss is a natural part of life, occurring in unexpected ways, like sudden illness and teenager confusion, and expected ones, like old age or the end of childhood.  I state the obvious simply so that I can better accept a fact that sucks so profoundly.

Easter weekend was the most important three days of any year to my very religious late grandmother, the woman whose apartment was my second home when my mother was at her second job, the woman who taught me the most about baking and let her daughter provide the finishing touches.  As I receive a host of orders for end-of-Lent goodies, the absence of my baking teacher, who dealt with more loss (four children alone was enough!) with as much grace as possible, leaves me with pain both piercing and acute.

Nellie Mae made chocolate pie once a year for her youngest daughter, my aunt who couldn’t have children.   She taught me to make the ninety-something year old recipe she’d acquired as a child herself on a summer visit my family made to her house, not long after the death of my aunt.  That recipe is my most popular pie and a component of my most popular cupcake.  As long as my shop is here, my grandmother will be with me every day, even more than my mother, whether I like it or not – as will her example of how to handle child-related wounds with grace.

 


Gratitude and Grief

“I guess I better stop bragging,” he said. “You were a big shot, and now you just work retail.”

“I’m still a big shot,” I responded between gritted teeth to the man who’s supposed to love me more than any other.  But in 46 years, he’s never gotten the memo.

Ironically, the apparent loss of bragging rights, from the realization that his talented multitasker of a daughter couldn’t quite pull off a full-time job in television production while running a business that operates seven days a week until 11 p.m., happened in the middle of the most euphoric period of the shop thus far.  From mid-January through the Valentine’s Day/Presidents Day weekend, business was booming more than a two-month-old endeavor probably has the right to enjoy.  Then came the blizzard and restaurant week.

Those who aren’t hunkered down in their layers of sweatpants and sweaters saving up to properly celebrate St. Patrick’s Day for the entire month of March (at least that’s how it goes in Baltimore) are braving the cold and ice right now to go out to dinners that they can only afford one week out of the year. Either way, the end of February has brought with it my winter doldrums.

I’ve now spent a week wondering if the previous month was a figment of my imagination.  It doesn’t help that Lent has started.  I don’t even want to think about the number of folks in Charm City that have given up sugar for the next six weeks!  Calmly navigating the rollercoaster of retail may be a greater mental challenge than surviving black sash training.

Speaking of kung fu, I miss my kids – those who aren’t mine and the two who are, as well.  This unwanted hiatus from the adrenaline rush of being busy comes while I’m in between teaching sessions at the gym.  I awarded four sashes at the end of last session – one white, one yellow and two green. My first green sashes mark a transition for me as well: I’ll be teaching my first intermediate-level class, starting this Sunday.  That will include intro instruction in staff work, the very thing that has attracted students to me in the first place and the part of kung fu I love the most.  I can’t wait!

I can however wait for my daughter, who is days away from the fourth of her six black sash tests, to finish growing up.  Leaving a training session at the gym last week, I had the horrifying experience of watching my little girl get checked out for the first time.  The guy who couldn’t take his eyes off of her after saying hello twice (she didn’t know he was talking to her the first time) was wearing a college lacrosse shirt.

Even if you’re only a freshman, you’ve got five years on this girl, which makes you a virtual pedophile! So move it along!!

That’s what I wanted to scream at the perfectly normal looking, red-blooded, athletic man waiting, like us, for an elevator to the parking lot.  But I managed to simply step between him and Ava, silently.  And so it’s in the winter doldrums of 2015 that I’ve first come to miss that little girl of mine who couldn’t possibly have been mistaken for a woman.

As for the child who’s already wearing black around his waist, I can’t remember the last time we were in a kung fu class together, and that used to be our quality time.  We don’t know when they’re getting on our last nerve complaining about eating the broccoli or brushing their teeth that we’ll wind up wishing those days were on a loop.  My son dropped his gym membership (which was the second place we spent the most time together) and has a new-found social life that, frankly, fills me with dread.  I’m being well-prepared for his departure from my daily life at summer’s end, if not sooner, and I’m caught between gratitude and grief.

For seven years, I knew with certainty the bulk of what the day would bring.  I had obligations to fulfill as a producer, a mother, a kung fu student and a spouse, and most of those obligations had predetermined, expected outcomes.  Now, I wake up with a head full of questions on the day.  How much will I make? Can I get her to train harder? What will he realize? How much can she help? Almost everything feels out of my hands – at least until I create a new recipe, hit the gym with my staff or both.

I can control the quality of my food and my kung fu, and I don’t yet have to miss either.  Those facts will always make me feel big – hold the shot – even in winter doldrums.


Smirking in Silence

“Are you going to make it on just desserts?  Why’d you open a place here?  Why don’t you display the cupcakes over here?  Why don’t you have more flavors for the cookie?  Well…I hope you make it.”

Such is the litany of questions, unsolicited advice and well wishes (if you can call them that) I experience with more regularity than I can comfortably stand.  I’m ready to physically remove from my establishment the next person who asks me can I make it.  It’s never asked by the customer ordering multiple boxes for a birthday party or by one in his pajamas, standing in the doorway of his home, happily taking a box of sweets from me as my delivery hours expire.  It’s only asked by those smirking in the silence during a midday lull or a weekend freeze.  Those same folks never seem to be anywhere around when I’m bitching about how badly I need an employee who’s not related to me, so I can open earlier on the weekend.

The first dozen times or so, my jovial answer to the inquiry was: “Well, I’m going to find out.”  But in the last couple of weeks, I’ve simply treated it as rhetorical, while reminding myself that the person who probably thinks I’m stupid, naïve, irresponsible, deluded and so on is clearly the person with higher expectations than my own.

How is the asker defining “make it”?  I’ve never bothered to ask.  I don’t care.  I just know that the accurate answer to the insulting question rests on that definition.  Is it defined as merely getting to year two?  Turning a profit in the first year?  Making a million bucks?  I define “making it” as the store paying for itself and paying for my share of the family bills.  The former is already happening and the latter is currently fingertips away.  So will I meet my own definition of making it?  I’m confident I will.  Will I meet the ones of the people asking?  Who knows?

What I do know is this: I hate the suggested lack of forethought, planning, realism etc. wrapped up in a question being asked not only of people who don’t know me but of those who often don’t even bother to sample my product. They just pop into my store to suggest that they think it was a bad idea.  Who raised these people?

It’s worth noting that in one week, both a confectioner and a food distributor asked about buying my cookie wholesale.  The few reviews that have been written about the shop all mention becoming addicted to this cookie.  The prototype for packaging it for shipment and shelf life is sitting next to my cash register.  So am I going to make it?  Yeah, asshole, I am!  For now, at least, the odds are in my favor.  So stop asking already!

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So glad I have a kung fu class to teach tonight – and in the boxing room, at that.  I think I’ll do sparring work against the bag before my soon-to-be green sashes arrive.  Maybe that’ll bring the jovial response to the annoying question back to my lips.


Juggling January

It’s a great feeling to have people pacing in front of your business door, waiting for you to open up.  That was Sunday afternoon, the day I only open the storefront for a few hours in late afternoon/early evening because I’m teaching kung fu in the morning and early afternoon.  People were walking through the door and telling me what they wanted before I had the cash in the register.   I did a (slow) day’s worth of business in about 35 minutes.  Then came the rest of the week: steady a few days – but just a few.

I’ve had a headache for at least a few minutes a day every day since Sunday.  I blame the highs and lows of food service during frigid cold winter days.  It doesn’t help that it’s barely more than a week into January, the resolution month.  Probably thirty percent of the population has sworn off the goodies I sell and are still sticking to their guns.  Is it February yet?

Thank God for my kung fu kids!  They’re the instant headache remedy.  My latest six-week session at the gym began several hours before my busy Sunday at the store.  I have siblings for the first time in a long time and a second mother-daughter pair joining the crew.  All of my second level students returned; so for ninety minutes, I had to be adept at juggling curriculums and managing my time well enough to give the old students something new to work on for the first time in three weeks and the new ones a clear picture of what they were in for.

There’s never enough time to get in all I want to when I have all the students in the building at the same time.  But trying to feels like an accomplishment in and of itself.  That seems to be the story of my life.

There’s more going on, of course, much more – like managing kung fu instruction and practice with physical therapy for the tear in my rotator cuff, and trying to find a new commercial kitchen that’s closer to the store, so there’s just a touch less running around. But I can’t keep my eyes open long enough to keep typing; so that’s all I’ve got for now.  It is way past time to sleep.  No way to get through a busy weekend without that!


Meal After Midnight

The clock reads 12:30 a.m., and I’m in the middle of my fifth straight hour on my feet.  The extra work for the lower extremities usually follows either a high-powered, double-timed training session in the gym or a regularly-paced self-training session at the guan with my two favorite females.

Merle and Ava just finished their second of six tests for the black belt and are very much in touch with my pain of two and half years ago.  As I continue to watch my better half give the young’uns a run for their money and my daughter shed the last vestiges of her baby fat doing crescent kicks that make me envious of both her youth and long legs, I’m momentarily shaken by how fast time flies and how dramatically things change – even when doing nothing to facilitate it.  Neither of the family’s other females have ever loved kung fu the way my son and I do.  To watch them work so hard for something neither imagined working for at all can sometimes be surreal.

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Equally ethereal is the fact that my overworked knees have never felt better or held deeper stances in forms than they do now that I’m either cooking or selling food all day with minimal benefit of a chair.  It really is true that sitting for long periods with arthritis in lower joints is more painful and difficult to work with than constant use of the joints.  Quite a few people have looked at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that my knees feel best while doing kung fu. I can now add that they feel better when I stand all day.  Who knew?

But it ain’t all sunshine and roses by a long shot.  I take my meal (yes, just one!) after midnight, daily.  There simply isn’t an opportunity to feed myself while baking for the store.  Eating has to wait until I’m home, and that need mentally arm wrestles the desire to shower.  The shower always wins, pushing the meal even later.

As clear and convincing evidence of the search for time in my daily existence, I’m beginning this paragraph of my post three days after beginning the first.  ‘Nuff said.  Time to wrap this up or it’ll be President’s Day and irrelevant when I finally publish it.

I had my first taste of entrepreneurial anxiety this holiday week with the departure of my neighborhood regulars to hometowns of origin and not enough tourists taking their place.  The flip side, however, is that a popular pizza joint in Fells Point and a landmark deli in Canton are now carrying my desserts.  Folks are also taking pictures of my place from the other side of the street and selfies right below my sign.  The name alone appears to be popular, which, along with having long-standing food business pros loving my desserts enough to toss their Restaurant Depot ones in the garbage, keeps this sleep-deprived baker smiling.

Almond Joy Cap'n Crunch(Current favorites: “Almond Joy” and “Cap’n Crunch.”)

Happy New Year, WordPress family!  Thanks for being a part of my crazy story.  Gotta go back to work now….


Knock on Wood!

“Welcome to the neighborhood!” That’s been the phrase of the week for customers who don’t know that I’ve lived in the neighborhood for almost seven years; it’s just the business that’s new. I’m writing my first post in more than a week (the longest silence of my blogging life) during the first lull in the first Sunday that my business has been open.

Last Sunday was the final day of the second session of my kung fu class, and I just couldn’t manage to pull off working in both the gym and the store when all of my familial employees were off working a day job or visiting their father. But I couldn’t help but notice as I walked home from the gym that there was a lot more hustle and bustle on the street than I’d anticipated, especially since it was the middle of the football game in a town that loves its Ravens. I was compelled – largely by the need for sales that every new business has – to see if the same would hold true a week later. It most certainly has!

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Sunday is apparently the day that everyone wants to ignore the diet and indulge in butter and sugar. I’m more than happy to oblige! Following a large, rush order for vegan cupcakes yesterday and a growing group of neighborhood residents becoming regulars, Stupid Delicious!, www.stupiddelicious.com for you Baltimore residents, is off to a solid pre-advertising start. (Quick – somebody knock on wood!) But to make this double-duty thing work on Sundays going forward, I’m going to need a paid employee a lot sooner than I’d anticipated. That’s a very nice problem to have!

On the kung fu front, the newest revelation about my deteriorating body is that I have a small tear in my rotator cuff. That explains the extreme pain and difficulty sleeping that plagues me off and on – now exacerbated by whipping up various batters and frostings. This could get very interesting right as my stellar corporate insurance goes bye-bye.

The challenges never stop, for sure, but that’s what keeps me on my toes. Right now, just for today, I’m having too much fun and feeling too much gratitude to complain.🙂


Thursday to Thursday

A week ago Thursday, I stood at the counter in the health department’s environmental protection division with ten minutes to spare before closing time.  I had the proof of workmen’s compensation in my folder of regulatory documentation, and my heart was racing at the prospect of finally being finished with the city’s hoops and ladders.  Ms. Owens flipped through my folder of goodies and said: “Now, I just need a copy of your lease.” I dropped my head so hard, I thought my chin would hit my chest.  I could see myself putting the lease down on my desk with one hand as I picked up the workmen’s compensation plan with the other.  I’d gone from having an incomplete folder to having … an incomplete folder.   She looked at my face and said: “We open tomorrow at 8:30a.”

I knew that, of course, but I also knew I had to be in D.C. the next day – and that I might hurt someone if I had to wait another day to be approved to open.  Apparently, it was written all over my face.  All I had to say in a practical whisper was: “I have to be in D.C. tomorrow.”  Ms. Owens then made me an offer I could’ve kissed her for, and after a comedy of technical errors and slow cell towers, Ms. Owens had in her inbox emailed photographs of each page of my lease (my better half is the woman to have in a pinch!), and I had the little yellow card that said I could sell food with the approval of the City of Baltimore!

Since then, days and times have completely run together, kinda like this:

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Alone on Sunday in the programming department on what was likely my last day of producing a live television program.  It was the longest job of my life, and at times, I was remarkably fulfilled in this building.  It remains nice work if you can get it; I’ve just gone as far with it as I’ll ever be allowed to go – and life’s too short to go through the motions.

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Monday brought the window vinyls and more elbow grease.  Tuesday brought an aborted store sign installation.   (I may never understand why it’s so hard to get a good sign in two weeks’ time).

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Wednesday brought a grease fire in an oven at the commercial kitchen where I cook that started  ten seconds after I turned it on to preheat.  By 3 p.m. I was scrambling to safely finish the goods for the opening I was determined wouldn’t wait another day.   Thursday morning, 3 a.m.: about twenty dozen cupcakes, pie cups and cookies later, I fell into bed.

IMG_20141209_110924And on the first snow day of 2014 in Charm City, the doors of Stupid Delicious! sputtered open for business at a pace designed to work out the kinks.

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The so called grand opening will be Saturday – the first time in years I’ll miss kung fu class without being at a tournament or on a business trip.  Then again, this is a business trip – all day every day, minus time out for the martial arts addiction that keeps me from flipping out.  The last seven days of blurred sunrises and sunsets have driven that message home, if nothing else.

Now time to catch up on sleep… while I can.🙂


Tomorrow’s Target

From elated to deflated.  That’s the succinct description of my holiday week, raging against the machine of regulatory madness.  I should have known it was too good to be true when the health inspector squeezed me in for my final review just two days before Thanksgiving.  She made a beeline to the bathroom to inspect the all-important “open” toilet seat, ignoring the painstaking time I’d spent affixing the soap and paper towel dispensers to the awkward corner wall nearest the sink, to say nothing of the arthritis aggravating purgatory I inflicted on my knees to caulk every crevice along the baseboards.  But at least the work was done.  It was there, as it was ordered, irrespective of being acknowledged.  And with it, I passed the health inspection – with a particular note to how cozy I’d made the place since she was last on the premises a month earlier.  I was bouncing off the walls on the way to the Restaurant Store for added supplies.

First thing Wednesday morning, I phoned the building inspector’s office to set up that inspection – the third and final city-inflicted hurdle before opening.  He could come out first thing Friday morning, while the rest of the country recovered from turkey overload.  Seriously?  I could actually wrap everything up and open my doors any time after Friday?   After all the plumber and carpenter craziness, could the grand opening really be that drama free?

No.  Decidedly not.

“Did you have a fire inspection?” the building inspector asked when he called to tell me the time window for his arrival at the store.  “It’s not in the computer.”

You mean the three-minute inspection that cost me three figures that the nonchalant inspector told me would be in the system that afternoon?  The inspection that took place two weeks ago?  That one?! I thought.

The building inspector was exceedingly gracious when he arrived to tell me that everything looked in order for my use and occupancy permit.  He didn’t even have to go through with the inspection without proof that the fire department had already been there.  I lucked out on that, at least.  I did not, however, luck out on reaching the fire guy to have him correct his oversight.  I had the man’s cell phone number, but he wasn’t answering!

Monday morning and three phone messages later, the desk-bound fireman was still not in the office!  It was time to go over his head.  His supervisor said he would take care of my approval within thirty minutes.  Twenty-four hours later, I discovered he had not.

By 10a Tuesday morning, I was closer to tears than I had been at any time through this challenging experience.  I had already missed my intended opening week.  How much longer were these guys going to keep the next phase of my life on hold?

Not minutes after asking myself that self-pitying question, I received back to back phone calls.  The fire inspector had been on medical leave and apologized profusely for the two-week delay in my approval.  I thanked him and told him to get well soon.  Immediately following that surprising expression of good will, the building inspector called to tell me that with the fire inspection approval in the system, I could pick up my permit downtown. I will be there when the doors open about eight hours from now.

Who’s left to torture me before I ring the register for the first time?  The sign guy, that’s who.  That’s tomorrow’s target, before teaching two classes of kung fu.  My students are going to think I’m on something if I don’t get my signs before I get to the gym.  Good thing tomorrow’s classes are in the boxing room….