Category Archives: Humor

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.

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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….


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….

 


Comedy of Errors

The toilet seat arrived today.  It took two weeks, two different companies and a mis-delivery to a city halfway across the state, but it came.  Now, the fun of putting the damned thing on to satisfy the State of Maryland, which requires that toilet seats in a food establishments be “open.”  The closed circle currently on the commode in the shop won’t do.  Both the floor and the sink in the backroom were objectionable, as was the positioning of the soap and paper towel dispenser.  Nothing, it seems, is as obsessive compulsive as health department regulations – which, perhaps, is as it should be.

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Then, there’s the fire department. Three minutes in and out for three figures out of my bank account.  Now, if I were cooking on the premises, it would certainly have been more extensive; there would have been more to check.  Still, the brevity coupled with the expense left me with a touch of whiplash.

Then, there was the misunderstanding with the carpenter.  I know I said four feet for the shelf.  I have no idea what he heard, but I was handed something that I could sit on a desk, not on the floor.

Then, there was the lost credit card machine that sat in a Fed Ex warehouse fifteen miles away from my house without any notification that someone tried to deliver it.  The door tag must have blown away in the wind, one might think. But no; the recent college graduate who opened my merchant account sent it to the wrong address.  With the most major delivery of all still to come (the long refrigerator with the worktop), I’ll be holding my breath all day tomorrow waiting for the truck to actually pull up to the storefront door – on the actual day it’s scheduled to, for a change.

It’s been a comedy of errors already and the doors haven’t opened yet. The good news: very few of those errors have been mine… and I’ve been able to laugh through most of them.

God willing, the opening is less than two weeks away.  Stay tuned!


In the Corner of My Eye

Sunday was a great day to be a Sijeh.  My seven-year-old social butterfly, who’d rather chat with me about friends and fashion, gave her most focused effort yet.  I had to have her practice alone for a bit as I worked with the five year old who missed class last week, and I was stunned by what I saw out of the corner of my eye.

She did one repetition after another without prompting and even self-corrected after watching me with her classmate.  I didn’t know she had it in her – the inclination to keep her mind and body on kung fu for more than three minutes at a time.  I was so proud of her (and the classmate who finally earned his white sash) that I felt high for hours afterward.  A second grader’s concentration made my favorite day of the week even better than it normally is.  It’s still the little things, always and forever, that make the biggest difference.


Stream of Too Much Consciousness

A Tuesday off from work to break up what would otherwise have been a seven-day work week.  More than eight hours of sleep for the first time in months; more work done with gym personnel for the upcoming kung fu class I’m teaching; more training on White Eyebrow with new moves added (finally!); more research on farmers’ markets and festivals where I can test the market for my baked goods.  A completely packed so-called day off!

…Taping a show tomorrow with the host flying in same day.  Worried about the weather interfering in her arrival and having to reschedule a show that was hard to book in the first place.

…Have to find hosts by Thursday for the double taping day at the end of the month with former and current politicos.  Another item that needs to be put to bed before work this weekend, or I’ll run out of time for the hosts to read the books.

…Looking forward to getting back to New York but not sure if I’m looking forward to the work.  Spending Friday and Saturday in Harlem producing the live coverage of a book fair that’s rumored to be a chaotic gig is sure to add a few grey hairs.  To top it off, neither I nor my director has worked this one before.  Right now it’s a touch of angst but it has the potential to become full-blown anxiety.  Gotta keep that under control and focus on organization.

…Have to get an answer before Harlem on whether I need to fly to Texas to do an interview with the August guest.  Just my luck he’ll say yes but only leave me two days to choose from.  A whirlwind trip will end up getting squeezed in around the time I get my son home from Vermont and start teaching the kung fu class – just because Murphy has that irritating little law.

Just one foot in front of the other, just one day at a time – the only way to live a life much fuller than I ever thought it could be. 🙂


Rhythm, Rest & Restraint

I began this writing from a rental car in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel.  I was waiting for a morning thunderstorm to lighten up enough for me not to be completely drenched just by opening the door.  It was the tenth or eleventh thunderstorm of the week, including the one we landed in.  I have to drive an hour down the highway to Orlando in a few hours and board a plane a couple of hours after that.  I really need for my departure from Florida to be smoother than my arrival.  That requires an extended window between thunderstorms that have seriously cramped the off hours of our week.

All’s been well for morning drop off, but there’s been loud and heavy rain both before and after pick up, daily.  Mother Nature gave Ava and me a short opportunity to stick our feet in wet sand and stroll along the pier yesterday before sending in another beastly wave of clouds.

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My girl and I are returning home without having shared a swim, but we did share a healthy dose of quality conversation.  That was most certainly worth a bad week of weather!

After spending five days rising for camp just thirty minutes later than we would for work and school, we’re both more than ready to sleep late and sleep in our own beds (unfortunately, I only have Sunday to do the former).  Creatures of habit that we are, we’re also anxious to get back to our routines.  For Ava, that’s looking ahead to Sunday with her dad; for me, that’s looking ahead to Sunday at the gym.  With a little luck, I’ll have something new to practice after Saturday’s class…assuming that what I tried to beat (rhythmically, that is) into my muscle memory this week doesn’t go on hiatus in front of Sifu.

One of these days I’ll take a break from work that’s actually restful.  That would require leaving the staff at home, of course.  It would likely require restraints of some kind, too. 🙂

 


Internal Politics

I’m struggling today, and it’s uncomfortable.  I don’t like being uncomfortable and tend to immediately try to alleviate or eliminate the feeling.  But I’m stuck on how to accomplish that – without quitting my job.

The trip took a lot out of me.  It wasn’t just the length of the days or the fight to stay on East coast time. The behavior of my colleague on Friday morning is weighing heavily on mind and spirit, and I’m finding it difficult to smile my way through it.  I’m beyond the incident itself, feeling acutely stifled instead by the culture of a company that will look the other way on that kind of behavior for a myriad of reasons – but only for certain members of the staff.

I’m so tired of the internal politics of the corporate world!   More than that, I’m tired of frequently feeling like human interaction in general requires some sort of politics, as in “the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing” behavior, policy, or opinion.  Clearly, I’ve been hanging around the movers, shakers and manipulators for far too many years.  Each day I spend away from the office not working makes it harder to come back to the bullshit.  (I just can’t parse words on that one.)

Speaking of days away, it felt so good to be home yesterday.  And by home, I mean in an exercise space big enough to accommodate me swinging a staff around like a whip just as much as I mean my house.  Ironically, even at the gym I had to deal with internal politics.

A trainer who often uses the yoga room to warm up her clients was annoyed because I was already in the space. She came into the room accompanied, exited and came back in alone to tell me that I needed to understand that I had to share the space with others.  I hadn’t said anything to her or her client but, “Hi.”  I have no problem with sharing… but management does.

“I was actually told I can only train in a room or space when I’m alone,” I answered pleasantly, completely empathizing with her frustration, having felt it myself when wanting to practice on a crowded gym day.  She was brought up short and stared at me for a second.  “Because what I’m doing involves a weapon,” I added.

The ah-ha light bulb went off in her head, and I went on to explain that if she has no other place to be with a client, I will leave the yoga room, just as I leave the squash courts when folks actually come to play squash.  That did it.  It was the first time in half a dozen times of making eye contact with the woman that she smiled at me.

Political battle averted.  If only they all could be that easy.

 


Girls’ Day in PA

At the Steele City Tournament today, I received a higher score winning silver than I did winning gold in Florida.  That says it all about the quality of my competition.  I was edged out by a tenth of a point to a well-executed spear form that I’d never seen before.  I thought as I watched the nimble thirty-something-year-old (no bitterness here, really…) that I was going to have to knock it out of the park to score higher than her.  I was quite proud of my performance, but a homerun it obviously wasn’t.

Oh, well.  Can’t win ’em all.  And if I could, first place wouldn’t be worth much.

Now, the really cool news of the day: my girl and I received the same score for the same form – only she came home with her first gold!

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For the next tournament, we’ll finally get my better half on the floor!  After operating the camera for two tournaments and waiting out a healing meniscus, she’s more than ready to add her own medal to the family stash!

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Practice Space

The first time I booked a room in a hotel recommended by tournament organizers, I knew I would never do it again. On this trip, I’ve been well rewarded for ignoring advice that probably comes with a kickback. The room we three girls are sharing – for a notably lower price than where the tournament folks are staying – is so big, I brought the staff inside to practice. Last time, I just left it in the car until the next day’s competition.

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Now, did my girl take advantage of the practice space? Of course not. She took a soak in the tub. We’ll know soon enough how that choice plays out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it works out well for her.


Missed Signals

Those of you who’ve done me the honor of regularly reading my posts for four months now know that I’m putting some effort these days into being more mindful of the world around me and more attentive to the details emanating from its inhabitants. The hope is to use what went previously unseen to be less intimidating, annoying or otherwise irksome to the non-type-A members of the human race.

So when I walked into the gym tonight fifteen minutes after the yoga class was scheduled to be finished and found the yogis just leaving, I suspected I might have to wait for time in my new sanctuary. Rather than wonder, I went to ask. Before the yoga teacher even reached the door, I could see something in her face that was less than pleasant. I prepared for disappointment.

“Do you need the room?” she asked. We’d met a few times and chatted on Sundays; so she was smiling.  I nodded but told her I could just go to a squash court until she was done. “That’d be great. I’ll come get you. It’ll be about half an hour.”

I guess I read her wrong, I thought as I walked toward the courts.

Forty-five minutes later, after warming up and doing a few abbreviated forms in the boxed in boxing room because the squash courts were occupied, I headed back to the yoga room. Camille was still there.

I gave it another fifteen minutes, but she and a yogi were chatting on my second return. At that point, type-A woman that I am needed some clarification. I knocked and was granted entry.

“Just real quick: in the future, should I figure on you using the room for at least an hour after your class is over?”

“Yeah. I’m sorry,” she added, looking at the clock. “I take private clients at the end of my class. But not Sundays. You’re still good on Sundays.”

Heading back to my staff, I couldn’t stop shaking my head. Why wouldn’t she just tell me to begin with that she had a private client and I wouldn’t be able to use the room? Was that passive aggressiveness at work? Conflict avoidance?

Whatever it was, it made me awfully comfortable to continue being a potentially intimidating, annoying or otherwise irksome, type-A woman. I may miss a few signals from others but at least mine are clear.  So…note to self: trying to be more attentive and less irksome doesn’t mean others will do the same.


A Way of Life

Bob walked past the windows of the yoga room on his way to one of the “employees only” areas, holding up five fingers.  Since it was six fifty-five, I concluded that I either had five minutes to vacate the yoga room or five minutes to quit the gym. The man at the front desk ended my confusion, and I rapidly ran through the first half of the White Eyebrow form twice more, before throwing on my fleece and sneakers and heading for the elevator.

In the era of gyms that are open around the clock, I join the only one in the downtown area that closes before sundown on a Sunday, I thought, shaking my head and smiling at the irony.  I had hoped to get in fifteen forms, after spending the day at work producing a live show.  I was leaving with four forms to go and more than enough energy left in the joints to pull them off comfortably.  I was bummed.

I held the elevator for a fellow member who came through the exit turnstile just as the doors were about to close.  He thanked me as he got on and shot a glance at my staffs.

“Doing martial arts, huh?” I nodded. “Which one?”

“Kung fu, Northern Shaolin.”

“Aw, that’s great!” he said with a surprising depth of appreciation. “My father signed me up for judo when I was kid, and I did it intensely for years. Went to the Junior Olympics….

“Wow!” I gave the once over to the tall, thirty-something-year-old with solid muscle definition and genuine love in his face and thought: Yep, he’s one of us.

“I just loved it!” he continued quietly, seeming to go someplace special in his memory. “Martial arts. It’s not a sport. It’s… it’s a way of life.”

“It is!” I agreed, as the elevator arrived on my floor of the garage.  Smiling, we wished each other a good night, and I disembarked.

Though I didn’t get his name, I felt like I’d just met an extended family member.  And just like that, I was no longer bummed.