Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No commitment necessary

"It's not you, it's me."  We've all heard this before.  Heck, I've probably used the line myself a few times just to lighten the load of a break up.  It's not fun being on the recipient side, but it is a part of life and it happens more often than we prefer.

My daughter alone has gone through three best friends since she started grade school.  It wasn't like that for me, but every generation is different.  Which brings me to the main reason for this topic: No commitment is more common than a solid connection these days.  I find that I have somewhat better relationships with those I don't have direct relationships with (via Twitter for example) than I do with friends I've known for over five years.  I find that the effort to extend a "hello" or "how are you?" are too far in between conversations and getting together for dinners.  Friendships are lost because there's too many cyber connection options and expressive phone applications that folks just don't want to exercise their energy with real people, but rather with people that are lost in space.

How did this happen?  I bet if Steve Jobs were still alive today, he'd have something to say about it. Despite his successes with Apple, he was a real person who left an impression on people, not just because of what he did professionally, but because he connected with people.  I mean, really connected with them.

I'm not perfect.  I have a lot on my plate these days as well, but it seems as if when I make the effort to reach out, it's more warmly received by someone whose face has not appeared in front of me once, and yet still wants to know what I think of a wine or why I go into coffee shops so much.

I ended the relationship with my so-called best friend over five months ago and I still struggle with that.  I know my reasons for cutting ties were valid, but it still boggles my mind that she chose to put what she viewed as "unstable disciplinary values" over how we connected.  Why does that concern her in the first place?  When you make a new friend, do you ask them how they feel about politics before determining whether or not you could be friends?

So this is it.  The age of "no commitment necessary".  The times when we get lost in our own bubble and neglect to make time to share flavorful food, great wine and intriguing conversations with others we care about.  That's cool - I get it.  It's not me, it's you.  And for all that's worth - I hope it won't be too late for your sake to come back into the picture.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stop yelling, I'm standing right here

My first serving job was in the suburbs.  A family owned restaurant that served traditional lunch to appease the daytime working crowd and then switched its theme to a Global infused menu in the evening.  I came upon the place when I saw a review for it in the Tribune and discovered it was located less than two miles from my home.  I went there for dinner with my spouse and another couple and we were very pleased.  I came back the following week, asking if they needed an extra server on the weekends as I had been out of the work force for 18 months after having my second child.  When he saw my resume which consisted largely of an accounting background, he asked if I wouldn't mind being an office manager/bookkeeper/part-time server because he just lost his FOH manager and had extra responsibilities that needed to be covered.  I was ecstatic for the opportunity considering what I came in originally inquiring about.  The owner was the chef, while his wife and two middle school children helped out whenever available.

I learned very quickly that my new boss had a habit of yelling.  He spent most of his time in the kitchen, but wore many different hats.  He greeted his guests, met with wine reps, and handled phone calls that related to offsite events for extra income.  My point being, he was always around. He had a short temper and was not afraid to show it.  I figured out not too long afterwards that was the reason his manager quit abruptly on him.  The worse part was being around when he scolded his wife.  I could tell by the look on her face, she was always embarrassed and she responded by just standing there which made matters worse.  Ten months later, I found another job and left the madness behind.

My next serving job was at a Tapas restaurant that was owned by three friends, all of Greek ethnicity.  Talk about male chauvinism - all the male servers received the best stations, got the highest covers and were treated with glory.  In addition to this, I never did anything right in their eyes.  It was either I was not fast enough (we ran our own food) or didn't flirt enough (let's just say there were plenty of inappropriate comments made), yet I stayed just over a year because I made some good friends there.  Soon after, I left when a respectable opportunity came my way.  This one took me to the North Shore, and appeared to be very promising.

In my latest server gig, I worked among chefs that came with reputable backgrounds, hailing from some impressive restaurants that reigned in the city.  I was elated.  Most of the chefs I had worked with previously, learned their way in the kitchen with no culinary degree.  I was amongst folks that had a true passion for food and I couldn't wait to learn the ropes by working side by side with them. What I learned was, although they were more publicly respected, more knowledgeable, more advanced, some of them were just the same.  They yelled, they threw tantrums, and they treated you with little respect unless you bestowed the respect they so earnestly sought.  I didn't get it. Don't they realize they can't accomplish such a thing by trying to instill fear in you?

I finally got into the city.  Gosh, did it feel awesome.  I grew up in Chicago, so returning to the city felt like home to me.  I began working at a new steakhouse concept in River North where I had much more responsibilities.  I assisted with putting together the wine list and was able to exercise additional wine tasks which required me to be a part of FOH meetings and deal more with the upper management peeps.  You would think that with that in mind, the executive chef, who hailed from New York, would extend some respect my way.  Nope, he was another yeller.  The difference between him and everyone else was at least one time he came back and apologized to me when he realized he had stepped over his boundaries and that I was right.  Wow - everyone looked at me in shock because most chefs never do this.

One of my recent positions, turned out to be one of the most disappointing environments I have ever been in.  To be yelled at in such a way that your goal is to intimidate one of your vital sources of income was unlike anything I've ever seen and I've witnessed a lot.  Sometimes, it's not even about the yelling, but the choice of words that depreciate you and make you want to tell the person on the other side to fuck off.  Instead, I maintained composure.  I kept my dignity and didn't say anything, in hopes of making the other individual feel like a jackass.  Alright, so maybe I didn't succeed, but I got the hell out and in the end - that's all that matters.

My point of the story is this, "Stop yelling, I'm standing right here.  I am a person with values and feelings and I work very hard, harder than most people in this industry.  I will go above and beyond if you show me your respect in exchange for my loyalty.  I don't mind hearing you out or being corrected, but talk to me like an equal, not someone you enjoy belittling.  Finally, understand I have a life outside my job, just as you; don't expect me to give you 24-7 if you don't honor my credentials when I am within our work space."

Maybe in culinary school, there's a class labeled:  Yelling at your peers 101, I don't know for sure because I never enrolled in one.  I do know this, I have met a handful of very talented chefs that have earned my respect because they listened to what I had to say, because they knew deep down inside I cared about my position and meeting the needs of the guest and restaurant, and because they knew we were both on the same page and our goal was to work in harmony.  These are the ones I remember well and always refer folks to if they're looking for a restaurant to visit - these are the ones I'd give my back to because I know without a doubt they'd do the same for me.  To these few about to cook - I salute you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Prisoner of wakefulness

Lightning strikes again
I cannot sleep
I toss and turn about aimlessly
losing the connection of me
I am lost, but really found
under the covers
No one knows the magic
and where secrets hover
Maybe some warm milk
or perhaps jogging the mind
Where did I misplace my memento
that causes the bind
Listening to the wind
I pick up translucent clues
I discover the hidden trick
chasing away sleepless blues

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Identity crisis

Nothing prepared me for the changes that came over me when I gave birth to my first child.  I was still considered a newlywed, with that being said, I had a multitude of whirlwinds surrounding me - all at once.  To be quite honest, the emotional overtaking of becoming a mother took precedence over being a first time wife and I lost myself to "mommy land".  Then followed the birth of my second child, two years later.  Both pregnancies not planned, yet still warmly welcomed, I became even more engrossed with my role as a parent.  I felt an undying need to be everything I could be to my children and there was nothing that would stop me.  Fast forward three years later and I learned something new that would eventually change my life dramatically as well.  This is when an identity crisis took over.

I started a new venture that I was very excited to be a part of.  An opening of a new restaurant that showcased so much opportunity and at one time, carried through with such promises.  This is when I discovered my passion in wine and I was going to do my best to get my career path going in this direction.  Life was good, or so I thought.  The recession had slowly began its course.  Suddenly a need for a sommelier wasn't going to come easy, especially to a young mother of two children who would be up against the most competitive group of professionals in Chicago of all places.  Go figure.

The business of wine is a tricky one, for many reasons.  Most of whom I meet are either single, married without children, or began having children after they had established themselves in the industry. And here's me - one exam away from my certification, living in the suburbs, with more financial responsibilities than I could handle sometimes and not as aggressive as some folks I've met. Um, somehow I think my chances of being in the world of wine are not as golden as I prefer. On top of this, I experience identity crisis in every shape and form, each day.  Who am I?  Am I a mother first, or a career woman?  Which matters more?  Can one exist with the other? How do people see me?  Will they take me seriously once they learn I have children?  And finally, why should it matter? I believe I can be both - it's happened before.  Many women go back to school after having children, maybe they chose to change careers or because they never finished.  In the end, it's all the same.  I rival with the worldly of competitors - some more vicious than others.  Back stabbers that I once considered friends - how did it all come down to this?  And who am I again?

I love my children deeply.  They are everything I wanted and for everything I didn't expect - they fascinate me beyond anything I'd ever imagined.  I learn everything all over again through their eyes - and the second chance for this is quite enlightening.  And, I love wine. It proposes me with questions I never knew existed.  It helps me understand geography in multiple layers by immersing myself into the science of terrior.  Honestly, it's the learning that fascinates me more than drinking it.  Of course, I still consume it.  In conclusion - there is no reason why I can't have both.  This identity crisis is definitely an undertaking, but such challenges bring on perseverance and if anyone ever dares ask me if I am a mother first, to this I will reply, "I am always a mother.  This is not only my duty, but my desire to do so.  I am also an advocate for wine.  I desire its existence because it drives my brain to crank in ways I didn't know could move.  Just because I can't dine out as often as those who do, doesn't make it less possible for me to continue.  If I give up, what message does that convey to my children?  I am dreamer and one who chases dreams.  If I don't properly teach my children to do the same then I fail to be an example of one who lives, rather than one who just is."

I guess I have answered my questions.  My children, they tease me. They often ask if I love wine more than them.  They know the answer because it shows.  In the end, I will feel content knowing I tried. Whether I succeed the way I desire, does not matter as much as my drive.  One day, they will see this.  And they will be proud their mother gave everything to be what they deserve in me.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I wish

I wish we all just lived
without worrying about being pretentious
I wish we all got along
without pushing others to the side
take the time to look around
and watch the world move around you
it gives you a perspective
that is greatly lost in technology
we are too in tune to our apps
and not in tune to reality
I am guilty of this as much
and too damn addicted to it
I force myself to look out the window
see people how they really are
we're all the same with different names
different opinions, and different views
that's quite perfectly alright
these differences make life more interesting
the cyber drug as we know it
has taken away the magic behind writing letters
I promise to write more
as I am writing now, as I will again
I will let my mind go
move slowly and take it all in
after all, we all owe it to ourselves
to not miss a single moment of our lives
money isn't going anywhere
and I mean this literally
if I feel trapped, I walk away
I lose myself to the simple things
I refuse to lose the pricelessness of life
it is within its moment, all along
take hold tight and breathe
it's gonna be alright, you'll see
all you must do
is wish along with me