Friday, September 10, 2021

"It Is a Garden Salad."


I ran through a Culver's drive-through last week, to pick up lunch for myself and a friend, and the young lady that brought the food to my car announced with great confidence, "Here you go! A cranberry-bleu salad and some onion rings!" 

I stuttered a second before noting "Oh...I ordered a garden salad, but this will be fine."

Without skipping a beat she said "It is a garden salad. I'm practicing memorizing orders. It's not going too well."

I was laughing when I drove off, but the exchange has stayed with me.

Because you know what? 

Get it, girl! 

You didn't get it right this time, but here's what I see in you, young lady:

  • Someone who is determined to do a good job.
  • Someone willing to practice what she's trying to master.
  • Someone brave enough to take a shot, out-loud, in front of a customer.
  • Someone who's immediately accountable for her mistake.
  • Someone who can communicate her intentions, and clear up a misunderstanding.
  • Someone with spirit and courage, who doesn't let a little mistake shut her down.

I'm impressed. Food service is hard, hard work in the best of times, and this isn't the best of times for any restaurant or server. People are impatient and demanding to employees who are doing the best they can in understaffed kitchens and dining rooms. This kid is busting her behind running orders out to a busy parking lot in 90-degree heat and humidity, doing her job and memorizing her little heart out. I hope her bosses realize what they have in her.

I could stand to take a page or two out of her playbook. This girl didn't beat herself up or put herself down; she was just going to try again with the next customer. Instead of calling myself an idiot at my next slip-up or minor failure, I think I'll try to just think of it as a garden-salad moment, and get on with the improvement at hand. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Do You Know Where You Are Right Now?

My son and his girlfriend Melanie witnessed a horrific accident the other day, one that sent a pickup truck "into the sky" and broke it in half when it landed. Brian told Mel (an Army veteran) to call 911, and rattled off their highway location before running to help the elderly driver that had lost consciousness at 70 mph. Mel gave the authorities their coordinates, and police and ambulance showed up in minutes.*

I've driven to and from Chicago twice in the last month, with trips home at night, in the rain, and through miles of construction. There are a few points where the road winds, and reflectors on cones and barricades are dizzying when merged with those on semi-trucks.

Passing one small town after another, I thought to myself, "If I needed to dial 911 right now, I could never give a dispatcher my location. I'm on a 90-mile stretch between Chicago and home. Did I pass Gifford yet, or is that still up ahead?

On a similar note, I drive country roads every day. I know very well how to get from Point A to Point B, but unless I'm on my own road (Cottonwood Road, which is also County Road 1700), I rarely have any idea which county road I am actually on, or where CR 1000 N (for example) turns into CR 1000 S.**

I reflected on this to Brian, amazed that he and Mel were so on top of their location when they called for help; they had been traveling that day, and weren't on a routine route at the time.

He thought nothing of it. After two tours in Iraq, and constant Army training, it's instinctual for him to always know where he is. When he was deployed, they had to know their coordinates; if they were ambushed--and they were--and if they had to call for help—and they did—they needed to tell said help where to show up.

Well, isn't that's smart.

I contemplated then, how often I could recite my exact coordinates as I move about. Even buzzing down familiar roads, I realize, I generally know the names of only the major intersections.

Am I alone? I sent off a note to my friend Jeremy, a former 911 dispatcher, and now an Illinois Conservation Police Officer: Did people ever call in with no idea where they were? How often?

The answer:
"We frequently had people call that had no idea where they were. So we'd ask, where are you coming from, where are you headed? What's the last thing you passed? (cows, business, intersection). A lot of time with the wireless phase II data from the cell towers we could narrow it down."

Oh, that's good. But he went on: Interstate callers would tell them "I am 152 miles from Chicago." Said Jeremy, "They're just reading the bottom of their GPS. Bless their hearts."

And finally, he shared, that people often also didn't know their locations when they were indoors. He would direct them to go find a piece of mail, or run outside and look at the house number.

His advice—outside of just downright knowing where you are: Learn your Google Maps app. In an emergency (assuming you're conscious) you can put a "drop pin" in the map at your present location, and email it to an address a dispatcher provides, or send it directly to a responding officer.

It's funny, we've teased Clint (a firefighter) about his ability to recite an address from a general description. The big green house just past the one school? "That's 1234 Main Street." While it was fun to chock it up to wizardry or OCD in the past, what I've learned this week is that people that protect other people freakin' know where they are. 

...And people like me must make their jobs quite maddening. I resolve to try to stay a bit more alert about where I am, especially on open or unfamiliar roads. At the same time...thank God those protectors are there.


*The gentleman that Brian and Mel helped was conscious and coherent when he left the accident, with few visible injuries. It is believed that he will be ok, if not sore as hell, and that it's a miracle he's alive. I am incredibly proud of both of them for their quick thinking, kindness, and protective spirit. 

**After posting this, I received a text from Jeremy, explaining there is no such thing as a County Road South, or West. A road that runs North-South is CR North, and East-West, CR East. Then he gave me some math about how far away I am from the county line based on the address, but I stopped reading.

Friday, September 04, 2015

6 years

Today marks 6 years since my sister's death, from ovarian cancer. Falling on a holiday weekend, I have awakened each September 4 since in a camper, usually spending an hour or so feeling like I have a weight on my chest, before I can get up and join the rest.

This morning I awoke and decided instead, to focus on the laughter. The old stories that we told, time after time, and the secrets that shared together. I've summoned a few to share:

Go-go boots of Mud: Growing up in the 60s and 70s, as little girls we pined for go-go boots and short-shorts, and blue eye shadow and frosty white-pink lipstick. As we were 7- and 8-years old, our parents did not grant our requests for go-go clothes. 

We improvised with every rainfall. At the base of our front yard, where the neighbors sunk their tires every time they pulled into their driveway, there was a mudpit. My sister and I would run out and sit on the curb, mix rainwater into the soil until it was just the right consistency, and then spread it on our legs, a la go-go boot style. Once we were covered toe-to-knee, we'd get up and dance. 


For two little girls, I always look back and think that we fought more than two boys every would have. We slapped and pulled hair and tackled one another and rolled around on the floor like crazy cats one minute, but were best friends the very next minute. Teri was extremely protective of me outside of the house, and many was the time some neighborhood boy would taunt or torture me and end up running for his life when Teri stepped in. I can see her running, in my mind, with her arm behind her head, palm open, geared to slap the bully square in the middle of his back. She rarely missed her target.


Although we grew out of the catfights in our pre-teen years, we were occasionally still bratty to one another through our teen years. Mostly friends, but with mischievous moments.

She loved jumping out of dark doorways to scare the hell out of me.  To this day I hate to be startled, and avoid "fun" places like haunted houses.


She teased me mercilessly about my clothes and makeup on high school date nights, knowing full well that while I looked just fine--if not beautiful--that I'd run screaming back into my room to change my clothes if she said "is that what you're wearing tonight?" or worse, "when are you going to start getting ready?"


I picked on her occasionally too, and a famous family story is about my picking on her in the back seat of our Suburban on the way to the racetrack. We were 18 and 17 years old at the time--old enough to knock it off--but still I purposefully bothered her. I can't remember what I was doing, even--something likie putting my finger next to her eye and claiming "I'm not touching you!" or tickling her with a piece of grass every time she closed her eyes. Something especially annoying, I know, and she warned me repeatedly to stop.

I did not stop, I just kept messing with her.

She finally, silently, reached behind the seat in the Suburban, grabbed a torque wrench out of an open toolbox, and smacked me in the elbow with it. There was a resounding crack of wrench against bone, and she calmly said "Now are you going to stop?" I writhed in pain and laughter as I screamed "Uncle."   I remember the entire family howling with laughter--once we'd determined there was no broken bone. I deserved that.


In our adult years, raising kids and taking care of folks...we had different lives, different interests, but spent hours on the phone, hashing out trials, tribulations, joys, and laughter. 

She phoned me one October and asked what I was doing that night, and I popped off with how busy I was, and I had this to do and that to do, and I really needed to just get off the phone. An hour or so later, I realized that it was her birthday, and she had been calling to see if Brian and I would like to join the family for dinner that night. 

Instead of being hurt, Teri just sat back and smiled, knowing she had an ace-in-the-hole, and that I would figure out, eventually, what I had just done. 

She knew I figured it out when I sent flowers to her office, with a card that said "I hate myself."


Until she passed away we shared a bit of wonder, glee, and downright perplexity at a distant family member [Bob] that adored her, but would not speak to me. Even if Teri and I were together, she would be addressed, and I couldn't even make eye contact with [Bob].

Reporting in about [Bob] became a great source of fun for us, Teri calling me to say "I ran into [Bob] and he gave me a big hug and talked my ear off!" and I then, later, would call her and say, "I just stood right behind [Bob] at Farm and Fleet, and he didn't even speak when I said hello."


Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed the stories as much as I have enjoyed revisiting them. Laughing over these memories today has been much more constructive for me than pouting and aching, and if she's reading my blog--she better be reading my blog!!!---I know she'd say, "well, it's about damned time."

Monday, April 20, 2015

To Make or Not to Make

I've noticed, lately, a series of "Why You Should Make Your Bed" articles and speeches, alleging that bed-making is a simple habit that will increase daily productivity. The claim is that it's the first task—and thus, the first accomplishment—of the day, that will set off a chain reaction of tasks through the rest of the day.

Who makes this stuff up?

Why does making my bed have to be my first accomplishment? What if I trade it for putting my coffee cup in the dishwasher? Or hey!  Putting on a bra! I can honestly state that I get less done on days I don't wear a bra. Those are most often snow days and sick days (and Sundays), but the donning of the bra is usually the first sign of getting back down to business.

I imagine a day shot because I didn't pull the covers up before I left the house. An email to my boss: "I'm sorry, but I didn't make my bed this morning. I'm discombobulated. I just need to ... go home and restore my chakras." If a couple of hospital corners put me back in the groove, I'm likely to delve into the possibility of deeper issues.

I'm not saying that I don't ever make my bed, or that I don't feel good when it's all tidied up; I'm simply going to get as much done in a day with or without bouncing a quarter off of it before I leave the house.

To boot, some days I feel like not making my bed is my first act of kindness of the day.

There's a chain reaction I can put some stock into. 

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Vintage Nightstands and Creative Property

After years of searching for a set of vintage nightstands, Clint and I hit the road last weekend to Louisville, KY, to buy a pair he found on Craigslist. Yes, we did drive 4 hours to Louisville, because there were 2, count 'em, 2, matching, vintage nightstands, in beautiful shape. We have been on the lookout for these for at least 5 years—vintage nightstands seem to come in 1s, and not 2s.

Once we'd procured our purchase, we wandered Louisville for a while, then drove back towards Nashville, Indiana for the night. On Sunday we leisurely meandered our way home, pulling over or turning around when something caught our eye.

Somewhere in Indiana, something did catch my eye: a spectacular old car—not sure what kind, but think Model T—in front of an antique shop. The owners had covered the car with all kinds of fun stuff. A sink faucet sat atop the radiator. Floorboards are covered with house keys, and the dashboard had old wrenches mounted all over it. There were flower pots and antlers and gears and fan blades—it was a sight to behold!

We browsed inside and out for awhile, and I stopped to take a photo of the car before we took our leave. While I did so, the owner quickly stepped outside and asked me "What are you going to do with your photos? Are they for your own personal use?"

On the spot, I could only think that I'd probably have sent the pic to my son, but that seemed like personal enough use, so I said, "Um, uh yes," whereupon she retreated back inside.

I am still a bit curious at what she thought I might have done with that phone-photo. Print it and make millions, without giving them royalties?

I work in publishing, where pirating and copyright infringement is rampant. I have signed cease-and-desist letters. I have a reasonable understanding of plagiarism, and have spent a fair amount of time trying to decipher the often-blurred lines of intellectual and creative property.

I understand that when we take a photo of an artist's work, we do kind of walk away with something that was theirs. I could  never afford this so I'm going to take a picture of it for free and keep that instead. That's offensive. You shouldn't do that.

Perhaps that's the category this old car fell into, but I still feel like I'm missing something—why on earth would the owners lure you into their shop with this spectacle, and then verbally police the photography? How exhausting for everybody. A better tactic might be a sign reading  "Take a picture with our Jalopy—$1" or even "By God, No Photos!"

In all honesty, I probably would have posted my photo on Facebook, along with the name and address of their business, and I would have encouraged about 700 of my friends to pull over and check it out for themselves. If it were my junky little antique store, I would surely capitalize on my spectacular creation and ask you to tell everybody to come out and see it.

But that's just me. The bottom line is that the owners have their reasons, and I am absolutely not entitled to take any photo I want to.

I respect that.


Here's a photo of my nightstand.*

*Image of this nightstand Copyright 2015, Lori Stewart Weidert. All right reserved. No form of reproduction of this image, including copyrighting or saving of digital image files, or the alteration or  manipulation of this image is authorized unless accompanied by  written permission granting specific usage rights for an agreed-upon fee of a hundred million dollars. This image may not be legally reproduced without prior written authorization from Lori, beyond the screen you are currently viewing. This photo is not freeware. For information regarding commercial or personal use, contact Lori at this blog.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Mama's Secret Recipes—Yours for the Taking

Wandering around the grocery store for a dinner option the other night, I contemplated my pantry, versus my mother's, when we were growing up.

My mother was an enigma in the kitchen: kind of a terrible cook, yet an adventurous one.

Of course she could make a nice salad and bake a chicken or throw a steak into a cast iron skillet. Anything fancier  came from a kit. Chef Boyardee boxed spaghetti dinners—a can of tomato paste and a packet of spice—add water to make sauce, and Italian! Muy Ooo la la!!

She was just never good at choosing two ingredients that went well together. She had a recipe called "chicken and sauerkraut for one." I wonder if she didn't write it that way because "chicken and sauerkraut for four" didn't fly in our household.

On the other hand, she was using cilantro in this berg for years before anyone had ever heard of it. She dragged us into the only Asian store in town, and bought cilantro, and fresh mushrooms—also newfangled—when midwestern fungus-eating hoity-toitys only bought canned. She fixed exotic dishes with tongue. She invented a weird sloppy joe recipe consisting of onion soup and flour.

I ended up walking out of the store thinking we were probably better fed than we ever knew, and we never went hungry, and probably my sister and I were kind of assholes for giving her dishes names like "Garbage Soup."

Honestly, I thunk myself into a bit of shame and chagrin for being such a brat.

Tonight, however, I was flipping through her recipe box and found this:

Jellied Prune Whip: Orange jello, egg white, and a jar of baby prunes.


I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

The moral of the story: I wish that my sister was here so we could slap our knees and laugh "we weren't assholes! We were right!"

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Honeymoon Notes: Lighthouses, Phobias, and Tennis Shoes

Clint and I are honeymooning in Nag's Head, North Carolina. We're balancing our time with a bit of sightseeing each day, and a lot of crashing on the beach, which happens to be just below our balcony.

Tuesday morning we set off to tour a few lighthouses in the area. "Touring" means "photographing" for me, and "climbing to the tippy-top" for Clint. I came to terms with my fear of heights a few years ago when I thought I wanted to zipline in Cancun. Climbing the stairs made me hyperventilate, so I'm not sure why I thought I wanted to jump off the tower at the top. Lesson learned! I sent Clint off alone to climb these stairs

(Photo credit: Clint Weidert)

To the top of Bodie's Lighthouse:

And promised that I would take this photo:

When we arrived, I noted this sign in the lawn in front of our car:

It was a shortly-trimmed lawn as far as I could see, and I joked on Facebook that it was probably just a great way to keep people off of it.

Still, while Clint joined his tour group, I opted to trek down a surrounding boardwalk to a nearby lookout point, and it wasn't long before I met up with a family admiring this guy:

"It's a black snake," one guy said; "they are so beautiful." Beautiful my ass! I skirted by and used the super-de-dooper zoom on my camera for this shot, and continued down the boardwalk, now scanning left and right, checking the lawn and the boardwalk.

I've never really liked snakes, but I could recognize that for the most part, it was a phobia handed down from my Mother. She had a few childhood stories: A snake fell out of a tree onto her at the San Diego Zoo when she was a kid, and a blue-racer chased after her once as a child. She hated snakes. Truth be told, while they kind of creep me out, I've never really been face-to-face with one to know if I would be terrified or not. 

After meeting that big guy, I confirmed that I was kind of scared of them. The guy that thought they were beautiful served as a bit of a buffer, but he was gone now, and I sure as hell didn't want to encounter another on my own.

I moved on down the boardwalk then, and, after inspecting for snakes, leaned over this rail to see what I could in this freshwater pond.

I spotted a giant crab lumbering about in the muddy bottom, and was busy watching it eat, when a very large woman came trundling up the boardwalk, screaming. "Eeeeee, ohhhhhh!!!" I turned to find her coming right at me, pointing at my feet. I screamed too, then, dancing and moving away from what I assumed was another 5-foot long black snake, when she gushed,

"I just love your shoes!"

Holy Mother of God. I thanked her and set about trying to catch my breath and slow my heartbeat. I had to laugh, later, that I opted out of climbing the stairs to the top of the lighthouse to avoid the very sensations of fear and anxiety that I ended up encountering anyway. 

Phobias are kind of interesting. Even though I have an intellectual understanding that a set of stairs into the sky aren't going to hurt me, the wobbling knees, churning stomach, and vertigo still set in. Even though I know on some level that a snake "is more afraid of me than I am of it." [::coughbullshitcough::] I will scream my head off and dance a jig at the possibility that one is slithering towards me, before I even verify it.

Things I Learned on Day Tuesday of our Honeymoon: 

1. Irrational or not, I *am* afraid of snakes.

2. "Bodie" is pronounced "Body." It has 219 stairs, and two 1,000 watt bulbs (one is a back-up, in the event the other goes out) that is on 2.5 seconds, off for 2.5, on for 2.5, then off for 20 seconds, and every mariner knows that is Bodie-Body's pattern.

3. I have great tennis shoes.