Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Please Save Mom and Pop!

The American dream… open a shop, sell things to locals, make a living interacting with the community, have a big chain store move in nearby, lose all your business, be creative to re-attract business, fail and close shop.

So sad.

Yesterday I pulled up to the drive-thru window of a local coffee shop. I really like the ability to zip on through and pick up my espresso while out doing chores, especially since I had my new little kitties in the car after a visit to the vet. They were stressed out enough without me leaving them in the car to pick up coffee.

I sat looking at the menu, waiting for the window to open and that cheery girl to ask me how my day was going. I noticed that the plants out front looked a bit dry (dead actually) and then noticed the sign on the window.

“…. friends and family have encouraged me to give up and follow a new path on my life’s journey….. final day will be Thursday, August 15th….”

Wha? Damnit, another one bites the dust.

This independent coffee shop was a place for local music. They hosted all kinds of evening performances. They weren’t far from the local college. How could this happen?  Sigh…

Since I still had the droopy eyelids and kitties in the car, I decided I would lower my coffee snob standards and go to the drive-thru Dunkin’ Donuts instead. Their coffee really isn’t the best, and costs more, but it should be quick.

As I pull around the corner, I see a line of cars 6 deep, waiting to order. Phht… forget that!! First, it wouldn’t be quick, and second, read the above paragraph.

Why in the world would people line up at a place that was equally embedded in a strip mall setting, had inferior coffee, cost more, has never had good customer service the 3 times I’ve been there (I had gift cards) above a chic, friendly, local coffee shop?! People confuse me.  (and before anyone says it, I realize it’s mostly to do with big advertising budgets and marketing and branding.. still.. blech)

Since I’ve moved up here, I’ve had a local nursery with a small petting zoo attached close, a bakery close, 3 locally owned restaurants close, and now the coffee shop. It’s distressing. I came here partly because the area still felt real, and not someone’s homogenized version of reality. The real people, owning their shops, growing the food and working businesses is what appeals to me. I’ll go to a Mom and Pop shop quicker than any other.

Having crossed the country in a motor home twice during my youth, I got to see the country before big box stores were common, and I liked it. I felt that should be how things were done. I guess that stuck with me. I can’t deny that I will sometimes go to Wal-Mart or Target, but honestly, that whole experience is just so sterile. If I can find the same thing being sold in a shop on Main Street, I’m going to buy it on Main Street instead.

It is my sincere desire that this area remains peppered by Moms and Pops who have the goal of a sucessfull businesses. Mind-numbing experiences of large shops filled with goods from China tended by people who are only there for a paycheck just aren’t my thing.

And to put my money where my mouth is, here are some local places I love:   Great place to sit and chat over good brew. No drive thru, but a great garden to rest in.   Awesome cupcakes. Just ask my friends! Fav is the sweet potato or carrot cake!   Another place with awesome cupcakes, but these are more dark. Fav is the Mahoo Wahoo – espresso and chocolate    Friendly people, great customer service, fantastic pricing and locally grown fresh flowers. The best florist I’ve found around town!

These are just a few of the places I’ve been to recently, but I’ve bought meat from the farmers who raised the cows, I belong to a CSA that keeps me in veggies all spring through fall, I found a local honey farm and I get my eggs just after they’ve been collected. I also found a local place for t-shirt graphics and a shop with a very nice woman named Carol, who sells pellet and wood stoves, so it’s not like I’m just eating sweets and sipping coffee while surrounded by lovely flowers all the time.

Do you have a favorite local shop? Tell me about it! I’d love to know that Mom and Pop shops are still going strong.



Posted in Musings and Mutterings

On Turning 50

Just before my 50th birthday
Just before my 50th birthday

Here I am, just shy of 50. Not really sure what that means, or if it should mean anything. To many, 50 seems to be a landmark birthday. As if by reaching that certain date, your life will metamorphose into something…. else. Seems that most approach it with dread and desperation, but to me, it’s something else.

To me, I’m pretty certain it’s another opportunity to celebrate me. Sounds a bit egotistical, but hopefully you won’t click away in disgust, and you’ll read further.

I fully expect to be 113 years old. I fully expect to be healthy and mobile and spry and connected. I fully expect to have that glimmer… that gleam… that spark at 113. I’m absolutely positive I’m going to go to the National Archives, see where I signed my name on the time capsule when I was 13, marvel at the tricentennial commemorative junk, have a good burger on my birthday and then turn in for the evening, which will turn into my dirt nap. (Until I decide it’s time to take a romp in this realm again) *No, Jenny, not as a zombie!*  That’s my plan.

Until then, I get to celebrate me another 62 times. Woo hoo! During the celebration of me, I think it’s important to look back over the year and recognize how I’ve grown. Did I take time to let the people in my life know how much I love them and what they mean to me. I may know exactly when my exit is, but that doesn’t mean I know when anyone else will choose to depart. I feel good about my accomplishments, both professionally and personally. I think it’s good to appreciate your experiences. I also believe that it’s a good time to consider some new possibilities and decide just what it is I want to do/learn for the next arbitrarily set amount of time. (since time doesn’t really exist, it’s always arbitrary)

This birthday, I decided to have some friends over to join me in a Spa Day. I’ve hired a masseuse, bought candles that smell fresh and clean, ordered white daisies and white carnations (my favorite flowers) ordered some of my favorite foods and will mix up a punchbowl of my favorite cocktail. I’m really looking forward to it. Not too much, and with my friends, who are more family than not.

I’ve seen butterflies EVERYWHERE this year. I could sit for hours and watch my butterfly bush, but I’ve seen butterflies while out and about, in decor, on clothes….  So, it dawned on me that maybe I should think about this, because when I think about butterflies, like most people, I believe, I think about change. So, what’s changed?

I feel less worried about being alone and spending time with myself.  I’ve found that I don’t need to worry so much about what others think of me, or being accepted, and that the more I like me, the more I’m liked. Phhhh, what’s not to like? It’s interesting how you can see yourself as this totally fucked up insecure and flawed person, while someone else looks at you with admiration and awe – for exactly the same reasons! Instead of denying the things being said to me, I’m choosing to be open and listen. Even if what’s being said about, or to, me isn’t nice. I mean, really, who doesn’t want to hear lovely things, but those ugly things aren’t as easy to listen to, now are they? And I’m accepting that if I want joy, light and happiness in my life, it’s important to focus on joy, light and happiness.

Ultimately, 50 is fine. 50 is great! 50 is almost like a load has been lifted off my shoulders. 50 is friends, fun, carrot cake, fried okra, relaxation, music, love and laughter. Here’s to 50! :0)


Posted in Musings and Mutterings

The Pain Full Tour

Bakery in France

Or so I refer to my recent France excursion. The primary reason is that the French word for bread is pain, pronounced “pen” but without the N, however every time I look at that, all I can read is pain – as in- OUCH!

Having reduced (to nothing) my bread consumption prior to the tour, you would think I’d be ecstatic to do nothing but nosh on French croissants all the time! However, having an allergy to onions, meant that at some meals, the bread was all there was to eat. So, while I do love me some bread and butter, existing on bread and water and butter isn’t as much fun as you’d like to believe.

Still, it was food, and I was in France, so….

So, I should have been satisfied. And, I think for the main part I was satisfied. For most involved, the trip was a true success! The kids sang at La Madeleine and took part in a Mass at Notre Dame and did a very moving concert in the American Cemetery near Omaha Beach.

Forgive the wind noise!!

I went into this trip pretty darned stressed to get it all done before getting on the plane. The combination of a heavier than usual Spring Concert season and an increased work load, meant that I was scrambling to finish and make sure everything professionally, and personally, was in place before I left. Thus, I wasn’t very relaxed from the get-go. And, yes, I am in a foreign country seeing wonderful things, but I’m also working. With 13 chaperones and 78 children, there’s always something that needs a decision, direction or action. So, one pre-frazzled chorus manager ended up being a fairly frazzled chorus manager on tour.

Note le pain on my plate. Also note, double espresso was my friend...
Note le pain on my plate. Also note, double espresso was my friend…

Don’t get me wrong, there were some good times, and I saw some awesome things. Most of which were muted by whatever was going on, but still…

For example, we went to the Louvre, but had to wait for our turn to get in. Most groups wandered the shops that are underground near the entrance to the museum, but one group wanted to take the time to go over to the “lock” bridge.

Lock Bridge P1090212

(The “lock bridge” is a place where lovers place a lock, with their initials written on it, on the bridge rails and then toss the key into the river Seine.)

As the time to enter the museum drew closer and all groups began to arrive to the meeting point, this group found itself on the surface without a way to get back to where we were. I sent the other groups into the Louvre and ended up going topside with our tour guide to figure a way for this group to be admitted. Once they were in, we raced to see the Mona Lisa (she’s really kinda small, actually) and then we were free to enjoy the remaining hour or so in the museum.

Little Lisa

The Louvre. In an hour or so. Um, NOT happening.

So, Hubby and I decided we’d sort of do our usual cruising of the building, while keeping our eyes peeled for anyone who might be misplaced.

I think we looked at 3 paintings before my phone rang and I was told that two students were no longer with their group, and had last been seen on the floor we were on. Which means that all the art on the walls, much like my experience in the Sistine Chapel for similar reasons, ended up being a blur of color with an occasional glimpse of something that really caught my eye while I scanned the crowds for a familiar person in the “colour du jour” purple t-shirt.

On the job....

Truly, I’m not complaining, although it sounds like it. It’s just work! It’s my job! Sure, I get to do my job in some pretty awesome places, but the end all and be all is that I’m working it, dude! And it can be draining at times.

Now, that being said. The chaperones were outstanding this time and I was so impressed with how well everyone did. Overall, it was a resounding success, so this makes me happy!

Chaperones(See all the kids frolicking in the background?)

Another thing that makes me happy? The boss turned to me during the Farewell dinner and said, “How about we learn to waltz while in Austria?” To which I said, “I’m game if you are!”

So guess where we are going in 2015? Blood and Roses, here we come…