Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I can't believe how drastically my life has improved in one week. Training at our brand new Gaithersburg restaurant has been fantastic. Every part of my new job in restaurant management fascinates me. From the profit and loss spreadsheets to inventory to managing people on a shift. A restaurant has to work like a well-oiled machine. If you're working the front door and don't notice that the kitchen is behind on ticket times, you're quoting low wait times and risk losing guests. Everything crumbles if you don't have your mind on every part of the machine. It's frightening and exhilarating.

A week ago I was wearing whatever mismatched, hopefully washed clothes I had to stumble into the office, bag full of server clothes in tow for the late night shift. Today I'm well dressed, sitting at gate D at BWI awaiting my flight to Boston for a managers meeting.

Yesterday I had the day off. Completely off. After sleeping for NINE HOURS, I played Legos, did laundry, held babies, went to the playground and made dinner.

I'm not quite sure how to explain this, but a week ago I felt old at 36. Now I feel young. I feel young and hopeful.

And damn I love airports.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I'm Not Leaving the Couch (until 1pm)

Today is my first day in four and a half years with only one job on the books. I wanted to clean the kitchen but Brett made me promise I wouldn't.

So, I:

Made a doctor appointment for Honor

Emailed the newspaper with passwords to everything on my computer (oooops, forgot that teeny detail)

Emailed the restaurant's HR head with benefits questions

Watched Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares UK while lying on the couch drinking coffee

Thanked God that we've been able to put all four kids on our schedule... up late, sleep late

Thanked God for my cool blogger app

Took selfies for this post:

And realized I have involuntary ombré...

Friday, February 22, 2013

"all it takes is one decision; a lot of guts, a little vision"

I woke yesterday morning after my typical four to five hours of sleep, brushed my teeth by nightlight, stumbled into the closet to find slightly presentable clothes for the day job and gather all the pieces of my uniform for the night job.  As I shoved a pair of mismatched black socks into my overworked duffle bag, I remembered where my uniform was.  In the washing machine.  Soaked.

I got home at 11:45 the previous night, gathered the kids, brushed teeth, changed a diaper, told a story, listened to a story, prayed, put them to bed, went to the bathroom, put them to bed again, took a shower, put them to bed again, balled up all pieces of my uniform and dropped them in the washing machine, hung out with Brett while he started working, passed out on the couch, woke up with a second wind and talked with Brett some more, went back upstairs, put the kids to bed again but this time with frustration, went to bed, felt guilty about the frustration and thought if I died on the way to work in the morning that the last memory the kids would have of me is the one where I said "you what? had to see what color the stars were? oh my gosh please PLEASE get back into bed, I can't put you to bed fifty five times, I just can't, in fact, put your own covers on",  got back out of bed, put he kids to bed again, this time telling them "I understand you want to see what color the stars are and that actually sounds kind of beautiful, just please obey me when I tell you to be quiet, I love you, you're treasures, were the stars pretty?  good", thought, OK, that's better, now I can go to sleep.

Putting my clothes in the dryer didn't make its way into the night's design.

I dressed, took three hangers into the basement. I yanked out the heavy, wet khakis (filled with holes I cover with my apron), undershirt and used-to-be-bright-white button down and put them on the hangers.  I trudged back upstairs, labored to gather my purse, my briefcase bag, my duffle bag, lifted the hanging clothes far enough above the ground, and headed to the car a suburban sherpa.

My pants hung on a fence outside of my office until I realized it was freezing the water rather than drying it.  I hung them on the door next to the copy machine where people asked about them alllllllll day, draped my shirts over a cubicle wall, flipping them through the day so all surfaces had contact with the air.

This is nothing, really.  This is silliness.  This is an easy day.  Just the most recent morning.  One little thing in the past 4 1/2 years of consistent chaos.  It's not all bad, certainly not.  But it has been overwhelming, exhausting.  Since Knight was 8 months old: two jobs, 15 or more hours per day, 6-7 days per week. Since September, for instance, I've had seven full days off.  Seven.  This time period, you'll note, includes Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. That means since September, Brett has had seven days where he hasn't been solely responsible for three meals a day for four kids, all diapers, all home schooling, all Lego building, toy fixing, mess cleaning, laundry, discipline, and beginning his work day at 1am.

Brett and I try not to complain too much, we don't whine, we do explain "we're tired" or "we don't have time" or "I know I forgot to text you back but HOLY HELL you have no idea..."  But we both have this ability to put our heads down and go.  Just go.  And keep going.  We're both the first born.  Maybe we think we can do everything.  Maybe we think we're supposed to carry maximum responsibility at all times.  Whatever it is, we just keep going.  I don't think we even realized how (what's the word here?  struggle-laden?) our lives were until this past fall.  I don't even know what woke us up, but something did.  We just realized something had to change.

That's my last serving shift.  February 27, 5:30–close.

It's not what you think.

After 15 years in advertising and publishing, I'm moving on.  On February 28, I'll begin management training with the restaurant.

One job.

Five random days a week.  12-14 hour shifts. (That's an improvement).

Two days at home, every single week.

Brett and I have gone on one vacation.  Our honeymoon.  Our kids have never had a vacation. We think maybe next year we'll change that.

I am going to miss the newspaper.  These people are family.  Some were at my wedding.  They threw me a housewarming party when Brett and I bought the town home. They furnished my nursery. They threw me a baby shower four times.  Four times!  They're family.  

Since 2008 when I started the serving job, conversations with Brett have gone something like this:

Me: I love this restaurant.  But I never want to end up a 40 year-old server.

Brett:  OK, then we need to get you out of the restaurant.

Me:  But I don't want to leave, I love that company.

Brett: Then I think you'd make an amazing manager at the restaurant, you love people, you love numbers, you love the company's concept and believe in it.

Me: Nah, I'm in advertising, blah blah blah.

Brett: OK

Me: But I don't want to be a 40 year-old server.

Brett:  Then you should go into management –

Me: But I love being a server.

Brett: ...

Then one day it hit me.  I had this awesome idea.

Me: Hey, Brett, I think I should leave the newspaper and go into management at the restaurant!  It combines everything I love!  I love the company, I believe in its concept, they are growing, I respect them, I love people and I love profit and loss forms, and I love numbers!  I think I finally realized what I want to be when I grow up!

Brett: ...

No, really, Brett encouraged me the whole way, and saw things in me that I didn't see. If it weren't for him, I'd keep my head down and stubbornly go, go, go.  Straight to being a 40 year-old server.

With gifts cards and money earmarked for the electric bill, I built a new wardrobe (see: express dot com during their 50% off everything in the store sale).  First time I've bought clothing in many, many years.  First time I've bought a suit since 1998. Suits and skirts and blazers and dresses.  A real wardrobe!  And necklaces, too!

I've read business books and books on management.  I've studied the check-list for promotions within my company.  I've asked questions and discussed management scenarios with Brett, who has a masters in Industrial Labor Relations.

I've never been more excited or more ready for change. We will face financial difficulties this year, but the change is worth it.  We trust that miracles will happen. They always do in the Barkley household.

I'll never forget being hired as a server in 2008, shaking hands with the GM (who will be training me next week for his former job), walking down the sidewalk in front of the restaurant trying not to hyperventilate.  Trying not to cry.  Breathe, I told myself.  It will be temporary.  I hated serving when I was in college.  It wasn't for me.  Not then.

Apparently when you've had a career, a family, and realized you've tackled much harder things in life than waiting tables, it's not so scary.  I was good at it, fell in love with the company, and here I am.

Six days away from a new... a new... everything.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Check, Please

Is it that Dads don't have enough time alone with their kids?  Is that why their visits to the restaurant are so alien?  The scene below has been a consistent one for the five years I've been serving Dads with their kids.  I wish I could show them a video and tell them to relaxxxxx and enjoy their kids for goodness sake.  They can handle so much in life, why not this?

The hostess sat a dad and his three young kids in my section.  I headed to the table.  By the time I got there, maybe eleven seconds after they sat, the dad had gathered the menus and was looking around wide-eyed.  Before I was able to introduce myself, Dad pointed to the oldest girl.

"Lemonade?  Wait, what do you have, like Sprite, milk, juice, what do you have, lemonade?"

Me: "Yes, we sure-"

"Pink lemonade, do you want pink lemonade?  She'll have a pink lemonade."  Gesturing to the second oldest girl, "Do you like pink lemonade, too?  Want some of that?  What about your brother, what does he like?  Connor, do you want pink lemonade?"  The two year-old boy, sitting next to his dad,  trying to reach his sisters green crayon, I wike choca milk! "Three pink lemonades, that'll make it easier.  And we know what we want to order.  Kids?  OK, they'll have one mac and cheese, one pizza and one grilled chicken, what does that come with, can they get fries or something?  She'll have fries.  And I want the mediterranean chicken.  What does that come with, rice and a salad? Yeah that's good.  We're good."

Notice all I've said is, "Yes, we sure –"

Dads speed through everything like they're either on the run, as in 'involved in a kidnapping and trying to make the stops snappy', or they'll all turn in to pumpkins if they don't enter mom's presence by 6:30.

I used to think it was just some nice thing about dudes and wanting to stay organized.  No, it's not.  I was being too gracious.  I'm organized.  I like to stay organized at a restaurant.  But I don't turn into a psycho robot on a programmed mission.  The credit card hits the table a moment after the entrees.  Seriously, he pulls out the credit card before I can finish placing the last meal on the table.

I don't know how these kids enjoy one moment of these excursions.  I don't know if it's that they're too nervous to eat around Robot Dad, or if Dad thinks they're going to explode and won't know how to handle it, but no one at the table ever, EVER eats.  I should have taken a photo of the FULL bowls of mac and cheese, the barely-touched mediterranean chicken.  Some part of me actually feels bad taking the guy's money.  

And Robot Dad always, always tips 25%.  Every time.  In his mind, his kids were running around the restaurant, throwing food on people's tables, screaming at the top of their lungs and taking all day.  In reality, they were here and gone before my other table got their iced tea refill, I never heard the kids make a single sound, they were statues, didn't eat more than a bite of food and I made fifteen bucks for saying "Yes, we sure–".

Most of the time it makes me sad.  I'd exchange the good tip for the kids and their Dad to have a nice time together.  I want to tell him it's going to be fine if a fry hits the floor or a baby squeaks, that they're making memories, and it's just a fry, man.

Musical Cars

See the car on the far left, in the background?  The dark silver car?  That's the car I tried to get in a few mornings ago.  Half asleep and cold, I fumbled with the keys and thought, "Man, the snow made our car really dirty."

Then I looked closer as I stood at the drivers side door and realized, silly me, that's not my car!  No wonder it looked so dark!

Shaking my head, I walked around to the next car, hand on the door, found the correct button on my key chain and heard a distinct "beep beep" behind me.  In about three seconds, this streamed through my (foggy as the sky in this photo) brain:

"oh no my remote just unlocked a car behind me ugh I can't leave that car unlocked if I do the spouse will go to the car and accuse the other of not locking it and I've had things stolen from our car in this very lot because of forgetting to lock it they might have something valuable in there but now I've got to go to someone else's car in front of the whole neighborhood and open their door and fool around with finding a lock and it will look like I'm trying to steal something this is just such a crappy situation and I bet everyone's watching"

So I turned to walk toward the car, deciding it was better for me to look like a car thief to the imaginary people who spend their mornings staring out townhouse windows, than to risk letting them get something stolen or causing a marital argument, and realized

that's my car.  

Yep. Three cars later, I crawled into the drivers seat and headed to work.

Imagine the mental strain this morning when my neighborhood looked like this:

Doesn't anyone own a red pick-up anymore?  Come on, people, help a sister.

Monday, February 11, 2013

How I Make Myself Laugh at Work

I've been doing this to the toilet paper in the office restroom all day:

waiting for someone to say something.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Overheard • Fatigue

Too Much Time at the Restaurant

Leslie, to guest:
And the soup of the day is chocolate milk.

Too Much Time at the Newspaper

Leslie, to her children:
OK, guys, you've gotta get your pajamas on, it's waaaaaaaayyyy past deadline.