it all turns out…

April 29, 2005

I’ve had an interesting two days. I usually don’t use my blog for personal life updates but in this instance I felt I needed to process. You see, yesterday I got a promotion at work. I had been expecting it for a little while, but with restaurants, you don’t usually get a lot of notice when you are moving. You hear rumors, you ask questions, you get some veiled answers, then one day your boss comes with a cake to tell you that in four days you will be running a different restaurant.

It’s funny, I came to the company I currently work for about 7 months ago. I was frustrated with my other job. They gave me a good offer and it was a good fit. I’ve been an assistant manager of restaurants now for about two years, and in the last few months I have wondered if my new employer was still serious about promoting me.

Well, they were, but I had my doubts for a while. About a month ago the general manager of a coffee shop that adjoins my location asked me why I didn’t have my own store yet. I expressed my minor frustration that they seemed to be dragging their feet with me but I didn’t know; maybe they just didn’t have a good place for me yet, or maybe what seems like a very male-driven company really doesn’t take me that seriously. I really didn’t know what to think. So as I chatted with the coffee shop GM he said I should apply with them. I was interested. So, what the heck, I wrote up a cover letter, polished my resume, and sent it in. I waited several weeks for the coffee company to call me for an interview. And they finally did, as the GM next store assured me they were going to.

Well, they called last night, right after the conversation where my regional told me I was getting my own store this Monday. How ironic is life. Actually, it’s good this way. The past few weeks I have really felt ready, for the first time, to run a restaurant. To lead it how I want, and be accountable for what happens. I am excited. It’s going to be a big challenge, from what I hear.

I’m heading to a very new but already opened store that’s had a rough first few weeks. I’m expected to go in, take charge, basically turn over the bad staff members and get my own stronger staff together, and increase their sales. Whew. I was searching my soul for nerves as my regional manager told me all about the bad open they had, the staffing problems, the dirtiness, etc etc and amazingly, I didn’t find any. I’m not nervous. I think even a few weeks ago I would have been.

In one way, I’m sad. I am leaving a great staff, an awesome GM who has really allowed me to grow, and a place where I am very comfortable. My “new” job, at least for a while, will be very uncomfortable. I will need to work a lot of hours, fire some people, have some difficult conversations. But this is growing up, having responsibility, living life. And I think I am ready for it. Wish me luck.

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lost in translation

April 25, 2005

I was paging through a new book I saw at Border’s today. It’s called Translation Nation and although I didn’t read that much of it, it’s generally about the rise of Latin American influence in our culture. The author begins the book describing his childhood, growing up with recent Guatemalan immigrant parents in L.A., over the years watching the city become one of the world’s largest Latin American cities. This is a place where the most common name for newborns last year was Jose. Our country is changing, fast.

I am at a unique vantage point for this cultural shift. My husband is from Mexico, I live in a neighborhood of Milwaukee that has, over the past 20 years, become a settlement for Mexican and other Latin American immigrants, and these days, managing restaurants generally means employing a lot of Hispanics. Several of my husband’s relatives live with us, meaning I am the only white, native English speaker at home.

So, I was thinking today, as I was skimming through this book, how ironic that I live in my hometown, in the United States, in my own culture, with my own language, though on some days I speak more Spanish than English. It wasn’t really an option for my husband and I to settle down in Mexico at this time in our lives, but of course one would expect that living here would be somewhat of a compromise for him; he’s the one sacrificing his homeland, most of his family, his culture, etc. But strangely, I think we are pretty even on this one. He can head east a few blocks for Mexican groceries, restaurants galore, a community within a community, with a shared language and culture. Of course, I can head a few miles out of my neighborhood or almost anywhere west of where I live to be in a world of mostly English-speaking caucasians.

I look forward to more cultural immersion in my own city as the years pass. I see more and more change in the world all around me, and I hope that I will have the chance to chronicle it as it happens.


what do you speak?

April 19, 2005

I found this on Melissa’s blog today. Take a look, it’s kind of interesting.

What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

Your Linguistic Profile:

65% General American English
20% Upper Midwestern
15% Yankee
0% Dixie
0% Midwestern

Now, since you followed the directions and took the quiz, all of you Milwaukee (hear: M’wawkee) readers will recognize one major flaw in this quiz. One word: bubbler. I can’t believe I had to choose between the terms “water fountain” and “drinking fountain.” We get no respect. =) Age-old questions. Can you tell it’s my second day off from work in a row and I am a little bored?


movie recommendation

April 14, 2005

I would highly recommend to anyone the movie Spanglish. I forgot to mention that before. It’s hilarious to start and painful to end, but it’s worth it. Fermin and I rarely fully agree on movies but we did on this one.


la primavera

April 14, 2005

Honestly, where did we start using the word “spring” for this beautiful season? Primavera is a lot better. And I bet the word in Italian is also a lot better. I am pretty sure the Chinese word, although it wouldnt’ really sound as nice to our English-speaking ear, is much better in it’s own cultural context. Spring to me is a piece of metal shaped like a coil, or something to do with a trampoline, but it just doesn’t evoke feelings of peace and life and beauty, like it’s meaning.

The weather has been getting sufficiently warm some days to do some early tanning, my favorite spring pastime. This is the time of year that I miss being a student most. I can’t tell you how many afternoons I spent at Library Mall or on Bascom Hill just relaxing and enjoying a book or a nap in the warm, sunny, but not yet humid air. Some of those days I skipped class, just to keep my sanity and feel alive and healthy in a world of textbooks, lecture, exams. I don’t regret that at all.

Now, in a new stage of life, with house, husband and full-time job I am much more restricted in my free time. I have been itching for one of my days off to fall on one of these fantastic spring days and today was my lucky day. But instead of just laying out with my sunglasses and book I pulled weeds, threw down some grass seed and made my first attempt at planting herbs from seed. I really honestly don’t know what I am doing with the gardening, but I am learning and I hope that in ten years I will be at least passable at having a garden.

I would have to say I really enjoy this busier yet more responsible life I now live. Hanging out outside for the sake of doing it is great, but gardening or cleaning up the yard or working around the house gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Then it’s time to have a beer, perhaps watch a movie, or read a book. Life is good.


my dad’s old trek in the city

April 11, 2005

I went on a bike ride tonight, which I really haven’t done in forever. I think the last time I went biking was the spring of 2002 when I was in China for a few weeks. Beijing was the first city I really got to know. I loved the smells, dirty and savory, the reality of being on the streets with millions of other people, riding here and there.

Biking is so much better than driving, you’re out there in the air, you feel a little vulnerable, a little dangerous, like a stupid driver could hit you with their Cadillac any minute, but you are going to dodge death and make it to the public library in one piece. I don’t know, but it just does something for me. I rode today on streets I frequent in the car, and the view is so different from the bike. There’s this bridge raised about three stories up above some train tracks where I could see a bungalow neighborhood, a county park, the local energy company, some distant defunct factories, the north-side radio towers at least 10 miles away, all tinted by a gorgeous sunset.

I would never notice all this in the car where we are always going somewhere quick, insulated and safe. here’s nNothing like a bicycle in the city. I suppose this is a big reason why my dad spent several years biking 10 miles to work, from the burbs, through the city and all the way to his office on the north-side. He did it for exercise, but I am sure he loved the exhileration of being one with the bike and the road and society.

On my way home I rode some side streets passing the unbeknownst to me Working-Class Heroes bar, just a few blocks from my house, adjacent to a Big Bird yellow house with Cookie Monster blue trim. Something about this house really reminded me of Sesame Street. I’d never really noticed this block before. My trip to the library had been fruitful, resulting in the new John Grisham novel, which I will likely devour in a day or two, but the way there and back reminded me why I enjoy the city, why I loved Beijing. I think I’ll start making this a regular event.


death in the family

April 8, 2005

Death. It’s a painful word to say. It’s hard to think about. My good friend Jenny is dealing with it in a very real way right now and I feel her and her great family deserve much more than my scrambled thoughts can amount to. When I arrived at Jenny’s father’s funeral tonight I was a little anxious. I hadn’t talked with her, didn’t know if my clothes were right, what I would say, what the mood would be. I couldn’t remember anything about the last funeral I had been at, many years ago.

I was surprised to walk into a room buzzing with calm chatter, a community of sorts, familiar faces chatting about life and college. Easels with photo collages created a half circle around the room, the open coffin on one end, 52 years of photos and memories scattered around the various coffee tables. Gary Janscha did not live long enough, but I don’t think anyone would argue that he could have lived those years fuller than he did. He was dangerously energetic well into his battle with cancer and I can hardly name a couple whose affection for one another was more obvious to me growing up than the Janscha’s.

My closest friends were there and I could not think of an event when these particular people would gather again, save Jenny getting married, that would draw this particular group, my group, our group. We caught up, some world-mixing occurred and some long-forgotten high-school acquaintances were re-established. I was amazed to see Jenny able to socialize, laugh, chat in this way. She loved her father as much as any daughter does and clearly there was nothing surprising about his death, but who knows how to handle losing such a close loved one? My thoughts and prayers, whatever they amount to, are all with Jenny and her family this week, that pain would turn slowly into peace and memories into stories that allow Gary to live on in the hearts and minds of his children and grandchildren.