Thursday, August 13, 2020

A Whim and a Chair

We have been needing one more chair for The Raft. The Raft is its own story which you may or may not know. I will not tell it here. It's completely nonessential to understanding this one.

We had one chair for it and needed another. I hoped for leather, because leather is the most forgiving and I expect a lot of forgiveness is going to be required down at The Raft.

But leather is expensive and so I set a forty mile radius on my Facebook Marketplace map and checked it occasionally for deals. There was no real time crunch. I could look indefinitely and pounce if I saw one.

Yesterday I found a chair. A leather recliner. It was pretty. Like new condition. Used very seldom. No pets. No smoking. They were asking $250 dollars. I looked up the chair brand name and tried to find a new one that matched it. It was at least a $1300 chair. Quite possibly over $2000.

One problem. It was not within the tidy 40 mile radius I had drawn on Facebook Marketplace map. It was in High Point, NC. 

On a whim, I sent The Chief a link to it and a message.
"Is 3 hours and 49 minutes too long to travel for a chair?"

In a minute my phone rang. It was the Chief. He was actually entertaining the idea!
"It would cost $50 worth of gas to go get it. It looks like a good deal. Contact her if you want. You could bring Dustin's Jeep in and meet me at work and we'll leave from here." 

The lady said it would suit to meet us at 6.
The Chief had an appointment to quickly schedule and keep.
I had a "Coffee and catch-up" appointment with a friend to reschedule.
In approximately forty minutes essential matters were in place, I smiled at the girl in the mirror, slipped on some shoes and headed out the door. By 2, I had located their job site, we climbed into his truck, entered the High Point, NC address into the GPS and were on our way.

Anyone who has bought things secondhand knows how often they do not quite measure up to your expectations when you experience them in person. We were no exception to that rule. We knew we were crazy. Neither of us cared.

Still, it didn't hurt to discuss it. Several hours in I said, "What are we going to do if we don't like it? Do we come home without it and take the $50 loss, or do we buy it no matter what just because we drove 8 hours for the stupid thing?" He looked at me with slight amusement on his face.

"I'll let you make that decision." I said.

This was just a filler statement. I was pretty sure he wasn't going to be making that decision alone.

By mid-afternoon I was very hungry. It is my habit to not eat until after 5PM.  It is pretty common for the Chief to do the same. Some days this is easy. Some days it is hard. At 4, I asked innocently, "Are you hungry?" The Chief looked at me as if I had violated the rules of some unspoken contract. "I have been purposely not saying anything about food." he said. 

We were both ravenous. "There's no way we can eat before we get there" he said. "We're already going to be a few minutes after 6."

That meant it would probably be 7 until we could eat. An eternity away. 

At 5, the Chief broke the silence that had settled. "We are completely crazy."

Somehow, saying it made it more real. 
I thought about the one review I had read on-line where a lady said it was a large chair. "I am 5'7" and I cannot put my feet on the floor when it is upright, though it is very comfortable when reclining."
I am 5'5.5".  

"Oh well." I thought. "Maybe that was a different model. At least it's comfortable when you are reclining." But I also told myself quietly there was some reason the lady was selling a high dollar, like new leather recliner for $250. It was probably because no one wanted to sit in it.

We traveled steadily on for another hour, exited the interstate, rolled down the streets of High Point, and threaded our way through the lady's subdivision to her house.

The chair sat in her garage. The lady stood there, waving us in. She was nice and friendly. She apologized for the mess in her garage. Her daughter and son-in-law and their 3 children had just moved in with her, she said. Just for a year. He was transferred there temporarily and she had to get rid of some things. "Here's the chair." she said. "It's in good shape. It was a showroom model from my ex'es business, and I had it in a bedroom. It was never really used except for throwing pillows on it."

It looked very nice. I sat in it. My feet easily touched the floor. It felt good. It reclined smooth as butter. 
I let the Chief try it. He liked it too.
It was almost unbelievable. I felt washed with happiness.

It did not take long to load the chair and pay the lady.
And then we left, threading our way out of the subdivision, rolling back through the streets of High Point, and merging once more with interstate traffic, this time headed south.

Twenty miles or so down the road we stopped at Arby's and got ourselves something to eat. I bowed my head and thanked God for things. Many things. 
"I thanked God for my crazy husband." I said to the Chief when I lifted my head.
"I wouldn't have done it for anyone but you." he said.

Darkness descended and we traveled on, on, on into the night, toward the wigwam, with our chair. Our comfortable, pretty, worth-it chair.
Crazy, but triumphant.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

"Dear Old Golden Rule Days"

Once, in grade school, Sister Judy slipped over to my desk and assigned me the task of looking up the word "Procrastination" and writing down the definition. Or, more accurately, a whole page of them. 

This was educational in a variety of regards. 
Firstly, I didn't know the meaning of the word until my skinny little self had leafed through the dictionary and my finger slid down the "P" page to The Word.

Also, until then, I didn't know what I had done wrong or why I was being punished. I remember the quiet feeling of deep shame washing over me, knowing I was blushing, and not wanting to look up, because I knew everyone else also knew.

The school was a one room school and very small. So small it was impossible for the entire student body not to know I was being punished. Some of them knew why. Unlike me, they did know the meaning of The Word.

Dutifully I wrote my sentences and tried to act uncaring. But I did care. I felt very bad. I liked Sister Judy. She was one of the kindest teachers I ever had. For her to have given me a consequence of this description meant I had pushed her over the edge. 
I did not want to push her over the edge. I wanted her to like me. 

It wasn't that I thought I didn't deserve it. Barely getting my assignments handed in on time was routine for me. Sometimes I even handed them in late. When I think back to my grade school days, my overall impression in regards to the scholastic end of things was that I existed in an everlasting state of confusion with a cloud of mild anxiety hanging over me. Something was probably due and I didn't have it done.
But what? And when?

It wasn't that I didn't grasp the material. (Except for math. I was clueless when it came to math.) But for the most part the material came quite easily for me. I simply had no clear concept of how to arrange my actions and my days to complete things when they were supposed to be completed.

I guess you could say it was a partially effective punishment. I learned what it was I was all the time doing at least, and I acknowledged the truth of it in my heart. I also never forgot the lesson.

They say acknowledging your issues puts you halfway to the solution. 
This cannot be true. I still procrastinate. In various aspects of life I struggle mightily to know what I should be doing when, and the cloud still hovers above me by day. 
So far, I have not seen a pillar of fire by night.

I have, in truth, learned some coping techniques. 

But here is just a little word of encouragement to you moms especially, as another school year approaches.
If you have a native who can never pull it together, who has papers and books strung from Jerusalem to Jericho. If, in the deportment department of his report card the little box beside "Uses time well" is routinely Xed by your child's weary teacher....gather that child up, fix him or her some Oreos and milk, and together look at the problem. Help him come up with a system. Designate a specific cubby or space for his school things things, and times for homework and study, if appropriate. Make him visual charts he can reference so he knows when each class will be held and each assignment will be due. 
If he has a lot of homework, break it down into manageable segments, and set a timer to help him focus. Let him be the one to tell you how many minutes he thinks he can do it in, so he feels some control in the matter and personal investment in meeting the time he himself set.
Dole out occasional rewards for successes.

I am no expert obviously, or I would not still be struggling with myself in these matters. They are only things that I think in retrospect may have given me tools for success, and some things that have been helpful with our natives. Some of them, your child's teacher would ideally implement, or you may at least need to get information from him or her. But the fact of the matter is, teachers come in all degrees of competence, and your chances of training the teacher are a little more bleak than training your child. 

A good school year to all of you! I suppose it will look a little different to many of us this year.
Whatever it looks like for you and your natives, embrace it with good cheer. If there is craziness going on in high places, be the buffer. 
Don't send them to school saturated with secondhand indignation. Send them with a tight hug and a smile. 
They will need it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Of Princesses and Such

Facebook pops up these memories now and then --statuses for you to regurgitate if you choose.
This morning this memory from 6 years ago awaited me:

"Love is...Driving down the road with the windows down with my little girl with her polka dot flip-flops, her jumper sprinkled with colorful beach umbrellas, her blonde hair escaping her little top knot, and a pair of shades 10 times too big for her nose....I looked over and saw her and I thought, 'Oh God! I wish she'd never grow up!'"

I remember this moment.... her skinny legs pushed against the dash, and her little chin lifted...whether to see out, or to keep the shades on her nose, I am not sure.
My wish has not come true. But like many of my wishes, I do not really wish it would. Not really....

And she is not totally grown up.

Thanks to her, outside our front door we have a refrigerator box, turned into one of those fashionable "tiny homes". It has a wash line strung between it and the nearest tree for drying her clothes. It has charming windows with cleverly installed awnings. Inside, she has a clip from a dog leash pushed through the cardboard just so. She hangs her tea kettle from it. The aluminum tea kettle was found up in the woods somewhere by natives of years past.

She has a piece of Styrofoam installed for a useful shelf, and a great number of other conveniences. The door is latched with a stick and a rubber band, and closes very nicely like you would expect the door of a trim carpenter's daughter to close.

She will offer you a piece of chocolate pie if  you go to visit. So far, only 1/4th of it is gone.
But please, respect the directions on the welcome mat and knock first.

It looks suspiciously like an outhouse. And in my heart I confess I was not sorry it was going to rain.
But fortunately for her she has an older brother with a heart of gold. He saw it was going to rain and installed a tent fly over top of it to save it.

No doubt she will grant him any request, up to half her kingdom for this extraordinary kindness.

Long live the princess...and her house.

I think.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

To Do, or Not to Do. That is the Question.

The other day I figured out this extra nifty life-simplification technique. It works so well I resent it. But I love it too! My future self does, anyway. My current self, not-so much sometimes. But I will be spending almost all of my time with my future self, so that is a minor detail. Or should be.

It regards decision making, and how to make the best ones. Life is chock-full of decisions. Many of them subconscious, to be sure. Much of the time they are not choices between right or wrong, but choices where each option has its pros and cons. And the options so often get saddled with unbelievable baggage. I am guessing, (speaking of subconscious) we make it complicated in order to make the decision we feel like making without having to deal with a negative opinion of our choice, which none of us wants to deal with, frankly.

I mean, really.

But sometimes, it is quite in...

Do I make this remarkably astute observation about this person, or keep quiet?

My audience would do well to be alerted to the type of person we are discussing here, after all. I'm just speaking with the Chief, and I am not telling him anything he doesn't already suspect, or know.
Or, this person's behavior could be an excellent learning tool for my natives. But on the other hand, it does not put this person in a very positive light. Not that they deserve positive light or anything, exactly.
But then, neither do I....

Do I eat this last piece of cake?

I haven't eaten any dessert for 4 days. But then, I still want to lose those 10 lbs.  I want to go ahead and wash the cake plate. If I don't eat it the natives will argue about who gets it when they get home from school. It's little; it can't be more than 115 calories. I want this cake. I crave this cake.

Do I wash up these dishes, or go to bed?

I am exhausted. But I hate waking up to a dirty kitchen. If I don't do them though, the Chief might. The Chief is tired too. But he's more robust than I. I need sleep. I do.

Do I write this letter or take a nap?

Because, I am after all, exhausted. And Sunday afternoons only come once a week, which is not anywhere close to often enough, and God made them for resting for a reason. I haven't touched base with her for a long time. But our friendship isn't going anywhere. I can call her next week.

Do I sew my daughter's dress, or iron the Chief's shirts?

My daughter needs dresses badly. The Chief LOVES to find his shirts ironed nicely.
I kind of like to iron. But my daughter...she needs dresses.

Do I read my Sunday School lesson, or step into the argument that is developing in the kitchen and give motherly guidance?

Do I buy these shoes? Or give this money to the fundraiser?

Do I read this book? Or not?

Now in any one of those scenarios, there are pros and cons flitting about like butterflies. And mostly, they are not cut and dried. There are pros. There are cons. Because of that, it's super easy to cuddle up to the pros of the decision I want to make right this minute, and dismiss the cons of said decision.

And then one day, not so long ago, a question popped into my head. God might have put it there, but I am not one to claim Divine inspiration lightly, so He might not have. Regardless, it has clarified my daily decisions in remarkable fashion.

I just ask myself, "What will I wish I had done?"

Tonight. Next week. At the end of my life...."What will I wish I had done?"
Just asking myself how I will feel about it tonight is generally sufficient. My future self knows.

The flitting butterflies disperse. There stands the answer. There is almost never any question.
I might resent knowing the answer. But I know it. And if I regard it as I ought, it makes for easy sleeping.

Which is a beautiful thing when you're exhausted.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

One of Those Days.

I am tired. It has been a long week.

In reality, it has been a short week because there was no school Monday, but I have made enough mistakes and felt rough enough to stretch it into a very long week.

I thought, though it made no sense to think so, that today was Friday.

That would not have been such a grievous transgression, had we not been supposed to put a food order in on Thursday. But it is not Friday, and we WERE suppose to put in a food order. And I didn't. I told Scott we didn't need to when he inquired, with clear eyes and a clear conscious.

And that, perhaps, would have been forgivable, had it not been the SECOND time this week I have been screwed up about which day it was and did not order food when I should have.

And in addition to that, two of the days I  hurt bad enough that I came home and went right to bed, and so the wigwam deteriorated to a state of mild dishevelment that I particularly resented because I took great pains, last weekend, to put a high shine on it, and had determined to maintain it.

The poor Chief has had to bear the brunt of my transgressions, and he has been maxed out already, and had physical pains of his own to bear, worse than mine, that he bears quietly, like a man.

This latest bit of brilliance on my part would fall to him to fix as well.

When it occurred to me this afternoon that I had goofed up the ordering A-GAIN, I  called him as quickly as I possibly could before my courage had a chance to fail me. I would just get it out of the way. Tell him fast and be done.

So I did, interrupting his busy day. I could hear him steadily shooting nails in the background while I talked, and sensed the urgency he was feeling to finish his job, and the tiredness in his voice, while I summarily added to his to-do list.

And so, this evening, during our daily debriefing, I was feeling a bit weepy, because when you're a lady, and you're tired and your wigwam is messy, and your ducks refuse to line up the way good ducks should, and you add to the burden of the person you love most with your unruly duck-line, you just do feel weepy.

My ducks weren't even in the same pond.

"I have just messed up and messed up," I said tearily, collapsing unceremoniously on the ironing board that no one had put away.

"Well, there's no point in crying about it," the Chief said reasonably, from his chair in the corner of our room. The chair he had inherited from his grandfather, who perhaps rocked in it in the evenings as well, though his wife was no doubt never so pathetic, and never left her ironing board up, let alone flopped on it. "We'll just do what we have to do."

"But I FEEL like crying." I wailed.

"Well then, come over here and cry on me." he said.

"I can't. I'll burn the hotdogs again." I said, gathering myself up and going to the kitchen to turn them before I did. Only I didn't. They burned a little. But only a little. And only on two sides. The other two were fine.

I like them that way. I wouldn't admit it tonight, because I am in no mood to be cheered up. But I do, sort of.

But tomorrow is another day, and  most of the world's problems can be fixed by a good night's sleep, Patience, kindness, and forbearance make the world go around, and thanks to my good Chief, my world still spins.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Polar Opposites.

The Chief is a hotblooded Native American.
That sounds nice. Chiefly.

But it is not.

He is hot when it is not hot. He is hot the minute the heat pump kicks on in the morning and takes the merest edge off the nighttime freeze. Just when I notice a bit of thaw to the air about me he begins the Martyr's Mutter, "I was looking forward to a cup of coffee, but I'll be sweating in no time at this rate."

I nobly stand over the register and attempt to capture as much warmth as possible with my skirt to spare his fevered person from undo exposure. It is useless. He goes past the thermostat and surreptitiously knocks it down a notch.

Why do opposites have to attract?

I am not fond of extra clothes; I wear them for survival. My fleece jacket. My hot pink socks. I wrap my furry throw (The Chief calls it a blanket) around my legs and huddle bravely in the cold, feeling virtuous in my efforts to keep from succumbing to the harsh elements. I hold my own in this martyrs' match.

The Chief comes in from the wintry wet weather, and exclaims, "It's stuffy in here! Someone bumped that thermometer up. How can y'all stand it?" in incredulous disbelief.

"It's not hot! I'm freezing!" I protest, cradling my cup of hot chocolate, trying to warm my icy fingers.

"I declare! There is no oxygen in here."

And so it goes. Every winter.

 I go to bed at night, and tuck myself in very comfortably. And he comes later and says, "Are you sure we're going to need this cover?" Every time I assure him I am sure. So he gets in and sticks a leg out the side for ventilation.

If I had $10 for every time he said, "Are you sure we're going to need this cover?" I could cruise the Caribbean on blue seas under smiling skies. I would take him with me, of course. We would cruise together.  And we would both be comfortable, because it is only inside heat that makes him hot. Not outside heat. And frankly, I am happy for that, because if that were not the case he'd be trying to haul me off the Maine or some such, without doubt.

As it is I get to stay here in the South, where winter really only lasts for 7 or 8 weeks, maybe, and seldom or never includes ice or snow or sleet, or chains on tires or salt on roads, or frozen pipes, or frostbitten extremities.

Still, they dutifully post signs before the bridges that say, "Bridge ices before road" The natives look at me blankly when I  try to explain what it's talking about, which, speaking of signs, is a very good sign.

Now please excuse me while I go warm my coffee.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Treading an Untrodden Path.

The littlest native has been humming "Come! Come! Ye Saints!" at high speed under her breath while she reads "Bambi's Children" for probably an hour, and I am two inches from going coo-coo, so I think I will write a blog. Not because I have anything in particular to say, but I just want to connect with my blog people again, and stave off insanity, by means of distraction.

Hi, y'all!

I have very little time for writing anymore because I have taken on a new venture. Maybe I will tell you about it. It will give me subject matter, at least. Subject matter is a beautiful thing when you need to write. Especially if your sanity rests upon it.

Last December we sat across from friends of ours at a Christmas banquet and they told us the mayor of our little town had said that they were looking for someone to cook in the cafeteria of a new charter school they were building. He had asked if anyone in our church would be interested in the job.

On the way home we discussed it a little bit. "It could be fun!" I said. "I love to cook! We love children! It would be fun to work together!" The natives threw in a few positive comments. The Chief did not poo-poo it. That was something.The school itself was being constructed a half-mile from the wigwam. It could not be handier.

The more I thought about it the more I wished we would do it.The Chief would help, of course. He would take care of the business aspects. I would cook. And we had all this potential native labor. It would be a tribal effort, and it would be a great fit for us!

So the Chief and I talked about it. He called the mayor and we met with him. He was all for giving us the job if we wanted it, but there would be no kitchen at the school, he said. All the food would have to be prepared off-site and delivered. Whew. We asked him how long we had to consider it, and he said we had till the end of April anyway.

The no-kitchen aspect introduced a factor we had not anticipated. It was daunting, really, but we had some ideas and we explored our options. It took awhile. Also, there were so many other things that needed to be researched and planned. People to hire. Menus to plan. Food prep and transportation. I have never in my entire life done commercial-type cooking. I had never gone to public school. I couldn't even picture what a school cafeteria looked like in operation. There were classes to take and  regulations to investigate. The more we looked into it the longer the list grew.

We came up against the reality that the time was too short, and we were way too inadequate for the task. We could not funnel everything that needed funneling into those few summer months before school started. In April we called the mayor and told him we were sorry, but we just could not do it.

We were sorry, too. But we both felt at peace. Neither the Chief nor I wanted to force ourselves into something and regret it later. The natives were disappointed. The mayor was understanding, and seemed unconcerned about finding someone else to do it. In many regards, it was a relief.  We went back to wigwam life and the summer passed without incident.

The 4rth weekend in July we were preparing for a trip to Pennsylvania for a family reunion. We hadn't gone anywhere in awhile and spirits were high. We were leaving Friday morning, early. So Thursday we were doing up laundry and packing, when the Chief called. "Guess who just called?" he asked.

I couldn't guess.

"The mayor." he said. "He said they are going to have a meeting up at the school at 4PM about this cafeteria job. There's another lady interested, and they are meeting with the US Foods rep. They put in a kitchen after all, but it is fairly small. He said if we wanted a place at the table they would save us one."

"It's the end of July!"

"I know."

"So what should we do?"

"I think we'll at least go and see what they have to say."

"But it's the end of July!!"

"I know."

And so we went.

We toured the kitchen. It consisted of  walls, a ceiling, and a floor. An oven stood over near one corner. We picked our way over and around tools and ladders and building materials. I tried to imagine working there. I tried to imagine it being all in place by the beginning of school.

We went and had our meeting, but much of it was beyond me. I grasped for bits and phrases that might be useful, and filed them frantically. The other lady seemed very interested in the job. She was dressed in high heels. She had run a school cafeteria before. She knew how much she could produce a school lunch for and she had her bid ready to submit.

I knew nothing.

The US Foods rep said they had the menus for various local school districts and we could start by borrowing their menus at the outset if that would be of use. Everyone seemed very kind and anxious to be as helpful as possible. They needed cooks fast.

We left the meeting with our minds spinning. I went home to finish packing, and the next morning we left bright and early for Pennsylvania. We had a wonderful time connecting with the broader tribe.

And then we came home, and we had to decide. We had a part of a week to submit a bid if we were going to do it. "What shall we do?" I asked the Chief.

"I think we'll submit a bid" he said.

We will??

I was startled, frankly. Submitting a bid meant we were... um...submitting a bid!

"But if we submit a bid, we might get the job!"


Up to this point, it had always been a hypothetical. The ball had been in our court, but we could walk around with it under our arm. Or prop one foot on it and survey the landscape. If we submitted a bid we had just lost control of the ball. We might get the job. I was nervous.

"Are you going to stop your job and help me? I can't do this by myself."

He was a bit non-committal on that point. Non-commitment makes my insides knot up. But I try very hard not to be one of "those wives". The ones, you know, who hound their chief when their chief is being non-committal.

Eventually he leveled with me. He did not think it was wise to stop his current job not knowing how much this job would bring in.

He was right, of course. I knew he was right. But I did NOT see how I could do it without him. He is my rock. My decision-maker when my mind shatt...I mean scatters. I just like working with him. I wanted him to be there with all my heart.I had envisioned him being there beside me.

"I'll do everything I can to help you get started." he said. I felt overwhelmed.
He agreed to take off work the first week and help me. I relaxed a bit.

He submitted a bid. It would be about a week until we found out one way or the other. The clock was ticking. School would soon be starting. The kitchen still had no appliances installed.

I thought about the other lady who submitted a bid. She knew what she was doing. She would probably get the job. I didn't know whether I hoped she did or hoped she didn't. But it was a comfort somehow to tell myself that she would probably get it.

I started hunting for employees, just in case. The two oldest natives were working for the Chief. They would come and work for me instead. They were excited. And I was delighted at the prospect of working with them. But I needed another woman. Somebody who knew how to cook. Somebody I didn't have to babysit through every cooking step.

I wracked my brain. When we had considered the job the previous winter I had tentatively lined up someone I thought would be perfect, but her plans had changed. There are not many women worth their salt who are sitting around waiting to be asked if they would like a job. All the women I knew already had their plates full.

So I just tried to think of somebody I thought would be good at it. She was my friend, but she already had a job and I knew she loved her job. I called her anyway.

It was a long shot.

I pleaded with her as unobnoxiously as I knew how. She said, "Let me think about it and I'll let you know.".
I could tell by how she said it that she wasn't going to.

But she called me back later and said she would! I could not believe it!! I started feeling less terrified.

And then, the mayor called and said "Y'all are in the food-making business!"

And at that point, there was no turning back.

So we did as much as we knew to do, which felt really limited. My friend and I went and shadowed a kitchen crew at another charter school for a day. That was the most helpful and educating experience we had the whole time. The manager there was entirely hospitable and sympathetic, and was as helpful as she could possibly be. She printed off recipes that served 100 people, recipes they used. She told me to call her anytime I needed help. I called her several times. She asked various questions about our facilities and whether or not I had ordered food yet. I said "No. There are no freezers or refrigerators."

She seemed worried for me. School was starting very soon. There were no appliances installed yet either. But some of them sat in the kitchen there, waiting. A sink was hooked up. The appliances were going to nearly all be second-hand because the kitchen had not been in the budget at the outset. The kitchen had essentially been added as an after-thought. I hoped they would work. What if they did not work?

A few other friends offered to help us get started and so I hired a couple other ladies to help at the outset. They proved to be invaluable troopers, all.

The weekend before school started the kitchen was cleared out and the appliances were installed.
But they were used. Very used. Years of  greasy crud coated them. The ovens had not been cleaned in years I am sure. Paint was chipped. Long dried grasses stuck to the bottoms of the work tables. I guess they were stored in someone's back forty.

I had tried to figure out what I was going to serve the first week. It was all so new. What would they eat? What could we actually fix in a few hours time? They had told us earlier maybe 350 or 400 people, but that they would give us an actual number closer to the time. I didn't know. It was all a shot in the dark. I finally made up a menu, figured out recipes, broke it down to ingredients. We met with the US Foods rep to place our first order on Friday. School started Tues. At the time of the meeting we still had not been given a meal number. I went up to the front desk and asked if they had a number for us yet. The lady at the front desk said the number of people that had signed up to eat lunch was 70.


That was so far below what we had been told we should plan on, it was stunning. But okay, 70. I could cook for 70. That looked doable. We started down through our endless-looking list. Every single spice and condiment and bowl and ingredient. We were starting from scratch. And for every individual item he gave us all these options...this brand or this brand, or this other brand? Fat free? Whole wheat or white? This was clearly going to take a long, long time. Partway through, one of the powers-that-be came in and said we had better plan for at least 200something, that it is possible not everyone signed up that was planning to eat.


We revised our quantities...

And then later we were interrupted again. "You need to plan for at least 400. In no case do we want a child to show up expecting a meal, and there be no food available." Well, that was understandable. We re-revised.
It was as new for them as it was for us, I guess.
We placed our order.

That night we began to scrub appliances. We scrubbed work tables and sinks and ovens and stoves. On Saturday we went again. We scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed and SCRUBBED. They looked so much better. We surveyed our work Saturday evening with a measure of pleasure.

"I think they would look so nice painted up!" I said. "Maybe a nice cranberry? Something to add some color in here." The Chief was agreeable and off he went for paint. He came back and we started painting. The paint sample looked fine but when we painted it on the table legs it looked like Barney the Dinosaur.... or poke berry juice. Oh my. It was just so bad. We tried to decide if another coat would somehow fix it. The Chief thought it probably would. But it was getting later and later. We HAD to call it a day. The next day was Sunday.

I could not wait for Monday. All I could think of was somebody walking in there and seeing those bright purple appliance legs and thinking "What in the WORLD is going on in this kitchen??"

First thing Monday morning we went to Lowe's for more paint. It was a more subdued tone. More of a reddish brown, actually. The natives started slathering it on. It was so much better! The work tables and shelves started looking uniform and almost classy.

And our food order came. We arranged it on the shelves and in the freezers and refrigerator. It all fit.

We cleaned every thing up, and turned on the ovens to see if they worked. They did. We opened up packages of steamer pans, and baking sheets, mixing bowls and utensils, and tried to decide how to arrange it all. The things we didn't have I hauled from my own kitchen.

And the next morning the whole crew showed up. Way early. We tried to figure out the serving table and in what order to do things. But the serving table was not yet hooked up to electricity and there was no way to keep food cold or hot. Hmm.

We scurried around trying to cover all our bases, and have all the food ready. There was no warming oven as yet so we had to have it all hot just in time to serve, but not too early. And certainly not too late! And how many were we serving after all? 70? or 400??

It was all exhilarating, and rather exciting, in spite of all the unknowns. The electricians showed up partway through the morning and hooked up the serving table. Yay!!

And we got everything around! And the children, the darling little children, began to file through.

My crew took their places at the serving table in the dining room.

And we had enough food. Way too much, actually. We served, I think 175, or something. It's a little fuzzy to me, how many it was exactly.

And so began this journey. Our oldest native has come to work with us now. The Chief did as promised and held my hand the first week. And my trusty friends got us started splendidly.

It was not without its share of bumps, learning the pesky foibles of the food company, and our own pesky foibles.

But it gradually got better! And all along we had a LOT of fun! Every day was a gem in its own right. Some of them polished to a higher degree than others.

I love my work crew. We have good times. The natives love working in the kitchen, in spite of the fact that they rarely ever helped in the kitchen here at the wigwam. They have become expert slicers and dicers. And singers. Lots of singing goes on.

In December we served an average of 240 a day.

But it's a good thing the Chief did not stop his job to start this one or we would be destitute for certain. He always was the wise one.

And if any of y'all would like a couple buckets of purple-dinosaur-colored paint, I know where you could get some for cheap.