Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Closer Every Day

Every morning now I wake up and think "Another day closer." In many ways it makes me happy, in just as many makes me sad. Tim would freak out if he knew how behind I am on packing...good thing he's in Orlando and doesn't. It's hard to work a forty (plus) hour work week which actually consumes fifty (plus) hours of your time, take care of a house, big yard and three pups and have time left for throwing all your crap in boxes.

I had yesterday off but Massey's friend was flying back to England with her family and wanted to see them one last time. That's the good thing about working in the Crazy House, I have a badge which gets me through security anytime I want.  It's not like I wanted to pack anyway so met them at the restaurant where I work for one last visit.

Massey and Zach had flown out the night before heading to Orlando and I was all alone anyway...who'd know what I was or was not doing? Maybe our three dogs, but they're pretty good at keeping secrets

We enjoyed a tapas style snack  Lamb Manti (huge hit) Piquillo peppers stuffed with braised beef in a red wine reduction and one of the managers even sent us out a Papardelle (our signature pasta) with braised pork, peppadew peppers , garlic, basil and san marzano tomatoes. Our pastry chef who had met them all at Massey's birthday party sent out her delicious latest creation, shortbread cake with a layer of dark chocolate, house made whipped cream and fresh strawberries. I work for a fabulous restaurant and they did a fabulous job of "Wowing" our new British friends.

Our pastry chef even took a picture with them!

I walked them back out of the restaurant and left them to shop at Duty Free before take off for Manchester.

I came back home and jumped on my Johnny Dear to cut the back yard. It took me until dusk thirty but got it cut. Even weed eated and swept up all the trimmings. Hadn't packed a thing once again but the yard sure looked lush and green with all the recent rain. Ziggy seemed impressed though.

Did some laundry, blogged and diddled on FB a while then tumbled into bed with a bowl of ice cream.

My boss called this morning before ten asking if I could come in early, before my scheduled 1:30 shift because they were totally understaffed.


The dogs all looked at me but held a finger up to my lips telling them it was a secret I wasn't packing...once again. I had to screech by the store for some dog food, threw it in bowls and changed their water.

On the way to work I felt it start...lower back pain. I popped on the seat heater and felt good...until I got to work.

After one hour I felt the pain gnawing at me, relentlessly. By four o'clock I felt queasy with pain. I was hoping (after looking at the flight list) we would slow down early and could leave by seven or so.

Not in the cards. I had a huge section of tables and all were full. When I saw them slide together tables for a ten top wanted to shoot myself in the head. Another server even said "If your back wasn't hurting we'd be a ghost town".

I powered through getting anyone I could to rub my shoulders and back when in the kitchen. I did stretching and simply made myself keep on keeping on. My ten top, which turned out to be an eleven top had a $64 grat added and left me ten extra bucks.

Here's the thing... my back was gonna hurt anyway so may as well make some money. Better than hurting like a Mo Fo Ho and make nothing.

Then around nine o'clock my back suddenly stopped hurting just as suddenly as it had started. It was a miracle.

I walked out right at ten almost four hundred dollars less poor and my back felt somehow incredibly fine.

I'm starting to think my bank account controls my back account.

So I'm now down to seventeen days left, sixteen when I wake up on Thursday.

I stopped by the store on the way home from work for some icy/hot patches for my back just in case. I still have two shifts left before another day off.

I have so got this now, it ain't even funny.

I never thought it would take me over fifty six years to come into my own and am obviously a slow learner.

At least I learned...and that's a lot more than I can say about a lot of people.

Never stop, never give up, always know it could be worse and be extremely grateful when it isn't.

Til next time...

Comfortably COTTON

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Fix You

It occurred to me tonight after my two youngest boarded a plane to Orlando for a week with their father that for the last six years have felt like I was trying to 'fix' my life and my marriage. After all's been said and done, seems Tim's the one who has fixed us all.

At times I didn't think we'd make it or even remain married but did.

The love we had has been slow to rekindle but's still there... smoldering, flickering and waiting for the spark to ignite.

My husband has always had faith but my own wavered, time and time again. I didn't have enough faith and should have.

It's a good thing he did.

In less than a month my family will all be together again for the first time in over half a decade, relocating to Orlando where my husband has a fantastic new job he loves and which seems to love him.

I got a little worried today when saw on the news that Prince weighed 112 pounds when he died. I only weigh ninety nine. I felt a little better considering I was a woman and one inch shorter. I lost almost twenty pounds when the downward spiral started over half a decade ago and has taken me almost that long to build back up to triple digits. My age seems to go up quicker than my weight.

These past two years have been a pivotal time for my entire family and lucky for us was a 180 degree pivot.

Do I still worry?

Certainly I do... but know now I can worry in a house which will be paid off and ours in less than ten months and currently pay all our bills on time if not early. I worry I haven't paid it forward enough.

Mostly now, I worry about walking away from the job of a lifetime and moving away from my sister.

I'll be close to my brother again and at least he's had the decency to act like that's okay too. We'll also be living where my oldest son lives with our grandkids. My saving grace is my sister has free flight privilege and can visit as often as she wants.

I hope it's a lot.

It's a good feeling to know that with help from above and all around you've survived. Now it's time to get my family all back together again, literally.

I'm going to say it and yes regret ever thinking it at all.

I wasn't really sure if I had any fight left in me but just like that, Tim came through and proved me wrong.

Hey... the guy married me, looking all dapper in his tux and tails with me in a wedding outfit and hat from some Hee Haw episode.

I should have known from jump he was the smart one.

Sometimes life has to kick you in the face to make you realize what you have.

And I have it all.

Til next time... COTTON

Sunday, August 21, 2016

You Only Turn Twenty One Once

Twenty one years ago I was recovering from an emergency C section at four twenty in the morning after somehow surviving bringing my daughter into this world. I lost five pints of blood and she lost almost one, weighing in at barely four pounds.

Just like she's been since her extremely early arrival, is still resilient and continues to amaze me to this very day, twenty one years later.

I bet she didn't say a hundred words before she was four but hasn't stopped talking since.

Close doesn't come near to describing our relationship and feel mighty grateful it remains to be close twenty one years later.

She's seen me at my worst and seen me try my best.  One thing she's never seen me do is give up. The last six years have been the toughest of my life but she was right there with me, never complaining once about what we didn't have.

The past eighteen months or so have worked together and laughed every single day every single shift, from the time we left the house until the time we rode the shuttle back to the car. Then we laughed on the way home.

How many mother's get lucky enough to experience that?

Not nearly enough.

We're climbing our way back up and well over halfway there. It was time for a celebration.

We planned on having Massey's 21st birthday at my sister's house. Been planning to since learning we all were moving to Orlando.

So amidst working crazy long hours at work, maintaining and beginning to pack up the house, threw the party together at the last minute...Clampett style.

I was worried about a possible low turnout, we live so far south from so many people but had a "Wild Draw Four Card" in my back pocket, just in case.

Two years ago, Massey met a lovely girl from England when they were counselors together at a summer Girl Scout camp. Last summer the girl came to visit us for a week and even dared to stay with us. It was an awesome visit.

Fast forward to early this spring. Her friend contacted me privately in a message to say they were vacationing (taking holiday) in the states and would be flying out several days after Massey's birthday and would love to surprise her with a visit.

I asked if they would mind coming to my sister's house on her birthday and surprising her there?

I can't tell you how many times we messaged back and forth but quickly learned how to
"Delete Entire Conversation". I actually had to ask Massey's how to delete a conversation one day when driving either to or from work.

She never had a clue. It's hard keeping secrets from someone you tell everything to but I did.

Her friend had told her they were touring the west coast and wouldn't be able to visit this time.

Massey was bummed.

She followed their FB posts and pics from Las Vegas to San Francisco. I'm sure she followed them on the other ten social media sites as well. That's too much work for me. Snapchat, Instagram...  too much for this ole chick to learn. I was fine with my flip phone until I got my iPhone6 practically free with an upgrade and am just fine with Facebook. I still don't know how to use all my iPhone capabilities after two years but know FB like the back of my veiny tiny hand.

Like my kids always say "My mom can throw some shit together" and somehow had everything ready for the party with lots of help from my sister and brother in law. We had food enough for every obese person on the south side of Atlanta and enough alcohol for an Otis Campbell family reunion.

The pastry chef where we worked made her a half sheet carrot cake and even her own personal cake.

I guess around six or so, her friend and her family pulled into the field where everyone was parking at my sister's house. Some other counselors from the Girl Scout camp were coming too and Massey went to greet them, not knowing the other vehicle pulling in behind them had her friend with her family from England.

Well played, if I say so myself.

I have no idea who took this picture but am so thankful they did and shared it on FB for me to steal.

Massey was totally and completely floored and shocked beyond belief.

That "Wild Draw Four" card will do it every time!
Here's the best part of all.

Have you ever met people who think after five minutes of meeting will blow your head off if you have to hear them say one more word?

Well these people were exactly the opposite and then some. The entire family was precious and priceless. They fit right in and quickly became wonderful friends to know and have.

Massey had the greatest party a twenty one year old kid (now adult) could ever dream of having, and think everyone else enjoyed it too.

There were people there who I've known as long as I've lived and right on up through the years. There were friends from Massey's high school, mine too and friends from work. Former bosses from two different jobs and extended family friends were well represented and at last count were over seventy in all.

Today when Tim was taking me back over to my sister's to pick up everything from the party, he said the most wonderful thing. We were talking about how much we'd liked Massey's friend's parents.

Tim said:

 "Last night we were on the front porch of your sister's house and I was talking with  Massey's friend from England's father. He said you always hear about life here being like sitting on the front porch in a swing simply enjoying company and life but think it's probably not true,  yet here we are... and it truly is!"

What a more wonderful compliment could you ever give or receive?

He and his wife asked before leaving if they could possibly take my sister and me, along with our spouses out for dinner the next night? They were staying at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead and told us to choose the spot. If you know us Clampetts and know the Buckhead area of Atlanta you know it's not our usual stomping grounds but sure is a nice place to visit and was a treat worth looking forward to.

It gets even better.

Tim was leaving to go back to Orlando early the next day and Cindy's husband had to work. Looked like Cindy and me had a 'Girl's Night Out' no charge (to us anyway)!

I cut the front and side yards and went inside to get ready for my night on the town. You'd think I was getting ready for the prom. I tried on three dresses before choosing one. I shaved my underarms and legs. My makeup was spot on and even had a purse to match my shoes. I called my sister to see if she was wearing a dress too, she was.

Here's the thing. I don't get out much in this grand of a style so better wear something nice because otherwise it will hang in my closet for another two years waiting to be (maybe) worn.

We met them at their hotel and decided on Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Bone's didn't have any openings for a table until almost ten.

The drive across the street and maybe a hundred yards away was a complete fiasco, thanks to us Clampetts obviously being Google map stupid but had a chuckle over it once there.

Dinner was absolutely point on and amazingly delicious.  We got to know our new friends and had a lovely time. Best meal I've had out in quite some time. I couldn't believe how much he knew about American history and even about the area we were from.

One thing I can say about Massey is makes excellent choices when choosing her friends...and you know what they say 'round these parts... "The apple doesn't fall from the tree".

As bad as life got for me and my family for a while, have been compensated more than royally.

Massey spent her twenty first birthday with her bestie from across the pond and we were fortunate enough to make wonderful new friends as well.

This only about half the haul Massey got on her twenty first. Besides all this she got to spend three days with one of the sweetest girl's she's ever had the pleasure to meet. Bonus points, I got to know her entire family as well.

My life has never been normal and know would probably hate if  it was. Normal is boring. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants and The Grace of God above. If I had a nickel for every time The Big Guy has shaken His head upstairs at me in disbelief down here, would be able to afford Ruth's Chris Steakhouse on a daily basis... but I'm good with having gone at least once.

Who knows what the future may hold?

Never count me out.

Til next time...COTTON

Friday, August 12, 2016

Never Assume

One of the many things I've learned being a server for almost four decades is never prejudge a customer. It's served me well (small pun) throughout the years.

Tonight was kinda slow at the Crazy House aka the world's busiest airport. I kinda needed it to be, clocked in at 39.81 hours and still had two more shifts before a day off. Around six I was seated with a single man. He kind of looked familiar, you'd be amazed how many regulars we get in the airport. He was European. I approached the table and greeted him. He said he had been there before and knew exactly what he wanted.

Sounded good to me, makes my job much easier.

This is pretty much how he ordered... almost verbatim.

"I'd like a cup of hot tea."

Let me stop right here to say have never met a server or flight attendant who likes it when someone orders hot tea. Pain in the butt and too many steps and options.

Okay, back to the man ordering.

 "I'd like Earl Grey. I want the cup to be filled with hot water as well as the tea pot. I'd like the tea bag on the side not in the tea pot. I want lemon slices on the side as well."

I returned with his hot tea, just as requested. He asked if he could have some honey on the side (dude, you coulda told me that when ordering the tea) but smiled and went to the back once again and got him a ramekin of honey.

It was all coming back to me...I'd waited on him before and this was going to be a test of my skills as a professional server.

A server passed by me in the back and said "He's been here before" then yet another server said "He always complains, and sends food back but keeps coming in and never leaves anything extra."

Number one I'm just fine with the added 18% gratuity. Granted I pay taxes on all of it, receive about twelve percent after tip out but that's okay too.

My goal with every customer I wait on is to use the "Wow" factor. Go above and beyond, anticipate needs and allow them to leave thinking was one awesome experience with their every desire and expectation being anticipated, met and exceeded.

Here's the way it went next.

"I'd like your grilled romaine salad. I don't want any dressing or cheese or walnuts. Just the romaine lettuce and not grilled. I'd like lemons on the side. Then after I eat the salad would like a pizza. Do you use fresh mozzarella?"

I told him we made our own mozzarella.

He said he didn't like chunky pizza sauce. I told him we now used a smooth sauce.

He said he wanted very light sauce and a minimum of mozzarella. Then he would like strips of chicken added.

Oh, I totally remembered him now.

I had served him shortly after starting there almost three years ago and was a debacle from beginning to end. It wasn't going to happen again, not on my watch.

Luckily for me the executive Chef was working at the expo window and our Sous Chef was cooking the pizzas. We have a high heat woodstone oven running at about 700 degrees and pizzas take about one minute to cook.

I took him his salad per his instructions,  two hearts of romaine, not grilled with no dressing, cheese or walnuts and lemons on the side. He asked immediately for a whole lemon, uncut. I went to the back walk in cooler and found none. We had sliced the last of the lemons when beginning the shift. I brought back six wedges and apologized telling him all had been cut. The airport is crazy, we get deliveries twenty four seven. A box of lemons came in ten minutes later and Massey took a whole one by to offer him. He declined saying he had finished his salad.

He said didn't want his pizza until he finished his salad.


Dude, you're eating romaine hearts with lemon juice!

The first pizza came out with some burned edges. Not a lot but knew would never make the grade with this guy.

My General Manager was walking by the expo window and told him the guy was hard to please and I wanted this visit to be flawless with no room for complaint. He agreed, so did the Chefs. The first pizza looked great to me, I like crispy crust but it wasn't my pizza, it was his. Chef said they would make another one when I also noticed they had diced the chicken. He had explicitly said strips of chicken and (my bad) had forgot to tell them.

The next one came out one minute later but looked absolutely perfect in absolutely every way. The Sous Chef said I should take a picture of it so I did.

My strange and eclectic customer was delighted when I sat it on his table. His words..."This is beautiful" and told him I hoped it tasted even better.

Per training went back to check on him less than two minutes later.

He was thrilled with the pizza. Also said once he was down to one piece left wanted to order another one exactly like it.


That's what I'm talking about. Anticipate and exceed expectations. I couldn't have cared less about getting any extra gratuity just wanted him to have absolutely nothing to complain about or send back.

The second pizza came out just as perfectly and can say with confidence the guy was wowed.

You know what?

I felt satisfied and so did he.

I took him his bill in a check presenter with the added gratuity highlighted and verbally told him about it. He paid with his credit card.

When I went back to pick up his check he said (almost verbatim again)

"When I came in and sat down you were very attentive to me and what I asked for. You listened to what I wanted and followed every instruction to detail. There should be more servers like you."

I said to him (semi jokingly) "Maybe they need to hire more old people like me."

He handed me back the check presenter, shook my hand and left. I stuck in my apron pocket and began to clear his table thinking "Yes, I'm a Boss server!"

I pulled out the presenter about one minute later. On top of the eighteen percent added grat on his credit card had left me twenty five dollars in cash.

He was walking around the corner of the Delta Sky Club when I quickly went out of the restaurant into the food court, calling him by name. (paid by credit card and always take note of the name)

He turned around, I saluted  him and said was much appreciated.

He saluted in return and semi smiled.

That's the kind of job I have, do and  main reason why love it so much.

I try to make a difference and when I do results are more times than not, amazing.

Yes, I'm a Lifer...but a smart and lucky one.

I've learned to give the exact service to every single customer, whether they are friendly or not. Working in the international terminal have waited on many foreigners who are borderline rude but took care of their every need and always tried to go that extra step, and nine times out of ten was handsomely rewarded for it.

Case in point, my last customer was a single Arab man. Quiet, non smiling and didn't say one single word to me other than order his wine and food, say yes when I asked if all was okay and "check please" when ready to go. Went through my entire little spiel about how everything had been included for his convenience, put down his check and held out his (Hersey) kiss goodbye and told him to have safe travels. That got me the slightest hint of a smile. I went back to clear his table after he left and on top of the added ($12) gratuity had left me thirty bucks.

You just never know.

Till next time...COTTON

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Taking Care Of What I'm Leaving

I don't mean to say I'm the best server in the world but can say with confidence am a strong one and valuable asset to other servers I work with.

My days are winding down at the best job ever, working for for the best restaurant group ever.

I've made strides as a server professionally, personally and financially and even more importantly have made friends...wonderful friends.

I've laughed more than I have in almost a decade and felt even better getting paid beyond handsomely for doing so.

I've witnessed things on a daily basis which have never seen before in my over half century on this earth.

In other has been a Ball.

 How do you forget one shoe when you walked in wearing a pair?

 Never seen a woman zip a purse over seventy times in less than two minutes.

Have never enjoyed seeing my daughter blossom more as a young woman.

 She even met famous director, Ang Lee.

 I cried from laughing so hard on the shuttle that one day with my son, leaning over to tell him "Nobody puts Bobby in a corner" and yes he still says I said it way too loudly.

 Dang, Boyce Avenue?

 Greatest General Manager ever.
 The top of my inner thigh was killing me and did this with an ice pack in the back everytime I went into the kitchen. Classic Cotton moment.

 Waited on bad ass, Michonne from The Walking Dead.

 Best shuttle drivers in the world almost make it worth paying twelve bucks a day to park.

 If Momma's happy, everybody's happy.

 Yes I've been alone with him on the plane train with another co worker and yes he's pretty hot.

 I worked with and quickly came to love some of the best management team to ever leave. Just glad I was able to work with and learn from them all.

Saw the biggest plane I ever have..

Met and was humbled by...but gained respect and love for workers behind the scenes who make pretty much everything possible.

Learned a lot about pop culture from my youngest.

Had a lot more fun with a selfie stick than ever thought possible.

Old managers were replaced with excellent decisions from the higher ups.

They're my favorite Ebony and Ivory.

I decided a couple of months ago that would try and find a couple of people to get on board the Crazy Train and actually be assets, while also being handsomely rewarded.

Pay It Forward is the simple... easiest concept ever and one that could save this (currently needing salvation) world if applied in everyday every one of us.

My sister first recommended a server she knew. He was mid forties, seemed to be a real go getter and thought would be a dependable employee. She had gone to church with him briefly but is a good judge of character so I contacted him.

That's the kind of person who deserves to get my job when I leave. It was a salvation for me getting this job and continue to appreciate it every single day, every single shift.

Someone who wanted and deserved the chance to succeed...just like me. It took a hot minute but finally convinced him after many phone conversations.

He was (almost literally) balls to the walls thrown into the job with a crammed in training period during the busiest peak of our travel season combined with the start of the Summer Olympics and upcoming annual Microsoft convention. Bless his heart.

He'll be just fine, I (eventually) was.

He's totally overwhelmed but coming in every day, always early and eager to help.

I can just tell he's a Lifer like me. He probably feels just like I did my first four months. Throwing up mentally on the inside while having to appear calm and reassuring in your facial expression and with your demeanor.

My first few months was the hardest acting class a person should ever have to take. I probably got a "B" if I had to guess.

Then to Pay It Forward once a message from someone I grew up with in my ole stomping ground all my (60's 70's early 80's) youth in East Point. Her family lived literally one block away from our family. There was a whole slew of em. Seemed like they had fifteen kids back then but was probably about five or six.

One of the boys married a girl I went to school with K-12. I still stay in contact with her.

Another of the girls recently contacted me after following my blog for a while. She had a son who was serving at another location of the Western Sizzler I used to work for and was wanting a more professional position. I called my manager and he gave the guy an interview the very next day and hired him on the spot.


It was a 'Two-Fer'.

I've trained him the past few nights and couldn't be more pleased.

Not bragging (maybe I am) but going to leave a pretty significant hole in the wait staff department. In the almost three years have been there I have missed two days of work, when I had the flu. They have never asked me to pick up a shift that I didn't. I've had maybe five shifts since starting there that only made streetside other words what I used to make on a busy weekend night (if I was lucky).

I want someone else like me, or who cares like me to have the chance I grow and make a difference, for yourself and for others.

So fast forward...

It was my day off today and heard my cell phone ping downstairs around one PM.

Not checking it. If was an emergency would call back or call our landline. I checked it around one thirty when I went downstairs for something.

It was from my General Manager. They were short staffed, another server called out and asked if I could come in?

It was raining outside and always like a gravy shift so agreed to go in.


Be still my beating was Michonne's Boo from The Walking Dead, sitting with his wife and kids at my very first table.

I was still training my second PIF (Pay It Forward) so he also got to meet him and his family.

I think this may have been the most convincing training shift ever for the new kid that he's landed the serving job of a lifetime. I can already tell he's gonna be great and look forward to working with our two newbies for another minute or so.

Absolutely and hands down dread saying goodbye to this job and what it means to me, in every facet of the word.

"Means" in my use of the word is described by Webster as "A method, a course of action, or an instrument by which an act can be accomplished or an end achieved".

I've achieved the  means to my goal. I snot up every time I think about leaving these people but must.

My torch is passing and feel pretty good about who I'm passing it two (small pun).

I hope they enjoy Ecco as much as I have and almost sure they will.

I had a rebirth around the age of fifty. Ecco had more than a lot to do with that and thank them wholeheartedly for simply taking a chance on this old skinny broad. Trust me, they've made me feel Phat!

Nobody's going to get you up those stairs but yourself and the people who love you.

Lucky for me am loved by many and also have The Big Guy on my side.

I went from desperate to panicked then suddenly scared out of my wits. I stepped out of the box and took a chance...and  paid off in more ways than I can count.

I'll be the first one to admit that am basically nuts, always have been and always enjoyed being a crazy person.
 Jimmy Buffet said it best...

With these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of my running and all of my cunning
If I couldn't laugh I just would go insane.

Massey's last day at Ecco is this Saturday. I'm not sure how I feel about that. She's also become a valuable asset to our team and will miss working with her five days a week.

Guess it's a good thing she's my daughter, still loves and lives with me.

I still can't talk about actually finally leaving for good with any of my managers at work because immediately well up with tears and way too much emotion.

It's hard to walk away from what helped save you which also includes my sister.

 We weren't really that that close as little kids but have admired her for as long as I can remember. Once we had kids of our own have been  tighter than tight and fought the fight...always together.

True fact...

Since being grown have never been with her for over thirty seconds and not laughed.

Guess it's also a good thing she has free flight privilege.

The times (my times) are changing...but for the better and have to keep that in mind.

Til next time...COTTON