Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My mother-in-law was a waitress for most of her working years and for all the stories she tells, I think she could write a book. Candacy A. Taylor has done just that in her book Counter Culture The American Coffee Shop Waitress.

Taylor, at age 30, was once a waitress in a sushi restaurant in San Francisco while working her way through graduate school. She remembers sitting around the back table, doing paperwork, counting out tips and sharing the grievances of the day with co-workers. She wondered how women twenty years older could handle the workload when Taylor herself worked half the hours and was tired and aching at the end of her shift.

Thus began a journey of twenty-six thousand miles across the United States to find diners and waitresses that fit the parameters of the project. Armed with digital camera, mini-recorder, maps and a scanner she interviewed fifty-nine waitresses in forty-three cities. Having been a waitress for over a decade she found herself able to speak the diner language.

Candacy Taylor tells the story of “Lifers” referring to the aging diner waitress. The chapter Ketchup in Her Veins, shows these resilient women walk, reach, lift, write, pour, wipe, socialize, bend over, pick up, memorize tedious details, argue with the cook and walk some more, making this career a true art form.

The chapter Tricks of the Trade focuses on veteran waitresses like seventy year old Rachel DeCarlo at Sittons North Hollywood Diner, California. “It’s like watching Fred Astaire dancing. She makes it look effortless,” says Karesse Klein a middle-aged waitress who worked with Rachel. How to carry several plates without the bottom of the plate touching the food, memorizing “the usual” for some two hundred customers a day and pleasing the difficult customer makes the veteran waitress a bit of a baby sitter and an actress changing roles from table to table.

Taylor dispels the waitress stigma of Flo telling customers to “kiss my grits” or a cigarette hanging out of her mouth that has fueled the stereotype of the diner or counter waitress. They have raised their children, put them through college, have nice homes and cars, all on the wage of a waitress. Most of them are divorced, single women, well educated but find they made better money waiting tables.

The history of women in diners in Counter Culture, details the strength, hard work and resolve of these aging women through the years. Despite long hours, heavy lifting and customer insults for up to 80 years these resilient women are among the healthiest, most vibrant and hardest-working women in the country.

The soft bound book is published by ILR/Cornell University Press and retail price is $19.95 and well worth the read. That's what a wise grandma would do.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Stitch In Time

So many of the old crafts we used to do as children are disappearing or left to us "old" people to do while in our rocking chairs watching the sunset. I don't think so!

I never understand when kids tell me they are "bored". How is that possible? What is that old phrase - idle hands are the devil's workshop? With the temperature rising and warnings of heat waves, my granddaughter and I have taken up a new project.

Teaching my granddaughter to crochet has been a fun project. My mother (great grandma) was cleaning out her closet and found a box of yarn and crochet needles. My granddaughter and I have taken up the chubby needles and are making long chains practicing our crochet skills.

Struggling through the first few chains of single crochet stitches, she found absolute delight in how easy it was to get rid of one's less than perfect work. A quick pull and no trace of imperfections are left - plus it's cool! And just as quickly, she picked up the needle and tried again. Today she brought me several long chains that she had not only finished off but started a new one on her own.

We have a project in mind, but we are keeping it a secret until we both feel our crochet skills are up to snuff! A cool indoor project in the middle of this heat wave! That's what a wise grandma would do.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Heat Wave!

I intend to enjoy the heat wave with as much enthusiasm as I was miserable during the cold spring. I suppose this means that gardens are an iffy risk this year. The cold kept the plants from doing much more than fighting off the slugs and now the heat is wilting the few blossoms that have managed to set.

But the extreme change in weather is a challenge to little ones. We chase them around in the winter to put on a jacket or socks. Their little bodies somehow resist warm weather clothing. But what does this mean during the summer heat?

Young children and older adults are the weakest link in this chain, so take the time to protect yourself and your kids these next few days. Plan cooler activities. In Oregon, the heat of the day is around 3 to 4 pm. Plan for early morning activities and maybe a trip to the movies in the hotter part of the day. The library is a wonderful place to enjoy a cool afternoon of reading and most libraries have activities for the summer season.

Water activities can be cooling but can also be the most susceptible to the UV rays causing sunburn. Try squirt guns or water balloons. Be sure pets have fresh water and have access to shade. Plan according to the weather and your summer will be safe and sane! That's what a wise grandma would do!

Friday, July 2, 2010

And All The Little Mice Wept

Yesterday, another piece of my childhood slipped away, almost unnoticed. I can picture her little mice friends all standing with the hats she made them in their hands, with heavy hearts sighing for their dear Cinderelly. The voice of a nightingale, or rather a fairytale princess legend will be forever silent.

Ilene Woods, the voice of Disney's Cinderella passed away July 1, 2010. This fairytale princess began as a teenage radio star. As a favor, Woods made a demo recording of "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" and "So This Is Love". After hearing the demo, Walt Disney contacted Ilene to audition for the role of Cinderella. Even though he had already interviewed 300 singers, Disney was said to have been impressed when he heard Ilene's voice on the demo.

And the rest is history. A character comes to life, not only through the magic of the very talented and imaginative Disney animation crews, but also from a voice that is recognizable to this day as the poor cinder girl, Cinderella. Ilene said of her experience after being declared a Disney legend in 2003, "Knowing that so many years from now, when I'm gone, that children will still be hearing my voice and enjoying the movie is the biggest thrill to come out this altogether. It was wonderful and wonderful working with Walt and all of the beautiful artists."

A true classic for this grandma, her children, her grandchildren and undoubtedly great grandchildren for generations to come, Ilene Woods will forever be Cinderella making every little girl believe that a dream truly is a wish that your heart makes. "Sing Sweet Nightingale"