Thursday, February 21, 2013

The way the cookie crumbles

A simple Google search could have answered the question before it was even asked, as well as predicted the eventual tragic outcome.

Had my new neighbors used a simple search engine the answer to, “Would you like to be the Girl Scout Cookie Mom this year?” would have come screaming loud and clear across the Interwebs with a resounding “VERY BAD IDEA.”

But they didn’t. And I stunned the world by saying, “Sure, how hard could it be?”

As it turns out, pretty freaking hard. Or rather, not suited for a laid-back, disorganized, encroaching-hermit type of mother like me.

This painful reality became abundantly clear to both Troop 1297 and myself after the first 96 hours of online training courses I was required to complete. There were many poorly-produced videos on things like the history of the Savannah Smile and the use of sustainable palm oil, but not a word about whether a Merlot or Cab paired better with a Thin Mint. But I waded through (sober) and got my certificate of completion and a serious case of eyestrain nonetheless. 

Thinking I was thoroughly prepared for all things cookie, I was then surprised to find that I still had to attend the in-person training course which was held conveniently at 7:00 am on a Saturday morning. I don’t know if it was convenient, but it was certainly ironic since the woman running the seminar hadn’t slept the night before in preparation of our meeting, and I was still sleeping through it. She spoke in a quick clip for the next five hours about cookies, cookies and more cookies. I assume. I couldn’t really hear well over the caffeine buzz over the other mothers who had come equipped with Samoa-scented pens for taking notes and sales figures from the last seven years on their iPhones apps.

Since I was frantically writing my notes with a broken restaurant crayon on the back of my Publix receipt, I couldn’t help but feel as though perhaps I was ill-suited for this job.

Perhaps it was because I had never been a Girl Scout. I guess we couldn’t afford the fancy Brownie uniform so my mom enrolled us into the lesser-known, knock-off Campfire Girls. Instead of selling the famous cookie, our fundraiser came in the form of kindling and matches. It wasn’t nearly as successful, especially in the dry season. But that was back in the wild 70’s when our palm oil wasn’t sustainable.

So while I didn’t have experience to get me through the coming month serving as the troop Cookie Mom, I certainly had enough training. And emails.

Email. Lots of it. It was the one technological advance in the process since the advent of the quarter in 1796. Dozens of emails a day from several different levels of the organization all automatically-generated followed by at least three more from actual people explaining the previous email with a just enough passive-aggressiveness to hint at the drama below.

The amount of electronic notifications was in stark contrast from the actual website I was instructed to use to record, order and track our sales which was the most antiquated, confusing, and glitch-prone site I’d ever seen. I’ve been on the Internet since you had to plug in a land line into Tommy Lee Jones and Al Gore’s dorm room, but this one eluded me completely. It put the Wait? Why? What the? in www. I’ve had tic-tac-toe boards make more sense than those spreadsheets.

This use of Tripod sites and Hotmail addresses makes this process that much more difficult for a mother with the organizational skills of a crowd control usher for floor seating at a Beiber concert. In a middle school gym. Of an all-girls school. On the set of a Disney Channel sitcom. During a taping with Taylor Swift as the special guest star.

Frankly, I’m just not that intense about my baked goods.

But I am about my daughter. And a program that teaches, inspires and empowers young girls. 

So I will meet unrealistic deadlines, answer and send 4000 emails and tout the benefits of sustainable palm oil. I will glitter glue signs and set up card tables in front of grocery stores and humbly peddle cookies without counsel from a wine steward. And I will forget all about these many hours when I do it all over again next year.

Let’s just hope that no one on Council earns their Google savvy badge in the meantime.

©2013 Tracey Henry

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sunrise, Sunset

Change. There’s been a lot of it around here lately, but some changes are harder than others.

While I hadn’t been active on Whoa Momma in quite some time, I still held my eventual return to the Tampa Bay Times parenting site as a sooner rather than later event. As I was planning posts in my mind, I got word that the newspaper was shutting down the feature as part as their revamp. While the news wasn’t unexpected, it certainly wasn’t welcome as my experience with that paper and the journalists there is one that I am so extremely grateful. I met amazing women, learned a ton about the industry as well as myself as a writer, and developed a lot tougher skin. They have invited me to submit features and pitch ideas in the future--which I certainly will--but I will always have a soft spot for our trendsetting site in the world. 

As that door closed, others opened as the pithy saying goes. The National Wildlife group, Be Out There, has become active once again, and as part of their Board of Founding Mothers, I have renewed my commitment to them. I’m not sure what kinds of activities we will be involved in the coming years, but as one leader put it, “You can’t protect what you don’t know and love,” so I will do my part to get us all to love and know the outdoors.

And so suddenly, and this blog will get more of my attention. Twitter gets my hockey and 140 character wisdom @SubDiva and  Facebook gets my friends and family updates and I’ve updated my reading list with a star rating system here as well.

So stay tuned. Again. Who knows what’s coming next?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What's on the menu? No, really?

Every time I hear the phrase, “Grow old gracefully,” I think one of two things: the person speaking is in their early twenties with no power of observation or they live on the international space station where the laws of gravity don’t apply. And while I know certain aspects of the aging process are inevitable, there are some that I feel are completely manmade or at the very least, exacerbated by a cruel echelon of the restaurant industry.

And it’s got nothing to do with what’s on the menu, but everything to do with how it’s printed.

I’m no stranger to visual impairments. I have worn glasses since the fourth grade, got my first pair of contacts when I was sixteen, and have “CORRECTED LENSES” branded on my driver’s license. After years of deteriorating eyesight, I now stick a pair of contact lenses in my eyes the diameter of an espresso saucer. The number for the prescription strength on the box reads like the daily low temperature in Nome in January. I use enough saline solution in the morning to brine a barrel of anchovies. If I do want to wear my glasses I have wait for the requisition request from the planetarium to be approved. So believe me when I say I know vision problems.

But lately, even with my extensive prosthetics I can’t read a simple menu at a restaurant. I thought it was just me until I realized that every one of my friends suddenly has new reading glasses perched on the end of their noses. We hold our menus at an arm’s length away. We ask one another what they are ordering--not out of polite curiosity, but because we’re hoping someone in our group can read some selections aloud.

Because we are obviously still adjusting to this new phenomenon, often most of us never remember to bring our new readers. Or we’ve misplaced them--usually right on our heads. But that’s okay because women share reading glasses liberally--prescription strength is moot since we all self-diagnosed our purple tortoise shell frames with the matching case from the grocery store checkout anyway.

I’m not sure what restaurateurs have to gain by printing their menus in .00047 point font, for surely they’ve noticed that tables with diners over the age of 40 take twice as long to order as any other age bracket. We must seem terribly rude as well since as soon as we sit down and the menus are produced we immediately power up our cell phones. Not to text or make a call mind you, but to get some sort of focused light so we can read the wine list. Perhaps they do this purposely since inevitably I now always order the special because the waiter can recite it out loud and I’m spared the embarrassing struggle of trying to decipher the appetizers. 

Over dinner, we sometimes speak of improved sight options. Some have had surgery, others have trifocals. Just the thought of this gives me vertigo and I can’t help but wonder what happens in a stiff wind? Instead of the thousands of lives I’d put in danger if while driving I looked down a millimeter and blew through a stop sign because I was looking through the wrong lens plane, why can’t restaurants just forgo the ecru ink?

So please, I beg of you Emeril, Wolfgang, Bausch and Lomb, please help an aging, but still hungry, diner out. Taking a cue from the luggage carousel, once we retrieve our credit cards from the pile on the table by the multi-colored ribbons we’ve attached, I assume we are good tippers.

And at the very least, those waiters are going to have to repeatedly shout those specials of tapioca and prune juice at us soon enough.