Day 298. The Hostess One.

Last week, I met a friend at one of my favorite local haunts, J. Liu. Those of you who know me know that we've been going to this restaurant since it first opened and we have quite a few friends who work at both locations. But as time moves on, new people join the team as servers, hostesses, etc. and, as I am not someone to walk around saying "I am a regular! Pay attention to me!" we go with the flow.

So, Wednesday. I showed up around 7 to a happily crazy busy restaurant, was greeted by a new hostess, and was told that there would be a 30 minute wait for a table for two. No problem, says I, I'll hang at the bar. And, I asked if my friend, who is the executive chef, was at this location or the other this evening. "Here," she said and gave me a quizzical look. So, off I went to the bar. I wasn't silly enough to think I'd get a table right away at prime dinner time. I sat on the end of the bar and said hi to all the folks I knew as they walked by, we crossed paths, whatever. Up comes the hostess. "Wow, you sure know a lot of people here!"..."well, we've been coming here since it opened so you know, you get to know everyone". (I felt ridiculous, as obnoxious as many of you know me to be, drawing attention to myself in a blatant ego-feeding way makes me gag...now if you want me to make a fool of myself...well, that's a story for another day :) )

So, and here's the kicker. This lovely girl says "Oh well hello! My name is Megan, I've just started here so I don't know all the regulars yet and I know i should. Its so nice to meet you!" And, within 10 minutes, I had a table.

I share this story not to highlight that I got special treatment, rather, I was astounded by this amazing display of customer service and kindness from someone who couldn't have been older than 20.

I focus on customer service a lot, and the reason that is is because for me, treating each other with respect is one of the most important things in life. Whether you are a customer, a boss, a hostess or a passerby on the street, we don't know another's story and how wonderful when we can take the time to understand another's needs and, when possible meet them.

Trust me, I've told Megan's two bosses how great she was. She didn't act fake, she didn't act weird and she wasn't flustered by the either me or all the inherent craziness already going on in a busy restaurant. The entire night was lovely particularly because Megan started it so nicely.


Day 297. The Salsa One.

So, a few days after Christmas, with my sister-in-law and her family in town, we got Chipotle for dinner. Loooove the Chipotle - in fact, I've been a bit obsessed lately - so we ordered online and the husbands went to pick up dinner. When they came back, and we opened our dishes, we found that three were completely different from what we ordered. (Nothing is worse than when you are totally looking forward to something and expectations are just not met). So, I called and spoke with the manager who apologized and said he'd offer us three free meals the next time we came in. I asked if we needed anything and he said, no, other than my name which they would keep in the office it would be good to go. So, armed with trepidation, lack of trust in Chipotle's online ordering tool, and a promise I went about my day.

Which brings us to last night. We had good friends over to (finally) do Christmas together and total indecisiveness led to us going to Chipotle because we knew we had three free dishes coming our way. We each went through the line and ordered and, as Stephen got to the cashier first, he started the conversation about free food. A manager was called and, we were kinda expecting that maybe we'd still be paying for our food. Well then came Chip. Chip was tremendously kind and said, no problem and said, in fact, food for all four of you is on me. We wanted some chips and salsa (and guacamole!) as well and offered to pay for that and he wouldn't hear of it.

Chip immediately put us at ease, took care of our problem and endeared us not just to Chipotle but to that specific location (which is kind of a double edged sword! :) )

Its experiences like this that remind me how important customer service is. Chip exceeded our needs and was kind throughout the process. (and plus, his name is Chip which provided countless puns for Stephen all night long...his wife's name is salsa? get it? yeah, not funny)

We all can, and will, make mistakes, but its putting our customer's needs first and treating them with kindness that gets us through. Thanks to Chip for walking the walk and, I personally recommend the Chipotle on Tuttle Road as the bestest :)


Day 296. The Very First One.

Color me nostalgic, but the fact that the Real World (no I'm NOT giving you the link...its not good tv) is in DC prompts me to flip back and forth to it because the house these kids are in is eerily close to my old house. Tonight, they even went to their gym - which is my old gym. Yes, I know I sound like an old person but DC was, and is, a super cool place to live and thinking of it reminded me of someone...

My long lost friend Jason was a chef, the executive chef, at the first place where I became a regular (outside of where my parents had taken me, or where I had grown up, or where I went as part of a group). His restaurant, 1910 was on 18th Street in Dupont/Adams Morgan and it became "our place". My girlfriends and I would go there 2-3 times a week and we'd hang out more than our budgets probably wanted us to.

The cool thing was, that in addition to making really great food (I still crave the soft shell crabs), J taught me that I was, in fact, a foodie at heart. And, even though I was a twenty-something, he took the time to invest in teaching our little group about the new things he was trying - we got specials from the house and not just to eat, but also to hear why he chose those things, or that preparation or what went into making a dish. J even cooked at the very first event that I hosted and had catered.

Eventually, J left for a Hyatt in DC, and 1910 eventually folded and was two new restaurants even in the time I still lived there. Today, I know (by my credit card statement) how much I enjoy food, but it was J that helped me discover it anew, for myself. He was the first who got me to start thinking about food in an entirely different way than I had ever seen. And, because food is one of my true loves, I am forever thankful to him.

Day 295. The Enabling One.

Ah, enabling! Well, I can tell you this isn't what you think! This past weekend, I had the joy of going to dinner to celebrate my friend Amy's birthday. I was excited about the event and the people but had never been to our dinner destination - Marcella's. People had said good things, but I didn't know too much about the place.

We sat down as a party of 12 and we were a handful. Let's just sum it up by saying that it started with 5 of us ordering drinks...and then promptly moving seats (after telling the server we'd all be separate checks); then, I ordered the most ridiculous custom drink based purely on one ingredient that I saw on the drinks menu (Aperol - but that's a story for another day), followed by the fact that every. single. time. our server came to the table with something, she got at least two requests for something else.

But, our server, (Libby - demand her!) was amazing. She never lost her cool. She was calm, she was prompt, she was accurate and she was darn tootin' sweet. We knew we were a crazy group, and had there been delays, mixups, or problems with the service or food, I think we would have all taken it totally in stride. Libby made sure none of those things happened. At the end of the meal, I found myself realizing how little I had felt like I was part of a big group on a busy Saturday night. I got the same kind of service that I would have expected had I been a party of two in the middle of the week when the restaurant was dead. Libby truly made sure that we enjoyed our celebration and never had to worry about the meal we were eating as part of the party. And she was adorable - never flustered, never appearing rushed, super cute and any expression of appreciation was met with gratitude and sweetness.

I rarely - RARELY recommend a specific place or person when it comes to where to spend your money but this one bears mentioning - the food was great and, Libby, for every time I told you Saturday that you were awesome - know that I meant it 100 times more :)


Day 294. The Bon Jovi One.

Debbie. Bon Jovi. Those two things are all I need to say to those who know Debbie. There's a whole lotta meaning there.

I was truly blessed to meet this woman years ago when I was still looking to find my way in a new city (after moving back to Columbus). So much of my love for Debbie is found in the little moments, that would take pages and pages to explain - and those are things I'm not sure I want to share (eating chocolate dessert in a dorm room in Dallas comes to mind). But, I can tell you that Debbie and I have had momentous moments too - I credit her with being one of the main reasons I was able to successfully chair Races for the Cure; she and I had an amazing 3-day, 60 mile walk together for breast cancer, and a weekend in San Fran with our friend H that will go down in my personal memory as a top 10 experience (the icicles remain dedicated to you two).

But in all that, the essence of Debbie remains and that is why I cherish her. She lost her mom to breast cancer at far too young an age and Debbie is the model I look to for how to manage that emotion, that experience and that loss and how to support those who face the same challenges. Debbie taught me how to turn all that into meaning. She is the model of what I aspire to be, of how to be a true friend, how to share yourself, and how to drive your life in the direction YOU want it to go.

Debbie moved away a few years ago - and, I am sadly grateful to lose her attention to her family - her husband and new little one who she loves so very much. No matter where she is, Debbie is someone I carry with me every day. I hope for those who know her that they understand what a gift she is in their lives.

Are you still wondering why this started with Bon Jovi? Well its Debbie's favorite group - and there are many stories (a lot more of which I probably don't even know) of how Bon Jovi was part of all those monumental moments of Debbie's life - including the time when she was losing her mom. It started as a "little factoid about Debbie" but, as I got to know my friend, when a Bon Jovi song would come on, I'd linger to listen instead of thinking of being in middle school and changing the channel, instead, I'd listen to the words. And to me, what I hear is messages of perseverance, principle, strength, love and celebration. And that is Debbie. And that is why I love her. And every single Bon Jovi song keeps Debbie close to me no matter where she lives (now move back to Ohio already, girl!)


Day 293. The Artist One.

Let's cut to the chase - this is a blantant birthday wish for one Miss Amy Clark. Let us discuss the ways in which she rocks.

Seriously, I have known Amy only a short while, tho, the source of our connection is not too shabby herself (ahem, paging Anna C.!) and I should have known that Anna was right in building up Amy even before I met her.

I first got to hang out with Amy and her hubby at a YSC event, and we had a great time. There is something so liberating about being with people who just want to enjoy the moment. I feel that needs explanation - Amy and Alex know who they are - they are in touch with themselves, each other, and the moment. They are so strong in this skill that it frees them to live each second fully - whether we were eating brownies off of plates (with no hands), taking funny pictures, or dancing (even though noone else was), when you are with people who are living - there truly is nothing that is more fun, no matter what silly stuff you do.

Since this lovely first evening together - we've been able to hang out more, and my opinion of Amy has only gotten higher. She is someone who is following who and what she wants to be and it is such a true connection to her spirit. Amy does photography (puh-leez browse these pictures - you will melt) and I have also had a chance to have her take pictures of me. She can make you comfortable, and feel like you really are capturing a moment, or a feeling, not just a picture.

I think you guys know by now how I feel about those who are creative in the world - I truly revere them. Being with Amy just makes me want to understand how she experiences life - because it strikes me that its one of the most amazing, cool outlooks that exists.

You probably also know how I feel about birthdays - its the one day that belongs to YOU, its the one day when you DO deserve to be selfish, be celebrated, be lavished with love and fun. Amy, I hope your birthday is all that and more - I am thankful to have gotten to know you and I am thankful that you are who you are.

Now just go and get that hairstyle that looks like Nicole Ritchie.

LOVE YOU GIRL! Happy Birthday!

Day 292. The Big Ten One.

If you know me at all, you know that I lose my composure when it comes to sports - particularly college football and the Big Ten Conference. The season is, *sniff* winding down, and as crazy as it has been (NO the BCS still does not make sense, YES I'd have liked to see Boise State or TCU face off against a FBS team, NO ESPN should not have so much spin control over who should get the Heisman) I am realizing that soon I'll be stuck in the doldrums of no football to speak of.

So, after a Big Ten season that is complete with just one last game to go, I have to spotlight someone who got me through the season - and I didn't even know his real name till I started to write this. Its Tom Fornelli and I found him on Twitter, he goes by "BlogTen".

You know how there are times you search Twitter and you feel like "wow, I'm actually using this thing?" Well that's how I felt a few months ago, when the Buckeyes were home, or sometimes I was on my bike, and there were 3 other games all kicking at the same time as ours and I wanted to get the deets even if I couldn't be online (I'm obsessed, I already told you this). So you search Twitter for the #BigTen hash tag, and like doing this with any topic, you find some good peeps to follow and some bad, but BlogTen is, without question, the ultimate BigTen Tweeter. I don't know how he does it, but he keeps you up to date, with real updates to the split second on any and all BigTen games. Even if I was just trolling ESPN.com or other tweeters there's still no way I could keep the updates coming like he does. And real updates - names, stats, relevance of developments, interaction and Re-tweets with other tweeple.

Oh, and did I mention he's HI-LAR-I-OUS. Now, granted, its sports humor, but its FUNNY. And he's quick witted. I can't tell you how many times I read his tweets aloud during New's Years Day's bowl watching marathon. By the end of the day, the folks I was with would say "what did he say?" whenever my phone buzzed (yes, I get BlogTen tweets direct to my phone - he's that good).

Tom doesn't tweet about anything else - he's covered other college football games, but other than making a smart jab at a SunChips commercial that aired during the Fiesta Bowl last night (in which he *may* have revealed he has a girlfriend) there's not much else shared.

This guy is a heck of a resource for all things BigTen, but more so, what an example of a Twitter-er. He's focused, accurate, concise, funny and just plain good.

BlogTen literally increased my enjoyment of the college football season 100 fold and I will forever be grateful!