Every week or two, Leah and I have meetings to discuss our blog, in person or via phone conference. Leah especially enjoys when we meet at our some of our favorite coffee spots. In particular, to Leah, Panera tops the list of places to go to get business done. She comes to the meeting with her binder, notepads, and file folders in hand and ready to go. And honestly, we get the most accomplished at Panera.
So what is it about that Cinnamon Crunch Bagel, Hazelnut coffee, You Pick 2 chain of a restaurant that lends itself so conducive to productivity for us? That’s exactly what we’re going to write about this week.
During each meeting, while Leah indulges in a chocolate chip cookie and I find bliss in cups of hazelnut coffee, we discuss our latest successes and challenges. We review past goals and create new goals. We always get so much done.
One of the most important discussions we have is brainstorming potential topics to write about. Every single meeting, for reasons I could not see until I looked at the situation upside down, Leah would mention wanting to write about her favorite restaurants.
How would this be of any interest to our readers? Where’s the take away? And for goodness sakes, why would I have to now WRITE about Village Inn after having to endure nearly three decades of eating there with Leah? Questions reeled through my mind as I dismissed the topic for months.
Leah’s diligence finally won and we chose the topic, On Favorite Meals and Favorite Restaurants. She’s always surprised me in the past, why would this time be any different? I opened my mind, and opened Leah’s e-mail containing her writings on the topic. Not only did her responses help me to better understand my sister, but turned my perspective upside down, highlighting the truth that there is great importance in small things.
When I go out for meals like breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner, and also when I go on Daddy Daughter dates or Ladies Night Out with My Mom, and also with my family and friends too and meet cousins in town we talk about where we want to go together to go to the places for meals. To go out to dinner is a special celebration time and I have favorite restaurants that I love and I want to talk and to write about them.
Immediately, Leah equates restaurants with special moments. Going out to dinner transforms into “Ladies Night Out.” The restaurants represent more than simply a meal to her, rooted in togetherness. Maybe there was something more here… I continued to read.
Here are some of my favorite restaurants I want to list: Village Inn, Summer Kitchen Cafe, Panera Bread, Romeos, Applebees, Chilis, Pizza Hut, Zio’s Pizza, Varsity, Cracker Barrel, Olive Garden, PF Changs, and Texas Roadhouse. I have a lot of other favorite restaurants too and I want to put TGIFriday’s on the list but it closed all of the locations and I am dealing with that and it makes me sad to not go to there anymore because my Boyfriend Mark and I love to go on Date Night there together always. I am doing okay but I want to say I love that restaurant forever in my heart.
A new Mexican restaurant I tried that I am starting to like and love is El Vallarta. I have a picture My Mom took there and they bring free chips and salsa at the beginning of the meal and I like that. I also love the chips and cheese at Romeos as my most favorite. I do like to try new and different places sometimes and then also sometimes I really like to go to my favorite restaurants that I love.
Reading her list makes every piece of my heart smile, which predominantly consists of oversaturated chains…Village Inn, Applebee’s, Panera. What is it about these places that keep her coming back again and again?
As Leah has grown older, the more aware she has become. In this awareness, a thousand questions flood her brain in each situation she encounters. Because of this, she finds comfort in consistency, in routines. When she goes to these familiar places, which are widely accessible and nearly identical, she experiences a sense of calm. She recalls having had positive experiences there before, whether it was an accommodating waitress who spoke to Leah directly and not through our mom (which always makes her feel independent, respected, and equal to everyone in the room) or that she knew with certainty that the restaurant would prepare her cheeseburger just the way she likes it.
When I go to restaurants I like and try to order independently on my own and all by myself to do a good job to ask the waitor or waitress about the menu. There are a lot of questions I want to ask about the menu at different places and things like if they have chocolate milk there as an option. I also have a hard time with spices on my food sometimes and just want the things plain like a cheeseburger ketchup only well done or a grilled chicken. And I have to ask questions if they can make it that way. And if I can do a substitute instead of French Fries like mashed potatoes with Turkey Gravy and make sure it’s creamy and does not have chunks in it. I do a good job to order by myself and sometimes I need help still but I work on it a lot.
Our family has been working on Leah ordering independently for as long as I can remember. There are so many skills that go into those few, seemingly unimportant minutes. Speaking clearly…to a stranger. Eye contact. Decision-making. Independence. The lessons during these moments are abundant.
After she has successfully finished, validation is crucial. She must hear that she did a good job. As humans, our self-esteem is fragile and confidence is vital to success. These moments may seem small, but the opportunity for building confidence is huge.
Sometimes when we go to the restaurant and we sit down to look at the menu before we order what we want to have sometimes I want to share something with my Mom and my Dad and share it with my family too sometimes and we split the meal together. I love to share meals together.
I also want to talk about that I like very much and I love it to have desserts too after the meal. I save room for dessert and take leftovers home from the meal and then share dessert. My favorite is to have pies like pumpkin pie, carrot cake, and cheesecake too but sometimes that makes too rich on my stomach so I only have a little bites and then take it home for later. I also love and like chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffin, pumpkin muffin, fruit smoothies, oreo cookie blizzard and there is a very last one I love and my favorite is a cake donut with maple frosted and chocolate frosted.
Leah’s reflections on restaurants also show me how important togetherness is to her. From birthday celebrations to Daddy Daughter dates, Leah values time with the special people in her life in a way we all should aim to more. She is present in those moments, soaking in the laughs…jumping at the opportunity to celebrate the small victories in life and bond over a piece of carrot cake. It wasn’t simply losing TGIFriday’s food that was hard on her; it was losing her and Mark’s special date night spot that affected her most. With Leah, emotions are almost always a factor, which is beyond important to remember.
Through restaurants, Leah has shown me that we must be mindful of why certain places and experiences mean so much to each other. To one person, taking 20 minutes to go for a walk together may mean the world. Another person’s week may be made if we give them a call rather than a quick text. Think about the people who mean the most to you. I challenge you to reflect on this and follow through. In what ways can you show them how much you value them?
I am also reminded of the importance of small victories. By losing 5 pounds at a time, and celebrating each 5 pounds, Leah lost over 40 pounds. Successfully ordering independently is one of Leah’s small victories. Waking up an hour before I need to get ready for work to spend time reading is one of mine (and YES I’m celebrating even though I’m only on my first week of doing this).
Lastly, I am reminded of the positive role that a sense of routine can have on productivity. Find your Panera, make some goals, and make them happen…always accompanied by a chocolate chip cookie and hazelnut coffee.
Here’s to turning our minds Upside Down.