A Slightly Different Sunday – Helper for a Day

catering gig

I have been going through something of a transformation of late. Not one of my choosing, but as it turns out, a transformation thrust upon me that appears to be changing me in a profound way. I was helping out a friend yesterday and while on our way to the wholesale club, BJ’s I went on a tangent—as I often do—about a kitten I had named BJ, (Bumper Jr.—a long story, and I was A KID.) Since there was the BJ theme, (hold the snickering, please), I followed up that superb piece of nostalgia with my rather strange infatuation with a television show, BJ and the Bear, a big hit from 1979 to 1981. Ok, maybe not a BIG hit… but it was on TV for 3 years!  And yes, I watched that show. Honestly, I had a bit of a crush on Greg Evigan. The monkey sidekick was a bonus. Strange how life tends to skew how we see things. Television helps in that respect. I thought driving an 18 wheeler looked so ‘glamorous’. Again, having a monkey sidekick didn’t hurt. But when I look back, I thought this was a cool job with what seemed like endless possibilities of fun. I realize that somewhere between an idyllic childhood and a cynical adulthood my opinions changed, reality took over and maybe my driving a big rig was not as glamorous as I thought. Clearly, I could not be wearing my pair of Donald Pliner couture boots in that particular job. Today I would look at being a travel expert or a food critic or fashion buyer as my slightly more tangible yet wholly unrealistic job choices.  As a kid, where others wanted to be a fireman or nurse, a doctor or a policeman, I was pretty sure I wanted to drive a BIG truck or a Zamboni—holding out hope I could work for the New York Rangers. We are taught that these aren’t necessarily the best jobs at all! At least, not if you want to make a lot of money and a lead a thrilling and glamorous life. Though, sometimes I still think having a truck and a monkey beats almost anything. But I digress, as all of my BJ and the Bear talk actually brings me to a point.

I had a most interesting, enlightening and rewarding experience this past weekend. And it was really just as a favor to a friend who has an emerging catering business. This was clearly not the same as driving a big rig with a monkey or giving the Ranger’s an ice resurfacing they could see their beautiful faces in, but it was the same in that it was something I had never done.  My friend is a wonderful cook, with years of catering experience. She needed a helper for the day of the event she was catering and without a great deal busying up my social calendar, I offered to help. On the day before the party, as she prepared oodles of food, I kept her company. I would love to say that I was a sous chef to the master as she prepared culinary delights, but reality is I was mostly moral support as she literally plowed through six dishes in no time at all.

For the day of the event, I helped her load the food, all the trays, and accompanying accoutrement into the car in what is probably my forte—organization.  I didn’t know what to expect. I have never worked in food service of any kind. Cooking for family and friends is vastly different. Like a seasoned pro, she had me and another woman, (whose ginger cookies were a big hit), helping in the set up as she got ready the appetizers. I was doing my best to aid her, but mostly just tried to anticipate anything she might need and do my best to stay out-of-the-way —even though the warmed brie with brandied pecans seemed to be screaming my name. NOT sneaking food was also a first for me. J

This was a surprise party for a golden anniversary couple. It was the bride who was unaware as the groom was in on the planning. I had my first tray in my hand as I floated through the kitchen and living room presenting nibbles of food to happy guests. The family was all there just awaiting what would be the very surprised woman of the house. I would not have considered myself much in the way of a people person, but found myself graciously offering stuffed mushrooms and tiny pigs in blankets, effortlessly holding a tray in one hand as my other held the fanned out napkins to take with ease. I think I had my epiphany as I knelt down, tray in hand, to offer some much appreciated food to a lovely 92-year-old woman. There it was–appreciation. It turns out I am very capable of smiling and walking around with food. I am equally—it seems—engaging and courteous. I mean I’m REALLY pretty good at it.  It is very possible I am making myself sound WAY better than I was, but everyone seemed quite pleased with our professionalism as well as the quality of my friend, Jenn’s, superb food. I can see where she gets such joy from her business, even though it is a GREAT deal of work to pull off a perfect party.  I saw instantly, the gratification on her face when we were finally packed up and heading home. I understand it. As with anything that you put your heart and soul into, that is as personal as your cooking and putting on a party, there is a level of satisfaction that is acutely apparent—and it WAS. I felt such admiration for her hard work having been received so well, and to be honest… I patted myself on the back a little for not having screwed it up.

I have worked in an office my whole life. There are so many other places to be. And I have to say that seeing how happy people are who have fewer headaches to deal with in putting together a party–like food prep, service and clean up–it was pretty gratifying.  It certainly helps that I am a self-professed foodie who loves to cook—and eat!

I always felt as if this was a job for other people. Mostly because I didn’t see how I would ever manage to prepare, transport and serve a feast, but now that I know it IS possible. I have a friend who loves it so—who is very good at it, and I truly hope she asks me to help out again. It was a pleasure getting out of my comfort zone. It was a pleasure working with a pro. It was a real pleasure getting great feedback.

So, that being said. If you have any need for an amazing caterer, and you’re in the general vicinity, check out:


Tell her Red sent ya!

xoxo DDJ


The pamphlet should read, “So you’re unemployed–Good luck with that!”

unemployment pamphlet

I find myself in unchartered waters. After 29 incredibly hardworking and loyal years for the same employers, I was laid off. Because of the time I first started working—contracts were not a standard—so I left with NO severance and barely any notice. (ZERO dollars.) As that is a still a touchy topic for me I will move forward to the reason I write today: NEWLY UNEMPLOYED

Whereas I am told there are good people, willing to go that “extra mile” for their fellow-man, I am having trouble finding them. Thus far the only good I see Is in that of my friends and family who have been putting up with my incessant—probably intolerable—whining.

The varying opinions, along with the openly incomprehensible lack of tact by “supposed” professionals is mind bending. I very much want to be the glass is half full girl. I want to go back to what was clearly naivety of FIRST believing in the good of people—right before being proven wrong.

I have applied for unemployment. Another low point in my life. It has been made clear to me NOW, that my choices in life were less than perfect. The structure and consistency of my everyday life has literally CEASED. I spend hours upon hours scouring for jobs, contacting people I thought were supposed to help but literally made me feel worse, (an agency, that out of respect I will not mention), and my days are depressing.

In the past I would watch or read the news each day and hear the numbers, some of the stories, of the unemployed and have no real connection to it. WELL, I do now.

It is infuriating to think my 29 years means so little. It is embarrassing to me to be dependent on anyone but myself. It is petrifying to think that I might have deluded myself all these years into thinking I am something I am not.

Being unemployed, not by firing, but by “downsizing” or whatever the trendy word is these days, does not change the facts. I no longer wake up, shower, dress, get on the train, go to work, do my job—very well—and am rewarded with my paycheck. I am one of SO many people, willing, ready and WANTING to work, but these wages need to allow me/them to keep my/their home and food.

I have decided that the fault is twofold. Creating more jobs that cannot possibly sustain any kind of life on Long Island, is a smokescreen by the government to make you think everything is getting better. WRONG.  Employers who prefer to hire people not on experience, proven performance or quality is the other problem. Everywhere I turn it seems that the rule of thumb is to take one’s chances with the less qualified, less experienced for LESS money.

I didn’t make a lot of money. And all I want is the chance to work… make close to what I was making, doing something I know how to do, in order to keep paying my bills. (Not credit card debt.) I am talking mortgage, insurance, utilities. I am like millions of others who are for reasons I shouldn’t mention here, like my age and experience actually being worth something, are being overlooked.

I am now one of the people who I read about, hear about, and my feelings  have far surpassed mere sympathy to downright heart wrenching empathy.

For anyone reading this who is currently unemployed and feeling as if crawling out from this place with your head held high seems increasingly impossible—I hear ya!

My life is changing every second as is everyone who is unemployed… and I can only hope that the upswing is nearing.

Xoxo  DDJ

Reach me at RED@dealingwithfools.com