You never know in life what opportunities will be presented to you. This past Friday I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and speaking to Paula Deen several times. Let me tell you how this all came about.
I have been honored to sit on the Board of Directors for our local chamber of commerce. One of the duties of being a board member is to attend ribbon cuttings and new member events. I was thrilled to find out Paula Deen had chosen our community to open her fourth restaurant. I was even more thrilled to hear we would get to have Paula actually cutting the ribbon and greeting attendees.
I saw on her Facebook page that Paula was going to be at the restaurant with her husband, Michael for the ribbon cutting and signing books at two specified times. The post said that you would have to have a wristband in order to have something signed and the wristband line would begin forming at 7 am in front of the restaurant. I really struggled with if I wanted to go because Fridays are my day off and I wanted to sleep past 5:30 am for one day.
Well, yesterday morning at 5:44 am I was wide awake. “Gosh,” I thought, “I should roll back over and go back to sleep.”. That wasn’t going to happen. I had more energy than I can explain so I hopped out of bed and proceeded to get ready to head to Paula’s restaurant.
Now if you read my blog An Angel Saved my Friend’s Life you already know the story of my friend choking and one of Paula’s waiters saving his life. As I got ready, I played in my mind how my day would go and how I would see Paula and share that story with her. I wanted her to know what a special man she had working for her. I kept visualizing in my head telling this story to Paula and seeing her listening to me.
In my mind I saw Paula at the book signing and me quickly telling her the story. Well, it didn’t happen that way at all but I am getting ahead of myself. Back to the line for the wristband.
Texas in April is usually in the high 60’s in the morning and very pleasant. For some reason it was windy and 53 degrees. Now you Northerners may think that sounds great but we who live in Texas find that to be freezing especially if you are waiting outside sitting on the cold, hard concrete for 2 1/2 hours. Yes, the line forms at 7 am but the wristband process doesn’t begin until 9:30 am.
As the doors opened at 9:30 am the sweet lady opening the doors said that we must make a purchase to get a wristband and one band per person would be allowed. You must be present to get a wristband and you had to present a receipt from today to get the band. I entered the store and found four cookbooks to purchase to have signed for gifts.
As I reached my turn at the cash register, I asked if I could have one book rung up separately which they did. I had a friend that couldn’t be at the book signing so she wanted me to have one signed for her aunt. I figured it would be easier if I kept her purchase separate.
Once you made your purchase then you moved through the restaurant to another counter where you presented your receipt for your band. Well I was distracted as this cute elderly lady came over to talk to me about my haircut and when I turned to pick up my receipt and my band I found two bands! I looked up to ask if I was supposed to have two bands and the staff handing them out was busy with others and I couldn’t get their attention. I guess they thought this amazing little lady was supposed to receive one of the bands.
Now you may wonder why I am so excited to get two bands. I will tell you it was because my daughter wanted to come and stand in line but she has a three-month old baby. The weather wasn’t ideal for him to be outside and she didn’t have anyone to watch him since her husband was working at that time. The second band was a blessing! Lexie would be able to meet Paula Deen too!
The book signing did not begin until 4 pm with lineup beginning at 3 pm. I had already scheduled to do my podcasts from 11-1 so I headed over to the studio to knock those out and I would go back around 1 pm to eat lunch and get prepared to get back into line and wait again.
As I headed back to Paula Deen’s I called my daughter to see if she and the baby wanted to meet me and my friend for lunch and then have our items signed. She said she would but it would be 30 minutes before she got there. I told her that was fine I would eat with my friend and have coffee and dessert with her and Levi.
We were seated quickly and placed our order when my friend said, “Paula Deen is behind you in the dining room.” I glanced over my shoulder and she was in the dining room. She looked beautiful in a royal blue blouse and bright yellow pants. I could hear her famous laugh behind me. “Oh my gosh I told my friend, try to get a picture of me and Paula in the background!” I contorted my body in all different position to try to accommodate this feat. “Here she comes,” said my friend, “Here’s your chance to tell her your story.” She was coming! As I turned and made eye contact with her I said, “May I tell you a quick story?” She smiled at me and said, “Tell me a quick story” in her sweet southern voice.
I proceeded to tell her about Aaron choking and Edward saving his life and how impressed I was with her team’s response to the situation. She responded to me, “Please tell me the name of the waiter.” I spoke, “Edward.”
Paula then told me a story of the same thing happening in Savannah and also when her husband, Michael saved someone who was choking. This was such a special moment for me and I appreciated how kind and caring she really was. Her live feed crew pulled her away to keep her moving throughout the restaurant.
I sat mesmerized by what a gracious lady Paula is. She truly cared about my friend and finding out who the angel was that saved Aaron.
Now fast forward 2 1/2 hours when my daughter is next up to have her books signed and she is carrying my beautiful grandson to the marble counter where Michael and Paula are signing. Paula said to my daughter, “Oh give me that sweet baby!” and took Levi from Lexie. Levi squalled and Paula made the cutest pouty face back at Levi. This was such an awesome moment for us. Paula gave Levi a big kiss and left lipstick on his face.
I was next, I clutched in the palm of my hand a mini gratitude stone I was going to give Paula. I moved up between Michael and Paula and as Michael signed my items I said to Paula, ” I have a small gift for you. It is a gratitude stone. I am so grateful for what to you have added to our community and for placing that angel in our lives that I want you to have this and think of us.” She smiled, stood up and gave me the warmest hug. If you look at the picture on Facebook, you will see the little pink heart next to her Sharpie cup.
Paula Deen, you are a remarkable woman. Patient, kind and so special. I have been blessed to have you touch my life.
I am so grateful I got up and visualized talking to Paula. The more I thought about it and the more detailed the movie ran through my mind the more it actually came to life. Thoughts become things and my gratitude for my first experience at Paula Deen’s restaurant made me even more grateful for the second visit.
I am living proof that the American dream still exists. It is still alive and well. There is only one trick, you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and work very, very hard. Paula Deen