Saturday, May 31, 2014

Closing the Coffee Chapter

This morning I sit on my back patio, coffee in hand, birds chirping all around me, and reflections welling deep within me. This morning, I have finally allowed some of the tears to flow from the emotions that have surrounded me over the last few days. This morning, I am bringing to you the story of the closing of my coffee chapter of life.
    Finding the right words for what the last few days....(or even years) of what my time in the coffee world has been is difficult to do. Coffee became much more than a poured latte or a fresh brewed cup. I will never see coffee, or any job, the same way.

   I have spent 7 years now in the world of coffee. My journey began at Starbucks, in 2007, in a town in Florida. Little did I know then that I would be doing it for so long. When I began the job, it was out of pure need. I really did not want to work at that time, I had to. However, I loved a cup of coffee so it was a great place to find a job. When I began coffee, I was terrible at it. But at that time of my hiring, my boss saw something in me that I didn't see. My first week at the job I burned my hand so badly, and did not even whisper a word about it because I didn't want to be in trouble. (Hindsight: that was a terrible way to handle that, but never having been in a real job before, I was clueless and thus, that was how I learned to report work incidents!)  a couple of months later, the Colonel Glenn Starbucks became my new coffee home due to our move.  Although I had learned a little, everything about life had changed and thus, once again, I was entering feeling extremely insecure.  There it took some time, but eventually I found a groove and joy in what I was doing. In time, I moved up the ladder to become a shift supervisor.

   Once again, there I learned i was capable of far more than I'd ever imagined. I could lead a team of 4 baristas and take charge of circumstances, events, problems and crazy moments. I wanted to be a shift supervisor in part for a little more money, initially. But there were greater purposes behind that new position. There were lessons imbedded for me to learn new capabilities. Characteristics I didn't know existed.  I faced rough sit downs with employees, forcing me to learn confrontation. I learned how to stay calm in moments it was total chaos, and how to keep the team calm as well. I learned how much value comes with a smile and a kind word.  I learned that I could lead and direct.  During my years at the Colonel Glenn Starbucks, I went through difficult life changes. A move, job changes, entering the work world full time as a mom, and hardest of all, the death of my mom. I made coffee every day, but the life lessons I took away from those years will reside with me always.

   Lastly, I have spent the last 3 years in a different coffee atmosphere. I took my Starbucks "skills" and lessons learned to a "calmer" or different, environment. I moved to serve coffee daily inside an office building. This change came at a perfect time in life, but little did I know what the future would hold. Again, here I say my soon to be boss saw something in me I did not recognize in myself yet. I had no idea I would be there 3 years. But upon my last day there, reflections of the time spent there has run deep. I made friends I never expected. Many of them have become a part of the 5K done in memory of mom.  I became the "bartender" of CareSource, they would say. When people needed a smile or a slice of quiet, they came for their coffee. Coffee became much more than that latte or brewed cup. I say this not to say "yay, me!" I say this because through my time there, I came to learn some valuable lessons about myself. Through different circumstances of life and even my day to day interactions, my boss taught me a lot about what was in me that I did not know was there. Little did the customers know that although they came for their coffee, they were in essence teaching me lessons at times, too. I believe I learned a few very strong lessons about life while there.

 One is: there is no such thing as just "a job".  Everywhere we are placed in life to work is no coincidence. We are there for a reason. To work, yes. But even more so, to use who God has created us to be for a larger purpose. You never know what kind of difference you are making just by being who you are where you are placed at that time. Yesterday, as I said goodbyes, that truth became more evident to me than ever. Please understand, I do not share this to say how great I am: I share this to tell you what I have learned and how that lesson came to be.  The flower arrangements came in all day long. I was overwhelmed every time a new one showed up. The cards kept being handed to me. The hugs were so much doled out that customers came to say it was like being in a receiving line at a wedding or something. I share this to say that it was through that, that the truth of there is no such thing as just a job really sank in to me yesterday. The love I felt was evidence of that truth. I repeatedly said "I'm just me. I'm just a barista"  And while there is truth in that, God uses the "just me's" in far deeper ways. No one is "just" someone. Everyone can be used. I made coffee. Simple as that. But that being said, He took that simple task and turned it into so much more, simply because of who I am. Through my time at the HeartBeat Cafe I saw great evidences of that truth. I think it took until yesterday to really fully believe it. Now I can take that into my next job and pour my heart into that in the running industry.

  The second most valuable lesson I have learned is that  you cannot let your circumstances, your past,  or words others say about you define who you are or what you become. My customers there would share their life stories, their hurts, their secrets, and their journeys with me often. Through listening to these of varying degrees, I often did not respond with words. However, when/if I did, it was more to tell them that those things or events or words were not who they were. In saying this to them, I was really more preaching to myself just as much. Words hold grips on me. And so often, words have prevented me from becoming something or someone I have a capacity to be. As I listened to their stories, I think I began to see this lesson in my own life. I wanted them so badly to rise above whatever pain they were sharing and see what I could see in them. But....I have to do the same for myself.  Once again, in ending my chapter yesterday, I believe that truth resonated deeply in me for the first time.

    My years working as a barista taught me much more than how to make a good latte. I learned through various people and circumstances these valuable life lessons. The coffee stories will continue to flow, but the reflections needed to be the theme of today. The coffee chapter closes.  A new depth of running chapter will open. These 2 loves of my life have come full circle in some aspects. The path of what has occurred the last several years is amazing to look back on. Were it not for me working in Starbucks, I never would have gone to the Air Force Marathon. Were it not for that, i would not have developed a love for running, or met those who will now be my current boss and coworkers. Were it not for my love of running, I never would have started my 5K. Were it not for the 5K, I would not have become certified as a race director. Were it not for that, I may not be having my new dream job.... Coffee and running colliding with God's perfect plan unfolding. Lessons learned and  a path well worn and journeyed. But perfect all the same....
    One chapter closing, another opening. 2 Loves colliding. One day at a time.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Karen and The Hugger

I have 2 more days left in the coffee industry world from the barista's perspective. The change is beginning to sink in with me. I am overwhelmed and excited. Scared and nervous. Unsure and sure all at one time. have you ever been there? Where you were riding the roller coaster of emotions? Often times for me, that roller coaster has occurred because of a dramatic (bad) change or event in life.  For the first time in a very long time, this is happening for one of the best changes ever.
  That being said, I will miss my daily interactions with some of these people. They tell me I have touched their lives; but to me honest, they have touched mine. Hence, I write these stories recently of all the different people with whom I have crossed paths. The blogs will flow for a bit even after I leave the coffee world because I have been privileged enough to have had that many interactions.

  Today I tell a story about 2 different women who have deeply touched me.

First, there is Karen.
   I do not always recall my first encounters with people. But with Karen, the first encounter stands out in huge ways, probably because she tells the story over and over. Yet, for me the story never gets old; it has grown endearing. Karen first came in to order a large caramel macchiato. For some reason, and I cannot remember what that was, I pegged Karen as a Starbucks drinker. So when she ordered her coffee (skinny, by the way) I had to ask/explain several things before making her drink. First, I asked her if she was a Starbucks frequenter. When the answer was yes, I explained that our C.M. was different from a Starbucks one. And did she want it the Starbucks way or our way? She laughed about this, but chose the Starbucks way. Her drink ever since then, although to a common person would just be called a skinny caramel macchiato, to most people around the building, it became known as "The Karen". I literally would have people come order The Karen.  There are others who pegged themselves a drink as well, but Karen's became the most ordered (perhaps because she told the story often enough others knew...)
   Along the way, Karen became a friend. Being as busy as she is, our conversations are not long, but they are meaningful. Karen, by no means takes the place of my mom, but has often times provided just the bit of encouragement to me that my mom would have done. Days I missed my mom terribly, Karen seemed to know this and would say just the right words. We would share stories about our moms or about our loss of mothers. Many days, when I was struggling as a parent, Karen would listen. She has raised daughters and k nows the struggle of what a mom who works full time can be. She let me often share my frustrations over those things or the transition in parenting a middle school girl. She knew what to say to help me see myself differently (just like my mom did). Karen always encouraged my runs and supported my early morning endeavors. Karen has often had just the right amount of wisdom and encouragement to give me in the moments I felt doubts and discouragement. She has frequently helped push my endeavors as a writer in ways others have not, usually unbeknownst to her. She said she came for coffee for her moment of peace in the day.....but what she didn't know is that her visit often provided me with the boost of encouragement I needed that day. God knew we'd need each other, I think, is how I view that.  Karen has made an imprint on my life.

Secondly, I do not know if she would want named, so I leave her nameless in this blog. But we will call her "The Hugger".
   She is not a coffee drinker. She loves hot chocolate with a splash of peppermint. I do not remember first meeting her. Time passed before we developed a deeper friendship, but along the way, she has come to know me at a depth others do not. She gave up her hot chocolate during the Lent season, but she came in every day anyway just to give me a hug and say "hi". She would stop what she was doing if she passed by me while I was at my cash register at lunch and give me a hug. She didn't have to hear my voice to see in my eyes when I was having a tough day. I don't wear it on my sleeve (usually) but the hugger somehow always knew. I have run into her on many occasions outside of work- the grocery store, clothes shopping or the mall, and every time, the first thing that happens is that she gives me a giant hug. I never told her I love hugs and how much they mean to me, but she just gives them, and that always brightens my day. She understands grief. She has watched me develop dreams and passions and ambitions and has been one behind saying "Go for it! You can do totally do this ...and you better do this!" The hugger has come to be a very close friend to me, and her strength, determination, go get 'em attitude, security in who she is and vibrancy for life have inspired me beyond words. The tid bits of wisdom she shares when it's appropriate have caused me to pause and think and grow in who I am. The hugger has made an imprint on my life.

These 2 women are unique and special.
 Each person is.
   That is one of many lessons I have learned in being a barista- we each have gifts and abilities, no matter what our position or status in life. I will share some of those things tomorrow.
     Stories to follow in days to come about my bosses and a plethora more of customers....

My time in the coffee industry has been special and unique, no doubt.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The older generation

I began to type that I love the older generation and have a soft spot for them, but what I've come to learn is that I really just love people. Some will hold bigger spots in my heart than others, but I really enjoy people of all ages and stages of life. They all teach me something in some fashion, all in their own unique ways.

  One would not think that the older generation frequents the coffee shops, but I can tell you firsthand that they do.  Most of them just want a cup of coffee and nothing fancy, but you can still find them in the coffee shops. Here are a few recollections...

   Abu is a short, old man of middle eastern descent. He has a thick accent and you have to listen closely at times because he will speak quickly. Abu has giant smile lines around his eyes and mouth because he truly is smiling all the time. He has a joke for many occasions and always a reason to laugh. Abu has proudly brought pictures of his new grand baby to show off to me and recounted stories of his kids. He loves people,too, and is frequently buying a cup of whatever the person next to him is getting, simply because he has a big heart. He looks for nothing in return, and often times he doesn't even really know the person, but by the time he leaves the coffee shop, he does know much about them. Because that is Abu. A kind-hearted, silly "old" man, but young at heart. Abu is in the shop at least 3 times a day, and I tell him he will turn into a cup of coffee. I am glad Abu crossed my path and became my friend.

    Frank was an old customer of mine at Starbucks. Frank was former military and was rarely seen entering the store without his black hat with yellow writing of whatever his military group was. He was a proud veteran. Frank was so kind. But what I learned and loved most about Frank was his devotion to his wife. Frank and I came to know each other because he was in search of a good cup he could buy that had a straw but would not break or spill when tipped over because his wife was dying from cancer and often times spilled her cups. He loved her with a passion rarely found in people today. I know not because I met her myself, but I know because of how he talked about her and the light his eyes got when he told stories about her.  He cared for her in her dying days and we connected, not because I understood a spouse dying, but I understood grief. And thus, I would quietly listen and soak in each and every story he'd tell. A grieving person, or one knowing they soon will be letting go, often has to share and that helps through the process. Frank shared many stories with me. Little did Frank know that he was teaching me lessons in the process. Lessons about love and faith and open, caring hearts. Frank inspired me. He held a love that is rare to be found any more. He held what every fairy tale does. Frank's wife passed, and the sadness was in his voice as he would share how much he missed her. And yet,  the love of the years they had together was stronger than the sadness and proved to keep him going strong. He talked of her much even after her passing, and their love story will always resonate with me. Frank even came out to support me at Relay for Life, as cancer was a sickness that had touched both our lives and ultimately, bonded our friendship. He was a grandfather type figure to me, but he was even more so a friend. I learned much from Frank.
Me and Frank at Relay for Life

   Diana is not old enough by any means to be a grandparent to me; she's more along the lines of what my dad's age is, most likely. She reminds me of my mom in some ways. But Diana has stood out as an inspiration to me. Diana had cancer. Little did I know this until she returned from months of chemo/radiation and had a beautiful wig on. But more than her wig stood out, her smile and positive spirit did. She never complained. She was always grateful for coming through the cancer in a positive light. She embraced the experience instead of being bitter about it. She did not allow it to control her or change her, she took it and let it become a story of great triumph and bravery. To be honest, I am not even sure what kind of cancer it was. It really doesn't matter. Diana has taught me about perseverance and good spirits. When her hair began growing back, she became even more beautiful and to watch her embrace the new look was just as empowering. She taught me about what being a secure woman can look like in a day like today. She is strong and beautiful and an inspiration. And her encouraging words upon my announcement to move on from the coffee industry gave me strength and inspiration as well... Diana will forever have an imprint on my life.

The stories of the "older" generation go on like this.... hard workers, true lovers, strong character, steadfast faith, and genuine souls. The lives of those with whom I've interacted in the older generation have greatly touched me and taught me more than they ever knew. In fact, they probably had no idea they were touching me in that way. I am grateful to have had so many encounters.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Military friends

Today is Memorial Day, so it seems appropriate that my "Coffee is a Love Language" story would involve the military men and women with whom I have crossed paths because of coffee.
  I have always had a special spot for military because, 1- I am forever grateful for all they have done for me. I am fascinated by their strength and determination and bravery. And I highly admire each and every position that can be named.  and
   2-my younger brother is a Marine, and thus, I have an even deeper love and appreciation for what they endure and do for our freedom.  Tim has done a couple tours in Iraq/Afghanistan as well as other places, and I am so proud of him.
  I had the privilege to work as a barista right next to an Air Force base, and thus, many military frequented our store.
  To be honest, i can't recall all of or even many of their names.
 I worked hard during that time to understand and learn the ranks so when they would come in, I could properly address them. It was my pleasure to serve countless men and women their coffee.

 A few stories from those days stand out.
    There was Megan. Megan was a young mom, and served in the Air Force. During the time our paths crossed, I knew Megan pregnant and then giving birth, and then I said goodbye to her as she had to do a tour oversees. When Megan returned from that tour, her husband then deployed. Megan was always smiling, in spite of the exhaustion she felt. She was happy to serve our country. She was also happy to come in and treat herself to a coffee and  a place to find a few minutes of quiet and solitude.

 There was Andrea. Andrea was in every Saturday morning with her  boys. She did this to give her husband the morning off to sleep in or do whatever it was he wanted. The three of them would sit up at the coffee bar. Andrea would read the paper and the boys would talk about sports stats and play with their toys. Everyone knew Andrea because she just had that friendly personality.

  Countless others touched my life and crossed my path in that time. Mothers of young children whose spouse was deployed. Men who came in in their uniform, tired, but holding heads high nonetheless. Women who gave up time to serve the country. Countless customers, dressed in uniform, seeking a smile and a slice of quiet in a simple cup of coffee.
   One of my favorite things about being a barista at Starbucks was we had the privilege to give 2 drinks away a day. We had a pass code of sorts we used and we were able to choose whom we wanted. Random surprise and delights, we called it. I loved when I was able to give mine to a military person to say thank you. Such a simple gesture for such huge efforts they do, but sometimes, there are no words to do justice for their acts of service.

 During my time there, I was able to head up a project to love on our overseas soldiers. Customers had the opportunity to "submit" their soldier for our project, and we would feature the soldier with a picture of them and a list of their favorites. We would then collect their favorites over a couple of weeks and send them a loving care package from their neighborhood Starbucks. I loved being in the middle of that. I met Judy, a mother of a soldier and Kim, another mother of a soldier, and we connected as we collected items for their sons who served overseas. I cried in reading some of the letters we collected for those soldiers and felt pure joy at sending them a little piece of home. That project was short lived, but one of my favorite memories of my time as a barista there.

  This is why I say coffee is a love language. It is universally spoken. A cup of coffee bought for another person says more than words can at  times. It may seem silly until you begin to be a witness of its occurrence time and again. I am blessed to have had the privilege to serve coffee to so many ranks and personnel..

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Coffee is a Love Language: The Three Musketeers

                    Chapter 5. The Three Musketeers

They are silly, sarcastic and sentimental all rolled into one. I love their daily morning visits and occasional afternoon stop by for their coffees. 
  The Three Musketeers, I call them. They bring smiles to the day with their crazy ideas and conversations. They bring heartfelt hugs on days like mom's death anniversary. They see things that others don't, and then bring it around as a joke the next day that only we would understand. They are totally the three musketeers. 

 Musketeer one: She is unique and wonderful.  She has been my customer the longest of all of them. She drinks a large coffee every morning, and often times the pot runs out on her and she is "blessed" enough to have learned my process well enough to grab the new, freshly brewed pot. She will not take the cup or the lid if it is the last one in the box, and frequently, though there is one cup left, I will have to go get a new sleeve so that she will be satisfied. I have embraced these things about her. She is part of the motherless daughters. She understands my frustrations and hurts and listens well. She is definitely silly and sarcastic, but she is sentimental too. 

Musketeer two: She rolls her eyes often at the other 2 musketeers, but totally out of love. She brings reality to the table. She drinks a medium mocha, non fat, no whip, every single morning. Her afternoon drink is a simple black coffee. She follows my blog and supports my endeavors. Often times she has happened by the silliest moments in the coffee shop, and thus, we share laughs frequently. She has a caring heart that reaches beyond places she even realizes. Musketeer two does her best to bring the other silly ones back to moments of reality from their far fetched ideas, which are so very crazy at times. She listens and cares. 

Musketeer three: She does not show her sentimental side as often, but it's deep in there. I force hugs on her.  She is the newest to my body of customers, as the three musketeers go. She likes tons of whipped cream on her drink. She finds ways to laugh when there should be tears involved. She has a quick comment for everything, which is quite endearing about her. She always includes me in the conversations. She's brave and strong and understands grief like no woman her age should. She has become a great friend to me as well. In fact, she tried to declare the others to wear green in honor of my leaving. 

These three are found together in my shop nearly every morning. I look forward to their visits, to hearing what crazy idea they are brewing up on that day. One of the latest having something to do with making their kids steal something and go to prison so they could get a free education....(mind you, they are not serious, but just listening to these crazy conversations is hysterical and leaves me speechless at times).  They quietly acknowledged the anniversary of my mom's death- not something everyone was aware of. Two of the three have a deep understanding of grief in ways we should never have to comprehend. The third quietly lends her support in all ways- by being there, by giving cards, by coming to the walks. She may not have that circle of understanding per say, but she is one of the few in life to let us grieve and just listen and be there. Each of them reached out to me on day of my half marathon to wish me luck.  The three musketeers are confident women, whom I admire for their strength in each of their own ways. 
  One- a single mom, strong in her provision and love. Others come first always.Her silliness. Her realness.
  Two- a confident woman. Loves others and listens well. Cares deeply and gives back.
 Three- a strong woman in character. Loves God. Does not let others bring her down, she is strong in who she is. 

  These silly three musketeers have given me much about which to laugh and remember. 

Still Going Strong

"Run often, Run long, but never outrun your joy of running."
   Julie Isphording

I am on day 19 of the 30 day running challenge, and I am still going strong.  This challenge has certainly been a challenge for me, but it has been an enjoyable one, and different from any I have ever pushed myself through. 
 A recap of some of the days look like this:

  Day 10- The morning was dark and drizzly. The night had been full of pouring rain, but as I started off, there was only a drizzle in the air. However, not long into the run, the pour down began. I had opted out of my glasses for the run, which is a rarity because I can't see far without them. However, rain covered glasses don't get me far, either. So, I decided it would be a shorter run. The downpour began, and all I can say is that it was warm enough out that I became like a child again, splashing in the puddles. I didn't avoid them, i laughed as I ran through them. I didn't mind the downpour, I ran harder through it. I didn't care about my shirt and face dripping wet, I wiped my face and pushed on with a smile. Day 10 was wet, but it was fun. A welcome change. A reminder that no matter the weather, life still goes on. A reminder in life parallel, that no matter the difficult times, the rainy days, the rough patches that happen, smiles can still be found, the sun eventually reappears, and life will carry on and I will somehow always be ok. 
Day 10 end of run. I look like a drowned rat!
Who shares awful photos like these? Only a crazy runner such as myself....


Day 11 was polar opposite of day 10. A cold front blew through with the rain, and I woke up to a cold and gross morning. I did not want to run this day. I had loved the warmth, being in shorts, and feeling free. Having a cold snap in the middle of that was like tight muscles, restrictive clothing and the blood taking time to warm up just in time for run to be ending. However, I pulled out my lightweight running pants and dragged myself out the door. The run didn't end up being so terrible. I had left the headphones at home, and enjoyed the sound of the birds chirping and drinking in the smells of the morning grass and the post rain air.  By the end of the run, my blood was warmed up and quite honestly, I did not want to stop. 

Day 12  I am happy to say I was able to take my running buddy out once again. The vet cleared Dexter for some short runs, so day 12 was the first for him to go out with me again. I don't know if he was more excited or if I was! We could only go for a mile, so day 12 was short, but sweet. He did great, stayed by my side, and pranced like a puppy. It was nice to have him out with me again. He did great, and eventually will be on long runs with me again, but not for a bit of time. He needs time still, so it's baby steps. Having him for a mile was joyful.

Day 18 I had friends join me once again. I rarely can talk people into the early morning time with me anymore, but on day 18, Tiffany and Laura met up with me and out we went. For me, as much as I enjoy the solitude of my runs at times, I do enjoy the companionship at times, too. I had missed having people with me. I said to Tiffany "haven't you missed these runs??"  She turned her headphones higher and laughed and said "Huh? I can't hear you!" We laughed and kept going.... 

  today is day 19. I'll lace up and head out soon. When I began this journey, I had interviewed for my new job, but had not heard yet whether it would be. I began this journey of 30 days, and what a journey it is becoming, as through this journey, I will be closing up one chapter and beginning another. When this 30 day journey ends, I will be in my new job, which centers around running at the Marathon office. This 30 day challenge has become so much more to me than just going out running for 30 days straight. I am recognizing all new things about myself and when I run each day, it gives me time to process those recognitions and it gives me time to recollect the past days and be excited about the future. The 30 day challenge has become a journey of faith for me as much as pushing myself to run every day.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Chapter 4. Chicken Nacho and Black Bean Burrito

 Chapter 4

As referred to in last blog, my co worker, Tiffany and I somehow came to be known as Chicken Nacho (Me) and Black Bean Burrito (her). It's not that we were called that all the time, but we laughed about this often, saying it would become a book about us. Well, here we are, not in a book, but on a blog.  
 so many stories have occurred between the 2 of us in our working days, that she deserved her own page.  We have laughed so hard we couldn't talk at times. 
  As I said, we work like clockwork together and don't have to say a whole lot to accomplish all our tasks. She is a strong, determined, funny, confident woman I admire. She is my friend. Here are some of our silly stories:
The Running Man: Tiffany will often break out in a dance move. I, on the other hand, will not be found doing that. However, when Tiffany and I have no one around, I will get silly and do a little jig at times. One day, Tiffany said "Let's do the running man". You know what I mean...the dance the running man. She did it smoothly and effortlessly. Then it came to be my turn. For the life of me, I could not accomplish it. Every time I tried, I began to look like a person jogging in an awkward state. I simply could not do it. No matter how many efforts I have given it, I fail. But it has become hysterical. Tiffany will say "For a runner, Rachael, you really should be able to do this dance move." She has tried on more than one occasion to teach me some dance moves, but we have decided it's just not going to happen. I will be the whitest white girl when it comes to dancing. She laughs any time this story surfaces

Black v. White: Tiffany is black, I am white. Literally. (While that could be a sensitive topic to broach, please know that the color of our skin difference has never once played apart in our friendship. So please understand it is actually a basis of our friendship and not a racist remark). She will laugh that I am the whitest white girl she has ever met (case in point-I cannot do the Running Man). We have often discussed the differences that we experience simply because of this different background. I recall specifically a conversation about hair. I could not comprehend why Tiffany would not run with me in the rain, or why she had to have an umbrella all the time in rain. She explained to me it's a difference between white people hair and black people hair- it just doesn't work in the rain. Period. She explained what a relaxer is and how they have to use that in their hair. She explained the difference in how it grows, or why some have extensions often, and all those things that were once foreign concepts to me. We've discussed the differences in our choices of music, our bodies and how we view them and a little of all that in between. Tiffany has taught me much about this. Skin color has never mattered to our friendship. 

The Bucket List: We began our own bucket list. At times, Tiffany would randomly pop over to the coffee shop and say "Write it down- this is going on the bucket list...." We pretend we will one day carry them out together and write a book about it all called "The Adventures of Chicken Nacho and Black Bean Burrito". We have an on going list, some silly some serious. 

Free Style Friday:  Tiffany likes to make up days. In other words, Fridays are often Free Style Fridays. We have to rhyme all day. Or I made up Sing Song Thursday (even though when I start to sing she will tell me to stop).  She will find whatever resembles a microphone and pull it out to sing into. We bring silly to the table to make moments pass through the day at times. We are both super busy in our jobs, but in between, we like to have fun and be silly and do these silly games. We attempt to play games during our cashier lunch hour, but we usually only get started and then never finish because we are too busy. Most of these made up moments in the day bring much laughter. Especially because I am frequently the serious one of the staff. Meaning, I often times don't understand half of what is being said, or if a person makes a comment, I take it to heart, so they like to do it to me just to make me pause and say "Do I really do that?" or "Am I really like that?" Then they all laugh because they do it just to get to me.  Free Style Friday is fun because I clearly am not the best at it and they can all watch me think hard to come up with something to "free style". 

Hester:  If you are around us often enough, you will inevitably hear me called "Hester". The name was tagged onto me by Tiffany. What happened was at one time, there was a customer who consistently called me Heather. I don't know why- I do wear a name tag with my own name. But I also never corrected the person. I simply answered to it. One day, Tiffany finally told the customer my name was not Heather because she couldn't stand it any more that I wouldn't correct it. Then it became a big joke, and somehow she turned Heather into Hester. She liked that even better. And the name stuck. So much that you may often hear my boss calling me that instead of my own name. It's strange, but somehow sentimental in some ways too. 

Pure Laughter: Tiffany and I laugh a lot. She will say something, then laugh because "I crack myself up" she will say, which can only make me laugh too. She has forced me to be able to laugh at myself. There was once a story I was telling her about my bad night, and the story ended because by the end of the night I was on the floor crying because my toilet was clogged and I could not get it to unplug. She interrupted my story by laughing so hard because all she could picture was me sitting on the floor holding a plunger crying and she found that hysterical. It actually forced me to be able to laugh at myself in that moment because she was laughing so hard. Not making fun of me, but helping me see it all in a different light. We will banter back and forth so much that we end laughing. She is quick with her comments, it takes me about 10 minutes with a comeback, which leaves her shaking her head and laughing. The girl just makes me laugh, no matter how tired we are, how busy we are, how sad one of us might be.... She brought daily laughter back to my life at a time after having lost my mom and thinking I'd never laugh like that again. 

Tiffany is that rare co worker that comes along with whom I bonded. I am confident that my moving on will not be the end of our friendship or our silly stories. She has made me laugh to tears, been there to hug me when I've been in tears, she has forced me to learn to laugh at myself, and she has helped me to learn to embrace confidence about who I am. She has helped me to see my faults and fix them and to point out my strong points and use them. Tiffany is a true friend. If it weren't for my being a Guckenheimer Girl barista, we'd never have met. I am thankful for that experience. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chapter 3. Barista Buddies

   Chapter 3. Barista Buddies

  In the course of 7 years, I have had a handful of great co workers, with whom I have  many stories.  I have also had challenging co workers, as do all of us at times. (The boss' will get their own page, so I am not counting them in this "chapter") . Some of those barista buddies have stayed my friends, even though we parted ways. Others were clearly a barista buddy for the season only of sharing our barista days.   

 Joey and Daniel were the 2 silliest co-workers I ever had. Those 2 guys were a pair when they worked together. Nothing was dull. We were always busy, and they always worked hard and did an awesome job, but they always made shifts at Starbucks fun. They would do impressions of the customers that kept us laughing for the entire shift. Not a "make fun of " customer impression, but genuine impressions, with facial expression, verbiage and body language. We would all be rolling in laughter as we would guess who they were impersonating.  These guys were 2 of the hardest workers, though, and you could always count on them to get it done. 

Rachel and Travis were like siblings to me. Rachel met her now husband at Starbucks, and I was the matron of honor for her wedding. We shared a name, but we shared coffee passion and we shared work ethics and determination. Travis and I joked that we were brother and sister. Travis helped paint my entire house when we moved into it in 2011. He painted every baseboard and casing in the house. He was always there to help when needed. We were often called the 3 amigos. We called ourselves the 3 siblings. Travis actually was brave enough to stand as a brides man in Rachel's wedding as well. 

Bekah. Bekah came to our store from a Chicago store, and I can't remember meeting her the first time, but she and I connected. Bekah worked extremely hard, but she was always singing a song. She'd make one up about everything and was known as the singing barista. Bekah did not enjoy coffee on a level like I do, but she did drink plenty of doppio con pana with caramel drizzle. More to come on Bekah in future posts, but Bekah is literally family now, as she married my brother. 

Cassie. Cassie was a character. Tall and skinny and determined. One shift, I was working a close with Cassie and someone else (don't remember who) and it was insanely busy. In the midst of my ringing up a customer, Cassie literally passed out behind me. I'll never forget that moment. I battle anxiety and those who knew that thought I would freak out. But I remained calm and the situation was remedied eventually, but Cassie will always hold memories, as she was also one of the first Shift supervisors for me to train as that. She eventually took my place.

Savannah. Savannah was bold and silly and strong in character. She was bubbly and full of spitfire spirit. Savannah did not like being put down or disrespected. She was the barista who, if she did not like what a customer did to her or her coworker, she decided to give them decaf. She felt they needed to calm down, not have more espresso. I always would shake my head about that, but Savannah had her ways. She worked hard and stood up for herself and what she believed in. We bonded in some great ways. 

And that brings me to my current barista buddy. Although she would really be more my cashier buddy. We call ourselves the Guckenheimer Girls. (If you don't know, Guckenheimer is the company I work for currently). Tiffany. Tiffany and I have become dear friends and I believe we will remain that, even in parting ways.  Our boss likes to give nicknames from random stories or sometimes just because. She and I become Chicken Nacho and Black Bean Burrito. Don't ask why- we really are not sure. However, we embraced it and laughed about it. Tiffany and I work like clockwork. We don't have to speak to know who will move when or do what. We just do. She knows my moods and I hers, and we don't have to verbalize much to understand what the other needs. We have faced similar experiences, we have cried. We have laughed. I rarely laugh as hard with anyone like I do with my sister, but Tiffany and I do that. We say, in jest, that we were separated at birth. Tiffany deserves her own page and chapter because we have just had that much life together the last 3 years. 

some of my tougher co workers from over the years will remain nameless, but I have learned from them to be more bold for myself- to not be "run over". I have learned from those experiences to choose my battles- sometimes a battle isn't worth it and it should just be let go. I have learned to verbalize my hurts and my frustrations at appropriate times and measures. From those tougher ones, I have grown into a person who has learned to rise above a situation. I have those tough co workers to thank for helping me become a bolder person in some aspects. I have certainly shed tears some moments from those interactions, but all in all, those interactions also help shape me. It has often come from one telling me I can't do something to helping push me to prove them wrong. (It's the stubborn side of me that doesn't come out too often).  As tough as some of those co workers were, I am thankful to have had the experience. 
  Coffee has brought many people across my path, coworkers have a different experience/interaction than customers, but play a part in the journey of coffee being a love language. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Coffee is a Love Language, 2

As if this were a book, the aspect of coffee being a love language will unfold in "chapter type" format.

              Chapter 2. Pay it Forward

One of the beautiful things about my job has been to be at the middle of people giving back to others "just because".  I have had the advantage of knowing what most of my customers drink, so when a person comes in and wants to buy their friend a drink, I know how to charge them because I know what their friend drinks. I have been able to be in the center of those giving back quite often. It has made my day quite often to be able to play a part in this, to watch the recipient smile, knowing they were loved and thought of. I have loved being the secret keeper in it all and watching the joy of giving to others become contagious. One week, this happened every day. And no one knew it was happening, which made it even more fun. Here is a bit how it unfolded. 
    One day, Lance bought Lori a drink, unbeknownst to her.
When she came in, I told her her drink had been bought. She couldn't believe it, so she bought Greg's drink . (Again, here is where I say it helped I know everyone's drink).
  Greg could not believe it, so he then bought a drink for the next person. 
That next person ended up buying Lance a drink, unbeknownst to any of these customers that this was going on or that Lance had started this whole chain. 

   The next day, Melissa bought Katie a drink. When Katie learned of this, she really wanted to know who it was, but nonetheless, she grinned ear to ear because she was having a bad day, so that turned it around for her. 

 Leslie overheard all these stories and then decided she wanted to participate so she asked me to choose someone going through a hard time to buy one for. At times, I have been like the "bartender" they say, and get to know a lot about a lot of people. Thus, I could know a person going through a hard time. The recipient of Leslie's pay it forward drink nearly cried. 

   The next day, Jimmy was in line and waved me down from the back of the line to quietly say he wanted to pay for his coworkers drink at the counter. She was clueless, and to tell her her drink was taken care of baffled her. 

 Then there is Dan and Karen. They work closely together, and the 2 of them have become great friends to me. These two crack me up because they are always trying to beat the other one to the counter to buy coffee before the other arrives. "Has Dan been here yet?" Karen will say. Or same with Dan-"Karen will be mad, but I beat her so I'm buying her coffee..." And so on. This has been a game almost at times, to see who can beat who and pay for it all before the other arrives. This is one of many reasons Karen and Dan have grown dear to me. 

Dee bought Danni a drink, only for Danni to be totally taken back by it because she, told me later, that she and Dee did not even get along well. 

When I was at Starbucks, I worked near a military base and frequently a customer would buy a drink for the military person behind them in line. Many times, this nearly brought me to tears. I was reminded in those moments that it is the little things that count. And a cup of coffee can say thank you, I love you, I appreciate you, and much more. 

 Countless moments like this have occurred in my coffee days.  I have loved being at the center of it and watching it unfold and making another person smile when they needed one the most. You see, coffee is a love language. Something as simple as a drink being bought makes another smile for the rest of the day. Many times, it changes that persons perspective, even. I know because I have seen it happen. They then take that moment and pay it forward. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Coffee is a Love Language

Love is expressed in countless ways- hugs, cards, words, acts of service, time spent together, gifts, etc. My friend, Karen, has said that coffee is also a love language. Having been in the coffee industry for 7 years, I would agree with her. 
 In my time serving coffee, I have encountered the expression of love through coffee on many occasions. Over the next couple of weeks, I  will share with you just how I've seen this take place.

                                         Coffee is a Love Language
                                           Part 1. The Motherless Daughters

  In March 2011, I lost my mom to cancer. During this time, I felt so very alone. I knew some women who had lost their mom, but they were all older, and for me, I felt the experience was different because I felt far too young to be saying goodbye to my mom. I felt like I had so much life ahead of me still and I needed my mom to be there. I had become a "motherless daughter" , so to speak. At age 28, I was not ready to say goodbye to my mom at all. And that hole felt scary and alone because I knew no one of my age to have walked through that who could help me understand how to get through it myself.  
   At first, in many ways, I remained quiet about my pain, because I did not think I'd find anyone who could understand it. But, I am a barista. And barista's are chatty, and little by little, the story began to unfold.  As my heart opened up, little by little, God also brought me other "motherless daughters". Those who had also walked the same journey I was having to experience. Some were my age; some were a bit older; and some others even older still. 
  We bonded because of coffee. Coffee became a place to express our stories about our moms. Coffee became our connecting factor. If it hadn't been for coffee, I may not have ever met these women who began to help me through my journey of learning how to cope without my mom. Coffee became an expression of love- sometimes through their visits to me for their own cup, and other times even for a time to meet outside of work and give me a place to talk about my grief and my own mom. 
  I came to know these women as friends. We are the motherless daughters, I say. It's a unique bond, difficult to explain until you have yourself experienced it. There are men who've lost a father, or a mother, too, but the bond between a mother and daughter is different, I believe, and thus, the grief journey is different too. These women each helped me in a unique way.
  The first I remember meeting was actually 2 women at the same time. These ladies came down for coffee the same time every day. They got the same drink every day. I'd have it ready for them as they would approach, even. They laughed a lot, and their laughter was contagious. I admired the friendship they shared. I listened as they would talk and share and I noticed how they always were smiling. When I met them was a time I was craving some great female friends. I can't recall how the conversation came to be between us about my having lost my mom. But I do remember that upon my uncovering of that detail, I met these 2 women who were also motherless daughters. These 2 women became a solid place to share.  Their stories were different, but the bond was the same: they, too, were motherless daughters. These women were the first I'd met near my age, to have walked the journey. They became some of my first motherless daughter friends to help me understand how to get through the time. Teresa helped me by giving me cards on days she knew would be hard, gifts she knew would help me walk through my time of grief and remember my mom, and she always had a hug to offer, especially on days I was struggling. She listened and helped me simply by giving me a place to talk and cry. She was the first who I ever shared pictures of my mom with. Teresa has become a life long friend. Angie shared stories about her time of losing her mom, about what the journey was like. She had moved through years of not having her mom already, but still understood the pain it brings. Angie helped reassure me that my emotions were normal and okay. Both ladies became a big part of what would become the 5K in memory of my mom; both ladies have been to every one we've held. Both ladies have become a part of helping my healing. Part of the motherless daughters I came to know.
     Brenda became another motherless daughter friend. Again, I have no idea how our conversation evolved, but she came to share with me, she , too, had lost her mom, at a younger age than I , even. Brenda became one who would allow me to share my story; who would not talk over mine to share hers (in fact, she likely knows more of mine than I of hers). But she understood the difficulty of being a mom without a mom to go to, and she has often allowed me to share that frustration. She understood the bittersweetness of mother's day, but encouraged me to enjoy mine while still remembering my mom. She never pushed the conversation, but always made it known she was there if I wanted to have it. Brenda also has come out to support the 5K, understanding why I do it. 
     As time passed, the grief changed. The pain of being a motherless daughter is still there, but it goes through phases and changes and looks different. As time has passed, I have been able to grow and become one who now understand the pain and can help other motherless daughters.
     I met *Elizabeth over coffee as well. I can recall how our conversation happened. We were talking about Peace Lillies. I had been given one when mom died, and I was trying so hard to keep it alive. I did not want to let it go, even though I knew it, in itself, held no direct connection to my mom. But letting it die seemed like letting a last piece of mom go somehow. Anyway, Elizabeth also had one. As I heard her talking about it, I shared how I had one after mom died and I was trying to keep it alive. She then shared that her mom had just passed away, which was why she had one. That moment became another connecting moment between 2 motherless daughters. Only this time, it wasn't my pain that was the freshest. Elizabeth and I connected that moment in a way you just don't find. We bonded over having lost our moms. No words were really needed in that moment. Shared eye contact spoke the volume of understanding and the depth of grief that no card, word or dictionary could do justice. In that moment, the 2 of us became friends. To this day, often times our conversation will come around to our moms in one fashion or another. We both have pre teen daughters, and not having mom at this time is a challenge. We have each other to lean on.  
    The most recent is *J.  J came to me in her moment of desperation in finding out her mom was dying. She came to me because I have become so open about my journey and grief and she knew I had walked the path she was about to tread. She asked questions and she shared. I cried nearly every time after talking with her because I understood exactly what she was going through. I was a motherless daughter and she was about to become one. J and I bonded in a new way. J's mom passed quickly, not even a few weeks after our initial conversation about it. Her grief is still quite new and fresh, and many hugs and unspoken words are shared at this time. 
      Lastly, I include my friend Karen. For Karen, many years have passed since her mom's passing. You will find many stories of Karen throughout this time of recollection because Karen has become a quiet, but yet highly valuable friend in my life. But Karen is also a "motherless daughter". Karen and I certainly found our bond because of coffee. Karen is not old enough to be my mom by any means, but she is old enough to have walked the journey of raising kids and not having her mom at this point. Karen has hugged me on days I simply say "I'm missing mom." She has quietly listened to all my stories. She has hugely supported my ambitions and endeavors. She has been one of my biggest encouragers. Our initial bond did not form because we are motherless daughters, but that story came out not long after we knew each other because Karen became a place of trust for me.  She in no way replaces my mom, but she has often offered simple encouragements my mom would have offered, without her even knowing she did so. 

  I became a motherless daughter in 2011. And at a time when the journey felt so alone, I actually came to find many women who also had walked the same path. And now I also can be a woman to lend encouragement to those who have to walk it themselves. All of these women and I met because of  a love for coffee. So you see, Coffee is a Love language in and of itself. A place of comfort. A time to share. An open door to bond in unspoken ways. Were it not for coffee, I may never have met those beautiful women. The motherless daughters, I say. It's not what defines any of them or even myself, but because we shared the bond of coffee, we also came to share the bond of understanding each other in ways not quite understandable to others....  Coffee is a Love Language.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

It's Like Going Home...

The saying goes "Home is where the Heart Is."
  That can apply to many areas of life, honestly. But if one believes that saying, then I am going home.... 
  Allow me to explain, and please be patient with my story.

If you follow my blogs often, you know I love to run. I am passionate about it. I enjoy it and it is a big part of my life. Mind you, it does not consume me, but running can be found to be the center of my conversation on many days.
  At times, the discussion is about a race I've finished. Other moments, the conversation is about my morning run that day, or the latest running challenge I am working to overcome. Sometimes, the conversation is all about the other person and how I can encourage them in their journey of running. I have had thousands...literally countless....discussions about running. I honestly don't get tired of talking about it.
   My running journey began in 2008, as I sat at the finish line of the United States Air Force Marathon in my hometown of Dayton, OH. I was a volunteer (with Starbucks at the time-yes, my love of coffee and running have always kind of gone hand in hand) in the general's tent, but in between what we had to do, I was lucky enough to sit and enjoy watching all the people finish. I saw countless runners/walkers cross the line that day in 2008. I saw well overweight people finish; I saw 80+ years old finish. I witnessed people hand in hand, crossing and crying. I sat next to some runners vomiting (we also were located near the medical tent).  That day is the day I decided I, too,  would become a runner, or at least attempt it. In seeing those finishers, I fell in love with something I never imagined would exist in my life: Running.
   That next week I began training. Meanwhile, the USAF Marathon staff, who were frequently in my Starbucks store, became friends, and also encouraged me in my running journey. That was September 2008.  I have been a runner since then. My first race was May 2009, the Flying Pig Half Marathon. I have run the USAF half marathon twice and it was at that race I once got my half marathon PR. I have never looked back from that moment or been sorry for finding a new passion.
  Running has brought all kinds of new friends in my life. Some of them for a season, others come and go, and still others have become life long buddies.
   Running helped get me through grief of losing mom and gave me a purpose, by the development of the Linda A. Ferguson Memorial 5K. I took my passion and allowed that to fuel the emotions that burned deep inside me. What was just something I enjoyed alone  has become an event that in essence, helps others, and has given purpose to my pain.
    And now Running is about to become a career for me in a sense. It's like going home.... I will be going to work for the Air Force Marathon. The event, the place, and the first-time fueler of a now passion of mine is now offering me a place to make this passion a career.  Beginning in June, I will be working for the Marathon office. In a sense, I am going home.... the sequence of events that have led to this being able to take place has been an unfolding of faith and an exciting story to see come into reality. In essence, I am launching into a dream job. And I cannot contain the excitement I feel for this.
  Coffee has served me well for the 7 years I have been in the business of it, and in the next couple of weeks there will be a flow of stories about all I've learned and encountered and seen in my years in that industry.
  But I am excited to share that soon I'll be beginning a new journey with the Marathon office and this path is one that feels like going home....
Air Force Half Marathon 2010

Friday, May 16, 2014

Be still and hear His voice

 The question is asked by many: “How can I hear God when He isn’t physically here?”
   Some days I struggle to answer that. But in the last few days, I can clearly say I have found that answer in the little things through the day. And so as I hear His voice, I write about it so as to share the answer in the future with those who may ask. Or to remind myself when I can’t hear Him clearly at times. 

  His voice is in the whispers of the wind. Today the wind blows hard outside my window. I can hear it whooshing and sweeping around the house and the trees as morning dawns. It is His voice, proclaiming He is here, by my side, whooshing me into His presence. 

 His voice is in the beauty of the mountains. The cascades of colors could only be drawn by Him. This is evidence of His hand coloring the picture of life and creation. He numbers them, He draws them, He colors them and He is in charge of them. 

 His voice is in the heat of the sun and the pitter patter of the rain. Only those contrasts could be made by a God in control. He guides the patterns and He controls the elements, just as He guides and controls my heart as I allow Him. 

 God’s voice is heard through the tweeting of spring birds, the laughter of my children playing, the pounding of running feet on pavement and so much more. 

 God is everywhere. And though it is true He doesn’t speak audibly to us, He is speaking to us every moment of every day; we just have to be still and listen. We have to open our eyes and hearts to all that is around us. He is in a hug handed out, a kind word given, and the dawning beauty of creation. He is shouting how He loves us and wants to show us that. He is telling us He is ALWAYS with us. He is  surrounding us with His constant presence all the time. 
In a busy world full of to do tasks, errands to run, jobs to do, projects to finsish, stressful moments at home and at work, broken hearts and sins committed, it is easy not to stop and be still. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all those hurts and yucky  parts of life. But what if, for one day, we decided just to stop and be still? Or even if we can’t slow down enough to be still, what if we just chose to be thankful all day? No complaining.... Could  we do it? And if we did that, how different would those around us be? 
  Seeing God in all the moments, hearing His voice, recognizing His presence begins with me. And you. It begins in all the little moments of a day. And make one day into two, and three and so on... How different would not only those around me be if I choose to do this, but how different would I be?? 
  Choosing to be still and be positive and see God in every moment. Yes, even those hurtful, yucky, just want to forget kind of moments, He can be found there too. If we listen. 

 Not even one day at a time, but one moment at a time. I challenge myself with this. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

8 days into the 30 day challenge

Today is day 8 of the 30 day challenge. You know...the one where I am pushing myself to run 30 days straight. To do something I have never done. To grow and learn and stretch myself.
   Here is the weekly update.

Day 5 was the first day which presented a true challenge. I was tired, it was Saturday, and it was pouring rain. I had a busy day ahead of me with garage sale, shopping, and a baby shower. But I'd committed myself to this challenge and I was not backing out of it. I laced up and headed out the door. I decided 2 miles would suffice for the goal of the day. I ran with no watch, no time goals: just pure love of the sport. The run felt amazing. I loved the pitter patter of rain falling on my skin. I loved the smell of it as it hit the grass and gave off a fresh scent of summer. I loved the quiet I had in the moment.  Day 5, the first true challenge day, has been one of my favorite runs in the first week of the journey.
   On day 6, it was Mother's Day. An emotional day for me, but a celebration day, too, as I wanted to remember mom, but celebrate being a mom. I chose that day to do something I rarely do: I slept in until 7. Because of this, I knew I'd be taking an afternoon run instead of a morning run. That was ok: it was my day to enjoy my family and soak in the morning snuggles while they last. As afternoon rolled around, I laced up and headed out for day 6 run. It was hot and sunny. I love the sun. I also love the heat. I also don't sweat terribly when I run so I don't mind all the heat of the day. On that run, I found my thoughts turning to my mom, and how she always laughed that out of all her children, I had become the runner in the family. (To be fair, there was a lot of humor in that because I was the only of 4 children to not participate in athletics).  On this run, I also remembered I am not an afternoon runner. I do get up at 4 so I can run, in part because I work an early morning job; I also get up at 4 and run because I love the morning air, quiet and fresh start of the day.
 Day 7, I was awakened with thunder and lighting, so that run also had to be put off until the afternoon. I hesitated, but only for a moment. Again, I am a morning runner. But this is a challenge for a reason- because I will face challenges being that some days it will have to be put off until later in the day.

 Today is day 8. I am still going strong. I need some new routes, as doing this for 30 days straight simply cannot take place on the same route. But all in due time...
What am I learning? Once again, mind over matter. I can run for 30 days in a row, but determination is a big part of that. But I can take that determination and apply it to my every day. Determination to chase a dream. Determination to fix some broken aspects of life. Determination to be who I am in spite of life's challenges. Determination to break old habits. Determination to step into the new and unknown. I am learning a new aspect of determination. I can't wait to see what the next 22 days will bring. One day, one run at a time.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday Mayhem turned into Mabsoot Monday

Ahhh...Monday. (said with a smile)
 Or is it (groan) "oh, it's Monday again..."? (said in an Eeyore state of mind)

Most of society groans over Mondays rolling around again. Monday Mayhem seems to be a good title for the day's status.
  I am in the customer service business, and I have a repetitive type of conversation on a daily basis. I see hundreds of people a day, but they see me once. So, I have the same conversation over and over, but mostly because it's with a different person every few minutes. Mondays, the conversations often sound like this:
   me: "Goodmorning! How are you today?"
 Customer: "Ugh. It's Monday. So, not great."
  me: (striving to always say/find the positive) "Well, how was your weekend?"
 Customer: "not long enough"
Me: Well, did you at least have a good one?
 Customer: "yes, but now it's monday and I am tired."
Me: Well,  you're in the right place for a cup of coffee at least....

Sometimes that is the end of the conversation, or perhaps sometimes the conversation shifts to them asking about my weekend. But it amazes me how frequently I hear the very same response to the weekend question, with the response of "not long enough."
   We could all use a 5 day weekend and a 2 day week, could we not?? However, that is not the reality of the working world. And while at times, I could just as easily be saying I wish for a longer weekend, part of what I do is to attempt to bring smiles to those who are in desperate need of caffeine/encouragement. Monday, while not my busiest day of the week, is the day people seem to need a pick me up the most. I call it Monday Mayhem.
  My good friend, K.B., once told me I should write about why we should embrace Mondays. So, K.B., here is what I have to say to the Monday Mayhem and how we can change it to Mabsoot Mondays. (Yes, I totally had to use a thesaurus to find a good word for happy that also began with an "m" so as to continue my "M" theme. Mabsoot means: A happy person, which I find to be a fitting word to replace Mayhem).
     We should embrace Mondays because:
-It's a new day. We should get excited over this. Every new day is a new chance to experience new people, new interactions, and new experiences we have not yet encountered.
-New Opportunities.  With a new day, a new work week beginning, come new opportunities. Opportunities to grow as an individual. Opportunities to bless others. Opportunities to be blessed by someone else. Opportunities to be stretched in uncomfortable ways, perhaps, but what better way to shine our (or better yet...God's) strengths.
-We can be a blessing.  Instead of complaining that it's Monday, and the weekend is over, this is a chance (perhaps even one of the bigger days to do so) to make others smile. That in turn, will make us smile. (Try it! You'll be amazed at the difference you can make) We have an opportunity on Mondays when many walk around in a tired state of mind, to smile and encourage them. Often they will ask "Why are you so happy on a Monday?" To which opens up doors of becoming a blessing and sharing aspects of life/faith we could  not have otherwise perhaps.
-This is the Day the Lord has Made. I will Rejoice and Be glad in it. (Ps. 118:24) That speaks for itself. Monday is another day He has made. yes, it feels different because it's the beginning of a work/school week. But He has made it. I should rejoice and be glad in it.
-Smile about the good things over the weekend.  What if your weekend was amazing and you didn't want it to end? Oh, I've been there. I've been sad to say goodbye to a weekend and hello to a new work week. Trust me, you aren't alone on that. BUT, that being said, what if we choose to smile about the great things of the weekend, share with others about how good the weekend was, and let those moments continue to bring joy to life instead of dwelling on the fact that "it's passed" or "it's over now".  Just change the perspective slightly.  Let those good weekend moments bring good Monday smiles. Monday Mabsoot, if you will. A Monday happy person instead of a sad person. Challenging? Yes. Impossible? No. Try it.
-A chance to make a difference.  Monday's bring a chance to make a difference. Many of us go to church on Sundays. A Sunday service is a great place to soak in the presence of God and praise Him and learn about Him and fellowship with other believers. But we aren't supposed to walk out of there and then just go back to our routines. We are supposed to walk out of church and make a difference. Take what we learn and apply it. Share the joy we find in worship with others. Don't make it a Sunday experience only. Make it a daily, moment by moment, experience. I'm guilty of this, so I'm not preaching at you. I'm sharing with you that this is something I am learning myself. I get so "filled" at times being in church on Sunday, often times for that to be fizzled out by Monday morning because I'm tired or something on Sunday interrupted that beautiful joy or whatever the case might be. But, going into a Monday, I'm going into interactions I don't get to have during my weekend. A chance to make a difference. A chance to live out a calling of sorts. What better reason to embrace a Monday than that???

  In all honesty, I sometimes struggle with Mondays myself. I love weekends because I am home with my family. Monday means back to work. BUT I can choose to look at it these other ways and that can change a Monday mayhem into Masboot Monday. I can go from being grumpy to happy because I get....not have to but get to......  new opportunities, new chances, and moments that weren't there before.
   So, I choose to look at Monday differently.   Will you???
 Mabsoot Monday :) Happy Person Monday. Try it, just once, you may fall in love with it!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

It's the Little Things

This week has been full of a mixture of tears and smiles for me.
  Mother's Day will always do that for me, now that my mom is no longer here.

And,  as is typical with so many aspects of life, so often it is the little things that erupt both of those emotions: tears and smiles.
   I stood in the card aisle this week and literally cried. I simply could not pick out a card without hearing the chatter of other women around me picking one out for their mom. It hurt. I felt the potent reminder of mom being gone. Such a simple thing to bring so many tears to my eyes. Michael came to the rescue on that one.
   The Hallmark commercial was so sentimental and so very true about different types of moms and different phases of life. I cried quiet tears. I don't have my  mom to physically hold and thank this year.
   At the Chick  Fil A line yesterday, they were handing out carnations to all the moms. I felt special, Yet it evoked tears in my eyes, as I watched the different sets of mother and daughters milling about, laughing together.
   I cried as I have shared quiet glances with other girlfriends this week who also are missing their mamas. It is a bond unspeakable that forms between friends, once the depths of that loss can be understood only by one who has also passed through those dark days.
     As patience is a big theme in my life right now, I have often found myself in a quiet moment shedding a few quiet tears because I so long to share with my mom the hopes and dreams on which I am waiting right now. Hopes and dreams my mom would no doubt be cheering and praying me through on a daily basis.
  I have cried over a cup of coffee even.
    This week, it is has definitely been the little things in life which have evoked tears.

And yet, the little things have also brought big smiles and even laughter to my day.
     I smiled as I recalled mom's favorite plant: Geraniums. I have inherited mom's "brown" thumb. I am terrible with plants, so I generally do not plant them because I know what will inevitably happen. But as I thought about Mother's Day, I thought to myself, 'what can I do to remember/honor mom?' I have often gone to the cemetery to put flowers. And while there is a part of me that is glad to do that, I wanted to do something that would do something for my heart, too. And then I saw a Geranium sign as I drove. And I thought...I want to hang a Geranium this Mother's Day in memory of mom. She loved those. And so Michael and the kids bought me one and it is now hanging outside the front of my home. Beautiful and also a significant reminder of mom, in a beautiful way. I believe she would love this. This brought  a smile.
    I smiled and laughed as I remembered how mom could pinch pennies better than anyone I have ever known my whole life. We didn't have a lot growing up, but I never really knew, nor did it ever really bother me. Mostly because mom always made the best of it all. It didn't matter if it was an oddly placed together meal with odds and ends from around the kitchen, or a goodwill clothing item- mom knew how to save money the right way and do it well. As we hosted a garage sale this weekend, I thought of mom often. She often would go to the big garage sales and find items to have for the kids to use for play time.  Whether it was for her daycare years of watching kids in the home, or for her own grandkids, mom found pure joy in discovering a great toy at a garage sale. She knew how to save and do it all well. I loved this about her and I smiled remembering this and recounting stories of this to my own kids this weekend.
    Both my daughter and I have inherited mom's love for reading and books. We drink them in, and we do it quickly. We love libraries, half price book stores, and friends who will swap books. Mom was always reading. She would stay up and lose hours of sleep because she simply could not put the book down. (And still get up happily the next morning and do all her chores...I could take lessons in this still). I have smiled this week remembering mom's avid love of books. She was the church librarian. She dedicated hours to logging books donated and organizing the system there and knowing what the library had to offer. She often times would go in on a Saturday to organize, and stay late on Sundays so people could have the time they needed to come in to get a book....or just to chat with "Linda the Librarian". She had a passion for reading. She never got to read my blog or even my published works since her passing, but I have no doubt it is because of her I also have this passion, and now my daughter does as well. I hope she lives on through my words and my writings.

  So, it's the little things in life. The little things that so often trigger memories of my mom. Sometimes those memories bring tears. Other times, the memories bring smiles and laughter. But this mother's day, although it will always hold a twinge of pain and sadness, I am grateful for the little things. The little things I did get years to share with my mom. And now, the little things that I can share with my children and hopefully they will remember one day.
 The little things like....
    -laughing hysterically with my son over the stupidest commercials just because they are so cheesy
       - having a long conversation with my daughter about whatever book she is currently reading; or even the series that we will read together.
-Snuggles on the couch with the kids
     - playing a card game with Joseph
  -Chalk drawing with Elizabeth on the sidewalk

The little moments, that most disregard as just a moment, are what become the bigger, more important moments in life. You usually don't know until you lose someone just how much the little things matter.
  Mom, I miss you so much this mother's day. But thank you for teaching me to find such joy in the little moments. I hope I can teach my kids those things just as well. Happy Mother's Day to the woman who taught me how to love and to my mother who taught me to embrace the little things.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

30 Day Challenge

I love a good goal. That's me for ya: ever the goal setter in most every aspect of life. I love to set goals. I don't go crazy with them, but having a goal helps me push to be better with some type of achievement in sight.
 I've set half marathon and marathon race goals. I've set time goals with my distance runs. I have set sales goals for myself in the coffee shop. I have set goals for the 5K/scholarship funds. I set spiritual goals, home goals and so forth- you get the idea.
  Once I used to set pretty silly goals that could honestly never be accomplished. (Those of you who read and knew me growing up can testify to that...) I learned my lesson and now my goals are more realistic, but still push me in healthy ways.
So, I share my latest challenge. I challenge myself to a 30 day running streak.

 Some of you may find that to seem silly, since I am a passionate runner. However, I am passionate runner who ALWAYS takes rest days. Right now, I have no large races looming, though I will have races. That being said, I wanted to find a way to keep pushing my limits anyway, and this is what I came up with to 30 days straight. Rain or Shine. Heat or Cold (thankfully, for the most part, we are past the yucky cold, I believe). Running buddy or not. Weekend or Weekday. I want to run 30 days straight. A run is 1 mile or more, but no less.
   Quite frankly, I am excited about this challenge. I know there will be tough days, because if we have a busy weekend, it means I will not sleep in, so that I can still do this. I know that some days I will miss my "rest" day.  I have no doubt this will push me a little.
  However, excitement rises in me with new goals. I learn new characteristics about myself. I do something I have never done before, which has become an aspect of life I have embraced, rather than run away from (pun not intended).  I grow spiritually when pushing through a goal- mostly because I rely on God in all new ways, no matter if it's a physical or emotional goal to which I am striving.
   The next 30 days are not about losing weight or getting faster or being that insane runner out there. The next 30 days are part of my journey of 2014 and learning about myself, pushing in new ways, seeking new opportunities and drawing closer to God. The next 30 days will teach me lessons, I have no doubt.
   And I will share every now and then what is happening through this 30 day challenge/journey. If you are brave enough, (or crazy enough) to join me, I'd love you to also join! But find your reasons for doing a 30 day challenge. Perhaps it'll be a 30 day eating habit change. Perhaps a 30 day weight training goal. Perhaps a 30 days spiritual prayer journey. Perhaps a 30 day "stop complaining" journey. Find something that will push you a little more. A little more towards God; a little more towards being a better person. Find whatever  works for you. And share. I'd love to hear about it and encourage you in the journey.

  Drop a comment and let me know...
     I will keep you posted in my journey.
In the meantime, one day at a time, I am taking up the running streak challenge.  Day 1 began today, and as hard as it was to wake up today, the run felt so good, and so exciting. A new challenge begun.... and quite honestly, the better I feel, the more smiles I can project through the day, the better wife I can be, the happier mom I can be, and so on.....
 One day at a time....whatever the challenge may be.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Running Buddies

As you well know, running is a passion of mine. Over the years, I have had a handful of different running partners.
 When I first began running, I was on my own. I began after watching the USAF Marathon and deciding I would one day be like those runners who crossed the finish line. I had no idea at that time what I was doing, and I really had no friends who participated in it either. So I ventured out on my own during that beginning phase.
  As time passed, I met people with whom I got to experience a season of running.  Those running friends were like best buddies during those seasons. But true to life, events or circumstances have at times interrupted those best buddy moments.
 I have been blessed to have a handful of those people in life through the years.
   My friend, Kris, and I used to meet up and run at 4:30 am together. We talked as we ran; we shared deep life moments; we shared the running, but we also shared more than that- we shared experiences and secrets. She pushed me to be my best in running but in life, too.  Kris remains my friend to this day, but a move (just a couple towns away) and different life schedules (and my often complicated life) have made it so we don't get to connect often.  Kris was my first running partner. And a forever friend.
    Kevin and Alyssa were my running buddies for quite some time. Kevin and Alyssa both are blessed with that natural running ability. They can both go days or even months without running and still meet up with me and be faster than I am. However, that never seemed to matter to them. They each brought their own ability to the table which also brought new elements to my life in friendship.  I dragged them out at 4:30 in the morning with me and we would set out. Sometimes we did short runs, sometimes we did speed runs (I hated the sound of Alyssa's beeping watch), and sometimes we would set out on longer runs. Not every run was perfect. I did not feel on top of the world after each run finished. However, those 2 friendships remain in tact as well. Kevin parted ways from our running moments because.... mornings became too early for him. Alyssa became pregnant, and that aspect of life took over (as it should) . Alyssa pushed me to my PR (personal record) in a 5K.  We also did a fun foam fest run together. Both Kevin and Alyssa have been huge parts of making the Linda A. Ferguson Memorial 5K a success. Both still help out with it, even though we don't take morning runs together anymore.
   Mindy was my running partner for my full marathon experience. We spent hours training for that race together. We shared a lot of life. I talked her into doing that race with me, as she was going through a life experience and I was walking through grief. We took a journey together and finished together a race I have never done since (but someday hope to do again). We cried, we laughed, we experienced and we finished. Once our marathon journey was over, we parted ways. sometimes, a friend is a friend through just a season. I am grateful for that season, and it will always remain so special in my heart, but it is a season which has ended. Sometimes that is the case with running buddies. You just kind of part ways.
   Other friends have been spotty running partners, like Laura or Tiffany, who occasionally agree to join me in a run, but then the weather shifts and they don't want to be an outdoor runner anymore. Still my friend, just not passionate about the sport.
    Some friends I don't get to train with, but we get to do races together. Like my great friend, Dawn. Running (and coffee) brought us together initially, but she is a forever friend in this journey.
   That brings me to my most faithful running partner. My dog, Dexter.  I always wanted a Weimararner dog growing up. Not even for running, but just because I loved that breed. A couple of years ago, Michael got me one, and we named him  Dexter. He became my running buddy from the beginning. I never thought I'd be a runner with a dog alongside, but Dexter has become that with me. He is always excited to go out with me, no matter if it is 4 am or 8 pm. He doesn't care about the weather (although this winter he showed a bit of hesitation). He doesn't criticize me and he lets me have my thinking time, but he's happy to be by my side. He doesn't do races, but he faithfully trains with me. He can go miles without tiring (he could honestly go further than I, I have no doubt). He even pushes me sometimes. This week, sadly, my faithful running buddy, Dexter, was injured when he was hit full force by a car. He has stitches in 3 legs and is on a lot of medicines and may have other injuries, but won't be determined for a bit. He's still full spirited and alive, so I am thankful for that, but I am back on my own again. This time because of an injury to a running buddy.
  The point is, running has brought some wonderful people in my life.  Some seasonal, some lasting, just taking on a new shape. Some of those people taught me lessons I will never forget. Others were just the friend I needed for that season of life. I look forward to Dexter being by my side again one day (soon, hopefully) and I look forward to perhaps new friends I may meet who are brave enough to join me at 4/5 am. Until then, my running moments are quiet, reflective, peaceful, and one of my favorite hours of the day as I journey alone right now. One step, one run at a time.
Me and Kris, Air Force Marathon,2010

Anthony, Kevin, Alyssa, Me at the Linda A. Ferguson Memorial 5K

Alyssa and Me, winter run, 2013

Me and Dexter, summer 2013

Me and Alyssa, mud run, 2013

Me and Dawn, 10K, 2013

Me and Dexter, winter, 2014