Sunday, March 7, 2010

No Matter the Distance.

This morning the sun’s light had slipped through my curtains. Normally they are shut, but I had been gazing at the stars the night before and mistakenly forgot to close them. As I was still emerging from unconsciousness at this point, the first thought to myself was: Self, what is it you want to do today? After a few seconds, I realized that it was the morning after a Friday night. Saturday. Bliss. I then came to the conclusion that I would journey out into the world to find what any rational person wants on a Saturday morning: coffee. But not just any coffee; no, this particular morning I awoke with the fervent desire for a Starbucks coffee. Yes, it was Starbucks that I craved. In fact, this craving was the only incentive to drive the hour and ten minutes it takes to arrive at the nearest Starbucks café in The City. (Well, to be fair, the idea of going to the mall did sway this decision.) So the verdict was made: yes to Starbucks.

The morning drive was peaceful; there really is nothing more calming than venturing towards such a destination, flying solo, listening to the newest mixed CD I had made for this specific trip. [Seriously. A new CD was burned this morning while I was beautifying myself – none of my other CDs seemed to have the right compilation of songs for a voyage such as this one.] While the next admission might be a potential warning to cautious drivers I meet on the open road, please, don’t be alarmed, but I am often distracted while I drive. Being alone in a car is such an escape from the life that surrounds me; driving allows me to breathe. Just breathe. And to think…to collect, organize, prioritize, and reflect on the current events in my life. To debate the pros and cons of life’s happenings, to finally reach a conclusion on that one issue that I just couldn’t elect which side of the line to be on. Many decisions have been made while I’ve driven my precious Cavalier. It will be a sad day when she dies. However, that day is (or better be) far off into the future. For now, I’m just glad that she and I made it safely to The City – to our lovely brick building with the welcoming bright green letters and the crowned sirena. At last…Starbucks.

Now, I’m not trying to boast, but I have been to my fair share of Starbucks cafés. As traveling is a serious hobby of mine, I have been to this charming establishment in six different countries. And would you believe that they really are all the same? How I do love sighting my green letters while walking down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, crossing the Puerta de Jerez in Sevilla, or just stumbling upon one in the west end of London. When I am lucky enough to come across one of these fortresses of familiarity, it’s like a little piece of home has presented itself in the middle of a foreign land. The magic, though, doesn’t truly begin until I step through the doors.

I used to frequent this specific Starbucks when I lived in The City, but as life happens, I no longer have the luxury of seeing familiar faces and the magic they inspire, a.k.a. Rueben. Yes, Rueben was my personal knight in shining armor. But instead of the metal body suit, he wore the green apron; instead of a white horse, he had the white cup; and instead of the shield marked with the royal crest, he had the cardboard sleeve that displayed the topless sirena (which also prevents the hand from burning when reaching for happiness in liquid form). In all practicality, he could be the present-day knight for our generation. Sadly, though, while I had a weakness for my brave knight, I don’t think Rueben could have picked me out of the eight o’clock morning rush of caffeine addicts. After all, he wasn’t just my knight; no, he had the whole City to serve. It’s not fair that I hold him accountable for recognizing every fair maiden dependent upon his service.

Which brings me to my next realization: Starbucks wonderfully transcends all generational, cultural, political and societal boundaries that we, as a people, have created. As a former member of the eight o’clock rush, I can bear witness to the array of people that walked through the doors. The strong, confident woman dressed in a sharp suit and the businessman, briefcase in hand. The soccer mom who must have just unloaded the minivan. The fashionista with nails perfectly manicured, whose high heels click on the tile and whose purse overtakes the counter. There will undoubtedly always be someone wearing a Bluetooth headset who, at first glance, seems to be talking to himself (yes, himself, as I rarely see a woman do this, at least in Iowa). Let’s not forget about the twenty-something with dyed jet-black hair and piercings in every possible spot, or the person still wearing pajamas with mismatching socks. Then there’s just the average Joe (or Jane): jeans, shirt, shoes, jacket. While I know none of these individuals would appreciate my stereotyping, something is still said for the fact that all of these people chose Starbucks for their morning glory, whatever the reason may be. As far as which stereotype, if any, I belong to when I walk into Starbucks...well, that is someone else's job to decide, isn't it?

Moving along to the options. I think Tom Hanks' character, Joe Fox, said it best in You’ve Got Mail:
“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee.”
While everyone has developed their own method of selecting which beverage to enjoy, my six include the following: 1) Size. Tall. 2) Hot or cold. Hot. 3) The strong stuff or decaf. Always the strong stuff. 4) Type of beverage. Mocha. 5) Added flavors. White chocolate. 6) Whipped cream. No. And it’s just that simple: Tall white mocha, no whipped cream.

The culmination of my anticipation and eagerness of the morning met in the twelve ounce cup that a barista (not Rueben) handed me. Pure, warm, white-chocolately goodness, mixed together for the sole purpose of pleasing the palate. Mission accomplished.

Thank you, Starbucks, for bringing this little piece of happiness to my corner of the world.

Monday, November 23, 2009

One step at a time.

"You can go anywhere if you simply go one step at a time."

As I sit locked away in my room, in the stillness of this moment, the only thing I can hear is the pinging of rain drops against my window. I've recently found that one of the simplest blessings is hiding myself from this broken world so that I can become lost in my own imperfect life. And I use "imperfect" not to highlight my life's deficiencies, but to emphasize the sweet reality that I'm not living the life I thought I would.

There have been many stepping stones along the path that has brought me here. Some were insignificant, more like pebbles that just needed swept to the side. Others were more troublesome that required intense concentration just to maintain my balance. And I've been lucky enough to come across those perfect, oblong-shaped stones that conform to the soles of my feet, supporting my weight - those stones that somehow give me the extra push I need to move on to the next phase in my life.

I read long ago that God knows the plans he has for me...plans for prosperity, plans for a future. While I don't expect to rid my life of the harshness and brutality it sometimes offers, I can rest in the knowledge that my life is moving toward the future he has for me. And every so often, when my feet do land on those unstable and unpredictable steps, I will remember to look for the precious oblong stones that support my very being.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A life lesson from a different time.

I've heard some pretty good advice recently. It didn't come from a self-help book, a popular television host, or even the ever-truthful pages of Cosmo. Instead, it came from my ailing eighty-one year old grandfather.

It was a long day at work, and all I really wanted to do was go straight home, curl up with the blankets and watch a movie. Instead I met my relatives in my grandfather's hospital room, where the conversation quickly turned to old memories.

My grandmother had passed nearly three years before, and since then, my grandfather has let certain details slip that I'm sure my grandmother wouldn't have wanted many to know. For example, they have twelve children. Now, this might sound excessive, but when you learn that your grandmother never wore pajamas to bed, it makes more sense. However, my grandfather also speaks highly and admirably of my grandmother; theirs was a true love that lasted the changing decades.

As we sat reminiscing, my grandfather's raspy voice -though the softest- rang out above the rest, "Elsie and I never fought. We had discussions, but we never fought. It was because I always treated her as a lover first...and a wife second." My grandfather learned early on something that other men never seem to grasp: just because you're married doesn't mean you stop courting the woman you love. She is an ever-changing creature, and to presume that your job is done once she has a ring, is a very, very grave assumption.

That generation really does know what they're talking about. But their advice only works if we would pause a moment to listen.

- Grace falls down like rain on this girl.