I am a Starbucks fan. I have my favorite drinks. I help new customers in line understand their options. I get to know my baristas. I have been a gold card member since the gold card was black.

I suppose like relationships, sometimes things in the Starbucks world are not always perfect, and we will have disagreements. For the most part, I have been a fan of most of their decisions. And some I haven't agreed with turned out pretty well for them even without my support. In my last visit, I encountered another disagreement.

Since some changes at Starbucks take awhile to permeate the nation, I'm not sure if what I encountered was a "test" incident or the norm, but I didn't like it.

It was a warm Sunday afternoon, and I had some time to kill before meeting my husband. So, I visited the first Starbucks in which I could find a parking space and went to order something refreshing--but not caffeinated for once. I have all my caffeine options memorized. I even have a graduated program that I introduce new Starbucks customers to in order to have the optimal Starbucks growth experience.

Every regular Starbuckie knows that frappaccinos are low on the list. They're reserved for Starbucks newbies. But in this instance, I wanted to go backwards and have something cool with "creme" in it. So, I look at the menu in order to not be the customer who takes too long--and the menu was missing!! There was the "La Boulange" menu (also, something of which I was never a fan) and the drink menu. It has maybe 10 different drinks listed with the frappaccino options being something like flan and caramel something-or-other. None of the other options were listed that I know my brain has seen for years, but I never picked. I guess it was just comforting to know they were there, for days like this particularly warm caffeine-free Sunday afternoon. But they weren't there.

I thought maybe there was a mistake, so I asked the barista. She was very kind, and said, "Yeah...I think it's supposed to encourage conversation between us..."

Okay, okay, Starbucks. I get that you want to know customers. I have been one of those customers that has been known and had my drink started upon the ding from the door before my heel could hit the store floor. But the issue is, people also like Starbucks because it is fast. Most of those people who want fast service stand behind me, and aren't always happy at the budding friendships my baristas and I share.

When I lived in another area of town, I had a special friendship with my gangsta barista. He had tattoos on his face that I had to google later to understand the meaning. Although what I found out scared me a bit, I really liked my barista. He was always kind and smiling and seemed to generally care about his job, co-workers, and customers. Hey--anybody can get a bad tattoo on their face.

Way back when moons ago, I was solo at the counter ordering, so our conversation picked up, and I learned a few more tidbits about my faithful, local Starbucks crew. I didn't realize there were about five customers that had suddenly lined up behind me. They were anxious for their morning cups of joe to change their frowns from upside down, and they were not amused with my conversation.

If Starbucks wants to be a conversation place, bring back the soft chairs! Bring back actual mugs! Or just accept the business you have been blessed with. And know that many conversations happen at Starbucks and they don't have to be initiated by baristas. The baristas definitely have an important role, but their job is intense enough trying to please people. Those customer/barista relationships happen best naturally and can't be manipulated through missing menus.

My conversation with the barista I met yesterday would have been far better if it didn't consist of me trying to figure out what drinks were still available. We could have talked about something real.

Starbucks, bring back the menus. Or at least pictures.

thank you. 

I've been in sabbatical mode for about three and a half months now--or some may call it "loss of job." It's all about perspective. 

During this time, I've been doing a ton of self-discovery (we cancelled cable which provides an outlet for that). I figured out that even when I have time to do all the things on my list, I probably still won't do them. Some things are just not fun to do. 
  • I need to change my name on my car title.
  • I need to go to the recycling center.
  • I need to clean out the closets for the third time--this time being honest about what doesn't fit.
  • I need to put the dishes I use the most on the lower cabinet so I don't break them getting them down.
But...I haven't done those things yet. 

When you lose your job, it's a mix of elation and depression. You have all the time in the world! ...and you have all the time in the world...  

Honestly, during the holidays, I did some job searching, but kept it to a minimum to just relax and recharge with family and friends. I am a much nicer person these days! Now, the clock is ticking for new employment, so I'm trying to keep up my weekly website perusing, resume uploading, and lunches with people I haven't seen in a billion years (I have a list). Since my husband nor I are independently wealthy, I'll keep searching and interviewing and high-fiving. 

Searching for a job is much easier than searching for a husband, and I lived that out for 38 years. The only way it worked out was when God orchestrated events, and that's how my life has been. I trust that in the situation of this moment, it's going to be the same turn of events. 

I used to be a reader. I read all the time. Then, life got busy. Then, life got busier. Then, television got more convenient as a way to wind down. And my books got dusty.

Part of the issue of my non-readership was not being able to figure out what to read. As a kid, I would get really involved in different reading topics or different authors. I would inhale every book written on my subject of choice, and then eventually move on.

As an adult, I've encountered some books that aren't well written or worth my time. I believe that we have to be careful what we put into our minds as far as visual media, because it can inhabit our minds for possibly forever. But with books, it might possibly be even more imporantat because the memories and experiences created somehow form a serious bond in our brains.

A book conjures up worlds that not even media can produce. How many times have you heard someone say, "The movie did not give the book justice. The characters weren't the same. So many parts were left out." It's because a book involves imagination and so many other parts of the brain. Reading can be a serious business.

Hence, I don't like to read garbage. I don't want to read a book that is going to put images in my mind I can't erase. I read a book for a book club once that seemed innocent enough, but one of the scenes is forever stuck in my mind. I didn't even see the movie even though it had one of my favorite actresses. I really did not want to relive that moment in any form ever again.

After all of this pontificating about reading, my original topic was to announce that I've been reading a new book via Amazon Prime on my Kindle. It's officially grabbed my attention where I will sacrifice sleep to capture one more chapter.

I hope I keep up this habit. Reading is good for the soul (except in the incidences I mentioned above). I have done some unofficial studies based off of my high school friend's ACT scores that it makes you smarter, too. My friend, Emily, was an avid reader and blew the rest of us away in the ACT and even achieved academic greatness on the LSAT. So there's my proof. Reading makes you smart.

I'm hoping writing has the same effect as well, so that's what I'm blogging a bit more again.

For about 22 years, I have been dealing with issues swallowing my food. I clearly remember the first day it started. I had ordered a special croissant sandwich from a nearby restaurant and was going to attempt to eat it during my senior year lunch period. I took a huge bite of the sandwich, and as I gulped it down, something went wrong. The bite didn't go down, but got hung. And it was very painful. After that time, I had periodic experiences of the same thing. I figured, it was just something odd about me.

Many years passed. For friends that knew me well, I would give them a heads up at restaurants that if I abruptly disappeared during a meal, I was okay. I just had to relax and get my food to go down, then I could enjoy the meal.  It was embarrassing. No one likes to disappear into a bathroom for long periods of time.

As Paul and I dated, he decided I needed to go to the doctor. I did not want to go. I went once before, and the solution was to stretch out my esophagus. The procedure was expensive (even with insurance), so I had cancelled the day before the appointment. I heard from some a physician I worked with at the time, that he had the same thing, and it would come back.

After Paul's prompting, I finally went to the doctor and tried to explain what happened to me. During this time, my sister also attended a conference about EOE. So, I had a scope put down my esophagus and a biopsy done, and ta-da! A diagnosis! I had EOE (my sister said she knew it already--sister's always know everything).

It was nice to know I just wasn't crazy. The real name of EOE is a really long name, eosinophilic esophagitis. It's kind of like too many white blood cells that gather after being triggered by allergies--most of the time to food. The problem is figuring out which one.

Because I have had years of data experience, one day I was finally able to deduce that I have issues with soy and possibly other legumes. I put this all together because every time I had a Starbucks soy latte, I had horrible heartburn and couldn't eat the rest of the day. And each time I had tuna fish, I would always get the first bite stuck. Also, when I had sushi the same things would happen (I thought it was because the rolls were too big).

I did some research and exploration and discovered that tuna fish is packed with soy! It's not my favorite food, so I didn't encounter it that often, but each time I did, I would have an issue.

Since the discover I have had some sushi (I love sushi). But I ate it sans soy sauce. And nothing got stuck!

I had an issue swallowing a different brand of fish oil the other day, so I looked at the label: soy.

It feels freeing knowing that I can eat without fear. I tended to avoided some things anyway, but now I know that it's not the texture or the too big of bite, it's EOE. 

Paul and I are on a new schedule with the start of school. It involves going to bed early (bleh) and waking up even earlier (double-bleh).

We've been reading up on ways to get sleepy. So, we've adopted the practice of trying to reduce staring into screens checking up on last minute status posts. We've tried to shut off the t.v. an hour or so before sleeping. We're drinking warm milk. We're reading before bed. And we're taking melatonin.

I've only sampled it a few times, and it makes me feel a tad groggy. The worst thing is when you still have insomnia after taking one of those things. Not fun.

I wish I could be a natural early-to-bed/early-to-rise person, but my preferred method of living is the life of a night owl. I get energy at night to watch old reruns on t.v. and start weird projects. Late night snack foods can be the most fun meal of the day!

But, I digress. I thought I was out of the early wake-up business when I left teaching, but the school system and its early bird demands has found its way back into my life. It's not a bad trade-off to have a sweet and dear husband, but the summer was an oh-so-sweet time for us! We miss it!

So, for the next 173 instructional days, we'll be sampling melatonin and doing a slow fade into the land of Sleepytown.


I come up with a new exercise and eating plan about once a month. Maybe it's from reading too many health and fitness magazine, because every month, they offer a new plan that will really work this time! If I stuck with
one plan for longer than about a week, it might actually work. But my theory is if I combine them all, then maybe I will get some amazing combined result. Nevertheless, it's not really working.

My latest plan involves writing down my food into a little tiny green Moleskine journal. I love those little journals. I figured the journal would really inspire me. It was really a good plan for about three days, then I lost the journal. I continue to refind it, then lose it again.

Another part of my plan is lifting weights. A friend of mine has jumped into fitness full force and is now going to be competing in a fitness contest. She is lifting weights for an hour and doing cardio for 30 minutes.

Since I will be hitting 4-0 (gulp!) in the springtime, I have decided that I will do 40 minutes of weightlifting. I'm not planning on doing any contest, but I would like to fit into last year's shorts.

Usually what happens is I finally let cupcakes and cookies win. After that, I realize that even when I thought I was in bad shape while working out, I am in reallllllly bad shape if I give up all together. So, then I start the process again. I bet when I hit 40 I am going to have all this workout drama settled. Perhaps I need the Moleskine with the pocket in the back. That will help.

Yesterday, Robin Williams' passing hit the news. And then it spread a wave of memories and sadness and ache all over the country.

Being on the watcher side of movie world makes you feel like you have a connection with actors. You feel like they are your friends. They've made you feel something heavy or light--whatever the case--the best actors have created a connection between themselves and you through the media of movies.

We quote their lines. We act out their scenes. We relate situations expressed in the movie to ourselves.

But when one of them passes away from a tragic death, we realize that maybe we didn't quite know that person at all. We forget they had bad days or struggles. We forget they are flesh and blood, just like us.

I grieve for the real Mr. Williams, the one with family and friends that knew and loved him. And I grieve for those like me--those of us that quote his lines and act out his scenes and had a connection with his movies.

On behalf of "me," I will treasure what was. Thanks for Mr. Williams for adding laughter and points to ponder to my childhood, teen years, and beyond.  I will miss his rapidly thinking mind and uncanny comedic actions. I thank him for the many movies that made me laugh.

To those of us who remain, carpe diem. God has plans beyond what we can see or know. Trust Him. No matter what your eyes see or your hearts feels, don't give up hope. Ever.