Miss Woodhouse's Musings

…about life, the universe, and everything. Don't panic!

What’s It All About?

A few months back, a friend of a friend died. Though I didn’t know him, I was sad for her and as a show of support Mum and I went to this man’s funeral.

I’ve been to a lot of funerals, and this one was unlike any other. No singing, no photo montages. No songs at all. Instead, the man’s son gave an hour long biography of his father, pausing only to invite certain key figures from his father’s life to come up and speak as well (my friend being one of these people). However, what really struck me was what an awesome life this man led. Really, he did things that most of us can only dream about. It was a good, long, full, exciting life.

Except, I found myself being really sad that I’d never met this man. I’d have loved to hear him tell these stories.

Then, I forgot all about it.

That is, until tonight. Mum and I went over to help our friend with moving some stuff out of the deceased man’s house in preparation for an estate sale. She gave us the grand tour of the house, ending in a room that must have served as a sort of study for this man. Hung all over the walls in this room are commendations, signed prints and pictures, and other documents recording the wonderful things that the man had done.

His family does not want them. They will be sold in the estate sale.

This knocked me sideways. This man devoted his life to a career. He worked really hard doing dangerous and crazy things. He earned rewards and commendations that few people do because of his hard work.

And they will be purchased by a complete stranger for…what use? It won’t conjure up memories of this man for them, they don’t know him. The buyer won’t know what this man did to earn that certificate, or how he was presented with this commendation.

The name on those documents means nothing to them.

What then, is the point of all this? Those things obviously brought joy to him, brought to mind good memories and proud thoughts. Now, they simply are an impersonal collector’s item.

Is this what life comes down to? All the things that defined this man’s life, all the things that made him proud…they are being assessed for their market value. And that’s that.

End of story.

Or is it? Thornton Wilder, in his book The Bridge of San Luis Rey, examined this idea of memories, life, happiness, and love. His summation of the novel is brilliant (SPOILER ALERT!):

But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.

Perhaps he is on to something. Maybe the memories we leave behind are enough. No matter what we do or do not leave behind us, our actions still count for something.

I really hope Wilder is correct.

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This Race Can Be Won

You know, I really love when God uses music to minister to us…especially when He uses special people to bring said music to you. For today’s Music Monday, we are going to jump back in time a few weeks, back to the days of stress, strife, and suffering. Those deep, dark, dreary days known as…Spring Semester.

I don’t remember too much about this last semester. All I remember is being exhausted, reading and writing lots of words, and basically mainlining caffeine in any form possible. I spent whole days and nights at the dining room table, articles spread from one edge  to the other, a few bottles of caffeine scattered in the midst of the papers, and me and my laptop valiantly plugging away.

In the midst of one such session, I received a message from a dear friend in the form of a YouTube video link. I almost ignored it – how important could it be? It could wait a few days. Then, I glanced at the time. It had been over six hours since I last took a break from this paper. It was time for a little brain vacation. So, I clicked the link.

Boy, was that the right choice. Such an amazingly encouraging song!!!! I could literally feel energy running back into my soul. The song was instantly downloaded from iTunes, and I used to to get through the next hours of crunch time.

My friend didn’t know what I was going through. He didn’t know how weary I was. But he sent the encouragement to me anyways, and that means the world. Thank God for friends (and songs!) like this to keep us focused and motivated on life’s journey!

Happy Monday! Stay strong.

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Doing Shots

There’s very little in life that I love doing more than drinking shots. Espresso shots, that is. My coworkers are almost used to my espresso habits; they only blink a few times when I order my number of shots. Night crew likes to give me a hard time about my espresso habits, but at least I’ve trained the morning crew to understand that without shots I am worthless. When I was working mornings on a more regular basis, the shift would start pulling a quad shot the moment I walked in the door. Even last week- my first morning shift in months- he barely blinked when in the middle of blackout I turned and asked him for a couple of shots whenever he had a second. Moments later, there was a short cup full of espresso sitting by my register. Regulation? No. Did I stop dropping every blessed thing I touched? Oh yes. There is method in my espresso madness.

I’m so used to ordering in a place that understands my need to consume a week’s worth of caffeine in a few sips that I find ordering in other restaurants highly amusing. Like a few months ago. I don’t remember where I was- Panera, Books-a-Million, or some place like that. I had already had a lot of milky drinks earlier that day on shift, so I just ordered a double espresso. The very nice lady behind the counter patronisingly explained to me that “espresso” was a tiny amount of very intense coffee, not a “proper drink.” The look of shock on her face when I simply grinned and said “Yep- that’s what I’m looking for” was priceless. Well, not really. It cost me $1.79, but man was it worth it!

A few weeks ago I went out to see a play with my mum and one of her friends (there’s a write-up coming on that play, just so you know. It was wonderful!). I got a triple tall caramel macchiato before the performance, but by dinner afterwards the caffeine buzz had more than worn off and I was having a hard time not dropping into a carb-induced slumber. (There are way too many places to get great bread around here- that’s all I’m saying.) So, while we poured over the dessert menu, I asked our waiter for a solo espresso to get me through the remainder of the meal. Surprisingly, he didn’t register the shock I’m used to seeing. Maybe he was just well-trained, maybe he saw how exhausted I was, or maybe he’s a closet espresso-addict too. Whatever the case, he brought me my espresso with no to-do. It was my mum’s friend that was thrown for a loop by the cute little chunky demitasse in which our waiter delivered my shot to me. It was a great opportunity to talk about espresso, what it is, what makes  it different from coffee, and why you *really* don’t want to order a regularly-sized coffee cup full of espresso shots.

The most recent incident, and the one that made me sit back and muse over my espresso encounters happened last Friday night. We were having an English Club meeting at a cute little cafe, and I was tired. Exhausted. Worn out. Brain dead. I was the designated driver; I needed caffeine. This particular place used to have a honey latte that was amazing, but I soon discovered that it was no longer on the menu. Not feeling up to anything else, I approached the register to order. Nice young guy- a little baffled by our group, but then again we are an unusual assortment of characters. I asked him if they could do a triple espresso, even though they only listed solo and doubles. He looked at me with a slightly startled expression, but said that he could definitely do it. I said, “Okay, good, let’s make it a quad then.” He stopped ringing. He looked at me. The next words out of  his mouth were “I used to work in a coffee bar, and we were all like that. Couldn’t get enough coffee.” YES! A kindred spirit! I responded with “Yeah, I work at Starbucks.” He nodded, rang up the drink, and that was that. No weird looks, no patronising, no incredulity, just pure understanding. And four shots of espresso.

Bliss.

 

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Hey Soul Sister!

I don’t know how it happened. I mean, I love the song “Hey Soul Sister”- like, realllllly love it. Then one day, I started humming it at work. Once my shift stopped groaning about my choice of music, she looked at me and said, “You know, that song is so you!”

Oh, really? Okay.

Honestly, I thought that it would all fizzle out- I still liked the song, but that was that. Except, that wasn’t that. People started texting me when they heard the song, or messaging me when it came on the radio. It was weird…nice, but weird. To this day, I don’t know what it is about the song that makes people say that it is “me”, but I’m not complaining. It’s a great song, and Train is a great group. Granted, it’s a little weird to get a text that simply says “Your lipstick stains”, but it’s really nice to know that people are thinking about you. Right?

Another random fact about me: I like the Glee covers of songs. Forget the show- the covers rock! I really can’t think of a Glee cover that wasn’t as good as, if not usually better, than the original. So, imagine my surprise and delight when last night I stumbled on the newest Glee cover for this week.

You guessed it! It’s “Hey Soul Sister”!

So, enjoy- I am!

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A Friend Indeed

Lately I’ve been thinking about what makes people friends. To be honest, I have one of the most eclectic collection of friends. Some of my friends get me because we are similar, and other get me because…well, I’m still not sure why they get me, but they do. And I get them. That’s the magic of friendship.

However, my friends don’t necessarily run in the same circles. They can appreciate each other, but none of them are BFFs in their own right. For many of them, I’m the only reason that they would ever meet, connect, or even acknowledge each other’s existence.

It’s a weird thing, when you think about it.

In fact, take a moment to think about it.

Think about all your friends. Think about why you know them, how you met them, how they interact with each other. You may be friends with some of them because they were friends with each other before. Or, maybe you are that link between people, a person who brings unlikely others together.

So what makes people friends? I don’t know. Trust, shared experiences, similar thoughts, these all play a huge role in most friendships. But I’m also friends with people with whom I don’t really share experiences, who don’t think the same way I do about major issues. Besides, I don’t necessarily trust all my friends.

I don’t know what it is then; I don’t know what makes some people friends and others not. However, I do know that when you find a good friend, you better hold on to them, treat them well, and work at growing your friendship.

A good friend is hard to find.

 

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Held

There’s a song by Natalie Grant that I’ve loved for a long time, but never quite knew why. Lately though, I’ve come to believe that I was drawn to the song for such a time as this. Trust me, this is not a fun time.

You see, the lyrics of the song start off quite melancholy:

“Two months is too little, they let him go, they had no sudden healing. To think that Providence would take a child from his mother while she prays is appalling.”

Right now, I know a child who is dying. She’s so young, and she’s been so brave for so many years. Understandably, she’s grown tired of fighting, of sickness, of pain.

I can’t fathom what she’s lived through.

Hearing about her struggles, it really makes me question why certain things happen in this life. Of all the things that seem senseless, children struggling with illness makes the top of my list.

“We’re asking why this happens to us who have died to live; it’s not fair.”

It really does feel unfair. Why do people like her have to suffer and die, while others get to live?

Basically, why do good people die while bad people live?

I don’t know that there is a good, logical answer to this question; at least, not an answer that would give comfort to people. Rather, the only comfort I find in this particular situation is found in faith: faith that God is with her, that He is in control, and that He is sovereign over the affairs of humanity.

In essence, this is the same conclusion that the song comes to, only Natalie puts it much more beautifully:

“This is what it means to be held, how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive. This is what it is to be loved, and to know that the promise was when everything fell, we’d be held.”

Held.

It’s such a powerful word, with powerful imagery attached to it. What I particularly like about it is the fact that none of the action depends on the person being held. If someone is holding you, they don’t need for you to respond or react in order to do so.

No matter what, they hold on to you.

My friend is weak, she is frail. I don’t think that she has the physical or emotional strength to hold on to anything, but that’s okay.

God is holding her, and He’s not going to let go.

So far, the song lyrics are comforting; however, they don’t stop there. The lyrics go on to talk about the best way to react when the things that are difficult go horribly in your life or the lives of people you care about.

“This hand is bitterness; we want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrows.”

This is all too true. When bad things happen, the most natural reaction is to become angry and bitter: sometimes at those involved, but most often at God.

That’s not a good thing to do. Rather:

“The wise hand opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow.”

It’s okay to grieve. In fact, it’s natural. However, wisdom means coming to accept tragedy, acknowledge its effect, and then turn to the future. Because, no matter what tragedy happens, the greater amount of life goes on; hope goes on.

Love goes on.

So in all of this, I choose to believe in hope, I choose to trust in the providence of God.

I choose to believe that God will hold my friend to the end of this trial, whatever or whenever that end might be.

She is held.

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Just Add Fire

I’ve a confession to make: I am a pyromaniac. I simply love fire. Waaaayyy too much. Now, I don’t go to the point of stupidity with this obsession, but I do find myself drawn to fire like a moth to a…flame. Ahem.

See?

This 4th of July, my family and friends were very surprised to find a nice fireworks display occurring outside the house, just a little down the street. Surprised, because these fireworks were pretty impressive given the amateur nature of the production; over an hour of explosions from at least 4 different sources. Oh yeah, and fireworks are illegal in my state.

Technicalities, right?

I couldn’t resist taping some of the night for you all. Here’s my explanation of what’s going on:

The blast at the beginning totally took me by surprise. BOOM!

At this point, we were starting to get a little punchy. (Okay, punchier than normal.) What you can’t see is that there are 7 of us on an old wooden dock- 3 teen boys determined to see the fireworks up close and personal, the father of 2 of those boys, me, my best friend (who was telling me a fireworks story), and her brother (who is on crutches following surgery).

Near the end of the video, a mis-directed rocket landed less than 10 feet behind us, thus the gasping and hasty retreat!

I will say, it was hard to be that close to the launch pad and not run over and light a fuse myself. I tend to be very eager to work with fire: I’m good at building fires in the fireplace, I love having candles around, and the smell of matches makes me happy!

I can also be a bit ditzy with fire, like the time I inadvertently let 300 “Pop-Its” sit by a lit candle for hours. Erm, not my brightest life-moment.

But man, the explosion would have been pretty cool!

Anyway, that’s just a peek into our night. It’s also a little different for me to video blog so if you like the change of pace, drop me a comment.

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Temper Tantrums

If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen- don’t just make the kitchen “invitation only”.

As a blogger, you open yourself up to encouragement and praise, but you also make yourself a target for criticism and critique. I write each and every post with the nagging mindset that anyone can read this. So far, my readers have been wonderfully encouraging but I know that I may have critics at some point.

Thus, I’m careful not to write anything that I am annoyingly passionate about, and nothing deeply personal. That’s just setting yourself up to feel hurt and abused.

I follow about 50+  blogs; some are corporately minded, some are photo blogs, and some are a mere whisper away from a tell-all private diary. In one of those diary blogs, this young person spilled their guts (yet again) about their “newfound” purpose in life. By doing so, they completely put down their current vocation in a harsh and hurtful manner. It was completely unprofessional.

In the comments, one of the blogger’s readers called them out on the hurtfulness and immaturity of their post. This commenter was firm, but very kind in their rebuke. They said only what needed to be said and nothing more. They ended by telling the blogger that they loved them.

Before the end of the week, this blog became “invitation only”. Hmmmm.

Coincidence? I think not.

I understand that criticism hurts. I get that when you are flush in your newfound “calling in life”, then the last thing you want is for someone to pull you up short. But, listen to your readers. This commenter is a personal friend of the blogger; they’ve known each other for some time. If your friends are telling you that you’re not living up to your goal in life, then maybe that should be a wakeup call to take a step back and assess where you are. It’s not a call to get defensive and block all but a choice few readers.

So like I said before- if you can’t stand the heat, stop blogging now. You’ll only save yourself a world of hurt and pain. The world isn’t going to get kinder. People aren’t going to become more tolerant of your dreamy-eyed ideals. It’s happened once, it can happen again. It’s time to face the music, accept the comment, and move on.

Ironically, this blew up into a bigger deal than it had to be. To gracefully acknowledge the comment and move on with the blog would have been the mature decision; in a few days, the whole situation would have blown over. Instead, every time I see a link to the now-private blog, that situation comes leaping to mind. It was a bad call, if I’m being honest.

It’s never healthy to surround yourself with “yes” people. We all know the type: any question you ask them, they tell you what you want to hear. “Does this chartreuse and grey zig-zag striped dress suit me?” “Yes!” “Did you enjoy my apricot and tomato risotto?” “Yes!” “Should I quit school to join the circus?” “Yes!

See? It’s just not healthy.

So, there are a few lessons to be learned:

  1. Accept constructive criticism. Not that I think you should change everything about yourself because one person thinks you should; use common sense. However, most of us could do with a bit of improvement, so be open.
  2. Don’t post deeply personal thoughts online. No matter how much you may want to share your epiphany, don’t just spew out your latest thoughts. You are much more likely to react emotionally to a negative comment.
  3. Just be smart. Don’t be the kind of person where “no thought goes unpublished.” Wait, think, then act.

That’s all.

Comments? Compliments? Criticisms? Leave them on the link to the left!

Wee bit of housekeeping here. Sorry for the third blog design in a month; I promise that this one will stick around for a while. I’ve been waiting almost a year for a design like this: readable, light, and girly without being “too much.”

A few things moved around, but it should be straightforward. Don’t forget; if you want a nice little email when I post, just put it under “Be In the Know” and hit submit (look up and right!). I’ll make sure that you are kept in the loop!

–MissW

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It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye

My manager quit this week.

We all knew that this day was coming eventually, but across the board all the partners thought that it would be later rather than sooner. Monday she turned in her two-week’s notice; Tuesday she worked her last shift. I’m still reeling a little.

The reaction has been varied to a degree, but the first gut reaction from all of us was shock. Do you know that look people get when they are hit in the stomach so hard that they lose their breath? That’s the look we all had on our faces as the news traveled from person to person.

I understand why she is quitting. Life at Starbucks gets more challenging by the week. There’s never enough labour to go around, expectations seem to rise exponentially, and morale is dropping like a barometer during a hurricane. Physically, we are all exhausted. Emotionally, we are strung out. Mentally, we have been pushed to our limits and beyond. Through everything, our manager was there to keep us informed, help us learn and understand, and to make sure that we didn’t kill each other.

Now, we’re on our own.

Shock has been replaced with acceptance, even happiness that she is finally going to be able to call her life her own again. Happiness that she doesn’t have to deal with the hassle. Happiness that she will be able to pursue some of her other interests. She gave everything to the store. She was salaried to work 40 hours each week- often she worked 65 hours, sometimes more. She never asked us to work any harder than she did. If there was something to be cleaned, she would clean it. If we were shorthanded on the floor, she’d leave her administrative duties to lend a hand. She’d drive the 45 minutes from her house at night just to take inventory so we didn’t have more to do at night.

We’re going to be okay though. One of the most important things she did was make us into a team. At first this concept was fodder for a bunch of jokes. Every note from her (and there were oh so many!) contained the word “team” in it at least once, usually more. One of the running jokes was that if you wanted to post a note that everyone would read, you had to use the word “team” to make it look official. However, at some point we stopped laughing at the idea of being a team, and instead started acting like one.

We have each other’s backs. We don’t turn someone in when they’re doing something wrong- instead we try to help them correct the problem themselves. When tragedy hits, we’re there with meals. When people have to leave the store, we’re there with cards and gifts. We know what school classes everyone else taking. We know each other’s family and close friends. We have most of each other’s partner numbers memorized. All this is pretty much our manager’s doing.

She could turn any night into a party. If she had to stay late to keep an eye on a special event, do an order, write a schedule, or count merchandise she would order out pizza or Chinese food. Then, we would take advantage of any slow moments to grab a bite together in the back, talking and laughing about stupid things.

Most importantly, she made us work hard. She took over our store from a poor manager. The store was filthy, not known for being overly friendly, nor for making exceptional drinks. Within months, we were the cleanest store in the district, were ranked the highest store in the district by customers for a year straight, and were in the top three stores in the region (that’s over 90 stores in competition!). She won manager of the quarter last year, and totally deserved it. Even though we are tiny and relatively low volume, we are now the store to beat- it’s a real coup to be friendlier, make better drinks, or sell more promotional items then we do.

That’s what will get us through the next few weeks while we wait for a new manger, and what will sustain us through the first few months of a new person in charge. We have each other- no matter what happens, we can turn to each other and talk things over, try to make sense of everything. So far, we are doing amazingly well on our own, and I have no doubts that we will continue to do just fine. It’s an adjustment, but she trained us to survive on our own. We are independent for now, and it’s going to be okay.

So, goodbye friend. Even though we may not want to admit it, we’ll miss you in the store. We’ll miss the notes, the impromptu parties, the conversations about bowling. Don’t worry about us; we’re going to be just fine.

Go, Team!

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You Can’t Go Home Again

Perhaps a short preface is needed here. I wrote this a few weeks back and posted it on a private forum. I think, though, that it needs to be on this blog- it reflects my heart more accurately than anything else I’ve written on here. Forgive my anger; know that it flows out of a profound sadness. –Miss Woodhouse

Death has a way of bringing people together. This past week a dear older friend of mine passed on suddenly. We weren’t amazingly close, but nonetheless his death threw me into sadness and despondency.

His funeral was held at the church I once called home; the church I belonged to for thirteen years, the church that baptized me, the church that nearly destroyed my relationship with God.

Nearly three years removed from my leaving, I found it interesting that the reasons for my departure at first seemed negligible. I sat in my old pew, looking around at familiar face after familiar face. I decided that the old saying was wrong- you can go home again.

Then the service started. In a curious blend of repulsion and nostalgia, for the next two hours I relived what I loved about my old church and what I hated about it. The music was glorious; the congregation manipulation was not. The eulogies were heartfelt and emotional, honouring of the man who had gone Home all too soon; but the sermon was selfishly centered on another person’s wishes and opinions on life.

Face after face. Person after person. Life after life. People I walked away from when I walked out on the hypocrisy and lies. People- many of whom are growing old. People- many of whom will not live to see another president. People- many of whom will go Home all too soon.

My time with them is brutally ripped away from me. My friend who died, I missed two years of seeing him every week. I missed two years of hearing him sing in the choir. I missed two years of letting him know what a great man I thought he was.

I’ll never get those two years back.

I made my choice. I chose to follow God and His standards, and not the ways of man. I walked away from the church in order to walk into the arms of my Father. Salvation may very well be free, but it will cost everything. It is costing me the chance to glean wisdom from the older generation, the chance to worship in perfect freedom of expression. I am richer in eternity for my position, but I am the poorer here on earth for it.

I miss my home; I miss my family. I miss the joy and love that flows from them into me.

But you can’t go home again.

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