Miss Woodhouse's Musings

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

Accentuate the Positive

Gentle Readers,

People and situations have been a wee bit…shall we say “trying” of late. It’s only to be expected; anytime you interact with others, tensions are bound to occasionally run high.

At Starbucks, we’ve been talking a lot about “assuming positive intent” when it comes to customer service. This idea has also arisen in other articles and conversations, but Starbucks expresses it best. It is easy to apply this principle at work. One only has to be nice for a few hours before the shift is over or it is time for a break. We can do just about anything, cope with just about anything, if we know it will eventually end soon.

But how does this look in day to day life? I think it means that we shouldn’t take things so personally. For example, maybe a friend is shoving their achievement in your face for the umpteenth million time. You can be completely human and see it as a malicious attempt to make you feel inferiour. Or, you can choose to see it as your friend being so genuinely excited about something good that they need constant affirmation to believe it is real.

Of course, chances lean in the favour of this person being thoughtless and selfish, but what good is dwelling on that mindset going to do you? By assuming positive intent, you empower yourself to smile, encourage, walk away, and forget the whole interaction. What’s the point of letting something eat you up? It doesn’t harm the other person, it just drives you crazy.

That’s today’s challange. Assume positive intent…how does that look in your life? Feel free to share!

Until tomorrow,
Miss W


Growing, Growing, Gone

The story starts as any good story should, with Once Upon A Time. Only, this was not the beginning of a lovely fairytale, but rather the start of a horror story. And Once Upon A Time…it was the name of a little bookstore. In a tale worthy of a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie, the little children’s bookstore operated well on a busy little corner in an area of town that only had one grown-up bookstore a little down the way. When it came to entertaining the literate child, Once Upon A Time was the place to go.

Enter the big, bad wolf. In this story, we will call them ZanyB. Or, how about ZBrainy? Either way, they moved in RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET. Poor little Once Upon A Time, it couldn’t compete with the megachain’s low prices, extensive retail line, and playhouse atmosphere. A short time later, Once Upon a Time came to an untimely The End. The only satisfaction I find in this sordid tale is that ZanyB went defunct in 2001. It’s only a slight consolation though.

Why, then, am I telling you a tale in which all the characters died over a decade ago? The answer is simple: it is happening everywhere…and it is happening in vicious force right down the street from me. In order to protect myself from the (unlikely) risk of a lawsuit, let’s set up some pseudocharacters. The pawns in this game of sale are as follows: PetshopA, PetshopB, and PetshopC. See? Nice and simple.

I have the honour of knowing the owner of PetshopA. He is a regular customer, and someone that we look forward to seeing at night. I love going into his storefront, and his store is where I take my puppy to be groomed. It is the quintessential local store: in a shopping center just a blocks from my neighbourhood, with good prices and a nicely varied selection of products. All good and well. Now, there is a superpetstore a few miles thataway (nods head vaguely in some direction), but we aren’t even going to worry with that now. No, the store we are worried about is thisaway (points in the opposite direction).

Just so you don’t get too confused, allow me to provide a handy diagram! Only the stores vital to your understanding are shown, so of course I pointed out where Starbucks is in the scenario. Just because you’re going to need coffee at the end of this.

Our Setting

Are we good? Good!

Continuing with the story…PetshopB has been around for a long time. A really long time. And it is a decent sized store too, several times larger than PetshopA. Because they are far enough apart, there isn’t really a lot-lot of competition. Some, but they have enough breathing room.

Enter PetshopC. They are building a new, two story monstrosity RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from PetshopB. Anyone else remember reading the words RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET in all caps before? (Hint: see second paragraph.) But really, they are constructing a new building less than 100 feet from the existing pet store.

At first, my anger was directed solely towards PetshopC. How dare they pick that particular corner! We are already over saturated (oh yes, and there’s an Animal Hospital too, which sells pet supplies as well). We don’t need them in the least…and PetshopA owner assures me that there is not enough demand in this area to support yet another pet supply store.

However, as time went on I found myself getting more angry at city planning. Are they really so greedy that they would put a superfluous store on one of our busiest roads just to make a little more money? The answer is “apparently so.” This particular road is already a parking lot in the afternoon/evening as everyone jumps off the interstate and tries to come home. Plus, the main ingress AND egress for a neighbourhood is right at that intersection too. As is one of the main entrances/exits  for one of our largest shopping centers. The LAST thing we need on that road is more turning traffic holding up and blocking already congested lanes of traffic. Oh yeah, and we are in a recession. Perhaps someone should have informed city planning of that little detail before they agreed to this.

Not to mention that the building is ugly. And huge.

I told you it was ugly.

In talking with Mr. PetshopA last night, he predicted that PetshopB would last about another year. In all honesty I think that is being very generous, but I will bow to his expertise in this area. Besides, the holidays are fast approaching, so PetshopB may survive a little longer than expected due to holiday revenue. But one thing is for sure: no one is expected both businesses to last, and we expect that PetshopB will be the one to suffer loss.

I hope I’m wrong, really, I do.

(But I don’t think so.)


Bad and Good

As many of you know, I review books for people. Sometimes it is through a random online connection, but most of the time it is through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program. This year was very profitable in the book department for me, so I was very excited today when my newest review book showed up in its padded envelope!  So excited, in fact, that I took it with me to work in case I had a few spare minutes.

I didn’t get a chance to start it yet, but already it is sparking some conversations among my coworkers. I should have expected that. After all, here’s what it is:

Oh, loaded title there. Instantly, my coworkers agreed. You see, we live in a very “Christian” community. Just last week someone posted a page out of the Bible on our community board (You’ve got me stumped. There was nothing particularly interesting or evangelical in the posted passage). It’s not uncommon to find tracts in our tip boxes. We know that many of our customers are pastors of local churches.

Unfortunately, some of the people most vocal about being Christians treat us the most poorly. In the interest of fairness, I freely admitted to my coworkers that I was not the best example of a Christian. Being nice, they pointed out that I also don’t try to shove religion down people’s throats while tearing them to shreds at the same time. Valid point, I’ll give them that.

All that to say, I’ve not yet read the book. But the title resonates with people, so I’m opening things up here! If you feel up to it, why not take over my comments box and tell a story of Christians behaving badly? Maybe it happened to you, maybe you were the one misbehaving, but I know we all have these stories and it’s good for us to take a serious look at our behaviour and see where we fall short.

Have at it! In the meantime, I’ll be reading this book. Who knows what it is really about, but so far it has served a good purpose: it got people talking about what is acceptable behaviour, and what is not. In *my* book, that’s a winning result.

Be back with a review soon!

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They Tried To Make Me Go To Rehab

As you’ve probably already heard, Amy Winehouse was found dead today. She was only 27.

Before I go into my main thoughts, let’s make sure we are on the same sheet of music. I find her death tragic. She had talent, potential, youth, and ingenuity. As with any death, it saddens me and my heart goes out to the family and friends she left behind.

That said, one thought keeps resonating in my mind: don’t make her a saint. Just watching the tweets flow by on my stream is worrisome. There are a lot of people lamenting her lost talent, lost potential.

However, she made choices that led her to this untimely demise. While her music made her famous, her alcohol and drug abuse made her infamous. Where her life could have been a true inspiration to up and coming artists, her bad choices cut off her potential.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from things I’ve heard this week, it is that drugs truly have the potential to ruin your life. Even a little bit of use can come around in an unexpected way and change how you thought your life would end up. Constant use, as Amy Winehouse’s life so sadly exemplifies, will eventually destroy you to the core.

So am I sad? Yes. Fame can be overwhelming, but I wish that she could have gotten a grip on her life and not ended up dying in such a tragic way. I hope that in all of this, the people who were musically inspired by Amy Winehouse will also be inspired to live clean lives: no drugs, no drinking.

If her life is to be an inspiration, let’s learn from all aspects of it.



“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Matthew 24:36

There’s a lot of talk about the world ending tomorrow.

This annoys me. Not that I’m not all for the Rapture and all; there are days where my mind constantly echoes John’s cry of “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” However, really people? Do you think that you, and YOU ONLY, have discovered the date of the one event that will change the entire world forever?

Because, let’s face it. Wars affect some people, earthquakes affect others. Some people are influenced by a wedding, some by the fall of a dictator. But nothing, NOTHING, will change the world like the Rapture, the Second Coming, Christ returning to earth. For some it will be amazing, for others it will be terrifying, and I hope and pray that you all are not in the “terrifying” category.

Here’s the thing though. Only God knows when this is all going to take place. In an amazing metaphysical conundrum, even Christ (though fully God and fully man) does not know when He is going to return to earth. Did you all hear that? Christ does not know the date of something that completely centers around His participation! I mean, wow. That’s one tightly guarded secret.

So what makes anyone think that God would reveal to *them* this precious date? The God I know, He doesn’t play games. He doesn’t say in His Word that no one knows something, and then drop broad hints or whisper it in the ear of a man. He doesn’t mess with us like that. He knows the date and time, and that’s enough. We don’t need to know. Let’s face cold, hard reality: we don’t want to know.

Think about how pointless life would feel if we knew the date and time. Think of how apathetic and scared we would become. I mean, all this May 21st stuff is merely conjecture and people are losing it; what if we knew it was 100% real? No. No no no. Bad idea. God knew that it was best for us not to know, so we don’t know. Oh, and remember, Christ doesn’t know, so He’s not going to be providing hints to us either. God told us all we need to know about the end times in Revelation. Quite honestly, that gives me enough fodder to keep my mind occupied…I don’t need to know EXACTLY when it will all kick off.

Let’s stop worrying about the end of the world. Let’s just worry about today. How are we acting? What are we doing? Are we making our lives count? Are we doing things that matter?

Live for today…let tomorrow take care of itself.

The Second Coming

William Butler Yeats

 Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


A Starbucks Story

It was the best of closes, it was the worst of closes…actually it was tonight’s close!

We were having a good night. My coworkers were wild and crazy, and there were lots of hugs, jokes, pranks, insults, and songs.

…Justin Bieber songs, but no night is *perfect*.

As much as we hated to do so, shift and I sent our dear singing precloser home a little early to save labour. We were good, we were ahead of the game. We were set to close at 9:30, and get out well before 10.

Then, 9:15 happened. A very, very nice man walked into the store and informed us that he was turning off the water.

Say WHAT?????

I’ve never seen that look of blank shock on my shift’s face before. She just stood there, the Daily Coverage Report about to slide out of her hands. It was…disturbing. So, I jumped in to the situation, chatted with the guy (who was WONDERFULLY understanding), and we negotiated a 10 pm water shut off.

Whew. Disaster averted.

The only problem is that Mr. Water Man wasn’t hopeful that we would have water for open tomorrow. Or for the morning rush. Or, like, until 10-11 am tomorrow morning.

Let’s make a list of why we need water:

Espresso shots

Coffee brewing

Rinsing pitchers

Washing dishes

Washing hands


…just to name a few things.

Oh, and my manager is the opening shift.

So I focus in on dishes. The sooner I could get done, the sooner he could get to work, the sooner we could have water back. Scrub, swish, stack, sanitize, shelve!

It’s now 9:28. Almost there…so close….

…and a guy comes in. Asks if we are open. We say “for a few more minutes” and he says “good, I have a couple of drinks.”

He then proceeds to order:

4 grande caramel frappuccinos

3 grande vanilla lattes

2 strawberries and cream frappuccinos

1 iced grande caramel macchiato

We are down to one espresso machine so I could ensure both got rinse cycles before the drought. We only have out one blender pitcher because we were cleaning the others (see re: coming drought). Oh, and because he is still there, fussing over his order, other orders came in behind him. Somehow, shift and I crank these drinks out in record time, only closing a few minutes after our “shut door” time.

But now we are now *so* behind the power curve.



But there is no recovery. We clock out 10 minutes late, chewing up all the labour we saved earlier by sending Bieber Boy home.


So much promise…so much potential….

Chocolate ice cream? Don’t mind if I do!


Thanks, Dr. Oz….

He is one of those customers. You all know the type- the ones who make you dread coming on shift. The ones who have complicated orders, make unreasonable demands, berate you as you do your job the best you can, put you through the wringer, and then never tip. We have several of those, but one really takes the cake.

He gets a pound of coffee- a specific blend of decaf Sumatra and regular Sumatra. Always. Okay, fine- half-caf, no problem.

In fact, the coffee is the least of the issue.

If you don’t start scooping it before he even walks in the door, he acts as though you are too dense to draw breath. It doesn’t matter if you stand there and recite the order with him- if it’s not ready when he gets to the register, he has to tell you the entire order. EM-PHA-TI-CAL-LY.

He then watches you like a hawk as you walk to the wall, pull the coffee bags (he never brings the coffee to the register himself), and go behind the counter, scoop, measure, weigh, grind, and bag. Then, he…well, wait a moment.

There’s something you all should understand. I’m a closer- I rarely work before 3 pm. When I deal with this customer, it’s at night- like, it’s dark out night. Now, every store has closers like me, and openers who don’t work past noon. Our store has a highly popular opener- he almost never works much past 11 or 12. NEVER at night. Hasn’t for many, many years. Comprende? Bien.

He (the customer) comes in at night. Every night, he asks if this one opener is working. Becomes very upset when he is told that they are not there. Despite our explaining that his favourite barista only works in the mornings, he still comes in late at night for his coffee. Go figure. Apparently, this opener is the “only person” who can get the half-caf right, is the “best employee ever,” and without them working at our location “we wouldn’t stand a chance of staying in business because no one else can do the job as well.”

The first time we dealt with this guy at night, it was me, a shift, and my manager. We all stood there, slightly in shock. The manager tried to laugh it off with the customer… “Yeah, that employee is pretty popular.”

“NO. You all would go under without him.” (EM-PHA-TI-CAL-LY, remember?)

*blink* O-kayyyyy then.

He left at last, his coffee in hand. We stood there, silently looking at each other. Wordlessly, the shift reached over and pulled off three pieces of receipt tape. Scribbling something on each of them, she quietly pinned them to the inside of our green aprons with paper clips. I glanced at what mine said.

Chopped Liver

The three of us burst out laughing. “That’s so we don’t forget what we are without the morning crew.” my shift declared.

This customer has made us feel the same way every visit since that night two years ago. We treat him nicely, but there is still a tenseness to the transaction.

And then, a miracle. They came in the other night, and I immediately started scrambling for the coffee wall to pull the pounds I needed, calling to him as I ran “half-caf, right?”

“No, just regular.”

I swear, I stopped dead in the middle of the café. The shift behind the counter halted too. No? NO? NO!?!?!??!?!

“No,” he continued on. “I was listening to Dr. Oz, and he said that the process used to decaffeinate coffee is worse for you than the extra bit of caffeine. So, it’s just a pound of regular coffee now.”

Do you know how much FASTER his order goes without the measuring and scooping? Without having to assure him that yes, it was the right amount of caf and decaf? Oh, bliss. This is a change we like.

Thank you, Dr. Oz.


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Why We Do What We Do

I am sitting in a Starbucks not my own, watching the dynamics of those around me. This is a young Starbucks…I don’t see or know of a barista working here who is over 30. They get along well with each other, and seem to have a solid customer base.

One if these regular customers is a mentally challenged young man, sitting in the cafe. He knows the baristas and a good many of the customers, and they know him. He wanders for a while, restless. Quiet, unobtrusive, but restless.

Soon, one of the young male baristas comes into the cafe. He takes off his green apron and black hat, and arranges two chairs at a big table. He sits in one, the mentally challenged young man in another. A deck of UNO cards appear, and they play.

For over an hour, they play the game, soft exclamations of UNO punctuating the alternative mix on the radio. This is not the first time I’ve watched this scene play out, and it won’t be the last. It touches my heart- the patience, love, and dedication of time that this barista is willingly making. I leave to run an errand, and come back half an hour later to take drinks to my friends. They are both still there, still playing, still chatting, still smiling.

I would go up and tell this barista how proud I am to have a fellow partner like him, but I wouldn’t interrupt this UNO game for the world.




Clean Slate

A new year is upon us.

If you listen to the rumours floating around, 2011 may be the last full year that we have left before the world implodes in 2012 because the Mayans couldn’t create a self-sustaining calendar. Or something like that.

I, suffice it to say, don’t believe in silly things like this. However, I think I’m going to issue myself a challenge this year. And if I’m going to try it, I’d love for you all to join me in my quest.

Let’s live 2011 as if it truly was our last year alive.

Let’s savour every moment. Let’s mend bridges with people. Let’s wipe our grudge slates clean and give everyone a fresh start. Let’s give ourselves fresh starts. Let’s take risks. Let’s work hard, but remember to play hard as well. Let’s not let little things blow out of proportion. Let’s acknowledge when we see people acting extraordinary. Let’s purpose to BE extraordinary. Let’s love more. Let’s laugh more. Let’s exist with intention.

Are you with me?

Ready…set…go rock your world!

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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.