Coffee shop potty break

28 Aug

How do you go pee at a coffee shop when you’re by yourself? 

I work from home often and I love doing it– my laptop, my mug of chai tea, my sweatpants… and my bathroom nearby… heaven.  Today, though, Comcast was having a systems outage in my area and my internet and phone both died unceremonious as I finished a document that needed to be sent out.  Customer service was predicting another 3 hours before the situation would be fixed, so I needed to find another solution.

I laced up my sneakers and headed out the door, noting that my bladder was a bit full.

Dear blog readers, what do you do with your stuff when you are at a coffee shop by yourself and need to use the restroom?  I’ve faced this conundrum before:  I get all set up– laptop plugged in, notebook out, small snack half eaten, and then I have to pee.  I look around, wait– did I see anyone else in here get up to use the bathroom? What did they do with their stuff?  Everyone in here came in with stuff… (well, except that guy in the corner who only walked in with a newspaper to read and hasn’t budged since).  The rest of us serious working people have computers, and other personal effects.  So what do you do? 

Option A:  Leave your stuff and run to the restroom

     Pro: You get to empty your bladder

     Con: You have to rush your time in the restroom because you’re worried someone might steal your stuff (or take a bite of your granola bar, or something equally as unsavory) 


Option B: Ask a kind-looking stranger to watch your stuff while you go to the restroom

     Pro: Again, you get to go handle your business; but this time you feel a bit more at ease, because someone responsible-looking is glancing at your stuff occasionally

    Con: And this has happened to me before– kind-looking stranger has sticky fingers and actually takes something from your computer bag, which you only discover after you’ve gotten home


Option C:  Pack all your stuff up and battle with them in the tiny cubicle, which may or may not have a functional hook on the door for you to hang your stuff

    Pro:  Like I’ve been saying, business gets handled and at least you know no one is going to take your stuff

    Con:  Sadly, this, too has happened to me… you might end up slinging your computer bag across your chest, and hanging your purse on the back of your neck so that you can avoid putting either of them on the sticky-from-God-knows-what floor.  All of this while trying to wrestle down your pants, and hover and aim over the toilet.  

Option D:  Don’t work at coffee shops.  

This has no cons, and the pros are obvious.  This is the option I usually go for.  If you have to do it, like I did today:  Empty your bladder, first, and sip that coffee slowly. 



25 Aug

I want a baby.

I found myself crying last night as I drove to the grocery store and again as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. I don’t know why the pain is as acute right now, but I wish I had our baby.

Most days I only give a cursory glance to the rearview mirror, to the time I was pregnant, to the hopes and dreams I had for our first child that never came to be. But I’m awake now with a gnawing pain in my stomach, in my heart– that miscarriage took something real from me. Something that I now really miss, something I really wanted.

Living like no body

24 Aug

One of our family values is inspired by Craig Groeschel and Dave Ramsey: “Live like no body now so you can live like no body later”.  (When my mom came to visit after we had posted the values in our kitchen, she was particularly disturbed by this value and she said so.  But it wasn’t until the day she was leaving that I understood why.  She called me aside and said, “I’m really not comfortable with you aspiring to live like a nobody!!!” Oh Mother, reading is fundamental! 🙂 )

Anyway, the value means that we will make difficult, sacrificial, Kingdom-minded decisions now so that we don’t live in our old age worried about how the bills will get paid, in poor health, and stressed about how the children will turn out.

But recently I’ve been having a hard time remembering why this value is important to me.

I’ve been wanting a house. Well, sort of. I’m not ready to deal with the issues I happily call my landlord to deal with now, I’m not ready for PMI, and I’m not ready for being tied down to one location right now.  I’m really not ready to pay the exorbitant prices they want for places out here.  But still I find myself driving wistfully past neat little subdivisions with their large brick facades, tree-lined curbs, and sprawling backyards.

I’ve been wanting a brand new car.  Actually, not really.  I’m not ready to own another depreciating “asset”, I’m not ready to pay a car note.  But as I swing my squeaky sedan into the commuter lot and park next to that gleaming red Acura with the tan leather interior, I look with a little yearning at that shiny car.  For a minute.

In all honesty, I love writing my rent check each month knowing I have a really good deal.  We “downgraded” when we left our ultra modern high-rise apartment in the middle of a hip city center for a townhouse in the boonies, but I pay less here, have more space and don’t have to deal with the logistics of lugging my groceries up to the 5th floor.  I love my rickety used car– we paid less than $2,500 for it four years ago and it’s our little engine that could.  We’ve put probably less than $1000 into it since we bought it– I’m really good with that!

So what’s going on with me?  I’m not really sure… I’ve had to remind myself a lot lately of something else that we’ve embraced since deciding to make this a value– “I don’t deserve to have things I have not worked for”.  (Now, I am not discounting the grace of God that does actually give me many good things that I have not worked for, and do not actually deserve).  What I mean here is that my parents worked for years and years to afford a home as nice as the one I live in now.  They spent years saving up and trading up gradually to get to the caliber of car and house that I now find myself wanting.  But I want it all now.

If I examine my discontent now, I realize that at the bottom of it all I don’t just want to have a starter house– I want that final house– the one in that perfect location, with the exact number of rooms I’ll ever need, and the kitchen that will accommodate making every recipe I’ll ever learn in my life.  I want that 2014 car with all the trappings.  So in reality my problem is not so much one with the this-not-that choices I’ve made… it’s the grabbing/wanting/greed that wants more than I can afford, and more than I deserve.

In the end I find that I really am happy with the major life decisions that we have made in an effort to make our tomorrows better.  In truth, I do not feel deprived at all.  And on days when I look around with a mild bitterness and feel like others have indulgences I have refused to give myself, I log into Mint, and look at the tally of our growing total net assets… and smile inside.


13 Aug

Many people tell my husband that he’s spoiled; and he is.  With it just being the two of us for now, he gets a lot of pampering.  And it works for us: he has health issues that generally require him to have a very minimal amount of stress, and I like to feel like I’m taking care of business on the home front.

I mentioned in one of my recent posts that work was stupid crazy last week.  By the end of the day on Thursday, I was going out of my mind.  I had a splitting headache, I hadn’t stopped to get lunch so I was starving, and then I got a call from hubby that he had just checked himself into the hospital.

That day I had driven to the park n ride station and taken a combination of commuter bus and the metro to work.  Hubby had gotten a cab to take him 25 miles from our home to the hospital where his team of medical specialist work.  It was about 5:30pm and I was still at the office.  I would need to catch the metro, then the bus to pick up my car (a 1.5 hour trip), drive the distance to see hubs and then drag my tired carcass back home to work on a submission deadline.

I did the calculations and I just couldn’t find a solution that would make going to see hubby in the hospital work.  He sounded like he was okay… His medical team is very competent; he would be okay by himself overnight. Besides, what would I be doing there to make things any better for him?  I needed sleep, and food, and some Tylenol for my head… I called hubby and explained it all to him and told him I’d come see him after work the following day.

I had just hung up the phone with him when a good friend caught me online.  She asked how we were doing and I gave her a quick rundown…

Me: I’m stressed. I’m okay, but work is a lot right now, and hub’s in the hospital

Friend: oh boo, I’m sorry

Me: thanks love. He just checked himself in. I feel bad cus I’m still at the office, and need to pull an all-nighter– I’m not even sure I’ll be able to see him tonight

Friend: wow

Me: which makes me feel bad… but I’m so tired already, and he’s so far from home

Friend: 😦  Wow – Please can you go see him?

Me: It would be two hours of driving round trip in the traffic, and I kinda need those hours to sleep and/or work on this document… but I need to prioritize my husband over work or sleep, right?

Friend: I understand the challenge. I wish I could be there for you. Yes, please. Please. Remember all those months he was there for you

Me: I have to go home on the bus/train now– get the car, then head out there and then come home and work all night.

Friend:  I know how hard it is

Me: You are right… I’ll stop whining

Friend:  Sorry. Big hug. Go see him fast. Run. He needs you. Sending prayers your way. You’ll find strength somehow as you hop along to go see him. 🙂 big hug

I needed to hear what she had to say at that moment.  I dragged my tired butt home, ate some dinner then drove out to see hubby.  While he was distressed that I had come all the way as tired as I was, by the time I left he said, “I didn’t think you not coming was a big deal, but I actually feel better. I’m glad you came”.  And so was I.

I’m surprised that I almost got it wrong that night. Home life over work life is almost always a no-brainer for me, but almost allowed myself to lose track of what was important. I’m so very grateful to my dear friend who lovingly helped me see what I needed to do.  In the end I slept much better that night than I had most of the rest of the week.  (and hubby’s back home now, and doing better)

Travelling well

9 Aug

(I recently joined Toastmasters. From time to time I might share some of my material. Here is an irreverent piece from this week). 

I’ve been working in international development for over 10 years and all of my work has involved travelling.  But really, I’ve been traveling almost from the day I was born.  I don’t know how many miles I’ve logged on all of my trips, but I’m proudly a gold status Delta frequent flier, and I’ve been to at least 21 countries on 5 continents.  I’ve earned my wings.

Here are some “tips” that have worked well for me.

  •  Don’t get distracted.  Seriously, this is an important tip—have you noticed that airports just attract the most interesting people and situations.  It’s so easy to get carried away weaving a sad story of doomed summer love for that young couple that run back for hugs and kisses six times before one of them finally peels away to go tearfully through the security line.  You could lose hours just watching the couple with four children under the age of four trying to wrangle car seats, strollers, backpacks, leashes, baby carriers and the babies themselves through the airport— little children discovering an escalator is a fascinating and slightly scary thing to watch!  But you have to keep your eye on the ball— you’ve got places to go, and people to see.  Locate your terminal and boarding gate quickly and get there early.
  • Keep track of your belongings.  This one seems like a no-brainer, with all the “report unattended bags to the authorities” messages we keep hearing these days.  But you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget something laying around when you’re tired, disoriented because of the time difference, or at your fourth airport in a 24-hour time span.  I’ve left my passport on a chair in a New York airport terminal; glasses in an airplane seat back pocket, and I left a belt that I really needed to keep my pants up in a security line tray once. Actually, it’s really easy to lose track of your things in security lines.  Make it easy on yourself by keeping your pockets empty to begin with, and putting as many things as possible into your carry-on, so they are not lying around loose in your tray.  Also, if possible, take your whole tray with you when you move away from the conveyor belts—that way you’re not grabbing all your things and trying to put your shoes, belt and jewelry back on at the same time.
  • Pack smart. I’m a recovering over-packer.  It used to be that when I got ready to go on a trip, my husband would ask if I was finally leaving him because the size of my luggage never matched how long I said I’ll be gone for.  But, seriously knowing what to pack, and where to put it is an art form.  I make my packing list days before my trip— and I write everything down—even obvious things.  I have gone on a trip only to find that I packed no undies, so I leave nothing off my list.  I’ve become an expert at rolling clothes to keep them compact enough for small spaces, but wrinkle free so they are ready to wear.   And always, always pack at least a change of clothes in your carry on– luggage goes missing more than you think.
  • Minimize the time you have to spend waiting around.  Yes, things happen, and waiting around is inevitable in travelling, but you can do things to cut your wait times.  Check in online and print or download your boarding pass.  Streamline your carryon to get through security lines faster.  Once you’ve landed at your final destination, though, minimizing wait times get a little less straightforward.  If you’re serious about not waiting around for long, especially if you’ve just arrived at a developing country on a full flight, you’re going to have to get a bit scrappy.  First, push and shove whoever you need to so that you’re first off the plane.   While you’re in an arrival terminal, though, don’t shove anyone as you might be denied entry into the country.  Once you’ve respectfully made it through immigration, start throwing elbows and jockeying for prime real estate at the luggage carousel.  Your position at the carousel has huge implications for how long you’ll be stuck at the airport.  Too close to the opening where the bags come out and you’ll be chasing your bags around the carousel because you weren’t able to confirm which was your bag before it snaked past you.  Too far from the opening and you’ll have to yell at people who think your bag is theirs and remove it from the belt to check the tags before it gets to you.  Once you’ve find the perfect spot, you’ll have to defend your turf ferociously, but trust me—the more time saved, the closer you are to a bed and sleeping horizontally for the first time since you left home.

Seasoned travelers, other tips you want to share?  Send me a comment. 

Humble pie

9 Aug

I’ve been eating a lot of it lately.

See, I’m good at my job. I’m not bragging, but I’m one of those lucky people for whom talent and vocation align. I spend my days, in principle, doing what I am passionate about, and what I am good at doing.  I have a good reputation for doing my work well.

Being completely away from work for 8 weeks when I was sick was hard and I’ve been super-eager to get back to my desk.  Getting back, I felt like I was firing on all cylinders– I was immediately chosen to work on a couple large profile opportunities and given more management responsibility.  I was busy, but coping well.  Then came last week.  I got asked to fill in for some colleagues who were out of the office, doing a part of our business that I’m not normally involved with– a side of our work, that I found out, needs a more delicate touch than I’m used to.

To put it mildly, the last 6 working days have been disastrous. I can’t remember a time that I felt so inept, had my stomach in my throat while anticipating peoples’ reaction to my decisions, or was reprimanded so many times for not having handled a situation well.  Turns out I’m a little sensitive to criticism.  I need to learn to watch my words more carefully; be more diplomatic at this level of management.  I guess I needed to see that not everything I touch turns to gold and that I still have much to learn.

Thanks for the reminder… now can I just get back to being the star player? ARGH.

Closure… and some damn baby formula

6 Aug

I think I’m in a good place.  Most days, I’m actually in a great place.  It’s one of the benefits of having had surgery, transfusions, tubes down your throat, all kinds of medication counter-indications, etc. Somewhere in the middle of trying to stay alive you forget a little about your past miseries.  So most days I don’t actively remember that this whole thing started 8 months ago with a second-trimester miscarriage.

When we first found out that our baby’s heart had stopped, I thought I would live the rest of my days cynical and broken.  At that time I didn’t know that nights curled on the bathroom floor in pain that wouldn’t let me sleep would quickly replace the “why-me” blues of losing a pregnancy.

I’ll tell you more of my story someday, but today I want to talk about closure.  Feeling well physically does wonders for helping your mind also heal.  Though my stamina is not what it used to be, I am hale and hearty for the most part.  And my mind is generally at peace. I’ve come to grips with the fact of no heartbeat, and dashed what could have beens.  I’m fine with the not understanding, not knowing why. Most days.

Then there are the days I come home to the mailings from Enfamil.  On the day I came home from my 12-hour D&C, in my anesthesia stupor, I packed up all the baby and parenting magazines, all the free baby bottles and coupons, all the prenatal vitamin samples, and all the free pacifers that I had been so excited to receive in the mail and threw them all in the dumpster.  I couldn’t bring myself to throw away my prayer journal for my baby, the pregnancy books I had ordered, or my ultrasound pictures, but I put those all in the box in the farthest corner of the basement.  I just didn’t want to have to be reminded of what I had just lost.  I didn’t really know how to deal with it all.

A few weeks later when the first Enfamil mailing came, I immediately ran to my email and wrote to them to unsubscribe me from whatever mailing I had inadvertently signed up for.  (I still don’t know when I gave Enfamil my mailing address or email).  When the first cans of baby formula showed up a few weeks later I angrily called their customer service number and asked them to remove me from their mailing list.  The evil thing about this damn baby formula is that it comes at intervals.  So just when I manage to forget, and move on, another set of mailings come.

The ones in the picture below arrived last Friday– almost 8 months to the day of my miscarriage.  Two of them— really?! I need two reminders from you people that my baby isn’t reaching any new milestones or learning to do anything?  If the fact that I’m a public health professional was not enough to make me loathe baby formula in the first place, you guys are doing yourselves no favors.  What do I need to do to get you to stop tormenting me?

Luckily, I’m okay.  Seriously. I can coo at the baby in these mailings and keep the cans of formula for a crisis pregnancy center that my church supports… but what if I wasn’t okay? What if these stupid mailings from an overzealous company were really the thing keeping me from being able to close this chapter and move on with my life?  Thankfully I don’t need to know the answer to those questions.  I just wonder now when they’ll eventually stop trying to sell me on formula for a baby that was never born.