Do-Over No. 13:Coffee in the Ladies’ Room

I’m up packing for tomorrow’s work trip, and I remembered something I did the last time I traveled.

When you’re a girl, work travel is challenging, especially when on your own. You  have to dress comfortably but professionally (a nearly impossible task), and if you’re anything like me, you wear impractical shoes and pack way too much … and end up lugging a thousand pounds across the miles of vast airport expanse.

God forbid you drink coffee. Or need the restroom.

On this particular trip, I was with a group of people who could watch my bags while I went to the bathroom. The girl ahead of me in line was not so lucky. And her restroom urge hit in that unfortunate space between buying coffee and boarding the plane. In that case, what do you do? You lug everything in there with you — including your coffee — and pretend like you don’t see the judgey stares from the germaphobes.

My hands were free, so I offered to hold this girl’s coffee so she could pee in peace, judgement-free. (Bonus: that also meant I let the next person take my spot in line while I waited to return the coffee).

It was such an easy thing to do, and it gave her a huge relief.

Work travel can suck when you’re a girl on your own. We gotta stick together in the ladies’ room: Call out the lipstick on the teeth; catch the toilet paper on the shoe; give up your spot and hold the coffee.

Do-Over No. 12: The Cop’s Coffee

A dear friend taught me to be a “thank the military” kind of person. When I see uniformed military personnel, I give my best effort to thank that person (sometimes if I’m feeling particularly sentimental, I’ll thank the person’s family, too).

And every once in a while, I’m reminded that our local service men and women deserve a bit of gratitude as well.

Last fall, I was in a coffee shop with a coworker, and a police officer was waiting in line. My coworker suggested we buy the cop’s coffee. I loved it! I ran over to him and asked for his order when it was our turn at the counter.

His initial reaction was that I was being ridiculous. But after a bit of insistence from me, he finally gave in and gave us his order. While we waited for our drinks, my coworker chatted with him about the goings-on in the neighborhood and how he feels about patrolling in the city.

Aside from an old high school friend I get to see twice a year, I rarely get to chat with cops on a personal level. Military thank-you’s are easy to remember. The sacrifice is deep and quite obvious (my standard speech is, “Because you chose to serve, my son will have the right to choose.”). But we so often forget about police officers who get up in the morning, kiss their families, put on the uniform and put their lives on the line … eight-to-five. Every day.

With all the unrest of late with law enforcement, it felt good to extend a bit of friendship to a stranger who is so willing to protect lives like mine.

 

Do-Over No. 11: The Tiny Pirate

Well, crap. How do we let life get away from us so fast? I even let the Do-Overs get away from me.

This particular act is several months old, but I think about it often.

I could parenthetically title this one “Love They Neighbor” … because I do. I live in the suburbs and work in the city. At times — specifically during my 40-minute commute — I ask myself why I live where I do and work where I do. The answer is simple and always the same: I love my job, and I love my neighbors.

Across the street lives the sweetest young family. They have two kids with a third on the way. The oldest is a preschooler named D.

So D (we used to call him “Baby D,” but now that he’s in preschool, he’s been upgraded to “Big Boy D”) has had some developmental challenges, including problems with his eyesight. A few months ago, he had to wear an eye patch for an extended period in order to strengthen the other eye and avoid having even bigger problems later in life.

Mama D put a call out to family and friends on Facebook to help him feel comfortable in his new eyewear. The patches were just a plain white, and she was hoping some friends would decorate them, similar to friends signing a cast, so he’d feel comfortable and maybe even a little happy about having to wear it.

Of course, the Little Guy was all over it. He doesn’t get the privilege of having siblings, so he’s super sensitive to the needs of littles around him.

The very next day, we went across the street and grabbed a couple patches. I can’t tell you how many times I hear “What can I do now?” on evenings and weekends (another symptom of no siblings). This was a fun way for a kid and his craft-challenged mom to fill up some time before dinner.

Back we went with the patches, and Big Boy D loved them! It wasn’t long before Mama D texted me a picture of him wearing the eye patch and the biggest smile. Heartwarming!

I love that this kid will grow up with a boy across the street whom he can trust to look out for him. Good friends and good neighbors are hard to find, and when I’m fighting the traffic into the city and asking myself why, I call on these relationships and interactions. I’m not saying that city-dwellers don’t get the same thing; good people are everywhere. I’m just saying that, regardless of the gas money, I’m right where I belong, passing kindness through the ‘burbs.

Do-Over No. 10: Bumbling Compliment (a.k.a. ‘There’s a reason I’m a writer’)

As you can see, words dominate this project. I give a lot through words … I admit that’s the good and bad.

There’s one gift of words I’ve always dreamed of giving. We all have that dream of, “When I reach the top, this is what I’ll do.” Here’s mine.

Hanging on the wall in my in-laws’ den is a framed, hand-written letter from Hubs’ first boss to his parents. The boss sent it upon completion of Hubs’ first big project nearly 20 years ago. It was all about his talent and dedication, and how his parents should be so proud of him. How he would go on to accomplish great things.

That letter stuck with me. I love to think of those kinds of things – what a person’s parents or child must thing when he or she makes a great accomplishment.Ever since I saw that letter, I have dreamed of being someone’s boss and passing that on.

Let me offer a bit of foreshadowing: There’s a reason I’m a writer.

I have worked closely with one person in particular for more than five years, now, and I have since become her boss. She came to my company fresh out of school, and I have watched her grow, personally and professionally. In a few weeks, she will welcome her first baby.

A few weeks ago, her parents came to town for her baby shower. I have been thinking of that letter, and like this project, it’s taking longer than I planned. At the shower, I was watching her and thinking of how far she’d come. And I was watching her parents looking on so proudly. And I finally decided, screw it. I’ll just verbally give them the letter.

It went something like this:

…You should be so proud of your daughter. She has come so far. I’ve watched her grow from someone who was unsure of herself to someone our team — I — can’t live without. And now she’s going to be a mother, and I have no doubt she’s going to be a great parent because she’s the product of good parenting….

Only, you see, I am so much better at writing these kinds of messages. Because when I speak them, I get all choked up. And then I get all weepy, and I don’t look like the sophisticated boss I’m trying to portray myself to be. I look like a bumbling, sentimental, Sappy Sue (as Hubs likes to call me).

Then again, her dad started to cry, too, so I guess I got my point across. They just can’t hang it on the wall.

 

Do-Over No. 9: The Breakfast Redo

Remember that ridiculous attempt to feed the homeless guy on my sick day? I mean, I fed someone, so that’s great. But I never got a chance to feed the guy I wanted to.

In fact, this entire year, that man has been my constant reminder that I let this project slide. Whether he was on that corner or not, I’d pass through the intersection and think, I gotta get back on it.

I’m happy to report that, while I’m slow to recover, I am back on it … that guy finally got a warm breakfast and a cup of coffee on me. I’m late to work every day, so in the midst of chaos at home and in the office, what’s 15 more minutes?

I veered off course and swung through McDonald’s and got that dude a #1 with coffee and turned back around.

He truly was just some dude. He probably was just panhandling – I know a lot of them actually make a pretty good living at it and even pay for their homes that way – but even if  he didn’t need it, his reaction was worth the effort and designation on the list.

When I rolled down my window and said I got him breakfast, he was so happy! And not in a, “Thanks lady, I haven’t eaten in a week,” kind of way. It was more like, “Hey, that was a cool thing to do!” He didn’t seem weak or desperate. He just appreciated the gesture and was happy.

Happy.

When you give a person something, it’s an act that makes both parties feel good in a way that goes beyond need.

As with the early morning travel lady, I find that those who happily and graciously accept kindness actually give back to me, too.

Who knew?

Do-Over No. 8: Encouragement

My Little Guy suffers from some serious self-doubt. It’s inexplicable to me because we’re talking about a kid who has a light that shines for all the world to see. He’s one of those people who needs to see what the rest of the world sees.

He was pretty nervous to start first grade, despite the fact that he got the teacher he wanted (he’d been hoping to get “Mrs. V.” for first grade since about March).

The morning of the first day of school, we were in constant conflict … excitement and self-doubt engaged in battle. Excited for Mrs. V., but no belief that he was ready for the work and stress of first grade.

After things settled down, I was standing in the kitchen and had myself a moment.

I crouched down to the Little Guy (I hear messages get across better when we’re eye-level). I held his little cheeks, looked him in the eye and told him this: “I know you’re excited that you get to be in Mrs. V.’s class! And there’s always excitement about which teacher everyone gets and what class you get to be in. But I want you to know something. Mrs. V. is excited to get to have you in her class, too. You are a good student and a hard worker. You’re polite and respectful, and you’re the kind of kid teachers hope to have in their classroom. You’re lucky to get her, but she’s lucky to get you, too.”

The teacher-student relationship is special. It’s important and one that directs a kid’s future in ways we don’t realize. I’ve always heard the “my teacher just doesn’t like me/him/her…” argument, and for some reason, it’s always bothered me. I just wanted to take a moment to remind my kid that he has good qualities that teachers appreciate and give him a boost of confidence to know that he’s the kind of person people like to be around. He tends to forget.

Two days later, as if it were a strategically orchestrated story line, Mrs. V. approached us as we were leaving school. Right in front of the Little Guy, she said, “I’m so happy to have him in my class! He’s so sweet and polite, and he’s off to a great start. He’s doing really well!”

I wanted to hug her. She made a point to come over and say that…it wasn’t an “oh by the way” kind of thing. She made effort to walk across the parking lot and reiterate exactly what I had told him. Any parent knows that we are the last people the kid will listen to. She drove it home, and my little attempt at a moment of kindness now stands a chance of sticking in that incredibly smart, incredibly tender brain of his.

Go Mrs. V.! You are now on my kindness radar!

Do-Over No. 7: A Friendly Face

The church I go to is big. It’s huge. It can be pretty overwhelming, and it’s easy to feel lost.

The draw to this church, however, is the pastor, and his down-to-earth nature that makes it actually feel small. He encourages — expects — members to be open and welcoming to visitors, especially first-timers.

A couple Sundays ago, when the attendance notebooks came around, I noticed that the ladies next to me marked their attendance as the first visit. We were sitting in a wonky row with a structure right in the middle, so I leaned over and offered to have them follow us to communion.

Our pastor was actually passing out communion to our aisle, so I whispered to him that the ladies behind me were first-timers, and he took time to welcome them to church.

After service, the one next to me thanked me for my hospitality and said she was from Southeast Missouri, five hours away, and she’d read all our pastors books and followed him online. She promised herself that the next time she came to KC, she was going to see him preach. She was so excited to be there and appreciative for a friendly face.

I was proud to represent my church and pastor and be the kind of member he expects us to be!

Do-Over No. 6: Booking a Flight

When you know someone with a daughter the same age as your son, and that daughter has cancer, and you have a make-nice from Southwest and almost enough points to fund a flight to New York for treatment, you use up your points and buy some more. And then you get them there.

And then you cry at how full and heavy and hurt your heart feels all at the same time.

And then you remind yourself that work deadlines and childcare issues really aren’t that big of a deal.

And then you pray … for healing, for strength, for grace, for thanks.

That is all.

 

Do-Over No. 5: The Nanny’s Farewell

We were lucky enough to snag ourselves an amazing nanny this summer. She was out of our league and out of our budget, but by some stroke of kindness, she accepted our offer. The best selling point I could give her was, “He’s just one kid, and he really is a good boy.” That he is.

Thankfully, she accepted, and she and the Little Guy had an unforgettable summer.

What was special about this girl is that she was able to break through to him in a way that I just can’t. Little Guy and I are so much alike that we often butt heads. It’s best illustrated in all my failed attempts at trying to teach him how to ride a trike and training wheels. They always ended with him screaming … me yelling … him crying … me saying, “Never again.”

Then one day the nanny decided to get into Hubs’ toolbox and take those training wheels off herself. And by god, they nailed it!

Little stuff like that happened all summer.

When her last day came, we did the typical childcare farewell gifts, but then I gave her a little something extra — a letter from me. It started with “My easiest gifts to give are  words…” and then I explained what a miracle the LG is and how he was, out of many attempts, the only baby who could survive my body. And how his determination and self-doubt come right from me, which tends to put him and me a little at odds. And how her kindness and patience taught me how to go at my son in a more compassionate and productive way.

It went on for two hand-written pages, and honestly, I don’t really remember much more than that. It just kept pouring out of the pen.

On her last day, she texted that had to finish reading my letter in the bathroom so the LG didn’t see her crying. I saw her over the weekend, and after a huge hug, she said, “I can’t talk about that letter because it still makes me cry.”

Teachers and childcare providers do what they do for the gratification that comes from the very act of, well, doing what they do.

It’s important to offer them proof of how important they truly are.

Do-Over No. 4: Sharing the Sugar

Hell week continues. One Officeof those that lasts so long you don’t know where “last week” ended and “this week” began. Lots going on, and that has meant some late nights in the office while the Little Guy is on a big adventure with Grandma and Grandpa.

I cover an industry that lends itself to lots of food samples — bread, chips, cake, cheesecake — you name it. If it’s baked or a snack, it’s showing up on my desk.

This week, I got two boxes of the most devilishly delicious cake bars. In case you’re wondering, “cake bars” are like cake “pops,” only they are about the size of a candy bar. I’ve been making a conscious effort not to stress eat during this time, but on this particular day, I had to try one … you know, in the name of “research.” The salted caramel shortbread cake bar was sinful. I’m talking Satan himself.

As the sun went down, those things kept staring at me, and I back at them. I pounded away at my keyboard, feeling their fiendish stare, taunting me. I reached for one … I stopped and returned an email. I reached for one … I stopped and edited an article. I reached for one … you get it.

Then the cleaning crew came around, and the girl changed out my trash can. I said, “Hey! You want to try something delicious? You gotta have one of these. In fact, you all can take them all! It will be a great pick me up.” No matter what your job, a sugar rush is a must when you’re working after dark.

The cool thing is that I worked late again tonight, and I got to ask her if she ate one. She did, and we talked about how wonderful they were. She said she was on a sugar high all night. You get after it, girl. Getchya some.

Those girls work so hard and. I’m really glad I got to share the sugar. Me? I’ll stick to the caffeine.