Thursday, August 17, 2017

Madrid Starbucks

March 13, 2017
9:45 PM
I was on my own for dinner tonight.  Our Business Policy paper is due Friday and I have been tasked with the final edits.  We leave for Germany tomorrow and I am hoping to get some time with the team on the plane so we can tie up loose ends, make final edits and still have time to finish up our individual papers.
I went to The Good Burger when I was FINALLY hungry again.  After our insane lunch, I wasn’t sure it would ever happen.  It was definitely a step up from Burger King that first night, but I’ve had enough authentic food that I don’t feel guilty just getting something quick.  It saved me from yet another night of shopping of places that could be found in the King of Prussia Mall and I easily avoided the drunk fest that I’m convinced is happening with some of my classmates—it’s just not my thing.  I told myself I’d go to bed early, but here it is just after 10 and I’m still wide awake. 
We leave for Germany tomorrow and I’m sad to leave Spain.  I’ve always looked forward to this part of the trip more than Germany, though I’m not sure why other than maybe the weather.  It’s been crazy windy here lately but still very warm.  Hopefully the wind will die down enough for a nice run tomorrow morning.

March 14, 2017
7:15 AM
I was able to get in a brief run this morning—just to the Starbucks (that opens earlier) and then a walk back to the hotel.  This wind is absolutely NUTS.  It kept me awake last night.  I’ve been taking a Tylenol PM just to help me fall and say asleep, hoping to get on the right time zone.  It will probably happen just as we’re heading home. 

When I walked into the Starbucks, I was greeted by the same barista that I saw yesterday as she was cleaning the glass on the front door.  I greeted her with the customary “hola!” and she smiled and then said something to the barista behind the counter.  He said hello to me and then repeated my drink back to me. 

“Venti cafĂ© mocha with skinny milk?”  I’d never heard of skinny milk before, but assuming it meant non-fat, I smiled and said yes.  I was absolutely thrilled that they knew my order.  Thinking back on my study of Starbucks last semester, though, I shouldn’t be shocked at all.  This was, after all, the Starbuck’s Experience. 

“You want soft coffee?”  he asked me.  I had no idea what soft coffee was and I gave him a quizzical look.  He paused for a moment.  “Um, soft coffee, strong coffee.”  His last words were robust.  Now I get it.

“Oh, strong coffee, definitely.”  He made my drink and I walked back to the hotel.  I think that was my favorite Spain moment, maybe because it felt so much like home.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sunday Morning

March 12, 2017
7:25 AM, Madrid

After a fairly restful night, I’m up and ready for coffee.  I’m going for a short run to the Starbucks…except it doesn’t open for another hour!  What’s a gal gotta do to get a cup of coffee in the AM around here?  This is the first hotel since the Waldorf where I haven’t had a coffee pot in my room.  Hopefully the hotel breakfast will do, though those tiny cups are never enough.

Breakfast did not disappoint.  It was a buffet, but none like I’d ever seen.  Meats and cheeses, fruits and some kind of yogurt-like substance, pastries, bread and fresh eggs if you wanted them.  And the coffee!  I have decided that I do like Spanish coffee!  It’s thick and rich but not bitter.  I’m re-thinking my earlier impressions of Spain.  We’ll see how long it lasts.  Off to Mass—I haven’t been in years but the words and the ritual never really leave you.

Church today was beautiful.  The shortest Mass I’ve ever been to but still beautiful.  It’s been decades since I’ve attended Mass as a Catholic, though, every Mass since then has been easy to follow along as the perfect impostor.  Today, however, I felt quite lost.  I had no idea what was happening.  I could pick out words here and there and at one point, I thought I recognized The Lord’s Prayer but then, later in the Mass, I realized it was too early and felt slightly foolish for reciting it in English anyway. 
I tried to use the time to pray and reflect.  It occurred to me, as I sat staring at the face of God, that over here, all the way in Spain, He still hears me.  I was also struck by the visual implication of seeing the body of Christ on the cross.  In my own faith, we do not display the body—only the cross, because we celebrate the risen Lord.  But I thought that the Catholic faith had done something profound when displaying the body of Christ.  How differently would I feel about my sins if I had to face Christ every Sunday?  To see him there, dying for me every Sunday.  I must see it more and appreciate it more.  If I did, I might remember better the sacrifice made and come to terms with the fact that He loved us more than anyone else ever could and He so cared for my soul that He died for it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


As part of my EMBA, our cohort went on an international residency to Madrid and Munich.  It was such an adventure.  As part of my assignment and course requirements, I kept a journal.  Some of it is dreadfully boring but I did want to share a few snippets.  I hope you enjoy.

March 11, 2016
8:46 PM, Madrid

I’m certain I could never live in Spain.  At least not in Madrid.  I’m lying in bed, fighting to stay awake to adjust my body clock after a very long two days of travel and touring.  I’m not the only member of the team who opted to spend the evening alone but we are few.  I’m not one for late nights.  Always a morning person, I hope to be up tomorrow by 6am—and that’s sleeping in!
What threw me most today was the lateness to which people start an evening.  Restaurants aren’t open until 8pm.  Most of the group went to a bar and then out to dinner.  After these long days, I knew I wouldn’t last and would be looking for an excuse to leave and come back to the hotel.  I’d only be a downer for the rest of the group and would end up walking back to the hotel alone, which isn’t safe.  I opted for fast food—shameless for my first night in Europe.  There was a Burger King just a few blocks from the hotel.  I walked over and noticed a Starbucks very close by.  On my way back, burger and Coke in hand, I checked to see what time they opened.  8:30am!  This is not good. 

As I turn in and hope for a good night’s sleep, I’m missing home and my family.  Leaving on an adventure is easy, but going home will be too.

Monday, August 14, 2017


Nick and I have started watching a show on Netflix called Life Below Zero.  It’s about people who live a subsistence lifestyle in remote areas of Alaska.  It something we like to watch while we’re enjoying a luxurious, civilized, lifestyle—cozied up on our couch, soaking in our hot tub, curled up in our California King sized bed.  It reminds us of how good we have it, how amazing our life is. 
That, and we’ve always toyed with the idea of moving to Alaska.  We’re not social people.  We kind of like each other and that’s it.  We joke all the time about how we’d really rather not have to deal with anyone but each other (ok, the kids too).  It’s a little strange given the line of work we’re in.  He deals directly with customers (passengers) and my job is all about relationship building.  Maybe that’s why, when we’re home, we just don’t want people around. 

There are usually four people/couples/family in a given episode (they rotate a bit so you get a full story on everyone)—the Hailstones (family), Glen (lives alone and REALLY off the land), Eric (a trapper who lives with his wife and makes a living taking people on hunting tours), Andy (kind of a jerk but he has a team of dogs that he uses to get around) and my FAVORITE, Sue.  She’s a tough old gal who, as she says, is so far north there’s no more “up” on the map.  She runs Kavic River Camp which, as far as I can tell, is an oasis in an incredibly remote area of Alaska.  I think Anchorage is something like 500 miles away and it’s the closes big city.  Sue is amazing.  She’s a “I’ll just have to figure this out” kind of person who admittedly doesn’t really like being around civilization.  But she wears these silly winter hats and braids her long hair in pigtails sometimes which tells me she doesn’t take herself too seriously.  She does what she needs to do to maintain her position and really seems to love what she does.  She’s made friends with a local fox and truly respects the wilderness around her.  She’s taken a few spills and gotten hurt (and attacked by a bear) a few times but she just keeps going and going and going.  I love her resilience. 

As you watch these people go through life with few links to civilization, you realize, they’re always working.  It kind of reminds me of Little House on the Prairie.  You build your house, plant your farm and are forever maintaining it.  The work is never done.  It’s like perpetual chores!  There’s never a moments’ rest!  You spend the summer hunting and storing up supplies for the winter and you spend the winter surviving until summer.  It’s awful! 

And yet, sometimes I wonder if I could ever what it takes to survive as they do.  Could I survive even a few months with no electricity or access to a store?  Could I shoot and clean animals and then eat them?  I suppose I could if I had to.  But most days, I’m really glad I don’t have to.  And I say that sitting in my house, sipping gourmet coffee with my Netflix streaming and my dishwasher humming in the kitchen.  I don’t mind watching someone else live like that but it is NOT the life for me.

Monday, July 31, 2017


I really love books.  It's actually kind of ridiculous.  I don't buy a lot of them (well, sometimes I do).  Other people give them as gifts but I get a lot from the library.  It's caused a bit of strife in my marriage because they're just...EVERYWHERE!  I generally read three or four at a time and try to finish at least two books a week.  But I have sort of strange requirements when it comes to books.  I like to have hard cover books for the treadmill.  It's easier to prop them open while I run.  I use binder clips and rubberbands to hold my pages.  I like to have a large paperback up in my room because I like to read while I'm drying my hair in the morning (it's a lot of hair).  A big enough paperback will hold itself open and I don't have to resort to a balancing act with my phone or the nearby candle.  I'm not above doing this but it has resulted in at least one broken candle and near misses with my phone in the toilet.  I listen to audio books in the car but in the smaller car, it has to be a book on CD.  In the van I can use one of those mp3 players that the library sometimes has or if I have an audio book on my phone, I can plug that into the car.  I carry six or seven books with me to work and then back home at the end of the day because I read on my lunch hour (when I take one) or if its a book on fundraising (I have lots of those), I might read it here and there during the work day.

I used to go to the library once a week when I lived in Kansas.  I'd check out as many as I could carry and my goal was always to return more than I checked out the next week.  It didn't always work...  Sometimes I go to the bookstore to browse, write down all of the books I'd buy if I had more money (and more shelving) then request them from the library.  I try to space the requests out so that I don't end up with all of them at once but everytime I go to pick up a requested book, I end up browsing a bit and find 10 more that I just HAVE to have.  I've gotten better about giving up on books that aren't interesting or entertaining.  Most recently I got almost to the end of Brad Thor's The Inner Circle and the mp3 player kept shutting off.  I finally decided that it wasn't interesting enough to keep messing with the thing and I have no idea how it ended.

There used to be a library between my old office and home, so frequently, I would stop by on my way to/from work and put things in the overnight drop or run in and pick up something I'd reserved.  My new office is close enough to a library to visit on a lunch break but it's not conveniently located along my route.  While it has resulted in fewer trips, I can't say that it's resulted in fewer books.  In an attempt to organize my book clutter, Nick bought me a new iPod, a Kindle and a subscription to Audible for Christmas a few years ago.  All it really did was feed the frenzy.  Now I can use my Kindle while I run and a lot of the classics that I don't have are in the free section so I'm working my way through The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, which I read in college but barely remember except that I really liked it.  But I like to save it for morning runs so I always have something that works on the treadmill.

I've taken all of my "fundraising" books and my EMBA books into my office to reduce the shelf space I require at home and just last week I decided to donate a book.  Still, it's a drop in the proverbial ocean.  But hey, I could collect something silly like old stamps or handbags or something useless.  I've decided this is something I like about me.  I know it's crazy to carry so many books with me all the time but reading is so much fun!  I'm going to do it as often as I can and continue to hide piles of books in my office, next to my bed and on my treadmill.  There's never one out of reach, so it doesn't matter where I am.  At any point in time, I can pick up whatever's nearby and dive right in.

Monday, July 10, 2017


I've had a series of ailments lately.  In December I started getting these terribly persistent headaches that just would not go away.  No amount of over the counter pain meds would put so much as a dent in them.  Having spent so much time in the presence of seriously ill children, my imagination would run wild and suddenly it's not a headache--it's a brain tumor, an aneurysm, a blood clot.  After 6 days, I went to the hospital.

"Are you under stress?"

"Well, let me see--I just started a new job, it's Christmas Eve, my in-laws are visiting, I'm a mother of 3, my husband travels four days a week and I'm smack in the middle of graduate school.  Sure, I'm stressed.  Who isn't?"

They scanned my brain (no tumor or anything else alarming) pumped me full of steroids and sent me home.  By morning, it was gone.  It's come back 4 times since and though each headache has stuck around longer, they've gotten much milder.  This past Tuesday ended the most recent headache of 9 days.  The day before, Monday, I felt this strange tingling in my arm--like it was about to fall asleep or was trying to wake up.  Again, my mind goes on a rampage--I'm having a stroke!  No, the doctor says--probably a pinched nerve.  Well, how do I unpinch it?  Ibuprofen--lots of it.  Well, that wasn't really working but as the next four days passed, it got better.

On Sunday I woke up with this horrible crick in my neck--like maybe I slept on it wrong or moved my head too fast.  It was awful!  I was worried about being able to drive because it hurt so much to move my neck.  Ice, heat and more drugs.  Nothing is working.  I'm suffering through pain after pain, all the while, wondering how in the heck I'm ticking Satan off because he's after me.  Something good must be coming!

I always pray first.  Always.  Even if it's just in the second or two before the pill goes down.  But the pain is just so terrible and I find myself doubting.  If I really believed in prayer why am I taking Tylenol?  (There he goes again, trying to get under my skin!)  But what I know is that Tylenol doesn't mean my prayers are weak. It's the prayer that makes my Tylenol stronger.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


I'm not sick.  I don't suffer from seasonal allergies.  I do occasionally sneeze.  It's funny--lately I've noticed that I sneeze after I've overeaten.  If only it would happen about 15 minutes earlier I might be able to use it as a weight loss tool.

Some people have tiny sneezes that sound more like the squeak of a mouse.  Others (like my dad) have a more horn-blowing sneeze (sorry dad!).  I don't have one of those violent sneezes that can take down a building.  They don't come on so suddenly that it's a shock--I usually look fairly ridiculous but am able to grab a tissue or cover my mouth and nose with something.  There's almost always more than one and I'm generally prepared for a series of 2-5 sneezes in a row.

My point is, they're not monumental.

I'd be willing to bet that you sneeze too--maybe not in the overeating prevention (or lack of) sense, but I'd bet you sneeze on occasion when you're not sick and that nothing has been damaged as a result.  If I'm wrong and you NEVER sneeze, then feel free to disregard the rest of this post.

If we can agree, then, that sneezes aren't out of the ordinary or anything to be surprised by, WHY then do people always respond to sneezes with expressions of deep concern for my well-being?  This is a regular exchange:

Me:  Achoo!
Someone nearby:  Bless you!
Me:  Thank you...achoo!
Same someone:  Bless you!  Are you ok?
Me:  Yes--just fine thanks!  Achoo!
Same someone:  Bless you!  My goodness!  Are you feeling ok?
Me:  Yep--just a sneeze.  Achoo!

And it goes on.  I don't understand this.  A sneeze is the body's natural way of keeping harmful things out of the lungs.  In some ways, they kind of feel nice--almost refreshing.  They never hurt.  My eyes have never popped out of my head and I've never suffered bodily harm from a sneeze.  Nick did ruin a pair of expensive sun glasses from a sneeze once but that's an entirely different story.  So, for the record--if you hear me sneeze once or twice or twelve times in a row, I'm just fine!