Tag Archives: Ego

Barrister Barista

photo “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”-Philo of Alexandria
In my love affair with perfectly foamed lattes, I’ve spent many happy days at Starbucks. When the children were small, my friend Laura and I would meet there every single day. I would have a latte, usually with nonfat milk, except when I went through my soy phase. Laura would have an Americana with room for cream.

The Phoenix area has a million Starbuck’s, so we would call each other (before texting was available) to coordinate which location was convenient for our meeting, based on our schedules. “I’m picking up the triplets at school early for a dental appointment,” she might say.

“I will be at the church, can we meet half way in between?” I’d respond, and for several years we accommodated each other without the slightest amount of stress.

“I need to go first today,” one of us would say once we sat down with our coffees. We poured out stressors and anxiety becoming each other’s amateur therapists. People are in disbelief that we only missed a handful of days over the course of several years, before I moved back to Iowa.

Our daily meetings grounded me during years where I was lonely because of a traveling husband, unsure  how to raise kids, and yearning for my lawyer world during a period as stay at home mom. Laura could validate my feelings, tell me the kid’s coughs needed Robitussin and being a lawyer herself, explore the injustices of the OJ Simpson case based on an analysis of the evidence.
I supplied similar support to her as she raised triplets with her busy emergency room physician husband. By the time we finished our coffee and dashed to our respective mom mobiles to get back to our duties we were poised to face life with a fresh approach.

At our favorite Starbucks, Carl was the manager. Because we were regulars, it was like meeting another friend when he was working. When he transferred locations we moved our rendezvous to his new store whenever possible.

When I was divorced from my children’s father, I was in between jobs, having given up my status as VP of a California based mediation firm to try to save a failing marriage. Post-divorce I was left having to regroup to get a job in Scottsdale, and doors were not opening.

One day at coffee, I made a spontaneous inquiry of Carl. “Carl, would you ever hire me?”

Carl was puzzled knowing I was a lawyer, but also knowing Starbucks provided medical health benefits, which I needed. The next thing I knew I was handed a green apron and a post at a new Starbucks Carl was managing in a stylish part of Scottsdale.

The people I worked with had no clue I was a lawyer. I tried to keep that fact underground, partly from embarrassment that I was underemployed, and also to avoid getting asked for legal advice. I was just “Kim,” and  I didn’t feel like I was being judged. Secretly I was “Kim, the lawyer who struggles to steam milk.”

My twenty-something coworker Maggie became my guide to the Starbuck’s world. Keeping up with a busy caffeine -seeking crowd, was not easy. Some customers were rude and impatient, some downright hateful, others were pleasant. Those who said hello, asked how I was getting along as the “newbie,” and called me by name were a joy. I was working hard, on my feet, trying to live up to Carl’s rigorous standards for a clean store, going home tired at the end of my shift, particularly on days when it had started at 5 a.m.

If I would gripe to Maggie she never engaged, but instead was always upbeat, expressing gratitude for her job. Maggie would often excuse herself abruptly for a bathroom break. I became curious as to why she would leave her work station so suddenly. Eventually I asked a coworker.

“Maggie has cancer,” he told me. “She is going through chemotherapy and leaves her post to get sick. She has to work to keep the insurance. Poor thing should be home in bed.”

I was shocked. Here I had been a prissy Scottsdale lawyer/mom who had thought I was so noble working at Starbucks. Right beside me was Maggie, struggling to survive. I eventually asked Maggie if there was anything I could do to help her. She seemed disappointed that her secret was out, and basically said “Thanks so much but I am fine. I enjoy working with you.” That was it.

The next morning when it was still dark, as I went in to open the store I saw Maggie getting off the bus. For the first time in my life, I was unable to know what to do to help someone. I decided the best thing I could do to honor her was to watch her humility up close and to learn to do something about my own ego based on her example.

A few mornings later a particularly obnoxious business woman came to the counter enraged, oblivious to the line packed tightly out the door. “You are out of cream!” she squealed. “Perhaps “you people” don’t know what it is like to be a busy executive needing to keep on your schedule! We get delayed by something that you should be taking care of!”

My initial instinct was to lash back saying: “I will have you know I am a lawyer and I doubt YOU are qualified to argue before the Supreme Court!” At the same time, I saw Maggie down the counter from me, smiling and selecting a pastry for a customer.

“I am so sorry ma’am, let me get you that cream right away,” I said instead, grabbing the decanter and filling it up. “I am sorry you were inconvenienced and I hope you have a wonderful day.”

Somehow I was able to channel what I’d learned from Maggie. And strangely, in the turn of a moment, I really did want the woman  to have a wonderful day. For all I  knew she was in a struggle of her own, unable to handle it with Maggie’s grace.

Eventually I left Starbucks and Arizona, resuming my law and mediation practice in Iowa. Leaving Laura’s friendship was devastating. I visit Arizona often and we always “do coffee” daily while I am there.

I ‘ve gone back to the Starbucks where I worked. It’s been totally remodeled. Carl is gone to stores unknown. Maggie is not there. I wonder if she is even alive.

Now, when I walk into a Starbucks  I take a  moment to look the barista in the eye, smile, make small talk and even call them by name. I do the same with the clerk at the grocery store and the cashier at the gas station. I know from my work at Starbucks that a little kindness makes all the difference.

And all of our lives, matter.

This post was originally published in 2013.  My son Clint, age 23, has started working part time as a barista at Starbucks so it reminded me of this post.  Welcome to the barista family son!

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“Who satisfies your desires with good things
 so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s”- Psalm 103:5

It’s the special birthday. Born in ’57 and age 57. I am reflective and for the first time ever on my birthday, I reflect on whether I am beginning to feel the effects of aging.

I’m moving my body on the yoga mat, so I begin by taking a mental body scan and it dawns on me that I have been starting to feel some interloping physical twinges. I can’t call them aches or pains or I will have given them energy, but let’s call them “subtle nuances” and the one in the lower right back is the ringleader.  My mind starts to notice other things I had overlooked as I continue through my yoga practice.

Having been small in stature my whole life, I have lived in tall high heels. Recently, I told myself I was buying into the “ballet slipper” craze. I caught a picture of the Dutchess’ sister, Pippa Middleton, wearing red suede London Sole ballet flats and she looked amazing. I bought the exact red pair of the pricey shoes online and felt like I was still fashionably hip as I wore them every day in my work as a lawyer.

Strutting the flats to the courthouse I got off the elevator on the fourth floor only to see a younger woman attorney examining the roster of case assignments on the wall outside the elevator, poised with her hip cocked, and looking sleek in a pair of drop dead gorgeous patent leather stilettos. They were red of course. All of a sudden I felt like Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm in my red suede ballet flats.

“Jennifer Aniston says you wear heels because it puts you closer to God,” she commented when I complimented her shoes and I wondered when I stopped living in the clouds and became plastered to the Earth. For that matter when did I start taking the elevator in the courthouse instead of walking up the stairs?

The next day, I boxed up my ballet flats and dug my most awesome pair of heels out of the closet. Since I had a date for dinner that evening as an early celebration of my birthday,  I threw on a skin tight dress, convincing myself I could still channel my youthful self. My steak dinner was delicious but difficult to digest in the skin tight dress.

I have a habit of taking pictures of my food and my courteous date not only accommodated this habit, he helped me stage the food layout ” just so,” and then took the camera to include me in a few of the photos. The skin tight dress didn’t show up in the photo as flattering as I had led myself to believe it looked in real life.  And the big honkin’ steak in the middle of the photo looked like a dead carcus. (So much for that fabulous Facebook photo opportunity.)

We had an incredible bottle of wine at dinner and I added to my “noticing” list the fact that alcohol now seems to make me hot flash. This despite having bio-identical hormone potions concocted at the compounding pharmacy just for me, slathered all over my body at any given time. I decided to count this alcohol limitation as a plus, since it will keep me from having one of those telltale signs of aging: becoming a person who goes to Costco and has a cart filled only with several bottles of booze and a large bag of trail mix.

Being organic and holistic I have resisted botox and other “helpers.” I made the mistake a year ago of asking a nurse practitioner friend who has a clinic for those practices what she would recommend for me. After she pointed out several crevices, wrinkles, and asymmetrical landmarks I had not even noticed I got depressed and binge ate for two days. Instead, I went to a fabulous esthetician who administers microdermabrasion, a vacuum sucking device that takes off layers of older skin. “There goes 1984; it was a pretty good year,” I joke to her as she runs the vacuum tube over my face.

They said on my Sunday morning preacher show that retirement isn’t biblical so instead of planning for that I’ll go ahead and realign, regroup, respond and resign myself to whatever is next. And the secret, as far as I can tell, is to have gratitude and faith.

I am grateful that on my 57th birthday I can pop into a headstand and stay there forever. Thank you God that somehow through life’s twists and turns I always made physical activity a priority.

I am grateful that somehow years ago I persevered in my education and work life so that I am able to make a comfortable living with work that I love. As a result I can buy a new dress or pair of shoes, and if I foolishly purchase a dress that is too tight or a pair of heels that throw my back out or make my ankles wobble, I can give them to Goodwill and make someone’s day.

I am grateful for a positive outlook and my insistence in declaring with faith, “my youth is renewed,” and promising to make that declaration daily in my 58th year.

I am grateful for the determination  that no matter how many years I have left, I will “finish strong” moving my life forward with purpose and passion.

Most importantly, thank you God, that I have faith that all your promises are true.

And I am grateful, that I am alive.



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