life on the funny farm

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Walking With Coffee

Resurrection of a post from my old blog....

Back in my high school and college days (and thankfully never again after that), I waitressed at a number of diners and restaurants to earn some cash.

When I began, I knew nothing. I did not know how to start the morning coffee pots in the ancient and enormous 4-pot machine. I did not know how to quickly and accurately make change without the aid of a register or calculator. I was not able to carry more than two plates at a time; certainly not the six plates I would learn to carry later (all without a tray).

And I did not know how to carry a cup of coffee without spilling half of it before I arrived at the table.

I would walk very gingerly, biting my lip, staring intently at the cup; but it seemed the more I stared, the more I concentrated, the more I spilled.

One day, when things were slow, one of the more seasoned waitresses saw me walking along in this way, staring at the coffee, willing it not to spill. Coffee delievered, I returned to the break table and took a seat next to AnnaMarie. She was the same one who had taught me how to make change by counting backwards and I thought she was a goddess.

"What was that?" she said.

"What was what?"

"Why were you walkin' like that? You looked like you were walkin' on egg shells."

"I didn't want to spill the coffee."

"Yeah, well, you walk like that yer gonna spill half of it before you ever get to the table."

"But I'm walking as carefully as I can, what else am I supposed to do?"

"Don't look at it at all."

"If I don't look at it, how'm I s'pposed to know if it's spilling?"

"It won't. Just look where yer headin' and the coffee will stay in the cup without any help from you. Trust me."

And so I tried it. And it was really hard. Not to not spill the coffee, but to not look. Everytime I decided to sneak a peek at the cup to see how I was doing, that coffee would commence sloshing around in the cup, invariably spilling out into its saucer. But the times I didn't look? I arrived at the table with a pristine saucer.

Thankfully I haven't waitressed in years. I never did grow to like it, job-wise. However, I cannot say I didn't learn from it.

I learned to prioritize. When one table needed their check, another needed their dinners brought out, another needed to be cleared and set, another needed to give their order and yet another just needed a simple refill, I learned the hard way I couldn't do it all, at least not all at the same time. This lesson was applied again and again in motherhood.

I learned simple math. Not that I didn't learn it the first time in school, I just never learned how to apply it to real-life situations until I waitressed.

I learned a few other things, as well, like karma. If you can smile and be pleasant even when you're bone tired, things (read tips) will tend to work in your favor.

But probably the biggest lesson learned was to not watch the coffee. And while I mean this literally, the bigger lesson was the metaphoric one. Isn't it always?

I've learned that sometimes, most times, the more attention you give your problems, the bigger they become. Turns out the best way to handle many of life's little curve balls is just to not fret over them. They have a way of working themselves out.

Now, if your sink is spewing forth brown liquid of unknown origin, or your car is telling you she's thirsty for some oil, perhaps you need to face those problems head-on.

But if your kid is playing around instead of studying for her science test, guess what? She will do poorly on the test, feel bad about it, and the next time she will remember to study. That's not to say you can't give her reminders and ensure she has the time and space in her schedule to study, but beyond that, it's her problem, not yours. Give that problem more attention than it needs and instead of a resouceful, independent, self-motivator, you will have a child (and someday-adult) who expects all her problems to be solved for her.

If the kids are bickering over whose turn it is? Resist the urge to step in and solve the dilemma for them. Chances are, you will overinvolve yourself, giving the problem more attention than it needs, and that coffee will be spilled, I guarantee it. Let it work itself out. The kids will learn to negotiate. If it escalates to bloodshed, you will be the first to know and you can step in and save the day.

What did the classroom-party-committee-Mom mean by that remark, how come your bff didn't return your call, why did your husband put those electric tweezers in your stocking last Christmas? You can turn those questions over and over in your mind, stress about them and overanalyze them till you've found meaning where there was none.


You could walk on through life, focusing on the big picture instead of all the minute details that surround you. That stuff will work itself out with no help from you.

Like AnnaMarie said,

Just look where yer headin' and the coffee will stay in the cup without any help from you. Trust me.

(Image source:


That being said, there is a little detail that I do need some help with. My ranking on TMB. Just a click of this brown button is a vote. You can vote every day.

Top Mommy Blogs - Click To Vote!

Thanks, hon!


Rudeness disclaimer:

I love all your comments,
I read every one!
But I can't hit 'reply',
I've no time for fun.
Please don't judge me,
Please don't hate.
If you have a question that just can't wait,
Send me an email at,
And I'll answer right back because I'm, you know, the Mom.


  1. This post was exactly what I needed to read today. I have spent way too much time fretting over the little things instead of focusing on the big picture lately. Maybe by refocusing on the bigger picture, I will allow the smaller things to sort themselves out. Either way, I'll be much happier.

  2. Oh, man, I waited tables for a while, too! It was not the best.

  3. What a great post, with a lesson applicable to many things! I'm visiting today from Thumping Thursday.

  4. Had to laugh when I saw this one - I realize it has a different meaning, but I apparently take my coffee (at least my Dunkin Donuts coffee) VERY seriously ... I once got hit by a car walking from the parking lot to my office and was thrown up onto the hood/windshield of the car while managing NOT to spill my coffee! Another time, the dog knocked me off my feet on the icy driveway, and I landed on my butt with the contents of my purse flying everywhere ... but didn't spill a drop of my coffee! ;)

  5. Omg, Chris, that is too funny! I can just picture it. Sounds like scenes in a sitcom!

    Mail4Rosey, Natasha, Elizabeth, Chris, thanks for stopping in to comment! I appreciate it....


  6. Just ran across your site today. Loved this post. I too did a (very) little waitress work when I was much younger. Didn't last. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried a pub to start with. One pat on the keister and I'm afraid a whole pitcher of draft beer 'accidentally' landed on a customers lap. Two days in and end of part-time job.
    Learned to 'not look at the coffee' from kids and the farm.

  7. New follower from the The Weekend Social Mix Blog Hop! Love to have you stop by if you get a chance!


    Visit Me @

  8. Great post............On a day when I was tempted to watch the coffee..........I won't! :-) Again, great post! I found you thru the hop and am your newest follower.

  9. You make a good point about ignoring some of life's problems until they work themselves out. Stopping by to say hi from SITS!

  10. Visiting from Sunday Sync!

    Love the idea of not focusing on the thing and look instead where you are going.


  11. Great post! Visiting from SSS, I do exactly as you suggested, I do not sweat the small things. My husband tells me that I do not care about things as much as I use too, not so I have finally found balance. Things I use to cherish and would flip over, well now I realize that they are just "things", I also learned that I can only give great advice and pray for others.
    Living F.A.B.ulously on Purpose

  12. Awesome post!! It's how people look at things - The Big Picture :). New fan form Mom's Monday Mingle :)

    The Wondering Brain

  13. Thank you for sharing this post with us. I know I need to focus better on the big picture, rather than all the little things that can be distracting! :) Stopping over from MMM. I already follow you on FB, but I'm following on Twitter now. Hope you have a great week!

    Mary Catherine of Fun-A-Day!

  14. Hello! I'm visiting from and the Mom's Monday Mingle. I'm one of the co-hosts and so glad you joined us this week! I'm following via GFC. Have a great week!

  15. Great post. Not sure how I can use it in my life (I'm a bit of a control freak), but it is great advice.

    I'm a new follower from the Mom's Monday Mingle.

  16. Awww, thanks ladies! Jen, it sounds as if you need this advice more than any of us!!! 8-)

    Thanks for commenting, everyone!



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