How a Waffle House Relapse Saved My Soul. Or at Least My Day.

Today began with a bad, bad morning. So bad that I still do not have the energy or desire to think of a more descriptive adjective than “bad.” 

My fancy Keurig broke so I had to resort to the French press, which makes fantastic but very labor-intensive coffee. I do not do labor-intensive anything at 5:15 am. Nonetheless, I knew I had to suck down at least eight ounces of caffeine in order to get out the door and so I made coffee in the French press like a Neanderthal. 

Upon pouring the boiling water from the tea kettle into the carafe, the kettle’s lid plopped into the press, splashing grounds and scalding water all over the counter and my fingers. Lovely, I thought. The day has barely begun and I am already cussing, covered in sludge, and nursing burned appendages.

The pre-dawn run with my friend was good and necessary but it was basically downhill from there. I arrived home to find the house and its inhabitants in a state of distress. One child had a single uncompleted math equation and the world as she knew it was surely over. Another child refused to eat the oatmeal because of the “weird, hot, brown, chunks” and yet another admitted that he’d left his lunchbox and water bottle at school. For the second time in a week. My daughter’s cheer bag was full of crushed cracker bits and we stressed that the crumbs would become lodged in the polyester weave of the uniform. And we forgot the bow. The child with the forgotten lunch box at school also forgot his binder and math book at home. We realized this 10 minutes after he had left with my neighbor with whom we carpool. Vital math instruction was un-textable from my dear husband at home because of a bad signal at the middle school and said distressed child was dropped off, frenzied and undone at the start of a very long day.

En route to the elementary school to drop off forgotten binder and book {partially my fault because it blended in with the pile of clean laundry adjacent to it}, I called my husband and began listing all the ways that mornings like this can and should be avoided. I bemoaned the chaos and rambled on about how my “poor nerves” simply cannot take it. Oh I was having a Mrs. Bennet moment alright and my dear husband just listened on the other end like kind Mr. Bennet sitting in his office, calming tending to his rare orchids while I prattled on about my weak constitution. 

He gently reminded me that we have just begun, that we are still getting adjusted, that his work schedule calms down after this week, and that we all forget stuff, like math books. And paying the water bill. 

You know, I think I’m relatively organized and prepared. I do. And then on a day like today, I imagine that I’m being ambushed by some masochistic troll who is certainly lurking in the recesses of our home, throwing flaming darts of unexpected, stress-inducing trivialities directly at my “nerves.” 

After I delivered the abandoned binder and math book to the school’s front desk, I made a quick stop at Wal-Mart to pick up some groceries. That I forgot to purchase yesterday. When I also went to the grocery. Foggy and distracted from the scattered events of the morning, I stopped at the gas station and narrowly avoided the tragedy of filling up my Toyota Sienna with 15 gallons of diesel fuel

It is only 9 freaking 22. This day is surely doomed, I told myself. 

And then, salvation in the form of an iconic yellow and black restaurant sign. Cue the angels singing.

Trembling with hunger, fatigue, anxiety, and guilt, what I really wanted was a stiff drink. I’m not gonna lie. But since it was only 9:30 in the a.m. and that stands in direct opposition to my moral convictions and common sense, I said, What the hell? and settled for grease. 

{When the day has begun this harshly, one does not use substitutionary cuss words like “heck.” One says what she says and blames the Evil Ovary.} 

The Waffle House across the street beckoned like a sultry Siren of comfort food and limitless coffee.

You already know what I did. I pulled into parking lot, ravenous and trance-like. Before I exited the van, I knew I need to “get centered.” I read Romans 12 on my iPhone’s Bible, prayed desperately that Jesus would help me and all my loved ones today, promised not to say any more cuss words or be mean to people, said Amen, walked confidently into the Waffle House, and dared anyone I knew to judge me. 

The waitress asked if it would just be me. I nodded and thought to myself, Yes. Praise Jesus, yes. It will only be me. 

And then she said the magic words: Honey, our All American Breakfast is just $5 today

I didn’t think twice about it.

When the buffet o’ sodium clinked down on the formica tabletop, I took one look and knew that the calories burned during the three miles I’d run at 0-dark-thirty would not even cover the lake of margarine whose glistening neon-yellow sheen matched my over-medium egg yolks laid by a sub-par chicken in a shameful poultry factory. 

There are worse things, I reasoned.

I smiled and breathed easy for the first time in four-and-a-half hours. A female country crooner blared over the speakers, I’m hell on wheels, Sugar Daddy I’m comin’ for you…

Yes, I thought, This is exactly the flavor of sanity and consolation I needed today. Local color, bottomless coffee, grits, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird sitting adjacent to the extra-crispy bacon, and classic people-watching.

At one point, I looked up from my book to notice an older man who ambled in and made his way to the counter. The whole upper back side of his jeans were soaked through until they resembled damp, one-dimensional silhouettes of watermelons. Bless him, I thought to myself. Here I am thinking I’ve had a rough morning

And then I noticed that he had ridden in on a tractor, which explained the wet watermelon silhouettes. 

When I was a working mom and then a homeschool mom, I often wondered, rather resentfully at times, what stay-at-home-moms with kids in school did with all of their free time. Now I know. They visit the Waffle House and ponder the back-sides of old men.

I finally arrived home, smelling like cigarette smoke and bacon but feeling like I could do this day after all. I’d shown myself some much-needed kindness and it gave me courage to persevere.

I’ll never understand the ironic phenomenon I experience over and over again: I do a better job of coping with the catastrophic than I do coping with the common. 

I’ve endured days turned months of legitimately rough times. Days that make today look like a Disneyworld. I’ve experienced crises and trials that could have undone me for good. And during those challenging times, I manage to sort of keep it together. By God’s grace, I’m able to deal, to soldier on, to approach terrible circumstances with relative calm and clarity.

It’s the everyday drama that gets me. It’s the forgotten math book that forces me to subject myself to a grease-induced coma, compliments of the local Waffle House.   

So what’s the take-away from this crazy, interruptive post of randomness about diners and diesel fuel near-misses?  

Well, I’ll tell you.

Be kind to yourself today. 

Or whatever day the Evil Ovary decides to reign, along with her minions of chaotic inconveniences and first-world stresses. 

Receive a good gift and be nourished. 

Swing through the Starbucks drive-thru before pick-up line or tell your kiddos at home with you to just take a break and watch PBS Kids and not need you for a few minutes because Mama needs a relaxing soak or 30 minutes with a book or just some time to inhale God’s love and exhale prayer.

Treat yourself as you’d treat a dear friend who showed up on your doorstep in tears and emotional distress. You would not say, Suck it up, sister. We all have bad days so get over your big self. Think of all the other people in the world who have it worse than you do, those who are starving or imprisoned, for example. See? You don’t have it so bad. 

At least I hope you wouldn’t say that. 

You’d invite her in, give her a hug, fix a cup of tea, and grab the box of tissues. You’d care for her and make her laugh and feed her soul with warm drink, a bar of chocolate, and perhaps a trip to the nearest Waffle House for the $5 All American breakfast if you’re feeling really generous to your friend and apathetic about your own health. You’d both know that it could indeed be worse and you would resolve to be grateful instead of grumpy and you would laugh about the mishaps and missteps. 

And then she would feel better. Why? Because someone was kind to her and she was able to receive enough grace to refuel her empty tank and become functional again.

Treat yourself the way you’d treat her. 

If you’re running on empty, take time to refuel {but not with the diesel} and love on yourself so that you can better love on the sweet souls who need you. Kindness to yourself has a way of spilling over into kindness to those around you.

Don’t rationalize your rough patch. Don’t wallow in guilt that It could be so much worse so why can’t I cope? Pick one small thing that is actually one great act of love to yourself and then carry on.

Sometimes that moment {or two hours at the Waffle House} of self-care provides necessary space to think, breathe, banish your headache, practice gratitude, learn how to be nice again, and, in my case, stumble upon a much-needed exercise in creative writing on diner napkins.

So go and do likewise, my weary, hormonal friends. I give you permission. And if you inexplicably find yourself in the Waffle House parking lot, the All American breakfast is just $5 Monday-Friday right now. My sweet waitress told me to tell you. So there you go.  


Come back tomorrow and tune in for the next installment of the Being Cool About School series. I’d planned to finish it this morning but with all the mishaps and the Waffle House episode, I resolved to wait until tomorrow. 


  1. says

    Much needed read! And a sweet reminder on the very day that I’ve been asking myself why my house is just as messy now as it was when we homeschooled! 😉

  2. says

    I have some fond memories from college days at the iconic Waffle House! So sorry for the extra rough start. Last night sent my children out and reread your post from months ago, “When coffee spills all over your Sunday morning.” Your words are a gift, thanks for sharing these parts of yourself with us.

  3. says

    What a timely message! Thank you for gifting us with your words …. I seemed to need them today. Ironically, I was just overwhelmed with guilt because my four-year-old is watching PBS Kids (as we speak), and I am taking a much-needed blog-reading break on the couch.

    I also have to note that I’m really enjoying your “Being Cool About School” posts. You’ve got some great messages in there even for those of us who have never experienced the homeschool/public school conundrum.

  4. says

    LOVE this! Not your mishaps, mind you, but that you have reminded me of something oh so important – to be kind to myself. Thank you for the grace you have sent through your words this morning : )

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