Habit Time

Once is a deviation.

Twice is a curiosity.

Thrice is a liking.

Four times is a habit.

Five or more?  A tradition.

Be careful what you start!

While serving churches as a pastor, I took Mondays off.  Many of my colleagues took Thursdays or Fridays off instead, but I stuck to the traditional clergy rest day, presuming that since in the church world everything leads up to Sundays, once the work week got going it would be hard to stop.

So early on in my ministry, I started to go to coffee shops on Monday afternoons to read.  This was back when coffee shops were still a relatively new phenomenon on the American cultural scene (early ‘90s) and the average guy on the street was still learning terms like ‘espresso’ and ‘dark roast.’  I don’t think frapuccinos had even come on the market yet.  I still remember the Starbucks on the corner of Lake & California in Pasadena, California (it’s still there!): every Monday I would go there and order a café latte and a baguette (back when they still served those) and sit and enjoy the state-of-the-art décor and cool muzak while engaging a leisure read (usually history).  It was my kind of time off, feeding my soul while giving me a break from the stresses of the ministry.

Needless to say, when our first child came along, I simply hauled the bassinet onto a nearby chair, poked a finger in on occasion, and continued my Monday afternoon habit.  As kids grew and their number multiplied, we moved around a bit.  There wasn’t always a Starbucks nearby but always a coffee shop of some sort.  While I became more of a coffee snob, throwing coffee terminology around like I invented it, the kids started to become ‘of age.’  No, not for coffee, but for something!  Mylo’s in Monroe, Louisiana, had the best frozen yogurt in town and while I sipped my hot brew, my girls – now 7, 4, and one year old – feasted on their own cold treats topped with M&Ms or Oreo crumbs.  And the Monday afternoon tradition continued.

When we moved to Gaithersburg in 2007, our girls were of the reading age and bookstores with cafes were a great fit.  I regret that our little foursome was the victim of several sad closings: Borders in Gaithersburg Square, Borders in Milestone, the bookstore (Walden’s) at Lakeforest Mall with Starbucks nearby, etc.  Which is why we eventually ended up at the Barnes & Noble in Rio.  I vividly remember week after week sitting cross-legged on the floor of their children’s section (frowned on by staff) with a young reader in my lap, book in one hand, mocha in the other (I had ‘graduated’ from a latte), and trying to keep my legs from cramping as we picked one book after another off the shelves, careful to keep it from creasing so we didn’t have to buy every book in the store.

As the girls became teenagers, they got to know the Starbucks-based menu at B&N better than I.  One barrista even took their suggestion for a flavor of the week and “Choco-Berry” came onto the chalk-drawn menu!

Every week from about 2009, our girls were picked up from school, taken to their Monday afternoon spot, and ‘housed’ there until close to dinner time.  We drank, we laughed, we did homework, we read, and we learned a lot about coffee.  And life.

After 24 years of weekly trips, today, August 21, 2023, will be the last weekly Monday afternoon trip to a coffee shop with a daughter.  Tomorrow, we take A. J. to Davidson, NC, to begin her freshman year.   We’ll go when they come back on vacation.  But week in and week out, it will be just me again.

Some habits last a month.  Some last for decades.  But as the quote on our featured image for the week suggests, habits make us.   Most of our life is defined not by the awards nights, wedding days, senior banquets, or retirement parties, but by everything that happens in between – the day in and day out way in which we spend our time.

As you plan your Fall schedule, which is likely to be your yearly schedule, you may continue doing things you’ve done before and you may try new things.  They may last a day or they may last a lifetime.  They may be easy to step away from or hard to leave.  But eventually some things will fall off and others will stick.

Choose your ‘sticks’ wisely.

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