On Leaping

by Tiger Lilly

This has been a long time coming.

Sometime in the middle of the death march that was my college years, I was probably in the middle of an angst-session with my mother about what I was going to do after graduation when she said, “You should go overseas. You’re young and unattached, now is the perfect time to get that kind of experience that you can’t get anywhere else.”

Sure, traveling sounded great, I’ve always wanted to travel. Not to mention I was one of those strange people who didn’t blanch at the thought of taking the advice of their parents. It was pretty much a pipe dream at that point, though—I had no serious job, I was slogging my way through textbook after textbook, and let’s not forget I’d made the grave error of pursuing a degree in what I loved (English and writing) rather than what was useful.

Still, the wishful part of me did a small amount of research. I found a site that compared the cost of living between cities and started typing in cities from every country I’ve ever visited or wanted to visit. Edinburgh, Dublin, Inverness, London, and most places in Italy went right out the window pretty quickly, along with most of my hazy, romantic visions of renting an attic flat at the top of some ancient-but-still-trendy-and-somehow-affordable building in the middle of some cosmopolitan Euro hub. You know, the typical coming-of-age story that Hollywood had always promised me. I’d play the perky and naïve protagonist out to “find herself,” make friends with the local fauna (even though I’m not a Disney princess), have a smoke out on my balcony in the evenings (even though I don’t smoke), and pursue a career in which I’d briefly struggle before my brilliance caught the eye of the senior editor/art director/photographer/bagel-muncher and from there it’d be a straight shot to the top. There’d probably be a tall, handsome stranger involved at some point.

Okay, so I didn’t really think that any of that was going to happen, but it was fun to think about. Point being, I was sitting there trying to think of any other city I wouldn’t mind living in that wouldn’t also smack me upside the head with financial worries. All the big names seemed to be out of the running. Then, what’s that place with the cool clock?

Judge me if you want, but I think that Prague’s astronomical clock by itself is a perfectly good reason to want to visit.

Anyway, Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, czeched out (I’m so sorry). Much lower cost of living, large community of American ex-pats, cheap beer in a place famous for its beer, what could be better? There was the teeny-tiny problem of Czech being one of the hardest languages to learn and I’d never done more linguistically than a deeper look at my native language and one semester of French, but I blew that off. In fact, that gave me an idea for how I could gainfully employ myself! Everyone wants to learn English, right?

As it turns out, in the Czech Republic, the answer is yes. A brief Google search told me that there was a huge need for English teachers there, and suddenly my pipe dream was becoming a little more solid. But what’s this? “Certification?” Damn those bureaucrats, always getting in the way of a girl’s need for adventure and—oh, here’s a program that will give me TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification and guarantee me a job with them once I’m certified?

This was getting to be a little too good to be true. I suspiciously surveyed the area for either flittering songbirds for me to befriend, or someone hiding in the bushes, waiting until my hopes were sufficiently raised to jump out and yell “PSYCH!”

Why yes, the world does revolve around me, why do you ask?

Anyway, if I couldn’t befriend wildlife, I was at least befriending Google, who told me that this certification program wasn’t a scam, and they probably wouldn’t kidnap me and sell my kidneys on the black market.

After a few days of mulling all this over, it was time to get a second opinion. No, not God, I was a little too absorbed with myself and my ideas to check for divine approval at that point. I ran it past Mom first, who said something along the lines of “what do you mean you’re leaving me?”

Talk about mixed signals.

Well, whatever this looked like then, it was too soon to be focusing too much energy on it; I was drowning in essays and I would need a degree to make my application to this program look nice and shiny anyway, so it was back to the educational grind. Still, as the months wore on and I packed on the credits, the need for an after-college plan was becoming more apparent.

I went and found more information on the TEFL program—how much it cost, how much money I’d need to support myself while taking the four-week certification program, plane tickets, all that jazz. I figured out a number: $6000 to cover the tuition and plane ticket and have enough money left over to not feel like I needed to have a financial freak-out while unemployed. I had some savings already, but not nearly enough at that point, of course.

Now, if there’s one thing I truly hate with every fiber of my being, it’s the idea of going to the same place every day to do the same thing over and over for years on end.

If there are two things I truly hate, the second one is customer service.

These mindsets are what had contributed to the initial angst-session with my therap—I mean, mother, way back at the beginning of this post. How could I ever find employment to fund this trip? I had worked a couple different jobs while in school, including a political campaign and as a chocolatier at Godiva (way less fun than it sounds, but that’s another story). Towards the end of school and after my graduation, I’d taken a few jobs as a freelance editor/proofreader for college students who wanted some shine on their papers before submitting them for grading, but I was doing that at extremely low rates (college students always want to pay in bottle caps and old homework) for very few people. It’d take me decades to earn enough money!

That’s where my church family came in. On the one hand, jewelry making is my hobby, I’ve been doing it for 10 years and I’m not too shabby at it, so I got to set up a small stand in the church bookstore and sell my accumulated inventory there for several weeks. On the other hand, my church is a very tight-knit and supportive community, and anyone can ask for help with anything at any time. I told the church what I was planning and hey, if anyone has any odd jobs that need doing, I’m available!

So there were a few brief engagements, things like helping people move or dog- and house-sitting. The most notable one was a friend who called and said she had a friend who needed a nanny for her three-month-old son, and so I nannied for her for nine months (even though I’m an experienced baby-sitter and my sister has four children ages five and under, I learned a lot more than I ever wanted to know about child care and myself during that time). Between all of these sources, I managed to pay for my plane ticket and the course’s tuition, with a couple thousand extra.

Somewhere along the line, I got to thinking. I had been planning all of this on my mother’s advice and my own whim. Had I ever actually said to God, “Hey man, was this Your idea or mine (or my mother’s)?” And then I got really nervous. Here I’d been telling people what I was planning, and I’d completely neglected the first and most important step. What if I asked Him and He said I needed to stop? It’d be so embarrassing! (Never mind how embarrassing it would be if I never asked and everything went belly-up later.) And I’d already spent all this non-refundable money on a plane ticket and tuition.

So it took me a few days to scrape up the courage to do what I was supposed to. I mean, on one level of course I knew that I needed to find out ASAP, since if it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing then it’s better to find out sooner rather than later (nobody wants a repeat of the Jonah incident), but hey, pride is a thing that I have, believe it or not. Well, I finally got around to it, and the answer was nearly immediate, and I imagine He said it with a roll of His eyes: “You’re good.” (Paraphrased.)

Well, that was a relief! And His will in this became more and more apparent as I was given more and more opportunities to make money, or money was just flat-out given to me. I sold my car quickly and easily. My grandmother gave all her grandchildren a generous, surprise sort-of-nest-egg. My church family and friends sowed “seed money” into my life. Before I knew it, I had more than I thought I needed: $6000, after paying the tuition and the ticket fee!

So now the time has come upon me, and I’ve run the gamut of every emotion known to man. Excitement, nervousness, dread, disbelief, “how can I be doing this? How can I be leaving everything I know and love behind?” That last one has become especially prevalent with all the goodbyes I’ve said lately, to close friends and closer family. Sometimes it feels like I am exiling myself, and sometimes I (ridiculously unfairly, I know) wish that the world would pause while I’m away so that I don’t miss anything here.

The tumultuous situation in Europe is no consolation, either. The refugee crisis, the suicide bombers in Lebanon, terrorist attacks in Paris, and now I want to move to the heart of Europe? But here’s the thing: It’s not just me that wants to go. God wants me to go. What am I going to do, say no? (I mean, the alternative is probably going to be something along the lines of getting eaten by a giant fish.)

And under the layers of fear and doubt, I do want to go. Of course I want to go. I’ve always wanted to have adventures, and while I sense there’ll be a distinct lack of dragon slaying, stepping off into the wide (and far, so very far) blue yonder with just my faith and my suitcase sure sounds like one anyway. I’m a perennial traveler and a perpetual student, and there are things to be learned out there.


So I had this bird

by Tiger Lilly

She was a beautiful girl, turquoise feathers with a yellow cap (a very rare color for parakeets). My aunt found her after a huge storm in 2005, so I should have named her Gale. I didn’t. I was terrible with names back then, and we just ended up calling her Birdy-Wirdy (we also had a guinea pig named Piggy-Wiggy. We were a creative bunch).

She was six months old when I wheedled my parents into letting me take her in, as her owners were nowhere to be found. I trained her to be comfortable around me. She was a vicious thing, biting was one of her favourite pastimes. There was a point when I had twelve bite marks each on three of my fingers.

I loved her anyway.

She was vocal and wild, yet tender towards me, allowing me to scratch the sides of her face when she was tired. She showed me affection in ways that only a bird could- regurgitating her meals on occasion. Mostly she would simply kiss my face whenever I had her out. I would try and play piano for her every day, something that she (and her playmate, Chiquita, which we rescued a few years after taking in Birdy-Wirdy) greatly enjoyed.

A week or two ago, I noticed that her plumage on her belly near her vent was brown and picked-over. I didn’t really think much of it, as she was acting healthy and just fine. Chiquita had no signs of anything like Birdy-Wirdy had.

This morning, when I gave her water, she drank a bit and was sneezy and tired. I knew something was wrong, but I had to leave for work right away. I had hoped she would be fine until I got home.

She wasn’t.

She was cold in the corner of the cage when I returned. I spent a good half-hour cradling her and sobbing or playing the piano. Eventually, it dawned on me that I should look up her symptoms.

It turns out that they are symptoms of ovarian tumors and/or eggs that have gotten caught in the wrong area. Most people were recommending to take the sick bird to the vet and fix the diet.

Now, I wish that I had thought to look this up when I first saw the feathers, but what’s done is done.

Anyway. If you have a female parakeet and see anything like this, TAKE HER TO THE VET IMMEDIATELY. Don’t leave her be. Birdy-Wirdy was only 7, less than half the lifespan of a parakeet (15 years).

Good night, pretty bird. I love you. Fly high.

What Have They Done?!

by Tiger Lilly

So my father directed me to an article from CBS news, which stated that, contrary to popular belief, chocolate actually helps people maintain a lower Body Mass Index, despite the amount of calories.

I have a problem with this information.

I have heard from other sources that chocolate may become extremely rare and expensive in the next fifty years or so, due to what I’m sure are many good reasons that I was never very sure about.
So if people are writing articles about how chocolate is good for your health and helps you maintain a girlish figure (which I’m sure all you macho men out there are very concerned about), people will be flocking to the chocolate shops in hordes. HORDES, I tell you! And what does that mean? That means chocolate is going to become ever harder to come by, faster! It means that prices of chocolate are going to go even further up, because of the increased demand!


Of course, on the other hand (which is also holding chocolate), people don’t eat healthy foods as often as they should. Maybe, just maybe, since chocolate is now a healthy food, people will lose interest and leave the good stuff for the more devoted chocolate dabblers (myself).

My name is Tiger Lilly, and I am a chocoholic approve this message.

Ciao for now!

Tipping- Not Just For Cows

by Tiger Lilly

As a barista, I feel that it is part of my duty to make sure that the public is informed about tipping. I know that many people are in tough straits money-wise, and that’s why this is merely a guide (and also my own personal opinion). You don’t have to follow it. Really.

I’ll just glare subtly as I whip up your extra-tall raspberry peppermint mocha skim no-whip extra shot latte. And then spit in it.

Okay, so I wouldn’t spit in it.


1. You should almost always tip.

Unless the service is exceptionally poor. Baristas aren’t paid on commission, and some don’t even make minimum wage (same goes for waiters).

2. If the coffee shop is busy and you’ve had to wait in line at least two people, tip.

Please. Maybe this doesn’t go for places like Starbucks or Caribou or shops that get a lot of customers, but I work in a small shop. Less than a hundred people stop in every day. But sometimes, we get those 10+ lunch delivery orders, meanwhile we have three people waiting to be served in the shop, and two at the drive-through, and then there are those caffeine-deprived assassins we have to fight off. I, for one, am someone who is easily stressed. It is not fun to be a stressed barista. We forget things, or miss things, and agility just goes down the drain.

So if we’re balancing all of that, and then don’t get a tip, it makes us very sad.

3. (Related to 2) If it looks like the shop is understaffed, tip.

Oftentimes I am left alone in the shop right before lunch rush while the previous people finishes their shift and the next person has yet to arrive. It is almost inevitable that right away a couple people will come in with large to-go orders.

4. If you need something made in a rush, tip.

Seriously. I did not just make you that mocha, sandwich, and bowl of soup in under five minutes (which is quite a feat when you’re working by yourself) just for you to complain and walk out the door.

Now that we’ve finished that part, time to move on to:

How much to tip.

In restaurants, the general rule of thumb is to tip 15%. If your drink order is $3.03, the tip would be $.46. This is a tip I enjoy getting. I practically dance when I see people put a dollar in the tip jar.

I work in an establishment where there are two people on staff, and they have to split tips. It’s fine because there are only two, but if you walk into a coffee shop where there are four people working and only one tip jar, please tip a little extra if it’s at all viable.

Then there are those people who just drop the coins from their change into the jar. I both love and dislike these people. Sometimes it’s $.92, sometimes it’s $.08. Sometimes people are good about pulling out some more coins from their pockets, but don’t be the person who puts 2 cents in the jar. It’s practically an insult.

Moving on to:

When not to tip.

Amazingly, there are times when you should not tip (or at least tip less).

1. When the server is very obviously in a bad mood, and is letting it affect his or her work.

I once went into a bakery/coffee shop where the server was slamming things around, got angry when I didn’t hear what he said (he was mumbling), and when I asked if I could lower one of the window shades (the sun was in a nasty position at the time), he simply muttered, “Go for it.” Upon trying to lower the shade I promptly found that it had been made in such a way that it could not be lowered further than it was. It was a stupid design, but the server could have warned me before I tried the others.

As a barista, I find it very unprofessional to let your bad moods affect what you are doing when you serve people. People have their own problems, and don’t really need yours projected onto their coffee.

2. Don’t tip when the barista performs the least amount he or she can.

If they only hand you a scone, you don’t need to tip.

Situations where we love you if you tip, but it’s understandable if you don’t:

If the coffee shop is out of something. Sometimes this isn’t our fault- for me, the delivery person is usually late, and it bothers me a lot. I get stressed when we’re out of things. However, it is still the shop’s fault, and we understand if you don’t tip.

If the kitchen messes up your order. This is completely our fault, and we apologize. I smack myself mentally (and repeatedly) every time I mess something up.

If the coffee is luke-warm, the scones are cold, etc. Sometimes equipment malfunctions or strange things happen, but hey, that’s not your problem, its ours. (That was meant in a completely non passive-aggressive way, I swear.)

Someone drops something that you just bought. Speaks for itself.

We love you if you still tip in those situations.

Well, there we have it. My guide to tipping. If you have anything else to add, please tell me! I’d love to hear your own thoughts on tipping do’s and don’t’s.

Remember, barista is Italian for bartender. And you always tip your bartender.

Ciao for now!

Thoughts on Growing Up

by Tiger Lilly

Throughout my childhood, whenever I reached a milestone, this was my thought process:

When I reached the height of 5 feet: I’m officially an ADULT!

When it began to be with me after the manner of women: I’m officially an ADULT!

When I turned 13: Dude! I’m officially an ADULT!

When I started college courses: I’m officially an ADULT!

When I got my driver’s license: Holy crap I’m officially an ADULT!

When I got a job: I’m officially an ADULT!!

My 18th birthday is in ten days. You can imagine my thought process at that point.

Holy crap I’m so old.

Ciao for now.