Crying over spilled milk

by Lesley on November 25, 2014 · 9 comments

in lessons learned

spilled milk

Last week, this awful thing happened at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf that my brain tells me is NOT a big deal, but my heart says otherwise.

It was Tuesday morning and I was feeling like a victorious stay-at-home working mom because I found a last minute sitter to watch Owen. We dropped Anna off at school, and then I took him to Nancy’s house where he toddled away from me and acted like he could care less that I was leaving him with an almost stranger. After a full week without childcare, I was very behind on all things Kidaround, and I couldn’t believe I’d managed to pull off four hours of uninterrupted time to catch up.

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is my favorite coffee shop of all time, and that’s mostly because the second part of their name speaks to my non-coffee-loving heart. Oh the choices at this little Southern California gem of a beverage store. I debated a Winter Dream Tea Latte but settled on Peppermint Hot Cocoa because if I can’t have cold weather I can at least have Christmas in a cup.

I took the first sip–which was glorious by the way–and internally congratulated myself on the whole endeavor. I dove into my work, clicking here and clicking there, returning (no joke) fifteen emails within 22 minutes. Bam. I was getting stuff done.

Until, that is, I reached for my hot cocoa with my left hand, and tried to–I don’t know–scratch my face with the right hand? It’s all still blur as to what actually happened, but all I know is hot cocoa splashed through the lid of my perfectly peppermint cup of joy and landed on my brand new laptop. As in, the laptop we’ve been saving for since last fall and the laptop that cost a lot of money and is supposed to last another six years.

I’m really good at keeping my cool in public places, and pretending like nothing can rattle me. After dabbing the computer off and casually using my phone to google, “liquid on laptop keyboard,” I decided to drive straight to the Apple store. I didn’t start crying until I got into the car and called Jonathan.

You guys, I sobbed the whole way to the store and it wasn’t gentle, precious movie star tears but the gut wrenching, puffy eyed, hysterical ones that only make an appearance about once a year, at most. These were the kind of tears that one should reserve for a cancer diagnosis or a death or maybe a really awful hormonal meltdown when your child hasn’t slept through the night in months and months. But, a computer problem? I’m honestly embarrassed for myself.

I wish I could say the tears stopped once I made it to the store, but after the kind hipster employee informed me of the estimated service fees–$808 with tax–I might have lost it again.

We’d worked so hard to buy this stupid Macbook and now the stupid Macbook was broken and it was my clumsy, moving-too-fast hands that caused the problem.

To be honest, the tears were less about the computer–awful as the service charges may be–and more about my own self hatred in the moment. Had someone else broken my laptop, I’d be angry. But since it was my own fault, I felt one thousand times worse.

I dropped by Trader Joe’s on my way home from the Apple store. I had an hour to kill before Owen had to be picked up, and we needed a few basic groceries. I walked my puffy eyes into the store and began strolling the aisles. When I reached the milk aisle, I saw a cheeky sign that’s probably been there forever but I’d never noticed before:

There’s no need to cry over spilt milk. 

You might think I stopped in my tracks and re-evaluated the entire morning’s emotions after seeing this gentle, common idiom. Instead, I took a photo to remember the irony of it all.

No need to cry over spilled milk? Really? But, what if the spilled milk soaks into your laptop keys and causes over $800 worth of damage? Don’t you think, Trader Joe’s idiom, that crying might be warranted…just a little?

As a mom, I’ve spent the last few years cleaning up my fair share of spilled milk. My sweet, perfectionist three-year old has been spilling with greater frequently these days as she learns to drink from a cup, and upon each spill she breaks into hysterics similar to my own. Just last week, as milk drenched her t-shirt and tears flowed like Job’s, I kept repeating, “This is not a big deal. Stop crying. This is not a big deal. There is no need to cry. Mommy will clean it up. This is not a big deal.”

But, to her, it is a big deal. I imagine some of her tears stem from the uncomfortable (and surprising) wetness covering her body but I mostly think her emotion is rooted in deep frustration at her own failings. Yet again, I’ve spilled. Yet again, I’ve made a mistake. This wasn’t supposed to happen and I didn’t mean for it to happen. I’m embarrassed. Don’t be mad. 

And when I really think about my hysterical emotion after spilling milk on my new computer, I realize that I’m crying for all the same reasons. I’m frustrated with my own failings, my own clumsiness, my lack of coordination. I’m frustrated that I can’t control everything, and that sometimes bad things happen even when you’ve made smart, calculated choices. I’m mad that my day-to-day doesn’t always go as smoothly as I’d like, even when I think and plan and get up early and work really hard.

I’m crying because I’m an imperfect person who wants to be, and do, and have it all. But I continue to come up short.

For those of us who know Christ’s kindness, we understand the story doesn’t end here. We know He is good, and His love and patience and forgiveness endures forever. He is like the patient mother who sees our tears and gets down on the kitchen floor, day-in and day-out, saying, “Let me clean this up for you.” He knows we come up short, and makes it so we can keep on living and thriving.

But, I’ve got to say, and this is just a theory: I think God likes it when we occasionally cry over spilled milk. I think it’s in the those frustrated, spilled milk moments that we often bow down and say, “I keep making mistakes! Forgive me! Help me! I can’t do this on my own!  I’m not great about always verbalizing my failings to Christ, but in the spilled milk moments I am reminded of just how much I need someone to wipe up my messes.

Sometimes, you should absolutely cry over spilled milk. 

This post was written on my newly fixed Macbook computer, at a local Starbucks, with peppermint hot cocoa cautiously by my side. 

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Bronwyn Lea
Bronwyn Lea

I have days when I say "I feel like I need to slam my finger in a door". Because, slamming fingers in doors HURTS and I cry. And it gives me an opportunity to cry about ALL THE DAMN THINGS that have been too little/stressful to cry about, but which were building up.

And of course, this became an expression because not once, but twice, I have slammed a finger in a door and cried for weeks' worth of sadness in that one incident.

Loved this post. Love you. And so glad your macbook is repaired <3

LesleyM moderator

@Bronwyn Lea What an amazing phrase! It definitely sums up those days when you just need to cry. Maybe the next time I'm feeling stressed, I'll just replay the hot cocoa incident in my mind. I'm pretty sure it has scarred me for awhile and then I'll save my fingers. ;) 

I am so excited I get to soak in your loveliness in Chicago next year! Miss you, Bronwyn. 


One of the main thing in my life that I'm realizing causes me great despair is as you said:

"I’m frustrated that I can’t control everything, and that sometimes bad things happen even when you’ve made smart, calculated choices."

It's really hard to accept that. It's really hard to accept myself when I make mistakes, to be gentle with myself. To accept that doing what I think is the right thing will not always keep bad things from happening. I've been working on all this this year and am continuing to because I'm so not there yet. 

Thanks dear Lesley!

LesleyM moderator

@corinnepearce I hope that someday I'm a woman who doesn't need to feel so in charge, and so in control, but I'm far from it. Love hearing that you're working on this too...and I just love hearing from you in general. Miss you, lovely girl!


I read this as I finished my mug of cocoa, Lesley, and then looked at the thin film covering the bottom glad I had not deposited any of it on the keyboard before finishing it off.

I think frustration is inevitable. We feel it for a lot of reasons and we don't always express it when the big reasons come along. So something like the laptop spill - which as you say (and know all too well) is not on par with a cancer diagnosis - might bring out the big cry. For me, sometimes when a laptop spill type event brings on the big cry it takes me a while to see that this has been building up for a long time.

LesleyM moderator

@tim_fall YES> exactly! The weeks leading up to this spill had been so busy, and I have been feeling like I can't do and be everything I want to be. Thanks for your wise thoughts and taking time to comment.


@LesleyM I'm glad there was some wisdom in there somewhere, Lesley. If you want a short  - and I hope humorous - break from what weighs you down, head to my place for a quick and light look at a few books that should never be written.


Thanks Lesley. Grateful that the ..."story doesn't end here."

LesleyM moderator

@bburch56 Thanks, Brian! So fun to see your cartoon face pop up on here. Hope you are well! Please say hi to those sweet girls of yours.