Monday, May 31, 2010

In Defense of Mild Coffee

This morning, I let Ross sleep in.  I kissed him on the forehead and I padded downstairs, craving a cup of coffee.  Now, despite the fact that I used to work at Starbucks, I am certainly not a coffee addict.  I can function perfectly well without a morning cup, and I like tea just as well.  But this morning, I wanted coffee.

I paused at the sink for a moment, trying to determine exactly what I wanted.  I had half a bag of ground coffee I'd bought at Aldi, and it was perfectly acceptable, but I wanted something else.  Ah, I knew.  There was an unopened bag of Breakfast Blend, whole bean, in my cabinet.  And  grinder I hadn't used since I left Starbucks.  And a French press, unused, given to me by my mother-in-law.


I take a detour here as I tell you the following:  I know that the purest form of coffee is fresh, and freshly ground, and made in a French press.  I know that one is not supposed to freeze coffee, as the ice crystals form, then melt and spoil the flavor.  I know that coffee is best when used within a week of opening.  I know all this from the time I spent learning at The Siren's feet - er, tail.  Still, one of the first luxuries I relinquished when I left was the very thing I enjoyed: fresh, pure, high quality coffee.  I've gotten used to drinking whatever is available with - sometimes - flavored creamers. 

I feel like a sinner.

But today, I decided on the purest of the pure.  I opened that bag of coffee and all the best memories I had from Starbucks came swirling back in a fragrant cloud.  I used to love grinding Breakfast Blend in the early hours of my shifts.  To me, mild South American coffees smell like sunshine.  I love that the coffee has a nutty zip that bites back - a friendly way of saying 'good morning'.  I used to get made fun of because, though I was a hard-core Americano drinker (triple tall, one raw sugar, no room, thanks), I preferred the tangy mild coffees to the murky, thick swamp-like Asian coffees.  I used to joke that Sumatra smelled to me like kitty litter.

Still does, actually.

Oh, Starbucks, why did your delicious daily brews go the way of the dodo?  

I remember feeling personally affronted when the company decided to change from their "coffee of the week", which offered a bold, a mild/medium and a decaf brew each day to their now-infamous "Pike Place" blend.  I remember tasting it and sensing my heart drop.  It was the beginning of the end for quality coffee.  No more medium options for those of us who think French Roast smells like a garage.  Left and right, then, options were slashed.  Suddenly, several varieties, including Komodo Dragon Blend - my step-mum's favorite - were only available seasonally.  I panicked.  Then along came VIA, their "ready-brew" (read: instant) coffee option.  Tasty, yes, but absurdly expensive.

This is why I switched to Taster's Choice, okay?

Breakfast Blend, and the late Colombia Narino Supremo will always reign in my heart as the Kings of Coffee.  Never forget.  Never let go.  Fight the good fight, mild coffees.  I will be with you always.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost: One Identity (Reward If Found!)

As a child, I felt that my last name was a hindrance.  To be named "Rebecca Lynn Thielet" was a tragedy among tragedies.  Already I was too smart, too chunky and too quiet.  Like salt in a wound was my gnarled surname.  It was foreign, barely pronounceable, and it didn't mean anything.  I received every possible variant one could imagine: "thigh-LETT", "TEE-lit", "thuh-LAY", "THILT", and, the charming "toy-LETTE".  Early on I had grown accustomed to waiting until the alphabet had dwindled during role call, and simply announcing "Thielet" once the teacher mentioned my first name.  Teachers were always smilingly grateful, but I was getting annoyed.  I paved the way for my younger sister, at least in that aspect, and she never got the mumbled massacres that I suffered.  Though the name itself is of French origin (my paternal grandfather was from Belgium), my mother joked that we were gypsies.  In our blood, at least on her side, was mingled German, Czech, Yugoslavian, Hungarian, Romanian, Polish, Slovakian and possibly Serbian heritage.  French and Italian came from my father.  True Heinz 57s, Mom would say, referring to Pittsburgh's own nickname for its mixed bag of nationalities.
I, of course, got the prominently Polish features: pale skin, wavy mouse-brown hair, meaty thighs and hips that will have no challenge bearing infants.  


Later in life, in college in fact, I began to become more interested in my family name.  Why hadn't I met other Thielets?  The more I learned about my family, the more fascinated I became.  My mother's side was a convoluted but torrid tale of deserted wives, horse thieves and genuine Gypsy blood.  My father's story, though simpler, was somehow more engaging.  Nine of them - only three speaking English, and all but two women - came to America from a tiny town on the French-Belgian border called Espinoley-Binche.  They were meeting their patriarch, who had settled in Cecil, Pennsylvania.  The one who intrigued me the most was Marguerite.  She was 22 when she came to this country in 1903 - that's the same age I was when I first learned about her.  She already had three children (one of whom died once the family reached America).  I never did learn a whole lot more about her, but I learned that her father was my great-grandfather.  We are the only Thielet family in America.  In fact, there are very few Thielets outside of America.  I've done my research.  Every Thielet you will ever meet is related to me by blood or marriage.
My mother's maiden name, Kuskil, is rare as well.  Far back in her lineage was a genuine Hungarian royal: Francis II Rákóczi.  My great-grandfather on her side changed the name when he came to America, but not, like many immigrants, to make it easier to pronounce.  Seems he got into trouble with the law once he'd established himself in this country, and changed his name to avoid being found by local authorities.  Shady.  But it made me - and my lineage - quite unique.

When I learned that, I gained a new appreciation for my name  and my family.    I took to going by my last name in college and beyond.  Nicknames included T-Bird, T-Lo, T-Dizzle and T-Love.  I loved it.
Then I met Ross, whose last name has an appeal all its own. 
In fact, when I first saw Ross's full name on his facebook profile, I figured it was a joke.  Really?  A Christian whose name is Godlove?  Too much.  But it's true.  German.  Just got translated into English when this family came to America well before the Civil War.  
Although I love my new name (and the family that goes with it), I am struggling to find a part of myself again.  I have so deeply identified with my last name that even now,after college and after marriage, I respond to it without thinking.  I was the only Becky Thielet.  The only one on myspace, on facebook, in Pittsburgh, in the United States.  To my dismay, however, there are several Rebecca Godloves.  Even another Rebecca Lynn Godlove.  I know I am still a unique person, and chances are good, things being the ironically sad way they are, that I am the only Rebecca Godlove with a vested interest in the things of God.
I remember reminding God once, in that smarmy way we sometimes get, that I had grown so fond of my last name that He'd best arrange for me to be able to take the name of a guy with a REALLY COOL one.
Thanks, God, for delivering - as you always do.  Now, Lord, help me find my identity not in my past, but in my new name - and in you.

Surgery, A Farewell Party and a Big Green Ogre

Life is good.
Not perfect, but good.
Last Thursday I had minor surgery for a small benign cyst in my right hand (I'd had the cyst for years, but it had recently begun to get bigger and slightly painful).  Not a lot of people knew I was planning it (despite the numerous facebook updates!) and were shocked to see me later in the week with a heavily wrapped hand.  When asked, I told them that Ross bit me.  The best part was that some people believed me.

I couldn't possibly have timed by surgery better, though.  This past weekend, my baby sister came home from college (and a fascinating missions trip to the Philippines) and I got to spend some quality time with her.  I learned that, in the Philippines, children pee on their siblings, toads never die, and that white people are magical.  Now, that's according to Jules, of course, so there may be a tiny bit of room for error.  But I'm pretty sure it's the gospel truth. 
On a more serious note about her trip, Jules went with a Christian organization from her college, The University of Wyoming (I have a bumper sticker!) and spent nearly two weeks on the islands.  This wonderful group of young people dug a well for a village that had been drinking dirty water, painted rooms in an orphanage, provided treats and clothing to children with none, presented a VBS for little ones, and shared the love of Christ with the forgotten.  It's not a coincidence that Julia left the States on Mothers' Day.  Although she didn't get to spend the day with her mom, she did give her a wonderful gift: she went out into the world and acted on all the wonderful things her mom had spent years teaching her.  
I am very, very proud of my baby sister.

On Sunday, my church threw a going-away party for our beloved flautist, Helen Kim, who is headed to NYC for her Masters degree in Early Childhood Education.  We will miss her so much.  Like her (now) fiance Aaron Perdue before her, Helen has charmed all of us with her sweet, humble nature and sincere love for Jesus.  Both Aaron and Helen have made lasting impressions on us with their musical talents and wonderful personalities.  It's selfish, we admit, but we all truly hope that God's ultimate plan for their lives brings them back to make their home in Pittsburgh.  But if that never happens, we know they'll always be a part of our family.
After Helen's party, Ross and I - and Jules, MomDee, Kaitlynn, Pastor Steph, Colleen and Kathryn - went to see Shrek: Forever After.  The following is a movie review (without spoilers), so if you haven't seen the movie yet (and you want to), you'd best stop here!

I liked it.

While it wasn't as innovative, clever or funny as either of the first two (or as dramatic as the third), it touched on some really important life lessons that most Disney movies tend to avoid.  For example: what happens after 'happily ever after'?  What do we do when we have everything we want, but are still unhappy?  While we often credit Disney for introducing the feisty, independent heroines who refused to be 'damsels in distress' (Jasmine from Aladdin is a great example), we forget that these princesses, too, are falling head-over-heels at age 16, running away from home, etc., and not presenting us real pictures of "true love".  Granted, big neon green ogres may also seem a little unrealistic, but they're easier to relate to than singing mermaids, sleeping princesses, and dwarf-hounded maidens.  Here we have an irritable protagonist with friends he doesn't always appreciate; a young woman who, while strong-willed, still dreams of true love and struggles to see herself as beautiful; unlikely courtships, pride and vanity, deception, and the answer to the questions asked earlier...
What happens after 'happily ever after' is that Prince and Princess learn to live together.  They fight, they love, they have children, they laugh, they are disappointed, they develop a routine, they forget to appreciate each other, they take each other for granted, they hurt each other, they forgive, they better reflect "real life" than most movies reveal.

What I liked, too, was the way the movie series presented the relationship between Shrek and Fiona.  They had their share of disagreements (often caused by pride or miscommunication) but they were also shown as loving: kissing, hugging and touching each other often.  While that may not be normal for ogres, I thought it was a great and subtle reminder of something we humans need for a healthy relationship: connection and compassion.  And, yes, the physical expression of those things.

Maybe I'm partial to the Shrek movies because, of all the film heroines I've ever encountered, my figure and personality most closely resemble Fiona's - as an ogress, of course.  Maybe I like them because Ross does a pretty darn good impersonation of most of the characters (including a particularly irritating version of Donkey).  Maybe it's simply because I have always appreciated a very clever, twisted take on favorite fairy tales.  Maybe it's because I secretly like rooting for the underdog.  Whatever the reason, I'm sure that this series will have a respected place in our DVD collection for years to come.

And, yes, I have asked Ross to take me to see Shrek: The Musical next March.  His reply is still pending.

I'll keep you updated, rest assured.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Attack of the Centipedes! (Part Three)

Be warned.

My flip-flops are smeared with the legs and guts of your slain brethren.  I keep a record of your dead allies.  I am an insect terrorist.  I will destroy you and all you know. 

Also, I am hiring an exterminator.

Your days are numbered, fools.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"My Mom Is..."

We frequently listen to K-LOVE, a Christian radio station relatively new to Pittsburgh.  This week, they were holding a contest.  Listeners called in and completed the sentence "My mother is..." and the winner was randomly selected to take her mom to lunch with Dr. Dobson and his daughter in Colorado!  I tried calling a few times, but never got through.

No matter.  A blog is longer-lasting than a few seconds' worth of radio fame, and my mom deserves better than a sound clip anyway.

My mom is a picture of God's grace and compassion.  Although she is not my biological mother, she is so much more to me than 'my dad's second wife'.   Deana and my father were married fifteen years ago.  It was an ugly thing at first, the way I saw it.  I was a sixteen-year-old girl who was both deeply angry at and deeply jealous of my father, who had initiated the divorce with my mother.  He was choosing to marry an attractive young woman with a very young child who was practically already calling my father "Daddy".  I hated it.  What was wrong with my mother?  What was wrong with my sister and me that my dad needed another one to spoil? 

Deana was, for her relatively young age, a very wise woman.  Never once did she try to take my mother's place; in fact, she never took on traditional 'motherly' role at all.  She never lectured or nagged - which was great...but unfortunately at the time her cooking was not as good as my mom's, so I guess things evened out (she has since greatly expanded her repertoire and I am now using some of her recipes to feed my own man).  I don't think Deana ever stopped praying for me.  She waited patiently for me to return her love as I was wrestling with teenage hormones, my parents' split, college decisions, loneliness, job possibilities, sibling rivalry, self-esteem issues, and God.  For a long time, I returned that love and compassion with listlessness, impatience, apathy and anger.  Even when I broke down and chose civility over neglect, poor Deana was still the odd man out.  I was Dad's firstborn and that was never going to change, so I was used to getting my way.  Jules was the baby, and had very different needs than her teenage step-sisters, so she often got what she wanted, too.  My dad was the only man in the household, so he took priority, too.  Only Deana was the one to wait her turn, the sacrifice, to hold her tongue.  What a lesson in humility!  Even during family arguments, Deana was the rational one, the one who never, ever lost her head (especially over the stupid things Dad and I tended to argue about).
As I went away to college, it was Deana who sent silly little letters and care packages.  Deana was the one who picked out birthday cards and Christmas gifts.  Deana was the one who continued to be the voice of patience and reason in an often temperamental household.  Deana was the one who spent hours on family photo albums, scrap-booking pictures of children from a life she'd never even played a part in.  Deana was the one who (with how many other faithful women, I will never know) prayed fervently for my future husband, and it was Deana who was among the first to recognize and accept Ross Godlove as that very man.  

It was Deana who stepped in as Mother of the Bride on my wedding day. 

For those of you who do not know, my own mother keeps a low profile.  She has a lot of physical ailments that keep her from social events - and from spending time with people at all.  I keep in touch with her regularly, but cell service is very sketchy where she lives (hint: it's not Pennsylvania).  When I received the RSVP card from her and there was an X next to "cannot attend", my heart just broke.  I knew it was coming, but to know that, without a doubt, my own mother would not be at my wedding was a very heavy burden to bear.  Even now, sometimes, when I think about it, my heart aches.

Deana had already been planning my bridal shower, which was a blast thanks to the amazing McCaffrey clan (who opened their home and their hearts on a very very cold December night).  When I told her about my mom, she simply hugged me.  She didn't offer anything but comfort, but I knew then and there that she'd be the one to light the unity candle on my wedding day...even if my own mother did show up.  I told her so.  She smiled, but said that if my mom was able to make it, she would absolutely defer to her.

I knew she wouldn't need to.

Several years before I met Ross, I received a beautiful prophecy from Cathy Lechner, a dear friend of the Moder family.  She spoke of the desires of my heart: marriage and a husband who would serve God willingly.  The small group of leaders cheered as I wept gratefully; this was something that everyone else desired for me, too, since they'd seen my unsuccessful relationships in the past.  Cathy laughed as she spoke more about the wedding itself and how our families would love each other and fit together "like peanut butter and jelly", as she put it.  Then Cathy turned to Deana and said, clear as day, "Her wedding will be a day of healing for you."

I didn't understand at the time, but a few weeks after my wedding, I realized that all Deana had ever wanted from me was to be loved and accepted.  I never needed to choose her over my mom, I never needed to defer to her ideas or opinions - in fact, we still disagree about shoe-styles, and about what tastes good on a fish sandwich.  What I needed was to treat her with respect and compassion, as she treated me.  When she got to stand in as my mom - when I began to introduce her as my mom - when I realized that she was the only "mom" of mine that Ross had met, I understood that the circumstances surrounding my wedding were a gift from God to my stepmother!  He allowed her that honored position because of all the love she'd poured out over my family.

Now, Ross and I call her "MomDee".  I had never actually called Deana "Mom" before.  I never wanted to dishonor my own mother.  And even now, I know that I am not.  I love my mother very much.  She has many traits that I admire and I pray that she recovers from her illness and fulfills the plans God has made for her.  In many ways, I do hope to be like my mother: tenacious, protective, selfless, hard-working.  In many ways, though, I want to be like my stepmother: wise, compassionate, good-hearted and patient.
I got the best of both worlds.  God split the Proverbs 31 woman into two souls, and both mentored and guided me to adulthood.

I love you, MomDee.  Thank you for marrying my dad and for being a picture of God's grace and compassion in my life, in the lives of countless Berean children, and in the life of my wonderful husband.

We're not ready to give you grand-kids just yet, but you'll be the first to hold them when they're born.