Wednesday, July 31, 2013

One More Cup...

Having worked at Starbucks for four and a half years, and not being a coffee drinker before that time, I admit - I was utterly and completely spoiled.  I turned into a coffee snob overnight.  I admonished my trucker dad when he dumped spoonful after spoonful of powdered creamer into his coffee.  "Don't you want to taste the coffee?!" I gasped, watching the mug's contents grow more and more pale.  He simply cast a withering glance over his glasses and said, "I've been drinking this stuff for forty thirty-five years.  I know what I like."  I flounced past Crazy Mocha, Caribou, and mom-and-pop coffee shops as though they were serving dishwater in china cups.  I spent hours of my own time as well as paid time getting to learn the differences in regional coffees - the intimate details of each different blend - the perfect pairing for each type of coffee.  I worked my way up to the coveted title of "Coffee Master".

Of course, all that changed when I lost my job.

No longer could I afford my Iced Triple Tall One Raw Sugar Americanos.  Although I found another job very quickly, I balked at spending $4 on a beverage.  Suddenly I was one of them.  The other.  The customer.

Almost immediately, the high-and-mighty, cavalier coffee supremacist dissolved and was replaced with the slob who was totally cool with microwaving the last few ounces of the cold Giant Eagle cappuccino that she'd picked up on the way to work.  Suddenly, my version of "iced coffee" was brewing a whole pot and then returning two days later with some ice cubes and a spoonful of sugar.  

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Don't get me wrong; my nose is still sharp.  I can still distinguish between a Colombian coffee and a Kenyan one.  I still have a good grasp on which coffees taste best with chocolate, and which are better paired with cinnamon, or nuts.  Even if they don't bear Starbucks on the label.  In fact, I've had the pleasure of meeting with some former and current Starbucks partners (employees) as a newer barista is working her way through the Coffee Master program.  It's great fun, both trying all the coffees again and meeting with old friends.

Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to the whole point of this post.  So many of us drink coffee daily and utterly take it for granted.  It's our morning sunshine when there is no sun, our afternoon pick-me-up, our indulgent treat.  I posted on Facebook earlier today about having had a somewhat challenging day at work, and how the dry cappuccino I'd picked up at our new local coffee shop had made me feel so much better.

My former college roomie (whose children's daily antics are a source of amusement to me) asked what a "dry cappuccino" was.  My knee-jerk reaction was to don the Black Apron again and use professional terms, which, while accurate, would have been irritatingly cocky.  Instead, I explained that there is more foam than liquid in a properly made dry cappuccino, and that a very well-made one is like a dessert, even without any additional sugar.

That's when it hit me - I love coffee for coffee's sake.  Not the caffeine, not the ritual, not the comfort - simply for the pleasure and the experience of drinking it.

And it's okay that I squirm a little when I have to fork over $4 for a latte.  After all, I don't do it that often.

I can just drink what's leftover in the pot from last week.

(I'm grateful that Carnegie's new coffee shop has opened.  You can read my review here.)  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nibble, Nibble

A lot has been going on in my life lately.  As I mentioned in my previous post, after six months of unemployment, I am now working full time again - and I'm loving it!  Working at a pediatric office is not my dream job, but I have to say that it's surprisingly fulfilling.  I admit that seeing all the newborns gets tough because of what I have gone through, but I get to see some pretty inspirational things, too.  I children with special needs whose parents are 100% invested in their growth and development - no matter how different or difficult that might prove.  I see men taking responsibility for their children and refusing to be just another "baby daddy".  I enjoy interacting with the kids - especially the ones who haven't yet equated the notion of the doctor with the pain of a shot.  They're fearless, and quite a bit of fun.  

Along with the sense of peace brought by being a "productive" member of society again, my job has given me another opportunity for which I am deeply grateful -  an hour-long lunch break.  I don't use these sixty precious moments to socialize, but, for the first time in a very, very long time, I use them to exercise.  Although I started counting calories over seven months ago, I hadn't added exercise to my plan until three months ago, when I started working again.  The changes in my body, attitude, and health have been mind-blowing.  I even got the chance to write about what I am experiencing on the practice's website!  I've lost seventeen pounds (give or take) and two jeans sizes.  I even did the unthinkable (for me) and signed up for a Couch to 5K program, which started this week. 

When I look at the progress I've made this year in the area of my health, I'm both very proud and very grateful.  I know that God has been with me during the whole process, even though I haven't talked to him about it a lot.  But when I sit back adn examine other areas of my life, I'm very disappointed.  For instance: my writing.

I call myself a writer.  In my head, that looks a lot like this: I use every spare moment to scribble on napkins, in notebooks, on my own skin the ideas that leap into my consciousness; I rollphrases around in my mind and on my tongue; I have conversations with characters that exist only in my imagination; I relish in sitting down before a blank screen and bleeding words until that screen is full of perfect little rows of beautiful black letters.

But, actually - at least lately - it's looked a lot more like this: I think about my blog and my two novels-in-progress while I'm power-walking on my lunch break, then I come home and have dinner, change into my pajamas, and watch Netflix (the show of the hour is currently Twin Peaks, since the parents wouldn't let me watch it the first time around).

ThenI I feel bad about my lack of writing, and plan to make up for it the next day.

Which, of course, never happens.

Well, I'm going to do something that I've never done before, and take a cue from my own success.  In regards to my health, I had determined to take things slow, one step at a time, and actually stop believing that change was impossible.  I set goals that were reasonable for me.  I took things one day at a time, one decision at a time, and, when I made poor choices, I forgave myself quickly and started anew the next day.  Instead of ripping off huge chunks, I was nibbling away at my goals, allowing myself to adjust to a different lifestyle. 

I'm going to "nibble" at my writing, too.  Finishing two full-length novels and blogging regularly - well, that's a lot to handle, especially when I have the ridiculous mindset that all of my blog posts have to be life-changing - or at the very least, completely thought-out, rehearsed, and flawlessly edited.  Not that they always are, of course.  But perfectionism will do that to you.

I'm going to "allow" myself to post blogs that are neither deep nor meaningful.  I might even post some short stories or creative writing.  Poetry.  Movie reviews.  I will not post anything that violates my stated purpose - to encourage and inspire.  But maybe it would be good to start "nibbling" away at my dream again.

It might even taste sweeter that way.