To our coffee drinking heroes: cheers

business, creative non fiction, Social Trends, Uncategorized

 

 

I was nine, when I tried coffee for the first time. Sitting with my mother at our breakfast table, I took a sip from one of our reversed-dyed Easter egg coffee mugs and immediately scrunched up my face.

“How do you stand this stuff,” I asked her.

“You learn to like it,” my mother responded, as she took a sip from her own mug as easily as if she was taking a swallow of tap water.

Learning to like most things deemed for grown ups, such as coffee, has been my ongoing struggle into maturity. My mother was 40 when she answered my question about coffee drinking. Now, I’m 50 and finally learning to like coffee, but I have, as of yet, failed to learn to like it straight up black as my mother did.

After my first coffee encounter,  I chose to avoid it for a long time. Most people I knew by the time they were 25 jolted themselves awake with a cup of joe. Not me. Although Pepsi is an afternoon drink, something to refresh and revive you after a long day toiling in the sun, it was the closest to the coffee jolt that I would allow. Later, I switched to Diet Coke when I conceded I needed to stoic up a bit in my approach to life. No more unlimited amounts of a sugar buzz for me. Before bedtime I would be lulled into dreamland with a somniferous sip of milk, or later in my life, herbal tea.

Coffee, on the other hand, is what you drink to parachute yourself into your life, to hit the ground running, to take on the battles of the day. But I wanted no part of that. I didn’t mind watching other people jump from the plane, but I didn’t want to myself and I barely wanted to even board the plane.

People would ask, “would you like a cup of coffee,” and immediately I responded with a grimace on my face at the long ago memory of that one sip. “No thanks, I can’t stand coffee,” I said. “But do you have a diet Coke?” I convinced myself that caffeinated cola products were just as grown-up as coffee even though whenever I ventured into Quik Trip, a local convenience store, the people in business suits gravitated to the coffee makers and the high school students headed for the refrigerated drink section.

I graduated from college with a journalism degree, a field notoriously famous  for hard-drinking, chain-smoking, facts-oriented wordsmiths. These people were content with the world as it was without embellishment. I wanted to search for deeper meanings and look at life through an artist’s lens, softened by sugar and cream.

 

I needed to dig deeper to reconcile the life of the coffee grower in Brazil who handpicks a crop by hand and earns less than five cents a pound with the coffee drinker who spends an average of $6 a day from specialty coffee shops.  And I wanted to excuse myself for any culpability in the exchange. Dollar for dollar, the exchange rate is in favor of the middle man on Wall Street and not the field worker or the coffee drinker.

 

It’s easy to be in solidarity with third-world farmers by refusing to drink something I didn’t like anyway. But giving up other luxuries, such as my car, is another matter. Petroleum is the most traded item on the world market with the U.S., China, and India leading the way.  All the way around, petroleum is a volatile commodity on the markets for pricing and as a discussion between opposing political forces.

But in the end, though, it’s been an oil and gas man who has progressively changed my thinking about certain grown-up aspects of life , such as coffee, that I only cared about from the edges.

My husband has been a thermos-full (and many times two) of coffee a day drinker for most of the time I’ve known him: 19 years. As part of his morning routine he brews a pot of coffee, takes a single mugful from the pot to drink with his breakfast, and the rest he pours into his thermos, which he takes with him to work. When I first met him he drank only the strongest black brew that could be made, cowboy coffee. He had lived for 12 years in the west Texas, eastern New Mexico region of the United States and there the sugar-filled mocha lattes and double espressos were harder to come by than just plain, straight up black coffee.

In urban areas you can now buy a cup of instant mix cappuccino at a gas station. Until recently, in west Texas oil towns your offerings of coffee were limited to a range of intensity of black and decaff and the decaff, many times, could only be obtained by special request of the attendant. It’s not that the lighter versions are hard to buy or transport to the remote desert it’s just hard to sell to calloused-hand oil roustabouts and rodeo riders.

I have always had a shut down time of 6 p.m. when I stopped drinking pop. My husband can savor a cup of coffee just minutes before bedtime and still drift off into lullaby land as if he had been rocked to sleep like a baby in his mother’s arms. He has either developed a tolerance to caffeine or he ignores its stimulating effect to ensure a restful night of sleep. He knows every day is a rigorous joust in conquering the monstrous iron machinery.

My husband had a brief period when he disliked coffee. In his 20s, my husband participated in a smoke-ender’s program. A three-pack a day Marlboro man, he voluntarily signed up for the program when the oil company he worked for enacted a policy prohibiting smoking at the gas plant. It was a sensible policy on the surface, but a difficult one to enact from a practical matter. Many of these guys had smoked from the time they were teenagers and it didn’t occur that their deadly personal habit could have far harsher consequences if the right flick of a cigarette met up with the wrong vapor of gas.

“They had us brush our teeth five times a day,” Mike said of one of the techniques used during the six-week program. “The taste of the coffee just didn’t sit well in my clean mouth.”

Except for that brief interlude, my husband has sped like a train through life with coffee and caffeine coursing through his engine. This penchant for coffee is one of the few bad habits that remains with my husband. As he has matured, my husband has eliminated a number of other poor lifestyle habits in addition to smoking cigarettes. He’s  embraced the responsibilities of his life as a husband, father, and employee and immersed himself in all of it.

While I, on the other hand, still pitter patter my way around the edges of life. Any sign of an uncomfortable situation within my responsibilities cause me to scrunch my face much like that first sip of coffee did. And while I’ve been able to reduce my consumption of Diet Coke and increase my cups of daily coffee, my coffee still comes with a side of cream and Splenda.

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Do you need help? I do

health & wellness, meditation, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

Help: to provide assistance to: to contribute aid to; to cooperate with; to succor, to relieve, to remedy, to benefit, to promote; to be of use to; to facilitate, to be of use, to furnish with.

help-is-on-the-wayDisappointingly, or maybe it’s beneficially, nowhere in the Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary does it define help along the lines of someone else being the substitute for the work I must do for a situation or project. All of the words used to define the word help imply that the helper is an adjunct to the individual who is doing the work.  I frequently deny my either wanting or needing help, but I need help with EVERYTHING.

My co-worker Dee always prayed for us at meetings and before meals, when I worked for a Christ-centered university. She was the best pray-er I had ever met. And she always recited Philippians 4: 6-7 in her prayers. “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything.”  Frequently, I forget this instruction of what I should pray about, and I tend to piecemeal my prayers based on my desperation level over of any particular issue. I have pulled out the in perpetuity clause hoping if something has fallen through the cracks in my life, God might just refer back to any previous requests and carry them forward to current dilemmas.

My friend, Gina, informed me that “God does for them what they can’t do for themselves, but we can do a whole lot before God steps in.” Help arrives and I better not be standing still when it gets here or it might pass me on by.

Your obsessions can be your salvation

autism, creative non fiction, health & wellness, meditation, mindfulness, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

My youngest son, Daniel, and our dog, Pepper, made our daily field trip to the nearby developed lake. We hunted for turtles, fish, and green algae. I have surrendered the idea of convincing my son about switching obsessions to something else because of my opinion of its tediousness. He loves this daily ritual of speaking to the flora and fauna and listening to their quiet. So, who am I to disrupt this calming activity, which, once I look past its repetitiveness, is calming to me, too?

The symptoms of repetitiveness and obsession are aspects of my son’s diagnosis on the autism spectrum. He is rated “high functioning,” whatever that means. I am rated a high functioning recovering person. My home environment mostly reflects my high functionability withgood-orderly-direction echoes of chaos. I married a high functioning working man who has an obsession of taking opportunities wherever they take us. They have taken us to eight homes in 18 years. That’s a household move every 2 ½ years. So, it ought not be a shock that some boxes are 18 years old, but when I look at them I am surprised that they are still with me. They are loaded into the moving van and relocated. This last relocation, however, feels like a long-term one. While I rationalize it as being in my son’s best interest, I know deep down it’s in my best interest, too, to stay put. More boxes have been unpacked than ever before, including the 30 plus ones bequeathed to me by my mother.

One room displays like a museum. It is perfectly put together and we don’t live in it. It is used only as a passage way into the kitchen. It is an unattainable model for the rest of the house. Every other room is in some kind of organizing process with a few boxes scattered around as reminders to my previously vagabond life. My son, with his obsession to reliable routines, is helping me exchange my feelings of discomfort to feelings of security for order and structure.

Fear is destroying you–you can stop it

health & wellness, meditation, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

 

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A ruptured pipeline. Image by John Wiley

In the oil industry, rust build-up destroys pipes. The speed at which rust spreads depends on how reactive the pipe is to its environment. Corrosion specialists counteract rust and a pipeline’s natural environmental influences by depositing coating chemicals and shooting electric currents through the main pipe and re-directing the destruction to a secondary sacrificial metal.

Fear is as corroding to my body as is rust is to metal piping. It feels like a million jumping Mexican beans in my stomach and my shoulders sag from the buildup of it. The environment of my mind influences the spread of anxiety, depending on many factors. Today, I kept myself out of highly charged emotional environments, mitigating some of the flow of anxiety. Yet my thoughts are floating, shooting and wandering to places and people flung far from my body.

 

To bring my body back to now, I coat myself with my breath. In and out, in and out, I redirect my ionic attention and thoughts to the energy held in my shoulders and stomach. The life force of my breath redirects and expels the corroding fear to my lungs and nose and into the Universe. The Universe, though, sacrifices nothing with its absorption of me and instead takes my highly charged energy and expands itself by creating more galaxies.galaxies