A tribute to coffee.

Without my morning coffee I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat. ~ Johann Sebastian Bach, “The Coffee Cantata”

Who knew that Bach composed a coffee cantata?  I certainly didn’t.  I knew nothing of his lighter side.  The link above is in both German and English.  Some would prefer the original language.  I’ve now listened to several versions and find it funny in any language.  The message of course being that many of us are bears before we have our coffee.  (Tish, you’re going to love this music.)

Today is National Coffee Day in the US.  I bought a bag of Jim’s organic coffee in its honor.  Jim created this blend especially for his wife Jo-Jo.  It promises to be a “blend of grace, full of aroma and good taste…smooth and never bitter…Perfection”  And I gotta tell you the smell is heavenly just sitting here beside me in the bag.  I had a cup this afternoon and I agree with Jim–it is perfect.  Even the bag uses renewable sources.  Way to go, Jim!

I didn’t drink coffee until I was in my early thirties.  I was student teaching in a local high school and we had a morning planning period.  I blame my supervising teacher for what has become my caffeine addiction. 🙂  Every morning I tagged along to discuss lessons with her while she had her coffee.  It didn’t take me long to join the club.  Prior to that I had loved the smell but not the taste.  I soon understood that it wasn’t so much the taste as the “lift” one gets from the caffeine.  I found out what a great “waker-upper” it is.  Now I even like the taste, but it has to be very fresh and a really good blend/roast.

I found some great coffee comments as I was researching this day and this topic.  Jeff Bezos said, “In Seattle you haven’t had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it’s running.”  Now that’s a caffeine high.  I’ve been to Seattle a number of times and I agree that they have some outstanding coffee and they love it as much as I do, maybe more.  D and I sat in a cafe on the water in Mukilteo several times and enjoyed their wonderful coffee with breakfast.  I have also visited the very first Starbucks at Pikes Place Market in Seattle.  Can you tell I love Seattle?  And not just for their coffee.

I found a couple of good political coffee quotes, too.  Ronald Reagan said, “I never drink coffee at lunch.  I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon.”  Now that explains a great deal.  I always suspected he slept through a lot of his presidency, especially the second term.  This proves it.  And while we’re on politics–Donald W. Brown said, “There isn’t enough coffee in the U.S. to keep everyone awake during a Presidential campaign.”  If you think he’s joking just tune in one of the Republican debates and see if you don’t fall asleep on the couch.  I do.

Only one thing is certain about coffee…Wherever it is grown, sold, brewed, and consumed, there will be lively controversy, strong opinions, and good conversations. ~ Mark Pendergrast

Whether you had hot coffee or a frozen delight or both, I hope you’ve had a good National Coffee Day.  Now get some sleep.  (She says with an evil giggle.)


Rule of three.

The number three is a magic number in writing–it’s  not too small and not too big.        ~ Brandon Royal

The number three has been gnawing at my consciousness for several days.  I’m not sure why.  In fact, I’m not sure where I’m going with this post.

I have three daughters and 3×3 grandchildren.  I have three sisters and all three of them have had three significant-other relationships in their lives.  Fortunately (or not?) I haven’t caught up with them and I have no plans to do so.

I found this image of the three little girls walking and it brought back sweet happy memories of being the mom to daughters.  My older two are very close in age (15 months apart) and the third is seven and six years younger than her big sisters.  This image is reminiscent of the three of them walking through the airport to catch a plane.  The two older girls acting as surrogate mothers to the youngest, their dad and I walking behind them.  Dad probably stopped and took a photo of them.

Back to the number three.  I did a little research to learn whether there is any significance attached to groups of three.  The first thing Google brought to my attention was a rule of three which relates to writing.  I also know that there is a color rule of three that many quilters pay attention to in their designs.  According to an article by Patricia Fripp, “we use this ancient mathematical law of proportion in ways we don’t even think about.”  She goes on to mention a number of historically famous people who used it in their writing or public speaking:  Abraham Lincoln, Aristotle, Lewis Carroll, and many others.  Wikipedia calls it a “principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers.”  (I wonder if they used the word that three times in one sentence because of the “rule.”)  Wiki also says that comedians use threes to establish a pattern, coming up with a surprise on the third element in order to make us laugh.  Example:  “How do you get to my house?  Go down to the corner, turn left, and get lost.”  I consider this example very useful for you who are finding only duds as you get back in the dating world.  If he wants to know where you live, use this.

A few more thoughts on having three daughters:  The three little girls grew up.  They are now my three very best friends.  Each is individually wonderful and a delight to spend time with– sometimes in person, sometimes on the phone, and sometimes in my thoughts and dreams and prayers.  Triple amen!

Note:  I think this post is called a ramble.  If you’ve read this far, thank you.

Remembering the mulberry tree.

Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to  truth, but not its twin. ~ Barbara Kingsolver

I called my older sister today to ask her questions about odds and ends of memories which have been residing in my brain for a week or two.  She confirmed what I thought I remembered.  The reason I was unsure was because of the age I would have been when certain incidents took place, based on where we lived.  I know that most people don’t remember when they were two or less, but I do.

My recent memories didn’t come out of nowhere.  I did some writing prompts using Natalie Goldberg’s book Old Friend from Far Away.  These were ten-minute exercises using “I remember…” and I was to do several of them.  I started out in the yard of a house our family lived in when I was very young.  This was a house we moved to when my dad came home from the army.  I was three when he got home.  A year later my little sister was born.  I’m four years older than she.  She’s a baby boomer.  I’m not.  I went from the yard to all manner of memories of people and events while we lived there.  Not all of them are pleasant to recall, but the mulberry tree in that yard was because it was mostly my mulberry tree.

The tree pictured above looks very much like the one I remember.  Notice how dense the branches and foliage are.  Our house stood on a sort of knoll and my mulberry tree was below the house at the foot of the knoll.  I was probably four and five when I would climb up in that tree and watch the world around me.  The branches were low and easy to climb.  Sometimes my brother would join me there.  When the mulberries got ripe I would eat them until I had very purple hands.  I imagine my face looked a bit bruised too.  I don’t remember whether my brother liked the berries.  Not everyone does.  When they’re ripe they look like blackberries, only longer.  I thought they looked like big black caterpillars when I was little.

Here’s the coolest thing about that tree.  Once I got up fairly high and settled on a reasonably sturdy limb, I couldn’t be seen.  There I was observing and learning and hiding.  We lived in the country so we were allowed to play freely.  Probably too freely sometimes.  Eventually my mom would call me.  I would answer, “I’m down here.”  Mom would say, “Come on up here.  You’ll have those old mulberries all over you.”  My sister told me today that I used to ruin all my panties by sitting on “those old mulberries.”

Thinking about hiding in that tree so long ago gives me a lot to ponder.  I spent a great deal of my childhood and teenage years hiding from my family.  Why?  So many reasons.  My father was an alcoholic.  My mother was an enabler and a nervous wreck.  I had two little sisters and I was often charged with caring for them.  Our life was pretty chaotic a lot of the time.  I think the hiding still haunts me and who I am today.  And certainly who I was in both of my failed marriages.  What serves you well as a survival skill when you’re a child no longer serves well when you’re an adult.  Alas, those early-formed patterns are not so easy to change even when we recognize them for what they were and are.

Taps for summer, I hope.

People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.               ~Anton Chekhov

I think there is some truth in what Chekhov says but I’m also pretty sure he never lived in Charlotte.  I always feel a sense of relief when the summer starts to wane.  I’ve been watching the 5-day weather forecast like a maniacal wizard with a magic wand, thinking that I can bring on Friday’s high of 64 degrees sooner if I really focus and wave the wand energetically enough.

I love the end of summer for other reasons, too.  Life feels more comfortable when I’m in between hot and cold–it’s wonderful not having to use either air conditioning or heat.  I breathe better.  I can pull weeds and dig in the garden again.  This year I’m going to plant Swiss chard and garlic, good cold weather crops in this part of the world.  And both very nutritious.

Good bye lethargy and hello to a renewed spring in my step.  Since I was a child I have favored this time of year.  It meant going back to school.  Getting back to something I was good at.  Getting away from the craziness of my home life.  The sound of leaves crunching underfoot.  The show of breath in the chilly autumn mornings as we waited for the big orange school bus.  The splendor of the colors as our many hardwood trees change their clothing for the fall show.  Fall sports.  Youngsters bursting with energy as they hit the soccer field or the hockey field or the football field or the dance studio or the Tae kwon do mats.

This year even our family’s youngest member is dancing and playing soccer.  And yes, this also means that I am going to be seeing D and his OW at some of these events.  In fact, I saw them last weekend.  I wish I could say that it doesn’t affect me but I would be lying.  Whenever I see him it’s a mixed bag of emotions.  On the one hand it makes me a little nostalgic and I miss him all over again.  On the other hand, it’s only temporary.  I am now able to realize that even though I may feel briefly sad, I know that I couldn’t wouldn’t shouldn’t go back.  I have no desire to revisit that sort of relationship with him and for that I am grateful. And fall is almost here, life is good.

Listen to Il Silenzio.  Also known as taps.  This is an amazing rendition and a beautiful way to kiss summer good-bye.

How boring if we were all alike.

I bought this card in a local shop yesterday while I was hanging out with my youngest daughter.  The minute I saw it I thought I would like to write a post about it.  Then, just a little while ago, I received notification of a post by a blogger I follow and she entitled it “Racial Profiling.”

What she wrote is so beautifully done that I don’t think I need to say more.  So I will simply recommend that you read her post.  She’s an excellent writer.  Her name is Deb and she is “The Monster in Your Closet.”  I hope you will click and read.

Pertinent notes:  As you can see the quote here is by Wade Davis.  The art is by Ann Altman SCW  Copyright 2004.  She does some lovely colorful pieces.

I remember Momma.

Today is my mom’s birthday.  She was born on this day in 1920.  I’ve been thinking about her all day.  She died two years ago just shy of her 89th birthday.  You know what I miss most?  Her hands.  All my life she wore her nails long and painted with a polish that I would call a cherry color, but more like the juice of a ripe Bing cherry than the cherry itself.

I remember her hands smelling like Jergens lotion when I was a little girl.  Those hands worked hard when she was a young woman and the Jergens was important because it kept her hands soft.  She always wanted to feel feminine and to look feminine despite the fact that she wore blue jeans all the time just as I do.  Unlike me she always wore a starched and ironed blouse with her jeans, tucked in.  And she loved her purple-y red lipstick.

For years I have wondered how she kept her nails so well-groomed.  There were five of us children in the family and I can remember her washing diapers by hand when the old wringer washing machine went on the fritz.  She milked our cow twice a day.  (I wonder how old Bossie liked those long nails.)  She worked in the tobacco and cabbage fields (as did we all) and she kept a garden.  She canned the produce from the garden and she cooked three meals a day for years.  When did she have time to give herself a manicure?

This afternoon my almost-five-year-old granddaughter painted my fingernails.  She used a pretty girly pink.  For the record, I didn’t inherit my mom’s fingernail fetish; I try for clean and neatly trimmed.  But when a grandchild wants to give me a manicure I never say no.  It’s an important part of our relationship.  Since they don’t get to experience Granny’s sweet hands, maybe they will at least have some sort of fond memories of mine.  I do hope so.

I miss you, Mom.  I miss your hands.  I wish I could hold them one more time.  (Sigh.)  I think I should go have some Bing cherries.

“…all humor is physical.” ~ Chevy Chase

A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles. ~ Mignon McLaughlin

I’ve been a little down and out for a few days.  I’m not sure why but I know that long holiday weekends can do that to me, even Labor Day.  (Do other countries have a Labor Day equivalent?)  Often normal weekends make me sad.  I’ve said this before and meant it, but I have to remind myself from time to time:  I am responsible for getting myself out of the doldrums and being happy.

Reading in bed usually helps to put me to sleep, but last night I went looking for something funny to read.  I keep this little book of  “anguished English” on the bedside table in my guest room.  After reading some of it last night, maybe I should relocate it to my bedside.  I started reading and laughed so hard I had to get up and go to the john.  As Chevy Chase indicated in the quote above, it was literally physical exercise.  Whenever I read or hear something funny, I always want to share it with someone else.  D used to be my victim, but alas, he didn’t always laugh at my jokes.  He did, however, often laugh at me laughing, and that was just as gratifying.  I still miss his laughter.

You are my audience of choice today as I share some of Richard Lederer’s funny stuff.  Perhaps you’ll get a giggle or two or maybe even a belly laugh.

A newspaper headline:  STIFF OPPOSITION EXPECTED TO CASKETLESS FUNERAL PLAN  (I have a vision of all the poor stiffs having a sit-in with placards, chanting, “We Want Caskets.” to the tune of “We Want Candy!”)

Another newspaper headline:  LOCAL MAN HAS LONGEST HORNS IN TEXAS  (If you don’t live in the US, you may  not know that Texans think they have the biggest and best everything.  The way I see it, this dude is divorced and doesn’t have a girlfriend.)

An ad in a newspaper:  For sale–Eight puppies from a German Shepherd and an Alaskan Hussy.  (My mental image is that of a shameless Alaskan Husky with lipstick on, shaking her booty, and for some reason I can’t get the words “hockey mom” out of my head.)

A mutilated metaphor:  The sacred cows have come home to roost with a vengeance.  (My mental version is a bunch of skinny cows hanging on balconies and street signs in New Delhi.  Visions of Dali dance in my head.)

And last, a newspaper headline:  FLAMING TOILET SEAT CAUSES EVACUATION AT HIGH SCHOOL  (No comment.)

I hope you’re having a good day (or night) wherever you are.  Temperature here is low 70s and humidity is way down.  This is my kind of weather.  Thanks for reading.  I wish you lots of laughs.

“I write to discover what I think.” ~ Joan Didion

It is my experience as an artist and a teacher that writing “rights” things.  ~ Julia Cameron

I promoted writing long before I realized I wanted to write.  I always encouraged my high school students to write because, like Julia Cameron, I believe that writing “rights” things.  There are many “things” that cause angst and depression in us all, but especially in teenagers.  Their hormones are careening like a roller coaster.  A friend makes a snide comment.  A boyfriend breaks up with a girl right before 5th period class and she can’t stop crying.  So many “tragedies” at that age.  Writing usually helps.

I used to require my Spanish III students to read a one-page story about a man who wrote himself out of depression.  Briefly, this is the story:  This lonely, sad man decided to kill himself because he had nothing to live for.  Realizing he shouldn’t kill himself without leaving a suicide note, he sat down to write.  He wrote a short note.  Then he decided he should add one more thing.  Then another.  And another.  When he stopped he had several pages and he read what he had written.  At that point the said, “Wow! I’m really good at this.  I should be writing for the newspaper.”  All thoughts of suicide went right out the window.  No more depression, just enthusiasm for his future as a writer.

I learned first-hand what writing could do for me when my husband of 30 years told me he wanted a divorce.  I had sporadically kept personal journals in the past, but once I got his news I became committed to writing down everything that cruised through my mind whether I thought it important or not.  I have a treasury of everything that happened during those days.  Our words.  Our expressions.  Our visits to lawyers.  Our tears.  You name it, I’ve got it.  In the past I had held back and written only superficially about my feelings.  That’s probably why I never wrote regularly in those days.  I wasn’t being totally honest.  Being superficial was no longer an option.  My emotions were too raw.  I recognized I had to be brutally honest with myself if I wanted to recover.  And I very much wanted to be well and happy again.

I recently looked back at what I wrote during that time.  Some of it was garbage but some of it was powerful stuff.  I always labeled my entries with the day, date and hour.  I was amazed when I realized how often I wrote in the wee hours.  Sometimes I would write at 3:00 am, try to sleep for a while and then my next entry would be 5:15 am.  No wonder my doctor reacted in alarm to my confession of sleeplessness.  The point is, though, that I depended upon my writing to help me sort through what was important and what was not.  I started to realize fairly soon that D was going to do his thing and there was nothing I could do about it so I had to stop whining about it.  I knew that his OW had no place in my thoughts or my pages.  But the most important thing I came to understand was that family and friends and faith would get me through to the sunshine again.  And they have.

Today I am mostly happy and joyous and free and Life is good.