The Best Part of Wakin’ Up (aka: Coffee Time!)

In the beginning, there was coffee. And the coffee was black and bitter. Then someone said, “Let there be cream!” And there was cream. And later, someone else discovered that sugar made coffee sweet and delicious. And thus, America’s favorite beverage came to be.

perfect cup of coffee

I discovered coffee when I was a ten year-old kid. Of course, back then, it meant a milked-down, over-sugared mug of Folgers or Maxwell House alongside my bowl of Wheaties each morning. Still, it was coffee! The best part of wakin’ up. Good to the last drop.

“You’ll stunt your growth,” my family members warned. I ignored them, sipping my hot drink, engrossed in a novel. They were mistaken, of course. Fast forward to the present, and I still engage in my daily cup of java, which didn’t hinder me from reaching a comfortable height of five-foot-six. The only difference between then and now, is that I’m less likely to drink good ol’ Maxwell House or Folgers, and more likely to sample a variety of roasts grown in different regions of the world. I’m also far more like to drink decaf. (I know — blasphemy!)

Keurig Green Mountain Inc. Product Illustrations Ahead Of Earnings Figures

It’s interesting how the way we drink coffee has changed over the last several decades. By the time I was in middle school, flavored creamers hit the stores. Coffee wasn’t coffee unless it was Amaretto or Irish Cream-flavored. Throughout high school, I went back to black. And then, during university, some friends invited me to a local coffee shop that changed my life: Java City. Suddenly, coffee was not merely coffee. Coffee was Espresso! Cappuccino! Mochas and Lattes! Fancy, exotic coffee drinks blended with foamy steamed milk, drizzled in chocolate or caramel.

Then Starbucks came along and chased the other coffee shops out of town with their ever-growing selection of mouthwatering caffeinated beverages. Despite the fact that a cup of Starbucks coffee costs the same as an entire family meal, hordes of people began to flock to the popular coffee shop for its hip, ultramodern decor; milkshake-like Frappuccinos, and most importantly, free wi-fi. Some might say that Starbucks is the reason behind the large uptick in U.S. coffee consumption that began around the turn of the century.

fancy starbucks coffee drinks

Some of the more recent trends in coffee-drinking are a little more puzzling to me. Cold brew? Seriously, peeps — now we’re paying $3 for a cup of cold coffee? Come over my house, and I’ll sell you a cup of the coffee I left sitting on the counter all day. I’m sure it’s nice and cold by now.

Cold Brew Coffee Trend

Luckily for the 62% of Americans who drink a daily cup of coffee (hot or cold brew), there’s great news. Coffee is good for us. No, really! This article by Medical News Today and this comprehensive study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine are chock-full of information about the benefits of drinking coffee, both caffeinated and decaffeinated (yes, decaf). That daily bean juice habit is connected with reduced risk of death from cancer, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and then some. Other studies have proven additional health benefits from regular coffee-drinking, including reduced risk of certain types of cancers and improved liver health. (Not a single study proved that coffee results in stunted growth, by the way).

Folgers coffee old-fashioned

No matter how you brew it, one thing is clear: coffee is a worthwhile habit for most of us. So get those percolators popping! Get your Mr. Coffees dripping, your Keurigs Keuringging, and your cold brewers chilling your favorite gourmet, roasted, ground-up beans. After all these years, coffee is still the best part of wakin’ up, and even though our brewing methods and favorite flavors have changed, it’s still good to the last drop.

 

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X-Chromosome Day (aka: Cool Things About Being a Woman)

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Apparently, today is International Women’ Day. Which used to be a day to celebrate being a working woman, but I guess the stay-at-home moms and desperate housewives had hurt feelings, and so someone decided to encompass them, too. So now, this is a day to celebrate being a woman, or 51% of the world’s population.

I also heard that today is a political day, in which women everywhere have organized a strike. That’s right — a Day Without Women, in which everyone with two X chromosomes (and vacation leave) is encouraged to stay home from work or school, so that the world may see that we women are much more valuable than just housekeepers, cooks, and sex objects. Sort of a “How do you like me now?” to men everywhere. Even Lady Liberty herself went MIA last night.

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Sadly, I never heard a thing about the strike. Just as I never heard a thing about the enormous women’s demonstration that happened in January until the protest was already taking place. You miss a lot of information, living in a cave. But anyway, I am wearing a red dress (okay fine, a cranberry-colored dress), so I guess that little coincidence can be my contribution to this moment of solidarity.

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My other contribution will be a small moment to reflect on some of the cool things about being a woman. No offense to you XY-Chromosomers out there, but being a woman is, for the most part, pretty sweet.

Dresses, Dresses, Dresses

No, not every woman is fond of wearing dresses. To some women, they are a throwback to the days when women were forced to dress in dainty, frilly clothes and act like proper ladies. But to me, and to many other women and girls, dresses are just one way to express ourselves and our femininity. Also, buying one dress often costs less than buying all the individual parts of a pants outfit. Another plus: on warm days, nothing beats the easy, breezy comfort of a skirt.

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Heels

Say what you like, ultra-feminists. For some of us women, nothing is more empowering than tapping through the halls in a pair of heeled boots. Power walk!

We don’t have to be great at everything

I’ve got to say, I in no way envy the competition among men to own the most tech toys, drive the fastest car, or be the best at sports. Except for my super-speed, I have always been blissfully mediocre at sports, and I never felt the pressure to perform any better than that. No need to strip off my t-shirt and shoot hoops. No need to know the stats of every football player in order to participate in a conversation. No shame in having no clue how to hold or shoot a gun. No, not even a virtual gun in a FPS video game.

We are free to express our creative sides

We can be happily artsy, scrapbooking and drawing and turning our homes into something we’ve seen on HGTV. We can indulge in handicrafts without stigma, or even turn our faces into a personal canvas, with makeup and hair tools. We are free to sing, to dance, to write poetry, without ever needing to worry about how others may perceive us.

Yet I can’t help but feel that there is an injustice in this. As wonderful as it is to be a woman for these reasons, wouldn’t the world be a much better place if both genders could enjoy without shame many of these same “feminine” freedoms that I celebrate today?

Summertime Dreaming, Part 2

Apparently, I’ve been blogging about life in the cave for four and a half years. Four and a half! That’s a long time. It is interesting now, to look back on what life was like four years ago, and to see all of the ways that things have changed. Our family. Job. Schools. As always, Time keeps marching forward, arm-in-arm with her sister, Change.

I came across this one post, Summertime Dreaming, which I published almost exactly four years ago. It was amusing to read the fun, mostly superficial summer goals I’d set there. Let’s see how I did:

Engage in some nice, relaxing Global Thermonuclear War

Haha…it has been a loooong time since I’ve had a good real-time online battle. A part of me misses the days of Age of Empires or CyberNations. But maybe I’ve outgrown my thirst for virtual world dominance.

Wear a Bikini

I totally did it! So rad, right? At the age of 36, I hit my weight-loss target and spent my first (and last) summer traipsing around the beach in a cute little two-piece suit, like a true California girl. Now I can happily move on with life and not have to wonder what it would be like to wear a bikini.

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Drink a Beer

I’m proud to say that I have drunk a grand total of five beers since I posted that goal. No, not all at once. Yes, I enjoyed it (though I still prefer a glass of good wine).

Remodel My Sons’ Bedroom

Yep, did it. Then we moved to a new house.

Write Write Write

I wrote, wrote, wrote.

writing creative stuff

Setting goals does not always have to mean the big, serious plans in life, like career goals, fitness goals, or financial goals. Sometimes, you can take great pleasure in setting small goals that are all about enjoying life, having fun with your family, or growing and learning in tiny ways. Meeting these little goals can result in great joy.

And now to set some small goals for the Summer of 2016. I would like to:

Do a fun programming project

Maybe design a fun new website for readers of Young Adult fiction, or design a relational database of our family’s book library. Okay fine, maybe this does not sound like summer fun to like, 97% of the world, but it does to me.

Try a new water sport

My kids and I already love kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. Learning to surf would be fun. Maybe waterskiing or wakeboarding? Even floating down the river in inner tubes is still on our haven’t-tried-it list.

watercraft fun

Learn to do something new with my hair

I’ll admit it. I am pretty dull when it comes to styling my hair. Wear it naturally curly and short, or wear it straight and shoulder-length. Ponytail or no ponytail. A couple of times, I had it highlighted, and years ago, I even wore it in dozens of mini-braids. But now what? Learn to French braid? Try a hair weave? Dye it some daring new color?

Shop at farmers’ markets

farmers-market shopping

Now that I’ve decided not to grow a veggie garden this year, I would like to make a habit of heading to some of the great farmers’ markets we have in our region. The kids will enjoy this one, too.

Write, write, write

Specifically? Finish something and start sending it off to editors for publication.

Hopefully, whether or not I am still blogging away four-and-a-half years from now, I will be able to look back on this tiny list of tiny goals with a huge smile, knowing that even if I didn’t complete them, I had fun along the journey.