:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Just a drop of rain (Angie)

Over the past few weeks in San Francisco, two things have been happening - it's been dumping rain, and I have been planning my wedding. Both of these things (praise the lord) are nearly done. The rain is going away, and my wedding is coming right up, on Saturday April 2.

While my fellow San Franciscans are cognizant of the unyielding rain, I am pretty sure most of them aren't following my wedding planning the way they are following the weather.

Myself, I think there is a nifty sort of meteorological circularity happening here. The last time we had this kind of epic spring rain in San Francisco was 5 years ago, and I was leaving my ex-husband and striking out into the soggy world to re-build my life. It seemed at the time that the whole universe was an echo of my weeping soul. Every drop of rain was a tiny piece of my oceanic sadness splattering on the window, on the ground, and on the roof.

In April of 2006, as I prepared to move out of the house (and life) I knew, I braced myself for a long day of trial by rain. My sister and I were only relocating a small number of my belongings, but it was going to be a challenge to keep them from getting completely soaked. Moving day dawned gloomy and grey, but then, amazingly, as we began hauling stuff from house to car, the clouds parted, the sun shone through, and the day turned picture perfect. We drove to my new apartment with car windows down and radio blaring, as the huddled masses of San Francisco emerged from their homes to crowd the sidewalks and parks, blinking in the sun and downing celebratory cocktails. That was the single sunny day we'd had in weeks, and the next day the clouds closed back in and the downpour resumed for weeks yet again. I will forever remember that one beautiful day as my own personal thumbs-up from the universe. A little moving-on miracle that happened at a much-needed time.

Now, the rain doesn't bring forth any thoughts of sadness. I do hope that it will be over with soon (yesterday would be nice), and I am profoundly tired of umbrellas, galoshes, wet jeans and giant puddles. But the rain is also cozy. In fact, as I lay in bed drifting off to sleep the other night, I listened to to the rain coming down and felt deeply content. I was grateful for my warm, dry bed, and especially for my soon-to-be husband Aaron snoozing next to me. Aaron tucked his feet under mine, and it seemed that the whole world was exactly as it should be. Every drop of rain was a tiny piece of grace splattering on the window, on the ground, and on the roof.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Squirrel! (Jenna)

I seem to have many random thoughts running through my head at all times. Some are quite trivial and others can give me a headache if I muddle in them too long. I think with all of the details and stress in my life I just am having trouble keeping it together. Within one minute I’m focused on how I’m going to properly teach the carbon cycle to 13 year olds, to what color I should paint my house, to then the pros and cons of organized religion. I guess this is why I teach middle school, as I too have a short attention span!

Lately, I’ve been a bit obsessed with my new fitness & eating routine. Four weeks down and 12 more to go. I spend so much time planning out, cooking and eating all these meals as well as writing up and executing fitness routines, that I nearly have run out of other topics to discuss with others. I feel like I’m a new mother with pooping updates (although the poop might be more entertaining). Plus, now in social situations I’m “special”. I have things I’m not eating and I’m still on the wagon. I hate going to a party when one friend offers me something like brie on French bread and then another friend says, “Remember? She’s not eating/drinking that.” Now I’m THAT person. I’m the annoying, “no thank you, with a smile” person. In fact, I went to my favorite pub and asked the bartender for water. Then he came around with a cheese platter and I turned him down. Looking completely perplexed he said, “What IS wrong with you? Are you OK?” Clearly my actions are quite radical to my past. The good news is that I have lost nearly 10 pounds, I’ve signed up for the half-marathon in May, feel better in my clothes and am feeling stronger and lifting more during my weight workouts.

I love documentaries. I talk about documentaries as others talk about good fiction books. In fact, I feel I have no time for reading fiction when there are so many great documentaries to watch. I watched one this weekend (The Rape of Europa) on all of the artwork that Hitler stole from various people, where he hid it and how his anti-Semitic behaviors all started when he wasn’t accepted into art school. I watched another about religious cults in the US (Join Us). Whoa. I’m telling you, it’s a slippery slope out there, kids.
And how about those Jayhawks? Finally I get a tournament game in the afternoon on my TV and they lose. Yeah, my “madness” is over. I can’t tell you one team that’s made it into the Final Four and I don’t care to find out.

I like to use a lot of quotation marks in my writing…along with three periods.

I miss my ex-boyfriend Till. I know it’s been over a year now since we broke up but it still sucks. Even though it didn’t work out, I believe in love in first sight because of him. He’s a good egg.

I am perplexed as to why certain people want to be my friend on Facebook? Do you know what I'm talking about? I know I'm not alone here. This person didn’t care about me in 1990 when I might have seen them in person, we haven’t spoken since and now we have nothing in common. I don’t get it.

There are so many daffodils growing around here that it's ridiculous. I'm going to miss those next year.

Why does it seem that when I’m getting ready to sell some of my stuff it all starts breaking? This week alone my watch, DVD player and car have all stopped working for no apparent reason.

Hang in there, COFFEE drinkers. It seems it's been a stressful time for us all.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kill all of the Mice (Holly)

About a week or so ago, I dreamt there were about 20 mice chewing on my pant legs. It was freaky.  I wondered why the hell I would dream about mice and decided it must be significant, so I looked it up.  Here’s what it said,
“To see mice in your dream, indicates that you are spending too much time dwelling on minor problems and insignificant matters and may suggest that someone is trying to bring down your self-confidence. Someone may be nipping away at your resources.  Mice can also symbolize minor irritations and annoyances. Perhaps you are letting petty problems or insignificant issues eat away at you.”
COFFEE mates, it seems a little sacrilege to write about these mice when I have so much other Let’s Get Happy! Festival news for you.  The Universe has been extremely kind to me since I last wrote and the Happy! Fest is going strong!  However, tonight, I’m home alone…feeling a little sad and lonely from killing one of the mice earlier today.  It had to be done, but it’s still sad.  Tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep, I’m sure I’ll be fresh and good as new- and glad to have the mouse dead. 
Here’s what I’ve learned in the last three weeks- having a rewarding, yet demanding, full time job, 2 kids 50% of the time, solo parenting in general, and planning a kick butt all day musical benefit, is a shit ton of work.  It requires excellent time management, energy, and drive.  There is no time for “minor irritations and annoyances”. And, guess what? I do often let them eat away at me.  I spend way too much time trying to figure shit out. Sometimes, a lot of times, it just doesn’t matter. More importantly, all the time and energy used to fuss about insignificant issues could be used for what should be prioritized in my life. Like Artist’s Way, COFFEE Blogging, a meaningful job, my children, and earning money for an organization that probably saved my life.  (HAPPY! FEST)  I need to be Mark in this Love Actually clip.
So there you go. Enough. Enough now.  Holly is moving on to bigger and better things.  Going to live up to my “potential” and more.  One of my greatest joys in life has been to learn about other people and see things from their perspective.  I gathered new experiences and perspectives like a starving woman.  I went to college, I moved to Denver by myself, and I went to Europe five times, visiting most of the countries, some more than once. I’ve slept on a park bench in Paris, cried at Auschwitz, and smoked up in Amsterdam.  I’ve skinny dipped on the Italian Riveria and crashed a moped on the Amalfi Coast.  I met my first husband in a youth hostel in Zakopane, Poland and then racked up a $1200 phone bill calling him as I traveled solo on the fjords of Norway.  I hitchhiked from London to Dublin, once in the pouring rain.  This is when I learned to say that I need a lift, not a ride. I spent a hot day in Rome with only enough money to buy a loaf of bread to spread the peanut butter I brought from home.  I showed up in Malta with no money and no place to stay.  Two weeks later a Maltese woman was shoving Valium down my throat after I got the call that my dad was dead.   I’ve been to two countries in South America, hiking the Inca trail to Machu Pichu in one and adopting my son as well as doing a yoga and meditation retreat in the other.  I’ve been to at least four cities in Mexico and five countries in the Caribbean.  

I told Sam (my ex-husband) that I was lonely a couple months ago and he asked what my definition of loneliness was as it seemed to him I have people around me constantly.  It took me awhile to respond (this was all through text).  Finally, I said that loneliness to me is not having anybody that gives a shit about your day to day life, the little things, the big things.  That day there was a ½ inch of snow covering the back hoe, the dirt piles, the 8 foot hole in the ground, and the remnants of my deck (some scattered across the yard and some still attached to the house).  The birds were happy.  In one swoop of the eye I could see a white-breasted nuthatch, chickadees, both male and female cardinal, and a red-bellied woodpecker.  Though I appreciate what’s going on at my house, I felt like saying to someone, “Look at this mess! Look at those birds!” 
Yes, I have a lot of friends. Real friends.  Angels really.  Nothing is the same, though, as an intimate relationship with a lover.  So, though I will always want to gather more experiences and perspectives, right now, deepening my life is what is important to me. Right now, I’m most interested in quality. Not quantity. All of the things that I mentioned that I’ve done, I essentially did them alone.  It was great and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I would love to explore the world around me, both near and far, with someone else this time.  Someone I love and who loves me.  Until that happens, I will attempt to focus my energies on adding depth to the life I have now. 
I asked the Decision Dice what the next three months of my life would be like.  Here’s the answer:
I’m not sure Lady Luck smiles on anyone who pushes her too hard. But, having said that, it might be worth a go. Try demanding whatever it is you want. Stand in a field at dawn and scream your demands to the universe. So what if there isn’t anyone there to listen. I bet you get results. But you have to make the first move. The universe has to know what it is you want. Be wild and impulsive. Dare to dream. Have the guts to push your luck. If you dare, you’ll be embarking on a new path in life – one that’s permanent.  All you have to do is make whatever it is you want, known.

Bring it! Better go work on that Bon Jovi proposal:) 
Oh, and any mice?? Beware!

All the best juju for COFFEE Mate, John

Take a minute and shoot out some big love, good juju, and heartfelt prayers to one of our new COFFEE mates, John, whose family had a big, nasty scare. John's dad had a massive heart attack last week, survived (miraculously, it seems), and is starting the recovery road.

Shout outs to John and the whole Shaffer Crew! And speedy and thorough healing to Terry!

John is recounting the journey here: http://mydogshoba.blogspot.com/

Thursday, March 24, 2011

thinking processes of an un-productive problem solver. (amy)

The 5K. I have done a 5K. Specifically, I have leisurely walked a 5K. I placed number 131 (out of 140). As the 131st to cross the finish line, I won a sunburn and slightly sore calves, but I also had an enjoyable time chatting while casually completing this 5K, and it was for Relay for Life, an always worthy cause. On April 30, I will do my RunforWater 5K, wherein I will chat less (because let’s be honest: I’m doing that 5K solo and therefore won't really have anyone to chat to), and I will speed up the pace. Maybe. No, I will. I will attempt to place in the 120’s this next time.

Social Group. I’ve been doing preliminary research on social groups. I’ve googled “creating a women’s social group” and “finding members to join your social group” and "how to start a social group." And I have looked a lot (a LOT) at meetup.com. Meetup.com seems to be the easiest, most efficient way to go about this, but a tad on the pricey side--$12/month to host a group. Another alternative someone suggested was to advertise for free on Craigslist, but man. I know it's a great place for when you need to unload a 25 year old sofa with holes all over or a 1970's era console tv, but I gotta be honest: Craigslist just gives me the heebs.

The problem with meetup.com (besides the hefty $12/month administrator fee) is that there are—quite literally—hundreds of social group meetups there in my area, a good handful of which kind of sort of actually fit the idea I outlined in this very area a couple of weeks ago. And so I’m worried I’m being redundant. Like, why don’t I just join those groups and not have to pay a monthly fee or do any legwork in general? But then I wouldn’t be in charge, and part of my challenge is learning to be in charge and putting myself out there AND make myself do some legwork. And I know I could charge members to be part of my group to help me recoup my monthly costs, but quite frankly I'm suspicous of meet up hosts who charge members even a $2 fee per meet up...if 10 members show up for the meeting, then you're essentially making a profit, and that's not why I'm doing it.

What I’m saying here is: I’m still mulling and researching. And also kind of finding out I need to really narrow my social group down. I need a theme, basically. Like “Chicks Who Like Books about Books.” Or “Working Moms Promoting Chocolate Fests Who Prefer Kids Who Take Really Long Afternoon Naps on the Weekends.” Or “Chicks Who Daydream Lurid Fantasies about Gerard Butler Unbeknownst to Him.”

And why am I excluding men in these social endeavors? I don’t know. Because maybe there are working men and husbands out there who love chocolate and kids who take long naps, and they, too, have lurid fantasies about Gerard Butler. I don't want to exclude anyone.

The writing project: hasn’t happened. I knew this. I knew I would be posting an update 2, 3 weeks after my last post, the one where I grandiosely announced: Attention, All! Amy is going to WRITE! Even then, I knew this part of my next update would contain these words: writing, hasn’t, happened. Part of my problem (ie, challenge) is that I’m an avoider.

Most specifically, I’m a procrastinator/avoider. Like, I can spend hours keeping up with comings and goings of my friends/coworkers/family via facebook, reading the comment sections in Huffingtonpost solely as a schadenfreude experiment (I sadly love it when two internet trolls have a totally geeky word boxing match in front of God and everyone over some crazy subject like whether Kanye West’s bizarre tweets are culturally relevant or not), and just generally…I goof off online. A lot. The internet is a dangerous place for me, and I need to channel my technological energies better. It’s a problem.

And the other thing I’m doing is trying to decide what to write. Do I want to write only short stories? These can be frustrating for me—they start well but then I drift off because I don’t know where to take the characters next, or I’m not sure if I even have a plot line, or I realize I need to do research but I don’t have that kind of time (ie, ability to focus).

Do I want to write personal essays? I do have a lot to say about a lot. Like, I’m pretty passionate about elementary school kids and the mess I see being made of American public education these days—do I want to spout off my (generally unresearched, totally opinionated, and occasionally over the top) thoughts on what I see happening in the USA right now? And do I want to sign my real name to those opinions? And if so, am I prepared for the ensuing backlash? I submit the comments section of
this article as an example of (1) a tiny, and depressing, glimpse into the type of thing that distracts me from more fruitful uses for the internet, and (2) what freaks the socks off of me about posting my opinions about hot topics such as "Schools: What Needs Fixin'." I mean, clearly: there are very disturbed and angry people in the world who would like to watch most, if not all, public school teachers burn at the stake simply because they feel we should work both June and July (we do, just not as consistently as those in Corporate America). I don't know if I actually wish to interact with this type of human sludge, online or off.

So I’m still thinking about the Writing Project also.

The Wrap Up: I’ve done nothing too tangible since my last post, aside from the casual 5K. But I’ve done a lot of mulling, and Spring Break is coming in 2 weeks, and that's a time I plan to be a busy, busy superbly productive little worker bee. Or not. I may just take a lot of naps. Even a bee's got to rest you know.

Essentially, what I think would be most helpful is if someone could just pay me to be on perpetual Spring Break. I do realize the mere suggestion of this will upset the Human Sludge out there--don't I also get 2 weeks off in December? But listen: if I was on Perpetual Spring Break, I could fit in my lazy teacher naps AND find more time to be a much more productive problem solver. Like, if I could just find that career, I swear I could totally find a way to find a way to pay off our soaring national debts, fix public schools, make Charlie Sheen consistently take his meds (the legitimate Rx kind, not the others), AND have all my laundry washed, dried, folded, and put away in a sophistically organized/color-coordinated manner. Oh, and my kitchen floor would stay spotless and my toilets would shine.

I also feel slightly confident I could write an entire book of short stories and possibly one widely panned (heh) cookbook, head up 3 very popular social groups, “run” a good-cause 5K once a week, and lobby to get myself hired as a Teachers’ Perspective columnist for a nationally syndicated, well-respected newspaper and/or online news blog. All I need is someone to fund my Perpetually On Spring Break Problem Solver grant. I'm mulling over auctioning off my idea on ebay, in the hopes some crazy, rich dude with way too much time on his hands (*cough* i'm looking at YOU, Charlie Sheen *cough*) agrees to fund my most excellent plan.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Whatever It Is (Tanya)

What has been on my mind as of late is good ol’ fashioned love and new age appreciation for L O V E. I’ve been thinking a great deal about all the loved ones in this vast universe who I cherish dearly so I thought I would look up what exactly it (“love”) means.

Who better to tell us about love than children, right?! So….. I went digging and found some groovy quotes from kids between the ages of four and eight. I think they are spot on.

"Love is that first feeling you feel before all the bad stuff gets in the way."
"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love."
"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth."
"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."
"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your french fries without making them give you any of theirs."
"Love is when someone hurts you. And you get so mad but you don’t yell at them because you know it would hurt their feelings."
"Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired."
"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."
"Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."
"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate."
"When you tell someone something bad about yourself and you’re scared they won’t love you anymore. But then you get surprised because not only do they still love you, they love you even more."
"There are two kinds of love: Our love and God’s love. But God makes both kinds of them."
"God could have said magic words to make the nails fall off the cross, but He didn’t. That’s love."
"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day."
"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."
"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore."
"My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night."
"Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken."
"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."
"I let my big sister pick on me because my Mom says she only picks on me because she loves me. So I pick on my baby sister because I love her."
"Love cards like Valentine’s cards say stuff on them that we’d like to say ourselves, but we wouldn’t be caught dead saying."
"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you"
"You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."

I also read that the definition of love is “a strong positive emotion of regard and affection.” So if this is the case, man, I love tonssssssssssssss of people and of course a “few” canine beauties (who are basically people anyway). I don’t really have that stellar of any type of memory, but I’m sure glad my dogs don’t either (which according to some glorious child, keeps me in their good graces). But, seriously, I don’t just go throwing around that expression all willy-nilly. When I really think about L O V E, it really is the stuff like giving up the best piece of greasy fried chicken or the last fun size snickers, or drawing a heart with that special someone's initials in the dirt. It’s that feeling that can make your guts go absolutely wild. Zac Brown sings about it....."cause every time I try and tell her how I feel it comes out 'I love you.' You got whatever it is....." I like sentiments like this, and I've been thinking just what a gift it is to have that amazing and all encompassing expression in our lives and what loss it can bring when it goes awry. I have been thinking, well wondering, what do you really do with all of that, all of it?? One conclusive thing I landed on is that you can (I can) keep it all close to the heart, the good, the bad, and the gut wrenching. Being mindfully accepting of all that love brings is expressively cool and muddy warm no matter how you shake it. {...And knowing how to keep it close to your heart, very silently precious sometimes, even when someone else doesn't any longer...}

So when I look at the goals of my life, I think about how I can be better, more forward reaching and present minded with love too. I know I want to be a more humbled person; I want to smile and smell the roses and moth balls; I want to be earnest and giving; and I want to take life in stride. I know I wish to be a good influence on others, thus being one on of myself, and I wish to be the kind of person who takes everything seriously but nothing too intensely personal. I want to listen to the world and learn something new and remarkable every day, and I want to be open to new possibilities even when I hit a dead end. I want to make somebody’s day everyday. I think just maybe I’m making some headway on these goals. I also know very transparently that I’m not making these strides alone and definitely not in record speed. Perhaps, the other more conclusive implication is that love is also about a whole lotta growth. I like these more murky lines of thought so I think I’m going to dote on this for awhile……. And just maybe I will instead start saying things like “I love you with all of my guts.”

Tanya H.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

COFFEE Post 12: Nobody promised smooth sailing… Nobody’s a liar. (Stephany)

I remember my mother and also her mother telling me that “Nobody promised smooth sailing.” I recall thinking that this Nobody was an alright, optimistic kinda fella, although a little “off.” “Sailing” for me as a kid wasn’t exactly smooth, but surely this Nobody would eventually make good on his promise. After all, a promise is a promise! And smooth sailing’s not too much to ask. Right? RIGHT???

Well. Big deep breath… When I get my hands on this Nobody character, his butt’s MINE! I intend to PUMMEL this individual. This Mr. Nobody’s a BIG, FAT, LIAR! Smooth sailing, my backside. Humph. I have a few other choice words and names for him, too, when I bump into him. And a swift kick in the “cookies,” as my sons like to say, is most assuredly in order. (Sorry, John.)

Three big things knocked the wind completely out of my sail in the last two weeks.
First, chronologically speaking, our sweet Maya dog (who came to live with me & the kids after her owner, my mother-in-law, passed away in August) got VERY, VERY, V-E-R-Y sick. SICK. She’s gone from a healthy, muscular almost 60 pounds to a scrawny 38 pounds. They’ve identified some evidence of liver failure or intestinal “issues,” but her lab values don’t substantiate any of that, specifically. Yeah. I know. Basically, two local vets and a specialist in KC are stumped. They have all kinds of what-if and if-then scenarios that we could follow, but each option essentially renders this gentle, loving dog a science experiment with no guarantees. Not good options. Steroids and a special diet should mean she’s gaining weight like crazy, and that’s just not happening. No one knows why. We have until Wednesday of this week for her to gain some weight or for yet another set of labs to show some improvement. After that, if she’s not better, we (the almost-ex and I) don’t see any options. She’s wasting away, and I can’t bear the thought of her suffering. The almost-ex and I agree on this.

Yes, I know. She’s a DOG. I actually had someone say those words to me, and I nearly “Nobody’d” that person. She is a dog, yes, but she’s OUR dog and all we have left of my mother-in-law, AND she’s the one creature who’s been there for me when my kids were at their dad’s and the house was otherwise empty. She’s been my snuggle-buddy, my foot warmer, my companion. She’s not JUST a dog, dammit. I’m beyond sad at even the prospect of her not existing anymore…

Second, my half marathon is not to be. Suckage. I’d taken a week or so off of running because my knee had been giving me some trouble – swelling, pain, the usual. No big deal. On March 11, however, I was walking down the hall after lunch, heading back to my classroom, and my knee completely buckled. It just went out. No warning, no nothing, just GONE. Ship SUNK. I bawled like a sissy girl in the hallway in front of MANY students and had to be helped to the school nurse, finally emerging on crutches and in tremendous pain.

Anyway, on Wednesday, I saw the surgeon, who did the fourth surgery on this knee almost a decade ago, and he decided that I have again dislocated my kneecap, (I really despise the word “patella.” Something about it just grosses me out. Sorry.) something that was supposedly all-but-impossible after they re-aligned the entire joint in 1995. Surgery is almost a certainty, as is the fact that I will not be racing in April as I’d planned. I’m beyond bummed at this little development. I feel ripped off, and I’m frustrated at my aging physique. And this stupid knee??? I could Nobody it, but it’s basically jacked enough at this point. I’m just… I just hate this.

Third, an incredibly special woman, my Grandma Marge, passed away peacefully Sunday at the age of 94. She’s been in ill health for awhile, so it’s not like it was a huge shock. But it was a HUGE SHOCK.

This woman was remarkable! She worked the farm with my Grandpa right up until his health failed him and he passed away 6 years ago, raised kids (GREAT kids, by the way, one of which is my dear Daddy), cooked, cleaned, sewed, and took care of EVERYONE around her, whether you belonged to her or not. She accepted my mother when she & Dad started dating almost 20 years ago, and she took me & my kids in like we were her own flesh & blood, counting us all as HER grandkids and great-grandkids. She was all heart and an absolute character – ornery and clever, honest and spirited, opinionated and kind all at the same time. She was wonderful.

I can’t explain what a rock she was to this family, nor can I explain how virtually impossible it has been to watch my Daddy cry over losing his beloved Momma. I can’t say I’ve done too many things that hurt my heart as much as holding him as he shakes and sobs. His heartbreak is more than enough to do my own little heart in, and my heart is sad all on its own over losing her. (And, later today, I get to tell my kids they’ve lost another grandparent less than 7 months after burying their Grandma Joyce. They’ve been skiing in Colorado with their Dad for Spring Break. A whole other heartbreak I can’t even get into at this point in time.) The only good thing about any of this is that she’s with Grandpa again, and goodness knows those two are doing a mean polka right now. Man, how those two could dance. And he’s shining that killer smile all over his woman, and she’s beaming and basking in that smile… That thought makes ME smile, and in all honesty, I’m happy for her. She’s free of pain, of being tired and unable to do what she wants to do, of being confined to her bed, of missing her dear husband. Knowing that takes the sting off just a bit, it really does. And that’s a little relief in the many waves of loss…

So all in all, my COFFEE goals have taken a back seat to Life things, to the not-so-smooth sailing things. Sometimes that’s just what has to happen. Like it or not, Life happens. Life will continue to happen. And, in all likelihood, Nobody’s not gonna come through for any of us. He lied. There’s no such thing as smooth sailing.

Hug your family, COFFEE friends. Hug your friends. Say “I love you,” especially when you don’t feel it but know you mean it anyway. The waters might not be glassy and smooth, but they’re the waters we get to navigate. And honestly I can’t help but be thankful for the people in my boat, who are banding together to keep this boat floating in the midst of all of this Life stuff… my peeps… and I count many of you among those. Hugs and many thanks for all the kind words and prayers…

Monday, March 21, 2011

you don't have to be a painted street mime. (patresa)

I feel a little lost and sideways, frankly. I've been busy the last few weeks, and I don't do "busy" well. I understand my version of busy looks like a really nice break for many. Regardless, my own personal threshold for activity has always been pretty low, so it still effects me. I get twisted and bunched, and then I scatter. I forget my center, and I lose tune. It's all very tragic (please read sarcasm).

In the time since my last post, I was to:

  1. Draft a new little bird big tree storybook (as a benchmark toward having a portfolio of at least 3 completed.).
  2. Spell out an idea to fellow COFFEE mates about my new vision for us. 

I'm off to a slow start.

Haven't touched little bird big tree.

And although I revealed, more or less, where I want to take COFFEE, I didn't do it with the specifics and the tangible blueprint I'd intended. I do have one in my head. It will just take time to show you. It will require putting together a website.

I'm not overly worried about the slow start. If I recall, my open mic project started pretty slow, also. Eventually, I just got sick of myself and did it. I assume the same will happen here. So, I guess I'll just repeat those goals for the next 3 weeks.

I'll say, also, that I feel a little more fire under my tush about it. I firmly believe that any job on the planet can be performed with creativity and enthusiasm. You don't have to be a painted street mime in order to say you are creative. A big part of my job is analyzing data--the number kind. I feel like I make that a creative endeavor (which does not mean I make up numbers).

But I concede there is something more satisfying about writing a song or a story or smooshing paint around a canvas than being creative with data. It's become apparent to me how critical creative outlets (the overt kinds) are for my well being--physical, mental, spiritual. I'm not exaggerating with the word "critical." I feel myself leaning back into my most fundamental drive to live a life in which creative endeavors consume a bigger chunk than career. The most practical way I see to do that is to blend the two, so that my career IS a creative endeavor.

There's probably a gray area. I'm just too funked up to see it right now.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Welcome John!

So.  The first guy in the COFFEE world.  No pressure or anything.  
I’m John.  To earn income I work as a Paramedic.  I also build things.  Things like stained glass, custom knives, wooden things, metal things, all sorts of things.  I also enjoy the following things in whole or in large parts… Gardening, flying, swimming, eating, cooking, painting, writing, camping, canoeing, picture taking, exploring, creating, singing, guitar playing, learning, and I’ve probably forgotten a few –ing’s, too.  
I was a United States Marine in my younger days, and spent a great deal of time learning the finer points of destroying life.  Other than the whole killing people thing, I loved my time in the service.  I do believe that the US is the best country in the world, but I think we have a long way to go to live up to our potential.  A long, long way.   Along with my service jobs, I’ve done a few other things since high school.  I’ve been a Lutheran youth director, a seasonal vegetable harvester, a custom carpet manufacturer, an over the road trucker, a touring musician, a motivational speaker, a factory line worker, an office manager, a small business owner, and a few other things.  I’m a Jack-of-All-Trades, but I don’t feel like I’ve mastered any.
My challenge for this COFFEE adventure is not about overcoming fears.  The only fear I have is loss of my family, and my wife and I have a pact that I will die first to avoid that fear.  That and heights.  Well, not the height really, so much as the falling from and eventual meeting of the ground. 
Long ago, I used to go after what I wanted and do it, regardless of the hurdles.  I want to get that person back.  I want to find the adventure in this life and do it.  My first goal is to replace the picture of me on the Mississippi River taken on an expedition in 2002 with a current picture of me paddling somewhere.  I used to be fun.  I want to be again.
Mostly I enjoy the company of my wife and two kids, as they are easily the most entertaining group I could have asked to be involved with.  My dad taught me that all of life is an adventure.  I want to pass that on to my kids.  Time to get going.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Meet Angie!

My name is Angie, I am 36 years old and I live in San Francisco. I don’t wear flowers in my hair, but I do consider Rice-A-Roni to be a treat.
I was born and raised in Iowa, which means I often feel highly superior to Californians when it comes to manners, grammar, and driving on snow.  I have to admit, though, that California does way better at food and wine, which are two of my favorite things in the whole wide world.
When I am not eating food and drinking wine, or planning which restaurants I want to visit for the purposes of eating food and drinking wine, I work in online marketing at OpenTable, a company that is all about…wait for it…helping people make restaurant reservations so they can eat food and drink wine! I also love cooking and I sometimes work at a winery. (They pay me in wine.) 
 Lest you think I am completely one-dimensional, I do have a few interests that don’t involve food and wine, like traveling the world, reading books, and doing challenging, physically active things with my body (the “challenging” bar is admittedly set pretty low for me). I also enjoy spending the odd winter weekend on the bunny slopes at Tahoe, gazing at the view and gliding cautiously along as 4 and 5 year old children whiz by me on their teeny tiny skis. 
And last, but most definitely not least, I have been a proud volunteer with The Shanti Project  since 2006, currently sitting on the board of directors. Shanti is an amazing non-profit organization that provides compassionate support to people with HIV/AIDS and breast cancer who are living below the poverty level, and often facing their life-threatening illness alone. For them, Shanti is the difference between 0 and 1.
As for my fears, there are some that I think are good to have, such as my paranoia about runaway MUNI buses, and my phobia of great white sharks. I’d like to sign a peace treaty with some of the more esoteric ones, like “everything good in my life is always on the verge of being taken away from me”.  That one needs some work…
On that note, I am thrilled to be a part of COFFEE- what a great blog community/online magazine/support group! Thanks for having me, ladies (and John).

COFFEE news & COFFEE changes

Well, hello there.

Change is brewing at COFFEE. The most immediate change is the addition of two new and awesome mates: Angie and John. Angie once visited as a guest, writing about the Quantum Wellness Cleanse. Instead of regular posting, you'll re-meet Angie and then meet John, an adventurer with adventuring hats and vests, this week. We'll be back with a revised posting schedule  Monday, March 21. Some time after that, you may even see a change in venue.

In the meantime, please keep sending Ms. Tawni, who is starting the long road to post-surgery recovery, good mojo. We love us some Tawni!

And send some good mojo to Ms. Katie, who lost a dear and true companion yesterday, Sweet Bella Dog, a warm and gentle giant. We love us some Katie (& Bella)!

Thanks for reading!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Itty Bitty Birds

Well, I have to say that my productivity really improved this week. Largely because of this really super fun web project I'm working on, but also because I spent more time making music.

In other news, after what felt like years of waiting, I finally had the ultrasound appointment this week where we found out the baby's gender. IT'S A GIRL!! Yippeeeee!

The experience of the ultrasound was so powerful and moving. Really, such a joy. I wish I could have someone put a glob of goo on my stomach and do it every day so I see my little girl raising her arms over her head, curling up in a ball, stretching out, wiggling her teeny fingers, etc.
We even got a video of the entire event! Man, technology these days is so incredible!! Eric made a little 11 second video where it looks like she's waving and pointing.

So I decided that, in keeping with the theme, I would record a version of a song I wrote last summer.

Itty Bitty Birds was inspired by my newfound fascination with hummingbirds. I lured them onto my front porch (and then to our back patio, too, as my obsession grew) with my pretty red glass hummingbird feeder and then sat in wait and tried not to blink.
Eventually one iridescent green-flecked Hummer, who I named Francis, claimed the feeder as hers and spent lots of time with me - feeding and perching on a Hackberry branch nearby to guard her territory . I spent sooo much time sitting on my porch last summer watching Francis and her interlopers flit and hover and buzz, sometimes just inches away. And every time, it felt like a little mini miracle somehow. I read that Hummingbirds have incredibly high metabolism (lucky suckers) and are always within hours of starvation if they don't find food. They are the smallest bird, but yet they're almost an anomaly considering the fact that they can fly
backwards, up, down, sideways and hover in mid air, all the while supporting their body weight through the sheer force of their own energy. They just struck me as such resilient, determined little creatures.

When I wrote Itty Bitty Birds, I had wee little humans in mind, too... thinking about my newest niece Grace, born a preemie - triumphing and growing so beautifully. And now I have my own Itty Bitty Bird coming soon, so I thought it was a perfect song for this week.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Surgery and Spice and Everything Not Nice (Tawni)

I don't have a lot to say today, mostly because I am utterly exhausted and nauseated. I am in too much abdominal and lower back pain to sleep, and can no longer eat (I choked down an avocado today, and that's it). I'm not even excited that I've lost 12 pounds in the last few weeks, because being too sick to eat is not the way I wanted to lose the last of my pregnancy weight.

Although I am tired of hearing myself whine about this issue, I feel the need to explain my lameness as of late. When you feel like you have the stomach flu all of the time, it sucks the motivation to accomplish things right out of you. I'm sure you've been there, and know what I mean, right? When you spend the day hovering in puke purgatory, cold-sweating, mouth watering, stomach roiling, wondering if you should run for the restroom or not? I can barely get my kid ready for school every morning. I have to stop, sit down, and wait for the nausea to subside every few minutes. What used to take 15 minutes takes an hour. It's ridiculous.

The good news is that I am having surgery tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. to hopefully correct/remove what has been making me hurt all of the time. I am dreading the surgery in the way that a normal human should dread having a five-inch-long incision sliced into their abdomen, but praying that after the 6-8 week recovery period, it will make me feel a bit closer to human again. I am not even hoping to feel good again at this point, I only hope to feel not bad. Anything above and beyond that will be a pleasant and much appreciated surprise. I honestly can't remember the last time I felt okay.

I will be updating my personal website if/when I feel up to it. You can read extensively about my grody health issues there if you're interested. I don't self-monitor on that site at all, so I apologize in advance for offensive language or TMI-type details. I like to share what many would consider TMI, because I don't think there is such a thing as too much information. In my experience, there is often not enough information. I like to think that I play a small role in rectifying that absence when I share information. I write all about it, and hope that maybe someone out there will read it, relate to it, and feel less alone. And that thought makes me happy.

More here: http://myshinyhell.blogspot.com/

It's funny to me that my world, and therefore my main COFFEE Project goal, has become all about my health, when I was wanting to, and finally actually starting to focus on my writing goals. Poor health has a way of prioritizing everything in your life this way, doesn't it? When you no longer have your health, you instantly realize how very little the petty, trivial, or not-essential-to-life things actually matter. For example, months ago, I was stressing about how I will look in a bikini this summer when my husband won a trip to Costa Rica in June. I started working out constantly. Now, I can't work out at all, and I'm just hoping to be able to go. (And maybe not feel like barfing all day long, as long as I'm hoping for things.) Ahhhh, perspective. There you are again, you elusive little minx.

Today I went to the library to pick up the 20+ books I reserved. I now have a mini-library next to my bed. I haven't been letting myself read books for the last few months in an attempt to focus more on writing, which worked, but I think I'm going to need my favorite escape right now. I got them home, lovingly lined them up on the book shelf next to my bed, and nearly started drooling. I got giddy with reader anticipation just looking at all of those awesome books. I have missed my number one favorite hobby so much.

My COFFEE Project for the next few weeks will be trying to stay positive, be brave, and to get myself up out of bed and moving around as soon as possible, which is supposed to really speed up the post-surgery recovery time. I am going to focus on remembering that the this surgically-derived pain is only temporary, and is a means to a greater end.

My love to everybody reading this. xoxo.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It’s a Winter Wonderland until It’s Time to Shovel (Becky)

Charlie dog and I just went for a walk in the snow and it was quite lovely. Typically March in Iowa means that I am soooo done with winter but winter is not quite done with me. But since this winter was practically bearable compared to the last two, and because it was one of those perfect snowfalls… 32 degrees with big fat fluffy flakes, I rather enjoyed it. And since it was such a wet and rainy and gray and gloomy day, it was refreshing to see everything covered in white (hopefully) one last time. And since I love my snow boots as they are super comfy and cozy and warm and make me happy, I was glad to wear them (hopefully) one last time. Charlie seemed quite pleased also, except when we walked by the house with a new for sale sign in the yard. He noticed right away that the big scary thing is not normally there and dug in his heels and started growling. When I finally did get him to keep walking, he took the widest path around it that his leash would allow. Silly dog.

So while my body was enjoying a serene and peaceful walk on a lovely March night, my brain was racing with the following thoughts “it’s ten o’clock, tomorrow is my day to blog… what should I write? what should I write? what should I write?”

And this is what I came up with…
  1. I should bribe some coffee shop to display my photographs. I’m finally ready to do what I’ve been saying I’m going to do for quite some time. And that is to scan all my photos and negatives and do something spectacular with them. I will print them big, get them framed, write cool captions or stories or poems to go with them and show them to people.
  2. I should invite people to my house for dinner. In my struggle to reconcile myself as an introvert or an extrovert I have increasingly found myself avoiding the bar scene and groups of people. I would prefer some quality time with people on my terms. So in order to open up my life to necessary social interaction, I will open up my home in an effort to reconnect with people who are important to me.

I have taken some baby steps toward these goals. As you know, my last post included a few photos from Madagascar. And I invited my brother and his kids over for dinner the other night. Granted, they stood me up, but it’s a start, right? In full disclosure, I should tell you they eventually did come over… after I called them 30 minutes past the time they were supposed to be here and after Scott got my niece and nephew out of their jammies.

So thanks in advance for holding me to this COFFEE sisters. You all have an open invite to dinner by the way. You may want to bring your own food, though. I guess I should add "3. Cook more" to the above list.

Off to bed. Tomorrow is the day before the penultimate day of week 10 of my first 10-week Kosama session. Chances are good I may have to shovel first. I’m so looking forward to sleeping in next week! But I’ll be back at it soon enough, only this time I will allow myself some appropriately placed sleep-in mornings. In the first 10 weeks, I only missed 1 day! 59 out of 60 workouts….not a bad percentage if I do say so myself.

Drunken Punch-up with the Universe (Holly)

Thank you for being honest, and admitting to all your lies-Don’t think I wanna get even, let the Universe decide…...
Half Smile by the Hank Dogs
I tried to insert this song. I don't know how. If you feel so inclined, download it to your iTunes while you read this blog. It's bloody good and so apros pos to so much of what we talk about here.  Also, there was an Axis I (as in the Triple Axis of Evis) episode since we last spoke that I wish I could write about, but posting this song will have to do.  It was amazing, validating, affirming. Trust your gut, friends. If you're friends with your gut, that is.

The Universe slapping you upside the head can either be amazingly beautiful or brutally painful and destructive.  And ugly.

Which one do you want first? Let’s do ugly first.  Okay….since I last wrote, the sewer problem was finally resolved. What I mean is: The problem was FINALLY discovered.  Some yahoo plumber from a couple years ago left 200 feet, yes, let me say it again, 200 feet of cable in my sewer!! Apparently this amount of cable is worth about $1200.  Build up of crap and shit (literally) and another thing for tree roots to grab on to equals a clogged sewer and over $15,000 in repair.  My insurance company will pay for about $6,000 of it.  I have a $1,000 deductible.  OUCH! I’m not doing the math.  I’m going to dissociate, thank you. What’s not resolved is that Holly needs to figure out WHO the plumbers from couple years ago were and sue their plumber tushies. Cracks and all. Bloody hell. Like I have the time, energy, or inclination!!

Meanwhile, damage to van equals over $1600.  $500 deductible. Bloody hell.

To top it off, my internet, home phone, and replacement blackberry from the blackberry phone dropping in the toilet in December (on significant day) die. Dead. All of them.  Creepy. NONE of it was tied to the work done around my house or to each other.  Bitch slap upside the head by the universe. “Stay home. Solitude is where it’s at.  Quit trying to fill up by reaching out. Lean on yourself. It’s all there.  You know this sista, why you no listen?”  Bloody hell, Universe. Fine. Not only will I stay home, but I’ll be home with NO NONE NO NONE connection to the outside world. BOOM.   

Damn it. It’s a friend’s birthday. No. Must not go out. Universe says NO! Other friend comes over. YES, you must go. UGH. No! don’twannadontmakemegouniversesaysstayhomemuststayhomeokayfinei’llgoihavereallycooljeansiwannawearanyway.  So, yup. I left the house.  And, the Universe had lovely things to say.  Including, those are cool fn jeans! Are those your underwear? No, just lace fashionably piped at the top…..

Enter HAPPY UNIVERSE story!!  Remember Happy Party Extravaganza (HPE) 2011 from last blog? Well, Ms. Universe really wants this to happen.  Two weeks ago I told you that there were soooo many serendipitous things that were happening that it would take too many pages.  Well, now that seems like the Universe was whispering. Now she’s shouting and punching me (love punches this time).  The things I’m about to tell you pretty much have fallen in my lap.  No joke.  Firstly, I’m hooked up with the Man & Woman of the Year Campaign through the Luekemia/Lymphoma Society (LLS).  I’m not running for Woman of the Year, but am on the committee for a colleague of mine, Theresa, who is running. It’s a time limited fundraising campaign.  Built in is a lot of publicity and resources through LLS.  Theresa is going with my happy live music idea as are several other people that are working on this campaign.  There are marketing opportunities including web, audio, and tv being handing to us.  Because of the time limit on this fundraising campaign, HPE needs to be earlier than I would’ve wanted, but could possibly result in an appearance by a BIG name-a man who has aged amazingly well……dreaming….oh, I digress.  But, before we get to that, let me tell you that even if we don’t get him, we are going to have an AMAZING line up!! Rewind to the fun cool jeans evening….after a lovely dinner, friends and I saunter in to Star Bar.  Who’s playing? Chris Ranallo and his beautiful band members.  Chris Ranallo has a very successful local band called the Decoys and he happens to be the ex-husband of the mother of my new born niece! Who happens to be the mother of Austin, 14 year old Luekemia survivor, who happens to be wrapping up his 2-years worth of treatments this May!! Of course they’ll play the show!

Yours truly, Iowa Jam, Des Moines, IA 5/19/1987.
How much do you want JBJ to come to Happy Party?? Thiiiissss Much!!!!

COFFEE Mates, the story could end here and I would be thrilled.  But no, it does not.  While I was schmoozing and connecting during the kickoff event of the LLS M&W of the year, my partner in crime, Theresa, was doing the same.  At the end of the night, we got together again…both of us all atwitter, I spill my news, and she says, well, the Nadas are in! SHUT THE F*(K UP! The NADAS? You mean one of the most famous Iowa bands currently playing? You mean the NADAS who opened for Bon Jovi in 2005 at Wells Fargo Arena???? You mean Bon Jovi?  The band I saw in 1987 at the Iowa Jam…..what was that song they did for one of their encore songs????   Ummmmm…..let me see….I think it was DRIFT AWAY!! The reason I fell in love with that song! (I put Dobie Gray’s version in last time’s blog because it’s 4 minutes shorter than Bon Jovi’s from 1987 (which you CAN find on YouTube)).  Do you mean Bon Jovi who I saw in 2005 and 2007 with my fellow class of 1987 sistas and COMPLETELY rekindled those friendships- invaluable angels that were there for me when fighting Lymphoma.  That Bon Jovi???  Waaaaaiiiiiiitttttt a gosh darn minute!!! Isn’t Bon Jovi going to be here in May sometime?? Hold on, let me check….. OMG! They’re here on Thursday, May 12 and not performing again until Saturday, May 14 in Atlanta.  That decides it.  HPE 2011 will be on Friday the 13th (think of the beautiful juxtaposition and possible marketing strategies!) and Jon Bon Jovi is going to come and sing Drift Away. To me.

Jon, Show us how much you want to come to Des Moines for HPE 2011!! THIIIIISSSS MUCH!!
Pick us! Look how HAPPY we are!!!!

Jon!-How sexy do you think Holly is? Ok! And, how much do you want to sing Drift Away at her HPE 2011???

I really have great lips and have aged gracefully. I really want to be part of HPE 2011.
There aren't many things happier than maracas, right???
COFFEE Mates start thinking about travel plans.  I know it’s not a long weekend, but taking time off work to be happy is WHERE IT’S AT!!  We’re thinking of having a COFFEE Beans booth where we share the first phase of the project and KICK OFF the second phase.  Also, I’m hoping some COFFEE talent will be up on Simon Estes stage…….spreading our COFFEE LUV!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Moving Body, Mind and Sole (Jenna)

I’ve never written a blog before.  To be honest, it’s a bit more intimidating than I had expected.  I figured since I blab my mouth all day and have a bazillion thoughts running through my head, jotting a few of them out would be a cake walk (I love those, by the way).  Just when I think I’ve got plenty of projects going in my life, it seems just being an active COFFEE participant might just be another one.  So, here we go ladies and gentlemen.  Grab your mug and I’ll get typing.
I am moving to Hong Kong in July.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been to Hong Kong before.  In fact, I’ve never been to Asia, period.  The idea of it sounds amazing to me.  It’s an endless list of new things to see and explore…dim sum, fireworks, junk boats, horse races, hiking trails, flashing lights, Buddhism, heat  & humidity, high-rises, metros, shopping, people, people and more people!!!  It was the first and only place that I looked for a job this fall and I’m thrilled to have landed it.
Now I’m no stranger to change and in fact, I welcome it (some ex-boyfriends even might say I like it a bit too much).  I’ve been moving around ever since I left the house at 18.  I’ve lived in four different Kansas towns, taught at six different schools, lived in five different countries on three different continents.  I love the challenge of a new environment…until now, out of nowhere I’m freaking out.  Asia scares me.  Not just a little, but Great Wall-size scares me.
I find myself thinking, “What the (enter expletive) am I doing?”  I love Holland.  My friends are here.  I own a house.  I’ll look like a giant there.  It’s a 15-hour flight from HK to Chicago. They eat things like insects and animal penis.  There will be pollution. And Chinese.  Have you listened to this?  Are you kidding me?
Thinking about the latter list makes me want to do these things:  curl up in a ball and sleep for hours, eat copious amounts of carbohydrates (simple, not those healthy complex ones) and drink red wine.  In fact, until about two weeks ago, I have been doing just that besides forcing myself to go to work and back.  I’ve been so unmotivated and so grumpy that I no longer can even stand myself. 
And then last week I snapped.  I’ve decided that the only way I can survive this transition is to throw myself into a strict routine of health.  Running, weights, meal plans, journaling & even a personal trainer.  It’s been nearly a week now since I’ve started and I’ll have to say, I’m doing better than I expected, but the weekend looms.  That’s when all the delicious wine and cheese comes out to tempt me.  I feel like a few sisters know what I'm talking about.
But I SWEAR that through this mess of stress of reorganizing my life one more time, that I’ll come through it a better (and smaller) person.  One week down and 16 more to go.  We’ll see how this story unfolds but for now it’s time for me to put on my running shoes and get moving towards that goal.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

let go of the nut, monkey girl. (Amy)

Charles and I went out to dinner the other night with a couple we're friends with, who I deeply like. First of all, let me just note how much I hope Melissa turns out like their 16 year old girl: grounded, likes being with her family, majorly averse to all the wacky things teenagers can be drawn to like moths to flame, smart, literate, musically inclined, and a soccer star on top of it all. And she's not one of those teenagers who acts like their iphones are way more important than human interaction; she knows how to have conversations with adults and puts her social skills to good use.

She most likely turned out like this on the account of the fact Lisa (this lovely 16 year old's mom) has a nice, laid back outlook on life. For instance, after each visit, Lisa always leaves me some awesome little nugget of wisdom from her brain I can easily incorporate into my own life outlook. Nuggets like: “She's only 2. Those people will just have to get over it.” (Said after I worried out loud Melissa was bugging other people at a restaurant we were at). And: “People can be such buttheads!” (Shared over a glass of wine, talking about the psychologically traumatizing Tiger Mom approach and why are people so judge-y and psychotic in general anyway?)

Last week during after dinner drinks, she gave me this one: “Some people just need to let go of the nut.” She was telling me about this experiment some behavioral scientists once conducted with some monkeys. They put a piece of candy, banana, nut, or whatever monkeys find very tasty, in a cage. So the monkey comes up, puts its hand in the cage to get the nut. As soon as its hand is around the nut, the monkey is suddenly trapped in the cage and can’t move. But the behavioral scientists (who are just infamously devious about these kinds of things) set up the cage so that if the monkey would just let go of the nut, it would instantly be able to free itself. Freedom or a nut? A nut or freedom? What’s a trapped monkey to DO, everybody??

You can probably guess: not too many monkeys ever tried just letting go. They just hung out there, stuck to a cage, tightly clutching this nut they couldn't even get to their mouths, trapped for hours or at least until one of the kinder scientists played God and released them.

This was a deeply educational anecdote for me, because it’s exactly how I feel about my world so many days out of any given week: At various moments throughout each day, I am little more than a monkey with her hand stuck in a cage, clinging desperately to a nut I can't even get into my mouth. I need to tape this to the wall next to my desk at work, onto my bathroom mirror: Amy, just let go of the nut.

In her last post, Patresa talked about moving on to some other COFFEE projects she’s been eyeing, and I’m so grateful she did this, because she unknowingly gave me permission to let go of a nut (thanks, P-licious!). I think I’m ready to call it a day with one of my projects and branch out into another scary area (or 3).

I'm going to continue my first COFFEE project of training for my scary April D-Day 5K (which I am announcing here that I have officially registered for—woo! me...plus, and, also: there is no turning back now).

But my other project (which originally started as health nut/vegan eating and somehow casually evolved into a “How About I Just Focus on Cooking in Ways No One Gets Food Poisoning & I Don’t Burn Down My House?” project) has been feeling kind of done. Unless Jamie Oliver personally calls me to invite me to his house for a one-on-one cooking lesson, I think I’ve gotten about as far as I can possibly go on my own with the cooking project. I still don’t really enjoy the act of cooking, except on occasional weekend nights when I’m in the mood and there’s a nice bottle of Chianti next to me (I don’t really drink Chianti; I just like sticking that word into conversation whenever possible because of that one line in that one Hannibal Lecter movie). But I have a handle on it now, and some good solid recipes to turn to when in doubt. And nobody's choked or vomited on any of my cooking...yet. And my oven can't even believe how much use it's been getting since, say, November. Ish.

So I’ll continue training for a 5K, and channeling less sofa slug, more gym rat. But I'm saying adios to Cooking School 101.

Onto something new: All through this COFFEE project, I’ve been thinking, "What REALLY scares me?" Wendy called someone she hadn’t talked to in a really long time, and risked weird feelings and rejection. Patresa got up and sang in front of a bunch of strangers, and risked warbling like a goat and having people throw drinks at her. They both did these things, and they made it out alive. Totally, totally alive. Nobody hung up on anyone, sang like a goat, or threw drinks. Which made me ask myself: what have you REALLY been risking with this safe little cooking/run a 5K health nut project you gave yourself? Not much, is what I say.

So here’s the thing: I write. I write essays of a personal nature, a few short stories once in awhile, and the occasional incredibly ridiculous poem (with sappy rhymes and bad iambic pentameter and everything). I have a couple of finished (as finished as they'll ever be, because I could still pick over them like a dog gnawing on a bone) stories I wrote about 4 years ago I could send somewhere (except that these are currently floating around on a flash drive in my house somewhere and it’s been so long I really don’t even know if I can even find them). And occasionally I’ll be somewhere and find myself suddenly consumed to jot down the first page or two to a story that never gets to go anywhere because I never finish it. And even if I did finish it, it still wouldn’t get to go anywhere because I’m too afraid to send it to anyone.

I think I sit on these things because rejection is difficult for me. (Like it's so easy for everyone else, right? Patience, people, patience. I'm totally absorbed in my own egoic psychoses right now--we'll have to deal with yours later.) I’m the type of person who likes to build little walls of protection around myself so that no one makes my already fragile ego even more fragile. If I even smell the possibility of rejection, I run the other way. Writing is full of this, particularly when you send your stuff to a stranger (who has no reason to be nice to you) and ask them to deem it worthy. It feels like begging to me, like I’m 7 years old and we’ve just lined up in PE class to be picked for volleyball teams. And I know, I know: such is the Writing Life—it’s like World War II battle wounds or rites of passage tattoos, these collections of rejection letters. But I have thin skin, skin so thin it’s bizarrely transparent. Writing and sending pieces of my ego out for judgment would be an immensely risky and scary thing for me. So I decided this needs to be the next COFFEE project: Not only writing, but actually SENDING it to places to be eye rolled over or picked at or just spit upon, and learning to not take any of that personally. Building thicker skin is something I’ve been aware of needing to work on for years (and years and years) (seriously, since I was about 5).

Another project I’m still hashing out the specifics to in my head is a social project. The riskiness of this project is three-fold:

(1) Please be aware that I suck at the following: being in charge of stuff, paying attention to all the details, looking at the Big Picture, generally being organized, patience with people over the age of 8, dealing with a lot of different personalities all in one space.

(2) I wouldn’t call myself highly introverted, but I’m definitely not the most gregarious in some social situations, particularly when large-ish numbers of people in a group are involved and/or small talk must be made with veritable strangers. Sometimes I'm actually gripped with this tiny little insistent hand around my throat, squeezing and squeezing, going: Ask this person a question to get a small conversation started, you idiot. Ask a question. What? I don't know! ANY question, just pick one! ....You're not asking! There's too much silence!!!! Why are we just standing here, twiddling our thumbs?! Ask a question! Say something!! SAY something!!!!! And then I basically just paralyze myself and people may think I'm being unfriendly or, hopefully, impersonating a deaf mute.

Have I ever mentioned how I really admire people who naturally know how to talk to strangers, and are always ready with questions that make the other person feel valued and keep getting-to-know-you/small talk going?

(3) In addition to all the above, I like to recharge by doing solitary activities. I get pretty annoyed when I have to recharge my batteries in a group. For example, once I tried getting in shape by joining this program called "Team Fitness" at my gym and promptly became disgruntled and furious every time I had to show up. I paid about $500 to join the group, and I was grouchy and resentful the whole time, and basically the opposite of motivated. The entire 12 weeks. Like, people in the group would go (nicely but sort of also accusingly because we were to keep each other accountable and well-motivated): "So where were YOU on Tuesday, Ms. Always 10 Minutes Late??" And I’d be all snarly, “Get away from me, suckface.” Except I would only be snarly like that in my head, because in reality I'm psychotically non-confrontational; what actually happened was I just refused to make eye contact and mumbled something unintelligible about a headache, and then did a half-assed workout with them, angry the whole 90 minutes, not even trying to hide the fact I was looking at the wall clock every 10 minutes.

But now, even though I work out fairly inconsistently and don’t have a trained professional mapping my progress or making sure I’m doing the exercises right, I’m so much happier when I'm at the gym. I may not be really pushing myself, or even working out as long as I could, but I'm by myself and I don't have to make a bunch of brain draining small talk with people I only see 3 times a week under sweaty conditions. Ditto that on shopping, walking, reading, napping, going to the movies, and driving.

Here's the twist behind why I told you all that: You know what I really wish I had? A good social group. I do already have one of these—well, two, actually if I can count COFFEE. And I have a group of really nice women I get together with for dinner every so often and once a year there is some type of travel package involved. It’s a great group, and very diverse (I’m the crunchy liberal/wacky spiritualist of the bunch in case you were wondering). But the problem is they all live up in North Georgia which is about a 45 minute drive from me, and so I’ve had this idea in my head to start a more local kind of social group, one that does all kinds of things in the area I live in: from coffee outings to dinners to book clubs to walks in the parks to play dates to artsy outings to concerts.

Aren’t I odd? That I prefer solitude so much yet feel a deep need to connect? It’s the same when it comes to Melissa—she goes along with me to a lot of things, which is fine because I really enjoy being around her, and I often tell her how much I can’t wait for her to be old enough so I can take her to all kinds of cool places besides our usual errand-running outings. But man! I cannot even begin to describe the kind of sheer, unmitigated joy I get when I'm given a chance to do something (shopping, reading, napping, etc) by myself every now and then. Which is why I feel like such an odd bird when I think about this push-pull/go, no, stay, no, go! aspect of my personality. I’m fairly certain my friend Carol would tell me this is solely due to my being a Pisces.

Another aspect of risk with creating this social group thing involves my deep-seated fear of rejection: What if nobody signs up for my fun group? What if people sign up for my fun group and then decide it, and me, aren’t that fun? What if there’s drama in my fun group? I'll have to end it; I can't stand drama. What if somebody psycho joins us? Psychos are such killjoys. What if everybody loves me and my fun group a lot, but then I get disorganized and it kind of falls by the wayside and then people send me disapproving, judgmental emails? What if I end up with a lot of clingy, emotionally high maintenance types? I think I would rather stick my head into a barrel of agitated scorpions.

So, so many what ifs, so, so many risks.

So this is where I'm at currently:

1. Keep on keepin' on with the 5k/workout project stuff.

2. New project: put my brain on a 12.0 incline/6.0 treadmill pace and start writing again and actually sending what I produce to someone human…for skin thickening experience, and

3. New project: start fleshing out my social group idea.