Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Taming of the Coffee Monkey

Hey little fellow, want to jump on
my shoulder for a ride?
Occasionally I notice that one of my habits is becoming a need that makes demands. This one I call Coffee Monkey. Coffee Monkey usually starts out as a cute little guy that hangs around making me laugh. I invite him to ride on my shoulder and he delights me with his antics and flings poo at my doldrums; sending them fleeing as I watch with a grin. For a while Coffee Monkey and I get along splendidly, but then by degrees my cute little monkey grows fat and unruly, jumping up and down, scratching my neck and screeching in my ear. Once I catch myself going out of my way shut him up, I know its time to release him back into the wild.

And so it was for Coffee Monkey.

As a mom, one of my primary parental objectives is to teach my kids self control. It is a long and arduous process that is met with more setbacks than successes at this stage. Then as I'm going out of my way to appease Coffee Monkey I realize that I too, must continually practice and hone my self control skills. So I set about to go without my daily cup for a week. I figured starving him out would send him off foraging elsewhere.

My normal drink is a “Tall Decaf Brewed Coffee Please”. To which I normally hear, “Sorry we're out of decaf can I make you an americano instead? Or if you don't mind waiting I can do a pour-over.” So lately my drink order has become, “Tall Decaf Brewed Coffee Please, Pour Over Is Fine”. Saves time. Anyhow, since I drink decaf the caffeine wasn't really a factor for me and clearly it isn't a sugar/fat thing either. So big deal right? Wrong. I love everything about coffee, the aroma, the feel of an almost too hot to hold cup in my hand, the strong rich flavor flooding my palate. I love how the flavor varies from place to place. Peet's is my current favorite but I appreciate all their subtle differences that make them unique. I also appreciate that as far as treats go it is fairly virtuous, almost no calories with very little caffeine.

My week started out easily enough, the first two days were crazy busy and the weather was wet and cold, not conducive for our morning stroll. By Wednesday though, I was beginning to miss Coffee Monkey. We'd usually load up Berzo in the stroller and take a pleasant walk to the corner Starbucks. Along the way Berzo and I would practice our outdoor words and signs such as tree, bushes, sign, bird, dog, etc, while Coffee Monkey rode quietly on my shoulder, smug in the knowing that he’d gotten his way.

Coffee Monkey would compel me to brave the weather, and I'd find that the walk itself was a big part of the mood lifting benefits of the coffee. But without the promise of my favorite treat, the push to get out the door into the cold was lacking. My thought processes looked something like this: “I'd really like to get out. Where should we go? Park? Nah, the park is too wet and cold.. Don't need anything at the market... Been around the neighborhood so many times... Guess I could drive to the duck park, what time is it? Berzo has already been in and out of her car seat a lot this morning... Maybe we'll just go play bubbles in the cul-de-sac.” We’d play bubbles and while the fresh air is nice, I missed the vigorous walk, the impromptu conversations and the culmination: my favorite cup. Sigh.

The week ticked by at a steady pace and I persevered. Now once again, my coffee is a treat, the walk a delight and the experience a gift rather than an entitlement. Coffee Monkey is again cute and trim after his week of fasting.

Coffee Monkey can come play but I don't think I'll invite him to ride along this time.

That's what I said last time too.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book Review: Illusions: The Adventures of A Reluctant Messiah

Powell's Books/Barnes & Noble
Richard Bach - © 1977

Richard is a barnstormer pilot of a Fleet airplane who flies out of the cornfields of the American Midwest selling ten minute rides for three dollars. His is a free existence, sleeping under the stars with a belly full of pan bread that only he can love. His unburdened mind flies with the idea that reality isn't. That men could fly if they could only forget that it was impossible. One sunny day he lands his Fleet next to a better-than-mint Travel Air 4000 and finds the teacher for whom he has been searching.

Richard rediscovers a bond of friendship with Don Shimoda that extends beyond this life. Don teaches Richard what he has yet to remember; that he can walk on water and swim through dirt; that this life is a story of our own creation from which we are meant to simply learn and enjoy.

This book tears down the fabric of reality and alters perceptions, yet it is light, entertaining and engrossing. It is a story as unlikely as an auto mechanic turned messiah, turned barnstormer from the holy lands of Indiana; a glass of spring water in a literary world polluted with the lead and chlorine of writing for the mass market.

The Impact:
Illusions is a mere 93 pages. Never before have I read 93 pages that have had so much to say or affected me so deeply. The full plot can be outlined in a handful of sentences yet there are enough original ideas to keep my mind busy for years, maybe for the rest of my life.

It has altered my perception of life. Sometimes I feel that I'm not be doing what I want to do, but I am, because I am doing it. Whatever “it” is, is a result of hundreds of conscious decisions I make every day. If I didn’t want to be doing it, I would be doing something else. Somehow I feel less trapped by my days of mommy-hood and realize that this stay-at-home life is what I really want; I am free to choose and I am choosing each day to be my kids’ caregiver. Realizing that I am the only one that has control over my life is liberating. For example, I don’t have to feed my kids, but I want to, because I want them to be healthy and happy. This fantastically simple idea changes my view of making dinner from a chore imposed on me by my family to a choice I make. (Don’t worry, I don’t see myself choosing not to feed my family one day.) It is a simple, yet a mind boggling perception shift.

This book is filled with the simplest of ideas that have never once occurred to me. It must be how 17th century scientists felt upon reading Newton’s laws of motion. “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? It is so simple.”

Favorite Quotes:
Don, regarding quitting the messiah gig:
“A good messiah hates nothing and is free to walk any path he wants to walk. Well, that’s true for everybody, of course. We’re all the sons of God, or children of the Is, or ideas of the Mind, or however else you want to say it.”

Messiah’s Handbook quotes:
“Learning is finding out what you already know.”
“Doing is demonstrating that you know it.”
“Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you.”
“You are all learners, doers, teachers.
“You teach best what you most need to learn.”