My weekend was filled with various forms of professional work. Some work for Aspire to Autonomy, some work for The March of Gentlemen, some brainstorming for Thrive PR. Darnell and I have some big projects brewing and I can’t wait to share them with everyone.
Last night we had our casual El Camino Virtual Pilgrimage zoom meeting. Despite the heat, I have consistently walked between 6,000 and 8,000 steps a day.
In the pilgrimage group we talked a lot about where we grew up and we set a challenge to find someplace new to walk this week.
This morning, my blind friend Nan and I got together to review her writing, submit some poetry, and look at the upcoming NASA schedule. The mission to Mars launches this week and the SpaceX Dragon returns from the International Space Station.
In the afternoon the regular insanity commenced here— Sobaka came to visit, Nala kept getting off her cage to harass the cats and the dog and the teen had a zoom meeting about the future of the marching band season. Marching Band is a go!
And today I heard the words I didn’t want to hear.
It started with a blueberry caramel signature latte from Dunkin’. That started her with the realization that with enough sugar and milk, you can barely taste the coffee. Then I figured out how to replicate the $5 iced latte in an iced coffee on sale. Then I scaled back the caramel…
And then she started on cold brew.
And today she tasted my at-home quick and easy iced coffee. Coffee snobs please skip the next few paragraphs.
When I can’t afford fancy afternoon iced coffee, I take a pint of milk, mix in a heaping teaspoon of dark roast Nescafé instant coffee, and drop in three ice cubes.
An afternoon pick-me-up and a snack as there is milk.
And the teenager liked it.
With no sugar and no flavor.
Problem is… my Nescafé jar looks like this:
So not only now do I have to fight the teenager for milk, I have to challenge her on coffee. I had to lay down the law.
I told her— look, child, until we get to the grocery store again, you can drink the Dollar Store instant coffee your dad bought. She said that would be fine.
The best stories start with “it began as a typical day,” but in this case it did not.
The teenager turned 16 on Tuesday and my employer had scheduled our annual meeting for Tuesday so I planned to take off today and tomorrow to celebrate with my offspring.
With Coronavirus changing everything I could have taken Monday and Tuesday instead.
Last night, I curled up in bed with a gin cocktail and watched some more of Harlan Coben’s: The Five on Netflix. (Mini review: my friend, brow maintenance person and nail tech Beth recommended the show—and I am enjoying what I feel is edgy cinematography, rapid paced story telling, complex writing, and realistically complicated and tragic characters. It’s like watching a comic book.)
So I got to bed later than I normally do and I slept a little better than I normally do. I fed the kittens, made coffee, started laundry and finagled a cake carrier into the dishwasher.
After a cup of my favorite Archer Farms Direct Trade Cafe Mosaica from Target on my breezy enclosed sun porch, I slapped some clothes on… and ended up trying to accessorize a basic outfit.
Which is funny because I was going to pick up Nan, who is blind and won’t see my efforts anyway.
And then I was surprised to find out that the teenager made me breakfast— a mini bagel with greens, cucumber and fresh bacon.
After we worked on some poetry, Nan and I went to Lidl. And I took her home.
When I arrived home, the teenager informed me that her plan for today involved not wearing pants. So after a brief respite, I went to Wendy’s for a Frosty-ccino.
That was when the real adventure began.
I decided to take Nala, my four-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo who joined the family in January. Now, recently we took Nala to Dunkin Donuts to try hash browns and that went well.
So I ordered my Frosty-ccino and a junior fry for my baby girl bird on the mobile app and got into the drive thru lane. And then I did what we all do in this day and age. I took a selfie.
That’s when I realized Nala had pooped on me in fear. And I had no wipes in the car. Green bird droppings now stained my white t-shirt and Nala was walking in the mess.
But everyone in the drive thru window loved her— three employees cooed at her from afar.
I pulled into a parking space and offered her a French fry and she was too scared to eat it. I drove her home, put the car in the garage, gathered the waste and the food and started up toward the house.
Now, the teenager’s father moved some heavy original doors from the house across the garage so he could use my great grandmother’s hutch in his apartment. He did this a couple week’s ago. The doors block a portion of the stairs.
I got tangled up on the stairs/with the doors and fell, to the left onto the doors to avoid smashing Nala who was on my right shoulder.
I almost spilled my coffee and French fries fluttered like hail.
But luckily Nala is a bird, and a forager, so she doesn’t mind a little dirt. I gather them all carefully and climb up from the floor, some contusions and cuts causing minor pain.
I bump the doors and they almost fall on me. This time the French fries scatter to the four winds.
I notice how much blood and dirt cover me and I head inside to discover Nala has pooped even more.
I set her down.
I remove my shirt. White tee shirt. Vivid blood. Green poop.
I wash up and count my blessings— I was very close (too close) to breaking an arm.
I put on my lucky shirt once I cleaned up.
Addendum: I posted this link on my LinkedIn profile and wrote this introduction as to why I felt this piece was important especially as part of a discourse on social justice.
I don’t like to admit I have a disability— #cerebralpalsy. But it’s important to note that with all the stereotypes and institutionalized ideas people have about “others,” whether other cultures, races, religions, sexualities, identities, educational or social class (the list goes on and on), for those of us who have tried to “pass” as “normal” or “mainstream,” our experience is difficult. As all life is difficult to one degree or another. But if you are obviously “different” and you can’t “pass,” those notions of who you are based on quick judgments can be catastrophic. Or lead to people doing harm to you or someone you love. #blacklivesmatter
In that context, allow me to share with you what a typical day looks like for me. Warning— I end up bleeding by the end of it. Different isn’t inferior. Or threatening.
The right doses of caffeine and sugar shoot me into the heavens like a rocket ship.
This was the best use of Nescafé instant coffee I ever encountered.
A new acquaintance I met at a Christmas party posted the link on her Facebook page and I bookmarked it.
I decided today was the day.
I was just about to make this when another friend, one who used to be in my writers critique group when the teenager was a small child, called for a long chat. This spirited woman moved away a few or more years ago and as it goes when you’re older than 30, life zips by and five years feels like five minutes and you realize you’ve lost touch with people who meant a lot to you.
This particular person participated in some sort of virtual writing workshop and posted a video of herself reading the opening of her manuscript. I watched the video and remembered this character from our time together and commented how far her voice as an author had come.
That’s how we reconnected.
And if that person wants to share her video, she is welcome to post it in the comments.
PS— I made the recipe as directed but poured *all the servings* of coffee into about 10 ounces of milk. So you may want to be smart and NOT do that. Because my heart is racing.
It’s 6:25 a.m. and I just poured a mug of my favorite coffee—Archer Farms Cafe Mosaica from Target. I haven’t made any in days. As part of my quest to lower my stress, fix my blood pressure and start sleeping better.
Before recent stress and life changes, I knew the routines of my body. I need at least eight hours sleep. As I get closer to my menstrual cycle, I may need more. It is typical for me to get so tired I sleep ten hours without moving in my bed. Usually only one day a month. But that hasn’t happened in a while.
For counterpoint, I usually have three days around the middle of my cycle where I’m high energy and extraordinarily confident. That hasn’t happened for a while either.
Both can probably be attributed to stress and hormone changes now that I am in my mid-forties.
There was a period for a year or so when I had insomnia once a month.
But now most of my issue is life. I think that’s how you know you’re getting older. More things disturb your sleep,
The garbage man arrives at 5:15. The cat has a hairball. The kittens decide to ricochet off my bedroom door. My personal favorite this week— the cockatoo has nightmares and calls out gently in her sleep.
So my typical sleep pattern is to collapse in bed between 9 and 10:30 pm, sleep like the dead for about 90 minutes, take about twenty minutes to fall back to sleep, get several hours good sleep before waking up briefly in the wee hours, drifting off again, and waking up when something else happens or one minute before the alarm.
(My superpower is innate time sense so I don’t often need my alarm.)
Thanks to the cockatoo’s rough night coupled with a 5:15 am visit front the garbage man, I got about six hours interrupted sleep Wednesday night. So yesterday—a long work day on top of it—I reneged on my caffeine abstention especially when I discovered my blood pressure had jumped to 153/98.
I had two cups at the office and a diet soda with dinner (that I used to wash down half a pizza) and I slept 7.5 hours last night and, according to the scale, lost a pound.
So today I am enjoying my favorite coffee and back to aiming for moderation.
For those who enjoy Nala’s shenanigans… She insisted on trying to steal my coffee. See her here: Coffee thief.
And we do still have the cats. Including big, dumb Oz.
Periodically I put her back in my room, but she kept calling me due to her fear of the budgies. So Nala watched me unload & reload the dishwasher, have breakfast and make extra parfaits, do two loads of wash, hang wash, let the roomba vacuum the kitchen and then I washed the kitchen floor.
As for meals this week, the menu includes:
A nice chunk of ham I got at the grocery outlet for $1. Probably with boxed Mac and cheese.
Veggie burgers or regular burgers
Spaghetti, either that black bean spaghetti I got at Marshall’s or Green Giant lentil rotini I got on sale at Target
A prepared salmon and vegetable salad I also got cheap at Grocery Outlet
And “Greek night” with a lentil salad and a white bean salad from Lidl and some mighty fine looking mixed olives I got at Grocery Outlet for 77 cents.
And this little naughty cockatoo refuses to vacate the drying rack, probably because it’s heated.
And when I started working at Target, the baristas there extended my love of sweets to include various fancy overpriced coffee drinks. (Yes, Starbucks, that salted caramel mocha latte and the caramel ribbon Frappuccino are delicious.)
But when I started focusing on eating for health and bodybuilding, the sugar had to go.
Historically, I’ve never been a coffee drinker. But a bout with severe anemia ten years ago had me relying on a five-year-old making coffee because the afternoon sun had stolen all my energy on the walk home from her kindergarten class.
I would literally rest on the living room rug and that coffee would give me the energy to climb my way to the table.
So when I needed to end my sugar habit, I replaced it with a plain cup of coffee with a touch of cream. If I were hungry, that would stave my hunger until I made a proper snack. If I were eating out of boredom or emotion, the coffee gave me something to do.
But now, almost five years later, I realize I have become a stress-coffee-drinker. That if I’m gloomy, or tired, or bored, or upset, I go get a cup of coffee.
I’m still disciplined about sugar, though I am slipping back into my old ways, but I notice now I want coffee AND pastry.
When we returned to Djibouti City from Mogadishu (last weekend), we booked a trip with Bambu Service Touristik to visit Lac Abbé on the Ethiopian border.
African road trips are precarious. You have the crazy drivers, lack of petrol stations, dessert roads and rocky roads and a general lack of, say, signs.
A straight drive from Djibouti, Lac Abbé is probably a three or four hour drive depending on conditions. We had several stops booked into our day.
I was extremely excited about this trip, because Lac Abbé is traditionally Afar nomad territory. Djibouti, as a country and former colony of France (granted independence in June 1977), has two traditional ethnic groups (among a host of others): the Issa Somali, with connections to Somalia and Somaliland, and the Afar, who hail from/migrate to Ethiopia (and I believe Eritrea).
I had just returned from a three day visit to Mogadishu. Mogadishu had opened my eyes to the influence of Somali culture in Djibouti. As soon as I returned to the streets, I recognized the food for sale. And now I could go see the Afar region.
As a student historian, I was thrilled.
As you drive into the countryside, you need more improvised structures. Often small huts made from the volcanic rock, sticks, corrugated metal and other recycled objects. Tires are the fence of choice.
Homes often have tires fencing in little yards…
Along the route we saw a lot of cylinders and it turns out there’s a big water infrastructure project underway to bring water from Ethiopia to Djibouti.
Again, big news for a small country with no natural resources.
Our guide built a coffee stop into our trip and M and I do love coffee. I had forgotten how much I love tea in this area of the world. I think their secret is boiling the sugar into the water before adding the tea. Though I’m not sure. I don’t like sweetened tea other places.
making our coffee
She poured our coffee from her thermos bottles and when people paid her, she tossed the coins in a basket under her little table.
coffee and tea
other patrons having coffee
Our next stop was the town of Ali Sabieh. That will be my next topic.
On our first day in Mogadishu, we were driving back to our hotel, Hotel Sahafi, when the traffic slowed and a gendarme told us that the white car a few car lengths ahead of us contained a bomb. Apparently, a suicide bomber had made it this far (about two miles from our hotel) when authorities noticed the bomb and the bomber-to-be deserted the car and ran.
As a result, the road was closed and we were rerouted until the car bomb could be diffused. We were returned to the hotel and locked in for the night. While our driver and guide were getting information from the gendarme, I noticed this woman making coffee and started taking photos. Since I don’t speak Somali more than “Yes,” “No,” “My name is…” and “Move,” I didn’t realize at the time that we were so close to a live bomb.
Of course I used the time to snap street photography from inside our vehicle. These photos were taken on the outskirts of a makeshift village of refugees who left their homes in flight of the rebel group Al Shabaab.
As we pull into the square… I noticed a woman adding what looked like sugar to a tea kettle.
She then started grinding coffee
She goes into what appears to be her kitchen.
And continues her work
She takes the coffee beans
She approaches the kettle
And someone catches her eye
Woman making coffee
She finally added the grounds (I missed it; foot traffic)
And she cleans up
The road side beside where she worked. Not her kitchen.