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Posts Tagged ‘beer’

Oh, Gentle Penguin.

I’ve been to several events in the past few weeks that I expected to be rockin’.  Do people still say “rockin'”?  I’m not sure, but I was thinking they would be.   Drinks, food, spring, sunshine, music, conversation, jokes, good causes, networking, debates, chocolate.

And yet, they were tiny, minuscule versions of what was planned or anticipated.  Not just by me—an established idealist—but also by the organizers, the charities, the hosts and hostesses, and the guests who did show up.

Was it a miscommunication about date or time or location?  No.  Was it a conflict with a major event?  No.  Was it ice storms and polar vortexes?  Thankfully, no.  So what was it?

I asked a few people who RSVPed for a few of these events who didn’t show up.  I won’t share their answers because I’m pretty sure you already know what their answers were—the classic Marcia Brady, “Something suddenly came up.”

It made me think of a celebrity who spoke at an event I recently attended.  She spoke for nearly an hour about herself and her fame, and then came the question and answer portion.  Someone asked her what she was doing next: A one-woman play at a famous acting festival in Scotland later this summer.  Someone else asked her about meeting another celebrity:  He kissed her on the lips.  Then someone asked what her advice is for encouraging others on the same path:  “I try not to,” she said smoothly.

The silence was palpable, but she pushed on.  “Look, this one-woman play in Scotland is a big deal for me, and I know that if someone—even a friend—says ‘let’s meet for coffee,’ that’s an hour I’ll be spending in a Starbucks instead of working on my play.  I’m the one who will be in front of all those people!  Not her.”

I don’t know how anyone else felt, but I felt defeated.

There is so much pressure to make money, to be famous, to be the best.  We all know that.  But are we aware of the price we’re paying?  We’re being asked to give up our humanity, our connection with others, our hearts and our souls, our ability to connect and to give of ourselves.  The soft things like love, friendship, family, community, charity (the virtue charity, not the organizations)—they’re losing out.  And for what?  A few minutes on the stage alone in the spotlight.

Trust me, I understand work deadlines, financial pressures, family commitments.  I understand that there are a hundred things you could be doing with your time at any moment of the day and that at any moment of the day a hundred unexpected things could pop up.  I also understand that taking a couple hours to follow up on your commitment—which is what an RSVP is—could be worth so much more than you give it credit for.  Honor, respect and trust for starters.  But I’d be willing to bet there are other values.

To test this theory, I invited a few dozen people over to my house for beer and hot dogs on Thursday night—no RSVP required.  Open house.  No commitment.  The turn out wasn’t large, but those who came all relaxed, laughed and learned something new about our community and the world.  We met my next door neighbors of four+ years with whom I’ve only ever spoken to briefly over the fence.  We shared natural health remedies and heard different perspectives about the safety of our neighborhoods, our city, our nation.  We traded gardening tips and book recommendations.  We asked questions and critiqued certainties.  We cooed over a baby and teased my daughters.  We dared to dream aloud and debated rather loudly.  Then smiled and realized we lost track of time and perhaps our calorie counts.

At the end of the evening, I asked each person if they felt the time was wasted or unproductive or reduced their chances to succeed.  The answer was unanimous.  No.  Rather, they told me, the evening gave them perspective, gratitude for things they often take for granted, new ideas and changed thoughts.  The evening, they agreed, could only help them succeed.

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson or Robert Lewis Stevenson or Bessie Stanley (most likely the last)

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I used to not be a TV watcher. In fact, my television is probably one of the smallest ones you can purchase these days, and unless the kids are home, the TV is almost never on. Except I’ve found myself looking forward to, craving, wanting to find myself in front of the TV in the evenings to watch a group of mischievous old men concoct scheme after delightfully humorous scheme to amuse themselves and those in their village.

They treat each other jovially with playful disrespect, but also caring watching their backs and covering their tracks.

Never have I witnessed a group of friends I’d most like to be a part of…that’s even counting the Mamma Mia’s trio. These men wonder the countryside or have a drink at the pub and toast that hated manager they couldn’t stand who quit the co-op to join the marines during the war only to end up dead, but honored by the men who couldn’t stand him.

Their humanity isn’t sterile or stuffy, rather it seems so crisp and clean and joyful and honest, even as they pull practical joke after practical joke thinking their tricking the people who know them as well as they know themselves.

I envy them that.

I don’t know my neighbors. I know quite a few people in my City, but not so well that I could watch their back or claim an intimacy. In fact, now that I think about it, I couldn’t claim close friends the way they do.

Mostly I admire the way that amidst their days and schemes, they always have time to consider each other, to listen, to raise a glass…of caffeine or beer for each other’s health, happiness and harmony.

I think about my stressful days and about the lives of the people around me. Time to consider, to listen or even to scheme don’t exist. You might say there’s time to raise a glass, but it’s usually squeezed between two other meetings so that you spend half your time watching your watch and that’s after showing up late because of traffic, or trying to squeeze too many things in to too little time.

I drive home hoping I make it home in time to watch the Last of the Summer Wine only to find myself listening to several stories on the news about obesity, about the nation’s mental health crisis, about the rise of fractured families…and I wonder, could my interest in beverages actually be the answer?

It seems it might be.

But how do you share that with others?

Easily! I think to myself…share a glass or a mug or a cup with someone. Do it every day. Do it twice a day. Make it last, and make it matter.

That’s easier said than done though.

I go home, make dinner with my daughter and deal with household paperwork, dog duties, phone calls and other client emails until my daughter shouts from the other room, “it’s on!”

Then I pour myself a snakebite and curl up with her and the dogs to watch Truelove, Hardcastle and Smedley at the local pub taking turns convincing Marina that her teenage love now haunts the outback of Australia wrestling crocodiles as he nurses his broken heart over her indiscretions from 50 years earlier…just so their friend Howard will hopefully better understand the mysterious ways of the female, and cool his heels, if only for a while.

I think about my evenings spent in pubs convincing and consoling and counselling and realize all I lack is fellow schemers.

I watch the women sipping tea at the shop talking about how working yourself to worry leaves you anxious and old and usually broke and wish I had the counsel of women who could see my situation clearly and give it to me straight over a cup of steaming infusion. Too bad I had to cancel my tea time this week with just two ladies over client needs.

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s not so difficult. Perhaps all it really takes is an invitation to start.

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For me, everything starts with tea. My day, my gratitude, my joy. My love of liquids.

It’s true, I love to drink.

But let me be clear, this is no college drunken overindulgence I speak of…or rather write about. This love of liquid is more like a reverent meditation. And it starts with tea every morning.

There’s something about that first sip when the heat travels from my lips down my throat, near my heart and lungs and settles in my stomach. It’s like a match that starts the fire of my curiosity, my energy, my life each day. And each day, I close my eyes in those moments, smile and send up a prayer of gratitude for the tea plants, the tea plantations, the tea harvesters and all those who know how to take these plants and turn them into the dried leaves that turn my hot water into this moment.

So this afternoon when I opened my email to find a message from another writer about having tea with a Daoist monk and the monk said “tea can only change you if you create a sacred space in your heart for the tea,” I knew it was a sign. I also knew that somewhere along my life, tea had already changed me. Just the thought of a tea in a sacred space makes me smile. I can’t stop smiling even thinking about it now.

And this evening, as I once again distressed over the meaning and purpose in my life, and wondered if I had the courage to pursue my dreams of a life in liquids, I found nothing but smiles and solace in the thought of my sacred tea space.

I know many of you readers joined me when I dreamed about owning a vineyard. That dream hasn’t died, nor has it changed. It’s just a little farther off than I’m prepared to handle right now. But a life in liquids—that is, integrating myself into a world where liquids are understood and promoted and appreciated—that’s where I’m headed.

Unlike my mornings, this life won’t start with tea, it will start with wine. Ohio wines, to be exact, but appreciating wines to be more general, and appreciating the wine environment to be more precise. It will include beer as the brewery cooperative of which I’m a member opens and the Dublin Pub remains a second office and home and the model for where I wish to be when I’m free to live abroad.

In this life in liquid, I’m going to try to learn to like coffee, true coffee, Turkish coffee, Arabic coffee, Italian coffee. Because I already love the environment of coffee, the comfy chairs, the warmly painted walls, the soft jazz playing as people read and talk and share ideas. And the smell.

Then there’s water. My life in liquids must include water. Mainly because some of my best moments are spent on the water. And because my city is built on water…not like many known for their water, but in a more conservational, aquiforous way that means a whole lot to the nature I so love in my d’Anconia Square and beyond. Also because our world will soon face a crisis in water they say, and I don’t want to even imagine what that life would be like.

Through it all, there will always be tea, for I don’t believe I could function without it. And I don’t even want to try. What would be the point of waking up and pursuing any life then?

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