Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Full Cup On Mothers Day

This cup of life overflows with the rich flavor of Jamaican Blue Mountain, a coffee I save for only the most special occasions. This particular occasion was a combination of the expected and unexpected. As expected, the four years in the making college graduation of our youngest daughter went off with all of the traditional feelings of joy, pride and an immense sense of accomplishment. Early on all of those feelings were somewhat tempered by the reality that our oldest daughter who is currently serving in Afghanistan would not be at her sister's graduation. Like most Mother's I am my most complete when my children are with me and like thousands of Mothers who have a child serving in a war zone, I struggle with the day to day fear and anxiety of the 'what ifs.' Those feelings have become my constant companions. Even so, graduation day was filled with the celebratory gatherings complete with friends and family. The last gathering of the day involved our youngest daughter and her roommates hosting a thank you dinner for the parents. During the party a lovely bouquet of flowers arrived with a card attached for our youngest daughter. She open the card and immediately read it announcing it was from her sister. She was laughing at what the card said when suddenly her yes filled with a look of confusion and she began looking around the crowd with tears in her eyes. As I watched her, it took me a moment to completely understand what she was looking for. As I held my breath in total disbelief I watched my youngest daughter raise her hands to her mouth as she is dissolved into tears at the sight of her older sister walking across the grass to hug her. The emotions that surged through my heart and mind at the moment I laid eyes on my child after almost a year, well they are indescribable. The surprise visit shocked all of us as she did not tell anyone she was coming just in case world events decided to alter her plans. My heart was full as I watched both of my daughters laugh together, tease each other and simply do what sisters do when they are enjoying each other. During that wonderful afternoon the thousands of miles that once separated us, were, for at least one day long gone. I knew without asking that the visit would be too short and that our oldest daughter would once again travel back to Afghanistan, however on that day I was one of the lucky Mothers who was fortunate to have her children in front of her sharing a wonderful family occasion. As Mothers Day approaches I wish all Mothers a happy Mothers Day and ask that each of us takes a moment to remember our brave soldiers who serve in far away places, as well as their Mothers who wait for their safe return while silently loving and supporting them here at home.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hope and Enlightenment

Today's Cup of Life is full of a renewed flavor of hope and a quest for enlightenment. As we celebrate this day of rebirth I hope each of us makes time to celebrate our priceless gift of the freedom to choose our own course in life and in doing that, we continue on the path of true enlightenment so that we are vessels of peace and not conflict, generosity and not greed, and love of county not love of power. I choose to believe each of us is so much more than the sum of our material wealth, political affiliations and physical appearances. Imagine how flavorful our cup of life would be if all we brewed was gratitude each day......

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Cup of My Kansas Childhood

It was a normal December afternoon in the mid-1970s in Wichita. The wind was bone-chilling as usual, and the falling snow was not enough to cancel school. On days like that, the mandatory walk home from school required careful planning. There was the direct route, always the parent-preferred, and the faster route that involved weaving in and out of backyards and crossing the dreaded one- way streets in Wichita. This faster route was not without risk; there was the possibility of being spotted crossing three lanes of traffic by a well-meaning neighbor who would, of course, "do the right thing" by calling my parents. On that day, I decided a faster route home would be worth any punishment if caught. Plus, I had lost my pair of mittens, and my hat was too small to help keep me warm. By the time I arrived home from school, my father's car was pulling into the driveway. My heart stopped, as I could not imagine being caught taking the shortcut home would warrant my father coming home early from work. My father was a supervisor at an area meatpacking plant. I was not completely sure what he did, other than that he often worked the night shift. I walked inside our house to find my mother knitting and our basset hound, Duffy, asleep at her feet. My mother was gifted when it came to knitting. She designed her own patterns, and this year's project was something she had always wanted to do, an afghan blanket. My father entered from the back of the house and called out from the kitchen that he was home. Surprise ran across my mother's face when she heard his voice. She carefully put her pride and joy down and met my father in the kitchen. I tried to hear their low voices and concluded one of the neighbors had broken parent protocol and gone directly to my father by calling him at work. I walked as quietly as possible to my room. I slowly closed my door and waited for the inevitable to happen. Surprisingly, dinnertime came and went with no mention of the shortcut. I was really confused but was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. The weeks before Christmas passed without much fanfare. Our Christmas tree was up early that year, thanks to my father being home more than usual. I did not understand at the time why my mother did not seem happy to have my father home more. In fact, she seemed almost sad, and I noticed she had stopped working on her prized afghan blanket. My family never went overboard for Christmas, so it was not uncommon to see only a few gifts under the tree. However, this year seemed different. We had a couple of gifts each, but each gift was wrapped beautifully with large bows and candy canes attached — obviously, the work of my mother. My excitement rose, as I assumed such splendor meant my three carefully wrapped presents were going to be something spectacular. On Christmas morning, my brother and I tore open our presents with great anticipation. The beautiful wrappings were tossed with little regard, then silence. We looked at each other and could not believe what we were seeing. Both of us received a knitted hat, gloves and a scarf. Worthy gifts for maybe a birthday, but Christmas? We looked at our parents, knowing better than to show any sign of disappointment. My mother had a smile on her face, and my father just sipped his coffee. My mother came over and wrapped the scarf around my neck and said, "Maybe now you will not need to take the shortcut home from school." I was busted on Christmas Day. As Christmas Day progressed into New Year's, I assumed my hat, gloves and scarf were my punishment for taking the shortcut home. It wasn't until several weeks later that I learned the reason my father came home early on the day I took the shortcut. He had been laid off from his job on that day. It took me a little longer to find out and understand that my mother lovingly wrapped our gifts with extraordinary care that year because to her, inside each gift was a treasure — the makings of what was once her prized afghan blanket. The reality was there was no money for gift giving that Christmas. My mother knew that by giving up something so dear to her in order to make something special for my brother and me, she was giving the true gift of Christmas. My family and I shared many more Christmases together, but that Christmas in my home state of Kansas is the one I will always remember. I took the shortcut home several times after that Christmas, but not because I was cold. I wore the hat and gloves until they no longer fit me, and the scarf lasted through my sophomore year of college. I know everyone has a story like this — a story where you missed something important right in front of you and later learned how important that message was. My Christmas wish to everyone is: Take a moment and think about Christmas and gift giving. On that Christmas Day in Kansas, I learned that the actual giving of the gift was the real treasure.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Art of Manipulation

Today's Cup of Life pours a steaming cup of a rich, simmering Italian Roast. I like this brand occasionally and always wonder why I am so indecisive about this blend. I just can't quite make a decision about it....is it really the right blend for me? After my first sip I remember why I vacillated in the first place. The blend manipulates one to think that it is going to have a somewhat bold, yet rewarding flavor. But no! The flavor is bitter, even with cream, far too strong for my liking. Now I remember why I vacillate over the Italian Roast. It just isn't what it claims to be and it manipulated me once again. The question becomes what to do with the bitter tasting pot of Italian Roast? Finding myself in this situation once before I unfortunately acted on pure emotions and threw the full pot of bitter Italian Roast out. I immediately regretted that. After all I am not a wasteful person and once committed, I complete a task. So, here I sit on this beautiful morning listening to the birds sing the first songs of the day, staring at an almost full pot of bitter Italian Roast. Damn coffee! The bitter Italian Roast is really an Espresso in disguise. After contemplating the pros and cons of once again finding myself taken in by the bitter Italian Roast, I have decided to beat it at its own game. Not only will I drink the bitter pot of Italian Roast, I will enjoy it and quite possibly drink it every day for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Take Back the Dialogue

Today's Cup of Life is brewed in a Bodum French Press. The coffee beans are rich in color and aroma, and only after the boiling water covers the beans, do they succumb to the heat and gradual pressure of the Press. My most recent venture into local politics could be described the same way. As I continue to reflect on the situation I keep going back to the comment of "Just wait until us media types drag you through the muck." Why would that be the first thought that came to a reporter? Why wouldn't a reporter want to know what my views were on growth, or the deficit our public schools face thanks to an inflated retirement system; would I vote to tax or not to tax? And why not ask the toxic questions about my views on the most recent mausoleum issue? The preoccupation with my voting record was of greater concern to all parties involved. Perhaps the reason I find the lack of interest in how I might affect change so completely baffling is because I am what we fly fishers call a "naturalist", rather a fisher who wades into the stream with fly rod in hand and flys that mirror the hatch of the day, empowered with nothing more than the desire to learn how the fish thinks and sustains itself. I do this not because the ultimate goal is to catch and release the fish, instead it's the desire to respectfully understand how another creature functions in its environment. To me this thought process is the only way to fully engage in anything in a meaningful and successful manner. We must understand and respect one another. Whether I vote for a Democrat or a Republican has very little influence on how I function in my environment. To know me is to know that I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a niece, a cousin and a business woman. The sum of those honors is what drives me. Politically speaking I suspect the summation of my environment was never going to be based on understanding or respect or what was in the communities best interest. Sadly, I believe the media has a very different agenda for those they perceive as conservatives. My Cup of Life point of view is that the media not only controls the pressure inside the French Press, but also the heat and especially the type of bean. It's time we take back control of the political dialogue so that it is fair, impartial and most importantly in our communities best interest.