"All words are symbols that represent unspeakable realities. Which is also why words are magical." (Donald Miller tweet)

Friday, July 24, 2015

gaspingly inexpensive coffee

Every now and then, someone asks me what kind of coffee I buy, and I tell them.

And then I tell them the price. Usually $15.99 for a one-pound bag of beans.

And they gasp.

I say, "Well, it's Fair Trade ... and it's really good."

And they say, "Oh."

And then I explain that there are lots of products that people in my part of the world buy, not quite realizing that people in another part of the world are sometimes pretty badly exploited so I can have that product.

And coffee is one of those products. And I drink a lot ... A LOT ... of it. So ... several years ago, I decided that when I could afford to buy Fair Trade coffee ... which involves a lot less exploitation of people ... I would. I started with a 1 to 3 ratio, and worked my way up.

But it still costs $15.99 for a one-pound bag of beans.

It's really good, by the way.

Every now and then it goes on sale for $11.99, and when that happens, I shamelessly clear the shelf, so I hardly ever buy it at full price.

But still - it's a lot of money, right? Like, how much is that per cup???

So I kept track over the last couple of weeks. Bobblehead-Domi helped me.

I got 28 cups out of a one-pound bag. And by "cup," I mean good-sized coffee mug. Not giant, not small.

(Freshly ground and French-pressed, by the way.)

(And for the record, a French press is about $15 or less at Canadian Tire.
I'll refrain from pointing out the cost of a drip coffeemaker.
Or a Keurig or Tassimo.)

If you divide those 28 mugs of coffee by the price of the bag ... well, here's what I'm paying.

57 cents for an excellent quality, good-sized, steaming hot mug of coffee.

If I get it on sale - which I usually do - it's 43 cents.

Which, I am confident, is less than anybody is paying for the smallest-sized, nastiest-tasting coffee in any drive-through coffee shop on this continent.


And it's soooo good, too.

Happy Outrage-Free Friday!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Remember this guy?

It was my job to pick him up from his mom's other workplace today and drop him off at day camp.

File that under #youhadONEjob ...

I forgot. Well, I remembered earlier, but then I forgot at the time I needed to remember, so I maaaaay have been flying at top speed through the city to go and get him a leeeeeeetle bit later than I was supposed to.

Arrived, his mom piled him into the car, and that's when he announced that the times for today's day camp had changed ... "Remember, Mom...?"

None of us were certain. So I took him over, and sure enough - we had an hour to spare. We went and got a bagel.

And that's when THIS stream of consciousness poured forth.

"Have you ever had perogies? I've never had perogies."

"Yeah, they're great.
OK, so you can choose one of these.
A muffin ... or a bagel ... or a croissant ... not a giant cinnamon bun."

"No, that's HUUUUUUUGE. That's way too big for me. I don't want that. ... and I don't want THAT ... and I don't want THAT ...."

"How about you tell me what you DO want?"

"Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..... that. With cream cheese. Not toasted."

So we got his bagel and my muffin and coffee, and after a few bites he started up again.

"Is your coffee black?"


"That's what Mom gets. Black coffee. .... Why don't any of those pots SAY 'black coffee'?"

"Oh ... because all coffee is black until you put cream in it."

"Oh. Mom orders black coffee and then puts cream in."

"Hmm ... maybe she orders a dark roast? Not black?"

"Yeah, maybe."

"Yeah ... this one is a dark roast. That's kind of a flavour. It's called French Mocha, but it's about the same."

"Yeah. But it's not really the same, like ... the words aren't really the same at all."

" ... right."

"What's THAT machine, over there?"

"A coffee roaster. It gets hot, and then roasts the coffee beans so you can grind them up for coffee."

His eyes got large.

"Do they tell everyone to leave the store when it gets hot, because it's sooooo hot it wouldn't be safe for anyone in the store?"

"Uh ... no ..."


When the sesame seeds fell off his bagel, he figured they would grow, because they're seeds, after all. Then he thought about it and realized that actually, they wouldn't, because there's a tile floor, BUT if HOT LAVA came in, it would BURN UP the whole floor and there would be dirt everywhere, and then the seeds would grow.

I suggested that the hot lava might harden over the dirt, but he said no, because "it's pretty cool in here". If it was outside where it's hot, then yes. But not where there's air conditioning.

And then he said,

"You know that guy ... um  ... that man ... you know that man? with the ... um ... with the white hair?"

He gestured, to demonstrate hair. I waited for more information.

"You know, that guy ... with glasses ... no wait, he doesn't have glasses ... he has white hair ..." (another gesture)

"oh, and he plays the bongoes at church ... do you know him?"


"he came and watched my baseball game last night - Mom told him I had a game"

Which I thought was pretty cool. However, when I checked in with the guy I thought he meant, that guy didn't know anything about it. So I'm not sure who the guy with the glasses/no glasses was.

Finished our snack, got back in the car, I dropped him at day camp, and went back to work.

With an extra smile.

And a black coffee.

Monday, July 20, 2015

the day i found a spoon

It was a busy weekend. Saturday, we had an out-of-town family wedding, at which I was officiating. Which meant that I needed to be at the rehearsal on Friday evening.

The plan was that I would go earlier on Friday (to avoid traffic - it was just east of that Big City we're a little west of); and Spike, whose second cousin is the bride, would meet me later at the hotel that was very kindly provided for us, whenever he got off work Friday night.

But the traffic was B-R-U-T-A-L. Spike didn't even try to make it Friday evening. He decided to come in the morning. Which changed MY plans a little because check-out was at noon, and the ceremony wasn't until 4, so there was no point at all in checking out any earlier. I also definitely did NOT want to get up early, shower and get dressed, go out for breakfast by myself, and then come back and get dressed for the wedding, and THEN check out.

I couldn't see the point in that. Better to lounge in pjs, awaiting Spike (I had his dress clothes there), in a lovely hotel room until 11:30 AM, right?

But I can't live without breakfast.

So on Friday night after the rehearsal, I stopped in at a nearby drugstore to see if I could find something that would work for breakfast in a hotel room that happily had a fridge and a microwave, but not a kettle.

It took me awhile. Partly because by this time I was really, REALLY tired, having begun the day at 4:30 AM, and having driven a few hours to get to the hotel, and then having subsequently gotten lost on the way to the rehearsal from the hotel.

Don't you just LOVE
when your GPS leads you onto a gravel road
in the middle of nowhere, no houses or anything,
not even shoulders on the road
- just a perilously close ditch on each side -
and confidently announces,
"You have arrived at your destination"?

So I was tired. Bleary-eyed. Brain barely functioning. And if I could just buy a few breakfast things, I could sleep late the next morning and enjoy a quiet few hours in that lovely hotel room.

What could possibly go wrong? I was so pleased with it all I texted pics of my purchases to Spike, once I got back to the room Friday night.

I was particularly pleased to have found these, which would give me a nice hot, filling breakfast, without need of a kettle. (The hotel room had a Keurig coffee maker, in case you were wondering about that.)

And then ... happiness turned to despair, mid-text.

I had no spoon. All that planning. And I was soooo tired. And I had talked enough to the front desk people. I didn't want to talk anymore.

Checked out the coffee stir sticks - could they be used for a spoon?
No. Really not.
They had the thickness of a pencil lead.

I searched frantically for anything, wondering if I could dip my own fingers in hot cereal if I did it quickly enough.

Eyed the orange juice lid as a makeshift scoop.

And then ... oh joy ...

I slept like a log, just little ol' me in a giant king size bed. Woke up the next morning and happily enjoyed my breakfast, using BOTH the coffee pods provided with the Keurig. Then paused and thoughtfully texted Spike once more, knowing he was on his way.

He knows me.

And loves me anyway.

Wedding went off beautifully.
Bride giggled through the vows.

Nobody wiped out going down the hill.
(It was an outdoor wedding.)

Well, actually ...
I very nearly wiped out on that hill
in my fabulous Ukrainian high heels,
but everyone was gracious enough not to mention it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

almost there

You know that one last paper, worth two entire courses?

Yeah. That. 

I'm at the editing stage. 

Not the final editing stage. The first take-this-massive-chunk-and-put-it-HERE stage. 

And a gazillion places that say "(citation needed)" because the chunk got separated from the citation, to be relocated later. 


Tuesday, July 07, 2015


I'm working away on this paper that I've been telling you about. If I'm good - today's work will get me over the hump.

Someone asked me if that meant I would be finished.
I laughed, with a note of hysteria.
No ... no, it doesn't mean that I will be finished.
But I will be in the second half.

My goal today is to finish taking all the sources that have been previously sorted into an outline (a laborious task on its own), and write sentences and quotes from all those sources. If I can get over THAT hump, I can then take aaaallll those sentences and quotes, along with the outline, and begin some massive editing that will eventually form a cogent argument.

I know you're excited about that.

Anyway. I've discovered that while viewing a journal article on one part of the screen, I can dictate thoughts from it onto another part of the screen. However, my MacBook does have limitations, no matter how clearly I enunciate.

For your amusement - the following is a list of "what I said" and "what my MacBook heard" from today's endeavours.

What I Said:  "youth"
What It Heard: "use"
*over and over and over and over and over and over and over again

What I Said: "Donetsk, Lviv and Kyiv"
What It Heard: "and yet, leave, and Kia's"
*helloooooo, the car of choice in Ukraine is a Lada, not a Kia

What I Said: "Soviet nostalgia"
What It Heard: "Soviet missed object"
*the Soviets missed SOMETHING, that's for sure

What I Said: "Galicia and the Donbas"

What It Heard: "DiLisio and the Don boss"
*I understand not hearing "Galicia" correctly; but "DiLisio" is a pretty specific substitute, don't you think? Not to be confused with the pizza, I presume.

What I Said: "broad-based equilibrium"
What It Heard: "broth-based equilibrium"
*Maybe if all of society just had a nice cup of broth, we could be less volatile.

What I Said: "deep-seated reforms"
What It Heard: "deep-see that performs"
*I can't even ... what could that possibly even mean?!



That's that.

Friday, July 03, 2015

work spaces

I took a vacation day yesterday to do school work.

That's a first.

In several years of being in school part-time
while working full-time,
I've carefully hoarded vacation days for
that glorious between-semesters Down Time.

But ... this is the final push ...
I'll be finished in August ... 
and I've gotta get it done.

So I'm spreading out a week's worth of vacation days to
Get. It. Done.

I've discovered a change in the way my brain works.

I'm not sure if it's all the time-saving technology (which makes it actually harder to avoid distractions) ... or just that I have too much on my plate these days.

I do.
There's a lot on there, honestly,
and I love all of it.

I'm sooooo looking forward to being done school,
even though I will miss learning,
and haven't ruled out continuing on.

At any rate - it's harder to stay ultra-focused lately for a significant length of time.

I know that I need an outside view.
Learned that a long time ago, and Birkman confirmed it.
I would weep in a windowless cubicle.
At work, my desk is placed squarely in front of a window.

So my solution - for the focusing thing - has become setting timers and moving work spaces. It's surprisingly effective.

I start here, in my L'viv corner, so named because when I set it up as an experiment several months ago, The Boy said it reminded him of a L'viv cafe. From it, I can stare into the backyard while typing and thinking - that's what I do.

The Boy gets a little creeped out by my vacant stare, I think.

Louie hangs out there all the time, keeping an eye on things.

As soon as the snow melts, I'm outside on the shady back deck. I have to adjust the laptop screen a little, because of the glare, and if there's a breeze, papers blow away. But I could - and do - stay out there for hours.

(On Wednesday this week, a bird pooped right on my MacBook. Still didn't go inside.)

In the winter - or super early morning - or for a change of space - I work in my favourite chair. It's by the front window. Has a perfectly-placed space for coffee on one side, and a piano stool for extra papers on the other side.

It's cozy.

But this - THIS is my latest work space, and I spent hours here yesterday.

It's opposite the L'viv corner. That's the extra leaf from the dining room table on there, and it's solid as can be. I can even set a coffee on there, and work away while slowly walking. It's remarkable how much I can focus while my legs are moving.

Is this a side-effect of being a multi-tasking society?
We struggle now with single-tasking?
It's working,
and I'm now trying to figure out
how I can get a (free) treadmill
into my (not-big-enough) office at work. 

Louie's a little overwhelmed by all the beeping timers and the moving to different spaces, but he never says it out loud. Just sits in his corner with a facial expression that can mean anything.

He's the Mona Lisa of stuffed sheep.

Monday, June 22, 2015

travel through time and space

I'm working on a paper this summer, instead of going to classes. When it's done - I'm done.

Unless I decide to continue.
But I will have completed the original goal.

I got to choose the topic for my paper, which will be the sole basis for the final six credits.

No pressure.

So, of course, the general topic is Ukraine ... and the more specific topic is the idea of Soviet nostalgia ... which is or has been a real thing, for some, not all. We Westerners don't understand that at all ... doesn't even cross our minds.

Part of the research involves poring through Kyiv Post archives from 20 years ago. When the nation was only a few years old. When the economy was terrible. When the government was a giant pile of bureaucracy, effective at nothing.

You know what's sobering?

Articles that talk about being "too poor to die". People couldn't afford the cost of a funeral in Kyiv in 1997.

When I went the first time in 1999,
I remember babushkas - grandmothers -
sitting on the streets,
holding out their hands,
heads bowed,
no eye contact.

You held tightly to your belongings;
on that first trip
I kept my passport and cash with me
at all times,
in a belt under my clothing. 

Things have changed a great deal over the years, although the current war and flood of refugees is changing it all again.

It's easy for me to get lost in it all.

So on Mondays, my mind moves through history in a land on the other side of the planet, while attempting to frame events within a sociological understanding.

And on Mondays, I long to be there again, visiting this #landilove.