Dreams on the Precipice of Life

It is five days into the new year and I have a choice to make. It is 8:45 pm and I had a long day at work . I have to make the decision to either stick to my goal of posting something everyday or not. I have to ask myself, "Am I really wanting to do this? Do I really want to follow through with this goal?" 

Thankfully, I have a caring wife who encourages me to follow through with my goals, but I still have to decide. I still have to plunk my keister into a chair and write or not.

I made my New Year's goals in the height of dreams and fresh starts that the New Year promises, and now is when it gets real. Now is when I have to either do it or not.

Now is the time for will power, coffee, and accountability.

If you are struggling to meet your goals in the first full week of the new year, you are not alone. You can meet your goals and you will, if you just do it, no matter how you feel about them at this moment.

Make the decision and commit right now to meeting your goals even when it is hard. Even if you missed a stepping stone, jump back up out of the frozen river of broken dreams and get moving. You can do it.

 

A Moment to Breathe

A Moment

In American culture, it is a virtue to be busy. If you tell a friend you are busy, they will respond with their “to do” list and you can bet it's bigger than yours. It takes a big effort to step away from this tendency and take a moment to breathe, to put aside everything and be present in the moment. Last week, I went to a coffee shop before going to teach my class. After ordering, I had about half an hour before I needed to be in my classroom. I sat down at a table outside and pulled out a notebook. I checked my watch and took a moment to breathe. Then I began to write, all the while being conscious of the time. Taking that moment to sit and write reminded me of how long a minute really is, if I am paying attention to it. That single half hour seemed to stretch for hours.

Often as I am running errands, at work, or hanging out with friends, time seems to slip away. I am so involved in whatever I am doing that the day seems to be over in a flash. Sitting down with coffee and a notebook helped me to take a moment to breathe, being fully aware of every second as it ticked away.

I finished my coffee, put away my notebook, and went to class, knowing that sometimes even thirty minutes can seem like a life time. If you are present.

Do you ever take a moment to breathe?

Thesis Revisions

My twitter feed has consisted of two topics lately: coffee and thesis revisions. There seems to be a strong correlation between these two things for some reason. In light of that, I thought I would continue this theme on my blog.

Coffee

In other news, I submitted my thesis for a final format check to my graduate school. I am in good shape to graduate this May and will be walking in August.

Study Vacation Week 1

I push back from my desk toppling slowly, ever so slowly to the floor. The soft carpet catching me in its warm semi-soft embrace. Post-it notes flittering slowly down around me as exhaustion overwhelms my tired mind. I awaken to an animal nudging my face and breathing its rancid breath as a natural smelling salt to awaken me from my study induced coma. I push my notes and highlighters aside that scatter the floor.

"Coffee!" I cry from a dry throat as I pull myself to my feet. My limbs crack and creak as I pull myself through the thick air towards the kitchen, stumbling only two or three times over my words and my feet.

The hot liquid pours golden brown into my cup and I take my first sip. As the sweet liquid touches the ready embrace of my tongue, time slows and I find myself standing in the present. My mind reawakens and I find myself in the weekend. I glance to my right and left slowly remembering. The first week of the great study vacation has flashed by in a blur and here I stand on the brink of another week of study. The small gap of rest before the decision to leap.

I walk to the living room brought back to the present on a snowy Sunday afternoon. I sit on the couch with my wife, my coffee, my cat, and a book.

I toast the air and breath the relaxation deeply into my bones, knowing tomorrow will bring another day.

Ethnography and writing

Ethnography: A branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific descriptions of individual cultures. Dictionary.com During graduate school I took a class called Ethnographic Methods. It was pretty much people watching on steroids. We were required to wake up and pay attention to the world around us and document it. One assignment in particular sticks out in my mind. We had to go out in public and collect data. This meant going somewhere and writing about the people, the place, and what was going on. We also had to be discrete by participating in the event but all the while writing things down.

I choose to do my assignment at the local farmer's market. Saturday morning, a few classmates and I went to the local city square where the market was happening. I decided to use my phone to keep my notes. That way I could look like I was texting while really taking notes. When I arrived, I drew a map of all the booths in my notebook and wondered what to do next. I have had a lot of experience people watching, but I had never taken notes on it. What should I write? I started asking myself various questions:

Where do people go first? Why can a puppy be without a leash around all this food? How do customers know who to pay? Should people really wear that color? How long does the typical person stay at each booth? Who is allowed to sneeze and not cover their mouths? What type of people are here? Where is that awesome smell coming from? Which booths are the most popular? What ages are the people here? Why is the coffee all the way down the block!?

Answering these questions told me a lot about my own culture that I had never noticed before. It showed me the things we just know. I was able to see my culture instead of just being a part of it.

I sometimes still do this when I go places. It has become a little addictive to be honest. This practice has given me a better understanding of my own culture and the people who live in it.

All of this has also increased my people watching by about 400%. (When I am paying attention.) Coffee also seems to increase this process exponentially.

Have you ever noticed why people do things they do? Do you have any fun people watching stories?

Coffee shop passion

How I love coffee shops. I love the aroma that overloads my senses when the doors open. I love every step inside that brings me closer to happiness and bliss. I happily pay the price of the coffee knowing it will ensure hours of productivity in isolation while still being around people. Coffee shops have become my happy place. I have been doing some traveling lately and have visited several coffee shops around the country. Some of my favorite shops are the small, locally owned, hole-in-the-wall type of places that have atmosphere and good service. There are times, though, I have been disappointed by lack luster service and the atmosphere of a hospital waiting room. So with all of my coffee shop hopping, I wanted to share several things that I look for when evaluating a coffee shop.

Required coffee shop features:

  • Electrical outlets: This is one of the most important things for me. A coffee shop can be beautiful, but if there aren't any outlets I can't get work done. (Technology and all that.) If I am there to read a book it is acceptable, but I still get the urge to bring extension cords.
  • Coffee: This should be freshly ground and not bitter.
  • Mugs: I appreciate real mugs instead of the paper cups, especially large ones with character and funny sayings, pictures, or quotes.
  • Music: The music is typically not much of an issue for me, but it should be background noise, not blaring out of the speakers like an emergency announcement. The only exception is live music. I love live music.
  • Atmosphere: The coffee shop must be a coffee shop first and foremost. None of this coffee shop pizzeria business.

To give you an idea of what I look for, I took pictures of one of my favorite coffee shops of all time, the Broad River Coffee Company. I have to apologize up front that these were taken with my phone.

I love the table cubicles on the left and the balcony with three tables in the back. I have spent a lot of time in both places.

This is the view from the balcony. I would sit at one of the three tables while doing homework and people watch.

What do you look for in a coffee shop? Where are you most productive?