Monday, December 22, 2008

You've Got to Espresso Yourself!

It’s safe to say that people who know me would say that I am a very energetic person. Probably, they would say some other things, too, but I’ll choose to ignore those comments and move on to other things. At any rate, I am just really kicking into high gear for the holidays. I have been finding novel ways to holiday shop without breaking the bank, and I am excited about spending Christmas with my family this year. For me, they’re pretty easy to shop for. I have more difficulty finding gifts for my friends.

One of my close friends at work is a bit of a coffee connoisseur and our café at work has a special holiday blend of coffee that they sell only during the holidays. I have never been a coffee drinker, which with my current high energy level is probably a good thing. Anyway, I decided to buy him a bag as a Christmas gift, and he seemed pleased. Later, in telling one of my colleagues, she said, “I heard that there is this really great gourmet coffee that comes from Indonesia. It’s rather rare but it’s supposed to be the hot item for coffee lovers.” It sounded interesting, so I decided to look into it and perhaps gift some of the other coffee drinkers on my list with this rare Asian brew.

It wasn’t hard to find, but it was damn near impossible to believe what I was reading. This rare Indonesian java is called Kopi Luwak. At around $160.00 per pound, it’s really not in the budget. But even if they were giving it away, there is no way that I would ever buy this. Allow me to give you some, ahem, background.

Kopi Luwak is a coffee that is made from berries that grow on tall trees. A cat-like animal, called a civet, climbs into the trees, where they lounge on the branches eating the berries. Okay so far. I mean, I am all for lounging and eating. But then, the whole process loses its charm for me. Inside each berry is a seed, or bean, that is passed through the cat’s digestive system intact. The bean then shoots out of the cats butt in his poop, where gatherers, or as I call them, ‘professional shit stirrers,’ dig through mounds of cat crap looking for the beans, which are then harvested, rinsed (hopefully!) and ground into very expensive coffee, that is then apparently bought by people who are severely emotionally disturbed.

I can’t help but think of Ted Nugent. While I don’t think he is emotionally disturbed, he is ‘The Motor City Madman’ so it would be great to know his thoughts on this. Sing along to the tune of ‘Cat Scratch Fever’….

Well I found out where it comes from
and it sure is bad
Cats poop it out of a tree
Then they sell it for a fortune
Like some twisted fad
I wouldn’t drink the shit for free!
Don’t give me cat crap coffee, cat crap coffee!

I can’t imagine who is getting the bad end of the deal (pun intended!) Is it the idiots who actually drink this or the people who harvest it? Of course the harvesters are making a fortune selling this and the people who drink it apparently have enough money to buy any kind of crap they want. I can’t imagine drinking this or harvesting it, but I wouldn’t mind marketing it. I would immediately change the name, Kopi Luwak, which I believe is Indonesian for ‘tastes like shit.’ I might call it ‘Stanka’. Or ‘Chock Full O’Butts’. Hmm…’Asspresso.’ I suppose the possibilities are endless!

I can’t even imagine the smell of this coffee brewing in your coffee maker. Actually, having changed many poopy diapers, I can get a general idea. And it’s not a good one. But it occurs to me that it could have some potential for good use. Suppose an annoying neighbor or family member showed up. Y’know, the neighbor who always wants to borrow (and never return) your tools, or the family member who always needs money? Just put a pot of this on to brew and I bet that would put an end to their unwanted visits. Dinner party guests who refuse to leave? One cup of this demitASS, er, demitasse, and that’ll be the end of your problem.
And that’s no shit!

The Gift of Oneself

The holidays are upon us, and in addition to the layoffs, high prices, and economic uncertainty that are also upon us, it’s a heavy time of year! I always get tickled at the stores that start decorating for Christmas right after they take down their ‘Back to School’ displays but I try to use it to my advantage with my daughter Jenda by reminding her that it’s only September and she has to be on her best behavior for all of the fourth quarter of the remainder of the fiscal year. For my parent friends out there, don’t bother. It doesn’t work.

The holiday season in 2008 is going to be interesting. My husband and I understand that things are tight, so we’ll just probably give each other a hug and a Hallmark card for Christmas. But it’s a bit more difficult explaining a tight budget to a four year old, even one who is, for the most part, remarkably unspoiled. I thought perhaps I could find a parenting book to help me explain the holidays in terms of a difficult economy. These two titles stood out, but for the wrong reasons.

‘Gifts That Rich Kids Get, But You Won’t.’ Hmm, probably not a good idea.

‘Santa Had Budget Cuts and Fired the Elves.’ Really not a good idea!

So it’s up to me and hubby to explain to Jenda what is going on. And we have to somehow merge difficult finances with holidays. And trust me, y’all. If we can manage this, that ‘where do babies come from’ thing’ll be a breeze!

So we are approaching it this way. We want to teach Jenda what a holiday is. It means ‘Holy Day’ and of course in terms of finances, it could mean ‘holy cannoli, am I overdrawn again?!’ but for our purposes, we want Jenda to know that holidays are sacred. More than ever, it’s a time to be grateful for what we do have and not miserable about what we don’t have.

(It might be a bit more difficult explaining Christmas in those terms since it’s more commercialized than Miley Cyrus and the new iPhone!)

So I spent some time explaining to Jenda, who’s four, what the real meaning of Christmas is. See, it means Christ’s Mass.

“I get it Mommy. Like when I leave my Legos and Barbies in the floor?”
No, not MESS, MASS. Nevermind. It’s the day that we celebrate and honor the birth of Jesus.

“Ooh, is there gonna be cake?”

This is going to be harder than I thought. Jenda, would you like to know where babies come from?

At any rate, the important thing to remember about the holidays this year is that while our economy, our political landscape, and our entire world are changing, the holidays, at least the meaning behind them, has not. So what I want Jenda to understand is this. The joy of a holiday like Christmas is not about how much is under our tree (which in our case is fake, so we get to save a few bucks!) It is more about the family and friends who are gathered around it. It is more about what we give to others. And it doesn’t have to be some major, expensive purchase or the latest piece of electronic gadgetry. For instance, I have told Jenda that in order to make room for the things that she is going to get, we need to take some of her other toys and clothes and donate them. (Of course that almost backfired when I saw her calling a moving company to empty out her entire room!) But I think she is onboard with this. She is now excitedly making pictures and art projects to go into scrapbooks to be sent to our extended family along with family photos that we have taken throughout the year. She even wants to make a game of it by having our family match the real photos to the pictures she has drawn to see if they can guess who’s who. (Hint….the round one with all the hair on her head standing straight up? That one is me!)

The real gifts that we give are gifts of love, and humor, and our time. It doesn’t cost anything to donate clothes or household items to others. It doesn’t cost anything to volunteer to serve others in a soup kitchen or at a homeless shelter. So those are some of the gifts that our family will be giving this year. Don’t get me wrong. I would love nothing more than to give Jenda everything on her Christmas list. (Well, except for the puppy since I don’t want to potty train anyone else. Oh, and the kid-sized Cadillac Escalade, since I am still driving a 2001 Mommy Honda. Oh yeah, and the play kitchen with real granite countertops and over-range microwave. No way is my four-year-old going to have granite countertops when I have to make do with laminate!) But all of that aside, more than anything, I want to give her the gift of what the holiday season really means. Because when we reach out to others, we give them the most important gift of all, which is ourselves. And long after Barbie and the other toys have been discarded, long after the newest gadget is obsolete and long after the gift cards have expired, the love and hope we give to others endures.