Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Accelerates My Heart.

So, it's Lent again. And as usual, I've given up something that seems like no big whoop until I have to actually deal with not having it. This year, it's "coffee drinks." Everyone cocks their brow in confusion at that term, so let me explain. No, I have not given up all coffee -- I need caffeine to survive.

But until Easter Sunday, all I'm allowed to have is black coffee. No Starbucks vanilla latte, no honey latte from the yummy local cafe -- not even MILK IN THE MORNING.

All black coffee, all the time.

I've learned a couple things while drinking nothing but bitter, dark cups of Joe. Here goes:

1. All black coffee tastes the same. Thus, i don't care to go for my used-to-be-usual afternoon cup from either Starbucks or whatever's convenient at the time. I had a feeling that my black-coffee-only rule would cause me to cut back on caffeine. But I didn't know how right I'd be. Coffee isn't fun if it's plain.

Coworker: Want to make a Starbucks run, Denise?!
Me: Ehhh...and order a scalding cup of bitter sludge? Nah. I'll stick with water. But thanks. 

2. I keep burning my dang tongue. Without that splash of milk, Irish liqueur or half n' half, the stuff is hotter than you'd expect. In fact, I don't think I've had all my taste buds in good working order since Ash Wednesday.

3. Not many people drink black coffee. In fact, I can name only two right off the top of my head -- Brian and my friend Sarah. Other than that, everyone looks at me like I've lost my mind when I say I'm only drinking it black til Easter. Which brings me to my next point ....

4. I used to think that I liked the taste of actual coffee more than most of my friends and colleagues. When I lived with Genessa, she would put so much creamer and crap inside her cup of morning brew that it ended up just tasting like coffee Kool Aid. And I'd make fun of her. I also made fun of people who always get the mocha milkshake crap with whipped cream on top. But now that I'm drinking coffee in the buff, I'm realizing I don't love it either!! I mean, i can STOMACH it for the purpose of having my morning jolt, but I'm not really happy about it.

All of that said, my mama drinks her morning coffee just like I do: milk only, no sugar. Sharing a cup with her is one of my favorite parts of going home, which makes looking forward to spring that much sweeter. So, until then, I guess I can stick to the dark stuff.

I just need to remember to let it cool on the counter first.

Saturday's cup in the elephant mug. So bare bones. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

This Post Could Get Steamy.

While everyone else has been complaining about freezing their butts off this week, I've been doing what I always do when the mercury dips this low -- manipulating my crazy 'fro. (Y'all like that rhyme or what?)

Anyhoo, so, I've been downright obsessed with my set of hot rollers this winter. Like, super-obsessed, to the point where I want to wear my locks in big, poufy curls every day and channel my inner 1940s goddess or whatever. But to be on the safe side, I've also got a flat iron and a curling iron in my cabinet o' tricks, ready to bust out whenever I need them.

This week, I'm amused to report that I've not only used most every tool I own, I've also come up with innovative new tools ...or should they be called techniques? make my hair do what I want it to do.

Take yesterday morning, for example, I started with a messy mob of clean hair (I'd washed it and slept on it wet the night before) and turned on the hot rollers while I made my coffee so they'd be nice and hot when the time came. But I decided that first, I would flat iron my hair completely, in order to make the hot roller curls ultra-behaved, rather than mixed up with funny, frizzy corkscrews left over from those natural pieces that refuse to be bossed around.

Well, that didn't exactly work. I mean, once my hair was straight, it wanted to STAY straight. (EGADS, right?!) I took out the rollers and my locks had barely bent themselves!! My hair didn't look like a '40s siren -- it looked like a bad flat iron experiment!

I questioned what to do. Get in the shower and start over? Nah -- then my hair would go back to totally natural and that wasn't what I wanted either. What I WANTED was a little more body and wave. Then a genius idea struck me. I turned on BOTH of my showers all the way to scalding hot (I have two of them -- a tub shower and a stand up shower!), shut the bathroom door and let the bathroom fill with steam so thick, I couldn't see my triumphant grin in the mirror.

Take THAT, hair! I thought to myself, watching my tresses start to rise to the occasion. Once I had a little more "oomph" in the 'do, I turned off the showers, exhaled the steam and rolled my hair again. This time it worked! HELLO CURLS!

So, yeah, winter has its good points. I can't say that I've loved wearing so many clothes this week, but I've definitely had a good time with my beauty routine. And as any woman knows, a breakthrough in a beauty routine is certainly worth blogging about.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Shepherding my Word Sheep.

Well, it's been a while. I've been busy working my face off (and celebrating my birthday -- woo!) since I just officially became full time at the magazine. (I know...y'all thought I already worked full time ...).

There are things to get accustomed to now that I'm a regular. A not-so-great example would be getting to the office at the same hour every morning, no matter how my hair looks or what awesome article got tweeted at me about the literary genius that lies within. Sigh. Time management isn't always my favorite thing, especially in the morning when my ideas are flowing like honey.

Nevertheless, there are other awesome aspects. One that I feel compelled to write about is how there's more of an opportunity to gently edit the writing of others and help them compose stuff that readers AND clients are going to like.

Case in point: One of my newbie writers, Miranda, is learning the ropes of marketing content. So this week I've gone over a couple of her articles with her, showing her how to make them not only good for the advertisers but also good for our readers. Naturally, this process is helping me become a better editor as well. I even called Brian on the phone and cheerfully announced that I kinda felt like him this morning when I put Miranda's original copy of a story, along with my edits, side by side on her desk.

Also, I had a super fun opportunity last week when my friend June's 12-year-old daughter, Julia, plus her friend, Ashley, shadowed me at work for the morning. I printed out a story going into the magazine and let the girls help me edit it -- we came up with a snazzy new headline, polished some phrases and generally made it flow. The girls had a blast using their creativity, and I had fun as well.

And though it's not quite as easy --  due to the fact that while I know exactly what Mount Pleasant Magazine's pages are yearning for content-wise, I have less of an idea regarding what teachers at Bishop England want --  I like editing my tutee's stuff too. Yesterday during our lesson, for example, I steered him in a slightly different direction for his research paper's introduction paragraph.

Speaking of paragraphs, it's funny. my tutee always asks for a sentence count regarding how long each paragraph should be, and I always gripe that it should be "as long as it takes to get his idea across," hoping he won't wimp out and make things too short. But when I broke Miranda's story from this morning into a few different paragraphs, they ended up only being a few sentences or so -- still, each contained its own idea. Interesting, how no two pieces of writing follow the same rule. They're all as unique as the people who composed them.

That said, I've always talked about how hard it is to teach someone how to be a better writer. As with other art forms, it's easy to assume good writing is "innate" and give up on helping someone with their craft. But I'm finding that helping other writers is helping me at the same time. What a happy result, right?!

Julia, Ashley and me!