oakland community

12 Days of Christmas: A Sharing Sesh // Day 2

Community is not everything. Community is not everything, but it is necessary for a full life. Community is not easy, but is hard work. Nay nay, it is extremely hard work. It is hard work to fall short, to be humbled before others, to live so closely in the presence of others that we cannot hide our deepest, darkest selves. It’s easy to give up and walk away instead of face our inner selves with others.

Community is something that is formed, it is molded, and it changes over time. Community welcomes joy and celebration over jealousy. Community welcomes suffering and empathy over self-centered thinking. Community prioritizes the choosing of love. It calls us out and tears us down, while also lifting us up.

Community is made. It is made with those whom we chose to make it. Community is a two-way street. It is not always gentle and sometimes it is a downright pain in the ass that you kind of want to punch in the face; it is seemingly unworthy of the suffering it may cause.

Community is created in our homes and on the streets. It establishes itself in parks and on city streets, in public and in private. Community is a recipe made for a slow cooker. Community is read about in books, but seldom lived out. It’s too hard; people don’t want it. Not truly. We are selfish. We get caught up in the things of this world; we get by just fine living our lives, never embracing our deepest selves.

Community is shaped around the table, in conversation, in getting to know one another, in living alongside one another, in choosing one another. Community is doing one another's dishes before we go back to our own dwelling. And not to force this horribly obvious transition, but what a joyous occasion when those dishes can be kept to a minimum.

I love this meal I’m going to share because it does just that. This meal is like community. It’s simple, yet profound.  It is a dish full of grace, which let’s be honest—all communities need to be. This dish looks at it’s own imperfections instead of pointing out the imperfections of other dishes. To top it off, it has all the necessary pieces of a well-balanced meal while sticking to one casserole dish and maybe a bowl or two. It has the veggies, the meat, the potatoes, and the bread. In my eyes, it is truly the perfect community dish. And now, I share it with you to share with your community as it was once shared with me.

Chicken Pot Pie:

1. Set the oven to 375 degrees.

  • Sauté 1/2 cup of chopped onion.
  • Add 1 cup of butter—Usually two sticks.

2. Once melted, add dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ tsp-1 tsp. pepper

3. Stir in wet ingredients:

  • 3 cups chicken broth (or veggie!!)
  • 1.5 cups of milk (or non-dairy sub)

4. Stir until thickens

5. Add:

  • 1 bag of frozen veggies. I usually do Trader Joe’s Organic Foursome
  • Shredded chicken (leftovers are GREAT for this!!)

6. As those ingredients are combining, I place those little frozen, garlic potato pods (also from Trader Joe’s) along the bottom of a large casserole dish with a splash of milk).

7. Pour the blend from the pan over the potatoes.

8. The Topper: in a medium sized bowl, whisk the following:

  • 2 cups of your favorite biscuit mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk.

The consistency should be a little thick, but not too thick. This part may take a little practice. You should be in love with the topper. If you’re not, try the recipe with halved, uncooked biscuits instead.

9. Put in oven for 30 minutes:

10-15 minutes in, put slits in the topper. I don’t know if this does anything to the meal itself, but it sure does look pretty!!

Enjoy this meal. Love one another deeply. Pray for and with one another.

For dessert, I recommend a round of Ticket to Ride :)

Overall shopping list:

  • 1 onion
  • butter
  • flour
  • milk (or non dairy sub)
  • chicken broth (or equivalent)
  • salt, pepper, and thyme
  • 1 bag frozen veggies
  • chicken
  • frozen potato pods
  • biscuit mix
  • eggs

OH YEAH! One more thing: This is a great recipe to take to people's homes if they are sick, just had a baby, lost a loved one, etc. I suggest doing so in a throw away tin dish so as to not burden them with cleaning and keeping track of dishes afterwards.

 

 

How To Find Your Community Using Hashtags

About this time last year, my husband and I hit an unexpected turn on our path that led to a 3,000-mile move across the country. Going from Philadelphia to Oakland, I knew nothing of the city I would soon call home, but three weeks after deciding to make the move, we hit the road with our then 9-month old daughter. In that decision, we left behind family, lifelong friends, and the rich community we had in our church and neighbors. It wasn’t long after our arrival in Oakland that we began to see how our community life here would look exponentially different than it did in Philly.

I’ve written several posts about community on this blog, about how it requires commitment, sacrifice, and time. I've also written a couple posts on motherhood and how I think it's hugely important for moms to have a diversified group of friends, so as to not lose sight of their identity. The question that may still linger in your mind is, “how do I find my community?”

During our time in Oakland so far, I have come to love this city. I love the neighborhoods, the art, the local businesses. I love the people I’ve met in various settings, and the cool, laid back culture everywhere I go (well...let's be real, Jersey girl still adjusting to that one). I love that this city is a hodgepodge of Oakland lifers, artists, transplants, young and old. I love that Oakland melds together the beauty of ancient Redwoods, vast rolling hills and the salty bay breeze with the downtown feel of any quickly changing, vibrant, yet forgotten city that up until recently was more likely to be known as the dangerous city across the San Francisco Bay. The city of Oakland is a beautiful place with beautiful people who make up its unique identity.

These are all characteristics I know to be true of Oakland now. But when we moved here 11 months ago, all I knew of was the reputation that preceded it of being violent and undesirable. As I set out to start this blog, I did so in large part to meet people in my new city—to find local hangout spots and feature them within my writing.

And now enter: The Hashtag (for me, mostly on Instagram):

As I set out on this project, there were a few basics I started with: #oakland, #eastbay, #oaklandcoffee, #eastbaycoffee, and #norcal. These five helped in my initial search to find local coffee shop favorites in the East Bay area.

Eventually, I discovered more specific hashtags and their associated IG profiles for locals in the city, like #weloveoakland and #Oaklandish. With these two, I began to find people online who also lived in Oakland as well as beloved local businesses, shops, coffee roasters, and events. As time went on, I had the opportunity to begin building both an online community with fellow Oaklanders as well as meet people in the community based on common interests through hashtags like #cmOak. "Cm" stands for the international organization called Creative Mornings while "Oak" stands for the Oakland branch of that organization. Creative Mornings is where creative minds get together monthly for talks on various topics.

This is where the real meat of the hashtag takes place—when it leads you out into your community, meeting others face to face. There are loads of organizations, shops, and events I discovered through hashtags and want to attend, but have yet to begin even scratching the surface on visiting them all.

As you get more specific (but not too specific) in your use of hashtags, you can begin to seek to diversify your community. By using various online forums, it would be much easier for me to attend advertised playgroups with my daughter and thereby only connect with other moms. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a need for playgroups and for moms to connect, but I also believe there is potential for more. Instead of stopping there, I've been able to connect with others who have a broader range of commonalities--some with children, some without, some with similar faith backgrounds, but by and large--not, some who are also transplants from the NE, but others with completely different cultural backgrounds and upbringings. The hashtag is incredibly helpful for meeting others with the added bonus of living an intentionally diverse lifestyle.

One final aspect to using these hashtags is discovering important local events; there are things happening in Oakland that I would not know about without the use of hashtags. Not even two weeks ago, a local man, Twon Shavers was shot and killed. It was horribly sad to read about this young man’s life, his love for his daughter, and his commitment to Oakland. By discovering #pray4Oakland, I was inspired by this beautiful legacy left by a man committed to seeing change in his city. Discovering a person's story, being inspired by their life, and having important conversations all based on a hashtag is an incredible resource for our current place in human history, so why not take full advantage of that?

Each of these examples led me to finding and following others who love the city of Oakland. These individuals may also be raising small children here; they may also be artists or love the outdoors. By starting broad, then honing in on local love, and eventually focusing in until I found others with more specific commonalities as myself, I've been able to find gems of places and people in a relatively short time. Everywhere I turn on Instagram and Twitter, by way of using various local hashtags, I’ve been amazed by this city, it’s people, and how quickly I’ve taken pride in calling my home.

A couple of real-life friends I’ve made by way of hashtags are from Slojoy Coffee.

They are currently sharing their roasts by way of events and pop-up shops throughout Oakland. These guys love this community. They are committed to spreading joy, to providing local roasts from small batches of coffee to their subscribers, and did I mention--they love SPREADING JOY in the city of Oakland. I love them a lot and hope you’ll check them out and SUBSCRIBE to have their coffee delivered to your doorstep.

Delayed Responses

Over the past month, I’ve gone through an assortment of grieving and questioning. This process, in great regard, put all writing on hold. Upon our arrival back to CA from a visit to the east coast, I went through both culture shock and homesickness--neither of which I'd yet undergone since our move 10 months ago. This experience was just one area of emotional processing.

In the midst of settling back into our life here, I was struck by a conviction involving part of my life’s calling. While watching the movie “Spotlight," my heart was incredibly burdened. If you haven't seen the film, it's about the journalists from the Boston Globe who uncovered the sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church around Boston in the early 2000s.

If you know me, you may be as surprised as I was to discover which aspect of the film burdened my heart. There is no question that learning about impoverished children being sexually assaulted for decades was heartbreaking. But more than anything, the story gave me this overwhelming sense that I somehow missed the mark in my undergraduate studies.

During my college years, I was in the perfect position as an editor to pursue writing and journalism. In many ways, I knew I wanted to educate others and communicate the world’s darkest secrets and deepest hurts, but I was scared. I acted out of fear and listened to voices that said journalism was a waste of a degree and that there were too many unknowns in pursuing the arts. My unwise answer was to study a little bit of this and that, travel a great deal, transfer schools several times, and incur massive amounts of debt in the process. It was a pretty chaotic four years. Don't get me wrong, in many regards it was also a beautiful hodgepodge of life experiences—an expensive hodgepodge, but beautiful nonetheless.

The second occurrence of my convictions came as I continued reading Makoto Fujimura’s, “Silence and Beauty” the day after watching "Spotlight." Simply put, it’s a book about Christian persecution in Japan, the cultural role of art and beauty, and a reflection of Shūsaku Endō's novel, "Silence". It’s a worthy read involving the intricacies of Fujimura’s life as a Japanese American child, student, and artist.

On the page where I left off, Fujimura shares the story of a journalist who was held hostage and later killed while searching for a friend he suspected was taken captive by ISIS. It turned out that this journalist was also a Christian working to tell the stories of children and orphans in war-torn zones. What an incredible image of living out the Christian call to sacrifice all comfort, even to the point of death, while working within one's gifts and passions.

From both stories, I was reminded how doing the work of love and justice could look like so many different paths. I was challenged in how hard I fought to avoid surrendering to the call to work in the field of publications. In college, I was in the perfect place to follow out this call and to receive the training in the art of journalism. Instead, I denied that desire to continue pursuing other areas of academia and intercultural studies. I had a job in publications that helped pay for my degree, and later more opportunities to grow and be mentored in the field, but I threw it away time and time again.

I don’t share this to say that it’s necessarily too late or that I necessarily missed my chance. I share it to say that I recognize my disobedience in my college pursuits. I share it to say that this past month has been one of grieving, questioning, and processing.

I’m all for being present wherever it is I find myself. But friends, there are also the realities of obedience and disobedience, of putting up a fight and of knowing when to surrender.

Sometimes in life there is a fine, beautiful, and grace-filled line in these areas of our lives. And yet, the outcomes will look different depending on the paths we choose. In many ways, I chose chaos for those four and some odd years, and only now can I look back and seek to discern what that means for my life and my family now. In all of this, where I am right now is in the questioning, considering, and praying as to whether or not the time is now to continue writing, growing and stretching out these muscles that were on the shelf for nearly seven years or if perhaps that time is later, or sadly, but potentially not at all.

What I'm talking about in all of this is the reality of life's consequences. I think the sooner I can question and deal with life's consequences, the sooner I can step into fuller joy and contentment of living in the present.

Have you had experiences like this? Experiences where you look back on life and wonder how things may have panned out if you made a few, slightly different decisions?  I’d love to hear about them and how you navigated your thoughts during that time.

In considering the areas of life that seem a bit random + hodgepodgy, check out
The Random Tea Room & Curiosity Shop // 713 North 4th St. Philadelphia, PA


To order "Silence and Beauty" by Makoto Fujimura or "Silence" by Shūsaku Endō's through my affiliate links, click below.

Reading, Books, & Freedom // Featuring One Shot Coffee & Cafe, Philadelphia

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading, lately. As I've mentioned before, I only started reading in my 20s. Now, as soon as I finish a book, I'm on to the next (no promises this will last, but I'll take it for now). Here are a few thoughts I have about reading, books, and for that matter--freedom.

First, there's prioritizing which books to read. HOW do you choose? Seriously, how? Please share your insight...As someone who has not been a lifelong reader, this is a difficult process. It's also why I recently challenged myself to only read one book at time. I am a sloooow reader, so picking just one book is tough! Do I go back to the classics that I missed? Hop into what my peers and friends are reading? Do I focus on the spiritual life, social issues, continue reading books based on authors I like, or go to my personal fave--books on intercultural studies? It's no easy task choosing the next book to start, and this is why I start so many at a time. But! I've chosen this new way, and am now a more productive reader overall.

Next, is that I cannot afford to buy all the books I want. When Kris and I packed up our Philly apartment to move across the country, we gave away and sold more books than anything else. I'll be honest, besides not wanting to spend all my moneys on books (most of which I'll read once), I don't want to go through that process again. Books, especially cherished, written-in ones were by far the hardest items to let go. My answer to these dilemmas today was the go to the library. Getting out into the community AND saving money--when does that happen??

In the same vein of collecting and holding on to books, I find they’re an easy source of pride. When I walk into a home with a lot of books on display, I assume certain attributes on that family--that they're well-education, smart, will probably want to talk about things I don't understand, and that overall they're...better than me. Do you know the feeling I mean? I've DEFINITELY had the experience of loving books for what they might tell visitors about me more than I cared to read the content within. It's such a silly thing, but it's humbling to know that any material thing (albeit, one as important as books) could do this to my character. It's like, why don't I also put down my window and turn up NPR while displaying TED stickers on my back window, so my fellow drivers might also know just how smart I am…? Oh brother, how do I even begin to take myself seriously?

The last thing I'll share about reading is that I think it's helping me to become a better listener. Did you ever experience this? For me, it was sort of an unexpected surprise. I was wondering this week if people who are better readers are also better listeners. From personal experience, I know this isn't true across the board, but it got me wondering if it might not also be the case for some others. Thoughts?

Anyhow, I'm grateful for books and reading and libraries. Sharing knowledge and information freely is such a sweet gift. As someone who isn’t terribly patriotic, freely shared knowledge is something I take for granted in the U.S. Why wouldn't I take full advantage of books, lectures, and the radio? For that matter, why wouldn't I take full advantage of conversations with strangers, social movements, social media, national parks and natural reserves? There's so much freedom in the Western World to share, preserve, and explore, all of which are areas I want to show more gratitude. Reading seems like a good step in that direction.

Tonight's Coffee Shop Feature goes to one of my old Philly spots. They have every kind of sitting arrangement possible (definite perk), delicious food, and loads of books. I have lots of photos from the upstairs of One Shot Cafe, and have never once asked the purpose of all their books. I always assumed it was a "take one, leave one" situation, but also like I might be stealing if I took one. I always forgot to ask before I left what purpose they served. Either way, it's a beautiful display, encouraging a home-like feel.

One Shot Coffee & Cafe // 217 W. George Street, Philadelphia

Also, check out their Instagram

As always, thanks for reading. Would love to hear about your relationship with reading,
books, libraries or generally...whatever else you'd like to share.

Visitors, Community + Writing // Bicycle Coffee Co.

My husband and I are big on visiting. We enjoy long car rides together, and usually choose them over date nights. Historically, going back about eight years, we take at least one road trip a year for visiting—sometimes two…other times, three. We’ve been known to take many weekend drives to see people or spend several hours in a car just to hang for a few hours. We once drove from New Jersey to Michigan for a “long” weekend of…well disk golf, but I went along to visit friends.

As a visitor, I often forgot that even though we could take time off to go gallivanting around the eastern side of the country, our various hosts didn’t necessarily have that same time to set aside all that life entails. Having recently moved across the country, I’ve been facing this sad reality a lot. Over these past seven months, we’ve had eight separate out-of-state visits happen. These visits, while I obviously love them, are proving it difficult to prioritize the areas of my everyday life that I value—namely community and writing.

When we transferred coasts, I didn't expect that having visitors would require so much adjusting. So far, I'm finding that there are plenty of aspects of everyday life I can sacrifice during visits (showering, laundry…all-around basic hygiene). In this adjusting however, I’m reminded that community can’t be put on hold. Thriving community, unlike sleeping schedules and showering, can’t be set to the side while I soak up every waking moment with those I share a history.

Having visitors is challenging me to live out what I talk about endlessly in regard to community. I can't expect to have community sitting around waiting for me. Community requires sacrificing the areas of life that may be more convenient or comfortable for me. In this case, it may mean trimming down on out-of-state guests for awhile (insert extreme sad face and plots of doing whatever I can to merge all my worlds).

As I mentioned in my community posts awhile back, it was really difficult for me to accept that my faraway friends aren’t my community. As they come to visit, there are some things I can do in advance to prepare. Like, I can do a good deal of my job and some extra grocery shopping. But, maintaining the communal priorities in my life becomes a little trickier. Of course, there are set, weekly gatherings that are easy to tow friends along to, but the spontaneous time of community gets difficult to maintain. All of a sudden, days pass and I haven’t checked in on my local tribe, shared meals, or lived everyday life alongside those who are becoming my village.

Along with more or less abandoning my community for 10 days during this most recent visit, I abandoned the online community I’ve been building this year. Instead of writing, I chose my visitors. I realized during this time with my parents, that writing is not a definitively scheduled area of my life. Things were going really smooth—2-3 posts a week with some article submissions over the last few months, and all of a sudden-BAM! No writing. I even kept up with some daily tidying, but didn’t write a single word. With only 10 days together, and 20 hours of work per week to maintain, I didn’t want to think about doing my normal life things. Instead, I wanted to spend as much time as possible with those who set their lives aside to come see us.

And now, ten days later, I’m making lists of all the writing I want to catch up on. I thought about it everyday, forming sentences and pulling ideas together. But, instead of actually taking a little time every night, I chose board games and a trip to Yosemite; I chose hanging around the house together and a drive to a Spanish Mission.

As a ridiculous extrovert, I still wonder what it looks like to carve out this time in my life. Since spending time with people trumps just about any solo activity, I’m still learning where to say no and where to take breaks for silence. I’ve come a long way the past three years, but with building a new community and frequent visitors, I don’t yet know what this space looks like in our new life.
If you've lived far from your people and have any insight, I'd love to hear it!! Thanks, as always, for reading along, and apologies for the hiatus.

For today’s post, here’s a local Oakland spot that also takes to the road--on bicycles!! Check out Bicycle Coffee if you're in the Oakland, LA, or Tokyo areas. Also, fun fact, I've only been to Bicycle with out-of-state friends.

Bicycle Coffee // 364 2ND ST. @ WEBSTER // OAKLAND
And, check out their IG here.
 

Beauty and Eggs // Featuring Highwire Coffee Roaster

Tonight, while my daughter was asleep and my husband was at our Good Friday Service, I dyed eggs. I experimented with ingredients from around my kitchen: beets, spinach, green tea, turmeric, paprika, salt, crayons, and markers. I knew my husband didn't care (although he did humor me the other day when I thought dying brown eggs would work) and my daughter is too young to have much fun with it. So, I dyed them by myself. And it was completely worth it.

IMG_4169.JPG

This weekend, we're reminded of the sacrifice of Jesus for the sake of humanity. I'm reminded of his grace, his humility, how he defeated death, and how he is a perfectly loving, gracious, and just king. When I think about the kingdom of heaven, I just have to let out a sigh of relief, a sigh of hope that there is more than this place.

Dying eggs tonight was a reminder of that image of restoration, of new life, and of beauty. Beauty is all around, giving glimpses of the God who created it. Acknowledging and creating beauty is never ever in vein. Beauty has purpose simply for it's own sake, and I'm so incredibly grateful for that.

This week, I got to linger at a coffee spot I've been DYING (tee-hee) to go to, and it was all I'd hoped it would be. It was simple and beautiful. The sunshine helped and the plants were perfect company.

Highwire Coffee Roasters is located at Flower Land // 1330 Solano Ave, Albany, CA

(Please do not assume that this post reflects the thoughts or philosophies of the above featured shop. Thanks for joining me!)

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
-the gospel of Jesus according to John

My Favorites // Baby Edition

When my husband and I were preparing for the arrival of our daughter, there were so many items that friends and family graciously sent our way (we had three baby showers!!). Our people are seriously incredible. Some items we received and bought were incredibly helpful and I'd choose the same brands all over again. While other items, I probably returned or eventually gave away.

As we get ready for child number two, I've been thinking about the items I can't imagine living without, and here's what I've come up with (The links below are affiliate links: if you make purchases through the links, Amazon will pay me a little bit at no extra cost to you :-)). This list doesn't include things like clothes and toys, so much as the bare necessities. Although as far as clothes and toys--hand-me-downs for the win!

We tried SO many binkies with baby girl, and this is the ONLY one should would take. We weren't for or against using one in the first place, and waited several months for the sake of steering clear of nipple confusion. When it came to it, our girl was WAY fussy and so we were all for using a binky to help in those early days. These ones are made by a family business in Italy from 100% natural tree rubber.

I'm obsessed with our bottles. Again, Miss. fuss never took milk from a bottle, but we were eventually able to use these puppies. They are 100% plastic free, made of stainless steel. This means they won't break, don't leak gross chemicals, and are super lightweight. They're also compatible with quite a few different nipple brands if babe doesn't like theirs.

I've had six different baby carriers, plus one I made myself. Along with a very lightweight, bouncy wrap that I have (which you could find similarly at Solly Baby,) this is my favorite. We're on the go a lot, so strapping the mini on has made it possible for being active and some pretty strenuous hiking. This carrier is great because it isn't bulky or heavy, and it's machine-washable. Apparently there's even a 4-position carrier now, which is pretty sweet.

This is the only balm I use on basically everything. While our newborn had some pretty nasty baby acne, everything I read said leave it alone. But, in one place I read, it said to keep it moisturized, which made way more sense to me. So, I used this and it was gone in two days. Obviously this isn't medical advice, but it totally worked for us.

I decided to give cloth diapering a try, and it worked really well for us. I've put it on hold since moving to drought-ridden CA where we pay for our laundry. But, I'm so glad I chose these ones. They aren't bulky and we've never had a blowout.

I included this water bottle simply because I couldn't believe how thirsty I was during pregnancy and nursing. Nobody informed me of this and I didn't read it anywhere, so I learned really quickly to always have water handy. I'm not totally in love with glass water bottles, but I like that this one has the pop-open flippy top and a silicone sleeve. 

I'm sure everyone gets a pack 'n play these days, I just remember having NO clue how to decide which one. We were given and borrowed several. This is the one we ended up buying, and I'm really glad we did. It's compact, and includes a bassinet, a napper and a diaper changer spot. Baby girl slept in this puppy every night for about 8 months, and still sleeps in it at a year and half when we travel.

Heidi girl loves books, and it's been wonderful reading her stories out of this Jesus Storybook Bible. The illustrations are great and the stories give simple summaries of scripture, with each one pointing to Jesus.

What were your baby essentials? Was there anything you felt like was a waste of money/space or anything you never expected to want, but fell in love with?

I haven't been to this cafe yet, but cannot wait to check it out. According to their website, they have built in baby and children sections where parents can watch over their children while getting some work done. Srsly? This sounds like a win.

Small Talk Family Café // 1536 Newell Ave, Walnut Creek, Ca

(Please do not assume that this post reflects the thoughts or philosophies of the above featured shop. Thanks for joining me!)

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.a
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
-A psalm of King David

Unsolicited Advice

Any expectant parent knows what it's like to hear the unsolicited advice of strangers on what to expect in pregnancy, delivery, and parenthood.

I know I get pretty antsy while other moms, grand moms, and aunties stop to give me their opinions while walking through the grocery store. Sometimes it's hard for me to remember that these women want to share their past experiences of motherhood with someone who just might want to hear about them. I'm also quick to forget that we're only in the first and second generation of soon-to-be mamas who have the Internet as a child-rearing resource, further devaluing the raising of children as a communal village.  

While I was pregnant with my daughter and working in retail, I heard the thoughts of many-a-customer on cutting grapes in half and not lifting a box of apples; some days it seemed the opinions of others were never ending. Out of all the things I heard during that 6-month time period however, there was one dear customer whose advice I will always cherish, both in motherhood and life.

Remember that it's all temporary. The nights that you're up all night because the baby is teething are temporary, and you will get through them. But also remember that the cuddles and baby giggles, the tiny clothes and sweet, soft baby skin--those are temporary too.

What my sweet Thursday-morning customer was telling me was, "live in the moment and cherish each stage by remembering that the hard stuff, along with the good, are but a passing moment." The joyous memories and lessons learned will be experiences I may look back on someday, only to stop a young mom-to-be in the grocery store in hopes she'll want to share my memories as well.

It's easy as humans to want to rush the hard stuff and pause the good stuff, but the hard stuff holds so much value. When we rush, we miss out on the gift of preparation that those experiences are providing us.

To go along with this reminder that we should be present wherever we are,
even in the midst of difficulties, I am featuring a coffee shop whose motto is "The place to be." Wherever you are in your life, it is the place you are meant to be.

Hive, The Place to Be | 2139 MacArthur Blvd | Oakland | 94602

(Please do not assume that this post reflects the thoughts or philosophies of the above featured shop. Thanks for joining me!)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
-Paul, in a letter to the Roman church

Zooptopia // An Attempt at a Movie Review

As my husband and I pulled out of the drive-in after watching the recent Pixar film Zootopia, many different thoughts of the film arose in our conversation. Here are a few:

  A cup of Verve.

A cup of Verve.

As a parent // Like my parents did for me, I want my daughter to know that she can pursue any dream she has for her future. Be it a career, an educational path, a desire to travel or move to the big city, I want her to know that we will support her and guide her to pursue any calling she believes to be hers. More importantly though, I want her to know that who she is matters more than anything she comes to do in life.

We hear all the time about miserable millionaires, dissatisfied celebrities, and hearts corrupted by greed and power. In the like, I've seen plenty of people who say they've "arrived," and yet have no more joy than they did before they even began to seek their success. And yet, on the opposite hand, I've heard stories and met people who struggle day in and day out to get by, and yet the joy that they have is contagious. They are full of integrity and generosity.

Of course, neither of these situations are mutually exclusive nor are they a guarantee on either part, but that's the point. No matter where my daughter's path leads, I want her to know that who she is as a human far outweighs whatever she comes to accomplish. Though the heroine bunny's goals were not money or fame, the focus was on her career path over her integrity and character as a future bunny police officer.

Title // As we talked about Judy Hopp's parents and the fear-filled values they were instilling in their daughter, we asked, "what happened to "'No Farms No Food?'" The writers of this movie had an incredible opportunity to show an example of parents who could encourage their daughter in her dreams, while also not belittling their life as farmers. Being portrayed as small town, back country bunnies, wanting their daughter to stay put and "settle," never risking anything for the betterment of the community was a huge disappointment. The movie made the farmers out to be fearful instead of strong and influential in their own community. For shame, Pixar. A big city officer is no better than a carrot farmer. Both are good and necessary, but again--who they are as bunnies is what matters and is the piece that will determine what legacy they leave in this world. A job title cannot do this.

Social // Oh dear, do I dare? I do. This movie made a great attempt at touching the heart of many a human struggle one might experience. If your battle is being a woman in a "man's field," if it's your socioeconomic status, cultural background, or job title, there is a beautiful message that says you can pursue your dreams, and if you persevere through the trials and the discouragement of others, there is a chance you just might make it. Awesome, yes. I greatly appreciated that this film told viewers that things don't always seem as they appear, and that you can rise above your situation, and that even that which seems impossible can be possible.

So, my pros for Zootopia are that through hard work and determination, you can pursue your dreams, and that not all is what it seems to be--even a bunny can overcome the scary big-city. But really, much of that message was hindered by putting down the farmers and by not sharing the message that who we are as humans outweighs what we do for a job. I haven't even started on how tired I am of Disney for starring strong willed, independent children who are never supported by their parents, and yet always end up being the "good guys" while the parents end up somehow changing their perspective, instead of the other way around (or both/and). In too many of these movies, the parents have either died or or are fear filled in their ways of parenting. To name a few, The Little Mermaid, Brave, and Finding Nemo. Don't get me wrong, I like these movies for other reasons, but I would find it refreshing to see more loving, supportive, and wise parental guidance. Some all time favorites include Meet the Robinsons, Monster's Inc., Cars, and Lilo and Stitch.

Have you seen the movie? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Today, I'm featuring a CA-based coffee roaster known for their commitment to Directly Traded, relational coffee buying practices. In their words:

"The Farmlevel Initiative is vital to the future of coffee. At Farmlevel, it shows farmers that their work matters, their attention to detail is noticed, and that we support them every step of the way. It supports paying our farmers premiums for quality coffees through direct trade relationships. Our direct trade practice allows us to exceed Fair Trade minimums every time, no exceptions."

You can find Verve coffee at several cafe locations around the Oakland area. In the meantime, check out their informative website to learn more about what it means to support Directly Traded Coffee, "Farmlevel" coffee.

(Please do not assume this post to be reflective of the thoughts or philosophies of the above featured shop. Thanks for joining me, friends!)

"And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
-Jesus replied with the Story of the Good Samaritan.

On Being Human

It’s so easy to fall into the temptation of wanting to “have it all together.” I literally cannot count how many times I’ve wanted to be in a different stage of life, a different place geographically, to have a career that I loved, or to have more time with friends because I felt lonely. I can’t count how many days I spent wishing I was just…happier.

The reality however, is that we’re not meant to be happy all the time. There are times of struggling, wrestling, and scrapping just to get through the day. This reality is part of what makes us fully human. Accepting where we are, and seeking to be fully present in our trials instead and fighting to do anything we can to move past them is what makes us present—it’s what gives us contentment in life. Trusting that where we are is where we’re meant to be, that no one else could take our place, is part of the pilgrimage.

The difficult days and months and years are part of the beauty of being human.

When I look into the past, I don’t regret the poor decisions I made because of course, they are a part of what made me who I am now and who I will be in the future. The only things I regret are the times I wasted any energy on wishing I was somewhere else, which quite honestly takes up a good portion of my history.

It was so important for me to learn to accept when it was time to hustle and when it was time to surrender. It can be so good and necessary to persevere to reach our dreams and goals, but it can also be terribly detrimental when those goals were never meant for us. For five years, I applied for hundreds of dream jobs and masters programs, wanting desperately to be more valuable than I believed I was at the time. Though my fight was fruitless, it wasn’t fruitless because I didn’t get one of those jobs or funding to go back to school. It was fruitless because it’s not where I was meant to bear fruit. I’m grateful now to know that even if I’m in a place and space that doesn’t meet all my desires, it’s more fruitful to surrender than to do whatever I can to be somewhere else--in an ideal land I’ve imagined should be my reality.

I'm so excited for this Oakland Coffee Roaster to setup their cafe at their roasting site in Fruitvale. Being fully present for their employees, those they are mentoring in other ways than in being baristas, is incredibly inspiring and their presence in the Oakland community is a sweet gift and blessing. Check out their site for all the locations you can get their beans.

Red Bay Coffee Roasters // 3098 E 10th St // Oakland

Also, check out their Facebook Page

(Please do not assume that this post reflects the thoughts or philosophies of the above featured shop. Thanks for joining me!)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
-A letter from Paul to the Roman followers of Jesus

Intimidation // Featuring Blue Bottle

Intimidation is one of those aspects of life that we humans tend to sort of...make up. It's one of those areas that dwells more in our heads than in our reality. Through personal experiences and conversations, assumptions are made on the part of the one feeling indimidated, and sadly lives out in our actions, holding us back from the fullness of life that we could otherwise experience.

This is the feeling that washed over me when I first walked into the sun-filled, historic, W.C. Morse building--home to one of two Oakland Blue Bottle Cafes. Knowing already of its immaculate reputation as a coffee roaster, due to their presence on the east coast, I immediatly assumed a lot on the situation before I even entered their doors.  

 Photo from @bluebottle coffee. Link on image

Photo from @bluebottle coffee. Link on image

Knowledge can be a dangerous thing. One can handle their own knowledge with love and care, or conversely with power and conceit. I, admittedly, assumed the latter on the part of those who facilitate the inner workings of Blue Bottle. Initially, too intimidated to even begin asking quesitons about their Coffee Machine Repair shop or their experience of becoming a nationally-recognized coffee roaster, I simply ordered a coffee sampler (I'm always a sucker for samplers), and sat down.  

Realizing quickly my own pride and timidity by not engaging my barista, I decided--fearful or not, to revise my approach upon retrieving my order. And of course, when I did, my original assumptions of those of Blue Bottle were completely innacurate.  

When I decided to ask about the crazy-lookinig machine sitting in the window, which sat completely unfamiliar to my untrained eye, the woman was so warm and friendly, happy to tell me about their Cold Brewing process. 

Like a piece of art, the tall, what I would describe as "Swirly-gig," glass contraption brews the coffee for nothing short of 11 hours. Referred to as "OJ," the outcome is smooth and delicious. This drink could be the child of none other than the highly informed, happy to discuss, makers and coffee artists of the Blue Bottle.

It's in moments like these that I've learned the value of overcoming fear for the sake of human connections. After all, what's the worst that could happen, really?

For other locations and info, please visit bluebottlecoffee.net

4270 Broadway // Oakland, CA

#Momlife // Featuring Zocalo Coffeehouse

Since having my daughter a year ago, I have learned that being a mom to our little girl is no easy task. Nothing and no one in life had me pressing the pause button so many times in a given day. In fact, my own apathy was probably the only real contender when it came to hitting "Save Draft" in the years before my daughter's arrival.

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After college, I didn't get a career doing anything particularly life changing and I never got hired for a job that required much sacrifice or passion. In time, this is something I came to appreciate about my places of employment; I liked the fact that my job could stay there when I clocked out and I could focus my energy on the other areas of my life.

And then came motherhood...

I'm writing about this new life as a mom for one main reason: there are some moments in life when I just have to make something--make anything--happen for the sake of my own identity. In these moments, I know I'm not going to change the world or even anyone's day, but just sticking it out has to be enough sometimes. Persevering for the sake of passion seems like a worthwhile move, so here I am.

I'm a woman full of passion, a dreamer--perhaps even an idealist. Being a parent is hard. I don't end everyday feeling like I've accomplished something great, and I don't even like it all the time. It's not a job: I don't have to answer to a boss when I'm late or when my shirt is wrinkled, but it is hard work. It is one of the few things in life that requires intentionality, even when I don't feel like giving it my all. It requires much patience, grace, and the willingness to press hold many times in a given day.

So for now, these are my thoughts. This is my effort to do something to make the world more beautiful today in a way that speaks to who I am as a person--not as a mom, but as a creative woman wanting to add to the beauty of every day life.

For the other mama's and papa's out there, I'm intensely grateful for this little toddler haven:

Zocalo Coffeehouse | 645 Bancroft Ave San Leandro, CA, 94577

Thanks for joining me,

B.G. Cook