Seattle, Washington, United States
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lost, Shoes, Mirrors

First order of business this week is, of course, the new look. In honor of 2011 (can you tell I'm excited for a new year?), I've changed everything up. So enjoy that, Coffee Lovers.

This week I started watching the hit TV show Lost. I'm a little late to be jumping on the bandwagon, but I'm doing it anyway. I'm, officially, an addict. The intrigue, the subplots, the mystery - the show has reeled me in completely. But the one thing that has me astounded more than anything else is the characterization.

So far, every episode I've watched (the first nine) has been dedicated to the back story of a different character on the island. They all lead rather extraordinary lives. My favorite character, Sayid, for example, is an ex-member of the Iraqi Republican Guard. My other two favorite characters are Charlie and Sun - rock star and the daughter of a Korean dignitary, respectively.

As I watched all of these people's life stories unfurl on screen, I became increasingly doubtful. What are the chances, I was asking myself, that this many interesting people are on one plane together? I satisfied the answer to that question with: well, what are the chances they land on a semi-magical island that moves around in time and space and makes dead men put on gray suits and walk around in the jungle?

But I was thinking about it again while watching the eighth episode of the show for the second time. Sure, a large percentage of the people on this island lead very interesting lives and carry around very interesting pasts. But what is to say that isn't accurate? Are there really grounds to assume that the majority of people we run into at the grocery or drive past on the freeway or live next to in the neighborhood don't lead rather mind blowing lives? Are we right to even assume that we ourselves don't lead interesting existences?

I'm sure you all remember that old saying: You don't know a person unless you've walked in their shoes. It's a good one, no? But I think we should revise it to read: You don't know yourself until you've looked at yourself from the shoes of another person.

Our lives are not only our own. They are looked at, examined, thought about, pondered, watched , and judged by all of the people that live around us. And one person's opinion is not the same as another's. It's probably also worth pointing out that no one has a very accurate image of their life and how it compares to others. Let's not forget the other old saying: Familiarity breeds contempt.

We are all people of layers - people with pasts, mistakes forgotten, mistakes remembered, and personal triumphs. But sometimes we forget just how complex we are, and how incredible our lives must seem. Da Vinci wrote his journals in such a way that they could only be read in a mirror. In some ways, we are like that. We cannot read ourselves back until we are held up to a mirror and given the opportunity to decode our own backwards handwriting.

Next time your coffee gets to be feeling a little watered down, I recommend looking at yourself critically and asking: What do others see?

The answer to that question would probably shock you.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sunday Sip: As the Year Comes to a Close...

Christmas is officially over, and as the year comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the people who have made this year so incredible for me. Thanks to all of you for your surprises, your support, your jokes, your laughter (at my dumb jokes) and your loyalty as friends and family members. I'm looking forward to yet another year of coffee, fun, and big adventures.


Join me for a cup.
-Michael

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Gift of Coffee and The Season

First off, let me apologize. I have had a very hectic few weeks and there has been a lot going on during my Sundays. The Sunday Sip will be back this week. Sorry about the informal hiatus!

But, anyway, today I will be talking about something that I read this week. In fact, it was a comment on last week's blog post (entitled "Five Dollars Well Spent") that read:
I like that entry quite a bit because I know how you feel about Christmas.
Quite well, actually. So I want you to view it from an outsiders perspective. I
know how you sometimes feel about the human race and would like you to take a
moment and think about what you did for her. Is that why we have the pc holiday
month? So that there are more opportunities for things like this? That's human
spirit. Now I have shared my thoughtfulness with you.

This comment was written by my near and dear friend Kat. And it stopped me for a second. If any of you know me well, you know that (though I do occasionally fail in this regard) being politically correct is on the top of my Must Do List. I see no reason for political incorrectness as it is, quite often, the word we attach to a blatantly rude or improperly slanted comments. Nevertheless, I seemed to take a negative tone about the PC Holiday Month last week. And now I find myself corrected.

Kathryn, I have to agree with you. That is why we have the PC Holiday Month. Under the guise of simple, festive generosity, we open up our hearts for one month of the year. And we touch all of these people, regardless of religion or holiday.

I got in an argument with someone a few weeks ago about whether or not it is acceptable for President Obama to throw a Hanukkah party. This person was of the mind that it was an egregious waste of money. I thought (especially since the party is part of the president's budget) that it was a wonderful gesture. All we hear around December is Christmas, Christmas, Christmas! I celebrate Christmas, but why can't I extend myself? Why can't I wish someone a Happy Hanukkah or a Happy Diwali or a Happy Yule?

It is in these simple words and small gifts that we build bridges. Every since man woke up and became aware of himself, human beings have tried to separate themselves from other human beings. They make excuses like nationality, religion, race, ethics, and so on to justify this rejection of our common human experience.

And yet we find ourselves with the Politically Correct Holiday Month which is nothing more than an excuse to make someone feel loved and appreciated regardless of whether they fast for Ramadan, light candles of Hanukkah, burn wishes for Yule, decorate their homes for Kwanzaa, light lamps for Diwali or sing hymns for Christmas.

They call it the Christmas spirit, but really it's just the human spirit. My mom was in Starbucks last week, and a man held the door for her. So she bought his coffee for him. And he bought coffee for the next person. And they bought coffee for the next person and it continued until my mom had witnessed fourteen coffees bought for fourteen different people. Maybe it was their good deed for the year or maybe they thought Santa was watching.

But I think its safe to say that they just wanted to give the gift of coffee and The Season to someone.

Happy Holidays, Coffee Lovers. May your peppermint mochas be strong, your families joyful, and your homes bright and warm.
-Michael

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Five Dollars Well Spent

I trust you've all had a very festive week, Coffee Lovers. It seems like Christmas comes knocking and the entire universe goes topsy-turvy without nary a complaint. We all get swept up (if you will) in the spirit of the holidays.

Well, I have a confession. I think the red, the green, the snowmen, the reindeer, the Advent calendars, and peppermint bark are ridiculous. I've never been a huge fan. America has single-handedly turned the Twelve Days of Christmas into the Entire Month of the Politically Correct Holidays. Anyone who has ever spent time with me inside of a mall in December knows that my dearest wish is that we would just celebrate Christmas the way we celebrate Thanksgiving - one day of prep, maybe a bit of shopping, it comes, it goes, we're done.

But I got my miserly, overly-Scrooged heart warmed today. Maybe I don't love the unnecessary pomp, but I do love giving gifts. So today I brought a gift to a teacher who may have one of the hardest jobs on the face of the earth. I told her I had a present for her as I started digging around in my backpack. I looked up, shocked, to see that she had tears in her eyes. She looked like she was about ready to look behind her, as if maybe her more-deserving-identical twin was standing just over her left shoulder. But, of course, she has no twin. And there are few people I know more deserving.

So she took her gift, choked up, and told me that it would be a permanent fixture in her family's home. I left her classroom not so much smiling as beaming. It was the first time, in a December filled with Santa commercials and Christmas carols, that I'd felt any sort of holiday spirit. And it was so nice to know that someone's day was made because I took the effort to bring them a five dollar gift.

And isn't that the point of the whole holiday? We don't have to spend a lot to make it worth while. It's easy to associate December with blow-out sales and elves. But this year I will associate December with the image of a very tired woman who teared up because someone brought her a gift.

Go give, go receive, go carol - for tis the season, Coffee Lovers.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Pursuers

Today, Coffee Lovers, I would like to talk about a topic that is very near and dear to me. That topic is ambition.

We all have it. Ambition is the drive to succeed. It is, in essence, everything - EVERYTHING - that the United States believes in. "...that among these are the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." That's our country in a nutshell - the pursuers. That's what we do. We pursue.

Now whether or not we are pursuing happiness or not is debatable. Americans - humans, for that matter - pursue because that is part of our nature. We were not made to sit around and wait for success to come to us. For every person huddling in a cave around a fire (circa 6,000 B.C.) there were two others out gathering more firewood. And so the legacy of - not only America - but the world was begun: with firewood.

And, oh, how we've built up that legacy! Firewood has been replaced with silicon chips and skyscrapers. We don't trade furs anymore (well, some of the Canadians still do). Now, we buy and sell entire companies, complete with thousands of human employees. We are the ultimate consumers and also the ultimate pursuers. We, the modern Human Race, pursue success to the breaking point. We grab it up and hold it so tightly that there is no chance for it to escape.

And there is nothing wrong with that. By succeeding you are doing precisely what nature intended you to do. I'm not saying that you should abandon ethics or morality in favor of success. But you should not abandon success because it feels wrong to do well.

There's another side to ambition that we don't give very much credit to. Every person who has ever gone out into the proverbial wilderness to burn their proverbial firewood has gotten weary from the trek. There are plenty who question the wisdom of setting out into the dark woods at all. They are right to question. The dark woods are not a guarantee. They are dangerous. The cave is guaranteed safety, blissful mediocrity, a risk-free lifestyle. But I promise you that you did not grow up thinking: "Goodness me! I hope I never do anything worth remembering when I get older!" And that - that doubt or that weariness - is why there is a second part to ambition. The second part to ambition is the person who looks at you and says: "Yes."

When I was in fourth grade, I sat my dad down in the family office and laid out a very simple storyline. And then I said: "I'm going to write a book, Dad."

And my father answered: "Okay."

That was all I needed. I've run on that four letter word for years now, as I wrote, scrapped, edited, tore my hair out, quite, restarted, started something new, tried a new style, and came to the edge of really giving up. I have come to that point where I'm ready to just stop writing many times.

But then I remember that my father looked at a ten year old with an idea (that has, by the way, been put on serious hold) and told him, without hesitation, "Okay." And he meant it, too. That's what's really important to me. My father didn't just want to encourage me. He believed in me.

My cousin, Alexandra, invented something this year. She and I sat down a few weeks ago and were discussing this very thing: ambition. And she told me something that rang very true with all of my memories of my home-life: "We were raised in an environment where we were told that we could do anything. And they meant it when they said it."

Boy, they sure did.

So go out and be ambitious this week, Coffee Lovers. That tool could be manufactured in China sooner than you think; that novel is only an opening sentence away from existing.

Your dreams are not up in the stars you're shooting for. They're all around you in the form of opportunities. And you can just say "Okay" at any time. And - for goodness sake! - support someone with a good idea. They may get tired along the way.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Sip: A Dedication

This week's Sunday Sip is a dedication to a group of people who matter to me quite a lot. And that group of people is you all, Coffee Lovers. This started as a blog for me. Then it was a blog for you. Now, it is a blog for us. And that is something special to me. The relationship that I feel between all of us - that is why I keep blogging (yes, even when I have to blog at 1:30 in the morning). This has been on my mind to tell you all for the last few weeks.

You guys make it worth while!

Join me for a cup.
-Michael

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Go Light Up Some People

Salutations, Coffee Lovers.

I heard a sad theory this week. Someone told me that, in their experience and opinion, the majority - the vast majority, in fact - of people are sad. I mulled it over. I watched people this week, just to see if they really are sad.

I desperately wanted to prove this theorist wrong. But as I watched people in the grocery store, in Starbucks, at school, and out on the street, I couldn't help noticing a surprising number of people who looked sort of miserable. Don't me wrong, they didn't want anyone to notice that they looked miserable. In fact, the people with the saddest eyes, looked the most put together.

It scared me. It really did. I know what sadness feels like. We all do. But the idea that there are people who are sad all the time is alarming. Sadness is like a tricky man with many faces who sidles down next to you and, ever so slowly, convinces you that this new feeling is perfectly normal.

Then I started watching my Facebook friends and the people that I follow on Twitter. So many of them were overly enthusiastic about...nothing. And it made me think of another word besides sadness: distraction. Is it possible - humor me for just a second - that television shows, songs, video games, chat rooms, and social networks don't really make us happy (though we claim that they do). Is it possible that all they really do is distract us from our own sadness?

I think it's not only possible, but highly likely.

The kind of sadness I'm talking about isn't the kind that crushes you unexpectedly when a tragedy occurs. That is sorrow or despair. That is a wound that promises to never fully heal. This sadness isn't even a wound. You can't express it to someone because there is no blood to show them. There is just a dull, beating, thumping ache that fills you up. It's nothing like crippling depression. No. You function just fine. You get up in the morning, you get ready, you put on your clothes, you do you daily activities, and you distract yourself. In fact, you may distract yourself so well that no one - including you - knows that you are sad. That's a mighty great trick, eh?

This isn't everyone. But it's a lot of people. So I guess, wise theorist, you were right. A lot of people are sad. Not in pain, not in despair, nor in unbearable agony. Just slow, bearable sadness.

I'm sorry to be so gloomy this week. I don't mean to depress all of you. In fact, my final message is a very positive one. And it is this: you may not know who is sad. You may not even know if you are sad. So find your joy. Let it fill you up until it's sloshing over the top of your proverbial cup. And when that coffee (ahem) - I mean joy - is splashing on the ground, go light up some people. Make them smile. Make them remember what it was like to be a glowing, untainted child who laughed at the drop of hat.




Whether you agree with the wise theorist or not (and it's a totally valid opinion to believe that the majority of people are happy), go brightensomeone's day. And don't forget to brighten your own day too, okay?


May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sunday Sip: In the Spirit of Thanksgiving. . .

I heard it said once that Thanksgiving is the only day that Americans devote to pure pleasure, the only day that we over-stressed, over-committed workaholics devote to simply enjoying ourselves (for no apparent reason other than we want to be thankful). So, Coffee Lovers, this Sunday I'm hoping we can start trying to preserve that feeling of pleasure and thankfulness all year long, because life doesn't have to be a to-do list!

Join me for a cup.
-Michael

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beautiful, Passionate, Meaningful, Magical Music

A few weeks ago I discovered an incredible band. They are called Florence and The Machine. Not only does Florence sing beautifully and have a completely original sound, but she writes lyrics like a Victorian poet writes verse.

Anyway, I started listening to Florence and fell more and more in love with the beautiful music that she creates. So today I went out and bought her CD (Lungs), put it into my mom's car, and started dancing in the passenger's seat to such beautiful, passionate, meaningful, magical music that I wanted to scream myself silly.

So we are on paragraph three and you're probably wondering by now why I'm telling you about lovely, talented Florence. And the answer to that question is this: Florence and The Machine embodies everything I am thankful for about modern culture.

People seem to think that the golden age of art, music, theatre, and literature is gone. They think that sometime around 1990 all of America and Europe's pop culture and popular art became caddy and pointless. People seem to think we respect sex, drugs, and Hummers more than we respect passion, soul, and language. I am here to tell you that is INCORRECT.

Florence and The Machine were nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for their incredible hit "Dog Days are Over". The world heard that song and, quite suddenly, the world was very excited. Florence was then featured on Saturday Night Live and The Ellen Show, performing with incredible gusto.

Florence won her way to stardom without autotune, electronic beats, or gangster rap. Florence won her way to stardom because of her words, her messages, her originality, the sheer QUALITY of her art (and the British accent probably helped).

The more I thought about Florence, the more I thought about my favorite bands. They are all bands who understand that art is still art. Just because we call Kanye West an artist, doesn't mean that The Decemberists (an incredible band from Portland. They are my favorite band, in fact. Their lead singer/songwriter, Colin, is a creative writing major) aren't to be respected.

Look at modern culture. People think we don't believe in anything but sex and dance beats, but the world published 336,814 books in 2008. Our modern culture produces new and incredible authors, poets, singers, dancers, playwrights, actors, screenwriters, painters, sculptors, directors, producers, and composers every year.

So I guess I'm saying that I'm thankful (this Thanksgiving, and every single day) that my generation's art isn't "crap" and we aren't "shallow." Or, at least, Florence doesn't think we are.

Happy Thanksgiving, Coffee Lovers!

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

Monday, November 22, 2010

Whose Woods These Are...

I know you all know this poem (quite well), but I can't think of a better collection of lines for today's weather (and tomorrow's snow day!). By the way - this is the third poem I ever chose to memorize.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
--Robert Frost
"Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening"

Many thanks to my father for teaching me to love and respect Frost (or else).

Happy Snow Day, Coffee Lovers!

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Sip: HELP

We are in a serious decline, Coffee Lovers. Looking at our stats over the past month, we have consistently lost more and more views and readers each week. I hope this has nothing to do with me! But for this Sunday Sip I'm asking for your guys' help. Tell EVERYONE you know about us here at http://strongercoffee.blogspot.com! Pass the Java around.

Join me for a cup.
-Michael

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Generation of Dancers. . . .

"We are raising a generation of dancers." --Harry S. Truman

After a particularly long day and evening, I put on "Human" by a little band that calls itself The Killers. The song asks a simple, yet cryptic, question:

Are we human?
Or are we dancers?

I was surprised to find out that the song was based on the above quote by Truman. He thought the same thing The Killers think - there is a slight possibility that, instead of being humans, we are dancers.

And someone please tell me: What does that mean?

So I got to thinking about it. Even as I write this I am listening to "Human" and stewing on the question.

We are in a new era of America, of the English language, of technology, of information, of interaction - this is a new world. And we are dancing across it. Our lives have become, now more than ever, like a performance on a stage. And we dance across that stage - striking, sexy, powerful, captivating - without saying a single word. We don't articulate, we move. We are busy, we are running, we are fighting to be seen, to be noticed, to be loved, to be adored,


TO BE WATCHED.


What do all of us really want beyond being watched? We are our own idols, made to be looked at, prayed to, made to gather a cult-following. But that's pop culture for you, right?

I've always found dance to be an irresistible art form. There is something primitive, real, human about it. It is movement, it is harmony. It doesn't require lots of thought or listening, it requires feeling and believing. And what do humans do better than feel and believe?

So, is it so wrong that we love to be watched? Why would we dance for an empty theatre? Getting caught up in the music, being human - that's fine with me.
The Killers' chorus goes on to say:
"And I'm on my knees looking for the answer:
Are we human or are we dancers?"

I'm on my knees thanking God that I am a dancer. Because what is more human than that?


May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.

-Michael





Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Sip: "Lua" by Bright Eyes

I'm going to do something I have never done before on Stronger Coffee. I'd like to share someone else's art with you. The following song has been one of my favorites for a very long time, but I can't listen to it very often simply because it's so emotionally powerful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aZh261KZWI

Join me for a cup.
-Michael

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Duality of Beauty

As you may have noticed, Coffee Lovers, we have a whole new look here at Stronger Coffee. It's pretty exciting (in my opinion), and I hope I don't get sued for using this fantastic picture of a man in the rain.

In keeping with new appearances, I'd like to talk today about presentation. They say (don't they?) that it's nine-tenths of the law. Why is that? Why would we peg a whole nine of the tenths of our law on how we look?

Everybody is a dual being. Our duality is the key to our humanity. There is an "inside" and an "outside" to everyone (even those people with the emotional depth of a teaspoon). The inside is, of course, more important. But to ignore the outside (and the relationship between the two) is a serious crime of ignorance.


To be perfectly honest, I'm rather vain, but I don't respect vanity. I think it's a commonly accepted form of extreme arrogance. However, I do believe that we should foster a healthy relationship between both sides of ourselves. My inside can be great, but if I only shower once a week, how can I hope to connect to other people? I can look stunning, but if none of that "stunning-ness" has seeped through to the thoughts I'm thinking and the words I'm saying, why even try to connect with people?

I'm not saying we should judge on appearance. That is, in fact, the opposite of what I want to communicate. A lot of words and paper are used every year to draw attention to eating disorders and insecurities in our culture. What if (humor me for a second) we stopped writing about being lovely and beautiful just the way you are. What if, instead, we wrote:

Sure, you may hate yourself now. But remember, in a few days, when you're
eating a slice of pizza (that you're undoubtedly going to punish yourself
for later) that you are the same after the pizza as you were before. You are the
same now as you will be tomorrow. You are the same as you were when you were
born. It's not about looking perfect. It's not about feeding that ego until
you feel perfect. It's about seeing both sides of yourself - the physical
and the spiritual/psychological - and saying, "Hell, I look like crap. Oh well.
I'm me."


So you see, life is a balancing act. So is blogging. If you logged onto this blog every Thursday or Sunday and saw a stark white screen with tiny black words, would you really want to stare at it long enough to take in what it's saying to you? Same if it was flashy and beautiful and I just talked about cats the whole time.

I didn't do so well last week. And, as always, the blog posts that weren't as great weren't read as widely. So I guess that means that, even if Stronger Coffee was in a gorgeous mug, you'd all still be here for the java.

Do me a favor this week: look great. But (but for God's sake!) don't forget to feel great.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Sip: Opportunity

It's so easy to say yes to opportunity. Why not?

Join me for a cup.
-Michael

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wishing for Sick Days?

First off, I'd like to take a quick moment to wish a slightly belated "Happy Birthday" to my grandpa, John Emery. I know I called you, but I thought I'd make it official, eh?

Anyway, today I'd like to blog about being sick. For some reason, when I'm not sick, being sick sounds like heaven. Staying home from school (if you're lucky), having a perfect excuse for being tired all the time, and that glorious sympathy - well, it all makes it seem rather fantastic, no?

But when you're actually sick?

There are very few things more irritating than sneezing (explosively) and coughing (painfully) every few seconds. Especially, when you've already skipped school several days in a row and you know you have to down a few doses of cold medicine and drag yourself to the infernal hall of mental cultivation. And, of course, you spend the entire day milking the illness for all its worth.

"Michael, are you sick?"
*Sniff* "Yeah. Really sick, to tell you the truth. But don't worry about it. I'll be fine, I'm sure..."
"Oh! You poor baby!"

It's so validating!

So why write to you about being sick today? Besides the fact that I am sick, I think it's funny the way we look at disabilities, obstacles, and handicaps when we're outside of them versus when we are battling them. We see a handicap and, often, all we really see in that handicap is what we could get out of it if we were "lucky" enough to be faced with it. I hope that sentence made sense, because it's an important one. We don't tend to grasp the negative of a negative situation until that situation is all about us.

Now I'm not saying that we wish we had cancer. I'm not saying you want oral surgery or Down Syndrome. But have you ever thought: How nice it would be if my legs didn't work and I could sit in a chair all day long? Sure, you don't really mean it; you're just tired of standing up. But isn't the thought - just the very thought - disrespectful to someone who wants nothing more than to walk on a beach?

I guess it's just something to think about.

Hope my rambling strengthened your coffee this week. Hopefully, I'll get my coffee up to snuff by the weekend.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Sip: The Make Believe

If you're one of those people who doesn't want to believe in magic, make today the exception. Of the 365 boring days we trudge through every year, we only devote one to the make believe. Don't waste that one day.

Happy Halloween!
-Michael

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blogging.

I've sat down at the computer several times this evening, infused with a familiar dread. I had absolutely nothing to write about. This has, of course, happened before. And the days when it happens tend to yield pretty weak entries. As such, I was, quite frankly, distraught.

But I've decided. Today I will blog about blogging.

What is it about sitting down to write my blog that is so satisfying? Addictive, in fact? And for those of you who read loyally, why do you do it? What possesses you to come to this website every Wednesday night, Thursday morning, or Sunday afternoon? I think I've found an answer.

Several friends of mine were recently in a play called Talking With... It became an instant favorite of mine after seeing it performed once. It is a series of eleven monologues delivered by eleven actresses playing eleven women from drastically different walks of life. In one of the monologues, the character talks about "lacerating self-exposure." It's funny in context, but the words carry a certain weight.

Isn't a blog really just that? If the blogger allows it to be - and I'd like to think I do - a blog is perfect, lacerating self-exposure. My thoughts, feelings, and perceptions are put out plain and bare for you each week. You consume them and send them back to me in the form of gratifying thanks, Facebook "likes" and esteeming compliments.

So a blog, at its essence, is really a relationship. A close, personal, symbiotic, entertaining relationship.

Maybe that's why I feel you all so closely when I'm typing.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just for a Moment...

Just for a moment, I'd like to spontaneously share something with you. This poem, by one of the world's most infallible poets, taught me to love, write about, and believe in the autumn like children believe in Santa Claus. Don't you just adore it? Anyway, I just wanted to take a second to show you all what's on my mind as the leaves start drifting downward and the wind chaps our cheeks.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cell.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

-John Keats, 1819


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Stronger Coffee: Transcending

Be transcendental this week. Transcend the norm, the expected, the limitations.

Join me for a cup.
-Michael

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Free, Creative Circle

Rehearsals started for the new play I'm in at school this week. Let me be clear on something - I've rehearsed a lot in my life. Let me be clear on something else as well - I've never rehearsed the way our director, Mr. Knott (The Knottster), has us rehearsing.



He sits us in a circle, all of us - himself included. We look at each other for a moment and then he tells us to start reading a particular scene. And we do. Then we stop and he starts to ask us questions. We run through each and every tiny thought our characters have. We talk about emotions, what happend to them when they were four, who they love, who they wish they had an affair with, and a thousand other speculations we create on our own. Nothing is too out of the box. We create it, he okays it, we act with it.



What's funny about this question and answer, group reading technique is that it works better than any I've ever seen. We sat in amazement today as we read the same scene three times and, each time, the conversations we had inbetween led us to a piece of acting miles ahead of the read-through before. How does that happen?



I came home thinking about that. Wondering about it. We've all decided Mr. Knott's a wizard, so it's entirely possible we're just under a creative spell or he spiked our Arizona Iced Teas with an alchemical transformative of his own mysterious design. But I think I actually figured out the trick:



Mr. Knott gives us creative freedom.



Inside that circle, everything is real, potent, powerful, and absolutely free of pressure. Sometimes he tells us to repeat a line until we feel like we should move on. What we feel matters. What we want to express matters. That circle is sparking with the combination of a thousand brilliant character insights and creative back-stories, and we're free to make them up and throw them out there.



Verizon Wireless recently aired an ad that had a group of women and girls speaking the following lines:
Air has no prejuidice. It does not carry the opinons of a man faster than
those of a woman. It does not filter out an idea because I'm sixteen and not
thirty. Air is unaware if I'm black or white, and wouldn't care if it knew.
So
it stands to reason my ideas will be powerful if they are wise,
infectious, if
they are worthy. If my thoughts have flawless delivery, I
can
lead the army that
will follow.

Though the commercial was widely criticized, I loved it. I agreed with everything it said. And I'm willing to bet Mr. Knott would too. Here's why: Inside of that circle, that magical, dramatic circle, Mr. Knott creates nothing more than air. There are no stigmas, there are no expectations. This is what we do - we act. Nothing more. No fear, no embarassment. Just talent.

Imagine if we ran out world that way. What would it be like if the whole world was just air? If we didn't discriminate, dissapoint, or let down? What if we made everywhere, everything, everyone a free, creative circle for artistic expression. Imagine what we'd learn.

Imagine how our coffee would taste.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael



Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sunday Sip: Warmth

Sometimes it takes a song, a color, a smile, a fireplace, or a warm cup of coffee to bring you that rare, special warmth. I hope you go out and find that feeling this week. And, when it infuses you from blood to bone, grin, relax, and savor.

Join me for a cup.
-Michael

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thank You

There is no better feeling in the world than having a best friend. It is a bond - absolute and nearly-tangible - that pervades both the difficult and easy moments in time. It's comfort and solace - a rock to stand on.

I'm always surprised when I meet someone's best friend. I wonder (more often than not): How is it possible that these two people get along? And then I remember a conclusion I only recently came to. Everyone needs something different in a best friend. My best friend, for instance, keeps me grounded. She's one of the only people I know who doesn't let me take myself too seriously. And I need that sometimes (well, all the time).

I decided the write this today because I was sitting with said best friend on our swings tonight and it was on my mind. Three years ago we claimed a pair of swings as ours at a park near both of our houses. If we have to talk, laugh, rant, rave, dance, or sing, it's off to the park.

So, I guess I wrote this for Leah. Thank you for being the friend who knows when to tell me no, when to tell me yes, and when to just give me a hug. Your laughter, your advice, your spontaneity, and your loyalty over the past few years has been one of the best parts about waking up every morning.

You keep my coffee strong.

I wove wu.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Sip: Bullying

We've heard a lot about teenagers, suicide, and bullying in the last few months. How about we all learn to love, to support, and to understand. It's not too late for so many people out there.

Join me for a cup.
-Michael

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Plodding Forward and Starting Much too Fast

I started running again this week. Whew! It's funny, but when you laze around for eight months it's actually hard to get back into the flow of running. Go figure! Personally, I'm stunned.

I started the running week with an ambitious 55 minute run. Today's modest 37 minute run wasn't bad either. But when you're running for an extended period of time you don't have much to do except think and ponder over the mysteries of the universe. Which is lucky for you all because that's pretty much what I do here at Stronger Coffee.

We do so many things in our lives just so that we can feel like we're part of something. We want to be a part of a group, a sport, an activity, a club. Running isn't like that. I run alone just so that I can be part of nothing for a moment in time. For a singular span of minutes I can be simply a part of me and a part of the cement and a part of my shoes and the trail and my own sweat. I don't have to be one with a million other things that are vying for my attention. All I have to do is run.

It starts easy. It's always easy at the beginning (and that's true for everything, not just running). And I always start off much too fast. The strides are easy and the air is moving, seemingly of its own accord, in and out of my lungs. I am filled with the desire to move and there is a freedom - a sense of flight, even - to that movement.

Fast forward a few miles. I'm still moving with relative ease, but that sense of flight has all but flown out the window (pardon the pun). The air around me feels a little less inviting as it enters my lungs and there is a slight pain blooming in my side.

Fast forward a few more miles. The pain in my side has blossomed in all of its thorny glory. I keep running, breathing deeply, hoping to draw it right out on a gust of respiration. My breath is pouring now - in, out, in, out, in, out. The movement of my feet has gone from light touches on the cement to a thump, thump, thump. I'm plodding forward.

The strangest thing about that moment, for me anyways, is that, no matter how much it may hurt, walking is the most alien option of all. You don't want to stop. You can't stop. The very thought of stopping and walking along the trail makes you want to laugh. So you keep running, faster sometimes.

Fast forward to the last few miles. The pain in my side has either lightened or my mind has hardened. I'm still aware of it, stinging and aching. But it doesn't hurt me anymore. I feel it, but the feeling is disconnected. It's something known about but not experienced. Breathing has gone from a need to an inconvenience to a non-factor. Fatigue is waiting with each step, but it doesn't threaten my forward progress. I've shut down my body's STOP signals. Or, at least, I've stopped listening.

Like a good pot of java, your body's strong enough to take on any afternoon slump.

And, tomorrow, I'm running to Starbucks.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Sip: Dancing

Hey everybody! This is the first ever Sunday Sip! It's a short, one-to-two line entry that's just meant to sustain you from Blog Day to Blog Day. This explanation is already longer than a typical Sunday Sip entry. These are going to be easy reading. So here is the first-ever Sunday Sip:

Let loose, have fun, and dance like the whole world is watching. You deserve the attention.

Join me for a cup.
-Michael

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Leaps and Bounds

I don't have very much time to write today, but I thought I would leave you all with an interesting thought. I am a subscriber to The Boston Review, one of America's best known literary, political, and cultural journals. It comes every two months in a trusty paper format that harkens back to a time before People magazine and iPads. The Boston Review looks like a literary journal should look: you can actually tell it's made out of paper. The gods of Victorian Newsprint smile upon it with pride.

Or, at least, they did.

The Boston Review came this month no larger than an issue of Time (another great magazine, but with a completely different aim). It had a shiny cover and was bound like a perfect magazine. The promising rustle of paper was gone, and it was replaced by a silent, effortless leap into the future. Or, actually, into the now.

But that was part of BR's charm. It was never a part of the now! It was a part of the then! And look at the number of things that are becoming part of the then. Books, for instance, are caving to flashy words on screens (although, I must admit that I am in love with my Kindle). Apple decided the iPad could take the place of newspapers. We don't walk stairs, we use elevators. We don't take the time to make our coffee at the pot. Instead, we brew VIA at our desks or one-cup-thirty-second-single-brew-cups of coffee.

It's good. It's fast. But is it really strong? In a time when we can't even wait for our coffee (I'm just as guilty as you are) no wonder BR looks like People.

I guess the Victorian Newsprint gods have finally been laid to rest. And I think that's just sad enough to blog about.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

For more about The Boston Review (which is still a great magazine for all things American and academic) visit their website: http://www.bostonreview.net

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Finding Yourself in Your Stuff...or Pieces, Anyway

I was given an interesting assignment for Theology class this week. I was asked to write a paper on three different objects that could be found in my house. One object had to represent myself, one object had to represent my family, and one object had to represent my community of friends. I chose three different objects and wrote an overly dramatic paper about the importance of each one.

I was most interested by the object I chose for myself. While it accurately represents a large portion of my personality, it could not hope to capture my entire essence. It got me thinking: is there anything that could capture my entire essence? Or any one's entire essence for that matter?

If I were asked to pick an object to encapsulate..oh, I don't know...say - Lindsay Lohan - I might pick a court DUI summons. But what would Lindsay pick? If we asked her to be completely objective, honest, and realistic, what would she choose to represent her life? Would it be a shot glass, an intravenous drug needle, a copy of The Parent Trap? Or would it be a family photo, a necklace from her grandmother, the first script she fell in love with?

I don't mean to be rude to Ms. Lohan (who I'm rooting for one hundred percent). I simply want to illustrate the difference between what we see of a person and what a person sees of themselves. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see a person you're proud of? A person who lives up to all of the praise your friends give you? I hope you do.

Try picking an object that represents you. Look, think, ponder, and ask yourself what you want to represent in that object, because I promise you won't get your entire soul into it. Your coffee is too strong for that small of a cup.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

To get into the author's head just a little bit, visit: http://www.twitter.com/MichaelJAbraham

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In Memory of Cody

There is a sinking feeling that we, after much struggle and difficulty I'm sure, gave a horribly insufficient word to in the English language. We call that feeling sadness. Sometimes we call it loss. Sometimes it is death, cancer, sickness, disease, hunger, pain, depression... We've given a lot of insufficient words to that feeling.

A large portion of my friends lost someone today. His name was Cody. Their prayers for him have been swirling around in Heaven for a little week now, but obviously there were other things in store for Cody.

I never met Cody Botten. Strangely, I miss him. I miss him as if I'd run into him every day in the halls (I hadn't). I miss him as if I'd talked him outside of school sometimes or texted him on the weekends (I've never). I miss him as if I'd had the privilege of calling him friend. Unfortunately, that privilege was never mine. But the love and pain of my friends links me to Cody in a way it has linked hundreds of teenagers in the last week. People who've never seen his face or heard his name have prayed for him.

I was on Facebook, perusing my Home page, when The People You May Know button suggested Cody Botten. Eager to see if he was recovering (maybe his parents had gotten on), I clicked on his picture. I was met with a long list of comments wishing him well and telling him to rest in peace. One girl said: "We will all see you sooner or later in heaven Cody." All the thoughts begging for attention in my head fell silent when I read that.

Cody, if there's Internet access in Heaven, I'd like you to know that I prayed for you while you were fighting to recover. I'd also like you to know that I love you and miss you in that unique way a stranger can love and miss another stranger.

To families and friends of Cody, if you read this please know I am praying for you. I have tried my best to be respectful to Cody's memory in this post. For reasons of respect, I will not tell anyone that it is here. It will not appear on my Facebook wall or my Twitter. Others can find it if they are meant to.

In Memory of Cody Botten. May He Rest in Eternal Peace and Joy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Of Bloggers, Teenagers, and Forty-Somethings

This has been a fantastic week. It really has. But, unfortunately, I have had a nagging, buzzing need at the back of my head that won't let me be. I'm checking my ego enough to tell you all that the buzzing and nagging has been from a need to blog.

It made no sense to me for a while. Why should I want to blog? It's just writing, which I do plenty of every day. So why this type of writing? Why does a desire to sit down and make some Stronger Coffee with you all push and jostle me every time I see the computer? And then I had my answer.

Blogging is not just writing. When I work on my novel, or I write a short story, or I sit down and pen a poem, I am writing for myself, the page, and a possible, future audience. But a blog? A blog is immediate readership. The desire for readership has nothing to do with vanity and everything to do with an inherent, driving, instinctive need to express.

Bloggers, though they may pretend to be, are not a unique breed of people. Bloggers (and this is what makes their blogs so fascinating anyway) are nothing more than ordinary people with thoughts to share. They want to say what they feel and what they think. They want to be heard and understood in a different kind of way.

I always hear adults rant against text messages, IMs, and emails because (ahem) "One day you kids won't know how to communicate with each other." In my ever-so-humble, fifteen year old opinion that is very far from the truth. If anything, our generation suffers from a malady that can only be called Overcommunication. Just because me and Person X aren't staring at each other, face-to-face, as we speak, does not mean that we are not generating true, meaningful, powerful ideas.

I hear that teenagers are - as if we are a race set unto ourselves - shallow as kiddy-pools and maybe puddles. That, too, is a lie. We know what is happening in DC; we have opinions on mosques near Ground Zero; we each think different things about President Obama for different reasons; we have stories to tell and thoughts to share; we have love to express and hatred to vent; in fact, we may have just as much magic in our words as any college educated forty-something.

Teenage? Author? Blogger? Journalist? Politician? Saint? Charlatan? Clown? King? It doesn't matter what we are. We all have a nagging, buzzing need to speak.

And we all have a nagging, buzzing need to be listened to.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

For more about the author visit: http://twitter.com/MichaelJAbraham

Friday, September 3, 2010

Gentle Intensity

Hey everyone! My blog post from yesterday somewhat reflects the strange mood I was in. Good news for you all: I'm back to normal! I have a really great thought for you guys today. And, yes, I know it isn't Thursday. But I feel I have to make up for the macabre with the positive.

I had an interesting epiphany today while listening to the song "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" by one of my favorite bands of all time: Iron & Wine. Iron & Wine is an incredible experiment in the power of lyrics, moods, and soft voices. They are one of the gentlest artists I can think of, but they are also some of the most intense.

When I think of intensity, my immediate picture is athletics. That is a pretty common description of intensity. Heck, what's more intense than the defensive line of a football team (no, I don't have personal experience with this kind of thing, but my brother plays)? And yet, there is something so much more intense about Sam Bean's (Iron & Wine) voice than any amount of yelling or screaming. Just go listen to his song "Jezebel", "Boy With a Coin" or "Bird Stealing Bread" and you'll completely understand what I mean.

Then I started to think of other things that were gently intense. I came up with the hug of a parent, the smile of a stranger, the kind words of a friend who's there when you really need them. I thought of the soft, laughing intensity of a Starbucks run with a kindred spirit or the smiles of a family around the dinner table. Love is gentle. But what is more intense than love? I'll let you answer that one for yourself.

I'm told love can move mountains. I don't believe that. I believe that love can shatter mountains. (Hopefully a coffee farm will grow up in the mountain's place).

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

For more about the author, visit: http://twitter.com/MichaelJAbraham

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Just Something to Ponder...

Why are we fascinated with the things that we fear? I'm terrified of clowns, for instance, but, at the same time, incredibly intrigued by them. Why is that?

The idea of our inherent fascinations with our fears crossed my mind today because of the lesson I received in English class. We were analyzing a song and its music video to understand the arguments it is making to us as well as the deeper meaning of both. The song is about a particularly poignant suicide, and it was plain that we were all a bit entranced by it.

Death is man's natural fear. Most everything that we fear, the irrational fears and the legitimate ones as well, whittle down to death in the end. And what death is more frightening than suicide? None. Why is it so frightening to us? Simply because it is a choice we could make at any moment. And yet, we are obsessed with it. Look at the number of novelists, poets, lyricists, directors, playwrights, and common, ordinary people who have been taken by a chilling obsession with the dark. It's a pretty interesting insight into the more hidden parts of our minds, isn't it?

By the way, the song is titled "Televators" and it is by The Mars Volta. It is from their album De-Loused in the Comatorium. Listen to the song, watch the video, and then read the back story. You might be just a little bit entranced yourself.

Sorry I was so brief today. It was more of a thought (a slightly macabre thought) than an entry. It may not have strengthened your coffee, but listen to the song and watch the video - because they probably will.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

To learn more about the author visit: http://twitter.com/MichaelJAbraham

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's Where you are, How you are, and When you are

I started school today. I'm changing high schools as a Sophomore from a campus with all of my friends to one where I know three people. And I learned quite a few things today about standing alone.

My mom drove me to school early in the morning, which was a drag because summer really should last until after Labor Day. I felt calm, cool, and collected. That is, I felt calm, cool, and collected until we drove into the main parking lot. My heart started hammering in my chest and an uncomfortable sensation of adrenaline ran coursing through all of my limbs. I smiled weakly, stood up straight and walked up the hill and the steps into the school building.

Upon reaching the social setting of early morning, I think I almost had a panic attack. There were eight hundred highschoolers all hugging and laughing after their summer breaks away from each other. I passed the twenty minutes before the first bell as well as I could, trying to stay either out of sight or connecting with the few people I knew. Meeting new people, though my goal, was a daunting impossibility at this point.

I stepped into Mentor (Homeroom) and immediately saw Judy, a girl I had met the day before at orientation. She's a transfer student from Taiwan and must be one of the sweetest people I've met in a long time. I smiled and talked to her for a while, and then my Mentor group began to file in. I smiled as familiar faces - far more than I expected - stepped through the door. I met four new people that period, all friendly.

Then came first period drama. Immediately, I felt more at home. Drama - my element. It ended up being a lot of laughing and a half-hour of ridiculous, hilarious improv games. I walked out of that class with three more new nearly-friends and entered the second most daunting part of my day: Morning Break. Here was the entire high school once again, but this time in nothing more than a brief respite from the day's classes. That should have frozen me solid. The social undercurrents of Morning Break are about twice the intensity of Lunch...and that's saying something.

I made it through. There were a few awkward moments (three that I can think of), but I made it through. And once again, I walked away having met four new friends, and I re-met a friend from several years back. I'd forgotten I'd lost her, and she'd forgotten all about me. And there we were, mashed together during Break by someone I hardly knew. Guess that's the first day of school for ya.

The next few periods of the day went really well. By now I felt like I'd conquered the hardest parts of the day. So I smiled and introduced myself to people. That was a relief - it was good to have people who genuinely wanted to meet me.

I looked toward lunch with a mixture of curiosity and also with the feeling of sitting and waiting for impending doom. I bought my lunch and stood frozen for thirty seconds with absolutely no idea what to do. Then I made a decision. I walked up to two strangers sitting outside, jumped up beside them and told them: "My name's Michael. I'm aggressively friendly. I think I'll eat lunch with you guys." I figured if I said it fast enough it wouldn't sound that stupid. Thank God they laughed. I mean THANK GOD.

I met a whole group of friends at lunch and spent time with a long-time friend of mine. The rest of the day? Smooth sailing.

But it was those handful of awkward, horrifying, terrible, plain evil moments of standing alone that I hated the most. It hit me, later, at the grocery store that standing alone is not what's awkward. It all involves where you're standing. Then it's how you're feeling. And then there's when you are standing there.

Where is a big deal. Standing in a grocery store your mother practically raised you in is different than standing alone, surrounded by highschoolers at morning Break.

How is also a big deal. Standing next to the deli, slightly bored and slightly annoyed at your mom for disappearing somewhere around the produce is a very laid back emotion. Frozen by social pressure? Completely different.

When? Now when is important. Lunch time? There's a when for you. It's scary to be in the wrong "whens". Waiting for Mom in the grocery store? That's not really a when.

Today was a really strong, really hot cup of coffee. I was worried it wouldn't be drinkable. But it was.

Can't wait to go back tomorrow morning.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

For more about the author (and Stronger Coffee!) visit: http://twitter.com/MichaelJAbraham

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sidewalk Revelations

I spent a lot of time walking today. It was seventy degrees outside, and in my black t-shirt, tight-ish gray jeans, disintegrating fabric tennis shoes, and hipster leather bracelet, I felt purely, ridiculously teenage. And that's okay with me.

People used to always tell me I was born thirty years old. If that's true, I hope I've aged backwards in the last fifteen years, because, frankly, I like where I'm at. I'm writing, I'm laughing, I'm having fun, I'm drinking coffee, and I'm being a kid. And there is no shame in that. At least, not anymore. I used to think I had to insert myself into every "mature" situation I could. That, my friends, is the sign of an insecure child looking for a place in the world. Thank God I've moved past that stage.

There was one thing I never understood about my mother. While I died with joy the first time I sat at the adult table on Christmas Eve, she never moved from a proud spot at the little kid's table. Now I know why. There is nothing to be gained at the adult table that can't be gained, in a different way, at the kid's table. Kids are kids, adults are adults, and we're all just people - people with our own passions, views, loves, hates, and quirks.

This hit me while I was walking along the sidewalk and thinking about how the "grown-ups" (who are really just teenagers with mortages) must view me. With a Starbucks bag in one hand and a cell phone in the other, I probably screamed high school. I hope I screamed high school. There's no more running from where I'm at and who I am. Yes, this may seem like a profound statement of the obvious, but I'm fifteen. And I'm not going to be thirty for another lifetime.

Funny, isn't it: how you think when you're on display. Or just when you're on a sidewalk.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

To learn more about the author, visit: http://twitter.com/MichaelJAbraham

A Whole New, Even Stronger Coffee!

Hello, everybody! And by that, I mean: Hello, one to four semi-regular, kind-of readers. I'm going to be making some changes to Stronger Coffee. First off, it will only exist here, on this site. The tumblr blog will be notified, and changed to something completely different (I hope).

I will also be linking Stronger Coffee more closely with twitter.com. I will provide a link at the end of every entry to my Twitter Profile, and my Followers on Twitter will be hearing a lot about Stronger Coffee in the weeks to come.

In an effort to normalize this big exploration on life, I will be posting on a regular schedule (finally!). I am confident that I will be able to keep to it (don't blame me if I can't). From now on, there will (probably) be a new post every Thursday morning. Please keep reading!

And, lastly, tell your friends, your Facebook friends, your Followers, your family, your disciples, your pastors, your rabbis, your president, your favorite So You Think You Can Dance contestant, and anybody else you can think of that we exist right here at: http://strongercoffee.blogspot.com

Thank you guys for being the best one to four semi-regular, kind-of readers in all of cyber-space.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

To learn more about the author, visit: http://twitter.com/MJ_Cheshire

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Silence

I realized something today. We are considered wrong when we are quiet. It is not until we speak that we are understood, and that is a sad, sad thing. From our first moment of life we are crying out for air and sound and the ability to create more disturbance. We are told to reach for the stars, upset the apple cart, forge a path - to make noise. We are told that we will never be understood if we are the strange, quiet kid who sits at a table by themselves and reads at lunch. Our parents balk at that possibility, and they are even more frightened by the idea that we would sit and read nothing, that we would sit in silence and simply stare off into space. That is torture to most people, because most people do not understand that we do not cease communication when we are quiet. So many of us, instead of listening, choose to formulate our next sentence, whether it connects to what we just "heard" or not. Very few people listen (myself included).

Even fewer people understand that silence is its own way of communicating. If you scream and swear at me, I cannot be certain you are angry. Or, rather, I can be certain you are angry, but only temporarily. But if you simply respond with silence? That is true fury, cold fury. If you write me poems and fall to your knees at my balcony to confess your love, I cannot be certain you love me. At least, I cannot be certain you love me forever. But if you smile and quietly grab my hand? That is certainty.

A person (who is probably my only reader) told me that she was disappointed by my lack of words on my trip to Guatemala. I guess I was just trying to communicate something powerful in the most powerful way that I know possible: silence.

Silence is humble. It does not cry out to be noticed. Rather, it waits for you to accept it on its own terms. True silence is a gift. The choice to stop speaking for a moment is the most glorious choice we've been given. Humans are only human because they can choose, and sometimes I choose to be silent.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

For the original Stronger Coffee, please visit: http://strongercoffee.tumblr.com
And just a side note: tumblr.com is down for the time being as I write this. The above post may or may not find its way onto the original blog. Thank you, as always, for reading!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Because Words Always End Up Failing Us...

I'm having a hard time even thinking of words for my trip to Guatemala.

So here is my description of it:


May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.

-Michael


For the original Stronger Coffee, please visit: http://strongercoffee.tumblr.com

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Find Balance? Or Surrender?

I leave for Guatemala tonight.

I'm headed there on a mission trip for nine days with my youth group and my dad.

I'm a control freak. Not a serious control freak, but just enough of a control freak that it's noticeable. That may be the reason that heading on a plane to Central America is freaking me out. I've been to Central America before (on a vacation to visit my relatives in Panama). But the situation was different. I was mentally prepared. It was a vacation, for Heaven's sake! It didn't need much preparation.

But this is not a vacation. This is very different. This is more akin to a spiritual cocoon. The outside world (and by that I mean the world in which I live and thrive - friends, family, Seattle, etc.) is getting shut and I'm going to be living in something very different. A little village in the middle of a Central American country is something I have yet to experience. A high-rise in Panama City is the closest I've been to Guatemala.

Uh-oh.

Now all of this might read like a lack of excitement. That's incorrect. I'm very excited. I'm just off-balance. I don't like to be off-balance. I'm one of those people who will fight tooth and nail to be on balance again. Try as I might, though, I can't find the balance right now.
So maybe that's a good thing. Maybe off-balance is the way I need to be to prepare for this trip. Maybe if I'm off-balance, things will happen that would not have happened to a Michael who was calm, cool, and in control.

I guess what this means is that significance is coming my way. I just erased almost every expectation for this trip. I have no expectations for this trip, save one:

I'm pretty sure a whole heaping ton of coffee grounds are getting dumped in that
spiritual mug of mine.
May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.

-Michael
For the original Stronger Coffee, please visit: http://strongercoffee.tumblr.com

P.S. If you read daily (which I doubt there are that many of you) I wouldn't check for posts for about ten days or so. I won't be blogging in Guatemala.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

405 & Freak-Outs

I have a permit. I got it in May, and I thought, at the time of course, it was a blessing from the highest levels of the holy. I drove around in a parking lot or two, did a few quick neighborhood trips....and then....

Parents are funny. You think you have them all figured out. I mean you've lived with them for fifteen, sixteen, sixty-two years right? Wrong. You know nothing about them. For instance, I had no idea my mother believed that there is a brake on the dash board...on the passenger side... I don't think there actually is a brake there, but it doesn't stop her from leaning back in her seat and pumping it while yelling directions in a high-pitched, we're-going-to-die kind of voice.

My dad is also fun to drive with. He gets all comfy and cranks music I detest and sings along. So here I am, freaking out about the road, and there he is - practicing for an American Idol audition he is much too old for.

And you know the kicker? I mean the real injustice here? I'm actually a decent driver. They say that all the time (when they're not singing their hearts out or beating the living shabooly out of the dashboard). Oh, yes - sweet freaking out.

Not that I don't freak out too. I do. ANYWAY, yesterday was my first excursion on the 405 during rush hour. The 90 was a piece o'cake and then we merged...dun...dun...DUH. Actually, it wasn't that bad. And my mother, to her credit, was relaxed as Barbie during heart surgery. I was singing along to Jack Johnson when I wasn't gritting my teeth into oblivion.
The moral for today: have someone else's parents teach you how to drive.


Love you Mom and Dad!

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy Fifth of July!

Sometimes, and by sometimes I mean after every holiday, I feel like we should celebrate those sad little December 26ths, November 1sts, and of course, July 5ths. The day after a holiday is one of the most depressing and horrendously boring days of the year. You'd think that holiday bliss extends to the next day. It doesn't. If you want proof, look at the number of times I've logged on and off Facebook today.

After the bright, glowing explosion of fireworks last night, I feel like today is a cacophony of rigid lines and harshly realistic angles. It's a parade of humdrum, homey activities. "ow many times do you need to clean the kitchen, Mom?"

"It's July 5th, honey - as many times as I want."

Great.

Now don't get me wrong - holidays are a necessity. But can we (please!) just erase December 26th, November 1st, and July 5th from the calendar?

Thanks, Father Time.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

For the original Stronger Coffee, please visit: http://strongercoffee.tumblr.com

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Welcome to Stronger Coffee!

Hello! Welcome to Stronger Coffee, a blog about life, love, and living for espresso.

I created this blog originally on a blogging website called Tumblr. If you would like to access the Tumblr blog go to: http://strongercoffee.tumblr.com
I highly reccommend looking there as well as here.

For now, I'll leave you with my philosophy on life:

I believe that this life is one big pot of java. I also believe that things
like passion for what you're doing, love for the people you're with, and belief
in something larger than yourself make it stronger.
Have a cup with me.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael