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Coffee-aholics Unite! April 8, 2011

Hi! I am Gr8ChefMB and I am a coffee-aholic! Yeah, I am one of THOSE people. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE coffee in all its forms. I have cultivated this love affair over many years. It didn’t start out to be that way, though. As a kid, we couldn’t drink coffee – it was a beverage only for grown-ups. At that particular time, my only vice was iced tea, until decaffeinated tea bags came out…LOL! I could drink gallons of tea, and probably still could if I didn’t enjoy my coffee and plain water so much…LOL!

When I got into high school, I tried coffee a few times, but it was more like, “Have some coffee with your milk and sugar!” I just couldn’t drink it black, or even muddy brown. It just HAD to be loaded with lots of cream and sugar until it was almost white. When I think about that kind of coffee, I think, “What was the point of that???!!!” Talk about a waste of coffee… I remember one of my best friends’ mom literally drank coffee from sun up to sundown. I did think that was a little strange…silly me!

After I got out of high school and dabbled with college, I started working full time. My first ‘real’ job was as the front-desk receptionist for an independent insurance adjusting firm. I sometimes carpooled with my mom and a friend. We would stop at Denny’s for morning coffee. I would still doctor it the same way. Because the company breakroom was stocked with free coffee, I started drinking more coffee. Of course, being a front desk receptionist, I didn’t have freedom to move about the office. I got two breaks and a lunch hour. If I needed to attend to other needs, I had to get someone to relieve me. I discovered it was easier to just pour and run; hence, learning how to appreciate coffee without a bunch of additives became my game. I grew to appreciate my coffee black. I started discovering that there were other varieties other than basic Folgers/Maxwell House/etc.

——The coffee angels start singing here: aaahhhhhh!—— 🙂

When I got pregnant with my son, all the medical pundits said that caffeine was bad for pregnant women and fetuses.  AAaaaarrrggghhhhh! I had to give up my beloved coffee……I can’t tell how freaking hard that was! Instant coffee at that particular time was crap…weak and bad flavor…didn’t taste at all like coffee. Folgers came out with instant coffee bags similar to teabags in a decaffeinated variety. I was absolutely so desperate for a cup, that I used those, but they really were quite awful. Still, it was better than nothing… Nowadays, apparently 1-2 cups are okay to drink during pregnancy. I wish they had come to that conclusion 18 years ago.

My love and appreciation for that caffeinated delight grew and grew. It got to the point where I was a coffee junkie…couldn’t function without that brew, especially first thing in the morning! Eventually, it got to the point where I was drinking a 12-cup pot (or more) by MYSELF! When I went for a physical one year, my doctor asked my about caffeine intake. Of course, I didn’t lie (probably should have, though!) and told him exactly how much coffee I was drinking at the time. My doctor is fairly easy going and nothing really seems to phase him, except for this bit of news. He absolutely BLEW A GASKET! I can’t recall ever seeing him that angry. He read me the riot act, especially because my cholesterol and blood pressure was fairly elevated around that time, hence the physical. I had to cut down on my coffee intake or I would die – his exact words. That kind of put the scare into me…for about three or four months… I did cut down to only 4-6 cups a day. Yeah, I know…that wasn’t quite what he had in mind, but, hey, at least I did cut down some.

When my son was attending Sunday school at church, they were desperate for volunteers. I decided to volunteer since I had to go there anyway to drop him off and I wouldn’t have to pay for tuition. Of course, those weren’t the only reasons…I really do LOVE to volunteer for various things. It’s a nice change of pace, something to do and I love to meet different people and learn new things. As I became more active in my church – I was born and raised Catholic – I started to adhere more to my religion, which means making some sort of sacrifice at Lent. I know you are probably thinking, “She really didn’t do it!” Yes, indeedy…that was my sacrifice. I gave up my caffeine for 40 days and 40 nights. My family and friends were incredulous and didn’t think I would make it all the way through Lent to Easter. My students were placing bets as to when I would crack…no pun intended. That was even more difficult than giving it up during my pregnancy, because this was VOLUNTARY! I allowed myself two cups of hot tea every day, but they were herbal teas, and I drank a lot of water and decaff iced tea. Whaddayouwant…at that time, caffeine was my only vice and thus, the only real sacrifice I could make. I couldn’t very well give up working…. 🙂 I actually did make it to Easter Sunday, but I had to wait until after Easter Mass for my first cup. Golly, Mass seemed to drag on for 3-4 hours…actually, not really; it just seemed that way. After we got home, I headed for that magical machine that puts forth that magical devil’s brew. However, my mother stopped me and said wait a minute… She gave a pretty new coffee mug in which to enjoy my first cup. It was kind of egg-shaped in a periwinkle blue with a cute little design painted all over it in a lighter color. (I still have that mug, too. The inside is cracked, so I can’t drink from it anymore.) That was such a sweet thing for her to do. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed and savored that first cup….aaaahhhhhhh! BTW, I had a checkup after that Easter, and my cholesterol had gone down drastically, so I guess my doctor was right. I hate it when that happens! I did give up caffeine every Lent after that and made it through 4-5 years until my brother-in-law passed away rather suddenly. That was such a shock, and it still is, even five years later. When we went for the viewing, I got such a severe headache from crying so hard and trying to comfort his family and my family…I ended up breaking my Lenten sacrifice. I feel pretty sure that God understood why…the grief we all felt was so overpowering. He was my youngest sister’s husband identical twin. It was such a waste because he was so funny and musically talented, but he had a problem he just couldn’t seem to overcome, no matter how he tried. I miss him, still… After that year, I did still make my annual Lenten sacrifice and made it for a couple more years, until another bad year…

After being overcome by my own problems last August, I was put on some medication that reacts badly when I imbibe too much caffeine. These days, I am pretty much limited to no more than two cups a day. It’s probably better that way, because my intake was starting to creep back up to ungodly levels again. Because of that, it is more diffficult to make that sacrifice. I do love my coffee and will drink it hot or iced. Sometimes, I do add a bit of cream; it depends on what variety of coffee I am drinking and what time of day. If I had unlimited funds, I would probably go to Starbucks every day. As it is, that is a once-in-awhile treat. My fave brand at home has to be Folger’s. They have really branched out and come up with some delicious flavors, including their Black Silk. In fact, Folgers has a give-away opportunity to win a prize package including coffee, a singnature red coffee mug, black silk robe, and biscotti. Visit to sign up to win.


A ticket to Alaska and a Hot Dog Cart July 19, 2010

Here is a short story written based on a prompt found at It was kind of fun exercising that lump separating my ears! Hope you enjoy it…

“Hey, Joe! Have you got a reindeer sausage left? If so, lemme have one with spicy mustard and kraut on it! Can I get a grilled pretzel bun with that, too, please?”


“Sure thing, Eddie! How’s the family doing?”


“Oh, they’re doing fine. They would be here with me today, but little Jenny has the sniffles and Marg decided it wouldn’t be a good idea. She is sure that the other two will get sick, too. You know how it is – bugs get passed around….hahaha!”


“Here’s your dog! Thanks for the business. You are my last customer of the season. I’m getting ready to fly south for a few months. I hope Jenny feels better real soon….”


Flashback to three years earlier…


Today was the final straw for Joe Murphy. It started out badly when he overslept and was late to an important meeting to discuss a new buyout of an ailing company. It got worse during the meeting because the client wouldn’t budge on a couple of contract options. After lunch, his soon-to-be-ex-wife called after lunch screaming about some minor catastrophe that she blamed on him. “Yeah, sure! All that is my fault? Guess again! This is why we can’t stay together, Cathy. You are driving me crazy!!! It was a short put, anyway. Pull yourself together and get over it. Don’t call me at work again.” Click.


To top it off, today marked 45 years that Joe had been walking this planet; no one, not even his ex, remembered or mentioned it.


To console himself, he stopped at his favorite watering hole, a dive called the Blue Goose. He propped himself up at the bar and ordered a tequila shot and a Negra Modelo. The bartender placed a steaming basket of chips and hot sauce in front of Joe as a welcome gesture. Joe slugged the shot down, and then took a sip of beer. Joe ordered the evening enchilada special along with another shot. The bartender just shook his head, and asked, “What’s up, Joe? You usually don’t drink tequila.”


“It’s my birthday, and I have had a lousy day. You really don’t want to hear about it, trust me! I think I’m going to cash everything in, move to Alaska and buy a hot dog cart.”


“I’m sorry to hear about your lousy day. Happy birthday; this one’s on the house. Alaska, huh? You could sell reindeer sausage along with those hot dogs. You’d probably make a killing during the Iditarod. Hahahahaha! What a crazy idea! Good luck with that one!”


He’s having a midlife crisis. Only instead of a sports car, he buys … a ticket to Alaska and a hot dog cart.


Flashback to present day…


“Yeah, thanks to you, Joe! I hope you enjoy your trip, you crazy SOB. I wish I had thought of this myself. I can work 12-hours days for two or three months straight just to get the next nine to ten months free. So, whatta you gonna do with all that free time?”


“I think I’m going to go to culinary school, maybe in Paris, maybe in Italy. All that time I was stuck in the office dealing with all that shit, I kept thinking about how all I wanted to do was cook, and maybe open a little restaurant someday. Well, some day is here, and I have some cash saved up. Next year, I’ll have some great new sausages to showcase.”


Ghost Rider – Travels on the Healing Road by Neil Peart June 28, 2010

In honour of an award-winning documentary having been released as well as a celebration of their nearly 40 years of seriously, awesomely cool music, I recommend this book to everyone. Written by the talented drummer/lyricist of legendary Canadian rock band RUSH, Neil Peart underwent a series of unspeakable tragedies-the loss of his daughter in a tragic car accident and then the death of his wife due to cancer and a broken heart almost a year later. He was left to contemplate whether or not he was interested in continuing to live, and if so, what that life would be like. I cannot even begin to imagine trying to come back from something like that, but Mr. Peart did find a way. Due to circumstances, the band was on a five-year hiatus. This memoir details those tragedies as well the way he found to cope. He hopped on his trusty BMW motorcycle and traveled over 55,000 miles from Quebec to Alaska to the Antarctic Circle down through the western parts of Canada and the United States into Mexico and further down into Central America. During his travels, he slowly came back to humanity and eventually found the photographer who was to become his second wife. He did return to continue his work with RUSH bandmates Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, releasing ‘Vapor Trails’ which featured several songs about his sojourn. The band returned to the road and ended that tour with three amazingly successful dates in Brazil, including one show performed for the largest audience ever in the band’s history.

Even if you don’t love this band and their music, you will love this book. Mr. Peart’s writing style is somewhat wry, but it is extremely descriptive and full of humour. As private a person as he is, he lets the reader into his psyche as he stuggles to cope with the events of his life. That storyline alone will touch the reader to the core. This book will also appeal to armchair travellers as well as motorcycle enthusiasts all over. Mr. Peart also has an insatiable interest in the world around him and constantly reads. He also recommends various books throughout this narrative-sort of like a book review within a book review. A plus is that he includes lyrics he has written and the band has recorded, some of which seem extremely applicable to his life even though they were written well before the tragedies. If you are a fan of this band, it is almost like a playlist in your head as you read the lyrical snippets. He also indirectly gives clues for areas to visit that are off the beaten track.

No one could ever completely get over the pain of losing one loved one, let alone two. However, he has managed to find a way to survive and even thrive. He and his new wife celebrated the birth of their daughter in August 2009. The band continues to record and tour. Neil, Alex and Geddy have continued to be honored and their strong friendship is evident in everything they do together. The life-affirming outcome alone is so worth reading this book.


Teachers That Have Impacted Me August 19, 2009

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything in awhile…had to meet a deadline to get my Fall 2009 catalog to the printer. I have also begun updating my work website. I should actually be doing this now, but my brain seems to be mush. I suppose that is probably true most of the time (Just ask my family, friends and coworkers…LOL!), but it is especially so after working frantically for a few days. My catalog arrived from the printer yesterday and looks great. I just have to distribute it now…woohoo! (P.S. If you want to see it, visit and click on the icon on the right side of our homepage.)


I saw a request on our local newspaper’s website that asked for stories about teachers who made an impact on their students. It got me to thinking, especially after attending my district’s convocation this morning. The featured speakers were Patrick Henry Hughes and his father Patrick John Hughs. If you are a regular viewer of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, these names might sound familiar to you. Patrick Henry was born without eyeballs and with an affliction that prevents him from being able to move his limbs freely and easily. He is unable to walk because of this affliction, so he gets around in a wheelchair. Patrick Henry is now 21 years old and a senior student at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He is pursuing a degree in Spanish. One of the remarkable things about Patrick Henry is that he is musically gifted; he plays piano and trumpet beautifully and sings well, also. After he graduated from high school and entered U of L, the band director invited him to join the U of L marching band. As he himself pointed out, his mobility comes from a wheelchair; how in the world would he march??!! This is where his father Patrick John comes in. He attends school with his son as well as marching band rehearsals; for half-time shows, he pushes his son around on the field. How cool is that? A number of people wrote to ABC to nominate the Hughes family for a home makeover, and they were selected. Not only did they get a beautiful new home, easily accessible by Patrick Henry, but ABC also renovated the U of L practice field to make it easier for the Hughes to maneuver on it. [To watch this episode online, click here:]


Another remarkable trait of Patrick Henry is that he feels his lack of eyesight and ability to walk is ‘no big deal.’ It has not hindered his education or life. He has recorded a CD, published a book (I Am Potential published by De Capo Lifelong Books and available at], and travels all over the world, all while still keeping up with school work. He has made only 5 or 6 Bs in his entire education.


His parents admitted that they were devastated when he was born, but they adjusted their vision of what they hoped his life would be. He has definitely NOT disappointed them. He hopes to become a Spanish translator and eventually embassador to a Spanish-speaking country. If that doesn’t happen, he wants to host his own game show, “Stash of Cash.” He has never complained about his situation or his condition, and he has not let it stand in his way. Of course, it helps that his parents and his two brothers are willing to sacrifice so much for him to be the person he is.


As I listened to his father and him speak, they constantly thanked the wonderful teachers Patrick Henry had all throughout his education. His parents made the decision to mainstream him into regular classrooms because they felt he had the ability to excel.  This so true of the majority of teachers I have had throughout my life. The following is a tribute to my favourite classroom teachers.


I am the proud product of the Mesquite Independent School district. I attended Rutherford Elementary, Agnew Middle and Mesquite High schools from 1971-1984. With very few exceptions, I enjoyed the teachers I had along the way. However, several teachers stand out for me and bring back fond memories – Norma McConathy, Dr. Bill Sefzik, brothers Darryl and David Dearing, Jimmy Jones, and last but definitely NOT least, Darla and Wayne Hodgson.


Norma McConathy was my fourth grade teacher at Rutherford Elementary. She was such an interesting person and an awesome teacher. She owned an unusual pet named Clyde. Clyde was a boa constrictor, and Mrs. McConathy would bring him to school occasionally; that was always fun. She also made learning fun by incorporating different activities into our school day. She had this book of holidays from around the world, and we would discuss something new nearly every day. For Chinese New Year, we constructed a dragon and made paper Chinese lanterns. It took weeks to construct this dragon out of a corrugated cardboard box, those curlicue packing peanuts and tempera paints. We received special permission to parade up and down the hallways so other classes could see what we had done. Mrs. McConathy was also huge fan of the original Star Trek television series. I was not a big fan of that show until fourth grade; Dad always watched it and I could never understand why. If you did not want to do work, all you had to do was to mention Star Trek and Mrs. McConathy would take off like a rocket (no pun intended). She could discuss that show for hours, and she had even constructed models of the ships featured in each episode. The models hung from the ceiling in a corner of the classroom. Besides helping me to become a lifelong Trekkie, she also gave me an appreciation for other cultures. Sadly, Mrs. McConathy passed away a number of years ago. My prayer is that she is converting angels into Trekkies, too.


Dr. Bill Sefzik started his career with the MISD when I entered the fifth grade. He was a new teacher and he was so full of ideas that were so outside the box. I must admit that I was a lazy student all the way through school. I did try a little harder in his class, though. We started learning history in fifth grade, and he made it come alive for his class. We did not just memorize dates; we learned about what actually occurred on those dates. We also learned a bit about the back-story of those events and why they were so historically important. Dr. Sefzik also wanted to ensure that we succeeded in math skills. His solution was that if we did exactly what we were supposed Monday through Thursday, we would get to have some fun on Fridays by playing Math Football or Math Baseball. He would draw the field on the blackboard, and divide us into teams. Questions were asked, and depending on the difficulty as well as whether or not it was answered correctly, each team would gain yards or score base hits and points would be awarded. Dr. Sefzik was also interested in encouraging us to write. To that end, he would give us a creative writing assignment once a week. He would propose a topic or an idea, and we would have to write. I actually loved doing those assignments because I have a very fertile imagination. As a reward, he organized kickball tournaments with the other fifth grade classes. These were so much fun although I have no athletic ability whatsoever. It was a welcome break from the same old classroom routine. Because I had Dr. Sefzik, I gained a deep appreciation for history and I was not scared to complete writing assignments. I still have difficulty in math, but I had fun trying to learn. Dr. Sefzik is still part of the MISD; he currently is principal at Kimball Elementary.


Brothers Darryl and David Dearing bring back many fond memories from sixth grade through my freshman or sophomore year of high school. Jimmy Jones brings back fond memories for the rest of high school. David was the orchestra director of Agnew Middle School, and Darryl filled the same position at Mesquite High School. David came to Rutherford to talk about orchestra at the beginning of my sixth grade year. I told my mother about it, and about how I wanted to play violin. From that point forward, my love of music grew exponentially. David would come to Rutherford twice a week, and I would get to skip P.E. to learn how to play my beloved violin. Although I have no natural rhythmic abilities (and so some people tell me, I probably am tone deaf), I did okay. David became my full-time instructor when I entered Agnew Middle School. Darryl would come over and help his brother out, especially when preparing for contests and concerts. They both had great senses of humor, and they were both excellent teachers. Darryl worked with me on my solo for contest. They weren’t always the most patient of teachers but it was obvious that they loved teaching and working with kids. David actually helped me get my first ‘real’ job. I was a beginning violin teacher at Norris Family Music the summer between my freshman and sophomore years. I had a lot of fun teaching both kids and adults.


When the Dearing brothers left the MISD, our orchestra was taken over by Jimmy Jones. Mr. Jones was an unknown quantity because we did not know him. We did not know from where he came, and we did not know his teaching style. If my memory is correct, he and his wife came from Temple, Texas. Mind you, this was around the time that the infamous Guyana tragedy occurred, and as our director shared the same name as the leader of that cult, we thought it would be funny to tease our new director by giving him Kool-Aid. He immediately put a stop to that kind of teasing and let us know he meant business. We did eventually discover he had a wonderful sense of humor and he really did care about his students. His wife was also an orchestra teacher, and she would often help in class, too. They were a lovely couple and eager to teach all they knew about music. They both would give us the back-story on composers and the history of particular pieces of music. During my junior year, our orchestra took a trip to Corpus Christi to participate in a music festival. We stayed in Port Aransas on Mustang Island. One night, we headed to the beach, and built a small campfire. As a joke, Mr. Jones wore a rainbow-colored umbrella hat. Beach Patrol came by and visited us to tell us that fires on the beach were illegal. I cannot tell you how quickly that umbrella hat disappeared when Beach Patrol pulled up. Mr. Jones also let students hang out in his office in the mornings before the first bell rang. We would talk about all sorts of topics, listen to the radio or practice. All three of these men gave of themselves and their time rather freely. Their care and fondness for helping students succeed was obvious. On a personal note, they all gave me a deep love of music, and the freedom to enjoy so many different genres of music. To this day, whenever I hear Smetana’s Themes from The Moldau, a Willie Nelson song or Soul Strings, I smile because it makes me think of these men and their impact on me. Unfortunately, I do not know where these teachers are today. I wish I did, though.


Darla and Wayne Hodgson are very special and dear to my heart. Mrs. Hodgson was my speech and debate coach in high school. Her husband, Wayne, was a teacher at Agnew Middle School. When I was in seventh grade, the speech class performed for the student body. That looked like a lot of fun, so I wanted to sign up for speech in eighth grade. Sadly, that class was removed from the curriculum. I had to wait until my sophomore year in high school. Mrs. and Mr. Hodgson just were not your typical teachers. By that, I mean that they didn’t just teach from 8:30a to 3:30p. They spent a lot of extra time before and after school with their students. They didn’t impart education just on speech and debate, either. They imparted lessons on life. We spent a lot of time together to prepare for speech and debate tournaments. They both helped us to rehearse speeches and sharpen our debating skills. They also helped us to improve on our research skills so we could be as prepared as well as we could. They transported us back and forth to tournaments, and in my senior year, helped organize our parents as speech/debate boosters. We could talk to them about anything, and they would lend a shoulder to cry on, helping hand, gentle discipline, etc. They both had wonderful senses of humor as well as gentle, kind and patient natures. It is because of their care, love and coaching that I am reasonably comfortable in speaking in front of groups. I can even speak extemporaneously when needed because they gave me the freedom to be interested in a variety of topics. They helped me to become well read and to understand current events. They also taught me how to be empathetic and to treat others as well as I would like to be treated. Sadly, I lost contact with them a few years after I graduated.


The majority of my teachers were excellent, but these particular individuals stand out in my memory. They all share one common trait – the ability to think outside the box and find new ways to motivate their students to be the best they could possibly be. My life is richer for having known them and being good examples. I cannot imagine what I would be like if I had not had the honor and pleasure of knowing them. My wish and hope is that all students everywhere have even one teacher that can be half of what these teachers were to me. Once I pass college algebra, I plan to become a teacher and hopefully follow their example. To Mrs. McConathy, Dr. Sefzik, the brothers Dearing, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, and Mr. and Mrs. Hodgson, I offer my most humble and sincere thanks and gratitude. I am sure I probably did not show my appreciation back then, but I hope that some way, somehow they know how much they meant to me.


I have been blessed and fortunate to receive the benefit of a number of teachers in my life, and not all of them have been classroom teachers. First and foremost on this list is my parents. I have learned so much throughout the years, and I continue to learn from them. I have also been blessed with four sisters and one brother from whom I have learned. There are almost 16 grandkids/nieces and nephews (At this time, the 16th has not been born yet; she will arrive on 25 Aug 09.) and I am continually amazed at what they know and how they impart that knowledge. One of these grandkids is my own son. I also have a wonderful group of friends that have taught me many things over the years of their friendship. In the course of my job and volunteer activities, I have learned more than a few lessons. Watching programs such as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has taught me many things. Last, but most definitely NOT LEAST, God is also my teacher. His life is an example of how to live, and His book contains the guidelines for following in His footsteps.


Education is such a resonant concept for me; I work for our local community education department of our local school district. I constantly read and do research to education myself. I pay attention to current events and how they impact our lives. If you know me well, you have heard me say this on more than one occasion, “The day is wasted if you have not learned at least one new thing.” I strongly believe that and try to hold true to that concept.


I am sorry this post is so lengthy this time. Perhaps, it makes up for not posting for over a week. 🙂