Then There Was Coffee

Work, even when it’s work you love passionately and that you might conceivably do for free, is still occasionally work. Motivation or not, love or not, dedication or not, sometimes work is work no matter how smoothly the flow is a-flowing. You get the idea. Today was a day when work took effort; I did not summon my typical hi-ho-hi-ho off to work I go spirit this morning, and I didn’t even bother looking for it.

Having typed that, I can’t say it was a bad day. The students were lively, engaged, quirky, cranky, and all that makes being in a room teeming with middle school hope and ennui wonderfully, educationally rewarding. It wasn’t their doing that my usual perk was percolating somewhere else today. When performing a job that requires a certain level of behavioral consistency, it can be self-fulfilling to engage in the day because sometimes you catch up to yourself. Fortunately, this was the case today. It just took a while.

I followed my normal routine this morning, which includes a stop at my favorite coffee emporium. This is ritualized behavior and I realize as I type that I spend more money on this than I would if I simply brewed the bean-based goodness at home – but that’s beside the point. This ritual is almost necessary, I tell myself, because I am incapable of making good coffee. I therefor rely on my local emporium for both the good cheer of its workers and the fact that their coffee is better. There is a part of me that realizes I could be using this bit of money for multitudes of other purposes. The other part doesn’t care (I’m pretty sure that’s the spoiled toddler part of me).

The day began to feel like work at about the time my computer stopped loading a program I needed. Since I was without students for the moment, I walked to the teacher’s lounge to stretch my legs, practice my deep breathing, and regroup. The lounge features a couple coffee carafes which are usually empty by mid-morning. Today, however, one of the carafes still had coffee in it. Not only that, but it was it fresh, and it was good. I don’t know who made the coffee, but at that moment, I loved them with a fervor bordering on hero worship. I posted a thank-you note on the bulletin board, and returned to my project with a renewed sense of purpose. Trite and quirky it may be, but the sentiment is still very real: I was slightly off-focus, and then there was coffee.


Chocolate is Good for Me (Kinda)

As you can tell from the subhead of my blog, I’m a fan of chocolate. I don’t eat a lot in one sitting, but I eat chocolate every day. I do not apologize for this. It surprises people when I mention that I’m a daily chocolate eater, as if my chocolate consumption negates the positive effects of an overall healthy diet. In my brain, however, chocolate is as essential as brushing my teeth and showering. I get to say a small amount of “Hah!” to my health fanatic friends because today I received vindication in the form of a longitudinal study. According to my local newspaper in an article pulled from The Washington Post*, a study indicated that “people who eat chocolate tend to perform better cognitively.” The types of tasks include remembering phone numbers, shopping lists, and doing two things at once.

Let’s pass the Hershey’s kisses in celebration. I am excited. I am ebullient. I am shocked to learn that many of the participants ate chocolate only rarely or never versus once a week or more. Who are these people who eat chocolate rarely or never? Most people I know have a chocolate stash in their desk drawers, ready to be shared or consumed at will.

Further complicating the potential good news of this scenario is the fact that the type of chocolate that the study is referring to is the type of chocolate with less sugar and more cocoa bean goodness. It’s the cocoa in chocolate that has antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering properties. The benefits also include preventing cognitive decline and reducing stress/blood pressure.

This still sounds great to me, but the downfall is a question that wasn’t answered by the study. According to the other studies I’ve seen, the current assumption is that it’s darker chocolate – you know, the kind that mostly closely tastes like undiluted cocoa powder-that renders the health benefits.

Merrill Elias, the scientist who conducted the study, stated, “We didn’t look at dark chocolate and lighter chocolate separately.” Interesting question and one that must be answered. I herewith most humbly and respectfully volunteer. As one who exceeds the average 4.5 kg of chocolate consumption per year, I know a thing or two about chocolate. Just don’t make me eat the 75% or greater dark stuff. That really does taste like the bean itself.


*By the time I’m typing this, the information is awfully far removed from the original study, so please treat this like the good spirited gossip it is. Or, find the study and read for yourself.