Campaign Promises

Campaign Promises.

Campaign Promises

Every morning, I run the same drill. Feet hit the floor and the ankles and heels start screaming. I stumble toward the bathroom to grab something warm and my phone and then head outside with the dog to mincingly make my way down the driveway to get the newspaper. I check emails as I go and then glance at the day’s headlines on the way back up the driveway. This morning, I laughed out loud when I opened my inbox.

To Drink More Tea!

There, thanks to Princess Cruises, was the single most clever ad campaign I have ever seen. Concerned that I might be “tired of all the negative news,” Princess Cruises is offering “The Campaign to Escape Completely!” From now until Election Day, the cruise-line is giving away free cruises where you can really and truly escape from the media for a few days. Floating on a big boat, with food readily available, pools aplenty, and no TV or newspapers? Right on! Sign me up!

It doesn’t matter which way you lean politically, there is enough fuel to flame the fires of distrust, self-righteousness, and dare I say even hatred for the other side. When we were visiting Ohio this past August, the Olympics were wrapping up and there were events we wanted to watch, but every other commercial was political in nature. First, one would blame the present administration for not solving our country’s economic problems. Next, the present administration would scare women and seniors into believing that should there be a change in the presidential watch they can kiss their current benefits good-bye. It was emotional; it was fluff; it was ugly. I feel for the swing states these days. You are in the heart of a bitter, media-driven, war of words where no one seems to be 100% truthful, 100% genuine, or 100% tuned into reality. (And right now I may need to wrap my tongue in gauze I’m biting it so hard.)

So, what does this have to do with tea? Not a whole lot, truth be told! I can offer you the chance to relax and unwind with a cup of tea… maybe one of our new flavors? Have you tried Jade Cloud or Bai Hao or Coconut Oolong or West Cape Chai yet? Or the Lavender Sage Rooibos or Lemon Mint Rooibos are fantastic for centering and grounding… as long as you leave your media outlets turned off. Tea is very relaxing. Waiting for the water to boil, watching the leaves steep, pouring a cup, taking the first slurp… all are steps in patience, settling down, calming, breathing more deeply, creating a mood for contemplation. Take some time.

A few days ago, I was reading through one of my favorite chapters of the Bible – Isaiah 40. For us, the weary-worn electorate, this chapter holds great comfort. I’m going to quote from The Message translation because it is just so fun and accessible:

12 – 17: Who has scooped up the ocean
in his two hands, or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger?
Who has put all the earth’s dirt in one of his baskets,
weighed each mountain and hill?
Who could ever have told God what to do
or taught him his business?
What expert would he have gone to for advice,
what school would he attend to learn justice?
What god do you suppose might have taught him what he knows, showed him how things work?
Why, the nations are but a drop in a bucket,  a mere smudge on a window.
Watch him sweep up the islands
like so much dust off the floor!
There aren’t enough trees in Lebanon
nor enough animals in those vast forests to furnish adequate fuel and offerings for his worship.
All the nations add up to simply nothing before him— less than nothing is more like it. A minus.

21 – 24: Have you not been paying attention? Have you not been listening?
Haven’t you heard these stories all your life?
Don’t you understand the foundation of all things?
God sits high above the round ball of earth. The people look like mere ants. He stretches out the skies like a canvas—
 yes, like a tent canvas to live under.
He ignores what all the princes say and do.
 The rulers of the earth count for nothing.
Princes and rulers don’t amount to much.
 Like seeds barely rooted, just sprouted,
they shrivel when God blows on them.
 Like flecks of chaff, they’re gone with the wind.

Did you catch that? Nations are like a drop in the bucket. The rulers of the earth count for nothing. In the grand scheme of things, as we like to say, this election process really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. It is much ado about nothing. Chaff in the wind, blown away on the slightest breeze. Our nation is struggling to maintain a way of life. We are trying to maintain a life we believe is built on free-enterprise, hard-work, and freedom. Some of us want it to be more so while some others of us believe in the power of the government to help us reach our goals. But in the end, who is in ultimate control?

During her speech at the Global Leadership Summit, Condoleeza Rice shared that while she was Secretary of State, she would often ask the leaders around the table whether they were more concerned about today’s headlines or tomorrow’s history.  Boiled down, her question is this: Are we shooting for the popular decision or the right decision? Over the course of the next 7 weeks we are going to be treated to a continuing barrage of ire and political mayhem. Then, we will know the leadership for the next four years. What will that tell us? Will it really tell us our future individually or collectively? Probably not. Whichever way the election goes, those grand and glorious campaign promises are going to be promptly broken whether because the promise was just a line to get the vote or whether “the other side” gridlocked the process. Decisions will be made both for the popular reasons and for the right reasons. And one person’s “right reason” is another’s “stupid reason.” That’s the way it is.

Ultimately, it will all work out… because God is on His throne. In the meantime, I suggest a cup of tea and maybe a free cruise.

Nuts About Coconut!

On one of our weekly paths to and fro, the kids and I drive past a sign that advertises “Cherries, Coconuts, Fruts.” No, that is not a typo on my part. The hand-painted-on-cardboard sign is wrong. Yet, it has provided the kids and I a steady topic of conversation from “what is a frut, mommy?” to “why don’t they change it?” I love to hear my kids giggle and passing that sign always inspires a giggle.

Then, there comes the inevitable, “Can’t we stop to buy a coconut?” I wish I could pinpoint the moment when coconut became the flavor-of-the-day for my kids. Coconut spread on toast, coconut milk, coconut in cookies or granola bars… they love coconut. The only time they weren’t thrilled with coconut was at the bagel shop when they picked up tetra-paks of coconut water. I managed to drink it for them (because I can’t stand waste), but I really couldn’t blame them. Blech!

Imagine the excitement then when I announced that Compassion Tea would soon be carrying a new tea… Coconut Oolong! Although this oolong, like all other oolongs, has caffeine, this has become an early-in-the-day-only treat for the kids. As we would say if we were still in the Netherlands… LEKKER!

I first tried the coconut oolong at Ed and Wendy’s house when we were all gathered for a Compassion Tea director’s meeting. Chris and Anne were taking us through the intricacies of cupping. Think wine tasting only with tea. First, you inspect the leaves, notice their color, smell, are they curled or cut, rolled or shaped. Then the tea is steeped for the proper amount of time. In a flick of the wrist, the leaves are left on the cup lid and the third step is to inspect the infused leaves asking yourself what has happened to them in the steeping process. How much have they uncurled? If the curl or roll is still fairly tight, you can probably get another couple of infusions out of them. Having done that, it’s time to look at the liquor, the tea itself. Cupping your hands over the cup, take a deep breath. Note the nose. My favorite part comes next! Remember your mom telling you not to slurp? Well, in tea tasting, slurping is necessary! Breathing in, slurp up some tea, let it roll around on your tongue before you exhale and swallow. The full flavor of the tea should hit and linger. Like wine, you can then assess whether the tea has tannins, how it finishes, and eventually what it takes like cooled off.

When Chris and Anne announced the coconut oolong, there was an audible collection of breath, one of those oooooooo moments you might hear from a crowd expecting an amazing magic trick. The excitement filled the air. As we cupped our way through this tasting, the excitement grew. My notes indicated that the leaves had “beautiful curls” and were “consistent in color.” Both dry and steeped, the leaves gave off a rich, chestnutty aroma with a hint of a floral bouquet too subtle to completely identify. But, it is the lingering notes of coconut that make this tea truly marvelous. All of the Compassion Tea directors were making notes and rating the teas we tasted over the weekend. Wendy steered us to a quick way of marking the teas we wanted to carry… smiley faces. How funny it was to watch all 8 of us furiously scribbling smiley faces with hearts and extra smiles in our notes!

I didn’t know much about oolong tea going into this experience. Here is a little of what I’ve learned. Oolong is primarily produced in China and Taiwan, although India and other tea producing regions are beginning to produce it too. Like green, black and white teas, oolong comes from the camellia sinensis plant; the difference is in the oxidation process.

The Coconut Oolong is a tea blend. It’s base is a Taiwanese tea called Bao Zhong flavored with a creamy and smooth coconut flavoring. The Bao Zhong teas are known for their floral character, which comes from a unique natural process. Any time a tea leaf is bruised or cut in any way, it exposes the enzymes in the leaf to oxygen thereby beginning the oxidation process which gives the different teas their unique qualities. In the case of oolong tea, there is a green leaf hopper bug that visits the camellia sinensis plants and nibbles on the tea leaves. Those little nibbles begin the oxidation process before the leaves are even harvested. Once the bugs have left the tea garden, heading for another, the tea leafs, usually a bud and two leafs, are plucked, withered and dried, sometimes steamed, sometimes roasted, often rolled or shaped into pearls, and then finished off before heading to your tea pot.

I should note that we also tasted and are adding Jade Cloud – an organic Fair Trade green tea, West Cape Chai – an organic Fair Trade rooibos that includes ginger, star anise, clove, fennel, cinnamon, cardamom, peppermint, black pepper, and ramon nut (a coffee-like flavor) to create a warm and spicy happiness, and the Bai Hao oolong without the coconut flavoring. Stay tuned! I intend to mix the West Cape Chai with some half-and-half and a splash of rum. I’ll tell you how it goes!

Donations… Looking For, Accepting Now, BUT NOT THAT

Donations… Looking For, Accepting Now, BUT NOT THAT.

Donations… Looking For, Accepting Now, BUT NOT THAT

Not that long ago, I was busy packing up our house for our epic move 2 miles down the road. I took the opportunity to consider each toy, each child’s clothing, my own clothing, and a myriad of other closets’ contents for their appropriateness and worthiness. Moving is a great time to purge. I started to run out of steam however when I got to the bathroom drawers. It was packing day and the movers were downstairs wrapping up my kitchen while I began throwing medicines and lotions and medical supplies into a box with a wing and a prayer. Not so pretty on the other side! Even though we moved all of a couple of miles, things managed to spill, leak, seep. Sticky and wet, I pulled the bottles and boxes of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies out, tried to discern expiration dates, and either pitched or wiped them off and stored them in neat and tidy plastic drawer organizers. The extra effort was worth it! I can find what I need in a pinch… and with young children underfoot, we are always a pinch away from disaster.

I was reminded of this as I read Chris and Jack’s account of their recent trip to South Africa. In the account, Chris explains one of the difficulties that clinics like Lily Medical Centre and 1000 Hills faces: “One of the first things I noticed walking into the [Lily Medical] clinic was a pile of boxes that looked like garbage off to the side of the pharmacy. I asked about it and offered to clean it up. Sister Noluthando told me that they were donations that had been dropped off but had to be sorted because a lot of it was unusable…. It turns out that clinics like this can become dumping grounds for drug stores and other medical clinics or hospitals looking to get rid of things that they wouldn’t use. This clinic as well as 1000 Hills has shelves and shelves of cough syrups of various types. The reason is if one breaks in a case, it ruins the labeling of all the bottles and they can’t be sold. So these donations have to be cleaned and dates checked. There were also boxes of hair dye and weight loss solutions and pills. This was why our duffle was not received with great enthusiasm on Monday. When she [Sister} saw what was actually in it she was practically in tears. She… let me do inventory in the pharmacy… [which] gave me an opportunity to see what they had, what they use frequently and how low they were on antibiotics. We already mentioned the Ibuprofen and Aspirin being down to their last 10 each so I felt like even if we couldn’t give them antibiotics, what we were able to bring was helpful. As the kids like to say, when we left Sister was ‘vedy, vedy heppy!’”

From my formative years, I can remember one or two garage sales. My brother and I sold lemonade out on the driveway, and because we lived in Amish country, we were very excited about the horses that were grazing in our front yard while their owners shopped. But my dad emphatically believed that garage sales were nothing more than the passing off of junk from one family to another. Please, if you are a self-professed garage sale stalker, I am not meaning to offend. There are plenty of really good bargains at garage sales and recycling clothing is a very good idea. This was just my dad’s view and therefore we rarely made the effort to hold a garage sale. Donating goods, on the other hand, we’re quite good at. I think I receive at least one request for donated goods to support one organization or another at least once a week. How about you? And what do you donate?

In our small city, people leave their donated items on the street in bags with the donation request cards taped on the bags. Sometimes the bags spill over or a creature comes out of the Zone 7 waterways and peruses the contents or maybe there is an item that just doesn’t conveniently fit into a bag. I find myself drawn in a mysterious if not morbid way to glance at the items. “Hmmmm, could I use that?” or “What does that tell me about their life?” seem to be my two primary thoughts. Sometimes I see an item and I think, “Good heavens! That belongs in the junk pile not the donation pile!” It just makes me wonder what people are thinking when they make donations. Apparently, according to Chris and Jack, this same question is pertinent to large hospitals and drug manufacturers and retailers, too.

Chris mentions that Sister Noluthando was “practically in tears” when she unpacked the duffle from CompassioNow. That’s because what Chris and Jack brought over was in good condition and much needed. They brought over Nature Made Vitamins donated by Pharmavite, the company Jack works for; eyeglasses donated by CareHarbor; wound care items such as sutures, bandages, surgical gloves, sponges and dressings from Giving Children Hope (CompassioNow made a monetary donation to this organization and they in turn gave CompassioNow the much needed wound care supplies which they collect from donating hospitals); medical supplies donated by Conejo Free Clinic in Thousand Oaks, CA, where Chris volunteers as a Pediatric Nurse; as well as lots and lots of bottles of antacids, antidiarrheals, Tylenol, Neosporin, and ibuprofen purchased by CompassioNow from Costco and Target to name a few things. CompassioNow coordinated the collection of these items… in total 250 lbs. of supplies. Chris and Jack funded the actual trip themselves.

Chris and Jack also carried over around 125 pairs of warm, rubber-tread socks, the kind you receive when you spend time as a patient in a hospital. Chris has a nurse friend at the Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, CA, who collects these socks from patients who don’t care to take their socks home. Instead of throwing them away, Chris takes the socks and washes them. She used them to protect the supplies she carried over to South Africa in 5 large duffle bags and then distributed them to people she met at the two clinics… people who have no coverings for their feet even in freezing weather.

There IS a difference in donations. Some just create more work, are worthless, or are not appropriate. Seriously, is donating weight loss pills and hair dye to clinics in rural Africa where food and water are scarce really all that effective? Or wise?

On the other hand, timely and appropriate donations can make a world of difference. About the supplies they took to 1000 Hills, Jack writes: “Dawn [Leppan] was very moved by the supplies provided, commenting regularly about how certain items would be helpful…. We also got to witness some of the impact of the supplies delivered. Dawn gave a pair of reading glasses to a grandmother there. She was very happy but her glasses started steaming up. Dawn asked what was wrong and the grandmother replied that she could finally see well but she had no money to pay for them. Dawn said that they were free and the grandmother was overcome with joy.”

If I may be so bold, may I remind you that through your support of Compassion Tea… your membership or your purchase of tea… you are helping to support the work of CompassioNow. The people of Africa need the kind of thoughtful donations CompassioNow provides, and you… yes, little old you!… can help us send them joy and comfort.