Thursday, January 24, 2013

The 2013 MLK, Jr. Coffee-Drinking Party:Brewing up Happiness and Fun in Honor of MLK and Obama

It’s become a tradition: Each year, on the Sunday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (MLK Day), we host a coffee-drinking party. There is also tea, hot chocolate and sweet treats. We do it for several reasons. It gives us a chance to honor MLK, Jr., who loved coffee, in a way that is human, inclusive and festive all at once. We also enjoy seeing friends and neighbors and letting the kids play.

Over the years, the party has grown from a handful of friends posing for a picture in Starbucks, holding up cups in honor of MLK, to more than 60 people at our house this year, including lots of families.  This year was extra special, because in addition to celebrating MLK Day, we were also celebrating the second inauguration of President Obama. It was impossible not to feel good about the perfect intersection of persistent striving, high-minded ideals and concrete ceremonial reality---Obama being sworn in for another four years.

The party was great. People arrived early with little gifts and sweet treats to offer. There was baklava. There were apple tarts and zucchini cookies; pigs-in-blankets and potato puffs; dried apricots and gingerbread muffins---and even a quiche. 

Thanks to the perks of Pandora, the music varied wildly ranging from Carly Rae Jepsen to Dave Brubeck, and then to disco.  Kids ruled, with the majority being between the ages of 9 and 11, but there were toddlers, and even a 14-month old in the mix. There were a lot of writers roaming around, as well as a couple of high-level editors, a wine-maker, an artist (who sold us two pieces, including an astonishingly moving depiction of MLK, Jr. and a picture of our youngest daughter), some lawyers, and lots of talented people who dedicate their time to various community-based causes.  The coffee flowed with ease, the hot chocolate was drunk within the hour and a few people were not shy about opting out of the coffee and heading straight for the Red Zinger. The theme of the evening: diversity---in every sense of the word.

Right before we attempted to take a group photo (that effort turned into an epic fail, though we did get some interesting shots of various people toasting MLK or just hanging out), we decided to take time out to read quotes from Dr. King and other like-minded individuals about equality, tolerance and freedom.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”—MLK, Jr.

“Whoever debases others is debasing himself.”----James Baldwin

“Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”----MLK, Jr.

By the end of the night, people were getting really amped from coffee and chocolate and (healthy) sweets. We turned up the music---and a whole gaggle of girls born in 2002 rocked it out to disco hits that peaked in 1972. Another year, another celebration. Thanks to everyone who shared this event with us.

Thank you to for this remarkable timeline of MLK, Jr.'s life!

MLK Infographic

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It's 2013: Make Your Resolutions Stick---and Use Coffee to Get Moving and Stay Healthy

Only a couple of weeks into the New Year, and we are still hoping for the best. Resolutions---both documented and unacknowledged---drive us to achieve our goals and make good on the annual quest to have a “happy, healthy (new) year.”

When I woke up this morning, I was still fatigued despite 8 hours of sleep, eating healthy food and daily exercise. I just wasn’t feeling like myself. Immediately I thought, “Time to get that flu shot, for myself and everyone else.” It’s that time of year---and the flu has been especially difficult this year. In fact, the CDC reported that there were 22,049 cases of flu between September and the end of December 2012, compared with only 849 during the same period in 2011---and the pace and intensity have continued.

So in order to kick-start my engine, I brewed not one, but two pots of coffee, starting first with Seattle’s Best Breakfast Blend, and then moving onto Allegra Espresso Coffee Blend. I added a bit of skim milk and allowed the hot, antioxidant-laden beverage to wake me up, nourish me and energize me. By 11:30, things were definitely looking up!

The day was foggy and overcast, with bits of mist floating around. Still, I got out and walked about 3 miles, stopping for a latte at Starbucks. The sky was undeniably gray, but as I walked, I felt calm and invigorated. The wind was just cool enough to chafe and the forward movement was easy. Coffee opened the door, and I walked through.

When it’s comes to being happy and healthy, coffee is the answer. Two new studies attest to its efficacy in both areas.  The first study, conducted by the National Institutes of Health, focused on people between 50 and 71. Among more than 250,000 people studied, those who consumed sugary beverages were 30% more likely to be depressed, while those who drank at least 4 cups of coffee were 10% less likely to be depressed.

Data from another study, first published in December 2012 in the American Journal of Epidemiology, looked at the effect of drinking coffee on the risk of developing oral cancers. The American Cancer Society funded this study, which included approximately 1 million people. The researchers found that people who drank 4 cups of coffee per day or more decreased their risk of oral cancer by about half.  These results are a big deal, especially considering that 35,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with an oral cancer each year, and almost 7,000 end up dying.

So while I am not counting on coffee to protect me from the flu, I am counting on coffee to give me the energy to head to the doctor for a flu shot. I also appreciate its ability to decrease my risk of depression, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, liver cancer, diabetes and stroke.
So stay happy, stay healthy---and drink coffee. Keep moving towards your resolutions. Cheers!