Clinton’s Incredible Health

incredible [inˈkredəb(ə)l]- (adj.) not credible; without credence; not to be believed

My office building has a Starbucks in the lobby, and yesterday while waiting for my coffee, I passively watched the morning news on a nearby TV screen. Representative Steny Hoyer was being interviewed on NBC, and because of the noise level in the coffee shop, subtitles were turned on.

clinton-healthAlthough uninterested at first, I soon read that Rep. Hoyer (D) was being questioned about the state of Hillary Clinton’s health. This again? What about the real issues? 

I do not wish ill on Hillary. As Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson said, “Look, I hope she gets well, and I hope this doesn’t linger. Pneumonia is a really serious thing, but you know what, running for president, that’ll do it to you.” If she really is sick, I hope she gets better. And if she’s not, I hope she stops fabricating fictional news to distract from the real issues.

Focusing my attention on the TV screen, I could not hear what Rep. Hoyer was saying, but I read the subtitles and laughed out loud when I saw these words: “…the results of a full physical examination by incredible medical professionals…”

He went on to say how strong and healthy Clinton is; that voters have no reason to be concerned. As a Democratic Representative, I have to wonder how carefully he chose his words. He wants the full medical report to be shared with voters – physical exam results from incredible medical professionals.

incredible [inˈkredəb(ə)l]- (adj.) not credible; without credence; not to be believed

Whether Hillary is facing serious health issues or not, I have no doubt that she is in the hands of some incredible medical professionals who can churn out whatever physical results best suit her campaign.

I love America. We really do have some incredible politicians.

Authentically Aurora

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Paris – Day 4

Hardware SocieteOpting to start our Montmarte morning in that section of Paris (the 18th arrondissement), Rachel and I enjoyed a continental breakfast at Hardware Societe just down the street from Sacre-Coeur. When I ordered my breakfast of a cafe au lait with roasted peaches and oats in yogurt, the adorable waiter – whose leather apron was fitting in light of the cafe’s name – told me with a smile, “Your French is perfect!” When we left, he asked hopefully, “See you tomorrow?” We seriously made friends left and right. What is that my boss keeps saying about my inability to win friends and influence people? 

IMG_6212.jpgWalking back toward the hilly Sacre-Coeur, we saw children feeding pigeons and were greeted by the peaceful sounds of a harpist. Down the street, we found Place du Tertre where local street artists sketched portraits of tourists. I enjoyed watching their skill unfold as they captured the unique markings of each of their subjects.

Continuing on to Rue des Abbesses, we stopped in to a number of Montmarte boutiques where I found a cute bracelet for Ashley and a fashionable coffee mug for myself. Lunch was at Creperie Broceliande, where I ordered the Mont Blanc – a chocolate banana crepe that was the best crepe I’ve ever had in my entire life, which is saying something, considering I’ve had crepes in Greece and also make my own in a crepe pan at home. If you ever go to Paris, definitely check this place out!

We also tried the Cuillier coffee chain, found it average, and headed over to the 3rd arrondissement to check out Merci, a nonprofit shop that is part cafe, part boutique and part home goods store. It was neat to see, but everything was outrageously overpriced, and the store was also overcrowded. On the plus side, I ran into more people from my hometown, and the shopkeeper thought I was French when we conversed briefly. Victory.

IMG_6304On the Metro on our way to the Arc de Triomphe, I kept catching a tall brunette guy looking at me. When we got off a few stops later, I glanced his way and found him still watching, so I smiled politely at him as I exited the platform. Rachel and I strolled down Champs-Elysses, taking in the sights on foot and peeking in Laduree before coming to a stop at the end of the street at the Arc de Triomphe.

When we were crossing a crosswalk on our way back down Avenue des Champs-Elysses, I sensed rapid movement behind me and turned to see the tall brunette from the Metro hurrying across the street toward me before the light turned red. “Hey.” He said something to me in French, and when I looked dumbfounded, he asked in English, “Do you remember me from the Metro?”

“Of course,” I said, and he introduced himself as Thomas (Toh-mah), a native Parisian. He waved over to his friend Benjamin (Bah-jah-mah), who joined us shortly. Rachel and I had just finished all of our touring for the day, so when they invited us for coffee, we agreed. I realized Thomas was steering us toward a Starbucks, so I suggested we go to a local cafe instead.

IMG_6361.jpgThomas stopped cold. “You are a difficult woman.” I just laughed, and we went to Starbucks. Thomas had thought I was Eastern European, so when he found out that I’m an American (and have shot guns), he added to my descriptors: “You are a dangerous woman!”

Rachel and I learned that Benjamin is a 22-year-old sports journalist, and Thomas is a 23-year-old IT major with dreams of being a professional (corporation-employed) hacker. They asked how Rachel and I know each other, and when I said, “Church,” they looked surprised, so I asked them (fully knowing the answer) if they grew up going to church.

The native Parisians told me that they are both agnostic and that in France, church is for old people. “It’s more of a tradition,” Thomas explained. So I asked what they believe happens when they die. Rachel squirmed, pleading with her eyes for me to stop. But the postmodern, open-minded, sophomoric French were interested in engaging in philosophical conversation. Besides, if I have to choose between temporary discomfort for us versus potentially eternal death for them, I will choose temporary discomfort every single time.

IMG_5751Benjamin seemed to think that we just fade to nothing when we die, and Thomas said diplomatically that we cannot know for sure until we actually die and experience the other side. I countered with a twinkle in my eye, “I believe I know for sure, and you can, too.” Rachel’s discomfort was now palpable. Wishing she would support me rather than being a stumbling block, I plunged ahead, sharing the gospel of Jesus with them. The boys seemed interested but not convinced, and I encouraged them that something of potentially eternal significance is probably worth exploring. We exchanged contact information, but now all I can do is pray the Holy Spirit works faith in them. They’ve heard the truth. I’m responsible for obedience and providing the input, but God is the only one who can determine the outcome.

Rachel and I said goodbye to the French boys and took the Metro to the Bastille to check the box (not much to see there); then we went back to (you guessed it!) Rue Cler where I enjoyed a burger and Pinot Noir at Cafe du Marche. I don’t normally like red wines, but this one was not too bitter; it had a subtle sweetness and was not too dry. We reflected on the day, got more LeNotre macaroons and took an evening stroll through the Palais de Challoit in view of the Eiffel Tower before retiring for the night. La perfection.

Authentically Aurora

Three Men & Their Friends

Coffee Shop illustration

I spend entirely too much money on coffee. A year ago, I spent an average of $20/month on coffee. These days, it’s four times that amount. I know this because, in addition to being a voracious coffee drinker, I am also a nerd who maintains a monthly personal expense report.

I am not so basic as to spend all my coffee budget on Starbucks every month. It’s true that many a business meeting takes place over a cup of Starbucks coffee, but as much as I can, I like to get my lattes from Black Gold Coffee, a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop with a hipster vibe.

Black Gold is nestled between a couple of boutiques on a tree-lined historic avenue in a run-down part of town in the process of being gentrified. The artwork on the walls of the coffee shop is always changing as local artists take their turns displaying their latest masterpieces for sale.

About a month ago, after placing my order with a Black Gold barista, I perched on a bar stool while waiting for my iced latte. An attractive brunette gentleman sat a couple of seats down, clicking away on his laptop where I could see that he was editing photos. “Are you a Canon or Nikon man?” I asked him, striking up a conversation. Daniel, as he introduced himself, is a Canon photographer as well as an aspiring writer.

Daniel and I spoke for a few minutes while I waited for my coffee. When it arrived in all its caffeinated goodness, I started to bid Daniel adieu, but he stopped me and asked if he could take me on a date sometime. Surprised that this soft-spoken poetic man would also be so courageous, I smiled and thanked him but explained that I am fasting from dating for a while. I left and thought nothing more of the conversation.

A few days later found me back at Black Gold, this time sipping a hot milk-and-honey latte while reading a book. When the sound of laughter permeated my internal movie scene as I lived my book along with its characters, I glanced up from the worn pages to see a Boromir look-alike standing a few tables away. I went back to my book, but as I got up to leave a while later, I stopped by Boromir’s table and asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you look just like -”

“Sean Bean,” he finished the sentence for me, naming the actor who played the red-headed friend of Frodo in The Lord of the Rings movies.

“Oh. I guess so,” I laughed, embarrassed. But the doppelganger struck up a friendly conversation with me, and I found out that he was yet another photographer. Boromir (real name Simon) was working on his macro photography, and he invited me to join him shooting butterflies at a local arboretum later that week. I’d been wanting to work on my own macro game, so I enthusiastically agreed.

Simon and I had a great time shooting butterflies that weekend, but it was soon evident that he was romantically interested in me, so when we went out for dinner after the photo shoot, I figured it was time for me to set him straight on my intentions. I let Simon pick the restaurant, and to my relief, he picked a casual burger joint.

Simon and I were laughing when we walked into the mom-and-pop restaurant, but I stopped mid-giggle when I looked up to see Daniel standing behind the cash register. How must this look to Daniel? Just a week ago, I turned down his offer of a date, telling him that I’m not dating right now. And here I am, walking into a restaurant – a restaurant he apparently works at! – laughing with another man. This totally looks like a date. He’s going to think I lied. He’s going to think I made up some excuse. I need to find a way to explain myself!

Simon saw my reaction and asked, “Oh, you know Daniel?”

My eyes widened. “YOU know Daniel?!”

Simon nodded, misreading my expression. “Yeah, we’re really good friends. That’s why I picked this place. I eat here all the time. Daniel and I go shooting together sometimes; then sit and edit our photos together at Black Gold.”

Of course they do. This is my life after all. Two photographers who I met at the same coffee shop? Of course they’re friends. And of course they both asked me out. And of course I managed to get myself into a sticky situation. Why would I expect any different from my life? I am Madame Rom-Com!

Fortunately, I have lots of experience explaining myself and disentangling myself from the ridiculous messes I seem to unintentionally create. So I told Simon I wasn’t interested, that I was fasting from dating, that Daniel had asked me out, and that Daniel was probably misinterpreting our hamburger hangout. Simon was understanding, agreed to set Daniel straight on what was happening, and we’ve all actually managed to stay friends and gone shooting again since then. Victory.

About a week after the photography almost-fiasco, I caught Ashley up on my non-love life. She goes to Black Gold even more often than I do, so she knows all the baristas and frequent patrons. When she heard about Simon, she asked, “Is he the one who sits in the back corner most mornings?”

“No… he’s usually there in the evening.” I showed her a photo of Simon, and she laughed.

“He looks just like the early morning barista!” Ashley and I can be creepy together, embracing the Facebook-stalking culture of our generation, so she pulled up a picture of another man who looked remarkably like Simon, which is weird since Simon is a long-haired red-headed man in a fairly conservative city.

“It’s Boromir #2!!!” we cried together, erupting into laughter.

Ironically (or predictably, since it is my life, after all), Simon sent me a text the very next day asking what I thought of Donny. “Donny? Who is Donny?” I texted back.

Simon sent me a photo of Boromir #2 sitting with his hands wrapped around a latte. Of course. Of course Boromir #1 (Simon) knows Boromir #2 (Donny).

“I don’t know,” I typed back. “I’ve never had a real conversation with him.”

“He says he tried to ask you out one time,” Simon wrote back.

“What?!”

“Yeah, he saw me with you the other day at Black Gold and asked if we were dating. He said one time when you were ordering a drink, he tried to ask you out.”

“Well he must have been very subtle, because I have no recollection of any attempt on his part to ask me out.”

Sweet, poetic Daniel must have gotten all the boldness in this group of friends. He stated his intentions of asking me on a date within five minutes of meeting me. Simon tried a sneak-a-date, and Donny was so shy and subtle that I completely missed his come-on.

I know it’s bad form to date best friends, but what about unintentionally non-dating three guys who you didn’t know were friends?!

Welcome to my life.

Authentically Aurora

Teaching Math to Hoodlums

Latte ArtI love math.

And coffee.

And when the two come together for an afternoon of pure, unexpected awesomeness.

For about a month now, I have been coaching a junior high Math Club. Every Thursday afternoon, I leave work a little bit early to drive to a local middle school and teach Number Sense (competitive mental math) to about a dozen 7th and 8th graders.

Yes, I was a nerdy Mathlete once upon a time, spending my Saturdays at math competitions. Fortunately for American society, I now teach other young, impressionable children to be equally as nerdy. Luckily for these kids, some brilliant fashionista coined the term “hipster” so they have a chance to be cool while being smart. I cannot say I was so fortunate back in my day.

On the week I started this volunteer work, I allowed a lot of extra time for traffic, not knowing how long it would take me to drive across town. I ended up arriving almost an hour early, so I stopped by a neighboring Starbucks to kill some time while I waited for the after school program to start.

As I climbed out of my car – still in my business suit – and walked up to the door of Starbucks, some teenagers dressed in all black with punk accessories started to catcall me. One in particular, with sunken eyes and an untamed mass of curls, called out, “Hey lady, will you buy me a drink?”

I looked him up and down and asked why I should do that. He said, “Because it’s freezing out here!”

It’s true that it was cold outside, but when I asked, “Why don’t you go inside then?”, he looked dumbfounded for a second; then replied with sass, “I’m so cold, I’m frozen in place!”

I lifted my chin and told him, “Then you’re not smart enough to earn yourself a drink.”

I walked inside, got in line to order, and had a crazy thought. I am an engineer, not a teacher, and it would be nice to run through my lesson plan with a practice audience. The punk kids outside all wanted coffee (and obviously needed some positive adult attention), so I got out of line before I could over think the wild idea.

I popped my head outside and called to the dozen teenagers skulking about, “Hey, anybody who wants a free coffee, come with me! If you are willing to sit and listen to fifteen minutes’ worth of a math lesson, I’ll buy you a drink!”

The curly-haired boy who had asked me for a hot drink only moments earlier gaped at me with wide eyes, astonished. “Are you serious?”

“I sure am. Are you coming?” I held the door open for him as he walked in, along with five of his friends.

They had been angry, aggressive kids outside, wrapped in their claimed misunderstood status, but once in line with me, the transformation in their collective demeanor was astounding. They were all suddenly shy, polite, and sweet.

Every single teen, when he or she got to the front of the line, looked up at me with big eyes and asked shyly, “Does it matter what size I get?” I loved that they asked, and I loved that I could tell them, “Get whatever you want. It’s my treat.”

After the last kid had ordered, and I paid for their drinks along with my tall cafe mocha (with whip, of course), the cashier asked me skeptically, “Is this some kind of community outreach program?”

I laughed, “Nope. This is just me loving on some kids and practicing my math lesson.”

The woman raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips, looking scornfully at the teens behind me. “Well you treat them better than we do.” These kids must be the bane of her existence, always hanging around outside the store, seemingly up to no good.

Once all of the teens were settled with their inevitably Venti-sized drinks in their hands, I started the lesson. I walked them through LIOF and the Rule of 11, first explaining how each mental math trick worked; then talking through examples. I let the kids pick the numbers we used, getting them involved in the exercises. And then I made each of them solve a problem on their own in front of the group.

When my fifteen minutes were almost up, I turned to the curly-haired boy and said, “Okay, you’re the last one. Time to do your sample problem.”

“No, I went at the beginning,” he told me, straight-faced.

“You did?” I asked him.

“No he didn’t!” said the lone girl in the group. “Remember? I went first!”

I raised my eyebrows at the boy and said with a tease in my voice. “This is a Lie-Free Zone. Did you already solve an example for the group?”

He looked down at his shoes. “No,” he told me.

“Alright. Then let’s do one together. I’ll help you. Do you want to do LIOF or the Rule of 11?”

We worked through the problem together, with the other kids surprisingly giving him encouraging comments as he thought through the answer. When he solved the math problem, his eyes lit up. He was so proud of himself that I had to blink quickly to hide the tears welling up in my eyes.

It was an absolute joy to watch the lightbulbs go off in the eyes of these teens; to watch their confidence build over the course of just fifteen minutes. I loved hearing them encourage one another and get excited about learning something new – about math, of all things!

Before long, I had to leave to teach the kids actually involved in Math Club. But I’ve gotta admit, teaching the hoodlums was way more fun. I have been looking for a place to actively volunteer for five years, but organizational bureaucracy or stringent scheduling always has gotten in the way. Maybe I finally found my niche. Maybe it’s time I just start going to different Starbucks and picking out juvenile delinquents to invest in. Math for Mochas. It’s got a nice ring to it.

Authentically Aurora