Don’t Say Cava Bar When You Really Mean Kava Bar

Don’t Say Cava Bar When You Really Mean Kava Bar

I came home and sat on the couch. It was only about 4:30 in the afternoon, but I really didn’t feel like doing anything. I just experienced my first drink of kava and I was tired.

I tried to remember the conversation I had with my sister in the morning, when told her I was planning to check out a kava bar in my neighborhood.

“That sounds like fun,” she said. “I wonder if any of it will be like the wine you brought back from Barcelona.”

OK, that was a non sequitur. It took me some time to realize that she was talking about cava (sparkling Spanish wine).

My husband had a similar reaction when I mentioned that I was kava-curious. He cheerfully replied that his brother used to drink instant Kava back in the 70s. (He was talking about a classic brand of decaffeinated coffee .)

Auto-correct on my iPhone is also confused. It thinks I really want lava.

(Kava, lava, java… what difference does it really all make?)

What Exactly Is Kava?

My son was the one who originally told me about this new (to me) beverage. He drinks it regularly in Austin (where he lives), especially when he’s doing his “sober months.”

This is an activity (or lack of activity) which seems to be growing in popularity with his age group.

I can honestly say anyone who decides to stop drinking at my age does so permanently. We are past the “temporary” stage of quitting. You’re either all-in or all-out.

The drink is brewed from the root of a plant (Piper methysticum) that grows in the Pacific Islands. Kava means “bitter” in the Tongan language, and there’s truth in advertising there, because the beverage I drank was very bitter.

Polynesian cultures have imbibed kava for over 1,500 years as a medicinal and spiritual libation. It’s now being touted in western societies as a non-weed, non-alcoholic way to relax, mellow-out, and feel groovy.

Kava bars have long been a fixture in Hawaii, with the first one opened in the continental United States back in 2002. In the early 2000’s there was some concern about kava’s safety, such as possible liver damage.

It appears to have been found to be safe for most people, but I’m very cautious and strive to do everything in moderation. As with taking any drug or supplement the general rules apply: Do your homework first.

My Kava Bar Experience

An online search turned up two venues near my home where I could sample some kava. The first one was a hookah lounge, so I chose to go to the one that was strictly a kava bar. I drove there shortly after their 3:00 opening, bravely opened the door and walked in.

It had a low-light kind of ambiance, which I understand is not unusual, and the background music was unremarkable. It wasn’t classic rock, wasn’t jazz, not country or hip hop. I don’t know what it was, and it didn’t impress me.

However, the rest of the place did surprise me. It was actually kind of nice.

The room was dominated by a long, wood top bar with comfortable bar chairs, and it had maybe a dozen booths. There was a young guy behind the counter (who was the owner), and a younger guy behind the bar (who was an employee). Younger guided me to my first kava drink.

He handed me what appeared to be an 8-ounce serving, with the flavoring of my choice: Irish Cream – much like the creamer I use in my coffee. But this didn’t taste anything like coffee.

He told me to drink it fast, which I easily obliged to get it over with, because this stuff must be an acquired taste. Younger suggested I suck on a lime chaser to help with bitterness, but I think I’ll pass on that the next time.

He instructed me to sit and relax to get the full effect.

Within a minute or two, my mouth got numb, kind of like a Novocain feeling. (Eh, not sure that’s something I like.)

Young and Younger behind the bar assured me that was normal.

A couple of minutes later, I started to feel dizzy. Then really dizzy.

I told Younger and he said to drink water, since kava can be dehydrating. So, I got up and clumsily walked to the bar to get a cup of water and bring it back to my booth.

In the meantime, four also-younger guys had entered the joint and were sitting a couple of booths away. They were having a good time and were obvious regulars. A 20-something woman walked in for her regular order. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon and people were stopping in to relax and socialize after work – like what we used to call “happy hour.”

I think Young and Younger were a little worried about me. Without prompting, Young brought me a glass of tea, which he said would help me. I wasn’t feeling sick, but who knows what I looked like. I sipped the cold tea.

After about 45 minutes, I thanked them and walked out to my car.

And to be entirely honest, I’m not sure I should have driven. My mind was OK. I didn’t feel drunk or stoned or high. I hadn’t attained some cool alternative mindset (which would have been fantastic). My reflexes felt normal enough and the dizziness had passed. However, my head felt… heavy. It was a weird sensation.

When I got home, I sat on the couch, turned on the TV, and called my son.

“You should drink it slowly,” he said. That’s not what Young and Younger had advised.

I felt tired the rest of the evening, but unfortunately, that didn’t translate to better sleep that night. The effects of kava apparently wear off within 30-90 minutes.

I’m thinking I’m going to try it again. I’m not afraid of it, but as I am a lightweight with drugs, I’ll ask for a weaker brew.

If there’s a moral to this story, it’s “go slow.” Buyer beware, but don’t be afraid to try new things.

I was kind of proud of myself for doing something like this on my own. It’s been a while.

I Had a Work-Life Crisis (Part 2)

I Had a Work-Life Crisis (Part 2)

Sometimes life gets in the way of living your life
We’d all love to… but sometimes life gets in the way.

So I decided to stay with the new job. It worked (sort of) well. While I had to make some adjustments, such as punching a time clock or spending an hour commuting, I also realized it would be going backwards to work for the buyer of my company. I sold it not because it wasn’t doing well, but because I was bored.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the new job four and a half years later to be a support person for my father when his health declined rapidly after my mother died. While there were aspects about the job that I enjoyed and of course there’s the issue of a paycheck, what I have really missed most is seeing co-workers that became friends. It’s been over a year since I left and while I remain social with a handful of my old co-workers, it’s that daily contact, camaraderie, and working towards a common goal where I feel a real loss. Nothing is perfect, but sometimes you make the choices that just have to be made.

I’m hoping a new chapter opens up that brings fun, good people, and where I learn new things. I’m just not sure how to find it.

I Had a Work-Life Crisis (Part 1)

I Had a Work-Life Crisis (Part 1)

Found this old draft from 2014 that never went up. It was interesting for me to read, like therapy. I’ll post an update next:

It’s interesting that I felt that last week was overall, a bad week. My husband thought it was a great week. And we were talking about the same events.

Back story I had a home-based business for 20 years and sold it last year on July 26th and never looked back. Paid someone to help me write a resume, sent it to one company advertising on Craigslist, got the job, and was an employee again starting on September 30th. I lacked confidence, was underpaid, and punched a digital time clock. I earned less than I did 20 years before and the last time I punched a real time clock was 34 years ago. When did punchclocks become virtual?

When I started the job hunt, I had no idea where I was going to end up, but there were some real strong qualities that I was looking for in my future employer for my next chapter. I knew I wanted to be busy and around people. My business had kept me alone all day except when kids were home and I was lonely. I craved collaboration. I wanted to get out of the house.

It was fun to build my business, but I had gotten quite bored and complacent the last four or five years. To be honest, I was depressed and knew a change was needed. When my business partner was forced to sell because of a divorce, I knew it was time for me to also leave. Coincidentally, my youngest was also going away to college and I always had talked about maybe getting out of the business at this time. I asked my ex-partner a couple of weeks ago if she missed it. She said no and also that she never looked back. I think that “never looked back” phrase is so perfect because it really describes someone when a right decision is made.

For various reasons, I wasn’t always warm and fuzzy about my new job, but I knew it had too many of the elements I was craving. On paper it was exactly what I would have described: 50 employees, very busy, nice people, fun product, casual dress, and a real entrepreneurial feel about the place. But I had a hard time sitting at a desk all day, looking at two monitors, and punching the clock. The low pay wasn’t really a problem. That is, until the annual review came up.

They review everyone once a year. I had been employed for six months and knew they were happy with me. While I was frustrated in what felt like a clerical position, I was feeling safe there and it was healing in a way. I wasn’t ready to go on another job hunt. I decided that instead of another employer, when I left this place it would be to work for myself again. Investing in myself was the best investment I ever made so why work for someone else if this didn’t work out?

The review was very positive, but the raise was 71 cents an hour. I was pretty surprised. So much so, that I had to apologize to my boss for my reaction that easily could have been taken as rude and ungrateful when he told me (I laughed and asked if he was kidding). I learned this was not the place I would be employed at for an extended period.

At the same time, the company that purchased my old business ended up offering me a job making the same amount of money, only it would be part-time. They said I could work wherever and whenever I wanted. It would be doing pretty much the same thing I did for the business when I owned it, but I wouldn’t be doing any customer service or answering phones (or the financial responsibility that comes with owning a business). Around the same time, my current company also told me they wanted to move me up sometime in the next few months. Then things became urgent with my old business and I had to make a decision. I went in and told my supervisor that I was considering a job offer and the same day I was offered a promotion to supervise my department (and respectable raise to go with it) effective immediately.

What should I do?

To my shock and horror, my husband thought it was great because I had two companies who wanted me to work for them, both with good, but different, offers. I found it to be disturbing and stressful. Big time. Xanax worthy. What if I made the wrong decision? What would really make me happy? Yada, blah, blah, yada. Choices aren’t always good, even though we often wish for them.

I made my decision today. What would you have done?

Bubbles and Sparks on the Fourth of July

Bubbles and Sparks on the Fourth of July

Five Ideas, One Menu, 15 Movies and  a Couple of Other Odds and Ends You Can Do (No Kids Required)

Celebrate the Fourth of JulyI wasn’t happy when I realized that the Fourth of July this year falls on a Wednesday.

I don’t know about you, but I think the greatest decision of the late 20th century was the one that turned holidays like Washington’s Birthday and Memorial Day into 3-day weekends. It is unfortunate they did not make a similar decision with Independence Day. I suppose “First Monday in July” is just not as much fun as “Fourth of July.”

At any rate, it can be challenging to entertain on the Fourth in years when it falls on a Wednesday “hump day.” Most people I know are hanging around town rather than taking extra days off from work. What will you do? If you want simple, but good ideas (kids optional), read below. If you want really creative time consuming ideas, go to Pinterest.

The Fireworks

This is the first thing that comes to mind for most of us when we think of this holiday. (What? The Declaration of Independence? Who are you people?)

If you live each year for the fireworks, you’ll want to either take advantage of a big display in your community OR blow some up in your front yard (but only if it’s legal – unless you crave the extra excitement and flashing lights that come from breaking local laws).

This is a true American way of literally letting your money go up in smoke –  and who doesn’t love that?

I always make sure there are at least a few whistlers in my fireworks package. The reason is practical: For years, my son used the 4th of July fireworks to blow up fruit and vegetables. This bit was a hit with the other neighborhood kids. Now that he’s all grown up and isn’t home on the 4th, our fruit is relatively safe — but I admit to missing the chaos and excitement that always came with this holiday.

Food and Drink

We’re lucky to live in an area where ”safe and sane” fireworks are legal to set off in the street, and our street always makes a big show of it. I’ve discovered that you can buy your way into your neighbors’ hearts by bringing out some sparkling wine to share with them. (The other way is to make sure you pick up your dog’s poop on their lawns. Better yet, mow their lawn once in a while.)

Be sure to purchase a couple of extra bottles of bubbles and some $1.92 champagne flutes to share. You can’t go wrong.

Most large cities and many smaller ones have their own large fireworks displays. This usually means getting in the car and driving to a park with a lot of people. Meet your friends there, bring a picnic dinner (don’t forget the bubbly) and enjoy the show.

To make it even more festive, you can add a hibiscus flower to the bottom of the glass for a very pretty look. I like adding four or five pomegranate seeds to bounce in the glass as I drink.

Invite your friends for an early dinner/BBQ. with the fireworks as the grand finale (which also works as a hint that it’s time to go home — DO make sure you serve your dessert before the fireworks).

SIMPLE MENU for Midweek Fourth of July BBQ

(This is especially easy if you have to work Tuesday and Thursday.) It is so easy, yet satifsying, you’ll actually be able to enjoy yourself and everyone will be happy:

  • Your favorite protein to BBQ (chicken, steak, salmon, etc.)
  • Cut up vegetables for grilling in a basket (cauliflower, mushrooms, squash, onion). Marinate in some olive oil and seasoned salt.
  • Small red potatoes, cut in half, seasoned with olive oil, crushed garlic, and seasoned salt. Grill in a basket.
  • Edamame salad: One bag frozen shelled edamame, one bag frozen corn, red chopped red onion to taste,  a lot of cilantro, and your choice of dressing (I use a Trader Joe’s cilantro salad dressing).
  • Egg salad with tarragon (keep mayo to a minimum, add some salt to taste)
  • Good bread
  • Purchased cake and berries, and/or ice cream

Watch a Movie

With scorching July temperatures, people clamor for a place where they can chill for a while – like an air conditioned theater. So it’s no wonder that the studios release blockbuster movies for Independence Day.  I’m more of a stay-at-home-on the-holidays kind of person, so binging on movies at home is good for me. Here are some patriotic movie suggestions for the holiday:

CH-AR-GE IT!

Go shopping – I hear that is a patriotic thing to do! Purchase a flag if you don’t have one or if yours is in bad shape. Check out the traditional patriotic shirts that are sold every year at Old Navy. There’s also this red, white and blue heart shaped necklace that is fun, or this very cool Sunnydaze hammock you can buy online.

Do Your Part

Research your community to see where volunteers are needed, either for clean-up, helping with a large event, or donations of food. If your parent is in a senior living residence, check to see if they need  Fourth of July help (or any other day). Giving to others in our community is one of the most patriotic activities we can perform.

Please leave any other ideas you have for how to spend the Fourth of July on a Wednesday. And remember, two drinks away is a good place to be.

A Good Day’s Work May Never End

A Good Day’s Work May Never End

Boy_I_Sure_Did_a_Good_Days_Work_WW_II_United_StatesI kind of hope I’ll always work. Let me clarify. I hope I’ll always want to work and be healthy to work as long as I want.

The idea of working forever, or at least a long time, has always appealed to me and makes a lot of sense. Of course, it’s always nicer if you have the option to work rather than need to work because of finances. Delayed retirement has grown significantly as described in this article from the NY Times, Of Retirement Age, but Remaining in the Work Force.

Work doesn’t have to mean a paycheck. Organizations of all interests are available if one wants to volunteer their time. Helping your own family with tasks such babysitting and taking care of elderly parents, qualifies as “work” in that it is productive and serves a need. Taking care of one’s family not only strengthens the family, but also strengthens society.

So, keep your fingers crossed for me and I’ll keep them for you however you want to live your life in retirement, or maybe no retirement.