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I was on my fifth cup of coffee when I sat down with Barb. My call came through while she was on route to her kitchen to refill her cup as well. Here we were, two strangers tired and exhausted from exercising our patriotic duties of the night before, sipping coffee together.
Just as it was when I went to bed at 3:00 am, I had no idea what the outcome of this interview would produce. I just had to believe something great would manifest itself. And it did, while sharing our morning ritual together.
Barb lives in a small, rural town of Spencer, Iowa. She is a retired Speech Language Pathologist who has worked in the state since receiving her master’s degree from Northeastern University in Boston (where for some strange reason are in love with Dunkin Donuts coffee.). I found it interesting that while we are waiting to learn who will be our next president, one of the candidates had a speech issue. And that someone like Barb helped him overcome his stuttering.
We never know who the people we help will become someday. Case in point, the first student Barb worked with was a young girl whose speech was difficult to understand. Together they worked hard and did not give up until the child was able to overcome the challenges and learn to speak clearly. Today, that girl is returning the favor as a speech pathologist as well.
According to Johns Hopkins University website, coffee is more than just a way to get your caffeine fix. It also contains antioxidants and other active substances that may reduce internal inflammation and protect against disease.
A mother of two grown children (spaced three years apart like mine), she is blessed with three granddaughters from her son and two grandsons from her daughter. But today, Barb shares her home with Cooper, a 14 year-old Labradoodle, “who sheds a lot.” Cooper makes sure that Barb doesn’t sleep too much.
“Since retiring I don’t set an alarm.” I envy her because she gets up, with a cup of coffee, when she’s ready. Maybe it’s the sleep, or the coffee, or a combination of the two, but Barb has a wonderful gentleness that complements her youthful appearance.
Barb has a great heart that she was willing to share with me. When I asked her who was her favorite Muppet (because we all have to have one) her smile lit up. “Professor Honeydew and Beeker” were the first to come to mind. This was just one of many other things we had in common; like both having cried while watching The Muppet Movie, and both agreeing Kermit the Frog today just isn’t the same without the voice of Jim Henson.
She is more than a coffee drinking-retiree-mother-grandmother-friend of a friend. She is more than someone who shares my Scottish-Canadian roots and love of the Muppets and Sesame Street. She is a kind and gentle soul I could have coffee with every morning. She was easy to talk to and just get lost in the conversation.
When I asked her what she’d like the world to know about her, it didn’t surprise me to hear her say, “I’m a good friend. I try to be kind and treat people the way I want to be treated. I love my family.”
According to Diane Vizthum, a nutritional researcher, “What you add to your coffee can make a difference in how healthy the beverage really is.” She suggests skipping the sugar and adding naturally sweet spices and flavorings like cardamom or cinnamon.
I don’t know what kind of bean Barb was using. I don’t know if it was caffeinated or decaffeinated. I can’t recall if she added milk or half-in-half. But I do know a little more about her. By adding her to my morning cup, certainly added to the health and well-being of my soul.
“Life is fragile. Be kind.” That was her advice. Simple, yet profound. The very wisdom that fits so perfectly at home on the side of one's favorite coffee mug.