Panic Attack! It’s Only Coffee…But

I almost had a panic attack Tuesday evening. I have this routine before I go to bed. I make my coffee so all I have to do when I am bleary-eyed in the morning is to punch the button. I knew I had finished my one container of coffee the day before, but I also knew I had another full container in the cupboard. However, now I am questioning everything I thought I knew.

I went to the cupboard. I found the can. It seemed awfully light. I pulled off the cover and it was…wait…for…it, EMPTY. My can of coffee was empty. There was no coffee. Did I put that empty can in the cupboard? Was I sleepwalking when I did it? I quickly dismissed the thought and blamed it on my Natasha, my crafty kitty who haunts my cupboards or tries to. Let’s pass the blame because I could not handle doing that to myself when it came to coffee.

Immediately I could feel the panic fill my body. There would be no coffee at 6:00 a.m. as I leisurely took my time waking and getting out of bed. Usually, I wallow and read in bed with my coffee at least for an hour. It is my routine. I could handle the not wallowing, but NO COFFEE? Tea wasn’t going to cut it.

Then came the what-ifs.  Would the grocery store let me do the curbside pickup for only coffee as I was stocked up on everything else I needed? And…I am leary about this old person going into a store where no one is wearing masks, That in itself brings panic because I know people in other areas mired in virus problems, and as much as we think we are safe in a low virus county, you never know. Still, even if I did do that in the morning there would be no coffee when I woke up.

It seems like a small thing and it is, but coffee helps because it is a routine and something stable in my life when all else seems to be upended.

Did I have anything stuffed in the freezer that I forgot about? I quickly dug in my freezer and pulled out an old bag of leftover beans that were hidden in the bottom of the freezer, enough to make a pot. But where was my coffee grinder? Did I even have one anymore?

That led to another foraging at night looking for my coffee grinder. I was a madwoman rummaging through cupboards where I stored that which does not get used often. I found it stuffed in the back under some other appliances I haven’t used in years.  I rushed it to the cupboard and put the old coffee beans, as in years and years old, in the grinder. I couldn’t get it to work. I dinged around for a short time and I found success, and ground my beans, dropping them into my Cuisinart, ready for the morning.

I didn’t sleep well that night wondering if I would be able to even drink the coffee. Would it be horrible because the beans were so old?  As I pried my sleepy eyes open and pondered the headache I had, I staggered to the kitchen and pushed the button. The coffee maker sprung to life. I pondered how to get some coffee without visiting the grocery store for one item. I know it seems silly, but did I also mention anxiety is my middle name and I like to avoid it at all costs? There was my neighbors, Brian and Tammy who I knew would go to the store for me, but they do so much for me I hated to ask them for just the coffee, and I feel though they are young and out and about, it is hard to ask for something so silly.

I decided that just once until I needed the next big grocery order to buy from my local grocery, because I believe in buying the things I need that are available in town, to order coffee online.  I thought I had enough beans for maybe two days although the taste wasn’t the best.  Buying online wasn’t an option if I needed it within the next day or so as shipping was two weeks out. I could feel the panic set in again along with my migraine pounding my head, so I gave it up and called my neighbor and he immediately brought my coffee.

As I ponder what I normally wouldn’t have gotten anxious about, which is going to the grocery store, I know I was overreacting. Everyone is going to the grocery store on their own in my community. Masks still haven’t been the norm and we don’t even know if they protect us, but they make some of us feel protected. Part of my anxiety is knowing my friends from all over the states and other countries who have the virus, lost loved ones or have medical conditions, and tell me this could come here easily and all it takes is one person out and about who infects others. We don’t have it in such numbers here but those friends are always in the back of my mind.

And then the thought came to me as I called my neighbor…what if there is no coffee? What if there is a shortage? There is no toilet paper but will we add coffee to the list? Coffee seems to be my security blanket in this time of fear. In the time of not knowing when we will be able to hug our children and grandchildren again. I can’t even go there thinking about how our interaction with other people is going to change. I can’t imagine never hugging anyone on a spur of the moment meeting again. So I choose coffee to panic about. I can’t go to the other possibilities in my mind. But I can do coffee. I can’t think about the hugs shortage that would go far beyond panic.

Let me panic about coffee. It is a small thing to obsess about because it doesn’t let me think about all the other places my mind could go. Let yourself have your feelings in this time about whatever insignificant thing is causing you to freak out. If it gets you through the bigger things then you have got this. Stay safe.

Almost all my middle-aged and elderly acquaintances, including me, feel about 25, unless we haven’t had our coffee, in which case we feel 107.

Martha Beck

A Yearning For My Front Steps

This morning I have an inexplicable yearning to go outside and sit on my front steps and breathe in life.

It is the appearance of the sun in what has been a cold and bleak and cloudy Minnesota which brings to mind spring and thoughts of flowers and warm weather. However, I can’t explain my feeling that I need a front step sit. I have a perfectly good outside porch to enjoy but something in me tells me I need steps.

Though the sun is shining today my front steps and porch are crusted with ice. It is still winter and there is still snow on the ground. I like the beauty of winter as long as I don’t have to haul my old body outside. The pull is real to feel the fresh air on my face so I may dash out, raise my face to the sun and dash back inside to the warmth of my fireplace. Still, I feel the call of the front steps or the back steps for a peaceful sit.

Outdoor furniture awaits my porch sitting so why would I abandon that in place of the front steps? I think it has to do with my past and memories.

Living at my grandmothers and then when my family moved, we didn’t have fancy outdoor furniture. We would go outside and sit on the steps and talk and enjoy the evening. The front steps were better than the back steps because you could chat with those passing by or you could wave at the cars going by. Occasionally they would stop and talk.

There were interesting views. At my grandmother’s house I sat on the front steps and watched the trains go by or watched the animals. My mom or uncles would come in from the chores or the garden and we would talk for hours on the front steps. At our house my dad would sit with me as we watched the neighbor kids play or visited with those in the neighborhood, sometimes calling across the street. There were no cell phones or outdoor phones to distract us.

I do sit on my front concrete steps occasionally in this day and age for a quick moment when I am shaking out a rug or waiting for someone to pick me up, but most of the time I sit on my comfy chair on my outdoor porch or my patio. I have to say that for some reason it isn’t the same. Perhaps because of the front step memories.

I have no good explanation for yearning for my front steps unless it is perhaps missing those that used to share my experience. I also shared many front step conversations with my best girlfriends. If those steps could talk they would reveal so much about the past lives of the step sitters.

Perhaps when the ice is gone I will forgo my porch and patio for an occasional step sitting. I have a feeling it will be a good way to breathe and appreciate the simple life of the past,

“A journey to a thousand miles begins with one step.” –John F.Kennedy

Immigration, has it changed since the 1900’s?

Sprinkled Notes published in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of September 17, 2018

by Julie Seedorf © September 2018

Alex Haley stated, “When you start about family and lineage and ancestry, you are talking about every person on earth.” Alex Haley was an American writer and the author of the 1976 book “Roots.”

Recent events in the news in southern Minnesota have caused me to ponder my ancestry.

My Grandma Julia immigrated to America in the late 1800s. She came from Poland when she was 18 or 19 years old. She did not have a job lined up for her — at least that I know of —  and entered the United States through Ellis Island.

How she made it to Minnesota and to later meet my Polish grandfather, I do not know. I do know he was quite a bit older than she. They settled on a small farm on what was then the edge of Wells. She raised six children. My Grandmother Julia never spoke a word of English. I do not know why Grandma Julia did not learn the English language.

My grandfather died in 1934. In 1934 my mother was 26 years old. She had two older brothers and three younger brothers. My non-English speaking grandmother was left alone in a country where she couldn’t speak their language. Her children had to help support her.

It wasn’t popular to be a polish immigrant back in the early 1900s. They had to form their own communities because they were not well accepted and they were called some not-so-nice names.

My mom, dad and I lived with my grandmother until I was in sixth grade. I never questioned it. It was just my normal life. And I didn’t question the fact that I couldn’t understand a word my grandmother spoke. I never knew what my mom and uncles were saying to my grandmother. And no one offered to teach me the language, and I didn’t pick up much of what they were saying except by their facial expressions. All of my uncles and my mom spoke English fluently because they grew up here but they also knew their native language. My dad also lived in that household and never knew a word of Polish.

When my Polish-speaking family met other Polish-speaking people, they reverted to the Polish language when speaking. Because I was used to it, it never bothered me. I actually never thought much about it at all until I got older.

One day in my middle adult years as I was working as an office manager, some non-English speaking people came in for help. Only one could speak English — at least that is what I guessed since they were the one doing the speaking, and then would translate to the others. I felt uncomfortable. The reason I felt uncomfortable was that I wasn’t sure if they were talking about me or making fun of the advice I gave. There was no reason to think that, but it was my own insecurity making those feelings comes to pass. And part of me felt fear because I was treading in an unknown situation.

I remember back in the ’60s visiting my family in California. When we were out and about there were many people living there that were not speaking English. They were all around us. My family wasn’t concerned and took it to be their normal.

Residents of many other countries learn many different languages, and they are fluent in more than one. How many of us can claim that? When many of us Americans are tourists and visit other countries many times we do not speak their language so it should come as no surprise that tourists from other countries can’t speak ours. However, many do.

After I thought about my family and read about the comments being made because of an incident with a southern Minnesota police officer — and I am in no way defending or commenting on his actions right or wrong — I concluded as much as our country has progressed in many things we are still experiencing the same things my family was experiencing back in the early 1900s when it comes to immigrants.

My immigrant Polish grandmother that could never speak English raised six children who went on to become carpenters owning their own construction businesses, including working for movie stars and building government projects, a school teacher and business owner, an owner of a locksmith business, a McDonnell Douglas employee building aircrafts and a farmer. From those offspring came two doctors, an accountant being a partner in one of the largest accounting firms in the country and more. Not too bad for the roots coming from a non-English speaking Polish Immigrant.

My point is that in the early 1900s people did not accept those Polish immigrants because they were different from what was perceived as being right in America. I felt comfortable with my non-English speaking family because their language was normal for me. I felt uncomfortable in my adult years by people who spoke a different language that I did not understand, which was outside my normal world, but those people, too, were immigrants. It was my fear of the unknown that was making me uncomfortable.

My grandmother became naturalized at some point but not until later in her life, and she still raised honest, hard-working, good citizens in her children even if she was not a citizen. The process to become an American citizen was much different back then.

I don’t know what the answer is. I only know I would not be here if it were not for my immigrant non-English speaking grandmother and grandfather. So why are we afraid? I’m not sure. Are you?