How can I help you?

So imagine this. You’re sitting at your desk in the middle of one of the most stressful weeks in recent personal history. You and your whole team just got adjusted and yet the customers on the other side of the phone line insist on your constant assistance. You are so deep in stress that it no longer looks like stress- like being swallowed by a monster no longer recognizable from the pits of its own stomach. Then from one of the desks around you, you hear a whisper issuing forth from your fellow captive’s breath: “Choose joy, not anxiety.” And all of a sudden you’re free. A sword was placed in your hand and you slice your way out of the belly of the beast.

What just happened? In an instant, you were teleported into a whole different realm, and possibly without anyone’s direct intent on that happening. Joy, hope, relief, all provided by one person making a choice to say no to everything around them and choosing a reality that just moments before seemed totally out of reach. This is the power of choice.

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There is a verse in the Bible that reads “choose life that you and your seed may live.” And at the moment, as my colleague made that choice and voiced it out loud, I entered into the experience of these words. My dear colleague chose life and I lived. Not only did they make a choice to stand against anxiety but I too became a benefactor of their very personal choice.

Now fast forward to two days later. The stress level has dissipated but insists on prowling at the borders of your subconscious, waiting for a moment of weakness to attack, doing its best to get you to come closer to the opening of its sharp-toothed mouth. Then comes a (more than usual) stressful online chat and you not only run to, but throw yourself into, that gaping mouth that’s been waiting to swallow you. The moment passes and you become aware of your semi-frightening actions and so you apologize to those poor souls around you who witnessed the horror of your surrender. And then, a post-it note rises up above the computer monitors right in front of you, and on it the words written “Not today Satan” and once again you surrender, this time not to that lurking beast, but to salvation.

This is the team that literally surrounds me everyday. My team. Not only do they coach me and train me in how to excel professionally, they also provide me with a choice every day. A choice to say no. A choice to deny. A choice to stand strong in a joy that I sometimes forget is already mine. And this choice that they provide me has become my salvation.

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I believe that humans are, or are at least meant to be, possessors of the most beautiful things that life has to offer- joy, peace, love, virtue, etc.- and that the way to possess these things is by making a choice, by choosing the very thing we want to possess. I also know that we cannot possess these things alone. That we need others. And I further believe the beauty of needing one another comes not first in the form of needing an exhortation to make such choices, but in needing living patterns of some who have themselves already made that very choice, a living reminder that it is possible.

About a year and some ago I found myself in a suffocating situation. Everything around me seemed negative, and horrible whether it really was I do not know. But to me, in that moment, it was the worst. And when I opened this up to a parental figure, telling him and his wife “I’m tired. I’m done.”, he straight up said to me ‘Don’t say that. Don’t say you’re tired. Don’t say you’re “done.”‘ He was speaking faith into me. In a way he was trying to release me from, well, me and my unbelief. I don’t think I’m anywhere near this, but maybe even this very thought, this very statement is … me, not having faith. And all I have to do is say “I choose to be free, to have faith. In the midst of everything, I choose to be happy.” The reason I am so thankful for my team is because they remind me of this, just about every day. In the midst of everything they speak faith into me, not primarily with words, but with actions. And the beauty comes from this: I don’t think they know it.

I have a thought I’ve been pondering: maybe words are roads to reality. And what we say paves the way to what we experience in life, the choices we make every day, and who we end up becoming in this life. And voicing these words takes faith. And faith calls for a choice, an action, a step. And once we take this step, make this choice, we pave the way not only to our own salvation but possibly to those around us witnessing the miracle that is lived out faith.

So call me biased, but I do believe I am part of one of the greatest customer support teams out there.

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Yours truly,

Flores y Chocolate

 

 

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This one’s to frienship

So I have a friend whose name is Yu Zhu, and she is partly to blame for my long absence from this blog, even though she doesn’t knows that yet. Two months ago I was approaching the end of my year long language learning visa in Germany, and was doing my best to find a way to stay in the country and with the people I had grown to love and call my home-away-from-home. But within, my heart was saying stop, you need rest, go home, let go. But I couldn’t, or more precisely, I wouldn’t. I hadn’t seen this about myself before but apparently I’m the type of person that beats the horse dead and demands it noch mehr to ride on. And in this particular situation the dead horse happened to be me and I didn’t realize it, or maybe I didn’t want to admit it to myself. I was tired, emotionally and physically, and didn’t know how to go on or even more, how to stop (kind of like an over exhausted crying baby who will not be put to sleep). Then, came coffee with Yu Zhu.

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A little background to our short but oh so sweet friendship. I met her through a mutual friend towards the start of my year in Germany and from then on we would weekly meet up and walk the mean and deliciously lined streets of Cologne, Germany, all the while discussing the meaning of life and friendships, or human relationships in general, past and developing hobbies, and/or interesting Ted talks we had recently enjoyed. I learned a lot from her, not just about life and all the deep stuff it has to offer, but also from her amazing fashion sense and personal style, which was one of my greatest artistic inspirations while in Europe. Please note the bandana-ed high bun (later incorporated into my own hairdo repertoire), wireless headphone necklace, and bedazzled party purse all paired effortlessly into one great ensemble.

 

As the academic year approached its end, Yu Zhu began to do research and write her thesis required for her university graduation. She spent weeks doing nothing but, and like every thesis-writing undergrad, spent these weeks running on just a handful hours of sleep. Half way through the actual writing of her thesis, she decided that the way her paper was coming along was not the way, and I quote, “she wanted to be immortalized.” So she did what to me seems the most impossible thing to do in life: she started over. Like completely, ganz, totalmente, from scratch, over. And I guess reflecting upon this, her decision was not out of character. After all, she was a couple years into her German undergrad back in her heimat China, before deciding it would make more sense to actually move to Germany and study business in German. So it shouldn’t of come as a surprise. But being the one-track-minded person that I am, shifting gears while full-speeding my way ahead is not an easy thing to do, or even a comfortable thought to entertain.

Yet it was her own personal decision that inspired me to shift my own gears.  I believe the words that stuck with me from her story were, “the God forsaken first draft.” For the first time I let the idea in that maybe I could start over, write a second draft, so to speak. I started to realize that starting over would not discount everything that had happened in the past year but that rather I could take it as a year of self-discovery, a learning of what and who I truly wanted to be and do.

Something I love about Yu Zhu is that she is on this perpetual road to self-discovery, never content, never giving up, but always expanding and searching, not primarily for who she is, but how best to define and express fully who she is. One way she does this is through the adoption of different languages and an ever increasing vocabulary in these languages. We came to the conclusion that different languages allow you to express different aspects of yourself in richer and fuller ways. Emotional and passionate moments call for Spanish; exactness and precision call for German; and lazy days call for a Southern Californian English.

Being a Christian, I couldn’t help but be reminded by our little consensus of a pair of verses in the gospel of John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” -v.1:1

…paired with…

“The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory…” -v.1:14

And I came to wonder, we use words to express, clarify, and define ourselves and the world around us. But really words use us in a similar way. They need us for substance, form to what is otherwise an intangible noice. Without the people, objects, and situations they define words would be abstract, incomprehensible sounds. We need words and words need us. Maybe without flesh, that is man, God would be an abstract collection of feelings, emotions, desires, and precious thought processes with no substantial form, unable to be comprehended, or beheld. But if He is the Word and as the Word, He became flesh, maybe His way of speaking, of making Himself known, is not by saying things out loud primarily but by becoming them, by “gathering” form, taking on substance. So just like a multilingual person might use different languages to better and fuller express different feelings or ideas, then maybe God uses, or I guess more particularly, becomes one with, different kinds of people to fully express Himself. He is passionate, happy, precise, angry, loving, caring timely, etc., but no one knows until He finds a person who is by his creation passionate, another person who is precise and timely, and so on and so forth, who are open to Him, are willing to be one with Him, and even learn Him as one would learn a language, and express Him just by being who they are in union with God. So I got to thinking, maybe we long to express ourselves so much because we were made to express God, the One who longs to express Himself and be seen and known through us. Just maybe.

Anywho, back to Yu Zhu and how she inspired me to find who I really wanted to be. I don’t think I know the answer to that yet, but through her decision I decided to listen to that little voice in my heart and let everything “go.” (By the way where do things let go go when they are let go?Thinking Face on WhatsApp 2.17) After our meeting I dropped out of my last German course, bought a ticket to my favorite city in Germany- Berlin, and commenced on a two month long journey around Germany and France. And it was awesome. Probably one of the best decisions I have made in a long time. It began a restoration of my faith, of my emotional well-being, and it was just fun. I met new friends (one even later joined me on my trip to France), ate delicious things, had amazing experiences, saw things I never thought I would, and all because a year ago I met a friend who knew how to be true to herself.

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So friends, here’s to learning to be true to our heart.

 

yours truly,

Flores y Chocolate

Last week, as my attention span begin to dwindle during a Café study sesh, I decided to finally rip off the band-aid and interview someone in German! I was so nervous as I approached the man behind the counter and began to ask him if he was the owner of the shop. Then for the next five minutes (it really seemed a lot longer in my head) I stumbled through my limited German vocabulary to string together what was at the end a very pleasant conversation.

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Fast-forward to me actually writing the post. Sitting down I thought I was going to talk about the coffee, because trust, it is worthy to be talked about. But the more I wrote and thought about our conversation, the more I realized that above an amazing cup of coffee what I got from this experience was the chance to meet a truly inspiring person.

This is Marko and 7 years ago he took the bold step of opening his own business-  Kaffeehandwerk, a then mobile coffee bar open weekends at a local market. After some years he took a further step and opened the current brick-and-mortar, building all the furniture by hand, and decorating the place himself. In my short time talking to him I was left with the impression of what type of person it takes to start and run a business.

Passion

When I asked Marko how he got into the coffee business he said one word: hobby. Just a hobby. In a recent conversation with a close friend I realized how much I belittle this word. She was telling me about You-tubers who make a living recording themselves playing, and commenting on, video games (oh my goodness, I sound like an internet-novice-grandmother). Immediately I thought: hmm that sounds a bit boring. But then the more I considered the more I thought, “Ingenious! These people have found a way to make a living from what they love to do.” It reminded me of why I studied Fashion Management in the first place: I loved it. Plain and simple. Ich bin der Meinung, dass money comes and money goes. And I will not spend the majority of my life chasing after it. If I’m going to work 8 hours (or more) a day I’m gonna have to love what I’m doing. It has to be a passion, to the point that day after day it gets me out of bed to face it again. And what better way to do that than to turn a hobby into a living. Ingenious. „Man muss das gerne machen.“- Man must do it gladly. What other things are needed to open and run your own business according to Marko? „Durchhalten, viel Mut, leidenschaft, herz.“

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Of course, as many things in life, this is easier said than done. But here before me was a man that has done it. His secret? Good old-fashioned hard work. When I asked if there was many problems in the beginning, his answer rewired my way of thinking. „Es ist nicht viele Probleme. Es ist viele Arbeit.“- It is not (that there is) many problems. It is (that there is) much work. He pointed out that many people want to open their own coffee shop, take the first steps in doing so, but after a 12 hour working day, realizing that there is still a lot of work to do, they throw in the towel. “Es ist nicht so romantisch.“- It is not so romantic. I love it. Many have the passion, but without its faithful counterpart “Hard-work”, it remains just that, an intangible passion and dream. Without hard work dreams cannot become reality. And without a positive attitude, what is really just hard work becomes in our mind many problems.

Dedication

When Marko began this hobby of his, it was more than just familiarizing himself with the coffee world- he entered into it. At the age of 20 he bought his own espresso machine and worked to perfect the art of coffee making himself. Eventually he also started to experiment in roasting his own coffee beans (which he uses and sells in his shop). At Kaffeehandwerk there are a variation of drinks offered, drinks such as tonic coffee- a cold brew with tonic water, Red Bitter, Vanilla Black- two scoops of vanilla ice cream with two shots of expression poured over them (my next visit’s victim), and among others, the classic latte and cold brew. Marko gets his inspiration for these drinks from his travels and Coffee-Expo visitations. He uses his vacations to travel  and sample the local coffee, then comes home and masters it himself- a good example of play and work going hand in hand.

My Personal Review

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Personally I’ve been to Kaffeehandwerk two times, having had the iced latte (total American) and, upon recommendation from a friend and Marko himself, the cold brew. I have to say, I drink my fair share of coffee and have a thing for trying every coffee shop in current city of habitation. And this cold brew was perfection, from presentation to taste. It’s poured over this ginormous stone of ice which keeps the ice from melting quickly and thus watering down what could have been a divine brew. To the last sip, my coffee was delicate and oh so smooth! No bitterness what so ever, and no acidic aftertaste. Ganz Delish! The latte also stood its ground. Not too much milk (which I find to be a common problem when ordering a latte in Germany) allowing one to still taste the rich and bold taste of the espresso.

As for the shop itself, there’s good WiFi, a cozy atmosphere, and a few outlets available to those like me that like to work for hours outside your own house and yet feel at home. And even the neighborhood is a hidden gem, full of fun gift shops, second hand stores (a rarity in this city), book stores, and great restaurants!

And to end this review I want to mention the awesome staff.

Embarrassing story time! The day I interviewed Marko I was so nervous about the whole “interview a stranger in German on a whim” thing that as I left… I FORGOT TO PAY!!!!!! And I didn’t even realize it until I went back a few days later with the same friend  to try the cold brew, and she realized we hadn’t paid for our first visit!!!! (ALL THE EXCLAMATION POINTS) I was so embarrassed that I confessed my misdemeanor to the staff repeatedly and to my surprise…. they just laughed it off. I tried to pay three different times and they totally dismissed me, even saying it was on them so my conscience could be clear and that they would write a note of apology on my behalf to Marko. Honestly: Sweetest. People. Ever.

So if you live in the area, or are in town for a visit, I highly recommend you hop over, take a sip of an amazingly roasted coffee, enjoy a chat with a friend on the hand-made furniture as your phone charges in the corner, and before strolling out to take a walk around the trendy neighborhood, pay.

Til next time,

Flores y Chocolate und manchmal

Coffee

P.S. Check out Kaffehandwerk on FB or Insta for more info, address, etc.

It’s more than just coffee

Un-Cover Letter

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You know, there is nothing like a can-opener to the soul like spending weeks on end writing cover letter after cover letter. It’s like being placed under a microscope and turned in various angles to be inspected. As someone that is happy hiding in the crowd, having to “sell myself” to the world is a bit uncomfortable. “Look at me!” “Pick me!” and inwardly all you want to do is hide in some WiFi (or WLAN if in Germany) accessible cave with a blanket and a pile of equally balanced sweet and salty snacks. At the ripe ole age of mumble-mumble, one would have thought this would be something of the past. Yet here I am, and to my surprise, the more I do it, the more I like it….

Hmm. Maybe Shrek was right. Maybe we are like onions (or maybe I’m an Ogre Thinking Face ) consisting of layers upon layers of personalities and opinions produced by various life experiences. And maybe, at certain points in life these layers need to be peeled back to get rid of the outer unusable and crusty parts (cue waterworks).

At some point in this cover letter writing extravaganza I realized I was just writing things that would just fit the mold, get a job, without really considering who I am and what would make me happy. Then I realized why- there was layers Face Screaming in Fear. Layers that came out of self-protection, fear, previous discouragement and failure, and who knows what else. Maybe in creating these layers we try to turn ourselves into cake, since as Donkey wisely pointed out, everybody likes cake.

And so here I am finding myself peeling back things I’ve collected in the past years, rediscovering who I really am and having to trust that that is enough not just to be hired but to be accepted as a profitable contributor to society.  Ironic really, that they would be called a cover letter, when in writing them one has the potential of uncovering who they really are.

I’ll keep you all posted if anybody ends up picking this onion from the bunch.

Until next time,

Flores y Chocolate

Endlich! A Beginning.

2348Hallo liebe Leute!

After literally years of talking about making a blog but never actually doing anything about it, I would like to invite you all to witness this miraculous undertaking on my part- my own blog! (cue exploding confetti!)

I’ve been playing around with multiple ideas and ironically, after having some really personally difficult times in the past couple years, I’ve decided now is the time to take action!

Like I said, rough couple of years. Years full of realizing all the things that I’m not and all the things I have not done for reason A or B, but honestly mostly laziness and procrastination. Yet, I count them not as a loss but as gain, because they have served me as a backdrop to something bigger and better than myself. Here, through this blog, I intend of  finding other people -whether they be close friends, acquaintances, or random people wearing interesting things- who inspire me, motivate and empower me simply by who they are and/or portray themselves to be.

As my friends and family know, I am a Christian, and this plays a major role in how I see the world. An example of this is how I see and am starting to see people. I believe that God is the creator of man, and much more than that, He is a lover of man. But recently I am discovering that when He sees people, He sees them as one corporate entity- man. Of course He loves individuals and values our different characteristics, -after all He made them, but I believe He does so with a view of a whole. So in a way, this blog is the documentation of a journey, my journey, to take on for myself such a viewpoint of man- a wonderful corporate composition of individuals and their specific attributes and virtues.

On another note, I’m also a fanatic of good/instagramable coffee shops, ice cream and cake- and all things baked, fashion, and new adventures. So this will also be the place I choose to express my admiration for such things. I mostly just wanna have a little fun with this, but welcome all positive feedback and constructive critics.

 

Lastly, for anyone who is looking for an uplifting of soul, I find this does the trick:

 

yours truly,

Flores y Chocolate