It was a busy week of weaving myself back into sharing live music with folks in three dimensions. More miles on the car, more hours on my voice and fingers, more hearts and minds touched, more connections made. It’s been really exciting and strange and wonderful to be at it again.

And tiring, too, at times.

I recently started drinking coffee again, after many years of not. I used to drink it all day every day, until a kidney stone literally brought me to my knees in the spring of 2003. At a follow up visit, the doctor who looked at the analysis of the calcium oxalate stone I passed (after two of the most excruciating days of my life) asked in a very casual way, ‘Do you drink a lot of coffee?’


‘Well,’ he said gently, ‘you might want to consider cutting back.’

Oh, I cut back, alright. Cold turkey. And it really sucked. No tea, no coffee. I even gave up chocolate entirely until just a few years ago. The pain of that stone was enough to terrify me away from all forms of caffeine for many years.

My Scottish mother was a tea drinker, so I drank black tea in the womb, and then from a mug when I was old enough to hold it myself. I was hooked early. And I thought the black coffee my father drank all day at work and after church on Sundays was awful – until I tried it with cream and sugar. WHOA! That hooked me as a young teenager, and then I became even more of a caffeine fiend – until that damned kidney stone.

For nearly 20 years, I never stopped wanting coffee, never stopped melting at the smell of it, never stopped longing for the ritual of it. I had always wanted to be a ‘just-one-cup-in-the-morning’ person, something my 20-something self was entirely unable to pull off.

40-something me, however, felt ready, and so at some point during the pandemic, I started taking a sip or two of Shawn’s coffee in the morning.

At first, I thought I was being untrue to myself and to my principles, that I was doing something ‘bad’. I had the kidney stone right around the time that I was getting serious with my ex (the controlling and abusive one). He wasn’t a coffee drinker, so it was easy (well, besides the withdrawal, heh) to give it up. He also had very strong opinions about coffee and about addiction in general, both of which were quite harsh and judgmental. He thought – expected, really – that I gave it up for him. And I probably thought that too, for a long time – but no, I gave it up for me, and I started up again for me as well.

The two sips from Shawn’s mug gave way to the half cup of black I now enjoy every morning. Once in a while, I’ll have a whole cup—when we were in San Francisco, I took a shine to this little coffee stand a couple blocks from where we were staying that had a fantastic pour over, and I also drank a full cup most mornings at jazz camp in New Orleans this year (and also had some very enjoyable pour over from French Truck Coffee a couple of mornings). I also had a full cup of clever drip last weekend from 19 Drips in Ann Arbor, and had a sip or two from Shawn’s 16 oz from The Coffee Pedaler in New Haven yesterday. Otherwise, it’s been my little half cup here at home, taking sips while working on my morning writing and peeking out at the bird feeders.

I’m enjoying renegotiating my relationship with caffeine, and having so much fun sharing in the adventure of it with Shawn. The Acoustic Trio had some shows in Connecticut this weekend, and while enjoying some French press at the kitchen table and a discussion of brewing methods, our host got up from her chair, went over to the cupboard, and surprised Shawn and me by giving us her Aeropress that she didn’t use anymore. ‘Too much fuss for too little coffee,’ she explained with a laugh.

So, back home now, I’m sipping my first taste of Aeropress coffee as I type these words, and I really like it. And Shawn is having a lot of fun researching and considering more brewing methods. (Have we turned each other into coffee snobs? heh)

My life is now a Ray Charles lyric: ‘Ev’ry mornin’ when the sun comes up / [h]e brings me coffee in my favorite cup’ – and I couldn’t be happier about that.