In my last post, I wrote about having some new ideas for Letters To Rayelle in 2016. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by some amazing, brilliant, talented people while I am adventuring in Europe. I am having the time of my life, and as the great Wiz Khalifa once said, “I’m stayin’ out all night, crashing a party, stayin’ out all night, getting that money…“. While that is basically NOT my life, I am doing cool shit and I’m doing it all with great people. I want to write about some of them on the blog this year, because I want you to see and appreciate their coolness, if only because maybe it will help you appreciate your own friendships in new ways. I also want to honor my blessings. I wanted to come up with a way to continuously acknowledge how grateful I am for the great people I get to do life with.
For this first Honor Your Blessings post, allow me to introduce to you, not only my super cute boyfriend, but one of the
Frenchest greatest people I know, Paul.
There are a million and one amazing skills, talents and gifts about my boyfriend, Paul, which I could share with you, but his mom reads this blog, so let me just focus on one of his gifts that I am really proud of, and perhaps he doesn’t see as being so great.
Besides being hilarious and clever (in two languages!), having the ability to calm my anxious mind just by kissing my forehead AND being able to walk into a room full of strangers and instantly become everyone’s friend, Paul is talented and artistically gifted in the coolest way. He is a latte artist. For anyone over 50 who may stumble upon this blog, let me be clear – – he makes pictures in coffee, using steamed milk, the back end of a spoon and his imagination.
Paul can make any image you ask of him and he can usually do it in one try. He claims it’s fairly simple to do, once you learn the proper techniques, but I have yet to see any other barista put Zayn Malik in a latte for me.
In Defense of Latte Art
Any coffee lover can understand the mini-thrill of ordering a latte or cappuccino at your local coffee shop and having it arrive at your table with a heart shaped design in it. Even a leaf will do. “Ooh!” seems to be the usual response. It’s super cool. It’s just coffee, yes, but since we drink it every day, why not jazz it up and make it look special? Why not dress it fancy and make it even more of a treat than it already is? I’m sure whoever invented nail polish thought much the same way.
“But Ann, they’re just fingernails!”
“Ah, yes, but what if we just decorate them a little and add some color…”
Boom. Brilliant idea. (My nails are a metallic taupe at the moment, for anyone wanting to Shop My Style.)
Eyeliner, you say? You want to decorate your eye by drawing a line on your lid? Boom. Hello Adele, nice cat eye. Oh, what, you sing too? Great, but seriously, that eye liner.
Anyone who knows me, knows I am all about celebrating the small joys in life. Give me coffee and dress it up fancy, please!
If you ask Paul right now, if he is in any way, artistically inclined, he will tell you no. He will then tell you that his sister is an artist and that she is an incredible one at that. And he would be both right and wrong. His sister is insanely talented at what she does. But Paul is also insanely talented at what HE does.
It takes a really special set of artistic abilities, a lot of patience and also just pure talent for someone to look at a cup of coffee and to see how they could CREATE.
You need to be confident. You need to have some sort of vision. You need to be innovative so you can figure out HOW to make your creation happen. You need to be motivated, so that when you create this image in your mind, you can actually go for it and make it come to life. And you need to be able to set goals. You also need to be able to adapt. If you have told a customer at your coffee shop that you are going to make a dragon, and it starts looking like the Eiffel Tower, well then let it be an Eiffel Tower and own it. Paul has all of these skills and then some. (We’re talking about latte art here, but he’s basically set for life when it comes to necessary skills. The guy’s just good at stuff.)
My Favorite Part
Paul thinks this blog post is about his latte art (ha! I’m so cheeky. Just like Wiz!). And in most ways, it is. But what he may not realize is exactly why his latte art is so unique and special. And why it’s one of my favorite things about him.
Paul has the amazing ability to notice people. Let me explain further. He has the ability to recognize when someone is feeling down or when someone has had a rough day, just by looking at them. And I don’t just mean that he notices, but that he also cares about EVERYONE he interacts with. (Could we all try a little harder to be like this?)
Do you need a mid-day pick me up because work is stressful? Spend two minutes with Paul. I swear you will leave feeling better. He has an energy that is actually buzzing.
I explain this, because besides blogging, for the past few years, I’ve also worked as a television Transcriber. This means I spend A LOT of time in coffee shops with my laptop. I’ve had the good fortune that for most of our relationship my boyfriend happened to work in a coffee shop with comfy leather couches and plenty of electrical outlets. So when I had transcribing work to do, I would often make my way to his café, order a latte and get to work myself. I won’t say that this is where our romantic story began, because it started from the minute we met (barf! I know.) but because I was spending time in his place of work, while I did my own work, I was lucky enough to see how he treated people who were complete strangers. I saw how he made everyone his friend. Over the weeks and months that he worked in this shop, I watched customers come back over and over. I saw – – and I’m not sure if he knows I saw this – – customers come back to his shop and ask for him specifically to make his coffee. I watched on several occasions, people actually wait for him to return so that he could serve them.
Let me tell you, I am a freak about my coffee, but I could not care less about who makes it. Never have I refused service because I wanted so-and-so to make my drink. Do you have coffee? Yes? Pour it in a cup/jug/vat and leave me be. I have a dark corner to sit in and conversations to eavesdrop on. (I’m a writer. It’s not creepy.)
Let me also tell you, that Paul is a very different kind of person than I am. I have seen him end his breaks early to help a customer who was asking for him. I have seen him stay an hour after his shift ended (without getting paid) because customers literally won’t stop speaking to him.
Once of my favorite scenarios, which I’ve seen on so many occasions, might I add, is when I’ve witnessed little old ladies who so look confused when they order a coffee from Paul and he asks what their favorite animal is. They usually mumble something and then go sit by themselves and wait. Paul then does his little latte art magic and delivers the latte or cappuccino to the customer. It never gets old when I notice an old lady look into her cup and see a picture of her favorite animal, hand drawn in some foamy milk. I watch her eyes light up and her hands almost always immediately cover her mouth. Normally, what happens next is that she reaches up to Paul to either grab his arm or clasp his hand in hers to say thank you. Paul, always happy that someone else is happy, will go back to work and serve his next customers, while I’m sat there wiping my eyes, with my own coffee and laptop, watching this little old lady stare into her cup and smile to herself. I’ve watched her watch him as he moves around the shop, thanking him again when he brushes past her table. I’ve watched her thank him again on the way out.
Maybe I am a bit dramatic or maybe I am a bit sensitive, and those both may be true to a degree, but I’m also someone who deals with a lot of anxiety. I’m someone who feels invisible 95% of the time, and while I work really hard at being happy and content, I also know what it feels like when someone notices you. It makes a difference, let me tell you. And this is what I consider one of Paul’s greatest gifts and he doesn’t even realize he does it!
Whether your problems are big or small, serious or silly, whether you are young and going through a break-up, or you if you’ve had a long day at work and need a caffeine boost and a minute to unwind before going home, to be noticed and acknowledged means something. And to have someone go a step further , to create something however small, just for you, before you go on your way, well, that means something too.
So, while I think Paul’s latte art is brilliant and fun and imaginative, in my opinion, one of his greatest gifts of all is his ability to notice you, to appreciate your feelings without being intrusive and to do something for you – – a complete stranger – – simply because you exist in his world now, so of course you are his friend. Guys, his heart is literally GIANT sized. (How lucky am I?)
We talk about his latte art often, I think mostly because he doesn’t work in a coffee shop anymore and he misses his customers and the people that stopped in every day and shared a bit about their lives with him while they waited for their coffee. He also misses creating ‘little pictures’ as he says, for them all. (Also, we drink a lot of coffee between the two of us and we both laugh when someone sits a latte in front of us with a half-hearted attempt at some sort of fern. Judgemental brats, we are!)
I don’t wish for Paul to work in a coffee shop, serving people for the rest of his life. But I do hope he reads this and sees that I have noticed HIM, perhaps in a way that he wasn’t expecting. And I also hope that after you read this, you call your coolest friend and tell them something great about themselves that maybe they don’t realize. It’s 2016 and I don’t believe in diets, but I do believe in constantly becoming a better person and that also means being a better friend. So Happy New Year to you, and to my dear friends who add joy to my life constantly!
If you’d like to see more latte art, make sure you follow Paul on Twitter @ZeFrenchPaul or on Instagram @legrossiste!