One of our newest clients at work is Mocha Club. They are based here in Tennessee and doing some great things in the continent of Africa.
Here is the story that tells a little bit more about them and their vision:
When I think of Africa, the following images immediately come to mind: Starvation. AIDS. Child soldiers. Genocide. Sex slaves. Orphans. From there, my thoughts naturally turn to how I can help, how I can make a difference. “I am needed here,” I think. “They have so little, and I have so much.” It’s true, there are great tragedies playing out in Africa everyday. There is often a level of suffering here that is unimaginable until you have seen it, and even then it is difficult to believe. But what is even harder is reconciling the challenges that many Africans face with the joy I see in those same people. It’s a joy that comes from somewhere I cannot fathom, not within the framework that has been my life to this day.
The images spilling out of my television showed circumstances that could seemingly only equal misery, and I was fooled. I bought into the lie that circumstance defines happiness. The truth is, in Africa I find hearts full of victory, indomitable spirits. In places where despair should thrive, instead I find adults dancing and singing, and children playing soccer with a ball crafted of tied up trash. Instead of payback, I find grace. Here, weekend getaways are not options to provide relief from the pains of daily life. Relationships and faith provide joy. Love is sovereign.
My new reality… I know now that my joy should have no regard for my circumstances. I’m ashamed by my lack of faith, but at the very same moment I am excited by my new pursuit. I’m forced to redefine the meaning of having much or having little. I’m uneasy with the prospect of change and of letting go, but just the thought of freedom is liberating. I want what I have learned to trickle down from my head into my heart – I no longer want to need the “next thing” to have joy.
I’m not saying that Africa does not need our efforts. It absolutely does need our partnership. But for me, I’ve come to understand that I NEED AFRICA MORE THAN AFRICA NEEDS ME. Why? Because it is Africa that has taught me that possessions in my hands will never be as valuable as peace in my heart. I’ve learned that I don’t need what I have and that I have what I need. These are just a few of this continent’s many lessons. I came here to serve and yet I’ve found that I have so much to learn, and Africa, with all its need, has much to teach me.
And here’s a video to check out:
You can join for $7 a month and get a free t-shirt or you can buy a t-shirt for $20 and 100% of your donation goes to a project in Africa that you choose.
My friend Mike just returned from a mission trip to Africa where he saw the results of their efforts first hand and was impressed by how effective they are. You can read his 3 blogs here.
I would encourage you to check out Mocha Club and consider supporting them and one of their projects.
Our first day of vacation (7/17) we got up at 5:00am! We were on the road by 5:30am. I made a bag of turkey sandwiches and brought other snacks so we could just keep driving and taking shifts. As usual, we hit traffic around Harrisburg, Virginia. But other than that it was pretty smooth sailing. We rolling into Ronee’s hometown of Lyndhurst around 8:30pm. We had some pizza and salad for dinner. Then we headed down to the town square for the Mount Carmel Church Feast and Music Under The Stars at Town Hall Park. We got a small bag of Zeppole’s and caught about four songs of Darlene Love before it started to pour rain and the show got shut down. Headed home and saw some family and nephews and then headed to bed around midnight. Wow, that was a long day!
Saturday (7/18) Ronee and her mom had a baby shower to go to, so I spent some alone time. I went to the movies in Montclair to see The Hurt Locker. I really enjoyed this movie and I finally had a great movie experience to boot (no cell phones, no people talking)! After that I went over to Five Below and picked up a beach umbrella, mats and bug wipes. Finally, I stopped in at Barnes & Noble to pick up some magazines to read. Our friend Jessica came over and then that night it was time for Music Under The Stars again. This time it was Little Anthony And The Imperials. I picked up a sweet Irish Catholic car rosary with emerald beads and a clover. I also took a lot of pictures. We walked home and crashed.
Sunday (7/19) morning we went to morning meeting and saw our buddies from RBC. Then we met up with Jessica again and headed over to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. Then it was time to head “down the shore” to Wildwood (side note: Wildwood is where I lived before I moved to Nashville). We hit a lot of traffic on the way down which added about an hour to our drive. But Ronee was a champ and tackled the traffic. We saw Ronee’s brother and our nephew. He’s too cute. Later on we headed down to the boardwalk. We got some Kohr Brothers frozen custard which is always delicious! We walked down all the Morey’s Piers and checked out all the new shops and what-have-you’s. I couldn’t believe all the new stuff that was down there.
Monday (7/20) we got up early and headed straight down to the beach. If you have never been to the beach in Wildwood you are really missing out on pretty much one of the nicest and hugest beaches in the whole country. I’m not kidding. It is beautiful and gigantic and peppered with all kinds of beautiful beach umbrellas. We spent an amazingly relaxing day on the beach and going in the ocean. The only downside was that my pale Irish skin got pretty burned on my stomach and chest. Later in the evening we took a short drive around town checking out stuff. We had some delicious chicken cacciatore for dinner. We watched The Closer and then we turned in.
Tuesday (7/21) we had a lazy day. We had breakfast. We saw another one of our nephews for the first time in person. We took a drive around Wildwood and then down to Cape May where I took pictures of the victorian houses and bed and breakfasts. We got out on the point where you can watch the sun rise and set in the ocean. Pretty cool. It’s so beautiful and peaceful there. We love it. At dinner we had pulled pork sandwiches that Ronee’s Mom made and a frittata that a neighbor made and brought over. We relaxed and watched Hell’s Kitchen and Chopped on TV.
On Wednesday (7/22) we got up early to go to the beach again. Was on the beach from about 10 or 11 am until about 4pm. It was beautiful and the water was perfect. I stayed covered up under umbrellas, though, all day. I was already burned from Monday on my chest and stomach and did not want to add to the problem. I really don’t tan. It was great just to relax by the water. I posted on Twitter/Facebook about somebody smoking on the beach. I found a mostly sympathetic audience although some (Hi Ryan D.) were bitter that I was complaining about being on the beach midday on a Wednesday. But I wasn’t complaining about being on vacation. I was peeved about people who smoke in nature. I really will never get it. Just go behind everybody a ways up the beach. You don’t have to smoke right in the middle of everybody, do you? I smoked for years and I never had a problem not smoking around people. Anyway, I don’t care that much about it. It didn’t ruin my day. Just an observation! Had some sweet leftovers for dinner and then headed up to the boardwalk again. We took a walk out onto one of the piers with Ronee’s parents and played a few crane games. Then we had Kohr Brothers frozen custard again. I had mint and chocolate swirl. Yum! Finished off the night watching Food Network (Throwdown and Dinner Impossible). Perfect!
Thursday (7/23) it rained most of the day. So we took the opportunity to do some laundry. We also ran some errands and drove around the island checking out all the new stuff that has been built since I was here last in 2005. I took a lot of pictures, including some cool timed exposures by the water. I also stopped by my old place of employment, Morey’s Piers, and saw some of my old co-workers. Stopped in at Laura’s Fudge and picked up some sugar-free Salt Water Taffy and Irish Potatoes. I never had the latter before and they are really tasty! All in all a relaxing and nice day.
Friday (7/24) I got up and headed down to one of my favorite places, Britton’s Bakery. I have often touted the story about how this bakery is what I consider to be a perfect business model. They open at 6:30am every morning with fresh baked goods that are made on premises. And when they sell out of what they’ve made for the day, the close up shop! Cash only! Beautiful. I hope one day to own such a perfect model of sustainability. I have no idea what. But, this is all beside the point. The reason I lined up at Britton’s was to get my hands on one of these babies – an apple fritter! I also picked up a cheese danish, a cinnamon roll and a butter creme filled powdered donut. I only ate one apple fritter, though. And man, was it stupid delicious. Afterward we headed down to the beach. The surf was finally great today and I spent about two hours bodyboarding. I love it! In my childhood, growing up in the lower LA beach area, bodyboarding (or “boogie boarding” as we called it back then) was one of my favorite activities. I just love being in the water of the ocean. Then Ronee and I walked all the way down the beach and had a brief visit with my old boss, George, at Morey’s Piers. We had some pizza and shared a Stewarts root beer float for lunch and walked back to the beach. At dinner everybody had shrimp and crab. I had a few shrimp. But instead of crab I had turkey burgers and salad that my mother-in-law made for me. Fantastic! We capped off the night with fireworks on the beach. Tomorrow is our last day, we’re going to have to make the most of it!
Saturday (7/25) we spent a good amount of time on the beach again. This time we were joined by Ronee’s brother Jay, cousin Chris and others. I spent a lot of time in the water again which was great. It was our last day on the beach and a beautiful one. We had been growing through family pictures for most of our trip and also spent a lot of time going through awesome pictures of Ronee growing up with her family and 3 brothers. Her parents were very generous in letting us grab whatever photos we wanted. I plan to frame these photos and hang them in our stairwell/hallway next to pictures of me as a kid and my family. When we were finished going through photos we had some awesome pizza for dinner from Sal’s. We mostly just relaxed for the rest of the evening.
Sunday (7/26) we got up early, packed up our stuff, said our goodbyes and headed home. Ronee was especially excited to bring home her drums! Our drive home was pretty uneventful (thankfully) and we made it back to Nashville safely in about 14 hours!
This was a great vacation and we plan on continuing this annual Cozza family tradition for years to come!
Ronee and I drove 8 hours to Bushnell, IL for Cornerstone Festival. I think it’s like the 7th time I have been there, not sure. It’s been a lot of years since I was last there. Maybe 2001 or 2?
We stopped in St. Louis (about half way) on the way up to eat at Sweetie Pie’s, a place we had seen featured on the Food Network. It was southern food (mac and cheese, meat loaf, fried chicken, etc.). By the time we got there I was starving. I thought the food was very good. A little too salty though, which isn’t very surprising.
We arrived at the fest in the evening just in time to catch Louis from Gasoline Heart performing solo. He did a great job and even got the crowd to come up on stage and sing for him. Louis is always hilarious. We were fortunate to have him and roadie Tim stay with us a night or two before and share breakfast. Love that guy. Dave Bazan (aka Pedro The Lion) played after Louis but I was too busy talking to old friends (JD Herrin, Wiitala Brothers, etc.) to pay attention.
Later on we finally caught up with our buddies from Canada, Joel and Eric. They went with us to see The Satire (great job Matt, Bryan Gray, JD Herrin and gang!) and then Stavesacre. Mark is one of my oldest friends. We have known each other since we were 16 years old – so, over 20 years now. It was really great to see them play again. One of my all time favorite bands and one of the best times I have ever seen them that I can recall. Good fun also seeing Sam, Ryan, Jeff, Dirk, etc. Those guys are awesome.
The next day we slept in. Then we got some breakfast. I ordered a “California” omelette that should have been peppers, cheese and avocado. It did not have any avocado, but it did have bacon. Ha. It was delicious anyway. Then we took a swim at the hotel pool. Then we took a nap. By the time we finally got in to the festival it was 6pm. And if you’ve been there you know that’s a pretty good time of day to start the “day”. We hooked up with our Canadian pals and headed down to main stage to catch mewithoutYou (love their new record, love them, great show!) and a few songs of Shiny Toy Guns (liked them, but it started raining)
As we were wandering about we ran into my old friend Samuel Durling from Sweden. I love that guy! I was so excited to see him! (See photo, that’s him in the middle) He gave me a bunch of great metal he’s putting out. Fantastic packaging. If you need a graphic designer, you should hire him. He does great work!
At some point I snuck by to see The Wednesdays. Those guys were great, as always. You should check them out if they are in your town. I managed to say hi to Jamie (vocals, guitar) real quick as well and he schooled me on the skateboarding history of Alabama.
Later that night we caught the midnight reunion show of The Crucified. My band in high school played with them at their first show ever in April of 1986. The first show of my other band Blenderhead was also with The Crucified. I can’t believe how great they sounded all this time later. How did Mark remember all those lyrics? I don’t think I could ever do that. More bro time with the old school people, Streeters, etc. Good times!
Saturday morning we checked out of our hotel and headed into the fest to meet up with Samuel for lunch. Great time and conversation. He had us practically booking tickets to visit him. Some talk of an island off the coast there that has “over 100 medieval churches” – WHAT?!? Really want to go there! Good talk. Good coffee time. Never enough time to hang with Samuel, though!
After that we headed over for another set of Louis from Gasoline Heart. Louis told an inflammatory story about me. He thinks he’s funny. Well, he is. I actually manned their merch table while Tim went and got the van. I did not sell anything. Note to bands – get a good looking girl to sell your merch, not old dudes like me. More time walking around running into old schools like Kemper (Stand True) and Dunn (NIV/Facedown Records).
As evening rolled around we caught War Of Ages (who were great) and finally Living Sacrifice who rocked as usual. Don’t let Bruce’s peaceful and calm demeanor fool you. He is pissed off! I can’t wait for the new record “In Your Face, Devil!” Keep an eye out for that!
It did rain Friday night and most of Saturday which (as a tradition, of course) the entire fest site was converted into a giant mud bath. All part of the experience. We did throw out both of our sneakers (sorry, Joel…I know you wanted to take them back to Canada with you) as they were old anyway and saturated with mud.
All in all we had a blast (even if the 8 hour night drive in mostly rain was brutal) and enjoyed hanging with friends and seeing a few bands. It was 9 years ago on July 4th that Ronee and I met at the festival. So it was fun to be there and to remember that time together!