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as i sit here in silence

He tells her that the Earth is flat—
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.

Wendy Cope

 

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Dear Roommates,

They’re not kidding when they say that spending significant amount of time around children is the best form of birth control.

My roommates, who for the sake of their privacy I’ll refer to as Mike and Lisa, have a spunky ginger two-year-old. I could leave the rest to your imagination, but that’s hardly the point of a blog.

The munchkin, Timmy, very easily accepted me into his world when I moved in five months ago. His language is developing, but I think that he will refer to me as his “Ka” long after he graduates high school. (Eliska is a hard name for adults to say and remember, too.)

This last week has been a special kind of ridiculousness. Mike and Lisa decided to try potty-training their son. I smiled and quickly made plans to escape the state… unfortunately the process took longer than the three days I was in Kansas. Little Timmy wanders around without pants, occasionally having accidents on dad’s socks, mom’s skirt, or the blankets and towels laid all around the living room specifically for that purpose. He’s getting better, but it’s still a work in progress.

I genuinely never thought I’d live with a family after I moved away from my own, but Mike and Lisa have been a pure gift: friends from the moment I moved alone halfway across the country.

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Did you know? Anytime I come home after dark, they turn on the stoop light for me, and leave the stair light on as well so I can get down to my room without tripping over anything. For folks only a few years older than me, in some ways they really are like my parents. I find it absolutely adorable and am touched every time I pull in.

Mike and Lisa are also, well, pseudo-hippies. Shortly after I moved in, they started composting with worms in the laundry room right across from my bedroom. Lisa apologized profusely about once a week for the smell. Once she finally got the ratios figured out, the smell disappeared. Within the month, though, they approached me sheepishly. “So, we want to do aquaponics so we can grow our own fish and vegetables. How would you feel about having fish for roommates?”

I didn’t have a problem with it, so as Mike wrapped up his final certification from grad school, this slowly took over the laundry room:

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Lisa and I have the same spirit. Some days I come home and word-vomit everything that happened that day, the good and bad. Some days she’ll be having a rough time, and ten minutes into her tale she’ll take a deep breath, “I didn’t mean to tell you all that, but it actually feels really good. Thanks for asking.” Occasionally we even make similar senseless comments, such as the standing joke, “It’s free! Like the cheap kind!” Add into that her side business is running painting parties, and she is always happy to have my second cup of weekend coffee, and we hit it off great at our first Skype conversation.

Mike is an engineer and Rubik’s Cube wizard. The aquaponics has mostly been his project, and watching all the math and building that has gone into it has been slightly mind boggling. His work has a 3D printer as well, so I’ve seen a few toys from there, and I’m crossing my fingers that he’ll design a CAD door handle to replace the broken one from the refrigerator. How cool would that be?

I love watching these two interact with their son, as well. This is the first time that I’ve been close with first-time parents, and as they raise Timmy to the best of their ability it’s bringing an awareness of the struggles of that. The day after I moved to Denver, both Lisa and Mike’s parents came to the house, and after the party had ended, I talked to Lisa. It had never dawned on me just how difficult it must be to try to discipline and react to your child with your own parents there to watch every move. Since that time, we’ve talked about other struggles – what is the right way to respond to different situations, how do you react to unwanted advice, when there’s conflicting opinions how do you move forward? Unsurprisingly, these conversations are far beyond parenting and moved into living life, budgeting, making friends, moving, questioning the status quo, working. (Yeah, I like these guys 🙂 )

And the long and short of it? I’ll happily be “Auntie Ka”, but the idea of being “mama” is getting further and further and further from my priority list. You handle potty training, I’ll go find a different sort of tornado!

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Upon the finale of a happy surprise

I love travel. I love finding myself in a new city and struggling to learn its heartbeat. I love plopping down next to a complete stranger and walking away with a new number in my phone. Starting over in a different environment is easy for me, a challenge I thrive on.

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That being said, there’s also a feeling that is sweet and precious and very, very rare for a nomad. The Opposite of Loneliness is this experience… a single moment of protection. We can be busy, we can be happy, but to know the opposite of loneliness is the ability to simply be. To laugh with someone who we don’t have to get to know, because they’ve already been through that fire. To cry with someone who we don’t have to impress, because they can see right through you. To speak with no introduction because the story has already begun, this is merely the next chapter.

I’ve been living in Denver for almost five months. I’ve met many people, gone on many adventures. I love living in this city, love sharing life with my roommates and their two-year-old.

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Last weekend, though, I was given that precious gift.

I stepped on a plane and flew to a city of the old and the new. A city I’d been to as a child, but not as an adult. A city where someone I’ve known for a decade and someone I’ve traveled with intensely since the latter half of college came together at a house in the desert.

It was easy. It was safe. In that moment, I experienced the opposite of loneliness.

We all knew half stories. What’s happening in your life? How did that situation pan out? Wait, I hadn’t heard that part, tell me more. But none of it was from the beginning. It was the comfortable continuation of a conversation. It was home, thousands of miles away from what my driver’s license claims is mine.

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It was comments and questions, shuffling shoes and comparing tattoos. It was holding on to a secret, simply because we knew the others would love the reveal. There was beauty and magic and peace.

I’m a nomad by nature. I plead my friends to come live with me, knowing that even this home is temporary, and if they were to come we wouldn’t be together long.

But that’s okay. These seasons of life are just that, seasons. I’ll flit in and out of your life just as you wander through mine.
Sometimes the beginning is the middle. Sometimes the end is just a part of a chapter. Sometimes, we can look around and find ourselves feeling something strange, without definition. All we know is that this emotion, confusing and beautiful and safe, is the opposite of loneliness.
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They stopped telling me “No”

You know what’s crazy?

Leaving home at 2:00 in the morning after a 15.5 hour work day, simply because you realized Arches National Park was only a five hour drive away.

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You know what’s crazy?

Understanding the reason Colorado has the lowest percentage of obesity in the US is because you look outside at the mountains and say, gee, I wonder what it looks like from the peak of that… and then just go.

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You know what’s crazy?

Moving in with a family you met on Craigslist because you and the wife hit it off via a Skype conversation.

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You know what’s crazy?

Transplanting yourself on the hopes that someone you met three months earlier who said, “Yeah, I could get you a job.” was actually serious.

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You know what’s crazy?

Moving to another state where you don’t know anyone, for little reason more than, “I want to see mountains.”

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You know what’s crazy?

Watching the numbers in your bank account slowly creep upwards, and realizing your next international trip will be paid for in full before you even book the flight.

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You know what’s crazy?

Realizing folks from your hometown are utterly expecting you to move to another place before the year is up, when for the first time your game plan is longer.

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You know what’s crazy?

Realizing you’re not.

Hello, Denver. It is so very, very nice to meet you.

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On The Road Again

I am in the midst of a version of the American Dream – taking to the open road with only a vague plan of our next destination.

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I count myself fortunate to be tagging along with seasoned hikers, particularly since my companions are startlingly observant. There is a constant refrain “Did you see that? What’s that smell? Here, feel this!” And usually followed by an explanation of what my senses are experiencing… Or admitting that they have no idea what it is either (“But isn’t it cool?!”) I don’t think I’ve been this excited about nature since Mr. O’Brien’s eighth grade science class. The scents of unfamiliar plants, the smooth deep red bark, the solidified lava flow forming the rocks we clambered over, dust devils, sun dogs, an owl’s call, deer scat, bobcat prints. I see. I feel.

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We’re driving through the desert now, pondering which crops surround us. A few days ago my feet were drenched in the salt water of the Pacific, and hours later shaded by the redwoods in John Muir woods (San Francisco has a lot of micro climates).  

I hiked in Pinnacles National Park and saw the rare Condor bird fly within twenty feet of me. I stood on mountains and crawled through caves. I feel my body adjusting, stretching muscles and learning to survive on road food. It’s not easy. I broke down in tears at the top of a mountain, my stomach revolting and head aching. T once more was a hero as tears fell unbidden and I expressed my fears of not being able to keep up for the rest of the trip, telling me I had done a great job and we’d made great time – and then picking up my pack and carrying it for me as we continued the loop, making sure I was going at a slow enough pace for my quesy stomach, offering his hand to help me through tricky parts of the path.

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I’m grateful to be watching the world pass by from the back seat of A’s car, listening to the conversation flow easily and watching the world pass me by. 

May’s feels like part of the abstract. I was standing on the lawn at the benefit concert when the email came that I’d passed my practical exam – over halfway done to being a level 1 certified barista. 

I’m fighting a level of fear. The fear of not being able to keep up on these hikes and ruining the experience for T and A. Yet the idea of leaving this? Hopping a flight in Las Vegas and going back to Iowa? That scares me too. 

Iowa isn’t home any more. I’ve always had a reason to go home. After high school I hadn’t seen my family in a year. During college I had to finish my degree. After graduation I had May’s. But now? I have a smattering of friends, but it’s a transient town.

No roots. So yes, I’m wandering like a tumbleweed on someone else’s itinerary. The place I once loved now repels me. 

So I fight onward. Lost, confused, determined, and free.

After all, I’m 23. Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do now?

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I am in the midst of a version of the American Dream – taking to the open road with only a vague plan of our next destination.

image

I count myself fortunate to be tagging along with seasoned hikers, particularly since my companions are startlingly observant. There is a constant refrain “Did you see that? What’s that smell? Here, feel this!” And usually followed by an explanation of what my senses are experiencing… Or admitting that they have no idea what it is either (“But isn’t it cool?!”) I don’t think I’ve been this excited about nature since Mr. O’Brien’s eighth grade science class. The scents of unfamiliar plants, the smooth deep red bark, the solidified lava flow forming the rocks we clambered over, dust devils, sun dogs, an owl’s call, deer scat, bobcat prints. I see. I feel.

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We’re driving through the desert now, pondering which crops surround us. A few days ago my feet were drenched in the salt water of the Pacific, and hours later shaded by the redwoods in John Muir woods (San Francisco has a lot of micro climates).  

I hiked in Pinnacles National Park and saw the rare Condor bird fly within twenty feet of me. I stood on mountains and crawled through caves. I feel my body adjusting, stretching muscles and learning to survive on road food. It’s not easy. I broke down in tears at the top of a mountain, my stomach revolting and head aching. T once more was a hero as tears fell unbidden and I expressed my fears of not being able to keep up for the rest of the trip, telling me I had done a great job and we’d made great time – and then picking up my pack and carrying it for me as we continued the loop, making sure I was going at a slow enough pace for my quesy stomach, offering his hand to help me through tricky parts of the path.

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I’m grateful to be watching the world pass by from the back seat of A’s car, listening to the conversation flow easily and watching the world pass me by. 

May’s feels like part of the abstract. I was standing on the lawn at the benefit concert when the email came that I’d passed my practical exam – over halfway done to being a level 1 certified barista. 

I’m fighting a level of fear. The fear of not being able to keep up on these hikes and ruining the experience for T and A. Yet the idea of leaving this? Hopping a flight in Las Vegas and going back to Iowa? That scares me too. 

Iowa isn’t home any more. I’ve always had a reason to go home. After high school I hadn’t seen my family in a year. During college I had to finish my degree. After graduation I had May’s. But now? I have a smattering of friends, but it’s a transient town.

No roots. So yes, I’m wandering like a tumbleweed on someone else’s itinerary. The place I once loved now repels me. 

So I fight onward. Lost, confused, determined, and free.

After all, I’m 23. Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do now?

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Seven Days Without May’s

I’ve been unemployed for one week today.

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The stress of the last few months has worked its way deep into my shoulders, the constant tension and anger and grief shockingly enough are not good for one’s health.

The cure? Travel.

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Fourteen hours after I bid Steve my final goodbye as his employee, I was tucked into a car and watched Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky pass me by before coming to rest in Tennessee and the foot of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Drained, I followed T and D through mountains and forests tinged with yellows and reds just a few days before peak foliage. Sunrises and sunsets from thousands of feet in the air, listening to the words of the nomadic photographers and weather geeks by my side, I let myself forget about May’s as we crossed into North Carolina. Small towns and curving roads blended into one another, exploring the micro cultures of the United States instead of Europe.

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Still within my first week of unemployment, T made sure life continued to be epic and we jumped a plane to California to see a Neil Young concert. Just in case you were wondering, San Francisco during the World Series is a smidgen hectic according to our guide, A. Fortunately we’ve been staying outside of the mess so far… As I write we’re working our way to Half Moon Bay and this afternoon get to go to the concert.

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During this entire adventure T has made sure we stop at third wave coffee shops and let’s me have the authority to walk out of a place if I feel suspicious of it. He’s letting me be a barista – chatting with roasters and baristas and talking about what I’m tasting and seeing in each place. I’m keeping my skills sharp and embracing the industry I’m technically no longer a part of. T is also getting really good at picking out shops based on Google reviews as I teach him terminology and key points to look for.

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We don’t actually know how or when we’re getting home. We’ll definitely ride with A to Arizona, but the details beyond that are hazy. It’s an oddly intoxicating proposition… figuring out a way to freelance, buying an old Winnebago and just going istempting. This world is huge. There are so many people to meet and places to see. Careful, unemployment. You’re giving me a taste of freedom…

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Cheers.

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The Best Day

If you’ve heard from me at all today, you’re probably quite surprised to see that title. I was up at 4:30 after barely sleeping the night before for fear of missing my flight, delayed over three hours in Dallas meaning I missed my shuttle to camp, then had to drive through LA traffic in a rental car during rush hour for three and a half hours meaning I missed the first half of day one of Barista Camp.

But then I got here.

You. Guys.

Forgetting that California itself is like a movie set (seriously, I saw a ranchero in a sombrero galloping along the side of the road), I am in utter geekdom.

There is such an easy rapport within an industry. “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but let’s talk about espresso.” And also, hipsters. Everywhere.

My evening at camp started at dinner. I arrived long after everyone was settled and wandered around until I found someone that looked like they knew what was going on. I was right. SCAA reps and the keynote speaker were my dining companions.

The next few hours were a blur as I met my team (we call ourselves Spro Money Spro Problems) and we started our first challenge – creating a “signature espresso drink” using three items from the following list: almond milk, salt, cinnamon, hawaiian punch powder, applesauce, chocolate, or lemons. Creativity at its finest, trying to make something palatable out of that.

And then there’s the goodie bag…

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If anything lets you know how much of a geek I am, it’s that I’m probably just as excited about the nylon brush to clean my machine with as the Clever which I’ve been eying for months.

The next few days are probably going to be social media heavy, at least in regards to Instagram and Twitter. I’m doing what I love and trying hard not to squee. It’ll be a thing.

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Orientation Week, or, when everyone wears matching shirts and moves in large groups

It’s my first August of not being in school. Last spring didn’t seem like such a big deal – I had my trip to New Zealand two weeks after classes started, so I hardly had time to realize I was still living in a college town. But fall semester is so different. The mass influx of college freshmen wandering around town with their parents, maps held upside down in confusion; fifty girls in matching shirts proudly ascribing their greek affiliation covering three blocks as they walk to their next event; the suddenly booming business of the text book shops; wise and mature first year grad students stocking up for their first TA positions; dozens of international students migrating towards their common language counterparts.

Basically, school is starting again.

I believe that I am now technically qualified as a “young professional” living and working in the heart of this university town. Parking ramps are now filled to the top levels – and not everyone is back yet! I’m not envious of the students. Not being in school has been great – I now realize that if I ever go back, I want to go back with a purpose so I can actually take advantage of my classes instead of just using them as lip service.

So, while the chaos of Iowa City rushes about me, I wrestle with my own chaotic existence.

After almost six months, I feel as though I am finally starting to settle into my management position. Boss Man, if you happen to read this, you are the absolute greatest for putting up with my trial and error.

Four of us girls became really good friends after Capanna transitioned to May’s. As of this morning, I am the only one left in Iowa City.

 

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Sorry, Jess, I can’t help it! It’s so melodramatic, but it makes me laugh so hard!

The one who taught me coffee. The one who taught me to lead. The one who saw, asked, and loved.

This last week, as I was training three new baristas, I could feel myself growing. With two full years in front of me, and more than half of my current staff hired since I started managing, this shop will continue to change.

It terrifies me sometimes, wondering if I’m up to the challenge, knowing that while I’ve come far in the last six months, I still have a long way to go. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a to-do list already composed. Sometimes I’ll be writing the schedule and have to remind myself that it’s all sorted itself out eventually before, it can happen again. Sometimes I get an order wrong and have to rework my methods in order to keep the shop afloat, reminding myself that kicking myself is really going to get me nowhere.

I’ve come far. But there is still so much yet to learn, to know, to change, to grow.

It’s scary. I want to end this on a happy note, because today I’m honestly okay. But I’ve promised myself that I’m going to try show the ‘real story’ in this blog a little more – even if not completely. Today, I’m feeling more comfortable in my place in life, as I spent an evening surrounded by strangers. (Uh, the linguists all made friends this summer then moved into a big house. It happens.) But I know that soon, I will be scared again. Scared, wanting to hide under my pillow and have my mom make all my problems go away. Then I’ll get up, put on my big girl pants and deal with it. Because that’s what you do as a twentysomething. You wish for mom, then you do it yourself, scared or not.

 

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Step Two: The one in which we sell all of our stuff

Remember how I was looking for a blog about real life? Well, then there’s Jess…
“It’s not even that I think they are a mark of a cool/worthy/hip person, but I think others will think that if I own these things I will be good enough.”

Life thus far

So you’ve followed our journey thus far, and you know that my husband, my cat, and I are headed to Seattle in three weeks. We have secured a vehicle to get us there, and we are in the process of selling everything that doesn’t fit into our 1994 Pontiac Sunbird. My project these past few weeks has been to put my creative writing minor to use by tricking people on Craigslist into buying our stuff. For example:

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The furniture has been easy to let go of, for the most part. We got most of our stuff from goodwill anyway, so nothing too expensive or sentimental. There is this one chair though, that Doug loves almost as much as he loves me. I don’t understand it, and every time I ask Doug why he likes it so much, he just shrugs and says, “how can I possibly explain the complex relationship…

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