Junior High 2.0

I hated junior high. I remember starting socially at square one because all the friends I had managed to make in elementary school were in different classes. I also remember my soup exploding in the cafeteria microwave at a more than common frequency. And oh I suppose I remember not knowing how to tell the boy I liked that it wasn’t him, I just didn’t know how to be someone’s girlfriend in seventh grade, nor did I see the point of dating at thirteen. Retrospectively I see that I was clearly mature for my age and am glad I thought these sorts of things out with a level head. I remember crying because everyone knew that they were going to be orthodontists and interior designers when they grew up, while I still thought making pizzas at Papa Murphy’s might be cool cause you could probably sample the toppings at leisure…. All right so maybe “mature” and “level headed” aren’t exactly the right words.

Basically what I’m saying is that junior high, or middle school if you had to go there instead, was terrible and a time I was grateful never to have to experience again. Or so I thought. Because the other day, it hit me: The past year and a half after graduation has been the junior high of my adult life. Junior high 2.0.

At the beginning of my 23rd year, I hoped the near future would bring some sort of newfound optimism and light. My goal was to take things day by day for what they were and to just try my best. Instead, I found myself walking through the halls in my new cherry printed dress and matching earrings, carrying my snoopy lunch box to find everyone else wearing Abercrombie and carrying brown paper bags. Just like in junior high I found myself pulled from the friends, unaware how to interact with males in a way that might endear me to them, feeling overwhelmed about committing to specifics in a world of endless possibilities, and lost amongst people who seem to have it figured out.

I have to remind myself that these wearers of juicy sweat suits look back and wonder what the hell they were thinking just as much as I did. And maybe it’s the same now. Maybe the twenty-something wearers of professional suits are looking out their windows wondering if they should drop everything and leave just like the girl in the purple apron scooping ice cream is wondering. They probably are. But you know what, that doesn’t make me feel any better. Maybe a little less lonely, or validated in a way, but not better. Because I hoped that after junior high I wouldn’t have to start at square one making new friends. I hoped that my soup would stop exploding in the microwave and I wouldn’t be left to awkwardly clean it up in front of my peers. I hoped that I might know what I wanted to do, and that I might be in a position to better the lives of others with whatever talents I found that I had.

Instead, I continue to clean up my messes, to try and be a little more open when meeting new people, and to cry after being asked what I want to do with my life. Despite all this, I understand that these phases of transition, from child to teen, from young adult to slightly more adult, are just that: phases. So yes, I don’t look back on junior high as the greatest years of my life (and I would like to examine the brain of those who do) but I understand that it got me through a lot of awkward that prepared me to be a little less… well awkward, later on.

The issue with junior high is that you expect yourself to be more grown up than you really are. You expect yourself to know things and have a plan, because you’re no longer an elementary school baby; you’re mature. But you aren’t. You’re still so young and when teachers ask you to complete a project on what you want to be when you grow up they’ll nod and smile and encourage, but fully understand that maybe three of your classmates will do anything remotely close to what they presented. It gets a little trickier as you graduate from college because you’ve taken the time to think things through and focus your attention towards something more specific. You foster that same feeling of maturity and know-how as you did in elementary school and right when you have reached peak confidence they hand you your diploma and tell you it’s time to move on. You realize the world is a lot bigger than before, and no one is holding your hand while you walk directly from point A to point B.

Not every day has been bad though- I’m not even saying most days have been bad. In fact I’ve made plenty of beautiful memories in the past two years, so I don’t want to insinuate that I’ve woken up every day since graduation hating life. Some days are just more frustrating than others because they’re marred with uncertainties that clash with your expectations. It’s a conflict that feels big, making the transition challenging, and occasionally if the mood hits you just right, overshadows the many small victories you’ve made.

I left junior high not only with superb microwave cleaning abilities and a handful of new friends, but chosen as “student of the year” by my teachers, and with a smile on my face. Junior high didn’t last forever, and as I keep learning new things and trying my hardest to move forward, I know that this junior high 2.0 won’t last forever either. So for now I’ll keep trying to take all the “No’s” I’ve been hearing as promises that something better is just around the corner instead of insurmountable walls, and sometime in the next year I’ll be able to exit junior high 2.0 with an even bigger smile…. and better yet, without the awkward dance at the end.

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I expect some sort of similar plaque after graduation from junior high 2.0

I Survived The Poulsbo Beer Run

The morning after the spring daylight savings change always brings a special kind of pain. This year, one of my dearest friends, Lauren, and I decided to embrace that pain by signing up for the Poulsbo Beer Run. The run is held twice a year, an Oktoberfest themed race in the fall and a St. Paddy’s themed one in the spring, in the small Pacific Northwest town of Poulsbo, Washington. Poulsbo boasts a fairly large number of microbreweries for its small population, and most are within walking distance, making a local beer run tons of fun.

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At our second stop, Rainy Daze, rocking our somewhat suggestive but nevertheless festive green shirts!

The Poulsbo Beer Run, or “PBR” for short, allows you to visit 5 local breweries in just under a 4-mile loop. The participating breweries are Slippery Pig, Rainy Daze, Silver City (hosted by Envy bar and grill), Sound Brewing, and Valhöll. Your $42 entry fee gets you 6 beers, a finisher’s prize, bragging rights, and a morning you wont soon forget!

Lauren and I arrived downtown at 8am (I had to keep reminding myself not to think of it as 7am) dressed in our best green clothing. We started at Slippery Pig and were able to register morning of without problem. They limit the race to about 120 runners per brewery, so while you definitely get to enjoy the vibe of the crowd, it never feels crowded. When you sign up your race bib has 6 tear away tabs at the bottom, good for a beer at each brewery and then an extra for good measure back at your starting point with your finishers prize.

Each brewery offers a 10 oz. pour and provides a couple of options from their menu to choose from. When you arrive at the brewery you tear off one of the tabs from your bib and exchange it for the beer of your choice. If you don’t want a 10 oz. pour you can ask your beer tender for a “short pour,” so you aren’t wasting product.

At Slippery Pig we started with their Secret Kölsch and after getting past the fact that we were drinking a beer at 8am surrounded by people dressed like leprechauns, it was pretty pleasant. That’s another thing about the PBR, you can’t really think when you do it: you just have to do it. When I woke up did running four miles while drinking almost a half a gallon of beer before noon sound appealing? No. But by the time I arrived and found myself surrounded by like-minded (and equally crazy) people, it felt like the best possible way to spend a Sunday morning.

From Slippery Pig we ran the farthest leg of the race out to Rainy Daze. There, Lauren and I both opted for their Sod Slayer. It was light and citrusy which was nice and refreshing. They have a nice open air garage-like setting, which was great after we realized we were pretty toasty after the mile and a half there!

IMG_6063After Rainy Daze we headed across the street to Envy bar and grill, which hosts Silver City Brewery, as it’s located in Silverdale. Half of the bar is actually a restaurant, and I can only imagine what the people dining there thought of the event next door. Here these people were, just trying to enjoy a nice brunch when all of a sudden an army of green and orange clad tipsy runners comes barging through the doors… At Envy I had a Ridgetop Red, which was my favorite beer of the day, while Lauren tried their Clear Creek Pale Ale.

After reaching the halfway point we walked down the street to Sound Brewing where I had an amber off their guest tap list, and Lauren tried Sounds American Mosaic Pale Ale, which was a lot hoppier than most. While the ambiance was great, I think it was my least favorite stop. Because you could choose whatever you liked from the menu, the line was pretty long, and for someone who isn’t exactly a beer connoisseur, in this type of hectic setting I found it easier to have more limited options.

After making friends in the ladies room through shared admiration of various green tutu construction techniques, we headed back into downtown Poulsbo to Valhöll. Now, running up a hill after 5 beers could probably go either way in terms of ease or pain, but thankfully I felt the former rather than the later, and we made it to our penultimate stop in what seemed like no time. Valhöll is one of my favorite breweries in Poulsbo; I like the beer, the people, and the atmosphere. They also offered a passion fruit cider as an alternative which I thought was pretty cool. I opted for that, and it was super refreshing! After hanging for a while at Valhöll, we jogged down the hill back to Slippery Pig to claim our finisher’s prizes and final drink of the race.

For those of you considering participating in the PBR in the future, my best advice would

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Lauren and I enjoying Sluy’s maple doughboys and our last beer with friends we met at Envy, Justin and Laurie

be to take it easy and have fun with it! The beer is good, the volunteers are super friendly, the proceeds go to a good cause (this time it was Kitsap’s Blue Star Banner program, saluting local men and women serving our country), and it’s a fun way to engage with others in the community. While it is a “run” it’s by no means a race, and I would say it’s about 50/50 walkers and joggers, so don’t feel like you can’t participate because you aren’t a “runner.” There’s no time constraint at each brewery, so take your time and enjoy! The Poulsbo Beer Run is a great way to get out, get active, meet new people, catch up with old friends, and support local businesses.

The Weight Of Our Words

The most terrible thing about the writing process is that oftentimes, it’s most difficult when you need it the most. The moments you need nothing more than to empty your mind are also those where you sit endlessly, staring blankly at a page that refuses to fill itself. You want to take your anguish, the politics, and countless rejections and splatter them across the page, but as you sit to do so, you’re hindered by a sinking fear that it might not be as therapeutic as you think. As if writing these things will make them more difficult, increasing your frustrations because you’re not only thinking these things but seeing them written out in front of you. No, these thoughts aren’t just piled up in your mind anymore, now they’re heavy with the weight of reality. You’d hoped after putting the words to page they would lift from your chest, but instead they’ve been etched in, pinning you down.

It’s terribly and beautifully ironic that the words that need to be said are those that are most difficult to say. Or write. Or read. Sometimes you aren’t even sure what those words are, and sometimes you aren’t sure if you want to attempt to find them. Would it be better to stare at the unfilled lines on the page, or fill them with words you aren’t even certain that you mean? What if you mean them today and tomorrow you’ve changed?

Why do we write? To truly feel the weight of our words or to lift them from ourselves? To become surer of our place in this world, or to embrace the difficult existence of the unknown? Do we share our stories for the benefit of others or ourselves?

I’m not sure. But I don’t think I need to be sure, because that’s one of the great things about writing- very few things are certain. Most likely our answers to any of those questions depends more on the time and the words and who we are that day, than on any fixed certainty. All I know is that it’s not easy. It’s not easy to sit down and bleed every day. But it’s necessary. It’s necessary to share your experiences, your love, your pain, your thoughts, and your feelings. That’s how we know we’re not so alone. That we might not be the only one who thinks such lovely and dismal thoughts, or laughs at the same bad jokes, or who doesn’t agree with the way things are going. Through writing we find solidarity, and through that solidarity we find strength. And some days it takes all the strength we can muster to find beauty in this crazy world around us.

 

 

Trick or Treat

Whenever I went trick or treating as a kid my favorite house was the one that handed out pretzels. Or juice boxes. AKA the house that every other kid in the neighborhood hated. I discovered at a young age that Halloween is not my holiday.

To understand my dislike of the spookiest of holidays you have to understand that my tolerance of scary things is at level Scooby-Doo. I’m not kidding, there are some episodes I have to watch with the lights on. That creeper was aptly named… So needless to say wandering outside only to turn around and see a masked someone with some sort of asthmatic issue gasping over you with a scythe in hand was never my idea of a good time. Ghosts, zombies, wolf men, clowns, blood, graveyards, giant spiders: don’t need ‘em.

I think the other issue I’ve always had is I never really cared much about the whole trick or treating thing- I just wanted to run around in my costume with my friends. When I was out trick or treating I had to duck my head past most of the houses, and if there was any sight of a “scarecrow” sitting on a bench with the bowl of candy in its lap I turned right back down the driveway. My favorite part about getting out and getting candy had nothing to do with the candy itself, but sorting it into organized piles at the end of the night.

Retrospectively I understand I was not exactly a normal child.

Dressing up is really the only part of Halloween that I enjoy. I seize any occasion to dress up and I love a good costume party. I was always the kid that totally overdid spirit days at school, and I love seeing people’s creativity, or how they transform their ideas to costume. That is, unless that creativity takes the form of a creepy serial killer. How are you supposed to know they’re not actually a serial killer? I also don’t care much for using it as an excuse to wear your undergarments as a substitute for clothing, but you know to each their own- if that’s how you express yourself, express away.

And this year to make matters even worse there’s the whole terrifying clown epidemic. If I wasn’t holed up inside watching “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” tonight and saw someone dressed as a killer clown out and about, I would most likely do one of the following:

  1. Call 911
  2. Run away screaming in what would under normal circumstances be deemed completely unreasonable, but under the threat of a potential creepy clown be totally warranted
  3. Attack first and ask questions later

I could go on citing several more reasons as to why this takes the top spot on my list of worst holidays (the candy wrapper litter lining the streets on November 1st, the notion that wetting your pants in terror is a fun activity, the lack of quality Halloween songs- expect for “monster mash” which I’ve been listening to on repeat the entire duration of my writing this) but I don’t want to get too wrapped up in negativity, however warranted it may be. However I will make one last comment on one of the most deplorable aspects of Halloween: candy corn. Come on candy corn, it’s time to choose- either be candy or be corn. You can’t be both.

 

Sweet Observations. Part 2: Sampling 101

Believe it or not, a certain etiquette is required when sampling ice cream. Often people will ask, “Don’t you get tired of giving out samples? Do you wish people just had their minds made up?” And while I can’t speak for my coworkers, I can honestly say that it doesn’t bother me. Sure, sometimes it can get a little monotonous, but it’s part of the job, and if I went to an ice cream shop with upwards of 40 options, it would be nice to sample a few things before committing. So don’t worry about tasting a few things, I won’t hold it against you. That is, I won’t hold it against you UNLESS you’re one of the following people:

If you are the person who greets your server with “I’ll try one of everything,” I have some bad news for you: You’re not the first person to come up with this joke. You’re not even the second one to think of it. In fact the only reason I’m laughing along with you is to cover up the sarcastic remark I want to make. I’ve heard that joke at least 5 times today and I got here an hour ago. If I’m not rolling around on the ground laughing, praising you for your wit, please don’t act surprised. You may be reading this and thinking “Oh no… that’s my joke…” and I want you to know that I won’t hold it against you as long as you make the mental note to never say it again.

To the person who actually does try one of everything: Why? To the person who commits to trying one of everything and then as they go along says, “Ew I don’t like coconut,” or “I can’t stand peanut butter”: you did this to yourself. Like maybe don’t commit to trying every flavor if you’re picky? Also, maybe trying every flavor at a small place that only serves five flavors is okay, I’ve never actually been to a place like that so I’m not sure they exist, but the place I work at has over 40 flavors. Please don’t make me go down the list. And to those who try them all and then look really thoughtfully at the menu before saying, “I think I’ll go with the vanilla”: …I can’t even start with you.

You would be surprised by the number of people who stand at the counter watching as you give what are clearly samples to others, but who then look at you and ask “do you give out samples?” More often than not, they push aside the bowl of used taster spoons as they are doing so. The following are responses I would like to make to those who ask if we do tastes as they are surrounded by other people tasting:

  1. Actually we stop tastings at 3:47 and it’s 3:48 sooo… this is awkward.
  2. They can, you can’t.
  3. Only the vanilla.
  4. Is today Tuesday?
  5. No.

Important note on group sampling: When sampling in a group, don’t be that guy who decides he wants to taste the same sample you just brought back for someone else. If someone in your group says, “May I try the raspberry?” don’t hesitate to say, “Oh may I try that too?” before I’ve walked away. Why would you wait until I get back before casually asking, “Oh can I try that too?” Did you think I couldn’t hold more than one tiny spoon in my hand? I’m all about getting my steps in, but come on now.

If you have four flavors you want to try, it’s okay to tell me all four of them at once. “Alright I have a few things I want to try: Strawberry.” Are you planning on keeping the other three a secret? Do I have to guess the others? I’m pretty sure you only listed one flavor there. I can remember more than one thing at a time, and it saves me the walk, so feel free to list away. But then please don’t act overly impressed when I remembered them all. I’m not an idiot.

If there is anything I’ve come to appreciate more after working in an ice cream shop for a year, it’s directness. Although let me emphasize a polite directness. My biggest pet peeve when it comes to sampling is people who dance around the question, as if asking to taste it might be the most offensive thing in the world. Common phrases include, “The chocolate, what’s that like?” “Can I see the chocolate?” “Does the chocolate taste really chocolaty?” Leaving me to answer their questions and then follow up with, “…would you like a taste of it?” Then they look at me as if that’s just the dandiest suggestion in the entire world. If you want something, please just ask politely.

So that’s pretty much all there is to it. If you can be courteous, direct, observant, and avoid the dad jokes, you’re golden will be welcomed back with open arms. If you don’t think you can play by these rules, maybe just stick to Dairy Queen.

Antelope Canyon

If you are ever in Page, Arizona, or even anywhere in relative proximity to it, I cannot express highly enough, how worthwhile it is to take a tour of Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon on the Navajo reservation, which can be toured by guide in a few hours. Potentially the strangest and most wonderful thing about the canyon is that if you drove by, or even walked by, you would never know it was there. This huge beautiful cavernous valley is hidden just below the grounds surface and the only suggestion it’s there is a crack running along the ground.IMG_5177

The walls of the canyon are made of Navajo sandstone and were carved out by the erosion from water flowing powerfully across and under the ground over hundreds of years. Northern Arizona is prone to flash flooding and these rains are still altering the canyon.

It is divided into upper and lower canyons and my aunt, Andrea, and I opted for the lower canyon tour. It requires a little more hiking, as you have to climb down into it, and then up out of it. There are ladders and stairs built into the canyon making this a little easier, but I wouldn’t recommend it for older visitors. There are also places where the corners and walls are very narrow, so it may not be the best for those with limited mobility.

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Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable, and never rushed the group when we wanted to take pictures or ask questions about a certain formation of rock. He knew where all the perfect photo spots were and paused to take pictures of the group whenever he thought there was a good opportunity.IMG_5172

 

The tour starts off with a short walk to the mouth of the canyon; here I can stress the IMG_5153importance of good shoes and a water bottle or two. When first walking out to the canyon Andrea and I both looked at each other like “wait is this it?” because as I mentioned before, you would never guess what lies just below your feet. You reach a little nook in the hill and slowly start to climb the stairs into the canyon where it’s cool and shaded. The stairs are fairly steep so you need to focus on getting down them safely, but once you’re down it’s difficult to stay focused on the ground in front of you, so it’s lucky they are mostly smooth sand.

There’s a reason that these walls have been featured on the cover of national geographic, that windows chose them as one of their screensavers, and that certain shots have sold for millions. Antelope Canyon is breathtaking.

IMG_5149I spent the entirety of the walk wide eyed and jaw slightly ajar in a sense of wonder from what I was seeing around me. You’re totally enclosed by the walls around you in their smooth swirling patterns, jutting out to play tricks with the light here and there, and it makes you feel small. Small in a good way. The type of small where you can feel just how amazing the world around you is. The type of small that makes you want to go out and explore every nook and cranny of the world that you possibly could, knowing that even then you wouldn’t be seeing it all, but being at peace with that. The type of small that makes you thankful to be experiencing the life that you are, even when there are some days that you’d rather hide from it all. The type of small that fills you with electricity, making you feel completely and utterly alive.

Berry Happy

If you’ve ever read Bruce Degen’s childrens book, “Jamberry” then you’ve probably fantasized about romping around barefoot in a land of berries with a friendly bear, eating all the berries you could possibly muster. If you haven’t read “Jamberry,” go to your neighborhood library immediately and pick it up. If the librarian asks why as a grown person you appear to be lurking around the children’s section, politely explain to her that you were tasked with reading a book about a boy, bear, and berries to fill a missing void in your life.

On second thought maybe you should just read it from the comfort of your own home… here’s the link to a reading on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJKclVRP_4s   Side note: I chose this reading because it shows the illustrations in their finest light and the illustrations in this book are perhaps my favorite of any book from my childhood. But I do apologize for the strange voice doing the reading… you may just want to turn the sound off and read it yourself…

But I digress; this post isn’t about children’s books, a boy, or bears; but it is about berries. Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with my mom, picking berries at Graysmarsh Farm in Sequim, Washington. We covered most of your berry bases, picking raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, loganberries, and boysenberries.

I’ll admit to being a somewhat subpar berry picker. Although I have a finely tuned technique when it comes to berry picking, its effectiveness has been called into question on several occasions. It works something like this: one for the bucket, two for me. Two for the bucket, one for me. A variation of this pattern is continued until my bucket is half filled and my stomach is entirely filled.

Graysmarsh has huge fields of berries, as well as lavender, and everything except strawberries were in season, so after wandering through the neat rows we ended up with about 20 pounds of berries between the two of us in a couple hours. Outside in the sun and soft breeze surrounded by sweet green bushes there’s a peaceful edge to the work being done, creating a therapeutic sensation to the activity. Once you get started, it’s kind of difficult to stop. I can’t count the number of times we would pause, saying, “that’s probably enough,” not even finishing the statement before continuing to pick our way down the row.13729004_1336449703036634_401524070210313870_n

The berries at Graysmarsh are top-notch; their flavors, textures, and pickabililty each contributing to the satisfaction of the experience. I don’t even really care for blueberries, but you better believe I was snacking on these. They aren’t mushy like others I avoid, but firm, plump, and sweet. Graysmarsh blackberries are thornless, so you can thrust your hands through the bushes without fear of being stuck to get the large juicy berries hiding in the depths of the vines. However, my favorites were the raspberries. Raspberries are my favorite fruit so I was biased going in, but these did not disappoint. Easy to pick, bordering on just the right edge of tartness and sweet, I could have easily eaten a flat of them. If I lived in Sequim, I’m fairly certain I’d be a regular raspberry picker there.

At the end of the day, looking at your stained hands and feeling the weight of your efforts hanging in the bucket on your arm, the realization of just how much work you did sinks in. It’s completely and wonderfully satisfying. Potentially even more satisfying will be the berry cobblers, jam, drinks, snacks, and smoothies that are to come!