Sweet Observations Part 5: Sweetness In Every City

A thought occurred to me the other day: Every city I have ever lived in has had phenomenal ice cream. The kind of ice cream that people are willing to stand in half hour lines for. Each with it’s own quirks and flavors, I’ve been lucky to try an assortment of treats from them all (although of course I have my own favorites). And with this realization, a brief tribute to each of them:

Big Dipper, Missoula MT 

 

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There are few things better than standing in line for Big Dipper ice cream on a warm summer night

 

I think my love for Big Dipper was solidified when they parked their ice cream truck outside my dorm freshman year and offered free scoops to everyone packing their cramped 9th floor dorm room in the 80-degree heat. There’s a chance they offered others this same treat, but for the top floorers, it was especially welcomed. I remember packing up with my mom and grandma and every time one of us took a load to the car, we’d stop by the truck for a new flavor to share between the three of us.

The Dipper was there for me rain or shine throughout my four years in Missoula: After sorority functions, dates, letdowns, and celebrations. In 28 degrees or 101 degrees, I never grew tired of standing outside their small ice cream stand to sample new flavors, pretending I might get something other than yellow cake in a plain cone with rainbow sprinkles.

With plenty of classics to go around and a rotating variety of specials, you can’t go wrong. The ice cream feels fuller on your tongue and creamier than most and you can smell their homemade waffle cones from around the corner. If you’re really feeling up to the challenge bring a friend (or 4) and take on the super nova. It’s basically 6 huge scoops of ice cream (maybe more?) over what feels like a hub cap sized plate of brownies, hot fudge, whipped cream, nuts and cherries. It may kill you, but at least you’ll die happy.

Mora Iced Creamery, Poulsbo WA

I’ve never been to another ice cream establishment with as many flavors as Mora. And the issue is all of them are good. Basically even the flavors I didn’t like there are still enjoyable. Mora has some of the richest, most flavorful ice cream I’ve ever tasted. They boast all natural ingredients and less butterfat than other ice creams and it really makes a difference. After having worked there for almost two years I think I developed a low-key addiction. I wish I were kidding. But with such variety and quality, how could I not. If you find yourself in Kitsap County, get some raspberry sorbet for me, will you? Or chocolate peanut butter moreo. I’m not picky.

 

 

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Please note that most Mora sundaes do not come with 7 cherries. You’ve got to know someone.

I have some wonderful memories from Mora, and some less than wonderful memories from Mora, but the fact remains- they know their ice cream. I miss having a constant supply of it in my fridge. I also miss the arm strength I gained while working there. RIP almost-not-really-but-kind-of-muscular-at-least-not-pudding-like arms. I met some pretty amazing people and had some good fun, but I also grew a lot. I think your early post grad years can be some of the most challenging (or at least I hope they are) in your life and having that little bit of sweetness definitely helped me muddle my way through a few of them. It was at Mora I learned to love chocolate ice cream. It will probably be the only place I’ll order it.

Salt and Straw, Portland OR

 

I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve been to Salt and Straw since I’ve moved here. Frankly it’s embarrassing. But before we get judgy you’ve gotta hear me out: the flavors change every month. The ever changing menu of high quality ice cream makes it a brand new experience every time. I’ve tasted flavors inspired by berry season, Halloween, thanksgiving, and local farmers market vendors, and ice cream created by kids to support local elementary schools. They have some solid staples, but I always find myself trying their new flavors.

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Maybe that’s another reason I like it so much- it’s basically the one place I frequent where I don’t have a “go-to.” Anyone can tell you, I’m a creature of habit. Yes, I’ll try new things, but then I’ll end up with my favorite (see declaration of love for yellow cake on a plain cone with rainbow sprinkles above). With no true loyalty to one of their regular flavors, I branch out. I’ve tasted ramen ice cream, blood pudding ice cream, dill pickle sorbet, thanksgiving turkey ice cream, zucchini bread ice cream, and ice cream made with crickets and mealworms in it… just to name a few.

My favorite series so far has been thanksgiving with notable mention going out to goat cheese pumpkin pie, maple and pecan sweet potato, mashed potato (yes they used real mashed potatoes and gravy in it) and cranberry challah bread stuffing. I don’t know how they do it.

 

Would I describe myself as an ice cream connoisseur?

Yes.

Just kidding!! (ish) But I will admit that I’ve been a little spoiled and have become accustomed to a certain level of quality when it comes to frozen dairy products. When I move again, it will have to be somewhere with quality ice cream: that’s non negotiable.

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Work-Life Balance

So let’s talk about this whole concept of “work-life balance.” Apparently it’s important. I’ve only heard rumors, but it sounds pretty great. Over the past few months I’ve learned that it’s something I need. Initially, I thought having an afternoon or morning off would be good enough and I was mostly just excited to be getting enough hours at work to pay the rent. Being a generally optimistic person, I didn’t realize my mental and physical health was slowly deteriorating.

It’s been a few months since I’ve written, and as of a few weeks ago, it had been a few months since I’d been on a good run. I really don’t require a whole lot to keep me going, but in recent years these two activities have become things that I really truly enjoy. We need these activities in our lives and I found myself spending less time expressing myself in a creative outlet and more time ruminating in worried thoughts. I found myself setting my alarm a little later to get a few more hours of sleep instead of hitting the pavement, and spending the rest of the day guilty and frustrated for it.

It’s not even that I am working insane hours a week, because I understand some people work 60-hour workweeks, so I am by no means complaining about my 40-45 hours or so. My struggle has come from not having an unplanned day off. Today has been my first day off since July that I haven’t had a single obligation.

I have been incredibly blessed to have friends and family coming into town to visit, I’ve attended concerts, I’ve attended weddings, bachelorette parties, surprise parties, and had Halloween fun, none of which I regret. I feel incredibly lucky to have jobs that allow me to take time off for these things, but today has been my first true day off since the summer. No work and no obligations. I didn’t set an alarm, I went for a run through the woods that I didn’t feel obligated to cut short or hustle through, took my time in the shower, did laundry, sent my book out to a few more agents, and am taking the time to sit and write.

It’s been so nice to breath today.

There’s still a lot I have to learn about balance, and I’m sure it will be an ongoing process as my life and career evolves and I’m going to have to be okay with the fact my balance may not look exactly the way others balance their lives. As I’ve begun to feel a little burnt-out over the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned that an afternoon or a morning isn’t enough time off for me- I need at least a full day where the only commitments I have are to my self.

I’m not sharing this to complain, or as an excuse for why the blogs been a little empty over the past couple weeks, it’s more to reflect upon the types of changes I hope to make in my life and that I hope to be held accountable to now that they’ve been written down. You don’t get a special medal for working more hours or more days than others and losing control in the process. Not only is it okay, it’s important to admit that you need some time for yourself when you realize you do instead of digging yourself into a hole. If you keep digging you’ll eventually bury yourself.

 

July July

So last you heard from me, I was embracing my new city by getting into as much car trouble as I could find, and it’s been a while so I figured I should try to get back into the swing of things here with some updates: This month my car was stolen.

KIDDING!

I’m happy to report that I’ve had no further car troubles, and I plan to keep it that way for as long as I can. July was a whirlwind. I’ll include some of the highlights here and by the time I’m finished you’ll be able to see why I haven’t gotten around to writing for a while.

 

God Bless America… and Blackberry Tarts

To begin, I was lucky enough to get a long weekend off around the fourth of July, and with the family planning on heading up to our cabin for a good chunk of that time, there was no way I was missing out. I got to spend 5 entire days on Hood Canal, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to fully understand just how rare having more than a day or so has come to be. Five entire days of relaxing in the sun, hiking, playing cards, reading, crabbing, skiing, and enjoying the company of my favorite people in the entire world. We ate well, we laughed, and we loved. I’m incredibly thankful to have moved someplace where I can sneak back to enjoy moments like these without too much trouble, and am grateful to work for an organization that understands the value in these experiences and not only allows me to take them when I can, but encourages it.

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New Job, Who Dis?

I began working at Stash shortly after I got back after the holiday, and after a FullSizeRender-3month in, I’m loving it! As my job with the Timbers is just part time, I needed to find something to compliment that to keep me busy, and well, pay the rent. There has been so much to learn, but since it’s something that I enjoy, it’s been incredibly interesting and fun to learn. Tea has a very rich history and there are so many different strains and traditions revolving around each type, that I definitely haven’t been bored! Despite all there is to learn, I jumped in without feeling nervous or getting flustered, and whether that confidence came from my experience at Mora or having been busy leading up to my start date and not really having the time to entertain my nerves, it’s felt like a good place to be so far. My coworkers are wonderfully quirky and relatable people, the company itself does a lot for the community, and I’ve gotten to expand my palate for tea, which has been a lot of fun in itself.

 

Working It (Out)

I knew I wanted to look into going to a gym or doing something else to supplement running because I’m not very good at keeping up with strength training unless someone else is making me do it. Seriously, I can run 8 miles comfortably, but don’t ask me to do a pushup. So I’ve signed up for Orange Theory Fitness and while I’ve only gotten a few workouts in, I feel like I could easily become hooked. Every time I come out, I’m dripping with sweat and exhausted, but feel a great sense of accomplishment. Recently, I’ve learned something strange about myself: Under most circumstances, I could care less about numbers, but when it comes to fitness the numbers intrigue me. I like seeing the efforts I’ve put into something represented numerically, whether that’s in miles run, or calories burned. The cool thing about Orange theory is you’re wearing a heart rate monitor and your numbers are posted on boards around the class, with the goal to push yourself into specific zones throughout the class. There’s no cheating yourself, and as that person who tried way too hard in middle school gym, I love seeing how hard I push myself translated to numbers and colors flashed up on a board. Alternating between rowing, treadmill, and weight-room, no two days are the same, and while it’s a group fitness program, the coaches are great about encouraging individuals and helping to correct form when necessary. So next time you see me, expect me to have a six-pack.  …That was a joke. Please don’t expect that.

Sister Weekend

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Madi came to visit around mid month and we were able to cram quite a lot into her quick weekend trip, despite the fact she was in town for less than 48 hours. After some unlucky bus delays she arrived later Saturday night than originally planned. That didn’t deter us from waking up early to go for a run along the river, ending with breakfast at the riverfront café. Catching up over french toast and green eggs and yam (guess who got which haha) on a sunny morning on the river was the perfect start to the day. I was able to get tickets to the Thorns game that day, which turned out to be a great game! We had third row seats, the Thorns pulled out a win, and it was sunny but not sweltering. After, we walked down to the Pearl District, because I figured Madi could appreciate the blocks filled with LuluLemon, Free People, Anthropologie, Lucy, and North Face. She did. We ate a late lunch at Garden Bar, which, from the second week I lived here I knew I needed to take her to, and the look on her face when we walked in the door alone was worth it. A salad lover’s dream come true. After that we walked around downtown and shopped, embracing the lack of sales tax, planning to walk up to 23rd Ave for dinner. We walked the street and probably checked out the menus at every restaurant on the block before arriving at Papa Hayden. It was so good, we forgot to leave room for Salt and Straw afterwards. After a long day filled with walking we stopped by red box and had a relaxing evening, planning on waking up early to get brunch and explore a bit more before she had to catch her bus and I had to get to work. It was a practically perfect day and a half and I’m already getting antsy for her to come visit again.

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Another perk about living reasonably close to home: You can sneak back to Mount IMG_7211Walker for an old coworkers wedding and make it back to Portland the next day for your afternoon shift. You’ll be exhausted and debate pulling over to nap at a rest stop, but it’s doable. Being able to celebrate the love between Lauren and Doug and catch up with some of my former coworkers was worth every minute of the drive. The ceremony was beautiful and the relaxed and fun feel to the entire day was so incredibly Doug and Lauren, I can’t think of how it could have been any better.

 

Books, Barbecue, and Birthdays

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On the very same day I got back from the wedding, my aunt Liz and uncle Marc came into town on their way back to South Dakota after visiting the family up in Washington. I am so incredibly grateful that they stretched their already long drive a little longer to stop by. We were able to enjoy each others company over a delicious dinner, then after I got off work the next day, wandered around IKEA. They happened to be celebrating IKEA’s birthday so there was free cake- talk about taking one of the greatest places on earth and making it even better. Before our dinner reservations, we explored Powell’s, where I once again proved I have no will power when it comes to books. While I’m bummed I missed out on all the activities that took place with the family at home the week before, it was great to be able to have some of our own catch up time.

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But wait, there’s more. The last weekend of the month, I was headed BACK home to make good on my birthday gift from Madi. Ed Sheeran tickets. I cried. I drove back home on Friday afternoon (shout out to Ana for getting me through the traffic filled drive by talking to me on the phone for literally 3 hours) to takeout from my favorite Thai place in Poulsbo and a delightful evening catching up with my mom and watching episode after episode of carpool karaoke. Perfect night. We woke up the next day to have lunch with my grandparents at the cabin, which was an absolute delight, as always. Then on to Tacoma for dinner with my aunt, and to pick up Madi as she had been at leadership camp all week. I did her makeup in the car in between bites of sandwich and chugs of water and we were dropped off in perfect time to get our shirts and find our seats just as James Blunt was opening. Madi hooked us up. Our seats were incredible, and I left feeling as if it didn’t really matter what happened to me beyond that point; my life was complete. We sang, we laughed, we danced, we cried. Ed was amazing and every song played was an absolute treat. While my favorite song from the new album is “Castle On The Hill” I think my favorite song of the night was “Photograph”- so well done. “Galloway Girl” had the best energy, and “Bloodstream” had the coolest graphics along with it. Did I mention he game out for the encore in a 12th man jersey? Okay, Ed, I see you. So thank you Madi, because that was the most perfect birthday gift I could have hoped for.

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So there’s the super condensed highlight reel from July. I could have definitely written an entire post for each of these events, but as the time has past this is all I’ve got. Until then, I’ll just keep wondering where summer went, and embrace the last month while I can!

Life’s Little Takeaways

If I were to write a short novel about my first few months in Portland, it would have to be titled “Car Trouble.” Nothing else would do. Since moving to this city I have created a small dent in my door from an encounter with a pole in a parking garage I now deem “the terror dungeon”, I’ve gotten two parking tickets, and when I awoke this morning, I discovered my car was not where I’d parked it the night before.

I would like to take this moment to share that before this city I had a perfectly clean parking record, and still have an unblemished driving record. So if I ever offer you a ride somewhere you do not need to fear for your life. Just maybe don’t let me park your car in Portland for you, because there’s a good chance you might never see it again. I will not be applying for any valet jobs here soon.

Back to my missing car: Thankfully, I was able to discover that it hadn’t been stolen, but I had accidentally parked it in the wrong zone so they towed it. After the brief period of confusion and denial, I can’t deny I was upset when I discovered my car wasn’t where I’d left it, I mean who wouldn’t be? But the funny part is, now that I’ve located the lot it was taken to and figured out how to get it back, I feel this strange sense of satisfaction associated with accomplishment.

Now hear me out, because that statement on its own is fairly ridiculous. “You feel… satisfied that your car was towed?” No, not that my car was towed- that obviously sucks and I don’t want to pay to get it back, but I feel good about the way I handled myself in the situation.

A month ago I would have cried. Probably a lot. I would have panicked and put off calling before I had read several websites to figure out who to call and how to handle these situations, and then I would have rehearsed what I was going to say over the phone when I finally did call. I would have let it ruin my entire day, and maybe even a few days after that.

But this morning I picked up my phone, googled something like “how to locate my towed car in Portland”, was directed to the city’s police and impound site, called the listed number, calmly explained my situation to the man who answered and he was able to track it down and give me the info of the towing company, which I called immediately after and figured out what I needed to do to get my car back. And I don’t feel like my day has been ruined. I called home with the update, took a walk in the sun, and am now borrowing Starbucks’ wifi to share the experience with you, before I work on some other projects while enjoying a cup of coffee.

And then beyond an excitement for stepping up and acting like a reasonable adult, to realize I am in a place where I can take this as something to learn from and move on with a positive mindset feels pretty darn good.

I would not have been able to do this a month ago. At least, not in this levelheaded and adult way. Things have a funny way of becoming known to you, but this situation has shown me how much I’ve grown in the past month. I might not have been able to recognize these changes in myself and feel proud about them without this little misadventure. While it might have been nicer to discover this new confidence in way that didn’t involve a tow truck, I have to admit, I’m grateful for this takeaway.

Street Parking

At some point during the past week of my living in my new apartment, I have become the sort of person who deems it acceptable to roll out of bed and walk down the streets of the city without even bothering to put on a bra.

I understand that this has become something of the style now, but the well endowed can appreciate it’s not one we should embrace… maybe I just haven’t found the right shirt. However I’m fairly certain that shirt will never be a plain cotton t-shirt, and the final look will never be completed with rumpled running shorts, flip-flops (or sneakers without socks depending on the weather), puffy raccoon eyes, and cavewoman hair.

It has taken all of a week for me to give up all cares regarding public image and there is but one thing to blame for this misfortunate turn of events: Street parking.

“Don’t be that person! All it takes is a minute! Just put on a pair of pants!” Cries the voice inside my head as I reach for a loose fitting sweatshirt and some running shorts. That’s as good as 17th Avenue is going to get from me during my morning meter feeding. I’m really setting myself up to make friends here.

Each morning as I lock my door behind me, I’m really counting on a good majority of the neighborhood population to be asleep before 8am.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Come on, what are the odds that the meter guy (or gal) will be up and patrolling at precisely 8AM?” Trust me, the risk does not outweigh the reward. After having already received two tickets in the month that I’ve lived here, I’m too scared to push my luck any further… That is, if you can call two tickets in a month “luck.”

Literally a block away from zoned parking and unable to apply for a residential pass, and surrounded by lots that won’t let you park in them Monday- Friday from 7-5, street parking has very quickly become the bane of my existence in this city. I fully understand that I’m not even suffering at the hands of some ungodly hour. I realize that many people are already at work, also getting out of bed, or have finished their run by 8am. But it’s the principle of the matter.

I will be all too thankful come July, when a space in our buildings parking garage opens up and I will no longer have to trudge down five flights of stairs to spend 8 dollars for 4 extra hours of peace. But for now, I will continue to embrace the lifestyle of the man who walks out the door to get his paper in nothing but a robe and slippers.

The Art Of The Brick

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry to see Nathan Sawaya’s “Art Of The Brick” installation. Sawaya works in a unique medium that appeals to the young, and young at heart: Lego bricks. The exhibit drew in a wide audience and left you believing more firmly in the idea that art isn’t limited by a particular medium; it exists all around you if you allow yourself to open your mind to it.

The exhibit was divided into multiple sections, beginning with reconstructions of famous paintings, sculptures, and artifacts made entirely from Legos. I felt like I had stepped into an adult version of Lego Land, and it was too amazing. Beside every one of Sawaya’s Lego interpretations was a brief description and history of the original, and then an explanation from Sawaya about how he chose to interpret the piece, specific techniques he used, and the number of bricks it took to complete the piece. IMG_6816

Many of Sawaya’s recreations were crafted to exact (or very close) scale of the original, although in some cases this wasn’t entirely possible, due to enormity or the dimensions effecting the Lego versions ability to stand on it’s own. The detail that Sawaya was able to capture with plastic brick is incredible, from jutting angles, to softer round edges.IMG_6820

The next section captured various phases and interpretations of the human experience. This portion explored the greater meanings of what we as humans view as meaningful, both personally and from societal expectations, in terms of aesthetic value. It also explored uniqueness and encouraged leaving behind self-doubt. Each of the pieces in this section was created using the same color brick, instead of mixing multiple, with bright primary and secondary simple colors.

This room moved into the personal exploration of Sawaya’s own times of doubts and evaluation of self worth. While this wasn’t necessarily the most captivating section, it was the bravest. Putting your internal battles on display for the world to see couldn’t have been easy, but it was incredible to see the battle waged in Sawaya’s mind between following his passion and meeting societal expectations. The effect of conveying such darkness with a children’s toy associated with joy and creativity was powerful.

The last section I’ll share was a collaboration titled “In Pieces” with photographer, Dean West. West and Sawaya captured photos of the common American landscape incorporating Lego props subtly into the scenes. The photos hung on the walls and the pieces used in the photos were on display in the middle of the room. My favorite photo was, “Dress,” featuring a woman standing outside an old theater in a red dress made of Legos which disintegrate behind her in the cold. However my favorite Lego piece was an umbrella used in the photo, “Umbrella.” I’m still so impressed by the way Sawaya managed to create the domed of an umbrella with square and rectangular pieces.

Pieces in other sections that need some honorary mention are the Tyrannosaurus Rex constructed from 80,020 Lego bricks, and perhaps one of Sawaya’s most recognizable pieces called “Yellow.” Constructed from 11,014 yellow Lego bricks, I loved what it conveyed about opening oneself to the world, and spilling out your soul.

IMG_6810The Art Of The Brick is an incredible gallery for all to enjoy. Kids loved it, because well Legos, and adults could appreciate the craftsmanship and message Sawaya intended to convey through his pieces. It made me step back and really admire the creativity of the mind and the potential it has to transform ordinary little fragments into works of art that can make big statements.

Sweet Observations Part 4: Leaving With An Ice Cream Cone

One of the best parts of working in an ice cream shop is that whenever you have a tough day you can always leave with an ice cream cone, and I’ve found that it’s a lot more difficult to be upset when you’ve got an ice cream cone in your hand. I recently had my first challenging day at my new job and by the time my shift ended I found that all I really wanted was ice cream. It’ll take me awhile to break this conditioning.

This lack of sweetness after a tough day was the first moment I really missed my old job, specifically my coworkers and the rainbow sprinkles. The years I spent working at Mora were some of the most challenging and surprisingly rewarding years of my life. My experiences there strengthened my belief that everyone should be in the position of “serving” someone else, at least once in their life. You encounter some of the greatest and most awful people you can imagine in customer service, and it forces you to grow in so many ways. I learned early on that you can tell a lot about someone by the way they treat a person who is “in service” to them.

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The management team visiting the Starbucks Roastery in Seattle to test out their new line of affogatos featuring Mora’s ice cream!

More often than not, I found people making assumptions about me based on how I was earning my living. For example, one day I overheard a man tell his daughter “This is why you go to college, so you don’t have to work a job like this for the rest of your life.” It honestly took every bit of my will to not stop where I was and mention that I had earned not one, but two bachelors degrees in four years, the girl working the register was earning money to pay for medical school, many of us were back for the summer preparing to pay off future student loans, and not a single person there planned on “doing this for the rest of their life.”

And then I would have had to ask why he thought this was such a degrading line of work, also leading me to defend the choice not to attend or the inability to pursue higher education. I probably would have ended up on YouTube heckling this customer that there was absolutely no shame in working for a great company where we made good wages, had a lot of fun, and got to interact with unique and wonderful people both behind and across the counter

That’s the challenging thing about customer service: you have to ignore those ignorant comments, bite your tongue, and laugh along when people make jokes about what you’re doing, or else you’ll get poor reviews for “talking back” or being “rude” for defending your life to some stranger, which you really shouldn’t have to do in the first place.

All that being said, you can imagine there are a lot of tough days, which brings me to the redeeming factor of working in customer service: your coworkers.

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Just a few of the people that got me through my days

Because of the challenges and overwhelming nature of the jobs being performed, you get really close with your crew really fast. I’m not sure I’ve worked a job where I’ve felt a greater sense of comraderie with my coworkers. Even if you’re not great friends outside of work, the minute they walk in the door it’s like your best friend has arrived. You’ve got to depend on each other for so much, because if you can’t create a smooth flow of conversation and means of operations, things fall apart.

Besides the necessity for smooth function of the store, I think another reason people working in customer service become so close is that they spend so much of their day dealing with difficult customers.

Because nothing brings people together more than shared misery.

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The very definition of a “happy accident”caught on camera by a coworker.

If you’re rude to your server, I guarantee the entire store knows about you, and not in a good way. Servers need backroom rants to get frustration out of their systems so they can go back out onto the floor and smile politely to the people who call them idiots to their face. It’s easier to apologize for a mistake that isn’t your own when you can turn around the back corner and call bullshit to someone who empathizes.

I wouldn’t have lasted as long as I did without my coworkers. It didn’t matter that we went to different schools, that our interests outside work were different, that we were years apart in age, or that our styles of interacting with people were different. We had each other’s backs, because we were all in the same boat when we walked through those doors and we needed each other if we were going to keep that boat afloat.

One of my biggest takeaways from working customer service is the importance of leaving your bad days behind with an ice cream cone. Some days it was an actual ice cream cone and other days my ice cream cone was laughing with coworkers while jamming to the “after hours playlist.” Other days it was driving with all the windows down in the sunshine, or knowing that I’d go home to puppy snuggles. After leaving a challenging workday, you need to be able to find the little happinesses that wipe away any negativity you’re still feeling. Working at an ice cream shop definitely made leaving with a bit of this happiness easier. I’m not sure what my new ice cream cone will be in this new position I’ve taken, but I’m sure it’ll come with time… and hopefully a few less calories!

The Tenacious Ten

About a month ago, I ran Seattle’s “Tenacious Ten.” I’m writing about it now, because when I ran it I was a little preoccupied with other things (see my previous post “Movin’ and Shakin’” for more details) and writing wasn’t really a priority. But I feel like it was an experience worth sharing, so better late than never right?

This year Oiselle, a Seattle-based women’s athletic apparel company, organized the Tenacious Ten, a 10k or 10 mile run, around Gasworks Park and Lake Union. Simply put, it was everything I needed.

The week before the race, I was offered a new job in Portland and in the hectic transition, I completely forgot that I had signed up for the race months before. My race week schedule looked a little like this *feel free to input screams wherever you see fit*: I asked my manager to schedule me as close to 40 hours in three days as she could get so I could get to Portland and view apartments on Thursday and potentially Friday. I caught a break, as the weather wasn’t great those days so thankfully the shop was pretty quiet. The apartments offices didn’t open until I was already at work and closed before I got off, so this added a nice little layer of difficulty. I’d wake up early before work and make lists of places to call when they opened, and in the quiet moments at work I’d cross my fingers that no one would walk in while I called building managers to set up viewings.

I greeted Thursday with a 5:30 wake up call to be out the door by 6. From 10-4 my parents and I went to place after place and while I naively thought everything would work out so smoothly we could just drive back Thursday night, (so I could pick up my race packet in Seattle on Friday) my parents knew better. They had the decency to tell me to slow down for five seconds and that if we left Friday morning I’d make it just fine.

While all this was happening, my friend Lauren, (whom you may recognize from my previous “PBR” post) lives in Seattle and offered to let me stay at her place so I wouldn’t have to take the ferry and Uber over to Gasworks Park at the crack of dawn. After signing paperwork for my new place on Friday morning, I planned on stopping by home just long enough to grab my stuff, hightail it to the ferry, Uber up to the hotel where packet pickup was before it ended and get back to Laurens. This might have worked if traffic had been on our side…. But everyone knows that the moment you need to be somewhere, there’s an accident. Or construction. Or everyone and their mother decides to hit the road.

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Lauren and I, post race and pre brunch

So with time no longer on our side, Lauren offered to go to the hotel and pick up my packet for me after she got off work. This girl is an absolute saint. So instead of going to the hotel I planned to grab my stuff, hop on the ferry (praying I’d remembered my shoes), catch the light rail to Capitol Hill and meet Lauren and some of her college friends for dinner, get back to her place at a hopefully decent time to be out the door by 7:15 the next morning. Raise your hand, if at this point you think I’m crazy for not swallowing the race fee and taking a nap instead.

By this point I hadn’t run for a week (maybe more?), hadn’t slept well, and didn’t even try to eat well. When I signed up I remember being a little bummed I missed out on the 10 mile distance and would be running the 10k instead. However this turned out to be a blessing because once I got to mile 5, I cannot express how happy I was that I only had a mile left instead of another 5. As I sat on the ferry the night before the race, I knew that the only thing pushing me across that finish line would be the excitement of the upcoming changes in my life, and any extra fuel in my tank would come from all the stress of the previous week.

Oiselle did a great job. The race was well organized, there was a great turnout, and they had plenty of fun booths to check out pre and post race. The course was easy to navigate and led us through the city, over bridges, and by the lake, and the start and finish in Gasworks Park was perfect. There was a great sense of comradery between the other runners as well as the volunteers hosting and cheering along the way. The morning was beautiful- the rain held off and it was even warmish, which is the best you can ask of Seattle spring.

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You’d think I’d look like I was having more fun having just passed the 5 mile mark…

This was one of the most stressful weeks of my life but by the time I stepped across the starting line, I felt so at peace that the race went from just another thing to cross off my list, to something of a life changing experience. I felt like I was able to leave so much behind me in those 6 miles. A year of rejections from various prospective jobs, the feeling of remaining stuck while everyone around me seemed to be moving forward, tears and breakdowns, knowing my only non-work friends in town were my parents and my dog, and fed up with the monotony my life had seemed to take, this race was the end of it all. Exhausted and overwhelmed I was able to plug into putting one foot in front of the other, and leave everything on the course.

It was a nice goodbye to a city that I never lived in but had grown to see as the only option for getting out of my small town. I felt a strange bitter sweetness running around the water and knowing that wasn’t the skyline I’d be waking up to every day. While I love so many things about Seattle I’ve never really felt compelled to call it home in the way so many of my peers have. While I ran around the lake it was comforting to know it’d be there, but in the capacity it had always been: a great place to visit friends and go to football games, see concerts or run a race, but not to stay. If I hadn’t been so set on lacing up my shoes that morning I never would have realized that, and I don’t think I would have gotten that closure.

I hope that everyone can find something that brings them peace like that. It doesn’t need to be running. You just need to find something. Something you can do almost anywhere and that you don’t need someone else- especially a specific someone else- to make it happen. I’m not saying it has to be a completely solitary activity, people surround you while running a race and it’s always fun to find a running buddy, but for it to really heal, it can’t be something that depends on someone else making it happen for you. You need something where you can take a second to get out of your own head before you dive back in.

The Tenacious Ten was the perfect end to my week of ups and downs. Crossing the finish line gave me a sense of finality to that chapter of my life, and I couldn’t have asked for a better source of relief.

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Movin’ and Shakin’

These past couple weeks have been a whirlwind. Stresses and excitements have been swirling around to create utter chaos in my life. I tried to take a break from it all last week to write a post about everything that was happening but I think instead of providing a sense of serenity or feelings of anticipation, it was a stream of incoherent thoughts because half of my brain was dedicated to telling me I should be doing something constructive like packing or making phone calls or really doing anything but relax. So now that I have a minute, I’ve got some big news.

A few weeks ago I accepted an internship with the Portland Timbers in their administration department. I’ll be working the front desk part time, while taking special assignments from other departments as needed. When I received the offer letter I cried. Everything seemed to go from zero to sixty. I had all my interviews and accepted the job within the same week and my manager at the ice cream shop was an absolute saint in helping me find coverage, switch shifts, and get me down to Portland for my interview.

My mother can attest to my spastic behavior post acceptance. I was in the middle of baking a blueberry lemon cake when I got the offer, and it kept hitting me at random. It’s a wonder that cake turned out because mixing was interspersed with bouts of sitting on the kitchen floor in awe and measuring was interrupted by several needs to make lists.

One of the most daunting of tasks for me was finding an apartment. Having spent my days at home, college dorm, or sorority house, I haven’t had to experience the whole process of looking for a place of my own yet. The idea made me both embarrassed and grateful. Sometimes one more than the other… So having decided I wanted to try living on my own, eliminating the roommate finding factor, I began scouring sites and making appointments to tour places that looked worth seeing and within my budget.

I planned to get down to Portland to look at places on Thursday so Monday through Wednesday, I crammed about forty hours of work into three days to make that happen. I scheduled these viewings during slow moments at work, praying no one would walk in while I was talking to these building managers. My parents came with me, waking up bright and early to be out of the house by six to make it in time for my first appointment. 10-4 was booked solid, and miraculously well ordered in terms of locations.

One of my biggest frustrations while looking at colleges was that I never felt that “this is it!” feeling everyone talks about. I absolutely loved where I ended up and couldn’t picture it any other way today, but I won’t pretend it was love at first sight. The town, campus, and tour were all great but didn’t hit me like a bolt of lightening or anything… I’m not sure why I thought apartment hunting would be any different. But at about two, after not having anything stand out as fabulous, combined with the pressure to find said fabulous place in a day, I was incredibly frustrated.

This feels like as appropriate a place as any to thank my parents. I was not a pleasant individual to be around that week. I like to think I have a fairly easy-going personality, but one of my big takeaways from this process is that my easy-going demeanor is reserved for others, and not something I apply to my personal life. If you are going through a crisis, I’ve been known to give sage, levelheaded, and calming advice. However, I can’t seem to find this advice when I need it for myself. I’ll admit that now. I’m honestly surprised neither of my parents didn’t just throw their hands up and walk away. But I guess that’s what you do for people you love. You take the bricks they throw at you and build them a platform to stand upon.

With the pressure of a two-week start date looming, I weighed pros and cons and ended up filling out an application feeling okay. Not great, but definitely fine with my decision. While I did this, my mom called the apartment across the street to see if their parking garage was full and what the prices and wait-list looked like. While she was on the phone she ended up asking if they had any studios available. And much to my horror they did. I only say horror because in my head I’d finally committed to this other place, and I was going to make it work wonderfully. More importantly, this new one my mom found was not on my list. Being on the list and being on schedule was incredibly important to me, it’s how I both kept my sanity and also how I realized I’d lost it.

Guess where I’ll be living ladies and gents?

Just as I stumbled across the job opening with the Timbers, I stumbled across my new apartment. It’s funny how things have a way of working out. There is something to be said for faith in God’s timing. After a frustrating year or so of applying and interviewing for a variety of jobs that didn’t work out, this opportunity felt like it came out of left field. After laboring over apartment listings and city maps and various phone calls and scheduled interviews, the right home came to me completely unplanned. For these reasons I think Portland will be good to me.

The subsequent application processes haven’t gone off without a hitch by any means, but I guess they say that the best things in life don’t come easy. I wasn’t even sure that I’d gotten the place until about a week ago. Thank goodness my mom had me shop for furnishings, because my stubborn mindset took the stance of “Well I don’t even know if I have a place yet so why would I shop for things to put in the apartment that I don’t have?” I’m telling you people; I was loony. To be fair, after I said this out loud I realized I was being ridiculous and embraced the healing power of home decorating and retail therapy. I started to get a little less stressed and a little more excited, and tried to stay that way by not looking at my bank statement too frequently. So now when it’s time for me to move in, though I won’t have a bed, I’ll have some pretty great wall art, a great chair, and furnished kitchen. Priorities.

While I made it down to Portland and I’ve started my job, I haven’t been able to move in quite yet. I’m starting to get antsy, but in the meantime I’ve been able to stay with the kindest family until my place is ready. Friends of family friends, it was a bit of a stretch, but I think we all kind of embraced the situation and ran with it. I’m incredibly grateful for their generosity; they’ve already done so much for me in my first week, and it’s been the perfect start to this new chapter in my life.

Hopefully there will be a good follow up to this piece about a flawless move in to my new place. Since my sister has already informed me she’ll be visiting me every weekend this summer, I’m sure she’ll have some input about decorating, and my grandma has been planning shopping trips since the minute I told her about the move. My aunt is an organizer extraordinaire, and a known breath of fresh air in moving process (from past college moving) providing helpful tips and laughs when needed. I’ve also been informed my dad thinks bringing the trailer into the city for potential furniture hauling might be a good idea. I’d like to see someone parallel park a large car and trailer in a city notorious for its poor parking. Not someone I’m related to, because the whole scene has great potential for a comedy sketch, but maybe someone else. I know you’re reading this dad- can we please borrow a truck?

So be patient everyone, this story isn’t over yet…

Sweet Observations. Part 3: In Defense of Vanilla

For the love of sweet dairy products could someone please just tell me what is so wrong with vanilla? I don’t think that there was ever a more popular, but also more victimized flavor. I can’t count the number of times vanilla lovers will come into our shop and either end up being bullied into another flavor, or be ruthlessly teased for their lack of originality. As a fellow vanilla lover, I want to come to their defense. I want to yell over their naysaying counterparts, to give their taste validation, to give them their scoop on the house for their bravery in sticking to their guns. You don’t deserve to be heckled simply because you want to get vanilla instead of a chocolate with caramel, nuts, more chocolate, and cherries. *Disclaimer: that is not a flavor we have. Please don’t come into the shop looking for that and then get upset because you were led to believe we did.*

My favorite breed of vanilla haters are those that spend their entire time trying to get their friend to branch out to other tastes and then get plain chocolate themselves. Alright. You’ve lost your right to give your friend a hard time. Call me crazy here but I’m not sure that there is anything that separates plain vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry as being better than the next other than personal preference. But I don’t see the strawberry or chocolate lovers getting teased.

Where did vanilla get this bad rep? Why, when you look up synonyms for “vanilla” do you find words like “plain,” “boring,” and “unexciting?” Why not “timeless,” “classic,” or “loved by all and goes with just about anything?” I mean there’s got to be a reason that it’s the number one selling flavor in the world right? Even with all those other flavors out there, vanilla remains tried and true because of its uncomplicated and delicious sweetness. Vanilla holds such a beautiful nostalgic sentimentality. Sometimes you need an ice cream cone that reminds you of running around the streets barefoot as the streetlights flicker on, or sitting in the front seat of your dads truck with chicken nuggets and soft serve. Some days more than others, you need that trail of melted vanilla dripping down the edge of a cake cone onto your hand so you can wipe it on your bare leg while your mom tells you to get a napkin.

Now I’m not giving my fellow vanilla lovers out there a free pass to never try a new flavor ever again. I think you should always try new things and expand your palate, but if after trying new things vanilla is still your favorite, then by all means vanilla-on! Everyone has different tastes and you should be able to like what you like without fear of judgment. We could use a bit more sweet simplicity in this world.