Hi My Name Is

Shortly after my appointment to start the Pilgrimage with Missions Door, someone, who I think was trying to be sympathetic, said, “I don’t know of anyone who has struggled as much as you to know God’s will for your life! It sounds as though it’s becoming clearer, though.”

I’ve done a lot of different stuff and been a lot of different things in my adult life, so I guess I can see why it would look like that. Maybe it really is like that. Or maybe trying to do God’s will doesn’t always (for every person) look like doing exactly the same thing your whole life, but more like, say, a Pilgrimage–where the goal is always the same, but the path meanders through different places and looks different accordingly. (There might also be different understandings of “God’s will.”) But–I don’t know–I guess I used to think all the things I’d ever done were unrelated except that I did them because I thought or hoped God was asking me to at the time. From this vantage point, though, I’m wondering if they’ve really just been different iterations of one thing all along.

At the beginning of my summer CPE internship, we had to write a short paper on our first impressions, and at the end of mine, I said, “I like meeting new people and hearing their stories, but I hate initiating introductions. And I have just signed myself up for an entire summer of doing basically that. What was I thinking?” Maybe this. Observe:

024_22London, late 90’s

“Hi, my name is Jenn and this is ____________. We belong to [Local Church]. We are right around the corner from you and we wanted to let you know about some of the services we offer our community which are available to you … ”

Slide20Living History Museum, early aughts

“Good day, my name is Anna Russell. I’m the minister’s daughter … ”

CostaRica 146

Obviously, I am not at Starbucks in this picture. But I am on a coffee plantation that sells to Starbucks. In 2007.

Starbucks, mid aughts

“Hi there–how’s it going? What can I get for you today?” [I pretty much never had to actually introduce myself to anyone at Starbucks. Enough people are regulars that names were more or less learned by osmosis. Lots of conversations happened, though.]

IMG_3449.jpg

Previous Church, late aughts

“Hi, my name is Jenn, and I’m the director of Christian education. Would your kids like to join our Sunday school? … Would your teens like to join our youth group? … Would you like to buy a loaf of Mission Bread? … Would your company like to donate items for our next fundraiser? … How about volunteering?”

The Hospital, 2015

“Hi, my name is Jenn, and I’m a chaplain intern. I’m visiting the patients in this unit today and was wondering if you’d like some company …”

The Pilgrimage, 2016

Okay. I don’t actually know how I’m going to introduce the Pilgrimage to participants yet, exactly. Although I’ve been doing a whole lot of putting myself out there for the support-raising piece so far, I guess.

Evidently at least part of God’s will for my life has to do with getting out of my comfort zone. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s God’s will for everybody’s life. It’s how we learn to trust God better–when the Comfortable is not around. Maybe another piece of God’s will that’s consistent through all of the above is that, by getting me out of my comfort zone, opportunities are created for conversations and interactions in which God can show up. At least, I hope so. I like meeting new people and hearing their stories, but I hate initiating introductions. If God shows up, though, I’m in. He’s worth it.

The Pilgrimage is funded by your generosity. Recurring or special tax deductible donations may be sent to: Missions Door, 2530 Washington St, Denver CO 80205 or visit www.the-pilgrimage.org and click “Donate.”

 

 

 

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Drinking the “Kool-Aid”

Whatever Wednesday: Workouts

Does this look like Kool-Aid to you?

Does this look like Kool-Aid to you?

Coach-Melissa and I met while working at Starbucks, when she wasn’t a Coach and I wasn’t a Director of Faith Formation and Outreach and neither of us were entirely loathe to drink lattes with syrup in them.

I do seem to remember Melissa reacting with horror to the posted calorie count of whatever new food or beverage item Starbucks invented at any given “roll out” period, and my being completely unimpressed because I have never counted calories so I don’t even know what that means, and actually, at the time I was frighteningly underweight and so from that standpoint might have benefitted from a few more syrupy drinks. I also remember that Melissa started getting into running the Boston Marathon and my thinking I never could nor would I be inclined to attempt something so crazy. But I also think she might have liked white mochas or something. I liked specialised con pannas, where I would fill up the little cup with whipped cream and pour three shots of espresso on top of it (instead of the other way round) and then drizzle half a bottle of caramel sauce over that.

Mmmmm . . . healthy.

Well, it is pretty delicious.

But fast forward a few years and I got cancer, and then Melissa was diagnosed with MS. She got married. I got married. Other stuff happened. Then our paths recrossed last year when, fed up with the “marriage 15” I had gained and couldn’t get rid of, and with my newfound back problems, I accepted her invite to join a seven-week fitness group she was running for free. On the first day we did an Insanity workout. It was . . . insane. I couldn’t move for about three days, but I was completely hooked.

Well, almost completely. I wasn’t going to spend any money to buy the workouts for myself, of course, nor was I going to drink any of the associated nutrition drink, Shakeology. Stuff’s expensive. I could go to Melissa’s workouts when I had a chance, and do some Jillian Michaels workouts I had at home in between. We had some protein powder at home if I wanted to make myself breakfast shakes. I didn’t like the idea of some kind of processed product I had to drink every day–and if I was going to do that, I would just drink what we already had in the house, rather than wasting it. I lost a little bit of weight, but the workouts at home were not any more inspiring than they had been before I started going to Melissa’s group. I didn’t do them all the time.

About nine months later, though, I was finally free of my Tamoxifen cancer meds, had used up all the protein powder for better or worse, and in the meantime had learned that Shakeology is naturally sourced, and loaded with 70 superfoods.

That was a good day.

That was a good day.

Also, Melissa’s story was pretty compelling.

Because I had also paid off a loan I had taken out for seminary, I decided to buy a challenge pack–a workout system with a month of Shakeology and see what I thought. I chose P90X3 and Vanilla Shakeology, and after a few false starts (the almost broken arm thing and a crazy stomach bug), I did that workout and drank those shakes every single day and feel better than I ever have in my life. I’ve been to the chiropractor once in about three months, when before I was stopping in at least every two weeks. I no longer have exercise-induced asthma attacks like I used to every time I exercised. Oh, also? I used to get multiple colds every winter, and Paul got a few, but the only one I had was at the beginning of my Shakeology “journey” lasted all of three days. Now I’m excited to try PiYo, the new pilates/yoga hybrid workout that Beachbody just launched last week.

You have to know (you might know, if you know me) that I’m not a bandwagon jumper. In fact, as soon as something I like or enjoy becomes a bandwagon, it usually takes all my fortitude to remain loyal to that thing. (I confess a lot of times I don’t even bother, although I suspect that shows a lack of integrity.) So you also have to know what a blow it was to my skeptic’s pride to like the workouts, but especially the Shakeology, as much as I absolutely do. But I really do. So much that now I’m selling it.

Even if I weren’t selling it, I’d probably talk about it here a lot, because I am such a fan, but if you were to send me a comment or email me at jenn@thatsajennstory.com to ask me about it, I wouldn’t say no, either. I’m probably not “rah-rah” enough for this–when I’m looking forward to something I say, in monotone, “I’m really excited.” And I am really excited, but I don’t know how to be genuine and appear excited at the same time. All the same, I can tell you, I genuinely believe both the shake and the workouts are amazing. They’ve helped me too much and I’ve seen enough other positive effects, that I truly believe it can benefit other people, too.

Coach-Melissa made this graphic for me. Emerald only means two customers, though. You could be the third!

Coach-Melissa made this graphic for me. Emerald only means two customers, though. You could be the third!

The Last Straw

Theology Thursday

Last summer, before our congregationally-run Now Church voted to call her as our settled pastor, we had a meet-and-greet for RevCD and her husband, so we could, you know, meet and greet her. And better inform our votes, I guess. She and I were having a nice conversation and then, sort of between “shifts,” she said she was going to sit in the chapel for a while to meet with God before the next round of meeters and greeters. “Nice idea,” I said. “Say hi to Him for me.”

She grinned. “I’ll say hi to Her for you,” she said. I had previously just informed her that she probably needed to be aware that I was theologically more conservative than she was likely to be and she was (to my surprise at the time because I didn’t really know her then) okay with it.

“Yeah,” I said, “It’s too bad there isn’t a gender neutral pronoun that isn’t more personal than ‘it.'”

“God,” she said. “I really think it’s God.”

I don’t disagree, but I probably have a slightly different angle on the issue of God’s gender, and so I’ve basically been thinking up a blogpost around that conversation ever since. Which I probably shouldn’t admit, because then you’ll expect the one that I finally write to be better than it actually ends up being, but never mind. You might also expect it to be this blogpost, which is what I also expected, but I’m still having trouble wording it. So instead I’m going to reblog another Starbucks post from my Old Blog (which, it turns out, was a pretty good blog, if I say so myself) that is also theological. (The advantage to reading it here is that the original didn’t have pictures.)

In fact, there’s a theological term in there that RevCD and I might also not come at from the same angle, and actually, I probably wouldn’t use the term anymore, although I think I still believe in it in some way. See if you can guess what it is. And see what you make of this:

The Last Straw

Kristen-to-the-Maxx doesn’t think that all people are equally capable of all types of error and evil. She likes to sit at the bar and read the newspaper and make observations about all the lunacy that goes on in the world. I at least say that I think we’re all equally capable of any heinousness, due to total depravity, but I don’t think we’re necessarily equally likely to commit all the same errors and evil, due to our different personalities. We got into kind of a heated discussion about this once, because she was quite sure I, for example, wouldn’t do a certain thing she had just read about. I maintained that, while I couldn’t imagine being inclined to whatever it was, I couldn’t truthfully say I wasincapable of it. I have a maybe nearly superstitious fear that if I ever claim that I would never do something, I am forthwith doomed to do it. This isn’t entirely unfounded, because every so often I startle myself by doing (or at least really really wanting to do) something I theretofore never would have contemplated.

Last Saturday was one of those times. There’s a long version of the story, but the short version is that at the very end of an unusually stressful shift, a customer demanded his money back because one of us hadn’t given him the right sized straw for his drink. This was, in fact, something of a customer service error and, from that perspective, our fault. It was also a pretty big deal to make about a straw.

Some pretty big straws.

Some pretty big straws.

The problem was, by the time this irate personage had confronted us about it, I was so stressed about other stuff that I was practically hyperventilating. By the time he walked out the door, I was even more furious than he had been. If Rich hadn’t dragged me into the back room, I probably would have thrown iced coffee. In public. And if he hadn’t given me a hug (which I really really didn’t want, given that I was so mad, but which was clearly the smartest thing under the circumstances), I absolutely would have started slamming lockers and punching pounds of coffee beans back there. I’ve gotten mad before, but not like that.

I was mad because I was stressed, and I was mad because I felt disrespected, and I was madder because I felt my colleagues had been disrespected. I was also mad that someone could make such a fuss about a straw.

Then I realised I was making a bigger fuss about a straw. I don’t know what that guy was or is up against to make him care about straws so deeply, but it wasn’t really the point under the circumstances. The point was that I had opted to let whatever he was dealing with turn me into a monster. I became hateful and violent, which, in my more self-righteous moments, I never thought I was capable of being. Also, he actually came into the store again last night and I found to my chagrin that I was too afraid to face him. I don’t like to think that I’m a coward either.

People say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” And we’ve been able to joke about this since. It’s becoming in-store lore already, and in the lore I don’t look as bad as I really did at the time. But still, sometimes it’s not being hard on yourself to take a good hard look at the depths of personal darkness. The stuff that people see can be bad enough, but often it’s only the tip of the iceberg, and sometimes you do or feel something that opens the cellar door just for you. Even if no one else can see how dark it is down there, you can. And then it’s hard and scary to look, but it’s not unreasonable or unwarranted to do it.

My personal cellar is not this cool. This one is Istanbul's. (25 - The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı)

My personal cellar is not this cool. This one is Istanbul’s. (25 – The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı)

Sometimes I think God lets me get in touch with my total depravity so that I can stop subconsciously thinking I’m incapable of certain things and therefore capable of taking care of everything myself. I like to think I’m good all by myself, and then it turns out it was Him all along. When my pride gets its kneecaps kicked in and is no longer blocking the doorway, He can lead me down the stairs with a flashlight or two and get a little spring cleaning done.

If Medusa's down there, definitely need backup.

If Medusa’s down there, I definitely need a Hero.

And Then the Nice People

The Tuesday Reblog

I have been away from blogging for so long that I’m not really up on any of your posts, so as to be able to choose one to reblog. I’m truly sorry about that. But also, I’ve been away from blogging so long that I’m fairly certain my reblogging any of your posts isn’t going to help your blog traffic in any way–if it ever did–although the 30 of you who have discovered that I’m back have been quite generous and most of you have “liked” yesterday’s post, which is gratifying. But anyway, maybe today I’ll reblog something I wrote myself, way back when I was beginning the Old Blog. You all are making me think of nice people, so here’s a (maybe uncharacteristically–judging from the post that originally preceded this one) happy post from when I was still single and still working at Starbucks:

And Then The Nice People

Today was an eight-hour shift of grace, in which I got a glimpse of our many very truly wonderful customers, who treat us well. I thought I should share this with you, just to balance things out a little.

Yesterday I messed up someone’s drink. I mean, I actually did. It wasn’t just her saying I did. But she didn’t even say I did until this morning, when she subtly and politely asked Hannah to make sure that the barista made her drink with white mocha instead of regular mocha. I overheard her, though, and so I went over and apologised, and arranged for a little discount. I mean, she really hadn’t gotten what she wanted yesterday, and she should have, and then she was nice about it. She was so grateful for the discount (even though she deserved it), that she thanked us a million times and left us a big tip.

Later, just after noon, I did the trash run. (It took five trips. In spite of how eco-earnest most of us Starbucks employees are, we do generate a dismaying amount of rubbish.) As I was bringing the bin in for the second-to-last time, a young woman exiting the store with her husband and daughter grabbed the door and held it for me as I approached. Her husband must have said something about this to her, because she smiled at me and said, “Well, I want to, because she’s always nice to me.” Whatever the cockles of the heart are, mine were warmed. This young woman is more or less a regular, and we’ve chatted. For one thing, she has a spectacular butterfly tattooed on her left arm. I don’t like tattoos as a general rule, but this one is quite gorgeous. But I couldn’t think of ever having been extra-specially nice to her. Not so that she would notice, I mean.

And then there was the guy who phoned to talk to his wife. “What does she look like?” I asked.

“She’ll be sitting there with her laptop,” he began.

“Oh–is it Betsy?” I said. It was Betsy.

And that, my friends, is what I love about my job. I love to see people being gracious even when a situation wasn’t their fault. And I love having a rapport with people I see every day, so that we smile genuine smiles at each other when they walk through the door. (Um, I guess I probably kind of like when they tell other people I’m nice, too.) And I love when I know someone’s name.

The original Starbucks, which I visited years and years after this story happened.

The original Starbucks, which I visited years and years after this story happened.

Ew

Memory Monday

Because we were talking about Starbucks last week, I went to my old blog to look something up, which I didn’t find. What I did find, however, was this story which I had completely forgotten about. On reading it, however, the memory returned in all its revolting vividness. I wrote this in 2009, shortly before I left work at Starbucks for good. This wasn’t the reason I left, but I guess it could have been.

*** 

SONY DSCSo today? The most disGUSTing thing that’s ever happened to me at Starbucks . . . happened to me at Starbucks.The previously most disgusting thing was five whole years ago when the sweaty dude came into the store and handed me some crumpled up bills (no wallet) from his front pocket . . . and they were wet. Bleagh.But today?Today a guy came in and ordered an Earl Grey, to be made in one of our ceramic cups instead of a paper “to-go” one. No problem there. Before he left the store, he put the cup back on the counter. I picked it up and took it over to the sink, talking to Mouse as I pointed the faucet over it and turned the water on to soak it.The water hit the inner curve of the cup at such an angle that it shot straight up the other side, splattering with water and half-drunk tea my face, my neck . . . and the inside of my mouth.

When the sweaty guy handed me his moist moolah, I could (and did) wash my hands very thoroughly after that. But what do you do when someone else’s saliva flies unbidden into your mouth? Pray that they don’t have a communicable disease, I guess, and hang on tight . . .

May I Help You?

Memory Monday
When I become a famous author, people will pay big money for this card.

When I become a famous author, people will pay big money for this card.

Yesterday I paid a visit to my old Starbucks–the one where I worked from early 2004 to mid 2009. I go there less and less often these days because there remains only one barista (albeit one of my favourites) with whom I worked back then, and I think he may be phasing himself out and moving on to better things, as well. Since I left that place of employment, the main reason to go back there was always to see friends who hadn’t escaped yet. I mean, I am fully capable of making coffee myself at home, and we drink Dean’s Beans which is far superior to anything else out there, so I rarely go to Starbucks for the coffee. (Although yes, I do buy a cup when I’m in there.)

Now it’s a toss-up as to whether or not Mouse (not to be confused with this Mouse) will be there when I venture in, and although I know some of the newer baristas on a “passing acquaintance” level, what I usually find when I go in there anymore are a bunch of sort of uneasy memories. There were some great things about my barista era, and some painful things, too, and now that I’m married to my Paul and living in Our Town, and there’s another Starbucks that’s closer (remember, I’m in New England, where Dunkin Donuts is king–for some reason–so “close” Starbuckses are not a foregone conclusion), where one of my former colleagues is the manager no less, it just feels “safer” (and easier) to go to that one if I ever have a hankering for a coffee shop moment. But I went into my old Starbucks yesterday because they had just had a long overdue remodel, and I was curious to see what it looked like.

It looks great. It’s always been kind of a dark store, and it might be darker now, but it’s less dingily dark and more artsily dark, if you get what I mean. The barista who took my order, and whom I know slightly from back when he and I existed on opposite sides of the counter, asked me what I thought of the new surroundings. Because there was a queue behind me and I didn’t want to go into a long description of how there have been many other times in my life where a location which had formerly been my life was redesigned beyond recognition and that that always kicks in the nostalgia, and because it actually does look very nice in there, I said, “I love it! It definitely makes a lot more sense.” I meant that the front of store layout no longer leaves the customers as tangled huddled masses crammed into the doorway, but  pulls them away from the doorway and strings them along the length of the store in an actual line instead.

“Yeah,” said the Slightly Known Barista, “It makes more sense for you.” It was an inclusive, and yet oh-so-exclusive you. He meant you the customers. And that, more than the drastically altered surroundings, was what gave me the all-too-familiar “you can’t go home again” feeling. When you work directly with the public in any form, but maybe especially when there is something physical like a counter separating you, a pretty extreme Us/Them mentality springs up. There are always lovely customers, but it’s the monstrous customers (of whom there usually seem to be a lot more) who help to create this culture, and even though I haven’t been behind the counter at this or any other Starbucks in four years, I think I still sort of saw myself as an honorary barista.

What I really am is that annoying customer who knows all the trade secrets well enough to call you out on them. Like that time I went to the Starbucks in Our Town and the girl making my mother’s and my lattes ran out of steamed milk with which to top off mine so that there was about an inch of emptiness at the top of the (already small) cup. She just lidded it and handed it off as if she thought I hadn’t seen her do that, or as if I wouldn’t care, or as if I were a know-nothing customer who would just lie down and take it. I took the lid off and said, “Excuse me, could you please top this off?” It’s okay, barista-girl. I’m willing to wait for you to steam some more milk. I paid good money for this, even if it did come off a little plastic gold-coloured card. (Okay, so maybe I still go to Starbucks sort of regularly . . . )

The Slightly Known Barista didn’t have any ire in his tone of voice when he made his us/them-y comment–just maybe a put-upon tone over the fact that Corporate had once again not taken the needs of its baristas into account. (There’s an us/them, there, too.) It did look a little narrow back there . . . but I seem to remember its already being pretty squeezy in the old days, too, and am not convinced there was really such a difference. Ire or not, though, when he said that (“It’s better for you“), I heard his unspoken observation that, no, I am no longer a barista. I cannot know how they suffer.

In some ways, I guess he’s right. I no longer have to spend hours crammed with four other people into veal-like quarters, proffering unnecessities to entitled-acting patrons. Ever since Starbucks I have said that every human being should spend at least six months in retail or customer service so they can learn to treat other such people like humans, and I spent almost six years there and am happy enough not to be there anymore. But I think I remember what barista “suffering” is. I also know I could have marked my drink correctly and made that green tea lemonade way better than the one they handed off to me. And I would have asked how many “n’s” to put in the Jenn.

*************************************************************************************************************

Have you ever worked retail/customer service? What’s your us/them? Do you think everyone should be conscripted into such service, like the military in some countries, or am I just being ridiculous?

Sleepy Saturday

Saturday Snippets
photo from Starbucks.com

Coffee made from this thing is crazy-good. (Photo from Starbucks.com)

I don’t really have anything interesting to say. My Paul and I were supposed to get ourselves outdoors to do yardwork, and he is, in fact, right this second unloading sand from the back of the truck. However, sporadic sunbursts notwithstanding, it’s been largely cloudier and chillier than we were expecting, and so we haven’t been highly energetic or motivated.

We had scrambled eggs for breakfast.

We did some minor grocery shopping.

We bought some peat moss and potting soil.

We stopped at the newly renovated Starbucks in town to get coffee from their brand new Clover®. They had Ethiopian sundried Sidamo. True truth: Ethiopian coffee is the best there is.

We had lunch.

We lazed around.

I wrote Monday’s memory. My Paul laughed his head off at his kindred spirits on internet bulletin boards.

I had to work last Saturday, and have to work the next three, so I guess I don’t feel so bad about not being terribly productive today. Sometimes you have to store up rest like a chipmunk stores food in winter, in preparation for what’s to come.

Not Your Average Bridezilla

Up until this point, I’ve only been in two weddings. In neither of them have I had to carry the responsibilities of the maid of honour. Also, in the first one (TheBro’s and Sister-in-Lu’s), I was only back in the country for a day or something before the Blessed Event, and in the second (the Other Jenn’s), I was leaving the next day to take The Youth on a mission trip. But either way, I’d have to say my impression of “Bridezilla” is only second-hand, because both of these brides for whom I “bridesmaided” were gracious and generous and organized and unfrazzled.

That said, like most people, I suspect, I have at least heard the Bridezilla stories. As best I can tell, what distinguishes these soon-to-be-wedded females is a freaked-out, my-way-or-the-highway, domineering quality that reminds all in their wake of nightmares from which one cannot emerge until the wedding is over.

I don’t think I’m exhibiting quite these qualities (though you might want to ask the people around me; I have been rather more irritable of late), but I suspect I am inflicting my own Jenn-brand of nightmare on unsuspecting persons in personal care sorts of jobs.

What I mean is, I’m not all that organized to begin with, and just this week I finally decided that although all I originally wanted for flowers was a handful of daffodils for me and a handful of yellow rose petals for TWCN, maybe I actually would like at least one flower arrangement in the front of the church. And maybe not only Oscar, but I myself, need a haircut. And maybe, given the way my hair’s been looking lately, it would be advisable for me to have it professionally coiffed. And if I’m going to do that, as well as getting my nails professionally done thanks to The Girl Friends, then maybe I should go all the way and buy special under-wedding-dress undergarments and see what can be done about the prolific hair follicles of my legs… You know what I’m saying.

This might have started after I told my Paul last week that I thought Oscar (who won’t even be present at the ceremony) needed a haircut more than I did and that furthermore, was an approximation of the way I was wearing my hair that day an acceptable wedding day hairstyle, because I wasn’t sure I could afford to have someone else do it. My Paul, though highly in favour of getting/keeping me out of debt, said, “Honey, I don’t care how you wear your hair. Do what you like. But it is your only wedding day.”

It was pretty much after that. Yep. I guess I kind of went a little crazy.

First I called the Hairdresser Down the Street to see if she could have one of her girls do an emergency wedding hairstyle. One of them could, but the poor lass has to come in at 8 in the morning, which is definitely before the salon opens. This also means I have to contact Nicole the Magnificent Photographer and let her know that I’m changing the initial getting-ready location for a third time.

Then I Facebooked Bledi-with-Scissors, my favourite atheist hairstylist and asked if he thought he’d have a slot in his schedule to give me a haircut…the very next day. He told me I deserved to look like a hippie for being so last-minute. I told him I was planning on looking like a hippie, but I was still hoping for a haircut. He told me to tell the schedulers to squeeze me in even if he didn’t have a slot. They did. That place costs a bomb, but they are really great in there. Plus, even though I had to duck out of work for an hour to keep the appointment, Bledi keeps me doing my job. He used to get told off by his boss for talking about religion with me at regular conversation decibels when I came in there, but it didn’t stop either of us, so now I think his boss just rolls his eyes and tries not to be around while I’m in there. Yesterday’s haircut chat revolved around Bledi’s asking about the Trinity and my trying to explain it to him. Grandma M says I should charge him for the sermon, and it never really did occur to me that when I’m in there we’re both doing our respective jobs. I’d never ask him to pay me, but maybe we could call it even?

After that it was flowers. I kind of like “knowing people” in various fields, like the Hairdresser Down the Street (who went to Then Church when I was growing up) and Nicole the Magnificent Photographer (with whom I worked at Starbucks in our past lives) and Bledi-with-Scissors (who was a Starbucks customer during that same period). But I didn’t think I knew any florists. Which might be partly why it took me so long to get on the flower thing. It’s not because I wanted someone to cut me a deal (although I rarely turn those down); it’s that in some contexts, I’m quite easily intimidated. Apparently florists are one of those contexts?

Turns out I do know one, though. At least kind of. She’s more a friend of my parents, and when I talked to her on the phone yesterday, I still felt intimidated because honestly, it would be embarrassing even to ask a close friend, never mind someone you only slightly know, “So, um, I know it’s like 3 days away and you have other customers and I want daffodils which are finicky and not usual for arrangements, but hey, what can you do for me?”

Okay, that wasn’t what I said, but it was equally awkward and I could hear her thinking, “Seriously?” She’s a sweet woman, though, and her regard for my parents undoubtedly helps, so she is working on it. Only she might have to substitute something else for daffodils. “You want something really bohemian, right?” she said. “And really springlike?”

Wow. She’s good. Pretty sure she didn’t need this project to be this high maintenance on top of being this late, though.

I decided to take a personal day tomorrow for all my remaining appointments (besides the Saturday morning one, I mean). So what do you think? Bridezilla or not? (Just be careful how you answer. You know. In case it turns out you’re right.)

In Search of Perfection

Coffee Cherries in Costa Rica

Not only is there no internet access at camp, but the coffee’s pretty bad, too. When I started working there, I was part-time, and also part-time at Starbucks

, so I got a free pound of coffee a week and brought one with me first thing, not feeling very optimistic about the quality of church-camp coffee. In my experience, church coffee alone is pretty terrible. I’m not sure where it says in the Bible that it needs to be, but I’d say that for the average, garden-variety church . . . coffee is not found in that garden. When you extrapolate church coffee out to a camp, where everyone is supposed to be “roughing it,” I just couldn’t imagine that it would even be drinkable.

The next summer I was no longer working at Starbucks, but I had ceased only two months before, so I still had plenty of pounds of coffee left and brought it with me again.

Last summer, we had to resort to Folgers. I’ll tell you something, though. When you’re sleep-deprived and roughing it, Folgers is actually kind of okay. I guess that might be what makes church-camp coffee better than just plain church coffee. Desperation.

This year, though? It was Maxwell House. Turns out I can’t stand Maxwell House. I grimaced my way through a cup a day for three days in a row just to forestall a headache, but on Wednesday the headache came anyway, and Big-Kid-Dave (who is older than I am but prides himself on being one of the kids), who was also not overly enthusiastic about Maxwell House, went out and upgraded us to Folgers. On Thursday I drank the Folgers and said to Big-Kid-Dave, “After half a week of Maxwell House, Folgers tastes like the nectar of the gods!” He laughed and agreed, except I think we both had secret second thoughts about it by our second cups.

And then I took the day campers on a field trip to a farm. In one of the instructional buildings, a pot of coffee had been brewed for the staff, and it smelled artisan-y and organic and not-out-of-a-plastic-can-from-the-grocery-store, and it was all I could do not to catapult myself around (or through) the room dividers and commandeer a cup. When the day camp kids went home that day I was given a mini grocery list from Kitchen-Jean for that evening’s dessert, and I told her and Big-Kid-Dave, “I’m also going to find myself a coffee shop and get myself a decent cup of coffee.” I told Dave I’d get him one, too. Kitchen-Jean didn’t want one.

Once I got off camp property and got a bar or two of service on my phone, I punched something more specific than “coffee shops, boondocks, new england” into the map app on my phone. A bunch of little red dots appeared, one with a name highlighted, and mentioning organic coffee. “Yay!” I thought, “I knew there had to be some form of civilisation around here!” And off I set.

I drove and drove, and drove and drove, and about ten miles and many minutes later, I saw by the little moving blue dot on my phone that I was approaching my last left turn. But when I looked at the actual left turn I had reached, I discovered it was . . . the entrance to a cemetery?

That couldn’t be right. I drove a little further, but the only left turn after the cemetery was a dead-end and the little blue dot had left the purple route line behind. I sat off to the side of the dead end and stared at the map. It looked like the coffee shop was right at the back of the cemetery. Well, surely that wasn’t the only way to get to it, but maybe there really was an exit through the back of the graveyard through which I could get to the place. I turned around and entered the field of dead people, driving slowly and respectfully and probably with a really baffled expression. When I halfway around the circumference, where the mystery coffee shop was supposed to be, I could see a wall of trees and no outlet. I couldn’t even tell if there was or wasn’t a building on the other side of those trees, but I could have sworn I smelled coffee.

Okay, I said to myself, it’s around here somewhere. I’m just going to turn down the next street and keep driving until I find it.

The next street was an industrial park. I mean, relatively speaking, for Boondocks, New England. I was having a little trouble imagining a coffee shop in an industrial park, but hey. Maybe the people working at the industries really like their coffee. I inched my car around the bend, and around another bend, and . . . sure enough! There was a cheerful little red building with a sign out front matching the name in my phone. I parked and got out and walked up the hill toward the front door.

When I got in there, I realised why it was in an industrial park. It wasn’t just a cheerful little red building. It was a warehouse, with offices in the red building part, and huge roasters and other kinds of machinery in the warehouse. I was impressed, but disappointed. Really? Had I come all this way for a finally good cup of coffee, through a cemetery and everything, only to discover I couldn’t have one?

A young man came toward me as I stood bemusedly in the hallway decorated with tribal masks from coffee-growing countries. “What can I get for you?” he asked.

What? He was offering to get something for me? They must actually sell something there then . . .

“You don’t just sell cups of coffee, do you?” I asked.

“Not cups of coffee,” he said, “but you can buy it here by the pound.” He handed me a booklet with a description of the company and the countries they trade with and the different types of coffee roasts and blends they sell. I had kind of been looking forward to sitting down in a coffee shop over a cup, but when I heard that their pounds of coffee cost about four dollars less than most decent Starbucks blends, I found something Ethiopian and bought it. If I buy a pound, I reasoned, Big-Kid-Dave and I can make actually good coffee every day

The coffee did not disappoint. On Friday, Big-Kid-Dave said with something like wonder, “It’s so good, and satisfying, and it actually kept us awake.” He sounded like a commercial, and I want to, too, so now I will blow my whole “Boondocks” cover and tell you that the shop was Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Co Sometimes you have to go to great lengths to get what’s worth having.