Thursday, February 17, 2011

If I were standing on a cliff, overlooking immense chasms, I'd expect this post to come bouncing back to me in it's echo.
A vast empty space.
No listeners.
No readers.
It's been, what? Eleven months? That seems to be the track record with this thing these days. Once a year. A check in.

It's par for the course here, for the most part. A shuffling of employees, the same regulars.

Last Mother's Day, the only other breakfast/lunch joint in town closed it's doors so the summer was balls to the wall busy. Almost more than we were able to deal with. On any given day, we'd run out of plates and glasses and mugs. We'd run out of ingredients. Dishes would pile three times higher than the lip of the sink. The summer prior I had been out to the resevoir several times a week... swimming, rowing, paddling a surfboard. We'd driven down the NH coast at least once or twice a month to camp and be on and in the ocean. This past summer I was lucky to grab a day off every week. And, of course, it was the most gorgeous summer I can remember since moving to Vermont. But the drawer was full, so I won't bitch.

I still love what I do, but I'm starting to wonder what comes next. There's been talk of moving to the NH coast for Ella's 9-12 grades. It's a better school system, healthier area, in general, and of course, close to surf. It's hard to know what the right thing to do is. Ella has such strong friendships here. She always has. But the school system is definitely not what we had hoped for her. It's really a double edged sword and we may not know the right answer until we've actually made the move. A gamble.

I would have to sell the shop. That, or pick it up in a moving truck and find a space for it down there.... which.... I really wouldn't mind doing. And there's a niche. We haven't gotten that far in our decision making processes yet.

There's also the factor of my father. He's making his way into the depths of early onset Alzheimers Disease. Up until recently it's been one of those things that only family members and close friends might be able to recognize. Now, though, it's increasing in it's intensity. Gradually, but happening nonetheless. I still don't know how to set up my life to allow myself more time in his company. Will I be more available owning my own business and thus creating my own schedule or should I resign myself to a more disposable kind of work...
Again. No answers yet.
All I know is that I want to be home more. Getting that time in with him and helping my mom set up the life she has ahead of her. From the NH coast, I'm five hours (four with my driving) instead of eight hours away (seven with my driving). That has it's appeal.

And, of course, the more I discuss these situations with the people around me (my father's illness and the potential move to NH), the more people come in to ask if the shop is for sale. They all ask with this sense of fear in their eyes and I want desperately to rest a hand on their shoulder and say, "No, No! I will always keep it in my constant care, I promise." I've seen this place change hands and I know how dire the situation can get when a shit job is done on keeping this place a working, customer friendly establishment. Other than my job at parenting, this shop is my second most proud accomplishment to date. There's a serious element of responsibility when it comes to passing the baton.

And, although I know the time is approaching, I find myself withdrawing from the task. Shying away. I'm just not ready yet. Not knowing what comes next.... that's a factor, too. Not knowing if it's the route to take.

So, eleven months later, there are no answers. Just a lot of questions. Once the answers start trickling in, I'll send out a holler. Over the chasm. Even if it's just to hear my own echo validating my decision.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ten Months, Nine Days Later

Oh, all the little quirks and quotes and new playlists I could have added throughout the past 10 months and nine days. I'm actually coming up on a year since I last posted anything to this poor, little blog. I think I eventually had that fishbowl feeling and couldn't find the words without feeling terribly exposed.

I'm over it.

It's been a long fucking year. Personally and professionally. I'm coming up, like a groundhog or a crocus, out of a semi-dormant, kind of crazy place.

On top of everything else, I took on the bookkeeping for the shop, lost my mind and every ounce of physical energy. Bill picked it back up. We got menus printed, more baking accomplished. A new concrete countertop was installed (I'll link later to the website of our wonderful concrete counter maker friend). We've had regulars move away and new regulars slip into their stools at the bar. We've had things break. We've repaired. Staff has quit, been fired, moved away. New girls have been trained up and they save my ass on many occasion. Love love love my girls.

Ella is still tackling math but with grace and focus. She's transitioned from alto sax to guitar. We've bagged the 103 acres for a small village house in Johnson. I can walk to the shop in seven minutes. We can ride our bikes to the Hub to see music at night. Friends stop in as they pass by on their way to the trails behind our house to walk their dogs. We have people over for dinner or sleepovers if they shouldn't drive home. Ella, for the very first time, can walk to a friend's house to hang out. The house is sixty years old, as opposed to one hundred and sixty, so when you clean it, it actually gets clean. Life has become exponentially easier.

The old man, Roger Jones, who built and lived in this house for those sixty years was a beekeeper and gem miner. The basement was his lapidary workshop, full of machines for polishing gems and cabinets to store and display them. There's a cold room in the basement that stored dozens and dozens of mason jars of waxy honey... a few of which we got to keep. Now that spring is here and the snow is melting, we're finding these crazy veins of random stones and gems and seashells out back and alongside the garage walls. There are birdhouses all around the house, full of black sunflower seeds. Woodpeckers and chickadees and blue jays are the only birds hardy enough to withstand the winter winds. Any day now I'm expecting to see robins and finches and martins. Old carcasses of bee boxes still sit out there along the treeline.... skeletons of bygone bee communities. All winter I've been reading up on beekeeping and plan to start my first hives when we get back from Costa Rica at the end of April. In honor of Roger. I think he'd be psyched to have us in his house. We've placed stones and crystals in all the little nooks where he'd kept his. We eat a spoonful of his honey when we get a sugar craving. It tastes like flowers.

I just went through and read a few of my early posts... all the turmoil as to whether or not I should buy the coffee shop. Now, I can hardly remember those early, sleepless nights. I CAN remember the pure physical exhaustion of that first year, the feeling like I might crack that second year and now, entering into the three year mark..... I find myself wondering where it'll all be. I love what I do. I can't fathom doing anything more enjoyable. I can't imagine a better community to share my everyday life with....people who influence my daughter in amazing, crazy and sometimes comically scary ways. I don't have a conscious feeling of burn-out but I imagine that it's there... lingering under the epidermal layer of my energetic facade. At thirty-six, or almost thirty-six, I can't imagine that I can be superhuman enough to maintain this level of constant motion. Or if I want to.

I'm just now, after seriously neglecting myself for the better part of two years, starting to be more mindful. I'm doing yoga more regularly, going to the gym again, hiking more rigorously. I've stopped licking the spatula when I make brownie batter or coffee cake. I've stopped eating sandwiches at the shop. I've started going to a chiropractor and eating more seaweed. I'm hydrating. I'm spending the month of March drinking no booze. Nada. Ella and I have challenged eachother to a sugar-free month of March, as well. We're both realizing how terribly addicted we are to the stuff. It feels good to be getting back. I have more energy, a clearer head, enjoy myself more.

People still steal my pint glasses and the landlord is still a pain in the ass. The oil to heat that old Victorian costs an arm and a leg (where the hell did that catch phrase come from, anyway?) and sometimes, in the middle of my afternoon there, I want nothing more to be on my couch with a book or in the woods with my dogs. But that would be the case with any job. Years from now, when I'm off doing something else with my life (and what the hell is that gonna be, anyway???) I know, for sure, that I'm going to look back on these years, with this coffee shop, and these people, as the absolute most favorite years of my life. Till that time comes, I'm just gonna live the dream. Keep expending energy. Keep making friends. Keep taking care of myself so I don't crack.

Monday, April 6, 2009

McGuiver Revisited

It's inevitable that at least one thing at any given time in this aging coffee shop will be out of order, mildly broken or on it's way to broken. There were no catastrophic accidents while I was on vacation and for that I'm grateful. Shortly after returning, however, my brewer decided to start it's journey on the slow road to being a piece of shit. Or so I thought. Verdict is still out....but so far so good.

The hot water spigot off the brewer hasn't worked in months. Initially it was the calcium in the town water that had built up in the line and was blocking the flow. We've been taking all the hot water in the meantime from the espresso machine. A few months ago my coffee machine guru guy came by and spent an hour or two disassembling the brewer and scraping out the funk. He suggested buying a new water filter else the heating coil on the espresso machine was bound to burn out. Which it did.

In the several months since he'd been here, I've purchased the new filter but hadn't installed it. The spigot had stopped working again, I figured it was calcified again and I was waiting for a chance to take it apart and chisel it out myself. We finally got to it a couple of weeks ago. We installed the new filter under the sink but couldn't figure out where the calcification lived inside the brewer. We did figure out that the spigot was broke just because it was broke.... not having anything to do with the calcified lines. The day after we put the brewer all back together it began leaking, slowly and steadily, all day and all night, all over the counter. There weren't enough rags being delivered bi-weekly to maintain the leaks.

So, last night we took it apart again. And..... we found and beat the hell out of the calcification. The process, all in all, took four and a half hours. About an hour into dissecting this machine I began to wonder how in the hell Bill would know how to reassemble it. Bill's just gotten an iPhone so Bill thought ahead and took a pic of the top peice to use as a guide.
But then he kept going and going. There were little pieces of plastic hoses and about a gallon of water on the floor. He kept telling me to not bother mopping it up till he was done because there was so much more that would spill out and it took all of my will to ignore the obsessive compulsive drive to clean as I go.

Little Bri stopped by as we were getting started and provided some good company for the adventure. We all took a little "safety break" up in the attic space and came down to dive further in to the project. Our fascination grew. It all got galactic.

We figured out how to open the tank that held the water and it was like something from a sci-fi movie in there. I've heard stories for a year or two now about homeowners in the village of Johnson who keep having to replace their hot water heaters and about business owners who have similar problems with their water lines. This experience validated all of those stories. I had to use a foot long metal instrument and hack away at the walls of the water tank until it began falling off in thick sheets of funky green, chalky shit.

This is the tank after I cleaned it.

I had to shop vac the funk that came off the walls. This is what it looked like.

I took a picture of the filter as evidence for everyone who has ever or will ever drink the coffee here.... so that you can rest assured that I'm taking every possible measure to ensure you don't drink this stuff.
Thank you, Bill, for your good, analytical mind and your willingness to come and fix yet another broken thing at the Lovin Cup.
Maybe someday the ship will just run.... without any glitches. But probably not. That's the character of the place, I suppose?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Again, I got hassled about neglecting the blog. Really, there isn't much to write that hasn't been written so far. I"m sure that there's a thousand little blips that I could add to this thing if time allowed.... but it doesn't. It's all I can do to make sure the bills get paid and I remember to order coffee every week. Having a kid in elementary school is sometimes more consuming than owning a business and if I weren't so chronically gobbled with work, I might consider homeschooling her again but..... for now, we read our twenty minutes every night, practice the alto sax for her winter concert (tomorrow night... solo in Row Your Boat...bound for the indie pop charts, let me tell you)
what else...

Speaking of elementary school.... I've had a tutor for Ella for nearly a year now. Different tutors... people that pop up in our lives, take a shining to my kid and happen to display an uncanny ability to convey math concepts. Until recently, teaching math to my kid has been a big problem. I look at a math textbook and my eyes cross and my brain goes flat-line. If Bill tries to teach her, the protocol goes as follows : big power struggle, blow up, time to mellow and then maybe, maybe, they get to the task at hand. She's been asking me to please please be the one to do her math homework with her and I've been at a loss for how to explain to my 11 year old that I can't even wrap my head around her fifth grade math work.

During her week-long Thanksgiving break, though, she waited until two nights before her return to school to tell me that she had brought home three failed quizzes that she had to retake that Monday. I had to give her the silent treatment for nearly 24 hours so that I wouldn't kill her and after I grounded her indefinitely for outrageous irresponsibility, I pulled out her math book and started reading at the beginning of Chapter 2 and didn't stop until the end of Chapter 3 (which, I swear, was more daunting than writing the business plan for this shop) BUT.... I somehow forced myself through that eye crossing, brain flat-lining wall and went through about forty seven sheets of paper as I wrote out examples of her math for me to work on and after an entire evening, afternoon and following evening, I was able to sit down with her and go through her math quizzes and guide her through correcting the problems that had been answered incorrectly. Somewhere in this process, I had the realization that I can't expect my kid to excel at math if, at age 34, I can't get through my own blocks enough to see it through with her.

So when I'm not at the shop or making dinner or walking my dog, I can be found with a fifth grade math textbook in my lap and a wrinkle in my brow. I'm still not at the point where I think I can homeschool again... maybe if I put myself into this math thing long enough it might be a remote possibility but for now I pack up my kid in the morning and pass her off to Mrs. Abair.

If I'm suave enough, maybe I'll post a video here of Ella's solo tomorrow night. I might not get it posted for another three months but that's how it goes here........................................

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Alcoholic Bartender

I’m beginning to understand why it is that alcoholics always seem to know, often times down to the minute, exactly how long they’ve been sober.

For several months before I bought the coffee shop, I was in the throws of doing some serious internal cleansing. I was practicing massage therapy, had access every day to a full gym, swimming pool and sauna. With my cleansing regime, I started with one element of the body and proceeded to work my way through. I had cut out all processed and hydrogenated foods, wheat, sugar and caffeine. I was working on my liver and my digestive health. I had been fasting and exercising almost every day. I was doing yoga and had discovered African dancing. Once a week I met with a specialist who helped “move the process along”. Everything was light as a feather and going great.

August 15th I bought the shop. My sleepless nights of worrying about the logistics turned into falling asleep on my feet as soon as I allowed myself to stop running. It’s pretty much gone this way since then…. With the occasional luxury of getting out of town or a Sunday that provides total respite from responsibility.

I had a surplus of extra time on my hands at my last job. I spent that time perusing library shelves, reading at the Stowe Coffee House, visiting friends who lived nearby (friends I miss dearly), working out… you name it. I drove forty five minutes to and from work and listened to audio books in my car. I think now that I may have taken all that extra me-time for granted. Now, a short walk through the meadows with my dog is a sweet luxury. I stop to watch birds and pet our neighbors horses and sometimes sit in the grass and savor where I am.

The alcoholic thing…..

I have this stupid condition called Dermagraphism. It shows up in young adults and can last anywhere from three months to an entire lifetime. My body produces too many histamines. If I scratch an itch, wipe something on my face, rub up against something, it leaves a raised, reddish welt in it’s wake for a much longer period of time than is reasonable. I’m like a walking Etch-a-Sketch. It’s nothing serious or life altering….. it’s just kind of annoying. After walking around with it for a year and a half now, I finally decided to go visit my naturopath in Burlington to see what she had to say about it. Well, that’s not true. Initially I went to visit a very pompous Eastern European allergist who gave this weird skin stuff a name but insisted that the only way to find any relief from it’s annoyances was to regularly take anti-histamines. I tried to delve deeper into the root of the problem, pointing out that the skin is the largest organ of the body and if that organ is out of whack, isn’t that symptomatic of something within the body possibly being out of whack? He got really frustrated and insisted that what I have is just a skin disease and nothing else. When I said I didn’t “buy it” he told me I didn’t have to “buy it“, that he was right and I was wrong and showed me to the door.

I’ve learned since that I have a slight metal allergy which is slowing down my immune system in general and causing my adrenals a wee bit of distress. I’ve begun taking a homeopathic histamine and Omegas 3 and 9. Once my body has acclimated to these, I’ll begin a series of acupuncture. In the meantime, I’ve had to completely eliminate caffeine and coffee altogether.

Yes, the coffee shop owner and constant barista cannot drink coffee. For the time being anyway…like, several months.

Yesterday, while I was filling the espresso bins I was counting the ways in which I interact with coffee every day. I order and inventory it, I pour it, I grind it, I tamper it. I weigh it, I brew it, I smell it, I sell it. I sometimes give it away. I draw shots of it, I steam milk for it, I mix mocha syrup into it. BUT, I no longer drink it.

It’s been 8 days, 2 hours and 42 minutes. But who’s counting?


Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Morning

It's the pre-dawn hour of Halloween day. I got to the shop today at 5:30 am so that I could get everything prepped for the day, have time to put on my costume AND.....try it out for a few minutes to make sure that i won't be breaking my neck pulling it off.

I just stripped down in the back room, pulled out the legwarmers, shivered at the sight of my little hot pant/gym shorts, zipped up the warm up jacket, considered the afro wig and laced up these forty pound roller skates. I'm about ten inches taller behind the counter now and get to do all those fun little loopty loops all day while rolling around.

Just put on Pandora funk, unlocked the door and now I wait for the first customer.... and hope that they're dressed more ridiculously than I am right now.