Archive for December, 2014

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What I Have Learned This Past Year

December 31, 2014

A forgotten wallet, coupled with our cat running at top speed out of the apartment, made me miss my bus. I was pissed. I’m in the coffee shop 15 minutes later than I normally would be and I am waiting for my coffee. In walks in Garrett McKinney. A friend I went to elementary school with. I still remember his 3rd grade birthday party when we went bowling and rode in his father’s Volkswagen Beetle. I remember the cottonwood tree in front of house. I hadn’t seen Garrett in more than a decade.

It is hard to believe that this is my 17th New Year’s reflection. I remember the reason for writing the first one. I wrote it because that year in high school my life was so very amazing (to my 15-year old self at least) that I wanted to remember it for all of time. Tragically, the first one is the only one that is lost to the bits and bytes of time and (cyber) space.

This past year we went to France, Iceland, and Monaco (though, all in the same trip). We tasted Champagne in Champagne. And Châteauneuf-du-Pape in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. We slept in a castle. And ate terrible (available) Chinese food (I remember most the wall of six microwaves they used to reheat the food) after visiting the Eiffel Tower. We gambled in the Monte Carlo. And ran to the Mona Lisa. In our apartment in Paris, I learned that the dishwasher and oven could be the same unit.

I will always remember the owner of the Au Lapin Qui Fume (the smoking rabbit) tease me about my French Language skills. He interrupted and quieted the entire restaurant. He told them that I would be ordering in front of them. In French. And I did. And he corrected every word I pronounced wrong.

We dealt with strikes in Iceland and almost missed our train in Paris. There were lagoons, cafes, and photos of me standing on things. There was great food and a Michelin Star. There were hounds and hounds, the occasional cat, and the truly bizarre.

And then there was a tour in Tours. When we boarded our Eurovan there were two other Americans (Andrea and Marcus) with us. We asked them where they were from and they replied, “Seattle.” After the initial shock of being from the same city and discussion of the world being incredibly small, we find out that Alex and Marcus work at the same University. We have had dinner with them a few times since April. No wonder they say it is hard to meet new friends in Seattle; sometimes you have to meet them a half a world away.

With a stroke of happenstance I found myself interviewing at two different places after our trip to France. First, my former colleague at Washington Business Week (my first job out of graduate school), introduced me to her boss who was looking for a new Major Gifts Officer. Lunch turned into a tour and into a discussion of benefits, which later turned into more interviews. Meanwhile, my former colleague at Pacific Science Center introduced me to her former boss. A phone call turned into group interviews, which turned into more group interviews. At the end of interviewing, I had run out of excuses to leaving work mid-day. And in the end of July, I started as a Major Gifts Officer at the University of Washington. It has been amazing. To Megan and Jannine, thank you so much for thinking of me. You have literally changed the course of my life for the better.

One of the reasons I left was that my good friends at the Science Center had left. Kristi (KP), who I considered one of my ‘work wives’ moved back to Minnesota after having her baby. She never came back from her maternity leave. I still remember our last coffee at work together. KP, 9-months pregnant, walking across the ponds to Starbucks on a beautiful, sunny, winter day. Alex and I had one last dinner with them in May before they headed across the country. And Jannine, who I considered a mentor, also left. Our endless conversations about nonprofits and fundraising would now have to take place over the occasional lunch.

There were many memories from this year that I will cherish.   Like visiting an old friend. Or Spending a long weekend at Lake Crescent. And another on Hood Canal. And as amazing as our meal at the Michelin starred restaurant in Paris was, it was probably the meal on Lummi Island at the Willows Inn that will be the most memorable. We popped open a bottle of Champagne (one of the 9.5 bottles we schlepped back in our luggage from France) and a 2007 K Vintners Syrah-Grenache. There was a great dinner at Loulay and a hospital stay after (ask Alex about her ruptured ovarian cyst). And a random, weird looking bug bite (ask her about that too). This past year we watched as the Sounders scored goal after goal, lifted a cup and a shield, and celebrated in complete joy for 15 minutes before our hearts were broken.

Most importantly, I think Alex and I will always remember 2014 as the year we decided to get married. We have a ring. Now I just need to pop the question. And I cannot wait to see how our wedding details will unfold.

I wrote several years ago in this reflection that friendships weave in and out along a timeline and you never know when they will intersect again. Yasmeen, a girl who lived on my floor at Morrison Hall in 2000 contacted me on Facebook. Despite us being Facebook friends and living in the same city, we hadn’t spoken in almost 13 years. We talked about our relationships and she told me about her son. And she reminded me that the first time I met her she was crying in the hallway because her boyfriend broke up with her. And I offered her a cookie. Another intersection.

Working back in the U-District is strange. It is a place where I lived and went to school for 2.5 years. And I have been spending the last 5 months revisiting my favorite places. Recently, I went back to the Mandarin Chef. The place where “Chopstick for One” was born. Where the owner knew me by name. After I ordered she gave me this knowing smile. I hadn’t been back in 8 years. And the next time I came in, she said, “Thank you Nick.”

I see Garrett a lot now in the U-District since running into him. It was probably only a matter of time until our paths intersected again. But such is life. Old friends intersecting our new lives when we least expect it. And new friends being met in a Eurovan a world away. A 7 year old Syrah-Grenache consumed during an evening, at restaurant, and with a woman, that myself 7 years ago would not have been able to comprehend or imagine. Thank you to all who made 2014 another great year. Happy New Year.

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The Push Present

December 8, 2014

The receptionist at Greenlake Jewelry offered us an espresso soon after we arrived. We declined. We also declined the Pellegrino. I peered into the fridge and I saw several bottles sparkling wine. Perhaps it was too early in the morning to ask for that.

From a business perspective, Greenlake Jewelry reminded me of a car dealership. Instead of a showroom filled with cars and new tires, we had glass cases of diamond rings and other forms of bling. A salesperson was immediately assigned to us to help us find our perfect ring.

Alex never wanted an engagement ring. I wanted one for her. When I imagined our ‘Facebook “We’re engaged!” status update,’ I always pictured it with Alex holding her hand out, with a ring on it. She wanted to be practical and save the money (we are saving for a house). Perhaps she thought it was a bit antiquated. We really didn’t talk about it again.

We had a friend over for dinner and this conversation came up again. And I said that I was fine with not having a ring. If Alex didn’t want it, I shouldn’t push.

In the meantime, Alex had shifted her position as well. If having a ring was important to me, than she didn’t want to stop me from having that. Plus, with our actual wedding being a year and half away, she wanted something public to show our commitment together.

And that is how we found ourselves declining espresso at Greenlake Jewelry one Sunday morning in Northgate.

Alex sent me a half of dozen emails of rings from Greenlake Jewelry and she found one that she really liked.

The salesperson and his apprentice told us that they had just sold that ring the other day. But he had another one in back. He comes back with the ring, takes it out of the brown envelope, pops open the ziplock bag and hands the ring to Alex. The ring looked like it came out of a .25-cent machine. It was comically small. Also, it felt weird knowing that our potential engagement ring was stocked in the back like a gallon of milk or a new iPhone.

They slide us a couple of glass cases over. The diamonds grow in size proportionally to the cost. They show us a ring that is outside of our ideal price range. But Alex likes it a lot. I like it lot. And in that moment we both learn that Alex actually wanted bling. They write up the specific details, size her finger, and send us on our way.

Alex’s Great-Grandfather gave her Great-Grandmother a present each time when one of their four children were born. When her Grandmother was born, she received a ring. A turn of the century Push Present, if you will. Alex’s mom had given her this ring many years ago. We decided to pass on the Greenlake Jewelry ring; Using her Great-Grandmother’s ring as our engagement ring would be a great way to honor her family and use a family heirloom.

After slogging through many yelp reviews of jewelers, we settled on Lisa Esztergalyos. Don’t ask me to pronounce her name. She was fast with the re-sizing, the polish, and securing the old diamonds. Her work was perfect on our antique ring. We could not be more pleased.

Lisa asked Alex if she wanted to wear the ring out of the store. Pre-engaged she replied. I have some ideas in changing that status. And I am sure you will all know when that happens.