Crazy, Coffee, and Lady Poverty

I've had a surreal day. It began with a tour of a Montessori charter school in our district that is a preschool and elementary school. It was an interesting experience to share with a fairly large tour group of Douglas County parents. If you don't live here, you may not realize that Douglas County parents by-and-large can be the worst kind of trophy parents and helicopter parents. It was clear from the questions people asked that, a) many of them were convinced their children are geniuses and wanted to make sure the school would foster their super-human intellects, and b) that despite the principal's comment that they care for the development of the whole child, some of the parents couldn't care less if their child gets along well socially as long as she is off-the-charts academically.

But then, just as I was feeling smug, I was confronted by my own neurosis. Here I was, touring a school that my child won't be old enough to attend for ten months just because I like to know my options ahead of time. I guess as parents we all have our own kind of crazy with which to contend.

Our life can sometimes be vaguely feast or famine since our paychecks can be far between. I know what it's like to pay cash for large purchases, and I also know what it's like to raid the spare change jar for coffee money. In the thin times, I get clear about the order of priority for purchases. It goes something like:
1. toilet paper
2. produce
3. coffee
4. and 5. a tie between gas for the car and knitting materials
On that note, I took a trip to Kaladi Brothers Coffee shop to stock up on the #3 necessity this afternoon. Kaladi is known for the best coffee in Denver. ("The Kaladi Brothers roast only premium estate, shade-grown, organic and Fair Trade certified coffee because it's the right thing to do. We drink it because it yields the smoothest, richest and all-around tastiest cup of java in town." -Rocky Mountain News, Top of the Rockies 2003, 2004, 2005) They roast all their beans on-site, so when you get a cup 'o joe there it's only thirty minutes from the roaster, instead of three days or more like most shops. I met one of the owners years ago in a class on contemplative prayer, and spending money there always feels like an act of worship to me because I know I am supporting a business that takes a radical stand for social justice and ecological responsibility.

The gal at the register was talking to the guy in line ahead of me about her car situation. She finally had bought a car, but then someone hit it, so now it's in the shop. Figures, right? She talked about her frustrating relationship with car ownership. When she sees a nice car, she thinks, big payment, but when she sees a less than nice car she thinks, piece of junk. I figure she must live close to her job, and I found myself envying the ability to even have a car-less existence and wishing I could be her friend.

When I parked by Kaladi Bros. I noticed for the first time a new Starbucks that's been built across the street and down one short block. Now, in my part of the world the sight of a Starbucks is no unusual thing, but this was the shiniest one I've ever seen. Seeing Kaladi and the older neighborhood around it compared to the near-sparkling Starbucks reminded me of how spending too much time in the 'burbs can really foster a disdain for anything that's not shiny and new. It's as though you get used to your whole life having "that new car smell".

Then I was reflecting on the school this morning, and how part of me was relieved to see that the environment was nice but not flashy, without tons of bells and whistles everywhere. But I must admit that a small part of me was disappointed--not the part that genuinely values such things, but the piece that's been conditioned to have even the grocery stores decorated to the nines.

Saint Francis thought of Lady Poverty as his life-long companion, but I usually imagine her as if she were a villainess in a Disney movie, complete with long, bony fingures and a squinty stare. I have a lot to learn. Like I said, all in all a surreal kind of day.