More epic than a chili cheese hot dog from Portillo's. Better than taking a day off of school. Greater than a hug from Mama Kat at Camp T. This weekend was all of those things and so much more.
Months ago, we got a facebook message from Annie (Smooney's roommate) inviting Kellie, Ellyn, Arielle, Michelle and I to come to Madison, WI to surprise Smooney on her birthday weekend. Of course we were in. Friday finally arrived and we started the pilgrimage to the Dairy State. Stopping to snag Kellie in Carmel, then Ellyn at Tecumseh we drove North. Lucky us, we took our lunch break at Portillo's just outside of Chicago and finished off our meal with chocolate cake shakes.
Late in the afternoon we arrived to Madison-- our first (accidental) stop was the post office. Don't you think we should get some of these orange wagons for summer camp?Chewbacca thinks so too.
Roommate Annie met us as we pulled in and took us upstairs. She'd already decorated but we added some more signs, met the other Sarah roommate, started in on the spread of snacks (sour candy, Diet Coke, popcorn, chips and salsa) and anxiously awaited Smoon's arrival.
When we knew she was pulling in to the garage the five of us crouched below the kitchen counter. Smoon was giving a ride to her friend Mimi-- but Mimi was in on the surprise and texting us their location the whole time.
Smoon walked in the apartment, said, "Hey pals" to her roommates and then was completely and totally shocked when the five of us jumped up and screamed, "SURPRISE!"
Smoon thought: She had to bring home Mimi because her car was broken, she and Annie were about to go to cycling, they were having a bday dinner with only half of her friends, her parents and sister were coming tomorrow morning.
What was actually happening: Mimi was in on the plan, no one was going cycling, the bday dinner was the next day and everyone could come, her sister was here now and her parents weren't coming.
Such genuine joy and happiness. The Indy girls all hadn't seen Smoon since this past summer-- this reunion was long overdue.
We watched the skateboarder in the lot across the street practice all of his trick moves, ate pizza and sushi for dinner, played Say Anything, finished off all the sour candy, cheered on March Madness and stayed up extra late. It felt so normal for all of us to be hanging out which was such a gift because we don't really ever get to do this.
If Sarah Wright could have anything __________. (These people know me well)
Saturday morning started with a stop in Cargo Coffee downstairs before we headed out. Isn't this place so cool?! Oh my goodness I love the whole ambiance and that they can just pop down so easily.
We met the donut man at Greenbush Bakery and each picked out sweet treats. Arie got the most creative one-- a s'mores stuffed donut. I wish I'd seen the peanut butter and jelly donut sooner. I'll have to get it next time.
Smooney has been working at a company called Epic for a year and a half now. Epic, "develops software to help people get well, help people stay well, and help future generations be healthier." Their motto is, "Do good, have fun, make money" which probably sounds very similar to the CILT tag line of 2014, "Do good, have fun, CILT Pack" since Smoon had just been hired.
We've all seen Snapchats from the Epic campus but today a dream came true when we got to go explore. There are two Hollywood-esque Epic signs on the hills as you enter the campus. Of course we had to park the car and run out to climb on the letters.
This place is unreal. Epic's campus is home to 10,000 employees, in at least 15 different buildings. It took us nearly 4 hours to tour the whole things and I'm sure there are spots we still didn't get to.
Can you spot the shark fin?
Every wall, light fixture, door, desk, chair, decoration fits in with the theme of the room or the building.
Buildings are called things like Andromeda, Borealis, Cassiopeia, Deneb, Fomalhaut, Ganymede, Endor, Juno, Isis and Heaven-- all named for things in the galaxy.
It felt like we were walking around Disney World after hours.
A freaking unicorn-- Kelle Hampton would be so happy
Need to catch a train?
The constellations really look like pictures in the sky
Indiana Jones hallway and the skull you shouldn't touch-- but Ellyn did which turned on the sounds that a giant ball was rolling down to crush us from that abandoned tunnel
This newsstand is covered in autographs of employees and visitors-- now all of our names are there too
THIS IS SO COOL! The fridge in every work room is stocked with a plethora of Simply juices, milk and chocolate milk for the employees to come drink whenever they get thirsty. The Epic 10 Commandments are posted in every work room.
Took a ride on a train...
Every conference room is as cool as this circus.
The Chinese dragon presentation room
On the train to the next galaxy...
Harry Freaking Potter World (except not because there would be copyright issues, but really it is just as cool as Universals Harry Potter World) and Doby! With socks!
Floating broomsticks and weird rocking horse things...
A SLIDE TO THE LOWER LEVEL OF HEAVEN! Hannah, Smoon's friend, later told us she goes down the slide every single day.
Art in motion...
The entrance to hell...
Michelle's the strongest, a ROCKING BANANA
Deep Space-- oh holy this is cool. Once a month, like this upcoming Monday, all 10,000 Epic employees gather together for a two hour staff meeting in Deep Space. To get there you have to travel down five levels...
Sky-- CHECK OUT THESE SWINGS
Grass-- MORE SWINGS
The auditorium is gigantic--easily one of the largest rooms I've ever been in. On your way into the meeting you get a bag of popcorn-- a nod to the days when they're staff meetings used to be held in a local movie theater. On your way out of the meeting they hand you a free lunch as well.
Every wall is so cool. It's just insane. Ellyn was mad that the artists, painters, builders, architects don't have plaques and nameplates all over the place because the work they've done is so impressive.
There are tunnels and bridges connecting all of the buildings so you never have to go outside, but there are plenty of cool things outside too. The Treehouse in the middle of the campus is another meeting space. Wouldn't you love to go to work there every day? I think Bob Goff would be into this.
Our last stop was the Farm part of Campus where Smooney works just down the hall from Babe and Charlotte.
Here's Smooney in her element-- tall desk, two screens, office buddy's stuff in the opposite corner. We climbed up to the top of the equestrian building to look out the windows onto Epic's campus.
Hands down the coolest looking campus I've ever visited.
We walked on State street to grab some mid-afternoon Chipotle. This was Smooney's 5th Chipotle in the past 7 days. Very impressive. Since we were in the dairy state we had to stop for some ice-cream too.
We headed back to the apartment to meet up with Annie and Sarah to hang out before dinner.
Friendship bracelets, games, March Madness, naps, sour candy, stories, plenty of laughing.
We walked to dinner where we met up with Smoon's Madison friends. It was one of those sweet moments when so many lives overlap-- something that Smoon really cares about. It's the greatest thing to just have all of your people in one place.
At our end of the table we got to hear Hannah and Camille both describe Smooney. They know her in a completely different context than us so it's funny when they say, "She's such a business professional." But so many things transcend our specific histories with her. I agree with Hannah, "She always looks the cutest, I want her whole closet," and Camille, "I really look up to her." We all agree that Smoon is incredibly kind, the best listener, smart and wise, hard working, bubbling with initiative, driven, compassionate, brave and the kind of person you want as one of your best friends.
Michelle (easily) convinced us to play another game and we settled on Fishbowl. Some of the best words in the mix were Sugar Hangover, Ellyn's boyfriend and Rocking Banana. We did the normal Catch Phrase/Charades/One Word rounds but finished off with Only Facial Expressions.
Sunday morning came way too quickly. We got breakfast together one more time and visited the House of Representatives aka the Capital.
This surprise weekend was one for the books-- an epic gathering of great friends, fun adventures and life together.
We even left Smoon, Michelle and Annie laughing as we pulled away and headed back to Indiana.
Honorable Mention Blog Title
"I am a man."
"I'd be into Kirk if he wasn't so into Lulu."
"Sarah, do you have a moment? I'd like to have a word with you."
"Do you have a sugar hangover too?" "No, I have a really high tolerance for sugar."
"We don't sing enough head banger songs at Tecumseh chapel."
"This is like sophomore year when I didn't have a TV and I just watched the construction site across the street. I named all of the workers."
"If you get tired when you're driving by yourself do you ever slap yourself?"
"Ellyn got a boyfriend and broke up with him this weekend."