Archive for the ‘Life and Such’ Category

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This photo is from last fall, taken at a football game of our college alma mater.

At first glance, looking at it as my husband handed my phone back to me, I liked it. I thought it was a cute picture of us making a fun memory with our first kiddo, shortly after we learned we’ll be having our second.

I started pulling up my Instagram to share it on social media. But then I looked at it again. All I could see now were the dark circles under my eyes and the crinkles that have started emerging around them when I smile.

Suddenly, I didn’t like the picture so much. I thought if I shared it, those imperfections would be the only thing other people would see as well.

So I didn’t post it. Instead, I feverishly researched eye creams later that night.

And that’s some real bullshit.

It’s bullshit that instead of seeing those wrinkles and dark circles as signs of growing wisdom and experience, I only saw signs of my diminishing value as a woman.

It’s bullshit that instead of admiring them as marks of devotion earned while my heart overflows for a sweet, tiny human who sometimes just needs her mama to lie down with her on a dark, scary night, I bemoaned them as marks of stress and exhaustion.

It’s bullshit that instead of appreciating them as the wear and tear exchanged for the gift of loving a child in such a way that I can’t remember now what I did during my carefree, wrinkle-free previous life — because the one I have now feels infinitely more rich — I only lamented my deepening crow’s feet.

And it’s bullshit that instead of seeing the beauty in it all, I could only see the flaws.

Well, I’m done bullshitting myself. I’m done falling for the lie that age will inevitably diminish the beauty worth sharing in my life.

So I’m sharing it now, imperfections and all. Because despite the inevitable wrinkles, life is always beautiful.

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50 Happy Things for 2015: Bloggers Unite in Flood of Gratitude

Even during the holidays, there sure is a lot of nastiness on the Internet. So when I saw a post by Emily of The  Waiting titled “50 Happy Things for 2015: Bloggers Unite in Flood of  Gratitude,” I knew I wanted to join in this collective effort, if only to drown out a tiny bit of the cacophony online.

The challenge is simple, per its creator, Dawn of Tales from the Motherland: Set a timer for 10 minutes, and write down 50 things you were grateful for or that made you happy in 2015.

So, uh, you may notice my list is approximately 41 items short of the stated goal. This is because there is nothing so small that I won’t over-think it. So the 10 minutes went fast. But, I hit all the important things.

My 2015 Gratitude-Givers/Happy-Makers

1. This little starfish, who I can’t believe is almost a year old already. There’s nothing better than starting my morning with snuggles from her.

Starfish

She’s my favorite.

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2. My partner in parenting: my husband. Lily is a lucky girl, and so am I.
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3. My family. They live two hours away, but I know they would drop everything at a moment’s notice if we needed their help. I know this because they have.
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4. My husband’s family. Though we’re in Montana and they’re in Illinois, they’d do the same, too.
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5. My crew/squad/besties/whatever the hip term for friends is these days. We’re scattered all over the place now, but with the help of technology, we never feel that far apart.
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6. Social media. Despite its obvious downfalls. Because SPOILER ALERT: I’m actually kind of awkward in real life. But online, my awkwardness comes off as mildly charming.
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7. Pancake. And the fact that our fwuffy bunny finally lets us pet her. Only took five years to gain her trust.

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Fwuffy-wuffy wufferton

Miss Pancake T. Bunsen

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8. Blogging. As a kid, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I even remember checking out a book at my elementary school library that was about “how to be a writer,” because, — shocker — I was a nerd. It might not be my day job (though I still get to write and edit for that), but blogging allows me to do what I love and share it with the world. Thank you for reading!
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Now comes the part where I silently freak out that I might have left off someone or something really, really important. If that’s the case, I’M SO SORRY HOW CAN I MAKE IT UP TO YOU PLEASE DON’T HATE ME I LOVE YOU I’LL GIVE YOU A COOKIE.
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Want to join in the gratitude magic?  Here’s how it works: Set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 things you feel grateful for. (Or, see if you can beat my all-time low of eight.) The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s OK. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! To join other bloggers from the project, head to Tales from the Motherland for complete instructions on sharing your post. 

Unemployment, Day 11

Or Day 9. Or 6. I don’t really even know what day of the week it is. Monday? Thursday? Some weird in-between day only jobless people know about, called Schlermday? Sure. Maybe every day will just be Schlermday for now.

(I just Googled “schlerm” to make sure it doesn’t mean something completely inappropriate. According to Urban Dictionary, it means “a permed mullet.” So clearly I’m sticking with it.)

We moved back to Missoula about a week ago so Zach could start his new job. I, on the other hand, am gainfully unemployed at the moment. I’ve had some good leads and done a few interviews, but I’m still waiting for news on those.

This is the first time since I graduated college seven-plus years ago that I just haven’t had a job, so I’m feeling a bit anxious with all this free time, which somehow pays worse than journalism.

But, I’m also finding a lot of time to work in my daily cheese consumption. And I get to wear comfy (and sexy!) high-waisted maternity leggings all day. And I am super on top of all my Facebook notifications. So it’s not all bad. I’m sure something will work out soon …

Unemployment

No, mental illness is not a ‘choice’

 

Pissed off by all the B.S. about mental illness that has infected the Internet in the days following Robin Williams’ suicide, I wrote a column about it for the paper that employs me. I’m posting about it here and encourage you to read it, because this is important. Here’s the link.

Take care, friends.

4 reasons why I would be a great juror

My life in a nutshell.

Story of my life.

 

The jury duty system in this country is messed up. Why? Because I have never been called for, let alone served on, a jury. And I am part of .05 percent of the population who actually wants to perform this civic duty.

Yes, you read that right. I want to do jury duty.

Why? I dunno, it just seems like it would be interesting. I am probably romanticizing it in my mind, thinking whatever trial I would be on would be some high-profile case with lots of twists and turns and gotcha! moments.

And now, my dear husband got to serve on a jury, and it is Just. Not. Fair.

Here’s what would be fair: Let me be on the jury. I have four great reasons why:

1) I have a pretty good understanding of the legal system. I edit and discuss cases in the news, and my husband is a lawyer, so I automatically understand How These Things Work better than 97 percent of the general population. Do you know what a motion in limine or voir dire are? Well, I don’t really, either. But I do know they are things that go on in court, so I’m one step ahead of you there.

2) I have extensive experience pretending to be a witness at mock trials. Zach was on trial team in law school, and they had to practice a lot before competition. They needed people to serve as witnesses in the case, and I was basically the big gun they called in when no one else would do. I even schooled a real, live lawyer once when she was questioning me and she got her facts mixed up. Then, drunk on the power of justice, I was all “The truth? You can’t handle the truth! I’m putting the system on trial! No, you’re out of order!” It was my finest moment yet.

3) I’ve watched some shows and movies involving juries, so I pretty much got this thing. My favorite? Definitely William Hung and his Hung Jury.

4) Because I actually want to be on one, for crying out loud! How often do you come across that sort of enthusiasm during selection? Isn’t it mostly just people hemming and hawing, doing whatever they can to get out of it? Telling you they can’t do it because their great aunt’s cousin’s chicken just died and they absolutely cannot miss the funeral? Wouldn’t it be refreshing for a change to have someone eager and willing to fulfill her civic duty? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

 

Put me in, Judge! I'm ready!

Put me in, Judge! I’m ready!

 

I must leave this place immediately

Someone posted this photo to the Facebook page of a local TV station recently:

Snake

That is a snake. What kind of snake? A huge-ass one. Just chillin’ out on a sidewalk, right in the middle of the town in which I live.

This is the worst thing that’s ever happened.

The worst part about the worst thing that’s ever happened? The corner listed with the photo is wrong, because it does not exist. (Avenues intersect with streets, not other avenues.) So I don’t even know where it actually was.

IT COULD BE ANYWHERE.

It could be somewhere I run a lot.

It could be right outside our apartment building.

It could be under our bed, waiting for me to go to sleep so it can slither around my arm and hiss in my face, causing me to scream myself to death.

THIS PLACE IS NO LONGER SAFE. I MUST LEAVE IT IMMEDIATELY.

Things I will and will not miss about Great Falls

It is officially official: Zach landed a job at the firm he interned at in law school, so we will be moving back to our beloved Missoula in just a few months! (And possibly sooner for me, depending on my job prospects.)

I have been in love with Missoula since I started college there at the University of Montana more than 10 years ago. To me, it’s easily Montana’s best city. It embodies a perfect balance of progressive idealism and rugged individualism, and it’s never too far from your front door to the great outdoors, with a perfect view, to boot.

For most people who live here, this view is only a short drive and moderate hike away.

For most people who live here, this view is only a short drive and moderate hike away.

Though I’m excited that we are lucky enough to settle down in a place we genuinely love, I will also be sad to leave behind the life we’ve built in Great Falls. This town gets a bad rap; it’s definitely not the destination of choice for the younger set. It has a lot of potential, but many folks here may need an attitude adjustment before it can turn that corner.

There are a several aspects of Great Falls I will miss, and many I definitely won’t.

Things I will not miss about Great Falls

The obsession with chain restaurants. I have never seen an entire community get as excited as people here do when news breaks about a new chain restaurant coming to town. Seriously. When Buffalo Wild Wings announced its plan to open a restaurant in Great Falls, people lost it. Lost. It. It was by far  by FAR  the most-read story on our website for several days, and approximately 8 million people liked and shared the news on social media. Four gazillion people will probably go on its opening day, defying all mathematical probabilities in a town of 60,000 people.

However, this is not the best chain restaurant-related news Great Fallsians could receive. Nope. That would only happen if the Holy Grail of chain restaurants announced its impending arrival to town. That’s right: Olive Garden.

OK, Great Fallsians. Have you ever actually been to an Olive Garden? I know those people in their commercials look like they’re having a ton of fun while enjoying an authentic Italian meal  like they truly enjoy spending time with their families and don’t all secretly want to punch each other in the throats  but they are actors. Paid actors.

When real people like you and me go to Olive Garden, this is what happens: We get a shit ton of buttered and salted styrofoam disguised as breadsticks and a lump of chicken covered with Cheese Product that was still frozen until 5 minutes before it hit your plate. Meanwhile, your parents ask you for the millionth time when you’re going to get a boyfriend/girlfriend, when you’re going to get married to said boyfriend/girlfriend, when you’re going to reproduce a human child with said husband/wife instead of just schlepping around that damn dog/cat/gerbil with you everywhere you go, and then you snap back  “STOP ASKING SO MANY QUESTIONS!” Then everyone eats in silence for the rest of the meal, interrupted only with the occasional “Can you please pass me some more styrofoam breadsticks?”

Is that the kind of dining experience you’re hoping for at Olive Garden? I wouldn’t wish that scenario on my worst enemy (OK, I probably would. I’m vindictive sometimes.) Great Fallsians, please know that I mean this from the bottom of my squirrelly heart: You deserve better.

Also: You are never getting an Olive Garden. This is not a bad thing.

Missoula has its fair share of chain restaurants and big box stores, but it’s also a community that oozes support for local eateries and shops. When we want to go out to eat in Great Falls, it’s often a struggle to think of the limited options (my pescetarianism doesn’t help with that). In Missoula, we have the opposite problem: It can be hard to narrow down the choices, and when you choose one, you can’t help but wonder what you’re missing out on at another.

The drivers. As I’ve mentioned before, the drivers in Great Falls are not the most courteous. In addition to the fact that many couldn’t care less about whether they run down a little old lady walking across the street, there seems to be some sort of game going on in which drivers score points for how many red lights they can run, how many miles per hour over the speed limit they can go, and how many times they can turn or change lanes without signaling. Maybe I’m just jealous because no one ever invited me to play.

Obviously, this is a problem in just about any place. No one ever goes to a city and says “Wow, there are some really good drivers here!” In fact, I’ve previously written about how awful I think Missoula drivers are, so I’m not going to see much improvement on that front. But even if they are apparently physically prohibited from using a blinker, they will at least stop to let me run across the street.

The weather. Good God, the weather here is heinous. I know  it’s heinous in a lot of places, particularly in Montana. But Great Falls weather is the worst. Especially the wind. Always with that damn wind in Great Falls. You kind of stop noticing it after a while, but it’s always there, slowly wearing on you.

Of course, it’s especially terrible in the winter, when the chill of said wind makes the temperatures feel 15 to 25 degrees colder than they already are, resulting in conditions as low as 40 degrees BELOW zero. Do you know what it’s like to not be able to feel your face? Like, it’s so cold that you straight-up cannot confirm whether your face is still attached to your head? I do, because that’s what the wind does to you during the winter in Great Falls.

It’s probably the worst in the spring though. The temperature has finally started to creep above freezing, the sun is shining, and you glance out the window, expecting a lovely day. Then you walk outside and nearly get blown back in by a 40 mph gust of wind. And don’t even think of trying to have hair in Great Falls. It will probably just end up looking like this all the time:

Great Falls: Not a great place to have hair.

Great Falls: Not a great place to have hair.

And did you know it’s possible to suffer an injury caused by wind? Folks, it is. One time, I was leaving a store on a particularly windy day, and I opened my car door and was putting my purse down in the passenger seat before getting in. All of a sudden, a ginormous wind gust blew my door shut on me, knocking me over and causing me to hit my shin on the exposed car frame. I probably could have died, but I’m really brave so I made it.

The scar on my skin may fade, but will my soul ever truly heal?

 

Things I will miss about Great Falls

Sunshine in the winter. For all the shit I just talked about Great Falls’ weather, there is one thing I will miss about it: The sun, especially in the winter. Even when it’s the aforementioned 35 below zero, or during less extreme temperature drops, the sun is typically shining. Not so much during a Missoula winter. It may not get as cold, and it’s definitely not as windy, but daaaaamn, Missoula can get a girl down in the winter. It’s cloudy most of the time, and inversions often creep into the valley and stick around for days, sometimes weeks. It’s depressing as hell. It’s what made me believe that Seasonal Affective Disorder is real and not just a condition invented by pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs. If I ever OD on Vitamin D supplements, Missoula inversions are probably to blame. But the tradeoff — the fact that Missoula tends to see spring green sooner and fall foliage longer  is worth it.

The River’s Edge Trail. Great Falls has this amazing trail that meanders for miles and miles and miles and miles (seriously, it’s like 35 miles total) along the mighty Missouri River:

Photo by Larry Beckner, Great Falls Tribune

Photo by Larry Beckner, Great Falls Tribune

It’s absolutely perfect for avid runners like me. You can get in a lot of miles just on that trail, and I’m lucky enough to live just a few blocks away from accessing it (with only one pedestrian danger zone to cross to get there).

Now, the one downside of this trail is that in the summer, there’s a decent chance you could encounter the Prince of Darkness himself on it: Mr. Snake. And I’m not just talking about your garden-variety gardner snake (though those are around and freak me out, too). We’re talking the vilest of the vile here: The Rattlesnake. The ones that will gouge your leg in a venomous rage without a second thought, then call in his evil serpent brethren to drag you into their lair to finish you off.

Luckily, the snakes only slither around the eastern-most portions of the trail, so I can avoid their deathly embrace by turning around before I encroach on their territory. And, of course, I always keep my trusty Snake Rock with me, just in case.

My friends and co-workers. You’ve probably heard a saying along the lines of: “A place is only as good as the people you know in it. It’s the people that make the place.” That never rang true until I lived in Great Falls.

I don’t know that you will ever find a group of colleagues who have a better, and perhaps more twisted, sense of humor than those working together in a newsroom. Especially at a newspaper, which, let’s face it, is part of an industry that’s seen better days. We laugh as we recount the ridiculous comments and phone calls we get from people accusing us of instigating a conspiracy to implement Obamacare for Goats or asking that we run a correction because they believe Montana’s borders are wrong and we’re actually part of Canada (the second one actually happened). We have to laugh, through the good times and the bad, if only to keep ourselves from curling up into little balls and crying.

We also have a great group of friends here outside our work lives, and only partly because all the young people in Great Falls immediately discover they must band together if they want to survive. It’s tough to make friends after you set out into the real world, when you don’t necessarily have the comfort and convenience of instantly bonding with people you share the same class/team/dorm/
sorority/college newspaper office with. But with our friends in Great Falls, we hit the jackpot.

(Shhhh, secret time: I’m subtlety bombarding them all with subliminal messages convincing them to move to Missoula, too.)

That “je ne sais quoi.” For all the things I clearly will not miss, there is something about Great Falls, something I still can’t quite put my finger on after four years of living here, that has made me like it, despite feeling like I shouldn’t. To borrow a term from a fancy French owl, Great Falls just has a certain “je ne sais quoi” for me.

Perhaps it’s the people I’ve known here. Or maybe all that sunshine. I don’t know what it is, exactly  only that I’ll miss it when I’m gone.

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