Posts Tagged ‘montana’

Why I’m not drinking (not even a drop)

Drunk squirrel

I woke up on the first day of 2014 the same way I imagine a lot of people did: with a pounding headache and the desire, if I could work out the pertinent details quickly enough, to never move again for the rest of my life.

I decided several times in 2013 to stop drinking. The first time, I made it around 40 days. The second time, a week or so. With the last streak, which started toward the end of September, I lasted exactly 100 days. I discovered near the end of the month that I would hit the century mark on the last day of 2013. The coincidence seemed like an auspicious start to the new year, so I decided I would break my streak at the end of that evening. At midnight, I had my first drink in more than three months: a glass of wine.

Then I had another. And another. And another.

It always starts with one drink, of course, but that’s never the one that gets me in trouble. It’s the second, the third, the fourth …

Thing is, I have a really tough time saying no to those subsequent drinks, even when it’s just me asking the question. Once I start feeling a little tipsy, I can’t resist alcohol’s promise to at least make me feel that I’m interacting like a normal, un-awkward human person. Despite learning the hard way that booze has a compounding effect when consumed in a condensed period — over and over and over again throughout the past decade — the lesson never quite seems to stick.

So, instead of starting the new year off right by enjoying a cup of coffee and going on a nice long run on a sunny winter morning, I wasted it trying to block out the light while watching How I Met Your Mother reruns on Netflix for the umpteenth time and relying on cheese fries for sustenance. (EDITOR’S NOTE:  Cheese fries are .4 percent sustenance, 99.6 percent ooey-gooey deliciousness.)

I’m still glad I decided to imbibe while ringing in the new year, because now I’ve officially confirmed a realization I’d suspected but chose to deny for years: For me, it’s easier to abstain from drinking all together than to try to drink in moderation.

I wish I could simply enjoy one drink and call it good. I envy those who can. But the inner angel-versus-devil monologue launched by one measly drink is exhausting, and the devil currently sports what must be a 98-to-2 record. Sometimes, I handle the aftermath of the devil’s victory well. Other times, it turns me into a genuine psychopath who bursts into tears at the slightest provocation and spontaneously stomps and kicks. It’s not pretty.

It’s a hard realization, especially in your 20s, when a lot of social outings still revolve around getting together at bars and breweries. And I genuinely enjoy a good Montana craft beer for the taste, not just its inebriating effect. It seems almost sacrilegious to live in a state with the second-most microbreweries per capita and not enjoy a brew from one, not even once in a while.

But, my 100-day streak has inspired confidence that I can, in fact, do this. And do it without completely retreating into a hermit cave.

I’m sure my willingness to give up this oft-enjoyed pastime would come as a shock to many people, especially those who knew me in college and could tell you how hilarious it is that I think I can dance after a few beers. Trust me, you don’t earn the nickname “Little Kicks” if you have amazing rhythm and killer moves. (Don’t worry, friends. I’m sure I’ll work up the confidence to dance without that liquid courage sooner or later.)

Am I never going to drink another drop of alcohol again? I don’t know. Forever seems like a long time to give up anything. But I’m at the point where I know those drops must come sparingly. I’ll just have to take it one day at a time.

2013: Our squirreliest year yet!

2013 was pretty good to me. I got married to my best friend. ALF was at our wedding. (True story.) I have awesome friends, a loving family and the privilege to live and run in Big Sky Country. My obsession passion for punctuation led to my most popular post ever (with an assist from the WordPress editors. Thanks, guys!)

And, lucky us, WordPress has real, live helper monkeys working around the clock to generate year-end stats for Squirrel Thoughts. Let’s take a look!

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Has anyone fed the helper monkeys lately? They’re probably getting hungry.)

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Weekend adventure: The Great Pumpkin is in our midst!

Last week one of my co-workers wrote an article about a giant pumpkin grown in Shelby, Mont., that squashed the previous state record for giant pumpkin-ness. It weighs 1,168 pounds, and is currently the 28th largest pumpkin in the country, according to the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. (Yes, I squeed upon discovering such a commonwealth exists.)

The great pumpkin lives!  (Photo courtesy of Kyle Koschmeder)

The Great Pumpkin lives!
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Koschmeder)

Naturally, I was mesmerized from the get-go.

When I first told Zach the Great Pumpkin was in our midst, he was unimpressed. See, he hails from Eureka, Ill., the former Pumpkin Capital of the World, apparently, so he’s seen his fair share of extreme pumpkins. And, there are some hard feelings regarding Eureka’s fall from pumpkindom, as a neighboring community stole the namesake Libby pumpkin plant, and the title along with it, some years ago. (Never mind that all this happened before Zach was even born.)

Despite his initial lack of enthusiasm, Zach suggested we take a day trip up to Shelby, which is a little more than an hour north of Great Falls, to see the G.P.  So we hopped in the car Saturday afternoon, ready for a little adventure.

We got to Shelby, parked, and realized we should probably find out just where in town this G.P. was located. We looked it up and found out it was reportedly stationed at Shelby Paint and Hardware. Then, in a quintessential small-town moment, we looked up from the phone to realize we were right across the street from it.

We went inside and asked an employee where we could see the Great Pumpkin. Much to our dismay, she informed us that the G.P. had already been purchased and transported to another small town that’s actually only 10 minutes from Great Falls, instead of 75. But, we were in luck, because there was ANOTHER GIANT PUMPKIN outside. This one only weighed about 800 pounds, compared to nearly 1,200 for the actual G.P., but it was still larger than your average gourd.

Still pretty big, though it looked kind of mushy.

Still pretty big, though it looked kind of smooshed.

We weren’t going to settle for second place though, not after dreaming of meeting the Great Pumpkin for three entire days. After a quick stop at the Oasis, a little dive bar next to the hardware store that had an unusual combination of dead animal heads and ladies’ undergarments hanging on the walls, we started back down I-15 to Vaughn, the G.P.’s new residence.


About an hour later, we reached the corn maze to which the Great Pumpkin had been sold. We quickly realized we were the oldest people there without kids, and that they wanted us to pay $16 to enter.  The lady at the entrance was kind enough to let us go in without paying when she found out we just wanted to a few moments to take in the Great Pumpkin’s magnificence.

And then, there it was, in all its 1200-pound glory:


Giant pumpkin portrait

Real Great Pumpkin

A dream is realized!

Since there’s really not much you can do with a giant pumpkin other than get a few pictures taken with it, we left about five minutes later. We thought we had wrapped up our giant-fruit encounters for the day. Boy, were we wrong. Pleasantly, pleasantly wrong.

On our way home, we stopped off at Albertsons to get some dinner ingredients. And, much to our delight (while, mine, at least), we spotted … HIM.





An employee at a Spirit Halloween Store, he stood on the sidewalk next to a busy street, dressed up like a giant blueberry, hoping to lure customers into the nearby store with his dance moves and blueberry-ing.  Well, that’s what he said when we pulled up next to him, and I shouted “Hey, what’s your deal?” out the window.

(OK, I guess this wasn’t technically another giant fruit, just a dude dressed up as one. Counts in my book though.)

In the end, it took us about two hours longer than we needed, and we drove 150 miles out of our way, but our adventure to find the Great Pumpkin was worth it. Linus would be proud.

Linus with sign


I demand a correction!

We were going through some old photo albums at my grandma’s house this weekend, and I came across this clipping from the publication for which I currently happen to work:


Yep, that second graf is a blurb announcing the birth of yours truly in the June 13, 1985, edition of the Great Falls Tribune, two weeks after I was born. Pretty cool, huh?

That’s what I thought, too, until I noticed … the error.

OK, “error” is not exactly accurate. It’s really just a typo. A typo made back in the day when reporters still click-clacked away on an old-timey machine called a “typewriter” and could not even imagine the simple convenience of hitting the backspace key to erase an error. During the era when they measured copy with pica poles and laid out the paper using “paste ups.” Whatever that means. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Check facts. They may have used computers by the ’80s … In which case, UNACCEPTABLE!)

But the irony of a proper grammar/spelling/punctuation enthusiast finding a typo more than 28 years later in her own birth announcement — published in the very paper for which she works, where she started her journalism career as a copy editor — was not lost on me.

So this morning, I strolled into the morning news meeting with other editors and reporters, slapped the clip down on the table in front of the city editor and demanded a correction. Of course, not everyone is cut out to be a copy editor, so I mainly received puzzled looks at first regarding the “error” I wanted corrected.

“Do I look like somebody’s DAUG-ter to you people?!?!?” I bellowed. “DO I?”

Most people caught on at this point, and we all had a good laugh. I was then reminded that we run corrections for factual errors, not typos. (Because let’s face it, with shrinking staffs and newshole, there’s simply not enough room to publish corrections for all the typos papers make these days … ba-du-dum-ching!)

I figured I’d give it a shot though. Maybe I’ll even write the correction myself and try to slip it in. I owe it to all the remaining copy editors out there to try, at least.

Missoula schoolchildren are a bunch of sissies

OK, maybe it’s a little unfair to blame the kids … they’re not the ones who canceled school, after all. But whoever did is a huge wimp.

I get that it’s cold and snowy outside, but this is nothing abnormal for Montana. Growing up in Helena, I never had one snow day during my 12 years in the system. Not ONE. And trust me, there were plenty of days that would have qualified in just about any other state.

I once dug my 1987 Honda Civic out of nearly three feet of snow and drove it uphill (both ways, mind you) to get to school. Took me the six hours that school was in session, but I made it, because I’m a Montanan, damnit. And we don’t freak out or come to a standstill or cancel school because of a little snow or sub-zero temperatures, like a g.d. Texan or something.

Until the Missoula County Public Schools decided to lead the way in the wussification of our state, anyway.

In fact, Helena has just as much snow today as Missoula (if not more), but the wind chill there is almost -30 (the actual temperature is -9), and they didn’t wimp out and cancel school.

The actual temperature in Missoula is a balmy 3 degrees above zero, for crying out loud! It only feels like it’s -16! And there’s what, maybe, maybe six inches of snow on the ground? Since when does that cause everyone to freak out and cancel life as we know it? This isn’t Seattle; we know how to drive in a few inches of the fluffy stuff.

That being the case, I have just one thing to say to the small to medium-sized children of Missoula: Buck up.

Slip on your little snow boots, your mitties, your fuzzy hats with the puffs on top, and deal with it. Like a real Montanan.

This dog can handle it, Missoula, so why can’t you? (NOTE: I’ve been told this is actually a North Dakota dog. They’re pretty tough, too.)

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