Jul 12, 2012

Swimming suit or grey suit? You tell me who's happier today...

Today, while filling the newspaper stands with the latest edition of the Big Timber Pioneer, I had a wonderful moment.
A woman, sitting in her vehicle behind me, was waiting patiently to buy her newspaper. I had hardly gotten the door shut before she hustled over to put her three quarters in the slot and grab the top copy of newsprint. Then, as if she just couldn't wait to get home, she sat in her car and started reading. 

I'm sure I saw her smiling, and I hoped she really enjoyed it. It sure made me smile to think that our hard work each week creates a final product that does a service that our community enjoys. I hope that's the case for the majority, at least. 

I drove to the next stand thinking to myself, 'Self, that was a really nice moment. That's a good one to remember and be thankful for.'

It was the highlight of my day.
Then, I traveled to the big city (Livingston, about 35 miles away) and ate fast food for the first time in nearly two months. Taco Johns, none the less. Ah, be still, my crunchy-chicken-and-potato-burrito-loving heart.

In case you didn't know, I don't get out much.

As I reveled in the cheap, cheesy, potato ole heap of goodness, I thought to myself, 'Self, this is a really nice moment. Don't even tell yourself you have to run it off later. 'Cause you're not. You're going to savor this.'
It as the highlight of my day.

Then, I came home. Home to my lovely little mountain town; home to my quiet little office and my quiet little life. My phone rang. It was a lady from my golf team. She wanted to know if I wanted an air conditioner. May I repeat: she wanted to know if I wanted an air conditioner. That she would help me haul up to my apartment.

She wanted to give me an air conditioner. She wanted to give me an air conditioner. SHE WANTED TO GIVE ME AN AIR CONDITIONER.
If you can't understand what kind of happiness that causes, then you've obviously never lived in a pent house suite (a.k.a., small, attic apartment) through a month of 100+ degree heat with no fans or air conditioning.

For weeks, I've been wearing a swimming suit in my home, sitting on the floor because I'm sick of sticking to the couch and compulsively eating pints of ice cream out of the carton just because I needed something to do while resting my head in the freezer. Weeks, I tell you! My figure can't take any more!

And then out of the blue, this dear, sweet woman just offers to give me an air conditioner. 

As I sat on my couch and basked in it's sweet coolness, I thought to myself, 'Self, this is a really nice moment. You better go finish that last pint of ice cream to celebrate. Ya... to celebrate.'

My day just got hot-yellow highlighted all over. 
Of course, Stones is still unsure of what to think of this new contraption, taking up his window space and limiting his view of the kingdom. But I'm sure he'll come around... while I've been lounging around in my swimming suit to beat the heat, he's been wearing that heavy grey suit all summer long - I don't know how he does it!

Jun 8, 2012

Common sense... and the occasional lack there of.

Me and my big ideas... I don't know why, but I've always got some big dang illogical notion in my head. Sometimes it works out well, like deciding one week to buy a pickup, sell all my stuff and move what's left of my life across the country. Other times, like in the case of my dream to own my own town, I'm forced to accept the fact that sometimes my big ideas are just plain ridiculous... which is typically the case.

The area of my biggest ideas usually appear in my kitchen. Always with the most innocent intentions, things seems to just get away from me there.

Such was the case tonight. A home wine tasting party is in my near future, and I volunteered to bring a dessert. May I repeat... A dessert. Singular.

Ok, so what goes good with wine? Chocolate, of course! Yes, a chocolate cake it would be.

Buuuuuuut... Wouldn't it be cute if that chocolate cake was actually little individual chocolate cakes that went in the "tasting" category?? Why yes, that would be cute!

So in real life, those are called 'cupcakes,' but that would be too easy for me. Oh, no... I wanted true samplers. Little baby cakes, if you will. I happen to own a wonderful little mini-muffin tin, which would make the most delectable little bite-sized cakes, perfect for our lovely little tasting party.
Turns out, one chocolate cake makes more than 100 adorable little bite-sized cakes. And adorable little bite-sized cakes get a lot less adorable when you suddenly realize that means filling more than 100 adorable little bite sized times with 1/8 of a cup portions of adorable sticky little bite-sized cake batter.
It also means digging more than 100 adorable little mini cakes out of that adorable little mini-tin and dabbing an adorable little dollop of warm frosting on the top if those adorable little cake tops. One tablespoon at a time.

Oh, and don't forget to keep the frosting warm between each adorable little batch.
Of course, then you also have to find space in your adorable little tiny apartment kitchen to splay all these adorable little mini cakes out while they cook one adorable little tin at a time in your adorable little 1960s camper stove.

Real freakin' adorable, this clustered mess of chocolate, let me tell you.
Oh, and then where does one store more than 100 adorable little frosted mini cakes?? What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino? Ell-if-I-know!! That's where.

So if, in your life, you ever consider how adorable it would be to make a hundred or so adorable little mini cakes, let's all just keep this in mind: when you and your friends are six bottles deep in your oh-so-classy "wine tasting" party, with little bite-sized chocolate cakes and gooey chocolate frosting smearing all over your adorable little finger-food loving hands, no one is going to care if you made 100 adorable little mini cakes or baked one big-assed cake, slathered it with mess of frosting and then chopped it into 100 little pieces. Or heck, for that matter, brought the whole big ol' heap of it in one piece, handed out a bunch of spoons and said: "Make your OWN bite size!"

But if course, that logical realization will only come later. After all the adorableness of your day has worn off.

Is it wine tasting time yet?
And just for good measure, I threw a raspberry shortcake into the chaos afterward. You know, to go with the white Franzia. Because I can just never leave well enough alone. 

May 18, 2012

It's time to get a gun... and a fanny pack

"You know, that's another good reason to get a gun...." my boss said for at least the seventh time in my first week of work.

"It must sound like I'm really encouraging a gun..." he finally added this afternoon. "I'm not pushing it, I'm just saying... It might work better than bear spray if you run into one."

Good point.

It started out with him casually mentioning one afternoon: Well, I need to run to the commissioners office, grab an interview there, stop by and chat with a school board member, then go grab some ammo at the Fort before I go to cover the planning meeting tonight.

What?! What kind of story are you planning to write at the planning meeting?! Is this how you create good news for a small town paper?

No, no, no... None of those things. Rather, he was preparing for the handgun handling course being offered by the local deputy sheriff over the weekend, which he was participating in. After that, he explained, you could apply for a concealed carry permit, which he wasn't sure he wanted, but a good option to have if he wanted it. I should look into it, if interested. Might be a good thing for a girl to have.

The next day, I mentioned I had found a quiet little road with a beautiful view to run on. I had to cross some tracks and go past some abandoned buildings - was that safe?

Oh yes, I'm sure it is, he assured me. But, they do make some pretty small handguns that I could fit in a fanny pack and take running with me, if I wanted to.

Um, Ok... Like trying to carry and conceal my iPhone while running wasn't already hard enough!

Then I went for a Sunday afternoon drive in the mountains, exploring the area and basking in the views. But I wasn't sure where would be safe to get out and wander around, so I just stuck to the main roads.

Well, that was probably a good bet, although I probably would have also been safe to stick on any visible trail. But probably wouldn't hurt to have a .38 on the trail with you just in case...

A discussion about picking up and writing the blotter briefs revealed that in the four years he's been the editor of the paper here, there's only been one violent crime in this town. It's really a very safe place... People don't lock their houses, they leave cars running on the street, they rent apartments to new reporters on a handshake and a spoken agreement (seriously!). But you know, that often leaves people with their guard down, not paying attention to their surroundings. You definitely want to lock your pickup, especially if there's a gun in there!

And then... You know, we had a reporter here once who had a really long driveway. In the winters, sometimes her road would get so bad she'd have to just park and walk almost a mile to get to the house. There were mountain lions out there, so she always carried a pistol. But once she brought it into the office in her purse... that was really not a good idea. Please don't do that if you get a gun. Probably better to just leave it in the pickup. Locked.

Today, I shared my desire to own a camper in order to fully enjoy life here in the great outdoors. Guess what I'll need before I go out camping? You guessed it.

You definitely don't want to go out there without bear spray, and you for sure want to biggest bottle they have, he says. Trust me, if you're staring a bear in the face, you do NOT want to just be packing the travel size. So, you have that in your back pack and something light enough to conceal for personal protection but stout enough to actually make an impact if you have to shoot the bear in your fanny pack. You know, they make fanny packs these days with special pockets just to hold a nice sized pistol. See, there's another good reason to get a gun....

So... There you have it. In the words of the lovely Miranda Lambert: it's time to get a gun, that's what I've been thinking. Welcome to Montana, friends -- where everyone (and seriously, I mean everyone) is packing heat and fanny packs are an acceptable accessory.

I freaking love this place.

So also... any suggestions on what kind of a gun would be logical for me to purchase? Apparently, my years as a Big Buck Hunter have not prepared me for this decision.

May 7, 2012

20 minutes of change

What kind of difference can 20 short minutes make? Depending on how you look at it, it's less than the majority of an hour or it's 1,200 incredibly long seconds. 

For these buffalo, 20 minutes meant the difference between putting their noses to the ground and slogging through the beating snow and a leisurely walk in the park (Yellowstone National Park, that is). 

At the famous Old Faithful Geyser, 20 minutes can be the deciding factor between barely differentiating slight upward movement from the slanted, barreling snow and waiting another 40 minutes after it's cleared for the usually awe-inspiring natural explosion to take place again.  

If you're driving through America's first national park, 20 minutes can be the difference between being wide-eyed or white-knuckled on the road.

20 minutes can bring dramatic change, especially if you're talking about Wyoming weather.
But what about 20 seconds?

I loved a lot of things about this movie (seriously... they bought a ZOO!), but this quote really stuck with me. 20 seconds of insane courage could change nothing more than the next 20 seconds of your life or it could be the action you need to change the next 20 years.

It took me less than 20 seconds to say "yes" to a new job offer, but it felt like it took all 24 years of my life to muster up the courage I needed to say it. That short moment of insane courage then gave me two weeks to change my state of residence, change my career, change my surroundings, dramatically change my immediate and potentially long-term future.

Now, on my first day of that new career I said "yes" to, I feel like I'm going to need a Santa sack (you know, like the never-ending kind) full of those 20-second spurts of insane courage.

It's terrifying to start something new; trusting your gut and going all in on what just feels right. Really, why does it always make your gut hurt so much to get up the courage to just follow it? Maybe that's just me... but here's to hoping something great comes of it today.

May 5, 2012

A band of gypsies; one now semi-grounded.

Here's a fun answer to the simple phone question 'what are you doing?'

"Oh, you know... Just driving across America."
"Why? Oh, because I just left what was my dream career, sold all my furniture, sold my car, bought a truck, packed it full with all my remaining belongings and decided to move to Montana to a town I have never been to before to take a job with people I've never met."

"Ya... So, uh... what are you up to?"

I had a couple of those conversations this week with friends and family who didn't get the inside scoop as my life spun through a whirlwind of new directions over the past couple weeks. Admittedly, I should have made a few more explanatory phone calls that would have prevented those awkward "You're doing WHAT?!" conversations, but heck, let's be honest... the youngest child in me kinda likes the shock factor of it all.

But my favorite road trip conversation was somewhere on a never-ending stretch of I-90, as my co-pilot and I each ended phone calls with mutual friends.

Darci, the co-pilot from heaven and most wonderful road trip passenger ever, said, "Isn't it funny that a girl from Texas and another from Wyoming who met during two brief stints living in Ohio are driving across South Dakota on their way to move to Montana while one talks on the phone with a friend from Michigan who lives in Ohio and the other talks to a California girl living in Missouri?"

"Besides being the longest run-on sentence ever? Yes, that is funny. We are somewhat of an eclectic little band of gypsies."
It made me think of how blessed our little gypsy hearts are: a group of young, mostly single friends who have traveled a majority of the lower 48 and some abroad, banded together somehow in a small town in Ohio Amish country to leave a brief but bold mark on one another's lives.

It was hard to say goodbye to all of them, but I know many of their little gypsy hearts will eventually scatter, too. Our paths seem just as likely to cross in national transit as they were living and working in the same town.

My Twitter handle describes me as a "Husker by birth, Wyomingite at heart, Ohioan by career choice." Now, I'll add Montanan by lifestyle choice and couldn't be more excited about it.

Being back in a rural town with more cows than people suits me. Trading in cubicle walls for a mountain panorama just makes sense, and a freshly stamped year-long National Parks pass seems to fit the wallet slot that used to hold my company credit card just fine.

I'll be a bit more grounded here - less airports, less frequent hotel stay points, less six-states-in-five-days hectic work trips. Less conference calls, calendar updates and meeting requests; more appreciating the people, places and circumstances that surround the present moment. More interest in making a geographical location into a home, more writing and photography, more time with family and friends, more scenery that has never seen concrete.

Speaking of living more in the moment...

No iPhones allowed in Yellowstone National Park. 'Cause that's where I'm at right now. It's a sweet hour and a half from my new home. Talk about making intangible job benefits more tangible...