In a Tight Spot

Musings

So yesterday I had a bit of a flip-out. Errr… or seven, it’s hard to say. Perhaps it was just one long flip-out. Or a series of miniature flip-outs. Either way I couldn’t really stop reeling with some momentous life decisions I have made as of late.

Mainly meaning I am leaving Wyoming for a spell. I say a spell because my love for Wyoming is right up there with French Roast coffee and seeing any number below 200 on my scale.

I don’t leave Wyoming with any real joy as the mountains are a part of my soul in much the same way that God is. They are intrinsically linked. It is simply that waitressing and I are very much through. We’ve had a good—and by good I mean I am sincerely over it and never want to dally in the dark arts again—run, but as the walrus says, “the time has come.” And I knew it. I knew it before I knew it, ya know?

I read this article about quitting things that feel all wrong. And you should read it too, especially if something in you feels all wrong. But maybe don’t take advice from me. I am very whimsical and make most of my decisions based purely on my emotions. It is almost always a trainwreck but I know no other way. I’d make a really lousy president I’ll tell ya that much.

Anyhow, this article struck a chord and I could feel something churning in my gut. Besides the fact that my secluded mountaintop was getting increasingly dark and increasingly less internet signal, something inside of me began to feel restless, cutoff and altogether like this:

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I was starting to get real bluesy. And my anxiety levels were rivaling that of a drug lord being chased down by the Feds and their hounds. Do the Feds have hounds or am I thinking Scotland Yard? Anyhow, you get my drift.

It also didn’t help either that my real cute cowboy boyfriend was some 1600 miles away and when I had a freak-out of Cassandra proportions, instead of being able to hug me which would’ve done just fine, he said something cowboy-esque, like, “well you’re in a tight spot,” only adding fuel to my already mile hile anxiety-riddled flames.

Yeah, I am in a tight spot, sir. I put in my two weeks notice at my job, where I have hardly made a tip in months. I overdrew my checking account. And I just texted Sallie Mae who was calling me for their money, “Go fuck yourself Sallie Mae, I don’t have any money.” I typed this knowing full well the number calling me was a landline. It still made me feel marginally better.

I love the mountains/but loathe my job. However moving back East, no matter how many delightful things it brings with it, still has pitfalls of its own. Namely getting a new lifesuck job and writing my freaking novel—that no matter how hard I will it, does not seem to write itself.

I kid you not, I walked in the door last night to see I had an envelope from St. Martin’s Press, New York, N.Y. and I literally shook while opening it thinking the universe whispered in St. Martin’s ear and said, “psst, she’s ‘penning’ a novel if you’re interested.” And then St. Martin’s just decided to send me a gilt-edged invitation asking to publish me.

It turns out it was my holiday card from one of my all time favorite writers Augusten Burroughs—no we are not close personal friends, though I wish we were. Augusten if you’re reading this, let’s be friends—because I pre-ordered his new book with his promise to send me a holiday card. I was mildly disappointed when I saw that the card wasn’t personally signed by Augusten but merely a typed out thanks.

Ah well. My heart still skipped a couple beats knowing that St. Martin’s Press and Augusten Burroughs now knew my P.O. Box in Wyoming.

And with this I had the dawning realization that no matter where I go or what I say: that mountains or the sea, or a cottage-like interior, or a big writer’s desk or loads of windows, doesn’t magically manifest more writing. I simply have to write wherever I am because it is my calling and it must be done.

So leaving, because leaving feels right for right now, does not mean my writing has to stay here where it’s prettier than a painted pony. No. My writing has to come with me and whether or not I have another lifesuck job (I probably will, because Sallie Mae is ruthless and relentless) I am still a writer and I will still find my way. Muddled and disconcerting though the whole path may be, I shall trudge on anyway.

And I will leave you with this beautiful quote from Cheryl Strayed that made my whole morning brighter and the better for living:

You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts. You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you’ve got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all.”

Just Like Summer Camp

Musings

I have been perched in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming for just shy of two months now. I have had the good fortune to land a waitressing gig at a mountain lodge which is en route to Yellowstone National Park. For being someone who embraces change in a variety of ways and does somewhat ludicrous things all the time, like buying one way tickets to New York City or selling all my belongings to move Westward, one would surmise that I’d be well versed in how to handle overwhelming newness when it’s upon me.

I do handle it. However, I will be perfectly honest in saying that every time I land somewhere new, I ultimately have a smallish panic attack, question my sanity and immediately want to go back home due to frazzled nerves. But because this isn’t my first rodeo (honestly if I had a dime for every time I worked that into conversation in the West…) I stick it out, knowing that adventure will find me and I will be okay.

Sure enough, after my initial misgivings about being cut off from the world atop a mountain, in a rugged lodge with animal heads staring at me from every corner and a noose hanging from the ceiling of the bar—I kid you not—I embraced life in the cowboy state. And with that acceptance came a variety of wholly new experiences accompanied by feelings of staggering awe.

Besides the mountains, moose and men which I have prattled on enough about, there are some other things I have yet to mention. For instance, the fact that my new employers provide housing and food for their employees. We are somewhat mountain-locked up at the lodge, so unless I wanted to go hunt down a bear, errr and a crossbow for said hunting, or drive thirty miles down switchbacks to the nearest grocery store, which is in fact half a gas station, I would probably starve if they didn’t kindly offer me meals.

Now here is the fun part about the lodge—and truth be told there are loads of fun parts—for breakfast we can order off of the menu. So having a cook prepare me a Belgian Waffle with strawberries any time I feel like, basically makes me feel like a Little Princess. And I mean like the movie, A Little Princess, where she is shut off in that horrible attic, but then one morning she wakes up to silks and sausages. That’s me, up here. Sure there are antlers everywhere and my bed definitely has multiple fleece blankets because the mountains can get a real chill about them, even in July, but no matter, I still feel like a Little Princess almost daily. Even if I am shoving said Belgian waffle into my mouth in a frenzied hurry in between waiting tables as I am usually too busy for leisure waffle time.

Besides having a cook prepare my breakfast (and lunch and dinner but breakfast is my favorite), I also live amidst tall, tall pines and log cabins galore. Before I got situated in my cozy trailer, I was living out of one of the hotel rooms. The ceiling in my room went up in the shape of a roof and was made of wooden beams. My favorite way to fall asleep was staring up at those rustic wooden beams in happy gratitude until dozing off. Then there was the laundry area, which is located in a cabin nearby. It was stocked full of novels and old Reader’s Digests. And as someone who hates doing her laundry, I loved doing it in this cabin. It sincerely reminded me of the movie The Parent Trap. As a gal who always longed to go to summer camp, this is truly what my experience of living at a mountain lodge has felt like: summer camp.

Except I work almost 60 hours a week, which really means I repeatedly tell customers my life story and spill caramel pie topping, coffee or tea all over myself, because I am both verbose and non-graceful like that, but besides that whole earn your keep business, every day walking amidst the pines, having bonfires and game nights with slews of boys—as if they were from the boys camp next door, but really they are my ultra cool coworkers—and hiking mountain-top after mountain-top makes me feel like I got the summer camp experience I always wanted after all. The only real difference is that now I get to drink all the beer I fancy because I am a grown-up lady. And so this is better in fact.

Isn’t it grand how life rewards you like that?

The Mountains, the Moose, the Men, Oh My!

Musings

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The West: where does a small-town Midwestern gal even begin? For starters I have been here in Wyoming for exactly one week and I am already so drunk on sheer adventure overload that starting at the beginning feels so long-gone.

Perhaps I could go backwards starting with seeing a cowboy lasso this afternoon. I wanted to faint upon seeing this, like an overwrought lady of yore. But I don’t think the cowboy would’ve understood. He maybe would’ve just assumed I wasn’t used to the elevation when in reality I am not used to so many manly men doing manly things like practicing rope handling and looking dashing while doing so.

Or yesterday how I went four-wheeling in a landscape that could only be described as some sort of decadent mix between Alaska and somewhere the Von Trapp children would roam. I hate to start describing Wyoming with references to other places as Wyoming stands alone in her splendor, but it’s the only comparison I can draw. I kept squealing, “holy buckets!” at a loss for any other explanation for my feelings upon seeing mountains and valleys and elk, that my four-wheeling companion, D2—a bearded outdoorsman who works at the lodge—chuckled and started saying holy buckets the rest of our 30-mile off-roading journey.

He let me drive on the way home and I drove us through a creek, nestled between two bluffs, made sure to hit every mud puddle as speedily as I could and the best part? We saw fourteen moose, one so close to our trail that I sincerely feared for my life as he casually eyed us, eyeing him. Those beasts are indeed massive and have a justifiably cocky look about them that bespeaks of their majesty in the forest.

Or there’s the fact that on our second day at the lodge the fellas taught Kirst and I poker and all initial ditzy doodling aside, we actually raked in the chips. Okay fine I did have a little help from the outdoor adventure guide who called me sweetheart during the game and would tap my leg multiple times when I needed to raise my bet, but still, I think I might need to go to Vegas. Just kidding, I would definitely need my pal to tap my leg for instructions and I think they frown upon that sort of thing in Vegas. In fact I’m sure I would probably be taken out back and have my kneecaps broken and be asked never to visit again. I digress, of course.

I definitely feel like I might be living in an old-timey Western movie. Especially when I meet old cowboys named Merle who kiss my hand upon meeting me. Or when I discovered that there are wild mustangs on the other side of the mountain where I reside. Simply knowing I was in the vicinity of wild mustangs nearly made me choke up with swells of gratitude for the beauty of life in the West. Or the fact that I have driven through what seems to be intense fog and suddenly I descend from the mountain and it clears and I see in my rearview mirror that it wasn’t fog at all, but indeed a mass of clouds I was just passing through.

The mountains, the moose, the mustangs, the men, the majesty, oh my! It’s easy to see why a gal could become overwrought with emotion and simply need to pass out. Or barf. As I pointed out to Kirst today about a man we met while hiking who later met up with us for coffee. His beard was dark and lush. His flannel was, well a flannel. And he laughed at our banter. When he left I turned to Kirst and said, “can we talk about how cute he is?!” Kirst responded, “He is so cute I could puke.” Amen, sister. Amen. The men here are so cute I too could just about vom. But I won’t, as that’s unladylike.

Anyhow. I want to wax more poetic. Always more poetic. But it is my first day off and I need to find more adventure. Wyoming would have hurt feelings if I didn’t. But here are some pictures from our first hike so you understand all this melodrama.

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Cat Pajamas and Champagne

Musings

IMG_2582Remember when you were young and your biggest problem was your mom calling you inside before you were ready to come in? That was a major problem of mine too, but my actual biggest problem was getting my next door neighbor, Joel Wisuri to fall in love with me. And my spending every waking moment with him was integral to the hopes of love developing. Come to think of it, getting boys to fall in love with me still seems to be one of my biggest problems. But I digress.

This occurred to me the other day while driving down the dirt road of my youth and passing a gated off area—it has been gated off since childhood, but that didn’t stop us from breaking in anyway and sledding on the smallish hills.  I remembered vividly going to that hill, sleds in tow with Joel and my brother Jordan and being delighted when Joel and I went down in the sled once together and I had to hold onto his waist, to which he didn’t even object. 

He did, however, object to my advances a few years later when I confessed during a game of Truth or Dare that if I had a choice of anyone in the world to marry I’d choose him. My sister (who was in the sixth grade at the time) chose Bruce Willis. I should’ve followed her lead and chosen my celeb crush who was the more conventional Brad Pitt, as Joel ignored me the rest of my high school career for that brazen move. Eh, I always was a dive head first kinda gal.

Joel is now happily married, so clearly it’s terrific that he didn’t listen to me. Also let the record state that if you have a penis, I’m not related to you—well… I did have a crush on my cousin, Spencer when I was in the second grade, but it was prior to my being informed that was frowned upon—and you’ve—no matter how fleetingly—crossed paths with me: I’ve most certainly had a crush on you. So the likelihood that my childhood crush was my match is the same likelihood that I won’t have a crush on the cashier at Bed, Bath and Beyond just because he has a beard and smiled vaguely in my direction. Of course I had a crush on him! Did you hear the beard part? Also I checked for a ring and he didn’t have one. So yeah. The crush is well founded.

My point is that the problem of winning over Joel was hardly a problem at all and in truth my childhood can be described as pretty idyllic. Besides being the oldest of a zillion little brothers and sisters that I helped tend to, I was mostly left to my own devices which were books and planning my grandiose love stories. Before I even moved to Fowlerville and met Joel I had been living in a duplex in Howell where new neighbors were constantly moving in and out of the apartment upstairs.

One family had two girls my age named Jackie and Jessica. The thing is they must’ve been sweet and wholesome girls as I remember sharing a mutual love of horses and my mom let me sleepover upstairs (and my mom has never been keen on sleepovers) frequently. But what I remember more than our propensity to name our future horses, were Jackie and Jessica’s fancy pajamas.

When I would sleep over they would give me a choice of one of their nighties. They had a red one and a white one. Both were lacey and impossibly provocative. This was before I even knew what provocative was, and so all I thought when I saw these fancy lace pajamas were medieval princesses wore these numbers and how cool their mom was to let them sleep in such splendor.

Later I would come to realize that the girls weren’t in possession of medieval princess pajamas. Jackie and Jessica had simply been given their mother’s castoff lingerie. It doesn’t matter though. These pajamas took me to a place that felt decadent and luxurious and beautiful. Again, the only problem here was how to get my parents to buy me lingerie at eight-years-old.

Today? Well besides the fact that I cannot afford lingerie even if I wanted to sleep in it, which I don’t—I have been sleeping in the same pink worn cotton nightshirt with a fat cat on it that says ‘Nutritional Overachiever’ for about a decade now. It has a hole at the bottom and is so beloved that when the shirt eventually falls apart one day I will weep as if I were actually losing a fat cat and not just a cotton nightie—and men still let me put my arms around their waist but then have no interest in dating me. Like childhood, these problems aren’t my real problems at all.

Normally my biggest grievance is my inner tube-esque midsection and even that hardly aggravates me like it used to.

No my real adult problems are far worse than whether or not I look like a medieval princess for bed or bagging a bearded gent, or even minimizing my girth. No these days it’s debilitating self-doubt combined with mountains of debt all while grappling with the realization that life is definitely akin to scaling Everest, and even if you do make it all the way to the top, you probably lost all your toes and are somewhat insane from the ascent.

But here’s the beauty in it all. Sure childhood is ignorant bliss. And yes adulthood nearly drives you to drink. In fact, it begs it of you at every turn. Actually that is one of my favorite parts of adulthood. The access to champagne and fancy beers in frosted mugs. But seriously, I digress yet again.

Yeah adulthood sometimes feels like more than I can handle, but then I remember how sage and terribly cool—if carrying your board game collection in your car and spending more money on coffee than pants makes one cool—I’ve gotten in my old age and how cotton cat pajamas really are way better than negligees and having a love affair with the mountains feels more satisfying to me than a man ignoring me for Sports Center.

Hmmm. Maybe adulthood isn’t so bad after all. Except I have to renew my license plate tabs and call the bank and figure out some student loan issues… Ew. But hey, I can drive to the mountains whenever I feel like and sleep on my trampoline without asking permission so, you win some, you lose some.