Eyes on the Mountains (Part 1)

Musings

I used to fancy myself a city girl. I sat in my humble house in the country, located in a small farm town in Lower Michigan and dreamed of getting out. I envisioned bigger and better. To me bigger and better was New York City. I watched When Harry Met Sally as a teen, and seeing Sally aimlessly walk through Central Park with Harry, or drag her Christmas tree down twinkly streets was so picturesque and vastly different from Fowlerville, Michigan that I latched onto that place and vowed to get there.

All my thoughts orbited around New York City. How to get there, how to make it there, how to have what Sally had. So easy and simple. She moved there as a hopeful writer and voila, she was a writer. She had this friend that kept coming back to her and he fell in love with her. She watched Casablanca and had lunches at the Boathouse with her girlfriends, while bemoaning men.

I moved to New York City, fresh with my newly minted writing degree, down ninety-two pounds from working my arse off on The Biggest Loser and ready to take on the city streets, writing and love with all my know-how from When Harry Met Sally. Imagine my surprise and dismay when the only jobs I could find were waitressing and Starbucks. The only men looking my way were gay (fabulous, but not interested in any sort of lip-locks) and the city streets, while magical in their own right, were also fraught with a lot of trash and noise, making me realize that maybe making it there wasn’t like the movies at all.

I am sure a lot of people could’ve told me that. And there’s a reason Frank Sinatra croons, “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!” This is true. NYC is not for the faint of heart. I don’t believe myself to be faint of heart, but I think I gave a lot of credence to my city love (based on a movie and a couple class trips to Chicago as a youngster) and zero credence to my country love.

I was having the worst anxiety of my life while living in New York City. While she was a dreamy place full of fantastic culture, art, cupcakes, architecture and wonder, I felt closed in and manic. I never slept while I lived there. This isn’t one of my dramatic exaggerations. I really didn’t sleep; at least not at night. I had insomnia that wouldn’t go away and I utilized this the best I could by training for my first marathon in the middle of the night, instead of tossing and turning in bed, fitful with worry and damp with sweat.

I lived in Brooklyn Heights and I would leave my apartment in the middle of the night and start running: across the Brooklyn Bridge, weaving through Manhattan’s skyscrapers, past policemen milling about, fishermen fishing off the pier, kids skateboarding, and the homeless sleeping against fence-enclosed graveyards. And then I would run back and sit on a bench looking at the sun coming up across the Manhattan skyline while rats scurried beneath my feet. I would amble home, shower and lay in bed in utter exhaustion until eventually I dozed somewhere around five, or sometimes as late as seven.

I remember talking to my friend once as I walked to work in the Village, telling her that maybe I overestimated how much of a city girl I was and underestimated how much of a country girl I was. This troubled me, because I wondered how I could be so wrong about a place I had planned on loving for over a decade.

A need for nature kept hounding me, a need to escape to somewhere quiet where I could gather my thoughts, which were as rampant and erratic as the New York City rats. I would look at the skyline and wish it were mountains. I wanted all the hustle and bustle to be forest-still silence. I wanted the murky concrete puddles to be cloud reflected lakes.

My mom blamed all of this on a love who had recently broken my heart and then up and moved to Alaska while I headed for the big city. She thought the reason I saw mountains instead of skyscrapers was because of him. And that the whole heartbreak thing was ill-timing, ruining my NYC experience. And maybe to a certain extent it was. But I think it was more than that.

I think the mountains were in me long before that love came along and broke my heart, long before I saw When Harry Met Sally, and perhaps long before I even knew which way to go.

When things began to promptly fall apart in NYC, around the time I was due to fly back to the Midwest for my marathon, I didn’t much feel like going back. I was in between apartments and without a place to live. I was sleeping in a hostel in the fetal position and sniveling, wondering how in God’s name Madonna had done it, and starting to unravel in a most disheartening way. I would wander into churches and cry alone in a back pew. Or find parks to sit and do yoga-style breathing techniques and then get mad when I heard an ambulance blare on by.

When I told my mom after my marathon that I couldn’t go back, I just couldn’t, she seemed distressed, thinking I was giving up on my dream and that I had to just stick it out—the anxiety and insomnia and noise. My mom wasn’t being pushy, she was being supportive of how bad I had wanted this one dream.

I couldn’t do it though. I loved New York City and truly always will, but I knew what I needed and it wasn’t skyscrapers and bustling streets. In fact a guy I had started dating around this time took me out one day when I was visiting a friend in Maryland. I was still living in New York and was wildly shaken up. He asked if I wanted to go see Washington D.C. and I all but screamed, no! I didn’t want to be in the city. I didn’t want to hear traffic or see people. I wanted him to take me into the country. “Where?” he asked. I told him where the pumpkins and apples grow.

It may have come as a shock to everyone who knew me and knew how badly I wanted the city-girl life when I abandoned ship and ended up moving to Virginia. Granted I was living outside of Washington D.C. in an urban metropolis about as busy as NYC, but I told my boyfriend at the time that I didn’t care where we lived as long as I had a view of the mountains and easy access to them. Suddenly the mountains became my new focal point.

They were my obsession and I wanted my eyes on them at all times. On my way to work they were on my left; on my way home, on my right. I wanted to talk about them constantly and found myself in a continuing state of awe over their grandeur. I must admit not many people in Virginia seemed to share my amazement. I got a lot of people giving the Blue Ridge Mountains the ol’ brush off and saying, well have you seen the ones out West? I had not, but I thought it was a little disrespectful to discount mountains right in front of us, for even bigger ones far, far away. Clearly these people weren’t mountain lovers.

And with my eyes on the mountains I started rerouting my belief system. About what I really wanted and questioning where I really belonged. I considered that maybe I belonged in Virginia because I had fallen in love with her and the man that lived there. And yet… there was still a displaced restlessness deep down that haunted me. It didn’t keep me up quite as badly as it had in New York, but it was there lurking in the shadows all the time.

To be continued…

Cheers to Naysayers

Musings

Let’s have a little talk about naysayers, shall we? Naysayers may seem like the bunion on the toe of life, but they are very much the opposite. At least for me anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not surround myself with naysayers, because constant naysaying or negativity would surely bring a gal down. No, no. But a well-placed naysayer is motivational gold.

I just had one the other day while I was waitressing. My last day of waitressing in fact, so the timing was impeccable.

It was a couple that I liked as I had them many times before. They weren’t awful tippers, they were kind and jovial, and they were always very understanding if I got swamped and couldn’t tend to them in a timely manner. Overall, I had no beef with these people—still don’t in fact. Toward the end of their meal, however, we got to talking and I told them I was leaving Wyoming, but that I would be back one day to get me some land.

I thought it was a nice thing to say, complimenting their state and all, but this is where things veered into the naysayery.

The woman of the pair, squinted at me, and said, “Land here is very expensive,” like she was imparting some great wisdom on me, because clearly I didn’t know land in the jutting mountains of the West would cost a pretty penny.

She also looked entirely certain that my coming back to buy land was preposterous as she carried on with her wisdom-giving.

“Maybe if you go to school one day…” she said looking hopeful that I could make something of myself other than glorified food-schlepper.

“I’ve been to school,” I said matter-of-factly. “I have my Bachelors.”

“Oh?!” she beamed brightly, “what in? Nursing? Because we are always looking for nurses and that pays well enough.”

Side note: Why does everyone and their cocker spaniel think being a nurse—I commend you nurses, love what ya do, but I could never, ever be you—is a viable solution to my wayward artistic dreams? I cannot tell you how many people have suggested I become a nurse. My parents even did at one point, encouraging me to do it for the job security, probably fearing a likelihood of my living in a cardboard box near Union Station. That hasn’t happened yet, though I was vaguely homeless for a spell in NYC, but that’s a story for another day.

It doesn’t matter that the sight of blood makes me queasy and the only math I like to do is computing tips when I go out to eat (for the record folks, 20% should be your baseline and I encourage you to go up from there). I actually have no idea how much math is actually involved in nursing, but I will tell you I considered being an interior designer once and when the woman I job-shadowed told me there was math involved, I promptly closed the file on that career choice. That is how much I despise math. Math in my opinion is like dating a redhead. It should be avoided at all costs. Unless he’s Scottish. Then all bets are off.

I digress.

I informed the woman that I did not go to school for nursing, but that I was a writer. Her brow furrowed once more, clearly determining that I was a hopeless case.

“Well,” she floundered, clearly out of ideas on directing me to make enough money to afford land.

I smiled and firmly told her I wasn’t worried.

She decided to worry for me anyway, the dear. I said my goodbyes and she wished me well on getting back to Wyoming one day.

I was ecstatic. I hadn’t had a good naysayer in so long. One who really lit a fire in my insides. While this woman was in no way mean-spirited and in all respects just seemed a practical sort, I loved that she seemed none too confident that I could ever A. Purchase my own land or B. Make enough money as a writer to purchase aforementioned expensive mountain land.

I felt like the Grinch when the lightbulb goes off to steal Christmas and his smile goes up to his hairline in unadulterated glee. The last person who told me I couldn’t do something was an elderly chauvinist who spewed what a waste of money horses were on top of the fact that poor hapless husbands were the ones getting saddled with the bill for the whole lot.

“Why does my husband need to buy me a horse?” I asked him curiously.

He also looked as taken aback as the woman who thought a waitress could ever buy her own damn land.

“Who else would buy it?” he nearly spat.

“I would,” I looked him in the eye.

“You?! How?” he asked, like I’d just told him I was in fact running for president while working at a mountaintop lodge.

“With my own money…” I said, trying not to insinuate he was dense.

He harrumphed and shook his head, like it was impossible.

“How?” he insisted.

“I make my own money now,” I said patiently, though I wanted to scream, what do you mean how!? “And I will make my own money later too, when I decide to buy a horse.”

He still didn’t believe me and muttered declarations under his breath about a woman buying her own horse, now he’d heard everything.

This guy honestly annoyed me a great deal, but I of course channeled that annoyance. Filed it away for a rainy day. Now that was stacked upon this woman not believing I was capable of purchasing anything other than a candy bar.

Now I had some serious ammunition. A man telling me I could never afford a horse. Check. A woman telling me I could never afford land. Check. Now all I needed was someone insinuating I couldn’t make it as a writer and I will be fully locked and loaded. That’s gun terminology right? I don’t really know. But I do know I also want a pistol when I go back West.

My favorite naysayer example was this “friend” I had from high school who told me she’d always prayed I would never lose the weight because I had such a pretty face and she didn’t want the competition in the man department. She said this to me after I had grown progressively chubbier in college and we were on a walk where I was bemoaning said weight. Her response was to happily confess her feelings on my weight loss. She said it with a giggle too, like it was all so amusing, but wasn’t it nice that I was pretty? I had that at least and shouldn’t fret over being fat, especially when it would coincide with her dating life.

I used that wonderful naysayer to help me land a pretty sweet gig on The Biggest Loser. And while I am currently no Kate Moss, I have never loved myself more, cellulite or otherwise. So thanks, girl. I appreciate your hideous confession, without you I fear I may not have gotten all the gumption for the life change I needed.

My point with all this is that having good friends and family be your cheerleaders and have your back is vital. I couldn’t accomplish any of the things I have accomplished without all of their well-wishes, pick-me-ups and unwavering support. But I tell ya what, just a couple solid naysayers sprinkled in the mix with their doubt and snark are just as vital to my making it. Because you know what’s happening here? I am charging forth on a path with fiery determination to prove myself right—I can afford a freaking horse and land! Okay not in this exact moment per se, but mark my words, I can and I will. Also should I procure a husband before I have purchased land, or a horse, I will firmly insist on buying them myself anyway. On principle.

So. Here’s to you, naysayers. I raise my mug—of hazelnut coffee—to you and your doubts and criticisms and sexist assumptions. Thank you kindly for believing a woman to be incapable, or helpless without a man, or feeble or a downright idiot. I look forward to the road ahead. And I especially look forward to proving you wrong. Cheers, mates.

I Resolve Not to Turn Thirty

Musings

I love New Years Resolutions lists. I pretty much do them every year. And every year there is always some version of get my body right on my list.

My first resolve is not to give two solid fucks about my weight this year. And maybe for the rest of my life, but we’ll see how that pans out. I initially thought maybe I wouldn’t weigh myself in 2016. But that already proved too difficult and I had to weigh myself to see what the post-Christmas damage was and how depressed I ought to be for the whole of January.

In all actuality it wasn’t as grim as I anticipated and I was blue about the scale number for maybe a day. Then I put on a dress and a cowboy hat and felt as hot as one can feel with slightly thinning hair and cellulite aplenty and strutted my stuff about the West anyway.

But moreover when it comes to weight and my body my main resolve is just to be kind to myself. That’s all. Be real kind. And being kind to my body definitely means not filling it with chicken fingers and sugar only to then lie around and watch an HGTV marathon. It means maybe running a marathon (okay, obviously I need to work my way back up to that one) and reacquainting myself with vegetables.

This quote sums things up rather nicely:

You don’t have to be young. You don’t have to be thin. You don’t have to be “hot” in a way that some dumbfuckedly narrow mind-set has construed that word. You don’t have to have taut flesh or a tight ass or an eternally upright set of tits. You have to find a way to inhabit your body while enacting your deepest desires. You have to be brave enough to build the intimacy you deserve. You have to take off all your clothes and say, I’m right here.
-Cheryl Strayed

I don’t want to be perpetually obsessed with being thin, especially when I like myself a lot, even with copious amounts of cellulite. But it’s really rather unfair to base anything on cellulite. I can still run and hike and take photos and cook and write and kiss just fine with cellulite. All my favorite things are still possible. So, what’s the prob, man? No problem actually. There is no absolutely no freakin’ problem. If my biggest problem is having cellulite then I really have a rather grandiose life.

Moving on.

I also resolve to shut up about writing my novel and just write the son of a bitch. Maybe I should also resolve to wash my mouth out with soap, but uh, I’m feelin a wee bit feisty in the new year.

I also happen to be turning thirty this year as I am sure none of you have heard, because I never bring it up. I kid. I haven’t shut up about it for the whole of being twenty-nine. And it is actually so tired to freak out about turning thirty. Everyone has a dozen conniptions about the number thirty. And I really have resolved not to be one of them and yet I have been. Which is so unlike me because I have never been the kind of gal who freaks over her age, or lies about it, or bemoans wanting back my fleeting youth. Nah. I know I am getting better with age. Are ya kidding me?! Twenty-three year old me was such a ninny. So insecure and unsure; and while that time needed to be, I am glad that time has passed.

But this is what I do resolve for impending thirty.
A. To not piss and moan about turning thirty.
B. Not to say thirty is the new twenty. No it’s not. It’s just thirty and what’s so wrong with thirty anyway? Some gal once said I want to be thirty, flirty and thriving, though I am not going to say that either… okay I might say that, because that does sound rather nice actually.
And lastly.
C. To embrace this number as a benchmark for achieving the goals I have set for myself. I am already very goal-oriented as is, and since this number has felt like a big to-do in my mind, I may as well use it in much the same way I used The Biggest Loser. As a humungo wake-up call to my life and my yearnings. It pushed me in a way that nothing else had pushed me before. And I feel that way about turning thirty. I feel it pushing me to be better and greater and make something of myself that aligns somewhere in the vicinity of what I know I am meant to be. Something that doesn’t involve asking someone what side they want with their hamburger: fries, sweet potato fries, chips, coleslaw or potato salad?

And while I am talking french fries, I also resolve to never be a waitress again. But I still have five days in 2016 to live that out before I can really bid adieu to bad tips and fingers caked with syrup and/or dried out from sanitizer water. But goodbye, friend, I wish I could say it’s been fun, but as Kia and I were kidding about putting laxative drops in our problem customers drinks the other day, I think it is time I hung up my apron as I am dangerously near breaking down in the towns of Bitter and Burned Out.

And lastly on my list of resolutions, I have resolved to be better with budgeting the money I do make and maybe make this the year that I do not overdraw my checking account. I did that this year already, but technically I am not counting it as I still have five months before I turn thirty and then I really can’t do it anymore. That would be so un-adult and uncouth of me and I will have nipped it in the bud by then. Besides, Bank of America is probably delighting way too much in the lofty amounts of money they get from me in overdraft fees, and they definitely don’t need all those $35’s as much as I do. Sorry Bank of America, you’ll have to get my money in some other sneaky fat cat way from here on out that doesn’t prey on my wild incompetency to budget my money properly.

So anyhow. Yeah. That’s about it. Maybe it’s not all that exciting if I am not touting lists of resolutions that include workouts worthy of Michelle Obama’s arms, but um, I actually think her arms are a little intense and mannish, so I will stick with my solid and simple list of five ways to be tops.

Happy 2016 kiddos!

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:

insane

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.”

The Execution

Musings

You know what writers used to do? They used to ride the rails to investigate hobos and no one cared. If I jumped a train now, surely I would get arrested and it’d be this big bureaucratic incident that would go on my permanent record and no one would appreciate that I was just trying to see if aimless vagabonds still rode the rails in search of new life and adventure. Or I would find a hobo and he’d be desperate for food, not adventure and he’d probably shank me thinking the fur on my coat was real and it’d be a whole bloody ordeal.

Or hopeful writers used to just brazenly walk into a newspaper to pitch a story and some editor appreciated their pluck and suddenly they had assignments.

Or maybe that’s just the romantic version in my brain, and maybe it was no easier then than it is now, but I feel like now, you have to sign a waiver in blood to the devil himself promising him your first born. And still all the magazines and publishers would cackle and sneer at you, throwing crumpled up McDonalds wrappers in your face and telling you not to quit your day job—and you’ll have given up your first born and half your blood supply for nothing.

Okay maybe I am getting carried away. And I hate to be cynical as I love my craft. I have loved writing for as far back as I can recall. It brings me the same kind of euphoric high that completing a run gives me, but without all the sweat. Although, truthfully I have been known to get rather excitable whilst in the throes of my writing and perhaps get a glossy glow.  Or pit stains… but uh, one of the kids I used to babysit for informed me not to mention my sweating problem in those terms as it was unladylike. So I will stick with glossy glow.

Anyhow. I was admittedly having a rough go of it at work yesterday. Meaning, I really, really loathed waitressing. People were hardly tipping, if at all. I have had an inordinate amount of stiffers lately (as in people flat out just paying their bill, sans tip, disregarding the fact that I basically make slave wages).  And I berated myself over and over that I wasn’t making a difference in the world at all. How was serving people pancakes and up-selling pies making one iota of a difference when I knew the difference I was supposed to make?

My panic levels crept up steadily and were exacerbated when I threw silverware into the soak bucket and all the gunky, putrid water splashed back and hit me directly in the face and mouth. I tried not to jump to my usual action plan when I am deeply disturbed by my life and that is running away and joining the circus. The Swiss circus was what I decided. I told this to one of my coworkers and he asked, why Swiss? I said it sounded nice. I bet the Swiss have a great Circus. Actually, they seem like the types who might frown upon all that lycra and animal cruelty.

I joked with my boyfriend that I was going to jump on the beer delivery guy’s dolly and have him whisk me out of there. He told me not to leave him for a beer guy. I pointed out I wasn’t leaving him for anyone, not even someone who was a chocolate maker with his own railroad, but that I needed to escape before I had a full blown panic attack.

I have this journal where I jot down highlights of my day or at least the notables. I felt very sullen and so I doodled a noose and joked in my journal how worth it it would be to swallow some poison. Then one of the cook/drywallers (don’t even ask) came up and asked if I wanted to see his paint job. This isn’t a euphemism for his penis; he is gay. And he really likes to show off the walls he has recently patched or painted and go over every detail with great pride. I am not exactly sure why, but I suspect it has something to do with loneliness and/or needing some sort of attention or validation.

So poison it is, I thought. Get some dishwashing detergent and swallow half the bottle before you have to go check out another freshly painted wall and get a tutorial on it.

I didn’t poison myself, obviously. I went and politely inspected the freshly painted basement room while my coworker pointed out how much better it looked, didn’t it? I nodded. It sure did. I knew this, because it was his old room and he had brought me down there before to show me his dog. Also not a euphemism. He really does like Show and Tell.

I went home and rationalized that it was no use to get worked up and expect instant gratification, as even if I did have my novel done, (which I don’t) it wouldn’t get published or sell or probably even make money by uhh… tomorrow which is what I wanted so that I could throw my apron on the counter and storm out, vowing never to scrape another sticky pancake plate and get silverware splash in my face again. Unless it is my husband or kids. I will scrape their pancake plates. That’s all right. And so I may as well keep plugging at it with baby steps and not freak the heck out and doodle nooses (or is that like gooses and it’s not a word?)

Except I was still on edge and very much wanted instant gratification anyway. So I ate a whole bunch of peanut butter kiss cookies and felt sufficiently bad about myself, huffing into my bedroom and crying for all of two minutes until I became annoyed with my antics. And then I really did make an action plan. That didn’t involve a noose, poison, running away with the circus or a beer delivery man and mostly involved putting on a sports bra, tying my hair back and brutalizing myself in the room we loosely call a “gym”—a storage room with a few weights, a couple broken cardio machines and an aqua massager—at my place of employ. I reached some semblance of an endorphin high, regaining my clear rationale.

I would find a way. Even if I had to shove my writing down people’s throats, as was suggested to me by one of my Biggest Loser trainers. I hoped it didn’t come to that, but instead of being a big Debbie Downer, I would employ Biggest Loser tactics and get angry and get goin’. Because what else could I do? Boo-hooing into murky silverware water wasn’t going to make me an accomplished writer. I was. So I may as well shut the hell up about writing and get to it. Words to paper, man.

Or something. So here is my execution. Not of myself. Because how very macabre. No, of getting the writing going. And hobnobbing with other folks who write and generally just being a writer and not bemoaning that I am not a writer. Fourth grade me knew I was a writer and didn’t need a paycheck or validation to put pen to paper anyway. So maybe I should channel fourth grade me. Though really un-savvy and prone to wearing oversize Winnie the Pooh shirts, that girl had gumption.

Cheers to fourth grade me then. And not running away or offing myself when things seem bleak. And the written word. Always the written word.

 

Waitressing Guts and Glory

Musings

I have held my fair share of waitressing jobs. Some more frightful than others. My current one has its fair share of pros and cons, though mostly this isn’t a bad gig. However, I have been bowled over as of late by some of the things that have happened to me as a waitress. Or more recently as a promoted waitress. Oh yeah, did I mention? I am now the dining room manager at the resort I work at. So ya know: Pretty important. Pretty posh. Pretty big deal.

Nah, I kid. I mean, it’s a pay raise and all, but really the only difference from the me who waitressed before and the me who waitresses now is that I get badgered a great deal more and get a little more ticked off when people show up late for their shifts.

I have decided, however, to do a small-ish round-up of my most interesting/ridiculous/downright jaw-dropping happenings whilst waitressing.

Let’s start with my personal favorite which was a good indicator of how unrelenting motherhood will be.

As the new dining room manager I find that people like to update me, ask me questions and generally hound the hell out of me, from the moment I walk in the door until the moment I beeline for the door again at the end of my shift. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the responsibility and ability to put my neuroticism and obsessive compulsive tendencies to good use, but days like today for instance when all I want to do is shove a morsel of marinated chicken breast into my mouth—while in between getting refills for my tables—I want to do it in peace and quiet. No such luck. While attempting to take frenzied bites of chicken, I had at least four interruptions within three bites. I tried to strictly look involved with my chicken, so they would get the message and yet the onslaught ensued, until I gave up my mini break, hunched over the back waitress station, while people scraped plates and hurried past, and instead went back to waiting tables, giving up hope that I could eat while on my shift. Trying to eat while waitressing is the equivalent of trying to sneak a twinkie in prison while other prisoners furiously eyeball you while you choke down the sugar worrying all the while about being shanked. At least that’s how it is in my mind. I’m sorry if I have insulted prisoners with this analogy, but again, that’s just my mind.

Oh anyway, I derailed there. I was going to give you the happenings. So I am mostly so busy at work that I don’t even allot proper timing for bathroom breaks. I just wear my body out running around, that I dehydrate myself to the point where I may have had to go to the bathroom once, but all my moving—which for me inevitably means sweating—causes my urine to just reabsorb, or whatever the hell it does when you are so dehydrated you no longer pee in a ten hour waitressing shift. Also note this level of dehydration is actually something to be avoided as I nearly passed out at work the other day due to this practice, so uhh… don’t follow my lead here on that one guys. Anyway.

Instance Number 1: I actually decide to go to the bathroom for once. I tell one of my coworkers where I will be for the upcoming three minutes and head out of the dining area to have what I presume are mere moments of rest and relaxation while I take a much-needed pee break. Just as I sit down and haven’t even begun to contemplate toilet paper, I hear the door open and a hesitant tap on my stall. I freeze midstream, while wondering why on God’s green earth I am being summoned in here of all places. So help me God, this better be an emergency, I think.

“Yes?” I say with controlled patience. It is the co-worker I had just told I would be in the bathroom.

“I am so sorry to follow you in here, but the cooks have a question about your ticket.”

Now I am seething. I cannot imagine this was an emergency worth trailing me into the bathroom over, but ask her instead what it is. She explains. I clarify and she then thanks me profusely and leaves the bathroom. That’s what motherhood is like right? No longer getting to piss in peace? Well, I gotta say moms, I am not a fan.

Instance Number 2: While in the middle of a weekend breakfast rush, the equivalent of an IHOP stampede, one of our breakfast cooks goes missing. I note this amongst my frantic running around, seating tables, refilling coffees and trying to load people up on Belgian waffles and hash browns. I run to the back to communicate with the prep cooks and head chef that we need backup. Backup, people, we need backup! 

The head chef proceeds to tell me that the other cook left.

“Where? J is floundering up there. he has like 13 tickets.”

“He has one table,” the head chef tries to correct me.

“Wrong. He was like 13 tables. We have been sat repeatedly for the last half hour. So, could someone help him?”

“I don’t know where the other cook is,” HC insists, making no move to go and help J himself.

“Could you find him?” I practically bellow.

“Why don’t you?” He counters.

I fear at this point he may be able to read the homicide that is clearly visible in my eyes.

“I don’t have time! I don’t even have time to be back here having this conversation with you!”

“Well I don’t have time either,” he sniffs with his haughty air and turns away from me to continue chopping vegetables.

“Oh that’s cool. That’s great,” I mutter under my breath loudly as I walk away thoroughly ticked off, “all my tables can just wait an hour for a bloody pancake…”

After the rush peters into a lull, I have time to search for the missing cook. I go to find him in his quarters located beneath the restaurant, where some of the staff reside. He opens the door casually no longer in his chef coat and work pants, but in a ripped tee and jogging shorts.

“Yeah, hi,” I start. “I know the head chef probably royally pissed you off and you think you’re sticking it to him by walking out, but really you’re sticking it to us waitresses because we are slammed and the other cook is drowning and HC won’t help. And so I would really love, if at least for me, you would suit back up, come upstairs and help.”

He nods his head like there will be no argument and in minutes is upstairs helping cook. Oy. Fuckin. Vey.

Instance Number 3: Waiting on Viggo Mortensen this morning. Yeah, who would’ve thought Hidalgo would meander on into my place of employ in the Big Horns? He apparently came in last night and my sister waited on him first, while he was hounded by customers vying for his attention. When he came in this morn, I had naturally already prepped myself on how to handle celebrity sightings and ya know be super cool, collected and couth. Which is exactly what I did. Bringing his wife tea, his son a hot chocolate loaded with whip. And generally just letting him enjoy his meal without me gawking and asking him about being Hidalgo. Oh but I wanted to. Of course I can pretend to have couth, but lord knows that is entirely not so. Anyhow, when Viggo pointed to the hash browns and asked if we had potatoes, I nodded profusely and said, “Yes, we have hash browns!”

And he shook his head and said, “No, do you have some sort of potato…”

“Like home fries…?” I ventured. “We have those on the buffet…” but even as I said the word buffet I was embarrassed. I didn’t want Viggo Mortenson to have crap buffet home fries. Or even have our frozen hash browns. If I couldn’t pose with him for pictures or pepper him with questions of glitz and glamour in Hollywood, then I damn well wanted him to have a proper potato for breakfast. And yet I feared we didn’t serve anything that he might prefer.

I nodded however, and assured him he would have potatoes. I ran back to the breakfast cook and asked if he could do a breakfast potato. “Yeah, hash browns,” he answered with a slight smile, like I was dense.

“Yeah, but more like a home fry,” I clarified.

“We have those on the buffet,” he said.

“No, but not those either…”

Another waitress intervened on my behalf at this point, and said, “We have those one potatoes J, you could cut those up and fry them and do something with those?”
This was the same waitress who had followed me into the bathroom. She had just redeemed herself in my attempts to win over Viggo Mortensen’s approval as a competent and classy waitress.

J looked slightly perturbed at this insistence for breakfast potatoes we don’t have and don’t serve. But like the solid and reliable fellow that he is, he didn’t say another word and instead simply complied. When I saw the potatoes in the window, looking fancy and sorta French like with a little flower shape cut through the middle—well maybe the Americanized version of French because what do I know—I beamed my satisfaction and thanks feeling much more proud to walk back to Viggo’s table with proper potatoes.

The rest of the interchange was mostly my silently refilling their coffees and teas and when he and his wife went to peruse the gift shop, I asked their son about the animals he’d seen on his vacation.

He politely entertained my eagerness, expressing his delight at seeing bison and moose. His accent intrigued me and I asked where he was from.

“Spain,” he answered.

“Wow! I have always wanted to visit Spain!” I started to gush, but when I saw that he was only politely indulging me to get rid of me, much like J with the potatoes, I relented and nodded, instead clearing the rest of their breakfast plates. “Enjoy the rest of your stay in the Big Horns,” I said as I walked away while stealing more glances at his famous father.

Since I am terribly verbose I wanted to share more instances of waitressing guts and glory—like the time I was working at a bar in New York City and I walked into the bathroom to find a man doing a line of coke off the counter—but alas I have thoroughly overshared here. So I shall leave it at a mere three. Also, how can I top waiting on Viggo Mortensen? I fear I can’t, so I ought to leave it at that.

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?

Consider Me Wooed

Musings

Okay so the great thing about Wyoming is she is so unbelievable that I find myself in a constant state of awe and wonder. I am perpetually wooed by the state of grandeur, old world charm and epic mountaintops. Furthermore I feel so present in every moment of my existence that I find myself enamored just to be. As someone who has always struggled to stay present in a singular moment, but instead, worries and ruminates over the future, or obsesses over the past, it has been downright shocking how perfectly present I have felt in all of my moments here in the West.

I am present when waitressing and meeting new people and hearing their stories. I am present when off gallivanting in the mountains. I am present when beneath the star speckled night sky in front of a crackling fire, surrounded by towering pines. I am present when sticking my toes in every stream, flowing river or body of water I can locate.

I feel hyper-aware that I am alive. I almost tingle with it. And as someone who is prone to anxiousness, when I am doing something mundane like running an errand, or grocery shopping, I find myself getting anxious to get back up the mountain and continue my tree-hugging, free spirited, high on mountains existence.

But… there’s always a but. I feel somewhat guilty and childish about it all. I know I wax a lot about how I am getting older and how I suppose that means things like I ought to lock down a mortgage or a man. But instead I am flitting about the country. Playing in the hills with a country boy who happens to constantly pick me wildflowers and helps push me up hills when they are too steep and I am out of breath, or brings me a shot of tequila when I have a bad day and joke that I need a shot of tequila to deal with my frazzled nerves.

But I in no way want to lock anything down and that makes me feel like a somewhat useless adult. I want a home sure. I ache when I watch HGTV. But then I love my propensity to roam. And right now my roaming led me to a mountaintop in which my sis and I have been gifted with a beautiful 1950’s style trailer surrounded by hordes of pencil sharp pines, and complete with turquoise appliances and a fire pit . And yes I want babies. But then today in the coffee shop where I am writing, someone came in with a newborn who, while quite cute, kept screaming and I overheard the mother say she hadn’t gotten sleep in 34 hours. I nearly choked on my coffee. Thirty-four hours?! I freak out if I get less than six hours and pretty much go on a war rampage for coffee and then insist on a nap. Actually my new life of high mountain adventure and long work days waitressing has led me to take daily naps again. How could I nap or flit off to Jackson Hole and the Tetons with cute boys and a car full of pb&j’s, wild game jerky and blankets if I had crying newborns?

Okay, realistically of course I will do anything to have my own crying newborns and fixer-upper worthy of HGTV renos one day, but in the meantime, the bonfires, sticky s’mores, spontaneous road trips through jagged peaks and winding rivers, horseback rides, hand-holding with a bearded outdoorsman, and hail-soaked hikes to places called Garden of the Gods seem otherworldly in their present perfection.

And maybe that’s the point of all this anyway. If living on a mountaintop has taught me to be fully alive in the moments of wildflowers and adventure as much as the moments of hail and tequila necessity then I reckon I am exactly where I ought to be.