Monday, February 24, 2014

Phone It In

The saying "Write what you know" is one of my biggest motivators as a writer. I have it written inside a couple of my notebooks to serve as a reminder when I think I've run out of ideas. I enjoy reading fiction but I've never been a fan of writing it. I was uncomfortable turning in fiction assignments in school and if I had to read it out loud, oh man I would squirm in my seat. I hated making stuff up. I always thought people would assume anything I wrote was fact based, since that's what I preferred to do. I've always chosen to write personal based pieces because I believe that truth is often stranger than fiction. Amazing things happen to us every day and we take it for granted or miss out all together because we're too busy looking for something else. My iPhone has changed my life in a lot of ways but the biggest one is that I've started snapping photos of random things that I encounter throughout my days. Now I know I'm certainly not the only one doing this, and the people I work with and hang out with chuckle at me, but I don't mind. What I'm noticing are these tiny, fleeting moments that might seem uninteresting but when you stop and think about it, there's a cool story attached.

I was recently working a shift in the kitchen of a hotel. I prepare food and put it out for the guests' complimentary dinner. At the end of the dinner service, I bake a tray of chocolate chip cookies to set out at the front desk. It's pretty straight forward, the same type of cookies are made at the same time every evening. It's just one task on the checklist of many for that shift. But I'll tell you something, people appreciate those darn cookies! Those who are regular guests of this particular hotel chain expect those cookies! People can smell them baking and can be practically giddy at the thought of a free warm chocolate chip cookie. When I worked that most recent shift, the cookies looked and smelled perfect when I took them out of the oven. I looked at them and thought "It's pretty cool that I get to bake these cookies and take them out there for people" so I took a picture. I firmly believe that we always have a choice of at least two ways to look at any given situation. I know it's not always easy but I try to find that silver lining because it's always there, even when we choose to ignore it.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

This Is Only A Test

Like the majority of the country, we've had our fair share of harsh weather here in Montana this winter. In fact, this week we had another spell of sub-zero temperatures more extreme than the last time, but fortunately they didn't stick around as long. Wednesday night brought us our lowest temperatures yet this season at -32 (and that was without the windchill factor!). My car wouldn't start for two days and neither of our vehicles would start Thursday morning. I'll admit I'm a home body but there's a certain point where not being able to leave the house starts to drive me a little batty! I was finally able to get out and run some errands Friday afternoon and I was thrilled! But with the cold, the wind and snowy road conditions, I was happy to get back home after a couple hours! Once the sun goes down, the temperatures drop quickly and by 7pm it was -15 and I was on my couch wrapped in my Snuggie with a glass of whiskey watching The Walking Dead.

The cold gray days, coupled with my inability to leave the house had me in a funk most of the week. I felt low and irritable. I skipped roller derby practice and started an argument with my boyfriend over the laundry. All of that is out of character for me. I was generally grumpy and I wallowed in it. Then, I started noticing all the FaceBook posts from my friends in the North East who were without power due to the ice storm. I also had a couple friends in Montana who had to deal with a broken furnace during our cold spell. For as much as people complain about FaceBook, it can really serve a purpose at times. It was kinda the slap in the face that I needed to see straight again. Even when I'm out of sorts, there's so much to be grateful for.

Thankfully the temperatures have gone up over the weekend, and with that came a whole lot of snow. I'm sure glad shoveling is good exercise! Today was finally sunny and clear with a crisp temperature of 18 degrees above zero. That was cause for celebration! This afternoon was beautiful and I was finally able to get outside with the dogs. We got about 8-10 inches of light fluffy snow this weekend, on top of what was already out there. I shuffled around the back yard, knee deep in the white stuff, while my boyfriend put in some time on his cross country skis.

This was the first time my puppy has experienced this much snow. It was pretty fun to watch! He took one pounce into snow that was higher than his shoulders and he seemed to realize that wasn't much fun. I shoveled him some paths and he stuck to them, happily biting at the snow and barking at the other dog who is big enough to handle the deeper parts of the yard. A couple months ago, I thought it was a bad idea to have gotten a puppy right before winter. It has definitely made housebreaking challenging when it's well below zero. But over the last couple weeks, I've realized it was probably better this way. He's been growing up during a harsh winter and it's made him tougher than I expected. He doesn't know any different so he asks to go out even in the worst conditions. My older dog however, he seems to know that winter doesn't last forever and he's quite content to wait it out on the couch!

Tinsley's first big snow

Our backyard fire pit & benches
People often ask me how I can live in a place with such extreme winter conditions. It definitely took some getting used to. I've lived in other parts of the country, places where two inches of snow shut down a city for a day. There's no such thing as a snow day here. Ever. It's not always easy but it keeps me balanced. When I start getting tired of winter, I remind myself how eager we always are for it to arrive, particularly at the end of an especially bad fire season. The Gallatin Valley is spectacular, even when it's dangerously cold outside. When I'm stuck inside I try to make the most of it by reading, writing, baking or binge watching shows on NetFlix! 

It's easy for me slip into that pattern of thinking "Oh, things will be better when ____________" or "I'll feel better once I __________". I get crabby and blame the weather or my car or any number of external factors, but really this is just The Universe testing me. When I'm forced to stay at home and really sit with myself, when I do a lot of writing and thinking, I can see that the only one who has the power to change things for me is me. It's a tough thing to admit. I basically had to look at myself in the mirror and say "Stop being a sad bitch. It doesn't serve you." Then I took a long hot shower, with some Dave Matthews Band blaring in the bathroom and I felt better. I'm trying to not be hard on myself. So I had a couple rough days, big deal. I've recovered from having a couple rough years before so this is nothing! This is where having a gratitude practice has become so important to me. I have a supportive partner, friends who let me vent and make me laugh, dogs who keep me company, books to read, people who read what I write, teammates who challenge me to grow. That's a lot of cool stuff. So what if my car won't start?!