Small Gestures

So tonight I grabbed coffee with Dad. He had some time to kill and I was thankful to talk life stuff with him for a little while. He dropped me off at my apartment afterward, and I hopped out after declaring my thanks and love and whatnot.

He hopped out too, just to give me a hug goodbye. I don’t know why it surprised me. Maybe because I usually see him at least once a week and it’s not like I won’t see him within a few days. It was just a kind, impromptu gesture that really warmed my soul. It made me feel special, and loved, and it meant a lot to me even though it wasn’t anything really that significant.

Or maybe it was. Maybe it was a symbol of good talks and appreciation and a thousand big things. Who knows. Maybe that’s why small gestures mean a lot in the first place.

Either way, here’s to great little acts of love that make my world feel right. ♥

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Germany – A Year Later

Disclaimer: Dear family of mine. I know some of you read my blog. I hope you know I don’t care (am even flattered) and you are welcome to read whatever you stumble across here. That being said, this post which was meant to be happy memories kinda turned into me venting some emotions, and please don’t feel obligated to read it if it is going to bring you more pain than you desire. Or do, I trust you. Love you – Tori.

Hard to think Germany was over a year ago now. Such fond memories. It was fun, and adventurous and exciting. More than that it was a time of hope and positivity. Hard to think a year ago I hiked up a steep hillside and Mom kept up the pace. Hard to think of our late night talks in the dorm-like bedroom when Mom calmly talked me through all my worries about being jobless and what I could do.  I knew nothing was guaranteed but I never would have guessed it all would have crumbled as fast as it did after those blissful two weeks. It was essentially the last time she was healthy. The last time she was herself. She was so wonderful.

I didn’t mean for this post to spiral emotionally like it already has. I guess I should have known it would. I’m not going to apologize though. I just cried for the first time in a couple of months. I’ve wanted to cry so badly during that time and it just hasn’t come, like a pressure behind my eyes that wasn’t released. I don’t know why writing lets me cry. I’m so weird.

There is a question, which I think people have wondered but been too polite to ask, which my whole family has no doubt asked themselves. Was going to Germany worth it? It obviously didn’t save her. Maybe it didn’t even prolong her life.

Yes, yes it was worth it even still.

While I was in Germany, I, and many besides myself, felt God had put us there. He had moved all the pieces, from the suggestion to the planning. He had supplied in so many ways, and we were loved and supported both financially and emotionally by so many people and it just felt so right. It felt like maybe we had found an answer. Now I never studied and still don’t know the medical side of what happened there very well, so that’s not me saying that medically the treatments should have worked. Just me saying I thought maybe it was all going to be okay.

Course, I’ve realized just how full of denial I was over the course of her death, so that’s not saying much.

Regardless, for many reasons I think it was still the right choice. For one, we simply had to try. You can try and fail and you can never try and never know, and be eaten up by the not knowing. It was a good option, because we aren’t plagued by the “What if?” (that one, at least). Secondly, it gave us all hope. We were all fighting, and fighting together. We, though most importantly Mom, could have despaired in those extra 6 months we were planning and were in Germany for. But we didn’t. We were fighting. And those memories I have of Mom. Of stopping to take a million pictures of fat, lazy bumblebees, of running around the Knights Templar Museum when the boys had tired out already, even though we couldn’t read a single sign to tell us what everything was. Of having to talk her down from running past obvious “Don’t Cross This Point” signs because she wanted to see into the top of the tower…

Oh damn it all! I can never have those types of adventures again. Those talks. And I hate it, and it hurts like hell and I can never get it back and I can’t even clearly remember the details I wish I knew by heart.

She had been sick for so long and hadn’t been herself so much in the last four years, that those memories I cherish so so much. I’m so glad to have a bright, clung to spot that I can point to and say “Look what we did together! Look at these memories!” The memories I’ll share with my children someday when they ask about her and the memories I cling to when I try to remember who she was when she wasn’t being defined by cancer.

She never wanted to be defined by cancer.

I wish in my memories she wasn’t. Maybe with time.

And I know a lot of that probably doesn’t seem as important to people who poured their hard earned money into letting my Mom seek treatment in Germany. And it’s certainly not the only reason I’m thankful, as I’ve said.

I know Mom isn’t the only one who was at the clinic who’s passed on. But I know of at least one who’s remained healthy and strong. And I am so thankful for her. I wish it could also have been Mom. The point was it did help some people, and it was so worth it try because there was a chance it could have, and I thank from the bottom of my heart everyone who helped us. So maybe it didn’t heal her, but I think God still led us there. I think He still used it, in numerous ways that I haven’t mentioned or probably even fully know.

Well, this post was intended to just share some previously unshared photos that I loved. Guess I’ll finally get to that. These are photos I actually pulled off of Mom’s phone when she died. I wanted to save them for myself, and to have them in a place where I could always look back on them.

This first set is from the Bad Mergentheim museum on Teutonic Knights (the one we walked through the courtyard of every day to get coffee. A beautiful castle. One of my fondest memories of the trip was wandering around it with Mom, on a time crunch no less so kinda rushing but fascinated by all the things and the dragons on the ceiling and the beautiful history we couldn’t even read about.

Some food photos, because we all know I spent a lot of time in Germany eating.

Our boys. Now my boys. Still our boys.

Thoroughly enjoying classic Germany fare

Some random snapshots

Lastly, I wasn’t even there for these photos, these are after we went home and Dad came back.

So there’s those, finally. And there’s life, in all it’s shattered beauty.

Is Summer Over Already? (An Overview of Previously Undocumented Adventures)

Hello, Autumn. I love Fall. Love love love Fall. It is by far my favorite season. The season of hot cups of tea and cozy sweaters and spices and sweet calm contemplation. It’s crazy to look back on the time that’s passed and everything that’s happened these last few months. I am surprised to say it’s actually been a pretty good Summer. I’ve been up to a lot of random mini adventures throughout, and due to time or whatnot haven’t yet charted them here. As a fair-thee-well to the season I thought I’d share the photos and the fun that I’ve had.​

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Tailgating while figuring out what the plan for the evening was. We went dancing.

One of the biggest changes this season being of course that I’ve found a new home and a new roommate. Kathy has proven to be super awesome to live with (As I knew she would). We’ve had such fun. Our first week we had no furniture and sat crossed legged on the floor, using her Christmas tree box as a table. I have a screenshot of a Snapchat with her, Lisa, and myself having a pizza party after a day of unpacking. It’s a special little look into our first week that I really love.

Not long after we moved in, I ended up house sitting  for a good friend for two weeks. (I have a habit of disappearing on new roommates. When I moved in with Elizabeth I immediately got a second part time job and was NEVER home for the next six months). I was thinking two weeks by myself in the house would be quite lonely, but it ended up being quite fun. I had permission to have friends over and to use the hot tub and whatnot. The first weekend I was there Kathy came out and we decided to make sugar cookies, and finding ourselves out of dairy to make icing we substituted Baileys Irish Cream and Rumchata. Best. Icing. Ever. Highly recommend you try it in the future.

Another night she came over and we watched Pitch Perfect, because she found out I hadn’t seen it. Or we tried to. Half way through the movie two GIANT hobo spiders simultaneously flanked us. Kathy is a braver soul than I and trapped them under two whisky glasses. But it’s quite hard to watch a movie while spiders are trying their hardest to get out and eat you. We didn’t want to take care of them right away because if they escaped that’s worse, right? After the movie she carefully trapped them and disposed of them, while I cowered on top of an ottoman. It was quite hysterical, in retrospect. Favorite quote of the night was certainly her saying “I need to see it but I also need it to not eat my face.”

We had been quite tired, but spiders will wake you up quite fast. We wanted to stay up late and watch the meteor shower that was supposed to happen anyway, though, and at 2 we went and laid out on the front walkway and tried to spy some meteors. We saw 2 in an hour. Not sure I couldn’t find two on a regular night. But it was delightfully fun.

There were other nights of friends coming over. Elizabeth and Jenna and Kayla and Lisa… other fun nights were I just got to relax and hang out with some of my favorite people on the planet.

Montana Fair happens every August. I always go with my siblings, enjoy a warm night of delicious bad-for-you food and running into people I don’t often see. Highlight of the night is Christian and I found Chuck Wagon Soda, which was dishing out amazing Ice Cream Floats. We got ours with Sarsaparilla soda, and they were amazing. The soda was all old fashioned style and delicious. And the let us sample every last kind (and by sample, I mean like half a mug). Such a fun family to get to talk to and I will be searching for them again next year.

Another Summer adventure with the Broskovich is that we decided to check out Burn the Point street dance in front of Montana Brewing Company. This entailed watching the end of the car show parade, which had everything from classics to modern sports cars. The concert was okay, the music was good but no one was actually doing much dancing, so we went to Daisy Dukes, a bar that happens to have one of the few actual dance floors in town. I’m happy to say Christian and I are becoming fairly decent Country Swing dancers. Someday I’ll get a video of it for future’s sake. A night out dancing is always a good night.

THERE IS A NEW ESCAPE ROOM IN BILLINGS!!! And I am obviously quite excited. And of course it had to be checked out. Happy to say Billings Escape Room is epic, and a must do adventure for anyone finding themselves in Billings. We did the Prison Break room, and they did a great job at developing the ambiance of the room. There are flickering lights and you can’t see very well and… I don’t want to spoil it for any would-be adventurers, but go check it out! I found it harder than the other escape rooms I’ve done, and was glad to have an experienced team by my side. We escaped! (But we also used like 6 hints… but shhh, no one needs to know). I can’t wait to go back.

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Of course THE WEDDING happened this Summer. I’ve already detailed that. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the right words to say, and was happy for some coffee to get me through. Moav downtown is a… hipster in a good way? Yeah, hipster in a good way coffee shop that serves amazing coffee. I love the modern industrial decor, particularly. It gave me a great spot to try and focus on the speech.

There were also some great food discoveries this Summer. For our last family get together I made brownies. I was thinking I would grab ice cream for them, but stumbled across raw cookie dough to eat. And the idea came to me… oh sweet idea! Frost the brownies with the cookie dough! I added a little milk to the dough to make it spreadable, and they were super rich but super super fantastic. It needs to become a thing. I also tried Pina Coladas for the first time this Summer at a girls night in. I don’t know how I’ve missed it up until this point. I generally am not a huge fan of pineapple, but mmm coconut. And Captain Morgan Loconut rum! All together it is a blissful cocktail. Also, I have been working on trying to replicate the German Doner Kababs. I haven’t made it happen yet, but it’s a delicious pursuit.

I’ve got to spend a lot of time with family and friends. I’m so happy for everyone who’s been there, for all the adventures. For the little moments that have gotten me through what could have been a terrible Summer. Thank you.

One last camera roll share. I’ve kinda been into documenting things recently. I want to be able to remember, when life changes and people move on, the little things that bring me so much joy. The moments that make me who I am, that build relationships, that you maybe don’t remember specifically after a while even though they impact you. Here’s a short little video of the best Dad ever, as we sip morning coffee, and the familiar sounds of him strumming his guitar. He’s a great guitarist, was motivated enough to teach himself, and the sounds of the melodies and the skritch of his fingers moving up the guitar strings always brings me such joy, as they have throughout all my life. Love you, Dad.

Wedding Joys

One of my bestest friends in the world got married this weekend! Wow, what a ride. I remember back when I first moved in with my dear Elizabeth, it was but a few months later she developed a crush on a cute redheaded chap and our talks started to figure him prominently. Nearly three years later and I was privileged to sign their marriage certificate.

It was a crazy weekend, in the best of ways. I had Friday off in case anything was needed of me, though I really was just able to use it to run some important errands, grab Thai food for lunch with Dad, grab a textbook from the college for Christian, drop off paperwork to the insurance company, and whatever else I realized needed to be done. But 4:30 saw me at the church helping to decorate the sanctuary for the wedding, and then we had the rehearsal.

It should be noted that Elizabeth chose some of my closest friends for her bridal party, and even the bridesmaids I didn’t know as well were so sweet and so fun that we all got along so well and had so much fun over the whole weekend.

The rehearsal dinner was wonderfully done. We all congregated on Elizabeth’s future in-law’s deck, ate fantastic BBQ (Blues, for those of you in the Billings area who know how good that is) and there was an open mike for toasts. The things that were said were so sweet and humorous and so perfect for the occasion. I didn’t have to say anything at that time (Because my Maid of Honor speech was being saved for the wedding the next day. Eek! The nerves) and I instantly knew I would be unable to beat what was already being said. Elizabeth and Clark are so blessed with the friends and family they have around them.

I was called into the living room to help teach the Bride and her father how to dance. They had not had much chance to practice, and were wanting some help before their big moment in the spotlight the next day. I and the very talented Hannah showed them some basic spins and a dip, and they picked it up very easily. It doesn’t perhaps sound very exciting, but it was a very special moment for me. Father/Daughter dances always tug at my heart strings, though.

Some people were courageous enough to go dancing that night, but I had a headache (emotion induced. Bleh. I need to find some coping mechanisms for that). A good night’s sleep helped me get rid of most of that, and it’s really a God thing that the headache didn’t come back with all the emotions and everything happening on the wedding day.

This mirror, oh this mirror. It’s at least twice as tall as I am, and I want it so, so badly.

Camelot Ranch was the venue where the reception was going to be held. There is an amazing loft for the bridal party to get ready in, with a line of mirrors and hairdressers chairs to get ready at, and a fridge and a shower if you happen to need one of those I guess. And an amazing, amazing, mirror. I’d call it floor length, but it’s much taller than a typical ceiling. Such fun for modeling in front of. A balcony looks out upon the reception room. A beautiful location for a beautiful day.

Kayla had volunteered to do my makeup and hair, and being much more talented than I (And more than the average woman as well. Dang that girl can do anything with a makeup brush and a curling iron) I had the fun of being dolled up as if it was my own special day. We all had fun hanging out getting ready, munching on White Cheddar Cheez-its, grapes, cheese, and nuts. We had beautiful Malibu blue dresses (from David’s Bridal, for those who want to use the color as a reference there) which are so elegant and fun, yet also excitingly practical. It’s nice to have a dress I feel like I can actually wear again. We all looked so beautiful. Elizabeth has great taste in dresses and colors.

Pictures were done before the ceremony (A practice I fully support. It’s so nice to not have to worry about squeezing them in between wedding and reception). We had so much fun. The photographer was Simply Sara Photography. All the final photos haven’t been seen yet (obviously) but what I have seen are beautiful. And Sara was wonderful to work with. If I was getting married anytime soon I would be getting her to do my wedding. I would post the few photos I do have that she’s taken, but I try not to post pics with other people in them just in case people don’t want personal stuff like that shared here (My family doesn’t have a choice, however, and that’s why you’ll see theirs on here. Or Amy, because I know Amy doesn’t care).

And suddenly it was time for a wedding! We drove over to the church, and waited in the nursery for the ceremony to begin. An adorable moment for the day was Elizabeth pretending to eat the “food” that her future niece/flower girl brought to her as we waited. We had a moment of prayer, and then the walks up the isle began.

The ceremony itself was beautiful. I’ve used the word beautiful too much already in this blog post. I don’t know what else to do. The day was beautiful, the people were beautiful, Elizabeth was especially beautiful, the very idea of marriage is beautiful. I can’t escape the word. Also I’m a bit gushy today. I have a lot of happy memories to spill onto the page and they’re coming out in a rush and a ramble, and I’m afraid I don’t care.

We signed the marriage certificate to make it government official, and then the party began. Dinner was delicious, either roast beef or chicken with mashed potatoes and dinner rolls the size of an open hand. I don’t remember the name of the caterer, unfortunately, but they also handled the floral arraignments, which were also, you guessed it, beautiful.

I gave my speech at this point. I was a bit shaky at first, but thankfully high school speech class training kicked in to give me some confidence. I told some anecdotes about living with Elizabeth, especially a memory I have of where she took offence at incorrect medical practices in Dracula and how we had a long conversation about blood transfusions and the effect vampires would have on the spread of diseases. I worked hard on the speech, and I think it payed off. It was personal, and I hope fun. The best advice I got while writing it was from Kayla. I asked what my speech should focus on, and she suggested my relationship with Elizabeth and how it would translate with he relationship with Clark. It helped give me some direction and made sense in the whole personal stories and why I’m telling them. So, if you have a speech to write in the future, think of that. She also said that the best speech is the one with the most toasts in it, because more drinking is better, obviously. So there’s that to dwell on too.

We danced. We danced and danced. I danced swing with Christian and I made Dad dance a slow dance with me, I danced freestyle with the girls and then when we sent the married couple off into the night we all cleaned up and then went dancing out at Daisy Dukes to celebrate just a little more. The night ended at one when we finally all felt the tiredness of the day.

The next day I had to run up to the airport with Kayla to grab the newlywed’s car and the wedding dress. Elizabeth and Clark still had the happiest smiles on their faces. I’m so excited for this new chapter for them. It was kinda sad when she first got engaged, and I was thinking off all the changes that would make to our friendship, the biggest of which was that I lost a roommate and had to get a new place, obviously, but also all the fears of would we hang out as much? Would our friendship be the same? Changes are scary times. But it’s such a good thing. They’re so perfect for each other. And our friendship will be just fine, we’ll just need to find a new balance.

It was a perfect wedding, and I’m so glad I was blessed to be a part of it.

A special shout out goes to Kathy, who spent most of Sunday curled up in a pile of blankets on the floor, eating Chinese food and ice cream while marathoning Netflix. It was the recoup I needed after the exciting and sleep deprived weekend.

Longing – A Poem

My heart longs for these treasured things:

Places I cannot be,

Memories I cannot repeat,

People I cannot see,

All of these crafted a someone

The person who was me


There was an original ending where I struggled to get the rhythm right, but wasn’t sure how. Also I was never all that good with poetry, so I don’t know if this is even decent, but it’s what came to me.

Girls Night in Red Lodge!

In the numerous years that Elizabeth and I have been friends/roommates, we have talked about taking many trips, ranging from as extravagant as Italy to as fun as Vegas to as simple as Bozeman. We have taken none of those (yet). We have always been too busy or too practical with our money. But sitting on her couch the other night, we had had a sudden and random inspiration that an overnight trip to nearby Red Lodge would be a delightful little adventure. And somehow all our usual excuses didn’t deter us, and we found ourselves booking a room for Friday night.

We had our eyes on the Pollard hotel, as A. being pretty awesome historical and B. being situated right in the center of main street. We were sure due to those considerations it would be more expensive and we would actually find ourselves in the Comfort Inn or something, right? Wrong, it actually somehow ended up being one of the least expensive places to sleep for the night, so we got to stay there.

The Pollard Hotel

They have like, 3 separate parking lots each with only about 10 spots in them scattered around the building wherever they could fit them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Lodge is one of the quaintest little towns. It’s a bit of a resort place, due to being so close to the ski mountain, and mountains in general. Stores ranging from rock shops to tea shops to Harley Davidson to Real Estate offices line the main road, and the restaurant selection goes from dive bar to farm-sourced fine dining. It’s an eclectic little mix that’s fun to explore.

I refer to it as Main Street, but I don’t think it was actually called that… Oh! I think it was Broadway?

Half the reason we wanted to stay in the Pollard is because we had already had good memories of the place. One night, at the Christmas Stroll, (I haven’t discussed the Christmas Stroll before, and it’s really deserving of it’s own post. Next year’s, perhaps. Leave it to say that it is AWESOME and has such the perfect holiday feeling to it) we were taking a break from wandering around and, free beers from some store in hand, we sat in the sitting room and chatted with a friend while we warmed ourselves from the chill outside. It was such a cozy, welcoming space, and we knew more time there would be delightful.

So on Friday I picked up Elizabeth and we made the short little road trip up there.

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We were told every room is a bit different. Some don’t even have a view of outside, but instead look down upon one of the sitting rooms.

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The room was a tidy, well organized space quite typical of hotels. The bed was super soft and comfortable. And the desk/dresser was a really beautiful looking antique. Everyone was very friendly. We did take a few moments to figure out how to actually unlock our hotel room door, but it worked in the end and we didn’t have any issues after that. It was just a matter then of setting our overnight bags down and finding somewhere for dinner. We were both feeling like we wanted something a little fancy (All dressed up and ready for a fun night on the town as we were), so we finally settled on Carbon County Steakhouse, a restaurant that’s got a classy, sort of gentleman’s club feel and a whole lot of good food.

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Cheese plates have become somewhat a must-try thing in our circle of friends, and I am certainly not complaining.

We started off the night with a cheese plate and drinks (And warm, yummy, complimentary bread, as well). The cheese plate had some pickled peppers, dried fruit, crackers, olives, and (obviously) various cheeses. Elizabeth and I are neither huge fans of blue cheese, but the chunks that were on the plate we found ourselves gobbling up. It didn’t have quite the strong, sour kick at the end that I often associate with it. The other cheeses were what I would almost describe as a smoked pepper jack, and one with mustard seeds in it. All amazing and delicious. She had the Lemon Ginger Fizz cocktail, with citrus vodka, ginger beer, and rosemary. I had the Buswick martini, which had gin, pink peppercorns, ginger, sugar, basil, and lemon juice. Mine was a surprisingly savory and wonderfully fantastic drink. Hers was a little sweeter and reminiscent of mixing a Moscow Mule with a rosemary mojito (two of my favorite things!). Dinner was a wonderful beef stroganoff (Not pictured, because I was too busy lost in conversation to remember to snap pics). They also have THE BEST after dinner mints, like really fancy Andes Mints.

After dinner (About 8:30/9, by the time we got done) there wasn’t too much going on. The bars were certainly open and hoping, but we weren’t really in the mood for such things. What we really wanted, we decided, was tea. Now there was a very intriguing tea shop just across the street from the hotel, but alas, it was closed already. We decided to ask the front desk man if he could get some for us, and he found some wonderful mint tea that we took to the sitting room.

 

It feels very cozy, and like a den. A perfect place to sip tea for a few hours and relax

 

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We texted an old friend, studied a book about spying which the hotel had for sale, and just generally chatted about life and work and all the changes that have been happening to our lives and how we were both trying to rise to the challenge. About this time we decided we needed another cup of tea, so we hassled the poor (and cute!) front desk guy to see if he could please get us another? He could indeed! And because we were feeling so crazy and wild this evening, we moved to the second sitting room to shake things up a bit.

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This sitting room has some of the hotel rooms looking out onto it, and had a more open feeling.

This second sitting room in the back of the hotel had a much different feel than the other. This one has a large fireplace reaching up several floors (unfortunately unlit, but I can only imagine the beauty of it in winter!) The room was only half lit at this time of night, which gave us a nice semidarkness to continue  our conversation. It was probably about midnight by the time we finally decided we should call it a night. Up to our cozy room to realize we were VERY tired and to sleep deeply until my alarm told us we might want to actually get down to breakfast if we wanted to actually get breakfast.

Breakfast comes with the hotel room, and it was a little more than the classic Froot Loops and toast. It’s a sit down meal in the dining room. Eggs, toast, french toast, pancakes, your classic breakfast items are there for you. I personally went for the Eggs Benedict, because seriously, how often do you get the chance to eat that? Not enough, world, not enough. The hollandaise sauce was perfectly rich and tangy; the eggs wonderfully poached. And it was served with crispy Brabant potatoes (Oh so nicely seasoned with some warm spices and perfect to dip in that extra pool of hollandaise) Totally worth sneaking in there to get, even if you don’t stay overnight at the hotel.

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That Hollandaise sauce…

We wandered around Red Lodge afterwords. Red Lodge is great for window shopping. Firstly, because of all the different shops. Secondly, because it is generally a very expensive town to go shopping in and I couldn’t justify most purchases there. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t fun things to be found. We did find some beautiful and high quality scarves to add to our wardrobes, and I snagged a pair of green earrings that I really loved for quite a good price. Another place to visit is the Candy Emporium, one of those places that has a thousand barrels of candy and you get charged by the ounce. Also, fantastic fudge. It holds a lot of nostalgic memory for me, as we always had to visit whenever we went to Red Lodge. Also, it’s just fun.

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There are lots of cute clothing boutiques to wander through.

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I love random coffee mugs. And I love owls. Unfortunately this set was 50 dollars, sooo… Not today

 

 

 

 

 

 

For lunch we had the idea to stop by a bakery, grab some pastries, and drive out to the creek somewhere to eat them out in the wilderness. We went to Mustang Bakery, which has a scrummy selection of homemade pastries (Scrummy, because I have been watching a lot of the Great British Bake Off recently and that is apparently a British phrase that is now a part of my vocabulary. Think scrumptious). I had a poppy seed ricotta cherry one which was as good as any pastry I’ve ever been pleasured to consume.  We also grabbed some coffee at the coffee shop (A cupcake latte, for me, which was good though I don’t know if I maybe added too many shots to really taste cupcake.)

We drove out to Joliet and parked beside Rock Creek, dangling our feet over the edge of the car and munching on the absolutely divine pastries. Unfortunately our adventure had to come to an end, and homeward bound we went.

Final thoughts on our adventure:

  1. How the heck did it take us so long to actually enact a getaway? It will not be our last.
  2. Red Lodge isn’t that far. You don’t have to go far to have a get-away.
  3. The trip was really not that expensive, all things considered. Less than $200 for a fancy dinner with drinks and appetizers, a night in a historical hotel, spending money on books and scarves and coffee and pastries. Not something to do often, perhaps, but not something that’s impossible to do a bit of budgeting for and make happen.
  4. I am blessed with an utterly amazing friend. We had so much fun, and essentially didn’t stop our stream of conversation from the moment we started to the moment we stopped. That’s not something that’s easy to achieve with someone, and yet we have. It was amazing time to really focus on our friendship and have some quality time together.
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Rock Creek bubbling away

 

An Open Letter to My Father

My father admitted to me the other day that he still occasionally checked my blog for new blog posts. And honestly, my first thought was “Oh, snap!” Not because I care that Dad see this very real side of me here, but because the last thing I thought he needed was my worries added onto his. I did a quick scan of my posts, and sure enough, found my words of worry specifically about him. He has asked if I care that he still reads my blog, and I have assured him I don’t. I was planning on posting something in the following vein even before I knew for sure he would read it, but now I am glad to know he’ll see this, maybe it will unknot some of the tangling emotions I have added to his pile.

Project time! We’ve had a lot of them over the years

Dad,
I love you so much. And I am sorry that you read my worries about you. They came from a mind crowded with a whole bunch of worries of the future, worries about the whole family. Mom was worried about you too, you know. She made me promise to look after you. Made me promise never to forget you. She should have known I would never let our family drift apart, that I would never neglect our relationship. But she loved you, and wanted you looked after. And I suppose I knew I never could do that as well as her, and so I feared. But let’s come back to that later.

In all honesty there have been times in my life when I haven’t felt like we were very close. I NEVER doubted you loved me, and I NEVER doubted that you would do anything to help me if I needed it. But I remember feeling like we didn’t really talk, or converse regularly, and I remember being very frustrated and hurt over it. Then one day Jenna made everyone in the family take the Meyers-Brigs personality test, and you ended up scoring as an ISTJ, which is what I was. There was a light bulb moment when I realized you and I functioned so similarly. We both hold our emotions so deep within us. We both are reticent when it comes to sharing and opening up. You wouldn’t know, but I think that was a major turning point for me in our relationship. I understood you, and understood what you did and didn’t do because I tended to do the same things. And somehow it suddenly didn’t matter that unlike Mom and I who might stay up late into the night ranting or whatnot, you and I had a quieter, less visible relationship, and that was okay.

That doesn’t mean that before that I don’t have the bestest of memories of the two of us. I’ve written to you of those before, if you recall, quite a while ago. I don’t think I even realized back then just how out of your way you went for me. I was thinking just the other day how many wild cat sanctuaries you let me drag you to on vacations. Or how you sometimes let me order dessert instead of dinner. My goodness, you spoiled this crazy cat girl. Teaching me to drive, teaching me to fish, teaching me to be independent and studious and strong. I remember you’d come to tuck me into bed at night and you’d start chanting “Fee, Fi, Fo Fum” just like Jack and the Beanstock. You never could give me a reason why you did it, or why you did it only for me. But I loved it. We’ve worked on so many projects, the most recent of which is your remodeled bathroom. I love that I’m the designated tile picker and how we can just dive into projects together.

You had always struck me as a person who didn’t need anyone but Mom, and I think that was a really sweet, beautiful marriage. And a lot of my worries for you  stemmed from what you would be without her. I was worried that with the one person you confided in and leaned on gone that you would bottle it all up inside. I was worried that as you hadn’t been very social of late (Due to wanting to stay close to Mom), you had developed a habit of it and  would not socialize anytime soon. And all this culminated in me picturing you as very alone, no matter what schemes I tried to form to make it not so.

But with the downward turn of Mom’s illness, that quiet friendship we had seemed to be morphing. We had already shared going to church together without the rest of the family for more than a year, as Christian stayed home with Mom, who couldn’t come. It was a simple pleasure to have that little thing that just the two of us shared, even though it came with the sad circumstances. And with that came a little more conversation into our lives. And I have of recent watched you open up more to everyone. I remember sitting in the kitchen talking to you sometime very early this spring, and having the thought “Is he confiding in me? When did that start to happen?” I have seen you make an effort to attend events and I have seen you hang out with friends and family and not dwell on the past, and it has cheered my soul greatly.

So shorten it all to say that while I won’t say I don’t still worry (I still worry about all the family, after all. I don’t know that that will ever change) I do not have those terrible fears that so beset me when I first wrote them down. And I have always loved you and I have loved the relationship we had, and I love how we have developed a new, deeper one.

I hope this post doesn’t bring you any pain, goodness knows I want to spare you any of that on my account. I just hope that you know that I think you’re going to be alright, as I think we all are. I am looking forward to all the conversations and the adventures we will have in the future. You’re the best of dads.

Love,

Your fellow early morning riser, your fellow quiet person, your Brat girl or Bratoria or whatever form of Brat and my name you can think of (I must have been a really snarky kid for all that), your daughter,

Victoria

 

The Story of the Plastic Cup

IMG_2538On top of the bookshelf in my bedroom, there is a plastic cup. It was placed there the day I moved in by my pesky brother, who set it up there and with a sly smile said “You can’t reach that.” He was right, being a decent foot shorter than him I couldn’t. I probably jabbed him in the ribs and continued hauling and unpacking the boxes that would start my new life in the apartment.

I had made the choice to move out of my parents for several reasons, I suppose. I wanted to be in town, and not 45 minutes away from everything. I was commuting in way too many times a week for that. I was looking at an opportunity to share a place with one of my best friends, and I was excited about that. Though honestly there was just a feeling in my gut that said “you want to do this.” When Elizabeth first pitched the idea to me, offhand, that if I wanted to she would like having a roommate, I at first told her no. I hadn’t considered moving before that, and moving out of a rent free place for a place I thought I’d have to live tightly on and get a second job to manage, add five minutes to my work commute, and generally have a LOT more responsibility than before wasn’t something that made much sense. But the idea stuck, and grew, and I don’t even know when or how anymore but I found myself hauling boxes on a June day. I was excited, I had to take a long walk afterwards because I had all this energy that wouldn’t go away.

That plastic cup was forgotten. I found a temporary second job, worked it for six months, killed a lot of the social life I might have gained by moving and then blessfully realized I didn’t require it to live. In that time I went to Texas and saw Amy, who helped me to decide I should pursue a degree in Paralegal studies and work towards that. I learned so much about myself and my limits. The cup was found at some point in the fall, I think, and I thought about how I should throw it away.

I didn’t. I found, you see, that I am a nostalgic person. That cup was not a cup, it was an item tied to a memory of a distinct moment with my brother. Not a grand moment, not a super special moment, not even a unique moment, as he uses his height to his favor as often as he can. But somehow none of those rational things swayed me to throw it away, and instead I held on tightly to the fond little memory.

It’s been over three years since I moved, and since that cup was placed there. I still think of that moment and smile every time I see it. But I have to throw it away now. I move on Saturday. My darling roommate has gone and gotten herself engaged, and that left me on a search for new lodgings. I’ve found a new roommate, and together we found a new place. It’s bigger, though it doesn’t have the pool and hot tub that have been so nice. It promises to be a new adventure, and I should be excited about that.

I am excited, I suppose. But nostalgia is all about holding onto the past, isn’t it? I don’t know what prompted me to move out of my parents three years ago, because I’m not the person to make such leaps of change with no solid reason. I’m happy for Elizabeth and her new chapter in life. I think Kathy (my new roommate) and I will have some great times of her own. But this era of being roommates with Elizabeth has been so special to me. I have grown so much during this time. I am not the shy, bashful girl I once was.  I love the changes that first move catalyzed in me. It is hard to leave that behind.

But I hold onto the hope this move will bring good changes too. Elizabeth and I went to Relay for Life on Friday. It’s apparently a pretty big deal in Billings – a fundraiser for cancer which goes all night and people walk along the school field track and there are 4,000 candles lit in honor of cancer patients. All in all it was a good event. There was a part of me that struggled a bit, thinking of Mom. I for some reason hadn’t even connected her story to the Relay, though I should have obviously known some memories would be churned up. But it wasn’t bad. I wrote a letter to Amy recently, and poured out a lot of the feelings I haven’t even voiced here. It helped, it really did. I finally got a lot of dark, sludgy emotions out of the pit of my gut and I have felt better ever since. But none of that was the point of this paragraph. The point was, that Elizabeth and I found a soft spot in the warm summer grass and watched fireworks go off. They were some of the best I’ve seen, seeming to pop right out of the dark sky and reaching towards us. And we talked. A really nice talk. We discussed how recently with my college and her wedding we tend to see each other a bunch but not really make time for each other. This event was the first time in a while where we just went out and hung out, just the two of us, making time for each other. And we thought that maybe with us not living with each other, and feeling like we were seeing each other but not, we might actually put more effort into our friendship. We might actually spend more quality time with each other. I certainly hope so, we need to.

I wasn’t quite expecting this move so fast. I was expecting it about a month from now, but you can’t quite make moving work perfectly with your personal schedule. I suppose it’s time to wrap up my time here with a nostalgic bow, to throw away the plastic cup, and make a new move with new adventures, new memories I hold onto just as desperately as I hold onto these. Change is hard for me, and certainly this year, but hopefully I come out of this thinking “I really like the person I’ve become since then”, too.

Family Camping Trip in the Beautiful Rockies

My beautiful Montana Mountains. One of the many places I will always call home.

There are very few years in my life where I have missed a summer camping trip. We usually take at least one, sometime around Father’s day, to unplug and get away from everything for a few days, soaking in the beauty that is my magnificent state. It’s always great, perhaps this year especially of all years. This year was especially a year of calming and healing and growing together as a family, and it was fun and distracting too.

Dad and Christian went up to

Road beyond Absarokee, MT. (Pronounced Ab-Zor-Key for those out-of-staters who will no doubt get that wrong)

the campground on Thursday night, and so I solo drove up directly after work on Friday. The campground chosen was up above the small town of Fishtail, Montana, and a decent 2 hour drive from Billings, but it was a gorgeous one and very worth it. I finished my audiobook What’s Wrong with the World by Chesterton. I disagreed with most of his points, but found them thought provoking and interesting, and a worthwhile read.

 

Emerald Lake Campground

It’s not my first time camping at Emerald. We went as kids. Besides the local reservoir it is the closest body of water to drag our kayaks too. It’s a beautiful lake, with a lot of memories tied to it. Dad told me how his family used to camp out here long before I was born, how they’d always drink Shasta Creme Soda and how jealous his brother would be if we had only been thoughtful enough to bring some creme soda with us so we could send him a picture of us all drinking it without him. (Ah, brothers)

 

Trying to be all artsy and get a picture of my kayak in the water. Not sure it quite worked.

The creek flowing into the lake. With mountains. And clouds. And blue, blue sky.

Dinner was on me the first night, chilli and homemade cinnamon rolls. Yum! Tim and Jenna showed up not too much later, and pitched their camp. We huddled around a toasty campfire and caught up, laughed, talked, and tried not to inhale too much acrid smoke. I crashed with Christian in his tent, and managed not to freeze to death, (Which always comes down to bringing a few more blankets than you think you’d need. I could have used just one more…)

The next day was boating day! Tim and Jenna have a canoe, Christian and I have kayaks, and Dad just got a pontoon boat. After a breakfast of Tim’s camping biscuits and gravy, we took them up to West Rosebud lake, which is right next door. It’s technically a smaller lake than Emerald, but it has more tree coverage and character, so it was a great place to avoid the wind and paddle around the coast.

Dad quickly got a hang of his new water craft.

Me, pre-sunburned because I forgot sunscreen on my arms.

Christian does not care that is not a fishing boat. Christian fishes in any boat.

Jenna and Tim parked their canoe and enjoyed the coast, playing catch with their dog, Paige.

Christian said this hammock was probably the best $80 he ever spent. I agree.

At that point Tim and Christian decided they should paintball in the woods, which would be particularly fun, but I was tired and Dad and I both sunburned. So we headed back to camp and did some reading. I was reading The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor. Her short stories are well crafted and unexpected. Not perhaps the happy feeling at the end type, or even full on twists and darkness like Poe, but a (good) sense of unease and thought. I didn’t read long right then, however, because I fell asleep on Christian’s hammock.

I for sure recommend you go to the mountains with a hammock and take a nap beside a burbling creek. It’s absolutely wonderful.

Dinner was brats (Grilled to get some color and then boiled in beer, chicken broth and onions for 20 minutes, which is perfection, by the way), French Onion dip and chips, fruit salad, and pork and beans.

Dad can be a reluctant selfie participant, but I make him take them anyway

Tim, Jenna, and Christian took the boats out one more time, but I hung back with Dad and we sat on the rock clustered shoreline and watched as they paddled around. He was working on his photography schools, and he was telling me he used to do it as quite the hobby and wanted to get back into it more. I worked on writing a letter to Amy.

Dessert was hot chocolate with Captain Morgan Loconut rum (Tastes like a Mounds bar, YUM!) and s’mores around the fire. I tried a few different types of s’mores for fun. Dark chocolate, white chocolate… all good. BUT! As ingenious a camping discovery as the aforementioned hot chocolate, I used dark chocolate with chili in a s’more. Oh. So. Perfect. S’mores will never be the same again.

We called it a pretty early night, as we were all a bit tired. The next morning we had more awesome breakfast from Tim’s Camp Kitchen, this time bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches with a toasted bagel bun. We really did have quite the awesome menu for this little adventure, didn’t we?

Christian and I took the kayak’s out for one last run in the morning, this time on Emerald. The creek that ran past our campground perfectly poured into Emerald lake, and we simply launched our kayaks into it and rode it down. Getting them back up was harder, and I have the bruise to prove it, but it was very worth it.

We packed up camp, and started the trek homeward. I came home and washed my car, and then crashed and took a long nap. Apparently I had some sleep to catch up on still, or perhaps didn’t do as much catching up as I thought over the weekend. But either way the trip was amazing and fun and relaxing and what I really needed.

Bozeman Again! (This Time for Amy!)

In an unbelievable stroke of luck, I found myself last night in the company of one of my best friends in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Amy has been having adventures this year, working for a camp out in Idaho. Well apparently this camp has some connection to my beautiful state, because she messaged me telling me she would be in Bozeman for a week and is that perhaps anywhere close to Billings?

Uh, yes. So much yes. We decided Wednesday night would work for both of us, and even though I wouldn’t consider Bozeman close enough to be an evening adventure generally, there was no way it was not going to happen.

I never have enough time with this girl! But what time I do have is always such fun

I rushed out the door as soon as work was over and drove up to Bozeman. The time passed quickly as I listened to G.K. Chesterton’s What’s Wrong with the World. The book is somewhat full of generalizations and some rather dated sentiments, but between those are some really interesting and thoughtful pieces of reflection. Chesterton never disappoints.

Bozeman has a really awesome selection of restaurants.

At about 6:45 I got to Bozeman and picked Amy up at the church she was helping out at, and then we cruised around downtown Bozeman while we debated where to grab dinner. We found a place called Whistle Pig Korean, and with Amy’s love of Korean food and my own enjoyment of random cuisines, we decided that was the place. I bow to Amy’s superior Korean food, and she said it was quite good. With dinner we had a quite fascinating Barley Tea. It tasted earthy and kind of like Rice Crispys, if you could make a tea from them. That might sound weird but I actually thought it was really good.

Speaking of tea! We decided to check out Townshend’s, a cute and DELICIOUS tea shop. They had a wall of amazing smelling teas (Much better than our last tea adventures, as you can recall.) Amy got an actual cup of tea, and I got the Albert Palmer, which was mango lemonade and black tea and so so amazingly good.

(I don’t even particularly care for regular Arnold Palmer’s, so it’s not that I have an affinity for them or anything). We then headed towards Amy’s host family, where we had homemade ice cream and sat on the floor and talked for as long as I thought I could before heading for the long drive home. (As an aside, her host is so super sweet, and made sure to check if I needed to spend the night? or caffeinated beverages for the road? Or not caffeinated beverages? She was just ultimately so amazingly nice to me, some random stranger at their house.

 

I got home at about 12:30. A long evening, especially for a Wednesday. But so totally worth it. Bozeman continues to be amazingly enticing and beautiful every time I go. Amy continues to be her awesome, awesome self. I’m glad we got to adventure this week.

 

I’m still wondering why there is a creepy taxidermied bat in this store window. I should have got an up-close of it, the thing was scary looking.