A feeling of settling

There are still so many things about this place that don’t feel like home. My room is essentially an 10×8 warehouse full of cardboard boxes. No bed has arrived, no pictures coordinated on the wall, no twinkle lights around the window.

Its freezing in the morning, and you have to go out fifteen minutes early to start your car up. These mornings are slow and frozen and pitch black. The drive to work is long, down a road that is still unfamiliar. The weight of my hands don’t pull the steering wheel around in a second nature sort of way yet. Every turn is a little unsure.

Their accents are strange and nasaly here. Their voice always seems to settle back in their sinus cavity somewhere before making it’s way out into the air.

There are still so many things about this place that don’t feel like home. And yet, for all of them, there are a hundred things that do.

Where there is a room with no bed in it yet, theres also a roommate who is willing to share her bed with you the first night you move in so you don’t have to sleep on the couch. The kind who puts on lavender scented humidifiers for you to fall asleep, and an extra blanket on your side.

For every freezing morning there is the sunrise over the mountains down an old mountain pass. And while the sun may rise with different colors and cloud shapes and hues, it is ever consistently the start of another day here.

And those nasaly accents? They are peppered with gut busting laughter, always asking my story, or giving me the MT survival tips a southerner could use.

So as I lay here on this couch, all wrapped in flannel quilts, a thousand miles from home, I can’t help but feel familiarity. There is so much more to a home than location. It’s like the difference in a home and a house. One is a building with doors and a roof and blueprints. The other is a living breathing thing, with warmth and a story and life lines.

Sitting around my kitchen table tonight, painting watercolor while my roommates drank tea and did homework, I realized that home is something you can take with you, anywhere. Because if it really is warmth and a story and a life line, aren’t those all things you can put in your pocket anywhere you go? Aren’t we, as Christians, almost obligated to? Whether it’s a mile from “home” or a thousand? I think the answer to that is an infinite and resounding yes.

So I slip home in my pockets. And when I’m standing in a group, as people chatter away with their Midwestern twang, I’ll cram my hands into my pockets and wrap my fingers around that familiar place. And when they’re not looking, I’ll sprinkle it around like gold, until everything i see is bright and familiar.

Things I have learned after one day in Montana

it’s been less than 24 hours yall, and already I have learned quite a bit about my buzzing new city, Bozeman.

The Beginning:

1. People here are not real humans. At least they can’t be. No one has real skin and can wear t shirts when its 3º out.

2. They are INCREDIBLY nice. They are always smiling and holding doors and giving directions and making small talk. I haven’t encountered a mean one yet (more proof that they might not be human.)

3. I actually have a pretty decent head o’ hair on me. Take that, Southern humidity

4. Hand lotion exists for a reason. Use it.

5. Don’t scrape snow off the top of your car with the doors open. #No,really?

6. Insurance is half the price in Montana than it was in Louisiana. Win.

7. There is no underlying, unspoken pressure to be tan. We are all pasty and we all deal.

8.  There is almost no crime in Bozeman. No seriously, look up how cute the crime map is.

9. On that note, most people don’t lock their doors.

10. Don’t worry mom, I’ll still be locking my doors.

11. Jewelry cleaner freezes when left in the car. As does mascara. As does a computer. As does just about anything.

12. I’m going to love it here.

That’s all for now kiddos! More about the actual adventures of the cross country trip later.

-CK

The Moving Process

With the move to Bozeman at my heels, I have been searching for whatever resources I can on how to do this whole thing. I keep finding all these sites where an outline of the moving process is broken down to give you some tips, keep you on track and provide you with a step by step process. They make everything seems so simple, laid out, and poised. Even Martha Stewart has a packet for moving, all color coded and beautiful and composed. These lists and sites gave me great confidence.

Then the real fun began when I actually rolled up my sleeves and got into it. Now that I am in the nitty gritty, I thought I’d provide an actual list of the step by step process, in all its ugly, beautiful honesty.

3 MONTHS OUT:

We could possibly be moving. Start adjusting brain to possibility of major world shift.

2 MONTHS OUT:

Still no word. Don’t get disappointed, but watch it! Don’t get excited. Either could lead to vast disappointment. Continue juggling act of daydreaming about whizzing down mountain slopes towards a trendy coffee bar, and convincing yourself you still love your old city, despite her wrinkles.

1 MONTH OUT:

MOVE AFFIRMATIVE. PACK ALL THE THINGS. FEEL ALL THE FEELS.

3 WEEKS OUT: 

I am so excited. This is the coolest. How do you hire a moving company? What’s being a broker mean? Does anyone actually know the definition of freight? Is masking tape an acceptable packing mechanism? Probably not, but it’s pink, and I really want to use it. How do you post to craigslist? Shit, do we still have time do give a 30 day notice? I need to find a roommate. If I find someone on craigslist housing, will they be a serial killer?

1 WEEK OUT:

This is exhausting. Where’s my list? Didn’t I make a list about that list? Where’s THAT list? Am I a grownup? Whose idea was this? I don’t even like to ski! How is a moving truck going to fit back here? I wonder if that girl I signed a lease with is going to murder me with a toothpick. Maybe she’s the Zodiac. They never found that guy, right? Wait, he’d be like 100 by now. STOP PROCRASTINATING. Pack all the things. Call in mom support. Since when did I accumulate so much shit?? I don’t even remember buying a bread maker. Should I keep all 8 tubes of toothpaste in the bathroom?

NIGHT BEFORE MOVE:

These boxes aint got nothin on me. I AM SPARTACUS. When did my arms get so strong? It must be all those curls I’ve been doing with Andy’s work boots. Is it time for a 9th cup of coffee? There are more boxes than we estimated, but we. will. deal. I can’t wait for a road trip. I’ll get to eat Chic-O-Sticks and bond with my man. And drink more coffee. And pee a lot. And see the seemingly ever expanding countryside that is America. And appreciate how small I am. And start my own story. And make new friends who have a completely different flavored pasts than me. And force Yankees to eat gumbo. And sprinkle love around that town like snow fall.

In the end, it’s all sort of like a boxing match. You start by staring fear down from your corner of the ring, watching it’s every move as it preps from its stool on the ropes to pummel you. Just looking at it gives you a stomach jolting rush of excitement and terror, all at once. The bell rings and the dance starts. At first, your sizing it up, learning its movements, all the while remembering to move your feet, keep light on your toes. Then the battle begins. They take one swing at you, and you might take it on the chin, but you fire back, a quick with your left and a solid with your right. And you just keep that up, follow through after follow through. By the end, you’re bear hugging each other in sheer exhaustion while the audience looks on. Your loved ones are all watching, some screaming their heads off, others watching through laced fingers. “I told her I didn’t want her fighting anymore.” 

Who knows what the verdict will be when the bell rings its final toll, and that microphone glides down from the ceiling like a spider on silk web. But that’s the whole point. It doesn’t matter. Through a broken nose and a bleeding brow, you look at fear, wheezing in its own corner, surrounded by a million coaches trying to reassure it with a spit bucket and a sweat towel. Win lose or draw, you have fought the good fight. You refused fear, that tyrant, that autocrat, in all its dictation. You have fought the good fight.

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The job seeker and the gods.

In all my Greek mythology classes, I never heard mention of what was one of the most powerful gods of all. How was this? How did they miss this giant, this breathing force, with all his power? He terminates with the point of a finger, his very breath blows acidic doubt, and his tongue is a quick, flashing sword right to the heart.

He is Applicus, god of the job applications. And he rules many, friend.

His mountain is not Olympus. Instead, it is the rumination of discarded resumes, with all the life crumpled out of them. He sits atop this with his legs spread wide, an elbow resting casually on his knee, his wrist at rest. He chews on his cigar until the leaves begin to sog and sit around the corners of his laughing mouth.

When Applicus is bored, which is rare (there is always fresh meat to be dealt with), he turns to his mountain for entertainment. He leans down, his power suit pulling across his broad shoulders as he plucks a discarded resume from the throne. “Ohhhhh yes.” Today it is a good one. A rare gem of not bullet points, but color, true beauty, design, wit, and professionalism. The kind of resume the seeker poured their beating heart into, held the work of art up to the gods with weary arms and said, “This is the sum of me!” with the only energy they had left.

With one bellowing laugh, Applicus sends the paper flying from their tired fingers, leans down off his mountain, and snatches it between his gnarled claws. “It is your sacrifice,” he replies.

Unlike some gods, Applicus requires sleep. His is the work of constant attention, and therefore he requires rest. This is when the few survive, pushing through the front lines, with hot ink still dripping down their swords.

When Applicus wakes in the morning to see the successes of his enemies, he thunders in a colossal rage. This is when the rest of us suffer most. His bellow is the wind that blows a resume from your hands to the mud two steps before the office door. When your computer crashes in the middle of the most brilliant cover letter you’d ever written, it is Applicus beating on his chest. The pressure on your heart as you skim through an empty inbox is the clenching of his massive jaws.

And yet, in spite of all this, a sword can still be found in the job seeker’s hand every dawn. He is the most resilient soldier of them all. Each morning he says, “This is who I am,” and every evening, someone replies, “It is not enough.”

He doesn’t loosen his grip on the hilt. He lifts his chin and presses his nose hard against the iron bridge of his helmet. He drives his feet into the ground, ankles bracing and toes gripping. All his muscles fire, and he takes off in a blazing sprint for the front lines. He will do this again, and again, and again, and again.

Until it is done.

A Lesson in Goodbyes

Today was James the Maintenance Man’s last day. If you don’t remember James, I mentioned him in a previous post when he dropped some serious knowledge on me. Today, with his goodbye, he managed to do so again. He always says the most beautiful things. They are simple, true, and spoken in a blues like rhythm. I’ll miss his life advice, which always seemed to find me at the perfect times.

“They said you had some pretty big shoes to fill, but you know what? Ya brought your own shoes to the party.”

“God said, ‘Stop working on everybody else! Stop tryin to change everybody. Let me change you, and then other people will see, and they’ll change too.”

“Some of the most beautiful flowers grow in the ditch.”

“I hope you can use your creative juices here. If not, they’ll get so heavy and you’ll have to go. And that’s ok.”

“When you fall in love and get married, you think you gonn wear it like a crown. Oh, you gonn have a crown, all right, but it ain’t for you. It ain’t never for you. It’s for him. And Him.”

“I got to tell these boys. You got a great woman? Serve her. Serve her and you’ll always be happy. Your the server and she’s the customer. If you start out with a bad attitude, you’re not gettin a very good tip. But if go above and beyond, see, you’ll get the reward right back.”

Kelsea

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Most of you think today is special because it is a Friday. If you only knew the half of it. While Fridays are fabulous, today is special for a much greater reason than that. You probably know why if you already know this girl:

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For today, is this sassy lady’s BIRTHDAY!!!!!!

I can’t tell you how happy I am that this little nugget is an integral part of my life. It started as an office romance. But before that, I was terrified of her. She was an editor, she was a ballerina, she was tall, THAT HAIR, and most of all, she was SO nice.

Then, one fateful afternoon, the Advisor to the paper decided he couldn’t go on our staff trip to LA.  He’d send the next in command, which was the then Office Manager, Kelsea McCrary. He doesn’t know this, but that was the best decision he’s ever made.

Before that, Kel and I were beginning to bond. I was going through “real life” stuff and she was totally there for me. I guess it was the life stuff that made us drop all the social politeness and get into the real business of being friends. That, and the countless hours we were spending in the office that year. (I’ve still never worked that much to this day.)

LA was like jet fuel to our friendship fire. By the time we left the sunshine state, I had a sister. It was so easy to love her, and it was just as easy to be loved by her. Somewhere between “millionaire cabbies who work for fun,” morning coffee runs, and what felt like a 12 mile walk back to our hotel after dinner (the bill was SO expensive we couldn’t afford the cab back), we clicked. So much so that we decided to be roommates once we got back to the ol boot.

A few months later we were all moved into Deborah Dr. There are so many incredible memories that I will always have from that house. Her sitting indian style in the recliner with her laptop in hand, working away while I cooked and we chatted about anything and everything through the little kitchen cut out window. Sitting on her bed while she laid on the carpet in her room, laughing about Hamilton the hammer and talking about life decisions until way past both of our bedtimes. Notes next to the coffee pots in the morning, where coffee sat, already brewed, every morning, because she’s awesome like that. My surprise graduation/bday party she threw me, even getting friends from B.R. to come up.

There are so many of them. To think on all of them at once makes my heart hurt with goodness. I’d give anything to be there today to force that Scrooge into enjoying her birthday. Maybe by the next birthday. Until then, cyber wishes will have to do. Happy Birthday McCrary, I can’t tell you how thankful I am God dropped you in my life so unexpectedly, so brilliantly.

Love you!

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American News: Showing the ISIS crisis one murder at a time.

It is 6:00, primetime, and CNN is on. A smart looking young woman in black framed glasses is addressing the ISIS violence that is sweeping parts of Iraq, making it’s way closer and closer  to the capital. The regime, (which even Al-Queda has parted ways with due to a conflict of interest and the extremism of the ISIS-and that’s saying something) has been is making it’s violence as public as possible. They gained mass media attention about five days ago, when they posted a video of an Iraqi policeman’s head being sawed off. Videos have followed of equal terror, boasting mass executions of soldiers and civilians alike. There is no body count yet, but it is surely somewhere in the hundreds.

The smart lady then opens for the following footage. There is no, “this may be disturbing for some viewers,” preface. There is no, “the following content is graphic.” There is nothing about a mature audience.  The screen blacks out slowly, and opens up to the footage. There is a man’s voiceover, deep and smooth, as he describes what is being seen. It feels somewhat like a movie preview. There is suspenseful, instrumental music. There  are dramatic pauses. Behind all the fluff runs the footage, horrifying, as a row of men, kneeling and blindfolded in front of a ditch, wait. Behind them, the armed ISIS members pace back and forth. One of the ISIS pauses behind the kneeling man who is closest to the camera. He raises his weapon, and pulls the trigger.

Freeze frame. All the music stops, the picture darkens slightly, and a nifty little graphic highlighting the bullet’s trail (about half a foot) to the back of the man’s head is highlighted in orange, ending with a little impact graphic at the contact point on the victim’s head. “The following footage is too graphic to show you,” the voiceover man finally speaks up.

“Well,” I think as I sit in my living room. “That was close, good thing you didn’t show that extra .2 seconds of video. Now that would have been disturbing. Way to know where to draw the line.”

Cut to yesterday, as I plod slowly along on the gym treadmill for a warm up. In front of me, mounted on a wall is a flat screen playing Fox News, which is also talking about the ISIS crisis. A lady in a red jacket introduces new footage, much like CNN did. I can’t hear it, but I can read the subtitles, and there is once again no warning of graphic or disturbing footage. They proceed to show video taken by ISIS of a group of terrified men, blindfolded and on their knees. They target one man and begin to question him. He is speechless with terror. I can’t convey to you how horrifying it was to watch him being badgered as he tried to find his words, knowing these were the last moments of his life. The footage shows the terrorists toying the the man, placing the barrel of their weapons along his throat.

The video cuts. Back to the woman in the red jacket. “All four men were killed. Unlike previous victims, their identities are known thanks to their families. The man shown searching for words in the video is (insert name), he has a wife and three children….(we’re taking a dramatic pause here)…one of which, is a baby girl.”

Although I had been looking down for most of the video, glancing up to see when the footage would end, I feel completely violated. Not by the situation that has happened to that poor man, but by the exploitation of the media. Between CNN and Fox News’ coverage, violated is the only word that I can think of. The footage was shown to appall me. It was shown to shock. It was shown to capture my attention in a way that doesn’t let me look away, because humans are addicted to this sort of feeling. It gives them a mini adrenaline rush that in some way signals to them that they are alive. It’s been interesting to study sales and marketing, and find so much of it in the news.

I remember when news outlets were doing the same thing with the missing Malaysia airliner. The search footage was voiced over by a man worthy of doing Hollywood previews, there were dramatic shots of helicopter blades in slow motion as a man’s feet hung out the side of the chopper. They even titled it like a movie. And of course we are drawn to this. Human’s love anything they struggle to comprehend, and the mystery of it all makes us, once again, feel somewhat alive. It’s almost impossible not to get sucked in.

I know the arguments, especially when it comes to the ISIS videos being broadcast by the news outlets. The American people need to know. They deserve to know. It opens them up to the realities of what’s going on over there. But, to an extent, I have to disagree. I understand that it takes a whole lot these days to rally Americans to more than just letting out a “that’s terrible,” and going back their warmup on the treadmill. But I argue that it’s circular; that Americans are this way because they are desensitized. Part of that is the individuals fault, but the responsibility also falls into the lap of the media.

It’s not that the footage shouldn’t be shown, it’s the manner and extent to which it is shown. CNN could very well show the footage of the captured men, but did they really need to show the shooting, and freeze frame the end of this man’s life? And then to be so delusional as to think that they shielded their audience from the violence in the video by freezing his death, instead of showing it in real time. I even argue that Fox could have shown the footage of the four men, terrified as they were. But did they really have to continue the three minute video, as ISIS lay down the man on his back and terrorized him?

We as a country need to consider why it is that these news outlets are showing this footage. After a certain point, is it about information, or ratings? Is it about knowledge, or the cheap thrill of your being conscious of your own mortality through other’s sufferings? These are questions we need to be asking. Our nation has become so obsessive about what we put into our bodies (which is great), organic, paleo, green, local, preservative free, but when will we realize that the same should go for our brains? What you take into your mind is just as important as what you take into your body. The brain is even more powerful than the body, and yet we are ignorant to the harm we do by ingesting every little bit of information that thrills us, no matter how base or disgusting.

When it comes to journalism, it is preached to always ask “why.” We need to learn that this applies not just to the journalist, but to the individual absorbing the journalism, as well.