While it would probably make for more alluring reading for me to say I have traveled the world extensively, that simply isn’t the case. One could say my life has been mundane and uneventful. If you ask my mom, it’s been “adventurous”. Turbulent is a word you’ll see thrown around here. I will leave you, the reader, to draw your own conclusion.
I was born and raised, 2-3’d generation -depending on the family member- in the northern San Francisco Bay Area. I spent my first 5 years bouncing around Marin County, and then migrated to Sonoma County in the early 90’s, where I “grew up”- if you could call it that. Thinking back on it, I was frequently on the go: I spent a lot of weekends with my grandparents and road tripped around the Bay Area to visit various family. I had a lot of Sea Cadet; Girl Scout and Job’s Daughter functions that had me traveling up and down the state on many a weekend and school breaks. We camped a lot in the summertime, including Willits KOA, Lake Pillsbury, Shasta, Lassen just to name a few. There were trips to Disneyland (yes, I am a Disnerd!), to Tahoe to ‘play in the snow’, as Flat-landers do. The occasional trip to Oregon to visit my family there. A few trips to New England to visit my uncle.
I was a vivacious dreamer though, and I wanted to see the world (or at least all 50 states) before I was 30. The lure of beautiful and unique scenery, and the history involved was a powerful thing. By the time I hit my 18th birthday, my life was… not going according to plan. So, I bummed around, worked and tried- unsuccessfully- to think of a plan B. It wasn’t until Halloween that my life would steer off in another (although not entirely unexpected) direction.
From an early age, one of my favourite movies was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If you have ever seen it, you’ll know that Violet Beauregard was from Miles City, Montana. I felt an inexplicable draw to the place, though I could never explain why. Not to mention, I had never been to Montana and I was only somewhat certain of where it actually lay on the map. But, on Halloween 2004… I got together with three of my closest friends, who promptly cornered me and asked me what ‘my plans’ were. When I couldn’t give sufficient answer, my friend Nikki asked what I thought of moving to Montana with her. She was moving there to be closer to family, and thought I may like to tag along and see how I liked it. The town in question? Forsyth. A teeny tiny, less than 2500 people, railroad town in the South Eastern third of the state, 50 miles from Miles City itself. So, I informed my parentals of the decision, procured a one way plane ticket and the day after Thanksgiving, off we went.
Forsyth was a culture shock in comparison to the blended, cultural melting pot from whence I had came. My first week in town, I went to the grocery store to inquire about a job, and as I walked in an elderly gentleman tipped his weather beaten cowboy hat to me and wished me a good day. The closest I had ever come to anything like that was a couple of Civil War Reenactments with a friend in high school. But, I settled in. Went through the right of passage of having a roommate that probably shared an equal desire to smother with a pillow on occasion. Lived off microwaveable, cheap crap and even made a huge batch of top ramen for a church potluck once. (I was a good little Presbyterian girl back in the day). Within about 4 months, I met my first husband, wound up pregnant, barely escaped a move to Cheyenne, WY and then moved with him to Miles City. I would spend the next 3 years there.
Miles City was… a turbulent chapter of my life. But with that, I had some good. To this day, I maintain that my favourite part of living there was the summer storms. My dream post high school involved going to OU to study meteorology, and do something along the lines of Jim Cantore or Dr. Greg Forbes, so living somewhere that was put under a severe thunderstorm watch almost every other night from May to August was something of hog heaven. I spent my entire time there working overnights for Walmart, where I made lasting friendships and something of a family. One such friendship was a man who was clearly one of my soul tribe from the start. We taught each other about life, his mom took me in like a daughter, and I fell madly and head over heels in love with him. While it was never meant to be “that”, we remain friends now- if only from a distance.. Once I got a travel worthy vehicle, I was occasionally able to escape. If you have ever driven through Montana, you will know how long it can be. We judge drive time in hours, not miles. So most of my traveling was to Billings- the nearest “big” city with a mall, and more importantly, a Costco. The Medicine Rocks and just over the state line into the Dakotas were popular day trips, but other than that I generally stayed put. I did get fairly proficient at pool, darts and the art of not freezing to death in the bitter cold winters. Ultimately, it turned out not to be my final stopping place so, after my second son was born, I packed him up and moved back to California. 6 months later I was back in Montana- this time to the Flathead Valley.
September 1997: I was 11 years old, sitting in my assigned seat in drama class, scanning the room for a familiar, and hopefully friendly face. As I looked on, I spotted another girl whom I had never seen, but I KNEW deep down that I knew. Today, I refer to her as my sister. We are aunties to each others kids, and her mom gets offended if I don’t refer to her as ‘mom’. In 2008, her, her husband and her parents had all wound up in NW Montana, so it was only a matter of time before I followed along. My first two years in the Valley were riddled with about as much turbulence as my time in Miles City had been. I lost my job with Walmart shortly before my 4 year anniversary with the company, smack in the middle of the great economic recession of 2009- which about flattened this valley- but managed to land a job slinging and delivering pizzas for Pizza Hut. (This is a shining example of where it pays to have restaurant experience, because no matter the state of the economy, people tend to want someone else to cook for them. And honestly, a single moms got to do what she’s got to do to keep a roof over their head). I tried, unsuccessfully to go to college. (I don’t recommend doing that without having a fairly certain idea of what you actually WANT to do… #buriedinstudentloandebt). To top that, I met my would be (and ill fated) second husband, and had my third and final child in 2010. My would-be husband enlisted in the military and after basic and A School, off we went to San Antonio, TX.
We set out on what would be a 5 day trip, moving ourselves, on Christmas Day. Traveling by way of I-90, 25 and 10. Colorado grew on me, and I positively fell in love with New Mexico. I wish I had been in a better ‘place’ (mentally) while we were there, because there was SO much I didn’t do. But an explosive combination of anxiety, depression and reverse seasonal affective disorder (yes, that is in fact a thing. Look at the Mayo Clinic if you don’t believe me) kicked in, and instead of embracing my usual wanderlust, I stuck to my bubble and familiar surroundings. I continued to work for Pizza Hut, and they stuck me in a store in a neighborhood with places we couldn’t deliver to during the day. We did venture out to South Padre Island for a day at one point, and did quite a few hikes up the Comanche Trail- which I highly suggest checking out if you are in the area! I made a few good friends, got to experience the AWESOME that is H-E-B, sampled Shipley DoNuts, and frequently cheated on In’n’Out with Whataburger. The Magic Time Machine became a favoured eating haunt, another place that gets 5 Stars in my book. I learned that a native borne Texan tends to lose her shit when it rains, freezes and then ‘snows’. Experienced one hell of a storm that had me throwing together a makeshift tornado shelter in the bathroom and within a couple weeks, heat that made me want to live in the Arctic for the rest of my days. I managed to survive roaches and scorpions in our apartment. But at the end of the 6 months, I was happy to leave the state in my rearview mirror. It was off to Washington State for us, and for once… i couldn’t be more excited about a new destination.
Of all the places I have lived in my life, I positively fell in love with Washington, maybe its the climate, but I found it to be a truly magical place (No drugs involved in that drawn conclusion, I swear). We lived in Bremerton, which is a ferry ride from Seattle. I loved the weather, the scenery and being close-ish to my beloved Pacific Ocean. I was disappointed by the fact that I never saw any Orcas in the inlet, (they are my all time favourite sea creature), but the 9 months I spent there were some of the best. We lived in off-base housing, and I made good friends with three of my neighbors, all who had kids around the same age as my own. I went to work for Papa Johns, and got to work at Seattle Sounders and Seahawks games as often as I wanted. We had Grocery Outlet, World Market and the thrift stores were incredible. There was a walking path not far from where we lived that had an old shack with so much moss, there were literal trees growing on the roof. In the fall, all I had to do was walk up the road and I could pick blackberries by the bucket, and I made a nice little side business selling homemade jam. When the time came that I knew I needed to get out of the situation I was in, it was with heavy heart that I left Washington and went back to Montana.
Alas, Montana sucked me back in. I moved the kids and I back to the valley and ultimately settled in just outside the small (sort of) town of Whitefish. I putted around, contemplated moving back east, back to California, even Colorado -for a very specific reason-… somewhere, anywhere, I could ‘start over’. As happens when you are growing and healing. What I didn’t see in that the two years I spent after moving back, was that I was growing in the best possible way. I was able to take a couple true-blue vacations with the kids and my family. A last minute trip to a family reunion gave me the balls to stand up to myself and admit that I wanted to go to college for- and then work in the field of- History- Because it’s been my best and favourite subject since I was a little thing. I grew up frequenting the library with my Grama, and I would constantly wander out of the kids section in search of better historical material. To this day, I read obituaries for fun and explore graveyards like museums. The ONLY reason I remember that 16oz = 1lb is because of studying the California gold rush. On a family vacation in 2016, I drug my then 8 year old son to the End of the Oregon Trail Museum in Oregon City. You get the idea… I love the subject. I don’t want to be a teacher, but there is plenty I could do with it. So, back to school I went.
Even though things were going fairly well on the whole, I was still frustrated and felt like I was lacking somewhere in my life. I was restless, wasn’t satisfied with my job. So, last summer, when a friend of mine down in Livingston suggested I apply at the hospital he works at, I didn’t think twice. It would be a new opportunity, a great job and it would put me closer to my oldest son, who is in Miles City. It was a no brainer. Less than 24 hours after shooting off my application and resume, I had a response for a phone interview, where I was told they would like to potentially hire me for a position in their Food & Nutrition Services department, thanks to my years of food and retail experience. A very head spinning, fast moving two weeks later, I had interviewed in person and hired damn near on the spot. So, although my gut was highly skeptical about the whole thing, I packed up the kids and and off we went. The job itself was amazing, and one of the best I have ever had. I love food and cooking, and this put me in a position where I was around healthy food options- which was huge because I have food allergies and intolerances out the wazoo, and I eat fairly specific because of it-. The chefs (yes, real, culinary school trained Chefs at a hospital!) I worked with both taught and allowed me the creative freedom to try out new recipes, and I took partial charge of the grab’n’go cooler, where just about everything offered was made from scratch. But, there was still that skepticism and gut fueled nagging, and despite how much I loved the job, my life outside of work was spiraling out of control at an alarming rate. Within 4 months, we were back in the Flathead, and happy to be ‘home’.
On my final trip moving back, I made a commitment to myself to find something (job wise) that I love, and to find a true balance. I think I am finally on the right track. We shall see!
Until next time, cheers