Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!!!!

I hope all is well with everyone--catch you tomorrow!


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Public Service Announcement

When I was growing up my Dad would make us eat black eyed peas each year on New Year's Day. He swore it was good luck and all but threatened the world would end if we didn't eat some. Being a suspicious and generally paranoid child I obligingly swallowed one every year as if it were a pill, though I did so with some degree of fuss and consternation. It's not that I didn't care for the taste (truth be told, I had no idea what they really tasted like) it was the fact that the word 'eye' was in their name and that was more than enough to gross me out. By the time I was on my own and no longer spending New Year's with my parents I gave up on the black eyed peas altogether, though my Dad never failed to ask each year if I'd eaten any. "It's good luck, you know," he'd say in a tone that indicated a warning. Whatever. Those creepy little peas, or beans, or whatever they were, repulsed me enough to risk it.

But then 2006 hit and it was a rotten year. My work, my personal life and even my health were terrible. By the time New Year's Eve rolled around I was so depressed that I could hardly celebrate at all. I was just glad to be able to say goodbye to 2006. The next day, possessed by desperation and a hangover, I marched down to the grocery store to buy a can of my old nemesis, the black eyed peas. But when I got to the store I was slightly panicked to find that the shelves where they were supposed to be were bare. Apparently people other than my Dad believed in the myth, too.

I drove to two more stores before I finally found some. I then went straight home, cooked them up using the recipe on the back of the can and ate two bowls full. To my surprise, they were quite good. When my friend Robin came over I made her eat a bowl, too.

Now, I'm not saying that 2007 was the best year of my life so far because of the peas. That would be silly to base an entire year's success on a couple bowls of vegetables. But life is strange and just in case there really is something to it, I've already bought my stock for this New Year's Day.

This is the recipe I use. Give it a try and enjoy!

Heat two table spoons of olive oil in a pan on low heat
Add four chopped cloves of garlic and sauté on low for one to two minutes
Add one to two teaspoons of powdered sage
Add one can of diced tomatoes, drained and simmer for five to ten minutes
Finally, add one can of drained black eyed peas and simmer
Salt and pepper to taste


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Daily Details

I know, I know, I has been five whole days since I last posted. Oh the shame! Oh the sorrow! Oh the humanity!!!! But I have my reasons/excuses. I was celebrating Christmas with my family, sleeping (a new one for me), hanging out with friends and basically eating everything in sight. And when all of that ended and I returned to my new home in Bozeman, MT there was unpacking, cleaning, and generally stressing about my new job. And yes, these are all really great excuses, but the fact of the matter is that I said I would post every single day and I didn't when I should have. It's not like I had my hands tied behind my back or was in a coma. I simply didn't post. So poo on me. From now on I will only neglect to post if I am in the woods or have absolutely zero access to the internet. Sound fair enough?

Okay, so back to life. My flight back to the wide open country of Montana was fairly easy. There was baby-cries-alot on the first leg of the journey (seated next to me, of course) but other than that it all went fine. I came home, unpacked my bags, and immediately began cleaning the kitchen with a vengeance (hey--it was therapeutic for me).

There was a bit of a miscommunication about when my first day at Backpacking Light was supposed to be. They weren't expecting me till next week and consequently didn't have anything for me to do. However, my new boss was able start me on a really exciting podcast project that I've been happily tinkering away on while warming my toes next to the wood stove. I never thought I'd like working from home, but the truth is that it's kind of nice. It's a totally new experience for me to be able to prop my feet up on the coffee table and sip tea in my pajamas while sending emails. I can do web research and not be distracted by a ringing phone or an annoying co-worker. I can even refresh my brain by taking a break to do the laundry or unload the dishwasher (and yes, that is a plus given my obsessive Type A personality). I'm not thinking about office politics or how I'm interacting with co-workers because the only living, breathing, things that I'm working with are the dogs and the cat. And while the dogs can be distracting, I can generally tell them to go lay down and they'll leave me be. However, the female dog, Sage, has learned that if she really wants my attention, and I'm ignoring her, all she has to do is lay her head directly on my keyboard and look up at my with those adoring princess eyes. It works every time, and I've certainly never had a co-worker do that before.

It also dawned on me while I was tapping away yesterday that this was almost my dream job. This time last year if you'd asked me what my dream job was and I was brave enough to tell you, I'd have said it would be working for an outdoor magazine. And here I am. With the exception of a few minor details such as working full time, being paid salary, and having benefits, this is fairly close to the real deal for me, and that is pretty great.


Song of the Day: Beautiful Day by U2 (Too cheesy? I don't care.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Season's Greetings! Happy Hanukkah! Joyous Festivous!

Whatever you choose, have fun today!

We've been having our own type of fun here at the Chilton house. We've been decorating Ginger Bread Houses...

dressing up the dogs....

and opening presents! That's a stuffed squirrel I gave my brother for Christmas (it's a long story).


Friday, December 21, 2007


I'm on Christmas break at my parents house and for the first time in a long time find that I have absolutely nothing to do. After working an average of 60 hours a week for the last six months this free time is, to be honest, kind of freaking me out. There are no articles to write, no research to be done and no interviews to schedule. I don't even have any emails to get caught up on. And now, consequently, it seems I have nothing to say. It makes me feel oddly untethered to anything normal. After sitting here in the quiet calm of my parents living room for the last thirty minutes warming my toes in front of the fire I finally turned to my friend Jeff and begged him to give me a topic, any topic, to write about. His answer? "Talk about a rafting trip."

Well, okay.

But which one do I talk about? I was a raft guide for four seasons and that means a lot of trips. There are people I could tell stories about, animal encounters I could gloat over and more than one rapid that I could speak of as if it were a person. Basically, there was a lot...maybe too much. I could talk about the first and only time I flipped my boat, the most obnoxious student I ever had (thankfully I've forgotten her name), the time I saw a bear or recount my very first trip as a guide. I could talk about how I saw adults turn into little kids on the river, or my favorite clients, the Johnson family. I could talk about what it was like to help someone in trouble or even how I ultimately lost the itch to be a guide. There's so much I could say that now, ironically, I don't know where to start.

It's Christmas time, or Hanukkah for some. Regardless of what you believe, it's a time of gratitude and joy. Each year, as my plane makes it way to Columbus for the holidays I think of all the things that have happened during the year that I am proud of and grateful for. This is the first year in a long time that I'm not counting rafting on my list. I was busy in Wyoming this past summer getting my career in journalism off the ground. To my surprise, I went a whole season without putting my paddle in the water. And while the absence of that which defined me for so long is odd, it's not necessarily bad. I was working on the next adventure and improving my skills as writer, or at least I'd like to think so.

But Jeff had told me to write about a rafting trip, not just the whole experience. And while the memories of those days as a guide are never far, I thought it would be fun to pull up an old essay I had written almost two years ago about a day on the water. It was supposed to be a finished piece, but as I began reading it tonight I immediately began rearranging sentences, changing adjectives and deleting superfluous words. On about the second page I stopped working and realized, quite suddenly, that this was no longer a piece I was proud of. It didn't even sound like something I'd written. Some of the sentences were redundant, the imagery was poor and the explanation of what happened that day wasn't very good at all. I'd let a few people read it once it was completed and I remember them telling me they liked it. I even remember thinking it wasn't half bad. But looking at it now I'm nowhere near happy with it. I don't even want to finish reading it and am tempted to simply trash the whole file.

But that old, annoying, flatulent piece of writing isn't a complete wash. It shows that I have in fact improved as a writer. I'm not saying that what I write now if fabulous, and I do know that I have plenty of room for improvement, but seeing the change from them to now is at the very least reassuring.

So Jeff, thank you for sending me down that strange little memory lane; I hadn't realized just how much improvement I had to be thankful for.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Back in Ohio

Last night I landed in Ohio and so far things are good here. My parents dogs are still goofy, the same people are still here, and everything looks the same as it always does.

I'm so relaxed from nothing to do that I can't even think of anything to write. Guess I'll go find a book...


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hiding in Plain Sight

Last night my roommate asked me if I'd miss Lander. I had to answer yes. There was just so much life in that town. It was small, which forces everyone to get to know each other and their business. I like that; it's harder to be lonely when every time you step out door you'll see a friendly face. When I was a kid we moved around a lot, and I learned early on that every city and every town has a personality all its own. You can find it not only in the way people talk or how they dress, but in how they drive, if they open doors for each other or if the local watering hole is more like a pub than a bar. That being said, Lander's personality was made from people who helped their neighbors no matter what, let their kids play in the front yard, left their doors unlocked and their curtains wide open, and were always looking forward to the next party. It was a town that was equal parts cowboys, environmentalists and average American families. I heard someone once say that on one end of the bar there were locals wearing hiking boots and on the other end it was a lineup of cowboy boots. Nothing could be further from the truth. From the top floor window at the Noble Hotel you could see the hiking book variety riding bikes or walking to work while the cowboys powered down the street in diesel trucks or occasionally on horseback.

It was a treat to live in a community of stark contrasts and blatant opposition to time. Like the difference between the cowboys and environmentalists, Lander existed in a much different world than the rest of the country. Its hometown feel with a strong trust for each other and reliance on the community as a whole was so unlike anywhere I've ever lived. It was like going back in time to visit what Anywhere USA should have been. In a word, it was idyllic.

Lander seems to be hiding in plain sight, right in the middle of the country. Its distance from major cities keeps it isolated and, in effect, preserved. And honestly, I hope it stays like that.


Song of the day: Shadow of the Day by Linkin Park

I did tell you she was persnickety, right?

This is Philbert. She used to be a barn cat and still carries that cowgirl persona with her. She likes to be pet and snuggle, but it's only on her terms.

And yes, she bites.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Leaving Lan Diego

Yesterday I packed up the rest of my stuff, put some Tom Petty in the CD player and left Lander, Wy. At -7 degrees Fahrenheit it was a chilly goodbye to the town I called home for the last six months, but it was also very pretty. The trees were encased in ice and with the early morning sun on them they just sparkled. The drive was okay, too. The roads weren't bad at all and it was sunny and clear the whole way up.

When I got to Bozeman I found a cute ski town full of people who look like me, lots of specialty grocery stores (I almost cried when I saw the wall of organic coffee at the co-op) and a cozy cabin with a wood stove for me to live in. It's only been one day, but so far so good.

My new roommates are three hunting dogs, one persnickety cat and their owner. The dogs names, from left to right, are Echo, Ike and Sage. The cat, Philbert, was too good to be pictured so I'll have to get a shot of her later.

This is Echo. He's just about a year old and follows me everywhere. His head was in my lap most of the afternoon.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Last Day

Hi All. Yesterday was my last day as an intern here in Lander. My boss threw a nice little party for me in my department and we all drank coffee with Kahlua and nibbled on biscotti and it was great.
I could get all mushy and talk about how much my internship meant to me, that I had more fun in the last six months than in the whole of my life, and that I'm probably going to shed a tear or two over my McDonald's coffee when I leave town tomorrow, but I'm not going to. Instead, I just want to say that it couldn't have been better and that I'm leaving on the best of terms; just a little sad to go, but excited about where I'm going.

Today is the company party and I'll go to that to see everyone one last time and then head north to Bozeman tomorrow. As my boss, Cara, so perfectly put it, "no girl should ever leave Lander without a hangover."

I couldn't have summed it up better myself.


Song of the day: Car Crash by Matt Nathanson

Friday, December 14, 2007

You've got to be kidding me

Cloned cats that glow in the dark...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

And for fun...

Check this out:

Go here. Read this.

One of the blogs I like to read is by a woman named Heather Armstrong. She's been around for a while now and mainly writes about her life with her daughter and husband or whatever else has come up that she thinks is interesting. Today she wrote about her life with depression and I was really touched by her honesty and clarity on the subject. I highly recommend checking it out at 


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This is the building where I work. It was -2 this morning when I took this shot.

This is Clay, one of the two kids I looked after this past weekend. At 12-years-old he has his own very successful chicken egg business. Of the 124 chickens he cares for, this one happened to be a favorite.

I took this picture from the same house I was looking after this past weekend. Lander is in the distance.

This is the view at sunrise from the house where I was babysitting last weekend. Absolutely gorgeous.
Yep--That is cattle on the left and a cowboy on the right. My boss, Cara took this picture when we were on our way to Jackson last month.

Two Degrees ABOVE Zero

Okay, I know it's cold here and I know I shouldn't be so shocked by this (really--I do know that I am in Wyoming) but it's only two degrees today! That's freaking cold. On the upside, the snow and ice make for some pretty gorgeous sunrises.

When it gets below twenty degrees outside a belt in the ceiling above my room begins to rattle and subsequently makes the fire extinguisher head squeak. It's loud enough to wake me up at night so to remedy the situation I climbed up on a chair with a small bit of cardboard from a cereal box and wedged it between the space where the sprinkler head meets the ceiling. I don't know why it works, but it does. And while I do realize that messing around with the sprinkler system may not be the best idea (and might even be illegal) a girl does need her sleep. [And Mitch, if you're reading this, no, throwing a shoe at the ceiling does NOT work; it only leaves scuff marks on the ceiling that I'll now have to explain to Lindsay]

So today at lunch I was taking a moment to cram some more things into boxes and bags when Dave, one of the maintenance guys where I live, poked his head in my door.

"Room inspection."

"Haha--very funny."

"No, seriously. The Fire Marshall is here to inspect the rooms and sprinkler heads."

I look around the corner, and sure enough, here comes the inspector, clipboard in hand. Shit! I immediately look up at the sprinkler head with it's cardboard embellishment and do a running leap to knock it from it's perch and turn around just in time to look nonchalant as the Fire Marshall walks in.

Okay, so maybe this wasn't my finest moment, but I was not about to pay a hefty fine for tampering with a sprinkler system! And it was pretty funny to see Dave turn bright red from trying not to laugh ;-)

Song of the day: Move Along by The All-American Rejects


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Regularly Scheduled Programming...

I know, I know I know--when it comes to being consistent about my blog, I suck. So, as a New Year's Resolution that will start today, I will write on my blog EVERY DAY. So there.

Additionally, I have reopened the blog to comments. So, if you want to say something, go for it!

As a quick catch-up since I last posted, I have been working, working some more and baby-sitting as opposed to dog-sitting for once. The kids were 12 and 14-years-old and I had a great time looking after them. In all honesty, they were easier to take care of than most of the dogs I have been in charge of in the last six months. They were so well behaved that I felt the need to send a brief apology to Cathy, who took care of my brother and I when we were that age. Seriously--she's a saint.

I also had another Nicki Moment, a term my friend Sandra coined. We have a balance board in the marketing department where I work and I thought maybe I could give it a shot. Basically, it's an oval-shaped board that rests on a cylinder. The point is to use it as practice for surfing, snow boarding, or any other such activity that requires a good sense of balance. I, however, do not practice any of the above skills or even possess an ounce of grace, but, IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME. I manged to get the board off the ground while holding onto a chair. Go me! And then, feeling a tad brave/stupid, I let go of the chair and announced to those around me, "hey look everybody! I'm doing it!" And then I promptly lost control of the board, and slammed my body to the ground. Needless to say, I spent most of last week on a heating pad and have become a regular at the chiropractors office while they try to crack me back into shape. Yeah. Good times.

I'm also getting ready to head out of town on Sunday. I have just about everything packed up and all I need to do now is shove it all into the car and head north. I'm hoping to have someone to go along with me but so far there have been no takers. Oh well--more room for my stuff.


Song of the Day: Juicy by Better Than Ezra.

It's just that kind of day...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Called Off

The sheriffs office has discontinued the search for Clay. We gave one last push on Sunday and grid-searched areas that he might have been. The cowboys showed up with ATVs and horses, while about 50 outdoorsy-types came in with hefty day-packs and dogs. In my group was a friend of his who had flown in from Seattle and his sister. The family and friends are still searching on their own and if they'd like an additional set of eyes this weekend I'll head out with them. The sister seems to think (and many of the SAR folks agree) that he probably fell in the water since we found zero trace of him. It's likely that with the low flow and cold water temperatures that his body is in one of the pools or beneath the ice.

Looking on the positive side (if there can be one in a situation like this) I got flown in by helicopter on Sunday. They flew low and close to the trees and then dropped us in a nice little bald spot. So yeah--that was pretty awesome. I also got to joke around with one of the 'boys' from Homeland Security, play with a SAR dog (his name was Chay-Da, a German Sheppard with an affinity for pouncing on mice), had a Blackhawk helicopter fly right over my head, and bush-whacked through some pretty amazing terrain. Other than a couple of angry-looking blisters and one skinned knee I'm just fine.

This week I'm back in the office, housing sitting/dog sitting for two homes, working in the kitchen on Thanksgiving and then going to a friends afterward, and working in the restaurant on Wednesday and Friday.

Back to work....

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Nothing yet

I wish I could say we found him, or at least found something, but we haven't. I was out searching again today and I can't believe that some people have been out every day since this whole thing started. I was there on Tuesday and then again today. It's inspiring to see how people have come together, gotten organized and stayed motivated to keep searching even when things aren't looking good.

We now know that he went hiking on Saturday, so that means he's been in the woods for five nights, with tonight being the sixth. It's looking pretty grim. I'm tired, discouraged and more than just a little pissed off.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Hi guys,

Our sales guy didn't show up to work on Monday. A trip to the trail head up in Sinks Canyon found his car. I joined the search and rescue group yesterday and covered ten miles on and off trail, though that seems like nothing. The canyon area is huge. We aren't sure if he left to go hiking on Saturday or Sunday. I don't know if it's hit the news or not. The only bit I found so far on the google search is:

I have to work at the restaurant tonight through Saturday so I'll also be in the office (we didn't get home until right at 5 p.m. and I was spent from the off trail hiking). If I can get off work on any of those nights I might go back out, though at this point people are starting to look and sound a bit grim about the whole thing.

I was really glad to finally get some S.A.R. experience though it sucks that it's someone from work. I don't really know Clay (I've only met him on a couple occasions) but everyone else here has and they're understandably worried. It was amazing to see how quickly everyone was mobilized. There were 50 hikers, a good size group of horse packers and helicopters and planes in the air. We had high winds and sleet though the temperature stayed between 35 and 45 degrees during the day. My group of five was hiking between 8,500 and 9,000 feet though some groups were up above 10,000 feet. It was impressive to see the helicopters flying in that kind of weather. They buzzed us twice.

Clay is a great hiker (his wife says he averages about 15-20 miles a day when he hikes) and is a former park ranger. Basically, this the kind of guy you ask to go find people, not the kind of guy who gets lost.

When I know more I'll post it here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


When I started my blog I decided that it wouldn’t be the kind that detailed what I did every day—those types of blogs are not only a complete bore but also painfully annoying. Instead I wanted it to be about life; what I was interested in, what had struck me as funny and whatever else had been on my mind. But today I happen to be bored so I thought I’d do a typical day (a good day) to showcase what life is like for me in Wyoming. So, I give you Monday, a fairly normal day that is indicative of my time here.

I start my day by getting up late. Again. I rush around my hotel/dorm/studio room to get ready for work, tripping over shoes and clothes as I go. I grab my messenger bag and a Powerbar and stumble down the stairs to work. Work, by the way, is across the street from where I live so I walk less than a block to get to the building. I reach my desk on time and grab my coffee cup before even turning on my computer. Upstairs in the kitchenette someone has committed the ultimate sin of brewing weak coffee. Really...the nerve. Two of the tech guys from upstairs and I quickly throw out the offending pot and stand impatiently while a new pot (a real pot) brews while discussing the merits of already ground verses whole bean coffee. At least I’m among friends.

Back downstairs I get started on my day. It’s the beginning of the week and we’re currently between projects in my department so work is slower than usual. But I do have a writing project so I grab the laptop and head to the quiet of the lounge to try to write. But instead of writing I start freaking out about moving to Bozeman and life in general. What am I doing? Where am I going? Should I go to Australia? Maybe try to find an internship in London? And before I know it an innocent google search on what there is to do in Bozeman on the weekend deteriorates into OH MY GOD WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE!!!!????. This, of course, is quickly followed by another trip to the coffee pot.

So I go back to my desk where I happily dive face first into a pile of old royalty statements and start organizing them on an Excel spreadsheet. God bless Excel where I can organize whole years and everything balances and makes sense. Oh how I love to indulge minor compulsions.

Come noon I’ve calmed down thanks to the complete mental absorption that is royalty statements from the 1980’s combined with a dose of The Be Good Tanyas on iTunes. I meet up with two friends from work and we head off to the new coffee shop to have lunch. Over soup and sandwiches we start talking about the next place to move and the next thing to do. Both women are in the same boat as me so at they can commiserate as well as add a few new dimensions to my worries: Hadn’t I thought about the best way to start saving for retirement? What about travel? Screw retirement. Shouldn’t I be squirreling away my cash for a plane ticket to some exotic locale as opposed to paying off my car? After all, we’re only in our twenties once and time is running out. Right.

After lunch we head back to work and I gladly slam the headphones back on and go straight back to the world of royalty statements. Comfort through organization…

By mid-afternoon my mom is calling to ask if I’d like her to mail me spice cookies (YES, PLEASE!!!!). I try not to sound too desperate for sugary home-backed, 100-year-old family recipes however, my humble gratitude comes out to sound something like “how soon can you get them here????.”

Before I can talk to my mom any further, I’m called away to take some photos for the online store. I borrow a bike and head off with two of my co-workers for City Park. It’s an Indian summer day so the air is warm and the afternoon sun is making the fall leaves sparkle. At the park I take photos of the two “models” wearing shirts and hats that we sell online with the schools logo on them. We take pictures until the camera dies and then head back to the office.

It’s straight back to the Excel sheets for me until 5:00pm rolls around and I’m out the door. I don’t have to work at the restaurant tonight so I drop my bag in my car and decide to walk the five blocks down Main Street to the grocery store. The sun is starting to get low in the sky and the road is filled with people rushing home to dinner and their families. With nearly all the stores in town located on Main Street it’s a pleasant walk and I find myself letting go of my worries just enough to begin to relax.

At the store I pick up some fresh veggies and debate between beef and giving tofu a chance. In the end I decide on the tofu because it’s cheaper and head back towards home. On the way into the hotel/dorm that is my home I spot one of my friends from lunch and she invites me out to the place where she is house-sitting to watch some football. I’m not really a football person (or a major-league sports fan for that matter) but some socializing sounds like a great idea so I tell her to find me before she heads out.

In the kitchen I try my hand at a tofu-veggie stir fry and discover that while it’s not that bad I really would rather have a steak and a potato. Oh well. At least I gave it a shot.

After dinner I meet up with my friend and another guy and we caravan out to the house. It’s a small place with a relaxed sitting room, cable and grill. Another guy meets us out there and the four of us get started on beer and brats while the Packers and Broncos duke it out on the TV. The two boys have brought their guitars and pick and pry at lyrics and chords while my friend and I gossip and discuss safe bear camping techniques (it’s just that kind of crowd). Before long the boys are jamming out and are doing a fairly good job at it, too. The boys only stop to grill, eat, drink, tell funny stories and yell at the TV.

With the smell of onions in the house, a beer in my hand and guitar music permeating the evening my friend and I start talking about our freak-outs and worries about what in the heck we’re supposed to do next. But instead of talking about the rest of our lives with tension, it’s more of a sensible conversation with not nearly as much anxiety as there was at lunch; they’re the same problems, but somehow smaller. At one point she looks over at the boys and says that on nights like these, life is okay for a minute. She’s right.

When the football game ends, guitar music dies down and all the brats have been eaten, I head into the pitch-black desert night and make my way back to town. Back in my little room I hit the mattress, close my eyes, and not a second later it’s Tuesday morning.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Coffee. Want, need,'s all the same.

I'm so excited! I'm sitting in a real, authentic Pacific Northwest style coffee house. Thank GOD! The walls are black. The ceiling is tin. The floor is hardwood. The coffee is organic. The pastries were baked here this morning. They even have a stuffed black crow sitting on a shelf with a book of poetry. Don't you just love it? I do! It's about freaking time this town got a real life coffee house. They even have four different folk bands coming in tonight AND they're playing good Indie music on the speakers as I type this. And did I mention the free wifi? This is my new home.

And I can't help but feel just a tiny bit of extra joy in knowing that this used to be the Christian all Jesus rock all the time cafe. There is justice in this world. I'm going to throughly enjoy my coffee, my internet and my sanity.


PS: To further demonstrate my elation, here is the conversation I had with Jackie while writing this:

14:10] Jackie: hi

[14:10] Chillie625: HI!

[14:10] Chillie625: I'm in a real coffee house!

[14:11] Jackie: ooh! where?

[14:11] Chillie625: It just opened this morning

[14:11] Jackie: haha

[14:11] Chillie625: I'm drinking a real cappuccino!

[14:11] Jackie: in Lander??

[14:11] Chillie625: I'm using free wifi!

[14:11] Jackie: wow :)

[14:11] Chillie625: I KNOW!

[14:11] Jackie: welcome back to the 21st century

[14:11] Chillie625: I'm so happy that I'm blogging about it

[14:11] Jackie: :-D

[14:11] Jackie: that's great

[14:11] Chillie625: NO SHIT

[14:11] Chillie625: I'm actually sitting here alone and smiling

[14:11] Chillie625: God bless coffee

[14:11] Jackie: yeah they actually had an awesome little coffee place in Fairfield, but I think it's since gone out of business

[14:11] Chillie625: and God bless the cute tattooed hippie couple that opened the joint

[14:12] Jackie: didn't have much seating or wi fi

[14:12] Jackie: haha

[14:12] Chillie625: They even painted the walls black

[14:12] Chillie625: I love them

[14:12] Jackie: yeah

[14:12] Jackie: nice!

[14:12] Chillie625: heheheheh

[14:12] Chillie625: so happy

[14:12] Jackie: just what your Jewlic heart desired

[14:12] Chillie625: so so so happy

[14:12] Chillie625: I know

[14:12] Jackie: :)

[14:12] Chillie625: I think I'm going to tear up

[14:12] Jackie: haha

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Hi everyone. This summer my editor started giving me prompts to help me practice my writing. I was going through them today and found one that I liked so I thought I'd toss it up here. The prompt was "write about postcards". I know it sounds boring but I did have fun with it. Enjoy!

Postcards are bizarre creatures. They are short, small and public. You can’t disclose your innermost thoughts and feelings on them due to both lack of writing space and the painful truth that they can and may be read by anyone, such as the postman, nosey neighbor, disgruntled partner etc....

Postcards are historically for sending cute little notes and one picture of a place you’re visiting back to loved ones at home. Of course they have also evolved to be used for wedding announcements, party invitations, dental appointment reminders, political campaign mailings and to announce the sale at the local chain store. But first they were used as personal correspondence; meant to share a bit of the experience and maybe even entice those left behind to join them. They’re supposed to be upbeat, because if you’re in a new location, shouldn’t you be happy about it?

Be concise, be clear, be friendly and be upbeat. It almost sounds like instructions from an overly cautious mother to her teenage daughter on her first day of high school. But is that really honest? True expression of the self isn’t always happy enough to feel unguarded and public about it, such as on a postcard. I suppose that some friendly, cheery cards are entirely honest (after all, there are legitimately happy people in this world) but what of those who choose to mask their true intentions? And if that is true, that postcards are friendly by nature but not always honest, then shouldn’t we consider all postcards as possible imposters, or liars altogether?

Most postcards, classically, sound something like this: “Dear Mom, Spring break in Florida is great! I have been having a great time on the beach, going to Disney Land and visiting the alligators at the petting zoo. I wish you were here! Love, Chuck.” But what if Chuck, who happens to be the school nerd, has no friends and secretly wishes for death (i.e. the alligator petting zoo), is actually honest on his postcard? “Dear Mom, Spring break sucks. I’m sunburned, bored, and some guy took my wallet so I have no money for food or soda. To make matters worse, I forgot my scalp cream and the heat is killing me. Can I come home early? Chuck.”
Who wants to read that? And who wants to risk having such a humiliating account of one’s Spring Break read in conjunction with a shiny picture of sunny, happy Florida? The two just don’t coincide.

Postcards are usually cheery because they force us to be cheery. Their existence is based on the representation of good times and happy travels. At the very least they force us to examine on paper the image we wish to project to others and to the world. And isn’t that something that we’re always going to be concerned about as human beings anyway? By that account, are we all just walking postcards?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Next Move

Hi All,

I'm moving to Montana! I got an internship at a magazine and will be starting with them at the tail end of December. I'm totally excited to be heading that way this winter and will have to give out more details as soon as I get them.


The Girl in Pearls

I wrote this one last month and have been debating whether or not to post it. But, for those of you who do read my blog, I thought I'd share. So here ya go...

The ghost of who I used to be has been nagging at me a lot lately. The girl who had an apartment, a cat, a car payment; the girl who wore suits, makeup and pearls. That girl. The one I was so glad to leave behind and say goodbye to is starting to protest her absence.

It’s strange to have her over my shoulder. I anticipated that she would be long gone, left behind in a pile of boxes, second hand furniture and moth balls all mixed together in a soupy mess in a storage unit. But she’s still here, bugging me, asking me when I’m going to come home and settle back into a ‘normal’ working life.

I suppose she’s on my mind because at half-way through my internship I am already thinking about my next career move. Right now I live in an old hotel that’s much like a dorm, work three jobs, wear blue jeans to work and listen to NPR. It’s almost like going back to college. In leaving that old life behind and starting over with an internship I have both digressed and moved forward. It’s a bizarre feeling.

Last week I had an interview for an internship with a publication. It was disappointing in every way. There wasn’t a single thing about it that I could use to gain experience. The worst part was that I had always admired the magazine so going to work there would have been a dream. But, it wasn’t anything I was looking for.

“You have to think about what you want your life to be like before you go back to school” my boss said to me. She’s right. I have to ask what I want life to look like and be like before I can consider my next move. I just didn’t expect to be thinking about my old life.

Somehow, that girl, the one soaked in perfume and peals is on my mind as a possibility; almost as a choice. When I was in my senior year of college I found myself trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life through shoes. Which did I want to put on in the morning: high heels or hiking boots? I chose hiking boots but ended up in heels. I hate heels.

I think back to where I was a year ago today. I see myself hurrying into a large, black office building wearing a drab wool suit. My hair is barely past shoulder length and straight as a board. I’m wearing nylons even though I can’t stand them. I have a large black purse inside which I hide a cell phone, lip gloss, unpaid bills, a scarf and maybe a lunch of low-calorie flavor deprived food. I don’t like looking at me like this, but that’s how I looked. I have pictures to prove it.

It’s fall in Eugene so the air is crisp. The trees along the riverbanks are starting to turn orange and gold while the evergreen trees needles seem to be darkening in color. Pumpkins are on sale at the supermarket. It’s my favorite time of year. I even have a boyfriend and I’m starting to think there might be a future with him. Silly me. I always wonder that, though this time the guy is perfect, not a flaw about him other than that he snores very loudly, sweats profusely and is sometimes a bit too timid for my taste. Other than that, he’s perfect on paper. Life, a year ago today, was text book.

But then, with the coming of November it all fell apart again. And of course it did—that life wasn’t working for me. And neither was that identity.

That’s why I’m thinking of her without contempt—a year ago today I was happy. Not on the whole when I was living there, just for this one season in 2006. It was just for that one brief time that things were okay. Not great. Not what I always planned or wanted. Just okay. Comfortable. A quiet place to live, trails to go running on after work, a cat to snuggle with at night. For three months, it was okay. Then it all turned back to not being okay, clearly reminding me why I wanted out of that life to go do something bigger and better.

She was almost content. Stable. There were no ifs, maybes, choices or even possibilities for her. Of course I’m thinking of her—my life is the direct opposite of hers and is filled with uncertainty right now. This is a good thing and I am grateful for it. I guess it’s just nice to fantasize about stability every once in a while when things are uncertain.


I’ve been confused a lot lately. Well, I’m almost always confused (just ask Robin) but these days I’m more mixed up about the fundamentals rather than just the random every day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about mean people. Bullies, bitches and bad apples. Why are they here? What good purpose could they possibly serve? I know it’s almost too existential to tackle (I might as well ask what is the meaning of life) but somehow I feel the need to pound this one out. Or at least pick at one type of mean people: the frenemy.

Because this is a new addition to the English language it has yet to be found in Webster’s Dictionary. Instead you can find a variety of definitions online but essentially the easiest way to sum it up is to say that frenemies are the same as false friends. They are people who will always bring you down, are completely without redemption but are integral to your life or they are people that you have to be nice to (such as colleagues) even though you are at war. They’re a pretty complex group of people.

I know the concept of a frenemy is not new but the term certainly is, at least to me anyway. It’s kind of stunning to be able to put a name on what they are and helps to somehow understand the whole dynamic. Still, mean people who are friends? It’s somewhat of a contradiction in terms.

Like most people I would imagine, there are a few frenemies in my past. There was the girl who I was friendly with in college but when it came to class and grades we were clearly competing for the higher mark. For example, I would do well, and she would say something to cut me down. Then there are the people, though not many, who were my friends but every time I was with them I felt awful; criticism, snide remarks and subversive behavior took the place of where kind words, relaxed conversation and companionship should have been. I look back and find that moving on from them was much like procrastinating about taking out the trash. Before you know it the mess is overflowing and causing a stink and you wonder why you just didn’t do it sooner. I know that sounds harsh but it’s really how my brain looks at it.

However, I should point out people aren’t perfect. You could have a friend who is going through a rough time and for the moment they might ‘vent’ on you. Or you could simply have a friend in your life who is just a perpetually cranky person. The difference between a true friend who is just persnickety and a frenemy is found when cruelty rears its ugly head. Instead of dealing with the competition, poor attitudes or just plain cranky behavior this other person is intentionally causing you harm.

But, for me at least, the trash has been taken out and I’m certainly better for it. Life is good. Life is one giant joyful playground. And we’re not here all that long, so with all the wonderful things to do and fabulous people to meet, why on earth would we waste our time with people who are bad for us?

In the meantime, I will wish them well (really—I mean that) and move on.

Hiding Out

It’s interesting to me how people put up barriers between themselves and others. Some people will simply be reserved, quiet and reveal little about their personal lives. Others might avoid eye contact or cover their mouth when they smile. Some might even hunch down a little in their cubicles, hiding in their holes like prairie dogs, peeping over the edge only to investigate strange tidbits of conversations or the smell of food. Typically I’m not usually like this. I like talking to others and finding out what their lives are like. I like making that connection. People may reveal more about themselves if you share a bit of yourself with them first. Sure this openness has gotten me into trouble a few times, but hey, it’s who I am.

I like being an open and unguarded person. I say what’s on my mind, happily chat with others in the hallway and talk up customers at the restaurant where I work. But lately I’ve found myself retreating a bit and feeling the need to put some distance between myself and others. I’m not sure why. It could just be that I’ve had a lot on my mind and very little time outside of work to really mull all of it over. Strangely, I’ve been finding comfort hiding behind my glasses. I know…not really that much of a mask, but my thick black specs have been my method of separation lately.

I started wearing the glasses a couple weeks ago when my eyes were getting too dry for contacts. I think it might have been an allergy thing but when my eyes started to get a bit better I found myself reaching for the glasses as a matter of preference. There’s something about having my eyes barely concealed that makes it feel like I’ve stepped back a bit and put some distance between myself and the world. It’s nice, albeit slightly odd. At least I’m not walking around wearing sunglasses indoors. That’s when I would really start to worry.

By having taken this step back I’ve started to really notice how others establish their own barriers. It’s fascinating. I wonder how much of it is conscious and how much is just reflex that they’re not aware of. There is the one woman who is as prickly as they come. Everything about her tone of voice, lack of eye contact and physical distance that she keeps from everyone else screams for others to leave her alone yet it’s all done very subtle. There are also a few guys walking around who never remove their hats though with that I’m not sure if it’s a way to hide their eyes or their receding hairlines. And of course there’s a variety of hunched shoulders, furrowed brows, vigilant floor watching, lowered and unconfident voices and even some cocky strutting. I wonder if any or all of it is a means to separate and detach or if these traits are just characteristics of these people.

When I studied abroad I chose to travel alone. I had found that when being a solo traveler locals were more apt to approach me for a conversation or even a brief walk around town. A lot of the kids in my program couldn’t fathom traveling alone. They worried about getting lost, not having anyone to eat dinner with, or take their picture in front of some statue. I traveled alone almost all of the time when I was abroad and I never had any of these problems. In fact, I would venture to guess that I had better cultural experiences than they did. There was always someone to help me when I got lost, take my picture when necessary (and in the case of one group of Asian tourists, they insisted on being in the picture with me), and always someone to chat with. In Ireland people would see me sitting alone in a pub and immediately approach to find out who I was and why on earth I was all by myself. To them, being alone was just too strange. Didn’t I know it was unhealthy to eat alone?

Going alone actually meant being more surrounded by others. I was approached rather than being the one who initiated the conversation. I wonder if that’s a bit of what I’m doing now; stepping away and just allowing what I need to find me instead of me trying to find it. Sure, the glasses are really only a prop, but at least they’re reminding me to be quiet and still, to listen, watch and digest whatever comes my way

Monday, September 24, 2007


Surprise! It’s snowing in Lander. This morning I was greeted with 40 degrees and rain at 7AM. By 8AM the rain looked a tad heavy…almost snow-like. But it’s September so that couldn’t be right. And then the temperature did a sudden drop to mid thirties, opening the sky to rain down buckets of snow. It was great! The flamingo that sits proudly on the front lawn is now dusted in white and I’m snuggling down at my computer with a mocha and my fleece jacket zipped up to my chin. I’m sure it will melt before lunch (after all it was sunny and warm yesterday) but it’s still fun while it lasts.

Yay for winter! Wait—what happened to fall?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I'm not sure where I heard it, but someone said that all writers are neurotic. I've wondered about this, as you can imagine, now that I'm trying to become a writer myself. It just seems a tad overwhelming to say that all writers are neurotic. Isn't there any room for leniency here? Isn't it possible that there are normal writers out there being perfectly productive, kind and contributing members of society? That there are writers who can, in fact hold conversations with other people, wash their clothes, mow the lawn and vote responsibly? Truly, the reputation of the neurotic writer can't encompass all of them?

But then there is the evidence for this reputation. Hemmingway had the six-toed cats. Virginia Woolf met her unfortunate end with a river. And Copote's numerous particularities go without saying. So yes, there are some writers out there who have contributed to the reputation that they sometimes get as being less than sane. But the actual writers, the real people, aren't the only one's contributing to the image. The neurotic writer is also found in the fanciful world of Hollywood. As Good as It Gets gave us the socially crippled romance novelist Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson). Ron Howard's The Paper produced a slew of crazed writers that were unkind, finicky, paranoid, emotionally negligent, and obsessed. And for an even darker look at writers, look no further than Johnny Depp's portrayal in Secret Window, compliments of Stephen King of course. Indeed books, the very thing that a writer does also contribute to the image. James Duncan's classic, The River Why explores the sanity of the author after he trudges into the Oregon woods to fish and write, his two favorite things. But after months of isolation and fishing for hours on end he begins keeping a pet fish in his home and talking to himself (well wouldn't you?). Even though he was doing his two favorite activities in the world he was alone, and that's what got him. The solitude.

However, writing is of course a solitary task. It requires a fitting place to work, stillness, and as Virginia Woolf added, a lock on the door. It's long hours alone spent knitting words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into many, many pages. There is obsession over word choice, endless edits, and serious doubts as to whether or not what has been slaved over is even any good. With all the alone time and separation from society it would seem perfectly logical to have a few writers pop up as less than normal. But all of them?

That being said you come to a chicken and the egg type question: Do you have to be neurotic to write, or does writing make you neurotic? Is it symptomatic of the task or is it characteristic of the individual?

There have to be normal people who are writers out there. There must be an equally brilliant and successful yet socially benign group of writers who do not warrant the attention of a mental health care provider, much less the stares of passers-by. Right?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Five minutes to spare

Hi all,

I have a few minutes to spare before I head from my day job to my night job so I thought I'd do a quick update on what I've been doing.

Until last week I was working as a cocktail waitress at the Lander Bar. After one too many late night shifts I decided to call it quits and head off to work as a server at a restaurant. The decision to leave the bar for the restaurant was based on better hours, better pay, and better people. Kind of hard to argue with that.

For housing I am dog/house sitting this week. I've had interesting experiences as a professional dog-sitter this past month and my two latest charges are just as unique and quirky. Parker, the smaller of the two is an antique and may be as old as 15 (her owner's aren't sure of her age) while the younger one, Dawson, is hyper and eats anything he can get a hold of (tin cans, card board, muffins, and my lunch). The really fun bit is that they're both deaf. Dawson has always been deaf so he responds to signs but Parker has just recently lost her hearing so she pretty well does whatever she wants (kind of like an old lady in a Cadillac). They're very cute, and signing to a dog is actually kind of fun.

I'll be gone most of next week to Flaming Gorge over Labor Day weekend and then Yellowstone September 4-9. I can't wait! Sight-seeing, partying, hiking, camping, bbq-ing, SLEEPING! It's going to be awesome.

In the meantime I'm having a busy work week trying to get all my stuff done before heading out of town. It's been crazy here but it's all good. I'm a much happier person when I'm so busy I can hardly see straight. As my mom says, "you just go and go and go until you're a greasy spot on the floor."

Which reminds me--I gotta go to work!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

First things first

I might be the last person on earth to start a blog but I don't care--at least I'm here. After struggling to remember to compose and send out emails to friends and family to keep them up to date on my life in Lander, I have decided to just make life easier for all of us and keep a blog.
Right now life is insane for me. I'm working about 60 hours this week, dog sitting and trying to pack for a trip to Yellowstone and Flaming Gorge next week (yay for vacation!). When I get back I'll have to share the pictures from my trip.
Talk to you then!