Peace out, 2010

OK, so 2010 roundups are all the rage and I wouldn’t want to miss out! The ever lovely Tiff posted on her blog her favorite things from the past year, so here’s my favorite memories from 2010:

• Making a name for myself in the community I live in as a fair, impartial journalist. I’ve also made some great friends with community members this year!
• Visits from various friends and family. We had a great summer with tons of visitors (we’re hoping even more people come visit us in 2011 *hint hint*). We spent a great week with Shawn’s folks camping in Two Medicine and exploring the east side of Glacier National Park, where neither Shawn nor I had ever been. It was a great hiking summer, period. We went camping with Michelle, hung out with my mom and sister and saw Shawn’s cousins.
• Parties with our Montana buddies. Hubs and I have a great time with our Flathead County friends. Jasmine and Nate sure know how to throw parties, Tiff makes unbelievable cupcakes, Kristi always has wry, funny observations, Dillon is always good for a laugh (and if he’s not careful, a spilled drink!), Sydney is the most cheerful person I know (I need some lessons, Lil’ Miss Red!), Eric has jumped on the “Go Big Red” bandwagon with us, Britanni has a great artistic talent and generosity I am insanely jealous of and Jordan makes me laugh so hard with her stories I practically pee my pants every time we talk. Shawn and I are really looking forward to the Snob party in just a few weeks!

• Starting to write a novel. I’ve got a great idea, I just know I do. Now it’s just the getting down to work part that’s hard!
• Visits to Nebraska for Whitney and Nathan’s wedding and Kristin and Nate’s wedding (have I told you about how we have FIVE friends named Nate/Nathan? At least we don’t have to learn new names!). It was so good to get back to “The Good Life” and spend time with our friends. I was a bridesmaid in Whitney’s wedding and had a great time with my fellow ladies in the line.
• Discovering the North Fork and the Polebridge Mercantile. We spent many happy hours up the North Fork this past summer and ate many mouth-watering huckleberry turnovers. Alas, the Merc is closed ’til spring. Counting down the days until we cross the threshold into the Merc again.
• Our mini-moon trip to Seattle. Hubs and I fell fast and hard for “our future city,” and we’re already making plans for that delightful town to be our next stop in life. Visiting Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, ogling at the buildings, spending time with Molly and taking in a Husker game at a Nebraska bar in Kirkland made our trip fantastic!
• Getting married to the love of my life and my best friend, Shawn, in October. We had a beautiful wedding day and one heck of a party afterward. Going with Famous Dave’s as our caterer was a huge hit. The centerpieces I envisioned became a beautiful reality (sunflowers in mason jars) and a fun moment was watching my sister learn how to fold napkins in neat ways using her iPhone. We had a fabulous time with our guests (the party ended much too soon!) and will treasure Oct. 23, 2010 forever!

There were parts of the year that were difficult, however. The plane crash that killed Melissa and Erika, two friends and local journalists, was hard on us all. Their lives were ended much too soon, but I’m glad those two lovely ladies were having a fabulous adventure when they died. And I know I’ll see them again someday.

Shawn and I are adjusting to living apart again. Each goodbye is as hard as the last and we hate being so far apart. But I’m happy that Hubs is pursuing his desire for an engineering degree and I know in the long run our separation will seem brief. Can’t wait for it to end, though!

Here’s a few things I’m looking forward to in 2011:

• Chili cookoff with the Outside Media people in a few weeks. Let the best chili win! We’re sure our “Afterburn” chili will be a hit.

• Taking a master gardener class through the Montana State University extension office.

• Snob party with the Montana friends. There better be Jarlsberg, dah-ling.

• Seattle/Tacoma trip in March. Got to keep the love affair going. And we’re looking forward to a visit with the Gregorys.

• The launching of the Columbia Falls Community Garden.

• Hiking and camping in Glacier National Park and in the forests around Butte.

• Honeymoon trip to California. We’re hitting up San Francisco and wine country with the Knisleys. SO EXCITED.

• Meagan and Jeff’s “Junebug”. I can’t believe my friends are starting to pop out babies. But it’s a good thing and I’m so looking forward to watching my friends’ families grow over the coming years.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Frosty fenceposts

Hubs and I went back to Denver and Lodgepole, Nebraska, this past week for Christmas. We had a wonderful time seeing friends and family. It was great to re-connect with an old friend from middle and high school and meet her lovely new man. We laughed and joked with one of my bridesmaids and her boyfriend, and had a great meal with another friend from middle and high school and her husband in their new (well, not so new to them, but new to us!) house. We had Christmas with all different parts of the family and enjoyed a Christmas party on Christmas Eve. Then we headed to Nebraska for Christmas Day, and awoke to a crystalline landscape:

A hard frost coated everything in ice, from barbed wire to grass to trees. A hoarfrost, right?

It was a beautiful morning and I’m glad I took the pictures when I did because the frost burned off about an hour later. We had wonderful weather for our trip home. Northwest Montana is rather dreary and gray these days, but Denver and Lodgepole were sunny and warm! One thing we both noticed was how much earlier the sun comes up there. We leave at the 48th parallel, and these days the sun doesn’t come up until 8:30 or 9 a.m.!

This tree was the most beautiful of all. I love how the frost contrasts with the green pines to the right and the grass to the left. I think that reddish-brown grass is so beautiful, especially in the winter.

Christmas Day we enjoyed spending time with Shawn’s family. The highlight of the day was the three-hour game of Liverpool Rummy that got quite intense!

All in all, a fabulous trip home.

Decking the halls

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I’m always bummed when the big day is over. I love Christmas because it means time with my family. We make big, delicious meals, laugh and joke around the table, listen to favorite holiday tunes and spend time in front of the Christmas tree admiring the lights and ornaments.

This year the Hubs and I are headed to Denver, so we’re not decorating much and we didn’t get a tree. But the apartment still feels festive.

It’s not much, but I like the shabby-chic look of it. I simply strung ribbon through the sparkling ornament balls and hung them from the ceiling against our spiffy brick wall. The candle by the lamp is Christmas-y too.

And since we lack a fireplace, I hung the beautiful stockings Hubs’ mom made us for a wedding present from the banister of the stairs that lead up to our loft.

Hope your Christmas is merry and full of cheer!

“…And clouds their storms discharge/Upon the airy towers”

Drove up the North Fork with a local last week and enjoyed not only breath-taking views of snow-capped peaks in the Livingston Range, but also North Forker hospitality. Every house we stopped by had hosts falling over themselves to offer us tea, coffee and holiday goodies. Let’s just say I had to use the bathroom a lot after drinking many, many cups of tea. By the last house, Bonnie, our hostess, who knows a little something about North Forker hospitality, asked, “Can I offer you coffee or tea or are you coffee and tea-ed out?” We shared a good laugh over that.

The photo above was shot at Trail Creek.

Livingston Range covered in snow.

Here’s a snowy riddle by John Parton:

From Heaven I fall, though from earth I begin.
No lady alive can show such a skin.
I’m bright as an angel, and light as a feather,
But heavy and dark, when you squeeze me together.
Though candor and truth in my aspect I bear,
Yet many poor creatures I help to insnare.
Though so much of Heaven appears in my make,
The foulest impressions I easily take.
My parent and I produce one another,
The mother the daughter, the daughter the mother.

And here’s an excerpt from a poem, because this is just amusing: From “A Severe Lack of Holiday Spirit” by Amy Gerstler.

… People hit
the sauce in a big way all winter.
Amidst blizzards they wrestle
unsuccessfully with the dark comedy
of their lives, laughter trapped
in their frigid gizzards. Meanwhile,
the mercury just plummets,
like a migrating duck blasted
out of the sky by some hunter
in a cap with fur earflaps.

It would appear I’ve got snow on the brain, wouldn’t it?

*Blog title quote from “Now winter nights enlarge” by Thomas Campion.

Snowshoeing to mountain ranges

The Hubs and I went snowshoeing north of Butte on national forest land this weekend and had a gay ol’ time.

The names of the trails, which are designated for skiers, snowshoe-ers and snowmobilers, are quite amusing and very typical of Butte. We took Neversweat, but we got sort of lost and had to blaze our own trail for a while through pretty deep snow. The altitude where we were snowshoeing is about 7,000 feet.

The trail went through the woods and up over a ridge to great mountain views.

Rabbit tracks in the snow. Saw a fair amount of squirrel tracks, too. Later, back in town, we saw lots of pigeon prints.

Blazing that trail as we came to the top of the ridge.

Anaconda Range west of Butte. Pretty spectacular!

There’s my handsome man.

Highland Mountains east of Butte.

Yours truly. In my winter coat and coveralls, evidently I look like a pear. So says my husband. Jerk.

Brush pushing through the snow. Also known as ART!

More ART!

A very fun weekend! Hubs and I are looking forward to snowshoeing more in my neck of the woods. Heard about some great trails up the North Fork a ways we plan to try out this coming weekend. Who wants to join us?

Good thing journalism isn’t a popularity contest

After several requests from friends, here’s my column for my newspaper this week. As editor, I write a column weekly. I’ve tried to steer clear of politics because the American public these days has a shocking tendency to assume that just because a writer states his or her opinion on the OPINION page, that opinion must trickle over to the rest of the newspaper as well. Maybe that’s the case in some publications (cough Fox News cough), but it’s not at my newspaper. I live in a very conservative area, so I’m likely to take some heat for this column. I’ll let you know if a good dialogue gets started. So, without further ado, my column:

While driving to work Tuesday morning, I switched my radio dial to National Public Radio. Over the airwaves came the announcement of President Barack Obama’s “compromise” (read: re-election strategy) with the Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts another two years.

This is not good.

But before you throw your hands in the air and run to the telephone to give me an earful, hear me out.

The Republicans threatened to filibuster the tax deal if the tax cuts were not again extended to the wealthiest 2 percent of the American population, to people earning more than $250,000 per year. Look around you. Does you know anyone who rakes in that much dough every year? If you do, chances are you can count those people on one hand.

Chances are you know far more people who fit into the 98 percent of America. The people who do not make nearly that much. In fact, chances are most people you know make $200,000 less than that. The median income for Flathead Valley, according to the 2000 Census, was $34,466, and the median income for a family was $40,702. Males had a median income of $31,908 versus $20,619 for females.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for extending tax cuts to the middle class. To the people who need the tax cuts most. To the people who have one adult in their household out of work. To the people unsure if they will make their house payment this month. How many people do you know who have lost their jobs since the recession began? It takes far more fingers than I have on both hands to count the people I know out of work.

I am deeply opposed to extending tax cuts to people who have a vacation house in Vail, Colo. and a vacation house in Orlando, Fla. To the people who take vacations to Europe every year. And in the interest of full disclosure, I was raised in a family that took those vacations to Europe.

I think it is very accurate to say that the wealthy are holding the middle class hostage.

It is telling when people like billionaire investor Warren Buffett go on national television and ask Congress to tax them more. When interviewer Christiane Amanpour pointed to claims that the very wealthy need tax cuts to encourage business and capitalism, Buffett replied, “The rich are always going to say that, you know, ‘Just give us more money, and we’ll go out and spend more, and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you.’ But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”

Quoting Founding Father Thomas Jefferson is ever popular in newspapers, but I see no sense in breaking that trend now. In a letter to James Madison in 1784, in what would become part of the Federalist Papers, Jefferson wrote: “Taxes should be proportioned to what may be annually spared by the individual.”

An independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, made an appeal to the president on C-SPAN that eloquently summed up the problem: “In the year 2007, the top 1 percent of all income earners in the U.S. made 23.5 percent of all income. More than the entire bottom 50 percent. The top one-tenth of 1 percent earns about 12 cents of every dollar earned in America. Since 1980 to 2005, 80 percent of all new income created in this country went to the top 1 percent.”

Are you feeling the trickle down? I most certainly am not.

“We used to read the text books which talked about the banana republics in Latin America … about countries in which handful of people owned and controlled most of the wealth of those countries,” Sen. Sanders continued. “Well guess what, that exactly what is happening in the U.S. today.”

The tax cuts being extended to the top 1 percent of all American income earners will over a 10-year period equate to $700 billion in tax breaks (enough to pay for the health care bill, you know). If the legislators of this nation are truly concerned about helping the middle class and beating back a mounting federal deficit, they will see the error of their ways and extend tax cuts only to the people who make less than $250,000. People like you and me.

So what do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Why?

Snow falling on lodgepoles (and writing confessions)

So I have a confession to make. Well, two. First of all, I failed at NaNoWriMo. I got behind after spending a weekend sleeping off a nasty cold and well, it snowballed from there. But I do have 7,000 words that I think are a great start to my novel, which I am still excited about. Perhaps I will go home tonight and write some more!

Second confession: I’m feeling rather down right now about my writing (maybe that’s part of the reason I didn’t finish NaNo?). I write for a living, so all day, every day, I am expected to be creative and coherent. This makes going home to write creatively a challenge sometimes. I also feel lazy sometimes when it comes to this blog. I want to write beautifully about even the most mundane events in my life, but I feel like I don’t have the energy. This isn’t all the time of course, but do you ever have the feeling you’re doing everything in your life half ass? That’s how I feel right now and it’s upsetting. I also read a lot of news articles, blogs and literature and I can’t help but wonder every now and then what’s the point. I can write well, yes, but not spectacularly. Guess I just need more practice.

I think I need to go stare at snow falling on lodgepoles for a while for perspective. There’s something to be said for standing still in the middle of a frozen road listening to the snow fall. I enjoyed that yesterday and shot the above photo.

Snow, snow and more snow

So it started snowing here in northwest Montana a week ago and hasn’t really stopped (we must be pushing two feet of the stuff on the ground already). It’s a bad sign that it’s only December — already! can you believe it? — and I’m sick of snow.

This past weekend, however, the Hubs and I went to a friend’s cabin on a lake for a fantastic winter wonderland weekend. We ate fabulous food, had a bit to much to drink (how can you pass up hot chocolate with Bailey’s?) and engaged in full-out snow fights. It felt great to tromp around in the snow and toss snowballs with abandon. Our laughter rang through the snow-laden bows of pine trees and across the lake, no doubt. It’s rare for me to have such fun, without thought of worries or work. But there’s another who sums all this up better than I can and you should check it out here.