To the good life and back again

The Hubs and I went to Nebraska to visit family this past week and had a great time, though it sped by and I’m certainly not ready to be back at work! We stopped and spent time with my grandparents, then went on to his parents. The highlight of the trip for me was bottle feeding a calf I affectionately called “Burger” (a little morbid, I know). Burger’s mom had twins and rejected the poor little guy, so he’s getting raised on a bottle. He’s a greedy little pig and sucks down the bottle twice a day as fast as he can. Don’t think he even tastes it. Then he tries to suck off your fingers.

We’re buds. Can you tell?

We also visited Shawn’s sister and family about an hour away from where Shawn’s folks live. Had a great time bouncing around on a trampoline with my niece and nephew.

But it was a short trip and we didn’t even think to shoot many photos, so the vast majority are from the drive back.

Sunrise in western Nebraska, framed by a pivot.

Traffic jam in Lander, Wyoming.

I-80 was closed just outside Rawlins because of a nasty wreck, we think (saw lots of emergency vehicles and smoke, didn’t see the actual cause of the closure), so we had to take the long way home through Lander, Jackson and down into Idaho. But the upshot was getting to see some pretty country neither the Hubs nor I had ever seen.

The strange part for us was that around Lander it seemed like summer time and vaguely Arizona-like. By the time we reached Jackson, though, we were back to winter (even though it was the first day of spring yesterday!).

We wished there hadn’t been such a low cloud ceiling so we could see more of the Tetons as we drove past, but the view was still beautiful.

Oh, and we hit a major milestone yesterday in Darth Truffle, the mighty Honda Civic.

I’ve put 127,000 miles on my little car in the past 8 years. Yikes.

Also, I would like to note that as I was writing this post, four deer went tearing past the window. I’m in a building at the busiest intersection in town. Oh, Montana.

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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.

The hitch

There I was, lying in bed in the hotel room the night before my wedding, attempting in vain to get my brain to turn off so I could get some sleep.

In the room next door, someone whistled incessantly. Whistling? At 2:30 a.m.? I considered banging on the wall.

The phone rang. I ignored it. It was 2:30 in the morning after all. It rang again. And again. I stumbled out of bed and across the room.

The screen read the name of one of the groomsmen. He’s a sweet guy, but he’s always been kind of a wreck. We’ll call him Pete.

“What?” I asked, not bothering to hide my irritation.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know where anyone is and I don’t have anywhere to sleep,” Pete said in a drunken slur.

A string of profanities whirred through my head. I pushed back images of the grisly violence I would inflict on the offending groomsmen to answer Pete’s cry for help.

“Can’t you call the others? Call them to come get you,” I suggested.

“They’re not answering their phones,” he told me. “Oh, hang on, Ashley’s calling.”

Who’s Ashley? I thought to myself as he hung up. Maybe she’s coming to get him.

“Just let him figure it out,” Shawn said in a sleep-muzzed voice.

“And have to pick him up from the police in the morning? No thanks!”

About two minutes later, just has I had crawled back into bed and pulled the covers up, the phone rang.

“What is it, Pete?” I answered through gritted teeth.

“I don’t know what to do,” he whined.

“Oh for heaven’s sake, come to our hotel room and spend the night,” I practically shouted.

I told the groomsman which hotel we were staying in and despite my specific directions and the fact that he lived in Lincoln for years, somehow he managed to lose himself. Again.

“Which streets is the hotel on?” he asked during the 10th phone call in the past half-hour.

Out we went into the muggy Lincoln, Neb. night to track down the groomsman.

Standing at the door of the hotel eating a taco was a good friend who had flown in for the wedding.

“Oh hey, Nat” I said to her as I walked past. It took me a minute to recognize her because of how out of place she was standing there.

She followed my then-fiance Shawn and I into the street. I complained to her about the situation while she munched on her taco.

“Well, when the other groomsmen get married, make sure Pete has to spend the night with them,” Nat suggested.

Pete came tottering down the block, finally. On the corner another group of drunks harassed him and Shawn went across the street to lead Pete over.

We got him up the elevator to the eighth floor and were walking to the room when Pete leaned over the railing to look down on the atrium below.

Oh god, I thought, now he’s going to ralph all over the hotel.

Shawn and I were of one mind and we dashed back to guide Pete to the room. We steered him toward the bathroom and then deposited him firmly on the sofa.

We were finally getting wound down and falling asleep when Pete’s phone started ringing. He answered and began talking to whomever was on the other line.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered, while Shawn giggled about the whole affair. “Pete! Turn your phone off or you’re sleeping in the hallway!”

A meek voice answered. “Oh, OK.”

I’m proud to report that instead of killing Pete where he slept — I was sorely tempted — I even brought him a bagel for breakfast the next morning.

Our wedding went wonderfully. The reception was one heck of a party and everyone had a great time talking and dancing. I was glad the day went off nearly without a hitch.

Monday, as Shawn and I were making our way back to Montana, my mother called.

“I want to tell you about one incident at the reception,” she said.

Turns out Pete was hitting on her all night.

Oh, for Pete’s sake.

ROAR BRIDEZILLA!

It’s been a very stressful week at work and on top of it, I’ve still got an awful lot to do to prepare for the wedding in (gasp!) 16 days! I am trying my best not to become bridezilla. ROAR!

However, one of my lovely bridesmaids gave me a good piece of advice: it’s OK to be upset, but it’s not OK to be rude. Another friend, the fabulous Kristin K, suggested I delegate the responsibility of bridezilla to someone else. Now that’s good planning!

Things truly are coming together for the wedding. On my to-do list still:
– Take dress for altering to super-awesome, super-fast seamstress
– Draw up a wedding day schedule for the people who need to know where to be when.
– Put in a “not to be a badger — ROAR BRIDEZILLA! — but how are things coming?” phone call to the florist, cake maker, caterer, DJ, photographer, reception hall.
– Get my programs printed.
– Make sure the people who need to be at the rehearsal realize they need to be there.
– Draw up a list of toasters and coerce said toasters into actually toasting.
– Resist temptation to call the people who got invitations who haven’t RSVP’d and ask them what the h*ll is their problem why can’t they read that the invitation clearly says to RSVP by Oct. 5 don’t they realize how rude they’re being ROAR BRIDEZILLA! I mean, calmly continue to accept the slow trickle of RSVPs and grin and bear buying 25 extra meals that may not get eaten.
– Resist temptation to take Shawn and make a run for Idaho to the “Hitching Post” and elope next weekend. I think what’s preventing me from doing that is the overall cheese factor of a place called the Hitching Post. It might even be a drive-thru. Seriously tacky. My great-grandmother eloped, but that’s because she was a Dane marrying a Swede. Big no-no there. And somehow everything is more romantic in “the good ol’ days.”
– Get super excited for a week vacation and spending the majority of that time with my soon-to-be husband, who rocks my world. Most people hate 17-hour car rides (yep, Montana is a big friggin’ state), but I don’t when I have Shawn to talk to!

BUT! Saturday night is my Montana bachelorette party with some seriously awesome ladies and I am pretty stoked (and pretty afraid — please me nice to me, gals!).

It’s starting to sink in…

… that I’m getting married in exactly 36 days.

Dropped off my wedding invitations yesterday at InstyPrints in Kalispell. After looking at countless wedding invitation websites and continually being dumbfounded by the prices (I realize that in purchasing the invitations, one is purchasing someone’s design, which they put a lot of effort into, but my little budget just can’t handle that!), I decided to design my own. Part of my job is designing newspapers, after all. Surely I can handle designing invitations.

Here’s the result (which I love!). It’s going to be printed on recycled paper, too:

(The brown border is part of my WordPress skin… it’s not there on the printed version.)

Hmm… maybe I should start designing wedding invitations. Thoughts?

Finding forever in a song

I had the good fortune to spend the past weekend in Lincoln, Neb. for a friend’s wedding. When not playing the role of dutiful bridesmaid, I was able to get some last minute wedding plans secured with my fiance, Shawn.

Bright and early Friday morning we sampled wedding cake. The chocolate — I was sure I’d be getting the chocolate — was disappointing and tasted a bit like moist cardboard. The pink champagne flavor induced tooth aches. But the almond flavor was just right.

Flowers have been finalized. Sunflowers, orange solidago, red hypernicum berries and chrysanthemum will provide the splashes of color at our otherwise black-and-white affair.

Image from http://flowersvegfruit.co.uk/

Got the marriage license. Alarm bells didn’t start ringing on the state of Nebraska computer alerting everyone in the building that my fiance and I are cousins — we’re not, but after hearing a horror story to that effect, I admit I was just a teensy bit worried.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the weekend (other than the beautiful wedding Shawn and I attended) lasted just a few minutes in the santuary of the church where we will be married.

Shawn and I walked into St. Paul United Methodist Church in downtown Lincoln and it felt like coming home. It’s a grand old church with beautiful, two-story stained glass windows. It’s the church we attended while living in Lincoln.

The wooden pews sat silently empty, uniformly facing the altar, as if in eternal, crouched worship. The sunlight streamed through the windows to illuminate the sanctuary with gentle light. We spoke quietly, our voices ringing off the stone walls.

We met with John, the man who plays organ at St. Paul. He treated us to a short concert to prepare the music for our wedding. I’d never seen an organ played so close before and I was transfixed.

John’s fingers nimbly leapt from keyboard to keyboard to keyboard. He pulled on knobs and pushed buttons to alter the sound, I think. His feet moved in a neat, practiced jig on the pedals that control the deep-voiced pipes. The former silence was broken by the surge of sound. It swirled about the pews and rose to the ceiling.

Then John played “Claire de Lune” by Claude Debussy on the piano, the song to which the bridal party and yours truly will promenade down the aisle. Many people recognize it as the song that plays while the fountains dance in “Ocean’s Eleven.”

As John played, I let my eyes wander about the church, filled with a moment’s fantasy. I watched the bridesmaids and groomsmen walk down the aisle. Then I watched myself walk with my father down the aisle.

My ears filled with song. My heart swelled with this glimpse into forever.