A much needed respite.

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We flew home yesterday, coming back to a strangely green Montana. It has been so, so long since I saw more than a few bits here and there of living, chlorophyll-consuming flora!

Oregon had an excess of it. Vines tangled everywhere with roots, trees growing on top of trees, forest groves so dark that it was shadowy hours before the sun set within them. We felt the mist of waterfalls upon our faces, gazed at drop-offs where thousands of gallons of water flowed down. We saw flowers of all sorts, wild and cultivated. All over the farmlands of Oregon, fruit trees were blossoming, showing off neat rows of perfect blooms on perfect branches. Tendrils of mist ran down from the heavy clouds and the fog seemed so thick at times that we could have reached out and cupped it.

We slept in a yurt one night, with the rain coming down so hard that I couldn’t hear Logan speak if he was more than a foot or two away from me. INtermittent bouts of hail made the dim even louder, so that we could hear nothing but the water coming down in it’s various forms. At one point with the lights off it was so dark I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed, and combined with the sound of the rain it was quite discombobulating, but absolutely new and in this way wonderful.

We didn’t see many creatures, but rather saw or heard traces of them. Deer footprints sunken deep in mud and debris covered forest floors, the echoing call of a fussy bald eagle early in the morning, signs on the road that merely said ELK, black against yellow. We tried to find hawks that called dramatically from tree tops with binoculars but never saw them, secretive creatures. I got to see a lovely, fat slug on a trail outside Portland, and I hadn’t seen a slug so green and large since I had been on the Juan de Fuca trail with Morgan some years back!

Oregon was lush in a Dionysian sense, with vineyards everywhere and wine tasting rooms by the dozen. We ate salads with chopped roasted hazelnuts and the waitress at one restaurant proudly gave us a litany of facts about hazelnut production in Oregon, which apparently is one of the biggest producers in the world. My father, who has been living there for almost a year, boasted about the crops of cherries, apples, marionberries, salmon, crab, and other natural foods that are plentiful in the waters and hills of the state.

Overall, I ate too much. I slept too little. My eyes drank in sights I needed to see, that my soul craved. Steep cliffs shrouded in fog, enormous waves crashing against rocks, not knowing their own power to awe me. Waterfalls coming out of nowhere, with the wind whipping the water into clouds of mist. Shades of deep green I want to have a dress in, and craggy, moody mountains. Delightfully sleepy riverside towns, big historical breweries that serve hearty clam chowder. Clothes made for layering and nestling in. It has been almost a year since I moved out of Victoria and my heart needed to fill the space that Victoria left with some moody, ocean-side things. Oregon filled it up a little bit, which is almost worst than not at all. Now my urge to move back is stronger than ever. I ache for the quiet mornings by the ocean, hearing the rhythm of the waves and simply being, not thriving or acting or doing or making, but being in the wonderful body I have by another, more primordial or essential body that is omnipotent, terrifying, and soothing simultaneously. Ah, the sea.

I have rolls of film I need to pick up tomorrow and get scanned in, and I cannot wait to show you more of Oregon. I hope for now that my words will do.

I was on Medicaid as a healthy, able-bodied, educated woman. Everybody deserves affordable access to healthcare.

Excuse the boring title. If you’ve been reading my blog you know last year I spent a lot of time talking about unemployment, feeling burned out by the job hunt, all that jazz. What you may not know is that I was on Medicaid for almost eight months of 2017, and how much it helped me have a high quality of life while I was unemployed and looking for work. I am still, even though I now have good health insurance through my job, so grateful that I was able to have Medicaid.

Now, I’m twenty-six, able-bodied, and a white woman with a Master of the Arts from a good Canadian university. You might not picture me as the kind of person who might need Medicaid. That’s where you’d be wrong.  I’ve worked customer service, in college cafeterias, taking care of gardens, being a teaching assistant, and could always  find work because I wasn’t too picky, but holy cow did 2017 throw me for a loop.

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In early 2017 I was turning twenty-six, studying in Canada. I knew when I got back to the United States in April I would have to get health insurance somehow- but no longer through my parents. Due to the Affordable Care Act, my parents were able to keep me on their insurances until I was 26. When that expired, due not having a job, and therefor no income, the ACA website suggested I was eligible for Medicaid. At first I felt ashamed, because I never had to rely on any social safety net before. Then I got angry with myself- I’ve been paying taxes since I was fifteen, when I got my first job, and what were they for if not to help people who were having a hard time? For the first time, that included me, and that was okay!

A hard time I was indeed having. My life, when I came back to America, was fraught with money issues. I got a job back at a boutique in my hometown for a month, just enough to keep gas in my car and help my boyfriend pay rent for a month or two while I filled in shifts for my coworkers. We moved to Missoula, Montana so Logan could start his job, and I began searching for one in mid-June. It took four months, everybody. Four months. I applied to be a barista, a dishwasher, to work at a tourism agency. I did get interviews, but interviews that ended with rejections, though exciting and full of hope, didn’t pay the bills. They were progress but not the sort that paid for an oil change for my car or could help me financially contribute to the home Logan and I were living in.

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I walked around handing my resume out to every business I walked into, dressed-up, ready to smile, shake hands, and show that I was hard-working and smart. I looked for free-lance work writing, editing, and photographing. I was on Indeed and Monster and the city, county, and state jobs job boards, sending in applications and always editing my resume, writing and editing letters of introduction, etc. I applied for remote-work jobs at tech firms to write and do research for them. Missoula is notorious for being the sort of place where you have to know somebody to get a job, and I tried networking, getting friends to help me meet like-minded people. I watched summer fade into chilly fall, and felt powerless and pathetic, a jobless blob.

However, Medicaid made it possible for me to get out of bed every morning. I knew what medical debt is the number one reason Americans file for bankruptcy. I knew that one fall, one person not paying attention and hitting me with their car, one freak accident could land me with the sort of debt that would destroy every plan I had ever made. The security that having Medicaid gave me to live my life, even while I was feeling so ashamed of my inability to find a job here in this well-educated mountain town, made it possible for me to breathe and do things. I felt safe floating the Clark-Fork River on a tire tube with Logan, watching ospreys catch fish in the river and falling under the spell of the smokey summer sunsets. Medicaid made me feel safe hiking in Glacier or even just walking around town on the long walks that eased my stress. That, to me, was invaluable.

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Medicaid allowed me to see my regular dentist. I went to Planned Parenthood for my annual exam. When I had a really bad cold, I went to a clinic and got a prescription medication for very little money, such a paltry amount that even in my broke state I could pay it. I was feeling defeated in most ways, but I knew that even if something bad happened to my health, Medicaid would make it so that I would end up okay, and that the upward trajectory of my life would probably not end. In the end, I barely used Medicaid, but just having my little plastic Medicaid card in my wallet was so empowering. Medicaid made it possible for me to feel safe leaving my home. I cannot express enough what a weight was off my chest because of it.

I saw that on Thursday some states are going to try to mandate that people who have Medicaid work. And here’s my problem with that- people want to work.  Nobody I know wants to just languish. I once Tweeted that America’s national sport was not baseball, but poor-shaming, and this is another example of that. Financially unstable Americans have been dealing with housing and rent price increases, wage stagnation going on for decades, the backlash of a recession that still ripples through our lives, student debt, and many more issues. Some of us are highly educated people who believed that our hard work in school would pay off, but have too many student loans to build savings or keep our chins up. So many Americans live on the financial edge of ruin. The idea that those of us who use safety nets like Medicaid, Section 8, food stamps, etc. are using them because we just don’t want to work, is absolutely ridiculous. It shouldn’t have taken somebody who has had as many opportunities like me four months to find work, but it DID.

Also, if you have to use Medicaid or Medicare or Section 8 or any other state or federal safety net system, please do NOT feel ashamed. It is ingrained in us through our culture and mythology here in America to believe that the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality will make sure that everything ends up okay. The reality that has been proven time and time again is that sometimes even a lot of hard work isn’t enough, and that we have sexism, racism, class systems, and more to reckon with. These things are real and do make a difference in who gets access to opportunities. I believe that there should be no shame associated with needing help and getting it through welfare programs. In fact, if anything, we should expand them, make them easier to access, and encourage people to use them, so that they can afford things they need, and get a leg up, because it is so hard to do so. For me, Medicaid facilitated my ability to job search without being paralyzed by fear that leaving my home could result in some medical event derailing my life. Now, I have a job in a place that helps domestic violence survivors and victims work through our legal system, get housing, and offer them support, options, and advocacy.

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So, to end this post, thank you to the Affordable Care Act for allowing me to stay insured until I was twenty-six through my parents. Thank you to everybody working at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services who helped me get enrolled, who answered my questions, and who made me feel unashamed to use their services. Thank you to the doctors and medical professionals who took me in and took Medicaid as payment for my care. Medicaid changed my life and I barely used it, but just having it there made a huge difference in the quality of life I was able to have.

Tulips, coffee, and snow.

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I got asked what I wanted to do this weekend. “Nothing” was my reply. Proud to say I did very little, and thought a whole lot. Went on walks by the Clark Fork river to see little bird footprints on the ice that remains. Stopped by a boutique that usually has clothes I swoon over- but lately, money has been something I’ve been trying to save, and new clothes are not environment or budget friendly, and so I think I’ll save my cash for some thrifted things from Goodwill the next time I feel like I need a new physical object in my life. 39697840161_d1bfd3b833_c39697844731_71afa22233_c

Logan and I went to the movies, to see “The Shape of Water”, and I cried so hard during that I had to re-apply my eyeliner after. We ate popcorn and marveled at the amazing soundtrack and how Guillermo del Toro created a movie that is so beautiful and strange. We drink gin in a dark, crowded bar with friends. I scared away a man who was attempting to gain my and a female friend’s affections after finding my coat on the floor, because I was looking at a beautiful painting of a woman’s spread legs called L’Origen du Monde, by Gustave Courbet, on my phone. This late-19th century painting is so gorgeous, with rich tones and loving details. The man walked away clearly thinking I was a pervert, and I stated, “you came from one” as he left. Nothing draws in men and scares them away quite like vaginas.

We made breakfast one morning, scrambled eggs and cottage bacon, with strong coffee and watching the snow slide off in heavy chunks from our neighbor’s metal roof. Part of our fence came off due to the weight of the wet, wet snow. I found cat tracks in our yard- we have two cats, one very beautiful and black and smart, one orange tabby that is very stupid, and they seem to like meandering through our yard. We watched a lot of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” on Netflix, and my lust for vintage cars and their curves and impracticalities has arisen again, as it does periodically.

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One afternoon, I wracked my brain trying to think of somewhere to have a glass of wine and read- and came up with nothing. Nowhere in my town has a space that is cozy, private-ish, and serves alcohol. Everywhere is sleek, open, trendy, or too dark for reading. I found myself with a shortbread baked good and a latte instead.

I bought tulips on a whim because we’ve got a minimum of four months of winter to go, and damn the lack of flora here. Perhaps it’s the Dutch in me, but I find tulips to be the best flowers, even if they don’t smell (fun fact thought: the Dutch brought their tulips from Turkey). Even as these red and yellow little things have been in our house today they’ve opened up a tiny bit, drinking in the light that flows in through our big windows.

In short, this weekend was quiet, slow, and not planned in any way. I spent a lot of time thinking about details, observing things, having cold hands, and not feeling the need to get anything done.

Books, mornings, and priorities.

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The other night, as my film scanner hummed, showing me what the chemical baths had done while they danced with my film, a good friend was over and we were chatting about what mattered. Books, travel, good friends, good wine, being kind, and loving, loving, loving. She left here with two books to borrow, and I will borrow a few from her. I’ve been loaning books out more, because they do no good just sitting on our shelves.

I loaned her The City of Fallen Angels, a book by John Berendt, about a mysterious fire in a famous opera house in Venice. In one or more ways, there are characters who are connected, be they corrupt Italian businessmen, old Venetian glass-making families, writers who had boxes there, etc. and he weaves together a tale of an old, eccentric, rapidly-changing but still very traditional city. It was one book that I bought this year and have re-read twice.

I loaned my mother the new book The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore. Kate, who is not a historian, nonetheless went headfirst into doing amazing research to reveal the true stories of the thousands of women who were employed in radium dial painting factories in the first half of the 20th century, and who often got sick and/or died due to ingesting and working with the radioactive substance. Government ignorance, corporate greed, a poorly-working legal system, and the fact that these women were often working class meant that many died before their stories could be properly heard, and many didn’t even know what was causing them to have brittle, broken bones or cancers that suddenly appeared on their youthful bodies. It made me send out many thankful, grateful thoughts to those brave women, and our worker safety systems and legal system are now much more comprehensive because of what these women did. It was one of the books i devoured in Hawai’i, as pictured above.

It’s been snowing relentlessly here, and I’ve been in a more combative mood being inside and working as much as I have been, with little to no sunlight for me to enjoy. However, one of the best parts of my days have been waking up early, getting dressed, packing a book (right now I’m reading Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll by Peter Bebergal) and walking in the snow, which camouflages my footsteps, and making my way in the quiet morning before most people are up, and walking the mile or so to a coffee house to read and hold a hot cup of caffeine in my hands for a few minutes before going to work. Mornings are sacred to me, in that they are quiet, private, and much more likely to be not interrupted by the same going-ons that happen at night. Drunken men unaware of personal space, loud trucks zooming about, groups of people huddled like penguins slowly making their way to a bar or a restaurant. None of that is there in the mornings, and I love the purposefulness of them. Nobody tries to make the world too aware of themselves before the sun is up, and I dearly love it.

Something else I love and miss is traveling. The friend that stayed with us talked about going to France with her fiance this summer, because they both have kept their heads down and have been working so hard for so long, they feel they need to look up, look around, and go do something. I told her she needs to not question it, find a flight, and book it before she can say no to herself. Americans love to suffer, to struggle, and to glorify the two. We take pride being the last sucker at work or the first one in the office. She knows this, and both of us feel shame at wanting to go and spend money on trips and on good food, but I feel that my quality of life is so much better when there is something planned, something to look forward to. Keeping ones head down and just working with your eyes forward means you never get to see as much, and I think that even though we have horrible wage stagnation, most of us have lots of student debt, and most of us will never dream of owning real estate or new cars, that we can still do and live and breathe and thrive. We can thriftily plan a trip across the sea so we can give hugs to loved ones not seen in ages, or buy a nice block of expensive cheese here are there. Denying oneself constantly is foolish, and while last year was a huge exercise in no to such Epicurean joys due to my unemployment, now that I am gainfully employed I feel so much better about going to a nice dinner with my boyfriend, about dressing up or spending a little money on something that matters to me, like saving for my trip to Brazil to see Logan at the end of the year or booking a cabin somewhere quiet.

This post has been longer than I planned, but once I am inside my mind darts back and forth like an excited bird in a cage. I have written about how one has much time to think during the long, dark winters here in Montana, and mine is not immune to that. I’ve been quietly trying to write more and be more generous with my writing, especially here.

A collection of thoughts in a hot, hot summer.

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Everybody told us Missoula would be hotter than Helena. We laughed it off, sure that we would be fine with fans, ice packs, and spirit. Instead, this summer has been one of the hottest in the last sixty years. The heat starts early, seeping in through the open windows which I shut vigorously every morning. It lingers far longer than it should, an impolite guest that traps us in our homes, grumpy and disoriented. My appetite fades or I feel hungry at odd hours, and sleep escapes me frequently. I begin to loathe sunlight and the daytime and consider becoming nocturnal, except somewhere I read that being up at night and working at night fucks with your circadian rhythm and gives you higher likelihoods of getting certain cancers…but then again, at this point, doesn’t everything give you cancer?

At night we hear the train cars crash together as they move, a semi-apocalyptic sound that often shakes the house. We say it is like living on the edge of the world. When we had an earthquake a month back, I woke up because it felt like the trains but more intense. It felt like some primordial worm was crawling beneath the house on it’s way somewhere else..  Now, I often wake at an especially loud crash because differentiating between the rumble of train cars and the eerie sensation of an earthquake has blurred. An emergency kit is being made in my mind but no, we haven’t bought distilled water, flashlights, a medical kit, food, or any of the other recommend emergency things.

On Saturday night we went to see Alejandro Jodorowsky’s cult film El Topo. It was a mess of gore, dead animals, weird sexual themes, and beautiful, bleak desert. When we left the theatre, it was cold! The wind whipped and blew up my dress and I held it down, and we discussed how good it felt to actually be chilly. Goosebumps on my arms felt like a soft blanket, and I felt so much more alive than when the heat saps away my energy. We had a drink at Plonk outside, and the wind made the pages of the fancy menu flap and flutter. Nighttime is the only time I feel completely human again.

My state of unemployment weighs heavily all day, every day. The quiet, insistent pressure to be employed and working makes me feel like a worthless soul, even though in fact I am worthwhile, so goddamn worthwhile. Self care in these times is important. I treasure little things, like sharing lunch with Logan, listening to a good record while we make dinner, or having a moment outside early in the morning before the heat, smelling the outside smells, heavier with nighttime moisture that still lingers. Right now, there is a blackberry pie in the oven, it’s smell wafting throughout the house. WordPress keeps deleting my post, so here it is in messy, unedited form. I cannot wait to take out the pie and see the slightly browned crust, having wrestled with cold butter in flour and gathering blackberries while fending off wasps and other insects. It felt so satisfying to be able to make the pie with fruit from our backyard! I’ll be making a post about that soon. Until then, lovely readers!

 

 

 

 

The Void (Musings on looking for jobs)

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The other day I went to get a bite with a friend. Then she asked me what I really wanted to be doing with my life as we were eating and I paused. What did I really want? Well damn girl, slow down. Don’t be getting me optimistic about things! I said, I really want to be writing and photographing and making money from it. I want to be telling stories and bringing humanity into a world that sometimes seems in dire need of it. 

As I apply for jobs I feel so unsure of how to communicate who I am/why I am worthwhile on a single sheet of paper. I am highly capable, competitive, and enthusiastic. I am, underneath it all, an optimist. I feel so full of potential and ambition and energy it seems hard to channel it effectively sometiems. But, I’m also feeling very wary of The Void. The Void is where you send all your job applications these days. The Void is that online application portal that your potential (fingers crossed!!!) future employer uses, and it is to The Void that you upload a resume (.docx or .pdf preferred), your cover letter, and whatever else you think The Void needs to potentially see you as a viable candidate to be paid for what labor they want you to do.

The Void is sterile, inhumane, and prone to creating senses of doubt, negativity, and cynicism. The Void may never get back to you, it may never even send you an email that it got your application. The Void consumes hours of your time and effort and may not yield you anything. If I were in agriculture and The Void was an acre of land I wouldn’t be planting anything there, but these are desperate, Void-necessary times.

Now, I’m not an idiot. I know somebody with blood in their veins and a brain in their skull pulls the information I’ve send to The Void and that a human being or two actually peruses some if not most of the applications. Regardless, it is disheartening to submit so much and often never hear a peep back. No feedback, no reasoning about why I wasn’t the right fit, just the consuming, stressful, omnipresent SILENCE that The Void echoes. It doesn’t make my applications better. It doesn’t strengthen my resolve. It doesn’t make me a better resume writer.  I know that employers are likely inundated with applications, that lots of places don’t have the staff to respond to applicants like that, but the cold face of the Internet can be a bit trying sometimes. So, that means I have to work harder to keep my chin up and know that it will, eventually, work out. We all have to, don’t we?

P.S. Send me good thoughts as I look for work. Please. Now back to editing that one cover letter…

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It’s not a dirty word.

(This is how I felt tonight)

Tonight, I attended a “Gentleman’s Panel” in the lobby of my dorm building. The pretense? Three men, behind a screen, would answer questions anonymously about anything- sex, politics, dating, personalities, etc. Multiple questions regarding physical appearances, preferences for physical appearance, and how they prefer women were asked by the girls in my hall.

I asked the question: “Are you a feminist?”

I didn’t know what to expect. Some small part of me hoped that they’d realize that feminism is essentially equality, and that they’d answer yes.

The three answers were as follows (spoiler: none of them were “yes”!):

First guy: No. Right off the bat, no qualms about it.

Second guy: Not really? If feminism is man-hating and anti-male, no.

Third: Sort of? But not really? Confused?

I was honestly horrified. I was also saddened. Clearly, my campus thinks that feminism is a dirty word, or that it’s entirely all about hating men. They were really unsure of what it is, and they also had some negative ideas about women in general.

Here’s a quote from tonight:

“There is always a hidden motive behind everything”, regarding what women say and do.

Then, their biggest problems with relationships were “communication” and “trust”. The two are definitely related if men think that women are constantly full of these ulterior motives with everything they say and do. The correlation is pretty clear to me. If I say I really like taking walks through a park, it means I like walking through the park. If my boyfriend says that he likes ice cream, I’m assuming that means that he enjoys ice cream.  It goes both ways. (Note: this boyfriend is hypothetical. Although I would enjoy a boyfriend who does like ice cream.)

FEMINISM = EQUALITY.

It is not about hating men, being better than men, feeling superior, etc. Feminism is not about taking away masculinity, it’s about creating a world where parity is possible.

Feminism is about equality in voting, representation, reproductive rights, law, etc.- total equality. It’s about breaking gender roles and stereotypes.

It is not a a dirty word. 

I’m not sure what needs to happen here on my campus, but clearly there needs to be some de-mystifying as to what feminism actually is. It’s clearly seen as a noxious, tainted word that carries all sorts of threatening ideas, when in reality, it shouldn’t be threatening at all. I am not personally attacking these young men, but rather frustrated at the lack of clarity as to what feminism is in general here at Montana State University, for both men and women.

Ode to a Bathtub.

Sometimes I write poems.

Sometimes they are totally nonsensical and ridiculous, much like the one below. I wrote it while pining for something more than the tiny granite shower my apartment had.

Ode to a Bathtub

Oh if I were a bathtub, that would be a tale!

To be oval or round and probably quite pale!

I would sit on the ground as still as could be,

Oh if I were a bathtub, yessiree!

Delirium would never overcome my whitewashed mind,

For I am a bathtub and ceramic, looking quite fine!

In a corner I would sit, proudly and grand!

Or, if you’d like, I can say I would stand.

I would never have the chance to move from my spot.

I’m stuck there forever, not staggering a lot.

In general, not moving at all,

Also, on a side note, I would not be tall.

If I were a bathtub, now I can say,

I’d prefer to have feet or claws that were splayed.

I’d quite like to be fancy, not boring or plain.

I’d like to be pleasing to people who are vain.

I wouldn’t be wooden or made of something strange,

And I would staunchly refuse to bathe animals with mange.

I’m a bathtub of standards, you must understand!

I’m the greatest bathtub in all of the lands!

I’m a bathtub of fortitude, never leaving my post!

Rest assured I shall be here when you need me the most!

Thank you fair people for reading my words!

Now, if I were a bathtub, writing this would be just absurd.

I assure you, good readers, I promise you this:

A bathtub I am not, nor am I about my wits.

Potential.

It’s almost time for me to get a new journal! I’m so excited to start a new one- there is always so much hope in those blank, unwritten pages. This last journal has lasted me from May 2010 to the present, so I feel like it’s definitely time for a new one.