WHAT I HAVE TO SAY

Dear Thursday,

I don’t feel like writing today. I don’t have anything to say.

But I’m saying something anyway.

I’ve made a pact with myself: that every Thursday, no matter my mood, no matter my motif, I will write something and I will post it on this blog. This will be my weekly exercise; my method of combating perfectionism, laziness and the all-or-nothing attitude I have about life that keeps me from creating.

Writing is hard. I’d much rather sit and think of all the things I could write about, than attempt to put clumsy words to my ideas. I’d far prefer to fiddle with the details of something I’ve already written, than write something new. It’s easier to do nothing at all—when I’m feeling insecure, unmotivated or uninspired—than to drudge up stuff that’s hard for me to articulate. Sometimes I have something difficult to say, and I don’t know where to start, or how to say it. Sometimes I don’t like how I say it. Sometimes I don’t think I have anything to say at all.

But I always do.

Even now, I do.

And I didn’t think that I did.

And that’s what I have to say today.

 

 

 

MICROADVENTURE: THE OREGON STATE FAIR

 

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Dear Thursday,

With the exception of one year of college and a few months of marriage spent two states away, I’ve lived in the same rural community my entire life. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to experience life outside of the little town I grew up in—maybe it’s because I’m naive to the rest of the world, or ungrateful, or too stubborn to see the advantages of living where I was born—but all I’ve ever wanted is to leave this place.

All I’ve ever wanted is to live somewhere that everybody in town doesn’t already know my last name. All I’ve ever wanted is to explore new places and meet new people. All I’ve ever wanted is a really big, exciting, exotic adventure—away from here. But the longer we live here, and the better I learn to embrace just how little control I have over circumstances in our lives (including, but not limited to, where we live)—the more I appreciate and seek out what Jordan likes to call “microadventures”.

For us, a microadventure is just what it sounds like: an adventure—that is something new, different or unexpected—on the micro level. Breakfast at a new cafe downtown is a microadventure. Camping under the stars in our front yard is a microadventure. Driving down a road we’ve never been on is a microadventure. This summer, I wrote down a list of microadventures we wanted to do together (go to a rodeo, see the new Bourne movie in theaters, soak in one of Oregon’s natural hot springs, etcetera) and week by week, in no particular order, we’ve been crossing items off of my list.

The Oregon State Fair was microadventure #3 on that list.

Neither of us had been before and we had rather grand expectations. It didn’t live up to our lofty standards, but it did provide all of the fair essentials: homemade art exhibits, 4-H animals and exceptional hand-dipped corndogs (as remarked by Jordan, the gas station corndog connoisseur.) We spent the night before at a KOA cabin with friends, playing mini golf and roasting hotdogs, and the morning after with more friends, eating pancakes and drinking coffee. The whole weekend was a reminder to me that I can be thankful: thankful for friends with a sense of humor and a passion for fried food equal to our own. Thankful for campfires to sit around at night, wooly-headed sheep to pet, lively conversations and new memories. Thankful, especially, for the idea behind microadventures: that new and fun things can be found wherever you are, whatever you do, and that life holds so much good. All I’ve ever wanted is to leave the town I live in, to move on with my life—I spend too much time daydreaming about living in Canada or Montana or Maui, and I know it. But this Thursday? I want to remind myself:

I’m thankful for the place I’m in.

(P.S. Prepare yourself for WAY too many photos of chickens and horses and sheep.)

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T-SHIRT GIRL

 

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Dear Thursday,

I’ve always been a T-shirt and jeans kind of girl. There are few childhood photos of me in anything else. As a kid, I was the definition of a tomboy, never without my signature ponytail and always barefaced and sun kissed. Even now, when I’m home alone, you’ll find me with my hair, too long, pulled back in a braid; the freckles on my nose exposed—not dulled by powder or foundation—wearing a worn-out pair of jeans and an old T-shirt shirt from my husband’s side of the dresser. Sometimes I wonder: if this is how I dress and what I look like when I’m most comfortable, isn’t this who I am? Why do I smear on eyeshadow and dust my cheekbones with bronzer on the weekends? Why do I dig a skirt out of my closet and a pretty, girly top to wear before going out in public? Does dressing up and looking cute really make me feel better about myself, or would I feel more secure in my usual T-shirt and jeans, because a T-shirt and jeans is who I usually am? Do clothes matter? Does mascara make a difference? Is appearance worth anything?

I want to look good. I don’t want to be a slob. But I also want to be myself, regardless of social standards or trends. How can I do that—how can I own my T-shirt and jeans, bare face and ponytail without sacrificing my God-given femininity? Because a woman is what I am, but a tomboy is who I am.

I want to be both.

MR. + MRS. BALIN

Dear Thursday,

Two weekends ago my little sister got married. A relationship 6 years in the making, she and Bryce finally share a last name. It’s been a long time coming.

Kayli and I were there for their first look. I was supposed to be taking photos, but the elation of the moment was almost more than I could handle—stray tears blurred my vision and I had to stop clicking the camera’s shutter more than once to blubber and wipe my eyes. I used to feel embarrassed by displays of emotion; refusing to let myself feel openly joy or sorrow; choosing instead to look straight ahead and plod forward. These days I let it all out. I’m not an equivalent to the star of a Spanish soap opera—I don’t sob and wail and pull at my hair—but when the tears flow, I let them. Sometimes progress in life is marked by silly things: for me, in my life, crying in public is progress.

Kirsten and Bryce, your whole wedding day made me teary. In my own marriage, I learn something daily—about love and sacrifice, blessings and hardships, boundaries and adventures. I’m so excited for you to experience those things together. If being together is something earned, you’ve earned it more than any couple I know.

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Balin!

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A HORSE OF COURSE

Dear Thursday,

I’m practically a modern day Laura Ingalls Wilder. Living in my little house on the prairie, blue sky and open space all around me, loyal dog, loving husband, garden plot in my front yard—what do I need that I don’t already have?

Why, a horse, of course. *

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*These are not my horses. (I just wish they were.)

 

RAINY DAYS ARE FOR WRITING LETTERS

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Dear Thursday,

It’s raining today. For me, rainy days are for writing letters.

I believe in words, being intentional and the disappearing art of the tangible.  Writing a letter is all of those things. As fun and as useful as social media can be, I unapologetically loathe the culture of convenience and insincerity it contributes to, and I’m protesting. I’m writing letters. A letter in the mail may not seem like much of a rebellion, I know, but I think a letter in the mail means astronomically more than a “like” on Facebook—-and honestly, that’s all I’m shooting for: real life relationships and creating something tangible once in a while. Words, and using them intentionally. Taking time to send something to someone I care about instead of posting on my Instagram account. Because just as scrolling through Wikipedia doesn’t equal reading a book, getting a letter in the mail and getting a comment on Twitter will never be comparable.

My rainy days will always be for writing letters.

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I LOVE CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK

 

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Dear Thursday,

There are many things that irk me about living in my hometown. The fact that I’m stuck here for the foreseeable rest of my life, the fact that I know everyone and their great aunt whether I want to or not, and the fact that—outside of cows, swathers, a run-down movie theater and a bowling alley—there’s a limit to what you can see or do here. But—can you believe it?—I also have a list of things I love about living in my hometown.  Near the top of that list, is Crater Lake National Park.

Crater Lake is an old friend of mine. I learned to cross country ski on her snow-covered rim, I loved fishing off her sparkling shore as a kid, and my first “real” job just out of high school was as an activity agent on her tour boat crew. She’s both a spectacular and a familiar spectacle to me, inspiring my awe and my nostalgia. Summer is the time of year when you can hike down two miles of switchbacks to Cleetwood Cove and swim in the clearest, possibly the coldest water in the nation, or walk along Castle Crest trail and admire the abundant wildflowers, or hike to the summit of Wizard Island—a curious, almost mystical phenomenon—but even so, she’s always been my favorite in winter.

Winter dumps an average of 44 feet of snow on Crater Lake, burying her entire 33-mile rim, making all but Highway 62 and the road to Rim Village (which are cleared by constant plowing) inaccessible to vehicles. I love how the trees, heavy with snow, look like something out of a Doctor Seuss book. I love watching the wall of white on either side of the road grow taller and taller the further up I drive, what used to be, the face of Mt. Mazama. I love the thrill when I finally reach the top and behold the lake, surreal, the bluest water and the whitest snow—nestled in a crater that must be the shape of God’s thumb.

I love Crater Lake National Park.

This winter we didn’t make it there until December, but we brought friends. After years of drought in Southern Oregon and very little snow—even for Crater Lake—it was good to see her rim buried by several feet. Looking around, I was struck by how sentimental I feel about this place. I felt as though I was introducing new friends to one I had known for a long time. One who knew me as a child, and now as an adult. Who remains the same—beautiful as ever—and beckons me back to visit her every year. We stood on the edge of the rim in a huddle and shivered in the -20°F windchill before running stiffly back to our car, and even though my face hurt and I couldn’t feel my fingers, I smiled as we drove away. I almost waved. Until next time, old friend, I thought—until next time.

Thanks for making my hometown someplace special.

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