Friday, July 26, 2013

Diving wildly into the unknown

In August 2007, I arrived in Greeley, Colorado with a car full of stuff and $100 in my pocket. Tomorrow morning, I'm leaving Greeley with a husband, a baby, a degree, lifelong friends, a lot of great memories, and a brand new perspective on life.

When I first came here, I had no idea what I was doing. I had only visited Greeley a handful of times with friends from high school who lived here, and it was really only to go to parties with them, so I didn't get a great idea of what the city was like. I moved into a house completely sight-unseen with a friend from high school and two other roommates who I had never met. I had no job, a brand new lease, a new car payment, and a college acceptance letter.

It was this crazy, risky situation where total failure was not only completely possible, but almost happened a few times. There were times when I had to borrow money from my parents or Bryan to pay bills, times when I thought I wouldn't have the money to continue to go to school, times when I wasn't sure where I'd live, times when I thought I had no friends. I survived a tornado, a recession while working in retail, a home burglary, a fire, and a failed home birth.

I moved to Greeley because despite the risk of total and complete failure, I was at a point in my life where I needed to do something. I had already experienced total and complete, expensive, humiliating, life-shaking failure after my first year of college out of state and had spent the next few months at home recovering. But staying in Colorado Springs wasn't much of an option for me either. Even though it was my hometown, I never felt like it was my home. So I moved to Greeley. It was something to do. I think the fact that I had already experienced failure, and survived it, made me less afraid of it happening again.

I spent a few hours today with one of my best friends and we talked about feeling stifled in Greeley. I'm at a point in my life where I'm stuck. It's a lot of things. Being a stay-at-home mom is not the life for me. Once I realized that my videographer job was not for me (and it was ending in two months, anyway) I was eager to start working in journalism again. It's being part of a small group where we aren't really doing anything together when I so desperately want to be part of an army and working aggressively on a mission.

I know that there are plenty of opportunities to pursue and needs to be met here in Greeley. There are homeless people in the park, meth addicts down the street, refugees from Africa, and lonely first-time moms. There are things to do here, and from a lot of conversations I've had with friends during the summer, it seems like there are at least a few people who want to do them. But there are a lot—A LOT—of people who are content with their lives of corporate jobs and kids t-ball games and deciding which color of bland to paint their kitchen.

Mediocrity is a worse kind of failure. Doing nothing at all is worse than trying something new and crazy and failing at it. Again, maybe it's because I've already experienced failure that I feel like it's not that bad. I moved to Greeley because my life was stagnant, and I had to do something. Now I'm leaving because my life here is stagnant, and it's time to do something.

I know that God could have planned for us to stay here, and he would have given us the grace to be content with it. We would have had a good life. I even applied for a job in Greeley that would not have changed much about our day-to-day lives. I've had adventures in Greeley I never thought I would in this podunk little cow town. And I know plenty of people who are doing big things in little Greeley. Packing up and moving a family across the country is definitely not for everyone.

I know there's this whole thing about being content with where you are, blooming where you are planted rather than always looking for fulfillment elsewhere. I know they say that if you're discontent in Greeley, you're going to be discontent in New Bern—that it's more of a character issue than a circumstantial one. I get that, and I was willing to invest in Greeley, and to find those opportunities and go after them, and to work with God on contentment.

But there's also value in exploring, and in taking huge risks and diving wildly into the unknown. We are leaving behind our family and our friends and our church and our entire history and support system with nothing but faith that this is what God wants for us and that he will be there with us.

This is a dream fulfilled—not only because I get to be a journalist, but because I get to travel somewhere new and completely different from anything I know. I get to live there and experience this entirely new culture. I get to go on a road trip and see the country. It's something I've always wanted. I've got too much wanderlust to settle down here. The world is too big and too interesting.

I had planned to write this nice, sentimental post about how I'll unexpectedly miss Greeley, but if I'm being really honest, I am not that sad to leave. There are a small number of very close friends who I will miss, and maybe once we're out there for a few weeks (and the bugs arrive OMG), it'll hit me, but for right now, I'm way too excited about leaving it behind and going somewhere new.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Big News

A few weeks ago, I saw a tweet advertising a job at my local public radio station. Even though it was radio and not TV, I decided I wanted to apply. I rushed to get a bunch of stuff done—I wrote out my resume, put together my entire website, and even did some selfie headshots because I didn't have anything current or any time to hire a photographer. It was rushed, and not at all as perfect as I wanted it to be, but I was happy enough with the results to apply for the job.

I found out a week or so later that I didn't get the job, but I was so fueled by the excitement of possibly working again that I sort of impulsively decided to apply for a bunch of TV jobs. I applied for reporter and producer openings in North Carolina, Anchorage, Mississippi, Maine, and South Carolina.

About a week after I did that, I got an email from the Executive Producer at WCTI-TV in New Bern, NC. She said she wanted to talk to me about their open news producer position.

I called her later that day and had an interview with her. The next day, she sent me a writing test and asked for some references. A few days later, I interviewed over the phone with the assistant news director. A few days after that, I interviewed AGAIN with the news director. By this point, I was really hoping I'd get the job just because this interview process was exhausting.

Bryan and I spent the week researching New Bern and getting excited about the possibility of living on the east coast, right on the water. I didn't want to get my hopes up too high because even though I knew I was a strong candidate, I had no idea what the competition was like. Journalism is an industry full of well-qualified, extremely driven people.

The afternoon after the last interview, I was playing with Sebastian in the park when the news director called me to offer me the job. He said I “impressed the heck out of them.”

So. A dream A DECADE in the making has finally come true. I'm a professional journalist.

The whole process from the first interview to the job offer took less than a week. And this was all at the beginning of July. I start August 5th, and we leave Colorado on Saturday. It's been a rush of quitting our jobs, getting rid of most of our stuff (we thought we were minimalists until we looked at hauling everything we own across the country.), trying to find and rent a place to live completely sight-unseen, and saying goodbye to friends and family. But now we're pretty much ready to go, and I could not be more excited!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Our minimalism journey

I've been wanting to write for a while about how and why we became minimalists. It's a movement that seems to be gaining popularity online, but it's something that still confuses (and angers, sometimes) our friends and family who are largely caught up in a consumer-driven culture.

It's not that we're somehow better than the rest America. We're still drawn to fun gadgets and first-world conveniences. Living a simpler life has been something that we've been pursuing intentionally for around two years now, and it still involves daily choices and struggles. We're not living in a studio apartment with only the bare necessities for survival (although I won't lie, that's kind of my dream). What we are doing is trying very hard to be intentional about everything. We live where we do, buy what we buy, and spend our time doing certain things because we've chosen to do these things, rather than having society choose it for us.

Bryan and I are non-conformists. We don't try to be different just for the sake of being different, but we want to do the things we want to do, not the things everyone else wants to do. Our wedding was probably the first big battle.

We went shopping for wedding rings, and salespeople in every jewelry store we went to were confused and annoyed that we didn't want diamond rings. For whatever reason, diamonds are the popular choice for weddings, but diamonds are mined by slaves, including children, with cartels inflating the prices because they know Americans will pay for it. The money then goes to fuel wars which have killed more than 4 million people. Only 11% of diamond-sellers in the US use "conflict-free" diamonds, and even then, they cannot be guaranteed because there are serious flaws in the process. Nice to think about how many children have been slaughtered so that you can have a sparkly little rock on finger, right? So Bryan ended up making my wedding ring himself, and it's way more special than any mass-manufactured ring he could've bought at a jewelry store.

But it didn't end there! Weddings are a huge hassle when you're a non-conformist. Everyone has their ideas about how things should be. If I had to do it all over again, I would have just eloped, and I am serious about that. People got mad about some of the decisions we made, like how I wore a gold dress instead of white (it was prettier and more interesting than boring white), or how we didn't have centerpieces (why put all the work into it? Who actually cares about centerpieces?) or how we didn't have flowers (they will just die a week after the wedding!). I have no idea why people get so angry about things that don't concern them at all, but they do.

Surprisingly, the biggest battle we had with our family was over our gift registry. At first, I actually wanted one. People buy you new things! Pretty things! You get to pick them out yourself! But then Bryan brought up the point that we already have way more things than we need. His parents said we should just use the opportunity to ask for fun things like camping and outdoors equipment, and that's when I realized just how selfish the whole thing was. We wanted our wedding to be a testimony, and selfishly demanding junk from our friends and family seemed like the wrong way to do that.

What we decided to do was pick out a few important charities, and send the list to people with our invitation. We asked them to donate to one of our favorite causes or one of their own in lieu of gifts. For the most part, the people we invited really loved the idea, but many of our family members were still angry about it. They said that people just wanted to do something nice for us and make sure we had everything we need, and I think it seemed ungrateful when we told them not to.

Our first year of marriage taught us a lot about what is important and what is not. In one year, our fridge died and we couldn't afford a new one, so we lived without one for about two months. Later, when our house was broken into, we realized that we didn't have any possessions we minded being stolen (we realized that again after the fire later that year).

After the gang shooting, we decided to sell our trailer. We had wanted to for a while because our roommate moved out and we had more space than we needed, and we were starting to hate being home-owners. We got stressed out whenever something broke and we needed to spend hundreds of dollars to fix it. We had a lot of fun home improvement projects in mind, but we realized those cost a lot of time and money and don't result in anything much more than a cute house, which isn't really good for anything but impressing people. We also wanted to be mobile, which was surprisingly difficult in a mobile home. We didn't want to be tied to Greeley forever, so we went back to renting (It's so great, you guys! The furnace breaks and you just call someone and they come fix it for you! For free!)

We went to look for apartments and we found this little 400-square-foot college apartment. It had one tiny bedroom, living room, a little bathroom with no bathtub (sad), and a tiny little kitchen with a miniature stove and only TWO square feet of counter space.

At first, I thought, there's no way we can live here. We can't fit all our stuff in here.

But Bryan said the apartment had everything we needed, and he loved it. And the more I looked around, I realized that he was right, and that I loved it too. It was cute and cozy and part of an interesting 100-year-old house. It was right across the street from campus and near all of our friends and the places we go.

So we rented the apartment, and spent the next month getting rid of everything we didn't need. We got rid of SO much stuff. Probably around 3/4 of our possessions (extra glad we didn't have a wedding registry). We gave kitchen stuff to our college friends who needed it and were grateful to have it. We gave things to our neighbors and our friends' kids, and to the thrift store. Furniture, dishes, a deep-freezer, a filing cabinet, a desk, craft supplies. We gave away duplicate things (no one needs seven spatulas or ten throw blankets or twenty towels). After we moved into the apartment, we found ourselves still giving tons of things away because we realized we didn't need them. Too many clothes. Too many books when you can get them for free at the library.

Since then, we've moved around a few times, getting rid of more things and buying a few new things. Moving is way easier with less stuff. We can unpack our whole house in an hour now. There have been maybe two or three times when we've regretted giving something away, which is minuscule compared to the thousands and thousands of things we haven't missed.

I'll probably do an entire separate blog post on the benefits of minimalism, but it has changed our lives. There was a time someone gave us a gift card to Target, and we went through the whole store and didn't see a single thing we needed or even wanted. We have no desire to have a bigger house or fancy cars or tons of clothes like so many people do. We can clean our entire house in half an hour.

I go to other peoples' houses now and there is such a huge difference. We have friends who have little families of three just like us who are living in these ridiculously PALATIAL 2,000-square-foot-plus McMansions that are filled to the brim with clutter. Their kids' toys are overflowing their toy boxes and their laundry is stacked to the ceiling. They have their own backyard pool or playground rather than going to the park and interacting with other people. They spend an entire weekend cleaning instead of doing something fun.

Like I said, we're not immune to consumerism. We live in an 800-square-foot house now, and I'm thankful for our counter space and bathtub and Sebastian's bedroom. We buy ridiculous, unnecessary things sometimes. But for the most part, we have been able to be very intentional about our time and money, and it's been a huge blessing. It's carried over to other parts of our lives, which I will write about another time.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Summer Bucket List 2013

For me, summer started pretty much as soon as it stopped snowing (WHICH WASN'T UNTIL MID-APRIL OMG COLORADO), so we've already started on a lot of these activities. But officially, summer only started last week, and it will most likely be a bajillion degrees all the way until September or October (although you really never know around here. There could be a blizzard in July) so we still have a lot of time to do fun things. This is most likely going to be our last summer in Colorado, and while there are a lot of things we can't do with a baby, we still want to take advantage of living here while we do.

I also want to be intentional about the way I spend my time. In college ministry, we always used the summer to do a lot of things--intense Bible study, lots of fellowship, and service and mission trips. It's usually been a time when I've had a lot of spiritual growth. I'm actually really frustrated with the small group we are in now because all we're doing as a group is meeting at a park twice a month and chit-chatting about stupid things like garage sales and gallery walls. So since that's kind of pointless, I'm trying to spend the summer building my own personal relationship with God, as well as developing fellowship with people within and without of our small group, especially around our neighborhood.

Things we've already done:
  • Visit my mom on the western slope
  • Go to Moab
  • Ride a tandem bike
  • Run the Bolder Boulder
  • Tour the Celestial Seasonings factory
  • Go to Windsor Lake
  • Grow a garden

  • Still to do:
  • Bar outreach at Friday Fest
  • Throw an ice cream social for our neighborhood
  • Invite a family to dinner every week
  • Berry picking
  • Camping
  • Take Sebastian to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo so he can feed the giraffes
  • Read a bunch of Christian books. On my list right now is The Art of Neighboring, Erasing Hell, Don't Waste Your Life, and Kisses from Katie, but I'd love suggestions if you have them.
  • Volunteer at the Global Refugee Center
  • Take Sebastian swimming
  • Dye my hair blonde
  • Cheyenne Frontier Days
  • Zip line
  • Visit the Wild Animal Sanctuary
  • Thursday, June 27, 2013

    Back to the news

    I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom forever. I actually remember meeting a girl my freshman year of college whose only life ambition was to be a mom. I thought that was so weird, especially given that she was in school studying business, but I came to find out as college went on that there are a lot of women who had that dream. It's something that never crossed my mind, though. I've always wanted to be a mom, but I've always wanted to work, too. I've wanted to be a reporter since high school.

    When Bryan and I were dating and planning out our future, we decided that I would be the breadwinner and he would be a stay-at-home dad. It was an easy decision at the time. I had big career ambitions, he didn't. He has a degree in English that he got only so he could have a degree in something. He has a lot of interests and hobbies that are always changing, and not usually anything that would become a career.

    I did want to stay home for at least the first six months of my babies' lives. Breastfeeding was extremely important to me, and although it's totally possible to pump and work, I figured it was a good opportunity to spend at least some time at home building a solid relationship with the baby. Sebastian's birth seemed like the world's most perfect timing. He was born two days before I graduated college, so I could stay at home with him for six months and not have to worry about finding a job right away or taking any time off work.

    It didn't take me long to realize that staying at home with a baby is hard, hard work. I didn't realize that when I was in school, I had been surrounded by people all day long. Even though I didn't know or talk to the majority of them, they were there. I was also used to having my days and tasks scheduled out for me. Go to this class at this time on these days. Do this project in this way by this day. I always had goals and deadlines set before me, and I usually had some sort of end product to show for my efforts.

    And then suddenly, in the course of two days, all that was gone.

    Bryan went back to work less than a week after Sebastian was born. He worked both at Target and building fences, so he was gone from 4 a.m. until 6 or 7 p.m. every day except Sunday. We had a few visitors for the first week or two, and that was it. We were on our own. Because I'd had a C-section, I couldn't even really do much other than lay around and recover for about a month. I couldn't drive, and even walking around the house was too painful. And newborns don't do much other than lay around and sleep and eat and poop 20 times a day. I pretty much just spent my time watching a lot of TV.

    I woke up every morning for about the first three or four months of Sebastian's life wondering how in the world I will get through the day. What to fill the hours with. Did you know that sheer, overwhelming boredom can give you anxiety? I was literally afraid to start the days.

    We moved into Jason's basement, so we were also cooped up underground all day. We tried to leave the house and go do things, but there just isn't much to do in Greeley. We took baby literacy classes at the library and tried to visit friends and did a lot of aimless driving or walking around. When I worked at Target, I'd often see moms of young kids come to the store on weekday mornings and just wander the aisles. I could tell it was just an excuse to get out of the damn house and feel like you're doing something, and I thought that was just so sad. That became my life, though.

    When Sebastian was about four months old, there was a notice on the journalism school's listserv for a videographer position with the university. I sort of impulsively decided to apply, and I got the job. It seemed pretty perfect for my lifestyle--one or two events a week to get me out of the house and doing something, and I could usually take Sebastian with me, and they gave me editing software so I could do the bulk of my work from home.

    I always thought it would be amazing and perfect as a parent to have a job where you could go out just enough to see other people, do interesting things, and be challenged, but work largely from home and be there for your family.

    This is what I've realized, though.

    Sebastian is at an age where it's hard sometimes (not always) to take him out to work with me, especially if I'm doing something very involved. He's not young enough anymore where he will just chill out in the Ergo while I work, but he's not old enough yet where I can just set him down with some toys and he's entertained. Actually, the same goes for working at home, too. He needs a lot of attention right now, and it's impossible to sit at a computer and edit a video while he's awake if no one else is home to hang out with him.

    The other thing I've realized is that baby or not, working from home is just not really for me. By the end of the day when Sebastian's in bed, I want it to be the end of my day, too. I want to just relax and hang out with Bryan instead of start working. I want my work to be at work and my home to just be home. Now that I think about it, I had this trouble in school too. I had a really hard time doing homework at home. It's hard to be motivated when there are so many distractions around. I did much better work out at the library or a coffee shop.

    What I've realized, in the end, is that my heart is still in journalism. I don't want to be a full-time stay-at-home mom. I don't want to be a freelancer. I don't want to work at home. I want to get up in the morning, put on a professional outfit and some makeup, and go report the news. It's what I've always wanted. It may not be what I want forever. I still have a lot of interests I'd like to pursue some day, and journalism is changing pretty rapidly, but it's what I want now.

    This last year has been a huge blessing. It's been an amazing opportunity to explore other interests I had and see if they were something I truly wanted. A lot of people who are already entrenched in careers or parenthood probably don't have the chance to just try a bunch of things and see what they like. They have to just keep doing what they're doing because their livelihood depends on it. As hard as it's been to have him gone all day, I'm blessed that Bryan has been the breadwinner so I can explore other things.

    Because of a really weird state regulation, my videographer job at UNC is most likely ending in the fall, right around the time that Bryan's work building fences will probably slow down. So I've decided to start looking for journalism jobs. I'm not sure where we'll end up, or when it will happen. We actually really love our lives here in Greeley, but I'm excited about the possibility of going somewhere new. I know there will be a lot of challenges in moving to a new place with a toddler and switching caretakers. It'll be difficult to leave behind our friends here, and our little house and our garden. I'm sure I will miss Sebastian and our long, lonely days, but I'm soooooo ready for a full-time job.