Live leigh updates*
*Less live, as in right now, and more lively, as in full of life.
After my freshman year of college, I spent a little over a year in a village that has a permanent population less than the maximum capacity of an average size restaurant. There are less than a dozen streets and not a single traffic light to tell you when to slow down. Nestled into a valley of the Badlands on the very edge of North Dakota, you might miss Medora even if you don’t blink when driving by. The natural views left behind by prehistoric waters are so serene you’ll forget the rat race of life and take a deep breath. The savory history of Medora, who was the wife of the Marquise responsible for finding and naming the town, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Badlands was revived by former Governor of ND, Harold Schafer, and still nourished today by the active non-profit organizations and residents that keep their roots planted in the gumbo that makes up the Burning Hills. Together they have dedicated endless hours of hard work, if not their whole lives, to make their home the most popular destination in North Dakota. It’s crazy to think that a simple town of a hundred and twenty people can host thousands of guests and seasonal employees from all over the world throughout the four months of summer, but Medora does just that every single year.
My life as part of the village began with a seasonal contract which turned into a whole year of working and continuing school. I was employed for four different companies in total and lived in three different homes that included a one-bedroom apartment tucked above the tourist information center on Main Street. The bed that I slept in was forty-five feet straight across from the railroad tracks which trained me (pun obviously intended) to reimagine the meaning of being rocked to sleep. The place was humble in my eyes, perhaps low quality to others, with one chair in the living room and a dryer that caught on fire the first time I ever used it. Above the light switch in the floor to ceiling wood paneled bathroom was a sticky note telling users how to flip it just right for the light to stay on: push in and to the left or else it’ll fall down leaving you in the dark. The apartment was generously furnished with everything I could have needed: dishes, pots, a bed, a table with chairs, and enough floor space for a dozen people to sit on all at one time. It was my temporary home and I loved it.
So, as winter approached the tourists left, and all that remained was a life in Medora that provided a glimpse into the world I imagine my grandparents growing up in. The bygone era of waving to passing vehicles, baking cookies and sharing them with the ladies at the post office, driving thirty miles into town on Sunday to attend Church and get groceries at the store. It was a season that allowed me to sit down and taste my coffee before going to work rather than just drinking it along the way. The springtime sun not only took the bite of winter’s bitter cold away but was followed closely by summer and the new wave of campers, tour bus groups, and adventurers of all kinds. Those hot days were never long enough for all the work to be done or, more importantly, expeditions to be undertaken. Summer was a time where coffee became a morning after thought and needed instead as an evening necessity to power through the star gazing. No matter the season though, the colleagues I worked with tended to become friends; and even some became family.
On a rare occasion during my second summer I had an entire day off, so I decided that I was going to try my hand at baking cupcakes. I found a recipe online for chocolate cupcakes and began an unexpectedly wild journey that proves even strong, independent women need a little help from their friends. I had a little bit of flour, some sugar, and an adequate amount of butter at home, but I soon realized that I didn’t have cocoa. That was no problem because what I did have was leftover cubes of almond bark from Christmas and a cheese grater. Naturally I shredded the six-month-old chocolate bar into a measuring cup and called it good enough. I then realized that I was also missing eggs, a muffin tin, liners, and vanilla. I admit, at this point most people would have found something else to enjoy, but I had already put so much work into the project that quitting was not an option!
I called my colleague and asked if I could borrow some of his ingredients. I drove across the tracks to his house, and when I arrived he reported that he didn’t have any eggs to offer nor cupcake liners, so I took his baking tin and was at least one step closer to fresh cupcakes.
Lacking a grocery store, I figured I would be able to pick up a carton of eggs at the gas station. In the five blocks between the tracks and the gas station I passed by one of my old supervisors. I hadn’t seen her for a few days, so I slowed my speed like they would have in the good ole’ days and rolled down my automatic window to see how things were going for her. She was heading home early for the day, and I decided to ask if she maybe had two eggs at home that she would be willing to sacrifice.
“Sure, Freddie-Leigh, I can grab you some eggs!”, she laughed back to me from her pickup. I pulled my car over and told her I would wait there until she got back. While I was waiting, another gal that I had worked with in the past was walking by and I, still needing liners, went out on a limb and asked what the chances of her having an extra few lying around were.
Thanks to the hustle of summer she reported back quickly between breaths while still walking along, “I’m not on my way home right now, but if you go in my back door and look in the cabinet to the left of the microwave, there might be an opened package with some liners!”
I jumped out of my car and rushed a block down the street straight into her unlocked kitchen. She was right! There was an opened package with leftover liners! I clutched them victoriously and rushed back to my car arriving just in time to meet my egg delivery. Finally, I had everything I needed to finish the batter.
At least I thought I had everything until I got home and remembered I was still missing vanilla. I measured out two teaspoons of leftover French Vanilla coffee from the morning, while trying to make three cups of flour stretch into four cups. I made up for the shortage by pretending stale saltine crackers that I crushed up in a Ziploc bag could pass as flour. It really gave the cupcakes a revolutionary “salty afternoon pick-me-up” profile that I wasn’t really going for.
Now, my kitchen, reflecting the humility of the entire apartment, was small and lacking counterspace. Therefore, the cupcakes came out of the oven and took their place on top of the kitchen table, all four chairs, the window sills, my trash bin, and eventually the dryer that previously caught on fire. Seeing all those tiny cakes chilling throughout my place made me feel accomplished; but I still needed to make some kind of frosting.
I threw half a package of Oreo cookies from an employee picnic into a blender I had been borrowing from a friend. I then heated the demolished cookies in a sauce pan with a little more of the leftover coffee and the remaining almond bark. When it melted into a gooey mess I poured it into a mixing bowl and whipped in powdered sugar until it became as fluffy as Oreos, coffee, Christmas chocolate and powdered sugar can be. With a broken spatula given to me as a gift from the Easter Bunny, I spread my concoction proudly on top of my cupcakes.
I started this quest with a double batch of will and a lot less way, but you know what? That’s exactly when life takes a village. - The product of which was a few dozen cupcakes that, after eating one, not even the post office ladies wanted a second.
To the strong, independent women in my life, including Ruby-Sue, this bit of slightly embarrassing honesty is for you!
As many are aware, I am unimaginably awkward when it comes to expressing interest in fellow humans; more specifically, boys. I don’t have a vast array of experience when it comes to showing interest in boys that I may find more appealing than average, so this particular instance to follow is nothing surprising!
It all started when I downloaded this “Clover” app. It’s a step up from tinder, but still kind of sketch because anyone could be pretending to be whoever they want; or at least that’s my subjective opinion of what it is. Anyway, it’s not really in my scope of practice to be downloading this kind of software, but I had figured since I recently moved to Bismarck it could have the potential to be useful. I don’t want to spoil anything, but boy (pun obviously intended) was I wrong.
I had once watched a TedTalk given by a woman who “hacked online dating”. She used an algorithm and a little smooth talking to seal the deal with the love of her life. She made it seem easy! Although she chose a website that required payment for use, I settled for one that anyone with internet can have access to because I wasn’t as committed as she was; yet.
I made a few simple rules for when it came to “liking” or “not liking” a profile. One being that if they seem to be completely obsessed - I mean interested - in things I don’t want to live with for the rest of my life in the first or second photo, I would “not like”. If their initial photos stirred potential interest, I would investigate their self-written literature. Upon finding nothing at all, or worse, quotes from movies that I don’t like, I would again decline to “like” them. If I was further interested by the words they wrote, I would see if they had any superficial interests in common with mine and see if there was anything else worth noting like: if they had children, do drugs, or have a religious preference.
At this point if I was still interested in learning more, I would browse any social media profiles they had attached to help confirm if they were who they were presenting themselves to be or not. Most times I found instagram photos or tweets that would lead me to press the red “x”. Occasionally I would “like” someone because of something that set them apart in some way such as a photo of them volunteering with the special olympics or chose “daily Mass” as an interest.
For some reason, maybe my staggering good looks or dashing selection of interests, nobody “liked” me back; except one. During a study break I decided to check my new dating app and there it was: a match.
Naturally I planned to wait at least two days before reaching out to him first, but in the meantime I figured I would do a little research. There I was: sifting through social media profiles, college Dean’s lists, and local news paper articles while working my overnight shift. I was quite impressed with the way that this young man was represented online and, in the spirit of complete honesty, I was a little bit eager to send him a message once the two days were up. However, the very next day I woke up to an email informing me that the impressive young man had messaged me! -- Side note: if you get your dating app updates by banner or push notifications instead of by email, you’re probably doing the dating app game wrong.
I made a pot of coffee and sat on the couch to unveil what was probably going to be the start of something spectacular. I opened Clover and swiped on a couple of profiles while the new message notification hung appetizingly in the corner. Finally, after much anticipation I opened his message that asked, “You seriously creeped my LinkedIn profile?”
Who knew that LinkedIn notifies its users when their profiles are reviewed? I had in fact creeped his LinkdIn, so what could I say? I shamelessly accepted his accusation, and after few more days I deleted the app. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know my chances of meeting someone on a dating app are zero to none, so I didn’t feel like I had lost too much. If anything the experience reminded me of something that I’m very grateful for.
You see, one thing that I really like about myself is that I’m fairly comfortable being independent. Sure I’ve learned a lot about myself through growing in spite of outside circumstances and refusing to give up when I really wanted to; but I owe the majority of my independence to the man who’s been there since the beginning: my dad.
He’s the reason that I’ll fight tooth and nail for something I know to be good. He’s the reason that I can laugh at myself after falling down before getting back up. If I wanted some pickles growing up and couldn’t open the pickle jar, dad wouldn’t just wrap his strong hands around the lid as soon as I brought it to him. Almost without fail he would send me back to the kitchen to keep trying. If I exhausted my resources and still couldn’t open the jar, he would hold the bottom while I twisted the top with both hands. Dad raised me, whether he likes it or not, to be a strong, independent woman and thankfully so!
Another thing that dad did was set a standard for men in my life. He never sat me down and told me how a man should treat me or anything like that, but he didn’t need to because he lived it. He would tell Paul and I that he loved us so many times before going to bed and he always gave us hugs when we wanted them. He’s always opened doors for me and most importantly proved to me that men are kind and gentle.
Now, what this dating app reminded me about was that although I am a strong, independent woman, I have that desire to be loved with gentleness and kindness. We all do. We are all made for love and that is so beautiful, but what ends up happening is we settle. Just like our bodies are made to need good food yet we fill it with ice cream and nacho cheese, we are made for love and we settle for things that taste okay but aren’t what we need.
I’m honestly not one to settle very easily, but on that occasion I had thought that maybe the desire I have to be loved in a way that I imagine my dad loving my mom could somehow be fulfilled.
Once I asked him how he knew that he loved mom more than any other human, and looking at the ceiling he said, “Well, we talked together and laughed together. I guess that’s how I knew.” It all seems simple enough! I just have to eat the right proteins and find someone to laugh with!
The truth is that the love I am made for and the love that I desire most deeply is the very love of God which is both unconditional and unending. He loves in the most perfect way but somehow I sometimes choose to settle for something less. My dad’s love for mom seemed simple, but simple is sometimes very difficult, and when I get tired of something being difficult I might start to settle for something easy. It’s in those times that I need to remember that I am not only fearfully and wonderfully made, but someone who is worth dying for.
When I think of a man I want to spend my life with I think of someone who opens doors for me, treats me with kindness, and laughs with me, but more importantly I want someone who is willing to do all those things as a testimony of the love that God has given to each of us. Chances are that man isn’t looking for me on a free dating app, and chances are that if you’re a young woman in love with Jesus you’ve been discouraged with the difficulties of simply falling in love too. Maybe you’ve even caught yourself settling like I did.
I’m here to tell you that we’re not alone.
Peanuts - Part One
At the grocery store a few months ago I was familiarizing myself with the ingredients that companies put into peanut butter. Why? Well, let me tell you! Initially, I was comparing prices to get the best deal, which inevitably led to comparing the quality of the peanut butter for the price it was going to cost me. If you’re confused and wondering why the price of peanut butter even matters, I’ll tell you that it’s a very simple concept: time is money, and I don’t have a lot of extra time to make a lot of extra money to haphazardly buy expensive peanut butter without doing some research! You know? When I looked at the ingredients on the back of the jar I had planned to buy, I couldn’t believe that there were six things listed!
I mean, seriously, if the vegetable oil, molasse, and salt are less than five percent of the total product, why are they there in the first place? What is wrong with peanut butter made with peanuts and peanuts only? Why have I lived such an peanut butter-ignorant existence for so long?
I know that everyone eats Jiff without a thought because choosy moms choose Jiff and who can argue with the moms, right? Well, what I decided to do was undertake the task of producing my very own peanut butter without all the added stuff. My plan was to simply get some peanuts and try to make them into peanut butter by whatever means made sense in my head. Sure I could have browsed Pinterest for a few hours to find out everything I needed to know, but I wanted to discover the secret to making it through my own mistakes, you know?
First, I needed peanuts. I began looking for unroasted, unsalted, whole peanuts still in their shell because if I was going to make peanut butter, I might as well go all in, right? I searched around for a few days and finally found a market that sold what I was looking for. Naturally I bought three pounds of peanuts. I figured that they were going to get all smashed up in the blender, so I would need to buy a lot in order to make a whole jar. (Spoiler alert) Shelling three pounds of peanuts takes a long time and smashed up peanuts take up the same amount of space as whole peanuts, so to fill a jar I only needed about two cups. It’s crazy, I know!
My first batch turned out less than amazing. In fact, the first batch was not tasty at all. I put the peanuts in the blender and blended them for a few moments which resulted in a dry and nasty wanna-be paste stuff. I added a little coconut oil to maybe make it smoother, but it just made a weird textured peanut mash with an even weirder coconut flavor. The second batch was a slight improvement from the first, but substituting unsalted butter for coconut oil was still not the secret. I still had about two pounds of peanuts left and was beginning to think that the big companies supplemented in everything else because peanuts don’t actually make very good peanut butter by themselves. I could smell defeat on the horizon.
Even so, on the fourth batch I victoriously discovered the secret to smooth, creamy peanut butter made entirely from peanuts: it’s patience. Yes, patience! All you have to do is put peanuts (unshelled) in a blender, and then blend them for as long as it takes to become peanut butter! -- the time will vary depending on how many peanuts you use and what kind of blender you have -- I was amazed!
It’s so simple! Peanuts make peanut butter if you give them enough time. So simple in fact that if you search “peanut butter recipes” on your favorite online browser, you’ll find that people everywhere have already known this! The concept isn't new. So, what’s the point? Why does it matter?
- To be continued -
Flying might be the closest thing to magic a human can ever experience. Sure, magicians can practice tricks that fool our senses into an altered reality, but it’s an illusion. Flying is real magic! I understand that “real magic” is probably a paradox, and you might think I’m over stating how exciting air travel is, but just maybe I’m right.
I flew for the first time with my dance team to a competition in Los Angeles, CA. My best friends that I shared life with since kindergarten and I were going to fly to California! We left home the night before our departure with huge bags full of costumes and practice clothes, and then woke up before the sun just to be at the airport on time. We wore matching shirts and jackets so everyone could see how cool we were, and to top it all off, I had the coolest looking, blonde cornrows eastern Montana had ever seen. But not actually.
My dad had bought me a camera to take along so I could take a lot of pictures, and take a lot of pictures I did. The water fountains, security entrance, gate signs, the cockpit, flight attendants, bathroom, and just about anything else you can imagine seeing in an airport was captured on my new SD card because certainly my family would be just as excited to see these things as I was, right? Not particularly.
As fate would have it, I was seated in what everyone knows to be the best seat in the house, or in this case the plane, which is right next to the window! With a rare, undivided attention I listened to every word of the stewardess’s safety briefing as if such words were going to somehow make a difference if there were to be an actual emergency. At the end she told everyone to review the instructions in the safety pamphlet, but in those moments it seemed as if she were speaking directly to little me. She told me to review the pamphlet; so, naturally, I made sure whoever was sitting next to me reviewed it too!
Before take off, the combination of extreme excitement and unspoken fear were all I could focus on. Then a thought came to my mind that forced me to think of nothing else. I couldn’t possibly go through take off without knowing whether I was doing the right thing or breaking the rules, but I also couldn’t miss my chance: my one and only chance that is to document the first plane take off of my entire life! As the man came down the aisle doing yet another seat belt check, which was puzzling in itself because he had already done so two or three times, I raised my hand for his attention.
He drew near, and I licked my lips nervously while taking a deep breath before asking, “Um.. This is my first time flying, and I’m really excited, and I don’t want to make the plane crash, but can I use my camera to videotape leaving?”
Crouching down to meet my eyes he answered in that warm flight attendant voice, “Yes, dear, that’s fine.”
I persisted, “It has an on/off switch, and the lady said ‘anything with an on/off switch needs to be off’! Mine actually has a button instead of a switch, but it’s still either on or off, and it needs to be off?!”
He didn’t even have to think, “I’m very sure that your camera button can be on without interrupting departure .”
I was satisfied.
Once airborne, I was enthralled with being able to: look out the window to see forever into the horizon; soar through clouds without running into another aircraft; and watch all the little people below continue on with their hustle and bustle completely unaware that I was right above them! Now, as you can imagine, I was filled with joy when they told me that everyone got to have snack. After much deliberation I decided to get cranberry-apple juice with the cookies. Little did I know that juice and cookies taste a thousand times better on an airplane! It’s like they had just squeezed fresh cranberries into a cup of the best apple juice ever and then served it with magical cookies that are not only delicious beyond belief, but also vegan friendly!
A week or so later I would land back home in Montana after experiencing four different planes with four different crews and more excitement than ever. Each time we took off I would plunge my hands into the air as if I were on a roller coaster, except on a roller coaster everyone else’s hands are usually raised too, and watch the world get smaller and smaller.
Since then I have been on a number of flights to all kinds of places, and I could bore you for a week with stories, but I’ll stop here.
Believe it or not, in all my travels I have yet to order anything other than cran-apple juice with cookies. I order it not because it’s flavor is unimaginable, I’m sure the taste is comparable to any prepackaged snack, but because there’s no better way to start a new adventure like sipping and nibbling on the sweetness of nostalgia that is airplane juice and cookies.
That’s the magic of flying: it brings me to places I never imagined I would go, while taking me back to places that only exist in my heart.
How did I get here?
I was in Walmart with my roommate one day to pick up noodles and a pocket sized spiral notebook, and found myself asking , “How did I get here?” It all started with a blanket that was not nearly as soft as it looked. I reached with my hand to feel said blanket that seriously looked like it would be one of the softest blankets in the whole superstore, but turned out feeling like nothing more than a disappointment. I was shocked that a company would make a blanket that only felt like a let down, but what was even more unbelievable was that my roommate thought it felt “fine”! She was obviously unaware of the potential that Walmart blankets had.
So, we came up with a one to ten scale for justly judging softness. One would be equivalent to sandpaper which would hurt and rip up your skin, while ten would feel so soft that it could hardly be understood. As we journeyed in the general direction of noodles, we passed by the displayed vacuums. I reached out to pet one of the rotating heads covered in a short fuzzy fabric: an easy four and a half out of ten on the established softness scale. We began to assess the multitude of vacuum heads as well as the carpet they rested on, and before I could grasp what was happening we were both laughing harder than anyone should ever laugh in the cleaning appliance aisle of Walmart. You see, I had innocently touched one blanket and all of a sudden we were rating hard surface dusters’ softness from one to ten!
A few days later I was in the operating room attempting to intubate patients so a machine could breath for them during whatever procedure they were getting. The key word is attempting because although I made a lot of progress, I wasn’t overly successful. Again and again I attempted intubations, and again and again I failed. So, at the end of the day there I was in OR eight with a whole team of medical professionals who had to witness my last attempt of the day: another fail. I did everything within my power to take the suggestions of my preceptor like a big kid, but there was an army of tears conspiring a plan for liberation by waging war against my dignity! Those little soldiers fiercely invaded enemy lines until deep breaths, happy thoughts, and even my eyelids surrendered to their pressure. As the platoon cried down my face with joy for their new found freedom, I nodded my head politely and tried to pretend that the doctor’s encouragement was encouraging. In reality, I was a grown adult in a room full of other grown adults crying over failure asking myself, “How did I get here?”
Let’s see; oh, yeah! During the first weeks of living in Bismarck there was an outdoor street fair that I couldn’t wait to go to except when the day of the event arrived so did North Dakota’s annual rainstorm. I rolled up with my raincoat, and minimal cash for the sole purpose of buying street fair food. From inside my car the unceasing drops of water looked like joy falling from the sky, and after thirty minutes of wandering around I concluded that the joy was greatly increased by a footlong corndog and mustard! It was wonderful.
Some days, when I have time, I like to eat breakfast on the balcony of my apartment in one of our two outdoor chairs that may or may not have been thrown away by other people before I collected them from the curb in the cover of night. I’ll drink coffee overlooking my new home and eat toast thinking, “Really though, how did I get here?”
I think the question is such a puzzle in my mind because the life that I’m living, from fun little stories to the reality of where I’m at, is not one that I could have ever imagined. Indeed, thirteen year old me assumed I’d be married with a second child on the way by twenty, while sixteen year old me was expecting to be dead before graduation, and eighteen year old me thought she knew where she was going; yet here I am living what I think is the dream, while trying to figure out what could possibly be next. It stops me dead in my path to think that if I had made different decisions anywhere along the way I could be in prison, on a beach, in a grave, or tucking my very own tiny human/s into bed.
I guess when it comes down to it, I’m probably wherever I am because that’s where I decided to be, and my gut tells me that I can’t properly express the magnitude of this mystery in my life to anyone who doesn’t live in my head, but there has to be a part of you that asks yourself the same question, right?
How did I get here?
The Start of Paramedic School
The thing everyone forgets to mention about paramedic school is that they aren’t kidding when they say how intense it is. “A fire hose to the face” is a common way to describe the overflow of information. I’d more accurately describe it as wearing snow gear inside a sauna while eating spicy cheetos with a dozen strangers who are all trying to pretend that the heat isn’t bothering them, and spoiler alert, it most certainly is, in fact, bothering them.
I don’t really know the actual physiology of sitting in a sauna, but I know that it gets hot and I start to: sweat, breath deeper, become lethargic, experience blurred vision, and then leave for the preservation of my survival! Medic school, however, is different because even though every part of my body is telling me to run away as fast as I can, I drizzle some more water on the rocks and open up another bag of cheetos.
Considering that at this point in the program I am barely starting clinical hours, I think it’s safe to say that, in regards to the metaphor, I’m still outside the sauna putting on my boots and mittens; but nevertheless, I’m hot, tired, and want to go home. Oh, wait, this is home.
I’d like to say, however, that even if school is very different than I had expected it to be, I think that it’s been going fairly well: so far at least. One thing that has become a staple is the fact that our instructors are committed to being there for us whenever we need them which makes learning new things that much more desirable. For example, one of my peers and I went to campus on one of our off days to work on some med math, and our instructor ended up sitting with us for a good hour and a half while we struggled to successfully start IV lines on each other.
Now, check back in a couple months and I’m betting a quarter that my opinion has changed drastically.
Move to Bismarck
Anyone can agree that moving has its own combination of petty struggles and simple joys. For example when you finally win hide-and-seak against your favorite pair of socks and can’t help but snapchat it to everyone; or when the bottom of a box decides to bust open half way up three flights of stairs and still you snapchat it to all your friends. Contrary to my lack of snapchats, I did move to Bismarck a few weeks ago and to complain would be nothing less than irrational!
Classes have started and they are not what I expected in the least. It’s as if I was expecting to be served little educational horderves, but when I arrived I realized it was actually an entire feast of information that needed to be eaten in half the time I would have prefered. Does that make sense? I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is a ton of content in such a small amount of time that I feel a little overwhelmed, but word on the street is that’s just how it goes in Paramedic school.
I started working the night shift at a facility for humans who struggle to live on their own. Although I have a lot to learn about working in such an environment as that, the experience has been delightful so far. The schedule has been an adjustment for sure! Anyone who knows me knows that I am an early to bed early to rise type of gal, but I’d say I’m adapting the best I can.
I have to thank the Lord for all He has provided as far as availability to worship and serve Him here in the community. It is a blessing to be so overwhelmed with school, work, and moving further from home, but at the same time have unquestionable peace that can only come from Jesus. I am continually reminded by the news and social media that there is so much going wrong here in North Dakota and around the globe, but the same Jesus who brought peace to my tiny life brings peace to the whole world too!
I don’t have too much else to share for right now, but I want to thank you for visiting Casual Leigh and reading this post! Take it easy out there friends, and call me anytime!
A Summer Recap and Life Update
As many may know I have been experiencing the Wild Wild West for a little over a year now, but I’m excited to share that in just a few days I will be moving east to settle into my new place in Bismarck. However, before I tell you about that, I want to share a small glimpse of the adventures summer 2017 held!
First, the contrast of how chillax winter was compared to keeping up with the bustle tourist season was an exciting and well needed change. I worked for both the ambulance service and a tourist information shop in Medora which kept my days pretty booked up. I should explain that “pretty booked up” means that in the entire month of June I had two days off, which would be mostly my fault for not scheduling days off; but nevertheless, by the end of the month I was twenty years old and out of trouble! I spent a week of June pulling ticks off campers and handing out band-aids as the camp nurse out at Eastern Montana Bible Camp. It was such a blessing to be back home, in a sense, at EMBC with friends that I made over so many summers of being a camper and counselor. Shameless plug for the best camp here - EMBC Website!!
July began a little chill, but by day three it was already well into the hundreds and tourists were everywhere to celebrate the 4th of July! Medora was the only town in the area that was allowed to light off fireworks so locals from all over came to watch. Downtown was crawling with people eager to be amazed including Dad and Uncle Pat. A few weeks later Michelle and I left the country for little tour of Moose Mountain Provincial Park in Canada. We had plenty of fun and learned that when crossing international borders one should have a plan for their visit or at least something more than, “we won’t really know until we get there, you know?” Let’s just say we got through the border, but it was not the most pleasant experience! Feel free to check out our adventure video here - Kenosee for a day, eh?
The last weekend of July I was given the amazing opportunity to go as a young adult to the Steubenville St. Paul conference with the Corpus Christi youth group out of Bismarck. Before the conference began we were able to help serve a meal with Loaves and Fishes which feeds people in need for no cost; go swing dancing at an old-school dance hall that was actually built as a cave in the side of a hill; and tour the Science Museum of Minnesota that was originally founded in 1907. The actual conference was two days of singing, dancing, listening to great speakers, adoring our Lord, and engaging in charity battles over who would sleep on the floor.
The conclusion of my summer is creeping up quickly, and although my life has been growing in Medora for what seems like forever now, I am ready to begin all the new things to come. The main new thing I will be pursuing is the Paramedic program through BSC. It’s a year long plan, and if I pass the tests at the end I will be a paramedic! We’ll see if I can make out alive one day at a time. I’ll try to keep some updates going through the year, but if you know me at all, you know that sometimes I’m not always on top of things like that. Sorry, not sorry.
Finally, I’d like to give a huge thank you to all the folks at the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, Billings County EMS, Medora CVB, Hidden Springs Java, and everyone in Medora who has made my time here one to remember! Also, a huge thank you to my family for all their support, and my friends for never letting me quit!
So, Medora, we’ve had some fun, and maybe I’ll see you on the flop side homie!
What's a Name Anyway?
Another "coming of age" tale with flawed grammar... enjoy!
Names are important. To be identified as yourself includes being tagged with a name. The same names are used over and over again, but a recycled name becomes original because the human it belongs to is original. One of a kind. The person and the name are linked to one another by default, but gain reputation with time. So what does a person do when they are unsure of who they are?
As a kid I always found myself justifying my name, and having to convince people that indeed my first name was for real Freddie-Leigh, but that does not mean my mother “must have really hated me” or that my parents were “disappointed I came out a girl”. In fact, I’m almost certain that my mother loved me very much before she passed away, and the only thing even slightly disappointing about not being born a boy is the notion that people would actually suggest it as a reasonable reason for my parents naming me Freddie! Whoa! I got a little passionate there, but stick with me for a moment. Imagine someone genuinely asking you if your parents were disappointed because of the way you were born, and because of that disappointment named you something as dreadful as whatever your name is. It’s absurd! My name is awesome. Well, actually my name is Freddie-Leigh, but you understand. *tries to wink casualeigh at readers*
My name fits me in a way that I can’t quite describe without sounding proud of who I am, and in a world that tells me to pick out the things I don’t like about myself and then buy something from the store to cover it up, I don’t think it’s too terrible of an idea to be proud of the human being I was made to be. My name and my personality are like peas and carrots at a truck stop cafe. They go together seven days a week, and are even better with some pepper! You know what I mean? I like being called Freddie-Leigh, or whatever else you want to call me, and I like who Freddie-Leigh is becoming, but it hasn’t always been that way.
So what does a person do when they are unsure of who they are? I tried to change my name. When I was finishing high school and moving to college, I didn’t really like myself all that much. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot about me that I loved, but there were small parts of my past that I wanted to leave behind and never see again. I had a bad habit of pretending everything was okay when it obviously wasn’t, and I was hardly ever honest about what was going on in my heart. I didn’t deal with feelings, and I probably ate too much ice cream or something. So, the problem solver inside of me decided it’d be best to try to change my name.
I had liked the idea of having a somewhat normal name, and maybe start being a somewhat normal person. (That doesn’t sound like me, but keep reading) I asked people to call me Leigh in hopes that they would recognize the change that was going on inside of me as I began to grow up. I wanted people to see the difference in who I was. Being called Leigh also eliminates some of the explaining and justifying of my name, and cuts back on ignorant comments about visiting people in their dreams on Friday the thirteenth, but to no surprise it does not change who I am!
Can you believe it? All that backstory, and the conclusion is defeat! However, among the failure of my endeavor there is victory. For one, there is a large population of people who call me Leigh, not that I care either way at this point, but just wanted to point that out; and two, it is one more step in figuring out who I am in this crazy thing called life.
There's a lot I've discovered about myself, life, and what I believe to be true since trying to change my name however long ago that was, and I don't want to bore you with anymore details, but you should at least know that I'd like you to call me Freddie-Leigh, F-L, Fleigh, Leigh, Fredward, and anything else you can come up with; or even Fred for all I care because as much importance as a name can hold, it’s nothing compared to the human that it belongs to.
Well, family, it has been a few days since I have given you any news as to where and what and why I am doing whatever it is I am doing.
My winter in Medora could be described with many different words with an even greater variety of tone, but overall I am excited to share that my time has been fruitful. I choose to use the word fruitful because a combination of nurturing while also pruning has taken place in order to grow. The past five months feel like a long journey over more time than reality shows, but in actuality life has been for the most part like a concentrated dish soap: stripped of excess things that water it down, and not always by choice.
Now, I stayed in North Dakota with the goal of getting an EMT certification and serving the Lord. I was given different opportunities to do both! The class I took for EMT testing ended in December, and I was officially certified before Christmas! I did most of the class online, but had to travel to Fargo for labs and testing. During labs I got to meet a gal who was studying nursing and took the EMT class basically to fill time, which I thought was crazy, but was glad she did because we formed a little support system/learning team that allowed us both to pass the practical and written exams with minimal worry. I’m not too sure where she is at now, and she is inevitably not the only one to thank for finishing the course. The people of Billings County were a huge resource of encouragement! If I needed help with a concept or could benefit from more skills practicing, they were more than glad to offer all they had. If I took nothing, but the EMS team’s friendship from this adventure I would be glad.
However, God always is surprising me with joys of all sizes. As I traveled to and from Fargo over the course of the first semester I would often stop over in Bismarck to rest. The first trip I made I gracefully invited myself to stay with a family in East Bismarck for the night. In fact, it was so graceful that I bet they would argue they invited me to stay themselves, but it makes no difference because this family of six would soon become my very good friends. They are the kind of people who bring out my strengths and expose my weaknesses to promote growth (even if it hurts sometimes), and I am going to be forever thankful for their love and friendship.
Now, the EMS team, my classmate, and this family are still not the end. There is a retreat called SEARCH a few miles south of Medora that I have attended sporadically through senior year of High School and freshman year in Billings, but consistently since living here. I was even asked to lead a retreat that took place in January and am continually blown away by the firm relationships built through faith during the monthly weekend retreats. I could go on and on mentioning different people I have met along the way because they are endless, but without God’s blessing of my family through it all I fear I may have wanted give up. Dad, my sisters, aunts and uncles, and a few friends have continually reassured me of their support and love through whatever adventure the Lord brings me to.
Although winter has gone well and my perspective has been sharpened, not everything has been without failure. I did have to retake one of my practical tests, and at one point was 5,000 miles past a recommended oil change. I almost picked up a hitchhiker to drive him to Omaha, which for the record I thought would have been great but was greatly frowned upon by most of the people that love me. (Dad wouldn’t say to me it was a bad idea because he always wants me to do what I think is right, but he did say he was okay with me not following through.) A bit ago I went through a lengthy application process to join a mission team that included a trip to Ohio for an interview. In the end I was not chosen for the team, but dad and I had a good time exploring! (here’s a video-recap of that trip https://youtu.be/3ESblbKN0YU) So, I am, to no surprise, a human, and to never fail would be to never do anything at all; therefore as I fall again and again I remember that such stumbles are all part of the adventure!
Thank you for your love and support, and if you've read this far, I will reward you with some exclusive insider information. My ability to make killer chicken wings and bake deliciously moist peanut butter cookies has grown greatly, but my luck in finding a suitor remains minimal. You're welcome. :)