{09.2015} Dancing in September

Do you remember…the 21st night of September? September began with this song. My supervisor and coworker were having their monthly workplan meeting in the office near my desk, when this song started playing, and I turn around to see them dancing. They opened the door and I joined in, not entirely of my own will, but partly out of a desire to send “I’m fun, too” vibes to the office. We danced to the entire song, and I knew it was going to be a good month.

Real quick: if you need an update on what I’m doing out here, check out my FAQ.


The beginning of September meant Lo’s birthday! The youngest of the babes, we got to ring in 22 with this gem of a girl. For this special occasion, we ate out at a restaurant for the first time; we went to Montana Brewing Company, where we found out that you get a free pitcher of beer on your birthday! Clutch, VJV. We went home, ending our 5-day dessert cleanse (lol) with chocolate cake we had made. YUM. Although it was a Tuesday, we rallied and ventured to the Crystal Lounge (yes, it’s as shady as it sounds, but they have karaoke every night). I made the group sing September, which was as awful as you’d expect and just to make sure we’d never forget it, we received a recording of ourselves on a CD (soon to be available for purchase on iTunes)! You also get a free drink ticket on your first song. And there’s free popcorn. So, all in all, despite my inherent skepticism of any place characterized as a lounge, we had a great night.

When you don’t have birthday candles, you make do. Count ’em – 22!

{9/10, 9/11, 9/17}

September also meant it was time for the Northern Plains Wild and Scenic Film Festivals! I jumped on the opportunity to get out of Billings, especially on work hours, and traveled to Helena and Gardiner for the film fests there, in addition to helping out at the Billings event. The work was minimal since this event is a well-oiled machine for Northern Plains, and the films were awesome! There were 12 short films with something for everyone…from “save the Monarchs and fireflies,” to mountain biking and kayaking “nature porn,” to stories of innovative renewable energy technologies and programs around the world. The next week, I got to go to Gardiner for the third and final film fest, a town 3 hours outside of Billings and a Yellowstone entrance, so it’s super cute and scenic! The event was a huge success in Gardiner, and we had a lot of fun – but speaking of huge successes – I drove a stick for the first time on real roads and didn’t die! I felt like this was a major life moment for me and like I became that much more of a real person. Needless to say, I was on an emotional high for a solid two days after my one hour of glory.



The Saturday morning after the Billings film fest, we woke up early (do we ever sleep in? The things we do for free food and t-shirts) and Caitlin, a friend of mine from WORC/work who is our age, and Carol, Elle, Lo and I headed to Riverfront Park/Norm’s Island to volunteer for Yellowstone River Research Center’s annual river cleanup event. Since we didn’t have a boat (not in the budget), we were assigned to clean up the shore area and surrounding trails. The trails were surprisingly pristine, and we only found a few empty beer cans in the brush. The shore was a little more exciting, with the rusty remnants of an old car washed up among the rocks. It was a lovely morning wandering around in the sun and hanging out with the babes and Caitlin (“The fact that Billings has a beach is revelatory!” – Caitlin), and around lunchtime we met up with the boat crew (a bunch of Rocky students) and helped unload what turned out to be 2+ truckbeds’ worth of scrap metal and other miscellaneous trash. We enjoyed some free Pita Pit sandwiches and returned home to recoup and relax.

We asked for an iPhone photo from a profesh photog who took this one instead!
We asked for an iPhone photo from a profesh photog who took this one instead!

That night, we decided to take advantage of the row of empty growlers on our counter and headed to Carter’s (a local brewery) to fill one up. There are so many local breweries in town that it’s probably more challenging to not drink a local brew. And I filled up a growler for eight dollars! If that’s not revelatory, I don’t know what is! Soon after, we happily hauled our growler to our first house party in Billings! Four Americorps Vistas were throwing a party that we had caught wind of earlier that morning, so we took a chance and showed up virtually uninvited. Luckily, we were welcomed in with open arms full of snacks and PBR (can arms be simultaneously open and full?…because they were). It was awesome to meet fellow volunteers in the area! I don’t know how they afforded to offer a whole table full of food (the “Trinity of Halloween Oreos, a cheeseball, and mini cupcakes” among MUCH more) and a cooler of drinks, because we were literally living on sample Clif bars and jelly beans at the time…anyways, I digress. We hung out around the fire and shared bits and pieces of our volunteer experiences thus far and gossiped about FJVs (it seems like everyone we meet has a story to offer, unsolicited, about the FJVs). After this party, we migrated downtown to Crystal Lounge (a hard pass) and then, of course, to the watering hole that is Daisy Dukes. We danced lots, and I begged the DJ to do another line dance besides the regular (Copperhead Road) and play Whiskey Drinking SOB so we could impress the crowd with the only other line dance we know (although somehow I don’t think the actual experience would have lived up to my expectations if they DJ did have the song). We like to think we’re making a name for ourselves. As much as one can make at Daisy Dukes. But it’s a start.

Sunday I woke up early (again) to do my last “long” run before the marathon, and made my way back to Riverfront Park for a beautiful run. Afterwards, I had decided to go to the service at American Lutheran Church, because I had remembered that the pastor there was an FJV who had written us a hilarious letter about the mistake her community made in choosing to do a dry year at orientation (and I quote, “DUMB, DUMB, DUMB.”). I enjoyed the service, again being noticed as a newbie and warmly welcomed by person after person, and was happy to learn there would be a church kick-off BBQ after service (the free food radar is more real with every passing day). I introduced myself to Pastor Elizabeth (the FJV) and she immediately sent someone to go grab a coupon book from her office for us and promised to take us out and buy us beer ASAP. Lolz, life. She knows the JV struggle can be real. I sat by a nice older couple at dinner, who, to my surprise, invited me to their home to hang out by their pool. I tried to politely decline, because I wasn’t super excited to go alone with people I had just met 20 minutes ago…but after they basically insisted, I finally decided why not. It was a beautiful, sunny 90 degree day and the pastor had vouched for them already. I spent the day relaxing and reading and chatting by the pool at their beautiful home out in the country on the rims and in the hills, and by the end of the afternoon, I felt I had practically been adopted into the family. Such generosity and hospitality!

The view from my adopted grandparents' home.
The view from my adopted grandparents’ home.

Later that week, Lo and I found ourselves biking in the dark and in the rain back to this church for a 6:30am women’s bible study. Again, lolz at our life sometimes, never a dull moment. As it turns out, they decided to read “Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Muhammad Cross the Road?” which is super pertinent to our current exploration of faiths, churches, and traditions. It’s looking like it’s going to be more of a book club, so stay tuned for further development on this front.

{9/19& 9/20}

Saturday morning, I wanted to get moving and loosen up for the next day’s race, so I went for a bike ride with Carol and Elle, which turned into a nearly 20 mile ride…..so that’s nice. It was beautiful and I got to show them my long run route, but probably a bit much for the day before the race. #noregrets. I rested the rest of the day, enjoyed some elk stew that we made in the crockpot (v Montana), and then took myself on a date to the Billings Symphony Orchestra. My coworker plays horn in the orchestra, so he got me a ticket for half-off, which my budget appreciated. They played Eroica: Beethoven’s 3rd Symphonyand the guest soloist was a flutist who is….prepare yourself…a professor at U of M!!! WHAT…small world. She killed it on an incredible piece written by Michael Daugherty reflecting on the Trail of Tears…100% just a white man’s interpretation of the event, so that’s important to remember, but I still really enjoyed it.

My long awaited marathon happened on September 20th! I woke up at 4:30, super excited (except for the fact that I was race number 1751 and not 1738 (seventeen thirty eight…you know, Remy Boyz, yaaaa), and the lovely Carol drove me to Senior High to get on a shuttle bus that would take me out the Molt (the town 26 miles out of town where the race began). After some confusion, I ended up on a bus with only TWO other runners, and this is when I realized this was going to be unlike any of my previous marathons. They dropped us at this little “community center” in Molt, which is about all that the town was composed of from what I could see, plus an abandoned house and a post office. I walked inside and met the stares of the maybe 60 other runners, and realized this was it. What more could I expect from the MONTANA Marathon, a state with the third lowest population density…anyways. Small crowd, I was definitely one of the youngest, and before I knew it, we were all intimately gathered around the start line and taking off at the gunshot.

I don’t listen to music, which is great most of the time, but sometimes means that my mind finds interesting ways to occupy itself (#tbt to the one time I typed [literally, with my fingers as I ran] Ipomopsis aggregata over and over for an entire long run). This time, four songs served as the soundtrack to my race:

  • September – EW&F (no explanation necessary)
  • Stitches – Shawn Mendes (it was on the radio en route to Senior High at 5:30am)
  • Trap Queen – Fetty Wap (still bitter about 1738 being wasted on a middle aged man who wouldn’t understand the reference)
  • Glory and Praise to our God (this is no joke – it was truly miraculous that I was finishing)

The race itself was….unique. I haven’t decided how to feel about it. It was beautiful, and mostly downhill, which was awesome, but the course was about 99% fully exposed to the sun and also there were so few runners that it got a lil too intimate for my liking. LOL that I was expecting pacers at this race…..that was a negative. I felt great for almost 20 miles, but I sort of knew that my body was going to start protesting soon, because I was running faster than normal. The last 6 or so were pretty rough, but my roommates meeting me at the finish and running the last bit with me was the best finish I could have asked for! Precious angels, all of them.

Their signs were on point.
Their signs were on point.
This photo ran in the Billings Gazette, siting me as “Julie Kehoe, of Billings”…………………..Julie.


…Do you remember? We spent the evening dancing at Rocky, per usual, and requested (read: demanded) that Spencer end the night to this song. We may or may not have been the only ones dancing at this point…


This Friday, we got to volunteer at event called Ales for Trails. It’s a big fundraiser for the trail system here in Billings, and for $30 you get entry, a small sampling cup, and unlimited beer! We were signed up as second shift tap-pullers, and as volunteers, we’re allowed to get enter and partake for free before/after/during our shift. We had way too much fun, and met lots of really great, friendly people. We were serving three beers from a Bozeman brewery and three pumpkin beers from Elysian, a Seattle brewery, so as you can imagine, being on the cusp of autumn, those pumpkin beers were all the rage.

Ales for Trails at Dehler Park, the local ball park, on a balmy 90-degree early fall evening.

I also got to puppy-sit for a coworker this weekend. Such a treat:



Sunday was Ellen’s 23rd birthday! Carol, Elle, and I rode (read:walked/trudged) our bikes up to the rims, and admired the beginning of the fall colors popping throughout the valley. We ran into MK and parents up there, and some cute rock climbers, and then road the trail all the way to the east of the city and made our way back to the south side. We celebrated Elle’s birthday at Uberbrew, which was amazing, and then we went back up to the rims (along with the entire population of Billings and special guest – Ashland Community[!!!]) to try and catch the blood/supermoon lunar eclipse spectacle. We saw the hazy beginnings, but then the clouds took over, so we took the Ashland crew home and had a bonfire (s’mores and all) at our house.

Let the fall colors begin!
View from the rims; Let the fall colors begin!

{Stay tuned for…}

  • My parents are visiting next week! Yay!
  • Matthew, our dearest JVCNW area coordinator, is visiting for a week to check in at our sites and community…this is bound to be a hoot and a half.
  • I’ll be attending a two day POCO training – Principles of Community Organizing…wahoooo.
  • The Billings Babes are throwing a JV Halloween party! We’ll have a group costume you won’t want to miss.
  • Lots and lots of other fun stuff still TBD.

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