{12.2015} A Merry Montana Christmas

We started off the month at our monthly meeting with our wonderful support family, Brian and Erica, who had us watch the documentary “I AM“.  It’s about Tom Shadyac, director of Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor, Liar Liar, etc., who has experienced a sort of…reawakening(?) in his life and a total redefining of what’s important to him and the world. He interviews a whole bunch of great minds (Desmond Tutu, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and many more) asking what they see as wrong with the world, and what they think we can do to make it better. Unsurprisingly, the question gets turned upside down and they ultimately end up answering what is right with the world. We all found it pretty moving, and it takes a pretty successful stab at what JVC(NW) is all about. I would really recommend taking the hour or so to sit down and watch it (it’s on Netflix, so you can’t say no), and see what it stirs in you. Think of it as your Christmas gift to me 😉 Let me know what you think, I’d love to talk about it with you!

The first weekend of the month meant Friday night Art Walk around Billings! We hadn’t made it to one yet, so we made sure to make this one. A bunch of businesses and art galleries in town open their doors for browsing and usually offer wine or hot chocolate and a treat of some sort. We saw a lot of cool, local artwork that we definitely wouldn’t have seen otherwise. We also discovered SCRAP, a Southside store which I have been borderline obsessed with since. It’s a “creative reuse center”, so basically a thrift store for all kinds of secondhand craft supplies, whether used or not, and the owners are incredibly helpful in suggesting projects and such. I ended up doing a whole bunch of my Christmas gift supply shopping here, at a very JV-friendly price.

Saturday night was Red Lodge’s “Christmas Stroll” (similar concept to Art Walk), so we drove up to Red Lodge and stayed with Suzanne and Randy (Elle’s relatives), who have an adorable, cozy family cabin there. Such a treat to get away for a weekend!

By another stroke of luck, we found a ride with a St. Xavier JV to Missoula for their birthday party. We left Friday after service, drove ~5 hours, and arrived late that night. It’s a beautiful drive into the mountains, but we drove it all after sunset. Womp womp. The next morning, Lo and I went for a lil run along the river, surrounded by some beautiful snowy mountains. Afterwards, the babes and two of the Missoula JVs headed 30 min outside of town to the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, which was this incredible homage to Buddhism in the middle of nowhere (Arlee), Montana.  Super cool gem of a place. Afterwards, we walked around town with my wonderful and now-Missoula-based coworker, Svein, and went to some antique shops, a fun book store, a costume shop, and a coffee shop. Treated ourselves to a dinner of pizza and beer, and then headed back to the JV house, where the Boise JVs had just arrived. Had a wonderful night celebrating the birthdays of a couple of the JVs (and Jesus!). We left town the next afternoon.


The next weekend, we were finally around Billings (since we had been gone the last three weekends, we were happy to stay home). We had a holiday dinner with some of our support families on Friday, which was wonderful, and then Saturday night we finally ventured east of town to “The Loft,” a (regular [read: non-country]) dance club we hadn’t yet been to. Inside, we found what appeared to be Billing’s most eclectic gathering of people! Granted, it’s a gay/queer bar, so that should be expected. It was so, so fun. It’s been a long time since we all just got to dance!

The next day, we were all locked into our rooms crafting each others’ Christmas presents. I honestly hardly saw any of my roommates that day! Talk about dedication.

On Sunday night, I joined a few of my fellow Pops Orchestra members and we played for a couple hours as entertainment for the candlelight tours at the Moss Mansion. Every room of this historic family estate is donned with a Christmas tree decorated by a different organization in town. The six of us (two violins, a viola, a bassoon, an oboe, and a flute) played simple Christmas music, and it was a really nice evening. The expensive admission is definitely not in the JV budget, so it was nice to get a free pass for the night. I am so thankful to have brought my viola along out here, and it has been a lot of fun to get involved in the greater community of Billings in that respect.

That week, the night before Carol and MK were to fly home for Christmas, we cooked a Christmas feast and did our roommate gift exchange. Dinner was amazing…we were able to get a ham, and we made cheesy potatoes, brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, rolls, etc. St X and Jake (Billings FJV) also joined us, as they were spending the night at our house that night to join Carol and MK on early outbound flights the next morning. After dinner, we exchanged some incredibly thoughtful handmade gifts. (I cried real tears when I opened Carol’s cross stitch of Baby Groot…it was awkward but real). It was a really special night. Early the next morning (5am?) we took the whole gang up to the airport, save Lo, who flew out Christmas morning instead.

On Christmas Eve, Lo worked at the Center, and Elle and I, who had the day off, went to mass at St. Bernard’s in the heights. I played viola with the music group there, which was a lot of fun, and even got to solo on Silent Night! Still not used to being treasured as a violist (lol), but Billings seems to be short on competent violists, so it’s been fun. After mass, we went to Suzanne and Randy’s house in Billings for dinner. Their 22 y/o son was in town, so it was fun to meet and chat with him! Dinner was amazing, and again, I was so grateful for this family of Elle’s who has adopted us in Billings.

After an early airport run on Christmas morning, Elle and I went back to bed, and then got up at 8:30 and opened presents that had been sent from our families and friends. Definitely felt very loved despite the distance on what has been a holiday surrounded by family for the last ~21 years of our lives. Since it was snowing (in fact, it snowed all day, take that, Michiganders!), and we were so grateful for a white Christmas, we went for a short walk on the rims to appreciate the beauty. Afterwards, we headed out to Laurel for Christmas dinner with Elle’s coworker’s family. After a while elephant gift exchange (in which we rid our house of a giant tie-dyed stuffed triceratops and gained a Big Mouth Billy Bass -__-) and card games, we drove back to Billings to visit Brian and Erica, and their two young ones, Connor and Gracie. The kids were on cloud 9 with their new presents, and it was nice to be reminded of the unmatched joy of Christmas as a kid.

I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and generosity that everyone has shown us this Christmas. It really meant a lot to us that multiple families were willing to open their homes and welcome us into their Christmas traditions. For every offer that we accepted, there were several more that we had to graciously turn down. It made Christmas away from home, which spent alone would have been a tough time, a pretty wonderful experience. Special shout-out to my family (Mom especially) for supporting and reinforcing my decision to stay in Billings and have this experience. I missed all my friends and family lots, but God willing, there will be more Christmases to follow.

Other updates:

  • I’ve started re-reading the Harry Potter series (I’ve only really read them when they first came out); it is the best. I have a pretty poor memory when it comes to these things, so basically everything feels new and exciting to me. For example, when the letters of Tom Riddle’s full name rearrange into (SPOILER ALERT) “I AM LORD VOLDEMORT,” I was shocked. I wish I was kidding. Currently on #4. Loving life.
  • I’ve also finally started watching season 5 of Game of Thrones. I watched seasons 1-4 with Kyle this past summer, but have been on a hiatus since. I think he probably briefly considered breaking up with me when he was quizzing me before I started, and asked me who was currently king, and my first guess was Rob Stark (“Did you say Rob Stark???…(SPOILER ALERT) He died in season 3!!) Like I said, my memory on these kinds of things is a hoax and a half. My bad.
  • I’ve started knitting again for the first time since high school! Sorry, even I will admit that arm knitting does not count. I’ve made a couple dishcloths and a cowl, and will soon tackle a hat. Lots of fun!
  • Because Carol and I have been on an indoor gardening kick, we built a…garden box…using the scrap wood and tools (circular saw and nubby hammer, SOS) that we inherited in our garage:
  • IMG_7009
  • Notable challenges of the week have included sleeping on the floor for a week (a challenge of solidarity with those without beds to sleep in every night), and a decisiveness challenge, which was extended to two weeks. A house of very agreeable ladies committed to living as a community, we sometimes have trouble making decisions. This was a good one!
  • Sunrises from my window are still beautiful as ever:


Stay tuned for January happenings:

  • We’re roadtripping to Boise, ID for New Years with the JVs there!! We will, supposedly, be watching a giant potato drop at midnight! I am so psyched.
  • LUCIE IS VISITING!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Totem pole raising ceremony at work, organized by yours truly (pray for me, SOS).
  • Second visit by our beloved JVCNW Program Coordinator, Matthew.



One thought on “{12.2015} A Merry Montana Christmas

  1. Julia,

    We missed you at the holidays, but sounds like this was a memorable Christmas for you. BTW I do consider our arm knitting, real knitting!! LOL

    My thoughts and prayers are with you always.

    Happy New Year,


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