{04.2016} Ways in which my mind has been stretched

Throughout the month of my birthday, I did lots of the inevitable reflecting on where I was last year, where I am now, and everywhere in between. Not surprisingly, this year of service that began in August has been transformative in more ways than I can count, and undoubtedly, in more ways than I now know. What is surprising to me, though, is the way that I have grown. I have most often not been transformed by turning inward, through introspection, through deep inner reflections on who I am and what I desire in life. I have picked up far fewer books on spirituality or simple living than are readily available on my own book shelf. Of course, this is an important means of growth that I have often see my roommates and other JVs exploring this year. In my experience, whether this was intentional or not, I have been transformed from the outside-in. No longer in the college/Ann Arbor bubble, I have opened my eyes and my ears and my heart to the world around me. Through learning about my surroundings – the people, the structures, the planet – I have been moved down a path of self-actualization and developing a personal politics that I never knew was there. I’m still very, very much on that path, and surely have only scratched the surface, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts and progress with y’all now, in no particular order of significance.

Disclaimer: I in no way intend for this to come across as a “holier than thou” post. I think in many ways, my growth has not come through epiphanies of understanding. As an organizer-in-training, I am reminded again and again, especially by my dear friend and coworker, Cameron, that it’s not about how much you know, it’s about asking the right questions.

After writing this, I came across this article about making social justice movements less elitist and more accessible that my pastor at UCC shared on Facebook, which I found super relevant to what I have written here and to understanding where I’m at with all of this. I entered into this year of service 9 months ago, in which “social justice” looms over me as this lofty, amorphous pillar of Jesuit values that I literally signed a piece of paper committing myself to, and I’m still not sure how to answer when my roommates or my JVCNW program coordinator ask how I’m doing on the social justice pillar. What does this really call me to do? Where are my peers – am I where I’m supposed to be? What’s the measuring stick? (Spoiler alert: there isn’t one.)  I entered this year, essentially, feeling like I had fallen behind and lost valuable time in college that could have been spent diving into social justice issues, that I had some serious catch-up to play. This article finally said the things I’ve been begging to hear someone tell me this whole time, allowing me to recognize that this is my story, my journey – there is no right way to do this, no prescribed timeline of  understanding and action, no grades being given. Unless I’m okay with where I am and what I can offer, I’m going to waste valuable time and effort trying to elevate myself up to some nonexistent prerequisite status of “social justice warrior” before I act, instead of just acting where I am. This is empowering to me, but I think this message needs to be more broadly disseminated throughout a lot of activist circles. Activism isn’t radical – or at least it shouldn’t be. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that this is how change actually happens. “For where two or three are gathered,” right? That’s where the transformation happens.

If we really want to create open, caring communities, then we have to create spaces (both online and IRL) where the learning process is welcome and valued.We have to celebrate the new possibilities that each new individual brings.

In practical terms, this means making sure that community meetings are open to newcomers, and that quieter and introverted folks are given opportunities to speak. It means that terminology is explained when necessary, and it means not using academic jargon to sound impressive.

Most of all, it means giving up the unrealistic expectation that everyone should step into social justice conversations from an equal starting point – that everyone should or has to know exactly how to do everything perfectly, right away.

It means having the humility to know that all of us are, in fact, still amateurs at the work of making social justice ideas into reality.


Food

Local food, real food, growing food, eating food

Of course I’ll start with food – always on the mind. Interestingly, this is an issue that our community sort of put on the back burner until February of this year. For the preceding months, we would continually stumble upon the challenge of eating locally and sustainably, but exonerate ourselves with the reminder that we’re on a food budget less than that of food stamps. While our cost-first shopping scheme put us in solidarity with many of those on food stamps, we held this knowledge like a shield for too long. I believe it was a radical reading group discussion on fair trade and ethical eating/purchasing (led ironically, by one of us) that finally spurred us into motion.

We renewed an existing JV membership at the local co-op, Good Earth Market, and soon, were doing nearly all of our shopping there. In all of the months prior, we had been spending maybe $60 or $70, at the most, of our $100 weekly food allowance at Albertson’s. At the co-op, that number was hiked up to a minimum of $80 if we bought some things at Alby’s still, closer to $100 if we didn’t, sometimes over (but luckily, we had built up a cushion from our super cost-effective shopping over the last 6 months). But now, our money is largely being channeled back into the Billings area economy and supporting sustainable agriculture and conscious companies. Our eggs are labeled with the farmer’s name and address, our beans and grains are dry, lessening our packaging waste. I didn’t think that this was possible for us, on our budget, but here we are, several months later, and loving our co-op. I just learned about some research by Civic Economics that found when you spend money at local, independent businesses rather than chains, your money is recirculated threefold in your local economy. Pretty neat.

Don’t worry, we’re not above non-local food these days or anything…our new shopping habits didn’t stop us from diving into a couple dumpsters with some of the Ashland and St. X JVs. We emerged with more Little Caesar’s pizza and Crazy Bread than a person should consume in a lifetime, and we were eating that pizza all week trying not to re-waste it, but hey, there are worse things.

Soon, we’ll be trying our hands at growing our own food! We started a garden box in our back pantry, and way over-planted, but we thinned them all out and are still holding out hope that our baby parsley, basil, cilantro, and kale will grow up strong and tasty. We have some raised beds and some car tire-planters out in our side lot, so we’ll be trying some seeds and starters in there, too! I’ve started helping our alley-neighbor, Audrey, with turning and planting her garden – she’s a pro, so I’m trying to soak up all her wisdom. We don’t really know what we’re doing, but our community of friends is full of gardeners whose advice we’ve been seeking out the past few weeks, and undoubtedly, will continue to seek in the coming weeks.

One of our radical reading discussions was on eating disorders among women. It seemed to have come at a timely point in our year – some interesting and potentially unhealthy eating habits were emerging, and catching on in a unique way among each of us, paired with some negative body images. My frustration had been mounting for a few weeks, and then suddenly – this topic was proposed and in addition, Elle announced she would be leading her spirituality night on mindful eating. In our discussion group, we talked about the wide range of “disordered eating” and how somebody doesn’t necessarily have to have the most severe, typical binging or purging habits, or to be hospitalized, to really have an eating disorder. Sharing our own stories and experiences, it became clear how few are untouched by some form or another of disordered eating, and how often these habits go unnoticed or unaddressed. The prevalence in our society is alarmingly high, and it seems to have an element of contagion to it. Moreover, I learned that it’s not just negative self images that spur eating disorders, but a myriad of other identities, experiences, and traumas, and that this is not just the plague of white, straight women, but runs deep through veins of race and gender. This discussion, along with Elle’s mindful eating meditation, got me thinking a lot about the role that food plays in my life, to be more mindful about why I’m eating, and to be more appreciative of the nourishment that food provides me.

At the end of April, we did a week of rice and beans – yes, breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a full week. The intent of a challenge like this is to give us a chance to be in solidarity with those in poverty throughout much of the world – to give us a glimpse at the hunger and scarcity that many face – to simplify our lives by simplifying our diets – to understand how the food we put into our bodies affects our energy, mood, and spirit. Of course, as Lo brought up as we were discussing how to finally tackle this challenge, this is not how America’s most vulnerable eat – rather, they might eat what is cheapest, quickest, and eligible under SNAP or WIC. In fact – I think we unanimously agreed that a week of mac and cheese, potato chips, and soda sounded more difficult than a week of bland rice and beans. That is a challenge for another week. Currently on Day 4 of rice and beans, and definitely starting to get bored.


Race

What does it mean to be white? To be black in America?

Again, race issues are another that I was given prime opportunities in college to delve into, but did not. I was woefully uninformed on the Black Lives Matter movement, despite stumbling upon more than one “I can’t breathe” demonstrations in the diag. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, I just didn’t know how to care. The University of Michigan is, at the most, 5% Black or African American. I had hardly any black classmates, let alone friends.

One of our first radical reading topics was on race and class. We read an excerpt from Ta Nehisi Coates’ new book, Between the World and Me, about the white “Dream” in America, one that would have us believe that in our day, every person can work hard and achieve prosperity, that racists and racial injustices are a thing of the past. It relays the author’s experiences of and perspectives on the black body, on today’s prevalence of police brutality, on how we got to this place of masked racism. After reading the book in it’s entirety (it’s only 150 pages, I would highly recommend it), I read Americanah, which is a novel about a Nigerian girl who moves to the US and then eventually back to Nigeria; it’s a more light-hearted (but still powerful) narrative on what it means to be a non-American black in America…to leave a place where race “doesn’t exist” and arrive in a country where race is everything. I would also highly recommend this book. She’s blogs about her black experience in America, and the following is from one of her blog posts in the book:

If you answer mostly no, then congratulations, you have white privilege. What’s the point of this you ask? Seriously? I have no idea. I guess it’s just good to know. So you can gloat from time to time, life you up when you’re depressed, that sort of thing. So here goes:

  • When you want to join a prestigious social club, do yo wonder if your race will make it difficult for you to join?
  • When you go shopping alone at a nice store, do you worry that you will be followed or harassed?
  • When you turn on mainstream TV or open a mainstream newspaper, do you expect to find mostly people of another race?
  • Do you worry that your children will not have books and school materials that are about people of their own race?
  • When you apply for a bank loan, do you worry that, because of your race, you might be seen as financially unreliable?
  • If you swear, or dress shabbily, do you think that people might say this is because of the bad morals or the poverty of the illiteracy of your race?
  • If you do well in a situation, do you expect to be called a credit to your race? Or to be described as “different” from the majority of your race?
  • If you criticize the government, do you worry that you might be seen as a cultural outsider? Or that you might be asked to “go back to X,” X being somewhere not in America?
  • If you receive poor service in a nice store and ask to see the “person in charge,” do you expect that this person will be a person of another race?
  • If a traffic cop pulls you over, do you wonder if it is because of your race?
  • If you take a job with an Affirmative Action employer, do you worry that your co-workers will think you are unqualified and were hired only because of your race?
  • If you want to move to a nice neighborhood, do you worry that you might not be welcome because of your race?
  • If you need legal or medical help, do you worry that your race might work against you?
  • When you use the “nude” color of underwear and Band-Aids, do you already know that it will not match your skin?

I knew I had reached a new level of zeal when I met a guy at the Loft one Friday night, and agreed to talk about race (I had made some comment about white privilege, I can’t remember exactly what it was), and suddenly found myself in an hour long debate with a guy who thought himself an egalitarian saint, a champion of color-blindness, a person with the answer to the end of racism. I struggled during that conversation to non-aggressively convey that he was missing the point, failing to acknowledge that our country was literally built on the destruction of blacks, and I got called a racist (politely, if that’s possible?) more than once…but it was an eye-opening conversation nonetheless. (I hate debates, I surprised myself on this one).

Trust me, I recognize my own handicap and ignorance here – the cities I have lived in have been more than 90% white. Yes, I went to school in Flint, but there were probably around ten black students in our private, Catholic high school; meanwhile, we were only a couple hundred feet from Northwestern, an entirely black high school with which we never interacted. Yes, I worked in Flint, at an Italian restaurant, not a high-end restaurant by any means, but one that served mainly middle-class white families, if I’m going to generalize. Yes, I had an internship at the Center for Civil Justice, answering the SNAP/WIC hotline, finding solutions for peoples’ public welfare woes, or directing them to someone else who could, interacting with many who were undoubtedly of another race than I, but always with a phone in between us. I’m eager to move somewhere after JVC is over with a little more racial diversity. I have a lot more to learn here.

“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”
― Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

“But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”
― Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

“If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

Native Americans

What’s the real story? What are my misconceptions and where do they come from? 

So this goes along with broader issues of race described in the last section, but I think it is deserving of its own section. I must admit, I have gained less ground that I would have liked on this front – despite living in a state with seven Indian Reservations (Fort Peck, Fort Belknap, Rocky Boy, Blackfeet, Flathead, Crow, and Northern Cheyenne – the latter two being practically in Billings’ backyard), I still live in Billings, which is 90% white and less than 5% Native American. Still, my brief visits to the reservations have been eye-opening. Just the very concept of reservations is so messed up that it hurts. To see the  problems that we have caused through the reservation system – hunger, alcoholism, domestic violence, corrupt governments, to name a few – hurts even more.

In February and March, I was reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown. Using council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions, chiefs and warriors of the Dakota, Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes tell us in their own words of the battles, massacres, and broken treaties that finally left them demoralized and defeated. It is a haunting historical narrative of how the American West was won through the systematic destruction of Native Americans during the second half of the nineteenth century. If I’m being honest, and I am, it often made me ashamed to call myself an American. But what good does that do? I know that I shouldn’t feel shame or guilt, but it’s hard to avoid that burden when you suddenly learn all the stuff they didn’t teach you in grade school. We spent Easter on the Fort Belknap reservation, just as I was finishing this book, and I felt a lot of tension. I suddenly understood why there is often residual animosity toward white people among natives, but felt helpless in the face of that. My time here in Montana is short, and I know I will not have the time/opportunity to build any sort of real relationships with any Natives, and so for now, I will remain on the outside, far from a full understanding of these people and their culture.

“They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.”
― Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West


The church, religion, Catholicism

What do I believe? What has Catholicism given me? Where does it fall short for me? What is the role of a church?

I’m not sure what I expected out of this year, spiritually. I didn’t make any earth-shattering goals or set any sky-high expectations, but rather trusted that, through Big G, this year would bring me whatever it was I needed. Well, it has certainly taken me on a journey I never expected.

Before this year, I had never attended a service of another faith. Not even of another Christian denomination! HOW? I have always been comfortable with my Catholic identity; feeling stagnant or disenchanted some days, and proud and grounded other days. As many of you know, I was raised Catholic from Day 1, and sent to Catholic schools for kindergarten through 12th grade, for which I am very thankful, Mom and Dad! This upbringing planted within me a set of values and morals that I would not exchange for another, but Catholicism was never something I chose. In high school, when Kairos reinvigorated my faith, I proudly claimed my faith was finally my own. In college, when I chose to attend mass at St. Mary’s regularly, to spend much of my free-time there, to take on positions of leadership, and consequently, to build my social circles with primarily Catholics, I claimed that my faith was really my own now. With just a little bit of hindsight that these 8 months have allowed me, I see that I didn’t make a bold choice to continue on that path, I made the safe and comfortable choice. Again, I have all the love in my heart for St. Mary’s and all of the dear friends I made there, but how I could I claim that I had chosen to own my faith when I had never even remotely considered any other options? Our world is rich in faith traditions, and apart from an HH theology class at Powers and an Introduction to Asian Religions in college, I hadn’t spent much time getting to know any but my own.

So when we arrived in Billings, and Lo and MK announced that they’d be “church-(s)hopping”, I was intrigued. Why not? I went to a month of masses at the Catholic church a block away from our house, but was feeling increasingly disenchanted with each service. The homilies were dry and lacking depth, and I left feeling uninspired and unchallenged. Which, I guess, led me to start to question what the purpose of church was in the first place. Going to that church made me feel like I was checking off the “Sunday Mass” box and nothing more, and that was upsetting as I was just figuring out what my year of intentional living and service really meant.

I went to a few Lutheran churches in town, which I enjoyed, but still did not feel settled. I felt welcomed in those churches, though, more than I ever have as a guest in a Catholic church that was not my own. Maybe I shouldn’t be drawing generalizations like that, but I am, because in every new church I went to, we were approached by multiple people, enthusiastically welcomed, and told that they were happy to have us there. It was refreshing, and I did feel very welcome. On the opposite end of these small church communities I was discovering, we also tried out a mega church called Faith Chapel a few times. It was exactly as I imagined – a giant auditorium, the service essentially a rock concert of praise and worship music. The sermon happened to be about sex (part of a series about money, sex, and drugs, or something?), and I actually thought it was really well done, but we filled out an actual worksheet as the pastor guided us through this particular church’s teachings, and I was disenchanted by the fill-in-the-blank regurgitation style of teaching. I am glad that many have found a home at Faith Chapel and similar mega churches, but I knew that the lack of a small, personal community would never satisfy me.

Now I find myself increasingly involved in Billings’ First Church – a congregationalist United Church of Christ (UCC). The first week I went, they played a music video about the necessity of the church to welcome the outcasts and the marginalized in our society – the LGBTQ, the people experiencing homelessness, the addicts, the mentally ill – and I was intrigued. It is a congregation that has dwindled over the years, but led by a new pastor, is boldly finding its footing again. I find myself listening to sermons and engaging in conversations about food justice or the domestic and sexual assault of women. I find myself shouting a Psalm from a street corner (lol, picture this, plz) in a Palm Sunday readers theater, uncomfortable in the good kind of way. I find myself walking around the streets of Billings on Good Friday, carrying a cross with 30 others, the theme of the reflections paralleling Jesus’ suffering with climate change, our earth’s suffering, and being laughed at by a friend (that’s nice), feeling the tiniest sliver of what Jesus might have felt as he carried His own cross. I find our pastor challenging me and my friends to be leaders in the church, to trust our own experiences enough to put together a presentation on community building through social justice to present at the regional UCC annual conference. I find this same pastor boldly speaking at a Northern Plains rally to demand clean energy solutions from one of our Senators, and feeling encouraged and excited about his belief that church should be involved in politics. I find myself on a team planning a community garden on the church’s property. At UCC, I find life and faith to be much less compartmentalized, becoming one in the same, and that right there is what I think I’ve been looking for all along.

This isn’t to say I’m done with Catholicism, of course! A Catholic mass still feels like home, and I am hopeful that I will soon find a church that provides me the community, inclusivity, and de-compartmentalization that I find at UCC. St. Mary’s came pretty darn close – I miss it everyday.


Want vs. Need

What is simple living? Reflections on purple lipstick and white shoelaces.

Towards the end of March, when I had already blown through 60% of my stipend in the first week on a race registration and a birthday gift, I decided to write down some things that I needed that would have to wait for the next stipend period, beginning April 15th. This way, I could be sure I wouldn’t forget* the things I needed and would know from the start that I would have to allocate a certain amount of money to those items. (*Hint: If you can and do forget the things you “need” often, and have to write them down, save yourself some discernment, because you probably don’t need them).

The list included:

  • New underwear (okay, this is the one I probably actually do need)
  • A new pair of white shoelaces for both of my old pairs of converse (they’re stained with black streaks from the metal lace-holes…can’t have that)
  • Black tights (I have two pairs, but one has a hole and the others are ever so slightly too small)
  • Deep purple lipstick (MK’s is so chic!)
  • Burt’s Bees tinted chapstick (for casual wear, of course)
  • High-waisted jeans (Lo and MK wear theirs all the time and I want a pair)
  • A race registration for the Women’s Run in May (I luh to run)
  • New running shoes (my relatively new Nikes are showing signs of wear-and-tear in the toes from the nearly 600 miles they’ve run)

I guess I thought that since my birthday was approaching, I could ask for some of these things and buy the rest with my stipend (plus that Target gift card my mom sent and the remained of the Ross gift card a coworker gave me for Christmas that I’ve been holding onto). But one by one, as the weeks passed and the calendar approached April 15th, I talked myself out of every single one of these items (okay, except underwear). Do I really need to replace my shoelaces, considering my shoes are old and ratty and I probably shouldn’t wear Converse for too much longer anyways? Nope. Do I really need new tights when tights-season is coming quickly to a close, and I have some that suffice already? Nah. Do I need new lipstick, when I already have three shades and roommates who are willing to share? It can wait. And tinted chapstick for casual wear? LOL. High-waited jeans…again, an extraneous purchase when I already have several pairs of jeans and summer is fast approaching. New running shoes? They’re still wearable (for a while, probably), and I haven’t been injured in ages (knock on wood), and if they become unwearable, I have an old pair of running shoes here already that I previously blamed an injury on and discarded, but are in all likelihood still solid shoes

By now I think it’s obvious that all I’m trying to say is…push back on a society that tells you that you need everything, new, now. Push back on that voice that leaves you out of breath trying to “keep up,” because you can’t. Appreciate the bounty that you already have.

DSC04357
#tbt to Halloween

Politics and Civic Engagement

Speaking up, participating, empowering. What can I offer? Where do I fit in? 

Okay, truthfully, I think I owe much of the growth in my life this year to Northern Plains. Before coming to serve here, I did not understand community organizing nor what it meant to be an organizer. In fact, I maybe saw it as a little…radical(?), but maybe that’s what drew me in. It was the subject matter and the issues that I “knew” and that I cared about, but it was an unfamiliar mode of action. Well, TBH, when I showed up for my first day of work, at a rally for “federal coal leasing reform,” I had no idea about that issue. In fact, I soon found out that issues of the West, of farming and ranching, of water scarcity, were a lot less familiar to me than issues I studied in the Great Lakes region. I spent the first few months here just learning the issues and learning (from) the members who have stood for Montana’s water and air quality, family farms and ranches, and unique quality of life, whether they’ve been involved since the beginning in 1972, or just joined this week. I have spent all of my time here being in awe of and inspired by those members and the talented team of organizers that have empowered them to make change in their own communities.

As a Jesuit Volunteer at Northern Plains, I have found myself at all sorts of outlets that are available and intended for public input: BLM Listening Sessions, Board of Oil and Gas meetings, public hearings on Environmental Impact Statements, for starters. When these outlets aren’t available, Northern Plains creates them: People’s Hearings on a proposed coal export terminal, a design charette for people to share ideas for how to redevelop a former industrial site for public use, or getting a public official’s attention through a rally for the necessity of clean energy solutions.  Now I find myself, not as staff but as a citizen, at City Council meetings, testifying for Complete Streets for all users, and writing Letters to the Editor for the same purpose. I often attend monthly Southside Task Force meetings, learning about the issues and movers in our neighborhood, and I’ve tried out County Planning Board meetings and community roundtables. It’s been, in a word, empowering. I’m still learning lots, but to realize that we can demand democracy and make change is pretty cool.


Community

What does this require of me? Where do I need work? How is this any different from college? And what about my greater community? What does family mean to me?

Living in community has been a blessing and a half this year. Wow. Our community lucked out, falling into sync almost instantly at orientation, bonding quickly and deeply. This does not mean we haven’t had our moments of frustration and differences of opinion, but we’ve been spared pettiness and passive aggression (knock on wood!). Community, for us, has been security in the “built-in friends” sense, and has been whatever the non-threatening opposite of security is, the encouragement to challenge each other and step outside of our comfort zones. It has meant family dinners every night, to gather and share our ups and our downs of the day, to laugh and sometimes cry together. Community has meant the occasional “family meeting,” for those emergency situations that demand all of your attention and emotion and leave you needing to share the burden, at least emotionally, with someone else (in our case, four someone elses). It has meant being a recognized bike gang in Billings, whether it be to the grocery store, to church, or the bar. There are times when it has felt no different than college (to be fair, I had a pretty fantastic communal living experience in college), except that we can afford less wine and cheese (even if we only bought it from Meijer in college) and we watch a lot more VHS. In college, we had wifi and we all had our own cars (the latter seems laughably excessive to me now), we didn’t buy food together, we spent a lot more money at the bars (responsibly, mom!), and we had a lot more homework; I definitely appreciate the flip side of all of these things this year. Time together is more intentional, simpler, and less expensive, but no more or less fun, which is a huge blessing, because college was way too much fun. Community has been, I think, the value/pillar that has come easiest to me and provided the most joy – I am already beginning to prematurely mourn the loss of community-living, especially with these lovely ladies right now, and wonder if I will ever truly live in community again.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working hard all year at nurturing my communities back home – my family, my friends, my boyfriend, etc. I’m used to picking up and going somewhere new, and I’d never experienced homesickness – but usually it’s been a finite stint away, a couple months at most. Granted, this year is finite, but it is the longest I’ve spent away from home, and Montana isn’t close nor is it a quick or cheap flight away, nor do I see myself moving back home when I am done here. To not be home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter was certainly tough, although a meaningful experience of simple living and my Montana community, but I was more surprised by the difficulty I had with the inability to go home during the smaller moments of joy or loss or bee-keeping or whatever. I miss my family more than I thought I would and am starting to understand the true treasure that family is, which has led me to the decision to move somewhere back east this fall. Also – I get to go home for a long weekend in mid-May, and I am ridiculously excited to spend some time with my A2 biddies, watch one of best childhood friends get married, and spend a couple days with my family!!!


Also, because I miss my alma mater a little bit (graduation day has me feelin’ super sentimental), I’ll end with this powerful rendition of Selma’s “Glory” by the Men’s Glee Club that I somehow appropriately stumbled upon while finishing up this post:

And a version with a moving commentary and these handsome boys’ faces:

“Now we right the wrongs in history
No one can win the war individually
It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy
Welcome to the story we call victory”

Thank you for reading!!! Y’all mean a lot to me.

All my love,

Ju ❤

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