Archive for May 2014

Vatican 3!

(the following is the sketch comedy infomercial I come up with while writing last week’s post. Imagine it being said by Billy Mays as a priest.)

Billy Mays here. Now I know what you’re thinking, “what do you want padre, to make me feel guilty and scare me about hell or confess something about alter boys?”You’ve heard the same old song and dance about sin and damnation for years. So today, instead of the same old Catholic gloom and doom, I’m here to tell you about an exciting new version of this ancient faith.

Introducing, Vatican 3!

What’s Vatican 3? Well, just how Vatican 2 softened some the church’s strictest rules and customs, Vatican 3 is going to chillax us one step closer to cool.

But how? Well, you all know confession, right? In Vatican 3, the confessional has been replaced by the Bragging Booth! Priests will great you and ask to hear about all the awesome stuff you’ve done lately. And rather than Hail Mary’s and genuflection, we’re giving out cool prizes!

Help some across the street?
Get a candy bar!
Save someone from a burning building?
You’ll spend the day with Tim Tebow!

Tired of the same old bread and wine at communion? Vatican 3 offers a number options, including flat bread, naan, pitas, and gluten free communion bread as well as a full bar of holy spirits. An Alabama Slammer made with Holy Amaretto, you say? I can’t wait for it to transubstantiate!

On top of these awesome changes, we are going to build on Vatican 2’s tradition of bring the word of God to the common man. Whereas Vatican 2 no longer required that mass be performed in Latin, we are now going to offer the entire Bible as 144 character Tweets.

@Vat3 posted

“Life in captivity. Yawn. No bows or prayers for a false God. Nebuchadnezzar can deal. #sonotsorry 
Visions of a Messiah, for real. #blessed” -The Book of Daniel 

Need more? Well, our Vatican 3 Priests would love to talk to you about this exciting new version of Catholicism at one of our Church’s open house pool parties! That’s right, we’re trading in our frocks for sunblock! Our Nuns will be lifeguarding, our bishops manning the grill, and you can bet that the priests will start up a chicken fight before the night’s over 

We know you haven’t gone to church for years, unless it’s Christmas and your parents make you. But we promise, if you give Vatican 3 a chance, you will not be disappointed. We are so confident that you will love our new church that all offerings and tithes come with a 30-day money back guarantee. We put the savings in salvation!

So what are you waiting for? Check out one of our open houses today!

Vatican 3!
Second to Nun!

(Paid for by The Pope Francis council for bitchin’ churches.)

Choosing Home

I would wager most college grads don’t aim for where they came from. The world tells us going home is backsliding. Copping out. Pathetic. You want to conquer the world? Well, you can’t do it from your backyard tree house.

This is way too harsh. I’ve done the daring thing, the packing up, leaving and planting myself in another community. Yes, I discovered a ton in the process and met some wonderful people. But what I learned from my year in South Dakota is nothing compared to the challenges I’ve faced these past three months since I came home to Montana.

I work for my hometown newspaper as an editor and page designer, and, yes, this job is hard. It challenges me daily in new and unexpected ways. It is a significant step up in circulation and coverage. More people see what I do, so the stakes are at least ten times higher than they were.

But the real challenge I faced, the one I didn’t expect, was in my community. When I came back, I didn’t know how I fit. I didn’t know what to do now that I wasn’t a high school kid. I hadn’t spent more than two consecutive weeks home since my freshman year of college, and all of my friends had scattered to other places, just as I had.

What was I supposed to do with my free time? Where does a person go in this town to meet intelligent, friendly people, people who share my interests? I still haven’t answered these questions. Most of the new friends I’ve made are from work, and our common interests are tenuous at best.

So I relied on my family. But, boy, was that a surprise. It turns out I often don’t agree with my family. In my time away I grew differently, and I have formed my opinions independently of them on many fronts. Now, living near them, actively engaging them on a regular basis takes more compromise, patience and boldness than ever before. When I disagree with their opinions or actions, I begin the internal debate of whether to make my dissent known. I have the voice to contradict them, to encourage them to reconsider what they so firmly believe. I no longer fill the role of the distant spectator, hearing everything secondhand and in past tense. My thoughts don’t depend on the stories I hear filtered through the family member who shares with me first. I’m here. I’m in it. I see what they do and hear what they say, and my opinions are immediate and wholly mine.

The result? It’s a mess. But it beats the alternative. I had been a passive participant in my own family, and that disengagement is something I will never choose lightly again.
Yes, I moved home. I took a job I never expected, wished for or considered would actually take me. I navigated the awkward transition from independent trailblazer to college graduate in her childhood bedroom. But the story didn’t end there. I found a place and regained my self-sufficiency, only this time I’m surrounded by family. I’ve begun to understand how to take up more space in this place, how to be the me that I went away to become. And that newer Alyssa is having fun with the challenge of rediscovering her home, her family and her friends.

I came home not to seek refuge, but to continue to grow, to surround myself with more people who will hold me to what I say and challenge what I think and know. And it’s in this home-burning fire where I’ll continue to forge my identity.


Alyssa is not a blogger, though she tried to be once here. When she’s not guest blogging, she’s editing and designing her hometown newspaper, writing fiction and expressing her immense enthusiasm for unusual internet ventures.


First off, my theory paper. Read it at your leisure. But be warned; it’s a door-stopper.

Now, I want to mention a few things I’ve learned over the past week. Foremost, theory papers are exhausting. A close second, I’ve noticed closure is something you have to make happen.

During the very last week of grad classes that I will (hopefully) ever do, I noticed how much of it was the same song and dance that we’d been doing for years. That sense of finality in having reached the zenith was surprisingly absent, and the absence felt a little sore.

Maybe I was hoping for, I don’t know, more fanfare from the world at large? “Hey, look at that guy!” they would scream, “He has his Masters Degree!”

Cognitively, I know the world doesn’t work that way. Emotionally, I was hoping for the clouds to part, the heavens to thunder, and the Almighty to come down from on high to give me a high five. Instead, I’ll be in Spokane for half the summer finishing my internship hours . Funny the effect expectations have.

As I keep telling myself, this is not the end, it is the beginning. The beginning of my career as a counselor.

Still, meaning is what you make it, and here’s mine: everything ends, from grad school to the milk in the fridge to life itself.

You can’t avoid that. But, that doesn’t mean that endings are bad. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s those endings that give meaning to what we do accomplish. I may not have the clear-cut closure I would like from my education, but here’s the irony.

Because of that education, I can see the importance of closure.

Stay on Target

I have been coming up with stories since I was seven years old. I have always wanted to tell tales of adventure and daring deeds. Star Wars, Indian Jones, Harry Potter, Band of Brothers, and many more stories of heroism and human triumph grand adventure have always resonated with me. I am captivated by fiction from any genre, and real life drama as well. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t making up a new character or plot details for some story daily.

And after years of this day dreaming mentality, I find myself with ninety unfinished projects.

When something comes naturally, you tend to keep doing it, be it a sport, a game, or a musical instrument. There are millions of soccer players all around the world. There are far fewer professional soccer players. And the difference between pros and everybody else, is commitment. The ones who take a hobby or a talent or a natural inclination and make it into their life are the people who chase a dream and never let up.

I, on the other hand, get distracted. I get bored of my current project. But, then a new idea comes along to satisfy my daydreams and my doodles, until it is usurped by the next big thing, and so on. Which is how I have conceived so many stories and finished only a handful.

In the time it has taken me to write this post, I thought up a sketch commercial for a fake product, and I still don’t have a conclusion for this piece. But, rather than go off and write that sketch, I’m going to finish what I started here. I will put aside my new idea and complete my current endeavor.

My writing problems are not going to go away over night. And writing about it here won’t fix it. But, instead of beating myself up for my lack of follow through, I will give you a commitment. I will post a finished sketch script on Gold in them Hills next Friday.

It’s not much, but it’s a start. Now I just need a finish.


Bon Voyage

To celebrate a new season (both in life and weather), I’m taking a trip to Europe to soak in some new sights, smells, and tastes. I’ll be leaving for Ireland tomorrow, and will also be spending time in Spain and Italy. Altogether, I’ll be gone for 14 days followed by a three day camping trip in Montana.

This is my first trip outside of the Americas, and I’m equal parts excited and terrified. I’ll be alone for several days of the trip, which means I’ll have a lot of stories and pictures to share once I get back.

In my absence, Gold in them Hills is bringing in a couple guest writers. We’ll let you know who they are over the next few days — all you need to know is that they’ll blow your mind.

So keep your eyes pealed; we’re all in for a wild ride. Thanks for reading.

Optimism and Term Papers

In what I hope is the last academic week of my life, I’m writing one last theory paper. When it’s done, I’ll put it up on GiTH for the whole world to see, if only as a told-you-so to the people who think writing a paper can’t be that stressful.

Until then, I want to highlight what I’m finding important throughout this process. Mostly as an exercise in holding on to my admittedly flagging optimism.

First, self-awareness is huge. For everyone really, but especially to a counselor. I don’t need to be perfect, but I do need to realize when four hours of classes is making me cranky. In becoming aware that something is an issue, I can actually deal with it. I can allocate resources and cope in a healthy way instead of trying to power through.

We all saw how well trying to power through was going for me.

Second: resilience might be even bigger than self-awareness. We all know there are moments  (like right now) that can only suck, where optimism seems not only unrealistic, but downright stupid.

It’s times like these where a positive outlook isn’t just helpful, it’s necessary.

I don’t have to believe that everything is all sunshine and rainbows all the time, but I do have to believe that the sucky things will get better. Especially during times of hardship (or just plain tedium, as the case may be). I’m not going to tell you that bad stuff doesn’t hurt like hell. I will tell you that it’s temporary, and filled with lessons that make you a better person.

Free Drinks!

Whiskey makes friends of enemies and enemies of friends. It also turns strangers into lovers and lovers into exhibitionists. It does not, however, make your bartender your b*tch.

When I tend bar, I have to deal with people who, shockingly, have had too much to drink. I like to keep close tabs on what people drink. As they keep drinking, I pour lighter, so that I don’t worry about their safety, and so they don’t turn into jerks. And if someone gets too far gone, I cut them off.

But, one drunk can ruin a good system.

I was working an event with four other bartenders, when my system broke. 300 people drank a $7000 tab in three hours. At the end of the night, there was one gentleman who had taken full advantage. After 6 drinks, he was drunk. So, when he asked for an other, I politely said “sir, I think you’ve had enough.”

He proceeded to tell me how bad I was at my job, how this has never happen to him before, and ask me why I was being so uncool. After this, he began to walk to all four other bar tenders in hopes of getting he’s seventh, free drink, and leave no tip. All the bartenders knew I had cut him off; all but one. And after he finally got his drink, he waiting just off the bar, until I looked up. He took a long sip, smiled and walked away.

The “New” New Yorker in me wanted to yell something. The Montana Boy in me wanted to knock the drink out of his hand. But, neither is acceptable in the service industry, so all I could do was smile and shake my head.

This incident made me think about greed, entitlement, and the mind of the drunk. It made me angry and sad and really irritated. But, it made me remember one very important thing.

I really don’t want to be a bartender for the rest of my life.


Kick Off

In the last two weeks, I’ve applied for four different jobs. I’ve also received four emails explaining that I won’t be getting the jobs. With my top four jobs out of the question, my job hunt is starting to get a lot more interesting.

I’ve wanted a more interesting life for years, but I’ve always been too afraid to let it happen. My fear of the unknown has consistently overpowered my thirst for adventure, and I’ve emerged from the last 24 years scar-free, but also inexperienced.

Now, I’m not saying that life has to be stressful to be rewarding. Instead, I’m trying to put an end to running away from a life of boldness. I used to feel guilty about my lack of experience, thinking that I was missing out on the “human experience”. I now see that my shortcomings are pushing me towards jobs and cities that I would have never considered a year ago.

With every rejected application, I’m reminded that job hunting is a small step in a much larger story. When the time is right, I’ll get a positive response to an application. No amount of worrying will change this reality.

I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but a fresh perspective deserves its honeymoon period.

So to kick off a new season of exploration, I’ll be spending two weeks in Europe at the end of the month. I’ll give you more details in my next post, but the important part is that it will be two weeks in an unfamiliar place speaking an unfamiliar languages in a sea of strangers. What a beautiful way to start an adventure.

Ceremonies and Rituals

Here’s something I’ll probably never be able to write again: by the time you read this sentence, I will have graduated from Gonzaga.

Unofficially, of course. Officially, I still need to finish my Internship hours, revise a theory paper, take my ProSem class, sit for my orals, and start applying for jobs.

This is far from the closure I would prefer. But you know what? I’m finding out that that is one of the big challenges of life: to draw our own meanings from a sticky, complicated existence.

I hear about similar stories from my clients all the time, about how what should have been a major life event was drained of its joy by its complications. I’m trying to make sure I learn from their mistakes.

Even a week ago, I didn’t really care about the graduation ceremony. To me, it was just another excuse for the school to siphon my money for the privilege of sitting in an unventilated gym. Clearly, not the best use of my emotional energy, especially not for a new mental health grad.

Instead, here’s how I’m trying to picture it. My family, who I actually do care about, would like to see me up there getting my degree. If it’s important to them, it’s important to me. The meaning, like the actual diploma, will have to come later, through pictures and memories that have long since outlived the boredom.


We here at Gold in them Hills are growing up. We’ve been stumbling and figuring out what we want this blog to be since July. We pay a lot of attention to the content of each post, the length, and the story or insight. We are always trying to make things fit within our theme. Problem is, that theme keeps changing.

This week, I could have written about a bad experience at the bar, which taught me to never count on a tip. Or, I could have written about how my 2 year anniversary with my fiancé has made me think about the man I want to be. I could even have written about the trials and tribulations of attempting to start another blog. Yet, all I want to write about is spring time in New York.

Spring time in New York makes me realize, people might actually live here for a reason. The blossoms are in bloom, no one is wearing a coat, and people are smiling. In this annual time of change, the whole city seems to be bubbling with potential.

I could go on, but this isn’t the time. However, it just might be the place.

Starting next week, Gold in them Hills will be updated 3 times a week. Austin will post on Mondays, Clark on Wednesdays, and me on Fridays. We might even have some guests drop by and contribute from time to time. Hopefully, this will give us a chance to further vet our ideas and refine the scope of our blog, while putting out a lot more content. But who knows where that might take us.

We thank you all for reading, and we hope you will stick around for the next leg of this adventure.