Fall has flown by and it amazes me that I've already lived here for three months. My life mostly revolves around the plant, where I spend 90% of my waking hours, but on the weekends I have fit in a few excursions to check out this new state with old and new friends.
My first weekend here was a food festival in St. Louis. Tori and I went to check it out and had a blast trying BBQ, fresh tacos, squeezed lemonade, and homemade ice cream from various tents. It was a fun welcome to Missouri culture as well - the accents, the food, the amount of denim, the friendliness, the funny antics at the cooking show booths. Tori and I are the two single sisters in St. Louis - she just moved here this summer - and I am glad to have her around to do things like this with.
A few weekends later, when I had started working nights and never saw the sun anymore, I texted her with plans for a Saturday hike. I was hoping for some fall colors and Vitamin D, and the five mile hike on the Lewis and Clark river trail was perfect. Just before the river, we came across an old tree with a sharpie hanging from it, hundreds of flat rocks underneath with messages and names on them. It was neat to see and of course we had to add our own to it.
One weekend I babysat the Rassi kids while their parents were away. Friday night we read lots of books and played games, Saturday I tried to get everyone to sleep in as late as possible but you know how that goes. We decided to get out of the house and go to the zoo .... looking back, that may have been a bit ambitious but it was a fun couple hours. Pushing the three of them in a double stroller was a great arm workout too! When Quinton napped that afternoon, Ashton, Morgan and I made fall-themed covered pretzels and I tried not to notice the amount of sprinkles and M&Ms going on the floor.
I went home for Thanksgiving ... a trip that only my sisters knew about. Shockingly we pulled it off and my parents were completely surprised. Tiera had been planning her trip home for months so it was great we could all be together. We went to Belknap hot springs for a cozy two days of flannel and card games and the old times with six of us in the suburban.
Another weekend, Tori came with me to Hobby Lobby to satisfy my urge to decorate for the holidays. I got some pine boughs and silver berries and later that night made a wreath for my front door. This is where I love Pinterest for getting budget-friendly ideas. A few candles, greens on the windowsill, and Christmas Pandora go a long way towards making these single-digit days feel warmer inside.
Let's see, what else. Work will always be busy. My lines have been trialing new products, getting new operators up to speed, and dealing with the challenges of running complex products on older machines. One night we were trying to run cookies&cream, but the oreo cookie mix was a little too thick to be pumped into the ice cream. I was on the production floor helping the operator and we blew three hoses, exploding oreo and ice cream twenty feet high - onto the ceiling, the neighboring freezer, all over the line, and even me. Even after wiping the ice cream from my safety glasses and the side of my face, I had oreo on my hard hat and splattered down the front of my uniform .. which of course the other operators and supervisors thought was great.
As the sole female supervisor, and new to town, and well, being me, I am constantly teased by my fellow supervisors. Anything I say or don't say provides great amusement to the group, who are always trying to prank my computer or make some crack about my age/lack of TV/Missouri hometown/food choices/etc. I am learning tons though ... about deer hunting and how it is possible to have a conversation about meat for two hours. (Don't worry, also learning a lot about people management, as in, how hard it is. And about manufacturing and this side of the supply chain.)
St. Louis church is great, Tori and I have served lunch twice and we just had our Christmas program. I'm getting used to the drive but going through my CDs rather quickly. I try to call family on at least one direction of the drive for something different, and I've learned the best places to stop along the way for gas and groceries. Every Sunday on my way home, I pass a billboard for a seed company that reads "the proof is in the harvest". It makes me think. About my life and the fruit I am showing. I can see how the new and uncomfortable situations I face are making me grow, teaching me lessons for today and the future; and I continue to pray for grace that I may be a bright and unchanging light to those around me this year.
Add a hard hat, hair net, radio, earplugs, and steel-toed shoes and this is me at work. Plus my uniforms actually say my name now. I'm still having fun but learning how tough manufacturing is.
Yes, this is like working in Willy Wonka's factory - magical, full of chocolate machines, churning ice cream, and fudge fountains - just add 700 workers and a whole lot of stainless steel machinery.
I am a production supervisor, meaning I am responsible for several production lines to ensure we hit attainment, which is the number of cases we have agreed with corporate to produce and which they have sold to our customers. I am specifically over the two Magnum bar lines, but in manufacturing lines quickly get blurred - I support the 7 other novelty ice cream lines as well, and help out with packaged ice cream and Talenti when they need it. My night crews need the most support right now so I am working nights, and my work "day" can consist of anything from doing quality inspections on lines ready for startup to providing performance feedback to my crews to solving operator arguments to planning how to reduce material waste. Add in some sarcasm and hilarity from my fellow supervisors, at least one event of ice cream mix going all over the floor, several hours of unplanned downtime, potentially the power going out, and a morning staff meeting to painfully recount all that happened on night shift and you have my day. It gets exciting real fast.
There are also some mishaps as I learn the machinery ... last night while doing a quality inspection, I needed to pull a strainer to inspect if any nuts from the ice cream mix had gotten caught. The seal was pretty tight so I couldn't crack the pipe to relieve any pressure, and my tug pulled the whole strainer out ... along with gallons and gallons of water all over me. Soaked uniforms are no fun, I was glad for supervisor access to a hidden dryer upstairs. (But better water than the dairy bath a maintenance guy got last week when the ice cream pump failed!)
The supervisors and leads I work with are a ton of fun too. I was warned my first week not to leave my computer unlocked, which is a hard task when you are called to the line for a sudden breakdown. I learned how serious to take this when a few days later I found a smirking reply from one of my coworkers to an email "I" had sent, detailing how cute I found him and that he should take me out sometime! The office found it hilarious as of course many of them were bcc'ed on the note. I've been hit with caution tape on my computer, paper stuffed in my shoes, new screensavers, altered auto-correct, and a few other emails sent from my account. With jokes, commiserating, and the occasional shared jar of caramel pieces from one of the ice cream lines, the hours usually pass pretty quick.
Here is my list so far of what Missouri is like.
So here is my new home in Chaffee.
Chaffee is a little town of less than 3000, ten miles from the nearest freeway and with little more than a grocery, gas station, and local hardware store. There is certainly no hiding in a place this small - which has been a bit hard, but good in its own way. I've learned there is no speeding around here, just a slower way of life and time to get places. Trains pass by every hour, echoing across the fields and against the woodland. There is a southern way of speaking that just rolls off the tongue, making any joke funnier and softening even the sharpest rebuke. Food is served in big quantities and with love, from the best BBQ you've eaten to fried okra to homemade dinner rolls. The community is close in the way you are when you've all grown up together and not only know each other's tragedies and celebrations, but want to be there for each other in them. And somehow, the sun is bigger here, shining across these wide open spaces in a way that reminds me we are really so little.
God is here, so even in the hard days when I am a little unsettled by fact that so many people know so much about me, or when we have a rough day at the plant, or church is challenging, I know I am here for a reason. It will be a "growing up" year. I am challenged by the factory crews I supervise at work, how to give direction and motivate and provide support while I learn the lines myself. How to be a career mentor and also a listening ear for personal woes or shattered life plans. I am enjoying but adjusting to being part of a small church. I feed toddlers lunch and hold infants during church, teach Sunday school when needed and am another voice in the singing. When there aren't many of you, you are all needed. Desperately. When we don't have enough people to fill a lunch table of seven, we have Bible study instead of afternoon church. We've had this once so far and I am told it is a common occurrence in the winter. It is certainly different from the churches I have called home before, with more than enough families on the serving list and tens of people in every stage of life. I thank God for the wonderful St. Louis families and encourage anyone reading this to come visit. We are thankful beyond words to get another face or two or ten on Sunday: our eyes light up, knowing that the benches will be more full, the singing will be more beautiful, the fellowship will be sweet.
The living room and entrance - window facing an open field and the passing trains
Half-bath and entry closet, leading to the kitchen
Upstairs to the laundry, bathroom, two bedrooms
Morning bike ride after work, the road into Chaffee
Moving was hard. Harder than I thought. When I moved to Connecticut, I told myself, 'it's only a year, you can do anything for a year. If you hate it, it is only a year'. Well, the year flew by fast - and I ended up liking it. I never would have imagined myself living so close to New York City for a time in my life, or going to Cape Cod and Boston for the weekend, or visiting Clarendon and Philly and Croghan. I certainly never expected to make as close of friendships as I did, or find kindred spirits whose sense of adventure matches my own. So yes, there were some tears as I packed up this place, making me so glad for phones and planes that make the miles seem a little less far.
My little place in CT getting packed up for a new year in a new place
Leaving Avalon for the last time, with my plants and enough in my trunk
to last me three weeks without my stuff
Now here is the cool part. My Dad helped me move - flew out to Newark and drove with me from CT to MO. There were several routes for the 18 hour trip and we chose the one we thought would be most scenic: through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky. And it didn't disappoint. The rolling blue hills of West Virginia were shrouded in morning fog as we winded through them, lakes and early autumn colors just dotting the space between. Kentucky's green grass and white fenced horse farms were almost out of a magazine they were so perfectly Kentucky. And it was time with my Dad and hours of conversation. When we got to Missouri, he helped me finish unpacking and setting up my place. We explored Sikeston and drove past the plant, stopping for lunch at Lambert's, famous for "throwed rolls" (you must catch one if you want one). Friday we saved as a fun day, heading to St. Louis early to try the second-best (arguably the best) BBQ in the city and then walked the St. Louis art museum before it was time for his flight. A dad's time is precious and I am so thankful that he could spend a week with me.
Pappy's Smokehouse in St. Louis - well worth the 45 min to get in the door for lunch, even at 2p...
they usually sell out of several things before dinner
Lambert's ... Dad just caught his hot dinner roll and
we are waiting on the sorghum and apple butter to come around. We also tried the fried okra and black eyed peas but didn't find them quite as good.
St. Louis art museum
Silverton hosted Labor Day and I had to go home. And it was wonderful to host again with the brothers and sisters in Christ that I grew up with and repented with and know so well. The highlight (as always) was singing on the beach - just us, beach blankets, waves, a setting sun, and stretches of empty sand.
I took a week of vacation after Labor Day, when I had wrapped up my Connecticut logistics role and before I transitioned to manufacturing in Missouri. The week went too fast, but included all good things: afternoon swimming with Mom, walks with Dad, ice cream and food trucks in Portland, senior pictures with Kyla, conference tapes, a camping trip to Smith Rock with Kendra, girls day at the mall.
Any Portlander knows this is a must
My beautiful lil sis
We had the most beautiful day for a hike ...
This is where strategically placed rocks and self-timer come in handy:
You can see a few brave souls scaling the side of Monkey Face
Our campsite, right next to the canyon
Views that night ... the tiny dot of light on the left third of the photo is actually a night climber still working on a climb
Sigh ... I am a sucker for stars. Always. <3
Chilly morning wake up, stop for chai&coffee, and then on our way back through Sisters to the valley ... oh the value of these days cannot be measured
Stopped in Salem for brunch with some friends and a girls outing
And then the week was over and I was on a flight to St Louis to meet the moving truck and another chapter. To be continued...
I'm a twenty-something from the Pacific NW making home in new places as I follow where God leads.
My intent is to show Christ's love to the world and use business to solve some of the social problems we face: hunger, illiteracy, healthcare, economic hardship. For now, I'm in a stage of learning. A little adventuring, a few books, some good friends, and a whole lot of prayer and life runs on.