It has been a great month in life off the road for the Martinek Family; we have officially been out of the truck for a month, and it is glorious! It took a little bit of time for me to really know that "I'm not getting back in the semi", as our routine has been just that for the past two and a half years: drive for a month. Have 4-6 days off. Get back in the truck. Do it again. I think that moving from Bend to Bismarck has helped this factor, as Bismarck is an entirely new environment that wasn't "tainted" by our previous schedule.
Adjusting to this new way of life has been so wonderful it is hard to put into words, but I like words and I like to blog, so you're going to witness my attempts to describe the transition.
We realized about a week and a half after we moved in that that was the longest we had ever stayed in one place since we've been truckers. Our prior record would have been 7 days at Christmas in Bend, but before that, I think we had a max of 5 full days off in one city. It's really nice to be stationary, we've discovered!
Once settled, at first, going to the grocery store wasn't a "what can I buy that I will use up in just a few days time?" kind of trip. We purchased a chest freezer for bulk items and meal storage (I love love love this thing!), so once we got our Sam's Club membership (someday I will describe my hate/like relationship with Mr. Sam Walton and his enterprise...but as Bismarck doesn't have a Costco, Sam's has to do), we loaded up on bulk meat and reduced sale items from the meat department. Buying food in bulk just makes so much more sense economically! It just wasn't something we were able to do while living on asphalt. We've broken down the costs of several meals we've made in the last few weeks, and it comes down to usually $4 or less for Andy, Ben and myself. I can actually meal plan too, which has been so fun to do! And, I love to cook/bake, so being able to really spend time in the kitchen has been great. Speaking of the kitchen, we *finally* opened up our Cuisinart Food Processor and have started using our KitchenAid mixer and oh, what more could a girl ask for? Oh yes--a bread machine, ice cream machine, coffee grinder, cast iron. I've got those too. I have way too much fun in my kitchen!
My health has improved in a way I was hopeful for but wasn't expecting; I feel SO much better not being jostled around in a truck 24/7. I'm continuing with my vitamin and supplement intake, as well as avoiding wheat/gluten (finally found the perfect GF pizza dough recipe!), and am able to move around on a regular basis with just walking and running errands (we've got a great walking path, aka "Bismarck Trails" just a half mile from our apartment). My last period only caused me to get sick once and I generally felt better over-all during that time. I'm very pleased with that aspect of this life change.
The work that we had lined up to do when we arrived was here waiting for Ben, but the position I was hopeful for was not going to be open for at least another month, maybe more. But fear not! Bismarck has a ridiculous amount of job opportunities for entry level or advanced in many lines of work. Because of the oil field boom in the northwest part of the state, there has been a vacuum of workers leaving Bismarck to work the same job for at least twice (sometimes 3x more!) the amount of pay near the oil fields (you can make $15/hr working McDonald's drive-thru, or $20-25/hr for washing out trailers). Once we really saw what was available, and once we really realized how much we loved being out of a semi, we decided to look elsewhere.
Ben was offered a position to work for a non-profit Christian financial advising firm; this is something he has been interested in learning more about and pursuing even before we got focused on paying off all of our debt. An inquiry conversation with an agent at this organization led to a more-in-depth interview and then offer. The process to get on board has been a little long and tedious, but it is something that Ben is very excited about and I know he will do very well with it. It is a line of work that suits his determination and drive and ability to achieve.
I have applied for a recently-posted position that is open for the Director of Religious Education for the Cathedral Parish here in town. The search committee and selection process/interviews are slated to take place this month, so I am excited about the possibility of really diving in to parish life and catechesis. In the meantime, I just completed my training week of being a server at the Olive Garden. I love hospitality and serving and making sure people's needs are taken care of, so this is a great fit for the time being. Plus, the tips to be expected are well worth wearing men's oxford shirts and now knowing how to tie a half-windsor around my neck.
As far as other opportunities, while not the most glamorous of positions, the Bismarck Airport/TSA is hiring for Transportation Security Officers (aka the people who check the x-ray images, go through your carry-0n bag and possibly do a pat-down). The pay scale and benefits offered are very agreeable, so that is another paid position I am applying for. Ultimately, if it is not in God's plan for me to work directly with parish religious education, our plan is for me to just work as much as possible for the highest pay so we can continue paying off our debt as well as prepare for parenthood (no announcements yet, folks).
I'll use that as a segue to other opportunities in ministry; the parishes here have so much to offer for getting involved. Whether you want to be a sub on the lector list, a trained EMHC, a member of the choir, active in the young adult group (or young at heart, for those over 40), a volunteer catechist, a couple presenter for engaged couples, etc., the opportunities are endless there too. The parish is very prayerful, very involved and very welcoming. Families here go generations back though, so we're anticipating being "outsiders" for a while. That part reminds me a lot of good ol' Mercer County, Ohio. If your family didn't settle in the area in the mid-to-late 1800's, your roots aren't very deep. Around Bismarck, while Germans were a prominent group to settle, they are the "Germans from Russia", and we've learned not to confuse the two.
Oh, right, back to the segue...one of the opportunities for ministry is to become a certified NFP practitioner. This is something that I have wanted to do since Ben and I learned the method (Creighton Model) 4 years ago. Presently, the Bismarck area has couples on a waiting list to learn Creighton because the 3-4 women practitioners that are already teaching are overbooked with clients and cannot reach all of the interested parties. It is such a needed ministry, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to pursue certification. It's a 13-month program with two separate week-long educational/training immersions in Omaha, NE. The diocese and parishes are great sources of support for this invested endeavor, which is a great blessing! Please pray for all couples seeking out NFP for their marriages, and for the practitioners teaching them the truths about their bodies.
I mentioned Andy's name above; my younger brother Andy is living with us! Our plan (before we knew what our plan was) was for him to move in with us in Bend, find work and start school. Then our plans changed to Bismarck, so he stayed in Bend for the duration of our last month out on the road, then moved with us to "The Bis" (I just think it's fun to call Bismarck that! Ha!). In less than a week of us living here, he landed two jobs in the restaurants (Ruby Tuesday and Paradiso Mexican Restaurant), so he has been very busy between them. It has been really nice having him here with us, as it is giving him opportunity outside of Mercer County. There is a Catholic University of Mary south of town that he plans to start attending in the fall, to make the most of his GI Bill and get a degree under his belt.
Bismarck seems to be a great fit for all of us so far; we feel very blessed and fortunate to be here. We miss life back in Bend and all of our friends/family there, but things just really do seem to fit. Making friends has been a great adventure too--I don't think I've ever met friendlier people than in this town! That makes it pretty easy at church; attending the young adult Bible Timeline event introduced us to Adina, who then invited us to dinner one night to meet her husband and another couple they're friends with. And, small world: Adina's husband is cousins with someone Ben went to seminary with. Oh, and--the associate pastor at our parish is also someone Ben went to seminary with (they were a few years apart and in different studies though). I love the connections.
And being settled, apartment-wise: we scored a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment on the third floor of a recently built apartment complex (Ben and Andy will never forget moving all that stuff up two flights of stairs). It is set up in a way that feels much more like a home than an apartment; it has a kind of a ranch-like floorplan. The only disappointment we have is that the entryway/dining-room area is a really awkward space that doesn't lend itself well to having a dining table, so we have to keep that in storage in the garage. Yep, that's right; we have a 2-car garage! And a laundry room (that's in the apartment though, not the garage). It is so nice to have those extra spaces and to be able to use them well!
The weather so far has been fantastic too; we have it on good authority though that a winter this mild hasn't happened in over 75 years, so technically it's not a good one to cut our teeth on. We had a few pending blizzards that didn't end up producing, and we've also had 50 degree gorgeous sunny days.
Do you have any settled questions? Curious what it's like in Bismarck? Just ask and I'll answer to the best of my ability!