Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Julie and I am 34 years old. I was born in Missoula and lived a few places before my parents settled in Manhattan, Montana, in the Gallatin Valley. I graduated from the same high school as my mom and grandma. I’ve always lived in Montana except during college, when I lived in Minnesota and Washington. Now we are settled in Townsend, where my husband is the county attorney. Cory and I have been married nine years this summer and we have two children. Our son Caleb is almost eight and our daughter, Claire, is six and a half. Our family is rounded out by our crazy puppy, Stella. I am a pediatric speech therapist and I am in the process of starting a private practice after taking off several years to stay home with our kids.
You help children communicate, which I’m sure is such an incredible honor. Have you had any poignant experiences as a speech therapist that have guided your career?
I am very passionate about my calling, even though I’ve had to set it aside for a while. When I was eighteen, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and underwent chemotherapy and radiation. During this time, I began to get into a dark place of self-pity. One day, the principal of my old elementary school called to see if I wanted a job working with a four-year-old boy with autism. I had no clue what autism was, but I knew I loved kids, especially little boys who are so full of fun and sweetness all compacted into a small wrecking ball of energy so I said yes. That yes changed the trajectory of my life. I got out of my self-absorbed funk and realized that I loved working one-on-one with kids with special needs and began to explore careers where I could do that. Speech therapy was a perfect fit for me with my love of language and neuroscience. Since then, it’s been my joy to work with many kids and families. I absolutely love it when I get a breakthrough moment and a child begins to realize the power of communication, even when it’s as simple as a single word or gesture. I know a kiddo has my heart when I begin having dreams of them communicating effortlessly. It’s my prayer for every single one I work with, no matter their challenges.
What does your perfect day look like?
Sleeping in. Good coffee. A slow start to the day, with my husband making his trademark chocolate chip pancakes. A fun family outing, preferably outside. Meeting up with extended family or friends for good food. A little quiet time to myself to read or think. Staying up way too late, probably binge-watching something on Netflix. It’s either that or a day somewhere on vacation, exploring new places and absorbing another way of being and doing things.
On the less than perfect days, do you have a quote or motto that you use for encouragement?
I try to take a deep breath and remember the old saying, “This, too, shall pass.” Almost all of the things I get wrapped up about aren’t going to be long-term issues. They are usually just inconveniences or frustrations. If I am dealing with something beyond that, I like to get by myself, lie on the floor and listen to music, usually worship music. I find that I can get a good reset that way. If all else fails, chocolate or texting a good friend usually helps me make it through the day.
What was the last movie, TV show or book that really impacted you and why?
Oh boy. This is hard for me. Usually things I watch or read impact me as I consume them and then they completely exit my memory bank. One that is still fresh in my mind, however, is Band of Brothers. My husband and I just finished watching the miniseries. I have been reflecting a lot on the sacrifices, honor and duty that so many of our WWII veterans and their families carried out.
Do you have a favorite author?
Not really. I love a good memoir. There’s something about getting to peek in on the life of others that intrigues me. I’ve always been an observer, someone who likes to stand to the side and watch what’s going on around me. Memoirs and biographies give me an insight into the way others think and I find them fascinating.
What about music? Pick a favorite musician or band and tell us why you’re a fan.
Nothing with bells. I proudly wear the title of Scrooge in our family when it comes to Christmas music. Something about bells just drives me nuts. Beyond that, I don’t really have a favorite here either – I usually find something I like and play it to death. Over and over and over. My poor kids who have to ride around with me and have been told that children’s music doesn’t work in our car. I like music with thoughtful lyrics and if there’s acoustic guitar, even better. I like the sounds of artists like Amos Lee, Patty Griffin, Norah Jones, Mat Kearney and Counting Crows. I also like a little George Strait, Beatles, Adele and yes, even Taylor Swift, to mix it up. But lately, even more than music, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts. Sorry to all of my friends and family who have to listen to me comment on things with the preface, “I was just listening to a podcast about …”
Describe one of your happiest memories.
This is one of the stories that will never die – it contained one of my happiest memories as well as pretty much all of the feels that can be felt in a 24-hour period. My husband was deployed for a year to Iraq. On the day of his return, we anxiously waited at the airport for the chartered plane of soldiers to land. The men began pouring through the doors. I looked and looked. Finally, I spotted him, one of the very last men off the plane. By this time there was quite a crowd between us. I had an 18 month old on my hip and a 3 year old by the hand and I charged like a stampeding buffalo towards my man, ugly-crying along the way. But as I rounded the corner to where I could see him, something was happening that I could never, ever have imagined…despite having imagined this moment countless times over the last twelve months. Someone else was hugging him. Now, I am normally a reserved, quiet and polite person. I briefly thought I should probably step to the side and let the tall gentleman with a camera finish his welcome home hug. But then, every second of longing I had endured coalesced and I grabbed that 6’4” man with superhuman strength and threw him aside. He went stumbling away and a second later, I was in my husband’s arms, sobbing. Meanwhile, my poor kids who had just been dragged on a wild ride were also sobbing…from fear and confusion. It turns out the man was a friend of my husband’s who was there taking homecoming photos and had just stepped up to give him a quick hug when I came barreling in like a kamikaze pilot. Oh, and I ended up in the ER that night after the adrenaline wore off with a strained muscle in my back. I felt a lot happier when the muscle relaxants and painkillers kicked in. But really, that moment when I finally got to Cory’s arms was, by far, one of the happiest moments of my life.
What’s a hobby or activity you’d like to try, but have never gotten around to?
Underwater basket weaving? I would like to write more and become a better writer. I would like to enjoy running but I really do hate it. I think more than try new hobbies or activities, I would like to make more space in my life for the things I know I enjoy or could get better at – camping, hiking, reading, baking, cooking, sewing, creative projects with my kids, gardening.
Tell us about a person who’s had a big impact on your life.
There have been several people that have really changed the direction of my life or the way I think – the little boy I mentioned above, my husband who has loved me through my best and worst moments and taught me how to resolve conflict and live life with zest, a friend who challenged my faith and made me think (in a good way), the courageous birth parents who gave us our son, the doctors who treated my cancer, the girl with cerebral palsy I met in Sierra Leone, Africa, who made me deeply consider where our worth comes from and the privileges I take for granted. But there’s really only one person I can pick. My dad. He’s my rock and always has been. He came from a very difficult upbringing and chose to live differently. He has met the many challenges of his life with strength, determination, and humor. He is incredibly generous and loves to give. He is always there for me, finding ways to make my life better. He is an awesome grandpa and it’s such a joy to watch my father and my kids enjoy each other so much.
What are some words your friends would use to describe you?
Kind, thoughtful, fast driver, caring, possessor of a serious sweet tooth, responsible, stubborn. I think in the past, people would have called me shy or quiet but I have found the older I get, the more I have to say and the less fear I have about saying it.
What do you value most in a friendship?
Loyalty, honesty, humor and someone who loves to talk with me. There’s no better friend than one who I can sit and talk for hours with, who trusts me with her stuff and lets me share mine with her. I’ve been so richly blessed with the friends I have had in my life.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee always. Except on winter evenings, I love to have a cup of tea and on hot summer days, I love a glass of sun tea – I like to brew mine with black tea and peach or peppermint. So I guess maybe coffee AND tea, although I could always give up tea and never give up coffee, so maybe coffee? I didn’t know this would be such a hard question.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate. Preferably chocolate with something in it, like nuts or peanut butter or krispies. Or chocolate brownies. Or chocolate ice cream. Or Earl Grey chocolate cake. Chocolate’s where it’s at.
Introvert or extrovert?
Introvert. I enjoy being in big groups a lot more than I did when I was younger and I love having one on one time with friends or small groups but when I need to recharge, I definitely want to be alone.
Rural or urban?
Rural. Occasional visits to urban.
Dress up or dress down?
Cats or dogs?
Neither. I’m not a huge animal person. Learning how to raise the crazy puppy I mentioned above has been a source of personal growth for me. My perfect pet was a cat we once owned named Muscles. He lived outside, hunted most of his meals and came around once in a while to be petted and tolerated my toddlers attempting to carry him around. He also survived being shut in our overhead garage door, so that definitely put him on the top of my list. Low maintenance animals are my favorite, if I have to have an animal in my life.
Sunrise or sunset?
Sunset. I am most definitely not a morning person.
Detailed or abstract?
Detailed. I like my ducks in a row. Color-coded if possible.
Classic or modern?
A little of both.
Call or text?
Text if it’s informational. Call if it’s relational.
Fiction or non-fiction?
All books. I love books. Mostly fiction I suppose, with the exception of memoirs and biographies and the occasional parenting or Christian life book.
Salty or Sweet?
Both? I love things that combine both – chips and salsa with Pepsi, kettle corn, a french fry with a Frosty, mango salsa on a chicken salad.
What do you love most about Montana?
I love the beauty. Every season has its own beauty, with the wide skies overhead. I love the open spaces rimmed in by towering mountains. Most of all, it contains all of my family and my husband’s family and most of my friends.
What’s a lesson you are currently learning?
I am learning that it’s okay to let go of things. Whether it’s letting go of controlling a situation, letting go of my kids and letting them grow up or letting go of dreams I’ve been holding that haven’t worked out, I am learning that in letting go there is space made for new things. New perspectives on life, new skills and independence, new endeavors. I can’t hold it all, and so I have to let go to make more space.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
I feel most grateful that despite the hard things I have been through, I am still here, living, breathing, loving and taking joy from little daily joys and big life accomplishments. I am grateful for a Savior who holds tight to me, even when I can’t find my way to Him. I am beyond grateful for all of the ones He has given me: for the amazing gift that was given to us the day we brought our son home from the hospital and the wonderful blessing of giving birth to our little girl. I am thankful for the love of a kind, hard-working, funny and caring man. I am thankful for my dad, who has always been my rock, my mom, whom I lost way too soon, my kind, generous and loving stepmom, my grandparents who were always there for me and my husband’s family who love me as their own. I am thankful for the beautiful, creative, funny and sweet souls that are my friends.