I’m here. I’m listening. And I want to help make this better.

I’ve been avoiding this conversation. That doesn’t mean I’ve been ignoring it, though.

I’ve been reading the headlines, the news stories, the hashtags, the posts on my Facebook news feed.

I’ve been trying to understand the Black Lives Matter movement. The seemingly senseless killings. The meaning of White Privilege.

I’ve been trying to understand if I have a place in these conversations. And I’ve been trying to find my voice.

I’ve read Facebook posts from people I’ve known for decades. People that I grew up with, went to school with, played with, got drunk with, gossiped with. Black people, white people, Mexican people, Asian people. People. People I call my friends. People, who I’m now learning, are not just like me.

I feel ignorant because, until recently, I’d never even heard of white privilege. And that’s a hard pill to swallow. I can’t be the only one. I want to understand the hurt and the struggle. I want to make sense of what the hell is happening – on a goddamn daily basis right now.

I’m here. I’m listening. And I am trying. I want to help make this better.

I read your Facebook posts like a student. Absorbing everything you share. Trying to relate to your experiences.

Know that you are making a difference. You are opening our eyes.

So many times I’ve wanted to comment on your posts and ask for help. Help me understand what you’re saying. What do you mean? But I’m afraid. Is Facebook really the place to have this conversation? It’s uncomfortable. You’re calling me out in a public forum on something I didn’t even know existed.

Come to find out, I wasn’t aware of white privilege, because I’ve grown up accepting it.

That is so fucking heartbreaking.

I’ve never had to worry about looking suspicious in a hoody while walking down the street. I can’t think of a time when a store clerk has kept an eye on me while I shop. I’m not afraid to drive down the road when my car’s taillight is out, for fuck’s sake!

But you are. I recognize that now. I have no words for how awful that must feel. And I know that’s not right.

I think we can all agree that this is an uncomfortable conversation. I can’t be the only one who’s been avoiding it. And I know I’m not the only one who still feels like they don’t understand.

But we are so far past the point where comfort should even be a consideration. It’s uncomfortable because there is a problem. There is a problem that we’ve all been avoiding and we need to start talking about it.

And if you don’t think there’s a problem, watch the video of Alton Sterling being shot five times while he’s pinned down. Watch the video of Philando Castile – the one whose girlfriend live-streamed on Facebook while he died in the driver’s seat next to her, still buckled in to the car.

Then take a deep breath, recognize that what you just watched is reality, and demand change.

“You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards.” Jon Stewart


Our Whole30 journey

The good, the bad, and the edited program we’re going to follow

Eugene and I decided to jump into the Whole30 last Sunday. The Whole30 is month-long, clean-eating program that claims to ‘change your life.’ Added sugars, alcohol, grains, legumes and dairy are all off-limits. Instead, you’re encouraged to load your plate with veggies, fruit, meat, eggs and healthy fats from oils, nuts and seeds.

Spoiler alert: I’m drinking a mocha latte while writing this post.

Things started off great. We meal planned, grocery shopped, and bought all sorts of fancy things like coconut aminos and coriander seeds. We discovered some downright delicious recipes, like these Bora Bora Fireballs. And we learned about the surprising foods that hide sugar — if you find bacon that hasn’t been cured in something sweet, please tell me about it!

We also learned  that those bad-for-you foods bring us a whole lot of joy, and that our social lives revolve around greasy grub and banned beverages.

Here’s how things went down

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Day 1

Breakfast: I started the morning with a blueberry, strawberry, spinach and chia seed smoothie. Nothing unusual here, except that I normally add greek yogurt and a splash of apple juice to my morning drink. Turns out neither of those additives are needed to hide the taste of spinach. Win!

Lunch: We were short on time before Eugene had to take off for work, so I cooked up these super tasty chicken and apple sausages and boiled some potatoes.

Dinner: We wrapped up day 1 with Paleo Pad Thai. Prior to this, we’d only used spaghetti squash in Italian dishes. This asian version of the noodle-like veggie was a definite win, and something we’ll add to our dinner rotation.

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Day 2

Breakfast: Another morning, another smoothie. The Whole30 is full of seemingly silly rules and recommendations. For instance: the people behind the Whole30 say that it’s better to chew your food than drink it because of satiety. They also say that you ingest more sugar from the fruit while drinking it than you would while eating it. Whatever. Rules were meant to be broken, right? Smoothies work for me, especially if I didn’t meal prep my breakfast, because I was too busy prepping my other meals.

Snack: Am I snacking because I drank my breakfast? Who knows. But I needed some raw nuts and black coffee to hold me over until lunch.

Lunch: Leftovers are my favorite, and I was happy to see that the paleo pad thai from the night before held up nicely in the microwave.

Dinner: By the time dinner hit, I was starving and my food cravings were through the roof. I wanted chips and crackers more than I’d ever wanted them before. I think it was one of those ‘you can’t have this, so you want it more,’ moments. To quiet my cravings, I sliced up a potato and baked it with some olive oil, salt and pepper. The baked chips were the perfect tool for scooping up the tasty chipotle, chocolate, sweet potato chili that I’d cooked in the crockpot the night before.

“Dessert”: One habit I was hoping to break through this program was my need for something sweet after dinner. Day 2 was not the day to break that need. Lucky for me, the Well Fed cookbook that my boss lent me has a handful of fruit-based desserts. I chose to try the fried apples with bacon and pecans. It was ok. Not something I would really consider a desert, though. Ice cream would have been better.

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Day 3

Breakfast: I decided to follow the rules today and I brought two hash brown, spinach and bacon “mini quiches” that I made the night before. I’m still not entirely sure if the bacon used was Whole30 compliant. As I mentioned earlier, pre-packaged bacon that doesn’t list sugar as an ingredient is non-existent in Rapid City, South Dakota. So I sucked it up, became was one of those shoppers at Safeway, and asked the butcher if he could check the ingredients to see if the butcher shop bacon contained sugar. He said no. I chose blind trust and bought the bacon.

Lunch: Like I said on day 2, leftovers are my fav. And leftover chili is the best.

Dinner: Here’s a funny story. Dinner was supposed to be ‘The Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat. Ever‘ from the Well Fed cookbook. (Side note: every recipe we made from this cookbook was outstanding. You should check it out!) The recipe was pretty involved for a chicken breast. You had to brine the meat — something I’ve never done before — and mix up your own spice blend. Because Eugene and I both work full time jobs, we decided to split up the steps. I brined the chicken the night before, and Eugene was to apply the homemade spice rub and pan-fry the meat. Unfortunately, he transferred the brined chicken straight to a baking dish and popped it in the oven. Truth be told, brining meat makes a huge difference and these chicken breasts were tasty! But now I’m even more curious to see what the original recipe tastes like. I roasted some sliced sweet potatoes as a side dish and whipped up a compliant sauce using almond butter, balsamic vinegar, coconut aminos and spices. And, instead of dessert, I opted for a spinach salad after dinner. Who am I?

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Day 4

Breakfast: Broke the rules for a third time and made a smoothie for breakfast. Partly because Eugene ate the remaining eight quiches, and partly because I enjoy smoothies.

Lunch: Leftovers from dinner. Do you see a trend in my lunches?

Dinner: You guys. I don’t know if it’s because I had deprived my body of sugar and grains for four days, but this meal left me feeling buzzed. Seriously. It was that good. I made pork, pineapple and jalapeño meatballs rolled in toasted unsweetened coconut. The Well Fed cookbook calls them Bora Bora Fire Balls. I call them ridiculously tasty crack balls. I roasted some brussels sprouts with balsamic and garlic. Because of course my favorite veggie should accompany my new favorite meatball. And with that, I think I just discovered my new favorite dinner.

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Day 5

Breakfast: Smoothie. What’s new?

Lunch: Leftovers. What’s new?

Dinner: OMG. So much new! Pecan crusted chicken and mashed cauliflower. Yes, you read that right. Cauliflower. I’ve been wanting to try this forever, but I’m stupid picky and the thought of cauliflower “potatoes” scared me. But I pushed fear aside and ran ahead with Well Fed’s mashed cauliflower recipe. Unfortunately, Eugene was working nights this week, so I had to be the brave one and take the first bite, and OMG was I surprised. This stuff tastes just like potatoes. It will take a bit to get used to the idea of mashed cauliflower, but I plan to repeat this recipe often. The chicken, which was not from the Well Fed cookbook (go figure), was only so-so.

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Day 6

Breakfast: My coworkers and I have a Friday tradition. We walk to the local coffee shop down the street and get breakfast to-go. I stood in line drooling over huge, fresh-baked muffins, and frosting laden pumpkin bars. Normally I order a latte, but with dairy off the table, I opted for a black coffee. I took it back to my desk and had a Larabar to fill the muffin void.

Lunch: More fire balls and brussels sprouts! You can get a lot of mileage out of a pound of pork.

Dinner: Things started going downhill when I had this conversation with Eugene in the afternoon…


By the time I got home, he’d pretty much made his mind up that the Whole30 would be the Whole5-and-a-half for him. He was starving and his food cravings were out of control. I had kind of had enough, too. The thought of spending our Friday night at the grocery store was way less appealing than the counter-offer we’d received to grab dinner and hit up a comedy show with friends. We decided that we’d learned enough in our 5.5 days and that we could proceed with the program in our own way.

So now what?

I feel a little bit like a failure, but I also had a great — food and beer-filled weekend, so that helps.

While 30 days without sugar, grains and alcohol was too much for Eugene and I to take on at this point in our life, we do plan to live the Whole30 lifestyle Monday-Thursday. In the few days that we’d been eating this way, we both felt a whole lot better and our clothes were fitting a whole lot looser. We also consumed way more veggies than we normally do. And it was pretty eye-opening to see how much sugar we consume every day. But we still want to enjoy a pizza and some beer every now and again, so we’ll just save that for the weekends.

Maybe someday we’ll find the motivation to try the Whole30 again. But for now, we’ll live our lives as healthy as we can, with a few indulgences along the way.

Have you tried the Whole30?

Did you successfully complete the program? Tell me how it went in the comments below.

We tied the Not(stad)!

Eugene and I tied the knot three months ago. We’ve been asked countless times since then, ‘How is married life treating you?’ The fact that I’m finally getting around to posting about our marriage three months after the fact should answer that question for you.

Married life’s been busy. Busy in the best way.

My better half and I have always done things on our own terms, and our wedding was no different. In an effort to keep things simple, fun and all about us, we ran off to Colorado for a long weekend in the Rocky Mountains — and a wedding!

July 22, 2015: Road trip

Lucky for us, Colorado is only about five hours from home. The two-lane highway commute through Nebraska and Wyoming isn’t bad either.


I took in the picturesque prairie views from the passenger seat. (The whole ‘passing semis on a two-lane highway at 85+ mph doesn’t do good things to my heart.)


We’re also blessed with really good — and sneaky — friends. The Casanova’s managed to track down our hotel and send us drink chips for the fancy hotel bar before we even arrived.


Speaking of hotels, ours was awesome. If you ever find yourself in Fort Collins, Colo., book a night or two at the Armstrong Hotel. The 92-year-old inn stands amid all the action and is just plain cool.


And — bonus — the rooms are reminiscent of a quaint college apartment.


The hotel was even home to a resident cat, who we found lounging on the luggage cart every night.


After settling in at the Armstrong, we hit the streets of downtown Fort Collins and landed in an outdoor patio. Nothing says, “Hello, wedding weekend!” like a couple of tall beers. We spent an hour or so people watching while we sipped our brews and ate dinner.


Then we took advantage of the Casanova’s wedding gift and ended our night with drinks at Ace Gillett’s, the hotel bar. Eugene ordered a beer by a name I can’t recall, though I do remember he was pumped to see it on tap. I opted for a cranberry ginger martini. The lounge even boasted local live music. Wednesday night’s ticket was a young piano-vocal duo performing classic tunes.


July 23, 2015: Wedding day

Some of the best black coffee I’ve ever sipped was at Snooze in Fort Collins, Colo. Everybody told us we had to grab breakfast at Snooze. Thank goodness we took their advice. The sunny eatery was the perfect start to our wedding day. And the food — oh my god! The food was fantastic.


We spent the rest of the morning taking it easy. Our little ceremony was held on a blue-sky, 90-degree day at the Annual Flower Trial Gardens on the Colorado State University campus. The gardens were a little more than a mile from our hotel, so we took the opportunity to walk through Old Town Fort Collins and explore another part of the city.

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Judge Schultz officiated our ceremony. He was a sweet man with sage advice for a healthy marriage. He also had ties in both South Dakota and Wisconsin. Small world coincidence or fate?


We exchanged weddings vows we wrote ourselves, listened to what Judge Schultz had to share, and sealed it all with a kiss.


And with that, we were married!


Then celebrations ensued! Our hotel, which was conveniently located near the city bike path, offered cruiser bikes for guests. We armed ourselves with a map of the local breweries and hit the open path in search of a good time.

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Cruiser bikes are fun! The path weaved through town and lined the Poudre River, offering ample opportunity to take in all of Fort Collin’s natural beauty.

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Stop #1 was O’Dell Brewing Company. O’Dell makes some of our favorite beers, and the brewery didn’t disappoint. We each opted for a flight and had a grand ole time trying new brews as husband and wife.

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After deciding on our favorite tap, we each grabbed a glass and headed out to the patio before taking a brewery tour.

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Next up was Fort Collins Brewery. The beers were so-so, but the food. was. bomb. Some couples serve dry chicken and mushy veggies after they exchange vows. Eugene and I ordered a soft pretzel, wrapped in bacon, presumably deep-fried, and dipped it in spicy stone ground mustard. To each their own.


The rest of Fort Collins was clearly at O’Dell, because Eugene and I were the only ones sharing the the dining area with a ’70s cover band. If you’ve never grooved to Cherokee People while sipping mediocre beers, you’re missing out


When we picked up the brewery map from the hotel, the guy at the front desk told us the best coffee stout he’s ever had was the Sad Panda at Horse and Dragon Brewing Company. He warned us that the brewery was a ways away from the others, but we’re avid coffee stout drinkers and couldn’t be deterred.

Unfortunately, both Eugene and I are also terrible with directions — especially after a couple of beers, on bikes, in a new city, without a GPS. We overshot the brewery by a mile or two and ended up using the GPS on my phone to guide us in the right direction.

But hotel guy was right. I would go the distance for Sad Panda any day. The bartender got wind that we were just married and poured us each a second beer on his tab. We likely would have stayed at this brewery all night if it didn’t close at 6 p.m. And if it wasn’t such a trek to get back to the beaten path!


Are you sensing a trend yet? Fort Collins is a mecca for craft beer and we were bound and determined to celebrate our marriage by sampling it all. After biking back from the boonies — and subsequently working off our buzz — we saddled up to a bar boasting more than 70 craft beers on tap.


And finally, we wrapped up the ‘Great Craft Beer Tour of 2015/The Notstad’s Marriage Celebration’ at Equinox Brewing. Although Eugene will likely deny it now, we were totally beered-out by this point. Don’t get me wrong, Equinox makes a pretty stellar stout. I’ll just be sure to drink less beers before diving into my next Fluffhead Milk Stout on nitro.

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July 24 – 26, 2015: Honeymoon

What’s a Colorado vacation without a trip to the Mountains? No vacation you’ll ever catch me on.

When Eugene and I decided to get married in Colorado, my one requirement was that we spend a couple nights in Estes Park. The Rocky Mountain town is home to some of my favorite memories from past Colorado trips, and I wanted the opportunity to add to that memory bank with Eugene.

So, first things first, we continued the Great Craft Beer Tour of 2015 with a quick stop at an outdoor beer garden in downtown Estes. Eugene’s stout was so thick, he was left with a beer foam ‘stache, which isn’t apparent in the photo below… But my husband is cute, so what the heck, I’ll share it anyway.


My dad first took me to Estes Park in 2006. Since then, our numerous Colorado trips have revolved around fly fishing with Kirk. While the point of this particular trip was not to fly fish, something would have been missing if we didn’t cast a line into the Rocky Mountain waters.

So we booked an afternoon trip with Kirk and headed out onto the Big Thompson River. It was Eugene’s first time casting a fly rod, but he caught on quick, and even had a few bites. Unfortunately, he’s still working on setting his line, nonetheless he managed to catch more fish than me. Eugene was even able to set a Colorado state record for a rainbow trout. (I should also note that Eugene added these last few sentences when I asked him to proofread this post.)

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Let the record stand that I, Kelsey Ann Notstad, reeled in more fish than Eugene.


I was especially pumped about this nice rainbow…


… who looked even better after I held him up to the camera.


But fish or not, the best part about pulling on a pair of waders and sloshing through a river is the view.

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Next stop: Rocky Mountain National Park. We spent the day taking in all of Rocky’s breathtaking (literally — the air is thin up there) views.

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And finally, we wrapped up the best wedding getaway ever with dessert, a walk around Lake Estes, and drinks on our hotel’s patio bar.

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“Where there is love there is life.”

The love I have for Eugene is indescribable. It makes my stomach flip. It makes my heart beat faster. It makes the corners of my mouth turn up into a smile. And — most importantly — it gives me life.

I wish we could relive these five days every day. They were the most fun, carefree, perfect days I’ve known.

Family and friends, we love you too! We had a blast celebrating our love in Colorado, and we look forward to celebrating again with all of you. Keep an eye on your mailboxes. We’ll see you on the shores of Lake Monona this spring!

Happy trails. Happy heart.

“But how is it that I’ve heard so little of this miracle and we, toward the Atlantic, have heard so much of the Grand Canyon when this is even more miraculous. All the better eventually … that the Dakota are not on the through line to the Coast … My hat is off to South Dakota treasures.”

-Frank Lloyd Wright

You know that feeling of pure joy? That kind of happiness that starts in your heart, courses through your veins, buzzes around your brain, and fills your whole body with a pulsing warmth?

That’s my favorite.

I recently found that happiness on a hike to the ironically named Devil’s Bathtub in Spearfish, South Dakota.

The intent of our quick trip to the northern hills was Cheyenne Crossing — an old stagecoach stop tucked into Spearfish Canyon and known for its Indian tacos and sourdough pancakes. (Eugene and I ordered each, respectively.)

Stage Stop

But I’m never one to pass up an opportunity to hike. So I suggested that we track down Devil’s Bathtub, a local trail worn through a limestone corridor that leads to a waterhole.

With bellies full of rich food, we set out in search of the route… this is where things got a little hairy, but thanks to a spotty cell signal, good online resources, and a patient Eugene, we found ourselves at the trailhead.

Devil’s Bathtub was our first unmarked trail, so with apprehension, we ducked under branches and scurried over rocks as we followed the narrow dirt path.

And then it happened.

The trail veered left and led us straight into the shallow creek we’d been following for the past quarter-mile.

The aforementioned online resources noted that hikers may need to “get their feet wet,” but I hardly expected to find myself plotting a trail across a body of water.

After watching a family cross upstream, we decided it was doable. We sat on the hard dirt, removed our socks, laced our tennies back up, and sloshed our way through the cool creek.

For me, this was instant fun. The South Dakota air was abnormally humid and the sun was hot on my skin. The knee-deep water was a welcome addition to the steamy hike.

Eugene wasn’t so sure.

After our initial trek through the creek, the crossings became more frequent. It was a point of annoyance for Eugene, since he expected to stay dry for the duration of the hike.

But the further we ventured into the corridor, the more uncommon and interesting the views became. Jagged limestone walls towered high above us on either side. Dense pines surrounded us. And a swift-flowing creek moved beneath us. If I could pick a place to sit for an extended amount of time, this would be it.

Eugene was warming up to the hike, too.


After about 20 minutes of tromping along the trail, we reached our destination. This is what Devil’s Bathtub looks like through the lens of a three-and-a-half-year-old iPhone 4:


The photo doesn’t do it justice.

Although the hike was short, the whole ‘forging your own path’ thing wore us out. So we sat on a limestone ledge, hung our feet in the pool, and let the strong sound of rushing water lull is into total relaxation.

In my opinion, the most difficult part of a hike is deciding when the time is right to bid adieu to the destination and begin the trek back to the trailhead. We hung around Devil’s Bathtub longer than usual and after soaking in one final view of the landscape, reluctantly returned the trail.

I know the Black Hills are filled with breathtaking views and awesome hikes, but of all the adventures I’ve undertaken out here, Devil’s Bathtub has, by far, been my favorite. You just can’t compete with that happy heart feeling.

If you find yourself in western South Dakota, search out this happy hike. This website was a huge help in leading us to our destination. You’ll also want to type Cleopatra Place into your GPS before driving through Spearfish Canyon.

Happy trails to you!

Thanks, Mom

The relationship a daughter forges with her mother is a delicate, confusing and strong one.

At least that was my experience.

Growing up, my mom was everything to me. I wanted to be just like her. We had matching Wisconsin Badger ski jackets and beaded leather belts. During those tough preteen years my mom was my best friend and confidant. Things got a little rough through high school, but life is never perfect.

These days my mom holds a special place in my heart. We’re separated by nearly 800 miles, but she’s only a phone call away. And she receives that phone call every day. I’m her only child and she still calls me her ‘baby girl.’ In all honesty, I think in her eyes, I’m the five-year-old princess she helped raise. And I’m ok with that. Because she is still everything to me.

So on this Mother’s Day, I want to send out my thanks to her.

Thanks, mom…

For being there.

For listening.

For showering me with unconditional, everlasting love.

For teaching me how to bake. And for sharing the importance of sampling brownie batter.

For spreading your KC and The Sunshine Band love. And for encouraging impromptu ‘Shake Your Booty’ dance parties.

For passing down your classic style. And for teaching me that trends always come back around.

For instilling in me your fear of everything. And for letting me do scary things every now and again.

For arming me with the tools to be a successful human being.

For showing me what a strong woman looks like.

For everything — thanks.

I love you, mom.


Hey? Sorry I’ve been a bad friend.

I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot lately. It’s not that I do unfriendly things. I’m just really bad at staying in touch. Lucky for me, I’ve got a great group of friends who don’t mind. We’ll go a month or two without talking, before we finally connect and carry on conversations like no time has passed.

But, wow. It’s been ages since we’ve chatted… nearly nine months!

I could list off a whole slew of excuses as to why I’ve been a bad friend. But to sum it up, we’ve just lost touch. So, you’re probably wondering how life’s been… let’s pick up where we left off, shall we?

In August, I ventured out to Sturgis… or as the locals call it, “The Rally.” If you’re unfamiliar with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Google it. It’s outrageous. Growing up in a household of Harleys, it was surreal to finally be there. The weeklong event boasts bands, bikes, booze and boobs. Like I said, it’s outrageous.

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Throughout the summer Eugene and I hiked. A lot. The hiking trails in western South Dakota are seemingly endless, and we’re taking full advantage of our outdoor playground. I especially enjoy wearing Wisconsin garb while I hike through the Hills; because without fail, I’m bound to come upon a handful of traveling cheeseheads, who are always more than eager to strike up a conversation with a fellow Wisconsinite. Following conversations of this nature, I always rhetorically ask Eugene, ‘Isn’t it cool that we live in a place where people vacation?’ So cool.

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In September, Eugene and I headed east to celebrate one of my college friend’s weddings. I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that yes, we are all real adults and getting married, buying houses, and having babies is the new norm. Crazy as that may seem.

You can tell by our shiny faces that we had a great time on the dance floor… as all wedding guests should. The 18-hour roundtrip drive and unfortunate speeding ticket were totally worth it.

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As summer turned to fall, Eugene officially became a rated air traffic controller! I’m still wrapping my head around his career, but I’m fairly certain this “rating” means he can talk to planes without supervision. For me, this rating means the end of flashcard review sessions, which is slightly discouraging seeing as I was just starting to master the ATC lingo

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In November, one of my very best friends Janaye came to play! Remember when I said earlier that I had a really great group of friends? Case in point. Sure, South Dakota is sweet, but let’s face it, it isn’t a place people are itching to travel. Which makes me all the more grateful that so many friends have set aside long weekends to visit.

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Janaye, Eugene and I had a grand ol’ time enjoying quality craft brews, hiking through our beautiful state and national parks, and catching up on all of life’s crazy turns.

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For Thanksgiving, Eugene and I road-tripped home to Madison. It was the first Holiday we were able to spend with our families since moving to South Dakota. And, lucky for us, a Badger home game landed on the same weekend. On Wisconsin!

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I snapped this shot on State Street before heading home for the night. Mist and all, can Madison be any more beautiful?

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Upon returning to South Dakota, I bid farewell to my job at the credit union. It was definitely a bittersweet goodbye, so naturally we eased the mixed emotions with a shotski. Great coworkers are something to treasure.

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In December I stepped into a new, scary, exciting role as Digital Media Coordinator at Black Hills Corporation. In this role I help manage all of our social media pages, work on our websites, and learn something new every. single. day. Seriously, I think my brain knowledge has doubled over the past four months.

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Throughout the winter months I spent my weekends skiing at my fav local spot, Terry Peak. While the hill is great, I lacked good company. Eugene, being the tall lanky guy he is, isn’t the hugest downhill skiing fan. So I spent most of my Sundays making solo tracks. One Sunday I was lucky enough to catch the first chair on the backside.

In my opinion, this is absolute bliss:

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As winter turned to spring, we picked back up our hiking game. Eugene and I came upon this family of bighorn sheep in Custer State Park. It was our first time encountering our wild neighbors with a baby in tow. We stopped on the path and watched each other for a bit before the family carried on uphill. Nature is so neat.

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In March, I braved a nine hour solo road trip east to spend the weekend with college friends. Lucky for me, it was one of the first nice weekends in Minneapolis, so patio parties were out in full force. We spent all of Saturday drinking beachy cocktails and laughing. It was perfect.

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Back to hiking for a second. This spring we drove five miles down a gravel road and hiked uphill for three-and-a-half miles to take in this view. Crow Peak is definitely a locals hike, which I love. Every single person we passed greeted us with a smile — several even stopped to for a quick conversation. I always welcome breathtaking views and friendly folks.

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I think I’m going to rename March “Mucho,” because my month was filled with Mucho love! Dumb idea? Whatever. At the end of Mucho Love Month, my BFF4L (or as we affectionately called ourselves in high school: 4/4) spent some time in South Dakota. Al was here for an extra long weekend (YES!) and I don’t think we could have fit in any more hiking, beer drinking, and fun.

Have I mentioned how great my friends are?

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Weekend highlight: hanging out with the begging burros in Custer. When it comes to snacks, these donkeys don’t mess around. This guy stuck his head right through our open window to snag some cashews from Eugene… he also kicked another donkey, who tried to get in on the treats.

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And finally, in April, Father Tom made his long-anticipated appearance in Rapid City, South Dakota. Yay! I’ve always been attached to my parents and nothing makes me happier than spending time with them. Per usual, the weekend was packed with site-seeing, exploring and eating. We even managed to sneak in a hockey game. Rumor has it, we tired the old guy out big time.

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And now here we are. Spring is slowly giving way to summer and I’m looking forward to more adventures. I promise to stay in touch over the next couple months.

What have you been up to?

All Pets Go To Heaven

Parakeets were the first pets I ever had—Samantha and Max. I was six. They weren’t anything special, but they were my ticket into the ‘I have a pet club.I tried to treat them like cool pets; I’d read them books and watch them hop around their cage, but my imagination could only take me so far into believing the birds were neat.

Max was the first pet I ever lost. My mom took him to the vet and came back with an empty cage. I cried on the couch that entire day.

When I was nine, we brought Giselle home.

When you look “pet” up in the thesaurus, you find synonyms like love, beloved, treasure, darling and jewel. For nearly 17 years, Giselle was all of those things and more.

The first time I met Giselle at the pet store, I was too afraid to hold her with my bare hands. Instead, I pulled the sleeves of my sweatshirt down to hide all exposed skin before scooping her up. (I soon overcame my absurd fear of animals.)

For 16-and-a-half years, there wasn’t a being in this world whom I loved more than Giselle. She was with me for nearly three-quarters of my life, and I had high hopes of her being around another three-quarters more.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards for my Baby G.

Be it a bird, cat, fish or dog, losing a pet is never easy. I asked my dad once why he felt the need to endlessly spoil our cats.

‘Because, babe,’ he said, ‘pets are only with us for so long, and it’s our job to make them as happy as they can possibly be.’

I can only hope we made Giselle half as happy as she made us.


“If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them.”