Category Archives: Life

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.

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!

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.”


As far as I’m concerned, New Year’s Resolutions are serious business.

I’ve never been one to make a tangible resolution. Every year I devise some abstract idea that I hope will carry me through the proceeding 365 days. Last year, I resolved to not let fear hold me back. While New Year’s Resolutions can be tough to stick to, I think I succeeded in my 2013 vow.

DSC_0022One year later, I’m crazy in love with Eugene. And though this seems petty to some, if you’re anything like me, you’ve been fiercely independent for 23 years. Independent people do not want to put their trust in someone else. Love is scary. Vulnerability is scary. Avicii says it best, “Life’s a game made for everyone and love is the prize.” Once you push fear aside, that prize is pretty great.

One year later, I moved 11 hours away from the most amazing family, and very best friends a girl could ask for. When you grow up on the east side of Madison, attend the same high school as your parents, and call the same people your best friends for more than a decade, “hard” doesn’t even begin to describe what it’s like to leave. I once asked my mom why she never moved and her simple response was, ‘I was too scared to leave.’ She isn’t alone in that. I was scared to leave and I’m still scared to be away, but there’s something so liberating that comes from being in a place where you know no one– however difficult that may be.

One year later, I’ve successfully thrown myself into the freelance writing world. It’s one thing to produce stories for a magazine when you’re interning and working at said magazine. It’s especially easy if you’re working under two smart, amazing and mentoring editors. It’s a whole other ballgame when you’re representing yourself. The first freelance story I submitted this summer was proofread no less than 42 times by myself and whomever else I could convince to look it over. I may or may not have closed my eyes, held my breath, and hoped for the best when I sent that first email. Now in South Dakota, I’ve hooked up with a cool statewide magazine and I’m producing freelance stories on a monthly basis. I’m reminded how willing people are to share their stories and so happy to have my writing accepted.

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One year later, I’m constantly reliving a few awesome vacations. 2013 was the year I stopped worrying about saving for the future and started spending my money on fun things. Once funds had been allocated to those things we have to pay for, I booked plane tickets to Seattle, San Antoni0 and Boston. Money can be a really scary thing, but I’d rather be rich in memories than cash.

One year later, I’ve thrown myself into a host of new, and sometimes uncomfortable, situations and I’ve led a more fulfilling year because of it.

“Most people are paralyzed by fear. Overcome it and you take charge of your life and your world.” – Mark Victor Hansen


In 2014, I will continue to work on not letting fear hold me back, but I also  resolve to welcome every invitation and opportunity that comes my way with open arms (think Yes Man, but with a better outcome). I also resolve to make this the year I put my writing out there more than ever– that means submitting my work to more publications and posting more on

Hold on everyone, 2014 is going to be the best year yet, I can feel it. And sticking with my own advice: I’m not scared; I’m excited for what my future holds.

39 signs you grew up in Madison, Wisconsin

5307_4679843646254_965550817_nWhen I saw the Thought Catalog article, “26 Signs You’ve Lived in Madison, Wisconsin” making it’s social media rounds, I was thrilled! I love Thought Catalog. I love love love Madison!

While some of the list items were purely Madison, the majority of the article was UW-Madison student-centered and there is so so much more to my fair city.

So, I bring you a list:

39 signs you grew up in Madison, Wisconsin (according to Kelsey Bewick)

1. You “snuck into” the student section at Badger football, basketball and hockey games.

2. When it comes to singing UW’s Alma Mater you instinctively wrap your arms around your neighbor and sway. And aside from “U RAH RAH WI-SCOOO-OOOON-SIN,” you have no idea what the people around you are singing.

3. You politely ask your gracious parents to drive you and your friends downtown to avoid dealing with parking (read: paying for parking) when spending a night out.

4. You and your friends visit places like The Old Fashioned, Capital Tap Haus and State Street Brats with the sole intent of ordering a basket of cheese curds and a few beers.

5. You’ve discussed, in depth, the logistics of holding a Cheese Curd Crawl– like a bar crawl, only with cheese curds.

6. You recognize Culver’s cheese curds are sub par—with their thick breading and mixed cheeses—but you’ll still order some when you’re feigning a fix.

7. You visit “townie bars,” on your respective side of town, and you know every single person in the place– it’s like a high school reunion. Silver Eagle, anyone?

8. You want to love our lakes, but you realize they are disgusting mid-June through early September. 

9. Regardless of how gross our lakes are you still spend every available summer minute on or near them.

10. You don’t look twice when you see hoards of people waking around downtown with with a steamed-up bag of bread on a summertime Saturday morning. It’s also commonplace to see these same people ripping strips of this bread from the bag and eating it as they walk.

11. Stella’s Spicy Cheese Bread and coffee make for a feasible Farmer’s Market breakfast. Feasible and delicious.

12. Aside from the cheese bread and coffee commodities, the true reason you attend the Farmer’s Market is to people watch from the Capitol lawn.

13. You’ve seen a pack of naked bikers make laps around the Capitol Square on a few chosen Saturday morning Farmer’s Markets. And you’ve felt a true sense of community when you turn away from that pack and see that every single person around you is also smiling ear-to-ear.

14. You still rely on a GPS to navigate hidden streets on the other side of town.

15. When you’re feeling especially directionally challenged, you call your parents– who’ve lived in Madison their entire lives– and begin feeding them landmarks until they lead you to a recognizable place.

16. You know what it feels like to bike through the middle of rush hour traffic– in your own bike lane.

17. You’ve gotten lost on our maze of bike paths at least once… or you’ve hopped on a portion of the bike path and popped out in some part of the city you did not intend to.

18. You’ve taken a kayak or canoe down a random river channel and popped out in some part of the city you did not intend to.

19. You’ve probably met the governor during a school field trip to the Capitol. If not, you’ve surely taken a class photo in the courtroom during a school field trip to the Capitol.

20. If you’ve moved away, you’re far more excited to dine at your favorite local restaurants than you are to eat your mother’s home cooking when you return home.

21. You get sucked into the hype that is Freak Fest.

21. You don’t fully understand the hype that is Freak Fest.

22. When you were young enough to attend the Mifflin Street Block Party, you thought it was the coolest thing.

23. You remember when the Westside felt like a faraway, foreign land.

24. You’re still wondering what happened to the Holiday Parade around the Square. Remember that?

25. “Sea of Red” conjures up images of State Street and Camp Randall crawling with people clad in Badger gear on game day.

26. And speaking of game day… the smell of grilled brats at 9 a.m. on Regent Street is completely familiar.

27. You remember when South Towne Mall was a real mall, not the strip mall it is today.

28. You had the luxury of using city buses as everyday transportation to and from middle school.

29. You also had the luxury of chasing down said city buses, if you didn’t make it to the bus stop on time.

30. The first warm spring day was a big deal– it meant you, your cousins and your aunt would wander in and out of  State Street shops.

31. While you could never wear it yourself, you enjoy the wafts of patchouli oil you smell while walking around State Street.

32. You’ve never been able to escape conversations about politics and the environment.

33. You vaguely remember what Lake Monona’s skyline looked like before the Monona Terrace.

34. The word “Beltline” makes you cringe.

35. You had no idea you suffered from road rage until you drove on the Beltline at rush hour for the first time.

36. Your parents grew up with the mothers and fathers of some of your best childhood friends, because most of them never left the Eastside of town. And you think that is the greatest thing.

37. There is something so cool about the Capitol, you cannot get enough of it.

38. You’re constantly learning new things about Madison that cause you to fall further in love with the city.

39. You get that Madison is big, but small at the same time, and unique, and special and you have your own list of things that remind you of home and life in Madison.

I graduated from college TWO years ago


It’s hard to believe I graduated from college two years ago today. It’s also hard to believe I now live in Rapid City, South Dakota and work in the marketing department at a credit union.

While both the state and workplace are much cooler than you might initially think, they are definitely not places the wide-eyed recent Winona State University graduate could have imagined finding herself back in 2011.

When I was in college, I was going to have a job at a downhill skiing magazine in Colorado before I even graduated.

But a month into earning a degree, moving home, and living with my dad, I quickly learned life beyond academia is much more difficult than I anticipated.

From working in a cubicle-laden call-center to picking up a post-graduate internship, I found myself desperately clawing my way up my mountain of dreams.

Since graduating from college, I’ve learned the proverbial job ladder I aim to climb is steep and long, with rungs so far spread apart it’s sometimes difficult to lift your leg high enough to reach the next step.

And that first rung is positioned so far off the ground, it took me 16 months to wriggle my way up the side of the ladder before I could lob onto the step.

The past two years have led me on an interesting journey through strained phone conversations and uncomfortable interview hot seats.

Upon graduating, I sent my resume to more than 100 companies and endured 16 months of constant rejection. I would literally send out five resumes every night and hear back from no one. I became a pro at phone interviews. When I was invited for in-person meetings, I’d walk out of each office with a wide smile and high hopes, only to receive a crushing phone call or email days later stating that another candidate was chosen, ‘but we feel you have a bright future.’

(Once you hear you have a bright future more times than you can count on two hands, you begin to seriously question the validity of that statement).

I received one particularly overwhelming denial at the end of a lunch date with my aunt. I had let my hopes float so high that the job rejection brought me to tears in the middle of Panera– we’re talking runny nose, puffy eyes, and heaving sobs.

That was it. I reached my breaking point. You can only be told that someone more qualified than you got the job you wanted so many times before you can’t take it anymore.

And amidst all these rejections, I was subjected to what could possibly be the most awkward job interview ever.

At the time, I thought my call-center gig was due to expire. Desperate for a steady income, I applied to any job I deemed reasonable.

One of those jobs was a sales position with a Madison-based broadcast company.

I am not a saleswoman.  I would likely be more qualified to wrangle crocodiles.

Nevertheless, I put on my pseudo-confident persona, feigned interest for a sales position, and strode my way into unfamiliar territory.

Sometime between asking me run-of-the-mill interview questions and answering an unimportant phone call from her daughter IN THE MIDDLE OF MY INTERVIEW, the director of sales and something-or-other stopped me mid-sentence and told me I was not the woman for the job.

I was mortified. My face turned an unnatural shade of red and sweat began to pour from my pores. This, I assumed, is rock bottom. It’s one thing to receive rejections via phone or Internet, but facing rejection on the spot is particularly painful.

And then things got worse.

The saleswoman proceeded to tell me she read my blog post about getting a banana thrown at me on a city bus a decade earlier. She thought I seemed interesting and just wanted to meet me.


She then proceeded to search the Internet for jobs in which I might be interested. All the while, the sweat that had been pouring from my pores was now pooling on my chair– I know it sounds disgusting, but put yourself in a super uncomfortable situation and see how your body reacts. It’s not pretty.

When the sales lady excused me from the interview from hell, I skipped the formalities and sprinted from her office.

Terrible as that interview was, it armed me with a newfound confidence. There’s no way any job interview could be worse than that, I told myself.

It was a handy mindset to have, as I still faced a year’s worth of rejections.

Throughout my journey, there’s a quote I’ve always looked to for inspiration.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

I love it. I think it’s perfect. And I couldn’t agree more.

While I haven’t completely ruled out living in snow-capped mountains and writing about professional skiers, I’m content with where I am now. Sometimes I pretend the Black Hills are mountains and it’s nice to finally have that elusive job ‘I went to school for.’

I always wanted a blizzard

I always wanted to experience a blizzard. Before Oct. 4 I’d watch Midwest weather updates with bated breath, hoping the forecasted blizzard watch would turn into a warning. Wanting my blizzard to come to fruition.

I’ve called Rapid City, SD home for more than a month. And in these short five weeks, I can’t even count the number of times residents have referred to this portion of South Dakota as the “banana belt.”

Oh, our winters are mild, they say, it rarely snows here and when it does, it doesn’t stick, all the snow stays up in the Hills. So when meteorologists began predicting snow totals upwards of two feet, I figured it was just an exaggeration.

Those weathermen are always over predicting and under delivering. We’re in the “banana belt,” there’s no way we’re going to pack in two feet of snow during the first week of October.

Then Eugene called me at 6 a.m. Friday morning—the day the blizzard was due to strike—to say he’d been called off work at the Air Force Base due to weather.

Thrilled, I sprung out of bed to inspect the snowstorm’s damage. My balloon of hope began loosing air when all I saw was a thin blanket of white disrupted by bright green blades of grass. Never one to give up hope, I flipped on the radio to hear what the rest of the world had to say about this weather.


As strangers gabbed in the background, I couldn’t help but take note of the long list of closed schools and businesses, canceled events, and ominous warnings that things were going to get much messier.

But this was something I was used to. As a child of the Madison Metropolitan School District, snow days aren’t something I have a lot of experience with. We were those kids walking up hill both ways while icy snow battered our faces in every direction. When every other kid in surrounding school districts had the day off, we were stuck in class. I didn’t get a lot of snow days as a kid. So, while I don’t get my snow day hopes up, any potential adult day off due to “inclement weather” is something worth celebrating.

I proceeded to prepare for the day, but checked my workplace voicemail for weather closing updates no less than four times before heading out for my morning commute. I chocked the other closings up to the fact that I was, indeed, in the “banana belt.” These western South Dakotans just have no idea how to deal with winter weather. This October snowfall must’ve thrown them into a tailspin.

Being the tough Wisconsinite I am, I accepted my fate for a full days’ work, slipped my bare feet into a pair of ballet flats and tiptoed through the thin coat of snow covering the sidewalks. I got to my car before my better judgment kicked in—perhaps bare feet in ballet flats aren’t the wisest choice when commuting through a potential blizzard. You could find yourself stranded on the side of the road, I heard my mom saying.

I zipped back into my apartment and scooped up a pair of UGGs. (I would have preferred a pair of snow boots, but packing and moving your entire life leaves ample opportunity to forget things. As luck would have it, my snow boots were included on that ever-growing list of things that were forgotten. ‘It’s ok,’ I told my parents, ‘Rapid City doesn’t get much snow, just bring them out whenever you visit.’)

Makeshift snow boots in tow, I drove into work—much quicker than usual due to closed schools and subsequently empty roadways. I kicked the snow off my UGGs, hung up my jacket, got settled at my desk and forgot about the impending snowstorm for the next couple hours.

Then the Vice President of Operations began making laps around the building. I heard his booming voice declare that their shoveling couldn’t keep up with snowfall. We’d be closing at noon.

The snow day-deprived child within me rejoiced. I was looking forward to a work-free Friday afternoon and an adventurous pseudo winter weekend with Eugene.

I again traded my ballet flats for UGGs and ventured out into the winter wonderland. I was shocked when what looked like a peaceful snow globe turned out to be a take-your-breath-away, sting-your-face, high wind, heavy snow storm. I tucked my head into my jacket, trudged forward, and held my breath as I tried to scrap the snow from my car.

Safely in the driver’s seat, I applied a white-knuckle grip to the steering wheel and drove home at a cool 15 miles under the speed limit.

The transformation over the past four hours was hard to believe—tire tracks six inches deep crisscrossed roadways; highway stoplights were completely plastered with snow, rendering traffic signals useless; cars driving in front of me disappeared into the white abyss. Turns out these weathermen got their forecasts right. Never have I ever been so thrilled to pull into a parking spot and get the heck out of the snow.


What transpired over the next 46 hours was something I have never experienced. Eugene wasn’t able to leave his base. I had no cable, no Internet, no living room, no real food, and no direct human contact. I had a bed, a television, the first three seasons of The O.C., intermittent electricity, junk food, my cellphone, and Skype. I spent a good portion of my weekend talking to friends, conducting video chats, and starring aimlessly out the window into a valley of white. I toted my phone around and gave loved ones FaceTime tours of my apartment. I carried them outside and showed them panoramic views of the winter wonderland from my patio. Their unshielded gasps said it all—this was not normal Midwestern autumnal weather.


By 9 a.m. Sunday, I was starving for human contact and long, fast-paced strides in the world outside my tiny apartment. I donned a pair of snow pants, a down jacket, and a slightly less absorbent pair of boots, and I crawled—literally—through snow that was drifted higher than cars. As I crested snow mounds that easily exceeded 10 feet, I paused to take in that deafening silence that takes over with every fresh snowfall.

I slowly made my way down the steep hill that leads to my apartment and rounded a corner to Range Road—a bypass between two knolls. It was there that I got my first glimpse of what Winter Storm Atlas had done to my new home in the Black Hills. Like scenes from severe weather reports, no less than six abandoned cars rested in the middle of the road, almost completely covered with drifted snow.


I continued further to find entire trees bent in half, branches still ripe with summer’s green leaves lay buried in the snow.

In the following days and weeks, the expense of Atlas was apparent throughout our city. Endless streams of trucks and trailers hauled forests-worth of trees to drop-off sites that were already piled higher than buildings. Rogue branches littered the streets.

And more disturbing than the branches left scattered on the streets were the cattle that rested alongside the Interstate and remote roads. The blizzard’s true toll fell to the countless ranchers in this part of the state—men and women who lost a good portion of their livelihood because weather like this isn’t supposed to happen in the beginning of October.

Yes. I always wanted a blizzard. But once Winter Storm Atlas left me trapped in my own apartment and preceded to wreak havoc on Western South Dakota, I quickly retracted that decades-long wish.

In the end nearly three feet of snow fell hard on the Black Hills, more than 7,000 cattle lost their lives. Residents picked up the mess and neighbors in this new community of mine helped one another out.

Now when people ask me when I moved out here, they quickly follow my response up with a jovial just in time for the blizzard! remark. Indeed, it’s something we all weathered. A storm we all talk about. And a devastation that continues to make itself known.

Nearly a month later Eugene and I went hiking through Custer State Park. Throughout our hike, we had to climb over downed Ponderosa Pines, and push scattered branches from our path. Clearly victims of the storm, you can’t help but imagine what that pristine piece of nature must have looked like buried and battered by feet upon feet of snow.

Even today as I drive down Range Road, visions of whiteout conditions and buried cars play through my head. I always wanted a blizzard. Then I got one. Now I have one that continually plays through my head.


My bare toes curl around the jagged rock, gripping tight, and my arms wobble at my side.  I attempt to steady myself while minding the beer that splashes from the white-knuckle-incased can held in my hand.  My head hinges back and uncontrollable, ab-engaging laughter erupts from my gut, completely countering the balancing act my toes and arms are struggling to maintain.

Powerful Pacific waves crash relentlessly against the rocks we stand atop– each saltwater arch provoking a new bout of girly screams as it shatters against the sea stacks.  Ocean water sprays from the surrounding rocks and we gain control of our giggles moments before another swell soaks us.

The lighthearted moment epitomizes what it is to be carefree.

We’ve drank our fair shares of cheap, terrible tasting, local beers.  A hot, squint-inducing, yellow sun hangs high in the sky.  We’re surrounded by the incredible natural beauty that is the north-pacific coast.  Aside from being knocked from the craggy rocks and swept away with the ocean current, we have no worry in the world. In those thrilling moments, life is purely perfect.