365 in the 605

We have officially been South Dakota residents for one year now.

Exactly 365 days ago, we rolled across the state line, two days after leaving the Pacific Northwest behind. I will never forget the feeling of elation when we finally arrived. I can’t ever forget it, because we have photographic evidence.

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This photo, by the way, ended up being our Christmas card last year.

It’s amazing to me how quickly the year went by. They do say the older you get, the faster time seems to fly. The months leading up to our move were unbearably long and we grew impatient. Desperate, almost: we wanted to get started on the next, exciting phase of our lives. A lot of people questioned our sanity when we told them we were moving to South Dakota, but one year later, nobody is second-guessing our decision. How could they? Everything has worked out so perfectly, it’s easy to forget what a huge gamble this was for us both. We quit our jobs without any solid prospects lined up, literally driving into the great unknown. I don’t know a lot of people who would do that (but I’m so thankful to have found a willing partner in this adventure).

We knew how we wanted things to unfold. Our hope was that, a year after our arrival, we’d have great jobs and a new house. It’s amazing how things have lined up so perfectly with that timeline. Tara and I both agree that this move to South Dakota didn’t only live up to expectations; it wildly exceeded them. One year later, neither of us has a single regret.

This makes two summers in a row where we’ve been in the midst of major life-changing events. Our last “normal” summer was 2017, and I have to say, not having something major to do seems like a novelty to me these days. Hopefully, 2020 will be far less hectic.

The house is coming along nicely, though. It was another busy (but productive) weekend. We finished painting the living room, started and finished painting both upstairs bathrooms, and started/finished painting the master bedroom. Tomorrow I plan to knock out the spare bedroom we’ll use as an office. And then there is only one to go: the guest bedroom, which Tara started today. This one required some heavy-duty wallpaper stripping and she has a vision for a mountain mural on one wall, so it’ll take a few days. But certainly by the weekend, all the painting should be finished. Just in time for the bamboo flooring to be installed a week from today!

Here are some before and after pics:

Want further proof that my job and I are soulmates? Last Wednesday, I got paid to go hiking. My company is putting together a feature series of local hikes, complete with video, and I’ve been tapped to do the exploring along with one of our summer interns.  Makes sense since I’m the one writing them. We had the benefit of enjoying a picture-perfect day while on the clock.

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I mean, seriously? How is this my job?!

And this is why nobody thinks we’re crazy for moving out here anymore.

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Mr. Incredible Crashed the Party

Advance warning: I hope you like reading about home projects, ’cause we’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing house stuff these past couple of weeks.

Most of our evening and weekends have been spent at the new house. As I’ve mentioned, as sweet a lady as Doris was, her taste in decor reflected her age. Our focus currently is on removing the wallpaper and painting every room upstairs. We have a deadline: the hardwood flooring will be installed on July 1 and the carpet and vinyl on July 8. The good news is, we can move in after that’s done. The bad news? We’ve got a shitload of work to do before that’s done!

We decided to tackle the kitchen first, since it required the most work. There was lots of wallpaper to take down, one of the walls had a surface that required texturing, and the cabinets, cupboards, and refrigerator needed cleaning. Here’s what it looked like before:

And today:

So: progress.

I painted the hallway sage green as well. The living room is a lot bolder – we’re doing it in orange. The shade is a little brighter than I’d expected, but I think it will look good when it’s finished.

Three really cool things happened in regards to the house. Last weekend, Tara stumbled upon the original blueprints and specs in the master bedroom closet. We’re planning on framing them and hanging them in the basement.

Second, we’d known that Doris – the previous owner – was an artist renowned for her pottery. I posted an ad on NextDoor introducing myself as the person who bought Doris’s house. I mentioned that we’d love to honor her by displaying a piece of her pottery in our home and asked if anybody would be willing to sell us something. I got a response from one of our neighbors that she would call Doris’s daughter Kristi and see if she had anything. Well, it turns out Kristi was so moved by my request, it actually brought her to tears. She will be making a trip to Rapid City in October and wants to bring us a piece of her mom’s pottery. And, she gave the neighbor her phone number so I can give her a call. How nice is that? I plan to give her a ring this week. It’ll be great to talk to somebody who grew up in our house.

Last, but not least, Tara had the brilliant idea of looking to see if Doris had a Facebook account. Well, she did…and we found these great photos of her firing up the kiln and making pottery right there in her (our) backyard. This is from 2009, so 10 years before she died.

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It’s funny, there are these circular rust stains on the patio. Now we know exactly where they came from.

I love that we have gotten to know so much about this very interesting woman whose home we purchased. I doubt very many others would go to so much trouble, but it just feels right, you know? She lived there for 46 years. I am going to feel like an intruder for quite a while.

Other than working on the house, we are busy with just plain work. I swear, there’s hardly time to come up for air! But we try to take the occasional break. Thursday evenings there are free downtown concerts in Rapid City, and those are a great opportunity to kick loose and have a little fun (and not paint for a change). We stopped by Thirsty’s last week for a couple of beers and a bite to eat, then wandered over for the Summer Nights show featuring Flannel, a 90s cover band. We even ran into Gregg, our realtor. Not that we recognized him at first, seeing as he was dressed head to toe as Mr. Incredible. With his Aussie accent, he was quite the spectacle. His wife was there, too – wearing a Wonder Woman costume. Don’t ask me why they were dressed up. Maybe they’re into role playing?

The weather has been typical for a South Dakota spring. It usually dawns clear in the morning, and within a few hours, towering cumulus clouds are building over the Black Hills. Most days there are at least a few rumbles of thunder. Friday evening, our painting was interrupted by some pretty impressive thunderstorm action. We couldn’t resist sitting out on the front porch watching lighting flashing all around us. And when it started raining, we went inside and pulled up chairs next to the living room window. We have the best view from our house!

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Hope all you fathers had a great day today! My kids both texted me their best wishes, so I can’t complain.

Lucky Sevens

It’s been an exciting and productive week!

Tuesday at noon, we closed on our house. After signing our names and initialing approximately three million documents, we were handed the keys. What an immensely gratifying moment that was! It felt like I had overcome so much to arrive at that point: a short sale, years of cramped apartment living, a cross-country move filled with  hope but uncertainty. This was the payoff, at long last! The main reason we pulled up roots and took a gamble.

Lucky 7s, I guess.

We immediately drove over to the house. Our house. Could only stay a few minutes since we were on our lunch breaks, but after work, we loaded up our cars and made the first of what will be many trips to move things from Point A.1 (apartment) and Point A.2 (storage unit) to Point B (home, sweet home). I picked up Chinese food, we cracked open a couple of beers, and sat on the back patio, relishing the moment. After smudging the house with sage. One can never be too cautious, you know, especially when the prior owner lived there for 46 years and died there.

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We have also met a whole bunch of neighbors. All I can say is, we live in May-effin’-berry, USA. They have all been so welcoming. They talk about what a great lady Doris was, how all the neighborhood kids grew up together, and how excited they are to have us there. Last night, Kelly from across the street exchanged numbers with Tara. She told us the neighborhood is so tightly-knit if somebody accidentally leaves a garage door open they’ll go close it. And she offered up assistance if we need a hand moving anything heavy, cutting the grass, etc. I can’t believe how damned friendly they all are. Once again, it’s that Midwestern hospitality. It’s a real thing, folks.

Wednesday Tara had to do make cookies and brownies for a bake sale and Thursday my company sponsored an awards celebration for five local nurses of excellence, so we were tied up with other commitments. Last night we were finally able to get back to the house and stayed until 10:00. I cleaned the refrigerator inside out by hand while Tara tackled the basement walls. I also stripped most of the wallpaper – it’s so old, I was able to get it done by hand. Found some interesting things underneath. Like, this cat! A picture emerged of Doris’s young family working on this project together long ago. It made me feel more connected to the house and its lengthy past.

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We’ll be over there most of this weekend; the grass is a jungle once again, and we need to keep cleaning, get started on painting, etc. It’s hard work, but very satisfying, because we are turning somebody else’s house into our home.

Best feeling in the world.

In-tents Weekend

Wow. It’s June now. Meaning we are rapidly approaching our one-year anniversary in South Dakota. Yet, living here still feels like a novelty. I have no idea how that is possible.

It’s going to be a pretty busy but exciting week for us. We officially close on our house at noon on Tuesday. There is some debate over whether or not we’ll get our keys right away; Tara says the title company has to record the deed first. In any case, we’ll have them within a day, which means we’ll have a lot of work ahead of us over the next month. We plan to spend most evenings and weekends at the house stripping wallpaper, painting, cleaning, mowing, and planting. Need to get those things done before all our flooring is installed (scheduled for the end of June). Then, maybe we can actually think about moving in. We are already planning on simple dinners we can make over there, supplemented with takeout.

Also this week: my company is hosting a Nurses of Excellence awards banquet Thursday evening, and I’m traveling to Ellsworth AFB on Friday to meet with a group of people about some great programs they are offering military kids. And the summer issue of our parenting magazine lands. I’m exhausted just thinking of all these commitments.

Knowing full well this would be our last free weekend for a while, Tara and I decided to go camping. (Actually, I’d made the reservations back in March, before we’d even started looking at houses. The timing was just fortuitous.)

We almost bailed at the last minute. The weather last week was nuts – heavy rain caused flooding along Rapid Creek and the surrounding streams. Just when the waters began to recede, we had heavy thunderstorms roll through on Friday afternoon. Lots of rain, lightning, and hail. I was stuck in my car in the Safeway parking lot about an hour before we were scheduled to leave, waiting for the storms to die down. Cancelling was on my mind, believe me, but I didn’t want to be out the $60 reservation fee or the six bundles of firewood, five bags of ice, rack of baby back ribs, etc. we’d already purchased. There was a break in the action around 7:00 so we finally took off, not really sure what the weather was going to be doing at Sheridan Lake.

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This is why we almost cancelled our trip.

Fortunately, it was doing nothing. It was actually a lot nicer in the Black Hills than in town. Still, we rushed to get our tent set up just in case, and started a fire just as the sun was going down. It was a much later start than I would have liked, but the weather cooperated all weekend – other than a couple of distant rumbles of thunder and a few sprinkles Saturday evening, it was fine. That first night was cold, though. Pretty sure the temperature bottomed out around 40º and we were in a tent. Tara and I haven’t slept so closely to one another in a long time, lol.

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Check out that blue sky! No filter needed.

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Bloody Marys are a camping tradition of ours.

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Saturday morning hike in honor of National Trails Day.

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Does this plate scream summer, or what?!

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Saturday evening sunset over Sheridan Lake.

Overall, we had a great time. Broke down camp early and were back home before 10:00. An hour later it was storming like crazy: more lightning, thunder, rain, and hail. We really dodged a bullet!

That’ll most likely be our only camping trip this year, with all the work we’ll be doing on the house.

But you know what? BRING IT ON. We’re both eager to get a little dirt beneath our fingers so we can start this next chapter in our lives!