I Didn’t Want to be Don Draper

We recently started watching “Mad Men.” I have no idea what took so long; I graduated from college with a BA in Advertising, after all, and once dreamed of living the Madison Avenue lifestyle. There’s no way I wouldn’t find the show compelling.

What I did not find compelling was advertising. I knew I wanted to be a writer as far back as middle school and initially set my sights on a career in journalism, but there isn’t much room for creativity in the news biz. My dad suggested advertising, and I thought, why not? Becoming a copywriter and churning out campaigns for billion-dollar corporations sounded appealing, so I dove right in. don_d

Halfway through my college studies, I realized that advertising wasn’t for me. I hated the cutthroat nature of the business and despised the idea of trying to sell expensive things to people who didn’t need (and couldn’t afford) them for the rest of my life. By then, I had no interest in switching majors and starting over from scratch—I was tired of school at that point and wanted to get on with real life—so I decided to  push on through, nose to the grindstone. I just wanted that piece of paper rubber-stamped with the governor’s signature and a fancy frame to put it in, figuring being a college grad was enough to ensure doors would open for me.

Well, those doors didn’t open. I had to bust my way through them while taking a long detour to get to where I finally wanted to be. Adding insult to injury? I never even got that fancy frame. My diploma is…somewhere. Honestly, I don’t have a clue where exactly. But it doesn’t matter, because I have learned over the years that a diploma really is just a piece of paper. I haven’t succeeded because of it, but rather, despite it. I mean, three months after graduating from college, I was stocking shelves at The Sharper Image. That’s about as far from the likes of Sterling Cooper as you can get. Customer service and call center jobs followed. Eventually, I powered my way into marketing and, through sheer determination and force of will, writing. It wasn’t easy. But few worthwhile things in life are.

I’m not dissing college. If I had it to do all over again, I still would. I’d just make damn sure I was certain of my career path before embarking upon it.

Watching Don Draper on the small screen, sure—his life looks glamorous. But even if I had followed through on the advertising dream, I remind myself that the Madison Avenue I’d have encountered was already decades removed from the one that exists on the show. Besides, pretty much every male on “Mad Men” is a prick. Fascinating as it is to watch, I can’t help but feel that I dodged a bullet there.

Today’s unusually contemplative post is brought to you by the first day of fall.


The past two months have been a whirlwind of visitors, and this past weekend was no exception. My daughter, Audrey, came up for a visit. When last we saw her, we were backing a loaded U-Haul out of my parents’ driveway, about to embark upon a 1,250-mile journey across five states for a brand new life in the Midwest. That was 15 months and an entire lifetime ago, so we were looking forward to seeing her again.

She arrived Thursday morning and left Sunday afternoon. In between, we did a pretty good job keeping her entertained. Did all the usual touristy things first-timers need to cross off their bucket lists (Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Wall Drug, the Badlands). Cooked her favorite meals. Caught up on all the goings-on. It’s hard to say which she enjoyed best: the spectacular thunderstorm Friday night, a classic South Dakota storm that brought rain, hail, gusty winds, and nonstop lightning; or the opportunity to feed prairie dogs by hand. We stopped by Prairie Dog Village just outside the Badlands yesterday (was it really just yesterday??); it’s the only place I have ever been where the prairie dogs are so used to humans they actually run toward (rather than away from) you and eat peanuts right out of the palm of your hands. One of them even licked my fingers. Now, that is about as far from Sterling Cooper as you can get. How is THIS my life?!

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I’m so glad that fall is officially here! It was a downright chilly 39º this morning, forcing me to put gloves on during my walk. The weather is changing right on cue; there’s even talk of a few snowflakes over the Black Hills this weekend. It won’t be long until they’re flying through the air in town, as well. Autumn is hands-down my favorite season but it’s pretty short out here, so I intend to enjoy the hell out of it this year.

What’s the Latest Buzz?

Mosquitoes, that’s what.

They have been relentless this summer, no doubt because of all the rain we have had. And they seem to be impervious to mosquito repellant. I sprayed myself with Off® one morning before my walk and still managed to come back with half a dozen new bites on my arms.

Little bastards.

Also, motorcycles, as in, the buzz of thousands of two-piston engines filling the air. It’s a toss-up as to whether there are more mosquitoes or bikers, and we have the Sturgis Rally to thank for that.

At least the motorcyclists don’t bite.

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We had our first houseguests last week and they were really impressed with both Rapid City and our house. Tara’s dad Randy and his girlfriend Cynthia came up for a few days after fishing (successfully) for walleye in Wyoming. It was their first visit to South Dakota and they were surprised by the natural beauty of the area. I think a lot of people have this impression of South Dakota as being flat and featureless, and while that’s true for most of the state, the Black Hills are the exception.

They were down for doing touristy things, and we were happy to show them around, even with the steady parade of motorcycles that greeted us everywhere we went, including Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park. Sunday, we took them to the 79th Sturgis Rally, per their request. It’s something that should be on everybody’s bucket list—the people-watching alone is worth the trip!

It was a nice visit. We ate, we drank, and I daresay we were even a little merry. It was nice to show off our new digs!

My MIL visits next week and my parents the week after, then Audrey will be out next month. Suffice it to say, we’ll be busy playing host for a while.

Buzzworthy happenings in the backyard? Raspberries. Hundreds of them. So many, we hardly know what to do with them all. Doris planted a row of raspberry bushes along the west side of the house and they have been producing ample amounts of sweet, delicious fruit for a few weeks now. I’ve made raspberry bread, raspberry coleslaw, and raspberry vinaigrette. We’ve had waffles with fresh raspberries, raspberries with whipped cream, and even just plain raspberries. One of my work assignments has been expanding the food and drink section of our fall/winter visitor’s magazine, and in doing so, I came across a recipe for a traditional Native American berry dish called Wojapi. It’s traditionally served with fry bread, something Tara knows how to make really well, so I’m thinking of giving that a go this weekend to use up more raspberries.

Too much fruit is a good problem to have IMO.

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Also, lots of deer in our backyard. I put up netting over the raspberry bushes and they haven’t touched those, so I don’t mind their presence. On a recent walk, I stumbled across these fellas on the Skyline Wilderness Trail near our house.

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I love wildlife.

I also love sunrises. I’ve got some nice ones on my morning walks, but with our rapidly-fading daylight, it’s going to be dark in the mornings soon. I’m savoring these while I can.

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That’s all I’ve got for now!

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!

A Dynamite Day

OK, now I’ve officially had a first full week of work, and my impression of the new job has only gotten better. There is so much fun and variety there! I went out into the community one day to interview the director of a local United Way reading program for an upcoming story. My supervisor also put me in touch with a 2nd Lieutenant from Ellsworth AFB for an article on the challenges military kids face growing up. I can’t think of a person more qualified to write that story than me! Then, on Friday, I got to meet the producer of “Napoleon Dynamite” and my boss took us on a team outing, treating us to  ice cream from Armadillo’s. It was pretty much the perfect day.

About the “Napoleon Dynamite” connection. Sean Covel is a South Dakota native who also happens to be a close friend of my boss. He lives in Deadwood currently and is looking for a new project. My boss says I should give him a copy of my book. Umm, dare to dream! He stopped by the office to drop off an autographed ND movie poster. I shook his hand and petted his dog. I’ve been around more canines these past two weeks than ever before, I swear. They are mostly well-behaved but there are occasional accidents (good thing we have concrete floors) and if you walk in with food, good luck trying to sneak it past the pups.

Once again, we had another interesting week weather-wise. It rained nonstop for about 48 hours Tuesday-Wednesday, and when it wasn’t raining, it snowed. We ended up with over 3″ of rain and a couple inches of wet snow. The ground is super saturated and area creeks and streams are running very high. Parts of the Black Hills got feet of snow and Mount Rushmore even closed down one day. That never happens. Saturday was sunny and warm, but there are showers and thunderstorms in the forecast the next couple of days and flood watches have been posted.

How’s your spring?

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Wednesday morning’s commute.

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Rapid Creek is running high.

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This is a walking/bike path.

Saturday was a busy day. A good chunk of it was spent mowing our lawn. Our closing is scheduled for June 4, but the backyard didn’t get that memo. A kind neighbor has been cutting our front yard (we owe them baked goods!), but out back, the grass was literally shin-high. Our realtor said we were free to cut the grass as we pleased, so we went to Lowe’s and bought a lawnmower yesterday.

The last time I mowed grass was waaayyy back in 2006, so it was kind of a novelty. Tara swears she enjoys it and was willing to do the whole lawn herself, but I was weirdly excited to share the chore. The grass was so thick and wet we ended up mowing the entire backyard twice, adjusting the height so we basically cut it in layers. The whole process took us a good two hours! But along the way a couple of our neighbors came over to introduce themselves – Peggy next door and Grandma Lynn across the street. They are both super nice! And, get this: we learned some more about Doris, the former owner who passed away in February.

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It’s a novelty now. Check back with me in a few months and I’ll let you know how I feel then.

The bottom line is this: Doris did, in fact, die in the house, just as we suspected. That doesn’t bother me so much, but Grandma Lynn told us one of her out-of-state children ended up finding her. I hope that doesn’t mean she was lying around, cold and lifeless, for days on end.

Maybe we don’t need any additional details.

In any case, Grandma Lynn was close with Doris. They were “walking buddies” who strolled around the neighborhood often. She told us that Doris was the original owner of the house, meaning she lived there for 46 years, and had planned on putting the house up for sale this spring anyway because she could no longer keep up with it. She’d been making arrangements to move into a retirement home but, alas, did not make it. Grandma Lynn was happy that Doris passed away in the home she loved so much.

All I know is, we’re burning lots of sage when we move in.

Today’s going to be another errand-filled day. We plan to look at furniture (but just look – we’d have nowhere to put anything we bought). Woke up to some thunder and lightning action early this morning and more is expected later, so it’s a good day to stay close to home anyway. Tomorrow is supposed to be pretty rainy and I’ve got blogs to write still.

Next weekend we have camping reservations. Fingers crossed that the weather is decent.

 

 

Week One Done

My first “week” at the new job is now in the can and I am loving every minute of it! I put week in parentheses because it was actually three days, but starting on a Wednesday had its perks. Namely the preceding long weekend.

More on the job in a second.

I wanted to take advantage of the extra days off, so on Monday I hiked Black Elk Peak. Second time I’ve done so since we moved here, and I couldn’t help but marvel over how much things have changed since my trek to the peak last July. That first hike coincided with our one-month anniversary in South Dakota, Tara was about to start a new job, I was still freelancing full-time, and we had exactly one year left on our apartment lease. This time around, I reflected on how much we have thrived since moving here. These first 11 months (yes, it’s been that long already!) have been very good to us. Tara has a job she enjoys so much she actually looks forward to going to work; we are in the process of buying a house; I am debt-free and just started my own dream job. We hoped moving to Rapid City would be a good decision. In retrospect, it has actually exceeded our own wildest expectations.

Tuesday wasn’t nearly as exciting – unless you are the type of person who enjoys hanging out and watching a plumber do a sewer scope on your new property. At least I got to spend some more time in our new house. The irises in our backyard are in full bloom now and look beautiful!

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Not so beautiful? The video of the sewer scope. I’m grateful for the YouTube link (I guess?), but if I never see a hose snaking 80′ through a sewer pipe again, I won’t complain. There is one potential future issue thanks to a rogue lilac in the front yard, but nothing we need to address immediately. Everything is on schedule with the purchase; we got the appraisal back on Wednesday and not only are we on track to close on time, but the sellers are actually wondering if we’d consider an early closing. We can’t do anything until I get my first paycheck from EGMRC on the 31st, but we’re down for closing after that if we can. It just gives us more time to start tearing down wallpaper and painting. We expect to have flooring estimates back sometime next week.

Knock on wood and everything, but do home purchases ever go this smoothly?!

Wednesday was my first day at EGMRC, and I will admit, I was a bundle of nerves. I think that’s pretty much par for the course anytime you start a new job. Fear of the unknown and all that. But within minutes of walking through the front door, I felt right at home. They had my workstation all set up and were configuring my computer. I got a tour of the office, filled out paperwork, and was set loose. I ended up proofing/editing the upcoming summer issue of our parenting magazine and knocked out an article, too. That’s the nice thing about being a writer: there isn’t a steep learning curve. I was happy to start contributing immediately.

About those workstations: they’re just about the coolest things ever. I liken them to cubicles on wheels; they’re partially enclosed for privacy, and because all the electrical outlets are ceiling-mounted, you can roll them around anywhere you’d like.

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Other cool things about the office: the exposed brick, the wall of glass windows, the conference room made out of a shipping container, and the popcorn machine. Yeah…I’m totally digging this place.

The first half of the week was pretty warm. Our high on Wednesday was 85º! After work, a brief but rather intense line of thunderstorms rolled through. The clouds looked wicked and otherworldly.

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Then yesterday, a really strong thunderstorm moved through downtown right around lunchtime. It was right on top of us at one point because a bright flash of lightning was followed immediately by a resulting thunderclap so loud the building shook and the lights flickered. Wild stuff. One other thing about EGMRC: they are a very dog-friendly office. The owner and several employees bring their dogs in every day (on Thursday, there were six of them – and there are only nine employees). Those poor dogs were freaked out by the thunder yesterday.

After work we stopped by Paddy O’Neill’s for drinks and a bite to eat. The rest of the weekend will be pretty low-key by design. This will likely be our last non-busy weekend for the rest of the summer. Tara is working for a few hours this morning, but then we are going to watch movies and hang out at home. The weather has, once again, taken a dramatic turn; it is rainy and only in the low 40s today. There is even more snow in the forecast, though it shouldn’t amount to anything. Some spots in the Black Hills might see a few inches.

That’s all the happenings for now!

An Ode to Doris

I have become obsessed with learning all I can about the woman whose house we are buying. Fortunately, in this day and age, info is pretty easy to come by. Googling her name brought up her obituary and a whole lot of info. Here’s what we know: Doris was 79 when she passed away on February 10. She was a lifelong Rapid City resident, a teacher, and a respected artist renowned for her pottery. She also apparently baked a mean gingerbread cookie. Guests left comments on her online obit, including this gem:

Doris was our neighbor for 39 years. She will be missed. We watched our children grow up together with the band of other neighborhood children, and took joy in seeing grandchildren perched on the “giant rocks” in Doris’ backyard as their parents had before them. We know that Doris has found the peace that she shared with us every day as we looked upon the beauty and tranquility of her garden.

I feel like we have big shoes to fill. More than one person mentioned the backyard and those rocks. They are a prominent feature; I even asked the inspector about them last week. He said they most likely were dug up out of the ground when the basement was being built. Considering she lived there for four decades, I’m sure the house has all kinds of her energy in there. I will admit, I was trying to find out if she died on the property. I found no evidence either way, but if I’m really curious I can always check the county clerk’s office for her death certificate, which lists where a person expires. I do know that she is buried in the cemetery adjacent to the neighborhood. We’ll have to pay our respects one day. Also, if I can ever get my hands on a piece of her pottery, I would love to have that in the house as an ode to Doris.

Meanwhile, we continue to experience odd events around the apartment. Friday night, for instance, the TV downstairs turned on by itself in the middle of the night. I only know this because I woke up at 1:30 and heard voices in the living room. Freaked me out pretty good. Tara suspects Sydney might have accidentally stepped on the remote control and powered the television on. This is a perfectly plausible scenario.

Or would be, if she weren’t sleeping in our bed with us that night.

So, we are joking that it’s Doris. We don’t really believe the deceased owner of the house we are buying is hanging around us all of a sudden, but it’s interesting that these events  (the TV and lamp coming on by themselves, loud banging noises in the empty kitchen) started happening as soon as we made an offer on the place.


After venturing out of town the past two weekends we were hoping for a quieter, more relaxing one this time around, but we needed to get flooring and carpeting picked out because our estimated closing date of June 7 will be here in no time. So we ended up visiting several home improvement and flooring stores and finally found things we liked at Lowe’s.

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We ended up choosing bamboo flooring for the living room, kitchen, and hallway; vinyl sheeting for the bathrooms; and new carpeting for the bedrooms. (We aren’t changing a thing in the basement!) We definitely wanted hardwood, and not only was bamboo the most reasonably priced, but my research shows it’s very durable and is an especially good choice for pets. So, bamboo it is! Lowe’s will be setting up an appointment to take measurements before giving us an estimate. We have a rough idea of what it will cost but are curious to see the final numbers. It sounds like the timing will work out well; they said it’ll take around 4-6 weeks for the contractors to do the installation, which would give us time to strip the wallpaper and paint first.

After all that running around, we dropped in to Murphy’s Pub & Grill for a celebratory dinner. We toasted to my new job, our new house, and Doris in the same place where we made that fateful (and very smart) decision 19 months ago to roll the dice and move to Rapid City. It seemed both appropriate and full-circle.

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The buffalo meatloaf was featured on the Travel Channel and is pretty legendary.

Today, I decided to explore the hiking trails in the hills above our neighborhood. The trailhead is a five-minute jaunt from our front door, and it connects to the entire network of Skyline Wilderness trails that offer great views of the Black Hills to the west, downtown to the east, and the vast prairie. We can even walk to Dinosaur Park from our house. This hiking nerd could not be happier.

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View from the trail in our neighborhood. Our house is somewhere in the center of this photo.

Speaking of, I plan to hike Black Elk Peak – the highest point east of the Rockies – tomorrow. I want to take advantage of my two extra days of freedom before starting my new job. Tara warned me not to fall off a cliff, and I assured her I would be careful. (This particular trail doesn’t traverse any particularly steep precipices, so I’ll be fine.) I told her yeah, that would really suck for you. She replied, it would suck for you even more.

Touché.

 

All Shish, No Kebab

One year ago, when we were just beginning the onerous task of preparing for our big move and South Dakota was this great, exciting unknown, I learned about chislic and other regional food favorites of the Midwest. Chislic is simply deep fried cubes of meat, liberally seasoned with garlic salt and other spices. It is traditionally served on toothpicks and accompanied by Saltine crackers. Think of it as a shish kebab that is all shish, no kebab. While its origins are open to debate, most believe GermanRussian emigrants in southeastern South Dakota – some pinpoint Freeman, and have christened a 30-mile radius around the town “Chislic Circle” – are to thank for the dish, which has become an icon of South Dakota. Lamb, beef, and venison are the meat of choice. “Shashlyk” is a popular dish of cubed meat originating in the Crimea region of Russia, so it seems reasonable that this is what evolved into the beloved regional delicacy few people outside of South Dakota have even heard of.

The South Dakota State Legislature passed Senate Bill 96 in 2018, making chislic the official state nosh.

I’m all about trying regional cuisines, and was eager to sample chislic when we moved here. It didn’t take me long to find it, either. Despite claims that chislic is confined to East River – local slang for the area east of the Missouri River, i.e., eastern South Dakota – it’s pretty readily available in the western part of the state. I’ve had the pleasure of trying about half a dozen versions since moving, and I’ve gotta say, I’m a fan. It’s hard to go wrong with fried cubes of meat!

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You might notice in this photo that the meat is not skewered. Only once have I had it served with toothpicks (and it has never been accompanied by crackers, Saltines or otherwise). Out in West River, restaurants usually serve chislic with a side of dipping sauce – often a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. And the meat has always been beef. Sometimes it’s breaded, other times it’s naked. The only thing consistent across the board? It’s always delicious. The photo above was, hands down, my favorite. The meat was so tender it practically melted in your mouth and was perfectly seasoned. This plate didn’t come with any sort of dipping sauce and it didn’t need it. Hats off to The Gaslight Saloon in Rockerville for dishing up my favorite chislic (so far, anyway). Thirsty’s in Rapid City is a close second, and Jake’s Good Time Place in Pierre (technically East River) was both tasty and skewered, so bonus points for them. Regardless, I haven’t had a bad dish of chislic yet. My next goal is to make a homemade version.


We’ve enjoyed a fine stretch of spring weather the past few days. It’s been in the 70s, comfortable enough to stroll around without long sleeves. After the winter we just had, that’s a novelty. We took advantage on Saturday by hiking to the top of Buzzard’s Roost. It’s a great spot with breathtaking views of the Black Hills, located just five miles west of town.

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By late afternoon dark storm clouds were piling up to the west and we were treated to our first thunder and lightning of the year. Nothing major, and most of it stayed to the north, but it marks the beginning of storm-chasing season. One of my favorites!

Oh, and speaking of storms…

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Yeah. Winter isn’t quite finished with us yet.

Periwinkle is a Moose

Tara was looking at houses on Realtor.com last night (her favorite pastime) and showed me one that caught her fancy. The following conversation ensued.

“I love the periwinkle walls!” she said.
“WTF is periwinkle?” I asked.
“It’s a shade of blue.”
“Why not call it blue then?”
“Because it’s not quite blue. It’s sort of violet, too.”
“I’m okay with calling it blue-violet. Periwinkle sounds like a cartoon moose.”

At this point she just rolled her eyes at me. Another favorite pastime, come to think of it.

It’s going to be fun when we start looking at paint samples. She’ll be on the hunt for juniper and lemongrass, and I’ll be like, “Got anything in green?”

Are we painting walls or gathering ingredients to brew a cup of tea?


It’s another snowy, blustery, hovering-near-zero day. A year ago, when I was imagining what it would be like to experience winter in South Dakota, this is exactly the type of day I pictured. I’m not complaining – instead of doing something crazy like going outside in this weather, I just closed my office door and read my Kindle over lunch. However, I wish there had been more days like this when I was working from home. The snow is beautiful and peaceful, but venturing out is a bitch when it’s this frigid. First, you’ve got to brush snow and/or scrape ice from your windshield. Then, you turn the heater on full blast, but it doesn’t warm up your car until right about the time you’re pulling into the parking lot at work. That’s the drawback to a 12-minute commute, I suppose. At least Tara and I can carpool on days like this.

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The view from my office today.

Hard to believe it’s only going to get colder the next couple of days. -12° tonight with a wind chill pushing 40 below zero. Day-um.

It’s also hard to believe our high temperature on Saturday was 63°. What did we do to take advantage of the rare, springlike warmth, you might ask? We, umm, went hiking in the Black Hills. Where it was twenty degrees colder and windy.

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This is why we willingly left behind 60°+ temps on Saturday.

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Frozen Pactola Reservoir.

But, you know, we’ll have warm weather again. May is practically right around the corner!


Last week the Rapid City Public Library held a scavenger hunt. They hid 10 vouchers for free Rapid City Rush hockey tickets throughout the library, and posted clues on their Facebook page. I love a good scavenger hunt and we have had fun at the Rush games we’ve attended, so I studied the hints very carefully and got there right when they opened on Friday morning. I am fortunate to work a block away.

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Sure enough, I found the voucher I was looking for easily enough. I ended up being the first winner of the day! And then Tara was #7, thanks to some additional sleuthing on my part. I knew the location of a third ticket as well, but I didn’t want to monopolize the whole thing! Plus, you were limited to one per person, anyway. So, we can now redeem our vouchers for two free tickets to a Rush game of our choosing. They’re about a $30 value each. Not bad for a few minutes’ work, huh?

Thanks for Nothing!

Holy crap. I haven’t written a blog post since LAST YEAR! I apologize for being so remiss in my duties.

I’m happy to report I survived my first week back in the trenches of Corporate America unscathed. Unlike back in August, I didn’t go bolting for the door in a mad panic this time, wondering what I’d gotten myself into. I have the government shutdown to thank for that; with all the federal agencies we contract with shuttered at the moment, there are no projects to bid on. Which, honestly, is a relief to me. I need time to build templates and work on revising/rewriting a lot of material before the shit hits the fan. Which it will, I am told, once the Feds are open for business again. My boss says we can expect a flood of proposals about three weeks after the government is back in session, so I am enjoying the peace and quiet while I can.

No regrets on choosing this job, either. I like my 8-5 schedule and having a private office and carpooling with Tara and exploring downtown on my lunch hours. Last week I spent one break reading in the library, a mere two blocks from the office; another day I walked along the path that follows Rapid Creek from Memorial Park to Founders’ Park and back, about a three-mile jaunt; and on Friday, I wandered around the biggest and most impressive vintage/antiques shop I have ever set foot in. I ended up buying some metal signs and old South Dakota license plates, which I hung on my office walls in lieu of fancy artwork. It’s a very manly display, if I do say so myself! Never mind that my knowledge of cars is limited to topping off the windshield washer fluid when it gets low. Oh, and I can pump gas like a pro! So there is that.

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In any case, there is plenty to do between 12-1:00. When I was there in August I drove home for lunch most days, but why spend almost half your lunch hour in the car when there is so much to do downtown? I think back to the job I turned down, and how I’d have been cooped up in the office for nine or ten hours straight every day and always on call, and there is no doubt in my mind I made the right decision.

Yesterday we drove up to Sylvan Lake with every intention of hiking the closed-to-vehicles Needles Highway, but eight steps across the parking lot, Tara slipped and took a hard fall on the ice. She’s fine – her ego (and knee) are a little bruised, but she’ll live. Suffice it to say, we called off the hike. I was ready to call it a day at that point, but she insisted I at least walk around the lake so the drive up there wasn’t a complete waste. I’m glad I did, because the scenery was beautiful and the lake was frozen solid, covered in snow that was almost knee-deep in places. I ended up walking nearly to the middle, just to say I could.

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On the way home, we stopped into a bar and grill in Hill City for a bite to eat. We’d been there a couple of times before and always received excellent service, plus the food is really good, but for some reason the entire staff completely ignored us, never even acknowledging our presence. I was beginning to wonder if we might have inadvertently discovered invisibility, especially when one of the bartenders walked right by us (we hadn’t even been given menus yet) and struck up a lengthy conversation with a regular in the stool next to mine. We’d finally had enough of that nonsense and got up to leave. On the way to the door, one of the servers called out cheerfully, “Thanks for stopping by!” Was she joking?! Tara turned to her and replied, much less cheerfully, “Thanks for nothing!” Which was a little mortifying but also pretty funny. I’ll give them another chance because they make the best Bloody Mary in the Black Hills, but they’d better be on their game next time.

We stopped instead at Prairie Berry Winery. Their cafe serves excellent sandwiches, and we ordered cocktails. Well, to be technical, one of us had a craft beer on tap and the other got a cranberry cinnamon wine spritzer.

Please don’t make me tell you who ordered what…

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