Gift Horse(s)

My muscles are aching like crazy today. Wish I could say it’s the result of some super manly act like chopping wood or changing the spark plugs on my car rebuilding the engine on my car, but no such luck. It’s an ice-skating injury.

To be fair, I had never before taken to the ice (whiskey on the rocks notwithstanding). But the skating rink on Main Street Square was too enticing to pass up, so we tried it out last night. Because I have zero coordination I stuck with one of the walkers they supply for free and have no shame about that.skating

It was a total blast, though! There was a rather steep learning curve just trying to figure out how to push off the ice and get moving, but once I mastered that, I was amazed at how my feet and hips automatically fell into a groove and knew what to do. Lap after lap, I was in the zone; the act of skating became almost mechanical in nature and addictive. As tired and winded as I was – ice-skating is hard work, yo! – I couldn’t bring myself to stop. It was almost therapeutic.

Afterwards, my legs felt like jelly walking down a flight of stairs and I had to grip onto the railing for dear life. I’m paying the price today, but it’s nothing a few Aleve won’t fix. I’ll give myself the day off from walking and should be right as rain tomorrow.

Tara was a little less enthused over the whole experience than me. Says she prefers roller-skating. Having never done that either, I can’t compare the two. But I hope to go again, I know that much.


Last week was most interesting. I am still trying to wrap my head around the events that transpired.

It all started with an interview on Tuesday. I’d applied for a position with a local news affiliate to produce digital content. It sounded like a great opportunity and one I was perfectly qualified for, so when they called me for an interview, I was thrilled. Our initial meeting went so well they asked for references immediately after and contacted them that afternoon. The next day they called me back for a second interview and offered me the job on the spot. Amazing, right?!

I told them I’d think about it.

Before you accuse me of taking leave of my senses, there’s a lot more to the story. I’ve mentioned that I’m doing a few freelance projects for a company I’ll call PSI for the past couple of months. They are the same ones who offered me a F/T position as a Technical Writer back in August after a four-day trial period. I actually turned down the job because it was a super stressful week and I wasn’t sure that proposals and government contracts were my cup of tea. Within two days, I regretted that decision. Felt like I’d looked a gift horse in the mouth. Because I’d been offered a decent-paying writing job in Rapid City. Who doesn’t grab onto an opportunity like that?! Apparently I felt so bad about my decision, I didn’t even mention it on my blog until two months later. I did eventually tell PSI a couple of weeks later I should have accepted their offer, but by then it was long off the table and I spent the rest of the summer kicking myself. So, when PSI offered me a two-month project with Special Olympics of South Dakota, I was pretty excited. It included some marketing work for them, as well. They set up an office and computer for me and asked if I would come in once a week to work from there, so they could get a better idea of my working style. And that is exactly what I have been doing since mid-October.

Honestly, I suspected this might be their way of offering me a second chance, an extended trial period in which I could digest sufficient crow and get back into their good graces. I did say in my October post, If this happens to lead to something permanent, I’ll be thrilled.

Back to Wednesday. When the news affiliate offered me the job on the spot, I asked if I could take a day to think it over. I wanted to give PSI an opportunity to respond, if they were so inclined.

They were so inclined. Said they wanted to bring me on F/T and asked what it would take to keep me. What have you got? I replied. They ended up making me a nice counteroffer and, after a few hours’ deliberation, I accepted. The news gig would have been the sexier of the two, but there were some negatives. Breaking news does not follow an 8 to 5 schedule; I would have been on-call virtually all the time. With a company-issued smartphone and laptop, this is true, but then I’d have to carry around two phones in my pocket all the time, and that would have physically weighed me down. Mentally, too; I didn’t like the idea of being out hiking, or enjoying cocktails somewhere, and having my phone go off with a message saying, You won’t believe the shit Trump just did now! Get this posted stat! Another downside: there are no holidays in the world of broadcast journalism. They are open on Christmas Day. And Memorial Day. The Fourth of July. Hell, they are even open on Arbor Day! And as low man on the totem pole with no vacation time for a year, guess who’d be marching into the newsroom on those days while everybody else was off opening gifts or barbecuing or planting seeds? Yep.

But the story isn’t quite over, because the news guys wanted to know if there was any way they could change my mind with a counteroffer of their own. Said they were very impressed with me and would hate to miss out on what I could bring to the team.

Just…wow, huh?

It’s nice to feel so wanted! Merry Christmas to me.

I’m sticking with PSI, though. It’s the better choice for many reasons. My first day will be January 2nd.

And, I’ll still be able to continue my freelance writing for Fuel. This goes a long way toward helping us meet our goal of buying a house next summer.


We’re looking forward to our first Christmas in South Dakota. Being far away from family means an end to the usual traditions, such as our Russian Christmas Eve at my aunt’s house, so we’re just going to have to come up with our own brand-new traditions. Which is why we’re having ham on Christmas day instead of prime rib.

We were hoping for a white Christmas, but it looks like we’re just barely going to miss out. They’re predicting snow beginning Christmas night around 11:00. Figures! It’ll be nice to see again. After our big storm on December 1st it’s been dry and warm. 20 degrees above average for the past two weeks. Looks like winter is finally ready to return!

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Meat and Catch-Up

I haven’t written a proper post in what seems like ages – photos of fall foliage and snow do not count – so this is an opportunity for a little catch-up! Forgive me if I jump around from topic to topic. I feel like I have a little bit to say about a lot of things.

Lessons I Learned from Our Early Season Snowfalls

Two big takeaways from our recent bout with winter-like weather:

  1. When it’s snowy, icy, or below freezing, you have to calculate extra time when making plans. Because you’ve got to scrape ice and/or sweep snow from your windshield and set the defroster to high if you want to be able to see while driving. I don’t know about you, but I find this helps prevent accidents. Speaking of scraping ice…
  2. The windshield isn’t the only thing that requires attention. We were headed out to a comedy show in Rapid City Saturday night and it took me several blocks to figure out why my headlights were barely penetrating the snowy darkness: they were coated in snow and ice. So, I had to pull over to the side of the road and take care of that.

It’s little things like these that never even crossed my mind living in the temperate PNW. On the rare occasions when it snowed in Vancouver, I certainly didn’t venture out in it. I won’t have that luxury living here, which is why I volunteered to drive us into town during our unexpected snowstorm Saturday night. I figured I’m going to have to get used to it anyway, so I might as well jump right in. Luckily, my Mazda handled the weather just fine. I could pretend I didn’t white-knuckle it the whole way, but why lie?

Also: I really want a Jeep Cherokee. But that’s another post. One that I can ignore for a while since today was sunny and 71 degrees.

Crazy Horse Progress is Measured in Inches

My favorite joke during the Saturday night comedy show went  something like this: They say the sun is going to explode in five billion years, which means they’re going to have to finish carving Crazy Horse in the dark.

The Crazy Horse Memorial, if you aren’t familiar with it, is a mountain carving honoring an Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse. The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is proceeding at a glacial pace, probably because it’s a non-profit undertaking and the Ziolkowski family refuses to take any federal or state funds. They rely solely on entrance fees, gift shop purchases, and private contributions. Hats off to them, but this thing won’t be finished in my lifetime. Or my kids’.

These photos show what Crazy Horse looked like when I visited in 2011, and again, last week.

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Hard to see any real progress. Some of the trees are a little taller, though.

This is what it’s going to look like when it’s finished:

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Crazy Horse Memorial, circa 2238

Discovering Chislic

Months before moving here, I wrote about chislic, a regional dish of cubed red meat (traditionally lamb, though beef or venison may be substituted) and South Dakota’s official state food. It is often served with toothpicks and accompanied by Saltine crackers and hot sauce.IMAG6950.jpg

Sounds weird, huh? Here’s the thing: it’s really good. Which shouldn’t be a surprise. I mean, it’s fried meat. Unless you’re a vegetarian, which I am most certainly not, what”s not to love?!

I’ve had it a couple of times now, and have yet to see either Saltines or toothpicks. Mine have always come with French fries, which makes the purist in me unhappy because it feels like my experience is a little less authentic. I haven’t had hot sauce either, come to think of it, but one place in Hill City served it with barbecue sauce and that was a pretty damn good substitute.

Though it’s more common in east river, chislic is pretty readily available around these parts, too. I intend to research the matter carefully and find the best in the west, so to speak.

I also want to make it myself and will probably try this recipe.

A Random Photo I Haven’t Posted Anywhere

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Deerfield Reservoir

The Freelance Lifestyle

I’m really diggin’ the freelance lifestyle for a couple of reasons, the biggest being the freedom to work anywhere at any time. I’m fortunate to have a steady supply of work from my former employer, and because I know the industry and topics inside and out, I usually bang it out in two days. That leaves me a lot of free time to go exploring. I try to work from a coffee shop one day a week, just to get me out of the apartment. I find that I like having a little structure, and it feels more like a real job if I have to actually get dressed and drive somewhere.

Having said that, a full-time job would be ideal because as nice as it is being an independent contractor, the benefits leave much to be desired. Probably because they’re non-existent. A couple of months ago I was offered a job as a technical writer for a local Rapid City company, and after a four-day trial period…turned it down. Umm, what?! I didn’t feel like it was a good fit at the time, but soon after had major regrets.

Now, that same company has procured my services (as a contractor) to assist in several projects that should last through the holidays. They’ve even given me an office and computer to use and only ask me to come in for a few hours a couple of times a week. It’s kind of the best of both worlds, actually. A steady paycheck (on top of another steady paycheck) without the ol’ 9 to 5 drudgery. Having said that, if this happens to lead to something permanent, I’ll be thrilled. But if not, it’s great experience and gives me more to add to my resume and portfolio.

Tara, by the way, is happy with her job. She didn’t particularly want to remain in the mortgage industry, but this position is far less demanding, which means far less stressful. She doesn’t dread going to work in the morning, which is something we should all aspire to, you know?

And, because happy wife = happy life, all is good in this hood.

One More Random (and Really Wide) Pic Before I Go

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Why I love it here, Part 37.