Objects in the Mirror

I had a traumatic incident today as I was headed home for lunch. It’s a warm day, so I had my car windows open. A wasp viewed this as an invitation to fly inside. While I was driving.

Oh, hell no.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep your eyes on the road while simultaneously staring into the rearview mirror, tracking every movement of an insect with a sharp stinger flying around the back seat?! The damn thing looked like it was hovering near the back passenger window, but then I remembered that objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear and freaked out all over again.

I’m pretty sure the only reason I didn’t end up in a ditch on the side of the road is because I was driving through downtown, where there’s nary a ditch to be found. Amazingly, I managed to keep my wits about me (meaning I didn’t scream like a little girl). Instead, I calmly slid open the power moonroof and started singing “Born Free” to encourage the wasp to exit my vehicle. Either that or I yelled, “Get the f!ck out of here!” To be honest, it’s all kind of a blur.

I hate it when you spot a bug in close proximity and then lose sight of it. One is never more aware of one’s own skin until one believes a bug is crawling over said skin. I swear I felt it land on me half a dozen times over the course of two miles, but I’m sure this was nothing more than my imagination.

Damn you, imagination! ‘Cause that was the longest eight-minute drive of my life.

By the time I pulled into the driveway, the wasp was gone. Either that, or hiding so it could torment me on the way back to the office.

So, yeah. It’s warm today. Pushing-80-degrees warm. You’d never know we had 6” of snow one week ago.

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Our tree lost all its leaves in 18 hours.

Naturally, the storm blew in right around the time I was playing staff photographer and doing a photoshoot for a groundbreaking ceremony downtown. It was cold and windy and spitting snow, and even though the event took place inside a tent, it felt like that might blow away at any moment. Fortunately, it didn’t, and my pictures turned out pretty good. My favorite part was hearing one of the city council members reading my executive proclamation out loud to the crowd. Pretty sure I had goosebumps the size of Cadillacs on my arms. Not that I could feel them ‘cause I was numb from the cold.

Fortunately, the worst of the storm held off until nighttime. The next morning, we awoke to a winter wonderland. On October 10. What can I say? Fall is the shortest season of all around these parts. I bounced up and down excitedly like a kid in a candy store…

…until I remembered that I actually had to shovel the stuff now.

That took a solid 45 minutes because we have a pretty good-sized driveway and decent stretch of sidewalk. I mentioned to Tara months ago that we might want to invest in a snowblower, and now I’m more convinced than ever that would be money well spent.

In any case, the snow’s all gone now, other than a few slushy piles in parking lots. I’m happy to report that autumn is back.

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Fall foliage at Horse Thief Lake.

But probably not for long.

The other big event last week was my company’s Raw Couture fashion show. It’s an annual event in which models wear edgy costumes made from raw materials that reflect the businesses sponsoring them, as well as the theme. This was our third year putting it on, and it’s growing more popular every time. The theme was “Forgotten Toys,” so we had a lot of really cool and slightly creepy costumes.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, since this was my first go-round; my job as “runner” sounded fairly generic. In the end, I was tasked with corralling the models, making sure they had their photos taken, lined up where they were supposed to, etc. It may sound glamorous, but…

Yeah. Not gonna lie. It actually was pretty fun. And revealing, in more ways than one. My only regret is that I remained backstage the whole time, so I didn’t actually get to see the show. But Tara was in the audience and enjoyed it very much.

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Me and the work crew.

Maybe next year I’ll get to do something where I can actually watch it myself.

 

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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.

Revolving Door

We’ve had a revolving door of houseguests over the past four weeks. I feel so popular!

Following my FIL’s visit the first weekend in August, my MIL and nephew came up for a few days. They drove the 1,200 miles from Tacoma to Rapid City, which I can tell you from personal experience is quite the haul. Once again we played tour guide, taking them to the usual hotspots – Mount Rushmore, Custer Wildlife Loop, downtown Rapid City.

Anthony loved the dinosaurs almost as much as my blogging friend, Jess Witkins!

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Come to think of it, so did I…

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It was a pretty nice visit. All of our guests have been very impressed with western South Dakota and really like our house. You could call these visits soul-affirming, even though we already knew we made a great move!

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I was especially excited to see my parents, because – well, they’re my parents! And it had been 11 months since we’d seen each other. I’m pretty sure that’s the longest I’ve gone in my adult life without seeing them.

They arrived Thursday morning, and I was able to take Friday off to spend some time with them. In addition to seeing the local sights—Prairie Berry Winery, Crazy Horse, Pactola Reservoir—we have been enjoying lots of time on the patio. Evenings have been spent talking, drinking wine, listening to music, barbecuing, playing corn hole, and dodging mosquitoes. Not in that order. The weather has been perfect; temperatures have been mild and, so far, we haven’t had any thunderstorms.

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A fun thing happened yesterday. Our doorbell rang, and when we opened the front door, there was Doris’s daughter Kristi and her new husband Troy. We had spoken to her over the phone a few weeks ago and invited her to stop by when she was in town.

Kristi grew up in our house and you could tell it was a very emotional experience for her to be back inside. She approved of the cosmetic changes we made upstairs and was thrilled that we kept the basement the same. We learned a few more interesting facts about the house and what it was like for Kristi and her brothers growing up in the neighborhood, and we let her dig up several of the dwarf irises her great-great-great-great grandmother transplanted from Norway. She’d told us she regretted not taking any, so now she can plant some in her garden in Connecticut. They’re a very nice couple, about my age, and we told them they have an open invitation to stop by any time they are visiting Rapid City.

I’m glad she got to see the house. I still recall my road trip to Dayton, Ohio in 2011 and my own (failed) attempt to visit my childhood home. I know what a thrill it is and would never deny her the opportunity! Upon leaving, Kristi said she is happy we bought her mom’s house and is grateful that we are honoring her legacy so much.

Gotta run. We have some errands today, including picking up a new stand-up freezer—a generous housewarming gift from my parents. We’re zipping down to Fort Collins next weekend to stock up on items from Trader Joe’s and now I can stuff that bad boy with chile lime chicken burgers and steel-cut frozen oats to my heart’s content. We’re headed out to dinner tonight, and then Tara and I have to go back to work tomorrow. My parents will be here until Wednesday. But they’re talking about coming back in October, so I’m pretty sure I won’t have to wait so long to see them this time around.

I really have to brush up on my corn hole skills though, because my dad has been kicking my ass.

 

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!

I Am Not a Crook

Years ago, I created a Google alert. Any time my name is mentioned on the internet, I get an email with a link to the article. I did this so long ago I’d actually forgotten all about it, so I was pretty surprised when I received an alert on Saturday. I clicked on the article and was devastated to learn that I had been charged with one count of burglary after a break-in at a bar and restaurant in Barnsley, England, in which cash and alcohol were stolen.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like cash and alcohol, and I imagine England is a pretty nice country. But I’ve never been there, and in the words of Richard Milhous Nixon, I am not a crook. I was immediately offended. How dare this impostor sully my good name! I’m an honest, law-abiding citizen, just minding my own business. And now some lowly two-bit British wanker is trying to ruin my reputation by ruining his reputation. The nerve.

I hope this other Mark P. at least had the good taste to abscond with a quality whiskey. And I hope the Barnsley Magistrate Court throws the book at him. If the guy goes on a crime spree, I’m going to be getting an awful lot of Google alerts in my In Box, and I’d rather not deal with that!

On a more positive note, the flooring guys finally finished up with the installation. They laid down the baseboard trim and covered up their carpeting snafu with extra bamboo. Both of those look really good. Not so good? The gouges they left in the kitchen floor from dragging the fridge across it, but that’s another story.

Our first official houseguests arrive this Friday – Tara’s dad and his girlfriend. We tried to talk them into visiting any time other than during the Sturgis Rally, but their schedule is pretty full, so it was either now or later next year. Oh, well – they have been warned! We’re pretty excited to show off our new home regardless.

Last night, we had the pleasure of meeting up with a blogging friend. Jess and her husband, Joe, are in Rapid City for a couple of days and wanted to get together. We have been reading each other for something like eight years now, but they live in Wisconsin, so the odds of ever meeting in person were slim. Until we moved to South Dakota, that is!

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We had a really nice time and enjoyed their company immensely. They are down-to-earth Midwesterners through and through, very friendly and easygoing, with a penchant for good beer (they are from Wisconsin, after all) and corny jokes. We met at Thirsty’s for dinner and drinks, taking advantage of a warm summer evening to sit out on the patio, and chatted the hours away. Afterward, we ducked into Press Start, Rapid’s old-school video arcade, for some gaming. We really wanted to stay longer, but alas, it was a school night and work beckoned for me and Tara today. We didn’t want to stay up half the night and end up dragging the next day, but – irony alert! – we ended up staying up half the night when a spectacular line of severe thunderstorms rolled through around 1:30 in the morning. The nonstop lightning, heavy rain, and very strong winds made sleep impossible for a couple of hours.

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Not a great shot at all, but this was the view from our bedroom window at 2 a.m.

As Midwesterners, I’m sure Jess and Joe are used to this type of weather anyway.

Here are some pics from my work-sponsored hiking adventure last Thursday. Told you this was my dream job!

The Buck Stops Here

Oh, Deer

We have learned just how abundant deer are in the neighborhood. I see them every morning when I’m out walking. Sometimes, we don’t even need to leave the house! We were playing cribbage and listening to records in the basement Friday night when Tara went upstairs to grab a beer. She saw this buck in the backyard, so she got her camera and very stealthily opened the back door to take a few pics. Turns out there was no need to be sneaky, because this fella wasn’t the least bit concerned over our presence. I ended up within about 15 feet of him and he barely batted an eye.

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I know we should be chasing them away. Deer and gardens don’t mix. They’ve already eaten out hostas. But the problem is, they’re so damn cute – and it’s a novelty having them. So, we bought deer netting and I secured that over our raspberry bushes. Now that they are ripening and we’ve been able to taste their juicy sweetness, there is no way I’m going to treat the neighborhood wildlife to a free buffet. They’re so good, they almost make me forget all about the amazing PNW berries we can no longer get.

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Kamikaze Flight Path

Speaking of wildlife, we have learned that the picture window in our living room is a magnet for birds. In the short time we have been in the house, four birds have flown into it kamikaze-like. Apparently they see the reflection of sky and trees and assume they have a clear flight path. Next thing you know, there’s a loud “thud” and the birds either fly off in a daze or never fly again. It’s sad and a little disturbing, so I’ve looked into possible solutions. Window decals, wind chimes, or shutters would help, but I’m not sure any of these are options for us. It’s a weird problem to have.

Goodbye, # 12

Slowly but surely, we are settling into our house. We had our final walk-through with the leasing agent for our apartment today, after spending last weekend getting it all cleaned up. It felt weird going back there for the first time in 10 days; it might have still technically been ours, but it sure didn’t feel like home anymore. I noticed for the first time just how tight the living quarters were; it’s amazing how you don’t really feel like you’re living in a cramped space until you actually have some room in which to stretch out. I felt very unmotivated and a little bitter over having to give up part of a weekend cleaning a place that was no longer ours, but midway through wearing my fingers to a nub scrubbing caked-on grease from the stove, I started to focus on the excitement we felt when we first moved in 13 months ago and everything was brand new. That helped. As far as apartment complexes go this one wasn’t too bad, super thin walls notwithstanding. It served its purpose and was a good transient home while we settled into a new city and state, found jobs, and bought a house.

But I sure was happy to hand over the keys this afternoon.

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Impromptu Visit to a National Monument

After all that hard work on Saturday, we chilled on the patio. Grilled up some ribeye steaks and corn on the cob and kicked back with wine and beer. We even let Sydney roam around the backyard for a bit. She’s been strictly an indoor cat for 13 years, so this was a real novelty to her. I was paranoid to let her get more than a few feet away from me, but she was pretty well-behaved and seemed to enjoy the adventure.

The weather was very pleasant that day, so we decided to break in the chiminea, but we didn’t have decent kindling so the fire wasn’t really getting started. Tara turned to me and said, “Hey, wanna go to Mount Rushmore?” We actually hadn’t been to the monument since moving here; our last visit was during our road trip in October, 2017 (plus the hundred-odd times I went as a kid). We’d been wanting to see it illuminated at night, so we hopped in the truck and 25 minutes later found ourselves gazing up in wonder at the Shrine of Democracy. It really is an awe-inspiring sight and gets to me every time. I am so thankful that we can do spur-of-the-moment things like visiting a national memorial, which is less than half an hour from our front door.

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Well, It’s Not All Roses

Not everything is a bed of roses (and even if it were, the deer would probably eat them). We have been going through hell trying to get the contractors to finish installing the hardwood floors, and the latch on the door leading to the garage jammed over the weekend, necessitating a call to a locksmith. It feels like we’ve been unpacking forever, but there is still a seemingly endless pile of boxes and bags taking up half the basement. And we haven’t had a chance to truly relax, with no immediate pressing needs, in months. Hell, since the beginning of 2018, really. But in the overall scheme of things, these are minor inconveniences, a small price to pay for this awesome life we have built for ourselves. Because when I step outside before sunrise for a walk through the neighborhood and am treated to sights like these…

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…I know that I am, finally and truly, home.

 

Guess We’re Not “Those People”

We have been living in our house for three days now and it’s starting to feel like home. If your idea of home involves stepping around boxes and weaving your way through piles of stuff. At least the old toilets are no longer taking up residence in the living room. When Tara asked me what we should do with them, I suggested hauling them into the front yard and turning them into planters. Amazingly, she shot down that idea, saying she didn’t want to be “those people.”

Fine. Our landscaping visions differ.

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Our first night in the new house was pretty wild. We were awakened shortly after 3 a.m. by shrieking winds gusting to 60-mph, thunder/lightning, and torrential rain. One thing we have discovered about the house: because we are located in a draw – a terrain feature that is basically a miniature valley – thunder is really amplified here. It bounces off the hills and the shockwaves sweep down through the neighborhood, echoing so loudly you don’t just hear it, you feel it. Literally, the whole house shakes. It’s pretty cool unless you’re a cat or trying to sleep.

Friday, I spent the day “on assignment” in Spearfish Canyon hiking several different trails for a travelogue series we’re planning next summer. I’m working closely with one of our interns on this project; she’s creating videos to accompany my words. She brought her fiancee along and we ended up doing four separate hikes. None of them were super long, but a couple were steep. It got pretty toasty toward the end of the day, but the canyon is so lush and vibrant due to all the rain we’ve had, it’s absolutely breathtaking at every turn.

Saturday, I had another interesting work-related task. Rapid City has been dubbed the City of Presidents due to the collection of presidential sculptures erected on street corners throughout downtown. Yesterday was the official unveiling ceremony for our newest statue, Barack Obama. The event was held at the Elks Theatre downtown and was so inspirational! I loved every minute of it. It helped being surrounded by an adoring crowd of Democratic faithful who were clearly missing our former President just as much as me. The sculptor, James Van Nuys, is a regular Renaissance man who is also a musician and writer. He played guitar onstage before and during parts of the ceremony, and it was interesting to hear about a couple of other ideas for the statue that ended up getting scrapped. In the end, he explained that he based his work on a photo that he fell in love with because of the look of pure exhilaration on daughter Sasha’s face. I think the statue turned out beautiful and will be a real show-stopper when it’s installed downtown (just a block from where I work) tomorrow.

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We’d been planning on going to Prairie Berry Winery for a customer loyalty picnic today (because, free food and free wine), but we just have too much to do around the house. There is a lot of unpacking and organizing to be done, and we already have visitors lined up, so we’re going to tackle some of that today. The hardwood installers, by the way, still haven’t finished their work. Presumably they are waiting on the extra box of bamboo to come in from Lowe’s, but who knows. We’re pretty irritated with them and have literally caught them in a couple of lies. I can’t wait to leave a scathing Yelp review.

After they finally finish up the work, of course.

 

Nature’s Fireworks FTW

Four more days until we move in!

Really though, we’ve pretty much been living in the house since last Wednesday. We go home to sleep and feed Sydney; otherwise, we are here. As is most of our stuff. The apartment is looking pretty barren these days; there are a few essentials in the fridge and bathroom, enough clothes to get us through the week, and furniture that is too heavy to move (e.g., beds, couch, bookcase). Yesterday our brand new couch was delivered to the house. We’ve got cable and internet there, a fully-stocked refrigerator, and all our booze. Why wouldn’t we want to stay here all the time now?!

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Still haven’t heard back from the hardwood flooring guys, but the contractor is here today – a day early – ripping out the old carpeting in the bedrooms and bathrooms. He’s even agreed to hook up new toilets for us, even though he is not a plumber and won’t be getting paid to do so. Tara was thinking about replacing the old ones and figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask if he’d be willing to connect new ones, since either way, he had to remove and reinstall toilets to get the flooring done. He was a bit hesitant at first but eventually agreed, so we went out and bought new Kohlers Saturday afternoon. Lemme tell ya, toilets are heavy AF. Who knew? It took a lot of muscle to get them from the back of Tara’s truck up the front stairs and into their respective rooms. But these are slick new low-flow models. I tried to talk Tara into buying super fancy toilets with heated seats and built-in bidets, the kind that flush automatically and play music through your wi-fi connection, but sadly she shot down that idea.

Our 4th of July was pretty low-key, other than nearly getting swept away by a flash flood. That would have sucked, after all the blood, sweat, and tears we have poured into this house!

The day started out innocently enough. We had a nice, leisurely morning before heading out to breakfast – but apparently our morning was a bit too leisurely, because by the time we got to the Colonial House, breakfast service had ended. Lunch it was, then! Which was just as well since I was still able to enjoy a couple of Bloody Marys.

After breakfast lunch, we packed up more boxes and took them over to the house, then headed downtown to bar-hop the rest of the day away. Our first stop was the Brass Rail, which probably featured the most interesting patrons. Paddy O’Neill’s had the best food, but Wobbly Bobby Pub was probably my favorite stop because they had board games at every booth. Tara and I faced off in a heated game of Battleship, something neither of us had played in decades. She ended up winning by one move. After that, we hit up Press Start for video games.

We decided to wrap it up at 8:45 because the city’s fireworks display was scheduled for 9:30 and we wanted to find a decent spot. But the minute we stepped outside, we figured it wasn’t going to happen. The sky was ominous, with dark clouds to the west. It was raining lightly and thunder was rumbling in the distance. One glance at the radar showed a line of severe thunderstorms bearing down on us. We figured we’d grab dinner to go at Culver’s instead and head up to Skyline Drive overlooking the city, just in case the fireworks were still a go. By the time we stepped out of Culver’s with our food, there was a torrential downpour with hail and constant lightning. We got drenched just racing to the truck. Then, on the way up Skyline, there was so much water streaming across the road it almost looked like a flash flood. Granted, we were on a hill overlooking the city so there wasn’t any real danger. At least, I don’t think so, but the video I took (and posted to Instagram) shows us motoring through water so deep in places it was splashing over the hood of Tara’s truck.

Yikes.

Up on Skyline Drive, we had a great view of the storm. And wouldn’t you know it, there were still people shooting off fireworks around town (though Rapid City’s event was ultimately postponed until Friday). In fact, at one point another car pulled up next to ours in the parking lot, rolled down their window, and started firing off Roman Candles. That’s either super patriotic or super stupid. I’m not really sure which. We never did get to see an actual fireworks display this year, but the show Mother Nature put on was hard to top.

Eventually the storm subsided, but not before dumping nearly 2″ of rain on Rapid City. We have already reached our average annual precipitation total, and the year is only half over! This makes the second really wet year in a row in South Dakota. It seems like Tara and I brought a little bit of the PNW with us when we moved. Those thunderstorms, by the way, have been a near-daily occurrence. Even though we’ve lived here for over a year now, it still amazes me how fast they can build up. One minute it will be perfectly clear, not a cloud in the sky; an hour later, it can feel like the End of Days, complete with black clouds and intense lightning displays.

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Typical afternoon view from our front porch.

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And I’m loving every minute of it.

Hope your holiday was a blast (but a little less wet than ours).

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Happy birthday, America!

Tara and I are celebrating Independence Day by, first of all, not working on the house. The truth is, there’s very little left to do at this point: all the painting is finished, the hardwood floors are 94.7 percent installed (due to a contractor snafu, they thought 18 boxes of bamboo would cover the job but ended up falling short, so box #19 is on order),  our storage unit is completely emptied out, and we have cable and internet. We’ve got a couch being delivered on Saturday, new carpeting and vinyl flooring being installed on Monday, and movers coming on Thursday to empty out the apartment. Which means we are exactly one week away from moving in. Whew!

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Incomplete or not, our new floors look great!

It’s been a lot of work for sure, but the place is looking really good. And there’s a definite pride in ownership that comes with transforming a place to make it your own through blood, sweat, and tears. That’s something you don’t experience when your new home is move-in ready. (You also don’t experience late nights and sore muscles and hundreds of dollars worth of Lowe’s receipts for paint, but that’s neither here nor there.) I don’t think I would change a single step of the process.

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Tara came up with an idea to paint a mountain mural in the guest room. By hand. I was skeptical at first…

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…but she nailed it.

Second of all, we’ll be bar-hopping downtown in the afternoon/evening. It’s how we spent the 4th last year, and that turned out to be a great day. The weather does not look promising for fireworks; we have had some strong thunderstorms the past couple of days (and nights) and more are expected for the next few days. If we’re able to catch a good fireworks display tonight, that’s great. If not, maybe nature will deliver.

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We have a literal front porch view of storms that develop over the Black Hills.

Last night, we finally had a chance to call Doris’ daughter, Kristi. She lives in Connecticut and was very happy to hear from us. The feeling was mutual – we talked for 40 minutes and learned so much about the house and Doris’ family! Like the fact that their original home was destroyed in the 1972 Rapid City flood that killed 238 people, so they purposely chose to build a new house as high up as they could get on a hill (hence our stellar views). We learned that both Doris and her husband were teachers in the Rapid City school district and that he was quite the craftsman, having built all the kitchen cabinets by hand. We found out the dwarf irises in the backyard have been in the family for 300 years and are descendants of plants brought over from Norway. There were once 50+ rose bushes and a couple of poplar trees in the backyard, and apple trees in the front. We heard about how the family turned the backyard into an ice-skating rink every winter and all the neighborhood kids would flock there. That Doris would pace around the living room nervously every time there was a thunderstorm, smoking an entire pack of cigarettes as memories of the flood that cost them their home (and almost their lives) haunted her. And how she was so beloved that people drove in from three states away for her funeral five months ago.

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We had no idea these dwarf irises had such a storied past. They have been in Doris’ family for over 300 years.

In fact, she wrote a story about our house that was published in a literary magazine! It’s a fascinating read and she’s a pretty good writer. If you’re interested, check it out here.

Kristi is coming to Rapid City next month to get married, and will be bringing us a piece of her mom’s pottery. In exchange, we’re letting her take some of the family’s dwarf irises, which she lamented leaving behind. She seems like a very nice person and we look forward to meeting her and her siblings. Suffice it to say, she is very touched over how diligent we have been in learning more about her mom and our desire to pay tribute to her. If there is an afterlife, I’m confident that Doris totally approves of us.

Have a great 4th!

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.