Thursday, May 24, 2018

in search of the good life.

So you may have noticed that I’m not doing as good of a job keeping up this blog as I once was.

It’s not because I’m running out of stories to tell you, because believe me, I’m not.

It’s the age-old “so much to do and so little time.”

I’ve been writing this blog since 2011, when I had exponentially more time on my hands. You’ll notice that in those early days, I would post as often as twice week. But those were the days when I was living alone in a shitty apartment in Sioux Falls and making around ten dollars an hour. I didn’t have anyone to fill my days, nor did I have the funding to find a way to fill my days.

So I wrote my way out.

Thankfully, my life did get fuller. I switched jobs and found what would become my career. I was also making more money, so I could finally afford to go out for dinner and drinks with friends. My then-boyfriend James proposed, and my spare time soon filled with wedding planning. James moved from Ellsworth to my aforementioned shitty apartment. We got married, bought a house in Minnesota, I got promoted, and we got a cat. I began volunteering in Ellsworth school library for story time. We traveled whenever we could, I started a jewelry business, I started grad school, and I started a new job.

And the blog posts got fewer and fewer. What began as twice a week began to decline to once a week… then twice a month… and now once a month.

And honestly? Right now, even that is a struggle. This particular time in my life is especially hectic: I’ve been the library director in Luverne for almost four months, and there’s so much to do and so much I’m figuring out. I am beginning my third semester of graduate school, which is not necessarily difficult, but more reading and writing than I anticipated. My jewelry business has suffered because I no longer have the time to dedicate to its online marketing and doing weekend craft shows. I don’t have time for books, movies, or TV shows. However, I do my best to make time for my family and friends, because they are every fiber of joy within me.

But I am sorry about the things I’ve had to neglect. I love my jewelry business, and I love this blog. This blog got me through some of my loneliest times when I moved back from Minneapolis. And believe me when I tell you that it will be a cold day in hell when I give up this blog altogether.

Thankfully, this is temporary. Graduate school won’t last forever, though right now, I certainly feel as though it might. I will become more confident at my job, and I won’t talk myself into working 50 hours a week like I do now (hopefully). Graduate school and my new job are keys to the elusive good life. These are things I must do on the road to the best possible life for me, for James, for our nonexistent-maybe-someday-we’ll-see children. I am suffering now for a bright future, like so many before me. And that means putting some things on the back-burner.

For right now, though? I’ll do my best to keep writing the blog, but if I miss a month here and there, don’t give up on me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

five songs I'm listening to now, volume IV.

About two and a half months ago, I started a new job right here in Luverne. It’s different in about a thousand ways, one of which being my new commute. My 40-minute commute to Sioux Falls has shrunk to two minutes. Two. And that’s awesome… except that my lack of commute has really cut into my podcast and music listening time. So it’s been a while since I’ve had one of these lists for you.

Nevertheless, I return to you with another edition of the five songs I’m listening to right now.

Polaroid – Imagine Dragons
Let’s be honest: I can’t stop listening to Imagine Dragons in general right now. My current favorite Pandora station is Imagine Dragons radio. I’m not ashamed. Of all the spectacular Imagine Dragons options out there, “Polaroid” is at the top of my list right now. Not too long ago, I listened to it eight times in a row while running various short errands around town. That’s ridiculous, and that’s how much I love it.

One Last Time – Hamilton
Like the rest of the world, I am happily obsessed with Hamilton. I could listen to all of those songs forever and ever until I die, but the one that is particularly meaningful right now is “One Last Time.” If you’re unfamiliar, this song finds George Washington telling Alexander Hamilton that he is not running for another term as president. It’s a bittersweet song about leaving behind something wonderful and important, but moving on to the next stage in life. I was listening to Hamilton a lot during my last weeks at my job at Siouxland Libraries, and “One Last Time” came on as I was making my last morning commute on my last day. I cried my eyes out.

3rd Planet – Modest Mouse
This is one of those songs that I listened to a few times about fifteen years ago and then more or less forgot about… until Pandora decided I should hear it again. I went to a Modest Mouse concert with my friend Sarah in September and have been listening to plenty of Modest Mouse since then, but “3rd Planet” is my favorite right now. It’s the background instrumentals: I can’t get enough of them.

This River Is Wild – The Killers
Speaking of concerts I went to with my friend Sarah, we saw the Killers in January: easily the best show I’ve ever seen. Sarah’s favorite Killers song is “This River Is Wild,” which isn’t too well known – and, much to her surprise, was played at the concert. I have since gained a deep appreciation for this song, and every time I listen to it, it brings me right back to the Xcel Center and the excitement and the room filled with joy.

Ophelia – The Lumineers
I think we can all agree that Cleopatra is a fantastic album, and a fantastic song in its own right. However, “Ophelia” is on my must-play list at the moment. I just wish it wasn’t so short: it tricks me every time with its shortness. Oh well: all the easier to hit the “repeat” button and start all over.

THE END. I hope you found something that you enjoyed listening to, as well. Until next time!

Monday, March 26, 2018

the question of home.

In the past few years, there has been a major rise in state outlines. You know: shirts, home décor, jewelry, all emblazoned with your state of choice. I, for one, am totally into it. As a born-and-raised South Dakotan and a card-carrying Minnesotan, I have duel loyalties. I buy the South Dakota stuff and the Minnesota stuff, and I feel great about both.

But you know where I do run into a problem?


Many of the state things are just that: states. But there are more and more that proudly state (see what I did there?) HOME. The “o” in “home” is often a little image of the state itself, which is really quite adorable. There are mugs and koozies and super soft sweatshirts that all declare where your home is.

But if you’re like me, I don’t really know which state to call home… so I generally avoid the “home” stuff. (Except in the case of the irresistibly adorable keychains: I bought one of each.) 
Except now, my keys are huge.
And usually, this is ok.

Until I ran into a truly beautiful “home” shirt at a boutique here in Luverne on Saturday.

The flowers, the strips, the gold foil… it was gorgeous, and I wanted it.

But it said “home.”

This shirt was forcing me to choose. Is it time to call Minnesota my home? Would that betray my South Dakota roots?

In some cases, Minnesota is most certainly my home. I went to college here, which were certainly some of the best years of my life. I lived in Minneapolis for a couple of years, which I grew to know and love. James and I bought our first home here, which is where we started our married life. I discovered the glorious wonder of the North Shore, which is now deep in my soul. I feel a new attachment to Prince. When I’m outside of Luverne and people ask me where I’m from, I say Minnesota.


I was born in South Dakota. My parents live in South Dakota, and most of my best friends live in South Dakota. When I go home for Christmas, it’s to South Dakota. Two of my absolute favorite places on earth (Brookings and Lake Poinsett) are in South Dakota. My library career started in South Dakota. If someone says something mean about South Dakota, I get defensive. My great grandparents on both sides came over from Scandinavia and Germany and found their place in South Dakota. When people in Luverne ask me where I’m from, I say South Dakota.

James also does not have a true Minnesota pedigree. James was not born in Minnesota, but he did grow up here. He was born in Arizona, and his family moved to Minnesota when he was six.  Though he was not born here, James feels unequivocally that Minnesota is his home. And of course he does: Minnesota is where he grew up; where he became the person he is today. Besides a brief year-long stint in Sioux Falls, James has not lived outside of Minnesota since he was six. Minnesota is it for him.

I do love Minnesota – but there is certainly a possibility that I will not live here forever. I can call Minnesota my home for now, but is that strong and deep enough to wear on a shirt for all the world to see?

South Dakota, though, will always be my home. It’s where I’m from, and it’s where my roots run deep. I can live anywhere in the world, and it will have always started in South Dakota.

So what did I do about the t-shirt in the boutique?

I went directly to the manufacturer and ordered a South Dakota version.

At the end of the day, South Dakota is home.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

top ten songs: the Killers.

There are few things as powerful as the band you loved in high school.

You know what I mean.

That song you heard on the radio when you were sixteen and IT SPOKE TO YOUR VERY SOUL so you saved up your money from your part-time summer job to buy the album and it turns out ALL THE SONGS SPEAK TO YOUR SOUL and who is this incredible band who can shake you to your core?

That’s the band you loved in high school.

Most of us have a handful of songs that profoundly change us, but it’s a rare band that can do it again. And again. And again.

For me, that band is the Killers.

Hot Fuss is the first new album I ever bought. By that, I mean it was the first CD I ever got from the “new” section at Target. Until then, my music purchases were exclusively greatest hits collections of bands I had heard on the oldies stations: Simon and Garfunkel, Styx, REO Speedwagon. I went out on a limb to buy Hot Fuss, and I’ve never looked back. This was the CD on constant rotation in my car – back when all I had was a tape deck, so I bought a tape adapter that plugged into my knockoff Discman that you had to hold up when you crossed the railroad tracks lest it jolt itself into stopping. My friends and I listened to the Killers during our constant sojourns from Arlington to Brookings, and those were the songs that you knew you’d never forget. More importantly, those were the times with friends you’d never forget. Every time I heard “All These Things That I’ve Done” or “Mr Brightside” thereafter, I was right back in my little blue coupe with my friends Bob, Sarah, or Allison, singing to the Killers and dreaming of the great things we’d do.
To give you an idea of what we're dealing with, here's a picture of
Bob and me circa October 2004. We truly did believe that AHS
Oral Interp rocked.
Hot Fuss was released in 2004. Fast forward to 2018. The Killers were going to be at the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, and Sarah and I were GOING. Just months before, we had gone to a Modest Mouse concert in Sioux Falls and had discussed our “bucket list” concerts. The Killers made both of our lists, and we promised that should the opportunity ever arise, we would go. And it DID. And we went, and it was incredible. There was so much joy filling that place you could almost see it.

This was two weeks ago, and I have been listening to the Killers nonstop ever since. I have rediscovered some of the songs I loved as a teenager/young twentysomething, and I have found a batch of new ones that I never really listened to before (as I was too busy with the old favourites).

And you know what? My initial list of Killers songs that I loved with all my heart was sixteen entries long. After much thought, I narrowed it down to the top ten. Let me tell you: it was like choosing favourite children (or so I’d imagine, but it’s probably not like that at all).

I hope you’re ready for an extra-special glimpse into my teenage years.

All These Things That I’ve Done
THIS SONG. “All These Things That I’ve Done” is from Hot Fuss, and the first time I heard it, I fell in love. The Killers have a knack for pop-rocky anthems, and this is not the only pop-rocky anthem you’ll see on this list. This song spoke to me – we all want to do something important in our lives, and when you’re young, you just know you will. “I want to shine on in the hearts of men/I want a meaning from the back of my broken hand.” But… how do you get there? “I need direction to perfection no no no no help me out.” Many of the Killers’ songs have this underlying “how did I get here/what has my life become/I need to get out of this place” theme, which was relatable as a young twenty-something working a thousand part-time jobs to make ends meet. It’s still relatable today: did I make the right choices? Is this where I belong? I don’t know if we ever know the answers, but no one can put that feeling into words like the Killers.

Sam’s Town is the second Killers album, and it’s just as wonderful (if not better) than Hot Fuss. It came out in 2006, when I was a sophomore in college. I didn’t get much into Sam’s Town back then – I was working for KUMM, the alternative radio station at my college, and we weren’t allowed to play anything that had been in the Top 40 for the last ten years. I started listening to Sam’s Town when I was living in Minneapolis and had the Current on all day, every day. “Bones” was the first song I knew from Sam’s Town, and it opened the door to that amazing album.

Day & Age is the third Killers album, released at the end of 2008. This album I missed completely – that was the middle of my senior year of college, and I was busy with life stuff. I didn’t even have a radio show that year. I didn’t hear “Human” until I was working at American Eagle Outfitters in New Orleans in the fall/winter of 2009. American Eagle piped music through the store, and the company sent each store a new CD to play every month or so. As soon as I heard “Human” coming through the speakers, I knew it was the Killers. I quickly scribbled down a couple of lyrics so I could Google them when I got home (remember those days?). That music was one of the few things getting me through my bleak days of retail and poverty. That, and the fact that I was living in New Orleans. Who can really be sad there?

Mr Brightside
“Mr Brightside” is, hands down, my favourite Killers song. The second I hear that opening guitar riff, I can just feel my spirits rise. It is one of those songs that I will never skip, and I could listen to it every day until I die and still love it so. It’s from Hot Fuss, and the sound of it on vinyl is perfection. This was the last song that the Killers played at the concert, and the place went wild. I was actually jumping up and down. Joy filled every corner of the room, and I still carry that feeling with me weeks later.

Read My Mind
“Read My Mind” is a new addition to this list. I had heard it before, but it hadn’t struck a chord with me like many of these other songs. However, when I heard Brandon Flowers sing this in concert, I felt it in my bones. I have listened to it every day (no joke) since that concert, and I love it more and more. Like almost all of the songs on this list, “Read My Mind” is filled with that “small down big dreams” sentiment that nearly everyone who has lived in a small town has felt: “Never really gave up on/breaking out of this two-star town.”

Battle Born is the Killers’ album that I missed completely. It came out in 2012, and I know that I’m a terrible fangirl. I had lots on my mind in 2012: I had started my job at the library, and I had gotten engaged. I was not on the lookout for new music. I didn’t hear “Runaways” until I pushed “shuffle” on my iPod, and it somehow popped up. Another song about the impossibility of escape, its soaring vocals are earth-shaking.

“Rut” is the only song I’m really into off their most recent album, Wonderful Wonderful. Sarah had gotten the album when she bought the tickets for the concert, so we listened to it on the way to the cities and in our Airbnb before the concert. “Rut” struck me right away, and they performed it that night. It has a much more modern sound than my other favourite Killers songs – the rest of them are pretty firmly rooted in noughties sound (you know: that oh-so-perfect blend of pop/rock/angst from the late 90s and early 2000s that you recognize in an instant). It’s got a ballad feel, and it, like every other damn song by the Killers, speaks right to me.

Sam’s Town
Obviously, “Sam’s Town” is from Sam’s Town. Remarkably, I never appreciated “Sam’s Town” until I was listening to the entire Killers catalogue in preparation for this concert. This was a slap-you-in-the-face kind of experience: where had this song been all my life? This song is EXACTLY how it felt to be me as a teenager: “I’ve got this energy beneath my feet/like something underground’s gonna come and carry me.” I felt like my small town couldn’t contain me; I was going to blast off into the world and really be somebody. “Sam’s Town” has my current favourite song lyrics, which also mirror my exact teenage thoughts about my hometown: “nobody ever had a dream ‘round here/but I don’t really mind that it’s starting to get to me.” Though I am now 30 and do not look so harshly upon my hometown, hearing this song makes all those emotions come flooding back. Few feelings are so intense as those you have as an angsty teenager.

Remember how I first heard “Human”? On an American Eagle soundtrack? Same story with “Spaceman.” If memory serves me correctly, they were not on the same store CD; just consecutive ones. No matter what kind of always-less-than-perfect day I was having at American Eagle – refolding an entire pile of flimsy t-shirts because SOMEONE grabbed the very bottom one and toppled the rest over, for example – hearing the Killers in the store would lift my mood. To this day, though, I can’t hear “Human” or “Spaceman” without having flashbacks to those desperate days.

When You Were Young
Have you noticed how many of these songs speak directly to that feeling of small town loneliness and that need to break free? Here’s one more. The fourth song on this list from Sam’s Town, “When You Were Young” was on the radio nonstop when it first came out. It has the greatest lyrics: “he doesn’t look a thing like Jesus/but he talks like a gentleman/like you imagined when you were young.” When you grow up in a small town where nearly everyone is so totally different from you, you do wonder who will come in and save you: “you sit there in your heartache/waiting on some beautiful boy to/save you from your old ways.”


I am positive I have not adequately put into words what the Killers mean to me. But how can I? To really know, you would have to experience my life as a confused teenager in small town South Dakota. You would have to hear this band on the radio for the first time and just know that they were talking to you. No matter your struggles or frustrations, someone out there understood. And that means more than I can ever say.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Bjorklundosophy, volume IV.

As you may recall from years past, it has become something of a Christmas tradition for me to compile a list of ten of my family's sayings/catchphrases/words of wisdom/what have you. 

It's called Bjorklundosophy.

Somehow, we are on volume IV.

If you have not had the pleasure of reading volume Ivolume II, and volume III, I would strongly encourage you to do so before embarking on volume IV. It will make a lot more sense.

So, with that being said, please enjoy Bjorklundosophy: Volume IV!

Note to self.
“Note to self” is not specific to the Bjorklunds – you have likely heard it uttered before when someone wants to remember something important. However, in Bjorklundese, this particular phrase was coined in New Orleans in December 2009. Tim had made the journey to Louisiana to travel back with Calla from her unpaid internship (SIGH) at the New Orleans Museum of Art. On their last night, they witnessed a large cockroach skitter across the floor of our Super 8 room. The next morning, Tim brought this unpleasant experience up to the manager, who compensated for the ick factor with 30% off the bill. Surprised by the amount of the discount, Calla said, “Note to self: always mention cockroaches.” Not that there has been an occasion to mention cockroaches since, but just in case. “Note to self” has since survived on its own and can be heard in utterances such as “note to self: moonshine tastes best on the beach” or “note to self: never go up against Steve and Deb Groon in Cards Against Humanity.”

I miss Buddy.
Once upon a time, Calla went to school at the University of Minnesota, Morris. During her senior year, she lived in a run-down house with her friends Nate and Sara. During the winter break of the 2008/2009 school year, said friend Nate came to visit Calla at the Bjorklund house in Arlington en route to a visit to SDSU in Brookings. Nate stayed overnight at the house that evening - he was in the small downstairs guestroom affectionately named “the doghouse.” The next morning, Calla was quietly awaiting Nate’s awakening when Tim asked, “When is Nate leaving?” Calla responded that he was still asleep in the basement, to which Tim replied, “Isn’t that his car driving away right now?” Calla rushed to the window, and sure enough, Nate’s black Honda Civic was speeding out of the driveway. This was the Bjorklunds’ introduction to the Pfeifle goodbye. Fast forward to spring 2009: Nate adopted a neurotic black lab named Buddy. Tim quickly used Buddy as a means to remind Nate of that fateful non-goodbye: “say hi to Buddy for me” and “tell Buddy goodbye!” After college, Buddy went to live with Nate’s family, hence the current iteration of the long-evolving Buddy joke: “I miss Buddy.” Nate, a great friend of the Bjorklund family, knows he will never live this down.

Consider the source.
This is one of the few Bjorklund catchphrases that we all would do well to remember in everyday life. Coined by Tim longer ago than any of us can remember, “consider the source” urges you to – duh – consider the source. When you consider your source, many offensive statements are negated if you realize that the offender is actually a terrible person and full of shit. Remember this simple phrase and save yourself mountains of mental anguish.

Prove me wrong.
“Prove me wrong” is an expression primarily attributed to Brenda, used only in conversations with Tim. “Prove me wrong” is a (so far) fool-proof method to cut short any challenge to the validity of a story. It is important to note that “prove me wrong” must never be used when wrong could actually be proven – it is only effective when proving or disproving the disputed fact is not possible, and therefore Brenda is assumed right. Take notes: this is expert-level debate.

The Bjorklunds are a family of many traditions. One such tradition is the annual pilgrimage (with Don and Carol Clelland) to Hot Dog Night in Luverne, Minnesota: home of James and Calla. Hot Dog Night is an odd small-town festival in which all the local businesses give away hot dogs. It’s weird, but like a lot of weird things, that’s what makes it endearing. One Hot Dog Night, James decided that free hot dogs were not enough for the esteemed visitors: no, he would make ribs as well. Carol took one bite of said ribs and immediately moaned, “Oh, JAMES!” She, of course, was referring to the excellent job he had done with the ribs, but the phrase and the tone of voice put this expression squarely into innuendo territory. And now, whenever anything is mentioned about Hot Dog Night or ribs or Carol or James or  James’s cooking, someone is quick to say, “Oh, JAMES!”

Pick that scab!
This phrase is most commonly used in regards to some anecdote of origins long-past that Tim is loathe to forget. “Pick that scab” refers specifically to transgressions and wrongdoings, but such offenses are hilarious enough to those that did not experience them that they can be brought out of storage for a much-needed laugh. However, certain stories, though years old, will elicit the expression “pick that scab!” as though the wrongdoing has just been done. And due to the sheer number/entertainment value of such tales of Tim's woe, scabs are quite often being picked.

What’s your point?
Much like “prove me wrong,” “what’s your point” is a tried-and-true argument ender. “What’s your point” can be employed when something rather obvious is used in light verbal sparring (as theBjorklunds are known to do often). However, “what’s your point” refers specifically to a statement that the speaking party feels is a shortcoming, but the responding party sees as a good thing. For example, Brenda may state that Tim is typically the last person to leave a social function because he is chatting. Tim then will say, “What’s your point?” Brenda's statement is then invalidated because Tim takes no offense and already knows this to be true. Expert-level debate again.

Get me a bucket.
“Get me a bucket” was coined in reference to the utterly disappointing and gut-churningly saccharine selection of greeting cards available in your average store. When you thrive on sarcasm and harbor a thinly-veiled distaste for false emotion (I’m looking at YOU, greeting card industry), there are few cards that you feel comfortable giving without physically gagging. The subject of the actual card for which “get me a bucket” was first used has been lost to the ages, but it has become a staple for card-giving occasions. (See: The Great Anniversary Card Search of 2017.) When it comes to cards for their children, Tim and Brenda (thanks to this phrase) have taken an innovative approach. Should an acceptable greeting card evade them, Tim and Brenda have taken to finding the most egregious offender and simply writing “get me a bucket” on the inside. Thus, the card is transformed into a mockery of itself, and all is right with the world.

Can you read sign language?
Despite all the uncouth things we say and do, we very rarely mean offense when they speak. That being said, the occasion does arise (nine times of out then, when Brenda is talking to Tim) when there is no good way to respond but with the finger. However, instead of actually GIVING the finger, we instead say, “Can you read sign language?” While on the surface more polite than the actual finger, when this phrase is invoked, there is no question as to its underlying meaning – which is not polite at all.

Like you, James.
The newest phrase in the Bjorklund arsenal, “Like you, James” was born on Mother’s Day 2016 in the parking lot of Lange’s Café in Pipestone, Minnesota. James and Calla met Tim, Brenda, and Mitch in Pipestone for Mother’s Day brunch, and as they were saying their goodbyes in the parking lot, Tim and James dissolved into gasping hyena laughter. Unbeknownst to Mitch, Brenda, and Calla, instead of the “love you” given to his kids at departure, Tim had instead jokingly said, “Like you, James.” James and Tim both thought this was hilarious – as they would say later, “You had to be there.” Now, this has evolved into Tim and James’s standard goodbye: “Like you, James.” “Like you, Tim.”


There you have it: ten more Bjorklund family mantras. Stay tuned... volume V is already in the works!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

2017: a year in review.

At the end of every year, I look back on the last twelve months and wonder just what I’ve been up to. And every year, I initially think, “Well… nothing. I haven’t been doing anything.”

But guess what?


In order to reassure myself that I am not wasting my time on earth, I’m looking back at 2017 to try and remember what I’ve done and where I’ve been. And you know what? 2017 was BUSY.

(Lest you think my life is all fun and games, remember that I’m still going to work and the dentist and the grocery store and all that. I just didn’t think you’d want to read about that stuff.)

January started off incredibly strong with one of my favourite New Year's Eves of all time. What did we do? James and I spent the night with our good friends Nate and Taylor, my sister... and my parents and their friends Don and Carol and Steve and Deb. 
You may think that does not sound like an especially thrilling evening, but you would be wrong. Honest to God, I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my entire life. We played Cards Against Humanity, and there were times I was laughing so much that I couldn't read what was on my card. I'm talking tears streaming down my face. If you had told me ten years ago that I would be hanging out with my parents on New Year's Eve, I probably wouldn't have believed you. As it turns out, my parents and their friends are some of the most fun and hilarious people I know. I can't wait to hang out with them this New Year's Eve.

January held the Women's March in Sioux Falls, which was so wonderful and heartening.

Another big development in January was the rebirth of my Etsy store. Back in 2013, I had attempted an Etsy shop and had successfully sold one necklace over a sixth-month time span. I shut that first store down and didn't think of it again until late 2016 when I began to prolifically make necklaces out of Lake Poinsett beach glass. In January 2017, I renamed my store (Midwest Charm by Calla) and added 16 necklaces to start. Approximately one year later, I have sold more than 50 through my Etsy store (!!!), more than 50 at craft shows/in person, a handful of custom orders, and have more than 130 in stock. I have BUSINESS CARDS, you guys. What started as basically a whim has become a super fun hobby and a fairly respectable supplemental income. But honestly, the best part of it is sharing my love of Lake Poinsett with the world... or at least, a little corner of the internet.

February is typically a slow month, and this year was no exception. James and I did get to the cities for a long weekend, and we spent some (freezing) time in Stillwater and at the Art Shanties on White Bear Lake.

James and I went to see Twenty One Pilots as his belated birthday gift. We were most certainly some of the oldest people there, but you know what? IT WAS AWESOME.

Otherwise, it was mostly cold and dark. I made a LOT of necklaces in February.

In March, I went in the ditch for the first time in my (then) nearly four years of commuting. It sucked and was terrifying, but I was fine, and so was our pickup. Had I not had the pickup, though, whatever vehicle I was in would've been toast. Thanks, pickup!

In March, my cousin Gina from Norway and her boyfriend Gaute came to visit us! They were taking a road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles, and they made a stop through Luverne. Gina and I had been penpals when we were fifteen, and it was amazing to meet her in person.

March also held one of my all-time favorite vacations: the San Francisco 30/60 trip with Mom and Dad. The three of us decided to go on a trip together to celebrate our milestone birthdays: Dad turned 60 in January, Mom turned 60 in March, and I turned 30 in April. Our days were packed full, and my parents were happy to let me take the reins and basically dictate our entire trip. Which I loved. We went on a bay cruise underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, toured Alcatraz, wandered Chinatown, rode the cable cars as far as they could go, hung out in the Castro, ate delicious Mexican food with my friend Jenessa in the Mission, saw the sea lions at Pier 39, had fresh crab at Fisherman's Wharf, saw the view from Twin Peaks, wandered Ocean Beach by the Pacific and gathered sand dollars and sea glass, saw Coit Tower, went to a wax museum and bizarre history tour when it was too rainy to do anything else, happened upon Food Truck Friday, wandered the shore and heard the wave organ, and ate lots of chocolate at Ghirardelli Square. I fell in love with San Francisco and had a blast, and my parents claim they did, too! It was a great way to end my 20s.

Early April began with my brother-in-law Jesse's wedding in Elk River!

James took me on a surprise weekend trip for my 30th birthday – I told him that I wanted to go somewhere, and I wanted him to pick where. We were limited to a three-day weekend because, when you’re married to a teacher, school-year trips can’t be any longer. I knew we were either going to the Black Hills or Chicago, and as soon as we headed west on the interstate, I knew we were going to the Black Hills. I LOVE the Black Hills more and more every time I go, and we went on a perfect weekend. The weather was wonderful, and we stayed in a little KOA camper cabin (the first weekend the KOA was even open!). We went through Badlands National Park, Jewel Cave, had drinks on the roof of the Hotel Alex Johnson, went to Dinosaur Hill (obviously), hiked up Little Devil’s Tower in Custer State Park, drove the Needles Highway, and hung out in Spearfish and Deadwood.

April 19th was my actual 30th birthday, which was less of a big deal than I had built it up to be. It was mostly like any other day... I went to work for a half-day, had lunch with my family, and supper with James and our friends Joe and Allison. 
James asked our friends and family to mail me birthday cards, so it was pretty lovely to have nice notes to read. But 30 wasn't the earth-shattering "I'm officially old" birthday that I thought it would be. It really was just another birthday. Everyone claims that your 30s are exponentially better than your 20s, and I can see why that is. The first half of my 20s involved me graduating college, working shitty part-time jobs and scrounging for rent money while I did my unpaid internships, and not knowing what I wanted to do or who I was. My 20s were also awesome: I made some of my best friends in college, I got married, and in general had a lot of really fantastic life experiences. But as I turn 30, I am starting off with much more stability than I did in my 20s. I have a feeling that I won't get as many crazy stories out of my 30s than I did from my 20s, but I could be wrong. My 30s are going to bring their fair share of adventures... just different kinds of adventures. And that's ok - I don't think I could handle a repeat of my 20s.

In May, James and I went to see The Book of Mormon at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls. It was AMAZING - if you haven't been and don't mind a heavy dose of sacrilege, GO. I have been listening to the soundtrack nearly every day since then.

May also held the annual Orange City Tulip Festival, which is now a mother/daughter tradition. Mom and I have been going every year since 2014, and it's the best. Tulips, poffertjes, marching bands... oh yeah, and sometimes torrential rains.

As far as I'm concerned, summer is the most wonderful time of the year. James finally has some time off, and we can make the most of our weekends. We went river tubing on the Cannon River near Welch, Minnesota - far superior to Apple River tubing, which had previously been our default. While in Welch, we discovered our new favorite tubing beer: Lift Bridge Mango Blonde.

James and I also kicked off the camping season with a stay in Frontenac State Park. We spent a little time exploring nearby Rochester... which we probably don't need to do again. But that's how you find out!

And, of course, June saw the beginning of Lake Poinsett season. We spent plenty of time at Lake Poinsett this summer, but it never feels like enough.

July was one of the busiest months of the year - we started off by taking a long weekend in northern Minnesota for the Fourth of July. We spent one night in Jay Cooke State Park and two nights in Gooseberry Falls State Park and did tons of exploring in between. Split Rock Lighthouse, Grand Marais, Two Harbors, Grand Portage State Park... it was so wonderful. Northern Minnesota has that kind of wild forested beauty that's hard to find in our part of the country. For the first time ever, we took the North Shore Scenic Byway from beginning (Duluth) to end (Grand Portage). We booked it home on the Fourth of July (experiencing a 40-degree temperature increase from Two Harbors to Minneapolis) and made it to Luverne just in time for fireworks.

The Brookings Summer Arts Festival is the second weekend in July, and (aside from my very early childhood), I don't believe I have ever missed a Summer Arts Festival. I hope to continue the trend.

James and I went camping in Lake Carlos State Park in mid-July, and I fulfilled my summer goal of finally trying paddle boarding. In Alexandria, we discovered Nice Juicery and are now soundly obsessed.

July 27 marked our fourth anniversary! We spent our anniversary night kayaking the Rock River.

On July 31, we left on a road trip for Yellowstone. We had initially planned to leave on July 28 and return on August 6, but unforeseen circumstances reduced our trip to July 31 through August 4. We considered switching our trip to somewhere closer/less lofty, but we ultimately decided that this was our big summer road trip, and nothing besides Yellowstone would do.

So most of our Yellowstone road trip fell in August. We camped for one night in Yellowstone, but we saw tons of the park (including THREE BEARS). It was beautiful, but so hot and so crowded, and it was hard to really enjoy a lot of it because we were on such a tight schedule. We made a quick trip through Grand Teton National Park, saw Devil’s Tower, and went through Sturgis during the motorcycle rally. Oh yeah, and the car started to fall apart near Cody, Wyoming.

I started graduate school for library science in August – school orientation was the reason we needed to get back. Grad school is SO MUCH WORK YOU GUYS. However, it will be great to have my master’s degree, and it is kind of fun to have classmates again.

We did lots of stuff September.

Over Labor Day weekend: the Bjorklund cousin trip volume II! This time, we met in St Louis. We saw the Gateway Arch (of course), the Anheuser-Busch brewery, the library (!!!), ate butter cake and barbecue, and visited this insane museum/giant playground that is basically made out of scrap metal. Best of all, of course: we got to see each other. Cousin trips are the best.

September was also the beginning of year four for me doing Ellsworth story time!

James and I saw Garth Brooks with my parents, which was easily the best concert I have ever seen in my life. I am not a huge country fan: in fact, the only country artists that I will voluntarily listen to are Garth Brooks and Johnny Cash. However, I don’t think you needed to know a single Garth Brooks song to enjoy that concert. Seriously amazing.
The next week, I went to Modest Mouse with my dear friend Sarah. I have loved Modest Mouse since I was an angry teenager, and they were spectacular.

October is my favourite month, and it did not disappoint. October started off with my first-ever art show. Four of my photographs were a part of the City of Sioux Falls juried employee art show. My wonderful friends and family came to hang out!

Mom and I took advantage of a beautiful three-day weekend and went to Alexandria, Minnesota. It was SO BEAUTIFUL, you guys. The leaves were at peak color, and there are lakes galore up there. We drove around in the Mustang and looked for loons and beach glass; it was so amazing. We also got to hang out with my super-fun cousins Ethan and Sheri in Fergus Falls and made a stop in Morris to eat at Don’s. Basically the perfect mini-vacation.

James and I took a daytrip to Minneopa State Park, which was gorgeous.


October, of course, holds Halloween: my now and forever favorite holiday. This year, I booked it straight from class to the Sioux Falls Zombie Walk – James picked me up, and I put my makeup on in the car. I don’t like to miss a Zombie Walk. Then, for actual Halloween, I dressed as a jellyfish and left a trail of glitter wherever I went.

November was rather uneventful, save for the annual Thanksgiving at our house. When I was a kid, I never especially looked forward to Thanksgiving. I wasn’t into turkey… or stuffing… or mashed potatoes… or gravy… or pie. I still am not into gravy or pie (or really turkey), but James makes KILLER stuffing. Thanksgiving became one of my favorite holidays when we started hosting it in 2013. We have my whole family over, and James’s family makes it when they can. We have a great dinner (which I don’t help with at ALL, which makes it even better!) and spend our time laughing. Thanksgiving as an adult is awesome.

December held our fourth annual Norwegian Christmas in which we get together with our friends Nate and Taylor and eat the best meal of the year. This year, we had juleribbe (pork rib roast with the skin on), potato dumplings (they were terrible), rice pudding, krumkake, lingonberry mousse, lefse, sauerkraut, and (of course) aquavit. It’s not Norwegian Christmas without aquavit.

Lastly, I think you all should know that I won “funniest Christmas sweater” at the library’s annual Ugly Christmas Sweater contest. For the third year running. No big deal.


That concludes the year 2017. There's so much more I didn't talk about - plays, concerts, work, adventures, great times with family and friends. That was all there, too. 2017 had its ups and downs: James and I both lost grandmothers this year. Thankfully, there were more ups than downs. I hope your 2017 was as good (if not better) than mine, and I hope 2018 holds great things for you.