Friday, September 21, 2018

grievance corner: my engagement ring.

I have been married to James now for over five years, and I have been wearing the engagement ring he gave me for more than six years. It is a beautiful ring, and I have loved wearing it from day one. But I don’t love it because it’s pretty. It IS pretty, but I love it because of what it means. The person who gave me this ring loved me enough (and still does) to want to spend the rest of his life with me. Looking at this ring every day reminds me of that and reminds me how wonderful it is to have my person.

Over the years, people have commented on my ring. Usually, the comments are very nice: typically variants of “oh, what a beautiful ring.” And that’s great and lovely.

But every now and again, I’ll hear the one that makes my blood boil:

“Wow, your ring is big. Your husband must really love you.”


How dare you, a stranger (as this comment always comes from a total stranger) equate the amount my husband loves me with some perceived monetary value resting on my finger? The size of my ring has LITERALLY NOTHING to do with how much James loves me.

And my ring? Is NOT big in terms of diamond size. It just LOOKS big. You know what else? It came from the clearance section and cost less than your average engagement ring. And guess what? I DO NOT GIVE A SHIT.

Let me tell you more about my ring.

James and I had been dating for about three years. We had both graduated college. James had just gotten his first teaching job in Ellsworth, and I was living in Minneapolis. We had talked about marriage as a definite thing we were into, so I was casually browsing for engagement rings on the internet (as you do). I found this particular ring on the Helzberg website. I liked it a lot – it was different than all the other rings the internet had to offer. Plus, it was reasonably priced, and I love a deal. So I emailed the link to James, and that was that.
This is the photo that I actually saved from the Helzberg website eight-ish years ago.

Fast forward two years. I was living in Sioux Falls, and James was in Ellsworth. We went on a weekend trip to Rapid City, and James proposed to me in Dinosaur Park. And wouldn’t you know it? He had THE ring. The one that I had sent him years ago. The one that I loved the most. The one that had disappeared from the internet. The one that James had remembered.

So it turned out that, not too long after I had sent him that link, James had gone to the Mall of America with that ring in mind. And he found it. It was indeed in the clearance section, and it was the last one left in all of Helzberg’s stock. So he bought it.

Even though he didn’t have enough money at the time to pay the heating bill in his apartment, he bought me a ring.

James bought the ring knowing that it was the one I had loved. Knowing that this ring was just my style. Knowing that I would be thrilled that it came from the clearance section. Knowing that he could give me any damn ring at all, and I would love it because it came from him. Knowing that he wanted to marry me, and knowing that I wanted to marry him.

I do not know exactly how much my ring was, nor do I care. Whatever James paid for the ring has no bearing on how much he loves me. Why, oh why, do strangers assume that the number of carats directly corresponds to the amount of love? Is this to say that you can only really love someone if you have a buttload of money to spend on jewelry? NO. How can you put a price tag on love?

Answer: you can’t. I don’t, and I never will.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Calla and the fail summer.

This summer, I thought I failed.

You see, summers have been my time to shine. My time to get out and see the world – or, at least, the world within driving distance from my house. When your husband is a teacher, this is the only time you get to be out and about together. James and I would make it a goal to take a road trip to a new state or province each summer to celebrate our anniversary, not to mention countless mini-adventures in between.

Our summer anniversary road trips have been as such:
2013 (honeymoon): Winnipeg, Canada
2014: Black Hills, South Dakota
2015: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
2016: Niagara Falls, New York – including Toronto, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Wisconsin’s Door County
2017: Yellowstone, Wyoming
2018: the Apostle Islands, Wisconsin

Not as grand as the last few years, is it?

Here’s what happened:
In addition to a big summer road trip, James and I have been taking smaller Fourth of July road trips around Lake Superior. We spent 2016 and 2017 in the Grand Marais neighborhood, and I booked us a trip to the Apostle Islands for this year’s Fourth of July. When I booked that trip, I was aware that I would be in grad school and would have considerably less free time. What I WASN’T aware of is that I would also have a new job. Combine those two things, and you’ve got yourself one full summer.

I spent this summer slogging through grad school readings and projects, working my butt off at my new job, and looking longingly at my friends’ adventures on social media. (I know that social media has been proven to make you feel worse about your life, but IT’S JUST SO HARD TO STAY AWAY.) Everyone else seemed to be living their best and most adventurous lives, and what was I doing? Writing a paper about management theory, that’s what I was doing. Yes, a worthy cause, but I would much rather be out adventuring. Summer is so fleeting, and winter so long… I wanted to squeeze every bit of joy out of summer 2018, and I wasn’t doing that.

But here I am, standing at the end of summer 2018 and looking back. And you know what? I got WAY more done than I thought I did.

Here’s what I did this summer:

Tulip Festival in Orange City with my mom and brother

a weekend in the cities to celebrate my friend Nate’s birthday

Memorial Day weekend at my parents’ Lake Poinsett cabin

finished my spring semester and started my summer semester

a weekend of classes
a weekend in Duluth watching James run a marathon

a weekend at the cabin, floating on a giant pink flamingo

camping at the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin

the Brookings Summer Arts Festival, including waterskiing

a weekend in LaCrosse, Wisconsin to hear my family play the National Anthem for the LaCrosse Loggers

my uncle’s memorial service in Brookings, which meant time with some great family I don’t often get to see

another weekend of classes
kayaking x 2 on the Rock River

finished the summer semester with As, placing me at officially halfway through with my masters
a camping weekend in Bemidji and Itasca State Park

the annual Lake Poinsett shrimp boil at the cabin

started the fall semester of school

(I also worked one Saturday each month, did all sorts of other work stuff, and wrote SO MANY PAPERS.)

And if you’re a purist like me, summer’s not over until after Labor Day, so I still have a solid two weekends for summer fun.

Turns out? Every summer weekend was full, just like summers gone by. The only difference is that my weekends were full with activities closer to home. And with my new job, I actually ended up working FEWER summer weekends this year than before. My new library is not open on Sundays, and Saturday shifts are only 9am-2pm. In contrast, my old job required 8am-5pm on Saturdays and 12:30pm – 5pm on Sundays. Not only that: I only work one Saturday a month now. Previously, I worked every third Saturday and every fourth Sunday. This is GREAT.

You may have seen a mention of my parents’ cabin on Lake Poinsett. Early this summer, my parents purchased a cabin at our favorite place on earth (that would be Lake Poinsett, of course). We have spent years and years at our friends’ cabin (RIGHT NEXT DOOR!), but this year, we finally had a lake home of our own. Spending time at that cabin with my friends and family has been the best part of this summer, and I anticipate it being the best part of many summers to come.

So when all is said and done, this summer wasn’t at all a failure. All I needed to do was measure my success not as distance traveled, but by time spent. Time spent with the people I love, and time spent working towards something important.

Summer 2019 is already shaping up to be an awful lot like summer 2018. I will still be in grad school, and summer is the busy season at any public library. But I’m ok with it. As long as I can get to Lake Poinsett, that is.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

font snob.

You know what one of the most annoying parts about going back to grad school has been?

It was being forced to use Times New Roman again.

You guys. I hate Times New Roman.

Times New Roman makes me feel like I’m in high school again. Seriously. Can you think of a more boring font than Times New Roman?

Image result for times new roman font
 (My ire is not reserved for Times New Roman. Everyone hates Comic Sans, but if you ask me, Papyrus is a worse offender. Papyrus shows up when you least expect it. I saw it on a folk singer’s business card the other day, and I immediately took him less seriously. And don’t even get me started on Curlz.)

Image result for papyrus font

Image result for curlz font

When I wrote papers in high school, Times New Roman was the required font. Nothing else. Never. Even through most of college, Times New Roman was the font of choice. It appeared that I was doomed to live in a Times New Roman hell for the duration of my academic career.

But one professor said no.

Actually, he said, “You can use Times New Roman, but I prefer Palatino.”

Palatino opened the door for me.

Palatino was my first foray into the world of “still easy to read but thank God they’re not Times New Roman” serif fonts. All my other papers still had to be in Times New Roman, but that lone art history professor allowed me to spread my font wings. To my Times New Roman-exhausted eye, my papers for his class looked so much more beautiful than Times New Roman.
Image result for palatino font
 Plus, Palatino is slightly bigger than Times New Roman, so all my papers seemed longer. Bonus.

After that life-changing discovery, I switched all my personal documents to Palatino. It was all Palatino, all the time for YEARS.

And then, I discovered Georgia.

(Georgia is the font you’re looking at right now. It’s nice, isn’t it?)

Suddenly, Palatino was over. Georgia was IT.  Looking at Palatino gives me flashbacks to arduous art history papers examining the history of photographic processes, and Georgia had no associations with schoolwork whatsoever. I loved Georgia. I used Georgia in all of my work emails, and it looked great.

Until Cambria came along.

Image result for cambria font
 Cambria is my current favorite font. (I would use it in this blog, but it’s not one of the font options. Damn you, Blogspot.) These fonts – Palatino to Georgia to Cambria – aren’t really that different, but those tiny variations can really alter your perception. Compared to Cambria, Georgia suddenly looked immature and chubby. Compared to Palatino, Times New Roman looked so basic.

And I’m back to being stuck with Times New Roman.

First world problems, I know. But I feel like one of the small victories of adulthood was being able to choose my own font. And there will come a time when I will be able to choose my own font once more.

Maybe it will still be Cambria. I do stick with my chosen font for years at a time, and I’ve only been using Cambria for about three. But maybe I’ll move on… I’m looking at you, Garamond.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

ten outfits under $35, part IX.

It’s been almost a year, but I’m BACK with more outfits under $35!

This is my ninth post where the outfits are $35 or less. You can find the other eight here, plus the very first two (in which I had different price points):

If you’re reading this now, you’ve probably been through my cheap outfit rules – so I’m going to quit going over them. If you haven’t, you can find the full set of rules in volume VII. But here’s all you really need to know: I’m into hunting bargains, and the total cost of each and every outfit is under $35

So let’s do this.
romper – Mason Jar – $32.40 (10% off)
boat shoes – Country Peddler – FREE! (was $22, used credit)
bracelet – Michael’s/Etsy – about $2 for supplies
TOTAL: $34.40

This is my first (and only) romper. I bought it on a whim last summer and kind of totally loved it. Unfortunately, I ripped one of the buttons off during its first wear over Labor Day weekend, and it took me a thousand years to fix it because I hate sewing. But now my romper is back in action and ready for summer! A friendly warning: you will be seeing a lot of these boat shoes. I got them from Country Peddler, and they match pretty much anything. Plus, I love boat shoes. I made the bracelet during a brief spurt of bracelet creativity last year. I love it, but it’s one of those that’s fairly difficult to fasten by yourself, so it doesn’t get as much wear as I would like.

dress – Lauriebelles – $32.40 (10% off)
shoes - DSW - FREE! ($29.99, $20.15 discount and $10 off)
bracelet – Michael’s/Etsy – about $2 for supplies
TOTAL: $34.40

This yellow dress is on heavy rotation in my closet. It’s the perfect length, perfect color, perfect everything (except it doesn’t have pockets, but I suppose I can’t have everything). My bracelet is super simple: lapis lazuli and gold beads on wire and chain.

shirt – Target – $17.99
pants – Target – $16 (sale + 20% off)
heels – Modcloth – FREE! (came with weird heel, couldn’t exchange, full credit)
TOTAL: $33.99

Target recently did a revamp of their clothing line, and they brought in a whole bunch of menswear-inspired pieces. As one who leans more toward the broad-shouldered side, menswear can be challenging for me, but I am totally into this shirt. Skinny cargo pants are a thing now, too, and I love them. I would wear them to work every day if I could (and, if we’re being honest, I basically do).

shirt – Maurices – $10.80 (20% off + $15 in coupons)
jeans – AE – FREE! (jeans reward coupon – was $90!)
Birkenstocks – $23.75 ($50 Honey coupon + 5% off)
TOTAL: $34.55

LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THIS AMAZING DEAL. American Eagle has this loyalty program where if you buy five pairs of jeans, they’ll send you a coupon for a free pair. Five pairs of jeans sounds like a lot, but let’s consider: I can buy jeans for both James and me, and American Eagle counts “jeans” as basically all pants (like the green cargo pants you will see later on). I can also get these jeans on crazy sales, like buy one get one half off and 30% off on top of that. Anyway, this pair of jeans was a freebie: and they were originally $90! YES!! This outfit is full of amazing sales – I belong to this website called Honey that can find you coupon codes online. If the site you’re using doesn’t have a code, Honey can often give you a percentage back, which you can then redeem for things like Amazon gift cards. I bought a pair of Ray-Bans over Black Friday, and Honey was running a ridiculous special where you could get a whole ton of bonus points. And that is how I earned a $50 Amazon gift card (plus my 5% off for being a Prime member) and got real Birkenstocks for under $25.

shirt – Old Navy – $8.50 (50% off)
shorts – Maurices – $10.50 (25% off + $15 in coupons)
sandals – Target – $11.50 (buy one get one 50% off)
bracelet – Etsy/Michaels – about $4 for supplies
TOTAL: $34.50

I don’t always have a lot of luck at Old Navy, but every now and again, I find something pretty great. This tank top was on some kind of flash sale in the store – plus, it’s got a flamingo on it. Awesome. These shorts are the most comfortable shorts to ever walk into my closet, and I’d wear them all the time if I could. The bracelet is one I made with leopard jasper stones while experimenting with elastic. So far, it hasn’t fallen apart, so I’d call it a success!

dress – Ragstock – $19.99
shoes – Target – $12.50 (buy one get one 50% off)
TOTAL: $32.49

One of the perks of being a librarian is that you get to wear dresses with cats on them and no one really gives you a second look. I bought this dress at Ragstock when I was supposed to be looking for something nice to wear to a (GULP) visitation. I never found anything for the visitation, but now I have an awesome cat dress.

cardigan – Country Peddler – FREE! ($15, used credit)
jeans– AE – $34.98 (buy one get one half off – from the FREE jeans!)
boat shoes – Country Peddler – FREE! (was $22, used credit)
dino necklace – gift 
TOTAL: $34.98

So remember those jeans I got for free a few outfits back? WELL. Turns out that you can use your coupon for a free pair of jeans and still get another pair as part of the buy one get one half off sale… so I got these for 50% off their regular price. The necklace is a brontosaurus and a gift from my amazing friend Allison. Dinosaur jewelry is the best kind.

shirt – Ragstock – $6
shorts – Maurices – $10.50 (25% off + $15 in coupons)
 sandals – Target – $11.50 (buy one get one 50% off)
Scandinavian bracelet – Lucky Day – $5
TOTAL: $33

Yes, this is my second cat item from Ragstock, and I’m totally cool with it. The bracelet is made from a Scandinavian sweater (!!!) – how cool is that?! I got it at what's called the Lucky Day sale - an occasional sale in a super cool barn near my parents' place. The shorts, you may notice, are duplicates of the green ones you saw earlier, but they are AMAZING. So why not buy them in every color? Especially when they are $10.50 and there are only two colors.

dress – Modcloth – $26.99 (40% off clearance)
shoes - DSW - FREE! ($29.99, $20.15 and $10 off)
bracelet – Etsy/Michaels – about $8 for supplies
TOTAL: $34.99

Once in a while, Modcloth will have massive clearance sales, and I can get some really great things. This dress is one of those great things. I wore this dress when I met John Green (!!!) at the library. The bracelet is Frankensteined from two bracelets I never wore – so now I have one cool bracelet that I love to wear.

shirt – Country Peddler – FREE! (was $6, used credit)
pants – AE – $29 (originally $70, flash sale)
boat shoes – Country Peddler – FREE! (was $22, used credit)
sea glass necklace – Michael’s/Etsy – about $6 for supplies
TOTAL: $35

American Eagle has really been doing right by me lately. These jeggings were originally $70, but they were on a flash sale around Christmas for $29. They are the perfect work pants: comfortable, sturdy, and still nice enough to make me look polished. I made the necklace from Lake Poinsett beach glass – if you look closely, you’ll be able to see a tiny South Dakota charm wrapped around the glass.


Well, it may be another year before I get around to another cheap outfit blog, but this sure was fun! Thanks for sticking with me.

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 d├ęcor, 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.