All Pets Go To Heaven

Parakeets were the first pets I ever had—Samantha and Max. I was six. They weren’t anything special, but they were my ticket into the ‘I have a pet club.I tried to treat them like cool pets; I’d read them books and watch them hop around their cage, but my imagination could only take me so far into believing the birds were neat.

Max was the first pet I ever lost. My mom took him to the vet and came back with an empty cage. I cried on the couch that entire day.

When I was nine, we brought Giselle home.

When you look “pet” up in the thesaurus, you find synonyms like love, beloved, treasure, darling and jewel. For nearly 17 years, Giselle was all of those things and more.

The first time I met Giselle at the pet store, I was too afraid to hold her with my bare hands. Instead, I pulled the sleeves of my sweatshirt down to hide all exposed skin before scooping her up. (I soon overcame my absurd fear of animals.)

For 16-and-a-half years, there wasn’t a being in this world whom I loved more than Giselle. She was with me for more than three-quarters of my life, and I had high hopes of her being around another three-quarters more.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards for my Baby G.

Be it a bird, cat, fish or dog, losing a pet is never easy. I asked my dad once why he felt the need to endlessly spoil our cats.

‘Because, babe,’ he said, ‘pets are only with us for so long, and it’s our job to make them as happy as they can possibly be.’

I can only hope we made Giselle half as happy as she made us.

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“If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them.”

Resolutions

As far as I’m concerned, New Year’s Resolutions are serious business.

I’ve never been one to make a tangible resolution. Every year I devise some abstract idea that I hope will carry me through the proceeding 365 days. Last year, I resolved to not let fear hold me back. While New Year’s Resolutions can be tough to stick to, I think I succeeded in my 2013 vow.

DSC_0022One year later, I’m crazy in love with Eugene. And though this seems petty to some, if you’re anything like me, you’ve been fiercely independent for 23 years. Independent people do not want to put their trust in someone else. Love is scary. Vulnerability is scary. Avicii says it best, “Life’s a game made for everyone and love is the prize.” Once you push fear aside, that prize is pretty great.

One year later, I moved 11 hours away from the most amazing family, and very best friends a girl could ask for. When you grow up on the east side of Madison, attend the same high school as your parents, and call the same people your best friends for more than a decade, “hard” doesn’t even begin to describe what it’s like to leave. I once asked my mom why she never moved and her simple response was, ‘I was too scared to leave.’ She isn’t alone in that. I was scared to leave and I’m still scared to be away, but there’s something so liberating that comes from being in a place where you know no one– however difficult that may be.

One year later, I’ve successfully thrown myself into the freelance writing world. It’s one thing to produce stories for a magazine when you’re interning and working at said magazine. It’s especially easy if you’re working under two smart, amazing and mentoring editors. It’s a whole other ballgame when you’re representing yourself. The first freelance story I submitted this summer was proofread no less than 42 times by myself and whomever else I could convince to look it over. I may or may not have closed my eyes, held my breath, and hoped for the best when I sent that first email. Now in South Dakota, I’ve hooked up with a cool statewide magazine and I’m producing freelance stories on a monthly basis. I’m reminded how willing people are to share their stories and so happy to have my writing accepted.

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One year later, I’m constantly reliving a few awesome vacations. 2013 was the year I stopped worrying about saving for the future and started spending my money on fun things. Once funds had been allocated to those things we have to pay for, I booked plane tickets to Seattle, San Antonia and Boston. Money can be a really scary thing, but I’d rather be rich in memories than cash. 

One year later, I’ve thrown myself into a host of new and sometimes uncomfortable situations and I’ve led a more fulfilling year because of it.“Most people are paralyzed by fear. Overcome it and you take charge of your life and your world.” – Mark Victor Hansen.

Yep.

In 2014, I will continue to work on not letting fear hold me back, but I also  resolve to welcome every invitation and opportunity that comes my way with open arms (think Yes Man, but with a better outcome). I also resolve to make this the year I put my writing out there more than ever– that means submitting my work to more publications and posting more on kelseybewick.com.

Hold on everyone, 2014 is going to be the best year yet, I can feel it. And sticking with my own advice: I’m not scared; I’m excited for what my future holds.

39 signs you grew up in Madison, Wisconsin

5307_4679843646254_965550817_nWhen I saw the Thought Catalog article, “26 Signs You’ve Lived in Madison, Wisconsin” making it’s social media rounds, I was thrilled! I love Thought Catalog. I love love love Madison!

While some of the list items were purely Madison, the majority of the article was UW-Madison student-centered and there is so so much more to my fair city.

So, I bring you a list:

39 signs you grew up in Madison, Wisconsin (according to Kelsey Bewick)

1. You “snuck into” the student section at Badger football, basketball and hockey games.

2. When it comes to singing UW’s Alma Mater you instinctively wrap your arms around your neighbor and sway. And aside from “U RAH RAH WI-SCOOO-OOOON-SIN,” you have no idea what the people around you are singing.

3. You politely ask your gracious parents to drive you and your friends downtown to avoid dealing with parking (read: paying for parking) when spending a night out.

4. You and your friends visit places like The Old Fashioned, Capital Tap Haus and State Street Brats with the sole intent of ordering a basket of cheese curds and a few beers.

5. You’ve discussed, in depth, the logistics of holding a Cheese Curd Crawl– like a bar crawl, only with cheese curds.

6. You recognize Culver’s cheese curds are sub par—with their thick breading and mixed cheeses—but you’ll still order some when you’re feigning a fix.

7. You visit “townie bars,” on your respective side of town, and you know every single person in the place– it’s like a high school reunion. Silver Eagle, anyone?

8. You want to love our lakes, but you realize they are disgusting mid-June through early September. 

9. Regardless of how gross our lakes are you still spend every available summer minute on or near them.

10. You don’t look twice when you see hoards of people waking around downtown with with a steamed-up bag of bread on a summertime Saturday morning. It’s also commonplace to see these same people ripping strips of this bread from the bag and eating it as they walk.

11. Stella’s Spicy Cheese Bread and coffee make for a feasible Farmer’s Market breakfast. Feasible and delicious.

12. Aside from the cheese bread and coffee commodities, the true reason you attend the Farmer’s Market is to people watch from the Capitol lawn.

13. You’ve seen a pack of naked bikers make laps around the Capitol Square on a few chosen Saturday morning Farmer’s Markets. And you’ve felt a true sense of community when you turn away from that pack and see that every single person around you is also smiling ear-to-ear.

14. You still rely on a GPS to navigate hidden streets on the other side of town.

15. When you’re feeling especially directionally challenged, you call your parents– who’ve lived in Madison their entire lives– and begin feeding them landmarks until they lead you to a recognizable place.

16. You know what it feels like to bike through the middle of rush hour traffic– in your own bike lane.

17. You’ve gotten lost on our maze of bike paths at least once… or you’ve hopped on a portion of the bike path and popped out in some part of the city you did not intend to.

18. You’ve taken a kayak or canoe down a random river channel and popped out in some part of the city you did not intend to.

19. You’ve probably met the governor during a school field trip to the Capitol. If not, you’ve surely taken a class photo in the courtroom during a school field trip to the Capitol.

20. If you’ve moved away, you’re far more excited to dine at your favorite local restaurants than you are to eat your mother’s home cooking when you return home.

21. You get sucked into the hype that is Freak Fest.

21. You don’t fully understand the hype that is Freak Fest.

22. When you were young enough to attend the Mifflin Street Block Party, you thought it was the coolest thing.

23. You remember when the Westside felt like a faraway, foreign land.

24. You’re still wondering what happened to the Holiday Parade around the Square. Remember that?

25. “Sea of Red” conjures up images of State Street and Camp Randall crawling with people clad in Badger gear on game day.

26. And speaking of game day… the smell of grilled brats at 9 a.m. on Regent Street is completely familiar.

27. You remember when South Towne Mall was a real mall, not the strip mall it is today.

28. You had the luxury of using city buses as everyday transportation to and from middle school.

29. You also had the luxury of chasing down said city buses, if you didn’t make it to the bus stop on time.

30. The first warm spring day was a big deal– it meant you, your cousins and your aunt would wander in and out of  State Street shops.

31. While you could never wear it yourself, you enjoy the wafts of patchouli oil you smell while walking around State Street.

32. You’ve never been able to escape conversations about politics and the environment.

33. You vaguely remember what Lake Monona’s skyline looked like before the Monona Terrace.

34. The word “Beltline” makes you cringe.

35. You had no idea you suffered from road rage until you drove on the Beltline at rush hour for the first time.

36. Your parents grew up with the mothers and fathers of some of your best childhood friends, because most of them never left the Eastside of town. And you think that is the greatest thing.

37. There is something so cool about the Capitol, you cannot get enough of it.

38. You’re constantly learning new things about Madison that cause you to fall further in love with the city.

39. You get that Madison is big, but small at the same time, and unique, and special and you have your own list of things that remind you of home and life in Madison.

I graduated from college TWO years ago

What?!

It’s hard to believe I graduated from college two years ago today. It’s also hard to believe I now live in Rapid City, South Dakota and work in the marketing department at a credit union.

While both the state and workplace are much cooler than you might initially think, they are definitely not places the wide-eyed recent Winona State University graduate could have imagined finding herself back in 2011.

When I was in college, I was going to have a job at a downhill skiing magazine in Colorado before I even graduated.

But a month into earning a degree, moving home, and living with my dad, I quickly learned life beyond academia is much more difficult than I anticipated.

From working in a cubicle-laden call-center to picking up a post-graduate internship, I found myself desperately clawing my way up my mountain of dreams.

Since graduating from college, I’ve learned the proverbial job ladder I aim to climb is steep and long, with rungs so far spread apart it’s sometimes difficult to lift your leg high enough to reach the next step.

And that first rung is positioned so far off the ground, it took me 16 months to wriggle my way up the side of the ladder before I could lob onto the step.

The past two years have led me on an interesting journey through strained phone conversations and uncomfortable interview hot seats.

Upon graduating, I sent my resume to more than 100 companies and endured 16 months of constant rejection. I would literally send out five resumes every night and hear back from no one. I became a pro at phone interviews. When I was invited for in-person meetings, I’d walk out of each office with a wide smile and high hopes, only to receive a crushing phone call or email days later stating that another candidate was chosen, ‘but we feel you have a bright future.’

(Once you hear you have a bright future more times than you can count on two hands, you begin to seriously question the validity of that statement).

I received one particularly overwhelming denial at the end of a lunch date with my aunt. I had let my hopes float so high that the job rejection brought me to tears in the middle of Panera– we’re talking runny nose, puffy eyes, and heaving sobs.

That was it. I reached my breaking point. You can only be told that someone more qualified than you got the job you wanted so many times before you can’t take it anymore.

And amidst all these rejections, I was subjected to what could possibly be the most awkward job interview ever.

At the time, I thought my call-center gig was due to expire. Desperate for a steady income, I applied to any job I deemed reasonable.

One of those jobs was a sales position with a Madison-based broadcast company.

I am not a saleswoman.  I would likely be more qualified to wrangle crocodiles.

Nevertheless, I put on my pseudo-confident persona, feigned interest for a sales position, and strode my way into unfamiliar territory.

Sometime between asking me run-of-the-mill interview questions and answering an unimportant phone call from her daughter IN THE MIDDLE OF MY INTERVIEW, the director of sales and something-or-other stopped me mid-sentence and told me I was not the woman for the job.

I was mortified. My face turned an unnatural shade of red and sweat began to pour from my pores. This, I assumed, is rock bottom. It’s one thing to receive rejections via phone or Internet, but facing rejection on the spot is particularly painful.

And then things got worse.

The saleswoman proceeded to tell me she read my blog post about getting a banana thrown at me on a city bus a decade earlier. She thought I seemed interesting and just wanted to meet me.

Ok?

She then proceeded to search the Internet for jobs in which I might be interested. All the while, the sweat that had been pouring from my pores was now pooling on my chair– I know it sounds disgusting, but put yourself in a super uncomfortable situation and see how your body reacts. It’s not pretty.

When the sales lady excused me from the interview from hell, I skipped the formalities and sprinted from her office.

Terrible as that interview was, it armed me with a newfound confidence. There’s no way any job interview could be worse than that, I told myself.

It was a handy mindset to have, as I still faced a year’s worth of rejections.

Throughout my journey, there’s a quote I’ve always looked to for inspiration.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

I love it. I think it’s perfect. And I couldn’t agree more.

While I haven’t completely ruled out living in snow-capped mountains and writing about professional skiers, I’m content with where I am now. Sometimes I pretend the Black Hills are mountains and it’s nice to finally have that elusive job ‘I went to school for.’

I always wanted a blizzard

I always wanted to experience a blizzard. Before Oct. 4 I’d watch Midwest weather updates with bated breath, hoping the forecasted blizzard watch would turn into a warning. Wanting my blizzard to come to fruition.

I’ve called Rapid City, SD home for more than a month. And in these short five weeks, I can’t even count the number of times residents have referred to this portion of South Dakota as the “banana belt.”

Oh, our winters are mild, they say, it rarely snows here and when it does, it doesn’t stick, all the snow stays up in the Hills. So when meteorologists began predicting snow totals upwards of two feet, I figured it was just an exaggeration.

Those weathermen are always over predicting and under delivering. We’re in the “banana belt,” there’s no way we’re going to pack in two feet of snow during the first week of October.

Then Eugene called me at 6 a.m. Friday morning—the day the blizzard was due to strike—to say he’d been called off work at the Air Force Base due to weather.

Thrilled, I sprung out of bed to inspect the snowstorm’s damage. My balloon of hope began loosing air when all I saw was a thin blanket of white disrupted by bright green blades of grass. Never one to give up hope, I flipped on the radio to hear what the rest of the world had to say about this weather.

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As strangers gabbed in the background, I couldn’t help but take note of the long list of closed schools and businesses, canceled events, and ominous warnings that things were going to get much messier.

But this was something I was used to. As a child of the Madison Metropolitan School District, snow days aren’t something I have a lot of experience with. We were those kids walking up hill both ways while icy snow battered our faces in every direction. When every other kid in surrounding school districts had the day off, we were stuck in class. I didn’t get a lot of snow days as a kid. So, while I don’t get my snow day hopes up, any potential adult day off due to “inclement weather” is something worth celebrating.

I proceeded to prepare for the day, but checked my workplace voicemail for weather closing updates no less than four times before heading out for my morning commute. I chocked the other closings up to the fact that I was, indeed, in the “banana belt.” These western South Dakotans just have no idea how to deal with winter weather. This October snowfall must’ve thrown them into a tailspin.

Being the tough Wisconsinite I am, I accepted my fate for a full days’ work, slipped my bare feet into a pair of ballet flats and tiptoed through the thin coat of snow covering the sidewalks. I got to my car before my better judgment kicked in—perhaps bare feet in ballet flats aren’t the wisest choice when commuting through a potential blizzard. You could find yourself stranded on the side of the road, I heard my mom saying.

I zipped back into my apartment and scooped up a pair of UGGs. (I would have preferred a pair of snow boots, but packing and moving your entire life leaves ample opportunity to forget things. As luck would have it, my snow boots were included on that ever-growing list of things that were forgotten. ‘It’s ok,’ I told my parents, ‘Rapid City doesn’t get much snow, just bring them out whenever you visit.’)

Makeshift snow boots in tow, I drove into work—much quicker than usual due to closed schools and subsequently empty roadways. I kicked the snow off my UGGs, hung up my jacket, got settled at my desk and forgot about the impending snowstorm for the next couple hours.

Then the Vice President of Operations began making laps around the building. I heard his booming voice declare that their shoveling couldn’t keep up with snowfall. We’d be closing at noon.

The snow day-deprived child within me rejoiced. I was looking forward to a work-free Friday afternoon and an adventurous pseudo winter weekend with Eugene.

I again traded my ballet flats for UGGs and ventured out into the winter wonderland. I was shocked when what looked like a peaceful snow globe turned out to be a take-your-breath-away, sting-your-face, high wind, heavy snow storm. I tucked my head into my jacket, trudged forward, and held my breath as I tried to scrap the snow from my car.

Safely in the driver’s seat, I applied a white-knuckle grip to the steering wheel and drove home at a cool 15 miles under the speed limit.

The transformation over the past four hours was hard to believe—tire tracks six inches deep crisscrossed roadways; highway stoplights were completely plastered with snow, rendering traffic signals useless; cars driving in front of me disappeared into the white abyss. Turns out these weathermen got their forecasts right. Never have I ever been so thrilled to pull into a parking spot and get the heck out of the snow.

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What transpired over the next 46 hours was something I have never experienced. Eugene wasn’t able to leave his base. I had no cable, no Internet, no living room, no real food, and no direct human contact. I had a bed, a television, the first three seasons of The O.C., intermittent electricity, junk food, my cellphone, and Skype. I spent a good portion of my weekend talking to friends, conducting video chats, and starring aimlessly out the window into a valley of white. I toted my phone around and gave loved ones FaceTime tours of my apartment. I carried them outside and showed them panoramic views of the winter wonderland from my patio. Their unshielded gasps said it all—this was not normal Midwestern autumnal weather.

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By 9 a.m. Sunday, I was starving for human contact and long, fast-paced strides in the world outside my tiny apartment. I donned a pair of snow pants, a down jacket, and a slightly less absorbent pair of boots, and I crawled—literally—through snow that was drifted higher than cars. As I crested snow mounds that easily exceeded 10 feet, I paused to take in that deafening silence that takes over with every fresh snowfall.

I slowly made my way down the steep hill that leads to my apartment and rounded a corner to Range Road—a bypass between two knolls. It was there that I got my first glimpse of what Winter Storm Atlas had done to my new home in the Black Hills. Like scenes from severe weather reports, no less than six abandoned cars rested in the middle of the road, almost completely covered with drifted snow.

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I continued further to find entire trees bent in half, branches still ripe with summer’s green leaves lay buried in the snow.

In the following days and weeks, the expense of Atlas was apparent throughout our city. Endless streams of trucks and trailers hauled forests-worth of trees to drop-off sites that were already piled higher than buildings. Rogue branches littered the streets.

And more disturbing than the branches left scattered on the streets were the cattle that rested alongside the Interstate and remote roads. The blizzard’s true toll fell to the countless ranchers in this part of the state—men and women who lost a good portion of their livelihood because weather like this isn’t supposed to happen in the beginning of October.

Yes. I always wanted a blizzard. But once Winter Storm Atlas left me trapped in my own apartment and preceded to wreak havoc on Western South Dakota, I quickly retracted that decades-long wish.

In the end nearly three feet of snow fell hard on the Black Hills, more than 7,000 cattle lost their lives. Residents picked up the mess and neighbors in this new community of mine helped one another out.

Now when people ask me when I moved out here, they quickly follow my response up with a jovial just in time for the blizzard! remark. Indeed, it’s something we all weathered. A storm we all talk about. And a devastation that continues to make itself known.

Nearly a month later Eugene and I went hiking through Custer State Park. Throughout our hike, we had to climb over downed Ponderosa Pines, and push scattered branches from our path. Clearly victims of the storm, you can’t help but imagine what that pristine piece of nature must have looked like buried and battered by feet upon feet of snow.

Even today as I drive down Range Road, visions of whiteout conditions and buried cars play through my head. I always wanted a blizzard. Then I got one. Now I have one that continually plays through my head.

Free

My bare toes curl around the jagged rock, gripping tight, and my arms wobble at my side.  I attempt to steady myself while minding the beer that splashes from the white-knuckle-incased can held in my hand.  My head hinges back and uncontrollable, ab-engaging laughter erupts from my gut, completely countering the balancing act my toes and arms are struggling to maintain.

Powerful Pacific waves crash relentlessly against the rocks we stand atop– each saltwater arch provoking a new bout of girly screams as it shatters against the sea stacks.  Ocean water sprays from the surrounding rocks and we gain control of our giggles moments before another swell soaks us.

The lighthearted moment epitomizes what it is to be carefree.

We’ve drank our fair shares of cheap, terrible tasting, local beers.  A hot, squint-inducing, yellow sun hangs high in the sky.  We’re surrounded by the incredible natural beauty that is the north-pacific coast.  Aside from being knocked from the craggy rocks and swept away with the ocean current, we have no worry in the world. In those thrilling moments, life is purely perfect.

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This world

In times of publicized tragedy, my generation tends to take two sides.  While some utilize the scads of social networks at their fingertips to offer thoughts and hashtag the happenings at second-by-second intervals, the rest of us open our screens, refresh our news feeds, scroll through endless 140-character updates and watch the commentary of our peers roll out.  I tend to fall in the latter group.  Safe in my medium-sized Wisconsin city, these disasters seem unreal.  Like many of my Midwestern neighbors, I am just a viewer of the various attacks that regularly play out in America and throughout our world.

But something about the Boston Marathon Bombings seemed especially erratic.

Sure, nothing is ever right about the senseless violence that has become unsettled commonplace in our world today, but as someone who has spent half her life in a post 9/11 world, these attacks aren’t unfamiliar.

As a 12-year-old, though, what happened on September 11, 2001 was new. My middle school classmates and I sat in our desks, aghast at the sites that played out  on television.  We were too young to remember the Oklahoma City Bombing and had no idea that a car bomb killed and injured people in that same World Trade Center building eights years prior.  Before that morning we had no idea that there were groups of people that hated humanity.

After that we’ve come to terms with the fact that people are more suspicious of one another, that our bags are searched before we enter sporting events, that the pilots of our planes are no longer visible through an open curtain and that there are truly evil beings in this world that aim to hurt happy people.

As I watch these tragedies play out and listen to what everyone has to say, I find it easiest to turn away from the pain.  I want to take in all of the information and news and commentary I can tonight and tomorrow morning I want to wake up and I want to forget about it.  Because as a viewer that lives hundreds and thousands of miles away from these events, I don’t want to think about how scary and awful and real these things are.  I want to go back to a worry-free life and I want the world to be a good place.

But there’s something different about the Boston Marathon Bombings.

When I lit up my phone this afternoon, as with every other tragedy, my heart sank.  I spent a few seconds absorbing my Twitter feed and clicked my phone off.  Then I remembered that this incident wasn’t one that I was completely disconnected from.  My very best friend has called Boston home for the past year and a half.

Realizing that Boston is a huge city, I sent a simple text.

I realize you aren’t running the marathon, but I hope you’re keeping safe out there in Boston, my love, I typed.

Within minutes I received a response.

I was a mile and a half away. A little too close for comfort, she wrote.

A little too close for comfort indeed.

In this world where we are all so connected, we somehow remain disconnected from those around us–friends, family and strangers alike.  I watch these endless tragedies play out on my screens and forget how close to home they can actually hit.  Our world is a lot smaller than we realize.  And while our world has ways of reminding us that it’s a lot more evil than we realize, humanity has a way of overcoming.

I know that when I wake up tomorrow morning my television, computer and phone will continue to carry news of the tragedy that took place at a time when people were supposed to be celebrating.  At a time when athletes were realizing their dreams and crossing a prestigious marathon finish line.  At a time when onlookers were cheering on runners during a celebratory Massachusetts holiday.  But when I wake up tomorrow I don’t want to hear about all of the sadness.  I want to know that for the most part humanity is still good.  That while we watch from afar at what happened somewhere else in our world, and we type out messages to people we don’t know in regard to events that seem distant, we keep in mind that we are all a lot closer and a lot more connected than we think.