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  1. I Became Midwestern

    July 11, 2013 by Hailey Goplen


    First arriving in Fargo

    Learning to make lefse


    While this blog was originally intended to reassure my family and friends that I was indeed surviving the arctic tundra of Fargo, what it turned in to was a way for me to truly experience and enjoy the place I had moved to. In the beginning, I simply wrote about what I noticed around me. The food, the weather, the language and accents, etc. Eventually however, this blog inspired me to seek out unique midwestern experiences and opportunities on my own. In fact, many of my friends who have lived in the area their entire lives have often joked how I have done more “midwestern things” than they have. What this allowed me to do was to try new things, go to new places, eat new food, and meet some of the most amazing people I have ever met. In other words, truly embrace each new experience and make the best out of what I had originally thought would be a few somewhat unpleasant years. The truth is however, even in the midst of all my midwest “adventures”, I always viewed Fargo as temporary… a filler until the next phase of my life began. Sure, I’ve had a lot of fun experiences (branding a calf, going to small town bars, driving a car on a frozen lake, and learning to make lefse and hotdish… just to name a few), but these were just supposed to keep my occupied until my inevitable escape.

    Surviving winter

    And then, about six or seven months ago, it hit me. Fargo was no filler until something else began and I moved away. On the contrary, something else began when I moved to Fargo. And with that

    Branding a calf

    revelation, I began to settle down and accept that the quick “get in and get out” was just not going to happen. To make that revelation even more permanent, I bought a house. No getting out of here quickly anymore. And while I don’t know that Fargo will be a forever home, especially with my family so far away, for right now I can’t imagine going anywhere else.

    So, the theme of this blog has been for me to experience life in the midwest; to “Become Midwestern”. Without realizing it, the midwest seems to have creeped in and found a place in my life. And to be honest, when I do notice it, I still get a little startled. The other day for example, Blake was talking  to me and without batting an eye I replied, “Oh, yeah, I suppose”. We both froze. What had I just said? Or around the 4th of July I suddenly had a hankering for strawberry rhubarb pie. I had never even known what rhubarb was before moving to the midwest, led alone baked a pie from scratch before. And while this may sound ridiculous, I honestly think I am friendlier and just all around like people more since moving here.

    Go Bison!

    My first hotdish

    You see, I think I accidentally have become somewhat midwestern. Though I will never lose the other parts of me, squished in between my east coast driver and lover of Old Bay seasoning, and my west coast need for elevation and green trees, is the midwestern me: a hotdish-making, lake-loving, snow-driving, sandbag-filling, festival-going me.  And though I now have this additional piece to me, don’t expect me to suddenly embrace negative temperatures, shoveling snow, or lutefisk.

    And with that, I think it is time to close this chapter of my life. I thank everyone who has so loyally followed my blog over the past few years. I have made connections with many of you that I have never even met in person and I do believe you all have helped to contribute to my shift in mindset about staying put in Fargo for a while. But when it is time to stop something and move on, you just know. After all, I think I achieved and actually surpassed what I set out to do. I actually became midwestern.


    Hailey (Adkisson) Goplen



  2. Signs of Spring

    April 29, 2013 by Hailey Goplen

    How fitting that I have not posted since I last discussed my irritation with the never ending winter and Midwest mental hibernation. If you haven’t read it (shame on you), I discussed how people in our area cope with the awful weather by going into a state of mental hibernation that unfortunately, by mid March, I had grumpily awakened from and could no longer keep a positive attitude. Clearly my irritation affected me more than I had imagined because I have had nothing to write about other than never ending winter. Because that seemed like purely a means for me to whine and vent and probably not very entertaining to anyone but myself, I stopped blogging for a month. But alas, a magical thing happened the other day: Spring came to the Red River Valley! Okay, let me rephrase that: temperatures FINALLY rose above 50 degrees. (As a side fun fact, this year apparently set the record for the longest span of days below 50 degrees in Fargo since 1881).

    Even though there are no leaves on the trees, no flowers blossoming, and my allergies have yet to knock me on my fanny, Spring is here! Here are just a few signs in case you were questioning:

    1. You see bare legs and toes everywhere: Even though it may not feel like shorts and flip-flop weather, don’t be deceived. Midwesterners know the truth. Sure your legs may freeze and your toes may get frost bite, but the sun is out and the thermostat reads 50 degrees. When you think how only a few weeks ago we were in the negatives, this is a heat wave! If suddenly there is a dip back down in temperature, oh well. Parkas and sweaters were stored away at the first sign of Spring.
    2. The sidewalks are suddenly overrun with activity: While Midwesterners do emerge throughout the winter to walk dogs, most sidewalk activity throughout the winter is reserved for shoveling and snow blowers. However, when the temperatures get to an acceptable Spring temperature, the sidewalks are suddenly over run by roller blades, bicycles, dogs of every shape and size, runners, and leisurely strollers (whom are sometimes even pushing a baby stroller).
    3. Sandbagging begins: Well, I don’t think this needs much explanation other than while Spring weather is lovely, flooding… not so much. Unfortunately, it has become so common that you may have a conversation similar to the one I just had with Blake when discussing where we would go to lunch today. Hailey: I brought a sandwich. We can just go sit somewhere and eat. Blake: Want to go to the park? (referring to one in Moorhead near Concordia). Hailey: No, it’s flooded. Hmm, want to go sit on top of the parking garage at the Moorhead mall and look at the flood? Blake: Yep, sounds good.
    4. Your morning commute gets longer: This could be for various reasons. Perhaps your normal route is now blocked by a clay dike to protect Fargo from the previously mentioned flooding. Or perhaps you are rerouted due to the never ending road construction that begins at the first signs of Spring (and when there is no more flooding). After all, when you have 8 months of winter, your window of opportunity for fixing enormous potholes (that were caused by the 8 months of winter) is relatively small.
    5. You find any excuse to step outside: A meeting originally scheduled in your building? Why not have it in another office… that you have to walk outside to get to. Forgot something in your car? Better go get it. Brought your lunch to work? That’s okay. Eat it at your desk and then go run those “pressing” errands… that require you to go outside.
    6. Windows are open: Whether in your house or in your car, the windows go down. Who cares if you have to put on an extra layer indoors or wear your mittens while driving. Spring is here and it is time to soak up all the fresh air you can after being cooped up inside for the past 8 months!

    So though these are just a few signs that I have noticed, it is obvious Spring is here! So put on your crop pants, roll down your windows, and enjoy your longer and slightly chilly commute to work!

    Have any other “signs” of Spring? Post a comment and share it with me!


  3. Midwest Mental Hibernation

    March 20, 2013 by Hailey Goplen

    If you haven’t heard (though doubtful being that I myself have been bombarded with Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, newspaper articles, radio babble, and general mumbling spreading the news)… today is the first day of Spring. Hooray! Hooray! Spring is here! Shout it from the rooftops! Break out the pastels and crop pants! Spring is

    What I expected to happen today. (Thanks Susanna for sharing this!)

    here! While in reality, today looks and feels the exact same as it did yesterday when it was still winter (three feet of snow and bitterly cold), I felt different when I woke up this morning. Bad different. My theory: I woke up from my Midwest mental hibernation.

    Let me explain. I believe that in order to protect myself from the hardest, coldest, longest, snowiest, winter I’ve experienced in the three winters I’ve lived in the upper Midwest, my body unconsciously went into a state of Midwest mental hibernation. This state of hibernation allowed me to ignore how dark and freezing it was outside every morning when I woke up and how warm and cozy my bed was. This state of hibernation prevented extreme profanities from spewing out of my mouth every time I stepped in a snow drift, which in turn caused my feet to be cold the rest of the day. This state of hibernation provided me with the tolerance and ability to express sympathy when I received phone calls from family members and friends across the country whom complained about their “bad weather” (also known as a dusting of snow that melts the next day and low 30 degree temperatures). Plain and simple, Midwest mental hibernation keeps people living here and ignoring the most brutal winters that ever existed anywhere on this planet, second only to places where polar bears, penguins, and Santa live.

    I can only imagine that if a bear woke up after a long winter hibernation and emerged from his cave expecting to see butterflies, green grass, and birds chirping, only to be met with snow on the ground and no green grass in sight, he’d be a little grumpy to say the least. Clearly, this is what happened to me today. Yes, I know it is illogical to think that magically everything would be melted when I woke up this morning. However, my extreme level of irritation with the snow and cold weather today is significantly more elevated than it has been all winter. The only conclusion: my Midwest mental hibernation is over and I will be permanently grumpy with Mother Nature until the snow melts.

  4. The North Dakota Wave

    February 7, 2013 by Hailey Goplen

    The other day Blake and I were driving down a road a little off the beaten path. You know, one of those two lane roads where you don’t see another vehicle for miles at a time. A few minutes had gone by and eventually a car was coming towards us in the opposite lane. When the car passed, naturally we glanced over to watch it whiz by. “Oh, no!” screamed Blake as soon as the car was behind us. Now, I know very few of you have met my fiance and I actually don’t write about him often, but one thing about Blake is it takes a lot for him to raise his voice to express excitement, anger, fear, or any other emotion that would typically cause an amplification of your voice. Needless to say, when he does find reason to raise his voice, you know it is time to listen up. “What?!” I questioned eagerly, anticipating a monumental reason for this uncharacteristic exclamation. “They did the North Dakota wave at me and I didn’t wave back!”

    For those of you that have no idea what Blake was referencing, I’ll clue you in. When we moved here, we noticed that people in small towns, or on small roads, wave at anyone they pass. But it’s not the typical full hand and arm wave. Instead, it involves just one or two fingers on the hand you are using to drive… typically positioned at the top of the steering wheel. In addition to the wave, some individuals may also include a slight head nod.

    This wave is one of Blake’s favorite things about the Midwest and he loves any opportunity to use it. In fact, when we go on these road trips, Blake likes to try to initiate the wave and see how many people reciprocate. Unfortunately, when he misses a chance to wave and somebody does it first, he feels like a horrible human being. This particular missed opportunity was no different.

    Mourning his lack of wave, I took it upon myself to assure him that another car would come along sooner or later. “In fact,” I suggested, “Why not make up for it by doing a whole hand wave!” His response? “Psh, no way. That’s not the North Dakota wave. People would think I’m crazy.”



  5. 40 Degrees of Separation

    January 22, 2013 by Hailey Goplen

    The current weather in Washington, DC.


    As I scanned through my Facebook news feed this morning, I couldn’t help but laugh. The majority of the posts were related to cold weather. The thing is however, the bulk of the cold weather posts were not coming from my Fargo friends, but rather, those I’m connected with back in Maryland and Virginia. You see, the east coast was hit with a cold snap just has the Fargo-Moorhead area was. The difference? Oh, about 4o degrees.

    The current weather in Fargo, ND.

    While living in the Midwest has brought forth many positive personality characteristics in myself, I am sad to say  the one negative trait that has emerged is viewing the rest of the country as wimpy when it comes to cold weather. “Twenty degrees above zero and you’re whining? Suck it up!” I hear myself saying. I sound more like a grumpy old man (ironically, also a movie that was based in the Upper Midwest) rather than a patient, empathetic, nurturing, twenty-something year old. “You wanna’ know what real cold feels like? Come to Fargo!” I grumble.

    And as I pushed the button of my automatic car start, zipped up my knee-length down coat, and wrapped a wool scarf half-way up my face this morning before venturing outside, I realized maybe I was overreacting just a bit. It wasn’t that long ago when I too thought twenty degrees above zero was cold. So, stay warm my east coast friends! I’m sending you warm thoughts from the sunny state of North Dakota.


  6. A Winter Without Long Johns

    January 10, 2013 by Hailey Goplen

    Prior to moving to the Midwest, a day like today (with temperatures 32 degrees above zero) would have me bundled up in a turtle-neck sweater, wool socks, boots, mittens, and a warm hat. So when I first experienced what cold REALLY feels like, including temperatures in the extreme negative numbers, my normal wardrobe just didn’t suffice.

    I recall my first brisk day in North Dakota. True to self, I pulled on my warmest sweater and broke out the winter coat. As I walked into work that day, I remember my coworkers looking at me in their short sleeved shirts and wind breaker and stating, “Wow, you’re in for a long winter.” That was no lie. By mid-November I had already broken in my absolute warmest attire. I mean, what else can you put on that keeps you warmer than a down parka with heat warmers in your shoes? The solution: long-johns. I wore them under everything. From jeans to dress pants. Whether I was outside or inside. Long-johns were a must.

    By the next winter, something began to change. On that first cold day in winter, I pulled on a similar wardrobe I had worn the year before. The difference this time? I was sweating up a storm. And while the hot-pink long johns did indeed make an appearance on those particularly bone-chilling days, the usage was few and far between.

    So here we are, in the midst of my third winter in the Midwest, and the long-johns sit folded neatly in my drawers, begging to be worn. And while I know it has been relatively mild thus far, something tells me that unless I decide to take my first ice-fishing trip this year, they may stay in that drawer all winter. You see, I think throughout the process of “becoming Midwestern”, my blood has literally thickened.

  7. “Oh, I just own about 1.5 cars”

    December 5, 2012 by Hailey Goplen

    Throughout my past two years of blogging about the quirks of the Midwest, driving in the area has been the subject of a few posts. Whether it is commenting on my first experience driving in snow, the glories of the season of road construction (known in other parts of the country as summer), or my first run-in with the law (which I have yet to live down), driving in the Midwest has not been without its adventures. While I know it seems a bit strange to ever complain about traffic in Fargo when I grew up learning to drive outside Washington, DC, I think I have gotten used to towns with one traffic light, drivers that rarely honk, and hardly ever having to pay to park. This being said, when I do run in to “traffic”, I tend not to stay as composed as I used to when I was stuck in an hour back-up five miles from my exit near DC.

    This is why, when the clock strikes noon on a weekday, you will rarely find me driving in Downtown Fargo. It seems like everyone within a ten mile radius descends on Downtown Fargo for lunch and parking spots are few and far between. And as frequently as I have witnessed this remarkable and frustrating occurrence, it never ceases to amaze me at just how many cars there seems to be. This is even more evident this time of year as everyone throughout the state of North Dakota (and parts of Canada), come to West Acres Mall to do their holiday shopping.

    As I passed the mall the other day, I remember making a comment, “Psh… its like there are more cars than people in this state!” And wouldn’t you know, I was correct. According to  (as well as a car insurance commercial I saw on TV recently), North Dakota does indeed have more registered vehicles than people. Based on the ever credible Wikipedia, North Dakota has 1,080 cars per 1,000 residents. This also does not even narrow down the figure to individuals that are actually of legal age to drive a car and have their license. This is even more shocking because can’t you get your license at about 15 in North Dakota?

    Now, I understand that this figure is probably counting work trucks and maybe even farming vehicles. Since North Dakota has such a heavy dependence on agriculture, this actually makes a lot of sense. While I can rationalize all I want, unfortunately, this does not solve the problem of holiday season traffic and a somewhat scrooge-like Hailey behind the wheel.

  8. Pride of Dakota

    November 17, 2012 by Hailey Goplen

    What do I love more than North Dakota in general? Supporting local business owners in North Dakota. This morning a friend and I made a trip over to the Fargo Civic Center to partake in what we thought would be a small craft show featuring all North Dakota made products. You may have seen some of these products floating around in stores before. They all have a label that says “Pride of Dakota” on them (see giant image on the right). When we arrived, we were shocked. This was anything but a small craft show. Hundreds… or maybe thousands… of people had the same idea for their Saturday morning as we did.

    We were there for a little over two hours, wandering through rows of vendors, admiring their crafts and jewelry, sampling food (I think I ate my weight in samples… especially every type of dip, mustard, and wine), and much much more. And while it was crowded, everyone kept their Midwestern charm and did not shove or push to get at their sample of cheese soup or bison sausage (ok, I really enjoyed the samples). As I began filling my reusable tote with goodies, I was surrounded by smells of potpourri, candles, and lefse, with the occasional, “Oh, for cute!” ringing in my ear.

    As I munch on one of my purchases (Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels… yum!), I can’t help but reflect on how enjoyable my morning venture actually was and how wonderful it is that an entire state has come together to support local businesses. From what I gather, the Pride of Dakota organization is even sponsored by the North Dakota State government. You can learn more about the organization here: Pride of Dakota.

    Though I had every intention of coming away from the event with my Christmas shopping done, I unfortunately spent more money filling my own belly than filling the stockings of any member of my family. Whoops. Maybe I’ll just have to go back tomorrow.

    For more information about the Pride of Dakota Holiday Showcase in Fargo and throughout the state, click here.

  9. No Excuses… Just Vote.

    November 2, 2012 by Hailey Goplen

    With election day just around the corner, I thought it a perfect time to discuss something about North Dakota that has stunned me since I moved to the state. The voter registration process… or rather… the lack of a voter registration process.

    When I moved to North Dakota a few years ago, the local elections were being held. I was asked by a coworker if I had voted yet, of which I guiltily replied, “No, I can’t. I haven’t registered yet.” I was a little shocked with the reply I received, “You don’t have to register in North Dakota.” What? I thought she was joking so I looked it up for myself. Sure enough, she was right. You definitely do not register in North Dakota. While I did think this was a little odd, I never gave it much more thought until the political ads began rolling out for this upcoming election. Why is North Dakota the only state where residents do not need to register to vote? My hunt for information began and I was just tickled by what I found because it just is so North Dakotan.

    In a nutshell, precincts are small enough (because of many rural communities) that most people running the polls know whether  someone is supposed to be voting there or not. If an unfamiliar face strolls in, the individual can show a form of identification to prove they are indeed a resident of the area. And in my opinion, North Dakotans really do have a reputation for being just flat out honest. Why would they lie to vote? But what it really comes down to it seems, is North Dakotans don’t want to deal with any unnecessary bureaucracy behind voter registration. And does it work? Well, according to one website (though maybe not the most credible of sites), North Dakota apparently has no record of voter fraud. Sadly, this clean record has changed since an unfortunate incident with a few NDSU football players… oops.

    Ok, so I understand the why, but I still have one question. In Maryland, and I’m sure many other states, registering to vote also makes you eligible to be called in for jury duty. If you don’t register to vote in North Dakota, how do you get chosen for jury duty? What I’m really asking, is there a way for me to avoid it? :) Just kidding.

    So, while I still may have a few unanswered questions, the moral of this story is North Dakota time and time again proves that while the population may be small, the logic of those 680,000 residents is right on. By not making people register, no one can use lack of registration as an excuse for not casting their vote on Nov. 6th. See ya at the polls!


  10. North Dakota: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

    October 9, 2012 by Hailey Goplen

    It has taken me a few months to have the courage to write this, but finally, on this rainy day in Fargo, I must confess…

    To understand what I’m talking about, I need to start from the beginning. A few months ago Blake and I were driving out to visit friends in Carrington, North Dakota. Along the way, we stopped off in Cooperstown to visit his grandparents. As I was chatting with Blake’s grandma, she mentioned I was in the paper. “Oh? The Forum?” I guessed, figuring maybe my blog had been published without me realizing. “No, not The Forum,” was her response, and she began digging through a stack of her old local papers.

    I was confused. I couldn’t figure what could have been published  in the Griggs County newspaper. “Was it my blog?” I asked. She just laughed, told me I would have to wait and see, and kept right on searching. Now, I am not one to get cocky about people reading my blog. In fact, when people mention to me that it has been published somewhere, I turn the color of a tomato and typically shrug it off. But thinking my blog had been published in the Griggs County newspaper, a county with a population of about 2,500 people, and that Blake’s grandma had kept it, I have to admit I was feeling a little high on my horse.

    After a few more minutes of searching with no luck, she finally decided to just tell me. “No, it wasn’t your blog,” she replied. “Your name was published.” Hmmm… for honor roll? No, they don’t have honor roll in graduate school. At this point Blake had joined in on the conversation and seemed genuinely interested. “What was it for?” he questioned.

    “Well,” she began with a grin, “why were you speeding through Griggs County?”

    Remember that color I turn when someone mentions my blog to me? Well, multiply that times a million when I realized why my name had been printed in the paper. Every month the newspaper runs a list of people who have gotten citations, DUIs, speeding tickets, etc. for everyone to see. It brings a whole new meaning to “public record”. Yes, sadly, on my way back from branding cattle I had been speeding through Griggs County on my way to Fargo in desperate need of a shower. I was the only car on the road, had not seen a speed limit sign in miles, and when I passed a police car going in the opposite direction, I didn’t even think twice. Even when I glanced in my rearview mirror to see the cop slamming on his breaks, turning around, flipping on his lights, and pulling up behind me, I assumed he was after someone else. Oddly enough, when I pulled over to let me pass him, he pulled over too. When he came up to my window and asked if I knew why he pulled me over, my pathetic (but honest) response was, “Well, I’m assuming I was speeding. But to be honest, I have no idea what the speed limit is out here.”

    You probably can guess what happened next. I was slapped with a ticket (though he did lower the speed so I wouldn’t get any points on my license… thank you officer), and a month later my name was in the Griggs County newspaper for all to see… including my future grandmother-in-law. To top it all off, Blake (my supportive fiancé) was hysterically laughing.

    So here is my confession: this seemingly innocent blogger is a criminal. I feel like there is no need to hide this anymore since honestly, all you have to do is find a copy of the Griggs County paper and look for my name.