But who's counting?
Well, it dawned on me this morning that today marks 111 months of choosing to pursue the love of my life, Mr. Collin Asheim. (But who’s counting? 🤪)
I can still vividly recall reaching the three-month mark of our relationship and thinking to myself, "Wow! We made it to a quarter of a year!" It felt like such a milestone, and at the time it was. ☺️ Back then, I could barely fathom being with someone for longer than a year, and now here we are at nearly a decade with (hopefully!) many more decades yet to come.
What have I learned in that amount of time? I mean, what's the "secret" to creating a successful relationship anyway? Is there a universal formula to making it work?
I think the general key is to practice active listening, intentional communication, and to give unconditional grace.
Ha, all easier said than done!
There’s a lot more to it than just that, and there are many practices, habits, and rhythms that we’ll be figuring out for the rest our lives. A few of these things include:
This is a brief list. And yet, I wholeheartedly believe that these things matter.
Boy, I thank God every day for you, Collin Asheim. You are undoubtedly my greatest blessing. Cheers to another 111 months of embracing this thing called life together.
I freakin' love you.
(p.s. I felt it was time for your biannual sappy love post 😘)
Post Miss North Dakota Reflections
photo by Kara Lee
As I sit in my little office space in Fargo on this snowy Wednesday, I find myself reflecting to a year ago when I boarded a plane to make my way to the 100th anniversary competition of Miss America in Connecticut.
I was so nervous.
And READY. (Well... mostly anyway. Are you ever truly ready for a once in a lifetime experience?)
I was in a state of pure anticipation, mentally preparing for the 1/51 chance that I might become the next Miss America. (Man, what a thrilling and overwhelming idea that was, ha!)
Well, surprise surprise, that lucky girl did not end up being me and I couldn't have been more grateful. I was able to return to North Dakota and spend the last half of my year traveling around and serving my state.
And yes, the following few months brought their fair share of adventures.
One year later and I find myself sitting in my tiny cubicle sipping vanilla-cinnamon flavored Keurig coffee, reflecting on the events of this past year.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel real. Like, did any of this actually happen??? As I think of these events in my new “normal” reality of life, they feel like a distant dream… which memories and dreams do often seem to blur in my mind.
To be honest, I think I'm only now just beginning to process the events of the past twelve months, which I think is actually quite normal for many of us. At least in my experience, I often struggle to grasp the weight and significance of situations in real time while they're happening. These “big” life events are typically overwhelming, and I think many of us go into a state of survival mode as a coping mechanism whether we realize it or not. It's only after they're done, when we are able to look back, that we reflect and realize how we were impacted and changed.
As this year comes to a close, I continue to process the extent of these experiences on my life. And perhaps, just maybe, I was in fact changed for the better.
Photo credit to Lindsay Arbach, John Geyerman, Stella K. Photography, and Kara Lee Creative.
FAREWELL MISS NORTH DAKOTA
Someday, when my skin is weathered with wrinkles and I’ve gained a few wisps of white in my hair, I know I’ll continue to remember and recount my year as Miss North Dakota. I’ll look back at the photos and recall the memories of exploring my beautiful home state, of competing and representing North Dakota at the 100 Year Anniversary Competition of Miss America, and the moments spent fostering relationships — both the new and the old — while encouraging others to do the same.
How does one even begin to summarize the impact that such a year has had on their life? With nearly 20,000 miles driven across North Dakota, over 15,000 miles flown, and more than 16 million views on TikTok, I realize that this past year is in fact not about the quantities but rather the quality of relationships and experiences that have been gained. I look back and see a vast spectrum of colors — experiences, individuals, and moments that have molded and shaped me into the person that I am always becoming, and I can only hope that I’ve in turn been able to return the favor to those who’ve surrounded me.
This once-in-a-lifetime role has changed me for the better. And because of that, I am forever grateful.
My journey to becoming Miss North Dakota was years in the making. The first time I stepped foot in Williston, North Dakota I was nineteen years old and had arrived by train from Whitefish, Montana where I had recently completed a week of camp counselor training. Upon arrival, I hadn’t showered in days and was wearing dirty gym shorts and my favorite pair of Chaco sandals. Within an hour I had showered, shaved my legs, and secured my sparkly wardrobe and was ready to embrace another side of myself for the week that followed. However, I quickly learned that being a candidate for the job of Miss North Dakota really wasn’t all that different from being a counselor (other than perhaps the wardrobe that frequently required a crown and showering more than once a week.) Along with its emphasis on service, scholarships, and professional development, I was drawn in by the community of people that existed within the Miss North Dakota Organization.
While I was thrilled to be a candidate for the job of Miss North Dakota, I didn’t win that first year, nor the second or even the third. And yet, over the course of those multiple years I felt God gently telling me, “not yet.” I sensed that I needed to be patient, remain persistent, and find peace if I was to someday win. Of course, there were moments when I doubted myself — plenty of them actually. And in those moments, I’m grateful that I had a village of friends and family who were there to remind me of my worth, value, and goals. They were the ones who encouraged me to continue pursuing my dream of becoming Miss North Dakota and throughout this wonderfully wild past year have been my greatest supporters.
I must share a few thank yous —
“Thy will be done.”
And to our beautiful next Miss North Dakota, I look forward to cheering you on and supporting you from the sidelines. You are entering a special sisterhood, forever family, and life chapter that will leave you fuller then you could ever imagine.
As I enter this next season, I’ve been reminding myself that the best is yet to come. This is only the tip of the iceberg of a lifetime full of opportunities, joy, and friendship. I am forever humbled, grateful, and honored to have served this year as Miss North Dakota and am eternally blessed by the relationships that have been forged.
Thank you, North Dakota.
Here’s to the next adventure!
Your forever Miss North Dakota 2021
For years I’ve struggled with what direction to take my career.
Yes, at nearly 27 years old and as Miss North Dakota, many people might look at me and my curated Instagram feeds and think I have it all figured out.
I promise you --
God, so many days I desperately wish I knew my definite path. Since high school, I’ve felt the pressure to have a game plan and set trajectory — something that can guarantee success and zero wasted time. But alas, I have yet to put all the puzzle pieces together and determine a specific main goal.
Instead, I have many.
And at times, it’s overwhelming. I know what I love - what fills my cup and makes time disappear - along with the things that zap my energy.
Very broadly, a few things I LOVE --
⭐️ People — in particular, having real conversations with both old and new friends.
⭐️ Creating — art, music, words, photography, design. Anything and everything artsy fartsy is pretty much my jam.
⭐️ Exploring — the world, my own town. New towns. Myself. Relationships.
⭐️ Learning — about anything and everything. This life guarantees an endless supply of new knowledge that can be accessed if we choose to pursue it. There are endless stories to hear.
⭐️ Freedom — the ability to be independent and do my own thing. To embrace, choose, and chase whatever it is that I love and am passionate about.
With time, I’ve concluded that as long as I’m growing and developing my character, building my community, being challenged intellectually + creatively, while being present with those around me, I believe (and pray!) I’ll stay curious, motivated, and experience a sense of peace.
I share this as a reminder that you don’t need to have your life all figured out. Not today anyway. :) There’s no deadline; each of our life itineraries vastly vary. (Which THANK YOU JESUS that each of us are on our own unique journeys! This world is a whole lot more interesting place because of it!)
So, keep chasing those things that those things that give you life. Stay curious. Make an effort to ask plenty of questions (the hard ones, too) and to learn about the people and places around you. Try to listen more than you speak. Challenge yourself to do the hard things. And, always treat yourself and others with love, respect, and kindness.
I believe if we keep doing these things, we’ll one day find ourselves on the path we’re called to be on.
So, let’s stop stressing it, friends.
And instead let’s give ourselves a little grace and time.
Someday, when I have a few more wrinkles and wisps of white in my hair, I know I’ll look back at these photos and show them to my grandchildren.
And I’ll share with them a few memories from the time long ago when I competed at the 100th Anniversary Competition of Miss America — as a part of the most incredible class of inspiring women.
I’ll tell them how proud I was to wear North Dakota boldly across my chest.
And about how radiant I felt, and how that is a perfectly fine feeling to experience — in fact, everyone should feel that way in life.
And most importantly, I’ll remind and encourage those kiddos to chase after their dreams - both the big and the small - because you never know where those dreams might take you.
They might even bring you to the Miss America stage.
I had three simple goals upon arriving at Miss America:
Or, in other words:
💫 Give my very best (both on the stage and off).
💫 Cultivate lifelong friendships.
💫 Spread joy.
Beyond these goals, I didn’t expect much else. Of course, it would have been amazing to make it into the Top Ten. However, my worth was never dependent on my placement, and I felt honored to be standing there amidst a class of talented, hardworking, and deserving women.
Before I left, my friend Kristian Eikevik prayed over me and shared that he was praying for “Ruthless Joy,” and those words were on my heart the entire week.
I wrote these words the night that Emma was crowned the 100th Miss America:
“Ruthless J O Y. 💫
So many more words and stories to come, but for now I’m simply feeling overwhelmed by love and thankfulness. I will undoubtedly remember this day fondly for the rest of my life. What an honor, privilege, and blessing this journey has been.
Here’s to another century of empowering and equipping America’s women to be the leaders of today and tomorrow. This is only the beginning.”
What will I remember from my Miss America experience?
1. My class. They are truly a phenomenal group of women and were hands down the BEST part of the entire experience. They are real, inclusive, hardworking, talented, motivated, passionate, kind, with the biggest most genuine hearts. I am forever inspired by them.
2. Watching Emma Broyles, Miss Alaska, crowned as Miss America. That was a surreal experience and I had chills covering my entire body. Running forward to hug her… I remember looking up as our entire class had circled her and she was about a foot away from me. Her eyes were massive - like a deer in the headlights - and I wondered if she was going to be okay. (Good news, she is indeed okay and thriving in her new role. I'm super proud of her.)
3. Of course, there were a few stressful parts throughout the week. (These moments *do not* overshadow the good parts — just being real.)
I remember feeling frustrated after finals because we quickly had to pack up all of our things and were rushed out. Talk about adding stress to an already stressful experience (not necessary). The backstage dressing room for finals was also TINY — we were literally on top of each other. I sat between Sapna (Miss CT) and Vivian (Miss MI) and were were literally bumping elbows the entire time. Good thing we could laugh about it, hah. I also remember feeling super stressed trying to memorize my pitch the day of competition. (*Note to our future Miss North Dakota or anyone competing: do not wait until the last minute to rewrite your pitch and memorize it.)
Looking back, I am beyond grateful for my Miss America experience. Sure, it wasn’t perfect. But then again, perfection is rarely guaranteed in this life. Undoubtedly, there is room for improvement going into next year’s competition, but as for myself, I’m choosing not to dwell on the “what could have beens or should have beens” but instead am choosing to look back and remember with joy and gratefulness.
I remember distinctly thinking during the afternoon of finals of Thursday, December 16: "I want to look back at this day with joy, to remember it fondly and as one of the best days of my life."
I can proudly and happily say that I know I will be able to do just that.
Below are a few social posts that I shared during my time in Connecticut.
“Ruthless j o y. 💫
That’s what I’ve been trying to channel this entire week, and my main goal heading into the interview room this morning was to focus that positive energy (and perhaps some Star Wars vibes 😉) and be 100% authentically me. For a fast ten minutes, I talked with an incredible panel about why I should be the next Miss America. I shared why I believe our nation needs a Miss America who is approachable, relatable, and real and a figure who will connect people in a time when we need connection more than ever before.
And… why I believe I could be that woman. 🥰
Thank you for all of the kind messages of encouragement, love, and prayers. I am so proud and humbled to be representing North Dakota and to have this opportunity of a lifetime. ❤️
Miss America Interview ✔️🇺🇸”
“Forever honored to have this moment in time where I get to wear North Dakota boldly across my chest. North Dakota, I hope to make you proud tonight. To my entire village, thank you for loving on me and supporting me every step of the way.
In just a couple of hours, the 100th Miss America will be crowned.
Thy Will be Done.”
I am forever grateful for this experience. While I'm continuing to process and reflect, I know without a doubt that this experience reminded me of the importance and impact of having community, and that was undoubtedly the best part: feeling surrounded by my incredible family and friends — both new and old.
Here's to another century of empowering and equipping women with tools for success, impact, and love.
On November 10, 2021 I had the opportunity to address the North Dakota House of Representatives and Senate at the Capitol during the Special Session. Below are the words I shared with North Dakota's congressmen and woman. A special thank you to Representatives Brandy Pyle and Michelle Strinden for the opportunity and for escorting me.
Good afternoon, congressmen and women --
I am humbled and honored to be standing in front of you today.
Having grown up and lived a majority of my life in Fargo, I am proud to claim North Dakota as my home. As mentioned in that introduction, I’m a fifth generation North Dakotan, and I take pride in my midwest roots and value system that stems from generations of independent yet community minded individuals.
That service oriented perspective is a trait that I believe is essential to being Miss North Dakota. Although it might appear glamorous, this job is not all about the sparkles — it’s a year of service which entails traveling around the state to serve alongside, speak, and listen to people.
At 26, I am the oldest Miss North Dakota to ever wear the crown and compete for the job of Miss America. Women between the ages of 18 and 26 are eligible to compete in any local competition, whether she be a ND resident or attending a ND school, and if she wins a title can move on to the state competition.
I competed in my first local competition in 2015 while a freshman at Concordia. I learned about the opportunity from a friend, fellow Fargo-native Jacky Arness, who was Miss North Dakota at the time. She informed me that the Miss America Organization is the nation’s largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women and that cash scholarships are awarded at both the local and state competitions.
Upon learning this, I figured I had nothing to lose, and signed up three days before the last local competition of the season. The day of the competition came and I was thrilled to win my first local title, which meant that I’d compete for the job of Miss North Dakota a few months later. Although I didn’t become Miss North Dakota that first year (of which I was glad), I got to sample something that I would grow to love even more in the years that followed. I was inspired by the service minded women I found myself competing with, while also gaining a community within both the Miss North Dakota and Miss America Organizations.
The Miss America Organization’s mission statement is, “Prepare great women for the world; prepare the world for great women.” The organization embodies a network of positive role models who are influencing their spheres–both geographically and digitally–in every single state. Regardless of whether they’re wearing a sparkly hat on their head, the women involved are working to make positive changes in their communities by using their voices to educate others on social impact initiatives of their own choosing. They are public servants, doers, and change-makers, and they use the resources of the organization to help them expand and reach their goals.
I’ve always wanted to be a role model, especially for young people. And consequently, I
continued to compete and be involved with the organization. I earned second runner up in my first and second year competing at Miss ND, and won first runner up in my third year in 2019. During those years, I felt the rush of coming so close to winning and this helped push and motivate me to work harder — and to remain patient and persistent. While I was set to compete in 2020, the pandemic postponed the event to 2021 which is what ultimately “grandfathered” me in, and allowed me to become one of the oldest candidates to ever compete in the history of the organization. Throughout the months leading up to the state competition, I didn’t give up on my dream, but continued to prepare to the best of my abilities. And, on June 12th, 2021, after my fourth and final try, my longtime dream became a reality and I was crowned Miss North Dakota.
As Miss North Dakota, I am thrilled to be sharing the message of my social impact initiative which is called, “The Influencer Era: Impact Beyond The Screen.” My goal is to emphasize the importance of communication skills and face-to-face connection, especially with students. In this digital era that we currently live in with online influencers dominating the social foreground, ‘Impacting Beyond the Screen’ is a message about intentionally showing up for others in person by being a real life, in person influencer. Face-to-face interactions are crucial because bonds are strengthened when reinforced by the physical. Things like looking another person in the eyes, giving a hug, or simply nodding and smiling while you listen emphasizes the fact that you are there for them. As Miss North Dakota, I believe that it’s important to remind people that
every one of us has what it takes to make a positive difference where we are right now, in digital spaces but even more importantly in our face to face interactions. The place where each of us finds ourselves is no accident, and the people in front of us hold purpose, meaning, and worth.
And it’s that impact and influence which ultimately makes a difference in this world.
I believe that by encouraging adolescents and adults alike to listen and share their story, they can find influence in their own unique way. I believe this will help foster more communicative people in our state, a legacy I would be proud to leave as Miss North Dakota.
I am humbled and honored to serve North Dakota this coming year, to share this message, and to represent my home at the 100th Anniversary Competition of Miss America next month — on December 16th — in Mystic, Connecticut.
I want to leave you with a few words, from one of my favorite role models - a designer,
storyteller, and mother of five - Joanna Gaines. She is a hardworking woman who embodies what it means to be an influencer not just online, but also with those that she meets in her daily life. She wrote these words in the most recent publication of her magazine, the Magnolia Journal:
“I’m sick of feeling stuck in the muck and mire of a social culture that is robbing us all of deep and true connection — of joy, peace, honest understanding, and empathy. Maybe you are too. And maybe now is the time to declare that we’re not willing to give that up. Not yet. Not when they are the very things that make life worth living and loving. We have somehow fooled ourselves into thinking that real connection is too hard to come by these days. But I’ve witnessed too many moments that prove otherwise. A shared moment of beauty, a glimpse of humor, of lightness, of heroic pursuits, of people living for one another — and I’m convinced all over again that there is more light than dark, more life than death, more hope than anger, more joy than sorrow, more gratitude among us than we sometimes remember. So let’s fight for a world that won’t so easily forget. A world that is slow to anger and rich in compassion. A world that would rather be loving than be right. A world that keeps moving forward. And I can think of
no better time than now.”
I am deeply grateful and humbled to be in this role and to serve my home, North Dakota, a place that has forever impacted and molded me. God has guided me to where I am today, and while it hasn't been the most direct path, or the one that I may have chosen for myself, it’s one I believe was meant to be. It’s been His plan all along and I am but a part in His grand plan. I find myself saying this phrase over and over again in my life, and I will say it again, “Thy will be done.”
I am SO EXCITED for this year! I am not here because of me. There is a larger plan in place, and I am just a small part of that plan and I am excited to see where that takes me. I am especially thankful to my community of North Dakota. It takes a village, and I am grateful that role has been filled by the caring, loyal, and hardworking people of North Dakota.
is currently living life one day at a time in Moorhead, MN where she works on the Marketing Team at Concordia College.