There’s nothing quite like getting off the plane in Bismarck and seeing the rosy cheeks of my mother ‘n law as her happy face appears around the security check. And you don’t know a proper bear hug until you’re embraced by Papa Tom in -1 degree weather.

Within the first ten minutes of our arrival to Bismarck, I feel more relaxed. I look out the glass doors exiting the baggage claim area and see blankets of snow. All of the white calms my mind. I can feel myself starting to grin as I hear all the families around me greeting one another in those jolly mid-western accents.

I know people think Bismarck, North Dakota in the winter time is akin to the North Pole, but the cold weather isn’t all that bad. Then again, we’re only there for a week. But I actually enjoy all the white. It’s quite magical to drive through the streets and see evergreen trees stretching out their deep green branches, catching layers of snow flurries, until inches of white fluff have created something like a delicate scarf all around the tall trees. Every time we visit I have a moment where I look Joel in the eyes and say, “I really think I could live here.” Not because I’m obsessed with snow or particularly like putting on three layers before I go outside, but because something happens to my mind, body and soul when I’m up there.

It has a physiological effect on me. It could be that Tom and Carol are two of the most gracious and selfless people I’ve ever met in my life. They actually resemble snow in a lot of ways. So bright. And yet so still and peaceful. I eat better. Breathe better. Heck, my hair even looks better in the dry weather! (Which is reason enough in itself for me to move there, right ladeez?)

We also get spoiled, like a lot. Tom loves to treat his family special when we’re all in town. Think prime rib, choice wine and a toast at dinner about his love for his family that gives you all the warm fuzzies. He even made a trip to get another cinnamon log (think a loaf of bread Grandma would make with gooey cinnamon swirls baked inside) because his gluttonous daughter ‘n law had 2, maybe 3 pieces of toast every morning. Carol stocks our room with the sweetest gift baskets (she would say they’re nothing special, but they are), cooks and cleans nonstop, and is one of my favorite women to talk about life with. She is full of perspective, wisdom and love.

I know I probably sound a bit dramatic. And whatever, that’s OK. It’s just so wonderful to reflect on that authentic joyous feeling I always leave with from having visited Joel’s family. Like I can face life with a little more wisdom and clarity. Like I want to be a better person. Like I want to bake more cookies and have a garden. Brew a strong cup of coffee and read a good book. Maybe we will move to North Dakota. Maybe we won’t. But I sure do love how North Dakota realigns my weary mind and body. (Not to mention I get my back adjusted by the family chiropractor…we’re talking a holistic experience here people.)

Here are some of my favorite pictures from our trip!

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