By the time my Writer’s Notebook hits the press, this curious reporter in the southwest corner of the state will have celebrated a milestone. On April 27, I turned 30 — as in I’ve now entered my third decade on this spinning globe.

My parents were just shy of their first wedding anniversary when they brought me home from the hospital 30 years ago. My grandparents were waiting at the bottom of the driveway, Mom recalled, waiting to meet their new grandchild. Mom was happy to see them but had other plans, as well — pulling a piece of their wedding cake out of the freezer to enjoy on their first anniversary.

I wasn’t an only child for long, as my sister, Gina, came just over a year later. Being so close in age, Mom dressed us alike and people often made comments about us being twins. She’s my sister but also my built-in best friend — and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that next year she’ll be in my shoes, turning 30.

My brother, Jake, came a few years later, joining the Bechen crew. The three of us spent a lot of time outside riding bikes, swinging on the tire swing, playing in the mud and walking in the woods, visiting an especially unusual twisted tree just a few paces in from the fence line.

When I was about 10 years old, my family moved to Dodgeville when my dad landed a job at a cheese factory in Blue Mounds. I thought it was the end of the world — that was until I saw the new house. A big two-story brick beauty known locally as the house where a doctor raised his family, it looked like a mansion to a kid.

Since I was the oldest, Mom and Dad let me pick my bedroom first. To their surprise, I picked the smallest room, but let me explain. Windows lined two whole sides, and with a large leafy tree looming just outside, it felt like you were standing in a jungle. And it was quiet. So quiet.

I made new friends and my creative talents started to grow. I was a pretty good artist and enjoyed sketching in my notepad, but I also found I had a knack for writing. I wrote in a journal every day; sometimes my entries detailed what happened at school, while other entries were just a list of the “Top 8 at 8,” where a radio DJ reviewed the top 8 most requested songs on the station that day. I still have all of those journals, packed away in my garage until I’m ready to flip through their pages again.

Like many girls in high school, I was a moody teenager who often struggled with depression. Lord knows I tested the patience of my parents and my friends, but from struggle comes strength — and I looked forward to college and finding my passion in life.

After spending a semester at a private university in Dubuque, Iowa, I transferred to UW-Platteville, where some of my friends were also studying. Needless to say, during my tenure there were a few classes skipped and a few too many terrible beers consumed, but college was an experience I am grateful for, looking back. It really was where I discovered my passion for journalism, learning from the best in the now stripped down Communications Department at UW-P.

It was also where I met my significant other, Jamie, a like-minded creative person studying web design. Through him, I met a lot of other great people as well, people I’m fortunate to call friends today.

Just as turning 30 has me reflecting on my life thus far, it also has me thinking of my future. What will the next 30 years look like for me? Will I still be in journalism? Will I finally be married? Will I have any children? Will I own my own house? Am I ever going to pay off my student loans?

I’ll be sure to let you know in 30 years. But until then, cheers.

Brooke Bechen covers news and writes feature stories in southern Wisconsin. She can be reached at or 608-574-5405.