Not the Madison I’d like ..

“I’m heading to Madison,” the Cowboy told me this morning.

Sigh ..

It has probably been close to a month and a half we’ve spent nearly every weekend together if not some of the week too.  Some of it at the ranch north of Sioux Falls.  Some of it on the road where he’s had clinics.  Much of it together with the kids .. and the rest of it in Madison.  Wisconsin.

We had been taking full advantage, as best we could, of a couple months where there were good opportunities to spend time together as much as possible.

Because summer is about to hit.

“Wish it were this Madison,” I told him, knowing he’s got a lot of work to get to yet today and the kids this weekend .. I’m back to pretty packed weekends at home myself.

“Which one today?” I ask.  I never know if it’s Madison, Minnesota?  Or the one closer to home.  (Madison, South Dakota is just down the road.)

…………………

“There is the positive side and the negative side and at every moment I decide.” – William James

…………………

Posting this now two days later as life has taken precedent over writing as of late and I’ve decided that’s ok (as long as I don’t let years go by as I have on past journals) ..

Regardless I am still feeling the same – sad we can’t all be together this weekend.  I would love nothing more than for us all to be together.

But I have also, always tried to appreciate the gift of time apart, or of time alone.  And quite honestly, for a few moments each day, I need time alone.  That’s been tough for some in my life or in the past to understand.  But the Cowboy needs it too.  So we’re good like that.

So this is the ‘positive side’ of not being together this weekend.  The part where we both get to decide to make the most of it.

Time alone this weekend for the Cowboy has meant doing a whole lot of nothing with the kids at the ranch.  Bonding time they all needed.  The Cowboy keeps telling me he’s offered to take them here or there and the response all weekend has been the same:  “Can’t we just stay here and play, daddy?”

Time alone for us:  I usually use it to slow down .. breathe.  Deep.  Pray.  Go for a run.  Take time to think about how I’m living my life and be conscious about how I spend my day.  That way when it seems the world is disappointed you’re not doing enough or doing it right, you can hold your head high and say you thoughtfully did your best, did what was most important in your life and day with the time given and gave it all you had.

As a society I’m not sure we’re all that good at that anymore.  But I might be wrong.

Besides some wonderful deep breaths ..

For us the down time has meant some wonderful q-t with my own daughter, not as much as I’d like because of obligations we both had this weekend but today is still ahead .. repotting plants that are now well established into a bigger pot or the garden ..

Laundry .. going through mail .. catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a very long time .. dusting recently strewn cobwebs out of the corners of the ceiling .. time with our horse later today .. more laundry .. and fresh bedding on all the beds .. cooking a wonderful dinner at home with the asparagus, tomatoes and rhubarb we gathered at the Farmers Market yesterday.

All things I would much rather do together .. with both of our families .. but in the meantime, we’re enjoying a beautiful weekend in Madison, WI.

 

Mother-in-law ..

For years I had a handwritten poem on the front of my refrigerator from my former Mother-In-Law.  She had given it to us .. shortly after the birth of our daughter.

I love it.

And until then, I had never seen nor heard of it.

I saved that little handwritten note when I had to tear everything, photos, notes, etc off the fridge to ‘stage’ the  house when I put it on the market.  At the moment it is neatly tucked into a box in a folder in a storage unit.

But often, when I am bustling around trying to get everything in order as best I can .. I find myself saying ..

“Cooking and cleaning can wait til tomorrow
For babies grow up, I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So, settle down cobwebs, dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”

Since the day she wrote it down.. and I recall it vividly ..

Whenever I am able or think of that little note, I do what I can to bring my focus back around to what precious little time I have during any given day, with my daughter.  Even if it means watching her while she plays with someone else, or the dog, does her homework, fusses at me, goes off exploring ..

Or if it means I can just stay still for a few moments each morning and watch and listen to her breathe while she is still peacefully sleeping.  You know that moment.  There is nothing like it.

She may not be a baby anymore.  But it is a wonderful reminder for us in each God given day to slow down as best we can and appreciate the time we are given with those we love and hold dear.

…………….

As I was looking for who I might attribute the above words to, I found the following entire sweet poem:

Song for a Fifth Child

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
hang out the washing and butter the bread,
sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
and out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
but I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

My Mother …

Apartment is cleaned up.  Laundry is going.  Coffee is on.  Running clothes are on too so that I’m motivated to workout after writing this, before I run off to work.

Life’s been hectic lately.  A good hectic at times and at other times, exhausting.  More emotionally than anything.  But finally feeling like I have a moment to sit and write.

I wrote most of last week about the mom’s in my life.  And while Mother’s Day has come and gone and this was to be my post on Sunday .. my 100th post .. I’m actually thinking my mom would appreciate that I’ve been trying to take care of some other obligations and things that needed tending to, before taking this break.  Plus, she’d appreciate, I believe, the fact I’ve done nothing but think about her and what was important to write about her now for over a week.

There isn’t a day though that goes by, I don’t think of her and wish I could pick up the phone to actually call .. she was and will always be the woman who became not only my mom, but also eventually my best friend.

………………

Those of you who are a daughter or who have one now .. can imagine it wasn’t always that way.

………………

“I don’t have to listen to you!  You’re not my real mother ..” I remember saying to her more than once when I was growing up.

I’m not sure what she ever said or expected of me that warranted that response.

But I remember saying it.  And regretting it then and now with everything I have.  How often we say things, especially as children, we wish we could take back.  Thankfully I had the chance to make amends for that and any other trouble I may have caused her in her far too short a life .. over and over again.  I did my best anyway.

And even though my mom isn’t here to walk me through how she might handle some of the parenting issues I am now blessed and challenged with .. I believe I have some wonderful insight, hindsight and foresight .. as my daughter tries to get away with some of the same.

🙂

Back to my mom.

I may be looking at this through rose colored glasses .. but I don’t think so.  And even if I am, I don’t care.

Here’s what I remember of my mother:

She went by A. Eileen because she hated her first name.  And she never wanted anyone to know it was Agnes.  But I kind of like it.  Family name.  She was born in Maryland but raised in Madison.  Her own father, Paul died while she was very young of tuberculosis.  She ended up with TB because of it.  Scarring her lungs as a very young child.  She was lucky to have survived, herself.  But it would eventually make her more vulnerable apparently, to the cancer that took her life.  She grew up in both a single parent home and when my grandmother remarried at one point, from everything I understand, in an abusive environment.  She attended Business College.  Met my father in a soda shop on Madison’s east side.  Married and moved to the small town of Poynette where she .. and they would live and work and raise our family, most of the rest of her life.

Our first home was tiny, but from what little I remember of it, she made it a home.  Totally 70’s decor.  Sweet flower beds around the house.  Lilies of the Valley out the front window I still remember the smell of them as they would bloom each spring.  A play set in the backyard.  She was always very proud of how things looked, including herself.  She wasn’t a workout queen.  But she was slender, always kept.

And despite the fact she wore little other makeup, there was always bright pink or red lipstick that went on.

She was simple.  Didn’t need much.  Her closet was minimal.  I stood looking at mine the other day and even now, mine is half the size it was a couple years ago (in part because I keep most of my work clothes now at work because I have no closet space in my old school apartment) .. thinking about how I would like to get down to a wardrobe the size of the one she had.  Life.  More Simple.  I love the thought.  And I am going through my own things little by little doing what I can right now to minimize.  (How and when did we as a society ever go from something four-feet wide being enough to closets the size of an efficiency apartment being the norm?)

She was a wonderful woman with an infectious smile .. and a laugh that seemed to be heard around every corner.  When she was happy.  When she was stressed.  When she would hear us say things we shouldn’t .. knowing the consequence was coming.

She was stern, yet vulnerable.  Beautiful.  Outspoken yet often quiet, introspective and kept to herself.  She was helpful.  Had great penmanship.  I love how she wrote her name.  Is that silly?  Whatever.  She was hard working.  Always wanting to pitch in to help wherever it was needed but knowing when it was time to rest and ‘just be’, as well.  She was all about family.  And community where she could.  Volunteering.  Getting involved.  But she was equally good at hiding out and tending to her own well being .. and that of our family.

She preferred my dad do the cooking, she’d do the dishes or get us to do them.  She and my dad both worked hard.  And in turn, expectations of what we could do and how we could pitch in as a team were high.

Especially as we got older.  Older .. interestingly enough, meaning probably my dear daughter, about the age you are now.

During the summer and on weekends especially, mom wanted a clean house.  With or without company coming.  We were expected to keep our rooms clean, have the laundry done and folded, vacuuming done, floors scrubbed with a rag – not a mop, have the lawn mowed, weeds pulled, the garage swept out, toys put away and whatever our other jobs were, done.  We were expected (ahem .. encouraged strongly if we ever wanted money of our own, ever) to work on top of any of that.  We mowed neighbors lawns.  Had paper routes.  De-tassled corn.  Babysat.  My first ‘real job’ I’m pretty sure was at the flower shop/convenience store in town, where my mom would go everyday for her Pepsi and Hershey’s candy bar for a break from work.  It was right across the street from her office.

Work.  Then play.

Which we were given a lot of room to do as well.

(I had written a bunch about that, but thinking I’ll save that for a post all its own.  The importance of play.  And another .. about having a job when you’re young.  Both are so important, I believe.)

In having many expectations of us, we were also given a lot of freedom to mess up.  Figure things out on our own.  And reap the rewards of being good and doing well, earning trust.  Or suffering the consequences of not making wise choices.  And grounded.  For like .. most of my high school years.  All were gifts that helped us both grow into the people we’ve become.  Like us or not.

Travel.

Mom loved to travel.  But hated to drive (flying wasn’t an option back then on a budget).  And she was terrible about reading maps.  One of my fondest memories though is of her, wherever we would be, in the passenger seat with the map.

My dad would say to her, ‘Where next?  Where do we turn next?’

“Well, I think .. here,” she would say.  And she would almost instantly start laughing.

“You think there?!” my dad would say getting frustrated.

We ended up in places we should not have been traveling on more than one occasion because she would break down in a fit of laughter and tears and not be able to even read the map.  Ultimately ending up in the drivers seat while our dad tried to navigate us out of a mess.

I hear her laughter everyday ..

.. as I glance at the photo I took of her on one of the last road trips we would ever take together.

We were in Montana.  And while at this particular moment we weren’t lost, we were laughing.

The photo reminds me each day of her simple nature, her appreciation for life and finding beauty in the everyday little things, for exploring .. but also in coming home again.  And in being with family.

Love and miss you.

“Let there be more joy and laughter in your living” – Eileen Caddy

(A quote not my mom, but apparently another wise Eileen.)

Birth Mom …

(Been kind of a nutty past couple weeks .. and I haven’t had a good chance to sit to write like I’d like.  Such good intentions last week, especially.  SO playing catch up yet on the final two posts from my week of talking about my Moms.)

……………….

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know that I was adopted ..

I just always knew.  From the time I was a very little girl.  My parents wanted me to know that someone loved me enough to have me – and at the same time, know that it was in my best interest someone else raise me, because it wasn’t the right time or place for them to have that job.

At a very young age, I believe I came to realize just how fortunate I was, that I found the family I did, that I was even on this earth, and how painful a decision that had to have been to make.

I knew at some point, I would want to meet her.

If nothing else, to say thank you for the life I have been blessed with.

……………….

“I’m ready to look,” I said to a friend who worked for the State Adoption Agency.  It was probably 11 years ago.  And my own mother was dying of cancer.

It wasn’t long, I got a call back.

“They’ve been waiting for you,” my friend says .. “Her parents still live in the same home they did then.  It didn’t take much to find them.”

I wasn’t ready at that point for many reasons, to make the call.

So I wrote a letter.  I told her I would be in touch when the time was right.

I wanted so much for the two of them to meet, my two mothers.  The one who gave me life.  The other who gave me a life .. and if I was ever to meet my birth mother, I wanted her to know my mother-mother, the woman who had raised me ..

My mom-mom .. wasn’t sure it was what she wanted.  In fact, I know it wasn’t what she wanted.  I still remember one of the only conversations we had about it.  The two of us had just left one of her chemo appointments.  Things weren’t going well.  And we were sitting in front of Babcock Hall about to go in for an ice cream cone.

“I just don’t want to do it,” she told me through tears.

I never brought it up again.

While I am sad there never was that connection, I feel even worse about what I believe the reason why … out of fear she would lose a piece of me or perhaps even all of me, if I ever made that other connection.

I knew that would never be the case.  No one could ever come close to replacing my mom-mom.  But I also knew, nothing at that time, or perhaps ever, would ease her mind.

…..

My mother passed.

My birth mother stood in the back of the church and cried.

We have since spent some wonderful time together.  Talking.  Crying.  Getting to know each other.  Reminiscing about my life and hers .. since that day she let someone take me from her arms and put me into someone else’s.  I stood up in her wedding.  I have met her siblings (my aunts and uncles).  Spent time with her kids (my siblings).  Her parents (my grandparents).  Seen a couple births.  Deaths.  Dropped my daughter off with her for a sleepover with her cousin who she adores and is the exact same age as ..

Had some regrets I haven’t had more time with her.  But most importantly, appreciation for the time we have had.

I love her dearly for the incredibly tough choices she (and her mother) made.  Choice or perhaps better said, what was expected of her.  Life since then, I know, has been tough on her.  And she, tough on herself I believe for having let me go.  I know she never wanted to.  But when you are 16 .. and at that time in our society, the early 1970’s .. keeping a child wasn’t something many looked upon favorably.  I was told out of several other pregnancies in her school and class at the time, I was the only child born that year.

There are no words I can ever say that will fully encompass how grateful to my b-mom for my life.  And the life I’ve been given because of her sacrifices.  But I try.  With thank you’s and I love you’s, as often as possible.

And I know deep down, even though they never met, the woman I will always know as my mother, the woman who raised me.. most likely feels the same.

Best Friends Mom …

I was five, I think when we moved into the house that I eventually grew up in..

I knew there were some other kids in the neighborhood .. and my brother and I were excited to explore.  The neighborhood.  New friends.  The woods behind our house.  The rope swing over the pond.  The sewer treatment plant (that at the time, didn’t have a fence around it).  Disgusting, I know.  But at that age, the dirtier, tougher and grosser we could be it seemed, the better.

We had a blast.  It was small town living at its best.

Growing up, I would almost always choose hanging out with the boys versus just about                                                                                                                                    any girls.  I don’t ever remember anything different.  In part, because there were just fewer girls.  But I wanted to play football or baseball, golf, run and jump and build forts and climb trees, bike everywhere I could and go into that one old house we all thought was haunted and our parents told us never to approach.  Not just walk by and wonder.  There was no playing dolls.  In fact I still remember having to apologize to a girl in the neighborhood we first lived in because I ripped the head off one of her dolls.  I’m not sure I meant to, it just happened.  I think.  I had little interest to sit around and watch tv.  Or be giggly and put on make up and talk about boys.  No thank you.  Not at that time.

And the one girl who lived just a few doors up the street, closest to my age, felt exactly the same.

In getting to be fast, best of friends with Amy ..

I also became very close to her family.

Even her brother who used to site me in the eye of his slingshot, chase me home, hide in the woods knowing I was heading home to scare the bajeezus out of me, lock me out of their house if he knew I was coming or once I got in, not let me leave.  And then find a way to put his underwear over my head.

Perhaps I got close to their mom, Peggy, because she felt terrible for me and it was out of pity over all of that.

But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.  Peggy was just kind of, like some of the others I have mentioned the past couple days .. mom to all who knew her.  The door was always open.  Food or a meal to be shared.  Drinks in the cooler.  There was always time for a late night chat.  A hug.  A phone call.  A walk around the block.  An invitation to join whatever it was the family was doing.  Always.  I loved her and still do so much that at times, I believe my own mother felt very slighted.  Because Peggy was in many ways to me a resource I wasn’t sure how to completely find in my own mom.  Someone I could talk to about anything.  Not feel I was revealing too much or be judged.  Or who would ground me for any of it.  There was just always sage advice.  A kleenex.  Understanding.  Empathy.  Love.  Laughter.

And Cheetos.  There was always great junk food in the cupboard up the street .. stuff we rarely had at home.  (A tradition much to my daughter’s dismay I now carry on.  Very little junk food ever in house.)

I would usually stay to a point where – we knew the phone would ring.  And when it did, we would all look at each other and say, ‘my mom’, and chuckle.  Sure enough, my mother would be on the other end of the line, when she could have shouted up the street, saying .. “Ten minutes, honey.  You need to be home in ten minutes.”

I hated leaving, always.  And still do.

Peggy and her beautiful family have always made me feel at home and been home to me as much as I have a home anywhere.

And because my parents sold our home years ago .. when I get back to my hometown, which isn’t often enough ..

Main Street in our small town

I find myself mindlessly, always pulling into their drive.

………………..

So much has happened recently I want to write more about but I don’t want to say too much.  What I do want you to know is the difference you have made in my life.  My time here.  That I am reminded everyday of the importance of time together and family and good health and paying forward so many blessings like time together and laughter, a door always open and so much love to be shared..

I love you dearly.  So many do.

I think I may go today and buy Cheetos for the neighborhood …

Cowgirl Hall of Fame ..

I was assigned a story my first summer working as a reporter in Missoula, Montana:

Head to an area about 3 1/2  hours southeast of town, called the Big Hole Valley and catch up with a group of riders on that particular year’s leg of the Chief Joseph trail ride.

Courtesy:  West Yellowstone News

http://www.westyellowstonenews.com/news/article_2a8c9da8-cc3b-11e0-8016-001cc4c002e0.html  (Photo above courtesy:  West Yellowstone News)

And since I was going that far away, yet it was still in our viewing area, I was to come up with a couple additional stories to film while there.

…………………

“I’m looking for Sheila,” I called and asked for the woman I had been reading about was a famous hatter from that area.

http://montanahats.com/category/newsworthy/

“Hang on just a minute,” I remember a woman’s voice on the other end of the line.  I heard the woman call for her.

“This is Sheila,” I’ll never forget the deep, slow and deliberate, sweet yet strong voice that answered a few moments later.

“Sheila, my name is .. ” and I went on to explain who I was and that I was coming to her area to film another series of stories.  I knew she had made the Cowgirl Hall of Fame for her cowboy hat making.  Would she allow me to film a piece on her?  She happily obliged. We agreed on a time and day to meet.  And I believe from the moment I walked in the door to the hat shop that day, we have been friends.

Courtesy: Seattle Ray

Well, actually it was probably more over beer later that night and some dancing at the Antler Saloon..

But friends.

And then it somehow, quickly become more than that.  She and her husband at the time, and her daughters took me in, as family.  Not uncommon for Sheila.  The woman has wrapped her arms around many besides her own children, and made them feel like one of her own. We have visited as often as possible, since.  Spending a lot of weeks and weekends together, a few holidays, moves, weddings, deaths, a graduation, nights around the fire, new babies, a divorce, another wedding ..

You know what I mean, just life.

A lot of life.

And while I’m not sure what Sheila has ever gleaned from me ..  I have at times, besides just enjoying every single moment I’m able to spend with her, leaned on her hard.  Even lately.  She has always been there for me, usually giving me the straight shoot, calling me out on anything necessary, helping me set upright again and always move forward with a better perspective for having spent any time with her.  Teaching me new things.  And some old things I need to be reminded of, like, sometimes it’s important to slow down and appreciate this life.  I tell her, usually in-between laughs, I try and appreciate it too much, which is why I’m always so busy.

She also let’s me know when she thinks I’m doing a few things right. And she’s been telling me since meeting him last fall when we were in town for a visit and the 4H Rodeo ..

.. that the Cowboy in our lives is one of those things.  And, she mentioned she’s been saving up for a trip she hopes (and now knows), is coming soon.

Even when my own mother was still alive, I was so incredibly grateful for Sheila in our lives… but over the years, I have grown to appreciate the woman she is, the examples she sets and the time and love extended us all the more.

Missoula ..

I’m pretty sure I met her one of the first few days I was in Missoula, having just landed the first job of my career.

I didn’t know anyone out there, which was fine.  I rather enjoy being an anonymous soul at times.

But for some reason .. this wonderful woman, a woman I know others (at least in the role I was in) felt could be gruff, easily agitated and not someone you could get too close to .. took me under her wing.

Chari is her name ..

And every year when we return to Montana to see friends, who are like family ..

 

She is always one of our stops.

Chari was behind the counter at the police station the first time we met.  Every time I would go over for a beat check on the crime scene, we would end up talking about one topic more often than not, but usually there was a little bit of everything under the sun.

Chatting over the counter quickly turned into coffee every Sunday night after we would get off of work.  We would pack up and head over to a little 24 hour restaurant that sits over one of the creeks that flows through town.  It was quiet, out of the way .. and the staff let us sit for hours ordering maybe only toast and refills, while we talked about life.

It was something we did for over at the very least, a two year stretch.

If I were ever heading in any way astray, she would and still does quickly put me back in my place, with a lot of love .. or if I were troubled about so many of the life decisions one has to make at the tender age of 25 about life and love and career and where to live and all that stuff .. she would offer perspective and allow me gracious room to make my own (mistakes) decisions.  And she has supported me however any of them have turned out.

We still get together for dinner or coffee.

Not as often as I’d like, though.

Not nearly as often as I would like.

Although we only talk a few times a year outside of any in-person visits, I think of her always and love her dearly.