Embracing Change

“If we can recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles, we can greet the future and the transformation we are undergoing with the understanding that we do not know enough to be pessimistic.” – Hazel Henderson

I love this quote.

Down the road

A lot of people reflect on their lives this time of year. We go back and ponder what it was we had hoped to accomplish over the past twelve months and what our dreams might be for the year ahead.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel we’ve had time to think about much of anything other than where we need to be next and what needs to get done for the holidays – not until this past weekend, anyway.

The house was completely quiet for about 24 hours as my daughter had taken off for the last half of Christmas break on a trip with her dad. The Cowboy’s three came back to the house last night. This past weekend was the first we’d been home, had down time and pure calm to just think and be still in months. And in the quiet of the morning yesterday, I began to reflect, on all has transpired over the past year.

I did my best in that moment to keep my mind from wandering into what my hopes and dreams are for 2014 because I wanted to contemplate what, if anything, we had actually accomplished this past year. Was it all I was hoping for? Could I have done more? How have we adjusted? Where exactly are we now? What does any of it mean? I don’t know but I’ve done my best to live by the above quote and remain only optimistic about whatever lies ahead.

We have, I believe, accomplished a lot. As a family. Blending homes is not an easy task. Given what others have told us, what I’ve observed with the advice we’ve given, I think we’ve tackled it with about as much grace, patience, enthusiasm and understanding as any family I know.

Career is a different issue. And, I’m thinking a lot about it right now because in the quiet of this past weekend, I came to realize it truly has been a year that I’ve been away from my previous job. One that I love(d) despite all it’s flaws and crazy schedules and demands.

Studio

I signed off the news desk a year ago this week. There are so many reasons I have not looked for a similar job here in South Dakota, all have had to do with family and wanting, needing more flexibility at this point in our lives. But, “Do you miss it,” is a question I am asked often. I do. And here’s why:

1. The people – the news business is home to some pretty interesting people who get into doing news for very different reasons. Whatever the reason, it’s this crazy pool of a) young, hungry, at times misguided and naive but driven, interesting young professionals who often have a vision of what the world is or who are at their core curious about everything. If you get the chance to watch them over the years, it’s interesting to see how life experience changes their perspective on storytelling. b) Those that have been in the newsroom for a lifetime who get fired up by few things anymore, but their knowledge of the market can’t be replaced. It all makes for a wonderful, quirky, fun loving yet dysfunctional team that everyday, many times a day, meets deadlines and gets the job done. You can count on them. You have grown many times to count on these folks to be there for you and let you know what’s happening in the world. Even if you don’t feel it’s relevant to your life and you’d rather complain about them than change the channel.

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2. The people – not just those you work with but those you have the absolute pleasure of being able to go and interview each day. It can be anyone from the President to a transient, community leaders to criminals. And they all have a story worth sharing, something we can all learn from if we’re only willing to listen and spend time with them.

3. Piggybacking off of that, no day is the same – anchoring was about as predictable a day as anything in television news and while I never thought I’d want to be on the anchor desk as a young, hungry reporter who had dreams of being a foreign correspondent, I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity. It allowed me to best help raise my family on so many levels. A sincere thank you to Tom Bier, Larry Frost and Jim Harmon who saw enough potential in me to first put my mug on the air.

4. Gifts of food. Into to the newsroom. It was like no one had eaten in weeks. Devoured. Gone.

5. Having a beat – not everyone loves having a beat, but man it allows you to really dig into something and become knowledgeable enough you can hang with the best of them on it. You can talk extemporaneously about it and not rely on a notebook when you really know what you’re talking about. Beats seem to be going by the wayside with the downsizing of newsrooms – everyone has to be a bit of an expert in everything. Also fun in its own way. But if you have the chance to pick up a beat, I encourage it.

6. Tight deadlines and being able to walk away at the end of each day, knowing your job was DONE.

7. Free hair styling, makeup and facials. Wow, do I miss that. And boy could I use at least the latter again. I had never had a facial until it was part of the contract with the last newsroom I worked for. Wow. Facials. If you’ve never had one, they are awesome. Go get one.

8. Somewhere to wear all the suits I’ve built up over 20 years of reporting/anchoring. Rural South Dakota’s not really a mecca for professional attire. I’m still not 100% sure where my work life may lead me so I’m hesitant to give them away just yet (says the girl more inclined at the moment to throw on insulated coveralls before heading out the door than a 2-piece from Ann Taylor).

Story Board

9. Editorial meetings and the debates every day about what people would most want to know if given the choice between stories. These were always interesting, small brawls.

10. Taking sometimes hours of meaningful conversations and turning them into a relevant, informative 1:30 minute story others will find interesting enough to stay tuned to your channel. It’s not easy. It’s not perfect. But it does fill an important niche in our daily lives and can have a tremendous impact on community – when it’s done right and with the right intention.

What is wonderful is there are many ways one with a passion for people, storytelling and community building can find or create unique career opportunities. It’s been fun exploring what those might be, embracing all of the change and uncertainty of a new life and career.

Wishing everyone the best in 2014.

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Dakota 38 + 2

There has been a ride on horseback from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota every year now since 2009. Each winter, not matter how brutal the temperatures or the winds, these riders saddle up and make the trek across the prairie for a cause they believe in. One that moves them at their very core.

Nearing Pipestone

The Dakota 38 + 2.

Passing on the Staff

The ride is open to anyone at any stage of the journey. People come from all over the world to take part. Each leg of the trip, each day, the riders and their support team come through a different town in the hopes they might connect with an increasing number of people willing to open their hearts and minds to the mission. One of remembrance but more importantly of healing and of forgiveness.

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Riding out of Flandreau 2

We are blessed the ride comes through our area. This past year, the Cowboy went for the first time to help shoe and trim horses for the group over at the Flandreau Indian School. It was the first I had ever heard of the ride. We didn’t talk much about it at the time. Months later…

Through the snow

The Dakota 38 +2 documentary http://bit.ly/1cJDUui aired on South Dakota Public Television and by chance, we happened to be doing something we rarely take time to do. Watch TV. We’ve talked a lot about it since.

Steam

The story of the Dakota 38 + 2 is incredibly powerful in and of itself.

But the ride that happens now each year in memory of those lost so many years ago, it is moving. For me, I want to know more. I want to better understand the divide between the Natives and non-Natives in my new home which no one seems to hide or act like it doesn’t exist. I want to help bridge our communities wherever there is a chance. I want to understand what it means to help everyone heal. I want to better understand the Native American culture, all of the different Native American cultures for that matter. I want to better understand a piece of my own family history I’ve only ever seen written on my birth certificate, better understand the culture of the tribe the Cowboy’s family is enrolled in here in South Dakota and better live many of the values of a people and culture that for far too long have been cast aside.

Lone Rider

I’m grateful for even the few lessons I’ve learned from the documentary and the few moments I was able to spend with the group this year. The riders, their support team, could not have been more welcoming. More open. More inviting, willing to talk and to let some stranger in a Prius follow them for just one small part of the ride.Riding Highway 34

Hoar Frost

Was a gorgeous morning here in South Dakota. Captured these moments well after the peak of the hoar frost shining in the morning sun .. still a stunning sight. The shots aren’t great, I didn’t take much time to stop and focus as I had only 13% battery power left on the camera, something I don’t let happen very often. The camera’s been put to some fun use the past week and I haven’t thought to recharge.

Anyway, I snapped the few photos the camera allowed on a whim …

Rain

Rain

Hoar frost

Hoar Frost

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Where has the year gone?

I’m sitting, writing out the last of our holiday cards for the year. It’s the day after Christmas. Actually, it’s the day after the day after Christmas – the wee hours of the morning. I’m the only one awake, the scenario most nights. The dogs are cashed out on the floor. Our one daughter here with us tonight has gone to bed in her new flannel pajamas. The Cowboy crashed hours ago in his chair watching a movie.

It’s a quiet night here on the prairie. The horses, donkey, goat and cats outside are enjoying the evening huddled around the hay bale. The winds are calm and the temperatures are mild. Can’t ask for more this time of year in South Dakota.

Courtesy - TheBungalowNest.squarespace.com

Courtesy – TheBungalowNest.squarespace.com

I’ve been wanting to find (make) time to write for weeks now, but so much has been going on and we’ve been on the road quite a bit. With it all, we’ve found so many great conversations to journal. I do know I’m not the only one finding myself wondering where the past month, heck the past year has gone. Happens the older we get, doesn’t it? Still, it is no less shocking each year as the holidays roll around, quickly pass us by and leave us wondering what exactly our plans should be for New Years Eve. The gifts so carefully chosen and put under the tree now for weeks are scattered throughout the house, wrapping paper left on the floor and everyone wondering when the Christmas music can PLEASE be shut off.

The music remains on in my little corner of the house tonight.

I’m milking it for all it’s worth. What’s left of the night. The year. The music. In the meantime, I’m also looking forward to getting caught up on some posts and getting all that has been fun to think about in my head out onto ‘paper’ so to speak.  We’ve had the ‘is Santa really real’ conversation, talked about the value of participating on a sports team and of being in a smaller school as we’re coming up on a year now living in this small corner of South Dakota, we’ve discussed co-parenting issues and divorce best practices and not just amongst ourselves, Las Vegas and the NFR presented some interesting topics for discussion, we caught up with the Dakota 38 + 2 Ride and hope the photos will inspire you to learn more about this time in history and the story behind why this group saddles up in the frigid winter temperatures each year, we’ve enjoyed challenging some in our small South Dakota town to think bigger – good things are happening here that could have a tremendous impact on a bigger audience should a decision ever be made to grow and dream bolder dreams, discussed the value of added insulation and new windows in an old farmhouse as we put both in recently, launched a project I’ve been thinking about for years, weathered food poisoning, the holidays, time with family – the joy and chaos of it all, I’ve been shown how to  care for new leather, been privy to conversations about why Native American beading, languages and other art forms are dying and what’s being done to turn the trend around, seen firsthand the value of stopping in for a visit with an elderly neighbor, family or friend – the conversations the Cowboy and I have had with one of our own neighbors, they have been enlightening. And they are definitely discussions worth sharing.

Speaking of our neighbor, that reminds me. I’ve got one more Christmas card yet to write.

Sun Dogs

Sunrise yesterday in eastern South Dakota – brought what I believe were the first Sun Dogs of this winter season. Absolutely beautiful scene out our front door just before 8 AM.

South Dakota Sun Dogs

South Dakota Sun Dogs

The sunset last night proved equally stunning, with the Sun Dogs making their second appearance in just a day.

I had never witnessed this phenomenon until just about a year ago, shortly after moving to the ranch here in South Dakota. Have been treated to many, since. Stunning.

” .. children and families deserve better.”

On any given morning while I’m working, the Cowboy is sitting across from me at the table talking with other parents – both men and women – who are struggling with the parenting situation they’re in due to a divorce or family split. He does this for awhile. Goes about his day shoeing horses. Then does a bit more work on shared parenting each night. He’s not getting paid. He knows the likelihood it will change his own situation is slim. In fact, we’re told right now from a judicial insider, it may be one of the biggest hurdles we face in regard to getting anything to change in our case. The State Bar wants nothing to do with Shared Parenting and South Dakota judges don’t want to be told they have to consider it’s in a child’s best interest to spend as much time possible with both parents. We’re told they know the Cowboy’s been one of the most vocal advocates for the cause.

Just want to be a dad

He does it though because he prays others won’t have to go what he went through as time marches on. Essentially removing one parent from a child’s life, unless there is really good reason, the Cowboy says to me, is just not right. I wholeheartedly agree. But it is more often the norm in our world than the exception. And until moms (the majority of the time) realize they have a role in this as well, recognize it’s in their kids best interest to spend as much time as possible with their dad (or the other parent when roles are reversed) when and if possible, to bring that discussion to the table in resolving custody issues instead of waiting for it to be forced on you as if somehow it’s a horrible thing or something to be ashamed of – that you’re sharing custody and placement, and for both parents to get along and drop the perpetuation of drama and ongoing conflict, will anything change. It’s not about you. It’s what is shown now time and again, when you can work together, to be best for your kids. So why, when the conditions are right, are we doing things so wrong? Would moms sit back and take it if the majority of time there were custody decisions made, they were told it was in their kids best interest to only see them every other weekend? Why, when the roles are reversed, does it seem to be okay? Most dads don’t want to be shut out of their kids lives, nor do the majority of kids want to have little contact with their dads.

Sure, there are exceptions. But they are exceptions.

“If there are two really good parents willing to parent, why don’t you let them?” the Cowboy says as I ask him why he keeps doing this.

I knew this group was out there, Leading Women for Shared Parenting. I read about the group’s launch earlier this year. But after some recent discussions within our own family and with some others, this group and what we might do to be more vocal on the cause – has been on my mind. I don’t know that this is the answer, but it’s another great place to have the conversation. Please consider joining. http://lw4sp.org

LW4SP’s mission:

“We believe, in the absence of abuse, neglect or abandonment, children’s desires, needs and interests are best served when they grow up loving equally, and equally loved by, both their parents.  Further, children benefit equally from the diversity of both mothers and fathers and from the maximum involvement of both parents.  Millions of family members, both women and men, have silently suffered the loss of children they love and care deeply about as a result of misguided laws and family court practices which systematically restrict a child’s access to one parent and half of their extended family.  Both children and families deserve better than to be forced into an adversarial process with policies that encourage the minimization of one parent in the lives of their children.  It is our aim to change this system.  The first step is endorsing the statement below.  The next step is inviting your friends and family members to do the same.”

The Team

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The Team

Been a busy past few weeks between family photography sessions (pictures for those holiday cards!) and an exciting project I was invited to work on with two groups that have inspiring plans for our region. Blessed, but busy. And after writing content for others much of the day, my own content has been lacking. Anyway, have a few photos coming that I’ve grabbed over the past couple weeks thought would be fun to share.

From this past weekend:

There are quite a few area farmers and ranchers who both still actively work with draft horses and who just enjoy having them around. One of them brought a team to town for wagon rides during a holiday open house. Beautiful. Neither the kids nor the adults who are used to seeing horses around these parts, could get enough of being around them.