Remodel (continued)

New stuff doesn’t usually have the character I adore – the rust, the chipped paint, the history. – homeowner Heather Salazar

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It’s been kind of an insane past couple weeks. A long overdue remodel has begun in earnest. Almost a total tear apart of three rooms inside our tiny old farm house. Cleaning up the mess and rebuilding. All while trying to maintain some sense of the normal day-to-day, out of state travels, a weekend with the kids, shared parenting legislation discussions reaching a fever pitch ahead of committee debate and new projects coming in. Insane. But fun.

The plastic finally came down two days ago and all of the dust is finally settling. We are loving the new feel of our home.

“Hold this for me, as close as you can get to the top there,” the Cowboy just asked of me.

He was measuring for the last board to go onto a new wall we’re rebuilding inside the house. An internal wall where we’re replacing more than a century of lath, plaster and dirt with barn wood.

photo-45

Old barnwood wall –

After talking about this for a very long time and guarantees from a couple different friends who are contractors they’d put us on their calendar but never did, the Cowboy two weeks ago decided we were just going to do the entire remodel, ourselves. When he takes on a project, he goes hard at it, until it’s done. Whatever it is.

It’s meant, besides the work going on inside our home, he’s been a few miles down the road even in these frigid temperatures tearing the wood off an old barn some of our neighbors will tear down in the spring to make way for something bigger and new.

I have always preferred repurposing whatever is good, even if it’s old. The wall, as the last board just was literally moments ago put into place, is just so incredibly cool. A lot of folks are doing things like this anymore. The photos really look neat. But in person, wow. There aren’t that many guys I know that would take this on, let alone knock it out within two to three days, including gathering wood from the old barn themselves. I’m impressed, I really am at the Cowboy’s drive to get things done, done well and if he doesn’t know how to do something, he figures it out. I’m grateful we’re tackling this ourselves and I’m sorry if it’s meant anyone has been trying to reach me and I’ve been less available than normal. But we’re having fun.

With these two/three rooms nearing completion (flooring is at least ordered, in search of the right light fixture and trim yet to be done after today) we apparently are on a roll as we’re tearing into another room in desperate need of help already, next week.

Home remodel

Priming new drywall –

Off to paint ..

Remodel

“Come here, let me show you what I’m thinking .. ” the Cowboy said to me moments before he walked out the door this morning.

I am still not sure he should’ve made the trip he’s making today. He’s got a day full of shoeing and trimming appointments hours away. School has been called off. Winds upwards of 60mph and blowing snow came through overnight and are expected throughout the day, creating treacherous conditions on the roads in our region.

“I’ll be fine,” he said to me right before leaving. “If it gets too bad, I promise I’ll turn around and come home.” Praying everyone gets safely through the day.

House

We’ve started a remodeling project this week, one that we’ve talked about since it seemed a reality our lives would merge. He and his ex had actually talked about building something new just a few feet away and bulldozing the century old home that stands on the acreage here. The house has needed some work. A lot of work, to be specific. Little insulation. Drafty old windows. Small rooms. Decades old carpeting. Layers of wallpaper covered by painted over paneling. Light fixtures that half work. A bathroom with a faucet that’s been leaky for quite some time. A new roof and siding…

Neither of us a big fan of taking on more debt, and me, a sucker for all things already in existence that can be fixed up, knowing the house has good bones plus just wanting a smaller home anyway vs needing an intercom to call the kids, we tore into our biggest challenge yet this week. Ourselves. Literally.

Wall teardown

It’s going to be cool when it’s done. We’re using what we can that’s recycled and rustic to finish out the spaces we’re tackling. And, we’re taking it right now room by room, tearing out walls, ceilings… deciding what we really want for each space as we go because we just haven’t been quite sure what we’ll find along the way.

What we have found, among other things, is that this entire process is incredibly dusty. A 100+ year old home on the Great Plains with a lot of nooks and crannies open to the elements has meant as many years of collecting dust. And, we haven’t hit as many snags as I would have imagined. No asbestos tiling under the old carpet and linoleum. No asbestos insulation. Just a lot of dust. And hard work ahead…. and ideas we have to rebuild our home and life together. Speaking of .. with most other work related obligations knocked out for the day, off to work on that idea he had before leaving this morning.

By the fence

We had gone to ride yesterday afternoon at a friends nearby indoor arena. Grateful for the warmth of the barn and of the horses underneath us, it was not a problem to stay at length and enjoy the time.

It didn’t take long however, after walking out of the barn to unsaddle, that I was back to not being able to feel my fingers and was shivering. I couldn’t wait to just get back into my car, sit on the heated seat and be warm for the next 20 minutes while I waited for my daughter to wrap up basketball practice. Yet, when I got to the end of their drive and turn toward town, the horses on the other side of the gravel road stopped me in my tracks.  I had to hop back out, say hello and snap a few photos. Love how this one in particular, turned out.

Loiseau's Crew

Romeo Misses A Payment

South Dakota legislators are heading back into session here soon. So the discussions at home lately when the kids aren’t around, is about shared parenting and creating meaningful changes in legislation, perhaps, this year.

As the Cowboy gets more and more calls to see what people can do to get involved, or as he thinks about how he can do anything that will actually make a difference for children and families not just in our state, but anything that may have far reaching consequences, he continues to stumble across some of the other incredible advocacy happening in regard to children and families and reforming a horrendously broken system.

If you haven’t seen the following, Romeo Misses A Payment, http://theromeodocumentary.com/full-movie/ please take the time and watch. Same with #DivorceCorp, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZTOT6DKfZ8 which I wrote about the other day. And yes, I’m including the actual links here because not everyone is savvy enough to realize there’s a hyperlink there. I think these two films and the insights they allow are too important for someone to miss if they’re even remotely seeking to better understand.

If you’ve never been divorced and can’t understand what families might be going through, if you’re going through divorce and child custody discussions yourself, if you really love your kids and want to do what’s best for them versus an industry that enjoys making money off of the hurt and problems you decide to create for yourself versus resolve, if you’re a legislator and you sincerely want to educate yourself about where things are going so wrong (or if you’d prefer to continue to think you’re justified in listening to lobbyists from the State Bar Associations who only stand to gain from your apathy and inaction/you don’t want to change a very broken system with your vote because you’re prefer to remain ignorant to the actual problems current state law creates versus solves/take a phone call during the debate because you don’t know enough to intelligently participate/go to the bathroom to avoid actually having to cast a vote on the topic, don’t worry, we’re used to it) OR, if you are a member of the media and you want to go beyond the headlines of those ‘deadbeat dads’ who aren’t making their payments to take care of their children (Gasp, how could they! Did you ever stop to think about how someone making say .. maybe 25K/year could owe hundreds of thousands in back child support for two kids? How does THAT happen? Good story, but not as easy to turn and burn) and really get to some good stories about what’s wrong with this picture ..

PLEASE, take this brief look at how we are perpetuating the destruction of already damaged families and creating more and bigger problems in the process. Dig a little deeper. Think a little bigger. What is in the best interest of our kids? If that is the goal, it’s not what we’re currently often doing. Let’s figure out how to best resolve these issues together.

What about your horses..

There are a lot of people throughout the country bracing for the bitter cold the next 24 hours is slated to bring. Grocery stores are packed with people stocking up. Schools are already ordered closed for the start of the week. Cars are plugged in. Animals and people we hope are snug in their beds. And where there is livestock, enough feed has been put out to get them through the next couple of days. They need it.

“What are you going to do with your horses,” a colleague of mine asked the other day.

Wilma 2

They’ll be fine, I told her. They’ve got a windbreak, some good winter fat on them and a pretty heavy coat of hair. I still worry about them, I tell her. But as long as they’ve got hay (in our case along with some grain) at the ready and shelter if they need, they’ll stay warm and weather these temperatures, just fine .. when they eat, they generate heat.

Moving a bale

“Horses are good if they have a windbreak – they can take a tremendous amount of cold,” the Cowboy’s dad says to me tonight as we’re talking about how they might be faring now that the actual temperature gauge in the house shows -18 at this hour in our little corner of southeastern South Dakota. 

We’re still checking on them routinely. Hoping everyone facing these temps, in some cases, record breaking lows, gets through the next 24-48 hours unscathed. Stay warm.

#DivorceCorp

Disclaimer: There are lawyers, judges, social workers, guardian ad litem, counselors, psychologists, researchers, etc that work diligently each and every day to genuinely do what is in the best interest of children and families when it comes to divorce and custody decisions. They are not in it for the money. They want to help make things as right as possible in a situation that has sadly gone wrong. Wherever and whenever you find these people, please share their names liberally.

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For those that have been fighting to change a very broken system in many states – the family court system – I’m not sure yet what this may mean. But the mere fact popular culture seems to now be looking at the disgusting under bowels of what can be one of the most underhanded, crooked, lacking of any continuity, back door, rewarding of mean spirited, unethical, say whatever you want to hurt another party, guilty until you can prove yourself innocent, shut the other parent out, full of extortion, family destroying industries versus trying to help mend what’s broken, perhaps there is some small glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

Check this out: #divorcecorp

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We just wrapped up having our kids, both our kids pretty much half of their entire winter break from school. We consider ourselves lucky in that.

Helping trim the tree

But the Cowboy said to me the other day, the five full days we just had them, was the first time in three years he’s been allowed time split down the middle with their mom – despite it’s what their court order states they should do together as parents, for their kids.

It’s also the most consecutive days we’ve had with the Cowboy’s kids since summer. I hadn’t really thought about that until this discussion. 

We were talking about this after the Cowboy was contacted by someone who was thrilled he was allowed 3 hours with his kids Christmas Eve night and for the first time in years, New Years Eve. No reason other than it’s just what he was being allowed by the child’s mother. He doesn’t have money to take her to court when she keeps the kids from what is supposed to be by law, his time with them. 50% of his income is already going to child support. Without spending money on legal help to force the custodial parent into sharing, there is no recourse. None.  He sadly, takes what she will allow. Three hours. He was moved to tears of joy, over just three hours. 

I asked the Cowboy to write something for me on all this because he was visibly upset, continuing to not understand why any parent would prevent the other, male or female, from having time with their kids. Rest assured that in most cases – both parents sincerely are fit parents and want time with their kids and their kids with both parents.

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“I am feeling so grateful for our kids, my wife and family and the time we’ve had recently. I am the administrator of several equal parenting pages on Facebook and I am just feeling terrible for some of these parents and their kids who are not able to see one another due to two things 1) a selfish parent and 2) the courts.

One father over Christmas posted about having plane tickets purchased for his children to come stay for a visit. The custodial parent who moved out of state, simply did not put the children on the plane. The dad and step-mother left waiting at the airport were out $1500 in airline tickets, the bigger cost was missed time spent together over the holidays.

I am saddened and frustrated that this can go on.  Stories like this happen everyday in every state, not just ours. Confused about how and why this further tearing apart of families is allowed to go on is what spurs me to keep fighting for these people. My own situation is nothing compared to this. I actually, for the first time in three years am getting to share equal time during my children’s Christmas vacation. I am so thankful for this, but I know what it’s like to be alienated from your children. It was only for a period of five weeks but honestly it was one of the worst times of my life.

Just viewed another parent posting pictures of his family and his daughter, he was so excited that he and his daughter got to spend 3 hours together on Christmas Eve. These people are amazing, to be so thankful for something so small. How can the other parent, the court systems allow this to continue?  But it does everyday.

The fact that one parent can mess with the other parents time (with no consequences) or that our courts often grant one parent maximum placement – even when both parents request equal time and placement and on every level it would work well for the kids – is beyond my comprehension.

I miss my children. But I know this isn’t about me. It’s about what is best for them and they need time with their mom as well as me to have the best chance at growing up the healthiest, happiest and well adjusted they can be. If the roles were reversed, the guilt would be overwhelming if I did not give my kids that time with her. I believe this is a core issue in many divorces where children are stuck in the middle – many of these parents have no idea how to feel guilt or to put their children’s needs before their own.

If you are a parent who has intentionally kept the other parent out of your child’s life for any reason other than they are abusive to that child, answer me this, why? There is long term damage being done to your child that will eventually surface. You may not notice it now, but when that child becomes a young adult, the relationship they are lacking will surface negatively in any number of ways. That’s not my opinion, that’s well documented. And I can put you in touch with adults now who were children of divorce and can tell you in no uncertain terms what you are doing to your own children and how it will impact them down the road.

But why should you care. It’s not about what’s best for your kids really, is it? This is more about what’s best for you, right? About trying to hurt someone you feel wronged you? About getting maximum monthly payments that your attorney told you was best, which comes with a consequence of less time for the other parent? About being the one ‘in control’, being able to say yes or no to letting the child see their mother or father depending more on your mood that what’s been legally agreed upon or decided? About proving a point you are somehow the better parent? Most would argue any parent keeping a child from the other parent is not a good parent at all.

Most everyone anyway, but the attorneys and/or judges (often former attorneys). But hey, what do they stand to lose other than your money should you choose to actually do what’s best for your kids and come to some easy agreements with the other parent of your child without hours upon hours, sometimes months if not years of their help.

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It is amazing to think of how many other, better things that money could go toward that would genuinely benefit our children.

Thanks to those that are honest in their work, that help to minimize conflict between parties, help moms and dads see the benefits to the kids of working together, communicating, sharing time as best as possible and allowing the kids to freely love the other parent. It’s all such a crazy concept, isn’t it? But one, that when adults can act like adults .. share (isn’t that what we teach our kids is best) and be nice, actually works.