Home Office

The Cowboy told me at least two years ago now if not three .. this was shortly after we first met but well after we knew this was such a good thing .. that if I would consider a move to South Dakota, he wanted me to have freedoms I wasn’t able to enjoy in the past. That of a flexible life and schedule. A career where I could pursue any number of my passions and do so from the solitude of our acreage or wherever else my work might take me. He and his dad would build me a small office, a space all my own out here on the acreage. It wouldn’t take any time at all to put up, he told me. His dad builds steel buildings and this would be a quick and easy project. All I needed to do was say the word.

Years later, families combined under one roof in one state and some long overdue repairs and remodeling done to the house to better accommodate us all, the office has now become our focus. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Before the snow started to fly last November, we re-roofed our old red barn with used tin found on Craigs List (I say we, loosely. The Cowboy and his dad tackled the majority of that project. So glad it’s over. So is the Cowboy’s mom who couldn’t stand to be over here watching her husband and son 30 feet in the air working on it.) Since then, the cold winter kept any work in the hayloft at bay. But we are feverishly back at it.



We recently found more cool, old tin from the Stockyards in Sioux Falls for some of the interior walls.


Sioux Falls Stockyard Steel Panels

And a farmer just down the road has been planning to burn his old livestock barn to the ground. We’ve gone and pulled boards to use for trim and another interior wall.

Insulation has made the loft remarkably comfortable and drywall is going up where barn wood and steel panels aren’t. I’ve saved an old light fixture to use in the space. Friends offered to part with two old windows from their grainery, we’re using those too. We found the coolest old tailgate to turn into a desk. I talked with a friend tonight who’s an auctioneer and let them know we’re looking for a couple of old wood cabinets I might use for storage.


It may not be in the time-frame we initially talked about. But the delay allowed us some wonderful opportunities to do things differently than we might have otherwise and make use of a great existing space. It also allowed me to start building a business that is now ready for a little more elbow room.

For each step of this journey – with the Cowboy, with my daughter, our families, friends, even my ex, my career, faith and life – incredibly humbled and grateful.


What’s Been Missing ..

I wrote not long ago about so many of the jobs I’ve held over the years, since I was a kid actually.  In strange ways, I’ve loved, appreciated and have grown in some way, from each of those roles.

Let’s just say, the learning curve continues ..

While I am incredibly excited to be building my own business right now as a communications/media consultant and photographer, and have already gained a couple of incredible partners and clients who are encouraging me every step of the way, I couldn’t be happier with another role right now, and that is working a few hours each week at a local Greenhouse.


I love it for so many reasons but among them, it has re-grounded me in what I want most out of my life and career:

1.)  Balance.  While former employers of mine have been unbelievably generous, allowing for family to always come first in theory and practice, I have never seen the flexibility this wonderful homegrown business affords its staff.  We all find it in different ways and have different needs when it comes to family/career at different stages of our lives.  But it is a beautiful thing when you don’t feel the stress of the world or company or home crashing down on you when you can’t seem to make the commitments of each work as well as you’d ever like.  Jobs like these may come at the expense of a big corporate salary but there’s something to be said for what is gained having peace of mind.

2.)  Laughter.  I don’t know that I felt like I could have much fun in my old career.  Sure, there were moments of hilarity.  And you were always to look like you were having fun when it was appropriate.  But for the most part, news isn’t ‘fun’.  It’s serious.  And there’s a lot of horrific crap (and some good, but that usually doesn’t make as good a headline) that’s happening all over the world to sort through.  So you don’t talk.  You don’t laugh.  People wonder what you’re up to and why you’re not ‘working’ if you look up too much from your monitor, talk with coworkers or find time for laughter.  You just grind through the day and come back again tomorrow for more.   Because the news doesn’t stop.

I have been reminded at the Greenhouse, most people don’t watch the news like news people watch the news.  When the crap comes on, they often change the channel or turn the news off.  Or don’t watch it at all.  Because while they care about others struggles, and these small town, big hearted folks are the first to pitch in when a call goes out for help, they also know there are certain things they can’t change.  So they better enjoy the God given day they’ve been given.  And that includes a lot of laughter.  Laughter is rampant at the Greenhouse.

I believe thanks to this crew, my furrowed eyebrow will become less and less noticeable with time and my smile lines will deepen immensely.

3.)  Conversation and camaraderie.  Along the same lines as above, talking to the people you work with can also be time well spent.  Keeping your head buried in a computer all day is overrated.  Having the chance to talk with your colleagues about life, not just work, and not have it be seen as wasting time on the job is a gift.  We talk a lot over the plants.  And I have met more people and learned more about my new home in one month than I thought I might in the coming years, working at the Greenhouse.  Find time to talk.  Be genuine.  You just might realize you like that person 3 desks away that you think is lazy or that you might hate because you know nothing, really, about them.

4.)  Group lunch breaks.  Other people do this, I think.  Quite often.  The few years I was out of news earlier in my career, I worked at a job where colleagues would often go together for a bite over the lunch hour.  It happens pretty routinely I think.  News however, doesn’t seem to have that luxury.  I had forgotten how fun it is.  But, the Greenhouse crew everyday, (at least until the Greenhouse opens, I presume) sits around the table together.  Eats.  Talks.  It is unbelievably refreshing and I can’t believe how much better I feel I know a crew I’ve worked with sparingly for a month, than the crew I just spent 5 years working with.  That to me is a tragedy.  Because I adored all of those colleagues as well.  We just really never had a chance or found the opportunity to talk.

5.)  Movement.  I used to make time, no matter how much or how little each day, to get some sort of exercise.  I considered it part of my job.  Looking healthy in many ways is just part of the job when you’re on the air.  Of more consequence, I knew if I didn’t get any significant movement in each day, I’d drive my colleagues absolutely nuts at work because I hate to sit for too long.  I get owly.  And sitting was my job for the most part the better part of the past 15 years.

Our bodies were not meant to sit all day.  Move.  Get up.  Get outside, even if its just stepping out the back door for 2 minutes to get some fresh air.  Walk to your colleagues office 7 feet away to ask them a question versus sending the email.  I am reminded, working at the Greenhouse, of how tired our bodies get at the end of the day working in a job that requires constant, heck, any amount of movement.  It is a good thing.  I say this as I’ve been sitting on my butt all day today, working on the computer.  But I am in my running clothes and going as soon as I hit send on this.  Really.

6.)  To learn and grow and blast through what others see as limits or setbacks.  One of the things I love most about being a journalist (and I hate to use past tense here because I still consider myself one, just in a different capacity) is that every day can be very different, because there is always something new to learn and a new way it can be presented.  I’m still learning and doing new things.  It may not look like some thought it would but .. who cares.  I’m an avid gardener and the knowledge I’ve gained in 3 weeks at the greenhouse will make me even more dangerous in the yard.  (Heads up to the Cowboy)  I’m observing two wonderful, caring people who years ago started a business with very little and built something incredible that supports their family, provides jobs in the area and seems to give them unending happiness.  Its awesome.  That to me, is inspiring as someone new to the area, as someone wondering what is possible as I look to also build my own business.


7.)  Dogs underfoot.  My favorite little store while back in Madison had the most beautiful golden retriever that would greet you when you would walk in the door.  I did my best to support this little boutique and the owners when I could (which wasn’t much because I just couldn’t afford it all that often) simply because they were dog people.  Well, they also served wine to their customers.  But for the most part, it was the dog.  Ruby had our hearts.  If the store was open, Ruby was there.  I want this.  We have two sweet dogs but they’re nowhere near as well behaved as Ruby.  Or the two at the Greenhouse.  Scamper and Joliet (sp?) are the best.  But I love them nearby all the same.


Just know, if you ever come visit our home office, it doesn’t pay to wear good pants.  I’ve got one jumper.  She will always be happy to see you.  It will be visible.

8.) To work when possible, from home.  Sweatpants are awesome on occasion.  Not having to wash/style my hair everyday allows me that time to do other things.  The laundry gets done while I meet new deadlines.  Good strong coffee is a few steps away, not a couple miles at $2.00/cup.  The dogs are underfoot.  The horses are out the front window, I get to see the husband I adore throughout the day, pick up my daughter from school on our timeframe, not someone else’s and be here when the Cowboy’s kids are with us as well.  All of these things remind me of how blessed I am.  In summary ..

9.)  As much time as possible with family.  Which has always been important to me.  Just a bit more elusive in the past, it always seemed.  I’m finding it is much easier to protect that time, living on a dirt road.  Speaking of, the Cowboy just came home from a shoeing appointment.

We’re heading out on that run.

The Greenhouse

The Greenhouse here, it is quite a big operation for a very small town.

The Greenhouse

So, each spring, when all of the new plantings come rolling in truck after truck, the call goes out for help.

Spring plugs.

Spring plugs.

“How did you end up out here or even know about this place?”

The question was asked of me, as I was working alongside several women last week, all have been with the Greenhouse some 20+ years.  They’ve all essentially, been with the place since it opened and they were surprised I even knew about it, given I told them I had only moved to the area recently.


I told them the Cowboy had taken me out to the Greenhouse last spring to introduce me to the owners (friends but also customers of his), to reassure me there are amenities in South Dakota that I also enjoyed back home (which I was worried about, and I thoroughly enjoy gardening), and to give me the opportunity to dig in the dirt around his place and get a few new things planted.

I loved the place.  And apparently the owners noticed, as we left with a two cartloads of plants, flowers and vegetables for the garden.

“Don’t expect me to water any of this,” the Cowboy said as we loaded everything into the back of the truck.

“I don’t,” I responded, adding, “But that just means I’ll have to come back for more….”

A year later, I am back.  There will be plants going home with me again in the near future. But for now, I’m helping plant, prune, water, hang .. whatever is needed while I also work to get my own business on its feet.  Even then, I may still hope for and love a few hours at the Greenhouse when I can get them.


I know of a few friends who think I’ve lost my marbles.  Working at a greenhouse?  I know of at least one other person who feels I should not necessarily go back to exactly what I was doing before, but something along those lines that would have me earning the same paycheck because, well .. just because that’s what this person expects me to do.

I decided long ago, it shouldn’t matter necessarily what others expect of me.  Unfortunately I’m not always great at sticking to that theory, and sometimes you just can’t.  Like when you do have a job, a boss, customers, a family at home .. all those things do need to be considered.  Because they are part of your team.  But outside that circle, well ..

Let us not try to be the best or worst for others, but let us make every effort to be the best for ourselves.” – Marcus Garvey

I, right now, am feeling really good spending time at the greenhouse.


It’s almost like that sabbatical I have heard so many others, mainly higher education professionals, physicians and clergy, talk about and take.  A time and place that offers you the freedom to just be.  To think.  To regroup.  To dream big or ponder all the problems of the world and how you might help solve them.  All the things I have been hoping to find time again to do.  Digging in the dirt the past few weeks has allowed me to dig a little deeper into my soul and really start churning up what I’m made of and better think about/define what it is that makes me tick.  What will make me grow.

Working at the Greenhouse has also reminded me of a few other things I now realize were lacking in my former career and day to day ..

Finding inspiration.

When is the last time you thought outside the daily grind?  Got up and asked yourself if you are happy doing what you do?

Asked yourself, “What inspires me?”

I have a feeling most people don’t ever ask that of themselves, because if they did, that might mean they would have to do something about it.  And most likely it would be life changing.  That, is a scary thought for some.

My brother, among others if I had to guess, believes I am a bit nuts I’m quite certain because of all this.  Because I have been asking myself this question for years.  (Not if I’m nuts.  Inspired).  I still am asking, in fact and perhaps have lived my life and career a bit more this way than he feels is healthy.  He would never leave his job.  He never has.  There’s too much security in staying that far outweighs any other issue that might exist.  But I’ve always told myself in regard to career, that if heading off to whatever is helping pay the bills doesn’t inspire me, it’s time to move on.

I came to this conclusion among other reasons, after watching my most awesome parents who I just love to pieces work and work and work and work and work for years in jobs they appreciated but didn’t necessarily love.  And then shortly after they both retired and were to ride off into the sunset and do some really cool things, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away.

Life is too short to not find inspiration in the things you do everyday.  Personal or professional.

I’d recommend asking yourself.   Like now.  Before the years have passed you by and you wished perhaps you had done things differently.  In the meantime, I’m a big fan of Penelope Trunk and have had the chance to know her even a little bit.an interesting read on the topic (agree with it or not):    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2012/08/27/how-to-find-inspiration-at-work/


At the moment, I’m inspired by working with a former colleague on a new webpage for the business I have decided to start.  Even if it’s a small business on the side of something else.  But I’m pretty sure, if I work hard at all on this, it will turn into something wonderful.  (This is despite the fact I just spent another half hour looking at the latest job postings.  I’ve been told by an old friend and career coach to never stop looking.  It’s good to keep your options open.)

It’s not a micro-brewery.  Not yet anyway.  That’s a dream for a few years down the road.  Not a coffee roasting facility either.  I had been thinking, how can I go wrong with two of the things I love most.  #Buylocal is the trend (so is the hashtag, sorry had to use it) and there are few local breweries or coffee roasters that I can tell throughout in South Dakota.  Like, anywhere.  And I miss good, local, on tap, cold hearty beers as well as rockstar coffee shops with locally roasted beans every mile or so.  We’ve talked about opening a boutique and looked at properties in the area for a storefront.  I’ve dabbled in some design and woodwork.  We met with friends who were encouraging us to look at a screen printing business due to another idea I have.  It’s been a couple months of throwing it all on the table and in the midst of it looking at what else still might be out there.

While logistics of any and all of it are getting worked out, the Cowboy said to me recently, “Remember the greenhouse I took you to last year to pick out some flowers?  I got a call from the owners today.”  (They are friends and the family, shoeing clients.)


“She wants to know if you might like to help with spring planting,” he adds.  “They could use some help.”

Crisis or opportunity?

“I can’t believe you’re leaving your home and your job,” a friend said to me in December after I had given formal notice I was leaving.  “That seems like such a scary thing to do, especially at our age.  What do you think you’ll do?”

Stay with what you know, or ..

I don’t know, I told her but I’m certain the right thing will come along.  If it doesn’t, I’ll create it.  I’ll have to.

At 40, I am (among the masses out there who are) starting over in many ways, with life, with career and with family.  And while that may seem scary to some, I am among those who choose instead to focus on all of the opportunity before me to create the best possible life.


In moving to South Dakota the beginning of January 2013, I did everything possible to give myself a month of downtime .. to regroup, to think, to make conscious decisions about what I wanted to come next in life and career, to dream, to putz, to have a glass of wine in the middle of the day and not worry about being on the clock somewhere, to take care of my daughter and make sure the transition was the best that could ever be possible, to get paperwork organized (you know, all those files you keep saying you’ll get to), make sure address changes were going through, really ground us in our new home, life, marriage and family, to go through boxes of ‘stuff’ I haven’t looked at in years, pitch the old and make room physically and emotionally for all the new in our lives.

After a lifetime of being on the constant go, constant work, always trying to do more, earn more, do better .. I wanted one month.  One month.  To regroup.  Heal.  Center.  Ground myself in our new home.  Take a walk, not a run.  Then.  Then, I thought.. the resumes I have been sending out will certainly have found their way to someone, some company I am a good fit for.  Some opening that’s currently posted.  I’ll have found a great new job working of course, for someone else that is also a great fit and I’ll get at it.

2 1/2 months later, with the right job, the right fit and the right opportunity still somewhat elusive .. perhaps that isn’t what He has planned.

Perhaps the path I am to be on, the one I’ve been sifting and sorting through, dreaming about, narrowing down, passionate about and getting nudged toward is becoming much more clear.

“When are you going to get a job?”

I looked at the Cowboy and almost bust out laughing.

We were driving the other night with all the kids in tow .. and one of our 5-year-olds from the far back says in a very confident voice, “When are you going to get a job?”

Quite certain the question wasn’t his own but rather one he had heard someone else ask… I assured him that I am working.  It may not look like my last job and at it may look different at times but I am working and I always will.

And then I asked if he was worried about it.

“No,” he replied.

“Is there a certain job you think I should have?” I asked.

“No,” he replied.

The Cowboy and I looked at each other and started to laugh as his older siblings jumped on him telling him how rude that was to ask.  It assured him again, that it was fine he asked.  I didn’t care.  I instead, have found it rather interesting there are a couple of people seemingly more concerned about me finding ‘a job’ they feel fits what they think I should be doing, more-so than the Cowboy or I.  And I’m pretty sure its not a 5 year old.


I have worked my entire life.  Since I was about 10, actually.  If we wanted anything above the basics, which my parents were happy to provide, my brother and I had to earn the money on our own to buy it.  At the time I didn’t think much of it.  But as I’ve grown, I’ve come to appreciate the life lessons that responsibility taught me.  (I only wish had been a bit more responsible with what I’ve earned over the years, on so many levels.  But that’s a whole other discussion.)

At 10 I started mowing lawns.  At 11, add to that, babysitting.  At 12, came a morning paper route.  At 14 the local florist was looking for some good part-time help.  Maureen was a blast to work for.  At 15, I started what became a very lengthy waitressing career, in a small restaurant in my hometown.  Every Saturday and Sunday morning, I’d pour coffee and serve up eggs and bacon for the entire front of the house and scrub bathrooms before leaving my shift.  At 16, I continued to waitress, babysit and at 17 added to it working at the local Cenex and feed mill as an administrative assistant.  I continued those jobs and threw in lifeguarding the 6am morning swim 3 days a week through my senior year.  College had me working 20-30 hours a week through 16-18 credit semesters and two to three jobs, usually waitressing, beverage carting, prep cooking or cleaning hotel rooms in the Wisconsin Dells during the summers.  I took my first broadcasting job at a station in Missoula, Montana for $13,500/year and worked at the bagel shop around the block just so I could have something to eat.  In recent years I’ve turned to music to help supplement my salary and keep the lights on.  I’ve done it because I’ve wanted to.  To support myself, to support my family throughout it all.  I have done it because I’ve needed to.  Throughout it however, I I have enjoyed a wonderful career.  And, I have not complained.  I’ve just worked.

Career -

Career –

Never.  Never has there been a break in my resume.

Until about two months ago.

Work. Or lack of.

The Cowboy and I are sitting at the table tonight looking at calendars.  And talking.  He tells me he’s got a busy week ahead and work is picking back up.  He’s wearing a smile.  One I haven’t seen in awhile.


“I’m sorry I’ve been kind of crabby lately,” he says to me, in rather good spirits.  “I’ve got the wintertime blues.”  He laughs.

I know, I tell him.  I reassure him it’s not a problem and I get it.  I’ve battled a slight case of it myself lately.  And it has nothing to do with the weather.

Winter trim.

Winter trim –

Work, or lack of, has been a topic of discussion for us the past couple months.  The Cowboy, because winters are just slow in the farrier business and this has been a brutal winter.  When it is frigid, which it has been a lot, people cancel shoeing appointments.  When it snows, which it has a lot this winter, people cancel shoeing appointments.  When the roads are icy, which they were again yesterday and today, people cancel shoeing appointments.  No one wants to be out in it.   The Cowboy included.  But given it is the majority of his livelihood, no work means no pay.


Work is also slow in the winter because .. because of a little factoid I am a bit fascinated with:  horses hooves don’t grow as fast this time of year.  Did you know this?  You may, but I learned only recently despite having my own horses for years.  Apparently I’ve not paid all that much attention to the time span between farrier visits.


“Horse hooves are like human fingernails and they just grow slower when it gets colder,”  the Cowboy tells me when I ask him again to explain.


“But I’ve also been told sunlight plays a role.  Kind of like when they start to shed in the spring, that has more to do with the amount of sunlight they’re getting, not necessarily because of the temperature.”


He’s still smiling as he looks at his calendar, which appears to be filling up for the first time in months.  The blues, especially with Daylight Savings around the corner, appear to be waning.