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 ..

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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.

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.

#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.

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.

Ride Near Pipestone 2

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

” .. 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.”

“South Dakota doesn’t give a damn about its dumb reputation.”

I love Rock n’ Roll as much as the rest of us. And I am a pie-in-the-sky, think we can all hold hands and get along despite our differences kind of gal.

But, do I think the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association (along with many others who are not part of the Association but share the same point of view) is narrow-minded to question Joan Jett being the face of the state’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float? Not at all. It seems simple marketing tactics to me.

I’m more surprised Macy’s, a commercial marketing powerhouse, wouldn’t have better thought through the process from the get-go if indeed, Macy’s Parade officials made that initial call.

Had the roles been reversed, would Macy’s have made the same initial decision? I can just hear it..

‘Hey, we’ve got a list of sponsors and, well, the ones Joan thought might work best aren’t available .. but here’s a good match! Let’s have Joan Jett’s float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade sponsored by the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.’

Pretty sure there would have been some requests for a change there, too. Someone please remind me again, why is this such a big deal and why it has gotten to the point of grade-school like name calling?

While working on content for someone else today, I came across the following article and thought it worth a share. From Death and Taxes, http://bit.ly/1bytiZe

Could ranchers here and the state not have made a big deal about the outspoken PETA advocate and vegetarian riding on their float next week? Absolutely. Would it not have been a big deal and solely focused on the ‘entertainment value’ as many would like to think is all it is? Perhaps. Would it possibly make more sense from a marketing standpoint, that on a float that represents the state of Great Faces, Great Places and a largely agricultural community that puts foods in the mouths of Americans everyday, Americans that request it because not everyone is a vegetarian, that there is someone who isn’t vocally opposed to that way of life? I think it’s fair.

I’m not sure, however, that it means the people here are backwards, behind or that as Entertainment Reporter, Robyn Pennacchia so eloquently put it:

“The State of South Dakota doesn’t give a damn about its dumb reputation.” 

“GOOD JOB, SOUTH DAKOTA. Way to prove that you are nowhere near awesome enough to have Joan Jett on your parade float. Seriously.”

I am quite certain that if the Chicago area based reporter ever would like to visit the state and better understand the culture, community and people here, there would be many doors opened to her despite the comments made and tone of her article to help her better understand why questions were raised.

Many friends have occasionally made snide remarks or at least joked since I started dating the Cowboy about how backwards this state seems to be. It may be, in some ways. South Dakota may be years behind in other ways. I won’t argue with you there. While that can at times be incredibly frustrating, it at times can also be refreshing. As many in our society look for a simpler way of life, to unplug once in a while, to get back to the roots of slow cooking, time with their kids, living somewhere they feel safe enough to let their kids run freely outside without worrying what harm may come to them, working with the land, knowing who your neighbors are and the value of visiting with them (almost all urban infill projects have a focus on this right now) and knowing where your food comes from, South Dakota seems to be doing a lot of things right.

The invitation stands, Robyn.