The Cottage ..

Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. – Henry James

the lake

I’m staying all week at a cottage on Lake Wisconsin, one that is home to me. Actually it is the summer home of my very best, oldest and dearest friends. Her family’s cottage. It just feels like home because I’ve been coming here since I was a child.

My girlfriend and I and all of her relatives and other friends we’ve grown up with, we all now bring our own children here. I pray that someday this sweet, totally old-school and full-of-charm little cottage still stands and that our children someday are reminiscing about their childhood summer days spent on the Wisconsin River. Like we do now. And that they bring their own children to this shore..

………

I hadn’t intended to be in town, back in the Madison, WI area all week but I’m here to both work and wrap up some family matters. Matters I thought might be easily resolved long ago. Some things will just never be easy.

Reflecting, amidst the chaos in one area of my life, on everything else that is so good in every other way. I am so incredibly grateful for this time at the cottage, for the reminders of all that is good about summer, of simpler times, of no television or internet when I don’t want it, some emotional peace and quiet, for a lifelong friendship .. and time here with my own daughter.

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Camp comes to a close ..

Last walk up with a friend ..

It has been one of the hottest June’s on record here in Wisconsin and this week at camp, the girls .. most of them anyway .. didn’t seem to mind.  Other than one day.  They rode in the morning and went to the pool in the afternoon.

“Well,” my daughter tells me on the way home as she is reliving some of the fun that went on this week outside learning better horsemanship .. “some of the girls got really crabby the last couple days.  I think it was just too hot.”

We laughed a little about it, especially since we were at that point, sitting in the air conditioned car.  I looked at the temperature gauge.  99 degrees.  According to the car.

Hugs, introducing parents and taking last day pics ..

Our 11-year-old absolutely loves this camp ..

Showing families all they’ve learned ..

This is only our second year of overnight .. but she’s been fortunate to come for years to the day camp.  There is something about it.  The place.  The people.  The other girls.  Learning something new.  Being close to home but not too close to start to really learn to feel more comfortable in her independence.  Perhaps most importantly, it’s just camp.  Late night chats.  Secret stories.  Running around like crazy.  Freedom of being a kid in a cool place and confidence building in life and social skills.  That experience she’ll remember for a lifetime.  That she’ll perhaps tell her own daughter about.

One last ride for this year anyway, on Quincy ..

She gave a few hugs.  Said many thank you’s.  Bought the standard camp sweatshirt.  Grabbed a Gatorade and we hit the road.  Ran errands.  Then having had enough of the heat all week, grabbed the dog and headed for the River to cool off.

What a beautiful day.

………………..

While she has a few other camps coming up yet this summer, ones that I know she will love in very different ways ..

As we were watching early 4th of July Fireworks from a friends pier on the lake last night and she is leaning on my chest with her arms around me, she says, “Mom, I really miss camp.  I’m worried I won’t be able to go back next year.”

“We’ll see,” I told her.  “If you love it that much and it is important to you, that might be one of the things we’ll make sure you’re able to do.”

She hugged me tighter and said thanks.

Summer camp ..

“She can check in starting at 2pm, and we plan to be there between 2 & 2:15 so she can get a “good” bunk.”
……………..
I met my ex and our daughter at drop-off for camp this past Sunday .. can’t believe we’re halfway through the week already.  
It’s the second year in a row now, we’ve done a week of overnight camp.   She’s wanted to do it for a long time but finally mustered up the courage this past year for her first week away from home.  She didn’t want either of us, her parents, to leave.  But then at pick-up, she .. as you can expect, also didn’t want to come home.
I’m so excited for her, camp was always something I enjoyed so much as
a kid, but never got to do much of.  Went to one track and field FCA camp .. basketball camp a couple times .. but that was pretty much it.  Ever.  I felt pretty lucky I got to go to those that I did.  And very few of our friends ever went either so I thought it was the norm that camp was a pretty big deal.
My (our) daughter on the other hand, has pretty much been in camp non-stop on some level each summer as she’s grown up, because quite honestly it’s been one of the easiest, most reassuring she’s in good hands and economical options for her parents (myself and the ex).  She’s gotten some great experience and had a ton of fun over the years.  Music, sports, water, pure social, acting, art, animals, you name it .. she’s probably been at the camp.  Week after week.  Just about every summer.
But last summer..
She asked to not have to go so much.  And as she’s gotten older, I agree.  There are better ways for us to manage the time involved, the value of and the expense of it all.  Plus, there are only a few camps anymore she really asks to go to .. some she’d like to attend and a few I think would be good for her.  And I want her to be able to have those experiences.  
This week, it’s horse camp.
And .. it’s only the hottest week so far of the year with temperatures soaring into the 90’s for days on end.  I’ve been a bit worried about the girls and the staff this week .. I called to ask a counselor this morning if there might be anything any of the parents can do or bring ..
“No, we should be good,” replied the young woman who answered.    
They will be spending perhaps not as much time on horseback this week and more time on field trips or in a pool or spraying each other with water.  Either way, she told me, they are good and camp will be keeping a close eye on them all.
Whew ..
Can’t wait to see her Saturday.  Hear all about it.  And have some downtime together before ‘Camp Bayfield’ next week, not really camp.  But where we’ll all be together with the Cowboy and his kids and a few friends .. and just have time to play.
…………….
“Did you go to summer camp when you were a kid,” I ask the Cowboy this morning as we chatted quick over the phone.
“No.  Well, we went to rodeo bible camp.  But our camp was going to rodeos every weekend with the family.  That was camp,” he added.
…………….
There truly are so many great values to camps:  Opportunities to learn new things, do good things, meet new friends, earn new responsibilities, grow, change, evolve, be active in ways you wouldn’t otherwise .. I feel blessed to have such great resources in our area to send her to.
However ..
I am just as fired up for her to have more downtime this year.  To not have to go all the time.  To not still believe every child gets to go to different, fun camps all summer long, because many don’t.  It is a luxury not every family can afford or chooses to even if they can.  But it’s a great option.
The other option we’re excited about .. (during her time with mom anyway) will be spent with the neighbor boy and his mother, who is a teacher.  She will be keeping them busy for awhile each morning doing some math and spelling to keep them progressing hopefully as they both head toward their first year of middle school.   That will be part of the day.  The other part will include responsibilities at home, chores around the house and taking care of the animals she so desperately loves and wants to have but truly has no idea how much work they are.  Most importantly she will also have a great opportunity to spend time doing what a lot of other kids do during the summer .. and that is, enjoy some free-time.  Figure out how to not be bored on their own.  Be a kid.  
Chances are .. anyone reading is all grown up by now and knows how quickly camp .. summer .. and being a kid flies by.


Drama ..

The Cowboy and I were standing there the other day .. when a little friend of my daughter’s came up to her just as the 5th grade graduation ceremony had ended .. and said, “Our other friend is mad at you again.  She is.  And she really doesn’t want to talk to you.”

I looked at her, not believing what I was hearing on some level.  Wanting to laugh on another.  I saw my daughters shoulders sag under the heavy weight of more drama between them all.

She looked at my daughter, waiting for a response.  Then she batted her eyes at me.

“I’m sorry, honey, what did you say?” I asked, as if I hadn’t heard the first announcement.

I had gotten to know this child a bit as well over the past year through both volunteering at school and at different events.  And, every time I see her, she gives me as big a hug as possible, I think in part because she needs it.  But also because she knows it irritates the bajeezus out of my own daughter, frustrated by someone who she would prefer is a friend, but who seems more often a foe, doing what she can as often as she can, to stir trouble.  There have just been ongoing issues and drama since the beginning of this school year.  And my daughter has tried her best, I believe to befriend her, as she was also once new in that school and knew what it was like to need a friend.

The little girl repeated herself.

My daughter, sounding frazzled, sad and frustrated replied, “What?  No she’s not.”

The three of them have been spending a lot of time recently with the guidance counselor trying to work things out.  Much of the school year has been spent negotiating this relationship, actually.  For some reason, the drama only seems to build, not wane.  And it doesn’t seem to matter what is said or done.  There is never any making it better.  Not for more than a couple hours anyway.  Often when I walk into school, people ask, ‘How is your daughter doing?’ because something else has happened that day.

I had done my best to stay out of it all year.  Be an ear for my daughter.  Help her think through how she might best handle the situation on her own.  But knowing she had cried over another apparent misunderstanding created by the third party the night before, called her best friend to work it out, clear up the notion there even was a problem, then seeing the effort right in front of me to stir it all up again .. I couldn’t help myself.

“Perhaps if (best friend) is still having some issues with (my daughter), the two of them should speak directly to each other, would you be okay with that” I said to her.

“That way you don’t have to be a go-between, which would probably make it easier on you …. and then they won’t have any miscommunications about problems that might exist that really don’t.  Otherwise, I think they have it worked out,” I said.  “Is that okay?”

She nodded her head.

“Great,” I ended the conversations.  We stepped to the side to take a family photo.

While I’d like to say if for no other reason to be happy the school year ends tomorrow, it might be, that we can move past the social challenges of 5th grade.  The time when it seems the drama really kicks in.

But, sometimes .. people get stuck in 5th grade ..  

You know who I’m talking about .. those who always need a little drama, or when there is none, are more than happy to stir it up.

………………………………………

drama

[drah-muh, dram-uh]

4.  any situation or series of events having vivid, emotional, conflicting, or striking interest or results.

………………………………………

The Cowboy and I were talking a bit about two particular issues that have come up where that is the case.  In just the past 48 hours.  Funny thing is, typically the person who loves to create it is quick to point out its not them, but you that is the problem.

And if you would just cooperate ….. the world would be a much better place.

As adults, you would think we should know better than to engage.  But it’s tough .. you feel like the little boy or girl again in 5th grade.  Exasperated it seems there is nothing you can do to fix a situation.  Because, in my opinion, there is no ‘situation’ other than the one someone is creating for you.  Exhausting.  Who has time for that?

Apparently many.

The Cowboy says it helps him to step back and think about what someone’s motives might be .. to best deal with any drama, as some people are motivated simply to get what they want.  They need to feel, regardless of whether or not they are actually in control, in control.  They need and want that power.  And unless one takes a deep breath and stands still long enough to recognize it, we get swept up in it.  Great insight, Cowboy (according to the following article.)

http://drthema.blogspot.com/2010/11/dealing-with-high-drama-people.html

The mother of my daughter’s best friend .. as we spoke the other night about future play dates .. mentioned she thought that was the case with the other little girl.

That the drama she is creating between our girls is her way to have some control in a world where she feels she has little to none.  A point that just absolutely makes me feel sad for her.  Sad especially, that she would see that as a solution versus just being a good friend.  That creating drama is her way to be able to not only have others possibly need her, but it might also be where she feels in the midst of chaos she can also come in and be the hero and fix it all, too.

Whatever the challenges we face .. be it 5th grade, making friends, finding our way, changing interests, changing bodies, new schools, new classes and creating our own good space in life .. or a new job .. adult friendships .. perhaps a relationship or a marriage..

May drama only be a class you take or a reference to one of the first three definitions according to Webster’s:

dra·ma

[drah-muh, dram-uh]
noun

1.  a composition in prose or verse presenting in dialogue orpantomime a story involving conflict or contrast of character, especially one intended to be acted on the stage; a play.
2.  the branch of literature having such compositions as its subject; dramatic art or representation.
3.  the art dealing with the writing and production of plays.
Best of luck, dear sweet girls .. in 6th grade!

Girls (minus one) On The Run ..

Not going to do it.

That’s the final answer from my ten year old about taking part in this springs Girls on the Run race here in Madison.

http://girlsontherundaneco.org/

We’ve gone through the spring program.  She has done relatively well.  Given running more of a try.  Made some new friends.  I’m just happy she continues to try new things that have her staying active, involved and getting some exercise.  But after telling me the past few weeks she wants to do the run while telling her father no she wants nothing to do with it, we’ve made a decision.  There will be no running the 5k this weekend, the race that is supposed to be the culmination of a spring of training..

While I feel sad about that and feel strongly she should finish out the program, because the feeling of crossing a finish line and the rush of having done a race, no matter the pace or how much pain you may be in, is wonderful and inspiring ..

Or while I worry that instead of digging deep when the going gets tough, she instead on many occasions chooses to, I believe, give up or act like she isn’t interested ..

While it gives me one more reason to be concerned she often defaults to what she feels mom or dad want her to do versus what she feels she wants to do ..

I’m happy that she signed up and went through the last few months of an incredible program.

http://www.girlsontherun.org/

That she chose to participate twice a week in a program that had her not only exercising, but also in a social setting where adults and kids have a safe environment to discuss some of the challenges that come with being in that age group, 3rd-5th grade.  That she felt at times, stronger for trying something she wasn’t sure she could do.  And still isn’t.  But that she may be more apt to give a shot in the future.  That there is such a program out there to help families and communities build strong young women, who could very well go on to become leaders.  Who run.  Or who don’t.  But who know the value of working hard toward a goal and that feeling of crossing a finish line on any project one sets their mind to.    That she got her feet wet in a/another sport that teaches individual hard work is just as important to a team .. as a team working together to get things done.

She may not be running the race this weekend .. but that’s okay.  I’m hoping, if nothing else, the lessons GOTR also offers each practice will give her more confidence all around, a better feel for path she is on in life, and the pace in which she wants to run it.

Stuck in my head ..

I have sincerely had this song stuck in my head now for days.

Sit in that six lane backed up traffic
Honks are honking, I’ve about had it
I’m looking for an exit sign
Gotta get out of here, get it all off my mind
And like a memory from your grandpa’s attic
A song comes slippin’ through the radio static
Changing my mood, a little George Strait 1982

And it makes me wanna take a back road
Makes me wanna take the long way home
Put a little gravel in my travel
Unwind, unravel all night long
Makes me wanna grab my honey
Tear down some two-lane country, who knows
Get lost and get right with my soul
Makes me wanna take, makes me wanna
Take a back road. 

– Rodney Atkins, Take a Backroad

I’m thinking the fact this has been just spinning in my head must be a sign.  That, at the very least, I need a vacation.

It’s a few years old now ..

But as I was looking back through photos for something that might go with yesterdays post, I came across this one of my daughter at our friends ranch near Dillon, Montana.

And just want my daughter to know, it will always be one of my favorites of her.  A reminder of a simpler time and place in our lives.  But also just a simple, wonderful place we go as often as we can.  Where the pace is as fast as you want to go.  Where it’s tough to be in cell range.  But you can be as connected as you want to be.  Where neighbors can be found in each other’s  small shops sipping coffee, grabbing a beer .. or with the whole family and a dish to pass at the fairgrounds .. everyone keeping an eye on each others kids, keeping them honest, but allowing room for a lot of fun, where people work hard but say they wouldn’t have it any other way.

I love the city.  Big cities.  Small cities.  I love the culture.  I love the food.  I’m a huge fan of people watching.  I love the hustle and bustle.  The buzz.  The Cowboy, when we first met, worried a bit about the fact I rarely sit still.

‘Sure’, I’ve told him.  ‘I love this – on one level.  There is always somewhere to go, something to do or family and friends to see .. ‘

But there is a lot to be said, for taking a backroad.

And at some point, only God knows when, I’m looking forward to that being more a part of my daily commute.

When Life Hands You …

I woke up by chance this morning at about 3:15 ..

I flipped on the tv, trying to decide whether I would get up and get to a few things I wanted and needed to do.

Or go back to bed.

While I was trying to decide, I happened to catch the following:

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7409866n&tag=mncol;lst;1

So many great words here .. all of which I love, most of which I try to live by and many that I hope my daughter will internalize and remember someday when she needs to dig deep.  Make some tough decisions.  Apply herself.  Set goals.  Or just wake up and remember that being positive and having the right attitude about life can make all the difference in any God given day.

But because she’s getting to the age where she knows best and mom knows nothing so I won’t listen to you .. lalalalalalalalaalalalalalaaaaa …

(even though I know she does)

I thought I’d post this too.  Thinking, perhaps the wisdom and insight from many others will give her pause.

Someday, if my own history is any indication, she will remember my thoughts, hopes and dreams for her.  And she will pause, and hopefully along with that, smile.  Especially since I’m adding now to my arsenal (sorry, need to pilfer this one), one of the phrases from Jane Lynch, among the speakers featured in the CBS Early Show’s video montage:

If life gives you lemons, grab it by the horns and drive.”

Intentional combination of several metaphors, for the record.  And a lovely moment in the video if you have time to watch.  So many other great quotes to cite and may grab them in writing later but for now, love this one dearly.

Glad for some reason that I was awake and caught it.

And that I did finally decide it was wise to get a couple more hours of sleep.