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.

Mind your own business

Have you ever lost someone so close to you, you feel like a part of you died as well? A loss so profound it has you realizing each and every day how lucky you are – to have what you do – the people around you, your health and the gift of more time with them? A loss that in many ways, also becomes a gift because it helps you realize you shouldn’t take a moment in this life for granted?

My mom passed away 13 years ago. She was just 56 years old. She died of lung cancer. I miss her terribly.

My mom

My mom

SO .. every year, on this day, I feel a bit of frustration. Not over her death. But over how apathetic we’ve grown to a day designed to do so much good for other families that could prevent the same fate my mother had, despite the fact my mother wasn’t a smoker.

Today is the Great American Smokeout. Did you even know that?

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Usually the response from anyone who still smokes to anyone expressing concern is often something along the lines of, “Mind your own damn business.” That’s a comment I’ve heard time and again – not necessarily to me but to others on countless occasions, especially as a reporter trying to do any sort of news coverage on this day.

So.. I’m not going to talk about smoking or quitting smoking. What you want to do to your own body is your own business. I get it. But seeing the meager news coverage today on the event, I feel compelled to say something. Because I miss my mom. And because lung cancer sucks. And because smokers, I want to remind you, if you’re blessed at all to have people around you that love you, it’s that you’re not the only one who gets sick, if and when you get sick. From smoking.

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Please do me a favor and if not for me, for those who love you: 

  • Smoker or not, know the signs, symptoms and risk factors for lung cancer.
  • Go to the doctor if you do smoke, have high radon levels in your home or if you’ve been taking in secondhand smoke much of your life.
  • What are the radon levels in your home? It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer. The test is cheap and easy, test your home.
  • Know that if you’ve quit smoking, even upwards of 20 years ago, you are still at risk. Those statistics that say you’ve magically recovered somehow from all of the damage done – throw them out the window when it comes to your lungs.
  • Get screened if possible for this disease if you know you’re at risk. Screenings are more available than they’ve ever been. Call the NCI designated cancer center nearest you and ask.
  • If you’re lucky enough to catch the disease early, don’t expect it to be as treatable as every other cancer having success right now. It’s a tough diagnosis. And while advancements are being made by some very caring, hard-working and dedicated researchers and physicians, there are few treatment options available that work for advanced stages of this disease.
  • Donate to lung cancer research. Any cancer research, actually, because advancements in one area are often translate anymore to other cancers. Just donate, to a reputable organization. And if you want it to go to research, do you homework. Ask how much of it goes to research. Because I bet if you started asking if what your donations are going to, they are often steered elsewhere unless you know to ask. If you want to be lung specific, two great options include the lung cancer program at the Carbone Cancer Center and the National Lung Cancer Partnership. I’ve worked with and for both organizations. They steward your dollars well.
  • If you’re a lung cancer survivor, share your story. Don’t hide in the shadows worrying if someone will ask you if you got it from smoking. Because, people just will. And then you ask them in return, “Why do you ask?” Think about the position that puts someone in then, to have to explain why they’re asking. No one deserves this disease. Would they do that to someone with heart disease? Type 2 diabetes? Not so much, I’m thinking. Stand up for yourself, talk about what is happening. You’d be amazed at how much support there is for you if only others knew.
  • If you’ve lost a loved one to lung cancer, become their voice. Nothing will change where the course of this disease or the prognosis until we unite our voices and the research dollars.
  • If you have the guts to confront what is before you, smokers, if you really want to quit – which statistics show many of you do – try this. Go fishing. Catch a live fish and watch it as it struggles to breathe until it dies. Understand that this is the position you’re putting your family in. Know that doesn’t have to be you. Or them. I’d never wish what my mother went through on anyone. Not that she could do a thing about it. She was among those that just got the disease, because. And she handled her life, disease and death with as much grace as one possibly can.

If you decide you ever want someone to butt in, to help you quit, there is help. There are resources. It doesn’t have to be today you take that first step. Any day is a good day to try.

co-par·ent

The Cowboy teases me all the time, “You know how I knew I had found a good woman? I saw what kind of ex-wife you are.” 

..…………

I’m not sure that my ex would agree with the above statement and I’m not trying to blow smoke up anyone’s #*s. Especially my own. I sincerely have tried, from the moment we realized we were going to become parents – to this day – 8 years post our divorce, to be the best possible co-parent that I can be. Which means doing my best to ensure we are both as involved as possibly in raising a healthy child. To always try and do right – by her.

Over the years that’s meant finding a better way when she struggled with direct transitions. To make sure when she’s with me she has the ability to talk with her dad every single night because, well just because if she wanted to she should be able to. To never talk bad about him in front of her or, ever at all if I can help it. Rethinking our 2-2-5 schedule and was that best for her as she got older. Attending school conferences and doctors appointments together so we would both (hopefully) hear the same challenges and accomplishments. Seeking together – advice from a jointly agreed upon 3rd party when we couldn’t agree on something. To make sure she feels safe to love us both equally. The list, as many of you know because you’re in the same boat, goes on.

I’m not saying I’ve always done it well. Or that he has either. In fact, we’ve struggled. A lot. But we try.

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Picking up where I left off the other night .. I would have thrown all this and the kitchen sink into that post about why co-parenting well through and after divorce is critical but I didn’t want it getting too long and it seemed it was already. And it seems perhaps we need to start with the basics because there appears a sincere lack of knowledge this word even exists in many families let alone the current family court system.

co-par·ent
kōˈpe(ə)rənt,-ˈpar-/
verb
gerund or present participle: coparenting
  1. 1.
    (esp. of a separated or unmarried couple) share the duties of parenting (a child).

Here’s the deal.

Co-parenting was most likely important to you in marriage (or family unit). You both had a role. The kids relied on you both to be there for them. If there is anything still worth doing in a family that’s being torn apart, it’s to let those kids have that same access to both parents, assuming both parents are fit, loving, willing and able. At a time when the two adults involved along with their extended families are most likely hurting the most – that is the most important time to try and make this work. It shouldn’t be a forced, last resort for those wanting to get back at any other party for whatever hurt you may be going through. Far too often, it seems, this is the case with little acknowledgement you’re not the only one somehow hurting in this situation. It’s not all about you.

Sharing as equal time possible as well as the decision making with your soon-to-be or long done and over ex, is collectively what most experts in the field will tell you is in a child’s emotional and physical best interest. Again, this is assuming most parents want to be as much a part of their children’s lives as possible and that you are both fit, loving, willing and able (especially in regard to distance). Sharing this model of parenting is increasingly is shown to trump any concerns about a child ‘living out of a suitcase.’

There are incredible resources out there for families going through divorce or struggling with any issues post divorce. Among them, is this really nice co-parenting how-to-perhaps-do-it-well-despite-wanting-to-poke-the-other-parents-eyes-out-with-a-sharp-stick checklist at helpguide.org

If you get a chance, read and seriously consider why co-parenting through divorce is increasingly what is recommended and just extremely important overall when and where possible. What taking that advice to heart could mean for you and your kids.

Other helpful resources (a mix of just a few that can easily be found online) and if you have any you might recommend, please share. Thanks for stopping in.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/co-parenting-after-divorce

http://www.drphil.com/articles/article/534

http://ourfamilywizard.com/ofw/

The Journey

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you
control it.”
― John SteinbeckTravels with Charley: In Search of America

An email that just came in reminds me of how true this is ..

Sitting right now at a coffee shop in the lovely, Brookings, SD were perhaps one of the most perky business owners I’ve ever met, serves up java. I’m not kidding. It’s rare to see someone so dedicated to best possible customer service, not on this level. Maybe she’s just drinking a lot of her own coffee..

chocolatte

The Cowboy and I met here earlier so that I could deliver some much needed horseshoeing supplies to him ..

I’m still here trying to wrap up some work for social media clients before I run off to a few new business appointments myself .. and literally just took two phone calls in the last 5 minutes for requests to set up photo shoots. I. Feel. Incredibly. Blessed. And, full of gratitude. While my career especially right now may not look the way a few others feel it should, there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t thank God for the life I’ve been given and the opportunities before me – to spend time with family, be more engaged in life and my community and to pursue new paths in career. I’m having an absolute blast. The people I have met along this leg of my journey, in even just the past ten months, when I step back to think about it, leave me in awe.

At the same time, I’m mulling over a few emails from this morning all that relate to work and life and career .. and I’m frustrated. Because I’m not sure where any path leads just yet (besides every night, back to our awesome little acreage).. despite how fun they may be, to be on.

Someone asked me the other week what my greatest weakness is when it comes to career – I’m not great at being patient. I want defined goals, an action plan, to know where this will all eventually lead, how any/all of it to make a difference and to get it done. Not for me personally typically ever. Probably to a fault. But for our family, community and .. who knows who else what we’re working on might touch.

I’ve been in South Dakota now, ten months. I needed a reminder here just a few moments ago after that email came in, to be patient. That I am only in control of certain things. That the rest isn’t up to me. Rather, how any of us respond and move forward … is where we have some control.

And as I gather my things and head out into the rest of the day, that is where my heart and thoughts need to remain focused.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

I was clicking through WordPress this morning on my way to post something for a client, when I came across Hoof Beats and Foot Prints most recent blog post. At the top were words from Robert Frost that will forever take me back in time.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

When I was just a kid, there was a pretty core group of us that hung out. And for the most part, it was a group of boys. I was never much of one to play with dolls, worry about getting dirty, I never cared to paint my nails, go to the mall, watch tv or gossip about what may or may not be going on with any of our other friends. In no way do I mean to stereotype here or be critical of others activities. At all. But it seemed when I had the opportunity to get together with friends that were girls, these were many of the options. I wasn’t interested. Neither was my best friend, Amy who lived just a few doors up the street.

I wanted to run through the woods, build forts, listen to heavy metal, play football, compete, prove to them I could be just as much one of the guys, at that age, as any of them. Which, in hindsight, I’m wondering if it didn’t drive my parents crazy. And Amy, hers. We have laughed a lot about it since.

Anyway, our group would get together often and watch movies. And in trying to hang tough with the guys, I watched more horror movies than I’ve collectively seen the rest of my entire adult life, my first porn flick, Porky’s repeatedly, countless few films and when those got old we’d throw in, The Outsiders. The film, and what a great film that was, would rile us up in that small town we grew up in and we’d run around like somehow we had the same angst happening in our own community. I had the lines nearly memorized. But nothing has stayed with me from that movie more than the poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay.

fall leaves

I love this poem for so many reasons. But mostly because, every time I see or hear it, it takes me back. It reminds me of a much simpler time in my life and so many friends I’ve lost touch with but that will always hold an incredibly sweet place in my heart and soul. Friends who embraced me at one of the most awkward and challenging stages in my life when I was often made to feel like an outsider, because I didn’t fit the typical little girl mold. Of fall. Of the leaves turning. Of the home I used to live in and the big woods out back – that are full of memories – but that I now only get to drive by and wonder what sort of life the family that lives there now, has. Of just how much has changed since. How quickly the seasons of life pass us by ..

#RanchersRelief

#RanchersRelief and the Atlas Blizzard Rancher Relief Fund.

……………

We were on our way home from Rapid City and Wall last Sunday morning .. and had pulled off quick to put gas in the van and grab the kids a quick bite to eat.

We both heard someone say the Cowboy’s name, approaching us from behind.

It was an old friend from the rodeo circuit and the two spent a few minutes catching up. At some point though, in-between talking about families, jobs, roping and where each had been the past few years, the topic of the loss of livestock West River came up.

“To some extent, these ranchers had warning this was coming. I feel terrible about the loss of life but they had time to get them in. It shouldn’t have been this bad,” this gentleman said.

I was a bit taken back.

There are a lot of opinions being given right now about what could or could not have been done. Regardless of who or what may be at fault for so many deaths, if anyone, the fact exists there is still incredible, unbelievable loss. And that is where we are at. I can’t imagine anyone expected what was coming, especially this early in the year and especially because things never seem quite as bad as they’re forecast for.

Photo Courtesy of www.columbian.com

Photo Courtesy of http://www.columbian.

After working many years in television news, I’ve seen it, I’ve taken the calls from people upset that you’re breaking into their favorite television show (not saying this happened in this situation at all. Just saying, it happens) to tell them about a pending violent storm that often barely ever touches their town with even a few raindrops. For most, the hype that goes into approaching storms rarely ever matches how bad a storm ever is. People get numb to it.

But the forecasters do know, Mother Nature is unpredictable. And when the conditions are just right, sometimes those storms will be what is predicted. And they can only pray you pay attention.

I believe this was one of those storms. And no matter what could have been done before the storm, there is this incredible, devastating aftermath.

I don’t know that I’ll continue to write about this routinely. We don’t live West River. We’re not in the thick of it. I can’t as eloquently put into words what is happening as more storms hit the area, as ranchers wake each day and try to piece their herd, their lives and livelihoods back together. We however know some of these families and communities well. And we’d like to do whatever we can to support them.

Here are just a few other writers/blogs I have come across that seem to be great resources for anyone wanting to stay in touch, know what is happening and do what you can to help. Use the hashtag. Spread the word. Donate. Pray. And if you’re so inclined to read any of the following, grab a kleenex:

thesouthdakotacowgirl.com

A Poem: The Storm Atlas 

Down, Set, Life

Curt Pate Stockmanship

It Takes A Ranch

Minimum Maintenance

“I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve been on these roads,” the Cowboy says to me as we were being rerouted recently on a trip to a friends place. Road construction had completely shut the two lane highway we were on, down. There were only dirt roads in either direction and it was a crapshoot which direction might get us where we were going faster.

“Getting a detour out here isn’t fun,” he said. “You never know where you’ll end up.”

Casey

We were driving through rural, remote Central South Dakota where the roads don’t run quite the way they do in Eastern South Dakota. At least in Eastern South Dakota, there is an intersection with drive-able roads in any direction, just about every square mile. Even if it is a gravel road. It’s tough to get lost. And your GPS works (most places).

Not where we were that day.

South Dakota Backroads

South Dakota Backroads

It wasn’t long ago .. okay, it was actually a long time ago, I was a little kid .. when I couldn’t fathom being in a place like this. I sincerely thought on the family trips we used to take out west, that if we were ever in a place like this, our car would quit, the prairie dogs would eat us alive and no one would ever know. Because, well .. because it really is in the middle of nowhere.

But there is a strange beauty and peacefulness in the fact roads like this, places like this still exist. I would challenge any one of you that might not see yourself being comfortable anywhere but in the middle of a city, immersed in chaos and around tons of people, to make time for such a drive. Detour or otherwise. There are still so many places like this that exist. Places and people and a lifestyle that truly are minimum maintenance. It could be an incredibly rewarding trip.

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Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere. And in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself. – Unknown