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.

……………..

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

Not just for horses ..

“What’s in the box,” the Cowboy asked.

Another package had arrived in the mail last week that wasn’t his. That’s a fairly new occurrence at the ranch. No longer living 5 minutes from anything I might need or want, I’ve become a big fan of things coming to me and not having to go anywhere if I don’t have to.

Special Delivery

“I ordered some of that stuff Sam brought when the dogs got sprayed by the skunk,” I told him. “She said she couldn’t find it anywhere around here and I’ve tried. So I ordered it. One for us and and to take back to her and return the favor.”

…………….

The Cowboy has never had inside animals. Ever.

Sugar and Cecilia

I’ve never had anything but. Even growing up. Most of my life has been spent inside city limits somewhere where people complain and feel you’re abusing animals if they’re left outside for any length of time.

SO ..

When we combined homes in January of this year, I brought along with us, four of them. Indoor pets, that is. Two middle aged labs and two 12-year-old, front declawed, sibling cats. One of which had started to have kidney issues…

Without going into much further detail, let’s just say anyone with indoor pets knows there are going to be some accidents. There are going to be some spots and smells that need to get washed out of bedding, clothing, whatever it is and for whatever reason.

After years of trying to find some magic bullet .. some magic product that would take the stain and smell out .. any combination of natural, organic or chemical solutions .. I settled for one that I liked the most if I had to use something. But nothing ever totally did the trick. (I know, I know .. everyone has their ‘something’ that will work and please feel free to offer up your suggestions! I’m quite certain we can never have enough. In fact, I found this particular “Best Pet Stain and Odor Removers site. Some of these I’ve never tried and sound interesting.)

But this spring, our friend Sam introduced me to eZall.

eZall

It worked. With one wash. In situations that were so dire I thought I’d have to throw some really wonderful things away due to the fact they were literally soaked in cat urine. The dry cleaner I had work on a few things was even amazed. He asked if I’d share the secret with him.

I don’t want it to be a secret. I hope everyone gives this a try because, well because I know how much money I wasted over the years on products that did little to nothing. eZall, Tail and Mane Treatment for horses. Trust Sam, if not me, that this works. On more than just horses. Those fall football uniforms? Farm clothes? Sweaty socks? Gym bag?  Food smells. Given it’s as cheap if not cheaper than most solutions I’ve ever tried, you don’t have much to lose, and a lot to gain if it works.

……………..

We’ve had to put down our one little kitty. The night she crawled on top of me while I was sleeping and peed said to me, she was ready to go. This wasn’t fun for her anymore either. We still have four, with the addition of our pup this summer. But all, are now outside.

The house is a lot quieter and I miss them rambling around inside. But the washing machine is a lot quieter too and for that fact, I am grateful.

Sunflower Fields

Love that as I go to look up information on sunflower fields in South Dakota, one of the first hits is:

Are there sunflower fields in South Dakota? – Yahoo! Answers answers.yahoo.com › … › May 2, 2012 – Tons and tons of sunflowers!! Plus, despite what a lot of people think South Dakota is a very beautiful state!

Thanks, Steve in NC. I’m certain the Department of Tourism and the people of this great state are sincerely thrilled with that rave review. A review that again, turns up nearly first in any google search on sunflowers in South Dakota. It’s lovely. … Really.

…………..

I failed to mention yesterday in my fawning over the mini-sunflower like “weeds” as the Cowboy likes to call them, lining just about every roadway and field right now .. the actual sunflower fields that cover this great state.

Presho Sunflower Field

We used to marvel at them just about every August as we would drive from our home in Wisconsin to visit family/friends in Montana. But with such a long drive ahead of us, rarely would we ever stop to see them close-up.

Now that I live here …… there is time.

Presho Sunflowers cu

On the drive home from Wall yesterday, we had to stop and fill up the truck. Luckily for us, the tank hit E right before we came upon Presho, SD. An area mid-state where the sunflowers bloom for just about as far as the eye can see..

I’ve been wondering .. where do all of the seeds go? Who or what uses them? What is the main demand for this crop? (Hence the google search I started this with) There are some fascinating areas of research being done on just what this plant may be capable of. For now however, this article from a few years back about sums it up .. currently seventy percent of all sunflowers grown in South Dakota are marketed to the birdseed industry.

Lone sunflower

Some other perhaps interesting facts about sunflowers via the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center:

  • Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are a native North American plant, believed to have originated around 3,000 B.C. in what is now the states of Arizona and New Mexico.
  • Sunflowers are primarily grown in North Dakota and South Dakota, followed by Texas, Minnesota and Kansas.
  • Sunflowers are considered oilseeds. Sunflowers are used for their cooking oil, meal and confectionary products.
  • Within the oil varieties, oil is extracted. Meal, a byproduct of this process, is used primarily as an ingredient in livestock feed rations.
  • Demand for sunflower oil has increased as food processors search for sources of transfat-free vegetable oil. In 2006, Frito-Lay, the country’s largest producer of snack foods, switched entirely to sunflower oil for its potato chips.
  • Food-grade sunflowers are made up of the highest quality seeds, including the largest and cleanest seeds. Ingredient sunflowers are seeds that are still food-grade quality, but they do not possess the characteristics to be in the food-grade category. The sunflower seeds that cannot be used for ingredients are used for birdseed. Usually these are smaller, lower quality seeds.
  • Studies have shown that sunflower oil is healthier than most other food oils on the market.

What I want to know, is how do so many seeds make it to market if they’re so sought after by birds for dinner? Wouldn’t they just raid the fields? How does that work?

After talking about it on the drive home this weekend .. the Cowboy decided when he went in to pay for gas he’d also grab himself a pack of seeds. All the talk about them if nothing else, was making him hungry.

Sunflower seeds

Alongside The Road ..

“A weed is but an unloved flower.” ― Ella Wheeler Wilcox

………….

“They’re just weeds,” the Cowboy replied on our drive back from Wall again this weekend. I was asking him if he’s ever paid much attention to the flowers lining almost every roadway in South Dakota this time of year.

Small Roadside Flower

I’ve noticed these beautiful mini-sunflower like blooms the past couple of years in my time back and forth between South Dakota and Wisconsin. But now living here, I’ve been able to enjoy the full season of weeds. Wildflowers. Sunflowers. Whatever you care to call them.

Millions fill the medians of major highways in this state, line thousands of miles of gravel roads and seem to sneak in just about everywhere else in-between. Almost every state boasts something seasonal like this.

Roadside FlowersIt amazes me though, how many drive by wherever they may live, not often noticing. The weeds. Is it because they’re just there, every year .. and we grow accustomed to them? The colors. Their proliferation. Or, is it that far too often, we are too wrapped up in the business of our day-to-day to notice?

Enjoy the weeds while we have them. Their passing means if nothing else, our summer days are numbered.

Plot Twist

Famous and not-so-famous quotes speak to us all in different ways and it seems they are everywhere anymore. Social media has us all sharing great insights, thoughts on emotions, responses to situations you might find yourself in, whatever. They inspire. They relate. They bring things into context. You can find a quote for just about anything and feel it somehow relevant to your exact life. You share. And, voila. You have a legion of friends and followers giving you the thumbs up because they appreciate it as well, most often not fully realizing what’s behind you posting it, but offering support anyway. I post quotes on occasion for myself. I post them often in my social media work for others. They are a great resource. That being said ..

I was looking last night for the author of the following quote, as I’ve seen it posted recently and I’ve been mulling over the incredible irony of the situation in which I know it was used:

There are some people who always seem angry, and continuously look for conflict. Walk away; the battle they are fighting isn’t with you. – Unknown

In searching for the attribution, I happened to come across another quote. While I don’t know about any of you, I always appreciate figuring out how a negative can be turned into .. well, anything but a negative. Whenever and wherever possible. And now is a good time for that in certain areas of our life. The Cowboy and I laughed so hard at this, it has overnight become one of our favorite new quotes and mantras. We thought it worth a share.

when-something-goes-wrong-in-your-life

I love this guy’s page, he’s hysterical and at the very least, inspirational if you need a little bit of humor or help looking at the bright side of life or any given situation. Worth a follow. http://tinyurl.com/kvbbut4 

What I Love About Sunday

We had wanted to go to church this morning .. but the Cowboy needed to get on the road before we would have been able to return from town. He was leaving to get to a rally for a man he’s grown rather fond of, a man quite honestly we now consider a friend, who is entering officially today the race for U.S Senate.

We stayed home instead, sat down to coffee and breakfast together and logged onto last week’s service from my home church in Madison, Wisconsin. It was a poignant message for us ..

While I still feel incredibly connected to my home church of Blackhawk, a church where upwards of five thousand people attend each Sunday, where it could feel easy to get lost but I’m not sure anyone does, where there is this incredible team of pastors that I miss terribly because their message each week is somehow spot on and where the music just moves you .. finding a new home church here in South Dakota has been heartwarming. Our Sundays, when we are home, have become a mix of attending a nearby contemporary Christian church .. and this wonderful small church in Flandreau that reminds me so much of the church I grew up in back home.

I miss Blackhawk.

But there is just something about a small town church .. and Sundays here on our little acreage, that I love having dearly again in my life.

What I Love About Sunday

What I Love About Sunday

What I Love About Sunday – Craig Morgan

Raymond’s in his Sunday best,

He’s usually up to his chest in oil an’ grease.
There’s the Martin’s walkin’ in,
With that mean little freckle-faced kid,
Who broke a window last week.
Sweet Miss Betty likes to sing off key in the pew behind me.

That’s what I love about Sunday:
Sing along as the choir sways;
Every verse of Amazin’ Grace,
An’ then we shake the Preacher’s hand.
Go home, into your blue jeans;
Have some chicken an’ some baked beans.
Pick a back yard football team,
Not do much of anything:
That’s what I love about Sunday.

I stroll to the end of the drive,
Pick up the Sunday Times, grab my coffee cup.
It looks like Sally an’ Ron, finally tied the knot,
Well, it’s about time.
It’s 35 cents off a ground round,
Baby, cut that coupon out!

That’s what I love about Sunday:
Cat-napping on the porch swing;
You curled up next to me,
The smell of jasmine wakes us up.
Take a walk down a back road,
Tackle box and a cane pole;
Carve our names in that white oak,
steal a kiss as the sun fades,
That’s what I love about Sunday,
Oh, yeah.

Ooh, new believers gettin’ baptized,
Momma’s hands raised up high,
Havin’ a Hallelujah good time
A smile on everybody’s face.
That’s what I love about Sunday,
Oh, yeah.

That’s what I love about Sunday,
Oh, yeah.

A Night of Nothing, Almost.

I talked with a girlfriend about this earlier today .. about slowing down. Getting caught up again. With work. With life. With getting enough exercise and sleep. Perhaps a haircut and a professionally done color for the first time in, well .. let’s just say far too long.

Summer is supposed to be a time of rest, relaxation, of naps in the shade, long afternoons fishing at the river, of camping or lazy days at the beach or the pool with the kids.

Right?

Or, are we kidding ourselves. Does that place in life still exist or is there just this bizarre fantasy of what we think summer is supposed to be that we try to live up but that doesn’t exist anymore? It seems just about everyone I know has been on the go so much, trying to enjoy summer or life, they’re exhausted.

And relieved school is once again about to start.

cartoon image of dash

We got back the other night, late .. from the Cowboy’s grandmothers funeral. It seemed that night, to be the culmination of many months on the road. Back and forth to Wisconsin, to Wall, to events, to visit family and friends. All wonderful things.

But tonight is one of the first sincere down nights the Cowboy and I have had in far too long. And there is this very grounding feeling in knowing with the start of the school year again, that means for the most part, we will be home.

He booked us both a massage. Something he has only ever done once for himself. Which tells me something about how much he needs a night to regroup as well…

It feels amazing, to slow down. Even if only for a few minutes .. some friends I haven’t seen in probably 10 years just called and said they are passing through in an hour and are hoping to catch up.

Back into the car we go ..