Day After the Storm ..

It was a day of cleaning up and assessing the damage after last nights violent storms ..

For the adults, anyway.

The kids …

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… found a day full of fun and laughter and using their imaginations in a few piles of gravel, dirt and a half flooded field.

It was wet. Muddy. And cold. But no one seemed to mind. And it was so beautiful just watching the four of them, the cowboys kiddos and my little girl, have so much fun .. be so carefree ..

And for us to have seemingly all the time in the world to be outside and just be together (and laundry soap necessary to deal with the aftermath), even though we needed to get back home to Wisconsin.

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Small victories.

It has been a long past several weeks of watching someone I love really go out of his comfort zone .. sticking his neck out to do the right thing.

It hasn’t been easy.

And that is an understatement.

But the goal has always been, a healthier situation for the three children he and his ex-wife brought into this world together.  And for them all as a family, even in divorce.  So he’s stuck it out.  And stuck to the issue.  And shut out the noise of others working against him/others walking in his same shoes.

‎”Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world right in the eye.”

– Helen Keller

The South Dakota Senate today passed House Bill 1055, a bill that aims to do what is in the best interest of children by working toward 50/50 placement whenever and wherever  possible.  It may not be the bill the Cowboy and others had hoped for.  Because it still only encourages a judge to give both parents equal placement when its in the best interest of a child.  But there were concerns the companion Senate bill went a bit too far.

HB 1055 is a small victory.

Or..

Maybe it is big.  Maybe even this small change will ripple further than anyone realizes.  Who can tell what the impact will be for children to spend more equal time with both parents and their families.. families who love and want to help raise them, parents who are encouraged through this legislation to better get along, to co-parent in a manner currently not fostered in the state of South Dakota.  Who can at this moment, fully appreciate what that will mean and the impact it will have on a child?

HB 1055 now heads to the Governor’s desk.

It is both sad yet wonderful everything involved with this discussion, *every letter written, every piece of testimony, will remain a matter of public record.  Because someday, the Cowboys children will understand just how hard their dad fought for them..  how much of a stand he had to take, to simply do what one might think would come natural – and that’s be their dad.

I don’t know that anyone reading this blog is among those I feel compelled to say something to, but:

On behalf of the Cowboy, a sincere thank you to all who worked hard for this, from the other dads, moms and grandparents who testified, to those who wrote in, to the legislators who took a stand, who came back at this year after year, who held meetings and who have been studying the issue to try and get it right this time.  Is it right?  We will see.  But still, thank you.  Thank you to the other dads who for years, have done their best to pave the way toward change.  Thank you especially .. to the legislators who fought hard to be the voice for so many children and families in your state, who otherwise might feel like no none cares that they are hurting.  And, for making sure dirty politics weren’t played today as best you could, for thoroughly understanding both sides of an issue because you had today, information from both sides.  Thank you for what may be seen as only a small victory by some.

I’m hoping in one little corner of South Dakota, that small victory will someday soon .. grow into a big fat wonderful opportunity for a good man to have more time, less stress, less conflict and all the space possible to love his kids.

At my dads..

It was a late night of driving up into the northwoods of northern Wisconsin..

The two lane highway last night once we were north of Minocqua was pretty quiet.  There was an occasional car.  Otherwise, only the wind was howling..

We pulled onto the dirt road heading to my dads at about 2:30 this morning.

February, unfortunatley is a month I can not take any time off of work unless death is knocking on the door.  Sincerely.  I work in news.  Ad rates are based off of ratings four months out of the year.  Which means no time off.  So we didn’t leave town for the 6 hour drive until about 8 o’clock last night. 

I’m usually up late nights, so that part wasn’t a big deal.  But I’m not always a fan of driving in rural areas at that hour. 

We were dodging deer.  Random snowdrifts across the road.  People leaving the bars in their vehicles and on snowmobile.  And, worst of all, try finding somewhere in northern Wisconsin open to use the bathroom in subzero temps just after midnight.  Not an easy task.

But my dad wants more time with us.  And us with him. 

And its been too long since we made the trip north.  SO.. we packed up the the car, all of our winter weather gear, skiis, skates, snacks and the dogs and .. arrived in the wee hours of the morning.

….

We slept in.

It’s below zero. 

Still….

We might go skiing.

We brought our ice skates.

We fed the birds.

We’ve watched our two labs run around like this is the time of their life.  NO leash, lots of animal scents to check out and no one else as far as the eye can see is like heaven for a dog.

Its almost 2pm and we’re just eating breakfast.

I feel like I’m in heaven.

While there are a ton of things we COULD be doing, running from one thing to the next, which often is my norm, we are doing much of nothing today.  Except spend time together.

Quality time.

In fact I just spent the past two hours on the computer with my dad.  Teaching him how to use something most of us use everyday and take for granted that it’s easy.  It isn’t for him. I have never understood why. I’ve been frustated he wouldn’t use it more to keep in touch with us.  And, I never would have understood why.  Had I not taken the opportunity today to just be still, and spend time with him this morning.

I’m going to write about why that was cathartic later tonight, perhaps.

But for now.. I’m going to eat the delicious breakfast he just made that reminds me of all the weekend mornings he used to cook for us when we were kids.

Nothing like cheese smothered eggs

(I’ll post pictures later, have some fun ones of today but can’t figure out on his computer where to download the pics off my camera!)

The Cowboy’s mom wrote about the importance of time in her plea this week to South Dakota state legislators in regard to passage of bills that give children in divorce, equal time wherever and whenever in their best interest, with both parents.  I won’t dwell on that.  What struck me as I was thinking about what I wanted to write today.. was the theme of time.

And how when we have it, or the opportunity to have it especially with family, it is a gift.

My mom isn’t around anymore.  She’s been gone now, almost 11 years.  I miss her more than anything.  And the last thing I did before leaving our house for the drive here last night, was touch the photo I have of her on my dresser.  I have many others who are like a mom to me – for so many reasons.  I love them all dearly.  So does my daughter and I want for her to know how each of them has played a role in who I am today.  At some point this year, you’ll meet them too, if you stick around long enough. 

But my mom, is gone.  And I would give anything for more time with her..

I know my dad would too. 

We’ll ony be here a day and a half, and have to head home.

Down time ...

But I know the time with him is precious.  We need to make more late night drives.

Can’t sleep …

People always worry its a man that’s abusive in a relationship.

People often don’t believe there’s no abuse taking place if a hand isn’t risen.  Or that it hasn’t been documented.

I’m worried tonight .. ahem, this morning, about the Cowboy.

I may have no just cause.

But I am.

Because when certain people feel attacked and like they are losing control over a situation, they lash out.  Words and actions become even more irrational than they may normally be.  Things go awry.

The Cowboy is finally taking a stand against behaviors and a situation that if done to a woman, no one would hesitate to cry foul.

He doesn’t really care at this point, to address any of what’s happened to him .. and the kids in the past.  Or to her.  He hopes the fact the final paperwork has finally arrived and the divorce is final will allow everyone to move on.  But the one thing that does need to be addressed, is time with his kids.  The three things .. the three little people that mean the most to him in his life, he now sees four whole days a month.  He has to be creative to get any more time with than that.  And at every turn, he is often deliberately shut out.  Every turn.

A man who is a good and loving dad, and wants to be a part of raising his children, should not have to fight for what should be his to begin with, and that is time to love and raise his kids.

Somehow, according to the ex, that is just wrong.  And there is every effort being made on her part at this point to silence him.

Hell hath no fury like a woman who’s been scorned.

The Cowboys effort has never been to take their children away from their mother.  Has never been to smear her name.  Has never been to raise awareness that abuse comes in many forms and perhaps reveal testimony, facts and a judges findings to the public so both sides can be presented here.  None of us wants to drag anyones name through the mud like its somehow acceptable for others to do right now when it comes to the Cowboy.

While he has stayed the course and kept his message, along with every other person that testified yesterday before God and South Dakota state legislators about the need for both parents to have equal time with their children wherever and whenever possible, only two felt the need to bring in personal attacks.  And they were both women who will do anything to get their way.

One, seems willing to go to just about any length to ensure no one gets time with her kids, but her.

The other, a South Dakota State Senator, should be ashamed of the tactics deployed today.  But we expected nothing less.

We pray.  We hope someday things for everyone get better in this scenario.  And we, along with so many others who respect and stand alongside the Cowboy, are trying like crazy to stay about it all.

But in the quiet .. still night .. out in the Plains of South Dakota, there is a man, a woman feels very threatened by.  Not because he will raise a hand to her.

But because he is good.  And strong.  And fighting fair, unlike what either of them .. or many others for that fact, may have ever done in their marriage.  And deep down she has to know the mission he is on, is right.

I’m worried about the Cowboy.

A bit stir crazy ..

I’ve been following the Shared Parenting bill discussion live as much today as possible.

The numbers that showed up, thanks to the awareness these bills were even in the mix this year, was amazing today.

The Cowboy this morning, after the sponsors of the bill spoke, was the first to go.  He was followed by dad after dad, grandparents, and few mothers all speaking in favor of Senate Bill 60.  I know there are always two sides to every story and both feel their side worthy of consideration in any situation where child placement is concerned.  But there was no bashing of ex spouses or co-parents today.  There was just a lot of unbelievable sadness one parent has been removed from the mix, because current South Dakota legislation says that is what is best.

Only three spoke in favor of ONLY House Bill 1055 ..three lobbyists.  Two for child welfare organizations in South Dakota.  The other, the lobbyist for the SD State Bar.

The Cowboy’s mom even went.  I feel (and I’m sorry if you don’t agree for any reason), no matter what side you come at this from, her testimony fair.

So today, her comments to State Legislators on behalf of a bill that would ask a judge to strongly consider granting both parents equal time/placement of children in the event of a divorce, all signs pointing to that it is in the best interest of a child, is my post.

I’m going to go back to nervous waiting.. and let her words speak for themselves.

….

In support of Senate Bill 60

Shared Parenting Legislation

Every person in this room has a story, a story of the events of our lives. My name is (the Cowboys mom) and I am here today because I want to share a part of what is my…or our family’s story.

My husband and I both grew up in South Dakota. Our family roots extend well over 100 years in both the Eastern and Western part of the state. Some of my fondest memories of my life began with my visits to the center of the Badlands where my Grandpa and Grandma lived. We would go visit them every week-end and in the summer we would stay with them for several weeks.

My Grandparents had 34 grandchildren so I had lots of playmates, my cousins. The first picture you see in front of you is a picture published by the Rapid City Journal of some of my cousins and me at Range Days in Rapid City. This picture and story is there because of what my parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles did for all of us. The horses, the saddles, boots, hats and jeans are there because of them. They were there for us, and were able to give us their time and love and most importantly strong family ties.

Time… It’s a precious thing.

My story moves on and in 1973 my husband and I married and are blessed with three wonderful sons. They too were lucky enough to have both parents and both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in their lives. My sons are now grown and have blessed us again with five beautiful grandchildren.

I believe one of the most important things children can have, is time with family. The current SD State Custody Guidelines has given the courts the power to grant non-custodial parents very limited quality time with their children and they with him or her, subsequently we as extended family members have also lost our quality time. We now have limited opportunity to mentor and share our life experiences with these children. Our grandchildren are also missing out on the values of sharing time with their extended family.

What will their story be?

As I wonder about their story, I can’t help but be reminded of one of their favorite movies, a story that we all know, The Wizard of Oz. If they have watched the movie once, they have watched it a hundred times. In reflecting on the last year and a half of our lives…their lives, I can see the similarities . A huge tornado called a divorce has swept these children from the life that they knew and taken them into a new life, a new chapter if you will. A chapter where they no longer see their Daddy on a daily basis, instead see him only 4 days out of thirty, a chapter where they are not allowed to even receive a phone call from him, simply because the SD guidelines use the word should in regards to phone calls. They were forced to change schools/babysitters and change their friends. They no longer get to see Grandpa and Grandma several times a week and have been wisped away from their cousins and aunts and uncles. The yellow brick road this past year has been a rough one to say the least.

As their Grandmother, I worry their memories won’t be of the great times we have had together as a family, but of the times they have had to leave their Dad after one of his four days a month that they get to be with him. Four days out of thirty…think about that. To a child…the days in between are an eternity.

I am concerned they will instead remember the times they cry and scream so hard that they kick their little cowboy boots off their feet as their time with Daddy comes to an end. Or, the times they leave a note on their Dads refrigerator asking him to call but again never receiving his calls.

The times our 7 year old granddaughter holds back her tears as she comforts her little 3 year old brother as he leaves his Daddy saying “ Isn’t it sad Daddy isn’t it sad?”

I could go on and on as they already have many, many more stories to tell. If their current situation continues, by the time they are young adults, what will their story be? How will these circumstances affect them as adults, and what stories will they tell their grandchildren?

As their Grandmother, I pray for them. And since I am only allowed a few hours a month with them, I remind them each time that I see them, that I hug them in my heart everyday.

Time is what not only our grandchildren need. But so many other families. Equal time with their Mommy and Daddy. Equal time with their grandparents, aunts,uncles and cousins. Time to create a story.

Like in the movie, I can’t help but think that somewhere…somewhere there has to be a wizard, a wizard to help these children have a happy ending to this chapter of their story.

In closing, I have but one question for each and every person in this room…What influence did your father have on your life and what would your story be without those influences?

Please support if not Senate Bill 60, House Bill 1055

When I need to think …

We all have various quirks we inevitably do .. when we need to really do some thinking.

My brother tends to pull on his ear.

Lately I’ve been writing.

But, most of my adult life, I’ve come to realize, I clean.

Fortunately for me.. after days of running around with extra projects at work.. meetings.. appointments.. dinners.. going through stacks of paperwork.. cats peeing on my daughters bed for some reason and the subsequent load of laundry.. researching child placement studies & articles and talking a few experts on the topic while the Cowboy was here recently .. there is a lot of cleaning tonight, to do.

I was going to write over the next few nights about the Cowboys journey.  The one he is on to simply help he and his kids come back to being a family .. not relative strangers on a visit ..

I love the word journey because its what we are all on and where the road will take us .. we have yet to see round the next bend.

But perhaps ‘fight’ is a more appropriate term.   Be prepared for the next few days to be all about the Cowboy’s fight, for more time with his kids.  Because that is all some seem to want to do about an issue that only makes sense.  Many if not most current studies will tell you, adults fighting is the absolute worst thing for children when it comes to divorce.  When parents fight, kids can’t adjust.  When parents co-parent, reserve judgement, get past blame and just love them best they can and let the other parent do the same, kids can get through just about anything.  Including living between two homes.

But some want to fight.

I can’t imagine living in that space where anger and lashing out seem like your best option.

So I’m praying for peace in hearts and homes everywhere.

And because I know that’s a pretty tall order..

I’m going to keep cleaning tonight.  Because I have this crazy notion that if I take enough time to think about it, I’ll eventually come to some understanding why anyone, especially someone who loves to boast they are God fearing, the better person, an upstanding citizen and always ‘right’ .. would ever treat another person with disdain, ill will and do everything possible to inflict pain where none is deserved.  I’m searching for answers.  But coming up with nothing that makes sense.

I may run out of things to clean..

Rough night..

“I’m going to bed,” the Cowboy says after a story airs tonight that we were hoping might help get the word out about Thursdays hearing at the state capitol on shared parenting legislation.

He’s pretty upset.  (I’m hoping me write about it doesn’t make him more-so)

“I should never have done this.  It was a bad idea,” he says very sadly.

One of the Sioux Falls TV stations did a report with the Cowboy tonight .. after we reached out to them and some others, on the issue of Senate Bill 60 and House Bill 1055 going before the Senate Judiciary this Thursday.

(A quick synopsis of the legislation:)

The issue is joint physical custody and placement of children in a divorce.  Current state law in South Dakota works under the very outdated premise, that kids suffer when given equal time with two loving parents.  It states they should live primarily with one.  (One argument is because it’s just too tough for them to go between homes, even if parents live within close proximity.  Recent studies show that is not at all, the case.)

Both bills, one more-so than the other, would offer the non-custodial parent a better chance to fight for equal placement.

One very stingy Senator/Family Law Atty among others, we understand would love nothing more than this issue to go away.  Again.  The Cowboy feels that is unacceptable.

So, with a suggestions from me, he offered to share his story if it would help.

NOW…

I’m not sure if I wish I were there in South Dakota at the moment, because I could have potentially better ensured all facts were relayed to the reporter who came out to do the story.. because I think like a reporter, because that is also what I do for my day job.

Or if I could just be there to console the Cowboy.

I say that because there were a few factual errors in the story.  (that have since mostly been corrected after a call into the newsroom)  He still now feels like he looks worse to a whole lot more people than he ever could have to begin with.

For what it’s worth, I’m thinking,.. people really don’t watch the news all that closely and will probably have forgotten most of the details anyway.  They won’t remember what he’s stressing about.. I’m sure his -ex might.  If she knows about the story at all.  Which I’m fairly certain by now she’s heard.  But most people will not have any idea.  And those who might judge him based on the incorrect statements made, well, they can go play by themselves in the sandbox quite honestly.

The Cowboy is one of the most kind hearted, loving, good, God fearing, humble and giving souls you will ever meet.  And that’s to a stranger.  To the kiddos, he’s all that and more.

(For the record, the Cowboy has joint custody.  Which most couples do.  But the children’s mother has primary placement.  These were among the incorrect statements made in the story.  Regardless, not having primary placement means the Cowboy, in South Dakota is lucky to get 4 days/month with his kids and a couple hours one night ea. week.  Amazingly, he feels fortunate because that’s more than many in his shoes get.

But not fortunate enough to let a ridiculous situation slide…)

The most recent studies will tell you, both parents typically, if possible, want an equal role.  And the kids want the same.  They want to feel free to love both parents and spend time with them equally.  It is what is best for them.  All around.  (Almost always but not always)

Unfortunately, kids are often told until they’re 12, their opinion doesn’t count.  Don’t even get me started on that.

The fact of the matter is, important points were made in the story that aired, which people WILL remember.

Such as:  there is an incredible imbalance in South Dakota parental placement in the event of a divorce and something needs to change.

Such as:  oh my .. there’s actually a bill our legislators are going to debate on this issue?  I know so-and-so is going through a divorce and I wonder if they know.. (you know, word of mouth to do something good, even when its slightly incorrect, can be helpful)

Such as:  a reminder we all have a voice.  And our elected officials are there to represent us.  Does your Representative or Senator have a fair and accurate idea of where you stand on Senate Bill 60?

http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2012/Bills/SB60P.pdf

Or, House Bill 1055?  Do you even know who your legislators are?  Look them up.  And raise your voice.  These bills, these proposed changes are nothing to be feared. They will instead, be celebrated in many homes, should one actually pass this year into law.

Perhaps in tonights story some of the facts were a bit distorted.  Or just wrong.  Most have been corrected.  Too late for the Cowboy to have gone off to bed feeling ok about the whole deal.  But we live and we learn and hopefully if there ever is a next time, he knows better what to say to be correctly represented.

I hope he wakes in the morning feeling better about the whole deal.  But then again, it may depend on how a state newspaper tells its story.  That.. I believe, is set to hit newsstands come the break of day ..