Stayin’ Alive and Kitchen Table Discussions About Divorce

I’m sitting at the kitchen table, like most nights, with the Cowboy. To set the scene, he’s making fun of me because I’m in my ‘get stuff done mode’ – trying to get this written, have it make sense, not piss anyone off and have an ounce of valuable takeaway. Which I can’t be sure of if I don’t focus on this before I hit publish. It’s not all that p-c to tell you what he’s doing to get me to laugh .. I can tell you however, he’s been laughing at himself as he rocks out again tonight on his guitar to Stayin Alive. We are apparently in a Bee Gees phase.

Playing Guitar

I want to write about co-parenting, what it is and how some experts advise doing it well. Because, it’s a constant struggle to do well in divorce, if parents consider doing it at all. Because it’s an ongoing conversation in our home. Because we have children and we are challenged to always be doing things better for them. And because we see so many of our friends (and quite honestly complete strangers who share way too much with us at times, which is okay, don’t get me wrong) that struggle with it and often want advice. 

Having said that, I feel perhaps it’s important to start this conversation with the following information:

I have done my best over the past 13 years now, to be a good co-parent. My ex may argue with me, but I’ve tried. To me, that journey started well before our child was even born.  

My efforts didn’t stop with our divorce. I have always felt my daughter needed my ex husband as much as she needed me in her life. We both bring different personalities and traits and skill sets to the table. And, she loves us both. 

We have shared equal time – split absolutely down the middle, almost this entire journey post separating. We agreed to this in what’s called a collaborative divorce process where we sat down at the table together, with our attorneys and literally discussed how we would work together on everything – and never say anything negative about the other in her presence, because it was and is in the best interest of our only child. Equal time. Equal say. Equal rights. Equal everything for the most part. 

We’ve worked over the years on a weekly basis (every Monday), to email each other with any and all updates in regard to anything involving our daughter. It was recommended as a good model for contact and communication because we were struggling with our communication otherwise. 

Those emails weren’t perfect – on either side. We’ve had our share of other issues as well. Issues that, no matter how much love was behind the root cause, ultimately became detrimental for our daughter’s overall well being. 

But we’ve tried always to do what is right by her.  What does that mean though….  

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Help: Looking for (a Good) Home ..

Dogs appear to be the theme of the week.

…………

For as far back as I can remember, I have always brought home stray animals.  Cats, rabbits, dogs, rats .. whatever I knew had been abandoned or injured made its way home with me as a child.

My dad would always try and console me when I would get home from school and they would be gone, “Oh honey, I don’t know where they went.  They must have gotten out.”

My affection for animals, any/all/lost/hurt/stray/whatever comes my way, continues as an adult ..

Much to the amusement and dismay of those closest to me.

Lost

Lost

For instance ..

As I was driving to an appointment yesterday in a very remote area, I saw cars swerving ahead of me.  Deer, I figured.  I slowed as I approached the area.  Sure enough, I thought as I saw something small and tan alongside the road.

But as I got closer I saw it was actually a dog.

‘Darn dog,’ I thought to myself.  ‘Get off the highway, you’re going to get hit.’

Then a second appeared.  They didn’t seem to care they were wandering out into whatever traffic happened to be coming along.  They were just wandering.  Checking things out.  Not seeming to have a care in the world, even if it did have 18 wheels on it and was headed for them.

I looked around quickly, no ranches, no homes, we were miles from any town.  Nothing seemed to be within wandering off distance for the two.  And still they wandered down the middle of the two lane highway.

Now, I’m pretty sure what I did next is something most rural folks don’t do very often.

Long overdue nap.

Long overdue nap.

I pulled over.  Backed up.  And got out to see if they were ok.

Tails wagging, tongues flapping about and seeming overall healthy, into the back seat they went.  I drove about 4 miles to the nearest town.  It was early and in that town of about 800 I saw no one around. The two businesses I could find weren’t yet open.

I had to get to my appointment.  They went with and crashed in the backseat as though they hadn’t slept in days.  I called everyone I could think to call, the  Sheriff’s Office and filed a report, area Shelters, businesses, residents.  No one seemed to know of or be looking for this pair.

Hours later, I came back through that small town, made a couple more stops into the only places the locals could think they might belong.  Other shelters in surrounding counties weren’t answering calls or were at capacity with no room to take them.  Our local Veterinary Clinic said they would add to the list of dogs they already had that had been abandoned in case anyone called.

“Be prepared for a couple overnight visitors,” I told the Cowboy as I got closer to home.  Not exactly what he wanted to hear, especially after the conversation from the day about our own dogs.

Why Can't We Be Friends

Why Can’t We Be Friends

But they were sweet and stuck close and seemed to appreciate the help.

I hope someone out there is missing them and searching.  I’m trying to make it as easy as possible for them to be found.  But I cried today as I dropped them off at the only shelter that would take them.  Had they been able to get along with our two labs, we would have continued to foster until home or a new home was found.

Or.  I might have kept them.  Had everyone been cool with it.

“Four dogs, on top of everything else we have is just too much,” says the Cowboy.

I’m not sure we’ll ever see eye to eye on that one.  Regardless, I am quite certain there will be others someday finding shelter in the backseat of my car.  If only temporary.

Wishing our girls good luck.  Hope hope home finds its way back to you again, soon.

Looking forward to …

… a lifetime of conversations.

Much has changed since the last post.

The Cowboy and I .. along with our children .. married in July 2012.

“It’s not what we have in our life, but who we have in our life that counts.” – J.M Laurence.

 

Mr. Hyman ..

I was walking the other day out of an event, one of my favorite of the year .. with a few dear friends.  We were some of the last to leave, having helped clean everything up and putting the place, a camp for kids with disabilities, back to semi-normal.

One:  A wise friend and mentor to us all and one of the programs biggest supporters .. who has been married to one of the most wonderful women now, for 40 plus years.

The other two:  A sweet young couple I have gotten to know well and who I just love.  And who at some point, I fully expect these two will get married.  Sooner than later if my girlfriend has anything to say about it.  She can’t hint to her rockstar boyfriend enough she is ready for the ring.

…………..

“I hear you’re getting married!” he says to me, seeming genuinely excited and sincere about it all.  “That’s just great .. ” he adds, among a few other wonderful thoughts and observations.  I have known this gentleman a very long time. His company was one of the first I went to work for long ago just out of high school .. we have remained friends ever since, having many mutual close friends, colleagues and causes that are important to us.

“If I can offer you one piece of advice, because I really do want things to work out for you with this one … ” he says .. which had I been drinking coffee or any sort of beverage, I would have spit it out laughing.  For as sweet as I know he was being with that comment, it just struck me as funny.

He continued.  “Something my wife and I have been blessed to have always done.  Don’t ever go to bed upset with one another.”

Agreed.   Not going to bed angry is a goal I have always strived for.  I think we all do.  But, we also all know it’s not always easy .. is it.  Sometimes circumstance and personalities get in the way no matter how much you may try to hit that goal.

This dear friend continued to share a story about one of the most important lessons he learned from one of his High School teachers way back when he was a ‘young buck’, Mr. Hyman.  “Hyman,” I asked?  I had to chuckle.  Hyman, he confirmed.  Know it’s spelled differently but for a teacher that name had to be tough.  Anyway ..

Mr. Hyman had apparently told his class long ago when our friend was a student, ‘Marriage is a lot of work.  And you may think each of you needs to give 50/50 to make it work.  But it’s not.  One person always end up putting in 90% of the effort.  And the other person, also needs to put in 90% of the effort.  And somewhere in there you hope it adds up to 100%.”

Lessons we learn firsthand being in a marriage.

Being out of one as well.  That’s a lesson that can apply to many things in life.

………………….

Going back into another union of hearts, dreams, families and all that goes along with that is a conversation the Cowboy and I have had on countless occasions.  Not wanting to repeat past mistakes.  Taking care to not take for granted what the other does or contributes.  Knowing there is always work the other is doing or energy being put in that shouldn’t be taken for granted.  Communication that needs to happen about life, with each other, to each other that doesn’t involve bills, the kids, the ex’s and problems.  Dreams always need to be shared.  Dates always need to be had.  Respect for each other and who we are as individuals as well as together is the goal.  Acknowledging that’s a lot of hard work, but deciding it’s worth it because the reward of a family that cares about each other, supports each other, is kind to one another, roots their day and actions in their faith, talks happiness, works only for the best and expects only the best of each other and delights in the good in the world around them sure beats the alternative.

Plus it’s no fun going to bed mad each night.

And my eyes always get puffy from crying so it’s just not pretty either.

It was only a few years after sharing his marriage insights in class, Mr. Hyman got divorced.  Successful outcome of the marriage or not, it is still a good reminder that while it may not always look like both parties in a marriage or a job or any relationship are putting in all they can and more, often they are.  And while we can always work harder and give more, we hope that in giving all we’ve got, no matter the ratio, it adds up to a beautiful life.  Even when its not always pretty.

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.

Need a dirt road.

Need a dirt road.

Not to be confused with Makes Me Want to Take a Backroad.  Which is a great song and true to.  Can relate to that as well.  But for now …

When I wrote this it was about 1am and I was trying to unwind.  Had been a long day.  Have had a lot of them lately.  So was listening to music late at night.  And dreaming about how wonderful it would be to just get in the car and take a road trip to one of my favorite places on the face of this earth, Big Sky Country.

Some random thoughts:

Am loving right now, the Band Perry (along with throngs of others, I know).  Have been working on learning All Your Life on the guitar and Backroad from above (but not sure how that song sounds with a chick singing it) along with a bunch of others including a few from one of my favorite bands, Little Jane and the Pistol Whips who I believe are out of Bozeman, MT ..

Talked with the Cowboy for just a few minutes tonight on the video phone.  He was wiped out and was falling asleep as he was also playing guitar.  He figured he better call it a night before it was lights out either way in the armchair.

It’s Rodeo Bible Camp week in SD.  Heard some fun stories last night and was only the first day of camp.  Already done with school, the kids are with him for their first full week – he’s bummed they don’t have more down time together, but they seem to be having run regardless.  The four of them seem so happy to all be together for an extended period of time, and the kids that they are getting to go to camp with their dad.  One of the twins, who until now, has had a tough time getting his rope going in the right direction, gave us a demonstration this morning that he’s got it down and can now do it the way he’s supposed to.  Nothing like the look on a kids face when they realize they’ve learned something and really got it down, and they can now work on improving that skill.  Priceless.

Talked with my own daughter for a bit.  She’s still in school but excited there is now officially less than a week left for the 2012 academic year.  They had picnic lunch today and a presentation of poster boards they put together on a state.  Remember doing those?  She, no surprise, had Montana.  She really wanted me to see a couple others, including the boy’s that she has a crush on and her friend who had South Dakota.  To which she excitedly made some comments about the state, the Cowboy and possible life changes.  I gave her a squeeze, smiled and told the sweet girl who’s project we were looking at great job, and we moved onto the next.

As if I don’t have enough to do .. my workouts are suffering over getting other things that ‘need to get done, done.’  Think I need to find a triathlon this summer and start training.   That usually helps, but I’m not motivated.  Wanted to go to the gym for a swim tonight (last night).  Feeling like schlep that I chose not to and had glass of wine instead while going through paperwork and watching Wisconsin’s historic recall election results and speeches come in.

Feels like trying to get caught up is a never-ending battle.  Or trying to fit everything in, between family, friends, work, each other, etc etc etc .. is never possible without disappointing someone.  The Cowboy and I are trying to figure that out .. as we have events, graduations and various other commitments in towns hours apart this weekend for family and good friends, all of whom are important to us.  But that we know we can’t spend enough time with.  How do you juggle successfully?  Or, do you even try?

Is that ever possible anymore?  Feeling caught up?  Fitting everything in.  Getting things done?  Feeling like the important thing are taken care of so that you can take care of yourself, or your/our family in this case?  We know we could be so much better if we could all be under one roof.

But because for now, that’s not the case ..

Spent awhile last night trying to find the comfort of a dirt road or a small town in the middle of, if not South Dakota with the Cowboy .. Big Sky country (Even Bayfield will do, where I took the photo of my daughter and the Cowboy, below.) .. in my mind at the very least, since it’s the best I can do at the moment.  Looking at a big open sky.  Feeling the gravel and dirt below my feet.  Not seeing anyone or anything for miles.  Feels like there’s room to again breathe.

That whatever it is on the to-do list or that has me stressed isn’t all that big a deal, in fact, it’s small in the grand scheme of things.  And the busyness of the day-to-day is my/our choice.

Maybe I just need a good session of yoga or a massage.  But I like the dirt road theory.

Dirt roads usually take you somewhere more simple.  More quiet.  Calm.  It all re-grounds me.  And has me coming back at it all again today, refreshed.

Placing flowers ..

While many are out on the boat this weekend, having picnics, gathering with friends,  enjoying the time off and not thinking much if at all about the reason for the extra day off …

Many others will be gathering in cemeteries throughout the nation .. placing flags .. thinking about the reasons for the holiday weekend and remembering loved ones who gave the ultimate gift of sacrifice.

…………..

I remember well, marching across the street from Poynette High School when I was young with a group from the band.  Standing there in the heat while names of the service men and women from our area who had been killed in action or who had passed, were read.  Listening to a speaker reflect on the reason we were all there and for the day.  Wincing while the gun salute was fired.

http://www.poynettepressonline.com/main.asp?SectionID=42&SubSectionID=151&ArticleID=5681

Everyone would stand around and talk for a few minutes afterwards, catch up .. and see who was heading over to the chicken barbecue at the VFW.

“We’ll see you in a few minutes ..” mom and dad would always tell friends.

But every year before we’d go, we would always stop by the headstones of family members also gone .. veteran or otherwise, we would tell stories or talk a little about who they were and make sure all the relatives had fresh flowers on their graves.

Geraniums were always part of the mix.  I never understood why.  But red geraniums were always planted up the cemetery.

I was never a big fan of them, that is until after mom passed .. but I love them now.  Because, I would assume, they remind me of her.

It’s hard to see, but there’s one in there.  My daughter and I took flowers up to my mom’s grave last weekend, as I was headed to the Cowboy’s for the Memorial Holiday weekend.  And she this year has the weekend with her dad.

Mom always loved fresh flowers and being in the garden during the spring, summer and fall.  Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t silly to spend time around the gravesite and feel close to her in some small way there.

But she is with me all the time.

I guess fresh flowers next to her grave, or any others who are family or friends .. sometimes I know of people who place flowers or a flag at the headstone of a stranger ..  Memorial Day weekend or otherwise, I just think it’s one small way to show they haven’t been forgotten..