Goat tying clinic

The girls can not wait for rodeo season to arrive. They caught the bug when we entered them into their first rodeo late last season here in South Dakota. They’ve been ancy to get back out into the arena, ride barrels and poles, rope and compete ever since.

While we’re still a ways away..

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This past weekend the two took part in their first goat tying clinic. We weren’t sure what to expect.. if they’d like it or not, how their horses would do, if they’d catch on quickly. The days were long and the indoor arena was colder than the temperatures outside.

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But a good time was had by all. They made some new friends, they got it, so did their horses and they are both now determined to work on improving their own best times. And, see the rest of the kids – a fun bunch from the clinic – again soon.

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Digging Out

Digging out.

Thought it an appropriate title given the day, the week and past couple of months.

Winds from the south today blew an incredible amount of snow over our driveway. The school bus this morning nearly got stuck. After clearing it twice, we made a quick run into town and got stuck trying to get back in.

Drifted In

Drifted In

The Cowboy at 8am had a full day of shoeing appointments. By 9, his two morning appointments had cancelled on him due to the weather .. by 1 o’clock, he had to cancel the remaining two .. well, because he couldn’t get to them. The driveway had drifted so high and deep with heavy snow, we couldn’t get in or out.

Reinforcements arrived as they always do, I’m not sure what we’d do without the Cowboy’s dad. Well, we’d probably have to buy a bigger tractor. I digress..

The drive, for now, is clear. But tomorrow is supposed to bring more snow, more wind and most likely more drifts. I’m not complaining. Just stating the facts. It’s been a long winter for many across the country. 

But we’re digging out from more than the weather.

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Old Farmhouse Remodel

The past couple months have meant a massive, as cheap as we could do it, DIY home remodel that we are finally done with (thanks in large part to the Cowboy’s folks and two family friends. Without the four of them, we’d still be plugging away. Serious.). Well, mostly done. There are a few little things yet to be taken care of. Regarless, a sense of calm and normalcy has once again occupied our home. In fact, probably more-so than ever. Our space, once cramped, dark, dingy and definitely not energy efficient .. is now warm, inviting, open, air-sealed, clean and bright.

“I really love our house, now. Have I told you that?” the Cowboy has said to me almost daily the past couple weeks. I tell him, I do too. I’ve always known a few tweaks would give this old house with great bones a huge facelift. And boy, has it.

Shared Parenting for blog

South Dakota Shared Parenting Movement

We’ve been digging out from underneath all of the time and effort put into advocacy on shared parenting legislation and reform in South Dakota. A major milestone was reached this year, a compromise bill was reached between parties that have been foes on the issue in the past. That bill now sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting signature to become law. While that might mean a moment for a breather, it’s only a moment. The bill is a baby step in the right direction. There is still though – so much more to be done, to be changed, including public opinion as well as an overall general awareness of how flawed the current system is, and not just in South Dakota. Today could not have been a more glaring example of some of the issues that are necessary to draw attention to and address, next.

And then there’s work. I’ve been blessed with an incredible opportunity to build my career right now, around my life. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve some of the freelance opportunities that have come in, but the wonderful partnerships and jobs have been a ton of fun and an honor. I am so grateful.

But, after working virtually every spare moment over the past two months on our house, I’m also now digging out from a pretty hefty workload that’s been in large part, postponed and pushed back. And I’m digging through the many, many topics I’ve said to myself over the past two months .. I can’t wait until I have time to write about this.

I just wish the tractor could help me dig out of this one..

Can’t get along with the other parent? On Shared Parenting…

Chances are you’ve been fighting for awhile and still sharing parenting duties while at home, and still married or ‘together’.

Chances are at some point during your school age years you were assigned a group project with a partner you didn’t like, didn’t hang out with, didn’t care to work with, but you went to school, played nice, got the job done and most likely your grade wasn’t too bad. And then maybe .. just maybe you started to say hello when you’d pass in the hallway and perhaps even become friends at some point.

Chances are, you don’t get along well with someone at work but you both still go in and get the job done everyday.

Chances are as you’ve gotten older, you’ve also gotten wiser. We can only hope. Time has healed old wounds over something you can now hardly recall and you’ve realized there are bigger things in life to worry about than harboring anger over old, insignificant issues.

Chances are, if you can’t figure out a way to get along with someone, you can figure a way around it and still do it well. That is, if you care to try, knowing the reason you’re trying is what’s best for everyone involved.

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I’m rather disgusted and quite frankly tired of hearing adults that I want to think are relatively level headed and well educated, say when it comes to shared parenting, that if the parents can’t get along (this is at the time of divorce – mind you – when custody and placement decisions are being made and emotions are often most high) then shared parenting isn’t possible. Shared parenting meaning maximum time with both parents if not 50/50. Whatever would be in the best interest of the child. And just about every social science study over the past 20 years shows as equal time as possible with both parents is in the best interest of the child, assuming both parents are fit parents.

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I’m not quite sure I get it, and this may just me, because I really don’t see a reason for ongoing conflict. Or despising anyone. Especially when it comes to family situations. If there’s a problem, define and fix it. Get over it. Grow from it. Deal with it. Like an adult. And keep your kids out of it when it comes to what you and your ex still have to work out. While it may be good for kids to see parents sorting through a heated discussion, a debate or a disagreement in a healthy way so they learn emotional intelligence skills as they grow, they don’t need to be put in the middle of your own issues with your own bruised ego, see that you can’t get over being ‘wronged’ or whatever the issue may be.

A question posed by KELO television to its viewers after airing a piece on shared parenting and a bill moving through the South Dakota state legislature right now:

“There is a major push in Pierre this year to pass a law for shared parenting, but can this method of custody work in this state?”

Sincerely, you have to be kidding me. Are parents in South Dakota that unlike parents in other states where this works? Genuine shared parenting – where it’s done, accepted and quite honestly, now promoted – is overall shown to decrease conflict over time and is shown to be better for kids. In any state. This doesn’t somehow stop at the state line of any given state. Unless…  are parents in South Dakota just that much more hard headed and with conviction they don’t want it to work? This conviction not limited to just parents? The comments coming from so called ‘family court’ officials seem unbelievably ignorant to me if you’ve had any conversations or done any research outside the four walls of your respective office. Research done on this topic and covering many families is broad based and not limited to any one state. There seems a deliberate attempt in South Dakota to maintain a system that is alienating of fit, capable and willing parents – most often men but also women. And detrimental to children.

This is nowhere near “in the best interest of any child.”

Bauserman in 2002 and Melli and Brown in 2008 found that inter­parental conflict decreases over time in equal or shared parenting arrangements and increases in sole physical custody arrangements; interparental cooperation increases over time in shared custody arrangements and decreases in sole physical custody arrangements.”

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There is no reason shared parenting can’t work. It does work. In many states. In many places. In many homes. It can work and it does work should two good people choose. Even if one doesn’t choose, without good cause, why should those parents be the one then awarded primary placement? Parents, get over yourself and try. Be open to it. If it doesn’t work.. ?

Worst case scenario: you find yourself in the same situation you’re already in, your kids aren’t doing well and you’re back with family court officials asking for a change in physical placement. Right now this already happens due to any number of reasons – parental alienation, the non-custodial parent fighting for more time. Meantime your kids are confused, not feeling great about their situation in either home and wishing things were different.

Best case scenario: you both, as parents of your children, recognize your kids need something different for them to grow, heal and feel they are getting the best of both of you. And so you work it out. With or without the help of an attorney. It’s civil. It’s cheaper. You all come out better in this situation. You earn trust. Your kids are amazed and find newfound respect for you. And you both get to look in the mirror everyday and feel damn good about the situation you’ve created for your children. That is .. if you genuinely love your children and truly want what is best for them.

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Include the other parent. Allow your children to love their other parent. Share information about school, medical decisions, pictures, the other half of who your child is with the other parent so your children, those beautiful little lives the two of you brought into this world TOGETHER, can somehow still feel whole in a situation you’ve created for them living now, apart. Work together.

It is what’s best.

Chances are … you can make it work. You – and the myriad of family court officials worried more about their matching federal funds for child support shrinking than what is truly in the best interest of the child – just have to be willing to try.

If you’re not, say what you want about anyone else in this situation. But what does that say about you.

Remodel (continued)

New stuff doesn’t usually have the character I adore – the rust, the chipped paint, the history. – homeowner Heather Salazar

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It’s been kind of an insane past couple weeks. A long overdue remodel has begun in earnest. Almost a total tear apart of three rooms inside our tiny old farm house. Cleaning up the mess and rebuilding. All while trying to maintain some sense of the normal day-to-day, out of state travels, a weekend with the kids, shared parenting legislation discussions reaching a fever pitch ahead of committee debate and new projects coming in. Insane. But fun.

The plastic finally came down two days ago and all of the dust is finally settling. We are loving the new feel of our home.

“Hold this for me, as close as you can get to the top there,” the Cowboy just asked of me.

He was measuring for the last board to go onto a new wall we’re rebuilding inside the house. An internal wall where we’re replacing more than a century of lath, plaster and dirt with barn wood.

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Old barnwood wall –

After talking about this for a very long time and guarantees from a couple different friends who are contractors they’d put us on their calendar but never did, the Cowboy two weeks ago decided we were just going to do the entire remodel, ourselves. When he takes on a project, he goes hard at it, until it’s done. Whatever it is.

It’s meant, besides the work going on inside our home, he’s been a few miles down the road even in these frigid temperatures tearing the wood off an old barn some of our neighbors will tear down in the spring to make way for something bigger and new.

I have always preferred repurposing whatever is good, even if it’s old. The wall, as the last board just was literally moments ago put into place, is just so incredibly cool. A lot of folks are doing things like this anymore. The photos really look neat. But in person, wow. There aren’t that many guys I know that would take this on, let alone knock it out within two to three days, including gathering wood from the old barn themselves. I’m impressed, I really am at the Cowboy’s drive to get things done, done well and if he doesn’t know how to do something, he figures it out. I’m grateful we’re tackling this ourselves and I’m sorry if it’s meant anyone has been trying to reach me and I’ve been less available than normal. But we’re having fun.

With these two/three rooms nearing completion (flooring is at least ordered, in search of the right light fixture and trim yet to be done after today) we apparently are on a roll as we’re tearing into another room in desperate need of help already, next week.

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Priming new drywall –

Off to paint ..

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“Come here, let me show you what I’m thinking .. ” the Cowboy said to me moments before he walked out the door this morning.

I am still not sure he should’ve made the trip he’s making today. He’s got a day full of shoeing and trimming appointments hours away. School has been called off. Winds upwards of 60mph and blowing snow came through overnight and are expected throughout the day, creating treacherous conditions on the roads in our region.

“I’ll be fine,” he said to me right before leaving. “If it gets too bad, I promise I’ll turn around and come home.” Praying everyone gets safely through the day.

House

We’ve started a remodeling project this week, one that we’ve talked about since it seemed a reality our lives would merge. He and his ex had actually talked about building something new just a few feet away and bulldozing the century old home that stands on the acreage here. The house has needed some work. A lot of work, to be specific. Little insulation. Drafty old windows. Small rooms. Decades old carpeting. Layers of wallpaper covered by painted over paneling. Light fixtures that half work. A bathroom with a faucet that’s been leaky for quite some time. A new roof and siding…

Neither of us a big fan of taking on more debt, and me, a sucker for all things already in existence that can be fixed up, knowing the house has good bones plus just wanting a smaller home anyway vs needing an intercom to call the kids, we tore into our biggest challenge yet this week. Ourselves. Literally.

Wall teardown

It’s going to be cool when it’s done. We’re using what we can that’s recycled and rustic to finish out the spaces we’re tackling. And, we’re taking it right now room by room, tearing out walls, ceilings… deciding what we really want for each space as we go because we just haven’t been quite sure what we’ll find along the way.

What we have found, among other things, is that this entire process is incredibly dusty. A 100+ year old home on the Great Plains with a lot of nooks and crannies open to the elements has meant as many years of collecting dust. And, we haven’t hit as many snags as I would have imagined. No asbestos tiling under the old carpet and linoleum. No asbestos insulation. Just a lot of dust. And hard work ahead…. and ideas we have to rebuild our home and life together. Speaking of .. with most other work related obligations knocked out for the day, off to work on that idea he had before leaving this morning.

Romeo Misses A Payment

South Dakota legislators are heading back into session here soon. So the discussions at home lately when the kids aren’t around, is about shared parenting and creating meaningful changes in legislation, perhaps, this year.

As the Cowboy gets more and more calls to see what people can do to get involved, or as he thinks about how he can do anything that will actually make a difference for children and families not just in our state, but anything that may have far reaching consequences, he continues to stumble across some of the other incredible advocacy happening in regard to children and families and reforming a horrendously broken system.

If you haven’t seen the following, Romeo Misses A Payment, http://theromeodocumentary.com/full-movie/ please take the time and watch. Same with #DivorceCorp, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZTOT6DKfZ8 which I wrote about the other day. And yes, I’m including the actual links here because not everyone is savvy enough to realize there’s a hyperlink there. I think these two films and the insights they allow are too important for someone to miss if they’re even remotely seeking to better understand.

If you’ve never been divorced and can’t understand what families might be going through, if you’re going through divorce and child custody discussions yourself, if you really love your kids and want to do what’s best for them versus an industry that enjoys making money off of the hurt and problems you decide to create for yourself versus resolve, if you’re a legislator and you sincerely want to educate yourself about where things are going so wrong (or if you’d prefer to continue to think you’re justified in listening to lobbyists from the State Bar Associations who only stand to gain from your apathy and inaction/you don’t want to change a very broken system with your vote because you’re prefer to remain ignorant to the actual problems current state law creates versus solves/take a phone call during the debate because you don’t know enough to intelligently participate/go to the bathroom to avoid actually having to cast a vote on the topic, don’t worry, we’re used to it) OR, if you are a member of the media and you want to go beyond the headlines of those ‘deadbeat dads’ who aren’t making their payments to take care of their children (Gasp, how could they! Did you ever stop to think about how someone making say .. maybe 25K/year could owe hundreds of thousands in back child support for two kids? How does THAT happen? Good story, but not as easy to turn and burn) and really get to some good stories about what’s wrong with this picture ..

PLEASE, take this brief look at how we are perpetuating the destruction of already damaged families and creating more and bigger problems in the process. Dig a little deeper. Think a little bigger. What is in the best interest of our kids? If that is the goal, it’s not what we’re currently often doing. Let’s figure out how to best resolve these issues together.

What about your horses..

There are a lot of people throughout the country bracing for the bitter cold the next 24 hours is slated to bring. Grocery stores are packed with people stocking up. Schools are already ordered closed for the start of the week. Cars are plugged in. Animals and people we hope are snug in their beds. And where there is livestock, enough feed has been put out to get them through the next couple of days. They need it.

“What are you going to do with your horses,” a colleague of mine asked the other day.

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They’ll be fine, I told her. They’ve got a windbreak, some good winter fat on them and a pretty heavy coat of hair. I still worry about them, I tell her. But as long as they’ve got hay (in our case along with some grain) at the ready and shelter if they need, they’ll stay warm and weather these temperatures, just fine .. when they eat, they generate heat.

Moving a bale

“Horses are good if they have a windbreak – they can take a tremendous amount of cold,” the Cowboy’s dad says to me tonight as we’re talking about how they might be faring now that the actual temperature gauge in the house shows -18 at this hour in our little corner of southeastern South Dakota. 

We’re still checking on them routinely. Hoping everyone facing these temps, in some cases, record breaking lows, gets through the next 24-48 hours unscathed. Stay warm.

#DivorceCorp

Disclaimer: There are lawyers, judges, social workers, guardian ad litem, counselors, psychologists, researchers, etc that work diligently each and every day to genuinely do what is in the best interest of children and families when it comes to divorce and custody decisions. They are not in it for the money. They want to help make things as right as possible in a situation that has sadly gone wrong. Wherever and whenever you find these people, please share their names liberally.

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For those that have been fighting to change a very broken system in many states – the family court system – I’m not sure yet what this may mean. But the mere fact popular culture seems to now be looking at the disgusting under bowels of what can be one of the most underhanded, crooked, lacking of any continuity, back door, rewarding of mean spirited, unethical, say whatever you want to hurt another party, guilty until you can prove yourself innocent, shut the other parent out, full of extortion, family destroying industries versus trying to help mend what’s broken, perhaps there is some small glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

Check this out: #divorcecorp

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We just wrapped up having our kids, both our kids pretty much half of their entire winter break from school. We consider ourselves lucky in that.

Helping trim the tree

But the Cowboy said to me the other day, the five full days we just had them, was the first time in three years he’s been allowed time split down the middle with their mom – despite it’s what their court order states they should do together as parents, for their kids.

It’s also the most consecutive days we’ve had with the Cowboy’s kids since summer. I hadn’t really thought about that until this discussion. 

We were talking about this after the Cowboy was contacted by someone who was thrilled he was allowed 3 hours with his kids Christmas Eve night and for the first time in years, New Years Eve. No reason other than it’s just what he was being allowed by the child’s mother. He doesn’t have money to take her to court when she keeps the kids from what is supposed to be by law, his time with them. 50% of his income is already going to child support. Without spending money on legal help to force the custodial parent into sharing, there is no recourse. None.  He sadly, takes what she will allow. Three hours. He was moved to tears of joy, over just three hours. 

I asked the Cowboy to write something for me on all this because he was visibly upset, continuing to not understand why any parent would prevent the other, male or female, from having time with their kids. Rest assured that in most cases – both parents sincerely are fit parents and want time with their kids and their kids with both parents.

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“I am feeling so grateful for our kids, my wife and family and the time we’ve had recently. I am the administrator of several equal parenting pages on Facebook and I am just feeling terrible for some of these parents and their kids who are not able to see one another due to two things 1) a selfish parent and 2) the courts.

One father over Christmas posted about having plane tickets purchased for his children to come stay for a visit. The custodial parent who moved out of state, simply did not put the children on the plane. The dad and step-mother left waiting at the airport were out $1500 in airline tickets, the bigger cost was missed time spent together over the holidays.

I am saddened and frustrated that this can go on.  Stories like this happen everyday in every state, not just ours. Confused about how and why this further tearing apart of families is allowed to go on is what spurs me to keep fighting for these people. My own situation is nothing compared to this. I actually, for the first time in three years am getting to share equal time during my children’s Christmas vacation. I am so thankful for this, but I know what it’s like to be alienated from your children. It was only for a period of five weeks but honestly it was one of the worst times of my life.

Just viewed another parent posting pictures of his family and his daughter, he was so excited that he and his daughter got to spend 3 hours together on Christmas Eve. These people are amazing, to be so thankful for something so small. How can the other parent, the court systems allow this to continue?  But it does everyday.

The fact that one parent can mess with the other parents time (with no consequences) or that our courts often grant one parent maximum placement – even when both parents request equal time and placement and on every level it would work well for the kids – is beyond my comprehension.

I miss my children. But I know this isn’t about me. It’s about what is best for them and they need time with their mom as well as me to have the best chance at growing up the healthiest, happiest and well adjusted they can be. If the roles were reversed, the guilt would be overwhelming if I did not give my kids that time with her. I believe this is a core issue in many divorces where children are stuck in the middle – many of these parents have no idea how to feel guilt or to put their children’s needs before their own.

If you are a parent who has intentionally kept the other parent out of your child’s life for any reason other than they are abusive to that child, answer me this, why? There is long term damage being done to your child that will eventually surface. You may not notice it now, but when that child becomes a young adult, the relationship they are lacking will surface negatively in any number of ways. That’s not my opinion, that’s well documented. And I can put you in touch with adults now who were children of divorce and can tell you in no uncertain terms what you are doing to your own children and how it will impact them down the road.

But why should you care. It’s not about what’s best for your kids really, is it? This is more about what’s best for you, right? About trying to hurt someone you feel wronged you? About getting maximum monthly payments that your attorney told you was best, which comes with a consequence of less time for the other parent? About being the one ‘in control’, being able to say yes or no to letting the child see their mother or father depending more on your mood that what’s been legally agreed upon or decided? About proving a point you are somehow the better parent? Most would argue any parent keeping a child from the other parent is not a good parent at all.

Most everyone anyway, but the attorneys and/or judges (often former attorneys). But hey, what do they stand to lose other than your money should you choose to actually do what’s best for your kids and come to some easy agreements with the other parent of your child without hours upon hours, sometimes months if not years of their help.

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It is amazing to think of how many other, better things that money could go toward that would genuinely benefit our children.

Thanks to those that are honest in their work, that help to minimize conflict between parties, help moms and dads see the benefits to the kids of working together, communicating, sharing time as best as possible and allowing the kids to freely love the other parent. It’s all such a crazy concept, isn’t it? But one, that when adults can act like adults .. share (isn’t that what we teach our kids is best) and be nice, actually works.