Embracing Change

“If we can recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles, we can greet the future and the transformation we are undergoing with the understanding that we do not know enough to be pessimistic.” – Hazel Henderson

I love this quote.

Down the road

A lot of people reflect on their lives this time of year. We go back and ponder what it was we had hoped to accomplish over the past twelve months and what our dreams might be for the year ahead.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel we’ve had time to think about much of anything other than where we need to be next and what needs to get done for the holidays – not until this past weekend, anyway.

The house was completely quiet for about 24 hours as my daughter had taken off for the last half of Christmas break on a trip with her dad. The Cowboy’s three came back to the house last night. This past weekend was the first we’d been home, had down time and pure calm to just think and be still in months. And in the quiet of the morning yesterday, I began to reflect, on all has transpired over the past year.

I did my best in that moment to keep my mind from wandering into what my hopes and dreams are for 2014 because I wanted to contemplate what, if anything, we had actually accomplished this past year. Was it all I was hoping for? Could I have done more? How have we adjusted? Where exactly are we now? What does any of it mean? I don’t know but I’ve done my best to live by the above quote and remain only optimistic about whatever lies ahead.

We have, I believe, accomplished a lot. As a family. Blending homes is not an easy task. Given what others have told us, what I’ve observed with the advice we’ve given, I think we’ve tackled it with about as much grace, patience, enthusiasm and understanding as any family I know.

Career is a different issue. And, I’m thinking a lot about it right now because in the quiet of this past weekend, I came to realize it truly has been a year that I’ve been away from my previous job. One that I love(d) despite all it’s flaws and crazy schedules and demands.

Studio

I signed off the news desk a year ago this week. There are so many reasons I have not looked for a similar job here in South Dakota, all have had to do with family and wanting, needing more flexibility at this point in our lives. But, “Do you miss it,” is a question I am asked often. I do. And here’s why:

1. The people – the news business is home to some pretty interesting people who get into doing news for very different reasons. Whatever the reason, it’s this crazy pool of a) young, hungry, at times misguided and naive but driven, interesting young professionals who often have a vision of what the world is or who are at their core curious about everything. If you get the chance to watch them over the years, it’s interesting to see how life experience changes their perspective on storytelling. b) Those that have been in the newsroom for a lifetime who get fired up by few things anymore, but their knowledge of the market can’t be replaced. It all makes for a wonderful, quirky, fun loving yet dysfunctional team that everyday, many times a day, meets deadlines and gets the job done. You can count on them. You have grown many times to count on these folks to be there for you and let you know what’s happening in the world. Even if you don’t feel it’s relevant to your life and you’d rather complain about them than change the channel.

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2. The people – not just those you work with but those you have the absolute pleasure of being able to go and interview each day. It can be anyone from the President to a transient, community leaders to criminals. And they all have a story worth sharing, something we can all learn from if we’re only willing to listen and spend time with them.

3. Piggybacking off of that, no day is the same – anchoring was about as predictable a day as anything in television news and while I never thought I’d want to be on the anchor desk as a young, hungry reporter who had dreams of being a foreign correspondent, I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity. It allowed me to best help raise my family on so many levels. A sincere thank you to Tom Bier, Larry Frost and Jim Harmon who saw enough potential in me to first put my mug on the air.

4. Gifts of food. Into to the newsroom. It was like no one had eaten in weeks. Devoured. Gone.

5. Having a beat – not everyone loves having a beat, but man it allows you to really dig into something and become knowledgeable enough you can hang with the best of them on it. You can talk extemporaneously about it and not rely on a notebook when you really know what you’re talking about. Beats seem to be going by the wayside with the downsizing of newsrooms – everyone has to be a bit of an expert in everything. Also fun in its own way. But if you have the chance to pick up a beat, I encourage it.

6. Tight deadlines and being able to walk away at the end of each day, knowing your job was DONE.

7. Free hair styling, makeup and facials. Wow, do I miss that. And boy could I use at least the latter again. I had never had a facial until it was part of the contract with the last newsroom I worked for. Wow. Facials. If you’ve never had one, they are awesome. Go get one.

8. Somewhere to wear all the suits I’ve built up over 20 years of reporting/anchoring. Rural South Dakota’s not really a mecca for professional attire. I’m still not 100% sure where my work life may lead me so I’m hesitant to give them away just yet (says the girl more inclined at the moment to throw on insulated coveralls before heading out the door than a 2-piece from Ann Taylor).

Story Board

9. Editorial meetings and the debates every day about what people would most want to know if given the choice between stories. These were always interesting, small brawls.

10. Taking sometimes hours of meaningful conversations and turning them into a relevant, informative 1:30 minute story others will find interesting enough to stay tuned to your channel. It’s not easy. It’s not perfect. But it does fill an important niche in our daily lives and can have a tremendous impact on community – when it’s done right and with the right intention.

What is wonderful is there are many ways one with a passion for people, storytelling and community building can find or create unique career opportunities. It’s been fun exploring what those might be, embracing all of the change and uncertainty of a new life and career.

Wishing everyone the best in 2014.

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Heavy Frost

The start to winter here in South Dakota has been brutal. Deadly, as many of you know, in some parts.  The snow has been deep west river, the temperatures frigid and the legendary winds have been howling. But more often than not thus far, especially east of the Missouri, the sun has been shining and the weather overall, has been relatively mild.

Cows 2

I couldn’t resist going for a walk with the camera this morning. The sun was trying to break through a heavy frost. The cattle in the field across the way were just barely visible in the mix. Chances are, we won’t have too many more mornings like this.

It’s just beautiful here. While I miss the lakes, rolling hills and bluffs of Wisconsin and the majestic mountains of Montana, I have absolutely fallen in love with the prairie.

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 ..

South Dakota Sunset

When you’ve got places to be, you’re running behind because you were just somewhere else you had to be and somewhere in-between here and there you’re hoping to get caught up on what you haven’t been paying attention to – things like email, an actual conversation with your spouse, messages and calls that need returning because, well because it’s how you get things done and it’s what others expect – how often do you simply lift your eyes to the world around you and soak it in?

It can be tough, taking the time each day to consciously just ‘stop’. Stop and soak up the scenery, or the people around you and the places you whiz by. But I challenge you (I say ‘you’ loosely here. I have only a vague idea of a few who might read this. My hope is at the very least, my kids will someday read back over my words and know this was something I felt important for not only my own life, but theirs as well) to slow down and try to notice something new in your every day. In your drive to work or back home. In the people around your office. Or even in observing your own child. So much in that snapshot of our daily lives, no matter how routine, is constantly changing. And it’s pretty awesome, inspiring and humbling when you stop to look at any of it.

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In-between a series of meetings, volleyball games, dropping off the gun my daughter had borrowed from the neighbors to go pheasant hunting last weekend, trying to find a few minutes to change into something warmer, grab a bite to eat and make it on time to rehearsal for the musical in town .. I didn’t have really any time to spare as I sped down a gravel road near our home this evening. But I saw the scene above, put my foot on the brake, let it register that I did actually see a scene that awesome, turned the car around and stepped out of the drivers seat for a few moments to soak it all in.

I’ve tried to make this a daily practice most of my adult life, but it’s never been this effortless. Life here everyday in so many ways, reminds me of how fortunate I am. It reminds me again to stop. To breathe and soak it all in. I hope you have this too.

I am so in love with a state (far more than just the state) I never thought I would know .. no more than the speedy drive through on my way to wherever I needed to be next, anyway.

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.

Allen’s Hill

I mentioned earlier this week how I am spending the week at a dear friends cottage along the Wisconsin River .. with no phone, television or internet. It’s been a blessing, in more ways than one. Leaving the cottage each day to go somewhere I can get an internet connection has meant some beautiful morning drives ..

Eddie's Hill

Eddie’s Hill

I showed this photo the other night to my dad, who I was grabbing a beer with along with some other friends. He said to me, and pointed out to the others, “That’s Allen’s hill, that hill there on the left.”

I’ve lived in this area my entire life and never known that hill had a name. Nor had I stopped to think about it. Most streets, hills, buildings .. etc. do, whether they exist in the city or the country. Places known for those that have come before us and for any number of reasons, left their mark.

How often do we stop to question why things are named what they are? And how much cooler or meaningful will those places be to us once we understand?