On life, divorce, custody and Measure 6.

I’ve been trying to figure out what, if anything, I can write that might make a difference in the war being waged right now in North Dakota over the upcoming ballot measure on Shared Parenting. I don’t know that this is it. But it’s the first of several blogs I’ll probably post this week on the topic, because watching and reading some of the material that’s being perpetuated on the issue by opponents of shared parenting reform, is terribly sad and frustrating. And part of our daily conversations right now. And I can’t sit idle and watch anymore.

We’ve been following Measure 6 closely, as there is still a long way to go in shared parenting reform in most, if not all states. It has countless others across the nation watching as well as the discussion unfolds in North Dakota. Why?

Measure 6 really has the chance to do some things right. And do right, by our kids, should it pass.

Opponents (it appears this is most often lawyers, custodial parents themselves and women who just want to support other women who have custody of their kids because, according to so many of their comments, how could a man possibly care for a child nearly as well as a mother) would have you believe it’s the worst thing ever for any child. That Measure 6 will only hurt children who don’t deserve to be stuck in the middle. I hate to break it to you, but they already are. Can we at least agree to start there?

Measure 6 asks judges to consider before knowing anything else, that the best possible scenario for a child caught in the middle of a family separation or divorce, would be 50/50 time and placement when two fit parents are involved. The final ruling doesn’t need to be 50/50, but Measure 6 encourages judges to use it as a starting point. If 50/50  obviously won’t work for reasons of say, perhaps distance between homes, demanding jobs that require a lot of travel or time away from home or for any other logical and proven reason, that the child be offered the chance to maximize time with both parents, however that may look. Along with this, standards need to be met for both parents to be considered ‘fit’.

This law is asking North Dakota voters to agree to a different future for the children of that state and quite honestly for adults, attorneys and judges in the state’s family law system. It asks that everyone try and play better in the proverbial sandbox that more and more families find themselves in. And it also asks that there finally be some accountability for why good parents are otherwise, often completely or nearly completely, shut out of a child’s life.

Why would I care about a shared parenting measure in another state? Well, because important, relevant and universal issues know no boundaries. The conversations on any broad social issues don’t stop at the state line. (If so, you might want to gather those parenting magazines you have lying around the house offering advice and chuck ’em because chances are they weren’t written by anyone in ND.)

I also care because, our family is a prime example of how shared parenting can work, does work and could work even when parents don’t get along or live in different states. At least on the one side. On the other, is an ongoing reminder of why the system needs to change.

Here’s the deal. I’ve tried to limit the number of parenting/shared parenting/etc posts on this blog because, well, because I don’t want the issue to define our lives. But, I could write a post daily. Stories about the beauty of co-parenting. About the challenges along the way. About how we work through them, or not. About how easily 50/50 can work. And if not 50/50, as close to that as possible when it isn’t possible. About how important it is a child feel they’re able to equally love both parents. About, how when that is their norm, having that taken away from them is what tears them up versus starting from that unequal split and trying to reverse it. And what happens when none of the above is present. About the trials and hurt children face when shut out of one good parents life. About the questions they ask when one parent is minimized and how, as a parent, you struggle to find the right answer without putting the other parent down. About the gut wrenching hurt that’s visible in a good dad’s eyes because every attempt to help raise his children is met with a no, you’re not welcome here, but your money certainly is. (Check please!) And about how the only recourse you know you might have when you are consistently shut out or denied time or phone calls or holidays, is to go back to court, to be told once again there aren’t any issues here, mom is doing her best and oh by the way, because she’s such an upstanding parent and seems totally willing to offer you your six days a month and two phone calls per week, you should pay her attorneys fees.

Doesn’t apply to you? You’re lucky if it doesn’t. But chances are you, a family member, a friend, even one of your own children have gone through it on some level. If not, they will. And when that time comes, should you choose to ignore how flawed the current system is, you had better hope you’re on the right side of the current law if you ever want to see your kids or your grandkids. Especially .. especially if there is a vindictive, self-centered, egotistical, self-righteous or narcissistic custodial parent in the mix.

Measure 6 may not be perfect. Nothing ever is. But it follows the logic of what social science experts studying this issue for decades seem to feel is best for our kids. And given what we’ve seen personally, time and again and not just in our home but countless others – shared parenting can work and works well. Far better than the outcomes I’ve seen in families where there is a desire to equally parent but a hefty imbalance of time available for whichever parent it may be (most often, dads). But two parents have to be willing to be okay with it. And the process shouldn’t just get shut down because mom says, ‘I don’t want to’ or ‘this is terrible for our children’ without any proof that’s the case. When a shared parenting agreement is tough to work through initially, that is when parents need help and a voice of reason the most (chances are, you’re already in court for those who say the state should stay out of such decisions – oh, the irony), and that is where a law like this would step in and encourage what’s truly in the best interest of a child. Besides attorneys knowing that co-parenting reform often leads to less litigation (among the reasons the ND State Bar is fighting this measure tooth and nail whether you care to admit that or not), two adults agreeing to act like two adults in this situation appears the biggest hurdle of all.


(A Different) Perspective … A Friend Writes.

I’m not sure that my comments to the Cowboy are of any reassurance during weeks like this.

Weeks, where it’s the tail end of the two weeks essentially, without the kids.

I can’t imagine being in his shoes.. or ever putting someone else in the position he’s in.  But I’m increasingly becoming aware of how many people are.  In his shoes.  Parents who essentially are told they should appreciate any time they get to ‘visit’ their children.

And on the flipside, in the position of the other parent in many divorce scenarios.  The parent, given primary placement.  The one who gets most of the time with and control over the kids.  And how that can sometimes look.

It’s been an emotional past couple weeks.

It seems the further out he gets from the divorce and the less he continues to see the kids, with each passing day, month or now year .. the tougher it is for him to feel like he can really be a father to them.  The father he wants and hopes to be, anyway.  A few hours each week sitting in a restaurant because there’s not enough time now to go home or good weather to go to a park and play .. and four weekend days each month, is hardly enough time to get anyone back into a good groove.

Just when dad and kids seem to be settled in and getting reacquainted.. it’s time to pack for the trip back to their other home.


Fortunately, more states are recognizing, through time, experience, and statistics .. the rules need to change.  In not all, but most scenarios.  Where two loving, responsible, protective parents both want to be a part of raising their children, and be present in their lives.


Things will change.  Someday.  As more and more states.  And more and more parents, left on the outside looking in at their children’s lives for no apparent good reason other than a judge’s orders, decide that instead of giving up because nothing will change and it only causes more pain to try .. instead, keep trying.  Because it does matter.  Not just to them, but their kids.  That they are not alone.  And the more they come together and speak with one voice, someone will hear them.

But will it come soon enough for some families to heal.


I mentioned it has been a tough couple weeks.

I can always tell when we’re a week into his time without the kids .. because there is an unshakeable sadness.  No matter what the Cowboy says to me, I know its eating at him.  That he hasn’t seen them.  That if he wants to talk with them, its dictated to him how that has to happen.  Yet the conditions are at times not met on the side giving dictation.

When there is a call, it’s quick.  Then usually .. ‘they’re busy and need to go.’

The few hours he had the chance to spend with them this past mid-week .. for many reasons, was emotionally overwhelming and tough.  And because of the weather, the circumstances and one of the boys crying for his mother, he took them home in heavy frustration and sadness a half hour early.  For a man who would give anything for extra time with his children .. this has all been very trying .. emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Not knowing what else to say .. because really, what can you .. I say, well then, let’s pray.

And, then I add.. “They’re healthy.  Let’s just be grateful they are healthy.  The rest will fall into place.  I don’t know when.  But it will.”

He agrees.  I’m not sure he wholeheartedly believes me.  But for the moment, he agrees.


I wasn’t going to write about this today .. I was going to instead, write about another lesson learned by the Cowboy after spending more time than he’d probably like in the city .. (Because we have some great, entertaining lessons yet to be shared.  Like parking tickets.)

But I was reminded again today of why the health of our children, is above everything else, what is most critical.  I am actually, reminded of it daily.  Through my job, I see families put in situations that would bring any of us to our knees.  I have close friends who have lost a child.  And, who have children with severe disabilities.  I thank God each and every day my own daughter is healthy.  There is sincerely not a day that I take that for granted.

I saw this afternoon, a tweet from a dear friend of mine.  A friend I don’t talk with as much as I’d like anymore.  We’re all busy.  But I see it, and I shudder to think based on the content of the tweet, what might be happening.

I message him, ‘Just seeing this.  What is going on?  Are you all OK?’

He shoots back moments later, ‘We’re OK. This explains:’ and he sends me the following link.

‘Lessons from a young Skywalker:’



Again, I’m not sure any of my comments or anyone’s are helpful to the Cowboy.  Reassuring.  Or comforting given the struggles he’s facing.

Only he knows.  And honestly, only he can figure out how to work through this stage of his family’s young .. challenging life.  Through his relationship with himself.  God.  And his faith in both.  Something right now, he’s giving everything he’s got.


A wonderful opportunity presented itself this afternoon ..

The gift of a few extra hours with the kids to kick off the weekend.  The Cowboy got a call asking if he wanted to pick them up early.  No one is asking why.  Mom could have had something else she wanted to do this afternoon and it saved her from postponing or getting a sitter.  Or, she could have genuinely wanted to give them all more time together.

No one’s asking why.  Just celebrating the moments.

And grateful to their mother, for offering them up.

How seldom or how often any of us can ever have the chance to spend time with our kids, to hold them, hug them and be present with them, is such a gift.

Reassurance they are also healthy ..

I’m praying tonight, my friend Jason and his family continue to get nothing but the best news .. and care for their young Skywalker, in the meantime.

I won’t lie…

I was supposed to get together with a girlfriend tonight .. she asked to reschedule.  She hasn’t been feeling well.

I gladly obliged.  Everyone around me lately has been sick.


I’m hanging out at one of my fav coffee /wine shops in town.  And I’m strangely, really good with that.  (Although I keep running into people I know here and writing this is taking forever)

The Cowboy just called.  It’s late to start a drive from South Dakota to WI.  But, he’s on his way.

Sigh.  Of relief.

I won’t lie…

I wasn’t sure he was going to come, quite honestly.  It’s been a rough past 48 hours ..

He’s been pretty bummed, I think, since the House Bill passed as is.

He’s not sure what it will mean.  If anything.  To improve his time with the kids.  And if it doesn’t, where does that leave them all.  Any of the parents in his shoes.  If it’s not ‘a better place’ so to speak, if there are no guarantee spending thousands more on taking this all back to court so that there is a more equal split of time with the kids between homes, what will happen?  What can he possibly do then to change things?  Anything?  Does he stay?  Keep taking it on the chin?  Make the most of his 4 days a month?  Is there a chance visitation guidelines are next to change.  Or, does he step back.  Is it better for them to not be stuck between the conflict of their parents?  Does he go about his life and hope his kids will be ok?   Hope above everything else, they know he loves them?

Where does this leave them?  Any better than they were before?  Was it worth sticking his neck out?  Day to day that answer varies as of late.  One day he feels it was.  The next .. he’s not so sure.

So he’s been in a funk.

And he’s needed a good couple of days to hang out in that space.

My challenge, rather, our challenge;  I’m not good with funk.  I can handle it, for a bit.  But I’m not good at allowing myself – or someone else, especially someone I love so dearly, to stay there for long.  Bummed.  Feeling sorry for themselves.  Frustrated.  I want to help.  But sometimes you just can’t.  SO..  we’ve had a bit of a rough patch.

He feels there’s no way I can understand.  And that its ok for someone to be down.  Not for long, but for longer than I was giving him.  I don’t know that I can ever fully understand.  I can’t imagine being totally in his shoes where I don’t have time with my daughter and the leverage of equal time and placement.  But my instinct is to say, let’s roll.  Let’s fix it.  Let’s get you all to wherever that better place is.  All, including, the ex and her entourage.  Write down what your hopes are.  Let’s figure out how to achieve.  Let’s go….

Because I can always think of a situation worse .. to be in.

I’m a glass half full girl.  If we’re healthy and we’re alive, God has a plan.  And, it’s going to be okay.

He’s probably right though.  I am impatient.  And I should have given him a bit more time to swallow a very bitter pill.  Grieve, quite honestly, that the best chance he had at healing some of the wounds divorce has caused he and his kids, wasn’t going to happen.  Not this time, anyway.

With a little experience and some time post my own divorce, under my belt, I have hope.


He’s on his way.  Almost here ..actually, by the time I actually post this.

I can’t wait to see him.  We are thankfully past any frustrations.  Neither of us likes being in that place, either.  Upset that is, with each other or in life.  I debated whether or not to write about this tonight, but I felt it important both to give this follow up to the events earlier this week.  And to be realistic about the fact not everything between he and I or any couple for that fact, can always feel or be perfect.

Was it worth sticking his neck out there?  Will some of the terrible events of the past couple weeks somehow mean a better future for the Cowboy and his kids (and his ex)?  While that remains to be seen there were two things that helped snap him out of his funk today.

First, that we will see each other again here shortly.

But far bigger and better than that:

The ex allowed him a few hours tonight that ‘weren’t his’ (no one’s asking why there was this astonishing turn of events or heart, everyone is just reveling in it – giddy, really at the gift of extra time together) .. with his daughter.

It was a daddy/daughter dance at church.

Something he’s looked forward to since mom, earlier this week, said they could go together.  He bought her a wrist corsage.  Mom got her beautifully dressed up.  And the two danced the night away.  Before the clock struck 9.  And he had to take her back home.

“We had the best time,” he said when he called after dropping her off.  “She said she felt like a princess .. we danced the entire night.  At least until they pulled out the roping dummies at the very end, and I had to help everyone learn how to rope.”

I almost spit my wine out as I laughed…

Only in South Dakota I think to myself.  Then I realize, probably not.  I’m learning how many more places would do this.  Anyway..

As I sat at my little table earlier tonight with my glass of wine and started to type.. I said a little toast, to them all.  Congratulations for a beautiful night.  May this be the start of only good things to come.

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.


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?


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 ..

First time for everything ..

I wake to find the Cowboy sitting at the keyboard, once again.

“I did my first tweet,” he laughs.  “I tweeted.”

We are both back at the computer, me to check on a few things, look for story ideas and share some thoughts here before I hopefully squeeze in a run before work today.

Him, to continue gathering information and thoughts before his trip back home and to Pierre this Thursday morning.

The Cowboy has been at the computer a lot lately.

In fact, he told me yesterday, he hasn’t worked this much on the computer since college.

If you haven’t read a couple of my earlier posts that would explain what any of this is about.. It’s all in preparation of testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

The Cowboy plans to testify along with some others, about why he feels the South Dakota state legislature should support a law allowing both parents in a divorce to have time and placement with their children.  There are two options.  One would be a step above current law.  The other (below) would be a tremendous step forward.


Current statute in South Dakota dictates it is in the best interest of a child to live almost exclusively with one parent.


And it has torn countless families apart, we’re learning.  The Cowboy has been taking an increasing number of calls from other parents who want to help raise their kids, but who, through divorce have been deliberately alienated from their children.

The Cowboy, by the way, has tried calling his kids everyday – once a day since seeing them last.  He gets a few hours after school with them each Wednesday.  Just one phone call has been allowed.  That was on Thursday this past week.  He hasn’t been allowed to speak to his children since.

We’re just never sure why that is.  Especially when the kids ask him to call more often.

It’s sad he is left in this scenario with two choices;  tell them he does call but for some reason their mother doesn’t answer .. or tell them they’re right, he should call more often leaving them to believe their dad doesn’t care or want to be more a part of their lives.  No one wins here.  Including the kids.

Which is why .. the Cowboy sits at the computer again today.  Making sure he’s maximizing awareness these two shared parenting bills are coming up for debate.

Given the lack of publicity, the Cowboy felt a bit defeated this weekend, that no one really cares.

I remind him, it’s enough that he does.  Because there are many, many others out there who like him, aren’t sure what to do about their own devastating situation.  Someone needs to be their voice.

Tweet, testimony, or otherwise.  I’m pretty sure he feels good to be doing ‘something’ to work toward positive change.  If not in his own situation, hopefully for others.

What I do know for certain, is that he’s looking forward to the day twitter is no longer in his vocabulary, he can get back shoeing horses (winter fortunately is a slow time of year for work) and the work he enjoys most.

That is being a dad.

Serving up breakfast

Drinks .. a good question .. and the gift of time.

We are enjoying a rare moment with some friends that I adore but rarely get a chance to see,  tonight..

As we’re gathering up our things and sorting out the bill, one of them asks the Cowboy, “How many horses do you have?”

“Oh, 8 head right now,” says the Cowboy.

“Why do they call it ‘head of horse’, versus just horse?” they ask .. “Do some have more than one head?”  We all laugh.

I don’t know that I had ever thought to ask that question.

“Because you count heads when you count livestock,” replies the cowboy, with a chuckle.  “That’s just the way they do it.”

We are all capping off our respective days of work, meetings, appointments and the days challenges .. with a cocktail.  Down time with friends and family is wonderful, isn’t it?  I don’t have, or I should say, I don’t make room for it often enough.  I really don’t.  I try on a daily basis to not feel like a horrible person for it and make room wherever I can.  But somehow, I can never seem to find the time to talk with everyone I want in my day-to-day.

The Cowboy reminds me daily not necessarily through words, but his actions, of how much better at it I could be.

Today, it was the phone call back home to South Dakota, first thing this morning.

“Happy Birthday, mom!” he says.  I can hear his mothers voice on the other end of the line,  sounding so happy to hear from him.  “You made it there okay last night?” she asks.  “I did.  It was pretty foggy, but I made pretty good time.”

“I saw that,” she says.

“What?” says the Cowboy.

“That it was foggy.. I read the blog.” she replies.

Both the Cowboy and I chuckle a bit .. to know his mom is reading any of this.  But at the same time, I’m flattered.  I adore her.  She is a good, hard working woman who loves all her boys and their families a ton from everything I have seen thus far.  She, like most moms, may not be perfect.  (I say that because the boys all fuss at her on occasion.)  But she tries to be there for any/all of them as best she can; the Cowboy’s dad, he and his two brothers and their families.

Right now I believe the Cowboys mom just wants to do anything she can to help the four of them.  The fallout from the divorce has been tough on their whole family.  It is for most.

I remind him to tell her he loves her.

I would give anything to hear my own mothers voice on the other end of the line.  She’s been gone now 10 years.  But this reminds me, and he reminds me, to try and be better about staying in touch with the family and friends still here.

Tonight was wonderful .. the time with friends .. (6 head if you count ’em like livestock), capped off a beautiful day.  A day where I spent some extra time with my daughter.  And, that started with a sweet phone call home to the Cowboys mom.

“I love you too,” she says and adds one more time, “I’m glad you made it there okay,” …

The drop off …

Some parents would love nothing more than to hand over their kids for a few hours .. even a few days ..

Hand them over to another adult they know will take good care of them.

Sometimes another mess, another whine, another errand, another argument with you or between siblings, another load of laundry .. any or all of it can be enough to push some parents to the brink.  A few moments, a few days perhaps of solitude, is a wonderful opportunity to regroup and come back at it.

Quite honestly, even if its just a date night .. psychologists will tell you, (and I say this after the thousands of dollars of couples therapy that my ex and I went through, apparently a wee bit too late – so please let me just share one very important tidbit I learned) get a babysitter and go out.  Step away from the children for just a few hours.  It is healthy for them and for you.

Sincerely.  Once a week.  If at all possible,  do it.  Prescription straight from a marriage counselor.  Fit it into your schedule and do it.  (Just to clarify, I’m not saying like, do it do it.. but do the date night thing.  You know what I mean.  On some level though, I guess either reference would be appropriate in this context.)

Back to the point I was going to make..

Some parents would give anything for that break.  For a few days to regroup and then have their children back, feeling all refreshed and ready for the beautiful chaos that they are.

But for parents who’ve gone through or who are going through a divorce and who want more time with their children than the are told they can have, nights .. like tonight at the ranch, are brutal.

A weekend of not much of anything but hanging out and loving on each other at some point has to end.

It’s time to go back to mom.

A warm weekend indoors

It’s been almost three days now of running around inside, staying out of that cold South Dakota wind, chasing each other, playing hard and chilling out.  But the silence that starts to creep back in around 6pm every other Sunday at the ranch is almost deafening.  The stress of the drop off starts to sink in once again, with the twins and their big sister.

The Cowboy I know does his best to keep his composure as he starts helping them pack ..

Not easy because almost always, there is crying.  And there are questions.  More and more, his daughter says, ‘Why can’t we spend more time with you, daddy?”  They are words that sting deeper each time they are asked, because there is no good answer.

One of the boys lies on the floor .. lifeless, with tears streaming down his cheeks saying he doesn’t want to go.  The other ambles along through the house this weekend as if nothing is happening.  Usually he’s the one clinging to dad screaming.

“The drop off sucks,” says the Cowboy.  “Especially because it is essentially two weeks now until I get any more real time with them…”

Let me just say this.

No matter how much any child loves a mom or dad, leaving one to go home to the other can be heartbreaking, especially when they’re young.  It does go both ways, for those who think the kids only have a hard time on their particular end.  The Cowboy knows this.  Still, it is hard.

Hot cocoa

They don’t understand.  I’m fairly certain they feel guilt leaving one parent for the other.  And if they don’t feel it, they feel like they should.  So they act accordingly.  That is just my own observation.  Take that for what its worth.  But from everything I have witnessed and heard, with my own daughter, with friends, with other family and the Cowboy, kids feel torn leaving either parent.

I don’t know what a child truly feels however, because I was not put through that hell when I was a child.  I feared it.  My parents struggled just like everyone else.  But I was blessed in that they stuck it out.  After 36 years it was cancer that finally tore them apart.  Its crazy to think of how rare divorce was back when we were kids compared to now.  In 2012, its more rare a child’s parents are still together.

Marriage is never easy.  Divorce is just as hard.  And its incredibly tough on kids.

There are ways to minimize the pain.  Experts will tell you, avoid direct parent-to-parent drop offs if at all possible.  That helps the kids.  School for instance, is a great way to do that.  Whoever has them for the weekend will usually drop them off at school/daycare the following Monday.  The other parent them picks them up.  Voila.

I’m not just saying this because it might help the Cowboy and his kiddos.  I’m saying it because I’ve seen it work.  And, because my ex and I were asked to do the same .. after both of us grew increasingly concerned, I think, that someone might call the cops thinking one of us was abducting our own daughter during direct drop-offs.  Her blood curdling screams and crying tore our hearts out.

The rub here is.. both parents have to be willing.  Willing and able to remember through the muddy hate filled haze that can be divorce, to always try and do what’s in the best interest of the kids.  Thankfully, no matter how tough my own divorce was, my ex and I tried our best to frame each situation with, ‘What is best for our daughter?’

Too many of us know that can’t always happen.  Or if it does, its down the road and so much damage has already been done.

I don’t know why I felt compelled to write about this today.  It’s not a fun topic.  And the Cowboy worries its a bit too heavy.  He wants me to write about something a bit more lighthearted tomorrow, if that’s ok.

But its just what struck me as important to talk about.  Because so many of us face this moment.  The moment we say goodbye to our kids .. and wish with everything we have, that we had more time with them.  Each day.  Each week.  The good, the bad, the arguments, the accomplishments .. even the mundane.

Back to moms

While time alone to regroup is a gift – to come back at parenting refreshed, renewed and ready to tackle anything a 4, 7 or 10 year old could throw at us (literally and figuratively) ..

How we would give anything for the frustrations of the everyday.    

(p.s.  Don’t think I don’t know – some of you right now are saying, then you should have stuck it out in your marriage.  I wish it were that simple an answer.)