11 Reasons Why ..

“Mom!” my daughter says…

She had just picked up the phone.  I was calling to talk as I was still in South Dakota earlier this week.

“Where are you?” she asks.  “Are you still at the Cowboy’s?”

“I am, honey!  How are you?” I replied.

“Mom..” she says, rather breathlessly .. “OK.  I have 11 reasons why I would want to move to South Dakota.. and 11 reasons why I don’t.  And .. why are you still there?  I want you to come home.”

While she loves the Cowboy, his kids, their lifestyle and I believe wants nothing more than to live on a ranch where there is every opportunity to have all the animals she’s ever desired, especially horses..

We’re (and by saying ‘we’, I mean ‘she’ .. ) very stressed at the moment, about what might be happening later this year and where we might be going to school.

My daughter is 10.

She met the Cowboy before I even had a chance to introduce the two this past summer.  The scene:  we were out at the barn where we keep our horse.  The owner, thrilled to have someone around who really spoke her language (horses), she  swooped him up for almost an hour, showing him around while I went and rode.  I came back to where everyone was standing after a brief ride.. and my daughter was hamming it up.   As soon as he started talking to another person standing with us all, she grabbed me by the arm and whispered loudly, “Mom.. He’s so nice!  He’s cuuuuuute!  And, he’s a real cowboy, Mom!”

She’s told me herself on many occasions over the past 8 months, since the Cowboy and I met, that she thinks he’s the one, if there ever were another one for me.  She adores him and she knows I do as well.  (Understatement of the year)  But, if we do take life and this love a step further, what does that mean?

How do we all live together, us, the kids, the ex’s?  Same geographic area, I’m speaking?  OR do we not?  Do we keep two separate homes in two separate states and keep driving between?  Or do we find what we want somehow, and that is time, all together, everyday.  If so, where would we live?  Where would she go to school?  Would she get her own room and her own horse?  That’s what she wants to know.


But she also wants me to know as one of the 11 reasons she doesn’t want to move to South Dakota, that she’ll never consider the Cowboy family.  (Mind you this comes within months of saying she can’t wait to have brothers and a sister and the Cowboy would make a great step-dad and asking if we could please move there because the west ‘is where her heart just is‘.  She can’t describe it, she used to tell me.  I get that, I really do.)

Until now, my ex and I have stayed put, not wanting to ever have this discussion.  I’m not sure either of us does now.  But life and I truly feel God’s plans for me/us are bringing it all to a head.  How do parents make these decisions?  These….. gut wrenching, heart breaking, tough, life altering decisions?  Seriously?  We can’t all regroup and fall in love again in the exact same location we often feel trapped by divorce.

I am feeling like a horrible mother for even thinking – what if there is a split in the coming year or years between states.  Her father has despised his time in Wisconsin since the day he moved here and would love nothing more than to leave.  But, he’s not interested in South Dakota, he’s told me.  What if, she spends summers with one and the school year with another?  How awful will it feel to be the one left with less time to love her in person, raise her, guide her and be present?  Or, will she be okay either way?

My daughter would be going to a new school in her current district this next school year anyway, but she’d still be with the friends she’s made the past few years.  She is petrified we might send her to a new school within if not the district, another town or even a new state.

I keep saying that to her, please don’t worry right now .. there isn’t one of us adults at the moment, certain of what is to come.  What we do know, is we love her.  And we are all working toward the best possible solutions with that in mind.  And in the meantime, we pray.

Maybe I need to make a list myself…

11 reasons why it will all work out.  Somehow…..

“I’d love to argue with you later”.. she says, laughing.

The Cowboy and I are still chuckling a bit over my last conversation of the day yesterday at the South Dakota statehouse.. with the likes of Ms. Joni Cutler http://tiny.cc/l2x37.

Now, I don’t want to do anything to ruffle anyone’s feathers.  We are all entitled to our own opinions.  And if I am ever looking for work in South Dakota, I need to watch inserting my opinions anywhere.

However..

What is fair to share with you, is the exchange.

Ms. Cutler was one of the last to come out of the Senate Chambers yesterday afternoon ..  Fortunately, we were still there, waiting on the House to dismiss.

Far from the ranch

We were scheduled to talk with one of Senate Bill 60’s strongest supporters, Representative Melissa Magstadt.

The Cowboy was off talking with Rep. Mitch Fargen.

Others, who had been making sure we talked with everyone possible where it might make a difference .. knew I wanted to speak with Cutler despite the fact she is adamantly opposed to any update/advance in shared parenting legislation.

They said, there she is.  And then they bolted.

I watched as she leisurely stopped and talked with various colleagues on her way out the door .. often stopping, turning back around, joking with a few folks, and taking a few steps back toward the door.

Finally she walked out.

I said, “Ms. Cutler, my name is ….  I am here with a gentleman by the name of .. (the Cowboy) today.”  She smiled and said, “Nice to meet you.”  She seemed quite relaxed and in no hurry.

“We’re here today to talk about Senate Bill 60 and the need for improved shared parenting legislation,” I said.

She cut me off, saying “I’m not interested.”

“I understand that,” I explained.  I made sure to be looking her in the eye when I said, “I’m just curious if you can explain to me why.”

She stopped, searching, I believe for the right words.  Any words actually.  And then she replied, “We feel judges should have all of the information and room possible to make the best decision and not mandate them to have to give couples in a divorce equal custody.”

“Why wouldn’t SB60 allow them that same room for judgement?” I asked.

“If it would, why wouldn’t it already be in place?” she replied loudly.  “Ask yourself that..”

“I have,” I said.  “And that is why we are here today to talk with you and some others.”

I probably said it with a smirk, I have to admit, but that’s what I said, very calmly.  Because at this point, she had gathered herself up and was walking away.  Which is what I had expected.

As she rounded the corner and was about out of sight.. she threw in, laughing, “I’d love to argue with you later, but I have to go.”

I replied “I’m not sure we need to argue, but I was hoping we might discuss.”

Arguing is currently, I hate to say it, what the current law fosters.  And there is nothing more detrimental to a family, children especially of parents who can’t get along, than arguing and being at each others throats through the lengthy, very sad process that is often divorce.

But it is a process currently, that any family law attorney such as Ms. Cutler and the State Bar … now I’m only guessing here … would stand to benefit from, as parents who argue over anything through a divorce and custody battle, typically argue through an attorney.  Sorry, just thinking out loud as to why Ms. Cutler might support the status quo in this situation.

Senate Bill 60, we believe, will bring families back to a middle ground where everyone is encouraged to get along for the sake of the children.  And when there is conflict, an unobjective third party is brought in to help with resolution.  Can someone please explain to me why this is a bad idea?  That is all I was hoping Cutler might help explain to me.  Why she feels this is such a bad idea.

For those of you wanting more on SB60 and why the Cowboy and I were there yesterday,  if you can glance at yesterday’s post, it’ll give you an idea.

For those of you who just want to be lazy and not look (which I get) .. Here’s a link to the bill.  😉  http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2012/Bills/SB60P.pdf

We’re not sure why there are still people out there who need to be convinced it is a child’s best interest, in most circumstances, to have both parents equally in their lives after a divorce, or for both parents to be treated and viewed equally through a divorce assuming both adults are loving, caring parents.  It seems a bit silly.  But, apparently there is a need to try and get the word out.  And having talked with countless other parents, mostly dads in South Dakota, who after years of hoping someone will listen to them and gave up, we felt it was our turn to pick up the fight.

Time with the kids - precious.

The Cowboy has been on the phone since leaving Pierre yesterday talking with family, friends and people he hasn’t heard from in ages.  Old friends who have their own story to share and who say they’ll do whatever it takes to support him.  And the bill.  And that is exactly what is needed.

http://legis.state.sd.us/who/index.aspx

This bill needs attention now.  If support isn’t strong before an upcoming hearing and testimony during the hearing, chances are it won’t even get out of committee.  It was scheduled to start this time around, in the most likely place it would get killed.  Because everyone we spoke with who’d like to see this pass is tired of working hard to see it fail, again.

One of the Cowboy’s good friends, who could lose her job for supporting this bill, is taking a stand and plans to testify.  She this morning, posted this on her fb page:

If you believe parents should have joint custody of their children, please contact your Senators and Represenative in Pierre and urge them to support Senate Bill 60. This bill will be voted on Thursday, February 9th at 7:45 a.m. during Judiciary Committee at the State Capital in Pierre… This bill is SO IMPORTANT!!! 

Even if you are not from South Dakota … (we’ve gotten emails today from folks in other state) but support moms and dads anywhere being encouraged to be good co-parents, to come to the table with equal parenting rights and responsibilities and allowing both parents to help raise their child .. especially if you are a judge, or an attorney and have seen 50/50 work.. Magstadt asked me just this morning to have you ..

Please contact either Senator Tim Begalka http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2012/MemberDetail.aspx?Member=151

Or, Representative Melissa Magstadt.  http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2012/MemberDetail.aspx?Member=159 

The Cowboy .. says thank you.  Because he doesn’t plan to walk away .. from the discussion.  Especially if it means, he might somehow get the opportunity to be more of the dad he wants to be.

Senate Bill 60…

I have been referring the past few posts to Pierre and a trip the Cowboy and I have been planning on taking to the capitol.. versus what was supposed to have been a weekend in Arizona with friends.

We stayed home because the Cowboy, devastated by the ongoing trials he is being confronted with in regard to any time with his children .. we would like to say, have to stop. But there are few resources it seems available, if any, besides an attorney. And even that, for decades, we’ve learned has gotten father’s (and some mothers) like the Cowboy, who simply want to care for, help raise, love, support and be a part of their children’s lives after divorce, nowhere. In fact, its been so disheartening, many have dropped the fight.

But could there be hope?

There is a lot of discussion right now happening around a bill scheduled to be reintroduced into the South Dakota state legislature. But perhaps not enough discussion..

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

The fight for shared parenting and legislation to support it, has gone on now for years here in the Mount Rushmore state. Judges, attorneys and the like here .. have maintained for generations that what is in the best interest of the children of divorce, is majority time with one parent, leaving the other with little to say, little time to do anything with their kids and little recourse.

But elsewhere, even in my own home state of Wisconsin where joint legal custody is the norm, the Cowboy would have had at least a chance to fight.

South Dakota’s shared parenting legislation is lagging behind approximately 38 other state’s who have long adopted the principal that parents going through divorce come to the table on even ground. That equal time with both parents is in the best interest of the child (other than in cases where there is abuse). And that the burden of proof for any arrangement otherwise lies with the parent filing for majority custody.

Somehow those ideals just don’t seem right to those representing people like the Cowboy. Or at least it seems that used to be the case. We’re hoping the times baby, they are a changin’.

South Dakota State Capitol

The Cowboy hopes by sharing his story.. legislators in his home state may finally reverse some of the pain he and his children have been put through .. and if not for them, for the other fathers (and mothers) that will inevitably follow in his footsteps.

It’s been a couple years since the Cowboy was last in Pierre. He often will rope in the Fourth of July Rodeo. And he’s won it several times.

We’re hoping today is a win too..

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Finding time … and patience.

At some point, if you stick with me long enough.. you’ll most likely hear something about the challenges my ex and I have had the past seven years or so as we went through our divorce.  And, recovery.

Our marriage was a struggle from the start for many, many reasons let alone the break-up.  It has taken all we have, I believe, to try and do what is best for our daughter and somehow get along.  Or at the very least appear to try.

I’ve wished throughout the past ten years, that I had been better about journaling because so many lessons were learned through both the good times and the bad.  Lessons I would love to reflect on as well as pass along to my daughter.  Perhaps though, the following is why it struck me this past week, to finally get at.  To start writing.  I just felt some big things were coming my way.  I wanted record.  And pretty sure my intuition was right.

Just this week, the ex and I sat down and for the first time since our divorce and apologized.  For everything.

I’m not going to lie.  It was and is weird.  But I’m trusting its also genuine.  The ex said to me, “I don’t expect after so many years of treating you poorly (word changed there – family show!) that you’ll believe I’ve changed.  I know I need to earn your trust again.  But I’m going to try.”

While I believe I may still be in shock, I am looking forward to seeing how we might all heal and as well, where we go from here.

Getting along..  Successfully co-parenting post divorce, I’m going to just assume, is never easy.  But what I do know for certain, is that some try.  And, try to co-parent far better than others.

Before I go any further with my journal, let me just establish a few important facts:

1.  I know there are two sides to every story.

2.  The last thing I ever want or try to do is run another person down.

3.  This blog/journal, again, is about our day to day and the issues the Cowboy and I face.  But they are issues many of you face as well.  I want your thoughts, actions, solutions or experiences to share.  Because I know I and most of my friends going through these same issues are exhausted and broke spending upwards of $200/hr for therapy or their attorney.

4.  My focus will almost always be on how to improve a situation.  Not just complain about it.

There.  Back to the journal.

The Cowboy wants more time with his kids.  And I think its safe to say, anyone would find it tough to withstand the games a vindictive – for reasons no one seems to be able to understand – games an ex, his ex if we want to get specific, can play.  (Again, I know there are two sides to every story but its though to argue with facts, words in writing and actions.)

The Cowboy will tell you he’s not perfect.  I would agree.  But none of us are.  He lets the kids play in the mud, eat too many sweets, often stay up past bedtime the weekends he has them .. he lets them make mistakes in the hopes they learn from them and takes them for ice cream during the 3 hours he gets to see them each week.  He knows he has a lot to learn about parenting, about himself, about relationships and about life.  But he’s also the most open person I know to the lessons.

Strong hands and a tender heart help place a winter hat on son.

The Cowboy loves his kids.  And he does his best to show them in the ridiculously small amount of time he’s been granted each week – for reasons even the judge can’t explain.

The Cowboy is a great dad.  And it breaks my heart to know that he or any parent who deserves equal time with their kids, doesn’t get it.  No matter how much my ex and I couldn’t see eye to eye, even we felt equal time with our daughter was a non-negotiable.

So, we pray everyday for grace, for strength to get through this and the wisdom to understand why any of this is happening…

In the meantime, we also are praying for as much time as possible with the kids… and I asked earlier to give me one word to describe what he needed most to get through this.

He said patience.  Patience things will work out.  That the kids will be ok.  That the time with them will come.  And to know God is somehow through this, working on us all.

But hours later and having had some time now to decompress on a very lonely stretch of highway between SD and WI…

The Cowboy called and said, “Faith may be a better word.  I think faith is maybe patience in action.  Faith I believe, is knowing that doing the right thing will prevail.”

Afternoon ride