My Mother …

Apartment is cleaned up.  Laundry is going.  Coffee is on.  Running clothes are on too so that I’m motivated to workout after writing this, before I run off to work.

Life’s been hectic lately.  A good hectic at times and at other times, exhausting.  More emotionally than anything.  But finally feeling like I have a moment to sit and write.

I wrote most of last week about the mom’s in my life.  And while Mother’s Day has come and gone and this was to be my post on Sunday .. my 100th post .. I’m actually thinking my mom would appreciate that I’ve been trying to take care of some other obligations and things that needed tending to, before taking this break.  Plus, she’d appreciate, I believe, the fact I’ve done nothing but think about her and what was important to write about her now for over a week.

There isn’t a day though that goes by, I don’t think of her and wish I could pick up the phone to actually call .. she was and will always be the woman who became not only my mom, but also eventually my best friend.

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Those of you who are a daughter or who have one now .. can imagine it wasn’t always that way.

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“I don’t have to listen to you!  You’re not my real mother ..” I remember saying to her more than once when I was growing up.

I’m not sure what she ever said or expected of me that warranted that response.

But I remember saying it.  And regretting it then and now with everything I have.  How often we say things, especially as children, we wish we could take back.  Thankfully I had the chance to make amends for that and any other trouble I may have caused her in her far too short a life .. over and over again.  I did my best anyway.

And even though my mom isn’t here to walk me through how she might handle some of the parenting issues I am now blessed and challenged with .. I believe I have some wonderful insight, hindsight and foresight .. as my daughter tries to get away with some of the same.

🙂

Back to my mom.

I may be looking at this through rose colored glasses .. but I don’t think so.  And even if I am, I don’t care.

Here’s what I remember of my mother:

She went by A. Eileen because she hated her first name.  And she never wanted anyone to know it was Agnes.  But I kind of like it.  Family name.  She was born in Maryland but raised in Madison.  Her own father, Paul died while she was very young of tuberculosis.  She ended up with TB because of it.  Scarring her lungs as a very young child.  She was lucky to have survived, herself.  But it would eventually make her more vulnerable apparently, to the cancer that took her life.  She grew up in both a single parent home and when my grandmother remarried at one point, from everything I understand, in an abusive environment.  She attended Business College.  Met my father in a soda shop on Madison’s east side.  Married and moved to the small town of Poynette where she .. and they would live and work and raise our family, most of the rest of her life.

Our first home was tiny, but from what little I remember of it, she made it a home.  Totally 70’s decor.  Sweet flower beds around the house.  Lilies of the Valley out the front window I still remember the smell of them as they would bloom each spring.  A play set in the backyard.  She was always very proud of how things looked, including herself.  She wasn’t a workout queen.  But she was slender, always kept.

And despite the fact she wore little other makeup, there was always bright pink or red lipstick that went on.

She was simple.  Didn’t need much.  Her closet was minimal.  I stood looking at mine the other day and even now, mine is half the size it was a couple years ago (in part because I keep most of my work clothes now at work because I have no closet space in my old school apartment) .. thinking about how I would like to get down to a wardrobe the size of the one she had.  Life.  More Simple.  I love the thought.  And I am going through my own things little by little doing what I can right now to minimize.  (How and when did we as a society ever go from something four-feet wide being enough to closets the size of an efficiency apartment being the norm?)

She was a wonderful woman with an infectious smile .. and a laugh that seemed to be heard around every corner.  When she was happy.  When she was stressed.  When she would hear us say things we shouldn’t .. knowing the consequence was coming.

She was stern, yet vulnerable.  Beautiful.  Outspoken yet often quiet, introspective and kept to herself.  She was helpful.  Had great penmanship.  I love how she wrote her name.  Is that silly?  Whatever.  She was hard working.  Always wanting to pitch in to help wherever it was needed but knowing when it was time to rest and ‘just be’, as well.  She was all about family.  And community where she could.  Volunteering.  Getting involved.  But she was equally good at hiding out and tending to her own well being .. and that of our family.

She preferred my dad do the cooking, she’d do the dishes or get us to do them.  She and my dad both worked hard.  And in turn, expectations of what we could do and how we could pitch in as a team were high.

Especially as we got older.  Older .. interestingly enough, meaning probably my dear daughter, about the age you are now.

During the summer and on weekends especially, mom wanted a clean house.  With or without company coming.  We were expected to keep our rooms clean, have the laundry done and folded, vacuuming done, floors scrubbed with a rag – not a mop, have the lawn mowed, weeds pulled, the garage swept out, toys put away and whatever our other jobs were, done.  We were expected (ahem .. encouraged strongly if we ever wanted money of our own, ever) to work on top of any of that.  We mowed neighbors lawns.  Had paper routes.  De-tassled corn.  Babysat.  My first ‘real job’ I’m pretty sure was at the flower shop/convenience store in town, where my mom would go everyday for her Pepsi and Hershey’s candy bar for a break from work.  It was right across the street from her office.

Work.  Then play.

Which we were given a lot of room to do as well.

(I had written a bunch about that, but thinking I’ll save that for a post all its own.  The importance of play.  And another .. about having a job when you’re young.  Both are so important, I believe.)

In having many expectations of us, we were also given a lot of freedom to mess up.  Figure things out on our own.  And reap the rewards of being good and doing well, earning trust.  Or suffering the consequences of not making wise choices.  And grounded.  For like .. most of my high school years.  All were gifts that helped us both grow into the people we’ve become.  Like us or not.

Travel.

Mom loved to travel.  But hated to drive (flying wasn’t an option back then on a budget).  And she was terrible about reading maps.  One of my fondest memories though is of her, wherever we would be, in the passenger seat with the map.

My dad would say to her, ‘Where next?  Where do we turn next?’

“Well, I think .. here,” she would say.  And she would almost instantly start laughing.

“You think there?!” my dad would say getting frustrated.

We ended up in places we should not have been traveling on more than one occasion because she would break down in a fit of laughter and tears and not be able to even read the map.  Ultimately ending up in the drivers seat while our dad tried to navigate us out of a mess.

I hear her laughter everyday ..

.. as I glance at the photo I took of her on one of the last road trips we would ever take together.

We were in Montana.  And while at this particular moment we weren’t lost, we were laughing.

The photo reminds me each day of her simple nature, her appreciation for life and finding beauty in the everyday little things, for exploring .. but also in coming home again.  And in being with family.

Love and miss you.

“Let there be more joy and laughter in your living” – Eileen Caddy

(A quote not my mom, but apparently another wise Eileen.)

Birth Mom …

(Been kind of a nutty past couple weeks .. and I haven’t had a good chance to sit to write like I’d like.  Such good intentions last week, especially.  SO playing catch up yet on the final two posts from my week of talking about my Moms.)

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I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know that I was adopted ..

I just always knew.  From the time I was a very little girl.  My parents wanted me to know that someone loved me enough to have me – and at the same time, know that it was in my best interest someone else raise me, because it wasn’t the right time or place for them to have that job.

At a very young age, I believe I came to realize just how fortunate I was, that I found the family I did, that I was even on this earth, and how painful a decision that had to have been to make.

I knew at some point, I would want to meet her.

If nothing else, to say thank you for the life I have been blessed with.

……………….

“I’m ready to look,” I said to a friend who worked for the State Adoption Agency.  It was probably 11 years ago.  And my own mother was dying of cancer.

It wasn’t long, I got a call back.

“They’ve been waiting for you,” my friend says .. “Her parents still live in the same home they did then.  It didn’t take much to find them.”

I wasn’t ready at that point for many reasons, to make the call.

So I wrote a letter.  I told her I would be in touch when the time was right.

I wanted so much for the two of them to meet, my two mothers.  The one who gave me life.  The other who gave me a life .. and if I was ever to meet my birth mother, I wanted her to know my mother-mother, the woman who had raised me ..

My mom-mom .. wasn’t sure it was what she wanted.  In fact, I know it wasn’t what she wanted.  I still remember one of the only conversations we had about it.  The two of us had just left one of her chemo appointments.  Things weren’t going well.  And we were sitting in front of Babcock Hall about to go in for an ice cream cone.

“I just don’t want to do it,” she told me through tears.

I never brought it up again.

While I am sad there never was that connection, I feel even worse about what I believe the reason why … out of fear she would lose a piece of me or perhaps even all of me, if I ever made that other connection.

I knew that would never be the case.  No one could ever come close to replacing my mom-mom.  But I also knew, nothing at that time, or perhaps ever, would ease her mind.

…..

My mother passed.

My birth mother stood in the back of the church and cried.

We have since spent some wonderful time together.  Talking.  Crying.  Getting to know each other.  Reminiscing about my life and hers .. since that day she let someone take me from her arms and put me into someone else’s.  I stood up in her wedding.  I have met her siblings (my aunts and uncles).  Spent time with her kids (my siblings).  Her parents (my grandparents).  Seen a couple births.  Deaths.  Dropped my daughter off with her for a sleepover with her cousin who she adores and is the exact same age as ..

Had some regrets I haven’t had more time with her.  But most importantly, appreciation for the time we have had.

I love her dearly for the incredibly tough choices she (and her mother) made.  Choice or perhaps better said, what was expected of her.  Life since then, I know, has been tough on her.  And she, tough on herself I believe for having let me go.  I know she never wanted to.  But when you are 16 .. and at that time in our society, the early 1970’s .. keeping a child wasn’t something many looked upon favorably.  I was told out of several other pregnancies in her school and class at the time, I was the only child born that year.

There are no words I can ever say that will fully encompass how grateful to my b-mom for my life.  And the life I’ve been given because of her sacrifices.  But I try.  With thank you’s and I love you’s, as often as possible.

And I know deep down, even though they never met, the woman I will always know as my mother, the woman who raised me.. most likely feels the same.

The Best Advice You Were (Never) Given?

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – Mignon McLaughlin

…………….

I have a colleague who’s last day at work was today ..

At least for now.

We will see him again soon, only with one change.  Well maybe more than that.  He could come back with a tattoo somewhere we’ll never see.  Or have suddenly decided to become a vegetarian.  But one change that we’ll at least know for sure.  He will return to work in about a week and a half with a shiny new ring on his left hand.

He’s a great guy and he’s marrying a wonderful young woman this weekend, the two have been together quite some time, they seem like a great couple and they are excited to be getting married.

I of course, truly and sincerely wish them every blessing a lifetime of love can bring and the best in their marriage.  So do many, many other family and friends of theirs .. and of course all of our colleagues ..

Yet I heard someone say to him today, jokingly .. ‘it’s not too late.’

I might have said that as well a year ago.  But I would have meant it.

Quite honestly, I’m not so sure the relative newlywed that did say it today didn’t mean it. Actually, I know she did because she followed it up by saying just above a whisper but I was close enough to hear, “I actually meant it.”  Which makes me sad.  It wasn’t long ago she was that person rushing off, so excited to get married.  The wear and tear I already hear in her voice is heartbreaking.  (Perhaps I should show her yesterday’s blog.)

Anyway, a year ago for me, I was done.  Done dating.  For a very long time anyway.  That was my plan.  I had NO intention of even thinking about trying to connect with another person in regard to dating again .. and marriage?  Marriage was simply never again going to be a discussion.  The destruction I was witnessing in so many directions around me regarding other couples was enough to make me swear any of it off, I was almost certain, forever.

After focusing on my health and fitness, staying close to girlfriends I knew had my back and me theirs, working with a life coach and being faithful to pray and go to church, I put it all in God’s hands.  I told myself a year ago, ‘Focus on your daughter and your career because it is clearly a much better use of time and energy.’

I had had it.

Then along comes this cowboy.

…………..

My faith has honestly and genuinely (I am somewhat sincerely shocked) been restored that good marriages/relationships, heck even incredible ones do still exist.  That it is possible to connect with someone on a level so deep, that it’s okay to trust in it.  That it is safe to again, give another person (besides your child) .. everything you’ve got.

But I also believed that, the first go round.

A dear old friend of mine, one whom I miss terribly and have always looked up to, who I had no idea ever ventured to read any of these posts, left a comment today on yesterday’s post .. and the challenge I had linked to about being conscious to say only uplifting, positive things to your spouse and about your spouse to others, for 30 days.

She wrote:”I believe in love, family, marriage. I believe it. I know so many people of divorce did too at one point. Including my own parents. But if you really were honest….would those people of divorce have noticed flaws early on, red flags, where perhaps they should not have gotten married? My own mother said just that…..she always had a bit of a red flag moment in her, that said perhaps they shouldn’t. But it was the 60s…she was 22…EVERYONE got married.I feel awful hearing of friends’ marriages in trouble. Makes me so sad, yet its inevitable. Statistically, its going to happen. I will work every day to make sure that it is not me.

We don’t always see red flags as red flags.  We see them as challenges perhaps we can work through.  Troubles for one person, not you both as a couple, that might heal/get fixed in time.  Or with counseling.  Or that some red flags are ‘just stress’.  Or what I feel my ex and I believed, which was – that it was so great we were complete opposites – because somehow then we complimented each other.

In hindsight .. my ex says his family told him we would never work.

Maybe they did.  But we thought we knew better.  And, we loved each other so we tried.

But in trying, failing and throughout the years since, I have learned quite a few lessons.  Lessons I hope guide me well (they better or I’m going to be really peeved .. ) into the future.

Back to my colleague.  Knowing he and his beautiful bride were heading off into the great known, or dare I say, the great unknown that is marriage … I was pondering today, what possible advice would or could I ever give a couple just starting out, to help them succeed in love .. and marriage.

Would they care what I have to say anyway.

Probably not.  Most often we learn best by falling and getting back up on our own.

But for my own daughter’s sake…

I wanted to jot down a few thoughts so that she may look at this, someday, when she is contemplating any relationship of her own.

Love each other.  Speak kindly to each other.  More kind than is necessary where you can.  Date.. always.  Establish a good cache of babysitters.  Surround yourself with good friends and lots of family.  Know that sometimes friends are family.  But also know when it’s time for it to be, just the two of you.  Communicate.  And if you don’t do it well, find someone who can help you figure it out because it is perhaps the most important thing you can work on – for each other.  Laugh, a lot.  Listen every now and then to the tone of your voice and make sure it sounds the way you are hoping to be heard.  Hold hands.  Take walks.  Remember, it’s not always 50/50.  Chances are any slacking in one area by your spouse is being more than made up for by your slacking in another area.  Pray, together.  Don’t put a TV in the bedroom.  Ask each other about your day and mean it.  Spend less time worrying who is right and more time worrying about what is right.  Have one standing meeting each week where you can bring your grievances/frustrations to the table, talk about it and work out a solution together when it’s not in the heat of the battle.  (My ex and I learned this through years of counseling and thousands of dollars billing.  Don’t spend the money to hear the same, just do it.  It was one of the best things we did.)  Continue those standing meetings even if everything is going well and use it instead to celebrate all that is right.  (My ex and I failed on this part here.  Which may be among the reasons we are no longer together.)  ‘Let your love be stronger than your hate or your anger.  Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break.’  (- Jane Wills)  Remind yourself each morning of why the person next to you is a blessing in your life.  And perhaps do the same again each night, before you go to bed.

I’m sure I’m missing a few big ones here.  But those are just a few thoughts off the top of my head.  Thoughts that might someday be helpful to you, my beautiful daughter.  Who knows about anyone else.  Anyway, I never had a conversation like this with my own parents, in terms of what strengthens any relationship/marriage.  It’s one, in hindsight, I wish I had been able to have .. and still hope to with my dad, among others I know carry volumes of relationship wisdom from a life well lived.

Given I know a few people at least are reading this .. I am wondering, what advice would you give to newlyweds?  Or, to those even currently in a marriage but struggling.  What does it take to not only make a marriage work anymore, but work well, thrive and last?

You may now kiss the bride.  Or whoever has helped you learn those lessons.  🙂

Cheers.

Watering the lawn …

What are you doing to keep your own grass green?

(Not, lawn mowed.  Which would give this post an entirely different meaning.  Keep your minds above the waistline.)

Ok, so this is a follow up to yesterdays quote/post and initial thoughts on the fact that in the midst of a lovely weekend for the Cowboy and I, and one where it seems all we continue to do is build on what we have, we stopped to look at all of the relationship chaos around us (because it got to the point it was almost humorous if it weren’t so sad).  To ponder what it truly takes anymore to have a good marriage or lasting committed relationship.  And, who did we know we might look to, to serve as good examples or role models …

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I have a feeling today’s post won’t be very popular among some of my friends.  I have many, many strong women in my life and I know bazillions more out there who don’t read my blog necessarily but that would cringe at what I’m going to throw out there.

BUT I found it interesting .. and at the very least, food for thought.

One of the other blogs I follow is called Heavenly Ramblings .. and I haven’t checked it out in awhile. But for some reason I clicked on a post called, “Where Was God in That,” the other night.  http://heavenlyramblings.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/where-was-god-in-that/

This isn’t ultimately what I want to point out .. but why the title caught my eye:

I had just visited earlier that day, with a friend who had lost a child.

How many of us have looked at events in our lives .. Christ followers or not, and felt like were were terribly alone.  That God could not be present or this wouldn’t be happening. Or, there would at the very least, be some sort of a sign showing you the way past the pain and on through to better days.

We are so conditioned anymore to think pain doesn’t serve some valuable lessons, that our goal is to always just be happy.  And that if we’re not, to toss aside whatever it is and move onto whatever might be next.  There are actual wall hangings now for your home, magnets and cards everywhere promoting that belief.

We all know, life, death and the challenges we are presented with in-between, which include any and all relationships (spouse, being a parent, being a child of an aging parent, friendships, any of it) aren’t easy.

Where marriage is concerned, many unions are worth holding onto, fighting through the pain and frustration, watering the grass so to speak and bringing it back to life.  Others sometimes, as sad as it may be, we need to let go of, simply tear the whole thing up and try replanting.

I’m pretty sure at the lowest point in my own marriage and divorce, I was doing that.  Praying for signs that I wasn’t alone and on the right path.

Anyway .. I’m finally getting to the point here.  When I clicked on the blog post above, this happened to catch my eye in the margins of her webpage.  Especially because of the challenges many are facing around us .. and because the Cowboy and I and many others we know that have been through heartache or divorce wonder what we might do better in any current or future relationship.  Ring on the finger or not.

30 DAYS TO A BETTER MARRIAGE

http://seekinghiswill.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/30-days-of-encouragement-for-your-spouse/

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“Would you like to come to church with us,” we asked one of the couples we know that is struggling, via text Sunday morning.  We had been with this couple and a few other people Saturday night.  The evening ended with the party hosts/a married couple in a fight screaming ‘eff you’ endless to each other and the whole neighborhood to be quite honest, and one of them then kicking the whole group out in frustration we weren’t taking sides.

“We don’t do church.”  The text we received back.

I’m not trying to push religion on anyone here.  And I don’t know, that wherever you are at in a relationship, or life any of this will help.

What I do believe .. is that in an age where women especially are stronger, more outspoken, are told they shouldn’t bend, show weakness in the workplace or at home, are asked to take on more with family, community, at home and certainly not put up with less than 50/50 effort from a spouse or significant other, it can be tough to appreciate another person’s contributions to anything.  Because it may never seem enough.

In turn, how we speak to each other or about each other …. perhaps even we would cringe to hear at times.  (from the post.)  That’s all I’m saying perhaps we can give more thought to.   

All I know is 1.) I am always looking to do better, and this is probably an area where I could have done better in my own previous marriage.  I did the best I knew at the time, but I am always looking to better.

2.) Following the challenge mentioned in the post above – won’t make major marital problems disappear and it certainly won’t change some things.  This is just simply one area where it might be interesting to see if it helps your overall day to day.

3.) We also, all need some boundaries in terms of what is acceptable in terms of how we will be treated and communicate that to our families in an ongoing manner.  But how that is communicated ….

If you take away nothing else .. and I want this for my own daughter to think about years down the road when she may be in her own relationship as well as for myself because this can be applied forever across the board (job, parenting, friends, etc) .. but if anyone else might benefit from the thought here..

The challenge asks:  ”If all my family and friends knew about my husband/wife came from a filter of what I’ve said about him/her, what would they think?”  

Do you need to change the filter?  Do you talk positively about your husband/wife to others…or do you complain and criticize?  

Words should never “rejoice in iniquity.”  

Refrain (try it perhaps, for 30 days?) from listing your husband’s/wife’s faults to others.  Instead, present them before others today in a strong, positive manner.  Slip in a “good word” for your spouse.  Resist the urge to correct or belittle him/her in front of others.  Some of what you say may come back to them – May your speech always seasoned with grace.

A new text just came into my phone as I write this .. from one of the couples we know and hold dear that are struggling right now .. and that would be my wish for them.  That they find a way to better season, always, their words with grace.  In good times as well as when there is trouble.

It is also my wish and challenge for myself as a partner, as a mother, a daughter .. and a friend.

May we always find new and healthy ways to keep the grass green.

A good marriage …

The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence.  It is the greenest where nurtured and cared for.  If your grass is not green, what are you doing – or not doing – to have it that way?‘  –  Wedding Ceremony Sermon

…………….

The Cowboy and I had a wonderful weekend together .. filled with family and friends and more friends and family.

And some drama.

Fortunately, not between us.  But it was .. surrounding us.  And as we were caught between conversations (and this is just in one 48 hour period); 1) of a friend miserable in their marriage, wanting to know about a single friend 2) of a married couple we are close and spent time with but who were at each others throats 3) of a single friend over the phone wondering why the only people who want to date her are married 4) catching up with another couple who plans their week scheduling as much time apart as possible because its easier than being together and 5) of another couple in the midst of an affair and very open about it ..

The Cowboy asks me as we’re trying to navigate phone calls and how to respond to any of it, “Who do you know that really has a good marriage?”

I paused .. and when I went to answer, I paused again for a long time.

…………….

Thinking about the question posed, now almost a day later and as I write, I do know quite a few friends who are in wonderful marriages.  Not that any union is ever without its challenges.  But when challenges come, from what I have ever witnessed, they face them together, with respect, love for each other and a commitment to stick together.  And they have come through it stronger.

Far too many of us know …

… That’s not always possible.

Having been through divorce myself though, I get it.  I know the feeling of hopelessness. Years of it.  Of, no matter what you do, it’s not right.  Of defeat.  Of trying everything you can to save it.  Then being told its never enough.  Of counseling.  Finding hope.  Of a few months of things going well only to have the cycle reverse itself again.  Of knowing there is more to life than the misery it seems two people bring out of each other.  Seeing the pain in a child’s eyes of what the two of you are when you are together.  And imagining the sorrow and confusion in that same child’s eyes, of what it will be should you part.  Of wanting to run your car into a tree versus return home at night because it would be easier than making that decision.  Of knowing that’s not the answer.  And then, of getting to the point you know the pain of staying is worse than anything else you will have to go through to get to the other side.

My ex still says he wishes we had never married in the first place.  That it was the biggest mistake of his life and he should have known better.

While I don’t feel the same .. I get it.

And I’m not going to lie ..

There are so many reasons why one might choose the option of divorce over staying married.  Statistics show over half of our population now does.  While I was devastated to be the one to finally force that step we had both talked about for years, I have not regretted the decision to separate from my ex for one day.

But had there been any chance for us .. any .. to live in harmony and have the life we both wanted, I would have continued to try and make it work.

…………..

Marriage .. even just a committed long term relationship, is hard.  And as the Cowboy and I talk about where we go from this place we are at .. in life .. in location .. in any of this and we look at the challenges being faced by so many around us and the situations they are creating for themselves as well as having been in some of those places in one way or another ourselves, the question posed stumped us both.  At least momentarily.

We have something good.  But at one point, so did we with our -ex’s .. and so did all of these family and friends ..

How do you hold onto that, the good?  Or the great.  We have talked about this before.  Many times.

I asked the one married friend who was calling to ask about my single friend and if I thought they might have any chance to hook up with them .. first, I think I said, ‘Are you kidding?’  Second, I know I asked if they were willing to work on their own marriage.  Tend to the grass.  Work on making it green.  Had they even talked with their spouse about how devastated they were.

“No, not really,” they said.

“Wouldn’t that be an important first step?  Do you want to save your marriage or are you just done?  My ex and I went to counseling on and off for almost 8 years, you know that,” I said.

“I think I’m just done.  There is no love.  There hasn’t been for a long time,” this person replied.

……………

How .. how do you bring it back?

How do you make sure the grass is greener on your side of the fence than what it appears on the other.  And what can any of us do to regrow the lawn/a relationship when it seems so far gone?

Or are we just a throwaway society anymore and it doesn’t matter if there is still some life in the yard .. we just want to rip the whole thing apart, and start over with some fresh sod.  Because sometimes that is all you can do.

The Cowboy and I have been pondering all of this …

And they have been good, ongoing conversations for us, as we work to keep our own relationship strong and green and help others we love and care about through some pretty rough patches.

Something I need more time to think about .. before I write any more.  That will be tomorrow’s post.  Your thoughts in the meantime?

Surprises ..

Anyone need a big black sign that says Happy Birthday You’re 40?

I’m trying to clean up the mess that is my home this morning and I’m not quite sure what to do with the banner I’ve got sitting in a bag filled otherwise with wine, a bottle of locally made fine vodka, a whole slew of cards and a few gifts I have yet to get to on my living room floor.

I’m definitely hanging onto the beverages.  But the sign.  Given I prefer recycling to further contributing to the trash heap outside town where I can…  Anyone… Anyone want it or need it for their own celebration?

…………….

I’ve not given a whole lot of thought (yet) to the fact I’m turning 40 this year.

I figured I’d get around to that .. perhaps the night or the few minutes before the clock strikes twelve on my ‘special day’.

Our family has always celebrated birthdays, but very quietly.  Growing up it was always dinner with my dad, brother, grandmother, perhaps my aunt and uncle.  An angel food cake that my mom would make.  A few gifts.  That’s it.

Because of this, I have never made a big deal out of birthdays that I can remember.  In fact .. when I turned 21, just about everyone in my group that night was three sheets to the wind.  I drove them home.

I am also typically not a big fan of surprises.  So the two, surprises and a big party, combined in any fashion is not something I would ever say I want.

…………….

The Cowboy has been bugging me for awhile about what we’re going to do .. about the ‘special birthday’ I have coming up.

“I don’t know yet,” I keep saying..  “Well, I do want to get a few key family members together because we need to …  But other than that, nothing,”  I tell him.

With a few of those key family members in town, just a fraction of the larger group I would like to have time with … some of us were going to get together this weekend.  For dinner.  A nice, intimate little dinner I thought was a belated Easter get-together.

The Cowboy and I walked in.  I started to look around to see where they might all be.

Quickly a hand went around my waist, steering me left.

“They are over here,” says the Cowboy.

“How do you know where they are sitting,” I asked him.

And before he could answer ..

I see a room full of people.  All of whom I love … family and friends … all from very different parts of my life …

“Happy Birthday!” they shouted.  I think, anyway.  I was so taken back, and quite honestly, shocked .. I really can’t remember what all transpired or what was said.

It was the most wonderful chaos.

One I never would have asked for or thought I wanted.  But one I will forever cherish.

A night the Cowboy had planned for months with the help of a few friends, kept a secret and made special in so many ways, as I head toward a new chapter and decade in my life.

“I just wanted to get everyone together who loves you .. think its important you know how so many feel about you,” the Cowboy told me.

I’m still not sure what to say ..  other than thank you all.  For those who were there that night.

For those who came from far away, who rearranged plans, who lied to me for months out of the goodness of their hearts, who I haven’t seen in forever but who have touched my life far beyond what they will truly ever know.

For those that wanted to be there but couldn’t.   For those who helped the Cowboy pull it off.  For the notes and gifts and well wishes ..  especially the wine.  Please stop by and let’s share.

There are few opportunities we get in life I think, to really look around and realize in one moment, how blessed we are by the people in our lives.

Usually it is at a wedding, or a funeral.

Or .. a birthday celebration.

I am reminded though, after nights like the other night, how important it is we take advantage of every occasion to appreciate those we love and that are around us.  It is something I try to do as often as I can .. but that there never seems enough time to do, as well as I might want or like.  I would assume that is the case for us all.

But even those who stopped by for a few moments, made a statement that to me will last a lifetime.

Easter ..

Easter Sunday, 2012 was a beautiful day .. as well as a bittersweet end to an incredible week of vacation, one unlike any other in my life, I realized as I pulled back into Madison late last night.

We almost always drive wherever we go.  And we are almost always going from place to place, spending only a couple days in each place .. visiting quickly before we’re off again.

This vacation, we settled in.  Felt at home.  And soaked up all we could of a place I never dreamed we would want to do much more than drive through on my way somewhere else .. a community (several) of people who all know each other by name, who have each others backs .. and a family we adore and can’t wait to see again.

………..

Easter Sunday, we woke.  The Easter Bunny had successfully made his trek around the world again .. paying the ranch a wonderful visit on the way.  There were baskets.  Easter eggs hidden everywhere.  And four sweet kids running on jelly bean-chocolate bunny-peanut butter egg-hubba bubba highs around the house trying to find them all.

The Cowboy got the boys ready for church while the girls got into their Sunday best on their own ..

We went to church.  Which, on a holy day like Easter Sunday, was packed.  Apparently like the Cowboy’s family had never seen before.  Even getting there early meant the eight of us ended up on folding chairs in the church basement with about 50 others, having to watch the service on tv.  At one point, there wasn’t anything that happened in that service that didn’t set the Cowboy and I off laughing.. which I felt bad about.  But couldn’t help it.  And, I believe it all started before we even reached the steps of the church as we watched two young women/girls trying to keep some of the shortest new Sunday dresses I’ve ever seen from flying up in the wind as they walked gingerly in their 4 inch heels into Catholic Mass .. not sure why that struck us as funny but it did .. and it just got better from there.  Egging us on especially was a woman to our right singing her heart out but so incredibly off key.  Which .. not that there’s anything wrong with that.  But on top of everything else .. It was a wonderful Easter morning and it felt good to be in church, yet it was a strangely humorous scene.

The Cowboy and I tried after that .. to not feel time weighing on us, like it always does when one of us has to leave to return home .. and just enjoy what was left of the day, our time together and the chance to be with family – especially the kids.

There was one more afternoon of riding.  Of working around the ranch.  And time with family.  The Cowboy’s mom prepared for us all an incredible brunch .. and there were more Easter baskets and candy of course to be shared, before we all had to part ways.

I often shed a tear as we leave to head home because .. the girls asked why the other day .. well, because it’s just sad, I told them.  I never take for granted I will see those I love again and I usually tell them to a fault, how much I love them and to travel safely until we meet again.  Plus, I just love being there..  Or having the Cowboy here.  So what lies in-between just kind of stinks.

This time however, it was my daughter I was consoling as we pulled away ..

“I don’t want to leave, mom” .. she said, crying as we hit the road for home.  And the fact that it was her prompting that got us to stay in one place the entire week, made me feel very blessed that she seemed to enjoy not only our time together as a mom and daughter ..  but a vacation we look forward to every other year .. and perhaps most importantly, that she is feeling increasingly at home with the Cowboy.

…………….

As I ground beans for a fresh pot of coffee this Monday morning and reflected on the time .. I am just purely grateful for every moment this past week … Especially the down time together, something I know I can always do better at.

Along with that, the fact that never once, for us anyway this past week, was there an alarm clock set.  (I am reminded of that, as I hear one going off in my daughters room.)

Here we go, I guess.  As I pour the beans into a filter and hit brew, I’m thinking ..

Back to the old grind.

It may not be the vacation blend .. but it is still a pretty good, robust brew.  And I am just trying to enjoy every sip ..

A True Cowgirl …

Let me just start by saying, I will never pretend to be a True Cowgirl.

cow·girl  n.  A hired woman, especially in the western United States, who tends cattle and performs many of her duties on horseback.

I love the life, the lifestyle and am incredibly appreciative of the opportunity to do more things considered Cowgirl since meeting the Cowboy.  But despite the fact I’ve worn cowboy boots since earning enough to buy my first pair as a teen, love country music and all it stands for and have always wanted to live at the end of a dirt road .. I’ve never called myself a cowgirl and know it’ll take awhile to earn the stripes associated with the title, if ever.

Especially after the events of this week.

………..

We have worked a lot around the Cowboy’s ranch this week.

We’ve also ridden each day.  For hours.  Down dirt roads, through fields, in arenas …

Learning the flag race ..

Around barrels.

And unfortunately for me .. I also rode this week, into a barrel.

It’s happened only once out of all the runs we’ve ever taken.  But I took a pretty good chunk of skin out of my shin.

(Apparently real cowgirls, some of them anyway.. the Cowboy says ones who have horses who like to ‘dive at the barrel’ wear shin guards because they have the gift of that experience.  But I’m thinking most don’t, because true cowboys would most likely make fun of a cowgirl who wears shinguards.)

Anyway, days later the leg still smarts.

But not as much as it did before.   Because I now have a few new aches and pains to help take my mind off a sore leg.

………..

We no more than got Ol Joe saddled up yesterday (the Cowboy’s roping horse, who I have been riding all week and every time we’ve been to the ranch), and into the arena with the girls on their horses ..

And he threw me.

It was a valiant effort to stay on, mind you.  I’m sure of it .. (lmao)

But I ended up on the ground.

While I have prepared mentally for that moment for years .. until it happens, I’m pretty sure you can’t really appreciate how little control you have over how you fall.  Unless like bronc riders for instance, you practice .. A LOT.

Regardless, it was the first time I’ve ever been thrown.  And as I lay there in the dirt having hit my tailbone a couple times on the saddle and then my head on the ground after bracing the fall with my arm .. I assessed just what really hurt.

And then the thoughts creeped in .. that a true cowgirl both would know how to ride through something like that .. and that she would also probably get up faster than I was.

I hear crying over to my left ..

I’m still laying there.  “I’m fine,” I say.

The girls, both now standing nearby on their own horses, were upset and worried.

“Are you okay?” says the Cowboys daughter .. mine saying in unison,  “Mom, are you okay?”

I hear more crying.

I start laughing to reassure them that I am, or will be shortly, just fine.

“Really,” I say.  “Just give me a minute.”

I’m still laying in the dirt.  I laugh some more.  And think, that’s about how my own mother would have handled it.  Laugh through the pain.

I got up .. slowly.  Dusted myself off.  And went to help them get Ol Joe back into the arena.

The Cowboy rode him for a few minutes.

And then I got back on.  I wasn’t sure my body was ready for it.  But the Cowboy made me.  Which in hindsight, I appreciate.

…………

“You haven’t ridden enough if you haven’t been bucked off at least once,” the Cowboy tells me.

So .. this was a good thing, I guess.

I may not be a true cowgirl.  But I’m on my way perhaps to better understanding what it takes to be one ..

And as we talk this morning about saddling Joe and the other horses back up ..

I’m enjoying every painful step of walking around, getting ready to head back out again, to ride.

South Dakota Wind …

The mornings have all been fairly different here since we arrived early last Saturday .. sunny skies and warm, partly sunny and cool, cloudy and overcast ..

But the one thing that remains constant it seems here in South Dakota ..

The wind.

I had never thought much about how windy it is until this week, where for starters .. we have had a lot more time to hang out.  Usually we are passing through on our way further west.  Or here for all of about 36 hours, turning around and heading back home.

But each morning, when I look out the window, all I can tell for certain, is that it is windy.

And .. that .. if I leave my clothes on the line .. they may not be there when we I go to check on them again.

………..

It is relatively flat, this side of the state.  So there’s not much to stop the wind from gaining momentum and swirling around every corner, every tree, every building.  Watching the grass on days like today is mesmerizing.  The wind almost appears to make everything dance.  So, it’s beautiful on some respects.

It’s just, so windy.

Windy enough that I had no idea how sunburned I was getting the other day because everything still felt cool.  Until I came in out of the sun ..

And, the Cowboy’s ranch is located in only a Fair to Moderate part of the state where wind is concerned, according to http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/maps_template.asp?stateab=sd.  I can’t imagine if we were in the Excellent, Outstanding or Superb areas of the state.

“Every day in South Dakota is nice .. as long as the wind isn’t blowing,” says the Cowboy.

That has me wondering how many nice days there are here .. but he assures me, most are .. even with the wind howling over the plains.

It also has me thinking .. if the wind one of South Dakota’s biggest crops, is it being harvested to its fullest potential?

Minnesota Public Radio did this piece a few years ago now .. http://tinyurl.com/633srn 

Apparently there are significantly more wind farms in South Dakota today than there were at the time this piece was done.  The Cowboy says one of the biggest wind farms in the state is actually not far north of the ranch.

All I know at the moment .. is that I need to keep my hat cinched tighter when we’re out riding.  That the resistence training on my runs is au natural.  And while it has quickly helped to dry many a load of laundry, saving us from running the dryer .. we need to run the wash again.  Because that white clump out in the middle of the neighbors field indeed is one of my favorite shirts that blew away.

Staying put …

I was kind of sick to my stomach yesterday.. thinking about making a decision I knew was best to make for so many reasons.

But one that I just didn’t want to do.

We cold decide to stay put in South Dakota .. where we have settled in nicely these first few days of spring break.

Or .. we could head out, leaving the Cowboy’s like we had planned, for a few days in Montana.

……….

We go to Montana every year at least once if not twice. And that’s just the two of us. My 10 year old then goes one if not two more times with her father. I don’t ever feel I can speak on his behalf nor would I want to, but I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say, we all love it. The state. The state of mind. Being there moves me and I think all of us, like few other places.. something I never expected when I moved there so many years ago for my first job. It is where my ex and I met. I’m not sure a day has gone by that my ex doesn’t wish he had ever left. His entire family now lives there, without him. That’s a whole other story.

Regardless .. If we don’t go to visit family, we go to visit all the friends who are like family to us.

The annual roadtrip usually has us swinging a big loop to see friends in Big Sky country, The Bitterroot, Missoula, Ninemile, the Flathead Valley and back toward home .. it’s a lot of driving. And never enough time with any of them.

But this trip, I really wanted and quite honestly, felt I needed time with a woman who is like a second mom to me. The Hat Maker and her family. One stop. One stop I have been looking forward to for a very long time. We had scheduled three days there .. to fall in-between two very long, wonderful weekends at the Cowboy’s.

I didn’t want to back out… but my gut was telling me I should.

The Cowboy and I have had some much needed time together and conversations we just can’t seem to have in earnest otherwise .. since we have been here. All good things.

But until my daughter asked the other night.. “Mom, can’t we stay one more day here?” .. I hadn’t really considered simply staying put for an entire week.

Not only because I’d be changing loosely set plans .. (which I’m typically and all too often, good with)

Or missing out on an opportunity to spend time in a place and with people that feed my soul ..

But because it would mean I would actually stay put, in one place, with little to do other than rest .. regroup .. think .. and have absolute down time with people I love and adore and appreciate here as well. My daughter being one. The Cowboy another.

………..

Downtime is not something I give myself permission to have very often. And I hate to generalize but, I believe it’s actually something we, as a society have gotten so far away from. Many of us, anyway. The Cowboy has been good for me in that regard.

The Hat Maker agrees .. as she adores the Cowboy and what he’s meant for us. She told me on the phone as we were talking about the possible change of plans last night, that it was probably good for us to stay put for awhile. Stop running from here to there and everywhere inbetween because often it never gets us where we want to go anyway.

We woke this morning …

And instead of getting in the car for the twelve hour drive ..

We are enjoying staying put.. heading outside where there are two horses saddled, ready for my daughter and I to ride out in the South Dakota sun .. While we wait for the Cowboy to return home.