Small victories.

It has been a long past several weeks of watching someone I love really go out of his comfort zone .. sticking his neck out to do the right thing.

It hasn’t been easy.

And that is an understatement.

But the goal has always been, a healthier situation for the three children he and his ex-wife brought into this world together.  And for them all as a family, even in divorce.  So he’s stuck it out.  And stuck to the issue.  And shut out the noise of others working against him/others walking in his same shoes.

‎”Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world right in the eye.”

– Helen Keller

The South Dakota Senate today passed House Bill 1055, a bill that aims to do what is in the best interest of children by working toward 50/50 placement whenever and wherever  possible.  It may not be the bill the Cowboy and others had hoped for.  Because it still only encourages a judge to give both parents equal placement when its in the best interest of a child.  But there were concerns the companion Senate bill went a bit too far.

HB 1055 is a small victory.

Or..

Maybe it is big.  Maybe even this small change will ripple further than anyone realizes.  Who can tell what the impact will be for children to spend more equal time with both parents and their families.. families who love and want to help raise them, parents who are encouraged through this legislation to better get along, to co-parent in a manner currently not fostered in the state of South Dakota.  Who can at this moment, fully appreciate what that will mean and the impact it will have on a child?

HB 1055 now heads to the Governor’s desk.

It is both sad yet wonderful everything involved with this discussion, *every letter written, every piece of testimony, will remain a matter of public record.  Because someday, the Cowboys children will understand just how hard their dad fought for them..  how much of a stand he had to take, to simply do what one might think would come natural – and that’s be their dad.

I don’t know that anyone reading this blog is among those I feel compelled to say something to, but:

On behalf of the Cowboy, a sincere thank you to all who worked hard for this, from the other dads, moms and grandparents who testified, to those who wrote in, to the legislators who took a stand, who came back at this year after year, who held meetings and who have been studying the issue to try and get it right this time.  Is it right?  We will see.  But still, thank you.  Thank you to the other dads who for years, have done their best to pave the way toward change.  Thank you especially .. to the legislators who fought hard to be the voice for so many children and families in your state, who otherwise might feel like no none cares that they are hurting.  And, for making sure dirty politics weren’t played today as best you could, for thoroughly understanding both sides of an issue because you had today, information from both sides.  Thank you for what may be seen as only a small victory by some.

I’m hoping in one little corner of South Dakota, that small victory will someday soon .. grow into a big fat wonderful opportunity for a good man to have more time, less stress, less conflict and all the space possible to love his kids.

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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..

“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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