Where has the year gone?

I’m sitting, writing out the last of our holiday cards for the year. It’s the day after Christmas. Actually, it’s the day after the day after Christmas – the wee hours of the morning. I’m the only one awake, the scenario most nights. The dogs are cashed out on the floor. Our one daughter here with us tonight has gone to bed in her new flannel pajamas. The Cowboy crashed hours ago in his chair watching a movie.

It’s a quiet night here on the prairie. The horses, donkey, goat and cats outside are enjoying the evening huddled around the hay bale. The winds are calm and the temperatures are mild. Can’t ask for more this time of year in South Dakota.

Courtesy - TheBungalowNest.squarespace.com

Courtesy – TheBungalowNest.squarespace.com

I’ve been wanting to find (make) time to write for weeks now, but so much has been going on and we’ve been on the road quite a bit. With it all, we’ve found so many great conversations to journal. I do know I’m not the only one finding myself wondering where the past month, heck the past year has gone. Happens the older we get, doesn’t it? Still, it is no less shocking each year as the holidays roll around, quickly pass us by and leave us wondering what exactly our plans should be for New Years Eve. The gifts so carefully chosen and put under the tree now for weeks are scattered throughout the house, wrapping paper left on the floor and everyone wondering when the Christmas music can PLEASE be shut off.

The music remains on in my little corner of the house tonight.

I’m milking it for all it’s worth. What’s left of the night. The year. The music. In the meantime, I’m also looking forward to getting caught up on some posts and getting all that has been fun to think about in my head out onto ‘paper’ so to speak.  We’ve had the ‘is Santa really real’ conversation, talked about the value of participating on a sports team and of being in a smaller school as we’re coming up on a year now living in this small corner of South Dakota, we’ve discussed co-parenting issues and divorce best practices and not just amongst ourselves, Las Vegas and the NFR presented some interesting topics for discussion, we caught up with the Dakota 38 + 2 Ride and hope the photos will inspire you to learn more about this time in history and the story behind why this group saddles up in the frigid winter temperatures each year, we’ve enjoyed challenging some in our small South Dakota town to think bigger – good things are happening here that could have a tremendous impact on a bigger audience should a decision ever be made to grow and dream bolder dreams, discussed the value of added insulation and new windows in an old farmhouse as we put both in recently, launched a project I’ve been thinking about for years, weathered food poisoning, the holidays, time with family – the joy and chaos of it all, I’ve been shown how to  care for new leather, been privy to conversations about why Native American beading, languages and other art forms are dying and what’s being done to turn the trend around, seen firsthand the value of stopping in for a visit with an elderly neighbor, family or friend – the conversations the Cowboy and I have had with one of our own neighbors, they have been enlightening. And they are definitely discussions worth sharing.

Speaking of our neighbor, that reminds me. I’ve got one more Christmas card yet to write.

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The Locals.

“Always remember to slow down in life; live, breathe, and learn; take a look around you whenever you have time and never forget everything and every person that has the least place within your heart.”
–Anonymous

Amidst the hustle and buzz of people talking, kids crying, cars pulling in and out and footsteps sounding heavy on the old wood floors as families shop and browse through Wall Drug .. I have learned one of the most fascinating stops may simply be a table in the restaurant next to a few of the locals.

…………

I hadn’t sat down for more than a few minutes when I heard, “Where are you from?” I look over at the table full of gentleman next to me and answer. I had already been quietly entertained by the conversations happening at their table but was trying very hard to focus on the work ‘to-do’ list in front of me.

I once again, picked the wrong place to sit, if I thought I was getting any work done.

Wall Locals

We chatted for a few moments, then I turned my attention back to my laptop and a series of emails I had to get out that morning. I wanted to get them out quickly and get back to family. But, my answering emails would only be momentary. More questions came, some chuckling and good old fashioned ribbing of the tourist sitting there trying to ‘work’. I looked up knowing my efforts at that moment were going to be fruitless.

There were three tables as I looked down the line, full of older local gentleman, gathered for coffee. All giving each other an incredibly hard time. Laughing all the while. They ranged between middle-age and older, many with weathered hands and obvious signs of hard work and a lot of sun over the years on their faces. But they were all smiling. And as they left, one by one, they were talking about who would be back again tomorrow.

Butch, Dan and I were the last three left sitting in our little area. I kept thinking they might head out shortly too and I could get back to work, but we talked for nearly an hour. As stressed as I was about work and about being away from the family for too long, I took a deep breath and realized instead, what a wonderful moment this was.

I learned quite a bit about Wall that morning. Names, history, who’s who sitting around those tables and what each of them have done in and around Wall over the years. Where they came from, family histories, some very interesting things unique to one of their jobs I was asked not to share. More about each of them, Butch and Dan. And they continued to inquire about me. It was refreshing, fun and made me feel that much more at home in my new home state of South Dakota.

A phone call from one of the women waiting on one of my emails snapped me back into the reality of my morning, of the time and what I had yet to get done.

“I’m sorry, guys, I’ve got to get back to work,” I told them. They reassured me it was fine and it was time for them to get to their days as well.

“We might be back tomorrow,” said Butch as the two got up to leave. “Maybe we’ll see you again.”

I am relatively certain, we will.

The Greenhouse

The Greenhouse here, it is quite a big operation for a very small town.

The Greenhouse

So, each spring, when all of the new plantings come rolling in truck after truck, the call goes out for help.

Spring plugs.

Spring plugs.

“How did you end up out here or even know about this place?”

The question was asked of me, as I was working alongside several women last week, all have been with the Greenhouse some 20+ years.  They’ve all essentially, been with the place since it opened and they were surprised I even knew about it, given I told them I had only moved to the area recently.

DSC00587

I told them the Cowboy had taken me out to the Greenhouse last spring to introduce me to the owners (friends but also customers of his), to reassure me there are amenities in South Dakota that I also enjoyed back home (which I was worried about, and I thoroughly enjoy gardening), and to give me the opportunity to dig in the dirt around his place and get a few new things planted.

I loved the place.  And apparently the owners noticed, as we left with a two cartloads of plants, flowers and vegetables for the garden.

“Don’t expect me to water any of this,” the Cowboy said as we loaded everything into the back of the truck.

“I don’t,” I responded, adding, “But that just means I’ll have to come back for more….”

A year later, I am back.  There will be plants going home with me again in the near future. But for now, I’m helping plant, prune, water, hang .. whatever is needed while I also work to get my own business on its feet.  Even then, I may still hope for and love a few hours at the Greenhouse when I can get them.

……………

I know of a few friends who think I’ve lost my marbles.  Working at a greenhouse?  I know of at least one other person who feels I should not necessarily go back to exactly what I was doing before, but something along those lines that would have me earning the same paycheck because, well .. just because that’s what this person expects me to do.

I decided long ago, it shouldn’t matter necessarily what others expect of me.  Unfortunately I’m not always great at sticking to that theory, and sometimes you just can’t.  Like when you do have a job, a boss, customers, a family at home .. all those things do need to be considered.  Because they are part of your team.  But outside that circle, well ..

Let us not try to be the best or worst for others, but let us make every effort to be the best for ourselves.” – Marcus Garvey

I, right now, am feeling really good spending time at the greenhouse.

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It’s almost like that sabbatical I have heard so many others, mainly higher education professionals, physicians and clergy, talk about and take.  A time and place that offers you the freedom to just be.  To think.  To regroup.  To dream big or ponder all the problems of the world and how you might help solve them.  All the things I have been hoping to find time again to do.  Digging in the dirt the past few weeks has allowed me to dig a little deeper into my soul and really start churning up what I’m made of and better think about/define what it is that makes me tick.  What will make me grow.

Working at the Greenhouse has also reminded me of a few other things I now realize were lacking in my former career and day to day ..

Best Friends Mom …

I was five, I think when we moved into the house that I eventually grew up in..

I knew there were some other kids in the neighborhood .. and my brother and I were excited to explore.  The neighborhood.  New friends.  The woods behind our house.  The rope swing over the pond.  The sewer treatment plant (that at the time, didn’t have a fence around it).  Disgusting, I know.  But at that age, the dirtier, tougher and grosser we could be it seemed, the better.

We had a blast.  It was small town living at its best.

Growing up, I would almost always choose hanging out with the boys versus just about                                                                                                                                    any girls.  I don’t ever remember anything different.  In part, because there were just fewer girls.  But I wanted to play football or baseball, golf, run and jump and build forts and climb trees, bike everywhere I could and go into that one old house we all thought was haunted and our parents told us never to approach.  Not just walk by and wonder.  There was no playing dolls.  In fact I still remember having to apologize to a girl in the neighborhood we first lived in because I ripped the head off one of her dolls.  I’m not sure I meant to, it just happened.  I think.  I had little interest to sit around and watch tv.  Or be giggly and put on make up and talk about boys.  No thank you.  Not at that time.

And the one girl who lived just a few doors up the street, closest to my age, felt exactly the same.

In getting to be fast, best of friends with Amy ..

I also became very close to her family.

Even her brother who used to site me in the eye of his slingshot, chase me home, hide in the woods knowing I was heading home to scare the bajeezus out of me, lock me out of their house if he knew I was coming or once I got in, not let me leave.  And then find a way to put his underwear over my head.

Perhaps I got close to their mom, Peggy, because she felt terrible for me and it was out of pity over all of that.

But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.  Peggy was just kind of, like some of the others I have mentioned the past couple days .. mom to all who knew her.  The door was always open.  Food or a meal to be shared.  Drinks in the cooler.  There was always time for a late night chat.  A hug.  A phone call.  A walk around the block.  An invitation to join whatever it was the family was doing.  Always.  I loved her and still do so much that at times, I believe my own mother felt very slighted.  Because Peggy was in many ways to me a resource I wasn’t sure how to completely find in my own mom.  Someone I could talk to about anything.  Not feel I was revealing too much or be judged.  Or who would ground me for any of it.  There was just always sage advice.  A kleenex.  Understanding.  Empathy.  Love.  Laughter.

And Cheetos.  There was always great junk food in the cupboard up the street .. stuff we rarely had at home.  (A tradition much to my daughter’s dismay I now carry on.  Very little junk food ever in house.)

I would usually stay to a point where – we knew the phone would ring.  And when it did, we would all look at each other and say, ‘my mom’, and chuckle.  Sure enough, my mother would be on the other end of the line, when she could have shouted up the street, saying .. “Ten minutes, honey.  You need to be home in ten minutes.”

I hated leaving, always.  And still do.

Peggy and her beautiful family have always made me feel at home and been home to me as much as I have a home anywhere.

And because my parents sold our home years ago .. when I get back to my hometown, which isn’t often enough ..

Main Street in our small town

I find myself mindlessly, always pulling into their drive.

………………..

So much has happened recently I want to write more about but I don’t want to say too much.  What I do want you to know is the difference you have made in my life.  My time here.  That I am reminded everyday of the importance of time together and family and good health and paying forward so many blessings like time together and laughter, a door always open and so much love to be shared..

I love you dearly.  So many do.

I think I may go today and buy Cheetos for the neighborhood …