Allen’s Hill

I mentioned earlier this week how I am spending the week at a dear friends cottage along the Wisconsin River .. with no phone, television or internet. It’s been a blessing, in more ways than one. Leaving the cottage each day to go somewhere I can get an internet connection has meant some beautiful morning drives ..

Eddie's Hill

Eddie’s Hill

I showed this photo the other night to my dad, who I was grabbing a beer with along with some other friends. He said to me, and pointed out to the others, “That’s Allen’s hill, that hill there on the left.”

I’ve lived in this area my entire life and never known that hill had a name. Nor had I stopped to think about it. Most streets, hills, buildings .. etc. do, whether they exist in the city or the country. Places known for those that have come before us and for any number of reasons, left their mark.

How often do we stop to question why things are named what they are? And how much cooler or meaningful will those places be to us once we understand?

 

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The Eagles ..

There are a few places near where I lived in Wisconsin, the Sauk Prairie area in particular, where eagles gather.  They can be seen routinely flying along the Wisconsin River and there are days each spring devoted to watching them.  They are beautiful.  Big.  Majestic.  Watching them, seeing them even from a distance is mesmerizing.  I get shivers down my spine with awe and admiration.

http://www.ferrybluffeaglecouncil.org/eagledays/

But outside of that particular area, I can’t say I would ever routinely see them.

So the fact I have seen one to two a week since moving to South Dakota has been exciting for me and I try and pay attention when things like this happen.  While it may be random, purely coincidence and insignificant other than they happen to be in the same area I am in hunting for food or out for a daily gotta-get-some-exercise flight, sometimes things do carry with them an energy.  A meaning

Beautiful.

Plus, as I have voiced my excitement about seeing them, the response I have gotten from just about everyone is, “Really?  I don’t ever see any!”

………..

After having one fly very low over my car yesterday as I was heading out of town, having just dropped my daughter off at school .. I felt like perhaps someone was trying to tell me something.  And, I am believer in totems.  So I came home and looked up what it might mean.  I had had it explained to me before but I couldn’t remember.

What again is, the symbolism of the Eagle.

http://www.pure-spirit.com/more-animal-symbolism/629-eagle-symbolism

While there are many different opinions on this, I appreciate the one listed on the link above.  Especially given this most recent transition in life and the challenges and opportunities before us.

Coincidence or not, I appreciate even contemplating the thought they may be a sign.

I ask the Cowboy what he thinks.  “I think it’s a bunch of mambajahamba and believing in that is about as crazy as running around with a bunch of chicken bones around your neck.”  And he’s part Native American.

He laughs.  So do I.  Who cares.  I like the thought.

…………..

Ironically, as I sit down to write this morning, I see this tweet from @TravelWI:

Travel Wisconsin ‏@TravelWI Show our national bird some love. It’s Bald Eagle Appreciation Day! http://bit.ly/WaPgKV  #birding

Hope you’re fortunate to catch yourself a glimpse today.

Camp comes to a close ..

Last walk up with a friend ..

It has been one of the hottest June’s on record here in Wisconsin and this week at camp, the girls .. most of them anyway .. didn’t seem to mind.  Other than one day.  They rode in the morning and went to the pool in the afternoon.

“Well,” my daughter tells me on the way home as she is reliving some of the fun that went on this week outside learning better horsemanship .. “some of the girls got really crabby the last couple days.  I think it was just too hot.”

We laughed a little about it, especially since we were at that point, sitting in the air conditioned car.  I looked at the temperature gauge.  99 degrees.  According to the car.

Hugs, introducing parents and taking last day pics ..

Our 11-year-old absolutely loves this camp ..

Showing families all they’ve learned ..

This is only our second year of overnight .. but she’s been fortunate to come for years to the day camp.  There is something about it.  The place.  The people.  The other girls.  Learning something new.  Being close to home but not too close to start to really learn to feel more comfortable in her independence.  Perhaps most importantly, it’s just camp.  Late night chats.  Secret stories.  Running around like crazy.  Freedom of being a kid in a cool place and confidence building in life and social skills.  That experience she’ll remember for a lifetime.  That she’ll perhaps tell her own daughter about.

One last ride for this year anyway, on Quincy ..

She gave a few hugs.  Said many thank you’s.  Bought the standard camp sweatshirt.  Grabbed a Gatorade and we hit the road.  Ran errands.  Then having had enough of the heat all week, grabbed the dog and headed for the River to cool off.

What a beautiful day.

………………..

While she has a few other camps coming up yet this summer, ones that I know she will love in very different ways ..

As we were watching early 4th of July Fireworks from a friends pier on the lake last night and she is leaning on my chest with her arms around me, she says, “Mom, I really miss camp.  I’m worried I won’t be able to go back next year.”

“We’ll see,” I told her.  “If you love it that much and it is important to you, that might be one of the things we’ll make sure you’re able to do.”

She hugged me tighter and said thanks.

Not the Madison I’d like ..

“I’m heading to Madison,” the Cowboy told me this morning.

Sigh ..

It has probably been close to a month and a half we’ve spent nearly every weekend together if not some of the week too.  Some of it at the ranch north of Sioux Falls.  Some of it on the road where he’s had clinics.  Much of it together with the kids .. and the rest of it in Madison.  Wisconsin.

We had been taking full advantage, as best we could, of a couple months where there were good opportunities to spend time together as much as possible.

Because summer is about to hit.

“Wish it were this Madison,” I told him, knowing he’s got a lot of work to get to yet today and the kids this weekend .. I’m back to pretty packed weekends at home myself.

“Which one today?” I ask.  I never know if it’s Madison, Minnesota?  Or the one closer to home.  (Madison, South Dakota is just down the road.)

…………………

“There is the positive side and the negative side and at every moment I decide.” – William James

…………………

Posting this now two days later as life has taken precedent over writing as of late and I’ve decided that’s ok (as long as I don’t let years go by as I have on past journals) ..

Regardless I am still feeling the same – sad we can’t all be together this weekend.  I would love nothing more than for us all to be together.

But I have also, always tried to appreciate the gift of time apart, or of time alone.  And quite honestly, for a few moments each day, I need time alone.  That’s been tough for some in my life or in the past to understand.  But the Cowboy needs it too.  So we’re good like that.

So this is the ‘positive side’ of not being together this weekend.  The part where we both get to decide to make the most of it.

Time alone this weekend for the Cowboy has meant doing a whole lot of nothing with the kids at the ranch.  Bonding time they all needed.  The Cowboy keeps telling me he’s offered to take them here or there and the response all weekend has been the same:  “Can’t we just stay here and play, daddy?”

Time alone for us:  I usually use it to slow down .. breathe.  Deep.  Pray.  Go for a run.  Take time to think about how I’m living my life and be conscious about how I spend my day.  That way when it seems the world is disappointed you’re not doing enough or doing it right, you can hold your head high and say you thoughtfully did your best, did what was most important in your life and day with the time given and gave it all you had.

As a society I’m not sure we’re all that good at that anymore.  But I might be wrong.

Besides some wonderful deep breaths ..

For us the down time has meant some wonderful q-t with my own daughter, not as much as I’d like because of obligations we both had this weekend but today is still ahead .. repotting plants that are now well established into a bigger pot or the garden ..

Laundry .. going through mail .. catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a very long time .. dusting recently strewn cobwebs out of the corners of the ceiling .. time with our horse later today .. more laundry .. and fresh bedding on all the beds .. cooking a wonderful dinner at home with the asparagus, tomatoes and rhubarb we gathered at the Farmers Market yesterday.

All things I would much rather do together .. with both of our families .. but in the meantime, we’re enjoying a beautiful weekend in Madison, WI.

 

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.

………………

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

………………

“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.)

Holding onto my thumbs, for now .. (catch up post from the weekend)

I love learning something new each day.  I love getting my hands dirty, getting involved, putting myself in situations that challenge me and make me think about who I really am and what I am capable of or able to do.

But there are also many times where I thoroughly appreciate learning something through the eyes of others and sharing their stories.

……………

The owner of the ranch hosting the Cowboy’s roping clinic had this past Sunday asked if I wanted to ride as they were all roping in the arena, and said it’d be a favor to him if I’d run one of his.

So I did.  A little bit.

And it didn’t take long for the Cowboy to ask a question I knew would be coming.

“Want to chase a steer?” he says to me.

He’s been after me to give roping a try .. which I’d love to.  And I’ve tried my hand at it, very meagerly, on the ground, a few times.

But I’m thinking I need like a year or two, where I can take off of work entirely and do nothing more than rope, to have all that much fun with it.  And more importantly, not injure anyone including myself.

It’s an incredibly acquired skill.  And while I consider myself blessed to be able to pick up most things quite easily…

This is one sport where I’m concerned I might lose a thumb.  (Which isn’t all that uncommon, apparently.)  Get completely tossed and break a limb.  Maim or plow over the steer because I didn’t better ‘steer’ my horse.  Or quite possibly, severely injure the person I would otherwise be roping with.  Like throw the rope around them .. and pull.

That .. would .. be .. bad.

“No thanks,” I replied to the Cowboy kind of chuckling under my breath.

The horse I was on would have loved nothing more than to rope that day, too and he was trying to let me know in no uncertain terms he was ancy to get to work doing what all his buddies were.  All he wanted to do is run.  Fast.  And chase more than the air I was giving him up and down the other side of the arena in-between the guys running the steers.

(All my own horse ever wants to do is walk, maybe trot.  She fights me to get her to lope.  But we’re working on that.  It would help if I would get out to ride her more often.  That’s a whole other story.)

“C’mon,” said the Cowboy.  “Just chase one out, see what it feels like, you don’t have to even have a rope” he added, as he walked me over and into the ‘box’.  I tried backing Roper in, kind of.  Didn’t feel good about it.  And walked him out.

“Not ready for that,” I nervously smiled and said to the Cowboy.  He laughed.

…………….

‘What is it, about roping that has so many people seemingly addicted to it,’ I asked the Cowboy Sunday night after we had both returned home, my daughter was asleep in bed and I had originally sat down to write this.

“It’s competitive,” he replied.  “And it’s kind of addicting.  Rodeo is addicting.  The people, the competition.  The gambling.  It’s like gambling, only you have some control over it.”

He laughed.

“Well, in theory you do.  Have control over it.  You put the money up and you win if you do well.  But you have two horses, two cowboys and one steer.  A lot can go wrong with that.  But if it goes right, it’s great.”

The Cowboy used to practice two to three hours a day .. and have a ranking most others strive for, I believe.

While he’s removed himself the past couple years through life changes from the rodeo circuit for the most part .. and says he doesn’t miss the 10 hour drive to get somewhere, the money it takes on gas and to enter, having to win and knowing if he didn’t the truck payment wouldn’t get made that month ..

He still loves the sport.

And says one of his favorite things now, is helping others learn.

Learn how to get along better with their horse .. how to use their rope better .. how to win more when they do enter.

This past weekend must have been a win for everyone .. because there’s already an invite for next year’s clinic.  Same time .. same place ..

Next clinic:  next weekend in Wisconsin.

(And I’m thinking I might put down the camera long enough to try a little ground work with the rope, get going on that yearlong or lifelong project to learn this sport, myself.)

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?