In Search of The Perfect Day

 


I recently celebrated my birthday.  It was a great day.  In kickboxing class I beat the hell out of a punching bag, then I cooked myself a big brunch while watching ‘The X Files’ on Netflix.  I sat on my deck and burned a sage smudge to clear my head, and then I took a nap.  When my children and husband came home, they took me out for dinner, and I ended my day cuddled up on the couch with my husband, eating chocolate, watching ‘Dutch’ and drinking wine.  A great birthday.  Last year, my birthday was overshadowed by the government shutdown and news of the South Dakota blizzard that killed thousands of cattle near my hometown.   I don’t recall truly celebrating.  This year I treated myself to as much fun as possible.  I could always save the hum-drum for the day after my birthday.

I am reading a self-help book right now — something I never imagined doing.  In the book there is a passage about a man hung up on the idea of reliving his “perfect” day.  He couldn’t imagine living an imperfect life day after day, having experienced one day of absolute flawlessness.  He wanted that perfection every day, and it angered him that such an ideal could not be achieved to his satisfaction. When reading that excerpt, it struck me that I have been having the same problem.

This summer I spent not one perfect day, but one entire fantastic week in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  After running wild through the hills literally searching for gold, going back to life as a housewife seemed pointless.  The moment I set foot into my house in Kansas, I wanted to turn around, jump in my car, and drive immediately back to South Dakota!  I was even tempted to formulate wild excuses in my head as to why I had to go back for an extra week, or month.  Sound a tad neurotic?  Maybe so, but I knew what lay ahead.  Boring menu planning, unending laundry, pushing the vacuum cleaner back and forth, and pacing in my tiny yard, staring at nothing but cookie cutter rooftops instead of towering spruce covered hills.  I wanted to relive my perfect days, but that would not be possible in Kansas.

Last night, my husband and I had a profound conversation.  He is typically my more insightful half, but last night my self-help book and I came to the rescue.  Frustrated with a negative situation at work, he described a rosier future scenario that he wants for our family.  I recognized that like me, he is also suffering from the desire to live perpetually perfect days.  After concluding a successful term as a company commander, he is now in limbo, and nothing else he accomplishes seems as gratifying.  I told him that we were both at the same junction in our life together, but for different reasons.  He had come out of a very successful point in his career and was realizing that for a while, his work would not be as perfect as he expected.  I was trying to decide what to make of my life, and how I could guide my family as a matriarchal character.

” There is no such thing as a perfect day, but we like to think so, don’t we?  We are at a point where we can accept that any good day is what we make of it.  We can take control of some of the aspects of every day, even if we can’t make every day perfect.  And, if we’re genuinely unhappy with the way things are, then we can make changes for the better.  I hope that makes sense, I am kind of tired.”

“That does make sense, and it’s helping me feel a lot better!” my husband smiled at me.

“Really? Wow, I am so glad!  I know that we are both going through the same things right now, which is kind of nice in a way, because I totally understand how you feel.  And I know that you understand why I want to run away to South Dakota.”  I smiled and patted my husband’s knee.

“Absolutely, I want to run away to South Dakota.” he stood up and stretched.

“Well, as long as you don’t run away to South Dakota without me!”

“I have to pee really bad.” And that was the end of our deep conversation.

There is an episode of ‘Parks and Recreation’ called Pawnee Rangers in which Donna, Tom, and Ben enjoy something called a Treat Yo Self Day.  The first time I watched this episode, I remember thinking that it was cute, but not terribly realistic.  The scene begins with Tom coming into the office and presenting cupcakes spelling out “Treat Yo Self” to Donna, thus prompting a celebratory atmosphere and a massive shopping spree.  There are no restrictions, the characters purchase anything and everything that they want after embarking on a luxurious spa visit.  While not exactly financially feasible in that context, the idea of having a Treat Yo Self Day is quite brilliant when considering mental health.  I like the concept of applying a Treat Yo Self mentality to each day rather than expecting perfection.  A Treat Yo Self mentality is forgiving and generous; perfection is neither of these.  Treats don’t have to be substantial and expensive either.  Sitting with a loved one and having a meaningful conversation, investing in a kickboxing class because it’s always been a personal goal, drinking a favorite cup of tea every morning, or just taking a walk to the mailbox can feel like a treat after you embrace the imperfections that make your life unique and special.   And now, I must treat myself to sleep, and submit an imperfect post to the online community.  And yes, I am happy.

~ G

 

 

Taking The Journey Home

Me a long time ago, before being an adult really got to me!

A long time ago, before being an adult really got to me!

This post marks one year of blogging, and this is my one hundredth post!  The last twelve months have been turbulent, so I am grateful to still be here, writing. Life is a journey, but until recently, I didn’t realize that so often the journey is about renewal and rediscovery.  Yesterday was my birthday, a significant milestone in life, and I feel as though I am once again ready to begin a new chapter.  Last October, when I began blogging, I believed that I had it all figured out.  Feeling fine, I had my life organized, with everything in its place, and a nifty master plan for the future.  I was beginning to think I had discovered the secret to that elusive Wonder Woman Syndrome.

This spring, a bizarre illness knocked me down, hard.  The illness seemed to come out of nowhere, and didn’t make any sense, and to make matters worse, I had a very difficult time getting the medical care that I needed for swift recovery.  Without an official diagnoses or even satisfactory answers, I did what any tenacious and frustrated housewife would do: I tried a vigorous detox cleanse and blogged about my symptoms.  All summer I attempted to purge my body of toxins and negativity, but by autumn, I just felt angry, vulnerable, and exhausted.  I was grieving over something that had been lost, and though I didn’t know what it was, I really wanted it back.

When my children went back to school, I did not miss returning as an employee, nor did I regret my decision to stay home and focus on my health.  I did, however, feel a little stab of guilt for failing to hack it in the “real” world.  I worried about being seen as unreliable, and I was reluctant to make plans lest I’d have to cancel due to illness.  This continued to feed the guilt cycle.  After my husband and I quarreled about how difficult it was for us to attend social gatherings, I began to see how my illness affected him.  He was tired, he wanted things to be better, just like me.  So now a great question loomed in my mind.  Would I spend the rest of my life in a cage , or finally break free?

Three weeks before my birthday, I visited with a medical professional about my concerns.  All my recent test results were normal.  On paper, I’mm a perfectly healthy person.   In her opinion, my symptoms are in my head; I simply have anxiety.  “You bitch,” I wanted to snarl at her, but instead I agreed to explore her theory.   After all, I was the one who had requested a referral to a counselor at the beginning of the appointment.   I did make one statement in my defense.  ” I got sick this spring but couldn’t get the care I needed, so of course I feel anxious! No one ran any tests on me seven months ago, when I asked for help.  I don’t want actual physical symptoms overlooked just because I have anxiety!”  We agreed to meet each other halfway; she promised to check into my symptoms  for legitimacy, and I took the first step in reclaiming what I had lost.

The first step in my journey began with kickboxing.  A friend talked me into it.  “I’m probably not in adequate shape to even try this,” I balked, but she insisted.  “You’ll be fine.  The class isn’t that tough, and it’s fun!”  I puked and nearly passed out halfway through my first class.  But my friend was right.  It was fun, and I made an extremely important decision that day.  I must take better care of myself, because I am worth it.  Kickboxing is more than just an incredibly addictive treat — it has reminded me that I deserve to grow and develop.  I have spent most of my life encouraging others, and now it is time to encourage myself.  I deserve to invest in myself as much as I have invested in the lives of those around me.

Me now.  Still adorable!

Me now. Still adorable!

We stay at home parents often discount our capabilities , perhaps believing that since we are not breadwinners, we have less intrinsic worth to offer our families through support and service.  When we minimize ourselves and put our needs on the back burner, we suffer, and then the family suffers.   I have been a wife and mother for one decade.   I got married at the age of 23, just months after returning from a long deployment to the Middle East.  Barely an adult myself, I hardly knew what I wanted out of life when I married a career soldier and became a young Army spouse.  I threw myself completely into my family, doing and being everything for them.  I was trying to be Wonder Woman, never quite living up to the standards I set for myself.  That my friends, is the recipe for perpetual frustration.

Once I started to treat myself with the kindness that I deserve, I began to also give myself room to grow.  I also began to forgive myself of my faults and understand that I am not the sum of my thoughts or limitations.  It is no coincidence to me that this transformation has happened around the time of my birthday.  Every new chapter of life is traveled on a new trail.  While reflecting upon renewed life on the day of my birth, I had to ask myself what is really important.  I may never know why or how I got sick, or the real source of my illness.  I may even continue to battle illness for my entire life.  Perhaps that is but a small detail of my bigger journey.  Why waste any more time on fear and anxiety when life is out there to be lived?  The only thing that matters is today, and what I want to do about making myself better — more kind, compassionate, loving, and adventurous — than the person I was yesterday.

After spending my entire life putting the needs of others ahead of mine, I essentially have no idea who I am.  I have been angry because I miss being who I once was.  Although I really can’t go back in time, I’ve been mourning the loss of a person who hasn’t existed in years.  It is time to break out of the brittle old cage and make the journey home, to reclaim my identity and rediscover who I am by simply living my life.  Yesterday I went to the school to pick up my daughters, and one of my favorite students recognized me.  I hadn’t seen her since spring.  She has a disability that makes her speech difficult to understand, but when she stepped forward, she spoke very clearly, asking where I had been, what was going on with my hair, when would she see me again?  And she hugged me tight, three times.  I could see that I was not the only one who had given myself room to grow, and it felt very satisfying.

~G

 

 

Summer Highlights

For our anniversary, my husband gave me a very nice digital camera.  I put it to good use this summer during my travels.  It is so enjoyable to look back through photos and remember special moments.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Taking photos at Saddle Pass in the South Dakota Badlands.

Photographing scenery at Saddle Pass in the South Dakota Badlands.

A gorgeous metal sculpture at the Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD.

A gorgeous metal sculpture  of a pierced hand with butterfly resting on the finger; Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD.

 

Goldfish lined up along the road at the Sculpture Park.

Goldfish lined up along the road at the Sculpture Park.

 

My son enjoying a moment on a pile of stones left over from mining attempts.

My son enjoying a snack on a pile of stones at a family gold claim.

 

The Al's Oasis sign at Oacoma, with the legendary buffalo mascot.

The famous Al’s Oasis sign at Oacoma, South Dakota.

 

Becoming acquainted with The Ballerina at Porter Sculpture Park.

Becoming acquainted with The Ballerina at Porter Sculpture Park.

 

Choosing the perfect steed for a carousel ride.

Choosing the perfect steed for a carousel ride is very important.

 

Our first apple tree, which gave us five incredible apples this summer!

Our first apple tree gave us five incredible tasting apples this summer!

 

My daughter watching festivities on the Fourth of July.

Watching festivities at the Junction City Fourth of July carnival.

 

Fishing with Daddy in Texas.

Fishing with Daddy for perch on Horseshoe Bay in Marble Falls, Texas.

 

Getting friendly with a skeleton at Porter Sculpture Park.

My sister getting friendly with a skeleton at Porter Sculpture Park.

 

At the Chipmunk Village.

Relaxing at the Chipmunk Village on the family gold claim.

 

My son, feeling on top of the world.

My son, feeling on top of the world.

 

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

The breathtaking view at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The breathtaking view at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

 

A photo of Ross the Dog, taken by my daughter on her digital camera.

A fantastic photo of Ross the Dog, taken by my daughter on her digital camera.

 

A raggedy sunflower in my backyard, turned toward the morning sunlight.

A raggedy sunflower in my backyard, turned toward the morning sunlight.

I hope that you all had a memorable summer, and that your autumn is crisp and refreshing!

~G

 

 

 

 

Cruising The Badlands

At the beginning of our South Dakota trip, my sister, my son, and I cruised through the Badlands.  This tradition began in 2012 when my children and I first drove through and fell in love with the stark desolation and breathtaking beauty of the skyscraper pinnacles, rounded buttes, and neck breaking coulees.  Since then, every road trip to South Dakota includes at least one Badlands Cruise.

My son scrambling down the natural stairs cut over time on a Badlands formation.

My son scrambling down the natural stairs cut over time on a Badlands formation.

We parked at the largest visitor’s stop just inside the gate to stretch and take photographs.  I was wearing a sundress  and gray Vans sneakers and my sister was wearing jelly shoes, so we weren’t dressed for hiking, but tourists rarely are.  Besides, as native South Dakotans, we had something to prove.  This was but one of our many South Dakota playgrounds, and we were ready to frolic.

Many other characters were climbing on the formations that day.  Two massive body builder types in flimsy tanks and flip flops parked next to us.  In their flip flops, they somehow scrambled up a precarious trail to a little stoop offering a panoramic view of Badlands glittering in the sun.  One of the men shed his top and began posed for his companion’s camera, the majestic scenery in the background.   We nearly interrupted their photo session when we stumbled around the corner onto the stoop, and had to turn briskly on our heels, swallowing giggles.  The man with the camera was heard to say “Oh, that’s beautiful as his friend flexed his sweaty arms.  My son was confused.  My sister grinned and murmured, “They are either updating their UFC profiles, or they are lovers, or both.”  A group of female tourists resembling Old Apostolic Lutherans climbed in matching ankle length navy blue skirts with tucked in blouses and thin canvas Keds.  Their blonde hair swished past their tiny waists and they climbed like rail thin Gazelles, speaking very quietly to one another in Nordic accents.

My sister getting a good shot for her scrapbook.

My sister getting a good shot for her scrapbook.

My son was not satisfied with our brief climb on the most popular formation.  He wanted a more challenging, less occupied spot.  We drove until coming to Saddle Pass, a deceptively harmless looking mound.  It turned out to be incredibly steep, with sliding sediment and pebbles galore to inhibit one’s climbing abilities.  My son easily scaled the trail and was waiting impatiently for my sister and me to struggle, red faced and heaving, up the pass entire minutes later.  This is where my sundress really worked against me.  In shorts I could have lunged and scurried, unimpeded by modesty.  In my skirt, I had to at least try to be more ladylike, especially after sensing that someone was moving up behind me, and fast, on the trail.  It was during my last effort to crest a tricky rise, while I made a most undignified scramble, that the wind lifted up the back of my dress and revealed brilliant purple Betsey Johnson underwear to the young man who chose to follow too closely behind.  He quickly disappeared up the trail, red faced and now schooled in Badlands trail etiquette.

Resting with my son on Saddle Pass.

Resting with my son on Saddle Pass.

I sat down to rest, and to keep my dress from blowing up around my hips.  The view was gorgeous, and we felt triumphant.  My son, still not satisfied with the  amount of hiking accomplished, wanted to go further on.  I told him to be back in five minutes.  As much as I didn’t like to let him out of my sight, I knew that he needed to go out on his own and test his limits.  He reminds me of myself, always wanting to go further up the trail, to see what lies ahead, to push the limits and rise to new challenges.

An older couple was hiking down, slowly and carefully, speaking quietly in French.  They paused where we were resting and made a polite comment about the steep trail.  I cracked “Yeah, I think it might be easier if I just hurl myself back down the trail.”  They smiled politely, not sure if I was being clever or mildly suicidal.  I noticed that the man had a nice camera, and offered to take a picture of the couple on Saddle Pass.  They politely declined and began to move away quickly, and I sensed that behind their sunglasses, their eyes had narrowed with suspicion.  After they disappeared down the trail, my sister and I smiled and shrugged at each other.

“Geez, Georgeann, trying to steal cameras from French tourists?” my sister teased.

“Did they think I was going to take off sprinting down the trail?”

We noticed that my son had been gone longer than five minutes.  I started to feel uneasy.  A young couple stopped to rest before going further up the trail.  The woman looked athletic and graceful, but the man seemed rather clumsy.  Maybe he was just nervous; maybe he was going to propose or something.  We decided to yell for Dylan to come back.

“Dylan!”  I hollered “You get down off the Badlands right now!”  The young couple giggled.  We saw and heard nothing.  My sister tried.

“Dylan, did you hear your mother?!  You get off those rocks and come back down here!” she yelled.

Within another minute we saw him shuffling easily, like a panther, back down.  His face was red and sweat trailed along his hairline, but he looked happy and relaxed.

“Did you see me?”  He asked excitedly.   “I was way over there!”  He pointed to a place far in the distance.  It seemed impossible that he could have been so far away in such a short amount of time.

My sister, thrilled to have made the ascent in her jelly shoes.

My sister, thrilled to have made the ascent in her jelly shoes.

We started back down.  My son was down the trail and waiting for us once again before we had even decided the safest way back.  We chose a very steep and ever deepening, but very narrow crevice that we could use for foot and hand holds, and we crept across.  My sister followed behind me, taking embarrassing photos when I became stuck in an awkward squat position.  We finally had to crawl out, hoisting ourselves over the scratchy edge like injured prairie dogs.  After getting back on the trail we made a dash to the bottom.  When on a steep, slippery downhill trail, I just make a dash for it and hope for the best.  The young couple we met was galloping down the trail behind us, having finished their hike.  The young man  slipped on loose pebbles and fell on his ass, confirming my suspicions about his clumsiness.  My sister and I made it down safely thanks to years of climbing on steep terrain in Idaho forests.  My son was bored, thirsty, and tired by the time we finally caught up with him.

 

“I’m glad you both made it back down.  I was getting really tired of waiting.” he yawned.  “I think I had enough hiking for today.”

When we got back to the car we saw the French speaking couple, parked next to us.  They were, it turned out, from Quebec.  They had changed from high tech hiking boots into regular sneakers, and the camera was nowhere to be seen.  They smiled and nodded and watched us closely as we loaded into my car.  They must have thought us mad to have been hiking in our strange clothing, with only cameras and chutzpah.  The man took a long drag on a skinny cigarette and watched as I backed out of the parking spot.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, my sister shook her head and said “Smoking a cigarette after an intense hike on a really hot day!  That is so French!”

It takes all kinds to cruise the Badlands.  I think that is why I will never get tired of going back there with my children to be part of the group of characters that hike there every summer.

~G

More Precious Than Gold

During my trip to South Dakota, I spent a fantastic afternoon with my family on one of our Black Hills mineral claims.  Named The Razzamatazz after my parents’ dog, the claim offered easy dirt road access and a gorgeous view of both hills and meadows.  We packed enough provisions for a day of exploration and set out through the hills, singing and chattering happily.

My son enjoying a moment on a pile of stones left over from mining attempts.

My son enjoying a snack on a pile of boulders left over from past mining attempts.

After turning onto the muddy dirt track vaguely marking out a path, we spooked a doe, who melted into the trees.  A huge family of turkeys strutted across  the trail and crouched in the tall grass, eyeing us suspiciously.   We rolled down the window and yelled “Gobble, gobble!  Gobble, gobble!” Dad pointed out pastel wildflowers and we breathed in the piney scent around us.  After parking under the shade of a huge spruce, we unloaded and prepared to hike up a steep ridge so Dad could show off what he had aptly named The Hole.  He wanted a volunteer to go into The Hole, and had brought along rope to pull the volunteer back out, but the majority ruled that this sounded like a terrible idea.  Instead, my sister and son threw rocks into its never-ending darkness while I yelled at them to keep away from the crumpling edge: “Get your damn ass away from that hole!”

Raz, for whom The Razzamatazz claim is named, romping through the grass.

Raz, for whom The Razzamatazz claim is named, romping through the grass.

After the excitement and danger of The Hole wore off, we started looking for interesting rocks to take home.  Dad pointed out characteristics indicating which rocks were more likely to contain veins of gold, and showed us iron pyrite sticking out of pink quartz.  The claim we were exploring had immense reserves of schist and quartz, and had been mined in years past.  We were very likely standing on top of a huge vein of priceless minerals and gold, just deep enough to be beyond reach.  Dad believes there is more than we can imagine, but it would be extremely difficult to extract without heavy machinery and crates of explosives.

We didn’t see any obvious veins of gold in the boulders we pulled from the ground, so my father and sister hiked further up the ridge to get a view of Dad’s favorite meadow.  I helped my mother and son transport arm loads of pink and white quartz back to my SUV.  Once back at the car, we decided to take a lunch break.  I kept my eye out for mountain lions, or “MLs”, as my son calls them, while chewing my steak and red onion sandwich with horseradish mayonnaise.  It was a quiet afternoon, but on our way down the ridge we had spotted predator scat, and an animal was making faint noises in the distance.  My father and sister came back down from the ridge with tales of a colossal belt of quartz that had been pushed out of the ground by massive tree roots.  Dad was thrilled about this discovery and planned to return for more investigating.

Sword fighting on the claim.

Sword fighting on the claim.

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

We stopped at Dad’s camper, Chipmunk Village, as he calls it, because no matter where he parks, the camper attracts hordes of the pernicious creatures.  I needed to pick up camping gear belonging to me and my husband so we could outfit our camper (which we haven’t yet purchased).  In no hurry to leave the hills, we wandered around a field surrounding the camper and reminisced about family camp-outs from decades ago.  My sister and son fought a protracted battle over a piece of braided grass.  Mom drop kicked conks while Dad and I hauled a footlocker and folding table out of the camper.  We let the late afternoon sun seep into our bones and the smell of Black Hills Spruce trees envelope us in hazy perfume.

Nothing mattered but the feeling we felt at that moment.  We had no cell phone service and no way to get updates from the world.  For the time being, we weren’t affected by ISIS terror threats, protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the death of Robin Williams, the spread of the Ebola virus, or the stacks of bills piling up in our respective homes.  We just wanted to play out a daydream, much like my childhood full of summers camping out in pristine Idaho forests.

When it was time to go back to the real world, I don’t think that any of us really wanted to go back.  We had soaked up the sun, the smell of dry pine needles, and the memories of living a simple life, spending entire summers embracing the wilderness.  We wanted to stay in the forest, but we were out of water and food, it was time to go back, cook a big dinner, smile at all the photos we had taken, and fall asleep dreaming the dreams of children: a sunny day, a grassy field, a muddy hole and a rock perhaps hiding a sliver of gold.  We were satisfied with our consolation prize — knowing we could walk away cherishing the memory of a day that we stood on top of a priceless vein of gold that we might never possess, because we had something much more valuable: family.

~G

At the Chipmunk Village.

At the Chipmunk Village.

 

 

 

He Who Owns Us

My Mini Tatanka, a treasure found at a favorite second hand shop in Belle Fourche.

My Mini Tatanka, a treasure found at a favorite second hand shop in Belle Fourche.

For the next few posts, I will be writing about my latest trip to South Dakota. Rather than start from the beginning, I have chosen to work backwards, so that in effect, the posts will read (hopefully) in chronological order once completed. I don’t know if this will actually make reading them more enjoyable, but since the return trip is freshest on my mind, I begin with this story.

It always seems to rain when it’s time to say good-bye.  I try to remember back to childhood.  Did it rain every time my grandparents finished their summer visit?  And there is a tradition in my family that no road trip to South Dakota would be complete without Mother Nature hurling her most creative weather concoctions at us as we rocket down the parched and patched roads.
My sister and I left Belle Fourche on a cloudy morning, my car so loaded with “treasures” that we could only see out the side mirrors.  Traveling this way makes some nervous, but we’ve done it so often that after looking at the pile of bags, coolers, boxes, and assorted furniture crammed into my SUV, we just shrugged, laughed, and started the ignition.  My parents were depressed to see us go, and as we prolonged our farewells, rain clouds stacked up in the sky.  I noted this but said nothing of my observation about rain and families splitting.  I volunteered to drive first so that I would be less likely to pout in the car.  I did not want to leave.  South Dakota had seeped into my bones and was coursing through my blood.  I burned with the fever of wanting to return to the dreamscape –Black Hills Spruce, impossible geography, and frosty creeks  hiding gold flecks — all muted the outside world.

 

The Al's Oasis sign at Oacoma, with the legendary buffalo mascot.

The Al’s Oasis sign at Oacoma, with the legendary buffalo mascot.

We made small talk in the car and let the conversation twist down whatever trail seemed appropriate.  On Interstate 90 east of Rapid City, I looked up into the sky to gauge the probability of a storm and saw an enormous bison in profile, charging majestically across his cloud prairie.  Tatanka, or He Who Owns Us, according to the Lakota language, demanded our full attention above the horizon.  The literal translation of Tatanka is buffalo bull, but the meaning of the name — He Who Owns Us — implies the Lakota’s great reverence for the king of the Plains. Legend and tradition ingrained through generations has made the bison a permanent central character defining life in South Dakota.  Symbolizing the sacredness and abundance of life on the Plains, the bison is not owned by any person.  Instead, we who walk the earth are owned by him, who has sustained us.

 

It was difficult to keep my eyes on the road; the Tatanka cloud was practically mesmerizing.  Within minutes it morphed into a smaller bison, maybe a cow, and soon it was strolling slowly with its humped back framed against a bluebird sky.  By the time we reached Wall, the cloud had changed once again, breaking apart to become the wispy face of an old bull, staring down as we passed the cemetery like a great sentinel watching over his vast domain.  Tatanka certainly owned us that day as we wallowed in the bittersweet memories of our adventure.

The next day we left South Dakota in the early afternoon.  It was raining.  As I said, it always rains when I have to say good-bye.  The clouds, a reflection of my breaking heart, streamed quiet wet tears down the canvas of the sky.  They swirled above and around, creating the impression that we were enclosed under a great inverted bowl of steel blue wool.  A few tears escaped from behind my sunglasses and I brushed them off my cheeks quickly.  Suddenly Tatanka appeared one last time, humped up and riding the cloud bank shot through with lightning, reminding me to keep my aching heart strong and wait for the next time I would return to South Dakota.  The question is, can I hold out?

~G

How Dr. Who Saved My Family

My kids know how to manipulate me. Doesn’t matter how busy I am. I could be knee deep in dinner preparations or trying to locate important documents for Tax Season. “Hey Mom, would you watch ‘Dr. Who’ with us?” I drop everything and sit on the couch with them for one or two, — okay, let’s be honest — five or six episodes.  We are becoming die hard fans, nearing hyperventilation level geekery each time we spot anything that is Dr. Who related.  My sister discovered this last time she took us to a Barnes & Noble.  I think we drooled on every single mini Dalek and fingered all the Dr. Who Magazines featuring the last three Doctors on their covers. It wasn’t always this way.

I recall last spring, when I’d vaguely heard of some show with a cult following based on the antics of some rather emphatic British guy and his assorted companions, with a cast of ridiculous aliens in tow.  Not my thing at all.  I should have known it would become my kids’ thing.  And then my thing.  And then our thing.  And then the mad, bad, crazy world would start to make a little more sense.  Which is probably the genius of the show, and why so many people adore it.  But this really is not a critique.  It’s a story about a family coming together and bonding through shared nerdery.

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Dylan’s clay TARDIS, ready for adventure. Geronimo!

So last spring my son and I were talking on the phone and he said “Mom, I need you to download this show for me on Netflix so I can watch it when I’m visiting.”  I am a noncustodial parent.  Not by choice, and not an ideal situation, but I make the most of it by bonding with my son however and whenever possible.  He comes to visit for the summer, and we try to strike as many wishes off his list before time is up.  So when he started talking about a show he likes, I promised to look it up and got my pen and a sticky note ready.

“What show is it that you want to watch?”

“It’s called ‘Dr. Who’.  Have you ever heard of it?” slightly condescending, because adults have NO idea about anything in a preteen’s stratosphere.

“As a matter of fact, I have,” which was about as far as I knew anything about the show, but I tried to be impressive, AND… I already have it downloaded!”  This was true.  My son was impressed.

He made me promise not to watch any of the newest episodes before he arrived.  No problem!  I am not a science fiction fan.  But curiosity eventually won the day and I watched the pilot episode from the reboot with Christopher Eccleston.  It was a bit campy, but I could understand why my son liked it so I watched the second episode.  Before I knew it, I had watched my way well into David Tenant’s stint on the show, chatting with my son on the phone in between episodes. “Oh, you’re watching the old episodes?” slightly condescending again. “Yeah, I don’t like any of those.  The special effects are no good.  I only like the episodes with Matt Smith.”  Okay then.  He is apparently an expert.

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My daughter’s drawing of Dr. Who during our Fall/Winter 2013 marathon episode watching.

We talked extensively about ‘Dr. Who’,  comparing what we liked and reviled, gushing over favorite characters and exploring plots we would like to see unfold.  We discussed episodes to watch together.  Then we just started talking about everything else.  My son was more open and willing to talk after Dr. Who broke the ice.  Now we have something in common, something neutral to dispel any tension and discomfort from external sources.

My daughters took an almost immediate interest in ‘Dr. Who’.  I was surprised at first, but we are a family of dreamers.  Why not come together to enjoy a show that reminds us to think big, be extravagant, and believe the good guys always persevere?  The idea of the Doctor as a theme of kindness, humor, and love has become  indoctrinated among my children. One day while feeling ill, I was surprised to find a Lego TARDIS on my coffee table after an afternoon nap.  A tiny Matt Smith made of cardboard was propped up next to it. It brought a smile to my face.  Best. Gift. Ever.  Inevitably, characters from the show show up in my children’s drawings and dioramas.  My son’s 3D scene of favorite things included Olaf the snowman from the movie ‘Frozen’ and…the TARDIS.  My oldest daughter has been planning the dimensions for her construction project of an actual TARDIS as soon as she finds a box big enough…we are forever on the lookout!

In our home, being active and busy is encouraged.  There is always something to do and somewhere to go.  Sometimes we are all so busy that conversation becomes a daunting challenge. But when we pause and spend time together enjoying this one show that we all really love, I am reminded that we are all connected by a strong bond.  And when my son has to go at the end of the summer, I know that there will still be many conversations.  You can argue all day long about the Doctor’s best act of courage and compassion, but I know that it was creating the greatest icebreaker and saving our family from frigid conversation and unfriendly silence for years to come.  Thank you, Doctor.  Because of you, my family and I will all have so much more to discuss about the great mysteries of the universe.

~ G

Post dedicated to my son.