country life, family, Uncategorized, writing

Lifetime Dogs

Emily and Roxy-3I’m reading A Good Dog by Jon Katz.  It’s a sweet story about a middle-aged New Jersey writer and his adventures with his border collie, Orson, and the other dogs in his life.

Katz says he’s owned several dogs, but Orson was his lifetime dog…that one special dog that you connect to more than any other in your lifetime.  Your canine soulmate, if you will.

I spread the ashes of my sweet lifetime dog, Hoops, yesterday.  Hoops died over a year ago, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it until yesterday.  So on a perfect Wyoming fall morning, the Roxy dog and I went for a walk and I said a final farewell to my big, fluffy buddy.  I scattered them under the big cottonwood tree in our yard.  It was his favorite place to bask in all seasons.  And the sentimental side of me likes the idea part of him watching over us from his familiar post.

We have other dogs, dogs that I love and adore.  I love the patience and sweetness of our lab mix, Roxy.  And I love watching Ziggy the border collie herd birds and chase a frisbee.  But I agree with Katz.  There are lifetime dogs, and Hoops was mine.  I miss that big fluffy bugger every day.

Wyokiddo is following in the footsteps of her parents and is already a dog person.  She especially loves Roxy.  They play dress-up and chase.  She reads Roxy stories and likes the white dog to be near when she’s sick or upset.

My daughter will likely know many more dogs over the course of her lifetime.  I hope that one day, she’ll also know her lifetime dog.

Teresa

 

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family, Uncategorized, writing

Flyin’ Solo

Emiliy's First Day of School-3My little one fledged the nest today.

The last few weeks, when we asked Wyokiddo about starting school, all she would say is “I’m a little nervous.  It’s a lot bigger.”

So this morning, I expected some anxious moments, maybe even some tears.

Nope.

From the minute she woke up this morning, she was smiles and sunshine.  I offered yet again to drive her to school, but she insisted she would ride the bus.  When the bus came, she climbed in like she owned the thing.

Outdoor Guy and I followed behind in the car with a grocery sack of school supplies and Kleenex.  Without any fuss or fanfare, Wyokiddo listened to her teacher as she explained the morning routine.  Then it was off to recess to see her friends.  No tears, no hesitation.  Just a dismissive wave and she was gone.

It will be a bit of a transition for me.  For five years, the curly-haired dynamo has been my shotgun rider.  To town, to photoshoots, exploring around the county– she was my partner-in-crime and willing duet partner.  We’ll both have to get used to a new normal.

I was doing okay until editing some photos later this morning and “Shotgun Rider” by Tim McGraw started playing on Amazon Music.  That’s when MY tears started falling.

Roll, won’t you come roll with me slow, fast, full speed
Girl wherever sweet time takes us
Hang, with me down this old road
Only God knows where we’ll go
Don’t matter long as I’ve got your love

I am in awe of the confidence and the zeal with which my daughter attacks life.  Wyokiddo has such an amazing little spirit and sweet heart.  That coupled with a silly sense of humor and a sharp-mind makes me one blessed mama.

Being a stay-at-home mom hasn’t always been easy.  There were moments I wished for more free time to pursue a hobby, or just an uninterrupted shower.  But it’s also been the most amazing gift to see my baby girl grow, learn and change.

As she grows, she’ll need me less and less.  And that’s okay.  Because I know our days together helped prepare her for these moments of independence.  She can tackle the world, then come home and have a snack and tell me all about it.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

No I don’t ever wanna know, 
No other shotgun rider, 
Singin’ to the radio, 
You’re my shotgun rider.

Teresa

family, nature, photography, Uncategorized

Camera-less Camping

Camping-15Outdoor Guy, Wyokiddo and I traded the heat and deer flies of Goshen County for the high country this week.  We spent two and a half days in the Big Horn Mountains in northern Wyoming.  Two days of fishing, eating s’mores, enjoying each other, hiking and watching wildlife.

What I didn’t do much of was pick up my camera.

It was a promise I made to myself, for me and my family, to stop taking photos and just enjoy the moment.  When I’ve got my camera in my hand, my mind is constantly thinking about photography.  Where’s the best light?  What’s in the background?  Can I frame this better?  Is this sharp enough?  Ugh, that’s too dark, better open up my aperture.  

I decided on this trip, I wanted to focus on being a mom and a wife, not a photographer.  And I’m so glad I did.  I got to spend the lazy mountain mornings with my daughter cuddled in my lap, warming up by the fire.  I got to watch my husband and daughter make s’mores and marvel at how many of their mannerisms are the same.  I enjoyed the calm and quiet of our camp, the heady scent of pine and the spongy feel of the wild earth beneath our feet.

I took a few quick shots so Wyokiddo will have something for her scrapbook, and I couldn’t resist a few snaps of the mule deer doe and her two fawns moving through our camp.  But mostly my camera stayed in it’s case, forgotten.

As I laid in our tent our last night in camp listening to the soft snores from Wyokiddo and Outdoor Guy, I promised myself that I would do this more often…put down the camera and pick up my life.

In twenty years, Wyokiddo isn’t going to flip through photos of our time together and go “Uh oh.  Mom blew the focus on this one.  See how my hat’s not sharp?”

She’ll pick up the stack of these images and say “My first camping trip!  I remember how tired my legs were after that two-mile hike we went on and how mom complained about how hard the ground was.”

Photos should document our lives.  Not consume them.

Happy not-clicking!

Teresa

country life, insects, nature, photography, Uncategorized

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Caterpillar.jpg

A few nights ago, we found this fat and sassy caterpillar happily munching on our tomatoes.  It was quickly apprehended and now lives in Wyokiddo’s bug jar.  At least for another day or two.

After some research, I discovered it is a tomato hornworm, so named because of it’s penchant for devouring tomatoes and the little horn-like appendage on it’s tail.  After it pupates, this caterpillar will turn into a Sphinx moth.  Google also told me this probably wasn’t the only caterpillar we had in our garden…where there’s one there’s probably 10 or 20.  Sure enough, on subsequent trips to the garden, we another 15 or so of the chubby green menaces.

As Wyokiddo stared at one mowing down my plants, she said “Mama, it looks just like the very hungry caterpillar in my books!”

It really did resemble the star of the Eric Carle books.  But this caterpillar won’t get a chance to eat through oranges, apples, pears, salami, cheese, pickles or an ice cream cone, and neither will his brethren.  You don’t mess with my tomatoes and live to tell the tale.

Teresa

 

nature, photography, Uncategorized, wildlife

Summer Color

Owls and Pheasants finals-16.jpg

Summer is winding down in our household.  Soon, Wyokiddo will start kindergarten and I will face an empty house and open day for the first time in five years.  But aside from the stacks of school supplies in the corner of my office, I can also tell summer is coming to an end by how the pheasants look.

It’s been several weeks since I’ve been in the pens and enjoyed the birds.  I’ve been busy with my own flock.  I’ve had several photo shoots, we spent time with my family in Cheyenne and we participated in our local county fair.  So I was a little surprised at how the birds have grown.

The males are starting to color up and act like boys.  Several roosters trailed us in the pens.  They would ruffle their feathers and bluff charge us to show us their toughness.  The red eye patch is quite distinct, and many are getting their “ring-neck.”

The girls, on the other hand, generally hide in the kochia and give us a wide berth.  They use the weeds as cover to protect themselves.  It’s an important technique that will serve them when they are released.  They can use the natural cover to hide from dogs, hunters, owls and coyotes.  They’ll also use that cover to protect their clutch of eggs and chicks.

Nobody on the road,
Nobody on the beach.
I feel it in the air,
The summer’s out of reach.

Summer isn’t out of reach yet, but soon my boys of summer will be gone for another season.  In the meantime, we’ll enjoy their antics and the gentle thrum of life in rural Wyoming.

Teresa

 

 

family, Uncategorized, writing

When Yes Isn’t Enough

Alaska.jpg

This weekend, the woman that introduced me to Outdoor Guy asked me “So do you feel like you have a strong marriage?  Everything is good?”

Without hesitation, I answered “Yes.”

While this friend and I were once quite close, life and jobs have moved us in different directions.  The weekend was a great opportunity to touch base with one another, and I think she just really wanted to know in her heart I was doing well.

“Yes,” I answered again with a bit more urgency.  “We’re great.”

Today, as I sit here on our eighth wedding anniversary, my “yes” just doesn’t seem adequate enough of an answer.  It doesn’t capture the depth of my feelings for and about the amazing man I married.  The man that keeps me grounded and lets me soar.  The man that wipes my tears and kicks me in the butt.  The man that lifts me up and brings my head out of the clouds.

In many ways, it feels like we’ve been married longer than just eight years.  We’ve endured the birth of our child, the death of my father, the loss of two pregnancies and the death of two beloved dogs.  We’ve survived three moves and two career changes.

Some of the ladies were ribbing me about sneaking out of camp to call Outdoor Guy and check in.  But that’s what makes us who we are.  I don’t call him out of any sense of obligation or because we need to keep tabs on each other.  I genuinely want to talk to him, to hear his voice, to know how his day went.  And he wants to know how things are going for me, too.

We love each other.  We respect each other.  We value the strengths and support the weaknesses of each other.  We are a team.

I’ve over-thought and second-guessed many decisions in my life.  But never him.  Never us.  I didn’t hesitate to say yes eight years ago in our vows and I won’t hesitate to say yes when someone asks me if my marriage is still going strong.  Yes.  Yes.  A thousand times, yes.

Teresa

photography, Uncategorized, writing, Wyoming

Dichotomy

Wildflowers1DRWI spent the last four days nestled in a little nook along Clear Creek on the eastern slope of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains.  Oh how my soul missed those mountains.

It felt like old home week for me.  The earthy smell of a dewy forest floor, the tang of pine, the crisp air stinging my cheeks, the twittering of chickadees… it was a feast for the senses.  Wildflowers carpeted the hills, the meadows afire with the likes of arnica, lupine and prairie smoke yet to bloom, set against the jaw-dropping beauty of granite peaks like Loaf Mountain and Big Horn Peak.

Just looking at this stunning, familiar landscape made my heart sing with happiness.

Most of my time was dedicated to taking photos of women learning new outdoor skills.  But when I thought no one would miss me, I would sneak away to find a mountain view to photograph or just a quiet spot in the woods to stop and be.  The soft cushion of pine needles under my feet and the occasional chattering of a red squirrel provided a quiet musical accompaniment to my thoughts and musings.

I never realized how much I truly missed living and playing here until now.  Outdoor Guy and I started our lives together on the western slope of these mountains.  Together, we fished the high country and hunted the lowlands.  We talked about our present and dreamed of our future.

When it was time to pack up camp, I drug my feet coming home.  I didn’t want to break the spell this place had woven around me once again.  But I had made my choice long ago, and it was time to leave this place behind me.

Twenty-four hours later, it was back to Goshen County, where wide open spaces and endless views give my soul room to breathe.  A place where tractors and balers churn across the hillside  A land of the heady smell of fresh-cut hay and cow manure. These plains of my childhood are as comfortable as an old pair of shoes.  Antelope and hawks, “minor fauna” like Woodhouse toads, sagebrush lizards, bull frogs and opossum to encounter.  New friends that welcomed us here with open hearts and treat us like family.  This place is home, too.

“You can’t ride two horses with one ass, Sugar Bean.”

As Wyokiddo and I sped toward our house with the bright red doors, I contemplated the conflicting emotions inside me.

We live in world where we are forced to make dozens of choices daily.  We are expected to choose a course of action and stay on our side of the that line in the sand.  Paper or plastic.  Organic or conventional.  City or country.  Foreign or domestic.  Red or blue.  Society demands strict adherence to this rigid dichotomy.

I believe otherwise.  My life is richer for the diversity of experience.  We can have plains and mountains, frogs and elk, roots and wings.  It is the breadth and very dichotomy of this state itself that feeds my soul.

Teresa

family, Uncategorized, writing

To My Daughter on her Fifth Birthday

5th Birthday-1Dear Emily,

You turned five this week, as you happily told everyone we encountered the last few days.  You think turning five means you can run faster and reach taller things like your other five-year old friends.

We celebrated with a party with your Wee Pals friends, lunch with Daddy on the actual day, and a party with family a day late because of some crazy thunderstorms that hit Wyoming on your actual birthday.  What a lucky little girl you are to have so many people who love you and want to celebrate with you.  I made an Elena of Avalor cake, and the hit presents were an Elena of Avalor guitar and a Minnie Mouse watch.

You have grown so much in the last year.  You are definitely a big kid now, ready to tackle kindergarten in the fall and anything else that life might throw at you.  I love your sense of adventure and willingness to try new things.  School, soccer, ballet…you tried all of them with a zest and confidence I admire.  Today, you went off the diving board at swimming lessons and swam to the side.  You didn’t hesitate once.  Your fearlessness inspires me to step out of my own comfort zone and try new things with you.

Your friends are becoming more important to you.  At school, I was told you usually preferred to play with the boys.  You love to play chase and tag and monsters and bad guys.  You attended your first birthday parties this year.  You teachers described you as the kind of girl who is friends with and plays with everyone.  When your new friend Colby told you his horse died and he was sad, you came home and drew him a picture to help cheer him up.  I love that you are social and genuinely kind to everyone.

Our relationship is changing, too.  No longer do you accept everything I tell you as gospel.  You question me and test me.  Sometimes it infuriates me, but I also know that it means you are developing your own sense of self and independent thinking skills.  You are also developing your own opinion on everything.  It is hard to accept because I still want you to want and need me.  But you are growing up and that means sometimes we will disagree.

You are looking forward to kindergarten and being with your friends.  You’re sad that Colby, Brady and your other Wee Pals friends won’t be there with you.  You cried when we had to say goodbye to Mrs. Mareta, Mrs. Molly and Mr. Lance at the end of the school year.  But I know you will enjoy the coming years too.  You are very much like Daddy and I in that you love to learn and understand how things work.  You are reading simple books by yourself, adding small numbers and counting higher and higher each day.  This spring, you accurately explained to me what an eclipse was, even demonstrating it with your yogurt, cereal bowl and water glass at breakfast one morning.

You continue to be an animal lover and nature explorer.  We spent hours in the barns so you could see and hold the pheasant chicks.  You love to watch nature shows like Wild Kratts and Nature Cat and learn about animals.  At night, when we give you kisses and cuddles, you most often want to play the “Animal Game,”  where you describe an animal and we have to guess it.  You know where an animal lives, what it eats, what it looks like and other weird facts about it.  Lemurs, giraffes, turtles, panda bears, whale sharks, you love them all.  You are Ziggy’s best friend and Roxy’s best girl.  I love watching you play “dog trainer” and putting Ziggy through his paces.  You were so upset when Roxy got bit by a rattlesnake.  I don’t think you slept at all that night we had to leave her at the vet.  Thankfully, she recovered and the two of you were back to playing dress up in a few days.

It is no surprise that you want to be a veterinarian when you grow up.  But I can also envision you as a scientist, teacher or a wildlife biologist like Daddy.  With your sense of adventure, I can picture you tracking down snow leopards in the Himayalas for your own Youtube channel.  Or maybe you’ll be an artist.  We spend hours drawing, painting and doing crafts.  My office is rapidly filling up with all your artwork!

Your favorite song right now is “Dirt on My Boots.”  You love it when Daddy and I turn on the music after dinner and we dance in the kitchen.  Some of your other favorites are “Walk Like an Egyptian,” “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” and “Happy.”

You are one of the only 5-year olds I know with a summer job.  After dinner, you, me, Daddy and Ziggy head out to the bird pens to run the chicks into their houses.  Sometimes you like it, other times you’d prefer to stay inside where it’s cool.  But we’re it as an opportunity to teach you about chores and responsibility.  You’re learning that life isn’t all fun and games and that we can’t quit just because a job gets hard.  I hope that seeing him in action and being around him will help you develop a work ethic like Daddy’s.  And I hope that little glimpse into how hard he works for our family will stick with you for life, and you’ll appreciate the sacrifices he makes for our family.  Chance are good you’ll like this chore less and less as time passes.  Until the day, that is, that you realize it wasn’t about working but about family.

There are times I look forward to the fall when you will be in school and I will have more free time.  But most of the time, I just get sad thinking about it.  You’ve been my constant companion and partner in crime for the last five years.  Not having you with me all day will be a big change for both of us.  No more impromptu trips to Cheyenne for lunch with Nana or afternoon runs to AJs for a soda.  I will miss this time with you more than you’ll ever know.

We argue and get frustrated with each other.  We get mad.  You get sad.  But nothing is ever too bad that we can’t fix it with an “I’m sorry” and a good, long hug.  May that always be the case for our relationship.  We love you to pieces my dear, sweet, kind, beautiful girl.  Happy 5th birthday.

Love,

Mama

(This is the fifth in a series of letters I’ve written to my daughter each year on her birthday.  When she’s 18th, I’m going to give them to her and let her see herself through our eyes over the years.)