family, Uncategorized, writing

What’s In a Name

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To all the little kids in Wyokiddo’s preschool, my name is Emily’s Mom.

“Hi Emily’s mom!”

“Emily’s Mom, come sit by me!”

“Mrs. Emily’s Mom, can you help me with  my juice box?”

It’s music to my ears.

When I resigned from my professional position to marry Outdoor Guy, several of my colleagues didn’t hold back in criticizing my decision.  They said I was wasting my education.  I was crazy to walk away from such a successful career.  I could have it all.

They couldn’t understand that their goals for me weren’t my goals for me.

As much as I loved my job and was good at it, I knew in my heart I wanted a different future.  One where my title wasn’t assistant division chief but wife and mom.

One amazingly supportive husband, two miscarriages, four solid months of throwing up and 8 years later, I’m both.

So call me Mrs. Milner, call me Emily’s Mom, either way, I am blessed.

Teresa

Uncategorized, writing

Strong is the New Pretty

Grasshoppers-44I saw a book advertised on http://www.amightygirl.com today called “Strong is the New Pretty – A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves.”

Strong is the New Pretty.  What an awesome message to send little girls.  As I edited some photos from Wyokiddo’s final Pee Wee soccer game, I realized how far we’ve come, as women, in terms of how we view ourselves and how was ask others to view us.

I grew up a tomboy.  My favorite sport was soccer.  Across a league of more than 100 kids in my grade level, I’d say there were less than 10 girls in the league.  My best friend and I were two of them.  We played with boys and were coached by men.  Always men.  Same with baseball and basketball.  The girls were often treated as second-class citizens, usually plunked on the bench to wait for the boys to run up the score or shoved in the outfield because they boys had the infield covered.

I once asked a soccer coach if I could please play offense in one game.  He told me something like “I have to have girls on my team.  I don’t have to let you lose the game for us.”

Never mind that some of us were, GASP, actually talented, or HORROR OF HORRORS, actually better than the boys.

I knew I was facing an uphill battle.  I had wonderfully supportive parents that never forced their square peg daughter into the round mold society tried to dictate.  But my dad was upfront with me, telling me things like “A lot of men my age aren’t used to tough little girls that like sports.  They don’t think you can do it.  Keep working and prove them wrong.”

At first, the uphill battle didn’t bother me so much.  But after years of going to every practice, working my butt off and still not getting a chance, I sort of lost heart.  I knew I wasn’t as good as a lot of the boys.  But I also knew I was better than a lot of them, too.

Luckily, I found horses.  I had a strong, independent woman as a riding coach that didn’t take anybody’s grief.  In her and the other girls I rode with, I found my tribe.  I think that’s one of the reasons I loved riding and showing horses so much.  It didn’t matter if I was a girl.  I was judged on my abilities and performance, not my genes.  And everywhere I turned in the horse show world were encouraging, supportive, kind women and men.  We competed, but we were all a family, too.

Now, some thirty years later, Wyokiddo is playing soccer.  She has a team of six, and four of them are girls.  Her coach this year is a woman, and she is awesome.  Coach Kaitlyn has helped the kids improve some basic skills and introduced them to concepts like offense and defense and making stops.

I know there will come a point in time where Wyokiddo will be told “Girls can’t do that!” or not treated the same because she isn’t a boy.  But I love that her introduction to sports is filled with girls and women alike showing the world that yes, yes we can.  And that strong really is the new pretty.

Teresa

country life, Uncategorized, writing, Wyoming

Snakebit

Puffy Roxy DogYesterday was a rough one for our household.  As the temperatures climbed to above 85 degrees, Wyokiddo and our dogs sought refuge in the water.  We headed to a local reservoir to play in the shallow water and enjoy the beautiful spring day.  We splashed, sang songs and even got to see our first painted turtle up close.

But when I went to unload the dogs from the covered bed of the pickup, I noticed something was wrong with Roxy, our 10-year old lab/German shepherd cross.  She didn’t want to get out of the pickup and was hanging her head to one side.  I reached for her and she snapped at me.  This is same dog who seeks out the preschooler to play dress up.

I looked her over and noticed her ear was bleeding and her face was starting to swell up.  A knot started to form in the pit of my stomach when I realized she’d likely been bitten by a rattlesnake.

Snakes are an unfortunate reality in our corner of the world.  We live with them, watch where we step and avoid the tall grass when it warms up each spring.  But in allowing the dogs to roam free as we played, I’d inadvertently put them at risk.

After a brief consultation with Outdoor Guy, Wyokiddo and I loaded back in the pickup and hauled into town to our local vet.  By the time we reached the vet 20 minutes later, the swelling had reached Roxy’s neck.   To my untrained eye, she acted as if she were in shock.

The wonderful vets at Goshen County Vet Clinic took care of us immediately.  They agreed with my snakebite assessment and took Roxy back for immediate treatment.  When the doctor told us Roxy would have to stay the weekend at the vet clinic, poor Wyokiddo welled up with tears.

Oh God.  This whole time, I’d been worrying about the dog and dealing with my fear over my dog.  I hadn’t stopped to consider all of it through 4-year old eyes.  The vet and vet tech gave us every reason to be hopeful, but warned that some dogs don’t make it.  We said goodbye to Roxy, just in case, and left the clinic in a somber mood.

I stopped at the soda shop thinking a cool treat would life our spirits.  As we waited in the drive-through, Wyokiddo asked “Mama, where is Roxy’s favorite place to be?”

“I don’t know kiddo.  I think anywhere we are is her favorite place.  Why?”

“In case she dies.  I want to put her ashes in her favorite place.”

I lost it.  Right there, in the AJ’s drive-through, tears spilling down on my waiting cash.  This poor kid has seen and processed too much death, I thought.  Her grandpa, two dogs and pet fish, all in less than 18 months.

“Please don’t let her lose this dog, too,” I prayed silently.  “This should not be how we have to say goodbye.”

So we talked some about how Roxy was in the best place she could be, being cared for by animal doctors who knew just what to do.  Wyokiddo settled into her drink.  I wiped away tears and tried to get it together for my kid.

When I laid Wyokiddo down for a nap, she asked if we could pray to God to keep Roxy safe and help her get better.  “Sometimes it helps to talk to God, Mama.  That’s what you told me.”

I stand in awe of this beautiful little soul.

Thankfully, when we called the clinic in the morning, they said our sweet old dog was up, wagging her tail and ready to come home.  Mama, Wyokiddo and even the stalwart Outdoor Guy were happy to greet her a few hours later.  Tonight, she’s resting comfortably but still a little swollen.  Wyokiddo is snuggled in next to her daddy, content and happy now that her best dog is home.  It’s a sight more beautiful than anything I could imagine.

Teresa

photography, Uncategorized, weddings, writing

Mr. & Mrs.

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I had the wonderful honor of photographing the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends yesterday.

Sara and Brad were married in Sundance, Wyoming, where the couple met.  She was a beautiful bride.  He was an adorable groom.  They were surrounded by their family and several close friends. The whole affair was simple, understated and tasteful.

I loved photographing the details of the details of the day, from Sara’s vintage inspired lace dress and gold-toned hair comb to the bouquet of spring blooms and yellow roses put together by Serendipity Floral and Gifts in Sundance.

But my favorite part of the day was seeing how Sara’s children were involved, not just the during ceremony, but in the entire event.  Her 9-year old daughter made the wedding cake and the cupcakes.  Her son gave her away.  And Brad’s vows talked about how he wanted to be a role model and positive influence in their lives.  I know the smile he wore wasn’t just for his bride, but for the entire family he was gaining in the process.

Sara and I have been friends since college.  As such, I’ve known her as many things…a cohort in crime, a gambling partner and a best friend.  I watched her become a wife and a new mom.   Life threw a few curves at her, but Sara tackled them with her usual tenacity and steadfast commitment to her values and ideals.  She created a new normal and a new life for her children as a single mom.  It was a full life, filled with love and laughter.

And now Brad joins that life, making it richer and perhaps even a little bit stronger.  I don’t know him well, but I can see how that he softens Sara.  Where she is structured, he is smooth.  Where she is by-the-book, Brad is more spontaneous.  They are not opposites so much as complements, rounding each other out and setting off the other’s personality in wonderful ways.

Life is beautiful.  It is also messy and hard.  That duality can leave some of us beaten and bitter.  It takes courage to rise up from the mess, to dare to imagine yourself as something different.

I’m so proud of my friend for believing in herself, for rising up and finding happiness again.  I am excited to see where this new partnership leads, and what new roles Sara will take on as she, Brad, Madeline and Jameson begin their new journey together as a family.

Take care of her, Brad.  She is a treasure, now and for always.

Teresa

family, Uncategorized, writing, Wyoming

The Mother of Invention

We’ve got a house full of new toys Wyokiddo received for Christmas.  But for almost two hours tonight, she entertained herself with a box, straws, tape, beads, feathers and pipe cleaners.  Lots and lots of pipe cleaners.

She was creating an “invention.”  I’m not clear on what the invention will do once it is finished.  I don’t know that she cares.  Wyokiddo was all about the process, attacking the placement of each hole, each bit of straw, with a great deal of concentration and seriousness.

Wyokiddo is too young for New Year’s Resolutions.  But I think I’ll take my cue from her and work to find joy and purpose in the little things that surround me.

Teresa

 

 

Uncategorized, writing, Wyoming

Are You Tough Enough?

Winter in Wyoming

“It’s winter in Wyoming,
And the gentle breezes blow,
Seventy miles an hour,
At twenty-five below.
Oh, how I love Wyoming,
When the snow’s up to your butt,
You take a breath of winter,
And your nose gets frozen shut.
Yes, the weather here is wonderful,
So I guess I’ll stick around,
I could never leave Wyoming,
’cause I’m frozen to the ground!”

A lot of folks tell me “Oh, I wish I could live in Wyoming.  It is so beautiful!”

And it is. Until it isn’t.  Are you tough enough?

Teresa

Uncategorized, writing, Wyoming

The Kindness of Strangers

15288473_1336222559773643_4148337940582574606_oEarlier this week, a man Stephen C. Reiman died in a Wyoming hospital.  He had no visitors and no one to claim his body.  His nursing staff knew little about him, other than he was a Vietnam veteran and liked Bruce Springsteen.  Mr. Reiman had come to Wyoming via California, and had only been in our state for a few weeks.  No family could be found at first.  The Natrona County coroner arranged to have Stephen Carl Reiman buried with full military honors at the Oregon Trail National Veteran’s Cemetery, but feared no one would attend.  So the call went out via Wyoming news outlets for folks to attend this hero’s funeral and to give an unknown veteran one last great salute.

Wyoming answered that call, as did folks from neighboring states.  More than 2,000 people showed up to bury the sailor.  Fellow veterans, active-duty personnel, doctors, nurses, ranchers, business owners, law enforcement officers and every day citizens gathered in Casper, Wyoming, to honor a man they never met.  It was standing room only in the chapel, and folks lined the streets for the funeral procession.  They braved nasty roads and stood in the cold and the snow because they felt it was the right thing to do.

Each time I read an article or see photos from this beautiful demonstration of humanity, I am brought to tears.

My state, and many of her citizens, have been labeled as deplorable during the election season.  But on this day, Wyoming proved it is anything but.  Our citizens showed their kindness, gratitude and compassion to a man they’ve never met.  On “Giving Tuesday,” the people of Wyoming gave thanks for the life of a stranger that served our country.  Mr. Reiman might have died with only his nurses at his side.  But he was buried as one of Wyoming’s own.

God bless you, Sailor Reiman.  May you finally find your peace.

Teresa

 

Uncategorized, writing

Forty

graded-roadSomewhere shortly after midnight, I turned 40.  Another year gone by, a new milestone reached.  I know lots of folks, women friends specifically, who have a hard time with these “big” birthdays.  They refuse to say the number.  Pretend like the birthday didn’t happen.  Self-medicate with chocolate or wine.

I’m 40.  Forty.  4-0.  Cuarenta.  Quarante.  Vierzig, if you speak German.  Oh, I like the sound of that.  That sounds wise.  From here on out, when anyone asks how old I am, I’m going to reply “veirzig.”

I don’t stress over birthdays.  My life is no better or worse today than it was when I woke yesterday.  I suppose it would be easy to get caught up in the worries that my life is not where I thought it would be when I turned 40.  Because it isn’t.  It is better.

Ten years ago, I celebrated my 30th birthday as a single woman, surrounded by friends at our local watering hole.  Today, my day was started with happy birthday wishes from my husband and daughter.  The county decided to grade our road.  I’ve gotten texts and Facebook messages from old friends, and well wishes from new friends I’ve made in the last 10 years.  I also have an evening out with my little family, birthday brownies, presents and a trip to Vegas with Outdoor Guy coming up.

Forty is awesome.  Or should I say veirzig ist genial.  Veirzig ist genial.

Teresa

Uncategorized, wildlife, writing, hunting

Hunting with Dad

first-pheasant-3Yesterday was the last day of what folks around here call the Springer General hunt.  The white dog and I celebrated by going hunting.  I almost chickened out.  The temperature was in the mid-twenties with a chilly breeze blowing from the northeast, and I am a fair-weather hunter.  I’m a fair-weather everything, come to think of it.  But I layered up, stuck my license in my pocket and we headed down the road.

This time, we found some pheasants.  The problem was, they were hunkered down in a shelter belt and weren’t relinquishing that warmth and safety for anything.  A few yards past the trees, my non-bird bird dog finally kicked up a hen.  Excited to actually see a pheasant, I rushed my shot and missed her by a mile.  Safe from my shot, she tucked her wings and disappeared into the tree belt.

A few hundred yards later, the white dog hit a scent again.  I watched, ready, as she found another hen.  This ol’ girl didn’t want to get up and fly, instead cruising just above the ground and Roxy’s head, preventing me from taking a safe shot.

As we rounded the corner for home, Roxy put a rooster in the air.  He doubled back, soaring right over my head.  This time, I took my time, kept my head down and made the shot.

It wasn’t the wind or ringing in my ears I’d heard as I dialed in on the rooster.  It was my dad’s voice.  “Want to know the three rules of hunting?”  I heard him ask in his big, booming barritone.  I repeated the punchline as walked up to the downed bird.

“Rule #1.  Keep your head down.  Rule #2.  Keep your damn head down.  Rule #3. Keep your God damn head down.”

It was  joke he’d tell over and over.  He never got tired of telling it.  Oh what I’d give to hear him tell it to me again.  It’s been almost a year since he died and I wanted so badly to hear that stupid joke one more time, my heart physically ached.  It was that thought that congealed into tears and trickled down my cheeks as I slid the rooster into my vest and loved up my dog.

Dad and I did a lot together when I was growing up.  He was always there for soccer games, school plays, speeches and horse shows.  But hunting and fishing wasn’t sometime we shared.  I don’t know that it ever really occurred to him that his tenderhearted animal lover would actually enjoy hunting.  I know it never occurred to me to ask him to take me.

By the time I started working for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, his health prevented us from sharing a day in the field.  Instead, he passed on his trusty .22 rifle and behemoth double-barreled shotgun to me.  Anytime I asked, he would regale me with stories of his days hunting pheasants at Springer, including the time he almost lost our family dog, and the time he got stuck over night in the mud and the muck.

In that moment, as I stood wiping angrily at my eyes, I knew.  I knew that if he was up there, somewhere, somehow, he was watching and he was proud.  Not proud that I’d finally got on the birds.  But proud that I was trying.  Proud that I was taking care of my family, following my passion for writing and photography, staying true to my own beliefs, and taking risks.  Proud that I could make my husband chocolate-chip cookies in the evening and chase pheasants in the morning and wrangle a 4-year old after lunch.  Proud that I was out there, living my life with the people I loved.

Roxy and I spent another half hour looking for pheasants before we called it a morning.  I headed home with a heart that felt lighter than it has in almost a year.  If anyone saw me out there, they would have just figured it was me and my dog, hunting solo in the first snow of the season.  But really, I was hunting with my dad.  I’d carried him in my heart this whole time.

I miss you big guy.

T-Bird