family, Uncategorized, writing

What’s In a Name

Zoo Trip-1-2.JPG

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

family, Kids, Uncategorized

Gifts from Little People

emily-flowers-drw

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Mama. Sorry they’re dead. But uh, it’s winter, so…”

Wyokiddo @ 4  years old.  If I’m being honest, I’ve received far less thoughtful gifts from far less cuter humans.

Happy Valentine’s Day.  Show the world how big your heart is today, and every day.

Teresa

country life, family, photography, Uncategorized

Ziggy

Ziggy at 11 Weeks.jpgAbout three weeks ago, we expanded our family to include this little dude.  Meet Ziggy, the newest member of the Downar Bird Farm Management Team.  Ziggy is an 11-month old border collie, and was bred to be a lean, mean, herding machine.

He’s got some growing to do before he’ll be ready to hit the bird pens.  In the meantime, he is quite the snuggler and is entertaining himself finding little bits of food, paper and other detritus to eat on the floor.  I’m choosing not to take that as a condemnation of my housekeeping.

Look out roosters, there’s a new sheriff in town.  He’ll come after you just as soon as he’s caught his own tail.

-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, 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

 

 

family, pets, photography, Uncategorized

The White Dog

roxy-cw

And then there was one.

A little over a year ago, we had three dogs: Archie, the ever-ready border collie; Hoops, the fluffy, grumpy big dog; and Roxy, the “white dog” who would would suffer blonde jokes if she was a human.  We had to euthanize Archie and Hoops, so now we are a one-dog family.

Roxy is pretty worthless as a dog – she doesn’t hunt, doesn’t fetch, would probably lick an intruder before biting him, and won’t clean up the food that falls on the floor when I’m cooking.  But I love her anyway.  She lets Wyokiddo dote on her, is always ready for a walk and occasionally makes Outdoor Guy smile with her dingbat ways.  I guess we’ll keep her.  I mean, just look at this face.  How could you not love this face?

Teresa

 

 

country life, Uncategorized, writing

Soul Food

Life can be so complicated, so crazy, that we often get caught up in the elaborate.  But there is joy in the simple things.

Tonight, our family opted for a simple dinner of ham-and-cheese omelettes, potatoes from our garden, peppers and peaches with cream.  While I prepared the omelettes, Outdoor Guy joined me in the kitchen to slice and fry the potatoes.  I could hear Wyokiddo happily playing in the living room as we worked and chatted.  We couldn’t help but run into each other in the tiny kitchen, and each time, Outdoor Guy would take the opportunity to steal a kiss.

I enjoy the challenge of  cooking a complex meal, or dinner on the town with my handsome husband on my arm.  But nothing beats the quiet camaraderie of my beautiful family, homegrown food and a Wyoming sunset.  The preperation and the meal were both food for my soul.

Teresa

dogs, family, Uncategorized

Heartsick

HoopsSuch a heavy heart I have this morning.  As I sit here, typing, my oldest and dearest dog is struggling out on the porch.  For the last few weeks, he’s been struggling.  He’ll alternate between good days when he begs me for treats and wants to play ball, and bad days when he limps around in obvious pain and only wants to be left alone.

The bad days have outweighed the good days here lately, and my heart can’t bear to watch him struggle anymore.  I know that our time together is coming to an end, and that I must give him one final act of kindness.  Even if it rips my heart out in the process.

This is Hoops.  He’s 13 years old, almost to the day.  I adopted him from an animal shelter in Cheyenne, and in those 13 years, he’s been a loyal, loving companion.  He has been part of my adult life for so long now, it’s hard to imagine life without him.  He was there when I was 20-something, single, and struggling with a job I disliked.  He was there when I endured a string of bad relationships and broken hearts.  He was there when my dad had a major stroke and the prognosis was uncertain.  He was there when I suffered two miscarriages and endured one hellish pregnancy.  He was always there, his fluffy head on my leg or back, the weight of him reminding me I wasn’t alone.

One night, he might have even saved my life.  A naer-do-well was running from police officers and tried to run through my backyard to affect his escape.  It might have worked, but for the yellow dog sleeping outside.  A scuffle ensued between my protective big dog and the man.  I woke up to frantic barking, flashlights shining in my bedroom window and pathetic cries from over the fence.  “The dog bit me.  The f’ing dog bit me.”

In the end, the police apprehended the man in the neighbor’s yard.  He was missing one shoe, had his pants shredded and required stitches for his calf and hand where the “f’ing dog” bit him.  I shudder to think what might have happened had Hoops not intervened.  The man might have come right through the backyard, into my bedroom and who knows…thankfully, the big yellow dog did his job that night.

Hoops has also been with me for the best times, too.  Nights with me rubbing his belly while I talked on the phone with Outdoor Guy as we planned our future life together.  Riding shotgun on Sunday mornings to get a breakfast burrito (Hoops was just in it for the bacon) followed by a trip to the dog park.  Days wandering the badlands of Washakie county, evening walks across the high desert prairie of Sublette county and afternoon romps in the water at Bump-Sullivan reservoir or Springer lake.  He has patiently endured Wyokiddo’s exuberance, Outdoor Guy’s teasing and a furry brother and sister added to the mix.

I couldn’t ask for a more loyal, loving dog.  I know there will be new dogs down the road, dogs that I will care for and love almost as much as Hoops.  Almost.  Because there will never be another curly-tailed, fuffy butt, grumbly big dog like him.  He is one-of-a-kind, both in looks and in spirit.

My heart aches at the idea of what tomorrow holds.  The goodbyes I must say and pray Hoops understands.  I don’t want to do it.  God, how I wish I could be spared the decision of euthanizing my best fur buddy.  But I love him too much, I owe him too much to be selfish.  So I will drive him to the vet and weep in his scruff as our time together comes to a close.  I will feel my heart crack wide open and the tears flow freely.

I wish there was more time.  But even that wouldn’t be enough.  A lifetime of being loved by this big-hearted, goofy dog wouldn’t be enough.  So instead, I’ll thank my lucky stars for the 13 great years I had with him, for his comfort and protection and his love.  My heart is broken now, but his presence in my life has been a gift.  And that is what I will carry with me.

Love you, big dog.  I’ll miss you oh so very much.

Teresa

Afterword:

My heart still aches today, and will for a long time.  Our house that once seemed small with three dogs underfoot is now painfully, painfully empty.

I wanted to let go of Hoops the same way I brought him into my life, just him and I.  So I drove while he rode shotgun next to me in the car, occasionally nudging my hand for more petting.  Hoops returned from getting his IV in the back and perked up considerably at the sight of me.  He even gave me one last kiss on the cheek, before settling in my lap.  His passing was as peaceful as I could make it.  In the end, it was just me and him lying on the floor together.

We’ll receive his ashes back next week.  I’ll bury them in our front yard, under the shade of the big elm tree.  It was his favorite place to lay, and that way, he can always keep an eye on me.  He took that job so seriously in life, protecting me.  Maybe, just maybe, he can keep on looking out for me and mine from the Great Beyond.  RIP Buddy.  You were loved.