family, Uncategorized, writing

Take Me Back to Yesterday Once More

OCIJ150“Victory is better when you earn it.”

This morning, Wyokiddo and I sat at the kitchen table and colored Thanksgiving pictures while we chair danced to some Bengals, Justin Timberlake and Pharrell.

And suddenly, I was transported back in time 30 years.  I was sitting across from my dad, staring at the chess board and contemplating my next move. We sat at the kitchen table in pink swivel chairs at the house on Hirst.  The stereo was playing the country station out of Laramie from the family room and we were locked in an epic battle over the cardboard chess set my mom had picked up at a garage sale for $.50.

It could have been one of a hundred nights we sat at that table.   We would pass those evening hours playing board games and card games, everything from cribbage to chess.

He never once let me win.

Oh I suspect he forgot to count some points in cribbage occasionally to keep it close.  But he never threw a game for the sake of my confidence.  I asked him about it one time and he said something about how “Victory is better when you earn it.”

As I stared at the board some more, a smile crept over my lips.  I moved my queen three spaces over and smiled up at him.

“Checkmate.”

Dad studied the board a second, then stuck his hand for me to shake.  “Checkmate.  Well played!”

It was one of only a handful of times I ever beat him at chess.

Dad died two years ago today and I mean it when I say not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.  I think of him when I hear a Johnny Cash or Moe Bandy song on the radio.  I think of him anytime I watch a Wyoming Cowboys game, eat a piece of pecan pie or see  a pelican.

“There once was a bird named the pelican,” he would quip any time the word was mentioned.

Aside from just missing him, I am saddened that my daughter never really got the chance to know him.  Most of her memories of Big Papa, as she calls him, are of visiting him in the nursing home.  And that kills me, because that is not representative of his personality, or his life.  He was a big, take-charge kind of guy.  He never backed down from a challenge and never ran scared from a fight.

As Wyokiddo and I colored and chatted this morning, I talked about about sitting at the kitchen table with my dad, learning how to play cards or do Algebra.

“Do you miss him?” she asked.

“Yes, sweet girl.  I miss him very much.”

As tears trickled down my face, she leaned over and hugged me.

“Don’t worry, Mama.  He’s still here,” she told me, pointing my chest.  “In your heart.”

I have his nose, his penchant for bread and his shotgun.  I inherited his competitive streak, his love of the outdoors, rodeo and country music.  And my darling 5-year old daughter has it right.  He is still here.  I carry that life lesson about a victory earned is the only kind worth having, and a thousand others he taught me, in my soul for all time.

And those same lessons are the ones I’ll pass down to her.  She’ll never have the time with him I would want for her, but she’ll carry a piece of him in her heart all the same.

Teresa

 

 

 

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country life, Uncategorized, writing

Gratitude and Attitude

Poopy Bird Hat.jpgA pheasant pooped on my head today. I was helping my husband load pheasants onto the stocking truck when a rooster got away and flew off, pooping all over me in the process. It was on my hands, down my jeans, down my back and all over my hat.

Definitely not my best day. And it only got worse from there. The dog threw up on me, I slammed my hand in the door and I lost my photo order and had to spend another two hours recreating it.

Later, I was grumping to my daughter about my rotten day. She just laughed and said “Good thing you were wearing a hat!”

And just like that, I was given a lesson in perspective from a five-year old.

Each day, we have the choice to focus on the bad or focus on the good. We can look at what has gone wrong in our lives and bemoan the unfairness of it all. Or we can choose to see value and cherish what is good and right in every day and focus on that.
The first leads you to more negativity and anger. The second leads to gratitude and contentment.

So the next time everything is turning to poo and the proverbial blue birds of happiness drops a load on our heads, let’s choose to be grateful we have hats.

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

 

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

Uncategorized, writing

Don’t Sell Your Saddle

Graphic.jpgEarlier this month, I went legit and officially created my own business, Dirt Road Wife Photography LLC.  I have an tax ID number, official looking paperwork from the Secretary of State and a business checking account.  Heck, I’ve even got business cards.

Except sometimes I don’t feel legit as a photographer.

I will encounter a new situation and don’t know exactly how to tackle it in the moment.  Or I get home, start editing my images and am crestfallen because what felt good in the moment and looked good on my LCD screen isn’t wowing me after the fact.

Sometimes, it’s other photographers who undermine my self-confidence.  Long-time pros who make snarky remarks about all the wannabe mom-tographers devaluing the industry and undermine their pricing.

“Is that what I’m doing?” I ask myself.  “Pretending to be a photographer?  Am I a joke?”

I compare my work to the work of the professionals I admire and it feels woefully inadequate.  Tara Bolgiano, Janelle Rose, Cassie Madden…real women, wonderful people and phenomenal photographers who seem to ooze beautiful images and confidence out their pores.  And I work and practice and study, but I still can’t quite get there…

Those are the days I think about selling my saddle.

It would be easy to quit.  Walk away.  I’ve had different offers for work, who’s to know I chose it over my secret goal of being a professional photographer?

I would.  I would know that I took the easy way out.  That I was afraid to grow, to risk.  And I would regret it.

So I’m going to tackle this new goal like the others I’ve set for myself.  I’m going to continue to work and study and practice.  I’m going to hustle.  Maybe I’ll get there, maybe I won’t.  But I do know I’ll never ride that horse to the finish line if I sell my saddle now.

 

Teresa

*”Don’t Sell Your Saddle” is a poem written by Don Bilup.  The above photo is mine, copyright Dirt Road Wife Photography LLC.

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

photography, Uncategorized, weddings, writing

Mr. & Mrs.

Storyboard.jpg

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

country life, photography, Uncategorized, Wyoming

The Theatre, The Theatre

wyo-theater-drw

…what’s happened to the theatre?”

I can’t speak for Danny Kaye, but this Goshen County photographer thinks our movie theater here is pretty alright.  Every time I drive by this grand old building at night, I am struck by it’s beauty.  Last night, I finally stopped to capture that beauty in a photograph.  The Wyoming Theater in Torrington, Wyoming.

Teresa

family, Kids, photography, Uncategorized

First Loves

rocky-fish-final-drwMeet Rocky. He’s Wyokiddo’s fish, bought to replace the gold fish she won at a 4-H carnival that died approximately 15 hours after we brought it home. Rocky is much more hearty, and photogenic. Thankfully.

Someday, we’ll tell Wyokiddo stories about her first pet. Stories like how for the first three weeks after his arrival, she’d wake up in the morning, run to his bowl and breathlessly exclaim “Oh thank goodness! Mama, Mama, Rocky didn’t die last night!”

Her enthusiasm for Rocky has waned a little bit with the arrival of Ziggy the puppy.  But I will still catch Wyokiddo standing at Rocky’s bowl, her finger tracing a path for Rocky to follow.  She chatters at him, telling the fish stories of her day, her friends and her life.

It warms my heart.  Somewhere in the heavens, there’s a chestnut mare with spots and an attitude that has all my childhood secrets woven through her thin, black mane.

Now Rocky will have Wyokiddo’s secrets, and she’ll always have a photo of this beautiful little guy.

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