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

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

country life, humor, Uncategorized, Wyoming

What’s in the Box?

pheasant-foot“What’s in box?” Brad Pitt asks Morgan Freeman’s character toward the end of the movie Se7en.

I sort of feel like that opening our freezer.  I never know what I’ll find.  I’ve never found a severed head ala Brad Pitt.  But my wildlife biologist/fish culturist/hunter/angler husband has been known to store the odd critter in the frigid depths.

Today it was a pheasant wrapped in newspaper that he plans to have mounted.  I’ve also stumbled across chicks, mice, big game capes, random fish parts and internal organs of various flavors.

I bet wives of accountants never have these problems. 🙂

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

 

 

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.

nature, Uncategorized, writing

Too Far Gone?

 

A few days ago, a friend shared a post from America’s Funniest Home Videos via Facebook. The video showed a little girl “playing peek-a-boo” with a bear at a zoo.  It was a cute video.  The comments, however, were not so funny.

Many comments discussed how it wasn’t a cute video at all, because the bear actually wanted to eat the little girl.  There was also the usual hatred for zoos.  And then there were comments refuting the claims the bear was just trying to eat the little girl.

“Bears are vegetarians.  They don’t even eat meat.”

“Bears are friendly.  They don’t hurt people.”

Um, wait, WHAT??

Bears eat meat.  They are omnivores.  They are opportunistic and will always prefer the easiest method of getting a meal.  Bears will eat roots, tubers, nuts, seeds, berries and fruits.  They’ll also eat insects, moths,  fish, cattle, sheep, deer, elk, bison, sheep, moose, dog food, snowmobile seat covers and and just about anything else that smells yummy to them.  The leading “bear guy” at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department used to say that a bear can smell an animal carcass upwind from more than 15 miles away.  It is that sense of smell that leads them to campsites, cabins, campers and other homes with improper food storage.  But bears, at least all bears in North America, will eat meat.

Bears are not friendly.  Bears are wild animals.  They don’t want to be petted or scratched or loved on.  Yes, they can be playful.  But they are wild animals, not a dog or goat or horse that thrives on human interaction.  Polar bears, grizzly bears and black bears can and will attack, hurt and kill people.  Most black bear attacks are not fatal and they tend to be less aggressive than their white and brown conterparts, but they are still plenty dangerous.

To perpetuate the myth that they are “friendly” is dangerous for both humans and bears.  It is the attempts at “friendly interactions” that gets bears killed.  Baiting a bear into your yard with food so you can watch it feed is an invitation to trouble, and will almost always end up with the bear being euthanized because they have become people dependent.  A fed bear is a dead bear.

I really shouldn’t be surprised by the sheer ignorance of people when it comes to wild animals and spaces and our encounters with them.  Bison in SUVs.  A man dying in a Yellowstone hot spring.  A lady run over by an elk.  A toddler getting drug into the water and drowned by an alligator.  Society has been building to this for the last 160 or more years.  The Industrial Revolution saw the invention of machines that  changed a way of life as well as methods of manufacture. New jobs became available in the cities, working in factories and mills.  People left the farms and the country for prosperity in the cities.  And the exodus has continued to this day.

Today, less than 2 percent of people in the United States are directly involved in production agriculture.  About 4.2 percent of the population are hunters.  Thirty-eight million folks are hikers and backpackers, accounting for about 11 percent of our population.  Bird-watchers, anglers, mountain bikers and wildlife lovers account for another few million.  But in the scope of our country’s population, those actively engaged in and knowledgeable about outdoor pursuits are few and far between.

What does this all mean?  It means that there are an awful lot of folks out there who have no connection to the land or her furred and feathered and scaly residents. None.  No favorite fishing hole or hiking trail.  No favorite mountain ride or wildlife viewing area.  Their habitat is concrete and asphalt and the only wildlife they see are squirrels and pigeons in man-made parks.  They grow up learning how to navigate a subway or read the bus schedule instead of learning how to cross streams or navigate a trail.

Kids are spending less and less time just simply being outdoors.  Schools are cutting back on recess and field trips in the name of meeting standards.  Kids are bused to school instead of walking or riding their bikes.  And they are spending more time in front of screens than ever before, which means they are spending less time active and outside.  And when they do get outside, it is more often than not in a structured environment like competitive sports.

And we’ve delegated responsibility for our own safety to others.  The government.  A facility. Park rangers.  Everyone else should be looking out for me, so I don’t have to, right?

Is it any wonder, then, that we are seeing these behaviors?  All over social media, I see people leaving comments like “bears are friendly.” When it comes to folks interacting with nature or wildlife, sadly, I don’t believe they know any better.  Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is a very real phenomena.  Millions of Americans simply don’t get nature because they haven’t experienced it in any real or meaningful way.  The same can be said for folks from other countries.

It’s the same problem agriculture faces in many respects.  People are so far removed from the production of their own food that they don’t even know the difference between pork and beef.  How can we expect to have meaningful discussions with each other on food safety and stability when some of those involved in the discussion just don’t understand the realities of growing food on a larger scale?  So it goes with people understanding and respecting the natural world.  How can people comprehend the danger of an elk when 30 minutes ago they didn’t even know what an elk was?

It would be easy to laugh off these naive and foolish comments and actions.  Except they so often lead to tragedy either for the animals or the people   The risks of this displacement from the land go beyond the individual tourist harming himself or committing localized environmental damage.   There are some tremendous sociological and environmental risks as well.

The disconnect means there is an ever-growing number of folks who don’t appreciate wild spaces and wild places.  They don’t value elbow room or wildlife diversity.  They don’t give a hoot about hunting and fishing opportunity.  They place no importance on green space, roadless areas or backcountry regulations.  They simply don’t care.

When a growing populace no longer cares about these resources, we start to see problems. People getting mauled by bison or falling into hot springs are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  A growing body of evidence shows that losing our connection with the natural world has contributed to stress, obesity, attention disorders, other diseases and overall poor health.  There are also risks to the environment too.  Land is lost to development, wildlife are displaced or extirpated.  Our water, air and soil is compromised.

I don’t know how to make the world care more about our environment and the wonder of the natural world around us.  But we could all benefit from some more green in our lives, and I’m not talking money.  Research has shown the following:

  • Living in or near open space can enhance human function and well-being.
  • Experiencing nature in many different forms can help recovery from illness and improve our overall health and well-being.
  • Contact with nature can enhance intellectual performance and problem-solving abilities.
  • Work environments with natural light and ventilation improves worker stress, performance and satisfaction.

I’ve been greatly encouraged by the “eat local” movement, which has lead to growth in local farmers markets and community supported agriculture.  People are starting to pay more attention to what they put in their bodies and where it comes from.  And the “backyard chicken” concept is also a step in the right direction, as is the effort to teach things like archery in our schools.  I was also heartened to see the backlash facing the yahoos that walked in Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring.  It means there are a few folks out there who still love this earth and our natural wonders.

I just hope we aren’t already too far gone from our connections with nature that it loses its importance once and for all.

Teresa