Back in the Saddle

To say it's a trying time in this town is an understatement.  We are still in a massive flood zone...water everywhere and it's looking like it won't be leaving us anytime soon.  I find myself feeling guilty.  Guilty that my house is not flooded.  Guilty that my job is secure.  Guilty that my life gets to basically keep on a going.  Sure I have to boil water just like everyone else and weave my way around this traffic disaster, but those are small fries.  Really small fries.  I feel extremely guilty that while so many of my friends and extended family members' lives are completely torn into bits and pieces, mine is still stitched together without many changes.

That's why I haven't been sharing pictures and thoughts here lately.  It just doesn't feel right with this guilt that I have on my back.  But today, I decided that maybe if seeing some moments or reading a few words could bring a little bit of happy to someone then that could be what I'm supposed to do during this time.  Keep looking for the little things.  Keep finding happy in the everyday.

And I've said it before and I'll say it again, kids and horses are good for the soul.  So that seems like a good place to start.  It's easy to find happy when the smell of horse breath is in the air and the sound of kids laughing is ringing in the ears and the dimpled smiles of little people are visible to the eye.  Even if it's a kiss being pushed off.  Because I guess Easy Rider did not want me to sneak a kiss on his cheek when he was with me on Smokey.  He was not having it.   

Shortly after Easy Rider denied my kiss, I was walking across the yard on a mission to go and help Sister Pister put the horses we had just finished riding away so she could meet with the girls that were coming for some barrel and pole lessons.  But my mission was quickly cut short as I noticed that she had two littles following and copying her every move learning the ropes.  It's at times like that, when I'm crouched in the grass, looking through a lens that I think, "These are the seconds that make up the big stuff."  

My moment in the grass was cut short with Sister Pister yelling at me to get my rear in gear so she could jump on Gunner to head out to the arena.  While the kids and I finished putting tack away, we had a make silly faces contest.  Do you ever wonder where kids learn to make silly faces?  It's like they are born with knowing how to do a fish kissy face and a rockstar pose. 

And later that night, out in the arena with the sun starting to set, Little Man was tearing around trying to do everything in his little legs' power to get.to.the.horses.

I figure it won't be long before he is also in the mix with the pony Chief.  My heart skipped a beat when I saw Firecracker leading her brother around and it makes me wonder...what is a childhood like that doesn't involve horses?  They are such amazing teachers of so many of life's intricacies.

I say with certainty that horses do indeed teach lessons.  Lessons on caring.  Lessons on  loving.   Lessons on when to take the lead and when to follow.  Because I've seen that they have when I watch Sister Pister in action.  Sure, that night she was helping a couple of her friends with some tips for barrel racing and pole bending but there was something bigger going on as well.  It was a seventeen year old girl confident enough in something, something she has worked for her whole life, teaching and helping and giving.  Sharing her love with others.  Sharing her passion.  And it's important, life beat important, to be passionate.

So as nerdy and corny as it sounds, I feel like I'm back in the saddle.  Yes, I am still guilty and yes, I feel like I wish I could wipe away the pain from this town and the people I love.  But I know that I need to keep on doing what I do.  And I'm constantly ready to drop everything and help them and laugh with them and cry with them and just be with them at a moment's notice.

And one day we'll all look back at this time of heartbreak in this town as a life changing event, not only for the actual structure of the concrete, wood, streets, paths, bridges, walls, and roofs, but also for the people, the truly amazing and inspiring people who call this home.  I only hope that when we look back, we will realize that it was life changing in a positive way.  It's hard, if not impossible to see that right now, but maybe one day.  


500 Year Flood

Here's what I know... 

There is water up to the roofs of houses in our town. 

Downtown businesses now can boast indoor swimming pools, but they have to be closed and will remain that way for a very long time.  

Our schools have been drowned.

Many of my friends and extended family members are homeless in the sense they do not have their house walls around them, but they are not without love and support surrounding them and taking them in.  

I have never been prouder to be a North Dakotan and from here.  Because the way our town and the surrounding areas are handling this massive flooding disaster is out of this world.  Words I say can not even start to explain the togetherness, the work ethic, the never give up, the willingness to help...it's truly inspiring to witness in these awful circumstances.  

This is what they are referring to as a five hundred year flood.  It's that bad.  

Water is everywhere and water is a beast.  

The flood of 2011 will never, never be forgotten or erased from the memories, the hearts, the souls of the people.  

Here's what I don't know...

When will the water finally leave?  

How long will clean up take?

Are things ever going to be normal here again?  

Will my friends and extended family members have houses? 

What are we going to do about school this fall? 

Are people going to be permanently broken?

Are kids going to always be feeling displaced...like they are searching for home, for stability, for normalcy?  

What happens next? 



Saturday was pretty much a perfectly ordered birthday.  I might even go out on a limb and say that it was the best birthday ever.  Which is good because remember, this is going to be the best year ever.  The morning started bright and early with a ridiculous amount of messages, wishes, and all that jazz and they just kept going all day...definitely felt the love.  The day also started with a run in the sun.  Can I say that running in the sun is so very much better than running in the negative temperatures of winter.  Like so much better.  There's something about it shining on your face while your feet pound it out. 

Shortly after I finished running, I had a visitor {we'll just call him somebody} show up at my door.  With flowers.  I was sweaty and not showered and that just seems fitting for my life.  Somebody takes the time on his way out of town to bring me flowers for my birthday and I'm a hot mess.  

And I'm not the kind of girl that thinks flowers are a waste of money or that brushes off getting that kind of token.  I am, however, totally the kind of girl that gets happy about them and smells them everytime I walk by and thinks they are pretty. 

Now, it's no secret that reading is a staple in my day.  I need words.  Words need me.  We have that kind of love relationship going on.  So to be able to sit in the hot sun reading that afternoon was my gift from the weather man.  I just know it. 

Then, I had a fabulous dinner out with my family.  It ended up including my cousin and her fiancĂ© as well which made it even better.  Although, it also meant that more bottles of wine were ordered and even Momma Debi was a bit tipsy by the time we left three hours later. 

The place we went to is also an art gallery which not only makes for great atmosphere, but great entertainment too.  I'm not sure how it started, but when we were leaving, Momma Debi was giving Joey lessons on how to make that contraption make noise.  She kept saying, "It takes patience."  And we all kept laughing.  Momma Debi is funny all the time, but Momma D. with some wine is straight up hilarious. 

I blame the wine for these.  Because really, I think taking pictures of how old you are in a parking lot should be left up to kids under the age of 11.  At least I will now have a way to forever remember that I turned 28.  I'll leave out the part that I tried to make the 8 part with one hand.  Sister Pister had to point out to me that I would have to hold up a 2 and then use both of my hands to make an 8.  Yeah, I'll leave that part out.  

To cap off the evening, I met friends out and we ran around and told stories and I laughed until my sides hurt.  It was a perfect birthday day and night.  I felt blessed and loved.  Last year on my birthday, I had Mono and was the sickest I have ever been.  This year kicked last year's butt. 

Just when you think I'm done.  I'm not.  Because here's the best part.  I had a two day birthday.  Yesterday, we got together at the farm to celebrate Dad-o and Brother being fathers and we threw my birthday in there too.  Right when I got to the farm, I jumped on the big trampoline with Firecracker.  I forgot how fun it is to jump on one of those!  You should really do it sometime soon.  Then, of course, it started to rain so the rest of the evening was spent inside wishing we were outside. 

A fire was on the agenda, but rain wrecked those plans.  Here is where I insert once again that Momma Debi never ceases to amaze me because she whipped out an indoor s'mores maker and all was right in the world. 

Like I said, this year's birthday kicked last year's birthday's butt.  Totally.     


Looking Back

Maybe it's because I'm older now.  Maybe it's because it's Father's Day.  Maybe it's because although I'm not a crier, I am sappy.  Maybe it's because I had the perfect birthday...a day of feeling loved and celebrated.  Maybe it's because I have a great Dad and had amazing Grandpas.  I'm not sure why it is, but I feel nostalgic this morning.  

Having a bit of a catch my breath as I look back at pictures and know that even before I could have ever been aware of it, I was wrapped in love by three strong on the outside, but mushy on the inside men.  

A hard working young farmer with his brand new daughter.  I wonder if he knew then that he would teach me how to set goals, work hard, and achieve.  And I wonder if he knew that I would cause him some strife along the way because of my stubborn ways, but that I would always love him because he's the reason I am so strong.  
A young dad with a farmer's tan, tired after no doubt putting in a long day working hard, but still taking a moment in the evening with his freshly bathed kids.  One snuggled tightly in the crook of his arm sleeping without a care in the world and one with a mischievous grin not really sleeping but wanting to try to be just like his dad. 

A Grandpa Elmer with a feather in his hat, his shirt unbuttoned how it always was, and his sideburns in their signature style having a quiet moment during a family get together with his newest granddaughter.  I wonder what he was thinking as he looked down at me holding my feet gently with his leathered hands.  Could he tell that I would love to have a good time as much as he did and would share in his story telling art? 

A Grandpa Norman with his clothes dirty from a day of working on the farm visiting with his first granddaughter before supper.  Did he know then that I would always love the feel of his whiskered and wrinkled face when he hugged me every single time he saw me asking without fail, "How's grandpa's little girl?"  And did he know that I would always appreciate him being one my biggest fans?      

I'm one of the lucky ones.  A girl who has always had a dad in her life, pushing her and teaching her and loving her even when she was an unruly, head strong teenager who thought she knew everything about everything.  I'm one of the lucky ones.  A girl who had grandpas who loved their families, setting the example, and whose greatest joys were spoiling their grandkids. 

Maybe it's that I am finally at the point in my life where I realize just how great of a family I come from.   

I'm not sure why it is.  But I know that on this Father's Day, I want my dad to have a very happy day and thank him for putting up with me.  And I want to throw up a message of I wish I could hug and smush your faces to both of my grandpas.  

Because I'm one of the lucky ones.  


Another Year

"So how's it feel to be celebrating the 7th anniversary of your 21st birthday?"

Best birthday message so far.  Because it's clever.  And I like clever.  Also because I received it way early this morning and I like to kick off the day early so that made it even better. 

Yes, it's my 28th birthday today.  Here I sit with sweat literally running down my nose because the SUN is out and I kicked off my day with a run.  Just having the sun shining feels like a birthday gift wrapped in a pretty ribbon.  Maybe I should feel like oh no, I'm another year older and now I'll just have more wrinkles and the gray hair will start sometime...but really what I feel like is, this is going to be the best freaking year ever and I'm happy to be 28 because I've figured some things out and...

HOLD ON.  Right in the middle of typing that sentence I received a phone call with my niece and nephews singing the Happy Birthday song to me.  That's a best birthday message too!  I can just picture their dimpled cheeks smiling away.   

Alright, back to what I was saying.  I'm quite alright with turning another year older.  Because I really do think we get better with age.  Less fearful.  More comfortable with who we are.  Wiser.  Stronger.  Just better.  

So bring on the 7th anniversary of my 21st birthday!  I can't wait to see what the year has in store for me.  

Sister Pister turned the camera on me the other night after her quick "cute outfit" photo session.  I quickly discovered I do indeed belong behind the camera and she does a much better job in front of the camera than I.  Because this is mostly what she got.  Don't let the two from above fool you.  I do love that she is learning how to use my camera though because sometimes it's nice to have evidence that I am indeed a part of the memories I capture. 

 28.  Best freaking year ever.  I just know it.   


Coupons, Dirt, and Other Random Love

Welcome to a rendition of random. 

For real, I am not becoming an extreme couponer.  That was a joke.  But, I have started using coupons when they make sense for an item I need and use.  I have also started saving the little stamps that The Market Basket gives out.  Collect so many to lick and stick on a card and then voila, each card equals one dollar off your next gas purchase.  Sometimes they have deals on food too, but I have noticed they usually place the coupons on processed not real boxed food which I tend to steer clear from.  So I use these cards for gas.  Well actually I haven't really used them yet because I find it oddly satisfying to have a stack of them all clipped up with a cute clip.  Plus the deep down nerd that lives in me thinks it might be fun to save up enough to make a whole gas purchase FREE.  Wouldn't that be worth a donkey kick?! 

Like I said, I steer clear from most processed foods.  Remember my mantra is -- if it came from the ground or had a mother, I'll eat it.  BUT.  Last Saturday when I was at the farm, Momma Debi had these crackers out and I actually could read all of the ingredients on the box and they are yummy.  So I had some that day and then I told her I was taking the rest home.  They are scrumptious with cottage cheese or really any kind of cheese.  Although, the men in my family did not like them.  So know they are probably a girly cracker.  

The reason I was at the farm last Saturday was to plant garden.  And weed the strawberry bed.  That was first on the agenda.  It surprises me I haven't done this whole gardening thing before because it is right up my alley to pick all of those pesky weeds out of where they do not belong to end up with something all neat and clean.  Very satisfying to my inners. 

The garden is officially planted and let's hope it doesn't drown before it has a chance to shine.  I'll say it again that I'm surprised I haven't done this whole gardening thing before because being outside and having dirt under my fingernails is my idea of a pretty fabulous Saturday afternoon.  My parents have always been gardeners and my grandparents were gardeners and now I'm a gardener.  Full circle.   

Momma D. was schooling me in garden know how.  For instance, place a coffee can around the plants for two reasons: one, it keeps the cut worms out and two, it helps the water and fertilizer stay right by the plant to soak in instead of spreading out.  But coffee doesn't come in cans anymore.  Now it comes in plastic.  Momma Debi has held on to those old Folger's cans like they are gold and I rather enjoy their vintage look. 

I only hope that I will like the picking, cleaning, canning, freezing aspects of the garden as much as I like the dirt.  

There has been an over abundance of not sunny days this summer.  Otherwise known as rainy days.  On those rainy days, I feverishly attacked all cupboards, closets, drawers, corners, ledges, niches, shelves in my house.  And I made my way through them all.  I'm completely organized up.  Everything in its place without any rif-raf hanging around.  

In doing all of that organizing, I came to the realization that I want to spruce up my office a bit.  Make it more inspiring and less -here lives a desk, a chair, and a computer.  I found this piece of paper when I was cleaning out my clothes closet.  Apparently this spoke to me at one time because I've held on to it.  So, I'm thinking something along these lines for my office.  Cheap and easy with using items I already have lying around.  I can just picture all my fun office supplies that have been collected over the years sorted into jars.   

Yesterday, I met Sister Pister at Hobby Lobby to help her start a project and I ran across these baskets on clearance for the price that you can find in loose change in your couch.  These have already found a home in my office.  Jars and baskets.  Check YES.  

Last night, amidst three little girls playing dress up and running through the grass, a bonfire crackling, a more than adorable baby being passed around and snuggled, nineties country music playing, wine glasses clinking, friends visiting, and the sun setting, I had a moment of - When did we get to this goodness?  It was an evening that was a poster for this is what you finally get to after high school drama and college studying and job hunting and grad school writing.  You get to the good stuff.  The summer evenings of carefree.  

Wine was the drink of choice last night and we all know I am a marketer's dream.  All about the labels and packaging and pretty.  I ran across this when I was buying wine and have no idea if it tastes good but I loved the look of it.  

Maybe I should be in marketing because it's the little details that I notice like the old school bike on the cap and the color combination of orange with red and the saying "follow your folly."  I sure hope it tastes as good as it looks and isn't like when you were a kid and you dumped the cereal out to get the toy at the bottom only to realize it was the size of your thumb nail and didn't really talk on its own.   

Coupons, playing in the dirt, organizing scarves, cute jars and baskets, summer drinks...

My life makes so much sense.  



Horse Chiropractor and a Cute Outfit

I'm not taking my sister's senior pictures.  I'm not taking them because I want her to have the experience of actually going to someone and doing the whole photo shoot thing.  And because really, I have been taking pictures of her since she was born so it seems she should have the chance to go to someone besides her sister for the big moment.  

But that didn't stop me from grabbing my camera when we stopped back at my house to kill time in between dinner and the movie on our sister date.  She, of course, had a cute outfit on and her hair done in a...well, I'm not actually sure what it was.  It wasn't a braid and it wasn't a twist.  It was a something.  And it was fun.   

I still can't believe that Sister Pister is heading into her last year of high school.  It seems like just yesterday she was sitting in her mini fold up lawn chair out in the field during harvest trying to cut up her ham like us big kids.  She swore like a sailor at the ham on her plate that night.  My mom was real impressed.  The rest of us couldn't help but laugh at the little three year old with the crazy fly away brown hair wearing a mismatched sweat pant outfit with moccasins on her feet.  

Yes, it seems like just yesterday.  But now instead of her being the little one who was always up to some kind of imaginative game like wearing socks on her hands being a "vet doctor" or turning old  mattress springs into jumping shoes, she is meeting me for dinner and we talk about real life.  

We have always been close, but now I feel like our relationship is evening out.  More like we are on the same plane in life.  Which makes our closeness different, it's turning into a real friendship instead of big sister and little sister.  

She has always beat to the rhythm of her own drummer that is for sure.  I only hope that as she heads into a major transition time in her life that she will keep her confidence and her willingness to simply go for it.  

I'm pretty sure she will.  She will keep living full and keep pushing herself and keep being funny and keep being independent.  Because when I went with her earlier that afternoon to take her horse to the chiropractor, she drove the trailer and took care of locating the place.  Then, she went in and found the guy and walked right up to him and stuck her hand out and introduced herself.  She also introduced her horse.  I think she forgets he is not a human.  Anyway, I purposefully stood back.  Watching her finesse her way around a business situation with ease and humor.  Before ten minutes had passed, she had the horse chiropractor laughing and giving her life advice.  He was wrapped around her little finger.  I thought to myself, "She's going to be fine in life.  Just fine."

I'm thankful that no matter where either of us are or what we are going through, we will always have each other to laugh with and be ridiculous with and solve the worlds problems with.

One self timer photo session at a time.   

Sisters.  There is something special about them.  I love mine.