Grace.

I love watching Grace run. Her ears flip a little and she looks almost like she is hopping.

Grace is my Chocolate Labrador. To be breed specific she’s a Silver Factored Chocolate Labrador and she is the happiest dog I have ever met. No really she is.

Oh but she’s a lab you say, they are always happy. No some labs are busy. They are smart and always thinking. My first lab was named Grizzly. He wasn’t mine. He just came with the man I was dating and then married. Griz was my first ever Chocolate Labrador. He was a true Gun dog. He was a duck hunter and he was a water dog. Griz could learn any trick you taught him within minutes. He was smart. But because he was smart he also was easily bored. He also didn’t like to be left alone, he would show his displeasure by chewing up pages of books. Not the whole book. Just enough to be annoying and to let you know. He also once saved a kitten from drowning. He was something special. He was also my cat Oreo best friend, but their story is for another time.

Today is a about Grace and my journey to her.

After Griz, we got this furry, big headed Chocolate Labrador named Tiber. He was a big puppy who loved water and food. He was also joyful. He was funny in his own way and stubborn too.Tiber didn’t like to learn but he loved the results. Tiber taught himself to open gates and would take himself, and my Rottweiler, Rion, for a walk. They ended up in Dog Jail that way. Tiber also loved to sleep in the bed with me and would eat chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven.

Tiber was alive when we had our daughter, and I cannot express what an amazing and patient dog he was to that little girl. He would stand in a kiddie pool all day and wear the necklace with pride.

I want to tell you about Rion too, I do. She is so special to me that I can’t talk about her without crying. So that story about her will have to wait for another day.

I’m crying now just thinking about Tiber and Rion. They were like Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. Best friends. I got my first ever Rottie from my father in law. She was 5 months old, same age as Tiber, and she was a freaking disaster. Rion had all the issues of an abused puppy. She didn’t trust humans, so I did what I do. I immersed her in life. Rion just didn’t understand love because she didn’t experience it. She became the most friendly, out going dog. She was my fiercest protector and she was so goofy. Her personality was just a big goof ball. She loved to play with everyone and she guided Tiber through any situation. I miss her terribly.

They both taught me so much. Two huge dogs made a lot of my trials and stressful situations at the time a lot easier. I was never alone when I had them.

After they passed away, it was 5 years until I thought I needed a dog in my life. So I went on search for a Labrador. I don’t know why really. I always thought I would get a Rottweiler, but I couldn’t. My heart wasn’t in it. I found a breeder in Montana that would ship to me living in Northern California. I was on the list to get a male Chocolate Labrador but it wasn’t meant to be. Her Female silver factored bred instead so I was offered a female from that litter.

On a chilly day in December I loaded up my daughter and drove to the airport to pick up a puppy. I still remember that Grace was wagging her tail and happy even in a crate. Just happy. We took her home and I thought I would never survive her puppy stage. Grace loved to sleep alone in her crate, which was odd for me after Tiber and Rion always next to me. But Grace wasn’t a snuggler. Then. However, now she can’t wait to put her head on your lap. Grace is the most overly enthusiastic fetcher and she constantly has to have a stuffed animal of some kind in her mouth. It’s the only thing that calms her down. I swear she can’t see but fling food in her direction she will ninja it out of the air. Grace barks at everything and everyone. Dogs and people. Running and barking up to people. It’s embarrassing because as soon as she gets to them, she sits and wiggles all over. She really is all bark. She’s super good with other dogs. I have only watched her go at it with my parents’ dog, Lucy. A kelpie. Even then it was over food and they looked more like two girls slapping each other.

Yes, Grace is a foodie. She waits unashamed for food to be tossed her way. She is best plate cleaner we have.

Grace is pure happiness. She loves green grass and will roll and roll in our yard. She loves to go with my dad and Lucy in the pick up. So much so, if he comes by and she gets in he can’t get her out. She will just sit in stare straight ahead and pretend she can’t hear. I have lost her more than once when she hears his diesel. Grace will just bolt down the street after him.

I am also lucky that she knows where my parents live and it’s the only place she goes when we go out the front door or the back gate gets left ajar.

We also added Jax the Chihuahua to the family when I met Craig. Jax is the sucker fish in our relationship. No, I didn’t know we needed a little dog who has so much anxiety and a capacity to love. He has become more mine than Craig’s.

And Grace just makes me happy. I just love her.

Ya know?

I am.

I am strong, wise and courageous. Happiness is my birth right.

I have that reminder set to pop up on my phone once a week. Some days I hit okay and don’t bother to read it; but this last month has caused me to pause. I now read my daily intentions with intention. I repeat them and breathe them in.

This is an odd and uncertain time, and I think we are all a little stunned it’s taken so long. We are Americans after all; and we live to tell you how we stopped and over came whatever is thrown our way.

Can I tell you a secret? I am loving the slow pace. Our little family eats dinner together regularly, but now we are better at game night and checking in with each other and how we are all doing mentally. My kid is at home working on the home school part of it and I think that’s a little overwhelming because her day dream sensor is off. She doesn’t realize that just because she can’t focus at home doesn’t mean she spent the whole day focusing at school. So teaching her to give her some self breaks and look outside and GO outside is also incorporated into our home life. However, she did pick up the hobby of sewing. That sewing machine my mom got me 7 years ago is finally getting put to use.

She is also getting some much needed driving lessons.

We have our deep dish pizza to build and that has made us feel we are contributing to our community in some small way.
I could be cleaning out the garage, of course, and organizing. And maybe I will get to that because it has made me realize I don’t need or use half of the things I own. That takes motivation to go through every box and some days my need to nap interferes with it all.

There is so much stress and worry right now. I have turned off the news and stopped looking at all the information because I think I have enough right now. I wash my hands more than I have in my whole life and I am also very acutely aware how much I touch my face.

I have a pile of books I have put off reading that I am now digging through. I have shows that I can watch at my own pace.

BUT I also have chores. No I don’t. I just get the call of we are checking cows. My dad has entrusted my sister and I with the evening check. I think mostly because, let’s face it, cows tend to behave themselves from the hours of 4 pm-7 pm. It’s the night shift where things tend to go side ways. So my sister and I load up in the side by side (which we have recently learned to check the gas gauge. Is one dash enough to get use to the back end of the calving pasture and back? Yes. It went up to two dashes on a down hill slide, so who really knows. We live life on the edge.) We bounce around and interrupt the cows trek up the path, make our three year old heifers nervous, and we laugh at all the calves that are showing off their new pair of legs. We also get the sage advice of a 7 year old which mostly consists of “I told you.”

While we all get into our new routine and keep washing our hands,cleaning every surface; remember to take the time to slow your mind from wondering into the unknown and to make your to do list.

I am still working on mine.

Stay safe out there.

Birthday.

Today is Craig’s birthday, so happy birthday love.

He would say he doesn’t like the attention. He does love it just a little though. Public acknowledgement of him is his love language.  Along with gifts and love. He’s a Pisces and a middle child, so he rides the fringe of being extra. In the best ways though, says this oldest child and a Scorpio.

We have been together two years or is it three? Or has it been a century? I really can’t tell on the days that end in y or on the days that end with “this mother effer….” I know that makes me seem heartless but it actually makes me the most truthful.

Because our love is imperfect and hard and it drives me absolutely crazy. Or I drive him crazy. What’s the day?

Yeah, it depends on the day.

We are really good together. We work well with each other when he’s not being bossy and I’m not being moody. He handles those swings pretty well.

Thankfully.

We met because it wasn’t convenient or easy. We dated long distance for over a year. Why? Because we were testing boundaries and really sick of everyone’s bullshit. He kept pushing for more and I hate change ( oldest child remember?).

To this day he pushes me out of my comfort zone. Deep dish pizza start up anyone?

We adult together, we parent pretty well together and we try very hard to get out of our own way. He’s funny, smart and a leader. And he’s extra. But he’s who I chose and I choose every day; even on days that end in y.

Happy Birthday. I hope the carrot cake I’m slaving over tastes as good it looks.

 I hope all your wishes you make when you blow out your candles come true. You deserve all the good things. Cheers to another amazing trip around the sun.

Onward.

My knees hit the floor and I prayed for him to love me. I prayed to be good enough for him. I prayed and I prayed and the door closed. I cried and cried.

Her knees hit the floor and she sat and cried and asked why she wasn’t good enough for him? Why didn’t he love her enough?

This time I knew the answer because it was the answer that was given to me.
“Sis it isn’t you. You are good enough. You are amazing. You are worth loving. When we put our expectations on someone to do it for us; we will be let down every time.”

That one simple click of the door closing on me opened a window, a hallway, a doorway and a whole new house. Now I don’t even attempt to open the door that wasn’t meant for me and was meant to be closed.

Isn’t that somethin’? When we get that message. Man, sometimes it takes me two or three tries before I realize that wasn’t meant for me. You see, I am a people pleaser and a helper. I want to help.  I want to make it better and I want everyone to smile and laugh with me. I want us all to be friends and bake bread.

I can also be a badger. I never really want to let go.

“Why did you stop talking to me?” I was asked by someone who had been my friend off and on for years.

That was a little difficult for me to answer. It wasn’t as simple as you hurt me and it was as simple as you hurt me.

I answered as honestly as I could, ” I wasn’t in a healthy space and didn’t feel good with myself let alone to be a good friend, so I just backed away. I apologize and going forward let’s make an effort to be better friends.”

I decided that this relationship had become one sided and it  was now in her court. If she missed me and wanted to continue to build a friendship going forward; she would call. God and the universe had spoken already on this friendship and they collective had sighed and ran their hands down their faces. This wasn’t a friendship based on love and mutual respect. Each interaction had made me walk away wondering why I wasn’t good enough? Why didn’t she love me like I loved her? I had given her chances. I felt I had tried all I could and the try had ran out. So with a final nail in the door; I walked away knowing I may have not been a good friend all the time but I had tried each time.

Why do we fight so hard to keep a door open? What is it in the human spirit that won’t simply grieve for the ending and say thank you? I wish I knew the answer. I wish I could let go of some things and some relationships as easily as I have with others.

I have learned enough to say I am a lot better about it. I still have to go through the motions of asking why I let someone have that illusion of power over me and what I could have done differently. When I feel that obsession;  I know it’s time to close the door. I realize that if I have done everything I can do (and sometimes that’s get out of my own way) that it is time to wish them the best and send them on their way.

I remember the day I finally got it. The day I finally understood that happiness was an inside project. It is something that only I can create and choose every single day. I can choose to focus on the relationships that are willing to open the door, pick up the phone and do the work it takes  going forward. None of it easy. Some days are banging on a dark door in even darker hallway and asking God to open it; and when He doesn’t remember to say thank you for keeping it closed. There are friendships and relationships out there just waiting for you to stop banging on the closed door in the dark hallway and walk into sunshine to an open door only to greet you with a fresh glass of something good.

Growth.

Growth

While we’ve all heard of it. Everyone perceives it differently. So, here’s my take on it.


Growth comes from stepping outside of your comfort zone. It will put  you at ease and   test your limits. While I say all of this, here is how I’ve grown to be the person I am, and how I’m continuing to grow; because let’s just be honest, the world is ever changing so you need to change with it. Being happy within yourself is the biggest step and while it doesn’t happen overnight, you can’t let people stopping you from achieving that.

I came from a small town, where there was the same amount of bars as there are churches. Now I’m not saying it’s a bad place, but for someone in my shoes, you run into people that just don’t seem to see anything but black and white.

I’m transgender. I am truthful about it  now with it being 2020. It’s a little more known than it truly was 7 years ago, it is still is looked down upon from some.

Now here is where the growth comes in. I never once let someone get to me that I didn’t think this is who I was, don’t get me wrong, I had a hell of a time throughout the last year of my high school and even the years after; with family and some friends not accepting at the time. They’ve come around and  I never let it come between my goal: happiness.

I moved out of my hometown, made a life I never thought possible for myself and did things I thought would never happen. In all that time, I fell in love. I mean, head over heels, nothing else mattered in love. Here’s where changing for your growth happens, that all came crashing down. I thought the world was ending. Sure, I’m a young kid, first major heartbreak, it’s expected. What I’ve learned from it is, I’m a better person than I thought, and that no matter what; life keeps moving on. The sun always rises and it’s always a good day. I’m alive and breathing. Growt comes in many forms. I’m happier than I have ever been. I’ve made steps in my life that I never thought would happen. And I continue everyday to work on myself and to grow.

As it should be.


Thank you for your time. -Ashton.

 

Forward.

When your life is over…. Or so you think

 

I remember my son’s first birthday for so many reasons. My firstborn was 1 year old, and it was amazing to watch him grow and celebrate so many milestones. I made him a cake that had several different cars on it, all hand decorated (terribly, but it’s the thought, right?) his favorite gift was a play guitar, and his hair was so long. He wore a green button-down shirt and we celebrated with friends in the basement of the library.

Its the day I first met my stepdaughter. My boyfriend brought her to the party so we could meet. I had only been seeing him for about 2 months, but I wanted to meet his girl. I wanted to make sure she knew who I was and become friends with Levi. I wanted a full family, not him going for visits a few times a week and not involving the rest of us. Levi’s bio dad was never in the picture, and by this point he had passed away, so I was ready to start a real family.

Our family was far from perfect, but it was mine and I loved it. We married in 2013 and decided to expand, and in 2014 we announced we were welcoming a baby, after a year of trying to conceive. After 12 weeks of excitement, I miscarried and lost my baby. It was a horrible time in our life. I write my own post every year to remember my baby, one of the ways I make sure she knows I’ll always remember her.

In 2015 I was again blessed with 2 pink lines, and in October we welcomed my little Remi. She and Levi were my whole world, and I thought things were going to be perfect.

However, my ex is a felon, and so even though our homelife was calm, outside of our house was always a fight. It was draining always trying to help him fight battles that had nothing to do with me, but I tried to be a good, supportive wife and support him in all things. Then, I met my husband’s best friend’s fiancé. She and I became fast friends and became as close as sisters. We traveled together, our kids became friends, and we were the perfect foursome- we had game nights and BBQs, all the things I had always wanted. That is, until her fiancé started accusing my husband and her of having an affair. At this same time, I was going to doctors to try to find our why I was in constant pain and bleeding for months on end, and the diagnosis came back as endometriosis and adenomyosis. Test after test after test, and I was told that while I could probably get pregnant, I probably didn’t have a high chance of a successful pregnancy, due to my body constantly shedding tissue. If I wanted more children, I needed to do it soon. After talking to my husband and my friend, they both told me how stupid I was for considering having more children. What about my 2 kids already?! What would happen to them if I was stupid enough to get pregnant and miscarried and ended up with more issues?! Plus, my husband didn’t want more kids, what was I thinking?! Looking back, I know how stupid I was to let them push me towards it, but I scheduled a tubal ligation and made a permanent move. At the same time, my husband was disappearing for hours on end, was constantly being seen at her apartment, and becoming more and more verbally abusive by the day. On our 5-year anniversary, he told me he was in love with my best friend. On the anniversary of the day we announced the pregnancy for the baby we lost, he texted me at work to tell me he got her pregnant.

I lost my mind.

Like, completely lost it. I was at work and went out back and couldn’t even think through what I was hearing. He pushed me into getting a tubal and got her pregnant the same week I had it done.  I don’t remember a lot from that day, but I remember 2 people who held me together and got me through it- Tess and Jake.

Tess has always had my back, and I confide so much in her. I try to not overload her with all my drama, because she has her own shit to deal with without me piling on her, but I know she will always be there for me, and I love her dearly. So, she was the person I asked for as my world fell apart. She held me up and got me to stop blabbering like an idiot and helped me to calm down. But I absolutely was not expecting my coworker, Jake, to be as much help as he was. He got me through the day, and helped me move out of my broken home, and get back on my feet. 

He became my confidant and my friend and helped me through so many issues. He watched me celebrate and mourn my lost baby in October, watched me cry and have anxiety attacks over burnt potatoes at dinner, and allowed me to just heal from the trauma my marriage had brought me. He fit in with my kids as soon as he met them, and today he plays princess with my 4-year-old and talks gamer with my son. He makes decisions just for them, such as buying Levi a new X-box for his room, just because it was on sale and he thought he could use an X-box One along with his 360. He buys me makeup because he knows I like to play with it and try new things, and never makes fun of me for using it. I went from being accused for being a whore if I wore heels, to getting magnetic eyelashes just because I wanted to try them, or the Game of Thrones makeup palette for my birthday, because I jokingly told him once I needed it. 

At Christmas he got his daughter for a week, and I was going to leave him alone so he could enjoy his time with her… But then my heat went out in my rental. I had some space heaters, but it never got above 58 degrees in my house, and my electricity was shut off because the electrician was afraid the old heating system would create carbon monoxide. He insisted I get my kids and my own butt up to Circle, I was staying there while it got sorted. 

That’s how I met my 2nd bonus kid. Remi was in hog heaven, having another girl to play with, and over the past 1 ½ years, they have grown very close. My son dutifully plays with them when she comes to visit, and they all get along very well. 

Our lives have continued to grow together, but I was always so sad that my separation led to me losing my first bonus daughter. But one day, I received a text from her mother, saying that her kiddo missed us and wanted to talk to us. We now speak on the phone about once a week, and I have been able to see her twice (she lives 5 hours away) and catch up with her. I get updates and pictures from her mom, and even though it isn’t as much visitation as I was used to, it fills that void that was left when I thought I’d never see her again.  

My 9 year old son was invited to join a class that taught skills to deal with stress and anxiety, my 4 year old daughter has her “Daddy Jake” doting on her and spoiling her rotten, and I’m surrounded by those I know are loyal.

So, what is the purpose of this long-winded oversharing session I’ve been on? Two years ago, I thought I’d never get over the trauma I was living in. I was so stressed out I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I was in a very bad place. Today, I’m happier than I even knew was possible. I’m thriving and healing. Friday, I get to go to court and officially end my marriage to a man who created a living hell for me, and while I will always have scars from that relationship, I’m learning how to rise from the ashes and become a whole person again. 

You may feel like your life is over, that your happiness is dead, and you can’t escape the walls from the grief you are living in, but you are wrong. Fate, or God, or whatever higher being you believe in, knows what path your life needs to take. I can never conceive naturally again, but I have been blessed with 2 babes I can hold in my arms, 2 bonus daughters to keep me on my toes, and a baby that will forever be in my heart. I have a man who loves me and all my flaws, who laughs at my stupid puns, and lets me watch the Kardashians, and spend 2 hours playing with new makeup without making fun of me. I’m allowed to go buy a gallon of milk without my children in tow, because they are allowed to be alone with him! I’m allowed to do all the stupid things I like to do, without fear of anger, or being told I’m not acting like who I’m supposed to be. I have friends- not many- but a few really really good friends who I know will always have my back, and who I don’t have to worry about sleeping with my husband (if I could insert the hand on the hip emoji right here, I would)…I’m told every day that I’m beautiful, no matter how awful I actually look, and for the first time in my adult life, feel safe and secure every night.

Looking back, I can’t believe I spent so much time trying to save a marriage to a man who never fully loved me. I can’t believe I thought that life would be better for my kids than what I have now. Our lives are not set, nothing is promised, and sometimes we have to learn to let go and let God. Being afraid to move on caused so many more months of pain, but sometimes it takes some really stupid decisions to learn from your mistakes.

Learning to live without regrets, to gain knowledge from our stupidity, and learning to heal and allow ourselves to find happiness are some big struggles, but I’ve learned to lean on my tribe, face each day, and realized happiness is worth it. 

So, here is to each of you who have held on to something too long out of fear, or who has made a fucked-up decision based on your inability to see where your life is headed. You are human, you are growing, and life will move on. 

You just have to trust in your own strength.

East.

Don’t pass on the Ginger.

“Are you going to get to see your kids today, Is she going to let you” this text will always be ingrained in my mind. That single text meant my marriage was over. 14 years gone right in that second. A text I was never supposed to see, but I did. I was heart broken. Was I perfect in my marriage? No. Did I make mistakes? Yes we all do. I felt hopeless. I went through every single emotion. What was I going to do? Who was ever going to love me? How does a 30 something woman even date?  Do I feed him and water him? Are they house broke?

At that moment I went into auto pilot. I made sure my kids were okay. What did they need and how can I make this transition easiest for them. My kids were my number one priority. I wanted to make sure they were happy and thriving in life. Needless to say I faked it until I made it.

I was on auto pilot for quite some time.

I will never forget the day I was driving back to Montana from Kansas. I had just spent a week with my family It was a trip I needed, I needed to sit on the couch with my dad and remember exactly who I was, where I came from and find who I truly was again. Because I had lost myself. I lost myself being a wife and a mother. Making sure everyone was taken care of, everyone but myself. I had the radio cranked just cruising along and a song came on. It was “She’s Gonna Make It” by Garth Brooks. I truly listened to the words that day and sang along and I cried, not just tears but full on bawling like a baby. Something clicked. I was going to make it.  At that moment it all made sense. I could handle what life threw at me. I was going to make it.

Then one day this Ginger walked into my life. One I wasn’t to sure of. One who seems to always be up for a good time, not serious, a playboy you could say; y the true definition of a roughneck.  Ah the roughneck. The type I had sworn off of my whole life right along with bull riders and dirty bikers. They just weren’t for me.  They were fun to look at; not the dating type. I decided to give him a chance. I agreed to go have a drink with him.

So on a Thursday night at the end of October we met up at Outback. It was close to his hotel and I was pressed for time. I only had a few hours to kill while the kids were at a youth group event, so we met up for a beer. Little did I know those two beers would change my life.

Change my life for the best adventure yet. It was like two old friends getting together after a few years of being apart. We laughed, we told stories,  and it was amazing.  It was calm and relaxing. We were comfortable. Not once did the conversation lag, no uncomfortable silence just smooth and natural. After we finished our beers, we said our goodbyes with a hug.

I thought to myself, “I am never going to hear from him again, it was to easy.”

The next day he texted. We talked a little here and there but nothing too exciting. I still wasn’t getting my hopes up. I knew he was going back to work on Tuesday so he would be busy.  I just took it all in stride.

Monday night rolled around  and he was driving to the rig. He asked if he could call me and  I thought “sure why the hell not, not like I have anything going on”.

That night we were on the phone for hours. I am not a phone talker. I say my piece and then I’m done, so for  me to talk on the phone for hours with one person still blows my mind. This not only happened Monday night but for every night of his hitch, which is two weeks straight, we would text all day and Face Time for hours on end at night. It was amazing.  I’m still not sure what we talked about all day and night. I honestly felt like a teenager. It was a breath of fresh air.  Once he finished that first hitch he went home, and then he decided he would drive the 8 hours to Billings to spend a few days with me.  He would repeatedly do this every month for a long weekend to visit me and my kids.

I watched my relationship grow with him into something amazing. But I also watched my relationship between him and my kids grow into something I would have never expected.

That summer the kids and I loaded up and drove the 8 hours to North Dakota to meet his family and to see exactly where he lived; where he came from. It was the best 10 days ever. We spent time fishing, hanging out with his family and relaxing. It was exactly what we needed.

Now fast forward to today. I have since moved to a tiny town in North Dakota, literally you blink and you will miss it. We live together Eric, the kids and myself live out in the country just outside of Grace City, North Dakota. The kids are thriving, they love their school and all of the new friends they have made. The  kids smile a little, they laugh, they joke and they just enjoy life now. We aren’t so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of big city living. Granted we do miss the quick fast food restaurant from time to time.

Eric goes to work in the oilfield for two weeks on and then he is home for two weeks. We have had our struggles, but we make it through every single day. Because we are a team.

I have finally found my forever person, the person I can let my guard down with, be goofy with,and  just be myself.  I have found true happiness and true love. I feel so lucky that I get to do this adventure of life with him.

~Lisa

Dance.

Smitty’s Ode to the House cleaner

 

As a young pizza-faced drummer boy, my ultimate goal in life was to just live.

I really had nothing to live for because I was a product of a very dysfunctional family. My folks divorced when I was 6. I thought it was the end of the world when my bio-dad sat me down in the park in Roundup and informed me that I would no longer be his favorite fishing partner. He also informed me I probably wouldn’t ever get to see him again. Life shattering, to say the least. “Just live through it #1 Son”. That’s what I got told. My longest relationship with my best friend at the time, ended in a park. Detrimental.

Fast forward a whopping couple of years. My mother married the man that became the rock of my world. As a stepdad, Jr. was the quintessential hard-working cowboy that most people would call evil in today’s society, He was honest, fair, and mostly quiet to the grown-ups. When Jr. barked, you knew he had a reason. The ass- whoopings received from that man were ALWAYS earned, and never done in spite. Every time it happened, I deserved every bit of it, as did my brothers and sisters. We seven kids all had extremely different personalities, and he shaped us all into the adults we have become to this day. All of us different, but also all respectable members of the communities we live in.

Looking back, we all were raised in an “old fashioned” style. Yes Sir, No Ma’am,, Please, Thank-You, Eat with your damn mouth closed, Hold the door for the ladies, Believe in God, Clean up your plate because you don’t know the next time you are going to get to eat, and general stuff like that were all instilled into us. The girls did the inside chores, and the boys ramrodded the outdoor things that needed to happen. Occasionally, there was some cross work between the two, but not often. The animals got fed before we ate. If you forgot to chop the ice for the cows to drink, you didn’t drink. If you didn’t feed the dogs, the dogs got your food, while you ate the dogfood. THIS is where I learned some of my foundational values. It all boiled down to the fact that his discipline style was well thought out, and pretty much summed up the Golden Rule. Yes, we seven messed up as kids, but none of us ended up in prison or with a major drug problem

Jr. taught us everything we needed to know to survive. Between raising cattle to raising crops, we were taught the value of everyday things, and to treat them as if they were your own. He also taught us that sometimes, shit just breaks, and then taught us how to fix it. Fixing it was usually cheaper than running to town and grabbing it, thereby shutting down an entire day’s worth of work. Jr. graduated the 8th grade and made his mark on the world from there.

Moving forward again, we had a series of fires, droughts, and even a damn tornado that had ruined us financially. We gave up the farm and ended up moving from school in Custer to going to a school in Melstone, starting my Freshman year. We will just call ALL the years from my 7th grade until my Senior year “fuzzy” to say the least. I was already a professional, yet functioning alcoholic by the time I reached Melstone. It was at this time in life that, in my world, girls were toys, and partying was a way of life. Then, something strange happened… Instead of me, or my brothers, or any of my drunk friends, God had this magnificent idea to strike my 6-year-old sister (the youngest of us 7 kids) down on the gymnasium floor with a brain hemorrhage / aneurysm. They flew her to Denver Children’s Hospital where she lived for a long time, along with my folks. Not long after that, I shattered my left knee, ending my athletic career in school. Everyone would think this would have had a major impact on our lives. The funny part is that instead of us failing as children, we did everything that were taught growing up. We raised and milked the cows. Were calved the small herd we had, we branded the calves, we doctored the sick, and we LIVED with no direct supervision, because that is how we were raised. On top of all we had going on, we kept going to school and passing with flying colors. People we amazed, and they tell us to this day they don’t know how we did it. Little do they know, we did it with a LOT of alcohol. I am truly surprised none of us died.

Due to my terrible acne problem, I was not a big hit with the ladies until they found out how easily I scored the wine coolers they liked, but boy was I a great drummer. I think the priorities in my life at that point were misplaced (obviously), but I can also say I was one of the only people to have set a single row of Everclear on fire from the Sportsman’s bar all the way to the high school in the middle of the dirt main street…. Accomplishments, right? 

Well, party time started to come to a close. The folks came home from Denver and informed us that we were once again moving. This time we were going to try irrigated life down in the Miles City area. I thought I had said all my goodbyes at the end of my Sophomore year, but we will revisit that soon. Remember the “housecleaner” later in my story.

I started my Junior year in Miles City and was bored. So, so, so board. Everything about school was something I despised, but I kept my grades up, because I didn’t even need to try. I honestly think that had school been more of an actual learning process instead of an institution that was boring, I probably would have been a bit smarter in later life. On top of doing the farming and ranching stuff back at the house, and enduring the monotony of the public school system, I am took on a job cooking at a fast food joint so I could have money to support my drinking and “dating” habits.  Once again, being bored and not being able to play sports, I had at least some things I was good at. I would go back to Melstone and work for the summer between my Junior and Senior year. Then it happened…

I was approached by a guy in a fancy coat trousers with a red stripe, who shook my hand with a white glove. Medals hanging on his chest, making me think about how they came to be on his chest, and thinking how they could someday be on mine… Take me away from here Mr. Marine! “That’s Sergeant Driver to you Boy”.  So June 14th, 1991, I signed up to become a US Marine. Do you want to know why? Well, I will tell you. It is because nobody in my immediate area of knowledge had ever been one. I had a cousin that washed out. I am sure there were others, but I wanted to be the first in my family to be “The one”.  Finally. I had something to shoot for. I still drank like a fish and partied with the ladies like a rock star, but I knew it was finite from the moment I signed up in the delayed entry program. And this is where I screwed up, concerning the nerdy housecleaner.

August of 1991, I was working my summer job in Melstone, still drinking, and still playing with the ladies, but it was getting time to get ready to go back to school in Miles City. A housecleaner (who was also a classmate) got hired to come clean my living quarters. This pretty much meant doing everything from throwing away my stack of “magazines” I had accumulated, vacuuming, washing floors, and all the other crap that 17 year old boys do NOT do… Hell, for all I know, she even cleaned upstairs where the raccoon lived. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t bother going up there. I was getting ready to have my BIG going away party, so what did I really care? The house just needed to be clean for the party. A couple chicks and dudes and lots of alcohol showed up, and for a 17-year-old boy, it was an epic party. Later in life, I found out that I seemed to have forgotten to invite the housecleaner to the party. My little overlooking of this could have changed a LOT of lives forever I believe. I had forgotten to say goodbye to her when I left Melstone to move to Miles City, and I had forgotten that I gave her a ride in the tractor I was operating so she could collect the money for cleaning the house. I forgot a lot of stuff in those days. Had I put two and two together, my life probably would have been a LOT different.

I invited a few friends from Melstone to come for my High School graduation in Miles City, but once again, forgot the housecleaner. June 14, 1992 was the day I was waiting for. I loaded up and was off to Butte after a VERY unfulfilling Senior year. Standing on the yellow footprints at MCRD San Diego, I was now ready to become a Marine. 13 weeks of intense training to learn to kill. Learn to survive. Learn that pain is weakness leaving the body. Learning to subdue every passion except 3. God, Country, and Corps- The only 3 things a Marine really needs to know. I ate it up and graduated meritoriously from Boot Camp. Graduated meritoriously from Motor T school where I had learned to do my chosen job, and then shipped off to Okinawa for 2 years. While in Okinawa, I meritoriously picked up Corporal with eighteen months in, and lost it the same day… What an adventure!!!

While in Okinawa, one fateful night my fellow Marines and I were at the E-club when a gaggle of white girls walked through the door. Remember, 2 years in a foreign land, and these were not Nationals, and we were well into a great night of drinking. Inevitably, I offered them a ride home, which they turned down due to the whole drinking thing. I had a great idea and offered to walk them home, and so we all stumbled for miles until we found where they were staying. It was that night I informed Jenn that I was going to marry her someday. June 14, 1996, I departed from my beloved Corps because of the same reason so many trained killers do- LOVE, plain and simple. Or so we all think…

July 27, 1996, Jason and Jenn get married, because that is what everyone is supposed to do, right? RIGHT? Wrong. I will not badmouth my wife of 21 years, but I will tell you that I had no idea what love actually was until my first daughter was born in February, 2000, and my second daughter 3 years later. These two beauties were brought into my life as an attempt from the Great Architect of the Universe to tell me it was time to start settling down. I am sure of it. Did I listen? Absolutely NOT! Partied harder than ever! Had a great job, had a house all paid for and a roof over the kids’ heads. I was doing great for myself. My marriage, not so much. I was the epitome of a bad husband. We looked good in public, but we couldn’t look at each other behind closed doors. Is that what LOVE is supposed to be? Is this the great secret of marriage? It is just living together and staying for the kids because “that’s what you are supposed to do the right thing?” If you answered yes to ANY of the questions I just asked, you WILL fail, sooner rather than later. October 31, 2015 was my failure date. Think about that. Do the math. Almost 30 years of hard-core drinking, with a 3 month break for Boot Camp.

That fateful Halloween night, I literally shattered more lives than I can even tell you about. The residual effects will neve be gone from the memories that happened that night, which eventually led to my divorce, literally 2 years later. A divorce is a very expensive undertaking by the way. What, you ask is my point to all of this? Well I have a couple, which I am going to spell out in no particular order.

  1. You will always find a way to overcome adversity.
  2. Don’t drink and drive. 
  3. Don’t think your acquaintances are your true friends. They are actually not 
  4. ALWAYS invite your house cleaner to the party, even if you think she won’t go.
  5. ALWAYS thank God daily for what you have.
  6. Never say never to anything, especially if you find true love.
  7. Discipline your offspring so others won’t need to.
  8. Hug you babies and tell them you love them always.
  9. Tell your true friends how much you love them as often as possible.
  10. Foster every relationship as if it the first day you met them. 
  11. Don’t believe anything you read in the papers, and only about half of what you see in real life
  12. Don’t give up, ever. Choose to LIVE!
  13. Never, and I mean NEVER think that you are on a higher plane than any other, including the janitor.
  14. Remember that sometimes your nerdy house cleaner could be the love of your life.
  15. Never be afraid to take a leap, even though the last one was your “first and absolute last”.

And there ya have it. Life, according to Smitty.

Fan.

 

I was some where between 12 & 14 when I became a fan. My dad had football on the tv. I was sitting there in my orange t shirt cheering for my team. They lost. Again. I got up walked outside and threw my t shirt away. I was done being on the losing side. I picked a new team, and little did I know, that losing streak would just as long.

That winning streak though. Man it was glorious. It was the late 80s and they were winning everything. The chemistry was amazing and they just couldn’t miss. It was easy to be a fan.

Three years after I graduated from high school was the last time I would see them win a trophy.

Those lean years are where the growth starts. Because you remember what it was like when everything was going right. It makes you wistful. It makes you want to go back when the losing streak drags on for days or years. Or when the wins come just enough to give you some hope.

In order to win, you have to believe in something bigger than yourself. You have to believe in the person next to you wanting to win as much as you do. It’s a common goal. All it takes is one person to stop believing in the goal for it to fall apart.

Isn’t that something? Just a lack of faith and everything can come undone.

Why is so hard to believe in the win? Is it easier to believe there isn’t enough wins to go around? That you deserve the win but not me?

I was very competitive in sports but I also was just as easy to doubt my ability. When I ran track it was as easy as breathing to me. I could win. If I thought that someone else could be faster, it only made the win sweeter. I believed. I had faith. Even in the loss, I kept the faith.

I also thought the win didn’t belong to me. It belonged to someone else. And that’s where I would fail. My faith in myself was lacking.

A drought of more losses than wins started to teach me a lot of things about myself.

I needed to put in the work. I needed to get my passion and I needed to have more faith.

I had to be dedicated to the grind. I started to pick my head up. I started looking in the mirror and got my belief back.

I started to remember that there is wins for every one. I kicked people off my team that no longer believed or deserved to be there.

I found a coach. I found a mentor. I found a way to win. Every fucking day I get up and I am still dedicated to the grind. I get to work on the play and I adjust my team as needed.

I pulled out my red and gold t shirt and I am reminded that in the middle of the hustle, I can never take my eyes off the prize.

I deserve a win. I am a fan.

Togetherness.

I’ve been working on someone else’s dream this week. No that’s not true. It’s our shared plan/ dream. I am so use to being separate that together is sometimes difficult. Togetherness is hard. It’s getting easier as we grow together, but we fight it some days.

Relationships are fucking hard. Not one high school love story tells you this. Love stories don’t explain the hard, they gloss over it.

You have to together more than you separate other wise the self doubt starts creeping in. You ever watch a couple that’s together? They move, talk and think in a fluid motion. Same way you can feel the separate in another couple? Everything is hard, uncomfortable and they move out of sync.

Not every day is fluid in my relationship. We definitely have days where one of us is in the boat paddling and they other just wants to beat the other with their oar.

My mood is a varying touch of love and I am tired. When I say I’m tired, like a lot of women, I don’t mean I’m tired. I am not tired. It’s just the word that sounds less psychotic and less dramatic. I am more mentally exhausted from the day to day bullshit and having to ask for more or say again makes me tired. I’m trying to be better about expressing myself as more than tired, but some days I’m just wore the fuck out from being human.

Friendships are just as fucking hard. Women spend a lot of time trapped in their heads. We tell ourselves a lot of shit that isn’t true. So being friends is a difficult road some days because we always wonder if this bitch is going to pick you up from the bar at the end of the night or leave you. And it takes some time to really find that girl squad that isn’t going to flirt with your man, tell your secrets or leave you at the bar.

I like to think I’m a fierce friend, but even that gets me into some fucked up situations I could avoided by just being a bitch. I also get my feelings hurt because I’m loyal to a fault and I can’t understand when someone else isn’t. That’s not their fault. It’s mine.

After all we are all humans having a human experience. Some days every relationship is going to be easy and fluid and those are the days I realize I have it pretty good. I have a healthy relationship and I have fierce friendships. So those days when we face each other and want to toss each other out of the boat, I know it will be okay because it’s hard to work through the shit but it’s worth it.

I am going to go work on a shared dream and vision, so he can be a better human; I can work on mine to be a better human too.

We will start to plan trips with our friends.

We are only human.