Perspectives

I recently attended my thirty-fifth high school reunion in Miles City. I cannot believe I’ve been out of high school that long or that I am fifty-three years old. There are days I barely feel like I’m twenty. Although I ended up graduating from Bozeman (another story), the kids I love are the ones I grew up with and shared the angst-filled years of dating disasters and maturation that we all go through.

This reunion was an eye-opener for me. There were plenty of faces I didn’t recognize. At all. And plenty of folks who didn’t show. For whatever reason.

But the most cathartic aspect of the weekend was finding out how differently we all remember certain parts of high school. I was one of the smart kids. Not bragging. School came easy for me. And I liked my classes and most of my teachers. I was one of those annoying kids who got A’s without a lot of effort.

I was also one of those kids who participated in a lot of activities; band, sports, student council. Pretty much anything at school, I was involved.

I wouldn’t call myself one of the popular kids. I certainly was friends with most of my class of 130. But I wasn’t an elite jock or anything like that. I was just kind to most of the kids and would call the majority of my class friends.

But I wasn’t one of the ‘it’ girls. I didn’t get phone calls from boys, asking for dates. I didn’t get hit on. Or flirted with. Maybe because most of my buddies were boys. Maybe because I wasn’t pretty enough. Or cool enough. Whatever it was, I just never developed a sense in myself that I was attractive.

And eventually, that was okay. I was content being who I was, although I admit some envy toward the girls who knew how to giggle at the right time. Who knew how to bat their eyes just enough to keep a boy’s interest. Who could walk with a hint of sway when leaving a room. Not me. I just didn’t have it in me to play those games or learn those skills. So, I stayed the awkward smart girl who could be friends with anyone.

At this reunion, it seemed easy to morph back into that person. A handful of my best friends made it, boy and girl. And I felt at ease with each of them. Before too long, we were laughing like I remember doing at 16.

But then a strange thing happened: several of my guy buddies admitted, separately, that they each had a crush on me during high school. I laughed at every one of them. And asked them why they never asked me out.

 

“You were too pretty.”

“You were classy. ”

“You were too reserved.”

“You’d have never gone out with me.”

 

And the comments were all very similar. I was shocked. I never thought of myself as pretty or ‘above’ anyone. I always figured the boys just didn’t like the way I looked. Then another comment:

 

“I was terrified.”

“Of me?” I asked.

“Of rejection.”

When my mouth hung open, he replied, “You were one of the cool kids.”

I did laugh hard enough for my drink to shoot out my nostrils, cementing my role as a dweeb. “I always wanted to be one of the cool kids.”

“You were. You and your girls.”

 

“We all had a crush on you,” one friend said. “But we knew we had no shot with you.”

“There were other girls who would do ‘stuff’,” another friend added.

 

It took me several minutes to digest the conversation. A cool kid? Me? Too pretty? No way.

I have to admit, it fed my ego a little bit to think that all my cute, funny guy friends had crushes on me. Those boys who were now tall, handsome, successful men. I gave them each a hug and a cheek kiss.

Do I wish they had asked me out? A part of me does. But a part of me treasures the fact that they held me with such regard. At the time, it stung and hurt that I wasn’t attractive enough to get dates. But today, I look back, and I think about the girls they mentioned as being ‘easy’ and I’m okay with the way I was in high school.

I was the quintessential ‘good girl’. All American girl, as one of my friends’ moms used to say. Not sure if she meant it as a compliment or a dig. But I was who I was. And I didn’t try very hard to change. I didn’t know how.

So, looking back, all the awkwardness I suffered through was okay. I’m proud of who I was and who I’ve become.

And the coolest part? One of those good buddies of mine, one of those boys who admitted to ‘always being attracted to me’ is slowly becoming more than a buddy. We are spending this weekend on a first date. He’s driving over from Billings to go through the Caverns with me and then on to the prison museum in Deer Lodge. He’ll spend the night here – in the basement guest room – and we’ll do something more tomorrow before he heads back home.

I haven’t been this excited about seeing someone in a long time. Who knows? Maybe karma will let us find some happiness together that we haven’t been able to achieve on our own, respectively.

 

The ‘Woke’ Games

For as long as I can remember, the Olympics were an EVENT for me. I would wait, anticipate, and dream of watching those superb athletes, whether it was summer or winter sports. I had my favorites, of course. Gymnastics, track and field, and ice skating were probably the top three. But I watched everything, like most of us did when I was growing up. We’d be glued to our televisions every night for the highlights of the day.

Even the last twenty years, when satellite services ran events pretty much around the clock, I would set aside time each day to watch my favorites.

But that has changed during the past few years. Once the kneeling started. Once the America-bashing took off. Once athletes showed their true colors as spoiled, arrogant brats, I lost interest in a swath of events that used to bring me enjoyment.

I’m not saying that athletes can’t have political opinions. Every human being is allowed to have their own opinions and beliefs. But I take great offense to those athletes who use their world-wide stage to try to force their opinions down everyone else’s throats while they are competing.

If they want to rally for a cause, do it on their own time. Not mine. If they want to donate to a charity or a political group, do so. But I don’t need to know about it. Even if I agree with their slant. If they have an issue with something they perceive as wrong in society, do something positive about it: donate money, give their time, or work with organizations to bring about change. That’s what I do, but I don’t expect everyone else around me to bow to my beliefs or change their opinions because they differ from mine.

As for those Olympic athletes who chose to dishonor our flag by making a protest or refusing to show respect for our flag, I have one question: why did they work most of their lives to become a representative of a country they despise? If America is the cess pool that so many claim it is, why are they part of the National team?

Probably because in no other country in the world would their actions and speech be tolerated at any level. But especially at the level of Olympics.

What disgusts me are those athletes who have said in advance of their plans to make a protest if they make the medal stand. So where is their focus? Is it on the sport they claim to love? Or in embarrassing a country full of people who would give almost anything to be in the enviable position as those fortunate enough to travel to the Games.

To put this into context, I’ve shared previously that I have not watched a professional football game since the first game that kneeling occurred. I have not watched any pro sport in which that behavior was tolerated or encouraged. And I doubt I will again, unless some major changes occur. But the damage has been done.

I will not be lectured on racial inequality by millionaire athletes, many of whom are people of color. I will not feel any guilt for the color of my skin. And I will not take blame for things that happened hundreds of years ago. The entire ‘woke’ and cancel culture we are experiencing right now is a dangerous and frightening development.

Not just because of the push of certain groups to insist that we are a racially divided society or that racism is systemic throughout our society. But also because of the erosion of women’s sports. There are openly transgenders competing in women’s sports. They are biologically male, yet are allowed to compete against biologic females. The common sense resolution is that no transgender athletes should be allowed in women’s sports. Or create another category, even though I think that is a ludicrous idea. But at least it won’t destroy elite biological women pursuing their athletic dreams. Just because a man chooses to dress like and call himself a women does not negate the inherent advantages he has over true women in sports.

The spirit of the Olympic Games were to pit athletes (when they began only men were allowed) against one another to see who was the better athlete. Today, the Olympics have come to symbolize systemic cheating, glorified bullies, and the destruction of the heart of competition. I doubt I will ever make a point to watch the Games again. When I was a kid, during every Olympics there were a handful of ‘faces’ of the Games. Athletes who really exemplified the spirit of their sport. I honestly can’t think of a single competitor I care about or about whom I care to learn more.

That is very sad. What once was a world event that strove to bring us closer is now just another event to showcase our differences and try to create bias and discontent. My guess is that the Olympics will not survive. Eventually, the Games will implode and we will be left with the memory of a once-glorious showcase of skill.

For me, I will spend more time riding my horses and swinging a rope. Focusing on the one sport that has stayed on course: rodeo. The athletes aren’t perfect, but so far, I haven’t seen any of those elite stars making protests or using their status to create a political platform. Most of the cowboys and cowgirls that compete in rodeo like and engage with their fans. They know how fortunate they are to live the life they do. I just hope the craziness doesn’t start to invade my little world. If it does, what do I focus on then?

Back At Work, Again

A couple of weeks ago, I went back into the workforce. I’m still writing at home and still pursuing a couple of small business opportunities online. But I’m at a point that I need some guaranteed income each month.

There is a local embroidery shop here in Whitehall that provides custom orders for embroidery work, as well as heat transfers. The woman who owns the shop also does manufacturing sewing for military items and some other businesses, like Laundry Loops.

She pays her employees well, starting well above minimum wage and increasing pay shortly after a probationary period. I like to sew and like the creative process and I figured this would be a good chance to earn some money doing something other than a service job.

I started the week following Memorial Day and my first couple of days involved a pretty stiff learning curve. I made plenty of mistakes but I also learned some great new skills. And I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the ‘warehouse’.

There were only three of us working for most of the week, each with something different to do. The first couple of days, I spent most of my time sewing small pieces that were to be sewed to other pieces. It was monotonous, tedious work, but I felt good about the work I did. The rest of the week, I spent my time doing heat transfers and embroidering hats. The owner wants to train me to do most of the work up front; the embroidery and heat transfers. That way, she can focus on doing assembly work in the back of the shop.

She is working on a multi year contract with a state university. If it materializes, she will have permanent, full-time work in the front of the shop, which will probably be where I do most of my work. And I wouldn’t mind that at all. It’s fun watching the embroidery machines do their thing. And while they are sewing, I can be assembling small pieces for laundry loops or doing heat transfer work.

The part I like most about this job is that there are lots of options. And every day is a different task. I like that there aren’t a lot of walk-in customers to deal with. They need to speak with the owner. So, I can just go to work, do my job, and go home at the end of the day feeling like I accomplished something.

Going to work each day means that I don’t have as much time for my writing or sewing or other projects at home. I’m hopeful that after a few months, I may be able to change my work schedule and do four tens. Ideally, I’d like to do three twelves and a half day. Then have the rest of the week to devote to home-based work. But we’ll have to see if anything like that is possible.

I’m grateful for the work, especially after this past year of a ruined economy and so many businesses being forced to shutter permanently. I’ve known the owner for several years. When I was athletic director at the school, she did many of our sports wear jobs. So, I feel comfortable with her. And so far, the other women who work there are people I already know or are easy to spend the days with.

At this point in my life, I figured I would be making enough money writing that I wouldn’t have to worry about a ‘real’ job again. I’m still hopeful that will be possible in the near future. But I need the income from this job. And I need to get out of the house. I’m feeing like a hermit lately, and this job will force me to get up, shower, and be around other people each day.

Whether I stay there a few months or a few years, I intend to be the best employee I can be. I learn quickly, and I’m willing to learn from mistakes and put my time I wherever I’m needed. She told me that some of ‘the girls’ don’t like doing the embroidery work. But I figure, if that’s where I can be the most good, that’s where I’ll work. After all, she’s the boss.

It feels good to be back at a regular job again. On a regular schedule. Feeling productive. I’m hopeful that this will lead to added prosperity and good luck in the future.

Divorce, Lies, and Bullying

As I recently posted, this past weekend was Garris’ last high school rodeo. Ever.

I thought I would be more melancholic about that milestone, but I’m not. I will miss going to the different arenas and watching him make his runs. But the atmosphere among the rodeos themselves have changed over the course of the last few years.

It’s no secret that my divorce was contentious. My ex is a petty and bitter person who, almost seven years after signing dissolution papers, is still foisting his bitterness onto our kids. I tried the first few years to co-parent with him. I kept him in the loop about parenting decisions and asked for his input and help when I was at a loss over what to do with Garris. But I didn’t get anything but blowback from him. So, a couple of years ago, I quit trying.

The reason that matters? The majority of our friends no longer speak to me. The majority of rodeo parents ignore me. These are people that I once considered, if not friends, at least folks who I could sit with and chat with during the rodeos. Now, I feel like a pariah when I go into the stands to watch the rodeos.

A couple of the rodeo moms told me last fall some of the things that are floating around the gossip mill about me. And there is only one source that could have originated those lies. I suffer from severe social anxiety. I get physically sick when I have to be a large crowds. Even just walking in front of people, like in the grandstands at a rodeo, makes me nervous. I have hyperventilated before in those situations and almost passed out. And now that I know I’m not welcomed to sit down with the other parents, the stress level I feel is magnified to a level that I can’t control.

Honestly, the people who believe the rumors about me, after knowing me for ten or fifteen years, aren’t people I need in my life. I don’t mourn the loss of them. What makes me angry and frustrated is that so many of these parents are ostracizing me based on lies. No one has asked me if there is any truth in the rumors. No one has been decent enough to give me the benefit of the doubt, probably because I’m a quiet person. I’m not going around debasing my ex or spreading lies about him. No one has questioned me about what led to our divorce, which is very different from the false narrative that’s being told.

These parents are engaging in adult bullying. It’s amazing to me that at this point in my life, I am witnessing the same actions that happen in schools. I’m an easy target. And it is hurtful. It reminds me of my two years at Bozeman High School and having to make my way through the gauntlet of mean girls and cliques. Once I graduated, I never figured I’d have to steel myself against that kind of behavior again.

It’s like I told Garris the other day: I always enjoy watching his runs, even the ‘bad’ ones. But having to sit by myself, knowing that I will be ignored if I try to sit with other parents, makes it a lonely way to watch the rodeos. I used to be included in the chit-chat. I used to be in the rotation of bringing treats. Now, it’s like the other parents can’t remember who I am.

So maybe that’s why I won’t really miss the high school rodeo atmosphere. I’m looking forward to attending college rodeos. And because Garris is the youngest, I will be able to go to more of those than I could with my older boys. Sure, some of these same parents will be in attendance at those rodeos, but college rodeos are set up differently than high school. There are different sections of go’s, so that not every student competes at the same time, or on the same day, for the same round.  So the number of those parents in attendance at the same time as me will most likely be drastically reduced.

I know that in time, the truth will rear its head. And those people who are actively choosing to believe in lies will discover they’ve been manipulated. But that doesn’t quell the pain in my chest or the nausea in my stomach.

I think this weekend finally brought some clarity to Garris as far as my struggle to support him without exposing myself to the cruel comments from the other parents. Our district was going to do an ice cream social for our seniors. Garris asked me if I was going to attend it, and I talked with him honestly and openly about how the other parents treated me. He nodded and said that he didn’t like the situation. He said he was sorry that they acted that way. And he said he didn’t understand why they wouldn’t talk to me. He knew that there are lies being told.

But he also understood why I wasn’t keen on putting myself in the middle of that social time. By the end of the weekend, he thanked me several times for driving to Baker and he said he knew that it wasn’t easy for me to be in crowds or around those other parents. So, even though it is the end of his high school career, I feel like he and I grew a bit closer and he grew up a bit over this weekend.

All I can hope is that he learns from this how to treat other people. We all love to hear juicy gossip about others. But not too many people work to separate fact from fiction when it comes to information sharing. What I’ve learned over the past few years is to reserve judgement about other people’s situations until I know the entire story. I try to choose kindness over cattiness. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes not. But I try very hard not to spread rumors. I know firsthand just how much it hurts when those rumors are false and being treated as gospel.

Ultimately, I will be fine. I know what led to my divorce. I know what’s true about me and what isn’t. I know my culpability in my situation. The web of lies that has multiplied over the last couple of years will eventually tear apart and the creator of those lies will be proven as unreliable. A liar. Someone you can’t trust.

I am secure in my small circle of friends. They know me and defend me voraciously. I know who I can count on. That’s what I have to focus on as I take a step forward, with Garris, away from the childish antics of high school rodeo. And toward the next chapter of my rodeo mom career: my final college student.

Hello World

This weekend marked the end of an era. After twenty years of attending youth and MHSRA rodeos, I watched Garris compete in his final state rodeo. Unfortunately, it was not the weekend he expected or wanted.

 

He couldn’t buy a good catch. He missed both of his tie-down calves. He caught both team roping steers, but during the first run, his heeler missed both shots for the heels. On the second run, Garris missed his dally, his rope popped out of his hand, and he broke the fifth metacarpal bone when his hand hit his horn.

 

On top of all that, he missed out on winning one of the Montana Hall and Wall of Fame scholarships. Each of his brothers were awarded one of the scholarships and Garris figured he had a pretty good shot at one for himself. It just wasn’t his weekend.

 

For the first time in seven years of MHSRA competition, Garris did not qualify for the short go at a state rodeo. He missed out for the short go by one spot in tie down and two spots in team roping. As s result, he didn’t make it to Nationals.

 

Now, going to Nationals is a huge goal. It is prestige, a shot at scholarships, and a chance to move up to the next level of competition. But we parents tend to make it a bigger deal than it should be. We put too much pressure on our kids for one rodeo, once a year. I am just as guilty as anyone else. So, this year, I tried to downplay the importance of Nationals. And when his luck failed him, I said the most positive things I could think of.

 

I don’t like the way our state rodeo is set up and how points are awarded. Double points at state set it up unfairly. Why? I see it every year that kids who have led standings all season have a bad weekend and end up dropping in the standings and miss out on their chance to go to Nationals. Conversely, kids who have hovered at the low-end of the middle pack have one great weekend and leapfrog over other kids. Those kids qualify for Nationals and go into a competition that they are not even remotely ready for.

 

Every year, Cyris ended up in the crying hole because he had one bad run or a sub-par weekend. He worked harder than any kid I’ve seen, and his hard work was derailed by stress or a crappy draw. It just never seemed fair to me, and ultimately it ended up souring him on rodeo competition.

 

Some might say that kids should be able to handle the stress. But should they be put into that situation? It’s easy to say that state is just another rodeo, but in reality, every kid knows how much weight is on every run.

 

I wish the high school association would adopt the same process as college: whoever has the most total points at the end of the last regular season rodeo gets to go to Nationals. Every point counts. And there are only eight total weekends of competition – four in the fall and four in the spring.

 

We are done with high school rodeo, so the format doesn’t apply to us any longer. And changing it into something similar to college would turn it into a trailer race. But I don’t see how it’s much different than what it is right now. Many of the families already spend eight to ten weekends each fall and spring to get their kids to as many rodeos as possible. If districts would come back, that would limit how many rodeos each kid can go to. That would eliminate the trailer race aspect and put everyone on a level playing level. And it would eliminate the stress-filled weekend of a state rodeo that determines who goes to Nationals.

 

As I look back over the past twenty years and replay my boys’ rodeo careers thus far, I realize how quickly those years flew by. I can remember so clearly when Garris first picked up a rope. He was two years old. By the time he was three, he was roping a dummy. And by four, he was competing in pee wee events at the rodeos.

 

Now, he’s eighteen and ready to launch into the world. He still has rodeo goals. He wanted to compete in NRA rodeos this summer, as well as Wrangler ropings. But a broken hand is going to force him to change that plan. He still wants to someday qualify for the NFR. Right now, his favorite, and best, event is tie down roping.

 

He was disappointed in failing to make the short go. But he came to terms with it pretty quickly.

 

In the big picture, not qualifying for Nationals wasn’t such a bad thing. The weekend could have been much, much worse. Even though he broke his hand, at least he didn’t lose any fingers. And he may not have made Nationals, but he has four years of college rodeo to look forward to.

 

He has had some horse power issues this spring, and I don’t think his horse would have been competitive at the National level. So it’s probably a blessing in disguise. Traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska, would have been expensive. He would have had to miss about ten days of work. And the competition would have been much more stressful than state. So, at the end of the weekend, I don’t think he was terribly upset about where he ended up.

 

I honestly think this gave Garris more incentive to work harder to prove himself at the collegiate level. I think his pride was damaged more than his hand. He has always been one of the kids to beat in calf roping. And usually, he steps up and makes at least one great run during the state rodeo. This year, it just didn’t materialize. And I think that bothered him more than missing out on the National team.

 

For me, I was relieved that his high school career ended as it did. He has struggled the past two years with academics. I was just thankful he received his diploma and has been accepted into UM-Western at Dillon.

 

As the flag drops on high school competition, a whole new world opens up for him starting in the fall. Hello world. Garris is on his way.

 

 

One Year Already

Last week was the one-year mark of my dad’s death. I know everyone says this, but I cannot believe that a year has gone by without him.

I asked my mom ahead of time how she wanted to acknowledge the day. We landed on a family dinner and all the kids attended. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day a couple days early with corned beef and cabbage, plus Irish soda bread and Irish pound cake for dessert. My dad liked that meal, so I thought it was fitting to enjoy it.

As I have with all dinners this year, I set an empty place for Dad beside Mom. It keeps him in our thoughts, although we really don’t need the reminder.

I was thankful for the kids. Mom actually coped better than I figured she would. She had moments during the day where she retreated to her room, most likely to cry. But overall, her spirit was good. During dinner, Cyris kept us in stitches, teasing Garris and making quips about everything. We all needed the laughter.

The past year has seen a lot of change for us. Just the process of filing paperwork in response to Dad’s death took months, especially with the pandemic taking grip. Sorting through their house and culling loads to the dump took months as well.

And planning his memorial service, while dealing with an ungrateful and obnoxious family member, took months of time, a lot of energy, and a great deal of emotion.

Moving Mom in last summer was one of the biggest changes for all of us. I know it’s hard for her to give up her autonomy and her home. But it would have been harder for her to stay there alone. She has never lived alone, and I don’t think she would have survived it very long. We are still adjusting to the living arrangement. And I will admit, there are days I long for my private, selfish days of having my house to myself.

But I think we are all content with the arrangement. The weeks that Garris is with me, we adjust to that reality as well. The house is louder and seems more alive when he is here, even on the days he’s only around for a few hours.

Mom’s house was vandalized last August, and that threw another wrinkle into the situation. Luckily, the only damage done was to drywall, flooring, and windows, plus some personal items that were left in the house. We had already moved anything of value out of the house. But the process is on-going with the insurance company. And the contractors are squeezing the repairs into their schedules, so we’re still waiting for work to get done.

Sylvis has been living in the house since last fall, when he decided to move back from Texas. His plans for breaking into the film industry didn’t pan out, mostly due to Covid, which shut down most of the opportunities he was pursuing. He has done all of the clean-up and all of the structural repair work at the house so far, along with a couple of friends. He is doing remodeling: flooring, painting, etc. And although it’s taking more time than a contractor would, he is doing a good job and the house will look better once he’s finished. Dad wouldn’t even recognize it.

Mom is still debating about selling. If she is offered enough money for the place, I’m sure she will sell in a heartbeat. She has admitted, she wants to be done with the place. With Dad gone, it just isn’t the same. And I think here is feeling more like home to her now.

One of my biggest adjustments has been having someone with me twenty-four hours a day. Not since Garris was five have I been in this situation. And I’m not used to it. I am used to doing my own projects, at my own pace. I am used to coming and going without anyone looking over my shoulder or offering judgement. In short, my days the last few years have been free-form in terms of scheduling. I tend to be a free spirit and let the day take me where it needs to.

My mom, on the other hand, is used to a very structured routine, doing everything at almost the exact same time every day. Chores, meals, even brushing her teeth, are dictated by the clock. I told her before she moved over that I didn’t roll that way, and that we weren’t going to be joined at the hip.

The first couple of months, she acted like my shadow, following me everywhere. If I went outside to do a personal project, she would suddenly be at my shoulder. And then be upset if I didn’t have anything for her to help with. Conversely, there have been times I asked her to do a certain job, and she acted put out by the request. And that is where my biggest frustration lies.

I don’t need anyone creating jobs or tasks for me to do. I have a constant, revolving list of manuscripts and other house-related or craft projects to keep me busy longer than I sometimes care to be. Plus, I work out each day and try to ride a horse and/or mess with my colt. And even when I try to think of things to keep Mom busy and content, she seldom wants to partake in those activities unless I’m going to do them too.

I’ve suggested movies. She doesn’t like watching tv. I’ve suggested music. She doesn’t like listening to the radio. I’ve suggested sewing. She doesn’t want to. I’ve suggested taking up new hobbies like knitting or crochet. Nope. I even suggested she go through her mom’s recipes from when she ran the Woolworth lunch counter and choose fifty to put into a recipe book. I would help her publish it. So far, she hasn’t looked at any of them.

Honestly, I don’t care what she does with her time. If she’s content surfing the internet or re-reading the same books over and over again, then I’m glad she’s happy. But to act and say that she’s bored when she won’t even try to stay busy does irritate me. Last fall, I was making blankets for everybody out of Dad’s shirts. It was a surprise for Christmas, so I kept my door closed. But I’m sure she heard the sewing machine going. She was upset that my door was closed, because she thought I didn’t want her around.

She does ride her horses when the weather is good. And I’m glad she feels like doing that and still can at 82. But even then, it feels more like a duty than something she enjoys. That’s what struck me the other day: everything she does during the day is done as quickly as she can get it done and then she looks to the next thing as her next obligation.

Sylvis gave her some adult coloring books for Christmas, for something different to do with her time. She colored in them obsessively until she had them all filled up in a matter of a month. I’m not sure if she even enjoyed the process, because she was so focused on ‘getting done’. And that kind of defeated the whole purpose of the books.

Whether it’s feeding the horses or eating a meal or again, brushing her teeth. She approaches tasks with an almost obsessive quality. Even taking a bath, which is something I utterly enjoy. I get the water as hot as I can stand it, pour it bubbles, then enjoy soaking in as much water as will fit in the tub. Not Mom. She rushes into the bathroom as soon as chores are done, runs a tiny bit of water, and spends about three minutes in it. What’s the point?

I know that she is used to her routine, and I’m not actively trying to interfere with that. She got into habits while Dad was alive, and she isn’t going to change them now. But I have to wonder what Dad would think, or if she was like this with him.

I know he was regimented in his routine as well, but I don’t recall him taking on tasks as duties. I don’t remember him ever saying or acting like he was bored or had nothing to keep him occupied. He did do a lot of reading. He repaired tack over the winter and made sure all the saddles got soaped up. He was very good at puttering.

And maybe that’s what I expect from Mom. I really thought by the one year mark, she would have settled into this life a little more. Enjoyed not having a set schedule every day. Have the ability to pursue a hobby that maybe she hadn’t been able to when Dad was alive. I don’t know.

And I’m not sure what she does with a lot of her time, because she stays in her bedroom most of the day. I gave her a puzzle for Christmas, and I figured she would work on it a little bit each day. It sat in the box for a couple of weeks. Then she did get all the pieces out and turn them over. But she didn’t put any pieces together for another couple of weeks. We’re going on three months and the border isn’t done yet. Again, this was an idea of something to occupy her time and keep her brain active. But she would rather be alone in her room.

She is a contradiction of actions. I used to think that my dad was a bit harsh with her at times. But I’m seeing that she is more high-strung that I realized. She can be demanding and borderline cruel with some of her comments. So, I do understand a little bit better why Dad talked to her the way he did sometimes. I did make him a promise the day he died that I would look after Mom and make sure she was okay. I would make sure she ate. I would get her wherever she needed to go with her horses. I let him know that she wouldn’t be alone. And I think and hope that brought him some measure of comfort in his final moments. And I take that promise seriously.

There are still moments I reach for the phone to call and talk to him. Ask him advice. Or just see how they are doing. I find myself finding recipes that I think he would enjoy. And I still try them, but it’s not the same as seeing what his reaction would be.

I hope that he has found some peace by now, one year after going to rest on that mountain. I’m sure he has found all his great horses and tracked down all the people he was missing. I do feel like he’s been a guardian angel at times. And I like the idea of that. I talk to him almost every day. Even if it’s just a quick good night.

There are certain songs I can’t listen to without crying. There are certain phrases that hit me hard. And there are days when his picture on the wall makes me a bit sad. I didn’t leave anything unsaid or undone with him. I am confident in that fact. But I do wish for more time. To ask him some questions about his life, about things I never knew until we went through papers and boxes. I wish for another chance just to observe how to be a decent person.

My dad was one of the most selfless people I ever knew. He willingly did without things so that he could help us kids or grandkids. And to a degree that I wasn’t aware of. A certain family member always had his hand out, asking for money, always with a sad sob story. And always with a promise to pay Dad back. That money never did get paid back. Dad actually had to pay back loans that this person had finagled out of other family members, because he never paid them back either. I want to go back in time and tell my dad to just stop the handouts. Let this person stand on his own and supply his own needs. But I can’t.

What I can do is make sure that Mom is never forced into that situation. She needs a thicker bubble of protection now. I think Dad would appreciate that. The next big day is his birthday in two days. I don’t have any celebration planned, but I will bake a cake and we can sing for him and enjoy something sweet in his honor.

I feel like we can all start to live again, as normal as we possibly can, because we have acknowledged all the ‘first times’ without Dad. Not that we will ignore him now or forget him. But I feel like Mom has almost wrapped herself in grief this past year. I know she will always miss him, and she should. But there have been times I’ve watched her use his death to try and get sympathy or excuse her less-than-stellar actions.

I feel like I’m coming out from under a black cloud myself. I have rearranged my life this past year to accommodate Mom’s move and her lifestyle, to a certain extent. And I’m happy I was able to do that. No regrets. But I haven’t taken time for myself, to be alone, and to fully process what Dad’s death means in my life. I need to start forging ahead with some of the plans and goals I’ve put on hold.

One thing I am going to do is to go visit Marnie and re-fresh our friendship. We are planning on traveling somewhere this fall, depending on Covid and travel restrictions. We’d like to do either Greece or Aruba. But if the pandemic continues, we’ll do something domestic. Doesn’t really matter as long as it’s warm and we’re together for a relaxing week or so. That will mean prepping Mom for my absence. I’ve already told her of the plan, so she has several months to wrap her head around being alone for a couple of weeks. And I know the boys will check in with her. I have friends who can help if she needs it.

After this last year, I’m embracing the idea of enjoying whatever it is I’m doing. In the moment. Making it a memory. And something to treasure. Not something I just have to get through. I’m making a point of making that my life’s mantra. Live life to the fullest, without regrets.

I think Dad might have adopted that himself, had he known how everything would end.

Still thinking of you, Dad. Til we see each other again . . .

Changes

In the last three weeks, I have bought a new car, sold my pickup, and sold my horse trailer. That’s a lot of vehicle changes in a short amount of time.

My mom and I have been kicking around the idea of going in together on a crossover SUV. So, I did some research and landed on the Hyundai Santa Fe. It’s got the best warranty of any class of SUV, plus that model is made in Montgomery Alabama, using American made parts. I liked a few other makes as well, but they didn’t get the safety ratings I wanted or started out too expensive for just the base model.

I had intended to buy either a good used Santa Fe, or one of the base models of the newer ones. But you know what they say about good intentions? We went to Missoula with the intention of simply driving one to see if we liked it. We ended up buying the top trim level model, with a turbo engine. Plus, it’s bright red.

I’m sure I did every single thing the experts tell you not to do when buying a car. We only drove one. I didn’t step back and leave the showroom to think it over. I said I liked the car. I didn’t ask enough questions on the pricing. I do like the car. And most important, my mom likes it and feels like she can now go off by herself to do things if needed. So, in the big picture, it was a good decision. Like I told my mom, if we decide after a few months that we don’t like it as well as we thought, we’ll trade it in. I have no problem doing that. So far, I’m not attached to this car.

I absolutely loved my pickup. It was the first vehicle that I bought following my divorce, and it made a statement. It was a beautiful tungsten gray, one-ton diesel Silverado. It was a sexy truck, and I liked driving it. It had power, class, and was fun. But, it had 130,000 miles on it. I am facing an empty nest in the next few months. I’m not hauling horses like I was before Garris got his driver’s license. Plus, he’s not using my horses this spring.

I had intentions of starting to compete in breakaway myself, but I think that’s at least a year away. It may even be one of those dreams that has to die, because I just can’t get any help pursuing it further than roping the dummy.

So, I checked out my truck’s value on Kelley Blue Book. I looked up what it was worth as a trade in, what it was worth selling private party, and what the cash offer might be from a dealer. After looking at all three, I decided to try the cash offer. The three values were within $500 of each other. I hate trying to sell anything, but especially vehicles. That way, I didn’t have to deal with people wanting to drive my pickup and possibly getting in a wreck. I didn’t have to haggle with anyone over its value.

Within a few minutes of hitting the button, two dealers were in contact with me. One was in Butte; one was in Helena. I tried the Butte one first, as it is forty miles closer to me. The men who assisted me loved the truck, commented about how clean it was and how well I had taken care of it. I had all of my maintenance records with me. I honestly had no issues with the truck, but I figured it was worth getting something out of it while it still had value.

I was surprised they didn’t even open the hood. They drove it up Harrison Avenue for about three minutes.

They ended up offering me a little more than the KBB offer, and I walked away with check in hand. I will admit, I cried. I hated walking away from my pickup. And I know, I can always buy another one, and probably will in another year or so. But that pickup was a part of me and my life for the past six years. It represented my freedom from a troubled marriage. I only hope whoever buys it will get as much enjoyment and use out of it as I did.

Similarly, I hated selling my trailer. I had ordered it exactly the way I wanted it from a dealer in Billings. It was a three horse Hart trailer, with an oversized front tack and swing out saddle racks. It didn’t have a living quarters, because we didn’t plan to use it on many overnight trips. But for a night or two, there was plenty of room for two of us to sleep in it. It was easy to pull, and it was just about the right size. But it was sitting unused for most of the two years I had it.

Garris has decided against competing in reined cow horse. He decided not to use Fritz for calf roping. So, my trailer has basically sat in the barn for most of the time I’ve had it. I ordered it with the intention of hauling him to cow horse events and because he said he was going to use Fritz. It really didn’t make any sense to leave it sitting, while it had value in it. So far, it hasn’t gotten dinged up or damaged.

So, I took it back to the dealer and consigned it with him. It sold within two weeks to a woman in California.

My place looks pretty bare without those two vehicles parked outside. And I have had a few moments of panic, like maybe I should have hung onto them. But I think I made the right decisions. I couldn’t see paying insurance on vehicles I really wasn’t using. And right now, we can get by with my mom’s truck and the old red stock trailer. She has a few reined cow horse shows she wants to attend this summer, but none of those are any further away than Bozeman. So, we can make do until I get another truck. Or until we can find a two horse stock combo that would suit our needs right now.

So, I have a little bit of money in the bank, a nice little sporty car to drive, and an easier spring than I anticipated in terms of high school rodeo. It’s hard to think that this is the last season of sitting in the bleachers and cheering on a son. And maybe that’s why I’m so emotional selling my rodeo rigs.

Garris asked me the other day what I was going to do when he was gone. I told him the first thing I was going to do was miss him. And as I think ahead to when he’s done with high school and either goes to college or trade school or work, I know there are many more changes ahead of me. I’m just not sure I’m ready for all of them.

 

Summer of ’84

If I could go back to one moment in time, I would go back to the summer of 1984. One moment changed the trajectory of my life. I have grieved so often for what I lost due to that decision.

When I was sixteen, the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school, my dad asked me to go for a ride with him one evening. I climbed on one of my colts and we rode through one of the neighboring ranches. We stopped on the top of a butte to rest the horses and he told me that he was offered a job – a transfer to Belgrade.

It meant leaving my friends and moving 300 miles away.

“If that’s what we need to do, then I guess that’s what we need to do.” I tried to be practical.

“No, you should have some say in your life. Do you want to go or stay?”

“Well, I don’t want to leave, but what’s the option?”

“I don’t know.”

We kicked around the idea of Mom and I staying in Miles City until I graduated. Or me staying there alone. Or staying with someone. But in the end, my folks didn’t want to leave me. And my dad didn’t want to leave his job.

So, I left behind a lifetime and moved to the Gallatin Valley.

I have thought a lot about how my life might have been different had I been more selfish and insisted on staying in my hometown. I know the emotional trauma I suffered from that upheaval would never have happened. I’m sure other things in my life would have affected me, but not to the degree that that had on me.

I left my friends. My school. My life. I know that sounds melodramatic – the emotional rantings of a teenaged girl. But at the time, I didn’t realize how untethered I would become. I was vested in my friends and my school. I had a solid life in Miles City. I had goals and expectations. I had a place and a role.

When we moved, that shifted. I suddenly was just a student in a sea of other faces. I wasn’t anybody special or talented. I didn’t have any people in my corner at school. I didn’t have people to lean on or confide in. My mom was consumed in her own situation: she didn’t seem to have the time or energy to help me deal with the loss of my ‘everything’.  That was when I started internalizing my hurt and just got through as best I could.

Mostly, I didn’t have my best friend, M. We had become almost inseparable by the time I left. She was like a sister; she spent more nights at our house each week than she did at her own. I didn’t realize how my leaving would also affect her. And our friendship. I thought our relationship would weather anything. I was wrong.

At the time, I didn’t realize she was dealing with an abusive stepdad. I didn’t realize that she was coming apart emotionally. I didn’t know any of that until several years after we were out of high school. And only then did I find out her true feelings about my leaving.

She was angry and hurt that I left. She said and did a few things to ‘get back’ at me because she felt I abandoned her that summer. She felt lost. Like I didn’t care about her. Like I escaped and left her behind.

I was hurt that she didn’t seem to care how alone I was. How miserable I felt. And how much I needed her to still be on my side. She didn’t understand that I didn’t have the power to stay or the power to fix her situation. Now, of course, I see that my home and my parents were her safety zone. The place, with the people, where she could just be a teenager.

When our friendship imploded, I was broken-hearted. I confided some things in her that she then shared with my mom. I lost faith, not only in her, but in people in general. I cut myself off emotionally to anyone else. I didn’t forge any lasting friendships with anyone at my new school. I didn’t pursue any good romantic partners. I kept choosing guys that were wrong for me: slackers, too old, too immature. But at the time, I wasn’t aware of that.

Had I stayed in Mile City, I would have graduated at the top of my class with my childhood friends. I would have pursued something useful in college. I probably would have been part of the high school paper staff. And maybe gone to journalism school or do something else with writing.

I would have possibly gone to a horse school in either Texas, Colorado, or Wyoming. I wanted to do that, but my dad inadvertently talked me out of pursuing that dream. So, I stayed at home, again, and got a degree in sports medicine, which I have never used.

I would have avoided my ex-husband and not been tormented with emotional abuse for twenty plus years. I would have waited for the right person and not settled for someone who was coarse and loud and obnoxious. Because I know M would have told me that I was being stupid for giving him the time of day.

Mostly, I would have held fast to my best friend. She and I would have helped each other through the toughest challenges we faced together. That, more than anything, is what I grieve the most.

After I left, she started hanging out with the party crowd. She started drinking. Doing indiscriminate sex. I think she started doing some drugs. She got hepatitis. I’m not suggesting that I would have somehow prevented all of that from happening. She might have been on that path anyhow. But I do believe, had I stayed, she would have felt she had another option. I heard rumors from other friends, about how wild she got and how careless she was with herself.

Knowing what I do now, I think she was screaming out for help in the only way she knew. Once she was out of high school, she married a classmate right away, and they moved to Germany, where he was stationed. The marriage didn’t last long. And she was on to someone else. She tended to follow in her mother’s pattern of jumping from man to man, from bed to bed.

And there’s no judgment on my part. I didn’t live her life or survive what she did. From what I understand about sexual abuse survivors, her behavior is almost textbook. What I feel bad about is that I wasn’t aware of what was going on. And I will admit, I was pretty naïve in terms of the world. I didn’t date much. I didn’t flirt. I was the stereotypical ‘good girl’. But I think she needed that in her life. She needed the rules and limits that my parents placed on me, so that she could bounce up against those when she felt out of control. When she stayed with us, my parents were her excuse to say no if she got into a situation that was maybe too much for her.

And I needed her just as much, for the opposite reasons. I loved spending time with her, because she gave me the freedom to be silly and funny and daring. I experienced a side of myself and a side of life that wasn’t available to me while I was being that good girl. Nothing salacious. We didn’t drink or do drugs. But we cut loose. We drove around and sang at the tops of our lungs. We went out on a motorcycle. We went skinny dipping. Things that were still pretty innocuous, but for me, things that were bumping up against my boundaries. I felt free and confident with her.

I guess it boils down to: we brought out the best parts of each other. And together, we were almost invincible. It got to the point with our friends and classmates that if they saw one of us, they expected to see us both. I have never had that kind of friendship with another person. And more than a romantic relationship with a man, I crave that kind of friendship again with M.

Unfortunately, it took a medical challenge for us to put the past in the past. We are finally restoring the vibes and the easy relationship we had when we were teenagers. When my dad was flown to Denver following a massive stroke, M stepped right back into my life. She offered love and support. And that meant so much to me. I let go of all the hurt and resentment I had felt through the years. Maybe I just finally grew up enough to see that we were both at fault for the disintegration of our friendship.

We are planning a trip somewhere this fall. Don’t know where yet; it will depend a lot on what happens with the whole covid crap. We never did get that cross-country graduation trip that we had talked about during high school. Might have to do that at some point too.

I mourn for my interrupted life. It died, just as much as a person can. I became a different person, one I didn’t recognize or like.

I don’t blame my folks. They did what they thought was best at the time. And that’s all we can do. But if I could go back and change it I would. I know it wouldn’t have been ideal to be on my own at sixteen. But when I look at what I ultimately had to do, I was on my own. I lived with my grandparents for the last two years of high school, only going home on weekends. How would that have been different than my staying in Miles City?

One thing that made M really mad was that my mom wouldn’t consider letting me stay with her, with either of her parents. Mom had a pretty good idea, I think, that something was going on at those houses. But she didn’t know exactly what. She just didn’t want me part of that. She didn’t like the way M’s mom parented. She treated her daughter like a wing man for her and allowed her to do things that were beyond what a teenaged girl is mature enough to handle. And her dad was an enigma. We didn’t know him well, but Marnie’s brother lived with the dad. He was an alcoholic and drug addict, who had a severe anger issue. Still is, and he has spent most of his adult life in prison for drug-related crimes. So, I can’t blame my mom for saying no.

But I have to wonder who else might have allowed me to stay. Or at least checked in with me had I stayed on my own. I was mature enough at that time to be on my own. I could have gotten a small apartment, or we could have found someone for me to stay with. Ranch families did that every year when one of their kids had to start school in town. Something. Anything would have been better than the hell I went through.

And it didn’t stop when I graduated. The effects of that move have stayed with me throughout my life. I lost confidence in myself. I lost the drive I had to succeed. And I settled for a lot of things: the wrong man. The wrong major. The wrong plan for my life.

The entire trajectory of my life would have been so different had I stay where I had friends, support, and a good foundation to succeed.

It’s possible that M and I still would have gone different directions and ended up cutting our ties. But there is a part of me that thinks we would have weathered things. Maybe gone a couple of years between visits. But not twenty. I went back to the ten year reunion and she didn’t make it. I did see her a couple years after that, when we were traveling through Colorado. But we were each married to emotionally abusive men at the time, and we weren’t able to spend any time alone together. We both attended the twenty-year reunion, but she was hip-to-hip with her latest man, and again, we had no time together. Then it was fourteen years before we saw each other again. There have been a few instant messages and the yearly birthday greetings. But I want more.

We planned to go on a Caribbean trip for our fiftieth birthdays. But I had a cancer scare and simply couldn’t afford to go. I should have gone regardless. Which is why I’m so adamant about us going somewhere this fall together.

So, if I could go back, I would go back to that summer evening and beg my folks to let me stay put. And as it turned out, two years later, the company my dad worked for gave him the option of transferring out of state or taking severance pay. This after he had worked for them for thirty years. So, in the end, that move devastated not only my life but that of my parents as well. We just weren’t aware of that at the time.

I think maybe my folks would have chosen differently too, had they known what the ultimate outcome would be. If only we had the ability to look into the future and see which direction to take . . .

 

 

 

Farewell FB

A few days ago, I finally pulled the plug on my Facebook account. I’ve been mulling over the decision for about two years. I finally had enough of the leftist bias, the censorship issues, and the swirling hatred in so many posts. When I first joined, it was because Cyris and Sylvis each wanted an account, so I got on to see first hand what they were jumping into.

It has gotten progressively aggressive. The platform is a ‘safe’ way for people to condemn, push agendas, and be virtual bullies, all from the sanctity of their home and keyboard. It used to be about sharing funny memes and keeping up with long-distance friends. But for months, it has only made me sad and angry.

I never have posted much. I don’t think people really care what I eat for meals or what I wear to go ride the horses. I’m not sharing personal information, like vacation dates and destinations or delicate information like surgeries. I don’t post pictures of myself. Only occasionally will I post something about the boys if they had a good day at rodeo. I just don’t think random posts like the above mentioned are necessary. And I am shocked daily by what some people share over the web.

I learned a few years ago that trying to post opinions on some posts was like inciting a verbal name calling war. It amazed me that grown adults would stoop to those tactics when someone didn’t agree with their politically ideologies. And I simply stopped posting any arguments.

I found myself wasting too much time going through hateful posts from people whose opinions were far away from mine. And I found myself internally responding, getting angrier and most disillusioned about human kind. I had to block people that I had known since kindergarten. I had to unfriend a couple because of things they posted. Not about me or connected to me, but things that were simply not within the realm of being kind.

I haven’t missed it. I took the app off my phone. It’s no longer on my computer, and I am getting a lot more accomplished during the day. Still not as much as is on my lists every morning. But I don’t have running commentary going in my head. I don’t have to scroll past certain people who seem to always put something controversial on their feed.

And given today’s political climate and uncertainty for this country, right now I’m content to duck my head away from mis-information and outright lies being offered as the gospel. I am trying out MeWe and will wait to see if Parler can find a new host for its platform.

It’s sad that in today’s modern world, we as humans are still reduced to caveman behavior and tactics. What happened to civility and the ability to have differing opinions without the need to belittle and denigrate? I have friends and family members who do not agree with me on every topic. That’s okay. We’re still friends. We’re still family. We still love each other. We know that there are certain things we aren’t going to talk about. And that’s okay, too.

I think what disappoints me the most is how deflated I feel, not only about the outcome of this fraudulent election but also about the vitriol being flung at anyone who stands away from the leftist agendas being shoving down our collective throat. That’s what I had to get away from.

The whole ‘woke’ movement of late, where I’m encouraged to apologize for my skin color and the fact that I have worked during my lifetime to accumulate a nice home and a comfortable lifestyle. Somehow, I’m to be held responsible for events that happened hundreds of years ago by people unrelated to me in any way.

So, for now, I am isolating from social media. The world of inflated egos, flatulent lies, and dangerous ‘influencers’.  I think my little world will be just fine. I have actual friends that I can talk to and who don’t resort to name calling if we disagree about something. We can make fun of each other without someone getting offended. And we can make jokes together, laughing so hard we either cry or wet our pants. I’ll take those kinds of friends over posts anyday.

Farewell FB. Hopefully the movement will catch on and more people will take the plunge to disengage from the dysfunctional environment.

Power Tools Blues

I have been divorced for six years now, and I have to admit, I’ve learned a lot about power tools and how to use them. Also how to not use them and what my limitations are with them.

I have been steadily increasing my tool inventory. I like corded tools much better than cordless. Maybe if I could afford to get the super powerful cordless ones, they would work better and last longer than the basic models I have. They sit on the shelves and will probably migrate to the boys at some point.

I know the basics of a drill and impact driver. I can run saws and sanders. Most recently, I bought a planer and have been replacing the kitchen counters with ones that I’m building out of boards from the barn. We are repurposing the wood and the counters so far look pretty cool. With each one, I learn something else so that they are evolving into better versions of the last.

But I still need help with some things in terms of power tools. Sometimes I don’t have the strength or force to push a screw into two pieces of wood. Or to get tin screws to go where I want.

Sometimes I don’t have enough confidence to run some of the tools. Sometimes I just need help moving them or keeping the wood steady. And that makes me angry. Especially when I watch Cyris show up and do all the jobs with ease that I have struggled with.

I also get irritated when Garris argues with me in regard to using the tools. I know he’s a guy and he thinks he knows everything better than I do simple due to his gender. But I am more precise with my measuring. And my fine tuning tasks, like sanding. He tends to go at things with all the finesse of a wild boar. And then things start breaking. Driver heads start wearing out and screws get stripped. Boards crack because he isn’t careful about where he starts the screw.

Take the other day. We are making shelves for the garage, using a technique I saw online. I thought it was very simple and easy to get things measured correctly. The first set went up easily and only took us in total a couple of days. The other set was a different situation. We are attaching them to a cement wall, so it wasn’t feasible to try and screw them into cement. I did get some masonry drill bits, but Garris didn’t want to spend the time needed to drill holes.

So, I suggested we either use a cement grade adhesive (which I had already purchased) or make them freestanding. His suggestion was to make them with rope. I vetoed that idea, and he got very angry.

So, we made the first set of legs and shelf supports outside. I suggested he measure everything before we began. Instead, he just starting screwing the pieces together. When we brought it into the garage, the legs were all different lengths. So he tried shortening them using a hacksaw, holding the leg up. Needless to say, we never did get the legs all the same length.

At that point, we put the adhesive on. I suggested moving the fridge over to keep the wood butted up against the wall. Garris didn’t want to move it six feet, so he propped the ladder up to it and put a case of bottled water on top. It promptly fell over.

After Garris left the garage, I man handled the fridge over to one leg, moved a dresser against the second, and put several cases of water against the third one.

After about thirty-six hours, the bonds look like they are holding pretty well. After Garris gets done with school today, we’ll try to finish those shelves, plus another set I started last night in the storage room.

Up to Garris, we’d be working on these shelves for the next three months. I want to get them up so I can de-clutter the basement and set up a work area for myself and get my supplies in one general area.

I’m not trying to pick on him, but if he would take the time to listen to what I say and suggest, the amount of work we actually have to do would be less. He isn’t good about putting tools away, either. And once he starts buying his own things, he can do what he wants with them. For now, with my tools, he needs to put them away. Where we can find them. Out of the weather.

Which is why I want to get all these shelves done in the garage, so I have a dedicated space for all my tools and all my hardware, etc. I won’t be searching in four different places in the house and wondering why I’m constantly buying new fasteners and new drill bits and new glue.

The next big tool I want to get is a big table saw, so I’m not trying to cut all this wood with a circular saw. So far, it has worked fine. But I have bigger pieces to use next and I know a table saw would be safer and more efficient.

Until then, I’ll suffer through the power tool blues and try not to use them on my youngest son.