I think the last time I wrote I may have started with something along the lines of it has been a while but those holidays really kept me busy. And now? Well, COVID happened and schools closed, and I only thought I was busy before that. So, here I am for the second time in a 6 month time frame, explaining the gap in my writing. Enough of those excuses- let’s talk about the good stuff. So many things.

We all survived schools being closed for a couple weeks and even lived through virtual school. I mean, we all had to learn some new coping skills, others, cough-Owen- cough, had to learn ALL the coping skills. Summer is here and we are glad to be on this side of that experience. The kids and I were lucky enough to be able to stay home- like really stay home. We were also lucky enough that Josh was able to keep working, safely. And real estate allowed me to continue to work from home and juggle my zoom meetings with Reagan’s zoom class. We count ourselves very lucky to have been able to continue to support our family and stay safe. And- we did not run out of TP.

As I work on this, we are driving the long trek from Casper to Missoula, Montana. 4 kids and 2 adults. Don’t worry, we stayed overnight in Billings! Who knew being outnumbered really would make a difference? I have not been back to Missoula since 2010. Even at that time I didn’t really have a chance to drive around and reminisce. We did drive through a couple of years ago on a family trip to Silverwood, just north of Coeur d’Alene, ID. It didn’t really count. As I have mentioned before, I used to board my horses with a family in Lolo, MT while I attended classes at and competed on the rodeo team for the University of Montana. We are returning for a visit- all be it a short visit, but at least we can drive around a bit and see some sights. I keep referring to it as a College Rodeo Reunion; I’m not sure who will be there. I know I am excited to see people from my past and nervous at the same time. Am I the same person I used to be? Are they? Will we still click? Will it be different? Will I remember the good times or the sad? Will it be easy? Hard? Eek.

All the things. We did still click. We still make each other snort when we laugh and we can still tell westys with the best of them. Although some better than others. I shall not mention names! The weekend went fast and was emotional for me. Clearly, as I get older, I get even more “motions,” as Owen would call them. I knew being back in that Valley would trigger my memories of Frog; some good and some not. We truly became a team during my time there. I felt like learning to head steers off Frog was the highlight of our career together. It was his turn to teach me; and boy did he. Steve told the same story he always does when we see each other. Frog was a stubborn horse and we had a tendency to go a few rounds every now and then. After a few days away, I remember roping one night and he was giving me fits. As we began butting heads Steve called me out. Those damn “motions” got the best of me and I’m pretty sure I ended in tears. It is always funnier to hear Steve tell the story. And, between you and me- Frog was honery and stubborn and so was I. He probably just needed a good long trot up the mountain and back!

I didn’t get to see everyone. In fact, two of my traveling partners that I was looking forward to seeing couldn’t make it. However, I got to see several that I hadn’t seen since I graduated in 03. Not a full 20 years, but man, a lot has happened since then. I got to ride a wonderful horse. I could have roped off another amazing heading horse. I say could have because I didn’t. It felt weird and I didn’t rope. I was a little self-conscious even though I turned a few last fall. I, of course, regret not diving right in and turning a few more. However, it also was a peaceful feeling to just lope circles and not, at that moment, worry about where my kids were and what they were getting into. I realized that all this talk about filling my bucket in order to fill others was so much easier then I knew. I just needed a few circles in the arena on a horse that I didn’t have to worry about bucking me off. Just a little peace. Just me and that horse. Doesn’t matter what horse it is; I will always picture Frog and feel his rhythm. Especially in that Valley with those mountain views.

Of course, I have much more grey hair now then last time I was there….a few people pointed that out. But it didn’t bother me. I got to see my children adjust to a different environment with ease. With absolute ease. And, they even made new friends with my teammates kids. They are entrepreneurial and launched a Snack Shack where they sold borrowed drinks and snacks to people during the roping. You know you are surrounded by good people when they pay your kids to buy their own snacks and beverages back. Although not quite enough to buy a tank of gas for the ride home, it did give me hope that maybe they are learning some good things from us after all.

One thing I noticed was that not much had changed around there- everyone comes, eats and ropes and stays to BS afterwards. Really the only thing that felt like it had changed was me. For the past several days I was saddened by this acknowledgement. Honestly, I was sad up to sitting to write this. I am glad that I am a different person now. There are a lot of things that happened while I was there- even outside of the arena and Frog. And, even though I miss what I did during that time and who I was with- I am, with all certainty a better version of myself today then I was then. In fact, I am a better version today then I was yesterday. And, hopefully I can say the same tomorrow as well. There are a lot of things that I think I could have done differently and perhaps everyone, at some point, feels that way. I think I have remained true to myself and true to who my parents raised me to be. While my circle has changed and my priorities certainly have, I have been and will always be proud of my past and hopeful for my future. The only way to truly feel that is to never forget where we come from. Let’s not let another 20 years pass before we do that trek again!