Wednesday, February 23, 2011


The reality of having a new baby was probably both the best and worst thing Bill and I could have done at the time. I am convinced it saved our marriage, but it also almost cost us it more than once. On the upside, Bill becoming a father completely transformed him from a cute, funny, happy-go-lucky, but sometimes irresponsible guy, to a full grown adult and partner in our marriage – while still being cute and funny! He is and has been a great step dad to my older girls, and an amazing father to Jannie.

On the downside, Rose was seven-years old when Jannie was born, and had become pretty self sufficient in her daily life. She could set her own alarm clock, get up for school, make her own breakfast and lunch, while I would stagger out to get a cup of coffee and head back to bed for a moment or two. Life was getting good!

Seven years is a long time between children, and the mind has a way of forgetting what it doesn’t want to remember. The new demand of diapers, feedings, and never enough sleep was a hard smack-back for me. On top of that, I was the primary wage earner for our family at the time, and had to go back to work when Jannie was a month old.

Trying to nurse while I was traveling for work was exhausting, and Jannie was not a great sleeper. She took a few naps but did not sleep much at night. Consequently, neither did we. This was less of a problem for Bill as he doesn’t need much sleep, but I am a nine-hour-a-night-gal. To make matters worse, our tiny cabin was so small we literally had no place to put our new kid. For the first year of her life (until we finally were able to get a new home) Jannie slept in a crib two inches from my head – or, should I say, she screamed two inches from my head. I was a zombie.

Once, when Jannie was three months old, I announced to my family that I needed a break. I made a reservation at the local four-star lodge where they offer cheap accommodations to locals during the off season. Leslye thought it was great! “Oh, it will be so fun! I’ll bring a bottle of wine and we can talk all night!” I think she was a little surprised when I said I was going to the lodge to sleep. But that’s what I did. I took a long bubble bath in the big hot tub with a wonderful view of the mountains. And then I slept for 15 hours straight. I had such a good time I went back the next week and did it all over again. To this day, it was the best money I’ve ever spent.

Fortunately for us, Jannie has grown to be a happy, sunny child who is self entertaining and loves the outdoors. She is remarkably like her dad in both temperament and looks, but with a flare for the dramatic and a penchant to talk too much that can only come from me. Sometimes the karma is just right.

So three years after coming to the valley, just as things were finally settling in, we threw this little monkey wrench into our lives just to make it interesting. And, it certainly did. For one thing, making a living all of a sudden got hard again, as one of us needed to stay home. Neither made enough money to justify infant day care costs, and we didn’t want to go that route anyhow. My job paid the most at the time, so I worked on outside consulting projects while Bill became a stay-at-home dad.

Working outside the valley was something that has served me well. People who work here often try to avoid controversy as it can cost them customers, money and maybe even their jobs. If you say or do something someone doesn’t like, they might stop shopping in your store or hiring you for work. Instinctively, after I arrived, I knew making my money outside the valley would allow me to maintain a voice on issues important to me. But that has occasionally meant I’m the only voice willing to speak up.

Asking why the school board ignored half a dozen letters from parents complaining about the high-school principal’s mistreatment of their kids, or why there were three free ski trails for people and their dogs, but no free ski trails for people and their kids, were questions that did not make me very popular in some circles. But I thought they needed to be asked. And as a consequence, I’ve developed a reputation as being either a troublemaker or “the conscience of the valley” depending on who you talk to. It makes for interesting contrast.

In a single day, for example, I might go to the grocery store and experience the “Valley Shun” where people refuse to look at you as they walk past. And then go to the gas station where someone hails me as their new hero. With my broadcasting background and fairly thick skin, I knew I had the skills for this job. But did I necessarily want it? Temperamentally, I had a hard time ignoring a problem that I thought I could resolve. But the cost was wearing me down.

Learning how to pick and chose my battles has been a learning curve. And then there was the issue of my “tone” or how I presented problems to people and to the press. “You sound so angry,” one woman complained, after I wrote a long editorial for the local paper on the documented abuses of our then high school Principal. “Well, yes, when adults with authority over children abuse them, it makes me a little pissed off. Go figure.”

On more than one occasion, I thanked my lucky stars for Bill, whose winning sense of humor could keep things light. Once, in the middle of a hard struggle with our local school district, Bill went to a school board meeting to present them with an award. After a little fanfare, he unwrapped a small statue of the three monkeys: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, much to the delight of the people present, and consternation of the board. That Bill was later elected as a member of our local school board was also a matter of consternation to them. But now most of these board members are gone and Bill is still there. We did a few things right.

This sort of struggle happens in small towns, where relatively small issues become huge, and everyone has an opinion about them. I don’t know what to say about that other than be who you are, while also thinking hard about whom you want to be. There are consequences to whatever you chose so you might as well be your best self.

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