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"Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."
- Unknown

"That which does not kill you, makes you stronger."
- Handed down through the ages.

"Life's tough. It's even tougher when you're stupid."
- John Wayne

The Pink Elephant in the Room

Have you noticed lately?  There's been a big, pink elephant that I've been trying to avoid in the room.  I've been avoiding it by posting infrequently or, when I do, trying to waltz around the thing disrupting the normal flow of life at Swamp River Ridge.  

But now, in an effort to make Valentine's Day a GOOD day for me, I am ready to rid myself of the weight that's been lurking 'between the lines' of my writing.  

Tom moved out on January 17th.

Tom's been struggling to make Swamp River Ridge and the LIFESTYLE that such a place requires the right choice for him.  When we began this project, he thought it was what he wanted.  Now he knows that it's not.  It's a big, fat disappointment, but how can a person know that something WILL be right until s/he actually tries it?

In retrospect, I think Tom's been struggling ever since the spring of 2008 when he quit his IT position on the Rez and set out to be his own boss as a handyman.  Then, there was his attempt to 'find himself' last March when he headed out to Sedona.  And, we all know that his time of personal reflection wasn't in the cards when he crashed & burned on his 2nd day there.  Maybe 'crashed & broke' would be more accurate to explain his 5 day stay in an Arizona hospital recovering from the collapsed lung, badly broken clavicle, and 6 shattered ribs.

We've both been in counseling, individually & as a couple, on and off for over a year.  At first blush, the 'problem' seemed to be "just" Swamp River Ridge.  Now, the reality seems to be that there is more at the heart of things . . . and a pervasive unhappiness that Tom's struggling with that encompasses our marriage, too.  Being philosophical, I believe that Tom's always allowed himself to be swept up (by the woman in his life) in activities, plans, moves, changes that he thinks are what he truly wants.  But then, when he gets there, figuratively, he realizes that it's not what he wants.  And, unfortunately, I don't think he's ever learned how to listen to his inner self to find just what it is that he DOES want.  As a result of that, relationships, jobs, new lifestyles have fallen along the wayside.

My chest, my heart physically aches as I sit here trying to decide what to write, but I know I'll be able to continue with my writing on this blog now that the truth is out.  (And I 'reclaimed' it as my own, if you will, with the new name . . . as you might have noticed.  I'm not sure the sunflower image will be permanent, but the name will stay.)

I certainly hope I haven't sounded disparaging against Tom.  We didn't know it at the time, but we took a huge personal risk in creating such a unique lifestyle for ourselves.  And, unfortunately, that risk didn't pay off.  Would these internal struggles of Tom's come to the surface if we had stayed living in Minneapolis . . . or in our cozy little house down by the lake?  Who knows?  But probably.  It wasn't Swamp River Ridge that created his demons, but it did play a big part in forcing them to the surface.  

On the up side, the difficulties in our relationship have forced me to realize how much this physical place, Swamp River Ridge, and this home that we designed & built mean to me.  I've often said that I won't leave until I'm carried out in a pine box.  I thought I'd have to retract that statement when Tom left, believing that he'd ask me to choose between Swamp River Ridge and him . . . but he hasn't.  Maybe he still will . . . ask me to live with him, wherever that is.  But, for now, I am here.

Now my biggest hurdle (aside from the emotions & what will become of our marriage) is figuring out how I can keep Swamp River Ridge, financially.  For the last 12 1/2 years, Tom has supported me, 99.5%, financially.  That was our "deal" when we moved in together in the fall of 1997:  I would be a homemaker and keep all things running smoothly, and he would be the bread-winner.  However, the time has very obviously come when I need to rejoin the working stiffs . . . that is to say, work OUTSIDE the home for the first time in a very long time.  Am I nervous?  Of course.  Am I disappointed?  Duh.  Will Swamp River Ridge suffer when I'm out working 40 hours a week?  Yup.  Am I willing to make those sacrifices in an attempt to keep 'what is mine', so very deeply, in my soul?  You bet.  It's gonna suck rotten eggs, but I'll know that every moment spent away from home will be going towards the (fairly huge) mortgage . . . towards preserving this life that means so very much to me.

So, with that, I'll hit 'post' and hope that I haven't hurt Tom by being honest.


  1. I'm so sorry that you (both) are going through this, and I think you've written very fairly.
    I also like the new name (a LOT) and the new look.
    I'll email more later....all my love to you, my dear.

  2. My thoughts are with you! Holidays like this can be just terrible when you're alone and things are unsettled. I feel your pain. Be strong and take care of yourself!

  3. My thoughts are also with you as I can imagine how tough this must be. Hang in there! Things usually have a way of working out for the best.

  4. I saw the new blog name on my reader, and thought "Oh she changed things around, I'll save that one for later and check it out..." I wish I would have read it right away! I am so sorry for all that you are going through. I myself went through a painful relationship collapse about 9 years ago, and had to adapt to some pretty bad financial changes. I hope you are able to sustain Swamp River Ridge, I can tell how much it means to you, and I feel you have made it a part of us too, through your posts! That life is not for everyone, and I too, worry about my husband adapting to the cold when we move. He "says" he wants to, but I keep trying to give him the reality of it, you know, when the "pretty White Christmas" is over and it's freaking cold and dark and there is still work to be done outside... for months more until it warms up! Hopefully the time he spent in Alaska prepared him a bit. I am so glad you were honest and spilled your feelings and situation with us. I am trying to be more honest with myself too this year. You have a bunch of us that are rooting for you and Swamp River Ridge! Things have a way of working out not the way we expected sometimes, but it can make way for a whole new "normal" that can be even better than you imagined. No doubt there is alot of thinking, work, and ingenuity involved in your process, hang in there, be the strong woman you are, and lean on those wonderful strong parents you have for emotional support. And for what it's worth, I think you spoke fairly about Tom, you are right, some people just get swept up in "ideas" and the reality is just not what they expected. It is just unfortunate that it is now playing out this way and risking the homestead you love so much. Wow, I ramble...

  5. Oh rats, knew something was up when we saw the banner change... We are so sorry you both are going through this. We've only been to SWR once but it was a wonderful "quick visit" that turned in to 9 hours of delightful fun. You're inspiring in your honesty and we wish you the courage and strength to find your way through this... both of you. Please keep posting and keep in touch. Kathy and Val

  6. Thanks for all the positive words & support, friends. :)

    Erin, I LOVE what you said about readers getting an understanding of Swamp River Ridge thru my posts. THANK YOU! (That's the general idea, too!) And, thanks for giving me props for honesty. Even tho I'm a good liar when I need to be (?!), I can't write worth a darn if I'm skirting a subject entwined in it all.

    Kathy & Val, that bottle of single malt is still sitting on the shelf in the dining room hutch . . . awaiting your next visit! I haven't even cracked the label yet without you! And, thank you for mentioning something as simple as "please keep posting". My biggest hurdle in posting is that old "but I have nothing to saaaaayyy" whine. Nothing interesting, anyway, it feels like. But, THANKS to comments like yours, I will keep plodding along. I just need a poke in the arse from time to time. ;)

  7. So here's your mother always eager and willing to give you that poke in the arse. (I live to please!)

  8. So here is what Aunt Jo would say, "Change is good...always." Love and support to you both. Hang in there.
    cousin Stephen

  9. If anyone is strong enough to make this work, I believe it is you. Sending positive thoughts your way...

  10. Keep strong both of you.

    I have a Zelda Wisdom that helps me: Tough times never last . . . tough people do.

    Hugs to both of you.


  11. Thinking of you in this time of adjustment.
    I had hubby 1 leave and I had 2.3 kids at the time. Didn't know about the financial part then, but I was working full time for the inlaws...yeah, that did make it a bit tricky, but they totally supported me anyway I needed! But I did OK, and I realized that he was the leak in a lot of the $$ in the house and I really didn't need many of the things we had been spending money on.
    Now hubby #2 is paying all of our household bills and I have to admit, there are nightmares that sometimes make me look at where I am right now and how I'd get along on my wages right now. This house would have to be the first to go, as much as that would hurt. But it is more than I could afford and more than I need. But if you have worked out the details of that and can swing it, more power to you. it will all come together. And if you need a little help, just open the shed to summer sleepovers and charge them to do your chores!! But keep writing...and we'll share all of your joys with much celebration.
    What are your job thoughts? as the economy slows, yet again, around here, I wonder about jobs and what job I could do if I needed to change and I'm so much a rut person. Good luck..

  12. That's a thought - bed and breakfast (and chicken coop cleaning!) Chicken Mama: offering a taste of country life. Weekend rates available.


  13. Chicken Mama and Jen - I read an article once about a couple who had a farm/homestead and also operated a "Fat Farm." A place where people came to lose weight. The clients did chores on the homestead . . . gardening, cleaning up after the animals, feeding the animals, baling hay, etc. It was very popular and the clients helped financially sustain the couple's whole operation.

  14. That is hilarious! A fat farm...

  15. OH Wow I have not read your blog for a while. Wow I am so sorry.....
    Weslie you are a strong person. Thing will be hard and time will tell what will come. Takes things one day at a time and NEVER EVER give up. Remember that you need time for you and the snow can always be shoveled tomorrow. I do not know all that has happened with you and Tom but thing happen for a reason. Only time will give you the answer.
    Your heart is broke right now and thing are going to take time for it to heal.
    You have a very strong family tie with your parents and they are there if you need them.
    Never ever be to proud to ask for help, that can be a get down fall for all involved.
    Life throws experiences at us that you never expect, but in the end there will be a reason.

    Some Men have trouble with a certain time in their life and they can loose what matters the most to them.

    I know I am far away but i will always be here for you for a chat or even if you need a shoulder to cry on. Call me collect.


  16. Thank you, everybody. Having all of you "out there" rooting for me, for us, REALLY makes a difference to me. It gives me a kind of support that feels like, when I'm down, "I'm not just doing this for me, I'm doing it for them, too!"

    TJ, I whole-heartedly agree with your sentiment of "tough times never last . . . tough people do". I couldn't agree more! Matter of fact, I'll have to add that one to my 'Quotable Quotes' on the blog.

    Jenyfer, I am still pursuing the idea of this (place) becoming a day retreat. Here's the name, 'The Retreat at Swamp River Ridge'. (Original, I know, but it has a good ring.) I would cater to quilters, knitters, writers . . . and other handwork and/or "quiet work" types. I'd serve a simple lunch (large soup or salad w/ homemade bread), then a cocktail hour before a sit-down dinner. Then, off they'd go back to their motels for the evening & breakfast the following day before returning. All in good time . . . !

  17. Jean, thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I so clearly remember one of the questions you had on the 5 (or was it 7?!) page application form we filled out before adding Tucker to our family: "If you divorce, what would happen to the dog(s)?" I remember thinking, psssshhhaw! Why would I even fill this out? It won't be a concern!

    Yeah, well, nothing is constant but change! I know that now.

    And, fortunately, Tucker's such a happy-go-lucky kinda guy that he doesn't seem affected by Tom being gone. Maisy knows, though, for sure. But, I SURE AM GLAD to have them here!!!

    I think my next post will be an update for everyone of where we are, in the relationship. As I've said before, I can't write / think clearly if I haven't addressed things.

    It sure helps, though, to know that I/we have the support coming loud & clear from southern MN. :) xo

  18. Claire told me a little bit about what was going on and I just got caught up on your blog. I am very sorry for you and Tom and the sadness you must both be feeling. I have always found you two to be such remarkable people and I admire you both very much. You are an incredibly talented, resourceful and strong person and will of course find a way to make this work (i.e. keeping Swamp River Ridge) and you will continue to thrive in all you do. You have always been an amazing hostess and homemaker, so the idea of The Retreat at Swamp River Ridge is a beautiful one, as you have such a magic place. Best wishes in everything you do. Thinking of you down here in the Twin Shitties.


If you are familiar with me and where I live, please respect my right to retain some anonymity by not referring to me by anything other than Chicken Mama nor mentioning city/town/villages by place names. Thanks!