Years ago, I worked in the Dude Ranch industry and attended the annual Dude Ranch convention. You can imagine the topics we discussed: from the importance of meticulous cleaning; to horse back riding safety; to how being in a business where our job is to give so much of ourselves to our guests affects our marriage and our family life, and how to keep this all in balance.
Our ranch here is a Guest Ranch, not a Dude Ranch. The difference is huge: our guests come here to enjoy the land, the mountain, the river, and “their” cabin. They don’t come here for us, or to expect round the clock entertaining. Time we spend with our guests is our choice – we do it because we like them, and like spending time with them, not because it’s part of the package.
However, in the middle of our main summer season, we often find we have spent a great deal of time with other folks – between visiting with our guests, chatting with tourists who stop by, and caring for our outfitting clients. Although we enjoy it, you can imagine what a tremendous change this is from our “off” season times, when it is just the three of us alone on the mountain together. So, no matter how much we enjoy our guests and time visiting with our seasonal neighbors, it is a big adjustment for us. One we make readily and happily, but we have learned the importance of when to say when. We ask ourselves, if I give this part of me, will I feel good about it, or feel like I gave too much? The last thing we need to do is resent others because we put out too much. Others will assume our resentment is directed at them, when of course, in reality, it should be directed at ourselves. We were not aware enough of our own needs and boundaries to respect ourselves, and our guests. So, we try to pay attention to such things, and if we start to feel that gut reaction of “warning: violation” growing inside, it’s time to say “no.”
There are so many businesses that you may be a part of that are similar – businesses based on serving others. (Probably the most common of such jobs is that of being mother and/or housewife.) If we know our limits, I believe we are better at our job. If we take the time to care for ourselves and those things or people that are most dear to us first, then we tend to have more to give to others. If we neglect our own needs and give too much, we are exhausted, resentful and simply wiped out.
My intention this morning was not to ramble on about all this, but actually to share one way we found of insuring we took time for us, for our own little family, by closing the door for just one night a week to our neighbors and guests. And by the way, no one even usually notices, so that alone taught us how easy it is to take the time, and how well everyone understands your need for time together or alone!
About two years ago now, we started Family Night. One night a week, we take time to do something special, just the three of us. We alternate weeks. If it is your week, you get to decide what special event to do that evening, as well as cook dinner. For me, that’s easy, as I’m usually in charge of dinner and evening entertainment. But for the boys, it’s been more challenging. Forrest has learned to cook! And Bob, who was never much for making a big deal of dating or romantic endeavors, has come up with some pretty fun and spontaneous evenings (from spa night to Bob’s tostada bar).
Throughout the two years, we have had all kinds of special evenings together. Simple is fine – it doesn’t have to be a big deal or a big production, as long as we just take the time. We have spent evenings together just reading a specific article or story aloud together, or horseback riding to a picnic spot; playing board games, or watching a movie on DVD; practicing dancing, or singing Christmas carols. We haven’t missed one week – I know because we mark the dates on the calendar. There have been a few weeks, of course, when we have had to double up either the week before or the week after, but we always catch up and take the time. We make the time.
Last night, it was my turn. We had a dinner of homemade pizza (oh – I should share that recipe with you tomorrow!), then I had Bob jump on his snowmobile and bring a box I had previously packed down to the Little Cabin. When he returned, we all bundled up in warm winter gear, called Alan Shepherd (loudly, his hearing is not what it once was), and walked along our snow covered new road down to the Little Cabin.
The moon was directly over head, just over half full, and so bright reflecting on the white world around us. So although we had headlamps with us, there was no need for any additional light than that of the silver glow of moonlight.
When we arrived at the Little Cabin, everyone had a job. I gave Forrest a big knife, and asked him to go to the willow bushes and cut us three long roasting sticks. Bob and I unpacked the bag, lit a candle in the Little Cabin, and got a fire going out front where the porch will be, in a portable grill (sure beats digging through two feet of snow to try to find dry ground on which to build!). We pulled up three chairs that remained in the cabin throughout the move, set them up in the snow before the cabin. There in the snow on the bluff above the river, in the crispy frozen night air, with nothing but the light of the fire and the light of the moon, we roasted our marshmallows and had s’mores for dessert.