I remember the sensation of abject terror; fluttering heart and shaking legs as I looked over the valley. Once I felt steady, I pushed the edge of fear even more, and closed my eyes. Immediately the vertigo hit, the feeling rushing through me as I stood a few inches from the edge. I settled into the darkness, comfort in the familiar sound of my breath, settling my heart and bringing me to the place of knowing that I was so much more than the frail vessel poised on the edge of the cliff. If my body had fallen, my soul was prepared to fly. Little did I know how quickly that time would come.
A few months later I began the process of moving into my new home in Little Rock, Arkansas. Alone.
December 2, 2021 as I was starting to settle into my new life as a retired single woman, my titanium hip implant broke while I was brushing my teeth. I underwent a complicated revision surgery, spent nine weeks using a walker, and started carefully rebuilding strength and flexibility in my body. I had my legs knocked out from under me, physically and emotionally. I am discovering that there is a lot to learn from this plot twist. Lessons I thought I had learned were not deep enough.
I’ve plummeted to the earth more than a few times in my life, each time rising from the ashes stronger and wiser. This is the time of pause, gathering my wits about me, shaking off the residual effects of the crash. The threads of fear and confusion are like smoke slowly drifting into the bright light of clarity.
I write in hope that those who feel judgement and hate towards transgender and LGBTQ people under the guise of religious belief will open their hearts to hear my story. A mothers story.
In 2000 my daughter had just started attending a religious university in Arkansas. She wanted to be a minister. A woman minister. While that was not an accepted practice back then, and still isn’t in some churches, she had dreams. Her dad, a former minister and an active Sunday school teacher could not have been more proud.
And then, at seventeen, she became pregnant. Our world turned upside down. I cried until I threw up the night she told us. There would be no involvement on his part. She was alone.
After a very emotional evening, I lay beside her in her bed. I held this child of my body, not even old enough to vote, and cried again for all of the shattered dreams and plans.
Her Dad and I are pro choice. We believe that a woman has a right to choose the direction their life will take. Kat and I talked about her choices. Abortion. Adoption to another family. Keeping the baby. We prayed. God spoke very clearly to me that night with my daughters voice.
She told me that she had decided to abort the fetus. She actually drove to the clinic. Then she turned around, a decision made. God spoke to her. Your prayers worked and so did mine. I raised my daughter to think for herself. To listen to her heart. To know her own truth. To listen to The Divine.
I am pro choice because I have experienced both birth and abortion. My body. My life. My choice. Kat heard my truth that night, and I heard hers. I respect and honor her decision to do what was right for her at that time, with the resources and support she had. I also honor her right to have chosen differently.
This is an example of prayers being answered. A success story, right? For you, that is where the story ends. You “saved an innocent life”
But there is more to the story.
Kat quit school. Unwed mothers were not welcome at a religious university.
Our church, Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, not only accepted the situation, they allowed her to teach a small bible study group of her peers. They embraced us and the baby when she was born. We never felt judgement or condemnation from our church family. Our church was then, and still is, an inclusive loving Christlike example of what church should be. Unfortunately they are the exception to the norm.
For many financial reasons, our family decided that it would be best if her dad and I adopted the child. It was a very hard decision for all of us, but one that I know was the right thing to do.
Kat fell in love, got married, and moved to Kentucky.
Her dad and I divorced, I moved to Colorado. Keely spent her summers at church camp, went on mission trips including Africa. Just a normal southern kid being brought up in the church.
Flash forward to four years ago. My child was being bullied so unmercifully that we decided to withdraw her from school. She was ridiculed, slammed into lockers and I couldn’t protect her.
Some of the girls that I loved as my own, the girls that spent nights and weekends in our home, that called me “mom” turned on her. Called her names and ostracized her. Wounded her.
She found new friends, inclusive and kind, not part of the popular group. But those friends couldn’t shield her from the attacks.
Because she was different. She never wanted to wear makeup. She wanted nothing to do with blow dryers and curling irons. As her friends were talking about boys and buying bras and stuffing them with toilet paper, Keely was reading and doing puzzles. She was bewildered and frankly disgusted by the changes in her body.
My brilliant, animal loving, sensitive child spiraled into depression. Her grades plummeted, she socially isolated, going weeks without seeing her friends. I got in the habit of waking in the middle of the night and checking to make sure she was still alive. I walked through each day with a knot in my stomach from worry.
One morning around 3am I entered her room, she was on the computer working on school work. I lay on the bed beside her and we started talking. That is when we had the conversation that began my process of understanding my child’s truth.
She told me she was non binary. That she had gone online and found a name for who she was. She did not feel like a woman, she did not feel like a man, she was something different. She wanted to be referred to with gender neutral pronouns “they” “them”
You know, it made sense. As I lay there beside them understanding came. The lack of interest in dating, hair and makeup. The baggy clothes, the sheer horror on their face if we talked about bras or boobs.
I argued with them about the pronouns. “They” is plural, it’s not grammatically correct. That is usually the first reaction by to the request for neutral pronouns from the uneducated by the way.
After we got over that little hurdle, the words flowed. The fear and anxiety of knowing they were different but not knowing how or why. And then, thanks to the internet, finding out that there were others like them. And then the fear of telling, of coming out.
Keely was in counseling by then. They were leaving to visit Kat in Louisville in the next week, a spring break visit and an opportunity for Kat to help them try to pull up their failing grades.
You see Kat had discovered her calling. After attending culinary college she decided to enroll at the University of Louisville and pursue a degree in biology. By this time Kat was in the middle of a five year doctoral program. She was a full time student and was uniquely qualified to help Keely with school, because it was clear that it was way over my head.
The University of Louisville has a strong LGBTQ community. I’ll never forget the excitement in Keely’s voice when they told me about their experience there.
“Mom, we sat around a table and introduced ourselves, and we told people what our preferred pronouns are. And there were others like me”
I cried. My child, for the first time, was with others like them.
A decision was made, a decision that I will always know was the right decision, a decision that saved my child’s life. Keely moved to Louisville. We got them out of the conservative hateful community in Colorado and my baby moved in with their biological mom Kat, who Keely calls Sis.
My family is Transgender. Non binary. Queer. LGBTQ. Rainbow.
Some of you, my friends, condemn them. I’ve read hateful, hurtful , comments and memes making fun of my family in between your requests for prayer and the invitation to join you at your church home. Would you invite my rainbow family to sit beside you? Would you arrest them for using the bathroom of their gender identity?
You call them unnatural and a pervert. You stand in the house of God and say God created Adam and Eve, man and woman only. You say you don’t want to touch them or treat them in a medical environment , because it is against your religious beliefs. Didn’t Christ touch the lepers? Would you help a dog on the side of the road?
I say you are a hypocrite. How dare you think that my child, this child that is here as a direct result of your prayers, is less than human. Less than your cis gendered child. If anyone can tell you the truth it is the mother that knows her children. And I know mine. How can I do anything but defend their right to be honest and authentic? Isn’t that what I’m still trying to do in my own life?
You tell me that I , a mother with intelligence and knowledge, cannot make decisions with medical doctors that affirm my child’s right to be happy and healthy. You support laws that take away that right. How dare you. I am certain of my child’s agonizing and hard fought truth and I will defend their right to live it and be happy in this free country.
My child is Gods child , a child of the Divine and the Universe just as you are, and is created in His/Her/Their image. Non binary and transgender human beings have existed long before books were written and churches were built. We are only now seeing and naming those who have always been.
Some condemn as evil parents that are loving and open minded and support their gay or transgender children. Parents that have Gods heart and listen without judgement, that love unconditionally as we are meant to love, as the Bible and the preachers tell us to love
Do you understand my deep disgust? The betrayal? Do you as a thinking feeling human being, really believe that heterosexual people are better than, more worthy than, closer to God, than my child? Than me? That I don’t have the right to make decisions for my child? Do you have enough Christian love, agape love, to put yourself in my place and feel what I feel?
My hope is that you will read this with a Mothers heart. A Fathers heart. Don’t listen to those that create distance for power and judgement, that justify hurting and destroying another life in the name of …who? An understanding that love is love, and my God does not make mistakes. Queer people, Gay people, Transgender people are Gods children and they are deserving of your love, acceptance, understanding and protection. They are listening to God speak to them too you know. They have the audacity and the great courage to listen to God tell them to be true to themselves. To not wear the masks that their parents have worn. To not listen to the cacophony of domestication of thought that says different is dangerous, change should be resisted. Closed minds and hardened hearts operate in the dark.
So thank you for your prayers. They were heard. And because of those prayers my rainbow kids are going to stand proud in who they are and change the world. And I’m right there behind them, supporting them, loving them and protecting them.
Because I am their Mom.
August 2022: Keely earned their associates degree and has entered the work force. They plan on continuing their education in the near future.
Kat has a PhD in Biology. Their dissertation; How Cultural and Sexual Beliefs Manifest in College Biology Learning Environments. Kat is gender queer. They teach Anatomy and Physiology at a University in Kentucky.
Please note that female pronouns were used in the beginning for clarity and my children gave me permission to tell this story.
Thanks to Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas for your inclusiveness, love and support. You are a shining example of Gods work and a Christlike community
The air has a scent of crisp green, even in the afternoon it still smells pungent and fresh. Is there a smell to running water? Is there a special aroma of river water tumbling over rocks ? The smell of wood smoke lingers in the cool mornings, fading to a tendril of scent as the day warms.
I don’t watch for snakes. However I am on alert for the neighborhood mountain lion and the pesky bear that has been bothering the horses.
Between a hip that needs to be replaced AGAIN, a torn quad that has been an issue for over fifteen years , two replaced shoulders and a knee that’s trying to go wonky on me, I have been frustrated, sad, angry and resentful. The last time I went on a hike it resulted in the painful rolling walk that those with hip pain recognize. For two weeks I struggled with sleeping, moving, walking. Couple this with birthdays that seem to be accelerating at an alarming rate, and let’s just say I have not been a happy woman.
So no more hikes. No mountain trail running. Instead I walk. I honor and listen to what the pain is telling me. I don’t ignore the sound of my body telling me it is hurt. Forty years of martial arts made me deaf to the voice of my muscles, tendons and joints telling me that “more is not better”.
One thousand pushups on New Years Day 2010.
Shoulders replaced four years later.
A few months into Covid I decided to do a little trail running course on our property, using our two steep driveways and stairs to give me several route and intensity combinations.
No surprise I overdid it and found areas of hurt and damage that I didn’t know were possible.
I’ve been a martial artist my entire adult life. I know about injuries and I know what to do. Back to basics.
I walk. I honor and listen to the pain instead of ignoring and fighting it (and making it worse). I don’t treat my body as an opponent to be overpowered and forced into compliance.
There are enough areas with an incline to get my heart rate up. Especially if I go up and down several times in a row.
Mick has learned to lay splat on the soft ground and conserve his energy as I trudge up and down the
Keep in mind that the mileage on those little legs is always at least twice that of my legs. Sometimes I walk backwards laughing as he races to catch up after following scent on the trail. Raccoon? Fox? Skunk? Squirrel? Bear? Mountain Lion?
I know the little pug sees and hears my effort and is amused.
My comical little pug , We amuse each other, Mick and I.
Long flat stones surrounded by deep pools and tumbling water. A canopy of trees. Blue sky, white clouds. Green in every variation of green.
On the river? In the river? What is the proper term for this magical place?
Standing in mountain pose, hands at my heart, head bowed in reverence to this place, this moment, this experience . Breathing deeply while my eyes are closed I listen to my breath and find myself. Opening my eyes I turn in a full circle. Mindful. In the moment.
The sound of the Rio Blanco as it makes its way through the valley. Birds. Insects. The feel of the sun. Air in my lungs scented with pine and fir.
As I go through the flow of my yoga practice on the rocks there is a connection to creation that is profound and magical. It is the sensation of being perfectly present and in the moment. Hearing my breath, smelling sun water and air, moving slowly through balance and strength. I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this time. There is pure joy and contentment as the sun smiles on my face.
Walk lightly. Speak and laugh lightly, as much as possible.Go lightly along your way. Let go of heaviness. Seek that which is light. Gravitate towards joy. Your soul and body will lead you, if only you would listen.
I walk outside and I take a deep breath. There is first the deep green cedar smell, wet and dense. The smell of the woods, leaves and pine needles on the ground for that rich deep note, then the bright smell of cedarwood baking in the sun. My woods, my trees, my home on the side of a mountain. I tell people it smells like vacation to me. It smells like the trips to the Grand Canyon as a child, or the lodge at Yellowstone. Tents and campfires. It’s a different wood smell than where I grew up in Arkansas, where it was hot and humid.
I look at my house, barely visible in the trees on the side of the mountain as we drive by on our way to the mailbox. Yes, I pick our mail up from my post office box on the side of the road. If there is a package a key is left in my box. I open one of the four big metal postal boxes in the cluster to retrieve our parcels. Sometimes I have several keys for several boxes. I order a lot of stuff online.
It’s like living in a postcard.
At first I wanted to stop at every curve and twist of the road to take pictures. There was this need to share, to show this spectacular beauty to everyone I know. Photos from my iPhone can’t capture the depth and vastness of the views. The deep blue of the sky contrasting with snow capped mountains. Green forests, aspens blanketing the mountains with fiery displays of orange and yellow in the fall.
Aspens. I love aspen. I have aspen leaves tattooed on my arm. Did you know that aspens are the largest living organism in the world? Each stand of aspen share a single root system. They are a family of trees, an entwined sharing family.
there are aspen in my yard
they quake in the wind
Soft fluttery golden coins
their markings like petroglyphs
a secret language on bark
singing as i walk
i hear what they say
touching with reverence
as I breathe deep into my soul
there are aspens in my yard
Yesterday morning I left the house with anticipation about the big change. The change that will turn the shades of green to a mosaic of color as the leaves turn. I felt and smelled it, autumn is in the air. Cooler air at night and during the day, heaters turned on now in the house.
Then yesterday afternoon I could see it. Leaves turning yellow. I’m like a kid with my nose pressed against the car window, filled with excitement. Look at that! Did you see those?
I haven’t spotted a bear on our property. Yet.
I know they are around, the neighbors told me they saw a bear in my driveway a week before we closed on my house last year. Great measures have been taken to protect Noodles, the dogs and the horses from bears. There are multiple strands of electric fence, sturdy panels and houses for the dogs and the pig to keep predators away. We have rifles in virtually every room. Just in case.
I took down all of the hummingbird and bird feeders. I do not leave food of any kind outside or in the cars. I don’t want to be on the restaurant tour for bears getting ready for hibernation. I read the articles about protecting my property from bears. Don’t have lever type handles on your outside doors, the bears can open them.
A bear was in my house in the 1970’s. A friend of a friend on Facebook contacted me after we moved. She used to live in this house. How cool is that? She sent me pictures of snow almost to the roof of the house, and a picture of a Game and Fish Van in the driveway. When we talked on the phone she told me the story of the mama bear that climbed in through the window of the sun porch. Three times. She said the claw marks should still be in the windowsill. I was so disappointed that they had been changed out when the house was renovated a few years ago.
Last week I made gazpacho. As I chopped the vegetables I had a bowl for Noodle scraps and one for scraps that Noodles won’t eat. My pig is a picky pig, with a long list of vegetables that she will not eat. I think there is something profoundly hilarious that my family and friends will eat vegetables that my pig turns her snout up at.
I thought I would throw the beautiful yellow bell pepper scraps into the tomato and cucumber concoction that was in the Noodle bowl. I took the bowl outside for Noodles, there was no way I was going to feed tomatoes to her inside. The floor would look like bad things had happened to some creature.
An hour later I looked outside. The bowl was sparkling clean. Laying next to it the bright yellow of the bell pepper. Noodles tastes haven’t changed.
I was careful to pick up the bell pepper. Bears you know.
It’s been a year since we moved. A year of changing seasons and an snowy winter. I didn’t know about roof curl and had certainly never heard of a roof rake. Snow drift and roof curl got within a few inches of each other on one side of the house.
Did you know snow blowers need chains? We gave up on two of our driveways for the winter and parked down at the street. I had never shoveled snow, and certainly never imagined that I would do so on a pile over my head. I had never sunk down to my waist trying to brush snow off a satellite dish.
I loved it. Talk to me in a few years and that excitement might have waned, but I hope not.
There is an art to how to open and close windows to capture the cool of the night for the day. There is no air conditioning here. On my tree laden slope my house is cool even on the warmest days. Windows open at night i sleep under a down duvet, forest smells wafting through the room on the breeze. When i get up, Imake the bed and close the windows. A routine now.
Layers are my friend. Leggings, a tank top, my ugly but oh so comfortable Ugg boots, and a flannel shirt are year round wear in the house. I wear jackets as sweaters if I amoutside when the sun goes down, even in July. I hiked the last week of August on the Continental Divide and wore long pants and a coat. The week before it was shorts and a t shirt.
It’s been a year. We have our favorite restaurants. We are experiencing the ebb and flow of tourists in this little gem of a mountain town. We receive our weekly newspaper and check to see what festival or event is coming up. Summers are big here, Steve finally gave up on keeping track of the cars from out of state. Texans are a big fan of Pagosa.
There is no cell service at the house. I am careful to give very good directions, because if a visitor gets lost they have to drive back to town to call. Internet and phone service are maddening terrible everywhere here. The lack of quality service is on the front page of the newspaper and a constant complaint in the Opinion Section. I drive to town to one of the coffee shops to upload my blogs. Several haven’t been posted because I gave up in frustration. The more photos or videos the longer it takes. Most mornings Steve has to reset the router to get the internet working.
We drove to town last winter to watch a movie, even though it was snowing heavily. Yes, businesses stay open here when it snows. So do the schools. We walked outside after the movie, the snow had stopped and the town was just gorgeous with Christmas decorations and lights on the snow. We walked to the Jeep, the snow squeaking under our boots. The snow plows had already cleared the road home. Restaurants were open and doing a fine business.
Pagosa Springs is less than an hour from Wolf Creek Ski. Snow is good for our town.
Something about this little town in Colorado that speaks to my soul. I felt it as I came over Wolf Creek Pass last year. I spent a lot of time alone outdoors in the woods when I was young. I am taken back to those good times here.
There is a joy to living in Pagosa Springs. The people we meet are here by choice. They have been coming for years during the summer, always with the intention of retiring here. Or, like us, visited once and knew that this was The Place. Many have homes elsewhere, but are drawn to Pagosa and live here part of the year. Our friends are classified as seasonal or full time. Younger people move to work minimum wage jobs just so they can enjoy the outdoor activities and beauty.
If it is possible for a place to have magic, Pagosa is magical for us. There is a different rhythm to our life now. We are outside more, breathing deep and filled with gratitude. Maybe that is what the difference is. We both feel gratitude not only that we live here, but that we are experiencing it with each other. When you start your day with love and gratitude you change. You change your relationships, your view of the world, and yourself. You can’t help but change if you start your day happy.
POSTSCRIPT: The lady referenced above in the story about the bear wrote this (it wouldn’t post on WordPress)
From Pat Barbee:
I can’t seem to post on the blog – I have a WordPress account but after the sign-in, the comment disappears; so I’ll try here:
As always, your posts and blog can transport me to a singular moment of time in my life. I can actually smell the air, trees, damp (or dried) pine needles, feel the chill. The flannel shirt industry had a good chunk of our business!
I hope when you meet ‘your bear’ (more when than if) the experience is safe yet exciting. I’m curious, have you had owls in the garage yet?
I’m still hoping to get up there but it’s a bittersweet desire.
I don’t know your stance on spirit (angels, ghosts, tactile memories) but I know they exist and I know it will be emotional.
It is uniquely special to get to share memories and experiences this way. I’m glad I was able to convey what you also felt. That is a special connection.
How I would love to have owls in the garage! Maybe if we leave the door open they will come?
I can’t tell you how happy I would be to have you visit. Yes I am spiritual and believe that energy and emotions can inhabit places. I know the spirit of your family is here for sure.
At our moment of birth we inhale. We leave with an exhale. In between is life.
I wish I could remember where I read this, and I’m sure it’s not an exact quote. But this statement resonated with me as I sat in my little sanctuary on the hill. My “gatreebo”. The funky quirky gazebo that was on our property when we bought it. We filled it with all kinds of stuff as we were moving to Pagosa Springs last September. Little did I know what a special place it would become. It’s got some slats missing and the door leans against instead of hanging. We will get around to putting it up one of the days. For now, it’s perfect as it is.
I spend a lot of time here, shaded from the sun, my yoga mat and I. Reading. Meditating. Thinking. Crying. Sometimes taking a little nap. I’ve danced and swayed to music and emotions. I’ve screamed, laughed, and been deeply silent.
Time. Space. Freedom.
Big inhales of the deep cool green woodsy smell that always makes me feel like I am on vacation, that I am visiting a special place. I am always filled with gratitude and joy and a bit of surprise that this is the place I call home. If it is really possible to own a place on this planet, I own this partial side of a mountain with the sound of the river running always in the background.
This is the smell of my life, the space between that first inhale and the last exhale.
It’s been two weeks since I left Facebook.
What have I done with the time?
Yeah, I am purposely turning into that hippy new age woo woo kind of person that I use to ridicule. Funny how that works.
I’ve filled my mind with rich nourishing life changing wisdom in the book I’ve been reading and savoring.
Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self by Anodea Judith.
Here is the link. ( I don’t make any money from this)
Savoring. It’s a word I’ve frequently used describing food. The mental image I have is closed eyes as I explore the taste and texture of food. That’s how it has been with this book, eyes open to read, perhaps just a sentence, sometimes a paragraph but then I feel the stab to the heart or gut that tells me to take my time. Process. Taste. Digest the truth written. Savor. Close my eyes and shut out everything but the sensation.
Sometimes I will go on a journey, drifting back to my childhood, looking at the strings of my life, pulling them in and opening the boxes.
You know those boxes don’t you? The boxes where you pack away your hurt? Your agonizing pain. Betrayal. Shame. Resentment. Jealousy. Lies.
I pull the string and open the box, I’ve forgotten exactly what is in it. But the tense feeling in my body and the unease in the pit of the stomach tells me that my body knows and remembers very well what is in that box.
What is packed away in those boxes is real and not real. My interpretation of events of my childhood is that of a child. I practice stepping back and looking at the incident from my view then, then that of the others in the memory. Usually my parents are the other characters in the playbook.
Instead of reliving my hurt and anger, I piece together the facts of what was going on in my parents lives to understand. To understand my dads anger, my mothers fear. I realize now I have repeated those emotions in my life and the things I did to my kids. To others. The mirror is true, reflecting generations of behavior. I blamed my dad, trumpeting my innocence and victimhood, all the while “forgetting” that I behaved in many of the same ways.
By opening the box I am able to forgive. Not only what happened to me, but to also forgive myself.
I take the hurtangershamefear and I face it. I look at it, turn it over, exam it closely. I cry. Deep agonizing sobs and sometimes screams. I face it, that which I fear. 5e bully that I have allowed. The bully that I created.
Once I do, I can let it go. There is no more power. There is acceptance and peace.
Now don’t get the idea that this has been all rainbows and unicorn farts. This process has brought new wounds, frustration between my goals and commitments and realty.
I’ve found it easy to commit to a new way of thinking and reacting in the sanctuary. I plan my words and plan my reactions. It never. Ever. Goes as planned.
Which is what life really is, isn’t it? An unplanned twisting and turning process of discovering the outside, and if we have the courage, the inside. To learn and if we care to, to gain wisdom. The surface that can be seen, and the inside which needs a special kind of vision. A vision that we are taught not to use.
Our emotions are a way that we communicate with ourselves. Yet we deny them. We lie about them. We put a label on them and we lock them away and we feel good about it. Yet we are creating our own blindfold so that we blindly stumble and bumble into the same hurtful patterns over and over. We blame anyone or anything but ourselves, because we choose to be blind.
In the martial arts I emphasized breathing. Breath and focus. Being relaxed makes you faster. Tight muscles move slower. Relax or you will wear yourself out. Your brain needs oxygen. All of the focus on the body. The opponent. The outward.
In yoga, I close my eyes and connect with my breath. I go inward, small, dark, close, intimate. Sometimes my movements and adjustments are minuscule, tiny and invisible from the outside. Aware and focused inward is a new way for me.
I find that sacred place between the inhale and the out. The space that is my life.
Post Facebook Day One. This is harder than I thought it would be. I had weighed the pros and cons, but I don’t think I put enough emotional weight on the side of the true friendships that have grown over Facebook. Those names with the profile pic beside them that I have conversed with now for ten years. Or some that I have become very close to in the last year or so.
First day, I am in tears reading some of the comments and responses to my decision to leave Facebook. Really. It’s 3am, and that is what I am doing. I’m giving it a couple of days to acknowledge those friendships, and then that is it. I break the connection.
But the fact that one of the first things that popped into my mind was to check Facebook tells me I have made the right decision.
The thing is, I’ve been thinking of Facebook as some kind of entity in its own, as the enemy. The time and emotional vampire. But much of Facebook is made up of friends chatter about their lives. I’m really going to miss that connection. It’s not just news and memes and arguments and rants.
My world will be smaller now in many ways.
Which is why I am doing this I guess.
Turning inward. Striving for silence in my head. Silence to think and grow.
There is a part of me that yearns to be a hermit.
This need I have for aloneness and silence goes back to my childhood and teenage years. I’d get up in the dark, quietly leave the house, saddle up my horse and leave for the day. I would ride trails into the woods with no idea where I would end up. Just me and my horse. I’d eat a peanut butter sandwich under a tree while my horse grazed, looking up at the sun through the lace of the tree leaves.
I thought about all the things that teenagers are obsessed with. Boys. Parents. School.
I found God during those times. I remember being so angry with organized religion. With being told what to do, how to think. This was during the 70’s and there certainly is a little of the free spirit hippy in me. Probably a lot more than I knew then. The seeds of my outside the box thinking were planted during those lazy summer days when I had the gift of boredom.
My parents struggled financially. There were many material things that I wanted and didn’t get. There were times when we had to wait a few days to get groceries. We never went hungry but the cupboards were pretty empty at times. That is probably one of the reasons I’m concerned about kids not having enough to eat, and the homeless. I know how close we were when we were kids. I know how close I came a few times as an adult.
But I had a horse. My parents couldn’t buy a horse trailer, or take me to shows. I didn’t even have a saddle for years. But my parents gave me the incredible gift of freedom, responsibility and trust by allowing me to take off on my own for hours at a time.
Of course it had to end. I sold my horse to buy a car so I could work. I got wheels and the freedom that comes with a car. My life became one of work and school and friends. Not a lot of thinking and soul searching. No laying in the woods under a blue sky. Humid, hot as hell with a lot of bugs, but worth every minute of discomfort.
Now I walk out my door, up the hill of my backyard, and take a seat on my porch swing. And there I am. Different woods and trees, aspen and fir rather than oak and pine, but the sun is filtered through the trees and I can breath deeply in a way that isn’t possible in a city. It’s not humid, the mountain slope and trees supply a cooling breeze and shade and the bugs are minimal. I’ve found the place that feeds my soul. Again.
I do yoga in my quirky little gazebo. I sit for hours on a mat, thinking. Meditating. Writing.
It’s the senior citizen version of the teenage Michelle. Both of us are trying to figure things out. The younger Michelle, so idealistic, rebellious, passionate about so many things. I had so much to learn.
Now it’s time to sit quietly and think. To look at my life and experiences and take the time to learn and understand, instead of just doing, and reacting, scurrying from one point in life to the other.
I can walk out my door, put a bridle on Bali, and ride into the woods. I think I will be finding some areas to lay on my back and look at the sky. And think. And to be grateful for this gift of place and time.
Gratitude. If you read Hip Revision Chronicle 1 you might wonder why I am gong to devote a post to gratitude.
Let me tell you how grateful I am that my hip replacement device broke while I was brushing my teeth in my bathroom in my home in Little Rock.
I have lived at 7,200 elevation in a cabin on the side of a mountain in Pagosa Springs, Colorado for the last three years. We moved to Little Rock two and a half months before the incident. There is no cell service for miles around the cabin, so we used Wi-Fi calling in order to use our phones. The range of the Wi-Fi did not go much past the walls of the house. I couldn’t make calls from the deck for instance, and forget going out in the yard. The internet was spotty at best. It went out completely frequently. Not just at our place, sometimes the whole town was without cell or internet service for hours or days.
Our house perched on a steep slope. The dogs and Noodles houses were a good distance away. During the winter we dug paths in the snow so that we all could go back and forth. Those paths became very icy. We called them snow tunnels and toboggan runs. While we had a railing to help with footing there were several times when my feet went out from under me and I sat down hard. Steve was gone for hours almost every day playing pickleball. Not a good scenario. The Apple Watch and cell phone didn’t work there.
The slope of our backyard was such that I needed crampons on my boots to keep from sliding down the hill while waiting for the dogs to potty. I was out there alone during the middle of the night many times. Once I lost my shoes in the deep snow and spent several frustrating minutes on my stomach trying to reach them. I never could have crawled out of that. The temperatures were in the teens or minus zero frequently.
These are the stairs I used during the winter in order to get in and out of the house. They are made of sharp toothed metal. The driveways were impassable once it started snowing.
This is the special place that I spent many hours practicing yoga and developing my balance. I did tree pose on that leg on these rocks in the Rio Blanco over a mile from my house. The place is completely private. No cell service. What would have happened to Mick? Would my body have floated past our house down the road?
I went on hikes at high elevation with trails that were washed out on mountainsides of scree, which is treacherous loose rock and gravel. Hikes that crossed the continental divide. And of course no cell service. The drop offs were terrifying.
I rode my horse on rides that went miles into the wilderness where we spotted bear and moose. Miles from the nearest road, several hours of driving after reaching the trailhead to reach cell service. Many times it was just me and one other person. What would that have been like for me if I even survived? What trauma for the person or people with me?
I stood on that leg on a rock with a 5,000ft drop off.
My last horseback ride in Pagosa was with my friend Mary Beth. The helicopter circling as we rode the trail. A father and son had ridden out before us. The fathers horse slipped and fell on one of the switchbacks. His back broken, the father had to wait hours to be found, and then to be extricated from the area.
There are so many places and scenarios where this could have happened and I would be dead. No doubt. Or for me, worse than dead. A quadriplegic. In a coma. How many hours in what conditions waiting for help? And yes, there were many times when I rode or hiked alone. I carried a pistol for bears. I might have needed it for me.
As I lay in the hospital bed that first morning there was a beautiful sunrise. I cried, hot tears running down my face as my heart swelled with the knowledge that I was so very lucky, blessed, to be alive. I thought about what it would have been like for Steve to find me at the foot of the steep stairs in our house in Pagosa. If he had gotten up in the morning, thinking I was upstairs painting, not realizing I had frozen to death just a few yards from the house.
I loved my house in Pagosa Springs. But we also came to realize that it was not a house for us to grow old in. Shoveling snow, dealing with roof curl. Steve was outside for hours during the winter when it snowed. While incredibly fit and strong, he is 71 and it was hard. The outside stairs and icy slippery slope during the winter. And the stairs. The steep narrow stairs between the downstairs main living area and my upstairs art studio.
In February my 25 year old martial arts injury started to create havoc. Again. A torn quad after knee surgery resulted in leg and knee pain. I’d nursed it, even discontinuing long hikes, CrossFit. But the slope of our land and those stairs finally did me in. Beginning in February my leg and knee steadily got worse. I couldn’t bend it. I couldn’t straighten it. Yoga hurt. Walking hurt. I woke up during the night from the pain. X-rays showed that my knee structure was fine, the pain was muscle and tendons. I am so very grateful for that injury that told me in no uncertain terms that it was time to leave my beloved cabin in Pagosa.
Pagosa Springs is a beautiful small mountain town. It is relatively remote, Durango is the closest town of any size. We drove four hours to Albuquerque, NM to shop at the nearest Costco. Denver was five hours away. With this injury, I would have had to be airlifted to Denver for surgery. I would not have had the friends and connections I have here. No Kevin Heifner to clear the way at the hospital.
So yes. I know how lucky I am. Blessed. And the certainty grew, as I lay in that bed for ten days, that I am here for a reason. My life has a purpose.
The orthopedic doctor in Little Rock explained to me that this would be a very complicated and difficult surgery. It would be several days before he could schedule it. So I settled in to wait.
Because my leg didn’t have any bone structure holding it together anymore I had to lay in bed and move it as little as possible. It hurt, more each day. My right leg, my “bad leg” also hurt. I’d been going to physical therapy for it over the last few weeks, so as I lay in bed I did whatever movements and exercises I could to continue the progress I had been making. I was very aware that my bad leg was now going to have to be my good leg.
Getting out of the bed and going to the bathroom and using the toilet was not possible. Let me tell you about the Pickwick. It’s a blue tube with a tampon type cotton insert. It is connected to thin tubing which suctions the urine into a container on the wall. I was able to use this instead of having a catheter inserted. I am grateful for that
I mentioned in the previous blog that a nurse commented that I was in good shape. I was able to lift myself and use a bedpan without any help. I was able to lift my body when bedding or pads needed to be changed. That fact kept me from having to be rolled. I was able to maneuver around and give myself a bath. I am grateful for that.
Dr. Kevin Heifner stopped by every single day to check on me. Angels can be men too you know.
Steve was there every day, only leaving to go home and sleep and go by my house to feed Noodles.
My ex husband Charles took in Mick. His dog Pepper was a gift from us many years ago. Pepper and Mick were reunited and had a grand time together. Steve and I didn’t have to worry about Mick.
Friends and family called and texted. There were numerous messages on Facebook. I cried a lot, reading those messages and realizing that I am loved. I am so grateful for the support system I have in Little Rock.
The doctor who was originally going to do the surgery had expressed to me that it was going to be difficult and complicated. He was an orthopedic surgeon but this was not his specialty. I was concerned about that.
Monday morning, the day of surgery he came by the room very early. He said “I have an option for you. I was talking to a colleague at our Christmas party about your case, he has offered to do the surgery. He is an expert at this. Is this something that you would like to consider?”
Of course my answer was “yes”. I am forever grateful to that doctor, for caring enough about me and the outcome of the surgery to ask somebody else to do it. So very grateful for that.
Surgery was rescheduled a couple of times, I was resignedly patient and in retrospect grateful that mine was not done at the end of a long day of other surgeries for my doc. On Wednesday almost a week after the break I went into the operating room. The doctor explained that the best case scenario would be about a 45 minute long operation. I was in there for over three hours. I’m not grateful that it was the absolute worst case scenario surgery. But I am incredibly grateful that the man who did it has lots of experience, I was in the best hands possible.
And by the time I was released after ten days, lots of forced rest and inactivity , pain medicine and muscle relaxers, my “bad leg” was doing really great! I now have two good hips and two good legs.
So yeah. I am grateful. Because I had a ticking time bomb in my body for years. And I am sitting here in my warm house, alive.
Keely was coming to visit and I wanted to find a creative activity that we could share. I’ll never know where the idea came from, but I thought gathering rocks from the river together and then painting them would be something that we would enjoy. I found that mandala dot painting was a thing, so I bought some stencils, acrylic paint and dotting tools.
We spent hours on the deck, talking, painting, showing each other our work. There was a lot of laughter. It was one of those glowing golden days that will always be tucked into my treasured memories box.
I became obsessed with mastering the technique of dot mandala. For six, eight, ten hours a day I painted dots on rocks. I took over the dining room table. I gathered rocks in town, when I traveled. There were rocks in the kitchen sink, stacked on the deck, piled in the spare bedroom.
I learned to start with a dot in the middle. I learned about the sacred geometry that is the basis of mandala. I learned which paints worked with the technique, which kind of rock surface was best.
I found the joy of creativity and art again.
My move to Pagosa Springs that year had given me the opportunity to create space for new. To throw out patterns and habits that reflected who I had been, not who I now wanted to be.
I stopped playing pickleball and immersed in yoga. I bought a drafting table, special lights, magnifying classes. The upstairs became my studio. I read about chakras and energy , and went down a path into what Steve calls “woo woo stuff”.
Kat and Keely helped me hide them in Little Rock and took a basket full of them to Louisville for distribution.
If you came to our house, you left with a mandala rock. When we went to Arkansas and Alabama we transported baskets of rocks. I gave them as gifts to friends, family, salespeople that I connected with, perfect strangers were given rocks.
One of my rocks is part of the memorial to Breonna Taylor in Louisville. I cried when I saw it.
Friends in Alabama hid some rocks along the TVA hiking trail. An old friend of Steve’s found it and they reconnected on Facebook as a result.
I ordered marble and slate tiles to paint for use as coasters. Then ceramic tiles for purely decorative display. I painted ornaments. Next came canvas.
When the pandemic hit, I was searching for ways to help. I donated tiles to a local restaurant to be sold, all proceeds going to help their staff.
Over 40 tiles were sent to Louisville as a fundraiser for The Louisville Youth Group, an organization that supports LGBTQ+ youth.
And then it happened.
This was my first canvas. I laid it on the table in my studio, which was stacked with tiles. As I was moving things around, I put one of the round tiles on top of the canvas and I did a double take. Because of the sacred geometry of the mandala, the lines and shapes worked to create a new mandala. A 3D mandala tile and canvas. My heart started beating faster and I knew I was on to something. I had come up with a completely different way to create art.
There was a learning curve. The obsession deepened. Hours were spent “playing” with tiles. Finding which designs worked with what, how the colors blended or contrasted. How to put the pieces together securely but with the ability to interchange.
It’s hard for me to let go of these pieces. Each mandala is a glimpse into my soul. I paint with the door open to my mountain, the dogs sleeping, the horses letting me know every time I walk outside that they would like a cookie please. Noodles honks contentedly and noodles around in the pasture beside the deck. New Age music plays a background to the call of the birds and the skitter of the Abberts squirrels.
I paint my interpretation of the seasons in Pagosa Springs. I paint the flags of LGBTQ+. I paint my love of the culture of the Southwest. I paint gratitude and love and joy. I paint with a specific person in mind, hoping to infuse my art with my love for them.
I’m running out of wall space.
UPDATE: I’m now living in Little Rock, Arkansas. You can find my art at
Just before you get to Wolf Creek Ski on 160 from Pagosa is the road up to Lobo Pass Overlook. We drove up to the Cell Tower and hiked from there.
You can also access the Continental Divide Trail from the parking lot on 160. That is what I did on July 21 when I hiked with Margaret and Dave. Photos show the amount of snow that was still around. The road up to the Lobo Overlook was closed at the time because of snow. Yes, in July.
Today, September 7, 2019 there was no snow. Typical for Colorado the long sleeve shirt was off and on depending on the amount of shade and wind on the trail. It wasn’t a long hike, only a couple of miles, but there was a good amount of elevation change. We took a little off shoot trail that went pretty much straight up the mountain. At the top were some spectacular views.
If you are afraid if heights this probably in not a good hike for you. Some loose rock and gravel, so a hiking pole came in very handy a couple of times.
Thunderstorms were forming, and we did not want to get caught in one of those.
A wonderful hike, we remarked many times about how fortunate we are that we can still do activities like this, and that we live in such a gorgeous corner of the most gorgeous state in the Union.