Brandi was a good girl. She was a big, clumsy, happy, gentle soul. And she was always a good girl. All you needed to do to send her into leaps of joy was to tell her she was a good girl.
We put her to sleep on Saturday. She was eight years old, getting up there for a giant breed like a Mastiff. She had cancer.
Because of a bad spay, she leaked urine. Twice a day we put a mixture of three hormone pills down her throat. She sat. We opened her mouth, put our hand down her throat. Waited to make sure that she swallowed while we praised her.
She loved everybody and everything. She loved the horses, and would bark and play with them. Feeding the horses was one of her favorite activities. If you didn’t know which way to go, she would help by putting your arm in her huge mouth and leading you.
She put up with puppies and cats and pigs and kids crawling on top of her.
She and Keely grew up together. I never heard her growl. She had her nails done. Bows in her hair.
Suffered through baths in the shower, sometimes with a lot of company.
She was not brave in any way. Steve would stand on the other side of the door and growl and bang on the door. The other dogs would bark. All you heard from Brandi was the sound of the dog door flap as she took off for the pasture. We would joke that if anyone every broke in, the only chance of her hurting them would be if they were in the way of her running.
She would sit, lift a paw, and ask very politely for you to pet her. Again and again.
I loved her so much. Everyone did. She loved Steve, and he loved her. His big girl. They would have a lot of talks.
She was just a big lovable dufus. A true sweet gentle soul that we were blessed with for eight years.
Two weeks ago she wouldn’t come out of her house when I called her. I opened the door for her, and she slowly came out. She seemed reluctant. She also had wet herself, which was not unusual. So she walked a little stiff legged, again, not unusual.
But she wasn’t interested in her food.
A few days later Steve called me out. She had come up the hill to be fed, but her hind legs weren’t working right. She half wobbled and half crawled up the hill. It was one of the most painful sights I’ve ever seen. Steve had to drag/carry her back to her house. It was the last time she was ever outside. She quit eating and drinking.
We called the vet. She thought it was cancer. There was a heart murmer. At eight, Brandi was old for a Mastiff. We decided to try for a miracle and give her steroids for a few days.
The steroids brought back her appetite, she started eating turkey and meat if we fed her by hand. She drank a little.
But she could only move her front legs.
So she laid in the doorway of her house while we hoped for a miracle that we really knew wouldn’t come.
On her last day I brought the other animals into the house. Steve had started to make a trip to Durango, but was able to get in contact with the vet. He said he would be there around 11:30. Steve headed back.
I went to her house, opened the big door and put her head on my lap. She was able to see the blue sky, the trees, the mountains. I cried harder than I have cried in a very long time.
But for two hours Brandi got to eat peanut butter treats and turkey and cheese. She heard me tell her over and over what a good girl she was and how much she was loved.
The vet was kind and gentle. I held her while she went to sleep for the last time. No more pain, no more confusion.
It is hard. This doing the right thing for our pets. It is a responsibility we take on, if we are going to be “their people”. But I think, in a way, it makes the pain less for me. To know that we could, with love, choose the way and time of her going. I watched as she lay peacefully in my lap, hearing my voice, knowing love. It was my last, and perhaps, best, gift I could give her.
I called her my whabada. Because that was the noise her lips and ears would make as they flopped when she ran.
I think of her now, my sweet Brandi, whabada. Running free.
Fifteen years ago my oldest daughter Kat entrusted her child to my care.
Kat had just started college at a Christian university when she found out she was pregnant. The birth father was never in the picture. Kat’s father and I adopted the child so that she would have insurance, two parents, a stable home
Our names are on her birth certificate. She is legally our daughter.
Keely grew up calling Kat “Sis”. Keely knew that Kat was her birth mom. She knew she was loved by all of us.
I moved to Colorado. Keely came with me.
Kat married Mike, moved to Kentucky and found her path. Today she is completing a PhD program at the University of Louisville.
As she grew up Keely became aware that she was different. I saw it, but I didn’t really SEE it. I just called her my unique child. My quirky, independent, different drum beat child.
She struggled at school, was bullied because she was different. She never was interested in makeup or hair. She took rocket making in fifth grade while all the other fifth grade girls took a hair and makeup class.
She hated pink, and bling. The word “bra” would make her leave the room.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that Keely was able to start to put a name to that difference. It wasn’t until more recently that the name became more specific.
Non binary. A-sexual. A-romantic. Gender neutral. Transgender.
Keely prefers gender neutral pronouns that describe that they do not identify as either male or female.
They. Them. Their. Not she or her. Not him or his.
So that is how I will refer to Keely. Them. They. Their. Themselves.
The social aspect and academic pressures of high school were intense. There was anxiety. Anger. Insomnia. Stress. Health issues. They were pulled out of class for unwanted “counseling”. Called names by people that used to be their friends. Ridiculed for being different.
Keely has a wonderful tribe of friends that recognize who they are and are respectful and loving. Those friends are why they able to stay strong in spite of the tremendous pressure they must have felt.
It got so bad we decided to do online school from home this, their Sophomore year. While they still had their tribe of friends, they were removed from everyday connection. While incredibly intelligent, they struggled with their grades. They developed severe insomnia, sometimes only sleeping for two to three hours a night, but still trying to complete school work, write papers, research, take exams. By the time the weekend came around, they only wanted to sleep. And try to catch up because they were always behind.
More isolation from friends. Isolation from us, their family. They retreated downstairs into a dark lonely place.
I was so concerned. I would wake up at night worried. I was only sleeping a few hours a night. How do I help them at school? How do I help with friends? How do I save this child of mine? I’d go down at 3am, not able to sleep. They would be awake also.
We found a therapist and they started counseling.
Spring break came around and Keely went to Kentucky to stay with Kat for the week. Keely had decided that they wanted to attend U of L and Kat arranged a college tour. Kat worked with them on their school work. Kat is very tied into the LGBTQ community and introduced Keely to the group at U of L.
Towards the end of the week we decided that Keely could stay a few more weeks so that Kat could help them get completely caught up. Then the conversation morphed. And morphed again.
Until the realization became very apparent that the best place for Keely to be was in Louisville. With their sister. Who is their birth mother.
Kat is uniquely qualified to help and support Keely through this phase of their life. Kat teaches at the college that Keely will attend. Kat has her own unique drumbeat thing going on, and if anyone in the whole world is going to be accepting of being “different” it is Kat and her household and friends. They all love Keely and accept them as who they are. Kat has put them in contact with teenagers that they can identify with. The cultural environment at the University of Louisville, and the City of Louisville, is head and shoulders more liberal and open to gender difference than where we live in small town Colorado.
Keely agonized over leaving their friends behind. They are stepping into uncharted territory which is scary at any age, but especially for a teenager. But during the weeks that they have been in Kentucky, I think they have seen that there is a bright, light filled world out there. A world they were not able to see here in Penrose. A world that I cannot give them.
As I realized how right this decision is, I tried to express to Kat what a gift and an honor it has been to be entrusted with Keely. How inadequate I feel I have been. How I wished that I had seen sooner. Done something different. And how blown away I have been at how Kat has stepped up to the plate. That is another story, but let me tell you, there is no doubt in my mind that Kat is qualified and fiercely prepared to do whatever she has to do for Keely.
Kat told me that my support of her journey allowed her to become the person she is today. The person that can take Keely through this next stage of life in a way that I never could. A beautiful circle of love and support.
I look at this as a story of love. Love for this precious, unique, strong person that is Keely Ray. A story of sisters who are mother and daughter. Circles of love with my two children who are both so unique and special and I love with all my heart. And the recognition that our most important responsibility as a parent is to do the best thing for our child.
After a lot of tears, which still rise up when I talk about this, I am passing the care of Keely to Kat. I know with all my heart that this is the right thing to do. This is a lot of responsibility for Kat, huge changes in her life as well as that of her family. I am so impressed with the love and the wisdom I see. Just in awe really.
Keely is in exactly the right place at the right time now. Their world is going to open in ways I can only imagine. They will have the freedom and light to grow as they were meant to grow, to be who they were created to be.
They had bomb and armed intruder drills at the Jewish preschool in Little Rock when Keely was a student there.
We were told that the kids would be protected at all costs and that they were prepared for anything. They were ready for dirty bombs. Armed intruders. They did not have their head in the sand and they would not allow those kids to be hurt. I believed them.
It really brought home on a personal basis what it might be like to be Jewish in America. I was aware that my daughter might be exposed to danger just because she attended a Jewish preschool. It was also an incredible school with wonderful staff. Keely and the adults in her life got a very precious up close and personal understanding of the Jewish religion. It is something I will always cherish.
I have friends who are Jewish. One of them posted today that he had to explain to his daughter, who is eight years old, why there were police cars at their place of worship in Mississippi.
There is so much hate. So much division.
We can be hated for the color of our skin.
We can be hated for not worshiping the same being in the same way.
We can be hated for not being “Christian” or “biblical” enough.
We can be hated for loving differently.
For being born, created, with a different gender.
Police are killed for wearing the uniform.
Some are killed for wearing their own skin, racism still exists.
On one of the political shows this morning, the consensus seemed to be that they only way this country can come together would be through the experience of a tragic catastrophe.
There is no leadership. It is dark and hateful. Divisive. The attacks and name calling have to stop.
There are good loving people in this country. We are better than this.
Many of you have asked about our move to Pagosa Springs. Here is the story.
We moved to Colorado when Steve accepted a management position at the Pueblo Chemical Depot. We knew that this project would be the last, and we planned to retire in Colorado. When we bought our home, it was with the intention that this would be our home into retirement.
We have loved this house. I put my heart and soul into the renovations, and it has served as a place of conversations, parties, meals, sunset watching and joy. It was our first home together, and it is where Keely has grown from a spindly seven year old to a teenager. I have so many memories of sunsets and conversations with my mom here. This will always be a special house to me. But those memories are not in the house, they are in my soul.
Because we can. For the first time our life, we can live wherever we want. Think about it. At first we live with our parents, and then our residence is dictated by where we work or go to school. For us, it was Steve’s work, and when he retired we stayed here because of Keely and their friends. Well, Keely is living in Kentucky now. Steve and I are both retired.
I will be 61 this month. Steve will be 68 in November. Any way you look at it, time is short to do what we want to do during this last chapter of life. We are both very healthy and in great shape. That will not always be the case.
There were a lot of new thoughts and emotions for me this year. It’s hard to say you are middle aged when your age starts with a “6”. I find myself wanting to do and experience, not sit and waste time. I no longer have a child at home for the first time since I was 24. My priorities have changed.
So Steve and I had some talks. We talked about dreams and bucket lists. About what is important to us, and what is not. We both agreed we would be open to moving. And then the search began…
Neither of us are interested in going back “home”. Alabama for him, Arkansas for me. While we have friends and family in those areas, we are not fans of the weather. At all. Of course there are other factors, but to be honest the south did not even make the top 20 of places we would consider moving to.
We met a couple last year playing pickleball in Canon City. Tori and Bill were looking for a house in Westcliff and would come down into Canon a few times a week to play. We hit it off, and were sad to see them leave for the winter to their house in AZ. I was surprised to see this spring that they had bought a place in Pagosa Springs.
Where is Pagosa Springs? Wow, its in the middle of nowhere surrounded by national forest. Tori posted on FB pictures of hikes, mountains, music festivals. It looked interesting.
So when we seriously started thinking about making a change, we looked at Pagosa Springs. What we saw was intriguing.
Some things are meant to be.
We drove to Pagosa Springs on a Sunday. We fell in love with the area. I got on Zillow and checked out property where we could have horses, dogs, and of course our minipig Noodles. The next Saturday we were in Pagosa looking at houses with our wonderful agent Martha (who is from Arkansas by the way)
We found the perfect house. Made an offer on Monday, had a contract on Tuesday. That Saturday we signed the paperwork to list our house. Sunday it was shown two times. Thursday I had lunch with my friend Sydney who told me her friends were really excited about our house and were going to see it the next week. I invited them over that night, they loved the house, we loved them. They made an offer on Friday, we accepted it on Saturday.
Start to finish buying a house and selling ours? Two weeks.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
Our new home is a cabin on the side of a mountain. The Rio Blanco is a little over 400 feet from our door. Steve can fish there. We have room for horses, but have also found a wonderful winter pasture for them where they can run on 125 acres and eat grass for the winter. Be horses.
We are 10 minutes from town and all that the area has to offer. Ski at Wolf Creek. Snowmobiles, cross country ski, snowshoes. Stand up Paddleboards, Kayaks, off road 4 wheeling, watersking, hiking, and thousands of acres to ride our horses. We have a whole new area of the country to explore, as we are close to Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. And of course the hot springs that Pagosa Springs is famous for.
It’s bittersweet. I’ve been packing for weeks now, and we are downsizing. That means letting go of attachments to material things. Photos are being sent to my kids, I’m not moving them and storing them. Furniture is going to Kat and Keely to be enjoyed and used.
I’m trying to be very zen about this. There are some things I will need to buy (we do not own any dressers as I built our closets with drawers and shelves) so we will use mesh baskets for clothing storage until I find what I want. Some of the furniture we have doesn’t work in the new space. But I don’t have to fill space with just anything, I can take my time and purchase what I truly need and love.
There is very little wall space in the new house so no place to hang art. However, there are a lot of windows and the view outside is better than any static piece of art. The view is art.
I’m looking forward to four seasons, a real winter with snow. Yes snow. We are retired, we don’t have to get out in it if we don’t want to, and we have a wood burning fireplace. And we can always drive a couple of hours and head south to Arizona and New Mexico.
We had our last dinner with guests in this house on Saturday. JR and Raegan are buying the house, we felt it fitting that our last meal and their first meal in the house be with each other. I cannot tell you how happy I am that they will be building their lives together in this house. It lets me walk away without looking back.
No regrets. No looking back. I am excited about new friends and experiences in our new home. I am excited about traveling and seeing more of the world. I am excited about visitors coming to stay with us and being able to share this incredibly beautiful part of the world with them.
I’m also very thankful. I know how lucky I am.
I was looking at a Facebook friend’s page today, and I came across it. The thing I knew I would see eventually.
A post making fun of non-binary individuals that prefer a gender neutral pronoun. Good ol Tucker Carlson from Fox News and his followers being hateful. Again.
It would appear this person has a good christian heart. She goes to church every Sunday, has church meetings at her business. She is always asking for prayers for those in need. She would be one of the first to try to help someone in trouble. And that is what is so confusing to me.
She not only posted this hateful piece, she deleted my comments when I pointed out that my child was born this way, and that this kind of post is hateful and hurtful. Love thy neighbor? I guess only if they are like you. Created in His image? Only if it agrees with your image of Him.
She changed her comment on it from “stupid people!” to “some people should not force their opinions on others” after she deleted my comment.
So many times our prejudices can be changed when we have our eyes opened to real people and real stories. Putting a face to someone that is different, understanding that love and acceptance are so much better than hate and exclusion. I had hopes that my story, Keely’s story, might open their heart.
Nope. Closed mind. Closed heart.
I know, with all my heart, that my Keely is the way they are because God created them that way. I know because I have been with them every step of the way. God doesn’t make mistakes.
I dare someone to make fun of my child anywhere in my presence. I dare someone to say anything hateful and cruel to her around me. Do you want to experience a mother’s righteous rage? Just try it. I am still furious.
To be fair, this was her post, her page. Her “living room” so to speak. She has the right to her opinions in her “living room” and I was an uninvited guest speaking up in defense of my child.
I also know that we all have our stories and culture and filters that make us what we are, that cause us to believe what we believe, behave the way we behave. She is coming from a place of fear, not love. A place of exclusion, not acceptance and inclusion. That is on her. Her choice. Her beliefs.
I can love and accept all kinds of people that are different from me. I can respect their right to their opinion even if I think their opinion is misguided or wrong.
What I will not accept is deliberate cruelty and hatefulness. Hypocrisy. My sincere hope is that one of these days her heart will open with love and inclusion. But I’m not going to be around to see that happen.
One less “friend” on Facebook.
And if any of my other friends on Facebook know this person and feel I am wrong, there is an “unfriend” button as well as a “block” button that you can use on me. I’m very picky about who I chose to spend my time with now.
This is a guest post from my husband Steve.
After several months of declining health, Rio (Pepper) made a quiet exit and moved on to greener pastures. When we moved to Colorado and Rio came into my life he graciously agreed to show me the ropes on mountain trail riding. I think it’s safe to say that I learned more from him than he did from me. We rode many a ridgeline exploring the next valley. Both of us enjoyed wandering the trails and mountains. We were NEVER lost.
In his prior years Rio was in a movie, The Postman. He carried many a rider and was lucky with owners as far as I know. I don’t know of a single person that treated Rio badly but then Rio never treated a rider badly. He made many friends and was always fun to ride. You did need to understand that Rio had one motto. “Let’s go now, and I want to be in front. The rest of you try to keep up with me.”
He put up with costumes and stuff hanging off him that was unbecoming to a horse of his dignity. Suffered with grace. He could strut his stuff.
Before I put someone on Rio for the first time, I always said Rio will take care of you. He might challenge you to slow him down because he did want to go. But you don’t need to worry about him getting you in trouble and if he turns back and asks, “Do you really want me to do that”? You should think seriously about what you are asking. Even riding up the side of a mountain on a trial with snow and ice, I wouldn’t worry.
He blessed many lives and brought smiles to kids and adults alike. He made indelible memories and time spent with him on trails will always make me smile.
When we decided to get Steve a horse, I asked him what kind of horse he wanted. He didn’t know. I didn’t know what kind of a rider he was, but I did know his adventuresome and risk taking personality. I had a feeling that a low key horse would not be a good fit.
I found an online ad for a Paso Fino, the same breed as my Maestro. We have a term in the Paso Fino world, we love to see first timers demonstrate the “Paso Smile”
That “Paso Smile” is what I saw on Steve’s face as he came back from his trial ride on Rio. That smile never went away.
We would joke about trying to find Steve and Rio on a ride. One minute they were with the group, the next minute we would look up and see movement on a ridge line, and there they were. Rio with his ears pricked as he carefully picked his way over rocks and around cactus. He hated cactus. Smart horse.
If we came across an obstacle or an area of the trail that caused the other horses to balk, we would call for Steve and Rio to take the lead. I don’t think I ever saw Rio refuse Steve anything. He might turn and look at him with an “are you sure?” look, but if Steve was sure, Rio trusted him enough to go ahead. He truly was Steve’s heart horse, and the love was mutual. Rio was never an affectionate horse, he would stand to the side as others came up to us. Unless Steve was there. If Steve was around, Rio would quietly approach, sometimes with a nudge. He never did that with me. Just Steve.
As Rio got older, and I got a younger horse, we felt that it was best to put him into semi retirement. He became our “guest horse” that we put friends on when they came out to visit. We trusted him that much. Riders did have to know how to slow him down, but that is all. He took care of the rest.
Rio was in two parades. Our friend Beth Calhoun rode him in both. I don’t think anyone would say that Rio enjoyed them, but he did his job beautifully with quite a bit of the equine equivalent of eye rolling.
He didn’t get the point of going in circles in an arena. Neither did Steve, so that worked out well.
And then Ann Piscopink came into his life. Ann needed a horse to trail ride, and we offered Rio to her to use. I saw Ann change from a tentative, distrusting rider to someone confident enough to take the lead over a scary bridge when the rest of us were dealing with balking horses refusing to get close. I saw her ride on the side of mountains with her eyes squeezed shut, because she knew Rio would take care of her. I saw her gallop hell for leather on that little horse, both of them having a blast.
Rio’s last trail ride is a perfect example of who he was. We went into the mountains, it started snowing and our group were riding a pretty scary narrow trail that was unfamiliar to all of us. Have I mentioned that Ann is scared of heights?
There were several times that my heart was in my throat on that ride. Think narrow, rocky, icy trail with a long steep drop off. A misstep would be a disaster. Ann vocalized her fear frequently and vocally (she was not the only one btw) but Rio just kept carefully picking his way on the trail. He took care of her, as he always took care of his rider. He kept his cool and his focus and did his job.
As we walked inside yesterday after our vet put Rio down, we were sad but confident that we did the right thing for our Rio. No more pain.
At the end of the day, I think that the best gift we can give our animals is the knowledge that they are loved. With Steve holding him, Rio passed. And he knew without a doubt that he was loved.
This isn’t one of those milestone birthdays, that was last year. And he really hates being reminded of the day, and he doesn’t want a fuss. When he turned 60 he was out of town. On purpose I think. Last year when he turned 65 I surprised him with a party. He handled that pretty well but let me know not to do it again lol.
This is just another year. But as I was looking through some pictures to post on Facebook I realized I wanted to do something more.
We met late in life. We had a very tough path getting together. We made the decision to stay together. Neither of us is going to change who we are. But both of us are willing to compromise.
It’s not always easy. We are two fully formed Type A personalities with a deep, strong, passionate love for each other. And we drive each other nuts on a frequent basis.
I am married to a loyal, intelligent, caring man who is human.
I am married to a man who loves to try new things (except dance lessons) and is always ready for a new adventure. And we have certainly had some adventures in the seven years we have been together. And I know there will be many more.
We agree on more than we disagree. We make each other laugh.
You have nursed me through several surgeries. You washed my hair and dressed me, held me when I cried. Helped me walk.
You are the one person that I would want to have around if the shit hit the fan. When we lost an engine in the plane I never for one minute doubted that if it was possible to land safely you would do it. Never a minute of doubt. Now I do have to remind myself sometimes that you don’t want to die either when you are playing NASCAR in the jeep or taking Clipper up a cliff, but that is a discussion for another time. I love your impulsive risk taking side. You are also calm, methodical and analytical. Brilliant in many ways. Of course those same qualities drive me up the wall if all I want you to do is listen and agree with me! But you are who you are and that mixture of analytical and impulsive is one of the things I love the most.
You welcome everyone. You always says “sure!” when I tell you I just invited someone else to stay with us. Usually the only questions are “who, when, and for how long?”Or a group over for dinner. Or scheduled a ride. And you are pretty gracious and long suffering about usually being the only guy with a gaggle of women on rides and social occasions. I know we all depend on you fix things and keep us safe when we ride. Or to answer electronic questions, or weather, or…the list is long. How many times do we say “ask Steve”?
You spent the majority of your working career living in hotels and apartments, far from home and family. Long long hours in difficult and dangerous circumstances. That scarred you in many ways. It also strengthened you in many ways.
Now that you are retired we are building a home filled with friends and family. I love that we enjoy the same books. We agree on politics (thank God!). You suffer through some shows I like, I suffer through NASCAR. I love sitting in our house, reading, enjoying our time together.
Steve I don’t say enough how much I respect and admire you. You know I love you with all of my heart and soul. I am so glad that we met that day seven years ago, and I am so thankful for every day that we have had together since. Thank you for the love, joy and adventure you have brought to my life.
One cold December night I hosted a Christmas party at my house in Little Rock. One of my friends arrived at the door in a sweater over her party dress. It was bitterly cold. I asked “it’s freezing outside, where is your coat?” She smiled and explained that she had three boys and they needed stuff, so she was going without a coat that year.
I was hanging out with a group of women that were into “stuff”. Not the “stuff” like warm coats and cars to get to work, but expensive “stuff”. We would have lunch and ooh and aah over the new diamond bracelet, or the new Mercedes. There was disdain over a fox fur coat, and even mink. Sable was what was desired. The love of friends and husbands was shown by gifts, and those gifts had a hefty price tag.
I am ashamed to say I got caught up in that. I had a Christmas list that year that read like the Neiman Marcus catalog.
My friend standing on my front porch with a genuine, not self pitying smile, while she cheerfully told me she could not afford a winter coat was like a splash of needed cold water. I had a closet full of coats, yet still I wanted, “needed” more?
She left that night with a warm coat. She left that night haven given me one of the most important gifts of my life; the understanding that THINGS are not what is important.
I’ve lived in a mobile home. I’ve lived in a 10,000 sq ft mansion. I cried tears in both. I’ve owned a 1964 Volkswagen bug that I had to push to get started on a regular basis. I’ve also owned a Porsche and numerous BMW’s. NONE OF THOSE THINGS MADE ME HAPPY. And none of those things are still in my life now.
I now understand that the valuable gifts are not things. They are people, love, laughter, experiences. They are what give me joy that cannot tarnish or breakdown.
I see the sunrise and sunsets reflecting on my Colorado mountains.
I ride my heart horse Bali with friends old and new on a perfect crisp fall day. I notice the sun sparkling of the creek we cross, and I see the trout darting through the crystal clear water. I hear the laughter of my friends as they fight their way through the trees because I accidentally led them off the path. Hugs and smiles as we part at the end of the ride.
I sit on my deck, bundled in a coat and blanket, drinking coffee with new friends from Germany. They are riveted by the night sky full of starts, which they havent seen in 20 years because of the light pollution in their city. Think about that. We gave them their first ride in a truck and their first ride in a Wrangler. They were full of joy and awe as we drove Shelf Road through fall leaves as they stood in the back seat taking pictures. Peter and Magda popped into my life unexpectedly (thank you Helene) and I am so grateful for the gift of time spent with them.
My children are smart, funny, loving human beings.
Not only does my husband love me, but we get to share our love for horses, riding and adventure. He always, always says “great!” when I tell him more people are coming to stay with us.
Then there is my “Tribe”. There is something magical about finding those people that just really “get” you. There is no negativity, no backbiting, no jealousy. Just love, support, acceptance and lots of laughter. I had that with my peeps in Little Rock. It wasn’t so easy to find after our move to Colorado but I sure have it now.
I don’t take these things for granted. I am so very aware of how short life is. I’ve lost friends this year to death. I’ve cried while hearing about the loss of a child or a beloved pet. There are people hurting because of fire, hurricanes, tornadoes, loss of a job, loss of a relationship. Sickness, hardship, death, hurt. All of those have been in my past. Many will be in my future.
Being aware of my gifts, appreciating them, gives me the strength to get through those tough times. I CHOOSE to emphasize the good in each day. I CHOOSE to see the best in my friends, and to move into an outer circle those that want to drag me down. I CHOOSE to savor the many little things that can bring a smile.
Now don’t think I’m all rainbows and unicorns. I get frustrated. I get hurt. I get angry. But I’m finding that if I am aware of all that I have to be grateful for, its easier to get over the bumps. So every single day I breath deep and am grateful.
We went to a Jason Isbell concert at Red Rocks a few weeks ago. Talk about a gift to really savor; sitting in that venue on a perfect Colorado night is about as good as it gets. He played one of my favorite songs that includes these words:
Are you living the life you chose? Or are you living the life that chose you?
I smiled through tears.
I’m so lucky to be living the life I choose.
I have a birthday coming up this week. The number doesn’t matter, and I’m at a place in my life where I can say that with a straight face.
As I get closer to social security age, I realize that my happiness is my responsibility.
I’ve gone through some difficult periods in my life. I’ve been alone. Scared. Hurt. Angry.
That is life. Really, if you think you are going to get through this journey without anything negative or challenging happening, you are going to get a big surprise.
I was in a few relationships where the guy met everything that happened with a “why me?” It was always someone else’s fault. Luckily I didn’t stay in those relationships very long. I really don’t have a lot of patience with that attitude to tell you the truth. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and get through it. Which is not to say that I don’t wallow in self pity at times. But I get over it.
Have you read any of the writings of Timber Hawkeye?
“I was drawn to the simplicity of Buddhism, which isn’t a religion at all but the philosophy that you will not be punished for your anger, you are punished BY your anger. And if you’ve ever been really angry with someone then you know it’s punishment enough! It is toxic and it terribly affects you and everyone around you. Buddhism keeps reminding me that I’m the one responsible for my own mood; whats more liberating (and annoying) than that? lol…sure it’s easier to blame other people but it’s not their fault!”
I still struggle with this one.
Steve is retired. We spend virtually 24/7 together. We both are Type A personalities and we both are used to managing people. That, my friends, could have been a recipe for disaster. And I’ll be the first to tell you that we have had some struggles in this past year learning how to boss each other around without offending each other. Because trust me, neither one of us is going to stop being bossy. Or a control freak. And neither one of us likes to be bossed around.
I read recently that we are wired with a negativity bias . That is why we focus on the prickly parts of relationships, the responsibilities of our job that aren’t fun, the little annoyances of daily life that can set our mood for the entire day.
Many years ago I realized that I gave to much weight to the little things, without creating balance with the positive. The trick, however, was to be aware of the positive. That took work to become a habit. Being negative was easy, being positive…not so much.
But I had one of those aha! moments a few months ago and I started putting more effort into finding the positive than in wallowing in the negative.
I take deep breaths of my horses smell when I walk outside to see them. I love watching the sunrise with my daughter as we wait for the bus, and she still wants to hug me as she gets out of the car. I’m so appreciative of the good relationship with my children’s father Charles, we talk frequently and stay in each others home when we visit. There is so much good in my life.
Steve and I now make it a habit to talk to each other about how happy we are, with each other and with out life. Those conversations give us balance when we are pissy with each other. The good times and good things overwhelming balance out our little annoyances. The reality is neither one of us is going to make any big changes. I like who I am. Steve is who he is. Getting angry is a waste of time.
I have found my tribe. My tribe of strong, intelligent women that I can laugh and cry with. We have similar stories, similar interests. But the important thing is that we accept each other as we are. Let’s face it, we are most of us in our 50’s and 60’s, how much changing are we going to do?
Our Paso Fino club rode in a parade on Saturday. Since I was a kid watching the Livestock Show Parade in Little Rock I’ve wanted to ride in a parade. My daughter and her friend Amber were there carrying the banner. They filmed the parade for a Netflix movie with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. And my tribe was with me as I rode. It was a gorgeous Colorado day, both of my horses were in the parade, and I cried. I actually sat on my horse as we lined up, looked around and really soaked in the experience and cried. And then we were off and I grinned and laughed the whole time. How very lucky and blessed I am.
That afternoon we drove to Denver. On the way traffic slowed to a stop. Then a crawl. We passed a group of people in the middle of I-25 Southbound performing CPR on an individual. I couldn’t tell age or sex, but it didn’t look good. A truck was upside down on the side of the freeway. Ambulances had not arrived yet.
I cried again that day, with the realization of how quickly everything can change. I don’t know if the person survived, or if they did with what injuries. There was such a stark contrast to the joy I felt that morning, and the agony his loved ones would be facing.
More from Timber Hawkeye:
“Do you agree that we essentially create our own heaven or hell right here on earth? If we go through life witha negative attitude, judgmental, opinionated, rude, mean, angry and resentful, then our lives would be miserable (though we’d blame everyone around us instead of taking responsibility for our own attitude). But there is another way; we can admit that it’s not other people’s job to maintain our inner peace, it is our own.
I choose to believe that we are all blessed, not cursed, and that everything is a lesson, not a punishment. People aren’t obstacles in my way, they are all gifts for me to learn from and grow from. But that’s just me…you can choose whatever attitude you want :)”
Not being in control is hard for me. This philosophy puts the responsibility on ME to be happy. I have to find what mantras work for me. I can choose to get angry, or dissatisfied, or I can choose to be grateful. Grateful is a lot more pleasant. I can’t control what others do or say, but I sure can choose how I react. And I can choose my own self talk.
So my friend that has moved across the country and you haven’t found your tribe yet, keep looking. Hug your horses and enjoy the beautiful green that you see. And post more pictures of that beautiful grand baby.
My friend that is finding that your friend is not really your friend; be grateful that you are wise enough to see through her and not be manipulated anymore. Keep doing all the great work that you are doing, and don’t forget that you have a tribe that loves you.
I’m so very grateful to call you both my friend. I’m so very grateful to being living this life that I have.
Pioneer Day Parade
My little sister Tracey is a cop. She started with the Little Rock Police Department as a cadet, and is now a Lieutenant. She chose to spend all of her working career as a police officer, and God willing she will retire in a few years. There is no way to express how proud I am of her.
I’ve watched her leave our house while we were all having dessert on Christmas because she had to go back on patrol. I learned to never call her during the day when she was working night shift because she struggled so much with sleeping. I’ve rearranged lunch dates because she had to testify in court, or got called out on an emergency.
She has worked patrol, undercover, homicide, robbery…the list goes on. She has seen the very worst of humanity and what they can do to each other. She tells me the crimes against children are always the worst, it never gets easier.
She has problems sleeping. Do you wonder why?
How many of us leave our homes everyday with the knowledge we could be killed on the job?
She was married to a cop. She is dating one now. Who else would understand the pressure she is under, the hours she works except another cop?
So when I see the video of those police officers in Dallas running TOWARDS the gunfire, I think of my sister. When I see the video of police officers pulling the bodies of their fallen brothers to safety I think of my sister. When I see the video of the families of police officers crying at a funeral, I think of my sister.
And I cry. Hot, wet tears for the pain that those families are going through. For the realization that every day my sister goes to work could be her last day on earth because of what she does for a living. I cry because I realize someone could target her because of her job, her chosen career to help others and to keep our society functional.
There is a problem in our country. I know that there are some cops that make bad decisions, that are prejudiced. I know for a fact that good police officers like my sister have a deep disdain for bad cops. But the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers in this country are good people like Tracey.
I cannot begin to understand what it is like to be a person with non-white skin in this country. I’m not black, or Asian, or Hispanic. I’m a white middle class female and I know that it is different for me. I’ve seen the sidelong looks when my “daughter from another mother” Kira is with me. Kira is black. I know that Kira, an active duty soldier with several tours in Iraq has experienced racism and prejudice. But she doesn’t blame all whites. She doesn’t blame all police officers.
As furious as I am about the hatred and blaming of police officers, I am equally furious that black people in our country are still discriminated against simple because they are clothed in different skin than I am.
Kira, Tracey and I have traveled together. We have had many meals where we laughed until we cried. We trust each other. Because we know, really know, each other.
We aren’t unique. Many people believe in racial equality and also support our police.
What does it take to put a real face on that person in uniform or the black man or woman walking down the street?
There is a video circulating on Facebook right now. Watch it. Please.
Then read what my sister Tracey said.
Wow. I don’t talk about my job very often on FB, but this video makes me want to say this….
I have been a proud member of law enforcement for 28 years. I am someone that loves my job, through all the ups and downs, this is what I was meant to do. I wanted to help people, I have done that. And I am proud of the work that I do. Yes, there are officers that abused their authority, there are officers that have made the wrong decisions. I have supervised officers and have recommended everything from oral reprimands, everything in between, and terminations. 95% of the officers I have worked with in the past, and work with now, have been professional, caring, and diligent officers. Numerous holidays/birthdays/family events have been missed because of shifts, emergencies, call outs-off duty jobs because kids needs braces/medical work/college, etc. these officers would do everything again for this job. Most of all, we have felt the loss and devastation when we have had an officer killed in the line of duty. A member of our family has been killed, so do not tell me I (or any officer) don’t know what you are going through. We do. On every officers mind-everyday when we put on the uniform (or in some cases, plain clothes), and we kiss our loved ones goodbye when we leave for our shift….will this be the last day I have with them? And yes, I would do it all again because this is what I was meant to do. I am of the belief-“All Lives Matter, Including Blue Lives”
I wish I had a solution. I don’t. But I do know that love and friendship between races and between cops and non-cops is possible because I see it in my family. Maybe if we started looking beyond the surface we could see our family isn’t just black, or blue, or white. It’s all colors.
And Tracey? I love you and I am proud of you. Stay safe.
We traveled with Bali and Clipper for about eleven hours to get to Panguitch, Utah. They stayed at the Triple C Arena in covered stalls while we stayed for the first few nights at the Adobe Sands Motel and the last night at the Marianna. I have to tell you, Adobe Sands was awful. Dirty, small outdated rooms, and the pillows were the smallest, hardest piece of material I have ever tried to sleep on. My backpack made a better pillow. We moved to the Marianna when we decided to stay an extra night and the Sands was already books. Although a hassle, it was well worth the additional $5.00 per night.
Our friends camped at the equestrian camp site in Red Canyon. Next time we will camp also. Four sites in a private area with water for the horses. We made great new friends that we hope to ride with for many years. Judi and Brad Bradbury, Shannon Whetsell and Jerry and Patti Boone were all camping so we spent several evenings at the campsite, and several at various places in town. What a great experience it was!
I’ll be posting another video of the first two days riding, this video is of our Bryce Canyon ride. Jerry and Patti had to head for home and were not able to make this ride, so it was just Judi, Shannon, Steve and I. Arrangements had been made by Judi, our ride had to be scheduled with the park. We met with a Park Ranger two hours before our start time. He checked our paperwork and weed free hay, then sent us on our way.
So here is the video of one of my bucket list items. Bryce Canyon, Utah while riding my boy Bali. It doesn’t get much better than this.
The other shoulder replacement surgery got moved up a week.
At first, I wasn’t really happy when I got the call that the surgery had been moved to December 23, and now it just happens to be two days before Christmas.
However, after thinking about it a little bit I realized this date works out better.
I’ll be ready to resume riding and other activities one week earlier.
Steve will be off work a lot for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Keely will be out of school.
My first call was to Steve, we talked about the pros and cons of the date change, but in reality I didn’t have much choice.
I hung up the phone and read my email. There was a message from Charles saying that if the weather cooperated he would drive up to spend Christmas with us and do all the cooking. Well that could not have come at a better time, because I was about to call my friend Tina and tell her she would be doing ALL of the cooking at Christmas.
So I called Charles, told him the date had been changed and that it was great he was going to be coming.
“Well, it sounds to me like you would not want me to be there. You won’t feel well, and you won’t want to do anything for Christmas”
“Charles, I’ll be fine on Christmas day if I don’t have to cook.”
“But you will only get home the day before, you won’t feel like doing anything”
“Charles, when I had the other surgery we left the hospital, drove to Canon City, dropped off the pain med prescription and then went to lunch. I got home four hours after being released from the hospital. Kira and Rita came to stay for a week, arriving two days after my surgery. We went to Breckenridge and came home on a very bumpy Shelf Road four days after my surgery. I will be fine. If I don’t feel like socializing all day, I can go to bed and you won’t get your feelings hurt. But the one thing that you really have to understand is that Steve. Does. Not. Cook.”
There was silence for a minute.
“OK. I get your point. We can plan out the menu later, but I’m coming”
And it works out really well because he can fly in and use my truck for the time that he is here, because I don’t think I’ll want to drive that first week or two.
Today was my last day at PT until December 29. I’ve had eleven physical therapy sessions and I could not be happier with my progress. I can raise my arm to 120 degrees in the front, 110 on the side. There is no pain. It’s fairly functional. I’m doing some really ugly yoga at home to get more flexibility and strength in my arm and shoulder. And I have another week for it to get better before I lose the use of my right arm.
So yes, it will suck to be me for a few weeks. And then every day I will see range of motion and strength returning. That is what I am focusing on, the relatively quick return to full function that I will have in the next few months.
I’ve been practicing driving with the operated shoulder arm. It works.