Thursday, December 29, 2011

Texas!!

No big news here, just wanted to stop by and thank all those who continue to read this blog and for your support and encouragement over these last months.   Texas holds promise for a ride coming up and surprisingly enough, there are many, many, trails (real horse trails) through this urban jungle called Houston area.  Very nice!  I'm on the north end of Houston at the moment and will be looking more into a route that is going to suit Baby and me. I am getting motivated again to finish what this ole' girl started coming on FOUR years ago.   Time will tell the story though.....but for now, it's just wait and see.  No matter what happens, I think a nice jaunt through Texas sounds wonderful!!

Happy New Year to all and here's to the Best of Equestrian Travels in 2012!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Timing is Everything - an Excerpt from A Novel


Timing is Everything

            I thought I saw her when Lisa and William were running into the general store.  William came up to me and said, "Daddy, there are lots of horses out today.  I saw a girl riding a horse."  It's as though William thought that girls weren't allowed to ride horses.  I reassured him that this wasn't as unusual as he thought it was.  The horse looked strange, but the rider's silhouette didn't. 

On the first day, there was a man at my book signing that came up to me and told me that he was a good friend of Rachel Stephenson's.    I had mentioned in an interview along the way on television that I had stayed at Corkscrew Ranch which was part of the inspiration that helped me write Canon's at Dawn. He explained to me that he had been to Corkscrew Ranch as a guest.  Apparently he was there right before I arrived and that he makes annual trips to fish the Talisman River regularly. The man told me that he saw that interview…loved my books…and came here to get a new copy signed since he lived here in town.   He said that he wanted to personally give it to Rachel because he was going to travel there in a few weeks to fish on the Talisman for awhile.  He thought that she would appreciate that.  And believe me, I couldn't have had better timing.

            He looked familiar to me for some reason. I'm not sure why.  He just did.  I took the copy of the book that he had and wrote on the inside, "to the one that I really love." I wrapped the book up in brown paper and taped it.  I told the man that I didn't want him to read what I wrote to Rachel because it was a personal thank you for letting me come to enjoy the Ranch. He understood, took the copy of the book and went on his way back out of town.

            On day two, I had a break in the book signing and the kids were getting hungry.  By this time, I thought, Victoria was in New York doing great marketing things for Manus and the blazing sun on my face was amazingly bright.  

         I squinted my eyes against its glare as I walked down the street to the bed and breakfast to get the kids to go to lunch.  As I got closer tothe B&B,  Lisa and William were heading out the door.  Perfect timing again…they saw this horse and a girl rider and went running toward them. I couldn't see because the sun was in my eyes and hollered after them to get back here.  They stopped dead center in front of the girl and the horse.  After a few moments, as I continued walking, they rode over to the convenient store.  The horse almost got away from underneath it's rider which caused me to quicken my pace.  She almost lost control.  I thought to myself, "inexperienced riders need to be more careful…she could get really hurt." However, by this time, she had the horse tied off…was in and out of the store and gone.  I could swear that the rider looks familiar to me. William and Lisa were already in the general store….and the nice thing about being a famous author in a small town that over the course of a few days, people get to trust you and you them.  My kids were happy playing in the backyard with the owner's kids of the B&B and Pages and Parables Bookstore wouldn't open for another hour because they closed for lunch. I had a lot of time to wander around..and decided to take in some of the sights.

            Cemeteries always fascinated me. From the time that I wrote Chaos the stone statues were like a refuge from life for me.  I loved cemeteries because they always offered so much history about people.  Cemetaries are a leaping off point for a future history lesson.  In a cemetery you can see who died too young and too old.  Always peaceful with birds chirping in thedaylight with memorial benches and sunlight drenched on marble stone that reflected the light.  This is not a morbid hobby of mine – but they are fascinating to some degree.  I discovered the solemn beauty of cemeteries when I wrote Chaos and how the contrast of the living and the dead mix together.  To place a love story in the middle of a place like that I thought was an attractive concept that readers could visualize.

            The Cemetery was at the end of the main street road. This town was very original in it's buildings…like an old west town that just changed people and businesses over the years. The population here was only 950…but Pages and Parables was a famous bookstore.  I came here when I was little with my dad when he was writing some pretty good literature himself.

I knew a friend that bought some of the Pages and Parables Shakespeare plays in original manuscript that Yeats once had in his possession.   I saw it all dusty and old.  They went into Pages and Parables with the manuscript and set it on the table as they were going to the back room to get something.  Meanwhile, the owner's dog knocked the book on the floor, sniffed it, turned in circles and ended up using it as toilet paper!  My father was in shock, as was the owner of these priceless artifacts.  I think the dog lived.  They hurriedly soaked up as much as they could and took it home to dry out in the sun.  Even Shakespeare's worst critics weren't that rude!

I thought of this as I walked with the sun in my eyes down to the cemetery gates.  I wandered inside and was there for quite some time all by myself.  I wandered through headstones and grave markers and started to learn about the names in town and was getting a history lesson when I stumbled across a headstone that more than caught my eye.  The head stone said: Katherine Elizabeth Stephenson, Beloved Wife/Mother; 1948 – 1970.

Soft foot falls where coming up behind me.  I was nervous and went on with my business in learning more about who the once living were.  The foot falls became hoof like on the gravel road which paced around the quiet grounds.  A horse, a rider and that was all.  They stopped at Katherine's grave.  I wasn't far away and then I said, "Rachel, you are going to be alright. I can feel it.  Your mom probably misses you too." Rachel couldn't see me standing there for the sun was in her eyes this time.  I was planning my entrance and then Mark (why was Mark here?) came running frantically down the gravel path into the cemetery waving his arms frantically.  Mark sat down next to Rachel and took her hand.  Tears were in his eyes.

Lynne had died.

Mark delivered the news…and he was a far cry from the serene bartender that I knew from Talisman Creek Lodge.  He was rugged and handsome.  Worn by the weather. Tired for some reason.  Like he'd spent days on the river doing tours. Resigned to his duty to tell Rachel that Lynne had just died, she wanted him to leave her alone.  He quietly walked away.

The dead among the living and the living among the dead.  I'm not sure who was a statue in the cemetery that day. The dead seemed to have more life than the living because of the news that defeated a quiet moment trying to bridge the gap between family and loved ones who are deceased. Memories flooding heads and flowers planted into the ground trying to touch the past of others who have gone before. Rachel brought her mom a bouquet of flowers.  But I can't believe that flowers would even begin to touch the emotion that she had about not having her mom with us, in the living flesh to hold her when she sneezed as a little girl.  None the less…when a parent dies…even in death, by the gravesite, they still listen.  Even in death, you are still their children.  Even in death…they have life.

What expression should I wear? I still couldn't believe my eyes and the only thing I managed to say was, "how's thebiggest brown trough ever fished out of the Talisman River?"  I didn't even know where to begin or what to say.  Rachel was silent.  All the emotion that I ever had for her welled up inside of me like the Mississippi in flood stages and still rising.  With the way that Victoria and I had been getting along, I was surprised that I was feeling so much for her still.

Slowly and with intention and with some trepidation I wanted to touch her shoulders.  He hair was being wisped around and stray strands were blowing across her face when she turned her head slightly to the left.  A warm breeze from the north was setting in this late afternoon. 

Rachel didn't need me to say anything.  I glided up to her and slipped my hand into hers as I pulled out a folded piece ofpaper and gave it to her. I wrote it a long time ago.  It was the book dedication that said, "this is dedicated to the one I really love.  Her horse was grazing quietly as though he was watching my every move like he was her protector from harm. 

I told her that she tortured my heart. I told her how I felt about her.  I told her, "Oh my God!  The book signing" Rachel, I gotta go!  I will catch up to you later."  I turned and ran away from her and told her out loud, "Rachel, I love you". She didn't hear me…she sat there involved in her own thoughts about her best friend.  Maybe, I thought, I should just leave her alone forever.

All my speed couldn't get me back to the bookstore fast enough for the remainder of the afternoon.  She got the best of me... again.

The rest of the afternoon dragged on. The connection was still there and the realization that the man who said he was a friend of Rachel's, I figured out, was really her father.  The people in town at the signing knew all about C.W. Stephenson.  The timing that day was still perfect.

****
Written 1997 - "The Way of the Dancing Nova"  by M.C.G AKA Christine Rachel Bennet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lariat: 100 Horse Stories and Poems

Artwork by Donna Howell Sickles
Title: "Rubie Leaves Lady Luck"

American Cowgirl Artist, Friend and Long Ride Host,
St. Jo, Texas: www.donnahowellsickles.com
 Permission For Use Granted, Oct. 2010
  Please visit her Online Gallery for Gifts

Lariat

Moments in time,
Leaving hoofprints and life at our back gate.
Not much with us,
Fierce wind
Facing outward
Carries a piece of hay away
Who was clinging to our shirt

Hanging the Lariat on the saddle
for "just in case" if we need to
Rope the circle of life

There are days
When the best
part of the ride
Is the racing, heart pounding Gallop
Hair Flying, eyes watering, Freezing Toes
on a Flying Horse

There are days when the slow poke
dance of Summer Heat
And the weight on our backs
Is what makes us slow

"That saddle feels heavier today
for some reason"
Hoisting it up one more time
One leg over
Leaving one more lifetime at the gate
Hanging our Lariats "just in case"


****
Mark and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Donna at her Gallery in St. Jo Texas.  We had seen much of her work all over Oklahoma.  Just as a coincidence, she was on our route and we paid a visit to her studio.  She set up our hosts with the mayor in St. Jo.  Many a long rider has passed through there on US 82 (LRG members and non-members).  Her gallery is one block off the famous Chisholm Trail and St. Jo has a rich history of cattlemen, cowboys and cowgirls who carved out that part of North Central Texas.  Brilliant lady and she is as much the cowgirl as her artwork embodies.   Please look up her gallery on facebook at well at  http://www.facebook.com/themainstreetgallery



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Roses and Fish


"“Put a rose in a sack of fish and soon the rose will start to stink too. Be careful of the company you keep.” – The 17th Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorje

I love this quote!  Are you the friend who is the rose being the fragrance of the earth or are you the rotten fish? Are your friends really your friends? Are they supporting and enhancing your life or are they teaching you to think and behave in darker ways that you never thought you would?

The company you keep is so important. They will change you in more ways than you know.  Eventually, and inadvertently, you will mimic their behavior, words, and even physical gestures. We spend hours online with friends, on the phone, face to face and in professional circles with friends who indirectly influence us.  Your friends are the most subversive influential group of people in your life next to the people who raised you (i.e. parents) and perhaps your romantic life partner.  This is why we have to watch the company we keep.

I find friendships to be miraculously healing on many levels.  I have mutually agreeable relationships with friends where we can come to each other in times of amazing joy, deep sorrow, for fun, to bounce ideas around and extend copious amounts of infiniate grace to one another. In my friendships, we have the freedom to hold each other accountable..and sometimes very directly at times. For those of you who are my friends, I want to thank you for having the relationship we have with one another.  I have friends in which we share a natural sister and brother like connection with on a soul level and I am blessed with friends of mine who are like family as well.

In life, however, we all have choices.  And in these choices we have friends who we may outgrow or cut out of our lives when we feel they are no longer an emotionally healthy choice for us to continue down a relationship path.  I am a huge advocate for healthy relationships in all aspects of emotionally living well and with meaningfulness. I extend grace to all my friends past and present.  I know people who are VERY unhealthy, some who even are emotionally dangerous for me, some who are diagnosible crazy who I still really care about --- but you won't catch me buddying up to them and being close friends with them at all anymore..

A healthy relationship should bring more happiness than stress into your life. Every relationship will have stress at times, but you want to prevent prolonged mental stress on either member of the relationship.  This tension is unhealthy for both members and may lead to problems in other areas of your life.

Here's a life story I want to share with you that taught me a very valuable life lesson.

Back at the end of 2007, I had a sister like connection with someone I respected, trusted and even admired.  We had many things in common and were able to spend a considerable amount of time together under the same roof.  We got to know each other's quirks, dreams, desires and those little things that both annoyed us...but we were ok with pushing past it.  That relationship blew up and the very last day that I saw her, she exploded on me in a rage and told me I was a 'fraud and "a liar" and all sorts of other things that really left me wondering what I did to deserve that kind of treatment.

That experience was one of the most valuable learning experiences I have had in my life.

You know why???

Because she was right!  In MANY ways but not in ALL ways.

 I was transparent to her and she was transparent to me.  She and I saw through each other's pain (and Bullcrap!) so well that we ran each other off as friends.  I can't say that she was 100% correct ...but I can say about 90% of it was the truth coming from her perception of me.  She and I both hurled insults at each other saying to one another we were both crazy, insane, emotionally unwell and a litany of other terminology that is best saved for a therapist's couch!  I tried to change her mind, she tried to change mine. It got worse...we parted company to never speak again because of our inability to take what we were saying into consideration for each other.

The bottom line is: she made me realize those aspects were in my character more than I thought they were and I couldn't admit it!

It took a few years to dig down deeper into myself to evaluate her opinion of me...which was truth to a large extent. I questioned myself, "Could she be right about me and her perspective of me".   I finally got myself together enough to own those aspects and emotionally grow and move forward: leaving emotional unwellness in my past. It's like I was a snake that shed an old skin. I left that old nasty skin behind for something more healthy!

Everytime we have a friend in our life who has a certain perspective about us, that is hard to take (especially when they tell us such things and then disappear out of our lives forever in anger).

I look at it, though, as a great opportunity to become introspective about ourselves and question our reality if what that other person is saying is  really true.  Practicing personal emotional accountability and behaving in an emotionally mature fashion is a key to living authentically.

The "accused" (for lack of a better term) is wasting their time if they try to change their accusers mind! This person who has a certain opinion of you has an emotional right to feel that way!

People seem to forget that they cannot control people, places, or things.  The only thing a person can do and control from that point onward is themselves: concentrating on self improvement is the best action plan going forward!

I understand what it's like to be on the other end of the stick when a person says I am "bad", "awful", "horrible" and a "fraud".   I have been on the receiving end of all these messages but I deal with it differently than I used to in my past.

The first question I ask myself after my hurt feelings subside is:  "is there truth to what this person believes about me". Second, I  then seek higher awareness of myself with keen intent to change it if their assumptions are  even the slightest bit valid.

If an individuals has truth in our own hearts and can back it up with facts, it doesn't matter what our friends think about a situation.  BUT if a person is accused of something, I encourage them to give it some thought:  NO MATTER WHAT. It might help us become better people in the long run.

With all this talk about unhealthy friendship and introspection on their opinions, the natural reaction is not wanting to give up on your friends, right?  Good. That is normal. It shows you have a heart.

Only you can decide if these people are worth adopting their habits, their slang, their language or the way they gossip about other people.   It's up to you if you want to adapt and adopt their positive outlook, grace and other positives that make your life better.

Or ~~~ you can sit down quietly and dig into yourself with intent for more insight into living emotionally well, own up to the reality they may be speaking truth and go on living a better life by gaining self awareness.

Sometimes sacrficing friends or those friends who leave you for what you feel is "no apparent reason"  can be a heartbreaker...but on the other hand, in many cases I see it as a blessing in disguise.

These views are wholly the views of the author of this blog and are not meant to intentionally harm or offend those who may miss the message.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Face to Face to Facebook???

Version 1 - Revised editions forthcoming..

Words. They are the means in which we relay everything to one another.

Hostility appears to be growing world-wide in virtual forums where face to face interaction occurs less and less and words represent our character "in action" instead of "in deed".  We can choose not to interact in cyberspace, but if we do, our choosing to do so comes with our words only...and becoming void of face-to-face action in everyday life.

One time, for my first master's I wrote a hypothesis that relationships can meaningfully form and others can be intimately connected in an online learning environment or any other cyber environment also known as Computer Medicated Communication (CMC). That theory, even though not very well accepted at the time I presented it to a leary faculty of instructors...it was considered in some ways "hogwash" by academicians upon my defense of my thesis.  Overtime, however, this theory of mine has proven itself true more so than ever.

Consider this, in 1350 A.D, there were 370 million people in the world and today there are 800 million Facebook users online who have an account interacting in cyberspace to some degree.  Today's world population is approximately 7 billion according to a BBC report given on the news in October, 2011.  SEVEN BILLION.

That means if there were 2 people in the world, essentially one person would have a computer and that same person would have a Facebook account.

What does this mean psychologically for individuals who are more communicative in cyberspace than face-to-face?  Over time, social networking has replaced the telephone and research indicates from a Plymouth University study that "cyberspace users were found to be more lonely and socially anxious, and more likely to disclose their ‘real-self’ through cyberspace than via face-to-face."

This has produced a model of behavior where individuals were not able to locate their authentic selves - of the locus of their souls -  and mediated negatively between the loneliness and social anxiety measures and the impact of these on relational outcomes.

One in eight couples who meet online, get married.   These sites specifically focused on finding a partner have a different impact than those sites who exist and focus on maintaining a network of friends.

MySpace, Friendster and now Facebook have proliferated social networking to the next level of relationship development.  Some of which isn't that positive for well being either.

Unfortunately there is little research completed with a wide enough sample to substantiate a full range perspective on the negative long term effects of social networking that focus on maintaining friendships, etc.

The biggest danger of social networking is the tendency to trigger isolating behaviours. Biological and chemical changes ensue according to several studies completed in the medical fields regarding neurological changes from using social networking sites like Facebook.

Isolating behaviours then trigger and "fool" the immune system, change the way genes work, confusing the immune response, hormone levels, arterial function, and damage to mental performance. This is indeed contradicts the aim of the establishment of social networking sites, where users promised hereafter to be able to find old friends and network and "keep up" easier in a social realm.


The average facebook user has 130 friends according to Facebook's statistics.  What can this mean long term?


The user may eventually be drawn into an artificial world. Someone who’s friends are mainly individuals who are just found on Facebook eventually will find it difficult to communicate "face-to-face". This behavior can increase the risk of serious health issues, such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, and dementia (senility), according to Dr Aric Sigman in The Biologist, in the journal article released by The Institute of Biology.

Not meeting is face-to-face has an effect on the body that are not visible when sending e-mail. Levels of hormones such as oxytocin which encourages people to hug or interact with each other often change, several genes, including genes related to immune system and response to stress, act differently, depending on how often a person does social interaction with others.

Also, according to Dr. Sigman, "The electronic media is slowly destroying the ability of children and young adults to learn social skills and reading body language. “



What about expressing opinion in an online forum or Facebook?  

Back in 1997, I had the pleasure or developing the 4th in the World Online Master's Degree Program in Economics for an accredited University in the United States.  A few years later, I had also had the opportunity to be the "cyber-police" for an international online dating site and then owned an online dating site of my own for a little while.  In 1997, the word "flaming" didn't exist in the context of intentionally hurting people with words in virtual environments.  By the time I owned the online dating site, we had to put numerous "rules" in place about flaming.

For those of you who do not know what flaming is... Flaming, is by definition... (and a good one has been posted in Wikipedia)  a hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users.

What has developed over time is what psychologists call the "Online Disinhibition Effect" or "ODE".  ODE refers to the behaviour people exhibit in cyberspace environments with less restraint than the real world.   By no means is this going to be a part of the DSM- V (The Diagnostician Manual for Psychologists) anytime soon, but I feel that we all can relate to this effect to a large extent.

The "You don't know me face to face" in cyberspace offers protection to virtual users.  Protection and anonymity can be helpful for those who just want to lurk and listen and this kind of protection can provide a meaningful release for people in that they feel free to say things they might otherwise be embarrassed to, but by the same token, it also provides an outlet for behaviours that others might term antisocial or harmful.

And what happens when other's can't see you face to face as you sit there in front of your computer???    Doesn't it make it much easier to lower your inhibitions than if you were standing face to face with someone you wanted to communicate with about something unpleasant?

Remember the Regular Post and sending letters to one another.. This is the same thing but now larger than life.  In high school, I remember writing letters to people that I didn't want to talk to face to face and avoid them like the plague!   I broke up with boys via letters, talked to my best friends via notes in school and passed notes like a fiend - many times because I was too chicken to confront them face to face to tell them my true feelings!

Nothing has changed with this concept. But it has been grown exponentially with the advent of Social Networking.  The danger of Social Networking and this idea is that the author of asynchronous post allows that post to "soak" and "sink in" with their audience.  Because of this, it's easier for someone to "throw their opinions out" and then leave; a person can make a single post that might be considered very personal, emotionally charged, or inflammatory and then "run away" by simply not logging in again. In this way, the person achieves catharsis by "voicing" their feelings, even if the audience is just as invisible.

It allows any receiver of that post to "mull it over", have it "sink in", and read it over and over again until it grows into a perceived reality in a person's mind.  

Unfortunately, as I have said many times before, you can't suck the toothpaste back into the tube! What's said is said! AMEN!  How many times have you  clicked "send" or posted something that you are not able to take back and reaped negative consequences for it??  Thank goodness for "delete post" on Facebook, right?  

Even more dangerous is assigning imagined identity to a person in a virtual environment.  Reading another person's message may insert imagined images of what a person looks like or sounds like into the mind, and mentally assigns an identity to these things.  Before you ever see a person's picture or meet them face to face, how many times have you said, "That person seems like they are tall, short, fat, skinny, brown headed or bald?"

The implication seems rather clear and ultimately can result in cyber-bullying or even cyber-stalking from lowering restraint due to lack of eyeball-to-eyeball communication!

I also have had the extreme DISPLEASURE of a cyberstalker for three years in my past.  Before cyber laws and my volunteer stint with the CyberCrime Units in Colorado, cyber-bullying and cyberstalking laws were not prominent of considered of any value (or cyberstalking was not considered harmful) to individuals who were harassed online.

Eventually, laws have been realized and implemented for protection of individuals about these types of virtual harassment.

According to Norman H. Holland, “people regress,” when communicating online, because, among other reasons, the physical distance from other users and the inability to interpret body language and physical reactions results in a lack of direct feedback.[9]

All of this rhetoric and why?  We have become a virtual social networking world where CMC is a necessary part of life.  So what can we do to make our exchanges in cyberspace health and positive and effectively communicate out thoughts, feelings and project our real selves as we communicate???

  1. Whether you like it or not..be ready and accept the fact that there is bajillion amounts of small talk.  About the weather, the color of a person's dog, my hair (like tonight), the peas that burnt on the stove and things like that.  Focus on commonalities in small talk when starting to form relationships with one another.  Be authentic and real with yourself.  Good online communicators will intuit your authenticity.
  2. Be clear, be direct, be concise.  When I taught Business Communication at the Undergraduate leve... I often told me students this motto, "Get in, get out and get going".  Be efficient but kind in your words.  Humour and sarcasm often get lost in the translation in virtual environments...as does meaning.  Write your posts on a separate page first and read them a few times before posting if you are not sure about how it will be interpreted.
  3. Make a person feel comfortable online.  Break out of the awkwardness and compliment and encourage others often to post how they feel postively. If they unintentionally offend you, private message them and request a conversation or chat session of possible to clear the air. RESIST THE URGE TO FLAME THEM.
  4. Respectfully disagree if you have to disagree on something.  Disagreeing with someone is MUCH better done in private than on a comment string.  Be respectful and take disagreements OFF LINE and INTO THE PRIVATE REALM.
  5. Just like we don't want people to drink and drive.  Don't social network under the influence!  I don't think I have to go into the reasons why that is the case.  Ever wake up with a social network hangover?  Not pretty-- AT ALL!
Those are just a few things to remember...and they are all common knowledge pretty much.

Bottom line.. the world has changed the way we communicate.  Good or bad we are an entire world made up of Facebook...and it's your choice how you choose to communicate there.  

Let's just say it's time we all SET the example instead of being the example those studies warn us about!

Over and out..from THIS virtual environment..... 

Happy Trails..and I'll be virtually seeing all of you around - (TM)


several excerpts have been taken my from '"Creating Connection Online" thesis - Written Sept, 1999-May, 2000.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What a Piano Has to do with Equestrian Travel

There was a whole 'nother way of living for me before horses graced themselves into my life.  I was a musician first and foremost.

By the age of 3 or 4, I remember distinctly being asked to whistle Jingle Bells on the way home from church near Christmas time.  I was wearing a brown tweed plaid (with red) jumpsuit, tights that were way uncomfortable and was sitting between my parents on the bench seat of our 1970's model station wagon...which also matched my jumpsuit.  My mom asked me, whistle jingle bells again.  I did.  She turned to my dad with a raised eye brow and asked me to whistle silent night. I did.

We had a little toy  Magnus Organ with only 16 keys (two octaves) that I was already playing when they asked me to start whistling Christmas carols.  I could already play five Christmas Carols all from memory without sheet music or knowing how to read sheet music.  My parents looked at each other and said, "I think we should get an full Organ for her to play," 

On June 6, 1971, at the age of 3 years old a Lowery Organ arrived at my house.  A full sized Lowery organ with presets and all.   I couldn't hardly even reach the pedals until I was 6... I looked like a Spider playing this thing.  The first song where I learned to read sheet music was "The Entertainer, Theme from The Sting".  I performed it to a group of 200 people at the age of 7.  

By the age of 7 or 8, I was awarded the Young Composers Award by Eastern Illnois University and was writing short classical pieces on my own.  Two hands only. Music was my life.

Somewhere in those youngster years, I had the chance to take riding lessons for three weeks at a time with the park district in the summer for three years in a row.  I begged my mother to let me take extended stays with relatives who had horses.  

My first solo ride atop a horse was at the age of 10,  on a horse named Dolly on a farm in Iowa. Loved that horse and rode for two hours one day "trying to make her do what I wanted".  The same summer,   I ate soybeans and dirt  for lunch after going bareback and nothing but mane and tail on a pony named Johnny.  I lost my balance when I kicked him up into a dead run..and came off into the dirt which was my first "unscheduled dismount" from a horse. I laughed my head off about it but got right back on! I forgot about horses.

By the age of 14 I was considered gifted in music and headed for music performance.  High School was rough for me emotionally and my musicianship and playing ability suffered. I even tried to quit playing and couldn't.   I was accepted to Berklee School of Music as I thought Julliard was too stuck up for me.  I was awarded scholarships all over the country for tuition and attended college for music performance for classical organ and classical piano. I turned down great music schools because they were too far away from home. I attended Monmouth College... which was my mom's hometown and I claim that as my hometown to this day.

I was a musician first, gigging in fancy hotels, private parties and by the age of 19 had the ability to be somewhat multi-instrumental: had performed at least hundres of times and competed successfully...as... yep.. a Xylophone and Vibe player.  Jazz, in fact!

At the age of 21, a boyfriend's mother started to teach me about horses.  At 22,  I started to lease a horse named Dreamwind Naja.  She was a Rocky Mountain Horse... and very kind to me.  The gal who owned her took me under her wing and taught me the basics.  And the boyfriend, he turned out to be abusive, so I turned to horses to comfort me and that is when my passion for horses began to develop.  I always had it, but had no idea it ran so deep.

Then a blessing struck... I became an amputee and lost two fingers on my right hand in a car accident when I turned 24.  And here is the rest of my story....and how it relates to becoming an equestrian traveler.

The sound is sketchy so bare with it. It's in two parts. Both parts are a total 12 minutes long. I hope you watch it all the way through.  It hard to believe that 687 people have watched this! 

Many of you have seen this....some of you have not.  But this is how I feel about never giving up on doing the things you love the most..and how an eight fingered pianist like me has found blessings in tragedy and gratefulness in every day life.   

I love David, my friend here, who tells my story. I'm not feeling like I inspire anyone at all...I am just me.. a musician and an equestrian...and nothing more.

Taking a step back is great to regroup, even discouragement is ok... but don't ever give up.  I hope that through my recent discouragement I can start over anew and get back on a horse to ride 1000 miles once and for all  because I can't see myself EVER giving up on what I love to do the most... and fulfilling a dream of riding a horse across the country for 1000 miles...or perhaps more.



I apologize in advance if this offends anyone in my audience...that is not my intention what so ever.  I also apologize in advance for typos...and when  I catch them, I will fix it.  These views are wholly the views of the author of this blog and are not meant to intentionally harm or offend those who may miss the message. It's sad that I feel I had to state this... but think I will from now on.









Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Give me Something to Believe In

In the last few days, I feel like I have been bullied, shamed, ridiculed, made fun of, stomped on and and inadvertently made to feel worthless for standing up for what I believe in and for an organization who believes in me.  I often wondered if had a gun to my head, would I denounce what  I believe in?  Would you?  Would you take a bullet for what you believe in? Be it your faith, your beliefs, your way of going about life?  I am proud to say that I have stood up for something I believe in...and it's for the good of the world too...and took a pretty hard emotional bullet for it and I'd do it all over again in a minute...

My equestrian journey just doesn't involve being in a saddle with my horse out there alone riding the horizon. Riding, in many ways, is the easiest part of the journey.   Enjoying 3 miles an hour (or 4, if on a gaited horse) atop of a comfy saddle is easy compared to when it comes time to unsaddle, set up camp, and step down out of the saddle.

Stepping out of the saddle, there's time for to think, reflect, grow and complete my journey right here as I type in my living room.  I try to put words to the experience of a long distance equestrian journey as members of the Guild know that with a long ride, words just don' t seem to encompass the reality a ride expresses as it becomes an entity of it's own. I fail at doing so too even though my miles are not consecutively significant... The personal transformation after stepping down out of the saddle is just another aspect of it...it 's a bittersweet aspect of it, it's the end of it.  But is it really the end?

The other day, I was talking with someone who rode coast to coast from California to New Hampshire in an email. After the conclusion of a long equestrian horse journey, people forget seem to forget that us equestrian travellers and the messages we leave behind.

Over the 1100 in-consecutive miles I have ridden with my horse across the United States, many times people give me a "uh-huh" and a small acknowledgement of this feat.  Believe me, I am not a fame or fortune hunter.. NOT AT ALL.  But  I mention that because people need so much hope in this broken world, they jump on the next adventure of hope that comes along and slough off and forget the world of hope we have created for them. We are so grateful for them...as they push us forward, mile after mile and day after day.  These hope-givers like us.. feel like we have been abandoned each other perhaps.  But I do know one thing where do we adventurers draw our own hope and encouragement when we give it so frequently when we can't find it in ourselves.  She said to me, "I don't talk about my ride anymore for the fear of "uh-huh".

That tells me this world is still SO BROKEN and so hurt by it's own self that we need to journey like this by horse MORE OFTEN to remember how we are grounded to ourselves in our world in the first place.

My equestrian journey never stops as it is through horses that I connect with people.  And being around horses, I try to understand life through their perspective -- and I fall so short of their grace and forgiveness that I embarrass myself many times.

So that brings me back to .. would you take a bullet for what you believe in??? I would..because I know that some of those things I believe in (and others would agree) really have the potential to save the world....

******


Friday, December 2, 2011

Centaur

Centaur

When we ride The Sky in Wintertime
On horses breath
Crystallizes like
Hoary Frost on a leaf
Catching Snowflakes on
their Equine Eyelashes
We Experience Cold Human Toes

Falling and rocking
Rising and leather
Underneath Us
Silence of 
Footfalls in the snow
Creaky saddles
Stiff Bridles
and Cold Noses
Together on any Path
We seek


Riding our horses
Hearts Open We
Forget Where We Are
They Whisper earth's secrets 
Into our ears
They, not us, who bring us
To brilliance and
One with the edge of
becoming 
Centaur

M.C.D.-12.2.11





Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Journey - Mary Oliver Modified

The Journey

One day you finally knew what you had to do

 and began,

though the voices around you
kept shouting
their  advice - - -
the whole  lot of them
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
'Mend my life for me for you cannot leave us now!'
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations - - -
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you rode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
 the only thing you knew how to do
and save the only life you knew as your own

Each turn as the sky burned off the fog
Each beat on the pavement
The Stars shone through blazing hot
in the night sky
Coffee, Rice, Saddle, Bridle
I wanted the past to go away,
I wanted to leave it, like another country;
I wanted my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;

I wanted to hurry into the work of my life;
I wanted to know,whoever I was,
I was alive for a little while
and I know now that out here, I truly am...