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Even Feminist Cowgirls Wear Bras…

This week  Anne-Marie Slaughter, former aid to Hilary Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive reignited the feminist firestorm of working mothers “having it all”. As with most media hyped conversations, a real social issue, that effects real working class Americans, was framed in an elitist bubble with a beltway spin that went something like this: Two unfortunate, uber successful women having to choose between commuting between their multi-million dollar jobs and their family estates with live-in help and supportive husbands. The terribly hard choices these women have to make, why, why is it so unfair! REALLY, HONESTLY, these are the women we are going to look to, to guide us to gender equality? On the other side we have stay at home mom, Ann Romney with her two Cadillacs and string of Dressage horses, who has certainly made great sacrifices by staying at home(s) and raising (overseeing the staff) her children. AGAIN, REALLY? For most of America these are no more choices we could make than what to wear to Cinderella’s ball. The fairy tale existence that goes on inside the beltway is not based in the same reality faced by working class families in the rest of the country. ALL, yes ALL (and I am very careful with generalizations) of the top level working women inside the beltway have made the choice to be there. Each and every one of them could be living a different life if they chose. Their difficulties are, if not self-inflicted, self-sustained, by choice. These women, no matter how successful, do not have the right to speak for working women who do not have the luxury of choice.

Last week I read a different article again about a beltway mother lamenting the competitiveness of getting her child into summer camp. She resorted to donating over a $1,000 to the camp to ensure her little snowflake was able to attend. Now mind you, her daughter was eight. To top off the insanity her major concern was that her child was not enjoying the same carefree summer camp experience she had, swimming, playing tennis and eating ice cream with a wooden spoon. Her daughter would spend her summer camp learning, studying and building a resume to get into the best middle school in town. After all if she didn’t attend the best school her life was destined to failure. As I read this article I couldn’t help but wonder what this mother thought the rest of our children were going to grow up to be? Does she honestly believe only children educated in a private school in Washington D.C. have a chance of success? Do all of this country’s productive citizens come from Washington and furthermore, what makes these women think the rest of the country shares their definition of success?

I for one view success a little differently. Granted my occupation is listed as Cowgirl on my taxes so I view most things differently, but I feel like I have more in common with most American women than the women making it into the news. I am fortunate enough to have a choice in my career, I have made good decisions and benefited from a fair amount of good fortune. I am in a better position than many but I am not completely removed from the daily struggles of those without choices.  I have worked in corporate America and owned my own business, I have been both a single mother and married, had both supportive and un-supportive husbands and managed to raise two wonderful daughters. I would hardly view my life as a failure, quite the contrary, I feel as though I have successfully navigated the first half of my life and I’m gleefully looking forward to the second half. That being said, I faced bias, discrimination and hardship that my male peers were never subjected to.

Gender inequality is real and needs to be addressed but we must also recognize that there are gender differences and success for each needs to be viewed with those in mind. Men can’t bear children, that doesn’t make them a failure at being a woman. Women can’t rear children and work in a business model designed for men who left their families at home. Someone needs to be home with the children. This is not a gender issue this is a business model issue. Even if men stay home and raise children, women need to do the actual bearing part of this equation and that requires time away from work. For the single mother, to which 30% of Americans are now born, being a working mother is not a choice but a necessity. Time off work to bear and tend to children will result in lower pay and less upward mobility while rising daycare and healthcare costs will result in less expendable income. All of this contributes to societal problems.

So who is a successful woman in today’s society? Does the little eight year old girl in D.C have a chance at success, even with all her advantages? After all she is a girl and may need time away from her career if she chooses to have a family. Do my girls stand a chance? They aren’t being raised inside the beltway and they are girls. Until we give up our archaic views gender roles, reconstruct our corporate model and begin to value women as the givers of life, these girls will have to make choices that men don’t. Access to choices in education, career and healthcare will be a determining  factor of their success but at the end of the day it will be their own definition of success that is important.

This country needs Cowgirls and CEO’s, strong women who are willing to bring a feminine perspective to male dominated arenas. Little girls should be able to grow up to be anything, including stay at home moms. They should be supported, respected and compensated fairly for their efforts without gender bias. “Having it all” doesn’t need to involve sacrificing our relationships with our children or our spouses. As long as our girls have the ability to choose they can be successful and as a mother, successful happy children is “having it all”.

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The B-List – 25 Things I’ve done that changed my view of the world

I’ve never been one to shy away from trying new things (except foods). I am usually at the front of the line for the latest and greatest technology, amusement experience or travel destination. I was raised with the mantra,”expand your horizons” and have always taken great joy in learning a new skill, meeting new people and challenging myself mentally and physically. A lot of people are posting their bucket lists as a way to share their life adventures. I really don’t care for the term bucket list since it implies I need to be dying to start living, which seems silly to me. However, I have a list of things I have done, mostly because opportunity knocked, not because I had set some kind of goal for accomplishing them, that I have learn a lot from.

I’ll call it my B-list, since my A-list is the stuff that is important enough to me to blog about, my family, our country, things I find particularly relevant or noteworthy. The B-list stuff is things I’ve done that are important in the sense they have given me perspective, they form the frame work on which my life is built, but in and of themselves are not necessarily noteworthy. For example jumping off a building (with a safety harness) doesn’t take much skill and serves no moral or intellectual purpose but I can attest to the fact that it altered my perception and forced me to a simple, clear place in my mind that brought tremendous clarity.

So here are 25 B-List things I’ve done that have changed my view on the world and why. Some I recommend, others are purely informational but all have been noteworthy for me.

  1. Travel: Leave the country, leave the county or just leave your house. Get out and see what the human experience is like for the rest of the world. Try to Understand that we are all connected and we are all trying to make sense of life on this big blue marble hurling through space.
  2. Vote: Share in a democracy. It’s not us against them if you participate.
  3. Protest: Let your voice be heard. Express some righteous indignation, collaborate with like-minded people, feel the power of the people.
  4. Mourn: Attend a funeral at Arlington. Feel the oppressive burden so many have paid for our freedom. Let the crack of a 21 gun salute be etched into your psyche, and when you see a solider in uniform remember it, and thank them.
  5. Leave $100 tip: Preferably on your breakfast tab. It will make your day and the wait staff’s week.
  6. Jump off something really high: Stare down the primal need for self-preservation. Make a conscious decision to override fear with logic, and jump.
  7. Watch the sunrise in a foreign country: Some things are universal, the sun will always rise in the East no matter where you are or where you’re from.
  8. Pray in an ancient temple: Walk the path of the ancients, feel their presence and pray in a place where people have felt connected to something powerful for generations.
  9. Watch the sunset in the desert: The sky touches the earth and the colors of the desert melt into the sunset until you can’t tell which is heaven or which is earth.
  10. Sleep under the stars: No tent, no ceiling, just you and the stars. Nothing seems very big compared to a canopy of stars.
  11. Swim in really, really cold water: Fight to catch your breath, feel your skin tighten and burn. You are alive, every cell in your body is fully alive.
  12. Hike until you can smell soap: Stay in the wilderness long enough you can smell if someone has showered. Your senses are heightened, you can taste, see and feel better. Life truly is in Technicolor.
  13. Follow the sound of the music: wander through a city and follow the sound of music into some little dive with the best musician you’ve never heard of.
  14. Buy a stranger dinner: Without saying a word pay for someone else’s meal. See if you can set your ego aside and do something completely selfless.
  15. Give someone the shirt off your back: If someone compliments you on some piece of clothing, give it to them. Feel the joy of spontaneous generosity.
  16. Go backstage: Meet the band, be a groupie, surround yourself with the talent you don’t have.
  17. Work hard enough to form callused hands: Sometimes physical labor is what a body and mind needs to heal.
  18. Make a public pronouncement of your love: Shout if from a roof top, put it on the jumbo tron, however you want just make a grandiose gesture to the one you love.
  19. Swim with a shark: Step out of your element completely and trust in yourself. Force yourself to make decisions based in fact not fear.
  20. Stop at a lemonade stand and give the kids a $20: The cheapest way to be a big spender you’ll ever find. Relish in the joy of telling them to “keep the change”.
  21. Do something completely childish: Roll down a grassy hill, splash in a puddle and nurture your inner child. They are the source of much of your happiness.
  22. Go to the Opera: Enjoy art and culture for the sake of art and culture. Hear the beauty in words you cannot understand.
  23. Drive a convertible way to fast with the top down: Preferably with the stereo blasting, singing off-key with the A/C on, smiling and waving at all the truckers. Sometimes eccentric is just right.
  24. Say Goodbye to someone you love: We can’t always be with the people we love. Feeling the burning pain of separation allows us to learn that love transcends physical bounds.
  25. Practice random acts of kindness: Hand the mail man a coke, give up your place in the grocery line, do something everyday that makes someone else smile. Life really is about the little stuff.
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25 Things I Want My Ranch Kids to Know

It’s so nice to know there are other families raising good ranch kids. I had a blog rolling around my head when I stumbled across this. I couldn’t have said it any better myself and I really hope my kids know and believe all 25 of theses.

The Sagebrush Sea

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been living my ideal ranch life lately.   I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in the car and on the computer, rather than my horse.  As a result, I’ve been stumbling around on the ubiquitous website Pinterest.  The majority of the images are absorbingly lovely and the creative ideas that proliferate there are inspiring.  Amidst my internet procrastination research I discovered this blog, Mommy OM, and these loving, humorous, and insightful posts.

They’ve inspired me to compile my own list: 25 Things I Want My Ranch Kids to Know.

1. You have chores, because we love you.

They seem tedious, but they are the building blocks for your future.  Responsibility, accountability, and basic life skills begin with sweeping the floor, scrubbing the toilet, and feeding pets and livestock.  We love you, we want you to find…

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By Hook or by Crook…

One of my favorite movies is “Hook” with Robin Williams as Peter Pan. It’s a great adaptation of a familiar story with some very poignant lines. After the lead character Peter Banning disappoints his young son Jack yet again he tries to make it up to him by telling him “my word is my bond” to which young Jack replies “Yeah junk bond”. It’s a clever snipe from a kid, but it holds a lot of truth. How often do we tell our children one thing and do something totally different?

I read a couple of articles this week about parents, parenting and education. They all seemed unrelated at first blush but I am sensing a trend. The first article was about a Billionaire with several degrees from Harvard paying 20 students $100,000 each to drop out of Ivy League Universities and start their own companies. The next was advice, again from someone who is highly educated and finically  secure, encouraging young mothers to leave their careers and go into debt in order to completely fulfill their obligations as a mother. Finally I read an article about how college tuition rates have gone up 25% in the past 20 years, far out pacing inflation and college debt has now topped $1 Trillion. Yeah, $1 Trillion allowing the mainstream media to conclude it is just not cost effective for our young people to attend college. Are you starting to see the trend? Rich, educated, men discouraging, guilting and systematically preventing our youth from obtaining the education they themselves have benefited from.

Now before I digress into an Orwellian conspiracy rant and start quoting from Animal Farm lets go over a few things. There is no “Man”, we are not being kept “uneducated and down on the farm” or “barefoot and pregnant”. We as a society have made decisions and are following trends. We as a society, decide what has value and what doesn’t. Just like Peter Banning in Hook, it’s our actions that are telling are children where they really stand in our lives, not our words. What have we as a society determined has value? Twelve states provide college scholarships to in-state schools for their high school graduates ranging from full ride including books and fees to $125 a semester. Only two of those states cover “tuition” not a fixed dollar amount so basically, unless you are lucky enough to live in New Mexico or Georgia, our society does not feel providing secondary education to our students that have proven themselves to be good students and productive members of society in high school is valuable. However, jobless rates for college graduates under 25 is 8% while jobless rates for high school graduates without college under 25 is 24%.  Although most of the US does not value secondary education enough to fund it, we expect anyone who wants to work to have a degree. We have set up a societal catch 22. No degree, no job; no money, no degree unless of course you are willing to go into debt. So it’s debt we value, right? Our children who are willing to go $100,000 in debt are the ones we reward with a job. A  job they can never quit for fear of bankruptcy, which by the way does not absolve their student loans. Maybe it’s suffering we value. Our children who graduate from high school and don’t go onto college are destined to a life of poverty and strife. They will spend their entire woking lives in menial entry level jobs just trying to make ends meet. Our children who graduate from college are destined to a life of debt, it will take most of them 20 years to pay off their student loans destining them to a life of poverty and strife, working at jobs they hate just to make ends meet.

Are the rich, white men right? Should we abandon education and go into debt to raise our children? Or maybe, as a society we could decide we are all better off if our children are both educated and employed. Maybe going into debt could be a personal choice not a necessary evil. Maybe we could attach ourselves to our children’s future, not just their present by making some hard choices for our society. Maybe we could pay a little more in taxes so 50 states would have in-state scholarships, maybe we could hire a few people without degrees for jobs that really don’t need them anyway. Maybe more of us could vote in our local and national elections than on American Idol. Maybe if we acted on the things we say are valuable and quit focusing on some of the things that really don’t matter our children would have a future that didn’t involve living in our basements.

The difficult time has come to make a stand. Have we grown up to be pirates, pillaging our children’s future or, are they the happy thoughts that allow us to fly? The choice is ours. Is our word our bond or is it just a junk bond? Everything we do, and don’t do sends a clear message of what we truly value.

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The Sound of Your Voice

This morning finds me in a familiar spot. Smokie is lying at me feet snoring and leaning just a little too hard on my legs, Barney is lying peacefully on his pillow making a tiny little snoring noise with each exhale, Lou and Rio are on the floor beside the bed and the whole house is cool and quiet. I cherish these  mornings where I can sit quietly in bed and read or write or just listen to the meadow larks out my window. There is an endless supply of things that need to be done on the ranch but for now everything can wait just a little longer, at least until the snoring stops.

I read an article this morning about a horse’s ability to recognize the sound of it’s owners voice. It seemed odd to me that they needed to do a study to prove this but, nonetheless the finding were interesting. Not only can horses recognize the sound of a familiar persons voice, they form a visual image of that person in their minds just like humans. This ability to instantaneously determine friend from foe by the sound of a voice is a strategic advantage for a horse. Just yesterday I reprimanded my wrangler for clicking and clucking to a horse. She was confused and wanted to know why, I explained that it’s really just rude. How would you respond if I whistled and pointed, instead of just asking you to go get me something? I went on to explain that although they don’t speak, that doesn’t mean they don’t understand. Speaking to them as though they can speak back builds the connection between the sound of your voice and the trust and respect they have for you. People are often amazed when they watch me work with a horse and it appears the horse if following my directions. They think I have some magical talent or I’m a horse whisperer, when in reality the only magic I have worked is yammering on and on as I feed, groom, tack and do my chores. All of my horses know what I sound like when I’m happy, mad, sad, scared, determined, sick, hurt or just plain tired. They have mental pictures that coincide with my voice allowing them to garner more information about me from a single word than most humans can derive from a lengthy conversation. All of this is possible simply by the sound of my voice.

Last week we went a trip to a family wedding. All four of us and the dog traveled 2600 miles over 6 days and 4 states in the truck, together. Now that is a lot of togetherness. We needed a theme for the trip so we went with food and music. With the iPod playing a Texas themed playlist we headed across I-10. The music was only interrupted by some well researched local diners that provided a quality array of good food for all the differing tastes among us. And by the way yes, you can find good vegetarian food in Texas. Out of Texas and into Louisiana we enjoyed our first live concert. We were lucky enough to see Guy Clark, Verlon Thompson and Richard Leigh perform in a small, intimate theatre in Lafayette. This was the first time either of the girls had seen or heard any of these amazing artist perform live. Standing literally feet away from the stage I could see the recognition, love and respect reflected in their eyes as these familiar voices filled the room. It was more than just recognizing a song it was the association, the mental picture they had between those words, those voices and their life experience. Their entire lives were pulled together simply by the sound of a voice.

In today’s digital age we communicate via email, text, Facebook, blogs, tweets and numerous other non-verbal methods. We have convinced ourselves that it is easier, faster and more efficient than picking up the phone (which we probably have in our hand to send the text) or sitting down with someone and having a conversation. We have replaced the sound of a voice with the sound of an incoming message. On some level we understand we need that human connection because we add picture to our phones so when we get a message we see the face. My question is; is seeing a picture and reading a message as significant as hearing a voice? Can a picture relay the information about someone being tired, scared, sad or lonely that you can hear in their voice? Maybe we could learn something form our non-verbal equine friends. They have learned that listening to the sound of our voice is important for their survival, they have learned to associate the sound of a voice with feelings and memories and they have learned that the words we speak are not nearly as important as the actions that accompany them. These are powerful lessons and lessons that can only be learned by the sound of a voice.

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Winds of Change

Today was my first windy ride of the season. The wind was warm and by no means as strong as it will can get but nonetheless I required a post ride shower to remove the loam from my face, teeth and hair. Of all the challenges living in the desert may bring the spring winds are one of the toughest for me. I don’t like to yell to be heard and the dehydrating effect of the wind really zaps my energy after my ride. However with the wind comes longer days, warmer nights and ability to open all the windows in the house and start living outside more than in.

They call it the changing of the seasons for a reason. Not only does the weather change but it seems that changes in our lives go along with the changes in the season. As the leaves come on the trees and the lawn goes from dormant brown to vibrant green I feel myself wanting to shed the old and embrace the new in my life as well. Like mother nature I start small and early. In February I cut my hair, not drastic but significant. By March I was ordering new clothes and changing the linens in the house. April has arrived and like the winds I’m blustering with energy on some days, and a little quieter on others. I have begun taking dressage lessons as my “New” thing this year like planting a new garden. It will take weeks before I see any benefit but by the end of summer all my hard work should pay off in a harvest of fitness and new talent.

As with any change old things must pass to make room for the new. I was content with cleaning out my closet but Mother Nature took a bigger bite this week by taking Buddy from our herd. I know it was way past his time to go, at 35 he had outlived any reasonable expectation for a horse but I was truly hoping he would live forever. The loss of Buddy has left a giant hole in my heart and our herd that will take many season to fill, but it has served as a reminder of not only our mortality but our daily impact on the lives around us. Buddy had planted a significant garden of love, trust, respect and mischief. All of which we have harvested from for many years and will continue to harvest from for many more. When I go to the barn and count horses I may be one short this week, but like the wind I can still feel Buddy’s presence and see the results of his existence everywhere I look.

The winds of change, like the spring winds are hard for me but I know they signify shedding the old and moving forward to the new. Although newer is not always better, it is the moving forward that allows for a healthy life. I will move forward with all the knowledge and love that was given to me by a very old horse who knew more about people than any person I have ever  met and for that I am grateful. I hope Buddy has moved on to a place where the grass is always sweet and young and no one ever chases him off the lawn.


The Fleecing of an American

Let me start by saying I’m mad. I’m damn mad and if you are looking for my usual lighter side of life article this isn’t it. I promise to return to my more jovial self but sometimes anger is the motivator we need to affect change and change is what needs to happen. Four years ago the majority of Americans voiced their opinions that as Americans we should not be forced into bankruptcy as a result of healthcare costs. The majority of Americans agreed we needed a system of healthcare that would protect us both physically and financially. Somehow what the majority of Americans wanted, talked about and agreed upon morphed from healthcare to health insurance reform. Somehow the conversation was swayed away from healthcare and the fundamental rights of all our citizens to have access to healthcare to the need for all of our citizens to be insured. Now some of you may think that is just semantics but I assure you it is anything but.

Health insurance is a designed to be a profitable business. The top priority of a health insurance company is to make money. That is not a bad thing or is it fundamentally wrong however there exists a conflict of interest inherent in this business model. In order to provide it’s shareholders with maximum profits, insurance companies must find ways to control costs. The easiest way to control cost is to limit benefits and or increase premiums. This is a gross oversimplification of the process but it holds true. Insurance companies have no long term commitment to their policy holders and have no guarantee that any benefits they provide will save them money in the future. Therefore their business model must be based on current need and current condition.

Healthcare is a life long issue. This single issue affects every citizen from cradle to grave. When profit and loss sheets include quality of life, length of life, suffering and happiness the picture develops a lot differently. As Americans we have a long term vested interest in the health and well being of our citizens. Ensuring our citizens healthcare needs are met promptly and efficiently provides us with the long term benefits of a healthier workforce. When we collectively accept the responsibility of our nation’s healthcare we gain some control over our future. Our citizens are free to live healthier lives based on our national conversation not a profit and loss sheet for some multi-national corporation.

How about some real life perspective. When I was a child my father was a teamster. The teamster’s union provided our health insurance. It was a good plan that covered most things in a time when most people didn’t have health insurance. The teamsters were self insured, which meant my dad’s union dues went to cover the medical bills of every member. Dues were collected, bills were paid and the remainder stayed at the union. Simple enough, right? When my mom went to work she to worked for a union, her insurance would pay anything that dad’s didn’t, even better. This worked out great for us and the unions. Each union only had to pay a portion of the bill and still collected the full union dues. Two working adults with insurance was good for the entire community. When I started working, my husband and I both worked for the same company, same set up until after our first child was born in 1993. Then things began to change. First even though we both paid, only one of us could carry insurance. Our second daughter was born in 1996, her birth cost around $5,000 of which we paid 20%. Then we began having to pay for our health insurance, it was no longer considered part of our salary. This resulted in an annual 3%-5% pay cut as the premiums rose, our wages stayed stagnant and co-pays were added. Along with the premiums rising, the cost of services have been on a steep upward trajectory. In 1993 an emergency room visit cost $75 of which the insurance would pay 80% so the net out of pocket was $15 pretty affordable for most people. Now our co-pay is $75 and then we are billed 20% of the bill which there is no way of knowing what that will be.

In 1999 my oldest daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Although this is not a terminal condition it is a life long condition. There is no cure, she will alway require medication and medical care. My goal for her life is to ensure she is healthy enough to be cured when they finally find a cure. We have been proactive in her healthcare and managed her diabetes with a keen awareness of long term effects. I am happy to say she is very healthy and has no long term damage from being insulin dependent for over twelve years. She has maintained a quarterly regiment of appointments with an endocrinologist and has never been hospitalized for complication due to her diabetes. She is the poster child of how well you can live your life with diabetes. This has not come without a tremendous commitment or significant financial stain on our family. Thankfully we have been in a position to provide both for her.

Two weeks ago Amelia was home for the weekend for college. She brought her diabetes supplies, her diabetes alert dog, and like most college kids, her laundry. Our weekend was off to a great start and we had just enjoyed some pizza and a movie when she went to the fridge to get insulin to change her infusion site for her insulin pump. She dropped her insulin on the brick floors in the kitchen shattering the glass vial. Suddenly things weren’t going to well, since she was going to be home for just a few days that was the only bottle of insulin she brought. The current local time was 10:00pm on Saturday. The nearest 24 hour pharmacy is over 30 miles away and since her medical supplies are shipped directly to her as stipulated by her insurance company, she doesn’t have a prescription for insulin on file with any local pharmacy. Our only option was to go to the emergency room at the hospital and ask for some insulin. So off we went to the ER. Now Amelia was in no immediate danger, however since she has an insulin pump she had no insulin in her system, she had just eaten pizza and her blood sugar would soon be dangerously high. We checked into the ER and asks if they could just give, sell or donate a bottle of insulin so she could fill her pump and prevent her blood sugar from rising. Predictably we were told she would have to go through the system and to have a seat. A triage nurse weighed her and took her blood pressure then we waited two hours for the doctor to come in and hand her a bottle of insulin. She drew 300 units of insulin out of it and gave it back to him. In the time it took for them to get her insulin, her blood sugar had risen form normal to 300. The kicker to this story is not the inconvenience or the lack of actual care, but the $4,330 her insurance was charged. An entire bottle of insulin costs $60-$70 retail and holds 1,000 units, so she used about $20 in insulin. She required no diagnosis, no care, not even so much as a needle. She provided her own infusion site and reservoir and pulled the insulin from the bottle herself. Our system of health insurance dictates share holders need to be protected, not patients or our nation, therefore they can justify charging as much as the market will bear.

We will contest the charges and the hospital will amend the bill but not without a lot of time and energy and it will still be astronomically inflated.  In the end we will be responsible for several hundred dollars, which is a small price to pay for Amelia’s life, however if she were on her own, like many people her age, working at an entry level job, how would she be able to manage several hundred dollars for twenty dollars worth of insulin? What would she do without in order to pay her medical bills? How much does our economy suffer as a result of this outdated and antiquated system we cling to? What are we doing to and for our citizens by ignoring the evidence provided by the rest of the industrialized world, that healthCARE is as much a public issue as the fire department, the police and public education? Amelia has done nothing wrong, she has Type 1 Diabetes. She is capable of being an extraordinary citizen and contributing great things to this country. All she needs is insulin to keep her alive so she can make that happen. Should her physical and financial health be risked over the simple act of dropping insulin on the kitchen floor?

I have a prescription for insulin now, I got it from my Veterinarian. If I get it from the doctor we will be charged out of network for going to the local pharmacy and the insulin will cost $100 but if it’s for the dog I can pick up a bottle at Walgreens with a coupon for $40. Yeah it’s a great system. I don’t know how to fix our system and I know there are flaws in every system but I would really like our national conversation to go back to health care instead of health insurance. Our country can’t succeed without healthy citizens. It is in everyones best interest to find a way to ensure every American has access to health care that will not send them to the bankruptcy court after the ER. Please listen closely the next time someone talks about healthcare in the media. I bet they are actually talking about health insurance and I have 4,330 reasons to not say that’s not semantics.

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The Life You Make is the Life You Get.

I spent the entire day in the car driving my daughter back to New Mexico State University for her second semester of her freshman year. What a treat it is to spend five uninterrupted hours with one of this country’s finest young adults. Our media and societal portrayals of America’s youth are often negative and condescending when my experience has shown me that America’s youth are a vibrant well spring of hope, generosity and peace. With my hope restored I headed back to the ranch alone.  The five hour return trip was filled with uninterrupted iPod  and radio listening.

My friend Verlon Thompson was on the Bob Edward show today. He is one of the most gracious and humble men I have ever met. He spoke about playing backup for Guy Clark for nearly twenty years. It takes a special person to play a supporting role like that and as I drove along today I heard one of his songs called “Perfect Love” that may shed some light on why this seems to work so well for him. The lyrics go “the love you make is the love you get”. That stuck out in my mind as a fact that is also true about life. The life we have is the life we’ve made. No one else is responsible for our lives. Verlon has the life he’s made and he embraces all the opportunities and experience he has gained for it. It’s wonderful having people like that in my life to keep me honest and focused on making the life I want.

This week I finished the final edit on my novel. Set it up on Amazon, Kindle and Smashwords and it is now available in ebook form and will soon be available in paperback. I never dreamed I would be a published author but once I wrote a novel I decided it was something I really wanted. I have spent the past month turning that idea into a reality. I know there are people who will discount my status as an author because I don’t have an agent or some big publishing house. They may be right but for me, for my life this was the path I chose and right now I couldn’t be happier. It’s amazing to go to Amazon and search for “Have You Seen Charlie?” and see my book on sale. That’s the life I made.

My husband Barney and I have practiced living with intention for years. This past year was filled with our intentions becoming realities. It’s not magic and we can’t just get what we want by wishing for it, but we do have clear thoughts and ideas about what we want from our lives and what we need to do to make that happen. Passing this skill onto our daughters has been a wonderful process. Empowering them to take control of their lives and create the lives they want hasn’t alway been easy but watching Amelia flourish in her first year of college has made it all worthwhile.

So go ahead take a long look at your life. It’s the life you’ve made. Is it the life you want?

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Reflections, Realizations and Other Musings of a Cowgirl.

So, today is it. The last day of 2011. As I sit here in bed, with an icepack on my back, I have a painful reminder of exactly how many years have passed. Also, how many graceful falls or maybe it’s falls from grace, have also passed. I have physical evidence that most of my days have been spent doing anything but sitting around, and painful memories that more than a few of them have required an icepack.

I have a friend who calls me occasionally. I’ve known him since I was ten, so I consider him a friend but I haven’t laid eyes on him in over twenty years. He calls at random, when he’s bored, frustrated or just sick of doing the same thing day in and day out. He really isn’t calling to talk to me, more he is calling to hear a story. He wants to know what I’m doing, where I am and what  my latest project is. He finally admitted, he always has a sense of wonder when he picks up the phone to call. I ‘d never really considered my life held much wonder to anyone but me. I’ve been wondering what the hell I’m doing for years, but I didn’t know that  my life had captivated anyone else attention.

Unlike many people, I’ve never had a plan for my life. I didn’t intend on growing up to be anything. Really, I didn’t intend on growing up. When I was young, I didn’t have a passion or a love for anything, I had a passion and love for everything. I tried everything, went everywhere and never, ever, said: “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” I worked hard and played harder. If I had an opportunity, I took it. I moved from coast to coast without a plan, apartment or clue. Now, please understand, things didn’t always work out and I’m not recommending this approach to anyone. However, my unbridled enthusiasm and youthful courage did keep life interesting. I have failed at more things than most people have tried, having just enough success to keep me moving forward.

Moving forward is the trick, and it gets harder as the bloom of youth fades. That being said, I’ve managed to keep my enthusiasm for life intact. I still look for opportunities where others see problems and I enjoy a hard days work. As a result of my many failures, I now know what will and won’t work, so my success rate has drastically increased over the years. I really appreciate the wisdom that has come with age. It’s not free, but if you are humble, and willing to learn it is the great equalizer for loss of youth. The other bright spot of a little age is arriving at a place where you are able to give. Unfortunately, when you are just starting out in life you need everything you have so it’s hard to give. I struggled to build the American dream only to find out that it wasn’t my dream, and it was so easy to lose or have taken away. I endured my indentured servitude to the beast of capitalism for far too long, being convinced that I needed the comfort and stability that came from growing and building. More money, bigger houses, more stuff, more, more, more. What I finally learned was, what I really needed less stuff and more time. More time with my children, more time with my spouse, more time for myself and my American dream. Not the one they sell on TV and in the magazines, rather my dream, a place for my passion and enthusiasm to grow. With my new found wisdom and subsequent unemployment I started downsizing. I literally gave away an entire house full of furniture, and like the grinch on Christmas, my heart grew three sizes that day.

I discovered that giving brings me more joy and happiness than any material possession could, or has, ever. I can’t give away everything I have, nor do I want to. I continue to work very hard for the comforts in my life, but now I view them in an entirely different light. I am no longer a slave to my lifestyle. Now, my lifestyle is what supports and sustains me. I give my passion and enthusiasm freely and in return I have become successful in my business, and happy and peaceful in my life. I’ve changed the questions I ask, to: ” how can I help” or “what can I do”, instead of  “what does this pay” or “what’s in it for me?”.

As I ring in the new year, I still don’t have a plan, I’m far from grown-up and life is still interesting to me. I will probably fail at a few more things next year but I’m sure to succeed at a few also. When my friend calls I will have a new story to tell and, as always, I’ll be doing something interesting, that may or may not require an ice pack the next day.

Happy New Year to everyone who takes the time to read this blog. Thank you for participating in one of the things that helps sustain me. May the new year bring you  joy, happiness and a new story to tell.



There’s Only Two Things Money Can’t Buy…..

If you want to make Bill Brockwell smile learn the lyrics to “Home Grown Tomatoes”. He is always quick to ask me if I know the only two things that money can’t buy and I’m always as quick to reply. Well Bill that’s “true love and home grown tomatoes”. As we both giggle and smile we know neither of us have ever grown a tomato, it’s the true love part that we are striving for.

This week marks Bill and Mary Brockwell’s 60th wedding anniversary. I tried to do an anthology of how life has changed during their 60 years together but it turns out that would have been a book not a blog post. They have walked through the past 60 years hand in hand watching the world change all around them, nothing seems to be as it was when they married, except them. The cohesive unit they formed has out lasted dictators and democracies, war and famine, styles and trends. They raised seven children together who in turn are raising nine grandchildren. They have left an indelible mark on humanity with the example they have set. I’m not sure how Noah Webster defines “true love” but in our world we use a shorthand definition.  Ma & Pa.

I can’t imagine the trials and tribulations they have faced over the past 60 years. I know times weren’t alway easy. They were the very picture of middle class America in the 50’s and 60’s. Mary raised the children while Bill was a traveling salesman. They moved frequently so Bill could climb the corporate ladder and provide for his ever growing family. Their first four children were born in quick succession so Mary was changing diapers continuously for over a decade. With the final three arriving in a more spread out fashion this created a 23 year era where they had at least one and often several teenagers in their house. It wasn’t until they had been married 38 years they finally had their last child in college. Through all this there is one character trait that defines them. Cheerful. As Bill say’s “you can’t always be happy but can always choose to be cheerful”.

So “Cheers” to you Brockwells. You are a wonderful pair. Thanks for showing us that true love and perseverance are not just lofty ideals to be written about in songs and poems. Thanks for reminding us that you can’t buy true love, it needs to be homegrown just like a tomato. And finally a special thanks for having seven children I would have never found my true love if you had stopped at six.

Happy 60th Anniversary


Your Favorite…… ; )

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Whiskey for my men…and beer for my horses?

Saturday was a much anticipated day on the ranch. Willie Nelson was playing a benefit concert at the Santa Fe Opera and we had tickets. Olivia is a little music junkie. However unlike most teenagers, when you open the door to her room, it’s not screaming guitars you will hear, it’s a screaming fiddle. At her core Livi is a bluegrass girl with a deep appreciation for American Folk music. Willie Nelson is definitely among the great artist Liv keeps on her iPod but she had never seen him live and she was in for a treat. Come to find out our good friends Keith and Mary Anne had never been to a Willie show either. Well, well, destiny strikes again. The five of us were going to see Willie.

For those of you not lucky enough to live in Santa Fe or who have never been to the Santa Fe Opera, the Opera house is magnificent. As with most things in Santa Fe it is different. The most obvious difference is that it is outside. Yes we enjoy our opera outside under the stars. The seats are covered with a cantilevered roof which creates the most magnificent acoustics. Another major difference is the way people dress. Like all places in Santa Fe it is appropriate to attend the opera in your jeans and boots as long as you add your conch belt and your good hat. Also due to the fact it is outside blankets, ponchos, shawls and anything else to keep the chill off is a suitable addition to your opera wardrobe. My favorite difference however is that tailgating is encouraged. So when Santafeans head off to the opera they grab the cooler and the lawn chairs. The opera even frequently provides roving minstrels in the parking lot to entertain the tailgaters before the show. As they say “when in Rome” we packed our coolers and grabbed our lawn chairs and headed for the parking lot. The atmosphere in the parking lot was very collegiate, we had plenty of company as we enjoyed our picnic dinner. The sun sank low in the western sky which cued us it was time to head in and enjoy the show.

Willie put on a great show. He sang everything you thought he should sing and sang a couple I had forgotten about. He covered, Waylon, Billy Joe Shaver, Steve Goodman, Hank Williams and of course ended with some gospel music. Barney and I sang along and enjoyed the show while the “newbies” just tried to keep up. When the house lights flashed the audience and the entire place sang out “beer for my horses” Livi was stunned. She didn’t know Live shows include sing-a-long portions. However in true cowgirl style she was quick to catch on and the next time the chorus came around she was ready with “beer for her horses”. After and hour and forty minutes of clapping, singing and just enjoying the music the concert came to an end. Keith, Mary Anne and Liv were all walking on air. They had just experienced their first Willie show and they were better for it. Thanks to Willie and Family for another great show.

Life is just seems little better when you hear Willie in the background.

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Sitt’in on top of the world

Wheeler peak is the highest peak in New Mexico at 13,000 feet and change it is impressive. The most impressive thing for people like me is, you can ride your horse to the top. For those of you who know me, you know if it can be done then I will give it a go. With Amelia off to college that leaves Liv to be my partner in crime. So first light Sunday morning Liv and I headed out on our latest adventure.
We chose to take the trail from the Red River side of the mountain. It is a longer drive from the ranch but the trail is much less exposed than the ridge trail from the Taos Ski Valley. With the regularity of afternoon thunder showers this time of year I was none to excited about sitting on top of a horse on the highest peak in New Mexico in a lightening storm. Can I just say that was a really good choice considering the weather we encountered.

Our first challenge of the trip was finding somewhere to park the truck and trailer. I usually don’t take the trailer anywhere I haven’t been or at least know someone who has, but I read about the trail head online and decided to go in sight unseen. What I hadn’t counted on was the holiday weekend traffic and there were cars parked all along the forrest service roads. As the road continued to narrow I started to get a little anxious but then I spotted a place large enough to get the truck and trailer off the road, not enough room to turn around but I could at least park and walk the rest of the way. I sent Liv ahead to see how much further the trail head was and if there was enough room to turn around and I stayed with the truck. Live walked a few hundred yards and motioned to me to come on, she had found the “perfect” place for us to park. As I approached Liv’s “perfect” place I realized Liv has no idea how long our trailer is or how much room it takes to turn it around. I also realized I was committed to this unless I wanted to back up for over a mile. So with the true spirit of “what the hell usually is the right answer” I wedged us in-between four ponderosa pines that almost guaranteed backing out was going to be nearly impossible, but hey that was tomorrow’s problem right.

We had the horses saddled and packed so after a few last checks we were of on our big adventure. Liv was riding Jasper, her mustang and I had chosen Jessie, one of our dude string stalwarts. We had managed to pack everything we needed into our saddle bags and tied our tents and sleeping bags on top. We looked a little like the Clampets but we didn’t have to wear back packs and that seemed like a bonus. The trail head starts at at 9,600 feet and in 5.2 miles we reached our overnight destination, Horseshoe lake which sits at a mere 12,000 feet above sea level. For those of you who haven’t experienced life at altitude a few points of reference. Airplane cabins are pressurized so you feel like you are at 8,000 feet the oxygen masks drop if cabin altitude rises above 10,000 feet and because thats where hypoxia becomes a real issue. Thankfully the only one that suffered any altitude related issues was Jessie. He became a little unstable and glassy eyed at about 11,000 feet but with a little rest and water he bounced back.

We experienced every type of weather possible on the ride to the lake. It rained, hailed, sleeted,snowed, and the sun shone, the wind blew and lighting struck. Being the intrepid adventurers we pressed on.  When we arrived at the lake we were in the midst of a full blown snow storm. I have to admit my sense of adventure was waning. It was decision time, do we stay or do we go back? We had enough time to return to the truck before dark but the horses were pretty tired and if anything went wrong we would be trying to set up camp in the dark, tired and wet. I decided we were better off using our daylight to set up camp gather lots of wood, build a raging fire and rest then risk heading down. The weather gods smiled on our determination and the storm passed and the sun filled the late afternoon with warmth and hope.

Setting up camp at 12,000 feet is just hard work. Liv was an all-star and set up tents and hauled fire wood while I managed to get a good fire burning with very wet wood. We set up our picket line for the horses and I fixed us some mac and cheese by 6:00pm we were fed, dry and ready for bed. Liv turned in early and I sat by the fire drying our boots and socks for morning. There are few sights more awe inspiring than the night sky on a crystal clear mountain evening. As I sat there all alone admiring the view and enjoying the warmth of the fire I realized how physically exhausted I was. Yet I was also so full of energy and inspiration everything I dreamed of seemed possible and nothing seemed out of reach. Yeah pretty sure the hypoxia had set in, I wandered off to my tent enjoying my Rocky Mountain high looking forward to the rest of our adventure.

Morning broke mean and it broke cold. At some point in the middle of the night I awoke shaking violently. I was quite literally freezing. I had placed my tent on the most reasonably level spot I could find not realizing that it was not protected from the wind on one side. As the temperature dropped and the wind rolled off the mountain above the spot I had place myself in became the bottom of a funnel. I was instantly concerned about Liv. If I was this cold she could be suffering from hypothermia. I gathered up my sleeping bag up and braced against the cold night air, I found her tent in the dark and crawled inside. Much to my surprise her tent was much warmer and she was using the saddle blankets to lay on and to cover her sleeping bag. Why didn’t I think of that? I had opened some hand warmers anticipating her being cold so I offered her one, she mumbled something as she took the hand warm then promptly started to snore. Well no hypothermia here. I dozed off warmer and assured my baby was safe. Waking just in time to see the break of dawn over the mountains.

After everyone had some breakfast and we broke down all of our camp except one tent. We traveled as light as possible to the top leaving everything we didn’t need cached in the tent at horseshoe lake. The horses were fresh and ready to go and seemed to have acclimated just fine. Our goal was to be up and back before the afternoon thunder storms had a chance to build. With all of our chores done we headed to the top of the world.

We made it to the top by about 10:30 along with a great family with two of the cutest little girls you have ever met. They were from Mississippi and they were enthralled with the horses. We promised to take them for a ride if they came back to see us and I told them I was going to put there picture on my blog to prove even little sea level girls can climb mountains. Way to go girls and hopefully we will meet again.

Our ride down was much less eventful. The temperature was perfect and the sky couldn’t have been bluer. We stopped back a horseshoe lake and had a quick lunch and packed everything back on the horses. We were back on the trail headed home by noon. It seemed like we had put in a pretty full day by the time we got back to the trailer but there was one more adventure to go. I thought it was going to be getting the trailer out of that hole I had left it in but again the trailer gods smiled on me and I backed it out in one shot. Livi was so impressed, to tell the truth I was shocked but hey sometimes “what the hell really is the right answer”.

We were headed toward Red River hoping for burger and a cold drink when we saw a cow and calf on the highway. I knew someone would be looking for them and sure enough around the next bend we spotted two cowboys riding up the highway. Instinctively I slowed to a stop and asked if they were looking for that pair I had just seen. They were and they had just finished pushing the rest of the herd up to a high meadow when they got the call that they had missed those two. Now if you have ever worked cattle you know you would rather move 200 head of cattle then one pair any day. Moving a single pair is like try to herd a cat and at the end of a long day it is the last thing anybody wants to do. So I asked if he would like some help. He jumped at the chance to have a couple more horses. I found a wide spot to park the trailer and Liv unloaded the horses still saddled with all our camping gear and we were mounted up and ready for work in no time. As I rode alongside and offered my hand the nice cowboy introduced himself as Jerry Hardy. I laughed out loud. He couldn’t figure out what was so funny until I introduced myself as Karen Hardy. What are the odds? He was riding with his son and I had my daughter and there we were moving cattle together. It didn’t take us to long to push our stray pair up the mountain to join the rest of the herd and Livi and I both got to show off what good cow horses we had. In less than an hour we were back at the trailer loading the horses back up, Jerry was on his way to his daughter birthday party and Liv and I were really ready for that burger. Jerry and I exchanged numbers and who knows maybe I have a long lost cousin in New Mexico. Either way it was a great ending to a fantastic adventure.

Jerry Hardy

Seth Hardy on John the Mule


Mustang Livi

Look at those horses shine, nice work Liv

Livi, as we call her or Libby, as the locals say it, is a fine hand. She may be a fifteen year old girl but she works harder than most wranglers I know. And boy did I put her to the test this weekend. Saturday I rolled her out of bed at 5:30 am to work all day with our draft horses getting them show-ready for a wedding. She helped Rachael scrub four draft horses until they shined like new money.  Then she worked all evening with me transporting guests to and from the wedding which was in Albuquerque, a short two hour drive from the ranch. When all was said and done and we were back at the ranch with the horses fed and turned out, she climbed back into her bed at midnight.  7:00 am Sunday morning I woke her up so she could get the saddle horses ready to go to the mountains. Her beautiful eyes were very patriotic, ya know red, white and blue, but she never complained. She did everything she was asked and most things without being asked, with a sweet quiet smile. Now that’s what I call a good hand.

Sunday morning did come early but there are few days each summer I relish more than the days we spend in the high country working cattle. I am by nature a mountain girl. Life requires my existence in the desert but the mountains hold my soul. As the truck approaches the high corrals my lungs expand to draw in the cool air thin air, my eyes brighten and my pulse slows. As I stand in the shadows of old massive trees my ears strain to hear the quiet jingle of the aspen leaves with each passing breeze. I tip my hat back on my head just slightly to let the soft warm sun touch my face. I’m home, if only for a visit I’m home. Livi shares my love of the mountains so taking her along is always an added treat.

Two of four hundred. Wonder where the rest are?

There are still some ranching jobs that can only be done with a good horse. Four wheelers, helicopters, and pickups have replaced horses for a lot of ranch work but there are some places where the only access to the cattle is on horseback. This is one of those places, with terrain too steep and rugged for anything without four feet. This is the country that forged the American Quarter horse and the western saddle. Your horse and your tack must be strong, sturdy and reliable. Failure of either can have disastrous results for both horse and rider. Our goal for the day was to locate our friend’s cattle in the midst of a rough and rugged five section allotment, herd them to the nearest corral, brand and ear tag any calves that had been born after they were dropped off in May. Piece of cake, right? Right.

Livi and Jasper

Liv, like most kids on ranches, has a couple of horses that she claims as hers. She has a beautiful cow bred Quarter horse that she trained, who is the best saddle horse on the ranch; a big warm blood that she is working on teaching to be a jumper and a mustang that was given to us because he was unrideable. Guess which one she works cattle on? Well the mustang of course.

Jasper is his name and he was unrideable, not because there was anything wrong with him but because he had learned that he could get rid of a rider whenever he was done being ridden. The key to working a horse like that is to make sure HE is never done. I did some retraining on him last year and convinced him that if we stayed together he would get to go out and enjoy life as a horse rather than stand around in a corral all day. He tolerated me, so he could leave the corral but there was always a sense that if he changed his mind, my life was going to get a little adventuresome. So I opted for the oldest horse training trick in the book. Give the horse a girl. I firmly believe that God’s gift to a horse is a little girl and God’s gift to woman is a horse. There is some kind of magic balance that occurs when you put horses and girls together that brings out the best in both of them. Jasper fell for Livi like a ton of bricks. She took him up to move cattle last summer and his love for her was complete. With her he had a partner and a job, this makes for a very happy horse. It took her two days to show him what she wanted him to do with the cattle and they were off like a seasoned pair. There isn’t a place on that mountain a cow can hide from those two. Livi has learned to duck and get real close as Jasper takes her through the scrub oak but they always come out with the cattle.

Working the herd

We were fairly lucky Sunday and we found the cattle we needed close to a set of corrals. With some solid horse work by James, Livi and myself we had them rounded up in no time. Gary brought the pickup to the corral, with the branding irons, tags and cold drinks. After a quick count we only had three calves to brand and ear tag but with only four of us and no chute, that was plenty. The other challenge was these calves were pretty big. Livi’s a good hand but she only tips the scales at about a buck ten or fifteen and her mustang isn’t quite ready to drag a calf to the fire so we had to improvise a little. After we got the little buggers roped we dallied them off to the post and taught Livi how to sit on a rope. Gary stretched them out from the hind I laid them down and held them while James did the branding. In no time we had them branded and back with their mamas. As we sat on the tailgate catching our breath, getting a cold drink and watching the cows soothe their freshly branded calves I was completely filled with joy.

My back and my arms ached from two days of very hard work, I stank like burned hair, flesh, and cow shit and I was so very tired but I was also so very satisfied. “Libby, did you have fun?” James asked. “I don’t really like the branding part” Liv answered. “Do you like meat? James prodded. “Yeah” Liv replied sheepishly. “Then you need to know where it comes from. We have to brand our cattle to keep track of them, we know what our cattle eat so we know what we eat.” What a wonderful lesson to learn sitting on the tailgate of a pickup. To celebrate our success we rode back to the trailer the long way. Riding behind Livi and Jasper I was mesmerized by her long hair swaying in unison with his long tail. Two bodies one soul… so we call her Mustang Livi.

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To live is to fly……

I was in the middle of writing a post when my wrangler Ashley called in a panic, she could’t find the horses. We had a sunset ride booked, she went out to round up the horses and after 45 minutes of searching on horseback she hadn’t found a single horse. If you know horses you know they can play a mean game of hide and seek. Finding 20, 1,000 pound animals should be fairly easy unless of course, they don’t want to be found. I knew they were messing with her when she said her horse was calling and not a single horse answered back. I told her to take her horse and one of the other horses left at the barn, saddle them up and I would bring her the rest. Again, age and treachery trump youth and exuberance. What Ashley didn’t realize is that as soon as she and her horse left, the herd would come out of hiding. Barney and I took the Subaru stopped at the barn for a single bridle and headed off for a round up. Sure enough two minutes into our search and I spotted the mob off in the distance, right out in the open grazing away. I took the bridle and started walking right toward them while Barney went around on the road. Barney reached them first but they were all watching me with the bridle. Since Barney had no halter, nor bridle, Blue, my big gelding let him walk right up and put his arm around his neck. As I got closer you could see the moment Blue realized Barney wasn’t just love’in on him, he was caught. As I slipped the bit in his mouth and hopped up on his back he knew what his job was. “Take me to the barn Blue” I said with a firm kick.

Riding a galloping horse bareback is the very essence of freedom. Nothing mechanical can come close to the feeling of another soul’s heart beating with yours as you travel together at speeds no mortal man could ever manage. There is no sound of revving engines or taste of burning fuel. Just smooth acceleration, accented by the rhythmic sounds of hooves as they contact the earth. As your body relaxes and you find the rhythm of the horse, life becomes pure bliss. The wind kisses your face and the faint smell of horse sweat punctuates your reality as you are transported across time and space. Your heartbeat increases to match your horse, you fill your lungs deeply, as though you were running, yet you are barely moving. Briefly your mind clears and you and the horse become one. Time ceases to be relevant, the present becomes your only choice.

As the gate approached I reluctantly found my way back to reality. I tried not to bounce as we transitioned down to a trot and looking back I  could see the cloud of dust the rest of the herd was kicking up as they followed us in. Blue and I walked into the barn shoulder to shoulder his head held  low so he could look me in the eye. We were unmistakably connected, our heart rates slowing and our focus shifting but still we were functioning as one unit. I quickly brushed him down and saddled him up and as I loaded him in the trailer we both knew it was time for him to go to work. He would be a strong and steady steed for someone, carrying them across the desert into the sunset. They would enjoy their ride but he would not honor them by lowering his head and looking them in the eye. I understand the benefits I receive from connecting so closely with a horse, what I have never understood is what benefit the horse receives. Why do horses seek a human connection?  I may never understand why horses seek our companionship or why they are so gracious in their relationships with us but every now and then I’m lucky enough to connect with them on a level that seems to give them something in return. Fulfilling that need for a human connection is a wonderful thing to do with anyone or anything. So indulge yourself, express the freedom of your soul, and who knows, you may manage to create a connection someone else needs.


Who’s your Daddy?

As I thought about Fathers day and pondered the ways I  could let my Dad know how much I appreciate him my mind wandered away from appreciation and into blame. I know how rude and selfish of me, but really what kind of Father has a daughter who grows up (some may argue that point) to be a cowgirl? Most people assume that if I’m a cowgirl then my Father must be a cowboy which is in fact false. Although my father did grow up on a farm and knows his way around a horse, he has spent the better part of his life trying to avoid the trappings of the farm/ranch life. So how did this pseudo hippie, knowledge is power, expand your horizons kind of Dad rear a dyed in the wool cowgirl? Some may argue he had little to do with any kind of rearing. Others may cite benign neglect and the peter pan syndrome but although I may not disagree, I do think it takes a special kind of Father to create the environment for a girl to have enough self-esteem, self-confidence and out right arrogance to choose the life of a working cowgirl.

Mostly my Father led by example. Generally the example of what not to do. You know, like using a chainsaw as a remodeling tool, or firing a muzzle loader out the window of the pickup just to name a few. People who say you can’t learn from someone else’s mistake have never spent much time with my father. I have a long list of things I will never attempt that I learned from just watching him.

I also learned what to do from watching him. Give anything you have to anyone who needs it. Friend or foe if you have something someone needs give it to them, without hesitation or expectation. I learned that anything… I really mean anything can be fixed. Usually with duct tape, bailing wire or super glue, but there is nothing or no problem that can not be fixed. Ingenuity and invention are just fancy words for “getter’ done”, failure is not making a mistake. Failure is quitting before you’ve made enough mistakes to finally get it right and very importantly life is gender neutral. People may have prejudices and biases but life, the universe,mother nature, karma whatever you want to call it does not. It will pick you up or knock you down without any concern for your race, religion, gender or sexual preference.

So thanks for the arrogance, without which I would have never heard the immortal words ” I wouldn’t follow you out of a burning house”. Thanks for teaching me the willingness to fail, over and over again until I found my true calling in life. Thanks for teaching me the tinsel strength of duct tape and the healing power of super glue. I’m sure that has saved a couple of trips to the E.R.. Thanks for teaching me the best man for the job may be a woman and most of all thanks for being you so I could learn to be me. So with equal parts appreciation and blame, “Happy Fathers Day.”

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Zombies, Horses and Dogs OH My…

Some days around the ranch conversation can seem very odd. Not only is there the usual commentary about feeding the horses, watering the dogs and “would you please CLEAN your room. Conversations like “did you play with my zombies today?” and laments like “I killed all my zombies” can also be heard. Yes, the girls and I are Zombie Farmers along with ranchers and dog trainers. Now I’m sure that’s not what one might expect from a cowgirl but when it comes to interacting with my kids nothing is off limits.

Part of being a good horse trainer is communicating with horses in a non-threating way. Dealing with a 1,000 pound untrained horse can be difficult, dealing with a 1,000 pound scared untrained horse can be deadly. Communicating in non-threating ways can take on lots of forms from brushing to treats.The key is no matter what you are doing, the intended goal, haltering, leading, saddling or riding, is gently being addressed. Creating a safe supportive environment in which both you and the horse are allowed to express yourselves in non-threating ways paves the way for more trust, greater respect and a willingness to try new things.

Teenagers are a lot like untrained horses. They have lots of energy, not a lot of experience, they work better in a herd and they inherently dislike trying new things. Sugar cubes and grain seldom sway them but video games and pizza are near and dear to their hearts. A rousing round of Mario cart can unseal the tightest of teenage lips. Questions that would have been ignored or answered with a shrug are expounded while Mario kicks Bowser’s butt. Directing all their teenage energy toward Bowser allows their minds to focus and their defenses to drop. The next thing they know they are telling me all about school, friends and yes, even romantic interest.

The key to both the horses and the teenagers is, you have to prove to them they can learn from you. This means you have to invest time and energy into making yourself a better horseman or vidiot (or whatever your chosen activity). They both need to come to you looking for something they can learn. That’s when defenses fall and willingness and trust start to build. Once you have trust and willingness they will continue to come to you when they need a leader and when they are unsure. Being available and non-threating becomes your biggest job.

So, yes I have a Zombie Farm and yes, I can kick butt at Mario cart and yes, I have saved the Galaxy from Bowser and no, none of it has been a wast of time. I always have something I can talk to my girls about, we always have a common goal and a common enemy.

Now I have to go attack the robots and plant more stars so I can get my Zombie to the aliens. I can’t wait to talk to Amelia and tell her I’m a level ahead of her.

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It isn’t about the dog

I don’t usually reblog a post but I think this is worth sharing. These dogs are walking medical miracles that enable people to function to their full potential, along with bringing joy and happiness wherever they go.


Again I Say, We The People…

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” 

Let’s go over this again people. We live in a democracy that is designed to: establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. Take notice of the words that are not in that sentence. Fair, equitable, religious, left wing, right wing, democrat or republican. Our country was not founded on the principle “that everyone gets a trophy” just for participating. There is nothing in the constitution that indicates everyone will succeed, just that everyone will have the opportunity to. Our country was not founded on rigid ideological principles, it was founded on the principles that promoted domestic tranquility at the time, and the crafters of our constitution had enough fore thought to put in place a system to change those principles as the country changed in order to protect that domestic tranquility. We live in a country intentionally designed in shades of grey to force its citizens to find common ground. Lately all I read about and hear about are issues that are framed in the context of right and wrong, left or right, good or bad, us vs them. No one seems to be looking for common ground, compromise or domestic tranquility. Quite the contrary, from where I stand it seems as though domestic discord is the desired outcome.

Maybe the US is going through it’s teenage years. Maybe as a country we need to find our voice. Maybe we are rebelling against the fundamentals of our own constitution until we grow-up a little and realize they are pretty good ideas.Maybe our collective frontal lobe hasn’t quite developed. Whatever the cause the reality of living in America right now is sort of like the reality of sharing your home with teenagers. Important conversations are held at the top of our lungs, disagreement equals disapproval, no one ever understands and life just isn’t fair. One party leaves the room with the slam of the door and the other party stays and cries. No one is happy, yet life must go on.

So, what’s a cowgirl to do? I can’t send the entire country to the barn, as much as I would like to. People laugh and snark when I suggest sitting down and discussing our differences in a reasonable respectful way. Since I’m not a corporation and I don’t have gads of cash I am not worthy of my elected officials time or consideration. I lament to my friends and although they all feel my pain,because they too are living in a country run by teenagers, they are so busy trying to survive the most they can offer is sympathy. I want to know where all the grown-ups have gone. I want to know where the people who are willing to tell Americans to sit down, shut-up, eat your vegetables, wash  your face, turn off the television and go to bed, have gone? Insuring domestic tranquility is not a job that makes you popular in the short run, it’s a job that earns you respect in the long run. I want someone to stand in front of a crowd of people who doesn’t support them, and ask “tell me your side of the story”.

I’m sure just like the teenage years, this too shall pass. Until then I guess I will have to cope like I did when the girls were in the throws of teenage rebellion. Smile, if it’s just to piss them off, ignore them if necessary, agree as often as possible, stand my ground when it really matters, drink as often as necessary, and remember the world will be a better place when they learn to be respectful, productive members of society. So for the grownups reading this, the difficult time has come to tell your elected officials who are acting like teenagers to, sit down, shut up, stop bullying each other and learn to get along. This country needs to be led by grown-ups not a bunch of whining, entitled children. Remember we voted them in to insure domestic tranquility and, as Bill Cosby says, “I can take you out and make another one just like you”.

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