Update

As a staff writer at Sidelines magazine, I had a blog there about the people that I had interviewed. But there has been some reorganization with the magazine and the blog is gone, so I will try to bridge the gap and add that information to this blog.

Look for some exciting entries very soon!

 

Entertaining Grief or Thoughts at 3 a.m.

FullSizeRender (2)I woke up last night and couldn’t get back to sleep. Not unusual but this time it was different. I was sad and not sure why. I thought it might be my usual feeling of missing my kids since we now have an empty house, but then I reminded myself that they are all doing well on their own. I was excited about plans to see the youngest soon, so concern for kids wasn’t what was bothering me. I was puzzled for a few minutes as the tears went from my eyes down into my ears. It wasn’t until I just relaxed and listened to my heart that I figured it out. Could it be the date? Yup, that was it. The next day was May 26th.

On some days it seems like two weeks, and other days like thirty years ago, but in reality it was fourteen years since police officers showed up at my front door. They announced that my husband had been flying an airplane that crashed, and he didn’t survive.

“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree,” Rose Kennedy said. “The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” Rose was a smart lady, and she knew what she was talking about, having buried several children and her husband.

Life goes on. I met and remarried an amazing man who didn’t feel threatened by my first husband, and tried hard to be a good step-dad. So I’m happy a lot of the time. But the heart remembers.

Since then, May has always been a tough month to get through. There is a cluster of kid’s birthdays, our wedding anniversary and my first husband’s birthday all together. It’s a mix of happy occasions with the reminder that he is missing. Last year was especially difficult since our youngest daughter turned eighteen, graduated high school early with honors, then left for another state in an exciting working student position. I was left stunned and missing her while she was busy and out on her own.

I learned to remember to try not to run from the sadness, and to let grief into my house like an annoying relative at a family gathering. The one who drinks too much and embarrasses everyone by telling dirty jokes. If ignored, grief gets worse. It turns into a mean, nasty dog that will sneak up behind you and bite you in the rear — you just can’t run from it for long. So, I’ve mentally turned around to whack that nasty dog on the nose with a rolled up newspaper several times, then had a good cry. I knew I would survive when the crying led to remembering good things and I smiled while drying the tears from my face, or more recently from my ears.

I guess the trick is to not be afraid to grieve and cry — whether it’s been fourteen years or fourteen hours, and to get some control of it. So if you are struggling, mentally turn around and whack that nasty, mean dog that is grief, firmly tell it to behave, then smile with a good memory.

Time Traveling After Taking The Time to Smell the Flowers

iris

The iris are blooming again.

I closed my eyes as I caught the scent of an especially beautiful purple bloom and went back to another spring day when I’d stopped to smell the iris.

I could again see the iris plants that surrounded the back porch of the house I grew up in and hear the distinctive click of the latch on the back door before my sister came out. She was carrying the rug that went next to her bed and some tin play dishes. I also carried my rug and some saltine crackers. We trotted across the yard next door — Grandma’s yard — to the line of forsythia bushes that marked the boundary.

Between each bush was a room. Into our kitchen went the tin dishes, my sister’s rug covered the floor and made a place to sit and eat. My rug became a bed for our bedroom and next to that, a bathroom — handy for avoiding those pesky trips indoors.

I smelled the iris again and went back to another day when we were filling May baskets we had made at school, construction paper rolled into a cone with a strip of paper for a handle. My sister and I would fill them with cherry blossoms from our grandma’s orchard, (“Don’t let her see you!”) and purple and yellow iris blooms.

Then we would ring doorbells, (Aunt Ethel and Mrs. Fletcher were the only people we knew who had doorbells) and hide while they opened the door to find our makeshift baskets on their porches. Maybe those baskets were what kept Mrs. Fletcher from calling to complain to our mother when we would chase her cats. (The darn cats were just so unfriendly, it was too tempting!)

My dog’s cold, wet nose on my leg brought me back to the present as mud seeped between my toes and the rain began to drip down again. But maybe, in a way, I’m still back there. . .

Saying Good-bye

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Marissa and Badger at his birthday last year, and schooling at home.DSC_0300

For the first time I can recall, I prayed to a Saint a couple days ago. I guess those of the Catholic faith do that, but being a Methodist, it wasn’t something I’ve done.

I was conducting an interview that day by phone before writing a profile article. I record the conversation by putting my phone on speaker and placing it in front of me next to my recorder. So when a text appeared at the top of my phone screen, I couldn’t ignore it. Especially since it was about my daughter Marissa’s horse Badger, who was at the vet’s where he was being treated for a bout of colic.

“He is not responding and he is in so much pain. I think it’s time to end his suffering.”

While my interviewee was answering my most recent question, I tapped out a short text answer. Knowing the time line and treatment we had already tried for Badger, I could only agree, thinking with great sadness how our sweet horse was suffering. The very nice lady I was interviewing is also a horse owner and she seemed very understanding as I mumbled something about Badger, but I couldn’t possibly talk about this without losing control, so I took a deep breath and pressed on with the interview.

I went through my list of questions automatically, having successfully compartmentalized my feelings. I thought of Scarlett O’Hara saying ‘I’ll think about that tomorrow.’ Well, thank God for the recorder, because I’m not sure if I even knew what was said in response to my questions, but I managed to conclude the interview.

I called my friend Richal who had Badger at her barn, since Marissa is off in another state as working student to a Grand Prix jumper professional. We decided that I would go to the vet’s to be with him at the last.

Being able to mentally compartmentalize is a very good skill, especially when driving, and I arrived safely.

Although he was heavily sedated because of the pain, I think he knew I was there, even as he took his last breath. It was then that I prayed to St. Peter, because I’m sure there are horses in heaven — it’s heaven so there must be, right?

In my first conversation with a Saint I said:

“Saint Peter, open the gate wide and send out the light. Call Badger’s name and watch for him in case he is lost in the dark on his way, don’t let him be afraid. He is a very much loved, sweet, gentle soul and deserves one of the best places in the kingdom over the Rainbow Bridge. I didn’t say amen, I whispered in Badger’s ear as he took his last breath, God Speed!”

Visiting WEF

The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center

The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center

WEF is the acronym well known in certain circles for the Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Florida. It’s the place to be for the top competitors in the horse show world during the winter. A place where one can see people like the Canadian gentleman who holds the world record (Yes, the WORLD record!!) of the most times to compete in the Olympic Games. (That’s Ian Millar, with ten Olympic competitions, and I interviewed him last year!!)

Also there were the top US riders like Beezie Madden, Laura Kraut, and Kent Farrington, just to name a few.  Anyway, seeing all of them in one place just about blew me away and I had to work hard to keep my cool to look and act professionally. I walked into the spectator entrance of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center feeling like I didn’t belong in such a place and that security officers would soon appear and take me by the elbows to escort me out!

But after a mental pep talk and picking up my badge at the Media Center, I started to feel better. I got busy making my contacts with the riders I wanted to meet. The article from the interview I did with Laura Kraut had just come out and meeting up with her and her sister Katherine was such fun. And a real confidence boost! Meeting Beezie Madden was also a high point — I’m working on that article now.

Jessica Newman, philanthropist and founder of JustWorld International charity was kind enough to invite me to her nearby farm to visit, which was so exciting. She is a very admirable lady!

But the meeting that affected me most was with my daughter Marissa. Although she is only eighteen, she has been a working student at a farm in North Carolina since May, and I have seen her just a few times since she left. No longer just a working student, Marissa had been promoted before they traveled to Florida, and she now has more responsibilities. I watched her schooling and showing client’s horses in the jumper classes, and helping to run the show barn of 14 horses, and I’m impressed! When I listened to her boss telling me about how much he relied on her and how he wants to help her advance in the horse show world, I was more proud and excited for her than I would be if I were doing it myself!

But all too soon it was time to leave and I found myself crammed into the back of coach in the airplane on my way home. It all caught up with me in the form of flu soon after arriving home. But this trip was certainly worth it, professionally and personally.

Meeting all the people I met was invaluable, and it was such fun to live a little vicariously through my daughter as I watched her ride at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. I’m still smiling just thinking about it.

Horse Show Mom

We know each other, even if not by name, we’re in the same club.

We’re the ones in the stands who are taking photos or videotaping a horse and rider while they are jumping a course. To others we are just in their way when we stand up suddenly with that camera when our child and their horse enter the ring. Not everyone knows that we have to view the ride through our camera or ipad because we need it to filter what we see.

It has gotten a little easier for me to handle over the years, but the truth is that videotaping helps us parents to keep our blood pressure from rising twenty degrees and our nerves from slowly shredding. It’s just too hard to continually watch our child on a horse out there in the area, jumping that high and trying so hard to clear all the jumps while going faster than anyone else! But of course, we say things like: ‘I need to record this for him/her to watch it later for training purposes, etc., etc.’ And that’s partly true, but the camera also works as a filter to make it easier on the heart.

I wasn’t prepared for this. I came into this parenthood thing relatively late. I reasoned that I was a capable individual. After all, my full time job was assisting a medical doctor with writing his research findings. I competed in at least two horse trials and I wrote a few articles from interviews each year. So I could handle having a baby, couldn’t I? It was a few years past my thirtieth birthday and in a fit of optimism, we decided to go for it. But I wasn’t prepared for being totally bowled over with how much I could love this little person. Then, when I knew I would mentally fold up like a cheap lawn chair if anything ever happened to her, I (again in a fit of optimism!) had another child. But being a parent never got any easier, and being the parent of teenagers has its own challenges. I have to keep quiet instead of saying something that I think will be helpful lest I get the eye roll from the kid, and I know she has to do things herself for various reasons. After all, a parent’s job is to put ourselves out of a job, isn’t it? So try to understand as we block your view when we stand up in front of you to video our child the second they ride into the ring.

We parents often sit together in the stands, nodding in agreement that it’s important to have those videos for our kids to look at later for training purposes. But we know we’re just trying to take the strain off our hearts. Whether we admit it or not, we’re all members of that club.

Interviewing Ian Millar

 

I had the opportunity to interview Canada’s legendary Grand Prix jumper rider, Ian Millar. He was a joy to visit with and a real gentleman.
Grand Prix jumping is where riders jump their horses over high jumps like they do in the Olympics. Ian holds the world record for participating in more Olympic competitions than anyone else in any discipline in the world! At age 67, he is an inspiration for mature people, whether professional athletes or those of us who just ride or exercise for our health. What do you do for exercise and fun?

Here is the link to the article in Sidelines magazine:

http://sidelinesnews.com/sidelines-feature/captain-canada-journeys-on.html