Mother’s Day

For the last few weeks, I have been keeping a close eye on Miss Music Major and her new colt. They are a constant source of amusement, wonder, and joy for me. Miss Music Major is an amazing first-time mother, doting on her little one and indulging his curiosity by watching his endless antics with a patience I cannot even begin to fathom. Then again, patience has never been my virtue. I have been impressed with her nurturing instincts and how well she takes care of her new colt. She is an amazing mother! They are quite the dynamic duo.

I have also been impressed with Note This and Baby Note. As Baby Note continues to grow, so does their relationship and interaction. Note This has no problem schooling her little one in horse manners and how to interact with others. Baby Note has become quite the athlete, jumping over everything, including her own mother when she is trying to take a nap in their paddock. I find myself wondering if the five-foot fence I have is truly tall enough to contain her. The adage “Though Shalt Fly Without Wings” definitely applies to Baby Note. And Note This is ever the diligent mother.

While horses are powerful, majestic creatures, I am often reminded of how fragile they are and how quickly life can change when you least expect it. I was not only reminded of this last night, but of the importance of a mother and her care.

Last night, I had finally reached the point in the evening where I could do what most people look forward to at the end of a long day – wear sweat pants and attempt to relax and watch tv. I had decided to start watching something my father recorded on my DVR over a year ago – something I have been meaning to watch for years and have simply not taken the time to do. I was finally going to start watching “Lonesome Dove,” the infamous show my father has been after me to watch for years on end. Even one of my horse trainers has been telling me to watch it. I was finally giving in to peer pressure, so to speak, to watch “Lonesome Dove” with my dates for the evening, my Border Collie, Cody, and my Heeler, Max.

It happened. Sort of. The boys and I had just started the second episode of “Lonesome Dove” when I heard a loud crashing noise coming from the monitor in the barn. I looked to the monitor and could see that Miss Music Major had decided to lay down, something that was not uncommon for that time of night, and she had bumped the stall wall as she went down. She then did something unusual – she got right back up and went right back down, this time, thrashing about. My heart was in my throat when she repeated the behavior. It was obvious she was uncomfortable. This was looking like colic. “Lonesome Dove” was going to have to wait.

I leapt up from the couch, making Max growl as I did so. Max doesn’t like being woke up once he is snoring, and to say he was enjoying his nap through “Lonesome Dove” is an understatement. I had to keep turning the TV volume up he was snoring so loudly. Cody, on the other hand, sensed my movement and was running for the back door, anticipating a trip to the barn. He was ready. I grabbed a jacket, a tube of Banamine, and the three of us headed to the barn.

As I opened the gate to leave the yard, Cody and Max sprinted for the barn area. Their sudden rush of activity startled something in the darkness. I was abruptly greeted by a pair of large yellow eyes and a flutter of frantic wings in my face and a screeching sound that about made me jump out of my skin. It flew at my face and then up above my head. I could feel the wind created from its wings and sense its fright. It was a small owl! Although I knew the owl meant no harm, I couldn’t help but think it was trying to convey a sense of urgency. I started running to the barn.

As I opened the barn door, I was greeted with loud whinnying from not only Miss Music Major, but Note This and the two babies. I quickly got a halter on Miss Music Major and gave her a dose of Banamine. She wouldn’t stay on her feet to walk around, something you are supposed to do with a horse that may be experiencing colic, and quickly went to the ground, thrashing about violently and groaning as she did so. She almost landed on her little colt as she went down. He jumped to move out of her way and almost landed on me. My heart was racing; I knew we all needed help. I exited the stall and called my veterinarian. She was on her way. In the mean-time, she told me to monitor the situation but to stay out of the way. Trying to get Miss Music Major up and walking at this point could be dangerous and for me to wait until I had assistance. It was good advice.

Watching Miss Music Major as she was thrashing about, writhing in pain, I was terrified. I have never seen a horse in so much discomfort. Her loud groans were agonizing and every time she got up and went back down, she seemed to be either kicking a wall or hitting her head on it, in spite of the fact that she’s in a very large stall. It broke my heart watching her beat herself up, literally. What if the worst happened and she died from this? What would happen to her baby?! I know it’s possible to bottle feed little ones and have them grow up to be healthy, strong horses. It is, however, quite an undertaking and bottle feeding a baby horse can seem like a never-ending task when it’s required every few hours for months on end. It’s not an insurmountable task, but it certainly doesn’t make up for the care that only a mother can provide.  

After about twenty minutes or so, the Banamine must have started to kick in because the thrashing wasn’t as violent, although it was still happening. She also seemed to be getting fatigued. Miss Music Major finally threw herself down in the far corner of her stall and laid there groaning for well over twenty minutes. There was a lot of gaseous noises and farting, which was actually a good sign. I was worried with all of the thrashing about that her intestine could be twisted. As I watched her, I found myself praying and asking for some divine guidance.

After a few minutes, Miss Music Major stood up and pooped, which I took to be a very good sign. She also permitted her little colt to nurse, something that had not happened in over an hour because she had not been on her feet long enough to allow it. The veterinarian showed up as this was happening.

After administering medications, a thorough exam and palpation, and some careful observation, she determined that she did not think the intestinal tract was twisted and that ultimately, Miss Music Major was going to be okay. Relief flooded through me. The worst of the storm had passed!

I continued to monitor Miss Music Major throughout the night. She started to nibble on her hay again about 3 am, and by 6 she was wanting to know where her breakfast was at. She also resumed her role as a doting mother, letting her colt nurse whenever he wished throughout the night and watching over him whenever he would lay down to sleep. As I watched the two of them throughout the night, I was struck with the importance of a mother’s role, be it equine or human.

Miss Music Major and her colt are outside in their paddock today, and the little guy is up to his usual antics. Life has returned to normal, at least for now. And, ever the patient mother, she watches over him and tries to keep him in line and out of trouble, just as my own mother has always done for me.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you!

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Tiny But Mighty

There is an old adage that says “a pony is a childhood dream. A horse is an adulthood treasure.” These words ring true for me as I sit down to write and reflect on this last week and provide a short update.

I am pleased to report that Miss Music Major and her little colt are both doing well. The little guy gets stronger every day and is now bucking and playing on legs that are much steadier and straighter with each passing day. Miss Music Major is a very good first time mother, doting on him and watching over him constantly. The two seem very happy together; watching them run and play in their small paddock is a miraculous joy and fills one with happiness and wonder.

Although he is still tiny, he is mighty! I think the little guy is going to make it…

~ Sandy

Hope Arrives

It has been a crazy couple of weeks here at Birds, Boots, and Brews. I am starting to think of life as one giant rollercoaster, filled with endless ups and downs. Or perhaps that is life with horses – the highest of highs and absolute lowest of lows. It is taking some time for me to put the last few weeks into perspective, let alone words.

So, in the meantime, here is a small update that may explain part of my tardiness in getting a post on here.

It’s a boy!!!

One hour old!

At approximately 12:30 am on April 15, my beautiful mare, Miss Music Major, gave birth to a handsome, but very tiny, colt. The birth itself went well. Unfortunately, the baby was struggling to nurse and Miss Music Major wasn’t producing enough milk at the time, which resulted in a sleepless night for me, my dear friend, Lisa, and my veterinarian. It also resulted in a very early morning SOS call for my best friend, Raina, as I had to bring her in for further assistance.

After numerous steps were taken, which will be written about at a later date, I am pleased to report that so far, mom and baby are doing well. The colt is very small; much smaller than other babies. In fact, his size is rather worrisome and it is possible he may not make it. If you believe in the power of prayer, it is definitely appreciated at this time for the little guy.

However, he continues to gain strength and I am hopeful that he will be okay long term. Luckily, the milk situation has been resolved and he is able to nurse, although getting to this point was no easy task.  

Got Milk? The new little one has dried milk all over his face. He is finally getting the hang of nursing!

I have been calling the new edition my “little string bean” because he is tall and so very skinny! Newborn baby horses always have ribs that are showing, but he really does. I do hope that will improve in the days ahead as he continues to nurse and gain strength. He doesn’t have an official name at this time. Suggestions are welcome.

This little colt is a blessing and a joy for me. I am filled with gratitude and hope whenever I look at his beautiful face. Life is truly a miracle and a gift.

~ Sandy

Little String Bean. He is getting stronger every day.

What Am I Doing?

What am I doing?

I tend to ask this question of myself daily, usually when I walk into a room to complete a task only to realize I have completely forgotten what I even went in there to do. It happens. Other times, I ask this question when thinking about my life.

I wonder sometimes if I am doing what I am meant to be doing with my life or if I have veered off the correct path of destiny somehow and lost my way. Will I find my way again, or I am just randomly spinning out of control into the great beyond, never to find my way back to what is or was meant to be? Am I on the right course? More importantly, what is the right course? Where am I supposed to go from here? What am I doing?!

It seems as though I find myself asking these questions more and more often of late. When my husband was alive, we had a plan. We knew what we were working towards and why, and although we occasionally got off track, our goals and dreams were intact and we knew what we wanted long term. We had a plan for our retirement and things were in place to make our plan a reality. My life was set, so to speak.

When my husband passed away unexpectedly, my life was turned upside down and the path set for two no longer made sense. It wasn’t attainable on my own. Even worse, I had no contingency plan. I didn’t have a plan for being on my own, because honestly, I thought my husband would outlive me. Instead, the universe threw me a curve ball and I was forced to move forward with a life I never expected, and in turn, forced to reinvent myself, an ongoing process that has proved to be exceptionally challenging. No one prepared me for this, and there is no manual for the path of my life. Like this story, I am still attempting to write it.

I was contemplating the many questions of life one day in a rather in-depth and enlightening conversation with my best friend, Raina. As usual, we found ourselves analyzing our lives over a glass of good Pinot Noir. We had been “wine-ing.” This is not to be confused with traditional whining. “Wine-ing” is a term I have created that means “drinking and enjoying wine in good company.” Traditional “whining” is not allowed to take place over a bottle of good Pinot Noir. Save the whining and crying for beer. Pinot is sacred.

Raina and I tend to discuss everything. On this particular day, we talked about our lives and the different paths we have taken over the years, our successes and failures, the people that have influenced us, and the roads we see ahead of us.  It’s interesting to stop and look back at our many life choices and wonder what could have happened with different choices and why we have ended up where we are. It’s also interesting to think about the life experiences that have shaped who we are and why we view and do things a certain way. At the moment, we are both on a quest for success, something everyone views differently but longs for all the same. I left our conversation with the realization that success has more than one definition. I need to be more open to receiving success, as well as expanding my horizons in terms of what is and isn’t success.  

The day after my conversation with Raina, I was taking a much-needed walk and enjoying nature at a small lake located near my place. As usual, I had my camera with me, hoping to see some of the many birds of prey that frequent the area. It had been a slow day in the bird watching department, but it still felt good to be out and about for a few minutes, enjoying a little fresh air before my nightly barn chores.  

I was contemplating my life and some difficult choices I need to make in order to continue moving forward and find both happiness and success in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Lately, for whatever reason, things have been harder than they need to be and every challenge is a bigger battle than anticipated. We all go through these times in our lives and they often pass after some difficulty. This, however, doesn’t seem to be passing. As I was lost in thought and contemplating some of the more difficult questions of my life, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and noticed a small, colorful bird in the trees above me. I quickly snapped a couple of shots with my camera before it flew off to a much higher venue where it could barely be seen by my eyes as I squinted into the sunlight. I had no idea what I had just witnessed in terms of a bird sighting, but I intended to find out.

An American Kestrel Falcon in Keenesburg, CO

I was intrigued by the beautiful little bird. Somehow, I knew its sighting had some spiritual meaning. It was unlike any bird I have seen before. To call it unique was an understatement. Its head was slate blue and its wings were a rust colored brown with some black accents. It had a sharp look to it and obviously preferred to be very high up in the trees, unlike the little blackbirds and chickadees fluttering about.  It seemed to have the qualities of a bird of prey, but it was rather small.

Upon returning home, horse duties called and by the end of the evening, exhaustion took over. I’m not a bird nerd or member of the Audubon society, so searching for a bird species on the internet can be tedious and time consuming for me, especially when I have no idea where to start looking or what bird species I may have encountered. My quest for figuring out the type of bird I had witnessed would have to wait. As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait long.

The following day, the universe answered my curiosity for me. I was watching the morning news when a segment came on featuring a wildlife bird expert. He had several birds of prey with him, the second of which happened to be a carbon copy of the colorful little bird I had photographed on my walk. I couldn’t believe my luck. The morning news had just saved me several hours of searching and potential frustration. I learned that the little bird is an American Kestrel, the smallest member of the Falcon family. A small bird of prey, the American Kestrel is the smallest, most common Falcon in North America.  

Those of you that know me realize I find birds and their sightings inspirational and meaningful, so my next endeavor was to determine the spiritual meaning behind seeing this particular bird. What I discovered resonated and hit home. From what I was able to gather, the Kestrel Falcon usually appears when you are trying to figure out what your life goal is or when you are struggling to understand and decide on your life direction. I had just had this very conversation with Raina! How incredible that this bird was presented to me twice – first on my walk, then inadvertently on the newscast I happened to see.

The Kestrel Falcon tends to perch in the trees high above other birds, giving itself an advantageous view of its world. From a spiritual perspective, it is thought that when you see a Kestrel Falcon, it is a sign that you need to analyze things from a higher perspective and be in a place where you can have a clearer, more enlightened view of your world. In other words, find a view that gives you a clear perspective on the end result you desire. The Kestrel Falcon tends to present itself when you need to plan well, have a clearer understanding of yourself, and have a better perspective of what is happening around you. It’s crazy, but my conversation with Raina had hit on all of these things. Having nature drive the point home has made it even more profound.

It may sound strange, but seeing the Kestrel Falcon and thinking about its spiritual meaning has provided me with comfort. I have been asking myself “What am I doing?” for a long, long time now. As simple as it is, it’s actually a very challenging question. I do not have the answer(s) yet. I have not exactly found the place that will give me the enlightened view of the Kestrel Falcon. I am still defining success and the result(s) I desire, but I believe I can figure it all out with time.

It is reassuring to know that once again, love and guidance was offered to me via wings from the sky above.

~ Sandy

Autocorrect ~ Read at Your Own Risk

A special thank you to my friend, Lissa, for inspiring this blog. Although it is not about one of my usual topics, it is a noteworthy subject that came about from a recent text messaging conversation we had. Thank you, Lissa, for your friendship, inspiration, and most of all, your incomparable deciphering abilities.

~ Sandy

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Autocorrect. How did we ever live without this gem of humanity? But more importantly, how do we live with it? For me, autocorrect has created some embarrassing situations and an endless entourage of incoherent messages I may not ever be able to decipher. Has autocorrect created these situations for anyone else, or is it just me?

Autocorrect has become the self-appointed grammar police of the written word in our technology driven world. It doesn’t matter if you are sending a text, an email, or writing a report, it appears at inopportune moments and changes everything. Literally. At times, it completely alters what one has to say. And I mean really changes what one has to say. Incoherent sentences appear where coherent ones used to be.  Words get changed. It’s amazing how changing one word alters the entire context behind a message. Have you ever received a message from someone and had to decipher what they were trying to say? There are times it’s like a jumble puzzle that can’t be solved.

When you really need autocorrect, it completely misses what you needed it to catch, and you look like a moron for what has just appeared as your words or the obvious words you mist. I mean missed. See what I mean?

Is it just me, or does anyone else get frustrated with autocorrect? Better yet, has autocorrect embarrassed you? And is anyone else as dumb as I am and can’t figure out how to turn it off?

Recently, I was texting with a good friend and wanted to wish her luck in an upcoming endeavor. I wrote to her “Good Luck!!!” and hit send immediately. It was a nice message to send.

Or so I thought.

Autocorrect decided I needed to say something else. Substitute an “F” for the “L” in luck and you have the articulate message I sent. Apparently, autocorrect thinks that cursing should be a part of my every day texting vocabulary and that it should be used at inopportune moments. Thankfully, my friend is very forgiving and found it to be rather amusing. I still find myself blushing with a bit of embarrassment.

Not long ago, I met a rather handsome man and we exchanged phone numbers. We began texting, and over time, some fun, light hearted text messaging began. We were joking around one evening and the conversation was amusing and very enjoyable. We were exchanging what I consider “witty banter” when autocorrect came crashing down around me with the utmost in humiliation.

In response to a funny message he had sent, I replied with “Don’t make me kick your butt.”

Or so I thought.  The response I received left me puzzled for a few moments. The response: “Well, I guess if you’re into that sort of thing…”

Huh?

That response seemed out of place until I looked back at my message. Autocorrect had changed “kick” to “lick.” I cannot remember when I have been more horrified or embarrassed, especially since sexual innuendo was completely inappropriate for the conversation we were having at that moment. He understood when I explained that autocorrect had made the change and we had a good laugh. It’s something we joke about now, and it’s probably one of those things I may never live down. And for the record, I’m actually not into that sort of thing.

I had an equally embarrassing conversation via text with my brother a few years ago near Christmas time.  I was asking him about a potential Christmas gift for his wife. We were talking about jewelry and I asked him if his wife likes turquoise. He responded with “no.” I then asked if she likes opal. His response: “Yes, she does enjoy that, but I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”

What?!

I looked back at the message I had sent. Oh, dear lord, I had asked if she liked “oral” and not “opal!” Thank you, autocorrect, for the colossal embarrassment of that moment. Like I needed to hear about my brother’s sex life! And for the record, I don’t recall giving jewelry for Christmas that year, either. In fact, I am still so embarrassed about the text message that I don’t remember what I gave. But I certainly remember the message! And my brother loves to tease, so believe me when I tell you that I will never live that one down.

Let’s suffice it to say that if you are reading anything I have written electronically, keep in mind that autocorrect will come creeping in from time to time. There will be future riches of embarrassment and deciphering galore to be had by all. It is, after all, the world of autocorrect.

It’s as though a precautionary sign is in order.

“Autocorrect in Use – Proceed with Caution and Read at Your Own Risk.”

~ Sandy

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Getting Stuck

Max climbing to the top of a snow drift a few days after the storm.

A friend of mine told me that I should write about the epic snow storm that hit Colorado recently because it would make a good blog. I jokingly told her that reading about me whining and crying because I thought I was stranded on my property until mid-June really wouldn’t make for great reading. So here it is.

Lisa, this one is for you, my dear friend!

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I will not get stuck. I will not get stuck.”

I have heard these words in my mind again and again. This has been my mantra for well over a week now, and I believe it will continue to be until at least mid-June. Between the snow and mud left in the wake of the cyclone snow bomb that hit Colorado last week, if I get my car or my little tractor stuck, it’s safe to say that I won’t be going anywhere for a long, long time. And believe me when I tell you that I have plenty of snow and mud.

The month of March has offered its fair share of challenges and sadness. March 1 is my late husband’s birthday, a day that I always find myself reflecting on what might have been. I think about what our lives would be like if he was still here, and I often wonder what he thinks of my life now and if he approves of the direction and course I have chosen thus far.

The “horse” life I have chosen isn’t for everyone, and plenty of people have told me that I am crazy and that I should be doing other things. Even my husband had his doubts when he was alive. He liked the horses and enjoyed them, but he was interested in having a couple of horses and not making a lifestyle out of it. My dream has always been a bit different, and now I am trying to live that dream on my own, something that has proven to be challenging at times.

Raising horses isn’t easy. It is the type of work that never ends, something non-horse or non-animal people do not understand. You don’t get to stay inside because of the storm. There are no “snow days.” You don’t get days off. You will have the privilege of working on Christmas day, and if you’re not feeling well or made the mistake of having too many brews with your friends the night before, too bad. Your horses need you and their care comes first. Horses require a lot of sacrifice, and they are not an endeavor to be taken lightly.

That being said, I had been watching the news and knew the storm rolling in would be a bad one, but I do confess that it ended up being far worse than I ever imagined. I went to town the day before and loaded up on grain, shavings, and other supplies and did my usual storm preparations in the barn area. The storm started on Tuesday night with intense rain, which eventually froze, leaving the ground covered in a solid sheet of ice several inches thick, then quickly turned to blizzard conditions with hurricane force winds. It was a virtual white out for most of the storm, creating treacherous conditions that went on and on for well over 36 hours.

Shortly after the storm started, all visibility was lost.

During this time, I had to make many treks to the barn and paddocks and back to the house. Although I have water tank heaters, the severity of the storm kept freezing the top of the water tanks, so it was necessary to keep breaking the ice for the outside horses as well as trying to make sure they had access to their feed. The latter task became impossible as the storm went on because of the total and complete loss of visibility. More than once, I would have cried upon reaching the barn and paddock area had my face and tear ducts not been completely frozen.

"Ice Cold Cody." My dog, Cody, after one of our many treks to check on the horses during the storm.
“Ice Cold Cody.” My dog, Cody, after one of our many treks to check on the horses during the storm.

When mid-morning hit on Thursday and there was finally some visibility, I was looking out upon a sea of snow with wave after wave of giant drifts between my house and the barn area. I was snowed in. Literally. There was no getting in or out of my property any time soon! It was an obstacle course I wasn’t sure how to handle, but I knew I needed to figure it out because the horses needed me. I looked to one of the paddocks and panic set in when I couldn’t see one of the horse shelters because it was buried in snow.

I took a deep breath as I headed outside to tackle mother nature’s obstacle course. My dogs, Cody and Max, bounded outside with enthusiasm and jumped into the snow drifts, snow flying into the air as they leapt and ran from drift to drift. If only it were as easy for me. It is probably less than 300 feet to walk from my house to the barn area; it felt like 3 miles as I tried to navigate my way through the giant drifts, almost getting myself stuck multiple times when I would take a step and find myself buried to my waist and stomach. I found myself wishing I could attach a sled to Cody and Max and let them pull me around like the poor little dog “The Grinch” had.

When I made it to the paddock area, I was able to see the two horses in the paddock with the shelter buried in snow. They were in another shelter in the paddock area where the snow had not drifted as much and seemed fine. However, one of their hay feeders was completely buried in snow, so my first priority was getting hay to them and making sure they had access to water by breaking the ice on their water tank, yet again.

One of the many giant drifts created by the cyclone snow bomb.
One of the many giant drifts created by the cyclone snow bomb.

In my brilliance before the storm, and I am using “brilliance” here rather loosely and with sarcasm, I had used my tractor to place hay for the outside horses and had left my hay moving apparatus on my tractor. Unfortunately, where I left my tractor bucket had a five-foot snow drift in front of it, making it difficult to try to get the bucket on the tractor and start digging myself out.  A friend of mine came over, something that was no small feat with the terrible road conditions and lack of access on many of the usual roads to get here, including the road and driveway into my house. He had to walk part of the way into my place or risk getting his truck stuck. He helped me get to the tractor bucket and get it on the tractor. I am truly grateful for his help. Unfortunately, at this point it was late afternoon and I needed to clean stalls and feed, so I wasn’t able to start digging out right away. The wind was also continuing to drift the snow, so it would have been a pointless task anyway. But at least I knew I could start working my way out the following day, which was comforting and offered me a glimmer of hope.

The next day, I went outside and went to work. Everywhere I looked, it was snow and more snow. There was so much that it seemed insurmountable for me and my little tractor. I started working on one of the large snow drifts that was keeping me trapped from the outside world. After 4 hours of digging, frustration got the best of me and I started to cry. It was hopeless. I had only made it about 4 or 5 feet through the giant drift. I was getting nowhere at the slowest speed humanly possible. My feet were freezing and I desperately needed a cup of coffee, so I went inside and poured myself a large Irish coffee and had a good cry.

What was I doing, anyway? What was the point? Why am I trying to live a life meant for two people by myself? I found myself questioning my goals and dreams as I cried. Finally, as I looked upon the giant, white sea of frustration that was laid out before me, the realization hit me that I needed to put my pride aside and issue an SOS call for help. I didn’t have to do this alone. I am blessed to live in a small town where people still wave, say hello to one another, and help one another out when it is needed.

I am very pleased to say my pleas for help were answered by two wonderful men that I consider good friends. The first young man farms my wheat field for me and helps me keep my horses fed all winter by selling me hay. He came over with his much larger tractor and cleared my road, driveway, and a path to the barn and around the house so that I can get in and out, providing I can navigate the mud, which is now the biggest challenge.

On Sunday, another good friend came and helped clear the paddocks in the barn area so the horses can move freely, barn doors can be opened, and I can move hay into some of the paddocks that were blocked with giant drifts of snow. One paddock was completely buried in snow, literally trapping three horses in the barn. It was beautiful to see their happiness and excitement once I could finally get the barn doors open and let them outside in their paddock. I felt the same excitement when I was finally able to drive to town on Monday and have a change of scenery for a few hours.   

As I was driving home from town, my SUV packed from floor to ceiling with horse supplies and groceries, I found myself lost in thought. I remembered the excitement of buying my first horse and the happiness I have found since being able to call this place my home. As I drove through the beautiful countryside that surrounds my place, I was mindful of the fact that I chose this life and although it isn’t glamorous or easy, it is mine, and most days, I really do love and enjoy what I have built here with my horses and my lovely dogs.   

It’s easy to lose sight of goals and dreams with twelve-foot snow drifts standing in front of them. Perhaps “Seasonal Affective Disorder” is for real. The storm made me realize that I shouldn’t allow myself to get stuck, be it in snow, mud, or in my mind. It’s time to stop spinning my wheels in self-doubt and negative thoughts and get myself out of the mud. I can do this, and I will. One way or another, I will be okay.

From this point forward, I will do my best not to lose sight of life’s blessings in the face of insurmountable snow and mud.

I will not get stuck. I will not get stuck.”

~ Sandy

P.S. If you would like a downloadable or print version of Birds, Boots, and Brews, you can purchase the top 5 most popular blogs to date on Amazon. Check out Birds, Boots, and Brews Volume 1.

Struggling to Stay in the Present

For once, I am at a loss for words. I have spent endless days and nights struggling to put into words what I want and need to say, and yet inspiration has eluded me and continues to do so to a certain degree. This is unusual for me and typically occurs when sadness and grief have taken over.

Recently, during an extremely cold and miserable night, my big gray mare, Snow Bunny, went into labor. I have been anticipating the birth of her foal for months, excited to see a little “Bunny of Joy” arrive and hit the ground running. I had been remembering to breathe and stay calm as I awaited the arrival of the little one. I was, however, on high alert, checking on her every few hours throughout the night via video surveillance.

The night she went into labor, I remember telling her to please not have her baby that evening since it was going to be -10 below zero. Famous last words. She went into labor shortly after 2 am. I called the vet immediately and my best friend, Raina, and her husband, Adrian, were kind enough to come over and offer assistance. That’s true friendship!  

Unfortunately, it was a very hard birth for Snow Bunny, and sadly, her foal was still born. Snow Bunny went into shock and it was a very long process of getting her to a point that she was stable and on the road to recovery. At the advice of both the Veterinarian and Raina, I left the deceased foal in with Snow Bunny so that she could spend time with her and come to the realization on her own that her baby was gone. Snow Bunny licked her foal and pushed her around her stall, encouraging her to get up and move, but it never happened. Watching this broke my heart, but I could also see the realization slowly setting in for Snow Bunny.  

When it was time to remove the deceased foal from her stall, Snow Bunny let out a very loud, shrill whinny; the high pitch hurt my ears. It was the loudest I have ever heard her whinny. It was the sound of a broken heart. I recognized it immediately because my heart made the same sound the night the sheriff deputies arrived on my doorstep to tell me my husband was gone. Once the baby was out of sight, Snow Bunny settled down and, in true horse form, started eating hay. I am always amazed at the ability animals have to stay in the present. They don’t dwell on the promise of what might have been or relive the past. There is definitely a lesson to be learned there.

Why is it so difficult to stay in the present? I am filled with tremendous grief.  There are no words to describe the sadness I felt that night or in the days following. This incident made me think about my late husband and his tragic passing more than usual, and I started to feel like I did in the immediate days and weeks after the crash that took his life. I couldn’t stop crying, and the only thing getting me out of bed was my horses and providing Snow Bunny with the best care possible. Grief is a powerful entity once it firmly has you in its grasp.

Once again, I find myself trying to rise from the ashes of death and move forward. Although Snow Bunny’s baby is gone, I am reminded that life is beautiful and not everything is meant to be. I have been told that nature has a way of correcting itself and taking care of its own, even if we, as human beings, cannot see or understand why.

I was also reminded of the wisdom shared by the Pastor that resided over my husband’s funeral service. He spoke about how there are certain things that will happen in our lives that we are just not meant to understand, but to have faith that there is a purpose behind everything.  

As for Snow Bunny, she is currently on a course of antibiotics and a special feed program while she heals. I am pleased to report that she acts better with each passing day, and it is a wonderful sight to see. There are brighter days ahead.

The Power of Negativity

There will always be haters.

Recently, I received a private message on Facebook informing me that there is nothing spiritual about seeing a hawk or eagle; it is merely a bird sighting and to stop forcing my religious views about birds onto people. Another person informed me that my opinions and actions towards pigeons are unfounded and that I am cruel to these birds. While I am not opposed to constructive criticism, I do feel the need to point out a few things.

First, my blog is not about religion nor is it intended to be. Anyone that knows me personally will tell you that I am the last person they expect to see in church on Sunday. I am spiritual, but I am not religious. There is a difference.

Second, no birds have been harmed during the writing of this blog. And if I want to use pigeons as an analogy to describe poor human behavior, I am going to do so because it is my constitutional right to use Zoomorphism in writing.

While these messages had negative intentions behind them, I found them to be entertaining because it’s obvious that these comments were made by people that either didn’t read my blogs in their entirety or they have less than stellar reading comprehension. Or, like many people, they simply wanted to spread their negativity with the world and decided I was a good target to start with. I am guessing it is mainly the latter, and these messages did inspire some thoughts on the power of negativity.

How many negative messages do you think you receive in a day? I don’t have any statistic to share, I am merely asking the question because it is worth pondering. When you stop and think about it, we live in a very critical world. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, someone is lying in wait, ready to pounce on you and spread their negativity at a moment’s notice. These people are everywhere and show up freely at unforeseen, random times.

Sometimes, it is downright crazy what people choose to be negative about. I recently ran into a couple of acquaintances at the grocery store and was surprised at the negativity that came up from a seemingly harmless subject and how quickly it killed what started out to be a fun, friendly exchange. For the purpose of this story, I am simply going to refer to the individuals involved as acquaintance one and acquaintance two.

To give you some background, these two women couldn’t be more different. Acquaintance one is a pretty, bubbly young lady that has two small children. She loves being a mom and she is very good at it. Her children are her world. Acquaintance two is an older lady that lives to watch news programs and frequently spends her time dwelling on world events and complaining about things that none of us can control or change. Thankfully, I know from some of her rants that she isn’t online or believe me, I wouldn’t mention this story here because I would never hear the end of it.

The conversation began between me and acquaintance one. We had exchanged pleasantries and I had just inquired about her two young children when acquaintance two showed up and joined the conversation. I asked acquaintance one about her daughter’s upcoming birthday. She excitedly told me that she and her husband were planning a birthday trip for their kids to Disneyland, the first trip of its kind for them. I mentioned that I had not been to Disneyland since I was in college. I jokingly stated that my favorite ride used to be “Pirates of the Caribbean” and that I wasn’t even sure if the ride existed anymore.

Without missing a beat, acquaintance two spoke up and firmly declared, “someone died on that ride! That place isn’t as safe as you think it is. I would think twice before taking a trip there.”

In my mind, I heard “wah-wah” in response to her comment. What a downer! Why bring that up and squelch the enthusiasm of acquaintance one, who was visibly excited about taking her kids to Disneyland for the first time? As fast as the mood changed, you would have thought we were in conflict about politics and someone’s wardrobe had been insulted.

I wanted to tell acquaintance two that I was hosting a parade next week and ask if she could show up and rain on it, but I held my tongue.  Some people have no sense of humor, and she’s one of them. I wasn’t in the mood for a debate with her, and I know her well enough to know that any sarcasm or humor would have started just that. And like the adage goes, “if you have nothing nice to say…”

Sadly, the conversation was awkward after that and ended sooner than it needed to. I felt bad for acquaintance one. All enthusiasm for her upcoming trip was destroyed in that moment, and I could sense the conversation upset her.

As I was driving home from the store, I couldn’t help but think about the conversation and the power of negativity. How does a conversation about Disneyland become negative? Is it necessary to be negative? Why are some people negative for the sake of being negative?

When you stop to think about it, negativity is truly toxic. How many times has the negative perspective of someone else ruined your enthusiasm for something? How many times has a negative person ruined a social event for yourself and others? On the flip side, how many times have you gone into something with a negative perception and the event seemed to drag on and on?  

Negative thinking is an easy mind set to fall into, and we have all been guilty of it at one time or another. Everyone has a bad day, after all. But perpetual negative thinking creates a space in our mind that allows depression, anger, sadness, and anxiety to nest, grow, and take over, much like pigeons in a barn. Negativity is very destructive.

It may be hard to stop negativity in your mind, but it can be done. Instead of being the person that brings “wah-wah” to the conversation, bring a ray of humor or sunshine instead. In the end, negativity is like a pigeon that has performed an air raid and pooped all over the barn, saddles and all – it is unpleasant and not enjoyed by others. Please keep your negativity to yourself.

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Wings of Forgiveness

I looked to the sky one day and there they were – large, white birds with black accents on their wings, flying overhead. It took me a few moments to identify them. Pelicans. I found it unusual because I didn’t expect to see Pelicans flying over my yard. In fact, I had not seen Pelicans in this part of the state of Colorado before. I couldn’t help but follow them and watch. They landed on a nearby pond, enjoying the afternoon there, swimming around and fishing. They showed up again the following morning and again the next afternoon. I was fascinated.

A few days later, I mentioned the Pelicans to my best friend, Raina. “Pelicans?” She asked. She looked doubtful. “I don’t think we have those around here.”

“I’m telling you, I keep seeing Pelicans,” I insisted.

“That’s odd,” Raina replied. “There has to be some meaning behind seeing those. You don’t just see Pelicans every day.”

Allow me a moment to explain my best friend. Raina is incredibly insightful and more in tune with the universe and her surroundings than anyone I know. She is a gifted horse woman; I tease her about being “the Horse Whisperer” because every horse magically bends to her will. To take it a step further, I am continually impressed at her unwavering spirituality. When the rest of the world is falling apart, she is steadfast. She is dialed in to meanings, like animal behavior and bird sightings, unlike anyone else.

Raina left the room for a moment then re-emerged with a book in her hands. The book was about the spiritual meaning of animals and what seeing these creatures represents to you and your world at the time you see them. It is an ideology that is Native American in origin. I was intrigued. If the Pelican sightings meant something, I wanted to know what. I had been searching to answer a myriad of things since my husband passed away, so I was looking forward to the insight. Or so I thought. I wasn’t prepared for what she told me.

Raina started to read the pelican description from the book. “Pelicans represent forgiveness. Pelicans signify a situation that you need to come to terms with…” She continued reading, but I didn’t hear another word because my mind was racing, and I felt sick to my stomach. Forgiveness. That was the one thing I wasn’t ready to grasp at that moment in time. Quite frankly, I had been struggling with forgiveness.

As I drove home that day, I got within a few miles of my house and there they were again. Pelicans. Dozens of Pelicans. They were flying all around me, and I felt as though the walls of my car were closing in. I was being swarmed by Pelicans, and I was starting to hate them and their message of forgiveness. They were showing themselves to me because I needed to incorporate forgiveness in my life or I wouldn’t be able to move forward. But how do you forgive the unforgivable?

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There were a lot of things in my life that this applied to. I was struggling to forgive the young man that had killed my husband, an impaired driver that lost control of his car and hit my husband head on. I was filled with resentment, frustration, and overwhelming sadness for his irresponsible behavior and actions on that fateful day. I was also worrying about the sentencing and the justice system, thinking that the justice I wanted would not be served. To say that my world was upside down at that time was an understatement. I was traumatized by the situation and unable or willing to accept that my husband was truly gone.

Sadly, I had also been dealing with “Pigeons” since the night my husband died, and it had taken a serious toll on my health and overall well-being. For those of you not familiar with “Pigeons,” they are defined here as creatures that fly in, crap everywhere, make a huge mess while trying to nest in your space, wreak total havoc on everything and everyone around them, and are extremely complicated to eradicate. Any horse owner will tell you that pigeons are a nightmare if they set up shop in your barn. Once they are in, they are nearly impossible to get rid of and cause a type of frustration that is beyond measure. Sadly, there are people that behave like pigeons; everybody knows one and every family has a few. Pigeons appear in our lives in many forms.

But I digress. How does one find forgiveness when the actions of others are truly deemed unforgivable, especially those that are narcissistic in nature and take place within hours and days of your spouse passing away? Dealing with these “pigeons” is an overwhelming burden that breaks you mentally and physically when their wants and expectations are unfairly placed upon you when you’re trying to grieve, understand, and accept an insurmountable loss that is beyond comprehension.

Grief is a difficult journey, and I have learned that forgiveness does go hand in hand with it. But let me be clear – I am not going to sit here and preach the old “forgive and forget” adage. Not even remotely! If you are looking for that kind of writing about “forgiveness,” what I have to say here probably isn’t for you and we will have to agree to disagree.

My thoughts on forgiveness are quite different. Quite frankly, if you have a grudge against somebody, go ahead and hold it if you want to. It is yours, after all. I say this because there are circumstances where a grudge is warranted and can be healthy, specifically if forgiveness is simply going to open a door that allows the same abusive behavior to take place repeatedly without any change. I don’t see the point in forgiving someone if they aren’t sorry, and in my particular experience, the “pigeons” hassling me after my husband’s passing are repeat offenders and they are not sorry for their behavior. I have learned the hard way that not everyone has remorse for their actions. Furthermore, there are some doors that are meant to be closed and it can be healthier if this occurs and it stays that way.  Why allow the “pigeons” back in if you finally have their crap cleaned up?

So how do you find forgiveness? For me, I had to find the type of forgiveness that would allow me to accept the situation “as is” and move forward in peace.  Forgiveness was (and still is) a difficult journey that has required a lot of introspection. I wholeheartedly admit that I tend to be very hard on myself. I beat myself up internally for my flaws and imperfections. I acknowledge that I am my own worst critic, and I do tend to allow the negativity of others to have space in my head sometimes. Unfortunately, other people know this and take advantage of it. Acknowledging this about myself has allowed me to move forward in a positive manner with respect to my feelings about the “pigeons” that were wreaking havoc in my life amidst the tragedy of my husband’s passing. 

While I cannot, and likely never will, forgive the “pigeons” themselves for their inappropriate behavior, I do forgive myself for not setting boundaries with them and standing up for myself sooner. I thought I was being a good person by showing them kindness and tolerating unacceptable behavior that was a norm for them. Instead, I was enabling them, something I didn’t realize at the time but can see clearly now. Looking back, I should have set boundaries with them years ago instead of allowing myself to be bullied for years on end. I was continually criticized, put down, disrespected, made fun of to my face and behind my back, and belittled. While this sounds like some bad childhood trauma, it wasn’t. I was an adult, and I allowed this to happen. I often look back and wish that I had been a stronger person. However, it was easier at the time to try to blend in with the wall paper than it was to defend myself and set firm boundaries that didn’t allow this to happen. It was too uncomfortable to set boundaries, so instead, I endured things I never should have and paid a high price for it with my health and sanity later.

Sadly, there were times I used to resent my husband for not defending me. Looking back, I realize he was in a difficult position – defending me would mean setting boundaries that made him uncomfortable, and let’s face it – it would mean starting an endless battle that couldn’t be won on dysfunctional ground.  For him, it was easier to try to make a joke and diffuse the situation, a talent my husband had in spades that I can only dream of possessing.  I used to be angry with him for not defending me and trying to play everything off as a joke, but looking back, I understand why he did it. Most importantly, I forgive him. I understand and respect his desire to “keep the peace,” even though it often came at my expense.

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As for finding forgiveness for the young man that killed my husband, that has been extremely difficult too. He expressed remorse in court, and I do think he was sincere. He is also serving time in prison. And while many people may not feel the sentence he received is just, I was steadfast in my resolve to see to it that justice was served. I did my best, as did the amazing people in the office of the district attorney. I am forever grateful for their tireless effort and their kind, caring support throughout the legal process. Justice does not come easy, and I have a new-found respect for the job these people perform every day.  I know it is something I could not do.

For what it is worth, I have learned and accepted that there is the justice you want in your heart and your mind, and there is the justice the court can give you. They are not one and the same. As soon as you can accept the justice the court can offer, you can move forward. It sounds simplistic, but it isn’t. It’s actually a very big step emotionally. The endless hours I spent focusing on justice would now have to be filled with something else. The judge that resided over the case told me this would happen, and he was right.

As I was contemplating forgiveness, my mind kept coming back to one question. I found myself asking if my husband would forgive the young man that ended his life and if he would be accepting of the sentence he received. That question went through my mind repeatedly and robbed me of countless hours of much needed sleep. I thought repeatedly about the remorseful words spoken in court and the sorrow showed by the young man. I also thought about the many mistakes I have made in my life. They are plentiful. I acknowledge I am not a perfect person, nor will I ever be. And as amazing as my husband was, he wasn’t perfect either. No one is.

A few months after the sentencing, I was taking a much-needed walk with my camera at a small lake near my house. I was thinking about forgiveness; I was contemplating my husband and the court case, questioning his acceptance of the verdict and sentencing and wondering if he would have forgiveness.  I was searching my mind for answers when my thoughts were interrupted by a pair of white birds with black winged tips swooping down to land in the water in front of me.

Instinctively, I picked up my camera and started snapping away, not caring what type of birds I was photographing. The birds reminded me of a pair of figure skaters on ice, their wings moving in sync as they glided onto the surface of the smooth water. A few moments later, I realized what I had just taken pictures of – Pelicans. I was photographing Pelicans! Tears filled my eyes as I watched the birds swimming in the water. I knew then I had my answer from my husband, sent from above on the wings of Pelicans – forgiveness, acceptance, and perhaps even peace.

I have learned that forgiveness is a rather powerful entity. I have forgiven myself for a lot of past mistakes. I’m also trying to be less critical and harsh on myself. What can I say? Old habits are hard to break. I have learned to forgive myself for feeling broken, having moments of weakness, and being too trusting of people with less than honorable intentions. I like to think that there is good in everyone, and that is a principle I still try to embrace, although reality has punched me and my naivety in the face with that one more than once. All creatures exist for a reason, even pigeons. I forgive myself for not setting boundaries in the past, and I am working on being strong enough to set boundaries now when they are needed.

I am learning to forgive myself, and as crazy as it sounds, the pelicans are leading the way. Now when I see the pelicans, they are a sight of beauty and peace for me. They also serve as a reminder that forgiveness starts from within.

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Birthday Remembrance

Deadlines.  We all have them, and for one reason or another, we have all missed at least one. Life happens. It can get in the way with overwhelming obligations and expectations placed upon us by other people. This week has been no exception for me. I try to have a new blog post every Tuesday, but for whatever reason, life got in the way this week.

This is a very hard week for me, and the weekend ahead will be challenging too. More snow and frigid temperatures are scheduled to hit my home state of Colorado, and I am dreading that. I have a mare that could give birth at any time, and as any horse owner will tell you, things like a full moon or bad weather will bring about the blessed event with the force of a freight train that has lost its brakes going downhill. But I digress. While the weather may create challenges for my weekend, something else is weighing heavily on my mind. Friday, March 1, is my late husband’s 51st birthday.

As my husband’s best friend has said numerous times, “We are the ones serving a life sentence because we have to live without him.” Those words ring true in my heart and my mind as I write this. I find myself bursting into tears at random times, and I keep hearing some of his favorite songs in my head. This is the third birthday of his I have had to celebrate – and I use that term loosely – without him, and it is not getting easier. If anything, this birthday is bothering me worse than the others, and I am not sure why. I cannot get him off my mind, and I cannot help but wonder what we would be doing to celebrate his birthday if he was still here. Not that we always had extravagant birthday celebrations, but we did try to do something special for one another.

As I was watching one of our horses buck and play in his paddock this morning, a horse that my husband was particularly fond of, Ichabod, I was reminded of one of the last trips we were able to take together on his birthday several years ago. We only had the weekend for a getaway, so we were pressed for time, which ruled out going anywhere extravagant or warm, like Hawaii, and we had a limited budget. We did agree that we wanted to get out of Colorado if it was possible, so we started looking online. After a quick search, we found affordable tickets to fly to Kentucky and boarded a plane shortly after work on a Thursday night.

You are probably asking yourself, “why in the world would anyone choose Kentucky the first of March?!” We chose it because it was an opportunity to take in live horse racing at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky, a track we had never been to before. We had made a pact a few months before to try to visit as many tracks in North America as we could, and this was as good of a place as any to start.

While Florence, Kentucky, may not be everyone’s idea of a dream weekend getaway, it was for us. The hospitality at our modest hotel exceeded our expectations. The kind people at the hotel had their shuttle take us to and from the track so we didn’t have to worry about driving, and the hotel manager was kind enough to help me surprise my husband with a bottle of champagne and some birthday carrot cake cupcakes in our room when we returned from the races.

We were able to take in one evening of races – something that was foreign to us since none of the tracks we go to offer racing at night – and 2 days of afternoon racing. Thanks to a wonderful family friend, we had a nice table in the horse owners’ section with seats near the finish line. It turned out to be an incredible experience. My husband was amazing at handicapping races, and this trip was no exception. His long shots were coming in, and we basically ended up eating and drinking at the races all weekend on his winnings. We shared so many laughs that my sides hurt, and I couldn’t stop smiling. It was one of the best trips we ever had, and quite frankly, it was one of the simplest and most relaxing.  

We returned to Colorado after our weekend feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. Our only regret was that we couldn’t stay in Kentucky longer, but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. We were both back at work on Tuesday morning and normal life resumed.

I never dreamed I would be celebrating his birthday by myself. I wish I could go back in time to that particular birthday in Kentucky, as well as a few others, and enjoy our adventures again a second time. I would hold my husband tighter and laugh even more during our escapades. Those are the moments I miss the most.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. There is no going back in time. Instead of enjoying life and celebrating, I find myself overwhelmed with grief and sadness, longing to hear his laugh again. Words cannot describe how much I miss him.

As I was walking from the barn to the house this morning, my heart was heavy and I had tears in my eyes as I thought of my husband. I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to see a bald eagle, sitting in the field in the snow, its sharp eyes surveying its surroundings. I stopped and watched the magnificent bird for several minutes until it flew away, tears streaming down my cheeks. Hello, my husband! I immediately thought about how he used to tease me about my struggles to photograph bald eagles, and I found myself laughing through my tears.

I believe my husband is still with me. Like an eagle, he is watching from above.

Happy Birthday, My Love.

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