This blog is devoted to my love of horses & wild birds, my journey through grief and healing, and moving forward with the adventures of life. Birds, Boots, and Brews is the original work of Eloquent Editing, LLC.
You have probably noticed a tremendous silence on this blog
during the summer months. I like to think that summer is a crazy, busy time for
everyone. It always is for me. In addition to the usual activities summer
brings, it is also a time of sadness and reflection for me. June 8 marked the
three-year anniversary of my husband’s passing. It hit me very hard this year,
and although I am blessed to have an amazing family, wonderful friends, and am
surrounded by some very therapeutic dogs, horses, and 3 new kittens, I still
find myself grieving the loss of my husband and wondering about what might have
I started to write a poem about it back in June but could never
finish it. Most likely it’s because I have never been accused of being a great
poet. In fact, poetry was the one aspect of my writing that my many English
teachers used to frown upon over the years. I have no sense of timing, rhyming,
or rhythm, which probably explains why I wasn’t great at reading sheet music
either. I am simply hoping for a passing
grade with this effort! It feels good to finally finish it.
For my husband, Kent. You are loved and missed every day.
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
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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Monday. The very mention of the word makes most people cringe. For many people, Monday symbolizes the beginning of the work week, the start of endless doldrums and toiling away at a job that we would love to quit. It is often a depressing, mundane day.
Monday, January 21, turned out to be anything but mundane or boring. It is a day I will always remember and cherish because it will forever serve as a reminder of how amazing life can be and how quickly things can change in a positive way. It will also serve as yet another reminder of how little control one actually has and how things happen in their own time.
Anyone that knows me is well aware of the fact that I love horses. I have a few. Err…several. More than I probably should have. However, they bring me tremendous joy and they are quite possibly the only reason I am still alive after the loss of my husband. There were days after the passing of my husband that I struggled to get out of bed because my depression was so great. I was overwhelmed with grief, and the fact that the rest of the world was continuing on as though nothing had happened wasn’t lost on me. In fact, it made me angry. But I was forced to pull on my boots and put my anger and self-pity aside because several 1200-pound reasons counted on me – my horses. I can honestly say that my horses were the only thing that brought any sense of joy or peace for me at that time. And they still do!
I am blessed to own many beautiful thoroughbred horses and one quarter horse, the later being my trusted riding pony, Annie, who happens to be a favorite among my friends. The thoroughbreds are a collection of mares and geldings, all beautiful souls that are each special in their own way. Hey, they make me put my boots on and enjoy the outdoors every day, even when it’s 20 degrees below zero. Who wouldn’t love an animal that requires this of you? Horses truly are therapeutic beings.
Last September, my best friend was in Oklahoma City at the Heritage horse sale. She spotted a big, lovely black mare with a white heart on her forehead named “Note This.” My friend called me and was insistent that I needed this mare. Something about this mare was calling out to my friend, and since her instinct with horses is impeccable, I told her to go for it. Note This happened to be pregnant to a stallion with an amazing pedigree, and quite frankly, Note This has nice bloodlines herself. I honestly figured she was a horse we wouldn’t be able to afford, so I told her to go for it, thinking we likely wouldn’t be able to buy her. However, I failed to consider that Note This was the last horse to go through the auction ring. Since most buyers are broke at the end of a sale, no one bid on her. My best friend spoke with the gentleman that had placed her in the sale, and within 24 hours, Note This was standing in my barn.
As I stated before, Note This is a big, beautiful mare. I immediately fell in love with her, and my gratitude for my friend and her insistence on buying this mare is beyond measure. Upon reviewing Note’s paperwork, I noticed that the date she was bred to the stallion coincided with a very important date to me – my late husband’s birthday. It gave me chills when I saw it, and it brings tears to my eyes whenever I think about it. I like to think of my husband in the great beyond, helping me out behind the scenes, because that is something he would do.
Note This settled in to her new life in Colorado and as the months progressed, her body became larger and larger. Her belly started to drop around the first part of January, and I knew it wouldn’t be long until her due date of February 1st arrived and a new addition to the barn would be on the ground and running.
In preparation for the momentous event, I had placed Note This, along with another pregnant mare, Snow Bunny, in an area by themselves. They shared a small paddock during the day but were each enjoying their own large stall at night whenever the weather was bad. The weather had been unusually nice for Colorado in January, so the night of January 20th, I had left the stall doors open and allowed Note This and Snow Bunny access to their little paddock throughout the night. This also happened to be the night of the “Super Blood Wolf Moon.”
As the sun rose the morning of January 21, I looked outside and could see both mares in their paddock. Everything was quiet in the barn area. It looked as though the horses still had hay and nothing was amiss, so I decided to make coffee and watch the morning news. Around 8:30 or so, I looked outside and noticed both Snow Bunny and Note This were laying down in their paddock, soaking up the morning sun. I decided the world wouldn’t end if I continued to enjoy my coffee and watch a cooking segment that was coming up on tv. I should also mention that I have been very blessed this winter to have two good friends of mine staying at my ranch – Mike and Jen – a kind, young couple that are both very good with horses, and quite frankly, very good with me.
I was getting ready to put my boots on and head to the barn when my phone went off, so I stopped to answer a text message. I was writing my reply when my back door flew open and Jen stormed in. “Sandy! There’s a baby! Note had her baby! We have to get to the barn!”
I was stunned, and I am quite certain I had a stupid, dumbfounded look on my face. “What?!” I replied. I looked out the window and sure enough, I could see the white blaze of a very tiny face in the paddock. I couldn’t believe it! How in the hell did I miss that this was happening? I ran to get my coat and fumbled with my boots momentarily. My mind was going a million miles an hour.
As Jen and I were running to the barn, Mike came along, carrying hay for one of their horses that was spending time in the barn. “What’s the big hurry?” he asked. Jen replied that Note This had her baby and he also started to move towards the barn in a higher gear.
When I arrived at the paddock, Baby Note was trying to stand on very wobbly legs and take those first uncertain steps. The baby was lovely, but oh so tiny and petite! Baby Note could best be described as a dark bay with a big, unusually shaped white blaze that seemed to dominate her tiny face. Note This was very protective of her baby, and she was busy trying to keep not only Snow Bunny away from her foal, but some other horses that had gathered along the fence to see what the commotion was.
A flurry of activity ensued. Mike and Jen grabbed a rope and halter and somehow managed to catch an elusive Snow Bunny and get her in a stall. I was frantically trying to clean the floor of the remaining stall, because naturally, both mares had decided that was the ideal place to poop throughout the night. It was important to get a clean, dry area for mom and baby, so I frantically cleaned. While I was busy cleaning, Mike was trying to assist Baby Note with standing up on those long, wobbly legs. Jen put a halter on Note This, and mom and baby were slowly moved into the barn where they could be safe in a clean, quiet stall, free from the prying noses of other horses. Jen held Note This while Mike helped Baby Note nurse on her mother. “It’s a filly,” Mike proclaimed with a big smile. He had his hands full, as Baby Note wiggled and wobbled as she nursed, not quite sure of how to behave in her new world. Three proud parents were born in that moment, and we all continue to make a fuss over Baby Note.
I called my vet and told her of our morning excitement. Before she set out for my ranch to examine Mom and Baby Note, she expressed the importance of leaving Note This and her baby alone for a bit so they could have some much-needed bonding time. So, the three proud parents vacated the barn for a bit. We were all in awe of what had just transpired. Note This had given no signs that she was THAT close to giving birth, and yet, we had a baby! I was struck by the fact that life can begin just as quickly as it can end. A new life was in our midst; things would not be the same at the ranch. Life can truly be unexpected and crazy sometimes.
As I walked away from the barn toward my house, I looked to the sky to say thank you to my husband and the heavens above. It was then I noticed a hawk soaring in the sky directly overhead, its dark brown wings shining in the sun. New life in the barn and life in the form of wings above. The world is truly beautiful in its own time.
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