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.
Storm to Pass stood tall and proud in her stall before the
race, her chestnut coat shining and her strawberry blonde mane beautifully
combed. She stood regal and proud, curiously looking me over with kind, gentle
eyes. She carried herself to the paddock and the racetrack with elegance and
grace. I was in awe of her beauty and impressed by how she carried herself. I
was also a bundle of nerves. Not because Storm to Pass was running, but because
my horse, Sizzle Factor, a stablemate of Storm to Pass, was entered to run in
the race following hers, and I was starting to get nervous.
It was pouring rain in Tulsa, Oklahoma that night. Not long
before the races began, the skies opened up and the rain started. The track was
sealed for safety, but the horses would still be splashing home in the water
and mud. The rain continued to get heavier and heavier. It was a steady
downpour when the gates opened and Storm to Pass ran her race. She made a
valiant effort, finishing fourth in her race. The jockey was slowing her down
and easing her up when the unthinkable happened; Storm to Pass slipped a little
and took a bad step. Immediately sensing something was amiss, her jockey got
her stopped and issued the call for help. Storm to Pass was vanned off the
track and taken back to her stall.
A flurry of activity ensued. My trainer was upset because he
didn’t know what exactly had happened to Storm to Pass and he wasn’t allowed to
go with her when she was being vanned to the barn. He did know that the injury
was serious and x-rays would be required to truly assess things. My heart sank.
It didn’t sound good.
After a victorious run from Sizzle Factor, who won a photo finish, I found myself back at the barn. I wanted to celebrate and be happy my horse had won, but the only thing I could focus on was Storm to Pass. She was standing in her stall again, still looking regal and proud, although she was not putting weight on one of her front legs and swelling was visible in the knee area and the ankle was showing some swelling as well. An x-ray revealed that a substantial part of the knee bone was out of place. I asked my trainer what was going to happen next. My heart sank when he said her owner had made the decision to put her down.
Before I knew it, I heard myself crying out. “No!!! Please!
You can’t just put her down. No!!!” I was looking my trainer in the eyes, trying
to hold back tears. I could hear my voice shaking as I told him, “You have to
give her a chance. Isn’t there something that can be done? Please. If she can
be saved, I’m willing to do it.”
He knew I was serious. I could tell he was thinking things
through in his mind, knowing it would take some doing to make arrangements and get
her to a surgeon. There was no guarantee she would survive the surgery or even
be a good candidate for surgery. She was also high risk for developing founder
or laminitis. It was a few moments
before he responded. “Let me talk to her owner and see if he’s agreeable to
A few moments later, I had my answer. And a new horse to love
and care for. My trainer did his best to
make Storm to Pass comfortable in terms of pain and then went about the tedious
process of getting the wheels in motion to get her to a surgeon. We were very
blessed to have one of the best equine surgeons in Oklahoma agree to take her
In the meantime, there was no lack of opinions and criticism from
many people in the barn area. Several people made it known that they thought Storm
to Pass should be put down. My trainer took a lot of criticism for standing by
my decision to try to save her. Two women I have never seen before nor since
walked down our shed row when my trainer wasn’t around, pointed at Storm to
Pass, and said it was a disgrace that she was still standing there and that the
right thing had not been done in putting her down. I started to approach them
and say something, but stopped myself because I was almost in tears. Instead, I
waited for them to leave and entered the stall with Storm to Pass. As I wrapped
my arms around her neck and started to pet her, she laid her head on my
shoulder and sighed. We stood quietly together for a long time. I knew in that moment I had made the right
Storm to Pass underwent knee surgery and made it through with flying colors. She came out of the anesthesia very quietly, which is wonderful. Apparently, a horse can do a lot of damage if it thrashes about upon awakening. She now has three screws in her knee and has made it through the first two weeks post-surgery, which is a very critical time. Her weight distribution is good and the surgical incision has healed. With time and a substantial amount of stall rest, she should be able to get around well enough to enjoy grazing and have a new career as a mother and pasture companion to other horses.
I am always amazed and touched by the life lessons that can be gained through these beautiful beings. Horses can be intimidating because of their size and strength. And yet, I am reminded by Storm to Pass that like people, they can also be fragile and the slightest accident can have a life hanging in the balance. Storm to Pass is not completely out of the woods yet, but I am assured the worst is over. It is going to take a lot of time, healing, and patience in the months ahead. I am inspired by her strength and her will power. She is a tough, amazing horse with an incredible will to go on. It is my hope that she will enjoy her new life and home in Colorado once she can travel here. I feel very blessed and grateful to be able to welcome her here and be part of her healing process. When you stop and think about it, we are all healing from something.
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!!!
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
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.
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.
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
“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
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?
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
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.
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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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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