About Me

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Denver, Colorado, United States

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Early Mornin'

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see."---John Burroughs

You know the Benjamin Franklin quote "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise"?  I really think there is some truth to that, although, so far the "wealthy" has eluded me. 

I've been a morning person for a couple of years now.  It started shortly after moving to Colorado and was caused, I believe, by both the dogs still being on Florida time.  Before sunrise, every day, the two of them would start moving around on the bed, whining, licking me, and Freckles would do her usual...sneeze and spray of dog snot in the face. "Alright, I'm up!" 

I was never one to sleep late...but 4:00 AM seemed a little too early to be awake.  At first I grumbled about it.  Going back to sleep was not an option, I would just have a harder time waking up when the alarm went off.  After several months, however, I noticed I was grumbling less and really began to enjoy my early morning rituals.  Snot in the face, "Alright, I'm up!", let the dogs out, make coffee, and all of us back in the bedroom (me with my coffee and laptop...them back to sleep next to me).  I would open the curtains and watch the sunrise while I worked.  I had a patio in my Greeley apartment but the street noise disturbed the morning peace (something I began to love about the early mornings) so I rarely used it.

I'd use this early morning time to catch up on emails, research ranch ideas, work on "social networking" and write my blog posts.  My head is clearest in the morning.  I always wake up each day more hopeful than I was the night before.  It's as if each morning is a fresh start...all the negativity, stresses, bad attitudes, and worries that were piled on fom the previous day are wiped away and I'm left with a clean slate on which to write today's story.
I look forward to the day when I spend this time on my patio at the ranch.  Watching the sunrise, photographing the wildlife (pronghorn, mule deer, jack rabbit, coyote, hawk, and various birds all reside out there), listening to the sounds of the local cattle, and have fresh clean air to clear my head of any cares.  I'm not there yet...and already...I don't want to leave.  It may be quite a while, I'm afraid, before I'll be able to enjoy (full time) my mornings at the ranch. I'm confident, however, I'll find this early morning peace somewhere...and as long as I do...I will wake up each day hopeful.

Started writing this post at 3AM this morning. LOVE Early Mornin'

Sunday, November 25, 2012

You Go Girl!

"It is important that you recognize your progress and take pride in your accomplishments. Share your achievements with others. Brag a little. The recognition and support of those around you is nurturing.”---Rosemarie Rossetti

A friend of mine pointed out, that while she liked my "One Year Later" blog post, that I focused too much on how my life has changed and what I can't do and not on what I had accomplished.  Sure she was wrong (because I'm usually such a positive person), I went back and read the post.  She was right!!! 
She even began listing some things that I should mention and be proud of!!!!  "Thank you Amy...I intend to fix that now."

"Wow, where do I begin..." 

I guess the first accomplishment was returning to work 2 weeks after having my arm amputated.  That was pretty big.  I had asked the surgeon when I could return to work...figuring he'd say the customary 6-8 weeks.  He asked "what do you do?"  I replied "loan officer".  He said "two weeks" (seeing the shock on my face he followed with) "I'll write you a note for whatever you want but the sooner you go back the better you'll be".  I hesitated but agreed...I had no vacation or sick time and couldn't afford to be out of work anyhow. 

Next accomplishment...driving.  I was pretty traumatized after the accident and not very eager to get back behind the wheel.  I kept having mini flashbacks of going off the road.  My first 3 days of work, friends drove me...but being the independent control freak I am...3 days was about all I could handle.  On the 4th day I rented a car.  Looking back it was pretty funny.  When the rental agent got the information from my auto insurance company (who was paying for the rental) he gave me this sad look and asked if I would like the additional rental coverage (sure that he had me)...I declined..."Nah, already made my deductible", I smiled.  I acted all confident while I was there but drove about 10-15 miles under the speed limit for about a month.  I was scared but determined.

Next big step for me was dating again...good thing I don't get discouraged too easily.  The first date never called again and the second stood me up on New Years Eve.  I wouldn't have been so ticked about the second if he would have had the decency to just cancel.  I drove 60 miles round trip in snow and ice to meet him half way (still scared to death of driving) to get stood up...ass!  Lol.  The third person I went out with (technically second since real second was a no-show) restored my faith in men.  He was a gentleman.  No kiss until the 3rd date, flowers at work, a weekend getaway, met his family, and drove me to and from the airport when I went to Chicago for work. (When I returned home I was greeted by him standing in the airport holding a sign with my name on it, lol, dork!) It was a great couple of months, ultimately the timing was off, but at the time we were both what the other needed.  He also gave me the confidence to continue and, for that, I will always be grateful.

When I moved to Wyoming, 3 weeks before my accident, the plan was to live at my friend's ranch, have a home built on my land, and move out the following spring.  The accident, a disorganized builder, and finances finally put the house on hold.  I was welcome to stay at the ranch but I was itching to get back out on my own.  I needed to prove to myself that I could do it without any help.  I looked at it as "if I can't do it on my own, living in a small house, in town...how the hell did I think I could do it on my own, on 40 acres, in the middle of nowhere".  I'm proud to say it's been almost 7 months, I have a beautiful little house, I'm happy, the dogs are happy, and we're all still alive :)  It's not the ranch but it's a wonderful stop-over...and now I'll be much better equipped to handle whatever the ranch throws my way when that time comes.

That brings me to my final two, ranch related, accomplishments (I'm sure there are more but these are the biggies). 

The first one was buying a sturdy, wooden, 10' x 12' shed to put out on the property.  I was looking for a "base camp" for the time I spent out there.  I hate using the term "shed" because it brings to mind a flimsy, unattractive, catch all, used for storage.  I chose a 10' x 12' because it was the largest I could have without getting a building permit.   "Little House", as I call it, has 2 working windows with screens and flower boxes, a shingled roof, and high ceilings.  At first I just outfitted it with a card table, an air mattress, and a barbeque grill.  I'm in the process, now, of refinishing a real bed to put out there, a cafe table, a fire pit and patio for more upscale camping.  I spent two nights out there this past summer and loved it!!!!  I can't wait until spring when it's all finished.  Building may be on hold for a while but I can still enjoy the ranch while I'm waiting. 

My final accomplishment was finishing a cookbook I planned to do a year ago.  Why now?  I needed to feel like the financial setbacks with the ranch could be turned around.  I also felt the need for another creative outlet (this blog is a HUGE one for me) that could earn me extra money.  Before, I had made soaps, bath products and went to craft shows.  The soaps and bath fizzies are a little hard to make one handed but typing, writing, and taking photographs I can do.  I returned to the cookbook idea in July.  The problem?  I needed everything done by the end of August in order to have the completed books, in hand, and in time for the ever important holiday sales and craft shows.  We did it , and it has been a bigger success than I imagined.  So much so, that I'm considering another one for next year.  I've only done one craft show so far but have 2 more planned.  I wasn't sure how a cookbook would go over at a craft show but was pleasantly surprised.  I noticed there were two types of people that came up to my booth.

The first type, picked up the book, looked at the cover, said "how much?" , set it down, and walked away. 

The second type, looked inside, saw Sara's picture, read "The Dream", looked at the layout and the pictures, some teared up, said "how much?", and "I'll take three!"

Many thanks to the second type!  :)

The last year has flown by and, to be honest, it hasn't all been easy and I've gone to bed EXHAUSTED almost every night but most nights before I fall asleep...I take a moment and "I recognise my progress and take pride in my accomplishments." 

Thank you again, Amy, for reminding me to brag about it more often!  :)

                                  OK, just pretend that lady only has one arm ;)

Monday, November 19, 2012

One Year Later

"If you learn from your suffering, and really come to understand the lesson you were taught, you might be able to help someone else who's now in the phase you may have just completed. Maybe that's what it's all about after all..."---Unknown

November 19, 2012.  It's been one year since this cowgirl took a tumble and lost her left arm.  I've learned many lessons over the last year...some good, some bad, but all valuable.  I'd like to share them with you and hopefully you'll find at least one lesson of your own to take away from this.  Just like the quote above says, "Maybe that's what it's all about after all..."

The questions I get most often (besides how it happened) are about my physical limitations.   "How do you tie your shoes?"  "Can you still drive?"  AND...the ever popular..."How do you get your bra on?"  To be honest, there isn't really much I can't do.  Are things more difficult?  Yes.  Do they take longer? Definately!  For the most part, however, I have either adapted or found tools to help me get things done or just avoided doing things that aren't as important. (Like tying my shoes...slip on sneakers, zip up or pull on boots)

Right after the accident it took me at least an hour to shower, put on makeup, and get dressed.  Washing your hair isn't as easy with one hand...especially the opposite side of your head. Same goes for washing on my right side.  Next time you shower try to wash your right arm with your right arm...fun huh? Now try shaving your underarm.  Hardest part of brushing your teeth and putting on makeup?  Opening all those tubes and bottles with twist off caps.  The bra?  Hook it, step into it, shimmy it up and over your butt without getting it all twisted and bursting into tears...that took a good 10 minutes. (Got a solution/tool now for that. I'll show you in a minute since I know you're dying to find out how I do it, lol)  Getting dressed is OK as long as there are no tiny buttons.  Biggest dressing pain?  Straightening out pockets on my left side with my right hand.  It's taken some adjusting and practice but I'm proud to say I can get ready in about 40 minutes now.  Largely due to my bra angel...yes you heard me right...here's the most valuable tool I've found so far.

LOL.  Now you know.

I could go on and on about the physical adjustments I've had to make...the list is endless.  Here are just a few.  Try cutting something when you can't cut it and hold it still at the same time.  Lifting anything heavy is out...unless it has a handle.  Try signing a reciept with one hand (and try to avoid decking the cashier who just watches you fumble with it).  Try pushing a shopping cart with one hand without running into anything.  Try crawling seductively up to your partner on hand (singular) and knees...not so sexy anymore...seriously try it.  LOL.

Which brings me to the hardest adjustment for me and my biggest fear.  Appearance.  I know it's sounds shallow and I've been told over and over again "if they're a good person it won't matter".  To be honest, it hasn't been a big issue like I thought it would be.  I've been on more dates in the year since my accident than I was in the year prior.  The adjustment needed isn't with the attitude of others as much as it is with my attitude towards myself.  I am super aware that I'm missing something, and no matter how good I think I look, when I look in the mirror my focus shifts to my arm and it knocks my confidence down a notch.  I'm terrified that the sight of my bare shoulder will cause someone I care about to run for the hills.  Again, I've not found this to be true...but when a relationship doesn't work out I can't help but think to myself  "they probably found a 'whole woman' they like better."  I might be right, but more likely it's a problem within myself...I need to listen to what others tell me "you are amazing and beautiful" and BELIEVE IT. 

I'll keep working on that one.

OK, that part was hard to write...had a few tears...but I got it out.  Sometimes that's what you need to do in order to move on to happier things. 

That's what I'll end with. 

So far this post has been about what I've struggled with.  I want to end with the good that's come out of it.
I've realized, yet again, (the first time was when Sara was going through treatments and passed away) how truly blessed I am to have a wonderfully supportive family and amazing friends.  I have been through a lot over the last several years and I'm sure I would not have made it this far without you all.  I've learned there is nothing you can't accomplish if you truly have passion and believe in what you're doing.  I've learned that some of the simplest things can hold onto a large part of your heart (Coming home from the hospital and having my dogs run up to welcome me home).  I've learned that there is good in everyone even though it's usually hidden away under a protective coating (Some of the toughest cookies were my kindest supporters).  Finally, I was reminded of something I've known all along...when something like this happens to you...you need to share it.  There may be someone out there who is feeling the exact same thing but unwilling or unable to express themselves like I do.  If I can help one person by telling my story, in the end,  it will all be worth it. 

"Maybe that's what it's all about after all...."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Help Wanted

"A healthy way of thinking and acting is to allow yourself to receive the help and love you need.  You weren't designed to live alone.  You have limitations on your strength and abilities"."---Michael Barbarulo

"My name is Christine and I refuse to ask for help." 

They should have a 12 Step Program for people like me.  I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one who could benefit from it. I hate asking for help and will try everything possible to avoid it.  For me, asking for help is a sign of weakness.  I'm afraid others will think "poor girl, she can't do it herself" or the famous "I just wish she'd meet a nice guy to take care of her".  They probably don't think that at all but that's the kind of stuff that goes on in my head. I tend to over think things a little.

Most of my inability to ask for help is due to pride.  I was so proud of bringing up Sara on my own, especially during her five years of treatment.  I was on top of it all...work, doctors appointments, hospital stays, scans, providing non-hospital food and being there for her when she needed me.  I was taking care of all that with little, or no, help and I was extremely proud of that! 

It's a big adjustment for me now as I realize the things I physically can't do myself anymore (tie my shoes, believe me, I've tried)...or that I can do but it takes me three times longer (like laundry).  For the most part I've adjusted and can do almost everything...it just takes longer and probably isn't as safe as it was before.  Climbing a ladder, for example, I can do it but I can't hold on and grab what I need.  Not to mention that my balance is thrown off a bit by uneven body weight...thanks to the hospital for pointing that out...never would have though of that. 

There are times I've tried to do something without help and most of the time I am successful.  Other times, however, no matter how hard I try I just can't do it.  It's usually followed by a mini temper tantrum and then the meltdown and crying.  It never lasts long but is the best reliever of frustration without resorting to drinking and yet another 12 Step Program.  I try to deal with my frustration naturally :) 

I first started thinking about accepting help, when offered, a few months ago when I got a new bed frame and mattress delivered to my house.  It was left on my doorstep, while I was at work, and I managed to get it into the house.  The box was sitting there unopened when I had a friend over.  He offered to help me set it up and I declined the first time but when he insisted, I said "OK".  We had it set up within minutes, and to be honest I was thankful, I could have done it myself but it would have taken much longer and there might have been some tears involved. 

Later, when we were talking about that night, he made me think about accepting and asking for help in a different way.  It's not all about me and what I can or can't do...it's about someone who cares and wants to help.  They wouldn't offer if they didn't want to help and they wouldn't accept a request for help if they didn't want to.  By not accepting a sincere offer I was, in essence, saying "I don't need you."  Hmmm, I'd never thought of it that way before...but I do now. 

It still takes some getting used to and I have to keep reminding myself but I am getting better at it.  Just last weekend, when leaving from work on Friday night, a friend offered to help me set up for the craft show the next morning and I declined.  "I'll be fine" I said.  Later that night I was posting about the craft show the next morning and she offered again...and again, I declined.  This time, however, I thought about it for a minute.  She offered twice...if she really didn't want to help she would have thought to herself  "Oh, thank God, I was just being nice...dodged the bullet on that one" and that would have been the end of it.  I turned back around and said "You know what? Yes...please".  The next morning she and her family were there waiting for me.  What would have taken me at least 30 minutes was done in 10.  Thank you Fay, I really appreciated your help and persistence. 

One day I'll learn.

***Oh, and by the way...whoever wants to help...I need someone to climb a ladder and get my Christmas decorations down from the loft in the garage.  Promised Mom & Dad I wouldn't try to do it myself :)


Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Veterans Day Thank You

"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." ---Jose Narosky
"We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude." ---Cynthia Ozick

Tonight I'm snuggled safe in my bed making plans for my three day weekend...and I get to thinking about why I'm off on Monday...Veterans Day.  To be honest, unless it's Thanksgiving or Christmas, I don't really think much about the meaning behind the holiday...I'm just happy to have a day off work.  Tonight's a little different.

I believe what made me stop to think about it was a question I've been asked a couple of times in the last few months.  I've had customers at work ask if I was a veteran (because of my missing arm).  What amazed me, when they asked, was I felt honored that they would think that I was a veteran (and that they thought I could have actually made it through boot camp, lol). 

I can't really imagine what it would have been like to have served.  The only thing I could compare the feeling to is that of an extremely loving, protective, and proud parent. 

There is one person I would have layed my life down to protect, my daughter.
To the veteran that is their country.

She may not have always showed me respect...but I loved and protected her anyway.
A veteran does this every day...protect a country that often turns it's back on them.

My only wish was that she grew up to be an amazing woman that I could be proud to call my own.
The veterans wish is to return home to the country that makes him proud to have served.

They deserve our respect, admiration, and thanks for protecting all of us, our families, and all we hold dear.

"Thank you"

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lessons From Pooh

"If we deny love that is given to us, if we refuse to give love because we fear pain or loss, then our lives will be empty, our loss greater."---Unknown

I find inspiration in some of the weirdest places.  Saw this posted on Facebook this morning and loved the quote.  I decided to Google "Winnie The Pooh Quotes".  These are some characters I can relate to. 
I think I've got a bit of all of them in me.  I'd say 60% caring friends Pooh and Piglet, 25% neurotic perfectionist Rabbit, 10% wise Owl, and 5% alternating between high strung Tigger and mopey Eeyore.

 I think the reason that post this morning caught my eye is because someone has been on my mind a lot lately and it reminded me of her...and the lessons we've learned.  Sara and I had a "Pooh & Piglet" relationship.  We were best friends and we learned a lot about what was important together.  Unfortunately, most of it was learned after she was diagnosed with cancer.  It's sad that it takes something tragic to slap you across the face and say "wake up...life's short...if someone is important to you tell them, and more importantly, show them".

Over the past 11 years, since Sara's diagnosis and passing, this showing and telling has become more second nature to me and seems to scare the hell out of some people!  Lol.  My intent is not to freak anyone out (although it is sometimes fun to watch...people panic so easily). My goal is to make sure that if I get hit by a bus tomorrow (hey it could happen...check out my track record) that person knows the impact they had on my life.  That's it!  Not because I expect anything in return, or to guilt anyone into saying something they don't mean, or doing something because they feel obligated.  I do it for me, so I won't have any regrets and I just hope it means something to them. 

I don't see how that can be a bad thing.

I know it's not easy for everyone (I'll let you practice on me, if you want *wink).  It took me years of practice just to tell my daughter "I love you" without fear of her rolling her eyes at me...but just because it isn't easy doesn't mean it's not worth it. 

Trust me, if any of us are lucky enough to be "the smallest thing that takes up the most room in someone's heart" it will be so worth it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Three Wishes

"What makes the difference between wishing and realizing our wishes?  Lots of things, and it may take months or years for a wish to come true, but it's far more likely to happen when you care so much about a wish that you'll do all it takes to make it happen."---Fred Rogers

I have a few other blogs I follow and today I saw one titled "Three Wishes".  The title alone got me thinking.  If I had three wishes...what would they be?  Hadn't thought about that for years.  You always think about that as a child and the first wish was always for more wishes.  As an adult you're much more realistic.  You can't have eveything you want and it might be kind of boring if you could.  So I started to think...as an adult and being realistic, having only three wishes, what would they be?

My first two wishes came to me pretty quick.  They are two things I think about every day.  The third, however, took a little more thought.  I have a general idea of what I want for number three but it isn't etched in stone.  Actually, even number one and two are getting less specific with the passing years.  I've found that being too narrow minded in your focus can sometimes cause you to overlook some pretty special things that are right in front of you. 

So, here it goes. 

My Three Wishes for October 25, 2012.

Number 1:  To live in the country.
I have the ranch and my dream to build, to have horses, dogs, and lots of farm animals.  To grow a garden, milk my own cows, collect fresh eggs, make homemade cheese, and soap.  I want to learn to can my own fruits and vegetables so dreaded trips to the grocery store are few and far between.  I want to watch the sunrise each morning and sunset each night.  I want to be surrounded by these things I love and to fall asleep each night with a smile on my face :)

Number 2:  To have someone who wants to share Number 1 with me.

As much as I love everything in Number 1, it would all be less meaningful if done alone.  I never realized how important it was to have someone you love around until I lost Sara.  The last six years has been all about me.  Which is nice sometimes, but mostly, it's very lonely.  I miss coming home and having someone there to talk to.  I miss getting a hug when I've had a bad day or having someone to celebrate the good things with.  I want to wake up each morning with a smile on my face ;)

Number 3:  Make a living doing what I love.

This one is the most flexible.  I love a lot of things.  Especially if it doesn't involve getting dressed up each day and following rules.  I want to be my own boss, dress comfortably, take my dogs to work with me and the only rule would be..."be nice to people".  I don't care about being rich, having a fancy car or the biggest house I just want to leave work each day with a smile on my face :)

These are my "Three Wishes" and I would love to have them all come true but I'm an adult...and realistic.  I may have to compromise on the details and I'm willing to do that.  The ultimate goal is to leave this world happy, loved, and with a HUGE smile on my face :D

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Two Loves

"A dog is the only thing that can mend a crack in your broken heart"---Judy Desmond
Every morning and every day at lunch time my heart breaks a little.  As I walk away and close the door I have two sets of adoring eyes, staring at me, confused.  "Where is she going?"  "When will she be back?"  "Why can't we go?"  I imagine them thinking that...and it tugs at my heart.  I want so badly to stay.

Freckles & Patch at the ranch
As a child I'd never had pets (gerbils & fish don't count).  When I became an adult I had Sara to keep me company and, when asked if I had pets, would always say "That's all I need...another dependent who doesn't do chores".  Sara would always roll her eyes when I said that but she knew it was true. 

It was Sara who convinced (guilted) me into getting a dog.  I could be wrong...but a part of me thinks that Sara knew, during her last eight months, that she didn't have a long life ahead of her.  All the previous treatments had failed and she was on an experimental treatment that really took it's toll on her. 

In September 2006 Sara asked for a dog.  All I could think of was the added work.  I was already working, taking care of Sara, spending countless hours at doctors appointments with her, and days on end in the hospital.  I told Sara it wouldn't be fair to bring a dog into the home when we didn't have the time to devote to it.  "Maybe", I said "when you've finished this treatment...after the first of the year."  Tears welled up in her eyes and she said (ready for the guilt) "Fine, I'll just never have a dog!"  (She would have been right too.  We had no idea she would not make to the next year)  I broke down...we started looking for a dog and I began arranging pet sitters for our next few hospital stays. 

We had done some research and decided on a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel which were sometimes called the "Comforter Spaniel".  How perfect!  Sara was so excited.  I wanted to go the responsible route, research reputable breeders, see the parents firsthand, question the breeder on the dogs health.  Sara just wanted one FAST.  She did as I asked, though, and called breeders in our area...no puppies for at least 4 months.  One night, at the end of October, Sara met me at the door after work and said "Let's drive to Jacksonville. The pet store in the mall has two Cavaliers."  I went through my whole "pet store dogs come from puppy mills and we don't want to support that" routine.  It fell on deaf ears and all I got was "Please mom, can we just go look?"  Again, I broke down...and I'm so glad I did.

Sara holding tiny Freckles

We named her Freckles, for the few spots she had on her nose.  She was tiny, only two pounds, and completely adorable.  Sara was in love, and I admit, so was I.  At that point, however, I had no idea how important this dog would end up being to me.  We took her home and quickly discovered that all the reading in the world doesn't prepare for how much work a puppy is...or the joy that they bring.  There were nights I would come home from work and Sara would be asleep on the bed with Freckles snuggling beside her and I swear they were both smiling.

Sara doted on Freckles and worried about her all the time.  She was very frail and had kennel cough we discovered on our first vet visit.  The pet store offered to treat her or take her back.  We opted for treating her...there was no way we were giving her back now.  A few weeks later, while we were in the hospital, we saw on the news a consumer report on the store we bought Freckles from.  They reported that the puppies all came from puppy mills in the Midwest, most had been under investigation, and many of the puppies became sick and died, causing heartbreak to their new owners.  Sara burst into tears..."Freckles isn't going to die, is she?"  (This, coming from a girl who was in the hospital to have a lung removed due to cancer.  She was amazing.)  "No, she isn't going to die" I said, praying I was right...

Freckles pulled through.  She and Sara would have three more weeks together before Sara lost her battle with cancer.  Those last weeks were so hard on Sara but having Freckles, always by her side, made it a little easier.  When Sara passed away she was in ICU at Wolfsons Children's Hospital.  A friend was watching Freckles.  I remember the heartbreak I felt when we brought Freckles back home and she kept wandering around the house.  We assumed she was looking for Sara.  That night I did something I swore I'd never do...I took Freckles out of the crate in my bedroom and put her in bed with me.  It was such a comfort to both of us...she's been there ever since.

Freckles and I became inseparable.  I continued to work part-time for a year after Sara passed away and it gave us lots of time together.  She needed me and I needed that.  I had devoted the last 19 years of my life to taking care of Sara...I needed time to adjust.  When I finally decided to return to work full time I worried about Freckles being alone.  I decided to take her to "doggie daycare" a couple of days a week so she could get out, play and socialize with other dogs.  I loved going to pick her up and watching her outside playing with the other dogs...she looked so happy.  I wanted her to be happy like that all the time......so........I bought her a pet.  :) 

Spoiled Patch learning to beg early

Along came Patch.  This boy I got from a breeder the showed Cavaliers.  His daddy was a Champion show dog and he was extremely healthy.  A butterball since day one :)  He is the most loving (and spoiled) dog on the face of this earth.  Freckles wasn't too sure about him at first but they soon became best friends. Although, I occasionally get a look from her as if to say "Seriously? Why do we keep this pain in the butt around?"

I look back over the last six years and I can't imagine what my life would have been like without them.  I've had so many things happen, both good and bad, and they are always there to make me smile, comfort me and to give me a reason to be excited about returning home.  I can't wait for the day we all move out to the ranch.  One of the first things I plan on doing is getting another dog.  Freckles is 6 now and has had Mitral Valve disease (a heart defect common in Cavaliers) since she was 2.  Most don't get it until they are older but indiscriminate breeding can make it appear sooner.  The vet said as long as she stays fit she could go years without a problem.  I want to get a third dog so that if something were to happen to either of them the other won't be left alone.  From the sound of things you would assume it would be Freckles...but Patch...bless his heart, while pretty, does not have a lot going on upstairs.  He'd be the first one to try to "kiss" a rattlesnake or "play" with coyotes. (I laugh as I write that.)  The big doofus! 

Over the last six years I have discovered these two "dependents that don't do chores" are so much more. 
                                                              I love you babies!!!!

Freckles, where she belongs, on the bed.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Crazy Perfect

"People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it."---Edith Schaeffer

Take a look at the top two pictures above.  Notice anything "missing" in the second picture?  I posted this quote on my Facebook page last night and I've decided to "Step Outside My Comfort Zone."   The first picture I took at the ranch and posted it right after I took it.  The second, after realizing that my arm (or lack of) could be seen, was never posted.  I didn't appear perfect...so it didn't appear anywhere...until now.

I always thought perfectionism was a good thing.  Recently, however, I've started to see how damaging it can be.  I wonder (or obsess, like so many perfectionists do) about things that I missed out on because of my waiting for the ideal time, place, or situation to occur.  I can think of several in just the last year...

One that truly stands out.  Turning down an invitation for a weekend away because "it wasn't enough time"...I wanted to wait until I could get a week...a missed opportunity I'll always regret

To make matters worse, not two months later I do almost the same thing...and again, I believe, that ship has sailed as well.  Why did I turn down the offer this time???  Stupid perfectionism on my part.  I needed time to prepare...to build myself up to the standards I thought were necessary to impress this person.  I could go on and on...but I don't want to leave you all with, mouths hanging open, looks of disbelief in your eyes, thinking "seriously, what's wrong with this girl?"  I do enough of that for all of us.

I've read all these books trying to explain why I do the things I do.  One rather enlightening book,  The Birth Order Book, says all Oldest Children are this way and even breaks us down into two categories...The Controller and The Pleaser.  I have the great pleasure of being a Perfectionist and a Pleaser (sarcasm).  Not only do I have to be perfect for myself, I feel the need to make everyone else perfectly happy too (yippee). 

Why, you might ask, is she telling us this?  It's simple.

I'm scared. 

I've started not doing things because I'm afraid it won't be good enough.  It won't live up to the unrealistic standards I have set for myself.  THAT really scares me.  I've always had that in me, even as a kid I would obsess over stupid things, but it has been magnified over this last year.  I find myself trying harder than ever to maintain the illusion of perfection and having even a harder time keeping up with it. 

I just want to be IMPERFECT and not afraid that anyone will care.  By showing you my "flaws" and "imperfections", I'm taking steps to escape the crazy lady in my head :)  I'm stepping outside my "comfort

AND next time I'm invited to go anywhere...I'll say... "Screw perfect timing...I'll be there!"

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Creative Juices

"Cooking is like making love, you do it well, or you don't do it at all."---Harriet Van Horne

WOW,  it has been a busy past couple of months...but I am very proud of what I (with help from my amazing family and friends) have accomplished.  At the end of August I finally completed the cookbook I started over a year ago.  It's actually a blessing that I didn't get it done as planned, for Christmas 2011, because so much has changed since then and so did the focus of the cookbook.  Santa Sara Ranch Family & Friends Cookbook isn't "all about me", as the previous one was planned to be...all my recipes, all my design, and all my credit for it's success.  If I've learned anything in the last year, it's that I can't do it all myself anymore...nor do I want to. 

I asked for help on this one, which is still hard for me to do, (A stubborn "I'll show you" streak wasn't quite knocked out of me.) but I did it because I had a deadline and I feared I wouldn't be able to make on my own.  I was right too!  There were three of us working on it, 36 recipe contributors, and quite a few early mornings and late nights to complete the last minute details.  WE did it, WE made the deadline and I'm so proud of how it turned out.  I also learned a few things and got some ideas for a "Volume II".  "Hey, Julia? Nan?...where are you going?"  LOL

I am also very pleased with the success I've seen with the cookbook so far.  I've only had the books on hand for 1 week and have already sold 116!   I ordered 200, praying that I wouldn't be stuck with 150 unsold books, and now I'm thinking I may have to reorder before the holidays :)  I can't thank you all enough!

The whole purpose of the cookbook (and everything I've done for the last six years) is to make good on two promises I made to Sara when I said my "goodbye".

#1)  I'll never let anyone forget you AND if they didn't know you, they will, by the time I'm done with them.

#2)  You will have a ranch in Wyoming!

Those promises are in the cookbook, along with her picture, her story, and the story of the ranch. 
You will all know her. 

Something that isn't in there, but I have to share, is that Sara greatly appreciated "fine dining".  (Hence the occasional gourmet recipe).  Her favorite restaurant was where we used to live, in St. Augustine, FL.  
Le Pavillion was a charming little restaurant that served French and Bavarian food that was delicious.  We always felt so elegant when we went there and ordered things like Duck Breast, Seafood Crepes, Veal Francais, Trout Almondine, Chocolate Mousse, Creme de Minth Parfaits and one of our favorites, Oysters Rockefeller.  She always wanted to take me there when she would get her check and "throw down mad cash", as she would say, on an awesome dinner.

So at least two of the recipes in the cookbook are reminiscent of Le Pavillion.  She would be so pleased :)

***To order cookbooks you can contact me at WyoCowgirl66@yahoo.com  The cost is $15.00 each, plus $3.00 shipping for the first book, $1.25 for each additional book.  Payments can be made via Paypal, check or money order. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

More Kindness Of Strangers

"Kind hearts are the gardens, Kind thoughts are the roots, Kind words are the flowers, Kind deeds are the fruits, Take care of your garden And keep out the weeds, Fill it with sunshine Kind words and kind deeds."----Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Today I had a very moving experience, in Goodwill of all places.  I decided to go buy a bunch of "broken in" hoodies, sweatshirts, and T-shirts, for the cooler weather and for wearing out at the ranch.  There were several people ahead of me in line and the slow moving, elderly, cashier allowed me time to observe them as I waited. 

The lady at the front of the line had a tiny dog in her shopping cart that she talked to the whole time her order was being rung up.  Behind her was a man, probably in his 30's, with long hair, and a crocheted stocking cap that almost looked like the ones that have the fake hair attached for Halloween. Between he and I, there was a young boy (maybe 9 or 10) holding a baseball and a batters helmet.  While we were standing there waiting, the boys mother walked by and asked "What are you doing in line?"  They boy replied, "I just want to ask how much this cost?"  His mother shot back..."You are not to buy anything!" and she went off to the back of the store.

In the mean time the dog talker had completed her transaction and it was time for the man behind her to check out.  He turned to the boy and said "You just needed to know the price of that helmet...go ahead of me".  The elderly cashier searched the helmet for a price and finally came up with $2.00.  The man in front of me said "add it to my bill" and bought it, plus the baseball, for the young boy who smiled from ear to ear and said "thank you!"  The man told the cashier to tell the boy's mom he had purchased it, if she asked, and he left the store.

I was up...and fighting back tears.  He was such a cute little kid, so excited about his gift, and actually grateful (something you don't see often enough).  The man was smiling as he left...probably the best $2.00 he had spent in a long time.  That $2.00 transaction made 3 people's day (maybe more, I was afraid I'd lose it if I made eye contact with anyone). 

As I was checking out, the boy ran with his gift to the back of the store to tell his mom.  I'm not sure how the exchange went but the next thing I knew the boy was running out the front door looking for the man, I presumed.  He was already gone. 

I was starting to get angry then.  Did his mother tell him he had to give it back?  Was she angry at him for getting something when she told him not to?  He didn't ask for it!  I was ready to head to the back of the store and give her a piece of my mind, if that was the case.

I walked outside I looked around for the boy.  I was relieved to see him sitting in the car, with another family member, holding his baseball and batters helmet...he looked happy.

I walked to my car, sat down inside, and I couldn't hold back the tears any longer.  I had just witnessed a tiny act of kindness that made a big difference in at least 3 people's day. 

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Farm Girl At Heart

As the farmer who won the lottery said when asked what he was going to do with his winnings,
"Keep farming until it's all gone."

Yesterday I went for a drive from Cheyenne down to Greeley, CO.  I always take Hwy 85 because I enjoy passing through the little towns and small farms along the way.  As I passed one particularly cute farm I started thinking, "why do I love these places so much?"  I didn't have to ponder the question very long.........

The photo above is an artists rendering of my grandparents farm in Shawnee, KS.  I believe it was here that my love of the farm began.  As a child we would spend Sundays there having barbecues, playing horse shoes, and spending time with my LARGE extended family.  The chicken house (middle) was the hub of the activity.  It no longer housed chickens and was converted into the central gathering place.  There was a patio out back where Grandpa manned the grill, the kids could be watched playing, and the adults could gather, seated in heavy, iron, tractor seat chairs.  I wasn't into playing games with the other kids...I was the oldest (a very mature 5 year old) and preferred being with the adults. 

I remember, one Sunday, walking the farm with my Great Grandmother.  I have no idea what we talked except that she was passing some sort of knowledge on to me.  I do remember though, very well, walking through  the grape vines that were growing there and eating some of the dark purple grapes.  To this day when I see Concord grapes at the grocery store I have to buy them.  They are like tiny purple farm flashbacks.

My mother grew up on this farm and I loved hearing stories of all the animals that were once there.  The hogs my uncles' raised, the horses they boarded, the rooster that attacked my aunt...I loved going into the empty barn and imagining what it was like when it was filled with animals.  Since there were none left, I would climb up instead on a sawhorse and pretend it was a real horse!  I dreamed of owning a horse before I ever saw a real one.

The farmhouse was big (it had to be to house my grandparents and nine kids) and was reserved for the fancier winter gatherings, like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Holidays there were amazing!  I had never seen so much food...the buffet was full, the table was full, there were "nibblies" spread throughout the whole house.  There was also family everywhere!  Every once in a while I'd have to sneak out to the front porch, for a little bit, to hide from a younger cousin that thought I was so mature and cool :)
Another farm that I visited as a child brings me fond memories as well.  My great aunt had a farm in Nebraska.  It was so peaceful there.  I remember going out to visit and being fascinated by following the chickens around and tossing them grain.  We gathered fresh strawberries growing in the garden and sat on the sun porch eating them with cream poured over the top, while drinking tea with mint leaves we'd picked, and watching a fox run across the backyard.  What's funny about that whole scene is I don't remember anyone else being there.  My parents?  Brother? Sisters?  I'm sure they were there, I don't think they drove to Nebraska and dropped me off but all I remember is the farm and how it made me feel.  It was the same feeling I had passing those farms on the way to Greeley.

I want to have that feeling all the time.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cowgirl Comes Alive

When I talked to Lewis the week before I told him about a cow carcass in the field behind my place.  He asked "does it still have the head on it?"  I said "yes".  He and I had the same thought...we wanted the skull for ranch decor.  I told him I thought it would  be cool on the fence post.
Lewis explained that he had gone to the person who's field he thought it was and asked if they would mind if he took it.  They said it wasn't their field but told him the people who own it are very old and let their son put cattle out there.  The son rarely comes out to check on them.  That carcass had been there over a year so Lewis decided it would be OK to go ahead and remove it.  He placed it on the fence post and said that would be the best place for it...at least until all the remaining hair etc. sloughed off. 
We chatted for a bit, he petted the dogs, and he parted saying "I'll leave you to enjoy the rest of your evening." I finished unloading our provisions (basically...dinner to cook on the grill, bottled water, and something warm and comfortable to sleep in) and fired up the grill.  Ranch night dinners are always the same, grilled chicken for the dogs (yes they're spoiled), steak and a foil packet of fresh veggies for me, and an adult beverage to wash it all down.  Finally, what camp out would be complete without roasted marshmallows for desert.  Patch LOVES them!

After enjoying our delicious dinner (everything tastes better outdoors) we all relaxed outside, our tummys full, our minds clear, and a gentle breeze refreshing us.  Just waiting to enjoy the sunset...

Once the daylight was gone we headed inside.  The high last night was supposed to be 50 degrees so I packed accordingly.  Layered in a t-shirt, sweatshirt, pajama bottoms, and 2 pairs of socks, I crawled under the covers with my two fur babies to read by candlelight before finally succumbing to sleep.  The only time my sleep was, temporarily, disturbed was right before sunrise by coyotes howling in the distance.

As usual, Patch, was the first to rise.  He woke me in his usual manner...nuzzling me and licking my face...his way of saying "I'm hungry woman, get up and fix me some food, I'm withering away here!"  We all got up and headed outside for a walk...I didn't even change out of my pajamas...I LOVE that there's no one around to say "hey, what's with the lady walking around in her pajamas?"  As we walked I listened to the birds that drew me to this place.

It was still pretty cold out and I was not in the mood to build a fire, just to make coffee, so I loaded the car, said goodbye to Little House, and we headed for home.   It was still early when we started our trip home and I saw much more animal activity than I usually do during my midday visits.  I passed 3 mule deer grazing in one of the freshly tilled fields.  Two jackrabbits darted out of the field of sunflowers (love those ears!).  There was the lonely Pronghorn (pictured above) just past the sunflowers who kindly stood still while I stopped to take his picture.  While I was taking his picture 7 more ran across the road in front of my car and he followed, disappearing into the horizon.  I also counted 3 Redtail Hawks. 

Seems I'm not the only creature that loves it here.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kindness of Strangers

"Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people - your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way".----Barbara Bush

I had several ideas of what I wanted to write about for this post, however, my experience today caused me to reflect on something that has changed me considerably over the last several years.  The kindness of strangers

Today I went out to the ranch to get away...and to take some photos.  I love the drive out there.  It's not too far, about 20 minutes, but it gives me time to unwind.  It's amazing how things change as I approach my exit.  The minute I head down the exit ramp I feel as if I'm transported back to a simpler time.  I pass by modest farm houses, barns that have seen better days and so many old cars and pickup trucks parked out front that you wonder "how many spare parts could one person need?"  One thing is consistent, no matter what they are doing, repairing a fence, carrying groceries into the house, or plowing the field...they will always wave.

The kindness doesn't stop there.  As I drove by one of my neighbor's house I got the wave, drove on by, parked my car at the end of the road and walked my property line.  I got clear to the back and climbed through a gap in the fence to photgraph a cow carcass that I had seen there a year ago (thought it would make an interesting subject for a photo).  On my way back I heard the hum of a motor, I looked up, and there was my neighbor mowing the overgrowth in the road to my property and making a clear turn-around path at the end of the road.  No one else lives that far down.  He did it just for me.  I tried to speed up my pace to catch him and thank him but he didn't wait, he mowed and headed home.  On my way out I stopped
at the end of his driveway and met him as he was parking the mower near his garage.  I said "thank you" to which he replied "I tried to finish before you saw me, just don't want kids to think no one goes back there and get into trouble".

He invited me inside to meet his wife.  She was just as pleasant as he was.  They were a nice couple, he was retired military, and they...like me...came to visit Wyoming and fell in love.  She offered me a drink (after they pulled their two overly excited Huskies off me) and showed me a Minnie Mouse quilt she had just made for a niece and a purse she was sewing from the leftover fabric.  "This", I thought to myself, "is how people should treat each other"..."always".

Things are different out there but I am in no way implying that it's not that way in town, or anywhere else.  I've experienced so much kindness in the last several years that I am almost brought to tears just thinking about it.  I don't know if it's because of all I've been through the last few years, or,  if I am just more aware of it because of what I've been through.  Either way, it has affected me immeasurably.

There were the visitors and staff at the hospital where my daughter was treated that have become family.
Co-workers that donated sick time, cooked Thanksgiving dinner for us, covered for me when I had to be out unexpectedly and served as caterers and clean up crew at Sara's memorial service. 
There is the riding instructor, who became a friend, and gave me a place to stay.  Photographers who made me feel beautiful again after my accident.  People I've never met in person, who have touched my heart, and have become some of my most valued supporters.  I know I'm still missing people but I want you all to know how much I value your support and kindness.

Most importantly, at least for today, I want to thank Lewis and Nancy for stirring these feelings in me.  Thank you both.  I can't wait to be your neighbor.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Change of Plans....Again!

"Men are all alike...except for the one you've met who's different." --- Mae West

First off, let me apologize for my lack of recent posts but since my tumble my already chaotic life has gone into a tailspin.  Plans have been made, and changed, so many times that I'm to the point where I just need a break!!!

The ranch dream, for one, is being put on hold.  I have decided to move to town for a while and to regroup. The dream is still there, and stronger than ever, but the reality is I don't have the energy to overcome all the obstacles that have come my way.  For now, my dream is to return to my own little place, spend time with my furry children, and to work (single handedly, lol) on overcoming my own self doubt.  For so long, my focus has been on doing everything by myself...I didn't want anyone else to share the credit for what I had accomplished...the accomplishments were mine!  That's yet another thing that was lost in the accident.  I don't want to do it all alone anymore.  The ranch is still my dream, but now there is more to it, I want someone to come home to (figuratively speaking).  I want to share my dreams...and my accomplishments.

Those of you that know me well, may think..."what is she saying?"  "Is she ready to settle down?"  The answer is "Hell no!".  What I'm saying is I'm tired of doing things on my own.  I'll give you an example.  Last week, as I usually do the week before Sara's bithday, I celebrated "All About Me Week".  A whole week of self pampering...massage, facial, manicure, pedicure and a couple of nights in a fancy hotel.  All the things that Sara loved...a celebration of her life.  The pamering part was amazing but, ultimately, when the pampering ended the reality was I went to dinner, happy hour, and back to my room alone.  As I sat at the table, having my complimentary margarita, I looked around...everyone else was paired (or at least grouped) up.  I thought to myself  "this sucks!  I don't want to do this anymore." 

What I want, is someone I enjoy being around who feels the same way about me.  It doesn't have to be a whirlwind romance, a "soul mate", or Mr. Marriage Material...all I'm asking for is someone who is looking for the same.  Someone who I could go away with for the weekend or simply sit around on the couch and do nothing with and be just as happy.  My only other requirement is that they aren't looking for the same with every girl they meet...I am a little old fashioned that way. 

I've had many friends, co-workers, and family members tell me to "give it up, you won't find what you're looking for" or my favorite "they're all alike".  I refuse to think that way.  Give up and you are assured to not find what you want.  I have to believe there is at least one person, who thinks like me, out there.