happiness

A History in Photos 12 (FGK 169)

Today marks 4 years since mom passed. I started sharing these stories last year in the hopes that I would get to understand her better, to know who she really was. I’m not sure I found what I was originally looking for, but this process has helped me in ways I never could have imagined. I was still feeling pretty broken in my own life from the challenges of recent years and I was seeking guidance and support, although I didn’t know that at the time. I think I have a better understanding of the strength and courage the entire family had to get through what they were faced with . Polio didn’t just impact mom, but her entire family. And the faith Grandma carried, the grace and humility she showed in her letters and memories have left me with gratitude for the incredibly strong line of women that I come from. The letters helped me see how Grandma was held steady by her faith in God during what must have been an unbelievably challenging time. It’s one thing reading the letters on this side of history – knowing that mom survived and knowing how things turned out. But at the time…. There would have been no way to know, no guarantees, and everything was just blind faith. As someone who really struggles with trusting that God has my back even when I can’t see it – this has been very comforting.

Look at how dressed up Grandma and Grandpa got to go visit mom at the hospital! And the garden in the background!! I remember as a kid playing with the snapdragons in this flower garden. It’s gone now, and there’s a deck near here – but I really miss the flowers growing along the side of the house. Grandma really had a green thumb.

Percy and Edna going to visit Margie who was in hospital
Margie and Len Carrol on the horse (I think this is “Slim”??)
Sheila, Margi, and Mother (Grandma/Edna)
Aileen, Sheila, Margie 1949
Sheila and Mother (Edna Copithorne)
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happiness

Edna’s Story 24 (FGK 141)

Grandpa was finding dynamite like he was hanging out with Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.

All through the years we felt a close tie between us and our neighbours, the Indians at Morley. We would contract fencing jobs to them all summer. In the fall they would often help us harvest. And in later November would often ride with the men to help round up stray cattle. I loved our Indian friends and felt I could always trust them. We looked forward to the first of July when they held their annual Stampede in the beautiful natural setting where they had built their corrals. What a magnificent picture to view. We would park our car on the hillside looking down into the corrals and beyond them the big circle of teepees and tents with their bevy of children, cats, and dogs. And back of it all were those glistening blue foothills leading up the Rockies. Where on earth could you find more beauty and activity? I always felt well entertained. My chickens were just nice fryers by July 1 and I always fried four or five along with a salad, cake, and sandwiches that would do us for the day. Mr Harry Jacques, the jeweller from Calgary, used to have a contest with a prize for the best-dressed Indian baby. He very often asked me to be a judge and I wanted so badly to give first prize to everyone there, they were so cute and the beadwork on the buckskin was beautiful. Our kids just loved the first of July and the Morley Stampede.

We always tried to get to Banff or Vermillion Crossing for a few days holiday and fishing just before haying. Once we went to Everett, Washington, USA and dug clams just as Percy did when he lived on the coast as a boy.

Shell Oil started drilling for oil all over this country in 1946. They really messed up our country and way of life, but only struck gas. We have several wells drilled on our land and what a scar they left when they were gone. The seismograph outfits seemed to take a delight in putting a scar across a beautiful wooded area. Sure we have fine gravelled roads now because of oil companies. Roads everywhere. You have a choice of either riding your horses down the gravel road and ruining its feet or risk a bad cut from a broken bottle in the ditch. And broken bottles were not the only hazard. One fall when Percy was riding his sharp-shod horse in the ditch, the horse’s hoof hit a round cylinder that looked like a stick of dynamite. He got off and sure enough there were two sticks of dynamite carelessly thrown there. In effect, some seismograph crew hadn’t time to bother to take it back to the warehouse where it belongs. The roads faced another big problem too. We were always plagued with a little cattle rustling, but it increased drastically after the oil companies built good roads into our summer range. One year about 1949 or 50 when we brought our cows and calves home from their distant summer range, there were ten cows without their calves.

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happiness

The Palomino Pillow

When I was a little girl, my grandma had the most beautiful pillow I had ever seen. It was all silk, black, with gold around it, and had this fierce looking palomino standing in the middle. It sat on her couch in the living room, a place where we were not allowed to go often. I used to sneak into that room, sit on the couch, look at the pillow, and dream of someday having a beautiful horse like that.

Those of you who know me, know that this dream came to fruition and his name was Pirate Gold – probably the best, craziest, most challenging, and most athletic horse I’ve ever known.

I had long ago accepted that this pillow would now only live in my memory. BUT as luck would have it, living in a house where no one ever threw things out has its benefits. Today while pulling out blankets that had been stored for decades, I found the pillow stuffed in the back of the closet.

It’s even more fantastically awesome than I remembered (and by that I mean it’s a bit gaudy, but still holds all those memories).

I feel sometimes like when we become adults we give up on our childhood dreams. What would my life have been like without Pirate in it? Dreaming of him brought him to my life, and he taught me how to be brave, how to have fun, how to be in the moment, and how to kick ass. I’m glad I didn’t know how to give up on dreams back then.

However, I’m discovering that it’s never too late to dig up old dreams and assess whether they belong in my present life. Going back to school last year for my Masters taught me that it’s never too late to create new dreams. Getting divorced taught me that it’s always possible to change the direction of my life and really decide who I want to be in the world and how I want to show up in it.

We all need our Palomino Dreams.

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happiness

Perfect practice or hit the wall

Years ago, one of the schools that I subbed at had a saying that it wasn’t “practice makes perfect”, rather it was “perfect practice makes perfect”.

I had a riding lesson earlier this week and it was awful. He doesn’t like to bend, and when we get into it he throws his shoulder out, his head up, and I lose him to the outside. What that means is that as I get to one particular corner, he won’t turn, and tries to mow me into the end of the arena.

Now to be fair, he’s broke to death and about the kindest horse I’ve ridden, so I don’t feel like I’m in danger, but as we are barreling towards the end of the arena my brain has panic moments.

My panic moments are really what screws me up – I start messing around with the reins and that makes things so much worse. I get focused on the end of the arena, instead of focusing on where I am at that moment and what I can do to change things.

So this lesson…. what we ended up doing was send Melissa and horse into the corner over and over ( and over and over and over) with my instructor explaining to me in various ways what I needed to do.

What I did was get frustrated. Like so frustrated I wanted to just stop and cry. I was like – I’m 49 years old. I’ve been riding since I was in diapers aside from the years I couldn’t ride when I was married. Why the f*ck can’t I get this well broke, well mannered horse to turn the damn corner??? So my instructor proved to me that I was wrong and that in fact, if I kept practicing and working I could do it.

You see, my corner issue comes from a lifetime of bad riding habits that I’ve picked up. Ones that were helpful to me when I was riding less broke horses, but really are just getting in the way of me being able to have a good ride now.

Much like life. I have some old habits that I’ve developed that were needed to keep me safe when I wasn’t. But that now are kind of getting in my way.

It’s hard to let go of old habits. Particularly when they’re ones that were developed to keep you safe.

However, if I want to enjoy the horse I’m riding NOW, I have to develop new, better, healthier ways of riding.

If I want to enjoy the life I have NOW, I have to develop new, better, healthier ways of living.

And this is where perfect practice comes into play. Practicing over and over – whether it’s on horseback or in life. Practice, practice, practice to change the old habit and replace it with a new one.

Over and over, until the skill is mastered.

Then a new challenge will present itself and I will start again with that one.

The wild beast – as you can see he’s a gentle soul and omg I love him.

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Don’t panic

I had the most amazing thing happen to me today. I was heading out to catch my horse for my riding lesson and was thrilled to see him standing by the gate looking (I thought) intensely happy to see me. And perhaps he was, but not in the way I thought. I opened the gate and went to catch him, when he turned away from me and started walking towards the shelter. Usually, he is very easy to catch, so not being totally sure what was going on, I told him to stop, grabbed at his blanket, and tried to make him stay with me. He was having none of it and just kept calmly but stubbornly walking towards the shelter.

As soon as we got beyond it, he stopped and I could see why he’d brought me there. A horse had rolled under the fence and was completely trapped on his back with all four legs stuck in the fence. Fortunately, he was lying there calmly, but it was pretty bad and he desperately needed help. The other two horses were standing quietly beside him, almost like they were encouraging him. I called my instructor and she came out, cut the fence, and we tied and rolled the poor dude out. As soon as he was on his feet, he shook himself and wandered off completely fine.

I’ve never seen a horse behave like this, the horse I went out to catch absolutely saved this guy’s life, and it was done very intentionally. The other horses were so calm and I think helped the one that was down stay calm as well. It’s a good reminder that no matter what, panicking won’t help the situation.

 

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happiness

Change the voice in your head

The last week or so I’ve been feeling really ungrounded and dealing with a lot of unwanted voice chatter – old tapes replaying things in my head. I know it’s in part because of recent issues I’ve been dealing with regarding Mr. X, it brought up a lot of the old crap that I’ve buried or not dealt with. And while I know I need to deal with those old emotions, I find the tapes on endless replay in my head difficult to handle.

I think most of us have some version of this – old things that someone has said to us that we say over and over. They may say it one time, or a few times, but we say it to ourselves millions of times and that causes a lot of damage.

I had my riding lesson today. As I was struggling with transitions, my instructor pointed out that I needed to get rooted and that I had to stop reacting to him jumping around – she said that I was using old reactions to deal with present problems and that wasn’t going to work. She actually stopped me and said it was like I had old tapes playing in my head of how things used to be and that wasn’t going to help me at all in my present situation.

One thing that she said that was really helpful – on my horse and in life- was when things start to go wrong not to get all tense and upset and expect myself to be able to get back  into balance immediately. She said “I don’t care if it takes you one or two times around the circle to get yourself back together, just as long as you don’t let yourself get rattled, you stay present in the moment, and you keep working at it. Let go of that old tape and use the new skills I’ve taught you.” Proof that how we do one thing is how we do everything. I’ve learned new skills riding, and I’ve learned new skills in life. Now the trick is to remember to apply them.

And that was exactly what I needed to hear, on my horse and in my life.

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And canter

It may sound stupid but after 20 years off of riding and then a big wreck a couple of years ago I’ve been scared to canter.

One of my favorite childhood memories is galloping across a field at the ranch praying my horse didn’t trip in a gopher hole. Even a couple of years ago I was cantering around in one of the fields with my Drishti. that feeling of freedom – there’s nothing like it.

There is that saying that you need to get back on your horse as soon as you fall off. There’s a reason for that. I did get on about a month after, but it was over a year before I could really ride again. Too long to let fears sit.

But the great thing about being human is that not only do we hurt, but we also have an amazing ability to heal. When placed in a safe, loving environment where you can trust and depend on those around you, it’s possible to heal from almost everything.

And so I cantered.

Not well, not elegantly, but I did it. And I’ll do it again. And every time I do it I will be stronger and better. Sometimes it won’t be graceful, sometimes it won’t feel like I know what I’m doing. But I’ll keep doing it. Because that’s how we keep healing.

I thought I was broken, but I think actually we are unbreakable. Sometimes we just need help to heal.

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(Don’t) stop and collect yourself

I had a riding lesson today. I was tired, I had a crappy night sleep and I’ve got lots on my mind, but horses are my therapy and I knew I needed the healing time.

I was having a hard time holding him properly in the trot. On one transition I felt totally unbalanced, and basically like I was riding like a sack of crap. I tried to right it, felt myself getting off balance, it felt sloppy, I was annoyed with myself that it wasn’t going how I wanted, so I pulled him back to a walk.

My instructor got after me see, you dropped him and he fell into a walk. I said no, I’d felt like it was all falling apart, I couldn’t get it together, so I asked him for the walk so I could stop and get myself together.

She said you don’t get to stop to get it together, you need to get it together while you keep going. YOU ARE NOT A NOVICE AT THIS. The only way to actually get where you want to go is to keep pushing ahead.

And I was like

You have no idea how badly I needed to hear that.

My horse may be my therapy, but my instructor is like my life coach.

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Leg on

Because I never know where life is going to take me, for the last couple of months I’ve been taking dressage lessons. That was always on the bottom of riding disciplines I wanted to learn, and to my surprise I freaking love it.

But I’ve been having a really hard time with leg aids. Or to put it in simple English, i can’t make the damn horse move. It’s been driving nuts that I can’t seem to get my leg to understand how to move in a way that my horse understands. But no matter how hard I worked at it I wasn’t getting results.

Well today, by trying less hard and feeling the process, I was finally to understand how to make the damn go button work. I was so excited. It sounds like such a simple little thing, but it was a difficult thing for me to understand.

Like with most things, once I just surrendered and allowed to feel, I was able to get it.

I’m feeling quite accomplished.

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Facing fears by asking for help

Those of you who know me know that I have a tendency to be a little stubborn. I come by it honestly as there is a long and strong stubborn streak that runs in my family. It’s like a superpower and when it’s used for good it is unbeatable and creates some amazing results, but when it’s used for evil it can be pretty destructive (almost always destructive for myself as opposed to other people).

I’ve been having issues with my horse as many of you know. But in truth I’ve been having issues with myself not my horse. It’s been a year since I fell off and although I’ve been on him a few times, I’ve not really enjoyed it and basically been scared shitless. It has come to the point where I need to face my fear or get rid of my horse.

I don’t like giving up on things. That’s part of my stubborn streak. However, in the last few years I’ve learned that sometimes it’s not just better but essential that I walk away from certain things.

I have a friend who has stepped up and is helping me with my Drishti issue. He likes my horse and he’s known me my whole life, and he’s kindly jumped in and given me a hand starting to get my confidence back. He came out today and rode my horse so I could see that Drishti isn’t some crazed beast, but rather a horse with energy who has had a year off. 98.654% of the issues I’m having are because I spent too much time in my head getting freaked out.

But horses are my passion and I’ve waited years to have one back in my life. I got to the point where I had to ask myself what I wanted more – to not be afraid or to ride.

I want to ride.

So today after my friend rode my horse, I rode my horse. Not elegantly or well. In fact it took me about 10 minutes to force myself to get on, and then he had to lunge me – so I felt like I was safely on a leash – before he let us go free in the ring. But we did it. And I made myself ride until I no longer felt like I was going to crap my pants or throw up (I’m so elegant).

Everything I know about being brave I’ve learned on the back of a horse. The back of a horse then can’t be the one place I fear to be. It just can’t. Asking for help was the only way I could begin to face this fear. The problem with being stubborn is often I don’t ask for help when I need it. I’m slowly learning that we need each other to get through this life, and if we don’t ask for help people usually don’t know that we need it.

And so the journey begins. Being brave enough to ride will make me brave enough to continue to face whatever life throws at me. It’s my passion, but it’s also my greatest learning tool. That is a huge step on my happiness journey.

Here he is going cowboy style while I watch

The next stage is allowing him to help me.

And finally trying on my own while he watches.

None of this could have happened if I’d stubbornly plowed ahead myself and not asked for and allowed for help.

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