Ends and Beginnings…

On Sunday as I walked down the drive way of Bedlam Farm to my car I began to cry…

But that was the last day of the Bedlam Farm Open House in Upstate new York hosted by Author Jon Katz – that was the end. So much happened in between – and to think up until the minute I left home on my trek I thought I might not go. I do that. Its my opt out mechanism. The opt out comes from a long dance with an anxiety disorder. As an event approaches – an event like the Open House that I was looking so forward to  going to – I will become increasingly anxious and I will think of reasons not to go…or I will feel so bad physically I will cancel. But as much as those thoughts came into my head the more I willed myself to push them out. I was going to Bedlam.

I have had enough of my dance with anxiety and the fact that it has limited me. It still wins sometimes. There is still part of me trained by the beast but I am getting better at ignoring it. After I had cancer last year I realized that life is now. None of us have the promise of tomorrow and decided that I better get living. For me that sometimes comes harder than it needs to be – but it is my reality. Over the years I have learned a a lot about dealing with anxiety and much was from the man I hoped to meet on my journey to Bedlam Farm – Author Jon Katz.  Jon has dealt with his own fears and I learned from Jon that fear is a space to cross – a chasm to jump over. Get through it and there is love and accomplishment on the other side. I had to jump that chasm to get to meet the person who has inspired me so much over the last few years. I wanted to meet the people in the Facebook group he created (The Creative Group At Bedlam Farm)and I joined a few years ago. A group of incredible creative people that i am lucky to have come to know online- I wanted to meet them in person. (read the bloggers posts here).

I had cancelled the trip to the other Open Houses two times prior.  I was pretty tired for a while after radiation and I had nerve damage and then I got frozen shoulder and traveling in the car was a bear. It seemed like I might never feel good enough to trek to upstate New York to attend and Open House. Of course anxiety played a roll in canceling the trips and finally I realized maybe I wont ever feel 100%.  I realized that though my mindset was to get busy living i was still limiting myself waiting to feel a certain way.  I might be waiting for a long time and i might be missing out on a lot of life. So this past winter I decided to get on with it. I began doing more things and I realized the more I got out the better I felt. So I booked a Yurt at Grist Mill Campground and decided to head to Bedlam in June. And even know that demon anxiety tried to thwart my trip – I faced it -and off we went – my entire family on my journey to my Mecca.

The car trip on Friday was a little rough but entering Upstate New York and its beauty made it so worth it. We checked into our Yurt -which I will write more about later- and headed out for a bite to eat. I hardly slept that night and was thankful for the sounds of the stream that ran just behind the yurt.

I am not going to lie–heading down south from our campground to Bedlam Farm I felt the anxiety build as the GPS counted down the miles to our destination. Kevin pulled into a restaurant just up the road from the farm to get some bottled water. I sat in the car praying that the Holy Spirit would calm me down..and I alternated between the prayer and  rationalization that we could drive right on by. There was no pressure…I did not have to go. Kevin came out and joked that he tried to score me a little wine but they didn’t sell it to go. Actually I think he really wasn’t kidding. But I told him that I was going into this head on and I was going to enjoy myself. I knew that the big fear cloud in front of me was thin and I could just step right through it. And I did.

When I saw the farm for the first time it was like a dream but also there was so much comfort in it. I barely recall walking up the driveway to the house (except I told Kevin I knew the boy in the ATV was Tyler- a young man who has been a huge help to Jon and Maria- he has become quite the celebrity). I looked up the driveway hoping to recognize someone. I laughed to myself bc I had never met anyone (except Janell Tomas that morning at our campground- and I thought they hadn’t arrived yet)- so who was I really looking for? I know anyone from the Creative Group reading this will know who I might have been looking for- a beacon in the forest – a light that always shines…Lisa Dingle. (No it wasn’t Jon Katz bc I would be too nervous to just run up to him and hug him- which I wanted to do!) Lisa is an Admin for the creative groups Facebook world but she is also everyones friend.  She is an incredible writer and a warm person..How did I know this having never met her? Her writing exudes it..her encouragement to others in our group shines of caring and love. And lo and behold there she was there to greet me! A big hug and introductions the first 30 minutes are a blur. I got that hug with Jon and was touched by his attention on a busy day with many people coming and going. Ok I was a little starstruck– it might be Brad Pitt for you but for me it was Jon Katz.

I was engulfed in love from all the farmies (members of the Creative Group)that were there. So many hugs and smiles. I knew right away that I was meant to come – it was something that had been waiting for me – this visit. The first 30 minutes were surreal- I was in a dream bc I was on Bedlam Farm- the farm I had seen in pictures thousands of times. I am not sure why – maybe it was the fact I had seen the photos of the farm so often- but I felt so at home in the space. But more oddly I felt like I had known many of these people already -and perhaps I did- you can create connections online.

I listened to poetry, visited with the animals, watched herding – all incredible. But I wanted to meet the matriarch (I had to use that word lol) of Bedlam..Maria Wulf , Jon’s wife. Maria has been an inspiration to me. I have seen her grow creatively over the years and I have always admired her quiet strength.  Kevin didn’t get to chat with Maria as I did and wondered if she was shy. I told him I didn’t find her shy at all…she was easy to talk with. She may not have realized that I was a bit starstruck with her too – and when I get nervous I talk a lot (sorry Maria if I blabbed). Most people don’t realize I have anxiety bc I compensate by talking! Meeting Maria was sure a highlight for me.

I wanted to take in the weekend and I really tried to focus on absorbing it all. I tried to talk less-hard for me- and listen and observe more. I didn’t take a ton of pictures the first day. I left that up to my daughter Kamilla. I just tried to soak it all in. It was overwhelming for the first hour – meeting so many new people. I wanted to embed their faces and names in my brain – but don’t test me.

I was enamored with the animals and Red is amazing! I can see that Fate is going to be some dog- I look forward to watching her grow. The great things about the end of Saturdays Open House is that there is another one on Sunday. So it really isn’t over.  On Saturday we decided to follow others to the Bog (nickname for Foggy Notions Restaurant in Cambridge Mass.). How unlike me to just meet strangers out for a bite…but not strange bc these people weren’t strangers. I had met them all before just not in the flesh. It was familiar and comfortable and good. I sat near the Deborah’s (Glessner and Rahalski) I chatted with Doug Anderson. During the meal, I never felt weird or tongue tied (maybe that was the wine spritzers). My husband was right there and as always he was chatting away and enjoying himself. His support is really what helps me face my fears. He is truly the partner I was meant to have on this life’s journey.

On Saturday night the rain began. So no campfire and I was worried what that might do for the open house the next day. In the morning we all headed down to the Roundhouse Cafe and enjoyed a meal and fellowship with other farmies and Jon and Maria and some other folks from Blue Star Equiculture a draft horse rescue in Mass. The food was great and it was really cool to spend time in a place that Jon has shared on his blog for many years. The town of Cambridge, NY is very nice and I can see why one would be drawn to this community. I hope to explore the town more when we head back in October for the next Open House.

After we packed our car we headed back to Cambridge to see if the Open House was going to happen and sure enough it was. I was glad bc I was not ready for it to end. The rain held off and it was a great day. There were fewer people and that was nice as we could spend a bit more time chatting with Jon. I was able to buy some more wonderful things from Maria’s shop. I love Maria’s fiber arts and had to have another potholder.  I was taken by the batik work of Carol Law Conklin.  Rachel Barlow’s cartoons on magnets were a hit as was her Hoga necklaces (i bought two)I loved all of the artists showcased – there was so much talent there.

For me the weekend was about many things. Overcoming fear…living in the moment and connecting with people. Meeting all of the farmies was just wonderful and I want them to know that I so appreciate the way they welcomed me. I want to thank each of you by name but if I left anyone out I would feel bad…you know who you are and I send you a cyber hug of thanks and love. I look forward to meeting more farmies on my future trips to the Open Houses. I am not sure I can really ever put into words what the weekend meant to me. I know those that have made the journey for the fist time know the feeling.

Jon and Maria thank you for opening your home for this event. Jon I probably will never be able to really tell you how you have inspired me and made me think about things. Your open writing has helped me (and many others a lot). See I don’t have the proper words so I will just leave it there.

I will see you all in October – I will probably have to fight the anxiety demon some but he won’t win….

On Sunday as I walked down the drive way of Bedlam Farm to my car I began to cry….

These weren’t tears of sadness – they were tears of gratitude. It was the end….but it was also the beginning of something new and special. Making friends is not easy for me…but I feel like I made some new friendships and connections and I think this is just the beginning of more joys to come…

Thanks for reading…

 

Gallery

Unexpected places

The other day when my son had a soccer practice in our local park (Watkins Park in Mount Airy , MD.) my husband – Kevin- and I decided to walk around the park on their walking trail. It is a fun walk not too hard but some hills. They have a nice dog park and its fun to walk by and see all the different dogs romping around.  We had just about completed our loop around the park when we saw another opening to a trail. I had almost forgotten about the Rails to Trails project that our town is in the process of creating. This first leg of the trail in Mount Airy is completed and it took an old railroad line and made it into a hiking trail. We decided to head off down the trail to check it out. I only had my phone with me (shame on me for not being more prepared) but I think you will get an idea of what the trail is like. I loved the rocky cliffs and the old tracks. It ends up right in our quaint downtown and I think the plan is to expand it as money allows. It is really worth the hike and it is flat and cool and serene. It is a short trail but I can’t wait to see it when it has reached its full potential. Hope you enjoy the photos…

Thanks for reading….

Read more about the nationwide Rails to Trails effort here.
                                      

Finding a friend 

  

One day about three years ago I called a friend who breeds Golden Retrievers to see if she had some male puppies at her farm. I had been looking for an Old English Sheepdog. (OES). My OES Dave was getting pretty old and I thought it would be great to have another one after he left me. Dave was my heart dog. I mean we were so bonded. I was his charge. The thought of his being gone was very hard for me to think about. So I called breeders and looked at Rescues. My husband and I visited an OES rescue that we hoped would be a fit but when we met this giant rowdy dog we knew he wasn’t the guy.  I didn’t need another dog. We had five already. But 4 were getting pretty old. There would be a time where we would say goodbye to a number of these sweet friends (and that time did come). So perhaps I was rationalizing getting another dog by telling myself Lemon our youngest dog would need a friend to play with. But honestly I really was scared about losing Dave. 

I called my friend about the Goldens after I realized that finding an OES might prove to be hard. I had loved  the Golden mommas  I had met on a visit  to her farm. My friend said she did have some male pups ready to go in a week and she could show them to me that afternoon.  Something felt right about this so I told her ok. 

I wasn’t looking for another heart dog. I knew that those types of dogs don’t always come one right after the other. And my next heart dog was supposed to be an OES right?  But I felt like getting a friend for Lemon would be a good idea so going to look would be fun. I told Kevin – my husband- we were just looking but he knew better. He knows me well. 

We pulled into my friends farm and as we walked around the back of her house I saw a round area of small fencing filled with bouncing gold puppies.  My heart melted. Yes we were getting a dog. 

I wanted to choose the right dog. When we picked Lemon it was my kids who chose her and well she’s a great dog but let’s just say she has her quirks and I’ve learned a bit about choosing a puppy since then. So I thought I would pick each one up and see who allowed me to hold him. Can I turn him over? Make eye contact?  I stood looking at the puppies as we chatted about them for a few minutes. I watched them romp and play and roll and chew on each other. My friend asked me which pup would I like to choose first.  And I just knew. A little golden boy was laying quietly in the ruckus chewing a bone. I liked that he was calm in the storm.  I pointed to him and my friend pulled him out of the pen and in my arms he was placed. Oh holy puppy breath. I held him and looked at him for a second and then brought him up in to my shoulder in a hug and he proceeded to melt into my shoulder. No wiggling as might be expected from a seven week old pup. I pulled him away to look at him. He looked at me. Right at me. Eye contact.  ” he’s the one ” I said. My friend looked at me perplexed. Didn’t I want to hold any others?   I handed the pup to Kevin and walked over to the pen and took a look.  A cute little boy came over and I stuck my finger in and he licked me then nipped me. He was cute but I felt like I had found the right one for me. I stared a little longer. “Nope he’s the one”, I said. So he became mine. Or really it was the other way around. 

We named him Rudy after the movie about the Notre Dame football walk on.  His registered name is Rudiford Dempsey of Mount Airy. But that’s just a mouthful. I guess I wanted something fancy for the papers. Rudy quickly was part of the family after the old dogs got over their shell shock. But Rudy also decided it was me he was going to focus on. Maybe it was because I carried him around until he became too heavy. Maybe Dave told him he was passing the torch. But all of a sudden I had two heart dogs. You can’t get anymore lucky than that. 

Dave and Rudy would go places with me together until it became too hard for Dave to get in and out of the car. He went to the door less and seemed fine that Rudy was my co-pilot.  You see I have an anxiety disorder and Dave was my unofficial service dog. His precense calmed me in situations that made anxious. It was Dave and Rudy who saw me through cancer treatments -Dave on the floor as he couldn’t get on the bed anymore and Rudy laying by my feet as I rested. 

Dave lived almost 2 years after I got Rudy. He loved him. Chewed on his ears every chance he got.  I still don’t get that but it was sweet. I think Dave knew I was in good hands when he finally told me it was time for him to go. And I was. Rudy has been nothing but the best friend. He loves to play with his dog friends but I’m the priority. He has wiggled his way deep into my heart. I still miss Dave and writing about him still can bring tears but I have the best memories of him and I know to appreciate what I have now with Rudy. Rudy isn’t Dave and that’s good. I didn’t think I was ever going to be lucky enough to get another heart dog and I had two at one time. I never guessed that that little ball of puppy who was chewing quietly on that bone would turn out to be one of the greatest friends I would ever have. But it’s true. He is. And I’m blessed. 

Thanks for reading. 

 

on the beach

  

my friend grows up

  

our first meeting

  

young rudy in the garden

  

dave and rudy

Gallery

Piney Run Hike June 2015 

                                                                

Persistent ride…

Last Sunday was a beautiful day here in central Maryland. So I decided after returning from a Trek to the grocery store that I would ride my horse Harley. I got my stuff out. Lassoed my valiant steed ( really I just put the halter on). I brushed him and Airy ,my Arab, since she was hanging around. I gave Harley some treats for not being “girthy” (when a horse gets pissy when you pull the girth tight to secure the saddle. He once bit Kevin in the butt. ) We put Airy out in one field. I headed to the other with Harley walking along very nicely. That is until we got to the round pen. I made the mistake of deciding to mount in the round pen where there is grass. Lush grass which he promptly began eating. With his head down and me not having the strength bc of my bad shoulder to haul his head up and get on at the same time- mounting was going to be tricky! I was very proud that i still yanked myself up into the saddle bc about six weeks ago I found that I had gotten too weak. Well after much working out I was so happy that I was stronger. I pulled his head away from the grass and we were off!

Ah but once on I could tell Harley and I had different agendas! I wanted to ride him and he didn’t want that at all. It didn’t help that Airy was right in the next field eating grass. I have a gauge of how keyed up my horse is by how it feels to be on his back. When he’s keyed up or hell bent on getting his way his back is stiff and he holds his head up. He’s twitchy is how it feels to me. Harley was super twitchy that day. This could be an interesting ride.

We rode around in the round pen for a bit. The gate to the pen was open to the inside so we couldn’t really ride the rail. I decided to take him out of the pen into the field. He felt less twitchy. He wanted out of the pen as he had been attempting to point himself toward the gate while I was warming him up in the pen. So leaving the pen was easy. The problem arose when we got out of the pen. I was planning to go one way and Harley clearly wanted to go another way- back to the barn. This was not a good thing. This created a dance. Woman on horse as he dances sideways -woman trying to correct him by using leg and rein reminders and woman feeling like if we kept going sideways woman might end up on the grass. I decided to pull him in a small circle by using an open but direct rein. I might interject here that in dressage which is how I was trained the rein is used as a reminder- we don’t pull them to turn our horse- we use our seat and legs. So using a rein like this is a correction but sometimes it is needed.  Horses don’t like turning in small circles. My past riding instructor always said make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy. It’s pretty hard to go in one direction when your head is being pulled in another. When you go where I want Harley I’ll make it easy. Turning in small circles usually works but this time I had to add a little thwack with the crop but he decided my direction would work for him.

I hate when rides start out like this. It keys me up and I get frustrated. And I then wonder why he is being this way. But it’s not like he’s never done this before. It had been a while is all. So I got my bossy pants on and decided how I wanted this ride to go. I have found that with him my persistence usually pays off. But sometimes it takes a lot of persistence and patience. If I get mad then things go downhill. Persistence is not anger- it is asking over and over again for something until you get it. I have also learned from training my Arab Roy that once in a while things don’t go the way you are picturing it so it is best to back off and do something you know the horse will do and then end that ride or lesson. I did not was that to happen on Sunday but I was prepared for it. But I set off with persistence.

It took Harley a while to decide he was on board. His back was still twitchy. He wanted to break into a trot. A gait we don’t do much bc he is gaited horse. I decided to take him in a serpentine pattern as the changing of direction engages their brains. I then let him go into his working walk which is a smooth gait faster than a walk. He wanted to go his way again.

So it went like this : Oh I guess we are going in a circle again sir! Am I’m not being clear? “Ack” my negative word to him when he’s being naughty.  Ok sorry I’m going to tap you with the crop again. Oh ok now you hear me. Praise praise for doing the right thing. And on we went.

A few serpentines. 20 meter circles. Crazy eights. I kept picturing how I wanted the ride to be. I kept taking deep breaths to rid myself of tension. Somewhere in the midst of this Harley began his moaning. I don’t have another name for it. But when he does that he’s relaxing. He’s in the moment with me. Yay! I was able to give him some leg. When he was keyed up I didn’t put leg on him bc that may have ended up with him breaking stride or going too fast.  I spent more time praising him. I asked him to go around the entire field and he mistook that for us going back to the barn. But he didn’t need any real correction. It was more like he was saying “my bad I thought we were done “.  Back out into the field once more. Around once and down the centerline for a halt. Pretty solid. Didn’t want to hold the halt but that’s ok. We got through and lets end this on a good note. Out we went towards the barn on a loose rein.

After I ride I often think about what I can do better. ESP on rides like Sunday’s. I like that I had persistence and I put confidence out there. I didn’t like that I got frustrated with Harley right off the bat. I liked that we developed the connection during that ride despite the tough start.

I was reading comments today on another blog post by Maria Wulf about animals mirroring our emotions. I think I will think about this next time I ride.  Am I being impatient? Am I distracted? Am I conveying proper confidence? It’s so important to be aware and present when riding.  Sometimes I lose myself in thought or in non thought. But being present and calm and clear is so important to the connection we have with our horses.

I know I was centered after my ride bc I decided to clean all my brushes and reorganize the stuff on my shelves in the barn. I must have been on an endorphin high! For me it’s that zen feeling that I get during and after a ride that I crave. It may not have been a perfect ride but it gave me the perfect feeling. So I will take that any day…

Thanks for reading…

PS- I am not an expert level rider! I am maybe low intermediate. Riding is a life long learning experience and I know what works with my horse. Don’t take my solutions as expert advice! Have fun and be safe!

IMG_9814

I am looking away- probably looking for anything that would distract harley in the field beyond. He is actually semi-relaxed here…we were still in the round pen!

This is an example below of a horse who did not want to go the way I wanted him to go- see my face- see his ears? See my left arm? I have opened it up and am pulling him around.
  Here we are in a better frame and somewhat more relaxed.  Oops He did it again! I am leaning forward and beginning to open my left rein to pull him – look at is ears…clearly not on board with what I was asking – so I have to be more persistent. Make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy. He is a bugger sometimes!

What he doesn’t see – thank God!

My husband, Kevin, and I have the TV on all night long. We tend to wake up and sometimes have insomnia so it is nice to have the TV tuned to what we like to watch in the middle of the night. HGTV…I will say that Kevin does not watch much HGTV if insomnia strikes…he serial watches stuff on his IPad. But he defers to me and I get to have HGTV on 24/7 (unless we watch a little baseball or a movie). So I digress as usual… anyway since I am up sometimes after 4am I get to watch infomercials. I have seen a lot of them! I own many of the things I have seen. Hey they wear you down after a while. But i am the proud owner of a Ninja, a Nutri-bullet, a few Shark Vacuums, and recently the 21 Day fix which I will review at some point.

The infomercials have become like a clock for me. I know what time it is by what is on. Last night I found myself outside (yes out in the dark) trying to figure out why our ducks were quacking. I am figuring that it was about 3am bc of what show was on HGTV. I never looked at the clock. I came back in from checking (I had no idea why those big mouths were up last night but I set them straight and closed them up in the coop/run. – well today I suspect i know whey they were up- a chicken was outside the enclosure- she does this every day and then wants immediately back in after she jumps out.  Someone must have missed her last night a feed time and i did not see her until I went out this morning. – lucky she was still alive.) Look at that -I digressed again- I do that. I came back indoors and got back in bed and watched the end of Property Brothers..so it was before 4am. I did not see infomercials so I must have fallen back asleep and I woke to an HGTV show so that meant it was after 6:30am… who needs a clock?

colorful-crepe-paper3Anyway after having looked at a a zillion infomercials over and over they sometimes get stuck in my brain. This last one that has been on my mind was a product that gets rid of crepey skin. I think I wasn’t sure what crepey skin was but after seeing this commercial a dozen times I did realize that I freaking have crepey skin! Its all over me…I am turning into crepe paper! Like I don’t have enough to worry about with the wrinkles and the sags..now its crepe paper like. And I am not joking here I am serious- I now am aware of my crepey skin and I do not like it. So I did what I do when something is on my mind – I began researching the issue and told my husband.

Convo:

Me: I am trying to find a product cheaper than the one on the infomercial for crepey skin.

Him: What?

Me: I have crepey skin and I need it gone. I don’t want to buy the product on the infomercial bc I will get on some program where they keep sending it and then if you want to cancel,,,

Him interrupting: You don’t have crepey skin.

I know he has seen this infomercial so I know he must kind of know what crepey skin is. Do I dare show him my flaws? Of course I will bc I must prove to him that I do in fact have this problem. So I show him the crepe paper.

Him: I don’t see anything.

Me: What?!! I don’t understand how you cannot see that. (me pointing at the flaw)

Him: You must be looking at yourself from a weird angle bc I don’t see anything.

I have to say this made me laugh – he is so sweet/smart that he makes this crap up on the fly – so he doesn’t have to say he sees this flaw. It’s like when I ask if he can tell I gained weight. He just has to say no. I think he finds it a no win situation. And really- isn’t it?

So I went on my way with my crepey skin and forgot about it for maybe a few days. But somehow it came up again – maybe at lunch. I began lamenting about it and he just looked at me. I was like “What?” – maybe I had food on my face- I checked – nope.

He says” Why do women worry about this?” I mean come on he has his insecurities too but in his defense he rarely talks about them and he isn’t looking for any creams to fix them (ok he does buy protein powders to make him big and bulky- sorry Kevin.) But I suppose he does wonder why women in general worry about these things(or why I do). I looked at him and asked “Don’t you notice crepey skin on women?” (Not just me but others – I had to group us women together – safer for him to answer).

He looked me right in the eye and said “No I don’t.”  Well…hmmmm – I began to wonder if maybe men in general don’t really notice all the flaws we women see on ourselves or maybe they just don’t care about all that. Especially when those men love the person asking.

Kevin often says to me at the oddest times “You are so pretty.” I am like “eww I just woke up”, or “my hair is dirty” or “I don’t have makeup on”. I don’t often say thank you. I wonder why I can’t take the compliment. Maybe he really doesn’t see the flaws, the aging, the things I dislike (even hate) about myself.

Women are their own worst critics and women are critical of other women(but it is all done with love right?). I know men are visual but I don’t think they are looking at the same things we are. My husband only sees the good in me- he has always been that way. He made me feel worthy after years of feeling I wasn’t.  I used to think it was all luck.  But after years of feeling like I didn’t deserve the best I decided I wasn’t just lucky -at some point I decided that I deserved this wonderful person who thinks I am so good and who loves me as unconditionally as humans can- and who doesn’t see the flaws I so readily find in and on myself. I must say,  I am very happy for the things he does see and extremely grateful for the things he doesn’t see. Rose colored glasses? Maybe – but I will take it.

Thanks for reading…

PS- I am not forgetting I have crepey skin- nah – but I think I will keep using my coconut oil (no bad stuff in it) and will be adding Cocoa butter. Cheap solutions!