Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tribute To Skipper

After a day like today, I feel like some appreciation needs to go out to one particular palomino gelding named Skipper. If none of you mind.

Skipper belonged to a rather well off family here in my area way back about 25 years ago. He walked in a class and came out with blue ribbons. He worked hard for them and always made it seem easy. He has babysat more of our youth in this area than any horse I know. He was kind, loving, probably more so than most people I've met. When Skipper retired, he was sold for a mere $300 to the girls next door from me. I would go out to feed my horses and Skipper would stand at the fence and watch. He has had his fair share of aches and pains over the years and of course he was the last one of the herd to shed out his winter coat. Once he did, he shined! He was a horse that anyone could ride and everyone wished they had 100 of.

Early this morning, I received a call from the girls asking me if I would bring over some syringes and needles as Skipper wasn't feeling well and they wanted to get the banamine out. It was too early to get hold of the vet. By the time I got over there, another friend had already given him a shot and he stood with his head low and was still in a lot of pain. We recounted his wonderful career and his 28 years on this earth. It was with a very heavy heart but in his best interest that they made the decision to call the vet a few hours later and have Skipper put down. He was old and tired and had a great life here on earth. I watched from my barn as Sherry walked him down the path between their pasture and mine and every single horse called to him and lined up at the fence as he took his final walk to the back of the woods. Not because they were upset, you see but because Skipper was a legend and they wanted to give him his due.

I recalled all the times I stood in awe as he beat our horses in class after class over the years and how angry my daughter would get because she couldn't beat that horse. He was the horse that every other horse aspired to be. When he retired, he had such a wonderful home with people who loved him.

I awoke yesterday after a hard rain to find one perfect flower in full bloom in my garden and I think God put it there for a reason because it seemed fitting that such a perfect horse should get this perfect, beautiful flower in tribute to all he has accomplished in his life. I wrapped it in white daisies and lay it on Skipper's grave this afternoon. So all of you horse people, please keep Skipper in your thoughts today and also Mary and Sherry for loving him enough to make the most difficult decision that we ever have to face.

The view from the back of my horse is Skipper...God has one more perfect gelding in his herd.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Finding Comfort

Life can be stressful but there are ways to find comfort and peace. Sometimes it comes in the form of a sunny beach and a cold drink and a cababana boy seeing to your every need but lets get real.

Comfort comes in many forms and sometimes the simplest things can renew your soul if you just learn to relax. Walking out to the barn and watching the horses run as you release them into the pasture. A hot cup of tea and a purring cat sitting in your lap. Waking up to sound of your loved one breathing deeply as they sleep next to you. The sun coming out after a storm. Sitting in the garden pulling weeds while you admire the new growth and the flowers blooming. A deep breath.

The best comforts are the ones you give to those around you. Since my daughter got sick, I found that when she gets to that point where she really can't keep anything down, I see it coming and I start baking. Banana bread is her comfort food so I make two loaves. One for now and one for the freezer. I also bake cookies and freeze them in large ziplock bags and when its time to go to the hospital, I grab them on the way out the door. In one year, I lost both my dad and my brother and when Joe, my brother was ill, I used to go visit him in his resident room and bring the ipod with me. I would put the ear buds in his ears as he slept and play his favorites for him. My dads favorite song was Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain and he loved Patsy Cline so that is what I played for him during those last few hours and it took him to a better place than the fear of dying.

I find comfort in giving comfort to others even if it just little things. I allow my daughter to go shopping in my closet when she is feeling down because she used to love to shop before money got so tight. I write to bring comfort to others and I measure my success by emails I recieve telling me that it made a difference in someones life. So the view from the back of my horse today is comfort and giving it to others and what a difference that it makes in changing the world. So today, I ask you to not only try to find comfort for yourself but offer it to someone else. Bake a bread, donate to your favorite charity, a hug, a compliment, a smile. It doesn't have to be a huge effort but rather a small gesture. Take a box of milk bones to the local animal shelter, brushing your horse offers comfort to him as well as to yourself. If someone calls you with a problem, you don't have to make it your problem but listen, take the time to give them a shoulder to cry on and then tell them you love them.

I think comfort is the key to putting our world back on its axis. It also makes the best gift I can possibly think of. Have a good day today and go in search of comfort for yourself and those around you.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Four Letter Words

Hmmm. I know a lot of four letter words and lately I have used most of them in very creative ways. I certainly have used them more often than usual lately but I always try to replace them with four letter words that aren't quite so abrasive.

Hope...This one is a favorite of mine although I find that I am losing this one. I try and open my mouth to say it and the strangest thing happens. I am finding that I can no longer form the word.

Cash...shoot! That one was gone a really long time ago. I dont even say that one out loud in my head anymore.

Cure... Still holding out for that one. That is where hope comes in most often.

Liar...The worst kind are the ones that look you straight in the eye before they dare to lie to you. I avoid that one all together.

Help...I used to have a lot of trouble asking for this one. I was always better at offering it. Circumstances have sure changed that. Now that one seems to have several exclamation marks after it.

Luck... Hahahahaha! Sat down this weekend to have a relaxing meal with my husband at the glass topped patio table and it shattered into a million pieces. We decided it was symbolic of our lives lately and have decided to call in an exorcist. Yes, it has come to that.

Mail... UhOh! Now this one frightens me a lot!

Love...still have this one so things can't be all bad, right?

I noticed that with horses, there are a lot of great four letter words from our four legged friends...walk, trot, whoa, lope, back, slow, easy, see? Now there have been times when I have used some of those less accepted four letter words when riding but not usually. I also noticed that horses never lie to us. If they are going to do something evil they just out and out do it, like bucking or rearing, etc. They never tell us one thing and then do another. They leave that up to the humans in our lives. Are you by chance seeing a pattern here today? Thats right, someone I thought I could trust actually looked me right in the eye and lied to me. Well all right it was on the phone but still.

She said, "tell me whats wrong, I want to help". I fell for it and as soon as she hung up the phone, she used what I told her to start trouble between myself and someone I dearly love. A horse would never do that. Horses don't gossip, don't share secrets, do not betray your confidence, they don't pretend to be your friend and then make your life more difficult. I can tell you that when the exorcist is called, she will be one of the evil things that is forever removed from our lives but first I have a few four letter words for her that I will just keep to myself until the time is right because people like that tend to hang themselves without any help from anyone else and me, I prefer to keep my heart as pure as possible and concentrate on the love. The view from the back of my horse today is the four letter word and all of its many uses. Keep the bad words only in your head and keep the big haired women with way too much jewelry in your rear view mirror. Be true to your friends but stick to the four legged kind.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

By Tena Bastian

I give my life for your life
I give my strength for your day today
My family goes on without me
So that yours can stand up and say...
I am proud to be an American
There is no other country where I would ever be
The sons and daughters, the sisters and brothers
Our sacrifice comes down to me
The soldier who fought for freedom
and the mother who sits alone
Holding in her hand, the letter
That says I did not make it home

I give my life for your life
I do this without regret
I only ask one thing of you
That none of you will ever forget
How priceless is this freedom
To young and old, rich and poor
That all of you live your life to it's fullest
And remember what were fighting for
Not just today but every day
Pause for a moment and bow your head
For those who stepped up and offered their service
And for the wounded and the dead.

I give my life for your life
As does every soldier in every war
On American soil or in a distant land
If I can ask just one thing more...
May God bless the wounded soldier
May he bless and keep those close to him now
May he watch over the ones who stand at arms
And help them find their way home somehow
May you keep them in your thoughts and prayers
May the fighting someday cease
Because I give my life for your life
But I also pray for peace.

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY. Please keep this going by forwarding it today to everyone in your life. In honor of those who fight for freedom and pray for peace, of their families who make the ultimate sacrifice, THANK YOU!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

To See Her Ride Again

To See Her Ride Again
By Tena Bastian

When she was ten years old, she decided to go compete at the State Fair and although we felt she was way out of her league; her father and I decided to support her in her effort. Jennifer was up before the sun and ready to work. Before my eyes were fully open, I could hear her running into my room dressed in her pajamas and cowboy boots begging me to get up and help her saddle her horse. She knew there were chores to do before riding but she didn’t care. She would run through the barn with flakes of hay and scoops of grain and she would brush her pony and stagger as she tried to maneuver the wheelbarrow down the long hallway of the barn so we could clean stalls. By the time most people were just getting out of bed, she had finished all of her chores and was in the arena riding her pony. It was summer and all I wanted to do was to sleep in.

It wasn’t always a good ride but she kept trying as she was determined to go to State and the only thing between her and her dream was to be good enough to qualify and she knew that would not be an easy task. There were days when she was frustrated because she couldn’t get Checkers to pick up the correct lead or give her a smooth transition but she kept trying. I remember one day in particular when she got angry, dismounted the pony and handed her to me. With arms crossed and a defiant look on her face she exclaimed, “I am not getting on that horse again and you can’t make me!”. Tears running down her cheeks, she stood there defiantly as I walked her horse to the gate. “WAIT!”, she said as she realized I had no intentions of making her ride. “Please wait!”, she begged. She would start again.

With a lot of work, Jennifer qualified for the State competition and we loaded her horse and headed to Columbus. She didn’t win, she didn’t even place in her class of 63 horses but she went. The following month at our county Fair, she took Grand Champion in her class and watching her ride to perfection made me cry with joy. Jennifer continued to ride for several years with every bit of enthusiasm until one day when she was about seventeen years old, things changed. I woke before she did, I had to fight to get her out of bed in the morning. Her little cowboy boots gathered dust in the corner as did her saddle and eventually she sold her horse that had replaced the pony that she rode to victory at Fair. Her personality began to change and she didn’t feel good most of the time. She struggled and we knew something was wrong.

After a lengthy hospital stay, the doctors confirmed our fears as they diagnosed her with Crohns disease, a debilitating disease of sometimes epic proportion that disrupts the immune system and for some unknown reason, begins by attacking the gastrointestinal system. It also leaves the body vulnerable to viruses, bacteria and even cancer. Jen slept a lot in the beginning and suffered from vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. She barely had the strength to go to the barn much less ride anymore and missed so many college courses that she lost her scholarship and eventually had to stop attending all together. The initial hospital visit was followed by many others and the light in her eyes began to fade. The little girl who had lived to go to the barn, was now frail and sad and sick and slept all the time. The tears of joy that I had shed at the sight of her riding her pony had become tears of sadness and fear and they flowed more often than not. After a lot of research, we decided to drive her to Chicago to see a doctor who specialized in the disease and Jennifer would begin giving herself shots in her stomach that the doctor felt would get her back on track. The problem was that this medication along with the ones that accompanied it would not only suppress her immune system more but we were told that having children would not ever be likely. To Jennifer, this was not a priority at this point in her life however to me, the thought of it broke my heart. My daughters had brought me such joy in my life and the thought that she would never experience a ten year old in pajamas and cowboy boots jumping on her bed at the crack of dawn broke my heart beyond belief.

The medication worked and Jennifer experienced what they called a remission of sorts and we had such hope. She wasn’t strong enough to ride again but she smiled and she could stay awake for more than a couple hours a day. She met a guy and just as their relationship began to blossom, her father had a stroke, followed by another, then another. Then it was discovered that an infection was causing his strokes and apparently it had also infected his heart. Jennifer put the relationship on hold and instead, stayed by my side as her dad underwent two open heart surgeries to replace both valves and insert a pacemaker. For over a year, she stayed in remission and helped me care for her dad and one day, she reconnected with Mike, the young man she had met and they became very close during the time shortly after her fathers recovery. In October of the following year, two very important events occurred. Jennifer and Mike were married and Jennifer went out of remission. She was sick again and as I watched what should have been the best year of her life interrupted by constant hospital stays, my heart ached for both of them.

Her health worsened until one day after about twenty some hospital stays in one year, I decided to track down the doctor from Chicago who was now at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. I packed the car and drove Jen about ten hours to the Mayo clinic on donations from friends and credit cards. They admitted her. I only had enough money to stay for three days and get her settled in and then I had to drive home. It was the first time I ever had to walk away from her when she was sick and I cried through Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana before reaching the Ohio border. The further away I got from her, the more my heart broke. Her husband, who was dangerously close to losing his job because of all the time off he had taken during her illness, drove out to get her. That was three months ago and twice since, she has had to be admitted again.

We don’t know what the future holds at this point, none of us ever do but we are sure of one thing… wishes are horses. We have heard that said and we believe it to be true. For Jennifer and for her dad, their illnesses have not gotten the best of them and I believe that the horses in our life somehow keep things from going too far astray. Their love of horses keeps them strong and for me, they give me inner peace. If wishes are horses, my one wish now is to see her ride again. To somehow find an answer to this disease, a real cure. The doctors say that her dad can never ride again with the damage that has been done to his heart and on some level he has accepted that. I can’t tell you what I wouldn’t give to see Jennifer healthy and happy and beside me for just one more ride. To feel the way I did when I would hear those little cowboy boots come running into my bedroom to jump on my bed and beg me to get up so she could ride. I often think about those days in the first few minutes of the morning before I get out of bed and I listen for her but it is quiet. That pony is long gone as are most of the horses that graced our pasture back then. Jen is grown up and married and continues to fight this horrible disease but oh what I wouldn’t give to see her ride again.

Note: Read more about this family in an article by Holly Clanahan in the June issue of Americas Horse magazine.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

But the Good News Is...

Ok, so I didnt win the mega millions as I had planned but the good news is... it only cost me $1.00 to take a shot at it. After my last blog, I recieved an interesting phone call from a stranger from Nebraska who simply asked me "How do you do it?" I said "Do what?" "All of it!" she said. I laughed. She had been reading my blogs and had the skinny on the hectic mess our lives have become and she looked under contact on the web site and just picked up the phone and called me. It was a good conversation with a perfect stranger. Neither of us left with any more insight than we had when I answered the phone but it was just a good conversation between two horsewomen. Both mothers, both with a sense of humor and both needing a good laugh.

Here is the matter what happens in our lives, no matter how difficult or even totally bizzare in my case, things get, when you repeat it to anyone or even just go through it in your head, add "but the good news is..." to the end of each sentence. Then reach really deep inside yourself for something to follow. It doesnt have to be something as big as ...I won the mega millions jackpot or they found a miracle cure for cancer but it has to be something positive.

This is where hope comes in when everything else is falling apart around you. No matter what you lose or how bad things are going, you still have hope and if you remember to add that to your sentence and to your thought process, that hope is yours to keep and no one can take it away from you. So even the worst of situations hav e a light at the end of the tunnel that is not a train. Lets try it out, shall we?

I ran over a dog this morning but the good news is... it wasn't my dog!

See, that wasn't so difficult. Heres another.

I recieved a foreclosure notice in the mail today but the good news is... it was addressed to my neighbor.

Of course I am kidding but the point I am trying to make is that the only thing standing between myself and the nervous breakdown I so richly deserve is a sense of humor. That and any trace of a positive attitude I can manage to hold on to are mine to keep. Thanks for the call Anita, my new friend from Nebraska. Best of luck with your new foal.

The view from the back of my horse today is Anita and Holly Clanahan from Americas Horse magazine, this writers favorite writer. She has taken on the task of telling our story in the upcoming June issue of the magazine which will be in the mail in the next couple weeks. Life may be difficult right now but the good news is... I have people like Anita and Holly in my corner.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How You Know When You're Having a Bad Day

I bought a lottery ticket yesterday. Doesn't it just seem like there are some days that go so terribly wrong that you just feel as though the luck your having can only get better? That was yesterday. Jen admitted at the Cleveland clinic and doing yard work to keep my mind off it. It wasnt my turn to take her and in order for everyone to keep their sanity, you have to let others take turns.

So here I am with the weed wacker taking out some of my anger on those darn dandelions and I am covered in grass, still in my pajama pants and a yellow shirt. My hair being held back by my sunglasses. I am sweaty and dirty and I have to drive over and walk Jen's dog. "No one will see me" I think to myself as I drive the 15 or so miles to her house when my cell phone rings. It is my husband. "Honey, I can't feel my left arm, it's numb so I think I am going to the hospital", he says. Smart man. When you have his history of heart issues and two metal valves and a pacemaker keeping you alive, you dont ignore a numb left arm. So I tell him I will meet him there and head for the hospital. A different hospital, two hours from the one Jen is in. So I get there first and walk into a crowded waiting room full of people waiting to be seen and quietly walk up to the counter and say, "You have a possible heart attack walking through the door at any minute and he has two metal valves and a pacemaker and has had three strokes and two open heart surgeries". She takes notice and asks, "How old is he?" I say 50. She says "Pardon me?"

Bear arrives and he is calm but none too hapy about seeing the inside of another emergency room. They take him right back and the nurse comes in with a form. She says, "Any medical history?" Haha! All I can do is laugh because she has no idea so I begin. My daughter Dusty walks in and sits beside me. The list goes something like this...
Subacute Bacterial Endocardidis
Two back surgeries
Two cages and four metal screws
Three strokes
Open heart surgery
A second open heart surgery three months later
Two metal heart valves
A pacemaker
She says..."Is that all?"
I say..."Oh yeah, then he was struck by lightening"
Dusty chuckles and Bear is over getting an EKG. The nurse looks at us out of the corner of her eye and says "You're kidding right?" Like I havent heard this before.
"No, I am not kidding", I assure her. She continues the questions, the doctor comes in and says, "Are you kidding?" looking at the chart. "Nope".
We wait our several hours for tests and results and one room down, a young drug seeker is screaming obsenities at the top of her lungs. My cell phone has died so it is in the car charging. I am leaving a trail of grass everywhere I go and Bear still can't feel his arm. The results of the tests have come back and show nothing. Now keeping in mind that the tests showed nothing after each of the three strokes and he had a piece of infectious material sitting on his heart valve while pieces were breaking off, going through his bloodstream to his brain and causing the strokes. I am not reassured by the test results but they sent him home and said it was neurological. Possibly a pinched nerve but they dont know for sure. Uh oh, sleepless night coming. So covered in grass in my dirty clothes with my sunglasses holding my hair back, I walk into a carryout, dig out $1.00 in change which was about all I had and buy a chance at the mega millions jackpot. I have never bought one before in my life but after a day like this, my luck is bound to change.

Soooooo, the view from the back of my horse is the trail of grass I left behind and the look on the poor nurses face as Dusty and I recited the list to her. Here is to Bear who wonders if he willever feel his arm again. Here is to winning the mega millions and paying off some medical bills and getting caught up. Here is to someday being able to breathe and not having to worry. Heres to poor Jen who is back in the hospital for like the forty seventh time this year and here is to anyone who actually reads my ramblings here in this blog. It is excellent therapy. Last but not least, here is to the srug seeking screaming maniac girl at the hospital, may she find peace or at the very least some soap to wash out that foul mouth of hers.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Same old song and dance

Admitted Jen back in Cleveland Clinic. Prayers please?