Wild horses

I did not know they would be out there. I decided to go on a little adventure and trek out way past where I normally go in my wheelchair. It was a gravel path that was incredibly painful to go on and I kept hoping that the pain that it would cause my body would somehow be rewarded once I got around the corner, and there they were. Not only were they in the perfect lighting but also in the yellow wildflowers. No one was out there but me. 3 people passed by at one point but for 45 minutes I was there alone with them. The wandered closer than I’d ever seen them, so close, I kept backing up. I took over 300 photos and then I stopped and just watched them. I love to watch this family of wild horses. They wander over thousand of acres at Payne’s prairie and it is a gift and a blessing to be able to see them out and about near humans. Usually they can be seen at the observation stairs that are 6 flights high that allow you to look out over the thousands of acres. I’ve only done that once and my husband had to carry me up and the horses were way out there with bison which was breathtaking but not was close and personal as being eye to eye with them like I was here. They were eating the yellow flowers and grazing and nuzzling with each other. Two of the mares are pregnant. Normally most of my photographs are grainy or dull or not enough lighting and I have no idea how to fix that and don’t want to use filters which to me, alter the realness. So I was thrilled they were in THIS lighting because it makes it look like I’m just a great photographer but really it’s all in the sun and the subject!

It was a beautiful day and I was able to stay mindful and present and joy every minute of it.

Female endangered snail kite

My husband pulled off on the side of the road for me to take these photos only to find an endangered female snail kite. I was so excited. I’ve never seen one so close, so he was my tripod as I rested my camera on my his shoulder. My fractured hip was displeased with my choice but come on!!!! Life’s beautiful moments are worth it these days let me tell you!

“Be kind” ? I say “Be better”

I was sitting in a waiting room this past week when a client came in with her son and his grandmother. She was to have her appointment while the grandmother watched her child. When checking in the mother asked her child to say hello to her friend behind the counter. The child ducked back away from the desk so as to not be seen. The mother asked again for him to be polite and come and say hello. He covered his face and stepped further back. The grandmother offered up to the woman at the desk that her grandchild was just shy. The mother reached out and grabbed her son’s arm and he pulled away intensely and backed further away. The front desk woman said repeatedly that the child need not say hello. She did not mind him not saying hello and wanted to move on to the appointment that was scheduled. The grandmother paid for the appointment and the mother asked the boy to come to her and give her a hug, right in front of the desk where her friend was. They child said, “You’re trying to trick me.” She said she wasn’t so he hugged her. The front desk woman opened the door to let the mother come back and let the grandmother know how long they’d be and AGAIN the mother tells her child to say hello to her friend while holding him in that hug. AGAIN the front desk woman said he does not need to say hello to me and continued with going right in to how long the appointment would be. Meanwhile the child ran out the front door of the building.

Let me break down to you what really happened. The child was not heard. The child’s wishes repeatedly ignored. The child even voiced he was being tricked because he knew that his wishes did not matter. The child was given a label of being shy. In the end the child felt so invalidated for WHATEVER he was feeling, and we don’t know why he was feeling that way because no one asked, he just ran out the front door of the building because he knew the disrespect would just continue.

I can hear the voices of some of the people I grew up with, “I’d beat his ass if he didn’t say hello when I told him to,” or “When I tell you to say hello you do it.” This is a culture that abuse victims do not like. We do not like seeing a child forced to be polite because most of us know when it comes to manners it always squashes out a child’s intuition.

I am on social media. I see how other adults speak to each other. I see we now lack common decency and any moral compass. I witness rage and hurt and disrespect on a daily basis regarding anything and everything. If one person disagrees they seem to be targeted and everyone who can, will, jump on the bandwagon. Adults are now lacking self control and are pushing their own agenda on everyone else. If you disagree, well heaven help you. I also see “be kind” on bumper stickers and on memes. It is not always easy to be kind in such a cruel world. We cannot always be kind to rageful hate-filled people. We can have decency.

I relate the adults on social media to the adults in the waiting room because once from behind a computer screen we DO enter into the real world.

I watched this scene in the waiting room and thought: How can respect be shown if respect is not modeled? In a world full of disrespect can we not at least respect our own children?

That mom was most likely proud of her son. She was excited to finally have her child meet her friend. She had no initial malicious intent. But as the scene unfolded she completely disrespected her child, tricked her child, and manipulated her child, and labeled her child. And for what?

I never forced my child to hug anyone, to say hello to anyone, or to thank anyone publicly. I read her books about being polite. We discussed manners. I thanked my mother for buying dinner and one day my daughter thanked her too. I modeled, guided, and taught. I did not force. I respected my child and I taught her to respect herself.

Most importantly I taught my daughter intuition.

If you force a child to say hello, hug someone, even if they are adamantly and visibly against doing so, you are doing a disservice to your child by forcing it. You are stripping them of their intuition for MANNERS. My daughter was never forced to go hug my father or sit on his lap. If he asked and she said no then that was her choice. She learned by being given that independence in who she touched or talked to that she could have some control. She could then learn how someone made her feel. If they eventually felt safe, on her own terms she would hug them and speak to them.

My daughter grew up to be an advocate for children who were bullied in school. She assisted her second grade teacher with a child who had cerebral palsy. She stood up for her, loved her, even reported the assistant who was being too rough with her.

I did not take away my daughter’s voice or her intuition. I respected her and she in turn respects others. I modeled the behavior I wanted her to see and instilled in her the value of intuition.

If your child rips away from you, runs out of a building, says that a hug is a trick…you are doing something wrong. No one wants to be told they are doing something wrong. But we must have priorities. Is it important to WIN in an internet war against a stranger or can we just walk away and keep some self respect? Is it important to teach our child manners if it means stripping the of intuition that will protect them from a predator?

I got my degree in Child Development. I know what is appropriate for children at certain ages.

I wish they made an adult development book to teach adults what is inappropriate parenting and interacting with others. Adults have lost themselves.

I had no intuition as a child. It took me years to get it back as an adult. Once it is gone it is very hard to get back. Mine was stripped away from me.

Don’t take away your child’s intuition for the sake of what you think looks good. You may not even be friends with that person in a year but your child will always be your child and you’ve just humiliated him. Was it worth it?

And if we are talking about forcing manners on a child where are the manners in adults? They should know better.

A number of years ago I watched a 4 year old punch his 2 1/2 year sister. She was crying holding her face. The mother walk over to the 4 year old and asks him why he hit his sister. She asked him how he was feeling. He replied that he felt angry. The mother asked if the sister did anything to provoke being punched. THE 2 1/2 YEAR OLD. He replied she took his toy and he was angry. The mom spent a ridiculous amount of time talking to this boy about his feelings. Meanwhile the little girl, who got punched, was crying in the corner.

This scene upset me GREATLY. So much that 5 years later it still bothers me. The “ you seem angry right now” kind of parenting has it’s place. Like, oh, when the child seems angry. ” It’s ok to express your emotions, I know you are angry right now,” is not the parenting I think THEY think they are actually doing. They want to validate their child’s feelings. They want to focus on the why, get to the root of it. This could be applied to my children’s area class in college. We were encouraged to, instead of asking the child, “ What are you drawing?” Instead say, “ I love the colors you used…wow that drawing makes me feel peaceful how does it make you feel…those colors are bright and colorful…how did you feel as you were painting this…” appropriate for a child painting a painting. Not punching his sister. I am not invalidating the emotions that were being felt and they should be addressed AFTER it has been modeled to the injured punched child that SHE will get the attention first, loved, made to feel safe, and validated. This teaches the injured child that HER feelings will come first and her safety is the most important. THEN he needs to be told it is unacceptable in ANY circumstance to punch his baby sister. Ever. After all of this his feelings can be addressed and alternative ways to get out his feelings can be explored. A. Come to you, the parent and ask advice B. Use your words to tell your sister that her taking your toy made you angry. C. Go punch a punching bag. And the list goes on. (We always had a punching bag because who isn’t angry some of the time. It is a natural emotion. Punching your sister is not).

Two opposite ways of parenting. One parent coddling and focusing on feelings and the other absent of acknowledging feelings what-so-ever.

It does not have to be one way or the other. Both scenarios a child was ultimately invalidated and the focus was on the wrong thing!

This system, this society can be fixed if adults start being accountable for their actions, try harder for their children (and not societal standards), and not just “be kind” but be BETTER.

The horse that God sent

Laura was my best friend in elementary school. Best friend in the world. I would go to her house for sleep overs and we would laugh, ride horses, run from her bull, laugh some more. Laura was authentic. There was no hidden agenda ever. She was real in all ways. She was the only real thing in my life during some of the worst years of my life. In a world surrounding me with secrets, abuse, and lies…I had the unconditional love of my friend Laura. There was always something about the way she looked directly into my eyes…

We lost touch for years after highschool but reconnected after she was diagnosed with cancer. No time had passed. We were in the third grade again and it was the next day but 30 years later. I had one year with Laura. She had “Laura’s warriors” which was a huge group of supporters. We talked about this. I had a muscle disease and had a few people. She had cancer and had over 300 people. Cancer affects everyone in some way. We all know someone who knew someone, or have a friend or loved one who has fought the battle. Some have gone into remission and some have gone to be with God. Laura had hundreds of people taking care of her. She chose to take care of me. She had a go fund me for all of the alternative treatments she was trying since the chemo did not work. She used some of that money to pay for ME to have alternative treatments for this disease I have. I’ve NEVER in all of my life known ANYONE as selfless as Laura. This is not to diminish those who have supported me throughout the disease I have, but Laura… She would have chemo and then come to my house and make juice for me or dinner. She would take time away from her own family to come and hold me in her arms and pray for me. No one, other than my husband, has ever held me like she did. She understood that having this muscle disease took away so much from me. She understood how lonely it was and isolating it was. We told each other all of our secrets. I told her of some of the abuse I endured in my lifetime that I have never told anyone else. I knew she would not judge me but would instead love me even more. She really hated what men had done to me. She wanted to fight for me. That girl was a fighter. I spoke to her the day before she passed away and she told me that she was fine and she loved me. She never gave up.

Cancer touches all of us. It took away my best friend. I watched her in pain. I watched her suffer. I loved her with all of my heart.

The last few weeks have been very difficult for me. I have been suffering. I have been haunted by all of the men who have harmed me. Haunted. Ptsd flashback. Nightmares. Billboard signs with their photos reminding me around every corner that I will never be allowed to forget. I have also had severe muscle pain.

Let me say that I moved forward from the abuse. The abuse is still with me but I have moved constantly forward. PTSD keeps the abuse there but I chose to move forward anyway.

I MOVED FORWARD. I go out every day with this disease and I fight it just like Laura fought cancer. I look for the beautiful things that God has placed before me and I appreciate every single moment. I didn’t choose to be abused. I did not choose to get a muscle disease. Laura didn’t choose to have cancer. It took her from me and her children and family. I am so glad as I look back that in her last year of life she had that team. Everyone should have a team! Today I saw a woman wearing a t-shirt about team so and so fighting for cancer. I don’t have a team.

I don’t have a team because the society we live in does not give abuse victims a team. Muscle disease sufferers used to at least get a DAY with the MDA and Jerry Lewis but that was taken away. Mental illness does not get a team. We sure do need one though. We are urged and encouraged to keep silent and let the stigma continue.

Nobody tells someone fighting cancer to just let it go, move on, etc. I know not everyone has a team fighting for them that has cancer. I know many people keep their fight with cancer a secret. It may seem like I am trying to make a comparison between cancer and other diseases but I am just expressing what I have witnessed. Their is a society shame put on victims of abuse and mental illness. There is shame in admitting vulnerability with muscle diseases and that it may trigger other PTSD emotions.

There is no shame in saying you have cancer. And why would there be. There shouldn’t be. I guess that is my point. You didn’t ask for cancer so why would anyone want you to be silent about it? They wouldn’t. Yet I am supposed to be silent along with thousands of others about our daily lives after abuse. Whether it be domestic violence, rape, any kind of sexual assault or childhood abuse, silence is the what people want.

Who decided to shame victims?

Who decided to enable abusers?

What is this culture that we live in?

This culture is shameful.

Laura and I talked about these issues. She knew that our stories were not a competition. She was fighting cancer. I was fighting a muscle disease. She happened to have a lot of support. I did not. Not for the disease, not for the PTSD, not for the abuse, not for the anxiety. I was for the most part alone. No calendars were set up with meal deliveries for me. No car rides to appointments were scheduled. Most of what I was going through no one was there to listen and she saw this and stepped up even as she herself was dying. She is and always will be my hero. She did what healthy able bodied people can’t but should.

What people don’t understand is that everyone you know has either been abused, knows someone who has been abused, or has loved someone who has been abused. Just as cancer has touched so many, abuse has as well.

NO ONE SHOULD FIGHT ALONE.

My story is not unique. Almost every woman I know has been abused or knows someone who has. In my years as a chaplain for hospice almost every person I met with had a story of abuse. In working in wild life rehab there was animal abuse. No one talks about it though. No one listens.

We have created an environment where it is not ok to talk about our emotions, our fears, our anger, or our memories. My memories include heinous abuse. You don’t erase a memory good or bad. It is part of my story. I cannot control when these memories surface nor can any other trauma victim but we are encouraged to keep it silent.

I told Laura everything. I sat with her every day of her chemo treatments and we talked. About everything good and bad. No secrets. In her last week of LIFE she sat on my couch with my head buried in her chest, me sobbing as she prayed and prayed and prayed that God would heal me from the pain inflicted by men and by the aftermath and by this muscle disease. Like I said…not many people exist like Laura.

I didn’t ask her to. I didn’t want to take time away from her family. But I was her family in her heart. My husband drove me to be with her during chemotherapy and sat in the waiting room for hours while I sat with her. She then sat with me. We loved each other wholeheartedly and unconditionally. Our relationship remained true and authentic to this day. Even as the years have passed since she has been gone I have loved her the same.

I love that she had 300 people and more that were Laura’s warriors. I love that she felt loved and cared for. It doesn’t take that many people though and in fact with me it just took one person and that was Laura. She was really all I needed to feel like I mattered, my life mattered, I was valued, and she was my team, my warrior.

My husband has always been that person for me and I know that. Women though often need other women who really “get” us.

I miss Laura every day. I miss what she stood for. The authentic, purity, non-agenda, fun-loving, tilt your head back and laugh with no apologies person, and put someone before yourself person.

She knew the culture I was going up against in my refusal of being kept silence in the abuse. She knew the fight against the stigma of PTSD and anxiety. She knew how alone I was in this fearful loss of self with this muscle disease.

Why doesn’t anyone else know?

Was there only one Laura?

Today I went to the park with my husband and fought back tears of pain from the disease and pain from the past that slapped me in the face by means of a billboard with a man’s face plastered on it that nearly destroyed me.

I saw the wild horses in the distance and do what I always do which is feel elated first. Then protective second. I want to get to them and make sure no one goes near them and no one tries to take selfies with them and keep them respected as the wild creatures that they are.

My husband steered my scooter for me and I sat back in my chair and just watched them. The wind blew and I smelled them. It is my favorite smell. They were across the water and I took many photographs as we got closer on the path. I have a zoom lens and never intentionally go near them. About 4 people walked past and I told them to please not go up to the horses if they get closer as they are wild…like I always do. After everyone passed us I put my camera down and watched. I watched them twitch their tails and snort and breathe. I saw each greet the other and nudge the other and nibble on the other’s back. I sat perfectly still and quiet as one of the pregnant mares walked from across the prairie and all the way up to about 2 feet from me. She ate grass and looked at me the entire time. She would step one step closer and look up and graze some more. My husband was behind me. That horse looked me in the eyes and I watched the baby in her belly moving all around. I smelled her and listened to her breathing. It was like Laura was looking at me again. Knowing everything that I felt and experienced. I think that horse was thanking me for always looking out for them and keeping the other people away. I feel in my heart, after these last few weeks, God sent that horse over to me to remind me that I am NOT alone. It may be a horse looking at me in the eyes but I was not alone. I have watched these horses for years. They do not walk up to people. They run from people. This horse walked right up to me and I cried. I cried because I was not thinking about anything but how blessed I felt in that moment. How that horse made me feel like I mattered. A HORSE! The billboard and the abusers and the diseases didn’t matter. It was all gone in that moment. It was just that horse and me. I slowly backed up my scooter because I did not want her to get used to humans like me because frankly I don’t think there are a lot of people that are like me. Not many that I have met. Some. Not many. I didn’t want to back away but out of respect for her being wild, I did.

That horse has a herd. She has her own team that supports her and fights for her and loves her. I have watched them and I know.

God sent me a little reminder through that horse looking at me just like Laura used to that even if we don’t have 300 warriors we are not alone. A horse made me not feel alone.

It took a horse because so many humans are living in this culture that they are enabling and accepting that keeps trauma victims silent.

I have intermingled being a trauma victim with having a muscle disease because being a victim of a crime is not the ONLY thing that we fight. I’ve got a list of things I am fighting…doctors, nightmares, lyme disease, ptsd, anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc. I can’t have a team because no one wants to stand up and fight for these issues. And that is so very sad. But for tonight at least I’m not going to focus on what’s sad. I’m going to look at this horse, think of Laura, and be thankful of the little blessings in my life.

Meet Marigold

I have listened to Marigold do her nightly screaming rounds for months and infact she screams quite frequently outside my bedroom window. She often startles me by jumping OUT OF THE BLUE onto my deck outside my window, looks at me, then runs off. Today was my first actual introduction to her though. I was out photographing the owls Johnson and Chrysanthemum. Johnson was scared away and missing for days after july 4th and he finally came back only for us to discover that his eye was not looking well again. He is underweight and has been struggling. I’ve been photographing him for months now and he was just perking up. Then he was gone. A few days ago I photographed him and his eye was not looking well so I, being how I am, barely slept worrying that he would not be ok. But it was a wasted time of worry! We found him tonight out attempting to hunt with both his mother and father and sister with him. He was fed twice which took away all of my worries. Knowing his parents are by his side and still feeding him just makes my soul say ahhhhhh okkkkkk. While out witnessing all of these beautiful moments my husband pointed out the fox! I’d been trying to get a photo of her for FOREVER! Finally there she was. I thought she would run away but I drove my scooter up slowly and just close enough to use my zoom lens to try and get a shot. As soon as I did she did a big stretch and flopped down on the ground and rolled over. I immediately loved her!!! Isn’t it funny how an animal that was startling me daily and getting a bit on my nerves won my heart over in two moments. Just shows that you cannot judge someone from a few meetings and chance encounters. Sometimes it takes a little longer to see their heart!

Straight up happiness photos

In the MIDDLE of our car breaking down, me breaking down, etc, we pulled over to assess the car situation and THIS happened and really and truly nothing else mattered!!! After we finally made it home and I got to look at these photos I was so proud of us for seizing the moment. My husband brought out the duck food that I mixed and we keep in the car, and sprinkled it around for them. Many ducks came. Even a cat came! These moments are why photography has simply saved my life! I hope they make you as happy as they make me.